My first memory of uprooting my life was when I was three years old. I have this vivid memory of my mom staring off into the distance telling me we were going to Denmark. My mom and dad had recently divorced and my mom was feeling called to go back to Denmark, back to her homeland, where she had a family to help her raise three young kids. I don't remember the exact words or whether she was expecting to return. According to her, she had a return ticket, because she wanted to stay in the U.S. more than anything. I remember it being sunset and I remember her being sad. I remember feeling the significance of it.
We uprooted our lives and moved to Denmark. This was my first experience of it, but not the first time in my life this had happened. My parents had been missionaries in Chile, where I was born. Having two children, they felt they couldn't stay and moved to Tacoma, not far from where I live now. I know from their tales it was a turbulent experience for them. I know I ended up with an American passport, not a Chilean one, which at that time in Chile's political climate could not have been easy. I was six months old.
My childhood memories started in Skanderborg in Denmark, living with my grandparents while my mother looked for a place to live. We were fortunate that my dad overpaid his child support and alimony, he wanted to support us so my mom could stay home and raise us. Only as an adult do I understand how unique their understanding was. I remember not being able to communicate with my grandparents because I hadn't learned Danish yet. My first Danish word was "saftevand" which is a kind of juice. It was the best way for us to tell them if we were thirsty. Little by little the words snuck in. By the time we found a place of our own we were fluent in both languages. By the time we moved again, I was six years old answering my mom's English questions in Danish.
The next chapter of my life was a longer one. I think my mom was tired of moving around. Her entire life had been moving from place to place as my grandpa built the paved roads all around Denmark. I know she swore she didn't want to do that to her kids.
Isn't it funny how parents often try to spare their kids something that they found terrible, not knowing that their own kid would have loved it? Far be it for me to give parenting advice, but in my experience, by trying to avoid one type of trauma, we usually create another.
So Haslev was my new home for the next 11 years. Many things about Haslev were great. It's in an incredibly beautiful part of the country. With a bike, I had the freedom to go and do anything. The train ride to Copenhagen was only about 1 hour, which came in handy as a young teen wanting to spread her wings. I made friends, had crushes, dreamed about what my life would be like. I also had long stretches of not having any friends close by, feeling trapped, and feeling like my life would never start. During this time my mom would sometimes air the thought of moving to another town. Every time she did my heart would leap with excitement. But we always stayed put. The closest we ever came was when I was 16 and we visited Hillerød about 100 km north from where we were. I was exhilarated, even though I knew I wouldn't be there long. I was already planning to move out and start my own life. Once again, we stayed put.
At 17 I moved to Nykøbing Mors, to be with my then-boyfriend. Incidentally, it is believed that this town was the one used as the backdrop for "A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks", the book that created the Law Of Jante. It was the longest six months of my life.
Uprooting again I finally moved to Copenhagen. This was a city I had revered for so long I couldn't believe I was finally there. I could still go anywhere with a bike and the narrow winding streets were heaven to bike along. I went to art school. I joined my first band for a stint. I felt like my life had finally started.
In 1999 I moved to Barcelona for two years, subletting my apartment to a friend. I explain more details of my Barcelona experience in my blog post: India and Other Detours.
When I got back I had a hard time getting back to that feeling I had when I left. Instead of feeling like my life had just started, I was floundering, aimless, didn't know what to do or what I wanted. I can't even keep track of my uprooting after this. Perhaps I just never rooted. All I know is by the time I was 30 I counted that I had moved 33 times in my life. I call it my Copenhagen nomad life. I became more and more unhappy. I would move to see if that helped. I had endless stretches of three to six-month leases, moving again and again, partially due to Copenhagen's housing crisis, partially due to my own restlessness. By the time I finally settled, I bought at the top of the market before the crash in 2008 and felt trapped in an abusive relationship and a duplex I couldn't afford. The year and a half I lived here were the longest I had lived anywhere for over a decade. Like most people I had accumulated things, memories, a CD collection, my old teddy bears from when I was a kid, you name it. A flood in the garage of the house ruined everything. Including most of my art from Barcelona. By the time I up and left this horrible situation, I only took a few bags of clothing with me. I chose to leave everything else behind, it was a sacrifice I needed to make in order to sever ties from this abusive and manipulative person.
Once again, I was uprooted, but this time it felt freeing. I started noticing that I had choices, I could do things, I could be things. Don't get me wrong, I was a wreck. I lost my job due to depression, I couldn't function. I stayed on people's couches before I finally found a room. I had to make myself a new life from the ground up. And with this, in 2010, I went to India. I tell more about India in another blog post.
Upon my return from India, I felt like a whole new person. Depression was gone. And I'm happy to report it never returned. I felt clear, motivated, in tune. I felt everything deeply. Including the need to uproot my life once more. At this point, I remembered how my mom explained moving again and again, as something that would make her very unhappy. I realized that this was not true for me. Yes, I had been unhappy through all those years of living as a Copenhagen nomad, but I was also unhappy living all those years in one place, in Haslev. It wasn't the moving or the staying that hurt me. Stagnation did. I need to grow, to soar, to feel free.
So I got rid of or stored everything I owned (which wasn't much) and moved to the U.S. This time with a suitcase and a dream. I finally had that feeling again of my life starting. The one I felt back in Copenhagen years ago.
I have moved a few times during my 10-year stint in the Pacific Northwest. I have seen a bunch of this beautiful country and there are still so many things I want to see. But I have never felt uprooted in quite the same way. I think because I finally realized that stagnation comes in many forms and it has nothing to do with where you are physically. It's all mental and emotional. As long as I keep growing as a person, it doesn't matter where I live... but I sure had to move many times to finally realize that!
In the end, my heart lives in my music, and that I can do from anywhere. So whether we stay put in the house we live in now or we sell everything and buy a motorhome, it really doesn't matter. I am still soaring and growing. I am still free.
By the time the second chorus for Jessica Lynne Witty's song "It Made Me, Me" hits you are singing along under your breath. By the time her new single hits its last chorus you are belting it out right along with her. And there is no shame in that. In a country world full of seemingly endless songs that all sound insincere and generic comes a song by Jessica Lynne Witty that not only makes you want to sing along but also gives you something worth singing about. There isn't one part of the song where it doesn't resonate, and that, in todays musical world is truly a breath of fresh air. Jessica not only convinces you with her pitch perfect voice but also in the way she delivers line after line. By the end of the song you've been on a journey and you feel better because of it. "It made me, me" not only sticks out from a country song stand point but also from a pure musical song. The well sung verses that bleed into a soaring chorus and then when the guitar solo hits you are standing up rocking right along. This is a sure fire hit and is what looks to be the standout song of this summer and many summers left to come.
- K.M North from Sparrow Heart Records
Raise your hand if you feel 2020 is challenging and confusing.
Stand up and raise your hand , if you’ve found yourself curled up into a ball and crying during 2020.
Now look around. You’re not alone. We’re all struggling, trying to figure out WHAT IS GOING ON?
WHO AM I? WHAT IS NEXT?
I always appreciate it when an artist puts into words the conflict I’m going through. You hear your inner thoughts and feelings flowing through a melody, and instantly it becomes YOUR SONG. YOUR ANTHEM. Sometimes, it becomes a special tattoo.
Jessica Lynne Witty is one of those artists. Her music has become The Soundtrack For My Life. Her latest song “IT MADE ME ME”, brought me to tears. Once again, her music shows up to guide me through a brand new chapter.
The lyrics of “IT MADE ME ME” are authentic and incredibly powerful. The honest voice of truth, from a woman who is accepting of her past, while boldly embracing her future. She is empowered, rather than controlled. Her mistakes are forgiven, but not forgotten. Her successes are remembered, but not taken for granted. They’re all part of her story.
The uncomplicated instrumentals give the attention to the importance of the lyrics. They give the emotional background, without overpowering the message. That’s why picking a recording studio is SO important. They need to understand and support the artist’s vision. I love how the instrumentals bring the feeling and energy alive. Simple accompaniments until a powerful guitar riff, ¾ of the way through. It opens up a whole new emotional dynamic to “IT MADE ME ME”. In the final choruses, you feel her energy and voice grow and be filled with joy. A bright new future awaits. The lyrics were easy to remember and then sing along. Because they were thoughts and words I’ve spoken to myself.
Spending time and recording in Nashville has definitely had an influence on Jessica’s vocal dynamics. There is a more soulful country sound, which comes from being surrounded by authentic country musicians. Nashville leaves a unique brand on their artists.
“IT MADE ME ME” erases the shame that our current society creates. Give yourself grace. Be proud of your past and the person it has created. Empowered rather than controlled. It’s authentic Country, through and through.
SUSAN IN SEATTLE
"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.
Nashville Recording Artist Jessica Lynne changes her name after 10 years in the industry.
After 10 years operating under the name, Jessica Lynne has decided to celebrate her anniversary with a name change. Starting summer 2020 she will be changing her artist name to Jessica Lynne Witty. This change comes at a time where many musical artists are making changes due to some of the recent political movements. Jessica Lynne’s name change however, is of a different variety.
Since 2014 there has been some confusion in the industry, with another artist on the east coast also promoting herself under the name Jessica Lynn.
“When I started out in 2010, I did a lot of research to make sure there wasn’t already another Jessica Lynne out there” says Jessica, “it’s a very common name, so I couldn’t believe my luck.” She settled on Jessica Lynne at the time, excluding her true last name Witty for simplification. Her luck was short-lived. In 2014 the other Jessica Lynn hit the market and there was confusion from day one. It only intensified as the years went on and as Jessica Lynne Witty now puts it “it was causing too much confusion in the industry, something had to give.”
Even though Jessica Lynne Witty is within legal rights to pursue the trademark “Jessica Lynne” she has decided not to take legal action. “It came down to the question, do I want to spend my time suing people, or do I want to make music? And I want to make music. So, I’m ending the confusion once and for all.”
Rolling out her new name in July and August 2020 her upcoming Nashville recording “It Made Me Me” will be released under her new name and marking the end of one era and the beginning of another. Jessica Lynne Witty chose to add her actual last name to the brand, explaining: “My fans will still be able to find me if they search for Jessica Lynne. Adding my last name to the brand is different enough that it sets me apart but close enough that the ones who already know me will be able to find me. Since it’s my actual name, I still feel like it stays true to who I am.”
“I’m in good company” says the now Jessica Lynne Witty, “with many artists going through the same changes, albeit for different reasons. But artists like Lady A and The Chicks changing their names, they paved the way, which in turn has made it easier for me to make the change.”
Jessica Lynne Witty may have added a name but her brand and the spirit of her music will remain the same.
I like traveling just for the sake of traveling. But I LOVE traveling with a purpose behind it. To me, things just make more sense that way.
When I see other people put "traveling" on their bucket list, it's never resonated with me fully. Just "traveling". Not where to go or why. Not that I don't absolutely love traveling, but I like to have some greater purpose behind it.
So while I was searching for my purpose in life I did some incredible traveling and experiencing the world in a way that most people don't get to.
When I was 6 years old I traveled to the US from Denmark along with my older sister to visit my Dad. This is the first plane ride I remember. I remember saying goodbye to my mom at the airport and being handed over to a flight attendant who would accompany us from parent to parent. My Dad would be greeting us on the other side. My older sister started crying the minute mom was out of sight and she told me: "Don't tell mom I cried". Goodbyes have never made me cry. Frustrations and anger make me cry. But not sad things. Yet another way my family and I were so different. We stayed with my Dad for the allotted three weeks we had planned and then I remember my Dad arranging for us to stay longer. My sister wanted to stay a week longer, and I ended up staying two weeks longer. I'm not entirely sure how this came about, but I know my mom was terrified that after a full five weeks away, her 6-year-old daughter was traveling across the Atlantic all alone. I, on the other hand, was thrilled. When I arrived at the airport I didn't say "I missed you mommy" I said, "Look, Mommy, my teddy bear". Funny side-story is that I completely forgot my Danish. I came home only able to speak English and after being teased by the other kids on the playground I locked myself in my room for two days until my memory of Danish returned.
I'm telling this story because it was my first memory of traveling. I was brave and adventurous, even as a 6-year-old. I lived in the moment and wasn't afraid of anything. I didn't bother being upset over little things like saying goodbye to my Mom, or missing her while I was visiting my Dad. I enjoyed the adventures thrown at me and I thrived. I loved it.
The rest of my childhood was spent traveling back and forth between Seattle and Copenhagen. Somewhere down the line that 6-year-old learned to be afraid, learned to be cautious, and learned to care about what other people thought about her. Rarely did I have any other type of vacation than visiting my Dad.
As a 20-year-old, I decided on visual arts (painting, drawing, art installations, etc) as my way to pursue something creative that wasn't music. Music, I had at this point decided, was too hard to mix with my upbringing, my religion, and on top of that, I had no idea how to pursue music. Besides, I had unconsciously asked myself, what if I fail at the thing I am best at? I couldn't bear that thought, so for the next decade or so I decided to pursue the things I was second best at. Or third. Or not good at, at all. Art, it seemed, was a nice compromise. I could still be quirky, the eccentric artist that didn't have to fit into anyone's box. But I wouldn't have to put myself on a "pedestal" as I would with music. Music would put me on stages where the whole world could see I thought I was better than them. And they would shame me for it.
So art it was. I found an art school called Metàfora in Barcelona and went there with my then-husband and one of our closest friends. (Yes, I was already married at this time, but that's a story for another chapter). When we took off for Barcelona, I had never been. Never even visited, just took off with two suitcases and a month-long rental in the gothic part of town, with a plan to live there for two years. Barcelona taught me many things. Their pace was slower, but their days longer. I fell in love with electronic and lounge music and Calatan Modernism (an offshoot of Art Nouveau). I would spend my mornings drawing or painting or studying the latest exhibition at MACBA, the art museum. I would spend my midday breaks (my siesta) at the beach. My afternoons and evenings were filled with the creation of art. I attended countless art openings and countless parties. I was young and in "mi ciudad guapa".
I also lost my faith in Barcelona. This may sound like a bad thing, but it was the best thing that could have happened to me. While soaking up my new life in my beautiful city, I started realizing that I no longer believed the things I was taught as a child. I started deciding for myself what I wanted to believe. I slowly but surely crafted a new life. Here, in Barcelona, away from the influence of the church and the family, I was able to try on a new way of living. At first, it was like trying it on for size, but by the time I left, I had a whole new identity.
I decided I was done with this chapter in my life when I no longer was gasping over the beauty of the city and I could walk down Carrer de Pelai without looking up. I was done with the art scene, said a loving goodbye to my beautiful city, and headed home.
Fast forward to 2010. Still in therapy over that abusive relationship (mentioned in a previous chapter) I had booked my ticket and planned my trip to India... totally, Eat, Pray, Love -style. I had gotten my shots, saved my money, and booked a 4 week 120 hour Yoga Teacher Training at the Sivananda Ashram in Madurai. This time under the impression I was going to study yoga and become a yoga teacher when I came home, little did I know that I was headed for the biggest rollercoaster my life would take yet.
In our first lesson with the Swami (the teachers at Hindu ashrams are called Swamis) he told us that the first week would be "excitement", the second week would be "hard", the third week would be "even harder" and the fourth week would be "what now?". He nailed it. Let me try to sum up what my days were like.
We would wake at 5:30 for a 6 am meditation and lecture. Then tea. Then 8-10 am yoga class. Then 10 am food. Then 11 am karma yoga (doing chores and such). Then 12 pm break. 1-4 pm lectures. 4-6 pm yoga class. 6 pm food. 8 pm meditation. 10 pm lights out. For every new chapter of the day there would be a bell to guide us.
We would observe silence while eating. Sunday was our day off, but it was often filled with excursions we could choose to go on. Some of which I just couldn't turn down. I walked 500 steps to a holy temple once. Hiked a small mountain to meditate at the top. Visited the holy of holies of a temple normally not available to outsiders (non-Indian peoples). I have other fond memories, like the one time it rained, they said it hadn't rained there for 3 months so about half of us yoginis jumped out into the torrential downpour to dance around and enjoy the cool beautiful rain.
During my two "hard weeks" I had a terrible UTI, my eczema spread to my entire body and I was exhausted all the time. It took me 2 weeks of hard extracurricular work both morning and evening just to be able to get up into a headstand. I never mastered the crow. I learned about the 8 limbs of yoga. About the Bhagavad Gita and about how happiness doesn't equal ice cream. (That's an inside joke for anyone who has done this particular training).
Did I come back a yoga teacher? You bet I did. But I only taught a handful of classes. What my experience in India taught me was that I am here for a completely different purpose. There was no doubt about it after all the meditation and inner work - I am a musician. And my purpose in life is to heal with my words and my songs. I may have left thinking I would return to Copenhagen and start teaching yoga. But I returned with the determination that I was going to move to the US and become a country singer.
Growing up, many of my classmates and peers from church would go to Mallorca or The Canary Islands* or Crete for one or two weeks of sunshine, food, playing in the pool, and relaxation during the summer break. My family never did. It's not that I felt like I missed out, I got to do way cooler things when I was out of school. It was that it made me different.
My faith also made me different. Denmark is a Christian country, they even have a protestant state religion. But most Danes feel like talking about religion is "way too personal". The standard reply to "do you believe in God?" would sound something like this: "Well... I believe there's something more between heaven and earth than I can see." And that's about all they want to say about it. I heard it many times.
My religion was different. It was all about preaching the good word of the Lord. Once again I felt different.
My brazen outgoingness also made me stand apart from my peers. In a world of adolescents, pre-teens, and teens, who made it cool to be shy, who made awkwardness seem better than confidence, I learned to hide that part of me. They did so, of course, by bullying. Anyone different, yet trying to fit in would get their fair share of teasing, ridicule and questions asked simply to provoke. Not respected for being different, not accepted when trying to fit in, I simply hid.
It's no wonder that I spent most of my later teens and early adulthood in each of the extremes: trying to stand out even more (but not in a good way) or trying to be as normal as possible.
First, in my later teens, I fell in with a crowd from church who all wanted to be as different as possible. But not in the way that I was different. My outgoingness and confidence were not desired qualities in this crowd. Rather it was a strange combination of rebels and good girls/boys. All were "good Christians" but somehow we also all wanted to take things to the very edge of what was deemed acceptable in the church. We would dress differently, listen to some obscure and wild music and dance weirdly at parties. Think Bjork, with a touch of Green Day. I learned to like this music, not because I chose it, but because it was "cool", eccentric and weird. Although this crowd did eventually lead me to Barcelona and to leaving that church, both amazing experiences, it was just trying on another kind of different. One that also didn't fit.
Once returned from Barcelona (a story for another episode) I was done being "different". Since that hadn't really worked for me I thought it was time to squeeze myself into that box called "normal", the one that seemed to make everyone else around me so content. Unburdened by belonging to a religion I was now free to take on the Danish normal. The one where I didn't have to talk about religion because it's considered a private matter. Where life was about dating, having a good job, having friends to party with, and talking to your girlfriends in not so low voices at Sunday's brunch about this weekend's escapades. Basically, living in an episode of "Sex in the City". In this time I did make some healthy discoveries. I made great strides in learning about my own opinions. Those that had been so ruthlessly driven by the church were now mine to figure out. I would find myself in conversation not saying a word because I didn't know how I felt about the given topic. Was this my opinion or the church's? It was good and healthy for me to have time to figure this out for myself.
But I was anything BUT healthy. I battled with what was "ok" and what wasn't. I ate and drank away my feelings and spent way too much time watching TV. But that's "normal" isn't it? I guess I had yet to figure out that normal and healthy are not always the same thing. It was a downward spiral of unfulfillment, increasing insecurity, feeling wrong and out of place. Because of course, I didn't belong in the box I was trying to fit in. I got more and more self-critical. This wasn't working! Why wasn't this working? There must be something wrong with me.
Enter a terrible emotionally abusive relationship that further gave me proof that I indeed was wrong, I was broken. I doubted myself so much that I gave my power away and shriveled into a shadow of myself. One that this so-called partner could prey on until there was nothing left. My wakeup call was when it turned physically violent. It jolted me out of my snooze box. I left immediately and I have never seen his face again. Slowly but surely I started finding myself again. I found people who didn't seem to care that I was different. In fact, they loved it about me. Therapy was a huge help, my therapist helped me realize what healthy was. To heck with normal, to heck with different. I learned to ask "who am I?" and "what's right for me?" rather than try and fit into anyone else's world.
From here I finally moved forward. But not before the world around me burned. My family did not understand this new me. I had a nervous breakdown and lost my stressful sales job. I was an exposed raw nerve-ending in a life I had never wanted to live in the first place. This lead me to a new career path and to India where like so many others I found clarity and well, myself. To be continued...
You can find the song on many other platforms and purchase it by visiting this link:
Imagine if as a child you were told you could be or do anything you wanted, except for the one thing you really love? That pretty much sums up my experience.
I grew up in a pretty strict Christian community. (Note: In order not to hurt any feelings or implicate anyone, I'm choosing not to tell exactly which one.) It was the kind of community that thought of the world as us vs them. The ones who would inherit the earth and the "worldly people" who wouldn't. I grew up in true duality. Right, wrong. Good, evil.
In this culture, pursuing a life in music was considered too worldly a pursuit. You couldn't possibly be a good god-fearing Christian and also stand on a stage each night to be "worshipped".
Most would then say, I should have pursued music within the church. And I am sure that I would have had I had that opportunity. But in this particular denomination, there were no musical outlets to be pursued. No choirs, no band.
My mom told me stories about how she and my Dad were in the regional church choir back in the day and I remember yearning for that kind of legitimate musical outlet. Legitimate, because then it would be music intended for worship, not for personal glory. But by the time I came around those choirs were long gone, I assume because they took the focus away from the church's true teachings.
I remember the summer I came back to school and I was now old enough to join the school choir. I immediately became the teacher's "favorite". To give Jette credit, she didn't play favorites, but I always had a special bond with her. She was my favorite teacher, not only was she also my English teacher and had spent time in the US, she saw that I excelled in her classes and always saw to it that I had extra challenges.
In choir I was happy. I sang my heart out. I loved it when I got to sing a lead or a solo, but I was just as happy learning the hard parts and being moved from one group to the other, whichever one was having difficulties at the time. Which meant I got to learn every harmony part in every song. I was happy that is, until it came time for performances. The only performances I ever remember performing with the choir were the summer concerts before the end of school, and any regional choir assemblies I attended. The rest were either religious of nature or performed in the local state church or both. Neither of which I was allowed to do. So every time a performance came along, I could rehearse every week with the rest of the choir, but come performance time I would have to give my parts away.
The most hurtful one was always St. Lucia. Every December 13th the schools in Denmark would do the Lucia ceremony. The entire school would meet in the school assembly. The lights would be turned off, and pair after pair of my choir mates would come in dressed in white, carrying live candles in procession. Most little girls would dream of getting to be the "Lucia bride" the first one to come in with the wreath with four candles on top of her head. But me? I would dream of getting to sing one of the other songs in front of the whole school. Sitting there in the seats my heart would ache to not be able to join in and sing and make music.
As a young teen, I joined a trio. By now my aspirations had waned down to simply having a little fun and singing with friends. Maybe perform here and there. We would sing a capella 3 part harmonies. When our first opportunity to perform was at a birthday party (also something my church wouldn't allow) and I had to decline, I finally decided that doing music wasn't for me. It was just too hard to dance around what I could and couldn't do.
So I embarked on a lifelong (or at least half a lifetime) of doing everything but. Everything but what my heart was telling me to do.
For a while, I wanted to be a mechanic. But my eczema made it too harsh on my skin. I went full time with the church for a while, which was on a volunteer basis, so I made ends meet by cleaning offices and stairwells for my friend's dad's company. I also had the idea to study to be an architect. I worked for a while in a candy store. Thank god for my good metabolism back then. I studied fine art for three years, two of them spent in Barcelona. I dabbled as an entrepreneur and failed miserably. I got a degree in Multimedia Design. I've created countless websites. I worked in telemarketing, working my way up the ranks to become their youngest (and only woman) project manager with hundreds of people working under me.
By the time I was 28 I had eventually left the church but was stuck in a job I hated, in a terribly abusive relationship and I was completely and utterly unhappy. One night, deep in depression, I thought back to when I last felt happy. And my mind went back to singing in that choir in school. I was a little taken aback that it had been so long, almost two decades since I felt truly happy. Before that little light of aspiration was put out.
So I decided to join a choir. And I thought, let's make it a gospel choir, I've always loved the thick harmonies and celebratory music that gospel is. Slowly but surely I dug my way out of my unfitting life and found my voice again. Literally. I found a community within these choirs. And I loved singing in all those state churches I wasn't allowed in as a kid. I struggled with hoarseness and took singing lessons. These were my first steps. Baby steps. But my heart was still longing for more. In another chapter, I will tell my story about what finally kicked my wheels into gear and put me on my path, but singing again woke me from my slumber and from all the negativity I was enduring in my life and my work. It opened my eyes to what I was doing to myself, what kind of abuse I was taking.
I've done just about everything but what I love. I have tried living a life without music creation for a full decade. And it sucked. It's just not for me. I need to be in the thick of it. So whenever my life with music seems hard, which it does now and again, I remind myself what life without music was like and it gives me the strength to prevail through anything.
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