I know this is going to be hard to believe but I am you from the year 2018. I know you are 14 years old right now, but it will take too long to explain how this letter is possible – but trust that I am you.
I am sure you have scrunched this piece of paper up and thrown it across the room at least once by now…. but I know you…. and your curiosity is by now forcing you to smooth out this letter and continue reading. Thanks. Sit down. I have a lot of things to tell you. Some of these things are so crazy amazing you may laugh in disbelief. And some may make you cry uncontrollably. Some passages will unravel in great detail, others I will spare you. I’m going to start by saying I live in America, and as a musician I’ve toured across the world. I’ve shared the stage with iconic artists and won some awards. When I glance down my own timeline, it’s clear that no single decision led me down this path. There was no single light bulb moment of clarity. But my life to date has been an accumulation of life events, hard work, heartbreak and listening to a lot of music. Before I continue.. feel free to quit smoking this year. As you’ll need your voice.
A couple of years ago, when you were 12, you taught yourself Beethoven and songs from the “Watermark” Enya record on piano by ear. How did it feel? That feeling of knowing it “sounds right” is a key for you. This is the year that Mum buys you your first guitar. You’ll get it for Christmas. Spoiler alert, it’s a very cheap black electric guitar and your older sister Angela is not going to let you borrow her small bargain-basement microphone amp. But….. there is a way you can plug that guitar into that old keyboard sitting in the lounge room. Work it out. And practice.
You’re about to fall in love with a variety of genres racing towards pop, alternative rock and soul. There will be songs that define you, confuse you and intrigue you to dizzying heights. In a couple of years you are going to change high schools, your choice, and start performing live on the weekends. This is when you start playing guitar at those shows. Practice more. Even though you’ll only play on a few songs… then a few more…. until you’re 17 or 18 and you’re playing every song in a full cover band. You’re going to cover material from acts you’re going to work with when you’re my age. You’re going to start writing songs….. and these first 100 songs will lead to hundreds more. Now for other news, your Mum is going to get sick very soon. But this condition will be slow progressing. Be there for her. Help her and convince her to quit smoking. She won’t listen… but try. Never stop trying. Love her through her stubbornness and remember who introduced you to music. She did.
You’re going to write more songs in various genres. From now on, all of the music you listen to, remember to read the liner notes. Who wrote this song? Who produced that song? Where did that band record? California. Where was that artist from? California. Even though it’s hard to wrap your head around, you’ll have some small hits in Europe with dance music. Touring will start in this genre, then as a guitarist for another artist in another genre. Practice more. You’ll take meetings and get your own music onto radio in Australia. You’ll also write songs for other artists but there will be an artistic hollowness that won’t go away. Listen to it. That loneliness will be a voice of truth. Eventually, you’ll write the songs that take you to California. Relocating to America will be done on the heels of a heartbreak. It may break you at first, but make you stronger. Then the work begins.
Follow the same road where it leads right into the studio recording with iconic artists. Follow it further and it will lead you to the UK and onto radio there. While you are on this journey and gathering little victories, people you love will depart from this world and you won’t be able to say goodbye. It’s going to hurt. And it’s ok to feel sad, withdrawn or ashamed. Continue following the road where the best songs are found. Be a chameleon. Adapt. Change your approach. Change your hair. Change back. Change again. Try new things. Try and fail. Try and succeed. Repeat. Ask more of yourself than you have previously asked. Think more of yourself than you thought you could. Touring will happen with more iconic bands. Performing in places you haven’t dreamed of yet. Visit your Mum whenever you can. She is slowing down a little and needs to see and hear from you more often. You’ll move to Nashville and fall in love with Americana music. The detailed stories, the stark pictures of a hard existence…the musicianship. You’ll find your strongest voice here. And finally find your people here as well. If you are honest in the stories you tell and great things will come of it. We are up to date now. I know you have more questions than answers, but you always did.
Now the work really begins.
Best of luck to you.
Katie Cole – September 2018.