Love, loss, and survival: 5 songs that capture the essence of life in the music biz

The past few years have taught me so much about the music industry, but even more about myself. So much of what I thought I’d experience while in a music career was wrong. Dead wrong. 

And yes, it’s been incredibly challenging at times to travel this long and winding road I’ve chosen. As music moms, we face the least traditional path to music industry success.

But taking this path has also been wildly rewarding and life-affirming. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

I have always felt inclined to guide and support other women who are trying to build a stable music career. As a result, I’m now sharing five songs that capture the essence of all I’ve learned as I’ve gone from part-time back-up singer to full-time, chart-topping mama.

It’s been a whirlwind of a few years, and these tunes perfectly capture the wisdom, wonder, and wounds of it all.

“Love Can Build A Bridge” by The Judds

In 1990, legendary mother-daughter country duo The Judds released “Love Can Build a Bridge.” The song was a timely reminder that love opens way more doors than it closes.

A life spent in the rough and tumble music industry could easily justify all the bitterness, animosity, and negativity you could muster. But that will get you nowhere fast. My personal experience has proven to me time and time again that treating even the worst folks with love leads to a wonderful cycle of positivity and goodwill. 

As a willing participant in the music biz, you’re going to face your share of people who allow hatred and negativity to define, guide, and inspire them. My answer to that? Let love define you. Let love guide you. Let love inspire you. 

In the end, what you put out into the world will most certainly come back to you. What would you like that to be?

“I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor

Gloria Gaynor’s 1978 anthem “I Will Survive” is perhaps the single greatest masterplan for anyone crazy enough to pursue a full-time music career.

In it, Gaynor celebrates her legendary survival skills and lust for life amidst a world intent on kicking her down and knocking her out.

Don’t believe me? Check out these lyrics:

Do you think I’d crumble
Did you think I’d lay down and die?
No, not I, I will survive
Long as I know how to love
I know I’ll stay alive
I’ve got all my life to live
And all my love to give and I’ll survive.
I, I, I will survive.

Now that is how you handle all the misogynists, egomaniacs, naysayers, backstabbers, bad reviews, empty rooms, and endless nights on a crowded bus that come with a life spent in the music industry. It can be heartbreakingly brutal, my friends. 

So thank you, Gloria, for singing the song that gets us through it all. 

“Dream On” by Aerosmith

I’ve met all types of people over the past few years. Some of them have been happy. Some of them have been sad. Most of them have been somewhere in the middle. There’s an entire spectrum of happiness upon which the people I’ve met fall.

But over and over again, I’ve noticed that the happiest people in the world are those who refuse to give up on their dreams. This is so much more than mere coincidence.

This world is a hostile place for dreamers. Trust me: I’m a female musician who happens to have kids. If I, or any of the hundreds of dreamers I’ve met, let the naysayers have their way, we’d all be stuck in dead end jobs doing things that leave us feeling frustrated and dead inside. Never!

Aerosmith’s 1973 classic “Dream On” urges all of us to “dream until your dreams come true.” The fellows from Boston not only succeeded in writing a feel-good rock n’ roll anthem, they also created a blueprint for how to live the type of life that leaves you happy, content, and inspired. Especially if you’ve chosen to follow in their musical footsteps.

“Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw

Life on the road and in the music industry has revealed to me this unfortunate fact: too many people refuse to live for today because they’re obsessed with yesterday or tomorrow.

Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” is a 2004 country song that provides the perfect solution for all those who aren’t fully engaged in their life or relationships. 

McGraw’s message is clear, and one that we all need to hear every now and then: live your life like there is no tomorrow, because eventually there won’t be.

Love with all your might.

Laugh with all your might.

Work with all your might.

Play with all your might.

Help others with all your might.

Forgive those who need it with all your might. 

Live with all your might.

There’s really no other way to do this thing called life. Especially if music is in your blood. 

“Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M.

So many people. So much pain. My time on the road has given me the opportunity to meet a diverse group of individuals, and no matter how much folks differ from each other, this much remains true: we are all complex humans with a wide variety of pains, conflicts, and troubles. All of us. 

That’s why R.E.M.’s 1993 hit song “Everybody Hurts” is on this list. The profound truth in Michael Stipe’s rather simple statement causes me to view each person I encounter, no matter how unlike me they are, as someone who is much more like me than they are different. 

This realization has motivated me to empathize with people in ways I could never have imagined. Getting to know them and discovering the reasons why they hurt has been a fulfilling experience, one that makes me even more grateful for a music career that takes me to the people and places I’d otherwise never encounter.

I urge you to do the same. Find the common ground you have with others. Search for the things that cause your family, friends, and yes, even strangers, all the pain and suffering they’ve endured. Be there for them. Help them heal.

Doing so will make the world a better place, the kind you’ll want to visit time and time again. Maybe even on a tour bus in support of your brand new single. You know, the one you wrote about all the people you’ve met and all the things you’ve learned while in the music industry. 

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