December 11, 2003

I've been sort of delinquent about writing my blogs, but I'm pretty excited about a recent show we played in downtown Chicago. I went with my other acoustic guitarist, Bill Adams, my electric guitarist, Rob Lampe, and my harmonica player, Matt Griffin to play a Tuesday night shared show at the Beat Kitchen in downtown Chicago. It was an unusual venue, but we split the stage with two other bands, everyone got an hour. It was a great time, and beneficial to us because we met some great musicians who we are hoping to keep in contact with in order to share shows in other cities at future dates.

Seeing how the other two bands travel and perform was interesting. While we were told it was to be an "acoustic show" there was one band that had full drum kit, bass, guitar, keyboard, two vocalists, everything! We were thinking maybe next time we will bring everyone regardless of what the venue tells us. But just as those thoughts were running through my head, I was approached by the two female vocalists from the band Michelle Anthony and Stick Pony, who said they were thrilled to see an acoustic show like ours, and that we gave them the courage to say they could do an acoustic show like that in the future too. It's extremely difficult to travel with a full band, ONLY because you often lose money rather than make it. It's not an easy life, but it's such a rush! There's value to presenting your biggest sound to new listeners, then there's value to stripping the sound down and tyring to make the most of what you've got. It's all a learning experience.

Luckily, even though it was one of our first shows in Chicago, we pulled in nearly 40% of the overall crowd because our percussionist, Michael Bielski, (who wasn't able to make this gig) knows plenty of Chicago-ans. I'm really looking forward to the Elbo Room...I've heard it's a beautiful venue, very well established and well known.

I'll let you know how it goes...

One thing I regret about our trip is we didn't make it to McDonald's to buy a Happy Meal. We've decided the best way to commemorate our road trips is to buy a Happy Meal, keep the toy, and write the date of the gig on each respective toy. Presently there's a boggle-head moose sitting on my dashboard from Bloomington. I think we will run out of room within the next few months on the dashboard. It's not really a space-saving way to memorialize the trip, but it's sure fun.

November 25, 2003

I'm stoked because CD Baby, one of the biggest and best online distributors of indy music in the WORLD has asked me to be part of a showcase in the 2004 Folk Alliance Conference in San Diego this coming February. This is a huge honor because the pool of folk musicians represented on CD Baby is vast. Anyhow, if I can scape together the money to go, it would be a phenomenal opportunity to meet people in music and media, including people involved with labels, booking, etc. Most importantly, I'd meet other musicians going through the same struggles and triumphs that I have found myself dealing with of late.

The most frustrating thing for me right now is that money makes the rocking world go round. I don't mean I need to MAKE tons of money to be happy, but I mean that I simply don't have enough to get me to the places I need to be to advance my career, and that is SO frustrating. I don't want to whine though, as that is not what this is for...but if you're reading this, please send your thoughts and best wishes my way. I really want to get to this conference and perform!

November 23, 2003

Wow...after a long 48 hours, I am back from a gig we played in Bloomington, Indiana last night at a club called Vertigo. It was a learning experience, and a bonding experience for myself and for the band members who were able to come along. Now the men in my life (the band) say things like, "if Hilary's happy...we're ALL happy." Yes, it's sort of a joke, but you learn so much about yourself and each other when you're tired, cranky, hungry, have been driving for too long, share a hotel room, whatever the case may be!

But the one thing I take from our experience on the road this weekend is that we still love the music and I don't think that's ever going to change. Actually, we got along marvelously, and met some great new people in Bloomington. Every show is different, some are packed with people, sometimes no one knows you're playing and you end up doing an "intimate" show to a few dozen people. But no matter what, you're essentially always doing the same thing: music. I love playing and singing and connecting with people. Be it one person at a time, I'm sharing my music with the world, and having experiences I would never otherwise have had. All in all, I'm thrilled with what was tested and re-affirmed this weekend: my love for music, which has proven to be stronger and vaster and more important than all the little discomforts of the road.

October 6, 2003

I was recently asked to give a detailed explanation/interpretation of the lyrics for my song "That Kind of Woman," which is track 9 off of The Floating World album. (The lyrics to the song are able to be viewed on my website as well and will not be re-printed here). I am hoping that by giving my thoughts on this song it will not take away from others' personal interpretations, since music is for me a personal venture, and I think it should be for the listener as well. I am, however, also an avid reader and in college most of my day was spent analyzing texts, poetry, etc. So it isn't unusual for me to take a literary perspective. Anyhow, here goes:

Women and men alike seem to respond strongly to this song, though perhaps for different reasons. My guess would be that women might be responding more to lyrics, while men are pulled in more by the music. One reviewer and musician, Rocket Kirchner, described this song as having a "persuasive story line which both sexes can relate to."

Ultimately there are many levels on which this song can be perceived. Women are often expected to be everything to everyone in society. We are bombarded with ideas of beauty, how we should run our family, care for our children, serve our domestic partners, do our jobs. Sometimes amongst all these societal "roles," the heart of the woman, her sensuality and emotionalism, are denied. She often falls short, in her own mind, of what she "should be." Alhough I have felt this pressure in many different siuations, at the time I wrote this song I was particularly interested in the angst many women feel when comparing themselves to other women. There wasn't even a particular woman I was writing about, or comparing myself to, but I was creating the "ideal" woman, who, in this song, I obviously am not, although I would wish to be seen as such in the eyes of the one I adore.

There is also a less obvious, but more exciting message in the lyrics. If one suddenly puts themself in the place of this "ideal" woman, then for a moment they refer to themselves in third person and become "perfect," as the woman decribed in the first several verses. This may be an interpretation other women enjoy because it provides them with a sense of empowerment. I should expand here upon the idea of perfection. It's not any one or two or million things that define some tangible or shallow "perfection," this is a far reaching sense of power of a broad, mysterious, non-specific kind. It can be what each woman wants it to be. Also, in the final verses of the song, we are brought back to the reality of our imperfection, which hopefully makes the song even more poignant and meaningful to those of us who are all too aware of our faults.

There are allusions to both religion and alchemy in this song, which makes it a dichotomy in itself. "Water into wine," is of course a familiar image in the Christian religion, but later I talk about "silver into gold," which would remind one more of witchcraft. It would probably take me an entire thesis to delve more deeply into those allusions, so I'll let everyone else's mind wander on those matters.

Finally, this is a sensual song, and there is always an undercurrent of sexuality running through it, which seems to be repressed by the ideas of imperfection introduced later in the song. However, it cannot be entirely repressed, and I'd say this is symbolic of women in our society. We're supposed to button ourselves up, be proper and undersexed, but usually this underlying passion cannot be held in check completely, and as a result women are either put on pedastals, or on the contrary, debased, as objects of desire.

There ya go!

August 25, 2003

I've been asked to participate in an upcoming Planned Parenthood Benefit at the Blue Note in Columbia, MO. Because PP is usually associated directly with the abortion issue, I felt the need to address this, and explain to my fans and friends exactly why I've put my name on the benefit roster. First of all, I've been told this is not meant to be a "pro-choice" rally, (although the issue of women's choice will probably be raised by speakers at the event) but rather it's meant to be an event to raise funds for the local Planned Parenthood since funding has been cut for ALL services.

I'd like people to understand that from my perspective, PP is valuable because it provides affordable health care services to men and women of all belief systems. As a private music instructor and performing musician I've gone for periods of time without health insurance, and PP is the only place where I can afford to get annual exams, cancer screening, etc. If Planned Parenthood continues to lose funding, it could mean the annihalation of much-needed health-care for many low-income Columbians.

In terms of the abortion issue, I am sympathetic to both sides, in that uncomfortable position where the hard-core pro-choicers would find me too wishy-washy, and the hard-core pro-lifers would find my understanding and belief in a woman's right to choose too intellectualized or possibly even amoral. It's quite an uncomfortable place to be in society's eyes, but it is QUITE comfortable in my own heart, where I fundamentally realize no issue is ever truly black and white. In the shades of grey is where I find the most truth and the ability to be most open-minded. I desire for women to have reproductive health and freedom, I do not pass judgment on those who are struggling to get through this life as best they can, I value the life of both fetus and woman. VERY grey issue.

I'm proud to support PP as a valuable medical facility. I do not want to aliennate any of my fans who might be very sensitive to the abortion issue. I am hopeful that my listeners can understand the complexity and fullness of the PP issue, rather than being stonewalled by a particular issue. I'm hoping this benefit can be bigger than that, and even if it doesn't turn out to be, please know that my particular voice is raised for the reasons I have stated and ONLY for those reasons.

August 7, 2003

I'm just back from an excellent summer festival series concert in Sandpoint, Idaho, where I'm visiting family and gearing up for the release of our live album. The show tonight was opened by a popular regional band and followed by The Lettermen, who were popular in the 60's, but whom, we learned tonight, still perform 150 or more shows every year, and have done so for the last 43 years without a break. These were showmen in every sense of the word, and it seems tonight was just as much about jokes, acting, and voice imitations as it was about singing songs. I knew most of their old hits, but they also did a smattering of newer standards. They closed with a patriotic finish and the song "God Bless the USA," especially poignant at this time in our history. This stirring of feeling inside of me for this song that I used to smirk at, caused me to think a lot about my progression towards this unique sense of patriotism I've found in myself.

As an arrogant teenager I was always suspicious of the government, even though a large part of my highschool years were spent in several politics-based interest groups such as Junior Statesmen of American and Youth In Government. It seemed the fashion at the time for anyone under 25 years of age to belittle all things government, badmouth the president, and squirm with discomfort when we had to endure the singing of patriotic standards. I used to think of "God Bless the USA" as the stuff of small-town Republican party rallies, and therefore hated the song at one time. (I actually once went undercover at one such small-town Republican rally, afraid people would find out I was a hardcore Democrat and pull a gun from underneath the picnic tables with which to shoot me. :) I was there "working" for an aide to the Governor of the state, who was a Democratic candidate and was running for re-election. He wanted specific information about the Republican candidate's rally tactics. The Republican candidate won that particular race, so I must not have been a very good "spy.") Anyhow, the feeling I had tonight as the three members of the Lettermen sang that song was not a feeling inspired by the melody or the arrangement or the clever rhymes of this predictable song, but by the sentiment that should be stated clearly and effortlessly. I AM free...and people have died for my right to be so.

No longer will I squirm when I hear songs that are yes, predictable, that might, yes, be a bit corny or overused, but that undeniably bring us together in thought and celebration for what we are so lucky to have...freedom to raise our voices in anger, in dissent, OR in agreement and praise and love of our country. And what better way to do these things than in a song?

July 15, 2003

After reading some of my old weblog entries, I realized now might be the time to address our change of address. First we considered Chicago, then Seattle became the plan. My record label is based out of Seattle, and therefore it would make most sense to run the business from there. The Northwest is my home and I miss it greatly. However, living in the Midwest has provided me with some excellent opportunties to practice and develop my sound, and it serves as a central point from which to tour and find gigs in other cities. So although it was announced in the Columbia Trbune that we'd be moving to Chicago later this summer, it looks as though any move will probably be postponed for several more months, if not an entire year. There are some other avenues I still need to explore, such as Chicago and Nashville, and I can do that easily from the mid-Missouri area. So ten or eleven months from now we will probably pack the yam-colored Vanagon and start the long drive back home to Seattle, but for now there's plenty to keep my and my music occupied here. And who knows what will happen in the interim?
Well...the Artisan issue turned out to be mighty interesting! In the end the owner made some moves that were less than consistent. Firstly the woman who used to do their booking and was in contact with local musicians regarding the stage policy change was FIRED after attempting to bring some other options for musician payment to the owner's attention. Well, that put the last nail in the Artisan coffin in some people's opinion, but then it went further.

In an article published by the Columbia Tribune, for which I was interviewed, as well as the owner and some other local musicians, the owner stated that once people have seen a band once or twice they won't pay to see them again. That directly contradicts everything that local music is about. Most bands in this town who have been around a while and have a good following would say precisely the opposite is true: we have people who come to EVERY SINGLE ONE OF OUR SHOWS and PAY EVERY SINGLE TIME for which we are extremely appreciative!! Thank you loyal fans!!!

Furthermore, the owner essentially said he had NEVER changed the stage policy and it was crazy that people were discussing a non-issue. In response to that, the woman who was fired for relaying the policy change to musicians posted the owners' original e-mail to her, complete with language that definitely suggested a stage-policy change. Hmmm.. how did us "crazy" musicians get the idea that things had changed since HE SAID THEY HAD??? is business, but it's too bad people feel the need to talk out of both sides of their face, especially about issues they clearly don't understand fully. It's completely his perogative to do everything he can to make money and stay afloat, and I guess he doesn't have any obligations to us musicians, but I'd rather he'd just been honest about his intentions from the start.

I don't really want this weblog to turn into a politics page, so I'm going to stop writing about this topic, but I feel it's important to bring some of the issues musicians face to people's attention. Sometimes it's a struggle to do what you love, but you do it anyway, thankful to all of those wonderful people out there who make it possible by supporting music with actions, not just words.

July 1, 2003

It's time to take a stand against the abuse of live musicians! Recently in my home base of Columbia, one of my favorite venues, The Artisan, decided to change its stage policy, and now has an "unfriendly" policy toward local musicians, to say the least. Friday nights were the only night large bands such as my own could play at The Artisan, and the payment policy was decent, with a door charge being split between the band and the venue, seventy-five percent of it going to the musicians. This is fair, since the venue definitely doesn't LOSE money on a door fee, they actually make an added profit above and beyond the food and drink sold.

Now the policy is that they will no longer charge a door fee, and will only book acts willing to do free showcases for donation only. I don't have the luxury to do this sort of free gig, especially where I had been previously paid, and especially when I brought a lot of business to this venue. When you have a band you have to pay every member, and lest I be called a money-hungry corporate pig, I must say I play music for sheer enjoyment, but expect payment to move gear, do sound checks, and load in and out. (But let's face it, being entertained and listening to live music is something worth paying for, so the art itself has monetary worth, since that's the only concrete way this society has of determining value.)

I will play at restaurants for food, I will play for free at benefit concerts for good causes, and I will play for no compensation at festivals where you are playing music to gather the community and celebrate. But I can't and won't play for free at a venue that will STILL charge me for my dinner even though I worked there for seven hours that evening to entertain their clientele, and furthermore won't guarantee me even a small amount of payment for my time. This is not about getting rich playing music, which has become a near impossibility these days, it's simply about being treated fairly and being able to compensate the people who support my sound, my other five band members.

They may claim they can't afford to pay bands, but again that point is moot when you charge a cover since that's the whole point of a ticket charge, you "cover" the cost of the entertainment. They may claim that door fees turn away customers, but if that is the concern, eliminate the door charge, get more people in the door, and then give your band a guarantee from the night's profits. They may say some bands don't bring in enough people to hire, so then don't hire those bands again, and for those bands that DO bring in enough people, do your part to support their advertising efforts since they are in turn supporting your place of business by getting their friends, family and fans in the door.

Ultimately this is not just about one place or one policy. It is about a disturbing trend that has hit the entire nation. People don't seem to treat music with the value it deserves. Music is a basic part of our humanity; as important to us as food and water and air. Some might argue it is more important. There have been days when I've forgotten to eat because I was sustained by some amazing new song, or working on a musical project that got me lost in another world. Music has been proven to make us smarter, to heal us, to make us more empathetic and understanding. There's no place for this sort of brutality against the beauty and joy that music brings to our lives.

Over and out...

June 8, 2003

I am so excited about the band's latest project, our live studio album, and just returned from a long afternoon of mixing. I really think this album is going to hit a lot of people at the right time. I just read an interview (forget which mag) with Radiohead, which is arguably one of the best bands in the world. Their songwriting, musicianship, and world vision are phenomenal. Something they talked about rang very true to me. They used to consciously try to make every album so different from each other one that eventually it became a construct rather than an organic process. I'm putting this all into my own words, of course, but the main idea was when they finally came out with Kid A they realized they were breaking barriers but not necessarily making the music they most wanted to. They actually talk about making lush POP songs. So watch out alterna-fans, Radiohead is self-professed pop! Pop should not be seen as derogatory, but rather as what it is; simply something accessible enough to reach a large audience. The term is colored by the quality of music for which we use it. OK....I'm heading somewhere with this. I identified with their desire to no longer strive so hard to be different but just to make the music that was inside of them. I don't think I've tried to make this live album so different from The Floating World, and in not trying, it has become so. My hope is that it WILL reach a lot of people even if this means it receives a "POP" label. Who knows where people will shelve it, I don't care as long as they are listening.

May 19, 2003

Wow...the interesting things that can happen once you have a website. And I'm not just talking about this weblog. My webmaster just informed me last night that one of the pictures off my website is getting "placed" on some unusual websites. Teenage punks (and I do mean fans of punk-rock, not trying to be derogatory here) and people with their own, shall we say, "interesting" websites have for some reason decided to adopt the picture of me seemingly about to smash a guitar. Amidst inexplicable images, there's little ol' me with my guitar, running around dressed in black. Had I known this photo would have a cult following, maybe I would have tried to make some money off it! Well...some people say it's all about the marketing. :)

May 11, 2003

I sit here in Columbia, MO during history's worst tornado month. As the clouds churn and swirl, so have my thoughts and musical inspirations. This has been a time of incredible creation and change, and the weather seems to reflect that. Just three days ago the Hilary Scott Band had an amazing and experimental experience, getting forty or so of our friends and fans into a studio and recording an entire live set complete with audience noise and our own on-the-spot inspirations. Although I'm sure this is done by others, it's not a FREQUENT occurrence, because it is fraught with possible problems and can be a logistical nightmare. But we managed to find an excellent engineer in a very resonably priced studio, and we were musically ready. Add on top of that the fact that our fans are respectful and excited, and you have a "you should have been there moment." I am so happy with the results, and thrilled that, in a way, we proved ourselves. We've always known that our live shows are where we shine, but the proof was in this pudding. I can't wait to release the CD. Anyhow, directly after the last of the audience members left, a tornado watch went into effect, complete with sirens, and we hustled into the basement. We all agreed if we were to die, at least we were doing what we love. Now that we've had a tornado warning every day this week, the fear that started as sharp and poignant is now of a dull sort, like I've been here one too many times. But as my percussionist Michael mentioned to me, there may not be any real mountains in Missouri, but those changing, looming clouds are moutainous, awe-inspiring, and impressive. We will be moving to Chicago soon, but we won't forget these incredible storms. There's nothing quite like a thunderstorm in Missouri. Someday I'm sure one of those storms will blast its way into a song.