Hey moment <3

Hey moment, this is this moment (12:09pm on Tuesday Sept 25th) but the title is inspired by a moment decided yesterday while making up a 9 song album in a day…

And really it was inspired by a moment earlier this month, shared on YouTube and Instagram, where I explained WHY I need to blog and vlog and connect so deeply with so many people so much of the time… sharing all this process, because I need to mark this time, and this time, and this time, and (as I said then) say “Hey moment!” to each moment as it passes, at least while I’m doing this much.

So I’m sitting on my knees on the hardwood floor in my office, where I made a 9 song album with space sounds and piano and electric keys and I feel good about it overall…I like at least half of it, the other half has glitches and problems (MIDI cut out on two songs and I could barely salvage anything from those halves of songs, but I’m leaving it in cuz it’s funny to write/release an album in a day, just because you said you would…so there it is, it is done…although people on Facebook gave me permission to edit and listen for a few days, so maybe i’ll do that…they said yes it still counts if I do that 🙂

I dunno.

I’m tired and drained AND recharged.

Harvest Gathering was WONDERFUL.


As expected.

I’m overwhelmed tho by how much being THAT social takes out of me, mostly in the leading up to it.

I’m okay once I’m there and my being adjusts to being…so full of people and moments.

At first I can barely handle it.  Once my show portion was done, and I was just there to support others, then it was great…well, after a half a day of adjusting still.

One time a close person in my life told me about children who have a hard time adjusting to things…or it was a hard time with ‘transitions’…that made sense and I’ve understood myself ever since.  like it’s 12:15 right now, I teach at 3pm. If I don’t make choices the time will drain by and I’ll regret not getting outside today (it’s lovely and perfect bike weather lately)

Also I have to make an album cover, plan 2 more shows this week (cloudlight, and a kids’ one in GH – I think they’re on my shows page)

And I have some friend time planned ahead…and a show at our house in 12 days to promote…oh yea and a duo set to plan with Gabrielle (we’re Snow Angel, for October 6th anyway 🙂

It’s fun.

Do things, make art, be you, have friends, be alone, let go of rules in your mind…at least for your free time anyway.  These are things I’m listing for myself, need the reminder always.  Okay maybe this was a bad time to blog, I’m rushing and busy and really wanna get on my bike and get a soft pretzel and get my heart rate up.  Visiting my sis up high in the mountains next month, and I want to at least be used to heavier breathing, even if I’m not super in shape by then.

Love and hugs and be good to yourself.



This is a big topic for me. One I never thought I’d talk or write about. Because it’s trained in us, from a young age, to want to ‘be the best.’  But ever since 19 or so when I started reading Taoist literature and Buddhist things and taking the words in my original Presbyterian faith more seriously (first not, but then again at 22)…I realized capital-a Ambition doesn’t line up with these.  But this caused a divide in me because I’d “won awards since elementary school” (in quotes because I always say “yada yada” after I say stuff like this…not because it isn’t true, but because I love saying this story)

Let me list my awards.  Mind you, at age 10 I hadn’t researched competitions, this was from other people seeing my talent and skill and hard work and unique-to-the-area obsession with songwriting…and they thought proposing entering competitions and winning awards was the right use of such talents and interests (in hindsight it was probably more detrimental than good, in my opinion).

I am listing to get this out of my system once and for all.  But also to brag, because it’s what ambition did to me, and I think that’s funny and sad and almost tragic.  It gave me awards and talent and skill and obsession with being good or better than others, and what do you do with that other than brag or subtle brag about it?  it’s the seed of my undoing…because I live in a world that hates bragging, hates jockeying for position, though we all do it, and doesn’t trust people’s motives and the past 10 years people can undoubtedly feel my split (do I want to help you, or be better than you? do I want to be real, or be recognized for how real I am?…etc)

-Kindergarten, my music teacher pulled me aside to tell me about my talent, asked me to perform a solo in the talent show.  Family told this story for YEARS after.  It WAS cute, the song was called “Me, Myself, and I” (also prophetic…as I had a hard time collaborating, both from my obsession with being the best and being in charge, and also cuz I advanced my music skills so high I didn’t relate to the people I’m most like)

-Elementary School, 4th grade, told my original songs are great, music teacher (different one) helped me score one on staff paper.  When a friend passed away (this is the real story, and where my heart is), I wrote a song for her.  But the people around me saw this as talent not heart, and while they did a good-for-me heart thing (have me share it with the school, among tons of other songs I wrote), they also encouraged entering a statewide songwriting competition.  Helped me make sheet music for that song too.  Then I won, and went to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, for my award.  It was strange.  I got a medal on a rainbow ribbon.

-Oh I have some swimming awards too by now, all taped to my bookshelf.  Mostly 2nd places but some firsts.  But they are so cool to me.  I liked being recognized and remembering how well I did at things.  Also by now I’d gotten As on papers, projects, worked hard, was passionate, wrote stories about the life of a roll (a dinner roll), my creativity had a home and was validated – elementary school was a good fit for my whimsy.  So all in all, I became feedback obsessed, accomplishment obsessed, being good obsessed…I don’t know if I needed it to be better than others.  But slowly over time, doing something that’s all about winning, makes you seem and sound that way.  I could have lived in my own private universe (like I do now) and had it be all about rising to personal challenges and accomplishments.  But the people around me loved the winning, and maybe I did too.  It felt good to make them happy.

-By this same time, I’d played a few kiddie piano recitals, and my teacher was excited about that too.  And flute.  Tried to stay 1st chair my whole life, no matter how hard it got, and mostly succeeded.  Piano competitions, having to be good at songs to ‘do well’ at competitions and recitals, even if I hated those particular songs, was a regular piece of my childhood at this time.  I would work on pop/rock songs, and write songs, and sometimes my teacher was cool and we’d work on that too.  But the theory/technique/lesson books were the backbone and we moved fast and it always led to competing.  I hated failing or doing less-than-well, but sometimes I just really didn’t like the songs, and I really hated the serious tone of lessons and being corrected all the time. It was overwhelming. I didn’t want to quit piano, but I hated how hard it always felt.  In hindsight I would have loved a teacher like me – lesson books yes, but no competitions, tons of accommodating to style (pop/rock) but still distilling basics and core concepts, and trying to help kids warp speed advance in their area of interest.  But hey, this is me trying to be the best again.  There are flaws with an approach like this too (certain kids need more structure and more negative feedback than I can give).

-In 5th grade, going back a bit, I won my first big award – not just the statewide songwriting award, followed by an offer to play that song and others in front of the whole school, but also asked to write a 5th grade graduation song.  Holy shit did that go to my head. Oh I was the lead in Alice in Wonderland too (well, first act Alice – they wanted the lead part to be shared, maybe there was a life lesson in that – I was actually fine with it, just doing half, but I remember others liked to compare and judge us against each other, and tell me who was better…).  Anyway, I loved it. Loved the challenge. Loved being center of attention. Loved how hard I had to work. Loved the opportunity to shine. People supported me too at first.  It was lovely.  I felt a social shift for the first time around then…mild and subtle at first, but once they asked me to “make 4 part harmony” for the graduation song I wrote, and cast people in it, and teach it to them (I went to an arts school, we did 3 hours of Chorale 3x a week, and harmony singing was a big part of it), I ended up being called a bitch behind my back.  Probably was blunt and not a kind teacher.  When it wasn’t right, especially over and over again.  This haunted me and made me afraid of groups and peers.  But honestly, I probably a) was being a bitch, or b) was impatient, frustrated, not sure how to teach people who weren’t getting something, and c) only in 5th grade so it was a tough position to be thrown into with my peers (to be put above them and made their teacher).  I attracted and sought softer kinder people after that, knowing I was so dominant and “bossy” (another word for it – but Girls Rock type groups try to get us to be okay with these qualities, but honestly when it’s 10 people in one room, someone has to back down and follow, which I also later did in group situations, to be liked or keep the peace)…anyway, this one led to performing that song with my own mini-choir (I sang/played piano).  And at the end of that 5th grade graduation ceremony, I co-won the “renaissance award” that my school gives out.  An award for people who excelled in the arts.  This was the beginning of me hating awards.  At the time I liked it, dopamine high, feeling “the best” like “I did it” but over time it was an insidious seed of poison to my entire being.  1) because I co-won it with a now-friend (co-uncle to our married siblings) so we grew up distantly knowing each other after we moved to different schools…and I barely knew him in elementary school, but when we co-won it was strange because he had never done anything flashy or showy, like I had, or won awards like I had, but they split the award.  Whereas my brother had won the award all by himself, one year earlier…and he also didn’t do anything as showy as me, like win statewide awards first or write and perform a 5th grade graduation song.  Do you see the beginning of that seed?  I was confused, rightly so, as kids should be, at “what I did wrong” to not win the award by myself.  Or by, “what’s wrong with me” that they split it.  Or a strange feeling of “not good enough”.  Which makes no sense after all that stuff, all that sharing, which was originally about my friend who died, and it should have ALWAYS been about that.  And the 5th grade graduation song could have been just about feeling sad we’re moving on, but instead it became about how to work with others and being called a bitch, and then being excited to share all this stuff I did and seeing not everyone was as excited about me as I was about myself.  Kinda normal 5th grade stuff…our parents build us up, in certain types of homes, and the world lowers us down a few pegs, cuz no one loves us as much as our parents* do.  And that’s a hard lesson to learn.  (*of course this isn’t true in all families, but it’s a cliche for how often it happens)  I just learned this lesson very quickly and very loudly and very, for me, embarassingly.  Plus, my family loved and celebrated awards and success and good grades.  So the emotional message at this time was incredibly mixed.

-When I was in middle school, I kept submitting to these competitions, and won statewide two more times. The new school made an even bigger concert for me, of my songs, and even better my peers liked em and asked me to play before choir started each day.  Until they suddenly didn’t anymore.  I never knew why.  Also that mixed with friends who wrote me kind notes and called me a “sweet girl” but said they weren’t going to be my friend anymore.  I was shut out from the cool kids and inside crowd multiple times, I thought I had done something wrong (and maybe I had) but finding old notes showed how nice they were about it…it was still wrong.  And hard.  And not wrong at all.  Maybe I talked about things they didn’t care about, maybe I didn’t get into the music of the times enough.  My friend from Massachusetts always sang harmonies with me when she visited her grandma down the street…that was such a good friendship.  It was always just harder for me to find people I connected with.  Maybe cuz I always wanted to write songs.  But I wonder if the way ambition affected me, plus getting good grades, made me see the world in, I’m either succeeding or failing.  Like, did I tell these friends at the same school that I ‘failed’ when I got a good part in 6th grade (Minnie Faye in Hello Dolly) but a ‘bad part’ in 7th grade (chorus, and as a man, in Calamity Jane).  I was hyper aware of doing well, being the best, being average, being rejected…how did I learn this? Is it societal?  I think it’s school and family.  I had success-oriented adults all around me in both fronts.  The ones who weren’t REALLY stood out too, and I loved them (Mr. Murphy in 6th grade – loved you most, so cool! Mrs. Lenart in 4th grade too)

-By middle school I had so many 1* rankings at Solo & Ensemble for flute and piano, so many 1s for piano competitions that I don’t even remember…accompanied others for their parts too, and made $20.  Kinda like what I make as a musician today (kidding, sort of…).  It was fun to make a CV later…it had a HEY LOOK WHAT I CAN DO feeling.  And whenever I was isolated, or an island, I liked these awards. They affirmed someone thought I had value.  Meanwhile I kept being voted off the island socially…finding new friends, usually one-on-one cuz the big social groups were hard in 5th and 6th grade, being sort of asked to leave by a note from one or two of them, when I could tell some people in the group still loved me and liked having me around, it became easier to forge one on one friendships so I didn’t have to deal with all that.  But I think I often lacked play dates, and played or biked alone a lot, in my head, writing songs, maybe we’re all lonely a lot…but all thru middle and HS I changed friends so much.  Not sure why.  Maybe they left me, sometimes it was schedule, or maybe I left them…maybe I didn’t like being hurt.  Maybe I never got close to people after the initial heartbreaks in 5th/6th grade (and yes, people, childhood social pains are real and will define you for your whole life, if you don’t look at them…or even if you do sometimes).

-Back to awards…so much. So much.  Grades, AP classes, Chopin competitions, winning a scholarship, oh in 4th grade I was “one of only two people picked to go to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago for a day-long field trip.”  In High School I was “one of only two people in my whole class of 400” picked to represent our HS at Badger Girls State, a week of learning about politics, mock style.  I liked being good at things, not science or politics in general.  But people saw my passion for learning almost anything, and because they didn’t see me all day, didn’t know I was always like that.  First chair flute, solos at the state level, 1*, anything that made me feel like I’d won or was better.  I don’t know if I felt like I had a choice.  I loved winning.  It filled something in me.  8th grade was the first year I submitted and DIDN’T win the statewide award for songwriting – AND IT CAUSED ME TO STOP WRITING OR SHARING SONGS FOR ALMOST 4 YEARS.  That’s the problem.  That’s the whole problem.  I let other people be a measure of what I did.  I gave so much weight to other people’s opinions, specifically in the form of awards or other big social validation, like valuing crappy Simon on American Idol.  He’s one person, they were one peoples, everyone judging me.  But anytime something went wrong, I stopped taking risks.  Socially, competitionally….and that’s the story I used to tell.

But I’m starting to tell the story of, there’s something wrong with ambition in the first place!  For me to “win” others have to lose.  For me to be the best, who are all the many not-bests?! And if it felt so bad for me to lose that one time in 8th grade, to shut down for 4 years, how many potential songwriters were shut down each year I won in 5th, 6th, and 7th grades?  Yes I got to tell that one “I’m a winner” story for 3 years, and let it serve my identity.  But if you look at my story, it only built up my success into more of a big deal, which made failure more of a big deal too.  So either way I left discouraged from all the comparing and offering of awards.  And meanwhile, when I was in 8th grade, ONE other person got to feel that high, while the rest – including me – thought we did “something wrong.”   This can be subtle, like “I wonder what wasn’t as good about that song” to “I guess I’m not meant to be a songwriter”…when in reality, it’s crazy that we’ve created a world where HUNDREDS (or thousands? millions?) of people create, write, share, and we say “okay now only one will win this time, and the rest of you should go home and think about what you’ve done wrong (aka that wasn’t “good enough”)”


This doesn’t even reflect the business world.  Where you should live in a town with lots of piano teachers if you want to be a piano teacher.  And don’t try to be the best (first of all, don’t “try” in that way…just focus on personal best and quality), just find your niche.  How are you different, unique, and then your base will come.  People who need what you are/offer.

This is true with the real music industry and scene too.  Not everyone likes my music, or my friends, or their friends…taste is unique and individual, and I am not “winning” and neither are others really.  Even those with million dollar recording contracts, many times are sculpting something to fit the most people’s interests, like market research.  Whereas I’m whimsically being myself, as are a lot of the non-ambitious musicians I know.  We fall in a “maybe they’ll like me, maybe not” category – while others market and watch when and where people clapped the most (which songs, etc, I used to do that back in Chicago, when I was more driven), which ones land.  Then I almost violently changed, forcing audiences to accept me playing my slowest least flashy songs.  I needed to do this for me.  Just cause I have a conservatory degree and can “wow” with piano chops, I didn’t (and often still don’t) like that feeling of “wowwing” an audience.  It brings me back to all this ambition stuff. And in my experience, people don’t listen as much to the words – or the emotion – when the main thought is “wow” and the main emotion is “impressed.”

So here I am with my Chopin and Beethoven loves, some injured arms, sometimes I like playing flashy stuff still…but I mostly like music for its emotional soothing/healing potential.  Or just its emotional resonance in general.  Highs and lows.  Not, did I impress you, not did I win awards – or the social/financial equivelant of an award.

I wanted to wrap up but I left some out.

-Scholarships to college
-a fellowship awarded to me for my “unique talents and interests” which funded a semester in London
-Best music in the Nashville Film Fest and people writing big reviews about us nationally
-rave reviews of my original musical in college, for which I “wrote, directed, played piano in” and it was my “first musical” written “at age 21” (in quotes not because not true, just because I liked these sound bytes and seeing people’s impressed faces…)
-got into Tisch in NYC on scholarship, “famous people sung my songs” there and later, future Belle in Beauty and The Beast, I was “Sebastian Arcelus’ music director” (he’s a lovely human – but did become Roger in Rent, and the lead in Elf on Broadway, etc),
Wendy Robie from Twin Peaks, Robin Williams’ daughter Zelda and I shared earbuds while I taught her to sing my songs for the movie, which won awards all over the country…these things filled that bucket, of am I good enough…
-being offered a production of our grad school musical, paid $1800 royalties just to let them perform it, right out of college.  They “flew us out to see it” and paid for us to stay in fancy hotels for their awards gala.  All while under 25.  (I’m trying to say these things in impressive sounding ways)
-there’s so many more from music directing, including knowing or working with famous people…it dwindled after that… especially after I left the educational world of constant feelings of being awarded/rewarded, and entered the world of “that’s great, but how will you pay for life?” (most of these things were unpaid or barely paid, or paid in one lump sum, not in an easy-to-pay-for-life sort of way…)

OH here’s more
-wrote a musical long-distance and was paid royalties to have them perform it (adaptation of Christmas Carol), which I did just so I could say on my resume that I’d had original musicals produced on “both coasts”
-music directed on off-off-Broadway, and understudied as pianist/music director for Off-Broadway’s Hello Muddah Hello Fadduh
-told by legendary Broadway directors/professionals that I was “going somewhere” and had them gush at me for transcribing their revue…
(FOOD for that ambition brain)
(am I bragging now? or showing you the confusion? I don’t know…I think it’s both, it’s gross)
-music directing in Chicago too, but needing to earn money, got confused…how to live (MD positions were contract, and life requires work at all times…didn’t have the stamina or schedule flexibility to work all the time for a stipend, AND still pay bills including grad school loans)
-Offered an internship in Dramaturgy at the Goodman Theatre.  Unpaid tho, 6 months.  Couldn’t do it. Started with Child’s Play Touring Theatre instead, almost moved more into that world, Second City, etc…but again. Money.  Found my way to the much less glamorous ‘teaching piano’ and I’ve been here ever since (except a brief pause of working as a pianist for a HS choir – some glamour, inside glamour, and the Travel Channel filming us and zooming in on my hands, and using a version of Jingle Bells that I arranged…but overall, I couldn’t apply my ambition-obsession to a tiny town/school in West Michigan, after such heady experiences with it in NYC, Chicago, more…and by then, I realized how ambition juxtaposed with how to support yourself, and how to be yourself…

I even used ambition to avoid writing songs, and sharing my real passion (which was clear to me in 6th grade and earlier), of being a singer-songwriter…and returning to it wholeheartedly at age 25 felt like coming down off the success-ladder I’d been on, all that NYC music directing and awards and back pats, and starting to climb a new ladder of being a “real” singer-songwriter, and being a “no one” at open mics at 25…I dealt with those feelings of inferiority the whole time starting out in Chicago, after already building such a huge resume in such an unrelated topic (despite having secret private songs I’d written since high school, after the 4 years gap, but just stopped sharing and got no sense of “success” from…only shared with 1-2 people and even they occasionally turned on me, or got sick of my sharing them).

So I probably lost my love of success a bit when I had all that success on the wrong ladder.  It’s why I tell people to cut and run if it’s the wrong ladder, because climbing more once you know it’s wrong for you doesn’t help anything (I was being pushed to be a professional music director of other people’s shows – but I knew I was a writer/performer of original stuff, at heart – so all the MD success impressed people, but made me feel a bit empty, like I was working hard at the wrong dream).  Even this paragraph feels empty, cuz it’s a story I USED to tell…telling people to cut and run so they can get on their right ladder, to hurry up and FIND SUCCESS.   And I just don’t believe in that version of success anymore.

I dunno.  I just think when it comes to “success” and “failure,” especially in the arts or other historically low-paying fields, I worry that it’s unintentionally cruel and unkind that this world creates pockets of success in small towns, especially while kids are in school and have no bills to pay, and lets those kids think they’ll “make it” somewhere, then if it’s arts they might move to the big cities with those dreams, only to find there’s often no money in it…so if they have intense stamina to also work full time, and aren’t saddled with debt, they can sometimes do it on the side…but to succeed you need that full-time hustle…sooooo it doesn’t work out for 90% of us or more perhaps…THEN wasn’t the real problem the words said to these kids in the first place? Or left unsaid, but just implied by constantly pointing out to them that they’re “the best”? Even with getting all As at school.  Isn’t that creating a self-expectation, for who they “should” be in the world?  What about emotional issues?  What about practicality of the field they’re in?  What about arm pain in their chosen field?  I care because it’s not just me.  If it were just me, I’d whine all day and you could laugh at me.  But it’s all of us.  It’s sooooo sooooo soooo many of us.  It’s a common story.  The failure story.  Which isn’t looking honestly at how the failure is just a violent swing of the pendulum from the “success” story.  And both get in the way of authentically finding yourself, and being yourself.

Ambition is a strange drug….
It’s toxic, it pits you against other people, even just in your own mind.
It makes you want to be “better than” and makes you hyper-aware when you are “less than.”
Neither are true.
Both are lies and hurtful to your sense of youness.  Your humanity.

Everything I read in those wisdom books, feels true.  Worst part is, those books exist because someone was so wise they ended up celebrated and that looks like ambition.


Had to take a call…it’s on a similar topic.  All my 20 years of piano training makes it hard for me to be in bands, without being impatient or not on the same page as others.  Things that come easily to me now, as a musician, only do because of all this training…but socially, and as a bandmate, this doesn’t serve me.

So I guess it’s been a heavy year, realizing all this.  Charisma and other things make bands successful, not just someone with conservatory chops.  And what IS “successful” anyway?  Is it money?  Is it recognition?  Does this all fall in the category of “success” (money or fame or followers) that later disappoints, because no one has it for all time? It always eventually goes away?

I’ve looked at fame as a strange drug for a long time now.  Long before sharing so much, so publicly.  This is like, this year, or two, is like me reverting to my childhood self – sharing a ton – but without the clear goals or ambition.  Except, if I’m honest, a vague one, that all this sharing of music can lead to an improved resume that’s more accurate to my passions.  I.e. if I never “get followers” or “make money” (haha that one shouldn’t be in quotes) from my original music – as is, without changing the music to be poppier or more commercial (more polished, yes, but that’s hard and costs money and overwhelms me, I’ll go back to trying on that someday)… if ALL that “fails” , i.e. doesn’t produce any results except more people knowing me, more authentically, including the embarassing parts, the failing parts, the confusing parts, the condemnable parts…then at least I could do a little library tour to small towns or maybe big ones (more people doing somthing, i.e. big cities loving creativity, means more demand) and teach about how to not have writers’ block, how to be prolific, and how to use the creative process as your own personal therapy.

Haha could “at least” do something like that? When if I’m honest…it’s what I REALLY want to do. I want to inspire people, to make to do to create to be themselves.  Make up recipes, make a colorful home, or an all black-and-white one, you do you!  This is my biggest passion in life.  All those “shoulds” – including competitions, getting As, winning awards…both confused and alienated me.  Like an addiction.  Success is an addiction.  Yes I need to make money.  I need to find people who need what I have to offer.  Then I have to value myself enough to charge for my services.  Need to be realistic that gas costs money, time off work costs money, car repairs and payments cost money, healthcare, etc…and all that together, means I need to ask for a certain amount, and if a library or arts organization can pay it?  And/or charge people $10-12 to come do a workshop or class with me?  Like a yoga class?  Meaning they value it too, help with creativity, and don’t need it to be wholly free…then maybe all these forces converging is just what money and “success” really is.  (money should be in quotes too…it’s just trade, trading energy and effort, helping each other, the one helping is pausing their growth to give back, and the one receiving is growing…or maybe both grow, I don’t know, maybe the growth and learning IS really in the giving…I don’t know what I’m rambling about anymore…I have so many things to do, should probably go do them.)

Thanks September for helping me see my own flaws and ambition.  For helping me see the ways I’ve wanted to be “better than.”  The ways I need to at least make money (including darn loan payments) but the ways, for my ego, I don’t want to be celebrated…because eventually it dies or turns on you, and that feeling causes as much blockage as never being celebrated in the first place.  Think of old rockers, confused why no one is as excited about them anymore, hiding in their apartments or touring to casinos…dealing with all those feelings of being a dying star.  I already feel like a dying star, and have since 6th or 7th grade.  I just now have some words for it.

xo Jessica























Heavy like bubbles floating away.

Heyyy. Here’s a little blog entry for ya, or for myself, I honestly don’t know who I’m talking to anymore.

Long and easy work week. Lots of emotions, lots of time to work through them, lots of stress I think that’s what people call this…

To stress yourself out for a dying industry, I honestly don’t know what or why I’m doing any of this.  I’m just a ball or bucket of stress lately and I will not see a penny from this and it’s not fun I want to just watch Netflix and cry for centuries, all the people walking both ways for water, all the people starving, my luxuries, my easy treetop perch, my tree to sing in or on or whatever metaphor I’m on right now…

I miss last year’s challenge when every other day I could phone something in, half-ass some strange YouTube video that you could barely hear, just to say “i did it” at the end.  Trying extra hard some days, if it was fun, but mostly not. Just a song. Just the fun creative part.

Now I feel compared to.  Compared to my own past albums, compared to other people every time I use the word “release” – I’m “releasing” an album. It’s like, no you’re not, you’re doing a challenge…that’s apples to oranges, you’re cheapening the word Jess.

But I AM doing a challenge, and I can’t tour these albums, cuz I’m too busy, and I wouldn’t want to tour half of them or more, cuz I haven’t REALLY finished a REAL one in ages…since Misfits or maybe Childhood…I mean Survival Skills was polished too, and great, in my little humble personal opinion, it is good songs, but it is old songs that bring m e pain so I wouldn’t tour that. And who tours or plans a music video for songs they wrote in Elementary School.  I mean, I was planning that, but the balls got dropped, kids and families were making clips for me and I followed up a bunch but it fell thru, for now anyway, and maybe that’s for the best…

The music video addition to the challenge is/was pretty epic.

I also failed on my “walk every day” challenge.  Been off that for about a month. Or two.

It’s been hard. I don’t know how to have such a split focus anymore.  Albums, recording, performing, preparing for shows, being in a band, focusing on new members, adding temporary members to my solo project, teaching piano, running a business, doing accounting and bookkeeping, being my own boss, promoting, making sure I’m doing enough to earn a living, always feeling a few steps behind.

I think I don’t like this challenge. I think I’m trying to “use it”, as an opportunity.  Why am I so afraid of myself, my natural self, in the arts – i.e. sans challenge?

Because I’m disappointed that I’m not like others who are succeeding.

I see kids write albums in childhood and just release em.
People write angry or punky or sad songs in their teens and 20s and just make bands and practice and FOCUS and go for it. They just do it. Maybe they change then, or outgrow it, but it’s not this thing they wanted that they then STIFLED.  That’s my reality.  My whole life’s reality, after 6th grade.  Things I wanted to be or become and stifled.  I don’t know how to stop telling that story. I guess I am wanting to do this. I want to do this blog. I want to release these albums…maybe skipping months if I’m tired, make up my own rules, why not!?  I mean, I released two albums already this month – More Survival Skills, and a preorder for Chicago Albums 3-12, but I decided they don’t count (AHHHHHHHHHHH! why?!?)  I don’t know if this is because they weren’t the one I “slated”…I don’t know what I think anymore.  I think I just need less PAST stuff up on my page. I need something new or newish before tomorrow night ends.

If it’s a few days late, maybe I’ll be okay with that.

Maybe not.

These rules. This game. What is it? I don’t know why I’m doing this to myself!

This blog is for posterity, so I never forget how hard this challenge is. It’s awful. I hate it. It’s like having a job but the job is just showing up for myself finally, not getting paid for it. Just following through finally on the albums I wanted to release for forever but kept letting whole YEARS tick by,.

Did you know I also want to finally finish scoring my old original musical that I wrote in college?  It has a lead sheet and script but no piano score, cuz I always play piano when its produced. And there’s recordings of all the songs…but that’s the next “past” thing, after the 130 songs on “Chicago” are finished releasing (I have until November 22, cuz of pre-order timelines/limitations, and they are too scrappy to release as is, so I’m having to add filters to smooth out the sound, albeit more lo-fi but that’s okay…but it’s time consuming work, I hope to have motivation to finish it but I keep wanting to avoid all this work whenever I don’t “have to” do it…i.e. not a final week of a month…my own standards keep lowering and lowering…like I have no real ambition or hope for this to mean anything other than “hey look, this is how to be prolific” and maybe I can lead more workshops on writers’ block…at this point, I’d be happy helping kids write musicals again, running CAMMPs, something I developed years ago i.e. Create-A-Mini-Musical-Play…it was fun and helped pass on my love of creativity…if I could travel around and inspire and help people create in this way, or via creativity workshops or talks on self-esteem and blasting thru PTSD using creativity…I’d love this. This is what I really want at this point. To talk to others, to help, to lead, to inspire…my music is so weird and insular, I have never really developed a huge fan base or even really a small one…some die-hard fans here and there…but I just don’t understand what people want, or how to be what they need, even tho I feel like I have so much to give.  This world just breaks me.  It breaks my spirit.  So many people have tried to help me be more commercial or successful, and honestly I just don’t think I have it in me to figure out what is successful in this world, or how to pretend to care about those things…

I wonder if other failures have woken up one day and suddenly realized that was the team they are on.

I was an A student all through school, won competitions, scholarships, special awards, creativy ones, had what felt like a Midas touch for awhile…everything musical, so long as I didn’t have to run the business part, if I could swoop in and music direct or lead kids or write songs, and others could make it businessy and successful, then I was gold.  This went on so long, even my musical in college was a resounding success.  But I worked on it for over a year, focused, and with love. Like the few albums I went all out on.

But even in the case of the musical, which I’ve produced multiple times, it always went well because I was in places with resources and had help.  A youth group that loved me, a school (university, later grad school, all their resources, or the high school I was an accompanist at, which allowed me to create programs and extra-curriculars…)

I have always needed help.  With anything that involves organizing, structure, systems, etc.  I honestly need an assistant, to learn how to market and promote and be a business…but there’s just no money coming in, and its a catch 22 because no money WILL come in I’m guessing without an assistant.

Well I guess I’m not pretending anymore…did you know I’d like to be more successful?

I think I act a good game, that it doesn’t matter to me, cuz when I’m around all of you I hug and smile and TRULY do just feel loved that a few people came…or more.  But in my heart, home alone, it hurts to not sell records, to love my own music so much and feel like its a faucet to a gift that’s all sparkly like unicorns, but when I look at the world I understand that without polish or branding or help, it’s too messy and weird to be palateable to strangers.  And this is where I normally say “and that’s okay.”

I think when I’m not working hard it IS okay.

I think that’s a catch 22 / chicken egg thing too… in that, the reason I stopped working hard is partly because my quiet solo weird music wasn’t catching on.  Playing with cloudlight is partly a dream because I’m with others who infuse it with their energy, and the mix of us is pretty sparkly…and its good, and it catches on more than I do alone it seems.  Power in numbers and all that.  And I like that.  And it doesn’t hurt myself esteem anymore for that to be true.  At first when we made that band, I felt weird about how much more attention it was getting than I ever did solo.  But honestly, I feel a pull and a magic with Bryan, and I love harmonizing, so that love and joy in singing those songs – even the saddest ones – probably ripples out into the room.

So that is nice.

And honestly learning that I might want to focus more on paying work, if I’m going to work THIS hard, isn’t the worst thing to be learning.  I want to complete this challenge, and I’m glad for all these past songs to have a place to live on the interwebs, and it was SUPER educational singing them again and playing them…but it also made me feel REALLY current.

Like so current, like all that past is a wisp of smoke, a puff of nothingness, a sentence, a void…just , gone, let go. Like that.  Done.

So now, to have 115 more Chicago songs to clean up, just to say “look I made all this” just so people believe me when I say “I write hundreds of songs a year and have since 2014, and maybe 50 a year since 2008” they’ll be like “well duh, obviously that’s true cuz look at all that crap you have online”…whereas before I was so scared to be out here that you would never know I was prolific except for me talking about it. Which was annoying.  And HAHA I’m sure this is far less annoying (lol haha jk its annoying I’m sure…maybe not to anyone who reads this far).

I’m tired and “backed up” and have been meaning to post since my week of two shows and Girls Rock volunteering in Grand Rapids…all that crying, performing with sunglasses…I think I’ll go on my social media and find all my super serious posts from the last week and a half or two, and post em here for posterity, cuz I went thru some really heavy sh*t and didn’t write about it here, and I feel like I’m becoming a different person and I think its been alarming those closest to me, but it’s like snakeskin, it’s just falling off and I’m being my inside-me and I don’t know, it’s not scary to me but I see how it could be scary to some who know me as someone who is historically good at holding it all together a little more privately.  I don’t want to be a spectacle, but I can’t help it right now…this challenge is too hard and I can feel the energy backing up when I don’t write about it.

But to anyone I know casually, or in a professional setting, I am still the same me…this is just a weird journal splattering thing I’m doing while getting through this “release an album a month for a year” challenge.  It hurts.  Like I feel like I’m going against nature. These are supposed to be birthed, so to speak…and I’m pushing, way too hard, and trying too much, but trying not to try, cuz I hate the sound of trying…but I just …I don’t know what else to do.  I have to finish this challenge. I didn’t know it’d be this hard. I didn’t know I’d be inspired to release all this PAST STUFF!?!!?  I didn’t know the boxes of stuff in my house pre-2014 would bother me so much, fear of seeing old stuff pre-divorce, from other dark times…I just didn’t know.  I guess I should have slated 12 specific albums.  Instead I keep letting the mood of the month decide, and my sis moving and family visiting flashed me back so hard…and it all started with those dang songs I love from 1st thru 7th grade.  That Childhood album is probably the most important one to date, for this challenge anyway.  Those songs were my everything at that age.  I mean I loved art and dancing and so many things, but that became my identity, especially in 5th grade. Performing original songs. I had such good self-esteem back then…puberty was so messed up for me.  Did I say that already?  Yes, like 10 or 100 times?  Okay, well…I don’t assume people read these so please forgive me.

I think that’s it for tonight.  I want to finish this album tomorrow, or close…and I hope it turns out okay, but to be honest, it’s getting boring spending SO much energy on albums I can’t even send to the local radio station because at the base of them are those lo-fi recordings from last year’s 365.  “If only” I’d used a better mic or pro studio all last year.  About to release a new Friend Ship – with all these great collaborations – but it’s a little handheld recorder for part of it, with some background sounds, like “Misfits, in love with the World” and I ran out of time to edit as much as I did for that one.  So the levels aren’t perfect. I did SO much work on Misfits, and I love it SO much, only to realize I can’t send it to radio or charge much for it – because even with all that crafted polish, it’s still DIY lo-fi and you can’t fix that if the source recordings are like that (like field recordings, almost impossible to make perfect or clean enough for radio then).  And I LOVE those songs, so it makes me sad…and motivates me to start recording things that are much cleaner.  Even my album from last November that was made in a weekend is cleaner, because the original source recordings are made in a studio.  No stray sounds, good mic placements, etc.

I feel motivated.  I wonder why I need to “learn for myself.”  Parents, this is why you should let kids make their own mistakes.  People always tried to talk me out of my lo-fi love, but it made me want to rebel against them…I liked the sound of lo-fi and still do.  But some of my favorite lo-fi musicians sound just as good if not better when all polished up.  So I think if I’m gonna work so hard, I wanna have something I can show for it – that I can sell and send off and really be proud of and feel is professional.  I’ll still finish this challenge, including all the lo-fi gems “slated” for upcoming albums (vol 1 is cute, and vol 5/6 is sad but hopeful in a weird way…I think that’s it, plus the Friend Ships, there are two more after this one…oh and a restoration project from December 2015…sh*t I guess its a lot of restoration…maybe I’ll change my mind, I don’t know if I can handle this much work for no purpose…unless I found all my fellow lofi lovers somehow!  that’d be a dream!  I know there are fans of lofi stuff, but lofi lullabies? weird piano/keyboard/space sound/street sound/noise and quiet singing existential ditties? i dunno…I wish I knew my genre so I could tag correctly, I feel like the more I make up my own genre, the less I know where I belong…existential pop + dream folk is my recent tag, sometimes bedroom pop, or freak folk…but i don’t feel like a freak…those kids are cooler than me, I’m just weird, tho honestly i don’t feel weird, mostly i think anyone not being like me, sharing everything and creating things all the time, is weird…but i guess its weird if you’re weird and think you’re not weird, so i guess i’m weird, i think i just don’t WANT to be weird, i’d rather be normal or accepted by normal people, or liked by all, but also i want to do whatever i want even if its weird and have that be considered cool or normal or inspire others to do the same things…and i guess its weird to even have that expectation or hope, i should just be okay to do my own thing, but i never have been okay with that, it feels lonely, like i’m some weird island, when that’s not what i’m trying to be, i’m trying to connect with all of you, and be liked…well, if i’m honest, every time i’m liked i’m liked really passionately, and it usually overwhelms me and then i accidentally push those people away, especially my super fans, and i don’t mean to, i just get overwhelmed, like i don’t know how to be or what to say, like i always fully engage but then get exhausted…cuz i only talk this much to clear something out of me, not to take more in, or inspire more to be said, especially not by me…this is me trying to let something go, not start a conversation).

What a mess.  Sorry, world. I would do better if I could.  I *could* go on medication, but then I couldn’t write.  Or not as much, or with as many swirls and doodles.  And I love swirls and doodles.

Maybe I’ll sew stuffed animals again soon. Did you see that, in 2011, from the kids’ album with my ex?  We – I mean I – made stuffed animals, and stuffed magnets, and all kinds of cute merch. Don’t look it up, it’s dead – I gave him the rights to the album. But maybe I’ll make new characters someday. Maybe I’m so sad this month cuz I’ve only really been eyeball deep in old sad songs (high school years thru mid 20s…oh and late 20s/early 30s last week with the Chicago albums).   Maybe I need to move on and really hear other sounds…really lighten up again…kids music, christmas music, or just these friend ships.

OR I should stick to the slated plan and work on Tiny traumas, adding up (or ‘out of body, in your skin’) next month.  At least those are current trauma songs.  Ugg…

Saying a prayer right now.  I hope this is helping someone, more than just me.  I get the overall feeling this will help me more in hindsight, than while going thru it.  Love to the world.  Sorry again that I’m so down right now.  xo Jessica






Shows + business/busyness + coping mechanisms

Sometimes I think we’re trying to be too many different things, to suit an industry that wants to make money off of us.

I mean, even a no-money-maker like me makes money for things like Bandcamp.com, Spotify, iTunes, printing companies, PR reps (I mean I don’t have one, but people at my level do…we turned down a couple with cloudlight, and probably shouldn’t have, this is a hard path, but it’s harder to consider paying $$ for such an unpaid path)

There are splits and percentages and merch companies and they sell us web design and rental fees and Patreon even takes a cut.  It’s all money, and business.


Or rather, whenever I try to be, be responsible and do the right things, the art has to go on hold…

Just spent an hour organizing tees with my design, posting/sharing a poster, that’s just to promote one little show.  Not to mention the practicing, learning new skills (looping is my current endeavor), the $200,000 invested in conservatory training + MFA, the bands to be in, the drummers to try playing with, the booking, the research, the emails, I don’t do about half what others do…maybe I do less than 10%…and I feel guilty about this.  But I hang on, instead, to the hope of a stranger reaching out to me offering to help.  Or offering to rep me and do the dirty work and then just say “hey do you want to do this, this, this?” and I can say yes, and they can say consider it done…and then take 10% or 20% or whatever is common.

I think we are expected to do so much.  But who would do all that work or research for someone else? It’s a labor of love, its a business profiting off artists…we are all suffering in some way, as far as I can tell.  Every band/singer-songwriter/indie musician is forced to have quiet underlying pipe dreams of someday when it might get easier. Maybe not all of us, but I imagine most.  Most slave away and hope someday they can focus more on the art.

I talked with a friend today, and was reminded that I COULD do that…really focus on the art/music…by just doing it FOR MYSELF.  Like stay at home and don’t play shows or record or release, etc. Just play / write for me and the ceiling/sky/God/universe, alone in my room.  She didn’t say that, but it was easy to infer from our conversation.  That that is always an option.  So the real takeaway is that, yes, this is for others.

And then there’s the challenge of, how hard are you willing to work to get this into the ears/hands/eyes of others?  How much of your hard earned money are you willing to sacrifice? How many hours will you write emails? How much pride can you swallow to make it clear to all, that you are not successful, that for all the images built, you mostly sell nothing and can’t keep doing it without their support?  That you need them? That you need help?  How do you say those things, without making them feel bad?  Because who do you say them to, if the people you know are not your ideal ‘market’?  i.e. if you’ve identified that you’re looking for the quiet, broken, discouraged people…and those aren’t the people you know?  I don’t know…I really don’t know.

I know there are sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo many talented people in this world.  Sooooooooooooooooooooooo many people deserving of success, fame, fortune, help, kindness, kudos, accolades, etc.  I don’t know how to reconcile all I want for myself, and how much I want all of that for others too.  It breaks my heart in two.  Like I feel like, similar to having a split mind on the concept of money (wanting to be comfortable and have needs met + also wanting to give away money and buy things for loved ones…I’m probably a mess from being so heavy in debt my whole adult life), I’m learning I have a split heart.  Half of it is FIERCE – wanting to blast through outdated ways of seeing the world, seeing ourselves, blast through conventions that make us afraid to speak.  And the other half is ready at all times, to retreat at the first sign of danger or even discomfort.  Waiting for shoes to drop, off phone lines, or whatever that colloquialism is…

To the world, continuing on while I do all this nonsense (catching up/spinning out with all these challenges): I want you to know, I see you but I can’t listen much right now.  There is so much to say and do and I don’t know how to do it.  I don’t know how to be all the things coursing, pouring through me.  I don’t know how to become what I sense you need me to become.  More consumable, more tangible, more marketable, more purchaseable, more attendable, more polished, more fierce in representing you…instead of just focusing on myself and my traumas.  If I could figure out a real way to be a spokesperson for the broken people of the world, I would.  But instead I feel trapped inside my own head and perspective.  Even trying to give some advice or support or feedback today, I couldn’t stop using my own life as example…my way of speaking…so trapped inside that I fear ever saying a thing about anyone else, ever assuming what another’s experience is like…how can I represent what I don’t understand? Even through a million hours of listening, I’ll never know what it’s like to be you.  I can only see from behind my own eyes…feel what’s in my skin…


Okay, it’s about 6 hrs later.  Bry asked me how my kombucha was doing, and then I got distracted (and forgot I was even in the midst of this), ended up watching Japanese reality TV while assembling some discs for my merch sales tomorrow.  Usually I only sell one or two, at absolute most, so I really should only do all this if I enjoy it…but my damn A-student nature sees all of what’s possible, and always thinks it has to do ALL of it.  Even if it’s til 2:42am when the next day I have to get up at 6:45 and drive to GR and volunteer teach some piano classes and socialize with kids and adult women and then prep for a show in the evening…I think it’s just stress.  I think I was born to be a truly true introvert, except my one on one piano teaching. Which is something I can psychologically manage. Like each house I go to, or if they come here, I know what mood and personality and amount of practice (usual) to expect / prepare myself for.  So every time, I manage, all the feelings…it passes, it’s okay, it flows through me.  I’ll never get rich as a piano teacher, but my basic needs are met, somewhat. I mean, travel around to see family isn’t a ‘basic need’ but with the recent moves it’s feeling like one…pretty disturbing and new for me, to only be able to see family if I have extra $$$ by the hundreds lying around…or if I turn a visit into a tour.

I dunno. It’s late. I should go to bed, but I’m just so worried for how my body/mind will handle all this bustling and shuffling around…it’s not something I’m comfortable with anymore.  Why am I even trying for any more success or money or responsibility than I currently have, I think it’s pretty clear I can’t handle it well.  Anytime my schedule ramps up, something in me shuts down a bit…and I can barely think straight or take care of myself.

I hope everyone in the world is okay tonight, but I know they’re not. I know most people live with too much pressure and stress.  I hate being this feeling of a being sometimes.  Does everyone think like this? Am I just too alone, B gives me lots of space – to breathe and be and create – and sometimes I wonder if it just means time to get lost in my head…it’s all uncharted, and maybe we’re not supposed to explore our minds like they’re an ocean. Maybe it’s supposed to be used to get from point A to B, like here’s the boat, here’s the ocean to cross, lets go, then you go, you leave A and arrive at B and think ‘hey I went thru that pretty well, good job self on your ocean adventure!”  As opposed to my sailing out to the center, away from A or B, and just floating there…meandering a bit…not really headed to anything…as if the travel is the point, or the being IN the ocean is the point…I see these reality shows and everyone has goals, and maybe that’s my whole problem.  I don’t know what any of this is unfolding to, and I don’t really care to know…I feel like all the credit/power/glory/whatever-word-you-aren’t-triggered-by goes to something MUCH bigger than me.  God, in my case.  Everyone I know who thinks they are in control of things, who works hard to control things, seems one mishap away from no-control…to me anyway.  I can see the folly of EVERYONE.  Self-included.  It is grace of God to me.  Something out there – that I call and believe is God – kind of, um, cares for me?  Seems to help?  I mean, all this talking to myself…you wouldn’t believe how much more than this I talk to God, all day, every day.  I can’t function really.  I’m dependent.  I’ve felt a strong sense of having some sort of heavenly muse since about 2007 or 2008.  Like doing FAWM turned on some faucet and now I’m just being …used?

I know every composer and writer like me tends to credit something…

The ones unlike me, who I admire, the Vonneguts and even darker, still seem possessed by a muse.

I don’t know.  That’s all probably TMI, I mean, I know some people don’t believe in God.  Or anything outside of reason.  But my reasoning skills are SOOOO limited, and I trust in electricity, and blood flowing in my body, and doctors and people who are wise in subjects I don’t know…I trust my elders, nuns (like my grandma), people have saved my life over and over.  My grandma gave me advice once, “you are not your anger, it is just something that needs to move through you.”  She believed I’d get through my hardest saddest times…she was so right but I couldn’t see it at the time.  Others have seen strength in me that I didn’t know was there.  I dunno…I have to believe in God, or I don’t have to, but I genuinely do. Too much syncronicity in my life to date, to explain any other way than there being something cosmic and glorious and bizarre and other-worldly going on that we don’t understand. For me it’s God, but I also accept and appreciate that for some its aliens, plural gods, many other things…personally I was raised Presbyterian (non-evangelizing form of Christianity, I don’t really identify as “Christian” because of the ways that word and term has become associated with churches that I think have become corrupted…boy this is getting heavy…it’s late, like 3am, I think I’m stress/fear blogging! haha fear of going to work/volunteer long days all week, no sleep, not knowing what it’ll be like even tho its my 5th year with GRGR….how is that a good excuse to tell a million personal details about my life?  I think I’m inspired by Terrace House… I need sleep, goodnight).


Bryan is looping in the basement, mellow sweet guitar jams floating in the air around my head…it’s gentle, soothing, he’s practicing and learning scales via this ambient wash of light and color…perfect.

Sitting doing bookkeeping on a beautiful summer evening, drinking a PBR mixed with orange pineapple juice, because I grew up on La Croix mixed with juice, every dang day, and it’s just a thing.  Wisconsin is weird I guess.  I think they call em Shandy’s in Europe.
But I highly recommend it, in summer anyway.

Most of my students cancelled tonight – my job is easy because I love it, but also terrifying because I’m infinitely flexible and don’t hold people to policies tho I should.  Ideally everyone pays me for my time, even if they cancel last minute…sometimes it backfires, being kind.  Usually I’m taken care of, by others, by the universe.

This room is a mess.  Two workstations next to each other – a laptop, a desktop, one for ProTools/music edits, the other for my business, etc.  Bills to pay in a filer, notebooks everywhere, last night while waiting for songs to bounce in time to release before midnight, I would sort a shelf, 5 minutes here, 5 minutes there, lots of sitting waiting hoping for no glitches where I’d need to start over, rebounce the same file.  Music edits and producing in general is like this, a lot of problems.  Things I don’t understand.  I couldn’t even make a pixelated heart dance on the screen for you.  I’m lucky that others engineer such complicated software and make it easy for people like me to use.

Overall I feel tranquil.  My boyfriend came home. Our chemistry is golden, always has been, except when one of us is upset – that can be often, we take on a lot of stress.  But the summer sun is shining at 7:36pm right now…the trees are super green, my sister moved to Colorado and I’m becoming okay with it (mostly above all else, happy for her and her family, but it’s a big adjustment – been spoiled with family being within a day’s drive most my adult life…only the past few years in Michigan has my brother’s fam been a little too far for my taste, in Minneapolis area, and now my sis is even farther…land of the free-to-buy-a-car-and-have-wifi-and-cell-phones-and-spread-the-heck-out-and-follow-your-dreams-leaving-loved-ones-scattered-all-over)…but this night is too nice to feel complainy, and I am at peace.  Honestly it’s Bryan’s music.  He doesn’t know what it does to my soul. I try to tell him, but it doesn’t sink in. His confidence is worse than mine. I won’t tell his story, but needless to say, I hope he believes all of you someday – those of you who bought the cloudlight album, or cloudlight tshirts, or come to every show, or request songs…his heart is all over that music.  He’s working on scales and those little wonker notes make him feel so bad, but honestly I had over a decade in training to not have those (well, almost never)…it’s just what it takes. Music is a language.  Don’t give up people, if its in your soul.

Okay well, I was doing bookkeeping but felt too dreamy to not share something a little more positive here than my rants as of late. I don’t know, I miss my dreamy self. I miss walks. I miss self-kindness.  I find myself envying everyone, especially anyone who prioritizes leisure…movies, fairs, fests, walks, bike rides, all of it. It’s beautiful here and I’m missing it all.  So much work.  One year like this. 8 more months like this. Then never again. Honestly, I wanted to say “never say never” but I really don’t see myself giving power to this kind of slave driving again. Trying to use this year to fill ALL the dreams – the kids album, the instrumental album, the 3 slated albums, some 365 albums, these old songs albums, even albums 3-12 from Chicago maybe, all in one. I don’t know.  I just want to get it out, let it go, move on. And then still if no one asks me to play shows, without begging and hustling, maybe I’ll take it as a sign that the world just doesn’t need me like I thought it would.  Or maybe everyone is begging and hustling, and there just isn’t enough room in the air for all the music makers, and I should step aside after this year. Or next. Or next. I do have a dream of mini-tours for a year. If I can afford it, or fundraise. A strange traveling challenge. And maybe year four could be a video challenge again, but cover songs, or a TV show, something more practical, taking requests…all for you.  Less about what I feel pushing thru my soul, and more about what does the world actually want from me.  I don’t know, I really don’t.  For all my intuition of what other’s are feeling, I have a block around what they are feeling about me.  It’s so strange…

My writing keeps changing based on when Bryan changes from the dreamy sound to something frenetic haha. Maybe I should listen to background music every day. I currently don’t.  Wow.

Well, sending peace and love and light and healing and hope to everyone struggling today.  Even the tiniest struggles send me into a panic, I can’t imagine how those with deep life struggles are feeling right now…I hope you find comfort in the dark, in your heart, in God or the universe or whatever speaks to you…I’m sorry that I’m not doing a better job at being a bowl for everyone hurting. It feels like my calling, but I haven’t been able to get out of my own way, out of my own hurt.

I honestly wonder if I’m supposed to take a hard left, to another path, sometimes…like kids music or instrumental music. Like I’m supposed to be a healer, but I’m preoccupied with what I want, instead of what the world needs or wants me to be. Whenever I mention kids music, tons of people chime in. Whenever I posted an instrumental track, I got gushing responses. I love my voice tho, and its so hard-won to even LIKE my voice, after years of it not doing what I want it to do – its finally starting to, and, I think, I’m meeting it halfway by actually liking what it CAN do instead of wishing for what it can’t.  It’s limited, strange, resonant, earthy, wide, disparate, I like it…almost sultry.  I really never used to like or love my voice, so this isn’t meant to be arrogance, more of just…surprise really.  My piano ‘chops’ are good, but that’s due to training. This voice thing, it’s just finding myself, and practicing becoming that self.  I hope you all do the same, in any topic you are blocked.  I’ve been blocked in my voice for so long, its been surprising to watch it unblock…mostly from these challenges.  It’s frightening and makes me wonder about time…like does it really take 10 years to heal, or can we heal overnight, with the right circumstances and environment?

I don’t know. Night everyone. xo Jessica

Now. And now. And…now. i.e. how to be present when drained.

While a “final” song bounces, I thought I’d share about my struggles with anxiety this week and last.

I’ve wanted so much to do well, to get these done to my standards, but music I love often has $40,000 production budgets…and people who’ve taken classes or gotten degrees in audio engineering, and conversely I don’t know what the heck I’m doing.

But my ear still says “no” “no” “no” “no” over and over.  Like trying to release these songs is almost (definitely) more stressful than never doing it.  And potentially, completely pointless – to have hundreds of songs not up to a commercially listenable standard.  I mean, I DO like lo-fi music.  But I think it goes best on certain songs…that effortless sound, like an outfit that looks somewhere between hipster and homeless, and worn quite right it’s an amazing feat of nature.  But other times, it just looks homeless.  Or like more care should be taken (if that’s what you’re going for).(if not, then more power to you)…

I think I battle inner demons of worth and “potential”…I don’t know.  What the elusive “good enough” is.  I can’t stop writing, and I don’t want them to not be good enough to my OWN standards…but this challenge is helping me see, that my own standards, without proper money and time, are not acheivable, without me saying OKAY ONLY 10 songs from this decade get to be produced, now pick which ones!  And then I could save up again and hit the studio.  Like a real studio, not my computer+ProTools.

Anxiety is pure evil.  Like I can’t function in this place.  I mean I can, and do, and did all the way through school and AP classes and scholarships and grad school…I CAN stress myself out and get shit done.  But I’m getting older and I don’t know anymore what the point of losing all quality of life is.  I can teach piano until I’m too old to talk, and it’s a sustainable thing as long as there are kids who need piano lessons, and the weirdest secret is I love it and I’m helpful – as I’m great at working with kids who hate strict teachers or unkind people.  I like being kind but still thorough.  But teaching doesn’t fill my bucket when it comes to creating.  And I don’t know, there must be a point for all this pushing through me…

And you.
And everyone with a loud muse.

I think perhaps we’re supposed to entertain each other?  In our own communities and friend groups.  Release those albums, acheive those goals, do the project, art, etc.  We’re not supposed to all be world famous, nor is world famous supposed to be anymore important than community famous.  I think.  Maybe it’s also been messing me up that all my most beloved loved ones are far away (except my bf).  And I get that I’m probably a community-famous type.  Not driven enough for world dominance.

And if I really had no other marketable skills, and had to hang my hat on something financially, maybe I’d push harder.  But I can teach piano, all my life, anywhere I go, and I actually love it.  I have no “day job” to escape like some people do.  I like my day job.  This challenge is forcing me to come to terms with why I’m casual and meandering about this path.

Okay pause – gotta bounce the next track…


3 1/2 more hours before it’s not July.  And then it doesn’t “count”.  I almost don’t remember how to breathe.  I’m sadly not kidding.  I don’t know what kind of mental illness I’m trying to stave off, or am creating for myself…like this whole Trump presidency and scary 1984 thing, maybe not yet but the seeds of it are sowing and I hope whoever comes to reverse it finds a way to speak to ALL sides and those not on a side.  I feel like a whirling dervish of political opinions and no outlet, I remember just after Trump and his team of madmen with selfish interests were elected (some kindhearted people too I’m sure, but definitely a domanance of “my people, my team, my toys, my stuff, I’ll grab what I want when I want” energy…maybe the kind ones are the scared to go against the bully followers, as cowardly as they come, getting rewarded for keeping silent? i don’t know…) the thought I had was, I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO PAY FOR THERAPY BECAUSE OF POLITICS!

I was so angry and anger was foreign to me.  Angry at those who didn’t vote, at those who threw their vote, who thought having a creepy reality star was okay…I didn’t know what to do with all that anger, and still don’t.  So I’m doing this.  Talking incessantly about myself and the arts and music…it’s better, for me anyway, than internalizing shame and sadness during such a tumultous time in history.  Not that its solving anything, but maybe other upset creatives will be more emboldened, and maybe someone will write the anthems of our day, expressing our outrage.  That’s too direct for me.  Oh…gotta break again.


This energy is reminding me of the energy I used when I pulled all-nighters, writing the longest most passionate papers in class, probably getting As just for passion and intensity and LENGTH.  One time a prof gave me an A and talked about me for years to his classes just cuz I feverishly wrote a paper on Moliere in rhyming couplets (iambic tetrameter I think?)  I was just being funny, and passionate.  Mostly funny.  But apparently the content was good too?  I don’t know. Wouldn’t have calmly worked on it for a month, I imagine…probably did it the day or two before it was due. That’s how I am.  I FLAILED as an adult without deadlines and structure. And kept going back to highly dysfunctional or wrong-fit-for-me jobs, just because the goals were clear and I could get that back-pat feeling in obvious ways.

Now I clearly create my own structure. I like it and I don’t.

If you’re going to assign goals and deadlines to yourself, then you can’t change them, or they are lies and not real and the whole thing falls apart. But if you can’t change them, then YOU ARE YOUR OWN AUTHORITY FIGURE, which means every existential crisis of “why am I doing this” and “you can’t make me” and subtle secret rebellion ends up AGAINST YOURSELF. Which is crazy, or crazy-inducing.  I miss the days of outside influences saying “this is due tomorrow, no exceptions” and grumbling mixed with wanting to please them and have them go “WOW YOU’RE AWESOME!” That feeling was the best. When, oh God, WHEN do I say this to myself? It’s like the piece that’s missing, it’s why – I imagine, in a nutshell – this process isn’t very fun.  I’m not pausing to say, holy shit you’re doing it.  I’m not pausing to be pleased with myself, or proud of myself, for showing up for myself, for getting the internal good grade, for doing the hardwork, I’m not rewarding myself…just cracking that whip, trying to do 12 years of work in 1.

I don’t know. It hurts. I’m tired. I’m sad. I’m sad at a life mostly wasted. I’m sad that I didn’t move to L.A. and try to get to know the industry. I know that it would have probably overwhelmed me, I’m probably most like Maria Bamford as far as celebrities go…so I think the city would have eaten me alive.  NYC was 2 years of music directing, being groomed for Broadway, being celebrated, working hard, but losing site of what I wanted in being there, following instead what others could use my skills for…even if there was money in it (potentially, not much in the interim, lots of stipends and resume-builders).  I know that’s a path I COULD have gone further down, if I weren’t homesick and lovesick and needing a lot more help financially than I knew (grad school debt for $120,000 kicking in while trying to support yourself in NYC? ha!)  I’m okay with having left, it’s okay, Chicago was a better fit for me I imagine…nearer to home and family.  But then ending up here in Michigan…what a detour.  Basically dropped off my ex with his mother, and was stranded in a 10hr a day job, in a field I never meant to get into…piano playing so much my arms were shot again (after years of acupuncture and healing in Chicago from a previous piano job related injury).  So now I’m here. With a piano studio, and I love teaching.  I go into kids homes.  I teach one day at the HS I used to accompany for.  I teach one day at my own house.  It’s pretty simple and magical, and I feel useful and specialized.  I know a lot.  I was a music theory T.A. at a music conservatory, so I’m probably more highly specialized than I need to be…plus all the performing experience, teaching songwriting too, I’m happy and I should be grateful.  And I am.  But I also feel this …ennui.  Maybe that’s the artists’ condition.  Maybe it’s healing from traumas (too numerous…some songs lately flash me back to abuse from partners including my head being thrown into the floor repeatedly, I’m lucky to be alive really).

That should be, full stop.

Why aren’t we just grateful to be alive?  What are all the questions about?  Why do some of us feel like its never enough?  Why is it actually never enough?  Because we can’t make money from it?  Because some people build a career in the arts and are celebrated by society, and the rest of us feel like we’re making tiny fools of ourselves by not being successful enough?  Like it’s a personal or moral failure to not be financially successful?  Like where did I even think art meant money? Or success?  Is it even art if its this sloppy? Probably not.  More like listening to a journal by someone who sings everything…

I’m so sad right now, I think because this album isn’t everything I wanted it to be.  It’s 7 songs shorter than intended, and the quality isn’t as high as I thought it’d be…I was trying so hard, bouncing tracks right now (rendering big protools session files down to single .wavs) and I’ve had more technical glitches taking up all my time than on the other 3 albums.  Like something out there is saying NOPE to these songs, or to me in general.  It just feels like effort does not equal success…

Maybe that’s a truth I need to learn.

How hard you work on something is not an indication of its success.

Some people have more luck, more ease, more flow, more…whatever that easy special something is.

I had it when I was young, but as a kid, polishing things isn’t part of the deal. So maybe it just FELT like I had it, and everything was cute, and all my output was sloppy then too but for a kid its cute haha.

That’s probably it.  Honestly.  Now, getting older, I never took classes in production, never had ProTools til this year (thanks Bryan!!!), never had all the resources to be successful…just had help from kind strangers and producers…tried buying every book like IndieBible to research how-tos, got ASCAP newsletters, registered everything, followed lists, filled my head with all the rules and should and to dos.  And all it did is confuse and alienate me from my peers (I’m guessing).  Or it’s just an incredibly difficult path to find any financial success in, and only the past two years have I started saying F that, and did what I wanted to do for me, no matter what it does to my “brand.”  That’s probably it too.

Oh, gotta bounce…one sec.


Okay…my only other assessment of all this darkness is that, last month felt cute and fun and light and healing, and I was recording songs from 1st thru 7th grade that were about healing and light and love and friendships and there was an innocence to it.

This month has been about ressurecting some of the most tragic things I’ve lived through, and I have probably blocked them all out of my mind for a reason.  To not split, to not get lost in pain and wallowing…who chooses to stay with someone who is systematically abusing them?  I did.  Twice.  Once for 9 months (intense abuse), and later for 9 years (“mild abuse” in comparison, so it was “okay”).  All of these things, don’t scratch the surface.  This is why I’m not a writer.  This is why I’m secretly hoping almost no one reads this.  This is for me, to receive a little universe comfort from anyone who reads it and sends me a hug through the airwaves. This is for die hard fans who want to understand where my transcend-everything perspective comes from.  Why I write about being a cloud and floating away and lettting gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Can’t wait to get back to that.

Thanks for reading. And listening. And being there. For each other. Or sending me a hug in your mind.  I probably need it more than I’m letting on.  I usually just smile at people and show a brave face or chat happily and hug friends and listen to music.. Like it feels like a betrayal to not smile at everyone I see…unless they creep me out, but usually I try to be kind anyway. I’m like the least punk punk I know.  My friend tried to call my music ‘rainbow punk’ once but I care too much what everyone else thinks of me to earn that label 😦  Someday, maybe.

xo Jessica

Progress, when perfection is literally impossible.

Hello. I am learning so much about myself, it hurts.

Like how am I a perfectionist AND so sloppy at the same time?

Perfection is the most misunderstood thing in creative people.  And we’re all creative people.

The dream of perfection doesn’t create great stuff, it creates panic and stalling out and fear.

The FUN of doing, creates great stuff.

I think.

Soooooo last week I got into it…recorded 18 scratch tracks…well, almost done tracks, in varying degrees.  Of 18 songs I love, in varying degrees.  From age 18…jk, from 16 or so, thru 24 maybe?

And now, coming home from Chicago a few days ago, after a little vaca for 24hrs, I can’t get back into it. I’m trying, but I’m so F-ing overwhlmed.  Listened to all 18 on the drive and took notes and its so much. Maybe I need to do it again. Calmly. Not while a road trip is happening. Just for fun. Fixing only what I write down, leaving the rest.  Otherwise the current solution is to cut like 1/2 the songs. No one cares if I do this challenge (I think?) or if they do, some fans do, they don’t care or even KNOW which songs I’m planning, or if I cut some, unless I tell them…

So why this ANGST!?!


The dream of perfection.

The dream of a dream acheived, a goal realized.

Once the 18 songs filled out in my head, the only thing that would make me fully happy, was all 18 being gold.

That’s. CRAZY.

I just said to a close friend of mine…I’m getting sick of myself.  Sort of haha.

Meaning, I’m only sort of kidding.

I’m sort of not kidding.

I’m getting sick of these endless ideas, that CREATE WORK FOR MYSELF.

I don’t like working, since when did I think I do?

Why don’t I develop a process that feels like PLAY?
Since these likely won’t make money, beyond $10 here or there? Way less than any minimum minimum wage, in any culture…we sweat and bleed our art, and are thankful for $20 a year, or ooh $20 a month, or if we’re on our best behavior, maybe we’ll play a show with a $150-200 minimum guarantee? But there are contracts and ticket sales, and we’ll practice 10 times for said show…it’s CRAZY.

The whole field is crazy and not a field. We are entertaining our friends. Our families. We are healers. Healing hearts and minds. Hoping someone is listening, that it matters. It may not. Mostly it does not, to most. But to a few, it matters a ton. They are inspired, to become makers. And that matters.  If YOU became more of a maker, through watching me make? Then that is gold.

But WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY the challenges?
I’m as mad as he-who-I-don’t-name in an office he can’t handle?
These challenges are like me matching the energy of the world right now, to point out its madness?!?!

This is not for fun.

This is because I feared dying in a car crash someday, with “all this music in me.”  This was before the 365 songs…when I had that thought.
Honestly (not to wish this) but if I died now, you’d all have more than enough of me…provided Bandcamp or YouTube don’t collapse and throwaway my lifes work.  Well, whatever it’s on 3 backup drives…check with Bryan or my parents or sister or brother if you miss me when I’m gone.  But maybe I’ll live til I’m 80, that’d be cool too…except for all the aches and pains. But if I’m here, I’ll be playing and making music I’m sure.

I miss writing. My emotions are backed up. Working so hard on these albums that I have no time to write 😦 😦 😦

That’s probably a lot of my angst.

Also these songs are heavy emotional and powerful and angry, and I’m reminded of a fragmented piece of myself that I MISS.  I don’t know where she went, been hiding her…trying to be good, and I skewed too far I guess.  Trying to say the right things and be all things to all people and see the good in absolutely everyone and everything, it’s exhausting. I believe in it, as a sanity builder and way to not self-destruct, but it definitely detaches you from some of your truth. Why are all my favorite people blunt and powerful truthtellers?

Anyway…my sister just moved to Colorado. Like, today. With her whole family. I’ve been a mess about this in my heart since May when we talked about it. Knowing I’d see them less often…or maybe that I’d just have to make more money or plan more traveling work, like library gigs and workshops, anything that pays, en route to Colorado (Iowa friends, I’ll be writing again soon)…

I don’t know. I’m tired of being spread thin. I’m sure we all are. I’m sure almost everyone I know is doing too much. It’s just that, mine is self-imposed.  I wish I could explain to you what it feels like to get older, having written 1000 songs or more, and feel like you didn’t do enough, or aren’t doing enough, with your life…like there’s all this work inside you, to do.  Like you could assign it to yourself, but how would you hold yourself accountable? Then you’d keep letting yourself down, failing at deadlines made, asking a friend to record, being rejected once and then giving up for a year…on and on. Trying things once, getting a no, turning your back on it and making an excuse for why it wasn’t what you wanted anyway.

Clearly I don’t have business-related tenacity. And I’m learning I CAN do studio work, it’s just really tiring for me. Last year, hitting record and making sloppy videos for YouTube, was so much fun in comparison. Maybe that was hard too and I just don’t remember. Maybe I’m just depressed right now.  Maybe I need a break, but I feel like I take lots of breaks and its not making this feeling go away.

Maybe this challenge is too hard.

Maybe I’m breaking.

Maybe it’s the working on past music, when that wasn’t part of the original agreement.

Maybe I don’t want to be releasing past songs…and something got in there and redirected me, in my mind, and now I’m regretting it, but it’s too late to go back and release the 2014 and later trauma songs instead…

I thought I’d never open the vault of Chicago songs, and pre-Chicago songs.  I’ve included ones from 9-11, written right after, while living a mile from the trade center and not allowed to go home.  Moving out with all my stuff on my back, after being threatened by a locksmith that he could come in any time he wanted…he had a special key.

Being date raped, manipulated, losing faith in everyone and everything…I can’t handle, perhaps, all the emotions swirling around me, from all of these songs.  They span 7 or 8 years, and my hardest years at that.  And I never play them, never sing them, but never forgot them.

And now in one month, I dig up my closets, intentionally looking for them?!?!  Relearn them?  Sing them all, in my now-voice. Even learned to replay those piano parts. And was EXCITED ABOUT IT?!?  Felt good, like HEY it’s a good album…doo di doo…

Then listened to it all, as we drove to Chicago on Saturday. Hung out with a friend, acted not like myself, missed the city,  ate ramen, dreamed of moving back, because I never meant to move to Michigan anyway, glad for people I’ve met but so many mixed emotions about being here…and then came back, and swipe hands together, just expected myself to get to work on the album, like its some desk job? Some nuts and bolts thing, instead of the resurrecting of a piece of myself, an attempt to heal, a hope for change, a chance to reintegrate who I AM.  When I was most sad, most angry, but most of all, MOST HURT.

I suffered so many horrific things, back to back, head thrown into floors repeatedly…too many disgusting things that I allowed other humans to do to me…and poof now I’m fine, and here I am, and I am okay with men even tho so many men abused me. Just as many woman have broken me emotionally too, almost all my friendships have failed or been lacking (often on my end)…so I don’t need to hate one gender. I know tons of beautiful men too, who have been kind and listened for hours and days and years, as this all healed.  So it’s specific souls. Broken angry hateful souls, who in their pain, act out against others. And I’ve attracted them. And I’m tired. And I’m isolating. And in my self-imposed isolation, with only a trusted few around me, I’m lonely and bored and shaming myself into extra work to bring all this into the world…thinking it’ll help someone.

Does my blog help anyone? I can’t imagine who. I’d be horrified to read this, if I knew me in a different context (hope those who do just look away, instead of judge…this challenge is destroying me, but hopefully I can put myself back together after all this breaking apart, I think so, I know so, I hope so…yea, it feels inspired and everything I’ve ever done that feels inspired has led to monumental healing and massive changes and true forgiveness, I’m just in a down place because it’s official…

I’m expecting too much of myself.)

There I said it.

Everyone who knows me well, knows that to support me is not to badmouth the challenge, no matter how bad it gets…encouraging me to quit it would make it worse.  Tho one or two times last year, people proposed alterations. I even did. But then I kept going.

I’m going to reassess tomorrow.

Maybe listen to these 18 songs again.

See if this one is worth it, or if I just want to release an EP on July 31st (WITHOUT feeling like a failure).(somehow I’d have to convince myself that it doesn’t mean I failed)

I miss talking into a phone camera, smiling and being funny during check ins.

This is more serious, and more sad.

I feel so self-involved, and honestly I am.

To do all this work, that comes out of your own brain, involves a level of self-involvement that even I can’t muster, and I like myself.

It’s too solitary, too alone, too sad…I dunno.
Maybe I’m not introverted enough to work alone so much, always checking outside for validation because even tho I don’t know how to write with others (ideas pour out of me too fast – I don’t know how to make room musically for many ideas, unless they are as fast as mine)(maybe I just made that up…I dunno, collaborating is hard for me, always has been…), I want to be connected to others.  Always.

Gah…this is too sad to post.

Or wait, last year almost every check-in video during the 365 songs felt sad.

And I did it, for posterity.

Deep sigh. Okay. Here you go, whoever is reading. All 3 of you. And honestly, if you’re not a fan of my music, I don’t get why this interests you. Or even if you are. But trying to be a “real boy” so …this is me.