Try Harder, Do Better

New Spotify Playlist Link HERE

I love to create. I was fortunate to receive nurturing parenting and support throughout my upbringing to be told that my artistic talents were something worth exploring and cultivating. I understand that this is a privilege and am very thankful. 

I found myself writing at a very young age. Long winded stories about my brother's girlfriend getting stuck on the bus forever, or our family dog developing a stream of consciousness and robbing the local convenience store. One of my more light hearted pieces was titled "Buttercup: The Murderous Cow", which took a sci-fi approach to a herd of cows infected with Mad Cow Disease becoming angry with Farmer John and splitting his head open with an axe. I was often praised by my parents, who between fits of laughter would tell me to "just keep writing."

 I'm cleaning the bathroom, do you mind?

I'm cleaning the bathroom, do you mind?

Despite their best efforts to encourage art as a healthy way to keep balanced while pursuing a more feasible career, or at the very least, a high school diploma; I was drawn effortlessly to slacking off. I seldom attended any of my classes save English, French and Theatre. Every other hour spent in school seemed a miserable waste of my talents, which at the time were far better suited for smoking gaggers outside of the Blockbuster. 

 No idea how the car withstood this many potheads at one time.

No idea how the car withstood this many potheads at one time.

Post-secondary was definitely not an option, so I stuck my nose into a kitchen at sixteen and spent the next eight years immersed in the culture of food. I fell so in love that eventually trade school became an exciting possibility, and finished my culinary degree at 21. The hours of the kitchen and the stage ended up being too conflicting, and I was left with a difficult decision.

 Check the height on those fuckin salads, eh?

Check the height on those fuckin salads, eh?

When I first started performing songs that I'd written, I was given a lot of help. My brother and the roots community of Calgary were not shy about offering me opportunities to perform, and as a result I was given a bit of a "fast track" in that regard, and I am not blind to it. That being said, I will argue that regardless of my connections, the songs spoke for themselves.

Now, I struggle to stay out of debt by working odd jobs for friends and family (and at a local record store owned by some fantastic Albertan folks), most of the time I'm barely scraping by - but I've certainly done what I can over the last year to push myself and keep my momentum rolling, despite many setbacks. I now find myself in a unique position with my music.

 Bryson Waind, Carter Felker, Bucks, Rob Lagace. One of many "In The Round" shows I performed in the early days at Wine-Ohs, an unfortunately no-longer live music venue in Calgary.

Bryson Waind, Carter Felker, Bucks, Rob Lagace. One of many "In The Round" shows I performed in the early days at Wine-Ohs, an unfortunately no-longer live music venue in Calgary.

Optically, when we see someone with success and the things that we want, we tend to antagonize. This, among many others, is one of my great weaknesses. I have coveted and hated strangers and friends alike for their successes, words of praise or even their baser artistic instincts. 

Only within the last year has it truly sunken in what it means to be a Professional Artist. The term is tossed around so casually that it has begun to become worthy of eye rolling and disdain on my end, particularly from people who complete three mediocre renditions of cover songs at an open mic and complain about their lack of artistic reward.

From my experience that most anything can be solved and achieved with a very simple statement: Try Harder, Do Better. I can understand how the mantra of "just fuckin' be better okay?" seems blunt and possibly an under-thought approach to the many layers of work that is required of an artist, and subsequently a sole proprietor; but it really does encompass all of the important elements of what I consider to be success.

We live in a comparative culture. Regardless of the kind-hearted crap crammed down everyone's gullet to "lift each other up" - we all know the harsh reality: we want it all. If you're reading this and thinking, "I don't want it all. I just wan't to be content with what is right now." You've achieved spiritual oneness and can kindly fuck off. Anyone else with dreams of making an actual living in the arts can keep scrolling.

Mariel Buckley — Driving in the Dark Cover Shoot — 44.jpg

How many times has it happened that someone has gotten a gig, press or an opportunity you've wanted? Nay, something you've felt downright entitled to? In the last four years when I've let humility beat the bejesus out of me in moments of naive arrogance I very quickly realized that the world, your art, life, and people don't owe you shit. What you get is in direct correlation with what you put in. I'm not shy in saying that 90% of the people complaining about their career trajectory need to give their fucking head a shake and crank up the work ethic. 

I guess what this long-winded rant is supposed to demonstrate is that success can really only ever be internal. In my humble opinion, if you look at someone else's achievements and think "that should be me." You might be right. Or, you might just be truly afraid to ask yourself: how can I get there? And if not afraid to ask, you might just be afraid of doing the fucking work. Stop looking sideways and look forward. Hold yourself and your art accountable, to the highest of standards; or, find peace within the middle ground and quit bitching.

MB

Mariel Buckley

Calgary, AB, Canada