The Dissatisfaction with Sameness
It's been almost 2 years since the first day I stepped into the New York City underground to play piano and sing in front of people.
I've been feeling an overwhelming dissatisfaction with just playing covers and other people's music to the point where I actually felt depressed leaving home to go play yesterday.
This morning I realised that this is a good thing!
Busking for me was never the zenith of the mountain, but more a means or just simply a call to action.
I always aspired to transition to singing my own music mixed in with covers maintaining a certain level of quality across the board so that people wouldn't be able to tell which ones were mine from the songs of Bruno Mars, Adele, Taylor Swift, Alicia Keys, etc.
But Original Music is Scary
It's been a frightening (yet liberating) notion to me to play my own music, which is obviously why I haven't yet done so. I think it's because as a child, I was encouraged to perform and sing other people's songs.
No one ever said, what do you have to say? You should write a song about that.
I wasn't even allowed to perform what I wanted. I had to obey my mother and sing whatever she deemed appropriate for every event. As a kid, you listen to your authority figures.
My musicianship was limited at the time as well so I couldn't play what I was hearing in my head.
I remember writing a song at 16 and feeling like it was cool. But I quickly abandoned it for something established that I had to learn for an upcoming concert.
That's the story I'd chosen to believe. The story that was playing on repeat in my head.
Practice with a Side of Market Research with a Cherry on Top
Busking is like the feedback loop that dreams are made of- if you really wanna know what you're made of.
You sit feet away from real people and get direct and immediate feedback on what you play.
Not to mention the practice element of playing in front of a live New York City audience (the toughest of crowds) and the chance to connect heart to heart with everyday people.
Yes, it's been working for my creative expression, not to mention paying my bills, until I stopped evolving and changing artistically somewhere along the line.
I just kept trying to repeat the same recipe for success I'd had. Hit song + My cover of it = Happy Customers and Money in my Jar
No Summer Jams
So what happens then when you run out of hits and your insides are calling to come out? The perfect storm of discontent and a chance to explore your self and to write without being distracted by the newest Drake song, is what.
With no awesome music on the airwaves, I have the confidence that mine can't be any worst than those out there right now plus if there's nothing great on the radio, there's nothing for me to cover.
I get to focus on my songwriting distraction-free.
Me vs Them
I'm sure there's some buried sub-conscious belief that I'm not good enough. When people complement me- and they do so all the time, I can honestly say that I don't know what they're talking about.
I've resigned myself to taking the gracious route and smiling and saying, 'Thank You.'
Sometimes they gush or give me a hug and I'm truly moved by their gestures all the more because I feel like they're giving me something precious- their support and encouragement; words, money, hugs, tears.
It all keeps me going day after day.
Ironically, I'll say that humility is a quality I like about myself because in the end, I'm always going to be a beginner. When I feel like an expert, it's time to move onto a subject that I know nothing about.
Back at One
Which brings me right back to the subject of songwriting and original music.
I'm a novice. A total beginner. And I'm ready to prove to myself that I'm a great songwriter because also buried subconsciously is a strong belief that I'm one of the greatest songwriters in the world.
Touched by An Angel
My experiences busking have shown me that I am surrounded by angels. The world around me provides grace and providence in my life just when I need it the most.
Yesterday when I felt like I couldn't go on spiritually because I'd been starving myself of my own creative expression (singing other people's songs when mine are dying to come out of me), I struggled to get to the platform to play because my hand truck carrying my gear broke.
This was just one more sign to me that things have got to change.
I need newness. What's worked in the past cannot work for me anymore. I was almost in tears of frustration.
It took me about 10 mins to wheel the broken hand truck from the elevator end of the platform to the other end, where buskers usually play.