Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Avenues and Updates

So many things to talk about tonight. We just got home from our performance in the Avenues Showcase, a monthly songwriter night hosted by Lisa Dotolo. We attended one of her shows a few months ago to hear our friend John, and that lead to our booking. We were really excited to do the show because it was held at one of our favourite venues, Caffiene. (You may remember this as the cafe we visited on our honeymoon.)

Well, last week, we got a disturbing email - Caffiene was closed! NOOOOOO!!!!!! We love that place!

Lisa was finally able to reschedule at Cafe Coco, a busy cafe with a back room where they hold music nights. The show's audience was lower than usual due to the reschedule, but we still performed to a nearly packed room, so no complaints here.

We were each invited to do 4 songs, and Gerald was crazy/brave enough to try 3 (yes 3!) brand new songs! I did 2 on my own, and then had him join me for "My Father's Arms" and "The Point of the Song". It's always a little risky doing Christian songs in a non-Christian environment, but I felt very well received. Several people came up to speak to me after, and one person took my card so they can get me to come to their church. Gotta love Nashville!

Oh, and another cool moment of the night - I met another Shoutlifer! Carolyn and I have chatted through Shoutlife, but we didn't know the other was on the line-up for tonight. Small little wold!

And updates:

We are still seeking gigs for the summer, but the big thing is prepping for my CD!!!!!! A few weeks ago, I hired Aaron Minick as my producer. I want a CD that's rooted in Southern Gospel, with jazz and big band influences. When I met Aaron, I knew I'd found my producer.

Aaron's Dad, Johnny, sang for many years with the Happy Goodmans (Howard and Vestal), so Aaron grew up surrounded by Southern Gospel. But now, Aaron's own music is influenced by the same big band jazz crooners that I love. The perfect mix!

I'm aiming for 10 songs - some classic SG, a hymn or two, some of our songs, and a few by other writers. I can't afford to hire a big band, so we're going for a 6 piece combo set-up. We're going to get started this summer, with a goal of releasing it in time for Christmas.

I am sooooo excited about this! This is one of the reasons why I came to Nashville. To work with people who are in the SG industry, people who've grown up with this music. This will also satisfy one of the goals on my 100 Life Goals List. Yay!

Speaking of the List, I'm also working on another goal - "Read the entire Bible". Like most people, I'd read the popular parts, but never the whole entire thing. Let me tell you - it is looong! I'm loving it, but I'm finding it a struggle to keep up with the daily readings. I'm reading the Message translation, with the Apocrypha from the Good News translation.

We're also preparing for a fair bit of company this summer, so we have plans to finish the unpacking (yes, we still have boxes!) and get all the painting done soon. And somewhere, in all that, we're going to find time for a trip to Memphis! Can't be this close to Elvis country and not drop by for a visit!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Indie Fest '07

This morning saw me and Gerald up at the crack of dawn. (Maybe not 'dawn' exactly, but close enough for my liking.) For today, we took part in our biggest Nashville gig to date - Indie Fest '07.

I found out about Indie Fest through my latest favourite place, The page advertised an all day Christian music festival featuring indie musicians. Since it was only a short drive from Nashville, I wrote and asked if they still had openings, and I was able to book Gerald and myself as a duo.

The buzz was all over Shoutlife about the festival, but, unfortunately, the audience was smaller than we all would have liked. Despite that, this was still a great event and an amazing day.

Gerald and I kicked off the day with a 40 minute set of mostly original music. After that, we were able to relax and enjoy the other acts, all of whom were incredible. This is the first time I've ever been on the same line-up as rock bands and a hip-hop artist. Shoutlife became real life as I got to meet many of my cyber friends face to face. The music was dynamic and spirit-filled, and the fellowship was awesome! At the end of the day, Gerald and I walked out with new friends, a future co-write, and a possible booking agent. And we were all honoured to bear witness to the surprise marriage proposal of Anthony to Kelly. I just met them, and I'm so excited for them already!

All in all, this was a blessed and wonderful day. We heard awesome testimonies, amazing songs, and great words of faith. And I think Gerald and I are finding something wonderful between us on stage. We sang together long before we were even dating, but lately, I think we're finding something new and unique in our music and message. I don't want to define it yet, but it's very exciting, and the response has been very good. We may have another gig tomorrow (we'll find out in the morning), and I'm just seeking opportunities to be on stage together.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Tea and Jam - Nashville style!

We're back in Nashville! Toronto was a lot longer than planned, but all in all, it was a very satisfying trip. After our crazy gig-filled week, we finally had some time to do family stuff. We ate lobsters, lassie buns, and lots of homemade cooking. We visited the Shaw Festival to see "Saint Joan", which was incredible. And we had many parties, including a sushi birthday, a spa birthday, and double celebrations of Mother's Day and Father's Day.

We took 2 days to drive back, enjoying a silly night in a roadside hotel - eating fast food outdoors, watching fireflies, and following the adventures of some local children and a litter of new-born kittens in the woods.

This week has been a little rough. I had 2 paying gigs almost firmed up for the summer, and both have fallen through in varying degrees. That, piled up with several smaller issues, left me feeling a little beat up by week's end. But I got lots of rest, and started to sing again (the antidote to all wrongs!), for tonight, we had...

Tea and Jam! Several months ago, we joined several fellow Shoutlifers at a great event called Tea and Jam. It's held at Madison Church of Christ, and features 2 musical acts (that's the "Jam" part). It's a free event, and they even serve complimentary coffee, hot chocolate, sweets, and ... Tea!

Tonight, we shared the stage with saxophonist, Jamie Reid. He's just put out a new hymns project, and his music is gorgeous!

We each had 12 songs to perform (Gerald and I were performing as a duo, so 12 songs between us). Usually each act does one set, but they tried a new format tonight with each act performing four 3-song-sets. We were worried this would be too much jumping up and down and resetting and stuff, but everything was very well organized, and I think the format made for a nice flow.

We did 2 covers - "I Have Decided" and "People Get Ready" - but the rest was all originals. Gerald did "Do You Trust the Wings God Gave You", which he hasn't done for ages. We did "My Child is Dancing With God", with me on harmonies, and as he sang his other songs, all I could think was "We need more harmonies!". After the show, our friend Tara came up and said, "You know what I wanted to hear? More harmonies!". If that's not a sign...

I did my personal favourites, including "Wedding at Cana", "Sing Me a Song", and the new one, "The Point of the Song". Overall, I was really pleased with things. The sound was great, which made us feel very comfortable. And I feel like we're building a performance repertoire, so that's feeling stronger each time. The crowd was small, but the feedback was great, and we've been invited back when our CDs are done. Whoo-hoo!

It's so good to be back here. I loved being home, but this is the adventure. Three years sounds like a long time, but I don't want to waste a second of it. I have so much I want to do here!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Tour Ontario! - Gig #6

That's it! We're done! It's been awesome, but now, I'm looking forward to a little rest time!

This morning was the final gig of our Tour Ontario week. We were blessed to visit Mom and Dad's new church in Burlington, St. Christopher's Anglican. This is a vibrant and growing church, with a new organ, a guitar club, and a great choir. But today, all the musicians were away, visiting another church. So they took advantage of the timing, and had us in for some special music.

We didn't do any of the hymns or liturgical music (which was okay after our huge show last night). We were just in charge of the music during Communion.

Their congregation is used to singing along during that time, so we chose "Just a Closer Walk" and "I Call Out Your Name". I printed the "I Call Out" chorus in the bulletin, and I was thrilled to hear so many people singing along.

After Communion, we did our duet version of "People Get Ready" as an anthem. When we reached the end, the congregation broke out into applause. And not polite applause. Generous, appreciative applause. The kind with a swell in it. It was a little overwhelming. This is a church that is used to great music, and apparently, they rarely clap for it. Gerald and I were surprised, and very moved.

After the service, we had a tremendous response from the congregation. One woman was so happy she came this morning, because we played "her music". Apparently, they rarely have Gospel music, so we were a bit of a treat. The feedback was great, and I think we have an unofficial invite to come back in the fall!

And now - rest time! Actually, it will be family time. Tonight, Mom and Dad hosted a BBQ with family and friends. So wonderful and completely needed by me and Gerald. The past week has had 6 performances in 8 days in 4 cities. (We prepared for a 7th, but it was cancelled). We've tried new arrangements, and even finished and debuted a new song. We've sung for hundreds of people, and met and chatted with lots of them. All in all, I'm so happy with how things have gone.

Some time this week, Gerald and I will sit down, go over things, and figure out what worked, and what needs working on. But for now, we're just grateful for doors that have been opened, and opportunities that have been blessed. And personally, I'm so happy to have a loving partner to join me on stage and in my ministry. Feeling very blessed and satisfied tonight!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Tour Ontario! - Gig #5

Tonight was the biggest gig of the whole week - a complete concert of just me and Gerald!

We did it at Church of the Holy Family, a wonderful Anglican church in Brampton. I did a worship service there last summer, and we've been eager to go back.

The church had a good crowd, especially since we're competing with basketball and hockey playoffs right now. But most importantly, they were an enthusiastic crowd! I asked for a show of hands, and over half had never seen us perform before. But they were with us from the opening notes, right through to the ice cream reception that followed the show.

We called tonight "Cowboys and Angels" to reflect our mix of country and Gospel. We did a few covers, but mostly originals. A lot of the songs we've done this week became part of the program, including our new song, "Praise", and our new jammin' version of "Infinitely More" with Gerald on djembe. We couldn't plug in both guitars, so when it came time to do "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus", we unplugged everything, walked into the aisle, and sang out.

I did Mom's song "All Because of You", and we did "I Call Out Your Name" with Gerald on lead vocals, and me on guitar and harmonies. We ended with our super-fast Celtic version of "Lord of the Dance".

After the show, we got to catch up with a few old friends, and got to meet a lot of the members of Holy Family. One woman told me that she has been through a lot lately, but during the show, she felt peace. That made it all worth it for me.

I also need to note that this is the longest show that Gerald and I have ever done with just the 2 of us. Our full concerts have always included guest artists, but this time, it was just us for the whole 90 minutes. I'm really proud of us. At the risk of bragging, I think we did a dynamic show with lots of music, yet we still felt very relaxed on stage. All in all, a very successful night!

One more gig in the morning. Off for sleep!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Tour Ontario! - Gig #4

First, an announcement: There will be no Gig #7. Sunday afternoon, we were booked to perform at an interdenominational worship service at Billings Court Manor seniors residence. Well, this week, we got a call saying the whole building is locked down under quarantine! What an awful situation! But on our end, we've told the chaplain that we will gladly take a rain cheque and perform next time we're up this way.

Tonight was Gig #4 - Tin Pan North!

Earlier this spring, I wrote about Tin Pan South, the awesome songwriting festival that happens in Nashville every year. (That's where I heard the amazing Stephen Schwartz concert!) NSAI Toronto is the only chapter outside Nashville to try and replicate this festival. The northern version is slightly different in that it's smaller, and it also features NSAI members, and not just pro-writers.

Our round was at the NOW Lounge, which is a great venue for this kind of show. Cozy space, and great sound. Each round in this festival features a headliner, and our's was none other than Marc Alan Barnette from Nashville. (We stayed in his house when we first moved to town.) Laura Ranieri, NSAI Toronto co-coordinator was our fourth, and she brought a lead guitar player into the mix.

I was really excited to be on stage with all these great players. Gerald opened the round with "Hot Bath, Cold Beer, and You", and I followed with "Wedding at Cana". Laura and Marc kept the rounds going with party songs all night. Gerald did "Never Learn", his newly written "Never Wait Until Tomorrow", and "Barrel of a Gun", which was a total treat because he hasn't played that in ages!

I did "My Father's Arms", and "Sing Me a Song". On that one, Gerald did rhythm on the guitar (we accidentally left the drum at home), which was really interesting because the strings rang every time Gerald hit the body of the guitar, giving it a new age/Celtic/new music kind of sound. Laura sang harmony, and then the sound guy put an awesome echo on my voice, making the whole thing sound very atmospheric. Sooo cool!

We ended with a brand new song called "Praise". The full hook is "The point of the song is to praise", and it was inspired by people who had trouble understanding why I wanted to sing Gospel music. And I do mean brand new - I brought the lyric and most of the melody to Gerald a week ago, and we just finished it yesterday. But all things considered, I thought it went really well.

After the show, we got to chat with friends we've been away from for far too long. It was so great to reconnect with people! We got great feedback on our performances, and I had several people come up to tell me how much they loved hearing Gospel music. I was a little nervous singing my songs in that environment, so that confirmation meant a lot.

All in all, it was a great night of music and fun. Must rest - the big show is tomorrow!