This week, Jillian Rae released her album, I can’t be the one you want me to be. She really can’t be, you know. That’s a very good thing.
Because there are people who, by being themselves, and refusing to play assigned roles, show us how much bigger WE can be. Jillian Rae, Rockstar, is one of those people for me.
Facing the frazzled midlife doldrums (an oxymoron, I know) I signed up for violin lessons at a local music store, along with my kids. Not so big a stretch. I’m a classically trained (amateur) singer who, in my twenties, sang with the Minnesota Chorale and sometimes performed church solos. So I had an idea how things would go. I wanted at least to learn Pachelbel’s Canon.
When we met / when she was assigned to teach us, Jillian seemed VERY young. So hard to define, with so many ideas. And I felt so set in my schoolteacher / mom ways.
(Gen Xer meets a Millennial. Thank heavens! She agreed that, as a busy adult, I could make lessons my practice and I never had to perform.)
Besides the classical songs, Jillian taught me fiddle and Finnish folk tunes she’d arranged. And oh, by the way, she sang. And played piano and guitar. And had countless gigs. With many bands and many genres. All over town.
It’s not everyday someone like me meets a Rockstar. I don’t generally go to First Avenue (the famed nightclub, former home to Prince) because there are no chairs for when I nod off during concerts. The day Jillian played backup violin for GB Leighton at First Ave, I went and stayed awake.
Two years into our lessons, Jillian opened her own studio with its current owner, Josie Just. One week Jillian was talking about it. The next week they’d signed a lease for The Music Lab, near Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis and started painting the walls: vibrant turquoise, yellow, red, purple, orange, green.
In between her own local gigs, Jillian started to arrange gigs for students. Music Lab teachers (only working musicians) played around town; why shouldn’t their students? (For context, my piano teacher played organ at our church and held recitals in the sanctuary once a year.) The first spring at Music Lab culminated in a full-scale, extended afternoon show, children onstage with seasoned pros at the Minnesota Music Cafe. It didn’t occur to me that you could actually follow your Creative passion on that large a scale.
It didn’t occur to Jillian that you couldn’t.
I wrote my first profile ever about Jillian after that show, how in between her sets, she warmed up my kiddos for theirs. How magical she made that day. It’s a solid piece that holds up, though I haven’t published it. Yet.
It was the first time I imagined I could be a real-life Creative, in a larger sense. I didn’t know the name for this calling back then, or what it looked like for me. I sensed more a longing than any defined thing.
But I knew that Jillian actually MADE A LIVING by following that instinct.
When I started telling Jillian at lessons that I wanted to be an author and life coach, she always said, Why not? In those small moments, standing in her studio with its vibrant purple walls, I believed I could too. Heck, I could play Pachelbel’s Canon, plus Finnish Folk Songs and Fiddle Tunes.
Why not, indeed?
So I know what my friend Jillian can do. She works hard at her passions. I’ve seen how she lives her life, how she runs her business, and how she takes risks that pay off, never more than this album, her biggest passion project so far. It presented REAL CHALLENGES. Not small imagined fears, but the kind that derail a project. And did for a while. Jillian regrouped. Reemerged. More fully herself than before.
That’s what this album represents.
So… right before Jillian released this second LP, I shared a behind-the-music podcast episode with my Rockstar friend.