Announcing My New Album, “Momentarily Distracted”

I have been meaning to post an update, but I have been so busy that I felt like I could not properly express all of my emotions.

I finished recording and editing my CD, sent it off to be printed, and it is now in my hands. It looks and sounds great.

I opened one and listened to it yesterday, and was surprised to find myself getting emotional about it. Writing these songs was a very different experience for me than it was with other albums and projects. Whether or not an album had a theme, I always tried to stay true to my source material, but it was a must to also make each song personal. This time around, there was no theme. This is not a CD about vampires or about witches and wizards.

I’ve not talked much about it on social media, but I am pregnant, and there is something about bringing a little baby into the world that made me want to dig deep and release a lot of darkness before the day I meet him or her. Some of the songs will not be easy to listen to. When I listened to the CD yesterday after having some distance from it, it was sort of hard for ME to listen to. In fact, I feel a little like Tori Amos as I enter into the uncomfortable territory as she often does with her songs.

I am very proud of this album. It is an EP, but it is a power-packed five songs, and I hope you enjoy them. I hope that people can relate to the songs and maybe feel the release that I did by writing and recording them.

I will be performing these songs live for the first time tonight here in DC and then tomorrow in Greensboro, North Carolina where I will also have the CDs for sale. On-line sales will start on Monday, and I will post an update here with that link when they go live. You can listen to short clips of two of the songs right now on my Website. The songs are called “Momentarily Distracted” and “Wrong.”

*UPDATE*  You can now purchase the CD from the shop on my Website!

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My Thoughts on Amanda Palmer and Musicians Playing for Free

In the last couple of days I have seen many people posting about the recent controversy involving Amanda Palmer.

On August 21st, Amanda put out a call for volunteer musicians to join her and her band-mates on stage in every city of her tour. She offers to pay them in beer, t-shirts and hugs.

Several news outlets such as Prefix and Digital Music News have published articles either bashing this practice or talking about how people are bashing this practice in light of the huge amount of money she raised using Kickstarter. There are some pretty harsh replies in the comments.

But when I read the articles, I was not outraged. I didn’t see the fault in this request.

I thought from the headlines that I would be upset. After all, I am a musician who has had to play plenty of shows for no pay. Instead I was given the meager compensation of being allowed to operate a merchandise table, sometimes only during my set. I was even asked to play a show this past summer at a very large convention where my perks were so non-existent, I was not even privileged enough to be able to attend the convention!

Needless to say, I turned that one down.

I am lucky that my fans are generous and I usually make enough to cover gas and tolls, and can stash a little away for my next big equipment purchase (I am so close to getting new monitor speakers for the studio!!!)

I get the outrage though. I get that musicians are insulted that somehow people expect them to perform for free while everyone else involved in a production gets paid. I am not sure how or when this started, but it seems pretty common these days.

In fact, a former band-mate of mine, who has a new band and is playing regular (paid) gigs, recently posted a response he wrote to a request for his band to play for free. I might have clapped after reading it. I certainly shared it with anyone who would read it. This is what he posted on his facebook page:

Got an e-mail asking The StraightJackets to play a corporate affair…for free. They promised us “exposure” via their website and videos posted on YouTube that would be far more valuable.

Oh, by the way, they wanted us to bring the PA, too!

My response:

Thanks for contacting The StraightJackets.

Corporate shows start at $1500. Outside shows cost $1000 more because of the added PA necessary.

We will add your event to our calendar which gets THOUSANDS of hits and will add videos from the show to our video page giving you incredible exposure for your product. Literally millions of hits per month. You will have more clients than you have product for. That will more than offset the fee we charge to play for your event.

What…you don’t think that the exposure is worth the money?

Neither do we.

But, we are glad to provide you with this exposure since you have asked us to rehearse until we are good enough to be in demand, buy a full PA big enough to handle an outdoor event, travel to your event, set up our PA, play for your event and entertain your clients and friends, tear down, and load out our gear for you…all for free. I guess you are also wanting us to be skilled, talented, and professional, also for free.

Sorry.

You don’t give your pools away for free and we don’t give our music away for free, especially to corporations. You will be paying someone to pick up the garbage for your event, the least you can do is pay the musicians, too.

Good luck on your upcoming venture.

Stuart

So yeah, if this email got me all riled up, you would think I would be outraged by Amanda Palmer, right? Nope. Why? Because if I was reading Amanda Palmer’s blog, it would be because I was a huge fan. And if one of my favorite musicians gave me the chance to play with her on stage in my home town, I would take it without a thought. Beer, a t-shirt, and a hug as payment? Bonus.

She has a paid band backing her up. This call for volunteers is a way to incorporate her fans into her art. It is something she is known for. There is a reason she has a HUGE following and can do spontaneous shows and pack the place.

The controversy apparently arose from the fact that she raised a huge amount of money from Kickstarter. They wonder if she has all this cash, why can’t she pay these musicians?

I think people are missing the point.

Yeah, she did raise over a million dollars from Kickstarter, but since she breaks down where that money is going in her blog it is clear to see that this money is allocated to her amazing Kickstarter rewards and to creating and distributing the album. It has nothing to do with whether or not she has money left over to pay musicians; she IS paying her touring band. Instead, it is about her fans having a once-in-a-lifetime experience to become a part of her show rather than just watching it from afar.

So yes, I think musicians should be paid, but sometimes you take a freebie because it is something that is so cool, you just can’t pass it up. It might even lead to a future paying gig. There is a big difference between being asked to be the main entertainment for a private party and asking if any fans would like to be a part of their favorite musician’s show.

So you just keep doing what you are doing, Amanda Palmer.

***UPDATE*** (9/20/2012)

Digital Music News posted an article yesterday called Amanda Palmer Agrees to Pay Guest Musicians. The article quotes the blog, but does NOT post a link to it. I always like to read things in their entity, so I searched for it on my own, and now you can read it for yourself.

While searching, I also located a blog from September 14th that further explains Amanda’s personal experiences with volunteering or having to pay her own way, and the benefits she received from it.  For example, I learned about an experience she had with her former band:

“…sometimes even paying for my own travel for the privilege of playing with my idols. (the dresden dolls lost a lot of money in order to travel around opening up for nine inch nails. and good lord, were we grateful to lose that money…it won us a huge bunch of fans).”

Amanda makes many, many good points about how different things work for different artists, no matter how famous or how obscure. I really recommend reading it!

My opinion on the matter still remains that there are situations in which I volunteer my time, and others in which I do not. I guess it depends on whether or not I feel I am being taken advantage of, or if perhaps I am gaining some sort of advantage (even if small) for doing so. Only good can come of her decision to pay these musicians, but I still do not fault her for asking for volunteers. After all, I am in the middle of recording a CD at the moment, and where would I be if I didn’t have musician friends who were willing to work for peanuts?! The good will comes back around, my friends.


Go Go Go

Thanks so the new feature on facebook, I learned that two years ago yesterday I was “go go go.” Well that makes sense as I was planning a wedding, but it made me think about how much I have done and how much things have changed in the last few years.

In the last three years I:

  • Quit my job (a career I had for 13 years)
  • Moved across the country
  • Planned a wedding
  • Got married
  • Threw a killer Halloween party (including making serious paper mache decorations like mounted elf heads, and a troll foot umbrella stand)
  • Started volunteering at my local nature center
  • Organized and put out a Holiday Compilation album for charity
  • Helped plan a Yule Ball
  • Suffered through my Mother’s death
  • Concurrently recorded TWO CDs (in a span of about six months)
  • Played the LARGEST show of my life (in front of several hundred people)
  • Went on tour – Ohio down to Texas up to Chicago and back down to Ohio with many stops in between
  • Completed NaNoWriMo (aka National Novel Writing Month) Which means I wrote a 50,000 word novella in the month of November
  • Moved again (this time East instead of North)
  • Went on a mini-tour from Virginia down to Florida and back
  • Decided to go back to school for Audio Production and am 1/2 way through my first quarter now

Am I missing anything?

Wow. That is a lot of stuff accomplished. Go me! Go go go!


I Am Up To My Eyeballs in Projects and Papers

Sorry for the lack of posts. It is mid-term time. Though… my midterm project for my video class was due in week 4. (I guess that professor is confused when it comes to math: the half-way mark of 11 weeks is 5.5.)

But anyway… now I am swamped. I am overwhelmed. I have a list next to me with 9 things on it due Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.

Here, I will give you an funny performance video to watch from my tour last Fall with Snidget. This is perfect example of me being me. I am a ham and not afraid to make a fool of myself.

Enjoy “Witherwings serenades a Barnes and Noble in Texas with ‘Malfoy.'”


Mini-Tour Wrap-up

Sorry for the delayed post. Coming home from the road only to jump right back into classes, homework and mid-term preperation delayed just about everything in my life not related to school. Which… is going well, by the way. My Audio 101 class is about 2/3 Math and 1/3 Biology, but I am learning some really cool stuff that already has me thinking about what I need to adjust in my home studio. That, however, is an entirely different post altogether.

So the mini-tour which got nick-named the “minotaur” was blast. I really loved being on the road with Hawthorn and Holly. They even thought my reckless driving antics were funny rather than scary, so I expect more road trips to be in our collective future.

No tour is complete with out some road-side stops, and this was no exception. The peach stand dudes in Georgia asked us to contribute to their college fund, and we sang for free peaches. Now THAT is Fair Trade.

We even got to romp around in Universal’s City Walk the morning after our Orlando show. Wish we could have stayed longer, but we live for the open road, man.

But the most amazing thing for me was getting to play with my old band-mates in Orlando. Susie, Vick and Stuart joined me on stage and played MY songs. I was in Susie’s band, SusieCool and the Coolottes, for seven years. They taught me everything I know about live performances and how to be a seamless songwriting team. It could have been really stressful showing up and hearing their rendition of my songs for the first time while ON STAGE, but I had faith in these people. I know NO ONE more professional and knowledgeable than this trio, and they came through as I knew they would. So much so, that when I got ahead of the music on “In Defense of Ginny Weasley” due to the lack of (working) monitors, they caught right up to me in 2 bars.

Here is the only video clip I have at the moment. I will get more posted ASAP.

Thanks to everyone who came out to a show, bought a CD or shirt, or contributed to our gas fund. I met some really cool people and it makes me want to hit the road again as soon as possible!

Wrockers and Wizarding Life folks at the show in Orlando. Photo by Kevin Young.


In Which I Organinze My Brain For Tour

There is so much to do before this mini-tour! It went from a full-fledged tour to a mini tour becasue I decided to go back to school. This school stuff is getting in the way of getting ready for tour! *phsaw* Priorities! 😉

So I am making a to do list for the next few days:

  • Oil change and official recording of mileage. (Hey you, self-employed musicians! Are you aware that July 1st was the start of the increased rate you get back for mileage on your taxes? Get your car’s miles documented ASAP!)
  • Make sure all four bands are on board for the proposed show itinerary. (ie. order of bands and the idea of playing two sets rather than one long one.)
  • Check in with my band for Saturday’s show (I am SO SO SO excited to be playing with a full band!!!)
  • Double check that the chords the guitar player figured out are, in fact, the correct chords.
  • Make sure everyone got and looked at the chords for the other songs.
  • Pull out that awesome new Zoom H4n Handy Recorder (Check! Woot!) and see if/how it works to record ambient sound while running my keyboard directly into it. I would really like to be able to record Saturday’s show. Recording directly from the sound board and being able to capture audience reaction would be fantastic! (…but only if I can control levels. Need to find a manual on-line.)
  • Call the Taste to find when they want us to sound check. The restaurant part of the place is open all day. The art show portion of our event starts at 7, but the concert doesn’t start until 9.
  • I need to communicate this to all the musicians. *side note: THANK GOD for smart phones. I have been doing so much of this communication (emails, facebook messages etc.) on the train to and from school.*
  • Figure out what the heck I am going to wear. I hate this part. I can never just find something at the store when nothing I own seems to be working out. At least I know I am going to wear the sparkley new bracelet I bought a few weeks ago JUST for Sat’s show 🙂 I feel no pressure when deciding what to wear for house concerts or library shows, but  involve a stage, lights etc – and now I gotta glam it up.
  • Email reminders to my professors that I will not be in class on Monday. I am glad they find my excuse acceptable, but there will be consequences for missing material. I hope my hard work the rest of the quarter makes up for it.
  • Make sure the ipod is loaded up for all the shows. As for Saturday, organize the parts of my set not being played on piano or by the band. I have already made several versions of set lists. I guess I either need to pick one or load all of them onto the ipod.
  • Back-up my ipod. It is sometimes acts flaky – like starting the song 15 seconds in. *grrr*
  • Create a wrock play-list for intermission. Get permission from those bands.
  • Find/borrow/purchase a FUNCTIONAL car charger!!!
  • Organize my merchandise.
  • Practice, practice, practice!

Okay. Is that it?!?


Incendio 2011

This past weekend was Incendio 2011, a two day wrock festival in Bethlehem, PA. I performed last year when it was just one jam-packed day, but this year, it was just too awesome to contain in a single day. I had an afternoon slot on Saturday, and though there is a magic to performing at night under the lights, I am happy to get a show done early enough to have time to relax and enjoy the other performers.

I would really have liked it if I had been able to get up to Pennsylvania for Friday’s performances as there were many really great acts scheduled, but alas, life intervened. Several of the bands hung around for both days though, so at least I got to visit with them a bit.

I am happy with how my set turned out. You never know when borrowing someone else’s instrument! I performed “The Tale of Tom Riddle” live for the first time. I was glad to add another song on piano to my repertoire, and it seemed to go over well.

I had a little stunt planned for this show and it could not have gone more smoothly. Recently, I was approached by a hop-hop wrock artist called Undesirable #1. He was interested in making a hip-hop remix of my song “Alone.” I only agreed to allow it if he added a rap to the song, and man, did it come out great.

Undesirable #1 performed the first day of the festival, but I knew he was sticking around, so I planned a super secret duet performance. I started out playing “Alone” on the piano as usual, but after the first chorus, U#1 very casually started up my ipod and I heard a gasp from the crowd. I felt like I was on the MTV Video Music Awards as I gestured stage right and said, “Undesirable Number Oooooonnneeeeee!” Richard took the stage and went full force into his rap. It was pretty awesome.

I want to give a HUGE thank you to Tina Wilkins who organized this event. The whole family is super amazing and supportive and I think the world of them. It was so great to see old friends, make a few new ones, and be inspired by some pretty fantastic musicians.

Here is a video of me performing “The Tale of Tom Riddle” shot by the always inspiring MaryBeth Schroeder: