Today my friend Aly, who performs as Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, posted on a very meaningful revelation she had that night. And it’s one that rings so true to me. The sentiment echoed below is one of the hardest to get through to an artist, especially once success is imminent or freshly occuring. The lesson Aly shares below is so key to the mental health of an artist and even more key to their success as entertainers and business partners. Aly gave me permission to reprint her writing below, where previously it was only available to read for her personal facebook friends. Without further ado, a somewhat long but oh so meaningful and important insight by Aly Spaltro.
I had a revelation tonight that I have chosen to share.
I played a last minute show at Union Hall in Park Slope, because my friend who was headlining had to cancel.
My initial reaction when I opened the email early this afternoon was to say no, that I’m so sorry but I can’t (without disclosing the part about how being in bed watching movies and eating snacks was much more important to me on this night– my one free night between getting back from Maine and leaving for North Carolina).
I knew it was right to agree to the show not only as a favor to my friend, but that I should probably not be lazy and try to make some money to put towards all the gas for my 10 hour drive in the morning.
Needless to say, the turn-out at the venue was quite sparse..I would say maybe 25 people (including musicians) in and out throughout the night.
There were a few chatty, drunk people in the back near the bar whose conversations I could hear pretty distinctly while I was performing, but I tried to drown them out and focus on what I was singing.
Regardless of those details, I felt really good about the show, better than I sometimes end up feeling.
Tonight I felt I had played a really strong set, really believed in what I was doing and gave all I had of myself for the handful of people there with me, which in the end made me feel light and warm.
I was given an envelope at the end of the night with what felt like a promising lump of cash inside. I immediately folded it and put it in my back pocket and finished packing up my gear…I figured it would buy me a tank of gas at least.
I forgot about it until my walk home. I took it out to count, hopeful that it would be helpful this weekend on my costly trip.
One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven.
Seven one dollar bills.
I chuckled aloud, and thought to myself how long it had been, if ever, that I had come out with such little compensation for a show that wasn’t billed as free.
I felt almost insulted in that moment that I had even been given the envelope with such a laughable amount of money inside. I snootily shook my head and walked into the nearest deli–dinner had been a good six hours before and I was very hungry.
I grabbed a box of honey bunches of oats (with almonds) and a quart of milk and still quite annoyed, trudged up to the register to pay.
“Seven dollars.” said the man behind the counter.
I handed over the seven ones in my hand and with a half smile said, “that’s exactly what I have.”
He gave me a very sweet smile back and wished me a good night.
As I turned away and walked out the door I suddenly felt completely elated.
With my guitar case crooked on my back, a tote bag full of cables and pedals over my right shoulder, and my milk and cereal in my left hand, I realized I had the biggest smile on my face. A smile I couldn’t get rid of. A smile I tried to get rid of, maybe out of sheer refusal to accept this rarity of happiness that in that instant had seemed to wash over me like an unforgiving tidal wave. It was a huge, stupid smile that I had no choice but to just fully give myself over to…afterall, it was a feeling I hadn’t felt to quite this extent in a very long time, and I somewhat begrudgingly allowed it to take over, giving it the go-ahead to direct the rest of my walk home.
In the moment that I accepted the happiness, my disdain at unfolding the seemingly measly seven dollars turned entirely into contentment.
Contentment in the fact that I had traveled a few miles to sing songs that I truly believe in, songs that I feel explain my fears, my loves, my longings, my hopes, my dreams. Songs that I believe explain me and what I am in this world, and contentment that the small sum of money would very simply-and necessarily-fill me up for a good night’s sleep.
The fact that I have the opportunity to express myself in the particular way that I do, which fills my heart with love and strength (and hopefully others too), and the simple fact that the modest amount I was handed to do so tonight paid-to the cent-for what would fill my belly, is an amazing thing I often neglect to appreciate.
Suddenly on my walk home the seven dollars meant so much more than its worth in currency, more than any number. It became a symbol meaning that I am doing what I love and I am surviving.
I realized tonight for the first time, to the fullest extent, how much this is The Point.
I did something I loved, and then I was able to attain something that benefited me (the cereal representing a small step in the staircase to ultimate human fulfillment, of course, duh!), and as a result of doing what I love.
It didn’t have to take a one-off show for a four-digit guarantee to make me see tonight how fortunate I really am, and how disrespectful I can unintentionally and blindly be towards what I have.
I am guilty of sometimes being paid a sum to play one show and taking the money without batting a lash, as though I am owed it. It is so easy to begin to feel entitled, or ensured..like I will just always be handed checks to pay my bills without sometimes breaking so much as a mild sweat–which just isn’t a guarantee or anything I should irresponsibly rely on.
Someone once said that creativity is like a cable that runs above our heads, that we can reach up and pull down, hold it electric in our hands, raise it up in our individual way, and with it in our grasp, light the sky around us, for ourselves and for others (well, they said something like that, but I said it like that just now).
Anyway, sometimes we have our eyes closed–we may be stubborn or preoccupied, maybe we’ve lost perspective or have decided to wallow in our tiny miseries, expanding them beyond their realm of worth and shutting ourselves down–and when we become clouded, this flow of ideas and epiphanies, naturally must move onto the next eager person who has their eyes open to them. It is vast part of what keeps the good parts of our world going–people doing nice things for one another, making and sharing things.
I’m not even just talking about making a painting or writing music. I’m talking also about things like calling your family members or swiping a stranger through the subway with your metrocard, or truly caring about how a friend is doing when you ask them. Know what I mean?
If we only just open ourselves up enough to reach it-that…thing– we really can, and the opportunity won’t pass us by.
In my case tonight, the opportunity was in being made aware that what I wanted in that moment was only made accessible to me by trading in what I had only just ungratefully turned my nose up at–the seven dollars that had now become instantly relevant.
The point is to be grateful with a healthy perspective, which is what allows us to have open hearts and minds.
And when we do open up, we should embrace it. Respect it. Honor it.
And with the opportunity, Make something. Share something. Realize something. Add something in. Light something or someone up.
All the while remembering that nothing is owed to us, and nothing is permanent.
All things in life are fleeting.
Sadly, even revelations.
And so I write this out now around 4 am as a (pretty dramatic– woops) reminder to myself and to you whom I love who may read this to always strive to be present and grateful and open, and stay humble and true.
- The Reward Is In The Work (Or What You Can Learn From George Clooney) (read)
- It’s Not Always The Major Label’s Fault (Or Artist’s Motivation) (read)
- The Difference Between A Means And An End (Or Don’t Take Shortcuts) ( (read)