Jackie McLean of the indie band Roan Yellowthorn grants us an inside look at the making of an album from start to finish in her ‘Breaking The Record’ column.
Stream: ‘Rediscovered’ – Roan Yellowthorn
In many ways, being a musician has helped me to find my voice. Songwriting gives me an outlet to talk about things with a level of detail and brutal honesty that I would perhaps not feel comfortable expressing in plain language. The physical act of singing connects me to my body and lets me feel the corporeality of expressing myself. And the experience of singing and sharing my feelings and inner realities with others – exchanging energy, feeling truly heard, getting the chance to speak and be seen – is one of the most gratifying experiences of them all.
Just jumping into the Breaking The Record series documenting the making of our album from start to finish? Read part 1
In my life, I crave connection. I long to be seen and heard. I want to connect with others in an essential, honest, and true way. I need honest connection; to be seen for who I am and to see others as they are. Oftentimes, music and art can act as a window into that communion. It has the power to cut through social barriers and get to the heart of truth. To the heart of other people. It can be a direct line to the essence of others and it can be a direct line to connection.
That’s what I love about music and art. At its core, music and art are a kind of truth. A truly good piece of art or a truly good song is truly good because it is true. It cannot tell a lie.
An important part of my journey in finding my voice (a journey still in progress) are the people who have believed in me along the way. They have made all the difference.
I remember a time at the very beginning of my musical ambitions, about five and a half years ago. I had written a bunch of songs and had decided to record them at a studio. The studio we chose was an hour away. That’s not too long, but my partner and I had just become parents to a small baby. We were both (more so me) paralyzed by fear and anxiety. Going to the studio meant bringing our baby with us and figuring out how to entertain her while we were there. The harder thing, for me, was feeling any sense of confidence or justification in what we were doing.
I was having a really hard time justifying the trip, the money spent, the studio time, the energy output. I was having a hard time believing that my music, that my dream of recording my music and using my voice, warranted the trouble. I wasn’t sure that it was worth it. That I was worth it.
I had put a few of my songs on SoundCloud and I remember sitting in the passenger seat of our car, baby in the back seat, parked in front of the studio and feeling unsure about if we should even go inside. I was almost ready to apologize for wasting everyones time and turn around.
Then, out of anxiety, I checked my email. There was a message there. Someone had found my songs on SoundCloud and sent me an email telling me that they loved my songs and to keep up the good work. It couldn’t have come at a better moment. The timing was uncanny. I had never gotten an email from anyone about my music before. I could hardly believe my eyes.
It was the confidence boost that I needed. I tapped out an email thanking the sender and then, confidence restored, I went into the studio and got to work recording my songs. It was a small step but it was also a big step. It was the beginning. And the effort put in at the beginning is what gets the ball rolling. It’s the heaviest, then.
I have not forgotten that email message. And I do not take for granted any of the encouragement that I get as I go. It has all, to varying degrees, helped me find my voice and have confidence in what I’m saying and doing. It has lifted me up when I’ve doubted myself.
Of course, the motivation has to ultimately come from within. If it’s not there, no amount of cajoling will create or sustain it. But, if there’s a spark, some oxygen on the flame will do wonders.
There are many special people along the way who have stoked that flame. Then there’s Kirk.
Kirk Pasich is the co-founder of the record label that I’m signed to. I was signed almost exactly two years ago today. Without ever having spoken to him, I sent him an email introducing myself and sending a link to my album ‘Indigo,’ self-produced with my partner. He answered. Three months later, I was in LA for the first time, meeting him in person. A few days after that, I had my first record contract in hand. He’s become a friend, a mentor, a co-conspirator, a musical match, and a stellar vocal contributor to my ‘Rediscovered’ album. Kirks’s belief in me has been one of the most defining and transformative elements in my life and career. I can’t overstate how much it means to me. It was Kirk’s birthday on Tuesday and want to take this opportunity to say a few words – Happy birthday, Kirk. Thank you for helping me find my voice.
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? © Jackie McLean
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