October 23, 2005

Last night we returned to one of our favorite venues; the Martini Bar in Columbia. I am extending a huge thank you to all the friends and fans that came out, the house was packed and it was such an incredibly welcoming sight. We saw many new faces, as well.

Melissa, Mark and Jeannine, three people who've followed the band and my career for a long time now, were there to congratulate me on the 'pending' offer by Sony Records. I am making this my 'official' statement that neither I, nor the talent scout who's shopping my music, can make any guarantees as to when or IF this will actually happen, but the news that my press kit has made it through executive channels (farther than I ever dreamed) is extremely good news and adds to the general excitement and momentum of everything else that's been happening. Melissa, Mark and Jeannine gave me the sweetest card congratulating me on my achievements, and also a beautiful yellow-flowering plant. (Easy to care for, as they made sure to specifiy, since it's probably self-evident that I might be forgetful about tending to things other than my career - even though I do feel my career is a living, breathing being as well!) :) The plant seemed a metaphor for new beginnings, and the need to nurture anything that has the potential to grow and blossom, which is the direction I always hope my music is taking.

I was also fortunate enough to see a group of my friends who I care for dearly, in the crowd. One of these special people was Jon Rubin. I've written of Jon before. He was severely injured in a fire this spring. To see him move from the point of near-death to the place he was in last night, happy, content, and free, with that same beautiful smile on his face, was so uplifting to me. I dedicated 'Hallelujah' to him, since he was the one who sang it to me many months ago and inspired me to cover it myself. He's taught everyone who knows him so damn much...and it's our duty by him to never forget what he went through.

It is easy to get mired when life's roller coaster takes one of its downward dips. But I am repeatedly reminded of my blessings....they are many. Last night was one such blessing. And I will say thanks to the three audience members, who, after hearing my tequila story from last weekend, bought me shots. Was I a better entertainer for y'all after that? :) Seriously though, when the audience hears the stories, responds, and involves themselves, it obliterates the separation between perfomer and audience member. And I'm a big believer in everyone knowing how thin that line is, anyway! Just as a negative comment overheard from the sideline can completely ruin your moment onstage, so can a positive comment, a requested song, a hush that falls, make the whole night worthwhile. We know you're out there, we see you, we hear you, we're not immune to your comments and feelings. Stages are an illusion, lights are window-dressing. We're people trying to communicate with you; and it's so beautiful when you let us.

October 18, 2005

Wow...another month gone by between postings. Since we sent out the October 1st fan newsletter, I've gotten offers from people in various cities ranging from Boston to Doniphan to help with my Hurricane Relief idea. I still intend to record 'Blessed' as a single, get 'sponsors' to donate a certain amount of money that would go with the CD to a charitable organization such as Habitat for Humanity, where the money would be utilized for the rebuilding process in the affected cities, and the CD (signed by the sponsor and myself) would be distributed to people who might find some comfort from the lyrics of the song, which seem poignantly applicable to the recent tragedies. I've had people who had relatives in the path of the hurricanes approach me at gigs and say 'I wish so-and-so could hear that song.' Comfort and assistance is what I hope to bring to the table through my music....

Along those same lines, (those of comfort through music) the band and I had a gig this weekend in Kansas City at a venue called Knuckleheads. I've got to say, first off, that we've been treated so well at venues this month. At the Schluckbier fest in Fayette on October 8th we had the coolest green room and tastiest shrimp and ribs ever, plus chocolate cake to die for. Everyone involved in the event was first-class, so kind and generous. I hope that festival lasts for years and years to come. This past weekend at Knuckleheads we were in extremely good company as we looked at the promotional pictures of all the famous blues musicians who've played there, hanging on the walls of the green room, which was equipped with air-conditioner, TV, radio, fully stocked fridge, and sofa. We were also well fed, and treated like gold by Frank and Steve and Radar, who gave me the coolest free tees at the end of the night. (I also gained an honorary coolness point by being allowed to get my picture taken on the Knuckleheads' Harley.) The crowd was loud and racous, but extremely appreciative and we hope to be back there soon. BUT....I said I would get to the comfort through music part; I'd better get back on track.

Our sound man, Pete, who I didn't know had heard my music at all prior to Saturday night, had an amazing request of me before we began our third set. He asked if we would play 'Find Heaven' for him. I told him we'd played it in the first set (I thought maybe he just hadn't heard it.) Turns out, he had heard it the first time, but had also been pretty involved in dialing in the sound still, and he wanted to be able to sit back and really listen to it a second time through. The day before, he'd been to a funeral for a friend's teenage son who had been killed in an accidental shooting. The story broke my heart. (Grif, a member of the band, had also suffered a loss that I had learned about just that same day). All of a sudden, the meaning of the words to that song, (which I used to have trouble even getting through since I had written it for my brother after he died) became somehow...BIGGER. As I've said before, songs grow beyond the person who wrote them, when they head out into the world to be used and interpreted by others. And suddenly, our third set became this amazing blend of sound and emotion, and everything came together perfectly. It was one of those "this is why I do this and this is enough" moments. (And I promise it wasn't the tequila Radar had given us talking.) :)

So thanks to Pete, (who in an instant made everything I do worthwhile by requesting one of my songs to bring him comfort) Radar (happy birthday again by the way - who has been one of my biggest fans since we played Davey's in KC a couple years ago and who said so many kind things and who was ready to give up his paycheck to get us to Knuckleheads, but luckily didn't have to!) Steve (thanks for taking us 'across the tracks' so to speak), Frank (who took a chance on us 'not-strictly-blues' musicians), and dozens of other people I met that night who treated us with respect. Thanks to my bandmates, who share the van, the music, and the life with me. Thanks to Kevin and Sam, people from Columbia who came to KC to be part of things, and thanks to anyone who EVER travels for one of our gigs....it's a special sort of honor to see your faces in the crowd. The list of people who have touched me in my life is longer than the distance from here to the moon, and again, that's probably just shy of not being an exaggeration. (See if you can figure that one out.)

The moments of being reminded of why we DO what we love and why we LOVE what we love, are the moments where life is most real. I've been in a humdinger of a bad mood today, and just writing this puts me nearly back in that place...

September 13, 2005

Underlying everything I've done over the past couple of weeks is a sadness about Hurricane Katrina and her victims. This Saturday, I get to contribute in some small way, by participating in the Martini Bar's Hurricane Relief fundraising concert. My set is at 10:30pm, and there will be other great bands playing, all proceeds and donations go to relief for hurricane victims. Happening so close to the 4-year anniversary of 9-11, the overwhelming devastation hits me doubly hard.

This past week has also been an eye-opening experience in other ways. I've felt so great about where my career is going, and things have been so wonderful, I guess I needed a reality check. This past Friday I received tickets to the Grammy Association's Missouri Demo Review contest in St. Louis. The literature said that even if we were not one of the ten finalists chosen for live review by judges that night, we'd have access to talk to the judges during the concert, to give them our demos and press kits. (These judges are all heavily involved in the industry, we're told.) First of all, two of the judges didn't even show! Even more disappointing was that of the ten finalists, only one was female, and 7 of the 10 finalists were in the same genre. (Hip-hop/rap). I have absolutely nothing against hip-hop, but it certainly wasn't a representative group of ten artists to have 70% of them be from one genre, and 90% of them were from one gender. Furthermore, we were sort of 'held hostage' by the people putting the program on, because contrary to what they'd said in the invitation, they would not allow us to speak to the judges while the show was happening, they wanted us to stay until after all 4 bands had played (this would be about 1am when they would finish) and then the judges would set up a booth and accept a FEW demos. Everyone there (other artists) who I talked to was livid and felt very misled. However, at one point, our favorite judge of the evening (a gentleman who was from Memphis and not only has ties to the record industry but books for Memphis House of Blues) came out on stage for a moment while the second band was setting up. My promoter Tim and myself were on it! We approached him, expressing our dismay about the nature of the evening, the misleading way the night had been described, and told him we'd appreciated his comments during the demo review. (He kept repeating that he wanted to hear something new, something original, something that broke boundaries - he was disappointed by the 10 finalists.) He immediatley took my press kit, along with several copies for the other judges, and mentioned that he would talk to us further about getting booked at the House of Blues/Memphis. So, all was not lost, and we ended up leaving at 10:30pm, instead of waiting until 1:00am and possibly being disappointed and still having to drive nearly two hours back to Columbia. The moral of the story was that just because something has ties to a professional and well-respected organization (The Grammy Association) doesn't mean the people in charge of it are professional. It was a poor reflection of what the Grammy Association tries to do to help artists.

The biggest disappointment was that, believing this night would be a help to my career, I cancelled our appearance at the Habitat for Humanity kick-off (the home being built entirely by women) which had been scheduled for the same night. I had hoped (and still hope) they could find another night sometime during the home-building process to have my band back to be part of things, since the Grammy Demo Review was a one-shot deal, and you had to be there or you'd forfeit your rights to any awards or anything else you might receive. The coordinators of the Habitat for Humanity event were extremely understanding and said they'd do the same thing in my shoes, but I am huge on honoring previous engagements and I felt terrible, especially since it is a cause I very much believe in. So, I cancelled something important to me, possibly letting down some local people I wanted to help out, for this event. I know there's no way I could have known, but perhaps it will prompt me to do a little "investigating" next time something like this comes down the pike. They made it sound SO great in the invitation, but it was much less than great, to say the least.

Anyhow, there are some positives on the horizon. Our fall/winter calendar is rapidly filling, and we're playing in some great venues, including ones in Kansas City and Chicago. My promoter Tim, and booking agent Jane have been really helping us out. I also recently got some more good news from both Nashville and some 'mystery news' I can't disclose at this time, but I hope to be able to shout it to the hills at some point this coming year.

Finally, to all my fans who've made the move from the Yahoo fan club to the new Belltown-hosted site, thank you! It's hard to get the word out, and we're still working out a few kinks, but the new site is beautiful, interesting, full of great options, and we definitely hope everyone checks it out.

Please keep the hurricane victims (and all people in need who you come across in your life) in your thoughts. Take action when you can. Boundaries are imaginary, and we are not truly separated from other people. We never know when that 'other person' could suddenly become our parents, our children, our siblings, our spouse, our friends, ourSELVES.

August 23, 2005

Our vacation in the Northwest was amazing...hiking, swimming, kayaking, sailing, eating! I got to see family, college and high school friends, wrote a new song, and learned some covers I've been wanting to add to my repertoire for a while. A month seemed like a long time when we planned our trip, but it certainly flew by. We are ready to get back into the swing of live shows, with plenty of dates coming up this fall and winter. Our promotions rep, Tim, is doing a great job of filling every Saturday through December; we're well on our way to being booked every weekend.

Last Wednesday I went to a Little Feat concert with my guitarist, BA, at this lodge in Steeleville. It was an amazing venue, as only about two hundred people could crowd into this room to see Little Feat playing in front of a fireplace, three feet away from where we were all dancing. Anyhow, we arrived early in the afternoon so that BA could help with set-up for Little Feat's merchandise display. (They have a very dedicated 'street team' of fans that help them with various things when they're on tour. Any musical group should aspire to the level of contact and friendship that Little Feat has with their fans.) I sat and watched things for a while, and also had a chance to talk to a couple members of Little Feat who remembered me from when my band opened for them in Kansas City and Columbia. Then we were invited to grab our guitars and head out on the porch for an impromptu jam session with some musicians from California. We played and sang a lot of classic rock songs. After a couple hours sweltering in the amazingly oppressive heat and humidity, we headed inside for dinner. We luckily had "free passes" to attend the show and dinner, but the draw for other people was the very cool package deal that the lodge owners offer: dinner, two nights at the lodge, and the show for a great price. The owner brings many famous musical acts to this lodge every year. Dinner was fantastic, and with a full belly and a glass of wine in hand, we headed out to watch the most intimate show I've ever seen played by a famous band. Little did I know the shock of my life was to come!

While dancing and enjoying the show, I suddenly saw Shaun (LF's female vocalist) approaching me from the stage, walking into the audience and holding the microphone towards me. I sang a couple lines: "Take a load off, Annie. Take a load for free. Take a load off Annie, and put the load right on me!" It was fun, hilarious, and totally unexpected. At the end of the show, Shaun invited me up again to sing Dixie Chicken. Embarrasingly enough, I didn't know all the words, but when I was able to sing (be it lyrics or oooooohhs) the 3-part harmony of the "Chickettes" sounded pretty sweet! I can say it was one of the great honors of my life and I will always remember it. One of BA's friends bought me a Little FeatCD and ordered me to memorize all the words should I ever be called upon to sing with them again! The show was fantastic and I couldn't keep my eyes off the band, as each member left me with an impression of incredibly mastery and skill. They're the best....

This past weekend, Michael and I attended a very special celebration for Jon, the friend of ours who was burned in a fire. (I've written of him before). It was a birthday/graduation/life celebration, and when Jon's sister and dad spoke about him after dinner, there was not a dry eye in the room...and I was overcome with memories of that scary and difficult time. But as hard as it was for the people witnessing it, it was that difficulty multiplied by a million for Jon, who fought with courage and grace. There are no words strong enough to describe what he went through, and he truly is recovering amazingly. I am so happy for him....he's a great guy with a full life ahead of him.

After Jon's party, we drove to southern Illinois where much of Michael's family was gathered for a get-together. Centralia, Illinois is home to a great hot-air balloon fest. I've never seen so many hot-air balloons gathered in one place. At night, the pilots "lit-up" their balloons so we could watch them glow, and then in the morning they flew the balloons right over the park. Seeing so many colorful, beautiful balloons flying through the air at once was amazing. I have a newfound respect for them (and their pilots) after seeing what it takes to get them filled, hoisted, and airborne. I'd definitely like to ride in one someday.

I'm ready and excited for a fall filled with music...the band just got back together for a rehearsal last night after not playing for over a month, and as always, our 'home-comings' feel so good. We're working on new arrangements, several new songs, and planning for the unprecedented 'Holiday show' we're playing in December. All I can say is there WILL be costumes...look out!

July 19, 2005

Shelter Gardens was an amazing gig, and served as one of the best birthday celebrations I've had in years. I was honored to have somewhere around a thousand or more people sing to me, the evening was beautiful despite the heat, the surrounding flowers and babble of water was a wonderful accent. At the end of the night, I realized how lucky I am to be able to celebrate with music, and to have so many friends who support and encourage me. I have such a full life, truly, and I think it hit me very hard this July 10th.

I also dodged a few age questions. Not that it's any big secret how old I am, but ever since I was a teenager I've marveled at how much we use age as a tool to judge others by, when the one thing we truly have absolutely no control over is when we are born. What changes in your perception of someone if they are older or younger than you thought? We should challenge our perceptions... I think it is interesting how a very young person with incredible talent is held up as the epitome of achievement in our culture, but that young person will age as inevitably as anyone else, they will celebrate one birthday every year just like you, and even if you only encounter their talent when they're in their thirties or forties or beyond, that doesn't mean they weren't a child prodigy, or that you wouldn't have been impressed at them at age 14. Talent should be ageless. Its maturation should be celebrated. We trade youth for other virtues. I don't say this because I feel like I'm old, just the opposite. I feel young and vital, a baby in fact, in an industry where everyone around me is listening to the ticking of the clock. Good songs are never written with a timer in front of you. Do you REALLY care how young I am? :)

Anyhow, on to another subject. I went to dinner with friends last Thursday night, and the girls and I sat around listening to music for hours after the meal was over. These two girls, Danielle and Lori, shared an experience with me that night that I haven't felt able to indulge in in years. I love sharing songs and artists with people who might not have heard of them before, and one of the artists I really wanted to introduce to Danielle and Lori that night was Patty Griffin, although I had a tremendous brain fart that night and kept thinking she was Nanci Griffith. Totally different artists, though both incredible in their own right of course. After leaving Danielle's house the night of the dinner party in utter frustration that I couldn't find (or even remember) what I was looking for, I suddenly pictured a cassette tape of this artist's music that my friend Phoebe had made for me and realized it was, after all, Patty. I went out and bought three of her albums and proceeded to discover that music still has the ability to throw my world into a fast spin, stand me on my head, make me fall in love again, make me weep while driving in my car, make me want to spread the joy I've found far and wide. I encourage anyone reading this who doesn't already know Patty to invite her music in. Patty Griffin is a consummate songwriter. Here are the lyrics to her song, "Long Ride Home." :

Long Black Limousine
Shiniest car I've ever seen
Back seat is nice and clean
She rides as quiet as a dream

Someone dug a hole six long feet in the ground
I said goodbye to you and I threw my roses down
Ain't nothing left at all at the end of being proud
With me riding in this car and you flying through them clouds

I've had some time to think about it
And watch the sun sink like a stone
I've had some time to think about you
On the long ride home

One day I took your tiny hand
Put your finger in the wedding band
Daddy gave a piece of land
And we made ourselves the best of plans

Forty years go by with someone laying in your bed
Forty years of things you say you wish you'd never said
How hard would it have been to say some kinder words instead
I wonder as I stare at the sky turning red

I've had some time to think about it
And watch the sun sink like a stone
I've had some time to think about you
On the long ride home

Head lights searching down the driveway
The house as dark as it can be
I go inside and all is silent
And seems as empty as the inside of me

I've had some time to think about it
And watch the sun sink like a stone
I've had some time to think about you
On the long ride home

-Patty Griffin

I also adore her song "Mary" and on my drive out west (where I currently am) I saw a HUGE statue of Mary atop a mountain in Montana and every lyric of the song rang truer than ever before. I have much more to write about in terms of our three day drive across the country, and my new musical inspiration, but it's late and I'm exhausted. I can hopefully plant in your mind the image of a magnificent white stone statue of Mary so huge it dwarfs two hundred year old trees, yet manages to seem only regal and beautiful, not gaudy or intrusive, no matter your religious beliefs. I think anyone can relate to the pain and loss Patty Griffin describes through the experience of Mary in this excerpt from the song:

Jesus said 'mother I couldn't stay another day longer'
And he flies right by and leaves a kiss upon her face
While the angels were singing his praises in a blaze of glory
Mary stays behind and starts cleaning up the place...

June 30, 2005

Now that the band's got a blog, I guess I have to keep up? That's not really fair since it's 6 against 1, but I will do my best.

I just finished my stint as one of the judge's for Mid-Missouri Idol. Tonight's finale was a tough call, because there was a lot of talent onstage. The ultimate winner scored points with me because he wrote and arranged his own song for the competition. "Idol" is seemingly anti to everything I am striving for in my career, but I loved getting to hear all these great singers and it was admittedly a heck of a fun time. I'm so glad they asked me to be part of it...I met some fabulous people and had a bit too much of an amaretto sour tropical liquer after the show! So forgive me if this blog is rambling, nonsensical, or just plain random, it's the drink talking!

On a serious note, one of the reasons I've been out of commission on the blogs for a while is that our neighbor and good friend passed away just a few weeks ago, and it was devastatingly difficult. We visited him in the hospital the day before his death, and although it was a beautiful and comforting thing to get to say everything we wanted to say, and to see his cancer-riddled body finally escape into peace was a relief, it was so difficult to say that final goodbye. How do you turn your back that last time? I leaned over Maurice's bed, looked into his eyes, and promised him I'd be writing him a song, commemorating the way in which he touched so many lives. Polite and thinking of others 'til the end, he said, "why thank you!" He told us we could still keep mowing his lawn, and that he'd be keeping an eye on our houses, too. There we were, laughing even at the endtimes.

His family said the CD that was in his car stereo when they went through it after his death, was one of mine: Come In, Come In, I believe. While it brought me comfort to know he enjoyed my music, that CD also served as a painful reminder that he'd not drive in that car and turn on that stereo again. The tie that bound us on this earth was in some way represented by that CD, and now the bond is broken. We miss him very much.

It seems wrong to jump into any other topic from that one, in fact it is strange that I started this blog talking about Mid-MO Idol and THEN spoke of Maurice. I'm not going to erase the first part of this blog though....it was the vehicle that drove me to this point, and I think Maurice is the true story, what I really what I wanted to talk about. But it's so hard for me to face loss of any kind, I sometimes have to shut down all the pathways, all the outlets, all the songs, all the writing, all the stories, or it just hurts too much. I think of how hard it is to leave the house, look across the street, and know he won't ever come loping out of that house again. I think of our experience with him in the hospital during his last days, and it reminds me of being an eleven-year-old girl saying goodbye to my grandpa, who also died of cancer. All I could say at that time, through the fear and confusion, was "I love you Grandpa." Does he know I was there? He responded, and I wonder if it brought him any comfort, the only grandchild of 5 who was able to at least stand by his bedside and kiss his cheek. And then I think of my brother, to whom I never got to say goodbye, to whom I never even apologized for our last fight, whom I hadn't hugged for far too long, and I wonder if he and Grandpa are partying somewhere only they know.

OK....where did this come from? Obviously there's been more on my mind than I realized. But blog time must end for now, or this pathway will lead me to the cliff's edge! :) I have much more to write about, but in deference to those I've lost and am thinking about tonight, I will sign off and say to them: goodnight, sweet princes.

May 27, 2005

Today I have a lot on my mind. For starters, what does a girl have to do to find a quality women's magazine? Go buy one targeted at men....

Drawn by an interview topic on the cover of a certain men's monthly, I purchased my first magazine marketed almost exclusively toward males yesterday and inside was revealed the well kept secret: there is actual READING MATERIAL in there, not just a few prettily-printed-paragraphss meant to appease us women! Plea to journalists, advertising companies, celebrities, photographers, magazine and marketing moguls, anyone involved in the publication of a magazine: sometimes we DO get tired of the ads, the hype, the see-through faux intellectualism. Give us real articles, decent music and film reviews, thoughtful commentary, sarcastic humor. I know magazines like this exist for both sexes, but the number of what I call "glamour-tax" magazines we see on shelves FOR women is somewhat insulting. But hey....if there's a market, right?

Which brings me to my next topic, something I've been thinking about for a long time, but which was brought into clearer focus thanks to a couple of articles from the above-mentioned men's magazine. One article was a tongue-in-cheek, autobiographical look at the nature of fame written by Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas. He "bemoans" the fact that he's one of pop's most mocked musicians. I'm guilty! Years ago, I bought the single of "Push" and spent the next couple of years redeeming myself by, yes, hating 'everything Matchbox Twenty stood for.' I don't think I really asked myself "what DO they stand for? Do they care to stand for anything?" Thomas' self-insight ends with the conclusion that even people HE admires don't have to admire him or like his music, and that when he began writing and performing, he never envisioned being the butt of people's anti-commercialism jokes. Heck, at one point, even Rob Thomas thought he was an ARTIST! Perhaps he still does, and he admits to having his OWN Rob Thomas, a musician he thinks is a slave to the money-machine: the lead-singer of Creed. With apparent irony, he says, "now THAT guy sucks!"

The way I see it....the ability to hate another artist in ANY medium is a luxury. Sometimes what we hate in others we'd see in ourselves if we paused to take a closer look. Rob Thomas, who I have felt writes shallowly, arrogantly commercial love songs, was doing something I've wondered if I could do: reach millions with his music. If people are buying it, if he's being voted BEST SONGWRITER, then by what yardstick are we measuring artistic integrity and honesty? Does he curl his moustache with an evil gleam in his eye while typing formulaic "song plots" into his magic song-a-matic machine and while waiting to 'see what pops out' belch effusively after a grand two-hundred dollar meal? I truly think he believes at least SOME of what he writes about. We might not be able to compare him to Dylan, but let's grant him some credit for knowing he isn't in that league to begin with.

And what about the artists we grant "cool" status to? As another article in above-mentioned men's magazine notes, COOL band Coldplay was once a well-kept secret you could enjoy keeping from your music-loving friends just to one-up them. Now, your teenage daughter and your grandmother might both listen to this band. So, do we turn our backs on them now? Is obscurity the only measure of artistic integrity? The tides of fortune change...

It is exciting that we are given access to much more indepedent and unknown music than ever before through the internet. Should I wish for "success" on a large scale and risk losing all validity with my long-time fans? What will they say about me if I do? Even if I'm writing the same songs, will they sound the same when pumped through Clear-Channel owned radio stations across the country on a four-hour rotation? Should I shun the possibility of this "success" and hope I remain valid and honest and unknown? Ultimately, the answer must be to come to terms with WHY you do what you do, and be satisfied with yourself. Surely I perform for the people in the audience. But I also must retain a "true north" when it comes to my artistic purpose. Commercialism on the right, obscurity on the left, and the truth somewhere in-between. I will write what I believe....

May 8, 2005

I am writing this entry on Mother's Day from Chicago where we are celebrating with Michael's family. We did the traditional Italian over-eating, but luckily I had a good workout today to try and compensate. My post-feast digestion might be aided by a little typing. (At least my fingers will be moving, while the rest of me sits and soaks up the calories!) :)

I realize that I haven't written anything about my trip to Nashville and the current project, the showcase I did there on the 26th of April, or the great Little Feat opener we played on the 29th. Nashville was a whirlwind, but a great one. With only one hour of rehearsal, I performed with three excellent studio musicians, two of whom played on "Out of the Wilderness," at the club 3rd and Lindsley. The crowd was so gracious and wonderful. I have never performed in Nashville before, so to be so welcomed by people who had come to support other artists was phenomenal. Matthew Wilder and I are in the midst of contract negotiation for a 5-song publishing deal which is being funded by an "angel investor" who was also at the showcase and was happy to finally see me perform live. He and his wife were kind and generous and I was thrilled to finally meet them. Hopefully the negotiations will go smoothly, and, as planned, we should be co-writing our songs in early June, with a tracking date to follow soon thereafter. The goal is to move ever-closer to the elusive radio-hit, while not sacrificing quality, heart, honesty. It's strange and terrifying to commodify art, which is why I never go into anything with that intent, or try to block the awareness of it that looms around me. But I don't want to go down some negative path right now, because overall I feel very good about the direction things are going and I truly believe I have good people around me.

I am ESPECIALLY thrilled with the band....The Hilary Scott Band, with whom I have peformed for nearly 5 years. At our recent opener for Little Feat (the second we have had the pleasure to do) we were tight, we were together, we clicked. We've had many shows recently where I think it can't possibly get better, and then it does. Standing on a stage with 6 men who are friends and brothers to me, who have my back, who tease me enough to keep me tethered to the ground but who build me up when things get toughest, and who I truly can trust is an AMAZING feeling unlike any other. I might be walking a tight-rope up there, but they are the ones holding my hands on either side, or standing below with the net. They see me through to the other side. They're not playing with me for the big bucks (obviously not - or we would have all split long ago) or the fame (though our fans make us feel like rock stars) but because they love music, they find something of value in mine, and because we all, at the heart of things, get along like a family. I realize I've made some of the best friends of my life in my bandmates.

As for the show itself (sorry - I got sentimentally sidetracked) the crowd was phenomenal. I believe I might have remarked on this last August after we opened for Little Feat in Kansas City at the Beaumont Club, but Little Feat fans are loud, friendly, and open music appreciators who make you feel completely at home. Several people travelled a great distance to see US play, which was a hell of a compliment considering Little Feat's legendary status. As always, when we did get to chat for a minute with a couple members of LF, they were kind and real, and I am so grateful to them for the opportunity to open for them a second time. We hope there is a third! And with our acoustic guitarist, Bill Adams continuing his radio show on KOPN 89.5 FM, we are sure to stay in touch with Little Feat; his featured band of choice.

Well....I just finished a bowl of Moose Tracks ice cream and I think I am ready for sweat pants and a good book. Michael and I took the day off tomorrow so we could maybe sleep in a little and drive home at a leisurely pace. Here's to my mother, grandmothers, stepmother, mother and step-mothers in law, grandmothers-in-law, sisters, sisters-in-law, friends who are mothers, and all women out there: Happy Mothers Day. In Italy, there is "Festa Della Donna." The Festival of the Woman. They celebrate us all, regardless of our maternal status...but let's face it, we all have a soft spot in our heart for mothers, the noblest of creatures, in my opinion.

May 5, 2005

So much has happened in the last few weeks. Part of the reason I haven't blogged is due to utter lack of time, the other part is due to not being certain I can adequately describe some of the things that have happened in my life recently.

One of my friends and fellow musicians, Jon Rubin, was critically burned on over 65% of his body a little over a month ago. Although Jon and I had only hung out a few times, we shared opinions on, and a passion for, music that immediately made me feel a bond to this incredible person. Jon reminds me a bit of my brother as well, who passed away several years ago. Jon and his family attended the Officer Down Benefit in late February and I also ran into him several times around town, in almost cosmic coincidence and was always thrilled to see him. He's the sort of person that brightens your day, is incredibly funny and intelligent, always has something valuable to add. It came as a terrifying shock to learn that he had been in a fire...but it came as no surprise that he had heroically jumped out of a second-story window, through the flames, and rushed to inform firefighters of where the other people in the house were. His concern was so focused on the others, and Jon's family tells me the firefighters get tears in their eyes just recounting the story.

He has been in the hospital for nearly 5 weeks now, and has gone through multiple surgeries. He is making fast and amazing progress, even though to those who care about him it seems painfully slow. He is no longer on dialysis, and they've replaced the respirator with a tracheotomy. Last week everyone was reminded of the roller-coaster ride of this type of recovery, as Jon had some very scary minutes when a mucus plug blocked his tracheotomy and his heart rate fell unexpectedly. The term "flatline" is spoken with fear and superstition now. I am so glad to see Jon sitting up and "responding" wih hand movements and his beautifully aware eyes, but all of us await the day when he gets the tracheotomy out and we can once again hear his voice. His family is amazing, and they have embraced all of the friends that come to the hospital to check on Jon, including Michael and myself. I wish I could do more for them, his dear sister Danielle and amazing brother Jason, his sweet parents and closest friends. I admire their strength, and see where Jon gets it!

I have felt like the clumsily bumbling idiot who wants so desperately to tell Jon how we've been praying for him and thinking of him constantly, and when I actually come face to face with him, the words either seem wrong, or fail to come at all. So, I do the only thing I know, which is play songs at shows that are dedicated to him, tell his amazing story to anyone who will listen, and hope that when he's done with physical therapy and we once again get together for the jam session to end ALL jam sessions, he will not chide me too much for being overly sentimental or corny. I can't help it....Jon is the sort of person who inspires much emotion and whose story inspires us all to live each day more fully, fight a bit harder for what we believe in, relegate the unimportant everyday bothers to the level they deserve, which is to be swept from our mind as quickly as possible, to make choices based on the truest desires of our heart, and to believe in miracles. The strength of the human spirit is amazing, and Jon is a testament to that....

This is not the appropriate blog in which to discuss anything but Jon, so more will come soon.

March 25, 2005

My recent trip to Nashville to discuss my next project was awesome. Michael accompanied me and we stayed at the home of my producer, Matthew Wilder. Matt and I discussed which songs we'd like to work on together for the next 5-song project. We are even more focused on creating radio ready singles, since that is what we were"hired" to do by the people who are investing in the project. They will pay for the recording and mastering of the project, and possibly even the packaging, as well as give me a stipend for my travels. This is essentially my first 'publishing deal'. The object is to get the songs heard by as many industry contacts as possible, get the tracks on radio or purchased by a major label as part of a deal. Meanwhile, my first 5-song EP "Out of the Wilderness" continues to be presented to industry contacts, and is doing very well on college radio.

While we were in Nashville this time, we discussed the showcase series Matt Wilder will be directing, which is hosted by ASCAP. It will take place once a month (I will probably go once a month or every other month to showcase) at a club called 3rd and Lindsley. We went to the club to check it out. Great sound, good crowd for a Monday which bodes well for our Tuesday night showcase, and one of the places alternative-rock talent is being searched-for right now in Nashville. Matt ended up sitting next to a man I didn't recognize, but was soon introduced to me (I won't give his name in the interest of his privacy). As we chatted I learned more about this man's history, and realized I was in the presence of someone very important. It was only when the night was over and we were in the car on the way home that I learned just HOW important this man is. He single-handedly was reponsible for getting Celine Dion her first hit in America, persuading radio to play it. He has managed bands ranging from heavy metal bands like Slayer to country bands like The Judds. He's the type of man who could take you under his wing and make your career happen. And, he was down-to-earth and easy to talk to. He will possibly be at my showcase on the 26th, which makes me a little more nervous, but mostly I'm excited about performing. Although details are not finalized, it looks like Michael will accompany me on Djembe if he can make the trip, and possibly some of the amazing musicians who played on my first EP and who I've talked about a lot in previous blogs, on my website, and in my newsletter will also perform with us that night.

Speaking of those studio musicians, we had a chance to have dinner with Gary and Jerry and their families. Mexican food! These musicians raise cool kids! :)

I also had a chance to work out in an awesome YMCA. I'd been wondering about those 'cool gyms' which are kept at a lower tempetature, like 60 degrees or so. It was almost cold when we got in, but it made my workout easier, I didn't feel as sweaty and uncomfortable, and supposedly you burn more calories working out while also trying to stay warm. I'm running an average of 7.6 miles 6 times a week, and I guess I'm publishing this in my blog because I'm proud of myself. Running and working out like a mad woman is a way for me to test myself physically and mentally, and push my boundaries. It is also improving my performances, breath support, posture, strength, etc.

My mother sent me an Easter basket, it was the cutest thing ever. I get all sappy when I talk about my mom. She is one of those wonderful women who remember every holiday and make you feel so special by sending you something. I ate all the chocolate right away. When it comes to candy and gifts from my mom, I am like a five-year old at Christmas!

April is going to be a great month music-wise, with the band playing on Sunday the 24th for Earth Day in Peace Park, the Nashville showcase on Tuesday the 26th, and a second time opening for Little Feat at the Blue Note on Friday the 29th. Into the wild blue yonder!

March 12, 2005

The Officer Down Benefit Concert on February 26th was amazing....as you can see by the current date, it has taken me a while to absorb and reflect on everything. Although I could go into extreme detail about the night, as it is burned into my memory as a nearly flawless event, there are only a few very simple things that really need to be said.

Meeting Molly's parents, others who knew her, and meeting Curtis Brown (the other officer wounded that night) was incredible. I hugged them, and tears that had been threatening behind my eyes all evening finally came forth. That was the moment it ALL became worth it.

The songs felt so right that night, imbued with higher meaning.

God was with us, guiding us. Must have been, because the band played better than ever, and I don't say that from an egotistical place, I just believe that it was meant to be a great night, even beyond us. The crowd gave us a standing ovation, which was a wonderful feeling since I truly felt it was not just about the music we had played, it was about the feeling we had given people. I hope, as I said that night, we gave them a little joy and a lot of hope.

The people who were there in the crowd that night receive my warmest thanks, and the appreciation of everyone in the band, and of the organizers, particularly Tim Fancher, who started the whole thing.

Next we must send out many thank you cards (and this will also be a digital thanks) to all the media supporters, those who gave donations, ticket outlets, and private individuals who helped make it happen. We will remember those who gave of their time, talent, energy, and hearts.

Perhaps in another e-mail I will speak more about the songs that night, some of the experiences I had meeting audience members, the venue and the cool things that happened, even a few amusing stories, and some of the post-show facts like how much money was raised, etc, but for now, let's just leave it at this: it was as it was meant to be. And it was phenomenal.

My heart, once again, goes out to Molly's family and friends, Curtis Brown and his family and friends, and my warmest thanks possible to everyone who supported the concert and the Officer Down Fund in whatever way they could.

Marisa, Shawn, Anthony, and Michelle: you guys rock! Family is what it's about.

February 22, 2005

I have been busy for over a month planning a very special concert to be held this Saturday, February 26th at Launer Auditorium at Columbia College, and the planning has taken precendence over everything else, hence the reason I haven't written in so long. The sad part is, there's been SO many wonderful things that have happened in the last few weeks that would have made for expansive blogs, but now you'll probably be left to a short run-down of all the facts.

This Saturday's concert is a special benefit for the Officer Down Fund in memory of Molly Bowden, a Columbia police officer killed in the line of duty. She was only 26 years old, a wife, stepmother, sister, and daughter. Her story resonated with me as it did with so many people, and while police officers have good insurance coverage, they often have continuing medical costs or are unable to work for a period of time, and the Officer Down Fund is for those officers. It's relatively new in many cities, and Molly's tragic death has called attention to its importance here in Columbia. I was glad to donate my time and music to this cause, I know how much it hurts to lose a loved one, especially one so young and full of life who was only trying to live the best life she could and help the rest of us in whatever way she could. We hope to raise $10,000 for the fund this weekend, as well as provide comfort and hope to Molly's family and friends, and the community at large since the recent rash of violence in Columbia has shaken us all.

In the past two weeks I've had many radio and TV appearances to help promote the concert, and have had the challenge of waking up early, singing in the wee hours of the morning, and then trying to make it through the rest of my day on minimal sleep. I guess it's good practice for what I say I want to do with the rest of my life! :) Seriously though, last Thursday evening was our appearance on the Amy Miller show (93.9 FM) with Tim Fancher who organized the concert, Friday morning I was on David Lyle's show on KFRU AM 1400, Sunday morning I was on BXR 102.3 FM and sang live on Tony Barbis's Acoustic Sunrise, today I was on KMIZ Channel 17's morning news show, and this Thursday morning Tim and I will be on Y107 FM's morning show. I've always been comfortable talking and even singing on air, but the interesting highlight of these media appearances came on Amy Miller's show when a caller phoned in to say some very thoughtless, rude, and critical things about all of the attention Officer Bowden's death has gotten. He used the non-word "heroizing" and said we shouldn't be turning Molly into a hero because so many other people risk their lives every day. Hmmmm....I'm sure, dear reader, that you can see the inherent flaws in his argument. First of all, it takes so much more energy to be critical like this than it does to simply be glad Columbia is coming together and supporting the law enforcement community. Secondly, there are many people who RISK their lives every day, but Molly actually died. Third, for those people that die every day, they are mourned by friends, loved ones, and acquaintances too, and the nature of their death and how it resonates with people determines their 'hero' status. And let's not forget the heroes we create that are still living. Finally...acknowledging Molly as the hero she is does not take anything away from all those other people who are also giving the best they can to the community each and every day. We should celebrate them too...

The caller also said I must be getting great publicity from this. Well, the publicity is certainly the farthest from my mind on my list of reasons for doing this show. I have gotten pretty decent media coverage in the past so I didn't need this for my career. It's just been wonderful to see how many media outlets have been willing to help out. It's a fact; the more people hear about this on the radio or on TV, the more likely they are to buy a ticket and attend the show, and the closer we get to our $10,000 goal. If more people learn about me in the meantime, I certainly don't scorn the publicity, but this man had no clue what I've done to make this show happen, how much it means to me to be part of this, or how much time I've given to other charitable causes in the past, never being paid a penny, just hoping to make a real difference. Perhaps if this man had ever listened to my music he would know that. Here's lookin' at you, Joe...if anyone who was a friend or family member of Molly heard your call, I'm mortified for you, and you should be ashamed...

On to happier subject...the weekend before last we travelled down to West Plains and played a show at the Yellow House Performing Arts Center. It was a great show, about three times as many people there as last time, although since it is truly in a HOUSE it's still an intimate crowd where emphasis is placed on telling stories and bantering with the crowd, which I did a lot of. We got to stay with one of Michael's friends near Doniphan in a cabin right on the river. It was quite the experience. We had some bonding time in the long ride there and back, and our photographer Kevin Dingman came along to donate his talents.

Then last weekend we had a Friday night show at D'Agostino's which was a blast with Rob on electric, Mike on bass, and Michael on percussion. Saturday we played for the University of Missouri Women's Leadership Conference and sold CDs like crazy...they were a great audience.

Sunday's live show at BXR was a lot of fun. It was the first time Tony had done an in-studio on his show, but it went very well. 40 minutes flies by when you have so many things you want to talk about. Jeff Sweatman might play one of the live cuts on his lunch online show, and has been very supportive of the upcoming show as well.

Press kits are going out to major labels, radio, festivals, and reviewers, so the big push is just around the corner. Several investors are also interested in funding another writing/recording project in Nashville, so we are ironing out those details as well. Early reports from Belltown are that Out of the Wilderness has gotten great reviews from radio DJs especially in Chicago, and Europe is taking more notice as well, with a possible article about me in Aktueel magazine, a Netherlands-based men's magazine somewhat akin to Playboy. (I'd be fully clothed however...)

Well, there is the long and short of it (OK....mostly short) and here's to hoping I stay more on top of my blog writing in the future. But don't I always say that?


January 23, 2005

Today I look forward to a milestone that is important to me as a teacher: the winter recital for my private lesson students. It is amazing how the year flies by, and since we only have one or two recitals a year, I always reflect at this time on how quickly time marches on. (I also tend to view a "year" in terms of a school year, as many teachers do.) I am very proud of my students, who have achieved so much and who continue to amaze me. In just a couple of hours, 17 of my students will play piano, violin, or sing for their friends and families. Today I am not on the stage, they are. Today I hope to focus on how wonderful it is that they are giving their gift of music to other people by performing, but also talk about other ways in which your talents can affect and help people.

Which brings me to the next topic, that of the Officer Down Fundraiser concert which we are in the process of planning. Although the details are not yet 100% certain, (hence my reluctance to mention time, place, date, or hosts) it WILL happen within the next month or so. A friend of mine, who has been interested in aspects of sociology, criminal justice, safety, and law, for most of his life, and who happens to also be a music fan, had the idea of bringing the community together to raise money for the families of officers, and the officers themselves, who were wounded in the recent, tragic, rash of violence in Columbia, especially Molly Bowden, whose future health remains uncertain. I know I have been deeply alarmed and affected by these events close to home, and worldwide events, such as the Tsunami, that have all of us perhaps reflecting on the frailty of life. In recognizing that any one of us could be gone in an instant, we not only must appreciate life and those around us more fully, but give of what we can to provide comfort for those going through a difficult time.

Of course I am biased, but I believe music can bring people together and stir emotion unlike almost anything else. I am honored to have the opportunity to help bring people together to help, if we can. I DO know that tickets will be $10, ALL money will go to the Officer Down Fund, (the band and I receive no money for our performance) and a portion of CD sales will also be contributed to the fund. Additional donations are of course welcome. Local media is being very supportive, and this event will be getting great radio, newspaper, and TV coverage. Molly's injuries were so severe and will require such long-term care that her health insurance will not be able to cover all the hospital costs, and she may not be able to return to work in the future. I am hoping we can raise $10,000, which will still only scratch the surface for her and her family, but will hopefully provide them with a little comfort. Molly, and every officer, was and is serving our community in the capacity of a protector, so we should try to give back whenever possible, and recognize the risks they take when serving us.

I will provide more details on the concert as soon as I get final confirmation. Again, the concert WILL be in a venue in Columbia, tickets will be available for pre-sale at $10, it will be on a Saturday evening, and an early show (7:30pm) so that families with children can attend. All ticket proceeds, additional donations, and a portion of CD sales for that evening will go to the Officer Down fund.

Thanks for your support of music, and each other.

January 1, 2005

Wow! Last night the band had a fantastic New Year's Eve gig for First Night in Columbia. The venue we played at was so stuffed past capacity that I was told by a neighbor of mine who tried to attend that the site manager wouldn't allow them into the room, due to fire codes. There were people in the hallway and lined up the stairs, as we played on the second floor. Anyhow, it felt great to have such a full, responsive, fun crowd, and I couldn't have imagined a better way to ring in the new year. The band also was in rare form musically and everything came together beautifully with a couple of songs we had changed around. A few of my private lesson students attended, and it was so fun to see them sitting front and center. Also, CD sales were great, so I send a huge 'thank you' to everyone who supported us by attending the show, and everyone who gave their support by purchasing the music.

Since we only got back from Colorado Thursday night, we felt pretty pooped after the show, so we weren't able to take people up on several offers we had to celebrate downtown, go to private parties, or do much of anything except walk to our next-door neighbors house, drink a couple of beers, watch Seinfeld re-runs, and then say goodnight as soon the 2005 was born. But if New Year's Eve is any omen of things to come this year, I have nothing but high hopes.

Thanks to BA, who called us up after midnight and told us to turn on KOPN 89.5 FM. He was playing several cuts from Come In, Come IN: LIVE and wanted us to hear.

Happy New Year to everyone!