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Why I Left The Music Industry & Walked Away From A Record Deal

Jonni Nicole Music Industry
Jonni Nicole Music

My dad convinced me to start playing the piano at the age of 5. Because of my deep longing for his acceptance, I stuck with it for a full ten years. I never really enjoyed it until my teacher introduced me to music theory and I began writing my own songs. It was liberating. I sat at my piano one night in my room with a notebook and a tape recorder and began writing about my 6th grade crush who didn't like me back. I still can think of the melody in my head. "Why does a rose represent love, if a rose always dies? Maybe in time, all of this hurt and confusion will pass me by. I don't know when, I don't know how... but one day I won't be down. I'll find a way... to carry on". It may have been incredibly dramatic, but it acted as such an outlet for my tween self.

Soon after I began writing my own songs, my life came crashing down around me. We lost our home on Long Island when my dad and mom split, my relationship with my father was non-existent, and I had to change schools. I was so thankful that music had become my diary... I filled up multiple journals with lyrics and it's safe to say that it was my ultimate comfort. I developed this deep desire in my heart to be successful through music at the age of 13. I wanted to prove that we didn't need my dad to support us financially and that I could use all of the tough stuff I was going through for good.

At first, I met a friend that was a good singer and I began showing her my songs. We hit it off and recorded some videos singing together and we were discovered. I was officially in a girl band. We were called Common Thread. We recorded in studios together, played shows in cities, and had big time meetings with influential people.

However, after some time, we realized that our sounds were different and we wanted to pursue solo careers. Tina does music full time now and is always on TV and even on the radio. It's pretty surreal and I'm so happy for her. We remained friends back then, but we went full force into the direction of our dreams.

Then about a year later, out of nowhere, I was introduced to a team of people by my mom. She ran into them at the grocery store, started a regular conversation with them, and learned that they owned their own label based in LA and the Hamptons. She told them about me and they agreed to listen to my music. They visited my home that weekend and I played a few originals for them, they left, and I waited for days to hear back from them.

My mom's cell phone rang and we were told the news. They wanted to sign me on a subdivision with their label. This meant that they would basically try me out for a year and train me and at the end of the year, if I was great and what they were looking for, then they would sign me to their real label. I would be able to do music full time and I would finally have a big break.

I agreed, of course, and that was the start of my journey... My days were filled with singing at shows, hiring my very own back up band, gaining brand partnerships, and so much more. As time went on, through out that year, I was able to release my own song on iTunes, be in popular music videos, get endorsed by Pepsi and Mac Cosmetics, travel to Westlake Studios in LA, get my song on the radio (when my mom and I randomly heard it for the first time on 101.7 The Beach, we cried) and attend Jay Z's exclusive Grammy Party. I barely attended public school anymore. My life was on overload. It was happening. Oh, I forgot to mention... I had all my clothes for my shows custom made. Yup. I sat with designers and they made me all original pieces that came from my imagination for the stage. The boutique that made my custom clothes was in the Hamptons and it was called Stitch. It was completely surreal.

Though it was everything I had thought I was hoping for, it turned out to be nothing I truly needed.

I remember one night specifically...

I was performing in East Hampton and the venue gave me an unreal dressing room. It had my favorite color embedded into every detail with all my favorite snacks and drinks. My back up band met me there, the venue was packed, and I had a big interview with the Hampton Press. The journalist came to the show and was going to interview me at the end, in front of everybody.

I made my way to the stage, sang a few songs, and then told everybody I was going on a quick break. I made my way to the bathroom and began dry heaving in their expensive toilet. My sister, who was my booking manager at the time, followed me in there and kept asking what was wrong. I told her that I was empty, that the pressure was too much, and that I was incredibly depressed. I fought through my tears and anxiety, finished the show, interviewed, and went home.

The next day around 5 PM, I was already in bed with all of the lights off. My mom opened the door and asked me what was going on with me and I told her how I felt a physical emptiness in my chest and that music was not filling me like I thought it would. It was destroying me instead. She got me a psychiatrist and hoped I would be ok.

I was making money, living my dream, going to therapy, yet nothing was working. It all came at such a high price. They told you who to be and how to act. Older men took such advantage of me. I felt like I was always walking on egg shells every single day.

Side Note: At some point through out that year, I accepted Jesus into my life. After that, I didn't know if I should still stay in that career path or if I should leave altogether.

The year was coming to an end and the company I was with offered me a long term contract because they thought I had what it took to be a popular artist.

I remember the day vividly. We sat around a big conference table and one of the men took out the long piece of paper and had a big smile on his face. I told him I couldn't do it. He then told me that him and his team would do absolutely anything it took to keep me on board. I told him nothing could make me stay.

And we parted ways.

I had spent every waking moment with that team and in a moment, it was like they never existed. The bridge was so burned. Still, after all of these years, I have never spoken to them again.

So the real reason I left it all behind?

I have absolutely no idea.

All I know is that the Holy Spirit lead me sooo clearly to end that season of my life.

I can only trust that God had a plan through the decision that I made. Leaving that company allowed me to be a kid again. It allowed me to live without an insurmountable pressure on my shoulders. It helped me not to be so insecure. Leaving that company made me rejoice.

I still question what my life would be like right now if I stayed, but I'm glad Romans 8:28 exists to comfort me through my questions. That year of my life showed me, vividly, that no amount of attention or worldly awards could ever come close to the satisfaction that God can give you when you simply surrender and let Him fill you.

I am so grateful for the experiences that I had during that season and I am also so thankful that God gave me a way out of the pressures and stress it had caused me. I do want to clarify, not every single person in the industry is lost or incapable of being healthy... It just wasn't something I could handle. I didn't have the mental capacity or emotional strength to fight for myself or stay true to my heart without conforming. I knew in the depth of my being that I no longer wanted my name in lights, but Jesus'.

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