Kama Ruby's "Explore Being a Multi-Hyphenate Artist" Article In Indie Collaborative Music Magazine.
Explore Being a Multi-Hyphenate Artist There are moments in our careers that we are consistently on top of our game, in favor, in demand, and seemingly unstoppable. There are other times when the flow gets interrupted. Unforeseeable events may distract your focus such as the covid pandemic and government shutdowns that might have contributed to a lack of income and opportunity for you. What do we do during these lulls? What could an indie artist do when lobbying for live musical gigs in a city where many venues have created a “pay for play” culture? What if a recording artist simply does not have extra dollars to currently be in studio? I’d like to share with you my personal experience these last two years where my career could have completely ended. But I looked outside of the box and allowed myself to explore various avenues of creativity. Ways I would have never thought about exploring before. During our quarantines, I, as a dual licensed California massage therapist and esthetician, was not allowed to legally practice in my salon. This had a devastating impact on our household income. I was frustrated with myself as I could no longer afford studio time and I had little, if any, gumption to work on new song ideas, feeling so isolated while on lockdown. It was during this time that I began to explore painting and crafting. My first few projects were, well…. shall we say not so great, but, I kept at it and some pretty cool things ended up being created. I also found that during this time, when I was not motivated to write, whenever I’d finish a painting or craft project, I could actually sit down and express cool and interesting songwriting ideas on paper. The painting and crafting proved to be a conduit to my writing. Also, if you shop well, you can find decent art kits for $5.00-$10.00. You might even find cool things around your home to help contribute to fun projects such as your great grandma’s ole’ jar of buttons and broken jewelry that could be used to decorate an old frame with. When California opened up our salon industry for about three weeks, I indulged in a lovely trade out where I got my first guitar. I offered her massages and facials as a trade out for the instrument. By no means do I see myself becoming the next Lindsey Buckingham on guitar, but, I did use the acquisition of my first instrument to really learn what my favorite songwriters are doing. In the past, I would say in all honestly that I had about a 25 % contribution to songwriting with my co-writer and producer, Jane Getz. Now, I can tell you it truly is a 50/50 contribution. Painting, crafting, and plucking away at a guitar obviously opened something up in my brain and markedly improved my songwriting contributions. In June of 2021 when I was just recovering from the mandated government shutdowns, I opted to release a spoken word album. The recordings were mostly complete before the shutdowns occurred, and on a zero-dollar budget, I worked to find ways to put the project into Grammy Consideration and somehow get the content seen and heard. Using my cell phone, an old iPad, and my husband’s 16-year-old cannon HD camera, I opted to do my own photo shoots and short videos in support of the project. Little did I know that I held a talent for getting others comfortable in front of the camera and directing them well. What a gift to discover more about yourself as an artist. I also took time to photograph friends and family in nature settings because, why not? This venture into photography only could have happened because I was frustrated with not being able to perform live. I found this journey to be incredibly enjoyable and loved finding another side of my talent I’d not known existed. How many of us artists are truly open to the reality of being multi-hyphenate artists? I am certain there are a respectable number of readers and fellow artists here that are. But I would also argue that all too often, an artist doesn’t give themself permission to explore writing fiction, an actor doesn’t believe they can be an equally successful band leader, a songwriter doesn’t allow for a moment to explore painting or photography. Why does this happen? What led us to believe that our old way of working is the only way we can be a creative? I have heard of and personally experienced what many artists have in a strict university or conservatory training program. The focus in our training was quite narrow and we were made to feel that if we didn’t show the world what that we were a product of their “acting program,” or “music program,” we must be a failed artist. There was no permission to be creative in other ways than what was on the syllabus. In grad school, I’d challenge teachers by asking why a student should not be the graphic designer for your friend’s one act play? What’s wrong with doing a fellow artists’ photo shoot? One could say it is because of their curriculum they are bound to adhere to, but, we may also need to admit that many training programs are stuck in limited ways of exploration and creativity. Ways only they understand and feel safe in. An artist gets in trouble when trying to produce or create what they think an audience will like. The audience will decide what they do and do not love. Not us. One must be perceptive as to what is going on around them. Let’s get out of our egos and allow ourselves to maybe not be the greatest at a new artistic expression. Who knows? It could drive you to learn so much more about yourself and your surroundings. In short, I guess it’s a good idea for all of us to not take ourselves too seriously. Go out and explore something different. Fail a few times. Succeed a few times. I promise you, you will return to your role as an indie musician/singer/songwriter/producer far more developed and open to innovative ideas. Kama Ruby Multi-Hyphenate Artist www.kamaruby.com