Female Singer / Guitarist Mara talks about working full-time, quitting her job, soul-searching and getting there…

female singer Mara picture

Singer Songwriter, Guitarist, sexy, fun, entertaining, winner of numerous music awards.

When do you take your music full-time and what’s it like for an indie artist

by Mara

While complaining about working a 9-6 day job
in a cubicle for four years, I somehow managed to establish a fan base with 100 gigs per year in my own town, write, record, finance and release a CD and do a few out of town gigs here and there and call it touring.

I went to my first Taxi rally
and discovered a whole world of people making a living with their music – placing songs in film and television, independently touring, getting distribution in stores, selling CDs online and at shows – it all seemed so easy. So possible, if only I didn’t have to spend 40 hours a week at a day job. I could spend that time taking meetings and following up with phone calls and packages to everyone with the slightest interest in my music. I could get so much done, and set up a tour where I could go anywhere at any time and not have to worry about the boss.

I had sold a few CDs on my own in the first five months of release, but think of what I could do if I really put all my effort into it. I had a parting of ways with my job and decided to go it alone for as long as I could. I lasted a year before driving myself crazy.

I started the year with my annual UK tour,
which went great. I sold lots of CDs, gained fans, a working holiday, if you will. When I came back, I decided that if I can do that over there, there’s no reason I can’t do it here. So I started thinking about where I could tour. Music conferences were always fun for me because I love the networking, so I started applying to everything and booking shows wherever I had family and friends to crash with.

Looking back, I had a great year,
or at least a great few months of the year. Started off strong with the UK tour. When I got back, I got an honorable mention in the John Lennon Songwriting contest. Each month I had at least one trip planned. I was invited back to my Alumni college to play at Homecoming weekend. The following month I visited my family in San Francisco and played out there. I was also nominated for “Independent Pop Artist Of The Year” and my CD nominated for “Independent Pop Album Of The Year.” I also got some accolades from Femalemusician.com.

In December, I headed to Austin to play a few shows. The new year brought accolades, saw me as a Hot 100 artist in Music Connection and Best Independent Artist from Femmusic.com. January was my big industry showcase where my new management company was going to show me off to all their contacts. I packed 120 people into a club on a Wednesday night and not a single contact showed. But it was fun.

In February, I went back to NY
and played at CBGB’s Gallery, where I had always wanted to play. I headed up to the Millenium Music Conference in Harrisburg and got stuck in the snow on the way to New Jersey. Plus another nomination from Just Plain Folks. March was SXSW which was amazing. Ended with a review in MC in March.

That was followed by four months of trying to get inspired to write new songs and being tortured by the fact that there was nothing going on. I was up for a Fox reality show, and actually did a few days of taping with them and everything, but it all fell through in the end. In May my manager and I parted ways. June I sprained my ankle and couldn’t do much for 2 weeks. July got an award from ASCAP.

Finally it was August and time to go back to Scotland, which again went well. While I was there I got a job offer. I took it.

I started the new job and did a lot of searching. I had taken my dream year off and gotten a lot accomplished, but in the end hadn’t written a single song and had completely run out of money. What was I missing? Maybe music just wasn’t for me. I had given it a shot and I wasn’t happy. My music wasn’t good enough, I was tired of promoting and doing press releases and people not coming out to shows and having to guarantee a draw. I was even sick of going out and supporting my friends who were doing the same thing. I had nothing to write about because I wasn’t living a normal life. I was frustrated and scared of what to do next, so I did nothing.

I stopped playing for a while
and did some of my own searching to find balance in my life. Took focus from the music, which had become my job, and looked at where I was socially, spiritually, and what I did for fun. I picked up the Artist’s Way, I started being more creative and treating myself better. I faced the fears of failure and repeating the same mistakes and made a commitment to myself to be kind and allow myself to do whatever I felt comfortable doing.

I found music again when
I started re-writing some older stuff. Then I wrote a brand new song that showed me I still had it. I realized that the whole year had me wrapped up in the business side music. I have always had an interest in it, and I’m good with the networking and relating to press and general schmoozing, but I let the craft suffer. In fact, I ignored the craft entirely. I did nothing to nurture the artist except put pressure on myself to produce from nothing. I also found that having a day job can be helpful if it’s the right one. It keeps you in the mindset of a regular person, so you can write songs about things that your regular people audience can relate to. If something isn’t working, step back and try something else. If it’s what you love to do, you’ll get back to it.

Also, it helps to have a plan. A very definite plan. So you don’t end up with four months of space where you don’t really remember what you did.

** Staying on track … not loosing focus … make every minute count! We like that. **

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