Posts tagged music

Go ahead- Embarrass yourself

"If your work does not sufficiently embarrass you, then likely no one will be touched by it." -Anne Bogart

Have you ever had this conversation with someone?:

"Hey how are you?"

"I’m good, how are you?"

"Good!"

"Cool. Well it’s good to see you!"

"You too!"

I have that conversation with people all the time. Even though my intentions are good in asking, I actually found out nothing about the person I was talking to and they found out nothing about me. Likely, we would have both said some form of “good” whether it was a great day, or an awful day. We hold each other out at arms length, unwilling to be vulnerable because we just don’t think they actually care to hear what is actually going on, or we are worried about what they will think of us if we said something real. We play it safe to keep ourselves from getting hurt. And this, my friends, is the murderer of creativity. 

If you approach songwriting, or any art, with your guard up, fearing what people will think of your struggles, fears and questions, you will never allow people to see the only thing they can actually relate to. Have you ever seen a great movie with a terrible actor? They are faking the crying sounds but don’t actually have a single tear in their eyes. That’s what it is like when we try to write a song without putting our whole selves into writing. That is what it’s like when we allow our fear to control our expression. No one will buy that it is genuine, because we all know what it actually feels like, and looks like to actually struggle. You have to allow yourself to be vulnerable, accept that not everyone will understand it but also embrace the fact that it may be the very thing someone else needs to hear to help them see that they are not alone. 

My goal for 2012 is to allow greater transparency, especially in my writing. My goal is to not allow my fear and insecurity to determine what I let people hear. I challenge you to try it with me:) 

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Check out a preview of my song “Crazy Confident” which is airing tomorrow night on Episode 15 of “I Used to be Fat”! 

You can watch a preview of the show and watch the full episode after it airs here: http://www.mtv.com/shows/i_used_to_be_fat/series.jhtml 

"Crazy Confident Confusing Contradiction" Written by Britney Christian (ASCAP), Michele Vice-Maslin (SESAC), Joachim Jorgensen (KODA). 

Having a Fighter Mentality

A lot of you know by now that not only am I a singer/songwriter, one of my hobbies is Martial Arts. I’ve been doing Tae Kwon Do for over 7 years now and this summer I competed in a world tournament and took a gold medal, making me a 2011 World Martial Arts Champion (definitely never one of those things that I dreamed I’d be able to say, how random right?!).

This weekend I tested for my 4th degree black belt, and I can’t help but see the correlation between the mindset of an actual fighter, and the mindset of someone who desires to have a career in the entertainment field. Part of black belt testing is the sparring portion (aka where two people put on gear and actually fight each other). No joke you guys, I got my butt kicked in sparring this weekend!!! I took my fair share of cracks to the head from people who were easily twice my size. One of those hits involved me flying back five feet into a wall!

As much as I love sparring, there will be times when it just isn’t fun- times when you take hit after hit and spend all of your time picking yourself up off the ground (or off of a wall!) And sometimes pursuing a career in the entertainment industry is the same exact way. You can be the most talented person in the entire world, and you will still face tons of rejection along the way in pursuing your dreams. But here’s the great thing, (I promise I’m not a pessimist, there is always a moral to the story!) the very act of getting hit and picking yourself back up off the ground will always make you stronger if you don’t give up, and there is no shame in getting hit! I might be so bold as to say that if you never experience rejection, you never attempted anything great. I could spend the rest of my time in martial arts sparring people who aren’t as good as me and don’t intimidate me, but chances are, I will never get any better. I got hit so much this weekend because I was up against people who were superior in size and skill, and those are the kind of people who will make me even better than I was before. 

So if you want to be a singer, a songwriter, a musician, an actor etc. and you are about to pick up your world and move to Los Angeles, my advice to you is: attempt great things, expect rejection, take a moment to tend to the bruises, pick yourself back up, and repeat this process until the end of time. Along the way, you will experience amazing things that make it all worth it, and you will come out stronger. A fighter isn’t phased by a hook punch to the face, they let it serve as a reminder to keep their guard up for next time and they continually become harder and harder to beat. You don’t need a black belt to have a fighter mentality, but you are going to need a fighter mentality when you follow your dreams;) 

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Behind the Scenes at a Recording Studio

Lots of people always ask me what its like behind the scenes in a couple different places

a) recording studio

b) tour bus

So I thought I’d do a couple blogs and share some pictures with all of you:) I’ll let my words be few and let the pictures do the talking. After all, a pictures is worth a thousand words, right?

Big huge soundboard where the engineer and producer hang out:

:

My favorite place, inside the vocal booth:) (thats a microphone on the left) 

Outside view of the vocal box, a couple different mic to use depending on the vocalist;)

This one is just cute- its a speaker but it looks like a music robot to me

Ok, kinda awkward but i couldn’t help but share… there is a digital record player in the bathroom. Weird? Yes. Noteworthy- of course;)

That’s all for today:) The next one will be pictures on the Gibson tour bus! Stay tuned:)

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Songwriting is a team sport:)

I’ve had the amazing privilege lately to write songs for some of the most talented and promising new actors from Disney’s number one show, “Shake it Up”. But almost more exciting is the amazing team I’ve gotten to work with while I’m on these projects! I’ve blogged before about how songwriting is a team effort and more often than not, it’s so true! Very few songwriters write entire songs on their own. It’s so important to find other writers that are not only talented in areas that aren’t your strong point, but also songwriters who you have a great amount of chemistry with. Songwriting is intimate and personal, so you must have people you trust, people you can have fun with and be open with at the same time. 

These Disney projects I have been working on are headed up by the melodic genius, and highly successful writer/producer Eddie Galan. Adia Haynie is also an extremely talented writer on this project, I bounce all of my ideas off of her and she’s brilliant at taking lyrics and ideas and molding them into perfection. Alex Niceforo is a master track writer, this guy creates music that sounds like a hit before a melody and lyrics are even written! Talk about amazing people to learn from, super blessed to be working with them:-)

left to right- Eddie Galan, Adia Haynie, Caroline Sunshine, Me (Britney Christian) 

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Songwriting for Disney’s Caroline Sunshine

Yesterday I spent a wonderful afternoon/night in the studio with the ever so talented Miss Caroline Sunshine from Disney’s #1 Show, “Shake it Up”! We are working hard (and laughing hard!) creating songs for her debut into the music world. Not only is this girl a hilarious actress and a killer dancer, she also has a very bright future in the music world as a singer and a songwriter!

So what does a songwriting session with Caroline look like? We find a great track to write to, start brainstorming ideas for lyrics and melody, decide on a great concept and then spend hours laughing, writing, chilling, singing and hanging out. In the end, we have a great song that is ready to record next week! 

For those of you who look up to Caroline, aka Tinka from “Shake it Up”, I can confirm for you that you have one heck of a role model, this girl is beautiful inside and out! Can’t wait for all of you to hear her amazing new music! I’ll be in the studio with her next week too, be sure to follow the pics and updates on twitter! www.twitter.com/BritneyCMusic 

P.S. Yesterday I heard the finished mix of the Adam Irigoyen/Caroline Sunshine duet we wrote a month ago and it sounds AMAZING! You guys are in for a treat:-)

For those of you wondering what the inside of a recording studio looks like, check out these pictures from yesterday!

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Finding Presence

There is something undeniable about a great performer, something that goes beyond their talent and comes out of who they are. A lot of people call it presence, or stage presence. It’s the way they light up a room and take over every empty space making everyone there feel like they are their best friend, or the way they can be in a stadium filled with 20,000 people and make the people in the nosebleeds still feel like they are being welcomed into a personal experience. 

I make it a point to go to as many concerts as I can and study artists to see exactly what it is that got them to where they are now. In the past year, I’ve seen Maroon 5, One Republic, Lifehouse, Kris Allen, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Taylor Swift, NeedtoBreathe and two days ago, I saw Keith Urban. Every single one of them was great, but there is something about Keith Urban that draws me in, keeps me on the edge of my seat, makes me scream even when I know its bad for my vocal chords, makes me wish I was closer, makes me celebrate with every other person at Staples Center feeling like we are all sharing something so special together- and all of this happens while I’m a mile away from him sitting way too far up to really see him. How does he do it? How does anyone do it? 

I think presence comes out of joy, passion, humility and confidence. As humans, we can tell when someone is passionate and in love with what they are doing. It fills every inch of their being, they joy spills out in a contagious way. We want to experience it with them because we can’t help but notice how much fun their are having. When someone is going through the motions, we also pick up on that, and we don’t want to join in. If they aren’t having fun doing what they love, why would we have fun doing it? Keith literally engaged his fans by pulling 3 random people out of the crowd, let them each sing a chorus of “Kiss a Girl”, let the crowd vote on the best one and then let the winning guy share his microphone as they finished the song as a duet. Talk about allowing us into his world! I’m sure he had every single person in the stadium wishing it was them up there! 

Then there is the balance between humility and confidence. Putting yourself out there on stage and sharing your music with people, especially when its music you wrote from personal experience, is one of the most vulnerable places you can put yourself. You have to be confident enough to share it even if people don’t care at all, or even mock you for it. But then you have to be humble enough to let people in, just like you would do for your close friend. People don’t want you singing at them, they want you to sing to them. They want to know that you are just like them- you have the same fears, the same hurt, the same joy, the same questions and doubts. If you are a performer, you must let people in, you cannot try to protect yourself by putting up walls. 

To be an artist is to share who you are. If you want to have that magical “presence” about you- love what you do, perform with joy, let people into your world and make sure you love the people you are performing for:) 

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Talent Is Overrated

We live in a world that is obsessed with talent, we idolize people who have talent and spend countless hours reading about their personal lives even when it has nothing to do with their talent, all because we admire them so much! Actors, musicians, athletes, medical genius’, people like Steve Jobs, etc. we love them and wish we could be like them. But we also often assume that these people were born with these talents and we never really can achieve what they achieved. But I recently read this book called “Talent is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin and it totally changed my perception of who can achieve success! In this book, he studies the fact that regardless of talents we are born with, the thing that makes successful people successful is the amount of time they spend perfecting their craft. So what does this look like when we want to do something we weren’t naturally gifted with? (I never felt like I was naturally gifted at playing guitar! It was always hard for me.) How do we excel? Its quite simple, train properly, and train constantly!

Here’s what I mean-

Training properly means that we do need someone observing us from the outside, a coach, a teacher- whatever it looks like in the particular field you are interested in. Someone else will be able to point out things we never even noticed we were doing wrong. When I was younger, I hated it when people told me I was doing something wrong! But I learned that constructive criticism is the very thing that can turn something good into something great. The other aspect of training properly is picking something that is the right skill level. If you practice for hours but you are practicing things that are easy for you, and you likely won’t improve at all. But on the flip side, if you always try to learn things that are way beyond your skill level, you will likely get really frustrated and give up before you learn anything. I always keep this in mind when I’m practicing guitar and piano because I’ve made both mistakes, choosing something too hard, and choosing something not hard enough. When you find that perfect level of skill thats just a little bit harder than you are use to, you’ll start improving so fast that you’ll be able to play those tricky pieces in no time!

The other part of learning how to succeed at what you love to do, is to train constantly. There was a study done in 1992 in England on 257 young music students. In the study, they discovered that the one thing that seperated the most elite students from the lower groups was their practice time! The elite students were practicing two hours on average a day while the lower performing groups only practiced 15 minutes a day. You are the only one in control of your achievements! Not your talent or lack thereof. 

So you want to be a singer, musician, actor, dancer, scientist, medical professional, buisness genius or anything else you think is beyond what you can ever achieve? Work hard, push yourself, practice and you can be whatever you want to be! Hard work beats out talent nearly every time. 

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Discovering who you are as an artist

As soon as you start entering the world of music, you will face one main question from writers, producers, music industry professionals, “What is your style and genre?”. If you don’t have an answer for that question (and even sometimes if you do but they think it’s the wrong answer) everyone will start telling you who you are and what is best for you. And the more people you work with, the more directions people will have for you. All the sudden a year goes by and you have a group of songs that are all so different, they don’t even make sense on the same cd. So what do you do? And how do you find your style?

The first thing to do is explore! It’s not a bad thing to try different things in the beginning of your career. You don’t need to go all over the place, but pick a few styles that interest you and start playing around with them. When I was 14 and started writing and recording, I messed around with pop, rock and r&b. Don’t chase after fades in music because they change so quickly no one can keep up. Just play around with music that you like whether it’s the hottest new thing or not.

The next thing you do is perform! Even if all the songs and styles you have sound good in the studio, one will more than likely feel more comfortable when you get on stage and start performing. Particularly when I was in my r&b/pop phase, I had a choreographer teaching me routines for my songs and I performed them that way which felt right at the time. But it wasn’t until I started doing more rock/pop music, I ditched the dance routines and still felt way more comfortable on stage without them. I remember the first time I performed my song “Numb” onstage, I was like, “Yes! This feels amazing!” No one had to teach me how to perform my songs, I just knew how to perform them because it was flowing out of who I was. 

So don’t worry about who everyone else wants you do be. Explore, perform, and you will find what kind of artist you are.

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Developing the story in Songwriting

One thing I’ve been doing a ton of lately is songwriting. Not only have I been writing and recording my second full length album, I’ve been brought on as a songwriter to write for other artists. Yesterday I was writing for two of the stars on Disney’s #1 Show, “Shake it Up” which was really fun.


Back when I was only writing for myself, I would just write any time I was personally going through something that I thought would make a good song, or anytime someone close to me was going through something. (You can check out my first blog on songwriting which has a lot of tips on how to go about that: http://britneychristian.tumblr.com/post/4010175928/whats-the-deal-with-songwriting)

But when you are all the sudden writing 3-4 new songs a week, every single week- lets face it, my life just isn’t that jam packed with drama to supply all that content. So this is where acting comes in play. I’ve studied acting for 6 years now because I find it fascinating and it’s essential to the creative process of songwriting. The way I’ve been taught to act is to “live truthfully in imaginary circumstances”. So instead of just trying to pretend that something is real- create very real, specific circumstances and commit to them. I find that the more detailed the circumstances, the more you were start to feel things without even trying to conjure up any kind of emotion.

So this is what I do lately when I’m writing a song- especially when i’m writing for another artist. First, I listen to the track that I’m writing to. Often the music already has a built in emotion that it makes you feel and you can tell if its a break up song, a love song, a self empowerment song, etc. Once I understand the emotion in the music, I start making up a story! It’s just like writing a movie scene, or book scene, except instead of using dialog- I use poetry. But I figure out the characters in the song, i decide what they feel about each other, what they’ve said to one another and anything important that has happened between them. Just like acting, the more specific the story, the easier it is for me to understand what should be said in each section of the song.

Songwriters, you are story tellers! Be creative, be specific and the song will write itself:)