Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Songwriter's Roundup in Alameda July 26, 2014 7pm

I've been putting together a songwriter roundup at High St Station in Alameda on a semi-regular basis. Next one is this Saturday, July 26, 2014 7pm. Come take a listen to a diverse bunch of voices!
Andrea Stray: Alt-country Americana
Deborah Crooks: West Coast Americana
Jeff Desira: Alternative Acoustic Pop-Rock
Kwame Copeland: Alt-country/Rock Americana
Teresa Topaz: Southern rock & acoustic blues
Steve Waters: Alt-country/folk rock

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Word power

 I didn't always sing, but I always wrote. I had the good fortune to discover books early on, which offered up a fortune of information (and inspiration) about the world out there, and what was possible to do with a pen. Thank god for literacy because it was the tail of the tiger that I had to catch on the road to  liberating my voice. For the quiet girl that I was, solace was found in books and making up stories of my own. For the silent surly teenager that followed, books offered more alternative realities, as adolescence found me getting a lot of props for what I looked like rather than what I said. I had one especially perceptive teacher who ran the drama department in which I didn't dare set foot, who also taught a drama literature class. Ms. Zanjani got right away that the work was easy for me but that I didn't take it seriously, and did me well by guiding me into College English classes.
Writing got me into UCSC, where, fortified by a diverse, dedicated-to-actualizing student-body, I realized that my quiet behavior simply didn't mirror the truth. Still it would take me a very long time to feel anywhere near comfortable talking in groups and to even think about performing, but over many years, writing led to being able to 'say' the truth on the page. Reading that writing stepped up the game, and singing, well that gave me my emotional spectrum back.
This is a CliffNotes version of a bigger story, but I'm remembering it this week, as I caught myself 'being shy' the other day, not speaking up in a mostly-male group when I had something to say.  
Then a friend posted the article What Every Girl Should Learn online and which I found at once encouraging and enraging and all to familiar. That is, I'm so glad Soraya Chemaly wrote this article and so sad getting your voice isn't enough in many cases.
The words:

"Stop interrupting me." 
"I just said that."
"No explanation needed."
The why: Chemaly writes  "As adults, women's speech is granted less authority and credibility. We aren't thought of as able critics or as funny. Men speak moremore often, and longer than women in mixed groups (classroomsboardroomslegislative bodiesexpert media commentary and, for obvious reasons  religious institutions.) Indeed,  in male-dominated problem solving groups including boards, committees and legislatures, men speak 75% more than women, with negative effects on decisions reached. 
That's why, as researchers summed up, "Having a seat at the table is not the same as having a voice."


As someone who took a long time to find my voice, I've had many rude awakenings when it comes to the latter. The only thing worse than overt sexism is seeing my own internalized sexism -- the part of me that bought the silence and deferral game who still occasionally rears her fearful head.   
I'll have to remember the direction to "stop interrupting" that much more...and stock up on some more good books.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bay Area New Music O'Rama: Desira, Garibaldi, Heartache Sisters & The Welcome Matt Debut CDs & Singles This Week

Bay Area musicians are packing a big punch this week as a quartet of local acts celebrate the release of new recording efforts. I've either shared shows with or happily applauded performances by these artists, who represent the full spectrum of songwriterly tendencies and deserve many ears.

Jeff Desira is eagerly anticipating his CD-release party at Amnesia on July 19th, 8pm, for "Weathervane." Produced by Scott Mickelson and mastered by Michael Romanowsk, expect some quality hook-laden tunes. (He'll be part of the Alameda Songwriter's Roundup on July 26).

While I was up playing in Oregon, Katie Garibaldi celebrated the release of her new — and seventh (!) — CD "Follow Your Heart," a collection of pop and country-tinged tunes recorded with great care at Tiny Telephone and featuring the string work of Magik Magik Orchestra

The Heartache Sisters are hard not to love with their multi-instrumentalist cool, sweet harmonies and Americana style. They've just debuted two new singles — Please Be Kind and Living Machine _ which can be found across the Inter webs. I also highly recommend seeing them live if you're in Fresno, Pasadena or Oakland in the coming weeks. Check their tour schedule for a date near you.

I recently interviewed The Welcome Matt about "POP JUNK FLUFF & HYPE," which is packed with memorable lines and is officially released July 16. This music rocks.

Good stuff all around, I say. Get ye to iTunes quick!

Monday, July 14, 2014

NW Mini-tour Postcard: Bend, Redmond & Ashland or Bust

Portland is cooler than ever: Here I'm waiting for the free piano seat on Alberta St. to open after enjoying the best gluten-free cinnamon roll from Back to Eden bakery and a fine coffee from Caffe Vita
I'm truly hooked on the open road, big skies, and opportunities to play songs for new people, which is why I set out on hours-long drives even when plans go awry, tech goes wonky and the temperature averages 95 degrees. Some snaps from the latest trip North and back
Big Sky on the way to Bend, Oregon. Bend is beautiful and boasts another good stage in Volcanic Theater Pub

The amazing Horse Tail Falls along the Columbia River. I didn't take a dip but wished I had later.

The dear Sue Quigley who shared the bill with us at the awesome listening room that is SoulFood Coffeehouse in Redmond, Washington

My trusty Desio Guitar awaiting its orders for the day

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Practice Trajectory: Ordinary, Extraordinary, Everyday... Pt. 11

Now if I’m good to my bodyMy body she’ll point the wayNow if I’m good to my bodyMy body she’ll point the wayAll these days they are numbered
I might not have too long to stay

"It's not so much about adjustments anymore," I told to a yogi friend about practicing Mysore-style Ashtanga with a group over practicing alone, "it's about community."
Regular yoga practice is kind of like flossing and brushing: you know it makes all the difference to your health, but it's easy for boredom to set in after you've been doing it for years. In the case of Ashtanga, the steep learning curve/quick succession of new asanas stage of practice eventually slows down or tapers off altogether. And like any activity (or job or relationship), it's easier to quit when things aren't seeming to progress in a discernible way, especially after that first burst of exciting discovery. It's easier still to get stuck if you don't have support.  When it comes down to it, accountability in the form of a community of practitioners and a teacher who breeds discipline is key to staying the course.
I lived a couple of blocks away from Yoga Studio Mill Valley (now Yoga Works) when I first got turned onto the wonders of Mysore practice. That and a dedicated room of other yogis sustained me through my first four years of practice and helped propel me to India. Practicing in Mysore itself, at the source, amplified the importance of a committed teacher and a dedicated community tenfold. Moving to San Francisco after that first trip, I had a lot of options to keep practice going. I could either walk or ride my bike to Yoga Tree (where Clayton Horton ran a program for a while), or Ashtanga Yoga SF when it opened (the beautiful studio is now-closed) or Mission Yoga or Yoga Garden. And when I first moved to the East Bay, I was within cycling distance of Berkeley Ashtanga.
Having enjoyed such close proximity to yoga studios with Mysore programs for more than 10 years, it was a bit of a shock to move to Alameda three-plus years ago and have to get into a car to get near a studio. Sure, it's not that far to Berkely, but traffic can be one big buzz kill and time suck, and I found myself practicing at home more and more.  
My first tack to make sure the support was there when my discipline faltered at home was to start an open practice a couple of days a week at a studio close to home. While I didn't find many ashtangis here, I did attract a few folks with self-practices who greatly helped sustain my practice. The act of
facilitating an open practice two days a week also increased my appreciation for Mysore teachers who show up 5-6 days a week. It takes a huge amount of dedication to run a program full time! Thank your teachers if you haven't already!
While I found I was maintaining my practice OK on my own, I wasn't really growing. So a few months ago, I decided to pause the open practice at the local studio and put in more often at the nearest official Mysore room. Last month, a visiting senior teacher taught in the East Bay, helping me back on the horse that much more. (I almost laughed when she called me on being bored with my practice —yep, you really can't hide in Mysore —and prescribed a few simple fixes to fire me back up.) This July, I've ramped back up on making a drive to a studio a couple of times a week or finding one while traveling and signing up for several upcoming workshops with a few more visiting senior teachers (lucky us who live in the Bay Area and enjoy a lot of teacher tour stops). The change in my practice and attitude has been marked: my practice, after several years of feeling stalled, has yielded some new discoveries and I feel my enthusiasm returning. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Artist Interview: The Welcome Matt's POP JUNK FLUFF and HYPE

San Francisco musician Matt Langlois, aka The Welcome Matt, is a tireless, fearless and fun artist. Touring, collaborating and recording continuously, the Bay Area-via-New England troubadour has had his work featured on  KFOG’s popular Local Scene CD twice, teamed up with renowned modern dance choreographer Christine Cali to co-create multi-day dance performances, and signed a publishing deal with Wixen Publishing. Along the way, he co-wrote a top-40 European hit “San Francisco,” by Cascada, recorded and released a video for his cover of David Bowie’s ‘DJ’, collaborated with Cali on another three-day production, ‘L.O.A.D.E.D.’ and launched a video series featuring other local artists guesting on his songs called 'Welcome Matt Wednesdays.' Amid all these accomplishments, he managed to sneak in recording a new collection of indie-rock goodness, “POP JUNK FLUFF and HYPE,” recorded at Lost Monkey Studios in Hayward, CA.   Advance notice on POP JUNK FLUFF and HYPE, which will be released July 16, is already attracting critical raves: "Pop Junk Fluff and Hype"...romps eagerly around the ears," wrote The Ringmaster Review. "Fiery rock guitars flame over the pop canvas whilst vocals and keys leap with energetic rigour and enterprise. It is a spellbinding mix of styles and flavours, electro and alternative rock... yet another impossible to ignore or resist piece of excellent rock ‘n’ roll."  
Langlois discussed the process and influences leading up to his latest batch of songs... and his next!
Q:Who do you count as major influences?
The Welcome Matt: David Bowie, The Kinks, The Clash, The Replacements, Aimee Mann, Blumfeld, Camper Van Beethoven, Devo, The Who, Blur, Roy Orbison and Gil Scott Heron.

Q: Can you name your top three albums?  
TWM:[I] first listened to these during pivotal points of my creative up bringing. They conjure a certain sense of longing:
Scary Monsters—David Bowie
London Calling—The Clash
Lola vs the Powerman Moneygoround—The Kinks

Q: When did you write your first song? 
TWM: 8th Grade “Right Back To the Center." I probably thought I was channeling John Lennon.

Q: What's your writing process like? Do you write everyday? 
TWM: Like all mechanisms of survival and coping with existence… eating, sleeping, staying healthy, not staying healthy, and dreaming. In other words it’s in constant motion…songs are always smoldering.

Q: How did you go about selecting the songs for POP JUNK FLUFF and HYPE? Did you have them all before you went into the studio or did the recording process inspire new material
TWM: Yes, I wrote a list of songs i thought that would work together sonically and conceptually.
Most songs come in batches… originally these came as a loose concept album.
I was originally going to name the CD “The Return of a generation xer," hence, “The Welcome Back.” Then “ Key of G" which is about shedding the past. After that comes songs with loose concepts of that person dealing with aspects of modern day life such as technology, government surveillance, mind control through consumerism, global warming ("A Hail Mary"). But the “Xer” leaves again [and] travels the world (Let’s Really Go) to gain perspective and makes a decision to “Cast a Line” toward living more life despite the negative effects of the current state of things (instead of throwing in the towel on the world in which he/she has come back to). I decided to simplify and name it POP JUNK FLUFF and HYPE.

Q: Describe the recording process for you?  
TWM: 4 cups of hacking out rough sketches of song arrangements with 3 tablespoons of tempo, mix in a layer of drum groove over a thick bed of bass, ( keep stirring !). All the while sprinkle over various guitars, synthesizers, percussion, maybe a little piano, roll it all around a preheated pan of vocals, shove it in your brain oven for a bunch of weeks until you’ve eaten and digested it all, and hope someday others will want to sit down at your table and enjoy a nice meal.

Q: Did songs take on different directions in the studio? What might be the most different result of what you brought with you to the studio?
TWM: Very often and most of the time I wonder how they’ll come out on the other side. 
More info @
Buy Cast A Line on itunes HERE
Listen to songs from POPJUNKFLUFF and HYPE performed LIVE. @The RiteSpot  3153 17th
July 17th 5:30pm (Pre-set performance for CALI&CO's You ARE HERE @ODC Theater)
then again @The Rite Spot 3153 17th July 20th 8:30pm