Monday, October 10, 2016

Babywearing and guitar playing not so simple...

I should re-title this blog "Twice a Month Whinges about Motherhood and Art" because that's pretty much where my head is. Also, my Red Accordion was essentially stolen a few years ago, and my adventures have not involved a passport recently.

I'm going insane that my new album isn't finished yet. My baby won't sleep and more importantly won't nap, ergo I can't work. I'm getting a little sensitive about people who tell me it must be nice not to work because I do work and I want to work more. I've been completely slammed with current gigs, but I've failed to do the important admin stuff of booking NEW gigs. I missed another important deadline this morning, and so as of November 4, I am unemployed.

My grandfather, a professional trumpeter, warned me about being a self-employed musician. He said, "Remember, after every gig, you are unemployed."

It's not been a bother before, but with children, it's just insert-The-Scream-emoji-seven-times.

Okay. Whinge over. Today I attempted to do the babywearing thing, which I am, in general, in favor of (though I don't quite understand how it is a new thing, as it seems like mothers have been strapping babies to themselves for much of history), but it is just kind of HARD when

1) you have to type at a computer
2) you have to play the guitar.
3) you have to sing (his wee ears are RIGHT by my throat!)

All of which are the things I need to do. Maybe when he gets more comfortable with the back carry, this will be easier? I managed a little musical work this morning, but my wrists hurt from playing the guitar at the wrong angle.

In the mean time, I'm thinking about doing Facebook live concerts every day this week with the wee boy strapped on.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Video from Bakersfield on the Ohio

Just a snippet from last month's festival ... sometimes it's fun to sing without playing an instrument and also to pretend that I am an alto.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Babies and The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

I made this Facebook post the other day: The only thing keeping Angus quiet this morning is "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" on repeat, so that's how my morning is going. 

It was good for some laughs and some likes, but what I showed a few houseguests a few days later is that it is true! My boys are not quiet creatures. Most of the time they are happy. The "quiet" of which I speak is not the absence of whines, but the absence of chatter. 

We had some friends over recently, however, and Angus was whining. It wasn't loud or heartbreaking, but it was persistent. It took me about 30 minutes before I pulled out my last resort: Alexa, play 'The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.'

That mournful electric guitar wailed in three quarter time, and Angus closed his mouth, stared pensively out the window and quieted down.
Vasa Museum in Stockholm, Sweden.

Not surprisingly, that song has been in my head for weeks now, as it is my go-to pacifier.

In related news, we are going to Detroit in a few weeks. David has been working in Detroit, and the boys and I are headed up there to make his hotel room less peaceful enjoy room service and see some sights. 

What's going through my head? 
"In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the Maritime Sailors' CathedralThe church bell chimed 'til it rang twenty-nine timesFor each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald."
So my new question is: what do we know about Edmund Fitzgerald tourism? I absolutely want to go to the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral.

Do you think in, like, 400 years they will dig up the remains of the Edmund Fitzgerald (point of information: names of specific ships are italicized)? Will they haul it to shore and build a museum around it like they did in Stockholm at the Vasa Museum?

Cue fun photos from when David and I went to Sweden to see My Morning Jacket five years ago:

Look at us, pre-baby, in Sweden!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Dixie Chicks and the lack of role models.

I got a babysitter last night and went to the Dixie Chicks concert, just like every woman over 35 in this city. And it was SO MUCH FUN! And I am SO TIRED. But my sitter did a magical job of getting both boys to sleep, and I got to hear live music. It was kind of crazy loud, but I had great seats and, wow, do their voices still sound amazing and tight and powerful.

It got me thinking how frustrating it was as a young musician with two X chromosomes to have so few role models. There are plenty of women singers out there, but I grew up watching frontwomen backed by male band members -- even the few famous women artists who were good at playing their own instrument had bands full of men (and even my band is all men! though I can take a solo too... it's hard to take one when you could make Steve Cooley pick one instead).

To get even more specific, there were (and still are) so few women who play more than just average strums on an a guitar. Now, I'm not at all knocking acoustic guitars. I strum one in my own band about half the time. But being able to play leads or even just play above average is surprisingly uncommon in the music industry for women.

(Let's not get caught up in saying things like, but what about Joni Mitchell? Tori Amos? etc etc... Exceptions are not the rule.)

So watching the Dixie Chicks belt out tight harmonies AND play multiple instruments well was just brilliant (as in... Emily actually picks the banjo, not just strums it like a guitar. I mean strumming it like a guitar sounds cool in lots of songs and bands, but any guitar player can memorize a few banjo chords and jump up and down. To pick it properly and in tempo and fast is a challenge!).

I have a lot of young (female) guitar and piano students. I teach them all how to read music and understand chord theory. I've got 8-year-olds who can transpose chord progressions. Like any woman in business, I often explain to them how to be taken seriously by their male co-workers/band members, you need to know your stuff in and out. (How many times has a male band member or sound engineer explained to me how me how my keyboard should be set up? Ugh.) I just wish there were more role models out there for my wee students -- that I could say, "Here are a hundred amazing examples of bluegrass guitar solos, each by a different important female picker."

Anyway, thanks, Dixie Chicks for being not just amazing entertainers, but for being amazing musicians.

Louisville, I'll be emceeing the IrishFest all weekend long. Come say hi! It's at Bellarmine.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

I'm emceeing a festival!

One of my craziest appearances was when I was maybe 4 months postpartum with my firstborn and did my first public appearance in the United States since he'd been born on a LIVE RADIO program, Kentucky Homefront. I remember being mid-song, playing on zero sleep, feeling that wacky no-sleep high, and thinking who thought it was a good idea to give me a microphone bwahahahahahaha? 

I could sing song lyrics without a second thought, but the chit-chat between? The intro? The talking on live radio? I could barely string words together, and I hadn't spoken to another adult in what felt like a century.

Somehow that is happening again! Except it's not a live radio thing. Instead, some silly people have asked me to emcee an entire festival. Hahahah! The joke's on them!

Come out to the Louisville IrishFest this weekend, and watch me emcee and introduce all the bands, run betwixt stages, and talk into a microphone without having had adult conversation in a looooooong time.

It's like watching a trapeze artist without a net. The tension is the art, people! Come watch me do the art.


September 24 @ 11am all day & 25 @ noon until 5p at Bellarmine University. 

PRICES copied from website:

Prices (per day)



Children (ages 6-12)


Children (Under 6)


Seniors (65+)


Discount Coupons

$1.00 discount coupons will be available at the following locations:
  • Molly Malone’s (both Locations)
  • O’Shea’s (all Locations)
  • Flanagans
  • Shenanigans
  • O’Connell’s

Organization Discounts

  • Active Military
    FREE admission with ID Card (Immediate family also free)
  • Louisville Zoo Members
    Receive a $1 off discount by showing your Zoo membership card. (This discount applies to all family members.)
  • College Students & Faculty
    Any University/College Student, Faculty, or Staff gets a $1.00 off (must present school I.D.)
  • Current Bellarmine University Students and Faculty 
    FREE admission with valid identification.
  • Dare to Care
    Bring in a canned goods item to donate to Dare to Care Louisville and receive $1.00 off an admission ticket.  (One can per ticket.)

Friday, September 16, 2016

Happy Birthday, Wee Boy! You are completely amazing.

Four years ago today I had the Wee Boy in a beautiful Birthing Centre in Edinburgh, Scotland, and can I tell you the honest answer to the question? Yes, I absolutely believe it has been four years! I have enjoyed the last two and a half immensely, but wow are those first 18 months tough. I was just writing in my journal about how much I adore Graham, and I decided to share it with the world because, people, he is the best kid.

No, he still doesn't sleep. That has been the thing about him that causes the most stress. If not-sleeping would guarantee that my Newest Boy would be exactly the same as Graham then I would happily never have him sleep through the night. Because Graham is just so good.

Ode to Graham today? Yes. No holds barred, here, either.

I keep most of my parenting triumphs to myself because I feel guilty about them. I have watched friends with similarly-aged children have a year full of "threenager" behavior: tantrums, illogical arguments, huge emotions, mood swings and general hard emotional times. Today I can say that, though this is all completely normal, I have not seen such behavior in Graham. He has thrown a tantrum, but it has never lasted more than 45 seconds. Seriously. It is bizarre, abnormal and completely wonderful.

He's a thousand times more emotionally intelligent than I am -- something I credit more to David's genes than my parenting. Honestly, none of the credit should go to my parenting. I don't do anything or know anything differently than my friends do. I just got crazy lucky with a child who takes deep breaths and talks about his feelings. It blows my mind daily, and I never take it for granted. While I'm in the kitchen throwing a spoon in frustration, Graham will come in and give me a hug and tell me, "I'm so sorry you're feeling sad. Will a snuggle make you feel better?" And I melt, people, I melt. 

People think I solo parent a lot. I'm pretty sure it's Graham doing the parenting.

Anyway ... his year as a 3-year-old has been amazing. He is a master on that scooter. You've seen him racing down the sidewalks in his unicorn helmet, seemingly without a parent (I'm just behind him a few driveways, trying to keep up), but always stopping at long driveways and alleys and streets to wait for me, me never having to remind him.

He goes off the diving boards and swims to the side by himself.

He's a surprisingly good little artist. Lately he's taken to drawing Pokemon (or is it Pokemons?) freehand, and they are really good! Even for a 4-year-old.

He loves working crosswords -- either a kid crossword book or just writing in the letters that my mom tells him to in the newspaper puzzle.

He can even read! Seriously. I mean, it's not David Copperfield (thanks for that visual, Erin), but he can read the BOB books and sounds out words in other books all the time. I've caught him reading to his little brother, and I thought I would explode from warm fuzzies right then and there.

Ugh, I know. I'm so annoying. I'm just so stinkin' proud of that sweet little boy, who always holds the door open for me and who loves so deeply and occasionally actually cries adorable little tears of joy. I am so excited to see what magic age 4 brings.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Secrets of my big NYC audition!

Y'all, I was at a callback for a BROADWAY SHOW! My secret dream has always been to be in musical theatre, but two things:

  1. I was pressured into the orchestra pit my junior year of high school, not because I wasn't talented enough to land a role, but because they supposedly couldn't afford to do the show if they didn't have a free keyboard player to be the orchestra. That was a huge blow to my confidence as an actress, even though I'd had multiple leading roles prior to that. (It did mean I got to play 364 pages of Stephen Sondheim piano parts, however, so that was fun!) 
  2. At NYU the musical theatre people were NUTS. Also, I had no fewer than 10 roommates/suitemates who were theatre majors, and I saw the drama firsthand. Oh, wow, was there drama! (Lyzz, remember that time when B****** made up a date, and we saw her at the movies by herself, and then she came home and told us all about how he bought her popcorn and put his arm around her...)
I've done a lot of work with theatre regionally, but it's been mostly musical -- as in behind-the-scenes, like musical directing the Apprentice Show at Actor's Theatre one year or acting as accordion coach for ATL during the Humana Festival. Or helping them with sound effects, recording accordion or musical saw parts. I took an actual role onstage in Cowgirls about 10 years ago, doing a role that seemed to be written for me: a classical pianist, turned honky-tonker/ accordionist, guitarist, yodeler. It was so much fun, but it was also the same time my first record was blowing up and I took a different performance route.

Anyway, it wasn't completely ridiculous for me to send in a video audition when Adam Brodsky texted me a link that ONCE the Musical was looking for an accordionista. I love that show and love that there is no orchestra pit. The actors play multiple instruments onstage and are like a roving band. It's the perfect combination of all my loves. I threw together a clip and a resume and sent it along. No one looked at it, but it felt good to have accomplished something interesting, new and work-related. I moved on.

A few days later, just before I went to bed, I get an email via my website from a casting agent in New York who is looking for female accordionist singer/actors asking would I be interested in submitting a video audition for ONCE the Musical? And, oh, by the way, it needs to be in tomorrow morning. Apparently no one had seen the other video (still 0 views on Youtube; it's a private link; you can't find it), but I got a babysitter the next morning and read the monologue and played the accordion part and sang 16 bars of a song and played the piano parts. Honestly, I thought the music was easy and was amazed they couldn't find anyone in NYC to do the role.

A few hours after I sent in the video, the casting agency asked me to come to NYC for a callback!

I wasn't 100% sure about going, but David said, "OF COURSE YOU WILL GO." 

The thing is, it was for the National Tour of ONCE the Musical, which opens in, like, 3 weeks in Tulsa, and rehearsals start this week, and I have four million gigs this fall and I am surely the only actor they are considering who has kids, and definitely the only one with a baby young enough that he subsists entirely on breastmilk.

But in acting, you can't tell them things like, "Oh, I have kids." Because no producer wants to deal with the ramifications that an actor-with-kids means. Calling in sick because your kid is sick is a little different when it's a sold-out show.

But I went! 

And man, did I feel like superwoman. 

They asked me at the last minute if I happened to play the cello, which I did play in middle school and again for a Days of the New tour. I can read the music and play the notes, but I hadn't touched one in years. A cello is fretless, so it's not something I can just pick up and be perfectly in tune the whole time. The music didn't look complicated, however. I was completely honest and said I used to play, hadn't in years, but would be happy to give it a try.

You know the rest, about how I flew up BY MYSELF, enjoyed a night in a hotel BY MYSELF, ate several meals BY MYSELF and generally had a merry old time. 
What I left out was the audition!

It was so crazy -- like the movies. Actors lined the hallway in a studio full of various productions rehearsing. NYU students had movement class in one room. MAMMA MIA! was rehearsing in another. Phantom of the Opera had reserved the room we were using right after us. 

Everyone had fancy headshots and some people were clearly trying to psych out others with their vast knowledge and serious experience. I also felt so old and so carefree because they all cared so much about everything. I was just there to have fun. 

Several people went in and came out a few minutes later echoed by a thankyouforyourtimeNEXT! kind of vibe. I was pretty much expecting that to happen for me, the last audition of the morning.

But, friends, they asked me to stay! Even after I played a crazy attempt at the cello, apparently my piano skills and accordion skills were worthy (duh- I'm awesome at those!), and my acting wasn't terrible, even with the Czech accent I was asked to attempt, because they asked if I'd stay for the movement audition. (Also, they were super nice and really easy to talk to, and I kind of wanted to go grab a beer with them after the long week I'd had. But business, you know...)

This part was funny because, though I actually love dancing and am also not terrible at it, I am five months postpartum. I have a lot of pelvic pain from PGP and misaligned hips and so much lower back pain and an incredibly weak core from a touch of diastisis recti (abdominal split). My healing has been so slow, and I can still barely turn over in bed at night. And pretty much the entire routine was core and lower body -- no arms, but not in a Riverdance kind of way, more of a you'llhaveaninstrumentinyourarmswhenyoudothisforreal kind of way. The first move was a deep lunge that caused lower back spasms, and I can't believe I made it through the routine without grimacing or falling over. 

Facetiming with the Wee-est boy.
At one point I sort of just laughed to myself and said, "Oh well, it's been fun. I'll just do the best I can." I probably should have attempted some facial expressions, but I was focused on not crying out in pain because, you know, I couldn't mention the whole five months postpartum thing without basically eliminating myself from the competition. 

Anyway, in the end, there were five of us left -- two men, one woman up for an entirely different role, and one woman up for the same role as I was. So basically: 50/50 shot at a ROLE IN A BROADWAY SHOW!

How crazy is that, y'all?!

They had to send the videos of auditions to the director to make a choice. People, the director is JOHN TIFFANY, currently in London directing THE CURSED CHILD! 

Also ... it's a six month tour, and I would have to bring the kids. They are young and portable, so it's not impossible. And David's company would fly him to a different city to meet us every week because he travels for work weekly anyway. But I'd have to hire a travel nanny. I'd have to buy a car. I'd have to put off finishing my new record and touring my new record. But then, in theory, it would be easier to book tours as a Broadway star than as a singer-songwriter. But oh, how exhausting! And Graham's birthday is this week, and I would miss it ... and I missed his birthday last year because of a work thing in Nashville. And the guilt the guilt!

Anyway, I spent the last several days in limbo wondering what life would present. I would have to say yes if they offered it to me because it would be amazingly fun and what an opportunity! And I would be great in that role -- it was written for someone like me.

They said they'd make offers on Monday, and I hadn't heard anything by Tuesday morning. I sent a quick note asking about travel reimbursement when they replied that the role hadn't been cast yet. Yikes! Back to limbo ...

Ultimately I found out last night that the other woman got the role. She was really nice and I had been angry at myself for rushing out to catch the elevator and my flight before I was able to get her contact info. She had more theater experience, was younger and didn't have kids, and I'm pretty sure was a better dancer (I was too busy trying to remember the steps on not enough sleep and didn't look at the others dancing. I also failed to list a bunch of my own theater experience on my resume because it was so long ago!)  (Producers, if you're reading this because something happened and you're considering casting me, IGNORE all my wondering-if-I-can-pull-it-off: I totally can. Because remember, moms can do it ALL. Your mother would agree.)

 But can I explain to you the sigh of relief that I didn't have to make a difficult choice? 

Moral of the story: I made it to the final two choices of a real actual BROADWAY SHOW when I was five months postpartum and in the worst shape of my life, both physically and mentally. So take that, haters (myself, included!). I am basically superwoman.

Now - let's book that Europe tour full of house concerts and festivals and folk clubs next year. Who's in??

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