“Call me now for ya free tarot readin’!”

Age changes the way people perceive us and how we perceive others. It’s ridiculous but undeniably true. I have no idea where the mystical lines lie where these changes occur, but at some point we pass from “young” to “old” in the eyes of others, or from “sweet and innocent” to “jaded” or “wise” or really anything else along the spectrum.

It’s as though all my life peers, family, teachers, friends, and random customers have all suggested one grand idea – the sky is the limit! The world is your oyster! Reach for the stars!

Forward now to 24. I’ve suddenly passed some invisible line that I didn’t realize existed, which has inexplicably turned everyone in sight to Miss Cleo. 

Here is a brief list of what I’ve been told by various people and in no particular order concerning the fate of my music degree during my time as an undergrad and beyond:

You should not be content settling with only a bachelor degree. You need to complete more school. That is how you plan for a good future.

What you need to do is put yourself out there more. Like insert name here, she is doing everything she can to put herself out there! And look, shes getting all kinds of gigs! You need to be doing everything you can!

Why do you want to study music?

Why do you think you want to study music?

Oh a music degree! So you’re a singer?

What are you going to do after you graduate? For work?

Are you going to teach?

Do you want to teach?

You would be a good teacher. You should teach lessons.

So…you’re going to teach then?

Now is the time you should start thinking long-term. You’re not in school anymore. You need to find something solid, that can lead you long-term.

You play the…violin? Oh, viola, so that’s like a violin?

Asks about classical piece of music playing over a speaker. What, weren’t you a music major? How do you not know who this is?

I think you’re doing great just where you are, I think this is right where you’re meant to be. I am proud of you.

***

If anyone has assumed that I have simply skipped around through school and beyond singing the Sound of Music in my head spinning barefoot in circles and not even for a second contemplated any of the above topics, then you are wildly misinformed. (However, I have also done exactly that.)

Does anyone think that art students choose their degree based on the endless list of career choices that are available to them the second they throw their cap in the air? Every single artist who has spent time and money, sweat and tears, and who has sacrificed sleep, food, friends, life, and drinking, has also spent many, many, many, odd and empty evenings thinking about any and all possible outcomes of their artistic destiny. They are always thinking.

They all know that maybe, nothing big will ever come of it all.

I would like to be excluded from the assumption that I am not thinking about my musical future.

I am thinking about it. Quite constantly. (And actually, don’t you think everyone, to some degree, is thinking about their future too?) Life predictions are therefore unnecessary. 

Music in itself is a giant endless expanse of opportunity.

There is no timeline.

It will always exist and always be needed. I am proud of myself and all the artists still working, studying, creating, and thinking – uncertainty is refreshingly exciting.

Tarot cards wont tell you that. The world is your oyster! 

Room for Space

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An attempt to record with sleeping cat.

I live in a one bedroom apartment, top floor, modestly spacious. This place is my home, my lounge, and my makeshift practice space. Mixing those two is a confusing situation.

In my musical experience, the process of creating is a blend of soul and body interaction. I suppose the “soul” of the work is the inspiration in its most raw and uninhibited state, like the moment the thought is written on a coffee napkin or the back of a receipt and crammed into my planner bursting with other scraps of brilliant ideas (possibly to be lost for all eternity). The “body” is the actual realization of these ideas, when it is tinkered out into real musical substance, and maybe recorded into a voice memo on my phone. I have discovered a sizable gap between the two recently and the culprit up until now has been my inability to find a comfortable space for creating.

When can I practice? When none of the neighbors are home and no one is listening? Our Fender DeVille (tube amp) and Fender Frontman 212R (solid state) amps have volume settings 1-12. When Drew first got his DeVille we were so excited to have an awesome functioning high-power gritty sounding tube amp. The problem? TOO MUCH POWER. Too much power for a one-bedroom apartment and too much power to jam on level one. So much power and distortion and nowhere to use it. (He does find time on Sundays to play with his pedals and loops, hoping that afternoon time is a reasonable time to vibrate our unit’s floorboards.)

Nico enjoying the novelty of amplifiers.

Nico enjoying the novelty of amplifiers.

When I first met Drew and joined a new band we were practicing in a weird abandoned unmarked potentially ex-apartment or ex-hotel style building turned pseudo practice space. It had a PA system in the rooms as well as microphones so it was an easy place to achieve decent sound for practices. However, the cost of reserving the room each time quickly added up even while dividing the cost by everyone in the band. Renting a space by each use means transporting gear each time. You’re paying for transportation time, time waiting if anyone is late, time setting up gear, breaking down gear, everything. The “good” room in the building had a sweet view of the space needle and a few live plants hanging out with us, so it was functional for a time.

Months later a friend of ours suggested we jump in on their new space and split a permanent practice room with our band and theirs. We had a significantly smaller room, but we now rented four walls behind a locking door, meaning we could leave whatever we wanted in the space. Our friends had a PA system and we shared mics and equipment. Someone also brought Christmas lights and a bench seat from a car – it was much cozier and it was ours.

Perks of having a permanent space: little time wasted on moving gear, not having to worry about running late or coming early, using the same building that Minus the Bear practiced in and hoping to awkwardly cross paths. It was a much better alternative, but splitting that room between 10+ people still meant a $50 payment every month. At some point we randomly landed a headlining gig at the Crocodile, a moderately sized venue, so it was worth the money spent preparing for shows. But when you’re not gearing up for a performance you’re spending a lot of money to lock yourself in a windowless room in a building filled with bearded men (I was definitely the only woman I ever saw coming and going from the building) with cigarette-ashed couches and lists written on various walls depicting shit themed band names…(ex: Mumford and Buns, sTool, Pooey Lewis & The Poos, Stink Floyd, Def Lepturd…)

Do you need a space to create? I’m unsure as to whether that matters, as inspiration can find you anywhere. I feel like the actual soul of my creativity is alive and with me most of the day, and so is my inability to lock those words and melodies into real tangible works.

I guess I’m unsure as to where to practice now. Post-band, I’m not rehearsing for any one specific thing. I’m just trying to play new sounds on my unfamiliar gear and keep my viola chops warm, but it’s difficult focusing in a room while I’m doing laundry. Do my EDM-loving neighbors also enjoy my experimental sounds as I figure out how to use my equipment and tinker with synth settings? For now that is my only option and a viable risk.

And it’s also free.

Any space is a space to create if you let the energy find you, and you let yourself listen, too.

An Introduction to My Violet Project

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Here I sit, fully clothed in my pink hooded bathrobe, sprawled out on the floor and terribly frustrated. My cats are discovering the important ¼ inch cables as “toys” and I can feel the sunlight already leaving for the day. I’ve only just begun. The afternoon has wasted away as I hastily attempted to record a “demo” of sorts on my boyfriend’s Mac (a device foreign to me) using garage band (also foreign to me) fussing with the janky mic stand and the terrible vocal affects the program offers, all whilst intercepting cats from chewing on valuable microphone cables which, at the moment, are my only connection to a solid recording of my musical capacity. Defeat.

I am a post-grad Bachelor-of-Musical-Arts-degree earning twenty-something living a delightfully quiet and average life, trying to tie together the strands of musicality I’ve worked so hard to spin for myself. I have that embossed and signed document behind a glass frame saying I’m officially proficient in music, but also a notion in my mind saying I am indeed more than proficient.

Most artists pursuing a degree in music become aware at some point of their musical strengths and weaknesses, myself included. We musicians realize our potential to become increasingly exceptional no matter what our skill level is. That’s the weird drive propelling musicians, we don’t have to be the best, we have to be proficient. The remainder of musical space and time is ready for interpretation. We ask, what do you want to improve? How will you achieve that skill, that tone, the phrasing? How will you break your bad habits? Most of us don’t strive to be the best anyhow. Afterall, there is always someone exceptionally better and that journey isn’t something I personally find fulfilling. Between proficiency and virtuosity gathers a group of beautifully skilled and magical musicians wondering where their place is outside of the academic structure.

This project is an exploration to find my musical vision. After I graduaded I may have mistakenly assumed it would find me. I’ve managed to live in Seattle for a year and a half, most of it spent finding stable ground: shelter, jobs, transportation, adapting to paying a ridiculously high cellphone bill. I am a real-life adult. By living in this vibrant and musical city I have been showered in it’s wondrous art, the music and dance and theater and spirit is anywhere and nowhere, waiting for me and anyone else to pursue something. What these musicians seem to want is the movement forward, always playing into the open spaces. That’s what I desire.

An Introduction to My Violet Project