In the Key of A Minor(ity): Connie’s Adventures in Music Part 1 – Getting Lucky
I absolutely love meeting well established musicians who say things like “I got really lucky to be able to work with so-and-so,” or “I lucked out when so-and-so heard my music and reached out to produce my next record,” or “Our band is super lucky because after Spotify added our music to a playlist, we garnered over a million streams in one week.”
The reason why my heart stretches a big smile whenever I hear them attribute their successes to luck is because I understand that there is a hidden truth to this whole “luck” thing (apparently Abraham Lincoln knew this too…) :
Luck = opportunity + preparation
I’ve been a working musician for years now, and I’ve encountered lady luck quite a few times. Some of these times I was completely ready for the opportunity at hand. Other times, though, I wasn’t ready for her (even though I may have thought I was!). For example, I met some A&R representatives from major labels when I had no idea what my sound or voice was yet. I was even placed on the first season of The Voice when I was still figuring out my strengths and weaknesses as a singer. Needless to say, the meetings with A&R didn’t lead to record deals, and my time on The Voice didn’t lead to the 100K prize (that would have been nice, eh?). I wasn’t ready, and lady luck and I could not fully… consummate.
You may think, wow, what a bummer! She got landed some great opportunities, which didn’t lead to anything! If I chose to look at it like that I might as well just hang up the towel. However, I must say that those “missed” opportunities actually did help me tremendously: they made me look straight on towards my weak spots, and motivated me to keep improving myself. The meetings with A&R execs got my mind thinking about my identity as an artist, and my intentions. My time on The Voice helped me understand the commodification of artistry, and to learn how to play the game without compromising my identity.
Key was to not judge myself, and to keep pushing forward, because the right opportunity would come when I became ripe for it. So I prepared my skills as much as I could in order to have all pistols firing if… no- when- the opportunity hit. And indeed, lady luck has hit a few times.
After graduating Berkeley I moved to Los Angeles and started gigging at least twice a week, to hone my performance craft. Through playing live shows on a weekly basis, I got connected with a band that eventually introduced me to a beach street fair. The street fair would pay me a bit of money to set up my instruments, and play two and half hours straight for tips on the street. I would have to sing covers, they said, and just make sure to entertain the crowd.
The gig would challenge me to play two and half hours of music straight (which I didn’t yet have down), and to learn new cover songs to entertain strangers. At that period of time I prefered playing just originals- partially because I didn’t know too many covers, and partially because I was young, and adamant that my songwriting would be the only way declare my identity. However, the wiser side of me knew that if something scared me, it most likely would have something to teach me. So I agreed to play on the side of the street. My bandmates (bless those boys) and I lugged our gear, and proceeded to play for hours. Yes, it definitely wasn’t playing to a sold out crowd at Coachella, but I ended up having a blast regardless. I had an email list that we passed around so I could send people a free song. I sold some CDs, and left with a full tip jar. It was hard work, and I learned a ton of new music for the gig. We packed up, and went home. All in all, a success.
Fast forward one year later, I get an email from a prominent songwriter, who heard about me through his realtor, who had walked by as I was singing on the streetside in Hermosa. He invites me to his studio to write. Turns out he’s written a few gold records. No big deal, right? We wrote a couple songs, and I even got my first opportunity to write a song for network television. We developed a good rapport, and have kept in touch ever since!
Fast forward two years after that, the same songwriter asks me to come into the studio to sing a song he cowrote with one of Christina Aguilera’s songwriters. I was floored that my side street gig had led to me an opportunity to work with Pam Sheyne, world renowned songwriter who I had looked up to since my early years. In fact, that the very first demo I had ever recorded in the 9th grade (may that recording never resurface lol) was one of her songs, “Genie in a Bottle.” Who knew that it would land me some songwriting opportunities with my heroes?! By this time I had 3 years of recording and touring experience under my belt. Thank goodness I walked into Pam’s studio feeling… yes… prepared.
Point is, there is no way of being able to tell if one opportunity is going to lead to meeting world renowned songwriters. I wasn’t doing the street gig to land some dream deal. I was doing this because I wanted to work. To learn. The focus was not success, but growth. The street side gig was going to push me to be better than I was before. I was going to learn more material, and push myself to perform for 2 hours straight. Lady luck came without me aiming for it.
By the way if I ever meet any of you in person in the future, I hope you tell me you got lucky (musically, of course!), cause then I’ll smile, knowing I’ve met yet another humble, hard-working hustler.
Feature Photo: Connie Lim