Don’t compromise yourself for the sake of commercial success -says Connie Lim.
Embrace your innate artistry and make it work for your career.
When I first moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of a career in music, I had no idea how my versatility would become such an obstacle.
During years 1 and 2 of my Los Angeles journey (which is an ongoing journey, mind you), I sang without motive. I just wrote, and sang. The music industry people who surrounded me, however, thought I was an unfocused performer in genre and style. They would say that my vocal tone in one song sounded like Norah Jones, while another sounds like Gwen Stefani. I even got country references. So confusing.
When I was auditioning on the first season of The Voice, I felt so bad for not knowing which genre I was: should I declare myself pop? Rnb? Country? Rock? Gah! I really had NO idea! I loved singing Bonnie Rait, and I loved singing Kings of Leon. Or Adele. I would always put a little twist on my covers, but I didn’t quite understand what that twist was. Thank goodness for the “other” category. The “Other” category bought me quite some time.
I would meet with managers, producers, and A&R people who told me I needed commit to becoming the best at making a focused sound. I would thank them for their time, and go home a bit confused. My songs were songs. You know when something is so beautiful you just don’t dare name it some mortal monicker? That’s how I felt about songs (Yes, my friends also say I’m idealistic. I’d say proudly so.). They are these magical outlets for the soul to escape the human body. I didn’t purposefully declare one song R’n’B, and the other Rock Pop. They were just songs that were expressing something inside of me that needed to come out.
You can imagine how cathartic it was when a potential manager, Tony, told me that I was not just an artist… I was a songwriter. It explained why audiences from my Los Angeles shows kept telling me that I had a very eclectic sound; that not one song sounded like the other… different styles. Rather than thinking that was a bad thing, I embraced my diverse writing habits. Tony was the first industry person that encouraged me to write all the different styles I wanted (thank you Tony!). He viewed my dynamic range as a strength, rather than a weakness. What a concept!
With this new and empowering information, I learned to prioritize who I am over an industry standard. After all, the music industry thrives off artists who take risks and try new things. Once I rediscovered this, my life began to change drastically.
No longer do I torment myself when I start writing a song outside of “my desired genre”. No longer do I beat myself up for writing an alt-country song when I so wanted to write the next coolest hipster tune.
Rather, I let my songwriter write whatever she pleases. Then I take a few days of space away from the song. Once I have had enough time away from these songs, I re–listen, and then categorize the songs into different genre folders after the fact.
In short: create freely first. Then think about how to fit it into the commercial music industry later.