Last weekend, I saw Kacey Musgraves perform at the Houston Rodeo.
Let me tell you how much I love me some Kacey. She was my most-listened-to artist according to my end of the year summary on Spotify; I spent over 32 hours of last year listening to her music, particularly her newest album, “Golden Hour.” Last summer I launched a collection of paintings that I named “The Color of My Sky” after a line in one of her songs, the namesake of her album:
“...You’re my golden hour,
The color of my sky
You set my world on fire,
And I know, I know everything's gonna be alright…”
Needless to say, I’m a fan.
What kept me coming back to that album, hour after hour, was the honesty in her words and her voice. This quality became particularly prominent when I saw her perform live. She was no longer a voice floating through my headphones, but she was a girl from a small town in Texas, who feared getting stuck in the small town norms, unable to achieve her dreams. The woman singing on stage was still that small-town girl, but was also someone who didn’t let that small town hold her back. It was the most honest performance I’ve ever seen. She was someone who saw what she wanted, and ran relentlessly towards it.
That is exactly what we all are doing, isnt it? There’s this “thing” that we desire more than anything, and our drive to achieve that “thing” is what defines our character, and how the course of our life pans out.
This performance got me thinking about what it means to be honest, not just in words but in action, and how honesty gives way to authenticity. What Kacey did on the Houston Rodeo stage was perform the songs that honestly presented how she felt when she wrote them. The songs are the true fact of her emotions and feelings. Her delivery, though, was authentic, because she conveyed the same emotional impact that she felt when she first wrote them.
Imagine how incredible it would be to be fully honest, and, in turn, be completely authentic versions of ourselves?
For some of y’all, maybe this isn’t a problem. And this is probably (definitely) coming from my own insecurities and fears, combined with a general tendency towards my self-consciousness that I mask as “shyness.” And it’s also not that I’m not telling lies or pretending to be someone I am not. What I’ve learned is that people like me can’t get enough of Kacey because her story and her music is unique, unlike anyone else. We identify with the honesty in her music, that in turn, gives us the permission we may or may not need to be fully honest with ourselves, and examine what we are (or aren’t) authentically representing in our everyday life.
As a visual artist, it’s easy to compare my work to other artists’. At times, things like Instagram can be very dangerous for my creative process, because it brings all sorts of comparisons and influences that might make their way into my studio. There are times that I’ve stepped back from a painting, and gasped because I’ve unconsciously mimicked work from artists that I follow, and I panic! because the last thing I want to be is a copycat.
There are times when studying another artist’s work is a good thing. I particularly love discovering other artist’s color palettes, and translating them into my work. I notice that an artist may use a high percentage of white in their work, or another’s palette has lots of muted blue tints. Gathering information like this is the helpful kind of influence. However, the second I try to mimic a style or way of painting, I begin to lose my authenticity. The second I am dishonest on the canvas, problems arise, and the painting fails. My best work happens when I put away all distractions and lose myself, letting the magic happen on the canvas.
Honesty and its by-product authenticity have been on the forefront of my mind, and I’m learning how important it is to filter through all of the potential influences that could have too much impact on my unique perspective. And when I am tempted to adjust what I create because it might not fit a certain mold, I need to be reminded that a unique perspective is more successful, and more sustainable, than one that checks all of the boxes. Thank God for people like Kacey Musgraves who are a shining example of the attractiveness of authenticity and honesty, because, as Kacey herself says:
“I'd rather lose for what I am than win for what I ain't”