(originally written as a guest blog post for www.iheartsongwritingclub.com - March 2018)
I have spent a lot of time naked in the last year - at least in a figurative sense. It’s been a personal and private process, as the things we do when naked often are, but I have discovered such profound gifts that it only seems fair to share. I have come to believe getting naked is key to uncovering one’s true essence.
“Art can never exist without naked beauty displayed” - William Blake
I have always known that vulnerability and authenticity is what makes good art. But in my life and my music, there was something subconsciously blocking my expression. I covered myself with fig leaves, afraid to expose my “shame”.
Then life fell apart. My marriage broke down. I left Australia after living there for ten years. Residual depression knocked on my door. Life wasn’t turning out the way I thought it would.
In these sort of circumstances it’s easy to layer on more leaves. With each wound, we wrap ourselves in another and hide, hoping they contain some sort of salve to ease the pain.
I knew doing this would slowly kill my spirit. I needed to peel away the leaves and see what was under them. The pain of life was only one layer - what lay deeper were the parts of me I had kept hidden for so long. I was living my life with a narrative of being the “good girl” liked by everyone. I didn’t realize the story I was living amounted to creative suicide. People-pleasing in music creates watered-down, weak art.
So I got naked.
It started with the first song I wrote after rejoining the I Heart Songwriting Club. I recorded an idea on GarageBand and decided to send it to a producer friend just for a little show and tell. The next morning I woke up to an email. He had mixed it properly and tracked some “sex guitar”, turning my raw idea into something that felt soooo good.
Another song emerged after a night alone with a bottle of wine and a bassline. What came back was a new kind of magic. A downtempo, sexy groove. A primal quality to my voice. Lyrics that made my face flush.
This felt exciting. Real. Scary.
These songs became a “secret” project in my mind no one would hear. I worked on them alone at night in the quiet of my bedroom. As long as I felt safe I could get naked and explore myself creatively. This was my playground. I found parts of myself I had buried so deep that I forgot they were there.
Little did I know the songs no one would hear would be the key to everything they WILL.
Writing songs with no boundaries helped me to break the “good girl” narrative that had crippled my true expression. It helped me find my voice. I found a safe space to let myself explore and do the things I thought were “bad” and realize they weren’t bad at all. In fact, they are very good as they are parts that make up my authentic self.
The day I shot my first music video was the most creatively free I have EVER felt. I expressed myself fully and did everything that felt good to me in that moment. I created a work of art I’m proud of. Cruel explores the dichotomy of dark and light that was my story over the last year. I have come to realize I embody both - dark and light, masculine and feminine, yin and yang. Now my narrative is no longer about being “bad” or “good”. It’s about being WHOLE.
I Heart Songwriting Club has become a contained space where I can continue to explore the different parts of who I am as an artist. The weekly songwriting tasks push me to try new things, and the community of writers in my group encourage me to keep growing. The exciting thing is now that I’ve got comfortable with my nakedness, a true voice is starting to emerge - a sound and a style that feels authentically ME.
I have come to personally embrace the term “emerging artist”. I believe that the emergence goes beyond breaking into the music scene - it’s about emerging out of hiding and becoming who we are, like butterflies coming out of the chrysalis. There is a revealing that occurs. As I fully reveal myself to the world and spread my wings, I want to first be comfortable with my naked self.
Note: My story aligns well with the naked metaphor, but the process you take in uncovering your inner artist is completely unique to you. Ultimately, “getting naked” is about exploring the parts of ourselves we might be a little scared to look at, so we can overcome shame and develop a better understanding, acceptance, and love for who we truly are.
What is something you can do to encourage yourself towards greater creative authenticity? Are there parts of yourself waiting to be uncovered?