Burnout may seem inevitable, and it may feel like you can never recover. But with a little bit of consistency and authenticity, you can overcome it and reinvent yourself. In this episode, we have Aria Johnson discuss how to reinvent yourself in the music industry after burnout. With 25 years in the music industry, Aria shares lessons from her experiences in the music scene to her current work helping artists achieve their dreams. She explores the magic of consistency, the power of self-care, and the art of embracing authenticity. Listen now and learn how to achieve your dreams without compromise.
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Consistency, Creativity, And Success: Reinventing Yourself After Burnout With Aria Johnson
I am so happy to be here with Aria Johnson. We are going to talk about everything from the music business to mindset to keeping ourselves from burning out, exploring all kinds of different passions, learning how to balance this real life with kids, and all that stuff. We’re going to get into that. To start off, I always love to get people’s stories at the beginning because it gives some great context. Aria, if you want to let us know how you started out in music, where you went from there, and how that got you to where you are. I know that’s probably a lot, but that’s fine. You don’t have to abridge it or anything. We want to know.
First of all, I want to say thank you so much for having me on the show. I know you’ve done probably over 1,000 episodes.
I’ve done over 1,500 on the Women of Substance show alone.
We are in the presence of a legend. If it’s your first time tuning in to her show, they’re great. You got to stick around. I started in the music business. I always knew I wanted to be a singer since I was five years old. I became a professional singer at fifteen by the time I could convince my parents to give me singing lessons. Before that, I was singing around town and anywhere that would let me.
Once I got singing lessons and got my foot in the door, there were some connections there. I started booking a girl group that I was in. I remember the first gig was at Nordstrom. We got paid $500. I was in front of the piano. I was fifteen and we had my little girl group doing swing music. We started getting paid and doing it professionally.
I moved to LA after college. I have a Business degree. I was in a girl group for seven years and was like, “I want to go solo now.” We had toured and done all that. I moved to LA and did the whole thing that probably a lot of you are doing, which is trying to make it. I was on a music competition show called Star Tomorrow. It was like American Idol but for NBC. I won 13 out of the 14 episodes. I opened for Ludacris. I toured. I put out an album.
I did the thing, but it’s such a challenging business that I ended up deciding that I wanted to change directions. I lost my love for it. That’s why I hope I can give you guys some advice that helps you stay motivated and take care of yourself so that you don’t lose your love for the business because it is hard. You are an entrepreneur. I have been through it since I was a kid. I’ve been in this for many years in the music business.
Once I quit being an artist, I developed my company, The Golden Voice, which is artist development and voice coaching for artists trying to make it. I wanted to help people not have to go through what I went through and see if I could teach them and help others. I did that for a very long time. I did TV. I was the music expert on a TV show called Beverly Hills Pawn for five seasons. I segued into acting while running The Golden Voice.
Now, I am segueing into speaking on stages around the world to help women perform at their peak. It is peak performance minus the burnout because I personally burned out at the peak of my career. I crashed and burned. I’m here to tell you how to avoid that and how to come back from that because it seems to be a thing happening to everybody.
I love that. Musicians especially need this because we have to work so hard to get the gig, and then there’s so much work at the gig. It does feel like sometimes, every step of the way is scratching and clawing. When you do finally start to get traction, sometimes, by the time we get to that point, we’re burnt out. That sucks because you’ve worked so hard for the thing. You have the thing, but you don’t love the thing anymore. We want to save all of you guys from that. I wanted to go back to a little bit of your story in the beginning. You have a Business degree. What made you think, “I should get a business degree,” when you wanted to be a musician?
Honestly, I graduated high school at seventeen years old and my parents were like, “You’re not moving to LA.” I lived in Northern California. They were like, “We will do everything in our power to stop that.” Like the good little girl like a lot of us are, we’re good girls, I listened to my parents and spent five years in college getting a Business degree. I was still singing. I was in a girl group. We were touring, so there was a lot of cutting class.
I moved two weeks after I graduated college with that degree because I figured, “At least I would know the business side of music as far as understanding how business works.” It really came in handy in the music business because, as you guys know, and especially Bree, it’s all contracts and legal jargon. That’s the unsexy side of it. As artists, we’re like, “I am all about the music. I want to vibe,” and then you get taken advantage of or you don’t make any money off your music. Learning the business is necessary, especially now.
That was really smart even though it was because your parents wanted you to go to college. You weren’t that vulnerable artist who wanted to make it at all costs. You understood the cost behind it before you said yes to anything.
I don’t know that I understood the cost at 22 years old in LA. There were a lot of sharks. I learned it over time. By the time I was a decade in, I was able to tell other people, “Work with this person. Don’t work with this person. Studios are soundproof, ladies. Don’t go alone if you’re recording with a guy.” That kind of stuff is not sexy, but it will save your life.
That is so good and true. In the business, there are a lot of sharks. Finding someone that you can trust who can give you referrals of people that they trust is gold, but that takes a while. You show up in LA and you don’t know anybody.
When I moved to LA, I interviewed 100 producers before I was able to find someone I could work with. I went through 100 producers. I kept a list because I was very like, “I’m a Virgo. I like to write everything down.”
What were your criteria between the 100 that made you decide to pick 1 of them?
Let me tell you what I would do if I did it now. What I did then was I was broke. For my day job, I was working at BET. It’s Black Entertainment Television. I was getting as close to music as I could. I had to pay the bills while I was trying to make it. What I would do differently now versus what I did then is I was all about finding the cheapest producer. It was saving money. I was trying to get people to work for free. I was putting ads on Craigslist and meeting a bunch of shady people.
What I have told my clients is pay for it. You can go on the internet and license a song for $30. You could hire a cheap producer for $1,500 bucks to produce you a track. You can go into a studio and spend $5,000 and have a live band. There are ways to do it. You are better off having a day job and paying the cost to get your music produced than trying to have people like, “Let’s write together. Let’s vibe together.” It’s drama.
Especially as women, since it’s mostly women here, a lot of times, it’s hard for people not to fall in love with you if you’re a woman and you’re singing your heart out and you’re all sexy and vulnerable. Get a day job. Shovel dirt if you have to or work at McDonald’s, but pay for your music. Make sure not to pay it all upfront. You’ll get your tracks if they want the other half if it’s attractive enough. If they want to keep their lights on, they’ll go for the music. It won’t be the free track they’re doing with you. Pay them.
That’s really good. You can be sure and get your contracts and all that in order so you own all your stuff. There’s not going to be this like, “I gave it to you for free so I own part of your master.”
They’re like, “I own 50%.” That’s what producers want.
That’s great advice.
There is a lot to be learned. It’s not as scary as it seems. It doesn’t have to be as hard as it seems when you have somebody like Bree to be your mentor, like taking her courses online or you hire an artist development/somebody as a coach. When you’re looking for a manager to work for you for free, they’re not making any money. It’s so sad that it boils down to money. I had to learn this the hard way. I learned that I wasted a lot of time.
One thing that’s really important to me is it’s not a waste of time if you learn something. Failure is part of the job. Every day, you should be asking yourself, “How did I fail today?” If the answer is, “I didn’t,” then you’re not growing. You should be getting rejection every single day as an artist and as anyone trying to start a business. Get rejected. That means you’re getting closer to your goal. You’re learning from it.It's not a waste of time if you learn something. Failure is part of the job. Click To Tweet
If you watch a little one-year-old, they fall or hit their head on the table, but they get back up. That’s what it’s like in the music industry. All of you have more resilience and more stick-to-itiveness than almost any other industry because you are getting rejected. Every day, you have to bring yourself to get up in the morning even though no one’s paying you to do this and follow your dreams. Know that failure is good. It’s a stepping stone even if it doesn’t feel like it.
I agree with that. It’s so much easier to think that way when you’re ten years in and you can look back and go, “I’m so glad that happened because that saved me from this,” or, “It taught me this.” You forget that when you’re a kid, failing is good. If you were learning how to walk, you can’t just get up and walk. When you’re 22, you think like the world is ending if you fail.
I did not get out of bed for two weeks after I got kicked off the show when I lost the Star Tomorrow. I was working with Beyoncé’s producer. I won’t say his name. He stole all my music because I didn’t want to be his girlfriend. Those kinds of things are what happens day-to-day. It’s so embarrassing to admit, but since we’re all women here, I feel like we have to keep it real.
I went through a phase where I was on top of my career as far as in the acting business. I didn’t make it super big in singing. I made it as an actor. I’m the music expert on the show Beverly Hills Pawn. It’s got five seasons. We’re on billboards. I’m being flown around to red carpets. Even though it’s a reality show, I was like, “I’m a star now.” It was weird.
I ended up hitting rock bottom because I worked myself to a point where my body couldn’t take it anymore. It doesn’t matter if you’re 22 and you have lots of energy or you are 42 or 62. You have to take care of yourself. When I hit that rock bottom, I kept asking, “Why is this happening to me?” It was like I asked when I was 22 and I got kicked off a show or a producer didn’t work out. I was like, “Why is this happening to me? I didn’t get this record deal.” I was doing that and I was in my 40s at this point. I was like, “Why is this happening to me? I’m so sick.” I was so sick that I thought I was going to die. The doctors wrote me off.
What I realized, and this is something you can use, is I had to start asking myself, “How is this happening for me?” I was in the middle of hell. I was bleeding from the throat. I had to give up my business in artist development and vocal coaching because I couldn’t talk. I lost my voice. I was bedridden. The doctors had no idea what was wrong with me. I had a paralyzed stomach. It was a head-to-toe shutdown. I was a mother at this point. That lesson is something that at 22, you can take.
When you’re sitting there in that hell or that misery, feel it. Feel your feelings. When you’re done, instead of saying, “Why is this happening to me?” ask yourself, “How is this happening for me?” You freestyle write. You write in your journal, “How is this happening for me?” I swear. When I started that question, it must’ve been a month of everyday writing where I couldn’t come up with an answer. I was like, “How is this happening for me?” and I was like, “Stupid question.” I kept writing until I found it.
For me, when I found it, it was so that I could help people. It was to help women learn to not burn out. It might sound cheesy, but it’s true. Find the reason. Ask yourself, “How is this happening for me?” If you don’t ask that question, you will burn out because you’ll be like, “It’s too hard. Nothing ever works out. Nothing goes my way.” Your brain will be like, “You should quit then.” Your friends will be like, “How long do you give yourself?” I’m sure you’ve heard these questions. They’re like, “I’m not trying to be rude.” This is your best friend. You’re like, “Bitch.”
It depends on what give yourself means. Does it mean to give yourself to succeed at some massive level or is it that you’re going to have great fulfillment through your music while still doing these other things and you don’t have to be some major star?
We can’t all be Beyoncé or whatever. It’s the example I’m thinking of because she’s a billionaire. There are so many jobs in the music industry you can do. If you talk to most of the people on the business side, they’re all musicians. Talk to A&R guys. They’re like, “I was in a band.” I find them.
It makes sense. Looking back, do you think there were warning signs that you were going to hit that total burnout or you were going to lose your health like that? Can you give anybody some advice on how can they see this coming?
I had a kid. This is five seasons after the show. I’m waiting for seasons 6 and 7 to be picked up. I’m already a star on some level. I don’t think of it like that, but for the sake of this conversation. Every morning, I get up and I’m trying to be super mom. I’m running on adrenaline and caffeine. I’m not eating breakfast because I’m like, “I’m intermittent fasting. I have to run around and take my kid to preschool,” or whatever it was. I wasn’t taking care of myself.
I was working with clients in artist development and trying to help them follow their dreams back to back. I was making their problems my problems. I was lying awake at night thinking about the artist who wanted to jump off a bridge and was devastated. I am an empath. Most artists are. That means I take on the problems of others.
All the signs were there. I was running on adrenaline. I was not feeding myself properly. I was putting everybody else first except myself. I had to learn it. It took me being in bed and staying there. It took years of doctors, meds, self-help, and all of that stuff for me to figure out, “I have to take care of myself. I have to do the woo. I got to do the yoga, the meditation, and the sauna.” There are so many things I do now that are part of my life. Before, I thought they were selfish. I used to think it was selfish to go to the gym on a Saturday because it was family time. What’s more selfish is when Mama is crazy or burned out.
Women, I see you. I was talking to a friend. She’s about to crash and burn because she’s working so hard. I said, “Why do you do it? Why do you take on so many clients?” She said, “I don’t know. I don’t want to let them down.” She doesn’t need the money, but she was like, “I don’t want to let them down.” If you are letting yourself down at the cost of making someone else feel better, that is a failure. The only person you shouldn’t be letting down is yourself. It sounds selfish to say it out loud, but it’s not. If you have integrity, you’re a good person. You want to make a difference in the world. You cannot do that from an empty well.If you are letting yourself down at the cost of making someone else feel better, that is a failure. Click To Tweet
You look at the long-term consequences. Eventually, you won’t be able to serve them anyway because you’ll have burned yourself into the ground.
You’ll quit. I watched lots of amazing artists quit the business over a decade of being in LA. They’re signed artists opening for A-listers. I watched them be like, “I can’t do it.” They’re burning out. Especially as a woman, you’re trying to be everything to everyone. You’re not taking care of yourself. I developed a three-step plan to take care of yourself that’s easy to remember because it seems so big. We’re like, “What is this self-care BS?” It’s every day. It’s a lifestyle.
In my talks as an inspirational speaker, that’s what I talk about. It’s the morning or what you do during the day and in the evening. I have lots of tips and tricks, and they work. If you can’t stop to take one minute to do breathing, your body will make you stop. You’ll catch a cold. Something will go down. You have to stop. If you’d like at some point, I can go through some of those techniques.
I wanted to ask. As an artist development person, what did you see in artists that was the most problematic? Was it that they were constantly touring? Was it that they could never stop to celebrate their wins? What was it that was stressing them out so much?
This is an interesting question because it doesn’t matter how famous you are. I worked with beginners and I worked with people who you would know. The main thing was they didn’t know who they were as an artist. That’s not something they could admit to the world. They’re like, “I like pop music. I like rock music. I like country music. I like R&B.” They felt like they had to fit into a box that they didn’t want to be in. They were scared to step outside the box and fail. They were scared of what everyone else would think. That was the biggest problem.
That is interesting.
That’s why this self-help stuff is so important because in order to figure out who you are at that given time. Let’s say it’s time to make another album. You need to go deep within. Nobody else can tell you that. In artist development, I am not here like a label would do and say, “Let’s slap pink bows on her and now that’s her brand.” I am here to say, “Who are you at this time? Let’s pull it out of you. Only you’re going to know that. How are you going to know that? You are going to climb a mountain and think about it. You are going to do the boring stuff that nobody wants to do. This is the stuff that’s going to save you because if you are pretending to be someone you’re not to please them, it won’t work. People see through it. You might even have some success, but you’ll be miserable.”
That’s the thing that’s hard to convince them. They think, “If I have success, I won’t be miserable because I want this success.”
I used to think that, too. What’s interesting, and I’m going to start with a little story, is that most of my clients were also afraid that success would turn them into a bad person. What I said is, “Success doesn’t change you. Money doesn’t change you. Fame doesn’t change you. It simply amplifies who you are. If you’re a good person, now you can do a lot of good with that money. You’re donating 20,000 meals to the homeless for Thanksgiving. If you’re a crappy person, you’re stepping on more people. Who you are does not change.” I don’t know if I answered the question properly.
That’s part of the answer. They think the success is what is going to give them the validation. They’re afraid to go out on a limb and be something that might be more authentic to them because if that’s not successful, then that might say something about them, too.
Back to your question, the second part of that is how you feel about yourself doesn’t change when you’re famous. You don’t know until you experience it. It’s like if you talk to somebody who’s lost 100 pounds. They’ll say, “I can wear cute clothes now, but I still feel like who I was before.” Your soul is your soul. Your childhood traumas are there. Fame and money are not Band-Aids. Maybe temporarily, you’ll be like, “I’m rich. I’m flying on jets,” but that goes away after the concert. You’re getting an adoration from 20,000 or 10,000 people and then you have to go home and go to bed by yourself. Unless you’ve got some random stranger or a partner in your bed, you’re still alone with your thoughts.
I could tell people all day, “Money and fame don’t make you happy,” and they’ll disagree. I heard a celebrity tell me who is less of a celebrity than others that she can go cry in her Ferrari. I said, “A Ferrari is still a piece of plastic at the end of the day and metal. Pain is pain. Pain is relative. The more money and the more fame you have, the bigger your problems are because now, you have a staff of 50 people that are not going to get paid if you screw it up.” It’s a big deal. It doesn’t make you happy. The answer is what does?
I spent at least ten years researching what makes you happy. I read every book on it. I studied psychology. I wanted to know what is the answer. I knew it came from within, but what does that mean? If you talk to religious people, they’ll say it’s God. If you talk to yogis, they’ll say it’s meditation. Everybody has the answer but nobody has the answer.
What I found is that happiness is taking care of yourself. Think of yourself as a five-year-old kid. I want you all to picture your five-year-old self. Think of a picture, maybe 4, 5, or 6 years old. What did you want at that age? You wanted love. You wanted your parents to love you. You are your parent. You have to re-parent yourself.
What does love mean? It doesn’t mean, “I love myself. I’m so beautiful.” It means taking care of yourself. It means eating when you’re hungry, sleeping when you’re tired, and going to the gym even though you don’t want to. It means saying no. If you’re 22 and somebody wants to go out Friday and Saturday night and you know you’re going to screw up a gig, it is saying no. It’s discipline. Love is discipline.
We take our children and say, “You can’t eat that candy before bed because you’re going to feel like crap,” but then with ourselves, we’re like, “I would like a nightcap, please. I’ll make it a double.” I’m then like, “I slept like crap.” We have to take care of ourselves. That is where you find true happiness. It’s the whole cheesy loving yourself. It’s an action. That’s what I’ve found.
I agree. I am going to be a little vulnerable here for myself. You said that whole thing about the nightcap. I’m always at war with, “I know I might not feel that good tomorrow, but I’ll have more fun today.” I’m not saying that this happens all the time, but every once in a while, I’m thinking to myself, “You can’t always be the goody two shoes and always do the thing that’s super healthy.” I am pretty health conscious and stuff, sometimes, I want to let my hair down and have fun. How do you balance that?
I was the pop star, the rock star, or whatever. I wanted to be naughty, party, and have fun. I’m a party girl. I love it. When the music comes on, I’m ready to dance. My husband’s like, “We got to go,” and I’m like, “We’re having fun.” That’s how I’ve always been. I’m like, “I don’t want to leave yet.” I get it. What I’ve learned through this whole nightmare of an ordeal is that there’s past me. There’s past Aria, present Aria, and future Aria. Is present Aria going to f it up for future Aria? No. I’m going to do a favor for future Aria. I’m going to do her a favor and maybe not have that last drink. It’s really hard when you’re drinking, but whatever the example is. It’s doing yourself a favor.
A favor for future Aria might be laying out your lunch because you know you have to take it in the morning. You know you’re going to be hungover. You lay out your lunch the night before so that when you get in the car, you’re ready to go. Past Aria, the one with the trauma, is the one who says, “Right now, I need to have fun.” There is a balance.
I love to have fun. If you and I were hanging out, I would be like, “Let’s do this,” but there has to be balance. The balance is loving yourself enough to take care of future you. The now me wants to eat the entire bag of Cheetos with the entire bottle of wine. Tomorrow me is like, “Why the hell did you do that?” It’s almost being deliberate about it. I’m not saying to be in control of everything. Sometimes, I’m like, “Tonight, I’m going out and I’m going to stay up until 2:00 AM.” I know I’m going to suffer, but it’s a choice. It’s not letting life happen to me.
I like your suggestion about the lunch the next day because what does happen is you can get into a spiral. You do the thing. You go out, have fun, get up, and don’t feel so good. You’re like, “I’m too tired to make lunch. I’ll find something. I’ll go to a drive-through.” It keeps getting worse.
You’re like, “I’m hungover. I’m going to have some wine again,” so then you’re on the two-day hangover. It’s not about perfection. Loving yourself is not at all about perfection. It’s about grace. If you have true grace for yourself, you’ll say, “I did that thing I shouldn’t have done last night. Maybe I’ll be a little better today.” Maybe I’ll say, “Screw it.” Sometimes, I’m like, “Sit down with the tub of ice cream.”Loving yourself is not at all about perfection. It's about grace. Click To Tweet
I only eat healthily because I have to. My stomach was paralyzed. I don’t want to say it still is because who knows? If I eat the wrong things, I feel like crap, but sometimes, I’m like, “I need to emotionally eat that right now.” That’s okay. That’s the problem. As women, we’re taught that it’s all or nothing, especially musicians. They’re like, “We’re rock stars. It’s all or nothing.” It doesn’t have to be.
Especially if you take those steps every single day or those consistent steps toward being who you want to be, it doesn’t matter then. If you want to have a night out and party or screw up your career in some way, it’s not fatal. It’s a learning situation. I want to go out. I have a daughter so I should be in bed at 9:30. Do you think that’s cool or fun? No. If I want to go out, I stay out, but I don’t stay out until 3:00 anymore.
That’s really helpful. We all have to deal with that balance. I have health issues, too. I’d love to eat the good stuff all the time, but I can’t. It is giving yourself that opportunity to have it sometimes. You have to give yourself grace because otherwise, you’re almost punishing yourself in the other direction.
Future you is punishing past you. It gets crazy. It’s more like the present you because it’s the morning. Present you is punishing past you. What does that do? Success boils down to consistency. It doesn’t matter what part of the music industry you’re in or what part of life you’re in. All it takes is doing the same things over and over and taking a mantra like, “I’m the most consistent person I know.” I have that written down in my notes where my to-do list is. I’m like, “Every day, I do the sauna whether I want to or not,” and then I want to.
Also, I meditate. I hated meditation. I meditate and it’s life-changing. Especially for artists, if you can clear your mind, you can have magic come through you when you’re writing. Go on YouTube. It’s five minutes. Do an anti-anxiety meditation guided or do whatever you need. You can even do future self-meditations, which are so cool. It is where you get to visualize yourself in the future or the amazing best version of yourself. She comes and talks to you and gives you advice. Those are all for free on YouTube.
Those are the kinds of things that you have to put into place if you want long-term success. If you look at the music industry, almost everybody’s burning out. You see them. They went to rehab. They passed out from exhaustion. The struggle is real. Even for the other jobs that aren’t so public, every woman I know is exhausted and overwhelmed. We have to change that. No one’s going to do it for us.
I promise you. You will love everybody else around you more when you take those actions for yourself. Love is not a feeling, like, “I love myself.” Love is an action. What do you do for yourself? Do you think I want to go to the gym? No. I don’t want to every day, but I put the running shoes and the yoga pants by the bed so when I get up, I have to put them on immediately. I’m doing future me a favor.
I agree. I set my schedule up. Most days, I have to either walk to work or walk home from work. I do that because if I sit in an office all day and I haven’t walked for an hour, my back will hate me. Wouldn’t I like to get to work and start working? Yes, but I’m doing this for future me and my future back. I can find things to do that are self-care on the way. I could do my meditation on the way. I could do my prayers on the way I could listen to some music I enjoy on the way.
One thing to know about walking, the reason it’s so calming is that your eyes move from left to right when you’re looking at things. It does very similar things that EMDR does, which is a form of therapy. It’s called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. They developed it for the Navy to heal people from PTSD. If you’re really stressed out, go for a walk. Do yourself a favor.
You’re right. I do what’s called habit stacking. What Bree is talking about is she could listen to a walking meditation. She could listen to a podcast and educate herself about whatever she’s into. She can even make a phone call. Either way, you’re getting two things done at the same time. When it comes to self-help, you can have it stacked. I do it all the time I meditate in the sauna. I’ll journal in the sauna. While you’re taking a shower, you can turn it to cold at the end if you don’t have an ice bath. It’s horrible. You do it for 30 seconds and work your way up to 3 and a half minutes. The data is clear. These are the kinds of things that are going to make you perform at your peak.
I saw Pink talking about how she does nice baths after her tour or after concerts. She said her record was six minutes. They’re performing at their peak. These are world-class athletes to get to that level. If you’re not striving to be a superstar, it doesn’t matter. You still have to take care of yourself because 83% of autoimmune diseases are in women. Why is that? There are theories out there. There are working theories and a lot of data to support that it’s because we don’t take care of ourselves.
For example, in the ‘90s, I forget his name, but they did a study with 10,000 patients from Kaiser. It’s called the ACE score. It is your Adverse Childhood Experiences. They tallied up how many effed-up things happened to you. You had a parent who got divorced or you got assaulted, or whatever happened to you that’s a childhood trauma. You were bullied.
Out of these 10,000 people that they followed over decades, the higher your score of trauma, the higher your score of diseases, even cancer. It’s a study that is really consistent. They can do it again and again and replicate it because trauma affects us. How do you get the trauma out of the body? You have to do something. You have to move, whether it’s to work out, meditate, or jump in an ice bath, a sauna, or whatever moves you. You could go to yoga. This is all woo-woo. You could do breathing. This is one of the daytime things I recommend. You can breathe in for 4, hold for 6, and out for 8. Do that for two minutes.
Another thing you can do during the day that piggybacks on Bree’s walking, how she walks to and from work, is you can only sit there and pay attention for about 50 minutes. That’s what the research says, so get up. Get up from your desk after 50 to 55 minutes. Get up, walk around, stretch, and move your eyes. If you’re sitting around all day, it’s no wonder you’re depressed. It’s no wonder you have anxiety. It’s no wonder you’re stressed. That’s taking care of yourself. If you work in a job where they’re mean about it, like, “I have to go to the bathroom. My water’s out,” take care of yourself.
I love all of that. The people who tune in to this are artists. Maybe they’re thinking, “All this consistency is going to drain the creativity out of me.” What do you have to say about that? I am a consistent person, too, but I can also see that some of the most creative people that I know are very spontaneous.
Speaking of consistency, I heard somebody talking about Eminem. They were saying he carries a notebook with him everywhere he goes. Who’s the guy from the label?
He was talking about how he asked Em like, “Why are you carrying around this notebook? Are you writing songs all day long? You must have so many.” He said, “No. 95% of it is gibberish. I’m writing because I’m practicing writing.” If you’re a creative person, I’m not saying you have to sit down and write every day at 12:00 for 20 minutes to try to channel your songs. You can carry a notebook around with you. As long as you’re doing it every day, that’s consistency. It doesn’t matter how long you’re doing it.
Do you think that 5 minutes a day over 10 years is better than 1 hour once a week over 5 years? The point is the small things that you do every day have a greater effect than practicing for an hour. I know that as a voice coach in artist development. You could practice and you’ll be really good that week. If you don’t practice for two weeks, you’re rusty. You’re better off practicing ten minutes a day.
I’m throwing all these numbers around to say if you’re creative, I’m not saying you have to have a morning schedule because that’s all a bunch of influencer BS. That’s what works for me. It is getting up and opening the blinds. We know sunlight affects how you feel. Waking up every morning, I do a theta gratitude exercise. Before I open my eyes, I force a smile on my face and think of three things I’m grateful for, and then I open my eyes. It takes ten seconds. That does not kill anybody’s creativity. That brings it up.
As an artist, your job is to get into the zone. You want to get into flow or into the zone. There are books on this. In order to get into flow, consistency gets you there. If you’re the artist who randomly waits for a song to fall down from the sky, you will get some, but you will not get as many as someone like Ed Sheeran. Ed Sheeran said that he writes 100 garbage songs for every 1 good song. He said trash. They’re garbage. Don’t be afraid to write trash. Write it. Get it out. Get the 99 bad songs out so you can write a hit. That’s what I tell my clients.
I agree with that. I’ve always given the advice that writing for five minutes a day is so much better than trying to sit down and saying, “I’m going to write a song today.” As a vocalist, the fact that I work at a church and I’m forced to practice almost daily, getting ready for church and all that every week, the consistency has made my voice so much more effortless than it would be at age 51, number one, and number two, when I used to tour. I would tour for 1 week and then I’d be off the rest of the month or I’d tour for 2 weeks and then I’d be off for 1 month. I wouldn’t sing in between. It would always take me that time to ramp back up even though I was in my 30s back then and I’m in my 50s.
I agree with you. As artists, from what I’ve heard and remember back when I was an artist, the hardest part is getting motivated. You are doing all the business stuff and the art stuff. The business stuff drains you. It’s not the meditation. It’s the business stuff. You have to do it until you can pay someone to do it. You either do it yourself or get a day job that frees up your creative brain and it pays someone else to do it.
I know that it’s finding that drive. In order to find the drive, what do celebrities, pro athletes do, and all the people at the top do? If you really talk to them, the ones that stay there after their burnout are doing some kind of morning routine. It doesn’t have to be an hour. It can be that little gratitude thing. Before you open your eyes, you open your curtains and look at the sun for one minute. Maybe you go have your coffee. Maybe you write for five minutes.
It doesn’t have to be dramatic. People make it so complicated. It’s not. It’s one minute of breathing when you’re stressed out. It’s getting up from your desk every hour for five minutes. It’s eating when you’re hungry. How many of us skip breakfast and call it intermittent fasting? We’re like, “I’m not losing any weight.” You’re starving your body.
It works for some people. To those who it works for, God bless you. Good for you. For a lot of us, we have hormones. Our body needs food. Our body is like, “I’m starving.” At 4:00, we’re like, “Chips and cookies.” It’s the little things. If you think of yourself as a child, it’s the easiest way to think of it. I know it’s hard to think about when you’re in your twenties, but if you were babysitting, what would you do for that kid?
Would you let them eat that? Would you let them not sleep?
Sometimes, you do. Sometimes, you take them to the carnival. You’re like, “Here’s cotton candy. Here are all the things. Go crazy.” You wouldn’t give them that every day because you don’t want them to turn into a diabetic. Everything for women is how you look. The least interesting thing about you is how you look. It’s who you are. It’s your soul. It’s how you vibrate at a higher level. It sounds very hippie, but I believe it because I do these raise-your-vibration meditations and they work. I could be in the crappiest mood, listen to one of those, and then I’m like, “Let me pump myself up.”The least interesting thing about you is how you look. It's who you are, your soul, and how you vibrate at a higher level. Click To Tweet
For you, maybe you don’t want to sit down for twenty minutes. Throw on your favorite song and dance. Go crazy. Shake it out. Animals do it when they’re stressed. They shake. Little kids start acting weird and going crazy when they’re stressed. We’re like, “Let’s sit here, be stressed, and then drink two bottles of wine.” We got to get it out.
I love it. I love that you’ve adopted all this stuff. You’re into the woo-woo. I’m curious. Your 25-year-old self, would you have thought that you would be into all this stuff?
When I was 22 and I worked for BET, the vice president was 34. She was this goddess. She’s still there at BET, Kim Lewis. She’s in a senior position. She was so beautiful like an island girl. She was into some of that stuff. She was into a lot of the healthy stuff. She was shopping at Whole Foods. I was like, “One day, I’m going to be like that,” but instead, I stay out until 4:00 in the morning and sleep in the bathroom stall at lunch or my car.
You’re supposed to abuse yourself when you’re young. 25-year-old me would have been impressed with who I am now, which is cool because I’m proud of myself. I wish it wouldn’t have taken hitting rock bottom with my health, but I’m stubborn. I’m an artist at the end of the day. I can do something positive with it. I can get on stage, speak to thousands of women, and say, “Here’s how you can maintain this high level of performance. You got to take care of yourself.”
I love that you’re using what you went through. You’re using that to help other people. Musicians have so much to share in that way, too. I was sharing with Aria at the beginning that when I was performing, my thing was to do a keynote concert. I would talk about things that I dealt with in my life and then would use the songs. We all write songs about things that we deal with in our lives most of the time. It all fits together. It was something that could help uplift people. Many of you artists have that in you to not just share in song but share in speaking like Aria is doing. Do you have any tips? What is it like moving into that new genre of what you’re doing?
It’s really fun. I did it for music and then I did it for acting. This time, I’m doing it for speaking. I did it when I started my company to help other artists. It’s not being afraid to shift and try something new. I’ve known, which is really weird. Since I was eight, I knew I would be a motivational speaker. I never thought I would do acting, but I thought, “I’m going to be a singer and then after, I’m going to be a motivational speaker,” which is so weird for an eight-year-old to know.
It’s always been in me because I want to help people, whether it is through music. I wanted to make music that moved people and helped them express their feelings. As an actor, I wanted to make people laugh. In The Golden Voice, I wanted to help people achieve their dreams. This time, it’s to help people be happy, healthy, and perform at the top without burning out.
It’s scary to move into new industries sometimes, but confidence comes from consistency. If you’re not confident as an artist, I highly recommend looking at your schedule, looking at your life, and saying, “How can I be consistent?” No one can make you confident. You will gain confidence when you keep promises to yourself. That is the only way. You won’t even gain confidence when you win stuff. I have the most talented and famous artists and they’re so insecure. Consistency comes from making promises you keep to yourself. That’s a quick tip.
I feel like that’s a mic drop because that is so true. They’re the hardest promises to keep because you can fudge it because it’s you. No one’s going to call you out.
It shows in everything you do. Have you ever met somebody that fakes confidence and you’re like, “That person’s arrogant, but it’s fake.” How many rappers have we seen like that and artists? It’s usually the dudes walking around like, “My shit’s the bomb. I’m amazing.” I’m like, “Do you really?” and then I have a conversation and they fall apart.
I want real confidence. I want you to feel true love for yourself like, “I can do this,” because you are a powerhouse woman. You’re here. You’re not doing whatever. You’re not watching TV. You’re reading something that’s going to make your life better. The audience on this show who would be reading this are my people. You guys are go-getters. You’re resilient. You’re going to get back up no matter how many times you’ve been kicked down. You’re going to make it through because you have a dream and you want to make a difference in the world. You’re not going to let anybody stop you from getting there.
You have to take care of yourself and make sure that you are in the position to be a star or to rise to the top of whatever position you’re trying to get to. You need to be in a very cared-for state. No one else is going to care for you except for that weird boyfriend that you get who is like, “I’ll make all your meals,” and then drains you. That’s not it. It’s taking care of yourself. It’s hard. There are some stuff you can outsource, but you can’t outsource self-love.
That is true. You’ve got a few really great lines there. You cannot outsource self-love. Many times, I wish I could.
I’ve really gotten good at outsourcing other stuff.
Good for you. I want to hear about you on stage. How cool was that? You were doing keynote concerts.
I still do them every once in a while. I talk about my life growing up. I’ve had glaucoma since birth, so I talk about what that experience was like growing up. I talk about getting my first job and things like that and all the feelings that you go through. A lot of my music is inspirational and really about perseverance, which makes sense. I built a program around that and would deliver it to a lot of women’s groups, moms’ groups, churches, and nonprofits. In fact, I’m doing it for a nonprofit around here in LA.
It was a very natural thing for me to do to marry those two things. I know that there are people out there that have great stories. Many of you have emailed me telling me how you’ve dealt with cancer or different things that you’ve overcome in your life. I know that can be helpful for other people. I know that your songs are about some really important social justice issues that you could talk about. Maybe you don’t think you’re a speaker. I didn’t think I was a speaker either when I first started. Guess what? I’ve done so many episodes. It all builds and stacks on each other.
That’s amazing. You guys should tune in to Bree because you can do a 30-minute talk and a 30-minute concert and start at $5,000. You can be in a sold-out room that you didn’t have to book of 500 people. The average speaking gig would be 500 people. There are over a million of these events every single year. If you’re struggling trying to get out there and get booked at crappy bars or shows around town, do the self-help circuit or the church circuit depending on where you’re at with your spirituality.
If you want to reach people, reach people and don’t worry about how cool it looks on the outside. Worry about getting your message out and your music and your voice that’s going to heal people. If you don’t think you have something to talk about, I’m sure Bree can help you because everybody has a story. Where did you come from? What are the hard things you went through? How did you get over it? What advice do you have for somebody? It takes 30 minutes. You could even write out bullet points and then talk about it as I’m doing with you here.
Everybody’s got something. You came from an immigrant family. You went through a divorce. If you’ve lived life, you’ve got something that you can talk about and inspire other people. The story is so powerful. Everybody loves a story. I love a story. I could be thinking, “I don’t really want to listen to this,” and then someone goes into a captivating story and I’ll be riveted. Story is that connection that really pulls people in.
A lot of artists will say, “Why me? What makes me different?” when I talk to them. It’s not what they tell the world. It’s only me. They tell me, “There’s a million of me. Why? How do I differentiate myself?” It is like, “Be more you. Your you-ness is what people want.” We’re in a world lacking authenticity. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with makeup, but so what? I got my hair done. I don’t look like this every day. This is me. People want the real you. This is fun for me. You guys are artists. This is glitter, makeup, and whatever. I’m a normal person like you following my dreams like you. If you’re struggling with any of it, be more you.
That’s fantastic. I can’t think of a better place to stop this conversation. It has to stop eventually because I feel like we could talk forever. Can you please let everybody know how they can find you online, connect with you, and get more of what you have to help artists with?
Absolutely. Pretty much everything is AriaJohnson.com. @AriaJohnson is my handle for Facebook. For Instagram, it’s @AriaJohnsonOfficial. For LinkedIn, it’s @AriaJohnson. You can email me from my website. I have lots of content like this about how you can perform at the top peak performance minus the burnout. I’m happy to help any of you. I was in the music industry for 25 years. I still work with clients even though I’m phasing out. You can reach out to me with any questions. I’m happy to help. If anyone wants to book me for stages, I’m happy to do that as well and get this message out to the masses. Thank you so much for having me here. You’re amazing. Your story is amazing. I stalked you a little bit online first.
Good stalking. I’m so glad to hear that. I did. Thank you so much. I’m so glad we were able to have this conversation. I feel like we’re really on the same page about so much of this stuff. I’m glad we’re able to get this information onto people so hopefully, some of you cannot burn out. You can get to the peak of your career without regrets and without feeling like, “I did all this for nothing.” Thank you so much.
Thank you so much.
- Aria Johnson
- Women of Substance
- The Golden Voice
- @AriaJohnson – Facebook
- @AriaJohnsonOfficial – Instagram
- @AriaJohnson – LinkedIn
About Aria Johnson
Joining us today is Aria Johnson, TV personality and music expert from “Beverly Hills Pawn”, and founder of The Golden Voice with over 50 million album sales. Transitioning from Hollywood, Aria is now a keynote speaker inspiring women everywhere to achieve peak performance, minus the burnout.