Written by Deniz Çiçek
I can’t remember when I first decided to become an artist.
Maybe it was when I was 5 years old, playing the very hungry caterpillar in the same-named play in kindergarten. Maybe it was when I was 16 years old, seeing all the boy bands in the local scene of my hometown, thinking ‘I can do that better’, or maybe when I saw one of my favorite female artists for the first time live, circa 2008 in a run down club, being mesmerized by her strong performance. It definitely wasn’t when I got into med school.
Kraków Loves Adana is a project that went on and off since 2008 but the decision to truly live a creative life fell just a year ago. So what is different in comparison to KLA’s early years? Choosing a career in arts is tough. There are no degrees and no guarantees that you will make it. But you do it anyway.
I lived in small towns, I lived in big cities, I had a well paying 40k job, I was unemployed, I had a record label with unlimited financial resources, I had no record label at all and still I’d choose to be an independent artist over and over again.
Why? Because I can do what I love when and how I want to. I’ve finally come to accept that this is my path, my vocation. That is the idealistic side of the medal. But there is another one.
This is what the daily routine and the struggles of a self made artist really look like:
From Monday to Friday my alarm goes off at 6 o’clock. I drag myself out of the bed and write 3 pages every morning with a cup of coffee by my side. These are my so called Morning Pages. I introduced myself to them six months ago after the release of our record Call Yourself New. I wanted to prevent any chance of a writer’s block because after releasing this record, I realized how writing was my primary outlet for dealing with feelings. Stumbling upon a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron by chance, I picked up this ritual and do it ever since. The morning pages have become my lifeline, I write about everything that comes into my mind, my dreams, my fears, and also ordinary stuff. After writing them, I have to hurry up and go to my daily job because yes, I still got one. Living in a big city, rent is high and you need some kind of security for survival.
Coping with the daily fear of failure
I work 40 hours a week in the back office of a friend’s joinery, 9 to 5, to allow myself to live for my art. People don’t get why I quit my job as a dentist, but little do they know about the profession. At lunch break, around 2 pm, when my coworkers sit down for lunch, I go for a walk in the woods and the cemetery nearby. This is another habit I picked up from Julia Cameron’s books. Sitting on a desk 8 hours a day and being confronted with the struggles of daily life, the fear of failing as an artist, the doubts in my own work, often leave me restless so I found that walking helps me cope with these thoughts.
I often walk out with a problem, an uneasy thought, with some kind of restlessness, but as I walk I come up with a solution, an idea or at least a different perspective. It helps me to focus on living in the now, the very moment, especially when my path crosses the cemetery. ‚I could be dead tomorrow, so why not at least try?‘ is the one thought that always comes into my mind.
I am a realist so believing in my own doing is one of the toughest choices I have to make every day. Life is distracting and so is the business. We are flooded with so much new music and hyped bands on a daily basis. It is easy to become distracted and to drown in self-doubt and every musician who makes you believe that being independent is easy, is either a liar or a narcissist. I think about quitting at least once a month. But I am slowly coming to terms with that through my aforementioned daily rituals and meditation. It helps me to keep my focus and gives me the strength to keep pushing my own boundaries.
After work I am exhausted but oftentimes I force myself to sit down at the piano anyway and write at least one melody that comes into my mind. I did that excessively when I was in the midst of writing Songs After The Blue and it was at times a tough, hurtful and disappointing experience but it was also a very effective, rewarding and spiritual one.
Just like with Call Yourself New, I wrote, recorded and produced all the songs for Songs After The Blue at home. Before touring this practice is exchanged by rehearsing in our living room. Yes, you got that right, we don’t own a rehearsal space. Wanna know why? Because it’s freaking expensive in Hamburg. For our luck, our neighbors never complained about the noise so we’re not looking for a rehearsal space any time soon.
So here is the thing about touring as a DIY / independent artist: Almost nobody wants to book shows for you. It’s nothing personal but the clubs are struggling almost as much as the artist so of course they have to stay on the safe side to survive.
Limited resources call for unconventional ways
But let’s say we get lucky and actually get to play a show in an okay location for round about 200 bucks. Rob and I, just the two of us, pack all our gear up and load it into the small Corsa of his brother and drive there. Arriving, we are confronted with different backlines, and sometimes not very well trained staff who makes the sound. We can’t afford our own sound guy, at least not for now, so we have to get along with what we have. When we first started playing with our current setup, just Rob and me and a backing track, I was often nervous and felt like we could never be a good live act without having a drummer. But in the last couple of months our setup really grew on me and I finally manage to play for the sake of playing. I enjoy performing my music in front of people even if it is just a bunch of them standing at the bar with crossed arms looking bored, with a big gap between us on stage and them. Oftentimes, we end up talking to them at the merch stand, handing our vinyl to a new won fan.
With the little money we make with playing shows, selling our vinyl and a bit of luck, we can fortunately pay for new gear, upcoming vinyl and music videos. We filmed the video for American Boy the day after a show, with 150 bucks in our pocket and half an hour of sunshine. You have to come up with unusual ideas to make something out of such limited resources.
At the end of the day we find our true inspiration to keep on going within ourselves, the public feedback is just the icing on the cake but never guaranteed. So whenever we get frustrated and struggle to find the motivation to keep on going we listen to the thoughts of other creatives who clearly made their mark in the world:
‘Forget being the best of anything. That’s the fruit of the action. You do the work they say for the doing – not the fruit. You can never really know how it’s going to turn out in the world. But you know if you enjoy doing it. Ideas start flowing and you start getting excited about stuff. Then you are having a great time in the doing. And that’s what it’s all about. If you don’t enjoy the doing than do something else.’
Kraków Loves Adana just released their new single American Boy, a first teaser from the band’s new full-length Songs After The Blue, out on April 6 via Better Call Rob.