• Category Archives artist’s life
  • “Artwork is work”

    This one’s for the artists. (In more ways than one.)

    It’s also for the people who care about the artists.

    As I was thinking about what I wanted to write, I had one of those weeks where the same thing kept coming up, over and over, in different contexts. And given that this is a topic that’s important to me, I’m happy to give in and just write about it.

    If you’re an artist or if you care about an artist, the question probably comes up every once in a while: how can you support that artist? (Hopefully, if you’re an artist, people are asking you this question.) I’d love to get a conversation going in the comments, but here are some answers I’ve come up with as I’ve pondered this.

    First, a note to the artists: When people ask you how they can support you, it’s good to have an answer. It’s even okay to have an answer. Like anyone who works hard, it’s okay to promote yourself and to try to move ahead with what you do. Now is not the time to have no answer or to feel like you aren’t allowed to be honest. (And I’m talking to myself here, too…)

    Of course, as a musician, most my answers will obviously apply to that, but I’m pretty sure you’re clever enough to sort out things that apply to other arts as well.

    How can you support the artists in your life? Well, here’s one of the random things that crossed my path this week:

    Bumper sticker that says, "Artwork is work. Supporting the arts means paying the artists."
    I think artplay is what we call hobbies…


    I’m not going to dance around it, because one of my responses when I wasn’t being thoughtful about how someone could support me was, “Well, if you’ve got loads of money or music connections…Heh.” (I laughed when I said it, but definitely wasn’t joking about either.) And it’s just a fact. What we do costs money, so one of the ways you can support any artist in your life is with money. Here are a few things you can do in that regard:

    Feeling flush? Most of us wouldn’t say no to a gift with the one criteria being we spend it on our art.

    Alternately, if you’ve got gear or studio time or something else we might need and you’re willing to donate, that can also be helpful. (Want to support budding artists? Find a local program, like Rain City Rock Camp for Girls, and offer your gear, your skills, or your time.)

    Other artists: We can talk about trade! I’m always looking for photos and flyer design (cos I’ve done all but one of the flyers on my own…). Let’s see if there are ways we can help each other out.

    Taking my own picture
    Because this kind of photo shoot lacks something…


    Buy our stuff. Whether it’s our albums, our merchandise, or something else…Whatever we do, when you buy it, that both shows financial support and emotional (it says, “I like you and/or your art enough to buy stuff”). You can even throw in a little extra, tell us to keep the change, that sort of thing.

    I once had an older friend tell me that what we were doing wasn’t really to her tastes, but she could tell we were talented. Is that how you feel? You can always give it as a gift to someone else. This also works if you do like our stuff. Heh.

    Come to our shows. This is a nice little transition, because it both helps to get a little money into our pockets and helps others see that we have fans. Venues notice who brings in a crowd. Jason and I have one friend who is older (I’m guessing she’s at least in her late 60s), who doesn’t really enjoy loud music, but who shows up now and again to watch our first couple songs. Every time she shows up, I get a little grin.

    So, the second broad group of suggestions has to do with boosting our signal and being counted as a fan. In addition to coming to our shows, you can:

    Bring your friends to the shows with you. Give them a chance to discover us!

    Other ways to help your friends discover us:

    Tell your friends about us. (It can be as simple as, “Have you guys heard this band?” or you can mention us when your friends are looking for new music, as a couple examples.)

    Play us when other people are around. The fact is, we are a lazy, lazy species. As easy as it is to click a link and listen to something online, sometimes that’s just too much effort. Take the link out of the equation!

    Put our songs on a playlist or CD you make for a friend.

    If you follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter, like and share our posts or tweets. That puts us in front of your friends and, with Facebook, increases the likelihood that we’ll be seen at all. (Curse you, Facebook algorithms!)

    With that in mind, follow us on Facebook or Twitter and actually pay attention. (Studies show we are now wont to click that link that lets us follow/like a group and then never pay attention again. Yowch!)

    Also in that vein, make sure you’re seeing our Facebook stuff. We posted a note about how to help us be visible in your feed in spite of the accursed algorithm.

    Oh, and because I haven’t mentioned it in ages, making fan art is cool. Draw a picture, make a gif, paint a shirt, get a tattoo, make a video…As long as you remember to credit us so that the people who dig your art know who inspired you, we’ll be chuffed. We’ll make an album online to show you off even!

    Wear the merch you bought from us. In public. Maybe even take pics of your pretty self sporting that stuff. It’s kind of the same as fan art…(And the more of you who are up for buying merch, the sooner we’ll have new stuff!)

    Amber and a Varnish dog tag
    Dog tags don’t care what your t-shirt size is…


    Make your own or use free things we’ve made. Use our avatars, use our banners in your signature, make our quote your “what’s on your mind” for your IM or when Facebook asks about that. (We have a few variations on what’s there, so feel free to ask…Or make some changes to make the colours and/or quotes more to your liking.)

    This next idea is thanks to a friend who did this for me on my birthday Wednesday: As his gift to me, he posted Varnish stuff on his Facebook. I’m going to try to remember to post things about friends’ books, art, or music on their birthdays. It made me smile and might even have gotten some new attention.

    If you get pictures or videos of our shows, we’d love to have those to share and to add to our digital scrapbook. There are fans all over the place, and we can’t take pics of ourselves whilst on stage, so you help everyone feel a little more connected when you do that.

    (Note: I hate to even have to say this, but I’ve watched this happen to others…If you make money off of your fan art or things I’ve mentioned in this post, you’ve likely violated copyright…If you make money off stuff to do with us and it’s just fan art–whole different story if we show up in your commercial without permission, for instance–let’s chat and work something out. Or make a fair donation to us. Something. Let’s all play fair πŸ™‚ )

    Amber with nerf gun and stuffed hunting companions
    Don’t make us come for you. Adventure Penguin and Hedgehog will get you!


    When we do social stuff outside shows, come hang out! Don’t assume we mean everyone else. When we post public invitations, we mean everyone. Show up. Bring a friend or come alone. Drop in just long enough to say hi or stay for some conversation. You might make a new friend, discover a new band, or at least have someone to nod at when you come to our shows.

    Learn the lyrics and sing along (dancing would also be cool) at shows. As humans, we assume something is more valuable if we see others value it. Your singing and dancing helps this. It also makes me extra happy (someone just posted a note about my lyrics on a forum and I got a giddy grin). And, honestly, isn’t a show more fun when you find yourself dancing with a friend or singing the same line together? (At least that’s the case with me!)

    When we say we want to make a community of fans and musicians and other artists, we’re serious! If you help build that, you are supporting us. All this stuff I’ve listed already is part of it. But you can also:

    Be friendly to all our other fans.

    Come out to shows for the other bands we dig.

    Suggest other cool local bands to us.

    And, once we hit the road, you can help us sort out good places to play and good bands to play with in your town. If you want, you can start pointing us at other bands in your area now. We know a few folks who live nowhere near here with whom we’d like to play someday.

    If you’re an artist (musician or otherwise), we’d also love to see you out at social things. So far, we’ve done things where we hoped to have multiple groups represented, not just to promote Varnish.

    Related, if you’ve got a site, link to the artists you dig! (I probably need to go check out our Links page…And, if you’re an artist, you probably ought to at least set yourself up with something simple others can link to…)

    I’m hoping you’ll use the comments to talk about ways to apply this to or to support other kinds of artists, as well as to talk about this topic in general. I decided to put this in my blog instead of the Varnish blog so that I could feel okay about this being long (longer than planned…eep!) and because this is important to me with all my projects and all the ways I try to pursue art. Plus, I’ve got loads of talented friends, and I’m always thinking of ways to support them, whether or not I’ve got money.

    Now, your turn! In addition to choosing one of the many suggestions in this post and applying it to one of the artists in your life, leave a comment!


  • Simmering in Yesterday

    I don’t know why, but the last few months have been heavy on the nostalgia and on regaining/rebuilding things I love from my past. Whether the nostalgia or the reconnecting started first is sort of a “chicken or egg” situation. But, much like with chickens and eggs, it doesn’t matter which came first as long as the goodness exists, right?

    Picture of fried chicken and fried eggs
    If you fry nostalgia and reconnecting, I will eat them too


    I’m working to rebuild some faded relationships. Fortunately, none of these were fights or horrible moments. Just suddenly realising there was distance and wondering how that happened (later, I tell you the most likely reason). Even more fortunate, most of these people have been open to it. My happy heart!

    I’m burrowing into music and photos that remind me of past goodness and make me feel a sort of happy pining. Like this one, in case you’d like to start making up stories:

    Amber kissing a lot of people
    Not too bad for 2 weeks…


    I may even have found a place to go dancing! To music I like a lot! (See my post on dancing from a few months ago to understand why this is huge.) This discovery was the silver lining to a slightly grey cloud. And when the DJ played Placebo on request, the grey was consumed by the shining of the silver. Squee!

    I’m even poking at gaming that doesn’t involve a computer/console again, which means building character concepts and playlists for them. And reconnecting with the people with whom I most like to do this.

    The list goes on. And it seems like most items tie back to music (even if I’d have to explain why music is an important part of certain items).

    Working on stuff for Varnish whilst we don’t have a bassist is, honestly, less fulfilling than when it’s a complete band of people I adore and we’re finishing songs and playing shows. So I suspect that this surge of things might be a subconscious effort on my part to make sure that my emotional nooks and crannies are filled and that music is continuing to feed me.

    And here are some facts about me that seem important in the current state of affairs:

    I want to make music I’m passionate about with people I’m passionate about. Settling isn’t an option (though someone is welcome to try to throw loads of money at me and change my mind…haha).

    I don’t get lonely; I merely have moments when I pine for a specific person. And my best state for working out most things is solo. Add to these things that my life is full of great people..I’m never happy to have anyone I love feel forgotten, but this is how it happens. I don’t forget; I just fall into working things out and suddenly realise there’s someone I’ve neglected. So this is a public apology to those to whom this applies. I wouldn’t be an artist or rockstar if I didn’t have some social issues, right? (But, seriously, I apologise. And I’m working to balance my own optimal approach to things with the fact that the people I love ought never doubt it.) For the rest of you, this might still be something to know about me, cos it’s also part of why I don’t throw myself at every opportunity to build new friendships and go out to play. It’s not personal, I’m just socially overwhelmed apparently.

    In May, I wrote a post where I talked about feelings, among other things. One conclusion in there was that I feel a lot and I feel deeply. And, if you doubt it, see how few of my posts on this blog do not have some conjugation of the word “feel” in them. And imagine what a soft-hearted, feeling sort of girlie I must be just based on this blog…I’m not thin-skinned, mind you. I’ve had enough nasty comments from people who didn’t like that I was different or unkind actions from friends’ significant others who didn’t understand that I wasn’t a threat…And poking fun, done correctly, is part of many of my friendships. But, yes, I’m a soft-hearted, feeling sort of girl. And the more I reconnect to these past bits and snuggle into the “nostalgia that isn’t sad,” the gooier this heart feels. And I like it. And I’m not wont to apologise for it. Especially when it’s positive emotions (and as long as I’m still also strong…rar!)

    Me crying...
    I even cry in public (and blur pregnant faces…you’re welcome… also, never let me wear red eye shadow on a “goodbye day” again, okay?)
    More of me crying
    See, soft-hearted, feeling girl. (At least I had sunglasses on at this point…It was a long cry…)


    Related, whether it’s people or music or pastimes, I love to love unabashedly. No wonder I’m a geek…And I love that I’m simmering in yesterday, stewing in the nostalgia and the regaining, cos that stuff is seriously lovelovelove.

    So, this is the mushy stew that’s me right now. I am comfort food. Comfort food in glitter and eyeliner and some pretty cool boots. Yum!

    My tall, shiny boots
    When these boots die, my coolness will take a serious hit…


    What makes you mushy? What pieces of goodness from your past have slipped away and could be happily, healthily reclaimed? What facts about yourself could make it easier to sort that out if people knew them?

    Now, I’m going to sleep. Cos it’s nice when something I love so much is also something science says I need. Heh.


  • “Everything’s going jackanory”

    What was I doing instead of posting a blog?

    I was watching Post Adolescence (fronted by original Varnish bassist Johnny Straube) dress up as Elastica (though I think Johnny ended up looking more like the lovely Brian Molko–except tall–than he did Justine Frischmann…pretty no matter which way you see it, of course), play a seriously great set, and win 3rd place up against bands playing songs that were better known to the crowd. Go boys (girls?) go!

    Here is pretty Johnny/Justine/Brian.

    Johnny as Justine (or Brian?)

    And us girls who were out to see them decided we’d dress as Blur. It just made sense. And it, apparently, also just made sense that I was Alex James. Here’s the only picture that really turned out…

    Amber as Alex

    Hope that, if you aren’t dressing up for some fun this Halloween, it’s because of something other than trying to be cool. Cos you know what’s really cool? Not being too cool to be silly and have some fun. Trust me; I used to be way too cool and serious for my own good. Let me recommend the lighter path, unreservedly!

    Apologies to anyone looking forward to another long, pondering post. Rest assured, I’m still full of ponder. You’ll have your satisfaction later πŸ˜‰


  • No Happy Songs

    This last week, one of the incredible bloggers I follow online (The Bloggess) let us all know she’s been struggling with depression. In fact, it’s something that she struggles with regularly and is really open about. What she’s learned, writing her blog that’s a great mix of socially inappropriate and bizarre humour along with some inspiring and very open writing on mental health struggles, is that being open helps people. She’s even built an online community full of people who are supportive…If you’re feeling down and want a laugh, go read. If you’re feeling down and need to reach out, go read and comment. I watched the comments save a life this last week.

    And that’s probably why this particular topic (on my list of possible topics…cos I do keep a list…) jumped out at me as I pondered what to write for my blog this week. It’s this little mass of things all around music that isn’t happy. And it will answer a question I never answered before.

    Really, there are two questions I’m answering here. Let’s start with the one I never answered. And because I feel like this is important, I’m going to break some of my own privacy rules. Hopefully, someday some way this helps somebody. Because if I can shine some light out, my life has been worth it πŸ™‚

    “Why don’t you listen to happy music?”

    When I was less on top of my depression, because I’m one of the many who has some depression issues (I’m not going to elaborate here…some other time, maybe…), many well-intentioned people asked that question in some way or another.

    “Isn’t the music you listen to making it worse?” was another way it was phrased.

    I was always inclined toward the unhappy stuff…the sad, the angry, the heartbroken, the frustrated, the lost, the pining…And, surely, I ought to counteract that by listening to happy music, right?

    Some of you are saying, “Right!” Maybe cos you never struggled with depression or maybe cos, for you, that actually worked.

    But some of you are shaking your heads, backing away from that advice slowly…carefully…aware of the danger it holds.

    You see, when I listened to happy music (I tried…I really did), it made things worse. Sometimes, it was just too jarring. Sometimes, it felt like it was pushing me toward mania. Sometimes, it just made me feel like I was the only pathetic loser who couldn’t be happy like everyone else. That happy music was just nasty razor claws slashing at my little heart and brain as it pushed me closer to the ugly feelings that were already attacking me. It was screaming, scrabbling ants in my brain or the mockery of every popular person at school who was making themselves feel better by putting me down.

    In short, really, really not good. (Plus, honestly, music vs physiological factors causing depression doesn’t seem like a fight music can win…So a bit of a misguided bit of advice for a girl whose issues weren’t all in her mind, if you will.)

    The one exception, which only worked out sometimes, was if I could dance to it. If I was in a place where I could put all that energy and scrabbling into the physical act of dancing. Even then, it wasn’t joyful, happy, depression-free dancing. It was frenetic and desperate. It was like trying to exorcise my demons. And since a girl can’t literally spend her whole life dancing…And since there’s little release in that sort of dancing (lucky if the release of the dancing balanced out the horrible feelings the music created)…Yeah, not a case for the happy music.

    On the other hand, there was the music I was listening to…the sad, the angry, etc etc etc…

    To be fair, yes, it did move me to tears or to violence (though, to my credit, I didn’t go out hitting other people or even putting holes in the walls of my room…but I did enjoy mosh pits and I kicked a lot of empty boxes into bits, among other things). But the actions that music pushed me toward actually did feel like a release. At the end of a desperate night sobbing, for instance, I did feel lighter for just a moment. A blessed, blessed moment. (Though, just because it’s one of my little pet peeves about when depression is misunderstood, the fact I was crying does not mean that depression is the same thing as just feeling sad. Very much not the case…)

    Younger me moping
    See? I couldn’t even take happy pictures :p


    There was more to it, though. And here’s where I transition…Finishing up answering the first question whilst answering part of the second question.

    “If you believe in light…if you’re a positive person now…if you’re the sweetheart you seem to be…if you’re on top of your depression…why is your music not happy music?”

    These days, I can listen to happy songs. I mean, I will probably go mad if it goes all silly and chipper for long bits of time…but I have days where the song stuck in my head is exultant…hopeful…happy.

    But I’ve only written a couple of songs that are happy songs. The rest are sad, angry, heartbroken, frustrated, lost, pining…

    And here’s my two-part answer. Part one is the second part of my answer to the first question.

    When I listened (still listen) to the songs that aren’t happy, they help(ed) me. I knew that someone else had felt something like what I was feeling. That many of them felt it and survived it. That they could even turn it into something beautiful. I wasn’t the only one. I wasn’t the only pathetic loser who couldn’t be happy like everyone else. There were others, which meant we…we weren’t pathetic losers. We were just one other kind of human experience. And we could survive it. Sure, some of those who made the songs I love(d) ended their lives. But most didn’t. Most kept surviving. And, oh, they made music. Music!

    That music, even when it pushed me to tears or violent actions, made me feel better. It didn’t heal me, but it also helped pull me just enough back from the edge…To quote one of those songs:

    “But don’t forget the songs
    That made you cry
    And the songs that saved your life”

    -The Smiths, Rubber Ring

    So, one reason I write that sort of song is in the sincere hope that someone (you or someone you love maybe) will find that one of my songs does for you what all those not-happy songs did for me. Cos you’re not alone. You’re not the only one. And, like me, you can find a way to make it through. And maybe, just maybe, there’s music or art in you. You won’t just make it through, but you’ll turn the horrible things you’re feeling into art. There are few greater things one can do…(And even if you can’t do that, you can allow yourself to learn compassion from what you’ve felt…to reach out to someone else, so that we create a chain of people who have helped keep each other from falling into the pit.)

    The second part of my answer is a bit more selfish.

    Yes, I now consider myself a positive and optimistic person. But that doesn’t mean my depression is gone. It doesn’t mean my sadness, anger, heartbreak, etc etc etc are gone. They aren’t; I doubt they will ever entirely go. I doubt, even if I didn’t have physiological things that tend me toward them, that life on this planet ever lets anyone be entirely free of those emotions.

    But I learned, from the songs I love and from all those therapists who suggest art for therapy, that I can turn them into songs, and that helps. It’s like siphoning out some of my poison and turning it (I hope) into the antivenin. Even the belief that getting it out of me and putting it into the world is helpful is, in itself, helpful.

    There are other reasons, but those are the important ones. Those are the ones that matter for this post.

    What I always found strange was that the right sort of encouraging songs were okay. They weren’t happy and telling me I was broken…They were acknowledging that things were broken but it was worth it to keep fighting…That maybe, just maybe, I was warrior enough. Turns out, I was never allergic to hope, even when I trash-talked it. Maybe that’s why, without meaning to, I left little seeds of hope in most of my songs. May they grow up to big, beautiful trees in your soul. May they bear the fruit that feeds you and keeps you fighting through all the ugly things inside of you and outside of you. Let me put down roots in your heart…


  • Be Still!

    As a hyperactive kid, I was often told to be still. I was extra-fidgety and energetic then…And loud, what with the hearing issues. Stillness and quiet were not exactly what I loved. Somehow, I read voraciously and still managed to be non-stop. The worst was “quiet time,” which was what replaced nap time when we got old enough that naps didn’t really happen. My poor mum surely needed the peace…And, even though I was, as noted, a serious reader my whole life, the enforced quiet meant I was dying to go-go-go!

    These days, whilst no longer that hyperactive kid, I still tend to be go-go-going. There’s always something I should be doing, and then the list of leisure/social things that I “should” do if not doing one of the “serious” things. (Mind you, I believe that there’s power and good in leisure and in social connections. But that’s not the topic here.) At this particular moment, I am going through one of those extra-busy times. Even if I gave up sleep, it would be hard to take care of all I have committed to (not so much a case of mindlessly over-committing so much as a lot of timelines shifting in an insane way) and all I should do.

    But this weekend has found me (and will do so for one more day), not doing any of those things. Doing a lot of sitting where I can’t do the loads of things on my computer, can’t really do any of the non-computer things. And the friend who’s the reason even gave me the option of backing out. But I didn’t.


    I had actually gotten through a draft of another entry for this blog (about lessons I learned when I took up a challenge from one of my brothers to try running), and I wasn’t thrilled with it but I was going to post it anyway because it would take the least time to do in this crazy little life of mine…

    So, I’ve got this friend who’s a cool artist. Months ago, she asked if I could help her with her booth at a neighbourhood fair. I love to help my friends, and she’s one of those locally I consider family, so of course I was game. That I hate to break commitments, especially to family, would have been reason enough to follow through. But as I sat in the chair, in the quiet of waiting for the next customer, I realised that this was a rare truly still moment for me.

    There are other times where I’m still, kind of. But I’m always doing something, aimed toward a goal. I know that I’ll be done with whatever task is at the root of that still-ish moment and moving on in a fairly short time. Or my mind is specifically focused in that time instead of free to wander…It’s still, but it’s not quite the sort of magical still I’ve come to appreciate.

    Why do I see stillness as magical?

    First, I really do believe that a stillness where you are free (if even for minutes) of other obligations, where your mind can just go wherever and your body is either also pretty still or involved in some sort of truly mindless task, opens you to hear. You can call it whatever you like, but I’ll think of it as hearing my heart or hearing God or hearing the Universe or just hearing (seeing) myself more clearly. Giving my intuition or whatever it may be a more open place to be heard has often led to more clearly seeing a situation or a path I should take, or even just to a more substantial sense of my capability to make it through, of the goodness in my life or the world, or of my own worth.

    Second, and equally important, I keep reading essays about the need for stillness or boredom time in order to access your own creativity (whether that’s artistic creativity or your mind’s ability to untangle a problem). As a geek, I always agreed with Buckaroo Banzai that the best insights tend to come in the bed, in the bath, or on the bus. Those times when we are probably as close to still and not actively doing as most of us get.

    My cat, sleeping
    (My cat should be a prophet and the next Pablo Picasso)

    My problem is that, because there’s so much I need to sort out lately, my brain is constantly processing in a very specific way. I’m beating my head against the same lines of argument or reasoning over and over, because that’s the path I see. It’s so ingrained now that even my non-fantastical dreams appear to have fallen into step. And I never just sit long enough for my brain to just stop with that…

    So, I found myself sitting in a chair. All I had was a phone with a low battery, a notebook (the paper kind; not a computer), and bits of conversation with my friend (who was also painting and helping customers). There really was no way I was going to accomplish any of my pending tasks. And it clearly wouldn’t even do any good to stress over that or prep myself to do them, cos I had hours ahead of me. I didn’t get bored (I don’t tend to get bored, really), but my brain suddenly found itself in this very open situation…And I realised that this was finally stillness. Finally that “boredom” time the essays had advocated.

    I’d like to say I solved all my problems, wrote our next album, and cured cancer in that time. Really, I’d even be happy to say that I solved just one of my problems and wrote a verse. I didn’t. And, you know, that’s okay.

    It was enough for me to have a very pointed and conscious realisation of this thing I already knew, now that I’m no longer a hyperactive kid. Being still is useful and invigorating and crucial for me. (Plus I got a few general ideas for band flyers…Which seems to be one of those things that I is less easy for me than a lot of the rest of the band things I do. So, I’m pretty pleased.)

    That was day one. Day two, in spite of the fact that the clock is ticking and running out swiftly on a handful of huge things, I found myself just feeling calm, peaceful. It wasn’t until we were closing the booth that I even started to think of all that I needed to accomplish tonight before I was allowed to sleep. And, let me tell you, my dears, that is odd. Seriously, it’s a struggle not to spend any of my usual “still” time just going over what my task list for the rest the day is.

    Maybe tomorrow, day three, I’ll solve my problems, write an album, and cure cancer before we close the booth. Or maybe my brain will just enjoy the stillness. It has plenty of sights and sounds and smells that it doesn’t run into daily to sort of poke it and keep it awake, but it doesn’t have to do or solve or accomplish anything. And maybe, as happens with many things in our lives or our bodies, taking this break will let it do better in the few ridiculous weeks that are ahead of it. And, you know, that’s enough for me.

    Be still, lovelies.


  • What a girl wants…

    I once had a conversation with a good friend where she asked, in regards to my musical aspirations, whether I wanted to be rich and famous or whether I wanted to make good music that touches people. My immediate reaction was, “Why can’t I choose both?”

    The topic of making money off of making art is one that I suspect will be popular and controversial as long as there are artists, and I doubt anything I have to say would add new points to the conversation. But what I did want to add to my conversation with you is a little about my motivations.

    Or, rather, what it is I want beyond making good music that means something to you, and why I want that.

    I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t suspect I’d enjoy being rich. And if I could do that doing something I love and not having to give up my integrity (personal or artistic), that would be pretty cool.

    But what I really want is this:

    • I want to pay for my rather modest bills and “lifestyle” without wondering whether or not I can make it month-to-month.
    • I want to have a little extra to give to good causes, buy gifts for loved ones, and support other artists by buying their stuff or attending their shows.
    • I want to have enough fans to warrant/fund a tour so I can see my friends scattered around the world when I play in their cities.
    • I want to afford to record and release new songs into the wild regularly, because there are fans scattered all over and I don’t want people to feel like you have to be in my city to enjoy my music.

    That’s it.
    No gold-lined swimming pools or expensive cars.
    No bling or mansions.
    I don’t even, as I said, have plans to change from my current lifestyle (which, in rough times, can be paid for with an unemployment check).

    Here I am showing off my sufficient wealth. I was just swimming around it in earlier.Β  πŸ™‚
    Amber and some ones

    I want to make good music.
    I want to connect with you and, hopefully, make your life a little bit of a better place. (I know music has done that for me personally.)
    I want to have the time and energy to give the music (and, through that, you) the best I can, to give it what it deserves. (I make that time now, and push through when the energy isn’t there…I’m not complaining…It’s part of what I do and what it means to do this…)
    And, like most people, I think it would be awesome if I could be one of those people whom you point out when telling people “Do what you love and the money will follow.”

    So, I’m going to keep making music I believe in.
    I’m going to keep putting myself out here (online, at shows) to connect with you.
    And I’m going to do that regardless of whether or not I am rich and famous.
    But now you know, when you pay cover at a show or buy something from us, what the money is for.
    Sorry, not hookers and cocaine. More like practice spaces and recording. Or cat food and rent.
    Maybe not as sexy, but you can always write some fanfic and pretend otherwise if that’s important to you. Haha!

    Now, time for me to go show support to another local artist. Cos I’m a fan of that πŸ˜‰

  • Doing Time…

    Without any ill feelings, I note that I do “everything” for the band. I mean, I’m not the guitarist, drummer, or bassist, but I’m all the other stuff. And that certainly includes all the non-music stuff like booking, promoting, web design, online communications, blogs and vlogs and all the other cogs. I’m not saying I do as stellar a job as a paid pro would do, but I work my little bum off.

    And it definitely takes time. On a “slow” week, all the things I’m doing for the band and music easily take at least 20 hours. On an insane week (like the weeks I’m working on redesigning our web site or updating all our online stuff), it easily turns into 80 hours a week. Yeah, seriously.

    As you might guess, this impacts other areas of my life. My friends get used to rushed, infrequent Facebook status updates (often something like, “Almost done! I swear I’ll be back soon!”) and my little household probably just feels amazed that everyone gets fed every day.

    Crazy, right?

    Probably. But I’m sincere when I say there are no ill feelings. Whereas a day job usually feels at least a little torturous every moment, even if it’s working on my favourite type of project with my favourite people. Which means that people who are baffled at the time I put in often become further baffled. All that work on music and the band, “work” being the key word, and I don’t resent it? Hard to believe, some say…

    But here’s why:

    First, I was raised to know that where we spend our time shows our priorities. I find that, now that I’ve accepted the reality of my priorities and just let myself give the time I need, there’s deep satisfaction and no guilt.

    Second, as noted, there is deep satisfaction from putting the time into this thing I love passionately. I might produce something killer for a day job, but it will never impact me on the same level or mean as much to me as what I accomplish musically. When I give this time, I receive all sorts of good stuff in my head and hearts. (Haha! I accidentally pluralised that last word…Maybe I’ve been watching too much Doctor Who lately, if that’s even possible.)

    Third, cos I do like threes, Danielle LaPorte noted in her recent book The Fire Starter Sessions that work/life balance is kind of a ridiculous concept that actually has the potential to cause harm. Fortunately for you, she also posted about that online.

    So, the question for you to ponder is this: What truly feeds your soul?

    And the followup question is this: How can you give more time to that without neglecting your responsibilities? (Sometimes, by the way, the answer is to wrap some things up and decrease your responsibilities. On the other hand, I’d also assert that the answer is probably not to give up responsibilities entirely…I think you’ll have a more fulfilling life if you are striving to take care of yourself instead of just letting others handle that or neglecting yourself.)

    Now, I’m going to go spend some time with the man who helped me develop some of my ideas about priorities and responsibility. Cos the people I love most are the “thing” most wont to get me to take a break from happily working on music πŸ™‚

    (And, just so you can share in the irony, the reason I chose this topic today instead of a couple others that are as loud in my brain, is that it wouldn’t take as much time to write cos I need to prioritise some other things over the band stuff today. Ha!)

  • Authentically Not Yours


    (Welcome back, lovelies. Here’s something I started on even before I had committed to a return to blogging. I’ve got a list of other topics, but feel free to ask if there’s something you want me to write about. And do visit the Varnish site for more band-centric news. Cheers!)

    I was talking recently with another artist who was hesitant to release her newest song. She knew that people would assume it was about a particular person, and that assumption could lead to significant repercussions. I empathised as we talked about her options for response.

    Option One: Deny all allegations. Personally, I’ve written some things that even those closest to me got wrong when they guessed the topic. (The subject of authorial/artistic intent is a chunky one, worthy of its own post, mind you. In this case, I’m talking about something more specific, involving an “audience” with inside information who still get it wrong.) It happens to the best of us, and I’m happy when I can deny allegations without having to lie. Honesty is ridiculously important to me, so getting to keep my integrity and avoid drama is awesome.

    Which led me to suggest to her (without asking whether or not the song actually was about the person in question), that there was another option to consider if the song was about them and she didn’t want to lie.

    Option Two: Explain an emotional dilemma of the artist. And, yes, I’m going to tell you what I mean, because I’ve been thinking about it loads since the conversation. (And, yes, I’m generalising. I know there are some artists who never have this dilemma. But I also know plenty who do. This is for us…)

    Imagine, in a moment of extreme emotion, you got a tattoo of a partner’s name…And then you sobered up or broke up, and there it was, still emblazoned on your flesh…

    I had a friend who said, “Men feel, women Feel, and artists FEEL.” Fortunately, I don’t FEEL non-stop. But when I create, it’s likely motivated by a FEELING beyond my usual sort of pleasant neutral state. And maybe it lasts for seconds or maybe for hours (or some long hurts stretch over days or more), but it doesn’t last forever. However, the lyrics that FEELING pushed out of me? Yeah, those last. And they get made into songs. And those songs get sung and recorded and played live with as much emotional authenticity as I can muster. A tattoo of that FEELING on display years after it’s over.

    Me, with Varnish in my mouth
    Oh, man, what are the FEELINGS pushing out of my mouth *this* time?

    Those FEELINGS, whilst very real in the moment (whether it was seconds or years), don’t likely represent where I am right now. Maybe the only time I think about the person or events that caused them is when I’m singing them. Maybe the songs have gained a more general emotional sense to me. To complicate it more, whether due to the intensity of the FEELING in that moment or the sense of poetic rightness using certain words, the lyrics might be hyperbolic when compared with reality. (Once, in the middle of a rotten relationship, a tuna can was left on the counter and stunk up the kitchen. Just a lousy tuna can, but the really awful “poem” I wrote about it in a heated moment would have made you think that said can was singlehandedly murdering kittens and crushing all my dreams.)

    Cat and tuna tin
    I shall avenge my brothers, and it shall be tasty!

    So whilst I sit here, not bearing any grudges or nursing any hurts…Whilst some situation I wrote about only felt like non-stop Hell in the moment I was writing (and, if that’s what I wrote, I promise the emotions you’re hearing are authentic)…You’re just now hearing it. You’re thinking you recognise the subject. You’re upset or concerned. You wonder if it was really such a horrible thing that happened to me or between us. You’re wondering if I really want to tie you to a chair and hurt you…And knowing you’ll think that might cause me, like this girl I was talking with, to hesitate. Do I dare risk it? And that, my lovelies, is a typical emotional dilemma for an artist.

    Fortunately for me, I know that it’s worth the risk. I know that I can keep my general integrity (if you do correctly guess the specific topic of a song) when I tell you there’s no need to be upset or worried. I know that I can both claim emotional integrity in my writing and tell you that I’m good now, that you and I (or whoever and I) are no longer an issue in my head and heart. I’m optimistic, grudge-free, doing okay. And that lets me put aside the fear and make (and perform) the song.

    I didn’t keep in touch, but I like to hope that the girl I was talking to released fear so she could release her song. Live on love, not fear, my pretties. And be gentle with people’s feelings, Feelings, and FEELINGS. Heh.