Whether you’re an artist, a performer or an entrepreneur, most creative industries and entrepreneurial roles involve a level of risk, setback, and disappointment before you succeed, along with an insistent pressure to produce high-level work.
It is perhaps why so many dream of pursuing these creative careers, but so few are able to ‘make it’ a reality.
Among those who have truly ‘made it’, there is a common theme underpinning their ability to succeed – self-reflection, authenticity and personal transformation. It is what allows them to remain persistent after hearing ‘no’ so many times and to maintain a high level of creative output, even under this intense pressure to perform.
Greater than all of that, it allows them to remain authentic in a world of ‘fake it til you make it’ and outward appearances. So what does it take to ‘make it’ without faking ‘it’?
We caught up with Eden xo, singer, songwriter and pop-cultural icon who has worked with artists such as Kygo, Lil John, Pitbull, Kelly Clarkson, to talk about the creative process, dealing with setbacks, the experience of staying true to herself in the music industry and the lessons she learned through coming into stardom.
Eden shares about her roots, her childhood, and her Persian background – there was always culturally a high value put on art, music, and literature and even though she wasn’t encouraged to pursue these areas growing up, she did anyway. One could say creativity was in her DNA. This creative expression helped her to cope with the turbulent upbringing and domestic violence in her home environment, “when I was a little kid I always had an interest in performing and creativity… I really enjoyed expressing myself that way and stepping into the shoes of another version of myself”.
Eden got her first record deal at the age of 16, shortly after emancipating herself at 15 years of age and moving to LA – “I just knew, I’m going to LA and I’m going to make it and I’m going to have a story to tell.” She tells us about the experience of being a musician and performer – moving through different labels, rebrandings and phases in her career to come to the place where she is today. She has much to say about using ‘performance’ or creativity and about how her work didn’t fully develop until she understood the premise of transforming into someone else through her work. “I believe that there’s a difference between performance and transformance… you can tell the difference between when someone is ‘performing’ and ‘trying to be’ or truly stepping into the shoes of the role… it’s about sitting in the water, going deep… being as opposed to posing as something”. This ‘being’ that she refers to and the full embodiment of her work is what she believes enables her to thrive as a creative and avoid the stress that stems from her professional pressure to put out records all of the time.
Eden finds no need to push or force the creative process, “letting it come to me as opposed to trying to force something out” – which she stresses is such an important factor to her success.
We asked Eden to use reflect on her life experience and give our listeners some advice on how to ‘keep it real’, stay true to yourself and deal with setbacks, disappointments, and failures.
The most important piece is to find your tribe with who you can be authentic and open, even when you have suffered setbacks or failures.
Eden fully advocates for speaking your truth, that “your own vulnerability is important.”
She reflects on the fact that the entertainment industry is largely based on ‘fake it til you make it’ and having to put on a face and pretend you’re ok when you’re not. She uses the example of having just suffered a major setback of being dropped by her record label and then attending a party where everybody knew – resisting the urge to say ‘everything is great’ when people asked her how she was, and be okay with being honest and vulnerable. “Empathy is at the core of art…” she believes, and that finding her ‘tribe’ who she could be open and authentic with helped her to survive in such a face-value and cut-throat industry.
Eden gives some more advice for the listeners that are emerging artists who are looking to break into the music industry – her advice rings true for almost anyone in an entrepreneurial journey as well.
“You’re going to hear 90 million times…99.999% of the time you’re going to hear no and it’s going to crush you, so allow it to crush you…” Eden believes that in order to succeed, you must see the setbacks and failures as a pinnacle to your growth and your performance, “seeing what that transforms and what looks like creatively”.
She views those periods of defeat, rejection as the biggest catalyst for her growth professionally and personally, and that “what I would [say] looking back is that I wouldn’t mask or numb it… I would sit in those feelings, that’s what I’d do differently.” She urges listeners suffering a setback, that instead of avoiding the negative feelings, to document them and allow yourself to experience them.
Eden also comes back to drive home the earlier point she made about remaining authentic and true to yourself, telling us – “you have to just do you”.
Her new record “The Question” is now available on vinyl and on all digital streaming platforms – Spotify, Apple Music, etc. You can also catch her hosting the Beats 1 music show on Apple Music on Wednesdays and Thursdays.