Happy Women’s History Month!

Several weeks ago my friend Beth Wood emailed and asked if I would take part in a project she was starting called “She’s Speaking.” They were making a Youtube channel for Women’s History Month and asking songwriters to write about that very topic…inspiring women. 

If you know me you know I’ve had a joy of a time watching the ascent of Vice President Harris. Thanks to my friend Heidi in California I’ve known about VP Harris’ work for a long time, and I still have not fully processed the feeling of immense pride that she was elected along with the “IT’S ABOUT TIME WHAT TOOK SO LONG” part of my brain.

I spent a lot of time watching Kamala Harris speeches and noting key phrases, and then I put them to music. Of course there’s a bit of artistic license, but the core message is direct from the Vice President. Open doors and make sure you keep them open for the ones coming in behind you. She kicked open a big one in 2020 and cheers to that!

Check out the whole Youtube channel for an incredible array of songwriters and topics…from Georgia O’Keeffe to Edna St. Vincent Millay to daughters to mothers to friends…every single one is beautifully written.

I hope you check out all those songs and hey…thanks for listening right here.

——–

Source quotes from Vice President Harris:

“Protecting our democracy takes struggle. It takes sacrifice. But there is joy in it, and there is progress.”

“But while I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”

“We shoot for the moon and then we plant our flag on it. We are bold, fearless, and ambitious.”

“Anyone who claims to be a leader must speak like a leader. That means speaking with integrity and truth.”

“What I want young women and girls to know is: You are powerful and your voice matters. You’re going to walk into many rooms in your life and career where you may be the only one who looks like you or who has had the experiences you’ve had. But you remember that when you are in those rooms, you are not alone. We are all in that room with you applauding you on. Cheering your voice. And just so proud of you. So you use that voice and be strong.”

Folk Alliance 2021

22 Feb
2021

Folk Alliance…it’s always fun! (See my vlog from Kansas City 2018 when I had the time of my dang life for evidence). This year it’s online, because, well…you know. I was thrilled when Jenny at High Plains Public Radio asked if I’d do a showcase. Since Shawnee Kilgore and I are in a pod and know and love each others’ songs, it was a no brainer to combine. We’d probably be jamming like this in a hotel room in Kansas City or wherever if FAI was in person.

You can register for the conference here, and get access to our showcase and a LOT of other amazing stuff – shows, panels, keynotes…do it.

Here is the HPPR Texas Room Showcase page.

You can also access this set post-Folk Alliance from my Patreon page…sign up right here!

Adios, Mustang

13 Feb
2021

I had the weird experience yesterday of watching my Mustang drive away and knowing it wasn’t coming back. This is the first time I have upgraded my car situation out of carefully planned options and free will as opposed to utter duress and freaking out. (Hello, new-to-me 2010 Prius…you are swell and a space car).

The Mustang…White Lightning as Katie dubbed it early on…was not a space car. It was a COOL car. A PONY CAR. I had to Google that term after I bought it. It surprised everyone who saw it because I am a nerd and a folkie type songwriter, and yes, a Prius is the perfect option for me. But for the last 6 years I got the joy of arriving by roaring up in a muscle car with no leg room in the back seat but a surprisingly large trunk for guitars and whatnot.

Back in 2014 when I was car shopping, I was dealing with a Scion that had resolutely died for no reason (I suspect a lightning strike or something but no one ever figured it out), and I wanted something SUPER simple, easy to repair, and yes…cool. Enter the 2006 Ford Mustang, bought at Leif Johnson Ford in South Austin, who were nice enough to take the Scion off my hands and pay off the rest of that loan. Ugh.

Off we went on adventures all over. The RWD always kind of messed with me in rainy weather, and I hydro-planed a little but I got the hang. The seats, surprisingly comfortable. The stereo, boomy and loud. My favorite.

We went to West Texas and Nashville twice and Minnesota and St. Louis and thrifted in Iowa and went to Colorado a bunch. Lots of sunsets, some moon rises.

I learned that it is HARD to tailgate with a Mustang, but when you’re in the parking lot of Red Rocks on a sunny Colorado day with Heidi and Heather, it works just fine.

Sometimes I had a hitchhiker, though I am nearly positive it was a carefully planted Geico commercial.

From the sunny smog of Los Angeles (twice) to the snowbanks of Albuquerque, the Mustang has seen some…stuff. A note: I have never had more fun than driving on the freeways in L.A. because this car could keep UP and I felt like I belonged. Everyone goes 80 there, or sits in traffic. Either one.

I bought it with 79,000 miles on it and I sold it to the next lucky owner with 217,543 logged. Yep. My mechanics said it was in great shape and would keep on running if I took good care…I attribute that to good ol’ muscle car power.

We had a great time together, and maybe one day I’ll get to own another Mustang (I very much would). For now, it’s fun to spend no money on gas and have a back seat that’s accessible by real doors – no more cramming 3 guitars in the backseat by shoving the passenger seat forward.

Here’s to the Mustang club…we are a rambling bunch. Here’s to the Pony Cars in our lives, giving us the ultimate cool cred.

2020: This is the Way

30 Dec
2020

There will be so many think pieces about 2020. There will be books and series of books about 2020. At the beginning of quarantine when everything, even the air, was frightening, I thought “I don’t want any quarantine art, this is awful.”

But! The human condition is one of adaptation, and when you do decide to respect your fellow humans and stay home for a year and change, you make stuff. That’s good.

There was SO MUCH art to keep us company this year, that I cannot begin to list it all. There are 100’s of “Best of” lists out there and you may peruse them, but also I refuse to make a “best of” list because looking around at my friend circles and beyond, it became glaringly obvious that we were all coping in this pandemic-election year however we could, and most of us grabbed onto different things. A lot of what I grabbed onto was the familiar…I didn’t really seek out a lot of “new to me” this year.

Here’s what I loved.

MUSIC

Mary Chapin Carpenter: The Dirt and the Stars + One Night Lonely + Songs From Home

Allow me to wax poetic. MCC really showed up, and it made the year for me. Her album release of The Dirt and the Stars was pushed back a little, but in the meantime she started posting videos from quarantine and called it “Songs From Home.” With the evergreen reminder to “Stay Mighty,” we got to know her awesome kitchen, see Angus & White Kitty, and hear old songs and new songs and SONGS! While a bunch of us were cursing our internet connections and losing patience with livestreams, MCC would drop a gem or 2 or 3 a week and make things better. By the time The Dirt & The Stars dropped in August (and it is a gorgeous and true album, is how I can describe it), it felt like the exact right thing to get us through the longest summer ever. Then…THEN! We got a 2 hour long livestream from Wolf Trap (one of my favorite places that I missed traveling to this summer) in November. So yeah, that all helped considerably. I tried to stay mighty…most days I did.

A coffee cup in front of Mary Chapin Carpenter playing guitar on a laptop screen, window behind.

Taylor Swift: folklore & evermore & the long pond studio sessions

This year we learned that when T-Swift posts the caption, “not a lot going on at the moment,” she is A LYING LIAR. Being as she put out the Lover album last summer, no one was expecting new music so soon, but quarantine and what is apparently her epic workflow process made for two new albums. folklore took up a lot of my listening time this fall, and I wasn’t over that one when she dropped evermore. I won’t pick a favorite because they’re both really good records, and work together, and are interesting in that they were written in the same year sort of as one giant project. If you have Disney+, go watch her Long Pond Studio Session of the folklore album…where she gets to play the tunes with Jack Antonoff, a longtime favorite, and Aaron Dessner from The National, a new favorite. I just want a studio full of cool guitars and synths in the woods, IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?!?

The Chicks: Gaslighter

I am SO GLAD The Chicks (who changed their name this year!) decided to give us this album in May instead of postponing their first batch of new music in over a decade. They really would have been warranted to wait…a comeback of that proportion usually requires a tour and whatnot, and that didn’t happen. But we’ll get to gather together soon enough, all vaccinated and whatnot, and scream “BOY I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU DID ON MY BOAT” together in a stadium. I am still proud that in the second to last gig I had before lockdown, Libby Koch and I learned Gaslighter THE DAY it came out and by 7 pm, got through a cover of it at Threadgill’s. Moments for the memory bank.

Kathleen Edwards: Total Freedom

Speaking of another long-awaited return, Kathleen Edwards also had what you can call a “comeback” planned after making her first album in a lot of years, and yeah, the pandemic got in the way again. BLAST! But she gave it to us anyway and what glorious record it is. Just…spin it. A lot. You’ll feel better.

MUNA+The Knocks: Bodies

This single came out in the wash of a month I like to call AprayJuember (this is to say, I forget when), but it seems like my pod buddy Shawnee and I spent an inordinate amount of time dancing to this song all summer. No regrets, only perfect pop music. Also, a brilliantly made quarantine video.

Shawnee Kilgore: Beginning at the Wilderness

Speaking of Shawnee, how lucky am I that my quarantine podbuddy put out one of my favorite records this year? This album should be spinning in your brain and ears nonstop. The songs are brilliant, and she went all the way to Maine to record it in the beforetimes, and it glows. IT GLOWS. Buy it here.

The Belle Sounds: all of them.

Noëlle Hampton and André Moran are The Belle Sounds, and also happen to be my favorite band in Austin, TX and also beyond Austin, TX. But it’s insane to me that they live here and I can talk to them, they’re so good. I pinch myself about that a lot. ANYWAY – when quarantine hit, Noëlle got to work in her home studio writing and recording and the result is 12 songs and 5 videos, released one at a time, like a slow drip of goodness to look forward to all year. What a gift from these gifted folks.

Who else is in The Belle Sounds? Emily Shirley! And Emily kept making music all year, too. Check it all out, but especially her latest, “Everyday Heroes,” written for all those frontline healthcare workers who have taken the brunt of 2020.

TV+Movies

The Mandalorian: Baby Yoda Baby Yoda Baby Yoda. Oh, and the plot is great too.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco: Shawnee and I watched a LOT of movies this year and this one sticks out. Beautifully filmed about one of the most beautiful cities.

Dolly Parton: Dolly never went away, but her legacy is having a moment because it’s like we all woke up to the fact that she’s awesome and she WALKS AMONG US. In addition to the fact that she helped fund vaccine development, I really enjoyed this documentary about her life and music, and this podcast, too.

The Booksellers: I found this documentary to be nerdy and comforting, and it also made me want to live in a 5th floor walk up in NYC full of antiquarian books.

And More, etc.

Becoming Duchess Goldblatt: this autobiography of a fictional character but also a real anonymous person…well, it’s hard to explain, but I read it in two days and it was one of the longform things that kept my attention in the worst of the summer quarantine doldrums. So much heart from this true literary royal (and quality Lyle Lovett content to boot).

Meg Stalter: if you don’t know who Meg is, you will soon. She thrived in quarantine with her brand of character sketch comedy on Instagram. She’s brilliant. She made us giggle on a consistent basis in a time when laughing felt weird to do. SNL would be lucky to have her.

This is by no means a complete list. I can’t imagine the amount of media and art consumed by all of us this year, though that is a REALLY good reminder. In a time when it seems art and the artists are less compensated than ever before thanks to streaming and the inability to perform in rooms full of people, we have to remember what we turn to in the tough times as well as the good times. Support the arts and the artists, kids.

Oh My Heart

14 Aug
2020

Well…how’s YOUR quarantine going? I’ve been hanging out in Traylor Swift, watching a lot of movies with my quarantine buddy Shawnee, getting some work done, and mostly trying not to go stir crazy. It’s not so bad.

But now…the good news! My first self-produced single is out!

“Oh My Heart” is on:

Bandcamp
Apple Music
iTunes
Spotify
Amazon
Tidal
…and all those other things.

I’ve been plugging away in Traylor Swift on Logic Pro, which I am learning daily…is an incredible recording program. Every session I have to Google how to do 8 things, but I learn them, and apply them, and carry on. So…I made this song, from scratch, here in South Austin last month. 

I played every instrument on the track (!!!!!). This is the first time I have attempted something like that, and the fire it lit. It’s a joy to mess around with literally thousands of options and find the ones that work…that’s why this song has French horns and cellos on it. 

My friend Noëlle Hampton of The Belle Sounds has been essential in helping me decide I was semi-intelligent enough to even try recording, then walking me through some steps, and she also helped me get my vocals down the best way possible. Check out her amazing work with her band – their latest singles are all made by Noelle in her music room…on Logic! 

I sent it off to a guy named Austin Moorhead in Nashville to mix and master because mixing is a whole other art form and I feel like maybe that’s a thing to learn…later. 

I also made the artwork – from a collage I made last year – because we’re all DIY on this sucker. 

So – here is “Oh My Heart,” because why not, because the world needs as many of us creating things as we can muster in these weird times. I hope you like it. I am really proud of it. 

Holding You Up

10 May
2020

Songs For the Soul is an incredible organization that helps nurses dealing with compassion fatigue. Founded by my friend Carolyn Phillips, they directly work with healthcare workers and also are very involved in the research part of how this all works, which means it’ll be applied to countless people in countless professions dealing with compassion fatigue.

Songs For the Soul also has a really great component in that it employs songwriters to work with the nurses. I was lucky enough to get to meet 4 nurses last year and write songs for their stories. It was an incredible experience with each one.

Now that healthcare workers are on the literal frontlines of an international pandemic, they’re busier than ever. Carolyn has the great idea to start Soul-A-Grams, so folks can send their favorite nurse a brand new song from a songwriter (who, during this whole thing, is probably staying home and out of work).

I got to write “Holding You Up” for a nurse in South Carolina who has some New Mexico in their background, hence a couple of NM references.

If you have a healthcare worker in your life that could use a little lift, consider a Soul-A-Gram…and check out the whole Songs For the Soul Youtube channel for all the songs being written for our nurses! Some of my favorite writers on the planet have songs posted there.

Hang in there, everyone.

I somehow had the brain power enough a couple of months ago to connect all my music devices to a thing that lets you chart your listening habits and spits out a pretty graphic when you ask. It’s really cool. You can read about the set up here. Do not ask me for help, I seated-of-the-pants’d it. You need Last.fm and a lot of patience to let your data collect.

So this is a map of my listening on Spotify and my iOS Music app for February, March, and April. I think it’s pretty interesting to see what remained steady, increased, popped in and left, and what is absent.

February was a “normal” month. On any given week my main playlists on Spotify are a collection of Mary Chapin stuff and a MUNA playlist, and then I spin through my “liked songs” quite a bit, which is just a mishmash of things Spotify throws at me.

Then the Real 2020, aka Year of Hell, began in March, and some stuff shifted. First, The Dixie Chicks put out the absolute banger “Gaslighter,” and that whole wave in March is that ONE song. Not ashamed. I had to practice it a lot the day it came out to sing it with Libby Koch at Threadgill’s, so that probably accounts for at least 30 spins. We pulled it off gloriously, I think.

I was learning an Adam Carroll song to play at a showcase that was then canceled due to the virus, but it reminded me how much I love his Live At Flipnotics album. The Zara Larsson boost is one song that I put in my Liked Songs list that I just kept repeating. Not sure what’s up with that.

I made a Donovan Woods playlist in March and spun it a lot. He’s great, check him the heck out.

I distinctly remember not wanting to listen to The Swift hardly at all in March? Not sure what’s up with that. Something in all this tells me what my brain gravitates to in times of stress versus times of…not stress. Taylor must occupy the space in my brain reserved for more carefree, joyful times? Huh. Taylor pops back in for April so it’s all slowly looking up, a little, somehow.

In April you see a big MCC boost not only because I find her music to be like swaddling in a beautiful cozy blanket in a stressful time, but I also made a playlist full of songs to jam to while I work on electric guitar stuff, so that’s a huge bump. Yay guitar scales!

MUNA’s About U album made a huge resurgence in April. The only place I drove was over to my Quarantine buddies’ house, but each night coming home on the nearly empty streets, I would blast Around U or Winterbreak or I Know A Place and it fit the mood perfectly. I love mood albums.

Fiona Apple’s “Fetch the Boltcutters” dropped in April and heck yeah, what an album. Highly recommended.

So…my science project is coming along nicely and we’ll keep tracking. Mostly we will probably see just how little my variations are? I have my favorites and they tend to stay there. But the micro-trends will be interesting as the year goes on!

Ugh what a rollercoaster of a month or two. And I’ll be honest, I’m not out on any front lines, I’m not checking anyone out at the grocery store or working in an ICU or desperately trying to convince dumb people to stay home (ok, I do try to do that, but from my couch). I think all of us are in some cycle of good days and bad days in isolation. I am making less art than I wanted but I have big goals, still, for this quarantine time. And I will do some of them, and I will forego others, and the world will keep turning.

Speaking of the world turning, I lucked out by moving into a pretty sweet part of Austin with lots of walkable roads that lead to beautiful park trails. I was nearly moved to tears when I found my first trailhead sign just sitting there next to a bank of mailboxes in a cul-de-sac. It took me on a path past a pond and lots of cacti and it felt good to be in nature. I’m trying to visit every day.

I’m also incredibly fortunate to have my quarantine team / germ pod ™ of Shawnee and Kate. I go over to their house, they make me dinner, I perform dumb magic tricks for them, we watch movies. Somehow, I got the good end of this deal. It’s nice to have a place to go to, and people to commune with. Shawnee’s chicken Mama and I have also had a few bonding moments, most notably on Easter Sunday afternoon when the neighbors were blaring 90’s country music from their yard. Mama and I sat together, and she endured me singing George Strait and John Michael Montgomery to her for a long while. She’s the best chicken.

Mama Chicken rules the back yard and Nana Cat runs the inside domain, benevolently. She teaches Zen napping classes several hours a day.

Speaking of walking, we have also taken to nighttime wine walks because nighttime is a good time to walk.

On the media front, so many great folks are doing regular shows and readings online, and I aim to compile a list one of these days, but for now…these two things basically make me get up in the mornings.

First, Mary Chapin Carpenter has been posting Songs from Home on Youtube every few days. She’s got the cutest dog Angus and the sleepiest cat White Kitty, and they gather and MCC sings to us, and then reminds us all to “Stay Mighty,” which is my next tattoo I am not even kidding. (Here is the whole playlist).

Second, Meg Stalter is my new favorite comedian, and we watch her videos and generally convulse into choking laughter every time. It is cathartic and she is a star. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.

That’s it for here on a Sunday, I hope you all are doing exactly what you want to do in this weird year. 2020…it’s making its mark.

Traylor Swift

8 Apr
2020

After landing back in Austin from D.C., I immediately set on the task of moving to a new spot. I was fortunate to have a friend refer me to a friend renting out a 1957 Spartan trailer in the heart of South Austin. I’d been in San Marcos for about 6 years, 28 miles south, and was really excited to get back to nexus of most (not all…but a lot) of my social and gig life.

Things about me:

  1. Last time I moved I swore I’d pay someone to do it because I hated it so much.
  2. I am terrible at packing. There is no plan, just chaos. Grab a thing, put it in the box. No rhymes, no reasons.
  3. I am stubborn enough to ignore No. 1 and decided to do it myself.

Well, dear reader…I still hate moving and vow even harder to hire movers next time. I had the really great blessing of my friends Rod and Sandi and their trailer to haul some big stuff, and otherwise I just back and forthed in my Mustang for a month.

The birth of Traylor Swift

Shawnee was helping me make trailer plans when I first shook hands on the rent, and while we were picking up a pizza to have a first dinner in the new place, I was trying to think of what to call it, because “the trailer” wasn’t cutting it. Then, like a beacon from the heavens, this smoking meteoric gem of a name landed right on the asphalt of my mind:

Traylor Swift

Yeah, it was perfect. And so I have spent the month grumpily hauling stuff and mostly happily getting rid of stuff – a LOT of stuff. I had a pretty good sized one bedroom with a walk-in closet, which is a curse for collecting stuff. The Traylor is spacious but you have to be really careful about what you allow in, so that one does not become a hoarder and perhaps befall a fate of a pile of stuff tipping over on you in the middle of the night. So yeah, basically a whole room full of stuff went to Goodwill. I don’t miss it yet. There’s a lesson there.

Turns out a pandemic is a terrible time to move and a great time to have to nest. What would have probably been 10 trips to Target for little things has been significantly curtailed, though I have gotten a few things shipped. I’m definitely going to be well acquainted with the space by the time we can all leave our houses and roam.

My friend Nichole came over to assemble that sweet green couch (before we had to social distance!) because I can’t assemble anything to any sort of passable standards (it takes a village), and I’ve been puttering a little here and there every day. Stuff is on walls. Things are finding places to live. The stereo is in constant use.

No time for a housewarming before we got a stay-at-home order, but maybe in the fall. Maybe in the winter. Maybe later than sooner. Here’s to home.

To The District!

7 Apr
2020

I got to spend the last worry-free weekend of 2020 in the beautiful city of Washington, D.C., playing music and wandering about with Shawnee Kilgore. D.C. has been one of my favorite cities since visiting for the first time in 2017, I have returned once or twice a year since then. There’s never a shortage of stuff to do and see, and I somehow get along really well with the vibe of the city. I know some people find it utterly boring or utterly terrifying to be in the cradle of lobbyists and deal-making, but I get a little charge from it for whatever reason. Walking around the monuments never ceases to remind me about all the good stuff and good people we have had in government, even when it looks dark. Even when it looks really dark.

Here to serve.

We played a WONDERFUL house concert at Lucky Penny – the crowd was a joyous group and Paul, our host, had everything taken care of to a tee, down to some awesome new church pews in his living room for more seating. I had old friends there and met lots of new folks. A show like that can keep a musician going for a long time, and we’re still buzzing about D.C.

We also got to stay at the fabulous Mansion on O Street – an incredible place full of art and wonder and history and inspiration. My favorite thing there is to look UP! The ceilings are just as beautiful as everything else.

And we even got a song written in the Mediterranean Room.

When we were flying back on March 2, there was a little rumbling of something happening with the virus, but we had no issues at the airport and no idea what was coming. Fortunately for both of us, we’ve been back and quarantined long enough to know we didn’t catch anything on our trip. And I’ll always look back on this weekend as The Simpler Time….

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