Melanie Meriney’s ‘Notes From Nashville’ #12 – When To Listen To Your Biggest Critic

This month’s article will mark a year since I began writing this column! Shoutout to Belles & Gals for believing in me and finding value in my perspective, even in the times when I doubt myself and my ability to write an interesting, useful point of view as an artist/writer trying to make it in Nashville. Milestones like this always make me question whether I’ve achieved everything I set out to achieve over the past year- whether I’ve done enough, or whether I could’ve done something more or something better.

As artists, with the most invested in our own careers and success, we tend to be our biggest critics. I am constantly listening back to my songs, judging my videos, and nitpicking through the content I’ve released. It’s because I have incredibly high standards for myself and I won’t accept anything less. This can be good and bad. On the bright side, when I do feel confident about something, I know I’ve put my best work into it. On the downside, oftentimes I get the feeling that nothing is ever finished… if I could just fix that one slightly wobbly note on the outro of that one song…

The truth is, there’s a balance between perfection and having that “real” quality that draws people to our music. Sure, we’d all love to be Serena Van Der Woodsen in Gossip Girl, but there’s a reason so many people are drawn to Jess in New Girl- she’s the slightly quirky, hilarious, and totally real version of the average awesome human. Imperfection makes us relatable. Taylor Swift, for instance, nailed it with her “You Belong With Me” music video as the dorky girl in glasses and a homemade tee. People love seeing that side of other people. It makes them feel like they aren’t alone.

Because we are surrounded by an industry seeped in competition, it can be easy to get caught up with everything. (Shameless plug coming up…) My song “Up In Lights” deals directly with this pressure. We feel the need to be beautiful, sexy, talented, “on” at all times. The new music video for “Up In Lights” can be found here: 

Social media amps this pressure by blasting us with glamorous images of our peers and fellow artists all seemingly achieving greater feats than us. While we know in the back of our heads that this is merely a “highlight reel” glossing over the tougher realities, one still can’t help but feel inadequate and unable to measure up at times. We see someone playing a major concert, someone opening for an A-lister, somebody else getting on a major playlist, someone charting well on radio, and automatically feel we are not doing enough with our own careers. It’s easy to ask the question, what is he/she doing that I’m not doing? It’s not even that we don’t want to see that person succeed– just that we want this dream so bad, that we want to be right up there with them.

My advice is to remember why you love music in the first place. Nobody can do “you” better than you- that alone gives you something unique to offer. If you write, perform, and act genuinely, you are already doing everything right. My old producer used to say, “put yourself in the path of luck so it doesn’t have a hard time finding you.” Your authenticity and “realness” is your golden ticket. Use it.

Another thing I’ve found helpful is to make lists (and yes, partially because I’m the OCD “list” person who makes lists for everything). Make a list of everything great you’ve accomplished over the past x amount of time. I usually do this about once a year, or whenever I’m feeling disheartened. While you might have it already in your head, sometimes it helps to visually see it all laid out. It’s easy to slip into feeling like you haven’t gone anywhere or accomplished anything. Write everything down, even the smallest things. Make sure you are further today than you were yesterday by setting small, reachable goals for yourself.

It sounds like I’m writing advice for someone, but honestly, this is advice I try to convince myself of each day. I get inside my head and don’t tell myself often enough, you’re doing well. This life and this career is full of people telling you no, critiquing your words, your clothes, your image, your musical style… I would say most of this applies to people even outside of music in other career paths. Don’t get in your own way of being your personal best. Make sure your inner voice reflects the place you want to be. The rest will follow.

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