An important element of developing as a singer or singer-songwriter is to cultivate opportunities to actively engage with others as you chart your course. There is a natural tendency for many artists to retreat or put up walls of self-protection. This is understandable because there are vulnerability can be overwhelming.
But, in order to grow an audience, make connections, get feedback, and grow as an artist you need to actively engage in social situations so that you become more comfortable and confident. That comfort and confidence will help you try new things, push the envelope, be bolder, more assertive, and will help you find natural boundaries as you achieve a balance between what must remain private and what must be publicly engaged and shared.
One of the reasons a singer or performing artist will burn out is because they will push themselves past points of natural reserve. They end up being fried because they’ve thrown so much out there they have nothing left that they need to draw from for the sake of natural recovery, privacy, rest, and refueling.
Many times we’ve talked about the importance of creating circles of connection. These are mostly thought of in terms of networking. One of the trends that is happening culturally is that the intrinsic value of friends and loved ones has been compromised in many cases to the point of having no meaning. The concept of relying on friends and loved ones to build you up has been replaced by a fanatic feeding frenzy for hooking up with anyone who can advance your career.
Balance Personal + Professional Connections
Yes, you want and need to network, to make connections with people in the music industry that can help to shape and advance your career. But you should never throw away or diminish the importance of having a circle of connection for the sake of support and survival. You need to treat your private circle of connection as something sacred, a safe haven, and a place of nurturing.
So the challenge comes with having a strong support base outside of family and outside of the business to keep you grounded, put things in perspective, and help you find rest and recovery. You want to continue to develop a profession base of support for developing your voice, becoming a better performer, refining your image, growing your audience – this is your circle of career connections that provide the framework for your public persona as an artist and singer.
What will help is to create a circle of community where you share ideas, test material, and get feedback on creative rants and raves about performing, songwriting, and singing. Essentially this circle becomes a place of engaging new ideas, finding fresh forms of self-expression, and venting about what vexes you in a safe place, without involving family or loved ones or business associates. You can share in the company of others that get where you’re coming from and understand your career goals.
No Fear, No Threat
In this circle of connection there is no fear or threat that what you share will damage your career potential nor is there a threat of hurting the feelings of close friends and loved ones. This group may only consist of two or three other people or may include as many as a dozen. It’s up to you. They serve in some ways as a test market and in other ways as a sounding board for things that if shared with friends and loved ones or with career connections might come back to bite you in some way.
A Safe Haven For Feedback
Maybe you have a controversial piece you’ve written or you have a unique spin on a song that you want to get feedback on – this group will serve this purpose. This is creating to help keep minimize potentially career-threatening missteps or poor decisions. It’s a safe place to mess up, try something that doesn’t work, and learn from it, without judgment.
Checks + Balances
This will help to keep that authentic creative self alive and thriving when the career is on hold and those gigs just aren’t coming, or when there is family turmoil of some sort or tough times for friends. It serves as a system of checks and balances for pursuing both personal and professional success while helping to balance a private and public life.
Keep this group open to creative forms of self-expression. This is a group for engaging creative excises like writing a variety of songs related to a specific theme or incident or tragedy or victory. You can regularly exchange sound files and critique each other. You can do this face-to-face in the park or in an empty classroom or at the beach. You can share ideas online or through handwritten correspondence.
You can create a signature activity that defines your circle such as a monthly meeting that starts by throwing a few ideas on scraps of paper folded up that you then randomly mix and match. Then, your goal becomes finding connections between those random thoughts that you’ve drawn. That process of looking for commonalities, of piecing things together, is great food for the creative spirit. It can trigger ideas for songs, for changes in image, for problem-solving. It can prompt new dreams, sweet memories, or inspire a fresh perspective.
Mix Things Up
You could have a gathering where the following three items are written on the pieces of paper. On the first one, you write down something you would do if you have the money. On the next piece of paper, write down your greatest fear. Next, write down the one thing that shakes your confidence more than anything. Next you write down the setting for your ideal vacation. Finally, you toss in the name of a personal hero.
You might decide to keep these items separate and draw one from each of the five assignments or throw them all together shake them all up and have each person draw three. You might blindly exchange items, almost like a card game, before you go with what has been dealt. The choice is yours.
Worry Free Support
The goal of the activity might then be to write a song, or tell a story, or come up with a plan for addressing a fear or doubt that you’ve selected. In the latter case, it provides a fun way for dealing with something that is personally challenging. It also provides a creative outlet while in fact validating your uniqueness as a creative force.
It affirms the artist, the person, the performer without negative consequences from friends and loved ones or critical career connections. It’s a place of worry free support – no career damaging missteps or damaged relationships with family, friends, or loved ones.
Balance Your Act
Obviously, the most likely people to form this circle of connection are your peers, fellow singers, songwriters, and performers. Look for people that will honor the purpose of the group and use it to keep the creative self thriving and growing stronger in the face of personal struggles and challenges as you navigate the dips, loops, twists and turns in your pursuit of singing success.