Follow your dreams

Do you still follow your dreams when they’re torn at the seams
If they’re falling apart and breaking your heart?

Nearly three years ago I was watching the movie “Ricki and the Flash” with my mother-in-law. In the film, Ricki (played by Meryl Streep) is a musician who abandoned her husband and children years earlier to pursue a music career.

My mother-in-law knew that I was writing songs and asked me if I related to the character of Ricki. I told her I related to having the desire to pursue a dream, but not to the willingness to abandon your family to do so.

Her reaction shocked me.

She said that moms should put their dreams on hold until their children are grown. And that if a woman has a dream to pursue, then she shouldn’t have kids because it’s not fair to the children.

What?

On one hand, she probably had her grandchildren’s best interest in mind and didn’t want to encourage anything that might steer my attention away from them. But on the other hand, what? Should a mother really cease being a person with goals she’d like to accomplish because she has kids?

A few days later I was still thinking about this conversation when I took my dog for a walk. Don’t moms of young kids already experience enough guilt about not doing everything right?! What if you have dreams that may not be entirely realistic? Is there an expiration date on being permitted to try? I was writing songs and performing them in open mics before I had kids. Why did I stop? Did I miss my opportunity? By the time my youngest is 18, I’ll be 59. Do I put everything on hold until then or do I start developing my songwriting skills now?

By the time I got home from my walk, I had the first few lines to my next song:

Do you still follow your dreams when they’re torn at the seams
If they’re falling apart and breaking your heart?

During the next couple of weeks, I continued working on it in the car, at home, during my morning commute, whenever I had the opportunity. I made lots of revisions to the lyrics throughout the process and by the end of the song, I realized that during this process, I ended up answering my initial question.

The thought process examined the fear of trying something new with unknown results (“What if you’re not any good and you risk everything to embark on a path on a road you can’t see”), uncertainty whether if you’re even qualified to do it (“What if taking a chance will lead to losing it all, do you still leap off the ledge and pray you don’t fall?”), the realization that efforts may result in nothing (“Books on the shelf, words never read“) and that many have attempted similar goals without success (“Valiant attempts, stranded and worn, aiming for glory, a fantasy mourned.”) I was losing sleep over this! (“Nocturnal debates raging inside my head.“)

But on the other hand, people who were successful in reaching their goals also didn’t know what the outcome would be when they started and if they never took the first step, they wouldn’t have reached their goals. (“All that we have was once someone’s dream, they took a first step, they had to believe.“)

Ultimately, you are here for a purpose and you have to follow what is pulling you because that could very well be your purpose. (“Soul intention, calling to you so stop and listen, you know you want to.”)

And when I finished the song, I had my answer:

Follow your dreams though they’re torn at the seams
If they’re falling apart, be true to your heart


Here’s the song from 2016:

But there’s more to this story…

In spring 2016, I heard an interview with Nashville music producer Jeff Silverman on an online radio show. The host, Rowdy Ron, is a big Rick Springfield fan and that night’s show had a lot of RS content, including this interview with Silverman, who has produced several RS songs and used to play in his band.

In this interview, Jeff Silverman expressed his passion for music and helping songwriters. He also talked about his studio, Palette Studio, in Nashville and talked about his virtual studio that allows him to work online with musicians around the world.

I was intrigued by this and decided to contact him to find out more information about it. I sent him an email that night that included a link to my Soundcloud page (with a note that I was just starting out and none were professionally recorded.)

The next morning I noticed that my Soundcloud account had some listens AND I soon received an email back from Jeff Silverman. I was so excited that he took the time to listen to a few of my songs! He said there was one song in particular that he might be interested in working on with me. I was beyond thrilled, thinking that this was it – that he would produce my song and some big star would record it and that would be the start of fulfilling my lifelong dream.

After a few emails back and forth trying to set up a time to talk, he ended up calling me and we chatted for about an hour.

To him it was probably a standard call that is long forgotten, but to me, this hour-long conversation was life-changing. He was so nice and generous with his time and advice and I’ll forever appreciate that.

He told me that he listened to some of my songs and many had a similar sound. He suggested that I learn some new chords, try using a capo or try some different tunings to introduce some variation to my songs. I started implementing the first two bits immediately, but to date haven’t experienced with different tunings.

The details of our conversation have blurred since nearly three years have passed, but one thing that struck me was how helpful he was. He patiently answered my questions about how the recording process works, how the music business works and I don’t remember his exact words, but they indicated that he took my songwriting seriously. For so many years I avoided calling myself a singer-songwriter or even a songwriter, although I had written many songs, because I felt like that was some title to be earned, like with a degree. As if I dared to call myself a songwriter, somebody would call me out and demand that I play a song in the Key of D in order to prove it. (Note: I still have no idea of what chords are in the Key of D.)

He also suggested I get involved with my local songwriting organization as a way to meet other local musicians and songwriters and learn from them. That was also advice I followed, soon discovering the Arizona Songwriters Association and their monthly Songs in Progress workshops at a local library. (I’ll go into more about that in future posts, but I will note here that this morning I performed three of my songs at the group’s annual gathering for the first time.)

The song that he wanted to discuss was “Follow Your Dreams” but I learned that it was NOT the standard procedure for a producer to pick a song of an unknown songwriter and record it for free (understandably, but in my ignorance I could dream, right?) Unfortunately, it was out of my family’s budget to move any further with it.

After our conversation, I started reading more about the business – both in the Songwriters Market, which I bought a couple weeks before that, and online.

I was bummed that I couldn’t move forward with that project, but the next day I found in my work inbox an email about a free “No Experience Necessary” class at a local community college about studio recording. It was one evening a week for one month and so for the next few weeks, I learned about acoustics & microphones, mixing & recording, recording conditions and equipment changes (with a singer-songwriter performing in these different conditions) and electronic music.

A June 2016 recording class at Paradise Valley Community College.

Note: Part of this blog originally appeared in a February 2016 post on one of my older blogs, “Misc Musing.”

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