Memorial Day this year was an exciting day. The kickoff to summer, a beautiful day to honor our fallen soldiers, and a big day for me personally. After a long trek back to Tennessee from Ohio, I had tickets to see Thompson Square play live at The Fontanel (a concert venue on Barbara Mandrell’s property) in Nashville. It was my first time to see the band perform, and “You Make It Look So Good” was in the set-a single they released on May 20th that I’m a cowriter on!
All of us writers on the song had tickets and seats together, and got to share the special moment of hearing our cut live for the first time with each other and the people we love.
The band sounded incredible and we enjoyed their whole set, with a serious handful of hits mixed in. In fact, a couple got engaged during “If I Didn’t Have You” (Obviously they don’t want their marriage to last, or they would have gotten engaged to our song.) I kid-it’s a beautiful song. Please don’t burn my house down if you cowrote it.
During and after the band’s performance, we had the opportunity to hang out sidestage and backstage. Having performed lots of similar summer concerts myself, I’m no stranger to the backstage hangout, but this time it wasn’t *my* backstage-no dressing room, bus, or private area to be in. Do I sound obnoxious yet? I definitely missed those backstage perks-but maybe not for the reason you think. I missed them because all the places I just mentioned are my usual hiding spots.
I am an extreme introvert with massive social anxiety.
I can be ‘on’ for an extended period of time onstage or on camera. It’s not acting-for some reason, my comfort level is different when I have a microphone in front of me. But in the social scene, what seems fun to everyone else, is to me, at best exhausting and at worst torturous. I come by it honest. My mom (the elusive Brenda Dodson-you’ve heard her wisdom here, but she’d rather chew her arm off than have a conversation with a stranger or appear on film) is an incredibly shy person. How she ended up with my dad, an extreme extrovert, is beyond me. (Once when I first was on the radio, he was interviewed on the news in my hometown. He told the interviewer live on the air that he wasn’t really into my style of pop music, but he was trying to learn to like it by listening to ‘that Kelly Clarkson’.)
What I do know is that I’m a weird hybrid of the two of them. Mingling in a crowd intimidates the crap out of me.
Small talk is my worst nightmare. If you met me out and about one night, you probably wouldn’t remember me. And that’s a special skill-I’m an almost 6 foot tall girl with currently blue hair-but I have a talent for blending into the background. Conversely, performing is my favorite activity. Something about being on stage is like an isolation chamber for me-everything I think comes right out of my mouth, no filter and no embarrassment. I feel more connected to other people when I’m performing than I do in most other spaces in my life. Other than feeling like I’m in therapy right now, writing about these things serves a purpose today. This blog goes out to the folks like me.
I know there are lots of you-creative people tend to have eccentric personalities, and artists aren’t known for being the best at social skills.
When the cool kids in high school were partying on Friday nights, we were in our bedrooms painting watercolors of our cats (no? just me, then?) and dreaming of ‘someday’ when we’d ‘show them’ by becoming famous for our art and our depth, the likes of which we didn’t imagine they could ever understand.
Yet here we are-seeking success in a business where relationships are critical. How do you balance being an introvert in a world where being charming and likable is king?
How do you get a cowrite when you can’t strike up a conversation? How do you get a deal when you don’t have the social skills to snag yourself a meeting? I don’t have all those answers, but I can tell you what I’ve learned over the years. I know myself-better than any other person on this planet. I know what my skill sets are, I know my weaknesses, and I know when I’m at my best and most engaging, and when I’ve failed to make an impression. The one thing that has saved me, time and again, and I know I’ve preached it here before-is that I BELIEVE IN ME.
Who is better to sell you, than the person who stands to gain the most from your success? And better yet, how does this translate into getting yourself into those coveted situations?
1. Honesty-Honesty is a likable trait.
Maybe don’t be as honest as Rodger Dodson, but you know what I mean. People can tell when you’re being fake. If you have an opportunity to meet someone you’d like to work with, share your heart with them. Let them know what you admire about what they do, tell them why it resonates with you, and share what you think you could bring to the table if you had a chance to get a meeting or cowrite. I’m not saying to stroke their ego-just be honest about why you’d like to work with them. Will this get you in the door every time? No-but it will DEFINITELY ring more true than the people who are just trying to latch onto another’s success for selfish reasons.
2. Confidence- I touched on this before, but I’ve come to love the weird stuff about me. I think my quirks are funny.
I am clumsy, I’m awkward, I’m undeniably human. I want to be liked, but I want to be liked for who I REALLY am, not a show I put on. When I start to get that uncomfortable, ‘less than’ feeling in social situations, I remind myself of those things I love. When you’re at ease with yourself, other people will be at ease around you too.
3. Know Thyself And Love Thy Champions
I might not be the girl that a huge hit writer or artist remembers from a party. That’s why if I get into a writing room with them, I know THAT’S my chance to make a killer impression. That’s my shot-and that’s what I’m good at. If I got into the room in the first place, it’s often because somebody they trusted knows my work and vouched for me. When it comes to small talk, I suck, but when it comes to writing a song, I can handle myself. I leave my intimidation at home, behave like a professional, come prepared to work, and learn what I can. I try to show appreciation to those people who have spoken highly of me, and I hold tightly to encouragement I’ve received. And I also share the love-when someone impresses me, I happily sing their praises all over town.
4. Be Kind-To everyone, but above all, to yourself.
It takes a lot out of an introvert to be put ourselves out there. Don’t beat yourself up if you think you said something dumb, or felt like you didn’t make an impression. Other people think way less about our ‘failures’ than we do. If social situations cause you a lot of anxiety, don’t force yourself to go out to ten events a week. Pick the one or two that mean the most to you, don’t drink too much, try to meet a few people, then go home, unplug, and RELAX. This is just a little advice from one introvert to, hopefully, a few thousand others. I know it’s tough. I know you want to be liked and respected, I know you want your work to be heard, and I believe that what you have to say has value. You just have to believe it too!
I walked out of that venue on Monday flying high. I had a single, an artist on the show had asked for my contact info for a cowrite, and I had just been hanging out backstage a few feet away from Kid Rock (whatever you think of him, the dude has been a massively successful musician!) I was feeling good and chattering away with my boyfriend as we walked to our car behind the buses, when I FELL COMPLETELY INTO A FOUR FOOT HOLE.
I probably should have cried (and yes, I did get hurt), but I couldn’t cry because I was laughing too hard. My guy hauled me out of the hole, and I limped off giggling and texting my cowriters who were still inside to tell them what I’d just done. That pretty much sums me up-I am a girl whose coolest quality is that I’m not cool. And I’m okay with that. And if you’re uncool, I’m okay with you too!
Marti Dodson is former lead singer of Saving Jane & current BMG Songwriter.