How to Love an Artist
A biographical account of relationships as a musician.
Since I was a little girl, I have always known that I wanted to sing. I saw a musical when I was three, and I was hooked. I started piano lessons at 5, and voice and guitar lessons at 12. I wrote my first song when I was 10.
My first job was playing and singing at bars when I was 14; so young, my mom and dad had to chaperone me. I attended Belmont University and graduated with a degree in music and a minor in music business. If you don't get it yet, I'm a little obsessed with music. My parents are both supportive of my out-of-the-box goal in a unique way. Their rule growing up was "pick something, and be f**king good at it." It didn't matter what we chose; we just had to explore our options and pick something. My brother became a doctor, and I became a musician.
Music has always been an inherent part of who I am, so it shocked me the first time my long term boyfriend asked me what my back up plan was. "What do you mean by that?" I asked him. He responded, "Well, you're probably not going to become a famous musician, so what are you going to do instead." I became immediately defensive, asking questions like, "why don't you support me?" "Why would you think that I won't be successful?" He downplayed it, saying that of course, he thought I was talented, and of course he wanted me to succeed. But statistically, it wasn't likely. I was not even looking for fame, just for a mild amount of success, but also that concept was too far from his grasp.
This boyfriend and I were together for about four years, and one of the most common fights we had was about his lack of support towards me. Eventually, he admitted that he wanted music to take a back seat so I could move in with him, marry him, and be his little housewife. We broke up.
The person that chooses to love you, wants to love all of you. Whatever your passions, goals, and dreams are, the person that loves you should embrace all of them with reckless abandon. They will support you every step of the way. They will watch you grow and grow with you. They will encourage you, comfort you, and empower you. If someone chooses to do otherwise, that is not real love. Do not settle for anything less.
I recently had this conversation with a 21-year-old producer who has been struggling to finish even one song. He had been dating a young woman for about a year, and the first time we went into the studio together, she was constantly texting and called him twice. We only had a two-hour session. He mentioned in passing that it bothered him how his girlfriend would not respect his studio time and interrupt us.
A few weeks later, the same thing happened again. They broke up a few weeks ago, and that was when he told me what had been going on. She was upset that he was working with so many other women and felt as though she needed to keep tabs on him at all times. She had even interrogated him about me, even though I am in a long term relationship. He couldn't finish a song because they lived together and she always demanded his attention. He existed in an environment that stifled his creativity. So as soon as they had broken up, a wave of relief washed over him. He felt like he was finally able to focus.
The person that chooses to love a musician must decide to accept the lifestyle. Being a musician is not glamorous. Late nights in the studio, shows to both empty and full venues, financial struggle or booming success, tours, long days spent on buses. The list goes on.
The person who loves a musician must understand that your co-writers and bandmates are your coworkers. It's just an office with less written rules — mutual love and respect breed loyalty.
I was fortunate enough to meet a man several years ago who has turned into my number 3 fan (numbers 1 and 2 being mom and dad). He supports everything I do. If I have a 15 hour day between a studio session and work, he feeds and walks my dog for me. If I have a day where I barely get to leave my home studio from being backed up on projects, he surprises me with flowers to brighten up my workspace.
He attends as many shows as he can, no matter how big or small, so I always have at least one fan in the audience. He helps me load in my gear even though I am fully capable of doing it myself. One of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced is the love of someone who wants you to be successful and happy.
Choosing to love a creative also means choosing to love them and support them on every step of the journey. Us musicians already know we are crazy for doing what we do, we do not need a reminder. We receive unbelievable amounts of criticism from everyone around us, so we must be able to count on our partner for unwavering support.
We need someone to stand up next to us and say "Yes, you are crazy and I love it. Let's go your gig starts in 30 minutes and you're late" (Let us face it, we are always late). If you are the person who chooses to love a creative soul, thank you. We are not easy, but we are worth every minute. Thank you for being our muse, and our support system.
If you are a creative soul wondering when you will meet your match, the only advice I can give you is to wait. Do not settle for someone who undervalues your talent. Do not settle for someone who wants you to have a backup plan. Wait until you find the man who shows up to every one of your gigs to make sure someone claps for you. Wait until you see the woman who makes a silly sign with your face on it to wave at you from GA. Wait until you meet the person who supports you to their core. Wait until you meet your person.