What does it mean to be a musician? What does it mean to define yourself so thoroughly by what you can create? And what does it mean when you can’t fulfill the role you’ve made for yourself?
Let’s go, for a moment, to 2018. Brittany Ann Tranbaugh is mere days out from her next show. This is the year that Tranbaugh added a new step to her pre-concert routine: panic attacks. Of course, that’s not the kind of thing that just starts out of a nowhere, and Tranbaugh knew as much. “I decided I needed to take a break while I addressed the root causes of my issues with music.”
Let’s go back a bit further—now it’s 2016. Tranbaugh has just moved back to Philly. She had just spent two years in Asheville, NC serving in AmeriCorps. There, she put music on the backburner, and was able to write new music and play a variety of gigs. Then she was back in Philly. “I told myself I was going to get back into the music scene in a big way,” she explains. But Tranbaugh found herself crumbling under the pressure and falling back into old routines—routines that go back even further.
Maybe it’s best to start from the very beginning. “I started playing gigs as a teenager, and it quickly became my entire identity, or at least that’s how it felt,” Tranbaugh explains. “When I first started writing songs around age 14, it was very simple and cathartic.” Tranbaugh has always had an undeniable talent and a knack for songwriting. What happens, though, when you define yourself so thoroughly by what you can create?
“After I began putting my songs out there in public, I felt hyper aware of the fact that other people were going to listen to them and judge them. This cycle started in my late teens where I would struggle to write songs, then that would launch me into a full-on identity crisis, like who am I if I’m not writing songs? As a result of this, I became avoidant of playing music, then I would feel shame and anxiety about it, which kept me in the cycle.”
2018—the cycle continues. 2016—it just keeps going. The whole thing unravels until suddenly it’s 2010, and Tranbaugh is putting out her last official release. Her last official release until now, that is.