Alex Hickey brings us a musical commentary on something most artists are familiar with, the struggle to survive. She promises that her newest CD, “The Day the Money Run Out” won’t “get you bogged down in seriousness“, rather it approaches the subject through a lens of humour. She’s even included a couple of lullabies to remind listeners to relax. We asked her a few questions about this important topic.
1. How do you personally balance your art and your work? What have you learned along the way? I find the balance between making art and making a living can be a difficult one. I’m very fortunate to have a great team at my dayjob who give me a lot of flexibility, but I’m almost always tired and performing at night doesn’t mix very well with a 9 to 5 schedule. What I’ve learned along the way, though, is that I can approach the need to make a living as an opportunity to fuel my creativity and to write about things that I hope will resonate with lots of people, people like me who are dealing with the necessity of making a living and how they feel about that. I couldn’t have written The Day the Money Run Out without the experiences I’ve had and the things I’ve witnessed at my various dayjobs.
2. Have you ever encountered a situation where “the Money Run Out”? If so, how did you overcome these circumstances? Oh, the “Money Run Out” for me quite some time ago! The line in that song about “paying off our debts” comes straight from my heart! However, I feel a powerful call to write, record and perform my songs, and I believe that it’s worth investing in my art. It’s worth a little debt to create work that I feel so passionate about. When I get worried about money, I try to work a little harder and live a little more simply and hope that if I do my best, it will all work out over the long haul.
3. Any words of encouragement for “starving artists” out there? The “starving artist” idea is such a powerful myth in our culture. I hate that it scares a lot of people away from pursuing their vocations. In our consumerist culture, I think “starving artist” has been redefined to mean someone who has to do without luxuries that have been redefined as necessities. Taken in that context, I’d rather be a starving artist than starve my art. In my experience, money and “stuff” don’t feed art. Art is nourished by time and passion, honesty and collaboration. I’m willing to sacrifice a few creature comforts in the interest of answering the call to create music.
Alex Hickey publishes a blog of her own (Alexsings.blogspot.com) Here are her musings on her upcoming release:
Album Notes – The Day the Money Run Out (first published on August 16, 2010)
Now that the artwork and the master for The Day The Money Run Outhave been handed over to the manufacturers, I am taking a few moments to reflect on the genesis of the project before plunging into the nitty-gritty of putting together the launch: the party, the media push and all that jazz. Basically, I’m procrastinating, because none of that organizing work is going to be anywhere near as much fun for me as the process of creating the cd. At least not until we get to the launch party – that’ll be a hoot, but with a date sometime in late October, there’s still a ways to go before we get there.
In the meantime, I’m thinking about how this cd came into being. Because I’ve been writing for many years but only recording for the past couple, I have almost 4 albums of songs (with more added every month) waiting their turn to be recorded and released. So, the question is: what made me choose to record and release these songs at this time?
The Day the Money Run Out is basically an album about work: the good and bad sides of working – and not working. There are songs about corporate zombies and homelessness, success and getting stepped on. I wrote some of these songs years ago, and others (including the title track), since the current economic downturn began in 2008.
I think the bolt of lightening hit me in March 2009, when I saw Jon Stewart interview Bruce Springsteen on The Daily Show and The Boss said, “We’ve had an enormous moral, spiritual, economic collapse, and people go to storytellers when times are like that.” That statement hit me hard and pointed me in the direction of creating “The Day The Money Run Out.”
Sometimes, there’s an invisibility to hard times. A few months after his interview with Springsteen, I heard Jon Stewart question why people don’t write songs about things like the economic collapse (I’m paraphrasing here because I can’t find the exact episode – but can you tell that I watch The Daily Show compulsively?) I remember thinking, “Well, actually, lots of people write those songs, but they just tend not to be folks with major label deals who get played a lot on the radio. For songs about hard times, you have to look to independent musicians, people who are experiencing hard times, or who have experienced them recently enough to remember what they feel like. (One song that immediately leaps to my mind is “Woebetide the Doer of the Deed” by Old Man Luedecke, a no-holds-barred response to the actions that led to the current economic situation, released on his amazing album, My Hands are on Fire and Other Love Songs in the spring of 2010.)
Since I feel deeply connected with my own struggles around work, financial survival and urban living, when The Boss’s lightening bolt hit me, I leapt at the opportunity to create an album that focuses on these topics. I hope The Day the Money Run Out will provoke new insights into the economic and cultural situation we find ourselves in. And I figure a little toe-tapping, a few laughs and couple of lullabies can’t hurt matters, either. Maybe Human Resources Blues will help take the sting out of being downsized for you or someone you love. Maybe John Doe will inspire you to lend a hand to a fellow-traveler along the way. Maybe Rest With Me Tonight will lull you to sleep after a difficult and anxious day. I certainly hope so.