It is always deeply rewarding, humbling and inspiring to be a part of someone’s creative journey. In the process of creating, things usually don’t go exactly the way we plan on these things going. And in this space, you can really learn a lot about yourself.
I tend to think about this as being present to the process or the idea unfolding and playing itself out, right before one’s eyes. You are IN IT and it feels bigger than you. You are aware and making choices but there is also something else going on below the surface. It is almost impossible to explain how it feels when everything is clicking and you are having a breakthrough. It is exhilarating. Also, when it starts to crumble before your eyes or it all goes sideways, that can be really tough. It’s really easy to get stuck in these places, to pause, distract yourself or abandon ship altogether. These little, or sometimes big, moments are the necessary disillusionments that can be very rewarding… If we are willing to lean into them and become more curious and honest with what we find.
An album begins with a personal process
It’s always an honor to be invited into this process, and I enjoy inviting my students to begin their own process. I have come to accept, through much of my own past tendencies for stubbornness and resistance, that the process is not linear, it’s not predictable and there’s always more to be gained, or released, than initially planned. It takes a lot of courage and a lot of willingness to be vulnerable in real time, to keep coming back and engaging in the process when you are feeling stuck, frustrated or scared.
As I’m writing this, Cassidy is living in New York City as part of her senior year of study as a student at Belmont University. I think if you would have told her this a few years ago, she may not have believed you. If you also had told her she would have written, crafted and created a full length, fully produced CD of all original music, all with some of Nashville’s pro musicians, she probably would have thought that sounded pretty amazing, but I don’t know if she would have totally believed she would have done it. Well, she did.
Building on the basics
Cassidy called me after enrolling at Belmont University, wanting to improve her guitar playing and skills so she could expand her songwriting. She said she had been kind of stuck playing the same chords and strum patterns. After meeting with Cassidy and hearing about her passion for music and her experience as an athlete, I knew she would work hard and I could tell she really wanted to learn.
What started as expanding her guitar playing, chord knowledge and finger style technique quickly turned to songwriting, music theory, analyzing songs, transcribing songs, learning the Nashville Number System, charting songs, studying lyrics, writing lyrics, studying melody, writing melodies, studying songwriters she didn’t know, studying her favorite songwriters, learning to write quickly and on the spot by responding to an idea I would put out and we would go back and forth until it was done. The goal was for Cassidy to feel comfortable writing and playing guitar, co-writing and being able to communicate with other musicians comfortably.
And along the way, Cassidy was writing her own songs and bringing them in. Every week, Cassidy showed up with new ideas, new songs and she really fell into a rhythm with her writing and she wrote a lot. It was really something to see the transition in her and her writing. Cassidy didn’t change, she just became more herself, more focused and aware. She never backed away and always leaned into the challenging stuff.
An album plan is formed
When I asked her what she wanted to do, she said something along the lines of making an EP. We had really open and honest discussions about what she wanted and I said I thought she should make a full length album, in a really good studio with really good professional musicians. Cassidy was now in new territory, and like all of us, it is very exciting and also a bit scary. Cassidy leaned into the challenge. She spent the summer writing material for her CD, making her own charts and getting ready to record.
I am really proud of the work she has put in and I think she made a really good record. She wrote songs that ARE her. She worked hard and found her voice as an artist, a songwriter and singer. Cassidy took responsibility for what she wanted to do, realized some things she didn’t want to do after all and let them go. She performed a packed room CD release show at the Local here in Nashville with one of my former students and Belmont grad, Timothy Campanis, on guitar. It was really special to be in the audience for that show. I am really honored to have been a part of the process. Thanks, Cassidy!
You can read Cassidy’s story and thoughts on the process here: Creating a Record–Cassidy Best