Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Makenzie Makes Music

One of life's great joys is making music, and running a close second to that is being able to help others make music. This can take many forms, sometimes we do it through coaching, teaching or being there to provide an understanding ear for a fellow artist working through an issue. And sometimes we do it by opening up our wallets and making a direct contribution to the cause of art. All of this brings me to my wonderful and talented friend Makenzie Caine. Makie is an actress, singer and songwriter who is working on funding her first album through Kickstarter. She is trying to raise $10,000 by December 16th, and you can help her reach her goal by pledging to the project. It doesn't matter if you can pledge one dollar or a hundred every little bit helps, as I well know from my own Kickstarter adventure. There's something in it for you too. Not only do you get to help bring a brand new project into the world, but there are some pretty cool incentives for pledging. Even if you can't be a patron of the arts right at this moment you can help by spreading the word to your friends. Pay a visit to Makie's Kickstarter page, and tell her the Redheads sent you!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why Don't You Come Up & See Us Sometime?

Recently, we got a call from one of our favorite people, Barbara Gurskey of Edison Valley Playhouse, reminding us that it has been far too long since we paid them a visit to work with singers in New Jersey. Fortunately, Barbara is helping us remedy that situation by inviting us to give a Workshop for singers at EVP on Saturday November 5th from 11:00 AM until 3:00 PM. If you’ve been looking for a chance to get on-stage and get inspired here it is. We’re limiting the group to ten people so there will be lots of performance time and individual attention for each singer. We love working with singers to help them bring their own unique persona to every performance. A lot of ground is covered over the course of the afternoon from handling mistakes on-stage, working with arrangers, and putting together your set, to off-stage topics like what to wear and how to network. You’ll get to work with a terrific pianist and two redheaded singers who believe that people learn best in an atmosphere where everyone is treated with respect and that the process of improving one’s musical skills should be a joyous one. The cost of the class is $150 and you can sign up by sending us an email or calling (646)831-0359. Edison Valley Playhouse is at 2196 Oak Tree Road Edison, NJ 08820. The theatre is not too far from Manhattan for those who might fancy a trip across the river. We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Pause that Refreshes

All is well here in the land of the flammulated follicles. We’re just taking some time out for some intensive rejuvenation, and planning sessions.  Soon news and chatter will abound. For now we’re enjoying the cooler temps after the crazy weather events of the last week, and happily anticipating the arrival of autumn. Here’s a little something to keep you moving until we get back…

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dancing on the Sand

I've got Beach Music on the brain today. If you weren't lucky enough to grow up in a beach town in the Carolinas, Virginia or Georgia like I did, Beach Music is a regional genre that developed in the late 1940s and combined Rhythm and Blues, Big Band Swing, Country Blues and a whole bunch of other stuff to create the perfect music for dancing the Shag (also called the Carolina Shag). Sort of kind of like the Jitterbug, but not. I’ve never claimed to be a dancer but I can do pretty mean shag (I can tap dance too, but that’s another post for another day). Beach Music is not to be confused with the Beach Boys; they’re great but another coast entirely. It’s the music of summer and just hearing it makes you feel like dancing. So turn your speakers up, kick off your shoes and go for it!

If you want more beach music tunes you can click here for  the top 100 Beach Music songs. I can’t say that it’s the definitive list, but it’ll definitely get you started.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rules to Love By

Magnolia photo by Imogen Cunningham

Bailey’s first rule of life is just because you can sing in that key doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. The second is like thereunto, just because it comes in your size doesn’t mean you should wear it. I have frequently cited these rules as the creed I live by, and when it comes to issues related to my career and image I certainly try to. They’ve worked out well for me, but recent events have had me thinking about more important rules that I want to live by and where I learned them.
My Aunt, my mother’s sister, died recently and overnight my cousins, sister and I became the “elder” generation in that part of the family. It was sudden and none of us were remotely prepared. In spending time with my cousins I realized that while I had always thought of myself as my mother’s daughter, I am also my aunt’s.Traits that I thought were uniquely my own I have actually inherited from her. I suspect if you asked my cousins would say the same thing about what they got from my mother.
Aside from the fact that we all inherited my Grandma Carter’s high cheekbones it would seem that my six cousins (five girls, one boy), my sister and I have little in common. We lead different lives with widely varying interests and temperaments but that is just the surface. Underneath all that we share a pretty consistent way of looking at the world instilled in us by our mothers.  They taught us to love fiercely, work hard, laugh often, and never EVER give up. They believed that this and good manners would get you far.

These women, my mother, Frances Terra Carter Winters, and my aunt, Elizabeth Lane Carter Pratt had presence, and character. You noticed when they entered a room and we have felt their absence now that they have gone. I still think wearing something flattering and singing in the right key is an important part of life, but because of the lessons learned from these extraordinary women I know that these things are much farther down the list. If I can follow their example of persevering with love, humor and grace I will have done very well indeed.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

One of Her Favorite Things

Flowers by Karen Tran

I am sending a big virtual bouquet to Amanda McBroom, artist, friend and all around lovely human being, for mentioning Breathing as one of her favorite things for the month of July. As I may have mentioned ten or twelve times the title song of the album was written by Amanda and Michele Brourman, and this makes her support of the finished project that much sweeter. Click HERE to check out the link.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's too hot to think let alone blog, so I give you this from my friend Russell Fox's blog.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hit the Road, Red

I just returned from an unexpected road trip down to Southern VA. Actually,” just returned” is a slight overstatement. Physically I have been back for several days, but it took my brain a bit longer to make the return trip.
My efforts to stay awake on the drive home (why is it that the way home is always so much longer than the way down?) included copious amounts of Smartees, Dr. Pepper, and turning up the tunes and singing along at the top of my lungs. Here are some of my favorite road trip tunes guaranteed to keep you awake and amuse fellow drivers. Just turn up the volume, sing out, and repeat as needed. What are your favorite road trip songs?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Elements of Music Style

Photo courtesy of The Constant Gatherer

I am looking for new material. I am spending hours tolling I-Tunes, You Tube, Music stores, artists’ websites, my own personal sheet music collection, bugging  all my song writer friends  and doing anything and everything it takes to hunt down material that’s just perfect. Finding a great song is an art unto itself, it’s sort of like being a museum curator. You have a number of wonderful possibilities in your collection but you have to pick just the right ones for the given moment. There have to be just enough to tell the story, but not so many that your audience is overwhelmed. They must work well together but each piece must be a gem in its own right able to stand on its own.  I make endless lists of songs when I’m on the prowl. To put together an hour of music which is somewhere between twelve and fifteen songs I will usually start out with a list of fifty to sixty songs. With my tendency to over prepare sometimes it gets close to a hundred.
Starting this process for the umpteenth time has me thinking about what it is that, for me, makes a great song. I think it really comes down to three basic things that have to be there, if a song doesn’t have these three elements then I don’t want to sing it. I can’t list them in order of importance because they are all equally important. Take away one and the other two are meaningless.
Emotional Resonance: A song has to reach me on a visceral level, and have emotional integrity. I look for emotional honesty, because it’s impossible for me to sing a lie. By that I don’t mean that I have to have actually experienced everything that happens in a song to be able to sing it (that’s where acting comes in) but there has to be a core of truth to the story. I really REALLY dislike songs that attempt to manipulate the listener into feeling a certain way. A great tune stays out of its own way and allows the listener to have their own emotional response without pre-programming it. 
Fantastic Lyrics: It doesn’t matter how honest a song is if the lyrics aren’t good then forget it. I’m looking for a complete story not endless repetition of a single thought.That is not to say that all songs have to tell a story in a traditional linear fashion, many don’t, but that the lyrics have to leave no doubt that there’s an entire emotional journey there.
Wonderful Melody: This isn’t just about how the song sounds, but how it feels too. A terrific song physically feels good to sing. The melody should support the story the lyrics are telling and not work against it. Melody can be seductive though.There have been times that I was so enamored of the melody that it took me a while to figure out that the lyrics weren’t up to snuff. In fairness, this has happened in reverse with lyrics catching my attention and the melody being subpar, but not as often.
Tempos, keys, arrangements, all these other things can be worked out if the bones are there. Truly, this is all it takes to make me a very happy girl, see how easy it is?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday Music

I woke up this morning with Born to Run playing in my head.  I am not a lifelong Springsteen fan, I’ve always like his music and thought he was a great songwriter, but I never quite understood what inspired such fervent admiration from his fans.  Well, I didn’t until I saw him live. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another performer who could establish a rapport with an audience so quickly and so (seemingly) effortlessly.  Bruce is not out there going through the motions, he’s present and engaging and obviously enjoying himself.  He has that rare ability to make a cavernous arena seem like an intimate space where it’s just him and you and the music. He’s made a believer out of me!
Being a woman of a certain name, Born to Run has a special place in my heart.  One of the first things my mother in law ever said to me was that I could never be president because my name was too girly. Musically, at least, she may actually have a point, if there’s a Wendy in a song most likely she’s going to be sweet, perky and picking up the Lost Boy’s dirty socks.  This is why I’m partial to Born to Run. Springsteen’s Wendy is an adventuress running off with the hot bad boy. She may never be president either, but I'm pretty sure she doesn't care.

I'm posting this version of the song because it has some great footage of Bruce interacting sax player Clarence Clemons who passed away June 18th following a stroke. His music will be sorely missed.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I Could Read a Book

I’m not one for summer reading lists. I really think it’s sort of strange that summer is the declared “Season of Reading”. As a year round reader I see no need to restrict the pleasures of a good book to one part of the year.
There’s always a pile of books by my bed threatening to topple over upon me in the middle of night. The Kindle I got for Christmas this year has eased the clutter and threat of being crushed under an avalanche of literature, but hasn’t done much to calm my book buying frenzy. In fact, I think it’s made it worse. It’s so much easier to buy books with it. If I want a book, I have only to  open up my Kindle, go to the storefront and download it. Instant gratification at its finest.
There are currently a whole bunch of good things waiting to be read on my book pile. While I was out and about the other day I lucked into a wonderful sale and came home with a bagful of bios. I’m looking forward to spending time with several artists whose work I have always admired.

Ethel Merman: A Life by Brian Kellow
On the virtual pile in the Kindle are yet more biographies, some history, some fraud and  a really old conspiracy theory.
America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation by David Goldfield

Sisters of Fortune: America’s Caton Sisters at Home & Abroad by Jehanne Wake

Of course, there’s also the distraction pile which includes my annual re-readings of Mary Kay Andrews’ novels, Ann B. Ross’ MissJulia Series, and Jennifer Crusie’s Maybe This Time.

These should keep me out of trouble for a few weeks at least…

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sweet Inspiration

Part of the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exibit at the Met's Costume Institute

I decided that I have spent way too much time with me, myself and I of late, and that it was time to get out into the world to search for fresh inspiration. I spent Monday tromping around a historic site in NJ (you know how I love a good ruin) the earliest parts of which dated back over three hundred years, which inspired the thought that my own constantly in need of attention eighty-three year old pile of bricks wasn’t so unmanageable.

On Tuesday I went to the Metropolitan Museum to see Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty. Even though McQueen, who died last year at the age of forty-one, left school at  sixteen to apprentice to a Savile Row tailor and went on to become one of the most influential fashion designers in the world this is not an exhibit about clothes. This is an exhibit about how an artist takes disparate influences from nature, politics, art, culture, history, and even Darwin and uses them to create singular masterpieces. Each piece told a story, and the variety of materials used was mind boggling. In McQueen’s hands Razor- clam shells, painted medical slides, burlap and even etched glass become tools to express his vision.

And what a vision! The exhibit is filled with colors and textures that just beg to be touched. Although, I wouldn’t recommend this as there are large guards stationed throughout to prevent a hands on experience.

Beyond being a visionary McQueen was a superb craftsman. He spent his youth studying with master tailors, and costumers. He understood not just how clothes should look, but how they should be constructed and how they should move. Every piece in the Met’s show is impeccable.

There is a quote from McQueen used in the exhibit that I love, You’ve got to know the rules to break them. That’s what I’m here for, to demolish the rules but to keep the tradition.  You don’t know what rules are worth breaking until you know what the rules are. Every good artist spends part of their early creative lives learning what the rules are so that they can make informed decisions later about what parts of tradition are worth holding on to and what parts don’t apply to them. This is where the fun is, every artist chooses to break different rules to come up with their own unique voice.

This was definitely a much needed jolt of inspiration for me this week. It gave me a lot to think about in terms of the importance of vision and craftsmanship, and making your voice heard. I am looking forward to going back to see it as much as I can before it closes on August 7th.

More images from the exhibit:


Friday, June 17, 2011

Good Morning Dolly

Photo by Ewing Galloway

Of course, the other sure fire cure for the Bad Day Blues is a good day at the salon. Yesterday as the colorist was troweling the goop onto my head I noticed he was wearing a button with letters BMW with a red slash through it. It was not, as I first thought, a protest against a certain motor company, it was a protest against Bitching, Moaning & Whining. I took it as a sign from the hair gods perhaps that it was time to shake off my grump and get on with it.

I woke up in a Dolly kind of mood this morning. It’s virtually impossible to be in a bad mood and listen to Dolly. Who needs Prozac when you’ve got Dolly, Amy Sedaris and Circus Couture?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bad Days & Baked Goods

Photo Courtesey of Shorpy Photo Archive
Yesterday was a bad day. A hide under your desk in the fetal position clutching your teddy bear B-A-D , bad day.  So bad that my normally attention hungry felines, Lucy & Ethel, were steering well clear of me by day’s end. Pages stayed blank, songs unsung and no brains were stormed despite hours of stewing and fretting and spinning in my chair.
So, what did I do? Did I forge bravely onward in the hopes that a breakthrough was just around the corner? Nope. I gave up. I gave up because sometimes knowing when to stop is the better part of valor. When the ideas aren’t flowing and I feel depleted walking away is the best thing I can do.

I needed to reset so I headed for my drugs of choice, a delicious Mary Kay Andrews novel and a sizable cupcake. It didn’t cure all my ills or cause a sudden flash of inspiration, but it gave me just enough space to escape. The mental time out gave me the energy and optimism to get back to work the next day.  After all, as Scarlett O’Hara would say, tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sweet Tooth

I'm off to the dentist this morning with this stuck in my head. Not the best thing for your inner DJ to be playing while someone is coming at you with needles and drills, but I suppose it's better than certain scenes from Marathon Man.

I absolutely adore Steve Martin's website. It'll be a great distraction while I'm waiting for the Novocaine to wear off!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Picture This

I always carry my camera with me but alas, it rarely leaves the confines of my purse. I have every intention of using it to document all the places I go, and the people I see, until I get so caught up in events and forget that it's there. Friday I was going through my camera and found the pictures from a family wedding we went to in Portland Oregon between Christmas and New Years. Actually, I should say picture because it was one picture of spouse taken at the end of the reception when he was falling asleep at our table. I can't even say for certain that I took that picture as I have absolutely no memory of doing so.

This leaves me to depend upon the kindness of strangers to snap and send me pictures so that I can remember the times of my life. My newly made half-year resolution is to try and do better in this area. In the meantime, here are a couple of snaps of recent events that have made their way to me.

Steve LaSpina, Wendy Lane Bailey, Rick Jensen, Laurel Masse' & Tex Arnold right before hitting the stage to perform for the Colleen Giblin Foundation's annual Humanitarian dinner. Thanks to BC Magazine for the photo.

Spouse, Me & Joe Piscopo at the 2011 New Jersey Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.  Photo Courtesy of Michelle Oates.

Friday, June 10, 2011

To Sir With Love

There’s a lot to do in Beacon, NY. Shopping,great restaurants,the world class Dia Beacon Museum ,and on Saturday June 18th at the Howland Cultural Center our very own Laurel Massé. Since next Saturday also happens to be the birthday of Sir Paul McCartney she’s celebrating by calling the evening To Sir, With Love and performing some of his great tunes along with the songs of other writers whose work inspired him.  Laurel’s sister Babette will join her for a couple of numbers and, just to keep it in the family, her nephew Alex will be there on guitar. Tex Arnold, as usual, will be at the piano.

Advance reservations are strongly recommended and can be had here.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Mothers & Sons

Mother's Prayer Clip

When spawn was only a few months old he figured out he could get from place to place by rolling over and over and over until he had reached whatever it was that he wanted. I imagine that for an infant who has so little control over the world this sudden freedom of movement was a revelation.  For me it was sort of bittersweet. I was happy that he was reaching all the milestones that proved that he was a healthy child. On the other hand, I knew that rolling over leads to crawling which leads to walking which leads to running and so forth.
 As long as he was small and immobile I knew where he was every minute and I could make sure he had everything he needed and protect him. As he grew older and more independent (and being his mother’s child he was VERY independent) I had to let go and let him figure things out on his own. There have certainly been moments when I wanted to throw myself in front of the door and prevent him from ever leaving the house, but I know he has to learn to negotiate the world on his own terms.  Besides, how can I turn his bedroom into a closet if he never leaves home?

I love my son, but I also like him, and I’m profoundly grateful for that gift. He may make some questionable hairstyle choices (really, the Mohawk did make him look like My Little Pony) and mock my ignorance of Zombie culture, but he has grown into an intelligent and kind human being who makes me very proud.
Michele B. was the one who suggested that I record MelissaManchester’s Mother’s Prayer.  Michele is also a mother of sons and we often compare notes on motherhood. In fact, many of my performer friends happen to be parents as well, and we talk about our children as much as we talk about our work. You’d be surprised how often the two areas overlap. Having children affects the way we view the world which, in turn, affects how we see our work.  Melissa’s song is the perfect expression of the prayers we all send into the universe when we send our children into the world.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

More! More! More!

Jean-Honore Fragonard's painting The Swing

I am not a minimalist. I have tried, really I have. The other day I went to get ready for an event and I pulled out my oh, so chic and understated eggplant sheath dress, I added my not too large, not too sparkly stud earrings, and then it was time for shoes.  For about a millisecond my hand hovered over the classic black pumps with the not too high, not too low heel, and with a mind of its own passed right over them for the buttery yellow suede stilettos with the six inch heel. I eschewed the sensible cardigan and threw on my antique coral silk shawl embroidered with a garden’s worth of colorful flowers, and since the earrings seemed a trifle lonely, I topped it all with an engraved Indian cuff bracelet.  It was minimalism only by Liberace’s standards.
If you want to live in an all white room with bare windows and a black leather chair go for it. I don’t judge.  As for me, I need my books, and photos and curtains on the windows to keep the neighbors from viewing my clutter. My closet space runneth over and that’s just the way I like it.
Thanks be to Michele B. for writing an anthem for those of us who love wretched excess and irrational exuberance and letting me be the first person to record it. Sometimes more IS more.
Oh, and while we’re on the subject…I’m still looking for your stories of glorious excess. Click here for details and maybe even free chocolate!

Sometimes More is More

A sample of track three "Sometimes More is More".

Please Stand By

We've been experiencing some technichal difficulties with the service that allows us to post sound clips.This was a real problem since I wanted to give you a little taste of the first two tracks at the time I wrote about them. Happily the problem seems to have finally resolved itself, and so here are a few sound clips from the first two tracks of Breathing. The first clip is from track two which I wrote about on Monday, and the next two clips are from the track one guzinta of Breathing and So in Love. There will be more clips this week of the other tracks as I write about them. Enjoy!

Night Ride Home Clip

A little bit Track 2 of "Breathing" Joni Mitchell's "Night Ride Home".

So In Love Clip

A taste of Act II of the Breathing/So In Love Guzinta.


A sound clip from the title track.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My Michele

Michele & Me at the Gardenia in LA

Working with Michele Brourman has been the greatest joy of the whole recording project. I first became aware of Michele through her song My Favorite Year. Not long after that I saw her in person for the first time. She was playing for Amanda McBroom at the Barns of Wolf Trap.  Out onto the stage came this tiny woman who sat down at the piano and morphed into a seven foot tall piano goddess. I knew right then that this was someone I wanted to work with one day.
Fast forward to a Sunday brunch on the Upper West Side of Manhattan not too long ago with me, Michele, Amanda and Laurel sitting around a table at Isabella’s sharing omelets and sweet potato fries. At one point in the conversation Amanda looks across the table at me and says “You have to come to LA and sing and Michele will play for you.” After a stunned second where I had to restrain myself from leaping into the air and shouting “YES! YES! YES!” I gathered my wits and said with all the sangfroid I could muster “I would like that very much”.  

Michele does many things well, she composes, she plays, she arranges, produces and has flawless musical taste. It would be easy to be intimidated by her, but she’s also one of the warmest most supportive presences I’ve ever met. This is not to say that she isn’t a tough taskmistress. She doesn’t coddle and she will push me until she’s gotten everything out of me that she knows I’m capable of and then some. Every singer should have a Michele in their corner.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Beach Music

Being a typical chick singer, I lean toward the dark side. Give me a rip your guts out love ‘em and leave ‘em ballad and I’m ecstatic. Left to my own devices I’d sing fifteen ballads and a comic song.  Luckily, I work with people who frequently remind me that singing a song of unrestrained joy is very satisfying.
My friend Laurel Massé brought me Joni Mitchell’s Night Ride Home. I spent my high school years in a beach town, and so I have always been certain that magical things can happen on a beach at night. Joni paints with lyrics the picture of the perfect night with the perfect person.

Michele B. suggested we make another guzinta by adding Anne Caldwell and Jerome Kern’s Once in a Blue Moon.  Written sixty-five years before night ride its wistful tone and hopeful lyrics feel every bit as contemporary. Our clothes, and cars and means of communication may change but our desire to connect with another person never does.

Together we have a story of how true love is rare and wonderful thing, and given enough time and faith it will arrive.  I think I may have been forever cured of my chick singer ballad bondage!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Thousand Words & Then Some

I married into a very creative family. My mother in law is a doll maker and illustrator, my sisters in law, Heather and Laura are fabric and home décor designers, and my brother in law Isaac happens to be a wonderful photographer and graphic designer. And there are several other siblings, spouses, offspring, and assorted cousins all of whom possess oodles of creative talent both visual and musical.  I knew when I started this project that Isaac was the man for the job of designing the packaging for the album. Not because we happen to be related.  In fact, working with your in laws can cause you to seriously doubt your sanity, but because I knew his work and I knew he could give me the look I wanted.

The vision that I had of the artwork for the album was of a feeling of faded grandeur. I am entranced by the idea of beauty in decay.  I was born in Louisiana, and raised between there, Mississippi, Alabama and Virginia. My very first memory is of my mother taking me on a tour of the old plantations along the Natchez Trace. TennesseeWilliams, Truman Capote and Harper Lee number among my favorite writers, and it’s long been my secret dream to play Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire. I love nothing better than a brooding sky on a humid day and the overgrown ruin of a once magnificent structure.

Just up the road from my house are the remains of an old mental hospital. Many of the buildings have been torn down and the ones that remain have slid into a state of decline. I love this place, it reminds me of those places I knew growing up and I’ve always wanted to do a photo session there. When I told Isaac about it and about the feel I envisioned for the cover his eyes lit up and I knew for certain that I was in good hands.  He intuitively knew what I wanted and was just as determined as I that we get it. Even the weather saw fit to cooperate with us. Most people would not be enthused about an outdoor shoot in alternately rainy, Windy and icy thirty- eight degree weather, but I thought it was perfect.  

By the way, all the photos that have accompanied this series of virtual liner notes are by Isaac from that session. You can see more of his work here.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Love and Breathing

The first track on the album is what Michele B. calls a guzinta: two songs sung in their entirety back to back so that one song guzinta the next.  This is different from medley which is bits of many songs (often far too many, but usually at least three) strung together into some sort of cohesive whole.  A guzinta is more like a two act play. Each song tells a different part of the same story that when put together becomes a seamless whole.

I’ve always thought of the Breathing (Amanda McBroom & Michele Brourman) and So in Love (Cole Porter) guzinta as a story of resistance and surrender. The first song is about resisting the pull of the one you cannot help but be drawn. Even though this is the last thing you want or need you are consumed by both the desire to let them in and keep them out at the same time. By the end of the song you are powerless to do anything but surrender. So in Love picks up where you have reached the place that no matter what happens you cannot be moved. The decision has been made and there is no going back now.

The honesty of the lyrics astounds me. There is no coyness, no flirtatiousness only (to steal a line from another famous Amanda McBroom song) endless aching need.  From Amanda & Michele's I breathe in and you are there as necessary as the air to Cole’s …taunt me, and hurt me, deceive me, desert me, I’m yours till I die a soul is laid bare before you.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What's in a Name?

Choosing a title for an album can be a bit tricky. I know, you’re reading this and thinking “How hard could it be? She just picked the very first song on the album and stuck it on there”. Actually, no. At first I thought I'd let the interwebs decide, but the more I looked at the list of possible names the more my eyes and heart kept coming back to Breathing.  

Breathing is the title of the wonderful song written by Michele Brourman and Amanda McBroom that starts off the album, but it’s a lot more than that. It is the most essential part of singing. The breath you take at the beginning of a song is the one that matters the most. It’s this intake of air that shows you the way in, which centers your mind and your body in the emotional space of the song. It’s just the tiniest of pauses but without it you feel unmoored, and as if you have forgotten something of great importance.

Life can be that way too. I tend to rush headlong into my day so determined to accomplish something that I forget to stop and breathe. It’s surprising how in such a small moment everything can become so clear. When I remember to breathe I remember to focus on what’s important and let go of the trivial.  Someone, no one seems to know exactly who, once said “Breath is spirit. The act of breathing is living.” Breathing brings me back to who I really am and all the possibilities of who I can be if I only allow myself to let go.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A First Day and a giveaway

 Breathing officially arrives today! To have your own copy, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of the chair in which you are currently sitting.  Just click on over to  CD baby  and you can download it, or get a copy of the CD with all its nifty artwork. Of course, if you’re looking for that personal touch, you can always drop me a note  and ask me to send your CD signed by yours truly.

The next week will be one of much celebration here on the blog. First of all, I’ll be doing a series of virtual liner notes for the album. As pleased as I am with the gorgeous packaging of the physical CD, there just wasn’t quite enough space for me to share some of my thoughts about the individual songs, or to give you a peek behind the scenes at some of the people who made this project happen.  For the next week or so I’ll be putting up a new post each day, devoted to the whos, whats, and whys that went into Breathing.

Ahh, but wait -  there’s more! I can’t very well bring out my first CD without doing a fantastic giveaway, can I? I thought not. So, here’s the deal: I am overjoyed to be the very first person ever to record  Michele Brourman’s ode to wretched excess, Sometimes More is More. I'm so overjoyed, in fact, that I’m making it the theme of my giveaway game.  Post your favorite story of wretched-over-the-top-extravagance (in two hundred words or less), and I’ll send to the writer of my favorite one a personally signed CD (or download card) AND a $25 gift card from one of my favorite places for sinfully excessive treats. I discovered The Meadow when I was visiting Portland, Oregon over the holidays, and was thrilled to learn they have an NYC location on Hudson St.  If ever there was an occasion that called for a decadent chocolate moment, the release of one’s debut recording is definitely it!
There are just a few little rules though. As I mentioned, the stories should be no longer than two hundred words, and they must be personal. I don’t want stories of Saddam’s palaces, Imelda’s shoes or Dolly’s wigs, I want YOUR story. It must involve you, someone you know, or something you have personally witnessed. No fair cribbing stories from The Enquirer et al. Also, let’s keep it clean, legal, and civil. We’re just not that kind of blog! All stories must be posted no later than Friday June 10th. Other than that, enjoy yourselves, and make me proud! Hey, you’ve got great tunes and good chocolate for motivation...Spill those tales!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fun With Stephen & Hugh

It’s pouring rain and the rapture is coming. I really picked a bad time to give up caffeine!  I’m counting on Youtube and Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie to get me through the rest of this afternoon 'cause the Chamomile tea just ain't cutting it!

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Song for You

As usual I have had my head stuck in a book. Reading when I should be doing so many other things like finishing the re-write of my bio, learning a new song, or planting the flowers I bought last week that are still sitting patiently on my front porch. My latest distraction is Randy Schmidt’s Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter. I’m about a quarter of the way through it and I’m finding it quite fascinating. I don’t read books like this as cautionary tales, or to “learn” anything about the music business. I read them because I love to hear people’s stories, to find out how someone becomes who and what they are. Karen Carpenter was an extraordinary talent who managed to make a lasting impression on popular music while fighting to overcome her own personal demons.

Her voice was distinctive, there was not and is not another singer that could be mistaken for Karen Carpenter. Sherwin Bash who was involved in managing the Carpenters is quoted in the book about the  first time he heard Karen …there was one thing that I thought was very, very special. It was a girl’s voice that I’d never heard anything like before and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything like since…This was an exceptional voice that was totally identifiable. Listening to that voice for the first time, I knew that radio could never submerge it, camouflage it, or confuse [it for] anybody. That voice coming out of that radio would be immediately identified for the ages. Yet, singing came accidentally. She was a drummer first and had to be forced to take center stage as a vocalist.

I don’t remember consciously the first time I heard her voice; it seemed it was always around. I do remember my parents had the Close to YouAlbum and I spent more than a little time dancing around the living room and singing along to it hair brush in hand. I also remember that Crescent Noon was my favorite song on the album. Apparently even at ten my penchant for dark ballads was well established.

Needless to say that today my inner DJ has been stuck on Crescent Noon and Superstar. It is nice to have something so wonderful lodged in my brain for a change!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Please Release Me

It gives me great pleasure (very great, really, you have no idea how great) to announce that the official release date for Breathing has been set for June 1st.
Breathing was produced by my friend, music director and mentor Michele Brourman, and recorded at Full Circle Studio in Pasadena CA.  Michele proved herself the queen of the multi-taskers by producing, arranging (along with Stephan Oberhoff) AND playing the piano on all the tracks. Oh, yeah, she also wrote two of the songs on the album. I am thrilled to be the first person EVER to record her song Sometimes More Is More. Stephan Oberhoff in addition to his work as co-arranger, played guitar and percussion and engineered the recording. Larry Tuttle was our wonderful bass player. The songs are a great mix of modern pop songs with smart lyrics that appeal to the heart and the head. The sound is lush and romantic and yet thoroughly contemporary.
Someone said to me recently that putting out an album is like having a baby. Having done both of these things I can say there are some distinct similarities. It takes about the same amount of time; there are moments of frantic preparation, followed by long stretches of waiting, all ending in the brief shining moment when your creation enters the world. In the case of childbirth your creation will eat you out of house and home, wreck your car, and expect you to pay for college. With a recording your car will remain whole but you will devote much time and energy once it has emerged to making sure your little darling gets all the attention she deserves. I am am over the moon about both my offspring (son & album) and will take any opportunity I can to tell you about them.
In the weeks between now and June 1st I will be busily working on many things including revamping my website, and scheduling some appearances to promote the album. As things happen I’ll be posting them here. I have also begun to send out advance copies to all the wonderful people who supported this project through
Thank you for being part of this journey with me. I can’t wait to share the finished product with you!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Tools For Pros

We're at it again! We've teamed up with The Barber Shop Studios to produce Tools for Pros, a workshop for vocalists. on Friday June 3rd and Saturday June 4th from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM. This comprehensive two day workshop will cover as many aspects of performing on-stage and in the studio as we possibly can, and happens at the Barber Shop's state of the art facility in Lake Hopatcong, NJ. Participants in the class get top notch instruction in a gorgeous, well equipped space plus a whole bunch of other goodies including guest speakers, participation in a showcase performance at the end of the workshop, special recording rates and packages and even one free hour of studio time if you book a recording session. For a complete list of everything we cover, photos of the venue and a bunch of other important details go to our e-flyer. We hope you'll join us! 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Meet Me In the Middle

In an article in today’s New York Times Rosanne Cash is quoted, I like restraint. I like expression that’s framed in restraint, that gives a certain dignity to it. I don’t like this kind of yelping, where everybody’s’ a victim and everything’s all out there. To me there’s a bottom line that there is a life lived in the back of the instrument, and I want to hear what that life is.

As performers we want to be emotionally honest, but sometimes we leave no room for the audience to have their own emotional reactions to the song because we’re too busy with our emotional reactions. We want every moment to bleed with our emotional truth so much that we forget to leave space for the audience to meet us halfway. That’s where restraint comes in. There are times when what you leave out is as important as what you put in.

It is easy to ruin a song before the first note just by how it is set up for an audience. Talking to the audience is as much an art as singing to them, and can be much more frightening. Some singers get around this by simply not saying anything, which is no good because you’re denying people an opportunity to get to know and love you. But at the opposite end of the spectrum there’s the “Ick Factor”. Some things belong only in a therapist’s office or a confessional, not on stage. When the stage becomes the analyst’s couch the results are usually disastrous. The audience spends so much time trying to unhear what they just heard that the song following doesn’t even register.

Restraint when singing is even more difficult. Singers work hard on our “chops” and we want to show them off, and that doesn’t always serve us well. Bigger, faster, louder, more melismatic, doesn’t necessarily mean we’re effectively telling the story. Again, Ms. Cash You’ve heard plenty of great singers that leave you cold. They can do gymnastics, amazing things. If you have limitations as a singer, maybe you’re forced to find nuance in a way you don’t have to if you have a four octave range. There is such power in finding the nuance, and letting the song breathe. Stepping aside and letting the story shine through without all the “gymnastics” is enough.

When we exercise we restraint we make conscious choices about the picture we’re painting with words and music. We begin to see the music in front of us in a new way, illuminating the human being within and drawing our audience in into that space in the middle where wonderful things can happen.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sing! Joy! Spring!

Spring has finally begun to show itself around these parts and I have been struck with a sudden wave of nostalgia. Yesterday I was driving around with my windows down (allergies and gawkers be damned), singing along with the Ronette’s Be My Baby at the top of my lungs and thinking about my mother. Mom and I waged endless war over the car radio station. She asserted that since she was the driver that she got control of the dial. This worked up until I learned to drive at which point, in between prayers for our safety, she claimed that my station would only distract me from the road. Being a child of the early days of Rock and Roll her station was always the Oldies station that played music from the early fifties and sixties which caused great eye rolling and muttering from my side of the car.  Even though I grumbled then some of my best memories are of my mother and “her” music. She taught my sister and me to dance the Twist and the Bop to Chubby Checker and the Beach Boys. Whenever she’d hear The Duke of Earl she’d tell us stories about her old boyfriend Earl, who was a DJ in her hometown of Jackson, MS. She wanted to be a DJ herself, and I have no doubt she would have been a good one, she had a terrific speaking voice, a wonderful sense of humor, and though my fifteen year old self would never admit it, she had pretty great musical taste too. Her joy in good music was infectious and she passed it on to me.

I like to think I’m passing that love on. The other night Spawn was getting ready for the radio show he does at school when he yelled to me, “Mom, you’ve got to see this”. “This” was a Youtube video of Chuck Berry and John Lennon doing Johnny B. Goode. Mom would have been proud.

With this in mind,family tradition compels me to share this little springtime oldies playlist with you…

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Sound of Philadelphia

Photo courtesy of Shorpy 

We're on the road again! On May 7th we'll be teaching a Master Class for vocalists in Philadelphia. If you live in the area or just fancy a day trip and the chance to brush up your chops come on by! Click on the e-flyer below for all the details.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Us & the Night & the Music

Photo By Hans Wild courtesy of VADS

It’s been a while since we redheads have been seen on the town together, that’s what comes of having two recording projects going at the same time, but we’re synchronizing our calendars for a good cause. On April 7th Laurel & Wendy Lane will be headlining the Colleen Giblin Foundation’s annual Humanitarian Evening in River Vale, NJ. There’s a lovely dinner, a little ceremony honoring three New York / New Jersey area humanitarians and a grand finale of a performance by your Redheads, and their special guest, singer Joe Bezzone. Even better we’ll have Tex Arnold on piano and Steve LaSpina on bass. If that’s not enough to make your little heart go pitty pat how ‘bout this, the evening is a benefit to support research for children’s neurological disorders and cancer! It’ll be a good time for a good cause.

For the complete details, to procure your tix or find out more about the Colleen Giblin Foundation and its mission visit their website.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Pretty Little Picture

Cover photo & Design by Isaac Bailey
Huzzah! Huzzah! Things are rapidly moving forward with Breathing. The mastering is done, the artwork is ready and this week we’ll be heading off to repro. Soon there will be promos and gigs and everything else that is required to push a recording out into the big wide world. At the moment though, I’m going to take a deep breath and celebrate having gotten this far by posting a sneak peak at the cover, and then going out to enjoy this glorious almost spring day.