Intro by Jane: Today's post comes from Emmy-winning singer-songwriter, Michal Towber. I reached out to her to write a guest post for our blog because she's created such a unique re-brand for herself, and her story is fascinating. Enjoy!
Those two words sum up my entire marketing philosophy. Folks can smell bullshit from outer space. So embrace your weirdness. Cultivate it. Be yourself on steroids.
My name is Michal Towber. I am a suburban mom by day and a rockstar by night. Think Mary Louise Parker’s character in “Weeds” - except I prefer lots of black leather, fishnets, harnesses, and generous amounts of black eyeliner. I also prefer to get your brain off with raw music. You’ve probably heard my songs before without realizing it—I was signed to SONY/Columbia at 17, mentored by Billy Joel, and Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner was my prom date. Did I mention I won an Emmy?
Despite early success, I ultimately failed in the cut-throat music biz. How come? One reason: Fear. Sure, I made immature decisions as a youngster. Sure, I didn’t know how to navigate the rapidly evolving industry. But what I realize now is that underneath it all, I failed because I was afraid. Afraid of failure. Afraid of disappointing others. Afraid that my true self wasn’t cool enough to move product or be on tv. I had a massive inferiority complex. In elementary school I had one friend. If that girl was absent, I spent recess trying to look engrossed in kicking a rock around. In high school, I was a band geek who hung out in the freak hallway. This was the place where people like me, who wore braces AND glasses, could get away.
Things changed when I started writing my own songs. I found my voice and an audience. But just as I found my footing, I was thrust into a world I was utterly unprepared for. Getting signed to a major was a curse as well as a blessing –everything got scrutinized, starting with my appearance.
The marketing exec at Columbia recommended I get a nose job and lip implants. An exec at a make-up company I represented suggested lipo on my thighs. It may not surprise you to hear that I quickly developed an eating disorder. Overall, the music execs tried to pattern me after all the other blonde pop stars in the industry—a widget they knew how to market.
As for me, I had no manager, no advisors I trusted, and even my lawyer worked for the record company. My parents, both visual artists and teachers, had no idea how to help me. Male industry execs routinely propositioned me as quid pro quo for helping my career. I never felt so alone. How far would you go to make it?
In retrospect, my experience as a young artist flailing in the harsh, rapidly changing music industry, left me with PTSD. It took years for me to crawl out of the negative hole I was in, and to get to a place where I could write again without feeling intense emotional pain.
"Focusing on others helped me heal."
I even got a law degree, and worked as an IP attorney, thinking I could be happy doing something else. Bad decision. Eventually, I married, moved to suburbia and had 3 little boys in 4 years. Although having that many kids in such a short period of time is nuts, focusing on others helped me heal.
About six months ago I realized I can’t be happy doing anything other than my music. And something about pushing 3 human beings out of my birth canal, unmedicated, made me realize just how capable I am when I trust myself.
I’m no longer afraid. I am out of the closet. And I am writing the best, most honest, confessional music of my life. And that includes dirty words, and sexual fantasies. Song about wanting to be your fluffy little bitch? Check. Song about having a dirty mouth? Fuck yeah! Song about suffering with depression? I’ll admit to that. These are all facets of me, and I have no filter.
"Don't Compromise Your Vision"
I still want your approval—I want to be your own personal rockstar. But if you don’t “get me,” that’s ok too. I gotta speak my truth—and I hope I can inspire others, including my kids, to be true to themselves.
You can’t be successful by trying to sound or look like other artists. Don’t compromise your vision. There are 7.4 billion people in the world - there’s enough audience to go around. Put your real self out there and you will find and connect with your tribe. Let your freak flag fly, and people will either love you or hate you, but you won’t engender apathy. And that’s real, raw, marketing. I invite all the weirdos, perverts and freaks out there to connect with me on Facebook to watch my redemption journey, as I record my next studio album, and take one last shot at rock super-stardom.
Michal Towber is a 35 year old, suburban mother of 3 young boys under 5, who teaches voice and piano by day, and is a big, bad, leather-clad rockstar by night. She is currently recording her 10th album and taking one last shot at super stardom. She would very much like to be your own personal rockstar. You can connect with her at www.facebook.com/MichalTowber.
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