I’ve known for over a year now that one of the last pieces of my Rubicon Year project was going to be a Kickstarter campaign to help cover the final costs of the actual CD (If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, check it out, it’s a great way for independent artists of every medium to fund creative projects!). I had originally thought I’d launch it while still in Austin, but Dan wisely advised to wait so I could focus completely on the recording and be totally present for that.
After the recording was the flurry of rehearsals, final shows, packing, and Kerrville Folk Festival, so that wasn’t a good time to launch either. Then came re-integrating with my life back in Iowa, and it ended up that creating my Kickstarter video was a really fantastic way to help me gain some perspective and clarity on the past year, because I had to look back at what I’d done in order to tell my story.
My brothers turned out to be instrumental in helping me through the process, each one of them interviewed me, and in my explaining to them and their questions back to me, things gradually got more clear about what was important to say so people could at least get a picture of my year, condensed in just a few minutes. Collin especially was great with his great insight into storyline, editing the majority of the video and creating a bunch of slides. I’m pretty happy with how the video turned out, I ended up using clips from both sessions with my brothers:
If you’re reading this elsewhere, you may need to come to the blog to see the video.
Besides the video, I have my story written out with a bit more detail in places, plus pictures of the album artwork and several of the backer rewards over on the Kickstarter site.
Creating the Kickstarter project took a whole new level of bravery. It’s one thing to perform at an open mic where everyone gets ten minutes no matter how good they are. It’s another thing to step up to the plate and say, “Hey, I want to do this in a bigger way and I need your help, I can’t do it alone.”
Because really, I can’t. Even if I had the money right now, or had to wait till I’d saved up enough to press the CD myself, what am I gonna do with all those copies if no one wants to listen?
It’s time to take the next step. It’s all unfolding beautifully, I had to gain the confidence in myself first, that the songs were good and worthy and that there were people out there who wanted to hear them. The 157 open mics in a year did that. And also thanks to that new confidence, even though the next step is a combination of a little scary and mostly exciting, I already know that I can take on new things and achieve my goals if I take them a bit at a time! So, other next steps include playing more long sets, opening acts, playing out regionally, and continuing to work on my guitar and vocals and of course, keep writing songs!
It’s clear to me now, that even if I didn’t need to do a Kickstarter to raise funds, creating a video like this would have been a great capstone piece to my year. I don’t know that I would have done it without the Kickstarter impetus though, so thanks Universe, for working that one out. :-)
I’m 37% funded already with 20 days left till the deadline, still quite a ways to go, but very exciting progress! 54 folks have made pledges and countless others have posted, tweeted and otherwise shared my project with their friends. Apparently getting to 30% is a big milestone in a project because statistically 90% of the projects that make it to 30% go on to be fully funded. So that’s a great sign that I’ve already passed the 30% mark!
If you pledged already, THANK YOU!! If you haven’t, I hope you’ll at least check out the video, because I’m really happy with how it turned out and it really does give a nice little summary of my year. I’m also really excited about the different rewards I came up with, they all have special significance to my journey in Austin, and many of them tie in to the songs on the EP. Then, if you’re inspired to pledge and/or share links, I’d be super grateful, because again, I can’t do this (at least in the time and way I’d like to) without you!
I’ve done some mini-vlogs, but it’s been quite a while since doing a big check in like this, whoa… Anyhoo, this one is about continuing to do open mics after my Christmas break, doing some bigger shows, reading a great book called “Uncertainty” by Jonathan Fields, my 100-open-mic guitar string earrings, my upcoming unofficial SXSW showcase, looking back at how far I have come and starting to think about what happens after this Rubicon Year is over and getting ready to record my EP!
People & places I mention in the video:
Tupelo Honey, studio dog extraordinaire!
OK, I’ll admit it, my first few days back in Austin I was pretty mopey. I missed my husband. I missed my friends and family. I missed having a car. I missed my kitchen. Plus it was dark and rainy and cold. And there were some scary attacks over New Year’s that made me a little nervous to go out much.
On Monday I had my first group band night of the season and we actually didn’t play one note. We talked about music, making space for it in our lives and how that might look different than we think it “should”, how we all of us to some degree or another really strive and aspire to be better and more, and yet we brush off our musical achievements or don’t even notice or acknowledge how far we have come. It helps to be there with other people going through the same things because I can see that if X is true for both or all of us, then if Y is happening to someone else, then maybe Y is happening to me too.
So it was really good. Helped me at least partly see how little credit and celebration I allowed myself for my Cafe Paradiso concert in December. Because that was a really big deal for me! HUGE! And it went awesome and I’m totally allowed to ride that high for as long as I want. :-)
Tuesday (yesterday) was my first one-on-one with Dan and we started it with me playing through my 5 EP songs. A little 5 song concert. I had fun, it went smoothly, the songs are sounding stronger than ever and I still have till March to keep polishing. To think that when we started our first session last May, I couldn’t even play Dan one song, I was so shy!
Last night I got out to two open mics, OPA’S and Waterloo Icehouse on 38th. Played 3 songs at OPA and got asked to be a feature there (as in, open the night with a 30 minute set) on January 31st! It was the first night of the Waterloo open mic in that location, so with a light list we all got to do 5 songs, so I played my EP songs. At both places I met new people and made new connections. Kind of amazing that with 106 performances now, I am still meeting awesome folks and hearing so much new great music.
So yeah, a little bit of a creaky start, but I climbed back in the saddle. I’m excited for the ride of this final session of my first Rubicon Year!
…look at Miss Ohio.
If you’re reading elsewhere, you may need come to the blog to see the video.
Yeah, I keep thinking of blogging, and every time I think of it, that line pops up for some reason. Doesn’t bother me really because it’s a damn good song, I’m just not sure why exactly it keeps coming up. Maybe it’s being back in Iowa, and all the talk of the raygun shirts that only people from Iowa, Ohio or Idaho understand. (This and This).
Maybe it’s the line “I wanna do right, but not right now.” December was a busy month for me. Making sure I made it to 100 performances before going home (Ended up being 103, yay!). The final of those performances was a 45 minute set, so that was a little bit of a bigger deal than my usual open mics. Final Rubicon group showcase, where I also prepped the food & beverages. Getting a haircut. Prepping for and teaching a couple music lessons. Organizing my stuff in Austin to be gone for a month (By now, I honestly don’t remember quite how I left it, hope I did ok there.) Getting packed up to come home in just a duffle bag and guitar case (there are lots of great little nooks & crannies in a guitar case for stuff like socks and scarves - I even put my hair flowers and a pashmina INSIDE the guitar.)
That was just while I was IN Austin. Coming home I pretty much hit the ground running, I got to Des Moines on Thursday and spent the evening with my cousin, came to Fairfield on Friday and was asked to sing back-up in a Christmas show on Saturday (yay!), so had a couple rehearsals on Friday & Saturday before the show. Mix in there visits and parties with family and friends too, and then some doctor & dentist appointments, doing some live Lyrical Venus shows, Christmas shopping (not like I had room in my guitar case for presents!), and then getting ready for my concert on the 27th!
In some ways I’d been prepping for the concert since May, through all the work I’ve been doing with Dan in my Rubicon Year, including all that open mic experience, and in other ways I pulled off most of it in just a little over a week!
I did a quick photo shoot with my friend who also made me a beautiful poster and newspaper ad (which we also repurposed for a flyer). I printed out and put the posters up all around town. I wrote an article for the paper. I made a Facebook event and hand-invited my Fairfield people. I organized getting a sound guy who could also record the show so I might be able to use a few of those tracks for a live EP. I organized my bro & husband to man the video camera and webcast. I figured out the set list and gathered up mp3s of all the songs so I could get them to the other musicians (part of which involved uploading videos from my open mics to YouTube and then ripping the audio from them). My brother & I burned 20 copies of a little 5-song demo, I designed a label and put it on all of them, realized I forgot my website and hand-wrote it on all of them. I also put all those songs together on a Bandcamp page with lyrics and info in case I had any online people wanting the tracks. I had two rehearsals, one with Lauryn Shapter and one with the whole group, the night before the show. I asked local bloggers if I could get listed on their blogs. I did a radio interview on KRUU. I also was making sure to run through the songs myself every day and handing out flyers wherever I could.
Oh, and through most of this we were house/pet sitting for two awesome cats, which was pretty great because not only was it a nice house, both we and our housemates had more space, but also meant a bit more running around if something was forgotten at one house or the other.
The coolest thing I think, was that even with all this stuff to do, I didn’t freak out or get sick or lose my voice, as I so often did back in my high school and college theatre days before a big show or competition. I worked hard, but it was fun and felt good.
And the show went really well! I ended up with about 60 or so people, which was a nice full house. (Cafe Paradiso can squeeze maybe a little over 100 in for a really big deal show.) I think there was around another 10 people watching online at any one time. The energy was great, I felt really connected to the audience and comfortable with my between song banter, the songs felt awesome with David, Lauryn & Taylor backing me up! I even sold 5 of my little CDs. BIG BIG BIG heartfelt thanks to everyone who made the show not only possible but a success! I love you!
New Year’s Eve though, I came down with a fever which thankfully broke during the night. Spent most of New Year’s day napping on the couch between spurts of cleaning up the house for the owners’ return and gathering up all the things we had accumulated there. Monday I could have gone out if I needed to but luckily got to spend it inside having a marathon session of The Office on Netflix. I think the quick little sickness was my body’s way of saying, “If you don’t slow down, I’m gonna do it for you, missy!”
So yeah. I’ve got more to blog about, and I wanna do it right, but not right now. This turned out to be a pretty good catch-up/recap of the past few weeks at least anyway! :) I head back to Austin on the 7th for my final Rubicon session, which includes RECORDING in March! And all the fun little details of actually creating and releasing a CD. And figuring out what comes after this Rubicon Year is over. Whoa…
Chronicling the final 10 out of 100 Open Mic and Showcase performances I have done since June 2011. This is #100.
Lisa Kettyle plays a mean uke! And her outfit happens to match the venue. :-)
Perhaps one of my favorite open mic stories to tell is about the sign-up process for the Flipnotics Open Mic. Probably because it’s the most dramatic. It’s pretty standard that sign up is anywhere from 15-30 minutes ahead of the musical start time of an open mic. Depending on the venue, you either need to get there on time to be able play at all or on the other end of the spectrum, you can safely waltz in 30-60 minutes late and still get a slot. And in either case, there will be some nights where the opposite is true.
At Flipnotics, the list is pretty much always full. Music starts at 8pm. Around 7:30, musicians start milling around on the deck outside, pens in hand, hovering near the table where Lisa Kettyle, the host, usually puts down the sign-up sheet. Some of the musicians have been there since shortly after getting off work at their day jobs, but it’s 7:30 when the hovering starts.
At 7:45, Lisa comes out with the list and 2 or 3 pens, hollers, “I’m putting the list out!” and the feeding frenzy begins as everyone jockeys for an earlier slot. People have gotten jostled, scratched and marked with pens in their attempts to sign up. It’s not always that way. One time when an actually line was forming for sign-ups I said out loud, “Oh look, a civilized queue!” and someone else responded equally enthusiastically about it, and the couple of boys who were about ready to pounce slunk back into line as well.
Lisa has said she tried a few different ways of having people sign up, like lottery style for example, but during that month of experiments, attendance dropped. As soon as she announced she was going back to the old way, attendance went back up. The style doesn’t work for everyone, I have heard while making the rounds to other open mics that some people don’t usually go to Flipnotics mostly because of that sign up system. But the beauty of Austin is there are so many open mics, you’ll find the one or few that work best for you and your music.
After the sign-up process, Lisa explains the rules, (be in tune, no super long songs, don’t sing along with the performer unless invited,) and the fact that it’s a listening room environment. There are a few other places in town where the people do listen, but the thing that sets Flipnotics apart even from those is the bar is actually separated from the stage area, so the the people who are in the room are really choosing to be there and spillover noise from running the espresso machine, cash register, etc is minimal.
Which also means I was able to get a pretty decent video of my performance:
Lisa also has the room vote on whether everyone will do 2 or 3 songs. With a full list, 2 songs means everyone gets to perform. 3 songs sometimes means the last few people won’t get on before closing. On the nights that I’ve been able to stay till the end, often times 3-5 performers won’t stick around and the people that do stay still get to perform. Lisa also has a policy that if you’re on the list, stay till the end and don’t get to play, she’ll put you on the list wherever you want next week.
Flipnotics was the 3rd open mic I played in Austin back in June, so it was pretty great to look back from performance #100 and remember that on that first night there I was playing without a pick and was barely projecting - to the point that Lisa turned off the AC so people had a better chance of hearing me. So to be playing with a pick, no mic, be able to talk while tuning and make eye contact with the audience, all that is a really great measuring stick of how far I have come in the 7 months I’ve been playing out.
Songs: Anchor, Shoreline of Alaska
1601 Barton Springs Rd.
Austin, TX 78704
Thursdays - Sign up at 7:45, Music at 8-till close. 2-3 songs depending on how long the list is.
Favorite Flipnotics eats: Delicious empanadas, I’ve had the spinach mushroom, samosa, that came with some yummy garlic sauce, and the sweet potato pecan that came with whipped cream. Great smoothies and espresso!
Other things I like about Flipnotics: Awesome, multi-level deck outside. Bar space is separate from the stage space so not only is it a listening room, the bar noise is minimal.
Chronicling the final 10 out of 100 Open Mic and Showcase performances I have done since June 2011. This is #99.
Raul writes awesome songs and can play killer mashups.
All right, I admit the first time I walked into Backroads earlier this summer with Amy Z, I was a little nervous about the place, especially because there were pool tables on a raised area behind the stage. Would I get knocked in the head with a pool cue while singing? Plus we got offered drinks basically just for walking in, because we got there late and the open mic had already shut down. Not being too experienced with people buying me drinks, the offer usually puts me on guard when it’s from someone I don’t know. We later found out it was the owner, probably just wanting us to stay and hang out!
A few weeks later, Ana Bee brought me over for their Tuesday night karaoke. I hadn’t done karaoke in years, and I spent a long time trying to figure out what few songs in the book I thought I’d actually be able to sing entirely, not just the choruses. It was a weird experience to sing without my guitar in front of me, but we had a great time.
When I finally made it to the open mic, I also had a great time. Raul was very welcoming, the sound system was great and I got to do two rounds, one of six songs and one of five. There was hardly anyone there, musicians or audience, but in some ways I felt like it was one of my better performances. I gave it my all and felt like I had shown up and done my job right.
Word has gotten out and the list has built up a bit since my first time there, but so far I’ve still gotten to do at least five songs every time I’ve gone. Last night Jeff and Ana Bee showed up again and did a set together, and then I asked Jeff to join me for my second set because we went around again. Fun fun!
Ana Bee & Honey Bear (according to Ana. Jeff is still warming up to it! :-) )
Round 1: Keep Telling Me, Winter Time, Jonah, Sister’s Prayer, Shoreline of Alaska
Round 2: Rain Song, Wings, The Way I Am (Cover), Anchor
Raul Adrian Ochoa
2200 S Interstate 35
Austin, TX 78704
Wednesdays - Sign up at 7:45, Music at 8-till close. 5 songs (sometimes more if the list is short). Free drink for playing.
Favorite Backroads eats: Actually the only food I have had there were things people shared with me - a jalepeno popper and some salad. The popper was tasty and the salad was huge!
Other things I like about Backroads: Getting to play lots of songs, nice sound system.
Chronicling the final 10 out of 100 Open Mic and Showcase performances I have done since June 2011. This is #98.
I’ve been telling the Texans all Autumn long that they don’t actually know what cold is. Back in Iowa, they’ve had snow already and have been wearing winter coats for a while. Tuesday night was actually, definitely cold here in Austin though. There was frost on the car windows when I came home. When I posted something to that effect on Facebook, I got teased for growing soft, but hey, 28 degrees is 28 degrees, no matter what state you’re in!
Anyhoo, it was a cold night of bus rides, but OPA! was nice and warm. Ana Bee, the host, kicked things off with my guitar and a couple of her awesome tunes backed by an awesome lead guitarist named Jeff. He’s got a good ear and a good sense of respect for each song he plays along with, even if it’s the first time. Now that the secret is out, he’s got a few people wanting him to jump in on their songs!
I think the colder weather does keep folks inside more, because the list was short, which meant we each got to do four songs. I had Ana jump in with me for some harmonies on Jonah, it’s fun that I’ve been around long enough to have folks know my songs and add something extra!
Songs: Keep Telling Me, Sister’s Prayer, Winter Time, Jonah’s Whale
OPA! Wine & Coffee Bar
2050 South Lamar Boulevard
Austin, TX 78704
Tuesdays - Sign up at 6:30, Music at 7-till 9 or “whenever”. 3 songs.
OPA! on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/austinopa
Favorite OPA! eats: Hummus plate, cheese & spinach triangles, steamed milk, iced Americano.
Other things I like about OPA!: Beautiful courtyard with a huge tree, bench swings and fountains. The bathroom is amazing! White stone tiles, beautiful glass bowl sink, candles and fragrances a rocking chair and artwork. I almost just want to hang out in there, hehe.
Chronicling the final 10 out of 100 Open Mic and Showcase performances I have done since June 2011. This is #97.
It was a dark and rainy night when I set out for Baker Street… OK, that’s cheesy and ominous sounding. Or it might be ominous if it wasn’t so cheesy! But it WAS dark, cold and drizzling when I headed out for the bus last night to go back to the Sherlock Holmes themed Baker Street Pub. Luckily the busses that are overly air-conditioned in the hot weather are nice and toasty during the cold weather, and Baker Street was nice and toasty too.
There was a football game showing on the big projector screen in front of the stage when I walked in, and a big rowdy crowd enjoying said game. I had a moment of nervousness, “Sheesh, they are going to kill us if we take away their game for some acoustic songwriter music…” Luckily there are a ton of other TVs around, and I think someone even said that the game they were watching ended right around our start time anyway. The room definitely cleared out a good deal when the music started though. Just one of many opportunities not to take things personally. :-)
Some people are paying attention though, because the past couple nights I’ve had performers who have seen me at other venues come up and say, “Hey, what number are you at?” Some over estimate, some under estimate, but either way, it means they have been listening and I’ve made some sort of impression!
I had a new/old song to try out on the crowd. I’d been going through my YouTube videos and found one from several years ago that I wrote when my brother moved to New York City. Luckily I’d put the lyrics in the description, so I pasted them into a Google document, chopped it up and put it back together in what I think is a tighter/stronger song. It could probably still use a little bit of tweaking, but after the set one of the hosts said she liked the second song, so even if she didn’t completely hear all the words and whatnot, that was good feedback, enough for me to keep trying it out.
There is definitely a push in the open mic scene to bring something new as often as possible. People start to recognize you and then the next time they see you they say, “Got anything new?” It’s a tricky balance though, because playing at least some of the same songs is part of what gets them to recognize you. I’ve had a few times where people don’t really seem to recognize my face but when they hear the songs they say, “Oh yeah, I saw you at such and such other open mic!”
It’s also funny to compare that situation to a songwriter who has had either some or a great level of recognition. For those folks, the audience always wants to hear the same hit song, or the songs from the album that made the artist famous. I suppose that could be another measuring stick of success - earning the right and expectation to play the same song at every single show! ha!
In any case, that’s part of why I created my spreadsheet back in June to document these open mics. I wanted to be sure and not play the exact same sets at any one venue two weeks in a row. Turns out there is a set of folks who make the open mic rounds almost as much as I do, so they are going to end up hearing the same songs multiple times a week, but I really can’t do much about that. :-)
I also ended up having a nice conversation with a construction worker dude while waiting for my second bus home. He noticed the guitar on my back, asked me what kind of music I played and talked about how inspiring music was to him, and how he wished he had the talent to play, but all he had talent for was a hammer. I told him maybe he could play a drum, and also that it was never too late to start and be simple about it.
Funny that in the past two nights of bus rides, I’ve run into someone who wants to have a conversation about how inspiring music is to them. I feel like even without them hearing me play a note, we made a brief connection and I was still able to share my message about how important and healing music can be, and that it doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated to make a happy little difference. I hope our simple little conversations made some happy difference in their lives, because they filled my heart up with a little more gratitude for this music thing!
Keep Telling Me, A Sister’s Prayer, Rain Song
Justin & Tiffany of Justif
Baker Street Pub & Grill
3003 South Lamar Boulevard
Austin, TX 78704-4703
Sundays - Sign up at 6:45, Music at 7-till close. 3 to 4 songs depending on how full the list is.
Favorite Baker Street eats: This week I tried the Kraken Cookie Crumble, which ended up being rather like a grown-up milkshake almost. Kraken Spiced Rum and Gingerbread Syrup and like, cream or something, on ice, with some spiced sugar on the rim… Wowzers. Yum. :-)
Other things I like about Baker Street Pub: All the fun Sherlock Holmes themed decor inside - bookcases, leather chairs, a London phone booth replica!
Chronicling the final 10 out of 100 Open Mic and Showcase performances I have done since June 2011. This is #96
photo by Mike Shirley
I suppose it’s time for a couple of small confessions.
#1) Not EVERY one of these performances I’m tracking has been an actual open mic per say. But the majority of them are, and it’s a lot easier to say “100 open mics in Austin since June” than it is today “100 open mics, a few showcases or mini-gigs, a going-away party and a live internet show, oh and a couple of them were in Colorado.” The point to me is, anywhere that people are there who could potentially be listening (an audience and performer situation), and I play and sing my songs, that counts. Perhaps the most accurate thing would be to call it 100 performances. Anyhoo, if you want to be technical about it, now you know!
#2) I have always secretly wanted to get called up to do a song or two from the audience at someone else’s gig. Since most of my stronger songs require my partial capo, I often walk around with it in my purse, just in case. Be prepared and all that. I don’t expect it, and I’ve never asked anyone because hey, their gig is about them! But I’ve seen it happen and it always seemed like a pretty cool thing that I’d like to have happen to me sometime.
So Saturday night I went out to see my friends Jana and Emily perform at a women songwriters in-the-round night at Pecan Street Brewing in Johnson City. It was hosted by the talented and very funny Penny Ney and the whole night was delightful.
I had a delicious brick-oven personal pizza and actually found a beer I liked too! The super nice bartender gave us samples of their current beers on tap. The one I got was called “Catcher in the Wheat” and was hardly bitter, just a little fruity. I grilled my friends on what I might be able to find at a regular bar that might come close and was told Blue Moon might be it. Several of the open mics offer a free drink for playing, and I have usually ended up getting a tea or a soda. Black tea keeps me awake, and soda isn’t the healthiest. Neither is beer I guess, but it’s nice to have even a possibility of another option on occasion.
Back to Pecan Street Brewing though, there is a front room with the bar and lots of tables, and then a back room with a stage and a balcony room that potentially looks over the stage if the patrons choose to look in that direction. There are little delightful surprises scattered around in the form of knick-knacks and clever signage, as well as awesome original artwork, from I think mostly, if not all local artists.
The music and the sound system were both great. Each of the women had their own distinct, unique style and yet it wasn’t jarring or weird for them to sing songs one after the other. Penny kicked in some tasteful light percussion on a few songs, Emily tossed in a few lovely harmonies here and there, Jana was queen of the in-between banter and creating a sense of continuity and Katie Lessley even got up to sing one of Jana’s songs and put some of her gorgeous harmonies to a few of the other songs too.
At the break Jana asked if I wanted to get up and do a song on one of her turns during the second set and I said sure and asked if she had any suggestions for what I should play. She named off a few and I decided to go for the one that probably had the least tuning issues, because as a guest I sure didn’t want to spent time fidgeting with tuning for one song! I got a good response, and then a bit later when I moved closer to the stage to take a picture, Emily asked me if I wanted to take her last slot, so I actually got to do two songs! Thanks gals!
I jokingly complained to them that this performance was throwing off my count, because I had the final 10 all planned out, so now instead of my 100th performance being at Fair Bean this Friday, I’m going to reach 100 at Flipnotics and Fair Bean will be 101! I guess I’m ok with going beyond my goal before going home for the holidays! :-)
Songs: Jonah’s Whale, Wings
Pecan Street Brewing
106 East Pecan Drive
Johnson City, TX 78636
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