The Good Guys Have More Fun

Fr. Meinrad, stole the show at my latest gig.  He proves that in reality, it's the 'good guys' that have more fun.

Fr. Meinrad Miller, stole the show at my latest gig. He proves that in reality, it’s the ‘good guys’ that have more fun.

There have been countless times throughout my life that I’ve found myself saying, “I feel like I’m in a movie”.  I have so many stories that are so completely far fetched, so outrageous that they amaze even me!  But the incredible thing is that they’re true and many of them I wish weren’t.  But this night with all its twists and turns is one that I think I’ll hold on to.

It happened this last week at my latest gig.  For those of you that were there, you probably need not read further, and while I’ll do my best to explain it, I know that I’ll leave some part of the story out… cough.

The evening started much like any evening, the crowd was quiet, I was struggling with getting my sound system just right, trying to get rid of that annoying buzz sound, when in came the first four girls of what would eventually blossom into a bachelorette party.  I was pretty stoked, parties mean people and well, I dread those humbling moments when you realize that you are playing for people who can’t hear the difference between you and Eddie Murphy.  (If you don’t know why I’d make this comparison, watch this video… it’s hilarious).  I soon realized that this bachelorette party, was one of ‘those’ bachelorette parties, if you know what I mean.  It seemed like every pause between songs was filled with another term for a male’s reproductive parts.  Now I could go into detail, but let’s just say the ‘cops’ came and things got really rowdy for awhile… it wasn’t 5 minutes after the ladies exited the lounge, that two Catholic priests came walking into the bar.

No, this isn’t where I go into one of those stereotypical religion jokes, where I tell you what the Baptist said to them… no, they really did come in and plopped right down in front of me.

Now, while it may have presented an uncomfortable situation for some, I know these two priests.  I know them to be incredibly down to earth and authentic with the way they share the Gospel, real JPII-like disciples.  It was with that in mind that I saw opportunity and ran with it.  What happened next, was priceless.  As the entertainer, I wanted to acknowledge their presence and relieve the tension of having a couple of ‘elephants’ in the room, so, I playfully invited one of them to come up and sing the next tune with me.  At first, there was a moments hesitation, but when I introduced it as Johnny Cash number, it was on like the Donkey Kong.*

Father Meinrad Miller has some pipes on him and “The Ring of Fire”, well, I’ve never heard it sung with such… ‘reverence’.  Having Fr. Meinrad and Prior Jeremy Heppler there enjoying my music was so validating for me.  Now this may happen again at some point in my life, but it will never take me off guard like it did that night, and in life, it’s in those moments of surprise when things end up turning out really good; that life is so much fun.

*A phrase to denote that it’s time to throw down or compete at a high level; something is about to go down. The use of the comical video game character Donkey Kong provides comic relief but the phrase itself has greater or more significance than simply; its on.  (urbandictionary.com)

Sharing the Gift- The Real Reward

Fast Molasses with Johnny and the Applestompers, live from 319 West Clark in Nashville, Tennessee.

Fast Molasses with Johnny and the Applestompers, live from 319 West Clark in Nashville, Tennessee.

There is something that distinguishes the music of those trying to be heard, from those who are trying to make it big.

This past weekend a friend of mine and I hit I-70 East on our way to Nashville, Tennessee.  It was smooth sailing until rush hour when we took the I-65 exit into town.  If you can forgive this city for its horrendous traffic issues, Nashville is arguably the most friendly melting pot city in the US.  Even the traffic was the most pleasant I’ve ever experienced.

I might be going out on a limb here, but there is something to be said about a place that embraces the arts as Nashville does.  The act of creation is life giving– and in a world that is engulfed with egocentricity, it’s refreshing to be among people who share their gifts so eagerly and selflessly.

There are the exceptions of course, those who fall victim to losing the ‘gift’.  I’m sure we can all name at least one of those ‘stars’- while their talent never ceases, the joy of sharing is lost somewhere along the way.  Fame and fortune have a way of diluting the passion of once ‘gung ho’ artists.  For me, the music is sweeter and carries more weight when those who sing it are doing so as a gift to their audience.

We all have gifts and while it would be a great blessing to be able to make a living off of those talents, is that the way it should be?  For many, when a monetary value is placed on their gifts, it doesn’t take long before the sincerity of the ‘gift’ is replaced by the expectation of ‘recompense’.

One of my recent Nashville evenings was devoted to the neon lights and bustling streets of the Downtown District.  The scent of the strip is potent, a mixture of leather cowboy boots, beer soaked floors and gasoline—the ingredients of any top hit country song.  But it was here, among all the bustle that I stumbled upon the street corner music of a 2 band collaboration, Fast Molasses and Johnny and the Applestompers.

I doubt any of the young men in the band were over the age of 25, but the aura they created with their ‘Newsie’ garb and backwoods sound, felt like home to me.  My friend and I sat on that street corner for at least and hour.  At the end of the set, we threw 8 bucks and some change into a ratty guitar case and I left with the idea for this post.   According to the boys, the money would go toward paying their way back to Ohio.  Take a few minutes to watch the following video and you’ll see just how rewarding sharing your gift can be.

I’m hoping this post and your comments will find their way back to the boys, so please, throw your 2 cents into that guitar case!

Mr. Keith & His Sex-Shooter

Toby Keith's self-named debut album hit the shelves in the spring of '93.  The mullet isn't the only thing that Keith has lost over the years.

Toby Keith’s self-named debut album hit the shelves in the spring of ’93. The mullet isn’t the only thing that Keith has lost over the years.

I love listening to comedians, stand ups like Brian Regan, Jim Gaffigan, and Ellen DeGeneres, they have such a talent for finding humor in everyday things and don’t have to resort to shame, embarrassment or raunchiness to entertain their audience, I find them so funny because a million times throughout their ‘stand’, I find myself saying “THAT IS SO TRUE!”  If you haven’t seen or listened to any of their work, I highly suggest looking them up.

One of my favorite sets was given by Ellen in her “Here & Now” tour back in the early nineties.  In this portion of her show Ellen brings to light the funny certainty that we have all experienced and are guilty of, singing songs that we really don’t know the lyrics to.  For Ellen, she discovered that the ‘monkey hatchet’ she had been singing about for years didn’t really exist.  Click here to listen.  

I’m reminded of my mom and her attempt to sing “There’s your Trouble” by the Dixie Chicks.  It was Christmas Eve and I had figured out the karaoke feature on my stereo, after my sister’s rendition of “Lucky” by Britney Spears, it was mom’s turn… well to sum things up, what ensued was one of the funniest moments of my life…  Mom stumbled through what she thought was a song about ‘mischievous bubbles’… trouble bubbles to be exact.  It was great.  But lets be honest, we’ve all done it!

In his late 90’s hit “Should’ve Been a Cowboy”, a song that is still heard on country radio stations across America today, Toby Keith talks about what his life would consist of if he’d only made the decision to ‘be a cowboy’.  It is one of the few TK songs that I like.  (Before his decade of “Whose Ur Daddy” & “Red Solo Cup” lyrical decline)  Oh yeah… I’ve always belted that one out from the roof tops, I guess that’s why it embarrassed me so much to find out that TK was referring to a ‘six shooter’ in the second verse of the song.

Wearing my six-shooter riding my pony on a cattle drive…

Why was I embarrassed?  Well, in my head, it was definitely a ‘sex-shooter’ that helped him ‘steal the young girl’s hearts’ in the next line, it wasn’t until 3 years ago that I was set straight on that misunderstanding, thanks to a couple ‘friends’ of mine.

St. Patrick’s Day Gig was a Big Hit

Image

Former St. Paddy’s Day Grand Marshall, Mr. Mike Begley, the man behind the mustache, and I posing for a picture between sets at Paolucci’s Lounge.

I am so excited about my gig last night!  It was the most fun I have ever had playing live. Maybe it was because I was playing early, but the crowd was so fun!  It made me realize why I do what I do.  Fact is, there are thousands of musicians out there who have skills that far surpass my own, they were born to be musicians– me, well, I think we are all born to bring joy to people’s lives in whatever way we can.  Last night’s gig gave me that opportunity and I left feeling so alive!  To have the crowd sing along with you, there just isn’t anything better than that.  With every performance, I learn a little more about what people want from an entertainer and that is encouraging.  Once again, I want to send out a special shout out to my friends at Paolucci Begley’s, thanks for booking me!

The Promise of a Musical Lyric

Eva Cassidy.  Picture courtesy of abc.go.com.

Eva Cassidy. Picture courtesy of abc.go.com.

It was 2 days ago, I was in my car and the song, “If I Die Young” by The Band Perry, came on the radio.  I’ve heard this song a number of times, but about half way through the song I was struck by a verse that I hadn’t heard before and it really got to me.

“A penny for my thoughts, oh no, I’ll sell ’em for a dollar, They’re worth so much more after I’m a goner.

And maybe then you’ll hear the words I been singing.  Funny, when you’re dead how people start listening.”

I’m sure you all have your own person that you thought of when you read these lines.  I thought of the brilliant artist, Vincent Van Gogh and more recently, Randy Pausch author of “The Last Lecture”… but the first person who popped into my brain was a woman by the name of Eva Cassidy, a musician.

Eva was born in the early 60s and passed away young at the age of 33 from melanoma.  She was an American vocalist and guitarist that spent much of her life singing interpretations of popular songs that moved her.  During her life, Cassidy wasn’t famous, in fact few people knew of her outside of the Washington D.C. area.  According to the experts, Cassidy would never make it big because she was unwilling to limit herself to one genre– later on in her career shortly before her death in 1996, she would be praised for being able to ‘sing anything’.   Joel E. Siegel, a Grammy winning music critic described Cassidy as “one of the greatest voices of her generation.”

Cassidy’s story is sad but at the same time, it is inspirational.  Cassidy, was picky when it came to cutting an album.  She recorded several songs but released very few, “Eva by Heart” is the only solo album that she was alive to hear.   It wasn’t until her death that Cassidy’s music began to gain notoriety.  Posthumous recognition refers to attention given to someone after their death, it was Cassidy’s rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” that gained the most attention in the United Kingdom of all places.  Today nine albums have been compiled and over 2.5 million copies have been sold.

When I first heard an Eva Cassidy song I was 19 years old and Cassidy’s rendition of “Fields of Gold” was played at my sister’s wedding reception, soon after, I bought her “Songbird” album in a small hippie boutique.  It wasn’t until I started looking for her shows that I learned of her tragic ending.  I’m 28 years old and only 5 short years away from being Cassidy’s age when she died.  If I could do it right now, would I turn down fame to remain true to the music?  When you get down to it, what I love most about music is its message– the ability of its words and notes to travel through time from one generation to the next.  Good music moves and speaks and that is promising.  If Cassidy had compromised her music for fame, she would’ve spent her last 5 years in life struggling to make it big instead of singing the songs that have added so much meaning to my life.

Untouchables

Every once in a while an artist comes along that is simply put, one of a kind. There are some voices that can not be matched. To “cover” these artists is to down play the integrity of the songs they sing. For me there are only a few artists who I esteem to this degree– Adele, when I heard you for the first time in a cozy but rowdy coffee shop– you froze me with your vocals, I guess that’s why I got goosebumps. Listen to the song that stopped me in my tracks– Hometown Glory by the one and only, Adele.

Adele

Picture credit: Vogue

A Very Fine Place to Start

Just taking it easy after one of my summer shows, hanging with my peeps Andi Wilder and Megan Peltzer.

My love for writing began when I was 13 years old.  A small town girl seeking to be a ‘deep thinker’, I came up with my first lyrics, although shallow, their innocence has spoken to me as of late.  I often find myself returning to those primitive words and have used them as inspiration for many of my latest songs.  Although song writing was the initial reason why I bought my first guitar (more on that later), now my guitar sings right along side me.  I never aspired to be a singer, but I suppose no one can sing a song better than the person who wants it to be understood.

This summer I took the plunge.  Previously, I had only dabbled with the idea of performing: there were hundreds of late night college jam sessions, a few talent shows and the occasional coffee house serenade, but this summer I stepped out into the limelight at Paoluccis in Atchison, Kansas. Paoluccis was the perfect place for me to get my start, its a quaint lounge environment where the music fills the space and the regulars tip well, probably because I’ve also waited tables there for the past 3 years.  Paoluccis has given me roots, I thank Mike and Margie Begley for their willingness to give me a shot.  More than the money or the encouragement, I’ve realized that music makes me come alive, and that is why I share it with others.  My further success in this endeavor will be reliant on a few essential things, my constant improvement as a guitarist and singer, a commitment to the art of song-writing, people who enjoy me and people willing to hire me.  Schedule Cle for your next event.  Contact me at edmonds_courtney@yahoo.com.

Click here for more information on Paolucci & Begley Restaurant and Lounge.