When I was 14 years old, I had been playing guitar for a few years already and started singing on occasion as well. One of my favorite pass times was learning to play covers of the hottest pop songs my friends and I loved listening to. As I began to develop a greater passion for playing, I began to dream about one day making it big and becoming a pop star like Selena Gomez or Taylor Swift (and marrying Nick Jonas) Every Spring throughout most of my teenage years, a television show called The Next Star would air on YTV. The Next Star is a Canadian reality TV show, similar to American Idol, where kids 15 and under can audition in front of a panel of judges to see if they've got what it takes to become Canada's Next Star! Every Spring I watched the show faithfully and always thought it would be very cool to audition for the show myself, so at age 14, I did. Unfortunately the first year I auditioned, things ended sooner than I had hoped and teary eyed and heavy hearted, I headed home, but I wasn't raised a quitter so the very next year my mom and I trekked back to Winnipeg for a second time. This time around, I was better prepared, more confident in myself, and was filled to the brim with determination. After I finished day one of auditions, I was told to wait for a phone call from the producers of the show, inviting me to come back to audition in front of the celebrity judges the next day. The nervous anticipation awaiting that phone call was so strong, I couldn't even enjoy my Tim Hortons Oatmeal Raisin cookie.
I think determination is a powerful thing because while I could be wrong, I'm pretty sure my musical talent had not increased as much as my desire for a golden ticket and because of that, I was called back to audition for "round two" the following day. Day two started early in the morning. Filled with the same determination I returned to the conference center to do my final audition in hopes of receiving a golden ticket which would send me to Toronto for the summer to be filmed as I underwent vigorous training on how to become a successful pop star. To make a long story short I left Winnipeg with my suitcase, my guitar, and no golden ticket. My determination had turned to discouragement and I felt like a failure.
Many years have past now since my audition on The Next Star and I've learned a few things since then. One of the most important things I've learned is that music really shouldn't be a competition, rather it should be something to be shared. Music is meant to bring people together and comparison can often drive us apart. There are six other students in the graduating songwriting program with me at Prairie and each of us writes very differently. We have people who write folk songs, pop songs, "blusey rock" songs, modern worship songs, just to name a few. My classmates write these really great songs that are unique to their own writing style and they all serve a purpose. I strongly believe that there is no "best" songwriter in our class and that no one's writing style is better than anyone else's, all of our music serves a specific purpose and will move people in different ways. Since entering the program my longing for stardom has fallen and has been replaced with a desire to serve. I no longer want to make music to receive all the glory for myself. Now I want to make music to fill my soul and to fill the souls of others. Just today somebody commented on my latest post on Instagram asking "If you would accomplish just one thing this year what would that be?" This was my response:
"Many people consider accomplishments to be the things we've done or personal victories we've had. For me this year as I am just entering through the gates of the music business, I think that if any of my new tunes can move or become a companion for at least one person whom I've never met, I would consider that to be a great accomplishment, worth everything I've put into the making of my album."
Now, The Next Star was not a terrible experience for me, it was actually a lot of fun. I made some lasting memories and got to experience some solid character building but knowing what I do now, if I were to re-live that experience, I would be less focused on earning myself a golden ticket and more more focused on the opportunity to share my music with others as well as make connections with people who shared a common passion.
Every songwriter and writing style serves a purpose so don't worry about writing as well as your favorite artist. Write like you, the world needs more of that.