Saturday, May 25, 2013

I am feeling tired, but very content. I got back to New York City last night at 3am from my mini-tour of Philadelphia, Wilmington DE, and Annapolis MD, and I'm happy to say that it was a huge success! As I've been mentioning a few times in my posts and recent blog-entries: these were the concerts where I played guitar on stage for the first time in my life! I exceeded all my expectations in the end, despite having experienced a serious lack of belief in myself on Tuesday-night, the night before our tour started. In our final rehearsal before the tour I freaked out when I realized that there was so much stuff that I wasn't used to dealing with on stage... For a moment I doubted that I could do the performances at all.

I think that most people don't realize how much muscle memory goes into performing a song on stage when an artist is singing and playing guitar at the same time. I certainly hadn't thought of it myself. Naturally there's the matter of performing the music and making it sound beautiful, which I had been learning to do in recent months. But then there's all this other shit that hits you by surprise. Minor details, but stuff that's impossible to ignore:
1. The issue of the pedal tuner, which one has to learn to operate between songs. Not having the muscle memory yet, I find it challenging to speak to the audience and tune at the same time. Note to self: practice it at home!
2. Trying not to hit my teeth on the microphone. Ouch! Did that a number of times.... I'm used to having control of the mic with my hand(s); with the guitar, obviously my hands are otherwise occupied...
3. Counting off the songs. This one's tough for me as I've never really had to do it before. There's so much other stuff going through my head at that moment that it's hard to get a feel of the tempo of the song.
4. The technical stuff: chords and where to plug them to, volume and eq-knobs etc. In the end, all of it is easy and doesn't take long to learn, but it's frickin' daunting when doing it for the first time.

On Tuesday-night after my freak-out my mentor sat me down and told me to practice all this minor stuff when I got home. To really block what was going to happen in between songs in terms of tuning, using a pick/no pick, using a capo/no capo, and figuring out exactly what I would bring and where everything would be on stage. To know that I was in control of the minor details, so that I was to be able to deliver in the most important area: the performance itself. Foggy details can be what trips you up and make you forget the lyrics etc., and my mentor made sure that I was aware of this. And so I did practice; even if it was at the last minute. Thus, I was able to deliver to the best of my ability for three nights and perform what was probably the best performance of my life last night in Ram's Head, Annapolis.

Sometimes in concentrating on the big picture, we end up forgetting the little details that might make our lives that much easier. This was a great lesson, and I'm grateful I didn't have to learn it the hard way. I am extremely proud of myself for this huge step I have taken as a musician this week, and I can't wait to move forward with this new-found knowledge and ability.

"It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen."
--John Wooden

Saturday, May 18, 2013

This will be a music-filled week for me, starting today, as I climb on the stage to sing backup for my good friend and label-mate Melissa Giges. We have found in rehearsals in recent weeks, that our voices blend together gorgeously, and we are actually continuing our collaborations all next week, as she will in turn sing backup and play keyboards for my three concerts in Philadelphia, Wilmington and Annapolis.

I've been going through a spiritual awakening for some months now. Not a religious one, mind you--I stress the word spiritual. I've been opening myself up to trust and believe in the logos... Here's the Free Dictionary's definition that fits my thoughts:

"In Stoicism, the active, material, rational principle of the cosmos; nous. Identified with God, it is the source of all activity and generation and is the power of reason residing in the human soul."

The reason why I bring this up is that I actually had some sort of spiritual experience, as I was singing and playing guitar in a rehearsal on Tuesday. The rehearsal itself was atrocious, hehe... The sound engineer didn't know what the fuck she was doing, and so our three-piece band had to deal with microphones that were not working, some of them set up and not actually turned on at all, and a total lack of cohesive sound amongst the three of us. Really fucking bad. But, nevertheless, I had a frickin' spiritual experience. I felt a strong feeling of being in the right place at the right time; of doing what I am supposed to be doing on this Earth and a deep sense of peace. Short-lived, as feelings tend to be, but I felt it. Possibly unlike I ever have before.

Music has always been my saving grace and a rock that I've clung to.. But there has been a slight desperation to it, as it was for a long time my only true form of expression; it felt like my only close friend. Now it is no longer my only outlet, nor my only friend; instead it is showing a different facet of itself. Now that it is not merely filling a void in me, it is becoming a means for fulfillment and abundance; overflowing rather than merely life support.

We all like music, but what we really want is for music to like us.”
--Tom Waits

 Well, today I feel distinctly as if music likes me back.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The concept of fame has been on my mind quite a bit recently, because of a number of different encounters with it in my burgeoning social circles. My memory has thus been jolted, and I've considered my own relationship with it in my life...

My introduction to being famous came when I was 13, having just finished recording my first album. I think it was a Wednesday; I was going to school, but went to pick up the daily newspaper at the kiosk first, as I'd just done an interview for a publication a day or two before. I knew that I was to be written about in the newspaper, but as a complete unknown, I certainly wasn't expecting to be on the cover of it. And lo and behold, I was. My frickin' face--right there--for everyone to see. Something akin to "Fuck..!"went through my head when I saw it, and I felt a strong urge to hide and escape, in addition to stomach-churning excitement. I hadn't even told my classmates yet that I had recorded an album. It was actually quite embarrassing buying the paper. Suddenly I felt as if all eyes were on me.

In my experience, fame initially injects a large dose excitement into one's life. It's a real burst of adrenaline, though the euphoric nature of it passes rather quickly. It is perhaps drug-like in its nature, but living life being famous is quite different, I think. One adapts to it, and it becomes merely an aspect of one's life. An added layer, mostly neither good nor bad, just something to be dealt with. Often times, it is something to be navigated and taken into consideration, as people react to fame in different, unpredictable ways. Self-protection becomes increasingly important.

I can see that some people get caught up in fame, and need their dose of it regularly. I understand that. Personally, my addictions have been of a different sort. Not necessarily healthier, just different. Fame has always scared me more than it has ever beckoned me. Having experienced both the ups and downs of it at such an early age, I no longer have illusions about it. It's a mixed bag, and in the end, life is life for all of us. Our sense of normalcy is different, but our issues remain (if we don't work on them), whether we are famous or not. Fame itself solves nothing, and while there are many perks to it, I would say it can complicate things equally as much...

“Fame is a bee. / It has a song / It has a sting / Ah, too, it has a wing.”
 -Emily Dickinson

Saturday, May 4, 2013

One of the things that I cherish most in life is when I'm reading book that just envelops me... When I feel like I'm deep-sea-diving in a world that the author has created, and my present reality ceases to exist for the time being.

Some books are ingenious in that they invite you to move in, to inhabit their universe from the very first pages and hold you in their grip until the end. Some grow on you after a while. The book that I'm reading (and have been reading for some time now....), Emile Zola's The Ladies' Paradise, took it's time wrapping it's tendrils around my brain. For a long time it felt tedious: do I really have to know all these details about the decor and the employees and the advertising and the fabrics and the clothes and the names of the streets and the daily and the yearly incomes and the blardy-blar-blars....of the department store that all the action happens in? Do I really have to know all of this information about what the characters eat for lunch, and even what they decided not to eat that day..? So much of it felt inconsequential. But now that I have finally plunged head-first into this world of the 1800's, it's like I'm having a fricking love affair with it. I'm obsessed by it, I can't get enough of it, and I want to hear every little observation Mr. Zola could possibly make: the tiniest blush, a faltering, hesitating footfall, the sideways glance, and yes, even any seemingly meaningless decor-detail he might think of. Bring it on! The only trouble is, I'm swiftly running out of pages to read...

Such joy art can bring. Even though one is unable in music to weave a story such as the one I'm describing, I have certainly inhabited and been sucked into many a song in my lifetime. And at best, full albums. Those are the true pieces of art in my opinion, where one is able to see the world, for a moment, through the eyes and ears of another person, the artist.

This is what I as an artist aspire to do. To give so much of myself in my music, that for a moment the listener will have an opportunity to inhabit the world as I see/hear it. We bring our own shit wherever we go and whatever we do, this is true; but in my experience some pieces of art, much like an orgasm, allow us to forget everything else, even for just a moment.  That, my friends, is what I would call success!