Meet Brittany Barbera, musician, author, and artist. Brittany is a Nashville based singer/songwriter, #1 Best- Selling Author, and potter. Her adventurous spirit inspires her projects, leading her back to what started it all: fun. What drives her creative process is the spontaneity of collaboration, and discovery. Her most recent projects are exploratory in nature as she experiments with new questions about life, drinks copious amounts of coffee, and lets awkward encounters with new people serve as her inspiration!
When did you first learn about your field of work? What called you to it?
I’m a singer/songwriter, so it feels hard for me to answer this question because music is such a constant presence in our lives. I don’t remember the first time I ever heard a song and I don’t recall having any conscious thought about wanting to sing. I think I was simply born musical and started singing before I had any awareness about what I was doing.
When I was 5 years old, I remember being so excited to audition for a solo in our school concert. In retrospect I laugh about that experience, because I went to that audition and didn’t even know how to read. But at the time, it didn’t even phase me; I didn’t know reading was a prerequisite. (Fortunately, they allowed me to sing a song I knew by heart and I ended up getting the part anyway!) So, it’s just something that has always been attractive to me. When I was in elementary school, I also started writing poetry and discovered I was pretty good at it. Looking back, I think that is where the songwriter in be was born, although I never thought to marry the two (writing and singing) until I was in my early twenties.
I never stopped performing but I didn’t grow up in an area where “singing” was viewed as a legitimate job title. So, when I actually visited Nashville for the first time in my late twenties and saw so many like-minded people, that really impacted me. Once I knew it actually was possible to create/perform music as a career, I knew I had to go for it.
I truly stumbled into this career by accident. I’ve always been a writer I suppose. But, I never made it a goal to become a writer. I also really love to read and even spent a short time as a librarian back in the day. So, I wouldn’t say anyone was all that surprised when I told them I was writing a book, because I talk about books a lot.
In college I wrote my thesis with two of my classmates and it was a very interesting, intense experience. At the time, I remember thinking that collaborative writing projects like that would be a fun job, if you didn’t have any other responsibilities (because, it’s an arduous process). Then, a few years later, I started blogging (sporadically) because I was bored and wanted something interesting to do (I guess this confirms what I said earlier about constantly needing to make things). People then started telling me that I should I write a book and I considered it but ultimately decided against it because I didn’t think I had anything to write about.
Then last year, I was watching a webinar about book marketing. I was only watching it to see if I could transfer anything to music marketing, but I got sucked in. The online event was hosted by Self-Publishing School, and they said they could help me write a book, even if I didn’t think I had anything to say. So, I jumped in. As I started to outline my ideas, I thought it would be interesting to connect the book with music. So I eventually wrote a song and used the song lyrics as chapter titles in what eventually became a #1 best selling book!
I did very poorly in art classes until I got to high school and took a ceramics class. It was a life changing discovery for me. I knew I wasn’t great at drawing, but discovered sculpting was different. Being able to literally be hands-on while creating made all the difference for me. Touching, shaping, manipulating clay was much easier than other forms of art and I loved it. I also love that it’s a messy process. For a period of time, I thought about being a professional potter but decided it was more of a hobby than an occupation. I stepped away from it for almost a decade and got back into it a few years ago. Now, I make and sell things on my Etsy shop, but I mainly do it because I like it. So I try not to make it more complicated than that. It’s fun. If you get a chance to try it, go make a mess and thank me later.
What was the best piece of advice you were ever given in regards to pursuing your passions?
Love the work. As artists, we make so many sacrifices just for the opportunity to work. We often have to carve out a space for ourselves because it’s not as linear a path as other vocations are. This can be both extremely challenging and rewarding. Ultimately, you’re not going to stick with it unless you are sincerely motivated to create and find joy in the craft. I’m happy when I’m making things, when I’m working on a project that commands my attention. The older I get, the more I value this part of the experience. It allows me to be a creator without forgetting that I’m also continually growing discovering. And that helps me take risks, because if I’m just playing anyway, I don’t have to be good at it immediately. It frees me up to be present in the moment and see where it leads, which is a necessary part of the creative process.
Also, I once heard someone say, “Only you have your eyes.” Don’t let the simplicity of that statement rob you of it’s truth. The reality is that we’re not ever truly creating anything new. Most of what we say has already been said by someone else before, even if they have only hinted at the idea. But our challenge is to say old things in a new way – our way- to shed light on something and offer a unique perspective that might catalyze an audience. We spend so much of our time trying to copy other people or compare ourselves/our work to someone else, and fail to realize there is room for us all. We all have something to offer one another, but no one can do it for us. We have to do our part and be honest. We have to give our uniqueness a voice.
What does success mean to you?
There is a part of me that defines success as a certain amount of money, awards, status. But that part of me is extremely narrow minded. While a certain amount of revenue and notoriety is needed in order to have a sustainable career as a musician, those things are all fleeting. I still have goals and dreams, but at the end of the day, I think success is:
1. Being able to work hard at something I love
2. Staying connected (to God, myself, friends & family, fans)
3. Offering something beautiful to the world
4. Knowing that who I am & what I have to give matters
5. Interacting with people in such a way that they are also inspired to do what is inside of them to do.
What is your personal motto?
It’s cool to be cynical these days. Sincerity is at times something our culture mocks. But we miss out on so much if we are hyper-focused on being “cool.”
In my experience, caring is much more satisfying. Take care of yourself. Care about the people you meet. Care about your work. Care about things that are going on in the world. Be uncool and committed; stay the course. Your relationships will be deeper and more fulfilling if you care. Your work will have a greater impact if you care. It’s not glamorous and it’s often hard to stay emotionally invested when it’s easier to bail, but good things come from it. And I don’t want to miss out on the good things.
Name a woman, past or present, whom you admire…
My mom. She is selfless and hardworking. She hates to be the center of attention and rarely gets credit for all she does, all she has endured. But she is consistent nonetheless. Consistently loves her family. Consistently keeps her word. Consistently does what needs to be done, whether or not anyone else notices. Consistently proves you don’t have to have the loudest voice to make a felt difference.