Caribou Salt Lick

Turn on your images if you want to see a photo of some Caribou

There is a herd of about 20 caribou that at certain times of the year live in the woods along a very narrow strip on the Barkerville Highway. This is near Wells in British Columbia.

I am told the caribou feast on lichen – that they are delicate nibblers of the wispy tendrils hanging off the evergreens. Every once in awhile you catch ghosts of them whispering through the trees.

But yesterday… there they were. Four bucksome caribou hanging out in the middle of the road. Licking salt, I presume.

Not playing music or writing songs, not emailing or being social online. Just licking salt.

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May 16, 2012 · 12:43 pm

Here’s A Pretty Ribbon On That Blogging Challenge Wrap!

I logged in to Facebook early last week to discover the little earth icon in the navigation bar all lit up and a roll of “congratulations” in my newsfeed from fellow bloggers. And that, my friends, is how I found out I won the Canadian Social Media Blogging Challenge that I took part in this winter. Woo hoo! Social media in action.

I Never Was a Prom Queen, But…

Image of Two Bathing Beauties With Prize Cup

Imagine the trophy is a dozen roses and the hat is a tiara.

Given my love of all things shiny and my diva-esque nature, I immediately pictured myself among Pageant Queens accepting a bouquet of nailpolish-red roses in my arms, grinning cheek-to-cheek. Less Courtney Love, but still mascara running down my face** as I tearfully accept my sparkling tiara and sash ~ blowing kisses to the countless readers who have made my blog what it is today!! **This from the fact that the challenge was based on the book: Music Success In Nine Weeks!

Hahaha! But seriously, I am super glad I took part in the challenge, and I am honoured to be selected as its winner… thanks Songwriter’s Association of Canada (SAC) and thanks Ariel Hyatt for putting on this first ever Canadian version of the Music Success In Nine Weeks Blogging Challenge. A most excellent way to spend the start of 2012. And as it turns out I didn’t even have to wear a bathing suit to win the fabulous prizes.

Queen For a Day, But This is No “Royal We” Here

I’d like to send warm fuzzies out to my fellow participants for doing the challenge with me (with a special shout out going to Lily Cheng, who not only blogged with us but also facilitated the challenge. Thanks Lily!) We spent a concentrated nine weeks tackling topics and tasks related to social media. Collectively we set up a pretty substantial Canadian corner of new Facebook & twitter music accounts. We got comfy with Youtube and rss feeds – and then we blogged about it so that our fans could join us on the journey too.

PS Speaking of Youtube, you should totally subscribe to my channel! I started a “Homemade Music Video Project” during the challenge: my goal is to make homemade, no budget videos for all of my songs. Me editing them and everything! (There are three so far and more on the way.) Other fun stuff you can do: sign up for my mailing list, follow me on Twitter and like me on Facebook. Hurray! Phew… is that… it?

Sixty of us started back in January. Out of that emerged a core group of about twenty singer-songwriters who stayed in to the end, supporting each other through the weekly to-do list. We had (and in fact still have) an active Facebook group where people shared their successes and their challenges of the business and posted information and support for each other. Several genuine friendships started through this challenge that have extended beyond the end date. I still pop into the group quite regularly to see what everyone’s up to and to soak up some extra love when I’m feeling out of sorts with my workload. The DIY model says we are autonomous in exercising creative and administrative control over our work, yes. It is also clear that the “social” in social media truly drives us humans. We need connection and community to thrive.

Vintage Photo of Three Bathing Beauties With Ukelele

Maybe that is one of the reasons blogging is so perfect in this day and age of friends & fans spread out across the globe. An artist’s blog is personal and self-directed and, yet it can be highly interactive too. Online connections are sometimes maligned as shallow, and for sure there can be a Pollyanna-ish-ness that can drive me nuts sometimes. However it seems to me that online relationships when properly nurtured can be pretty darn real too.

The Take Away

As songwriters, we are all-the-time creating narratives for ourselves and others to sing. But when it comes time to write ourselves into the world… that same creative glean can get muddied. (Okay, this might be a “royal we”.) One of the biggest take-aways for me from doing this blogging challenge was the shifting away from an emotional space of passive want: hoping someone will “discover” me [my music] and moving to that of an active space. Blogging is active. It is constructive. It is also relatively inexpensive to do. As a bonus, blogging is creative. You don’t need a record label or Billboard approval to share your thoughts and your work. You just need to trust in the strength of your creativity and your ability to connect. That, and a bit of time to jot it all down.

The Other Take-Aways

… are pretty awesome too! I look forward to talking with Ariel about the ten-week Cyber PR campaign. Can’t wait to find out what’s in store once my music goes out directly to her network of bloggers and podcasters. Will my work connect on that scale too? Thanks, Reverbnation, for their contribution to the amazing prize list, too. And I’ve already had a skype meeting with Dave Cool of Bandzoogle to discuss building a second website for my little indie record label, since I’ve already got www.karynellis.com (come visit!) I’ll let you folks know when the new one is up and running too.

Okay. Now… THAT’S a wrap of the blogging challenge. But, folks, you can be sure my musings will continue on. If you’re reading this somewhere other than on my blog — Letters To My Editor — do pop by for more posts. You can also subscribe while you’re there to get my upcoming posts directly in your inbox.

Till next time!
Karyn

*****************************************************

Missed the original postings? Here is the complete set of links to all nine weeks plus a pre-challenge warm-up:
Warm up: Does Anybody Ever Win These Things
Week 1: What The Mayans Can Teach Us About Setting Goals, Or…
Week 2: Hold the door, this elevator is going up!
Week 3: Home Sweet Homepage
Week 4: Social Media and the Theory of Everything
Week 5: Music Videos Are Not Dead! They’ve Just Gone North For The Winter.
Week 6: I’ve Looked At Blogs From Both Sides Now
Week 7: Poor, Poor Baby
Week 8: How much IS that doggy in the window?
Week 9: And That, Folks, Is A Wrap!

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Hey, guess what?

I WON the blogging challenge! Sweet! And prizes too! Read all about it here: http://musicsuccessinnineweeks.com/blogger-challenge.

(Not sure what I’m talking about? Click on WRITING > MSi9W3 in the navigation bar. It’ll take you to a week-by-week blog about the challenge.)

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And, so, um…

Ever had one of those days when you just don’t know what to say…?

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One Minute Moment: Always Nice To Get a Friendly Send Off When You Go On Tour

Busy these past few days sending out emails, booking a tour in Ontario in June/July and sending out early feelers for another European tour at the end of the year. Got me thinking about one of the very first times I went out on the road… the thrill, the glamour of setting out on day one.

Found this 60-second clip from a tour that Ann Vriend and I did in 2005… 2006…? We are on our way to Sudbury!! Um… after the bank, after Long and McQuade… and after fanfare from friends and friendly arm waves from the guy on the roof!

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I Want You To Be My Shooting Star

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO MAY 15th!
You still got time to show us yer cowboy!!!
*****************************************************************************

Speaking of videos…. you may recall the idea for my Homemade Music Video Project is that I want to make videos for every song I’ve ever recorded / will record! (As many as I can, anyways!!) I’ve finished three, and now I’m thinking about what to do next…

Image of Running Horses

Grab your video cam / camera phone / iPhone or whatever way you have of creating moving pictures… and I want you to film yourself singing along with my tune “Shooting Star”. You can be as simple or as extravagant as you like! Costumes are great! Miniature ponies… well, you know how I feel about those. YES!

Then send your footage to me by May 1st! Once I’ve collected enough material, I will edit it together to make the coolest video ever!!!

You can either send the footage to me via dropbox by sending me an email to mathilde.the.cat@gmail.com. Or, you can stick the files on a DVD and mail it to:

Karyn Ellis
4025 Barkerville Highway
Quesnel BC V2J 6T8

(Let me know by email if you’re sending it to me this way so that I know to look for it!)

***Important Note***, before submitting be sure to click here to read and indicate you agree with the TERMS OF USE! (to make sure we’re on the same page about how I’m going to use your footage.)

A Couple of Tips:

  1. Your footage doesn’t have to be super pro or anything, but do try to make it the highest resolution you possibly can.
  2. Remember to use the sun or set up lamps so that we can see your lovely face!
  3. If you’re going to sing the song in your shot, play the tune while you’re filming and sing along to the track… that way your mouth movements will line up during editing!
  4. Don’t be afraid to move the camera closer to you.
  5. Be silly. Be serious. Dress up! Or just be yourself.
  6. Save the footage as .mov or .mpeg (or any file type that final cut pro x can deal with is groovy.) If you need help figuring out how to transfer files, you can try this page: Importing personal photos and videos from iOS devices to your computer (apple support) (I’m not much of a tech wizard myself, so if that doesn’t work, best to ask a buddy.)
  7. Speaking of photos, you can send a bunch of those too!
  8. SHOT IDEAS
    • Dressing up like Kareoke Cowboys and singing along with the tune
    • Animated sequences
    • Singing puppets
    • Lasso-ing and juggling acts
    • Panning across a sunset landscape
    • Sitting in your kitchen drinking coffee
    • Sitting in your kitchen playing guitar
    • Group sing-a-longs (especially in the “you’re just what I needed” part)
    • Recreate the Ed Sullivan Show
    • Miniature ponies!

Click here for lyrics and a downloadable version of the song (feel free to set the price to 0.00 for a complimentary download.)

The more footage the merrier, so please share this call with your friends. Don’t feel like you have to send in tons of footage… even five seconds would be great! But please try to limit your submission to five minutes (one, maybe two passes of the song). It’s just me editing this stuff, and I want to have enough time to watch and pick from everyone’s submissions.

Oh my goodness. Typing this out, I’m getting more and more excited by the idea. My dear friends, get filming!!!! How cool is this going to be?

XO Karyn

PS, Having never tried anything like this before I anticipate there will be some interesting technical glitches along the way. Let’s help each other out as we figure our way through. It’s going to be tremendous.

PPS, Did you read and agree to the terms of use yet? Remember: Before I can use your footage, you need to CLICK HERE to read and indicate you agree to THE TERMS OF USE!

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Wanna Make A Snow Angel? You Gotta Let Yourself Fall

This week I found myself thinking about nostalgia. Well, not so much thinking about it as sensing it ~ it is a visceral feeling like I am repeatedly stepping into a second-hand shop in Toronto’s Kensington Market ~ and every time the door opens the delicate scent of incense wafts over me. Now I am stretching out on my futon in the attic bedroom of my first apartment, sun streaming in the window. Particles of dust are lighting up like twinkling snow.

With the blogging challenge now officially over, I set myself the task of filming / editing the next video in my Homemade Music Video Project (you can read more about the project here.) For number three in the series, I went back to my 2005 album Hearts Fall and picked Angels In Snow. Emblematic of my mood and the unseasonably warm late winter/early spring all across North America, I chose a song about longing, love and the end of winter – of “early spring thaw cracking”.

Image of Karyn Ellis jumping from the roof of the tomato house. Screenshot #2 from the music video.

There I go jumping into nostalgia again.

Unlike the rest of North America where spring is kicking in full force, forty minutes from where I live – in the sleepy town of Wells British Columbia – there is still plenty of snow. Surely this is where fairy tales are born: in a setting ideal for ice queens ~ winter gardens full of pacing tigers and white roses. The population of this town shrinks to around 100 in the winter months, blooming again to 300 in early summer when the actors come to work in the nearby historical town of Barkerville.

And like Gretyl finds the frozen garden, I reentered the song Angels In Snow… my 2012 face singing along with my 2005 voice. (Hey! Seven is one of those fairy tale numbers, non?) I remember that youthful flutter in my chest – the dizziness of falling – best approximated by falling backwards into a bank of snow. Wearing no coat, no mittens. Making snow angels and feeling the icy cold clutching at bare hands and running down my neck. Watching snow flakes adrift in air and on eyelashes in the brilliant afternoons of late winter.

Image of Karyn Ellis making a snow angel. Screenshot #1 from the music video.

No stunt doubles or snow machines were used in the making of this video.


With Dizzying Certitude, So It Comes

In addition to (or perhaps as a subset of) that fuzzy warm feeling, this week I have also been awash with something akin to shame. Like butterflies, but the manic kind. Internal logic runs along the lines of this:

Me 1: Ah! This will be fun. I’m going to make a video for my song, Angels In Snow…
Me 2: That old thing? Shouldn’t you be spending your time writing something new instead of rehashing old songs?
Me 1: It’s a perfectly good song!
Me 2: Why didn’t you make the video when you released it? You had your chance. That window has shut. It’s catalogue now, baby.
Me 1: Wait a minute… Youtube didn’t even exist back then. Beside, I just discovered how much I love making videos!!
Me 2: Too bad, so sad! If you didn’t write the song this morning, how can you *truly* call yourself an artist?
Me 1: What, there’s a time limit on creativity?
Me 2: Gotta be fresh, baby.
Me 1: You’re a spoil sport!
Me 2: You’re cheating!
Me 1 & Me 2: You are! You are! [point & pout]

(etc, etc and so forth)

And so comes the poignant feeling that I somehow let the opportunity pass me by and that there is no catching up with time. <== That’s where the shame slips in. Tell me, what is this strange impetus to always be making something up-to-the-minute brand new… new… NEW!?! [Cue Tom Wait’s song, “Step Right UP!”. Now there’s a man who can ride the nostalgia wave to a tee.]

It is the ebb-and-flow of these periodic bouts of being deflated. But hang on now… isn't deflation the same as exhalation? Just a part of the breath cycle. So I did it anyways. I made the video.

And here it is…

Watch: Homemade Music Video Project – #3 – Angels In Snow

(Thanks: Kate Sulis, for helping with the filming. And Judy Campbell, for letting me tromp all over her Tomato House.)


Next week: Hibernating Bears
Look for my next blog update Monday March 26th.

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Filed under Music, Short Essays, Winter, Writing

Interview With Andrea Ramolo of Scarlett Jane

I met Andrea Ramolo when I played a show she was co-hosting in Parkdale, Toronto a couple years back (more about that series – Ladies in Waiting – in the interview below.) My first impression of her was that she was a total firestarter! Fun-loving, enthusiastic and at the same time, very focused on her music. She was heading out the next day for another dazzlingly large number of tour dates in support of her debut album, “Thank You for the Ride”.

To describe her music, I snagged this great quote from her website: “Musically, she’s been described as the antidote to too much Joni Mitchell, a tougher Dolly Parton a sexier Janis Joplin, but Andrea Ramolo has a soulful and sultry sound that’s all her own.”

Photograph of Andrea Ramolo

K: You’ve been called a “tireless road warrior”. A quick glance at your past tour dates, and one can see you’ve pretty much been everywhere in Canada! Where did it all start? What initially inspired you to make albums and take your music on the road?

A: I became really serious about music after a pretty intense career as a dancer and actor.  I was a later bloomer.  My mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer while I was in university and I had just gotten out of a really long relationship so I picked up my dad’s old guitar, more out of therapeutic necessity… and started learning and writing my own songs.  Singing and storytelling have always been a big part of my life.  So the transition of becoming a songwriter happened pretty organically.

At the time, I worked at the infamous Orbit Room in Toronto owned by Alex Lifeson of Rush and really developed a close kinship with the incredible musical talents that came through there.  I learned about life on the road and life off the road, while sharpening my craft and writing more of my own songs.  And after another heartbreak it all sort of came together pretty quickly.  I needed to record my songs… and I had a plethora of talented musicians at my fingertips, so my first recording experience was fantastic.  

I released my first indie solo album in 2008 and wanted other listeners besides my friends and family to hear the tunes.  I wanted to play and to travel and get more inspired.  And so, I booked my first east coast tour and since that, I’ve pretty much been living out of a van for half of the year and travelling coast to coast and playing for audiences of 5 and audiences of 15,000.  It’s been quite a ride.

K: Sounds like it! How many shows *do* you play a year?

Image of Andrea Ramolo's CD artwork: The Shadows And The CracksA: Well I’ve released two solo albums- one in 2008 and one in 2011 – and within that time frame, I probably played around 150-200 shows a year.

I kept myself really busy.  It was almost like a self-imposed boot camp.  Living out of a van was not easy.  I like comfy beds and showers.  Most of us do.  But concentrating on nothing but music for 6 months straight, morning, noon, and night and playing almost every night of the week in a different town kicked me in the butt and really helped me evolve as a writer and performer.  It also gave me tons of material to write about.

I am just about to release my third album… this time with a project called Scarlett Jane with my good friend Cindy Doire.  We’ve been writing and recording and getting a team around us, so I have actually been pretty stationary since the fall, which is very new for me.  I have itchy feet and I don’t know what to do with myself half the time.  But I’m lucky to live in such an incredible city.  There’s a great scene going on in Toronto.  Scarlett Jane is going to be hitting the road in May and June, then doing the Home Routes Concert Series in the prairies in the fall before we head off to Mexico and Europe for some shows.  

K: What’s your favourite part of being a musician? The music? The touring? The fans? The lifestyle? The schedule?

A: Wow.  It’s everything really.  The music is the impetuous for it all of course… and it’s what sort of helps mould the lifestyle or the schedule or the touring.  I love being on stage with other musicians and sharing in creating something all together that moves people in one way or another.  I like collaborating.  And I feel more at ease on stage than I do in many social settings.  I also love songwriting.

[Songwriting is] painful at times and I find myself lying in the fetal position trying to come up with the best possible way to communicate this or that… musically and lyrically.  So it’s challenging and puts you in a very vulnerable place… but it’s so rewarding.  I also love all the beautiful strange misfits (like myself) who flock to this sort of lifestyle.  The night owls, who’d rather sing you a song than waste time talking about the weather, so to speak.  Life makes more sense to me in music and in songs.  And I feel like you can really get to know people intimately through their music.  It’s so revealing.  I guess I’ve always been a revealer… and one who is drawn to those who feel the need to reveal.

K: You and I met at Ladies in Waiting, a cool weekly music series that you, Cindy Doire, Sarah Burton, Faye Blais, and Sara Fitzpatrick created and ran in Toronto. I loved how you organized it: each show featured you and the other ladies trading off hosting duties depending on who was in town and / or away touring. And then you’d bring in special guests to play one off shows, with a focus on showcasing women musicians. That series seemed to act as both a bonding space for that community of women singer-songwriters and a homecoming for you whenever you were off the road.

A: Ladies in Waiting ran at Not My Dog for over a year every Monday night.  Monday became the new Friday and as you mentioned, all of us ladies, who are dear friends and supporters of one another, brought our new tunes to showcase.  What ended up happening was that we would all end up on stage with one another, singing impromptu harmonies, playing percussion, and just having an amazing time.  It was a great playground for trying out new material and jamming with new musicians.  And we developed quite a steady following.  We’ve had so many female (and some male) guests over that year, I can’t even remember them all.  Samantha Martin, Kayla Howran, Jadea Kelly, yourself of course, Trish Robb, Jenny Allen, Mel Brulee, Kristin Sweetland.  Man we know so many talented beauties.  

K: And speaking of creating / bonding, you mentioned earlier that you and Cindy Doire have started a new band together called Scarlett Jane.  How did that project come about? What was the inspiration for the name?

A: Cindy and I have been friends for years.  We fell in love with singing with one another the first time we met and over the next while, we’d write songs, guest on each other’s albums, team up for double bills, do short little tours when we had the time.  We were finding that we wouldn’t see each other for months and months except when our ferries criss crossed over the Atlantic, or when we’d plan to meet in the prairies for a coffee while we were on the road driving in opposite directions.

We’ve always had many of the same musical influences and the same sort of thing cranks us.  So it just made sense… and we’re really excited about the album and thrilled with the outcome.  We originally called ourselves Calamity Jane to allude to the dark country/folk noir sort of vibe that the new songs took on.  But we discovered that there are a few bands by that name around the globe… so we tossed and turned for months and really liked Jane but not on it’s own.  We are roommates so we would lie in bed and send phone messages to each other late at night with band name ideas.  It was driving us crazy.  Finally… we came up with Scarlett Jane and it stuck.  

Photograph of Scarlett Jane

Cindy Doire and Andrea Ramolo are Scarlett Jane

K: You and Cindy are both well-known for strong abilities and leadership as solo performers. What’s it been like working together as a band?  How do you deal with creative decisions? What’s your writing process like together?

A: We really work as a team and discuss any potential decision at length before jumping into something. We push each other as well… which is needed sometimes when you’re your own boss.  We actually have a great thing going and communicate very openly with one another.  We’re not always going to be on the same page with creative or business decisions… so we share our opinions, argue our points, and then end up coming to a consensus in the end.  We have our own process and it works for us.  Creatively, we’re of the mind that we write better together than apart.

And songwriting can be a very sensitive endeavour. Like with anything else, we’ll both create and share ideas and lines and melodies, etc… and eventually we put it all together and fine tune it.  Our debut album ‘Stranger’ was written on a writing retreat we forced ourselves to go on in Mexico.  Quite painful, I know. We had a blast.  We finished the album on a retreat in a cabin in the woods in Northern Ontario and in our apartment in downtown Toronto.  The songs came together really quickly because both of us had been saving tidbits of inspiration from our time apart.  And it was all perfect timing.  We both were mourning break ups and it’s really easy to create when you’re feeling so lost and low.  It kind of just pours out of you.  So it did.  Lucky enough we had each other to fall apart with, so it was easier to get back up.  The buffet and open bar at the resort in Mexico made it a bit easier as well. 

K: Cindy Doire is another fabulously seasoned touring aficionado. You mentioned Scarlett Jane will be hitting the road soon?

A: Yes.  We have about 40 dates booked across Canada commencing after our Toronto release show at the Dakota Tavern on Thursday, May 10th.  We’ll be touring with a full band out west and then as a duo out east.  We’re also doing the Dauphin Country Music Fest and Mariposa among Home Routes Concert Series and a few other great shows this summer.

K: You’re previewing your debut Scarlett Jane record “Stranger” on March 15th at the Dakota in Toronto. What can we look forward to with that show?

A: Unfortunately the album is not packaged yet.  But we’re really excited to showcase our new tunes in a great little spot with our new touring band.  We’re also shooting a simple single camera live music video that night.  The show starts at 10pm and tickets are $7 at the door.  We have Ryan Weber of the Weber Brothers playing piano, Justin Ruppel playing drums, and Greg Cockerill (whose band will be closing the night) playing lead guitar.  All members were involved to some degree with the album recording.  

K: For those of us outside of Toronto, how do we get our hands on the new album?

A: ‘Stranger’ will be available via our new web site www.scarlettjane.com, as well as on iTunes.  We’re not certain about who will be physically distributing it at this point, but I’m sure there will be other ways to get your hands on it.  And of course, my favourite way to sell albums is right off the stage after a live show.  CD’s make a great souvenir.  We’re also going to be re-releasing the album on vinyl at some point.  All these exciting plans.

K: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me, Andrea!

Lightening round: If you could bestow a superhero nickname on Cindy, what would it be? What superhero nickname would she give you?

Well… we sort of have these pseudo names. Hers is Bindy Boychuck… I forget where it came from. Mine is Audrey Rogers because I was once introduced and brought onto the stage at a show in Vancouver as that. I’m not quite sure how that came out of Andrea Ramolo, but I guess the initials are correct.

K: And finally… which time change do you prefer: Spring Forward or Fall Back? Why?

A: I’m one for moving forward so spring forward all the way.  I feel like I have so much more energy when spring is near.  I feel healthier and I really enjoy being outside.  Cold weather tends to keep me indoors and gives me a bit of the blues.  I crave sunshine and people out on the streets. Today was a gorgeous day and the sidewalks were so colourful.  

K: Lovely! Good luck with your show at the Dakota on March 15th and with the launch of your new Scarlett Jane album!


VISIT Scarlett Jane’s brand new website to hear music & find tour dates: www.scarlettjane.com

VISIT Andrea’s website: www.andrearamolo.com
FOLLOW Andrea on Twitter: www.twitter.com/andrearamolo

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And That, Folks, Is A Wrap! (Wk 9)

[Sorry for the delay getting this out today. It appears that today is the culmination of my week-long battle with technology… I’ll spare you all the borey details… but today’s woes started first as a power outage in my home office. Then, after hopping in the car to drive to the nearest town (I live in the country, doncha know) I have been subjected to the most excruciatingly slow wireless here in this coffee shop. Three out of every four saves I get the “Problem Loading Page” message. Once (if???) I get this blog out, I may have to revisit my “Poor Poor Baby” post from week 7. Woooooaahh!]

Ahem… happy thoughts!

Today is the last day of the “Music Success in Nine Weeks” blogging challenge. If you’ve been following my posts then you know that on January 9th 2012, I joined sixty other singer-songwriters across Canada on a week-by-week adventure in learning how to use the various social media platforms to promote our music. We have been using Ariel Hyatt’s book as our guidepost. [Ed. note: if you’re new to my blog, catch up with my weekly posts by following the links at the end of this article.]

We started in the deep of winter, and we are ending the day after clocks spring forward. How’s that for metaphor? Judging by recent comments on the facebook group set up for the challenge, my fellow bloggers and I *do* seem to have a little more bounce to our step, more joie to our vivre.

Those blue squiggly lines are artistic renditions of my footprints. See how they bounce?

Well. Okay. So I didn’t manage to squeeze in that gig at Massey Hall, but I did start a new project on youtube called my “Homemade Music Video Project.” [Read more about that in my Week 5 post.] I also did some preliminary work on the launch of my “Fundraise The Roof” campaign for my next album. (In fact, this past week I received my very first contribution from someone in Medicine Hat, and the campaign hasn’t even officially started yet. Woo!) My blog readership is up, and most importantly, I am writing again. And making videos and practicing music and generally feeling re-inspired and re-engaged with my work.

This challenge has reminded me that success is not so much a destination as a process. Goals are important, yes, but it’s the steps in between… the daily habits where life really happens. That has been the biggest take away from engaging in this blogging challenge. Simpy put: the doing is in the doing!

Speaking of doing, here’s an exceptionally quick summary of week 9 …

The Real World

Our task took us offline to look at our marketing efforts when networking face-to-face, to review whether our press kits are working for us and to analyze what makes a good publicist. While there were no shocking revelations for me, this week reiterated a second key point that has popped up again and again throughout the challenge: relationships are key in the music biz.

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Personally I think it is fine to use your fish fork to eat cheesecake, but for heavens sake… when you’re in a conversation show some interest in the person you are talking with! Be curious, ask questions and listen to the answers. It’s not what the other person can do for you, but how you both can connect and support each other. Cultivate a genuine interest in other human beings, and you will find they want to connect back. Actually, I would suggest this is positive behaviour for life in general!

Okay then. That folks is a wrap. Thanks for sticking with me, dear reader, over the past two and a bit months while I have fulfilled my new year’s resolution with this Nine Week Blogging Challenge. I hope the process been as illuminating for you as it has been for me as I have reflected on various issues that come up when putting music out into the world.

But waaaaaaaait…

I’m not done yet! Although Ariel’s blogging challenge is officially over, I will continue to post every Monday – and maybe even twice a week – writing about whatever topic catches my fancy and/or comes from your suggestions. Let me know if there is anything you’d like to see covered on this blog related to songwriting, performing, politics, the weather… (okay, maybe less so about the politics. But I’m willing to throw my opinion in the ring if the topic should come up.) Meanwhile this Wednesday March 14th look for the interview I did earlier this week with singer-songwriter and friend of mine, Andrea Ramolo.

Till then, enjoy the longer days!


Next week: Flying Solo!
Look for my next blog update Monday March 19th.

For more about the blogging challenge I have embarked on for my 2012 New Year’s resolution, see my earlier posts:
Warm up: Does Anybody Ever Win These Things
Week 1: What The Mayans Can Teach Us About Setting Goals, Or…
Week 2: Hold the door, this elevator is going up!
Week 3: Home Sweet Homepage
Week 4: Social Media and the Theory of Everything
Week 5: Music Videos Are Not Dead! They’ve Just Gone North For The Winter.
Week 6: I’ve Looked At Blogs From Both Sides Now
Week 7: Poor, Poor Baby
Week 8: How much IS that doggy in the window?

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How much IS that doggy in the window? (Wk 8)

It is no surprise that it’s 10:20pm on Sunday night, and I haven’t scratched out a single sentence in this week’s blog entry for my Monday morning deadline. [Ed. note: it’s now Monday morning at 9:15am, and I’m not done yet. Yikes.]

You see, I’m wrapping up the eighth week of the nine-week blogging challenge. And this week the task is about money. Our task is to create a “Continuum Program”. In market speak, this means answering the key question: what are the variety of items / services / events you can sell to your consumers (fans) in order to make your music business an ongoing thing?

A visual collage

Like many artists, I find it hard to think / talk about this question. But it’s maybe not for the reason you think. I don’t believe in the cliché of money sullying art (well, I used to… but I’m long over that.) I like money. I like feeding and clothing myself, paying my bills and student loan (well, I don’t like the bills, but I like paying them off.) I like being able to afford to tour and make records. And I do think my music contributes to people’s quality of life and is worth an exchange of cash for it.

But it baffles me how people actually assign monetary value to things …how do they know how much to ask for? It seems to me that succeeding in sales and these sorts of financial matters require an understanding of interpersonal communication rules and a community agreed-upon pricelist that I just don’t have.

Maybe it’s silly but…

When I think about money, I get the very strong sensation that I am a kid playing house or “groceries” and that it is play money I’m handling. Yes. Even now. I get that feeling. A concert ticket could be $2 or $20, a record could as easily cost $50 as $5, and I couldn’t explain the difference between St. James Place and Pacific Avenue. The amounts are arbitrary to me, and at the end of the day it is merely an accumulation of numbers. Maybe this is why I don’t mind doing my taxes, because it’s more like a giant set of math problems than any thing to do with the real world.

Image of Monopoly and Canadian Money

Is that strange?

Like I said I am coooool with money. I know I need it to live, to tour and to make records. I’m pretty good at raising capital for large projects: I collected a fair chunk o’ change for my last two albums through arts grants and by inviting friends and fans to contribute through my “Fundraising The Roof” campaigns (popularly known as crowdfunding), and I’m about to do it again for the next one. Making records this way is a fairly sustainable proposition.

But what this week’s chapter reminds me is that it is on-going sales/contact in-between the big projects that makes a music career sustainable. I ought to (want to) come up with additional day-to-day ways of making an income. Less feast / famine and more chug – chugging along.

So let me put the question out to you, my trusty readers… what sorts of items / services would you like to see me offer as my “Continuum Program”? Do you need t-shirts? Fridge magnets? Chord charts? House Concerts? Let’s brainstorm here! And can we get a price check on that?

PS: Speaking of play money, check out my friend Corin Raymond’s fundraising efforts for his upcoming record. So far he’s collected more than $2,600 in Canadian Tire Money!! He’s aiming for $10,000! (There’s a photo of what $2,600 CTM looks like on his blog: www.dontspendithoney.com)


Next week: “The Real World”.
Look for my next blog update Monday March 12th.

For more about the blogging challenge I have embarked on for my 2012 New Year’s resolution, see my earlier posts:
Warm up: Does Anybody Ever Win These Things
Week 1: What The Mayans Can Teach Us About Setting Goals, Or…
Week 2: Hold the door, this elevator is going up!
Week 3: Home Sweet Homepage
Week 4: Social Media and the Theory of Everything
Week 5: Music Videos Are Not Dead! They’ve Just Gone North For The Winter.
Week 6: I’ve Looked At Blogs From Both Sides Now
Week 7: Poor, Poor Baby

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Poor, Poor Baby (Wk 7)

I’m not going to lie to you. This week was a crash for me emotionally. I have been on a relentless pace since starting this Music Success in Nine Weeks challenge seven weeks ago. And I think the 16-hours days are finally catching up with me.

It’s been quite a ride. From the moment I took this challenge on, I have been inspired… nay… rushing to do the million and one things I have been meaning to do for AGES. Indicating, perhaps, one of reasons I put them off before now. There is just not enough time in the day to do all the organizational things I want to do and still play music. Instead, there are huge learning leaps with just about everything I’ve been taking on these past two months – redesigning/updating my website, making a music video, becoming a regular blogger and social media broadcaster and so on and so on. And when you’re an all or nothing gal like me, “all” – like the internet – is an ever growing universe.

What A Rollercoaster!
I thought this week would bring me a little rest. Make space for more music making. The task: look at ways to incorporate our mailing list into our social media plan. I have had an email list going for several years now. It is a healthy size, growing slowly but surely over time. I love that I can chat informally with fans and friends via my newsletters, and it’s always a gift when someone replies to me directly. I thought I would do the simple task of switching service providers to one with a few more cool features and a better sign up form — something I’ve been wanting to do for awhile. And spend the rest of my week doing some prep work for my new recording.

Simple, right? All I had to do was (1) migrate the list, (2) write an email from the old platform saying “we’re moving” and (3) write an email from the new platform saying “we’ve moved”. Done, and onto the good stuff.

But nooooooooo. Technical difficulties abound!!!!!! It’s like I sat down to write a note on a piece of beautiful, crisp stationary, and I couldn’t find a single pen with ink in it anywhere in the house. I won’t bore you with more details of what went wonky, but let’s just say that instead of taking an afternoon, it’s been three days now of fussing with templates and broken links and blah blah blah. I’m finally ready to send out my note, and all the wind is *fffoooooooop* knocked out of me.

It’s time to throw myself a five-minute pity party!

Here’s what I do when I’m feeling low. When technical difficulties overwhelm me. When a new song I’m writing fizzles out after a verse and a chorus. When I get passed over for a festival spot or an award nomination. When I learn that that grant proposal I spent a week a half writing didn’t go through… when I’m feeling sad and alone in the world and quite certain that nobody gives a s*** about me or the arts… that’s when I call on a little “Poor Baby” time.

If I can call a friend with a sympathetic ear, that’s especially nice. But even if I can’t cuz it’s 3 am in the morning, and nobody I know is awake… I can still give myself a “poor baby”. Moan and bemoan all the choices I’ve ever made in my life. Woooaaaaaah!

You should try it too. Yes, I mean it. Whatever your loss is. Throw your fists up at the sky and wail “whyyyyyy meeeeeee?” Cry and gnash your teeth as you say “It’s not faaaaaair.” You are five years old… you are where the wild things are… you are having yourself a good old fashioned melt-down. Then, pat yourself and say, “poor baby”.

Rail out: “it’s not fair, everything sucks!”, then murmur softly “poor baby.” Don’t try fix anything, and don’t let anyone else tell you to buck up and quit blubbering. For five minutes, don’t compare yourself with anyone else in the world or with any one else’s sorrow. Just keep repeating “poor baby” until the sadness and frustration start to subside. After that, eat your supper. Maybe, just maybe you’ll be able to get on with the pleasures of living.

Yo Ellis, Get a Grip

I don’t care if it sounds self-indulgent. I don’t care if it’s “childish” and “irrational”. And I don’t care if it makes me a softie. Cuz what’s exactly what I want to be… soft. I don’t care if it sounds way out of proportion… a whole lot of poor baby over the small matter of a mailing list snafu.

It may be a simple exercise in improving the flow and delivery of my newsletter, but sometimes the smallest things become an existential crisis. When I’m nose-deep in technical problems, how quickly the questions rise up about my value as an artist: Are my songs any good? Do I have what it takes? How long can I keep up this pace? Does anybody really care enough about my music to make all this drudgery worth it?

That’s when I need to be kindest to myself. Like a mama rocking her fretful baby, her poor, poor baby.

Post script
Eventually I did get my list move sorted out. I even figured a work around for a glitch in the new platform (it wouldn’t let me add one particular link to my email in the way I wanted.) I have written the notes to let subscribers know what’s happening, and hopefully not too many people will be freaked out by the change and unsubscribe.

And this week I even received a couple of nice music nods… my video for How The Tiger Lost Her Roar was featured on the Songwriter’s Association of Canada (SAC)’s homepage. And I was also named “Larrivee Guitars’ Player of the Week” on their Facebook Fanpage. Like I said, it’s been a rollercoaster.

Post Post Script
Oh yeah, and I suppose I would be remiss if I did not invite you to subscribe to my newsletter. So, if you’d like to get my newsletters filled with upcoming events, exclusive content and shorter versions of this sort of philosophical musing directly in your inbox, be sure to sign up! :)


Next week: “Creating a Continuum Program”.
Look for my next blog update Monday March 5th.

For more about the blogging challenge I have embarked on for my 2012 New Year’s resolution, see my earlier posts:
Warm up: Does Anybody Ever Win These Things
Week 1: What The Mayans Can Teach Us About Setting Goals, Or…
Week 2: Hold the door, this elevator is going up!
Week 3: Home Sweet Homepage
Week 4: Social Media and the Theory of Everything
Week 5: Music Videos Are Not Dead! They’ve Just Gone North For The Winter.
Week 6: I’ve Looked At Blogs From Both Sides Now

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Interview with Kimi Lyn Smith (Wk 6 – 4 of 4)

I had the pleasure of meeting Kimi Lyn Smith this winter through the Music Success in Nine Weeks blogging challenge. My ears perked up immediately when I heard her song “Only With You” on her website, and I decided to find out more about what she’s up to musically…

Photo of Kimi Lyn Smith with her Guitar

KE: I love the song that’s up on your website, “Only With You”. It’s super catchy! I can hear Aimee Mann, KT Tunstall and Fiona Apple for sure. Is that an original tune?

KLS: Thank you so much! Yes, it’s an original, it’s one of my songs that has more of an alternative rock edge to it. Some of my other songs are more acoustic-instrument based and a bit more complex than this one.

KE: And it’s a demo for an upcoming album of yours, right? Tell me more about that project. Where are you recording it? Is it your first album? How can we get a copy?

KLS: Yes, it’s my first album and I’m recording it in my bedroom, but I have musicians based all over the world playing on it too. The wonders of the internet! Making the album is a fun process but it can’t happen overnight, so I plan to release at least one single before the album is complete. I’m still looking for more musicians to play on it, as well as someone to professionally mix and master it. As for getting a copy, anyone who’s interested in knowing about my future releases, including pre-release material like free mp3s, please do sign up for my newsletter via my website.

KE: You mention in your bio that you have done some co-writing. Who have you done that with? How did that/those come about? What was the process like?

KLS: I’m a big fan of co-writing. I love the magic of creating something that you or the other person would not have created on your own. I’ve always been open to collaborating. I even started a monthly co-writing and song feedback event called London Songwriters when I lived in the UK. It’s still going strong under the same format. I’ve met collaborators through that as well as online or down the local pub to write with.

The writing process is different every time, for example, sometimes I’ll sit alone in my room and write music to the lyrics someone has emailed me. Other times I’ll be in a room with one or more people and we’ll discuss the concept before experimenting with the various elements that make up a song. I find it fascinating when people play me a song they’ve finished when I’ve supplied only the lyrics. The beauty of it is that the situation and the outcomes are always variable when you’re writing with other people. I’ll be including at least two of my favourite collaborations on my album.

KE: How does the UK fit into your story…I notice you’re taking pre-orders in pounds!

KLS: After high school I decided to spend “a year” in France. Fast forward through 15 months of baguettes and cheese and I was ready to leave France but not ready to end the adventure. Fast forward through 15 years of living in the UK and I’d had a lot of great experiences and met a heck of a lot of musicians, and I was ready to go home at last. I relocated back to Toronto in 2011, soon after completing a Masters Degree in Songwriting at Bath Spa University.

Photo of Kimi Lyn SmithKE: What is the first cover tune you learned? Do you still play it?

KLS: It was ‘Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You’ from my late uncle’s Zeppelin guitar tab book. I wasn’t just learning the song, I was also learning the instrument. That song taught me fingerpicking and some chords. Then I discovered drop-D tuning and learned a bunch of Soundgarden and Nirvana songs by ear. After that I just wrote and played my own songs on guitar. No, I never play those cover tunes anymore. At open mics I like to play my own material.

KE: Very cool. So, I met you through an online blogging challenge that’s all about getting our heads around social media as artists. What motivated you to take on this challenge?

KLS: I joined the Songwriters Association of Canada shortly before I got back to TO, to make some contacts on this side of the pond. I found out about the challenge via one of their emailouts. It was coming up to the new year and I liked the idea of getting stuck into something structured to keep me motivated, plus I was keen to meet some fellow Canadian songwriters. I didn’t have huge expectations with regards to learning about social media. I felt I was already pretty savvy, but I was open to learning more – and by Jove, I have!

KE: And how’s the experience going for you so far? Social media: friend or foe?

KLS: I’m loving it. Social media is a wonderful thing. It’s crazy how small the world has become. The challenge is great because apart from meeting likeminded people, I’m learning about new platforms and various tips and tricks that interest me.

KE: One of things you talked about is about changing your stage name. Why did you decide to do that? How’s the new name feeling for you? I have to say I really like the name you picked: Kimi Lyn Smith. It rolls off the tongue!

KLS: I’d been going by Kim Smith but I felt it was too generic, so I decided to start using my full name, Kimi Lyn Smith. Apart from it not being the more common spelling, it’s pretty Google-friendly. It feels good to know I’m the only one out there. And now when I get a Google alert on my name, I know it’s about me and not one of the million other Kim Smiths. I still read the Kim Smith alerts every day though, I find it amusing to see what they’re all up to.

KE: What’s your favourite part of being a musician? The practising? The writing? The touring? The fans? The lifestyle? The organizing? The blogging (lol)?

KLS: I love being a musician, and I surround myself with other musicians, I think this is a pretty common practice. I see myself as a songwriter first and foremost, and a recording artist next. Though I’ve performed somewhat regularly in the past, it’s not something I’ve ever been wholly comfortable with. These days I’ll occasionally hop up onstage at an open mic to play a couple of tunes, but it’s not something I plan in advance. So for me, the best part of being a musician is the creative process. I enjoy writing and practising and recording. I love experimenting with production techniques and effects in Logic Pro. I’m always excited to delve more into the craft of songwriting. I don’t have to worry about getting gigs or compiling set lists or the rigours of touring. As for the blogging, I hope to develop my writing skills over time. My music is a big part of my self-identity and I’m happy being a slave to my creativity.

Photo of Kimi Lyn Smith with her Melodica

KE: I see that in addition to singing and guitar, you also play the melodica. Super fun! If you could magically know how to play another dream instrument, what would it be?

KLS: I would love to play the Hang. It’s a UFO-shaped descendent of the steelpan that you play with your hands. It’s a relatively new instrument and they’re really hard to get a hold of. I saw a guy playing one in front of the Abbey in Bath, UK. We had a chat and I bought his CD. I’d like to get my own Hang. I can see myself sitting alone on a grassy hilltop and playing it for hours and hours and just zoning out. Maybe one day!

KE: Sounds neat. I’m going to google it… ! One more question: rainy day or sunny day. Which do you like better and why?

KLS: After living in England for the past 15 years, I’ve got to say sunny. Despite the fact that one of my all-time favourite songs is ‘Only Happy When It Rains’ by Garbage, a little bit of sunshine sure does lift the spirits. And my Hang won’t get all rusty.

KE: Anything else you want to add?

KLS: Thank you Karyn, this has been really fun!

KE: And thank you for you time, Kimi Lyn! Good luck with the new recording. Can’t wait to hear it.

To learn more about Kimi Lyn’s music, VISIT www.kimilyn.com

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Interview with Sue Newberry of Sue Newberry & The Law (Wk 6 – 3 of 4)

I first met Sue Newberry a couple of years ago when we played a show together at the Spill in Peterborough Ontario (back then she was going by the moniker “Sioux Newberry”.) We spent a bunch of time together last summer – and dare I say we even became friends – when we were both participants in a four-day songwriting workshop at Island Mountain Arts in Wells, British Columbia. Dave Bidini led the workshop, and I forgot to ask but I bet Sue would agree with me that it was an awesome and fruitful experience. (An aside: Dave Bidini is facilitating it again this summer. For all you inspiring/aspiring songwriters, I highly recommend that you check out the IMA 2012 Songwriting Workshop.)

To describe Sue Newberry’s music, I love this quote that her brother David Newberry – a kick ass singer-songwriter himself – writes:

“I want to say that you sing pretty and powerfully, have a killer pop band that can rock, and are smart and poetic. I think thats a good set of messages to try and get across. Is ‘funrock’ a word? I hope so. It’s literate funrock. That’s what you do. Well.”

Photo of Sue Newberry Holding A Delicious Pie

K: Let’s talk about your name for a second here. What’s the story behind ‘Sioux’?

S: It was a nickname from a schoolmate many (15?) years ago. She spelled my name “Sioux” on letters we passed back and forth during class. It just stuck, and pretty soon my peers and teachers were using the spelling. When I was pursuing my university degree in theatre I found that the spelling of the name helped distinguish me in auditions, etc. After so many years I became really attached to the spelling and identifying myself with the pattern and the shape of the letters. It just made sense.

K: I see you are shifting over to Sue Newberry. How’s that going?

S: It’s such a small thing, but a big shift to make. I’m still transitioning all my online sites. I’ve never loved “______ and the ______” band names, but here we are. It seems to make sense for now.

K: Canada seems to have two distinct indie modes of music. Solo verses Band projects. Where do you sit in that dichotomy?

S: I sit in both seats! In the past I’ve played mostly solo, duets, in small projects. The last 3 years or so I’ve been fronting larger bands – our current band has 6 members. It’s super, and so interesting to me right now. I don’t write songs anymore for myself and my guitar, and instead start to conceive and write songs with a 6-person rock band in mind. Playing with a full band for the first time was like grasping the edges of my song and pulling it open, making room for so many sounds. For me, the band enables the expression of the idea and emotion of the song in ways that can’t exist when I’m playing solo. Lots of new challenges, but I’m loving the results.

K: What’s it been like working with a band? Have they been part of the writing process too?

S: We don’t have any set rules about how songs come about. Most often I approach a member of the band, or the band as a whole with a song I have written beginning to end, and we play it out, making changes as suggestions arise. We have tried writing or re-writing together as a group, but find it not as effective. I’m looking forward to continued experimentation.

K: We’re doing this social media blogging challenge together: a challenge that asks musicians to pull out their bullhorns and spend some (a lot?) of time digging into the marketing side of music. How do you keep yourself creatively engaged with your music while at the same time promoting it?

S: Deadlines! I find it essential that my creative time be structured in a way that has actual results in mind. Most of my songs come from a strong lyrical or melodic idea, and those will often come out of unstructured thinking or playing times, but the idea will wither out if I don’t eventually lock myself in a room and put the hard and frustrating work in of finishing the song. Deadlines are essential motivators for me, and for my creative engagement. That might sound backwards, but putting up structures helps me to immerse myself fully in a creative work time – or else the day-to-day will take over.

For example, I’m currently in-studio recording the last few songs of an EP that I started a while back. At the same time I’m working with a publicist, graphic designer, booking gigs, updating social media sites… it’s a very exciting but overwhelming time. I can honestly say that without set deadlines (such as a planned CD release) I would not have put in as much time as I have on my own and with the band over the last month doing the really important work at this time: getting the tunes together for this weekend’s studio session! (P.S. – I’m writing this after day one of recording — bed tracks are sounding great!)

Photo of Sue Newberry Playing Live

K: Can’t wait to hear it, Sue! So, you are smack in the middle of recording your album… that’s no light feat. Long days / nights that absorb most if not all of a person’s creative energy and care. And here you are doing this blog interview! Do you think self-promotion is a necessary evil of being an independent musician these days?

S: *laughs* I think it’s important for the artist have a handle on social media, and be up to date with how social media is connected to exposure, publicity, sales, ‘buzz’, etc — regardless of if the artist  is at the helm of promotion or not. An unexpected result that I started to find about halfway through this challenge is this: I’ve been spending so much time with the ‘other side’ of the music, which is the product that is being marketed (as opposed to the creative process). Somewhere amidst all the thoughts, research and action regarding self-promotion that has been dominating the last 6 weeks I’ve discovered and started to truly believe that the ‘product’ I have is actually something that is worth promoting. So in that way, it’s not an ‘evil’ at all – it’s a pretty great motivator. 

K: If you could delegate away one job as a musician, what would it be?

S: It can be really hard to let go of the reins when it comes to your own craft, and self-promoting that craft! I’ve been working at it, though, and seeing the benefits. Things like mailing out CDs and press kits is an extremely time-consuming job that is better left to someone who has more professional contacts anyway, to yield the best results!

K: You mentioned you were in the studio this past weekend… you’ve got a new project on the horizon! Your album is coming out! Tell me a little more about it. What’s it called? Where and with whom are you recording it? How do we get our hands on it?

S: I independently released a solo CD in 2008, as well as a duet CD with my brother David Newberry (2008). Both albums were toured from Ontario to PEI a few times. You can get a copy of the duets CD here:

www.cdbaby.com/cd/newberryvsnewberry

My upcoming 6-song EP is my first full-band project. It’s under the band name “Sue Newberry & The Law” and is a far step away from the folk/country/roots sound of my first two albums. It’s taken me a long time of playing, writing and touring to start to hone in on my specific strengths as a songwriter and performer. This new turn toward an more indie-rock-pop sound is feeling good with my writing style and voice. I’m really excited to be a part of a team project and we’re really looking forward to the release and tour. CDs will be available online this spring. Our website is currently under re-design and will be launched shortly before the CD release. “Like” our bandpage and you’ll be sure to hear about how to get your hands on a new CD!

www.facebook.com/siouxnewberryandthelaw

K: You’re doing some tour dates around Ontario this spring with your brother who’s also a musician. Sibling rivalry or revelry?

S: Revelry, in accordance with the specific definition:
rev·el/ˈrevəl/ [verb] Engage in lively and noisy festivities, esp. those that involve drinking and dancing.

(Here’s a list of their upcoming tour dates in Ontario.)

K: Awesome ~ a dictionary definition! You’re a gal after my own heart, Sue. And now a few random questions: what’s your favourite mode of travel? (Bus, train, car, plane, boat, bicycle, skateboard, luck dragon?)

S: I’ve been taking the MegaBus lately from Toronto to Kingston for TEN DOLLARS. Double decker! That’s been pretty sweet. I do enjoy (non hwy 401) driving. But all that is behind me now, since I’ve switched to travelling via Luck Dragon. It’s kinda like, our band’s “thing”.

Photo of Sue Newberry and The Law standing in an alley.

K: What are two lines from the cheesiest song you have ever written?

S: This question is awesome.

this glass won’t see me turn to stone
this face i see just can not be my own
this world around me can’t revolve
until all my problems have been soooolllllllllvvvveeedd
(courtney love growl-out ending)

K: Yeah!! What are two lines from the song you are most proud of?

S: Our song “The Law” on our new EP is a mysterious story about a hero running from the law… but why is she running? Lyrics are pithy and fun to sing. It starts:

If you believe what you read than I’m a
Sharp Shooter
but don’t be deceived, believe me,
I’m just going through some hard times
and don’t we all go through
hard times ?

K: Nice! You’re awesome, Sue. Thanks so much for talking with me. Good luck with finishing up and launching your EP!



LISTEN to the song: The Law
From Sue Newberry & The Law’s upcoming album.

Find Sue Newberry & The Law on the Web:
www.facebook.com/siouxnewberryandthelaw
www.twitter.com/siouxberrynew

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Interview with Tom Shea from Trio Arjento (Wk 6 – 2 of 4)

Tom Shea is one-third of the musical entity known as Trio Arjento: “a smooth, complex, and heady blend of musical styles and influences; scotch whiskey for the ears. Their soulful, fragile, exploratory sound mixes jazz, blues, and singer-songwriter traditions to create musical tapestries where every note tells a story. Marcy Hull’s warm, wise, and sultry voice is complemented by the intuitive counterpoint and improvisational chemistry of Jennifer Lockman’s piano and Tom Shea’s guitars.”

I met Tom online through the Music Success in Nine Weeks blogging challenge that I’ve been engaged in as my New Year’s Resolution to get a better handle on social media. This week I thought it would be fun to sit down with Tom and interview him about his music, his take on social media and his call to think locally with his Hundred-Mile Microphone Project.

Photo of the Hamilton band, Trio Arjento

K: Tom, I met you through this blogging challenge, and you keep popping up everywhere. And then there’s your group…

T: Trio Arjento

K: I’m glad you said it.

T: Yeah, it’s a funny name. Actually, it’s an anagram… the AR is from Marcy, JEN from Jennifer and TO from Tom. And it sounds like the Spanish word for silver. But it doesn’t mean anything. If you were Spanish, you’d spell it with a “G” not a “J”. We were going to call ourselves The Balvenie Scotch Trio after our favourite brand of Scotch, because it’s wonderful. But there were some people at our first show who thought that was an irresponsible way to name a band. People started scribbling on napkins…

K: How did you end up doing that first show together?

T: I’ve known Marcy the singer since I was five and she was four. She was in my younger sister’s pre-school class. She used to come around the house for play dates. I don’t really remember this, but Marcy claims I used to grab her pigtails like motorcycle handlebars and drive her around the house.

K: That’s beautiful.

T: She auditioned to sing in my first rock band in high school, when I was in grade 11 and she was in grade 9. We did all out rocking blues stuff, and she was totally unsuited for it. We did early U2 “Pride: In The Name Of Love” and the “Hippy-Hippy Shake”, which was on Cocktail… remember that? With Tom Cruise. [Tom S. picks up his guitar and sings a couple of bars]. We ended up with a guy with massive hair. But somehow Marcy stuck around. After highschool we formed a duo for six years, her voice and my guitar. The focus was on Ani Difranco, edgy aggressive folk. But I grew up on heavy metal.

K: Really?

T: Yeah. My background was all Black Sabbath, Anthrax and Slayer. And she kept saying “you know, there’s so much more to music than this.” She kept conking me on the head, and eventually I caught on that Joni Mitchell was pretty awesome too.

K: Though I have to say that one of the things about heavy metal is that guitar players are… like…good! Some of the finest guitar players come from heavy metal bands.

T: Yeah. But I’m at a point now in my life that I’m not impressed by the speed anymore. *smile*

K: So how did Jen come to be part of your band?

T: I took a break from our duo, while I lived in Kuwait for a while. Then in 2006 Marcy phoned me out of the blue one day. She said, “I know this guy who plays guitar and sounds a lot like you, would you like to come jam with us sometime?” The three of us jammed, then we posted up on Bandmate. We found a bassist, a drummer and a keyboardist… that was Jenny. That band lasted for 2 1/2 years. It was an amicable thing, but in the end that band called it quits over differences in the direction. Marcy, Jenny and I formed the trio.

K: How long ago was that?

T: Two years in October.

K: And so is it all original? You do covers too, right?

T: It’s probably about 70% originals at any show. The covers we throw in for amusement. For example, our Michael Jackson cover of “Human Nature”. We try to do things that are either extremely beautiful or things that are just comical. We’ve done “November Rain” by Guns and Roses. Joni Mitchell “Both Sides Now.” And Ani Difranco, because Ani is part of my DNA now. But the focus is on original material.

Photograph of the Hamilton band, Trio Arjento

K: You’re in Hamilton, right? Do you guys tour across Canada?

T: No, we haven’t. Last summer we were working on an album, and things were coming together nicely. Then Marcy had a baby. We’re kind of in a holding pattern right now, writing new material, putting the finishing touches on the album. We’re not playing out much right now because she’s tired and needs a nap! That’s one of the reasons I joined the Songwriter’s Association of Canada –I thought I could get my songs out there.

K: Do you ever play solo?

T: Not really, no. I’m not much of a singer. It terrifies me. In the past 12 months, I’ve made it a goal that I’m going to sing in public. And I do now. I’m getting better, but you couldn’t give me an hour and a half in front of the microphone.

K: And you’re a dad too. I’m thinking about the touring thing. I’m not sure how many kids you have…

T: I have two boys, they’re seven and ten. So they’re old enough if I go away for a few days. We played at the Orillia Jazz and Blues Festival in October, and I was gone for three days then. And that was fine. But the idea of doing a three-week tour is not really feasible. It might happen this summer, but we don’t have any serious ambitions to tour in the next year.

K: That brings me to something you’ve been talking about, your Hundred-Mile Microphone project. Tell me about that.

T: It started because I bumped into an old friend on the web, a guy name Glenn Marshall, who runs a recording studio here in Hamilton. He’s worked with a ton of people, Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno at the top of the list. He used to be in a band in the 80s. I was just coming into the scene, and he was at the top of the scene. And I remember hanging out with him, and I was really impressed that these people were making music their lives. Then he just kind of vanished for a while. I don’t know what happened. Well, in his blog he says that he developed stage fright. Suddenly he couldn’t go up on stage anymore. He went into the studio, became a great producer.

This got me thinking about my place in the local music scene. And I realized that in a lot of ways I don’t know what’s around me. Because we’re all – you… me… everybody is so distracted by music that’s piped in from outside. I found Glenn’s song on the same day that Whitney Houston died. Everybody was posting “Whitney Houston is dead. What a tragedy, and what a great voice.” And I was sad, I mean I liked Whitney as a singer. But then Glenn’s song came in, and it had a much more powerful impact on me because it was somebody I knew. I’d shaken his hand, I’d eaten dinner at his house. So I got to thinking that maybe I should spend more time exploring my local musical environment.

Since I’ve posted up the blog and the Facebook site that partners with it, I’ve been getting me the names of bands that I’ve never heard of that literally live right around the corner from me. Music is everywhere. If I go for a walk on a summer night, I’m going to hear somebody playing guitar out of their basement or attic window. Right now, a five-minute car ride and I could be at ten different clubs where somebody is playing music. What this project is is the chance to redevelop personal connections with the music scene. To say thank you to Glenn. To say thank you to my buddy Dave, who’s playing a gig tonight. By the way, Dave’s band was the first band that my wife ever saw when she was fourteen. Not only that, but his sixteen year old son is in my English class right now. Everything just goes in these little circles. It’s awesome when you realize it. You don’t need any music from anywhere else, because there is so much good stuff right here. Wherever here is.

Photo of the Hamilton band, Trio Arjento

K: You’re doing the nine week blogging challenge with me, which is all about social media. Why did you decide to do that?

T: The initial attraction was because the band is not playing out that much right now. I thought let’s see if I can use this little shiny box *points to computer* to grow the fan base and explore other avenues for getting the music out there. Initially I found a couple of things a little frustrating: The transparency of all this software: I could set up a blog, but then it wouldn’t talk to my twitter which wouldn’t talk to my Facebook. There was all this trying to massage the pieces together so that they cooperated.

The other thing is that I often feel like I’m dropping pebbles down a well and listening to the echos. As consumers of web content we all see the big, popular stuff; when something goes viral everybody gets it. And I think this gives me and probably some other people a false sense that when you put something on the internet you will find an audience. Which is demonstratively not true.

Having said that, there *is* a cool thing coming out of Hamilton right now. There’s a guy named Drew Smith, who is a wonderful singer-songwriter… he sounds like Radiohead or Coldplay, atmospheric poppy stuff. He did a neat thing to make his last video. He had $2000, so he outsourced it. He got a dance school in India to make a Bollywood style video. In the last two weeks he’s gotten about 185,000 hits. And today it’s going to go through the roof, because it’s on the front page of the Arts & Entertainment section of the Wall Street Journal. It’s an article about outsourcing, really.

K: You’re bringing up the elusive question about why things go viral. (a) They have to be really good but also (b) everybody’s always looking for the new story.

T: Just being a good singer singing a good song is not going to get you a million hits.

K: Right.

T: A whole different part of your brain gets engaged in how to get your idea out. But I don’t watch videos. I just don’t like them. I like to listen to music, not look at it. So the idea that I can make a picture that goes with my music kind of blew the doors off of my brain for a week and a half there.

K: It’s a whole other art form, in a sense. How many hats *do* we wear as musicians? We’re already doing (a) the music (b) the writing (c) the performing…

T: …and then there’s maintaining a blog, doing my twitter feed, and now I’m going to direct my own videos? And I’ve got a day job! I’m a high school English teacher. The idea that I’m going to come home after work, spend quality time with my wife and my kids and maybe do a little cleaning in the kitchen, and then start shooting a video at 11 o’clock at night?

K: Oh yah man, come on! Maybe you should outsource to your students.

T: That’s funny, because yesterday… I’ve got these two really wonderful visual artists who are in my writer’s craft class… I gave them a copy of my CD. I said “I can’t pay you for this, or give you bonus marks in English class for it. But you have my eternal gratitude, and I’ll give you credits in the liner notes.” So they’re going to do a series of illustrations…

[We talk for a bit about making videos out of fridge magnets and lite brights, etc.]

T: You know that I maintain three blogs?

K: Yes. I love the poetry one.

T: The poetry blog never gets any hits! Every time I publish a poem, I post it up on Facebook and the same 20 – 25 people read the poem. Occasionally somebody responds, and that’s just fine. I don’t write because I want to get rich and famous. That’s clearly never going to happen for anybody ever again! But as soon as I posted my first Hundred-Mile Microphone, I got 200 hits within 24 hours. Apparently there’s an audience for this, an appetite for the exploration of local music and culture. I’m excited to discover that I’ve stumbled upon something that other people are excited about too.

K: Cool! Okay, just a couple more questions. Sweet or Savoury, and why?

T: Savoury, I don’t know why. Because I’m already sweet enough?

K: Adorable! One more. What would your secret nickname be for yourself?

T: Like if I were a superhero?

K: Sure.

T: If I were a superhero I would want the ability to breath under water. So what would my nickname be? I think I would probably call myself… *thinks* No… not “The Amphibian”. That’s a terrible name for a superhero! I can’t tell you my secret name. That would be giving it away, right?

K: Right. *smile* I really appreciate you taking time to talk with me, thanks Tom!



Promotional photo for the Hamilton band, Trio Arjento.LISTEN to Love Lets Go, the title track from Trio Arjento’s upcoming CD.

VISIT www.trioarjento.com

LIKE Trio Arjento on Facebook

CHECK OUT the Hundred-Mile Microphone Project.

WATCH Trio Arjento’s version of Human Nature by Michael Jackson on youtube. (Yes, a video!)

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I’ve Looked At Blogs From Both Sides Now (Wk 6 – 1 of 4)

It’s week six of the blogging challenge. And since this week’s task is to look at the blogosphere itself… research and connect with interesting music bloggers and start getting word out about my music that way, I thought it would be fun to turn the task on its head and become a music blog for the week! I’m curious what it’s like from a blogger’s perspective to do music interviews and reviews. What are the questions they have for an artist? What makes a story, you know, *sparkly*. I also thought it would be cool to send a little love out by interviewing a couple of my fellow blogging challengees!

Photo of me working on my laptop

So earlier this week, I spoke with Tom Shea of Trio Arjento, Sue Newberry of Sue Newberry & The Laws and Kimi Lyn Smith to find out what’s going on their worlds.

Initially I thought I would post all three interviews today… a cornucopia of music and ideas for you, my faithful blog readers, to peruse through. But after chatting with each of these wonderful people and hearing their responses, I realizes that they each deserve their own day in the glow of the blog-sun. I will be posting Sue and Kim’s interviews separately over the next couple of days.

Today, may I present to you…
An interview with Tom Shea of Trio Arjento!


Next week: “Your Newsletter”.
Look for my next blog update Monday February 27th.

For more about the blogging challenge I have embarked on for my 2012 New Year’s resolution, see my earlier posts:
Warm up: Does Anybody Ever Win These Things
Week 1: What The Mayans Can Teach Us About Setting Goals, Or…
Week 2: Hold the door, this elevator is going up!
Week 3: Home Sweet Homepage
Week 4: Social Media and the Theory of Everything
Week 5: Music Videos Are Not Dead! They’ve Just Gone North For The Winter.

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Music Videos Are Not Dead! They’ve Just Gone North For The Winter. (Wk 5)

Digging into week five of my blogging challenge (for more about the challenge, see the links to previous posts at the bottom of this page.)

The task: (a) entwine youtube into my online presence and (b) post a new video. So after fiddling around with my youtube channel – switching over to the new layout, updating the look with my now ubiquitous honeycomb backdrop and adding web links and so forth – I set out to finish part (b) of the task.

And I’m glad I did. Because this week, it seems, I have inadvertently launched a new project aptly titled: my Homemade Music Video Project. This has been on my secret to-do list since I first created the music video for my song Be My Girl back in March of 2010.

I say secret because in addition to making music, I have a fantasy of being a world famous movie director / auteur! Okay, if not world famous…then at least kinda well known around internet circles and among my fans and friends.

Image of How To Make A Secret Message

How To Make A Secret Message

I’m a filmmaking newby, and I’m fascinated with old super 8 footage and stop animation and all sorts of low-tech ideas. What better way to figure stuff out then to…well… figure it out!

So the project goes like this: I am going to make videos for every song on my album, Even Though The Sky Was Falling… and then some (I’m thinking of a few tunes from my earlier album, Hearts Fall, and when the new album comes out – songs from that one too.) Once a month, or so, I plan to put together a new video and… yep, you got it… post it on my youtube channel. Seamless integration!

And So, Drrrrrrum Rrrrrrrollll…

Here is my first submission: (well, second if you consider Be My Girl to be the inaugural one so many mooooons ago.)

May I present: Little Grey Sparrow!

(Warning: embarrassing hair cuts ahead.)


Part Two: A Brief Musing On The Function Of Music Videos

Remember a few years ago when every body was saying that music videos were dead? That’s because in the old school way of thinking (old school being 80s & 90s MTV model) music videos were promotional tools only… music video were the sweet eye candy, the ribbon on the music, the window dressing on the salad days designed to do one thing only… sell singles.

They were sleek, expensive and only doable for artists with major label support. After all, there was only so much broadcasting time available on MTV or MuchMusic – and those were really the only outlets for showing them. If you were going to sink that much money into promoting a song, the production values had to be high. And that meant having big backers.

Even the addition of CMT and MuchMore didn’t do much to change this. If your video didn’t have high production value and someone working it for you [read = $$$], it was/is tough to get it added to rotation. (Though having said that, and if I may toot my own horn for a second: last year Be My Girl got picked up by Bravo, and I hear it still plays from time to time. Groovy!)

February 14th, 2005: The Day That Everything Changed

And then Youtube showed up. All of a sudden you could post as many videos as you wanted and the ability to garner viewership was, theoretically, a democratic process. If people liked your video and shared it, well gosh darn… you’d go viral! Thus followed the explosion of kitten and silly prank videos and other quick sugar fixes. [Ed. note: well, it took a few months for youtube to actually get up and running. But the domain name was registered seven years ago tomorrow. And in my opinion, that’s romantic enough to deserve to be the title for this section]

Youtube opened up an avenue for independent artists to try their hand too. And thanks to the limits of bandwidth and viewing resolution, as well as the immediacy of upload times, music videos no longer needed to be polished and sleek, just interesting to watch.

Tap, Tap… Is This Thing On?

This raises the question – as an independent musician trying to build sustainable income from music, I wonder do music videos really help to sell music anymore? Do people rush from watching my latest post over to iTunes to download the song?

Maybe that is not the right question anymore. What music videos do is help to forge stronger relationships with fans, and hopefully make new fans too. And equally important is that the process of searching for visuals to express a particular song inspires me to expand my creative thinking. Hopefully that brings depth and moves me to make better work in the future.

What do you think? Are music videos dead? If not, what do you get out of them? What makes a music video interesting enough for you to watch and to share?

Next week: “Blogging”.
Look for my next blog update Monday February 20th.

For more about the blogging challenge I have embarked on for my 2012 New Year’s resolution, see my earlier posts:
Warm up: Does Anybody Ever Win These Things
Week 1: What The Mayans Can Teach Us About Setting Goals, Or…
Week 2: Hold the door, this elevator is going up!
Week 3: Home Sweet Homepage
Week 4: Social Media and the Theory of Everything

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Social Media and the Theory of Everything (Wk 4)

In the spirit of this week’s blogging challenge task – Week 4: looking at social media – I’m gonna (try to) keep it short.

The scientist in me wants to know why there is such a discrepancy between ways time passes when you are online. Note the difference between:

(A) The length of time you have to wait between posting a status update on your Facebook and the moment you receive your first reply. Those few minutes can stretch out to foreeeeever! (If you’re looking to bend your brain, check out the article on “Event Horizons” on Wikipedia. Warning: Geek Alert!)

Similarly, why does it take so long for someone to respond to that important email? (Don’t they know it’s urgent… URGENT! In my world, that is.)

(B) On the other hand, how come time flies so quickly when it comes to writing that new blog entry? Where did that eight hours go since you sat down to type out a few lines?

Let’s Do The Time Warp!

Photo collage of Einstein doing the Time Warp from Rocky Horror Picture Show

One of Einstein's lesser known equations: (L+R)(H+K) = TW
(A jump to the left + A step to the right) (hands on your hips + knees pulled in tight) = time warp.


.

Photo from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Time Warp Dance

Scientists are busy working on developing a single equation that can tie together and fully explains all known physical phenomena. So tell me, wouldn’t that be helpful when trying to balance my million online social media sites? Soundcloud, sites that let you “sign in with your facebook account” and organizational apps like Hootsuite and Bufferapp suggest that computer programmers are on the same hunt for the perfect “Theory of Everything”. Though they are still faced with the issue of dark matter to deal with (anyone using Myspace these days?)

Funnily enough, this week actually found me spending more time offline playing guitar and recording demos than in the previous three weeks combined. Ironic, since the task was all about social media, which as you know happens entirely online.

But as Einstein (probably) said: you gotta take time to dance if you want to have something to share with your tweeps and facebook friends.

Next week: “The Musician’s Guide To Youtube”.
Look for my next blog update Monday February 13th.

For more about the blogging challenge I have embarked on for my 2012 New Year’s resolution, see my earlier posts:
Warm up: Does Anybody Ever Win These Things
Week 1: What The Mayans Can Teach Us About Setting Goals, Or…
Week 2: Hold the door, this elevator is going up!
Week 3: Home Sweet Homepage

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Home Sweet Homepage (Wk 3)

We’re in week three of Music Success in Nine Weeks blogging challenge. Yep, still on track with my new year’s resolution: kicking the business side of my music into higher gear so that the music side of my music can find a little more love in the world. All so that I can make a reasonable living as an artist, you know? This week’s task is to look at our websites to check out how they’re working for us as a marketing tool. Topic is maybe a little dry, but it’s never a bad time to do a little spring-cleaning around the homepage.

First of all, let me give a shout out to Carlos Gouveia who built all the backend for my website entirely from scratch last year! Go ahead, check it out: www.karynellis.com. But wait – it’s not a small site – so actually you may want to finish the rest of this article first! :) Tell you what… keep reading to the bottom of the page, and I promise to post the link again there for you.

Footloose and Full of Fancy PHP and CSS and ABCs and XYZeds

I went deep into the recesses of the admin area and ftp site to make several much needed updates. I was wowed to be seeing what all goes on behind the scenes to make a website run. Programming is a whole other art form, in my opinion, that I can only admire from afar as a musician. Things are waaaay more complicated then way back than they were when I built my first, rudimentary site using Notepad and basic html coding. Remember those days? Needless to say, this week there was a *huge* learning curve for me to be able to update the new site myself.

Luckily in addition to music, I love puzzles – yeah, I’m a nerd that way – and so I pulled several all-nighters (three of them, in fact) figuring out how to do simple things like get my “join my mailing list” button to appear on every page and to create a new section on my site called “How To Host a House Concert”. I also had fun working on graphics stuff like the corresponding cute little house concert notices that you see on my tour page and scattered throughout the site as well as the new banner on the contact page. But, my friends, it was worth every late night minute. This is stuff I’ve been meaning to do for ages! And it feels good!

January February Spring Cleaning

So the floors are swept, and the window sills are dusted. Still have to wipe down the cupboards and sort through the coat closet. There are a few more things I’m going to update in the next week or so, once I’ve caught up on my sleep! Like a better way to hear music on the site and those comments from the survey that I promised I’d be posting (turns out I have to build a new page, and I didn’t have a chance in the midst of everything else. But they’re coming…!) [Ed. note: Posted!]

Another *very* exciting thing (in my humblest of opinion) that’s coming in the next couple of days is the addition of a slideshow on the homepage! Woo! Moving pictures! Like finally hanging up the paintings in the living room. Maybe the slideshow will already be up by the time you read this! The programming is – I admit – beyond my cut ‘n paste abilities, so my friend Nick Stott is walking me through the process of making it live. We have a IM date early this week to do it. I’ve seen the preview, though, and I love it! [Ed. note: the slider is up! Hurray! Nick, you rock!]

“You Know That Cute Little Place On The Corner Of Profile & Page?”

Now, you may be asking yourself why I am doing all this fancy pants work on my website when it seems like all the action these days is to be found on places like facebook and twitter?

Those sites are for sure fabulous for meeting up with people to socialize. They’re like meeting up in a café for a coffee date (or if you’re a super social site user, like holding court in that same café all day). But for myself, I also enjoy the pleasure of good old-fashioned inviting people over to my place for a visit too.

That’s because I want people to come over to my house and thumb through my bookshelves to see what I’m reading, spot a good book and then borrow it. I want them to admire the collection of beautiful, rusty farm implements displayed along the wainscoting, which I gathered while living for a few years on a farm outside of Kingston, Ontario. I want to put the kettle on for coffee and to set out a tray of crackers and hummus for us to nibble on while we sit in the dining room and chat about stuff. Sometimes I just want to play host in my own home.

Photo of Me And My Rusty Things

Those are some of my Rusty Things

Photo of My Bookshelf

Calvin & Hobbs, Six-String Nation and the French / English Dictionary about sums it up.

Yes, I want people to come to understand me / my personality through the space that I live in. Imagine carting all the things that define me every time I set out to meet someone in a café somewhere. Sure, I can bring a snapshot or two… but it is through the particular way things are laid out in my space, that I can share a lot more of myself with you.

The metaphor’s not perfect, of course. Until we have true 3-D downloading capabilities using transport technology through the internet, you won’t be able to feel the weight of those cool rusty farm tools just by visiting my website… but you will get to enjoy a colour scheme that matches them and no ads in the sidebar. Likewise there is not quite enough room in my house here in BC for *everyone* who visits to become my roommate. But, I wouldn’t mind if that same everyone made my website their go-to page when logging into the internet. :))


Here’s that link that I promised you. www.karynellis.com. Find any other dust bunnies during your visit to my website? Any thing that would make it a better place to visit? Anything you especially like about it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Next week: “Social Media = Engagement”.
Look for my next blog update Monday February 6th.

Related post: I love!

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Hold the door, this elevator is going up! (Wk 2)

Has there ever been such a fine invention as the humble elevator? You enter a tiny 5 by 4 foot room on one floor. Press a button indicating where you want to go and watch as the door closes. For a moment or two you are inside your own private space. Then – like seeming magic and without ever appearing to move – the doors open again and you step out onto an entirely new floor.

I am in the second week of my blogging challenge: Music Success in Nine Weeks, and this week’s task is to write two or three sentences that sum me up as an artist. This “elevator pitch” (also called a 15-second pitch) is a short blurb meant to be delivered quickly to a potential fan, industry supporter, media tastemaker, etc, in the time that it might take to share an elevator ride together. Just enough description to entice them to check me out if they haven’t heard of me before and to raise awareness of my music to a new level.

Talk To Me, Otis!
This should be easy, right? I am songwriter, and I am used to using words. But… [pause] I’m not an engineer. Trying to condense my work into a couple of lines feels like trying to draft the blueprint of an amazing “elevating machine.” I know there are some hoists and some cables, and there’s a cabin nestled inside an elevator shaft. Or… maybe there are ropes or pulleys or…


From the National Archives.

I, like many artists, often create from a place of impulse. I write songs and I perform them in front of hundreds of people, but I don’t often stop to think about the impact I am making. I mean, I like it when people respond to my work. I love hearing comments and applause, yes. But I don’t really know how people, you know, see me. In my mind, I’m just doing my thing without too much thought to whether or not my slip is showing. So what could have been a ten-minute exercise – two or three sentences that sum up my sound – turned into a week-long journey into another philosophical question: what impact do I make in the world?

The Mechanics Of Un-Invisibility
I decided to ask people. I drafted up a four-question survey I called “How Would You Describe Me To Your Friends”. (I used SurveyMonkey.com, a decent platform for making free surveys.) I asked people to tell me who I sound like (similar artists), what genre I play, and what words they might use to describe my music to someone who doesn’t know me (tying this back in to what one might say to a stranger in an elevator.) I included a long list of adjectives scoured from reviews and stuff written about me. This in itself was pretty trippy: sometimes I am stuck in my own little elevator cabin and I lose perspective on where I am in my career. I found a lot of really nice write ups in the press using words like “playful”, “whimsical”, “melodic”, “bittersweet”, “expressive”, “warm” and so forth. Felt good to put the list together.

However, the moment I hit send to my newsletter pointing them to the survey, I had an incredible plunging feeling. You know… you’re standing in the elevator and you hear the moaning of cables, and the sudden lurch of the cabin and you think… “oh my god this baby is going down!” Thoughts of “self-indulgent” and “who I am to ask… who really cares about little ol’ me?” started running around inside my head.

The Rush Of Falling
Imagine then how utterly blown away I was to discover forty people were willing to take time out of their busy days to fill in my ever so clunky survey (did I mention I’m not an engineer?) People left comments that were amazing. I am reminded that just as I feel goodwill for other artists so too do people sometimes feel goodwill towards me.

The Root Verb Of The Word Elevator Is Elevate:

1. To move (something) to a higher place or position from a lower one; lift.
2. To increase the amplitude, intensity, or volume of.
3. To promote to a higher rank.
4. To raise to a higher moral, cultural, or intellectual level.
5. To lift the spirits of; elate.

While all of the above are relavent in the context of this week’s task, definition number five, in particular, catches my eye.

Here’s a short sample of the comments people wrote:

I really enjoy having your music as part of the soundtrack to my life. When I am up it can take me just a little higher and when I am down it’s like having a friend to ride it out with. But whatever and whenever, your voice and music always feel like home.” SB

“There is something very personal in your shows. I have been to three or four, and I have always felt “close” to you, even though we never spoke. It truly feels like you are sharing your most personal feelings with the crowd… the feeling of “I know how she feels, I felt it too”.” YF

“Your music lifts my heart.” DH

First Draft
So much of what I am discovering these past couple weeks doing this blogging challenge is that to be better “business-minded” and reach new levels as an artist, my relationships with people are at the core. I was reminded again this week that my art connects me to others and others to me. And at the end of this week, I humbly submit, I feel elevated.

The pitch I wrote at the end of this process is somewhat anti-climactic after all the emotional adventures I went through. But I’ll put it down here for the curious. (A shout out to Ross Douglas and Guido Ocker whose wonderful comments were woven into directly the pitch.)

“Karyn Ellis is a gentle powerhouse of a songwriter. Playful, bittersweet and made with the finest ingredients of Folk, Country, Pop and even a trace of Jazz. Listen and be fortified.”

Please do let me know if you think it sounds like me! Suggestions for edits are welcome. I have an inkling that it does, but can I really know for sure? :)

Next week: “Your Website”.
Look for my next blog update Monday January 30th.

PS, I’ll be posting more comments and feedback from the survey as part of next week’s challenge. [Ed. note: Survey Results and Comments from the Survey have been posted here!]

Related Posts: The Difference Between Small Towns And Cities… Stickers!, and a prose poem: “Some Days It Surprises Me”

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Filed under MSi9W3, Music, Writing

What The Mayans Can Teach Us About Setting Goals, Or What Are You Doing December 22nd, 2012? (Wk 1)

How perfect is that? Oh Mayan calendar ~ apparently it is the year the world is going to end, and after all this time spent in the music biz (three albums worth to be precise) *only now* am I getting around to writing down professional goals for myself. As I mentioned in my last blog entry, I have embarked on an online blogging challenge called Music Success in Nine Weeks based on Ariel Hyatt’s book of the same name. Twenty-twelve *might* be the year the world ends; it is also the year that I am taking reign of my music career and allowing myself to be a successful musician.

To kick off the challenge, this week (number one) is all about setting goals. Write them down, so the wisdom goes, and you’ll be way more likely to achieve them. Which got me thinking about why I have never done it before now.

Goals – sigh – why bother?
According to the doomsayers – the Mayan Long Count calendar ends on December 21st 2012 and therefore, they conclude, humankind will be toast too. *cue ominous music* Uneasiness is sweeping the general population like the flu: freaky weather, volcanos and earthquakes, oil spills in the ocean, economic struggles in Europe, full body scanners at airports, newsfeeds describing unending tragedy and mistrust between fellow human beings. Doesn’t that list just go on and on…

In the face of all this doom ‘n gloom, I’m sitting down to write out my goals for the next 3-months, 6-months, 1-year, 5-year and lifetime, and I’m thinking… geez, December 21st is less than a year away. Does that mean I shouldn’t bother with anything beyond the 6-month plan?

Neverending Story
But wait a minute, I thought Y2K was supposed to be the doozy that would knock us all out with errant missiles and misbehaving computers. And, wasn’t last year home to a couple of rapture ascension dates that never came to pass? In fact, a quick look at Wikipedia tells me that there have been over a hundred apocalyptic dates throughout history, and more to come (assuming we make it through this year.)

So you can see why when it comes to setting goals – just like quitting smoking – there has never really been a good time.

Okay, sure. Consciously I do not actually buy into the doom ‘n gloom model. Quite the contrary. My worldview can be summed up by this quote: “I cannot believe that the inscrutable universe turns on an axis of suffering; surely the strange beauty of the world must somewhere rest on pure joy!” (Louise Bogan)

This week, however, I was embarrassed to discover what has been stopping me from expressing my goals all these years. Somewhere along the way my hope fell out of favour, and hopelessness gained entry into my subconscious. I have been worn down by the barrage of bad news and numbed by it.

Crazy Little Thing Called Hope
Well damn you, doom! The reason I became an artist in the first place was to hang on to this little spark called hope. Even in this time of winter, I call forth music like spring calls forth poppies. I will sing and write songs like blooms waving freely across a field.

Yes, what I have realized this week is that it is no small act – writing down one’s goals (aka dreams.) It goes beyond mine or anyone’s personal aspirations; I see expressing them as an act of hope. By affixing goals/dreams into concrete form, I am saying to the world I trust that you are going to be here with me on December 22, 2012 and as far into the future as life takes me.

So Don’t Blame the Mayans
If anything, let’s applaud them for their incredible forward thinking and rich civilization. After all, they created a calendar cycle 5,126 years long, setting their sights well beyond any single lifetime. That’s advanced goal setting if I’ve ever seen it. The fact that the calendar runs out this year means it’s more than overdue for me… for us… to take it from here, thanks.

This week I have created a number of pretty 8 ½ x 11s describing my goals for the upcoming year, and I have placed them in my newly created “Goals Book”, a document I will refer to again and again throughout the coming months and years.

For the record (and in honour of the Mayan long count calendar,) let me add one here too. “It is December 22nd, 2012. Happy solstice! It’s good to be alive! To celebrate the returning sun, today I am sharing my homemade video for “Winter Song” (one of my new songs from my new album recorded this year) online through my newsletter, website, various online social media sites, etc. Enjoy!”

What are you doing December 22nd?

Next week: “Creating The Perfect Pitch”.
Look for my next blog update Monday January 23rd.

Related post: (1) I Like Lists

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Filed under MSi9W3, Winter, Writing