Songbird 2.0

A few weeks ago, when talking to my shrink, a sentence jumped out of my mouth that I didn’t know was waiting to jump, a sentence I can’t get out of my mind: “I feel like me singing on television is something that needs to happen.”

Now, anyone who knows me knows I don’t exactly radiate grandiosity, so for me to make a statement like this is…well, shocking, really. And even more shocking that three weeks later, I would stand behind those words, even if I don’t know exactly what I meant by that. It needs to happen? Why? I mean, there isn’t exactly a shortage of good singers in the world. Continue reading

New Music Preview: San Diego Chicken, The Story Behind the Song

The San Diego Chicken himself. Although the song's not really about him.

The San Diego Chicken himself. Although the song’s not really about him.

Ordinarily I would have a song post ready for this alternate Friday. But with “San Diego Chicken,” I’m going a different route. This song was the most challenging and the most gratifying one I’ve ever written, both in terms of lyrics and music, and the arrangement for it will be a work in progress, which will play out on this blog over the next few weeks as I post various arrangements of the song. For now, though, allow me to whet your appetite by telling you about how I came to write it. Because it’s a longish story, I decided to post it separately from the song post.

Trigger warning/content note about depression and suicide, which figure into the lyric. Continue reading

Selfish

You gotta kiss a lot of frog rasps in order to find your sound.

You gotta kiss a lot of frog rasps in order to find your sound.

I’ve seen, on many occasions, female singers backed up by male musicians; almost never do I see a male singer, who plays no instrument, backed up by a female instrumentalist. Being a Card-Carrying Humorless Feminist™, I have tried to find an explanation for this, which doesn’t involve icky Girls Can’t Really Play stereotypes. The best I can do is this: a man can play his stupid guitar for eight hours a day every single day and no one will leave him over it. Girls get the idea, from a very young age, that we must be endlessly interruptable, which makes it hard to master an instrument other than our very portable, interruptable, no-special-equipment needed voices. Or even to want to, knowing what it will cost us socially. Continue reading

Gifted

Andee takes marching to her own drummer quite literally.  Photo credit:  Colleen Dommerque.

Andee takes marching to her own drummer quite literally. Photo credit: Colleen Dommerque.

Remember that creativity is a tribal experience and that tribal elders will initiate the gifted youngsters who cross their path.

–Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

Gifted. What a forty-quadzillion megaton stinkbomb of a word. (Don’t hold back, Andee, tell ’em how you really feel.) When I read The Artist’s Way some 20 years ago, the quote above festooned itself to my punctured ego and wouldn’t leave. I was on the verge of not being a “youngster” any longer (although of course such things are relative), and no one who knew what they were doing had offered to “initiate” me, or teach me the ropes. In fact, they never did. Therefore, I drew the conclusion that I was not “gifted” enough to justify taking myself seriously as an artist. Continue reading

The Susan Boyle Effect

Yes, that is a frog rasp sitting on my head, and we're both happy to see you. Photo credit: Colleen Dommerque.

Yes, that is a frog rasp sitting on my head, and we’re both happy to see you. Photo credit: Colleen Dommerque.

Some of you might be wondering: what possessed an autistic woman, at the age of 50, to get serious about the craft of songwriting and singing and making music for the first time in her life?

That isn’t supposed to happen, right?  I’m not supposed to be better at this by orders of magnitude at 51 than I was at 31 or 25 or whatever age musicians are expected to hit their peaks.

Not if you believe the allistics.  But maybe it’s different for our kind.  I think of Susan Boyle, a woman close to my age, whose otherworldly theatrical mezzo-soprano wasn’t heard by the public until she was in her late forties and blew away the audience on a 2009 episode of Britain’s Got Talent.  First they laughed at her because she didn’t “look like a singer,” and she had them on their feet giving her a standing O before she was even finished with “I Dreamed a Dream.”  (Seriously, if you’ve never seen this performance, click on that link, you’ve gotta see it.)  Turns out she’s one of us; could that have something to do with her voice hitting its peak in her late forties and fifties? Continue reading