April 17, 2014

Cancer is Evil but People are Angels

Last week, we were blown away by the kindness and selflessness displayed by friends and loved ones of a brave woman named Ann Pendley, who has been fighting cancer for over a decade.

We have toured in Colorado several times, and started building a nice fan base there. Many of our devoted listeners know my sister, who lives in Fort Collins and is a woman with many friends and a huge heart. For some time, people in the area have mentioned that I should try to share a show with local legend Liz Barnez, a fantastic performer who tours extensively and is quite well known. One day, Diana (also a friend of my sister) asked if we would consider flying to CO to play for a benefit for Ann, sharing the night with Liz Barnez. Although we knew it would be quite a financial investment for us, Diana sweetly offered us some help, we booked another show to make up some money, and saw it as a great chance to help someone out. Besides, we always love visiting family in Fort Collins and Denver (where we now have two more sisters living)!

We didn't know that we were about to walk into a room filled with the best examples of all humanity, and so much love. The crowd listened attentively as we played, interacting, appreciating, make US feel loved with two standing ovations. I had never met Ann, but I found myself tearing up as I listened to testimonies about how precious  and inspirational she is to so many people.

I hate cancer. I hate what it does to people's bodies  and lives and families. But if there is one sliver of hope that comes from this disease, it is that it brings people together and brings out the best in them. I believe the total raised that night with the show, dinner and auction was over $12,000. It brought to mind a recent benefit we did for my dear longtime friend Debra Hardin at The Blue Note in Columbia, MO. There was a performance and auction that night as well and the total raised was over $10,000. We can't erase the pain and hardship cancer brings these beloved people, but we can make a difference and help let them know they are not alone.

I am lucky beyond measure to get to do this with my music.

Crazy Story of Me "Going Viral"!

A couple of weeks ago, my mom tags me in a post on Facebook. She says my music is used in the soundtrack to this video she randomly watched on a popular site that collects good news, Animal stories, science articles, etc. She explains that as she started watching this video of the rescue of an abandoned pit bull, she thought the piano sounded familiar. Then she thought the voice sounded familiar. Then she realized: "this is Hilary!"

At first, I was thinking no biggie, as many people on You Tube have stolen my music as the soundtrack to their home videos or whatnot and never asked permission, paid me, or even given me name credit. It completely sucks when this is how I am trying to make my living - ! - but it is unfortunately nothing new. However, that complacent feeling turned to angst when I was informed that the video had already gotten over 750,000 views! I started thinking about how if even only a percentage of those viewers had known it was my song and decided to download it from iTunes that I would make a decent chunk of change and gain some exposure. The song was my version of John Hiatt's "Have a Little Faith in Me." My covers tend to get a lot of hits on iTunes, and then they lead people to discover my original music, so covering other peoples' work is an important piece in the songwriter's arsenal. I made some noise on my Facebook pages and immediately my loyal family, friends and fans started reposting the video and then mentioning that I was one of the uncredited musicians on the soundtrack. A photographer friend of mine, who has had her intellectual property stolen and knows how hurtful and frustrating it can be, sent me a link to the Facebook page of the video's creator. At this point, I had no clue that this is one of the most esteemed and reputable dog rescue organizations in existence: The Bill Foundation. My friend told me she was posting on the creator's page and encouraged me and others who knew me to do the same.

I posted something to the effect of: I am touched and honored that you chose my song as part of the soundtrack for something so important as the cause of pit bull rescue. I think music is definitely an important aspect of how effective this video is in getting views and donations, and as an independent artist, credit for my work is very important to me as well. I said it differently, but you get the gist. ;)

Well, within minutes, Annie Hart - the video's creator - had friended me, messaged me, asked for my phone number, and personally called me. The amazing story unfolded:

Annie loves music. Annie also loves dogs. When Annie got involved in filming the dog rescues she is involved in and sharing them with the world, she said music was always the most vital part of The editing process for her, because music sets the mood and brings the stories to life. Most of her videos had major label artists' music in them. Major label artists are easy to track down and gain permission from if the they support your cause, and luckily most people are for animal rescue and adoption. One day Annie was watching a You Tube video of a young girl doing ballet, and someone had set it to my version of "Have a Little Faith in Me". She said the song greatly affected her and stayed with her. She knew she would likely want to  use it in a rescue video one day, but there was no credit given to the performer of the song. She started to search, enlisted the help of friends, but searching for one recorded version of a very popular song of which there are hundred of versions, is not that simple. Add into the mix that the internet doesn't help with the Hillary Scott/Hilary Scott spelling differential between me and Lady Antebellum's lead singer, and always shuffles people towards her rather than me, and it gets more convoluted. (But Annie knew this wasn't her voice, yet she couldn't find me). She saved the song for 18 months, but she knew when Gideon's story was being made that my song had to be part of it. She could have gotten permission to use many other artists' versions of this song, but she wanted mine.

We chatted for about 20 minutes, and Annie immediately edited the video to include my name and website and purchase points for my song. Since the video was still going strong (and we now have over 1,000,000 views) it was on Huffington Post, had write-ups in the L.A. Times and many
international news sites, was on the front page of Yahoo and so much more, her quick action really helped get some awareness of my music out to some more people. We have talked about future collaboration, which I hope we get to do, because I believe so strongly in educating the public about pit bulls and making the world a better place for these loving animals that are too often abused and abandoned. How fortune smiled on me and paired me with this great cause through one woman's love of my music is just phenomenal. For the past several weeks, we have been running a campaign to
donate a portion of proceeds from downloads of song and my album Indigo to The Bill Foundation. Amazing things have come out of this, and I think more wonderful things are to come.

Folk Alliance and Steve Poltz

AJ and I have recently entered the world of music conferences. We attended the Americana Music Association conference in Nashville last fall, and this spring we went to the international Folk Alliance conference in Kansas City. Both were great, but they could not be more different. Where the AMAs were geared toward labels, lawyers and listening to famous people offsite from the conference  - smile - the FAI Conference was jam-packed with real people making real music in just about every room of three floors of two hotels, and the famous people were a bit more accessible, just wandering about, doing their thing too. It was a focused, jam packed and intense experience. It was a great networking opportunity and we had some wonderful showcases as well. But the experience I am going to relate here is my chance encounter with Steve Poltz. Steve may be best known for co-writing  with and dating, Jewel. He is, however, an inspirational speaker, weaves a great 12-minute story in the middle of a live set, and he led a conference called, "Letting Your Freak Flag Fly". Afterwards, since we are friends with another friend of Steve's and they were all grabbing dinner, we had the chance to eat with him, and the conversations was fun: Performing musicians everywhere are dealing with the same trials and tribulations at every level. Later that night, we went to Steve's showcase and as he performed "You Were Meant For Me" (yeah, that one he wrote with Jewel), and told he most hilarious story I have ever heard, I piped up at one point and started singing harmonies. A new friend, Rob Hanning, caught it on video. So now I can say I sang with Steve Poltz. That is the kind of conference Folk Alliance international is. I do believe we will be returning.