Cover Story: I Write the Songs

Tracy's trip to Bountiful

May 10, 2001 at 2:06 pm
Jymi Bolden

Tracy Walker says she's constantly working through the concept of success as a musician.

I am a singer/songwriter. During my nine-plus years as a professional performer, I've worked hard and tried to work smart. Along the way I have had good fortune and have been given several awards, among them two Cincinnati Entertainment Awards (CEA) from CityBeat and two CAMMYs from The Enquirer.

I have recorded CDs, both with the Folk/Rock group Ain't Helen and, as a solo artist, I released Naked in 1998.

There is freedom in what I do. I perform as often or as seldom as I want to. I have achieved many of the things I intended to and some I hadn't even considered.

I look forward to what awaits. It seems the more I do, the more pressure there is to do still more, from outside and in.

I'm not sure which is greater.

And perhaps it doesn't matter. Both weigh heavily on my next move.

Almost immediately after the release of Naked, as I was still wiping sweat from my brow, fans asked, "When is the next disc coming out?"

The next CD? Oh yeah. If there's one, there must be two. I was frustrated and angry. What do you mean the next one? Do you have any idea what it took to get this one done?

Of course, this was all internal dialogue. This self-talk went on inside my head, behind my face. Out front, I just smiled and said, "Soon." Because the answer, in most cases, is, "No."

Most people don't have any idea what it takes to get it done. Realizing this, my anger subsided. People don't know. How could they?

I fit in songwriting, arranging, booking and recording with working, eating, sleeping and loving. There's a constant attempt to balance it all against the backdrop of the anticipation over the release of the next disc and questions like, "Have you written any new music?"

But my frustration has been transformed by the fact that these people genuinely fancy what I do. They are my supporters, cohorts, even. They're the reason I get to do what I do, where and when I do it.

They appreciate what I share, and I cherish that. So I'm honest and divulge what I know at the time. And that means the next disc would be out in a few months. That is, if life hadn't happened.

My mother died. Let me tell you, that changes your course, pace and direction. But still people don't know and they ask. Still, I'm honest and say next fall or spring or whatever the next season is.

Simultaneously, I pray they'll still be interested when I finally do get the money and the songs and the energy to converge with one another all at the same time.

I don't want pity. It's just the way it is on this side of the song. There is all this real-life stuff going on, and I must live through it while still giving the people what they want, or what I hope they want.

The strongest pressure has come from underneath my skin.

This pressure is self-imposed. It's my own idea of what I should be doing. It's my own dread of losing the fan base I've built. It's my fear of releasing a second solo CD to mixed or poor reception. The anxiety-ridden, nerve-wracking, self-imposed questions resound: Will they be there? Will they still love me? And after that, then what?

I need to be big time. That's what they tell me, anyway. But how do I do that? Everyone tells me so, but how? Where is the manual? Where is my mentor? Where is my Berry Gordy?

Right here.

I did start my own label, didn't I? What did I think that was about? I did that so I'd have control over my career. (There's that pesky internal dialogue again.)

I decide why and when I do things. I decided that I would not be a product of a moneymaking machine. I'm responsible for getting it all done. I must find my own mentors and perhaps start by being one to myself.

Doing it myself is a big load. Since I enjoy human exchange, I've had to negotiate the intertwined existence of business, art and life.

What a wonderful place to be. This means I can do it in my own way. I direct the path I take. How many gigs, to tour or not, 12 or 15 songs on a disc, and on and on.

Oh yeah, I can do things my way, in a way that works for me. I can plan a tour around the demands of raising a child, having a partner and visiting my family and, oh yes, having a day job. Which, by the way, most artists do.

We fit work in between practicing, making phone calls and creating. Four days out of the week, I work to make sure my bills are paid. Then in my free time I make phone calls to book performances.

I put together press kits, after regular trips to Kinko's. Oh, do I have a current photograph? I go to parent/teacher conferences and have dates. I cook dinner and help with homework and school projects and extract splinters. Is it a lot to do? Is it hard? Hell yeah, it's a lot and it's hard, but it's my life.

My life. Singing and writing are just part of it, an expression of it. I must live a regular life before I can even have anything to write about, to have a base from which to create.

Our creations come from our heads, and what's inside our heads comes from our perceptions of our experiences. If we don't have lives, what are we creating?

Stuff about other people's lives? Stuff about what we want our lives to be about? Maybe sometimes, but I don't think it can all be about that. Some of it — most of it — should be from our own experiences, the results of our own choices. Therefore, we have to have lives. It's about balance.

I can't give up one for the other.

I'm in a fabulous position to make it work where I am and for where I want to eventually be. Events will occur that I cannot foresee, but they'll become part of my future, then my past.

So I work on chiseling out my MTV body and figuring out what the next business decision should be and where that will take me. Will they like the next CD, the next photo I take or interview I give? I don't know. I just have to do it.

I still take walks and read, and not just those how-to-be-a-Rock-&-Roll-star books. I keep my Web site updated. I think about who I want to open for and who I want opening for me. I hold hands and feed my cat tuna.

I constantly work on making it all work together because, for me, that's the only way I can genuinely be successful, star or not.

It's all important. It's all part of the trip. ©