All my life, I have been aware of the fact that I did not fit in. I did not dress the way my friends did, I didn’t understand why they were into the fads they were into...to be honest, I've been socially awkward since first grade. There was a time when I really wanted to fit in and wished that I wasn't so different, but a few pivotal moments in my life changed all that. Those of you who have already read part one, two, and three of this series of blogs have been waiting a long time for part four, my final post about what influenced me to transition into being the way I am now... a complicated, counter-culture, reckless individual.
About 4 years ago, I reached a very frustrating place in my career. The people with whom I was recording at the time told me that they would help excel my career as a recording artist if I helped out around the studio (working with other artists for dirt cheap, doing graphics when they needed them, that type of thing.) I trusted them very much (I'd known them since I was a teenager) so I agreed. At the point when I became really frustrated I had been writing for other artists for a long time and had plenty of experience singing on commercials, but it wasn't what I wanted. The people I worked with were full of advice about how my music needed to sound in order for them to be able to help me, but they refused to give me beats because paying customers might want to buy them. So I recorded over beats that the company's interns made, which never seemed to be the right fit for me. I soon learned to make my own beats and saved up my earnings to pay for a proper mix by a great engineer. In spite of the fact that a large portion of the music I recorded at that studio got lost due to the interns not knowing how to properly save files within the system, I managed to get a few decent songs finished. Finally, I had music that they were satisfied with, and they started playing it for a few people to try to get my career off the ground.
I have to be very careful about what I am about to say next because the people I am writing about are extremely litigious (lawsuit happy) and they keep up with everything I say and do. They are surely reading this blog right now and if I say anything even remotely offensive they will use this blog as evidence in court. I am not exaggerating. I am actually quite serious.
Once the songs were done, things started getting strange. For example, they introduced me to the CEO of a HUGE management firm and after we all hung out one evening the CEO asked the people I was working with to put a final mix on one of my records and send it to him as soon as possible. The people I was working with sat me down afterward and explained what a big deal that was, and said that this guy had the ability to really get my career going. A week went by and they didn't mix the record. Then another week. Then a month. By the time I worked up the nerve to ask about it, the CEO was back in town and we were all hanging out again. Once again, he urged the people I worked with to put a final mix on the record and give it to him as soon as they could. They agreed, and we all rode around in a limo that night with my music bumping on repeat. A week went by and the people I worked with didn't mix the record. Then another week. Then another month. Whenever I asked about it they said it was in the works and that I should be patient. It never happened. To this day, 4 years later, that song still has no final mix.
Instead of delivering the record to the CEO of a major management agency, the company I worked for decided that it was important for me to start putting my music out myself. At the time, I had no idea what "putting my music out" even meant, aside from parking it on Myspace and hoping that someone important would find it. Around that time, I had done a commercial that made a substantial amount of money, and the people I worked with told me that if I took my career seriously then I would use that money to hire people to help promote me and get my name out there. This is how I ended up getting duped out of several thousand dollars at the beginning of my career. If you want the details of that fuckery, you can read all about it on a post I wrote last year.
After all of this happened, they called me in for a meeting a few days before Christmas and told me that I need to start making the studio more money or else they would no longer help me. I was pissssssed. After all I had contributed, all the compromises I'd made with my music, all of the things they promised and never fulfilled on...after all that, they felt they could tell me I wasn't doing enough and give me an ultimatum. I didn't know what to do. I had spent most of my savings doing things that they told me to do, and I had no other source of income. I got pretty depressed. I decided to leave the studio for a while and figure out how to do things on my own. I took the best songs I had, half of which were songs that I'd produced myself, and got a few back up singers together so that I could perform my music. I met a guy named Ruben Trejo who took a liking to me and started getting me booked for shows in Chicago so that I could work on my stage show. Two months later I won second place in an Ourstage/New Music Seminar competition in Los Angeles. Soon after that I got offered a music licensing deal by MTV.
I went to the people I'd worked with and said "Hey! I can bring in more money now! MTV wants me to submit music to them for licensing!" It was then that they informed me that they refused to sign off on a contract allowing MTV to use my music until I signed a contract stating that I owed them thousands of dollars and that in addition they were entitled to 50% of this and 20% of that and wanted to own 10% of my entire career... I was outdone. We went back and forth over the agreement for a month. I had this great opportunity on the table and the people I worked with were intentionally holding me back just to get me to sign an unfair contract. I got pretty upset. I stopped sleeping and started staying up all night on Twitter. I wouldn't tell any of my girls what was going on, I just couldn't. My best friend and I grew apart because after her move to Florida she was no longer able to reach me on the phone. I sort of lost it for a while. It was bad.
Once I realized the people I'd worked with were going to drag this process out until I lost my opportunity, I had to take action. At that point, I had produced several of my own tunes; I wasn't that great of a producer, but I knew how to make a beat good enough to record a song. In a moment of sheer desperation, I called the best engineer I knew and said "MTV wants to license my music and I have nothing to give them and the offer is on the table and I need to make at least 4 songs and I don't have a producer so I have to do the beats myself and I need the songs done ASAP and I don't have much money and they have to sound super professional so I'm calling you... can you help me?" Fortunately for me, in the 8 or 9 years since I first met Matt Hennessy I had never asked him for a favor. He agreed to help me when he had open studio time, and within a couple weeks we had the songs finished. I made the music I wanted to make, not what I thought people would want to hear. I submitted the 4 songs to MTV the very night they were finished. They accepted them and sent me the paperwork the next day. Since then, they have licensed over a dozen of my songs and extended my deal with them to VH1's music library as well. Matt Hennessy is my official "partner in grime" and since 2010 we have recorded 2 mixtapes for my Roses N' Guns series, 1 EP called The Strong Survive, and we're several songs into my album. I'll be performing these songs at the 2 major performances that I have coming up, one at A3C Fest in Atlanta on October 8th, and another at CMJ on October 18th (I'll have more info on those shows soon.) I truly believe that Matt is in my life because everyone deserves to have at least one friend in their world who is 100% trustworthy.
Now that I handle all my business myself, I totally understand why the people I used to work with behaved the way they did. It wasn't personal, it was strictly business. Them implying that they could help further my career is no different than a soda company implying that drinking their beverage will make you cooler or a make-up company implying that wearing their products will make you sexy. I get it. I went a lil' bit crazy in the process of learning that lesson, but at least I learned it before I got hella old or too bitter to go out on my own and make a name for myself. There was a time when separating from them was my greatest fear because I thought it meant that I would fail, and I can honestly say that now that I've gotten past it I don't fear much about life. I don't remember the person who looked the other way when people she trusted didn't keep their word, the person who never felt valued, the person who did the most work but took home the smallest check. That was a whole lifetime ago, that girl is gone. All that's left is this oddball indie artist chick who's obviously doing something right since you considered her interesting enough to read her long ass blog about why she refers to herself as a "complicated, counter-culture, reckless individual."