In Denmark, we have a concept called "Janteloven" or more often translated as "The Law of Jante". If you say "Janteloven" to any Dane, they will immediately know what you are referring to. And most of us have felt the influence of this "law" during our life in Denmark.
What is this "Law of Jante" you ask? And why on earth am I bringing it up in one of my blog posts as part of my story?
"The Law of Jante" was first introduced in 1935 by author Aksel Sandemose in his novel "A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks" (footnote: I also saw a translation that said "A Fugitive Covers His Tracks" which not as accurate as the former.) In it, he describes the lead character Espen Arnakke's experiences living in the small provincial town of Jante. In this town, the inhabitants have kept each other down, generation after generation, with envy and narrow-mindedness. It is these unwritten rules that Sandemose has translated into the ten commandments in the "Jantelaw". They are:
Sandemose spells out exactly how the city operates and how the inhabitants think. The city's self-suppressing lower class and the petty-bourgeois who want to be so better-than-thou, teach their children inferiority and distrust of the outside world from a young age, all to make themselves feel better.
It does come across rather two-sided. On one hand, this community is suppressing their peers with these 10 commandments, yet at the same time, them saying "don't think you're better than us" is expressing exactly that they indeed think they are. I enjoyed this conundrum immensely.
The thing I do love about the story, which is not an easy read or even all that enjoyable, is that the lead character finally does muster up his courage to break out and sail the seas, something that in my experience doesn't come easy when met with this kind of deprecating forced inferiority.
I do think Sandemose was making a rather flamboyant sarcastic attempt at showing the small towns in Denmark just how silly this whole concept is, but I think his point fell to the wayside and the concept was adopted. He finally put into words what was already there.
So why does this book belong in my story? Well, growing up in Denmark, this book has made its impact. I don't think the Law of Jante came from a book, I think the Danish community saw itself in these commandments and thought: "yes, that's exactly who we are and what we do". I think of Aksel Sandemose as someone who put into words something we all were seeing and feeling around us, and this whole concept was then made famous as "The Law of Jante". It belongs in my story because this written, yet unwritten law has been an interwoven part of my culture for as long as I can remember and has been there, well-enforced for generations.
I'm sure you can imagine what happens to a little girl, with a big voice and wilder than wildest dreams when she is presented with 10 commandments like this and told, this is a part of your culture. Not only that, but I felt the spirit of these writings intertwine in my daily life, I saw it when I was told not to shine too bright. When I was proud of an achievement, I saw it. If I ever felt like I was going to do something special, I felt it.
I don't think this concept is reserved for the Scandinavians, I believe it is a small town syndrome. I have seen many examples of trying to explain this type of "community culture". One is "Crab mentality" or "Crabs in a bucket syndrome". The urban dictionary describes it as:
"When a single crab is put into a lidless bucket, they surely can and will escape. However, when more than one shares a bucket, none can get out. If one crab elevates themself above all, the others will grab this crab and drag'em back down to share the mutual fate of the rest of the group. Crab bucket syndrome is often used to describe social situations where one person is trying to better themself and others in the community attempt to pull them back down."
This is exactly what the Law of Jante is for me. I am sure many communities have their version of this behavior, we are pack animals and this fear of falling out of the norm did once upon a time mean literal life or death. I'm sure the crabs are just trying to keep each other safe! But when we use this kind of fear against each other to hold each other down, there's a problem. Then it is no longer beneficial. Especially in a time where there is no need for this kind of conditioning.
I do think there is one key difference to the Scandinavian version of "Crabmentality". In Denmark, we owned it. Almost to the point of being proud of it, as something that was innately Danish, that made us who we are. It was never presented as a bad thing, just something we had or even worse something we were. Like a little guideline for how to act in society once we were all grown up.
To some, it may not make a difference one way or the other. But to me, it was devastating. Every time I wanted to sing or step on a stage, every time I excelled at anything, every time, I would be discouraged and feel like I was making everyone else look bad, embarrassed or mad. Here's another kicker: as a person who moved to the US there will still be people who think I am badmouthing Denmark or being disloyal to my roots. I mean in no way to be disrespectful.
Here's the way I see it: if the Law of Jante never made you feel the way it made me feel, then you're good! Denmark is the place for you. Have fun and live out your wonderful life. Just don't let other people tell you how bright to shine or how far to reach. I did what was right for me. Only YOU know what is right for you.
Here is the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Fugitive-Covers-His-Tracks-ebook/dp/B07F8Z62RV
Side note: I planned to re-read the book in Danish when all this crazy quarantine stuff set in. Since it will be a while before the book can get here from Denmark I had to settle for the translated English version.
I have the sense that this COVID-19 epidemic is a stepping stone to something greater. That we can learn something, a lot of things, from this situation. I'm not saying it's crappy, it really, really, sucks to be canceled on and have your pay cut and being told to stay at home. Especially for people like me, and other artists who rely on social gatherings to make our living.
I'm not sure what will happen. We have all lost, some more than others. I have lost some significant shows, and it's not fun. I know there are people out there hurting a lot more than I am.
So why do I say this is a stepping stone to something greater? I certainly am a silver lining kind of person, but I truly believe we have things to learn from this crisis. If only we choose to learn the lessons put in front of us.
Lesson one: Use the internet.
We live in a world where the internet rules us and we can't last 5 minutes without asking google or Siri a question. So why is it so hard for us all to "go virtual"? I think this is an opportunity to show schools and employers that yes, you can, in fact, trust your students and employees to get a good days work done from home. Some are more efficient even than with the constant interruptions they face at an office. Granted, there are plenty of jobs that can't be done from afar, but let's take a look at those that can. Can the businesses cut overhead costs if they don't need to house so many employees? Think rent, utilities, and for god's sake TOILET PAPER! How about utilizing the many brilliant software solutions that can help with meetings, task management, and time management?
Maybe even go so far as to realize the format of our schools is outdated and needs some re-thinking. We are not creating worker-bees like we were in the 1900s. When you were being trained to be able to join a factory workforce or a typing squad. The world has changed and maybe the schools will realize we can use the internet to re-think the format of the schools.
As for the creatives, I believe we artists have been ready for online concerts for some time. But it has been my belief that the public wasn't ready. I'm not saying, once this nonsense is over we don't go back to our social activities because there is nothing like a live show in front of a live audience. But let's use the internet, and keep streaming it. If we are lucky, this pandemic will open up the eyes of the general public and artists alike to the usefulness of the technology in front of our noses.
Lesson two: Get creative.
I have seen a bunch of creativity in the wake of this quarantine. My yoga studio is hosting live classes that you can stream in the comfort of your home and do alongside your teacher. How cool and creative is that?
I know of singing coaches who not only took their lessons online, using Skype or something similar but who also said, "this is my opportunity to make those online courses I've been talking about".
I know many of us are thinking mainly of survival at this point, but if you have a little forced free time on your hands, how about putting some stuff up for sale on eBay or taking that online course you've been meaning to do but haven't had the time for? Think about the opportunities you may have, to make the money back once this crisis is over!
My husband and I got creative with our food. We looked at our freezer and pantry and started making plans for how many meals we could make out of what we already have. Turns out, we have a long way to go before we run out of necessities. We are one of the families low on toilet paper, but hey! I have a bunch of old rags that, if it comes down to it, I am happy to use in the meantime. (I know, sorry the visual of that is a little gross, but you get it.)
Lesson three: Stay healthy.
If the only thing that comes from this is that we all learn to wash our hands and stay sanitary, I think that's a win.
I would like to think we as humans (because this is worldwide, which is not often we get to have a shared experience as a species) will come out as better creatures after this. Sometimes, getting a good shake and a scare can make us wake up.
Jessica Lynne's new single "Crazy On The Outside" will be released on May 9th - pre-save today on Spotify!
This blog post is also available on my new podcast "Packing a Punch" - listen on your favorite podcast player!
My story is not ordinary. I feel pretty ordinary, on the inside. But when I tell people where I come from and how I got here, it usually stirs up a gasp or two. My official story simply states that I grew up in Denmark and now live in the Pacific Northwest, but there is much more to it than that. So I decided to tell it.
My childhood was spent divided on three different continents. Strangest of all, I was born in South America. Valdivia, Chile to be exact. My parents were missionaries, but soon after my arrival, they decided to move back to the US. I was 6 months old. Needless to say, I don't remember anything from Chile at all. I ended up with dual citizenship - but not a Chilean one, as you might think, but a Danish/American citizenship.
My parents met in New York. My mom, from a small town of Sejlflod in Jylland, Denmark. My Dad from the Pacific Northwest. So when they decided, with 6 months old me in their arms to move back to the US, they settled on Tacoma, WA. Kind of fortuitous that my journey should lead me back here - only about 10 blocks away from my first American home. But that's for a later chapter.
My parents divorced when I was three and my mother decided to move us, three girls, to Denmark. First Skanderborg, then what I now consider my hometown, Haslev. This is where I went to school, where I had friends, where I learned about life, and love and longing. This is where I grew up. If you can call yourself a "grown-up" at 17; that's when I moved away from home.
I then became what I would call a "Copenhagen nomade" moving almost 25 times in the 13 or so years I lived there, interrupted only by a 2-year stint in Barcelona - also a story for another chapter.
I finally up-rooted, if I ever had roots, and moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2010 when I was 31.
And that's the short, cliff notes version story. But that's not really how I want to tell it. I want to tell my story by delving into how that story made me, me. What it was like, being a part of two worlds, and what sometimes felt like not being a part of anything at all. Feeling like an outsider for all the wrong reasons, trying so hard to belong, but not feeling like I belonged at all.
As a child, I would spend the entire year going to school and living my life in Haslev and every other summer I would visit my Dad in Seattle. The alternating summers, he would visit us. I spoke (and still do speak) both languages fluently... mostly without an accent in either language. My dad would call every week long-distance to keep in touch with us girls. And in the '80s that was not cheap! My mom, even though she is 100% Dane, would make traditional Danish cooking right alongside fried chicken and cornbread. I felt the duality every day.
Consequently, it somehow made me feel divided. Instead of belonging everywhere, I felt like I didn't belong anywhere.
I suppose, with a different outlook on life, this duality could have made me feel abundant, like a citizen of the world, who had many homes. But my upbringing in so many ways nourished lack and dependence. And it made me feel stretched too thin. I was too American to be Danish and too Danish to be American. So I was, effectively, neither.
Every time I came back to Denmark I would miss the US terribly. But it was never actually true the other way around. This only occurred to me when I finally moved here, that the homesickness I would feel for the US when gone, never set in for Denmark. Yes, I missed my family, but not the culture, not the place itself.
In reality, moving to the US clarified a lot of things for me. I have always been more American than Danish, I know that now. I've been loud, brazen, and always had big dreams and big gestures. Not in any way the proper little girl my mother tried to raise me to be. I had a terrible temper, that felt uncontrollable at times and a big voice that was repeatedly told to not shine too brightly, not to make the other kids feel bad.
This may seem harsh, but anyone from Denmark would notice this as "Janteloven" or "The Law of Jante" - a culturally-induced oppression that the Danes all know too well. Again, this is a phenomenon I will explain in depth in another chapter. Suffice it to say, it's a classic "crabs in a bucket" syndrome. When one tries to climb out the others will pull it back down.
So I suppose I was not entirely caught in the middle. I sometimes describe myself as "half-and-half", with a chuckle. But that doesn't really describe me. In reality, I am more like 75/25. In the last ten years, I have learned to embrace my Danish roots, while also fully encompassing how American I really am. Immigrant heritage and all.
In truth, it probably doesn't matter what continent we are on. Denmark for me was a time in my life when I tried to hide who I truly was, in order to try and fit in. It was a time of listening to others over my own intuition, my inner voice. It was a time of not being and owning who I truly am and what my life's purpose is. The US for me has been the journey of fully growing into my true self. A journey of growth and self-exploration. Of owning all sides of me, even the ones I don't necessarily like. And most importantly listening to my own truth rather than what others say. It's not about Denmark and it's not about the US. It's about what each country represents to me and who I became during each timeframe I spent there.
I can now look at being "half-and-half" and feel grateful that I was blessed with so much diversity. And I can own my big voice and my larger than life attitude and put myself on a stage and feel right at home. But I can also remember where I came from, and what is truly important in life. Love of family, love of friends and most importantly, self-love.
As I am writing this I am in Missouri for my final showcase of the season. I'm sure, if you follow me on social media, you will have seen all these showcases I've been going from state to state to perform at.
Long story short, in an attempt to move my musical career forward I decided to start showcasing at conferences. My first ones were at the ArtsNW booking conference (NWBC) and MPAC (Montana Performing Arts Consortium). This year, with the addition of the amazing Liz Gregory to my team, I've been traveling from Fair Convention to Fair Convention to showcase. Mostly with the band but also sometimes solo.
Every one of these endeavors is a pay-to-play scenario. I use this term purposely because it usually makes every musician I know run away screaming. I know musicians who adamantly declare that there is never a reason to pay-to-play and they steer clear of anything that involves an upfront cost to invest in their band's future. Obviously, there is a reason this pay-to-play term has been banned from civilized conversation. It's because it has been misused and people have either been cheated, or their gamble (because it is a gamble) didn't pan out. But I believe there is a time to invest. There are times when it makes sense to pay-to-play.
For each of these showcases, I had the cost of airfare, food, lodging and pay for myself and 3 other musicians. Sometimes car rental too. So I'm sure you can deduct that just by those expenses, doing eight of these showcases this winter was a huge investment for me and my husband.
Is it worth it? So far my first little dabbles in showcasing have paid off and then some. So I am confident these will too. Ask me at the end of summer if I still feel the same!
During these months of constant expenses, I have had to keep my cool during some crazy experiences. Being sick for one, having to pay triple the original cost of airfare for another, having to borrow a bass at the destination at a third, and driving all four of us around in the snow on glassy roads at a fourth. I don't have a manager. I don't have a tour manager even. I have been in charge of planning every detail while also performing.
It has also made me more efficient, and made me have to have to work smarter, not harder. I've had to stomach much bigger sums of investing than I have previously ever had to do. It has made me practice gratitude, visualize abundance, and exercise trust. Trust, that this will all pan out in the end.
In the end, I have been in front of more talent buyers from fairs and festivals than I could ever dream to reach out to on my own. With the help of my team and the follow-up they are doing, this is already panning out. It's a tried and true method, and that's also why I believe it's going to work. My job is just to put on the best damn show I can and the rest will fall into place.
Welcome to my Blog. It is going to be living on Patreon, but will be free for everyone for the time being. Hope you enjoy!
2020 is a new chapter, a new decade. We are heading into the roaring '20s. 100 years ago, this decade was booming with change. The most provocative music the world had ever heard, shorter dresses and a women's rights movement that looked like it would go a lot further than it actually did. Art soared to new heights with artists like Cézanne and Picasso breaking all the known rules. Literature was groundbreaking with Fitzgerald, Stein, and Hemingway. Women's Suffrage finally got women the chance to vote (in the US). The world looked bright.
It seems we are so advanced in so many things, but the fact that women have only been allowed to vote for 100 years, reminds me that there's still so much we have to learn.
To me, the '20s feel like another milestone. I follow the decades, off by only one year, so the '20s also bring my 40's. In 2019 and the beginning of 2020 I have sunk more resources into my career than I ever have before. And with any investment, there's no guarantee. And it's scary. As I am writing this, two days ago I was in my very first car accident. And that was scary. Two seconds and two more inches and my husband, dog and I would not be here today.
It seems like I've been thrown into an even deeper reflection than I usually am around New Year's Eve. Existentially and emotionally. I was upset with some of my choices and felt almost heavenly guided when it came to others.
I've never been one for New Year's resolutions. They always seemed too fleeting to me. I like goals, long term, and short term. And I hardly ever use the first of the year to make new starts anyway. That time is too cluttered with Christmas and New Year's Eve celebrations and my birthday immediately after. New starts need time and space to breathe. A period of "not much going on" after which you can jump into the new plans whole-heartedly.
Sometimes, you just don't have those breathers. Last year I went from finishing up the Live It OutLoud program, straight into lots of shows and showcases and a trip to Nashville to record. That led straight into Christmas and here we are at New Year's with not a break or breather in sight. So new starts are just going to have to happen whenever they happen. And this year there happens to be a lot of new starts in the first of the year.
I hope you don't think I'm complaining. I feel blessed and invigorated by all these new changes in my career. I just take my breathers when I can. And I can't wait to share my new adventures as we head into the New Roaring '20s.
Welcome to my Blog. It is going to be living on Patreon, but will be free for everyone for the time being. Hope you enjoy!
When you have a goal or a pursuit in life, some choices seem easy and apparent. Some, on the other hand, seem difficult, unnecessary and unclear.
When I moved to the US wanting to become a country artist, it seemed pretty apparent that I would need to record some music. I would need to choose a name and obviously play a few (or a hundred) live shows.
But where to record? And what? What should I call myself? Where should (or even can) I play? Should I stay in the Northwest or move on to Nashville, like everyone else?
It even seems once you've made a choice in the direction of your dreams, it's done and you shouldn't have to think about it anymore. You move on to the next crossroads.
But the truth of the matter is, the same obstacles come up again and again. I'm hanging out with some friends in Nashville, meeting people and having a good time. There is no doubt that my music belongs here in Nashville, which is also why I come here to record and make an effort to spend time here. Most of the time I feel like I fit in and I'm doing some legitimate business here. But sometimes I feel like an alien because I didn't choose to move here in the first place. There seems to be an unsaid thing that if you haven't moved here, you're not really serious about your career. Yet, when I tell people I am a full-time musician, they are either thoroughly impressed or don't believe me and assume I drive Lyft on the side at the very least.
Most musicians I've met who are living in Nashville don't actually make ends meet with "just" music stuff. They have "day jobs" or do a plethora of different odd jobs. They barter with other musicians to make their own music or pour all their money back into their music careers.
So was my choice to not become a full-time Nashvillian a good one or a bad one? I don't know. But I do know that if I was living in Nashville right now, I would not be able to spend all of my time on my own music career the way I am while living in the Pacific NW. But then the question arises: would my career have gotten further than it is right now at this moment had I moved to Nashville in the first place?
Those are the unknowns, that we will never know. All I know is I never felt called to actually move to Nashville full time. I have felt called to spend more time in Nashville, and maybe one day I will have a second home here. But I always felt that in this day and age it doesn't matter where you live. You can pursue your music from anywhere. If I'm traveling 9 months out of the year playing shows, what does it matter where I actually live?
I also have the blessing of coming home and having my sanctuary with my family far away from the tumultuous music city. Where I can come home and unplug and not be pulled in every direction. Where I have a network of friends who support and encourage me. And that is probably my biggest reason for staying in the Pacific NW. And I have never regretted that decision.
Welcome to my Blog. It is going to be living on Patreon, but will be free for everyone for the time being. Hope you enjoy!
I consider myself an "all-or-nothing girl". The way I describe this is if I can't do it right, perfect or all the way, I don't do it at all. I'm sure you can imagine that this unbridled perfectionism got me nowhere for many years. It's partly the reason why I was over 30 when I finally started pursuing my dream of being a Country Artist.
I must say that the only one who ever held me to such high standards, was myself. And the only one who made the rule of what was "good enough", was me. My own personal perfect prison.
The way my environment helped me out with this world view, is probably something most school children can relate to. The mantra was: "mistakes are bad". It was all about not making mistakes. At all. To hell with what you can learn from them. This view was everywhere, in school, in church, in my family. Which, as an "all-or-nothing girl" wreaks tremendous havoc, as I strive to be absolutely perfect. And what does that even mean? Perfection is subjective, but I viewed it as an absolute, a goal to achieve, and falling miserably short every single time.
Now, don't get me wrong, there is something really valuable to get out of being an "all-or-nothing girl". I got really good at whatever I pursued because I worked so freaking hard on everything. Striving for perfection I wouldn't rest until I had reached an "acceptable" skill level. Again, what was acceptable, was entirely dictated by me.
The flipside to this striving syndrome is that I would give up the most worthy endeavors before I even gave them a try. My music career was one of them. I would asses from the starting line that the road was too hard, my skills too low and my chances of succeeding (whatever that means) too slim and deem it undoable.
This left me very unhappy.
Once I decided against all odds to pursue my dreams, my view on this needed to change. I needed to learn to enjoy the journey because the end-result of "success" was rather blurry. I needed to be ok with where I was at with my skills and play anyway. Because the only way of pursuing what truly makes me happy was to put myself out there and make a million mistakes. "But mistakes are bad!" the "all-or-nothing girl" would exclaim. And so this world view too had to go.
The word "mistakes" is even the wrong word for it. When you want to learn to be on a stage, the only way to learn is to be on a stage, it's the ultimate catch 22. And so you have to be willing to put yourself out there, with all your mishaps and missed chords and do it anyway.
Suddenly it wasn't about being ready, it was about just being. And being ok with however things turned out.
If I could do one thing to help other "all-or-nothing girls" I would remove the word "mistake" from our vocabulary. Or at least have everyone make friends with it. With mistakes not being demonized, we are free to make them and learn from them and possibly throw ourselves into incredible things that we would otherwise deem unachievable. How do you know what's unachievable unless you try?
Welcome to my Blog. It is going to be living on Patreon, but will be free for everyone for the time being. Hope you enjoy
This month of Thanksgiving I have been preoccupied with gratitude. I even put "Gratitude is my Attitude" on my sign in the little bar we have in the living room. Cliche, I know. But I truly am feeling it right now.
Thankfulness and appreciation... those are words that come to mind when I think of gratitude. Loving what you have and not longing for anything to be different.
As a child, I was taught to be grateful for God's forgiveness. To be grateful that Jesus gave his life for us. As well-meaning as these religious teachings were, I once thought of gratitude as a guilt-driven emotion. Gratitude was a debt you owed for something you never asked anyone to do for you. You had to feel grateful, or you were a spoiled little brat. It was years before I understood gratitude and gratefulness fully. Probably because I simply had never felt it. Or at least the version of gratitude I was taught, wasn't what I consider true gratitude today.
I was taught "it is better to give than to receive" another oxymoron since as a child, it always seems better to receive. Once again, the guilt of not actually feeling that way gave the gratitude I felt when I did receive a tainted feel to it.
As a young adult, I sometimes found myself in situations where people thought I was ungrateful for something they had done for me. Often, I didn't understand why. I was grateful (in the actual sense of the word) and I expressed my gratitude by saying thank you, but at that time in my life, I would attract people who didn't think that was enough. I wasn't enough. I was apparently supposed to exclaim it further, and possibly also read their minds, that would have been best. So once again, guilt was associated with thankfulness. Two very clashing emotions, that normally don't have anything to do with each other. But the association made it very hard for me to understand and value the true meaning of gratitude.
When I first heard of Oprah's Gratitude Journal back in the 90's, I was skeptical. I'm pretty sure it was because my then version of gratitude was something forced upon me and not something I knew how to feel. It was years before I felt called to keep one myself.
It wasn't until the amazing Genevieve Davis introduced the gratitude journal in her book "Becoming Magic" that I started getting a feel for the true meaning of gratitude. It helped that she mentioned you could substitute the gratitude journal for a "how wonderful" or "I'm so happy" -journal. When I put those words in front of things I was genuinely grateful for, a flush of true gratitude would rush over me. I finally understood gratitude. Not by having it explained. Not by words, but by feeling it deep into my soul.
She also made a big deal of not writing down things you think you should feel grateful for, but aren't. This was exactly my block around gratitude since it had been so heavily associated with feeling guilty.
My understanding of gratitude is now light and airy but deep and warm at the same time. It is not a state of mind, it is an emotion. And for me, it's a very physical one. I keep my gratitude journal to this day. When I write a sentence in it, I sit and feel the gratitude for that thing. I find that focusing upon things you are happy about or grateful for in your life is the most potent and powerful boost you can give your life.
What are you grateful for?