When did you realize you wanted to be a professional musician?
Becoming a professional singer was my dream as a child. I can't remember a time before I was passionate about singing. In fact, my mom told me a story about the first time I sang…
I was an infant, sitting on my grandma's lap when she taught me the song "Happy Talk" from "South Pacific". I couldn't even speak but I got very excited "singing" along with her.
As a young girl, my grandparents took me to see the movie "Jesus Christ Superstar". I wasn't thrilled about going to church or the hymns we sang, but watching this show was a spiritual experience. I connected with the character Mary, of Magdalene. I could feel her passion and immediately, I wanted to play that role. I absolutely loved the show with the rock music, cool dancing and impassioned delivery.
My mom had a copy of the double album and I learned every word. I sang every song over and over in my room after school and dreamed about some day being on stage singing "I don't know how to love him, what to do, how to move him...".
In third grade, my teacher encouraged us to develop an act to perform in the talent show. I didn't know of any particular talent I had so she asked, "What do you love most to do?"
"Singing!" was my immediate reply.
She suggested I prepare a couple of songs to sing.
That was the first time I performed in front of strangers. After that, my confidence grew, I participated in the school choir throughout the years and eventually was invited to sing solo's in the concerts. In my junior year, I was cast in the musical "Godspell", which had a similar effect on me as watching "Superstar". I was in other musicals, but none moved me like that one.
By the time I was entering high school, my father convinced me that "it is very hard to make a living as a singer. You can always sing but it is best for you to go to college and get a job to fall back on".
I buried my desire to be a professional musician for decades, got advanced business degrees and became a successful professional. My business career started in Management and Training Consulting. The 5 day a week travel was grueling so I found local work as an Employee Development Trainer in the mortgage division of a local bank. I really enjoyed training people about the company as well as how to communicate more effectively.
In one of my projects, I met many sales people who all encouraged me to originate residential mortgages. "You'd be great!" they said. Another project put me in a coaching position for the senior managers of sales who felt the same way. My intuition told me to take the leap of faith from a comfortable salary to straight commission.
I did very well by providing exceptional, honest and efficient service, empowering consumers to make wise financial decisions. Although I planned to spend "a couple of years in the field" before returning to corporate life, I enjoyed my work, earned a great living and made friends with professional associates.
I also met my husband and we partnered to eventually open our own office. He hired Shane Capone, a local rapper who later introduced me to my producer/engineer, Scott Sumner. Scott mentored me and gave my work the professional edge I needed to turn it into a career. I began making music in 2004 while I was still working a day job. I closed my mortgage origination office in 2008 and decided to finally get back into Training; at the beginning of the "great recession".
The idea of becoming a professional musician didn't return until a couple of years ago after realizing that the job market in Metro-Detroit was going to take awhile to resuscitate.
That's when I saw this economic crisis as an opportunity to launch my career. It's as if the universe is intentionally giving me the time and inspiration to walk my talk while contributing to the transformation of human consciousness. I opened my mind to creating a new model of success in music. While conventional models require extensive touring or being signed by a big label to sell CDs and merchandise, the business is changing. The internet opened the possibility to collaborate and distribute music globally.
Instead of starting with a band, I started with a concept. The inspiration I felt in "Godspell", "Jesus Christ Superstar" and singing songs that had personal meaning for me led me to understand what I loved most about singing: Uplifting people through spiritual, not religious songs with popular music.
That's when I started researching the power of music to shape thought and incite action. I put that together with my lifelong interest in personal growth and consciousness evolution.
My first song "Heaven On Earth" was surprisingly inspired. Before that, I didn't realize I could write or compose songs. My brand of music for personal growth and global transformation addresses real life emotions, even the politically incorrect ones, and resolves to leave the listener feeling empowered to affect their own lives, society and the world.
How long was it from the time you decided to be a professional musician to the time you got your first paid gig as a musician?
My first paid gig came before my decision to go professional.
I sang as a hobby because I love singing and performing. Friends and family asked me to sing at weddings and parties. I sang in contests and talent shows. Any money I received was icing on the cake. One memorable event was at an outdoor community festival. A fellow singer and I joined together to sing popular love songs. Although he and I never dated, we were both passionate about singing, our voices blended well together and we performed because we loved it. I don't remember what song we sang for that particular contest but I remember it was a windy, sunny summer day. He was wearing a suit, I was wearing a flowing gown. We had to stand in such a way that the wind wouldn't interfere with the microphones. It was hot and if we had not been performing, we would have been seriously overdressed for the occasion. As usual when we performed, the audience was transported into a romantic scene of bliss. They stood up and cheered. Their response demonstrated that we captivated their hearts. The love shared by the audience was payment enough for the hours of rehearsal. When we won first prize, we were surprised and ecstatic. In that moment, we knew we were doing exactly what we were supposed to be doing.
The Internet and home studios opened opportunities for creatively inclined people to produce original work, regardless of their level of talent. On one hand, that's great for expanding entertainment options but on another hand, with free music being widely available, it's difficult for the artist to gain sufficient attention to earn a living.
Every time someone buys a download or CD, I do a happy dance.
My first significant paid gig surprised me. I was led to a play writer in Los Angeles who has produced successful plays before. For this one designed for children, he wanted to include music. He had some melodies and lyrics in his head but needed structure, purpose and meaning. I told him about web cam conferences and we scheduled face to face meetings. I accepted a coaching role to help him pull his great ideas together, contribute to the lyrics and record vocals for the demonstration tape. He was excited to move his project forward and grateful for my help. I was grateful and thanked him thinking "Wow, I get paid to do this?"
What was the most difficult aspect of getting started as a paid musician?
Asking for money to do what I love was the most difficult aspect of being a paid musician. Like many people, I was programmed to believe work is something we have to do. Some people enjoy their job but usually it's not what they love most to do. Artists generally get a world of satisfaction by having people notice them, appreciate their work and share with their friends. Since music has always been a hobby, something I'd do whether or not I got paid, I was reluctant to ask for money.
Originally, I intended to organize a volunteer community program, gathering like-minded people who love what they do so much, they will do it for free. When the group didn't manifest as I envisioned, I launched my own company. I intended to produce and distribute music free, then income from my day job started decreasing.
One day my husband confronted me about the altruistic nature of my work. He pointed out that it costs money to make music and to live and said "Your music is great. Why would you give away a marketable product?"
He was right.
Not only do I produce quality music and visual entertainment, I have a product that changes the way people think about entertainment and empowers them to improve. There is real value to listeners. There are seminars and workshops for personal growth that charge for attendance. They sell CDs, DVDs, books and tee-shirts. Musicians get paid for performing. My engineer/producer charges me for studio time. After thinking about music in the mindset of a business professional and acknowledging how my work affects listeners, I realized I was short-changing myself. I was also short-changing listeners because in this world, I can't create and distribute music without earning a living.
How did you get started recording music professionally?
That was a process of Divine Intervention that started long before my music career. Looking back, I see my decision to move into commission sales as the first step. Then I met my husband and partnered with him. Due to our combined effort, we opened our own office. Then he hired Shane. My husband was impressed because he had the entrepreneurial spirit and ability to produce an album on his own in his 20's. Since we became friends, even though he quit to record an album with a major label in LA, he answered my call for guidance when I wrote my first song.
I was inspired to write my first song by a heated debate with a member of a group informally called "Heaven On Earth". I organized it to create spiritual but not religious community musicals. One guy asked "What would you think about using the word 'God' in the lyrics?". I answered "I'd use it sparingly, if at all because it limits our audience and every religion has music. It's been done and I want to do something different".
The discussion escalated from there. The next morning, I woke up with words in my head that repeated until I wrote them down. "Heaven on Earth. Can it really be true? I only know it's up to me and you". Forty-five minutes later, I had a poem I knew was a song. I invited composers to write music to it but after many attempts, it didn't happen. I gave up on the idea. Then months later, a melody popped up in my head. I intuitively knew it was for "Heaven on Earth". I grabbed a recorder and started singing. Sometime after that, with no instrumental training, I composed it on a keyboard that had pre-programmed styles.
I called Shane and invited him over to listen to the song. When he arrived, I read the song. He said "That is a nice poem but it wouldn't make a good song." I insisted "Poems make good songs!". "Not that one" he replied. Then I played the music I recorded on my keyboard and sang along. He said "You need studio time". I gave him the phone saying "Call your guy". He called but Scott was busy and probably not interested in working with a newbie.
A couple of weeks later, I called Shane to check on the status of my request. He called him again and Scott suggested I come to one of Shane's sessions. I guess Scott took a liking to me and when the session was over I asked "How do I get studio time?" He opened his book and scheduled an appointment. That was the beginning of a strong professional relationship that has helped me learn and grow as an artist.
What is your biggest obstacle when it comes to pitching yourself as a musician and what steps have you taken to overcome that obstacle?
We're taught not to brag on ourselves. I have many years of experience in Sales and Marketing, pitching a product or service. Although I realize that the reason people wanted to do business with me wasn't just the product my employer offered but also because of me, I pitched the product.
Since my work in music is personal to me, from my heart and soul, I felt like pitching "my" music was bragging on myself. The way I overcame that obstacle was to look it as a business. I have a Master's degree in Business and that taught me to look at return on investment. I've always given service from my heart and provided more than the customer expected. So applying that to music, I charge for my time and expense but put my heart and soul into the work.
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest album?
“From Primal to Divine” expresses struggles and joys encountered on a journey of personal growth and awareness, toward enlightenment. It has a nice range of beats that help move listeners through various, honest emotions. It's empowering.
If someone were listening to you for the first time, what song, on your album, would you recommend they listen to?
That usually depends on how people answer the question "What type of music do you like?"
For those who say "I like all types of music", I suggest they listen to "Until the Bliss". That song is in a spoken-word/Alternative Rock style introducing 'tude Vox Ro. There are two templates for selling anything. The first is to figure out what people are buying and sell it to them.
The second is to figure out what your heart is telling you to do and do it - a kind of "Build it and they will come" philosophy. That's what "From Primal to Divine" is based in. Some musicians are into spirituality. Other musicians are into sex, relationships, dance beats, or activism. I'm into it all in moderation, for a balanced life. "Until the Bliss" shows the 'tude behind the Vox.
What are you hoping to accomplish with this album?
I am part of a growing movement to help people wake up and understand that what we are taught in school, through mass distribution and centrally owned media is what controllers of capital want us to believe, fooling us into making choices and taking action that correspond with structured objectives.
This limits us from creating world peace, abundance and individual creativity.
The masses are encouraged to separate into sides, believing their side is "right" and everyone else is "wrong". In truth, we every day people have more in common than different. That goes for religion, political parties, ethnic groups, socio-economic class, employee classifications and every other group you can imagine.
We can right every wrong on the planet by looking deeper into ourselves, resolve buried emotional turmoil and stepping into our divine light. This album is about getting in touch with our commonalities to create tolerance, unity, peace, love and empowerment through right action.
How do you balance your life as a musician with your duties as a parent or spouse?
Just like anyone working diligently, balance takes intentional time for relaxation, family activities and enjoyment. My husband and I have been business partners. He is now the Director of Sales for my record company, Gen-Ray Records. We spend 8 - 10 hours a day, every day working toward our goals. When you work with a spouse, social activities all seem to sprout from business. This gives a false sense of spending quality time together. We end up burned out, tired, ornery. So we sat down to discuss the situation, agreeing to carve out time we don't think we have available to hang out together every week. That doesn't include shopping for groceries or household necessities. That doesn't include business functions. We go to the park, community events, the movies, museums and visit friends.
What was the best writing-related advice you ever received when it comes to writing lyrics?
There's not a "right" way to do it.
Sometimes I start with an event or emotion, creating a poem to express my feelings. Other times, I start with music and listen to emotions it communicates. Sometimes I have hard rhymes in predictable patterns. Other times I throw in an unusual rhyme scheme. Sometimes I don't rhyme. The key is to open the mind and heart to hear inspiration, and allow the work to be a reflection of that inner voice we can only hear when we're peaceful. I can't force it to happen - well I can but it doesn't come out as well. When I get stuck, I take a break. Sometimes I put a song aside for months and work on something else. Sometimes I take a break on song writing to produce videos. Sometimes I divert my attention toward communicating with listeners and growing my base. When I get back to song-writing, I return with a refreshed outlook and revitalized approach.
What influences the type of music you write?
My life experience influences the songs I write.
I write about what is important to me. Since I was 10 years old, I've been interested in personal growth and spirituality. My spiritual development started at Unity Church, learning creative visualization, self hypnosis and personal responsibility. At that time, Unity didn't have any cool music but I went to Catholic church too. My dad was the Music Director and one church had a guitar mass that played contemporary music. I enjoyed that a lot. My experience in the musicals "Godspell" and "Jesus Christ Superstar" moved that enthusiasts to a new level. But since I've never been connected with traditional church, I knew I had to invent a new way to spread spiritual messages that relate to everyone, not just religious people.
My work is about the transformation of human consciousness. I knew my life purpose had something to do with ushering in this pivotal point in history ever since I was about twelve years old. I didn't learn how to do it until about nine years ago. My mission is to affect the intentional selection of entertainment as a tool for personal growth and global transformation. My passionate interest in co-creating a better world influences the work I do.
What do you feel is the single most detrimental thing a musician could do to destroy his/her career?
Sell their soul for fame and the illusion of financial stability.
Everyone needs to understand that the only reason anyone is going to give you money is so they can make more from the investment. That's called exploitation and absolutely necessary for capitalism to thrive. But when people approach you with bright shiny dollar signs, figure out what is in it for them.
With the changes going on in the music industry today, big business finds it more difficult to continue making big profits in the traditional formats. Seemingly small, independent artist sites are often financed by big labels, capitalizing on the hopes and dreams of artists. Promoters guarantee you nothing but demand money saying "We need to get paid for our time". True, but so do you.
Figure out what they will do for you - and there are legitimate services that help distribute your music - but treat it like a business. What will by your return on investment?
Then, READ YOUR CONTRACTS.
You don't have to be an attorney to understand something isn't right. Many contracts/agreements want you to give up ownership rights to your songs for the opportunity to be promoted by them. Many contracts are one sided, automatically renew every year promising you only to be listed on their website but securing your commitment to give them a piece of your action, whether or not they contributed to your success.
When you get to the point of being sought after, approach every offer with a critical eye.
Find out what they are promising and what you have to give in return. How many hours a week are you under their control? How much creative and production freedom do you maintain? What are their marketing plans for your work? Do they want to turn you into a formatted drone or support the creative edge you've established? Who makes the majority of money from your work? How much control do you have over expenses that you, the artist ultimately pays?
Think about what you love about music and make sure every agreement you make furthers YOUR objective.
What do you think music offers to the world, as a whole?
Music transports people anywhere they want to go. Music is a portal to the past and future while being fully present in the now. It transcends space-time. Music brings people together, shapes thought, incites action. Music activates the mind, body and spirit. Music gives humanity a way to express inner emotions, connect with others and celebrate all the aspects of life. Music changes the vibrational frequency of people and therefore, the planet. Music is a universal language of sound energy and changes moods, hearts and minds.
What’s ahead for your music?
I've released 8 new songs since my album and continue working with fantastic composers locally and internationally. In addition, I've been getting more inquiries about custom designed songs to be used by independent film and documentary makers, organizations and causes to help them better connect with the audience, solidify lessons, develop group cohesion and encourage positive action.
With more people actively exposing the wrongs of the world and intentionally creating peace and abundance for everyone, I see myself performing live with speakers and personal growth experts at seminars and special engagements. My music career has been a series of seemingly unrelated steps that have proven to be more rewarding than I ever imagined. I continue to keep myself open for new opportunities to emerge from the most unexpected places.
Visit Rosemarie Ashley at www.SassyAlternativeMusic.com
This post was sponsored by The Dabbling Mum.
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