Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day 29 of Year 2: The Counting Recommences

Here is a way to make the mundane spectacular: Get up early, sit on your bike seat, and catch the sunrise. So lovely I had to share.

This weekend, my friend commented on my blog. "You're not writing anymore. You're journaling." Agreed. "But," I said, "I figure you can write about the mundane in a way that makes it interesting. At least that's why I'm trying to do... " She shrugged.

OKAY I GET IT. Start writing about something, for goodness sake. Be funny, will you????

And so, I decided to start counting again, and get back to the original reason for this blog: Self-torture. It's Day 29 of Year 2 of Musical Practice, and guess what? This month has not been a good one for practicing. Plenty of gigging. Plenty of CD making. Plenty of CD design discussions and photo shoots. Plenty of research into CD duplication options. Plenty of farm trips and way too much zucchini. And lots of swimming in lakes. I even started a new book. But practice? Feh!

If you'll excuse me now, I must get down to the practice room. We have a CD release to start practicing for.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

There Is No Chatham-by-the-Sea


Last night - much fun! The Lindsays played at the Manchester-by-the-Sea of Cape Cod, which we locals call "Chatham." (We're so cool down here that we don't even have to point out that we're near the ocean. I mean, we're the Cape, for God's sake. Chatham "by the Sea"? Mon Dieu! Tres gauche.)

This time, we were joined by Sean Farias on acoustic upright bass... ooh la la, such a great sound. And the sound of clapping from a big bunch of Chatham vacationers: You can't beat it.

A great night, and we're looking forward to having Sean join us for some gigs in future. Even though Sean is on our upcoming CD, this was actually the first time we'd ever played with him. On the CD, he came in on recommendation of a friend, as a "studio guy," to record his bass tracks on his own, after we'd already done the guitar. Last night, we got to meet him for the second time ever, and then play at the same time. Way more fun.

Irish music + acoustic bass: Sign us up. Whenever possible. Like when he's not already playing jazz, Balkan, or Indian music.

My people, I think we've got a new sound coming your way. Catch Sean with us on August 24 at our annual Church of the Pilgrimage show in Plymouth, Mass.!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Playing for Kids and Starting a Book


Sometimes your own band and your own CD just aren't enough. Sometimes you just have to start a book.

Soul Mama spent last night on the North Shore, playing with children's artists Leeny and Tamara in a gazebo in downtown Manchester-by-the-Sea, a lovely mountain town. Just kidding; the town is not in the mountains. It's actually in rural farmland in the midwest.

The sun set over the white pleasure boats while Leeny and Tamara and their band rocked a large crowd of energetic Little People. I know Leeny from having worked with her at Berklee Press, and she is already a walking standup routine, but to add music? My little girl and her friends love Leeny's two albums, the first with Steve, Leeny and Steve, and the second Sharing the Same Stars. Great music, but to see her live with kids doing her best Phil Donahue meets Seinfeld meets Fozzie Bear (ok, nothing like Fozzie Bear but I can't think of any children's comedians) then singing like Janis Joplin meets Freddie Mercury meets Frank Zappa (she will NOT approve), my friends, we got ourselves a stah heeyah.

Good times.

Meanwhile, Soul Fry was with Daddy taking her first step dance lesson, and as much as I love to play music, I gotta tell ya, it was with great regret that I pulled the packed jeep out of the driveway. It doesn't help when the leaving was preceded by a crying "MommyIdon'twantyoutoleave!!!!" moment.

But when I finally arrived home after a fun gig and dinner courtesy of Leeny and her hubby Nick, I got to see photos of Soul Fry in her dancing leotard. Dad took pics at class, which you may see if you care to visit my new blog, which I am about to start in two minutes: Irish Step Confidential. This blog by the way is the beginning of a new book about the Irish step dancing life in America, due out from University Press of New England in 2012 or so. Mind you, it's due in January and I'm just starting (can we do a group "gulp?") Expect that at some point soon, activity will diminish on this blog and pick up on that one... I'll keep you posted. I haven't been talking about it because I couldn't bear not having started it... but... the blog begins now. (Don't rush; I'm not there yet.)

In the meantime: The Lindsays tonight at the gazebo in Chatham, folking the Cape with Irish music, special guest artist acoustic upright bass player Sean Farias. Free! Bring a lawn chair and bugspray.

Thus concludes today's episode of The Travels of the One-Armed Paper Hanger.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hearkening to the music of what happened.

Maybe it's the fact that I haven't had a cup of coffee since July 5. Maybe it's the distraction with the recent reignition of my old flame, cycling. Maybe it's burnout. Maybe it's summer. But I'm a writer who's feeling neither funny nor motivated. So, what you get instead is a bit of news, again. With a twist.

Perhaps it's the CD. The last three weeks have been consumed with finishing it, as you may have noticed. A couple days a week in the studio, long conversations over the top tube with Design Diva about cover design, and a coupla photo shoots. I guess we're taking this stuff seriously. It's a little like Christmas: We've been waiting all year. It's a fun time, we're excited about what we're about to be putting under your tree and in your stocking... but we'll be happy when it's over. Roll on, metaphorical Dec. 26.

I'm particularly thinking about Soul Fry. She's rolling with it, yes. But her mostly stay-at-home, part-time working mom is a little preoccupied. Yes, I'm am sitting next to her on the couch... but I'm on my laptop writing liner notes while she watches Peep and the Big Wide World. As mothers do, I'm feeling a tinge of guilt.

Remember the days when moms spent the whole day focused on their kids and their homes? Did they really do that, though? Were they sitting down all day playing Go Fish and Monopoly on the living room floor, or were they tossing crayons and construction paper on the kitchen table to keep the kiddies occupied while they put in their curlers and ironed Dad's shirts, all the while obsessing about that suggestively critical comment sister-in-law Alice made about her housekeeping skills at the last family party? I'm banking on the latter.

So, Soul Mama and Papa have got a little something going on. But, on the other hand, how cool is it that Soul Fry got to direct part of last night's photo shoot, carefully placing a winter scarf just-so across Dad's lap while he sat at our basement bar trying to look natural for the camera? We think it's kind of cool. Not cool enough for a scarf, mind you, but we left it in the photo, because, well... it was the music of what happened.

Design Diva, a mom herself, was the photographer, and she made every effort to get Soul Fry involved. Design Diva invited Soul Fry's input on poses. "How do you think Mommy and Daddy look best?"

Soul Fry's reply:

"I think they look best when they have their arms around each other."

The car stops. The driver grasps the wheel and stares straight ahead.

You know... every day we wonder about ourselves as parents because we aren't doing this the regular way. Then, out of the mouth of babes comes a surprise—and a hint that we just might be doing something right.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Do you feel lucky? Well, do yah?

This is the time of year for dual weddings.

Late afternoon, The Lindsays hit the docks for a breezy Kelliher wedding by the sea, right at the dock in Falmouth Harbor. Glowing white yachts cruised back and forth on the cobalt sea, and we played the Butterfly. The bridesmaids wore variations on turquoise and purple, and the bride and groom filled a vase with flowers... tiger lilies, Gerber daisies, carnations, and cala lily. Beautiful, sublime, peaceful.

Then, Soul Mama turned up the volume, and raced off to Yarmouth for a real-deal Irish wedding at the Sons of Erin, filling in on whistle and sax with the band Inchicore. The air conditioning couldn't compete with fifty sweaty bodies dancing to the Wolfetones, but still it didn't dampen the fun being had. The tunes were fast and loud and freaking fun, and I knew it was the real deal at about 11 when a crowd of Irish men started a kickline to "Go On Home British Soldiers." Ireland does occasionally rear its raucous head on Cape Cod, and when it does, there's nothing for it but a Guinness and a good hearty yeeeeeeee-hooooooooooo!

I drove home at 1 a.m.. barely able to keep my eyes open after a very long day, but thinking to myself that this musician life really is sometimes exactly what it's cracked up to be: a hell of a lot of fun, and worth all that unpaid work that we put into it in our practice rooms and rehearsals. I'll gladly spend an hour loading heavy equipment into the back of the Jeep if I know it means that someone is going to have a wedding that they'll remember the rest of their lives.

Gotta say: Yeah, it would have been nice to be home last night, but you know, Dirty Harry, yes, I DO feel lucky. Lucky to have one of those jobs that you do because you love it, and that gives back more in personal fulfillment than money could ever buy.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Come, Sweet Rain, and More Hidden Details of Making a CD.

Maybe it was the pathetic looking brown grass and droopy chrysanthemum leaves, or maybe it was the chance to wear the new rain boots, but man, was it great to have flooding rains break the drought yesterday!

Weather bedamned, we're okay here, because we're almost done with the long-awaited (at least by us) recording that we started back in October. Tuesday, we were at Sounds Interesting again, to work on Steve's last song, "So Do I," then a redo of saxophone on "Ordinary Man" and a re-do of flute on "One Last Cold Kiss"--and several very sad attempts at my harmony vocals.

We have TWO songs left for harmony vocals to record on Friday morning, and we're done. The harmony vocals are painful, because Miss Suzy has written harmonies too high in her range and thus cannot sing them in tune. Talk about facing reality. But still, let's repeat this part: two more songs, and we're done.

Not quite done, of course. As I've mentioned, our engineer Rob promises that at least a week of mixing is ahead, then the CD gets sent to a mastering house. That, too, will take a week and will probably happen the first week of August. Once we get the mastered CD back (sometimes it's called a "glass master" even though it's not on glass anymore), we listen to it to ensure that it's right.

Meanwhile, I go to Songfile.com, the website for Harry Fox, which is a performing rights organization that ensures that all songwriters get paid for their great songs. I go to the site, log in, enter the song name, and Songfile pulls it up out of the thousands and thousands and thousands of copyrighted songs. I click on the song to add it to my cart, then continue on to search for the next. Right now, I have four songs in my cart, so I owe Harry Fox 0.091 cents per song, per unit. That means if we do 1,000 CDs, then I will be sending $91 to each songwriter whose work appears on it. For us, that means that about $364 will be going out to these creative folks, plus there are another three for which we owe money to Wally Page, an Irish songwriter who's not registered with Harry Fox. Where this money is coming FROM is debatable, but that's why we're banking on that moving target: CD sales.

At the same time, I'm writing copy for the cover and trying to put together the big collection of photos I shot in the studio, for the cover design. This gets sent to the designer Megan Harding, and we can expect a week of back-and-forth there, too, to get the design just right, to tweak the copy to fit the space, to get the colors the way we want them...

At the end, all of these things get assembled: the (not)glass master, the design files, and the licensing information, and I send it with a big fat check to DiskMakers. And hopefully, as I've said, we get it in time for August 24. It will be close, and in fact, it may be unlikely. Either way, it's gonna be done. And we hope you like it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Travel Notes from the One-Armed Paperhangers


Seven days ago today, my sangria-stained corporal cataclysm was interrupted with an email from our recording engineer, Rob Pemberton: "Lets check schedules, and get some dates booked. I just found out my schedule is going to get really crazy in three weeks. Mixing will take a week."

Translation: You have two weeks to finish your CD.

In other circumstances, not too bad a thing, except that we still had family in town and I just wanted to spend my sister's last day in town on the beach. We were looking straight into a week that already had four gigs, an airport run, the last week of swimming lessons, a fortieth birthday, and a forty-first birthday on the cards. Just the kind of week that explains why it's taken so long to do the CD in the first place.

Unlike the Rolling Stones, we don't have a steaming hot basement in France to exile to when we want to get creative; we are not rock stars, and so, have to somehow dangle the creative process loosely around very uncreative activities like working our day jobs, swimming at Nana's, doing the dishes, watering the brown grass, rescuing the droopy hydrangea, and grocery shopping. Like most working artists, we have to make the creativity happen, right there, smack dab in the middle of life. No matter how friendly you feel, don't wave to a one-armed paper hanger while he's hanging from the rafters.

What was left on the CD was all the vocals—both Steve's melody and my harmony—and as it turns out, a few re-dos of my parts that didn't sound so good.

It's seven days later, and let me recap because I think I'm proud that I survived.

On Tuesday, after a 6 am bike ride, we spent Plymouth's hottest day on record in the studio. Wednesday, we brought my awesome sis to the airport. On Thursday, we did a half hour set in a rock club in Boston. (Yes, that is correct.) On Friday, we spent another full day in the studio, then did a peaceful little concert beside Sandwich's shimmering Shawme Pond. On Saturday, I did another long ride (see that lovely photo? I love the morning!) then played a family reunion in Manomet for one of the most fun Irish families we've ever had the pleasure to play for--they were up set dancing at the first jig! On Sunday, last night, we celebrated a dear friend's 40th, then headed down to Woods Hole to help celebrate the release of Stanley & Grimm's third CD, Open the Gate. Rob Pemberton recorded their CD, also at Sounds Interesting Studios. Great CD, folks, and a great show!

Where's Soul Fry in all this? Right there with us for some of it, and right next door with her best buddy for the rest of it. She's fine. In fact, she's probably the only one that's fine.

As for us: Well, Soul Papa (née Steve) has done some amazing vocals on our songs. We have only one song left to sing, then I re-do sax and flute on two songs, and a little bit of harmony vocals. All tomorrow, we hope. Then, my friends, we are done recording. It will take Rob about a week to mix it all, then we send it off to get mastered, to get all the tracks at the same relative volume and feel. In the meantime, we'll be acquiring copyright licenses, writing copy and assembling images for the CD cover, and Design Diva Megan Harding will be designing it. We're excited because she's got some VERY good ideas.

Finally, the CD master and the design files get sent to be duplicated at DiskMakers and hopefully ready for our Aug. 24 gig at Church of the Pilgrimage in Plymouth, 8:00.

If it takes a while for us to return your call in the next three weeks, that's why.

Today, we rest, then eat a lot of breakfast meat from Ireland, for dinner. Then cake.

Happy Birthday to Soul Papa! We love you.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Day Whatever: Lindsay Gigs

Family in town so I've not been writing much... Steve and I spent yesterday (the record hottest day in Plymouth ever in history) in the studio in Middleboro... a welcome, cool way to spend a day. Recorded vocals all day, and neither of us could seem to sing in tune. We got it together eventually, but still, it's a little scary... but then again, we celebrated heartily on 4th of July and both of us were hoarse. We'll blame the holiday.

We're planning to finish vocals this week and the CD will be done by July 31, and hopefully hitting the streets soon after. Can't wait to share the music with you.

The next few days: A few shows coming up. Tomorrow, we're playing in an Otpor Records showcase at the Rosebud in Boston. Here's a link to the Facebook event.

Friday, we're at the outdoor stage on Shawme Pond in Sandwich from 6:30 - 8:00. Free and outdoors; bring your bug spray.

Saturday, we're playing for a private party.

Sunday, we're joining Stanley and Grimm for their CD release party in Woods Hole at 8:00 pm. Here's a link to that event.

Monday, we celebrate Steve's birthday!!!!!!!

Tuesday, Soul Fry begins Irish step dancing lessons.

Don't ask about Wednesday. We're picking up our veggies at the farm, and then it's a feast. At home. Phew.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Day 3 of Year 2: It's About Just Doing It.

I am dangerously close to making a photo of my bike handlebars into my Facebook profile picture. See, biking gets you to places like this, early in the morning. God bless Massassoit—he didn't even have to ride three days a week at 6 am for those legs.

Again with the cycling instead of practicing thing. Oh, I'll practice today, right after I finish writing to you to tell you now beautiful it was by the sea this morning. Seriously? When you can go to places like these early in the morning, does it really matter what your "practice" is?

When we played at the Eastham Windmill the other night, our host from the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod was Tyler, who recently finished college with a music degree. He had majored in trumpet performance, but now he doesn't play music any more. Now he's a glass blower. To the raised eyebrows, he said, "It's all good. I'm still getting my creative outlet." I think Tyler knows something we can all learn from: It doesn't matter what you're doing, as long as you're doing it.

It doesn't matter how long you do it, how hard you do it, how often you do it, how fast you do it, or what you're doing it in order to get. The "doing it" part is the goal... the means is the end, the process is the result.

Thanks Tyler for that reminder!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Day 2 of Year 2: Counting and Kvelling

We musicians get into all the best places.

Yesterday, we played at the Plymouth Farmer's Market. It was a lovely, sunny, dry day, in the lower 80s, and our makeshift stage under an EZ-Up tent was at the end of the market, right next to the ocean. A light breeze was blowing, and combined with the hundreds of moving feet in the market, it meant that all of the dust came right to us en route to the ocean, which was directly behind us.

We played for a couple hours, picking jigs, reels, hornpipes and tunes from a set list that our compadre fiddler Denya the Fabulous and I put together a couple of years ago. We'd play a little, chat a little, play some more. Suddenly, Denya turned to me, put her hand over her microphone so it wouldn't pick up her voice, and leaned over. "You know, I was just thinking..." I put my hand over my own mic, too, and leaned in to hear her.

She continued, "I was thinking about how lucky I am. To play such wonderful music with friends, in such a gorgeous spot, next to the ocean... I mean, look at this place!" She gestured behind us, where white sailboats drifted against the steel blue ocean. A half mile away, across the bay and against the horizon, the bright green beach grass and wheat-white sand of Long Beach peninsula shone in the sunlight. Then she gestured across at the stands in the market: farmers, cheese makers, bakers, artisans, chefs. "This is gorgeous!"

While she was kvelling, I had been kvetching. Thinking about all the dust and about how it might affect my lungs. Wondering how the dust would look on my sparkling new (used) Jeep parked right behind us. (I'd only picked it up at the dealer a half hour before the gig.) Thinking about how my fingers hurt a bit from two days in a row of long performances. Wondering if the sound system was adequately projecting our "real" sound, or whether it was tinny... Wondering if anyone was even listening to us, and if they were, did they like it?

What I had forgotten to ask is, "Aren't we fortunate?"

Thank you, Denya, for bringing it all back home. We all need friends like Denya in our lives--not for kvetching but for kvelling.

May I kvell? Denya, we are blessed to know you.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Day 1 of a New Year!

I know Buddha says don't count, but I'm finding it hard. Today is Day 1 of a new year, and I can't help but want to celebrate. You business types know that it's a fiscal year, too, so we artists will take that along for the ride.

A fun gig in Eastham last night, joined by Salil Sachdev on percussion. Today, we're looking forward to another fun one today with the Henhouse Ceili Chicks at the Farmer's Market. It starts out with Helen Kisiel on piano and Denya (the Fabulous) Levine on fiddle. At 4:00, we have a shift change; pianist Helen Kisiel packs up and heads back north, and Mr. Steve comes in to be the fox in the henhouse, foxy fellow that he is.

You know what? I'm not practicing this morning, and know why? Because I'll be playing for four hours this afternoon, and that's a lot for these wee hands. A grand way to start the new year of practice!

Girls, you out there and wanna play tunes? Deb? Peig? Lorna? Jil? Nikki? Michelle? Amy? Angel? Ginny? Sue? Ann? Doreen? Janine? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Come on down!