1. Tell us about who you are, your journey toward becoming a recording artist, and the mission of Music for Positive Change™.
I’ve always loved creative self expression— including acting, slight of hand magic and of course music have been hobbies of mine for as long as I can remember, and I always dreamed these hobbies would someday blossom into a rewarding career. The problem was, my dream was shackled by the self-limiting belief that making money through my passions was ‘impossible.’ I had an “either/or” mentality.
In words, either go through the motions doing something I didn’t feel passionate about and make money, or…follow my dreams and make no money.
The other thing I have always been passionate about is helping people, and felt like my life-purpose was somehow tied to that. So my ultimate desire has always been, to find a way to contribute whereby my passion for self-expression and inspiring others came together into a rewarding career. That’s in large part what my life has been all about the quest to find my place in the world, and it’s been quite a ride.
In my 20’s and early 30s, I sold everything imaginable, from encyclopedias door-to-door, gym memberships, telecommunications and medical sales to working as a television and music industry executive. I also did some bartending, acting and modeling along the way. The modeling was a complete nightmare. Getting screamed at on the runway: “You’re not being sexy enough!!!” (laughs) I was also a Firefighter/EMT for years out of college as well.
I suppose the thing that kept me searching all these years, not settling and continuing to reinvent myself, in hopes to moving closer to my dreams, has been an undying belief in the vision I held as a child, a vision of myself on stage speaking, singing, entertaining people with an uplifting message…Sometimes it can be so hard to not give up on your dreams, especially when years or even decades go by, without any evidence you are getting closer to them.
Ten years ago, a strange sequence of events landed me in the personal development industry. A few months after moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I still live today, I became an agent, much like the movie character Jerry McGuire, except instead of representing athletes, I was representing personal and professional development experts like Bob Proctor and Brian Tracy.
I did this for a few years as an employee, then started my company Guru Authority. We weren’t representing these experts for speaking gigs rather, we were masters of research, scouring the entire industry, finding and prescreening home study courses from these experts, and once those courses got our stamp of approval, we’d recommend these best-of-breed courses to email list owners who appreciated the insider information as to which products were best to recommend to their audience. It was a lot like being a behind the scenes Consumer Reports for the industry.
So, one of my responsibilities was to review each and every home study course that came across my desk.
It was through this experience that my vision for Music for Positive Change was born. The vision was to write and produce a massive library of songs that integrated the most powerful content found in these courses, along with the most impactful content I’d picked up through conversations with wise people over the years…and send those songs out into the world, thus leveraging the power of music to lifting people’s spirits and hopefully increasing their interest in personal growth, self-actualization, consciousness, spirituality, mindfulness and social responsibility.
2. What was the pivotal moment that made you decide, “I am going to go after my dreams, no matter what”? What was the first step you took?
After 6 years of agenting, I finally got to the point where I’d finally achieved everything I’d ever wanted, financially. And I chased that almighty dollar for a long time! (laughs) Funnily enough there was a part of me that was convinced the money, once I had it, would make me happy.
Anyway after 6 years of cranking away on the phone the “highs” of depositing the checks got less and less. I paid off my mortgage, and that was satisfying, but only temporarily…a few more years of going through the motions and I woke up one day and felt completely unfulfilled.
I once heard if you want to choose the right career, remember what you loved doing as a kid…or ask yourself, “What do I love so much, I would do it for free?” So, in my moment of despair, I remember that vision I had from long ago, that vision of being on stage speaking and singing.
Then, I projected myself on to my death bed and imagined the minister speaking at my funeral:
“Herein lies Chris Chickering of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Chris came into this world with a burning desire for music and creative expression, as so he took that passion, and with every fiber of his being, dedicated himself to the finer art of brokering internet deals. Rest in peace.”
That was painful vision! Then I started thinking:
“What do I want written on my tombstone?”
The answer to that question involved the vision of myself on stage, and inspiring people through the arts, and I saw the words, “Inspired millions through the arts to live their highest calling.”
Five minutes later I was on the phone searching for the right producer to produce my first song. Ten calls and two months later, I found the person I’d been looking for, two time Emmy Winner, and all around amazing person Ron Cohen from Mill Valley, CA. After producing my first song, “Stay,” I asked Ron, “Why did you choose to work with me?” He said: “I felt like you HAD to do this…like if you didn’t do it, you were going to die.” –That’s exactly how I felt. I felt like I didn’t have a choice.
3. What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow their passion or something and may have been putting it off for years?
If you have a strong enough “why,” anything is possible.
My “strong why” was crystallized by doing the tombstone visualization I just mentioned, and I’d recommend that to anyone who feels like their life path is in need of tweaking.
Once you do this exercise and see the words you want written on your tombstone, start building the new reality immediately. You might not write the book today, create the album, or get the Masters today, but you can write a page, write one verse, or get online and research schools. If I have one life mantra, it’s: Do it now.
So please, whatever it is, Do It Now. Start Today. A year from now, you’ll wish you had. Even if you know nothing about your dream, like I did when I started, you can be a virtuoso at anything with 10,000 hours of practice.
Trust me, you can make progress faster than you ever dreamed possible if you are just willing to start, put some work in every single day and never stop.
Take me for example. When I hired Ron to produce my first song, I’d only written two complete songs. On top of that I still had that self-limiting belief that completing an album was impossible.
Now all of this can take time, so patience and persistence is key – and it can oftentimes take the longest the first time you do something. It will most likely feel like hacking through thick brush with a machete…it will most likely take longer and be harder than you anticipated. Enjoy the journey, and know that the next time you do it your progress will be accelerated because you’ve already blazed the trail.
Another case in point, my first album “Shine” took 30-35 individual recording sessions over a 3 year period. It was so tedious at times, especially the times I would fly to California for the sole purpose of recutting vocals a third time on the album.
But albums two and three went a lot faster, specifically nine months to write and produce each of them. Same process, but the path had been blazed.
One more thing that will help anyone make a complicated task for doable, is to break down the task into the smallest, most minute steps possible, and celebrate the achievement of each and every one of those steps, no matter how small.
4. What was the first step you took after deciding you were going to get this music made? How did you come across your producer? Did you immerse yourself in a musical environment?
Success is a team sport. It is so important to surround yourself with the very best people, and of course be the very best person you can be to attract those people.
I always keep my eyes and ears open to connect with people who are at the top of their game, and people who share my passion for empowering music.
The other important thing I focus on daily is maintaining a positive attitude, because if you are living outside of your comfort zone and stretching towards a dream, you better believe your ego is going to kick your ass. Mine has kicked mine more times than you can possibly imagine! (laughs)
It might not kick it every day, but when it does, be ready, because your ego is working it’s ass off to keep you in your comfort zone. It doesn’t want you to get into a situation in the future that you might not be able to deal with. It’s your friend. It doesn’t want you to fail or look foolish, and so it will tell you all kinds of things to keep you safe in your comfort zone like: “It’s going to fail eventually, so why try? They’re going to find out you’re a fraud eventually. You really don’t want that.”
The problem is that your ego bases what we are or are not capable of typically on what we’ve achieved in the past. Set a goal that is outside the scope of your past expertise-- and your ego will probably kick in with all kinds of “wonderful” “soul-crushing” thoughts, so be ready for it, and be ready to move forward every single day in spite of it.
Having a strong support system, mentors, working out and maintaining a positive mental attitude.
6. What would you say is the art and the force behind music that makes it so powerful that it can have such a strong impact on our lives?
Music is one of those few things in this world that can instantly touch people at the heart level and bring them together. That’s what I love about it.
Never give up, and don’t stop. I also have learned to pat myself on the back for all the little victories I achieve along the way toward reaching my larger goals.
All kinds of places! I can find inspiration in every moment, if I am open to it. The key is to capture the inspiration, in the moment that it happens, before it goes away.
I use my iPhone voice memos app to capture ideas as they come to me. Sometimes, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and record an idea that came to me while sleeping.
Often, I’ll also get song ideas while listening to other bands. We have this annual event in Santa Fe called Zozobra, where they burn this 50-foot guy; it’s like the original “burning man.” There was this band playing at the event ago and while they were jamming, I had this track idea called “Coppermine” pop into my head, so I crouched down in the dirt staring at everyone’s feet, and started yelling the chorus into my iPhone (laughs). Now “Coppermine” is going to be the track on my new record that’s coming out in a few .
I’m going to choose one of mine and one by someone else.
For my song, “Reinvent Yourself.” ‘Cause we can’t always control what happens to us in this crazy world, but we can always choose what to do with it on the inside. And “Eye of the Tiger,” by Survivor the “bring it on world” track of the century.
I'll be going back to Nashville to produce a new Acoustic Album, that will feature 12 new, original songs in a few weeks. My band is touring this summer and I'm constantly hammering way trying to understand the complexities of this crazy industry. I'm sure somewhere along the way I'll give myself permission to take a break for a few days (laughs).
(Theresa to readers) For all you movers and shakers, check out the music video for Chris’ song “The Crazy Crazy Ones,” This song is a “dedication to those who have pushed the human race forward,” and features 52 of the most inspirational people of all time.