A mess of ultra-blonde hair and high octane energy, Lauren Marcus is a singer-songwriter and actress living and performing in New York City. She likes to call her music indie-folk-pop-rock-with-a-touch-of-the-country, but doesn’t mind if you call it whatever you want. She’s written book and lyrics for the children’s musical The Meanest Birthday Girl (presented by Musical Theatre Factory as part of the New York Children’s Theater Festival), and is currently hard at work on her debut EP and two more musicals–one involving some murderous ladies of Hollywood’s Golden Age, and one exploring that elusive world of the mother-daughter beauty pageant. Backstage has called her a “devilish dynamo”, Stagebuzz says “she does not fail to deliver”, and Lauren’s cat Diane Kitten says, “She’s a good mother master.”
Okay. So I’m gonna assume if you’ve clicked on this link to read this Guest Blog Post, then we probably know each other in some way. Which means you probably have seen one of my one million posts about my EP, “Never Really Done With You”, that I’m releasing this Monday, July 11th, 2016.
Oh, you didn’t see any posts about “Never Really Done With You”? That’s so funny, because I posted a lot about #NeverReallyDoneWithYouEP and I’m releasing it next week and having a big old EP release show at Joe’s Pub (425 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10003) at 9:30pm this coming Monday, July 11th, and it’s being presented by Musical Theatre Factory and did I mention I’m releasing an EP (smile, stare down, physical apology, I’m running away)?
ANYWAY. You may be wondering what the hell I shall be blogging about. I was wondering that myself right up until this evening, whilst playing a gig at Rockwood. I was onstage (accompanied by the brilliant Rob Rokicki and Joe Iconis), singing my little head off, and feeling super lucky. But most surprisingly, I was feeling super at ease and confident in this singer-songwriter world I’ve created for myself. And I realized I wanted to write about that—this leap into an additional career, an additional title, an additional craft. It was not an easy leap, it was not a quick leap, and I’m still far from feeling completely there. FAR, VERY FAR. But I feel like I at least finally have one foot in, you know? And I’d like to talk about some steps you, yourself, can take to get to whatever secondary thing you’re really, truly contemplating doing with your life. Because it is oh-so-weird-and-hard sometimes, but oh-so-worth-it.
STEP 1: DON’T IGNORE THAT LITTLE VOICE IN THE BACK OF YOUR HEAD THAT SAYS, “YOU KNOW WHAT? YOU KIND OF WHAT TO DO THIS.”
It’s there. You hear it. You know it’s there. But you’re so busy, you’re doing the main thing you’ve imposed on your life (for better or for worse) and you just don’t have time, and you’re in your mid-twenties or mid-thirties or 55 or eighty-fucking-two and how can you add in something new now? Well, you know what’s so cool? You just can. Honestly. As corny as it sounds, no one’s telling ya no except you, sister! And if the idea is circling around in your brain, face it—it’s there for a reason. I started writing songs at 13, but somehow during the very intense* rehearsal process of Once Upon a Mattress, I decided I was solely an actor because I was probably better at that, and that’s what I should go with, right? What I wish I’d told myself then: You’re 13. Calm down. But the idea of songwriting kept a-coming. I took another stab at songwriting in high school, showed maybe one song to one person, their reaction was lukewarm, and I thought, “Stick with acting, kid.” What I wish I’d told myself then: That person you showed your song to was very, very high and wore stupid pants. But the idea of songwriting kept a-coming. Cut to college, when I took a musical theatre writing class, and the teacher told me, “Wow, you have such a gift for scene work!” which I took to mean I sucked at writing songs. What I wish I’d told myself then: SHE LITERALLY DIDN’T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT YOUR SONGWRITING. YOU’RE FINE. Guess what happened a few years later? I was in grad school, feverishly writing songs at night while I was supposed to be memorizing Shakespeare. The heart wants what the heart wants, and it’s gonna track that thing down at one point or another…or be really, really sad that you never had the guts to go after that other thing in earnest, at least for a little bit.
I’ve written some bad songs. Like some very, very bad songs. And still do, sometimes. God, maybe right now you hate some of my songs that I love because you just do, but I promise—you would’ve hated them so much more six years ago! I continue to learn and get a little bit better each year, and am finally cool with that. I wonder if I’ll look back at this EP one day and be like, “Lauren WTF WERE YOU THINKING WHO CARES ABOUT MOONSHINE” because I’ll have evolved as a songwriter, maybe to classier spirits. And in fact, I was not such a brilliant actor at age 13…but for whatever reason, I really believed I was, and that let me keep on going and get better (hopefully, fingers crossed! I mean I haven’t done Once Upon a Mattress again, but I feel like things have been going okay). Just know that your adult critical self is probably going to be a million times harder on your Skillz than your little kid self probably would’ve been, and that is just part of doing something new. When you get better at something, which I think we all hope happens to our skill sets as we go through life, it inherently means you started somewhere…well, less good. But you gotta start somewhere! Also, once I wrote a song about a homeless circus lady who got set on fire, which sounds like it could’ve been cool, but really—it wasn’t. I know that now. STEP 3: SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO THINK IT’S REALLY COOL THAT YOU’RE TRYING TO DO THAT THING YOU WANT TO DO
Just find those people and hold them dear, hold them near. I have so many wonderful friends and family members who pushed me into playing my first gig, pushed me into recording a demo, pushed me into more gigs and into this EP (in a non-violent, very loving and supportive way). I could cry thinking about it. You know what else I could cry thinking about? This guy I dated who told me my singing got on his nerves and who didn’t come see me play my first open mic…or second, or third, or bye you’re no longer in my life and I’m releasing an EP this Monday, is it a coincidence? I think not. People have their own bullshit. Who knows why they’re unsupportive of you? Even if they think what you’re doing sucks, they can let you have a little go at it and encourage you, you Brave Soul, before they make it blatantly obvious they’re not into it. The good friends will do that, anyway. And if they’re not into it a few years later? That’s okay, too. Because you’ll have some experience behind you and you’ll know that sometimes people aren’t going to be into what you’re up to. But what I like to tell myself is that if everyone liked what I do, that would mean I’m reeeeeeeally boring. STEP 4: BE UNCOMFORTABLE…BE UNCOMFORTABLE…BE UNCOMFORTABLE
It’s the only way you’re gonna get better and learn. It just is. At one of my first gigs playing my own music, I was panic sweating so hard that the sweat went into my eyes and began stinging and I couldn’t open my eyes for a solid minute. I could not open my eyes, people. It was v bad. I was used to performing other people’s songs, but performing my own? TERRIFYING. Do I act them like a musical theatre song? Do I keep my sweaty eyes closed and show my intensity to the audience? Slowly, though (over like five years), I got more comfortable. I found my own style. And now I absolutely love doing sets of my material and feel grossly comfortable onstage, to the point where I’m almost one of those gals who takes her shoes off while she’s singing. And that always annoyed the shit out of me when I was little and watched singers on TV, so you know I must really be feeling comfortable now to even contemplate taking off my shoes. It’s not gonna stop feeling uncomfortable until you do it a lot.
STEP 5: CALL YOURSELF WHAT YA WANNA CALL YOURSELF AND DON’T YA THINK TWICE
It took me four years to confidently say I wrote songs. To say I was a songwriter. After I’d been performing my own material in public for about four years. I was the only person whose permission I needed to do that. I wish I’d given it to myself earlier, because once I did, I WAS A MOTHERFUCKING SONGWRITER.
STEP 6: KEEP GOING
I mean…that’s kind of it. You’re there. You’re doing the thing! It’s happening! This is the exciting part! There isn’t an end, really. I mean, there are goals you want to reach and things you want to make, and my god—reach them and make them…but the truly exciting part, to me, is doing the thing, living it. I honestly never thought I’d be playing a Joe’s Pub concert. I never thought I’d make an EP. To some people, those things may feel like old hat…to me, they’ve been dreams of mine for several years now. But the gig will happen, the record will be released, life continues…I’m so excited about the songwriting things that will happen along the way that I didn’t even dream about yet. And you know what I get to keep saying? What I get to tell my kids one day? “I’m a songwriter.” And then I can play a song I wrote for them. I don’t know. That’s pretty cool.
Do the secondary thing, if it’s calling you. I promise that you can find time for the first and the second thing. I promise. And more often than not, the secondary thing fuels the first thing in an awesome way (it did for me). If you’re having trouble convincing yourself, email/call/Facebook/text me (though I admit, I am a terrible texter…BUT KEEP TEXTING). I’ll talk ya through it, okay?
Also, did I mention that I’m releasing an EP next week?
*it was not that intense
Lauren’s big old EP release show is being presented by Musical Theatre Factory at Joe’s Pub (425 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10003) on Monday, July 11th at 9:30 pm. Get your tickets here.