Photo: Pierre Baudet
There are some really great gigs coming up. I'm so looking forward to getting back out there and spreading the songs. It's like planting for spring. Always helps nurture new ideas for next records....
For those of you in the city who didn't get to the Rubin Museum gig last time, don't miss it. I have to say it was one of the most profound evenings I've experienced. To be that exposed is daunting (no amplification at all guitar, voice, people) But to mold a set to relate to the art and exhibits going on at the museum forced me, in the best way, to SEE my songs differently, to speak about them differently, to approach the set in an absolutely new way. This was precious and mind-boggling, hard to explain. I made connections with very intricate pathways in my own writing, saw things I had never seen in my own work.
It's on April 15th. You'll feel soooo good, because you'll have finished your taxes too!
For those of you out and about the east coast-ish and Colorado, lots of yummy gigs coming at you too.
Given the immediacy of EVERYTHING, given the relentless assault of facebook updates, twitter idiocies, CNN's urgent cycling of news, the idea of devoting yourself to going to see live music seems that much more powerful to me. It takes slowing down, committing, being present. Opening and staying. As ever, I'm touched and thrilled when I step on stage and there's a juicy, willing audience ready to GO.
Live music is precious, and most importantly, it's one of the only things in my world that is not replacable!! If you're there in the room, you're THERE.
Which leads me to one little thing that I have needed to say for a while....My heart always sinks when I see those little red lights all around these halls. People hide their little recording gismos under coats and scarves, some brazenly videotape right under my nose, paying more attention to their level metres than the SHOW RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM. In case anyone hasn't heard my opinions on bootlegging, you-tubing etc. here they are. Sorry, but this is how I really FEEL:
I hate it.
I hate feeling like I'm performing for a little camera/phone/doohicky. That this performance is then, like it or not, no matter how I MIGHT HAVE FELT, out in the world.
The joy for me is the rapport with the audience, not some tiny hidden mic. It throws me off, it pisses me off, I start obsessing about every note, which ones I might have sung better. Which chords I might have missed. It sucks.
I always wonder why it's not enough for people just to be there NOW.
There is so little that we control. Yes, existentially, but especially as musicians now that making a living is that much more complicated. As I have said a gazillion times, sadly, the cat's out of the bag, and she won't go back in. But I'm just hoping that LIVE will keep its cool. That there will always be that cache to having been in the ROOM.
So, I can't wait to sing. I can't wait to play. I hope you're all ready to be THERE!!!
Chin up, it's almost spring came out of a very deep conversation with my friend Ronnie about the cruelty of the fact that just when you start to get your own head figured out, your body starts to go haywire. She does push-ups and sit-ups every morning and night to stave off the inevitable. I go to yoga, Physical Therapy, acupuncture, just to keep ahead of all the old dance injuries. Anyway, I digress.
"Can you do chin ups too?" I ask.
Ronnie, doing chin-ups
"Yeah, like this," and she says, "ask me how I'm doing?"
"How're you doing, Ron?"
The response is quintessential Boston. She jerks her chin up, it's like a secret handshake.
"That's a chin-up Jo, yeah, I do chin-ups! I could do them all day long."
Then there's the other deep question we were pondering. Gadget hell. I was trying to update my i-pod before I left for LA. I did it the way I've always done it before, little white cable, connects to the little firewire doohicky on the back of my computer. I had loaded in a bunch of CDs that I really needed to listen to on the plane. Suddenly, like a bad dream, I'm stupid, I have the wrong cable (wrong blue suede clogs) the i-pod won't talk to the computer. I'm not gonna make it... There I was thinking how much I'd get done en route. NO GO. (this is another reason I knit.)
Then there's the million other correllary problems. You have to have power chargers for every gismo. And every gismo has a different one. Then you have to have a different means to get the information from one gismo to another, or to your computer. I.E. my little M-Audio is awesome, but I can't use it without two separate cables and connectors. I-pod the same. Video camera the same, cell phone the same. Computer the same. And what's with the way nothing can run for more than two hours without needing a charge??
Then what about these stupid memory sticks?? Sometimes the memory sticks work fine with just the cable from the camera. Then sometimes they just won't talk to the computer at all, no matter how many cables and gismo enablers you try. These days even the supercalifragilistic-memory-stick-special-loader-gismo has lost its mojo.
I will admit, there is something electronically challenged and challenging about me. I must have been struck by lightning as a kid and blocked it out. Or there was the time I stuck my finger in an old socket at Suzy Patnode's house and got thrown across the room. I never told anyone because I was so scared and right then, her grandma, who was drunk, started throwing pots and pans at us, so we were just trying to get out of there.
Anyway, I have been known to walk into rooms and crash computers just like that. My I-pod only works every third day. I'm not even allowed near the tv clicker. Sure enough, by the time I got to LA Sunday, my hard drive was completely useless. (MY MASTER HARD DRIVE WITH EVERYTHING ON IT.)
Anyone who knows me can confirm my affliction. It's pretty ridiculous, and it just needs to stop! I need a reprieve. I'm turning into Andy Rooney on 60 minutes. Can't we all just get along?
OK, so after the technical drama, LA was a gas. I turned "Taste of Danger" in to a little duet with the ridiculously talented Davy Knowles.
Davy and his manager Bob Miller
He's got a band called Back Door Slam, some serious blues chops and a kickass voice that could melt hard candy. We recorded and mixed with Bob Clearmountain at the ever beloved MIX THIS.
Davy, Bill Straw from Blix Street Records, JB, Bob, and BOB
Brandon Duncan was second engineer and kept us all in line. I can't wait for you all to hear this version of the song. It really got turned up to 11.
Tuesday, my pal Michelle Featherstone came over
and, once again with the dream team, and GOFFREY MOORE, we recorded a little ditty we wrote together last summer. Absolute ear candy. I'm sure that song will make its way somewhere FAST!
Michelle, Bob, JB, GOFFREY (how I've missed him!)
It is kind of exciting not being tied to JUST making records in a heap. On the one hand it's terrifying if that revenue stream is really gone i.e. that people just don't buy full records any more. But on the other hand, how fun to just record a song at a time and let it wander where it will. It certainly feeds that side of me that refuses to be confined to one sound, or one approach to recording.
We shall see.
In the meantime, I left perfect, sunny heaven, and came home to gray, windy, overcast BLAH. I really am ready for spring. I need some freckles.
New York. My friend Ronnie and I were walking around today and came across these lovelies. They gave us a beautiful daisy, and we asked them why they were so happy. They said "We just like spreading happiness, and it's almost springÃÂ oh no we're late for our friend's play. Bye."
We found the best little luncheonette on Lexington and 83rd. the BLT? Fabulous, the fries? Skinny and perfect. They even make a REAL, fresh squeezed lemonade. And MALTS. I think the wall paper was circa 1974.
me and Ronnie
We visited the conservatory garden this is the time of year when it really gets good, every week brings a new flourish of color and bloom.
Then we went to a trunk show at my knitting store. No one wanted their picture taken, but, trust me, the goods were FAB at Annie and Co
Off to LA early in the morning.
Sometimes it's just chaos after long enough on the road. I come home, and I'm in a little brain freeze coma for a bit. Everything gets dumped in the front hall, it takes a week sometimes to empty the suitcase, make the piles of laundry and gear. Put things away. Then, recalibrating my mind and body takes another stretch. There's so much extra time here, and yet, my purpose gets fuzzy quickly, I can't figure out where to start. I've gone from 100mph to reaaaalllly slooooooow, in hours. Who am I, again? What am I doing here? And what should I do now?
chaos in my house!
So I get back to the basics: reading writing, arithmetic. I pile up receipts, figure out my losses and gains, and open up the notebooks full of middle of the night scribbles. I listen to the little M-Audio recordings of crazy on-the-run melodies and lyric ideas. There are so many songs in these weeks away. When I hit the wall, I knit, I make toast, I do the laundry. I work on advancing the next round of shows. I go to yoga and try to get my body stretched back into one working machine.
It's a strange thing this transition.
I recently got a lovely new inspiration a brand new WATERSTONE 12-string guitar from my pals at WATERSTONE GUITARS in Nashville.
I'm hoping to coax a few new ideas out of Beulah. There are always a couple of songs in a new axe.
Next week, LA! Couple of new things in the hopper, but I'll keep it under wraps until I've got something to say for real.
Til then, peace and love and chocolate to all.
I've wanted to write my way into paradise,
leaving the door open for others... Instead
I am scribbling, beneath its wall, with the door shut.
-- David Ignatow
This is where we came to swim
around the grassy islands, past dories
and osprey nests hoisted high
under the muted blues, ravenous reds
and lush hospitable yellows
of the wide East Hampton sky --
a place, you said, where one
can almost forgive oneself.
Once you visited late to say
your wife, mistress and daughter
all hated you, that love wasn't fate
or salvation, but a cold back room
of paradise. Neither of us asked why,
after a lifetime of writing about sorrow,
you lived in a back room of your house.
You loved me like a son, you whispered
on my fortieth birthday, ready
to rush off if I looked displeased.
Our favorite game was guessing
how much truth someone could tolerate.
For P, you wrote on your last book,
the passionate pilgrim through this sickness
called the world. The truth is, I think,
you wanted the world to father you,
to heal the sickness of your soul.
I saw you, weeks before you died,
In the A & P, straining to read
a soup can in the hard flourescent haze.
I wanted to explain why I avoided you,
chose love, but you shrugged
and turned away when I tried
to introduce my wife. I didn't go
to your funeral, but late at night, I
bathe in the beautiful ashes of your words.
I think of you today as my wife hovers
like a mother swan and my sons fish
for hermit crabs scurrying sideways
across the surf. You, too, wanted to shed
your life, renew yourself. Still the waves
are jubilant, slightly off-key, the wind
whispers its few small truths to the earth,
and the migrant clouds stretch forlorn wings
all the way to the open door of paradise.
I'm in love with the "grass-mud horse."
It's a story Woody Guthrie would have loved; A wave of songs and stories on blogs and chat rooms and intellectual papers in China about a mythical alpaca like creature. It's innocuous until you read between the lines and apparently when you hear the name spoken or sung, it SOUNDS wicked dirty. But what is the Chinese government to do? No censorship rules have been broken, it's just a fairy tale creature called the grass-mud horse romping around with his other mythical friends. And something about this colorful protest has caught intellectuals' and the regular joes' imagination.
"It lives in a desert whose name resembles another foul word," explains the New York Times. "The horses are courageous, tenacious, and overcome the difficult environment," a YOU TUBE song about them says."
There is a story about them overcoming river crabs, which in spoken Chinese sounds like 'Harmony,' the brainwashy term for censorship.
How long can the Chinese government's software algorithms weed out the 'deviant' thoughts of their citizens? Will ostensibly harmless songs and poems be returned to their place as powerful catalysts for change? I hope so.
In other news, my guitar, "buttercup" was finally found and returned to me late Tuesday night.
She is in one piece and resting comfortably on her favorite chair. I think we'll have to get to work on a song about a "grass-mud horse." I wonder if the wool is expensive. You know I'm a sucker for some good alpaca!
newly rescued and finished Heathrow casualty scarf. modeled by Sidney the faithful bear.
It was travel hell getting home from Tonder. Four hours of driving in pelting, relentless rain. The kind where you hold your breath as you're passing trucks because you can see nothing at all for those ten seconds.. Please let me live.
Then, the one good part of the day? They didn't charge me excess baggage in Copenhagen for my guitar. I tried to convince them to let me take it on board, as the last two times I connected through Heathrow, they had lost it.. no go. Ok, well at least I didn't have to carry it. It's heavy in the road case.
Well, it was downhill from there. Heavy winds of course made us late in to Heathrow for the connection to New York. In the transfer hall I got stuck behind a hundred little Japanese students who had never traveled before, and so slowed the ONE OPEN SECURITY LINE to a crawl. I had an hour, I thought, ok, it'll be close, but I'll make it. 50 minutes later I was just getting to the front of the line. I knew my gate was a mile away, the screening people seemed to think it was all very funny. And then, all of a sudden, after years of touring with my knitting, daily flights, through most major airports, including at least twenty trips through HEATHROW..my knitting needles were a HUGE THREAT. I had four sets with me. Four little projects going on. And no time to argue. At this point, I did my best, but the meltdown started. I was so tired, I'd been traveling already for so long. I begged them just to hurry, I just wanted to get home, to see my husband, please just don't make me miss my flight. The woman in charge sadistically pulled out random things from my carry on, spreading them over two or three of those plastic bins. There was a glint in her eye. Let's just prolong the fun, she was thinking. I was in tears. My things were everywhere. My beloved bracelets, my microphones, my camera, MY CHOCOLATE. She ran her little wand over every single thing to check for explosive residue. Went back three separate times to her machine to make sure.
She finally finished torturing me, after I had ripped out my four sets of needles and somehow thrown everything back in my bag. (I'm surprised I didn't lose anything precious, I'm surprised I didn't say anything that would have had them arrest me) Then came that classic, cliche desperate FULL THROTTLE RUN to the gate. I was the last one there. Soaked with sweat, crying full steam at this point. The gate agent asked, "Are you ok, Madame?" Wrong question. I just couldn't pull myself together. PATHETIC!!! Sobbing, "NO, I am NOT OK." in that gasping childish way! What a baby! Imagine what that soldier had to go through to make it to Vegas?
I made it with two minutes to spare. Of course it took me a half hour to re-compose myself. That's when of course, it seemed so silly. It's just knitting needles. Yeah, they're not cheap, but I can probably piece back together all the stitches that got pulled out.
I was more angry than anything. Security is so random and ineffective. A pen would make a better weapon than my knitting needles. I just happened to get the cranky meany at the transfer hall. And she was standing between me and HOME.
I finally got to New York at one in the morning. My two suitcase toddled down the luggage shute. But, surprise of all surprises. NO GUITAR.
I am humbled, I will be patient. I won't talk back to the authorities, I will check my knitting with my luggage from now on. I will pay excess baggage charges joyfully. Please just bring me back my guitar. Please?
I'm still waiting.
The Tonder Folk music awards. In, you guessed it, Tonder Denmark. I think you couldn't get farther from Copenhagen and still be in Denmark. But I was invited to sing two songs. And it was an honor I was not about to forego.
It was my last gig in Denmark, so I was determined to find some Danish sheep. Finally, a few miles out of Tonder. There they were. Thomas tried to sing for them but that seemed to drive them away...
Thomas and JB last night.
crazy tree on the way to the show.
Who knew? It was packed! There were drunken double bass players up for best record awards,
Stefan, three sheets to the wind, before the show even started
There were Baltic bands with no underpants. (It's a tradition apparently, every time they play, the Baltic Crossing boys take off their knickers and leave them in the dressing room. Weird, but, to each their own.
There were 80 year old magnificent accordion players, just sitting in.
I was interviewed by the local tv station.
me and Henny Husum from Danish tv.
There were multilingual backstage techs...
Chris Kyriacov and Frederik Saito
I hung out with a crazy Klezmer band, and watched everyone party themselves into oblivion over a very, very, long evening. The music continued until well past 1 am, and THEN there was the afterparty.
Well I LOVED being there, but I'm sorry to say, I collapsed way before the party even started.
Needless to say, there was NO ONE at breakfast except for the sensible Soren and Alex from P4. So nice to see them again in Tonder of all places.
And before I left yesterday morning, my husband told me the most amazing story. He was crying as he told it, as the whole thing had just happened in Las Vegas (nine hour time difference) and I was just waking up in the farthest southwest corner of Denmark, starting my long journey home. I cried as I listened.
An American soldier stationed in Iraq emailed my husband (he manages TOP) to ask if there might be any possibility for the Tower of Power guys to dedicate a song to his wife at their Las Vegas Concert on 3/7. He wouldn't be able to be there, he had been deployed but he'd gotten tickets for his wife and three kids. TOP is their absolute favorite band, and they had spent the day before he left for Iraq driving around in the rain singing along at the top of their lungs to their favorite TOP songs.
Of course the guys said yes, they are really gracious about doing this kind of thing, esp. for someone so devoted, so far away, and possibly in harm's way.
They got to their sound check yesterday, and sure enough somehow this soldier had begged for a leave, traveled for days, out of who knows where, to be there to surprise his wife. He was still in his fatigues, covered with dust, and wanted to figure out if somehow he could be part of the song they were going to dedicate to her.
Well, he showed up back stage, nervous, in a tuxedo, (she still hadn't seen him) pacing until the song"You're Still A Young Man."
Larry, the lead singer, made an announcement about how special the evening was, as a certain beloved person was in the audience, and her husband had contacted the band all the way from Iraq and arranged to dedicate this next song. Then he paused and said, well actually, there's someone else here who could probably do a better job introducing it.
There he was. The whole place was already weeping, but when they saw the soldier, in his tuxedo, knew how far he had trekked, and saw his wife beside herself with excitement and joy and then shock and unfathomable emotion?
Well, you can imagine, the whole crowd was on it's feet crying and applauding and carrying on. What a love story, What a reminder, again, of the things that really matter.
Sometimes when I want to summon all of my girl power, I wear ALL my necklaces at once. Well, last night was one of those nights. There is just something inspiring about knowing the women that made all of these beauties. And imagining that they are right there with me in spirit when I'm on stage offering up my songs.
Andrea Scher, of course made the multi-colored vintage bead one. Nina Bagley, the light blue stone mixed with the resin charm that says "I will fly." The sock monkey ÃÂcameo' with the crimson vintage bead detail is a Mati Rose creation. The tiny delicate turquoise and ruby strands with the brazilian medallion were made by another fabulous creature, Eileen that I met at the Squam Art Workshops last September... She just gave it to me after I admired it at the end of the weekend! The pearls are by a British designer I met at the B and B I stay at in London, and I can't even remember her name right now, but we totally hit it off, and I HAD to have a piece of that energy!
When I was most nervous at the Montreux Jazz Festival last summer opening for Paul Simon, I wore my super Serenity Medallion necklace made by FabianyFelipe, I have another gorgeous one by Georgia Cranston
(shown here with my favorite chocolate, GREEN & BLACK's organic 85%)
that gets equal air time It was inspired by "ten cent wings," and has monarch butterfly wings beautifully ensconced in glass and silver.
I travel so much, that I'm constantly finding treasures that will forever remind me of where I've been.
My bracelets are my travelogue. The Catholic saints, weirdly enough I had been looking for obsessively after I saw a little kid in my neighborhood wearing the same one. Well I ended up in Copenhagen the week after I'd seen it, and they had the same bracelet in a trendy boutique. You probably get them for fifty cents in Guatemala. But it seemed like destiny to me! The little garnet one is from my favorite beloved store in Seattle, ALHAMBRA. I've been wearing it for twelve years now. The meshy silver was a gift from a friend in Eugene, Oregon, the silver pearls, a train station bargain in DC. The leather cuff, another gift.... Maybe I'm obsessive but it's like comfort food to me. Little trinkets that take on their own lucky charm.
Well, they served me well in Odense. I had another beautifully intense and unforgettable workshop.
I am constantly amazed at what I learn about my own process when I'm forced to organize myself to talk about it. It makes me want to run back to my room and write some more songs. And I'm ever grateful to the curiosity and appetite of the musicians who participate. Some of the questions really help me figure out where I've been and where I might be headed.
And I know we're ALL working at what we do, so I don't take for granted the generosity of the crowd! So, THANK YOU.
The gig last night, well, right up there with Copenhagen.
we kept the tuning board on the stage for the show!
And of course the coconut plant came too. I'ts holding up pretty well considering the stress of the road. I guess it likes the music.
Thomas found some interesting art back stage...
Now he's getting into the self portrait...
All to say, I am GRATEFUL. this has been a truly incredible week in Denmark. I can't wait for the Danish Folk Awards Tomorrow. I'm so honored to be invited to sing a couple of songs.
See you there.
The Lowry in Manchester was gorgeous,
reminiscent of the beauty of "The Sage" at Gateshead. Beasley and his colleague were super helpful. the audience so lovely and rapt.
Ok I did get a little carried away the last couple nights about British sinks. But I was a little cranky as I'd not found real coffee en route from Manchester to Aarhus. Well, I didn't have time.
I LOVE Aarhus. Vauxhall was set up with little cafe tables and candles and lovely lighting. So nice to be back. There is always a warm hungry vibe here. Thomas, my trusty Danish knight in shining armor bought a coconut plant Monday afternoon and put it on stage. In lights it looks like a little alien friend.
And besides having a new passion for set design, Thomas takes great pictures. And here I thought he was just a road technician.
thomas, could you get any cuter?
Yesterday morning we booked it to the ferry to CPH so we could go visit my old friend Alex Nyborg Madsen at P4. What a hoot.
knitting on the ferry
The first time I ever did his radio show, he was broadcasting from his garage in the middle of NOWHERE. Now P4 has this fancy new building. Alex told me that the big boss is a woman. That's why there are huge colorful exercise balls everywhere. She is concerned about everyone's abs.
soren, the digestive biscuits, jb and Alex
I got to meet a lovely Scottish singer who has had a huge success over here. Maggie Riley and I were treated to three songs by Danish artists and had to critique and respond. Great idea to get out of the usual come by and plug your new album MODE and hear some new music.
me and maggie
The show in Copenhagen last night was really magical. Jazzhaus was the perfect cozy venue for a Tuesday night. It felt like home. And the audience was luscious. Lots of musicians in the audience which can be a blessing or a curse. Well, last night it was a real blessing. I couldn't have felt more welcome. And Thomas outdid himself, adding a painting from home to last night's set design.
And look at his photos. He's got an eye.
Today was my "Magic of Guitar Tunings" Workshop here at the Danish Artist's Union. There was a circus theme going on, so Thomas and I took a bunch of pictures. Yes, I am still the jaded carny girl from "damn everything...." "Back in the Circus" and "No Net Below."
Anyway, I had to remember all my tunings and which songs went with which. It was an education for me as well, to have to organize everything into the chronology of how I've come to do what I do.
I spent all morning before the workshop trying to figure out some old songs I hadn't played in a while. I probably should have called the workshop "Why you SHOULDN'T use too many open tunings, because you will forget half of them!!"
Anyway, I had a GREAT time. And thanks to all who came, and to Rikke for having me back again, being so supportive and masterminding the details. ;)
jb and Rikke
On to Odense tomorrow, another workshop and a concert, and then Tonder on Saturday. It's the FOLK AWARDS, and I've been invited to sing a couple of songs!! Yippeee. Woody would have been thrilled.
London was a real high. The room seemed tailor made for me and this particular audience. People sat on the floor, and the total support and love was so palpable from where I stood. I was really nervous before the show. (I always am.)
nerves! photo susannah conway (notice handknit sweater coat...)
But it was such a love fest from the beginning that I just melted into the dreaminess.
photo, susannah conway
My friend Susannah trekked in from BATH, and helped calm my jitters by telling dirty stories back stage.
me and susannah.
Ben and Wolfie from Marshall Arts (our London promoters) traded even dirtier stories
but Ben, god bless him, wore his red sox hat! (photo, susannah conway)
And five lovely women came all the way from Paris to hang out, do a little interview and help me with my set list. ;)
Marie Laure, Helene, Melody, Jessica, Sandra
I can't thank you all enough for this beautiful evening.
Off to Salford Keys tonight. I think it's right outside of Manchester. Then on to Denmark tomorrow. I'm doing four gigs and two songwriting/guitar workshops. Can't wait to see what's happening in the beautiful DK.
Meanwhile, I keep forgetting to talk about the songwriting workshop/class I'm offering as part of the SQUAM ART WORKSHOPS in September. I think I've written about it before, but it bears reminding. Last fall's session was one of the most beloved experiences of my life. And I was just there to hang out and be the local songbird. Well, even if you doubt your talents, whether it's ukelele, kazooo, painting, writing, photography, Squam is the most reaffirming, nurturing place I've ever been. Check it out. I promise my class will be fun, It's not a scary audition, it's just exploring that intense magical process of distilling things into verse and chorus. YUM. Go HERE to read more about it.
more very soon, esp. if there are sheep traipsing around Denmark!