21 Days of Minimalism – Intro

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Last month, inspired by author and blogger Jamie Todd Rubin‘s Going Paperless series, I set myself the goal of  spending 10 minutes a day scanning paperwork into Evernote. My results were less than perfect, I was out of town for a couple of weekends playing for Sandra Bernhard, and then my life got consumed with rehearsing and creating string parts for my performance last week. Still, I made some real progress scanning in a ton of paperwork and sheet music. I got rid of a stack of notes from my guitar teacher that are now easily accessible (and searchable!) in Evernote, and TONS of sheet music now sits out of sight in Dropbox instead of on my shelf.  I made a couple of posts on Google+ about my process.

I am going to continue with 10 minutes a day of paperlessness, but I have decided to give myself another challenge that seems to be in the same spirit — I’ll be following the minimalists 21-Day Journey into Minimalism. I have been a fan of their writing for quite some time, so this feels like a good one for me. I think for some people, my life may appear to be fairly minimalist. I live in a 325 square foot apartment, don’t own a car and I really don’t own that many things. Still, I find myself perpetually distracted from what I feel are my core goals as an artist. If writing and performing are the things that bring me the most joy and fulfillment in my life, it follows that I should make them my primary focus and begin to strip away the things that prevent me from attaining that joy. I think this will help me restructure how I think about my finances and my fitness as well.

I’m aiming to write reflections about each day in the evening before I go to bed, but knowing that the morning is a much more productive time for me, I may switch to writing in the morning about  the previous day. We’ll see! Also, I’m out of town a couple more days this month with Sandra, so I will probably put the challenge on hold for those days and pick up where I left off when I return.

Today’s task is to make a list of musts. I made this list a few weeks ago, but I am going to sit with it today and think about exactly how to word each item.  Here’s where the list stands now:

  • I must spend money wisely
  • I must pray and meditate each day
  • I must exercise three times a week
  • I must improve my diet
  • I must be creative every day
  • I must be of service to others

Tonight or tomorrow morning I’ll start the first of the 21 posts and we’ll see how the list changes.

Anyone care to join me in this challenge? I’d love to have someone to compare notes with!

 

“Go.” Video Shoot

Blake Drummond captures Asher, Don and me at the piano.

Blake Drummond captures Asher, Don and me at the piano. Photo by Derek Nicoletto.

Yesterday, the brilliantly talented Blake Drummond and I shot the video for my song “Go” at Judson Memorial Church. I tweeted yesterday about the amazing warmth and generosity I have found in NYC and shoot is a brilliant example. My friend Derek Nicoletto brought his son Asher to be part of the shoot and one of my piano students, Don Matteson, joined us as well. I never in a million years thought I would find a community of artists and friends as kind and supportive as I have found here in NYC.

There’s still a ton of work to be done on the video so I  hesitate to declare a release date. Inner Tribe members will get to see a rough cut and the video itself ahead of the release date. More information about that here. The song “Go.” is available for download on Bandcamp, iTunes and pretty much all other digital retailers.

While you wait for mine, check out Derek Nicoletto’s latest video:

 

 

 

 

SandyLand Tour Diary #3

Good God, it took me a long time to get this thing out. Last weekend was my last trip with Sandra and Joe for a while and it was the longest trip yet. Woooosh!  Here we go:

Friday:

I met Sandra and Joe at Sandra’s apartment where we hopped into a car and headed to the Airport. The handsome, easy-going and notably good-smelling Ari (if  I recall his name correctly) eased us through Manhattan in a swanky Mercedes of some kind. Sandy was keeping track of Serena Williams’ U.S. Open scores on the way there and cracking us up with her ranting and raving. I have never encountered anyone with the ability to pace like a lunatic whilst sitting in a moving automobile– until now, anyway.

Me, Sandra and Joe giving surly face on the airport shuttle bus.

Me, Sandra and Joe giving surly face on the airport shuttle bus.

Our  flight to Columbia, South Carolina was delayed, but the time in the the airport was actually a hoot. We made a couple of new friends who were waiting too. Ugh. I need to make note of names next time. After about an hour of delay we had a gigglly shuttle bus (?) journey from the gate to the small plane. We had a pretty uneventful flight to SC, easily got our rental car, checked into the super cute Sheraton hotel and ran over to dinner at Rossa Trattoria Italia for a spectacular dinner. The chef created a special vegan dish for me using a bounty of local and organic vegetables. It was really, really exceptional. We were all pretty exhausted from traveling all day, so  we headed back to the hotel and went to bed.

Saturday:

Saturday was a pretty easy day. We had Breakfast at Café Strudel, and were again struck by how friendly everyone was in Columbia. My good friends Chris and Carey were in town to visit Chris’ boyfriend Paul, so I spent most of the day with them while Sandra and Joe checked out the city. We all met back at the hotel, checked out and headed over to the Koger Center for sound check.

Joe is triple fisting the social media over breakfast at Cafe Strudel.

Joe is triple fisting the social media over breakfast at Cafe Strudel.

Because Sandra and Joe needed to be at a meet and greet after the show, my friend Chris stepped up and agreed to run the merch table, which went off perfectly. The show itself was pretty great, the intimate crowd was right on the ball with Sandra’s references.

We wound up loading up the car and heading for Savanna around 10:15 or so. Joe drove like a (cautious and safe) bat out of hell and got us to Savannah right around Midnight.

Carey, Me and Chris before the show at the Koger Center

Carey, Me and Chris before the show at the Koger Center

 

We pulled up to the hotel in Savannah at around 12:15 Sunday morning. The building was actually locked but a kind gentleman sporting a flaccid pizza box shuffled to the door and let us in without comment. We found our way to the front desk and while Joe checked us in, Sandra and I waited by the elevator and enjoyed the parade of drunken residents of the hotel, a good handful of them making glassy-eyed double takes when they recognized Sandra. Joe gave us Sandra’s key and I rode up to her “suite” with her to get her settled. Just as we were getting on the elevator, a woman in a halter top/dress combo and gemini tattoos on her shoulders shuffled out and seemed to recognize Sandra. We proceeded up to Sandra’s room.

The hotel’s signature aroma was more pronounced on Sandra’s floor, and being new to this whole touring thing and not knowing what to expect I decided to reserve comment and follow Sandra’s lead– perhaps a throwback to an old job I had as a waiter in Houston where a manager yelled at me for “acting hot” because it might alert our patrons to the fact that our air conditioning was out and it was over 90 degrees in the restaurant. Sandra kept it simple, an understated, “Oh no, honey. Uh-uh” under her breath as we approached her room.

Even by my decidedly low-standards, Sandra’s particle board and burnt umber burlap themed  suite was disgusting.  The dank smell was more pronounced than ever, prompting Sandra to say, simply, “We can’t stay here, let’s go.”

We headed back downstairs to discover that Joe had already gone up to his room. I tried to call his cell phone while Sandra talked to her new friend, The Woman With The Gemini Tattoos. Now wielding a rather desperate looking turkey wrap, the woman told Sandra how magical it was for her to meet Sandra Bernhard on this, her wedding night, because she and her sister (who was in the room upstairs, presumably kickin’ it with the happy groom) had been through quite a lot in the last year and to get through it, they had relied on watching Roseanne

Honestly, that really was a sweet story, now that I retell it, and I was stunned at how sweet Sandra was in the situation. Things were already feeling disastrous, it being the middle of the night in a strange city with no place to stay. Sandra chatted with the inebriated gemini lady and gave her a hug. I can’t imagine myself being so kind in the same situation.

The management at Club One went out of their way immediately to fix the situation.  The manager literally ran down the street from his post at the club to meet us at the hotel, and the club’s owner met us soon after at the spectacular Andaz hotel. While our arrival in Savannah was less than ideal, those guys really went out of their way to make it right.

Sunday

I woke up pretty early and decided to go out in search of a solid vegan breakfast. I wound up at The Sentient Bean after a walk through downtown Savannah and beautiful Forsyth Park. The Bean was just my kind of place and it was so nice to have a calm breakfast after such a crazy night and couple of days of traveling. The rest of that day stayed pretty calm. Sound check went easily and the afternoon show was my favorite of the shows I’ve been a part of so far. The audience was right on and so was Sandra. Really fun show.

Forsyth Fountain in Savannah, GA

Forsyth Fountain in Savannah, GA

I joined Sandra, Joe and a bunch of friends for a dinner at Cha Bella with Bobby Zarem (who I should have googled before dinner instead of after. Google him now and be amazed). Dinner was fantastic and a whirlwind of amazing conversations. I almost skipped out on dinner, but I am SO thankful I didn’t. It was great. Among the people at dinner were T Cooper whose book, Real Man Adventures I am reading and highly recommend.

Monday

We checked out of the hotel and headed to the airport without incident. We met a really great lady named Joan in the airport. She was so sweet and meeting her touched me in a really tangible way. Her story reminded me of having lost my mom last year, and brought me a sort of sad gratitude for the fact that we are all here on this planet for a short time. It’s so sad to say goodbye to the people we love when we have to, but what a gift that we are here now with the ability to affect and be kind to one another. #blessed. I really mean that one.

Sandra and Joe swinging at Cha Bella.

Sandra and Joe swinging at Cha Bella.

I’m just booked to play one more round of shows with Sandra in Natick, MA on Oct 17 and 18th, so obvs, no more SandyLand diaries until then. Just under two weeks till my solo show, so I’ll commence to freaking out about that now. Get your tickets here if you haven’t already!

 

 

Sandyland Tour Diary #2 (+)

I saw Without You I’m Nothing on the big screen when it was released in 1990. Some of my much-hipper-than-me friends were raving about Sandra Bernhard and how we had to go see it, so I signed up having no idea what to expect. I was around 21 years old and green in so many ways — having spent most of my teenage years in East Texas, so it’s funny that the film informed me culturally in a sort of backward way. For instance, at that time I had never heard much from Nina Simone. So, while I appreciated Sandra’s rendition of “Four Women” in the film, it wasn’t for a couple years when a boyfriend turned me on to Nina Simone and I heard the original “Four Women” and had a tremendous A-HA! moment that sent me right back to the film to reconnect with the cultural references I had missed the first time around.

In a similar way, my life is folding back on itself and I just finished my second road trip and weekend of performing with Sandra some 23 or so years later. I’m so happy that the new reality of Sandra Bernhard as car cohabitant and the person with whom I sit on stage has begun to take the place of Sandra as that famous artist I have been following for most of my adult life. Not that I was particularly star-struck (okay that might be a lie) but it was a little surreal at first and it’s really fun to be in “we’re all humans here” world.

We headed up to Helsinki Hudson Saturday afternoon from Sandra’s apartment with tour manager Joe Hubrich at the wheel. The drive was much easier than the previous weekend’s trip to the North Fork. We got to the club at around 5:15 just in time to do a sound check and have a quick rehearsal to iron out a couple of changes to one of the songs. As a musician I can be a little timid about performing music that isn’t written down note for note and performed the same way every time, so my prep for this gig with Sandra and her willingness to try new things on stage has really opened my eyes to the fact that I can handle myself pretty well in that setting. It’s a little nerve-wracking but also exhilarating to approach the part of a song we changed up just a few hours before and just go with it. I am psyched to be pushed out of my comfort zone and growing as a musician through this.

pre-show soundcheck and rehearsal with Sandra at Helsinki Hudson. Aug 30, 2013

pre-show soundcheck and rehearsal with Sandra at Helsinki Hudson. Aug 30, 2013

The Staff at Helsinki was great. Erica was on hand to make sure we had everything we needed and made us feel perfectly taken care of. Pete ran the sound flawlessly and the space itself was pretty spectacular. I fell immediately in love with the Yamaha baby grand piano. Musty Chiffon warmed up the sold out crowd (which included my sister, brother-in-law, BFF Ken and my Aunt Judie and Uncle Kevin). The show itself was solid and the crowd was really fantastic.  Since I was staying the weekend with my sis and bro-in-law, I said goodbye to Sandra and Joe after the show and proceeded to have a relaxing weekend in Chatham, NY amongst deers and shit like that.

I’m already feeling a bit sadzies about this coming weekend in Columbia, SC and Savanna, GA being my last with Sandra until Oct 17. The timing is perfect however, as it leaves my schedule open for writing and rehearsing new material for my solo show, Tentative Armor which I’m performing again on Sept 28th. (Get your tickets here so I can pay my string players!) I met with my director Adam Fitzgerald last night and I’m officially getting down to business. Writing a couple of new pieces for it and continuing to flesh out the orchestrations. So much to do, but so excited.

Sidenote: Adam’s current show, The Awake, got this absolutely STUNNING review in the New York Times. I was already proud to be working with Adam, but this just pushes it over the edge. The show stars 30 Rock’s Maulik Pancholy and is running for at least one more week. Check it out if there are still tickets available.

Finally, I’m sending out my monthly newsletter in the next couple of days and it will include a free download only available there. Sign up for it here.

Thanks for reading all of this and as always, thank you for supporting my work!

Sandra Bernhard “SandyLand” Tour Diary #1

This past weekend with Sandra Bernhard was fabulous. We traveled up to Mattituck, Long Island for two shows at The Old Mill Inn. Traffic out of the city was pretty intense, so it took us several hours to get up there. We checked into our hotel, which turned out to be a bit of a dump so we checked right back out after Sandra’s daughter and tour manager Joe Hubrich found us a new place to stay.

Sandra, Joe and me backstage at The Old Mill House on the North Fork of Long Island.

I was commenting to Joe after the show that the show itself was surreal feeling in that it felt so normal. I feel at home behind the piano and on stage, possibly more at home than I feel when hanging around and talking to people. So, I’d be doing that enchange of energy thing that you do when performing with another person, and then have a whispering thought (dudethatssandrabernhardyouronstagewithyouknow) and then I’d just go on about my business of enjoying making music. We’d had a quick rehearsal last Wednesday and a long time in the car for me to get over the celebrity thing. Granted, it’s been a short time working with her, but I’ve found her so far to be so gracious, laid back and perfectly lovely to work with.

Joe shopping at Garden of Eve.

Joe shopping at Garden of Eve.

After the show on Friday night, an audience member offered to let us hang out in his house the next day as he would be out of town. We stopped at Garden of Eve Farm to get some lunch on the way over to his house which was a super cute old farm house, “rustic but chic” was his perfect description. It was so nice spending the day there. So quiet and calm. We headed out for dinner at Noah’s in Greenport, then to the second show at the Old Mill Inn.

IMG_0720After the show, and Sandra’s mix and mingle at the merch table we hopped into the car and flew back to NYC in record time thanks to Joe’s skills. And, BOOM, first weekend done. I’m so looking forward to next Saturday at Helsinki in Hudson.

Of course, having that first weekend under my belt, and this week mostly off from teaching gives me a ton of time to get up to speed with the changes I want to make on my show before I remount it at Judson on September 28th. (Tickets here, by the by). I’d like to have all of my new string parts written by the end of the week, and and and… I actually have a bunch of work I want to get done. It’ll be worth it though. So excited about doing this show again!

Come see me in Hudson with Sandra, and then buy tickets for my solo show in September. Do it!

boldness and magic

I was talking to a couple of friends yesterday about how much openness there seems to be with creativity right now. Two separate conversations, actually, but both with the conclusion of “why didn’t we realize sooner that we can do whatever we want?”

I really do have a sense of openness and infinite possibility about creative work right now, and it seems to be the direct result of taking super scary actions. Something about writing my show and putting it up for an audience. “Doing” instead of “trying” has some kind of magic in it. This Goethe quote has been in my mind a bunch lately:

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

What action will you take today?

Speaking of action, as soon as I finish my gigs with Sandra Bernhard I will be presenting an expanded performance of my show Tentative Armor at beautiful Judson Church on September 28th.  I am right on the cusp of having a date and venue for a full-blown, fully produced (final?) version of the show in Spring 2014, but none of that is concrete enough to mention yet. Maybe a mini tour the following Summer and then. Who knows?

I’ll be appearing live on The Justin Wayne Show at 3PM Eastern today, please check that out and let me know you are listening!