I Don't Know What I'm Doing Most of the Time

Don't Forget You Were Here / Are Here 

A friend texted me a link from Rap Atlas that were a haven for creativity in Oakland with the question about 4001 San Leandro St. "Was this the place you lived in Oakland?" To answer his question, it was not, but his question reminded me that I did live in Oakland for a few short months and it was a haven of creativity. I forgot that I was there for the creation of Doze Green's Deep Con album cover. I forgot I was the documentary filmmaker (of sorts) lugging my dad's heavy camera on my shoulder and capturing what I could. I'm not given credit for the footage to this film, but it is mine. (This was before still cam!)

 

What is it to forget you have been somewhere? To forget that you are? I forget I am here sometimes. I forget that I'm present.

That familiar amnesia crept in again this week as I prepared for Tuesday's show. The voices of not being good enough, "this old music!", "your piano skills?", "your tired voice?". These are all ways to forget you are present. You are here. Observing that shifted the practice week for me in a great way. I'm excited about the set of music I'll be sharing. Old, new, and everything in between, and there are some years in between. 

Related to being present and the lack of general societal practice for being present from disconnection of human impact on the environment to tools we could all benefit from to help us be present in our lives:

Earlier this week I heard more than a few artists almost apologize for the music they wanted to share at this odd juncture in time, amid the Amazon fires. I'd argue that what we're experiencing - whether its a news anchor scoffing at the idea that ballet/or dance could hold the interest of a boy or climactic crimes of the century - is the very end result of decades of oppressing what makes us human and what it requires to be a human: the arts and the earth. What is dance if not listening to and respecting each other's bodies? What is music if not a reflection of who and what we are and our true capacity? What is art if not an opportunity to more deeply and directly connect to the world we live in? 

This inspiring interview of Dr. Bennet Omalu (the doctor who overcame many obstacles to bring CTE and the dangers of football, especially for children, to light) from 2017 demonstrates the point in some capacity. When asked about how he felt about going up against the NFL he said: "It's about each and every one of us as a human being who has the freedom, liberty and free will to make decisions." 

Somehow this hodge podge of things made me think again about what it means to be present. The perceived obstacle (the NFL, the critical voices) is not the actual obstacle, our ability to be present is.

Generations to Come Back to 

I had the luxury of having my dad, Augusto Amador, in town to visit. 

I took the week off for his visit, and the week after, which is a changeup for me. I guess I've tended to keep working no matter what. I never really noticed it before, but I noticed it this year when I realized I forgot to take of a full week of vacation in 2018. How did that happen? It happened because I didn't notice I was working or that I needed a break. I hope my family didn't notice too much!

It was a great week. I love my father and the visit was filled with many moments between my son Harrison and my Dad, which I'm grateful to have been around to see. Here's one that will continue to make me smile:

 

When I first started this vacation, I thought each day would be filled with practice but how could I miss all of the above? Instead, I kept Emily King's "Georgia:" in my head and knew I'd have time today to sit down with it. Hope you enjoy it! And make sure to check out her original recording (beautiful harmonies!).
 

 

If you're coming out to the show on Sunday April 21, it's a good plan to reserve tickets in advance.

 

 

 

 

 

Something Changed (btw if you have any of my charts) 

When I originally drafted this post, it was a moment of complete letting go. Complete non-worry. Complete acceptance of the present tense. 

 

...but of course, I have a show coming, so all of the old ghosts creep in.

 

Something has changed though. 

 

I am trying to redirect thought in the moment, to move on to an actionable item rather than dwell on what could not or did not happen.

 

In those moments, it's the perfect time to see a photo of yourself 15 years ago amid the pile of charts.

 

There you are. The picture of you. Here you can see all of the wonderful things you had to offer at 28.

And yet, you couldn't see those things then.

Isn't that the same as now?

Isn't it eternally the same you shining through and so whatever shell is getting in the way, reducing your confidence, clouding your vision... isn't the you then, the you now and so...? Can you see beyond all of the flaws you so immediately notice about yourself now?
 

- You're out of practice.

- You can't even find the charts of your own music; everything's a mess. Can you even write a chart to your own music?

- It's too late now. You had something worth sharing then, but you don't have something now. 
 

On and on and yawn and yawn.

 

Does this happen to you out there? 








Tonight I just practiced singing long tones when this happened. It changed it. A little. I'll feel better when more of the charts that only exist in my head are out of my head and on paper. 

 

Happy Sunday? *sigh* It really is a happy Sunday. Other things happened .Just had this temporary delay and hey, maybe this is the best song I could hear write now. This one I recorded the other week when practicing for the show:

C'est La Vie

Michelle

 

P.S. If you're a musician friend on this list and you happen to have any of my charts handy...please snap a photo and text them to me! I'm pretty sure in a haste of cleaning up, I threw out a pile of my own handwritten music. :/

It's Funny to Return to Yourself 

It's funny to feel return to yourself after a hiatus. Where did you go anyway? What is returning to yourself? Is it letting go of a distraction?

The chance to share weekly all of the music I've recorded to date, somehow orients me in a way that never existed before. 

 I can see all the years of distraction in the form of real and imagined lack of self confidence in the work, in my voice, in my playing, in the inability to fit into a genre.

I'm glad there's some corner being turned. 

The practice studio you see in the videos, our lodge, is pretty cold at night. Sometimes going in, it takes a awhile for my voice to warm up, and since I'm coming back to this after years of not really having the daily long tone exercises, I've had moments of wondering if my voice had degraded from the lack of practice. Like degraded permanently. I'm going to promise myself now that whenever that does happen, I won't go into mourning or something, but just observe it and even use it. But I'm also happy that a half hour of long tones in my warm kitchen before heading out to the lodge, definitely made me feel like the core is still there, and that there will be some exciting sounds coming out at the show on the 31st.

If you haven't set your calendar to it:

The set will feature me singing and on Fender Rhodes, Tim Bulkley on drums, and John Wiitala on bass. (Note this show photo is from a Brooklyn show with Ben Campbell on bass. Ben is featured on the How to Love album and whom I played with for many years. He is great!)

Tonight in the lodge I worked out one of the first songs written in the residency at Red Poppy way back in the day. 
 

 

Downtown 

Before I get into this post I'd like you to know that I forget my password to my website every time I login. It takes me a few tries. Eventually, I have to look it up in my saved passwords, and most recently I reset it. So now I just reset it every time despite thinking I will have selected a password that I will remember. I share this in the hope that it brings you some solace as you probably do the same. If you somehow don't always do this to yourself, please contact me to help me stop doing this. It's like minutes. Every. Time.

OK. So Downtown.

I sang "Downtown" for the opening of the San Jose City Hall in 2005. I've never really thought about that again until I wrote a song with lyrics that included the word downtown.I like walking downtown.Most people do I guess, if it's a good downtown, and even if it isn't. I think people will go to a downtown even if it isn't good, hoping it's good or looking for a glimmer of some new element indicating it's about to be good.

I think this article has some interesting points about it. One excerpt discussing struggling small towns says:

"You have to change the business model of the community . . . not just attract one assembly plant that creates 100 jobs,” he said. “You really need a concept of where the town is going.” He envisions a new economy in the Rust Belt that is focused on growing healthy foods — what he calls “high-tech agriculture” — and more environmental tourism. 

In his new book, “Globalization and Its Discontents Revisited: Anti-Globalization in the Era of Trump,” Stiglitz argues that economists missed something important about these towns: They have social capital. Trust is what you might call the “magic fairy dust” that helps economies thrive. When people trust each other, they work better and harder and they tend to live happier lives, as Harvard professor Robert Putnam's research has shown. Overall, trust has eroded substantially in the United States in recent years as fewer and fewer people have a bond with their neighbors, let alone the government, businesses or civic institutions. But trust still exists in many of these smaller towns where people talk to and watch out for each other. That can be harnessed to transform the town for the 21st century, Stiglitz says.

This new song popped in thinking about downtown where I live, that magic fairy dust of every downtown I've ever loved, and the trust that lives in this moon town I somehow found magically and live in now.

Lyrics: 

Walking downtown [Walking downtown],
Walking downtown [Walking downtown],
Feels...feels...

Walking downtown [Walking downtown], 
Walking downtown [Walking downtown], 
Feels nice.
Feels right.

That little piece of you, 
That little piece of me,
That little piece of everybody.

What it takes to make a great community.

Downtown. Downtown.

Been a long time. [Been a long time]
Since I've been 'round. 
But I'm not feelin' down.
I'm not feelin' down.

Took the long road,
Where the moon glow didn't look back,
What's better than that?
What's better than that.

That little piece of you,  
That little piece of me, 
That little piece of everybody.

What it takes to make a great community. 

Downtown, where I can see your face,
Downtown, where I can find some space,
Downtown, where I can make or break,
Downtown, where there is no mistaking me.

 

Yesterday - Lyrics Across Time 

I've been practicing Yesterday by Paul McCartney and John Lennon.

It's interesting to think about what you believe was the initial intent of a song or performance, and then consider how it applies to much broader issues facing humanity. Consider for instance, the lyrics of Yesterday, through a metoo lens, or through an environmental lens. 

It's also fun to look up various versions of a song covered by other well-known singers. Check out Tom Jones and Tammy Wynette.

My version's still a work in progress, taking different takes, and playing with phrasing.

 

 

Resolve, Resolve.  

We turn over and over.

We break apart. 

We hang on determined not to break apart.

We stall the process.

We slowly unravel and resolve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I've booked a monthly in Nevada City at The Stone House. Dates to be announced soon.

I also have a great friend’s wedding to prepare music for.

This means I have to say goodbye to the extra thoughts. No more hemming. There’s music to prepare. There’s my voice to get ready.

And here's a last older track to share "Stillness Within Movement" to share.

Who Knows Where or When  

After about a year of posting, I can't say I'm any clearer on how to release my album. I don't yet have clarity on how to create a video for the songs. I don't know how to effectively distribute a record, or even how to make sure it gets press or reviewed adequately. 

Steps achieved:
- Tracks mastered, courtesy of Jon Cohrs, Bear Call Mastering
- Track cover artwork achieved, courtesy of Lisa Schatz

Areas of complete cluelessness:

- Videos for songs
- How to Best release/distribute the songs
- How to get them reviewed

All of these things hold me up. But as I consider how time is flattening. How the past and the future are somehow nearing in distance from each other, I realize the hangup, designed to be sure and smart and whatever other things I think, is just that, a hangup, a holdup, a stop in the creative flow. The reality is, and as this blog is titled: I Don't Know What I'm Doing Most of the The Time.

That's not to be down about it. More to acknowledge it and release it to the world. I don't know, and if you're someone who does, please drop me a line. Jesus take the wheel, as the saying goes.

Thinking about  the illusion of a hangup, how you think you are holding back to more strategically achieve something but in fact only stand still, also made me think about the timeless Don Haas. I was lucky enough to study music from him. He had a beautiful arrangement of "Where or When". I don't perform his arrangement on this video, though his chart is sitting on the rhodes. Rather, I perform some new version that just came to me.

I will also include all of the nervous thoughts here. There are only a few hours in which I can get a song down. Other hours are filled so it's just a few hours that are available.  A photo montage of all of the takes to get one take looks like numerous photos of me making mistakes in order to get it right. It's hours of mistakes really to produce something that only has a few mistakes. And I'm going to let my mistakes be visible. There they are, the raw, mistakes. 

On the upside, things I like about this video are: the chords, the la la las, the break from the form, the exemption of a melodic line and lyric (do you know which one it is? and i'm not talking about how I didn't include the intro verses!), and the funny but fitting video effect provided by Youtube that matches this song.

Enjoy!

Finally, I'll leave you with a download of Montana, a song I love and hope you do too!

You Must Let Go of Something  

The recent blood moon was noted as a moment to reflect on the end of a 2-year astrological cycle.

Just before the eclipse, in the week before, I felt a deep depression. I couldn't identify a reason. It was just there.

As I considered the new year, and the eclipse, and as the moon shone like a spotlight through our window, I could feel a shift in myself in some way. In the middle of the night, I had the thought "Let yourself let go." which I'll apply to letting go of old ways, habits, or as my friend put it, "Let go of fear-based thinking."

And I was reminded of this song from November 2008.

I only remembered the beginning of this son gbut had completely forgotten about the middle or even the chorus. I remember too, when I recorded it, not being sure of whether I liked the song or not, whether I felt it could really stand on its own. I think that's why I even added the "(draft)" part to the name when I loaded the video. 

Here's to letting go to pieces of yourself that don't best serve you.

xo,

Michelle

P.S. We're getting close to the time for me to share a new track for you. For this writing project, I wanted to share a past recorded song each week. This download is Birthday, the third to last track. Looking forward to hearing what you think of all things old and new.

Take My Hand Until You Know The Answer  

I wanted to write this post last week, but I didn't want to overwhelm you with what's in my head. It's pretty negative in here. I've recently more consciously heard the barrage of negative feedback that I think has been an auto-pilot for possibly my whole life. I started to write out a simulation to the experience but it became too much to read. It is akin to immediately questioning or deriding myself for every decision, no matter how mundane, immediately before during and after the moment of any thing I am deciding for myself. 

This is exhausting and makes me want to retreat further. To not post, to not practice, to curl up and disappear.

I am mostly able to look at these questions calmly, but I'm also not able to look at them calmly. I am mostly at the edge of constant disappointment in myself.

I couldn't figure out a cover tune to sing this week; I couldn't figure out how to feel like I could or should cover someone else's song. 

I thought about this song that I wrote awhile ago, "One in a Million". It was designed to sing to myself when in doubt.

It will come as no surprise given my current state that I am not particularly happy with this version. Many bad habits that I hope to shed, some expressions I'd like to change, and even words that I would like to change or extend.

In short, this is a work in progress.  

I also thought of this song because a young friend of a friend, embarking for the first time in trying to realize her dreams, found herself so discouraged about the real world obstacles to achieving her dream. "I want to help these people realize their dream," she said through tears, "but I also just want to be realizing my own dream." All I could think was how there's probably not a human out there who doesn't know how that feels. For that moment, I thought of how easy it is to forget we are lucky. When we are distressed, we don't think of all there is to be grateful for, we despair. We don't remember sometimes even how to be filled with gratitude and trust. 

Also sharing "Things" from a past album, free to download.