20th Annual Texas Western Swing Showcase


Here is an article I had the opportunity to write on the 20th Annual Texas Western Swing Showcase that was published this spring in the Belton Journal:

Photo Credit: C.A. Cash at Shot-in-Texas

Photo Caption: Krysten Harris plays live onstage with Bobby Flores

Just a Swingin’ at the 20th Annual Texas Western Swing Showcase

Texas heritage came alive as feet shuffled on the dance floor while performers entertained at the 20th annual Texas Western Swing Showcase at the Bell County Expo Center on Friday, March 3 and Saturday, March 4. Bobby Flores and Judy Rountree co-produced the event for the first time this year. The musical lineup featured Jeff Woolsey & the Dancehall Kings, Bobby Flores & the Yellow Rose Band, Future Stars of Tomorrow Showcase and Coby Carter & 5 Miles West.  

“If we are going to preserve the music, we have to get young people involved,” said Judy Rountree, the Marketing, Promotions and Publicity contact for Bobby Flores and co-organizer of the 20th Annual Texas Western Swing Showcase. “We don’t want to lose it. It’s a part of history. We need to preserve the history of music as well. This music is jazz on cornbread.”

The Future Stars of Tomorrow showcase on Saturday afternoon featured young musicians ranging from age 11 to 30.  They hailed from various locations across the state of Texas. All but one of the young performers in the showcase has attended Bobby Flores’s Annual Summer Music Camp Retreat for traditional country & western swing music held in Eastland, Texas. This camp is connected to his music school, the Bulverde Academy of Music.

“Most of it’s upbeat and it’s just the type of music you wanna dance to,” said Caroline Grace Wiseman, guitar student, performer and singer, 11 years old.

Another future star of tomorrow was Krysten Harris, the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Awards Western Swing Female Artist of the year.  Krysten was also named 2016 Western Music Association Entertainer of the Year, Two time Western Music Association Female Performer of the Year in 2014 and 2015 and the 2015 Western Music Association Western Album of the Year for “Down the Trail.” She currently performs in the United States and abroad.

“I love Western Swing, and it’s a sound not everybody is doing,” said Krysten Harris backstage a few acts before her set.

Photo Credit: C.A. Cash at Shot-in-Texas

Photo Caption:R.J. Smith, fiddler in the Bobby Flores and the
Yellow Rose Band, coaches and mentors Max Ryan Cook before he goes
onstage at the 20th Annual Texas Western Swing Showcase

Vendors included musician merchandise tables and Wildorado Silverworks, a jewelry company based in Amarillo, Texas.

“This whole Western Swing is like a big family,” said Norma Jean Leigh, co-owner of Wilderado Silverworks. “Everybody looks out for everybody.  We all pray for everybody.”

Texas Western Swing is the official music of Texas. Not only did the event showcase the official music of Texas, but attendees frequented the dance floor to partake in Texas dance favorites including the two-step, waltz and more. One highlight of the event included a drawing for a cabin for two on the 8th Annual Bobby Flores’ Western Swing Caribbean Cruise.  Lorenda Baldwin of Angleton, Texas, was the winner for the cruise setting sail on January 13, 2018, for seven days from San Juan, Puerto Rico to five ports in the Virgin Islands on the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

Bobby Flores, a 47 year veteran of the music industry, is a 2002 Grammy Award winning musician.  He is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, producer, arranger, composer and first call session musician.  Bobby has been featured on over four hundred albums, singles and CDs, including performances with numerous, major label artists.  Bobby also composes music for radio and television commercials airing throughout the U.S., Australia and Europe.
To learn more about the Texas Western Swing Showcase as well as performers and upcoming events, feel free to visit www.texaswesternswingshowcase.com.  To learn more about Bobby’s Bulverde Academy of Music and other events, visit the school’s website at www.bulverdeacademyofmusic.com, and visit Bobby’s band site at www.bobbyfloresband.com.

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Poison in the Posies


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I cut myself

Just to bleed you out

I drained the pen

In hopes that I could write you out

It may take

too many years

The only way to find out

Is wading in the fear

 

Why must we gain wisdom

In cruel ways

Stick it to me slowly

Let it drip into my veins

 

Certain days I can see

The dust I was before

When apathy passed around me

and left me crumpled on the floor

Plenty of art

With this fodder

And the sting

You don’t connect the dots

until it calls for you

And you trade in everything

 

Why must we learn the truth

In cruel ways

Stick it to me slowly

Let it drip into my veins

 

At times I just despise you

For what you did

Even though I know I shouldn’t

But still I do

See it, Here lies what’s broken

The truth is that it’s gone

I think I once had confidence

But it has since floated on

 

Why must we gain wisdom

In cruel ways

Stick it to me slowly

Let it drip into my veins

 

You’ll Be-elzebub

while they dance around your fire

Ring around the rosie

But don’t you dare get cozy

There’s poison in the posies

Get thee away from me

The one I thought was love

Who became the phantom

That haunts me from beneath

Mountain meets erosion

Is what I’ve become

You turned away too often

To convince me you’re the one.

~lme

The Release of my EP, Pursuit!


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Album artwork by Casey McBride at TriangleCreativeGroup.com

I present you with my musical baby…. My EP titled Pursuit.  The title came from my feeling that all of us are in pursuit of something whether it be the pursuit of nature, of love, of our dreams and/or spiritual endeavors.  We are all ultimately moving toward something.

Working carefully for six months to create, write and finalize this project makes me feel really thankful to have completed such a task.  I can’t even say it was only a six month project since so much has gone into the creation of this all the way back to my first piano lesson at age 6.  Creativity is a process.  Everything we do builds on the past and the decisions we have made along the way.

My EP Pursuit has recently been released, and I feel like I have learned so much throughout that process.  Putting time, effort and emotion into something really taught me how to give even when it gets difficult.  Throughout it all, I had the most awesome producer, Michael Estok at Vibe Dial Studios.  He knew when to push me and he knew when to let me creatively go alone ahead.  He also knew when I was hangry and needed to take a break for some sustenance ha.

All of that aside, I am so blessed to present you with my debut EP.  Anyone and everyone is welcome to give it a listen at both of the links below.  Feel free to share as well!

www.leahedwards.bandcamp.com

www.soundcloud.com/leahandtheblacklandballad

I am starting to book shows and small tour dates in 2014.  If you know of anyone who might want to host a house show or just have any insight into a great venue in a particular area, feel free to send me an email with information.  Or even just email and say hey, hi and howdy!

leahemusic@gmail.com

I feel so blessed to have encouragement from readers, listeners, friends and family all over the country and great big world.  Thank you all so much for being there and being the supportive shoulders for me to stand on.  I did not create this all on my own.  Thanks to each and every one for the roles you have played in making this happen.

Love to you,

lme

For shoulders beneath the weight of the world


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Photo Courtesy:  Florida memory flickr stream

Heavy the Heart

~a poem

Lone, dark house on a hill

Above darker secrets it sits

Grey and blues meld together

In the haunting. in the quiet still

Sad willow dying outside

Cracking paint

And rain seeping

in my windowsill

 

Lights camera, infraction

Where the pain sets in

I won’t leave you lonely

To find your way again

Hiding from the pressure

Away from it all

I can tell that you’re aching

Like weary king saul

 

Walking like bodies

Dying in spirit and flesh

With so much potential

Exhaling each breath

Resting in my bed

Possibly forever alone

This has never scared me

Perhaps i’ve been turned to stone

 

The devil breaks my body

But he won’t claim my soul

Chewing at my heels

I take the bridge, and pay the toll

He walks around in circles

Lighting fires in an open field

Chanting that I am no good

Whispers love can never heal

 

Dark as the night water rushes in

And small as I know I am

I will take my shoes off

and in the blackland soil, I will stand

as the storm begins to near

My brown eyes will be set

Wrapped in what I know

Against what has not happened yet.

~lme

My musical journey thus far: Why I play music but try to separate myself from the music industry


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Photo Credit: New York Public Library photostream

They tell you good things take time.  I can see the beauty in waiting for the right time in my life.

I began writing songs at the close of my college career in my one-bedroom apartment in east Texas.  I still remember my first open mic, shaking hands and the honest statement before I sat down saying “I am not a professional.”  But I began to write and play and create in a way I never had before.  Shortly after college, I moved to Austin, the live music capitol of the world.  At 23, I wanted a music career.  And at 24 and 25 and 26 and so on.  I wanted to find the person who would help me launch my career.  I wanted to go, move, meet everyone I could.  Someone once told me “I had the fever.”  It was funny, but it was true.  I observed an industry guy at South by Southwest one year with my business card, wanting to drop it into his briefcase at his side, hoping it would be discovered and appreciated later.  But I now wonder whether my fever rested in the actual love of music or the pursuit of fame and fortune.  I confess at times, I really became stary-eyed for the hopes and dreams and pursuit of being something wonderful to the world.  In those early twenties, I had an innate desire to prove myself to a world that I believed did not understand me, family included.

Since that time, I have grown to realize some things about myself and the industry as a whole that have shaped me.  I’m not totally jaded and walking away, but that’s probably because I haven’t gone deep into the recesses of the music industry abyss.  I always thought dancing on the sidelines would hold me back.  And in a way it did.  I was never willing to sacrifice my faith, my dignity, my conviction or my vision for what others were willing to sell it for.  I respected myself, my conviction and my art.  And I wanted my music to sell itself.  And I knew that those who sacrifice more and faster would get farther down that career road faster than myself.  But I still refused to follow the path of least resistance.

Throughout my stint in Austin, I began to meet various musicians, booking managers and mentors in the field.   Flaky musicians, waiting for producers who never showed at coffeeshops and disappointing recording experiences were all the continual existence of my world.  The music industry and its people began to manifest themselves as saturated with addiction and selfishness.  I saw people who had fallen into difficult times.  I also saw good families falling at the feet of the music god while neglecting the spiritual welfare of their children.  My heart hurt when I lost friends or felt rejected.  Most importantly, God began to open my eyes to an existence that began to look empty and fruitless.  But in my heart, I felt pulled by a passion that I could not deny.  I knew I had this gift of writing songs, connecting to people and inspiring others on a daily basis.  I will always remember my continued grappling with my talents while questioning who I was supposed to be in God’s kingdom.  I also remember struggling with why others were living my dreams and the near tears I held back once when leaving a show for wanting it so badly.  In my heart, I longed to be doing what I loved and what I knew I was good at.

Somewhere around 26 or 27, I arrived at a monumental conclusion.  If I was ever to make a career of this music thing, I would not be able to follow the same path the others had followed.  I didn’t feel comfortable playing in certain atmospheres, so I was picky about where my performances occurred.  I was highly selective about band members, because I knew that people you spend copious amounts of time with will undoubtedly affect and change you.  I never wanted a manager who didn’t understand my vision and direction.  I also began to realize that trying to get recognized by a record label might not be my best course of action unless it was an an ideal label that respected its artists.  Rather, I decided to become an independent artist.  I would self-produce an EP and create my own “cabinet” or network of trusted designers, printers, booking people, photographers, artists and videographers.  I would be able to control what I created and the image I would ultimately project into the world.  This would force me to become creative in both revenue generation as well as promotion.  I realized after a conversation with a band manager that I would be viewed as either a pioneer or a purist who was holding onto the way she believed about certain things.  Though challenges were undeniable, I still felt compelled to try.  I had grit, and I knew with some hard work, something could be achieved.

I have often felt that even if I did fail at this, I would still be happier than never having tried.  With a father who started his own business and a grandfather who was a gifted salesman, I felt like it was in my blood to pursue an entrepreneurial path.  Now thinking about business plans for my music, I am challenging myself to see things as truly beneficial or not.  I have both 3-5 year goals as well as short-term goals.  My current goal is to complete my first EP by the end of August and have it mixed, mastered, packaged and ready for all of you by mid-September.  I am blessed to have Michael Estok and Vibe Dial Studios for this.  After the release of the EP, my next goal is to play 4-6 shows in various cities in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia to begin this train down the track.  All aboard.

I want to create something meaningful and relatable.  I believe in my vision of a career of writing, playing and singing music while involving great people along the way.  But I guess the larger theme of what I’d like to do is to change the musician stereotype of self-centeredness.  Throughout my endeavors, I want to incorporate the aspect of service into my character and my business model.  By spreading revenue to positive organizations as well as helping with benefit shows and selecting service venues to play, I believe this will help keep me grounded and give back to communities small and large.  I believe in the need for more musicians to perpetuate a healthy perspective by viewing our gifts as something we’ve been given.   And they are gifts we are forever indebted to share with the world for good.  May we never forget that God bestowed us with gifts to enjoy for ourselves and for others.

So now, here I am at 28.  Five years after I began writing my first songs.  I hope at this point, I have a better head on my shoulders than once was there and a little more savvy in the way things work.  I know I have much to learn and will always be learning.  But here’s to future goals, projects and endeavors.  Let’s all work to have the best attitude and be both thankful and effective with the gifts we’ve been given J

Not Fans but Friends


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Photo Credit:  Library of Congress photostream

So, they tell you if you can procure 1000 true blue fans as a musician that you will be able to make a little living for yourself.  Perhaps it would help to not focus on fans (people who adore you or your music) but rather try to meet and develop real relationships with people who believe in more of a mission than just a face or sound.  There are concepts larger than ourselves and maybe it’s time we focused on that instead of ourselves as musicians.  I haven’t obtained this selfless sense as a musician, but it would be a good goal to stay grounded as we grow as artists.  Though, I’m not exactly sure what my fans turned friends would look like, I do know some characteristics I imagine they would possess and characters they would be.

  1. Genuine-ness- whatever they do, they do it heartily and sincerely.  They try their best to live every day with some purpose and include others in the process.  They don’t pretend to be something they are not and they don’t speak loftily to make themselves sound like more of a big deal than they are.  They accept who they are, what they do and are accepting of their strengths, flaws and those who have helped them get to where they are.  They appreciate art, music, and action of any kind with substance and meaning.
  2. Givers- they believe in the art of contribution, giving back and even in small ways making the world a better place each day.  They know change isn’t easy and sometimes it takes more than one to get something off the ground.
  3. Dreamers- those who are a little different, who people deem as strange or too idealistic.  They know that ultimately others’ opinions are merely just opinions and letting themselves be swayed by them is often unprofitable.
  4. Believers- they believe in things beyond themselves and Someone higher than they.  A spiritual nature is something that is manifest in their everyday life as well as something that touches everything they do, say and think.
  5. Innovators- those who are pioneers and believe in things that have not yet been created.  They ask why not more often than not.  They live in a realm of hopefulness rather than pessimism.

All of that being said, I should like to announce that I am currently in the studio working on my first EP.  My goal for the end of 2013 and all of 2014 is to begin sharing music, stories and a vision larger than myself with others through shows, service and relationships.  I have some great people who are eager to help, so if you’d like to hear the EP once it is out and possibly book a house show, please feel free to drop me a line in the contact form below.

And if you feel like hearing some demos as a pre-cursor to the EP, feel free to visit www.facebook.com/leahemusic

Thanks for being supportive and keep living creatively and thankfully! ~lme

Governed by pleasure


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Photo Courtesy of The Flickr Commons of the Library of Virginia

Humanity loves pleasure.  It is innate in our being.  But at some point along our history as a culture- in America especially- we have become seekers of pleasure.  This is a terrible problem.  We are feverishly running toward something to numb us from pain.  We want to fill our lives and our schedules with things that make US happy.  We constantly think about the fun we will have at this and that or try to fill every evening with some enjoyable activity.  How often to we think “today, how may I serve the world?”  “how might I use a talent I have to bring someone to God or to make the world a better place?”

Pleasure seekers are sadly slaves to their own negative spirits.  They feel a need for something and strive to fill it with busy-ess and parties and people and drinking and gluttony.  They live for the weekend, because nothing good can come from working during the day.  The pleasure seekers push out anything that is uncomfortable or that may cause them to grow and learn in the process.

Letting pleasure drive us will ultimately undo us.  If all we ever do is follow what makes us happy, we will be led down various paths and follow various characters who look interesting at the time.  But with no focus and no direction toward developing a gift or reaching an ultimate goal will only lead us to chase ourselves and desires.

So I challenge you to sit outside yourself and look objectively at your heart.  Do you desire pleasure constantly?  Are you afraid of hurting or experiencing real emotions?  Do you constantly fill yourself with yourself?  Is the whole of your mental capacity existing of thoughts about what you would like to do and how you will get farther in your pursuits?  If it is, then it might be time to seriously evaluate your direction in life.  If you aren’t directed in a spiritual way, the realization that you can’t take it with you may eventually completely unravel you.

~lme

The Best in Show: 5 Concerts that rocked my world


Reminiscing over some of my favorite shows in the past five years, I began to see a pattern in what made me truly connect to them and think of them fondly.  I came to the conclusion that it was summed up in two words- atmosphere and heart.  True, it was the music and the people and the hype and the crowd singing along and moving to the beat, but at the core of it all- an incredible atmosphere and the realization that the artist or band truly loved what they were doing resonated deep within me.  Memories are built on pictures, and pictures come to my mind when I float back to some of my favorite music performances of all times with some of my favorite people of all time.  Below is a list of my top 5 in the last 5 years and why:

 1.  Railroad Revival Tour– This show was hands- down one of the greatest concert experiences of my life so far.  My brother and I had tried to get tickets to see them where I lived in Austin, but it sold out insanely fast.  So, we quickly decided a road trip out to the west Texas town of Marfa would be our destination to see Mumford and Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes.  I could gush, but I’ll save it.  First, my undeniable obsession with vintage trains was met with sheer excitement when I discovered that they would travel by them to each stop on the tour.  As if that wasn’t perfect enough, they performed in Marfa at an airstream trailer Hotel called El Cosmico, where you could stay for the night in any one of the airstreams, Indian Tepees or campsites.  Nothing can compare to bouncing and singing and smiling with my younger brother as our favorite band played an incredible show on the eve of Easter Sunday.  In this West Texas heaven, as a crowd of people moved to the music, an ethereal cloud of dust rose above it all, making the atmosphere completely magical, albeit probably terrible for our lungs.  To top the perfect evening, my brother and I sneaked backstage and met Marcus Mumford, Jade from Edwarde Sharpe and Willy Watson from OCMS.  I’ll never forget it.  I don’t want to, and I’ll tell my kids the story of me and their uncle travelling to see one of our favorite bands and the music that will live on forever in our hearts and on our stereos

2.  The Head and the Heart at Cannery Ballroom in Nashville this spring.  This show was a breath of fresh air for me.  The atmosphere was not so much of the pull as the genuine love of music that seemed to exude from every player onstage.  They just seem to be a group of kids hanging out in the park, dancing to the beat of their own drum and playing with more passion and heart than I see in most bands today.  With Charity (who I might add used to attend church with one of my gal pals back in Seattle) belting it out on Rivers and Roads, the crowd was in awe.  It made me remember why I want to be involved in music.  No matter how old I am or where I may be in life, I will always be a songwriter.  And that means even if the world never hears a single note or word- you are who you are.  It doesn’t make you any less of an artist someone told me just because the world doesn’t know who you are.  Meeting Terry, the keys player outside, was awesome.  And then, several days later, while en route to my then restaurant job in Brentwood, I saw two members of the Head and the Heart crossing the street.  I rolled down my window and said “I love the head and the heart.”  They turned around and smiled thankfully.  I’ll never forget it.

3.  The Belle Brigade–  This brother/sister duo became one of my favorite finds of South by Southwest 2011.  My best friend, Kayla, and I, saw them perform several times.  One was at Cedarstreet, in which I was nearly capped in the jugular by a security man because I wasn’t wearing a wristband for the event.  We also saw them at South by San Jose down on South Congress, where the most raw and natural happenstance occurred.  Something went wrong at the end of their set regarding the power, so Barbara, Ethan and their band came down off the stage and into the small crowd.  Donning guitars and genuine smiles, they did an incredible acapella version of Losers, which is one of my brigade favorites. Oh, and just a little tidbit of interest for you- not only are these two related, they are also fortunately the grandchildren of great composer, John Williams.  The icing on top of this is that Barbara used to drum for Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley.  Words cannot express how much punch mingled with heart the Belle Brigade packs behind their awesome indie/folk/pop sound. Not only did they have a killer performance, the joy and energy they project in a performance is flung off the stage right into your heart.  Kayla and I had met Barbara the day before.  And when she saw us standing near the stage at our 3rd and final experience of them at South by SouthwestKGSR morning broadcast, she did something quite endearing.  She looked at us and made this really hysterical awkward face and started waving.  Kayla turned around, unsure to whom she was directing the wave.  When she realized it was to us, we both waved back, and I threw back my own crazy face for her enjoyment.  She was so real, so genuine, so happy to be herself.  When we talked to her afterward, she put us on the list for their upcoming show back in Austin.  Though we weren’t able to attend, we sent cookies to the venue for them.  We even heard from them on facebook about it.  They love their fans and show it, and who can’t help but love a genuinely appreciative artist.

4.  KGSR morning broadcast during South by Southwest 2010-Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Grace Potter is a female rockstar. End of story.  But when she walked into the lobby of the Four Seasons that morning bright and early in her vintage pink frilly pajama nightgown, I fell madly in musical love.  Her amazing voluminous hair and pipes to boot, combined with Catherine Popper (previously the bassist for Ryan Adams and the Cardinals) and her dapper dudes clad in vintage robes, were picturesque.  This girl strutted her stuff and rocked the crowd surrounding her in this living room setting in the Four Seasons lobby.  Sadly, the next year, they moved this broadcast into one of the event rooms, so it no longer has that same feel.  Should you have the itch to see this rock princess, she (and I) will be at the Ryman Auditorium October 12-13 for a two-night stint.  Be ready to have your world rocked, because you can expect it from the illustrious Miss Potter.

5.  The last one, like a good record, is a repeat.  Mumford and Sons at the Ryman Auditorium with Dawes opening.  Dawes is one of my new favorite bands. Why? Because the lead singer has the gift of being a thought-provoking lyricist as well as writing perfect melodies to match.  Since they only sold 2 tickets max in pre-sale and regular sale, we had to get creative with seating. Being down on the Ryman floor singing Dawes at the top of my lungs with Bradford and rocking our harmonies will not soon be forgotten.  Nothing compares to shows at the Ryman, and any musician is fortunate to play that stage.  If you’ve never seen Mumford, I highly encourage you to take the opportunity.  Their lyrics and anthems are truly larger than life, and they play with a world of heart and enthusiasm.  At one point they played the famous Paul Simon cover, The Boxer, which was completely intoxicating.  That song has graced Jerry Douglas’s new album, because Douglas plays on the tune as well.  Much like Douglas, anything Mumford touches is pure gold.  He is currently the king in my eyes of the folk/Americana music world.

cheers and happy wens-day,

leah marie

Tidbits of thought from the wonderful world of music


I appreciate comments people have made regarding my recent posts on reconciling faith and the creative industries.  So, on this note, I wanted to share the little tidbits of knowledge I have regarding the music business, the pursuit of making music your career and striving for the higher things in life.  Something to consider is the term ROI- return on investment.  What is it truly doing for you in business?

4 points to ponder in this world of music:  

Community art in Chattanooga

1. Open mics are good only if you don’t use them as an end goal.  Should you be willing to try your stuff out on new audiences? Yes, of course.  If you want to work on trying to hone your and calm your nerves in performance, can it be helpful. Yes!  And it can also be great for meeting and gaining prospective contacts, booking people, band members and various talented people in the field with whom you should become acqainted.  But here is where I begin to caution you.  These “shows” should never be used as a landing pad.  They should merely be launching pads to bigger and better things.

It would behoove a musician who “eagerly desires to make music a career path” to not play open mics 3 nights a week (even once a week might be a little too much, do you really write that much “new” material every week to test on new audiences?).    My dad taught me an invaluable lesson this past week.  If you want people to see what you do as having value, then you should be willing to put a price on it.  I agree.  I want people to take art seriously.  For that to occur, I MUST TAKE ART SERIOUSLY, showing that it is a valid and necessary career choice.  And here’s a side tip, maybe we should start telling people “Oh my real job is blah blah blah and I play music on the side.”  Do you want to eventually make music your “real job?”  Then treat it with a little respect.

I recently helped an artist friend get paid for her work designing for a band in town.  Why?  Because I believe very strongly that artists are not just some creative children roaming the streets.  They are people who work desperately hard at what they do and deserve to be treated with respect (if they are fueling the same respect toward others in their industry and communities of course).

2.  Work toward finding creative ways to generate revenue.  I won’t go into a dissertation on how the music industry is a-changin’, and how record labels are going out of business.  We know this, but what are we going to DO with this knowledge?  Clearly you won’t pay your rent  or even pay for upkeep on your instruments if you play 3 nights a week for free, waiting for your “big break!”  Isn’t it ridiculous that we musicians have been taught to think this way.  I myself have thought if I could only meet the right person or get Jack White to notice my music (which will happen because I have a brilliant plan to hatch) or whatnot, then I’d be set.  Something quick and easy is all part of the American Dream baby.  If it’s hard or requires days of creative brainstorming and years of having your nose, mind, blood, sweat and tears to the grindstone, we tend to walk away.  Without sheer determination and innovation, though, we’d be sitting in dark homes without planes and trains and definitely with no blogs to read on laptops.  I encourage you to take heart commit to never. giving. up. (Leah speaks to herself here).

3.  Don’t spend copious amounts of time striving to please specific people in the music industry whether they wear the title of booking agent, venue owner, producer, or musicians who look at you blankly when you share your vision.  If you have to dig a mole out of a hole and practically die in front of someone to attract their attention, maybe the return on that investment won’t be as great as you’d imagined.  Let’s not forget the importance of growing an organic community of tribe.  Do you sit at home and hope for a music career?  No, but neither should you run yourself into the ground trying to prove to others and yourself that you belong in this creative realm.

Sit down, my friend.  Look inside and realize that if you are truly what you profess, then nothing can diminish your role as an artist or whatever in both a small and larger community.  Whether you sing to the trees in the forest or on a stage at Bonnaroo, you are still the same artist.  Don’t let recognition become your destination.  Rather, let it be something you accumulate in the form of blessings along your path.

4.  Be confident in your music, branding and the story of your product.  I truly am speaking to myself on this one.  I listen to so much music that sometimes it’s hard to not compare myself to others.  But I think that it is important to somewhat take a step back, say you can always improve on and hone your talents and then be confident that what you are creating is needed somewhere in the fabric of society.  This isn’t easy, but by creating anything original, you’ll begin to develop your own voice in your corner of the market.  People will then recognize that voice and eventually, people will come to want to hear that voice again and again.

The river flows and on it goes


It is never easy to “go confidently in the direction of your dreams.”  But when you’re given encouragement along the way, it can take any hardship you’ve experienced thus far right out of your mind.  I was definitely on some musical highs the past few days.

This weekend held various blessings for me.  I had the privilege of being part of an old-time jam session at the Old Time Pickin’ Parlor down in Marathon Village.  I love this place.  The store, the vibe, everything just seems so good and enjoyable.  I felt like I can look back someday and possibly say here’s where it began.  I was meeting a banjo player, Brandon, on Saturday at said store.  From videos he had sent, I could tell he was quite talented.  We were able to jam together and with some new-found friends around the coffee table decorated with cigar-box guitars.  I also had invited a fiddler to come out, and he (Travis) joined our party as well.  It was exciting to hear encouraging words and also to be approached by the booking guy from Antique Archeology next door.  Gigs here we come 🙂

On Sunday evening, I met with a talented gal from MTSU who currently co-writes with various people around town, and she herself writes and plays guitar and piano.  Her style could be described in a Delta/ Civil Wars-esque vein.  I think our sounds and styles will work amazingly well together, so here’s to a future of collaboration.  It will be a whole new experience to actually work on harmonies with another gal!

Something I’ve learned in my short time on earth in regards to anything- music, pursuing passion, relationships- is that timing is everything.  Sometimes we’re taught to be patient while sometimes we get a green light blessing.  I’m not the holder of the future, but from where I’m sitting, it looks like some good opportunities are farther down the line.  And for that, I am excited and hopeful.  I also know I’m up against a lot.  The continual questions- how will you make money?  How will you uphold your faith?  How will you not let it eat your soul?  I don’t have specific answers to all this other than surrounding myself with positive influences, wise mentors, people who care about the eternal and making myself keep the right mindset when it comes to success or failure.

I’ll leave you with a picture from the fabulous Band of Heathens show at the Frist friday night.