23 Dec rebecca west.
nashville, tennesee | writer. dancer. sister. gamer. artist. songbird. closet otaku. problem solver.
“I am seventeen, and I will be eighteen at the very end of this year.” ~ Rebecca West
I met Rebecca West at the Nashville Airport on a early Friday morning in October. A long time family friend and I were kicking off the 40th birthday bash at Tootsies Orchid Airport Lounge. As we waited for my sister Polly to arrive—the third person of our Honky-Tonk trio—we sipped cocktails and chatted about life. (Attention Rebecca and other young readers: morning cocktails are only acceptable for 40th birthday celebrations. It’s a little unwritten ladies rule.)
It was sheer good fortune to be sitting right next to the live entertainment, provided by Rebecca West and her father, Joe. If you have ever traveled through the Nashville Airport, chances are, you’ve seen the small stage set up for the delight of Tootsies customers, and those travelers briskly walking by (who I must note, were quick to slow down on this particular day to listen to this father/daughter duo). It was fun to watch the busy passengers reduce their speed, pleasantly surprised by the talent offered—in lieu of the typical airport shoe shining stand. While both are gifted artists, Rebecca West certainly knows how to spread joy. And at such a young age, she knows how to entertain. As I watched her perform, I thought she may have a thing or two to share with us despite her minimal years on this planet. Turns out, I was right.
For the final holiday series entry, I share this incredibly shoddy footage of two incredibly talented artists (or see below). Merry Christmas to you and yours! Turn up your speakers and listen as this young lady sings Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Way I Am,” arguably, just as beautiful as Ingrid herself. ‘Tis the season for family.
‘ Tis the season to be joyful! ‘ Tis the season for music!
At what age did you realize that you were given the talent of song? How long have you been singing with your father in the Nashville Airport?
There was really no definitive moment for me. My mother tells me I have been singing perfect harmonies since I was two. It’s always just something I’ve done. I was painfully shy, so I never spoke a word to anyone, but I would sing for you anytime. The first time I sang at the Nashville Airport may have been a couple years ago, but I really only go there when I have a break from school.
Is there anything that embarrasses you while performing?
I’m actually pretty awkward socially, and I embarrass myself almost every time I open my mouth. Performing is one of the only times I’m not embarrassed. If I do something crazy in public people think something like “Wow, she’s weird.” If I do something crazy on stage, it’s more like, “Wow, she’s an artist.” Even if I say or do something that’s really very stupid or awkward, I can make up for it in a million ways while I’m performing.
What is your biggest dream?
More than anything I want to tour. I want to be famous. I don’t necessarily want to be a high-class celebrity, but I want to travel and reach people and make enough money to support myself. And, (as if my dream isn’t picky enough already), I want to do it all with a band. There’s really no point in doing it alone. I like the idea of taking a group of people who all have their own separate sources of potential and letting them learn how to compliment each other.
What brings you fear? And how do you overcome that fear?
Almost everything brings me fear. It runs in my family or something. I’m afraid of thunderstorms, bugs, the dark, you name it. I get really scared if I look at the sky for too long. I’ve never been on a roller coaster, I cry on airplanes, the list goes on. What scares me the most, though, is losing the people around me. People die so often in so many different ways. I’m constantly on edge about my friends’ and my family’s safety, because I can’t be with them all the time, and even if I could, I probably couldn’t protect them from much.
The only thing that helps me overcome fear is prayer. I pray all the time, and really most of the things that just shouldn’t work out for me, usually do. Essentially, the things that scare me the most are things I have absolutely no control over. But I can’t just sit around and wait for tragedy to strike. The only thing I can do is pray. If I never knew God, and never learned to pray, I would have probably already dropped dead by now from anxiety.
What does failure / or success look like to you?
Money is so important. I wish it wasn’t, but it is. Success and happiness are two very separate things to me. But success is almost equally important, although it looks very different. Money doesn’t bring me happiness directly, but I would lead a very different life without the material things I own. Music is what brings me happiness, but money is what got me my keyboard, and my guitar, not to mention the food that keeps me alive. I miss out on a lot of things just because I don’t have enough money, but I’m still happy, and if my house burned down with everything in it and I had to move to the projects with my parents and slum it, I think I could still be happy. It just wouldn’t be as easy as it is now.
If you could do one thing to change the world, what would it be?
Make sure everyone has a home. As cliche as that sounds.
What qualities do you look for in friends?
I try not to look for specific qualities, because it tends to keep me from giving really incredible people a fair chance, just because they don’t meet some personal quota of mine. It’s nice to learn what it is about people, that makes you love them, and I’m still learning. I’m very tactile, so I like to hug my friends a lot, and hold their hands, and sit really close to them. If I were going around looking for people like that, I might have overlooked my best friend, who values her personal space and would probably kick me down a flight of stairs if I tried to hold her hand. If I said, “I love you,” she would probably say, “Thank you.” That’s how she is. But when I’m around her, it’s almost like being onstage, in that I’m somehow not constantly embarrassing myself. I’m not afraid to say anything, and for just a little while the future doesn’t scare me. There’s something telepathic about our friendship. Her sense of humor is unique and flawless, she doesn’t dress like other people, she doesn’t try to please other people, and she doesn’t try to please me. That’s why we’re friends. I don’t want to end up trying to change her just because I’m seeking something in particular.
What would you do, if you knew you could not fail?
Forget about college and do music for a living. Hands down.
What is the most difficult thing you have ever done?
Watch my mom file taxes and realize that I actually have to do that someday.
What is your favorite part of Christmas?
Being together as a family is the absolute best. Also, giving and receiving is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. It’s also the scariest part. Christmas is such a festive excuse to let yourself be generous when you might not think about it otherwise.
How has Ingrid Michaelson influenced you?
I heard The Way I Am in the eighth grade and fell in love with it because of its simplicity. The music I listen tends to be very heavy and very intense, and that always put a lot of pressure on me as a writer. Ingrid’s song helped me broaden my horizon. I liked it especially because it’s about love, but its sweet, not sexual, and not over dramatic. I guess I can’t really consider myself a gigantic fan of Ingrid’s, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t inspired me in a gigantic way with her song. She has.
What is your best advice on how to live a graceful life?
As a performer, I get discouraged very easily. It occurs to me frequently that everything I can do, somebody else can do it better, probably at a younger age, and even with less effort. For that reason, I used to feel like I had nothing to offer the world, and there was a point in time when I didn’t want to be alive anymore, partly because I didn’t believe I had any place in the music industry, which is the only place I ever really wanted to be. I think it’s important to realize, though, that your entire existence doesn’t always have to revolve around what you have to offer the world. It’s okay to let the world be there for you. And chances are, once you take that pressure off of yourself, you’ll find that you have something to offer to somebody, whether it’s the world or it’s your best friend.
Always have a hobby. Hobbies harbor passions. And remember that there are billions of people in the world, and it doesn’t make sense for anyone to be alone, no matter what you think you deserve.
j-jane side note:
Seriously, check out Rebecca West and her father cover Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Way I Am.”
I shot this footage (below) in the Nashville airport. Again, please forgive my amateur photography. Brother John Paul would be ashamed.
Interested in adding a few songs to your playlist? Check out the music of Mr. Joe West. If you ever see him in the Nashville Airport. Be sure to say hello from me!
Rebecca introduced herself as a “closet otaku.” (Just in case you scratched your head, too.)
A SPECIAL NOTE TO REBECCA: It was a 2014 highlight meeting you. As a much older woman, I feel obligated to remind you that while you are wise beyond your years, you must never stop learning from your mother, sisters, friends, aunts, mentors. You will always find success … if you follow your heart and listen to your guides. Happy New Year!