It's been a busy couple weeks. Our first few dates out of Vermont with our band "Bow Thayer and Holy Plow" included club dates at Precinct in Somerville, MA and The Basement in Northampton, MA Feb 11-12. I had conveniently forgotten all about city traffic and parking issues and snow removal but soon remembered. If we made any money, which is questionable, it was quickly drained off in charges incurred while unloading gear in illegal parking zones. Trying to make up for this, we found ourselves sidling up every available friendly bartender to solicit free food and drink. All in all, playing cities may prove to be a young man's sport. I will do it again but only as a big celebrity.
The studio saw visits by percussionist Scott Davis on Mon Feb 14 and Pete Weiss of Verdant Studio (Athens, VT) on Tues Feb 15. Pete came upstate to help me think out some studio issues that have been baffling my brain and that I've been procrastinating on. Armed with a soldering iron and crate of cannibalized cables, he custom made new connections for me and helped me move stuff around. It was well worth it for Pepperbox Studio, to press him into this noble servitude for the better part of the day. Now my Dangerous D-Box is functioning along with two sets of studio monitors, instead of one. Other extraneous outboard gear got moved and my console feng shui much improved. Thank you, Pete! This week he'll be off touring with a band from London as their guitar tech, something I am quite envious of!
A new venue in Montpelier opened at Kismet , a great local foods restaurant on State Street. The effort is being spear-headed by singer-songwriter Erin McDermott and supported by owner Crystal Maderia and the space is going to bring a new level of entertainment presentation to town, if they can make it work. We played there as their first test run on music, and had a blast. They did not yell at us when we abandoned our sound system for playing live in the middle of the restaurant, closer to the people and the bar like in Ireland. It just seemed like the right thing to do.
Our band then spent the next two days at Pepperbox Studio, here in my house. This is our second session towards a new album, a follow-up to "Shooting Arrows at the Moon" done here in 2009 which is how we all came together for the first time. Our band Holy Plow now has an official web presence, for the moment on myspace (http://www.myspace.com/558707690), soon to be elsewhere. Bow is a prolific songwriter and we have a good time capturing some of it as it flies out of him. Equally exciting are the fiddle compositions and grooves set down by our own Patrick Ross. Then comes my turn, when they go home usually, to lay down lush guitar and mandolin parts that bubble out from my heart and soul. We love our time in the studio, and our time with each other. A truly delightful band of troubadours.
Fri Feb 18 we made it up to the Shelburne Saloon near Burlington, VT to try out a new venue created with collaborator Taz Michaels of Farm Fresh Radio, a really innovative Vermont radio station that is committed to getting local music to the forefront where it belongs. We were joined onstage by bassist Tyler Bolles and guitarist Doug Perkins, which I can tell you was a treat beyond compare. The energy when all these crazy good players and creative minds collide in one place is trippy. We hope to play with them as soon again as possible.
Made a key decision this week, to try a significantly different approach to distributing my music. As the record industry tanks, so do CD sales. It's not a great feeling to have boxes of CDs sitting in your pantry, the mud room and/or under your desk. So I've committed to getting my music out faster, online as singles, paired up with some imagery for youtube exposure, and only after doing this will I move into a next phase of CD manufacturing, if it's warranted according to audience interest. The key for me is getting enough people in sync with what I'm doing to support it in some measure. Right now, the day job is my meal ticket.
As part of this new approach, I contacted a recommended mastering engineer in San Francisco: Mike Wells (www.mikewellsmastering.com). I'm hoping he can help me in the final phases of engineering my own releases, to make my sonic landscapes as expansive and richly textured as they can be. He brought up some good points about the music industry, and the direction its going, which is affecting all of us. It was great to get his perspective.
Continued recording a couple new songs, as well as instrumentals which were not all that easy to play. Not surprisingly, my creative mind has conjured up yet another celtic jig for acoustic guitar(s) and the basic track is down. Other guitar parts are still under scrutiny. Also made a sudden about face, rewriting lyrics to an older song, and totally tearing up the melody that I couldn't sing anyway. When your arm falls off, you still have your nose. My voice has been leaning into more spoken tones for years as a general rule, and I've given up trying to sing "pretty". We'll leave that to all those millions of singers who do it so well.
Percussionist/drummer Scott Davis was back in the studio yesterday, to remix the lead track to his upcoming release "Mountain Trance". The addition of brushes (on snare) and building things up from a simpler, earlier version yielded great results. I'm ready for this one to be out within the next few months. I especially want it to find its way into dance classes everywhere, because it's going to fire up some fantastic collaborative movement.
Looking forward to today's drive to Boston/Somerville to visit my cousin Steve Mayone, a veteran of several Boston bands, including "The Benders" and "Bow Thayer and the Perfect Train Wreck" and a singer/songwriter in his own right, playing solo and alongside artists including Kate Taylor and Tim Gearan. Discovering my cousin a few years back and finding out that he is an amazing musician/songwriter has brought me many joys. Not only did he connect with Bow, whom I now perform with, but Steve and I have begun to collaborate musically and hope to start releasing our Italian/American/Cousin/Guitar creations within the new year.
Gigs at Precinct in Somerville and at The Basement in Northampton MA, with Bow and Patrick are coming up this weekend (Fri/Sat) and we're really looking forward to getting out of Vermont, seeing old friends and making some new ones.
Things have been quiet as I enter into that part of winter that allows me to breathe into my music. I finished four instrumental pieces this weekend, sitting by the wood stove with the snow floating down in every window around me. It's a fine dance, wanting to draw near to the fire to be soothed by its warmth, but without getting the guitars too hot. Inevitably at some point in the day, my husband will chastise me with the words: "You shouldn't leave this so close to the fire". Old habits are hard to break and I'm a chronic cold weather fire stoker with little sense of where I end and the guitar starts.
Then into the studio, to get this work formed and recorded. I'm always sweating a bit, worried that I won't be able to get it just so, usually a comparison to the last time I played it casually to "the sound hole and my knee" (Joni Mitchell) when no one was listening and the tape machines were not on. When all the feelings were freely flowing and shaping the music into something more without much effort on my part. That is what I try to capture. When I finally did settle into my chair in front of Pro Tools yesterday, there also started a little cat and mouse game with the electrician downstairs who began to hammer on the first floor. Timing is everything.
I am so very happy with my "television": the four foot octagonal window that defines my visual world as I sit and work at my desk. Without it, I could never get through the endless mundane tasks that often define a good part of my day, as I keep the books for the guitar shop and self promote my music and the music of others on the internet. This year the channel has been tuned to a relentless drift of delicate white crystals, and standing steady behind, the huge spruces of my heart, this year filled with doves.