We are all musicians, writers, and artists, but many of us are hiding behind a wall of shame when it comes to sharing our passion.
Just imagine if Kurt Cobain had said, “I am not that good at singing.”
What would have happened if the singer of Sublime (Bradley James Nowell) got told that he sucks at playing the guitar? What if Janis Joplin would have listened to vocal coaches criticizing her way of using her voice?
These are just a few examples of musicians who often get bashed by people I like to call the “music police.”
I would call myself a musician, but many of my friends who are professional musicians tend to disagree. I agree that I am not a skilled singer, but this doesn’t mean that I can’t be an artist—just ask Cobain, Nowell, and Joplin.
Art is not necessarily about being the best; it isn’t like sports where we can measure performances in numbers. Actually, there are many musicians who use their success as an indicator of quality—but I heavily disagree on that.
Music—and art in general—is a way of sharing our voice with the world. Sharing doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone will enjoy our art, which makes it an offering.
Offerings are meant to be of benefit. When I write an article and only one person says, “That was helpful, I never looked at it that way,” then it was already a success—let’s apply that to music.
When I was living in Costa Rica, I had the pleasure to regularly perform at local restaurants. Some folks liked it, others didn’t, and that’s fine with me. Coming from a background of punk rock music, my choices of songs were not always appreciated by everyone, but I will never forget that one night when it all worked out.
I was playing at a small bar and was already a little disappointed about the turnout that evening, but then, all of a sudden, a group of 12 tattooed dudes in tank tops entered the place. As they were probably our last guests for the evening, I asked them about their favorite songs hoping that I could bring some joy into their evening. One of the gentlemen said, “Can you play any song from Rancid?
My friend who was in charge of the sound system was already giggling, and I said to myself, “This is the moment.” These dudes were more than excited when I replied to their request by saying, “Yes, it’s actually my favorite band.”
Long story short: I had one of the best evenings of my life. We were singing together, dancing on tables, and not everyone was able to get up for their morning surf session the next day. After the show, I told my friend, “That’s what it is all about: creating these moments without planning them.”
When I was 12, I found a guitar from my stepbrother in our garage and started to pretend that I was a guitar player. Little Robert was excited about the idea of being like one of these rockstars on MTV. My dad decided to support me and took me to a music store. He got me a guitar that was not broken and a book with instructions. After trying for weeks with that book, he finally gave in and asked a friend to give me a few guitar lessons.
After the first lessons, my dad and his friend agreed that I was not talented at all—and they were probably right. But that didn’t take away any of the joy I had with my best friend—who was playing the drums—when we started our first band. Looking back at it, it was ridiculous, and I am really sorry for our neighborhood having to go through that phase.
When I was 16, my dad died. Before he passed, he bought me a super expensive guitar and urged me to continue playing—no matter what others would say about my abilities.
For the last 20 years, I had been playing music. I played in a band for years and got to experience the feeling of performing around 200 shows with my best friends—and we sucked so bad. Our name was “Unbägabt,” which is the misspelled version of the German word for untalented. We never fully understood why people would attend our concerts, but they did.
Almost needless to say that other bands in our area were quite envious of our success. “I heard they suck live,” was one of the things people would say about us—ask our producer, we were even worse in the recording studio. But nobody ever really cared; we had the fun of a lifetime for six wonderful years.
After we decided to quit the band and become adults, I had a hard time accepting that. Without the distraction of playing shows on a regular basis, I fell into a deep, dark hole called depression. Years later, my therapist urged me to start playing music again. I was not motivated at that time because I knew that I would never play in front of big crowds again.
But then I finally understood what “being an artist” means. It is not about success or fame; it is about the feeling you have when expressing yourself and the magic that happens when others can relate to that.
Being an artist doesn’t mean that we think about what sells or what doesn’t; it is about sharing our true selves.
After playing music for more than 20 years, I would like to encourage everyone to find their way of expressing themselves without caring too much about the outcome.
I am a bad singer, and I know that there are countless folks who sing better than I do but decide not to share their voice outside of their shower. I am certainly not the best writer, but I continuously share my words with readers around the world. Sometimes folks agree with what I have to say, and sometimes I get insulted on social media—that’s just the way it is.
If I record a song and it makes one person’s day just a little better, then it was already worth the effort. If I write an article and only one person gets inspired to look at things in a different way, then it was of benefit.
So why hold ourselves back from sharing who we are? Why would we be scared that people might not like it?
As I am writing this, I am sitting by myself in Germany, while my beloved fiancé is in the United States. The pandemic put our plans to get married on hold, and we both decided to make some money until we can have a proper wedding. It is painful to wake up without the love of my life next to me, but there are still ways to connect.
She is an artist, and I am a musician.
I love looking at the paintings that are all over our house because it reminds me of the days when she was making them and how lucky I am to have her in my life.
Some of my friends who are sound engineers laugh about me for recording music clips with my phone and posting them on social media, but you know what? I don’t care. I know that there is at least one person who can’t wait for me to upload the next song—and that makes it already worth it.
The only thing that separates me from the unknown voice in the shower is that I share my voice; it is certainly not the quality of my singing.
Don’t be shy, don’t let the music police stop you, and share your art with us. Maybe it just makes one person’s day—and isn’t that already amazing?
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