31 Years Old

I’m 31 years old, that ain’t the end
Sure ain’t where I began
Hey, I’m just a kid, I got nothing to lose
I’m a singer of songs, I’m a player for crowds
Hey ma, look: I’m an entertainer

Stephenville, TX by Jewel

90% of this song is a stream-of-consciousness diary entry, too biographic and too hardcore country for me to really relate to. But I always liked the specific imagery and this stanza, even before I fully embraced the role of Entertainer. I like it all the more now that I stand on the cusp of 31 years old.

This song came out when I was 17, and at that time I had only the scarcest idea of what it would feel like to be 31. It was Jewel’s fifth album, so I expected I’d have at least four by the time I reached her age. Definitely I’d have moved out of my hometown. Maybe I’d be married. Probably I’d be a mother, by accident or on purpose. For most of my childhood I assumed I would be famous, and I knew that marriage and motherhood didn’t necessarily go hand-in-hand for celebrities. I hoped that by 31 years old, I’d be over the hump of breakout success and free to make stuff at a relaxed pace, without too much scrutiny from the public eye.

Well, I’m not a celebrity, a wife, nor a mother. I have no albums, though I’ve written enough songs for two or three. I moved away from my hometown and most days I don’t regret it. So I may have missed the mark of my younger self’s expectations, but I am living the dream.

I find nowadays that “living the dream” is my default response when coworkers and acquaintances ask me how my day is going. I say it with a playful lilt in my voice, but it’s honestly not a joke. I love my life and all the things in it. I’m surrounded by music and interesting people-problems. Maybe there would be more free perks if I were famous, but I’d pay for them all in time spent at tedious meetings and press events. That’s time I’m happier to spend at home, writing songs and cuddling my cats.

I’m glad to have outgrown chasing wealth, fame, and world domination. Of course I’m still ambitious in my own way. It’s the beginning of a new decade, so I’ve made another ridiculous list of goals and resolutions. I want to write 30 songs and learn 60. I want to perform 40 original shows online and 4 live around town. I want to play more guitar, eat less meat, and conquer my coffee addiction. I’ll travel to New Orleans for the first time, plus Nashville and Vegas again. I’d like to give more to charitable causes, and pass on things I’ve learned about voice and music in novel ways.

This month I’m holding another birthday fundraiser to benefit VH1 Save the Music. Save the Music aims to give literally every child in America access to a musical instrument. They offer grants and support to qualified schools so students can experience intro to music, band, strings, mariachi, or music technology programs. Last year we raised $431.00, which I learned was enough to get instruments and resources to six students. Ambitious as I am, I hope to beat that record this year. If you’re reading this and would like to contribute, you can do so here. Every little bit helps!

Another project for me this month is the Pittsburgh Songwriters in the Round show, that I’m helping to produce with City of Asylum and the Pittsburgh, PA Chapter of the Nashville Songwriters Association International. I fell in love with the round show format when I visited Nashville for the first time last year, where songwriters share the stage together and take turns playing original songs. It was electric to hear the stories behind how and why each song was written, and I discovered some wonderful songwriters. To me, it’s the best possible way to hear and truly listen to new songs.

In the round I’ll be joined by three other Pittsburgh area songwriters: Adam Fitz, AJ Raggs, and Anne Eliza. You should definitely check out their work, but keep in mind that a songwriters round is all about sharing brand new songs. I know I’ll be playing some songs that are so new they haven’t even been recorded in demo form. Truthfully, a couple of mine are more like works in progress. Exciting and terrifying! If you’re near Pittsburgh, I hope to see you there at 6pm on Sunday January 26th. The show is free but space is limited, so be sure to reserve tickets online here.

I love being a January baby and the ceremony that comes along with celebrating a new year. The start of a new decade brings all sorts of extra promise and potential along with it. Maybe my younger self thought she’d have “arrived” by now, but I’m old enough to know better. Soon I’ll be 31 years old. When Jewel plays this song live, she changes the line to match her current age; this year it will be 46. Surely that ain’t the end either. KM

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