Jasmyn Burke, lead singer of Weaves, has been making art for herself and her friends since she was a kid (check out her band if you don’t love them already—they are amazing art-hero weirdos). She’s learned ways to stay in control of her life and creativity, and she wanted to share some of that with you today.
As a kid I had two personalities stirring inside. At school, I was shy and intimidated. I didn’t say much to anyone, except for one or two close friends. But at home, my best friend and my cousin and I would put on elaborate plays and musicals for our parents. Performance offered a sense of confidence and escape.
When I was 15, I saw a friend’s older brother play guitar at a cover night. A light went on—suddenly it seemed feasible for me to play, too. My parents bought me an acoustic guitar and a “Guitar for Dummies” book. I started learning open chords and cover songs, but I kind of hated covers. Then I wrote my first song, a folksy ballad called “Go Green,” and I understood that what I really wanted was to play my music. I didn’t know where it would lead me, but I was sure I wanted to remain in control of my creativity, and ultimately my life.
Expressing myself and telling people how I feel still isn’t easy. Honesty can be challenging when that shy self takes over, but music helps me feel free. With that freedom comes a desire to tell my own truth; and telling my truth brings a level of control. If I’m expressing myself, it has to be on my terms.
At this point, I’ve been in a few bands, and I have always assumed a role of being one of the main writers and decision makers. I’ve learned a few things about taking control. I believe they can be helpful to you, too, whether you choose a creative path or not.
Stay true to your vision.
The magical thing about being a teenager is that anything is possible—time is on your side. Try out as many things as you can. If you discover something that makes you truly happy (for me, it was music, but it could be anything) incorporate it as much as possible into what you study and how you spend your free time. It will make it easier to keep doing that thing when you’re older—you’ll already be on that path. It’s going to be hard work no matter what. Having a vision requires following through, even if it can take months or years to make it happen. Don’t give up on your dreams or passion because they are what will make you happy at any age.
Collaborate, but take charge.
I write songs because I enjoy it, and because I like for my contributions to be important to the bands I play in. I’m also motivated by the idea that I can offer a different point of view, especially considering that most of the rock bands I saw growing up, or have played in, consisted of mostly men. That drive pushes me to take charge, be efficient, and delegate tasks to keep things running smoothly within the group. To a certain degree, that’s a big part of working with other people: learning to collaborate while staying in control of your work.
Embrace both success and failure.
Failure is just as probable as what we define as success. Do not be afraid of things falling apart. In high school I played soccer and decided to try out for a regional team. I didn’t make it, but I went to the team’s practices anyway. The coach was impressed by my enthusiasm and dedication and let me join after all. A year later, I was part of the team’s starting lineup. It was so scary, and I was so upset when I wasn’t chosen at first, but people take notice of hard workers. Sometimes being rejected gives you even more drive to conquer your goal, big or small.
Move past fear.
In my final year of high school, I was terrified about the future. I didn’t know if I’d like university and wondered if I had chosen the right program, or if I should have continued my education at all. Those kinds of fears will always be in your head when making big decisions, but you have to follow your gut. Don’t let parents, friends, or SOs dictate your path when you’re uncertain. I’d say your parents can help guide you, but even if you make the wrong decision it might end up leading you right back to your passion! If college doesn’t go as planned, or if you stay in your hometown rather than leaving, you’re allowed to change course and your mind. Take a deep breath and listen to yourself and what makes you happy. I try not to dwell too much on bands that failed or songs I am embarrassed to hear now because it’s all part of the process.
Say what you want out loud.
If you need to say something, don’t be afraid to say it. I sometimes have a really hard time standing up to people and speaking up for myself, but I’m always working on it because it’s worth it. I went to university for four years to become a journalist, but in my heart I knew I was a musician. It was the only thing that made me truly happy. I had a frank discussion with my parents (luckily they have always been supportive). It was really scary to decide and say out loud that I wouldn’t try to find a salaried job so I could pursue music instead, but I’m so glad I did.
Keep trying new things.
Trying new things is really important when you’re figuring out who you are, which is a lifelong process. It’s kind of fun to challenge yourself to try one thing you’ve never done at least once a year. Maybe you model for a friend’s photoshoot. Maybe you try socializing with someone new at a school dance or try out for a sport. Challenging ourselves and making ourselves a little uncomfortable helps us feel less intimidated by the unknown.
Feel all the feelings.
Cherish moments of happiness and sadness. As much as possible, use both to help you propel forward. We sometimes feel insecure about our looks and our bodies and our accomplishments. It’s hard. I always felt kind of inadequate as a teenager, like I wasn’t pretty enough and that I looked too different from the rest of the girls and that I wasn’t the right size. I had low self-esteem and didn’t really believe in myself. Luckily, I had awesome friends and important teachers who helped me build myself back up. Even when you’re feeling sad or disconnected, it’s important to remember that (A) life will get better after high school, and that (B) friends love you for you.
Stick to your guns.
I am a particular person—I like things to be a certain way. In the context of music-making, that focus and attention to detail has been a positive trait. When it comes to the band, I am not afraid to say I don’t like something! No matter what you do in life, it’s important to care. If something has got your name on it, it should be something you are proud of and that represents the type of person or artist you want to be.
As women, we’re often taught or pressured to be compliant and nurturing. In the music industry (and in most types of work) there aren’t many women in leadership roles. We must not be afraid to speak our minds and disagree when others try to devalue our perspective.
Even when the world is telling you otherwise, you have control. You have power. Allow yourself to have full access to your emotions; to be the boss but also to feel compassion and be passionate. Use your voice. Stick up for your creativity and vision. And no matter what: Keep up the hard work. ♦