This blog has changed my life in ways I could have never predicted. I’ve heard from friends I haven’t spoken to in over thirty years. One was a woman who held a very special place in my heart, let’s call her Dr. W, who I had told a friend only a few weeks ago that she was the one person from my past I would love to see again. Less than a week after I said that to him I got an email from her because she had read my blog. We have been in regular communication since and she informed me she has a daughter who sings. Once her daughter builds up the courage to send me a recording, I’ll get to hear how she sounds. I look forward to it.
It’s been a little over two weeks since I moved to Nashville and I’ve been adjusting to the new world I am creating for myself. I started by attending a New Moon Ceremony on July 12th. It was interesting and something I found when looking for a yoga instructor. I just showed up for the ceremony knowing absolutely no one there. I made a couple of interesting connections and confirmed why I had always found the moon a connection to the Universe for me. As I have said many times to friends and family, the number one rule in business and life is… show up.
I have had a long fascination with the moon and wrote about it extensively in my first novel Just Be, which is out as an Audiobook . In one part of the book I wrote:
He turned her back around so they faced the outside world and pointed to the quarter moon that shined from high above. He told her that Emmylou Harris was a singer that had one of the most beautiful, pure voices in all of music. Emmylou had traveled a very unique road in her career that some said carried the torch of cosmic American music passed down to her by her mentor, Gram Parsons. That road included a lot of eclectic songs, Americana songs, and some of the most beautiful country songs ever recorded that included “If I Needed You” and “I Will Dream”. She had an album titled “Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town”, which was a line from the first song “Easy from Now On” on that album. The lyrics to the song, the haunting vocals of Emmylou, and the beauty of the painting on the album cover, had always touched him deeply. In fact, every time he looked at a quarter moon he would think of it and say, “Quarter moon in a ten cent town.” out loud. Most people had no idea what the phrase meant and why the hell he said it. He rarely explained why.
I’ve included that here because I read about Rodney Crowell’s new album Acoustic Classics being released on Friday, July 13th and that made me think of Guy and Susanna Clark, with whom I had a several year relationship with through the management company I co-owned that managed both of them. Susanna was a co-writer of the song I mentioned in my book, Easy From Now On and her painting was the cover for Emmylou Harris’ Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town album. Rodney was a close friend of Guy and Susanna and produced one of Guy’s albums when we managed Guy. He’s an amazing songwriter and a true artist in every sense of the word, which you can find more about Rodney here.
Among his many Americana Music Honors and Awards he received the Lifetime Achievement Award in Songwriting in 2006. The new album is one you should listen to and includes Making Memories of Us, which is one of the most beautiful songs you will ever hear and Keith Urban’s version is as moving as a song can get. Waylon Jennings recorded Ain’t Living Long Like This and I included it on the tribute albums I did to Waylon and had Justin Moore record it. Justin is a unique talent and I will write about him in the near future. I remember when we recorded Justin and his band he told me it was the first time his touring band had recorded in the studio. I thought they were great and here’s that recording
I’m rambling again. My week continued with a meeting with Donna Britt in Nashville. After almost ten years, it was great to see her face-to-face again. We had a business lunch to discuss the future of this blog and it becoming a Podcast. She mentioned at lunch how she enjoyed the fact that my writing style was just that… rambling. Glad someone likes it because it is what it is. They say to write how you talk, so that’s what I do… not sure who “they” are, but I’ll take their advise.
One of the goals has always been to include others and allow them to write about their current state of mind toward music or whatever the hell else they choose. That goal will carry over to the Podcast and my focus to find a female co-host. I want to give a loud voice to the women of Americana and Country Music. Besides, having an old bastard like me and a current female artist together should make for an interesting combination… like whiskey with honey. Although, depending on the guest, some weeks I’ll be the honey and others I’ll be the whiskey.
Today’s blog is the first in what will be many more to include a guest blogger. I eagerly welcome Hannah Blaylock who was the lead singer of a band called Edens Edge from 2006-2013. Hannah released a solo project titled Bandit Queen. Please enjoy the video for the single, Bandit Queen and find out more about Hannah and her music, as well as, connect to all her social media sites through her website.
In last week’s blog I wrote about how I met Hannah and she graciously agreed to participate in this blog. First, she answered the Five With Fries questions:
1. Who influenced you the most to pursue a career in music? My parents and my grandfather both recognized my desire and gifts for performing and cultivated it from a young age. I would put on endless shows in the living room for my grandfather, singing and dancing anything I could think of or make up, and he wouldn’t miss a beat. He was so present with me always. He still to this day, is one of the most cherished relationships I’ve ever had in this life. My parents met at a music party in college. They played music with each other and then with us growing up. The three of us and a family friend and songwriter, Steve Smith, made a little band when I was in the 9th grade and eventually helped my move to Nashville. My parents made the band for fun but it was mainly to support my passion for performing and singing. Every weekend we traveled all around the state and surrounding states playing shows. I still can’t believe they put all that time and energy into it and still built careers and a life for themselves. I am so grateful to my family.
2. What is your favorite song you have written or wish you had written? Wish I had written is “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin. I think its literally unbeatable. My favorite song I’ve written is the one I’ll write tomorrow.
3. What or who was the biggest obstacle in your career? An artist’s content obstacle is being genuine to themselves and inspirationally creating regardless of the pressures of the business. I am no different :).
4. Do you still or did you ever have doubts? Thankfully every single day like anybody- the best thing an artists could do is tap into their ever flowing human nature. If we don’t experience life we can’t create art that people can connect with. I try to remind myself of that when I’m uncomfortable in the process.
5. What is your favorite comfort food, or beverage… or both? Red wine and dark chocolate flourless torte! YUM!
I welcome Hannah Blaylock in her words:
OK! Here we go!
Art to me is like an endless sandy beach; and for the artists who roam it, there’s room enough for everyone to walk around and make marks, mold, build, shape and display what they create with the sand… none of it wrong, none of it right. Then what is made is to be shared, affected by and be a part of the elements around it, such as the ocean waves, or a footprint, or a drawing from the person next to you, or a crab sifting for minerals to eat. The sandy endless floor is ever changing for infinite creation, and for this I am thankful, for that is the beauty and freedom of art.
I have also found that it is true what they say… the music business is a flawed concept. Business and art don’t go together. Business is structure and art is free flowing. They are opposing forces like two positive magnets being pushed towards each other. The business’s desire is to take the creations the artists have made and try to solidify it like concrete. It will throw water on a castle because it has decided it wants to pack it down and make it more solid. It will stand around a structure guarding it with all its might, or draw lines in the sand not meant to be crossed in efforts to leave the creation unaffected by the inevitable ever changing movement around it.
For a time, this can make the business and artist a lot of money and what we call success, making a career for the business and artist possible. The business claims to all around that the art’s special characteristics are more valuable than the others so the world should cash in to see it. All the while, the art created (AKA music in this case), enjoys the experience of being made into a castle just as much as it enjoys it being torn down. The nature of this world does not follow the law of permanence and so, despite all the business’s efforts, eventually the art is changed and affected one way or another and is made into something different.
The beauty and heartbreak in this experience of the rise and fall is why we are all here. Because of this dynamic between business, art and artist, I find very often that artists (including myself) become influenced by the business’s desire for structure and want it for themselves; forgetting the value in the nature of their ever changing world. So they draw lines in the sand and mark off territories for their art. Because making rules and creating boundaries feels safe and/or gives some sort of guide to help them on a guideless journey.
I actually very often see that the feeling of safety it brings can allow artists to create from a purely inspired and fearless place. Which is when, I believe, we are who we are created to be. So, in that sense it can be very helpful, but this not as good as it gets. Eventually the art will become limited by the lines around it and again change shows up. On the flip side, I see these claimed lines slow down the artistic process as well. The business and artists alike will stand by their lines and claim their reasoning for them.
The big one that’s been going around in Nashville for the past 5+ years is, “solo female artists don’t work in country music”. But really the comments are endless:
– “labels are only signing 18 year olds”
– “audiences aren’t smart enough for your songs”
– “this song is or isn’t a hit”
– “pop country is the only thing that’s making money”
– “no one is cutting whiskey songs anymore”
– “you can’t be successful making country music without a record deal or country radio behind you”
– “singer/songwriter artists are a thing of the past”
and countless more, one conflicting the comment before it. And none of these lines are wrong… but none of these lines are right either.
The comments are merely an expression of folks finding their own way through the conflicting territories of the world that is art vs business. And what can slow us down or get some of us stuck in this process is when someone expects his or her lines to be a boundary for someone else. Or when you believe someone else’s line for yourself. This can be especially challenging for an artist when a line doesn’t fit a factual part of who the artist is; like being a female with children, being gay, having a certain body type or size, having skin that’s too dark or being from the wrong state.
All of the sudden a dented line made in shapeable ground that can shift with the wind is given the power to stunt our creativity, maybe for an hour or a lifetime, because “so and so” made that line and he or she has been doing this for 25 years or has all the money or decision making power in this town or yada, yada, yada…. Oh the art we could all make and the power it would have if we all just created regardless of lines.
I feel the pressure to be boxed in by the comments/lines around me all the time. Some of them I fit into and some of them I don’t. I’ve also boxed myself in, making countless lines in the sand for myself that eventually get in my way. I recently removed a line I had for years that I swore I would never cross because not only did I recognize it was a fear driven creation, but I watched so many others just pass right through it bravely and continue to create. And I thought, why couldn’t I do that?
Thus, I say all of this to share my current goal I’ve set for myself in my life and art. I want to, as much as I can, be rid of my need for preservation and fearlessly create and share my gifts. Connecting with the world knowing lines are a temporary false sense of safety; the boundaries are endless and there are no limits. When I am my true self, to myself, my heart says to me:
“Just make art
Build your life where you can pay your bills and mold the personal life you want (regardless of it or because of it) so you don’t resent it.
And then let it bring you what you’ve asked for.”
In desiring all this for myself, I also send out this hope for every person on this earth. And then, my heart is full… Hannah Blaylock
Here’s Donna Britt’s recipe for Molten Chocolate Mini Cakes:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter muffin tin (6-8 cups) then sprinkle each cup with sugar.
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Heat chocolate and butter together in microwave-safe bowl in microwave until melted, stirring often.
Sift in: 1/4-cup cocoa
Stir until smooth.
In a separate medium bowl beat 4 large egg whites and 1/8-teaspoon cream of tartar until soft peaks form. With mixer on high speed, gradually add 2 Tablespoons sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form.
Using a rubber spatula gently fold egg whites into the chocolate mixture 1/4 at a time. Full muffin cups about 3/4 full.
Bake at 400 for 7-8 minutes until the little cakes are cracked on top but still gooey in center. Let sit for a few minutes before turning out of pan.
Makes 6-8 cakes.
Really yummy served warm with freshly whipped cream and fresh raspberries. I like to make these little mini cakes instead of one big flourless chocolate cake because they are so cute the way they cave in the middle with molten chocolate. They feel very fancy even though they are super easy to make. – Donna