Monday, November 17, 2014

KCDC Rides Again: Full-band show in Alameda 11/22 at High Street Station Cafe

KCDC plays High Street Station Cafe in Alameda this November.

KCDC in Alameda! FULL band Saturday, NOVEMBER 22, 2014, - 7:00pm-10pm

 1303 High St Alameda, CA 94501 USA
  Michael Valentine opens. Call to make a dinner reservation:  510-995-8049 Price: $10
http://kcdcmusic.tumblr.com/

“That the two musicians can create excellent songs is [not only] proved in abundance through songs like the ballads “Jesus And The Jed,” “Gone Missing,” “Oh Oh” and “Love Some More,” but also by the uptempo charged and handsome guitar riffs on songs such as “Put Away the Year,” “Sweep Out the Dust,” “What To Say (Come Here)” and the album title track “Your Own Reaction.” …we’d love to hear more quality music from this duo on record.” — Rootstime

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

High Street Station
KCDC in Alameda! - 7:30pm
1303 High St
Alameda, CA 94501
USA
415 3557888
Price: $10
- See more at: http://deborahcrooks.com/shows/#sthash.7UeogBvD.dpuf

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

High Street Station
KCDC in Alameda! - 7:30pm
1303 High St
Alameda, CA 94501
USA
415 3557888
Price: $10
KCDC, the band, makes it debut performance in Alameda!
- See more at: http://deborahcrooks.com/shows/#sthash.7UeogBvD.dpuf

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

High Street Station
KCDC in Alameda! - 7:30pm
1303 High St
Alameda, CA 94501
USA
415 3557888
Price: $10
- See more at: http://deborahcrooks.com/shows/#sthash.7UeogBvD.dpuf

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Artist Interview: Annette Conlon Reclaims Her Voice on 'Life, Death and the Spaces Between'

I've known songwriter Annette Conlon for nearly as long as I've been recording music. The Los Angeles based artist has long been an avid support of other artists as the host of 'Nette Radio, 'one of the longest running radio shows dedicated to promoting women in music.'  She's also hosted many a songwriter showcase over the years and collaborated with her husband in duo The Conlons. But after a harrowing few years of health challenges, Annette is putting her own voice front and center, embarking on a solo project inspired by the events she's weathered, "Life, Death and The Spaces Between." Amidst a crowdfunding campaign to support the project and some unexpected family events, Annette discussed her road to healing and writing her most inspired material.

Q: You've been so active in music, I didn't realize you hadn't recorded your own solo work. How did you know it was time?
Annette Conlon: I fell and hit my head on a trashcan on April 17, 2014. I suffered a pretty severe concussion and during my recovery I started writing. I had written an entire album’s worth of songs between April 17th and Sept 5th; but really by mid-June I knew I wanted to record the songs I has written thus far. These songs felt special to me, and to Doug, and seemed to really connect with people when we played them live.  I told Doug I wanted to record right around my birthday in June. It wasn’t until we were in the studio and recording that we realized this was really my baby. Even though I had written everything, we went in with the intention of recording a “The Conlons” record; however, we realized that wasn’t what it was. Doug is fully supportive of my first full-length solo record, has generously played on it, and is currently working on his third solo record.  

Q: Backing up to 2012? Can you brief us on what happened? What was vocal therapy like — was it regaining or learning a whole knew toolkit? I gather you focused on physical recovery first and then the emotional work didn't kick in until the concussion....
AC: I had a retropharyngeal abscess resultant from bacteria that was residing on some cervical fusion hardware put in back in 2003. I had three surgeries through my esophagus: two due to the abscess and one to repair a hole in my esophagus. During the second surgery my right vocal laryngeal nerve was damaged and the result was the right cord became paralyzed. My surgeon, who is a top ENT surgeon, used Radiesse for Voice, and injected that through my neck into the right vocal cord, having me sing while injecting the gel to move the right cord back into the middle. Now my left vocal cord basically does all of the work and my right cord just kind of sits there, in one place. I had swallow therapy to learn how to swallow again as my swallowing muscles were damaged. I also went to speech therapy/vocal therapy sessions at the hospital to learn how to speak correctly again. (I basically went until my benefits ran out). I did all of the homework for swallow and speech/vocal exercises, and once I was given permission to do so, I began one-on-one vocal coaching with the amazing Jan Linder-Koda via Skype. I also used her vocal warm-ups on my own time.  I kept old mp3s of when I was first talking and trying to sing. It’s amazing to me how far I’ve come. I don’t have as big of a voice as I had before I got sick. That power is gone. I have to remember not to push too hard or I will lose my voice. I get vocal fatigue easier – and I have noticed that if my neck muscles are tired my voice will change. All of those surgeries have affected me and I have had to learn to work with it and not fight it. That’s okay, it’s really a small price to pay to still be able to do something I love so much. Not only did I survive all of that, but I’m singing? I’m pretty lucky! I’m so happy when I sing, and I’m so thrilled to say I’m making a record without auto-tune. It’s authentically me. This new voice is purely me and I really like it.
I think the reason I didn’t focus on the emotional healing was that my “job” was to get well. Some days I had 2-3 doctors’ appointments. Some weeks I went to the doctor 3-4 days of the week. Recovering from 3 major surgeries, the feeding tubes, the PICC line, all of the drains, etc, required so many visits, physical therapy, etc., that it was all I really did for a while. Not to mention the very real fear for the first year that the infection could resurface. I think emotionally I didn’t feel well for a long time. Physically, I was still not super strong even at a year and a half. When I had that concussion in April I was still not as strong as I am now. My legs collapsed as I stepped off the curb and down I went.
In August 2014 I celebrated my two-year anniversary of the first surgery. It really wasn’t all that long ago. It is remarkable to me know to look back and see how far I have come.

Q: How was writing a part of your emotional recovery? All these songs were written in this period. How are they different than your previous work? What do you hope listeners will take away from the work?
AC: Writing these songs was cathartic. I confronted, relived, and experienced… however you want to say it, thoughts and feelings that were veiled in my subconscious because I had focused all of my energy ‘getting well’. Once I had quiet time to just sit, without any outside input, my mind opened up, and I started listening. It was amazing to me to experience this as an artist/writer. I’ve always been a writer, but sometimes you try to force things. You tell yourself “I must write this song or finish this short story.” Instead, I merely listened and wrote. The words and the music came not independent from each other but almost in concert. I had to learn how to listen and convey this from inside my head to pen, paper and guitar. I’m still listening and writing, and I’m grateful that I’m able to stay connected to this inner voice.
In the past I didn’t have an inner voice, or muse, specifically guiding me as I do now. When I would have an idea of a poem, I would write it down, and then struggle with cords to come up with a song. If a melody came first I would sing it into a voice recorder or my phone, and struggle to convert it into cords. Sometimes weeks went by before I found words that made sense to that melody. Those struggles seem to be gone for now and I’m grateful. 
I definitely want the listener to take away that this is a collected body of work. There can be hope after sorrow; there is joy in overcoming struggle. While each song stands alone, I think together they tell a story. We are frail beings, we are strong, and we can take and make beautiful music out of really awful circumstances, which in and of itself is very healing.

  
Q: Tell us about your plans for the record and going forward? Are you fully recovered from the events of the past few years? Will you be touring?
AC: I plan to release the record on April 17, 2015. That is the one-year anniversary of the concussion, and it seems like the perfect day for THIS record to be released! I really hope we make the Kickstarter goal.... I am so grateful to everyone who has supported me and donated thus far. We were doing really well at first and had a lot of momentum but my Uncle died on Nov 1 and I flew to Alabama to be with my family for the funeral. From Alabama, I flew to Colorado with my parents to attend the funeral of my mom’s best friend’s on Monday of this week. I’ve known this sweet lady since I was in kindergarten. Her daughter and I were in church choir together all through junior high and high school. It’s been a long week of funerals and sadness. [And] I am still in Colorado due to the Arctic Front that moved in. I hope to be able to return to Los Angeles on Friday. ... I am focusing my thoughts on the positive energy of all the support I have received thus far and praying that it works out as it should. I wouldn’t change a thing, because I put my family first, but the timing was rotten. That’s sometimes how life works out. I do hope your readers will check out the Kickstarter and find a reward they like!  There are some really great things there! 
Once the record IS finished and released I will reach out to the Internet radio shows I’ve connected with throughout the years through my time doing NetteRadio. I want to take it as far as I possibly can and I think this is a good first step.
Am I recovered? I think I’m as recovered as I’ll ever be although I can always get stronger, or in better shape, and I work towards that every day. I’ll never be like I was before I got sick. When they told me that at the hospital it made me so mad. I don’t ever want someone else to define me. I understand now what they were trying to say, to caution me and keep me from being disappointed.  This isn’t something I dwell on. I’m certainly much stronger now than I was in April and I hope that I’ll be stronger next April than I am right now.
I would definitely consider touring to support the record. I might do several smaller tours instead of one big tour. That seems like a good way to stay healthy, happy and strong.
 http://www.annetteconlon.com/

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Read.Eat.Listen: Warmth & Wonder

READ: "The Impossible Will Take A Little While: A Citizen's Guide To Hope in a Time of Fear." I'm reading this 10 years after it's initial publication but it seems more timely than ever. Fifty fifty stories and essays from activists across the globe.  "Even in a seemingly futile moment or losing cause, one person may unknowingly inspire another, and that person yet a third, who could go on to change the world, or at least a small corner of it." — Paul Loeb


EAT: A couple of weeks ago, playing at Off the Grid, we got re-clued into the wonderful empanadas made by El Porteño (I'm partial to the mushroom variety). Empanadas are really hand-pies, aka goodness in the form of warmth, comfort, nourishment and convenience.  El Porteño empanadas are available at a variety of locations, including its Bay-roaming food truck, a kiosk at The Embarcadero Ferry Building and at several area cafe/bars. We just noticed they're the snack of choice at the recently opened Woods Bar & Brewery in Oakland.

LISTEN: In truth, there's been a lot of listening to oneself going on around here. In the midst of getting ready for the next KCDC live performance on November 22, we're going back into the studio next month to record a new bunch of songs written earlier this year. But there's also been much wonderment, this week, over the news of a spacecraft landing on a comet, and I loved seeing this headline re: the comet's 'song':

Monday, November 10, 2014

Artist Interview: Trouble No More for Corinne West

After more than a decade of touring the globe, California songwriter Corinne West put her guitar down, moved to Austria, and spent more than a year working on visual art. Instead of taking her away from music, the break served to bring her deeper into the creative territory she's mined on four well-received collections of original music. In 2013, she returned to the Bay Area, making a seemingly effortless transition back to where she left off: forming new collaborations with top players, showcasing at the recent FAR-West Conference, and writing a new batch of songs for what will be her fifth recording, TROUBLE NO MORE. Amidst a crowd-funding campaign to support the new work, Corinne discussed her time away from, and joyful return to, a life immersed in making music. 
Q:  After a long run of touring and living abroad, you're back living and creating in the Bay Area. How is it to be back and how is it shaping your current work?
CW: I am quite happy to be back in California, (although I do miss Austria.) My current body of songs have been deeply influenced by the year I spent in the Alpine mountains, and my experiences leading up to that time. Returning to America provided distance and space to reflect on what it meant in my life to be away from home, and what it means to have a true home away from home… which lead to the fertile ground of contemplating the meaning of home in the first place. 
Q: Tell me about your break? Did you plan it consciously or did it just evolve?
CW: In 2011, after 10 years of full-time touring, and on the back-end of a two-year duo project, I took a sabbatical from music completely and lived in a village in the Alpine mountains in Austria for 13 months. I had been moving at such a fast clip that I began to lack a connection to what I was doing and saying and feeling during performances. All the pieces were moving, yet somehow on a soul level, I wasn’t there. It was time to recalibrate and figure out what held meaning for me, and the only way to really address this was to flip the switch, and pull the entire plug out of the wall. When I stepped away from my identity as a musician it got very very quiet. In the middle of that silence I had the powerful and often difficult experience of looking myself in the eye and asking myself what it means to me to create for a living, why am I doing this - and what am I doing. 
Q: You practice multiple art forms (visual media, etc). Is there a typical rhythm to your days creating? 
CW: I am finally at a place in my life where the mediums I work in are all informing one another. If I am working on mono prints, I am infusing the work with the music I am listening to or writing. In making the new record TROUBLE NO MORE, I will be creating the artwork for the CD lending a visual reference for some of the sonic landscapes in the music. It’s all one energy with different outlets or manifestations. So to answer your question, every day holds one facet or another of creation, and the rhythm of the day is a blend of letting it unfold, and keeping in time with the tasks at hand. 
Q How was writing this collection different (or similar) to your past projects? Do you have an idea of what the songs will be about/what rhythms, etc, when you start or are you a fairly organic writer? Why did you choose Redwood Canyon to write this collection?
CW TROUBLE NO MORE has her own character for certain. Some of her songs were written in 2011 as co-writes. Then there was a huge sabbatical from music and a 13-month life in a foreign land. Then a return to music, and a return to songs that have been existing in limbo for a year. In addition, there are pieces that were written very recently, so there is an arc to the record, of time, and change. I would say this is the most intimate and directly autobiographical record I will have offered. At the same time there is a mythic cycle underneath the pieces —  the vulnerability of unity, the pain of leaving familiar ground and love, the loneliness of a desolate heart, and the diamonds gathered (for the sharing) for taking a journey into the unknown. Universal principals through one person’s experiences. It’s everywhere… I just happen to be someone who writes and sings about it. 
The songs were written in the redwoods in Marin county. This California canyon is majestic, and has an abundant history of songwriting and music, a bit like Laurel Canyon. It just seems to be in the air — when one sits to listen and write it out. 
I would have to say, yes, I am a fairly organic writer in that I don’t have a formal process at all. Being quiet and undistracted is vital. I feel the creative process once “in” it, is quite hypnotic and trance-like. I am also a hypnotherapist, and I use self-hypnosis to inform my writing. I like to go deep inside and see what can be brought to the outside. 

Q:Tell us more about what you have planned for the recording. Are dates set, studios booked? Where do you see yourself a year from now?
CW: TROUBLE NO MORE will be recorded in Berkeley. It is my hope that the recording will be wrapped by the end of December. There are some wonderful players lined up for the tunes. This is my 5th studio record, and I have never embarked on crowd-funding, but this time, it’s needed. We have been focused on the campaign so that we can get in the studio and get these songs out into the world. 
Where do I see myself a year from now? Shoot… hopefully smiling at the day with my hands deep in the next batch of fresh music. 
For more information visit http://www.corinnewest.com/

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Whales, warm water & bummer elections

Humpbacks of the deep


Our kinship with Earth must be maintained; otherwise, we will find ourselves trapped in the center of our own paved-over souls with no way out.”
Terry Tempest Williams, Finding Beauty in a Broken World
 
Monday, up on Hawk Hill to help with the hawk count, the first animals I saw were in the water rather than the air.  Two whales where meandering in the shipping channel, foraging and spouting air outside of the Golden Gate. It was another beautiful day in the Marin Headlands, and we'd see many birds, but everyone paused a moment to look at the cetaceans in our midst. There may be nothing so wondrous as seeing a whale. All that mass exists out there in the deep, all the time, despite our everyday concerns, and when you catch a glimpse of what the ocean contains, the mystery of all this existence just skyrockets.

The next day, a friend posted an article "Unusual Warm Conditions off California Bringing Odd Species," detailing how the non El-Nino caused warmer ocean temperatures are erasing the usual boundary ranges of pelagic creatures. Range-straying Guadalupe fur seals, sunfish and sea turtles have been showing up in 'normally' too-cold regions around the Farallon and parts of Alaska.
A Humpback near the San Francisco Bay isn't unusual (California's remember Humphrey The Whale who came into the Bay, twice), but the article also mentions that water temperatures may also be affecting the krill on which the whales feed, so they too are dispersing. Likewise, the water temperatures are a result of a lack of the usual winds that cool the water's surface. This was happening in Hawaii when we were there last month, where the water was great for swimming but devastating for the coral... and as a result the whole ecosystem.

These matters trouble me. I wonder what I can do. I speak up when and how I can. I vote and feel like I made a cause for change toward good. And then I read the election results.

 Billions of dollars were spent by green groups hoping to make climate change a front burner election concern and it fell woefully short:
"... as the most expensive midterm election in American history wraps up, it’s clear that environmentalists will fall far short of that goal. A Pew Research Center poll from September found that the environment came in a distant eighth among a list of 11 campaign issues that matter most to voters." — Slate

I've been more aware than ever in recent years that if you lack a connection to nature, it's hard to value it. I was especially fortunate that my formative years were spent surrounded by the natural world and I'm fortunate to be able to find ways to maintain that connection. I know not everyone has access to the sight of a huge otherworldly mammal cavorting in the sea and the appreciation and value such an experience foments. But there are so many blatant examples that climate change isn't 'just' threatening 'other' species. There is no way to ignore that stalling winds, major droughts, and aberrant floods threaten our lives and livelihood as well.

I wonder what it's going to take for folks to wake up? And what do we do now that a majority of our leaders are delusional?

"this vast, gaping polarization of American politics is toxic, especially where it comes to the crucial issue of global warming. Here, a Senate GOP majority can have an extremely destructive effect. It will put a cohort of science-deniers into positions of authority over the very science they want to trample. This is extremely worrisome to me, and it should be to you as well," wrote reporter Phil Plait before the election. 

Now here we are. 

Global Warming Resources from Bill McKibbon 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Artist Mari Marks @ 2014 Annual Juried Show at the Piedmont Center for the Arts



A dear friend and one my favorite people, encaustic painter Mari Marks, let me know she has a piece in the Annual Juried Show at the Piedmont Center for the Arts in Piedmont CA. The public is invited to an opening reception this Saturday, November 1, from 5:00 to 8:00. You can also see the work on Saturdays and Sundays in November from 12:00 to 3:00. 
2014 Juried Art Show @ Piedmont Center for the Arts, 801 Magnolia Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611
2014 guest jurors Carin Adams, Oakland Museum of California, Associate Curator of Art & Material Culture and Caitlin Haskell, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Assistant Curator of Painting and Sculpture selected 39 art works from 23 artists.

Mari also let me know this is the last week to see another show, Materia + Meditation, at Vessel Gallery in Oakland, that also includes her work:
  Material + Meditation, Installation "Taken/Vessel" by Beili Liu , Paintings by Mari Marks, Walter James Mansfield,
Sanjay Vora, and Tim Rice.
11:00 to 6 :00 pm, Tuesday through Saturday  through Nov 1 @ Vessel Gallery, 471 25th Street, Oakland, CA 94612
 More about Mari: http://www.marimarks.com/

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Artist Interview: Songwriter Melissa Phillips


East Bay artist Melissa Phillips has steadily attracted new fans since leaving the songwriting gates in 2012 with the release of her debut album "Fits & Starts."  A song from the collection, "Centralia," was selected for the KFOG Local Scene 10 compilation (2013), and she  regularly appears at notable area venues with her stellar backing band The Sincerelys. After a whirlwind fall which included a performance at The Great American Hall and getting married, Phillips reflected on her songwriting process and what's currently feeding her muse.
  
Q: How did you first start singing?  Who are some of your earliest influences?
MP: I remember singing along with the radio pretty early on and being encouraged to "sing louder!" I loved picking out the harmonies. I didn't really start performing until later. Having access to music classes in school was huge for me. I had some great music teachers in junior high and high school who pushed me in a very positive way. I was in chorus, singing ensembles, I did district chorus competitions, musical theater, church choir — all of those things helped me figure out that singing was something I was good at and that I wanted to pursue it in a bigger way.
I grew up on Top 40 radio, that's the soundtrack of my childhood. If it got played on the radio between the 1970s and 1990s, I probably know the words! I loved Whitney Houston and the first tape I ever bought was "I Wanna Dance With Somebody". When I was 11 or 12 she was just it for me. But I grew up in small towns and you don't get a lot of variety on small town radio. I don't think I really had any idea what was out there until I went to college and I was exposed to what my friends were listening to. We used to sit around the dorm rooms with our CDs and a stack of cassettes and we'd make mix tapes. I still have those mixes and they have some really good music on them. It was the first time I heard Paul Simon, Crowded House, Van Morrison, [and] Indigo Girls. I really think that time spent making those tapes was more valuable than some of the music courses I took because it really helped me develop my own opinion about what I liked and ultimately, what I wanted to do.

Q
 How did you make your way to California from Oregon and have the different places you've lived influenced your work? 

MP: I did move to California from Oregon (I lived there for a few years in my early twenties) but I actually grew up all over the place. I had a sort of unconventional nomadic upbringing, we moved around a lot. I got to see so much of the country from the back seat of a car as a kid. I didn't start writing my own music until I was much older but I do think being able to experience that kind of a life as a young person informed how I see the world. It gave me a good awareness of how other people live, which is definitely something I find important, not just for writing, but also for being a human.

Q  Do you keep to a writing schedule or do you write as inspiration strikes? Words first or do you write to the music? 

MP: I get ideas in bits and pieces. Mostly lyrics first but sometimes they come with a melody. On any given day, my bag is full of post-it notes scribbled with lyric ideas. I carry a notebook to write stuff down and if I come up with a melody I record it into my phone. I don't have a writing schedule but I do sit down frequently with my ideas and see what I can wrestle into shape. Sometimes it comes fast and easy, but more often than not it is a slow process for me. I try not to rush, I'm not in a race. Songs will be done when they're ready. I just finished a song that I started back in 2010! I kept going back to it and I tried for a long time to force it into being done, but it wasn't ever quite right. I stepped away for a while and came back with fresh eyes and finally knew when I'd figured it out.

Q  Any current listening or reading obsessions feeding your muse? 

MP: I am in the middle of a lot of books right now, my goal is to read 38 over the next year! Here is what I currently have a bookmark in: "Where I Was From" by Joan Didion, she's a favorite, especially her non-fiction. I'm reading a book of short stories by Alice Munro, a memoir by Mary Karr, and a biography of Dorthea Lang. As for music, I have these in heavy rotation right now in my car: Rosanne Cash - The River and the Thread; John Hiatt - Dirty Jeans & Mudslide Hymns; Holly Williams - The Highway. I also really like the newest Tom Petty and Ryan Adams albums. As far as other obsessions, I am pretty addicted to Instagram. It's a nice community of supportive, creative people sharing interesting images of their daily lives — crafters, photographers, musicians, writers. Sometimes looking at beautiful stuff is what I need to simultaneously calm and stimulate my brain after a work day. Just seeing someone else do something creative can motivate me to do the same.

Q What can listeners expect in the next six months? Any big shows or new recordings?

 MP: I'm on a little hiatus from performing right now so I'm focusing on writing. I hope to go back into the studio next year with a batch of new songs. I'd also like to do some regional touring again and definitely get back on stage with the full band.