Heathens and Hot Beats

It's been a minute since I've done a personal post--or to put it another way, give the degaga (was that actual slang at the time, or something Patrick Ian Polk was trying to make "happen?" Damn, can you believe Noah's Arc debuted 10 years ago? But I digress.) about what's happening in my life. So here it goes...

A few months back I posted that I'd started a group called Alexandria Freethinkers, for fellow atheists, agnostics and freethinkers in my hometown, which if you're new to the blog, is in the middle of Louisiana. Part volunteer organization, part social group, we have regular meetups at a local coffee shop--because where else would heathens gather other than a sanctuary for introverts, artsy types and caffeine-addled nonconformists lol--as well as movie and game nights. Even though the group's online presence has grown slowly but steadily, the in-person participation is sporadic at best; meaning, sometimes things are well attended, other times two or three gathered together.

It's been frustrating, particularly trying to attract more women to consistently turn up to functions (normally a sausage fest wouldn't be a bad thing, but we need some estrogen in this peace) to say the least. I can understand why folks are hesitant; we live in a deeply conservative, religious community--in some areas of town, there is literally a church on every corner--combined with the small town vibe that causes people to stick to the places and faces they've known since elementary school. Some of our members have expressed genuine fear and concern about coming out as non-religious or coming to events. However I can deny it's still sucks to see all this community and activity online not translate to face to face interaction. It's like lifting Thor's hammer but being unable to even put a crack in a walnut.

That said, my frustrations have been tempered by some clear signs of progress, particularly in the last few months. We participated in our town's LGBT Pride Fest, taking part in the annual pride walk, setting up a booth and an "Ask An Atheist" table to hand out materials and talk to/potentially debate passers by, and invited Jerry DeWitt, a former Pentecoastal minister who's now an atheist to speak on our behalf at the ecumenical service. 'Cause you know the gays love Jesus, but chile that's a whole other post.

We also linked up with other atheist groups from New Orleans and Baton Rouge and headed down to the state capitol to set up shop in the lobby and let legislators know we exist and we don't eat babies (well not without a side of apple sauce). We were met with the usual blank stares, "Oh's" and "I'll pray for y'alls," but overall the negative reaction has been minimal. And, miracles of miracles, we even discovered some of "our people" working in the capitol.

I'm hopeful in the face of this. Yet in the back of my mind, I know part of this likely stems from the fact that, for the most part, our group is still under the radar of most people in our community. However, this may change soon, as we're thinking up some strategies for advertising and promoting ourselves, and while I know this is the next logical step, on some level I feel ambivalent about what the consequences could be.

See, my immediate family and most of my friends know I'm an atheist, none of my extended family or my boyfriend's family do. Though the cat was almost let out of the bag a few months back during a family gathering celebrating my grandma's 92nd birthday. I was dead tired and coming straight from work, when two of my aunts (one of whom is a minister), questioned what freethinker meant after seeing a picture of me and a few other members in the local paper standing in front of our Adopt-A-Road sign. I didn't want to get into anything since we were all at a restaurant, so I managed to deflect the question. But sooner or later, it's gonna come to a head.

I've gained a lot since starting this group. I've met some really fascinating people, been exposed to new experiences and felt the rush of helping to create the community I've dreamed of. But what will I lose? How will this effect my personal relationships? How will it affect my professional life, where I'm not out in the slightest? I hate to type it, but even my personal safety? No one can really answer these things for me of course; but am I comforted that if a shitstorm does kick off, I have like-minded people around me to help hold up the umbrella.

In the midst of all this, there has been the music. Part of the reason for my sporadic posting has been because I've become a complete studio rat, knob twiddling and fussing over tracks. And to quote Weezy, I love it. I fucking love it. Some days I walk into the studio exhausted (overnight job + being on a music co-op scheduled = you put it together), stressed, or with no ideas in the tank. Whenever I sit down in front of a keyboard and a computer though, something happens. I don't know how, but I always get something out of something. I love creating. I believe it is the closet thing to magic we have as human beings. Moreover, like the freethought group, pursuing music has led to meeting other musicians and artists, and being able to relate to other people on that level is filling up the hole created when I left the church and music ministry.

That said, while the artistic side of creating music has been fulfilling,  the commercial side--i.e., the coins--has been so less so. Currently I'm still saving up money to buy DJ equipment, so putting on a live set is off the table for the time being. And promoting Bougie Beats, my first EP, was like pushing a boulder up a hill, in part because I didn't know what the hell I was doing. E-mails (and follow up e-mails) to blogs went with no response, pressing the flesh on social media for followers was a battle, and getting plays and downloads was like a slow molasses drip.

However, after realizing it takes money to make money--I can be a bit of a cheap skate--I know now I need to approach this as a business if I want to it be a career. With that in mind, I made it a point to attend workshops offered at the co-op and am applying them to my latest album, Bougie Beats - The Remixes (online at Soundcloud, Bandcamp and Spotify now!). And I am seeing the results--not Billboard Hot 100 territory mind you, but several tracks from the album have racked up thousands of hits online, and have been featured on a few music sites.

Rather than compare my creative pursuit to pushing a boulder up a hill, I instead want to think of it as a determined, focused journey, one that leads to the ultimate goal of making and performing music (and writing fiction--haven't forgot about that!) a full-time thing. A long, slow build rather than a sprint.

Maybe that's how we should approach life.