Hi! Welcome to the Anthology. I’m Jess. I make videos in my bedroom. For the most part. Volume 1, which was completed December of 2015, was a book/video/art/service project about the important people in my life. Feel free to check out the different chapters in the menu! This year, I’m simplifying and opening up a little more about myself in Volume 2 (below). If there’s anything YOU want to share, creative or otherwise, send it to me via social media or the contact form here. I would love to showcase what you do. Let’s make stuff and make the world a better place.
I’m surprised that more women in the music industry haven’t opened up about their own experiences in the wake of Kesha’s lawsuit…myself included. I think I’ve witnessed and experienced it so much that I got used to expecting disrespect towards women in that scene. That’s unacceptable on my part, and I’m sorry. I’ve been in countless uncomfortable studio/gig situations with men, and one dangerous one where I was glad that I a. turned down the multiple drinks offered to me b. decided that saying no was more important than the promises being made to me about my career and c. forced him to get out of the driver’s seat and insisted on driving us the hour back to Chicago when he pulled up to a hotel and said he was “too tired to drive”. I shouldn’t have put myself in that situation in the first place, but I was young, naive, and apparently needed to learn that lesson. I tell you in the hopes that you won’t have to. Promises are shiny and exciting and almost seem worth it at the time. Be careful. Believe in yourself enough to say no. I’m so lucky to have fallen into a crew of artists who make me feel safe, loved, and respected at all times! If you don’t feel that way about the people you are working with, keep looking. They’re out there.
Well…it’s been a few weeks since I imploded on the internet. Juuust wanted to check in. How have you been? How’s Dave? Great? Great.
Thanks to the people who reached out, opened up to me about their own struggles, and took the time to meet me for a chat. I learned a lot this month.
I feel an incredible responsibility to be a good role model for the young artists who look up to me. I want to have all of the answers for them when they come to me with their problems. It’s more fun to present myself as the girl who “made it to the other side”, but it’s not authentic. Sometimes I forget what it’s like to feel happy. How can I be there for them while asserting that I’m still learning how to be there for myself?
I talked to some wise friends, teachers, my parents, a priest, a therapist, and my grandfather (in a phone conversation I will never forget for the rest of my life) to find out if they could tell ME the answers. They all had great suggestions – my favorite one was simply saying “thank you” everyday – but the consistent response was “I don’t know what to tell you, Jessica”. It was strangely comforting. It helped me remember that we are all fighting. We are all working on our own “stuff” in varying degrees. Instead of exclusively wallowing in my own problems (which admittedly feels good sometimes), I started to feel empathy for others again.
In a lot of ways, I regret being so transparent. In general, but this month in particular. I often get feedback like “I love that you are so vulnerable”….which is great – I’m glad that the scary parts of me are connecting – but it’s not easy. Every time I reveal myself like that, it hurts. It’s a release, but there is always a cost. On the flip side, I remind myself there is always a chance that it might help someone going through something similar. So I’m going to keep pushing through the soft spots.
Here’s something I made this month. I had bird cages hanging up in my bedroom for 2 weeks because I had such a hard time finishing it. But I’m really glad that I stuck with it! There’s something really exciting about finally being able to say what you want to say the way you want to say it. I hope you like it!
Tell Dave I said hi.
In the theater world, there’s a time period commonly known as the post show slump. You close Oklahoma on a Sunday. Come Monday, you’ve got the flu. Never fails. If it was a special show, you fall into a mini depression until the next one rolls around.
I guess you could say I’ve been in a post show slump since December 5th, but it was post five music videos, one Kristin Chenoweth duet, one label signing, five tv placements, one drawn out journey into the Dance Moms world, and twelve chapters of the Godwin Anthology – a series of DIY songs, videos, baked goods, art pieces, and service projects honoring the important people in my life. I would do it all again in a second. I loved it. I loved the people I got to thank, the people who supported me through my journey, and the people I got to collaborate with because of it. But it destroyed me.
I spent a lot of January being tired. I stopped laughing with my whole body. I had drained my savings to finish the Anthology. Because I wanted to go out with a bang, I had forgotten how to say no in that final chapter.
I figured I had bought some time to pat myself on the back and stay in the slump until the next show. I tried to stay outwardly humble, but on the inside, I KNEW big opportunities were just going to start rolling in.
My reasoning: “I did SO MUCH WORK. It’s time to sit back and reap the benefits. Now that I’m signed to this label, I can just hole up and write. I’ll be a ghost writer for a hit on the radio in no time, I’ll get some placements from my dozens of preexisting releases, I’ll get to keep being a writer, everybody wins, easy!”
Plot twist, I’m not that good at writing radio hits. Soooo 2016 has gone a little differently than expected.
I got angry. Dance Moms/Kristin Chenoweth/big DIY project from my heart year was not supposed culminate in a full career stop. I figured it was finally “my time”. How arrogant and entitled of me. I’m lucky enough to exist in a network of artists who have way more talent, drive, dedication than I do. They don’t do it for the payout. They do it for the love. For the most part, I do it for the love, but every once in a while, this ugly part of me bubbles to the surface with hands outstretched. What makes me think I have any more reason to break through that glass ceiling of opportunity than my friends?
My life is not what I thought it would be at 33. I listen to my peers discuss designer strollers and countertop renovations. Meanwhile, I’m silently freaking out because my health insurance went up 30 dollars a month on January 1st. I don’t want my grandma worrying about me anymore. Sometimes I wonder if I chose the wrong path. But when I put myself in other people’s shoes, I immediately miss my own. I’m an artist. Its not a choice. It’s not a hobby. I make things because I have to. Sometimes I hate it. I wish I could be bored by life for once. I wish my brain would stop trying to fit lyrics together the minute I wake up in the morning. I wish I could have a conversation without simultaneously trying to work out a hook in my head. I want to rip my hair out when the art doesn’t come easy. I actually hacked all of it off (pictured for your reference), if that gives you any indication of how well January went for me creatively. I spent 2 years growing it out – actually proclaimed to my hair stylist in December that I would never cut it short again – and then in an act of defiance or need for some control in my life (or both), I cut it all off. I cried for a week. I almost cancelled a dinner party to avoid having my friends see it. I figured I could hole up in my apartment for the winter until it grew back a little. Oh, the vanity.
All of this. All of this is in my head. I’m sick of playing the victim and blaming other people for my sadness. Going forward, I’m finally going to start taking full responsibility for my unhappiness. And my happiness.
I find that happiness comes a lot easier when I am being productive.
I’m pretty lousy at writing pop radio hits, but I’m kind of great at making weird one take videos in my bedroom. So I’m starting to do that again. It feels good to be back.
I’m certainly not making any money trying to figure out how to light 14 purple Chinese lanterns AND my face at the same time, but it brings me more joy than trying to figure out whether or not the tune attached to it is radio worthy. Last week, I did hours – days – of trial and error on the second video and I still haven’t figured out how to crack it. But I don’t mind. I know it will be worth it when I do.
As artists, we don’t arrive. We don’t make it. That isn’t how it works. Every day we arrive to our jobs and we get to make something. THAT is the payout.
I’m making music about what I’m currently going through instead of what I think I’m supposed to write about. It hurts and it’s embarrassing and it’s opening up old wounds and I’m seeing myself for the sometimes angry, often emotional, relentlessly hopeful woman I have become and realizing that it’s ok. It has to be.
It might be too soon to tell, but this week I finally got my laugh back.