A few years ago, encouraged by a discussion with one of my friends who was also interested, I started attending the
Chili Peppers Songwriting Club “Write Nite” at M89 in Otsego, MI. I was a regular at the venue, between karaoke and the bands that played over the weekend. Write Nite, which I have written about before here and here, although at the same location, was the one night that didn’t feel like being at a bar because the focus was different.
The attraction to Write Nite, for me, is the writing and the people. The people writing and performing the songs share a piece of themselves, sometimes with a deep topic and other times lighter or funnier. Either way, it is a story being told through a medium that is different than a static post like this. The audiences who listen to songs, at Write Nite and beyond, are as diverse and broad as the artists. The more I attended the monthly events, the more I started listening to the words of all songs, including the radio.
I knew at the beginning that I wanted to be able to write songs and happened to mention wanting to “sign a chili pepper.” Really, though, signing a chili pepper (they’re plastic and put in a bin so if the person hits it big they can be sold on Ebay and the group can retire) was a token or trophy that proves “I did it.” and yes, I did do it. Once, so far.
Part of understanding the basics of song writing was working through the process with someone. I was told that I needed an idea before anyone would sit with me. A couple of years ago, I tried, but the idea was not clear enough to go anywhere. The same friend from the group, Charlie Mench, helped me then and more recently when I had a new idea. Do you ever get a line stuck in your head that doesn’t go to anything in particular? That’s what happened to me and that was all I had – the line “I don’t want to be your charity case.”
Once we agreed to work on the idea, Charlie and I met a couple of times at a local coffee shop to work out the lyrics. That line was coming from a personal story. Through questions and a discussion that was quite cathartic, we formed the parts of the story – where did it start, what happened in the middle, and how did it or could it be resolved? I definitely needed the experience of the co-writer to pull this out. I also would say it was written because it was needed, in particular because I needed that resolution, too. Creating a song to write a “hit” in terms of something like “Billboard top 100” was not important for this exercise.
When the lyrics were done, the next part I knew even less about – how to add the music for it. Charlie, as the co-writer and musician, started working on it from what we had discussed and ended up asking to meet again. I don’t play guitar (that’s next, cause I want to be able to accompany my songs), so he had to be the one to put the music together. What I could do, though, was suggest songs that I thought would fit musically. I played a Pop Evil song and also a Pink song and between the two suggestions, guitar chords for the “Charity Case” song were created and recorded to the computer. Plus, I was practicing out loud to the guitar. The purpose of recording to the computer was so I could keep practicing on my own. We did meet up to have one live practice session in person before the September event. It had already been stated that my idea equaled me as the singer. For a place to practice, we used the current Hacker Gals space in Kalamazoo, which is big and empty and perfect for a project such as song practice.
My singing experience happens to be karaoke, at least as far as being in front of an audience. Although I was asked many times if I was nervous, I felt ready. I had practiced. A lot. Probably the best advice during that last session was to take a deep breath before I start to sing so it isn’t just coming from the throat. The singing has to come from deep within to have power, based on what I was told. Well, there was a noticeable improvement after that, in power and volume. I did have to restart after just a few words. Following the restart, though, I was spot on. I had practiced it so much that the words were memorized. Although you cannot see him in the video, you can hear him. If you want to watch, follow this link here (thanks to Dee for recording). The people in the audience were mostly regulars, which made everything feel safe. One of my friends who was new to song write nite also came down cause she was interested in what I had done and what the event was all about. Thanks to everyone who was there that night!
The experience, besides making me want to write more songs, was also a reminder. I struggled with songwriting until someone took the time to sit with me and get me through the process. When I am good at something, the parts seem obvious because I am already familiar with it. For songwriting, I knew there were ideas at the beginning of the process, and songs as a result. What I didn’t know was how it worked in-between. How did that idea become a song?
Now that I have been through the process, I have an interpretation. My interpretation may still be different than others, since I am using what I perceive to be my skills. My interpretation may also not meet the expectations of others because they have a different experience and perception. Whether songwriting, or anything else, how do we remember and work with that? I’ve decided to make sure to “take a deep breath” during that thought, and save this for the next topic. I feel like I go in circles or even backwards. How do we keep teaching others in examples like this, and continue to move forward? What ideas do you have and what has worked for you?
Thanks for reading!
If you happen to be directly connected to me and are reading this through a Facebook post, what is your normal response? Do you “like” or comment on the post, either on Facebook or WordPress? Since my intention is to engage with people on what I write about, I really want to know. Facebook and the other platforms you might find my posts on ARE social media, which, to me, implies a two-way communication. What I find instead, whether for blogs or general posts (and slightly exaggerated), are the creepers, the stalkers and the wishy-washy.
Creepers, as the name implies, tend not to acknowledge any posts. The only reason I can tell that it happens is because every once in a while there will be a reference to something and it usually has to do with what was posted on Facebook. On top of that, the post would have been the single reason the person would have known. Sometimes, this is ok, especially if it was about an event or what is meant to be public. The other side is that if there are opinions, judgments or thoughts that would normally be a verbal discussion, then at least send a message if you don’t want to show the public you are acknowledging the post. Does this sound reasonable? If not, I am curious to know why. I have seen posts on Facebook and messaged the person to start a conversation on the topic and it has worked well.
Stalkers are the opposite of creepers. Stalkers tend to “like” (most) everything they see, whether or not they comment. The part that I find irritating is that someone will take the time to “stalk” my profile in order to keep up with what is in my life, and, again, will NOT take the time to comment or to message me directly and engage. The people I mean in this example are the friends who live nearby or are part of a closer circle of friends. Facebook might have a virtual “wall.” It is still a wall that can be a barrier. My solution in this case is to post less. The major events (personal or part of community activities) will still be out there because that is a way to promote them. For more personal happenings and thoughts, you’ll have to ask me in a direct communication. The other part to that is don’t expect me to give you information when you’re not sharing back. If we aren’t close friends, then anything I contribute as you scroll through your news feeds is probably fine with this solution.
Wishy-washy is the third group, and the most apparent. For the last two years I have hosted a variety of events between a few different organizations. When the event is created or linked on Facebook, many of the responses are “maybe.” Truly, there probably are a variety of reasons that the “maybe” choice is used. I have done it myself to have a reminder. When it comes down to a bottom line, though, using “maybe” is mostly a polite way of saying “no.” If you believe that something better is going to come along or you can go “if…,” then the priority on the event with “maybe” is pretty low. I’d rather have the honest response. Wouldn’t you want honesty, too?
I not only have a consistent amount of the same “maybe” responders on events, most of the people have never shown up, ever. I have even messaged and asked them what would change the answer to “yes.” Trying to accommodate, if possible, hasn’t worked, either. A couple of times recently I created events around a particular person. The first event the person at the last minute “had to work.” I’d believe that 100% except that this person has also been one of the regulars with a “maybe” response.
The second example was an event that had to be coordinated with more people. Still, I set it up based on the requester’s availability. This person ended up scheduling other events that overlapped, did show up late, and then was sorry to have been late cause it was fun. The promise was to be there the entire time for the next “yes.” I’m going to believe that, while I also wonder how many others create these conflicts.
What is the most ironic is that even “yes” doesn’t always mean much. A person responded recently with “yes” to an event and then shortly after invited me to an event that is the same date and time. What is the deal with that? At the moment, I do not have a solution to this group. More, I have a question for everyone, especially now that you have made it to the bottom (yay!) of this post: “Why is it hard to engage with friends and community events?”
By the way, if you communicate well and don’t fit any of this, thank you!
Thanks for reading!
The phrase for the title is not being used because of any disaster. The phrase “Oh, the Humanity!,” was chosen to capture the fact that we are all humans. I know, it may seem obvious. When it comes to people we look to for advice or the people who just seem to “wow” us with their talent, sometimes the humanity aspect is missed or forgotten. For the purposes of this post, I am going to write about mentors. Read the rest of this entry
Like many, whether for day to day life or traveling, I wear a backpack to carry any items I need for the day. Sometimes I am told that the backpack looks too heavy. Other times I wonder if I carry as much figuratively as I do literally, with the backpack representing the burden. Read the rest of this entry
When I have felt blocked or stuck, what has worked for me is to let what is not working, sit, and find something that is fun and stress relieving. In my case, that usually means some combination of writing and/or a picture project. Tonight, I am doing both!
The frames on my wall in my current apartment have been blank, except for one, because I knew I wanted to upgrade my wall art, as mentioned in this post. A couple of weeks ago, I uploaded photos to have them ready for printing. Although I printed more than what I would need for the three frames, I wanted to make sure that I had at least the preferred categories of pictures. The themes I decided to use were:
- Book Club – I facilitated the Kalamazoo Business Book Club (KBBC) for 26 months, and read nearly a book a month for the club. During the second year, I started the Business Book Lady blog, and I also made sure to take more people pictures (eventually) instead of just pictures of the book. The discussions were always great and it really was as fun as it looks in the photos. We also found our final home at an awesome location in Downtown Kalamazoo – The Michigan News Agency. The owner, Dean, was as excited to have us as we were to be there. It was fun to see her and the others once a month (at least) on a Monday night.
- 5k Runs -Running is something that I have slowly been developing during the last several years. It began when I realized that all it took was practice, which I wrote about here. When I enter races, most of the time I know friends who are participating, too. One of my friends, not pictured, came to several of the events to cheer and take pictures, including the picture where the ground looks frosted and I am wearing a pink jacket. It was more challenging for my friend to stay warm while waiting than it was for me running. The Color Run (2014) was meant as a fun event, although some did run as if it were being timed. I went all out and enjoyed the chance to be messy and colorful. The One One Run is a group favorite. Although it is not timed, since it takes place on January 1st (at 1pm), it is much warmer (and faster!) to try to run instead of walk. The picture of me in the crowd was in the local online news! Also, sometimes I see friends I don’t expect, such as at the Kalamazoo Klassic, and the friend finishes the race with me. At the Borgess Run, one of my friends did not want to leave the grounds until we had the chance to meet up. She had participated in the 10k and I was in the 5k run.
- Startup Grind – I had thought about including a frame of startup events and decided since that had an entire book, the wall frame only needed Startup Grind, including the Kalamazoo chapter. The story had changed since creating the “Startup World” album, as far as this topic. I was part of the community until August 2014, when I became a part of the team. It is definitely different to plan and promote an event versus only attending, and I have been lucky enough to experience both sides. The top two pictures and the bottom right corner are all from the same January 2014 event where the night could have been endless. (Yes, the mingling was THAT much fun, besides the fireside chat that night.) The rest are team photographs. The group shot is when I was in California and had the opportunity to visit the Palo Alto headquarters. Since I already had contact with several of the team, it was natural to meet them in person. The day before, I had been able to hike with a mentor I had met through Startup Grind. The other three pictures all have to do with the Kalamazoo team. The Chapter Director is sitting with me and the banner. For a short while there were three of us, and we gathered for a meeting at a coffee shop, which I wrote about here. The picture of me with my bicycle was to celebrate being added to the team, AND be in at least one picture, since as a photographer I was not in any others.
Mostly, the idea is that when I look at the pictures, they make me happy. I might change out the fourth one because it is about my Dad, which makes it a little bit sad. The page had originally been a part of a different display, which I didn’t keep. Since I still wanted to preserve the page and have it out, I fit it to the 12 x 12 frame. The other three, though, are current and make me smile when I look at them and think about the different stories. Working on the pages has made it a productive, fun night, and has definitely been a stress reliever. What is your method to break out of a cycle of being stuck?
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I first heard about the Kalamazoo Gals before the Fretboard Festival last year (2014). The Kalamazoo Gals were a part of the Gibson Guitar Company during World War II, basically covering many of the positions left when the men went to serve in the military. Although the story goes that the Gibson Company denies the information, there is evidence that the Kalamazoo Gals built particular guitars with a gold emblem, “Nothing is as good as a Gibson,” during the years 1942 to 1945.
John Thomas, a “recovering lawyer,” first discovered the story when he came across a photograph taken of a group of women outside the Gibson Guitar Factory. The Gibson Guitar Factory was originally located in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He decided to run ads in the Kalamazoo Gazette and area newspapers stating that he would be in town and was looking to meet anyone who had worked at Gibson or knew anyone who had. John not only received responses, he found some answers and new questions. John decided to write a book, which took him five years, and he is still finding answers and more questions.
The book, “Kalamazoo Gals: A Story of Extraorinary Women & Gibson’s “Banner” Guitars of WWII,” has a companion CD which features Lauren Sheehan playing a different “Banner” guitar on every track. The CD, titled “The Light Still Burns,” is a chance to hear what the guitars sound like. Due to war regulations, the materials used for these guitars were different than previous versions. For example, only 10% of the guitar could have metal and therefore a metal piece that usually went down the middle was changed to a wood version. Here is a link to a video of Lauren performing a cut from the CD titled “So Sweet.”
I do not find this fascinating because I play an instrument or have been into guitars. What I do find interesting is the other point that John mentions in his presentation: no one wants to acknowledge the Kalamazoo Gals and what they did. Even some who he met commented that it was “just a crummy job.” These were women who had already lived through the Great Depression, and were happy to just get by and survive, based on what they told him. The official history, John found, stated that no guitars were being made during wartime because the company was participating in the war time efforts instead. The Kalamazoo Gals, advertisements, and other evidence John has discovered during his journey have pointed otherwise.
The presentation ended with John urging the audience not to leave until they had held and played the guitar. It was a chance to experience what these unacknowledged women had created. Someday, I hope to be able to play one. For today, I did have a chance to hold the Gibson “Banner” guitar and wonder why “Nothing is as good as a Gibson.”
Thanks for reading (and commenting/liking)!
It’s the beginning of a new year, which is usually filled with resolutions and updated goals or intentions. In my case, I normally tend to carry on with anything I am already working towards. The start of 2015 is a little bit different only because I moved, again. I’ve moved just enough to offer what I believe are some important items to consider.
First item to note is that I moved from a full size house to a studio apartment within a house. When you have a full house, you tend to have things like wastebaskets and boxes of tissues in many areas.
If the apartment seems a bit saturated, it definitely is. In fact, some of the waste baskets have become temporary storage units. What is your waste basket to room ratio?
Besides the over saturation, I have some other points to mention:
- It is a great idea to continuously downsize. I started working on that in November, before I knew I was going to move in December. It did help, and I haven’t stopped.
- I was lucky enough to miss any snow (or rain) moving in Michigan in December. You may see just how lucky when you read the next point.
- Unless you are hiring movers, a December move means limited help. Friends who are usually willing to are extra busy with the holiday season, if they are even around. I literally had to work on it day by day, based on what I needed when and who had a schedule to match.
- If you can get help packing, take it! One day, packing seemed large and endless. Having even one friend helping was a big relief.
- Short moves are not as easy as you may think. I once had a move to the house next door. When there was a big group and we could do it like an assembly line, that worked. Items still need to be contained in something to carry across the yard.
- When neighbors have friends who will help, make sure to clearly set any expectations. Is it volunteering? Are you buying a meal? Is there some other exchange? This is especially important if you have not met the friends. It can make a tough day that much more stressful.
- My preference is having one long day to get everything moved. The one advantage to the day at a time, especially with a small space, is that I could reshuffle things each day. I have managed to keep a basic living area clear.
Overall, I am super appreciative of the friends who have helped and cannot state it enough. When the temperature stayed at thirty degrees or above, I was able to ride my bike and carry what I wanted in a backpack.
Other surplus items:
- wall art
I had to be extra choosy about which items to keep and which to get rid of or change. The wall art, especially, I decided I am going to upgrade. Most of the items mentioned in this post I still had in the next house. When I finish, I will update what the walls and shelves look like for my current space.
What are your tips or extra items?
Thanks for reading!
When Sandy and I first decided to check out Chili Pepper Songwrite Nite two years ago, I never imagined that I would make it every single time. As I described in Storytelling in a Song, I was totally hooked. Since that time, I support however I am able to, whether it is sharing a status, going to someone’s show, or recording video to help with a portfolio because I am able to and I like doing it. It has been my pleasure because I love listening to the music from the group and hearing their stories. There’s more than that, though, because I have made friends.
The Chili Pepper show tonight was additional to the normal third Sunday of the month since a “Father” of the group, Marc-Alan Barnette (MAB), came to visit this weekend from Nashville.
Besides providing an educational as well as entertaining show, there were presentations included. One was to Rene, also known as “Uncle Bingo.” Rene connected the seven in the Chili Peppers together, and is constantly doing that with and for musicians and songwriters. Tonight, he was personally thanked by the group with an award that was presented by Dani.
It didn’t stop there, though. Clayton, who was the emcee for most of the night, handed the microphone over to Charlie. This time the award was for someone who was not just a fan, but an actual “friend.” Reread what I wrote at the beginning and it basically is what Charlie was stating…about me. How cool is that?
I don’t do anything because I expect something back. In fact, much of what MAB discussed was that songwriters write to touch lives and the money is a bonus. Expecting more probably means that you are in the wrong business. I support local music and musicians, and this is an awesome group. I totally appreciate and am humbled to receive the award and thank all the Chili Peppers for it. The only thing I am sorry about is that I cannot connect with them more regularly than once a month. Anytime I can, I definitely do.
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I haven’t baked in a really long time. In fact, when I decided that I wanted to try a recipe for gluten-free blueberry muffins that came with a product I bought, it wasn’t something I could do right away. First, I didn’t have many of the ingredients. Once I was able to find the missing pieces (which included going to a natural health food store), I thought I was ready. For some reason, though, I could not find any muffin pans. I’m pretty sure I had them. If they did exist, then they must have been lost during one of my moves, which could go back a few years. Finally, I had all of the ingredients AND a new muffin pan. Whew! Like I said, though, I haven’t baked in awhile.
The last couple of days have been cooler summer weather, and I decided to take advantage of that. My only plan for the Fourth is to relax and do things around the house, whether or not I go anywhere later. Baking muffins seemed like a good place to start.
I discovered more missing items – such as measuring spoons. At least I found my measuring cups! As you might imagine, though, I put too much or too little of some of the ingredients. Also, whether it was the measuring or the mixing or both, I could definitely taste some of the parts that would normally blend in better. Overall, though, if I hadn’t tried, I wouldn’t have known. This is being considered a practice batch, and the next attempt will be that much better after what I have learned!
Experimentation can be fun, as long as there is a chance to learn and not an expectation of perfection. Many times, the tolerance for having a learning curve is low. In those cases, I tend to not want to try in the first place, or feel super frustrated when it doesn’t turn out right. On the other hand, when I can just have fun and note the things to change for next time, there really will be one!
What do you think?
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