Janita, photo by Reto Sterchi

In just a couple of weeks, I’ll be releasing my new single, “Beautiful You Are,” in advance of my forthcoming album. I’m thrilled about this for many reasons, but most of all I’m excited about the prospect of sharing it with you. Sharing the music, sharing the art, sharing the process. Music and art is, after all, meant to be shared. Despite not aiming to cater to anyone per se, I’m also not making my art for simply my own pleasure. My hope is to have my music connect with you, and resonate with you.

I thought this might be a good time for me to introduce the upcoming song, kind of like I would do at a concert of mine. I always like it when artists tell the audience a bit about what inspired them to write a specific song, and I remember in particular a long, detailed, yet very entertaining story that Suzanne Vega told on stage about how she came to write her song “In Liverpool.” In the years since I saw her perform, I’ve been drawn more and more to sharing stories or anecdotes myself, about what happened or what inspired me to write a particular song.

So here, then…I’ll do it with this week’s blog.

I wrote “Beautiful You Are” about someone who’s become a dear friend of mine in the last couple of years. It struck me initially when I met her that she was fairly oblivious to her innate artistic talents, her beauty, and her considerable potential. She was walking––strike that––trudging through life, intimidated by everyone else, and always second-guessing other people’s thoughts and feelings about her. She didn’t trust that her thoughts were valid, or that anyone really cared what she had to say. All of her interactions, even with those closest to her, were suspect to her. The world clearly seemed to be a hostile place to her.

And yet I, like so many others, saw her beauty and her many talents. Despite my friend’s fearful attitude towards life and people, she did (and does) also possess a sweetness and a kindness, which I gravitated towards. It felt preposterous to me that she wasn’t able to see in herself the positive attributes, that to me were so obvious. As her friend it’s been my privilege to help present her with a new reality––actual reality––little by little. “Beautiful You Are” is one contribution of mine, to that end.

I think that so many of us go through our lives without ever fully realizing what gifts we have and the power that we can harness in our own lives. It’s often the result of so many negative messages thrown at us by inconsiderate or misguided peers, ill-advised families, and the ruthless media-obsessed world of today. Perhaps that’s the reason why I was so compelled to write about my friend: that unconsciously I identified so strongly with her suspicious attitude towards others. It’s taken me a very long time to trust people as well, and to learn to be open, and intimate. When people used to tell me that I was beautiful, I thought that they were blowing smoke up my ass, and that they were trying to use me somehow. And so, I reacted accordingly. Often I didn’t say thank you, and sometimes I would just walk away. I didn’t actually believe that they meant what they said, and quite frankly, I didn’t think I was worthy of the compliment.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I’m happy to report that both my friend and I look at the world through very different eyes. Open eyes. Much healing has happened in each of our lives, and we’ve each taken many brave steps outside our comfort zones. We have both come to understand our values as artists, for she too is one. I am finally recognizing my own beauty as well, and I hope that she is too. It’s required quite a bit of retraining of my mind, but I’m getting there, slowly but surely.

The work continues, but now I sing the song less for my friend and for myself, and more for those still acutely struggling to believe in themselves. The message is this: don’t let the bastards get you down. You are beautiful, you are.

Have a beautiful day everyone! And keep an eye out for that song. It’s coming out real soon!