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Kris Kristofferson

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I probably need more time to process

I probably need more time to process the last 5 days in Kansas City, but I've a list the length of my arm of things that need done and so, now's my chance, so now's the time.

I took pictures of the musicians up on stage, but I took zero photos of the musicians hanging out, talking, switching between coffee and water and beer all day and living off of showcase room snacks and the occasional food truck taco. 

We sat and played songs out by the fountain in the square beside the hotel, we got in a quick conversation over breakfast sandwiches in the food court before reporting to our volunteer assignments, we took a shuttle to the children's hospital to sing songs for the patients, we learned real quick how to ditch the elevators and take the stairs up to the showcase floors and we got the guts up to say hello to people we thought were cool. I worried about my clothes and what I looked like. I learned that I need to get new shoes.

We gave a quick hug when we had the chance encounter with a friend. At Folk Alliance you just never know how much time you'll be given to touch base with anyone in the midst of the folk storm so you take the opportunity when it comes knocking. 

Before driving home yesterday after my last volunteer shift, I caught the second half of Steve Poltz's set. If there's any swan song perfect for the end of an amazing week of music, Steve Poltz can sing it. Folk Alliance has moments of wonder and moments of feeling lost. I experienced both. Steve Poltz was inspiring and joyful and he made me smile after all of it. 

My mind is inclined toward the dark sometimes and so when I got home I tried to write down all the good things that happened so as not have them disappear. That list includes all the friends I got to see and hear and who came to listen to me. That means so much. It includes discoveries- Cory Branan (pre-order his new album. Just do it), and favorites- Sam Baker and Vance Gilbert. I missed Kris Kristofferson, I missed Ani DiFranco but I did hear Billy Bragg talk.  I didn't get the guts up to talk to Sam Baker, but I listened transfixed and he made me cry. I saw my friend, Korby Lenker, make everyone sit up and take notice at his official showcase. I left that ballroom thinking his days of crashing on people's couches are numbered. He was incredible and it was so fun to watch him be so good up there. 

I have to remember the good things because driving home, I started thinking about the hard things. Being surrounded by fellow artists is so cool and also so scary. It makes you (and by "you" I mean "me") look  in the mirror and wonder if you're good enough, if you've got any chance at getting anywhere beyond where you are right now. It makes you wonder where you fit in this collection of voices, in this collection of stories. The long drive home in the quiet and the exhaustion tends to want to turn our dresses back into rags, our princes into frogs.

That's why I wrote down all the good stuff.. So as not to forget, even in the midst of the hard stuff, there is reason to give thanks. Today I'm playing music all day long and then tutoring a third grader in German. Tomorrow I'm going to work the lunch shift. I hope you write down the good stuff that comes your way. Especially if you're like me and you tend to forget. It's everywhere. 

 

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The student and the songs

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I can't tell you how I went from a girl to a writer to a songwriter, but I can tell you there were songs and albums that grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let me go.

When I was a kid it was a cassette of Simon and Garfunkel Live in Central Park.  It was fascinating and I listened and listened and listened up in my bedroom all by myself.  

Then when Katerina from Czech Republic came to live with us and put Queen in the motor home tape deck for the first time when we drove up to the Sierras, I heard music like I hadn't heard before. She brought six albums of Queen on that trip and we listened to them on repeat. Queen, Queen II, A Night at The Opera, A Day at The Races, Innuendo and A Kind of Magic.

Then later in high school I fell in love with a Belgian and wallowed in it with R.E.M Automatic for the People. In college my friend Amie let me listen to her Joni Mitchell Blue and my head exploded.

Fast forward to the first time I heard Darrell Scott and was instantly mesmerized and then probably five or so years after that I wrote my first song.  The songs I write aren't important. Right now I'm thinking about the songs other people write.

Since becoming a songwriter I've heard bigger badder artists talk about how the greats have inspired them and taught them, but I have been reluctant to learn the canon and be the student. Well, I need to become the student again. I need to start listening for  a while in order to get a better grip on what I'm doing.

Last week I went out and bought some Johnny Cash, some Kris Kristofferson, some Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris. I know those guys, but I don't know much and now I'm determined to learn. I'll need Bobbie Gentry and probably Leonard Cohen, and one of these days I'll get the guts up to listen to Lori McKenna. Each one of those songwriters has tools and tricks that I don't have, they have a voice all their own. I'm not looking to change what I do, but I am looking to get a bigger toolbox and have a better handle on the craft. I think I mentioned that I was reading Todd Snider's book? Well, Todd Snider is crazy, but he sure knows how to listen and learn from artists who know more than him. That's what I want to do.  Back when I was a kid/young person I let songs sink in and do their work without my even noticing. This time it'll be more intentional, but I need that work to sink in. Sometimes I feel guilty for listening instead of writing my own stuff, but it's necessary and it feels real good when songs sink in. 

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