Over the past few months I’ve had the privilege to interview and photograph some amazing women. When I first started thinking of these questions I thought they would eventually feel repetitive, boring, and uninteresting after the second interview. I didn’t think there could be so many answers to “What is Confidence?”, as it seems like such a simple question. Every new interpretation is so different from the last, and every interview I leave feeling like I’ve learned something new. To say this project has given me a new outlook on confidence would be an under statement. While I wanted others to hear from these Inspirational Songstress’ truly, I wanted to hear what they had to say. I wanted to know their secrets as to how they appeared so grounded and comfortable. I wanted to be seen that way too, I wanted to feel that way inside and out. However, I learned that outer confidence can often be a facade. It’s inner confidence that’s the real challenge. These women that I had known for years were suddenly more 3D to me than ever. It was as if I didn’t even know them at all until the interview was done.
Instead of doing a new feature this month, I wanted to sit and reflect on some of my favorite answers from the first 3 Inspirational Songstress’. I also wanted to include some photos that couldn’t make it in due to space. Finally, I want to take this time to deeply thank Missy Bauman, The Damzel, and Kaleidoscope Horse for taking the time to participate in this project. The response that I’ve had from everyone has been better than I could have hoped and it couldn’t be done without your contribution.
Inspirational Songstress: How would you define confidence & what does it mean to you?
Desiree: I think confidence has a lot to do with feeling firm in what you feel, regardless of whether or not it’s a confident feeling. Allowing yourself and not judging yourself for the way that you’re experiencing life. Not answering to anybody about that, just be honest about who you are and not feel the need to overcompensate for something that you’ve done. ‘Cause at the end of the day, you’re your own worst critic but also you can’t go around being a certain way and expecting everybody to understand. ‘Cause they’re not going to understand, and I think to seek understanding from everybody is kind of a lack of confidence thing. At the end of the day you have to be cool with what you’re doing. That’s confidence for me right now.
Sam: Confidence for me really is if I’m happy with myself. If I can sit there with myself for like, five minutes and take myself for a walk. Just feeling comfortable with myself is where I find my confidence. Where I get to be weird and play around with things is when I feel comfortable. This side of confidence comes out that maybe might be portrayed as more spastic, but it’s actually way more natural.
Desiree: Yeah. I think a lot of it has to do with feeling like you have something to bring to the table. I think everybody has something to bring to the table, and not being afraid to not know something is a big thing.
Sam: I learned that a lot the last couple of years from asking. I used to never ask questions ‘cause I was too embarrassed.
Desiree: ‘Cause you’re comfortable enough…
Sam: With yourself that it doesn’t mean something about you to not know something.
Desiree: Exactly. If anything, it’s more admirable that you would wanna ask.
Inspirational Songstress: Do you feel more confident on stage or off?
Missy: It depends. I find that when I’m playing with a band or with Max (Bornstein, the drummer for Missy’s band) it’s a lot easier to be confident and I just kind of step into a different skin almost where I can yell at people. It’s very very unnatural, but I find when I’m playing by myself I kind of realize how unnatural it is and it just seems so strange to me to like sing such personal stuff with all these people staring at me. So it’s a 50/50 kind of thing.
IS: Where does your strength come from to share your art?
Desiree: Oh God, I don’t even think it’s a strength, I think it’s a need. For me, I don’t find it. I mean, yeah, there’s a scary aspect, I guess of putting yourself out there, but for me I have always been more afraid of not putting something out there, not contributing. For me, being silent is what would take strength. Putting something out there is a need to be understood, to connect with people, to create. That is because of my lack of strength I think, in handling my emotions inside my head, I need to express them in order to deal with them, but that’s just strictly putting it out there, it does take a lot of strength to perform, that’s for sure another aspect of it. Where that comes from is really just the want to do music professionally. The want to not have to live my life in a segregated way where I’ve got this other job, I just really want to wake up in the morning and create all day, and get paid to do that. That would be wonderful. I mean to get paid just ‘cause you have to live,
Inspirational Songstress: To sustain yourself.
Desiree: Yeah, exactly, and it takes a lot of work for sure, but it’s a need.
Sam: For me, strength, when you were just saying, for performing specifically I feel like the strength comes from another conscious of myself, it’s another world that…
Desiree: Like an energy source that you draw from.
Sam: Yeah, that I just draw from or I go up into, and it’s where I’m simultaneously truly feeling like the past, present and future at once. Kinda outer body feeling, that’s when I can really tap into it, which is really really nice. To say that, I can’t do that all the time but that’s a huge strength point through just being comfortable with getting to a different point in your head. Being able to get to those when you need, I’ve practiced; we’ve played a lot of shows. It’s just tapping into this different thing, and the strength to just actually let anyone hear the music is just shear need as well. It needs to come out, it has to. I feel like I would be way farther away from myself if I didn’t. So, strength from ourselves.
IS: What is your first memory of feeling musically confident?
Shyla: You know what? It came really late ‘cause I feel like I am, was a late bloomer. I grew up thinking I couldn’t sing, probably into my early twenties, feeling like I wasn’t good enough and I still feel like that. I would say to myself, “My range is small,” or I’d try to sing along to other songs and couldn‘t. If I ever did a cover my self-esteem would just drop because I didn’t know how to change keys yet, or I didn’t know that I could use a capo to sing in my range. I think not knowing my voice and not knowing myself contributed to the lack of confidence. I started teaching myself how to play guitar when I was 21, and that was only so I could write my own music. As soon as I started writing my own songs, then I finally started growing more confident, that I was actually good at it. I liked it and when I was sharing it, people seemed to like it and it melted away the insecurities of “Oh, I can’t sing” or “Oh, I can’t play.” My stories or my poems started to turn into songs and it grew naturally from that. I started writing songs at 21, maybe started sharing them, at 25 or 26. Now I’m 29, and now I feel confident in it so I think it’s a real myth that people say, “You have to discover talent when you’re young.” For me what really pushes me are my beliefs. In the Bible, Jesus didn’t start what he was supposed to do until he was 30 years old. So that’s my bench mark, he‘s my benchmark - so when I’m 30, I’m just starting what I’m supposed to be doing. None of this crap about when you’re 15 you have to be discovered, that’s garbage, who invented that? Nobody says you have to be what you’re supposed to be when you’re 19 years old. You have to find what your criteria for what success is and what your marker is. I have someone that I’m looking to for who I’m supposed to be and that’s my marker for success. Nobody else can tell me that I’m failing or I’m growing besides that.
Jennah : It was in elementary school when I started singing in talent shows. I had a group of friends in French immersion who used to tease me about it, not in a bad way. It was like the funny tease! It made me feel good! Like, they even knew every word! Even the originals I wrote when I was 11. They used to sing it to me! They knew me as the singer of the group and it made me think, “Oh, okay, I guess maybe I can do this! Let me learn about it. Maybe I am a singer? I am a singer! How can I get to be a better singer?” The more they said, “Oh, Jennah sings and she’s artistic.” the more I thought, “Okay, let me explore this thing.”
Inspirational Songstress: What’s your biggest battle in keeping the confidence and the battle to keep it growing?
Missy: I have a lot of ‘Mental Health’ problems, like the big scary word. I have kind of like a mood disorder that’s passed down in my family, where it’s just extreme one way or another. So I’m not just happy I’m extremely elated. I spend all my money, and I sleep with random people, or you know just rash decisions. When it’s low it’s just extremely low, I can’t even watch TV I just have to stare at the wall and feel sorry for myself kind of stuff. So a lot of those times, it’s not on a schedule or anything and, a lot of the times I’ll go into a show in a very low place. There’s nothing I can do, I just have to get up there and try to communicate and try to be myself when I feel like I’m almost wearing a blanket of sadness. Trying to break threw and trying to shine threw that. That’s a huge huge challenge for me.
IS: When you’re performing, what makes you feel most powerful?
Desiree: You go.
Sam: My band.
Desiree: I was just about to say that. My team.
Sam: My team. Taylor, huge rock. Sean, sweetheart. Kyle, so easy going.
Desiree: Good vibes.
Sam: Des is, my magical spirit swirly lollipop. (Laughs), Fan breezer, writing partner.
Desiree: (Laughs), All of those things, I totally agree with.
Sam: But at the same time, all those five personalities I just said, everyone is also the same. All of those things simultaneously. We really try to balance out things for each other to make life easier, ‘cause it’s not easy in this industry. You’ve gotta be good to each other.
Desiree: Being good to each other keeps our heads outta our own asses, keeps our music honest and fun. Not too serious, ‘cause that can get overwhelming, but then just going up there and knowing you’re just so well rehearsed, you love the people you’re playing with, you love the music that you’re playing. That’s the most powerful feeling.
Sam: And rehearsed doesn’t even necessarily mean we rehearse and we do it like it is on stage, it’s if we have gotten the time to spend together. To gel with each other, you’re more confident and going with the flow onstage. I think rehearsal and jamming, and writing together are the biggest things that keep us powerful.
Inspirational Songstress: What has been your biggest personal confidence set back? Did it help or hurt your music?
Missy: The year that IMP (Independent Music Production Program at Seneca College) ended was so hard for me, and I think it’s really common for people who finish the program. The whole time you’re actively doing things for your music career and there is a path set out for you. It’s an extreme path, it’s not even what a natural extremely hard working musician would necessarily do every day. When that ended it was really hard for me to get back into working even half as intense as I was during IMP. All of a sudden I had no schedule and I was living in Stoufville so I had no friends, it was a really tricky time. It did take a long time for me to discipline myself into doing my own schedule and into working as hard as I did in school. I feel like I’m a natural student, it’s really easy for me to do assignments. If there was a musician school to last for my whole career I’d be like fucking Taylor Swift in 5 years, I swear to god. I’m just so obsessed with handing in something great. Where as with myself I’m still learning to value my own successes the same way.
Inspirational Songstress: We’re taught to get approval for something that we’ve done in an academic setting our whole lives. It’s the same thing with work like traditional work. You hand something in and you want praise back, you want achievement back but, music isn’t always like that. It’s very much a give and take between you and an unknown person. You put out a piece of music and you don’t know what someone could be saying about it. You just have keep it in your own mind and be confident in yourself, and think ‘this was a good piece of art’, which is tough.
Inspirational Songstress: What do you think is the most important thing to remember as a female musician?
Shyla: To remember that you’re unique. I think a lot of girls spend so much time comparing themselves. It’s never a positive comparison, it’s usually negative where you don’t measure up or where you’re lacking. There is nobody who has the unique traits, or set of skills, or interest and passions, or genetic makeup like you! You are the only you , so your voice and your stories are special and it’s necessary especially in a world where so many people and groups are pitted against each other. Especially in Toronto where there’s so much multiculturalism. My background’s so varied, other people’s backgrounds are so varied, but I’m growing up a Canadian. There’s nobody that has a story like mine with experiences like me, even if you’ve got the same background, our experiences are so different. Don‘t be afraid that you don’t have anything to share, everybody has something to share.
Jennah: I think I’d tell them that your voice is important, your opinion matters, whatever you’ve got to say, it means something. So, share what you wanna share, and don’t be afraid of what people are going to think.
Inspirational Songstress: If you could go back to a time where you felt taken back by whatever obstacle, what would you tell yourself knowing what you know now?
Sam: My parents were really, really cool, they never questioned when I wanted to do something that wasn’t stereotypically girly. They always just went with the flow of it, it was more so society that made me feel like I had to be a ‘girl’. When I went fully Tomboy, I thought I just had to be a Tomboy. It felt weird to kind of go back to being girly too. I was really confused in what I wanted my style and my feelings to be. Then I realized I could dress like a Tomboy one day, and dress really girly the other day. Same with music, I could scream or I could sing really pretty. I would tell myself that people are going to be around no matter what and you have to love yourself. It’s gonna be okay, ‘cause as long as you’re cool with yourself, you’re gonna be happy. You’ll be able to sit in a park by yourself and get stoned for hours. All you’ll need is to just love yourself.
Desiree: That’s totally what I was gonna say. Just that you’re fine. Honestly you’re fine. There are so many moments that I’ve had where I thought that I wasn’t gonna get over, or through something, but you do every single time. You’ve got your ups and downs of life, and at the end of the day if you are genuine to yourself, and you are as good to yourself, and to other people as you can be, you will come out of those times.
Inspirational Songstress: Do you have a message you hope to send to people who see you live or listen to your recordings?
Missy: I have a handful of messages but mostly, it’s so cheesy, I just want people to be genuine. Be yourself. I love meeting people who get really flustered talking about something they love. Just being super dorky and being unafraid of people’s judgments, so long as its done with love. If you’re a dick? Be someone else but, if you are a kind person and you have passion and love to share and you share it truly? That’s what I would really love to encourage through my music. It’s funny cause a lot of my music is very sad, but I feel like all of my sad songs are about the journey to get over it. To be happy, and to be that true version of yourself.
Inspirational Songstress: What’s your advice for other women, young or old, who struggle with confidence?
Sam: Seek out your fellow friends, they’ll help you a lot. My best friends have helped me so much with my confidence and honestly, hug yourself. Sometimes legitimately, if you hug yourself and smile for at least 30 seconds, it can help.
Desiree: I think to be able to spend time alone with yourself is very, very important, in terms of knowing where you’re at. If you’re reflecting actively and you know where you’re at, then you don’t need to worry when you’re around other people or when you’re doing anything. ‘Cause at the end of the day, if you’re checking in with yourself, you know where you’re at, you respect your own feelings. I would say respecting your feelings and prioritizing your own feelings is very important. Not in a way where you’re putting anybody else’s feelings above at all, but to see them on the same level as your own at least. At the end of the day, you’re the one who has to live your life. You are the one who has to live in this body, you are the one who has to experience the world through the way that you create your own experience. I think people think that they have less control than they do.
Sam: Spend time with yourself.
Desiree: Tap into your own power, ‘cause it’s so there, everyone has it. That doesn’t necessarily mean power as in, “I can do whatever I want.” It could be knowing when to go to a friend, knowing when you need external help, knowing when you need internal moments. I know I’ve done a lot of experimentation with different mental states, different emotional states. That’s my own way of learning about myself, but I think if you’re dedicated to learning about yourself, that’s what gets you to confidence.