“Enjoy every sandwich.” Warren Zevon (1947 – 2003)
I’m off to Texas in a few days to play a music festival and then I’m back to pre-production on my new record. 2006 was a good year for my debut release, “Distance and Miles,” and December saw my CD single, “Cowgirl Christmas / Joey,” hitting the radio waves around the globe. It was a nice way to wrap up the year.
A lot of us are looking at this blank canvas that is 2007 with a leaning towards resolutions. I’ve been thinking about what that means (and doesn’t mean) for me and I think I’ve figured out why I don’t make resolutions…
Though the Webster family would surely disagree with me, I’ve been analyzing the word “resolution” and have broken it down to “re” and “solution.” (Stay with me.) I think the reason I don’t like the idea of resolutions is that I see the meaning behind the word as “re solving” something in my life – something I’ve already (theoretically) solved. Knowing how my brain works, I am then bound to go over that faulty solution again and again. Thus, the “re.” I’m not saying it’s rational, I’m just owning it. And what I own is a hang-up with those two little letters.
I also don’t want to imply that I don’t set goals for not only achievements but also for change in my life (and believe me, there’s plenty to work on). I find myself working on me throughout the year, not just in January. I also find myself being successful in my goals of change only when I’m truly ready and committed to a specific idea. And once I’ve “decided” on something – look out! It’s a done deal at that point. I suppose that’s one of the beautiful things about human will, or “resolve.”
For the record, Webster defines resolve as “dissolve or melt.” But there are several other definitions listed, including “to make progress from dissonance to consonance,” as in music. I guess those definitions aren’t really so different. When we manage to work out a problem or bad habit in our lives we are actually “dissolving or melting” the problem away, as well as “progressing from dissonance to consonance” in ourselves. And when those internal notes move from slightly off-key to perfect harmony, well, that’s beautiful music indeed.
Happy New Year.
“I’ve often said, the only thing standing between me and greatness is me.” Woody Allen
I’m back from Texas (and managed to get out just before the big freeze hit, but only barely — credit cards make fantastic ice scrapers!) and can honestly say I had a great time there. The festival was a kick, Fredericksburg was darling, and I even got to stop in Luckenbach for a spell. All in all, it was a real nice trip. Now I’m getting ready to head to Memphis, TN for the big Folk Alliance conference where I’ll be showcasing and seeing as many artists as I can. By the way, there’s a lovely review of my CD (“Distance and Miles”) in the current issue of “Dirty Linen – Folk and World Music” magazine. And no, it’s not a “blue” rag. What kind of music do you think I do?
February holds a special date for me: this month marks the anniversary of the first time a complete stranger bought my CD. Though it’s happened many times since (thankfully), I like to remember the first time. It reminds me that taking this path is my choice – then and now. This is all my doing. Do I get help from the Universe? Absolutely. But only when I ask for it AND get out of the way. I have lived a life of standing in the way of my own greatness. Well, I’m working on that.
Don’t think I refer only to my musical path… Just last week I was taking a dance class and I didn’t throw myself into it with abandon because I was too caught up in trying to do a good job, to do everything correctly. In short, I held back. At the time, I felt lost and frustrated. When I think about it now, I can see just how much I got in the way of not only learning, but also of having fun. I’ll try to do better next class. Like I said, I’m working on it.
If you find yourself a bit frustrated in your job, a class, the kitchen, or whatever — ask for help and then step aside. There’s a lot of greatness to be experienced in this life if we can only co-exist with our fears and frustrations. Me — I’m gonna take a deep breath and give it all I’ve got…
”There’s a basic rule which runs through all kinds of music, kind of an unwritten rule. I don’t know what it is. But I’ve got it.” Ron Wood (1947 – )
I’m back from Memphis, Tennessee and still reeling from the excitement. As a foodie, I was thrilled to eat (more than my share of) barbeque, grits, biscuits, fried green tomatoes, slaw, beans, sweet potato pie and other southern delights. For this Georgia-born gal, the people made it feel like coming home. That’s the beauty of the South. I know there’s more to it, but I chose to focus on the good, the charming. THAT’s what I experienced in Memphis.
I also experienced some fantastic music. I was at the big “Folk Alliance” conference and when I wasn’t busy showcasing my own music, I did what I could to get around and hear others. I was lucky enough to see a show by “The Dust Poets,” a Canadian group that blew my mind. I’ll definitely be tracking down their work. I also heard Susan Werner for the first time. (I know — I’m slow.) She is amazing and I can’t wait to see her again. On the familiar front, I finally got to see a gal I’d met last year named Ellis (from Minnesota). She is not only a charming and lovely human being, she is also a gifted songwriter with a voice to match. What a cutie! I was fortunate to see Effron White (out of Arkansas) again. Effron does a song called “Yankee Dime” that’s brilliant. As I am the proud owner of his CD, I can honestly tell you I’ve studied that song and it is just perfect. And then there’s “Houston Jones.” This band, out of the San Francisco Bay area, is one of the best I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen them many, many times. Their music has always brought a smile to my face. At times, they’ve brought tears to my eyes. And when I saw them in Memphis, I had to get up and dance! I just couldn’t help myself. (But I think my dancing, while eliciting stares, also elicited curiosity and brought even more folks into the room to see “HoJo.”) Look them up. They’re worth it.
And then there were my own showcases. I decided to “walk the talk” and put into practice all the ideas and philosophies I write about in these updates. All that positive thinking led to this: I went in and kicked some serious Folk Booty! Honestly, I played better than ever and even saw a few audience members’ jaws drop during my performances. In short, I owned it. Which means I owned me. It felt great. It felt true. It felt natural. I don’t know what took me so long…
My hope is to keep feeling that “unwritten rule” running through me and my music. There are always peaks and valleys. I know this. Once you know something, you can’t turn back. And this is something I know: I am truly a musician.
”If I hadn’t seen it with my own ears, I wouldn’t believe it.” Mikki Brisk (@ SXSW 2007)
I was ready to launch back into my own little monthly log about me, but I think I’d better do one more month of praising the music of others…
I’m back from SXSW in Austin, Texas, and it was a hoot AND a holler! Not only did I have a great couple of shows myself (welcome new readers), I also saw a ridiculous number of killer bands that reaffirmed my to-the-core love of music. The above quote was uttered by me in response to a single night’s amazing line-up: Danny Flowers (classic country songwriter famous for “Tulsa Time” and other gems); Brandi Carlile (a gorgeous and gifted singer-songwriter who’s getting a lot of well-deserved press right now); Pigeon John (a hip-hop artist who not only had the crowd dancing and cheering, but also smiling and laughing); moe. (a jam band that packed the house and knows how to keep the groove going – their shortest song was 8 minutes); and The Polyphonic Spree (the coolest 19-piece act I’ve ever seen – this is performance art at its best). Seriously, it was a varied, fascinating, aural ride. I still can’t believe it. (Over the course of the week in Texas, I also saw a few other obscenely talented people worth checking out: Brett Dennen–the kid still has baby fat AND he’s gonna be a star; Ruthie Foster; Ray Wylie Hubbard; and Danielle Miraglia–we played a house concert together and she really had it going on.)
It got me thinking about my first concert. I was 15 years old and I went to see Blondie with Vic Chesnutt, a buddy of his and my best friend, Lorinda. This was a life-changing event. Literally. I was only just beginning to understand that music was a way to help save my struggling soul, and there I was — watching music happen. Live. It was brilliant. Blondie happened to make music that I loved and they performed it with such passion and verve. I had never seen live music before, so that opened my eyes to so much possibility. That was the first time I realized I had wings. That weekend, I decided to bring my wings out into the open: I went home, cut my hair and started expressing my inner self through my outer appearance.
Here’s why I’m thinking of that fateful event (besides my recent concert overdose at SXSW): Spring has Sprung. Mother Nature is ready to once again unfurl her wings and grow. I can think of no better time to allow my soul to do a bit of expanding and open up to this wonderful world. My own wings are aflutter with joy and sun and hope.
Spring has Sprung, folks. Here’s hoping we all get sprung!
“Human kindness — overflowing. And I think it’s going to rain today.” Randy Newman
I could tell you that I’ve been in the studio lately (I have). I could tell you I started working on several new songs (I did). I could tell you I recently basked in the glow of many amazing songwriters — up close and personal — including Mr. Randy Newman himself (yes, I basked). But I’d just be donning rose-colored specs and I don’t think that’s gonna work for me right now.
You see, I’ve got the blues. The B-L-U-E-S, people. I feel like I’m swimming so low, even the catfish are above me. I’d like to say this is unfamiliar territory, but it isn’t. I’ve known my share of being down on my knees, crying. It isn’t enjoyable in any way, shape or form.
I am in the midst of a full-blown crisis of confidence. I’m running on empty and it’s led me to doubt so much of who I am. Who I thought I was. My beliefs, my dreams, all challenged. And it’s heartbreaking really.
I could go on (and on), but I won’t. I respect you too much to start your month with my woes. You deserve better. You deserve joy and promise. We all do.
So I think I’ll go and listen to some sad music and simply allow myself to be in the middle of this funk. Fighting it gets me nowhere. I guess this is one I’m just going to have to ride out…
”The worst sin – perhaps the only sin – passion can commit, is to be joyless.” Dorothy L. Sayers (1893 – 1957)
Let me just send a tremendous thank you to each and every soul who sent me tips, suggestions, poetry, prayers and general good vibes during my oh-so-blue bout last month. It was never my intent to solicit your generosity of spirit (nor to bring you down). Nonetheless, I accept your kindness and support with a grateful heart. And now that I’m back in the land of “isn’t life great!”, I want to share a recent experience with you…
I found myself in the company of 6 vibrant, beautiful, Latin women at a Los Angeles supper club. (My fella was SO jealous.) These women ranged from a twenty-something youngster to her octogenarian grandmother (who, by the way, was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and has passed on not only her gorgeous genes, but also her love for Latin food and dance). We feasted on Cuban food and then the band cranked it. These gals really know how to Rumba and they burned up the joint. As I had had one Mojito too many, I sat with Grandmother and watched the dance floor as it teemed with electricity and joy. It was a beautiful sight.
Here’s what I learned: this tight-knit family definitely play with passion. But they also live each day with passion. They laugh with it. They argue with it. They love with it. I am in awe of their ability to dance with such verve to live music AND to life. On the surface, this family is no different from mine or yours. They are wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, cousins. They know their share of heartbreak. But perhaps, just perhaps, it is their deep-rooted passion for living that allows them to move through the pains and sorrows in a way that I find glorious and inspiring.
I was far too pale in comparison to my dear friend and her wonderful family. I was, maybe, too still in the presence of their warmth and energy. But I was paying attention. And today, while I get myself ready to do some composing, I plan to put on a little Latin music and shake my groove thing. Passion may not rise to the surface so easily in me, but it’s in there. Boy, is it in there…
“Between the great things we cannot do and the small things we will not do, the danger is that we shall do nothing.” Adolph Monod (1802 – 1856)
I’m making (for now) a rare summer appearance in Utah this month at the Founders Title Company Folk & Bluegrass Festival. I’m also getting some good writing done and I hope to have the new record available in the spring. I’ll keep you posted.
Living in Los Angeles is a trip. It seems you can’t go to the grocery store without crossing paths with recognizable actors or musicians. I once had a funny conversation with Eric Stoltz about the perfect seat-selection in a movie theater. On another occasion, Dennis Franz good-naturedly razzed my fella in the same movie theater. Come to think of it, at that same cinema I’ve seen Jeff Goldblum, Bridget Fonda and Steven Seagal at various times. In restaurants, I’ve seen Jennifer Aniston, Magic Johnson and Gene Wilder. (Seeing Mr. Wilder brought tears to my eyes. He IS “Willy Wonka” after all.) I’ve seen Chris Rock in a record store, Whoopi Goldberg in a mall, Al Pacino at a coffee shop, Dick Clark in an elevator and Eliot Gould driving one sweet ride through Hollywood. Steven Spielberg gets out way too much; I’ve seen him so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve found myself in the same locations as Mel Gibson, John Travolta, Joan Collins, Gregory Peck, James Brown, Tommy Lee, Mare Winningham, Tom Waits, Ron Howard, Milli (or Vanilli — I’m not sure which), Dominic Monaghan, Harrison Ford, Rebecca Romijn, Teri Hatcher, Eric Idle, Orlando Bloom, Alan Rickman, Goran Visnjic, Billy Barty and George Lucas. Once, while driving, a limousine was in the next lane and its sun roof opened and up stood “Jack” of Jack In The Box fame. (I kid you not.)
Perhaps my coolest celebrity encounter came one day while I was foraging in a junk shop. I was looking down at an item on the floor when I noticed the shoes of someone who had just walked up to me. I raised my eyes to see Mr. Jonathan Winters. He started talking and proceeded to give me a private stand-up routine right there in the shop. After an HOUR, he thanked me for my time and attention. I thanked him for sharing so much of his life-in-story with me and he left the store. I remember how much my face ached from smiling.
What’s the point? Well, I have an incredibly dear friend who is — that’s right — an actor. Her name is Diana-Maria Riva and she’s in a new series about to premiere in the United States on Lifetime (Sunday nights, starting 15 July). The show is called “Side Order of Life” and I’m telling you now — it’s flippin’ good. I’ve seen the pilot and this is the sort of show I long for. Not only was I entertained, but I was also called upon to both think and feel. My friend has worked so very hard for this opportunity and she has inspired me to do the same. Because she is my friend, she has also given me the proverbial kick in the pants when I’ve slacked or gotten down on myself. She is the epitome of someone who goes for all life has to offer. That means she does all the seemingly little tasks that must be done in order to move forward. Watching her, knowing her, I am propelled to do my best toward getting my own career moving.
When I feel lost in the details, and not very inspired, I have a great friend to remind me just how much forward motion is achieved by tending all that minutiae. Inspiration and support — all in one package. My friend may very well be my favorite celebrity. Lucky for me, I get to see her (and be inspired by her) all the time. Living in Los Angeles is a trip.
”Traditions are the guideposts driven deep in our subconscious minds. The most powerful ones are those we can’t even describe, aren’t even aware of.”
American journalist (1941 – )
As summer gets wound up, I’m feeling myself winding tighter and tighter with excitement for a new recording. Though it won’t be available until some time next year, it’s good to be creating. Period. And as I’m off to “Song School” in Colorado soon, I fully expect to take a long, cool dip in the stream of the muse. That can only serve to kick my brain into high gear!
I recently had the opportunity to observe a neighbor’s sons practicing for an upcoming Quinceanera party. For those who don’t know – much as I didn’t know until doing a little research – Quinceanera is a Latin celebration of a young girl’s 15th birthday. It can be likened to a “Sweet 16″ or a debutante ball and is often a quite formal affair. The young lady will sometimes mark her journey from child to young woman by changing from flat shoes to heels before dancing with her father during the celebration. She may also lead a highly choreographed dance with several boys. And it was this dance that was being practiced by my neighbors (and other young boys, as well as the birthday girl). They worked so hard and put in many hours in preparation for the upcoming performance. I can only imagine how stunning the party, the dancers and the guest of honor will be.
The whole thing got me thinking about tradition. It’s a charming thing to see a family lovingly pass down their customs to their children. I realized that I don’t have any traditions from my own upbringing. Honestly, there’s nothing I remember that would be worth resurrecting or passing on.
But don’t cue the violins just yet, for I have started my own traditions. Like growing too many tomatoes each summer. Like watching “Home for the Holidays” each Thanksgiving. Like prayers of gratitude (no matter if my day has been great or not) each and every night. I’m even contemplating a traditional vacation – one where I go to the same place each year.
I must confess: I do envy those who have rich family traditions that date back a generation or more. Roots are solid and assuring. But so are wings. And our wings are what allow us to create our own traditions. Maybe something I’m practicing as custom will live on after me. Maybe not. Still, it’s wonderful to count on my traditions to hold me up throughout the year. I may not feel the history of my forebears, but I do feel the history of ME. That’s a lot of living, folks. And I sincerely hope that young girl – about to celebrate all of 15 years – will some day be blessed to revel in her own traditions and all the living that made them.
“I put a dollar in a change machine. Nothing happened.” George Carlin (1937 – )
September has crept up on me so quietly, I hardly noticed. Except I did notice. And I’ll never be the same.
I’ve been writing a lot, really nitpicking the songs for the new record and getting my groove into shape for said project. It’s an awesome experience to be in the studio with other musicians, working together to make the best music one can. It’s also an awesome responsibility, and I don’t want to waste my time or the musicians’ by being unprepared (not to mention my money — I likes my money). All that being said, I’m feeling great about this record and can hardly wait to massage these songs into shape.
Last month I went on a two-week road trip through the desert/mountains (Utah, Colorado, Nevada) and in preparing for the travel, I found myself feeling apprehensive. For some reason, I had this odd feeling I wouldn’t be coming back from the trip. There was no dark foreboding or anything, just a sense of having to let go. I didn’t understand it. But it was quite real and quite unsettling.
So I drove off into the sunrise and took my chances. Here’s some of what happened…
**I learned so much about new ways to write and work
on my craft as a songwriter by studying with the likes
of Darrell Scott, Peter Himmelman, Steve Seskin, Amy
Speace and Mary Gauthier.
**I let go of so many misgivings about editing my
songs (aka “sacrificing my babies”).
**I allowed a space in my heart to fill with kindness
toward people and their struggles, due in no small
part to the open heart of Miss Gauthier.
**Like a snake, I shed my skin to reveal a new,
brighter pattern. And in doing so, my creativity has
surged along with my gratitude for being alive.
(There was more, of course, but a gal has to keep a little something for herself sometimes. You know what I mean.)
After being on the road a while — exploring nature’s bounty and meeting beautiful souls — I drove into the sunset toward home and realized that I was no longer the same person who had set off two full weeks earlier. I had shifted into being a new version of me. Do I look different? Maybe a little. Am I improved? I like to think so. All my misgivings about “not coming back” turned out to be rational. Somewhere out there lie the remains of my former self. She served me well, right up until she laid down to rest.
This new me has so much living to do. So much love to give. I am grateful for all phases of my being. I send such good vibes to the girl who packed up her car and drove into what inevitably became her ending. I’m going to try to live up to her bravery.
What a great summer, Folks. I’ll never be the same. How cool is that?
“Desire, ask, believe, receive.” Stella Terrill Mann
Several weeks ago I watched a documentary about artist Mark Rothko’s Seagram Paintings, presented by art critic Simon Schama. I was incredibly moved by the story surrounding the works. Right then and there, I declared to the Universe that I wanted to stand before those paintings and gaze upon them myself.
My friend Carolyn is well-versed in what she calls ”ordering up from the Universe.” Basically, she figures out something she wants in her life and she “orders” it. Sometimes she aims for something simple. Other times she asks for something big. For years I’ve been astounded by her abilities to not only clarify exactly what she desires, but also by the awesome rate at which her desires are fulfilled. Carolyn is an amazing woman whom I admire and love. She inspires the heck out of me simply by living. And though I’m not quite able to go about my days in the same expectant manner as Carolyn, I do look to her as an example of what might be.
There has been a lot of talk this last year or so about ”The Secret.” Maybe you’ve checked it out (either the DVD or the book). Maybe not. Personally, I’m all for anything that helps me to be the gal I feel I’m meant to be in this world. And to that end, I’ll use any resources or ideas available. Don’t get me wrong — sometimes I need to tweak these ideas so that they mesh with my own beliefs. I’m okay with that. After all, one size does not fit all. But if Carolyn has taught me anything it is this: life is ours for the living.
Several weeks ago I watched a documentary about artist Mark Rothko’s Seagram Paintings. Several days ago I stood before those very paintings at the Tate Modern Museum in London, England. As I felt the power, beauty, pain and depth of Mr. Rothko’s work, I also felt overwhelming gratitude.
I desired. I asked. I believed. And I definitely received.
“If a dream affords the dreamer some light on himself, it is not the person with closed eyes who makes the discovery but the person with open eyes lucid enough to fit thoughts together.”
Michel Leiris (1901–1990)
I’m working away on the new record and while it is sometimes a struggle to create these songs, I’m enjoying the process and grateful I get to live my dream.
Speaking of dreams, I’ve been having some real doozies lately. (Don’t worry — I won’t bore you with the particulars. Just think crazy colors, talking animals, various modes of transportation and serious inner child issues.) Maybe it’s the change of season. Maybe it’s the fabric softener used on my sheets. Most likely, it’s being in this whirl of creativity and practically drowning.
This studio business is cool. Don’t get me wrong. But it’s also work. And we all know that four-letter-word. I am immersing myself in this work because it is my passion and I want to do a good job. (Actually, I want to do a freaking great job!) As I experience this immersion in my work life, I find it creeping into my dream life as well. And since I’m a gal who looks for meaning in just about every danged thing there is, I’m digging into my dreams each day. This is no easy task. Trust me — I dream the dreams of freaks. Still, my dreams are a wonderfully safe forum to work out my feelings about my life and — presently — the record I’m making. There’s so very much to work out, too.
I hope that while you are able to pursue a dream or two in your day-life, you will also throw a little attention to the dreams of your sleep-life. Trust me — your inner you is trying to get your attention. Heed the call. You never know what you may learn about yourself.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.” Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Work on my next record continues. Brilliant musicians are now adding their imprint to the tracks and I’m so excited to keep plugging away. Taking all these bits and pieces and meshing them together to form cohesive songs is not only creatively satisfying, it’s also quite miraculous.
As this is the season of miracles, I shouldn’t be surprised to find them popping up all around me. Last week I was spending time with friends and their 7-year-old son. One night we hipped him to the great ’80′s movie, “The Princess Bride.” He liked it so much he wanted to watch it again the next day. I couldn’t help but smile when he talked about the film’s main theme: true love.
True Love. It’s worthy of all caps, isn’t it? Money can’t buy it. Poverty can’t destroy it. It can be romantic or platonic. Heck, it can be inter-species. (Haven’t you truly loved a pet before?) And isn’t True Love the basis for all the various miracles the world celebrates at this time of year?
Speaking for myself, I want each and every miracle the universe sees fit to send my way. I want to witness miracles. I want to experience miracles. I want to BE a miracle. I think that while riding the ups and downs that are my existence, it’s more than reasonable to expect to encounter a miracle now and then. And just as important as my own miraculous life, I pray you have an abundance of True Love and miracles in your own world. Trust me — you deserve it. That’s a big one, I know. So big it warrants repeating: You deserve it.
As you go about the business of December, remind yourself once in a while that you, too, are a miracle. Wrap yourself in the warmth of that thought. Smile for no one but yourself. Now that’s True Love.