creativity rising: a singer realizes her dream {más moss EP release}

Yesterday evening, I hit 'publish' on a short-and-sweet blog post on another site announcing the release of a debut EP album. 

No, I'm not promoting someone else's music (though, trivia fact, I did intern for a boutique music PR agency during college).

This is a band that *I'm singing in*. This is my music — our music. 

And it's so surreal to finally be at this point.

The post below is a somewhat-self-indulgent history of my relationship with making music, so if you're not into that right now, justclick here for the info on how to download/stream our EP. (I will say, though, that there are certainly some good lessons in my story if you stick around!) 

It's in my blood, y'all

I got my first karaoke machine in the third grade.It came with a cassette that had just one karaoke song on it — The Power of Love. I didn't know or particularly even like The Power of Love, but damn if I didn't I learn that song and belt it out anyway. I had a microphone and a tape recorder!

A few years later, I upgraded to a fancier Koss boombox (thanks, Dad) with a badass karaoke function that more-or-less silenced the lead vocal track on most CDs (and a real mic!). I sang in my room for hundreds, maybe thousands of hours over the next 5+ years, recording tape after tape and even dueting with myself and friends. My mom quickly realized that if she wanted to see me at all, I had to have a karaoke boombox at her house, too (thanks, Mom).

I sang in choir in junior high and early high school, until I decided that I was not a fan of our choir director, and besides, school choir doesn't get you famous like Britney, anyway (SMH at my younger self). I briefly sang in an emo punk band with my sophomore-year boyfriend until that relationship reached its expiration date.

After that, eight years (!!) passed before I did much of anything else with music. I started singing with a friend who was a talented pianist, and we co-wrote a few songs together and played a couple small gigs. It was fun, but then I started grad school, and life got in the way for both of us.

Two years later, I moved to Nashville. Of course, when you're new in Nashville, everyone asks if you moved here to pursue music. I'd laugh and say no, I came temporarily for my grad school internship to work with eating disorders and got a job I couldn't turn down, so I stayed.

I left Austin, the live music capitol of the world, for Nashville, the songwriting capitol of the world. But no, I wasn't here for music. Anytime I had to acknowledge that, a part of me internally cringed, and I'd do my very best to ignore it — because if I'm being honest with myself, I am most alive and joyful when I am singing. 

The stories we create

If I really love it so much, why didn't I pursue singing? Well, one big reason is that I had a story in my head for many years that because I "just" sang, no band would want me.

No one needs "just a singer" when so many singers can also play piano, guitar, etc. So I made a few half-efforts to learn guitar, but my heart wasn't in it. For me, I was only learning guitar so I could sing. So as much as that was probably a fairly good reason, it wasn't enough to make me passionate about or committed to the sometimes-painful learning process and consistent practice required to get good at an instrument.

And of course, there are a million other reasons that could be perfectly great excuses if I let them: "I may be good but I'm not that good", "I don't have the time", "it's impossible to actually make a living doing that", and many more thoughts that have helped me rationalize why I didn't take any action.

Meanwhile, I went about my life with a little hollow part at my core. A part that winced in jealousy anytime I saw someone else doing what I wanted to do. The part of me that lived in the "should've/could've/would've" mindset as though it were actually already too late. 

Turns out, choir is kind of awesome

Another year or so passed. When I initially moved to Tennessee, I started attending the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville, and it gradually became the first church that has ever actually felt like a spiritual home for me. (Sidebar, I would never have imagined myself as a voluntarily church-going person, but the FUUN congregation, and UU in general, opened my eyes to a new meaning of "church." Also it's Nashville, so isn't church like a requirement? I kid!)

FUUN is home to Jason Shelton, our Associate Minister for Music, one of the most well-respected contemporary UU composers internationally, and all-around badass. For over a year, I watched him conduct the choir with a mix of enjoyment (of the beautiful music), admiration (of the talent), and jealousy (because I wasn't up there). Once I became consciously aware of that last one, I thought to myself, "I have no right to be jealous if I don't want to get up there and be a part of it myself." And like that, I joined the choir.

As my first time really singing in years, it was like a part of me that had gone into hibernation was suddenly waking up and being fed.

And then... Más Moss!

Fast forward another year, and my then-fiancé Chris and I started talking about how it might be cool if I tried singing along with him and his friend Ben, who he'd been jamming with on and off since high school. Another friend of ours, Berry (who recently helped us buy our first house!) got a bass for Christmas, and we started having fun learning a handful of covers. I also messed with a vocal line/lyrics for a couple of previously-instrumental tunes Chris and Ben (along with their friend Matt, a very talented bass player who left this world too soon) had written together.

Before we knew it, we were planning on providing the music for our own wedding, because we're weirdos and we do what we want. By the time the wedding rolled around, we had written four original songs together (and learned that many covers) and were practicing regularly. We played a couple house parties before the wedding, and had a blast playing our reception before we turned it over to DJ Spotify.

Not long after, we were sad that Berry had to direct his time elsewhere (though it did sort of result in our home ownership, so can't complain), but equally excited that our friend Seth was interested in joining us on bass.

We kept writing and practicing, and started working on recording our first EP. All of those things took priority over booking live shows, since we wanted to have quality tracks to share with potential venues as newbies on the scene. We DIY'd the recording thanks to Seth's knowledge and equipment, so it took a whiiiiile. (Also we all have those things called "day jobs," so scheduling is no small feat.)

Then, Seth teamed up with Evan Sieling who mixed and mastered the tracks... and voila! We got photos done with Brad and Ashley of All of the Stars Photography, and got our ducks in a row for the digital album release.

So here I am now, releasing a real recorded album, available to the public. (Hey, that's you!)

On not being a slave to your thoughts

No, I'm not selling out Bridgestone Arena (or even a crappy dive bar) or gracing the cover of Rolling Stone like my 14-year-old-self fantasized about. We haven't played live shows yet because of how we wanted to prioritize our time and efforts, and we decided not to print physical copies of the EP yet. At times, my inner critic goes to town with imposter-syndrome comments about how facts like these make me not a "real" musician.

But another part of me is wiser.

It knows that if I just let thoughts like these make my decisions, I'd still be sitting in those pews and concert venues looking smugly annoyed and secretly feeling sad and jealous.

It also knows that music will be one of my greatest gifts to the world, even if only 100 people ever hear these songs.

Howard Thurman explains this perfectly in one of my favorite quotes:

Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

If you've made it all the way to the end of this epic post, good on you! I think there's probably a reason. I wonder if there is a small hollow part in you that needs to be acknowledged.

So I'll leave you with this question:

What is it inside you that is begging to be fed so it can come alive? What is it that you need to do or create for your light to shine brightly into the world? And how can you start to DO that, even in the tiniest baby-step kind of way, right NOW? 

Listen to Más Moss's debut EPhere, and get links to download and stream from your favorite online music serviceshere

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Valerie Martin

Valerie Martin, LMSW, is a Primary Therapist at The Ranch residential treatment center, where she works with eating disorders, addiction, trauma, and co-occurring mental health issues. Valerie focuses on a holistic treatment approach of mind + body integration, using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), somatic and bioenergetic therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), psychodrama, 12-step, and shame resilience. She is also a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist (CSAT) Candidate. Valerie received her Bachelor of Science degree in Communications and Master of Science degree in Clinical Social Work at the University of Texas in Austin. She is an active member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Nashville, and emphasizes spiritual exploration in her work with clients.