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!”

O…..M…..G

“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!”

Mustang

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!

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Alternative Facts: Music Edition

*originally published in Sound Waves Magazine February 2017

Here are a few fun alternative facts about the music industry for you:

The Grammy Awards celebrate the best in music and is not a politically-charged, campaign-style feverish quest for votes wherein the spoils of war go to those with the most influence and power.

grammy2

There is no such thing as a big machine behind the music industry and anybody can make it to the top without a major record label, a manager, an agent, a public relations firm, a lawyer and about five hundred thousand dollars.

Licensing even ten seconds of one of your recorded songs for TV or film does not require membership somewhere inside the big machine.

Only really good music is played on mainstream radio.

Club owners only care about the quality of the music, not how many people you bring.

Booking agents only have your best interests at heart.

Horn players always show up two hours before the gig to help set up and carry all the big speakers to the car when the show is over.

Keyboard players never have an opinion on chord progressions and arrangements and don’t secretly want to be maestros.

Guitar players always end their solos after the agreed-upon measure allotment.

Bass players on point are not the most important element to a live show.

Lead singers are not narcissists.

Studio engineers would never dream of winning Producer of the Year.

CD and album sales are through the roof no matter who you are.

Obtaining a slot at music festivals is super easy.

If people accept your band’s Facebook Event invite that means you will see them at the show.

Anybody can write a memorable and listenable song.

If you can see it, you can be it.

Anybody can record a song and get airplay on Pandora in rotation next to Springsteen, Dylan and Raitt.

Standing in line for six hours to audition for The Voice is a really good use of your time because the producers of the show have not already sought out and privately auditioned every single singer who will appear on the show.

The sound system never dies right before the first four-count.

Dancing around and singing into a microphone at the same time is not really a workout and is not potentially deadly.

Getting bloggers and magazines to review your music is always free with no strings attached.

Bands get free drinks and food and always get paid what was agreed upon.

Local music circles and cliques do not exist.

Open Mic Nights are not killing the live music scene.

Karaoke Nights are not killing the live music scene.

Bands that pay to play are not killing the live music scene.

DUI laws are not killing the live music scene.

Home decor mounted big screen TVs and endless television series options are not killing the live music scene.

Digital downloads of music do not effect artist’s sales because no one ever shares their MP3s with all their friends instead of each person paying for the song.

Bars do not smell weird.

It’s perfectly acceptable to play a show in a bar with ten TVs going especially with one over your head.

Playing solo acoustic shows does not hurt your fingers and is not a lonely, dreadful thing at all.

Band members love each other and never fight.

Playing outdoor summer gigs does not cause hyperventilation, chest pains and shortness of breath.

The musicians who scream the loudest at the booking contacts do not get all the gigs.

Female pop stars never have to worry what they look like.

And lastly, regardless of it all, music will not free your soul.

 

How To Write Songs

*originally published in Sound Waves Magazine June 2016

Constructing a song that people want to actually listen to and enjoy is a science. Writing songs is akin to keeping a journal and then taking those most inner thoughts and encapsulating them into succinct lines of poetry, set to music. You study the greats and try to extract how they did it. You listen to your muses, observe the world and people around you, and articulate the things that emotionally resonate with you. If a song connects with you and makes you wish you could write a song like that, google the chords and lyrics to the song and see how it’s structured, but be careful not to copy note for note, because you could get into Stairway to Heaven trouble. If your subject matter is melancholy, use a minor key. If it’s meant to be uplifting, go with a major key. If you want people to get funky and dance to it, use lots of seventh chords. Take a Songwriting 101 class. Take music theory classes to understand the “circle of fifths.” Learn how to play an instrument. Take English courses around creative writing, poetry, and narrative storytelling. Don’t leave the house without an Ernest Hemingway-style notepad in your pocket to catch fleeting thoughts.

NotebookErnestHemingway

Or, you can do it like I do it.

Here’s how it goes down.

I’m taking a nice long hot shower all lathered up washing my hair and everything when I am flooded with song ideas because of course, the only place on earth I can’t write anything down, is in the damn shower. I quickly rinse, run a towel over me, throw on my white terry cloth robe from Target and slip and slide myself to the nearest pen and yellow sticky. I write my ideas down with utter abandon, sticky after sticky, using up the whole pad. I try and slap the stickies into their correct order, but they all stick to each other in the incorrect order. So I leave the pile on the counter to be dealt with later. I throw on some yoga pants and a WCNI Radio t-shirt.

Later comes when a fifty-mile an hour gust of wind blows the kitchen screen window out of its sill and onto the floor and blows the stickies all over the place. I scoop up the yellow devils and stick them onto an actual 8 x 10 pad over by my computer in the dining room to be dealt with later.

Later comes when I need a piece of 8 x 10 paper and I try to rip a piece off from behind the yellow beasts and I rip the piece of paper holding them. So I get a piece of scotch tape from the drawer in the living room that has the scotch tape and tape up the piece of paper that loosely holds the yellow monsters. Then I take the piece of paper and move it to my bedroom nightstand.

On my bedroom nightstand I notice I’ve got about ten other pieces of paper with yellow Satans on them so I place my generic brand body lotion on top of them to hold everything in place. I have breakfast, usually an Everything bagel with too much real Land-O-Lakes sweet cream salted butter, and think about grabbing my acoustic guitar from the basement to put these stickies to music. Then I check emails, Facebook and Twitter.

Then it’s time for lunch. I throw some pre-bagged lettuce into a pretty big bowl, cut up some cucumber, shred some carrots and toss in a good amount of Craisins and ten to fifteen garlic and onion croutons. Then I pour in a half a bottle of Lite Raspberry Vinaigrette and swish it all around. I sit down in the leather chair in the living room with my huge salad and flip through the HBO and Cinemax channels. I find something like “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” and watch it until the end. I seriously start thinking about grabbing my acoustic guitar from the basement.

Then I check emails, Facebook and Twitter. Then I remember I haven’t read today’s local newspaper online yet, so I do that. Then the dogs need to go out so I let them hang out on the grass without leashes and check on them occasionally. I look out the window and they’ve decided to head to the swamp even though I have repeatedly told them in clear English: “Don’t go near the swamp.” So I herd them back into the house, fill their water bowls and tell them to take a nap.

Then it’s time for me to take a nap.

I wake up and realize I should start thinking about what to make for dinner. I really want to just get my acoustic guitar out of the basement so I throw a chicken pasta casserole together and stick it in the oven. Then somebody texts me a really long text. I read, respond, wait for a reply, check on the casserole, read the reply, reply, read, reply, read, reply and the casserole is done. I take it out of the oven and the husband comes home but he doesn’t like chicken pasta casseroles so I throw a strip steak into a pan with fake butter and whip up some mash potatoes out of a box. The daughter comes home, grabs a plate of the chicken pasta casserole and informs me this is surely the best chicken pasta casserole yet.

We eat dinner and talk about what movies might be on HBO and Cinemax tonight. The husband wants to watch “The Purge: Anarchy” but I want to watch “The Five-Year Engagement.” We clean up and he heads to the bedroom TV. The dogs give me that look they always give me at this exact time every day of every week so I get the leashes.

We walk. For about an hour.

We get back into the house and I check emails, Facebook and Twitter. “The Five-Year Engagement” is coming on so I grab some kettle corn from the kitchen cabinet and sit in the leather chair. I finish the bag of kettle corn and the movie.

I decide I’ve had enough of this day and head to the bedroom. The TV is off and the room is dark. So I grab a flashlight, get undressed, let the dogs into the room and get them settled onto the bed. Then I grab my generic body lotion, and there they are: The yellow evil spirits on 8 x 10 pieces of paper in random order, which will haunt me all night.

Six hours later, it’s time for my shower.

Songwriters are a messy bunch. Every song ever heard in the history of all the land has been written by someone, but in a world where anybody can just simply go to YouTube for free when they want to hear a song, we wonder if it’s even worth it. This seemingly fruitless endeavor of musical construct rages on for us hopelessly creative souls. It’s all-consuming. It’s like a nagging bathroom-shower leak that drips and drips, and gets louder and louder in the night. Then it stains the porcelain, and you’re just stuck with it. Happy Songwriting!

Nightmare Gigs

*originally published in Sound Waves Magazine May 2016

Throughout my illustrious and surely un-famous musical career I have been plagued with nightmares between the restless hours of three and five a.m. But they’re not your standard falling, drowning, getting chopped up kind. They are about my gigs. They usually come when I have a big show coming up, or when I am completely prepared for the show, or if I have serious doubts. I had a gig coming up at a prestigious folk venue in Pomfret, Connecticut. In my dream, when I started to play my guitar that night I noticed too late that it had no frets, no little dots, and the strings were arranged upside down. I was guessing where to play the chords, and they were all wrong. I was doing a slow, haunting melody, and one of the band members started helping me out by playing along (with a proper guitar) and turned it into some zydeco foot-tapping thing. The whole place started dancing crazy, while I tried to sing my heart out. There was this plastic cover on the microphone, like a prophylactic, and my mouth kept swallowing it up. This in turn would choke me, and I kept screwing up the words, so to speak. As the place is hopping, and I’m mortified, this horrific thunder and lightning storm comes out of nowhere, and the power goes out. People start screaming and scrambling, and I figure, I’m a professional here, so no matter what, I am going to finish this song. I get to the epic final note, without the help of my Creoles, and the place erupts into hysterical laughter. “What a stupid way to end a zydeco song!” somebody yells, and the laughter continues.

This is the stuff dreams are made of people.

TheScream

I often dream of my Junior High. I am walking the halls like I own the place, and disapprove of the changes and new paint. But in reality, Junior High held such promise for me, except for one fateful night when somebody thought it was a good idea for me and three others to perform as a barbershop quartet a Capella at the BIG high school in town. When you’re 12-years old and can sing harmonies with others, teachers and parents think it’s just so wonderful and cute. Unappreciative, rebellious teenagers in high school… not so much. So we break into a rousing rendition of “Jeepers Creepers” in perfect four-part harmony, just to show them how great we were.

It took the audience about 10 seconds to start giggling – softly and respectfully at first. But then, before we knew it, the place was ablaze with uncontrollable laughter. My barbershop mates and I looked at each other as if they must be laughing at something going on behind us. We finished the song and were rewarded with more laughter, and not a single hand clap. I guess you could call this my first experience with celebrity mortification. This humiliating event appears and re-appears in my dreams, and is right there on the surface every time I start a show. Will they buy and appreciate my music, or will they think it’s a “Saturday Night Live” skit?

Gigs that can easily turn into nightmares include: playing to empty bar stools, competing with sporting events on a TV set right over your head, equipment malfunctions, band members not showing up, and bartenders forgetting how to turn off the jukebox. But there’s more!

Charity gigs can be emotionally rewarding while you give your talent away in exchange for a good cause, but can occasionally be nightmares.

One time we went to Woodstock, New York to do a benefit and our pay was “gas money.” We pull into town, and it didn’t take long for the reefer to permeate. It was everywhere man! The scene: Kids riding bikes with joints hanging out of their mouths, seriously good musicians on every corner with bongs next to their tip jars, nostalgia boutiques with Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix tapestries covering the door. Far out stuff here.

It is still 1969 in this town.

WoodstockMeKevGuy

There’s this 100-year old dude who rides around on quite a fancy 10-speed with all kinds of voodoo stuff hanging off it. He calls himself Grandpa Woodstock, and flashes the peace sign more than New Yorkers flip the bird.

Protestors show up every day on the green with freshly made signs advertising the cause of the day. Our day was “Free Gaza” day. People in this town are either pacing back and forth for a cause, sitting on a bench eating ice cream, strumming a guitar, or just flat-out wasted on the sidewalk.

So we get to the venue (a church) and expect hundreds of these modern moguls to pack the place and rock out for the cause. There are only a couple places for live music in the entire valley so our hopes are high.

Not to be.

Turns out, people just didn’t want to hand over the $20 cover charge to help out the church – no matter who was playing in there for free. We played a Woodstock-inspired set to five people. One was the pastor. We never got the gas money. We drove back to Connecticut in a blinding rain storm at 3 a.m.

Sign of the times I guess.

Another nightmare gig to EVER agree to is the abominable “Play for the Door” gig. This means there’s a cover charge and the band is presumably paid what is collected at the door.

Lies. Lies. Lies.

Unless you’ve got one of your own groupies watching every move the door-collector guy does, the band ain’t getting nowhere NEAR what’s collected at the door. It’s their word against yours. If you count 50 people in the room, at $5 a head, then you would think if you graduated Junior High, it equates to $250 for the band. When they hand you $100 at the end of the night with a nice smile and a thank you so much, you can cry foul all you want, but stupid you, you agreed to this stuff.

One time at a bar in New London this exact thing happened, and the drummer got so mad he literally punched the bartender (or slightly missed him, can’t remember.) “You’re full of crap! We can count! Give us what we’re owed!” But unless you’re going to break the poor bartender’s knee caps, you really have no choice but to take what you’re given. Better than nothin’!

This other time at a bar in South Windsor, we were again, playing for the door (STUPID!!!) Having learned from our mistakes, we actually left our own scout at the door, to count every dollar. The door-collector guy kept letting people in for free, and this was immediately reported to us. We approach the guy.

“Why aren’t you charging these people? We’re the entertainment and we get the money collected at the door.”

He says, “I can’t charge my regulars or they’d never come back here again.”

Turns out, every single person who walked in the door that night was a regular, except for my brother and the sax player who showed up late.

We made $10.

Sweet dreams people!

Don’t You Know Who I Am?

*originally published in Sound Waves Magazine April 2016

Spring is here! But life as a musician ain’t all Easter bunnies and daffodils, I’m sorry to say. Musicianhood is fraught with self-doubt, heartache, disappointment, bloody fingers, late nights and worst of all – anonymity. There are so many of us fighting for the same gigs, marketing to an ever-decreasing audience, trying to secure the best musicians and attempting to balance our rock-star delusions with day-to-day doldrums, we all tend to feel a bit lost in the shuffle. This year, there were two thousand bands at the music festival South By Southwest in Austin, TX who all traveled there from around the globe to play thirty minutes in a bar with its doors open right next to another bar with its doors open hosting another band who competed with thousands of other bands for the right to perform next to the other band. What are any musician’s chances of ever standing out? Musicians and bands with name recognition get the best gigs, the most money, and all sorts of other things I know nothing about. But how are we “discovered” so things get just a tad easier?

The road to musical fame and fortune is different for everyone, as well as the definition of it. Some musicians are happy to play out only on the weekends and have their day jobs, kids, and lawns to mow. Others are happy to bang around in a van on tour half the year, come home to an apartment to write and record, and head back out. Some prefer to just record, sell the music, and never play out. Some people only want to sell their original songs to well-known acts via basement demos. Some musicians only work on television and movie scores with barely a line of credit at the end of the show. Some people end up somewhere they never even thought of.

One commonality among those who have “made it,” made it to a point where millions of people knew who they were, is that they usually never saw it coming. Whether they were ready or not for the fame, it was thrust on them, and they had to deal with it. Some faltered, some thrived.

Bruce Springsteen played New Jersey clubs for seven years before he was referred to manager and producer Mike Appel in 1972. Appel got Bruce an audition with CBS Records’ John Hammond, which led to Bruce’s first record contract. Bruce worked with Appel on “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.”, “The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle”, and the epic “Born to Run.” Eventually, President Reagan thought his song “Born in the USA” was a great patriotic anthem and then he and the E Street Band played a Super Bowl half-time show televised to millions.

Blogger Justin Gage, who runs the Aquarium Drunkard blog, posted a song from an Alabama Shakes EP, and the Internet went nuts. The band then played at the CMJ Music Marathon, and somehow shortly after received some Grammy nominations and the following year, a Grammy.

Bonnie Raitt played solo at Boston coffee houses in between her college classes and soon met blues promoter Dick Waterman, and then, record executives at Warner Brothers. Then she won a ton of Grammys and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Lady Gaga, who is really Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, attended New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, quit, started performing in lower East side clubs, and collaborated with other bands. She got a job with Interscope Records as a songwriter for other artists on the label, including Britney Spears, New Kids on the Block, and The Pussycat Dolls. While performing at her own burlesque show, R&B singer Akon saw her, signed her, recorded with her, and then she eventually sang “The Sound of Music” at the Grammys and then pretended she was David Bowie at the Grammys.

Las Vegas area rock band Imagine Dragons were recording and playing out like everybody else when they were asked to step in for the band Train at the Bite of Las Vegas Festival because lead singer Pat Monahan was sick. Then a couple years later they won a Grammy for Best Rock Performance.

Aretha Franklin sang in church with her father, a Baptist preacher named Reverend Clarence La Vaughan Franklin, and performed on the road with his traveling revival show. She went to New York, was signed by Columbia Records, and is now the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Famer Queen of Soul.

Adele attended the BRIT School for Performing Arts & Technology, cut a three-track demo for a class project, and posted it on MySpace. Executives at XL Recordings heard the tracks, signed her to a record deal, and then she won a million Grammys and did carpool karaoke with James Corben.

Ed Sheeran left home for London at age 14 with a guitar on his back and worked himself into the local singer-songwriter scene. He recorded and posted his songs online, and one tune reached No. 2 on the iTunes chart. He was signed to Atlantic Records and then he was nominated for 109 awards and won 40.

Taylor Swift sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at a Philadelphia 76ers game at age 11, and started writing her own songs and learning guitar at 12. She talked her parents into moving near to Nashville, Tennessee, she performed at The Bluebird Café, and was signed with Big Machine Records. Then she sold out football stadiums and picked fights and won them with the Apple Corporation and Kanye West. One time, my daughter and her friends were on their way to a Taylor Swift concert at Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots, and I was packing the car up for my own gig. I said, “Taylor Swift gets Gillette Stadium, and I get the Olde Mistick Village Gazebo.” And they laughed and laughed. What else could they do?

The Beatles played Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Carl Perkins, and Buddy Holly covers in Hamburg, Germany bars, and then met Brian Epstein in Liverpool who made them wear Pierre Cardin suits and get haircuts. Then they became the best-selling and most influential band of all time.

Did they all have talent? Yes. Did they have determination and actually try to do something musically? Yes. But why were they the lucky ones? It’s clearly like when Professor McGonagall finds the dead troll in the bathroom at Hogwarts and says to Harry Potter and Ron: “Not many first year students could take on a fully grown mountain troll and live to tell the tale. Five points will be awarded to each of you, for sheer dumb luck.”

It’s just sheer dumb luck. I’m thinkin’.

Those of us stuck in the “I want it so bad I can taste it” road to nowhere still can’t stop trying though, no matter the ridiculous odds of notoriety or slim chance of quitting the day job.

And let’s face it, being able to say, “Don’t you know who I am?” when pulled over by a cop could be quite gratifying, and so could the million dollar paycheck for a two-hour set. But more importantly, what fame and fortune bring, if you choose to use your power for good rather than evil, is a voice. You gain the ability to impact change through your voice.   You can “leave the world better than how you found it,” which isn’t such a bad gig. Good luck! Happy Spring!

Book Em Danno

*originally published in Sound Waves Magazine March 2016

I adjusted the microphone stand to align my silver Seinnheiser so it pointed straight at my upper lip. Not too high, not too low, not pointing up and not pointing down. I screwed my water bottle holder precisely half-way down on the left side of the stand, not the right side. I swung my electric Fender strat over my head, stood up to the microphone, and waved my guitar to the left to be sure I wouldn’t knock the stand over, or whack my bass player. It was 15 minutes to show time and the bar was filling up.

The waitress seated a party of four directly in front of the stage and I smiled at them. A coiffured woman in her sixties said to the group but mostly to me, “Oh No! There’s a band? We’re going to go deaf!” I quickly scanned the room and saw there were literally no more seats to be had so I politely interjected, “We’re not loud at all. It will be nice dinner music for you.” Huffy-Puffy lady was not convinced.

Would you like to know what I REALLY wanted to say?

“Listen you old fogey, enjoy your shrimp but, do you have ANY IDEA the steps I had to take to set up this microphone in front of your ungrateful self? HUH?!? It’s not just a microphone. If you would look past your salad fork you’d see it’s also guitar amps and monitors and speakers, which involved the heaving of those said speakers on top of whimsy old speaker stands that may loosen and come crashing down smack dab in the middle of your carafe. And it’s not just the the bags and bags of super heavy maple-shelled drums and copper symbols and metal stands with delicate screwing knobs that were also lugged in here at 11 a.m. so we wouldn’t get in the way of ‘your party.’ We also did a sound check hours earlier so your delicate ears weren’t subjected to any squealing or pounding snare drums. In order to set up this microphone you see before you, first we had to learn how to play our instruments, then we had to become a band, then we had to rehearse once a week after working all day at our day jobs, and then we had to hone down an entertaining show – FOR YOU. Then we had to PROMOTE the fact that we now ARE a band, and then we had to BEG the manager for this grand opportunity. You see my dearest, this microphone in front of you should actually be referred to as the eighth wonder of the world.”

As most musicians know, booking gigs is worse than root canals, the mere thought of colonoscopies, and stomach flus that come out both ends – combined. It’s like what Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire says: “It’s an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege that I will never fully tell you about.”

But let me tell you about it. Here’s how it goes down.

You scan Facebook event invites, newspapers, and especially this wonderful publication – Sound Waves Magazine – to see where other bands are playing. You see if there is anybody in those bands who will talk to you and you ask them who the booking contact is at the venues they have bookings. You call the venue and ask for that person. That person is never there so you ask when they will be there. You call back at the designated time, but miraculously they are still not there. How do they make a living if they’re never at work? You set a plan to drive to the venue and spend a few dollars at the bar so you can talk to the booking contact who should be there who maybe just never wants to come to the phone. You get there and ask for the booking contact, but they are not there. So you ask…again… when they will be there. They say they don’t know. Obviously, all booking contacts are independently wealthy.

So then you move on to the next lead, and the next, and the next, and they all pretty much work out the same: NO GIGS and out a lot of gas money.

Sometimes venues want you to send them a package in the mail with a demo CD, a “Fact Sheet,” and a nice glossy picture. So, you scrounge up the money to record a demo CD in a studio, a photographer for a photo shoot, and a print shop for the 8x10s. Then, you make up some facts in a Microsoft Word document and list all the places you have managed to play. You buy some ink and paper for your home printer and print out the facts. You go to Staples and buy some fancy colorful folders to put the facts, the picture, and the demo CD into. You also buy some 10×13 yellow clasp envelopes to put the colorful folders into. You write the mailing address of the venue on the yellow clasp envelope and drive to the post office. You pay the post master to deliver your yellow clasp envelope. You wait two weeks to call the person you addressed the yellow clasp envelope to but get his voicemail so you leave a message informing him that he should have received a brightly colored folder in a yellow clasp envelope for booking consideration. YOU NEVER HEAR BACK. EVER.

Sometimes venues have fancy forms on the Internet for you to fill out where you list your band name, upload an .MP3 (from the demo CD if you can figure out how to burn it off the CD and attach it to the form), and you enter in your band’s web site. Sometimes, free Facebook band pages aren’t enough, as well as other free services such as SoundCloud, ReverbNation, or BandCamp. So, in order to have a REAL band web site, you have to make up a domain name for your band and register it with a service like Go Daddy so they can make your band name into a URL (the stuff behind http://.) Sometimes you have to add “TheBand” to the end of your domain name because there are only so many domain names to choose from. Then, you have to find an Internet provider to host your band web site, but you also need an Internet provider at your house so you can build the web site and upload it to the other Internet provider so when people type in your URL, Go Daddy knows where to send the people who look at booking consideration forms. But in the meantime you have to learn how to build web sites so you can have a band web site so you can type it into a form so the booking contact at the other end of the form can ignore it. Sometimes it’s just too complicated so you have to hire your next-door neighbor’s 12-year old son to build it for you. But regardless, you NEVER hear back from the people behind the form. EVER.

For this particular gig mentioned at the beginning of my whining here, it took THREE YEARS of going into the venue, not getting to talk to anybody, finding out the booking contact had changed and the new one preferred emails, so emails were sent, to no response, ad nauseam. The BIG LONG AWAITED BOOKING DAY came on an unexpected Sunday afternoon while having lunch at the venue, with no particular agenda. I was just hungry.

The bartender said, “Hey – when the heck are you playing here?”

“Apparently never.”

“No wait, she’s here, let me go get her.” She went and got the billionaire from her yacht or the back office or something. We talked. She booked us for three gigs, one every other month.

Well that was easy.

So, Party of Four? Enjoy this show that was super easy for us to book. And by the way, the microphone WILL be quite loud.

Why Do We Do It?

*originally published in Sound Waves Magazine February 2016

Today I speak to you – YEAH YOU – you in your smelly, moldy, mouse infested basement, you in your bedroom in your bathrobe, you playing guitar six nights a week in the corner of a bar while people get drunk and ignore you, you lead singing for any band that will ask you, you writing songs and hoping to record them and change the world one day, you writing songs while you’re on the road starving to death in your van, you tracking and mixing for bands you can’t stand to listen to, you with the hairbrush in front of the mirror, you who thought taking flute lessons and playing in the middle school band would make you smarter. All of you.

Yes I’m talking to all you musicians out there nobody’s ever heard of.

Why do you do it?

Maybe you do it because you think it’s your ticket out of the 9-5. Maybe you do it because it’s the only thing that makes you feel alive. Maybe you do it because it’s the only thing that keeps you sane in this crazy terrible world. Maybe you do it because Mommy and Daddy made you take piano lessons and now you’ve got this talent that shan’t be wasted. Maybe you do it because you still hate sports and all that stuff about concussions. Maybe you do it because the roar of the crowd makes you cry. Maybe you do it because you still think it will get you girls. Maybe you do it because you believe this is what you were born to do even if it kills you.

And you keep doing it don’t you.

When I was 18 and living in L.A. trying to be a rock star, with absolutely no clue on how to go about becoming a rock star in L.A., I used to marvel at the lights and the energy on Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards while gazing longingly at all the fake and true rock stars and their super long hair. I ate Ramen noodles and scoured the papers for auditions. I lost 30 pounds and got really tan. I secured a real audition finally at a night club in town for a band of some sort at 4 p.m. on a Tuesday. The joint is closed so I knock. And knock. A burly guy comes to the door and asks what the heck I want. I explain I have a very important audition that’s taken me weeks to obtain, and I’m all the way from the east coast so please let me in now.

“You 21?” he asks.

“No. I have a very important audition though.”

“Drinking age is 21. Come back when you’re 21.”

“No seriously. I don’t care about your warm stale beer. They are expecting me and it’s extremely important.”

“Get outa here.” And he slams the door.

On my dreams.

It’s funny how when you’re 18, you think you’re this brilliant game-changer who’s got it all figured out, when in actuality, you know absolutely freaking nothing. For example, I didn’t know the drinking age in California was 21. I didn’t know that in order to play in a band in California, in a bar, you better be 21. I didn’t know that, looking down Hollywood Boulevard at night, at the rows and rows of talented, beautiful, glamorous would-be-nots, that I was really just one step away from a seedy and certainly illegal future if I didn’t get some work soon. I had been out there about three months, and those limp noodles were getting a little old.

So I came back home. Not a rock star.

Now what to do? Maybe you have a similar story. Maybe you would NOT have come home. Maybe you would have kept plugging away. Maybe you still are.

Last month, I learned you’re never too old to go back to school. I received complimentary tickets to see Aretha Franklin at the Mohegan Sun Casino because I throw twenty dollars in a slot machine once a year. I don’t go to many concerts because secretly, I usually just sit there mad because it’s not me up there. (OK, spoiler alert, my secret’s out.) But Aretha can sure teach you a thing or two.

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Still Doing It

One of the biggest complaints we musicians have is, in order to keep gigging, because we’re not Taylor Swift or Pharrell or Aretha Franklin, is we have to do covers so people in the audience don’t look at us like we’re complete aliens. “People want to hear stuff they know,” club owners often say. And we get that. Actually, some bands have completely given up on their own originality, because “people want to hear stuff they know.” I want to scream – “If you want to hear stuff you know, just play the juke box!” But it’s not that simple of course. People also want to see a “live band” for reasons ranging from “groupie envy” to “bass thumps in my chest”, to “super sexy guitar player syndrome.” But my point is, when you go see a super famous person, like Aretha Franklin, and she sits down at the piano and does her own glorious, super personal, Gospel-like version of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, I, as a musician, ponder. She’s doing a cover. She most certainly has not been asked by Mohegan Sun to do a cover because “people want to hear stuff they know.” No way. She’s doing it because that song is first of all: awesome; second of all: it means a great deal to her; and third: she not only makes it her own but completely owns it.

My point is, you musicians out there who have made it through the last paragraph of my ramblings, is – don’t be afraid to show who you are on stage, no matter what the club owners say, or the guy slamming the door on you says. The audience is there to see your talent in full form (or else they would simply turn on the juke box.) Mix it up. Surprise them. Don’t hide your creativity and originality. It’s probably why you do it.