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Unedited: Genre and Artist Name

It's a sunny day in Portland. A man in harem pants and a mesh see-through tank top passes me on the sidewalk. I silently wish I could be that nonchalant with my fashion choices. It’s not really about clothes, it’s about a longing I have for freedom.

I’ve lived an edited life.

I think I edit myself because I'm a people-pleaser. This isn't always the worst trait, but on bad days people-pleasing is destructive. Slowly, it's led me to career-related legalism where I've come to believe my job must look a certain way in order to be spiritually adequate. 

I started recognizing this legalism when I got burned out on being Alison Brook; the middle-of-the-road Christian singer/songwriter who carefully toed the line between not making the older saints angry and trying to freely create. Many artists find the church only affirms their callings when the art is the churches definition of holy, forget trying to make anything that could be mistaken as "secular" art. 

(PS. If you haven't already, I encourage you to read the blog preceding this one for context before you continue).

 

POISONED WELL

Eventually, all the editing became a poison that seeped into my creative well. I was starting to hate the very gift I'd been given to share. 

But how gracious God was through it all! I was lucky to have a career in music, I had wonderful concerts, touching moments, and I met so many beautiful people. I can even say I made a positive impact on the world through art, despite it all. 

However, though I treasured those joys, bowing down to a genre and public opinion created an unhappy and uninspired artist. 

“Don't make for yourself any graven image." Could it be my graven image was a version of my career that fit the CCM genre? Could my graven image be allowing well-meaning church folks tell me how I should use my artistic gifts? 

The thought that God could call me out of my current trajectory never crossed my mind until I was at a breaking point, ready to give up on music completely. Sometimes, in our most broken moments, can God's voice break through. Funny how that works. 

 

DANGEROUS CALL

I don't know what it was, maybe it was dying my hair pink or moving to Portland, but something finally clicked. I was breaking free, finally untangling myself from the fear that drove me to edit all those years. I was understanding how God's call evolves.

The thing about calling is that it's weird and it doesn't always make sense. Most importantly, it certainly doesn't follow cultural norms, not even church culture norms. I guess you could say calling can be dangerous to stagnent culture, even church culture. 

WHAT I'VE LEARNED

Well, I certainly haven't figured it all out yet, but here's what I'm discovering:

  1. Each of us have been designed to play a different role in gospel work. These roles run the gambit from seed planters, tenders, and harvesters. 
  2. I have fallen pray to the trap of thinking harvesting is sexier. It feels more Christian, tangible, measurable, and even evangelic. 
  3. I'm starting to recognize that I've been called to plant seeds right now. 

As I make peace with my place in the world (for now), I see that my music makes the biggest impact when it speaks truths about life in an honest and subtle way. I've noticed the songs that resonate with people the most are songs like The Sparrow Song and Stars. I think they resonate so deeply because they are seed planting songs and that's what I do best. These are the type of songs I was created to write. 

I'm still trying to make sense of all of it, but I want to align my allegiance with God, not a genre. 

 

WHAT WILL CHANGE

Though I'm allowing this process to play itself out unforced, most likely I'll be changing my genre if and when I decide to continue making music. Since this is quite a left turn, I thought it would only make sense to go under another moniker in order to create a clear distinction. This allows me to keep Alison Brook for a later time, in case I feel called back to making worship music. 

I’m pursuing an unedited, joy-filled, life of freedom and I hope you do the same. 

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Indefinite Pause

The other day my husband and I took a bike ride to grab a bite to eat. I was rounding a corner when a man walking a few yards ahead of me pointed to his bald spot and started yelling, "Jesus Christ personally did this to me personally. PERSONALLY." He continued his frightening rant about what Jesus did to the size of his genitals, but I won't repeat that among company like yours. 

Portland is as weird and shocking as they say, but it's wonderfully creative and I love it.

Some mornings I walk my dogs past the windows of small businesses on our block in hopes of catching a few seconds of a photo or video shoot. Our neighborhood is a hot spot for ad agencies and video production companies and I sometimes find myself wondering what it would be like to work in a corporate creative environment. The creative energy here oozes through the walls and energizes me as I pass. 

Obviously, Portland's creativity isn't limited to the offices on my block. Just the other day I attended a singer/songwriter gathering at a new friend's house. Of course it was wonderful to share songs, but the best part of the evening was writing a song together about what Donald Trump would be like if he were nicer. We based the hook on a comic one of the musicians published entitled, "Decent Don." You would've loved to be a fly on the wall that evening, and I was feeling lucky to be there in person, joining in on the chorus.

 

FEELING STUCK

This is where I live now. Portland. 

Already I'm completely invested and I've only been here for a few months. I even find myself picking up trash on our block! However, I've yet to embrace it creatively. In the midst of so much creative energy I find I'm stuck, unsure of my place as a musician. Aren't you supposed to become more self-assured the older you get? 

I think I'm feeling stuck because more than ever before, my creativity is facing off with community. It's different here. In my old hometown you ventured out to experience new things. Here, culture, adventure, and creativity is the very fabric of the streets I walk on everyday. More than ever before I have the opportunity to add to the fabric of a creative local community and I want it to count.

 

SO FAR...

If you've (somehow) kept up with me over the last couple of years, you've probably noticed that I've tried out new musical styles, hair colors, and projects. You've also probably noticed this past year I've tried new things at an accelerated pace. 

Here's an abbreviated version of what I've tried and why I stopped:

1. I started Wanderwilds, an Etsy store featuring vintage accessories. I loved the creative part, but I quickly discovered it wasn't enough of a passion to push me past the parts I hated. I let my beautiful sister take over the shop, and she's now running it successfully. 

2. I also released Volume 1 in an EP series called Hymns for the Wanderer. The day I released the EP I realized all I really wanted to do was write original music. Though producing hymns stretched my production skills, I put an indefinite pause on the project to make room for writing original's.

3. In hopes of making more original music that scratched a different musical itch, I started a group called Wishling. I loved making music with my friends but we have since put a pause on making music due to life stuff. We will definitely music again when life allows, but in the meantime we're letting it be what it may.

4. Honorable mentions include blogging, vlogging, and teaching voice lessons online. All wonderful endeavors, but not sustainable in the way I was approaching them. Though these are not off the table completely, they have also been put on pause. 

Though I've started and stopped these projects for one reason or another, each of them has been a stepping stone to where I'm at right now. Though they came and went quite quickly, because they were necessary steps, I don't regret the trying or the pace. 

 

WHERE I'M AT NOW

I feel my deepest calling is to serve through the art that I, or the others I help, make. I believe one of the world's most powerful connection and communication tools is art. What a better way to connect with hearts around us? 

As I come to rediscover my calling I am focusing on just that; connecting to hearts through art.

Coming full circle, this is why learning the needs of my local community is so important. As glad as I am that I've worked quickly up until this point, diving deep into community takes time. Consequently, my new direction is somewhat ambiguous at this point. 

With that I am putting a (mostly) permanent pause on all things Alison Brook Music until I have figured out my place in community. I promised an album by 2018 and demos to go along with it. I'm hoping that will still happen, but I'm not sure how or when

Besides wanting to make music in the context of community, I'm itching to try new things musically. This might mean I start another band, side project, or start writing for other artists. I'm not quite sure. All I know is I have music seeping through my pores, so the music will be made one way or another.

Finally, whatever my next step is, I want to approach music with a far more open hand than I have in the past. At times I've been so prescriptive with what I've communicated through art. While there's absolutely nothing wrong with having something to say from time to time, this approach gives you little room for growth. I intend to allow others to give to me creatively as much as I give to them. I hope this makes me a better listener, storyteller, and a more honest and healthy artist.

 

FINAL WORDS

My heart is heavy and a few tears are threatening to spill down my cheeks. Even though I know that whatever comes from this will be a good and beautiful thing, it also means saying goodbye to something. It's the heaviness you feel at high school graduation: pure elation mixed with a feeling that things will never be the same again. There are good things to come, but we mourn the passing of an era. 

I will do my best to update you on my journey. Thank you for being a part of it. I am open to questions and comments if you have them and I'm beyond thankful for to those who have opened up their wallets, homes, venues, churches, iTunes or social media accounts to support what I do.

Until next time, much love to you.

 

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New & Notable Feature

A few weeks back, one of my favorite platforms for discovering music featured my new demo on their new & notable list.

For many years I have admired artists on that page; they have a wonderful curation team! Understandably, I am completely floored/honored to be featured along side my favorite artists and by a platform doing such great work. 

Thank you for all of you (new and old friends) supported the release of Closer on Noisetrade. 

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New Demo

Here is a look at my new song, "Closer," an emotive piece about unconditional love. Enjoy the visual listening experience by playing the video below!

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I'm Moving

Last year was a year of experiments; I scaled back on touring, started a youtube channel, started a band, and released my first DIYed Project. I learned a lot about creativity, perfectionism, taking risks, and all the while felt a stirring deep in my gut that told me I was getting too comfortable in my little town. 

 

It started out as a feeling

This summer my husband and I traveled to Portland Oregon for a conference and a few gigs. Afterwards, we took a few extra days to explore the city and countryside. We stayed in a charming little Airbnb in the woods, hiked trails with waterfalls, and visited dear friends. It was such a wonderful experience that we found ourselves saying prayers like, "Dear lord, it would be cool to move here someday...if it is your will, open some doors."

Be careful what you pray, because sometimes your answer comes in the most bizzare form:

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The day we got back from our trip to Oregon our landlords called to tell us they were selling the house, but not to worry because the process would probably take a good year. This stirred the thought,  "Could this be the answer to our crazy prayers?" 

Thinking we had lots of time to figure it out, those thoughts took a back seat to our daily lives until our landlords called out of the blue to tell us the house had sold! It sold in record time, without even being listed publically. Now we were practically forced to think, "Could this be God pushing his baby birds out of the nest?" 

We had some quick, and big, decisions to make.

We knew our next move had to be intentional, but we only had 3 months to figure it out. Understandably, this put strain on our relationship as we went in circles contemplating places like Indiana, Florida, Oregon, and even staying in Michigan. But every time things would point back to Portland, yet we had a hard time accepting God's leading because it seemed too good to be true!

 

the final decision

Flash forward to approximately 2 weeks ago; we had finally settled on taking the plunge and moving to Portland. It seemed to make the most sense based on our needs, dreams, and callings. However, we still felt weird about it since--due to the short notice of our move out date--we didn't have a normal adult "plan" in place. I felt like telling God, "Hey, I'm not a college kid anymore! I have goals, a career, dog kids to take care of, and of course a savings account to be a good steward of! I can't just go somewhere because I think it would be fun!"

But in faith we announced our plan and the weirdest things started to happen; the grown-up "plan" began to fall in place. It was like God was waiting for us to step out on faith and take the chance. And now, little by little, the doors have been opening. 

This process has taught me 3 big things: 1) Sometimes when you're most comfortable it's time to take a risk. 2) It's not too good to be true! Sure the Christian walk isn't always a breeze, but there will be blessings on the journey. Take them. Be thankful for them! 3) Finally, God will be faithful to lead you even when the path is unclear. Sometimes all he is asking is for you to take one small step forward and He will do the rest. 

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