Same Old Song, New Tune: Being Over 40 in the Music Business
Helen Austin is a singer, songwriter, and classically trained musician. Originally from the UK, Helen now resides in Vancouver with her family. You can follow her shenanigans on her Facebook, Twitter, or see her on Youtube.
I know. What am I thinking… right?
I spent my first career in a world dominated by men. For the 20 years I was a stand-up comedian which has so few women that when there were more than 2 in an evening they often would promote it as a “women’s” show. So I am used the the inequalities in some parts of the performing world and I chose not to complain about them, after all, I did pretty well and got lots of work.
But the music business is a whole different animal.
Genes have been kind to me and, for some reason, being short apparently makes me look younger… and dying my hair my whole life hasn’t hurt either (what? Not a natural blond!)
When I was offered management last year, with the whole deal of stylists etc it made me really think about being my age. Lots of people told me not to worry, that I looked younger than I was and I could get away with it. But I did not want to “get away with it”. I did not want to lie or allude to being something I wasn’t. I was also too old to have someone tell me that really skinny jeans look good on me… because I know they don’t!
While considering the deal I spent a lot of time looking in the mirror, scrutinizing my face, looking up products that could hide my wrinkles and generally being my own worst critic. This is when I realized that I was 45 and wanted to be 45. I have experienced all the things that all the other ages entailed, drinking too much in my 20s, self examining and having kids in my 30s and now it was time for the peace that comes with being in my 40s and not caring too much what others thought of me… which is the BEST part of being over 40.
So why was I considering regressing to a time where I was full of self doubt? And this is where I stopped and knew that this life was not going to work for me. Aside from being away from my family for large chunks of time, the worry about how I looked was not something I wanted to spend my days doing. I like not wearing make-up every day and saving it for evenings out or performing. I like that I have a teenager and, no, I didn’t have her in high- school. And I like being 45… oops 46.
This year I was offered the opportunity of management again, but this time under a band name, Big Little Lions, and the half of the band is a guy, also in his 40s. And this time I said yes. Somehow being in a band takes away all the pressure of having to to be young and sexy. Being in band feels like I can be who I am because I am not the only front person and people won’t be only looking at (and scrutinizing) me. It also helps that my band mate, Paul is well, well over 6 feet tall and I am 5 feet and a photographer once told me that if I wanted to look young that I should be photographed with tall men. Between Paul and my publisher, who is around 6’5″… I am beginning to feel like a teenager.
Take a listen: So Stay (as heard on MTV’s My Life as Liz)