Saturday, September 5, 2009

moving right along

welp, things have moved along musically since my last post. i did do an open mic. funny experience because it turned out not to be an open "mic". there was no mic. the sound person was gone, so it really was an open stage. it was an odd comfort to have to call upon my theatre chops. not a lot of people were there, it was one of the slow nights and i managed to wrangle one buddy to support me. there was also nothing to plug into, so i ended up borrowing someone else's acoustic guitar (since i'd brought an electric) and i even borrowed a kapo.

i did my 3 best songs and after each, the folks asked to keep 'em comin'. i was so nervous and so excited! double applause. lovely compliments. i wasn't sure folks would be able to get what i was trying to do, but they did.

i left the experience wanting for more...looking for bigger venues...wondering if i could land a gig somewhere. understanding that there are listeners out there with heart, that are open to things that they don't usually listen to, that can appreciate and recognize what is essential in a performer. i learned a lot from this coffee shop venue.

and then opening night for this theatre company loomed closer. i had met with a few musicians who might be a part of the band.

i met with a drummer first: what an incredibly kind and fun person to be around. he had some impressive training, it seemed. but then when we got to playing, he had a rough time keeping consistent. he was also very attached to his kit, which wasn't going to work for this venue. but he really loved my music and was willing to work hard if i gave him the opportunity. hearing his feedback was very encouraging. and i didn't go with him, although i found myself to be torn by his kindness and warmth. he too, admitted that he was not able to execute the rhythms the way i needed them and wished me well in finding someone more capable. this was also good feedback in that i realized that i was much further along as a writer than i realized.

i was worried, though.

this drummer helped me to learn, however, that i needed masterful and perhaps even virtuosic musicians working with me. folks that are very skilled at improvisation. i had been very spoiled in boston because i was, in fact, working with masterful and virtuosic musicians. oh, i had it so good there...too bad i wasn't quite ready yet. getting there, but not quite ready.

a bass player was supposed to join us for this rehearsal/audition, but we had a miscommunication in messages. so, i headed over to a gig he had to check him out. when i got to this venue, the room was full with blue hairs! not that there's anything wrong with them and not that the performances weren't sweet and even good, but i felt quite out of place. i did catch a glimpse of this bass player and his eyes were glued to the page of some very simple songs - songs that everyone knows - 1940s/50s stuff.

welp, the bass player contacted me later apologizing for missing the get together and i told him i saw his performance but didn't feel comfortable making a visit directly since there were so many people there. in any case, i decided to give him a chance. i sent him some rough tracks for a couple of my pieces and said that if he felt he could improvise over them easily then i'd be happy to get together with him. he did not respond. ah well, it was probably for the best. i had a feeling that working with younger people or folks with a more open and experimental process would probably be best.

growing weary, i got in contact with another drummer. i drove out almost an hour to jam with him, but phew, it was worth it. he had a djembe with chimes sitting by his front door and was the nicest fella. we jammed in one of his practice rooms and it was a gel. he agreed to do all the gigs. thank God. my style probably wasn't his forte, but he appreciated my background (he plays for a few church gigs) and liked that he was working on something different.

i posted another ad in craigslist, this time announcing that i was hoping to form a fusion band from the gigs. i got a few responses from this as well, which was very nice. one was a flautist who plays with a middle eastern inspired folk rock band and another was a singer. i met with the singer first.

lovely exchange with this lady and i. it turns out we are of the same social tribe. she's a yogini and danced with the hippy folk in LA for years - the same folks i danced with. she's also been wanting to create spirit music to gig in churches and yoga studios and had grown up/had a living in nyc as a jazz singer. our voices are very different from one another, but we harmonized well together. she made herself available for a few of the performances and it was very clear that i had made a friend.

i also met with the flautist. lovely player. very good musician. but a bit of an old man. he was about my father's age, had been playing with the same band for about 12 years and was set in his ways and preferences. things were good as long as we were playing, but then he started to give all this unsolicited advice. and repeating it. and repeating questions already answered. something a little loose up there, i think. definitely not a fit, but he liked my voice for bossa nova. he said he would contact me if he ever started a bossa nova band. i told him to contact me if he decided he wanted to see the show. no follow up. kind of a relief, though. i went to a very grumpy place after meeting with him. must've affected the first show: boy was i nervous - scared, actually.

the first performance was with my percussionist and this singer gal and the room was packed. strange thing, though, the performance was a bit weird. i decided i wanted to sit on the floor without my shoes on, wasn't all that sure of my set and all of my equipment needed some servicing. in any case, we became background. no one noticed we were done with any of our numbers and our applause was sparse. i decided to talk to the audience some and that got their attention, especially when i mentioned my dad was in the audience, but i did not feel i was connecting with these people. there were some friendly faces out there that helped me through, but it all felt very odd.

i did get good feedback, though, and folks did compliment my performance. the difference the performance made, however, was with my dad. he said i sounded good, but that the sound was garbled with my old borrowed amp and old microphone. then my pops showed some real enthusiasm: he gave me his boom microphone stand, his chordless microphones and took me to guitar center the following morning and bought me an amp and bench. it was amazing to feel his support.

the following night, my drummer and i were a duo since my singer was unavailable and that went much better. a very small audience, but the set was rounded and our interaction with the audience was good. there were a couple of rappers in the audience and they even jammed with us on a number. it was great. unfortunately, only 2 people of the folks that joined us for the pre-show gig were actually there for the show, so the show was cancelled. ah, the challenges of a small company and a night of football.

the following week i got together with the singer and we jammed out with hippy music. we harmonized well and shared some of the same sensitivities around yoga/new age music. the singer was quite motivated and said that we could make money doing our music for new thought churches and we made a plan for how we might develop.

i also made contact with a guitarist. i was not expecting a lead guitarist to contact me, since i'd really been hoping for a bass player, but i did remember the unsolicited advice of the flautist and the stories of the singer, who said that it was very helpful to work with a guitarist in developing songs. well, well, well, what a test of grace because i hit the jackpot! i got together with this guitarist and we ended up practicing for hours! we went through about 12 of my songs and he loves everything. and what a swell person. and what a talented guitarist.

the day of our first person as a newly formed trio (guitarist, percussionist and me), i went over to my guitarists home and we played around with my tunes. we recorded some tracks and talked about our ideas for what to do next. we both wanted to start a band, but we also wanted to develop the songs more. we agreed that we would spend time developing the songs and then we'd take them to this producer/musician guy that i've been wanting to work with and then after we figured out what our sound really was and recorded a demo with session musicians, then we'd start the band. this still feels like a good plan.

so here we are now, i've done two performances with my guitarist, four with my percussionist and i've shared my stuff with a few musicians and some small audiences. i'm developing my songs with my guitarist, who is really positive, and i have gotten consistent positive feedback about my voice and songs. what i know now is that that my talent is worthy of being shared, that i take this stuff seriously and that that is good, that i will have to work my ass off (probably even literally) to find success and balance, that making plans are good, and that there is work in planning, being flexible to those plans changing, sticking to the important stuff, knowing/recognizing what's important, waiting until something is ready, protecting your stuff until it is ready and knowing when it's time to let go and just jump.

Friday, August 7, 2009

bliss moments

Joseph Campbell, Joseph Campbell, Joseph Campbell...
Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.
The way to find out about happiness is to keep your mind on those moments when you feel most happy, when you are really happy — not excited, not just thrilled, but deeply happy. This requires a little bit of self-analysis. What is it that makes you happy? Stay with it, no matter what people tell you. This is what is called following your bliss.
When you follow your bliss... doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors; and where there wouldn't be a door for anyone else.
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.
Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning.
Your life is the fruit of your own doing. You have no one to blame but yourself.
I don't believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.
The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.
Gigging for my friend's Theatre Company:
So, I expect to form a band this week. Muah ha.
I've started on the pre-show music and have a couple of versions of a set done. I'm getting very excited about this and am realizing I need to high-tail it to get prepared. Post cards, emails, rehearsal. Good news is that I put an ad out on craigslist for a bassist and percussionist and got some very good responses. I'll be auditioning and jamming with them this week. Bang, band formed. They all sound like they're cool with the schedule and my budget, and I believe I'll be able to wrangle them to some open mics.
Oh yeah, more good news: One of the company members let me borrow his most awesome Gibson electric and Fender amp - it was sitting in his garage. Schweet, schweet.
Open Mic:
Okay, okay, I haven't done an open mic yet. I know, I know. The thing is, I believe that there is something to look into first. It's such a vulnerable thing to do. Plus I think I got a bit wigged out with the songwriters group. Perhaps it was just that I wasn't used to the community.
Welp, I did do a couple of things about it: I checked out 2 venues. Both coffee shops. I hung out in both. One of them, I really took to. Great place, spacious, yummy treats, near my yoga studio, and super comfy chill space. And, I did make an attempt to do the open mic there. I practiced for it and then lugged the guitar into the trunk. I showed up an hour before the open mic started, but I guess I had already decided when I got out of my yoga classes prior to showing up that I wasn't going to do it. But I was compelled. So I set up shop at a table and stayed there until the whole dang thing started and ended. I was there for about 4 hours!
I learned a whole lot and the experience inspired me to finish some necessary tweaks to 2 of my songs.
I also found an amazing guitarist/singer-songwriter. I might want to collaborate with this one. His style is marvelous and he plays beautifully, beautifully. He didn't write a lot of lyrics to his songs and he only sang one line for one of the pieces, but dang, were they present. He sang moments. I really dug that.
Also discovered a star. I could see it when he walked into the place. I thought he was cute and thought, "I bet this guy is really good." Turns out he's recorded and gigged a bit. Wonderful tenor voice, good hipster look. Funny, he was the most impressive performer of the lot but I don't think anyone liked him. I journalled about the performances and had the most to say about him. The most marketable and talented may not necessarily be the best for open mic. And yet, folks have gotten record deals and consistent gigs out of these, so it's important to do your best work. But being sensitive to the audience, so that they can really hear you and so that you can do your best work at the same time, is probably where the work is for open mics.
Here are some of my main lessons:
There is a sound for coffee shop open mics that are ideal. The songs don't have to be covers, although they can sometimes be helpful when introducing yourself. It's a toss up, though, because covers are often not done so well. Lyrical content doesn't matter as much as a compelling sound and an ability to tell a story. Some folks tell a story before they sing, which helps the audience to understand the performer better, but there is nothing like a good storyteller in song.
The chord choices/progressions that work are surprisingly jazzy, and they should be solidly played, the rhythm consistent and the groove/vibe should either ease or focus the environment. Having a purpose as a person with an audience is also helpful. That one dude got up there and basically told the audience how good he was and no one cared. The audience wants to know who people are, they want to know a person's story and journey. Some of the best performances came from folks who just had a nice spirit, who were good storytellers and who were humble and dedicated to their performance. A couple of these folks weren't outstanding musically, but their performances still made a difference. They brought love to the place. One sister even sang a couple of Gospel songs. I was surprised that her pieces were so warmly received. She was all about Jesus and it was just fine with everyone. I like that.
I will check out all the open mic nights that I'm interested in from now on. I'm really glad I did it and feel a lot more prepared.
I intend to do the open mic next Thursday. I might even invite some friends.
I'll talk about bliss later.
I'm learning how to be present to where I am right now. Learning how to let go of how I've been burnt in the past and the pressure I have to live up to my "ideal" future. I'm yearning for a support system and while I have no idea how long I'll be here, I really need one. Gonna get some things in place and do these open mics.
My big opening is that I realized that I don't need to be anything, anything, anything, but a pilgrim. Just on a quest. Just looking to deepen my experience of life and God and hoping to find others in the journey. I am here for as long as I'm meant to be here. No reason why I can't improve the quality of my life right now.
Went back to yoga, finally. And I am remembering yoga as a lifestyle. I am actively practicing openness. It feels good.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ch-ch-ch-changes! Ch-ch-ch-chicken no more!


Let me become thy body
Thou become my spirit
Oh Holy One, Oh Holy One
Oh Holy One, Oh Holy One
Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh
Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh

-C.A. Sokoloff and Inayat Khan

Got into a huge fight with my father last week. It was necessary, but a bit jarring. We broke a door. I fled to LA and attended a U2-charist. I usually do not enjoy these, but I had a great time and really enjoyed looking and feeling into this music. I was with a bunch of friends from Boston and the whole experience helped me to remember that I have a past, a past that matters, a past that includes loving and worthy experiences. I am upon change and I'm being called to move on.

I also found a miracle. Met a group of folks who are looking for a roommate. Great situation and I'll be deciding soon if I will take it. There are so many things about the situation that could be very healing, which I definitely need right now.

Since my return from LA, I've been staying with a good friend in town. This has been incredibly helpful. While I've been dealing with lots of things having to do with yet another car accident (phew, this time it wasn't my fault), I have accomplished some things musically:

I sold Chicken. No, I did not open a fried food stand. I sold my guitar. I was low in cash and needed to fill my gas tank. Turns out I didn't really need to do this. But you know what? I think I really did. While I don't have an instrument that I can plug into an amp anymore, I feel feng shui'd somehow. I was going to pawn the thing and the energy around it felt fuzzy. When I got to Guitar Center though, where I had originally bought Chicken, I felt very excited. I had always disliked going into Guitar Center in Boston, but for whatever reason, I feel super happy in them in Cali. I feel I am casting a sense of faith, newness, re-newness and openness into my music by releasing my guitar. And the money I got for it, felt supportive somehow. As if this money is going to help me find a happier way.

So, my friend, the one who has a theatre company, has agreed to let me play their pre-show! Yippee! I'll be doing a 30 minute set at the end of August!

AND, I've been asked to write a theme song for the theatre company. She wants this to be a collaboration of folks who are close to her. I am gathering up ideas right now and will be collaborating with a friend of hers that I've long been wanting to meet. He's a multi-instrumentalist for a gigging Americana band and he has a recording studio. I hope he'll be down for the project. The plan is to have the song recorded by the opening of the show and to have copies of it available to sell. Perhaps they'll even pop it on their myspace. I'll also be performing it and introducing it to folks right before the show starts. Ooh, I'm wildly, wildly excited!

I have made contact with a local music producer. The guy has been doing this for 10 years and records about 200 songs a year. He conducts certifications in ProTools, is a gigging musician and is pretty Berklee friendly, which for whatever reason brings me a sense of comfort. He plays piano and bass mainly and folks from Ali Akhbar to Toni Braxton have done projects in his studio. He also produced one of the albums for the "Brazilian Girls," who I think are way way groovy!! Anyway, he's pretty accessible and I found him online. Sent him an email and we spoke yesterday.

My head totally opened up while we were talking. He spoke about creating a song the way one builds a house: with a solid foundation. He talked about the way he approaches songs and said that he really listens for what the rhythm is and the bass. This really spoke to me because this is how my colleagues and I worked in Boston. Groove was our thang. He spoke about building up from that place and I just felt so stoked to be having the conversation. He asked me to send me some mp3s and I told him that I was scared, but also really excited. And he said that he doesn't criticize. He said that he is about building on the strengths and supporting/adjusting the weaker parts. He was really clear that his job was to help people and I really liked the sound and vibe of that. He said, "let's get you to a point where you can take at least one track and say 'hey, check THIS out!'" He sounds like a rad brother to work with. Now all I have to do is raise some dough or find more stuff to sell.

Had this thought this morning that I should ask my relatives and see if I could do a fundraising concert for them - in Houston. I'd have to sing a bunch of Filipino karaoke songs, but hey, that'd be cool if I could gather more support in my music.

I did go to the songwriters meetup group last week. I learned a lot. They taught me about warming up before you go on, choosing what time to sign-up for, doing research on venues, checking out the sound systems, gaging and interacting with the audience, making selections. They also pointed out some other helpful resources. The group was really sweet and they asked a lot about the harmonium, which I said in my profile I played. They also had a sign-up list so that people could do collabs. At the end, there was a sharing and I played one of my tracks. I didn't perform for them, but I really think I should have. I think this group would have understood me better and I think I would have reeled them into my creativity by playing the guitar. One of the ladies during a chat was pleasantly surprised that I played the guitar. She insisted that I tell the group. She explained that the guitar is something people understand. What a very helpful thing she taught me. I'm already pretty exotic to folks, so playing an instrument they know is a wonderful way to get them closer to you. And as it turns out, I'm a lot better at playing it than I thought. In know I'm not a competitive player by any means, but it sure feels good when you are with a group with a bunch of guys and you are clearly one of the best players. Hard work pays off.

The biggest lesson I learned was that my style of music is a bit more sophisticated (jazzy, layered) than the ear of this town and that I will have to work to find an audience that will get my stuff. I also learned that I have no business being insecure about my talent. There are loads of people with a fraction of training and natural ability that I have that are constantly, constantly out there and engaging audiences. I realized how good I was, but that my real problem wasn't actually in my skill, but in my accessibility and receptiveness to an audience. My real problem is that I don't let an audience in. I gave an intro to my track and thought that it would help folks understand where I was coming from, but instead I think I separated and disconnected myself from these folks. My production abilities are quite undeveloped, so one of the things that made it difficult for folks to hear my recording was the fact that I did not mix the recording loud enough. They were straining to hear. That in combo with my intro and the fact that they could not participate vocally while listening because the recording was too quiet, made for a very stiff listen. This totally symbolizes where I am as a performer. In actuality, I have not performed in a very, very long time. And in these recent years, the only time I have ever felt connected to an audience is when I am chanting.

There's something about singing for the Universe and singing to illuminuate Holy text so that it is heard in a new way that becomes a deeply spiritual thing for me. Now, how can I channel the same way, with the same heart when I'm playing the guitar and singing or just singing the stories I write?

I love thinking about this stuff. When I was in Guitar Center, I shouted in my heart, "I am so, so so, in LOVE, LOVE, LOVE with music." And after speaking with that producer, I felt so happy. And holding this question about my chanting is so meaningful. I like this feeling, this feeling that I'm really starting to become a professional, vocational musician.

One more thing I should mention. This house I might be living in. Lots of youth ministers and Episcopalians, there's a labyrinth in the backyard, a chapel, one night of worship that they take turns leading and a recording studio in progress in the garage. One of the newbies there is a pro LA musician and is the piano accompanist for one of the "High School Musical" stars. Incredible. Go Jesus, go! And they're cool with my doing my Universal Worship.

Just need some clarity about logistics, since I wouldn't be allowed a car up there, but I believe things will work out for the best.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"As soon as you knock at the gate of God, which is your heart, from there the answer comes." Hazrat Inayat Khan

Holy moly, I am feeling joyful today! I feel a lot of love for my parents and I am...excited about the midnight show of Harry Potter! MUAH HA HA HA HA!!!!!

So, here's what I just did: I wrote to a world music performance group! They specialize in indigenous music in my heritage and I have been wanting to introduce these instruments into the music I develop. I saw this group perform a few weeks ago and was very excited to find them. I asked them if one of their musicians would be interested in developing music with me and if their musicians would be willing to participate in my demo recording in a few months. I'm very excited about the possibility of connecting with this group. Apparently, the group was formed at a gathering at UCLA in the ethnomusicology department.

I have another venue idea. I went to a performing arts highschool and I remember that some graduates came to perform a lunchtime concert. My old highschool and junior high would be a great place to perform, I think. Plus, my stuff has very positive and clean messages.

I'll be recording this afternoon and laying down some new tracks for my worktape and make sure that the first 6-10 pieces that I'd like to copyright are all set. Also breaking out the keyboard and am getting started on developing some new sounds. Will also call that hot music engineer I spoke with a few weeks ago and seeing about booking rehearsal time in his studio.

"Put your trust in God for support, and see his Hidden Hand working through all sources." Hazrat Inayat Khan

Monday, July 13, 2009

Settlin' in to this bloggin' thin'

I'll give myself a "tawpik":

Russill Paul asks you today: "What are the sounds of space?" and
Hazrat Inayat Khan says to you: "All mystery is hidden in name."
Now, these are fully and neither about space and/or names. Are not these koans?


In a minute. I needs must do some other processing.

I had such anxiety the night before last about all that I had posted. I thought I was casting negative, depressed, complainey vibes into the "blogosphere" (a term the priest at the Cathedral used in his sermon yesterday) that could boomerang and bite my ass. I've really got to stop eating past 8pm and drinking caffeine past 3pm - otherwise my mind races and my body gets all funky.

But my dear friend "Golden" called me today with such encouragement, saying that I'm being courageous. It is also really helpful to know my friend Eve is being sure to let me know that she keeps an eye out for me on this as well. And, of course, there's Penny. The most courageous blog-queen ever, who inspired me to do this. I feel that my process is being witnessed by twinkly cyber angels and spirits of mercy and I believe I've done a good thing for myself. I am blessed to have such compassionate hands, eyes, ears and hearts holding me in this.

Plus, I have been waking up these past 2 mornings with melodies that stay long enough in my head that I've been able to record them into my digital recorder. This to me is a very good sign as a songwriter. I often dream of compositions and wake-up completely forgetting everything I heard.

I've come a long way, I think. I grew up singing pop and easy listening karaoke to please my family. When I was in highschool in Texas and singing in the choir, my choir teacher quickly facilitated a revelation of my lack of awareness and skill in breathing. It was frustrating and I did not really deal with it until years and years later. But now, using, musing my breath is my spiritual practice. I have also progressed in my purpose for making music. While I do yearn for recognition of my musicianship, I really do hope that my presence, spirit and music vibes can offer a positive contribution to the soundtrack consciousness of our lives.

I have progressed on some of the goals and steps that I've listed, so here they are:
  1. My former therapist in Boston recommended I make music central to my life and I believe I have begun that process, not only through the blog, but through a list I wrote on poster board. It reminds me that my name means "the truthful one," and about all the things that I sing about (like facing fear and the power of gratitude (my purpose) ) and that I ultimately sing to/for "the Beloved".

  2. I found a wonderful networking tool. In my local "village voice"-ish type publication. There is an online resource I found that lists all the bands in the county. You can find out what other bands that the lead musicians played with and also file lists by genre. I discovered a very interesting experimental/world vocalist that is giving a concert in two weeks and found another band that uses instruments that I would love in my band.

  3. I got positive about a musician I connected with recently. An owner of a music posted an ad in craigslist about needing a singer to record a demo for a pop/rock musical that he was writing. I wrote to the guy, sent him my resume and a couple of tracks and then realized afterwards that the sounds of my originals would definitely not showcase my ability to sing in the style that he described. I became overwhelmed when I decided to check out "Evanescence," which is one of the inspirations he listed. Holy cow. Here I was thinking I was all fierce and then I listened to her. At the same time, I have indeed reached every note I have heard her sing, I've belted just as high and long, but I definitely have not been focusing my sound in the way she does nor in the same style. Nevertheless, I realized it would take a lot of conditioning and practice before I would be in the "zone" of doing this stuff effortlessly and authentically. And what I learned is that I am still learning how to let go of the idea that I can sing anything, because in actuality, I don't want to sing everything, I'm tired of competing with other singers and I really don't need to anymore. I think I just grew up thinking that I had to prove myself as better than anyone I was compared to (Lea Salonga, for example, the bane of my existence in my 20s). Anyway, the guy said that he thought I had "a lot of strengths" but that he would use a singer that he has worked with in the past. I really wanted to go to this resort that he said he'd be going to and brag to all my friends that I had gotten a gig, so I was bummed. What has been getting me is that I'm just not really all that young anymore. It doesn't work to throw things together anymore. It doesn't suit me to think that I can do everything. So, great lesson learned. And I discovered an amazing band that I'm shocked I did not follow. And I think I will actually get what I needed out of this connection. I wrote the guy an email saying that I was working on a musical, that I was new-ish to town and that I wanted to simply network and connect with other musicians. That email, because my files were too big, actually never got to him. But, the guy did say on his email that he would like me to come by his studio when he returns from his session and gave me the date that he'd be back. I've got to remember that Penny said that I should play for whoever will listen. So, maybe this guy will listen.
  4. Ha, I discovered something that I have going for me: I'm single and have no attachments. I own nothing (no house, no car - if I needed to stop using the one I'm driving, all I'd have to do is give it back to my folks), I have no job that keeps me obligated and no romantic tie or child tie that I would need to consider in my efforts. In regards to the job situation, I do pray that I will have to consider it because my music needs funding right now to really advance, but everything actually a blessing. I have wings. I also believe that the more use those wings, the easier it will be to cross paths with a potential partner who shares similar values and who appreciates and even compliments the dreams I hope to pursue. I think my happily partnered friends would agree with this. One morning a few weeks ago, I woke up with a decision to love my life as it was, to chose every moment and situation before me and to hold it as a delight and treasure. That day I wrote 2 and half songs and the outline to my musical. I wonder what I ate the night before.
  5. I have decided to pick a goal on my list that I will focus on completing: to record a 3 song demo of my best pieces. It will cost about $150 to do this with a very cool producer in town, who gave me a quote weeks ago. It will also cost $105 for the official copyright. Until I have raised these funds or found a good reason to ask my dad or relatives for a loan for this, I will rehearse the crap out of these 3 songs and will sing focus on singing them in my first open mic.
  6. I have discovered some new venues that I can focus on: Yoga studios, coffee shops (I found out that there is a whole gigging circuit for these in my city) and at friend's homes (home concerts). Wow, impulsive move did I, but I just now emailed my old friend and her theatre company and asked if they would support my talent by having me perform as a pre-show act before their next event/show. Bingo, another venue: theatre company performances.
  7. I alphabetized and filed all my bills. I made a list of everything, besides my student loans and daddy bank loans, that I owe. It's about $9,200, with about $2,200 that is on personal credit. It feels good to know what I've got and that the amount really is not high enough for bankruptcy to make sense. I'm going to get a copy of my credit report in the next week and a half.
  8. I am reminded that being overweight does not necessarily have to be something that I don't have going for me. What I need to remember to be clear about is that obesity is a health issue and my weight for my height makes me obese. What I can be grateful for is that most people would not consider me as obese. And many people would not even call me fat. That is just a proportionate distribution of my fat and good camouflaging sense. In any case, I only need a purpose, an image, in my work as a performing artist. And some of the things that I said that I sing about is reclaiming power, reclaiming beauty, authenticity and justice. I started to write a song the other night about my size and I'm going to use it, with all the chunks, to give my act some spice.

I have been thinking on an idea that I held while I was considering becoming a ministerial professional (a cleric). I considered the question that a favorite mentor would pose in his sermons: "What is your priesthood?" He really believed in the idea of the "priesthood of all" and that we all are called to transformative leadership. This idea has been my guiding force for the last nine years. The idea that came forward in my ministry discernment process was this: Should I do my music through the priesthood? Or should I do my priesthood through my music? Now, I've done a lot of church music by now. I've directed choirs, composed pieces, sung chants and gospel solos. And these things feel a part of my grain now as a musician, but I think I finally have the answer. That I ask what my priesthood is rather than ask whether or not I am one. I am one. I believe my lifeblood runs through the path of living my priesthood through my music. I can certainly do the other, live my music through my priesthood, just as I can live theatre and teaching and writing and counseling and community service through my priesthood. All the more reason why I believe it is that I do my priesthood through my music. Just as I can do theatre, teaching, writing, counseling, community service, loving, sharing, being vulnerable, being truthful, healing through my music.

"All mystery is hidden in name."

"You are what you say you are." A Jewish mysticism professor gave a talk in his class at Harvard Divinity School. I tried the class for 2 sessions and I would have stayed with it, if I felt that I could keep up with the reading and writing. He spoke about the name of God and how sacred it was to utter "Yahweh". God was a proper noun. In time, God became a verb. He taught me that God to us has become a result of our supplications instead of as the omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent One. This is pretty standard "secret" stuff, I think. Hazrat Inayat Khan also says, "In faith is the secret fulfillment or nonfulfillment of every thought." Name holds the vibration of whatever name is given.

"What are the sounds of space?"

I have been thinking a lot about sacred practice as a songwriter. When I have taught meditation recently, I have been guiding people to pay attention to the sounds within and around them. I was also asked to write for a teaching booklet about a new approach to church music that I co-developed. In it, I wrote about the drones, hums, rhythms, grooves of life. Sting also talks about writing from his awareness of the sounds of nature. It is bliss to listen. To appreciate the hum of the electric fan or the sounds of leaves clinking like the crystals of a chandelier when it is being moved, or simply to hear the sound behind the sound behind the sound of quiet.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Eve 1 - Things To Sort Out

"You only find what you seek."

Okay, so I have no idea if this blog will be of help to anyone at any point, but I feel that I just need to do this - to help me.

First part is therapy. Second part, practical.

I wrote to another good friend today about my goings on lately, especially around music. She lives in Korea and has been singing and playing on a regular basis. I remember that she performed on the street for a little while and have been holding her as this courageous person. We used to share songs together in my dorm room at seminary and I preached at her sister's wedding. One might think of her as pretty shy and quiet, but in actuality, she's a firecracker. I wrote to her that I am still chicken, chicken, chicken shit and that it's fitting, then, that I call my guitar, "Chicken." I stole the name from a friend, who said she would call her little dog "Chicken" and I guess she stole it from the actor Liev Schriber who actually has a dog who he calls "Chicken." I wonder where he stole it from. The chicken or the egg?

The first song my friend ever sang for me is a song she wrote about fried chicken. In 2006, around July 4, I had my landlord take me to the emergency room after I had eaten an entire bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. I woke up at 3am with this pressure in my chest. They tested my blood, gave me an x-ray and had me sit for hours in the hospital. They found nothing. But when I was at the moment where I couldn't touch my toes because of the pressure, I reasoned with God and said, is this your way of telling me that I shouldn't become a priest? Okay, I said, "I'll sing, I'll sing." I vowed never to eat fried chicken again and was absolutely successful at it for almost 2 years. I have been eating a lot of fried chicken lately. In fact, I had a bunch today.

After my first post and email to my friend in Korea, I drafted 4 scenes of a musical that I have been working on. I've had the story since 1997. It's a segment of a children's story my ex-husband wrote and he gave me permission to use it. When I was in grad school for classical theatre, I wanted to create a theatre piece in tribute of our movement teacher. I enrolled almost everyone in my class to participate in the project, but at the end of the semester I was kicked out of the program.

They cut me, but told me it was that I did not meet their requirements and yet, I could use them as a reference and that I could tell anyone that it was my choice to leave the program. Strange thing. The head of the program has indeed written me several recommendations and is one of my sweetest contacts. I was bitter about it for a long time, though.

I also didn't graduate with everyone from highschool. My English teacher flunked me. This was the class that I chose to take because I didn't want to be in AP English. But I also didn't want to finish my homework. She flunked me for not finishing a paper. It was humiliating not to walk. I was a rebel, but I was ashamed about it, especially since my boyfriend was this AP student who was about to go to the Naval Academy.

And I did not graduate with everyone from undergrad. My liberal arts teacher flunked me for not finishing a paper. He really liked me, though. I wrote some good papers for him and I participated well in class discussions. He believed in my intelligence, but I just didn't make the grade. My parents came to the graduation and they did not let me forget how embarrassed they were of me that I was not included in the group that was getting their degree.

I lost my scholarship in undergrad. I also lost my scholarship for graduate acting school. I also lost my scholarship to theological school and I did not finish my MA in Theology and the Arts.

I have a pattern of things unfinished. It's my shame.

So that I started these 4 scenes is a good sign to me. I'm outing myself, even if no one ever reads this blog. I've already begun my criticisms about how I just cranked the scenes out and how there are speeches that need to be written, but whatever. This thing will finish however way it will finish.

Now here's my practical segment. I have been making lots of excuses for why I have not been sharing my music. So, I'm going to outline my goals, things that I have going for me and things that I don't have going for me.

Practical goals

  • Perform at one open mic per week beginning the week of July 19.
  • Save money for a 3 song demo that you can use to post on myspace, your blog, facebook and that you can give to clubs for gigs and other performers as an opening act.
  • Get the first string on your guitar fixed so that it stops going out of alignment.
  • Get guitar lessons
  • Start playing the piano or atleast the keyboard again
  • Get piano lessons
  • Save for a raagini box
  • Learn one song from all of your favorites and do one of these covers everytime you perform
  • Look for a percussionist (tabla, doumbek, cahon, djembe, jazz kit, bells, gongs)
  • Look for a bass player (upright and electric)
  • Look for a keyboard/electronica person
  • Look for a gamelan player
  • Loof for a Brazilian jazz and pop guitarist
  • Look for a jazz/pop/Stevie Wonder-esque pianist
  • Look for a Brazilian jazz and pop guitarist
  • Look for a sitar player
  • Learn to speak tagalog more fluently
  • Learn to speak portuguese
  • Learn sacred words and phrases in different languages
  • Look for 3 back-up singers
  • Rehearse/practice every week
  • I know I am a "renaissance soul" and am grateful to Margaret Lobenstine for her help in getting okay with the way I tick.
Unreasonable, outrageous goals & wishes
  • Perform at Lilith Fair
    Perform at the Global Sound Conference
  • Perform at the World Festival of Sacred Music in LA and Morocco
  • Perform at the House of Blues in LA
  • Perform at the Catalina Club in LA
  • Perform at the Harmony Festival
  • Perform at Joe's Pub in NYC
  • Perform at the Blue Note in NYC
  • Perform at Croce's in SD
  • Perform at Anthology in SD
  • Have my music played at Jamba Juice
  • Have my music played at Starbucks
  • Have my music featured on Putumayo
  • Have my music featured on SoundsTrue
  • Get signed by Narada
  • Get signed by Real World
  • Get signed by Six Degrees Records
  • Get a Grammy
  • Work with
  • Work with John Mayer
  • Work with Sting
  • Work with Sade
  • Work with Krishna Das
  • Work with Greg Ellis
  • Work with Quincy Jones
  • Sell a million albums

Things I have going for me

  • I have clear, developed talent
  • I am educated
  • I have nice hair
  • I have nice skin
  • I meditate
  • I pray
  • I don't do and don't need drugs
  • I don't do and don't need alcohol
  • I don't do and don't need pot or cigarettes
  • My father has offered me a loan to invest in my music
  • I have professional experience as a performer in the theatre
  • I have professional experience as a teacher and music director
  • I have experience as a preacher and officiant of prayer services
  • I have a lot of friends who really love and support me
  • I am reflective
  • I am conscious and conscientious
  • I believe in the greater good
  • I care about people
  • I care about justice
  • I have a little experience recording
  • I already have songs written
  • I have a lot of vocal training
  • I have musical training
  • I've received positive feedback as a performer
  • I've received positive feedback as a singer/songwriter
  • I've received encouragement from people who are my heroes, like Paulo Coelho and Sheila Chandra and Zacciah Blackburn
  • I've receive positive feedback from my friends, family and colleagues
  • I've receive positive feedback from strangers
  • I've performed with incredibly talented and accomplished performers
  • My family and friends love me
  • I no longer obsess over guys who are uninterested or unavailable
  • I no longer obsess over guys in general
  • I practice yoga
  • I believe in cleansing

Things I don't have going for me

  • I am still angry, frustrated, hurt and turned around by the negative feedback I've gotten in my life.
  • I am 5'4" (5' 3/4" actually) and I weigh 210 to 220 pounds.
  • I have $100K in student loans that I have not been managing.
  • I have $10K in debts that I have not been managing.
  • I may have to file for bankruptcy.
  • I am unemployed.
  • I live with my parents.
  • I drive a car that I do not own.
  • I do not keep up with trends in music.
  • I know very little about music production.
  • I know very little about songwriting.
  • I feel limited in my ability to rank in the music world.
  • I have obligations with my family that I do not know how to manage.
  • My stuff doesn't sound like anything on the radio.
  • I haven't been in a long-term relationship for 9 years. I've only had 2 sexual relationships in this time and the longest one lasted 2 months.
  • I eat. I eat a lot and I don't stop.
  • I'm protective.
  • I'm controlling.
  • I overthink.
  • I overdo it.
  • I'm bossy.

Things I can work to eliminate what I don't have going for me

  • I can write about my anger, hurt, frustration and turn arounds.
  • I can make it a priority to find a therapist.
  • I can make it a priority to go on a weight-loss and health plan.
  • I can join overeaters anonymous.
  • I can join debtors anonymous.
  • I don't have to spend all my time drudging through the job hunting process.
  • I can busk.
  • I can advertise my consulting work.
  • I can call around for openings in music stores and yoga studios.
  • I can see about walking dogs.
  • I can join a weight-loss group, like Jenny Craig or find something on meetup.
  • I can find a walking buddy.
  • I can file for bankruptcy and just own the choice.
  • I can read all I can about music production and songwriting online or in bookstores or libraries.
  • I can see if I can make friends with musicians and producers and songwriters and engineers and ask for tips and advice.
  • I can only write and perform what is true for me right now.
  • I can only offer where I am right now in my skills.
  • I can journal my spending.
  • I can journal my eating.
  • I can start learning how to believe in compliments.
  • I can start giving myself compliments.
  • I can forgive the people in my life.
  • I can forgive myself.
  • I can work on the practical goals.
  • I can keep praying and meditating.
  • I can be more grateful.
  • I can vision what I desire and act out, do some drama therapy, as if it were so.
  • I can become more informed about my obligations and get clear about my limits.
  • I can accept my limits.

Things I need to do

  • I need to start seeing feedback from an audience as something that can help me to get better.
  • I need to condition myself to keep going even when I am scared, tired, vulnerable.
  • I need to condition myself to take every opportunity I have to perform my songs.
  • I need to sing my songs to anyone who will listen.

Day 1 - On My Knees

My dear friend Penny gave me some advice from her composition teacher at Berklee, which goes something like this: "You can either finish it or leave it incomplete."

So, I start this blog with an anonymous autobiographical confession. Blog therapy. From here on out, though, my posts will be about my process of setting free the singer/songwriter in me. Muah ha.

I told Penny about my newest state of mind since I have been back in Southern California. I've been living with my "aging and in-need" parents, who are actually kind of bailing me out of a difficult time on my own and who are also hijacking my lifestyle. Of course, I'm letting this all happen.

I told her that there was a night last week when I didn't think I was going to make it. It overwhelmed her because she had gone through a period in her life where she was suicidal. what I meant by not thinking I was going to make it, was just a feeling that I was going to be stuck. I'm depressed, that's for sure. I work it out with drama. I had this worry about a weapon in the other room and that I would feel so overstuffed and overloaded in my brain and body with my parents constant cooking and shoving of complaints and depression and toxic energy, and my escapes into Jamba Juices, Starbucks drinks and the library vending machine, that I would grab this "it" out of that room and point it somewhere.

I do have a very, very, very active imagination and I admit, I am addicted to drama. When I was 4, I used to lay on the couch while my parents were watching TV and imagine that Donny Osmond was my lover. I thought that he was with Marie and I would scream and reach towards the ceiling, "Donny, Donny, don't leave me-ee-ee-ee!" Oh, the drama. I'm also one of those people who contemplate getting up in the middle of a theatre and screaming to the audience and cast, "No, no, no! This is all bullshit!!!"

Things change. I know it. I see it. Last year at this time, I was living in LA mesmerized by hippy dances I had found and all the deep eye-gazing folk and their name for me as "The Goddess." The year before, I was living in Boston at the height of a cleanse and had accomplished losing 50 pounds - I looked great, my skin was clear and was in love with a yogi salesman. Today, I'm back in my home town, I've gained back all the weight I lost, I no longer have the need to be anyone's "Goddess" and I finally own my choice to focus on just myself right. I've a good friend who was resolved she'd be all alone and heart broken for the rest of her life and now she's with the guy she's probably going to marry. I've a friend who thought his path would be in one direction and now it is in a completely different direction. So this fear that I have, I know, will change. Perhaps even disappear.

Someone asked me that "what do you do?" question at a conference on Wednesday, and I answered, "These days, I mostly lurk behind windows and write."

So, I'm writing my first blog.

I've been a singer my whole life. When I was 3, I apparently danced and sang in front of our trailer and people passed by to give me money. All through my childhood into my college days, I would sing at family gatherings and gather up slips of money from my relatives. I'm unemployed and can't stand the jobs that are out there, so I think about what it would be like if I truly relied on my own resources. If I sat on the corner with my guitar and made 50 cents, I'd be making more than I do now.

When I was living in San Francisco a few months ago, I thought a lot about busking at the subway. For all the musicals and family gatherings and classrooms and churches I've sung at, for all the songs I've written in these past 6 years, I have never performed at an open mic. Maybe that's why I have these urges to do something bold - like stand up and cry out in the middle of a formal public gathering or grab a weapon and threaten life in the middle of the night.

I live in an apartment building and am aware that the neighbors hear me because I can definitely hear them, especially the guy that deliberately sings into the courtyard. He's been trying to talk to me that guy, noticing my guitar when I pass by, even singing "I can see you through the window". I shut the blinds tight and sing in the most contained way I can. Meanwhile, my dad sings karaoke to himself on his laptop late at night. He said that he would give me a loan if I wanted to do something about my music. I can't get over his belief in me.

My meditation teacher said to me recently, "it's the air you breathe."

I know that I am not alive as long as I keep to myself, as long as I keep hoarding my creativity and making excuses for not getting up on a stage and sharing my songs. I have the urge to jailbreak, to fuck the blinders and say what it is that I need to say, to just do my thing, my life, my breath.

One time, I was walking around in an art supply shop and an older little asian man said to me as I was passing by, "You. You sing. You a singer." It was the oddest thing - I hadn't even opened my mouth when I walked in.

Another time I met Sheila Chandra, my favorite world fusion artist and she went out and found me after a concert. She doesn't talk after her performances (apparently Sarah Brightman does the same), so she wrote on her little pad of paper, "Did you sing today?" She's never even heard me sing. We never exchanged numbers or anything, but I am convinced that I had met a sister in the journey.

I'm scared to death. What a thing to write. I know that as long as I give into the fear, I give into a kind of death. And perhaps it is the death of my ego that is really dying here.

But I'm scared of what, though, really? Of singing in front of people? Of people telling me that I suck? Of people kicking me out? Of getting tired of pounding the pavement. Of what? Of making a choice? Of opening my heart? Of singing what I really believe? Of people disagreeing with me or not getting it? Of people saying that I'm too fat? Of getting hurt? Of crying? Of being angry? Of being ugly? Of being poor? Of being starved? Of wanting this more and more and more?

My other meditation teacher said to me, "the only difference between the words scared and sacred is a letter switch."

"Don't give up," says Peter Gabriel.

Penny and I concluded that if there's anything I need to prepare for, it isn't getting perfect or waiting until I have all my tricks together, it's preparing myself for the brutal honesty of the audience. They will let you know if they like what they hear or not. And there's no formula that determines what will be cool or what will be liked. Penny says that I can only be my best self right now.

Penny suggested I start with one open mic a week. Next Wednesday, I'm attending a group where they'll be discussing open mics - how to pick a venue, how to gather a following, etc. That's my first step.