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“What comes from the heart reaches the heart.” —Pops Staples
Who do I sound like? Damned if I know. Myself. It’s been a twisty road, finding my way back to where I started before a hard detour, and all I can say is that when I’m writing and singing, making music, is when I feel most like myself. And most alive.
Where did I start? Hmm … well, if you go all the way back… I guess you could say I started around age 4, at some church social where I was expected to be a good little girl and sit quietly with my grandparents at their table … but I never have cottoned to being told what to do. Instead, I darted up to the stage and danced and sang some little song that was bouncing 'round my head until my beloved (and beaming) grandfather gently retrieved me. After that, I sang with Granddad at the piano ... I sang in the shower ... choirs … musicals … and bands, playing four and five sets a night several nights a week. Sang on some demos too.
Then came what was supposed to be a temporary break from music, so I could bone up on the business side of things and take better care of myself. Instead, life intruded, as it often does, and that break dragged on into a years-long, soul-draining hiatus. In the shadows of my living room, I worked on my notebook scribbles and played songs by some of my heroes: Bruce Springsteen, Kris Kristofferson, Lucinda Williams, Bonnie Raitt, Dolly Parton, The Band, Billie Holiday, Patty Griffin, Willie Nelson, Etta James, Emmylou Harris, the Staple Singers, Buddy & Julie Miller, Lone Justice, Howlin' Wolf, Patsy Cline. Out in the light of the world, I stayed involved in my incredible Americana/roots musical community in Los Angeles, writing about other artists, occasionally organizing shows and hosting house concerts. But I didn’t perform myself — until a dear friend visiting from out of town asked, “Why the hell doesn’t anyone know you sing?!” Patty Blee literally grabbed me by the arm, made me sit down beside her on my couch and taught me a few of her songs so I could sing harmony at her shows. It was like a lifeline tossed my way in a storm. That led to singing with other friends, including the amazing Musette (Gia Ciambotti, Nicole Gordon, Claire Holley and Kristin Mooney) and Amilia Spicer, who now sings with me in my band too. Patty, Amilia, Claire, Nicole, Jeff Turmes and Ted Russell Kamp went out of their way to support me and gave invaluable feedback on my songs. Friends are among the greatest blessings in my life.
Friends, and music. During those offstage years people knew me as a tastemaker and music scribe, but not as a performer. So it’s a little weird — though completely understandable — when they hear me now and remark, “Oh, you started singing!” No. I returned. It’s a long overdue homecoming, and I’m a damn lucky woman to be supported by some of the most talented, respected and big-hearted musicians in Los Angeles: Ted Russell Kamp, Dave Raven, Jeff Turmes, Amilia Spicer, Carl Byron, Gia Ciambotti, Jeff Ross, Steve Mugalian and Hippie Dan Wistrom. When audience members connect to a performance and ask about “Ghost Trees” or “Lately,” or request the lyrics to “Hanging Out the Clothes” because it reminds them of their own experience, or — most often — share their own stories about loved ones with Alzheimer’s after hearing “Reach Out,” I feel a bone-deep sense of purpose being fulfilled. After years of writing about other artists who inspire me, I’m finally stepping up to share stories of my own. Thank you for listening.
“All a Musician can do, is get closer to the forces of Nature … and in doing so, feel that he is in direct communion with the Natural Laws.” — John Coltrane, Before the Music Dies
“All day and night, music, a quiet, bright reedsong. If it fades, we fade.” —Rumi