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An Open Letter ...

The ideas that follow are my own & I take full responsibility for them.  This has been something I myself, have had to come to terms with over the last few years. I understand that many will disagree, and that’s ok. At the same time, I know how I want my person, my work, and creativity to be honored. This is of the utmost importance to me & so I’ve decided to share it with you here. 


I AM AN ARTIST. NOT A PRODUCT. 


I’ve been singing and performing all my life.  Literally started putting on shows for my family when I was a toddler, and was on a stage for my first public performance at age 6. I also performed in church at a very early age. I studied performance in middle & high school at magnet schools with large music and theatre departments, all the while performing in community theatre shows in the evening. I had Actor’s Equity status by the time I was 19 years old. I also studied musical theatre & vocal performance curricula in college. When I needed to make some money post-college, in my 20s, I found bartending.  After learning the basics I realized that a bartending gig was much like a performance … I’m on the stage in the middle of the room & the people at my bar, most of them, are wanting to be entertained. That kind of entertainment could be a conversation, watching me fly around the bar doing all the things, or once I started working in nightclubs, bottle juggling, dancing, and even blowing fire.  It was all a show & we got paid well for keeping people ENTERTAINED. 


Fast forward to the time I began working as an artist, under my own name (as opposed to being the vocalist in someone else’s band). I won’t say this transition was easy, but it was natural. It was the step I needed to take in order to move forward with a career using the gifts I’ve been given (thanks Professor for seeing this & nudging me in the right direction!). I fought it at first, insisting that billing was “The Lauren Mitchell Band”, instead of just using my name alone. There’s safety in numbers right? And if it’s the whole BAND on the marquee, there’s a little less pressure on just me. Well …. I came to understand that probably wasn’t the best business model, because bands break up.  Life happens.  People change & make mistakes. Music is something that needs to evolve & grow … and after a while if that’s not happening, it gets stale … and the audience will know it. 


So … fast forward a few years … I made an album (my 3rd, “Desire”) & shifted my branding from “The Lauren Mitchell Band” to just “Lauren Mitchell”.  This record was MINE, in many ways, from parts of the songwriting, to the song choices, to the people I partnered with to write, produce, play, etc. It felt good to claim my own destiny, so to speak.  My power.  MY NAME.  I was saying to the world “This is ME.” And back in 2016/2017 when that album was recorded & released, it was me.  It was the version of me that existed at that time. 


BUT NOW …. I am different. Much has changed. I have changed.  The world has changed.  The music business has changed.  EVERYTHING has changed. 


Some of the changes have been for the best - I’m sober now. I’ve moved through a lot of internal healing that has left me more grounded. I’m married & finally in a healthy, stable relationship. I’ve given up the stiletto heels & super tight, mostly black stage clothing in favor of brightly colored kaftans & bare feet. I’ve stopped pretending my hair is any color other than what it is … grey, LOL. And I’ve also stopped singing songs that don’t resonate with me anymore.  In other words … I AM MORE MYSELF THAN I’VE EVER BEEN.  And stepping fully into that sense of self has enabled me to see something I couldn’t see before. 


I AM AN ARTIST. NOT A PRODUCT. 


This shift began for me in 2018-2019. I was doing all the “right” things for my career (at least according to the “people who know”).  I made a great album.  I toured it hard for almost 2 full years. I sold cds, t shirts, hats, posters, all the merch at my shows … I hired publicists, producers, agents, assistants, managers, etc … and I became more & more overwhelmed with the amount of (mostly unpaid, behind the scenes) work that was being piled on my plate.  I kept saying to close friends & colleagues that it felt like everyone I ran into wanted a tiny piece of me … and that the more I gave, the more they wanted … until I got to a point where there was nothing left for me.  I was exhausted.  Burnt out.  Broke.  Disoriented & disillusioned. Clinically depressed.


What had happened to me? 


What had I become? 


A MACHINE.  Just pumping out one show after another, and not much of it with even a modicum of feeling behind it.  It was just a “performance” & very little of it was real … and I mean real in the sense of having authenticity, of being able to express my FULL self & all of my many facets. Why not? Why did I keep myself in that same-old, same-old way of doing things & performing? Because that’s what I was told would sell. And that’s what I believed my audience wanted to buy.  A polished, finished PRODUCT.  The world didn’t want my ART … they wanted my production. A performance of the person I was told I should be.  And all of that was for  one reason, one end-game …. It was for other’s consumption. It had nothing to do with me honoring myself, my spirit, my soul, my creativity.  I had become a product.  I was something to be bought & sold at will. 


This was never more clear to me than during an exchange I had with a fan while I was attending a large blues festival as an audience member.  This incident occurred LESS THEN ONE YEAR after the release of my album “Desire”. 

I was hanging out, enjoying the music & having fun dancing near the stage.  The fan came up to me, congratulated me on my album, told me they loved it.  I thanked them & tried to go back to listening & dancing, but this person wanted to talk more …. And the next thing they said shook me to my core. 


They asked me when I was going to put out another album.  


LESS THEN ONE YEAR after a project that was  5 years in the making from start to finish … I was already being asked to birth another creation. 


PRESSURE to PRODUCE. 


I had become a product for consumption.  In this question being asked of me, I realized & saw clearly the inherent dichotomy that is at the forefront of today’s music business. There was/is no regard for the fact that it took me years to finish the current album, the money it cost (a LOT), or the fact that I was HUMAN & would have liked to enjoy & savor the small bit of success my album was having.  None of that.  It was like being seen as a machine that could just crank out songs & records at will for an audience to consume. The focus had shifted from my artistry & creativity (which, as any artist will tell you, is deeply connected to our personal life experiences & humanity) to my performance (in the sense of how much I could do or generate) & production. 


Now … don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE my fans.  I am grateful that I often perform to sold out crowds & have been able to see the US (and a few other countries) via touring & performing live shows. I am humbled by the fact that people tell me my music speaks to them & to know they want more of it. 


But two opposites can be true at the same time … and this is definitely one of those cases.  I love my fans & am grateful to know know they want more music from me, while at the same time, I need to take some space to live my life! I need to move through new experiences. I need time to marinate in all of life IN ORDER TO CREATE the music everyone loves. 


You see … artists are observers.  We are feelers.  We are reflections of everyone & everything we come into contact with.  We are magicians … magicians in the sense that we absorb everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) life hands us, then we take it & process it through a lens that is distinctly our own … as individual as a fingerprint or a snowflake. This processing is a lot of things.  It’s messy.  It’s often filled with tears, and frustration.  We usually consider throwing in the towel at least once or twice.  We doubt ourselves and our abilities. But then … if we stick with it the magic happens. It becomes something else … literal transmutation, an alchemy & a magnificent, transformative way of living.  We use that process to make something beautiful to share with the world.  It’s all of life, the good, bad, sad & more, compressed into one 3 to 4—minute piece of music. A meditation on ONE universal idea.  It can be love, heartbreak, friendship, and so many other things … but it is REAL … AND THAT IS WHY IT TAKES TIME.  


THAT IS WHY IT MUST BE REVERED 


THAT IS WHY IT IS SPECIAL 


It is unique & part of ur DNA … the transmutation of all that is, through our eyes, our voices, our words, and our complete & total beingness. 


ART IS MAGIC. 


IT ALWAYS HAS BEEN.  


Art is a rare commodity and should be treated as such.

When we make our creations available for free or at will, we ignore and write off all that it has taken for the artist to live the experiences that have generated the creation, and the time it has taken for the artist to perform the necessary alchemy in order to transmute real life experiences into something beautiful for all of us to share.


But the issue is that now, in the age of technologies like social media & streaming platforms, art, and therefore the artist, have been DEvalued.  


What’s so special about a live performance that we have to buy a $50 ticket to, when someone  (oftentimes the artist themselves) will livestream the show so you can watch it from your sofa FOR FREE? 


Why, when we pay $9.99 a month for all the music we can listen to, would we spend $20 or more on a single album/CD/LP that only has 10 or so songs on it? 


We, as a society,  have become consumers, not listeners.  Listening is an active pursuit.  It is something that must be done with intention … and instead we use music or movies (which are creations by artists) as background “noise”.  I posit that very few of us would consider masterpieces by Mozart, Puccini, Coltrane, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and many more “NOISE”.  


But that is how we behave


We have all become machines … loosing more and more of the shared humanity that connects us with every technological interface that is “new & shiny” … that is supposed to make us more “connected”.  


Well … I call bullshit.  


I can promise you, from personal experience, that when I’m on a stage & I look out & see half of my audience staring at the 3-inch screen on their phones, as opposed to being focused on the LIVE-in-front-of-you EXPERIENCE that we are sharing … we are more DISconnected than if everyone was simply experiencing the moment for what it is.  It’s disheartening, at least for me, to look into a crowd & see phones staring back at me, instead of people’s beautiful faces. 


I understand … you love it so much you want to keep some for yourself … so you can share it with your friends … so you can promote us … and I will agree, there is some truth in those statements.  However, this is another one of those “two opposites can be true at the same time” situations.  Yes.  We want you to love the music so much you want to take it home & tell the world about it … but … we also want your undivided attention while we’re up there pouring our souls out onto the stage! Especially if you’re hearing original music by the artist!!! That stuff comes from our LIVES.  It is the realest of the real for us & it means more than you know for us to have your COMPLETE focus while we share those parts of ourselves. 


Maybe there’s a better way to share the love?  Maybe we can buy an extra t-shirt or record from the artist to give to a friend? That not only lets you spread the word about us, but it puts actual dollars in our coffers … dollars that have been depleted by … yep, you guessed it … technology. 


I implore you to take a moment to consider how we have cheapened & monetized every aspect of our creativity, and therefore our humanity, in today’s world. 


And the next time you hear a song you like, or go to a show of any kind … consider what it took for the people you’re hearing or viewing to create the thing you’re enjoying.  


Remember that the performers are HUMANS. 


We are NOT products.  


We are artists.  

We are magicians. 

We are alchemists.

And so much more …. 


With much gratitude & love, 

~ Lauren 

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