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christine kane
by lisa horak

Christine Kane is making it in the music business, despite the odds.

One of Asheville’s most talented local singer-songwriters, her CDs and live performances have received rave reviews and her most recent CD Rain and Mud and Wild and Green has sold more than 10,000 copies, which, she jokes, “would be a pathetic number if I were on a major label.” It is, however, an admirable number for an independent label, especially one owned and run by an artist. Her beautiful, clear voice, intelligent and articulate lyrics, and laid-back, down to earth personality resonate with her listeners. But talent alone does not guarantee success. It’s how Christine has chosen to market her talent that sets her apart from scores of other gifted musicians.

Christine has her own definition of what it means to be successful in the music business. In an age where major record companies wrest artistic control from musicians, Christine has created her own independent label, Big Fat Music. In so doing, she maintains the freedom to craft and record songs that are the truest reflections of her self, her soul, and her deepest emotions.

Christine is an ardent believer that if you follow your heart it will take you where you need to go. A writer first and foremost, Christine has kept a journal since she was seven and has a degree in writing from Boston College. But it is the organic process of songwriting that is her true passion. Her first big break came when fellow local singer David LaMotte had to cancel a weekend of shows and asked Christine to fill in. She did and was a huge hit with the audience. Christine describes a defining moment that first night. “There was a Shakespeare Troupe in town that wandered in. One of the actors found out it was my first public performance. He handed me a hundred-dollar bill and told me to never give up. And I haven’t,” she says.

For Christine, there was a lot to learn about the business side of making music. “First I had to get organized. In the beginning I hired someone to handle my mailing list and one day I burst into tears because he couldn’t help me—my “office” was just too chaotic,” says Christine. “I had to start from zero—literally, I had to buy a file cabinet and files—so that someone coming in could understand what was what and what needed to be done.” In addition, she began reading books on business, including Organizing From the Inside Out by Julie Morganstern and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

Perhaps most important, she hired a business coach, Thom Politico, to help her get on the right track. “He looked at my entire life, not just my ‘business’ and helped me face my fears—namely my belief that I could never do anything artistic. I had such illusions of what it meant to be a musician,” says Christine. “Thom encouraged me to really sit and think about what I wanted. He helped me combine the artistic, spiritual, and business sides so that everything in my world was integrated and true.”

Now, four CDs later with a new one entitled Right Outta Nowhere due out in Spring 2004, Christine has a loyal and steadily growing fan base and a schedule chock full of performances on the listening room/folk circuit. “The hardest part is being on the road so much, but to be successful you have to travel a lot. I think the best work comes when you are where you love to be. I love to be home in Asheville,” says Christine.
Her greatest satisfaction comes from her live performances. “I’m out there playing my songs for people who are there to hear me. I don’t want to be that stereotypical image of ‘the musician.’ I just want to be myself,” she says.

The most important lesson Christine has learned is that you have to actively take your career into your own hands. “I’ve noticed that so many artists tend to think that their big break is just around the corner, that they will be discovered by an agent or a major record label. But it doesn’t happen like that. No one is going to rescue you from you. You have to save yourself and believe in yourself,” says Christine. “For women especially, you have to be aware of the temptation to be the victim or the damsel in distress.”

Christine is so passionate on this point that she has moved into the realm of teaching and recently spoke at a seminar that was not about music but about following your heart. One of her lectures is entitled, “Getting a Job is Boring. Get A Life Instead.”
Being pro-active rather than passive has been invaluable to the success of Christine’s business. From her office downtown and with the help of a few top-notch, simpatico employees like office manager Rachel Wilson, who takes care of Christine’s booking and publicity, her company handles everything from product fulfillment to music publishing and everything else.

“It’s been a gift to learn about business,” she says. “Because I’m more on the emotional side, I’ve learned to step back and not get my feelings hurt as much. I’ve also seen that there are so many business people who care deeply about their product. And they get their hearts broken over and over again. But they get back up.”

To those contemplating a career in music, Christine offers these words: “There are no guarantees. Taking any kind of risk that is worth it is scary, and there are always going to be challenges. You have to take baby steps and be patient. Also, you have to carefully consider timing. What is it time for? For me, there was a definite time to make a first CD, and later there was a time to step into a bigger arena—spend more money on photos and production. There is a quote by Marian Williamson that ‘Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.’ I agree with that completely.”

Serving the world is indeed important to Christine, who is committed to doing what feels right to her. For example, she conscientiously uses recycled paper for her office supplies, supports organic farming, and advocates alternative health care. Her song “Everything Green” is about the development of the new I-26 highway here in Asheville, but was inspired by Julia Butterfly Hill who made her home in a California redwood tree for two years to protest the logging of those ancient and immense trees.

A byproduct of Christine’s personal growth is that she has seen her songs get stronger, reflecting the confidence that comes with knowing you have done your best and given your all. “When you listen to your heart and your business aligns with your values, more opportunities come along. Life is much happier and much more fun,” she says. christinekane.com

Lisa Horak lives in south Asheville with her husband and two daughters, Molly and Isabel. In her spare time she hikes, volunteers in classrooms, and dreams of writing children’s books. [ lisa@wnc-woman.com ]

 

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