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Dear 1999

Posted in 2009 Wrap Up, A Day in the Life, Articles | 10 Comments »

This post is part of a group blog event organized by The topic is “If you could go back to 1999 and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?”

letter in a bottle

Dear 1999 Carla,

Hey Girlfriend, it’s 2009 Carla. I know you’re going through a lot, and I want to let you know that it’s okay. Right now you’re feeling sad, and questioning continuing your future in music because:

Ahmet Ertegun, Founder and CEO of Atlantic Records (and your newly-adopted music biz Godfather), just told you that you were too old to be a recording artist, and that you should just become a publicist.
• You were recently fired from EMI Music Publishing’s Synch department
• Your mom died this year, and after spending half a year in Miami to take care of business, you wondered if you still had the guts to return to your music career in NYC.
• You still haven’t recorded your first CD

I know, after looking at these issues, you’re wondering if you should just run back to Miami, get married and have kids, and just forget this music nonsense. But I must tell you now that your passion to make music is bigger than you are. Your determination and persistence will take you farther than you could ever imagine. I want you to hang in there, so I’ve come up with some life lessons to share:

Life is Too Short to Be Afraid
For too many years, you’ve hidden your gifts after comparing them to others’. All your hesitation is a waste of time. Just because you felt out of place in music school doesn’t mean that you are not musical. There is a place in this Universe that only you can fill, but you’ll never know if you don’t go for it.

Do You
It is fine to be a black chick playing acoustic guitar in a world full of R&B Divas. Stop worrying if your music is black enough, or if you can SANG. You do not need to sound like Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston. You are a soulful singer who touches people with your own unique and powerful vocal gifts. Just be you. You are enough.

I know you’ve been worried about how much music you’ve written so far in your life, but this will change. Your skills as a songwriter will eventually improve, and you will even write songs for others. Just keep working at it.

Writing and Teaching
After coming from a family of teachers, you will continue to grow as a musician who teaches other musicians how to build their own careers. It’s in your blood so don’t fight it. You will write countless articles and eBooks, which will become another way to support yourself. However, do not hide behind your teaching. By continuing to perform, you will remain relevant as an artist, and evolve with the music marketing skills that you teach.

Practice and Study
Guess what? Practice actually works. When you take the time to shed your songs, work on your guitar playing, and learn your choreography, it shows. Natural talent is nice, but preparing your performances makes the difference between being good, and being great.

Your Music Business
Over the next few years, you will grow as an entrepreneur. You will release 4 CDs on your own label, in addition to even having another artist on a subsidiary label. Instead of negotiating synch licenses for EMI Music Publishing songs, you will one day have synch licenses for your own musical catalog. You will become a performer, writer, and teacher on a global level, and even coach others.

Trust Your Instincts
When the first MP3 player hit the market, you asked Ahmet Ertegun if it was possible for this technology to endanger the music industry as we knew it. As you remember, he scoffed at the notion. Well, he was wrong. If he could be wrong about MP3s, then he could be wrong about your marketability as a recording artist. As a matter of fact, he was wrong about that too.

Never underestimate the influence of the leading men in your life. The wrong guy will affect your career progress, so choose wisely. Your love life will continue to be colorful, and your experiences will also lead to some wonderful songs. When choosing a partner, always pick a supportive guy who believes in you and your music. Stay away from energy vampires. Never settle for less.

Be Bold
Take risks. Follow your own rhythm. Make mistakes.

Girl, you got it. Now it’s time for you to believe it. So go for it!

2009 Carla

CLH, Cameron Mizell, and David Hahn
Me with Cameron Mizell and Dave Hahn from

10 Responses to “Dear 1999”

  1. Heather Says:

    Love this! These are all so inspiring!

  2. Carla Says:

    Thanks, Heather!!

  3. CharLena Says:

    You told 1999, now tell it through the next decade, too. We’ll all be watching for the updates, as you go along and definitely in 2020. Tell it!

    Love ya,


  4. Carla Says:

    Awww, CharLena – you are the best! Thanks for being a companion and co-conspirator on this journey!


  5. Michael Johnson Says:

    Carla, I can see that, with some obvious exceptions, I have struggled with some similar issues. I had many older people tell me what I couldn’t do, and unfortunately, I believed them. I let fear rule my career for too many years, and even now it is sometimes a struggle to keep that fear in check.

    I’ve probably said this to you before, but I think it bears repeating in public. As a professor at that same music school you are referencing, I had great admiration for you at the time! If you didn’t fit in, it was only because you were out there playing gigs while most of your classmates were partying on the weekends. You already had a vision of the things you wanted to achieve as an artist, and you were actively pursuing those things, even as you were trying to better yourself as a musician. I wish all my students were like that! (BTW, I also sometimes felt out of place there, since I was more of a rock-oriented guy teaching in a very jazz-oriented program.)

    I am so proud of you for standing up for yourself, and continuing on your path even when people said you shouldn’t! I think this is what also makes you such a great mentor to others, and I am so thankful you are willing to share these experiences.

    I wish you continued success in 2010, and thank you for everything you do and say!

  6. Jeffrey Paul Bobrick Says:


    It’s true. You can SANG!

    Thanks for this. Never give up on your dreams!!! Great post.

    I have written one too. I hope you’ll like it also.

    Talk soon!

    Jeffrey Paul Bobrick
    Singer and Songwriter

  7. Samia Mounts Says:

    Oh, thank you for this, Carla! You might not remember me, but I met you when our mutual friend Sierra brought you to a Brother Joscephus & the Love Revival Revolution Orchestra show at the South Street Seaport last summer – I was the girl back-up singer with dark hair.

    I’m deeply involved in the management & publicity for the band now (just getting started with it, actually) and I’m going through a lot of heartache and frustration over whether or not I can learn this industry well enough to help us move up in it. This blog entry brought tears to my eyes! It’s so inspiring to know that artists I respect and admire went through similar issues before they started figuring out how to make things work for them. The key is to never let doubt and fear rule you and to NEVER give up. Thank you so much, and I’m sorry I haven’t stayed in touch better! I would love to come see one of your live shows sometime.

    Stay righteous in 2010, girl!

    Big love,
    (a.k.a. Seoul Sistah #1 of BroJo & the LRRO)

  8. Natalie Gelman Says:

    Beautiful post Carla with some great lessons… I might to this and try a slightly different approach- writing from my future self to me now.

  9. Andrew Goodrich Says:

    Hey Carla! I had this marked ‘to read’ and just now sat down and read this – this is really beautiful, and I feel so happy for you and all that you have accomplished in the last decade. You’re spirit and energy is infectious!

  10. Carla Says:

    Oh, Andrew! Your comment means a lot to me – thanks! It was a great exercise to write this letter. I’m glad you enjoyed reading it.

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