Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Price of Fame...

Oh how I love Madonna...Watching YouTube videos of her from the early days when she performed in and around New York City, wanting people to want to listen to her and buy her records. She had style, she had drive, she had moxy...whatever that means. The girl had the whole "package" and even though she was not a huge star at the time, she would perform her best for 10 people like there were 10,000. That's why I love her. When I finished watching her eye-catching performance at the Roxy circa 1982, I thought of another incredible performer who was the same age as Madonna and who has been in the publications very heavily lately. Michael Jackson. Michael had all the raw talent to be a superstar and expressed that ability at a very early age. From all reports, he grew up with a very demanding father who expected him to be perfect at each and every performance. Would Michael have been as big as he was without his father's abuse and thirst for fame? Eventually...maybe. I'm sure we would have heard about him later in his life instead of at 12 with his brothers singing "Who's loving you?" on Ed Sullivan. You see, in my eyes Madonna and Michael Jackson are in my top 5 of the best performers of the 20th century. And both of them had very hard and lonely childhoods. Madonna lost her mother at the age of 5 to cancer. Michael was abused, both physically and emotionally. They both wanted love and affection from some source to make up for what they were lacking at home. And here they are. They got what they wanted. Love, adoration, admiration...fame. Fame? In the scheme of live and love, where does fame come in? And does it fill that void? Why did Michael have to take pain killers to get through the day? Why did he self-medicate to breathe? As his death now has been ruled a homicide, I have to ask myself if he ever had that "void" filled before he died? Could millions of fans fill it? Could billions of dollars fill the emptiness that he had? When I decided that Nashville and all its hype was what I wanted, I didn't really get into it because I wanted to be famous. I just wanted to make a living off of my music and touch and reach others and maybe make a difference. Maybe that why I haven't quite reached that yet. I wasn't willing to risk all...including my life for money and super-stardom. Madonna was...and I hope that I don't see her next on the E! news channel wrapped up in some blanket, being carried off in a stretcher like Marilyn Monroe. Or like Anna-Nicole Smith. Or like Michael Jackson...I may not be rich or famous but how much do I have to pay out for the price of fame? Could I every afford it? And why would I ever want to...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

To sing or not to

When I was in my senior year at Belmont, one of my music business professors had invited Trisha Yearwood to come in and speak to the class and answer any questions we might have about the biz or her personal life, whatever. So I was super excited to think of a special question I could ask my favorite female singer and when I got the chance, I jumped in with it. "Trisha", I asked, "what is more important for a new singer in town to do? Sing on demo's (which when a songwriter who can't sing wants to give his music to a star, they have good singers sing the songs for them so that maybe the star will "cut" it), or is it more important to sing live?" Well, this was the perfect question for the perfect recipient. Everyone in town knew that before she was signed, Trisha was THE female demo singer to hire. Her main songwriter was Kent Blazy, who at the time was working with another unknown, Garth Brooks and together they wrote several hits, like "The Thunder Rolls". After her first record came out several years later and she began to tour, all the critics could not deny her voice but the biggest problem came with her stage performances. To put in bluntly, they called her the "Singing Stick". Not because she was super skinny but because she stood on the stage when she sang her songs...and didn't move. At all. Trisha had put all her attention and time into recording that she had denied singing around town much and unfortunatly, it had come to back to bite her with scathing reviews. So, I waited in anticipation as she pondered my question in her head and a few seconds later she replied, "Well...both are important. You want to sing on demo's to get your name and voice out to labels and publishers and also its great practice for the studio. But, on the other hand, you want to perform live because that prepares you to be a great performer and get somewhat of a following, which the business folks also pay attention to. You don't want to be known as the 'singing stick' at the beginning of your career." We all smiled and chuckled but we knew the truth of the matter before it was answered. You want to be great in the studio, yet be Madonna on stage (or whomever else you think is a great stage performer. Nowadays, everything matters and you have to be able to do it all. Sadly, its way harder now that when Mrs. Yearwood was signed. To be honest, she probably wouldn't stand a chance now and days, even though her voice is from the heavens. And oh, what a shame that would have been...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I found this article the other day and I thought that I would post it just because it is so true. Most of us know this but need to be reminded sometimes...

Stupid Things Artists Do To Mess Up Their Lives!
published by Carla DeSantis

As the founder of ROCKGRL Magazine, I’ve interviewed hundreds of artists and edited thousands of stories about artists. I’ve heard every variation of success and failure that exists, and I’ve been around the block a couple of times as a musician myself. I’ve seen the overnight successes and the slow burns. And even though the music industry is battered and broken, there is still great music out there that deserves to be heard.If you love making music, you’re in luck. Thanks to technology, home recording is more affordable and accessible than ever. Anyone can create a decent-sounding album at home. But selling that album and actually making a living as an artist has never been more problematic – not that it was ever a cakewalk. Reality television has fed us the delicious myth that anyone can be a star – and we’ve gobbled it down. Look at Susan Boyle. Then look at Susan Boyle’s make-over! Fact is, you have a better chance of being struck by lightning – multiple times – than you do of becoming the next multi-platinum-selling megasuperstar. The music industry as we knew it has gone the way of the stegosaurus and the cassette tape. It makes banking (another predatory industry) look stable in comparison.So how come we still have stars? Most of today’s best-known musical artists got famous through a television tie-in. Last week Demi Lovato was the only artist on the charts to sell more than 100,000 CDs. Unless you competed on American Idol, star on a Disney show or have a song playing in the background during a romantic moment on Grey’s Anatomy, your chances of hitting it big are slimmer than an Olsen twin. Here are a few eye-opening statistics, courtesy of the Nielsen Company:

105,575 albums were released in 2008.
79,000 albums were released in 2007.
Less than 1% of all releases (just 950 albums) sold more than 25,000 copies.
New release album sales fell 18% in 2008; these sales are now less than half the number of albums that sold in 2001.
50,000 digital-only albums accounted for less than 2% of all new release album sales.
Even though the demand for albums has plummeted, there were 26,575 more albums released in 2008 than 2007.

Those are very depressing odds but it’s what you are up against. So just because albums aren’t very popular and there are more albums available than ever, does that mean you shouldn’t at least try? Of course not. But I’m about to serve you a reality check cocktail to wash down with your big dream. To wit, here are some stupid career moves artists make, and tips on how to not make them yourself:

1. We Don’t Need No Education – Many musicians see the real life experience of playing and touring as a substitute for education. You may not need a PhD from an ivy league university to put rock star on your resume, but it is critical to know how the music business works if you want to retain control of your life and not make bad decisions. Suggestions:

2.Take a music course at a community college in business, songwriting or recording.

3.Spend some of your online time reading about industry trends.

4.Attend music business conferences, lectures and workshops in your area – many are free – or

5.Join the local Recording Academy chapter ( They have student rates.

6.Be a sponge and absorb everything about the business side of music that you possibly can.

7.Attending classes is also a great way to network and meet people who might become fans down the road.

8.Turn Off the Hype Machine – There is no greater turn-off than letting people know how important/talented/wonderful you are. If you are really all that, the music will speak for itself. People will find you and they will do the talking for you. Note that during the American Idol auditions it’s the people who come in with humility and sincerity – not the big talkers – who usually end up blowing the judges away.

9.Have a Contingency Plan – Don’t put all your eggs in the superstar basket. Do other things to make money while you are working on your music and find things to do that are equally as satisfying. Play music because you love it, because it’s fun and not because you visualize a profile on Cribs in your future. If you really crave validation and approval that much, get a pet.

10.The Friends and Family Plan – Everyone’s friends and family are there to offer unconditional support. But after the people who are obligated to support your efforts are tapped out, you need to start building a following. Do you have fans? Is your fan base growing with each gig or staying the same or declining?

11.Pay attention to what songs go over when you perform. They may not be the songs you prefer. Many artists are shocked when the throw-away song that barely made the album becomes the hit single. Keep an open mind.

12.Falling for Scams – This is the music business and there are lots of people out there promising superstardom for a price. Check credentials and do online searches to make sure that the people who want your money have a solid reputation and verifiable proof to back it up. Anyone who charges you to play a show or listen to your music is suspect. If it sounds fishy, it probably is fishy.

13.Watch Your Wallet – Musicians spend a fortune on unnecessary gear, thinking that this new guitar or this new pedal will suddenly make them Erica Clapton. Really, you don’t need all those toys – especially if it means you can’t pay your rent. Put yourself on a budget if you are a gear junkie. Which brings me to . . .

14.Living the High Life – I know drugs and alcohol seem cool and romantic and all that, but trust me, there’s nothing cool about ‘em. Yeah, we’ve all got demons. A good therapist is much healthier and cheaper than a habit and a rehab. Don’t do anything that makes you more stupid and vulnerable. If you don’t have your wits about you, it will be that much easier to fall prey to someone who does.

15.Play Well with Others – Don’t be a drama queen and avoid falling in with anyone who is. Deal with problems as they arise and don’t let them fester. Distractions are a huge waste of productive time and it is just as easy to be considerate as it is to be a great, big jerk that nobody can stand to be around. Band rule number one – no drama. No exceptions.

16.Be Authentic – Be yourself. Always. Not the next (fill in the blank) because there is already a (fill in the blank). There’s a big difference between being influenced by an artist and trying to copy them. The original is always better and everyone knows it. It is your true self, whatever that may be, that people relate to.

17.It Really Is All About The Music – There’s no doubt that image plays a big and unavoidable role in the music business. But at the end of the day it’s still about the music. Working on your image rather than your music is like working on your shoes and not your outfit. Image is just an accessory. Don’t get hung up on it. If you are truly being yourself, the rest will follow. Making a living as a musician is already tough enough. Don’t make it any harder.

Good luck out there.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


So after many years of using the same photos for publicity, album covers, myspace, ect., I decided to have some new pictures taken in my new form. I had dropped a little weight since last year and so the time had come to photograph myself and put the whole package together. New pics. Well, last week, I met up with these sweet girls, both of which were sisters, to have these pictures made. One took the photos, the other did the make-up. Well, I sat myself in the chair and proceded to have my makeup done. Now, what I was going for was a "1950's pin-up look" but just in terms of say, the red lips and the fake lashes. Needless to say, when it was all said and done, I looked like a corpse with red lips. And fake lashes. Or a geisha. A very white geisha. I got up, looked in the mirror and told myself," It is outdoors. Maybe she didn't want me to get washed out so she put more white on my skin to maybe counter-act the effects." Whatever. Well, taking the pictures wasn't bad. It was in the middle of a field and behind a barn and it was 100 degrees outside, but all in all, it wasn't too bad. I waited for the proofs. When I got them back, I was amused by the fact that I was right. The make-up was WAY TOO MUCH! I dunno...The pictures and poses were pretty. Some were saved...I will show you one of the ones that made it...

Not bad.... Could be worse....I'll think I'll keep it for least till tomorrow...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Day One...

You may sit in front of your television set after a long day at work, feeling like a mouse in a cage, trapped on an endless treadmill that gets you nowhere and you may think to yourself, "Hey! I want to watch some reality show about the ins and outs of life in Nashville. I want to watch a struggling model who is eternally 18 trying to obtain the golden ticket to become a country music star and behold, she gets a record deal after 2 weeks! That's what I want to watch!" You may be one of those people who likes a show like that. If you do, then you may not want to read this blog. Because this blog is about a girl (who is not a model nor 18) trying to make it as a singer/songwriter here in Music City that could care less about being famous and on the cover of magazines and shmoozing with the rich and beautiful. All she wants is to sing her own songs for a living. An honest and good living. That is what she wants and what she has always wanted and will never stop wanting that as long as she is living. So, with all that said, we begin...

My name is Jessie Key. I have been singing my whole life but have been singing country music since I was 14 around the Dallas/Ft. Worth area (where I am from). When I was 20, I moved to Nashville to lay my claim on the eyes and ears of the Nashville community. Little did I know, in 1997, that Nashville was starting to decline after the Big Boom of the "Garth effect" and people in the town were starting to panic. Like, selling their homes and recording equipment in yard-sale's type of panic. I was at Belmont University off of Music Row at the time and just waiting for the dust to blow over. So I waited....and waited....and waited. Come 2000, the dust had turned into a storm like the one seen over Oklahoma back in the Depression. People were blinded by the destruction of what was once and what was no more. Sad...So, to make a long story even longer, I moved to Austin, had a ball, played and sang, made a record and then made the stupid decision to give Nashville one more try. Moved back and here I am. The dust is still here but I feel that even though it sometimes is hard to breathe, you can always find solace in the church. Of course I mean the Ryman. And as long as they have not burned that down, I will not lose complete hope that country music can find a way back to where it was conceived. Besides, everyone comes home in the end...

So this is my diary, my blog. Every day is a step closer to the dream and I will be letting you in on all my trials and tribulations and hopefully it wont be too painful. This is the Day in the Life of Jessie...for real...