The last gig I played (a solo show in-the-round with two other songwriters – Andy Baker and Nicholas James Thomasma) was on March 13th. And even as I headed out on the long drive to South Haven from our home in Chelsea I was questioning whether this was irresponsible and should I just turn around. But damn! I had been looking forward to this evening for a long time. And though many other larger concerts had been cancelled, the organizer made the decision to go ahead with this show. Who am I to say whether it was right or wrong. We had a small attentive audience who took care not to hug or touch but we were definitely not staying 6 feet apart. Within a couple of days, EVERYTHING came to a halt, grocery and big box store shelves were bare where things we take for granted used to be in plenty, the uneasy shoppers were doing their best to smile at each other while hiding the panic, and youthful cashiers seemed unaffected. Two weeks later, the news has been getting steadily worse and now we’ve barely left the house. Rod’s been working from home for a little over a week and other than one quick stop at the store for some groceries (and wine – that’s an essential, right?) we’ve stayed put.
So far, we’ve had 6 gigs cancel through early May. Not a huge number and nothing like our full-time touring artist friends who depend on every gig dollar for food and shelter. Almost immediately, the live streaming concerts from living rooms, kitchens, and even bathrooms by everyone from Joan Baez and Elton John to those who just play music as a part-time hobby started crowding the social media platforms. Some were asking for money for themselves or a charity, others just wanted to share a song or two for free.
Not gonna lie. I still can’t quite figure out how to navigate this new paradigm of performing to a screen without someone booking me to play on their stage. I mean, live streaming has been around for a long while now. Long before coronavirus people were filling gaps in their schedule or sharing a song via Facebook Live. But until now, we haven’t gone there. For some reason, I’m more confident with the experience of performing for live humans on a stage in a venue.
I’ve never been one to spend a lot of time on Facebook or Instagram anyway. I post when I have something to say or share or promote but more often than not, I start typing something that I thought was interesting and then think better of it. Yes, I’m an over-thinker. But the truth is, while I want to be supportive, it brings me down a bit to spend too much time paying attention to what other people are doing. It’s too easy to fall into the dangerous comparing mentality.
But are we not still real artists even if we’re not rushing to “Go Live” from our home? Will people forget about us when all this goes away? It’s not like we had that many gigs in April so we didn’t lose as much as those who are out there trying to make a living. We’re lucky that Rod has a stable day job that will keep our bills paid. So I ask myself if or why we should take up space on the airwaves trying to pull people into OUR living room to listen to our music? We’ve been told our shows bring joy to people and that’s as awesome a thing for any performer to hear. But it’s hard for me to imagine, when there is so much great music being streamed every hour of every day, why someone would want to tune in to watch us.
Nothing’s gonna stop me from playing my guitar, or banjo or working on some new songs. I hope to come out of this sequester with a bit more clarity and purpose. We’ve got another month at least of being told to stay the f&*k home so I imagine this won’t be the last rambling musing from my writing room.
Though our road resembles the surface of the moon and there’s still a chill in the wind, the birds and the bees are waking from their sporadic winter’s nap and flirting with the impending spring offering hope just when we need it most.
Between divisive pundits, politicians and the scary coronavirus monopolizing the airwaves, there’s enough doom and gloom going around to fuel our more fearful natures. In my advancing years, I’ve worked hard to avoid worry about unknowns and less face it, here in our corner of the universe, we’re not directly effected (yet). But there are REAL lock-downs and quarantines around the word so it wouldn’t take much coaxing to succumb to the idea of worse-case scenarios, pack up the instruments and the cat, and hole up in a cabin somewhere off the grid. No denying there are legit worries testing even the strongest among us and even this gal who usually reaches for her inner Pollyanna whenever possible, it’s taking a lot more effort these days.
But we’ve got SO much to be grateful for and having given myself permission to put more energy into the musical part of our life, I’m writing a LOT and enjoying some guilt-free hours plucking away at my banjo. When Rod’s not learning a new fiddle tune or adding viola, guitar, or bass to someone’s album he’s looking through beekeeping catalogs and gearing up to spend time with his “girls”.
Oh and I got a new camera! Gonna be fun to start sharing all these photos once I figure out how =) Here’s a few more for fun!
It’s been 3 months since we last posted any updates here and it’s not like there hasn’t been much to share. 2019 was a great year for so many reasons. We continue to be so grateful for our exceptionally talented band-mates, Jason Dennie and Ozzie Andrews! Both have multiple successful music projects and it’s an honor they make time for us in their busy schedules!
Our new CD “When They Fall” did us proud with the fans, reviewers and Folk Djs whose attention to our album made it the #5 song for the month of September with the #1 most played song “(That Would Do) Some Good”. We stuck around at #12 for October and are still seeing lots of airplay around the country and the globe.
We had some lovely features and a couple really nice interviews, including this one with Jan Hall of Folk Roots Radio. The interview starts at around half way. We were honored to be named one of her favorite albums of 2019!
We also talked to Bev Harris from Brooklands Radio “Mainly Folk” show in the UK. Here’s a link to that show https://www.mixcloud.com/bevharris399/brooklands-radio-mainly-folk-november-2019/.
There were many, many reviews overseas, and we’ve always wanted to tour Europe so we’re laying that groundwork!
I (annie) am taking a break from my graphic design business to focus on the business of making music. Been letting other things get in the way of fully immersing in that about which I am truly passionate so I’m turning off the guilt feedback loop that has kept me from doing this. The minute I put that intention out to the universe, songs and gigs started coming. Not as fast as I would have liked but we’ve booked a lot of first-time venues and festivals so far in 2020 – so things are looking good!!
and if that’s not enough, I’ve been really honored to work with the talented singer/songwriter, Lauren Crane as a mentor and producer for her upcoming album to be released early this year! Wearing this producer hat has been a super fun learning experience! More on that later.
The winter has gone from brown and mild to chilly and white and back again a few times. At this writing we’re digging out of one of the few heavier snowfalls we’ve had. It’s reaking havoc on the dirt road with tire munching craters growing bigger by the hour. Still, it’s February in Michigan and this is nothing unusual, is it… we’ve certainly had it worse.
Last bit of news – we’ll be releasing a new video of “When They Fall” very soon so watch for that and thanks for reading!!
The Folk Alliance Region Midwest – commonly known as “FARM” – is an organization I’ve been involved with for almost 15 years. I spent some time as a board member, continued on as graphic and web designer, and for the duration of it’s three-year term in Michigan I was hired on as conference director. We just finished up year number 2 in Grand Rapids and by all accounts the conference was a success. The number of comments and emails we get from first timers who tell us how they immediately felt part of this amazing community is not surprising.
I’m especially humbled by those who give of their time and energy with no motives beyond just a desire to help and be part of something bigger than themselves. Most of those in attendance have no idea how much work goes into running an event like this. And we like that most don’t notice the few who are racing around putting out fires and fixing things so those who invested their money and time can focus on their reasons for being there in the first place.
There are ample spotlights shining all weekend on official showcase artists, elders sharing wisdom, award recipients and many, many talented folks who were lucky enough to stand out from the crowd. What I always find remarkable is the number of people who may not have stood out in any significant way but still walk away from the conference feeling nourished and energized by the family of musicians and music supporters. Those who come to bask in the magic bursting out all over the place – great conversations, spontaneous jam sessions, a lone singer songwriter playing in the hallway for anyone who will listen.
I won’t lie, the time and focus necessary to make sure that everything is in its place and comes together as it should leaves this conference director pretty well spent and though I’m fortunate to still absorb that nourishment from generous people feeding my soul all weekend, it also comes with the loss of our ability to put our own music into the hearts and ears of those who gather. It’s a choice I made and I don’t regret it.
We’re on the other side of it and though there’s still a bit of wrap up left to take care of, there will be a couple of months of down time where I can take all that inspiration and apply it to my own craft. Finish a few songs that have been patiently waiting for my attention. Learn a new banjo tune, and dare I say let myself start thinking about our next album.