Girl Guitar

I’m happy to say I’ll be back for my second round of teaching with Girl Guitar in Austin. I taught songwriting this Spring and had the best time and met the best people. If you’re in Central Texas and you fall under the scope of “Girl with Guitar”…I’d love to see your face in class. Enrollment is limited. We’ll start September 17th and go through October with 6 week courses.

CAGED Lead and Theory

The CAGED theory is a way of revealing patterns of notes on the fretboard, therefore helping you to remember where all the notes are positioned. This is immensely helpful for finding new ways to play chords, find arpeggios, or being able to pick out a quick lead part in any key. This class will make you popular at parties and folk festivals, among other health benefits. CAGED Lead and Theory is taught by Jana Pochop.

*Please note: CAGED Lead class does not participate in the Girl Guitar Showcase.*
Cost for First-Timers: $160 (includes t-shirt)
Girl Guitar Alum: $135
*Get a friend to sign up and get $25 off!*
*Please note: Class fees are non-refundable and non-transferable. To sign up please email Mandy@GirlGuitarAustin.com*

CAGED Lead with Jana- Thursdays, September 17th, 7-8pm

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Songwriting

This class is designed to help you draw inspiration from your own life and use that inspiration to find your unique voice as a songwriter. You’ll learn how to get motivated to write, how to get all those wonderful words out of your head and onto paper, and how to arrange them into beautiful songs that could not have been written by anyone else but the one and only YOU! Songwriting is taught by Mandy Rowden, Jana Pochop, Cass Brostad or Jane Gillman.

Cost for First-Timers: $160 (Includes t-shirt)
Girl Guitar Alum: $135
*Get a friend to sign up and get $25 off!*
*Please note: Class fees are non-refundable and non-transferable. To sign up please email Mandy@GirlGuitarAustin.com*
Songwriting with Jana-Thursdays, September 17th, 8:15-9:15 (No class October 15th)

We had a great time in Red River this weekend for the first annual Red River Songwriters’ Summer Camp. We had 17 brave campers (no tents, real beds…for the creative spirit) and 7 teachers (that is a good ratio, right?). I got to nerd out on social media and talk to a bunch of folks about how to not be afraid of the social part of social media. I made a lot of notes:

Workshop - Red River, NM

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Me trying to be teacherly.

We had class in the bar at the Motherlode Saloon – we joked that you can learn all day and forget it that night all in the same room.

Workshop - Red River, NM

We apparently exhausted our campers (in a good way). As one of them put it, my 90 minute session was a “firehose of information.” I think that’s a good thing.

Workshop - Red River, NM

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Brandy, Kelley, and moi learning while Susan talks.

Head over to our Facebook page to get updates on dates for next year!

We all know where I stand on the topic of Mary Chapin Carpenter. She’s only one of the greatest American songwriters ever. I am fortunate sometimes when the Greatest comes to my neighborhood, and I get to see a show! My friend Heidi rolled into town from California – we’ve seen about 45 million MCC shows together (or like…8? A lot), and we road tripped down to Galveston for a night at The Grand Opera House. Amazing space, and it’s survived a couple of hurricanes.

I was scared to take photos because I don’t like getting kicked out of things I paid to see, but I did snag a set list.

Then, in a ridiculous twist of fate…MCC played 20 minutes from my house, but I could not go that night because I had a gig. A really cool gig…my friend Noelle Hampton and I organized a night called Popped! A Folk Tribute to Pop Music. We asked all our friends to come play one song each, and we gave all the money to Austin Pets Alive…it was pretty epic. Look at THIS set list:

We raised $1300! Here’s Noelle and Emily being awesome on a Hall & Oates cover:

Then Heidi and I took off to Oklahoma City because through some insane miracle of the internet (and the fact that I am always on it), I got front row seats for this show. See?

I had never sat that close before – I was studying, literally, at the feet of my hero. I got to see all the cool guitar stuff and that was worth the ticket price alone. Another crazy great show complete with a Q&A in which I asked what book MCC was reading. She replied with this suggestion, and I suggest you take it.

Then it was back to real life for about 2 says…then on to Los Angeles! That’s the next post.

A couple of weekends ago I got to immerse in a gathering put on by the lovely folks at the Austin Songwriters Group. These folks have been bringing the industry side to Austin for a long time and it is much needed. We have a lot of live music but no publishers, song pluggers, or that sort of thing. ASG fills that void and also helps songwriters…write more. And better. Awesome stuff.

The keynote speaker/performer was James Slater, who has had a lot of hits including cuts by Martina McBride, Jamey Johnson, Chris Brown, and Enrique Iglesias (as an aspiring pop writer, this perked my interest). He gave a wonderful talk and has a great performance style. He spent years performing in piano bars in Europe and he’s clearly mastered the instrument. Biggest takeaway? Write what you want to write…don’t write to the hit. Sound advice, nice to hear it from someone successful.

The pitch sessions…so, when you register, you get to meet with a song publisher for 15 minutes. To…you know, pitch a song. All of these lovely folks are from Nashville and I am not actually country at all (though I have been told Nashville is pretty open-minded?), so I expected nothing. Sure enough, my first meeting was met with a resounding…”keep trying.” It was fine, though these things are apparently like Vegas because I walked out of that meeting and immediately signed up for another one with a different publisher.

I waited until the 3rd day of the conference for the next meeting, and this was with a publisher who works with Disney in Nashville and Los Angeles. I told her to put on her film/TV licensing and pop ears (no mouse pun intended), and played her a couple of EP tracks. Her response was very encouraging and helpful and I left motivated to pursue more film and TV stuff because she said…heck yes, do it.

Fast forward to the evening, after dinner break, when I am walking down the hall and Maggie, one of the ASG bosses, runs after me (thank you for running, Maggie) and tells me that “Throw You Forward” is the Publisher’s Pick and would I perform it that night? WHOA. Stunned. Usually I get a spidey sense about these things but I did not see this one coming. It was the good kind of blind-sided. I borrowed a guitar and played it live for ballroom of very kind folks.

So the lesson here is…well, a couple. First…join these organizations and go meet people. You’ll be inspired and who knows what creative or business collaborations will come from it.

But secondly and most importantly, if you knock on a door and it shuts on you…try the next door. Whatever possessed me to try again after having a lackluster first pitch session really paid off…the momentum is real, kids. Keep knocking.

Y’all, I got to write a song with one of my favorites, Terri Hendrix, last week.  She’s part of a songwriting group called Real Women Real Songs, and they write a song a week, which is awesome.  Terri asked me to come over and help out with the topic called “Hot.”  There’s really no hot reference in here but I think it’s IN there.  You know, floating around.  Enjoy!

Whew. I have to admit, I’m gonna sleep a lot tonight. It’s been a whirlwind of adventure these past two weeks, with recording the new album, the Kickstarter, playing Rice Festival, and a bonus encounter with a hero of mine all wrapped into these past few days. I need a nap, but a satisfied, happy one.

In no order:

KICKSTARTER: FUNDED.
Yep! We did it! 133% of goal which blows my mind. I was checking email on Friday morning, a day before the campaign ended, and got this email that a very awesome backer had rounded me out to $10,000 – a number I couldn’t fathom when I started the campaign. My friend Heidi caught me exclaiming about the perfectly round number. We eventually got up to $10,227…I am so excited to put that money to work! We have another studio day this week…who knows what craziness will ensue.

Kickstarter Joy!


RICE FESTIVAL: CONQUERED

I opened the Saturday line up with the help of my amazing friends Emily Shirley and Anna Harris. We done good. People dug it. Emily saved the day by noticing the keyboard provided on stage was set to the wrong key during sound check. It was literally programmed to play the wrong notes. Emily brought hers in and it sounded awesome. These are the things that make sound check WORTH IT, haha.

Rice Festival

Susan’s set the night before was also magic…it was fun to watch people watch her play, if that makes sense. So good.

Susan Gibson

HERO: MET
If you read this blog at all you know I love Mary Chapin Carpenter. Her “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her” was the first song I learned to play on guitar when I was 11…that was 19 years ago. She’s inspired my writing and my guitar playing and my work ethic ever since. I’ve seen her about 12 times in concert, but never had the chance to meet her until Wednesday at the Paramount Theater in Austin. My friend Heidi knows people (named “MCC”) and we got backstage. When Heidi told me this was going to happen about 1.5 hours beforehand, I had three goals:

– speak whole words
– do not babble
– radiate gratitude

I think I did all those things. MCC was as gracious as I had imagined she would be, and we got this photo that is my new favorite possession. Amazing.

Me and Mary Chapin Carpenter

We also saw Mary Chapin and Shawn Colvin at Dosey Doe in The Woodlands the next night and I could watch her guitar playing from super close! Great seats, and a super kick in the pants for inspiration.

Mary Chapin Carpenter at Dosey Doe

To top it all off Susan and her band played a great show at Gruene Hall today and I got to get up and play a little. Super grateful for all these folks.

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And now…a 10 hour nap.

I wrote this a few months ago…wondering about the success of my Kickstarter and of social media in general. It’s hard to ask people to buy your stuff, maybe especially when you’re an artist. Then there’s the weird idealistic/totally self-limiting persona of the “starving artist.” Like you can’t make a living and be relevant and “of the people.” I don’t buy it. And where is this music industry going? The commodity is not vinyl or CD or even mp3 anymore. It’s streams, Youtube views. Things that don’t immediately transfer to money. Something higher must be the commodity. What do artists offer? What do consumers get from artists, what is it worth?

“Now is not the time to ask when I’ll get a real career.” I have been asked by well-meaning people I grew up with when I might “settle” and get a “JOB job.” Also, when I graduated with my History degree, someone asked me if I would like fries with that, so I guess I have always been on the perceived track of “Huh?”

Truth is there are lots of ways to make money in music, and I have found a couple. I pay rent. I don’t ask my mom for money (all the time, hi Mom). I have found some and I see countless others. Music, art, and entertainment are massive economies in this country. There need not be starvation. Are they JOBS? Yes. You gotta clock in and probably work harder than a lot of other job types, and even then it’s not guaranteed. You have to schmooze. You have to have 10,000 hours in at whatever you want to do. You have to be professional. You have to be steadfast in your vision (and know what your vision is). It’s a lot. But it’s not unfruitful, and lots of working musicians and music business folk pay their rent and buy their lattes every day.

What is the fans’ role in all of this? A little recognition that a Spotify stream does not totally make up the difference in the decline of the physical album is step one, but really…the fans’ role is to pick those artists that live and breathe something beyond a download. It’s not charity, it should never be charity. The music should be great. If it touches your life on a daily basis, join the community. Help the artist’s community get bigger. Go to shows. Share links. All that stuff.

I am used to making my living with about 4 jobs. People joke, but I see the uncertainty of corporate jobs and lack of longterm, fulltime work in a lot of industries, and I am grateful I know how to make it piece together. Maybe in the future people will be asking musicians for advice on how to work in the new economy…I don’t see that as being very far-fetched at this juncture.

Anyway, food for thought. Hug a musician today, just not while they’re playing.

I have to say first of all, my post title made me think of that 4 Non-Blondes song What’s Up, which for YEARS I thought was called “What’s Going On?” because that’s kind of the hook. But no, it’s called What’s Up? Anyway…

Firstly I want to say a big thanks to Brian Thompson over at The DIY Daily Podcast for using my song Resurrection Buzz all week long in his show. I can’t think of a cooler thing to be associated with because his podcast is full of inspiration and thoughtfulness. Check it out. Here’s the September 24th episode:

The other big thing is…I am about to launch the Kickstarter project for MY NEW EP which I START RECORDING NEXT MONTH OH GOOD GRIEF. I am simultaneously excited and really scared, because Kickstarters are those things where it’s ALL OR NOTHING (in all caps like that) and what if I don’t pick the right amount to ask for or maybe people won’t pay attention or…all of the things that freak me out in the middle of the night when I’m hugging my body pillow and practicing breathing exercises.

And then really, as my friends have been telling me…positive thinking rules the world, and I am fortunate to know a lot of nice, supportive people. What I do know is the songs on deck for EP 3 are the best I have ever written. Put that on a Times Square billboard and light it up, because I can stand behind that. Dan’s studio is full of amazing gear and we have some really cool people in mind to play on it, so…it’s going to rock. It will rock. So will the Kickstarter. Get ready.

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The other day I received the best “No” ever. I’ve decided this year that I’m going to start gearing some of my personal songwriting efforts into getting a cut. It’s always been a goal of mine, to have someone else sing a song I wrote. I grew up listening to country radio and then switched over to whatever they call it when they play Sarah McLachlan, Goo Goo Dolls, and Everclear on the same station (Adult Contemporary? Eh…). I also grew up listening to a lot of folks who wrote their own songs. Mary Chapin Carpenter is never, ever looking for songs to cover, and that is probably what made me start writing my own songs, too. You write them, you sing them. Easy!

Except there’s a whole industry centered around writers penning things for artists that sell a lot of records. About 5 people write every Rihanna song, and while that’s an elite group, there are tons of working songwriters all over the country and sometimes…they get songs on other people’s albums. My good friend Walt Wilkins currently has a song on the charts because Kellie Pickler cut it, and it is an amazing song (Someone Somewhere Tonight – check it). Commercial doesn’t always equate to “lame” as situations like this Walt song have taught me (oh, and the ever amazing “Wide Open Spaces” example penned by Susan Gibson thank you very much).

Anyway…I have a song I really think is something that should get “out there.” And there are companies that act as middlemen and send your work to publishing companies, who are in turn looking for songs for their artists. I wasn’t sure if these things were legitimate or not, but the opt in fee is low and there was a call for submissions for a country artist I love, so I sent it in, expecting nothing, really.  After a few weeks I got the best, nicest rejection letter ever.  In part:

“We, of course, realize this is disappointing to you, but please do not get discouraged as a writer. We can offer only one opinion in a world of many, and we can assure you that we have been wrong just as often as we have been right. That is the nature of the business that we are in. If anything, we would want to ENCOURAGE you and let you know that many professionals listened to, and discussed your work this week, and without exception, they were all impressed. Thank you again for a quality submission. We very much enjoyed listening to, and discussing your work.”

WHAAAAAT? That made my week. It continues to make my month, even.

This is hairy, weird business, especially when you start talking commercial and “hits” and “singles.” I’ve got friends who have been literally sucked in, chewed up, and spit back out of the Major Label Machine. But there are a number of people writing songs with integrity and heart, and those are the qualities that sometimes get through all the noise. Sometimes. You never get anywhere if you don’t try, though.

So…co-writing and stuff.  I haven’t done a ton of it.  I am thrilled to be able to say I co-wrote “Lovely When You Cry” with Susan and that it’s on her Tightrope album (lyric video here!).  And I’ve sat down a few times with folks to write but I can’t say a lot of things ever got finished.  This was always one of those “it’s not you, it’s me” situations.  Things I would do:

– hold back ideas I really liked so I could have them to myself
– let the other writer lead so much that my voice didn’t matter
– not contribute enough or speak up when I wasn’t jiving with something

Learning to co-write wasn’t a natural thing for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some really fun times sitting down with folks, but quite frankly my overall track record sucks.

Except…now I’m gonna talk about her like I didn’t just send her a link to this finished post, but I recently started writing with Anna Harris and hoooooly hey. We have been FINSIHING things and starting new things and back and forthing and it’s been awesome.

Suzuki Anna!
Suzuki Mandolin.

I met Anna at a gig that didn’t happen. We were both scheduled to play a writers’ night in Austin, and the sound guy had better things to do. No sound guy, no songwriters bleeding onstage, as it were.   But a couple of musical hangs later and we tried writing a song.  It didn’t get finished but we continued it over email.  This was also new to me because I write all of my songs in a book.  Like…I physically put my pen on paper in a designated songwriting book when I write my songs.  For all of my online obsessions, songwriting had never drifted into that realm.

Thanks, however, to the ease that email and the iPhone offer…we were sending lyrics and melodies and pieces of things back and forth in no time. I sent unfinished chunks of songs I had been sitting on for years and Anna was able to somehow tap into them and give them new direction. She sends me things the she’s stuck on. Sometimes that’s the worst part of the process for me…I’ll get a song to a certain point and just stop. Either I’ll get stuck on a bridge or how to resolve it or whatever, and the song just gets shoved aside. Having someone to bounce things off and also to encourage the process has been eye opening and really, shockingly productive.

I hope I’m not jinxing this whole thing by writing about it, but I doubt it.  Oh, and we’ve got a gig in Austin next week – June 6th at Flipnotics!  7 PM.  Be there, unless you’re reading this blog post in the future.  Then just…watch Netflix.  No, go see who else is playing at Flipnotics.  But seriously, come on over.