I am not only a pretty thing

A few announcements!

  1. I am currently at Folk Alliance International in Montreal! If anyone reading this happens to also be here, I have a final showcase tonight at 11:50 pmin Room 513.

  2. FINAL PODCAST EPISODES of Standing ‘O’ Podcast! So, as you may or may not know, I’ve run a podcast as part of Standing ‘O’ for the past few years and I just released the final episodes a couple weeks ago. So, if you want to listen, head on over to wherever you listen to podcasts (iTunes, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, etc…), type in Art of the Song/ Standing ‘O’ Project Podcast and give a listen. Or go directly to this link: http://standingoproject.libsyn.com

  3.  I recently did some live during-a-rainstorm recordings in a barn in upstate new York of a couple of my new songs…..going to try and have those couple tunes out to you all in the not-too-distant future.

  4. I did a couple video songs in the last few weeks: A new song called “The Grave Song” and a different version of Mockingbird. You can watch them by clicking here and here.

  5. For those of you in the Paso Robles area, I’ll be robling (hardy har har) through March 17 as part of the Songwriters at Play. I’ll be playing at few songs at 2 pm at Sculpterra Winery. If you’re around, come on out!

And now…onto some thoughts….
I am nervous as hell to send this newsletter. I could be judged in a not-so-great light for saying what I’m about to say, but I feel the need to claim these thoughts. So, I’ll say ‘fuck it’ just about as much as I’m able. Here goes….
I am not only a pretty thing.
Folk Alliance always brings out some choice revelations and this was one. Not that this is new to me, it is actually quite a common thought to me and, on my worst days, in my depressive sinkholes, I return to bury myself under the notion of being just a pretty thing. But, it’s new in that a dear friend of mine, an older brother of sorts and someone who has had a well-respected and beautiful artistic career which will continue strong for years to come, said to me at the conference re upping my instrumental chops that, ‘You need to be more than (*waving his hands in front of my face) this’. Than hot. Than pretty.
Of course, part of me thinks to this, ‘I-fucking-know! What do you think I’m trying to do here?’ But since I have the luxury of knowing this man, and knowing where he’s coming from with his statement in this particular context, I’ll say that I think he makes a very good point.
Let me elaborate.
It’s a dangerous ambition to be more than pretty when you’ve put it at the forefront in your life. Mind you, not that I intended it that way. I am by no means a woman who prides herself on excessive primping, but I also am not a woman who buries her assets under parkas and unwashed hair and an icy demeanor. It is an easy thing to fall back on when you are rarely questioned for taking that role. You are accepted and unchallenged in it. You have a place that you do not have to defend.
You may at this point think I’m terribly conceited for calling myself pretty. I assure you, I’m not. Prettiness holds little value to me. (Beauty is a different thing, but I won't get into it here). People might look at my face and think it pretty or young or sweet, or if I’m lucky, kind. But, I believe, it is a rare person to see intelligence or insight or talent or humor or depth from the get-go. Those are earned. They are challenged. And often I’ve seen the glazed-over look at saying something that defies their expectations beyond the pretty and sweet one-two punch. There is a blatant and unabashed skepticism.
I used to put it all on them for that. But I'm realizing that I don’t often claim those other attributes. I am dismissive of them. I say them with a lack of conviction or a defensiveness that borders on compensation. Because, for a long time, I agreed with them. So, I fall back on the pretty. At the same time that I feel victim to it, I relied on it because it’s safe. It’s accepted. I am tenuous about owning anything more because there will be the challenge and the rejection and I will have to work hard to maintain it. Undoubtedly with the inevitable shift of time, I will be left some withered husk of pretty and it will no longer apply, but for now it is not risky. Even on the rare occasion that I am challenged on pretty, it is substantially less damaging and hurtful than being rejected for my intelligence, or talent, or potential and all the things I challenge myself on. It is, again, safe.
My friend’s point was not that I am only this, it’s that, I believe, I need to work hard to not only be that. To not fall back on it. To not put it front-and-center and half-try on the other points. I need it for my soul. Mind you, this does not mean I don’t try. Believe me, I’ve tried. My entire graduate education was trying to be more. My artistry, my creative ambition is trying to be more. It’s not that I have done nothing or haven’t worked hard. But I am terrified. Terrified of the rejection I’ll receive for bucking that role of pretty and sweet and putting something else at the helm. And terror keeps me from jumping all in. It’s usually just up-to-the-ankle followed by a royal belly flop. It’s checking social media for 30 minutes while side-eying my guitar until I pick it up, play the songs I know well, work on the writing of something new and exciting and shiny and not let myself sink into the regular, dedicated, wholly uncomfortable practice of the things I need the most work on. And convincing myself that I wouldn’t ever be capable of doing it anyway. It’s letting my hands shake and my voice quaver and quell and not committing to the moment I’m in. It's dismissing my ambition as silly or trifling or something I'm not wholly fucking bleeding heart passionate about when I'm asked about it. This is not always the case, but it is the case sometimes. More times than I would like. And I’m sick of it. I need to be brave. I need to be more than pretty. I need to believe it and in the times that I have trouble believing it, at the very least I can own it. I want to be artistic and creative and intelligent and philisophical and funny and inspiring and a good writer and a good performer and a good singer and a good interviewer and worth a decent fucking paycheck and, dare I even say, one day if I really work my ass off, a good guitarist and pianist. So, what’s stopping me but me at the end of the day?
I believe most of us have our ‘onlys’. And some of us have used our onlys as an excuse not to give it our all. I’m set for making a change this year on my ‘only’ and I invite you to join me. We are all wonderfully dynamic, messy creatures. May we hold that to be true and always be more than our ‘onlys’. That starts with us.

Much love to you all,

P.S. There is an added thanks to a badass female folky friend who inspired a good bit of the roar in this newsletter...and who also, through a life-changing convo by an elevator my first Far-West, helped push me toward artistry <3 You know who you are. I'm very grateful.


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Katie Anne Mitchell