Today we're going to look at an amazing artist, guitarist, and person by the name of Molly Tuttle. While I've definitely listened to much of Molly's music and thoroughly enjoyed it, it's actually her life story that I find especially inspiring and encouraging, and I hope that it can encourage you too.
Before You Begin:
Download some of my free resources!
Who is Molly Tuttle?
Molly Tuttle is an American guitarist and vocalist specialising in the bluegrass tradition. She is especially renown for her astounding guitar skills using a wide variety of techniques such as flat-picking, cross-picking and claw-hammer playing.
I first discovered her whilst researching on rare vintage instruments and found some videos of her demo-ing a few. Needless to say I was blown away by how clean and precise her picking technique was, and began to look up on her and her music.
She was born in the San Francisco bay area and began playing guitar at the age of 8, beginning her musical journey in a family band alongside her father and siblings. Other notable achievements would be graduating from Berklee College of Music and winning a dozen other awards and competitions.
While all these accolades are great and important, what separates her from other artists, in my opinion, is her humility, perseverance, and strength amid life's challenges. I'll share two of these challenges in her life that have inspired me, starting first with something big but nowhere as big as the second one.
The Berklee Ratings Audition
The details of this story are taken from a splendid interview conducted by Mary Spender.
According to Molly, upon entering Berklee she had to undergo a 'ratings audition' where she had to face two professors to be accessed on musicianship skills such as technique and improvisation. However, at that point she didn't know any music theory or jazz (Berklee is mainly a jazz school) and barely knew any scales.
The questions thrown at her such as 'play a lydian mode' or 'play a C major 7 chord' caught her off guard and she couldn't play any of that stuff. She ended up getting the lowest rating, a 1 out of 5, for every single category. According to Molly, no other student had gotten such a low rating.
Now this might seem like a funny story and sure she laughs at it now, but let's take a closer look at the psychological impact it would have had at that point in time.
Molly was already a fairly seasoned musician, having already released multiple albums with her family band, played many concerts and tours, and won multiple awards for her talents as a musician. In every aspect of the word, she was already a professional musician who had decided to pursue a life and career in music.
Being rated the lowest possible score on this ratings audition would have been utterly discouraging and invalidating. It's essentially telling you that you are bad at what you've dedicated your life to, that you are actually bad at what you thought you were good at. Something like that can lead to severe imposter syndrome, where I can imagine she would question her own achievements thus far and wonder if she truly deserved them. I know I have felt that way before and it's a terrible feeling of self-doubt.
Seeing how far she's come despite that crushing initial analysis of her skills is inspiring, but it pales in comparison with another challenge she's had to face for almost her entire life.
Molly has been grappling with Alopecia Areata since the age of three, an autoimmune disease which causes one's immune system to attack it's hair follicles as if they were an external invader. It ranges from small bald patches to full body hair loss, affecting people of all ages, genders, and ethnicities. Making matters worse, there is no known cure for Alopecia as no one really knows what causes it.
I can only imagine, since the age of three, the psychological impact it must have had on her and anyone else going through it. Even if you had the most encouraging and supportive family and social circles you would inevitably find yourself comparing your appearance to others and asking yourself the inevitable 'what if' questions.
As an artist and public image, she would surely have been very self-conscious of what other people would think if they knew of her condition and appearance behind the wigs.
Today, she has learnt to accept and embrace her appearance and even actively strives to help others going through a similar challenge. She is open and public about her condition and helps to raise awareness of Alopecia with the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
Why Molly Tuttle is so inspiring is that apart from her sheer artistic talent, she has overcome much emotional, psychological, and physical challenges and continued to pursue doing what she loves. On top of that, she exudes a quiet humility beneath the flurries of flat-picked notes which illuminates her genuine personality, something particularly hard to do amid an industry rife with toxic attention-seeking behaviour and ruthless commercialisation practices.
And that's my sharing on why Molly Tuttle is so inspiring to me. I'd love to hear of other artists who have inspired you too, so please leave a comment with other inspirational artists for myself and other viewers to check out!
Until next time, I'll see you again!
By Neil Chan