Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Nashville

I just returned from Nashville. It was not at all what I expected. I saw live music twice... Once on Friday night at the Gaylord Opryland and once at the Tootsies in the Airport. I felt more bad for those folks than envious or interested. My understanding is that they play for tips. The venues do NOT pay unless you have a name and can draw. Even though people come to Nashville to be immersed in music, and they expect to see people all over playing and that is part of the reason people come to Nashville, the venues don't feel they need to pay the artists. I am sad and mad about that. I think that artists in general and musicians in particular, get taken advantage of all the time, to make money for the owner and crumbs for themselves. I wish I could say that they talk about big tips too, but they don't. A recent entire evening that was talked about socially, only brought in a total of $100 bucks, and that was for 4 bands, at least one of which is known in town. When I questioned it, I was told they were not playing those gigs for money, they played for love.

Yep, we talk that way here, too. But I also expect the venue is going to pay me SOMETHING for my gas to get to the venue, at least. After all, they are likely making money. OR, have a line on the food bill.... total, tip, musician tip, grand total. In both situations that I saw, the artist never mentioned the tip bucket at their feet.

What I really want to talk about, though, is the camaraderie among the musicians. I had thought that Nashville was a dog eat dog place. I am glad to see that at least among some long timers, the people who lived there because that is where they want to be and not just to 'make it', not only get along but help each other. I so thoroughly enjoyed discussing things like creative process, buying gig clothes, forming your 'brand', and seeing how others do it. Wow. I realized that I don't do that here. It has always felt like those are the things that you hid that you even think of, as if it is just not cool. It is cool to BE cool, but not cool to PLAN *HOW* to be cool. It was refreshing to be in a situation where figuring out and presenting you brand is expected as part of how you are going to get gigs and be seen... and something for conversation. A natural part of conversation, even. As if it is recognized that you ARE a performer, and part of your art IS the performance.... and part of the performance is how you dress, what you say, and how you present that to the audience. A role, so to speak. I think we all KNOW this, and maybe it is just me, but around here, it just isn't cool to RECOGNIZE it out loud.

It likely really isn't cool to discuss it with 'outsiders', who you want to dazzle with your performance and not confuse with reality. Because part of the art of performance is being real and authentic and cool and GENUINE! ...and somehow, people suspect that if you have a plan, that disqualifies your authenticity. It does not. When you are on stage, you are PERFORMING, this is a piece of time that does not define you, but it does help your audience have a good time right NOW, which is the only thing that matters, right now.

Nashville made me think of things that I didn't expect. I am so glad that I went and had exactly the time that I had. My education into this world continues.....

Sunday, April 16, 2017

China Rose

Yesterday was a big day for me. I did not get adequate sleep the two nights before and walked, according to Samsung Gear, 27 THOUSAND steps that day. Yep. I am sure that I have walked more than that on days long past, but certainly not recently. I was tired....

And that was before I even got to my gig at the China Rose, to start at 9pm.... no, make that 9:30pm. Wow. Somewhere along the line I should have made better decisions. And then, to make it just a little worse, I discover that close family members of my partner- in- crime, Rick, have arrived to see what kind of music he is making as Rick and Marilyn. They have seen him work in Clouds (his rock band), and, judging by things I overheard, likely making his own, Pluto style music, as our friend Kevin calls it. But this is the first time they are seeing our duo. It is stress that I have to just stop thinking about.

I am pretty sure I can make this work, though. Almost always, as soon as I strap on the guitar, my mood picks up, my energy returns, my mind clears (or goes into that space that I have yet to define... but if you have seen me perform, there it is..... ). I did have a little nagging doubt when I was lugging my gear in, with a little upset stomach and getting dizzy whenever I leaned over....

But yes, tune it up, smile at Rick, play some chords, he plays along and before you know it, we are performing a song that will be on the record, 'Blue Love'. It sounded sweet. Several more songs, and I suddenly remembered that just a little while before, I was too tired to play. Huh. Just give me the guitar and the mic...

And I was soooo glad to be there. Ricks solos were RIGHT on the money (as per usual), and my voice was cooperating, for the most part, at least. An older man in the corner, who was obviously there to listen to the music, pulled his harp out of his pocket and played a sound as we finished a song. That bought him an invite to the stage for two songs, and that made me a new friend! There were a few times that the songs got many of the customers singing-- loudly!!!.... and I tried to encourage that. They were having so much fun, and it is SO much fun to have a part in giving others a good time. During the break, people stopped me to speak about the songs.... the selection, the sound we got, Ricks guitar.... And yes, it was a bar group, but most folks, most of the time, were listening (and singing) nevertheless.

As usual, I did not eat before singing (I think if you think about that just a little bit, you will certainly understand why), but both Rick and Judy enjoyed their pre-show meals, so I think I will have to go back and try the food out. It certainly did smell excellent!! And the atmosphere is cozy but welcoming and comfortable.

Overall, an excellent time, in a very pleasant space and an excellent audience!!!! I hope we are asked back!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Farmers Markets!!!

I have often said that I work the 'Farmers Market Circuit'.  At one time, just a few years ago, I could easily work every Saturday morning at a market within 30 minutes of my home. This year, not so easy... there are only so many markets, and there exist so *many* musicians, and now each market only allows you to work a day or two a season.
So, I am branching out!! I have gotten gigs now in Millerton, Schenectady and Sheffield, adding to the markets I play in Hudson, Hillsdale, and Kinderhook. But that still does not fill my schedule. I LIKE having my scheduled filled!!
I guess that what that really means is that I will be on the streets of Hudson, busking, far more often than I have had in recent years. AND there is NOTHING wrong with that!!
Looking forward to a summer of music making.... hope to see you around!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Leonard Cohen- Bird on the Wire

I saw a movie yesterday about a tour of Leonard Cohen's in 1972. The movie shows clips of interviews, songs, etc that happened during the tour. What I want to talk about is his philosophy of performance.
He said that sometime, he was unable to get into the song. I think the word he used was 'inhabit'. Like living inside of the song. I know that feeling, where you are singing a song and it feel like it is coming out of the depths of your soul. It is wonderful occurrence when it happens, because as a singer, you feel that you are expressing the soul of the song itself. It was his goal to get there every time. I think that is truly an admirable goal and likely why he is as revered an artist as he is. But that is also a scary place. It is a place where you, personally, are open to the world for the seeing. Vulnerable.
And when you see his performances, you can palpate his vulnerability. Time after time. It is mesmerizing, beautiful, stately.
He also said that he would sing even if he were not popular, and really criticized being popular. He states that the first way you know something is bad art is if it is popular, so he questions he own value. But he also says he is not a good singer, he knows that. But he would sing even if... he would sing for himself.
I have a magazine here that is about Leonard's songwriting. I will read it today. I will come back to this article, I am sure, and write some more. I think this man is one to truly study.
If you are an artist, or have any interest in Leonard's music, I highly recommend you see the movie. It will stay with me for a long, long time.....

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Songwriting musings

So, yeah, I have not been as productive creatively as I would like to be. I set aside time, which generally gets wasted on Facebook. I clear my calendar and stay in rather than go out and be with others. I sit here or pace and try to think of -- something. I look at my empty whiteboard. I sometimes write some words up there. Sometimes those words might even make it to my Drive file where I keep pieces of melody and words and phrases.

But, overall, songs are a rare occurrence.

I read books and articles and interviews around songwriting and songwriters... yep, I feel inspired, but nothing gets produced.

Today, I think I had one of those ah HA moments.... How can I have anything to say that is important enough to say more than once (like, when I sing it...), if I am empty like that whiteboard? When I am sitting at home rather than out in the world, learning and seeing and gathering?

And how will I know that this story or this thought or this feeling or this moment should be a song? All day, things pass me by that could be written about. I remember having the experience of one line or phrase, which I knew could be a song, and I recorded it or wrote it down, and within a day, there, for better or worse, was a song. THAT was because I was practicing music and songs and thinking about music and songs ALL the time. SO, as soon as something interesting came my way, it made perfect sense to starting singing about it.

And you know.... I was happier when I was doing that all time.

It is spring tomorrow. Time to leave the winter down behind. (I already wrote about that, a couple years ago, LOL!!) Time to get out and about. Time to just sing because I like it, not to 'work'. FUN.