What to Do When Your Very Personal Art Goes Public
Flickr user Sami Keinänen
Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Ask Fan Landers! Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her -- confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.
I'm the main songwriter in my band [redacted]. We are doing extremely well, getting radio airplay on the best college radio stations in [area] as well as some overseas play on BBC-1. With all the attention we've been getting, I'm starting to fear that people are going to realize that what I'm singing about isn't fiction. When I was 20 years old my dad killed my sister and then himself in a murder suicide. It seems like the songs that people like the best are all about that one incident, just in different words. I guess its healthy to have a creative outlet that helps me deal, but I don't want to get typecast as a band whose songs are all about violence, murder, and suicide. Well, thanks for your time.
I am so sorry that happened to you and your family.
I listened to everything by your band that I could find online and what you are singing about is, even where it is specifically about death, still oblique enough that it comes across as metaphoric or poetic. Entire genres are built around different strains of nihilism--punk, black metal, death metal; see also Danzig's entire career. The intensity of your lyrics match the intensity of your sound, so nothing about them sticks out. You are doing good work--do not sweat it.
Perhaps given that this personal, cathartic thing you made is now, conclusively, public (BBC-1 is not nothing) it's bringing up new shit to deal with. This also happens to artists who are writing sappy love songs--putting our private thoughts and feelings out there to be judged and picked apart makes everyone self-conscious--it's part of the process. This fear about being typecast is a typical concern for anyone in a band, but, perhaps there is some other self-protective fear feeding it because of the incredibly personal nature of your art--which is only natural. It's not my place to tell you to push through whatever this fear is. It's happening for a reason. With this attention you are getting, it's probably not going to stop here--so my only real advice is this: You don't owe anyone an explanation about your work. You do not owe anyone happy work. You don't need to mix it up or rearrange your work. Your work belongs to you, this band and this song writing is an important outlet for you and so do whatever you need in order to keep it as a comfortable place for you to express yourself, authentically and without reservation. Good luck and congratulations on your success so far.