Time for another Ask Jana. I do these on Facebook, so friend me or whatever.

Tamara asks: To you, does the Walla Walla river valley remind you of the Rio Grande Valley north of Santa Fe? (To me, the high dry fields punctuated by a sudden drop to a cold river with greenery, with Sangre de Cristo or Blue mountains, are similar).

YES. When we were up there this summer in Richland, I looked around and said, “This looks like New Mexico.” It’s scrubby and brown. Instead of chile everywhere, there are grapes. I don’t like grapes as much as I like chile but they’re ok. Can you mash up grapes into a sauce, add some flour to thicken, and smother a burrito with it? No you cannot. I think I digress.

Red and Green Chile
Oh look, a chile photo. Surprise surprise.

Amy asks: If you were in the circus- what would be your act?

I would be a mentalist, wear a top hat, tell you the future, and try to levitate things like shoes, books, and elephants (in progressing order from easiest to hardest of course).

John asks: If someone offered me all the tea in china to do something does it seem like it might be worth it?

No, John…and let me tell you why. China is no longer making tea, they are making iPhones. If someone offered you all the iPhones in China, I’d take it.

David asks: Think music could solve this stale mate in congress? I mean everyone on both sides of the aisle must like music… unless they have no soul, right?

I think you just answered your own question, David. (Soulless politician joke: check!) Unfortunately, if you want my jaded view of things, it would have to be one of the Big Three Record Labels offering them a lot of money to listen to some manufactured song to make anyone do anything up in DC, and yes I did just post below about how much I love pop music. A Libertarian could solve this stale mate…but that’s another blog.

Bragitta asks: If a musician farts in the woods, would it be considered music?
Birgit asks: Why does the guy sitting next to me smell like cheese?

Somehow these questions seemed related to me. The guy next to Birgit could be a musician, but if he passed gas in the woods, he would most definitely not be making music unless there was some sort multiple tone scaled-note system happening, and if that was the case, then it might explain the cheese smell.

Deb asks: Do you use a wireless hotspot on the road? Is it your phone or a separate hotspot-what do you recommend? And what sort of package (how many gigaBytes) is necessary to have a hotspot for mobile laptopping via say an iPhone or staying connected daily to your fans via your social networks?

Tech question! I’ll caveat this and say I don’t use one right now, though I am tempted. We used to use a wifi USB through AT&T and it was generally slow but useable. That was a couple of years ago, so I imagine things have sped up since then. Currently my “always connected” solution is my iPad with 3G on Verizon, while my iPhone is on AT&T. I find that I am generally always getting a good signal from one (usually both), unless we are in the middle of nowhere, which these days it’s rare to find “nowhere” somewhere. For heavier computing that I need to do on my laptop (uploading videos, for instance) I always just wait until I find a wifi spot somewhere (hotel, coffee shop) so I’m not maxing out any data caps. America is surprisingly wifi’d at this point, and on our last 5 week trip there were only a couple of days where the internet access was a little frustrating. The iPad plan also lets you pay for GB’s as you go, so there’s no cap. On non-busy months, I use way less and pay less. Handy.


James asks: What’s your favorite song that you’ve written and why is it your favorite?

The stereotypical answer is that my favorite song is my newest one, but it’s always true. I will play it until it runs into the ground or until the next new favorite…it’s a great testing ground for new stuff. So right now my favorite is one called “String Theory” that I just finished.

Christina asks: What’s your favorite dessert(s)?

I tend to gravitate toward savory foods first, but in the dessert world my mom makes the best pumpkin cake ever. It has cream cheese frosting. Many have tried to replicate it, all have failed. It is the epitome of cake and pumpkin and dessert.

Melinda asks: Why am I obsessed with Bob the Alien?

I googled Bob the Alien and I’m not sure if I just didn’t find it or if my Google results are skewed because I look up Roswell and alien conspiracy sites all the time. Anyway, Melinda, I think it’s in your DNA as an American to be attracted to aliens because we are steeped in UFO culture. If his name is Bob, he sounds pretty ok in a non-threatening sort of way, so that’s even better. Zxxbrhhk the Alien is way harder to spell and way scarier sounding.

James asks: Do you name your guitars?

I do not. I have never named my things. I think I had a doll named Steven as a kid and then I saw the commercial on TV for Child’s Play and never allowed a doll in my room again. I don’t mess around with possessed plastic. I digress…I have never named my instruments or my cars. The closest I have come is deeming Susan’s new Sprinter van “The Grey Whale” for a minute and a half, then diverting back to “The Sprinter” because it’s easier to say and it’s a van, not a sea-faring mammal. My roommate Katie, however, is excellent at naming things. Her cute red car is Redda James and the microwave is Wavy Jones.

Katie asks: What is your preferred method of wake-up alarm? Buzzer? Music? iPhone noise?

Oh hey, Katie, I was just talking about you. I’m glad you ask this because it means as your roommate, my alarm does not bother you across the apartment in the morning. I have an annoying iPhone alarm called “Bells” or something that makes me want to throw it across the room, but it certainly does the job.

Jon asks: How would you like to see yourself on September 24th, 2017?

I would like to see myself rendered in lifelike 3D through virtual reality glasses…Google is making them now but by then, I assume they’ll be the new iPhone or something. It won’t even be a phone, it will just be called iContact and you’ll stick the lens in your eye. I would also like to be raking in the dough from this very iContact idea I just had.

Alternately, I’d like to be at the helm of a small but mighty empire involving blogging about being an independent musician, an eBook author, and helping artists get their music into the world. Also I’d like to be raking in the cash (see a theme?) from having my songs on every hip TV show ever as the background music for the tense “let’s make a decision oh we did now we’re happy” scenes, ideally starring Tina Fey, Christopher Walken, and Amy Poehler.


Jay asks: Should I record my new song, “Attila The Hun Of Hearts”…or sell it to someone in Gnashville?

Nashville all the way, but you should record it first to pitch it. Then everyone wins!

Beth asks: Would you rather have a flying monkey or a flying pig? Also – how should one properly solve the problem of a cold morning toilet seat?

I would prefer a flying monkey because every morning it could wake up about 10 minutes before me and go sit on the toilet to warm it up. Then it could wash its little monkey hands and go make me coffee. A hygienic, flying coffee monkey…that’s what I want.

Gail asks: What….is the capital of Assyria?

I guess this makes sense…the city of Assur was the first capital of Assyria. And now we know.


Psssssst. Hey, my name is Jana and I love pop music.

First point: Lady Gaga tickets have been acquired for January, 2013. It’s on.

Second point: Dan pointed out that I seem to constantly amaze myself when I admit I do like the sugar-coated world of beats and repetitive choruses and autotune, but I really really like it. Diehard folk music fans scoff but I CANNOT GET ENOUGH EAR CANDY.

Phew, that felt better.

I still really love songwriters and folk and country and Americana, but sometimes you just need a good beat and a bass thump that makes your windows vibrate. None of those genres provides that, and I also refuse to head in the direction of thrash metal to obtain said vibrating windows, so pop music it is.

A lot of it is harmless. It is the most scrutinized of music genres in popular culture because most of the time the artists are throwing themselves front and center…it goes with the territory. Some of it is insidious…I refuse to download a Chris Brown song and some of the messages put out there by some of the women folk are less than ideal for young people. (Yes, I’m old…see previous blog mentioning upcoming birthday).

BUT…a lot of the pop ladies are actually really good at what they do, and they’re really savvy business people to boot (or surround themselves with savvy people anyway). Gaga is of course the main one here but Katy Perry and Pink and Ke$ha are all pretty prolific in their own ways. Ke$ha writes hits for other people. Gaga employs tens if not hundreds of people under the Haus of Gaga…how’s that for good old fashioned American business building? Don’t hate the good business people just because they sing pop music.

What this all translates into for me is that while I love guitar and songwriting forever and always, I have plans to mess with pop music as my new music hobby. Remixing songs has always intrigued me, and I’ve done a miniscule amount of research on how that happens and it’s intrigued me enough to do more. It’s one of those nerd hobbies where you can sit at home and buy a program and work on your skills. Even if none of my remixes ever see the light of internet day (but come on, you know I will post something), I’ll be thrilled to explore how beats and dynamics and rhythm change a song. Boom. Mixing the hits. Maybe Gaga will pick one up one day…weirder things have happened. Like running into her in this wax museum in Vegas.

Me and Gaga's Wax

Signed –

The blog is slow because for the first week home I only attended to the things that directly fed or clothed or bathed me, like…the shower, and the grocery store, and my usual office worky stuff.

Then last week I spent a lot of time defining some goals because good grief I turn one of those decade birthdays in November and if you’re not looking it can really freak you out. Three oh.

Owen Temple
Hey, Owen!

In the meantime I’ve gotten to see and play with some great folks, like Owen Temple and Havilah Rand.

Terri and Jana

I also got to be a spectator and see Terri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines and Glenn Fukunaga play a house concert (Rawhide Trail, it’s a great series by some good friends). Glorious. Isn’t Terri’s hair cute? Yes it is.

Yep, we were gone for 5 weeks and everyone survived, even the chihuahua. It was a fun, relaxing, hard-working, scenic trip to Washington and back and we landed back almost where we began, in Taos, NM for the Big Barn Dance. One of the most enjoyable festivals around!

Radney Foster snuck in a few tunes at Susan’s Adobe Bar gig…two platinum hit writers in one tiny room!

Radney Foster

Then Michael Hearne and Don Richmond and Butch Morgan joined Susan for her Barn Dance set…Michael and Don also have albums with Evergreen on it, so this version was EPIC.

Big Barndance Festival

My end of tour present from the awesome Suz was…flatware. I had spied this set when we were browsing through Nambe’ the first time through, and while flatware is not really anything I think about much, this set looked SO COOL. Design and prettiness. Susan started my collection off. Now I just gotta pick up a set every time I go there and in a few years I can have a dinner party.

Nambe Fork!

And…Susan shared a show in Clayton, NM at the lovely Luna Theater with Walt Wilkins and the Mystiqueros. Tina Wilkins and Susan are the Sistaqueros. I love those folks…super talented and super nice people.

Luna Theater

Macy Gray

We had a great time at the Snowy Range Music Festival in Laramie this weekend…we got there a day early to see Macy Gray (Susan noted that a good Macy cover band should be called the Gracy Mays). I really only knew Macy from her big 1999 album and the song “I Try”…and her hair. She put on a great live show and though it started 1.5 hours late because of some rain, it was worth the standing around. even the wind whipping her feather boa in her face a few times didn’t phase her. Pro.

Snowy Range Music Festival

On Sunday, Susan played a great set in the afternoon. Shout out to our friends from Centennial, WY…they make me happy every time we see them!

Susan Gibson

Then it was off to Drake, CO and now Fort Collins. We have one week left on this tour…for being 5 weeks long it really has gone pretty fast. Weird, but awesome. Southbound!

Lamp. One of five.

Hello from Casper, WY where the venue tonight gave us TWO HOTEL ROOMS which means I AM IN MY VERY OWN HOTEL ROOM. Thank you Jimmy and the Wonder Bar!

Now, we have had a great time on this tour and a lot of fun, but as Suz points out, for most of the days we are a middle car seat apart from each other and a lot of times when we have a hotel room we are a night stand apart from each other. Other times we are put up by very kind hosts and I make sure to be polite in their presence.

However, in my VERY OWN ROOM I have flung clothes far and wide, turned on all five (yes, five) lamps, and am blasting CNN quite loudly. I may have just revealed myself to be a very boring person, but after living out of a bag for 4 weeks, flinging my clothes feels good. Tomorrow morning I’ll pick them all up again and stuff them into my bag again, but for now, roam free little fabrics. Breathe like the cotton you are, the fabric of our lives.

Now, to divert off onto a completely different blog topic because I can…Club Sandwiches.

Mother Clubber

This is the consummate American sandwich. It has some of everything on it, and as I have found wandering the country lately, there seems to be quite a variance in what constitutes a Club. I like creativity as much as the next person, but after a while you can only experiment so much before your sandwich turns into something completely different than a club. Here are my criteria for what makes up a Real Club Sandwich (RCS):

– fairly plain white or wheat bread
– layers of turkey, ham, cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato
– the important middle layer of bread
– toasted bread (all 3 layers)
– mayo must be present
– toothpicks with colored paper on the top spearing the sandwich (functional and aesthetic)

You can add to this list when creating your sandwich, but you can never subtract. If you take out the middle layer of bread, you have a plain sandwich with a lot of stuff on it. If you don’t toast the bread you have a soggy sandwich. If you don’t CUT IT INTO QUARTERS then…I don’t know. It’s definitely NOT a Club Sandwich. It’s probably not worth eating if you ordered a club and it’s only cut in half. I usually just go ahead and quarter mine anyway if this transgression has been made.

Acceptable additions: avocado, onion, mustard
Iffy additions: fancy substitutions (spinach instead of lettuce, aioli instead of mayo, etc.), roast beef, fancy types of bread (sourdough, rye, etc).
Unacceptable additions: spreadable cheese, pickles, most other kinds of meat, chunky textured meats, tortillas

The Club Sandwich above was from Bones Brewery in Billings, Montana. That was a good one, though I will say it was missing the mayo. The Iron Horse Pub in Missoula served me a club with no middle bread layer, lots of guacamole on it, and only cut in half. It was a good sandwich but something I would equate to more of a “California Turkey Sandwich” than a Club. Even quartering it didn’t entirely cover up the feeling that I was eating an imposter.

The best Club Sandwich I’ve had this tour? Denny’s in Spokane, WA. I guess when you want predictability, go to the predictable.