Questions answered (in the same order as outlined below) on this page:
About keeping a healthy mindset when you are doing music.
About staying physically healthy when you are in a band.
About being a girl in a band.
About Keeping A Healthy Mindset When You Are Doing Music
Being a musician comes with emotional highs and lows. It's an unusual life. You need to be open and expressive emotionally when you're writing songs and performing. You need to be receptive to the flow of creativity and to deeply feel into the music you are writing and playing. All of this involves a sensitivity that people who are truly passionate about music will have.
Along with the high emotions of writing or playing music come the in-between times - the days or weeks or even longer sometimes - between shows or recordings, the quiet, slow mornings after an exciting night before. Or the times when something you have created isn't received in the way that you would love and you get tough or negative feedback. Or when a show doesn't go well. THAT can be a real down.
Add to that the party situations, drugs and alcohol that musicians are so often surrounded by.
Me onstage with Moth Complex in the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, Ireland.
Ups and downs happen in life anyway, but when you are creative and putting yourself out there in the world, the ups and downs can feel more extreme. This is why it's really important to have a strong, healthy mindset - one that allows you to be emotionally open and creative, but strong enough to manage the various highs and lows or to be able to get through difficult things that may happen. That's not to say that you won't care. You may still feel affected, but you won't be floored. You won't be shattered.
It's one thing to feel down or sad or angry, and feel it and move through it. That's healthy. But it's another thing to let those feelings overwhelm you and take over you. I've seen people I care for and love in that situation and I've had my own dark times too.
Here are some suggestions of things that have helped me and others have a strong, healthy mindset and healthy boundaries. Take what is useful for you and disregard anything that isn't!
Make sure you have people to talk to in a way that is truthful and honest - and do talk to them. Make sure you have people you can trust with how you are feeling and who will support you. If this is your friends or family, that's great. If it's an online community, that's great. If you need to call a help line - that is absolutely fine too. Just once you can talk to someone when you need to.
Stay healthy in what you eat and drink and do exercise. All of this is fuel for your body and mind. Crappy food and no exercise supports you in feeling crap. The opposite is also true. Of course, at times, you'll need to just eat what is on hand, but do try to balance all that with healthy habits at the rest of the time.
Be grounded in your creativity. By that I mean to make the music YOU want to make, that YOU love and stand behind regardless of what anybody else thinks. Definitely keep high standards for what you create, but ultimately let what matters to you be that YOU are happy with what you create rather than relying on the approval of others. Might take a little practice, but try it!
Practice being honest with yourself about your feelings - all of them. Resisting feeling something doesn't make it go away, it just pushes it down to come back and be addressed later, usually in a more intense way. There is strength in honesty. When you can feel whatever you are feeling, this can allow it to lessen or pass. If it doesn't, find someone to talk to to help you.
By all means dream big, as big as you want to, but - as clichéd as it sounds - life is happening NOW. Enjoy where you are and what you are doing. Think how great it is that you get to do these things in life! Enjoy them.
Like I said, for some people, none of this will apply. Some people are more able to roll with the punches than others. That's not a good or a bad thing. It's just how it is.
A healthy mindset is separate from that. A healthy mindset is a practice - it's something you cultivate through having your own back like your best friend would. We creatives are often far too hard on ourselves! And if you need a hand, talk to someone!
Photo shoot in Dublin, Ireland. Photography - Sarah Doyle.
About Staying Physically Healthy When You Are In A Band
So you know how it goes... if you're rehearsing, sometimes you have to go straight to rehearsals from school or work. If you're playing shows, you find yourself hungry and looking for anything convenient to eat late at night when shops and restaurants are mostly closed. If you're on tour, you're living out of fast food places or whatever is provided at the venue, which is often a bar... It's a musician's lifestyle.
The thing is, though, that you need to be on top form to do your best performance, and as I said before, what you eat and drink is fuel for your body and mind. Crappy food supports you in feeling crap. Feeling crap physically makes it easy to feel crap mentally and emotionally. You get the idea. Plus doctors are expensive and not the easiest to find on tours, so you might as well take care of yourself!
You don't have to go as far as bringing a mini-stove with you to boil asparagus or anything like that - although that wouldn't be a bad idea - what I am suggesting is to strike some sort of balance. It's fine to join in with whoever else is having junk food sometimes, but make sure that you're getting in a good balance of healthy stuff too - vegetables and protein and fruit and lots of water. In fact, it's a great idea to grab a whole load of bottles of water and just have them in the van or rehearsal room for everyone.
Same goes for exercise. You want to have great energy and stamina onstage and be healthy and strong. Regular exercise will absolutely support your awesome performance. Cultivate simple, healthy habits that you then stick to without effort. I know it's not always easy, but minding yourself is really important.
Photo shoot in San Francisco.
About Being A Girl In A Band
I never like being asked by interviewers what it is like to be a girl in a band. It's hard to say exactly why. I mean, it's a fair question, but to me I have always felt that music IS my world, and that being a girl is irrelevant to that, so the question jars with me in some way. I don't know how exactly to explain it.
Anyway, all that aside, it is unfortunately undeniable that there are things that a female needs to be aware of that guys in bands don't need to consider - at least not in the same way - so I want to talk about the main one of them now.
So, unless you live in a bubble, you'll notice that the world looks at and treats women in a different way than it does men. Women's bodies are highly sexualised in media and wherever else. It is what it is.
Gotta say that the guys I meet at shows and on tour are for the largest part absolutely amazing and I really love hanging out with them/you all. Very occasionally, though, there can be someone who is definitely not amazing. At times a guy has been threatening to me or has been off-the-charts aggressively insulting as if to try to get some sort of reaction. Or just behaved in a way that was kind of creepy.
Before I go any further there are two things I want to say here:
1. Almost ALL the guys I meet/have met are awesome. Men, I love you!
2. I am not precious. I don't care if people are drunk or talk a bit crudely or do or don't like my songs. I don't mind if people are eccentric or whatever. Live and let live.
What I'm talking about is that on rare occasions I have met someone I felt threatened by or even frightened by. This can happen and it's important to be prepared for. I read once about children being taught to pay attention when they had an "Uh-oh" feeling - when they felt that intuitive warning feeling in their bodies that signified danger or feeling scared. That's what I'm talking about here. That "uh-oh" intuitive feeling of feeling wary or scared.
For all the girls starting out in music, here are some of the ways I found helpful to handle these situations best, and I share them here in case they are helpful for you too.
Generally, I prefer diffusing situations where possible, so I can stay happy and focused on the gig or job at hand, so whatever I suggest here has worked best for me and my personality.
Of course, you can deal with every situation differently and in your own way. If you want to, feel free to go straight to #5 on the list - that's your prerogative.
Anyway, I hope these suggestions are a help:
Trust your intuition. If you feel that "Uh-oh" feeling, go with it. It's better to be trust yourself, be careful and self-protective than wishing you had been.
Make sure you are working/playing/touring with guys or girls who have your back. If they don't, I'd go as far as saying that you might need to think about replacing them or leaving the band.
You need to be sure that your band/crew will drop whatever they are doing to back you up if you need them. Have this talk with them NOW so you're all on the same page. Often, calling out and having someone in the band or crew to come over just to chat to me when there was someone behaving strangely would change the dynamic of the situation and make it easy for me to get away to go backstage or out to the van or somewhere else when I wanted to.
You can have a codeword or sentence for minor situations. In my band I'd say, "I need a boyfriend" if there was someone hanging around and behaving kinda strange to me. One of the guys would throw an arm around my shoulder or give me a kiss on the cheek and always the dude I was nervous about just walked away.
Messed up? Yep. This always worked and was a much better solution for me, personally, than the times I would try to tell someone - who was often drunk and didn't want to listen - to back off. You can have a more innocuous phrase either that you all know is a code word for "I think I need a little help here."
Be careful when you are in a place or venue that may be rough. I felt one guy was being a bit aggressive in one of the venues so I had one of the guys in my band walk with me to the door of the ladies' restrooms and wait outside for me and walk me back to the merch stand.
Extreme? Yes? No? I don't care. I'm more interested in making sure I'm taking care of myself.
If someone is being threatening and aggressive, get them removed from the venue, but just make sure that you are not alone/unguarded throughout the rest of the evening.
As I said, it has suited me better to diffuse situations where possible. Make whatever choice works for you.
Also, the majority of people, as in almost every person I have met has been awesome, so what I'm talking about here is the rarity, but it does happen. So just be alert and be safe.