New York City was the supreme destination for most of my fellow art graduates at The University of Maryland College Park (Go Terps!) – it’s a common path for budding musicians and artists, NYC after all being the east coast epicenter of modern culture. While I wouldn’t be taking the trip up north, I was excited for each of my classmates and wished them the best. However, when I asked each one where they were going to work or what they were going to do, each had the same canned answer revolving around the notion of “not selling out and living an artist’s life.”
Well, what is an artist’s life? To them, this meant living on a futon in some dilapidated studio apartment, with nothing more than paint brushes and canvases. Quite the contradiction to the $150 “vintage” jeans and t-shirts from Nordstrom’s they wore to class each day. My classmates thought that “looking the part” meant “living the part.” As if the curator from MoMA is going to magically appear on their doorstep and grant them a gallery opening, just because they were able to say they were starving artists. Good luck with that.
Harsh? Maybe. But I never understood the notion that all artists and musicians are supposed to look, act and live a certain way. To believe that you will be handed success the minute you get out of the Lincoln Tunnel because you resemble an artist sounds downright absurd to me.
I want to hear about artists who are standing out as individuals – the kind that stand out because of who they really are, not who they want to be. One artist that came to me via PensEyeView.com who embodied such individualism was Baltimore native and current NYC resident, Monica Ott; a stunning example of someone who is just going for it. Shortly after arriving to the Big Apple, Ott played her first live NYC performance at famed CBGB’s and even became part of the prestigious NYC Songwriter’s Circle, beating out 1000’s of others to garner an honorable mention in last year’s songwriting contest. Ott says, “I played solo [at CBGBs] so it was just me and my guitar. All I was thinking throughout those few songs was just ‘don’t screw up’... I know my voice was shaking the whole time and my fingers were sweaty and cramping up.” That’s what I like to hear – someone who has the guts to put themselves out there. Playing your first NYC show a world renowned venue in one of the music capitals of the world, alone? That’s a little thing in the biz we like to call chutzpah.
Following up on the inclusion of her song “The Way We Used to Be” on the play list of the NYC Songwriter’s Circle’s recent compilation album, Ott has released an entire collection titled “Only Human”. More comfortable to in the realm of power vocalists like Alanis Morissette, Ott says, “I think that everyone will be able to relate to these songs. I tend to write about stuff that many people feel but don’t talk about. I think that my voice is different from the female voices that are popular right now [the soft, gentle, almost whispery voices]. My voice is very full and I tend to really sing out on every song.”
While Ott has adapted quite well to the NYC lifestyle, she still remains an individual – a true sign of a natural artist. She’s also smart enough to realize her development as an artist. She wanted a certain sound and presence so she trained for it and has come a long way since that first CBGB performance. “My songs are more structured now, my voice is much stronger, and my confidence is definitely much higher. Plus, now I see performing as a thing I love to do, not something I think I should do.” Monica Ott may not be known around the world – (yet), but knowing how to navigate herself around the music world will make her name one you won’t soon forget.
For more information on Monica Ott, check out: http://www.myspace.com/monicaott
And for all the best artists out today, check out http://www.PensEyeView.com