A New Normal

What a long, strange month it’s been!

I won’t go into everything that’s entailed in Nettl’s diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer—you’ve probably read all about that in Facebook—but I will tell you it’s been busy, busy with various doctors’ appointments, tests, surgeries, and now, chemotherapy. The first week was the worst as far as I’m concerned, because we didn’t have a prognosis, but once we were told it’s completely curable things were a little less stressful and frightening. A little. Over the next three weeks things eased up even more, and we had so many beautiful people step up to help us in a myriad of ways, from simply dropping by to see her, to giving her a head-shaving party, to sending flowers, to organizing a meal train for those nights following her treatments, as well as donating financially for all the out-of-pocket and co-pay expenses. We are simply bowled over by the compassion and helpfulness of so many, many people! You’re wonderful and we love you all!

Finally, life has evened out a little. We’re not living our old normal, you know, but we are adapting to the new normal. I may even be able to get back to my projects soon. I confess, after being the primary caregiver for both of my parents before their deaths in their turn, I panicked a little. I have a bit of a “jinx” complex where people dying on my watch is concerned. Unwarranted, sure, but it happens I guess. My own doctor put me on some anti-anxiety meds and I’m feeling much stronger now, and as I said, when Nettl’s prognosis came back as 99% positive, I let go of that old script in my head. Get thee behind me!

So there’s not much else to report. I had aspirations of addressing the revolting goings-on over last weekend, but everyone else has done such a better job and, frankly, I don’t have the energy. Even the threat of nuclear war didn’t faze me much. I grew up with that, and taking care of Nettl while her body’s being nuked by the old Red Devil chemo drug (called that because it literally looks like red Kool-Aid) was just so much more important to me.

Heads Up: I cancelled my September house concert; I can’t even think of doing that until this is all over. She’ll receive chemo until the end of the year and then have surgery followed by who knows how many radiation treatments. I’m looking at about a year. Meantime, I hope your summer was nice and that you were able to get a vacation. Life is stressful for everyone these days.

Have a great week!
Kaye

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I think to know when to call it quits, cry uncle, throw in the towel, etc., must be a sixth sense that only some people have. Timing is everything. To do so too soon means you’ll never reach whatever goal you’ve set, and it certainly means you’re going to have regrets later. To do so too late means you’re probably experiencing burn-out. You’ll also have regrets, regrets that you wasted so much time and energy on something that was never meant to be in the first place. As Ali Hale wrote in her blog entry, How to Know When to Quit,

“Quitting gets a bad rap. We’re often encouraged,
from an early age, 
to stick with our projects at
all costs—even when we’re totally fed up.”

For me, packing up the recording gear is especially hard because all I’ve ever wanted since I was 12 was to make an album, but no matter how much talent I had, no matter how many famous and influential people I met, no matter how hard I worked or how many gigs I played, it just never happened. Even now, with modern home recording tools, I can’t seem to accomplish this one thing. I gave it all up once before, in 1993, and I more recently thought that by giving it a rest, I could come back to it refreshed and with a more mature outlook about it. But it seems the universe continues to throw up roadblocks. No room to use as a studio, noisy corner, insufficient knowledge of using modern studio programs, Hashimoto’s, adrenal fatigue, etc., etc. That’s daunting enough, but with Nettl’s diagnosis (only two weeks ago) of breast cancer, I must cry out in utter defeat.

(Of course, it’s understood that I care deeply and am dedicated to the utmost degree to seeing her through this terrifying and upsetting ordeal not only as her spouse, but also her friend and caregiver, but since this is my blog and I have no right to speak for her, I will focus on my feelings and reactions here. If anyone has a problem with that, too effin’ bad.)

It’s not that I wasn’t already considering putting the music away, permanently, because I was. I mean, I’m almost 66. Who was going to buy my album anyway? And I certainly don’t have the health, energy, or the finances to tour just to market it. It’s time to let go.

What I have been doing is working on my memoirs again, In fact, the first book is already finished. Writing is something I can do anywhere. I don’t need a private space, quiet, and I know my writing programs. Sure, books need marketing, too, but I don’t have to traipse all over the country; I can do it from home. The problem is, my heart’s dream has always been music, but c’est la vie. I’m fortunate to have two things I do well. Truth be told, rock and roll is for the young; old farts write books.

I don’t know how much I’ll be blogging, either. The year ahead looks pretty foggy to us just now, but I will try to leave a post as often as I can. I’ve seen people through cancer before and I know how the best laid plans can go askew.

Keep us in your thoughts.
Kaye

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Blogging vs. Vlogging (and if you like to dance you might try clogging)

If the blogging era’s subtext was “Listen to me!” then the vlogging era’s is “Look at me when I’m speaking to you!”

Hey. Did I say this is a bad thing?

Lately, I’ve been playing with the idea of starting a vlog on my YouTube channel and finally giving up the ghost that this or any blog will never see the glory days ever again. Who comes here, really? I get a few hits from my update posts in Facebook, but the largest percentage come in from people harvesting images and who have no intention to stop and read what I spend so much time writing. No one checks in to say hi anymore. No, I’m afraid the short-lived phenomenon that was blogging is behind us, friends.

I was really excited when blogging came around, because people were actually reading—and writing!—again. Writing is my thing so blogging not only gave me an instant platform, it also honed my writing skills. Just the act of writing that entry every night taught me a lot of discipline. It also helped me find my writer’s voice. Mostly though, I felt there was hope for some degree of literacy in this country, but then vlogging showed up.

I’m not saying vloggers aren’t literate, because some of those I follow are as intelligent as hell. But it’s much easier to watch a video than it is to read a blog. Sure, it’s passive, but let’s face it, it’s fun and it demands nothing except to, well, sit there, but while vlogs are easier for the viewer, they’re much harder for the one who’s actually making them.

Like blogging, you have to decide on a topic, research it and write about it. There’s the set design, equipment, props that might be needed, camera angles, and then there’s the vlogger’s physical appearance. Let’s face it, one of the boons of blogging is that you could do it in your pajamas, underwear, naked even. With vlogging you have to decide what to wear and then look presentable. For a woman there’s hair and makeup, if that’s her thing. There’s the attitude. “Hi!” “Good Morning!” even if that’s not how you actually feel. Then there’s the recording with numerous takes, graphic and audio inserts, and last but not least, all the editing. All of this requires skills in equipment and content construction, not to mention on-camera skills. And that requires confidence and some degree of acting talent. Finally, there’s marketing and promo, and then growing a thick skin.

Good vloggers need to be commended, but more times than not they’re given negative comments from trolls whose sole intent is to leave their mental feces in a crap trail as they hop from video to video. Some vloggers confront these cowards with witty comeback videos in which they read the comments aloud and make snarky remarks. Others filter out the negative comments by setting them to be approved before releasing them. These tactics aren’t new. We bloggers learned to handle our trolls in exactly the same ways. I think I now have about 75% of the thick skin I’d need were I to start vlogging.

All of this is a whole lot more work than writing a blog over one’s morning coffee or, in my case, late at night before going to bed. Sure, there’s editing the text and collecting images, but that doesn’t take as much preparation before hitting the “Publish” button.

When I look back I realize I started vlogging back in 1986 when I first got my hands on a video camera. You know, the kind that required you carry that huge battery pack around? One night I made myself a Banquet Hungry Man TV chicken dinner, turned on the camera and proceeded to talk to my friends, who I knew would enjoy such silliness. I thought of making more, of making it a regular thing, but the camera was only borrowed and I had to give it back the next day. But I was younger, more energetic, and better looking back then. I had more confidence. Hey, I’ve been through some crap since then.

I’ve always been a ham when cameras are around, but that’s cooled way down. Now I avoid them like the plague. Can I get over that enough to actually sit and talk into a camera for 10 minutes? This also brings up the fact that I have a slight speech impediment. It’s nothing you notice in normal conversation, but on camera it might be more noticeable. Should I even care? Should I just put myself out there, stammering, sagging, and saying stupid shit about…what? I haven’t even come up with an idea about what my vlog content would be. You can’t just get up there without a plan.

I may make a couple of scratch videos that I can study and learn from and then delete. This will most likely mean several weeks—maybe even months—of practice and developing. But do I have time for that? In a lot of ways, keeping a vlog for just two weeks is like making an album. If one video takes as much work as one song does, I could have my album—even if I farted around a bit—completed in less than a month. In the time it would take for me to work myself up to vlogging and then actually do it, I could make two albums!

My conclusion then is that I’d better finish this damned album before I start thinking about a vlog.

In the meantime, here are some great ones that I follow (images contain links):

ANSWERS WITH JOE
Vlogger’s Name: Joe Scott
Content: “Get interesting, amazing, funny, mind-shifting, eye-opening, informative answers. Every Monday.”
My Comments: Joe covers a lot of quantum science, but he sometimes delves into politics, religion, philosophy, and his everyday life in Texas, from house training his Pug to making the (im)perfect Old Fashioned. Because of his background in film making, acting and comedy, his videos are always entertaining, candid, and, if intended to be, funny.
Suggested Video: How to Meet George Lucas (Almost)

WINE MOM
Vlogger’s Name: Hannah Williams
Content: “Wine enthusiast who has become famous for her work with BuzzFeed. She is known for dishing out parenting advice over a glass of wine in BuzzFeed’s “Wine Mom” series of YouTube videos.”
My Comments: Don’t let the blurb fool you. Hannah is flat-out funny, and over more subjects than just parenting. My suggestion is to skip the BuzzFeed page (linked above) and just look her up on YouTube.
Suggested Video: The Worst People to Drink Wine With

GUITAR GURU (Lynch Lynks)
Vlogger’s Name: Jay Parmar
Content: “Jay Parmar is a professional Guitarist/Songwriter/Producer/Guitar builder. His music is immersed in feel, emotion and depth and his guitar playing is infused with eastern influence which he utilised to create tangible sonic soundscapes that are emotive and thought provoking.”
My Comments: Jay is Britain’s best kept secret, but he’s getting out there with his tutorials as well as his videos on inspiration and where creativity comes from. His love of life, his gentleness, and his humor are infectious. Oh, and did I say? This man can really, really play!
Suggested Video: Inspiration – Picture of Success, Flow, Karma, and Books

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My Recipe For a Great Music Session

Every musician I know has their own recipe for a successful session whether that’s songwriting, recording, or rehearsing. I thought I’d share mine with you.

Have Something in Mind That You Want to Accomplish.

This sounds obvious, right? But how many times have I sat down to work only to be frustrated by not knowing what I actually wanted to do? I’m not talking about those times when I feel like playing to entertain or soothe myself, I mean when I want—or need—to get to work. Sometimes I’m lucky. I’ll be sitting there strumming or picking some vacant little rhythm or pattern and an idea for a song will strike, but usually it doesn’t work that way for me.

I keep extensive checklists and notes in Excel because I learned long ago that scraps of paper and paper bar napkins can get lost, saturated with wine stains, or look like ancient hieroglyphics the next day. Sure, sometimes an idea hits me when I’m away from home, so I’ll make a note to myself on my phone’s Voice Memos app or scribble out a note on a napkin or the back of a grocery receipt. This is fine for those unbidden light bulb moments, but not for the long haul. On those occasions when I must use the app or the handwritten note, I transcribe my ideas into Notepad as soon as I can and save them in a folder called, “Song Ideas.”

Anyway, when you want to work, make sure you know what it is you want to work on, and have all your notes and ideas where you can access them.

Get Your Shit Together.

Look, not all of us can afford, or have the room, to create a dedicated music workspace like in this photo. Most of the time I work in my bedroom sitting on a four-legged stool with the bed serving as my desk. You have to use what you have, but wherever you work, make sure everything you need is handy and right in front of you. Instruments, picks, capo, tuner, lyric and chord sheets, charts, laptop, DAW, mics, gear, whatever. If you have to get up to hunt down something you need, the interruption can ruin all your intents. And if you can, have a place to work where you know you won’t be interrupted. Put your phone on silent and leave it in the other room. If you use your laptop as a music tool like I do, turn off the sounds and put it on airplane mode. The idea here is to surrender yourself to the music and only the music. She’s a jealous mistress so if you want a good session don’t take her for granted. And if you can’t afford a dedicated music space just remember back when you sat on your bed writing music all those years ago. Grow where you’re planted.

How About a Nice Cup of Tea?

About an hour before I set to work I brew myself a large cup of lemon and ginger tea (I get the Twinings tea bags) with a little honey. Then I sit back, go over my notes and relax to get myself out of the “normal” of the day. Sometimes I’ll meditate for 15 minutes after the tea if I find I’m having a hard time letting go of things that want to keep me distracted. No TV, no music, no phone, no internet. Just a little quiet time. This also is the time that I begin to adopt a take charge attitude. This is my music, my creativity, my outcome. I’m not here to please others or to conform to expectations set by the business, the charts, or even family and friends. This is about music and I strive to become a channel for the mystery and magic to flow through. Do NOT drink iced drinks, dairy products, or orange juice right before singing. These create all kinds of unwanted problems like tight vocal cords, phlegm, and gas, and who needs that?

Adopt a Tude.

No!
Yes!

A positive, commanding attitude isn’t just in the mind you know. It starts with the physical. Sit up straight, pull back those shoulders and hold your head up. Your body is like a stand up bass. Can you imagine what kind of sound that instrument would make if its neck was bent forward, its headstock facing down, and its body turned in on itself? Yeah. None! Help out your vocal cords by straightening your neck. Holding your head up opens up the acoustics of that mouth of yours, and sitting up straight and squaring your shoulders creates resonance, breath control, and support of your diaphragm. Your body is a musical instrument so learn to play it correctly.

Everyone’s different. After all, it’s called in-di-vid-u-al-i-ty for a reason and what works for one person may not work for another. This is my method. Hope it helps a little!

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