I know I have been away for a while but there is a very important reason why and you will find out a little later. Either way, here is another Story From The Road. This particular story isn’t comical in any way. Unless you find nervousness funny, then you may get some entertainment out of this one.
In 2013, I had just graduated high school and started going to a community college. During October, I became part of a band as their rhythm guitarist. I was given about 60 songs to learn in 2 weeks and I had to do this all during midterms. If you don’t know what midterms are, it’s when all of the teachers have a meeting and decide to give you tests on things they probably didn’t even mention in class. They have the meeting to make sure they give the tests all on the same days so that you don’t get any sleep whatsoever.
Well, my first show was coming up. Ironically enough, this was the biggest show they had booked at that point. We were playing at the Augusta Country Club in Augusta, GA. It was literally a couple of miles from where the Master’s is held. It’s safe to say I was just a little nervous (aka: a lot nervous). Due to the timing of me joining the band, I only had a short amount of time to learn all of these songs: therefore, my set list had writing ALL OVER IT. It was full of chords and lines and whatnot telling me what to do and when. Basically, it was a huge cheat sheet for almost every single song.
Fast forward to sound check. This was my first ever sound check. Ever. I had no idea what to do. I didn’t realize that I should probably have the guitar in my monitor louder than I needed because everybody else would be loud too. I didn’t understand that I needed to speak louder into my microphone so they could check my vocals (I’m a very quiet person and everybody in every band that I have ever been in can attest to that). I didn’t have in-ears at the time (basically headphones that are monitors so I can hear what I’m singing and playing). This means that I couldn’t control the overall volume of things in my monitor; the sound guy had to do it for me.
By show time, I was freaking out. Like, I was so excited about it but this was also the biggest show I had ever played in my life. EVER. The stage lights went off and we walked to our spots. I was all the way on the right. So, if you were looking at me, it would be your left. I had to walk across this huge stage just to get there and by the time I picked up my guitar, I felt like I had just sprinted 100 yards because I was so nervous.
Everything was set up like it was supposed to be. I made sure I could see all my chords on my set list before we even started. The lights came back on and we started playing and I just start strumming. It was cool because of the lights. It was cool because of the crowd. It was cool because of the band. It was cool because I was only 18 at the time and you had to be 21 to get in but they made an exception for me because I was in the band.
I finally fell into a happy little spot. I know I probably didn’t look comfortable on stage because I didn’t move around, like, at all. I’m sure the only part of me that was moving was my arms so that I could play. I was playing so hard. At one point, we had just finished a song and one of the lead singers started talking into the mic. Well, low and behold, he was bringing attention to me for it being my first show. I mean, thank you, but holy goodness, I was already freaking out without you calling attention to how nervous I was and that it was my first show with the band. He said, “Isn’t she doing great??” and the crowd just cheered and I felt a little better. I had this little shy smile on because I wasn’t ready to have attention like that. Like, I wasn’t mentally prepared for that.
We finished out the set and took a break. I looked down and saw blood all over my hand, my strings, my guitar. Just little spatters of bright red mixed with the dark brown of the guitar and bronze of the strings. By that point it had started to dry. I just kind of looked at it for a second like, what the heck? How did that even get there? I looked at my index finger and realized. I had been strumming the guitar so hard that I had broken my fingernail and had also been hitting the top of my fingernail and cuticle on the strings causing it to bleed; therefore, drying blood spots on my guitar. (PS: my finger never actually 100% healed from this. I have a mark on my cuticle and the nail on my index finger has never grown normally since then). And then it hurt. You know how a little kid falls and they’re okay until they see that there’s a little bit of blood and then they start crying? Well, it was like that except I didn’t cry.
Since, of course, it was my first show EVER with a band, my parents were there. I put down my guitar and walked off stage to where my parents were. They were smiling and I was smiling and they were talking about how good I was doing and I was all happy and then I held up my finger.
“What happened to your finger…?” My mom asked.
“Well, I was strumming so hard that it started bleeding. I have blood literally all over my strings and my guitar. I couldn’t hear it in the monitor so I was killing it.”
She found a band aid (she literally has everything you need in her pocketbook) and put it on my finger but I couldn’t hold the pick. So, I took it off and kept playing with a hurt finger. I was careful to not play as hard but that meant I couldn’t hear my guitar. Oh well. I just hoped I was playing the songs right.
By the time the show was over, I was very excited that I had even gotten through it without it being too noticeable that is was my first show with a band (other than the whole “it’s her first show!” thing that happened). I was breaking down my equipment, which wasn’t very much at all at the time, and looked back down at my finger. It was still a little bloody and I had black marks from the strings all over my fingernails. The top right part of my index fingernail was literally filed down past my skin. My nail was actually pointed and looked like I had been biting it but only one side.
I will forever have my first show memory for many reasons. Yes, I will remember it because it was my first show and because my set list had random letters all over it that only a musician would understand. But mainly I will always remember my first show because, ever since then, my index fingernail never grew back correctly. It is thinner than the rest. It breaks easier, and it grows with a dip on the right side of it. My cuticle will probably never look perfect again and it will probably forever have a little dark red spot underneath my skin because it never healed correctly.
I guess all I can tell you from this story is that, even if timing isn’t perfect for starting new things, good things happen when you push through your comfort zone. And even if your guitar strings have blood all over them and your finger will never be normal again, just keep playing.
Below are pictures of my first show set list and my 18 year old self.
Okay, this particular story is a bit more recent. As in, like, 2 weeks ago recent. The band was playing at a wedding rehearsal (about 2 hours from my home) and it was on the second floor of the building. To get to the second floor, we had to load all of our equipment inside the building and then catch the elevator to go to the second floor. Honestly, it’s a lot more work than it sounds but it’s a lot better than stairs.
Just a quick side note, when you play weddings or wedding rehearsals, it’s a lot of hurry up and wait. Like, you hurry up to load in, set up, and sound check, and then you wait for everybody to get there and eat so you can play. In most cases, nothing ever happens on time. You could be scheduled to play at 7pm and not end up playing until about 8:30pm. I have learned to always bring something to do and to bring a phone charger.
Well, anyway, it was a great show. Everybody seemed to have fun, the family fed us along with all of their guests (which means I visited the food tables more than once), it was great. We ended up playing a little longer than originally anticipated and then we started breaking down. Since we had brought everything up on the elevator, guess what. We had to take it all back down.
Some of the workers with the catering company helped us out by bringing a shopping cart and a couple of other various items to help us take things down. I ran over to the shopping cart and tried to figure out the puzzle to fitting the majority of my equipment in it so that I wouldn’t have to make as many trips (you know, like carrying all of the bags of groceries at once because you actually can’t make two trips). After a few minutes of trial and error, I fit most of my stuff into the cart, which included: both guitars, mic stand, my amp, my rug, and my tool box. All that was left was my clothes bag, amp stand, and guitar stand.
I took everything in the cart to my truck and then brought the cart back upstairs. This time I left the cart and I grabbed what was left and went BACK down to my truck. When you’re breaking down, you ALWAYS need to do a dummy check. Or, in our case, have multiple people do a dummy check. Because you don’t want to leave anything on the floor that you will need at your next show. Well, I was going back up to the second floor to do a dummy check. I looked; nothing there. Good. Okay.
Our saxophonist and drummer had just grabbed a couple of things and were heading down too so I hopped in the elevator with them. We were all just talking a little about the show and I was leaning against the wall. Then, I leaned to the right and my butt hit a button and all of a sudden there was a high-pitched siren sound. It sounded like a police siren kind of. Then it made a sound that was like the line was busy on a phone. I was freaking out! I was screaming, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it, I didn’t mean to, I butt dialed!”
Well, about that time, the elevator came to the bottom floor and I got out of there because I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen. I may or may not have hidden but I covered it up by saying that I was getting some water from the water fountain. I mean, I was getting water. But it was conveniently located around the corner away from everybody else.
After I caught my breath and decided I wasn’t going to get arrested that night, I walked outside and basically just busted out laughing. Since everybody was looking at me like I was absolutely insane, I told them that I butt dialed the police and explained how it happened.
Once we all got our breath, our drummer came up to me and says, “yeah, I had to call the police off.”
“Umm… what? For Real?” I thought he was joking.
“Yeah, for real! The phone started ringing and I had to explain to them that it was a mistake.”
Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what I thought was going to happen after I had ran out of the elevator. But in any event, I’m glad the police did not come. Because how was I going to explain to them that I butt dialed them and wasted their time?? Like, sorry, fam, I didn’t mean to! Just… my butt… it hit the button…
Well, I guess even if you butt dial the police like I did, I don’t know what to tell you other than to just keep playing.
Every two years, media bombards us with footage of athletes in (usually) another country doing extremely cool things that the majority of us cannot do. And we crowd around TVs wearing our country’s apparel and getting excited when someone who wins has our country’s flag beside their name even if we’ve never heard of them before. Aka: the Winter or Summer Olympics.
Currently, the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics are under way. There is so much coverage on it, it’s next to impossible to not know they’re happening. So, because of this year’s Olympic Games, I’m going to fantasize about what winter events I would compete in if I had trained for 15+ years of my life.
Snowboarding: All events in snowboarding. This includes Half Pipe, Big Air, Parallel Slalom, Slopestyle, and Snowboard Cross. I know these are all different forms of snowboarding but I really just love snowboarding. Compared to these athletes I’m very much a beginner snowboarder, and quite honestly, I’m terrified to go off of jumps and do grabs or go off of rails; mainly because I’m afraid I’m going to land wrong and break something and then I wouldn’t be able to play music. But I’m not afraid to go fast. Not, like, Olympian fast. Just normal fast. So, I feel like definitely Snowboard Cross would be my first choice.
Figure Skating: Because it’s so pretty and graceful (unless somebody falls at least). It’s like they are literally floating on the ice. I can ice skate but I can’t skate backwards. At least, not very well. But, I like to think that if I trained for 15 years, I could totally do it.
Speed Skating: I’ve never seen them skate backwards and they go really fast. So, I’m pretty sure I could do this one.
Ski Jumping: Honestly, I think I’d do this one just because when they’re in the air, they look like a flying squirrel. And because that movie “Eddie The Eagle” was really good too. I totally recommend watching that movie.
Luge: They go extra fast. Like, 80mph fast. It’s probably really hard though because you’re laying down flat on your back and you’re trying to be all aerodynamic and stuff so it probably slows you down to lift your head and so I think it would be hard to see. I’d say skeleton because they lay on their stomach and go head first but that sounds scarier BECAUSE it’s head first.
What event would you compete in if you had trained your whole life?
I would like to learn to do all of these things. But I love music so much more. So, I’ll just keep playing.
This will be the first of (probably) many posts about things that have happened to me during my music career. They won’t be posted consecutively, you’ll just have to look for them as I go. This one, though, is quite comedic.
I was playing in my first ever country cover band called Huckleberry Blue. I was about 18 years old, at this point, with about one eighth of the gear I have now. (I’m 22 now… what does that tell you?) My parents were driving me to this particular show. (PS: my parents come to literally 99% of my shows and they always have. I love it because I love their support. Most people probably wouldn’t want their parents there. I’m not most people). (PPS: I used to be so scared I wasn’t doing well that I would look at my mom and if she wasn’t smiling, I was afraid I wasn’t doing something right based off of her facial expression. So, she started smiling the whole time just in case I looked at her).
ANYWAY, my dad was driving and my mom was in the front seat. Before we left, we had loaded up the truck with all of my equipment which was: 2 guitars; a small tool box to hold, like, 2 guitar cables, and a mic; and my acoustic Fishman amp. We were on some back road in the middle of nowhere on our way to a venue that was also in the middle of nowhere. I was super stoked to be playing at wherever we were going and we were talking about how we never thought I’d be doing this at 18.
All of a sudden, we see some railroad tracks up ahead but they looked like those flat ones, you know? Like, the ones that don’t bump that much when you drive over them. There are some where it’s like a mini mountain and you have to slow down. Well, these tracks were a mini mountain. We thought they were the flat ones. Do you think we slowed down for this? No. No, we did not. We hit that mini mountain going about 45mph or more.
“And it was like slooooow motion” (Taylor Swift lyric reference). But for real, all of a sudden, the car was in the air, I was in the air, my equipment was in the air and I kind of hit the ceiling. But so did everything else in the car. As we came down, all you heard was everything in the back falling back down. It literally sounded like 40lbs of bricks falling on hard plastic. (Thank Jesus for hard guitar cases). Once we realized what had happened, we slowed down and the first question that I asked was, “are my guitars okay?” I didn’t even take time to assess if I was okay, all that mattered was my equipment. But yes, all humans were okay too.
Once we realized that there were no dents on equipment or bruises on skin, we kept going and laughed so hard. It was kind of laugh where you feel like you’re getting an ab workout and you can’t breathe so your laugh goes quiet. It was the kind of situation that you tell over and over even 4 years later.
We got to the venue and the first thing we did was double check to make sure nothing got broken. Nothing music wise was broken. But there was actually a hole in the floor of the back of the truck. My Fishman had actually flown to the ceiling, fallen back down, and put a hole in the truck! You couldn’t see the ground but there was still a hole there. I remember because I could put my finger through it.
The moral of the story is: if you come to a mini mountain, slow down. And even if your amp puts a hole in your vehicle, keep playing.
(For all of those concerned, the lyric reference was from Taylor Swift’s “The Moment I Knew” from the Red Deluxe Album.)
One of the most common questions I get is, “How do you learn all of those songs?” Well, I can kind of tell you. But, honestly, I’m not entirely sure. Like, I know HOW I learn them. I’m just not sure how I remember them all.
I kind of touched on learning songs in my last blog post “Not Just Rainbows & Butterflies” by saying how hard it can be. Some songs take longer to learn and others don’t take half as long. It really just depends on the song. Let me break it down even further by explaining how I learn band songs vs how I learn my solo show songs.
When I am given a song to learn for the band, I have to figure out if I need to play it on guitar or just play tambourine. If I am going to play tambourine, I just need to learn the beat. If I am going to play it on guitar I will have to learn the chords. To learn the chords, I go straight to YouTube to listen to the song and see if it seems difficult. While listening to it, I open another tab and bring up ultimate-guitar.com. I have no idea how to read sheet music but I do know how to read tab. (For the non-musician, tab is short for tablature. Tabs are presented as the neck of a guitar/ukulele and numbers where your fingers are supposed to go.)
Chords look like this:
and lead parts look like this
IF the song is “well known” among the people who post tabs on ultimate guitar, I can click on the song and just read the chords from there. BUT, if the song is NOT well known or only well known by the beach music crowd, I have to figure it out myself. Then, I’ll put the song on repeat until I can figure out the chords by ear. This means that I just try a bunch of chords until I find the ones that sound right. At this point, I’ll put those chords in my word document that I keep of every song I play with the band. This document has the song names, if I need to put a capo on the guitar, and what the chords are. (capo definition: a little clamp thing that covers all of the strings on the guitar to raise the tuning. There are also capos that don’t cover all of the strings.) If I can’t figure out the chords, I usually just message somebody else in the band and ask them what the chords are and hope for the best.
If it’s a song that I’m singing with the band, there’s a really good chance that I’ve already learned it and am currently playing it during my solo shows. So, I don’t really have to do anything different.
Now, learning solo show songs are a little bit more difficult. Let’s pretend I hear a new song on the radio and I think I can pull it off with only my guitar and my voice. I buy the song on iTunes and put it on repeat (or if I just like the song, I may still buy it but not try to play it until a while later). When I say repeat, I don’t mean I listen to the one song and then others and then come back to the song. I mean, like, ultimate repeat. I don’t listen to any other music at all. Driving in the car, at the gym, brushing my teeth, in the shower, listening to my headphones if I’m riding with my parents; that’s all I’m going to listen to. There are many many times when I will purchase a new song, take a 40 minute drive home, and have all of the lyrics learned by the time I pull into my driveway. That doesn’t mean I’m ready to try to play it on guitar yet. I’m going to keep it on repeat for the next 4 days. Again, whenever I’m driving, in the gym, wherever I’m at where I can listen to that one song.
Once I get super confident with the lyrics, I’ll try to learn the chords to the song. Again, I’ll go to ultimate-guitar.com to learn the chords. All of the cover songs I play are known well enough that there are going to be different versions of how to play them online so, thankfully, I don’t have to try to figure out how to play them by ear. Sometimes, though, I’ll try to play it by ear and then look online to see if I’m right. If the songs are originally played on piano, I have to find a way to make them just as beautiful on only a guitar. If there are no actual instruments in the song and it’s mostly digitally produced (like most pop songs are now) I have to figure out what elements I can add and how to add them with ONLY a guitar and my voice. Once I pull it up online, I play through it and sing it a few times. Once I feel like I have that down, I’ll keep the screen up but look away unless I just absolutely cannot remember what chord I’m supposed to play. I’ll do this for a couple of hours.
Usually, I’ll keep playing it for a few days on the guitar until I add it to my set. Lately, though, I have found myself learning a new song and adding it unexpectedly at the end of my show and that’s how I end up deciding to add it permanently or not. There have been a couple of times where I’ll finish making my set list early and I’ll work on a new song that I’ve been singing and play it that night at my show.
It’s usually pretty intimidating to me to add a new song to my show because… Are people going to like it? Will they react to it? Will they know it? Will they know it but not like how I play it? Am I going to mess up because I psych myself out? A lot of it, in the moment at least, is just a big mind game. You can mess yourself up if you think too hard about it; you can also mess up if you think too little about it. You have to find a happy medium of thinking about it and feeling it.
Now that I’ve explained to you how I learn them, I still have no idea how I can remember them all; all of the lyrics and all of the chords. The best thing I can come up with is that my brain is good at recognizing patterns whether they’re in the form of beats, syllables, chords, or just all of it put together. That’s the best explanation I have. Songs are just sound patterns to me I guess.
Figure out the patterns. Keep playing.
PS: Shout out to Shubb Capos for being literally the ONLY capo I use. 10/10 recommend.
Being a musician really isn’t as easy as you may think it is. Non-musicians probably just see people up on a stage living “The Life.” Whatever that is. Yeah, there are spotlights, and crowds, and people wanting to hear YOU. But there is so much more to it than that.
Where there is a venue, there is also countless hours trying to get in contact with that venue just to get them to notice you. Once they notice you, you have to convince them that they want you to play there for whatever amount of time you are asking for. THEN, you have to convince them to pay you a decent paycheck. That’s where negotiating skills are necessary. Good luck.
If you do that, and you successfully book a show, you better promote it. Put it on your website, on Facebook, Instagram, wherever you have an outlet. Shamelessly self-promote because it’s your job. If people don’t know you’re playing, they won’t show up; if they don’t show up and you’re getting paid by how many people come in the door, you won’t get much at all, if any. Because first and foremost, a venue is a place that is likely to sell food and drinks. You’re there to make the venue money by providing a form of entertainment. Nothing else. IF you’re getting a guarantee and they’re banking on you bringing a crowd and you don’t, there’s a pretty good chance you will not get asked to come back. Promote your shows.
Where there is ONE song, there is at LEAST 3-4 hours put into just learning the song. Some songs are different; some don’t take as long and some take much longer. But you have to learn the words. Some people put up music stands as a reference but I don’t like to use those. I memorize the lyrics to every single song that I play in front of people. After you learn the words, you have to learn how to play the song on whatever instrument you’re into. For me, that’s guitar. You have to learn different chord shapes and work on transitioning into OTHER chord shapes and then you have to put that together and play that while you’re moving your mouth. And you have to remember it all. To make it a little more understandable for the non-musician, playing guitar and singing at the same time is like trying to draw the number 6 while moving your leg in a clockwise circle or saying, “Irish wristwatch.” I bet you tried to do that, didn’t you? It just takes a lot of practice.
Now, if there’s THAT much work put into just one song, imagine doing that for about 45 songs. For me, that’s a three hour set. I do about 45 songs when I play a 3 hour show. I have extras just in case I need them and I’m always ready to know which songs to cut if I need to go shorter.
Let’s pretend you have learned these songs. You’ve even convinced a venue to pay you to play music for 3 hours plus whatever tips their customers may give you. Did you ask the right questions? What time are you starting? How about when you’re supposed to finish up? What time is their preferred load in (the time you get there to set up) for you? Do you need to bring your own sound? If so, how big is the space? Do you need a lot of sound? Or just a little? Do you get breaks? These are just SOME examples of things you need to know before you play a show.
For example, if I have an 8pm-12am show that is just going to be me playing and I need to use my larger sound, I need to get there at 6:45pm and be prepared to leave around 1am. This doesn’t include talking to the people after the show. If I’m playing the same time and need my small sound, I won’t need to get there until about 7:30pm and I will still have time to drink some coffee between sound check and show time. If it’s a band show for the same time, we have to load in at 5pm or 6pm and be prepared to leave at about 2am. After all of this, you have to drive home. And you get hungry.
If you ever think that being a musician is “easy,” please, I encourage you to help me load in and set up all of my equipment and then help me break it down without complaining that it’s too heavy or that it’s too late and you’re too tired. We (musicians) don’t get paid to play music. We get paid for the hundreds of hours we put into learning 3 hours worth of material. We get paid to set up our equipment and take it down. We just play music in between all of that because it’s what makes us happy. And if you think about it like that… in terms of months, days, and hours we spend on just getting ready to play a show… musicians are massively underpaid. But I’m not going to get into that.
But can we talk about just how unpredictable being a performing musician is? You have ABSOLUTELY NO guarantee for anything. Literally, you can drive all the way to the venue and they can cancel as you’re setting up to play the show. It’s not like having a normal job. You don’t wake up at 7, get to your office at 9, work until noon, have lunch, work until 5 and then you’re done. With that kind of job, you have a salary. Musicians don’t have salaries. Sometimes we’re not even guaranteed payment. #anxiety. Some people just go and play for tips. Imagine walking into your office and asking your coworkers like, “hey, I wrote this column, will you give me a dollar or two?” No. What if they don’t like your column? They won’t give you dollar. Or better yet, what if they DO like your column but they STILL don’t give you a dollar. That’s being a performing musician.
Think about your hours at your job. They’re probably pretty normal. As you can see, musician hours are not normal. I have gotten home at 5am from a show and only woke up for lunch just to go back to sleep until 3pm. I was still in the bed by midnight that next night (was super tired).
You may say, “oh it’s cool though because you get to travel.” Yeah, I get to travel to the beach to see people get drunk and then I get to travel back home. You’re not really in the cool place long enough to explore the cool place unless you make time for it.
All of this and I’m only skimming the surface. I haven’t said anything about dealing with rude people at venues. Sometimes, it’s just as bad as waiting tables because you have to deal with attitudes and silly demands. I haven’t talked about working WITH people who aren’t nice to you. That’s never fun. I haven’t even touched on comments from people in the crowd. I don’t mean nice comments either; I mean ones where a 75-year-old dude asks if you need help changing clothes in the bathroom… I haven’t even talked about the time it can take to write music. I’ve only spoken about performing.
You may read all of this and think, “Why the heck would you want to be a musician? Nothing’s guaranteed, it’s a lot of late nights, heavy lifting, and practice.” Well, I have answer for you: I love it. I love making people smile. It’s so cool to be able to play a song and see someone recognize it and then their eyes get really big and they smile and start singing. That’s cool. It’s cool when someone comes up to you and says “wow. You’ve put a lot of work into this, I hope you get somewhere with it.” Or, like, “hey, I really liked your cover of that song. I think it’s better than the original.” Or even better, “I really loved that song you wrote. I kind of cried a little.” That’s “The Life” to me. I like making people feel something. I like surprising people. And you know what? I don’t care about the late nights. I don’t care that the equipment is heavy. I don’t care that I have to drive 4 hours away to a play a show sometimes. I’d go farther if I got booked.
If you love it, keep playing.
I’m sorry it took me so long to get back here. I was at the gym.
Just for you to know a little more about me and what I do on a daily basis: I really enjoy the gym. I don’t mean, like, cardio. I hate cardio. I mean dumbbells and barbells.
I’ve always been into fitness and working out but not really to this extent. I played softball in high school so, there’s that. But once high school was over, I wanted to make sure I didn’t gain the “freshman 15” so I started running. I hated it. But I did it until my high school closed the track off to people who didn’t go to school there. At that point I just kind of stopped. I didn’t really do any fitness stuff and I was too self conscious to go into a gym yet. I know a gym is where you go to better yourself but my thought process makes sense, I promise.
During my last 2 years of college, I got back into working out but I just used machines. I did 15 minutes on an elliptical and then did legs or arms on whatever day I had assigned them to. After I graduated, I got a gym membership at a gym close to my house and I did a thing where I woke up every morning...
That’s 5:30am and I was at the gym by 6. I did an hour on the stationary bike and did some machines for another hour. I did this for that summer (aka last summer) (aka the summer of 2017). My argument was that I had to ride a bike to class everyday and my legs had gotten smaller and I wanted to keep them that way. But since I didn’t HAVE to do that anymore, what was I to do??? Answer: stationary bike and watch an episode of something on Netflix.
Once The Barn was finished, it was harder to go to bed at 9pm because all of my music stuff was there and begging me to use it. So I started staying up until 3 or 4am and not going to the gym. For a second I was kind of disappointed in myself because I had grown to love waking up before the sun rose. It feels like the mountains that early in the morning. (I love the mountains). I missed feeling that but it was so hard to compromise my creativity at night just so I could wake up really really early. So I didn’t.
I kind of half way went to the gym starting in August and I was introduced to dumbbells and barbells. Deadlifts and squats and bench presses! Oh my! It was intimidating at first because I’m naturally a competitive person and I just wanted to be the strongest girl right off the bat but that’s not how it works. That’s not how anything works. But then I remembered “you’re not here for them, you’re here for you.” And that’s how I stopped comparing myself to other people in the gym.
It didn’t really click for me at first because I didn’t feel like I was really doing anything super impressive. But then I realized that I was. I was stepping out of my comfort zone and doing something I had never done before but had always wanted to do. Basically, I have now expanded my comfort zone.
It took me about a month or 2 to be super serious about fitness. So, I was KIND OF into it in August. And then September rolled around and I was like, “meh, I want to but... routine...” and then October became a different story.
I wasn’t so self conscious walking past the machines to go to the free weights anymore. I had kind of gotten into more of a routine and I knew what I was supposed to be doing and how to do it. Since then, I have worked out AT LEAST 4-5 days a week. But if I missed a day, it was okay because it’s always better to listen to your body and rest when needed than to run it to exhaustion.
My most recent PRs (Personal Record) include:
Deadlift: 220 lbs
Bench: 185 lbs
Squat: 200 lbs
I just recently hit my bench press PR and honestly, I had no idea I could do it until I did it. I prefer to not add up the weight I’m about to lift until after I have lifted it. That way I’m not psyching myself out. Of course, I always have a spotter when I’m PRing on bench.
All of this is cool until you pull a muscle. I just did that a couple of days ago. I was warming up for a deadlift PR and there wasn’t much weight on it at all. My back just kind of moved a way it wasn’t supposed to and it just started hurting. Immediately, I put it down and stopped doing back because I’m not trying to hurt myself. I continued on to biceps and I felt okay because I wasn’t using those muscles in my back too much by doing curls.
By the time I had gotten home, it was getting progressively worse. My whole back was tight and it was a struggle to stand up straight without looking like I was trying to puff out my chest. I knew there was no way I was going to the gym for a few days. Immediately, I started on anti-inflammatory meds (ibuprofen) to help out. I laid on the floor with an ice pack and my legs up in a chair for the majority of the remainder of the day. That night, I slept with a pillow under my knees and set an alarm for 3am to take more ibuprofen.
When I woke up, I felt absolutely nothing. No pain. But once I was walking around and using those muscles, it started hurting again but not as bad. Throughout the day, I continued taking ibuprofen every 4 hours. I laid on the ground and did what work I could do on the computer. The whole day I was wishing I could just be better and go to the gym.
That afternoon I got a message on FB saying I was needed to play a show that night. I was thinking, like, “what? How am I supposed to get through this show? I’m laying on the floor. How am I supposed to do this?” I’m not really one to turn down a show. So, me and my mom prayed about it because God doesn’t make you go through something you can’t handle.
While I was getting ready for the show, and silently still freaking out, my mom found something that had helped her in the past: a pregnancy belt.
Well. I call it a pregnancy belt. But it’s really just a 12” wide Velcro wrap. She had to use it when she was pregnant with me to keep her pelvis together because her pelvic bone became separated (ouch).
So I put that around my torso and it helped SO MUCH! It was a great form of support for my back and I could wear it under my shirt and nobody would notice! So I did. I performed a 3 hour show with a pregnancy belt on. And you know what? It wasn’t a bad show.
The breaks I had were greatly appreciated (when I got to take them) but I appreciate the people who came to see me even more. There was a good amount of people there and it wasn’t one of those crowds that just sat and talked to each other. They sang along and video recorded and engaged with me. It was awesome!
In the long run, even though I was running on ibuprofen, coffee, and a pregnancy belt, I’m so glad I played. So, thank you, God, for getting me through the show without me feeling like I was going to break in half.
I’ll be back soon. In the meantime, keep playing.
Post workout mirror pic
What the “pregnancy belt” looks like. You can kind of see where it Velcros together.
I’m back and bearing great news. After 1,109 days, Taylor Swift released a new album. reputation. (“1989” was released Oct 27, 2014 and “reputation” was released Nov 10, 2017)
Let me give you a slight backstory.
Those of you who know me personally know that I love Taylor Swift. I have been a #swiftie since her release of “Tim McGraw” back in 2006. I was there when she became T-Swizzle and did a parody collab with T-Pain; thus “Thug Story” was born (I still know every word and refer to her as T-Swizzle on the reg). I have loved every era of Taylor and will continue to do so.
Whenever she would be performing a show in the central NC area, me and my friends would make shirts and wear them to the concerts. Tie-dye, puffy paint, iron on pictures, rips, bleach, puffy paint, glitter, all of it. We did it all. Each shirt was representative of the new era. We “forced” (not really forced because we all know he loved it) my dad to chauffeur us to the concerts with her album blaring through the speakers and we were all so excited.
I will never forget the Raleigh show during the Speak Now World Tour when one of my best friends, Maddie, won pit passes and we got to see her right in front of us. Maddie tweeted to get on the Jumbotron and she thanked me and my family for inviting her to go to the show with all of us. She got a text saying she won passes and then we were all running out to go meet the person to hand us the magical bracelets that would get us closer to Taylor. This was when Taylor would still walk through the crowd from the back of the coliseum and make her way through to the front. She put her hand out as she passed me and I put my hand out and she grabbed onto mine and I cried because Taylor Swift’s hand was in my hand for .5 seconds. It was glorious.
I couldn't find any pictures from the Red Tour so here is me and Maddie at the 1989 Tour. We used so much glitter on our shirts and ourselves, we were basically walking jars of glitter. And thus the saying was born, thanks to Maddie, "I have glitter on my glitter."
From the beginning, I woke up early to go to Target and get Taylor's new album and whatever else extra Target had to offer. Some years it was the "Deluxe Edition" with some extra songs on an extra CD. For "1989," it was polaroids and voice memos. This year, for "reputation," it was two versions of a magazine (an orange hued one and one with her in camo) that came with a poem and pictures and prints of her paintings and a poster and of course the album. (Yeah, sorry for that run on, I got excited).
Honestly, this is my favorite album yet. Yes, I love every album and I say that for all of them, but this one really is amazing. Lyrically, musically; literally in every way, it's so good.
You may wonder, "why the heck does she like Taylor Swift so much?" Okay, let me tell you. When I was younger, I wanted to play guitar. I listened to Hilary Duff, The Dixie Chicks, and N'Sync. At the moment, I was not wide-eyed-excited about playing guitar like I am now. Since Taylor was so young when she began her career, I felt I could relate to her BECAUSE of that. She wrote songs about the boy she liked in class but he had no idea. She wrote about people being mean to her. She wrote about things I totally understand and still do.
One of the things I have learned while being in the music business is that it is just that; a business. And Taylor Swift is a great business woman. Every move she has made in her career has been a good one that has only allowed her to continue to do what she loves. She stands up for musicians, like when she wrote that open letter to Apple when Apple Music first came out. She took her music off of Spotify for a while because, literally, Spotify streams barely pay the artists anything at all. Most of all, she finds ways to connect to her fans. If you look, she actually talks to her fans, invites them to her house for Secret Sessions to listen to her album before anybody else, and interacts with them on social media. Many of her fans have actually grown up with Taylor Swift meaning that we were all going through the same stage of life around the same time she was. The only difference is that she is in the spotlight and many of her fans are not.
Each album reminds me of a certain time in my life and the people I hung out with during that time. Like, for example, "Red" was my senior year of high school and that's when I played the cymbals in marching band (yes, I was in marching band for a semester and I don't regret it). I made awesome friends that semester. "1989" was my sophomore year in college and I was going to graduate with my Associate's Degree a few months after the album was released. That was when I hung out with my two best friends from Florida before they moved again and they always asked me to bring my guitar to play music for them.
To conclude this rant, "reputation" is amazing and I love making memories to a new album. I'll be able to look back on where I'm at and feel exactly how I'm feeling in this moment.
So, thank you, Taylor Swift, for inspiring me at such a young age to pursue music and also thank you for putting out amazing, relatable albums. Thank you for allowing me to make memories with all of my friends at your shows. You will forever be my favorite artist.