Six Reasons Why I Love My TRIBE

In the Tom Cottar Music world, I’ve been blessed to grow a 1000+ member TRIBE of friends. Not just ‘fans’ or ‘supporters’. But real people I know and love. People who are invested in me, and I am invested in them. I’ve got nothing but real LOVE for them. And here’s why:

Excerpted from “UNLEASHING YOUR CREATIVITY: Lessons From a Reluctant Creative.” (Link to FREE sample below!)

1. We give each other emotional support. They listen to me through my struggles and help me process how to move forward. It doesn’t matter if it’s a relationship issue, a time management problem, or if I’m working on a new song idea and get stuck in Second Verse Hell. Coming from another creative, their support is incredibly potent. They don’t downplay my struggles. They ‘get me’. And I ‘get them’. So we rely on each other.

2. They are a source of motivation and inspiration. Someone tells you they admire and appreciate you and your work. You get encouragement to create more and do better. Again, this is particularly powerful when it comes from someone whose taste you respect, or someone who really knows what they’re talking about. Some of my most trusted sources of motivation are other artistic, creative people who’ve taken the time to thoughtfully critique my work. They’re gentle and kind and generous… and honest. There’s a sense of mutual respect for our creations—and a mutual expectation that we are all striving to create our best work.

3. We give each other great feedback. Those of us who’ve created something from our heart—from our innermost being— and have hung it out for the world to see, know one thing deeply: We know how to give and receive feedback. Gently. Thoughtfully. Honestly. Encouragingly. Without fail, someone in my tribe says just the right thing to give me a thoughtful and useful response to my work, and how to make it better. Sometimes it’s my wife, who knows me better than anyone, and sometimes it’s another creative who just says, “Hmmmm….yeah, but…what if you did ___________ instead? I’d be interested to see what that would look like.”

By the way, be very cautious about listening to feedback that comes from outside your tribe. When you put your creation out into the world, you’ll be sure to get feedback, but that doesn’t mean you have to receive it. Remember: everyone is a critic. Some are well-meaning friends who will love everything you do. Some are people who don’t understand or ‘get’ you. And some are critical, jealous, frustrated creatives themselves.

When I receive feedback from the latter group, I simply respond by saying something like, “Hmmm. That’s an interesting perspective. Thank you so much for that.” Then I promptly move it to the trash bin in my mind and hit ‘erase’. It may sound cold and egotistical, but let me assure you, if you’re insecure as a creative, you’ll listen to a thousand different voices telling you a thousand different things… hoping, praying, practically begging to know which one to believe. The simple truth is I need to trust the voices in my tribe above the voices outside of it. Some of those outside voices may, in the end, be right about their opinion. But first I need to trust my tribe.

(A side note here: Be cautious and don’t be afraid to move slowly in building your tribe. It’s ok to be selective. Remember, it’s a whole lot easier to keep the crazy out of your house, than it is to clean it up once they’ve moved in. I’m speaking from experience here.)

4. A tribe makes for great collaboration. I can’t tell you how many times someone in the tribe gets involved with me on a project. We may talk about ideas, word choices, stories, lyrics, colors….anything. In my tribe, I have computer whizzes, artists, painters, t-shirt designers, mechanics, programmers, stylists, ranchers, secretaries, parents, coaches, pastors, atheists, writers, monks, bartenders, and construction workers. The stories and experiences we share are unending. And any of them— all of them— are amazing collaborators.  Whatever we make together is exponentially more than what I could ever make alone.

5. We keep each other accountable. When I get in a funk of depression or laziness, someone in my tribe cares that I get off my butt and get things done. Someone cares that I keep writing, playing, singing, emailing, or whatever I’m supposed to be doing. And I care enough not to let them down. Now and then I’ll get a text or a message on social media that says, “Hey, man. I haven’t seen you at our songwriter circle in a while. You should come out next Tuesday.” It’s a gentle reminder saying “Hey, dude. Don’t you dare quit on us. We love you. You need to get up and get going.”

And I do.

6. Most importantly, a tribe give us a place to belong. It gives all of us a place and platform do to something that matters to each of us. It gives me a place that matters. A place I belong. It gives each of us the space and the glue to be connected to passionate, creative, and supportive people. It reminds us that we are not alone. It reminds us that we matter and that our work matters.

Years ago, I had an intern named Douggie who spent the summer in Sengal, Africa. As a college football player, Douggie was a huge, beast of a young man with long hair, a big beard, and an even bigger, gentler heart. He was an imposing tackle on the football field, but a compassionate, kind-eyed giant off the field. After weeks in Africa, he returned home with one mantra: ubuntu. Ubuntu is an African word used to describe a community or a tribe. Literally, ‘ubuntu’ it means I am because we are. In other words, I am who I am because you are who you are and, more importantly, because we are who we are together.  We adopted his mantra and printed bracelets and t-shirts, made posters and videos, and decided to fully embrace the concept of ‘ubuntu’. Today, Douggie is still one of my most cherished friends in the tribe. I am who I am because we are who we are.

That, my friends, is what belonging to a tribe is all about.

Want a FREE SAMPLE of my new book “UNLEASHING YOUR CREATIVITY”? No strings attached. No email list. No click bait. Just download it HERE! (I’d love to hear what you think!)

From ‘Safe Spaces’ To ‘Brave Places’

From the new book,

 “Unleashing Your Creativity: Lessons From A Reluctant Creative”. 

I had written and performed a song titled ‘One More Mile’ for a local TV show featuring Texas songwriters. I was (and still am) a nobody in the ‘Live Music Capitol of The World’. In a town that has housed legends like Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zant, Charlie Sexton, Janis Joplin, Jimmie Vaughan, Patti Griffin, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, I was in way over my head.

After taping, I was packing up and talking with a woman named Lee. “I really liked your song, Tom.” she said.

“Thanks,” I replied, “Um.. you’re very kind…”

“No, I’m not.” she laughed. “Anyone who knows me will tell you just how blunt I am. But this song is really well done… you should come check out our songwriters group next Tuesday night. You’d fit right in. It’s a very safe place.”

“That sounds great!”, I responded.

Total lie. It didn’t sound great. In fact, nothing could sound worse.  Continue reading “From ‘Safe Spaces’ To ‘Brave Places’”

An Angel in Yoga Pants?

Inspiration can be an elusive thing. Some days it’s hard to find. Some days, it smacks you in the face. But sometimes, when you’re worn out and frustrated like I was, it shows up as a strange angel with jangly bracelets and yoga pants.

One spring night I was at an open house for Six String Ranch, an amazing recording studio tucked down in the heart of Austin,Texas. I’d done some recording projects there before, but tonight it was an open house, packed with crazy-talented people I’d begun to cross paths with. Artists. Producers. Musicians. Writers. Guitarists. Singers. Pianists. Drummers. Designers.

Tonight it was like a clubhouse for creativity and talent.

I was nervously making the rounds trying to meet as many people as I could, trying to figure out how in the heck I’d gotten an invite to this ‘exclusive’ hideout, when a woman stopped me at the coffee bar.

“Hey there, my friend!”, she stuck out her hand. “How are you?!?”

She was dressed in yoga pants and a long, multicolored paisley blouse that flowed to her knees. She must’ve wore a hundred randomly-selected bangle bracelets that jingled with every gesture. Her large hoop earrings were gold and hung down all the way to her collar. Her lips were blindingly pink. She was shorter average, but BIG on personality. Her enthusiasm caught me off guard. Like…WAY off guard.

“Um… hey. I’m good. How are you?”

“Outstanding!” She gleamed. “Isn’t this great?!?”

Sheepishly I replied,”Oh. Yeah. Yeah. It’s really great. Tons of great people… really nice. And [the owners] are wonderful….”

I hesitated.

“I’m sorry… have we met??”

“Oh, I don’t think so…. I haven’t really gotten to know everyone yet, so I just started calling everybody ‘friend’. I figure it saves time trying to guess if we’re going to end up friends or not. I’m gonna just assume you and I are gonna end up as pals, and I might as well just start from there.”

Her enthusiasm was a little overwhelming.. but her proposition to this whole thing was genius. I decided I’d just go with it as well.

“Well, friend… what brings you here?” I asked. “Are you a musician?”

“Oh, no.” She replied. “I can’t play a lick. Can’t sing either. I’m more of a muse…”. She leaned in towards me, grinning mysteriously.

Ding! Ding! Ding!  The crazy train had officially arrived. I wasn’t sure if she was crazy, or high, or just plain eccentric, but I got busy looking for an exit strategy. Surely there’s someone else around here I should be talking to. I’ve got too much crazy in my life as it is. I didn’t need to add one more burned out hippie to my bag of nuts.

“What I mean is I teach creativity…”, she continued. “Especially to people who are blocked. You know…frustrated. But they don’t know why they’re blocked. Sometimes they’re blocked business executives who are having trouble in their company. Sometimes they’re blocked housewives who feel they’re in a rut and what they do doesn’t really matter. Sometimes it’s musicians and writers and artists and such….so I figured I’d just show up and see if I could find a lonely songwriter to help out …”

Are you friggin’ kidding me?”, I thought to myself.

“…So what are you doing here?” she asked.

I. Was. Speechless. Here I was, struggling and frustrated, and the Universe had opened up and sent me a paisley, jangly, bedazzled angel. Why am I not surprised?

“You’re gonna laugh.” I answered. “I have no idea why I’m here. Not really. I’m a frustrated songwriter…looking for inspiration.”

She smiled.

Not just an ordinary smile either. You know that ginormous Christmas tree in New York each year? You know, the one at Rockefeller Plaza that’s about a thousand feet tall and lit up every year with about a gazillion twinkly lights? She smiled a smile like that. Literally, all I could see was her teeth and her eyes, bright as Christmas morning.

I began to spill my guts. Everything. All of it. Some of which are in the pages that follow. At the time of this writing, I still don’t know her name. I don’t know where she lives or what she drives. Maybe she was a literal angel. I believe it’s possible, you know. Or maybe not the literal, metaphysical kind, but at the least the metaphorical kind. The kind of angel that listened and questioned and prodded…and confirmed what was already in me. (Here’s a hint: its the same thing that’s already in YOU, too.)

Her best advice? “Keep going. That’s what you do when you’re going through the desert. You don’t stop in the middle of it. You keep on going.” So whether you’re frustrated and burned out, or you just want to infuse your creative juices with something new, you’re in the right place! In the pages that follow, I’ll spill my guts about my creative journey. I’ll share what’s worked and what’s helped me build my creative muscle, as well as how to unleash the creativity inside you. 

It’s in there. Are you ready? Let’s get started!

excerpt from ‘Unleashing Your Creativity: Lessons From A Reluctant Creative’, available on Amazon. 

New book out NOW!

It’s official! The new book “Unleashing Your Creativity: Lessons From A Reluctant Creative” is out NOW.

If you’ve ever said the words “I’m not a creative person…” (or if you’ve ever been told you’re not a creative person), this is for YOU.

Unleashing Your Creativity is the story of my own struggles with fear and resistance. It’s an account of how FIVE simple words changed my perspective on how to have a richer, more creative life. It’s about the rewards of trusting your own creative gifting.

I’ve also included some strategies I’ve learned to help grow my own ‘creative muscle’!

Buy YOURS on Amazon this month, and receive the AUDIOBOOK next month absolutely FREE!

Our Mission: “On The Inside”

***Did you know 22 veterans take their own lives every day?

It was the kind of phone call you never want to receive…

 

It was one of Tom’s childhood friends who served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. A tough Marine who ‘only bleeds on the inside’, yet was crying on the other end of the line. The demon of post-traumatic stress was taking it’s toll.
Sleepless nights, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, alcohol and prescription drug abuse were wreaking havoc. His personal life and marriage were in crisis.

 
As he poured out his heart, the two of them cried, talked, and prayed into the night.

 
Sadly, it was only the first conversation Tom had with one of these men.

 
His newest single, “On The Inside” not only brings the soldier’s struggles to light, but is also raising money to help prevent veteran suicide.

 
Our commitment is simple. We will always give this song to veterans and their families for free.

 
PLUS, a portion of the proceeds (songs, downloads, merchandise sales, etc.) will always go to worthy veterans groups and services.

 

All of us in the Tom Cottar Music Tribe are honored to give back to those who have sacrificed so much. We thank you for your service and your commitment. We are forever in your debt.

 

Now Available EVERYWHERE !

Our new single, “On The Inside” is now available everywhere you buy music!

AND we’re giving it away to veterans and their spouses…

AND we’re giving 20% of all proceeds (music and merch) to ActiveHeroes.org to help stop veteran suicide…

YOU can help make a difference.

LISTEN… then SHOP.

What Is A House Concert?

What is a House Concert? 

A house concert is exactly what the name says: a concert in someone’s house. But it could also be in a backyard or community center. It is a concert outside of a traditional music venue.

Key elements about house concerts:

• There is no charge for tickets. We ask for donations only.

• It is not a party with a background musician, but a true listening event meant to support the artist – both with attention and income/expenses.

• It does not require a large fancy home or complex event planning; just a willingness to support live music by providing both a location and inviting people to attend.

  • It does not cost much (or anything) to put on. Some hosts provide snacks and drinks.
  • It is a unique, amazing, fun, and simple event.

How it works: 

A host opens their home to an artist as a performance venue (and possibly a place to spend the night if the artist is traveling). The host and friends promote the show by inviting family, friends, and others passionate about music. The artist typically will promote their show as well.

An artist like myself will perform for an hour plus – often two sets with a short break for mingling and merchandise. During the break, the artist might talk with attendees about his or her music and be able to sell CD’s, t-shirts, or other merchandise. The host will typically act as the MC for the night by asking attendees for a donation for the artist. Hint: As the artist, I might ask for donations but I would rather focus on my performance and let the host ask for donations. It sounds less needy. 😉

Why donations?

It is simpler. Donations ensure the “party” is not viewed as a business. This protects the host as charging a ticket price could run you afoul of commerce laws. Typically, the donation system works well. The host can collect donations by reservation prior to the event or at the door. The host includes on the invite and announces during the show, something like, “Hey everyone. Tom is working hard and giving us great entertainment value. We are asking for a donation of $20 per person – more if you can, less if you can’t.” It’s simple, direct, and low-pressure.

Logistics

Typically, I work with my hosts closely to help them with things like invitations and RSVPs (Evites and Facebook events work really well!) Other than that, a few electrical outlets and space for people to sit or stand is all you need. A small living room can pretty easily house 20 people. Guest can also bring folding chairs. When the weather is nice, a backyard works GREAT!

Conclusion

This info is simply a guideline… I’d love to help you plan a house concert that is both easy on you and is a night your friends will remember!

If you’re interested in hosting, email me at tom@tomcottar.org and let’s chat. No obligation…but I bet we can create a great experience for you and your friends!

See you soon!

Tom

Thank You!

2016 Texas Songwriter Association Awards

I was pretty blown away a few weeks ago. In December, I submitted 11 songs to the Texas Songwriter Association (aka Austin Songwriters Group) song contest. The week before the awards ceremony, I got word that TEN of them made the finals in various categories. You can imagine how BLOWN AWAY I was to receive SIX awards last Wednesday night…it’s an honor to be involved in a community of such talent and creativity. Thanks to everyone for your support!

The songs were:
1. The Devil I Know (1st Place, Pop/Rock Category)
2. The Devil I Know (2nd Place, Angels & Outlaws Category)
3. The Devil I Know (3rd Place, Blues/Jazz Category)
4. Beautiful (Honorable Mention, Love Songs Category)
5. Beautiful (Honorable Mention, Family Songs)
6. Lacrimosa (Honorable Mention, Inspirational Songs Category)

There are also some things in the works with some new songs (“How The Light Gets In” and “On the Inside”), some co-writing and collaborating over the next few weeks with Kathy Gordon, Mark Lambert, and one of my new friends, Melissa Marks!

Here’s to the blessings and opportunities of a new year!

See you soon,
tom