Los Angeles-based vocalist and musician Staci Griesbach will drop her first album August 23, entitled My Patsy Cline Songbook, featuring jazz-flavored versions of Cline’s iconic songs.
While the album is wonderfully wrought, Griesbach’s backstory lends the achievement vast significance. She was a VP at Sony Pictures, when her position was phased out. Faced with a cusp of transition, Griesbach decided to pursue her musical dream rather than surrender or attempt to land another corporate post.
Not only did she reinvent herself, but Rolling Stone magazine included one of the tracks from the forthcoming album in its Top 10 Songs listing.
In her own words, Staci Griesbach narrates how she traveled from a farm in Wisconsin to become a studio executive at Sony, where she worked on Eat, Pray, Love, to a professional vocalist. The journey wasn’t smooth or easy, yet it demonstrates the magical power of embracing change with courage, boldness, and grit.
Transformation has been a theme throughout my life. You see, I grew up on a working farm in rural Northeast Wisconsin. My childhood days were spent feeding and caring for the cattle, baling hay, or picking stones in the fields before planting. My mom often times had to drop what she was doing on the farm to drive me in to school for choir or band practice, or pick me up from the activity bus drop off after chores. By high school, I realized quickly that performing in music and the arts was what I really loved to do. And, after noticing how many students would come to our football games (I was also a cheerleader), I quickly arranged for a performance of my senior year musical for the student body. That was my first taste of producing – putting people together and getting to do something I loved all at once!
After graduating college, I had a major decision to make. Would I choose a job at a major, reputable PR firm or accept the offer to perform on a cruise ship and travel around the world? Perhaps this was the first point of my recognizing that I was holding onto a limited belief system – performing wasn’t really a job was it?
With practical matters like paying off my college loans hanging over me, I made the decision and jumped full force into a career in PR. Even after accepting a leading role in a local musical production two months on the job, when it conflicted with a work event on opening weekend, responsibility called and my decision was to decline the gig and pay the bills.
And so I dug in even further. In Los Angeles, I started working at a major motion picture and television studio as a manager. I was subsequently promoted to Vice President, Worldwide Publicity, managing global campaigns and promoting the studio’s film and television content around the world. I wasn’t even 40! Don’t get me wrong – I worked hard, but I played hard, too! I traveled. I was inspired to explore my own version of a movie I worked on called Eat, Pray, Love and explored Bali, Italy, Brazil, France, Peru, and India. I worked with movie stars, top-tier journalists and other amazing people giving me incredible exposure to the world of entertainment.
RECOVERING FROM SETBACKS
After a milestone birthday trip to Greece, I returned to the company to learn that my position at the studio had been eliminated. The business had changed, and I was a casualty with so many others of that evolution. Ironically, while in Greece, I had committed more than ever to my music and launched a Kickstarter for a debut album! YES! I announced to the world my commitment to my musical career with the intent of creating the first-ever jazz tribute album to Patsy Cline. Something in my heart told me that now was the time to follow my passion. If not now, when?
My transformation from a “farm girl” to “studio exec” to “professional singer” was happening. You see, even though I had this major entertainment business career, music hadn’t left my life. As a single person, music was my refuge, my “happy place,” and something to focus on outside of the daily grind at the corporate job. In fact, while at the studio, I took up a residency in Hollywood at a hotel to get my feet wet and perform with a trio. I also sang and produced 100 songs for a centennial tribute to Ella Fitzgerald – complete with a sell-out show at an LA club benefiting the Ella Fitzgerald Foundation.
Launching that Kickstarter was the best thing I could have done to commit to living my authentic life and going after my dreams. Years of self-help books, classes, meditation and Brene Brown Ted Talks (maybe you can relate?) have brought to my attention that these belief systems we own are really illusions. They don’t have any weight over us unless we let them weigh us down. Fear is just what it spells – False Evidence Appearing Real.
Even Willie Nelson calls out the needlessness in worrying in his classic the song, “Crazy” which he penned for Patsy Cline. “Worry, why do I let myself worry?” Worry and fear are part of the human existence, and that may be true. But what if we give ourselves permission to do what we want through the fear? That’s what I had to do first and foremost – give myself permission to follow my heart and commit to myself first and foremost. Permission granted.
REFRAMING MY LIFE
For nearly 20 years, I let myself believe that I couldn’t go after my dreams. I took the “safe” route and went for a career where I could be behind the scenes, no need to be vulnerable or wear my heart on my sleeve. Yet after years of sitting at that corporate desk, managing executive talent interviews or appearances or producing huge events, I realized that our job in life is to be vulnerable. For me, it is to let my heart shine and do what makes me sing, literally!
My studio and public relations career have helped transform me into the woman I am today. Dealing with executives, managing corporate politics and hearing from critics has hopefully prepared me for what’s to come as I release a little part of me in each song on this album. I’m forever grateful for the choices that led me to this stage in my life, because it is these last 20 years that have shaped me and provided the backbone for me to stand strong with this new creative vision for my life.
The gift of the time and resource that came with losing my job was my way of making lemonade out of lemons (it may be cliché but true). It was also a sign to me that this was a swift kick from the Universe to follow my dreams and to do it now. No security blanket? No problem. No regular schedule or people needing you? Not an issue. No deadlines to make or meetings to attend to fill your day? I got this! You see, those were regular self-talk help sessions throughout these last few months have been real, gritty, and full of heart. Some of them haven’t been pretty, and there have been several “help sessions” with girlfriends (complete with a good bottle of wine and maybe a few boxes of Kleenex). Yet through it all, I couldn’t feel more proud of working through the fear and chasing a music career, no matter where it takes me. Through the self-critiquing. Through the uncertainty of living life without the traditional safety nets. I’m doing it.
And yet, another transformation is born.