SUCCESS IS A STATE OF MIND
June 19, 2013
I recently traveled to Las Vegas for what's called the "Callback Round" of NBC's hit series,The Voice. Rewind. Rather than subject myself to the time consuming process of the initial "Open Call" - i.e. the "Cattle Call" - I submitted a video audition package to The Voice casting agency this past March. Honestly, I never even expected to hear back, but within 6 weeks I received an email asking if I'd be available and willing to travel to one of several major cities in the United States for the second round auditions. Fast Forward. Despite positive reviews from the panel of judges and a chorus of "please come back and try out again," I was not selected as one of the finalists to make it to the televised "Blind Auditions."
Before I go any further, I want to draw your attention to the picture above; my wife snapped this photo as she rushed toward me on Las Vegas Blvd, eager to greet me and hear the outcome of my appointment. She had no idea how my audition had gone, so when I revealed the outcome a few moments later, she looked absolutely devastated for me. Look at my face; does it look like the face of a man who's been devastated? In this moment, do I look even remotely upset?
Now, I want to make it perfectly clear that I'm not making excuses; I went into this audition prepared to "play the game." My performances were, I thought, genuine and well executed, so I'm still not quite sure what the hang up was but for whatever reason the panel felt I wasn't quite right for the show. The immediate indifference I felt toward the outcome of this endeavor was honestly a huge surprise. The truth of it is that 3 years ago this experience would have devastated me, which tells me one thing - success is a state of mind. The prospect of a career in music was everything, and I do mean everything, to me, so a "no" 3 years ago would have sent me spiraling. Music defined me; it wasn't just a talent turned glorified hobby turned career. If I wasn't an exceptional singer/songwriter, who was I and what possible value did I have? It just goes to show how little perspective we have in our early 20's. As I walked toward my wife on Las Vegas Blvd, the recognition of the family, friends, and career(s) that awaited me in Oklahoma made it all too easy to acquiesce to the "no" that would have shattered my world a few years ago. Not to mention I turned what would have been a 2 day business trip into a 5 day vacation for an early 1 year anniversary...that also helped ease the blow!
Several people have asked if I would ever consider auditioning for The Voice or another talent-based reality program again. Honestly, I don't know if I'll ever open myself up again to the roller coaster of emotions, stress, and sacrifice that comes with competing on such a high level; however, I will say I'll never actively seek it out again. An artist and performer must walk a fine line between pleasing oneself and pleasing others, and I found in the days leading up to my audition that I was spending far too much time and energy on pleasing others. Besides, although the prospect of fame and fortune has vanished from my immediate future, the gigs keep rolling in and people keep paying my rates because they enjoy and appreciate what it is that I do, which says a lot.
Ultimately, I'm so grateful for this experience if for no other reason than it gave me perspective; success is a state of mind.
April 27, 2013
To stifle the creative spirit is truly a crime, for what is progress if not creativity at work.
Last night I performed a set on the Art Moves stage at Oklahoma City's annual Festival of the Arts. For a local artist such as myself, any opportunity to perform outside the typical restaurant/bar scene is to be cherished, especially when there's a built-in audience numbering in the tens of thousands! Oddly enough, last night I found myself distracted, and although it may not have been apparent to the audience (I certainly hope it wasn't!) I was somewhat disconnected from my performance. With the awe inspiring Devon Tower to my right, the newly constructed Myriad Gardens Restaurant to my left, and the iconic Chrystal Bridge in front of me, I couldn't help thinking about an article I'd written a few of years back concerning the flourishing art scene in Oklahoma City.
"A NEW RENAISSANCE"
With its vast variety of artistic vision, including a relatively untapped wealth of musical talent that’s as dynamic as it is eclectic, Oklahoma City provides an exceptional foundation and platform for an all out rebirth within the artistic community. Slowly but surely, an “art for art’s sake” mentality is surfacing amongst the city’s most innovative, allowing for an unparalleled purity within the process of creation. As a result, the idea of “the artist” has begun to take on a new meaning, one that not only suggests but also demands an indelible line separating art from the corporations that for so long have attempted to harness it for fear of losing control. Let’s face it; what is the corporate world if not merely a series of integrated systems whose sole purpose is to propel its overall financial state, because, as the saying goes, “he who has the money has the power.”
The relationship between art and industry is a paradoxical one to say the least; in the world of music, the artist cannot succeed (obviously the word “succeed” is a relative term) or sustain itself on a larger scale without the financial support provided by a label, who in return for their investment requires a say in the overall direction of the artist. Ultimately, this is where problems arise; it’s when labels begin to push artists in the direction of the highest possible revenue outcome that all sense of artistic integrity becomes compromised and everything that’s worthwhile about art is lost. In a very real sense, what’s produced under such conditions can hardly be considered art, which is one of the primary contributing factors that has lead to the decline of the major record label over the past decade – but no more.
It’s a brave new world for the artist, and no longer will these innovators tolerate the tampering of or interference with their work by “the man” for monetary gain. Call it shameless optimism or hopeless naiveté, but as the great Bob Dylan once put it, “times, they are a changin’.” It’s time for a new renaissance, at the heart of which is a return to the notion of art as autonomous, and to try to monitor or restrain that which is inherently free is both foolish and impractical.
In retrospect, this article completely misses the point pertaining to "art and industry," at least within the scope of Oklahoma City. I still agree with my assertion that meaningful art requires a disconnect from industry unless industry can embrace and indeed celebrate the "art for art's sake" mentality. Imagine a corporate world that strives to strengthen its social and economic resolve by utilizing aspects of its community's culture, thus simultaneously preserving and promoting its heritage. Now imagine a community of local artists who actually have the platform and financial support to refine, express, and exhibit their creativity. Stop imagining. Oklahoma City is a prime example of this seemingly utopian, symbiotic relationship between art and industry at work, and the outcome has been nothing short of remarkable. A corporate world fostering artistic growth within its community? Yes, these days it's easy to say "I'm proud to be an Oklahoman" and it's an absolute honor to be a part of this "new renaissance."
Celebrate art, for without it life would be visually bland, sonically insipid, and generally mundane.
LIKE HOLDEN CAULFIELD
April 20, 2013
Embracing two children who aren’t biologically mine and loving them no differently than if they were has been easy. Reevaluating and restructuring my life to accommodate the needs and wants of my stepchildren has also, believe it or not, proven quite doable. I will say that I've found supporting a family of four at 26-years old arduous at times. What's more, due to my late start it's required a lot of forward thinking; however, I can’t think of any accomplishment in my life that’s been more gratifying than successfully forging a parent/child relationship with my 10-year old stepdaughter, Layne, and my 4-year old stepson, Finn.
Fact: blending families is a tricky business. Understanding, appreciating, and respecting the line between biological parents and stepparents is as delicate a process as it is complicated, especially when both biological parents are in the picture. Yes, there are some general guidelines to follow – “rules of thumb” if you will – but because no two family dynamics are the same, there’s really no formula that, if followed, will ensure a happy, healthy stepfamily. When blending a family, the first step in the process is determining the stepparent's level of involvement. One reality that must be taken into consideration is that not all stepparents care to form close relationships with their stepchildren; this, I believe, is the kiss of death for any blended family. Frankly, I can’t imagine why anyone would choose to forgo an opportunity to love or be loved. Perhaps my youth and inexperience prevents me from seeing some bigger picture - I guess only time will tell. But I digress...
The hard part of being a stepparent, I’m finding, is taking on all the duties and responsibilities of a biological parent but having none of the “rights.” For example, there’ve been quite a few events at the school my stepchildren attend geared toward mothers and fathers spending time with their children: “Moving with Mommy,” “Okie-Dokie-Daddy Day,” “Grandparent’s Day,” etc. Now, you may be thinking, “Wait, what? No day devoted to stepparents?" Ha! As humorous as a "Stepparent's Day" sounds, we may not be all that far off from it if the divorce rate doesn't sharply decrease! But, the fact remains that there's no such day in place.
Here’s my point - the prerequisites of being a good stepparent are diplomacy and absolute selflessness. As desperately as I may have wanted to attend “Okie-Dokie-Daddy Day,” I didn’t. Why? It would have required injecting myself between my stepson and his biological father, which is a major violation of the unwritten stepparent's code of ethics. Thus, I sometimes sideline myself and bow out of certain opportunities with my stepchildren out of respect for the biological parent-child dynamic, which, I assure you is at times about as pleasant as consuming gasoline and swallowing a lit match. How's that for visceral?
The million-dollar question, then, for any good stepparent who legitimately wants the best for his/her stepchildren is this; “Where does that leave me?” I've been asking myself that question a lot lately, and the answer, I’m discovering, is in the rye. An unexpected opportunity arose yesterday that permitted me to participate in an activity called “Fine Dining” with my stepson, Finn. Apparently, some of Finn's family not on his mother's side were scheduled to eat lunch with him in the Early Childhood Center and had to cancel at the last minute. Hoping to avoid Finn feeling sad or disappointed, his teachers asked if I’d fill in...
And there I was, like Holden Caulfield, standing in the rye, waiting to catch my beloved Finny boy in his moment of need.
It's the easiest thing in the world for a stepparent to define that which he/she is not - a mother or a father. As a stepparent, I've found it far more difficult to identify and understand what it is that I am and should continually strive to be - a support system and friend who loves unconditionally. I believe with every fiber of my being that a stepparent can become an integral part of a child's life; all it takes is selflessness and a willingness to harbor in the rye.