You've already judged me, but I'm okay with that

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking 

by Malcolm Gladwell

 Get this awesome book on Amazon for only $8.99 on  Amazon Kindle . It's money well-spent!

Get this awesome book on Amazon for only $8.99 on Amazon Kindle. It's money well-spent!

The primary goal of this book was to expose how prone we are as humans to making snap judgements in our everyday lives. As we come across situations which require a decision to be made or an action to be taken, our brains unconsciously make "snap" judgements which enable us to reach our conclusions more quickly. These judgements are often made in 2 seconds or less.

As you might imagine, snap judgements play a huge role in the music industry and are something that I am trying to understand better and employ in my work as a performing songwriter. When my music is evaluated by a listener who is watching me perform in person, everything -- and I mean everything -- goes into how they perceive my work and grade its quality.

As Gladwell elaborates on in Blink, my appearance will undoubtedly make a huge impression. If I dress like someone would expect a good musician to dress, if my posture reflects confidence and skill, and if the expressions on my face match the lyrics and notes that I am performing, then a listener is far more likely to buy into what I am doing and see me as a legitimate artist. (and probably support me with sales and their social media). All of the aforementioned elements are sized up in the human subconscious in only 2 seconds. 

Along those same lines, I am learning that first impressions are incredibly powerful and are essentially impossible to break once created. I see this played out in the work that I do to try and expand my brand, for lack of a better word. 

When I first started recording music, I had the support of pretty much nobody except my family and closest friends. I was happy to have anyone come to my concerts, and the people who came would almost always be the people who knew me the longest and the best. Little did I know, however, that in those early performances from my high school and early college days, their brains were making snap judgements, or first impressions, of my musical abilities.

When I fast forward to the present, a little over 2 months since Lost Again was released, it seems that a majority of these early supporters haven't checked out my newest work, and almost none of them come to concerts anymore. While it's something that I do lament, if I am honest, I understand now from reading Blink that it's not likely due to malicious intent. It's probably due to the first snap judgements their brains made about my music 5-10 years ago, that perhaps my music wasn't all that great to listen to. And again, those snap judgements aren't likely to ever be broken.

What does this mean for me going forward, and how can you, my reader, employ it to your own benefit? I'd say that we would both be well-served to make each day count. Remember how important and foundational the first interaction with someone new is. Your first two seconds with them can set the foundation for a beautiful relationship, or it could leave you both looking a different direction... forever.

I wanna dance with somebody!

I wanna feel the heat with somebody! 

I wanna dance with somebody! I wanna feel the heat with somebody! #whitneyhouston #microcover

Posted by Andrew Sullivan on Monday, March 30, 2015

Lost Again: Which song is your favorite?

Lost Again was launched about 6 weeks ago, and I am absolutely THRILLED to see the response it has received. I've been so honored by your great feedback and it's inspiring me to already get back to writing again for my next project.

That said, I'd like to ask you one question and one question only today: which song is your favorite?  

Simply click this link to let me know!

National Puppy Day

According to social media pages everywhere, today is National Puppy Day. As a lover of all animals, why shouldn't I oblige and add to the deluge of adorable pics?

One twist though.

My pics come courtesy of Legacy Boxer Rescue, a great organization in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX, who seeks to re-home Boxers. One day I'd love to take them up on it. Here is a sampling of some pups who are currently looking for a new home.

Meet Jax.

This is Jennifer.

How about Buster Blue?

I'm a big fan of Gino.

And lastly, if you're wanting a PUPPY for National Puppy Day, I suggest you check out Cano. He's only 3 months old!

Ever since I met my grandfather's (now deceased) Boxer, named Molly, I've been a huge fan of the breed. Their energy levels and expressive faces are right up my alley.

Lots of great animal rescue/assistance organizations are out there, and Legacy Boxer Rescue is no different. Go check 'em out!

Meet "The" Chickens in the Yard.

It's true that I own 5 chickens and that they live in my back yard. In fact, they live a (mostly) free-range existence back there every day. I say mostly because they sleep in a coop at night with  roof overhead, and the coop is inside a lockable dog run made of chain link fencing. During the day, however, when I'm home, they have the chance to go wherever they'd like in the back yard (which is fenced and shaded by a big tree). 

Did I mention that they're all named after songs?

There's Buttercup (wearing yellow) and Roxanne (in brown). Sweet Caroline in the back sadly got sick and passed away in mid-2014:

2013-06-20 13.11.25.jpg

There's Marianne (on the right in black and white):

This is Layla:

And last, but not least, Billie Jean:

They're my girls, and despite the fact that they have a large yard to run around and be a chicken in all day, it seems like many afternoons are spent being lazy by the back door, either hoping for a "treat" or preening:

That's Delilah up above in white. She sadly got sick and died back in 2013. She and Billie Jean are the same breed (silkie). Not sure if they're sisters because I'm not a chicken geneticist but they are certainly nice and fluffy!

Now you know "the" Chickens in the Yard. They also pay rent:

The best kind of remedy

This is the first post of what will hopefully be many more to come.

Life as a musician isn't always easy.

There are days like today when, for whatever reason, the folks who normally would listen to you don't, and you don't know what else you could've done to hold their attention or earn their sale. There are times when your voice doesn't cooperate or perhaps your guitar string(s) break and you can't seem to get in a good "zone" while you perform. There are times when you don't even get the chance to perform, be it due to last-minute clients who cancel or freak north Texas ice-pocalypses in mid-March.

This month has seen all of those for me. It's been a tough one.

I spent much of 2014 planning, writing, fundraising for and recording "Lost Again." Over 60 songs were written in anticipation of the project and a final 10 were chosen from that list of being the most worthy, in both my mind and my producer's. While the fundraising process via Kickstarter was exhausting (more on that in a future post), the recording process was when I felt the most alive in my role as a performing songwriter. I felt like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, and it was a fruitful time in general for me. In January the recording wrapped up and I set a release date of February 17th. A Tuesday... because for some reason in America, movies come out Friday and new albums on Tuesday.

I imagined that the release would usher in another period of great inner peace and provide extra financial security. Unfortunately I was wrong.

Don't get me wrong: "Lost Again" has been extremely well received by both my Kickstarter backers and everyone else I know of who has bought the record (you can get a copy here if you want). That said, money has been a bit tighter than usual due to a number of factors, including annual taxes, dental checkups, insurance payments of all sorts, and random large expenses related to Katrina's upcoming graduation from PA school. Adding to the stress is that my usual daytime gig, at Potbelly, has been stingier to my wallet than it generally has over the past few years. For some reason, folks just aren't coming in to the stores I play in as much as they used to, and the ones who do are often in and out again before they've even noticed my presence. All of this plus the typical day-to-day stresses have brought me down quite a bit from the heights I was at just a few weeks and months ago. Often when I get into phases like this, it's due to some process in my mind that distorts my perception of reality, and leads me into a sort of "woe-is-me" mindset.

The best remedy for a situation like this, in my mind, is to reflect on the things I am thankful for and to question again why I do what I do.

The honest truth is that I am a very fortunate and blessed man. Though I don't have many dollars, relatively, in the bank account at this time, I consider myself very rich... both because this map says I am, and because of the many things I have been given in life. I am thankful that each day of the year is somewhat different than the day before. I wouldn't thrive in a 9-5, office setting. I am thankful that there are people who support my musical endeavors not only because they're friends of mine, but because they're legitimate fans of my work. I never thought that I would ever have any true fans just 5 years ago. I am thankful that these fans empower me both emotionally and financially to do what I love, every single day.

Why do I do this? Why am I content to try to make a living writing songs and performing?

At the end of the day it boils down to relationships. I have always been an extremely outgoing person who loves to entertain and encourage (Myers-Briggs type: ESFP), and so at a surface level, being a musician fits well. On a deeper level, I have always believed, even from a young age, that music has an uncanny ability to bring strangers together, and I have experienced that in many ways, from feeling the crowd's energy at a good concert I'm attending, to worshipping in church with other families to singing fight songs at TCU football games, to seeing how a certain song can inspire hope/peace/forgiveness/love between two people. Music moves people and is still quite mysterious to me.

At the end of the day, I want to be a songwriter whose work moves others in some way. Making money is nice, and winning over new fans is neat, but, in all honesty, I feel like the gifts I've been given and the skills I've honed would be wasted if they weren't used to inspire action... hopefully for good. I write love songs because I've been loved well in my life and I want to pour out those feelings of peace and security to others. 

Going forward, I need to remember that my day/life isn't valued in terms of how many dollars I bring in, or by how many people join my mailing list. Instead, I need to ask myself, "Did I take the steps necessary to build relationships and inspire or encourage others?"

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
— Mahatma Gandhi