It rarely happens, but last week was so busy for me, that I didn’t even get the opportunity to release my blog. I was in Alabama doing a show during the weekend before, and then immediately afterward I traveled to Washington DC to advocate for artists through our grassroots campaign #irespectmusic. Both important milestones in my life for different reasons.
But perhaps it is just as well that I didn’t release my reflections last week. Like potatoes, they needed to be cooked for a while. My thoughts were rather raw last Tuesday-morning, and there was a palpable sense of frustration and anger that I no longer feel a mere week after. A little distance and perspective does wonders!
What I was reacting to was my concert in Alabama. Artists certainly have to do what they gotta do sometimes, and I saddled up for this show at a Smooth Jazz-event even though I knew it was going to be stretch for me as the artist that I am today. I knew there’d be a big audience and I wanted to do right by them, so I chose songs in my repertoire that I assumed they would like. I also did my makeup and dressed in clothes that I assumed would be appropriate for the audience and the venue. To clarify, I went out of my way to be someone I no longer am and perhaps never was. And I had a huge hangover about it, already that very night.
These days my quest is to be authentic. Now, finally having knowledge of who I really am, it takes a lot out of me to “go into character” and still wear my own name. It is confusing and it doesn’t feel honest. It’s a hard thing to have success as someone you’re not — it isn’t fulfilling. I speak from experience. I have a strong identity and a strong character, and to be honest, I don’t think that anyone even buys it anymore when I try to act all light and fluffy. It’s not who I am.
In one of my favorite TV-shows, The West Wing, a lesson is contained in an episode and its title: “Let Bartlet be Bartlet”. It refers to the idea that president Bartlet, the main character, ought to be himself and remain true to himself, so as to be ‘off the leash’ of anyone and anything, including public opinion. This concept resonates with me in my own situation. I suppose that in some universe I could be building a dual career: one in which I continue to perform at stages that prefer an earlier version of me, and another in which I get to be the artist that I am right now. But this universe isn’t that universe. I do not wish to compromise with my art or who I am anymore. Enough, I say. “Let Janita be Janita.” I will go where it’s warm.