100 "NO's" before "YES"
Meet the incredibly talented, Alisha Lynn. I met Alisha for the first time when she was a student at the HS where I teach. She blew me away with her musical aptitude. The first time I heard her perform one of her original songs, I knew she would go far. She also had the determination to follow her dreams that I don't often see at such a young age. It's this determination that I admire most. Here's her story of grit through self-doubt. Cheers! LParas
They say in the music industry that you hear 100 “NO’s” before you hear a “YES.”
When I left Michigan for Nashville in the Fall of 2015, I went alone. I didn’t know a soul (or really anything about Nashville, for that matter). All I knew and all I needed to know was that I wanted to be in the music business--and this was Music City, USA. When I arrived, I realized quickly that I wasn’t in Kansas (well, Michigan, rather) anymore. In my smaller town, I was one of few avidly pursuing music, maybe even the only one pursuing a career as an artist. In Nashville, everyone is doing it. I mean everyone. While your waitress is telling you about her upcoming show, someone is being signed to a record deal the next table over. There’s a lot of talent in this town, and it’s feels like a competition just to be heard above the noise.
After three years of living here, my music industry experience has taken me to places across the country (and the world!) that I otherwise would not have been able to see. I met my musical partners here, recorded new music, and played shows in cities across the country. I worked the Billboard Touring Awards in New York City, was on the air at my favorite radio station here in Nashville, interned at the Sydney Opera House for Opera Australia, and even worked the GRAMMY awards red carpet! But amidst all of the “shiny” things I have been so lucky to experience, I have massively experienced something else: self-doubt.
Always thinking of myself as a resilient person, I never expected that this industry would challenge my heart and soul the way that it has. I can spend literal days contacting live music venues and other music industry personnel, only to receive not one “bite” or response. Those 100 “NO’s”? I’ve gotten them first-hand. I begin not only thinking that what I am creating isn’t good enough, but I start to think that I am not good enough.
Earlier this year, I played a gig here in Nashville—that I will admit—wasn’t all that exciting. It wasn’t a full band show, but just a guitar and vocal set at a tourist spot. I’ll be the first to tell you that these are not, in fact, the gigs we musicians dream of playing. They are, however, the ones that help pay the bills.
Halfway through the three-hour set, a big family walked into the room. Between songs, I overhead them discussing where in Nashville to stay and eat. They were not in cowboy boots like usual tourists, but dressed rather nicely. Two young girls from the group (who I later learned were sisters, ages 2 and 5) were instantly transfixed with us onstage. Innocently smiling, dancing, and looking at us as if we were on the same playing field as those who sell out stadiums, I asked them on stage. Both girls hopped onto the platform excitedly. The mother came over to watch, looking stressed and tired. Their excitement and childlike love for the moment struck me. Up until this moment the night made me feel so discouraged—like I would never get my “moment.” But then I realized: this was theirs’. As we began our next song, I taught them a bit of it and they sang and danced the whole way through. I watched the lines on the mother’s face loosen, her expression softening. Her eyes filled as she watched her daughters. And the entire group, now all eyes glued to the stage, seemed lifted by the moment. Following the song, we all erupted in applause for their stage debut. Helping them off the stage, and taking a break in the set for a picture, their mother thanked us. She proceeded to tell me that their stay in Nashville was no vacation, but for her father’s funeral.
“You have no idea how much we all needed this,” she said, tears streaming down her face.
Doubting my art was doubting myself. Watching my art heal these people showed me that the things I placed as the most important were not really important at all. Am I selling out large rooms yet? Have any my songs reached the charts? Has a record label come asking to sign me? No. And I am at peace with these no’s. I’ve been writing so much more, and I feel so much better about the songs I am creating. I no longer criticize myself along the way as I write—I just determine whether or not to release it after I finish it. But the most important thing is that I create it anyway. My song is worth it if it impacts the lives of thousands, of one family, or even of one person. And if it’s good enough for just myself, it is worth it. Because I am worth it.
Chasing your ambitions is not going to be easy—it just isn’t. But know that when the “NO’s” seem never-ending, a “YES” will come. That YES might just need to come from yourself in the meantime, because if following your dream is worth it to you, it is worth it.
For more on where to find this lovely talented lady, check her out at: