18 December 2006

A long December and there's reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last....

It was winter 1996/1997 when this song by the Counting Crows off of their release Recovering The Satellites was a huge hit. I was working on my CD Amanda's Floor, living in Somerville, Mass. and preparing to move to LA. It was an odd time in my life feeling as though my number in Boston was 'up' and I was ready to move on. On to what I wasn't sure. All I knew is I had a burning desire to move to a city I swore I'd never live in, but yet found myself oddly attracted to. With the promise of a couple of friends who said they would help me get on my feet and get me some work (neither did, by the way - my first taste of LA flakiness) and the lyrics from this song "...it's one more day up in the canyon and one more night in Hollywood if you think you might come to California, I think you should..." running through my head - the lure of this city had me by the coat tails and had me packing up my old Saab - leaving a life of Theatre, friends, and the comfort of being near my family. I thought it would be a few years, maybe 5 at the most. It's been 9 1/2 years and I'm still not much better off now than when I moved out here. But I have cheap rent and a few people I can count on. Maybe thats all that matters.

This song in so many ways sums up life in LA. It captures a side of it that is real, romantic, enticing, and difficult all at once. "The smell of hospitals in winter and the feeling that it's all a lot of oysters but no pearls, all at once you look across a crowded room to see the way that light attaches to a girl..." The complexity that is expressed in those lines has always struck me, more so after living here. This place is more of a mixed bag than anywhere else I've ever lived. While you never know what will be around the corner, you also don't know who can trust to lead you there. It's freaky and enticing all at once - filling me up with conflicting emotions about here and what 'could be' if I stay. Especially now that it is my favourite time of year; chilly, crisp, great running weather and the air is clean.

"...Drove up to Hillside Manor sometime after 2 a.m., and talked a little while about the year, I guess the Winter makes you laugh a little slower, makes you talk a little lower about the things you could not show her..." and it's been a truly long December; 46 shows of "Annie", of which I worked 35+ (I'm afraid to count the exact number), pulling that heavy set far too many times to even think - though I'm certain my tired muscles would know that answer, and wrangling over 200 chitlins (kids) - getting them dressed, wired for sound, teaching them proper back stage etiquette, and sometimes proper English. We wrapped yesterday and I'm so happy to be done with it, and sad at the same time. It was one hell of an experience. Not only were the shows fun they were rewarding as well. My favourite, most magical moment that typified what Theatre is about, was when we did a dress rehearsal during a blackout, used candles and flash lights while the kids put on a show that knocked everyone's socks off proving that 'the show must go on' in the best way imaginable. They really came together and pulled it off!

In addition, I saw a side to this town I'd never seen - Mothers and their Children en masse. I had the pleasure of meeting one of my favourite actresses, worked with her amazing kids and took comfort in knowing that if my Mom had met them, she too would have liked them as much as I did (for obvious reasons of privacy and protection I cannot say who it was). It showed me that you can be that high up on the ladder, be as normal a Mom as a mom can be, be as sweet as the day is long and have children who are the same. Clearly not everyone who is on this Industry has an ego problem or is wrapped up in the glamour. It was very refreshing to see, and very different from the soccer Moms I grew up with in Connecticut. Many of the Moms were at every performance for each of their kids (6 plus shows) and were so appreciative of the work us adults did that it made a huge difference and sometimes gave me the extra energy I needed to get through the next show (thank you all for your kind words). I have to say most of them were pretty cool as were their children....though I do have my favourites and would like to dedicate this entry to the kids who made it more worthwhile than I ever expected...Gary, Martha, Sophia, Clara, Blake, Izzy - thanks for your help! and last but not least, Ella, you little rascal!!! You will all be in my heart forever and I will never forget you - I hope we meet again! Thanks also to the adults, Kim and Lani, Ally, Heather, Careena and Lindsie - you were all very cool to work with and made a huge difference in your own ways.

There is reason to believe that this year will be better than the last. I never expected to be laid off and go so long without work. I thought the connections I had made would see me through to another job or at least lead me in the direction of one. I never thought I would struggle again so much as I have. A lot happened this past year that I didn't expect. Not all of it was bad - though I would like to see a better year coming. The good things: I never thought I'd go to Alaska, or Vegas, or The Grand Canyon (twice) or even Portland, Oregon. I never thought I'd work on as cool a project as Slipstream, to say nothing of working with Sir Anthony Hopkins. I never thought I'd start a blog. I never thought I'd spend my last few dollars to make a new demo/Ep. I never thought I would again do children's theatre. But I did. It's definitely been a mixed bag.

So what do I see for the coming year? I'm not really sure. I have no idea what is around the corner, or where I will be in coming months. I do know that I cherish those I have met in this past year, those that are still here and my loyal readers for tuning in each week. I'm signing off until the New Year. I'll be on the road and with my dear friends and family for the holidays and also awaiting the return of Boo. When next we meet here it will the first monday in 2007.

Thanks for tuning in and giving me a reason to write this each week.....Until the next Monday.....Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Cheers!!! Or as my family says: NASDROVIA!!!

11 December 2006

Here we go there's nothing left to choose, here we go there's nothing left to loose....

The first time I heard Mat Kearney's "Nothing Left To Loose" I thought I was hearing a new Coldplay song and got very excited. I was even more excited when the DJ announced who it was and I thought - COOL - a new really good artist. The song has a very catchy melody, a chorus that kind of carries you along down the road as if you were on the best road trip on earth. "C'mon and we'll see, like we were free, push the peddle down, watch the world around fly by us, c'mon and we'll try one last time...here we go there's nothing left to choose, here we go there's nothing left to loose...". I have to say, this song was the basis for our soundtrack up the road and back to Seattle on our way to Alaska. It's a very powerful song when you listen to all of it's parts, with the top down, and you don't know where the hell you are in the middle of California....and then you've pulled into a very dark campsite at 11p and it's the edge of the state line on a back road you chose to take that barely made it on the state map....

After that road trip and hearing the song on every radio station on our way I had to get the CD. I found it used in Buffalo a couple of weeks later when I made my friends walk into their local record store. I was absolutely thrilled and couldn't wait to pop it into the nearest CD player. I admit at first I was a little thrown off guard by a few of the other songs. As my friend Laura and I drove down the highway to NYC I made her listen to it a couple of times but it wasn't until I got back to LA that I fully appreciated what this CD is about. It's an awesome mix of pop, folk and rap. Yes, I said rap, he uses it in a number of the songs, mostly on the chorus'. While it's disarming at first, it's really grown on me after repeated listenings and really adds to the material. It's as if he listened to Luka Bloom's The Acoustic Moterbike album and took it a few steps further. But what's cool is that there are other songs that don't have rap in them and are in a purist form in their delivery. With piano, cello and his hard to describe, but maybe he has a cold, voice, the song "Won't Back Down" settles the argument that maybe this cd is hard to take if you don't like the rap influence. Listen further. It's a truly beautiful song. "No Matter what comes crashing down I'm still going to stand my solid ground..." The song, as well as "Nothing Left to Loose", has been featured on Grey's Anatomy, so if you think you haven't heard this guy, think again. He's got a haunting sound despite the fact that he still reminds me of Coldplay. That's not the worst thing on the planet, that's for sure....

If you've been reading the last few week's entries you have heard me mention the new demo/EP I have been working on with my friend and Co-Producer, Rebecca, a classically trained pianist. I have not talked about it much here because it was something I wasn't sure was actually going to happen, or happen well. It started with my birthday dinner at La Boheme here in West Hollywood in September. It was a casual thing, 'hey - I wrote a couple new songs that I want to work on and see how they would sound with more than me and my acoustic.....will you swing by for an afternoon and lay down some tracks?...." She came by right before me and Abby left for Alaska and laid down some tracks...we both loved what we heard, got kind of jazzed and said ' hey - lets do a few more songs'. Suddenly, as a still unemployed person, I was buying recording equipment and putting it on my 'american dream' credit card. Holy Crap, I thought, what the hell did I just do? Can I return this equipment? Can I do this on Garageband and still be proud of it? No. I can't. I kept everything I bought and after some major computer issues we laid down the first scratch tracks on 11 November. In the month since we started fresh on the new software we have, as of last night, nearly completed 2 whole songs of the 5 that we are working on for this project. We have 3 more to go, or rather, once we import from Garageband the 2 songs we've done that still need a few tracks, we will be nearly there. It's an incredible process, I'm very happy with what we're doing, and I feel pushed to my limits as a guitar player, vocalist, and wanna-be bass player. Oh yeah, that. In a city full of musicians I am having a bear of a time finding a bass player to commit an afternoon to lay down the bass tracks for the 5 songs. While me and Rebecca are doing what we can to play the instruments we know how to play, neither of us is a bass player. My goal is to have as many live instrument tracks as possible. So I am putting it out there, in a moment when I feel like I have nothing left to loose, in more ways than can be expressed here, I am asking you, my reader, if you know of anyone who plays bass and would do it for a few beers, or a few shots of vodka (or both), please send them my way. SERIOUSLY. Because at this point..........

Thanks for tuning in....Until next Monday...CHEERS!!!

04 December 2006

I've never been the one who has my head on straight...

The first song I heard of Shawn Mullins' was a song called "Lullaby" about a daughter of famous parents who grew up in the Hollywood Hills with a tormented soul and the "Lullaby" he sings to her as she's about to cry "....everything's going to be alright, rockabye, rockabye....". Needless to say I wasn't very impressed, though it was a catchy tune, it got significantly over-played, and his talk/singing schtick did very little but to annoy me. I tuned the guy out, even as I got to see him play a live free show (which at the time was unbearable) at Knotts Berry Farm just before Christmas several years ago. In 1999 he had a song called "Shimmer" on the Dawson's Creek Soundtrack which made me turn my head and think...."....true love it is like a rock, smoothed over by a stream, and no ticking of the clock truly measures what that means and this thing we call our time, I heard a brilliant woman say, she said you know it's crazy how I want to try and capture mine, I think I love this woman's way, I think I love this woman the way she shimmers the way she shines the way she radiates..." The song got to me in a way that I didn't expect - it showed a deeper side to him while making you sing along about the world. My mind was slowly being swayed into his fan club. But it wasn't until his 2000 release Beneath The Velvet Sun and a song called "Everywhere I go" that I was fully in his camp. A basic idea, nothing earth shattering, but it grabbed me - it was hopeful, uplifting, a happy tune - this guys got a balance to his songs, at once very hummable, and yet really making a point the way Natalie Merchant is so very capable of doing. The melodies belie the meaning of the words.

He is, like James Blunt, a former Army Sergeant who had gone to High School with Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls. Thanks to his alliance with them he got his lucky break after leaving the Army and has quietly set the Southern landscape from which he came on fire. Like the Indigo Girls, his songs are often about life in Georgia, with a wordly twist. You get the sense that this guy is well read, thoughtful, sensitive and now that he's actually singing his songs, his voice has a roughness that keeps them from being sleepy, which is also thankful to the more pop-like production values. He walks that line between pop, folk and what could be country if given the right mix down. His latest CD, 9th Ward Pickin' Parlor, was released earlier this year and while I have only heard one song, "Beautiful Wreck", it's a great one (a more grown-up version of "Lullaby") and surely a CD worth looking into as it boasts many fine collaborations, including two of my favourites, Pete Droge, and Matthew Sweet. Overall, I think this guy has a lot to offer the world of song writing. He's surprisingly deeper than the average bear, with melodies that grab you, and don't let you forget them. I am reminded of how diverse he is as I listen to him on shuffle while writing this blog. There are moments where I want to get up and dance around, and others where I want to sit in a bar and shed a tear or two. He's that good.

I wasn't sure what to write about for this blog, it's been a busy week, I started a part-time job to get me to the Holidays (working run crew for a kids Theatre company doing Annie) and making significant progress on the new demo/EP. Then this morning I was sleeping, something I enjoy doing in the mornings after working into the night on the demo/EP that has no name, when a car alarm went off. It was a very harsh awakening, I thought an ambulance was driving into my bedroom to save me from my clean laundry I have yet to put away from thursday (the joys of living alone), but I realized it was some useless car alarm that no one pays attention to. If you ask me - I've never called the police whence hearing one of those damn things. I've never tried to stop someone from breaking into a car or even question what the hell they are doing. They are a nuisance that everyone complains about for inevitably disturbing what little oxymoronic silence we have in this city. Matters aren't helped by the fact that I live behind a busy boulevard and below a fat-ass who stomps on my head every chance she gets, to say nothing of her noisy dogs who kept me awake last night. Now as I write this the 'gardeners' are outside blowing shit around with their hand held leaf blowers and yelling at each other in some ungodly tones. Their level of uselessness confounds me - I'll save that for another blog - but I will say this - we don't have a yard in this building that needs gardening. Do the math. At this moment my head is about to explode and it doesn't feel like it's on straight right now.

Thanks for tuning in....Until next Monday...CHEERS!!!!