#Musicianship Goals

*originally published in Sound Waves Magazine February 2018

The beginning of a new year is always such a joyous and hopeful time for bands. Just like normal people, bands set goals, make resolutions and promise themselves all kinds of things. They vow to “get better,” “practice more,” “get better gigs,” “write Grammy-worthy songs,” and “really grow the audience.” Stuff like that.

So when I get the email from BandsinTown.com containing a rundown of other bands’ new show announcements, and I see that some of them are booked through the spring already, through the summer, through the fall, and all the way until the end of 2018, I sort of, kind of, WANT TO SCREAM MY HEAD OFF.

Are you freakin’ kidding me? Booked through the end of the year, already? Don’t you think you’re being just a tad greedy? Maybe a little selfish? Maybe a little over-zealous? Have you no conscious? Don’t you want to leave some time to watch music documentaries as a team-building exercise with your band? Don’t you want to ride roller coasters or race bumper cars or go on a hike or go skiing or sit on a beach? How about reading a book. Do you people even READ?!?!?

No fair I say. The “other” bands taking “all” the gigs needs to STOP. Give somebody else a chance!   Why can’t we all just swimmingly get along? Why do you have to be such sharks? What on earth is compelling you to take EVERY SINGLE REMAINING GIG ON THE PLANET?

Here’s how it goes down for me to get just ONE gig, never mind every single remaining gig on the planet:

I tried to get a jump on things and thought in February I could work on getting a gig for St. Patrick’s Day for the next month in March. Irish bars are just THE PLACE to be around St. Patrick’s Day so I wanted in. I had heard “Whiskey in the Jar” a couple times, so I assumed I was all set.

I picked out an Irish pub in town because it was classy, the drinks were expensive, and I thought the chances of people buying my CDs were higher.   I went into the place, drank four black-n-tans at the bar and headed over to the bar owner who’d already had ten.

The white-haired, red-cheeked flabby-faced elf-like Irishman barely looked up from his race book as I slithered over with my promo package and sat next to him. I said, “Hey. I have a great band that would fit in really well here. How about giving us a gig?” He ignored my pretty green folder, turned to me, looked me up and down, and said, “OK. Let’s see what ya got. Let’s go to the back room. You can give me a little live audition.” We headed back to the secret room full of broken-down leather chairs, a green and orange couch, and tons of bric-a-brac hanging from the walls. From behind a two-seater bar, he whipped out a guitar, handed it to me and said, “Go.”

I proceeded to play and sing an original song, with all my heart. Then, like that scene in the movie “The Da Vinci Code” when all the descendants of Mary Magdalene miraculously appear at the Rosslyn Chapel, burly guys of questionable character began to fill the small spooky room. The nice bar owner guy rudely interrupted my audition with a “Ho Ho Ho” (of some sort) and him and the other “musicians” broke into a series of Irish folk songs complete with Gaelic accents and songs about the Moors. I don’t know if they were in a trance, drunk, or flat out insane.

I put the guitar down and found a way to sneak out of the room. He didn’t want to get to know my music. He just wanted to have a bit of a Craic. I never got the gig.

Because every other band on the planet is mean.


Moosting Salad

*originally published in Sound Waves Magazine August 2017

Sometimes at gigs we get requests.  This is a given.  We are there to entertain, and it’s kind of our job to give the people what they want.  However, there are some songs that churn my stomach for reasons I can’t explain.  It’s difficult to pry my mouth open to sing them.  My responses to these types of requests include:

“Oh sorry, we don’t know it.” – THAT’S A LIE.  WE CAN LOOK UP THE CHORDS ON OUR PHONES.

“Oh sorry, I can’t sing that high.”  – THAT’S A LIE.  WE CAN CHANGE THE KEY.

“Oh sorry, I couldn’t do it justice” – THAT’S A LIE.  IT CHURNS MY STOMACH.

But sometimes, due to circumstances beyond my control (ALL CIRCUMSTANCES ON THE PLANET), songs I despise do indeed vomit from my mouth.

Here’s how a recent scenario went down:

We were doing a gig at a lovely outside venue by the beach, and everything was hunky-dory.  A couple hours in, a tipsy jolly older gentleman with a huge wad of black curly hair approached me.

“Young lady, if yous please, play moosting salad for moi.”

“What the heck are you saying?” I asked as politely as I could.

“Please play moosting salad!”

A woman who was desperately trying to keep him from falling by holding onto his arms said, “He wants to hear Mustang Sally!”


“Oh, not possible, sorry.  We don’t know it.”

“I vill give you one hundred dollars to play moosting salad!” the inebriated man said.

“Sir,” I laughed, “There’s not enough money in the world for us to play that.”

“Then I vill give you shots!  Lots of shots!  I vill be right back.”

Filled with dread and with a sinkhole in my stomach I turned around and yelled to the guys, “There’s no way I’m singing Mustang Sally!  I will die first!”


The guitar player, amused by the proposition, started playing the opening lick.  Such a show-off!  The bass player yelled, “What key?!” and started hammering away.  The drummer got a beat going.  The sax player added some lovely tasteful fills.

I had been had.

I let the intro go on and on for what seemed an eternity because I was determined not to sing the most wretched over-played song of all time.  I looked out at the ocean.  I dreamed of brighter days.  I wished with all my might that I could get the heck out of there.

Then the tray of shots arrived.  Tequila I think.  I drank four.  I think I WAS actually determined to kill myself.  Since I had been paid, I assumed it was now time to deliver.

Now that I think about it – couldn’t I have just encouraged the crowd to sing the song karaoke style?  You know, everybody sing it but me?  But no.  Hindsight is 20/20.  Could have, would have, should have, blah blah blah.

I sang the first line.  The crowd went ballistic.  The song went on excruciatingly for ten minutes.  I am not proud of these ten minutes.  I was singing (well…barking) the same thing over and over and over.  Was I dead yet?

But alas, this is why we do it right?  For the roar of the crowd?  The happy faces?  The drunken stupors?

We all survived the night somehow and the next morning when I opened my phone, there were the lyrics:  “Ride Sally Ride…”  UGH!  KILL ME!


*originally published in Sound Waves Magazine July 2017

Summer is here finally. Time for outdoor music festivals, beach concerts, rockfests and mega jams. I run into people and they ask, “Excited for summer? You going to have lots of gigs? It’s your busy time right?” Well, not so much. You see if you’re in a band, you have to think about the “busy season” way before temps reach 70 degrees. Like way back during the “Christmas season.” If you don’t start hounding summer festival organizers, chambers of commerce, parks and rec people, vineyards and beach bar owners by Jan. 1, you are out of luck by the summer solstice.

It’s embarrassing. I’m bored to death so I go to every event there is and get the same question, or the polite ones: “Got the night off for a change huh?” Um, yeah. The whole freakin’ summer thank you.

Even if you are a good little doobie and manage to contact these purveyors of all things musically fun in the sun in the frigid winter, if you don’t check on your application or package or whatever at least 1.5 billion times, you’re not getting the gig. Most of the time, it’s impossible to find out who these leaders of the Federal Reserve-like institutions are so you can even get your stuff to the right person. It’s like when Richard Dreyfuss in that movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” is thrown into a van and then into a tent with the French speaking dude and the nerd and he yells, “WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?!?!?”

WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE dictating the summer music schedules anyway? It’s this big fat Area 51 mystery to me. And asking other bands how they “got in” doesn’t help either. They say, “Oh, a guy in the band is married to a a girl who’s mother’s ex-boyfriend has a niece who interns for the chamber during the summer so that’s how we got in.” Or, “You have to send a package to the organizing committee,” or, “You have to contact the owner at his place down in Florida in the winter.”


I am not a bugger. I am not a beggar. It’s too……. Complicated!

And what’s worse is, if I do manage to have a gig in the summer at a regular bar, nobody’s there because they’re all outside at some festival! That I’m not playing at! It’s exasperating!

The one festival gig I do have this summer is because somebody canceled at the last minute! OK Fine!

One year I was asked to help book the bands for a summer festival and was guaranteed a slot. Word spread magically like wild fire that I was a member of this prestigious committee and so therefore I was ceremoniously deemed “the contact.” Well let me tell you, some people are really good at inquiries, following up, or I as I like to refer to it as: “Bugging the crap out of you.” I give the musicians the utmost respect for their persistence and tenacity, however, OMG – did I ever want THAT THING over with!

So I get it. I understand why it’s all a big secret. It’s a never ending exercise in responding to emails and chats and voicemails – or as I mastered – the art of ignoring the whole world.

You may think of this month’s column as one big pity party for me. Au contraire! It’s a call to arms! We must unite! We must demand that all festival organizers and beach concert and outdoor music people publish their names, addresses, what kind of wine they like, what their favorite sports team is, details on their family lineage, and where they spend their winters. That kind of thing. To make it fair, ya know?

But alas, I know, you’re all too busy playing your fifth night in a row under warm moonlit skies with a lovely ocean breeze blowing through your hair. That’s OK. I’ll be there cheering you on.


Winter Gigs

*originally published in Sound Waves Magazine January 2017

It’s gonna be cold. It’s gonna be grey. And it’s gonna last you for the rest of your life, says Bill Murray.  Now is the winter of our discontent, as it were. The holidays are over and we can’t remember the last time we had a piece of fruit or a good hearty salad. We’ve forsaken alcohol for all time and want to hoard every coin we earn. It gets dark by 4:30 p.m. in the Northeast and with the absence of sunshine, our long-lingering depression seeps into our souls like a drafty old scuttle hole. Fireplaces, fuzzy socks and fleece blankets beckon us, and we can’t get off the couch. The last thing we want to do is get all layered up, pray the car starts and venture out to drinking establishments for one more night on the town.

But I say hogwash to all that! That’s all rubbish! The dark days of winter are actually the best times to gather with friends, listen to music, and get the heck outa the house. What would you rather: suffer in silence or dance the night away? Succumb to seasonal affective disorder or rejoice in the fruits of friendship? Watch Mariah Carey’s New Year’s Eve performance on repeat or experience musicians who actually sing and play in front of your eyes? Oh it’s a glory to behold I say! And the musicians who brave the elements to load up their gear and slip and slide their way through ice-packed back entrances know that while their efforts may be fruitless, to the trained eye, one can see, there ain’t nothin’ gonna keep us down! While gig opportunities in these cold and dreary months may be sparse, the courageous and admirable club owners who continue to host live music are the modern day heroes of our time. We love you all. We toast a green smoothie drink filled to the brink with kale and wheatgrass to your moxie!

Say yes to the invites. Get the Uber app. Start a group text with your high school friends and mean it when you say, “We must get together some time.”

We’re in this together. We must endeavor to slay the winter beast. We must never allow our mobile devices and fear of bad winter drivers to triumph over our need for human interaction. Summer gigs are no fun. Winter gigs are where it’s at. Hope to see you at the shows!



Give The People What They Want

*originally published in Sound Waves Magazine November 2016

In the entertainment industry it is standard practice to give the people what they want. This is actually a contradiction in terms. If I gave the people what they wanted, I would be playing “Brick House” for four hours at every gig; or, for an older crowd, that horrendous instrumental “Sleepwalk” for just as long. If I comply with this, I become somewhat of a miserable beeitch and I actually want to kill myself rather than shake it down or calmly strum the A minors. This in turn makes the entertainment value of my performance not so stellar and therefore the audience is actually not entertained at all. And people of all ages are reaching for the defibrillator. “Brick House” consists of one chord. ONE CHORD! Over and over and over. This is worse than, for those in the know, blues songs, which only have three.

At shows I like to say, “We’re happy to take requests. We’ll TAKE them, it doesn’t mean we’ll actually DO them.”

I just can’t stomach sacrificing my art (yes it’s mine, all mine) for the greater good, and the better gigs and the freer bar tabs. And if you’re not careful, giving people what they want can seep into your soul creating chasms of horror and defeat. It can happen at gigs, in the recording studio, in the practice space, or over dinner with your husband, your parents, or your friends. “You should do this song, it’s perfect for your voice. You need some oohs and aahs during the verse. You should have put more upbeat songs on the album. You should only sing slow songs. You should only do blues. You should only do rock. You should write a song about me. You should try to get a gig in New Zealand. You should try out for The Voice.”

I think suggestions from music fans come from the heart and they’re just trying to help, and I believe in the sanity of most people. They can tell when you are being fake however, and that you don’t particularly care one iota for their suggestion. They can sense when you’re lying. Except if you’re a serial killer. Most people can’t tell about those people, but that’s another subject entirely. Being true to yourself is the greatest gift you can give to yourself and the clearest path to success and peace. Even if you have to Bruce Jenner it.

One year my daughter sensed I wanted to give up on all this crap so for Christmas she made me one of those Shutterfly photo calendars with all our greatest band moments caught on camera.   The photos were mostly of me, doing my thing, and not sacrificing a darn thing for nobody. It got me back on track. Sometimes your children can be motivating, exasperating, and at times downright inspirational. Have some! It’s all true!

When I was 13 our teacher assigned us the fun task of making a collage of everything that we felt was important to us. We could use photographs, magazine or newspaper clippings, whatever. I was in love with magazines at the time – Teen Beat, Tiger Beat, Seventeen – so I glued together about 25 sheets of tan construction paper and started cutting my life out. Images of healthy foods on picnic-filled blankets, gorgeous girls and gorgeous guys completely in love running through the fields, cute guys roller skating with cute girls, Cathy Rigby jogging, a big tub of Noxzema and somebody washing their face, music notes, guitars, and lobster. I guess I’ve always had a thing about gorgeous guys, and being clean and healthy. And lobster. The point is, when I was 13, I knew exactly what I wanted, who I was, and where I was going. I could picture it in a collage if you will. I still have the wrinkled patchwork stuffed at the bottom of my high school yearbooks and I pull it out once in a while to remind myself that a) WOW – I used to be able to jog? And b) it’s never going to be OK for someone else to tell me what I like and what I don’t like and what I should do or not do. I have the collage! This comes in handy on my day job as well. If you let them boss you around, they will. If you declare that “No one is the boss of me,” then no one ever will be. It hasn’t led to very many promotions but at least I’ve kept my sanity, my self-respect, and stress intact.

Even if your best friend in the whole world requests “Brown Eyed Girl” because she has brown eyes, and it’s her song, and it means everything to her, it still doesn’t mean you have to play it. Actually people, please don’t EVER play it, ever again. The Rolling Stones knew what they were talking about in “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

I’ve never pretended or claimed to be particular well-read, artsy-fartsy, a smarty-pants, a name-dropper or a poet. I’m not going to tell you my lyrics were inspired by some post-modern feminist leftist anti-politico 500-page snoozer I’d been reading on Saturday nights. They’re just words that rhyme, occasionally. Sometimes just phonetically. I enjoy my intellectual musical friends and get what they’re trying to do – music as art and all that stuff – but the point is, they’re doing their thing, and I’m doing mine. It hasn’t gotten me very far (or them either), but who cares? This ridiculousness has chosen us.

I think I’m ready to go shake it down now. Maybe to the car radio.

And one final note, last night I had a dream that the head of the statue of liberty was laying on the ground like in that 1968 movie Planet of the Apes. Translation: Get out and vote on Nov. 8. We’re our only hope.


I also had a dream about Bruce Springsteen, but that’s for another time, and perhaps another magazine…


Under The Covers

*originally published in Sound Waves Magazine August 2016

Does anybody understand “BREXIT?” Heck No! Does anybody understand the Department of Justice’s latest decision regarding consent and licensing and royalties controlled by Performing Rights Organizations ASCAP and BMI? All the more – Heck No!

All I know is this – it’s nearly impossible to make any money off your original music creations via online streaming services – no matter who you are. It’s also nearly impossible to make any money off your original music creations via hard copy CDs because the only way to sell them is to do live shows.   Once you sell out of CDs in your local area, which cost thousands of dollars to manufacture, you need to “broaden your circle” as they say and book shows out of your chosen city. The problem with that is you need money to tour with in order to play every night of the week and sleep in a van. (You can’t just eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches like the Allman Brothers did while recording in Muscle Shoals.) Well, I guess you could. But in order to have the money to at least afford the peanut butter and jelly, you need a day job. But since most employers probably won’t appreciate you taking a month off here and a month off there to go gallivanting around the world, you are stuck playing shows only on the weekends, and not too far away.







This is the Catch-22 of the music biz. Unless Mommy and Daddy are funding your little rock star trip around the world, the rest of us, have to find a way to pay for it. It takes money to make money.

My point is – this is why millions of hopeful musical geniuses resort to – you guessed it – starting COVER BANDS. Cover bands don’t need to book studio time, pay copyright registration fees, hire photographers and artists for album art work, or pay for CD manufacturing and online upload “bundles.” They don’t need managers, publicists, booking agents, album distributors or radio campaign promoters. They don’t have to constantly yearn for stardom. They can just be awesome musicians onstage, playing music everybody loves and wants to hear, and they pack the clubs. And they make a lot of money doing it; especially Tribute bands who are super duper good at copying someone who paid to do all that previous stuff and who got lucky with lots of hits so lots of cover bands could cover their stuff.

The word “cover” in regards to music by the way was coined by the Chicago Tribune in the 1950s to refer to a rival version of a previously released original tune. Some original bands throw covers into their set to make everybody happy, and to show off how THEY would have recorded it. Original bands have realized that some live music appreciators are just simply not interested in hearing songs they don’t know while out on the town spending hundreds of dollars on food and drinks. They want to dance and party and eat chicken wings and sing along.

Cover bands follow only a couple rules when it comes to choosing songs: Everyone in the band has to at least like the song, and no one in the band can absolutely hate the song. Pretty simple. No K.C. & The Sunshine Band, and no Bay City Rollers. Peter Frampton – yes. Kansas, Boston, Journey – yes. “Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones – no. One guy said, “I just can’t consciously play a song about a black slave girl.”

“Whiskey Lullaby” by Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss – no. “I will shoot MYSELF in the head if I hear that song one more time,” somebody said. “Cocaine” by Eric Clapton – no. Just for a laugh – “Billy Jean” – yes. Pat Benatar – yes, except “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” – karaoke crooners have worn this to pieces over the past 20 years. Prince – yes, especially “Purple Rain.” Captain & Tennille – no. Allman Brothers – yes. Delbert McClinton – yes. Susan Tedeschi and Bonnie Raitt – yes.

There are also certain songs that only certain guitar players can handle, so those song choices depend on the shredding ability of the lead guitarist. “Frankenstein” by Edgar Winter – only one guy. “Funk 49” – only one guy. Anything by Jimi Hendrix – pretty much only one guy.

Bruce Springsteen – yes, except “Dancing in the Dark.” Janis Joplin – most definitely yes. Anything reggae – only if the audience is wearing bathing suits. Lynyrd Skynyrd – yes, except you know what.


Sometimes in my own band, we’ll be playing a cover song for the millionth time, and I’ll turn to the band and exhaustively say, “I just can’t do it anymore.”  I’ll end it (swiping my finger across my neck) somewhere before the bridge, and the retched song never makes it onto a set list again. No questions asked.

But basically, you just feel the crowd and feel the venue. If you can’t “feel” the crowd” or “feel” the venue, then you have no business being in a band. When you’re famous, like Bruce Springsteen or Adele, the people are there for YOU. When you’re in a cover band, the people are there for THEMSELVES. I don’t care what the famous people write on their social media pages. When I’m doing a show, and tons of people start screaming “ADELE,” it’s because they want me to COVER Adele, for THEM.

So back to the original music creators – and this point is argued a lot – how much of their great music are we missing out on? Why is the SAME OLD STUFF that SOUNDS EXACTLY THE SAME AS THE PREVIOUS SONG on mainstream radio all the time? It’s because once an artist gets lucky and gets a ‘big machine” behind them, i.e., MONEY, then the production and touring costs are covered. Once that machine proves it can make a profit off that artist, other machines look at artists who SOUND JUST LIKE THAT ONE, and put their money behind the next one, and so on and so on and so on. The result: ALL THE SAME STUFF OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

You can listen to independent radio or Pandora and catch some non-mainstream music created by hard working souls who have managed to get some airplay, who have paved their own way either through their bank accounts or GoFundMe campaigns but ninety-nine percent of the time, they give up and either get real jobs, or become, COVER BANDS. Musicians are happy, diners and dancers are happy, club owners are happy.



Musicians’ Unspoken Nod of Understanding

*originally published in Sound Waves Magazine July 2016

While washing and scrubbing out the dog food bowl this morning I spied my bulldog Penelope out of the corner of my eye so I turned a little and nodded and bobbed my head a few times at her silently saying, “Yes Yes Yes you are going to get a big bowl of food today, just like every day, I’m working on it, you won’t starve.” I mean, how much of the English language does she really understand anyway?

Humans do a lot of nodding and head bobbing, but musicians are actually the worst. I like to call it the musicians’ unspoken nod of understanding (The UNU.) When stuff gets really loud on stage there’s really no other way to talk to each other, hence the unspoken nod signaling something REALLY IMPORTANT is about to happen.

It’s a disaster of course when everyone in the band decides to nod and bob all at the same time resulting in massive confusion and nobody knowing what the heck the other person is thinking. And the bigger the band the more the head nodding ensues. The nod means “Do something!” or “Stop doing that!” or “Get ready for me to do something!” or “That was sweet!”

Sometimes I like to be funny and yell out over the mic: “Do you want me to do something now? What exactly is it?” And we laugh and laugh and continue to screw up the song.

But there’s more to the head nodding than that. You know that movie “Jerry Maguire” when Cuba Gooding, Jr. wants the “quan?” He wants love, respect and community like all the other well-liked football players. Well in your local music communities, everybody wants the UNU. When other musicians are doing a gig with you, or they come to see you play, they understand you’re not going to screw up, you’re going to do your part when it’s time, and you’re not going to act like an idiot.

They give you the unspoken nod of understanding.

They don’t hug and kiss you, or give you a high five, or slap your butt. They’re not there to be entertained. They’re there to play, and listen. We’re all in this together. It’s called respect. Not the kind Aretha Franklin sings about, or your boss talks about, or your parents hound you about. It’s just a nod.

We musicians, you see, are really just super-sized introverts. We only reveal our inner selves on stage. That is why the silent nod is all we can muster, and it makes complete sense. Think of us as an assortment of brightly colored candy coated M&Ms. When we perform on stage, we’re actually stripping off our candy coating, so you can see right inside our soul. In the mornings when we first wake up, we feel more like peanut M&Ms – our candy coated souls are filled with self-doubt and fear of allergies, and the candy coating is a little harder to get off. We practice, study and write in a silent drudgery that nobody gets to see. Except the dogs, who would rather just be taken for a walk.

I won’t state the obvious.

OK I will.

You have to actually be able to play something, anything. Even if it’s the tambourine, you still have to know when to tap that thing.

Some people will never be a part of the collective UNU. They’re just crazy nut jobs who are so pissed off they never made it big they can’t get out of their own way. They’re so serious all the time they can’t even recognize what all this stuff is about. They are the people we leave mid-sentence to go tune our guitars.

To an outsider or general fan, the unspoken nods may be confusing and a bit weird, but we get it. Hey, if you really want to complement a musician, just give ‘em a nod. It means the world.