Rare is the chance to truly examine what life is like for a professional artist, especially a professional musician. Following my review of her recent album, “Dollars for Thieves,” Erica Glyn took some time to discuss what exactly life looks like as an aspiring artist in today’s America. The ever-pleasant Glyn offered insights into daily life, perpetual struggles and hopes for the future.
“No day looks anything like the day before,” Glyn began. As a freelance recording engineer and producer, she doesn’t hold a typical “nine-to-five job,” but instead gets to organize her own schedule. This freedom allows Glyn to do the musical background work that is often taken for granted by consumers.
“For a while I was obsessed with becoming a better guitar player. I had months obsessed with singing as much as possible, songwriting too.” Glyn describes the life of an aspiring musician as fixated on perfection, becoming the best possible artist one can be. Her schedule for songwriting and practicing isn’t necessarily dictated by the hour, but instead by the day, giving her the freedom to reflect on her work and take it at her own pace. Now that she feels more comfortable with her skills, the craft moves towards organization.
“It’s about staying organized and trying to create balance,” Glyn says. It’s important not to give yourself endless time to complete a task because you could end up slacking off. But she is careful to say that her process for creating music, especially songwriting, is still not exact.
“Sometimes I just let whatever lyrics come out of my mouth just come out” she says. “Oftentimes I’ll write way too many verses and just take the cream of the crop.” Of her lyrics she says it’s simply about trying to understand things around her. Music operates as a tool that helps her understand.
But imagine that a person, somewhat hubristically, feels like they have the fundamental tools of great songwriting down already. What’s next?
“There’s no formula to it,” Glyn says, remarking on how she was able to attract the number of impressive collaborators that she has recorded with such as John Ginty, who was a member of Citizen Cope’s band. “For me, I was interested in recording and making records and I let everyone know it. I interned at a lot of recording labels.” But then Glyn noted something that many consumers don’t consider when they think of a recording industry full of famous female stars: “the recording studios didn’t want me there because I was a girl.”
Glyn details a recording industry that has a “huge problem” with gender equality. She talks about the recording industry as “a boys club” and recounts a time when an executive once told her, “we don’t want you here because we would have to change the way we talk.” Glyn worked to maintain her unique musical style while struggling with sexual harassment and completing jobs like cleaning the toilets at recording studios. It was for this reason that Glyn became involved with an organization called Gender Amplified that hopes to get more girls involved in the recording business.
“There aren’t really any models,” Glyn said of her own experience in the recording industry. “I never saw myself as anything else but a person, not really a girl, but it was really shocking and upsetting to be treated this way, so I just built my home studio and went in that direction.”
Due to Glyn’s background as a sound engineer, she was able to create a home studio that fit her needs. But the jump from behind the scenes to center stage is a jarring move that many people who intend to be successful in the industry will one-day face. Glyn described that shift as fundamentally liberating.
“It’s actually more uncomfortable for me to be the person on the side being the engineer. That’s the part that has actually been a challenge for me,” Glyn says. Glyn has always had a need to be on stage and bare her soul. Luckily her experience in the record industry allowed her to do so. “My knowledge allows me to make records on my own terms without needing permission and without relying on someone else.” She didn’t have to moderate her music for executives that might try to scale her back and felt completely free to produce music in her own way, relying on her in-depth knowledge of the recording equipment.
This know-how comes from the time she spent trying to find her footing in the music industry. Through her career as a sound engineer she got the opportunity to work with individuals such as Michael J. Fox, Stephen Colbert, and even Hillary and Bill Clinton. What struck her most about these individuals was their down-to-earth personalities. “They’re generally just people,” Glyn says of her many encounters, “they ask where their coffee is and get it themselves – very gracious. But most of all, they were just people trying to get their work done.”
The final question I had the opportunity to ask Glyn was on the subject of what it is truly like to be an aspiring musician. What does it feel like when you wake up in the morning to pursue your dream full force?
“Totally maddening and frustrating and liberating and wonderful,” she responded. “It depends on the day and even the hour. I feel really lucky that I’ve been able to work as an engineer and also a producer and as an artist.” But most of all, she says about her ever-changing life, it keeps her entertained.
“Being in the limelight and being out front,” she reflects, “is really the place to be.”