The open mic at Whip In is on Odd Tuesdays. That means the 1st, 3rd, and if there is one, the 5th Tuesday of each month. Which means sometimes you’ll have two weeks in a row, when there’s a 5th Tuesday the week before a first Tuesday of the next month. It’s really not that confusing, it’s just a little odd. Which fits the Whip In.
But some people mistakenly think of it as “every other week”. Which is probably why when I showed up a little late on the first Tuesday of February, which came after a 5th Tuesday in January, I was the second person on the list, and I got to do five songs. I had been crossing my fingers I’d get to play at all, because other times showing up late meant playing late, even with everyone only playing two songs. Since I was bussing it that night, I had a definite deadline to get home if I didn’t want to walk an hour in the dark.
So it was a treat to not only go on shortly after arriving, but also to get to do a longer set. Better still, there were people and whole tables actually paying attention and enjoying the songs. Partway through, a few other musicians showed up, so it turned out to be a sweet little open mic night after all. Still it was cool to know for myself that if they hadn’t, I would have felt totally comfortable playing even longer!
To top it off, after my set, one of the waiters tapped me on the shoulder, pointed to a couple who had been attentive and appreciative while I played, and said, “Hey, they want to buy you a drink.” I felt a little like a rockstar for a minute, ordered a beer and brought my dinner over to their table to hang out. They were both big music fans and we talked about different bands and festivals and venues and creative inspiration. I didn’t quite catch what she does, but he designs children’s toys and they are pretty darn cute if you’ve got any little ones who need presents! http://giggletoys.com/ They bought drinks for the duo that went on after me as well and we all sat and chatted between songs. One of the gals who I noticed was enjoying my set came up to say so on her way out the door.
All-in-all, a pretty awesome night! It is fun to look back and remember that it was only June last year that I did my first open mic in Austin at Whip In, and how nervous and sick I felt, and how rough that performance went, and that 8 months later people are buying me beer?! Neat! :-D
Songs: Keep Telling Me, Rain Song, I Know, Jonah’s Whale, Sister’s Prayer
#109. I love Fair Bean. Love the Red Symphony.
Sweet, low-key night for the most part. Some folks decided to leave/had to go right as I was getting up to do my set, which meant they ended up having a conversation of goodbyes right next to me. I wavered for a second between waiting for them to leave and starting, and decided to go ahead with Jonah since I feel pretty solid with that one by now and thought I’d be able to get through it without them rattling me too much. They were gone by the time I started my second song, the new one, so that worked out.
It’s a tricky balance, playing in a coffee shop where people may or may not be there to listen. You’d certainly hope that at least the other performers would be respectful even if they can’t stay for the whole evening, but some of the patrons really don’t care that you are there at all and you can’t begrudge the venue their business! So you have to not take it personally, but also not shrink back into total un-obtrusiveness. Claim the space and be centered and hope you can command some attention for at least a little bit, which did happen.
Since most of the folks left after their first set, and there was still time left, the few of us who stayed got to do a second round, which felt even better. A mom & her two kids came in and I could tell the little guy, who was probably 2 or 3, was really into my guitar. A few of the folks there for coffee actually looked up and listened for a bit. Another nice gentleman came in to listen for my last couple songs and told me after that my “presence was uplifting”, which was pretty awesome to hear. :-) So yeah, sometimes it is just in the timing!
Round 1 - Jonah’s Whale, Split in Two, Anchor
Round 2 - Shoreline of Alaska, Sister’s Prayer, Wings
Photo by Amy Zamarripa
I got an email from my producer today saying that one of my heros in an independent, nationally touring band said “yes” to playing on my album. After squealing the news to one of my best friends who was on the phone when I got the email, and then texting my husband and my roommate, I flopped down on the couch in the living room. Tears welled up in my eyes as I had the thought that, “Wow, I must actually be a legitimate artist if someone like that would agree to play on my EP”. The phrase that immediately followed that thought was “Too legit to quit!”
I’ve been writing songs for years, going to workshops, taking classes, participating in writing groups on and offline. While I’ve been making leaps and bounds in both my music and as a person out here in Austin, on more occasions than I’d like to admit, I’ve gone through patches where a part of me wonders “What the hell am I doing and who am I kidding anyway?” In those moments it seems like it would be easier and less scary to go back home and join the ranks of new mothers-to-be posting pictures of their beautiful baby bellies on Facebook. And then I babysit for a few hours and remember that being a parent is just as hard and scary and beautiful and rewarding and awesome as being an artist, and that by embracing and developing my artistic self, which is who I really am, I’m actually going to be a better parent when the time comes.
I’ve clung to another phrase out here, and through many situations in my life - “Fake it till you make it.” Over the years I’ve come to find out that even the people I look up to have felt like frauds at one point or another. They still have vulnerable moments even after years of building up experience and confidence. But the thing you often find out is that somewhere in the process of the faking, you’ve actually been DOING whatever it is you think you can’t do, which is how you get better at it. ”Do it till you get better at it” is probably the more accurate phrase, but it doesn’t have the same snappy rhyme scheme as “Fake it till you make it”.
Tonight as I walked over to the studio where I’ll be recording my EP to pick up a kick-pedal tambourine for band practice tomorrow it occurred to me that no matter what I did or didn’t believe about myself on the inside, anyone looking in from the outside would agree that for at least this moment of my life, I am a musician living in South Austin, actively pursuing my dream. It’s actually kind of ridiculous and embarrassing to pretend anything else is the case.
Some of the outer edges of the dream are still foggy, but I’m glad and excited it’s becoming so clearly obvious I’m living it that even my curmudgeonly inner critic can’t deny it. Or that I’ve cleared away enough of the dirt and dust on the windows that I can see better what was there already. It’s also a tiny bit scary to a part of me because it means I’m running out of excuses to not be an artist, which is what I wanted and why I came here!
The inner curmudgeon is still gonna try to have a field day with how good/successful/talented of a musician it will admit to me being, but that’s a far cry from the time when it was saying I wasn’t even an musician at all. ”Gonna try” are the operative words though. Now that I’ve gotten much more familiar with its games, it’s easier to say, “Shut up Critic! I’m doing the work and I’m getting better at it!”
I mean, come on, 87 open mics in 6 months and counting? :)
Last Saturday I went to the Texas Book Festival with Jana & her friend Heidi to see Terri Hendrix & Lloyd Maines performing in the music tent. I’d heard a lot about Terri over the years from Jana’s blog, played her songs on my radio show and I even saw her perform about four songs or so at a benefit in my first month or so here in Austin, but this was a full hour set.
I love the book festival logo!
As they were setting up, Terri was scanning the audience, checking out who was there, smiling and nodding and connecting with people between tuning her guitar, setting up her mic stand and such. I wasn’t sure she would remember me from the brief time we met, but I did mouth “Hi,” when her glance fell on me and she said “Hi,” back, there was a genuine connection I definitely appreciated whether or not she did remember me specifically.
As she started playing, I started crying. She was so graceful, gracious and connected. Her lyrics spoke to me, her presentation riveted me. Terri is not the first musician to move me so deeply, but being surrounded by so much music here in Austin, the ones that can still give me goosebumps & make me cry are clearly the cream of the crop.
The stage has mojo on it!
I wanted to ask her, “Why am I doing this?” I could see, even in how each song appeared to be effortless, how much work went into making it seem that way. Another thing that comes with the territory of spending more time with musicians is hearing more of the “war stories”. The terrible gigs where no one showed up, where the sound system was jacked, where the people sitting in the front row would not shut up, where the payment terms are pitiful or the food is crap, trouble with airports, luggage, customs, etc, etc.
Almost as soon as I had the thought, I knew also that even if I actually asked, her answer would be something along the lines of, “That is a very important question and a thing you need to find out for yourself.” The Rilke quote about living the questions came to mind at that moment as well.
Somehow, through the course of that hour, the small, still and certain voice, the one that has spoken to me several times in the past couple years, came through saying, “Because I want to.”
It’s the same voice that answered last year when I asked, “Would I be happy in my life just knowing that some of the songs I have written have already deeply affected people’s lives for the better? Isn’t that enough? Can I just do this quietly for myself now as time allows and inspiration strikes?” The answer that came back then, clear as a bell, was, “No. I need to be doing this for hundreds of people.”
It’s the same voice that came through a few weeks ago, not even in answer to a direct question, but after days of wondering what I was really doing, one morning shortly after waking, and several more times throughout the day that said, “I want to tour.”
As clear and certain as that calm inner voice is, the inner critic is quick to jump in with its chatter about how impossible, impractical and audacious those dreams are. The inner calm just smiles as if to say, “It’s going to happen, and I’m not worried about it, so you do what you need to do to figure it out. I’ll be here.”
I know that no matter what, I need the songs, I need to be able to perform them, and I need a recording so that they will have a longer lifespan than the moments I perform them on stage. All of that is what I am working on here as part of my Rubicon Year. If the questions are “Why?” and “How?”, I’m living them. I can’t see the answers but I know I’m right in the middle of them. It’s going to be SO interesting to look back on this year with a kind and compassionate eye that comes from experience. In the meantime I’m working on being gentle with myself and continuing to take action, even if only baby steps.
Going through some pictures from the past few months and found this one from the Boulder Farmer’s Market in August that I forgot to post!
I’d heard about this showcase happening the past few years before the Rocky Mountain Song School starts, but never made it to Colorado in time to participate, and to be honest, in previous years I was probably too nervous to even ask if I could.
But after doing so many open mics all summer, I was confident I could rock a similar situation in Boulder, so when I realized that I would be arriving in Boulder on Friday night this time, I wrote to the organizer Jenn Cleary to see if there were any more slots. She asked me if I could do 8:45am and I said yes.
Since I went early, I had the whole rest of the day to relax, wander the vendor booths a bit and watch the other performers. It was hard to leave when everyone that got up was so good! It was a nice way to start the Song School experience a little early and therefore make it last a little longer. I even got a Farmer’s Market Coupon for playing that I used to buy some mango sticky rice! Oh yeah, and we played for tips which we then used to help fund the “Come to Cheeses” wine and cheese party at the campground during the week.
I’m glad I made it in time, I’m glad I asked if there was still room even though it was late notice and I’m glad I said yes even though the time slot was on the early side. I also made a great connection with Jenn and even had her on my radio show when I got back to Austin! Check out the archive of that interview here on KRUU.
And here is the lineup of all the performers for the day:
Proud to be part of such a great line-up!
National Songwriters Showcase
Hosted by Jenn Cleary
Saturday, August 13th, 2011
Boulder Farmer’s Market
1900 13th Street, Boulder
8:30 Jenn Cleary Boulder, CO
8:45 Heather Miller Austin, TX/IA
9:00 Keith DeBoer Fairfield, IA
9:15 Rob Clark Boulder, CO
9:30 Julia Knearl Lousiville, CO
9:45 Sharon Glassmon Brooklyn, NY/Longmont, CO
10:00 Scott Dale Boulder, CO
10:15 Cheryl Branz Spokane, WA
10:30 Cheyenne Herland Ogden, UT
10:45 Rebb Firman Lemon Cove, CA
11:00 Ken Langford Broomfield, CO
11:15 Meg Braun Brooklyn, NY
11:30 Jamie Michaels Santa Fe, NM
11:45 Teresa Storch Boston, MA/Longmont, CO
12:15 Christine Constanzo Madison, WI
12:30 Mark Adkins Madison, WI
12:45 Rick Gottlieb Boston, MA
1:00 RJ Cowdery Columbus,OH
1:15 Rick Drost Cambridge, MA
1:30 Michael Bowers Alexandria, VA
1:45 Siobhan Quinn Alexandria, VA
Try looking at your mind as a wayward puppy that you are trying to paper train. You don’t drop-kick a puppy into the neighbor’s yard every time it piddles on the floor. You just keep bringing it back to the newspaper.
oopsy, has it really been two months since I posted my last big video blog?! I must have been busy! :-)
Well better late than never, so here it is, in which I talk about getting my Berklee Music Master Songwriting Certificate, performing at over 35 open mics in two months and the benefits of that experience, getting stronger in all sorts of ways, performing with the band, finishing the first season of my Rubicon Year, being excited for Rocky Mountain Song School & Folks Fest, upcoming challenges including making money and starting martial arts - Krav Magaw. wow.
Links to things I mention in the video:
PS - At the time of this posting, I am just 15 people away from having 100 “Likes” on my Facebook music page! I’ve promised to post a video of me playing electric guitar with the band when I get to 100, so if you haven’t yet, won’t you please go click the thumbs up button at http://www.facebook.com/heathermillermusic ?
PPS - If you have liked my page already, do you know anyone who would be interested in hearing my music and/or my story, and will you point them to my Facebook page? You are awesome!!
Wow, has it really been 12 weeks? This was at the Rubicon Artist Development showcase, I did a couple of songs solo before performing with the band, this one is My Bright Star. So fun, and so great to feel the confidence that comes from just DOING something so often that it gets easier! There are still areas where I want to grow of course, but I am feeling so much stronger!