Monday, November 15, 2010

I love Cedaredge, Colorado!

I can hear you now: "Where the hell is Cedaredge?"

Cedaredge is on the western slope at the foot of the Grand Mesa, near the town of Delta, and about an hour from Grand Junction. It's a rather large town for not having a single stop light, but it does have one of the best guitar stores I've ever seen. Starr's Guitars is worth the trip alone. Cedaredge is also known for its apples. I had some wonderful cider while there and hope to get back next fall for AppleFest.

The best thing about my trip to Cedaredge was the wonderful friends I made there. Ann Knutson was a fantastic MC and the reason I was asked to play in Cedaredge in the first place. She's done quite a job as a one-woman street team! It was an absolute delight getting to know my hosts for the weekend, Shari and Ralph Owens who own the historic Lovett House Bed & Breakfast. It was like getting to know family I didn't know I had. Shari's cousin John came up from Denver for the show and he was great fun to hang out with. It's strange to have made a new friend who lives in your area at a place so far from home.

My partner in crime, Sean Gill, joined me for this little excursion to the west and we got in a day of hiking on the Grand Mesa in addition to a lot of general relaxation. We both desperately needed a vacation so wandering around Cedaredge and Delta was a treat. We had one ugly technology moment when we found ourselves on a spectacular overlook on top of the mesa checking our email on our cell phones. The shame! I just couldn't resist looking to see if I had service. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it!)

We had the pleasure of meeting Roy Martin, a fine singer-songwriter/guitarist who opened for me, and his lovely wife Dea. They gave us a tour of their off-the-grid home, an Earthship! I've been interested in Earthships for years, but never saw one in person. Roy and Dea are in the process of adding another room on to their property so we got to see both the finished product and a work in progress. If you're into green building, you simply must check out this design concept which utilizes used tires and adobe-style mud to create unique, earth-friendly homes.

It's always amazing and humbling when I play a show in a town I've never even been to before and a bunch of people show up to hear me. What a gift! It's really a joy to be able to share my music with new folks and the reception in Cedaredge was just overwhelming. I was also able to give back to the community since the show was a benefit for the Cedaredge Chamber of Commerce. It was a win-win all around. I'm so grateful to Ann and Shari for all their hard work organizing and promoting the show, to David Starr at Starr's Guitars for selling tickets, and to Jim and Candy Barber in Lakewood who started all this by turning Ann on to my music. It's surreal to think that the simple gift of a CD can generate so many wonderful relationships and experiences.

Shari did such a great job of promoting the show I don't think I went in one single shop that didn't have a poster with my mug on it. She even arranged to have the concert promoted on the Howard Johnson's sign (the show was NOT at HoJo, it was at the Chapel of the Cross in the Pioneer Museum). How often can you drive through a town for the first time and see you name on the HoJo marquee? Priceless!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Your Living Room Was Made For Live Music

I love house concerts. As a singer-songwriter, I love to perform to room full of people who are there to listen to music. These days, the commercial venues that attract listeners are dwindling. And let's face it, playing to a room full of people who are there to socialize with friends or drown their sorrows in alcohol can be downright demoralizing.

As a music lover, I love house concerts because they present the most intimate concert experience. Forget front row seats in a concert hall. There's nothing like having the performer feet away from you, hearing stories they might not share on stage, and being able to talk to them after the show. There's an energy exchange that happens between performers and audiences during a performance. It's invigorating, sometimes transcendental, and never more intimate or memorable than at a house concert.

I hosted a house concert once for S.J. Tucker when she was traveling through Colorado. Though I've seen S.J. perform many times, this was by far the most memorable, fun show I'd witnessed. I didn't have a very large living room at the time, but with some creative furniture staging we managed to fit 25+ people. There were even some folks who drove up to Superior from Colorado Springs for the show. It was a great fun for all involved.

People often ask what it takes to put on a house concert. The most common misconception is that you have to have a very large living room. An average sized room will do, or some other space like a barn or a back yard patio (if the weather is good). Often the artist plays without any amplification, though a small PA is often utilized when the room is very large or the acoustics aren't good.

Typically, a suggested donation of $10-20 is set with the proceeds going to the artist. Some hosts provide snacks and drinks while others ask guests to bring a dish to share. Lodging is sometimes provided to the artist if they are a touring act and the host has room to accommodate them.

Many folks host regular house concert series and over time build up their own mailing list of guests who attend their events. These established house concert series attract well-known national acts who tour regularly. Other people choose to host house concerts only for artists they know on a rare occasion.

Privacy can be a concern for some would-be house concert hosts, but events can be private with only the friends and family of the host invited. If a show is public or open to the artist's mailing list, the address of the event is often not posted and guests get the details when they RSVP. Sometimes hosts wish to present the show for free to their invited guests and they work out a flat fee for the artist to perform. There is no right or wrong way to do it and artists are usually happy to work with you to create an event that meets the needs of all parties involved.

With the technology we have today to communicate we can easily feel connected to our friends and family without any face-to-face interaction. And there is so much available on cable TV and the internet, we don't even have to leave the house to entertain ourselves. While there's certainly a lot of benefit to these technologies, there is also a lot we're missing when we don't get out of the house and socialize with the ones we love. A strange sense of loneliness and isolation can creep in no matter how often we call, email, or skype. We are missing that human connection that feeds our souls.

Live music events are a great way to spend time with friends, make new ones, and nurture your right-brain/creativity. It can be healing, inspiring, transforming, relaxing, and just plain fun. And, of course, it helps artists make a living sharing their gifts and introduces new fans to their music. Consider bringing that live music magic into your home or attend a house concert to experience it yourself. I invite you to watch this short introduction video to learn more:

If you have any questions or comments to share about your personal house concert experience, please post them or email me at

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A little miracle bloom

When I was a child, there was a Passion Flower vine growing all along our backyard fence. I was always fascinated with the unusual flowers. They looked plastic, too thick-petaled and perfect to be real. Occasionally, I'd cut some and float them in a bowl on the kitchen table like Water Lilies. A few weeks ago, upon moving into my new apartment, I saw some Passion Flower vines for sale at the grocery store. I was shocked because I'd never seen them anywhere since I was a kid and I'd actually forgotten they existed.

I'm pinching pennies these days, so I resisted the first urge to buy one. But several days later, I just became certain that I had to have one so I sprang for the $12.99. The poor thing sat on the porch for weeks before I finally got around to shopping for a cheap pot. The vine has these little feelers that wrap around things in a corkscrew manner so I knew I'd need to get something the vine could climb permanently. All the trellises were way too big and expensive so I bought some bamboo stakes and made my own trellis.

Two days ago, I finally got around to planting the vine in its new pot. I gently extended its tendrils up my home-made trellis. I handled every inch of the plant and never saw any sign of a bud, nor did I expect one. The plant was so small, I assumed it would be next year before I saw one of its unusual flowers.

Imagine my amazement today when I noticed a fully opened flower on the vine. It's not the best looking flower, small and a bit spotty, but it's a purple and white Passion Flower just like the ones that grew in my backyard when I was a little girl.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Light at the End...

I've been moving for six weeks and I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can't believe it's gone on this long. It started on the last week of June when Tom and I spent eight long days - including one non-stop, work-through-the night marathon - moving stuff out of our rental home in Superior and into storage and the room I was renting. Then Tom packed the Maxima to the ceiling and drove off to Illinois to stay with his parents.

My room rental wasn't working out from the get-go so I found myself frantically searching for an apartment to rent on my limited budget. I was very fortunate to find a townhome style apartment in a relatively new, low-income housing complex.

Tom and I intended to get everything we owned in one 10 x 15 storage unit. Unfortunately, in the end we had to rent two more 10 x 10 units. By the time Tom left for Illinois, we had cleaned out one of them and the remaining 10 x 10 was filled with items I had to donate, recycle, or sell. Throughout last month, I shuffled things around and eventually got everything into the 10 x 15. Once I got moved into my apartment, I had to start moving items from storage before I had to pay another month. This coming Tuesday is my deadline and I've only got a few items left to sell, give away, or squeeze into my apartment and I will FINALLY be done with the constant shuffling of boxes and furniture. It'll probably take me another week to get everything unpacked and put away, and then I will officially be settled in my new home... and my new life.

Throughout this ordeal, I've embraced my inner Scarlett O'Hara and when the emotions welled up I told myself, "I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow." Unfortunately, the stress and grief I've suppressed are now having their way with my body and I'm suffering widespread chronic pain, and numbness in one of my arms/hands. I've had a couple sessions with Dr. Wesley Cavanaugh, a wonderful chiropractor at Foundation Wellness Center in Louisville which helped the knot in my back and 90% of the numbness, but it'll take some work to get my body back to some semblance of normal.

My friends Andy, Fletch, Rob, and Jim have been absolute life-savers, coming to my aid when I needed to move heavy items that I couldn't manage on my own. I don't know what I would have done without them and I owe them far more than the meager meals and beer I had to offer. They've certainly earned some big karma points!

Some new opportunities are opening up and new friends have come into my life, giving me hope that the near future will be brighter. I'm looking forward to having time to focus more on music again and to process the emotions through my art. I need some peace and catharsis to begin to heal my broken heart, shattered dreams, and battered body. I've let go of so much. I hope I've made enough room for something beautiful to arrive.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Two weeks and counting...

Today, I sit in my office, a large sunroom, watching a variety of birds at the feeder. Two baby blackbirds were hanging out at the bird bath earlier, waiting patiently for their parents to crack sunflower seeds for them. One couldn't ask for a more beautiful day. The snapdragons are blooming beside the spent irises. The hollyhocks are about three-feet tall now. They won't bloom before I'm gone.

In two weeks my life will change. I will be spending my first full day in my new home (a rented room in Lafayette) and Tom and I will no longer be living under the same roof. Perhaps he will be on his way to Illinois at that point.

It's strange to ponder, like awaiting a death. My life as I know it is terminal and it will drastically change overnight.

Since I last posted, I was offered a room by a new friend and I began working with my first client as a personal assistant. I'm not making a livable wage yet, but other work is on the horizon and I seem to encounter a new opportunity every week. I've booked a decent amount of summer gigs, though nearly all of them are "tips only" gigs. I'll be playing at three different farmers' markets in the coming months, something I haven't done too often in the past. Summer and I will be well-acquainted this year.

I finally started going through household items today, separating the things to be packed, the things to be sold, and the things to given away. Everything I own will need to fit in my room or a 10x15 storage space. More importantly, it will have to fit in a way that I can access things. That's going to require some very organized packing.

Though it's a lot of work, I'm looking forward to traveling lighter. I've wanted to pare things down for a long time. Tom and I did a decent job of weeding things out three years ago when we moved to Superior, but there are clearly items that I don't need that have been stored in closets, unopened.

I am seriously entertaining the idea of finding a truck and camper or tiny RV to travel/live in. I would love to hit the road and tour a bit, but I'll have to see how the next couple months shake out. One thing is for sure: the future is wide open and anything can happen.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Looking for that door

"Where one door closes, another's standing open..." - Whatever Is

I have avoided sharing this news for many months in the hopes that things would change, but unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Long story short, on New Years Day, Tom announced that he wants to end our marriage. This is not a mutual decision. I've done everything in my power to convince him to work with me to save our marriage, but he's made up his mind and won't reconsider.

Due to our financial circumstances, we weren’t in a position to go our separate ways so we’ve been cohabitating (quite peacefully, ironically) since the beginning of the year. I’ve been focusing on my contract job with Outskirts Press in the hopes that it would pay off at the level I’d been led to believe was possible for my role as a Publishing Consultant. I’ve only recently come to accept that this position is not going to pay anywhere near a liveable wage despite the months of time and effort I’ve put into it.

I’ve been booking shows for the summer, but few venues offer any sort of guarantee and in most cases I’ll be playing for tips or a percentage of the door if there’s a cover charge. As much as I’d love to make a living writing and performing music full-time, that is not a viable plan for the near term. I have to look for other work to sustain me.

Tom quit his job in April, so we have had to give notice to our landlord that we can no longer afford rent beyond June. As of July 1, I need to have a new place to live, but at the moment I’m unable to even look for a room to rent because I have no consistent income.

I realize there are many people out of work now and the pickings are slim, but if you know of any positions available that meet my skill set, please let me know. I have twelve years experience as an executive assistant/office manager and through my nine years of experience as a small business owner I’ve acquired a host of computer and business skills. I would also be interested in any freelance work if you know anyone looking for a personal assistant or virtual assistant for part-time or project work. I’m actually open to a lot of different jobs, not just office work, but that’s where the bulk of my experience is. I’m also really good at cleaning stalls and caring for animals, large and small. Physical labor is fine if the pay is decent. I’m certainly not afraid to get my hands dirty and could use the exercise.

I’d also appreciate any referrals for housing if you know of anyone with an inexpensive guest house, apartment, or room to rent in July. Once I find some steady income that’ll be my next search to tackle. I’m going to do my best to not fulfill the old musician stereotype and wind up living down by the river in my van.

In the meantime, I hope to see you at one of my upcoming shows this summer. As always, thank you for your support and friendship.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Embracing gratitude

Gratitude has never been my strong point. I tend to focus so hard on the future that when I achieve something, I forget to really savor the success. I blow right past like a ski racer, dodging obstacles and rarely extending more than a quick wave and a thank you to people who have assisted me along the way. I'm even worse with the Universe when opportunities arise or things just happen to fall into place for me. I really have to consciously stop myself and force myself to take a breath and feel gratitude.

So, on that note, I want to thank all my friends and fans who have been so supportive during this difficult time. Your emails and calls have been SO appreciated. I especially want to thank all the folks who came to the show last Saturday at Swallow Hill. It really meant a lot to me to have your support and I was so happy you were able to share what was a truly magical night for me.

I owe Vicky and Andy a huge "thank you" for so many reasons. They've been so kind and supportive with regard to my vocal problem and other personal issues. They are wonderful friends and I'm blessed to have them in my life. They are also damn fine songwriters and it was an honor to share the stage with them. Saturday night was one of the most magical performances of my life. I was more present and able to pour so much more energy into the songs because I was so thankful that I actually had a voice to sing with. Vicky brought tears to my eyes twice with her new song "Tears In A Bottle" and her performance of Andy's song "Will You Tell Her." Andy had me beaming with his interpretation of my song "Here." It was the first time I've ever heard anyone perform one of my songs and I'll never forget it.

I also want to thank Dr. King and his staff for ridding me of the vocal polyp and for showing a high level of kindness and understanding. I chose their office because they were in my insurance network (when I thought I still had insurance) and because of their location. I hate choosing healthcare providers based on insurance networks alone with no recommendations from actual humans who have used them, but I was very lucky this time.

When I started noticing my vocal trouble I felt like things were coming to a grinding halt for me. Tom was gone for two months, winter set in with a chilly vengeance, and I spent most of my time alone. When I learned of the polyp everything came to a stop and I felt stuck in so many ways. I'm a planner and it was so hard to have to wait, not knowing what I'd be able to do in the future or when. I had to settle into living each day at a time which is wise, but not in my nature. It's been a challenge to stay in the moment, but I think I've achieved a new level of ability to live in the present and to accept that there are times when you just have to let things take their course. Trust that everything will happen as it should and enjoy what and who you have in your life right now.

Vocal and medical bill update

My voice is not 100%, but it is improving every day. The more I sing, the more I think it's really just out of shape. I also probably have some residual swelling in the cords that's going to take some time to go down.

Dr. King has been great answering questions and checking in on me to see how my recovery is going. If you're in the Boulder/Denver area and ever need to see a ENT about vocal issues, I highly recommend him. He rocks! :-)

With regard to the issue with my bill, Dr. King's office also came through for me. A billing code doesn't exist for the procedure I had because it's relatively new, so that was the reason there was some confusion over what code to use. The billing department lowered the surgery charge from $1800 to $1200 and they also set me up on a monthly payment plan. I really appreciate their willingness to work with me and to give me a discount on the surgery charge because of the misunderstanding.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Looking good, feeling bad

Last Tuesday, I had my vocal cords scoped for what I hope is the last time. The prior week had been extremely emotional for me (for reasons I'm not yet ready to share). I'd been crying frequently and talking more than I should have. My voice sounded terrible and I was terrified that I had done damage to my cords. Fortunately, the scope showed that my cords have healed nicely. I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't have pictures to prove it. I sang a little the day after and though my voice is very weak, it sounds pretty much the same as far as I can tell. The muscles in my throat are really out of shape, but I think with regular vocal exercise I'll get my old voice back again.

Dr. King thought my hoarse vocal quality was probably because of all the mucus in my throat from crying and the stress I was under, and I agreed for a couple days. The lidocaine used in the endoscopy always irritates my sinuses tremendously which makes me feel like I have a cold for a couple days afterwards. However, on Thursday, I realized that something else was going on and by that night it was clear that I'd come down with something. I dragged myself to my friend Galen's office for acupuncture on Friday and I think it really helped because I had more energy and my head was clearer afterwards. She also gave me some Chinese herbal cold capsules which I've been taking every hour. This explains the hoarseness and weakness in my voice that I was experiencing, but it also means I have a short amount of time to recover before the show next Saturday. I'm doing everything I can to rest and help my body fight this thing.

As grateful as I am to Dr. King for his compassion, kindness, and skill with the laser, I'm not very happy with his office. I learned Tuesday that the procedure cost almost twice what I was quoted by the doctor and his staff. Instead of $1,000 for the procedure, it was actually $1800. Apparently, the doctor quoted the wrong code to billing. So, my total with the surgery and the other visits is over $2700. The last visit isn't included, but I'm hoping that my new insurance will pay for most of it. Then again, they are an insurance company and if there's a way they can get out of paying, I'm sure they'll try.

I guess I'd better start booking shows again so my voice can pay off its debt.