I've been meaning to write this post for a while. I think how I became the Lady Lead of Dustbowl is a pretty zany story. It certainly wasn't all easy but it's been so rewarding emotionally and creatively, that I love telling it to people in the hopes that they're inspired to follow their own intuition as well.
I came to LA for acting. I went to an awesome college in Virginia for theatre and was really well prepared to jump in and start auditioning professionally. I did a bunch of commercials (mostly), some short films, some theatre and worked a "day job". For the first couple years, I babysat for family friends and friends of their friends. It was really flexible and I love kids. After a while though and having nothing to do with the sweet children I was looking after, I needed a change of pace. I started working as an assistant to the owner of an advertising agency. I did that for about 3 years and it got me hooked on production. For the next 6 years, I worked as an associate producer in television and film, while acting in projects and performing with the Satin Dollz.
Working in production is like a drug. You're in the trenches with your coworkers, you are making shit happen that should NOT be able to happen due to financial and time restraints. It makes you feel like a super badass and every other job that you have to interact with seem like "WHY can't you make that happen TODAY?" I loved my job(s) when I did this, I miss the camaraderie sometimes.
What happened for me was a gradual ignoring of what my deepest self was asking for. I love performing, I love acting, I do not love filming. My favorite part of theatre is the shared discovery of rehearsal. The very nature of the medium is that the performances change every night, while still having the same skeleton of a show. I think that when I moved to LA, I was convinced that what I did and should want, was to be on TV. I worked and worked towards that and even did it a bunch, but I never wanted to put in the leg work to make it happen on a consistent basis. I wasn't driven to create that. I didn't want to spend my weekends filming. I counted the hours 'til I could leave set. This was an intuition i ignored and lied to myself about, for 7 years.
I think i was concerned with failure. That if I acknowledged my dream had changed, it meant I had failed at the original goal. All my other friends were still working hard to be tv and film actors, clearly that meant I should want the same thing. Right? We're so similar. But, if that were the case, why didn't i want to do all the things to make it happen?
Things started shifting. Instead of the pace of production being exhausting yet exhilarating, it was just starting to be exhausting. I was becoming more stressed out and was unsure why I had this nagging dissatisfaction in my life. I was making great money, I was performing, I loved my co workers. I should be REALLY very grateful. So why am I feeling guilty for not wanting this anymore?
I changed tactics, I started doing more live performance. The Satin Dollz were working more. That was a nice creative outlet, every gig was different in style, numbers and location. I started working with the acclaimed Troubadour Theatre Company. It felt right. My dear friend and boss at the time was going to sign up for a meditation class and she prodded me to take it with her. I bit.
(Side note: working in production as your "day job" is not a thing. I somehow proved to the people I'd worked with that I could do it all. Always get my shit done so that i could leave for auditions (and come back) or be out for a shoot day or for a performance. I still don't really understand how it happened but I'll be forever grateful that I was able to do it.)
And then my life blew up.
For someone like me, who's mind and emotions run on anxiety, adrenaline and stress 100% of the time, meditation can be like driving at 60mph into a brick wall (or so my therapist told me.) I do not regret it now but taking that meditation class was like opening Pandora's box. Everything that I'd stuffed down deep inside myself via food, exercise and work, from stress, career pressure, family pressure, relationship pressure, came furiously bubbling up to my consciousness and was VERY present, basically all the time. I started crying at work. (Not usually a thing for me.) Cry after work, in my car, sure. That's sort of par for the course in that line of work. Crying AT my desk or having it be just right there at the top of my throat, ready to come out in meetings (read: all the time) was TERRIFYING. I felt so out of control. My face was just leaking emotion that was trying to work itself out of my body and mind and I was no longer able to slam it back in and lock the door. I kept meditating, I actually took the class twice for 12 weeks instead of 6. I think I even emailed my teacher about what was happening. I started seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist. I went back on some anti-anxiety medication. It was becoming really clear that I had some issues to work on. I felt like i was in the middle of a forest and I couldn't tell which way was out or where I was in it. I'm a do-er I just wanted to know what to DO to feel better. I couldn't tell if it was work, should i leave my job? Was it just me? The stress of the idea of leaving work, (how would we survive making less money? Wouldn't people be mad at me?) would make me feel trapped and hopeless. I would wake up (exhausted) and just cry about having to go into the office. Every (free) weekend was spent with me trying to fill the void with dinner or drinks or mini vacations. I fantasized about having a baby because I thought maybe that would feel like a break from the stress. I felt so lost and like i wanted something to change, but I didn't know what it was.
A couple other friends were in a similar transition. One was working a day job she hated and found monotonous. The other was stuck in a day job where she felt over worked and under appreciated. We all felt trapped; we all didn't know what we wanted. Some friends of ours had all done The Artists Way as a group. (It's a creative workbook that's really for anyone, not just "artists". We're all creative people even those of us who don't see our jobs or passions that way.) They found it really helpful to allow yourself to think outside the box of what you think you should do or want. You cultivate this more receptive state of self to receive gifts from the universe. I know, it sounds woo woo, keep reading! The three of us decided to give it a shot. We'd meet once a week having read that weeks chapter and completed the questions or prompts at the end. We'd talk about what resonated with us, what didn't, what we noticed in our "morning pages" (3 mins of stream of consciousness writing, integral to the process.) i think it really made us ask ourselves what we really wanted and encouraged us to answer honestly. This is sometimes easier said than done.
Around Christmas, I got a gift from a friend that was a 5x7 piece of artwork. It was an illustrated Steve Jobs quote that said "Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become." I cried. It felt so appropriate and like a sign to just TRUST myself and what would come would be right.
As we finished The Artists Way, we didn't have any huge revelations. We did start slowly, just making one choice in the direction of what felt better than where we were at. One friend started planting the seeds of a new business, one was reaching out to a potential new employer and I was focusing more on live theatre. I kept my commercial agent but stopped submitting for film and TV projects. I was set to go back on tour in the UK with the Satin Dollz early in the spring and I was looking forward to that.
This is the crazy part.
I was at work one day, taking a break on Facebook and came across a Rumi quote that someone had posted. Something similar to the present I'd received around Christmas struck me, something about following your heart, taking advantage of your one life, doing what you love instead of what you think you have to do or something like that, you get the idea. In that moment I asked myself what would make me happy. My heart responded with singing. I'd really like to be singing more. I do it all the time already in my car, at home, at work sometimes. That would make me feel more creatively fulfilled.
This is not how life works. (OR IS IT? because this is exactly what happened) I googled "session singing work in Los Angeles" hoping to find a gig doing studio work or backing vocals for someone. This is the equivalent to moving to Hollywood and typing "acting jobs" into google and actually hoping for work. I didn't think it'd come to anything but I thought it would be a start and i could resource my way to an actual conversation with a person. I'd told Brahm once that I thought I'd like to be in a band but I never really did anything about it. So anyway, the second link I click on is some forum for bands to find musicians. At the bottom of that page is a band looking for a lady singer. I clicked it. I really didn't know anything about what they sounded like, the forum website was a bit archaic, I couldn't send a hyperlink I had to just copy and paste a youtube link of Dollz performances I'd done and bragged about "harmonizing like a MoFo" or something like that. That day I got an email from Zach telling me about the band, The Dustbowl Revival. I told a couple of friends about the band and my potential audition. Both friends, separately, had heard of Dustbowl and thought it was a great fit. I went down to the residency they had that month and took my friend Levi (who also knew the mandolin player, Daniel, thinking that'd be a good "in" to have). They were good. I was sold. I introduced myself to Zach, told him it sounded great and that I just wanted to make music and have a good time. He said "isn't that what it's all about?" Two weeks later he came over and I officially "auditioned" with two existing Dustbowl songs, What you're doing to me and National Geographic. He offered me the job on the spot and I got to learning the ONE ZILLION existing songs they had.
The rest is sort of history. I was still in a Troubie show at the time so I'd go to work all day, then rehearsal for the play for 3 or so hours and then would try to catch the second set of whatever gig DBR was playing and sing whatever songs I'd learned at that point. I told people at work I'd joined a band and they asked if we toured. I honestly had no idea, I didn't really think about that. Unbeknownst to me, DBR was scheduling their first east coast tour, a 3 week excursion that would start the DAY after I got back from my 2 week tour with Dollz in the UK. It became obvious that the day had come where I could not sustain the production career AND the performance career. It was a bittersweet (and stressful overhaul) to leave that company. I knew it was right for me but I did have a lot of self imposed guilt about feeling like I was letting people down or being selfish. I was also scared. Who knew if this was going to work out? Or if it was what I really wanted? I just listened to my heart and leapt and so far, it's been the best thing I've ever done.