From Cadbury to Cali
I was given the most amazing opportunity that any aspiring musician would die for. I flew to LA and recorded tracks with a Grammy award winning producer, all expenses paid – and I still didn’t grab it with both hands
This is how I messed up the best experience I was ever given, and why I’m okay with it!
Let me start by explaining a bit more. In 2015, my dad bought me a twirl chocolate bar one afternoon. When I’d opened it, I asked him not to throw the wrapper in the bin because it had a competition on it I wanted to enter. He laughed, with the old “no one ever wins those things” comment.
I took it to my computer and surely enough, somehow, I’d won a £10,000 prize that was going to be tailored to me. Over the course of the next few months I met up with Cadbury representatives who interviewed me and found out all about what I love. They then surprised me at my house and told me id be on a place to NYC, LA, and before returning home would work with the amazing voice coach Liz Lewis (who’s worked with the likes of Gwen Stefani, Brittany Spears and Rihanna to name a few) and record in the recording studio Katy Perry, Cee Lo Green and Aretha Franklin had used for some of their biggest hits. Safe to say, I was floored!
Come May, I was on the flight (with my dad – he bought the chocolate bar after all) and staying a stones throw away from Times Square. Then onto Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. It was the best trip of my life. But, it didn’t come without its downfalls and some hard home truths.
The entire time in New York was, undoubtedly, perfect. We had gold star treatment and sat front row at B. B. Kings, the renowned Times Square blues club. I spoke to the band and the manager and we had a massive dinner laid on for us. We toured new York, I was shown round the vintage shops, and I resonated so deeply with the city in a way I never had before. By the time we got to LA I was beyond ready to record at the Iconic Nightbird Studios and stay at a hotel that was renowned for being Morrissey’s favourite.
My first taste of the life of a popstar was a limo to my vocal coaching session. The whole experience was so affirming and my voice had a real good workout. Liz prepared songs with me I was set to record, and taught me some amazing skills and techniques. She was also fabulous – a no nonsense woman who made me feel so welcome, and was equally honest between when I’d done well and when I could do better.
The recording studio the next day (directly underneath my hotel) was another crazy experience. I went in alone – I think they were confused when I didn’t have a massive entourage with me as they kept asking if it was just me joining them! I sang, I attempted to sound good, and after a few hours I left.
This was an amazing experience, but when I got home to Blighty I was faced with some difficult points.
The first – why did it take me winning a competition to start doing big things? By this point I’d released some demos and videos, done some gigs, but I really saw that I wanted to do more with my voice. Unfortunately, I was coming from such a place of fear that I couldn’t even fathom doing more than I already was.
Secondly, why did I feel the need to shrink right down when I went into that recording studio? (I’ll tell you why – I was young, the producer was stoned and out of it, and I had no idea how to cope. I got comparison-itis knowing he’d worked with RIHANNA and the like, and dreaded what he thought of me.) I wasn’t in a place where I knew how to own this moment and I was scared. I tried to do the right thing – Record the right thing, sing the right note, should that ad lib go there? If I re did this experience today, I’d have been able to smash it much harder.
This whole experience made me question who I was in the music industry and what I was aiming for. What if this was the best that would ever happen? Did I win this competition because there was no way I’d ever be good enough to do it off my own back? Big, scary questions I didn’t want to look at. I’ve been sat with them since and I think the trip overwhelmed me to a point where I fuzzed over and ignored what I wanted to achieve, because I’d been reminded of how high my aspirations were.
From a different viewpoint
Fast forward 4 years, and I’m looking at that story a little more closely. Did I win by chance, lucky to have got the option to experience things I’d longed for? You could say that. But I like to believe in a little bit of magic. Maybe I won that because I needed the push. Maybe the people deciding my prize for me knew where to send me because the stars were aligning. Maybe I needed to see that the things I had in my mind were possible for me. Just maybe.
Now I’m older, and in a healthier place, I’m so much more comfortable with my abilities than I was back then and I know I can get through those moments of awkwardness. And by finding that, you learn how to shine. My intentions for singing, traveling, making a lot of money and helping as many people as possible are seeing me through.
The important thing about wasted opportunities is too reflect on them. I’m so grateful for the USA experience and it’s certainly a conversation piece! Mostly, I’m grateful that it shone a light on all I have to improve on, and that it showed me the possibility of big things happening in my future.
If you’ve got this far, thank you so much for reading this part of my story! For more stories on the trials and tribulations and all that I’ve learned in the music business, sign up to my newsletter!
What experiences have you had that taught you big lessons? What are you going to do with them?
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