I’ve been playing music for about twenty years, but only in the last four (playing every local brewery, pub, wine-bar and market that I would have me) has music been my primary source of income. In the autumn of last year I began to feel tired and washed out from the constant booking and promotional work. I found that I had become numb to my listening audience, and my creative juices seemed to be stumped by the weekly rounds of playing “musical wallpaper” gigs.
I was also acutely aware that I needed some new vision and space for my art to grow, but as I have 3 teenage kids a creative sabbatical was not an option. In fact, with a growing family of 5 what I really needed was more income, not less. I began to talk to close friends about my need for a new direction, and the unrelenting longing for growth I felt inside. Many agreed; it was time for me to move on.
But move on to what? When you are self employed you can’t just go ask your boss for a promotion! Should I go back to waiting tables? Should I consider starting another career after all the heart and time I’ve poured into music?
It was during these conversations that a fan named Cherie – who had become a close friend – called me. She called because she wanted to tell me what my songs had meant to her. She wanted to share an idea that she had of patronizing my art and crowd sourcing from her friends and my listeners to help me through this time. She wanted to write a letter asking for support …
“I was introduced to Esther’s music four years ago, in the wake of terrific upheaval in my own story. In 2008, a perfect storm of trauma, heartbreak and violent neurochemical fallout wreaked havoc in my body and mind. I nearly lost my marriage, my relationship with my kiddos and my sanity. In the words of Back to Life, “Baby, we lost everything…. we lost our heads, and we lost our hearts and we lost our lives…” Hearing Esther’s music live for the first time provided a transforming experience for me: the awe-inspiring, unlocking and unlooked-for gift of hearing my own story in uncanny detail from the lips, heart and hands of another. Tears coursed down my face, spilling across the whole of my story and my precious, fragile, still-healing heart and mind. For the “death” and loss we experienced in 2008 wasn’t the end of the story. I was coming “back to life.” And as I was coming back to life, so was my marriage, my relationship with my kids, my relationship with myself and my relationship with my God.”*
*The full version of Cherie’s letter is posted below.
Of course, I was deeply moved by someone wanting to step in and help me financially, but even more than that, I was so encouraged that my little offerings of song had meant so much in someone else’s time of healing. Her letter was key for me. Unlocking something I’d been ignoring for a long time: I love playing music for people.
I love writing songs. I love it more than just needing an income. I love it as an art-form and as a means of expressing our mutual humanity and finding connection with one another. In my need for an income, creativity and vocation had taken a back seat to revenue and industry. Sometimes that’s okay, but for me I needed to reset the clock. I had become numb to the wonderful listeners who message regularly to say what a particular song had meant to them that week. I needed to listen, to feel again, and make room for growth.
Quitting music to play music …
So, this past week I’ve started a couple part-time jobs, cleaning and admin, to replace my gig playing income. I’m excited to be writing some new songs and working on recording them in mp3 and video form, and hoping to release them in the next few months. I’m booking gigs with the intention of reaching only those who might like to listen. Cause you know, sometimes, less is more. Way, way more. My success needs to lie in doing one thing that I love, and doing it well, with all my heart.
How you can help …
Share my Music: The best promotion is organic and home-grown. If you have a song of mine you like, send it to someone whom you think will like it too. Share it via Youtube or any social media. Re-post my videos, or purchase an album for a friend. I will be working a lot on my Youtube channel, subscribe to me there. Thank you!
Book Me: If you would like me to come sing at your house, your wedding, your party, or a venue near you email me on the contacts page and I’ll do my best to make it to you part of the world asap. It may take me some time, but I would love to do it, and I’ll get the ball rolling.
Speak to Me: Feedback, ideas, encouragement, friendship, connection … all of these have been so vital to me in writing and performing. I can literally feel my vocal chords reach new heights when a listener nods and smiles, or says “thank you”. No joke, your input is priceless in the creative process and goes straight to the artists’ biological ability. Its like magic juice. So, feel free to send me any ideas or thoughts you have. You can reach me on the contact page.
Patronize my Art: If you would like to join my friend Cherie in giving, and cash is a good way for you to show support then please email Cherie here firstname.lastname@example.org and she will send you Paypal details for an easy online transaction. Of course, any donation, tiny or large would be amazing!
Cherie’s Letter …
Dearest Friends and Fans of Esther Sparks,
Recently I became exhilarated with a new dream: a dream of coordinating a team of folks to commit as monthly supporters of Project Esther’s Music Matters.
I was introduced to Esther’s music four years ago, in the wake of terrific upheaval in my own story. In 2008, a perfect storm of trauma, heartbreak and violent neurochemical fallout wreaked havoc in my body and mind. I nearly lost my marriage, my relationship with my kiddos and my sanity. In the words of Back to Life, “Baby, we lost everything…. we lost our heads, and we lost our hearts and we lost our lives…”
Hearing Esther’s music live for the first time on that frigid January evening in 2011 provided a transforming experience for me: the awe-inspiring, unlocking and unlooked-for gift of hearing my own story in uncanny detail from the lips, heart and hands of another.
Tears coursed down my face, spilling across the whole of my story and my precious, fragile, still-healing heart and mind. For the “death” and loss we experienced in 2008 wasn’t the end of the story. I was coming “back to life.” And as I was coming back to life, so was my marriage, my relationship with my kids, my relationship with myself and my relationship with my God.
Since then, “Back to Life” has been the choicest ballad for my husband and me and these years of restoration. But it is only one of the many songs of Esther’s that have been manna and compass along our way.
“Cry All Over You” has become a refuge and balm, not only on the days when our hearts are bleeding out under the general weight of life in this fallen world, but specifically in crush of the death of my husband’s youngest brother to brain cancer in 2012.
“Forgive Me” has put words to the pain of intense regret I’ve felt for decisions I made both preceding and in the midst the depression in 2008 as well as the hope of rebirth through mutual forgiveness and restoration. And “Madelaine’s Man” has connected me to the power of love and unrestrained embrace not only through the poignancy of the lyrics, but also through the ravishing texture of Esther’s voice and musicality, and her connection to the elements of earth and breath, tears and skin, and fire and light as companions to the most profound emotions of the human experience.
In the past few months, Esther and I have became close friends. Recently she confided in me that she feels she is in a time of transition and for financial reasons may have to let go of music as a vocation and search for other employment as a means to support her family.
When she told me she might have to let go of music as a vocation, my body arrested in protest. I could feel what loss it would be to me and truly to every person her music has touched and healed were she to set aside her gift and calling.
I asked then for her permission to dream of a way to come alongside her and Kris in this time of transition.
And the dream that came to me is what I am affectionately calling Project Esther’s Music Matters. The mission of Project Esther is to provide a year of monthly resources to Esther and her family to support her in this liminal space. This financial backing would allow Esther to continue playing music, give her room to explore new booking and promotional avenues, as well as provide time for her to reach new audiences.
Her desire is to play for those who might need a voice for their own experiences, both painful and joyful. This financial support would allow her to reach those who normally have little access to the arts. She has played several concerts in the past few years in prisons, addiction recovery centers, and safe houses, and she would love to explore this work more. This backing would also allow her to travel and extend her songs to new listeners. She has shared with me that she often receives messages from listeners who say her songs have helped them through a painful time in their lives. This is a calling she strongly desires to continue to follow.
I believe that Esther’s music is ordained to unlock and bring healing to hearts around the globe, and also to midwife gladness and hope for those who’ve felt they have lost both forever. And I believe that partnering with Project Esther is an unique opportunity for us to partner with Heaven to bring Esther’s music to folks whose trajectory of soul and story could be as powerfully transformed by the encounter as ours has been.
Our goal is to gather a team of ten supporters who feel called to commit to one year of monthly contributions. Whether you were able to give $10 or $30 or $100/ month, I am confident your regular support will be world-changing =).
Also, we are equally delighted to gather those who feel led to give a one-time gift and those who feel led to partner through encouragement and belief.
Please contact me with any questions!
With all heart and hope and gratitude from one who is coming back to Life,