In what seems to my sore fingers an impossible feat, Terri Hendrix has written a book, Cry ‘Til You Laugh – The Part That Ain’t Art. How she found time whilst maintaining an awesome music career I don’t know, but she did it. She performed and signed copies at the Texas Book Festival this weekend…I love it when prose and lyrics mix in festival form.

Terri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines

Go buy a copy. Support independent artists and learn something, too!

How many times have I waxed poetic about this songwriter on this blog? Too many to count, but not enough.

I have seen Mary Chapin in concert exactly 10 times now and last night was the first show I’ve seen her play in a town I actually reside in. Previous to her show last night at the Austin City Limits Moody Theater, the closest to home was her show in Santa Fe when I lived in Albuquerque. Otherwise I have traveled to San Francisco, Denver, and Atlanta to see MCC play. I am a fan.

Mary Chapin Carpenter and John Jennings

It was the last show of her summer tour which was cool. Dan went with me so I got to give him a musical history of my life for a minute. “This was the first song I learned on guitar,” (He Thinks He’ll Keep Her) and “This is how I learned to play harmonics,” (Halley Came to Jackson). Neato. As Dan said, “It’s like going to Mecca with a believer.” Indeed!

I was reminded that I do love to write and I do like to perform, something that I don’t necessarily forget so much as hide sometimes when my other awesome amazing fulfilling projects take precedence over my own. Aside from a good dose of inspiration, I’m feeling the itch to pick up my electric guitar again. All good things, and pretty impressive that one person’s music has remained a mainstay in my life since I picked up a guitar at age 11…17 years ago. Now I feel old. Thank goodness I heard that music keeps you young.

My Evergreen story began in Taos, NM right after the song was written (I think in 2008?) by Susan, Michael Hearne, and Monica Smart. I wasn’t working with Susan yet, but I was opening a show for her up there. My friend and college cohort, Jamie, and I were hanging out after the gig and the writers were running through their new creation. They needed a way to record it for posterity and I had a Mac and Garageband. They played it through quite a few times (Jamie and I had it stuck in our heads for DAYS) and that was that.

Fast forward to 2011, it’s finally recorded on Susan’s album. Katie and Emily and I have decided to seek world domination through Youtube, and Katie brought this cover to the table. Of course I was down for it. We had a lot of fun…I’m lucky these two will hang out with me!

Giant Phone

My first computer was an Apple IIe – I was three years old…it was my mom’s first computer but I played a lot of Battle Tank on that thing, as well as made banners in Print Shop (thanks, Mom and Dad!). After that we had a string of PCs and I kind of forgot about Apple. I acquired an iPod or two in college (the mini in blue and then a Touch), and my friend Josh loaned me a MacBook Pro for an extended period of time, and THEN I remembered why Apple was so cool. Everything was seamless…the music programs worked with the film editing and it was beautiful to work on.

After ForTheRecords made the iPhone our official communication device of choice, there was no turning back. We’re both constantly attached and so are most musicians we know. For those running a small business and traveling, Apple does a dang good job of housing a home away from home.

I started making short goofy films in iMovie because I could, and to this day it remains one of my favorite creative outlets and has actually turned into a marketing tool.

I got an iPad recently because of my need to be constantly on email when driving around (or passengering around, as I do)…and because I really really wanted one. It’s an invaluable tool for communication, but it’s also making me read more because I can download any book I want. I can watch streaming content on a big screen. I can create music on it, and it fits in my small travel satchel.

So yeah, I’m an Apple Fan Girl…but only because every product I have bought from them has allowed me to immerse myself further in a creative and mobile lifestyle, which is how I live. Free to be me, with help from Apple. So thank you, Mr. Jobs. Your impact will proceed you by millenia.

Last weekend I was hanging out at Luckenbach enjoying the Susan Gibson Band Extravaganza and chatting with the Head Honcho (Honcha?) there, my friend Abbey. She runs one of the most esteemed venues in the world and does an amazing job. We were talking about general stuff like agents and managers, and Abbey said something that stuck out to me…”You can’t manage people.” It’s true. You can manage a business, you can manage a tour, you can manage the merchandise, but you can’t manage a person.

The stereotypical thing to do when you’re climbing the ladder in the music biz is to get a booking agent and a manager. I’ve already waxed poetic about when you need a booking agent and when you don’t, but a manager is an even stickier thing. When is it right to get a manager, and what exactly will they do for you? It’s a nebulous thing. Every manager out there has a different job description based on the needs of the Artist, and they truly are managing everything but the person, because as Abbey already pointed out…good luck trying.

Not to brag, but I think that’s why ForTheRecords aka Team Susan Gibson aka Susan and I have a good thing going is that there is no manager other than us managing everything together…it’s basically self management by a close-knit team. In this case, a team of two. The business side of things gets done – sometimes by one of us and sometimes by both of us. There is freedom for each of us to self-direct individually and then the power of two brains working on an idea/issue/thought. Sometimes we call in other brains, like our friend and graphic designer extraordinaire Emily Shirley who designed the new SG merchandise…and all three of us worked on the design until it was good to go.

Emily and her Pantone Book
Color genius.

I think this business style is a bit groundbreaking for independent artists right now because it definitely involves the Artist in every aspect of the business but it is not so independent that the Artist is shouldering their career alone. We’ve encountered other folks in the scene around here who either

1) do it all alone or
2) hire out contracted people to do booking or management or whatnot

What you get in scenario 1 is a very overworked, stressed out Artist because this business is HARD and without a buddy, you feel very alone very quickly.

What you get in scenario 2 (which is very viable though how it’s been done for decades) is that generally the manager works under a company and with several other artists and the investment is lessened because the manager is spreading his or her devotion among several people and is also ultimately invested in the management’s financial success and maybe not so much the Artist’s artistic/spiritual/emotional well being. The Artist feels a disconnect and it sometimes becomes a “me vs. them” scenario.

The way we seem to be headed in ForTheRecords is a simple business partnership, wherein no one directs the other though there is a common goal and set of mantras to live by. Some of the things we use to make decisions include:

– Opportunities must be win/win for maximum benefit
– If it’s not a “hell yes!” it’s a “hell no.” (Thank you, Derek Sivers)
– How does this opportunity help with our 5 and 10 Year Goals?

Asking these questions and puzzling out scenarios as a team makes things happen much faster and easier. The goals for each of us are the same because we work under the same entity. Mutual effort, mutual reward. The result is a purposeful, intentional version of self-management that so far…works really well.

Independent + Team = Awesome.

Memphis View

Doesn’t that title sound romantic and adventurous and all those things? I get asked that a lot – “What is life on the road like?” Truth be told it’s both adventurous and romantic, but I’ll pony up here to the other side of that life for this post. No, I’m not going to complain or whine about how hard it is, because plenty of artists do that and they probably aren’t cut out for touring. I truly like the travel and the people, and I travel mostly with Susan who is absolutely 100% genetically bred for life on the road.

– She loves driving and playing guitar and she loves doing them in the same day.
– She can drive all night and not nod off.
– She loves people and she loves convenience stores.

Hence, I really like going with her and 99 times out of 100, things are pretty smooth. Sometimes they aren’t, like this weekend when one of the dogs had a smelly, reeky accident in the passenger seat while we were in the venue. Poor guy. The dogs never do that, so it was an act of desperation. Suz did a valiant and great job at clean up, and the smell was there just because smells do that. My OCD, much improved after 100s of truck stop restrooms (I still can’t open a trash can lid without a sugar packet or napkin between me and the lid), was still on hyper-alert. It took me about a day to stop the OCD-freak-out-mode. Sigh. We laughed about it, I griped about it, then I realized I did not have the unpleasant experience that Suz did so why was I griping, then I felt bad, then we laughed. Because sometimes, quite literally, shit happens.

My point being here is that the “road life” comes down to a few key things…that genetically pre-disposed to liking it thing, and also the nature of all folks traveling together being compatible. I can’t convey how odd it is for co-workers to be inches apart from one another for days and sometimes weeks at a time. It’s not like an office situation, you can’t get up and go to the break room, and you can’t go home at night. It’s a bizarre work life. Senses of humor are required, and when they run out, the ability to handle long silences is necessary until they come back again, which they always do.

A good road friendship is one you should hang on to, because when it works it works for very intangible reasons. It takes resolve, and sometimes it takes Resolve Deep Clean Spot and Stain, and that’s ok, too.