"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” - from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
I just announced to the world that I am "changing" my name from Jessica Lynne to Jessica Lynne Witty. Here's the journey behind that decision. It's a bare and vulnerable one. But it's a truthful one.
When I first was met with the decision of what to call myself as an artist I wasn't sure what I wanted. Back in Denmark, the road didn't seem all that clear to me. All I knew were the first few steps. All we ever know are the next few steps. Mine were as follows:
Looking back, I then did most things out of fear, except for some few brave moments. I googled and googled, searched iTunes (Spotify didn't even exist in the US yet), and found only a photographer on the east coast under that name and a gospel singer who hadn't put anything out in a decade. So, I felt certain I had got it right.
I remember asking around to see if there was any way to protect my name. It seemed to me back then people were more involved with (and afraid of) copyrighting the music itself rather than the brand that carries it. I know I asked some lawyer friends and friends who had been in the music industry forever, but I doubt I ever asked and actual entertainment lawyer. At the time, I was so new to the music industry I didn't even know they existed. The message I got was that there was no way to protect a name.
In 2014 I first found the other Jessica Lynn, on the east coast. I was now signed to a label so I asked their advice. I asked anyone's advice who would listen. Most people had none. "Well, that sucks" was the most common reaction. But no one could tell me what to do. Even my label's advice was to "stay the course". Once again the advice was "if you're both using your actual names, there's nothing you can do".
Sometimes the ostrich approach (burying your head in the sand and hopes it goes away) works. Artists do come and go. But not this time. Because, as far as I can see, the other Jessica Lynn is a go-getter and a great artist in her own right. And I want her to be successful and have everything she ever wanted. I just wish she had done her research and not picked my name to do it under.
I stayed in this limbo for 6 years. It was heartbreaking and exhausting. Every month or so I would be confronted with the fact that there were two of us. "That's confusing" the fans would say. "But there's another Jessica Lynn" the radio people would say. The news outlets would link to her video in my article and vice versa. The presenters would put the wrong picture on the event. Within this limbo, I kept keeping myself small, because I felt like I couldn't properly do my work without constantly being compared, and comparing myself. I toyed with the idea of changing my name, even slightly, to set us apart but was met with overwhelming grief over "losing" everything I had worked so hard for. I was torn.
I do a lot of inner work, and this year I finally did my work on this scenario, both inside and out. I talked to multiple entertainment lawyers. I meditated. I talked to iTunes, Spotify, CDBaby, Tunecore, Distrokid, and many more. I saw my spiritual healer. I did my work.
According to my outer work, it turns out I have a really good case for trademark infringement. I was at one point even ready to pull the trigger and see where that would lead. But all my inner work was telling me to stop. I felt, and I looked within. I could tell this wasn't the right choice for me. I kept coming back to: "Do I want to make music, or do I want to sue people?" And the right choice for me was changing my name.
Even though I had every right in the world to fight for my brand, in my heart I knew that wasn't the right course for me. There were too many variables. The quickest way for me to get back to making music and sever this connection between us was to change my brand.
Telling this story is excruciating for me. I am noticing how blindly I was still following others. How I chose to stay in an unnecessarily painful place, simply out of fear and paralyzation. It also becomes clear to me that my obsession with numerology at the time drove me more than my own inner truth.
In rearview, we can always see where things went wrong. In 2014, when I first saw the other Jessica Lynn, I should have filed my trademark and pursued her then. I should have seen a lawyer, gotten a second opinion, protected my brand. Spent that money. But I chose to stay in the hurt and victimhood, rather than detaching myself and looking at it as a business.
This experience has taught me so much. It has taught me that there is no such thing as getting it right. It also taught me that no one can tell you what to do. Do your research and get informed, but don't listen to anything but your gut. Even if people around you don't understand. And that all you can do is your best. When you know better, you'll do better. (I have become a recent big fan of Maya Angelou!)
Would I have made this change if this hadn't happened? No, probably not. I like the brand I've created as Jessica Lynne. But it's one of those things where life happens, and we are met with obstacles. It's our choices that determine how long we have to deal with it. I chose to use this scenario I was given to deal with, as an excuse to keep myself small. I now choose to make a change that can help me grow.
I want to make this clear. This was not the "easy way out". It's going to be a lot of work and take a lot of time to get everything in place with the new brand. Most likely more work than any other option. But to me, it's the right way. And as always, the universe is showing the way. With artists like Lady A and The Chicks choosing to change their brands, it makes it less pioneering that I am too. I am doing it for different yet equally valuable reasons.