Creating a Tribe

For a long time, I have wanted to have a community of artists around me, but it hasn’t been until recently that I could articulate that desire. It’s been bubbling up slowly to the surface, taking up more and more space and becoming impossible to ignore.

It’s not common to be a professional musician. Sometimes I feel like a freak when I tell people what I do. What do they think of me? There are a whole set of questions that I grapple with as an emerging artist – from questions of my own legitimacy to practical questions about the music/art industry. Should I try to make lots of different kinds of music or just stick to one thing? How important is it to get an outlet premiere for a new single? How do I raise my spotify numbers? If I have no gigs for two weeks and don’t write any songs, am I still a musician? Am I the only one who sometimes feels like a complete failure? There are so many things always on my mind, from the practical to the theoretical and ideological, about being an artist in the world. I’ve been craving that community to share with.

I am happy to say that I am starting to find it.

And it’s the best feeling in the the world. It started when I got signed to my record label. Suddenly, I had a musical support system. I was part of a team. They formed a tribe around me, cushioning me from the world and lifting me up. I can’t describe how nourishing that is. It conferred to me a sense of legitimacy. Whereas before I felt like I was hacking through dense undergrowth without a path in sight, my record label community gave me a sense of identity. I started to transition from thinking of myself as an ‘artist?’ to an ‘Artist.’

From there, I’ve craved friendships that can speak to that journey. The truth is that my career is something I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about. Being able to talk with other people who experience the same thoughts, fears, doubts, triumphs, and quiet certainty that I do is so important. It’s essential.

And it’s happening.

I don’t live in Nashville or another music hub, but I have started to gather a community of far-flung artists around me that I can talk to. And it makes all the difference in the world.

Before I had these friends I thought that maybe I was the only one in the world who struggled with the ups and downs of this lifestyle. I’m not. I thought I was the only one who worried that I wasn’t good enough. I’m not. I thought that maybe I was the only one who had down times. Who had anxiety. Who worried that I was further behind than everyone else. The resounding response from my artist/mentor friends is that I am not alone. In all of the self-doubt, in all of the strange pride, in all of the love for what I’m doing, in all of the hope for the future, I am not alone. I have started to find a community of artists. It’s what I’ve wanted all along. And it’s just as wonderful as I had dreamed it would be.

It’s been a gradual process. It hasn’t happened all at once. I started doing music seriously three years ago and I’m just starting to feel like I have a tribe of fellow artists. Like I’m not an odd duck. The other day I had a long conversation with an amazing labelmate about my feelings of insecurity and fear. It soothed my soul in a way that no other conversation could have. She understood exactly what I was going through. There was an immediate kinship there. More valuable than gold. And then later I talked for a long time with a bosom friend, an artist, who lives on the other side of the country. She also understood. These women are part of my tribe. We understand each other. Where would I be without them? They give me strength and confidence. They show me that what I’m doing is legitimate. That it has meaning. That it’s not all taking place in a vacuum. These relationships are priceless to me. So gather your tribe. Make one. Fellow members don’t even have to live next door to you but, who knows? Maybe someday they will.