More on this week later – it involves something in January and I don’t want to jinx it…
I’m honored to be named in Music Connection’s year end list of their Top 25 New Music Critiques for 2010. I know that MC receives thousands of submissions, in a year, so I’m thrilled to be among the other 24 artists / bands who are also named there. The magazine’s statement says it best, “Music Connection is dedicated to helping unsigned artists get their music noticed.“
This comes at the end of a really good year. I have spent countless hours sitting at my desk trying, with all my might, to honor the body of work that I recorded on Trust the Sky by putting it out there. I’ve learned a lot, in the process, and will take this experience to the next body of work. I’m excited to be moving on to writing more songs.
Recently, my Dad sent me an article about Daniel Lanois – featured in Canada’s Globe and Mail. Lanois has produced albums for Bob Dylan, U2, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, (and many others) and I noticed a few quotes that I’ll include here.
I have struggled to make music that is really honest and authentic – but it’s difficult to earn a revenue stream from that. Dylan, in a quote from the article says, “Good reviews [sic] don’t sell records.” And Lanois says, “We never make records thinking about the commerciality at the beginning of it. We make music in the hope that we bump into something with substance – something that has a reason to exist. Perhaps by having the fundamental values intact, commerciality can come into play.”
Here’s hoping that I have “bumped into something of substance.” I am deeply encouraged both by Music Connection’s critical praise and also by the review I received, earlier this year, from Paul Zollo. More on that to come…
Thanks to Mark Nardone and Andy Mesecher, at Music Connection.
I am bolstered.
“Why the Mud Flap Girl?” My friends have asked me. “Does it really represent your music?” “Are you trying to be ironic?” I’ll do my best to answer those questions here.
About a year ago, I met Ric Menck. Ric strikes me as an artist who really gets other artists. He’s a musician and songwriter who plays in the revered Indie band Velvet Crush. He’s played drums with Liz Phair, Marianne Faithful, and Aimee Mann. He sent me a Facebook message, earlier this year, and in it he said, “In our culture now, people are used to things happening very quickly. TV shows like American Idol perpetuate the myth that an entertainer can become famous overnight. The reality is, it takes a lifetime for an artist to gestate.”
Gestation. What a great metaphor for the life of an artist.
I’ll offer these broad strokes about my own gestation. Sometimes I’m asked when I started making music. It’s a difficult question to answer. I can’t think of a time, in my life, when it wasn’t there. You can’t take water out of mud.
In the late 90’s, I endured the sudden end of a significant relationship. It’s sounds like a bad stereotype, but those things in life that are the most painful can sometimes lead us to where we’re supposed to go. At that time, I flashed on this image of myself as some girl left on a dirt road, splattered with mud from a late-model pick-up truck as is screeched away. In my imagining, there were chrome “mud flap girls” on the back end of the the truck, and they were also splattered with mud as it sped off. I didn’t realize, at the time, that being hit with that particular “imagined mud” would be the start of a better life. Songs started pouring out of me.
Enter, the Mud Flap Girl. As a young girl, I’d written embryonic songs – but now I wrote with a vengeance. I wrote my first serious body of work and did a short pressing / limited release of Mud Flap Girl my “first CD” in the early 2000’s. I set up my music publishing, through BMI, and named it after my curvy, mud-soaked friend.
Here were are, about 10 years later, and she has a new life. Philip Warbasse has put her into the design for a QR Code, to represent my music, through his company Print 2D. This new technology is, to quote Philip, “In it’s infancy now but within a year or two, this will be mainstream.” Users can scan the 2D Barcode, with a smartphone or iphone, and be taken to the music via a designed mobile environment. The “readers / reader apps” for this technology can be easily downloaded – but will become more and more available, in cell phones, as the platform takes hold. I’m thrilled to be in on the front end of this curve. I’m sure there will be many more applications…
As to the Mud Flap Girl, “Does she really represent my music?” I dunno – I like to think that there’s a certain grittiness to what I do musically. There’s a little dirt under my writer’s nails, a small-town innocence, a femininity…
“Am I trying to be ironic?” Absolutely.
I’m still reeling from the past weekend at the annual TAXI Road Rally. I was told, the day before the Rally, that 2,182 people were registered to attend. It was a great event. I’m proud to say that I performed at all 3 Open Mic nights. I estimate that there were about 70 performance spots – on each night – which comes to 210 of us (about 10%) who mustered the courage to get up and perform live in front of our peers. It was an exhilarating (and nerve-wracking) experience – but very memorable.
It’s amazing to bounce around at a conference full of hopefuls from all over the country – all over the world! I met musicians from Canada, England, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, and from all over the United States. I liken the event to bouncing around in a giant human pinball machine full of like-minded people. Everyone is very friendly and happy to share what they are doing musically.
I’m still sifting through business cards and materials that I amassed at the Rally – trying to make sense of it all and to begin the process of following up.
I’ll have more to say about it as the weeks progress – but for now, I wanted to get a post up to say thanks to Michael Laskow for creating TAXI and the Rally.
I think it’s been a couple of years since I first met Philip Warbasse on the streets of Santa Monica. He approached me with a discernable genuineness in his eyes. I was lugging my gig-wagon home, after an evening of busking on the 3rd Street Promenade, and he complimented me on the music he’d heard me making earlier in the evening. He said that he was interested in creating a new way for artists to reach out to their audience and that he’d like to talk with me about it. We exchanged information – and here we are a couple of years later.
Philip has a PR / Design firm, here in Santa Monica, called Warbasse Design. He’s done a lot with film and TV (Iron Man 2, True Blood) and various other campaigns locally, internationally, and – in the end – globally. The world has become so small. [There are links to Warbasse Design and Print 2D on the Blogroll.]
The way it works is there is a specially designed 2D Barcode that people can scan, on their cell phones, to take them directly to an experience of music, a ring-tone, biographical content, and social media. The possibilities are wide open – depending on the campaign…
I feel so lucky that Philip has taken me on as one of his first ventures into the music realm. I am witnessing his entrepreneurial drive and work ethic first-hand and I appreciate his faith in me so much.
I have a sense that there will be much more to blog about in reference to this “little break” – which feels like one of those ones that will have a ripple effect… I’m so excited about the prospects.
How cool is it that there are people who love to support independent, unsigned artists? I think it’s amazing. I feel so fortunate to have met TEE-M (Tariq Mirza) and Mike Stark, two LA DJ’s who, for the past 6 years, have been supporting local (and not local artists) whom they have featured on TEE-M’s UNsigned Music Show on WPMD.org.
I was honored to be included in the 6th Anniversary Show which was pre-recorded on Sunday, October 24th. The podcast will be available as of November 14th at: http://wpmd.org/ (there’s a link to WPMD.org on the Blogroll)
Mike Stark has built his beautiful, independent LA Radio Studio with a picturesque view of the LA Harbor. The studio has a great vibe – and it was hoppin’ this past Sunday. Previously, and in conjunction with Mike’s studio, Tariq and Mike also broadcast out of the studio at Cerritos College
As I continue on this path, I think about how fortunate I am to meet people who are so invested in being a part of bringing great, independent music to a world’s stage.
I teach at this wonderful guitar shop, in Santa Monica, called McCabe’s. It’s a national treasure and has been in operation for over 50 years. It’s got down-home charm and warmth and the concert stage, in the back, has hosted some of the finest musicians to grace the planet over the course of the past 50 odd years. Don’t take my word for it. Check out the artists who’ve played there. http://www.mccabes.com/perflist.html (there’s a link on the Blogroll)
Near the community bulletin board, on the right when you come in the door, there is a row of clips where we teachers hang a little sign that says which room we’re teaching in upstairs. A while back, Morgan (one of the wonderful McCabe’s “princesses” – as I like to call a group of young women who work there… ) did a photoshop image of me walking across Abbey Road – in the opposite direction of the Beatles. I was more than a little flattered by the association and I also found the “spoof” – well, pretty damn astute. Morgan is obviously a smart young woman with a penchant for visual language.
I didn’t think to include the image here until last week when I showed up for my teaching day. I always appreciate clipping it up on the wall at McCabe’s. It’s one of those sweet, small details of life that make it so great.
This morning, at the foot of a high office tower on Wilshire Blvd, I saw a man shining shoes while sitting on the back bumper of his car – next to his open trunk. His tools were at the ready. I could see how earnestly he polished the leather, the muscle he was putting into it. He wore a hat and his beard was peppered with grey. The shoes on his feet were worn.
It’s halting to come upon something like that – just a moment – but one that says so much. We all experience moments of feeling like we need to do small, menial things in order to survive. I don’t think there is anyone who escapes such things entirely – but there is certainly a vast continuum – and we, in North America, have it easier than most people in the world.
Still, I was talking with friends the other night and we all agreed that the “overhead” that one needs to generate, in order to survive in this civilized world, is hard sometimes.
That said, the past week was filled with such preoccupations for me. I worked on my taxes, hunkered down into my teaching practice, and powered my way through. It felt like a grueling week – but then, this morning, I came across the man shining shoes from his trunk.
There was another thing touched me so much this past week. At the end of my final two lessons on Friday, my students presented me with a beautiful loaf of homemade bread. Such kindnesses mean so much.
I’m excited to be in Pandora with only one degree of separation between me and Patty Griffin – one of my great musical heros. It’s a small thing really – but the world is shrinking.
I tried to get a letter to Patty once. It was after a concert that she gave at the Wiltern Theatre in LA. I walked up to the stage and asked if there was any way I could get a note to Patty. I handed an envelope, to her stage manager, which contained “Trust the Sky” and a brief note. I don’t know if she ever got it – but it felt like it was worth a try.
I’ll post it here on the ridiculously remote chance that she will ever read it.
April 10, 2010
I have no idea if you will ever read this – but it’s an interesting exercise…
If you could write a letter to one of your musical heros, what would you say? You might speak in superlatives and say, “thank you” — you might “gush” — and feel like an idiot, wishing you could think of something better to say.
It blows my mind the lifetimes that you can contain in a song – the flash point that must flicker in your brain – the connections – the memories – the souls – the loss – the melody – your words… The depth and breadth of what you have accomplished is far-reaching.
Maybe in some small way – you were once where I am now – and even though I am far behind you, I am on the same path. I thought I would try to extend this gesture to you — to share, somehow, in what I am doing and tell you that you have been a huge source of inspiration.
Thank you so much for what you do. paula mcmath