As anyone who has made a full-length album before will tell you, it’s a HUGE undertaking – emotionally, financially, and in the sheer number of hours required. I just released my first full-length album Green Hearts at the end of January after raising money through crowdfunding. In addition to self-releasing it, I’ve been doing my own PR for the release (on top of a demanding day-job). Suffice it to say it’s been a busy year! I have learned so much, but the most important thing I’ve learned throughout the entire process is the power of trusting myself.
When you trust yourself, everything suddenly becomes easier, and you direct all your energy to the decisions that make the biggest differences, and either delegate or don’t spend much time on the others. You feel confident, which carries itself into every area of your life, musical and otherwise, and the energy reserves you constantly expend to create this album can be restored to you by you on a regular basis because you know what you are doing and trust yourself to get it done.
However, trusting yourself and your vision throughout the marathon that is making an album can be challenging and don’t come without lessons learned, and it’s easy to see why:
Making an album is a long process. I’ve released singles and a 4-song EP in the past, but a full-length album an entirely different beast. Even releasing a single can be rife with decision fatigue, but when you multiply that over 10+ tracks (11 in the case of this album), you get a seemingly endless number of decisions that need to be made. Everything from big choices like what songs will go on the album to small ones like the font type on the back cover of the album ultimately become opportunities for you to start doubting your vision, and worst case, your sanity. Especially when you are a DIY independent musician doing everything yourself, there is a real possibility of burnout and self-doubt. Learning to trust yourself (and, through that, what decisions really matter and what decisions require a “good-enough” approach) for the full journey of making an album is going to make it a lot less stressful for everyone involved.
And there are a LOT of other people involved – and they all have opinions. I’ve been lucky to work the amazing engineers, musicians, and collaborators that have been a part of this album, and I greatly value their opinions. Let me be totally clear: their ideas and talent have made this album an INFINITELY MUCH BETTER ALBUM than I could have made alone, and have helped me grow as a musician, songwriter, and producer. But at the end of the day, someone has to make decisions – and you, the artist, are the only one with the vision, so it has to be you. You’ll also find that other people will often have contradictory opinions – your recording engineer thinks this song is a dud, while it ends up being your mixing engineer’s favorite track on the album (true story). So learn to listen really well, trust your talent that got you there, and over time, you will refine your instincts and will make more right decisions than wrong. The bottom line is: if you are confident about what you are doing, everyone you’re working with will feel confident.
If you’re going to play the game, you have to learn the game. (Oh – and the game is always changing and kind of has no rules.) If you’re investing all these resources into making an album, you likely care that people actually hear it. As much as some artists would love to just throw their music up online and wish it well, that approach will get you nowhere 99.999% of the time. You cannot pretend that social media doesn’t exist. You cannot pretend that tastemakers don’t exist. You cannot pretend the $43bn global music industry doesn’t exist. So you try to learn, devouring blogs and YouTube tutorials, trying to understand what’s worked for other people and what kind of music is popular with whom, etc. Very quickly, though, you can find yourself directionless and lost in a sea of information, having forgot what brought you there in the first place – YOUR MUSIC. SO: Learn the game, but don’t second-guess every decision you make because another artist found a different path that worked for them. There’s a lot of space in this industry, so try out different tactics, find what works for you and trust (and trust doesn’t mean don’t constantly try to do better) what brought you here in the first place– your music and vision.
So how do you get started on trusting yourself? By doing the work. Go out there and make the music that excites you. Make it quickly, with people you like, and release new music as often as possible. And remember – the only bad mistake is one you don’t learn from. Over time, your instincts will sharpen, your judgment will continue to improve, you’ll achieve things you never thought you could do, and trusting yourself will just get easier and easier.
Lesley Barth is a New York based singer-songwriter, and a master of fusion. Since releasing her debut EP ‘Good Like This’ in 2015, she continues to hone her signature blend. Elements from disco, folk, country, blues, and retro pop have been woven together by themes of longing and young love in her first full-length album, crowdfunded by her loyal and growing fanbase, “Green Hearts,” which released on January 27th, 2017. Watch the fun, disco inspired video for “Just Like Summer” below.
Get “Green Hearts” on Bandcamp!
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