“The ability to stand up and speak your truth can change a life.”
Seventeen years ago, we were introduced to the raw feminine power that is Billie Myers. She reached into all of us and shook our souls with a message of broken love with wild hearted lyrics.
If your lips feel lonely and thirsty
Kiss the rain
And wait for the dawn
Keep in mind
We’re under the same sky
And the nights
As empty for me as for you
If you feel
You can’t wait until morning
Kiss the rain.
Her second album Vertigo addresses religion with passionate question, but did not have the commercial success of her 1997 album, Growing Pains. After a depression diagnosis, Billie released a wildly provocative album called Just Sex, her liberation in many aspects was spoken deep within a metaphor of reconnecting to an intrinsic aspect of herself.
Now, with her latest album, Tea and Sympathy, Rolling Stone has given its stamp of approval, calling it “electrifying.” Billie has marked a new era of her life as an example of empowerment and authenticity by returning to her roots. Her stories are her own, now told to ethereal melodies that have accented her life’s ups and downs and the value she holds on emotional connection.
“I was very adamant that that was what I wanted to do. I am really lucky to have people in my camp that tell me the truth every day. A lot of people said you don’t need to tell the story with that intro. That the song should just be three minutes. Even if no one else gets it, this is me starting all over again. This is a new period. One thing I love about songs from the 70s and 80s is that every song had a story. Could you imagine Bohemian Rhapsody as a three min song?”
There comes a time in the journey of the artist where the mask must come off. While everyone has the responsibility for self-care and earning a living, there is a delicate balance between artistic integrity and personal responsibility. In my conversation with Billie, she poignantly shared her personal insights and hard-earned lessons with graciousness and humor. This woman is definitely the real deal, living her stark-naked truth before the entire world of music.
“It’s very hard for any independent artist to try to stay relatively true to themselves.
At the end of the day everybody still has to pay rent, mortgage and gas bill. But there is a moment when an entity or an album is involved and an artist says ‘I will give you two songs but the meat and potatoes of the concept is going to be who I am.’ When you go perform, it has to all be you otherwise you will grow to hate performing.
The most ridiculous things to hear are ‘Sheryl Crow hates performing All I Wanna Do.’ Firstly, it’s the song that put you on the map but secondly, if it was not that representative of you, you should never have done it because that is what your audience bought. I would be miffed if I went to a Sheryl Crow concert and she didn’t play that song. At the end of the day if you’re going to be singing the same song fifty times a year, if not a lot more, you better like it and it better resonate. Every time you sing it, it has to be authentic.”
The access of emotion no matter the period in which her work has been created is the secret to Billie’s ability to continually reinvent her craft and stay connected to the soul of her work. This gift however, has not always appealed to the draconian business model that the struggling commercial aspect of the music industry is holding onto for dear life. They see the methods in which customers obtain music both legally and illegally change drastically with the advancement of technology and are poised to capitalize on short term profitability.
“The music business wants it both ways, they want the number one single, and they want immediacy. They want an album but they create one track and a lot of filler. Then they want to sell albums but they are not making albums they are making singles. Then they complain that they are not making money on singles. Well you knew you weren’t going to make money on singles so why didn’t you think about a long term plan? They concentrate on a market base aimed toward kids because kids will buy singles, but they forget about the older demographic who will buy albums if you have good albums to sell. So they are killing themselves for their own short sightedness but are complaining about it.
I actually had someone play a bit of Eminem in a meeting with me and say ‘if you could get an 8 second sample rate like this, we would be able to work with you. We know you have hits, but production wise, we need you to do it this way.’ Here I am a woman, a bisexual and all you could find to play me was Eminem. How does that resonate with me? We have much bigger issues here.”
At the end of the day, Billie’s passions lie elsewhere.
“What I love most is performing, my end result is figuring out how to get to do that every day of the week. If you look back at the people we say are iconic and legendary, they weren’t hits off the bat. People knew they had to grow.”
Billie has always paid homage to the pains that personal growth entail in her music, but as an LGBT advocate, she has stood in solidarity with a community she oftentimes feels alienated from. In 2009, Myers sang “America the Beautiful at the National Equality March in Washington, D.C. Before she began, Billie criticized president Barack Obama for failing to mention marriage equality and the battle to ban same-sex marriage in Maine during his speech the previous night at a Human Rights Campaign dinner.
“I can’t tell you how many times I have had conversations with gay men and gay women who tell me ‘it’s just an excuse, you’re on the fence.’
I would be so happy and probably would have been more embraced had I just said that I was gay. It’s no walk in the park saying you’re bi-sexual because you’re not accepted, by some degree, by anybody. Twelve inches extra in one place really doesn’t define whether I am going to fall in love with you. The same person who would say that to me would strap one on anyway. The difference is what exactly? Good sex is a reason to be infatuated but not a reason to fall in love with someone.”
Billie’s deepest desire is to be a catalyst for the evolution of a more honest and compassionate society.
“Small actions can cast long eternal shadows. We all have to take responsibility for how we manifest change. It doesn’t mean we are perfect, I make mistakes every day. You have to acknowledge when you have done that and also be okay about speaking your truth. I’d rather nice than perfect, I would rather compassionate than perfect. Perfection is the ultimate self-deceit.”
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