No one can tell you how to make it

Candice Jarrett performing on stage

I’ve had countless people offer me advice on my music career over the years…

…everything from lose weight, learn how to shake your bottom like Shakira, sing country, no! sing rock, belt out big notes, get in a band, no! sing Christian music, use more vocal fry like Britney Spears, learn how to scream like Janis Joplin, to you’d better sing covers or no one will care about your originals…

There’s been a lot of voices in my ear amplifying my already crushing levels of self-doubt.

Then one day, I got a much different piece of advice.

I was at a music conference many years ago and ran into a platinum selling recording artist who I’m not going to name because I don’t know if he’d want me to. Let’s just call him Mr. M.

I approached Mr. M. very shyly and asked him if I could ask him a question. He said “sure”, so I asked:

“What advice would you have for a young songwriter at the beginning of their career?”

His reply was this: (paraphrased)

“I would tell them that I can’t give them any advice, not because I don’t want to, but because it wouldn’t do any good. The truth is, no one can tell you how to make it. You have to find the way yourself. If I were to start my career from zero right now, I couldn’t even duplicate my own success… so I definitely can’t tell you what you should do to “make it”. Each person’s path is their own, and you’re going to have to find yours. No one can figure it out for you or tell you how to go.”

Mr. M. then went on to tell me that his label had been pressuring him and his band to create another “hit” like their biggest one. He tried for years and failed to come up with a song that would prove to be as popular as that one, much to the label’s anger. He said some things are magic… and that it’s not a set formula that anyone can follow or duplicate. So, his advice was just that I had to find my own way.

Mr. M’s advice was the first and only of its kind and stayed with me for many years. I thanked him for the advice, but I didn’t really understand it at the time. Now, I’m just starting to.

I can’t force the stars to be in alignment, but I also can’t just sit here and wait for them to be. So, I keep my head down and press on. It’s hard to keep putting yourself out there when so many voices in your head plant seeds of doubt and tell you that you’re doing everything wrong and wasting precious years.

But I still believe in following my heart. I don’t know what path it will lead me down this time, but I now know that even if I stop at every corner to ask for directions, no one has gone down my path before, so they can’t tell me how to get where I’m going. I must trust now exclusively in my heart to guide the way.