Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Project completion: Keeping Balls Rolling and Shows Going Amid Chaos

I pretty much run my life on projects. I didn't consciously plan this, but over time I've seen the pattern. There's always something in the works: a show, a poem, a song, a tour, a recording...a blog post. It's how I create order and meaning for myself, even as I know things run on their own time, despite my intention and bunch of calendar entries, and the world may perceive things very differently than I do.  I can't really tell what and how my project habit will add up to in the end, but I do know I feel happiest when I know I've made something — which I hope will be of some value — that wouldn't have happened without my efforts.
Such was the case for Saturday night's show, a showcase for six songwriters, three of whom would play in the round on stage at once. I've been doing these songwriter showcases every few months for the past couple years, rounding up five other artists and playing myself. It's not a unique formula —playing-in-the-round, one song at a time, is a fairly traditional way of sharing a bill — and we knew the venue well. But I started to freak a little when two artists had yet to arrive five minutes before showtime. I sent the first three artists up to begin and began texting and emailing the others. One confirmed straight away they'd be late due to a contentious commute. One artist (who I'd learn was not feeling well the next day) would not show.  My mind racing, I scrapped the intended order and made a game plan to swap out an artist every time they'd completed a turn of three songs. Amid the shuffle, I sat down and played my songs,  too anxious about how the whole evening was being received to feel nervous about my own performance (Perhaps that was the hidden benefit?).
In any case,  it all was fine. More than fine. The other artists were relaxed (and good at what they were doing) and the audience enjoyed themselves. Food and drink kept coming out of the kitchen, new connections were being made, and by the end of the evening I was enjoying myself as well. We'd done it.
Yesterday, we came home to a box of our newly-pressed KCDC "Your Own Reaction" CD. We first wrote these songs as a songwriting challenge in February 2013. We recorded them in September that year, and we've been overdubbing and then mixing up until a month ago as schedules allowed. We haven't been hurried or anxious about this project but we've kept it going, scheduling rehearsals, working with engineers and graphic designers and learning parts amid work and other projects and, in the case of our co-producer, a pregnancy and birth.  September of this year, we'll release the music officially and have a show.
There will be more to do between now and then, but yesterday, we turned over the CDs in our hands to check it all read correctly, then popped one into the stereo to make sure it played. We had run into a friend on our way home so we gave him one, too.  We felt pleased with our musical efforts. I noticed when I woke up this morning, I'd slept better than I had in weeks. Chaos and meaningless averted... for the moment!

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 http://www.teresatopaz.com/
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.