SXSW Recap: Day 1

8 Mar

Finally, it came. I found a sweet (and legal and cheap) place to park and I collected my various devices and their chargers along with a few Clif Bars and I was ready to roll. The 11 AM panels were sparse in number, meaning…everyone wanted into them. I got to the 11 AM too late and was turned away, but that just made me super early for the next one called “Content and Commerce: The Digital Cronut.” The founder of Thrillist Media explained how they are pioneering a model where their company sells the products they write about directly. It’s a lifestyle site for dudes, basically, so when they write about an amazing shirt or gadget, they sell that shirt or gadget directly. This seems kind of obvious to me as a person that talks about music and sells it, but he’s right…it’s rather new to online media. There are no billion dollar media companies (Huffington Post, the big ‘un, sold for “only” 315 million), and they are stifled by this inability to sell product to their cadre of willing consumers. Thrillist is changing this model and it makes sense. Watch out for more ads disguised as articles, though.

Then it was on to the keynote speaker of the day, Austin Kleon. I love his book “Steal Like An Artist,” and he just released his new one “Show Your Work.” He discussed the myth of the lone, anti-social genius, laboring away in isolation. A lot of great work has gotten done this way, sure. However, he talked about the idea of the “scenius,” where new ideas and work come from being in a community and interacting. Not necessarily “group work,” but just interacting with the people around you for ideas and inspiration. Super good.

I’ll admit I lost interest in the next panel about the live-streamed reality show “Remote Control Tourist.” Interesting concept (interactive online television, essentially), but it was heavy on logistics explanation and coding a TV show is not really in my wheelhouse. Plus the thought of directing characters on a show and tweeting while I watch is exhausting. I kind of feel like most of the planet isn’t into interactive TV because that’s the one thing they can do without being engaged in something else. And yes, we all send out snarky tweets about things we watch, but being involved in the storyline in real time would make my brain explode.

Lastly, my favorite panel of the day, “How Twitter Humorists Landed Sweet Real World Gigs,” included Megan Amram (a writer for Parks & Recreation), Josh Hara, and Jenny Johnson. It was as funny as you’d think, and really cool to hear the process of joke-telling in the Twitter medium. It made the point that Twitter truly is the perfect medium for humor, and the barrier for entry is low. Tweet. Keep tweeting. (Also, it helps if you tick off a celebrity).

SXSW 2014 Begins

5 Mar

You know how in school you’d look forward to Christmas break or Spring break because you didn’t have to do anything but fun things for a while? This is almost the opposite but the same thing…SXSW Interactive 2014 starts on Friday and I AM SO EXCITED. I get to learn things for a whole week in a convention center full of geeks. This is definitely one of the highlights of my year. Last year was my first time to experience the conference part, and I thought maybe it would be like…”Cool, I did that. Check that off the list.” Actually, it was so fun my brain went more to, “CAN IT BE SXSW ALL YEAR ROUND PLEASE MOOOOORE.”

Thanks to my friend Cari for the ability to do this. I will learn all the things, and I will update as I go!

Marathon, Texas

3 Mar

These days we don’t play many places in Texas where I have never been. I know the roads to Houston and Dallas and Amarillo pretty well by now. This weekend, though, I landed in a foreign place right here in our own state. It’s West Texas mixed with some New Mexico…lots of adobe and red chile ristras at the glorious Gage Hotel in Marathon where Susan played. They put us up, too…I almost declared I was never leaving except The Gage is all about restoration and calm and peacefulness so there was no cable TV in the rooms. That would be a longterm deal breaker for me. (I am just kidding, it was lovely and restful!)

Outside the hotel room

Outside the Catholic Church

And then the next morning while we were driving away the temperature dropped 40 degrees. I guess winter isn’t over yet, even in South Texas.

It’s time for some Ask Jana. I took me awhile to compile these because I had to get the ringing of 4500 screaming teenage girls out of my head from the Demi Lovato show. What song is on repeat on my iPod? That Little Mix song. IT’S SO CATCHY. Ok, on to your questions, and I think you kindly for asking them!

Sharon: Dear Jana…my neighbor will not stop playing Justin Bieber cds. I wish they would play Justin Timberlake but it is JB all the time. the only JB i play is Jackson Browne.. what do i do.. i am going crazy.

This is indeed a horrifying circumstance. As much as I love pop music, there are certain artists I cannot get into as a rule…Bieber and Selena Gomez are at the top of the list. The best thing you can do is blast Jackson Browne back through the walls and make it some sort of weird Browne vs. Bieber (sounds like a civil rights court case from 1954) standoff. This might not endear you to your neighbors, though. Second option: noise canceling headphones. Totally worth it.

Amanda: Dear Jana, I want to go somewhere warm with my little family for a week. How can I make this happen with my super tight budget?

As a wimpy Southwestern-raised kid, I can’t imagine what living through a whole Northern winter is like. I mean, I lived in South Dakota until I was 4 and the snow was higher than I was tall, but I mostly remember my mom making me cheese sandwiches (the only thing I ate for about a year) and letting me watch Sesame Street when it was frigid outside. Anyway, what I do know about Amanda is that she is a fabulous musician, and we have the fortunate circumstances of sometimes being able to pay for things by singing. Maybe we need to find you a gig in Florida or Austin that pays for your trip, and BOOM. It’s zero sum but it’s not going to break the bank. My other thought is getting a large cardboard box, painting a beach scene on the inside, and installing a heat lamp over it. Sit in it for no longer than 1 hour at a time before the claustrophobia sets in. This is only to be used in worst case scenario circumstances.

Dezi asks: Dear Jana! Will my flight finally make it to Texas next month?

Dezi…I hope this was not written from seat 13B of a commercial airliner circling around but never landing in Texas, because that seems like it would be frustrating. I would suggest booking a flight on a legitimate airline to make sure your flight makes it. Avoid airlines with names like: Mouthwest, Slamerican, Brontier, and Hellta. These seem like legit choices but they are not.

Brenda asks: Dear Jana – which beverage do you feel supports maximum achievement throughout the day? And as a bonus, which snack food goes best with that beverage?

Oh man this is easy for me…coffee. I drink a lot of it. I have tried to give up sugary soda type things and while I still imbibe on a Diet Coke every so often, I do not allow myself to buy them to keep at home and when traveling I always look for decent iced tea first. But I digress…some say coffee is bad for you. I say everything is probably bad for you, but coffee, when taken black, has no calories, no aspartame, and makes me happy to be awake. Best thing with coffee? Oddly…a banana with peanut butter. You will never stop if you have that.

Sharon asks: Do you have to worry about Fracking in the southwest or is it just another curse word?

It is both! I will say…there is a disturbing amount of earthquakes in the Fort Worth area here in Texas. This article says there were 17 in January 2014 alone. That’s…not natural. It’s probably because of fracking. If Austin gets one I’m moving.

Laurie: Jana, an armadillo and a horny toad walk into a bar…….please expound.

Well…this is a trick question because I can tell you for a fact the armadillo would never make it across the road in the first place to walk into the bar. They are the inevitable road kill.

Matt: If you could eliminate any human body part what would you choose?

I’m kind of literally attached to most of my parts, I figure they serve some purpose. I’m really fond of toenails because I stub mine all the time. I digress…and I can’t pick because I’m scared I am like an ecosystem where if I took something out everything would suffer in some weird chain reaction.

Josh asks: Dear Jana, would you marry me? Not will you, I’m still kind of on the fence and I want to gauge your answer first. I have a steady job and love green chili.

This is a very practical proposal, and I wish all proposals would include a pledge for green chile. I am flattered, but I am also still learning that Single Ladies dance from the Beyonce video so I need to conquer that first.

Sharon asks: Dear Jana… what is your favorite Dylan song? would you consider a cover version?

Is this cliche to answer…Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright? Because that is a great song. I don’t know about covering it…lots of folk people cover Dylan and I’m working really hard to learn this 4 chord Ellie Goulding song right now, haha.

Bill asks: Can you recommend a good mail order source for green chile?

BEST QUESTION AWARD. Bill, Chile Addict is right down the road from where I grew up and they have the largest selection of stuff and a catalog to boot. El Pinto is a great source for their brand of salsa and sauces. (One time the owner of El Pinto came to a gig in Albuquerque and brought me a BOX OF SALSA. I am forever a fan). Anyway…Chile Addict will get you everything from frozen, roasted chile to green chile hot chocolate. Yum.

Michael asks: When are we going to see/hear some more JanAnna down on the South side of Houston?

Great question! I haven’t had a working car for a while and it’s really put a damper on mobility. Anna is working on some awesome projects that I will call TOP SECRET and I’m getting the EP all wrapped up. Short answer? We need to book something.

Don asks: Dear Jana: Why is USA Network cancelling Psych? Why?

As someone who has to watch TV on Hulu and therefore only consistently watch Glee and Scandal…I do not know. Maybe they’re just tricking you, and they’ll be like…”We’re canceling Psych. PSYCH!”

RawfeyL: Do you think art and social activism combined have the ability to impact civil rights? Or is the Artist and their Art just recording the events? In other words; Do you think art has the ability to create the spark of desire within the audience to go out and change the world?

Great question. I think art has played a role in the past, and I really can only speak a little from the music perspective. We had Guthrie as the “Dustbowl Troubadour” in the 30′s and then of course, people like Dylan and the anti-war protest movement in the 60′s. I think they did play some part in joining people together, except perhaps art was not the catalyst of the movement, but a supportive rallying tool? WHAT I DO THINK…is that art and popular culture in terms of civil rights lead the way in showing the populace as a whole that the oppressed group is made up of real human beings. African American musicians in the 50′s and 60′s and 70′s absolutely played a part in breaking down stereotypes. Powerful women rose up in pop culture before politics. Ellen is the most popular talk show host ever and everyone knows she’s gay. Connecting this acceptance in pop culture to a larger picture is ideally next. Arizona is apparently not on board with that but whatever. I don’t think I answered your question very well but everyone should leave a comment and expound upon this please.

Don asks: Dear Jana: Who was/is your favorite president?

Well…I am a great admirer of Lincoln because most people are and he was undoubtedly a great President. I have a soft spot in my heart for President Kennedy because his presidency and assassination captured by interest at a young age and made me into the American history nerd / conspiracy theorist that I am.

Yes, I have been to THAT SPOT in Dallas.

Jon asks: What’s your fave Sixties song?

I really love San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair). I’m not sure why, other than I love San Francisco.

Camille asks: Jana, when do we get to hear your new recordings?

We are close! Dan will wrap up mixing in early March, and then we have to master them. Kickstarter backers like your lovely self will most likely get a download in late March, with hard copies to follow in April!

Bonny asks: Jana, can you dance like the Gogo’s?

No, and I should never ever ever try!

Chad asks: What was that place we ate where the dessert was so good we ordered a second? What was the dessert? And can we please go there again during SXSW this year?

I believe that was at 24 Diner. Was it bread pudding? It had to be bread pudding. We must hunt it down. I had a pork belly sandwich which is maybe the richest thing I have ever consumed, aside from those back-to-back desserts. SXSW 2014 Culinary Tour of Austin by Chad and Jana (TM) is on!

It is also a rule that Chad and I eat pancakes during SXSW.

Ryan asks: Sunrise, sunset. Which and why?

I’ve seen a lot of sunsets that make me go “WOW,” usually in New Mexico. I see sunrises less, and while I fancy myself someone who rises to greet the day, usually the day greets me and I reply with a grunt before I have coffee.

Dave asks: Why is my Internet connection so slow?

Are you Netflixing a lot? Because internet providers are slowing you down if you stream a lot. Because net neutrality is a hot button issue.

Jean: Jana, where is your favorite vacation spot and why?

Jean, I don’t know that really I have “vacationed” in a long time. I have taken time away in places where I have said, “I will not check my email for 42 minutes” and sometimes that works, sometimes not. That being said, I am itching to go see my friends in New York City. I hope that happens soon.

Me and times Square must be reunited.

Allow me to blog this topic again. Always…I am always self-justifying my pop music addiction (affliction?). Usually to myself, not even to the outside world. Perhaps people don’t “get” it, as they scroll past my Facebook updates and I have posted another Gaga video, and while I take the occasional “ew that is crap” comment people are generally nonplussed and sometimes, when kindred spirits, supportive.

I spent my teenage years loving pretty “serious” music as far as teenagers go. I was into the singer-songwriters at a young age so I was pondering things like Sunny burning her house down and divorce when you’re 36 with kids to take care of and no job skills. That’s hefty. Because of that I largely ignored the boy bands and bubblegum pop of the late 90′s and early 2000′s (but I did love me some Backstreet Boys…just that one song).

So one would think a logical progression would have me listening to Bach concertos and going to the opera if age means maturity. Not the case.

I went to see Demi Lovato last night in Dallas and it was a great show. I stayed with some friends but I went alone because um…no one I know likes Demi Lovato that much. I did list her album in my Top Albums of 2013 post, so I was pretty excited.

It was, as expected, a great show. Fifth Harmony opened for the the opener, meaning they did 5 songs, one of them being a Destiny’s Child cover. I was thrilled because I was one of the 12% of people in the venue old enough to remember when Independent Women Pt. 1 came out (THROW YOUR HANDS UP AT ME). There were 5 members of Fifth Harmony (clever), and they tried. They were so young. Part of me wanted to root for them and part of me thought perhaps 5 unsure teenagers singing to a backing track reeked of exploitation. I am pretty sure the minds behind this group are all old dudes in suits, but hey. We need the next generation of pop star from somewhere. At this juncture I felt a little unsure of what I had gotten myself into and considered slinking out to the parking lot to find something more grown up to do, like apply for a job at HR Block or whatever serious people do at 8:30 at night.

My fears were assuaged the minute Little Mix took the stage. Also singing to pre-recorded tracks, I immediately thought “here we go again,” except the four members of this British group (if you mixed Fifth Harmony and Little Mix together and divided by 2 and added a little more glitter you would get the Spice Girls) look way more seasoned (I don’t mean “old” but yes ok, they were older) and at home on stage. They opened with Salute and I was hooked. It was practiced, the harmonies were tight, and I didn’t feel like I was participating in some TLC show called “So Your Kid Wants To Be A Pop Star.” Little Mix also dipped into cover land, interestingly throwing out another Destiny’s Child cover as well as TLC’s “No Scrubs.” Again, shout out to the 90′s kids.

Demi took the stage to about 5000 screaming teenage girls going nuts which again, I had wondered if I might want to shrivel up and stuff a $40 concert t-shirt in my ears to dull the roar, but…it was actually thrilling. Being in a room full of enthusiasm can really lift a spirit. That and I looked over and my two (apparently of age) seatmates to the left were each drinking a 40 of Michelob and I knew I was going to be ok.

Demi started with one of her radio hits (of course), “Heart Attack” and having a room full of people singing along at the top of their lungs provides a rush for anyone in it. Demi had a full band but actually smaller than I expected – drummer, bassist, keyboardist, guitarist, and two background singers. I think I was expecting Lady Gaga proportions, which this show was not. Which was fine. We heard the hits – “Skyscraper”, “Neon Lights”, and “Give Your Heart a Break”. We heard some album cuts. She told us about her battles with eating disorders-cocaine-alcohol-cutting (good grief bless her) and that we can survive anything. Everything moved seamlessly from one to the next and before I knew it, the show was done.

It felt great to scream in a room full of people. It felt awesome to sing along like I do in the car except be watching it happen live. It felt great to drive to my friends’ house and go to bed. Pop concerts in your 30′s…I think I’ll keep doing it. Next up on the bucket wish list…Ke$ha.

Wide Open Spaces

13 Feb

Thanks to Bob for posting this from his house concert in Pearland, TX last year. I love it when I get to play along to this song!

A1A and Louisiana

11 Feb

Last month I had the fun of joining my friend Elizabeth Butler for her music video shoot outside of New Orleans. I played acoustic guitar on her song A1A (Settin’ Myself Free) and she asked if I would join in. Kira Small (from Nashville) and Solveig Whittle (from Seattle) were also going to be there, and OF COURSE that was a big fat Yes.

Susan (who is now given the title Perpetual Road Buddy) and I landed in Slidell and she took it upon herself to document me getting hair and makeup, which if you know me, you know pretty much only happens when someone is getting married or someone is doing a music video.

“This comes off, right?”

We headed down to the Honey Island Swamp and set up. Filming included running through the song, I don’t know…15 times? Oddly as the shooting progressed I messed up the chords more. Luckily, everyone was lip-syncing and I was chord-syncing so it all sounds glorious anyway!

Also, we learned no trip to Slidell is complete without stopping at La Pines, where Guy Fieri himself descended from the Food Network heavens and declared that it was good. They definitely had the largest onion rings I had ever seen and an excellent muffaletta. Boom.

And here is the final cut! Props to Troy Warren for directing and editing. Many many thanks to Elizabeth for having us along!

Red River Joy

1 Feb

We just got home from the 3rd Annual Texas Red’s Red River Songwriters’ Festival (yes, that is a long title) in Red River, NM. We were lucky to be included on the first go around in 2011, and now in year three it’s a growing festival and one of the best times of the year! Except for the trip through the town of Vaughn, NM (see cool cafe sign photo above) when the whole town had no water and the next bathroom stop was 100 miles away I kid you not. That was hard. The rest was great.

Thanks to Brandy for the photo which I stole.

I played a set during the festival (and rapped) which was super fun, and I also handled the merch table for the big shows at the Motherlode. This kept me busy and I didn’t take a lot of photos this trip…which was actually ok by me. I’ve read that taking photos can take you out of the moment, so I had a good time just watching and listening and not picking a filter.

(I DID immediately go back to instagramming my breakfast like all good geeks do, but it was nice to chill out for a weekend).

I did grab a photo of the the wonderful Brandy Zdan playing her set at the Lost Love. She has a new album of instrumentals coming out on Valentine’s Day. Listen to one here.

Also she made handkerchiefs with her name on them, which we immediately renamed “Zdankerchiefs.” You can make cool merch from anything if you’re creative enough!

Here’s Walt Wilkins and Little Brave soundchecking at the Motherlode.

Tickets aren’t on sale yet for next year (give us some recoup time) but check out and Like us on Facebook (TM) and be ready to click the ticket link when you can…it’s a magical festival and you need to come!

Putting Up Walls

20 Jan

Here’s where I stand on the home decorating front…I like things to look good. I even have a fairly good aesthetic eye. I like clean lines, and I like having things around me that remind me of good times and people. I also like looking at things that inspire me.

However, while I have part of this design gene in me, I lack a few key parts like “ability to execute” and “follow through.” This is where, thankfully, my friend Katie Lessley comes in. She has ability and follow through in spades, and she genuinely LIKES making things look good. Her house looks great, and thankfully she took a field trip to my apartment this weekend. I moved into my current place in November, and the former tenant had left a lot of nails and things in the walls, so I kind of just makeshift decorated by hanging things up on existing nails. I know, but I was busy.

There were also a few light fixtures added by the previous tenant that probably made sense when she lived here but now were just kind of lighting…nothing. Enter Katie.

First she hung some of my art on the big empty wall in the living room. Two of my college roommates painted those. (Note those awesome neon world map pillows…Katie made those, too!)

Then we made a music wall with some of my favorite things all clustered together, and she put up a guitar hanger! This is epic! I can hang my guitar on the wall! (Simple things excite me).

Then she took two Georgia O’Keeffe prints and a print by Bill Binger from Taos which is a painting OF O’Keeffe, and she made a collection and moved an IKEA light from the living room over to this. It kind of looks like a gallery. I am so impressed.

We hung some curtains, puttied some holes, and all around made this apartment much more liveable and “me.” Thank you, K-Le!

Did I mention Katie is a member of The Homeslippers and a fabulous singer-songwriter? Check her out here.


20 Jan

As mentioned in Ask Jana below, Mary Chapin Carpenter has a new album out. I have not missed getting a physical copy of any of her albums, and I don’t plan to stop until they cease making CDs altogether. I stopped by Waterloo Records this week to pick one up.

I’ll admit, I had to think before I shopped. A lot of places don’t sell CDs anymore, and many big box stores only carry the Top 20 or whatever…but Austin is home to one of the best independent record stores in the country so…phew.

It’s a beautiful record. A great way to start the year.