December 15, 2010

I have been a BAD BLOGGER for the past handful of weeks, sorry! November saw me quite happy as AJ visited and we truly "Did Fukuoka" in the ten days he was here - we hit a couple of nightspots that were very fun (one a country bar that had hundreds of beers and more American country music and beer paraphenalia than I've ever even seen in the states, and played only old-style - i.e. REAL - country music on the jukebox) and one a cool little traditional Japanese restaurant/bar where we had our own secret hut to hide inside as we drank. We saw many temples and shrines, walked all over the city, went to visit the beautiful beach, Yahoo Dome and Fukuoka Tower, the Fukuoka Castle ruins, and much more. I had saved all my sightseeing for his visit, and am pleased to say we hit up everything I wanted to see, except the brewery. :)

In terms of my performances, I'm down to 20 remaining, in a total of 89 I will have done in my time here. Things are getting busier and busier as the hotel gears up for Christmas and New Year's Eve, and there are decorations decorating, dressed-up dancers dancing, fake snow a-blowing, and recorded carols a-caroling, all over Canal City. I may be spending Christmas alone over here, but it is hard not to feel the 'spirit' when around here everyone else definitely celebrates the season.

I have been asked to do two sets of piano/vocal and one set of guitar/vocal on New Year's Eve, so I'm preparing for that, and excited to mix it up. The crowd will be full of people coming from Tokyo to visit family for the first part of the year, I'm told, lots of young couples ready to party.

To sum up my performance experiences here in Japan, I have a couple of anecdotes. A couple of weeks ago, a couple came and sat right in the front of the audience. They were obviously really engaged, and right before the last song of my second set, the gentleman approached the stage. As the staff does not allow anyone onstage, someone came to escort him off and tell him 'no requests.' He had started to tell me how much he loved my voice and music, and to ask me to play a song, but didn't get to finish his thought before the staff started to pull him offstage, so he held out his hand to shake mine, I thought, and there was a piece of paper in it. I thought maybe he had written a request on it, but instead he had given me the yen equivalent of $125. I had to speak to him and see if I could do anything to fulfil his request, especially since he had given me the tip even without being able to ask for what he wanted. On my break I went to his table, thanked him profusely and asked him what song he had wanted. He actually hadn't been asking even for a specific song, just one song dedicated to his lovely wife on her birthday. (He was wanting to surprise her, and was asking me this while she was in the restroom). He wanted me to pick any song and just mention her birthday. It was so touching. When I got back for my next set, I wished his wife happy birthday and dedicated 'The Way You Look Tonight' to her. They were so thrilled. I approached them afterward to thank them again and wish her another Happy Birthday, and expected to either shake hands or just bow in recognition, but the wife grabbed me and gave me a huge hug. I was absolutely astounded and touched by this rare display of warmth. It has never happened to me here, before, or since. And it let me know just how important what I had done was, for them. It was a reminder of the power of music, and its ability to cross any boundary. Then, a far shorter and simpler example of what has made this job so enjoyable for me: last night a table of three, as I was leaving the stage for the night, stopped me and said: "your voice makes us so happy." These things happen frequently, and give me back the energy I put out, ten fold. I love playing music for a living!

Looking forward, I depart in late January for France and Italy - several shows in France and recording the album with Euro Ferrari in Italy. Then it's back to the U.S. for full-speed-ahead wedding planning! I also will be performing with The New County Line during that time, and hopefully reuniting with the Hilary Scott Band for shows as well. And I will do my best to keep up with all of you through this blog. Thanks for reading, and thanks for your patience!

October 20, 2010

Officially feeling "settled in" in Fukuoka as I've been here just about four weeks, but now that I'm settled, I just wanna shake it up a bit! Getting to know some people that work in the hotel and meeting some guests has put me on the right track for getting out and about more, and experiencing more of the city and culture. On Halloween I will be heading out with a new Canadian friend I met, the wife of the executive chef here, so I'm really looking forward to that. Everyone I've spoken to has said that Fukuoka is a very nice city to live in if you speak the language fluently, but that it is a tough nut to crack for foreigners. Well - give me the nutcracker - I'm up to the challenge!

Last Sunday I took a little walk in the opposite direction of where I'd been exploring previously, my destination being a department store - not because I seriously wanted to shop, but because it would be a big eyesore on the horizon that I could easily identify. As soon as I stepped in and saw the Tiffany store, right next to Louis Vuitton, I knew I was most certainly in the WRONG place. :) It was kind of fun going up and down the escalators seeing how the other half lives while scandalizing the upper crust in my jeans and cowboy boots. OK - not really....everyone was very welcoming to me even though I surely didn't scream, "I can afford this stuff!"

But the walk there was far more interesting than the destination...I crossed over the river, which was shallow and dirty but nonetheless had several older men in waders fly-fishing in it....though what they might catch was a mystery I wasn't sure I wished to uncover. When I left the immediate environs of the hotel and Canal City I felt much more like the "foreigner" and my different appearance got more stares on "this" side of the river.

I saw a great example of teenage fashion I don't ever want to forget: lumberjack plaid shirt with micro-mini black schoolgirl skirt, thigh-high tites with pink lace on the top, and gold heels. I guess even in an ultra-fashion-forward place like Japan, teenagers still struggle to find their identity. :)

For the first two days of my work week, the national baseball play-offs were happening. Fukuoka apparently has a pretty hot team, so Canal City set up a public viewing on a huge screen projector right outside Bar Fizz's windows. While I was entertaining bar guests, the people watching the game outside were entertaining me. I could see the back of the screen and get a basic, mirror-image idea of what was going on in the game, but the reactions of the viewers were what really let me know. I'd be in a quiet moment of some song like "Summertime," and suddenly there's an "Oh no" type exasperated sigh coming from the crowd.....or during the romantic refrain of "Wonderful Tonight" I might hear a big "Yeah!" type cheer, and smile to myself, "yeah I really like how Eric Clatpon said that, too....oh wait!" :)

Then the night before last, a regular patron of the bar handed me some Halloween candy out of the blue. Almost brought tears to my eyes, as it was a perfect example of random kindness. She had no idea her little gift would make me feel so much better. I've been extra homesick since I'm missing my three favorite holidays back home this year, and that's always tough. The wrappers on the candy are great: along with a cute picture of a vampiric ghost or a knife-wielding pumpkin it says: "HORROR TIME!" (the beginning of MC Hammer's song goes through my head at this point) and then across the bottom it says: "Good Taste." Well, it's good to know that the person who eats the candy can interpret that as meaning the candy will be good, and also that the eater has "good taste" in having chosen that particular brand. Too funny.

My rehearsal experience this week was one I hope never to relive, however. They had me in a banquet room that had been shut all day with lights blazing (we're talking chandeliers and stage lights and every hot type of bulb you can possibly imagine) without air con. It was, no exaggeration, at least 90 degrees. I was sweating just sitting there, and after 90 minutes of playing piano and singing felt literally sick. A staff member came in at one point and apologized and started turning down lights, but it was already too late....whew. I hope next time they turn off the lights a few hours before my scheduled rehearsal time. I mean, not to complain too much - I want to learn "At Last" and all - it's one of my all-time favorite songs, but not sure it's worth dying for! LOL

My fiance comes to visit in three weeks and I am full-throttle thrilled! I plan on getting lots of video and pics while he is here since that is when I will do a lot of sight-seeing.

More soon! Thanks for coming along on this journey with me....

October 8, 2010

Almost a week has passed since I took my first exploratory walk around the immediate area where I live in Fukuoka. I posted the pictures I took of my adventure on my Hilary Scott Facebook page. There was a lot of activity going on last Sunday as I walked through Canal City. There had been concerts going on all day on a stage near the hotel, and when I started out on my walk there was what appeared to be a game show going on. Black or White by Michael Jackson was blasting out of the speakers, three women were standing in the center of the stage clapping and cheering and trying to get the crowd involved, and about twelve young men were walking around the outer edges of the stage in a circle. I had no clue what was going on - some version of musical chairs? When the music stopped, however, the men lined up across the back of the stage, then one by one stepped forward to introduce themselves and, I suppose, to say a little about who they were, etc. I figured perhaps it was some sort of "bachelor" style game. Not understanding the language sure takes the fun out of a game show, though, so I continued on my way.

Amidst all the Japanese brand stores, I ran into a Barbie store and a KFC next door to each other and was curious if I had been transported back to America somehow. :) I've noticed that in Asia, the main fast food brand is KFC, not McDonald's, and some Asian countries also have Pizza Hut. I haven't, nor am I planning, to try any of them, though!

I found a veritable "kareoke palace" across the street from the Canal City, and it's on my list of things to do. Also on my list of sight-seeing must-do's: Japanese temples, the highest building in Fukuoka, the famous baseball stadium, a club that is apparently quite the rage called Infinity, and if possible, taking the high speed train to Hiroshima.

The Japanese do everything with attention to detail, and they do it well. While I usually appreciate this very much, when it comes to Halloween decorations, I wish they weren't quite so creative! :) I took a series of photos of the "pumpkin-head men" that stand outside the hotel along the canals, and they just scare me! I know it's because of my traumatic childhood experience with horror movies, but, really....They also have some very cool light statues of skeletons that are poised over the water right next to where the dancing fountains go off.

Work this week was fun - although I caught a little bug and felt sick for a few days. The staff was wonderful to me, made me a ginger tea that has now become my favorite and they have ready for me every night (the bartender said it is his special recipe just for me - apparently he had not made it before) and continually ask after how I am doing or if I need anything. The crowds were bigger this week, and will continue to grow as we near the holidays. An interesting difference between American and Japanese culture is that whereas Christmas in America is usually a family holiday, in Japan it is considered one of the foremost nights each year for couples to go out on the town, very romantic and celebratory. And whereas in America New Year's is seen as a go out and party night, in Japan it is a stay-at-home holiday with family.

AJ comes to visit me in less than 5 weeks, and I'm really excited! For now I'm mostly buckling down working on original songs for the recording in Italy next year, and constantly trying to learn new songs to perform here at shows. One nice side-effect of having a lot of time on my hands is that it usually means lots of time to be creative...we will see what songs come out of this time!

September 30, 2010

At Bar Fizz, each performance is more fun than the last. This is definitely one of the hippest stages I've ever performed on. Across the venue from the stage, the bartop is made of a material that looks like blocks of ice covered in glass....hence the clear glass-like piano to retain the "ice" theme. The floor of the stage also mimics this ice-block pattern, and the blocks at the bar as well as on the music stage, are lit from within. The lights rotate through colors ranging from snow white to teal blue, to grass green, to royal purple, to fuschia, to red. As the bar fades from one color to the next, the stage soon follows the same pattern. Behind me on the stage is a running water feature, in fact the entire venue feels almost as though it is suspended in water, as the tables and chairs butt right up against these pools of water, and the huge windows looking out onto Canal City show the viewer dancing water fountains and decorative pools. At the beginning of each of my sets, at the top of the hour, the water fountains begin their dance, and the dance lasts for about as long as it takes me to complete my first one or two songs. One can imagine why it is called Bar effervescent drop of color and movement in the midst of all this water.

I am looking forward to my day off on Sunday in order to explore more of the city. The only walking around I have done so far was to register at city hall, pop into a photo booth to get passport pics, and head to the convenience store for bottled water. Canal City is a little incubator of activity, where you can find all you need in one place, but I am anxious to move beyond its walls. First on the agenda is to find an English bookstore. I can survive without English television and movies, but I cannot thrive without books. I am struggling to remember some of the Japanese I learned years ago and to learn more, but my mind seems too tired to retain it right now. I am surprised to learn that fewer people speak English here than did in Korea and Vietnam, so the language barrier is a bit isolating. But I've already made some friends, especially with my co-workers, who have promised to show me around a bit. Hopefully my next installment will include more information about the city itself, and some photos of the area I am in!

September 26, 2010

I am sitting here in my room at the Grand Hyatt Fukuoka, Japan, which overlooks a similar but smaller version of the choreographed water fountain one can see at the Bellaggio in Vegas. Neon lights are everywhere, as well as impeccably manicured floral gardens and greenery exhibits. The Grand Hyatt is part of a place called Canal City, which is a conglomeration of the hotel, shopping, art, movie theaters, entertainment, and more all in one small "city within the city." Bar Fiz, my venue for the next few months, overlooks all of the activity. When I arrived late last night to be met by the Japanese agent, Hiro, I immediately went to meet the performer who left today, and check out the venue. The stage is beautiful, a lighted floor, a clear glass-like piano, bamboo and water features surrounding you as you play. The bar creates a "signature drink" for each performer, and I am waiting to see what mine will be made of, and what they will call it. I watched some of the drinks being carried out from the bar, and every detail is seen to, including lighted ice cubes inside the drinks that are different colors depending on what you ordered.

Saying goodbye (twice!) back in the states was very difficult. When I left St. Louis and my fiance AJ, I kept looking back over my shoulder as I headed to security, wishing I could turn around. I absolutely am going to love this job and the people here and the adventure, but leaving home and the people I love for months at a time has always been difficult for me, even more so now that I am trying to plan a wedding! Ater St. Louis, I visited family in Seattle for a couple of days and it was again difficult to leave my mom and stepdad and grandma and get on that long flight to the land of the rising sun. However, now that I am here, I am ready to begin performing and learning about this place and the culture, which so far, is beautiful and inviting.

I am thrilled to report my guitar made it through the two flights here, so I must give kudos to United Airlines and Asian Airlines. The only casualty was a broken high E string when I was trying to tune it after opening the case. And that isn't their fault; the nut seems to have a sharp spot that often causes the high E to break. So, even without a heavy-duty flight case, my guitar survived the trip! And I survived the trip, being pleasantly surprised that all the flight attendants were very kind and helpful, and everything in the Tokyo airport was easy and efficient. I've had some rough trips lately where attendants were more than rude, (or where EVERYTHING went wrong, like it did on my last trip to Italy) but this one gave me back a bit of hope for the airline industry. I heard on the news that they are doing really well for the first time in a long time - making a big profit again. So, now I guess they can start giving us free peanuts again on domestic flights? Or how about NOT charging one hundred dollars for an extra domestic-flight bag anymore? One can dream....

So, I've decided technology and I aren't the best of friends. My room here is great - but everything runs on automatic switches. You come near the bathroom, the fan kicks on in anticipation; you walk by the closet, a light switches on even if you weren't planning on opening the doors; and there are no light switches, just a multi-button "console" (for want of a better word) near the bed that controls all the lights in the room and which I still haven't fully figured out. I'm not even going to go into detail about the bidet that can give your bum a wash and blow-dry! OK, maybe that was more detail than was necessary, but I'm thinking I will steer clear of that!

I start performing tomorrow evening after registering and getting my ID card, and sound-checking at the venue. I'm always a little nervous before a new job begins, but this one seems like it will be great in every way. I get to perform a nice mix of my original music and my choice of covers ranging from standards to modern pop and everything in-between. It keeps it interesting. While putting together my song list the other day, I realized that through these jobs I've learned nearly 150 new songs I had never played before! I will also be selling CD's, and here you must sell them for $20 or more....they actually view a higher price as a sign of better value. So I guess I've been spoiled by the music prices in America, which so many of us think of as high, but which are quite low in comparison to here. Also, after meeting the F&B director here today, I learned I will be doing different types of performance while here, such as guitar/vocal, and performances outside of the regular venue.

I hope to write blogs often, as I don't have a movie channel on my TV - therefore lots of time on my hands, haha!

July 7, 2010

For my birthday this year I have a very important wish: I wish that everyone who means so much to me would know it! Also, a huge thank you to my mom for all her help and support through the years. And mom and dad - thanks for creating me!
Two people who attended the 4th of July show at Faurot Field have raised a concern with me over why I chose to perform John Lennon's song, Imagine, at the festivities. I would like to address my decision here, in my blog.

Anyone who knows me even a bit knows that this next statement is absolutely unnecessary, but I will nonetheless say it: "I absolutely did not choose that song to antagonize, offend, or be anti-patriotic!" Quite the opposite, in fact! In college, I not only studied music, but I graduated with my degree in English literature. Any art form, in my opinion, is open to multiple interpretations, be that visual art, poetry, literature, or song lyrics.

One of the things I most strongly feel about Lennon's Imagine, is that it calls us to do exactly what the title implies: IMAGINE the world of which he sings, not take literally the world of which he sings. When Lennon sings "imagine there's no countries" for example, I believe he imagines a world in which divisions between people and the need to fight and kill each other for land ownership would be unnecessary. I won't go into all of the lyrics, because needless to say, each and every line is rendered with the possibility for multiple meanings and I choose the euphemistic interpretations. I consider this a simple and beautiful song about peace, definitely NOT an anti-patriotic song. I have the utmost respect for our troops, I have supported them in more than just my words, for several years, by donating to several military-based causes.

Furthermore, I performed this song in Asia, in countries that America has a history of war with, but with whom we are currently allied. I got chills when Vietnamese, South Koreans, or Japanese audience members started singing along. It was a glimpse, through music, of a possible peace. Like so many others, I too have had family members who served in the military, even during war times. I know there is a need for our strong military men and women, and I respect and honor them for their service – how wonderful it would be if none of them had to march to war ever again.

I believe the finest point that can be gleaned from this song (and the reason I ultimately chose it for performance on July 4th) is that if we could all IMAGINE a world more at peace, we might come a few steps closer to that peaceful world, where war would be null and void, and therefore our friends, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, husbands, wives, or parents would not need to fight, and possibly die in a war for ANY cause. I find that a wonderful thing to IMAGINE. Is it realistic? Am I being a Pollyanna? No - I feel that with this song, we get a respite from some of the brutal realities of this world, and imagine something different, even if only for three short minutes.

Thank you for reading this - if you were concerned enough to ask me for my reasons, I hope you will try to understand my point of view.

July 6, 2010

Oh, travel!!!! It seems I was fated to have alarmingly uncomfortable travel situations on my European adventure, but my ill-fated voyages resulted in very good luck once I arrived at my destinations, both with the un-forseen win/recording contract in Italy, and the performances/TV appearance in France.

My agent, Agnes Dautraix, of Miss Lucy and Company booking, met me at the train station on June 22nd, after my 14-hour mishap which included six train changes, two late trains, one train one which I almost didn't have a seat, and a full day with almost no food or water. But all complaining aside, seeing her face at the train station, along with her friend Sophie who soon also became my friend, was like a scene from a movie! We've been acquaintances on My Space for three years, and Agnes was one of those rare internet contacts who truly stayed in touch and we talked about significant things together; our personal lives, our musical dreams.

One of those dreams was for me to come perform in France one day, but it seemed unlikely. Because Agnes enjoyed my music, she asked if she could interview me. In the following months she interviewed more and more artists, eventually getting to the point where she was given backstage/press passes at shows of very famous touring and local acts. The culmination of her adventures was that she was asked to represent Kate Taylor (James Taylor's sister) and Murray Head (hugely popular and successful European musician and actor) and she asked if I would like to be on her roster as well. I jumped at the possibility, and with my trip to Italy coming up, we decided to try to book a few shows for the same trip. Somehow or other, we pulled it all together, and one of Agnes' great suggestions was that I perform shared shows with Norfolk, a local artist who writes and sings a folk/country style quite complimentary to my own.

So, on the 24th, Norfolk and I shared our first show at a club in Clermont-Ferrand called The Rat Pack. We had a good-sized, extremely appreciative crowd, and after only rehearsing for five minutes, we pulled together two songs that we performed as a duet. After that show, around midnight, we walked to a studio where we would film the "Sex Room Sessions," which is an internet/TV program quickly gaining popularity, and which has featured very well known musical acts. Despite the name, this is a quirky, inventive, hilarious short program intended to feature musicians in a raw live performance. Norfolk and I performed a duet, and I performed one song solo, crammed in a tiny closet-like space with twelve other individuals as a live audience, the cameraman and soundman, and a twin sized bed we stood on in order to record! It was quite an adventure, and I look forward to seeing the rough edit before the show is released.

On the 25th, we performed in Vichy at a wonderful micro-theater above a restaurant called La Bamboche. It was a great listening-room atmosphere, very intimate, and I sold a lot of CDs at the show, so it was clear people had just come to listen to the music. Afterwards we ate some of the best food ever at the venue's restaurant, then proceeded to decompress at Agnes' house, by staying up until 6am listening to music, chatting, and yes, sipping some great French alcohol! :) As I was struggling to recall some of the French I learned in the two years I studied it in high school, the girls decided to teach me this phrase: "je suis un peu pompette" : I am a little bit tipsy! I guess that night that was a perfect description of me! :)

I attended Agnes' daughter's ballet performance on the night of the 26th, and it was wonderful! We got to see all the classes perform at different levels of advancement, and then we saw some famous ballet dancers from Poland perform many different styles of dance. I was exhausted but incredibly happy with my experience, and also full of good cheese and Agnes' home-made lasagna!

Before heading back down to Rome on the train on June 27th, Agnes and I discussed future plans. When I return to Italy for recording in February of 2011, I will also head to France for a three week-to one month long tour of theaters and venues, most likely shared shows with Norfolk again, as that seems to be a good musical match. There were two promoters/agents for venues at the show we played at La Bamboche, and they are interested in helping us plan the tour. In conjunction with the album release in Italy and hopeful collaboration with publicists and agents there, the hope is to tour in Italy, France and possibly Spain as well.

My trip back down to Rome was uneventful and fairly easy. One train to Lyon, one bus to Torino, and one more train to Rome. Then I spent that Monday the 28th discussing plans with Euro Ferrari, as I have mentioned, and then flew back home with fairly little incidence. It feels great to be back home, and at the same time I'm excited to dive right in to plans and preparations for all that I need to do before next year's touring and recording.

I hope you all had a wonderful Independence Day - I performed with my band at the Fire in the Sky celebration in the football stadium on Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri and it was the most fun I've had in a long time. Happy Birthday, America. Oh, and my birthday is coming up in just four days, yikes!

June 28, 2010

The Festival Degli Autori singer-songwriter competition in Sanremo, Italy was an experience of a lifetime, and one that I am sure will launch my career to the next level. Beyond all of my expectations and hopes, I won the international section of the festival, and have been offered a record deal with Sanremo Productions. Other competitors were so fabulous I truly feel humbled and honored to have won. (Photo by Rosita Bonelli).

In the international section there were artists from America, Canada, the UK, and elsewhere in Europe. I met so many people who were not only wonderful artists but kind and humble people who were there for the love of the music and for the hope to take the next step in their careers by performing for important industry contacts. In the Italian section were huge talents I had met in November and also some new discoveries that I was incredibly pleased to come into contact with.

The competition itself was incredibly intense. On the first day we stayed inside the theater for a total of fourteen hours listening to 75 different artists perform their songs for a preliminary panel. Out of the Italian performers, ten were chosen to move on to the next day, but no one knew who had moved on until the next morning. On the second day, the ten Italian finalists were announced, and that afternoon the international artists presented their pieces, though I had also performed the day before, a duet I co-wrote with Maurizio Opinato. I felt so incredibly good about my performance that afternoon that I forgot that it was essentially the competition itself, for the third, second, and first place winners were to be announced that night after dinner. I had no expectation to win and simply felt pleased that I had sung my heart out, alone on a stage, a song that I had written and that meant so much to me, to the best of my ability. I had a couple of glasses of wine with dinner and ate avocado and shrimp and then suddenly my friend Rosita (who, interestingly, shared a hotel room with me and ended up winning in her section of the competition as well - she and I became fast friends) reminded me I might have to sing again that night if I placed in the top three. GULP! It really didn't seem possible.

Filing back into the theater, I didn't know where to sit or what to do with myself. I didn't want to be so presumptuous as to sit behind the curtain on the side of the stage waiting to be called, but I didn't want to be in the audience battling my way through the seated people if I was called on to perform and accept an award. And if I were called on to perform, I had a guitar that needed to be tuned! I decided to compromise, and when they announced it was time to call out the three top place-winners for the international section, I went and waited in the outer hallway of the theater, so I could run onto the side of the stage, grab my guitar, and race onto the main stage if needed. I heard my friend Marilu from Luxembourg get announced as third place, and she performed amazingly. I then heard my friend Laure Pere from Canada get announced as second-place winner and she presented a song that is very special and distinct. I felt sure the winner would be Marco who has a great voice, a stellar band, and was presenting a pop-rock song that the audience had really enjoyed. So when Maestro Ermanno Croce said "and our winner comes from very far away! All the way from Seattle, Hilary Scott!" I literally couldn't believe it. I managed to move my feet and pick up the guitar and felt somehow that there was a huge grin plastered on my face, but the next five minutes were somewhat of a dream as I walked onstage, thanked who I could remember to thank (forgot to thank Euro Ferrari but have since apologized to him and he understood - now I know how people feel when accepting awards and trying to remember all their thank-yous - I didn't prepare any because I sure didn't expect to win) and then performed "And Just" for the second time that night in a moment I will never forget. It felt amazing. Afterwards, I was so stunned, I didn't even realize exactly what had happened and I asked Maurizio, "what does this mean, exactly?" He said, "It means you got a record deal!" I literally hadn't gone into this expecting anything, so to suddenly realize how huge this was overwhelmed me a bit, but in the best of ways.

I want to thank Euro Ferrari for the amazing production and arrangement of my song, Maurizio Opinato for inviting me to apply for this festival, and Ermanno Croce for giving us all the opportunity to be part of this. I also need to thank my supportive friends and family who have helped keep me going on this long journey to a place where it now finally feels the flowers on the fruits of my labor are going to blossom. Thanks also to AJ for being a constant source of insiration and support, and being the story behind my winning song.

After accepting my first place plaque, we all went out to celebrate, and discuss possibilities for the future. I think many collaborations are going to come out of this, and since I sang for many important industry people and appeared on national TV, I feel like I have a great kick-start for all the things that are going to happen in 2011. Today I spent about an hour talking to Euro Ferrari about the plans for recording, publicity, promotion, concerts, etc. More on that to come, as well as a blog entry about the amazing and crazy whirlwind four days I spent in France with Agnes Dautraix and friends. Stay tuned!

June 25, 2010

...a quick note from the Hilary Scott webmaster...

Hilary Scott won the International section of the songwriter competition, Festival Degli Autori, Sanremo, Italy!!! More details to follow....

She is currently in France performing with artist Norfolk in two venues.

Expect another blog post from Hilary very soon!

June 18, 2010

For the past 6 days, I've been working in the studio with songwriter Maurizio Opinato and producer Euro Ferrari from the moment I wake until the wee hours of the morning. I wasn't aware of all the projects I would be asked to be a part of before I arrived. Not only did I record vocals for the song I wrote for the finals, and the song I co-wrote with Opinato as a duet for the finals, but I sang on another three songs for other artists, and wrote two verses in English for the theme song of the entire festival. I'm excited to have so many writing and performing credits on the project. The CD, to be released in October of this year, will therefore feature my writing on three songs and my performances on 5 songs.

The genres of music I've worked on since arriving range from classic Italian pop songs, to Spanish dance, to epic-group songs ala "We Are the World" featuring rap solos. The arrangement and production on my song "And Just" give it an alternative-pop sound that I am very excited about. Though Euro Ferrari brings a special vision and new ideas to my music due in part to being from Europe, he also tends to approach recording and production with a perspective he describes as being "more worldly". The marriage of the two perspectives is creating a sound I am incredibly satisfied with. One of Euro's pet peeves is when the vocal track is not forward and centered in a song, and when the voice loses one or more of its harmonic ranges due to EQ and compression and other factors. His treatment of the vocal is wonderful, and I can hear every subtlety of my voice, even with an incredibly dense layering of instruments and sounds underneath.

Euro never hesitates to teach as he works, so I've gained valuable insights during my time in the studio. He is also extremely humble and never hesitates to compliment artists on their strengths. This has given me a great shot of confidence! Hearing his stories about people he has worked with from Sting to Luciano Pavarotti to Isaac Hayes to....(and the list goes on and on) has been incredible as well. I feel like I am getting a week-long immersion in music, culture and history, all in one, as well as a workshop where I have gotten to work intensely on writing and performance.

Tomorrow, in the early morning, we depart fo Florence so that myself, Euro Ferrari, and Maurizio Opinato can appear on a television interview and live performance to promote the festival. Apparently people come in from all over to attend the two nights of festival performances, and both nights are sold out. I even have friends from the UK coming in to watch me perform. I will perform the duet with Opinato on Monday the 21st, and my solo song "And Just" on Tuesday the 22nd. Executives from Sony and other large labels, studios, media, etc. will be there on the judge's panel. I will definitely be nervous but it will fantastic exposure. The country's premier television network will record and air the second night of performances.

On Wednesday I depart for France to meet my agent Agnes Dautraix of Lucy and Company who will also be kind enough to put me up in her home for the duration of my stay. I wil appear on an internet/television show there, and perform on the 24th and 25th with French artist Norfolk. Agnes and I have been in contact, and internet friends, for three years. The possibility to work together and for her to book me in festivals and theater venues in Europe is a dream come true.

So, after all the spectacle and debacle of my ill-fated voyage here (haha!) I feel so fortunate to have arrived into this melting pot of talent I have been blessed to be part of. I look forward to seeing where this all leads....because if I have learned one thing, it is that you never know when or where a chance meeting or connection will blossom into a new and incredible collaboration or experience.

June 16, 2010

Wow! I've traveled internationally quite a lot, and have been fortunate, I now know, to have mostly avoided the kind of travel tribulations I endured on my way to Italy this time around. The first leg of my journey was from St. Louis to Chicago, usually an easy forty minute up and down ride. But there was 'intermittent weather' at O'Hare and apparently some planes were getting in, others not. We were in the line to land, but lost our spot after hovering in a holding pattern over the airport for more than an hour, when the pilot informed us they 'put all the fuel they possibly could on board the plane' but they were low on fuel and we'd need to divert to Peoria, Illinois, to re-fuel. I was supposed to be in Chicago by noon, with three luxurious hours to get a new boarding pass for my international flight to Rome. My bag was checked all the way through so no reason to worry (I would soon learn differently) and not having eaten since 7am I thought O'Hare would be a perfect place to grab lunch before boarding the international flight. Well, we ended up staying on the tarmac in Peoria for nearly TWO hours before taking off to Chicago once again and having to wait our turn for a spot on the landing strip. By this time it was after 3pm. My flight to Rome was supposed to leave, from a different airline in an entirely different terminal of the sufficiently LARGE O'Hare airport, at 3:35pm. While we were on the tarmac in Peoria, I happened to hear the gentleman in the window seat ask the girl sitting between us where she was headed. When I heard her say Bologna, I realized she was Italian. I struck up a conversation with her in Italian and we discovered we were on the same flight to Rome and thus in the same predicament. Her traveling partner was seated six rows ahead of her. For some reason they had seated me next to her instead of her friend. But I tend to meet Italians wherever I go in the world.On a plane of more than 150 people, I was sitting next to one, and there were only two on board. :) So we struck up a fast friendship based on wondering if we could make it to our next flight, if our bags would make the connection, and what we would do if we couldn't get on the plane.

We got off the plane at 3:15. We first had to battle our way through much of terminal 2 and 3 and ask a lot of questions before we realized we would need to hop a shuttle train to terminal 5. We boarded the shuttle train ten minutes before our flight was to depart. When we raced off the shuttle upstairs to the ticketing counter, we saw there was only one person at our particular airline's counter and she completely ignored us. Finally we managed to get some response from her and all she said was 'you are too late for the flight.' She then said we needed to go back to the other airline and force them to put us on their flight to Rome since they made us late. But the other airline had told us to come to THIS airline and see if they could re-book us if we missed the flight. She acted as though if we missed the flight we'd have no re-course and they would do nothing for us. I was afraid we would have to pay for new tickets. When we explained it was not our fault but that we had all come from the same late flight from a different airline, she sighed loudly, acted very put out, and called the airplane to see if they might wait a few minutes for us. She said she could issue us boarding passes but if we didn't hustle, could not guarantee that we could get on the plane. After getting my boarding pass I raced in my high-heeled boots (mistake I will not make again-my feet are still paying for it, I have scrapes on the top of each foot and they are SORE from running more than a mile in them) to security, the line for which was very long. An airport staff member told me I could not go to the front of the line even though my flight was supposed to be leaving right then, unless I had an escort from my airline. So, I ran BACK to ticketing, waited for the other two people to get their passes, and the agent escorted us to the front of the external security line, but didn't escort us past the point where our passports were checked, so there were still about thirty people in line ahead of us waiting to remove shoes, take out laptops, basically undress and re-dress. We politely asked our way to the front of the line, and sweaty, disgruntled, and afraid we would lose all our belongings while rushing through security, we made it through without major incident and prepared for the long run to our gate. With bags in hand, uncomfortable shoes and low energy from not having eaten for almost nine hours (they hadn't eaten either) we ran the mile or so to our gate.

The stewards looked at me like I was crazy when I ran onto the plane soaked in sweat and flushed from running. Bienvenuto! Welcome aboard, want a glass of water? What's the rush, right? Well, the ticketing agent hadn't told us that the flight was delayed anyway, due to some faulty piece of equipment. I was so tired and shaky from adrenaline I just wanted to sit down. As soon as I did, the woman next to me asked if I would mind trading seats with her husband so they could sit together. Of course not! So I moved. And we all sat on that plane with no fresh air for more than an hour, but hey, I was getting to Rome, I figured. My bag might be late but a day or so wouldn't matter. And actually, since we were delayed I thought perhaps my bag would make it onboard anyway. (Oh, and as a side note, we were told no other flights left from Chicago to Rome that day, this was our only chance. In retrospect, it would have been better to stay in Chicago and take the next day's flight, but we had no idea what was in store for us). I was completely unimpressed with the lack of communication between airlines, but was relieved just to be sitting on a flight to Rome. Realizing that my entire body was shaking and hurting from adrenaline and lack of food, as soon as we took off I stood up before the fasten seatbelt sign went off to ask for crackers or something. The steward was luckily really nice and stuffed my hands full of these nice little cracker snacks. I was a happy camper.....for a while.

They served us dinner early - I felt like luck was shining on me when I realized I had forgotten to order a vegetarian meal and didn't know what to do, when the girl next to me told me her parents had ordered her a vegetarian dish but that she would prefer to have the meat, so we traded. After dinner, a movie started, no babies were crying, I had a book to read, an iPod to listen to, and a window to look out of. Out that window all I could see were clouds and what was surely the darkness of the ocean below. We'd been on the plane for more than 5 hours (the entire trip to Rome was only to be 8.5 hours). Then over the intercom, I heard somerthing that I thought was surely a joke. The weather radar had gone out and though they had tried for 'more than thirty minutes' to fix it, it would not be safe for us to fly over the ocean at night without this radar. (I found out later it might not only have been the radar, but a rudder, so perhaps we had been lucky to even get on the ground safely). We were told we would be given rooms in New York City. We were circling over New York City waiting to land for over an hour and when we got on the ground they turned off the air vents and made us wait without giving us any information as to what was going on, for more than an hour. Even the stewards were nowhere to be seen, as obviously they wanted to hide from the irate passengers! Once we finally de-planed, we were bumped into another long, meandering, seemingly pointless line in the middle of the airport to wait for info on our hotel. By now they had had nearly three hours to organize a place for us all to stay, 300 of us, at least. They had one employee walking down the line asking us for our names and how many were in our party. Out of the 300 or so people on that plane, I managed to stand next to a family of 5 that ended up having the SAME NAME as me. We had a good laugh about this, since this had also been the family I was seated next to on the flight that had asked me to move so the husband and wife could sit together. People in line were half-asleep on their feet, removing shoes to stand barefoot, rushing off to buy water and hop back in line. (One other complicating factor to all this was that no one was allowed to claim their checked luggage. They said this was due to security rules, but since we all had to get new boarding passes and go through security again the next day, they surely could have scanned and re-boarded our bags - I firmly believe they left the bags on board overnight to save themselves the cost and time of getting workers there past hours to do it.) So, not having a toothbrush, clean undies, what-have-you, was also making people a bit crabby. When busses finally started coming to transport us to the hotels, we had just about had enough. Then another hour of shuffling around and I finally made it onto a bus. About fifteen minutes into the ride, the driver stops the bus in the middle of a lane of traffic, and just gets out, leaving the door open. He didn't even bother to tell us what he was doing, just left us all alone there on a bus with the door hanging open. Turns out he was trying to see where he could park the bus at the hotel entrance since the bus was too big for the parking circle. When we finally got off the bus, it was midnight. I'd already been traveling for 17 hours and had only gotten as far as New York City from St. Louis, which would normally be a two hour flight or so.

I was one of the first people in line at the hotel. There was only one person staffed at the front desk of the hotel, and you would have thought they did not have any preparation for our arrival, even though the airline had given them three hours notice or more. They even one time commented they did not have room for 'all these people'! The hotel was old, but supposedly just renovated, and they didn't even have electricity in some rooms, and none of the keys were programmed yet. Even though I was the third party in line to sign up for a room, I waited another hour and a half in the lobby for my key. I feel sorry for the hundred or so people who were behind me in line. They probably didn't get into their rooms until after 3am. I started hearing people say that they were putting families of five in the same room with only one bed. They were also putting strangers, male and female, together in the same room. Talk about safety and liability issues, not to mention just plain discomfort and embarassment for many of these people. But, after 1am, I finally got a key. When I entered my room, it was boiling hot, the air conditioning didn't work, the lights were on, the TV was blaring, and there was a dent in the bed where someone had been laying, a used towel in the bathroom, a key card on the desk. no toilet paper, etc. I was worried someone would walk in on me any second, so I called down to the front desk to make sure the room was not already booked. They assured me it was not and sent a maid to clean the room. She was moving so slowly I wasn't surprised that it took her nearly 40 minutes to change the bedsheets, bring me toilet paper and shampoo, and have a conversation about how they were not paying her for her overtime. This certainly wasn't a chain hotel, not was it one any of us had heard of. Anyhow, after 2am I finally managed to close my eyes, though my sleep was fitful due to a migraine I had from all the stress, lack of water and food, etc. (I know I sound like I was suffering out in the desert somewhere rather than just having an unfortunate travel experience, and I don't mean to sound like a whiner, but it was pretty tough on all of us by the time we got to this point in the night.) The airline had also left us with no vouchers for breakfast or anything, so the next morning when I awoke to catch shuttle back to the airport, I spent about twenty bucks in the hotel's gift shop for a small bottle of excedrin, a diet coke, and a small bag of fruit snacks. Breakfast of champions, but at this point anything with calories in it was absolute manna. We arrived at the airport without incident, but we were wrong in thinking they would have a quick and easy system in place for us to get our new boarding passes due to all that had occurred the night before. We were again in a line for over an hour, but at the end of this wait we not only got new boarding passes, but we received a twelve dollar voucher for lunch. I guess gone are the days when the airlines would give you a free travel voucher to somewhere in the continental US, refund your money, or at least double your frequent flier miles, anything! A twelve dollar voucher for lunch in an airport where a sandwich costs ten bucks was the best they could do. Anyhow, I didn't care, I was so happy to have put that night behind me. We were a little worried they were going to put us on the same plane after trying to fix it, but apparently they had secured another place, so by the time I was at our gate and looking for a place to eat, I felt pretty confident about the rest of the trip going well.

I sat down in a little cafe near our gate. They had really nice menus, the prices were reasonable. Well, most of that turned out to be a facade as the lone man working there informed us most of the menu items were not available. We could go look in a little glass case at the sandwiches available. So, I found one that worked and sat down to wait while he served the other twenty people there.....needless to say the poor guy was frazzled since he was the only employee, but he was friendly and helpful. I did have to wait a long time for my sandwich, but no biggie. Most of my complaints about this day are only in build-up to the next thing that happened; I actually felt pretty good and didn't mind the little inconveniences - and this is somewhat true of the the whole trip - I don't mind waiting for things and can be flexible when unexpected things happen, if the powers that be give me the information they have in a timely fashion. Being kept in the dark until they decide what to do with you (and whatever is most convenient for them) is what really irks me. So anyway, I'm feeling pretty good about things until I see something move out of the corner of my eye. At first I think something has flown past me, uintil I realize it is something scurrying along the floor. And then it is something scurrying over my foot - a mouse! I couldn't believe it! I shot out of my seat, ran to pay the bill and got out of there as quickly as possible, only to run to the waiting area for our gate and see birds flying about, one of which came and stood by my feet and fell asleep and then was startled and flew directly over my head on his way to safety. At least he didn't poop on me....What they say about the wildlife in NYC is really true, I guess, even inside the JFK airport.

We boarded the plane, and I'm thinking nothing else can possibly happen, and even the bird and mouse incidents were more comically bad than anything else. Well, I was assigned to the same seat, so of course the other family wants me to move again, so I switch to the window seat I had before. Well, a lady comes to my row saying I am in her seat. Lo and behold, her ticket stub does have the seat I am in printed on it. So, either the husband was wrong about having the same seat he had before, or there was a mix-up. I glady offer to give her the window seat since I usually prefer the aisle, but little did I know, this seat would end up being broken, and it wasn't even my assigned seat! With no other available spots on the plane, I end up with the one seat that is entirely boken, the metal seat sticking up in back so far that I was practically slipping off the seat forward and it was hell on my back. The stewards apologized and tried to tuck pillows and blankets under me to even it out, but it was all in all a punishing place for my bum to be parked for 8 hours. Oh, and our flight was still nearly two hours late taking off.....

BUT we finally arrived in Rome! It did take us nearly two hours to de-plane, get the shuttle to the main terminal and go through passport control. I felt bad for my friend who had been waiting at the airport already for nearly three hours, but figured my bag should be there waiting for me on the carousel since it took so long to get through passport control. However, my bag never arrived, and I was one of only three people who did not receive their bags. I was very worried about where it could be. Thank goodness I speak Italian or the process of claiming a lost bag would have been ten times more difficult. I did get shuffled from one counter to the next similar to what had happened in Chicago with the flight, but after another 1.5 hours, even though I had no clue where my bag was and they apparently could not get any info on it for me, I at least had filed the claim and was on my way out to meet my friend. I also felt a wee bit like a zombie since in two days I had gotten maybe five hours of sleep.

To make the rest of this incredibly long story shorter, there were no flights arriving the rest of that day, which was Sunday. I'd been without my belongings for two days now, and it took another day and a half to get the bag. I opened it up, so glad to be reunited with my belongings, and all my clothes were wet. My bag was probably unlucky enough to be left out on the tarmac in the rain in Chicago. But, nothing was ruined, and I was happy as a clam to have it. I started to get everything in order, and took out the converter I was going to use to charge my computer, flipvid, camera, iPod, phone, etc. Well - it didn't work. So now I've been without all my electronics and appliances for four days, borrowing other people's computers for blogging and e-mail. I have tried to find a converter but in the countryside outside of Rome they just don't carry those items in every store. :) No Radio Shack I will wait a few more days and then hopefully be back on line so I can post more photos, vids, and blogs. I honestly think I've had my share of bad luck on this trip and it's time for things to turn around....except for the fact I still don't have my train tickets to France for next week - they seem to be lost in the mail system.

Sigh.....the truth is, I wanted to recount this story because it's humorously unbelievable, and then my next blogs will get down to the nitty gritty of how GREAT this week has turned out to be since getting into the studio with Euro Ferrari and songwriter Maurizio Opinato. Everything is going wonderfully and I'm thrilled with the possibilities for this project. So....don't worry, the next novella will be much more positive....just had to get all this complaining off my chest! :)

'Til next time.....

June 14, 2010

Arrived safely in Rome on Sunday, nearly a day late. After a few hours sleep, began working in the studio with producer Euro Ferrari. Bag did not arrive on the same flight, but just heard that it has arrived in Rome. Check out tweets on More details coming!

June 12, 2010

Hilary Scott asked me to post this for her, since she is STILL traveling.

She experienced delays in Chicago due to a thunderstorm. Circled until the plane got low on fuel, then they were diverted to Peoria for refueling. Although late, she made her connection to Alitalia for the flight to Rome. Halfway to Rome the plane was diverted back to New York because the radar stopped working.

Quite late last night they found a hotel for everyone near the airport in New York, and she hopes to be flying out today at 3:00 pm Eastern for a very early morning arrival in Rome.

More later....

(Hilary's Webmaster)

June 8, 2010

Today my agent from Premier Talent International sent me my flight confirmation for Japan in September when I am slated to be artist in residence at the Grand Hyatt in Fukuoka from late September 2010 to early January 2011. It reminded me how quickly the year is flying by and how much I have to look forward to musically this year!

In three days I leave for Italy, where I will start in Rome working with producer Euro Ferrari on my song "And Just" which is the song that got me into the finals of the international songwriting competition, Festival Degli Autori, in which I will be competing after recording in Rome. On the 20th of June I head up to northern Italy, the Italian Riviera to be exact, to Sanremo, and on the night of the 22nd I present "And Just" live to a large festival audience. The recorded version of the song, produced by Euro Ferrari, will appear on a compilation CD to be distributed nationally in Italy. I have a chance to win a recording contract with Sanremo Productions should I place in the finals.

After my performance on the 22nd in the competition, I take a long and winding train ride to France to meet my new European booking agent, Agnes Dautraix, who represents several artists through Miss Lucy and Co. Booking Agency. Agnes has booked two shows for me this summer in which I will share the stage with French artist Norfolk, and I will also appear in a French TV program performing live. These shows are an exciting preparation for summer of 2011, when Ms. Dautraix will be booking me as a headliner for my own shows in theaters and venues around France and in music festivals around the area as well. One of the artists she represents is James Taylor's sister, Kate Taylor, and I may perform as an opening act for Kate at some of the larger festivals. I'm thrilled with all of the possibilities!

Now it's just time to get down to packing....and to remember all the vital electronics for the trip! FlipVid: check! Computer: check! Camera: check! If I am able to keep up with it, you can expect You Tube videos of my performances abroad as well as scenic "movies" of the places I am traveling through, as well as plenty of photos and blogs.

Au revoir and arrivederci!

June 4, 2010

Hilary Scott Band - 2009-06-09 - Coopers Landing

Thought you might enjoy this performance by the Hilary Scott Band at Coopers Landing last year. We are playing, "You Electrify Me".

more about "Hilary Scott Band - 2009-06-09 - Coop...", posted with vodpod

May 23, 2010

About two months ago, I drove my sturdy Honda most of the way across the US after performing shows in my home town(s) of Pullman and Seattle, Washington. In just three days it carried me all the way from the northwest to Missouri. The year is flying by, with two tours in the US, and preparations to head back to Asia, this time to Japan for a three and a half month artist residency in the southern prefecture of Fukuoka. In June I head to the Italian Riviera for the finals of the Sanremo Festival Degli Autori competition and several recording sessions on many different projects. Hello, 2010!