yokogasms

There isn’t any other artist who inspires me in the same way that Yoko Ono does. She creates work in so many different mediums and does so fearlessly, in a way that seems to be free from reaction to how people respond to her work.

I was so thrilled to get to hear her talk about her work Tuesday night at The Paley Center for Media here in NYC. My good friend luke kurtis had an extra ticket so he invited me along. He and I actually met in the 90’s through a Yoko Ono fan group we were both members of. The talk was moderated by Rolling Stone‘s Anthony DeCurtis  and the two chatted casually about Yoko’s full body of work.

IMG_0142

It’s interesting for me seeing her now. I’ve heard her speak before, but this is the first time since I have begun producing my own work. Where before she inspired the question, “how can I start making work?” now I ask, “how can I start making more geniuine work?”

I was thinking last night about my song “Invocation.” How would Yoko handle that vocal improvisation section in the middle?

I have been telling myself I never want to perform that song again. Even when I recorded that part in the studio I felt self-concious. Embarassed. What are people thinking of this? For me this track has a built in conflict. That “hootin’ and hollerin'” section in the middle is. I mean, it just is. It’s part of the song that just showed up with the rest of it. How do I get to a place of performing it as it is supposed to be without getting nervous, or uncomfortable, or…..apologetic about what I am doing? WWYD?

Hearing Yoko talk about her work, and just experiencing her energy in that setting makes me want to reach deeper into letting go of my fear and apology about the type of work I want to create. I feel inspired to move into the direction of the world I want to see, rather than move against the parts of the world I dislike. Indeed, Yoko reminds me that it’s all possible. It is, right?

In summary: Yoko inspires. She’s one of the few on the short list of celebrities I’d love to sit and chat with over tea. Someone set this up for me, wouldja?

 

Tentative Armor Release Recap

 

luke kurtis took this photo during tech at Dixon Place.

luke kurtis took this photo during tech at Dixon Place.

I had a blast at the Tentative Armor Album and Book Release show last Tuesday at Dixon Place. It was amazing. The process of producing the album and book and then coordinating everything for the show was too much. I don’t know if I have ever felt so overwhelmed.  I kept joking with people that I was dealing with it by taking lots of naps. But I wasn’t joking, really. I thought maybe I was depressed, but really.  It was just so much. So many naps. So much panic.

Anyway, I made it. I finished writing the piece I used to open the show with my string players the morning of the show. I also got everything running on my laptop that morning as well. I cut it all so close, but by the time the show was about to start I just dove in and had fun. Thank you all for being there, and thanks to the bevy of people who helped out throughout this whole process.

"When It Will Bloom" photo by Melissa Hsiung

“When It Will Bloom” photo by Melissa Hsiung

I especially want to thank luke kurtis. It was his idea to make the Tentative Armor book (buy it in my online shop, Amazon or iTunes) which inspired me to go ahead with the album. I couldn’t imagine what an album based on my show would be like, considering the various types of music in the show. Having an accompanying book, really pulled the whole idea together. luke’s video installation for the release show brought a particular magic to the show, I don’t think I could have achieved otherwise.

A kickstarter update: I will have download codes for you all soon, those who are entitled to a download of the iBook that is. I am currently waiting for the t-shirts, truth be told, I just ordered them today. I apologized for that delay before, and here it is again. I went over my budget for the project, so this last bit had to wait until I had the cash on hand. I hope you all understand. I hope to send out everyones rewards (books, CDs and t-shirts) in the next couple of weeks.

So, there we go. It’s all made, this first biggest project ever made…by me. It’s so nice to have this under my belt. Thanks to everyone who helped make it possible.

Moving Forward + Pre-Orders Available

Things are really moving along with the release of the Tentative Armor album and book, this is such overwhelming fun! Last week I was totally zombie-fied with everything that needed to happen, but now that things are in action and out of my hands, I am excited!

A big ol' box of Tentative Armor book waiting patiently for 10-14-14

A big ol’ box of Tentative Armor book waiting patiently for 10-14-14

Thanks to luke kurtis‘ diligence, I already have a big box of Tentative Armor books. I uploaded all the mastered tracks to CDBaby, Bandcamp and OasisCD to get all of the digital distribution and physical CD production underway. The mastering took much longer than expected so I am going to be getting the CDs the day before the release. Unfortunately, that means that I’ll have to send books and CDs to Kickstarter backers after the release, but you’ve all got the download now, so hopefully that will tide you over. 🙂 I have learned so much about this process, the places where I should have allowed more time, the places where I should have planned on spending more money in order to have awesome-er people working on this.

Those of you who didn’t back the Kickstarter, you can pre-order the iBook here, and pre-order the book, cd and album download on my Bandcamp page.  Note that pre-ordering the download will give you an immediate download of the track, “When It Will Bloom.”

I have a couple of new pieces I am working on for the release show at  Dixon Place (tickets here!), which I am pretty excited about.  A couple of new stories and maaaaaaybe another piano and string piece if I can get it all together in time.

So, yeah. It is all exciting and sort of unreal that I am suddenly creating all of this stuff and that all of you are cheering me on. Thank you!

New Single Soon

inv smaller

I am so excited about the upcoming release of my next single “Invocation.” It’s the first track from my forthcoming album, Tentative Armor and features a video by luke kurtis.

So many different things went into making this track: experimentation with chopping up breakbeats, channeling ancient spirits through my voice, arranging acoustic strings,  and even a nod to 80’s R&B giants Midnight Star. What’s not to love?

The video will be premiered on The Justin Wayne Show‘s site on Monday August 25th and I’ll be a guest on Justin’s live show that day as well at 3PM EST (you’ll be able to listen here.)

The single will be released at all digital music shops on Tuesday, Aug 26, with a special free alternate version of the track  included for free exclusively from Bandcamp.

As always, thank you for supporting my work! I am really looking forward to sharing this with you!

Invocation Release

Invocation-single-small-FINAL

I’m excited to announce that my new single, “Invocation,” will be released on August 26th! It’s the first track from my forthcoming album,  Tentative Armor. The best description I can come up with for the track is that it is  somewhere between Laurie Anderson and Dead Can Dance.  I think it is pretty unique and I am really excited to share it.  luke kurtis has created a breathtaking video to  accompany the track which will be released the same day.

Looking forward, the album itself will be released on October 14th with a release concert and party at Dixon Place here in NYC.  I’m looking forward to sharing all of this material with you all!

The Secret City – Woodstock

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 10.24.50 AM

One of my very favorite ongoing projects is my role as pianist and choir director for the Obie Award-winning The Secret City.  I always struggle to describe what exactly it is and my friends who attend invariably say, “well, that wasn’t what you described!” To which I reply, “Well, then, how would you describe it?”  Then they say, “oh, yeah. I guess I don’t know.” Then I just stand there looking smug, but not really.

Anyway,  here’s how the Secret City’s website describes it:

The Secret City is an on-going performance gathering for people who believe in the arts. Part ceremony, part salon, part tent revival, each gathering has a different theme and features an ever-changing roster of artists and performers sharing work relating to the theme.

Each event has a visual art component, food offering, live music, guest performances, storytelling, community interaction, silent meditation, The Secret City Singers, special outfits and JOY, which is central to the mission of The Secret City.

This past weekend, we took The Secret City to Woodstock, NY for the first time. I had a hell of a time getting out of the city with my keyboard, choir-mistress Raquel Cion and cellist Leah Coloff. I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say that the plan of renting a car for the three of us and our music gear gave way to three bus tickets and my departure sans keyboard. Artistic Director Chris Wells worked on finding us a keyboard to use for the service while the three of us left the driving to Trailways.

We finally arrived and commenced to rehearsing the choir and band in preparation for the show. A community member, Mina,  brought us a small keyboard that worked just fine to get us through our rehearsal and our local band musicians Brian Macaluso (drums) and Mark Lerner (bass) brought us a keyboard and amp, respectively. We were totally good to go.

Shucking corn at the Wells-Lucy estate

Shucking corn at the Wells-Lucy estate

After rehearsal, we all headed over to Chris and his boyfriend Bobby Lucy‘s house at the Byrdcliffe Artist Colony for food and fellowship. There was a mini city of tents set up in the front yard and the grill was going. I had such a great time chatting with the various artists who make up the roster of performers and volunteers for The Secret City.  My travel induced frustration melted away over grilled corn on the cob and lively chit chat out in the woods. Just lovely.

Secret (tent) City

Secret (tent) City

The service the next day was exceptional. The Woodstock community showed up in droves and a surprising number of Secret City supporters drove up from New York City to attend as well.  After the service, I had lunch with music director Jeremy Bass,  Annie Engman and friends and then caught a ride back to Brooklyn with Annie’s mom.

Though I love to perform and love being around people, I am also a very indoorsy introvert. As such, I tend to avoid events such as this that require exposure to the elements and conversation with people from whom there is no escape.  Alright, that might be a touch of an exaggeration.. Still, I am so happy I had this opportunity to kick myself out of my shell for a couple of days and to connect with some fantastic people. Not to mention the pleasure of helping to bring this organization I am so in love with to a new town.

Leah caught this great photo of me before the service on Sunday.

Leah caught this great photo of me before the service on Sunday.

The next NYC Secret City service will be on September 28th at Dixon Place (another NYC institution I adore), you should make a point to be there. You’re in LA, you say? No problem, there are services there, too. Go. And while you are waiting for the next service, maybe take a peek at the Secret City’s fundraising drive and throw in a dollar or two.

p.s. I took a few more photos of the weekend which you can check out in this flickr album.

 

 

 

Hell yes, Michael. Hell yes.

10496167_10152544109276660_401595917288514095_o

Craig WIlkins made this. Check out his band at once: thewheelworkers.com

I posted it all over the internets, but somehow I always seem to forget this little ol’ blog here. It funded. My kickstarter funded. I couldn’t believe it and it was honestly looking pretty bleak for a while there. This morning I noticed that on June 19th I posted on my Instagram that I had one day left and nearly $2000 left to raise before I met my goal. Not only did I hit the goal, but I surpassed it by $750! Nearly $2700 dollars raised in one day. 181 (or 183 depending on where you look) people contributed and pushed me over the goal. I can’t even…

So what this means to me as an artist is pretty revolutionary. In my life, anyway. In my last three performances of Tentative Armor and in the recording of the “Go.” single it actually cost me money. I pay musicians, recording studios, car services to get my gear to venues. It’s expensive and I just accepted that that was how it was. I really didn’t keep great track of how much I spent for the Dixon Place show, but here’s an estimate.

  • $400.00 Publicity (this includes the pittance I paid John Ong for designing the postcards)
  • $600.00 Musicians
  • $50.00 Van with gear to venue (my brother-in-law kindly payed for my trip home)
  • $40.00 Tickets I comped for industry people I wanted to see the show.
  • $200.00 to my director, Adam Fitzgerald. (Again, a pittance considering the amount of work he put into it.)

That’s a total of $1290 and Dixon Place gave me a stipend of $150* so thats $1140 out of pocket expenses to perform my show the way I wanted it to be.  I should also note that videographer Blake Drummond and I have a kind of barter system going where we do work for each other and just let it balance out. Were it not for my relationship with him, that would have been at least another $300.00 expense. Come to think of it, Adam and I have a similar arrangement, but I felt things were weighing heavily in my favor so I threw a little cash his way.

My motivation for writing this all out like this is to really underscore how important it was to get that Kickstarter funding. This album is going to be my most expensive creative endeavor yet, and the fact that I am going into this  thing knowing that it is not going to cost me anything is huge.  After all is said and done, I will have some product left over – CDs, Books, and T-Shirts – so there is actually the potential for me to actually *gasp* make a profit off of this project.

All of that money talk is well and good but there is a deeper level of support happening here that I want to talk about too: your belief in me as an artist.

I had the idea for doing this show just over a year ago. Truly. For the first reading of it at Judson I was terrified and filled with self-doubt. I literally verbally said “shut-up” to those critical voices in my head on a daily basis. I was trying something brand new for me – performing this collection of stories I had written in my apartment alone. I didn’t really know if the material was good, if I was good at performing it or if anyone gave two shits about what I had to say. Here we are, just over a year later and 181 of you have said “Yes. We believe in you. Here’s some money. Do it.”

I don’t think there is a way to really  express what that means to me, but I think you get the idea.

This past Sunday I spent the entire day in the studio recording piano, vocal, strings and oboe. It was such a relief to be free from worry about what the financial expense was really going to cost me. I also knew that there were at least 181 people who want to hear what I come up with in the studio. I didn’t have to worry that I was going to be spending money I couldn’t afford to be making a piece of art that no one was going to care about. You told me already that you care, and I can’t thank you enough.

I’ll continue to keep everyone posted on the progress here on the blog, and on my YouTube channel with periodic vlogs like the one I posted below. Comment. Share. Ask. Let me hear from you. It really means so much when this is a two way relationship.

Thank you tremendously for your support in whatever way you give it. Thank you.

*That $150 from Dixon Place might seem like a really small amount to pay an artist, so I want to add that they provided me with rehearsal space, publicity via their e-mail blast, the beautiful theater space and a tech director.

Five Tasks of Grief


This is a piece from Tentative Armor called “Five Tasks of Grief.” I’ve performed it a few times and have really fantastic videos from each performance, but it just hasn’t felt right to share this piece out of the context of the show – not to mention the fact that it is such a painful story that deals with the time I spent caring for my mother during the last three weeks before she passed away.

I was taking to some new friends tonight and trying to describe my show, and then thinking later about how I am always timid to say how proud I am of my work. I think this show is really unique and unlike many things out in the world. I guess why I decided it’s finally time to share this piece. People who haven’t seen the show have only my half-assed, self-deprecating description of the show and the fun, easy to digest moments that have shared on these internets.

“Five Tasks of Grief” is hard. I could barely get through this performance of it without losing my shit, and rehearsing it often leads to, well, losing my shit but I think it is important to share it. After I performed it for the first time at Judson Memorial Church last year, a woman I didn’t know came up to me and gave me a massive hug. She told me she was going through a similar experience with her grandmother and feeling so alone. Hearing my story helped her. A number of people have shared with me that the sister song (if you will) to this piece, “Go.” has brought them comfort and support in times of grief.

I had the first part of this piece written for several weeks before I finally shared it with my director Adam Fitzgerald.  I had gotten through the part where I get the call from my brother.  When I told Adam that I wasn’t sure where to go with it, he asked, “Well, what are the five tasks of grief?”

That’s when I realized I had written this piece about a piece of paper whose contents I’d still not been able to give more than a passing glance. Soon after that I had the idea of interspersing the entries from the daily gratitude lists I kept during that time between  the five tasks read by my dear friend Daaimah Mubashshir. The piece was finished soon after that. This is the performance of it from last March, which was the first time I performed it with my spectacular string section.

Of course, I should add here that you can help get this piece and the rest of the show in the hands of more people by pre-ordering the Tentative Armor book and/or album over on my kickstarter page. I believe in this work of mine, as difficult as that is to put in writing.

Thanks for reading all of this, and I welcome your comments about this piece. It really means a great deal to me, and I am happy to be in a place where I am able to share it.