Susan Boyle and You: Destroying The Overnight Success Myth

susan_boyle_paid_cost_for_success.jpgIn a recent article we ranted on about how Susan Boyle keeps it real, but we’re here today not to take anything away from the old village girl, but instead to shine some light on reality and figure out how her career relates to you (yeah, yeah, I know, but just keep reading).  As engineers and musicians ourselves, the Musformation Team believes that the idea of any kind of “overnight success” is a joke – follow us after the jump and we’ll explain why.


An unemployed, homely Scottish woman, Susan Boyle is 48 years old – a babe (or old maid) in the woods – an untouched flower blossoming in secret only just now having been seen by the world for her beauty, right?? Out of nowhere, having never sang in public before or had any musical/voice training this most unlikely, naive woman stepped up and showed the world in one short clip what she could do, right? Wrong. Wrong.  And more wrong.  

As a girl, Boyle attended the Edinburgh Acting School and grew up singing in church and at karaoke bars.  In addition, she has had considerable experience with a professional voice coach.  Britain’s Got Talent was actually not Boyle’s first attempt at a talent show.  In 1995 she auditioned for a show called My Kind of People, but was not chosen (it is rumored she was openly mocked because of her performance).  In 1999 she sang the song “Cry Me A River” for a charity CD and in the same year, saved all her money and recorded a professionally cut demo which she pitched to record labels, radio and national TV talent competitions.  Boyle was also the winner of many local talent contests before even getting to Britain’s Got Talent

So what are we trying to do here, take away something from the myth of Susan Boyle?  Not exactly.  The point to take away is that Susan Boyle certainly has talent, but it looks like she has given her whole life for the chance to show her stuff on a national stage.  And at 48 years old, she’s probably been at it a long longer than you have (her last talent show attempt was 14 years ago!)  A lot of artists are concerned about achieving success a certain way and on a certain time line, but as most of us know, it doesn’t always work out like that.  A musician and good friend of mine has a saying: “Don’t worry about making it pretty – just get it done.”  Forget about your age or how long you’ve been doing it.  Do you love it?  Then keep doing it.  In my band we call it “being a lifer” – this means we have nothing else in life we care about more.  We work jobs (some of us), have girlfriends (briefly) and do other things, but we can’t imagine life without this thing – the dream, the band, our music.  But don’t bang your head against the wall for years – take chances and try new approaches – there is no magic formula, as Boyle can certainly attest to.  The most important lesson we can learn from Susan Boyle is NOT to sit home and watch old reruns of the Family Guy on YouTube waiting for the call from that big label, band, manager, promoter,etc., but to pursue your dream actively and never ever give up.      
Our girl Susan Boyle with “Cry Me A River”:

  • ann brown

    I think Susan is a true person who loves to sing and I appreciate her boldness to continue singing…she has a lot of people who love her and wants the best for her. I hope to hear about her a year from now…I just wished I could send a personal note to let her know that.

  • Domino

    i think she’s great. but i liked her old style. it was cool in a bea arthur kind of way…

  • Anonymous

    Is that Susan singing that song? It doesn’t sound like her voice to me. Beautiful, though!

  • Todd Thomas

    Yes, that’s Susan. One thing to remember is that it’s her 10 years ago! She was a spry 38 years old back then…

  • jt

    It’s true…you only get good if you really,really work at it. She’s had 48 years…and I think the thing that she has that others don’t is…unstoppable determination…she may not have been able to devote 24/7 to her passion, but she obviously never gave up. I find it incredibly inspiring…Susan’s a go**amn heroine, and deserves every bit of success she’s earned…regardless of how things turn out on the show her dream of going pro will be realized…

  • Anonymous

    after hearing her version of that song all other version is never good enough…

  • Jan

    Ann Brown, I believe you can send her a personal note. Just put her name and Blackburn, Scotland and it should get there.

  • http://patriciasnow.ecrater.com Patricia

    So whats your point again. Your article didn’t say anything we didn’t already know.

  • Todd Thomas

    Hey Patricia. I think the point is that we often assume that people just wake up one day and have super-star success. Without knowing what people have gone through, it’s easy to make that assumption. We must remember that EVERYONE has to put their time in, and Susan Boyle has definitely done that.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, that is Susan singing “Cry Me A River”