Show Notes: Episode 3: Suz Paulinski & The Importance of Mindset
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In this episode Suz and I discuss:
May is mental health month and in this episode, I have a great conversation with Suz Paulinski AKA The Rock/Star Advocate, who is my go-to colleague for mental health related advice. Suz holds a Masters Degree in Psychology and has a background working at major labels. She blends all of her experience to provide brilliant and masterful coaching and advice for all artists, plus she is a born and raised New Yorker just like me – so we have a thing. 🙂
For those of you who live in the NY area, I deeply encourage you to check out Suz’s wonderful conference, The Musicpreneur Mindset Summit. I will be in attendance in September 2019 in beautiful Long Beach, and I encourage you to join us there. This episode is poignant because we not only discuss strategies, but also cite three specific artists who have ellegantly dealt with mental health issues and are working hard to bring their experiences to the forefront.
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Ariel: It’s Ariel.
Ariel: That’s Suz.
Ariel: I’m so excited. So, this is Mental Health Month. It is the month of May. If you are watching this not during the month of May, that’s okay, because this episode is with one of my favorite go-to people for all things mental health.
Suz: All of it.
Ariel: Including my own. So, this is the woman I call when I’m having a not great day, and a woman who has helped me through many funny moments.
Suz: Yes, yes, we got a laugh through it. Laugh through the pain.
Ariel: So, ladies and gentlemen, Miss Suz Paulinski, the Rock/Star Advocate, and host of the Musicpreneur Mindset Podcast, the author of the fabulous Rock/Star Life Planner, which is one of my favorite books that has ever been written for musicians trying to manage everything. And the reason why she is here is because her area of expertise is mindset. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned, if you don’t have your mind right you are not going to succeed.
Ariel: So, please. I’ve said enough. Do introduce yourself and give them a little bit.
Suz: I can’t beat that introduction. But, yes, my name is Suz, Suzanne, whatever you’d like to call me… I started in the business a little over 15 years ago, got my bachelor’s at Drexel University in their music business program and then later on went on for my master’s in general psychology, and thought I would leave the music business altogether, and then realized, wow, okay, this whole psychology thing – like, artists should know about all that stuff. And about – almost five years ago – I started the Rock/Star Advocate, with a mission to help music professionals of all kinds understand the key is to slow down and that you don’t have to burnout to be successful. And I had my own journey with that for many, many years, learning the hard way and resisting everything else that the world tells us to be careful of. But, I was like, this is the music industry – rules don’t apply. It’s its own beast and you have to suffer for your art and for your success. I’ve done more in five years than I’ve done in a less, ten or twelve years. So, you know, this is this is my mission – to help people understand that there’s a better way to do things, there’s a healthier way to do things, and so I thank the amazingly talented Ariel Hyatt for having me on, to give me a platform to talk to you guys about this and about the importance of mental health because – we need to talk about it more.
Ariel: So, I’ve prepared questions. I’m usually an off-the-cuff kind of gal, but today – no, because I really wanted to get to the progress – I’d love to hear a little bit how your journey to getting your master’s degree in psychology felt similar to getting your degree in music industry – but then you worked at a record label, and you have deep music industry experience… Similarities?
Suz: Yeah, a little bit. I basically quit the music industry – it was 2011, I started in the industry in 2002-2003, and I was like, I’m done. I had mental breakdown after mental breakdown, and I was done with it. I had worked at the major labels, I started two different companies with a former business partner, and they weren’t going anywhere, and I was so upset. I had a very sick parent at the time, and I was just so completely overwhelmed, and I didn’t know what the hell I was gonna do, I didn’t want to book artists, I didn’t want to manage them, I certainly wasn’t performing. So, you know what’s my role? I kind of lost my identity in the business, so I left.
And, I said, well, you know, a big passion of mine has always been adolescents. I always wanted to help adolescents. I always felt that- that’s always a timer, everything is- you’re angsty, and you don’t really have an identity, and I was kind of feeling that way in my 20’s, and so I thought I’d go be a social worker at a high school. So, I went to Queens College for my masters in psychology, and I was interning at this high school and, I don’t have the makeup to do that. I couldn’t leave my work where it was, I brought everything home, cried even more than I cried in the music industry, and I thought – ok, you know what, the music industry doesn’t look so bad. The work I was doing and the training I was getting was really helpful for clients that I had that, you know, would pay me to do their social media would pay me to do their marketing plans, but then at 2:00 in the morning email me from tour and say my boyfriend just broke up with me I can’t do my show tomorrow, or I came home and my landlord just evicted me and I can’t do this anymore, or I just got screwed over by this manager, and I would be their therapist. And then I went – huh, why don’t I stop charging for the marketing plans, start charging for the 2:00 a.m. wake-up calls that I was getting to talk them through this stuff – and it’s what I really enjoyed doing, and I felt it was more- I could add more value that way than I could with a marketing plan, because I knew I didn’t have a degree in marketing. I don’t really fully understand that world, so I felt that was more my calling. Corina Corina, who we both know, was one of my first clients in that vein – where, you know, we talked through post-tour depression, and it’s a real thing, and then I just kind of grew it from there. But, yeah, getting that master’s and getting that education – very similar to, just, I know a lot of artists who just kind of lose their identity, and ‘why am I even doing this anymore,’ so that’s kind of how that went.
Ariel: I love that that was part of your journey, because until you walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes, it’s very hard to put yourself in anyone else’s position. So, on that note, we were trying to prepare for what we wanted to say today for mental health month,Suz and I identified three artists who have been very open about their mental health journeys- and, they’re independent artists, so we’ve all heard about some very famous celebrities like Kanye and Gaga, suffering with mental health things, but I think it’s very hard when you look at someone who’s already all the way up there, to see yourself in that. So, we identified three artists at different stages of their careers, but we’re going to tell their stories a little bit because there’s a lesson in each of these three stories. So, the first one we talked about was Alyson Stoner, and this is someone you’re very familiar with.
Suz: Yeah, she actually- many of you might remember Missy Elliott back in the day had all of her big hits, and had this little girl with these cute little pigtails who would dance in her videos, and that was back in like the to the early 2000s and that was Alyson Stoner. She’s now grown up she’s in her early 20s, might even be nineteen, but she – after dancing for Missy Elliott – went on to get roles on the Disney Channel and have a singing career and a dancing career of her own, she’s a choreographer, and she’s become really outspoken about many things. But, most importantly, mental health. And she was recently interviewed on the red carpet about a month ago just saying, you know, what can the industry do? She’s been in the industry for so long, and she’s worked with all the major artists, and she’s been on the acting scene and the singing scene and the dancing scene so, what was her advice for the industry to really have a better relationship and take more responsibility for the artists they invest in? And she had a really good answer, she said, we’re not going to get their attention by pulling at their heartstrings saying like, ‘Oh help, help your artists who are suffering,’ we’re gonna get their attention by talking about bottom line, and their bottom line for their numbers and for their investment, which are these artists and these dancers and actors, is to have a mental counselor on hand, on set, in the studio, on tour, having mental professionals there to help, because it’s really going to invest in the longevity of their artists careers.
And so she was, pleading with different agencies and different labels to really – you want to protect your investment, so – protect their mental health and look at it as an investment and not as, some extra luxury thing, because, look at all the artists that we have in the 27 club and, Britney Spears recently put herself back into a mental health facility, and all these other artists have come out recently saying that they need to go seek help, Mariah Carey came out and said that she was recently diagnosed after years of struggling with, different breakdowns that people were calling her out on, stuff like that
Ariel: They were just calling her a diva, but she’s bipolar. There’s a huge difference.
Suz: Yes. And taking the stigma out of it and actually giving it a name, and something that they can really grab on to, and get help for. Alyson Stoner was really great and pushing that idea and understanding if you care about your investment, if you’re only gonna care about the bottom line, this is just as important, because it protects your investment, you know. If that’s the way they’re looking at it.
Ariel: Because, she had been put through the system without the support. Lesson number one, don’t go through the system without support.
The second artist that I just discovered while preparing for my interview with Mike Werner, who wrote Work Hard Playlist Hard, he had an artist from Holland – the Netherlands – on his podcast, and this artist really captured my attention, he’s Joey Suki. And Joey Suki was an EDM DJ, and very successful, touring almost every weekend, playing huge festivals, big resorts and hotels, everybody’s dream, the EDM dream. And he suffered a breakdown, and he’s very candid about it. He’s quit music, he’s just now coming back after a couple years, but he bottomed out and the way he tells his story on Mike’s podcast is really moving. Basically, he says he went to see a therapist when he was feeling really burned out and sad, and it wasn’t working, and the therapist said well, you know, this is first world problems. You’re flying first class, you’re staying in really nice hotels, like, you’re going all over the world, you have nothing to complain about, you’re not a suffering artist, you’re not starving, and it wasn’t until he very tenaciously went to another therapist. And this therapist pointed something out, which i think is something that we forget about, especially the seductiveness of the idea of being in music if you’re on the industry side or on the artist side, is we just want to do that thing.
But what this other therapist pointed out to Joey, and I’m paraphrasing – this is not exactly his journey – the point is, they started realizing that everything that he was doing – flying in planes – made him anxious. Being away from home was something he didn’t enjoy, staying in hotels was something he didn’t like, staying up late, all the alcohol, these were not lifestyle choices that he would have made for himself. And so every successful run in the ladder made him feel more lonely and less in touch with, like, what he really wanted. So, it was really cool to listen to his journey, and I think, you know, the lesson in this is – I don’t want to say be careful what you ask for because that’s- it’s a bit-
Suz: Just understand what you’re asking for. I mean, there are people that, yeah.. like, I love to fly in planes, I love traveling, I don’t love huge crowds but, you know, I love being on the road, it’s fun for me. But, you know, a lot of people- if that’s not what it is, you know, like you said, his career was like what so many of you would be like, ‘oh my gosh, like, I would kill for that,’ but if you don’t fully understand what it is you’re going after, you know.. For me, I had a mental breakdown when I was 20. I, you know, graduated college early, I got my own office at a major label, and I was like, ‘oh my gosh, like this is- this is what-’ I mean, I was 12 years old when I first decided I want to be in the music industry, and at 20, I finally got there, and I was head of schedule, and I was so excited and I cried every day. Before work, during my lunch break, while I was having dinner at home, when I got home at like 11 o’clock at night – I was miserable. And the panic that set in, oh my god. I worked years with this as the goal, this is no longer what I want. What does that mean? It was, again, this identity crisis of like, what does that mean?
And, so, if you can prepare yourself ahead of time to say ‘this is what I’m working towards, maybe I’ll find out it’s what I want, maybe I won’t’ – but, to go seek help like he did, and say, ‘okay, is this in line with what my values are?’ Because, if you just say, ‘well, that’s everybody else’s definition of success, so that’s what I should go after’ – maybe your definition, if you look at what you value – make an impact on YouTube, or, you know, write songs for other people, or just play your local area, you know. You don’t have to- there’s no one legitimate way to be a music professional, so just understand what it is that you value, and see as he did if it lines up or not, because maybe it doesn’t – and that’s okay. I think just giving ourselves permission to say it’s okay-
Ariel: To know, also, what feels good. That was my big experience working at a record label, I was the only girl – not the only, but one of three, and one of them was married to the head of the label. So, one and a half of three, and I was miserable. I didn’t feel like I was being listened to, I didn’t feel like I was being a contribution. I was really young and ambitious – when you begin to define it on your own terms. It does help your mental health. So the third artist is someone you’re actually personal friends with, and he was on your podcast talking about something that’s really poignant.
Suz: Yes, so I want to give big love to Cipha Sounds, he’s a DJ he’s been a DJ for over 20 years here in New York City. He’s the DJ for Jennifer Lopez and Dave Chappelle and so many others, and he’s also a stand-up and improv comedian, and he’s so incredibly talented. He’s built his own lane in the comedy world, bringing hip-hop to comedy – the only one to do that first. And, you know, he was gracious enough to be on my podcast last year, and he was so open about his journey with mental health, and understanding that he had certain social anxieties that he went and got help for. And he realized, ‘yeah, I can be in this music industry, I can be in this comedy world, and they’re very similar industries where I have to go out to these big clubs and I have to travel a lot,’ but he learned certain tools that he can use and so, you know, sometimes he said he’ll travel and maybe get to that next city a day early and check out the area, check out the room he’ll be working, understand not only as a professional how he could best work the room, but also for his own situation in for the comfort level, getting familiar with your space beforehand, and just knowing, you know, I’m gonna put a limit on it. You know, I don’t drink, I don’t get involved in heavy parties, and so I’ll meet the people I’m meant to meet, and then I’m gonna bounce and do my own thing, you know.
If he felt that way, and what he found was once he set those barriers for himself, once he was able to set that structure, he actually stayed longer at the events and he actually had more fun at the events, because he understood there was an exit plan if he needed it, and so there was that different bit of comfort rather than this panic like you’re tied to this thing, that you can’t get off the ride. He learned that you can get off the ride if you want to, and just having that structure there, that back-up plan, enabled him to just enjoy the ride.
Ariel: So, for him, it was about understanding what was going to be happening, not being thrown into an unusual situation, not knowing what the room looked like, not knowing what was to be expected, and that probably calms on that anxiety. So, I guess the lesson there would be understanding yourself. If you’re an easy, off-the-cuff person, you wouldn’t need to see what the room looks like, but if you’re not, that’s a great tool.
So, understanding tools. Cool. So, how do you align your dreams with your mental health? I think all three of these scenarios totally kind of speak to having a little bit of 20/20 hindsight. Alyson being so young, and just kind of been thrown into it, then you’re in Disney, and then your part of a real machine. Which, we can see what happens with children of the product. I think Justin Timberlake’s the only normal one – is he even normal?
Suz: Seems normal. But, yeah, I mean, his mom like never left his side, like that was – you know – that was the game plan.
Ariel: Then we had Joey, who thought he wanted something and then realized it was not in alignment with his lifestyle and what he wanted. And then we have safe Cipha, who understood a little bit earlier in the game, like, ‘okay, I need tools here.’
Suz: And understood that it was a business. Like, didn’t get- you know, we also talked about not getting so distracted by shiny objects. It was like, he knew, ‘I need this to be sustainable, so I’m gonna be in this for the long haul, I’m committed to this, so how can I make it sustainable,’ and I think that’s one of the big things. But, yeah, in terms of aligning your dreams with your mental health is understanding, yes sustainability, like- understanding, this isn’t just, you know, I don’t want to be just a one-hit wonder, shot in the dark – I want this, this is what I love, my passions, what I want to do for a very long time – then I need to protect myself, you know, nobody else is going to protect this – but making sure, as we say, you have those tools, you have that support system.
You know, Alyson Stoner said in terms of the labels and the agencies having those counselors on-site, yes, that’s wonderful and I hope that happens – but in the meantime, it’s on you then to make sure you have access to those counselors, to that support. So, what does your support system look like? What are the tools you can have in place to learn? And then as Joey learned, what are your dreams? I think the reason it doesn’t often align, is we don’t take the time to think – like, all I knew at the age of 12 was I’m not a performer, so I must want to be on the label. Like, that’s all I knew, so those were the choices in my head – performer or label, I’ll go for the label, and that’s all I thought about. It took me years to understand I can make my own role. I mean, I didn’t know if a mindset coach existed in the music industry, but through my education and through understanding, you know, what people I worked with were finding valuable about working with me, then came the career after that. So understanding, always reflecting – I think reflection is a huge piece of it, as you do certain things when you hit a hurdle or when you have a kind of crappy day – think why things like- why did that feel crappy, was it really like not a great situation, or was it seemingly a great situation but didn’t sit well with me because that’s not it’s not in alignment with what I need? You know, if you go do a huge show and everyone’s like, ‘that was amazing,’ and you go home thinking, ‘hmm, kind of, I mean it should have been amazing but wasn’t,’ and think about why – what weren’t you enjoying out of it? And then in doing that, get used to doing that each week or each month, checking back in with yourself. Then you can be – I always say reflective rather than reactive, because if you just keep reacting to things, you’re not incontrol, you’re just reacting to everything outside that’s coming at you – rather than saying, no I don’t want that, I don’t want that I’m gonna go here. So, just taking some reflection time to really- don’t chase other people’s dreams, chase what matters to you. And if you don’t know what matters to you, you’re probably chasing somebody else’s dream.
Ariel: What’s the most evident mindset shift that artists need to understand?
Suz: I think it’s, again, the sustainability, the long-term.
I see a lot of artists just worrying about their next release – which, yes, I mean, you should be in the present and you should be, you know, Ariel is, like, the mecca when it comes to knowing what you need for a release. Go to this one, she is just amazing with breaking down how you can actually release stuff and be successful, and that stuff is so important – but understand how that release fits into what your goal is ultimately. Because if you look at it from – what do you always say, like the 3,000 foot, you know, perspective – if you look at it up there, then you understand, ‘oh, on this tour maybe I shouldn’t go out every single night and drink my face off, because I need to be able to handle other pieces of business during the day before the show, I need to manage my social media, I need to send my fans newsletters, or I need to work on getting more press during the day before shows so I can’t just drink all day sleep all day and then do a show- like, that’s not gonna be very effective, you know, after that tour is done that’s not gonna be very proactive and productive.’ So, I think, just shifting from, ‘oh, here’s what I want to do right now – to like how does that fit in my longer-term plan.’
Ariel: Final question – what is your takeaway advice for an artist who hasn’t focused on their mental health and they know- they might- there’s an inkling that they might need to do so?
Suz: So, for me, it’s just about that initial release. For years growing up, you know, people would say to me, you know, I have my own struggles growing up – and people would mention therapy, and I say I’m fine, like, I’m a smart person, I can figure this stuff out of my own. And I bottled it and I bottled it and I bottled it, I never got it out anywhere until my first little breakdown in my 20s, and I think the most important thing is to find an outlet, find somebody to talk to – it doesn’t have to be a therapist right away if that’s not your thing. It could be a best friend, a parent, a significant other, your pet, or it could be a journal, you know, if songwriting is therapeutic to you that’s great – but don’t, again, mindset – don’t write from, ‘oh, I got to write a hit song because that’s all that.’ Just write, just get it out, and then look at it, read it, say well, what is this telling me? You know, what am i struggling with? And just try to purge and get that out, rather than sit on it and say I can handle this I can handle this, because then it will erupt at some point. Keep the conversation going.
Ariel: Yes, so, to keep the conversation going – where can we find you online, Suz?
Suz: Come talk to me about this stuff, I want to know what’s on your mind. You can find me on every channel @rockstaradvo, and you can find me every week on my podcast, the Musicpreneur Mindset Podcast, where we talk about this mindset stuff every week.
Ariel: So, there is so much information jammed into this – look in the show notes where you will find links to Suz’s podcast and her website, the three artists that we have talked about during this little session. Thank you so much for your time.
Suz: Thanks for having this platform available!
Ariel: Everybody be well.
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Ariel Loves the challenges that today’s music business presents and she leads her team to help clients come out ahead- whether that is with a detailed Total Tuneup, a new brand, or an increased established digital footprint, she is dedicated to helping her clients leave more educated than they were when they came to Cyber PR. She has written over 300 blog posts and four books on marketing, crowdfunding, and social media for artists- two of which went to #1 on Amazon. Ariel has spoken to over 100,000 artists in 12 countries about how to take control of their own marketing leading masterclasses, workshops, and panels.