From Heroin to Hope
After one sweaty summer show in a park, I was approached by one of my loyal fans.
Let’s call him Sam.
Sam was one of those fans an artist dreams about having: supportive, active, an ambassador of your message. He had bought several large boxes of my CDs to give away to friends and family the Christmas before, and singlehandedly paid my rent that month. He was a good guy with a heart of gold.
Sam pulled me aside and told me this story,
and it changed my life:
Sam’s brother-in-law, let’s call him Jim, had recently become estranged from Sam’s sister.
Jim was a good guy, too. But, Jim had a very, very bad problem.
It was a sad, but all-too-familiar story: After several years of experimenting with drugs and alcohol, Jim had developed a devastating addiction to heroin.
Heroin? How? It was unclear to Jim how he got there. There was no decisive moment, no single misstep to blame for what came next. Everyone else seemed to have a better perspective on his fall from grace than he did. It felt like one day he was walking through his life, perhaps a little stumble here and there, and the next he was sliding slowly down an icy hill, picking up speed, until a rocky bottom came up at him faster than he could figure out what happened.
He hit the ground with a resounding clunk.
Jim's wife left him. He lost custody of his children, and then lost visitation rights. He lost his job, his home, his friends, and his health. His collarbone jutted out of his T-shirt, and his arms and toes were bruised and speckled with needle marks. If things didn’t turn around, he knew, he could soon lose his life.
Jim’s existence was spiraling completely out of control, but no matter what he tried, he couldn’t seem to stop it. A series of failures and slights along the way were blows that took chunks out of his soul. He had lost all faith in himself.
That Christmas, Jim found himself sitting alone on a cot in a homeless shelter, skinny, cold and pitifully lonely, with his few remaining possession scattered around him.
It seemed like the whole world had forgotten him. A black cloud of inescapable darkness had him tightly in its grip.
But, then... a tiny ray of light broke through.
Unexpectedly, Sam dropped by, and handed Jim the only Christmas gift he would receive that year, the “Breathe” CD. It was a brief and slightly awkward visit, but the gesture of kindness echoed through Jim's frail frame.
"Breathe" wasn’t the kind of music Jim would normally listen to, but life at the shelter was both painfully lonely and painfully overcrowded, and today he just needed a little peace. So, he placed the CD into his portable CD player (one of the few possessions he hadn't sold to pay for his addiction, yet) put his headphones on, and lay back on the squeaky cot with his eyes closed, hoping to escape his harsh reality, if only for a moment.
In a few minutes, the lyrics “When can we feel sober, now that we’ve hurt for so damn long,” floated through his ears.
His eyes flew open as the words struck a chord within him.
What was this about? He flipped the CD case open and pulled out the insert.
The song was called “Sober.” One simple word that, for so long, had seemed impossible to live.
“Hold on. Trust that solace finds you still…Trust your soul to miracles.”
He scoffed at the words.
Then, one line hung in the air, “We still hold everything, and the grace to make a stand.”
Something shifted inside him. A little more room to breathe. After everything goes wrong, what if we still have the grace to make a stand? What if it is possible?
For the first time in over a year, Jim felt like there was light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe he was still worth something. Maybe there was a chance to prove it. If not to everyone else, then at least to himself. The possibility felt both terrifying and electrifying. It overwhelmed him and he found himself in tears, listening to the song on repeat, over and over.
Jim cried for what seemed like hours, then picked himself up, and made a decision that would change everything.
Within 6 months, Jim had gone through rehab, was 3 months sober, and had rejoined his wife and children back at home. He’d found the strength to conquer his demons, and to reclaim the life he thought he’d lost.
A month later, Jim asked Sam to thank me for changing his life, for writing the song and giving him the message that he still had time to change his life for the better. He was too shy to thank me himself.
After sharing the story, Sam left. I sat a long time contemplating what I'd heard. I was shocked, honored, and overwhelmed.
I also knew an imposter when I saw one.
Here’s the truth:
I hadn’t written the song about actually getting sober. "Sober" was a metaphor for completely different subject, a story about a friend of mine, the abuse she suffered in her relationships, and the illogical decisions we humans make in pursuit of connection.
Jim's interpretation of "Sober" was completely his own. And so was his triumph.
As a young artist, of course I tended to get all wrapped up in what I had to say, thinking my message was Important, with a capital “I”. I wrote to change the world for the better, but when it happened, it wasn't how I expected, and I certainly didn't deserve a single ounce of credit.
Here was proof that what I had to say to the world was not nearly as powerful as what someone has to say to themselves.
I was immensely humbled in that moment, and learned something I’ve held onto since then...
It is in our nature to evolve, to grow, to be resilient, and to become better versions of ourselves. All we need is a reason to let go of the anchor of our perceived limitations, so we can reach out and grasp who we really are.
Perhaps the greatest gift we can offer is not perfection, or solved problems, or righteous action, but to be willing to see possibility within each other.
Perhaps we don't need to define what that possibility is, but just to allow it to exist in all its evanescant glory, like a beacon in the night.
When I look back on that story now, I realize that Jim changed my life as much as I changed his. We both gave and got what we needed most. Jim needed to see that he could have faith in himself, and I needed to see that I could have faith in others.
In the end, we chose to become the cure to what ailed us.
So here's to Jim, wherever he is today. I hope warm, safe, happy, connected and always evolving.
And here's to Sam, for being a bringer of light into dark places with his kindness.
On Tour Notes 7/1/01
Throwback Thursday, all the way back to '01!
Official Tour Album: This Desert Life - Counting Crows, especially Colorblind
Official Tour Theme: Learning how to say bellybutton, asparagus, and thingamabob in many languages
Official Tour Book: Bridget Jones' Diary (highly recommended!)
Colleen and I just got back from Europe, where we saw more of the inside of trains and train bathrooms than we ever wanted to see, got fat and sunburned and then skinny and pale, washed our clothes in a bidet. ended up in a hospital, and escaped Europe via a red-light district.
We landed in Frankfurt, Germany on March 30th with some seriously wobbly legs acquired during the 11 hour flight, and got on a train to Heidelberg.
Heidelberg has a most amazing castle eloquently dubbed Heidelberg Schloss, which means Heidelberg Castle. Yeah. It was quite lovely, what there was left of it after being destroyed and rebuilt countless times. The townspeople used to pay taxes to the prince with wine, which was stored in the castle in the biggest wine vat you could imagine. It was more than 3 flights tall and held over 220,000 liters. The ground water at that time was unfit to drink, so the castle's inhabitants could only drink wine and milk, and most people died of alcohol poisioning in their 30's. Oh, the good old days.
We watched rugby practice and attended a great nightclub with 4 levels of choice techno, pop, live punk and dance music before we headed for Berlin.
Berlin was, well...rainy. Technically, we were just outside Berlin in Gross Glienicke. Pretty much the whole time we were there it rained. We had to dry our washing with a hair dryer because clothes dryers are apparently against Europeans' religion. As are shower curtains. Picture having a normal tub and shower with a detachable nozzle, but to take a shower you have to sit in the tub and try desperately not to get any water on the floor while the dirty, soapy water swirls around your butt. Then, many houses have a seperate enclosed shower in the same room to shower while standing. The logic escapes me.
Due to the rain and our jetlag, nothing much got done in Berlin. Nut, we did have an epiphany while walking back from a friend's house where we had been horseback riding:
We took a jaunt off through the woods on what was meant to be a shortcut, and ended up in lush green wheatfields that stretched for a mile or more in every direction. It was mesmerizing.
Like a couple of crazed cows full of silly joy, we went running into the fields aiming for a tree on top of a small hill. The sea of teal-green wheat nveloped us, towering over our heads until all we could see were the stalks parting before us and closing after us. The feeling was like nothing else, like being in a green bubble where time stood still and all we could hear was the wind swirling above us.
This is where Colleen said, "This experience is like a metaphor of life. We could see our intended destination when we began, but it is now lost."
And then she landed the punchline: "I guess you just start off in the right direction and hope one leg isn't shorter than the other."
This has become my favorite quote of all time. She is so the bomb.
We decided, after quite some cold and rainy time in Berlin, that we wanted to head to Italy.
Colleen and I left our big luggage with a friend and packed everything we would need for 3 weeks into 2 small knapsacks and hit the rails.
As was to be the theme for our whole trip, the rails were beyond confusing, and we ended up running around Germany lost, and spending the night with 20 very smelly men in the waiting room in the Stuttgart train station.
If you are traveling in Germany, please note the following:
Staying overnight in the Stuttgart train station SUCKS! Avoid it like the Black Plague.
But we did catch a train through Austria where we managed to snag our own room and wound our way through a bit of the Alps. Incredible scenery!
By the time we arrived in Florence, it was hot and sunny, and we were thrilled!
In Florence, there are apparently no rules when driving any type of vehicle. The streets are a complete free-for-all where mopeds rule the day, driving up in sidewalks, through cafes, into your hotel room and out the window without batting an eyelash.
The Italian men are so pretty! The Italian women are all size 2s, because we couldn't even fit into the larges in any of the shops. Our expectations have, as a result, been completely skewed, and we shall never live up to our own standards for beauty again.
We found that the best way to avoid cat calls from men in the markets was to hold hands, which convinced them we were lesbians. That worked most of the time, but some of the men only liked us more. Hmmm. Perhaps they misunderstand lesbianism.
We stayed in an incredible hostel that was a 10 minute walk through vineyards from town. I rolled over on a rainbow-colored spider in my sleep, and woke up with 6 square inches of artistically-squished spider pasted on my thigh. Yay for me.
We visited a few choice landmarks, ate pizza and coconut and spit banana at the pigeons in the park (quite amusing, especially if you can dole out karma by getting the banana to stick onto the "bully" pigeons, and watch as they get chased around by the weaker pigeons for a chance).
We decided to make our other trip theme (the first was confusing rail travel) to be learning certain choice words in as many languages as possible. For instance, bellybutton is 'bauchnabel' in German.
The next day we were on our way to Rome.
Rome was, or course, exceptional! The history and the energy is amazing and infectious! The Colosseum, the fountains, the ruins, are larger than life and just......wow. We had to stay a few days in order to make a dent in the bucket list of sights. I have never done so much walking in my life.
We performed in a beautiful courtyard and bought Roman underwear and learned to hate other American tourists. Americans are the loudest, rudest, most obnoxious travelers. They were smoking in the Colosseum and dropping chip bags into the catacombs for god's sake!
Anyway, you all must try coconut ice cream. I've never seen it in the states, but it is fiercely YUM. We ate mostly ice cream and then burned off the fat wandering aimlessly through tiny Roman streets and Cathedrals and taking pictures of handsome Roman men. Rome is just the bee's knees for a couple of single chicks.
After Rome we attempted to see Pisa, but the leaning tower was reportedly leaning a little too much and was closed for repair.
On to the French Riviera!
We arrived in St. Raphael where, after a shot of espresso, we caught a boat to the little town of St. Tropez. Some lovely firemen directed us to a cheap hotel (just our style) where we got a double room with a sink and...a bidet. Hmmm. It wasn't the first time we'd seen one, but this one was... ancient, and perhaps plumbed completely wrong. The water filled from what looked like a drain hole and there was no spout. For lack of a decent sink, we decided to clean it and use it as a laundry-washing sink, and it worked out quite well.
Shopping there was great and quite cheap if you were patient, and we danced around on a court overlooking the Meditterranean while we ate rice pudding and baguettes and fromage (that is French for cheese. If you want to find a cheese factory, you ask for the closest fromagerie. really. Perhaps you already know this, but it tries us as funny.)
The next day we headed back to St. Raphael and the topless beaches where we tried to get tan, but mostly got really burned. We looked like lobsters for most of the rest of our trip.
On to Barcelona, the city of weird smells!
We spent a good portion of our time trying to find a hostel and just managed to squeeze into one of the most popular ones right on La Rambla, a major market street where jugglers and artists and street performers worked the crowds. Our window looked over a courtyard complete with cafes and wandering balladeers and a fountain, and lots of drunk people.
We danced for 8 hours one night on the wharf, spent $7 on a pina colada (oops), and saw an incredible theater production staged on the street that starred entirely alter-abled people. It was beautiful and inspiring.
We also spent a day with some very sweet Brits in a little Spanish town on the coast called Llansa, after getting thrown off a train in the middle of the night.
Asparagus is 'asparagus' in Spanish. How thrilling.
Colleen began to feel ill on our way from Barcelona to Paris (some serious foreshadowing here). We caught a night train and tried to sleep, but were not particularily successful.
Paris was very cold and rainy, and after some effort we found a hotel and Colleen and I went to bed. After sleeping most of the day and watching episodes of "Walker: Texas Ranger" dubbed in French (which is ALL WRONG I must say), I went out to forage for food.
There is no peanut butter in France. However, there is plenty liver pate. There is also no plain cheese. It all must have some sort of srange funk growing on it for the French to consider it to be cheese. I had to get cream cheese and jelly to make sandwiches. You know, health food for young American travelers.
Colleen still felt ill the next day, but we made an attempt to see the sights with Colleen waning more by every hour. We did get to see Notre Dame (really neat-o) and as far as the entrance to the Louvre. But, then, Colleen felt really badly, and what with the long walk back to the hotel, we decided not to risk her health with what would be many more hours of walking, and we turned back. By the time we got back to the hotel, she was in quite poor spirits and we decided to press on to Brussels so she could rest the remainder of the day.
Poor Colleen was very badly off on the train ride to Brussels! We arrived around 10pm and after laying her down in a waiting room, it was only 2 hours before I could get money, a place to stay, and rail tickets. We still spent 30 more minutes wandering around in the freezing cold, in the middle of the night, Colleen ready to die and me carrying both backpacks before we found a police station and correct directions to the hostel.
Colleen went to bed immediately, and was up and down all night with fever. While I went on a journey the next morning to try to find ice cubes for her, she wandered into the street and passed out. The locals didn't take her out of the street, but instead brought a chair into the street, which they propped her up on until she could get back to the room. A very interesting solution, but I am grateful that they were there to help.
Obviously, it was then we realized her illness was quite serious. We had to stay another day in Brussels because she was unable to be moved, and then we made the decision that she needed the hospital, and so we headed to Amsterdam where we thought we could find an English-speaking doctor.
To keep our spirits up, we learned how to say "bellybutton" in Finnish, but I am not going to even try to pronounce it.
The doctor in Amsterdam was no help, saying she would just have to wait to get better. For a couple girls who are notoriously anti-drug, we were surprised to figure out that he thought we were high, and that he flatly refused to believe us when we said we hadn't been partying "Amsterdam-style".
Colleen hadn't eaten for days and was very dehydrated and couldn't really walk, and I was getting very concerned. The doctor wouldn't give her an IV or take any tests, so we left and tried to nurse her back to health at the Amsterdam hostel. She spent most of the day sleeping, and I snuck out in bits to see the city and bring her stories and ice chips.
Two days went like that with Colleen getting no better. It was decided we would head back to Germany to take her to the hospital again, where at least she could speak the language (she is fluent in German).
Some very kind friends took us in just outside of Berlin, and we rushed Colleen to the emergency room right from the train station. The doctors immediately put her on an IV and took blood samples and chest x-rays. They thought she had contracted hepatitis, a very serious disease, possibly from infected water. Her x-rays showed serious swelling of her liver and other organs. They said she could have died, and put her in isolation. I have never prayed so hard for anything than for her to recover.
The doctors kept her in the hospital for the rest of the length of our trip. For a while we were concerned that she might be too sick to return to the states, and I was beginning preperations to stay by her side for as long as necessary. But once she was on IV fluids and anti-inflammatories, she had a very quick recovery, in some small part I'd like to think due to the good vibes and prayers we all sent out. They released her from the hospital the day before our scheduled departure.
I sang a few times when she was hospitalized, but without Colleen, it just wasn't the same. Our kind friends were so incredibly helpful and loving, driving me to and from the hospital, bringing Colleen treats and visitors, and we are forever grateful.
We traveled gently into Berlin on our last day to see Kuperwelden, a really neat display of human anatomy, right before we left for Frankfurt.
Our last night in Europe was spent in the red light district of Frankfurt, Germany, in a horrible little hotel across from a brothel. It was all we could afford that was close to the airport. We took pictures of the John's on their landings across the street and had enlightening conversations with the cockroaches in our room.
Thingamabob is 'dingesbumps' in German. I like that one.
Guess what bellybutton is in Russian? I don't have the right letters here to spell it, but it is pronounced "poo-poo". Go figure.
We arrived back home tired but none the worse for wear, and very happy that Colleen was back to health.
What a delightful ending to an unexpectedly adventurous trip.
BTW: What the heck do you do with $10 worth of miscellaneous change in 12 different currencies?
We have now been home here in Tucson for a few days, and Colleen was doing very well, but has now caught a nasty cold which has her back in bed again. "I'm so sick of being sick!" she has been yelling.
I have been hating the heat and looking forward to our West Coast Tour which will begin on the 20th of this month. But the monsoons have been wonderful, and we have two shows this weekend which will be lovely; playing for people who can understand my lyrics will be nice.
After this tour, I am happy to say that I plan on moving to Nashville for a few months to hone my songwriting skills and possibly get back in the studio for my next album.
This winter I will be all over the US and next summer Colleen and I hope to go to Australia and Japan.
Lookout world! We are coming to learn many useless words in your native tongues! Let us start with bellybutton!
On Tour Notes 12/12/01
Throwback Thursday, going back, back, back to '01!
I have been quite lax on my tour scribbles for the past few months. Life has been so fast-paced that I haven't been able to figure which end is up.
Those of you who have been to recent shows have most undoubtedly heard something about the nightmare with my 'new' RV, so I am not going to bore you with the further details, but suffice to say that 'new' is a relative term and RVs are stupid expensive and fall apart faster than J-Lo under a stiff breeze. After so many events that have gotten me recognized in the record books for worst lemon purchase ever, I think (knock on wood) that I have most of the RV's issues repaired. From the huge hole in the roof that developed within 8 hours of purchase, $1500 worth of new tires that blew hither and thither, miscellaneous appliance repairs, etc, it is now liveable. 'Course, I will never see the other side of the debt. Oh, well. I am not bitching (yeah, right), it has just been all-consuming.
On a brighter note, I am gearing up right now for a little West Coast bout and to help and participate in the 2002 Indiegrrl Tour. I am really looking forward to seeing my West Coast friends again and getting in some of that healthy LA air, which will be my new home for the winter while I am not touring.
Here's the past tour blurb:
"Is That A Chocolate Biscuit?" Tour
July and August 2001
Official Tour Phrase: "Oh, %*@&$#*!!! What is that noise? Is that thing
supposed to be hanging off the RV like that?"
Official Tour Food: Anything in a can, and cold
Official Tour Weather: Anything extreme that we didn't pack for
Official Tour CD Sales Pitch: "Please buy a CD! We are starving! Seriously!"
Let's just say that the tour started out, ummm... 'rough'.
Not 40min out of Tucson, one of my brand new tires blew, and the tire company refused to help us out. 115 in the shade and trying to find an unusual RV tire size in the middle of the desert, and the generator goes out so the A/C quits, the cell dies, and we're stuck for hours.
Lucky us, we find a new tire at a store 10 minutes down the road, buy it and have it put on, and have to leave our blown tire there so we can pick it up later and bring it back to Tucson for the warranty.
Unfortunately, we ended up having to cancel our first show.
So we spent the night in Phoenix (which is infinitely silly because it is so close to Tucson) with some friends who made us dinner (how sweet!)
Next day we were on to Las Vegas with no A/C, a problem that continued for the rest of the trip. Let's just chat about how much fun it is to drive a big RV in the summer with no A/C in the desert! Blech!
We ended up not playing in Vegas, which was just fine with us, and we stayed with friends who showed us a great time. Thank God for all you lovely people!
LA was fun with great friends who turned out at Canter's Kibbutz Room, where I had the distinct pleasure of singing to the door all night because of the room's configuration, but Stuart Smith sat in on guitar (whom I just adore!) and the wonderful people made it a night to remember.
Also, there were a couple of fans who had a bit of a toe fetish, and noting my bare feet as I played, and having consumed a good deal of alcohol, they wished to, let's see, how do I say this nicely, kiss my feet? Weird, I know, but I couldn't exactly run away. I have never had someone licking my feet before and I can say that I have now had quite enough of it! Very scary! Let us not go there again!
Berkeley and the Rose Street House of Music was incredible! I highly recommend this venue to everyone! Colleen and I participated in one of the best concerts I have ever seen, let alone performed in. The Indiegrrls Liz Pisco, Christy McCarthy, and Antara and Delilah were beautiful and amazing. If only every show could be like that one!
Old Millhouse Deli in Redding is one of our favorite spots, and home of the infamous 'Spider House' where Colleen and I braved taking a shower a few years ago in the scariest building known to man. There were so many spiders in that house (it was basically abandoned) that if one stood still, one could hear them moving.
The event was lovely, the food was great (as always), the place was packed, the grounds were soooooo pretty, and I have nothing but good things to say about our stay and the show. Yay!
Breitenbush Hot Springs is nestled back in the Oregon woods on a slope fringed with bowing pines and hemmed by a rushing white river. Another one of our favorite haunts, our stay was magical and the highlight was a wonderful show where we were surprised to meet our old friend Cedar, a phenomenal percussionist who played with Scott Huckabey a few years back. We traded much-needed massages for CDs and left feeling refreshed, despite managing somehow to lose my stage tuner (a guitar effect).
Skipping our Seattle show which I will cover later, we spent a few days in Vancouver, B.C., our favorite northern city. We rented bicycles and rode all over town in the rain, which persisted for days. The city was hosting a battle of the countries fireworks show out in the bay, and we got a waterside view of the greatest fireworks show we have ever seen. It was incredible!
We went to the island and Colleen bought the scented spray that she had been waiting a year to purchase since finding it last year on our tour.
Through the trip, the RV had been a constant nuisance, with parts falling off as we drove, appliances breaking and costing an arm and a leg in gas, which was about $2/gallon. After an ATM machine ate my credit card and we were unsuccessful in getting it back, we headed out and tried to keep our spirits high, though the many misfortunes of our trip were beginning to toll on us.
The high point of Seattle was meeting and playing with Jean Mann, an Indiegrrl with voice so sweet it could give you a toothache and a personality to match. Check her out at www.blueflowerfriday.com. We found a great amount of supportive Seattle-ites and had a great time. It was a bright point we desperately needed, and gave us the oomph to push on.
The Garage show in LA is one I will never forget. I was particularly struck by Stacey Golden, a supremely sweet Indiegrrl who was backed up by a killer band, Kimberly White, whose honest vibe I found very refreshing, and the enigmatic Shredmistress Rynata, who puts on a show the likes of which you have never seen! All the ladies were very talented and wonderful people, and we enjoyed them immensely. I managed to get the RV stuck in the alley behind the club, as parking was precarious, especially for a 24foot vehicle. Getting it out took nearly 10 minutes! I promised myself I would never drive the RV in downtown LA again! (now I'm moving to LA for the winter, and guess what I am driving? Yup. Typical.)
Hallenbecks proved another great Indiegrrl show, with some amazing harmonizing as the gals backed each other up and formed a jam session. Cindy Alter was extra-great, with her
bluesy-smoky-tender voice that I found incredibly inspiring.
Twiggs Coffee is a cool little listening room. After such a trial, Colleen and I got a little out of hand on stage as the long days had gotten to us. We could hardly sing we were laughing so much, and I almost had to tackle Colleen to keep her from taking over the mic and ranting on and on about her missing shaker egg (a percussion instrument).
We spent the days wandering Ocean Beach and letting the dog go swimming. The dog had a great time!
All hell broke loose on my way from LA to Joshua Tree, where I dropped Colleen off to prepare for a show with her talent agent. The plan was that I would play in Joshua Tree and then go back to LA to watch Colleen perform in a showcase, and also to perform myself as a special guest. I had gotten very little sleep for about a week, and the RV overheated on a hillside in the middle of nowhere where I was stranded with my dog and no cell phone for
hours until the police came. It must have been about 130 degrees or more at that location, and I began to feel very ill from the heat.
The officer that found me drove me 45 minutes into town (Joshua Tree is not much more than a few stops along a long highway) after pushing my RV over the hill and leaving it by a Circle K. He dropped me at the Crossroads Café where I borrowed a truck from an employee and drove back to the RV to get my equipment. There was no A/C in the truck, and after hours in the searing heat, no sleep, and great physical exertion and stress, I was feeling at the end of my rope.
By the time I got back to the café, I was becoming very disoriented and weak and feared I might have to cancel. But Angel Short arrived with her band and we split the night into four small sets (she was sick with a flu as well) and managed to make it through.
A good deal of my ability to pull it off was due to Angel and her inspiring music. She is a real talent. It was almost 2 in the morning before I got back to the RV. I tried the engine and it started. I was so thrilled that I decided to start back to LA for my sister right then, lest I should turn it off and it not start again. I slept in a rest stop in the 90 degree heat for 3 hours, the only sleep I had had in the past 60 hours, when I became to sleepy to drive. (Oh, the illustrious life of a musician!)
I got back into LA and met up with my sister and my parents who had come to see her perform at Universal City. A real hotel was such a welcome sight!
I got a few more hours of sleep, and then Colleen and I donned gowns for the formal event. Colleen won an award for her performance (of course!) and she backed me up in my guest appearance.
The next day, tired and burned-out as we were, my parents suggested that we sleep in and then visit Universal Studios before returning to Tucson, their treat. We thankfully accepted and spent the next day in the theme park (where a good deal of the attractions
were broken, which had been the theme of the whole trip) and left LA at night, a strategy formed to avoid the afternoon traffic and catch the best temperature, being that we were still without A/C.
The ride home was one of the most eerie experiences of my life, with 3 accidents out on the highway, one of which was a horrible fatality that had us stopped for 3 hours. I found them to be very disturbing and saddening. I was glad that Colleen slept through most of the accidents. After the last accident involving a cow which I nearly ran over again as it lay invisible on the side of the road, I decided to pull off the highway and rest until daylight. It was all too weird.
We sweat and tossed and turned for a few hours in the heat, and arrived in Tucson the next mid-morning.
After reciting the events of this tour to my singer-songwriter friend Kristy Kruger (most of the bad events I have left out of this for the sake of my sanity), she marveled that we could continue to tour. She said she had never heard of such a horrible tour in her life, and was sure that she would quit if ever it happened to her. In a way, that made me feel better. It wasn't just me! This tour really did suck!
Still, Colleen and I always have fun together and the people we meet make it all worthwhile. That is why we continue in the face of adversity. We love you guys!
Love and light, Amber Jade
On Tour Notes 3/3/02
Throwback Thursday all the way back to '02!
2002 Winter Olympic Games Tour
Official Tour Phrase: "brrrrrrrrrrrrr....."
Official Tour Food: brrrrrrrrrrr on ice
Official Tour Weather: brrrrrrrrrrrrr below 0
Official Tour CD: Kate Bush, 'Hounds of Love', songs Brrrrrr, bRRRRR, and 'I'm Freezing!'
Official Tour Book: Philip Dick's Second Edition (a great collection of short sci-fi stories in which perople are often really cold)
Official Tour CD Sales Pitch: "brrrrrrrrrrr...oh, wait, I meant to say: BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!"
Finally thawing out. I was beginning to think I would never feel my toes again.
Salt Lake is really chilly for a desert girl. And to think there is a whole country north of the US! What are they thinking?
The scenery in SLC and Park City was and is incredible, breathtaking, spectacular, vivid, inspiring and really durn cold. The funky-cool organic rave band Lost at Last and I traveled together for a good part of this trip.
I tried to get the ice off of my car's windshield one night by pouring hot water on it, but the water froze before it ran down and left a sheet of ice about 1/2 an inch thick that was impossible to see through or chip off. I had to get a ride back to my RV with the band manager.
I played some cool venues and stages, from packed clubs to a theater overlooking Main Street. Playing stages that were out-of-doors turned music into an extreme sport, dodging breaking strings and jumping around to keep the blood from freezing in my feet. I have discovered that there is absolutely no way to play the guitar with gloves on, no matter how hard you try. Just take my word for it.
I am going to spare you the entire account of this trip due mostly to me being incredibly lazy right now. However, I had a few of the best shows of my life up in SLC and came back with a few really stupid little Olympic trinkets, the ones beer companies give out at the bars for free. Cheap date. The people were warm despite the weather, and they made up for the chill factor.
Still, I can't get the imagery of the silent frozen countryside turning like the spokes of a great wheel outside the window as we cruised along the highway, and I can't forget the perfect soundtrack of Kate Bush's 'Running Up the Hill' as the Great Salt Lake spread out before us at daybreak, fringed by white mountains and an ice-blue sky. I hope I never will.
After living in LA for a few months, doing a little west coast stint, and performing in Salt Lake City for the 2002 Winter Olympics, I am back in Tucson to work on a few new studio projects. We're doing some tunes for television and possibly a few radio singles to start out the new album.
The Music Tree CD is finished, for the most part and just needs to be cropped and mastered. Thanks be to the wonderful Robert and Robin in CA, forever to be known as the music angels, for all their help with recording and teaching me to cook (or maybe just putting up with my bad attempts). The Music Tree would not be without them.
I am about to embark on a short tour between my west coast and AZ haunts with Rose St. and the Indiegrrls. Check out the events page for details.
Thanks to Sarah F. for all her help with booking and promoting and just being an all-around gem. She is the best intern yet. She did all of our AZ dates and is a real smart cookie. Yay, Sarah! If you or anyone you know would like to intern, email me for info.
Big monstrous hugs! - Amber Jade
On Tour Notes 4-25-03
So here we are, beginning the long descent into the throws of packing up our lives and moving from Tucson to Nashville. I have barely gotten started and I am already considering just burning all my stuff and starting over, rather than deal with all these darn boxes. My sister, her hamster, my dog and my record label are heading out to Nashville in order to 'move up to the next level' which is a business term that means, 'Make Amber Jade work more.' We will miss Tucson, but this move has been a long time coming, and we have been thinking about it so much that we're confused when we wake up and we're still here in blistering AZ.
What all this translates to for you, my dear friends, is that I won't being seeing those of you on the west coast so much, maybe a 2-3 times a year, and I'll be seeing those of you on the east coast a lot more. You'll also being seeing a lot more of my band on the road than ever before. Yay! That will be cool.
The rumors are true. Somebody decided to let me record some more (what were they thinking?) and we are working on another CD. Stay tuned to find out if we end up with a work of art, or just abunch of drunken mumblings on a 4 track with some maracas in the background. At this point, anything is possible. Seriously, though, I am fairly excited, and those of you on my mailing list will get to hear the songs before anyone else. You are on my mailing list, right?
Love ya~ Amber Jade
Someone recently asked me to describe my music.
I hate this question.
You would think that after so much practice over the years, answering this question would be getting easier, more streamlined. In fact, it is now darn near impossible. Which leads me to the subject at hand.
I suppose I have a confession to make.
I am blessed, or cursed, with an extremely high-pressure creative flow. Like the gremlins, creations keep proliferating around me. The songs that are associated with my name consist of around 1% of my musical endeavors, and are a sample of a specific genre that was chosen because it was simple to reproduce live, among other reasons. To me, this music is fun and human. I am nourished by connecting with people through simple guitar, piano, storytelling, seeing our lives as reflections of each other. This is a real thing, a sacred circle.
However, most of my musical life runs the gauntlet, consisting of songs and samples, background music, jingles, and soundscapes you may have heard or you may never hear, some floating around in the ether, some in the ether-net or assimilated into the collective conscience of media-land. They range in genre from techno and blues to heavy-metal and spoken-word, and may pop up from time to time on a website, in a commercial or in someone's private collection. Hardly any are released under my birth name. Sneaky, they are. It's like discovering you were separated from a twin at birth. Sorry for not telling you about them earlier.
Perhaps like most knee-jerk creative folks, the drive to make "music" squishes its way out into the world through any crack it can find, and also isn't afraid to jump genres and mediums into things like rock-carving, sewing and community-building. Or making designer pancakes at 3am. The "music" is simply life, as lived by me.
We are all alive, so by our very definition we are all creative. You are living your own song at this very moment. Bravo! A wonderful performance!
So, how does one engage that pitfall "can you describe your music" question? I think I finally came up with an answer that feels authentic, real, and true.
Perhaps you could relate to some part of this response:
"Ah, music. It may seem odd, but I guess I have come to a place of blissful indifference. Everyone is an artist in their own medium. I think I just like to be, and songs are what come out in my natural course of being, like managing a company or crafting or bicycle repair might be what someone else gravitates to naturally. Parts of it are amorphous and inspired, parts are cerebral and technical. But it is the experience of it, the journey of creation that enriches.
"For me, each song is its own little world. I am synesthetic, so colors, shapes, sounds, feelings and words are often linked and interchangeable. A song can look curly and yellow, or feel cold and blue and smell like crushed grass, and they come with 3D spatial qualities and animation attached. Music forms the landscape inside my head and my being where I can come to terms with life in all its wonder. The creative process of songwriting is like being in the womb of all possibility and weaving a little technicolor dream out of thin air. It is like dancing. This creative womb is a sacred and strong vessel that can hold all the rainbow emotions of any experience, so that facets of human life can be understood, or at least honored. I can go back and visit these little song dreams any time I like. They carry memories and hopes and feelings and sparks of the life that I wish I could live but cannot since I am only one person trapped in skin. They exist in a myriad of forms and levels of manifestation, and hundreds never even make it to the physical world of pen, paper or performance, but some do, and are shared with other dreamers, like yourself.
"'Style/genre' is a label for easy communication that we can to attach to whatever product is spit out at the other end of creativity by comparing it to other spit-out products from other people in the past. The act of translation loses the truth..
"Maybe my music sounds to me like living the most mundane and crazy dream, filtered through my cells, moving vertically through time in a jumble of sacred, imperfectly misguided architecture, alternately confused and ecstatic in a personal revelation of our sublime collective relationship to the All. Sometimes that sounds like a winter wonderland in solitude, sometimes like a car-wreck in Bali.
"I am drawn to the dangerous freedom of allowing the possibilities to remain vast and embracing what happens when it happens. The writer and the written are one. You never know what a dream will do next...."
New Website! Claptor Everyone!
Here we are, launching the new website, it is midnight and my brain is like pudding from promoting a whole host of workshops and community stuff at the intentional community house I run, I'm supposed to be writing a launch blog, and all I can think about is that totally embarrassing moment at that one show, the one that changed my whole life...
I don't remember where the show was. Maybe someone out there can remind me. All I know is that at one point I made a comment about appreciating the vigor with which the audience was extolling my performance. I said something like: "Thank you all so much for the vigorous claptor," when someone pointed out that "claptor" wasn't anything close to a real word. (I suppose it does kinda sound like something you would have to take major antibiotics to get rid of.) Apparently I had subconsciously invented it. But not just invented it. I had been using it for YEARS and no one had the decency to tell me.
I could not blame it on English being my second language or something, unless you count my native mumbling or twin-speak (the language of "Mook" my sister and I share - we're twins separated by 6.5 years, due to a silly typo in conception timing). Nope, it was due to straight up weirdo-brain.
So, along with the launch of this website, I present unto you the launch of a wonderful new word:
Claptor (klap tore). Origin: Me. the combination of clapping and laughter that a happy audience makes when they are entertained.
Which is the sound you all should be making right now.
Thank you all for visiting, and please come back for new offerings. If you have video, stories or recordings of me from Bon Nuit! (That IS a word - It means "good night" in French!)
Amber Jade - Clicking my heels and irreverently tripping the light fantastic all the way to nirvana, with a 50lb bag of cheese puffs in tow.