A conversation with the world…

Okay world. I feel so raw lately, I just shared on Amanda Palmer’s patreon post, because she is the queen of asking for help, and I know it’s learned for her…but I need to document why I feel so different, I can’t shake the sadness that moves thru me now, underneath the core of my being…I’m going to post all the replies I got too, so I don’t lose this. This chapter may have changed me from the inside out, maybe it’s the first time I’ve been TRULY honest about my intentions, about how bad it feels to fail, about perpetually trying and failing…I don’t want to get stuck here, I don’t want to live here, but I think in my desire to NOT fail, or not FEEL LIKE a failure, I pushed off the truth of my experience and feelings.  I can list so many “try” moments – a fundraiser that failed, no replies from labels, venues that wouldn’t have me for album releases, family and friends clearly doing me a favor in listening to or supporting me (as much as I need to be heard, people are kind, but it feels like futility if you can’t find people who really need to hear these sonsg, or you find like 3 people per year at best…I try to do this for them, but that leaves me feeling like I’m doing something wrong that I don’t know how to market any of this outside of those people, and the intensity of their love and appreciation for this music and these words pouring thru me, makes me think it’s IMPORTANT that I reach more people, the things these few people say, about how it helps them, makes me almost embarassed that I can’t figure out how to promote in this wildly saturated busy world…

I can write some “win” moments here too, front page of Bandcamp for the “New and Notable” section, 2 years ago, personal wins like pushing on despite feeling small, completing my own challenges, on and on… I can’t think of many, tbh. Maybe the livestream on day 365 and quite a few people came and I wrote a final song for em all? Or maybe going on tour and having shows work out? Or opening for Gaelynn Lea? That felt like a win (that she picked me 🙂 I guess there have been a lot, but it’s easy to get lost in the nos, the failures, the pain of it all, the feeling small.  I have a book sitting next to me called “Fail. Fail again. Fail better.” It’s a graduation speech by Pema Chodron. So many beautiful words come from that woman.  Another is George Saunders, he just came to mind. There is so so so much good in the world, people trying to share light. And I feel like I want to share light but the pain of aging meets failing is getting in my way. If I weren’t trying hard, or keeping my songs to myself, like the dreamer I used to be, then I could objectively say it’s my fault. Or if I felt like I really should take advice I’ve been given, to only share the highest quality stuff…but that’s like saying, I know all this wildness is moving thru you, but can you only speak when spoken to? Or only speak once every few years, and in a soft detached hipster way? (not to dog on them, many are naturally that way, so for them it makes sense – for me, imitating them, as I used to try to, it’s like a clown show…watching me subdue all this to try to be…subdued? just because I think people might like that more? I’ve changed…I am myself now…it’s ugly and wild and sometimes “too much” for most people, I don’t know what can be done about this…maybe it’s the effects of a bright soul, writing songs since elementary school, my first brush with fame, meeting mostly failure in the world…and Pema says, failure is just when things don’t work out the way you want them to…she has a great quote on this:

“I thought if there is one skill that is not stressed very much, but is really needed, it is knowing how to fail well.  The fine art of failing. There is a lot of emphasis on succeeding. And whether we buy the hype or not, we all want to succeed, especially if you consider success as ‘it works out the way i want it to.’ You know it feels good in the gut and in the heart because it worked out. So failing by that definition is that it didn’t work out the way you wanted it to. And [failing] is what we don’t usually get a lot of preparation for.”

I was an A student, if I failed repeatedly at something, or was bad in any way, I quit it.  In my past life.  Like pre-these-challenges…once I had a bad show where I took 3rd in a contest, out of 3 entrants, and I was so embarassed that I quit performing for 7 years. 7 YEARS! The whole time I lived in New York, I didn’t play my original singer-songwriter songs for ANYONE! I hid in musicals, I hid in music directing…I still recorded it all, but in a city of pianos and open mics, I didn’t go to a single one, didn’t believe anyone would care, or just DIDN’T WANT TO FEEL THAT FAILURE FEELING AGAIN.  When I lived in Chicago, again still writing and cataloging songs for myself, I had a now-ex who spotted this – he was dysfunctional in so many ways, but he got this topic SO RIGHT.  It was what I wanted to do, so why wasn’t I doing it? That was 2005, or 2006…and so began a slow journey into sharing.  Started with singer-songwriter circles once a month at Old Town School of Folk Music.  First Fridays. Getting feedback. Some people adored me, others ripped my quiet voice to shreds.  Booked my first gig…didn’t matter that I’d already understudied to be a music director on Off-Broadway or played like 15 musicals by then, or shared so much, including the movie Fairies, by then (short film that we were turning into Were the World Mine), what mattered was that this gig, in a backyard of a mansion in Oak Park, was MINE. My songs, my choices, coming out as myself I guess.  That led to a few more and finally my love affair with Gallery Cabaret in early 2007, meeting Garrett Lane, him offering to record me, booking my first tiny tour that was more of a toe in the water…only one real show, in Minneapolis, plus an open mic in Madison, and a “check out venues” moment in Milwaukee.  Haha I didn’t really want to tour, I just wanted to SOUND like I’d toured lol 🙂 And my car was totalled by a drunk driver in Mpls, while parked at an open mic, like that city was saying STAY HERE! And maybe I should have, lived with my brother’s family for 2 weeks while trying to buy a new car…but anyway, back to Chicago, meeting Ethan Stoller, having a great time the next two years with him, making Du Bist Einen Fogle! slowly, meeting Thymme Jones of Cheer-Accident and opening for him at the Hideout…so many tiny moments, crawling out of my own shell, being seen…maybe it’s been enough for me, considering all the trauma I’ve unpacked and worked thru along the way.  Now I gig and tour all the time (sloppy messy sad story with my ex, that brought me to Michigan, but then a year later falling in love here and staying…and all the trying that has happened, to make Michigan work for me, still not used to small town life and Michigan wilderness and how bizarrely it all resonates with my big energy…but I have grown a lot here, the past few years, so there’s that, I can’t complain…well I could but haha, what does that do? I have students and outlets to perform and have met some lovely people…it’s not as grandiose as I tried to make it, in 2016/17 with Ladyfest and Lamp Light Music Festival, where we really tried to connect so many people in this lovely community, got burnt out from that I guess, and honestly, it’s hard to say this out loud, but there wasn’t enough feeling of reciprocity…people we gave to, of our time and money and attention, many of them didn’t give much back…and that had never been a promise so it’s okay, but over time you wake up from that and realize all the ways you’re not giving to yourself, not releasing your own albums, putting everything into community with others, and if they don’t value you beyond a quick moment, then your life can become a string of quick moments with not-your-people…so I moved away from that, or doing that as much…started whole festivals cuz of seeing so many people who deserved more attention or love, but it took so much time away from myself and the fact that I felt like I too deserved more attention and love, and no one was going to give it to me unless I gave it to myself first…I had to put in the work and change on a lot of painful difficult topics…

Didn’t mean to write my lifestory, but there it is.  I’m changing, I’m celebrating this art that moves thru me, I love it, I’m trying to work harder than ever and do my best, and go inward, and appreciate those dear ones who tell me they value this work I do, and I try to turn off from it and be there for others too.

But anyway, on yet another release last week, I felt discouraged…

Here’s what I wrote about that:
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NOVEMBER 18th, 2:01PM

Overall I see my life as a singer-songwriter as a failure. Before releasing yet another album I just want you to know that. I think these songs pouring thru me are highly unrelateable. Sometimes I wonder if I need new friends, maybe I should go back to church. I mean, my songs are so clearly for these people:

-people who kind of believe in God (and don’t mind a fantasy-like way of imagining it, personal conversations, etc)
-people in recovery
-people with anxiety
-people with a sense of a power greater than themselves but don’t know what to call it
-people who pray but aren’t comfortable with many aspects of organized religion
-people who don’t go to church because they don’t feel comfortable in the hypocrisies and debates and just want to try to connect with God (as they understand God) directly.

I dunno. I’m tired. I live like I have something to prove because I HAVE had something to prove. Much of my life happened pre-internet showiness…so I have all this latent talent that feels wasted, human jukebox and being able to write a 30 minute improvised song with rhymes and meaning, pre 2017 it felt unshared and unknown. Little did I know that making it known and still feeling unknown would actually feel worse.

Dreamers are dreamers for a reason. Prior to maybe 2010, or MySpace days, most of us lived in notebooks and our minds, dreaming of the day we’d do it, follow thru in some way. There’s more avenues than ever for following thru now, but also a complete saturation of noise. Most people I know probably unfollowed me, for talking too much or about things they don’t care about. Reality is hard. We get conflicting messages.

So, this next and not-nearly final album from me is all about giving up, giving in, being yourself, trying to do things for some greater good in the Sky, feeling futile in lots of ways, small like an invisible seed, planted, in the dark, doing very little in the world ‘for others’ despite feeling like you do in dreams, and having a harder time than expected turning the focus back to myself and those quiet dreamy solitary nunlike dreams. Where I’m helpful only in the ether, maybe in prayer or subtle energies I don’t understand (not in any way I could promote to you or sell).

Maybe I’m just feeling melancholy today, maybe it’s from editing all this sad sounding music. Or from being pulled forward by two challenges right now, with a hefty daily workload, when I’d like to just do nothing and these challenges feel God-led and I don’t even know who it’s for when most people seem to hate God nowadays and I love Him more than ever. So I live most my life and time feeling like I can’t say anything like this.

Feeling small, just thought I’d share.
New little scrappy album out soon tho, maybe by 4pm?

Bye 💕

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Here’s what people had to say about that…

You are so good. I see you. I hear you. I care about you. I’m grateful for you. You add color and joy to my world. Thank you. ❤️ – Andrew

With love, from one artist to another, don’t place your value in other people’s hands. (I imagine) You create because you love too, not because you want to be loved for your creations. I consider myself a musician because I would be lost without playing music, being able to play makes me happy, but it is not a gauge for my value.-Roman

Success in art largely seems like a myth. 🙃 – Dawn

Jessica, “Tiny Traumas adding up” is a visionary album. I think my jaw dropped open when I first heard it. I find myself wanting to listen to it a lot, but I often can’t because it’s too powerful. That’s a good thing. – Steve

What you believe is what you create. If you believe in failure that will be.
God believes in you perhaps you could begin to as well and begin to step away from self talk and thinking patterns that do not serve you. – Rick

Jessica! I miss you! When are you coming to NYC for a visit? YOU ARE WONDERFUL. Don’t despair. It’s just like this a lot. ❤️❤️❤️ – Katie

Hi Jess, Grandpa Fogle gave me this when I was only 14 years old and I have had a framed copy of it above my desk ever since. I shared this with Kurt and Kelly a long time ago and they seem to derive some solace from it in tough times. I know it sounds like a string of well crafted platitudes but whenever I read it slowly I always feel just a little better. https://mwkworks.com/desiderata.html -Uncle Bob

You are one of the greatest writers I’ve known. Your abilities dwarf most normal writers. I still treasure the track you let me produce. Such awesome stuff. In the end, we have a few choices as writers. We can write what we want even though we know it won’t be appreciated, or we can write stuff people will like and keep the other tunes as a personal refuge. I didn’t play a song one time at First Friday because I felt the group was being so judgmental to others that an oddball truly outside the box song of mine, would be savaged. Played it next time. Slightly different vibe. They loved it. So we never truly know. Everyone loves you. Use that. -Steve

forever inspired by you ❤️-Nathan

I know we only met for a minute or two at GRGR but I find all your posts and your music to be so inspiring. I love your honesty and out pour of love and emotions. Never change. How you live your life is the definition of success… at least in my humble opinion. ❤️ – Alex

Totally not a failure, your prolific songwriting and off the cuff talents inspired me! There are many other people that you have undoubtedly inspired without knowing, not many people can lay claim to that. And it’s ok to have a niche audience, I certainly can relate to that. Although you probably reach more people than you think. – Matt

The mere thought that you’d consider yourself a failure makes me feel ill. You’re the most talented person I know. – Jessica

I find your posts (like your music) so honest, raw and real)! That’s what I love about you!    You (and your music) is so very inspiring to me! (and I believe to many others). I actually feel your frustration. I see how hard you work, I know how talented (and uniquely you) you are! You have something really special to offer the world! Even when you’re not singing about ‘sunshine and rainbows’. Even when that raw and real honesty brings up painful emotions, it’s relatable to so many and can even be a real source of healing! I don’t really know why some people with exceptional talent “make it’ and some remain ‘unknown’ (or unknown to many). Or why people who seem really ‘talentless’ to me hit the big time so to speak. I scratch my head thinking about it. But I have always felt that there is something ‘big’ in your future. I really believe that “It” will happen (whatever ‘it) is! That the stars will align! I don’t know what the answer is, other than to keep doing what you’re doing (or try something different), I don’t know, but keep pushing on, keep creating (not that you could stop) haha! (It’s IN you!) You have creativity bursting from your pores! It’s in your blood! In your cells/your DNA! Maybe take a break though, (or more regular breaks), walk in the woods, meditate, clear your head. Think of a new approach? Maybe something you haven’t tried? Or something you’ve tried, but maybe gave up on too early? Reach out to old contacts, new contacts? Think of new ways to get your music ‘out there’? Online concerts? The thing is, there is no exact ‘formula’. It’s hard to say what effect some big event or small interaction might do for your music career or catapult you to another level of success! I truly hope that all of your biggest dreams are realized and come to fruition! (I also would be happy to help in any way that I can with online promotion/emails/calling radio stations, etc.) Just let me know! (I also have an idea I will private message you about later. Something that I’ve thought about but don’t think I’ve mentioned). Best wishes! And I think you are totally RAD!   ❤ – Lisa

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There were more but these were the most significant for me.  I sat with it for days, couldn’t respond, was embarassed. Thought my post would fall thru the cracks. When I responded it was because I felt pressured by time passing, not because I felt ready to speak…I expect myself, btw, to have a shift in perspective before replying. When I share something sad or like I’m struggling…so when I don’t, even the way I handled receiving support here, felt like a failure to me. I have very high expectations for myself…here’s my mostly shitty replies (or “best I could do” replies)…

To Andrew: Thank you Andrew – this means so much (and your message). I’ve been overwhelmed by it all, like I thought this post would fly under the radar like much of my stuff, so I didn’t know how to process this all (while also releasing the album lol). I appreciate you too…honestly my takeaway from all this is that pretending to be okay with where your at, maybe doesn’t get you the support you need, when you’re feeling low about where you’re at. I dunno the solution, people don’t like complaining, and you get lots of confusing advice and feedback sometimes, but it’s also how people help people. And how can anyone help anyone they don’t know is struggling? Gonna keep reflecting on that (some of it is in response to your message too…I replied bottom to top on this thread and I’m fried now from all the replies lol…sometimes I think I’m being saved from any attention for music/words cuz I like responding personally and feel selfish if I just take in the kindnesses without responding, but a post like this reminded me I can barely handle even 12 people attending to me and my feelings…let alone some sort of fanbase…) Hugs!   

To Roman: Thank you Roman 🙂 ❤

(didn’t have the heart to tell him that I don’t believe in that, doing it “just for me” – I DID do it just for me, all those years where it was a therapy and personal dreamland…if I’m going to VERY actively put it out in the world, on the internet and anywhere else, it’s not just for me…it’s painful to do all that work and have it be “just for me”, when for my own heart, keeping it private and sacred is what’s best…but I feel called to share and serve others, by sharing. Seeing my vulnerability, and openness, has helped people, and that feeling keeps me going despite all this pain and feeling of failure.

To Steve: Thanks Steve – I still remember your response, or the emotions behind it – so it truly goes both ways…there’s something especially powerful about someone from a whole different chapter in your life, seeing you in a different way, thru your most honest work. i.e. it meant a lot to me, your response (back then and again now…) Like a lot.   

To Rick (a burst, 5 short replies, cuz I was upset, almost irrationally…)

post 1:
hmm not sure i see the relevance here…
post 2:
my whole post is how i have believed in myself these whole 12 years of releasing constantly (esp the last 3) despite no worldly success…post 3:
i think new age wisdom fails when it doesn’t allow room for actual emotions. when we are disappointed, the correct emotion is disappointment. we feel it, then (hopefully) move onto new emotions.

this is true in trauma recovery too. i don’t think God wants only happy puppy songs. horrible traumas happen too, and the world needs songwriters for those.

post 4:
also, i think ‘what you believe is what you create’ is a person-centered thought, not a God centered thought.

Alignment is real, and a thing, but sometimes i think new age wisdom and God-wisdom have conflated to SEEM related when they’re actually not…or in some cases (like this one) diametrically opposed.

I wasted a lot of years and even more heart energy feeling personally responsible for things I couldn’t heal or fix on my own – ideas, habits, wounds, etc. Emotional, physical, otherwise.

There’s a saying “God’s got this” for a reason. I don’t have to do anything.

As I said, if anything I have too much self-belief…not enough belief coming at me from others.

Anyway, there’s my two-cents on that.

post 5:
(to clarify – not that I owe an explanation, but in case people are reading this and care – I don’t think anyone owes me anything, I don’t expect anyone to be a fan, no one specifically is letting me down… just acknowledging the fact that it IS in fact painful, to do this for 12 years, unrelentingly, now more than ever, without “making it” in the industry…me believing in myself a ton is actually probably one of the less appealing things about me, I’m guessing…like I’m always so excited about myself and these songs, I can’t imagine how that’s coming off so I try not to worry about it…but I think you hit a nerve cuz what you describe is the exact opposite of my problem, I’ve been leading writer’s block workshops and mentoring youth on the topic you mentioned, hoping to rub off some of my intense self-belief onto others…at the end of the day, I have too much of it…just no real worldly resonance…just stated that cuz it’s the elephant in the room for me, that I keep trying to be okay with, and I needed, today, to acknowledge that it’s actually hard on my heart sometimes…)


To Katie:  Katie thanks for this, I was just in NYC actually, on tour! Gah…I didn’t invite NY people I knew to the show unless I’d seen them recently, because we stayed in Brooklyn but the show ended up on Long Island (Uniondale) and I didn’t want anyone to feel obligated…it was so far. But I hope to be back somehow next year…miss that city with a passion.

To Uncle Bob: Thanks Uncle Bob    this meant a lot to me, I read it in my kitchen and cried. Really beautiful…printing it now.

(he wrote back again – only one who did, back to that usual ‘throwing spaghetti into a void’ feeling…) Wonderful Jess….”The universe IS unfolding as it should”….LOL😊

To Steve (maybe my worst reply, I don’t know how to experience some people’s fandom in a sea of mostly people not being into my work…) loved this story Steve – I’m glad you had that experience. As for your kind words, of course I love hearing that…I dunno, maybe people like you and some others from those Old Town days (one said i was “the next billy joel” – that’s a lot of pressure haha!), played into my self-belief that i have something BIG to live up to, just because I dreamed it as a kid, and that anything short of global fame for songwriting was a sort of failure. Anytime someone said something like this (what you’ve said here and times before), I experienced it like an…inevitability, if only I worked hard? I never really imagined a reality where I’d work harder than ever, and be as unknown as ever, outside my Facebook/Instagram bubble…even having some big moments like the front page of Bandcamp (twice) and still being unknown…I know I could look into business stuff more, but it always kills my spirit cuz this all is already so unpaid, and my many efforts at it in the past didn’t amount to anything. I probably should have kept my manager back in Chicago…it was a friend but she was driven to help me, and I was too overwhelmed at the ideas. Plus other stuff that went wrong…and yea, I keep writing what I want. That’s the one piece I absolutely cannot change. My lowest point was ducking out of promoting my album made by a friend of the Wachowski’s, back in Chicago, who had connections and worked so hard with me, to instead ghostwrite for a woman who won a contest with a Capitol Records former producer, and it led nowhere except to me feeling like I’d put fake songs and fake feelings and fake music into the world, and she didn’t end up paying me and played those songs for years…which is karma cuz I’ve done shitty things too 🙂 but I guess I’m saying, I learned pretty young to NEVER change the music you wanna make, cuz “making it” is so rare, if in the end you also don’t love the music, you really wasted your time. Instead of just kind of wasted it (like, I am spending LOTS of time converting my super private singer-songwriter life into a public experienceable thing…and I have about 3 views on average on my YouTube vids, and probably very few listens overall on my Bandcamp, even Spotify…just not clicking with the world, or no one knows me and I’m falling into the music vacuum of an oversaturation of weirdos and non-weirdos and sigh…it’s just weird that’s all, maybe it’s cuz I don’t have local friends or people I play for, except once every few months…it’s just me and Bryan in my little writer world, quiet and online and naturey, except when I commit to side projects…I dunno, just ramblin now! bye!)

To Nathan: love you Nathan    the idea of that is forever significant to me (still feels weird when I think of you singing harmonies on that song we made together, how you said what it meant to you, how I didn’t understand someone cool liking one of my heart-on-sleeve songs…always assumed i needed to hide those, you gave me a lot of courage back in those days)

To Alex: Thanks Alex <3 that means a lot…I guess I needed all these responses, cuz it feels embarrassing releasing albums without knowing how anyone sees me. I dunno, I think I feel successful on the topic you described (your def of success) just not in terms of money or big shows or tours or other worldly measurements. And maybe that’s embarrassing sometimes… seemed particularly embarrassing to me the day I wrote this all.

To Matt: Thanks Matt, I appreciate hearing this   

To Jessi: Jessi, thank you for this    I wrote a long response and it made me feel shitty again so I’ll just say that. Love you Jessi.

To Lisa: (haven’t replied yet, but I want to…just wanted to get all this garbage out of my brain first…so I don’t fall back into old patterns of not accepting help WHEN IT IS OFFERED!)

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ALSO…to be fair to myself, this post of mine didn’t come out of nowhere…very few people respond to posts of mine like this, one day earlier…

For some reason, when I’m working on other people’s songs, it’s easy to focus on good sound and best feet forward. But I have this love affair with lo-fi that just won’t quit, probably from decades of listening to my tapes and scratch recordings and dreaming about the day I’d remake em into ‘real albums.’ When that day finally came, the experience was often so anticlimactic- and 2017 brought a release from that build up the hype style approach to sharing. Now I feel a little sad and weird every time I’m about to release something. I know it mostly won’t be heard, there’s so many drops in the ocean, and I’d love to say I’ve arrived at that mythical place where it always feels good making things ‘just for me.’ But if I have to see the positives in all this growth lately, even in the melancholy truths, it’d be that I’ve discovered that the idea of ‘helping’ people thru music or online rambles is a strange misrepresentation of the hoped-for experience. We are looking to connect with you, us writer types, as much as you are looking for people to connect with. I know high-quality albums make the possibility of connection higher, but I’m not there yet, self-esteem wise (investing a year into one album again, plus money and fundraising, it’s a big risky and hard-on-the-heart process). But if you like my weird behind-the-scenes confessional songs, I just finished an album called Michigan Dreams, it’ll be out tomorrow. It’s been a labor of love and strange insights the past two weeks, and it’s a response to the Colorado feelings album. Sort of. It’s very tender and melancholy and a little hopeless, but in a good way, like a new roots sort of way. I think. I guess I’ll tell you more about it tomorrow. Bye 

-I think two people replied to that on FB, one was to say cool pic (it had a cool pic attached 🙂 So I’m used to being ignored or unheard, problems of social media, I get way more attention for sharing memes and quotes than for my original thoughts or music…most times. Except the above.

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ANYWAY that unexpected response affected how I released it…said more than usual…here’s more words, due to all those replies…

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HERE’S what I included with the release post:

Michigan Dreams album cover w cute graffiti

New album out – ‘Michigan Dreams’ – 9 songs about feelings. Kind of a response to visiting Colorado. It’s about being where you didn’t mean to be, feeling defeated, small, lost, being a seed, being planted, rerouting, new dreams taking root, talking to God (track 1 and 6 don’t feel written by me, the whole thing is like a conversation). It’s personal, probably unrelateable, but it’s only half lo-fi so if you like pretty things you might like tracks 1,3,5,6. If you don’t mind weird things that sounds scrapped together (recordings by a tree mixed with bells and synth pads) or ukulele solos in running vans, all preserved for the sake of those moments in time and specific ways of writing those songs being important (to me), then you might like the whole thing.
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For fans of God (or the universe) and working thru tough feelings.
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My favorite lyrics on the album are probably track 7, and it summarizes what I’m doing with my life, I guess.
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My favorite music on the album is probably 5 or 6 (I prefer the good sounding stuff…but I write too much to redo things, the flow is so relentless I’m just trying to keep up honestly)
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Okay it was easier to share all that than usual, now that you know (from the last post) that i already think I failed. Lest you confuse my explanations of things as ‘hey look I’m so great’ it’s really just these are the songs and this is all the information. I’ve held back in how I talk about my own work cuz the world made me paranoid about seeming arrogant, so instead maybe I’ve under-enjoyed and undervalued all this work, since late childhood? For me it’s a gift. These songs flowing thru me. They help me change course, which sadly I’ve needed to do sooo many times. And I feel a cosmic rebirth happen in songs, like something beyond me works it all out and sometimes explains it, and poof new direction…so, here we go. New direction into the top soil, planting a little, hoping to grow. Xo💕(link in bio, btw)
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#michigan #michiganmusic #michigandreams #belonging #toyourself #andmaybe #threepeoplearoundyou #hoping #losinghope #lettinggo #movingon #beingplanted #terrifying #whoknows #whywewantto #escape #things #xoxo #jessicaintherainbow

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This post had VERY few replies.  The actual release. A fan in Europe bought it and encouraged me deeply (in multiple places…I’ll post those Instagram and YouTube comment moments here…) and a fan in Japan bought it, oh and a fan in Canada just yesterday sent me a lovely note.

These people probably don’t realize they are keeping me afloat. I almost said alive. But like, if NO ONE bought it or said anything, I honestly don’t know what I would do. It’s not a perfect album but it exists and is not terrible, and honestly, I just don’t understand this world that I’ve tried so hard to belong in…

or be myself in…

(the memes are wrong, becoming yourself is painful and WAY harder or worse than being like others…it doesn’t comfort, it is excrutiating at moments, and wants to drive you into a deep dark hole of yourself and give up…the only teachable moment I could derive from this is if I DO NOT give up, if I keep failing and failing and failing and by keeping going you decide to call that “a success” despite being unknown til the end of time…which I decided I need to say to myself, this myth of they’ll love you after you’re dead, or at some successful point in the future, even IF it ended up true, I PERSONALLY have to let it go…because the need for it to happen, or the hope, is what is making it so damn embarassing, that it’s not happening, that I’m not known…I know I know, as if we can all be “known”, and lots of people work hard, but that doesn’t change how failure – or perceived failure – feels…)

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Oh yea…forgot I added an addendum to the super responded-to post, when shared on Instagram, and got even more responses, about becoming a Quaker (actually helpful – I live in the bible belt AND the witches coven…it is both here and I am neither, tho I am Christian and love God, I take comfort from my defiant and fiesty nun-grandma, who did things her own way and had visions…I don’t fit in, in churches, because they don’t like questions, especially questioning people of authority…most churches found me exhausting…but here ya go, here’s more feedback I tried to work thru on all this…)

ME: (addendum to initial post) update: did not release the album by 4pm. typing in lyrics, maybe late tonight. if you’re counting lol. also I know this is very sad sounding. it’s because it’s something I frequently feel sad about, but I read in some new age lit that you’re not supposed to share that and you’re supposed to share the positives and be grateful and envision what you want…and honestly positivity can be a bully. I believe in a God that wants us to say we’re disappointed when we feel disappointed. And then if that feeling needs to move, it will (either thru focused attention, or thru some other way of letting it go…personally I pray for healing, even on emotional things, and I’m tired of hiding my nunlike tendencies, I talk to God pretty much all day and sometimes feel like I hear stuff back so maybe I need to find and surround myself with people who think that’s no big deal and certainly who don’t shun me for it…not that anyone is overtly, but sometimes I think I just feel too rainbow for this black and white which-side-are-you-on sort of world… okay well, there’s more words, I meant to just mysteriously share just the pics, with a heart or something, instead of talking some more…sigh. Bye 💕
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#words #morewords #feelings #morefeelings #raw #vulnerability #newalbum #tomorrow #ihope #trying #moving #tryingtomove #letgo #holdon #ontosomething #xo #jessicaintherainbow

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Decided not to detail all the responses, but I see now, they mostly dealt with spirituality cuz of my addendum…

But here’s one about this topic: it’s something I feel a lot of the time. thinking of my music as an emotional outlet for myself, as a hobby, as a diary, whatever you name it, helped a lot. as much as I want to be heard, putting too much focus on that proved to be extremely unhealthy and killed my drive for creating, because it is hard to get people’s attention, especially when your art doesn’t quite fit with whatever the general public is into. treating it as something personal and something that helps me through tougher times was a true savior. much love. – Yungimas

And one more that meant a lot, from my former collaborator (a brilliant writer/artist/arranger/etc etc etc)

post 1:
this probably does not help but i have come to feel that achieving conventional success in the arts is basically like winning at a slot machine. Some people do win but it has no direct relationship to their talent, skill, or hard work. It just happens. It is maddening. But it does not seem to be remotely merit-based. Where people with merit win the jackpot, i think it is a mere coincidence.

post 2:
Which i say merely because I firmly do not believe you have failed. You are and have always been artistically brilliant. I have watched you, me, and too many others fail to “make it” over the years and shake my head in wonder. It is just a gamble. It isnt because you aren’t good enough. You are so much more than good enough, to quote Sarah Mclachlan….

– Elisabeth

then my shitty awkward embarassed response cuz I don’t know how to receive love, maybe I’m afraid people will think I’m arrogant if I just take it in and adnit how much their reply meant to me????

okay now I wanna listen to @officialsarahmclachlan 💓💓💓that’s someone I should cover for my challenge…gonna go record Good Enough right now, I’m sad just thinking about it (good song). And thank you, love you. All these responses, on FB too, have made me speechless and kinda overwhelmed. I wrote this post for posterity, thinking it’d be a drop in the void or bucket, and then I thought the release would go under the radar too, even more so…which is just, sigh. Some days it just gets to you I guess. But off to finish my 7 half finished albums, including ours lol. Hopefully by 2022!

(A more honest response to Elisabeth: your words meant way more to me than is conveyed here…like priceless, needed, and meaningful, down to my soul…I appreciate you taking time and most of all ENERGY out of your life, to give them to me ❤ ❤ <3)

Lastly – my favorite lol:

i love your brain. miss you – Jonnie

my reply: i miss u too! we’re chaotic-good friends 💕also I wanna collab w you someday
😊

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So I had attention. Is that what fame is like? Times a million?????I don’t know. Maybe I can’t handle it. I’ve nurtured and nourished a belief that’s kept me sane all these years of non-stop failing, peppered with tiny successes…it’s that, maybe God is protecting me from fame. Fame is not a thing, and attainable thing, it’s a TASK. A thing to do, to wake up and DO every day. More shows, more choices, more decisions, more moments you have to wake up and break your own heart and rearrange it and be violently and courageously YOURSELF.  No apologies, or TONS of apologies, but still going. And going and going and going. And once you are known, you are not NOT known. There’s no going back I imagine. So why wish for it? TRULY WHY!?

And I’ve been able to stop the wishing or wanting…but some days a song comes out that feels crafted by God, and I did nothing except get out of the way, and it feels so lonely holding those songs to myself. I want to worship the songs TOGETHER with someones, not worship ME, I did nothing, I’ve done so little, I barely show up, I’m haphazard messy chaotic sad unstable lonely kind of a loser, bossy impossible hard-to-work-with bigger than life talks about herself confused wants to help but struggles to LISTEN i’m soooo many things…I have narrowed my world down to just a few friends because I’m needing to find and figure out HOW to be in this world and was getting confused trying to be everything for everyone, so now I connect with these few and I feel better…so there it is. The loneliness isn’t from not having enough friends, I like my small life, I don’t need to chase after people anymore…make festivals for them and hope there’s a give and take…I have people I count on, that I can count on one hand…the rest, truly the rest I need, is a connection around these songs. Not more friends, not more busyness, not more NOT-this, I need THIS. But connection around this. Not around what I said or rambled. Just the songs. What do the words and music mean to you? What does my life mean to you, this wild searching? Tell me about YOU. I’m so tired of myself…but I can’t run from it, because these songs are not MYSELF but My Self is the vehicle for them. So I have to grapple with the loneliness and pain of failing and weird feeling of “it’s all about me” just to deliver these songs into a broken world.

These songs are not for eveeryone.  But they are for some people. I HAVE to work harder to make them higher quality. For my own heart. I’m going to tweak Michigan Dreams a little, maybe, even tho it’s already released. I have to try my best. I have to. I haven’t been, and this 444 mostly cover songs challenge (tho it’s soon going to become closer to half and half, just announced that, right now…haha…anyone reading, you’re the first to know…because I can’t keep all this to myself anymore…and I need to honor these originals, not ignore them for 14 months…)

I can’t believe how much work it is, to do this work. I never knew. In all my dreaming and lo-fi recordings for myself…this. This is the work. It’s so hard. It’s uphill. I’m the vehicle and vessel for these songs, but I keep getting in the way. I need help. I don’t know what I’m doing, yet I know I HAVE TO do it. I’ve felt this calling for forever, but the path is SO discouraging and embarassing. Still, I have to go, keep going, keep doing, keep working on these songs.

Okay, I’m tired from writing that.
Oh yea, the whole point…

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So then I said this…

NOVEMBER 21st 1:20pm

So I just had one of the more unexpected moments I’ve had on Facebook. This is a powerful tool for me, YouTube too, as I don’t have a label or publisher but have wanted to connect with people thru writing and making things my whole life.

Basically I wrote a post a couple days ago that I assumed would fall thru the cracks, like much of my creative stuff has seemed to. Except to me (and a few superfans). Like I could tell you the name and track number of almost every song I’ve ever written, and play them or recite the lyrics…but in terms of worldly resonance, it mostly feels like building a catalogue of work for myself. Or some future job application.

So I feel weird that such a raw post was responded to…and with so much love. When the irony is that I rarely feel responded to, like the songs are questions to the universe and maybe I live in my head so much that I’ve become okay with (or have always been okay with) never having conversations about the themes in these lyrics.

I think I’m afraid of people. I hide behind sharing thoughts in songs, and talking about it as my ‘art’ but the truth that maybe those of us who seem like we want to ‘save’ you just want to have a conversation with you, or create a conversation in the world, but we’re too scared to have it directly. The post I made was basically a synopsis of themes on the album, and y’all made me actually talk about it. Or think about it.

I still don’t know what to say. Maybe I’ll repost the post below if you missed it. But I feel as small as ever…my new album is imperfect and scrappy but I’ve already had two responses that make me feel a sense of some purpose here. (Here = on earth…I guess I feel kind of alien most days) And I sold two copies so far, one in Europe and one in Japan…and that used to be enuf for me, low sales but to cool places. And I know I should really edit the stray noises better in the album…and I want to, but I committed to this new challenge so I also made a cute puppy stuffed animal video and am working on a cute friends music video plus about four other cover songs all last night so I just always feel too spread thin to polish. But when I’m not spreading myself thin I don’t want to work – I have a pretty bad relationship to the WORK of being a songwriter. Or to chores in general. Trying to get over it but it’s hard – I just wanna create but I know more people connect to things that sound polished, so I’m torn.

Soooooo to kind of answer the responses…

Yes I feel like a failure, I know I’m not one and I appreciate those of you who don’t see me that way, but the feeling is related to the workload, the effort, the heart on your sleeve, the sharing of things here and on Insta, and ultimately to having a body of work available for purchase and merch and stuff and having so few sales that you don’t feel like a ‘real’ artist…and to the fact that I’ve lived on the idea of ‘yet.’ Like in May I was pushing so hard, keeping up, live-streams and studio videos and recording sessions and booking everything and June started realizing I was overwhelmed and on a writing retreat in July wondered when I was going to chill the F out. Suddenly it all felt foolish, all the trying, and like it was related to an agenda of ‘making it’ that I’d been increasing in for 12 years, with a burst at the end (the past few years). And I never told anyone but I considered that my peak…so maybe that’s why it feels like failure. I have been turned down for way more than I’ve been accepted for…WAY more. So the highs you’ve seen had sooo much work behind them, and sat on the backs of so many ‘no’s.

Maybe I’m just tired of spreading the personal success story. I’m not a success by worldly standards and it IS painful. It would be LESS painful if I would work way less and share way less and do this ‘just for me’ like I used to by rarely sharing anything. But I’ve been growing this following and learning to share like it was inherently better, so maybe this is a cautionary tale. Trying harder leads to greater expectations, it’s like climbing a tree or flying, like once you’re up there you have to keep up the effort…maybe I’m not wired for it. I made these challenges up to force myself to work. It’s working, I’m working, but its so hard to feel like there’s no clear path and maybe it’ll all just poof vanish and WOW I am not making this better by talking about it.

I dunno – maybe I just need to ask for help. How do those with big album sales or successful album fundraisers go about it? Do you ask people directly to buy your album? I never do that. I’m too embarrassed asking for money, or selling people something they don’t actually want. I don’t want to push myself on anyone. I feel like it would cheapen the joy of a possible sale. But I clearly am not the expert as I made two sales in Japan and Europe and I feel like I’m doing something massively wrong in my promotion or lack there of…and I wonder if it all comes down to the fact that I hate asking for for help. Or feedback. Or for people to buy anything from me.

I never thought I’d measure my success by money, but there it is  my secret truth. 💔💰

p.s. even worse, all this overtrying and excessive releasing and guilt about stray noises in the album is cuz I worry that it doesn’t have value to any of you ($4) without being closer to perfect…so I pressure myself to get more perfect before asking anyone to buy my work. All these challenges have been to try to get better at doing the work, so that I have $4 or $7 value to you. I feel like I don’t yet which is why I’m trying to get better before doing a big and polished release. But I’m scared to do that cuz I’m afraid if I work hard on just one album for a year and I don’t ‘pitch it’ correctly, or well, and miss media deadlines, or learn to ‘push it on you’ that I’d be devastated. So I’m doing it instead with albums I care less about, that I made in a weekend or a week. It’s hard to ask people to care about things they don’t care about. I hate social media for both giving me this power AND showing me my weaknesses so clearly…but not seeing how to get out of it. Maybe that’s why learning to be honest is helpful. I’ve gotten advice from people in the past that was just them guessing or speculating, about things they had no experience with. In the end it was bad advice and based in fantasy (well meaning tho). Because of it I’ve learned not to ask for advice or feedback, which probably makes me seem like an island, or like I don’t care what you think, I’m just over here ‘doing me.’ But I am curious what people think, I’m just terrified of bad advice, cuz I have a hard time ignoring advice. But I am growing, just the fact that I wrote this, let alone am about to push ‘post’ is growth for me. Xo love to the world.
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And almost no one responded. No “loves” just a few likes, and no comments.

Heartbreaking. This world. This lack of success.  The album AND the follow-up post. No response. After all that feeling. Maybe it’s Facebook algorhythms…

*******************

Oh wait, I shared it on Instagram too…with an addendum…and Yungimas responded again 🙂

ADDENDUM (where I directly asked for help):

Help? I guess? I guess this is how I ask for help. By letting you know I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m measuring things all wrong (possibly), I don’t know how to see this differently, it’s all a mess in my brain…and this was the simple way of explaining it. Any ideas on how to move forward, as an unknown little peon, to become a slightly more known little peon, would be appreciated. Just know that if you give suggestions, if it’s something I’ve tried and it didn’t work or found I’m terrible at it or requires investing MORE money into this path and / or anything that is a huge unpaid investment of time and still might not work out, I’ll probably tell u that or veto it. But I’m tired of projecting an image that isn’t accurate to how it feels to be working so hard at this path, without knowing what the next steps are, making everything up and feeling futile and confused overall…okay there ya go. That’s the closest I can come to directly asking for help. To those who follow and show love in the form of likes and loves, I appreciate you. Sorry if this seems like I’m saying it’s not enuf. All of that is enuf for my heart to feel like a person who is loved, but it’s disingenuous of me to not let you know that I’m trying to find something bigger…I know we all are, and that’s the sad part, and maybe that’s the step I always jump to, to be soothing. But it’s ironic if I soothe hearts by saying ‘oh well, it can’t come true for most of us’ when on some deeper level the whole reason I strive to find a wider audience is to soothe hearts …and yes I know I do it by breaking apart and reassembling, but I think that’s more important than slapping a happy bandaid on things (or rather, both have value, but my gifts lie more in deep analysis and reframing…) I know it’s a big ask, hoping people will go there with me, into these deeply personal (but universal) themes…but, I believe in it. I believe it has value. I know my music isn’t easy, and requires a lot of people, especially w the increase in quantity…but, yea. Help please. I’m going to try asking for more help. In return I’m giving you cute songs and puppy videos and friends videos (two covers I just worked on 🐶)

Reply:

There’s a lot of beauty in unrefined, lofi, imperfect art. To many it comes off as more genuine and intimate. As for getting noticed, sending your music to blogs, YouTube channels and labels is usually a good idea, even if the success rate isn’t the best, it’s bound to work sooner or later. Having your music on Spotify and sending it to people who accept submissions to playlists is basically free exposure. While I don’t know if I’d call it a success per se, just because one guy liked my song it’s sitting at like a million plays total. I still stand by what I said about treating art as something more personal but I understand the sentiment completely. – Yungimas

My reply to their reply:

thanks for your insight, I appreciate your support 😊for a long time, unknown felt good cuz I was working things out and feeling shy about who I was (musicially, and maybe otherwise)…and it’s like one day I woke up and felt like life and energy and time was passing me by, and that somehow I was missing some boat or something lol. Anyway I appreciate your perspective and tips!

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So ALL of this…prompted what I just wrote on Amanda Palmers page. Guessing that will go unseen unheard unresponded to as well. I don’t believe in miracles anymore, that she or anyone would care or see me there…maybe it all falls into cracks and people would care if it was put in their face…maybe I’m too much to help. And I can’t share what she said (super raw, like all this) that prompted my comment.  But here you go. Me and maybe one other person reading this ever? My attempt to catalogue this journey from acting fine with failure and spinning it differently (positively) while secretly hoping for a future change – to changing from the inside out, and really feeling like there’s no hope unless God swoops in and changes my life, until then or IF EVER THEN (and for my sanity I have to let it go) I have to grapple with all the futility of making so much and being so unknown. If you read all this, thank you for caring. Or for not looking away, seeing someone in pain. I look away from people in pain all the time…this pain is so small compared to bigger pains, but the only thing that makes it so big, is the ongoingness of it…decades of compounded pain around failing and failure yet not giving up…and not knowing why.  Maybe I’m finally working and that’s all the universe needed from me, a willingness to work, much harder. No, I can’t entertain that thought…I can’t pretend I’m one step away from something. It’s too painful. Soo, if Amanda reads this, cool. Maybe replies with a heart at best? Then my life will go on as normal, small and surrounded by the same people who are tired of me, or don’t want or need this, with my few fans in far off places, or around here but just not buying things or reminding me that they love these songs…clearly from those comments, the music means more to some people than I collectively hold in my brain…it’s just not their job to make me feel good about it, or remember that they’re listening to it. Maybe recorded music is the culprit, I bought Joanna Newsom’s albums one time, but listen for years…she doesn’t “feel” all the listens.  I’m just a sale on a list.  But she matters to me, and always will.  Hmm…will reflect on that.

And now, last post…moving on…this is like a short story, I can’t believe I just wrote and cataloged all this for the last hour or so…maybe hour and a half? Sigh…this week just really took me somewhere.

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A reply to Amanda Palmer:

This is my first time replying to one of your posts. I’ll be honest. I’ve contributed for awhile and it’s my first time READING one of your posts. I can’t believe this is the one I stumbled on. I have been pushing myself like a sassy superwoman, writing 365 songs in 365 days, releasing 12 albums in 12 months, and now playing 444 mostly cover songs, all on YouTube and everywhere and acting like a hero for the world and this week I released a sad “I failed” album and talked about it on social media, and instead of feeling like a superwoman I am feeling so raw, nothing is putting those feelings back inside…I’m used to spinning it positively, being there for people, pushing thru. But I’m having this unending hangover from admitting that I feel like a failure and that feeling won’t quit. Releasing 17 or 20 or something albums, unnoticed and acting okay with it, I think something in me broke. I think I got famous too young, for something unrelated to my calling (writing music for a movie, “Were the World Mine”)…anyway, crying over here, remembering how hard it is for me to ask for help. Because, I read your book years ago, and started asking, and went from a “rarely share” type person, to a “share all the time” type person, mainly because of politics and I had to do something with all the increased energy-meets-futility in the late 2016 world. Made up all these challenges like a creativity school, to keep myself busy, cuz going into politics in a traditional way didn’t work for me…but oh my God, Amanda, I think it is a form of shaming ourselves to keep saying “I’m bad at asking for help” without acknowledging that SOMETIMES we spend chapters of our lives asking, and people ignore us or just don’t help. We’re a burden or a bother, or too weird or annoying. Or just “too much” for people. I don’t expect my family or anyone to watch my videos, they’re way too wild, 30 min long rambles about how to become your authentic self…everything I am is everything my family and old close friends tried to talk me out of being. It’s like being born into the wrong family, being born into a system you don’t fit or belong, and being talked out of yourself every step of the way. I don’t say it as bluntly as that on social media…but only my sister is on patreon and she supports me and probably won’t see this regardless. Anyway, sorry for the heavy ramble, I cried while writing it, it’s been a hard week…off to read your post again. Jessica p.s. and I will tag you when I cover your amazing song, the piano one in the church, was it NPR? my memory is terrible sometimes, but I streamed tears midway thru that and then felt better after too…something very important is moving thru you, I’m glad you allow it to move (I have a song about that, on my Tiny Traumas album, called MOVE, about getting out of my own way…I dunno, maybe you’d like it, my stuff is sadder than yours, and more mellow, but healing I hope…whatever, not trying to promote myself, it’s just hard to be myself without mentioning myself, which a singer-songwriter is all i am, i’m not a mom, i’m getting old, it’s all i’ve done with my life…i hate the fact that it makes me feel gross like I promoted myself, just for mentioning things of my life that exist…anyway, hugs to you, glad you inspired me to come here and exist a little more openly, xo)

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