January was the “ease in slowly” month. Photos are phun. I finally found the joys of Instagram, so there’s that. As I mentioned earlier, it’s nice to have to stare at seemingly mundane situations and have to pull a photo out of them (as in, “CRAP I haven’t taken a photo yet today quick!”). Art is everywhere.

I have decided February will be a little more (ok a lot more) hardcore.

Some of you all might remember my Early Year (I hope you do, it’s an album of mine – hey, iTunes!).

The premise was that I got up early every morning to write. I worked my guv’ment job back then and I had to be at the office at 7:30, so I was up at 5:30 on most days. I wrote that album in the wee hours, and it was a good routine to be in.

I have done other routines since then (mostly at other times of day), but I always think about that process and how well it worked.

Here we go again. Early Month. 5:30 AM. 5 days a week at least. This will be harder, maybe…because we have gigs and will be traveling some, but I think I can swing it. The ultimate purpose is to write daily, and if 5:30 is how I’m going to do it, then so be it. This month seems good because it’s a lot of Texas gigs. March is out of the question. April is far away.

Let’s do it! It’s 11:20 PM already… I need pass out immediately for this to start without a grumble.

Zzzz.

My last round of photos…it was a good month. Remembering to take a photo every day was harder than it sounded (heeeeeey, post office!) but it showed me that there’s an interesting picture just about everywhere you look.

Tofu Breakfast Taco from Bouldin Creek Coffee
1/22 – Bouldin Creek Coffee has these tofu breakfast tacos made of AN ADDICTIVE SUBSTANCE I cannot stop going there.

Post Office
1/23 – Post office. Zzzzz.

Emily Shirley and Katie Lessley
1/24 – On Tuesday after the aforementioned cooking class, we went to see Emily Shirley play at the Whip In, and Katie Lessley joined in on a few. Heavenly.

Citrus
1/25 – Citrus. Grocery store.

Sidewalk
1/26 – Spent a lot of time at Rubicon this week.

Susan Gibson at Rusty's in Austin
1/27 – Susan played a great show at Rusty’s in Austin with Christa Hillhouse on Friday night.

Houston!
1/28 – Saturday we found ourselves in Houston for a great show at the Firehouse Saloon. More on that later.

Central Market Cooking Class

Last night we took a cooking class at Central Market called “Winter Soups and Stews.” Thankfully, as rare as it has been this winter, it was cloudy and damp. Perfect soup weather. Plus, I’ve gotten really tired lately of just relying on my staple of Paula Deen’s Cheesy Ham and Banana Casserole (just kidding GOOD GRIEF CAN YOU IMAGINE).

I had never taken a cooking class before, and Central Market does a fantastic job. We got to see everything be done (not a hands on class…I think I might chop of a finger in one of those) and then we got to SAMPLE IT. What else could you possibly want to do with your Tuesday evening?

We learned a lot of little tips and tricks that are probably old hat to seasoned chefs (haha pun intended) but new to…newbies. Like how to chop onions depending on whether you want them to break down in your soup or maintain their integrity. And how not to dull a knife so quickly. It made me think about how we all have these little “lifehacks” in our own lives because we are all good at certain things and completely foreign to others. What I am saying is SHOWER YOUR KNOWLEDGE ON ME, PEOPLE.

Anyway, just to make you jealous…

French Onion Soup
French Onion

Butternut Squash Soup with Curried Pumpkin Seeds
Butternut Squash with Toasted Curry Seeds

Black Eyed Pea and Sausage with Wintergreens
Black Eyed Pea with Sausage and Wintergreens

Beef Stew with Honey Cornbread
Beef Stew with Honey Cornbread

Coconut Brownie
Coconut Brownie and Chocolate Soup

I have listened to this song 14 times this evening. “Kill the Messenger” by Shawn Colvin. It’s old. I discovered it when I was 17 or something like that and it was old then, so it’s um…really old now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to decry an artist’s more current body of work…Shawn’s latest is one of my favorites (and that’s getting old now too). But I digress.

I kind of remember hearing this version of this song for the first time. Someone sent me a mixtape (WHAT?) with this on it, because I was in a group (an email group…right after message boards on AOL went out of style) online that traded that type of stuff. I’m not sure I ever was able to trade anything in return, people were just nice to the folkie kid in New Mexico where no one cool ever toured (except Lucy Kaplansky, thank you, Lucy). But I digress.

So I hear this song for the first time and I’m pretty sure my skull peeled apart and my brain absorbed it to the core. It amazed me. The rhythmic guitar, and the way the electric nuances over the rhythm, and THE WORDS that are essentially poetry that sing really, really well. Some songs you write out and you get sad because the words aren’t as cool on paper and away from melody. This one holds up.

I don’t know what this song is about, but I know it somehow seeped its way into my core consciousness. It lived with me through college where I overplayed it (sorry, roomies), and somewhere along the line I put it away. It was a bootleg…on a tape, and I don’t own one of those things that plays tapes anymore. I don’t use pencils either, so even if I did play tapes I wouldn’t have anything to wind up the ribbon stuff up when it all spewed out of the cassette.

I still have little moments of song epiphany – in that I’ll still play something 45 times when I discover it and now EVERYONE KNOWS how obsessive I can be because Spotify broadcasts to Facebook. I need to unlink that.

I hope that the songs I discover now stick with me like this one did, because I can associate it with my old neighborhood and certain weather and lighting and my old bedspread in my room and walking to class and pine tress and dictionaries and Sony boomboxes.

I still don’t know what it means but that’s plenty to keep me occupied for now.

American Songwriter Magazine (one of my favorites) always has this “On My Deathbed” section where they pick people’s list of best albums and publish them. I had forgotten I filled one out once until someone on Facebook alerted me that they saw my list. I was a little nervous because I didn’t even remember what I had listed, but luckily, I’m still cool with all of these.

Deathbed Album List in American Songwriter

two guitars

To get really specific: a Female Singer-Songwriter from the 80’s/90’s.

– Make a really angry, unsure, shaky album with too much reverb and perhaps out of tune instruments that shows promise and gains a group of college-aged hipster fans. Perhaps recorded outside or in a basement.

– Make better album that is actually called the debut because first album was just a demo made in a basement/outside. Release to wild acclaim. Next big thing! Next Joni! Next Ani! Next Joan Baez crossed with PJ Harvey!

– Sophomore slump. Not as good as first. What happened?

– Third album. Growth shown. Maturity rising. “Solid effort,” says some reviewer.

– Fourth album – Sixth albums. Continue rise to maturity, write about big life events like that one long term relationship. Maybe have children and write about how happiness did not exist until children. And/or get really good about writing about loneliness. Wear hats. (“Holiday” album may appear in this time period but does not count toward total album count*).

– Seventh + Eighth albums. Decide the world is not all about “me, myself, I” and start writing “modern protest songs.” Stop caring about rhyming so much, to the point that some lines are just complete sentences sung over music. Incorporate jazz chord progressions as well as African and other “world beat” influences because folk songs are so 1995. Wear colorful hats.

– Eighth+ album. Return to roots with a “rootsy Americana album”, proudly making it a big deal without decrying decision to “go global and political” for the last two. Join Americana Association. Give keynote address somewhere about how business has changed. Embrace natural hair color. Ditch hats. Duet with old rock stars. Move to mountains/farm/cabin from LA/NYC/Austin.

*Thank you Nancy Jane.

Brainstorm
1/15 – I spent a good chunk of time at a coffeehouse…with this Brainstorm book.

Cookies!
1/16 – Monday was mastermind meeting day with Susan and Elizabeth. We each got a cookie. I was oatmeal M&M.

Kathleen
1/17 – Kathleen Edwards album release day! One of the “must buy the day it comes out” artists.

Desk
1/18 – I rearranged my workspace and added a whole new writing desk. It is still clean…maybe I can keep from piling junk on it.

Palm
1/19 – On Thursday it was one roommate’s birthday and another was leaving for a big trip so we celebrated by watching Midnight in Paris.

Afghan
1/20 – It’s a homebody theme this week, apparently. Mom made me this afghan and I use it all the time.

Gordon
1/21 – Gordon Ramsay is a personal hero…he and Steve Jobs should have teamed up. Listening to Kitchen Nightmares while I type this blog! Meta.

Me and Gaga's Wax

Idea 1: Meet Lady Gaga’s wax figure.
Idea 2: Meet the real Lady Gaga (in progress)

These numbers are not totally accurate but for the sake of metrics…I have had about 14 good ideas this week. I forgot four of them about 10 seconds after I had them. Goodbye…I hope you got caught by someone else.

The next 7 were simple and resolved easily…like see Photo Blog Week 3 for the new desk I put in my room for writing. That made me clean out a lot of crap from my space, and the whole room is better. Others include “buy rosemary bread” and “light a candle every time you sit down to work.”

The final 3 could be game changers. They came about from either jamming with another brain or stealing some other idea I read about and adapting it. This week I was not the guru on the mountaintop, coming up with clarity just by being still. All these ideas came about from conversing, having a time limit, caffeine intake, and downright poaching of other concepts. Poaching doesn’t scare me because by the time I’m done with anything, it’s unidentifiable from its source. Shawn Colvin once said when she’s stuck, she takes an existing song by someone else and tries to re-write it (or something along those lines). It’s always been a help to me.

The ideas here are vague because they haven’t even hatched yet, and I’d hate to look up a statistic on how many might stall. But they are here for now, and here come 14 more! Maybe I’ll start writing things down so those first 4 don’t get lost next time.

So far so good. This week was a productive one.

Grey Skies in WImberley
1/8 – It was grey out the first couple of days. Zzzzz.

Window
1/9 – Yep. Still grey.

Noel McKay, Brennen Leigh, Susan Gibson
1/10 – Susan, Brennen Leigh, and Noel McKay songswapped at the Mucky Duck. Lovely.

Silhouettes
1/11 – Spent the day working on a new video project based on Portlandia. Forthcoming.

Susan Gibson, Coley McCabe, Thom Shephard
1/12 – Susan songswapped with Thom Shephard at Main Street Crossing and Coley McCabe joined in on Cloud Nine. Awesomeness.

Elizabeth Wills Susan Gibson Poster
1/13 – I made this poster for the show and it got blown up to epic proportions. I’m glad I picked a nice font.

I-35 South
1/14 – Driving home from Fort Worth to Austin laaaaaate.

$2

Interesting scenario this morning. Katie sends me a link to a Youtube video. It’s a cool version of a song I had never heard before (so technically it was a cover but since I didn’t know the original, eh)…being played by 5 people on 1 guitar. I see a TON of content every day, and hundreds of videos float through my Facebook and Twitter streams and I never pay attention. This one sucked me in, and I watched the whole thing. Then I followed the link at the bottom of the video to their fan page. Then I watched another cover video by the band. Then I “fanned” them on Facebook, but not after thinking about it. Then I bought the single for a dollar on iTunes.

I have currency. This is why I paused before becoming a fan. Do I want to spend my mental energy on a new band? Do I want this band in my stream every day? Do I want to see what they’re up to and find out more about them? I decided that yes I do, but only because their content has already proved dynamic and interesting and creative. Had anything in that process of link to Youtube to Facebook broken down, I wouldn’t have given them my $.99 and a promise of future attention. That’s how right on you have to be with putting your music out there.

What were the components that worked so well?

Reference from a friend…I trust Katie’s taste. She said “check this out” – so I did.
– Well-made video. It’s not fancy. It’s one shot, but it looks good and sounds good.
Link to more info…in this case, to Facebook.
Website in place (I checked out their home base, too…to make sure they really existed).
Invitation to buy – a link to iTunes? Sure. I have a dollar.

That’s what makes something viral, step one being the most important, but the other steps have to be there to keep step one happening over and over again.

The band? Walk Off The Earthhere’s their Facebook page. Enjoy.