Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Throw away post

When I write several long, thoughtful blog posts in a row, I start putting all this pressure on myself to make every post long and thoughtful and profound and totally original. Then I never write. I've learned that as I songwriter, I sometimes have to push through a couple of bad songs, just to get the juices flowing, before I can write a good one. So this is my meaningless, short, boring post. There might be another on the way. Sorry folks, just gotta get them out of my system.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Stretching Myself

Over the past couple of weeks I've been busy, but still I found time to dust off a few skills from my younger days. And whew, was I ever rusty! I think it's good for the brain, though, to be stretched in new directions.And after learning that I'm more of an experimental artist, I know I'm drawn to trying new things. I'm sure these experiences will show up in my work somehow over the next few months.

When I was a little girl, I loved dancing. I choreographed a dance to "Material Girl" by Madonna for the 2nd grade talent show, and had my first pair of fishnet stockings at age 6, for a bordello inspired tap number. When I heard that Alamo Drafthouse and The Rude Mechanicals and some other Austin Groups were going to attempt to break the Guinness World Record for most people simultaneously dancing the dance from Michael Jackson's Thriller, I had to join. This required several hours of learning and practicing the whole dance. This woman named Ines has organized the worldwide effort and makes it super easy in her teaching videos with words to chant along with the steps.

The day of the world record event, it was more inspiring and uplifting than I could have imagined. I was really impressed with the people of all different ages and abilities who participated. Everyone was really dedicated; we wanted to get the steps right and to act like scary zombies. People went all out with their costumes and the logistics ran like clockwork. At the end of the dance, I had tears in my eyes as I was slapping high fives with strangers covered in fake blood. There are tons of videos on YouTube, but here's one where you can see me doing the dance. I'm wearing the red dress. I mean this blog is all about me.

I also used to play Tuba in the marching band, and have since been a little sad when I've seen parades in Austin going by without a bass instrument in the brass band. So when I was given a baritone (Thanks, Jamie!), I decided to join the rag-tag street band in Austin that plays in whatever parade or protest they are invited to. I was really intimidated by this. I didn't have much time to practice and get my embouchure in shape, and there was no rehearsal and just a suggestion of what songs might be played. I haven't played a brass instrument in 15 years, so I was scrambling to remember fingerings and work out my parts. It was a good wake up call, reminding me of how much music theory I have forgotten, and just rarely use when I'm playing my own songs all the time. The Day of the Dead parade day came and 8 of us showed up to play, plus one twirler. Everyone was very nice and forgiving of my flubs, and it was actually fun to play and I felt like I added something to the overall sound. It wasn't the Tuba, but I'm glad I made a baby step toward the goal. Here's a video of the band, I'm playing baritone, so listen close for the oomp-pahs, one octave higher than they should be.

So look out for a hot dance video or maybe a solo baritone track on my next CD!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Am I A Late Bloomer?

I know it's been a while since I've blogged. I just didn't have any great ideas to write about, and I don't want to subject you to reading something boring like "I had a great show, I drove a hundred miles, I got up early and went running." (Oops, I just did. But with irony!) So then I thought I could come up with something interesting to say about my constant procrastination. But I think I just might have covered that topic before. I know I think about it almost every day.

Then yesterday I read Malcolm Gladwell's recent article in the New Yorker. Hear him talk about it here. It's all about "Late Bloomers," or artists who come into their genius later in life, and it raises some pretty interesting issues for the way we structure our creative lives, and how artists interact with the marketplace. Drawing heavily from the book "Old Masters and Young Geniuses" by David Galenson (which is now on my reading list), he describes an alternative to the artistic archetype of the Prodigy or inherently talented youngster which many of us have come to believe is the true genius. The Late Bloomer is more of an experimental artist, taking years to practice, research, try different techniques, hone her skills and ultimately find her voice. Late Bloomers produce works of art every bit as intriguing and important as Prodigies, but much later in life. Cezanne and Ben Fountain are the examples he chooses to illustrate this point.

Inspiring, right? Maybe we all have potential to be great artists when we retire! Maybe we shouldn't write off arts education for our kids just because they don't seem to be talented by 5th grade.

The problem is that these days, we expect that good art will be supported by the marketplace. Lots of people who dream of being a singer or painter give themselves 5 or 10 years to "make it," then move on to a 8-5 job. And who can blame them? It's hard to be poor for years and years, especially if you have no guarantee that your art will ever be well received. Especially if you are a perfectionist who is rarely satisfied with your creative output. And is it really an option to have a full time job and practice art on the side? Will there be enough time to follow every thread of inspiration, repeat every exercise enough times to make it just right? Gladwell suggests that many Late Bloomers are blessed with Patrons, be they parents or spouses who pay the bills so that the artist can work. But those are very special circumstances indeed, and certainly open to abuse. The common call lately seems to be "Cut those free-loading 20-somethings off!"

I you haven't guessed yet, I feel like a Late Bloomer. My self-critical side wonders if I'm just glomming on to the idea to justify my minimal success, and make myself feel better about getting older. How do I know that I will actually ever "bloom" someday? But I relate to the characterization on more fundamental points, too. I can be quite a perfectionist, feeling very unsatisfied with my songs and editing or re-writing them over and over. But I also really enjoy the creative process, the research part, winding down different alleyways of ideas, gathering resources and inspiration around me. Some days the observing and noticing and learning is more satisfying than having a finished song to sing. Take Galenson's quiz to see which you are.

Having realized this, what do I do? Look for a patron? Re-adjust my expectations? Push myself harder or back off? Am I OK with waiting for my success? Is my family? Is the youth-obsessed music industry? I hope this article sparks more discussion about different types and timelines for creative expression, we sure need some kind of a change.

So maybe I'm not really procrastinating. I'm just researching....

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Caught up in the crisis

I just ate cold pizza from the fridge. So, it was homemade, whole wheat crust, and covered with fresh veggies. It was still leftover and cold, and that's not a good sign. Then I ate stale, florescent, sour gummy worms. It's that bad. I've been running around on the verge of puking, checking my bank balance and my mailbox several times a day. When are those checks coming? When are my bills due? Did my bank collapse? I need to turn off Marketplace and do some yoga. I think we all should.

And then I saw a bumper sticker that read, "Business is good. People are terrific. Life is wonderful." OK. Right. Stress isn't really helping anything. I'm gonna put on my Deepak Chopra tape and try to appreciate all the things that aren't going wrong right now. And book a few more babysitting jobs. Then drink a margarita and go dancing like crazy at my friend's birthday party tonight.

Anybody else have a good idea about how to chill out?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My Gendered America(na)

If 1992 was "The Year of the Woman" in politics, I think 2008 is "The Year of Women's Issues." With Hillary making a run for it, and now Sarah Palin on the Republican ticket, the country is thinking about women's roles and abilities more than it has in a long time. So it's no surprise that my feminist senses were heightened last week, while I was attending the Americana Music Association Conference and Festival in Nashville.

I don't have exact numbers, but I love to estimate, so I'm making a guess about these demographics. On the list of showcasing artists (a somewhat misleading term, since 100% of the acts I saw were full bands), I counted about 1/3 of them to include women. That doesn't sound too bad until you take into account that most of those bands have 1, or maybe 2 women in them, and 3-5 men. Which ends up meaning that women were only about 8% of the artists at the festival. Now I'm really wishing I did have more hard data. My impression is that most of these women were singers, songwriters, rhythm guitar players, fiddlers, and a couple of them played bass, lead guitar, or ukelele. I didn't see any women on drums.

At the Award Show, there were 24 nominations, 4 of them for acts that include women, (16.6%), and of the 14 awards given out that night (8 of which were Lifetime Achievement Awards), 4 went to women (28.5 %). Over the 7 year history of the Americana Awards, women have won 23% of the awards, and never has a woman won "Song of the Year," "Instrumentalist of the Year" or Lifetime Achievement Awards for Songwriter or Instrumentalist. I'm not trying to place blame on anyone in particular for this, the nominations and winners are voted on by the membership. I'm just noticing a trend. And after a while, it starts to look like a glass ceiling (or would it be a wooden ceiling?). I mean, don't Alison Krauss (as an instrumentalist), Cindy Cashdollar or Lucinda Williams seem like obvious choices?

So who is the membership? I checked out the latest list of members and went through assigning a sex to each person. I know this is unfair, and that people should be able to label themselves and I probably counted a few too many Chrises as women and Randys as men, but the membership is around 34% women. Each sector is different, but there are wide disparities in Production (22% women) and Radio/TV (21% women). Women outnumber men in 2 categories; Publicity (75%) and Booking (59%). The artists are 32% women, which doesn't really match with the showcasing numbers I mentioned earlier. This could be because either the showcasing artists are not drawn from the membership, or because every member of a band isn't necessarily a member of the AMA. I think it's a little of both.

There we some fashion trends for the ladies, too. In general they were very feminine, just hinting at country, with the curve-hugging lace dress being a popular choice. Pheobe Hunt from the Belleville Outfit, Jill Andrews of the Everybodyfields, and Allison Moorer were all stunning in theirs. In fact, after Allison came on stage with the balding and bearded Steve Earle to sing a duet (I love the guy, but we're talking fashion here), I started to feel uncomfortable about the way the chips were falling; very few women on the stage, and more and more of them looking like super-models. The award show even had a couple of model types in skimpy outfits handing the awards to the winners. Who were they? One friend commented that the statue girls looked more like the ones you see announcing the next round at a professional wrestling match than at an awards show. Is this the alternative to the mainstream commercial country industry? It seems like the double standard is actually worse in Americana, because at least in commercial country the men feel strong pressure to look good, too.

Once I started thinking about this, artists like Greta Gaines in her slightly ironic, peach 80's blouse and fedora, and Those Darlins and Blair with their intentionally messy hair and sloppy make-up were a breath of fresh air. The thing is, I do believe all these women - the polished and the punky - are sincerely presenting themselves. I like to dress up and look pretty for my shows, so I'm not judging that choice. I'm just starting to wonder if somewhere deep down or maybe even not so deep, I feel like I have to. Do I feel, however consciously, that what I do musically isn't good enough, so I have to make up for it visually? And how much of that is valid? (I could be a better singer and guitar player.) And how much of that is just the simple truth that the industry and lots of audiences value smoking guitar licks over engaging lyrics or a clear voice? And then, is that preference gendered? Or sexist? You see how a gal can spin herself into a cycle of doubt.

So does this issue need to be addressed? Should we change the gender demographics of the AMA and the music industry in general? And if so, how? It seems since the fade out of Lillith Fair, most women musicians have dealt with it on their own. We just try to be true to our own musical vision and personal style, find industry partners that respect us, and find fans that appreciate what we offer. We believe that good music will find an audience, no matter who makes it. But still lots of us try hard to avoid being labeled "women's music" or fear that gaining a large lesbian following will turn off other fans. Our music is called "soft" and we're introduced as "easy on the eyes" and called "sweetie" by men who can't play as well as we can. We take time off from our careers to raise kids, while musical dads keep on touring. We sometimes talk about these things together, but don't want to be overheard because we might be considered whiners by those men who control the media or venues we depend on for exposure.

So maybe this year, while we're all thinking about women juggling kids and the Vice-Presidency and pantsuits, we should have a conversation about the state of women in the music industry. Is there more we should be doing together to make it more representative of the creativity that's out there? I'm off to practice guitar, volunteer for Girls Rock Camp and and I'm looking forward to your comments and thoughts on this topic.

By the way, I actually had a great time a the conference, was superbly entertained and inspired, and mets tons of friendly and generous people. I just never stop thinking. :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Try this at home

I had such a great time playing with the band last night at my official Austin CD release party. So many friendly faces, new and familiar. Such great sound and service from the Cactus Cafe. And the "Song-Inspired Cocktails" were a big hit. If you couldn't be there, mix up "The Easy Way" or one of my other concoctions, put on the CD and pretend...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Art vs. Entertainment vs. Politics

If you read my previous post, you know I was pretty high last week about Obama's nomination. Aside from the political aspect, it was a huge cultural event, even bigger than Ferraro, I'd say, because millions of people voted for him. So, in the spirit of the evening, at my performance, I decided to introduce my song "Sorry" this way.

"It's been an exciting election year and I'm really hoping Barack Obama doesn't break my heart. (A few cheers) Here's a song I wrote for all the politicians who have broken my heart." And played my song.

When I was counting up my tips at the end of the night, I found this in the jar.

If you can't read the small print, it says. "Keep your polotics out of your act. It cost you Tonight."

At first I felt shocked and kind of vulnerable. Someone didn't like what I did, and didn't pay me because of it. I got Dixie Chicked! But then I really started to think about what they were trying to say, what they saw, and what I'm trying to do with my "act." Did it really cost me all that much?

I think this gets to the heart of the old Art vs. Entertainment argument. If it's a certain musical performance, what's the main reason for it to exist? I think that Entertainment is primarily focused on making money. To do that, you try to make people happy and give them what they want. Of course, there can be amazing artistry in entertainment. Entertainers can take risks and push boundaries and have precise technical skill. But If people stop buying tickets, the act changes.

Pure Art, at the other end of the spectrum, doesn't care what the audience thinks. An artist has something to say that must be said whether it is popular or not. An artist doesn't create or perform for the money, but because she just has to express her vision. Maybe it's fun or popular, but if it stops attracting an audience, it keeps being made, maybe in obscurity.

I think most musicians find themselves somewhere in the middle of the two. We write songs, but join a cover band to pay the bills, or take gigs in restaurants, like I did that night. I want to express my own truth, but I also want to be liked, and to fit in, so I'm always picking which songs seem suited to each crowd and situation. And sometimes my whole mission with a song or a show is to make people feel good and have fun, just because.

But maybe I was trying too hard to please. Because Mr. Dollar Bill thought I was an entertainer. He thought that his withholding the other $4 he would have tipped me was enough to make me change my "act." Maybe he was just giving some friendly advice or maybe he wanted to assert some power, but either way, it didn't work. I'm so willing to pay that $4 or $19 or however much being myself has cost me over the years. I want to decide where I fall on the spectrum between art and entertainment. And no audience member, no threat, no amount of money is worth giving up my power to choose how I want to express myself.

And one more thing on politics and music. They go together, whether you know it or like it or not. But what I have loved about Nashville, is that while it can be a passionate and divided political landscape (read Chris Willman's Rednecks and Bluenecks), a good song trumps all political differences. When a song has the potential to touch people and make a lot of money, nobody cares which candidate the writer voted for, which is probably different from the one the artist voted for. That song has to get out. And so many of those songs are about universal feelings and situations. Which is probably why Brooks and Dunn performed at the 2004 Republican Convention, while their song "Only In America" played after Obama's acceptance speech. It's an idea bigger than either party.

I want to keep making art and entertaining people and I know that some of my songs will be more successful than others. I also want to keep listening to music by all sorts of people and finding truth in it. I think that's where I find common ground with people who are different from me. Mr. Dollar Bill, did you really not want to know me at all? Did you really just want to eat dinner and hear music that didn't open your world in any way? Did I really have nothing to offer? I hope you were just having a bad night.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Black Men On My Mind

I've been driving through the South and listening to the audiobook I picked up at the library, Black Boy by Richard Wright. It's really good so far, emotional, vivid, making me cringe and cry and scream in frustration as I'm driving. The section I'm listening to is in the 1910's and Richard is growing up and learning about race relations, the KKK, the dangers of standing up for himself to whites. There is a pervasive attitude of "keep your head down" that frustrates, and scares, and confuses him as a boy. And it seems hopeless that anything will ever change.

Then, I missed my exit in Atlanta and to get back to I-85, I had to drive right through Sweet Auburn and the Martin Luther King, Jr, Center and National Monument. No time to stop today, but I thought back to last summer when I spent a day looking at the exhibits and wandering the street King grew up on. It was so moving to be there and learn more about this life and the struggle for Civil Rights. Even more emotional for me, was how many people were there. People of all colors, all ages, single people wandering slowly, families explaining things to the kids, and family reunions with matching t-shirts. I was glad to end up there by chance today, on the 45th Anniversary of his "I Have a Dream Speech." Go back and watch it, it's so amazing. To have so much hope and determination in the face of such adversity.

And tonight Barack Obama will accept the Democratic Party's nomination for President. I have to admit, was getting a little cynical about his campaign. All the happy music and pageantry at the convention is so predictable. I was scoffing at the melodramatic headlines on CNN, "Obama Makes History!" The softball questions they were throwing at conventioneers about what today means to them. But damn, this is huge. This IS historic. And the best part is that Obama is totally worth all the praise and attention and celebration. I can't wait for him to be president and make good things happen, inspire us to serve, and help the rest of the world see how good our country can be.

Sure, the campaign still has to wage on, there will be compromises and disappointments. Yes, there is still a LOT of work to do to improve racial and ethnic relations all over the world, but I don't want to think about that today. I just want to let Richard and Martin and Barak spin around in my brain and feel hopeful for a little while. I want to recognize that this country has taken a huge step toward realizing the ideals our democracy is based on. And now we have even more reason to believe that we can make it all the way.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Austin's pleasures

I've been enjoying my home time. Really trying to write songs and be productive all day long. But there is laundry and Olympics and toenails to be painted... The artist's brain really does need some rest. And external inspiration. Here are some of my recent activities and fascinations.

Morning laps at Barton Springs. OK, so I'm caught up in the Michael Phelps riptide, but really swimming is awesome. I've been inconsistently free-stying it at the 68 degree pool in the mornings since I moved to town, but I had an extra kick in my stroke this week after watching the Olympics. Plus, I got new goggles, so I don't have red rings around my eyes for hours after my workout. I always felt that the coffee shop people were worried that I had been punched in the face.

Bruce Robison at Sholtz's Beer Garden just feels so Texas. A hot night under Oak trees and bare light bulbs strung up. We all sing along to Wrapped and people dance to EVERY song, and kids are running around or falling asleep on laps. I'm really looking forward to the new CD from Bruce coming next month!

I'm indulging a mild French fetish this month. I started taking an awesome beginning "Gay Ballet" class. It's for queer people, or just those who will admit that ballet is really gay. :) It's super fun and we wear crazy socks and laugh a lot actually really work on our technique, which is a very good butt workout. Also, I read French Women Don't Get Fat, which is full of generalizations and offensive stereotypes, but does paint a picture of a lovely way to eat, whether it's true or not. After a summer full of road food, I think I needed a little reminder about the importance of cooking and enjoying the flavors of fresh food. And wine. And chocolate. Mmmm. I've even been inspired to try to make my own yogurt. We'll see...

I love my little balcony. It's actually been cool enough to eat an early breakfast or late dinner outside, but I have to look at all my poor parched plants. I need a trip to Happiness, an awesome, arty, junky plant store, to get some succulents for my empty pots. And Whole Foods has locally grown herbs in pots 2/$5. A little gardening this week, I think!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Just Your Average Road Trip

It's just been a good few days driving around and seeing great people all over the place. I have so much that I want to do and accomplish, and some days I just can't wait for someday to come. But more and more, I'm learning how to enjoy my days on the way to success. I love audiobooks, CD, and podcasts in the car, not to mention the solo highway time for letting my imagination run wild. I love that I get to visit my friends in their new houses and snuggle their babies. I get to swim in mountain streams and splash in the ocean and ride the subway.  I get to play for cheerleaders one night, and then pick old fiddle tunes in the mountains the next. 

The past couple of days, I've been in Nashville, which is always inspiring. Last night I went to the Station Inn and watched the Time Jumpers, a western swing band who are so smooth and sweet. But I really wanted to dance and there was no open floor space. Pout. So I settled for watching the pedal steel player like a hawk. How do they do that??!! 

Today I had a great time chatting and drinking wine with Liz Hengber. She is such a generous and smart woman. I'm so inspired to listen, listen hard, and write, write, write a hit song for Reba. Yes! To work. 

There's always a little part of me that misses home, but  the past few days have been full of the magical coincidences that can only happen when you are away from home, so I'm happy. And that's what my song "Nothing to Hold Me Down" is all about. And guess what? A video of me playing it on The Songwriters Series Internet TV show just surfaced on the web. You watch this while I go write a new one.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Falcon Ridge Wrap Up

Now that I am clean, dry, fed and housed in a permanent structure with wi-fi, I can take a minute to breathe and re-cap my high and low lights from Falcon Ridge Folk Festival.

  • Smartest move: Stopping at Tractor Supply Comapny on my way to the fest for a raincoat and tall rain boots. 
  • Went by too fast: Playing my two songs on that big stage!
  • Made me cry: Dar Williams bringing out all the performers' kids on stage to see the audience holding up their cell phones and glo sticks while we all sang Iowa together. 
  • Made me want to quit playing music and just follow him around: Martin Sexton.
  • Best meal: It's a tie between the Garlique Chic Crepe from the Skinny Pancake and breakfast Friday morning: Eggs, sausage, French Toast with Fresh blueberries and Cabot Vermont Style Cottage Cheese. I miss it so much in Texas!
  • Necessary Accessory: Umbrella for sun and rain. 
  • My VIP ticket: Quart of West Virginia Moonshine.
  • Most heart pounding moment: Escaping from a collapsing festival tent, running through pounding rain and hail to my car, and getting every single thread of clothing soaked. 
  • Favorite folk-y moment: Getting trapped at the Focus tent in a downpour with about 10 other people. We sang every song about the sun we could think of until it stopped. In harmony. 
  • Made me want to make it big: All-access backstage pass.
  • Made me want to stay anonymous: (tie) 1. Meeting so many nice people in the audience and campground. 2. Looking absolutely terrible when I rolled out of my tent after 3 hours of sleep, and no one snapping my pic for Us Weekly.
  • New favorite people: All the other emerging artists. 
Ok, that's all I can think of for now. I really hope I can make it back next year!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

On my way...

Oh me. I should be packing. Or paying my bills. Or cleaning the kitchen. Something productive that's going to insure that I get on the road on time tomorrow. But I got out the banjo and I can't put it down. Then I got on YouTube and watched all sorts of dance cru videos and ObamaGirl and Tift Merritt. And now I'm blooging. There are so many things to distract a girl on this ol' interweb!

I should actually be paying attention to what I'm doing online. I went to Austin Music Foundation's Boot Camp last night on the topic of Web 2.0. Rather than be totally overwhelmed by everything that I should be doing, all the tools I should be using to promote my music, I got a really great piece of advice from Paige Maguire. She said [I] should notice what tools and applications I like to use when checking out other artists, then use those to promote myself. OK. Cool. I need more YouTube videos. And um, free stuff. I'll work on that.

But no, I'm going to log out, put on some music and fill that suitcase. There are miles to be driven and songs to be sung! This trip will take me all the way to New England, which is sure to be 20 degrees cooler than Austin. But I'm really excited to play in Gatlinburg this Friday, opening for Darrell Scott. He's so smart and inspiring and jaw droppingly good at like 12 instruments. And then Nashville writing and Alabama shows on the way home. I think I'll have plenty of time to explore the back roads this time, too. See the sights, taste local delicacies. Pan fer gold... I'll post any major discoveries here, of course!

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Today was glorious. I don't mean the weather, because I only barely left the house. I mean the staying home all day, cleaning my apartment from bow to stern, eating from the fridge, and listening to my record player. I wanted to make this place as clean, organized, and calm as I can for the little time I'm here. I even put my suitcase way in the back of my closet, like I'm not going to need it in a week. But I'm not thinking about leaving again. I'm enjoying all the things I'll miss when I'm gone. And now that my domicile is in order, I can focus on getting work done and enjoying my friends and going out to hear some good music.

It was actually quite a full and inspiring weekend. I played Trivia with  Rebecca Havemeyer and Little Stolen Moments, ate smoked meat while singing along to Susan Gibson and The Ginn Sisters, and was so happy with the way Firecracker Festival came off. BettySoo, Melissa Greener, Jess Klein and The Ginn Sisters were all amazing and the crowd was so appreciative as always at the Cactus Cafe. Yay! I have to admit that I was worried about the turnout, since I didn't have time to do as much publicity this year, but you came, you listened, you cheered! Austin rocks. I'm gonna soak it up while I can.

Monday, June 23, 2008

One Star

I supposedly learned my lesson in Asheville in '02, then I made the pronouncement in Jackson, MS in '05. But I think this time I've really burned it into my brain so that it will stick. No more 1 star hotels! Do not be tempted by the low, low price. Even when gas is over $4 a gallon. Do not be tempted by the extra 1000 points you'll get toward another stay. Don't see the Econo Lodge listing online and think "That one wasn't so bad in Vermont..." The risks are too high! The bedbugs, the lurking men, the late night yelling, the chain that has been replaced several times, I'm don't deserve that! I just listened to Deepak Chopra and he told me to go first-class to live first class, so this is really the last time. This star is worth more than one star.
Three days later, and a guest bed, a couch and an air mattress sleepier, and 30 gallons of gas lighter, I was getting frustrated online booking a hotel for myself and BettySoo in Des Moines. 

Abi: Ahhh! A room with two queen beds is $8 more than a room with only one queen bed. 

BettySoo: I'll sleep with you for $4. 

Econo Lodge, two cheap girls are on their way.
The next day, we were treated like the stars we are when KUNI Radio put us up at The Blackhawk Hotel. Back on track and the pronouncements begin again. . .

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Rooting for Jewel

When Jewel's first album came out, full of passion and her quirky vocals and ways of describing relationships and political issues, I was a 19 and fell right in love with it. I would have really been a huge fan if she hadn't been on a major label, I was snobby like that. I've casually followed her releases since then, and always been a little embarrassed to admit that I liked to sing along to "Hands" or "Standin' Still."

When I heard she was releasing a country album, I rolled my eyes with everyone else, thinking "another artist who has played out her pop career is carpet-bagging it over to Nashville." But after hearing so many Nashville publishers and A&R guys tell me that my music is too clever, too smart, too off-beat for country radio, I started to really root for Jewel. She's already proven that her music has wide appeal. Quirky as it is, it's also real and really catchy. So if Jewel's songs do well on country radio, maybe the industry will have a little more faith in the fans' ability to understand music with subtlety and layers. The Dixie Chicks were trailblazers in that regard until they crossed a line and got blacklisted, but I believe there are lots of listeners who are still missing the depth that the Chicks brought to the airways.

So I'm going to buy Jewel's record and sing along. And I'm going to keep trying to sneak smart lyrics into my country songs, maybe a few more ears will be open to it now.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Creating through stress

I'm usually wiped out by co-writing. It takes so much emotional energy to connect with someone and create through all the stress. You have expectations and hopes, and I'm a pleaser, so I really want them to like me and think I'm smart. After 4 hours of all that brainwork, I mostly want a meal and a nap. But I had two co-writes today I feel great! They were very different, one fast and high energy, one more contemplative and measured. But mostly, I'm just happy to be creating with other people and sharing this whole crazy experience of songwriting, instead of going it alone like I usually do. Eamon McLoughlin and I finished the duet we started over a year ago and I really like how it turned out. Now I just have to find someone to sing it with me!

I also found out today that I'm going to be playing at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival/Grassy Hill: Emerging Artists Showcase! I know I recently vowed that I wasn't going to enter any more contests, but I had already submitted to this one and kind of forgotten. But then a couple of weeks ago, I got a message saying the selection process was taking longer than expected and I was reminded that I had entered and was sent into that whole nasty cycle of checking e-mail and the festival website every hour to see if they had announced the artists. Uhg! I hate that I get so caught up in such things. But this isn't technically a contest, it's a showcase, so I can just be happy that I was selected and have fun at the festival and not worry about the survey they are going to give the audience to see who their favorites are. Yeah, right. I know I'm going to worry about it. Maybe the universe is giving me one more chance to really learn my lesson about being competitive and nervous.

I was listening to a podcast called the Accidental Creative the other day and in it, they were talking about the false boundaries and rules we put around ourselves as artists. There was a cool visualization from "The Now Habit" by Neil Fiore where you imagine walking across a board that is 1 foot wide and 30 feet long. No problem, right? Now, raise that same board 100 feet in the air. I, for one, would not even dare to take the first step. It's the same task, but the stakes are much higher. I thought about that when I played at Chattanooga Market on Sunday. I felt so comfortable, so in control of my voice, and I really had fun performing. And I wondered why I can't feel like that when I'm singing the exact same songs in front of judges. The one thing that's not going to help me, is to get nervous. So maybe it is good that I have one more contest in my future. It's one more chance to ignore the external judgement and high stakes and just live in the moment of my performance. The cool part is, if I succeed, I won't have to hate contests so much!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Big Screen

The movie hasn't officially premiered, so I was sworn to secrecy as I entered the screening and vowed that I would not blog about it or go on ET and spoil it for everyone. But, I don't think it's wrong for me to tell you how excited I was to be sitting in a sold out movie theater with the main credits floating by at to see my name there. In a movie. "Original Music by Abi Tapia" Me! OK. That's all I'm gonna say. But go see it in LA June 22-27 or New York July 11-13. Wahoo!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Airport Productivity

I’m at the Houston airport typing away. I sometimes find that I can get lots of work done when I’m flying. I think it’s because I generally don’t have internet access. In other words, no distractions. I just fill up my outbox and nothing new comes in. Yay!

I do not give a “Yay” to the new paying for checked bags policies. I don’t know how we’re going to afford getting around if this trend continues. But I love to go places, I don’t want to play shows and listen to music in a virtual computer world! Bring on the green revolution. Isn’t someone working on solar airplanes or something?

I was up soooo late last night stuffing envelopes with my new CDs. I really like the new handmade covers. I used some old maps that have been all over the country with me, and I had some custom rubber stamps made with my name and picture. They look great, but every time I’m pulling an all-nighter to finish up and get them out, I curse myself for taking on such a labor intensive task! Now that it’s just about done, it all seems worth it, so I’ll probably do it again next time.... But truly, I’d do anything for those folks who pre-ordered my CD. What a leap of faith!

Thanks to Austin Music Foundation for putting on a great workshop with Berkelee College of Music Songwriting instructor Pat Pattison last Monday. I like the one book I have of his, but I wasn’t sure what I would get out of a couple of hours of him talking about songwriting. But it was amazing and so inspiring! I totally recommend taking a workshop or class with him if you want to learn how to write better songs. I went home and worked for a couple more hours generating ideas and images for a couple different songs. I also had a fun co-writing session with the awesome Elizabeth McQueen, AND some other songwriter friends started a monthly title challenge group, so the universe seems to be conspiring to help me writer more and better. I’ll take it!

My flight is boarding. See you at baggage claim.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

More manifesations

The CDs are in physical form! Somewhere between the production plant and your hands. Travel safe little guys...

Also, Trinidad, the documentary that features original music by Abi, is premiering at the LA Film Festival. See a clip at www.trinidadthemovie.com

Monday, May 5, 2008

Firsts and Lasts

We like to get up at the same time in the morning. We both need good, strong coffee. Neither of us like fast food, and we both like singing harmony to each other’s songs. If we’re not soul mates, we are at least meant to be touring partners. I had such a great time with Beth Wood, playing shows, commiserating over the bad ones with wine, cheese and late night TV, or celebrating the good ones with a high-fives, local brews and pizza. The altitude and dryness wore me out, but Colorado and New Mexico were just gorgeous. Snow and mountains and adobe houses. It’s like another world only a (long) day’s drive away. Can’t wait to do it again!

I had pretty much sworn off ever entering another songwriting contest, but an unusual series of events led me to be a finalist in the Songwriter’s Serenade at the Fiddler’s Frolics Festival. I was such a nervous wreck about this thing, I know I won’t enter another. I thought I had convinced myself that these things don’t really matter; it’s just the a couple of people’s opinion of what’s good and whether you win or not, it doesn’t really mean anything. But I did win and I have to admit that the $500 prize was really nice. And I have a feeling that convincing myself that winning doesn’t mean anything is more pleasant than convincing myself that losing doesn’t mean I’m a wretched failure who should never sing again. It really cracks me up when people suggest I should go on American Idol. Not only could I never belt like that, being criticized in front of millions of people every week sounds like torture. No thank you.

Two days after my last songwriting contest, I hosted my last open mic at the Cactus CafĂ©. Lately my schedule has kept me busy and out of town so much, I wanted to make room for a new host who can dedicate more time to making folks feel at home when they come to play that amazing-sounding room. The whole night was fun and emotional, especially after too many gin and tonics. The best part was when our sound engineer, Jack, sang on stage for the first time and dedicated “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Allright,” and everybody sang along. Awwww. I’m gonna miss that Monday night hang out…

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Set Lists

I wish I had time to write more, but I’m very busy today. I’ve got to make my most upbeat, funky set list ever for the gig tonight. I’m playing at the club where the Rebirth Brass Band plays every Tuesday. How do I get into these situations?!

Here's another kind of set list I've been working on: The song order for the CD!
1. Another State Line
2. The Easy Way
3. How It All Started
4. My Miner
5. Let The Lover Be
6. Flying
7. Beware
8. Just Let Me Go
9. Get It And Go
10. Sorry
11. Born Again
12. The Last Waltz

Can't wait to get it to you!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Model Week

After SXSW, it was so nice to have a “regular” week. For me that meant working 3 different day jobs, hosting open mic, running to meetings and lunches, and playing two gigs. But there were also hours when I got to be at home and follow my own schedule. Ahhhh.

I had big fun playing at Poor David’s Pub in Dallas on Saturday. Even though the club has only been in that location for a couple of years, it already feels full of history and good juju. You a sense that the audience is super comfortable, but also has a reverence for music that keeps them open and listening. So cool and so rare. Yay!

Today I had to play model. I don’t know if that’s really what I was doing, but I felt like I was some kind of modeling school drop-out, who suddenly had to pose for Vogue. OK, maybe the stakes weren’t that high, it was just the photo shoot for my album cover. But I just get so self-conscious in front of the camera; all I can think to do is smile. Sometimes I wish I was back at 14 and taking pictures for the Seventeen cover model contest. I used to really get into it, I loved posing and thought I was going all the way. Oh, teen-age dreams!

I’m sure you’ll see all sorts of pics from today eventually, but check out the photographer, Todd Wolfson. He's got a super website. We took some photos outside Rabbit’s bar on E. 6th 
street where there is a great wall of peeling paint. Rabbit and some of his friends were hanging out
 watching and I was kind of scared that they would be annoyed or mad at us artsy posers. But at the end of the shoot, Rabbit came up to me and said, “If I give you a T-shirt from my bar, will you wear it?” Heck yeah! And I’ll even go back for a beer.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My personal highlight for SXSW was signing my recording and publishing deals with MoonHouse Records. Wahoo! It’s been in the works and the legal departments for a long time and we didn’t really plan for it to happen this week, but SXSW is full of unexpected surprises. So Christine and I went out to the parking lot of Artz Rib House after my Wednesday night set and signed the papers. Yes, the parking lot. No cameras or champagne, I'm

 sure we'll get to that later, but right now we're all business. There's a record to put out! Then I got to walk around for the rest of the weekend feeling sorry for all the poor saps working it on 6th street, trying to get a record deal. Ahh, those were the starving years, I remember them fondly….last Tuesday. Now we’ve got lots of work to do, meeting with the graphic designer this week. Yay!

Aside from my own shows, I saw a wide variety of music, some

 good, some forgettable. There was the hippie string band, the Argentinian DJs, a smoky-voiced Brazilian beauty,  nerdy dance rockers, and singer-songwriters galore. The strangest transition was from hearing country star Deana Carter sing “Strawberry Wine” (can’t help but love it) at the fake Texas bar in the Direct TV studio, straight over to a tiny hot sweaty real Texas bar where The Golden Dogs from Toronto swept everyone up in their loud, driving, catchy rock. Whew! I loved them both, and I might be like 1 of 3 people who can say that. 

It was also so fun to catch up and make new memories with my friends from Heloise and the Savior Faire. I was lucky enough to score them an apartment in my complex, so they were close by and we got to escape the downtown craziness together, plus I got to show off some of the treasures of the East Riverside neighborhood. Best pollo in town! Their show at the complex pool was an emotional highlight of the weekend. I couldn’t be there, but just hearing the stories of the trashy, beautiful debauchery that took place makes me jump for joy. I think it was probably the best day of this property's life. In this pic, we are celebrating the reveal of their brand new CD. It's soooo fun and I think "Downtown" is my new power song for the treadmill.