Restless to Restful with Former music Exec Marisol Martinez

Seventeen years ago, I started my first music position at Video Hits One (Vh1), during the era of Storytellers and Behind the Music.

Three years into assisting their Music & Events department, I made the switch to Music Television (MTV) within their Music Marketing department. This is where my life on airplanes began. My team and I were responsible for a popular concert series titled “MTV2 $2 Bill Show,” a genius concept to bring the most incredible artist to Primary and Secondary markets with just a $2 ticket. The rest of the money for production and touring would come from the Ad Sales dept selling each show to sponsors. The idea was a hit. Between 2002 and 2006, I found myself in big cities and little towns I had never heard of. Soon after, I was thrust into the touring life and I enjoyed every single minute. I felt like it resonated with my gypsy spirit. And even though I was exhausted and stressed, the thrill of working and experiencing this life was a dream. I was meeting and working with artists like The Roots, Common, Linkin Park, Madonna, Pharrell, the list was endless. I felt inspired and blessed to be part of something so huge.

After MTV, I found myself in the Video department at the iconic record label, Atlantic Records, in charge of everything from video production, airplay and artist bookings to award shows. I  had my own assistant and after a few years, became an executive. But life existed inside of a suitcase and I was pretty much a resident at hotels. I was constantly surrounded by people, artist, their crews, and whatever situation they may have had around them– wanted or unwanted. Once, at an opening for Pharrell’s Moncler collaboration at Colette Paris, we were literally swarmed and trampled on by mobs of people trying to see Pharrell. Security had to grab me off of the ground and get me inside before I was hurt. I remember thinking that I never wanted to be somewhere else as desperately as I did at that moment. I was living a high energy life that not only encompassed my own, but also the energy of those around me. The pressure from the artist, their teams, my bosses, the executives, and the networks were demanding 110% of my attention, 24/7, at any given time; anything from “how many times has video spun?” to “where is my underwear?” Downtime barely existed. Time of day was irrelevant and so was my personal space. Even in my sleep, duty called. Looking back on this stage in my career, I always remember having this looming feeling of “What am I doing here?”, “What is my purpose?”, and “Do I really want with this life?” I was never really comfortable with my surroundings. Although I enjoyed every minute of it, something felt off.

What is my purpose?

After an incredible eight-year run at Atlantic, my life moved in a different direction. I moved to Los Angeles for a relationship. I continued consulting for various artists and projects within the entertainment industry, but this time, they were on my own terms. My then-boyfriend also had a high energy career and we found ourselves traveling non-stop. My life was still a rotation of planes, hotel rooms, and tour buses. Unfortunately, a year after my big move to L.A., the relationship ended.

I moved right back to my old apartment on the East Coast, which I kept because something inside urged me to keep my own space. I’m glad that I listened. Here I was back in NYC: no boyfriend, no job, and a savings account that was dwindling. The fear, stress, and anxiety of not having a job or any job prospects threw me into a mania. Even after calling everyone I knew and listening to the promises of potential work, after months, I was only able to land a few music projects from old friends at the label. And as grateful as I was for those opportunities, something inside of me knew that my music career was coming to an end.

As months went by and things got quiet again, I knew it was time to change my career. I started praying ferociously, attending church twice a week and meditating– which was a struggle as I was so accustomed to being on the move or having to think on my feet. Instead, I put myself in new environments that would support slowing down. I made new friends, who like myself, enjoyed the art of conversation over a good meal as opposed to a crazy bar scene or club. I became part of a group of incredible people who have a love for the arts and education. I fought the battle of change until it became semi-normal and learned how to connect to the slow down. Because of this, I believe I was able to open up to different elements of myself, such as dreams and intuition. I learned to be still and listen. Never in my life did I ever think things would change so much.

One night, I dreamt that my Uncle Rudy (an artist in Los Angeles that passed away 15 years ago) was advising me to start painting. We were sitting at a cafe having coffee in LA and he kept saying over and over, “start painting again” on repeat, like a skipped record. I suppose this was his way of making a point.  It felt so real. I called my mother immediately to tell her. Weirdly enough, she had a similar dream just days before. But the truth was, I had not picked up a paintbrush since I was a student at the Parsons School of Design and the message did not sit well with me. It seemed absurd and outrageous. My mind went into full-blown denial and I rebuked it for a good two to three weeks, all the while my spirit was pushing me to take a chance. The thought and feeling of painting scared me so intensely. At that point in time, I was stressed out about my finances and work, the notion of painting seemed immature and ridiculous. How would painting solve my real problems” (down the line, it did)?  After much nudging from my soul, I gave in and went straight to the art store and purchased an insane amount of canvas, paint, and brushes. And this is where the start of my new life began.

Days and nights passed, painting and writing. In the beginning, I woke up every day fighting myself, thinking that I should go back into music and throw away this newfound life that was slow and honestly uneventful. Or at least, it didn’t feel like the “work” I was used to. One day, my phone rang and I was commissioned to create 15 pieces of art for a high-end client. It was in that moment that I made the decision to invest in my talent and bank on myself. I laugh at how innocent I was about it. I thought that since I had such incredible success in my music career, that it would be the same for my art. I mean, here I was being paid very well for my first year of committing to being a full-time artist.

I thought that since I had such incredible success in my music career, that it would be the same for my art.

While the large commission was lovely, I was depressed, sad, and alone. I wasn’t used to having so much time working by myself; this new career was a one-woman show. I looked at myself in the middle of my Upper West Side apartment surrounded by paint, canvas, and brushes and had a hard time accepting that my art was considered work, let alone a career. I could not believe that after so many years of flying between award shows and video shoots, that I was living quietly alone with my paint brushes. My ego took a massive hit. I felt incredible guilt sitting at home, painting, and writing. It was all so completely foreign to me. The interesting thing about this scenario was that my spirit felt at ease while my ego could not accept my new life. When I allowed myself to live through my spirit, I felt peace. But 80% of the time, my thoughts quickly reminded me of the 17 years of high intensity and constant stimulation I was used too. I beat myself up constantly and lacked self-compassion for the transition that was happening. I tried running back to my old career as a music consultant again, but the doors kept slamming in my face.

Soon after, there was a major turning point in my life. My father became ill and after two months, suddenly passed. While I was staying with my family just outside of Manhattan, I asked my brother to set up a walk-through at our family friend’s production and art studio in the area. I was looking for a space to rent to knock out a commision. I hadn’t had one in a few months and since I was away taking care of my dad, I figured having a studio would also help me find some peace. My brother and I arrive at the lot, which held 10 old silk mills next to a beautiful waterfall. We walked through the spaces and got to the last art studio. The owner abruptly handed me a key. I responded politely, “Thank you, but I need to sit and think about it. Even if I do rent, I won’t need it for another month.” He said, “No, this is yours.” I was confused. Then he said it again, “This is yours, no strings attached. I am gifting this to you.” I could not believe what I was hearing. GIFTING ME AN ART STUDIO? In that exact moment, I knew with everything inside of me that this was it, the sign, the defining moment that life/God/the universe was showing me my path. After that, I moved in and never looked back. I left the music industry for good. Everything about my life was changing, moving into a new way of living. It was giving me what I really needed. A life that was crafted to honor the new me: the slower, peaceful, zen-like Marisol that I was trying to fight. I came to accept that everything I had experienced was preparing and growing me to become this artist.

Now, I am completely content with my new life. Now, high energy activities exhaust me. The irony. It suits who I am and allowed me to see that I was never really comfortable with the energy of the music industry. I realized that life was pushing me to my truth and I bloomed into it– peaceful, happy, and successful.


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