We're excited to announce the faculty for the 2014 Song School.
Ysaye Barnwell | "Chicago Mike" Beck | Michael Bowers | Ron Browning | Edie Carey | Terri Delaney | Val Denn | Ellis | Rebecca Folsom | Robby Hecht | Arthur Lee Land | Bill Nash | Siobhan Quinn | Justin Roth | Alan Rowoth | Sarah Sample | Amy Speace | Mary Vyn | Tom Wasinger | Kai Welch | Annie Wenz
Antje has won some of the top songwriting awards including the Grand Prize in the John Lennon Songwriting Competition, the prestigious, Kerrville (TX) "Best New Folk Award" and in one of the nation's top music markets, she won the Boston Music Award for "Outstanding Folk Act", three of the top prizes in the singer songwriter world.
Antje has extensive touring experience, criss-crossing the US and Europe several times. She is a compelling live performer and has been invited to play some of the top festivals including The Newport Folk Festival as well as the Mountain Stage, Philadelphia and Kerrville Festivals. Internationally, she's headlined the The Celtic Connections Festival in Scotland and the Tonder Festival in Denmark.
In December of 2007, The Bank of America featured Antje's song "Merry Go Round" in a national TV advertising campaign seen by millions, including a Super Bowl audience. Antje's fast growing fan base, the viral spreading of her music and a track record of sold-out shows are a testament to her growing popularity. [less...]
In conversation and in public, Mary Gauthier (pronounced "go-SHAY") comes off as a practical, no-nonsense woman. Stoic, even. Which wouldn’t seem unusual, except for the fact that her songs [more...] carry so much emotional punch, they can leave you staggering. She has a way of burrowing into that hole so many of us carry inside our souls, and emerging with universal truths that show we aren’t so alone after all.
Gauthier knows where our exposed nerve endings lie because she’s probed her own so deeply, finally learning to unlock the fear and loneliness that controlled her escape-seeking trajectory for so long before songwriting — and the sobriety that drew it forth at age 35 — gave her a steadier flight path.
But even though her six albums have received countless accolades (2005’s Mercy Now earned her the Americana Music Association’s New/Emerging Artist of the Year title, and 2011’s The Foundling was named the No. 3 Record of the Year but the L.A. Times), , Gauthier felt she needed to rack up her pilot hours, so to speak, before she could hit another major milestone: recording a live album. When she was ready, she captured Live at Blue Rock at a concert at the Blue Rock Artist Ranch and Studio in Wimberley, Texas, outside of Austin.
“People have been asking for a live CD for a long time and I just knew that I wasn’t ready yet,” admits Gauthier. “It took 10 years of trench work. Of bein’ out there, banging my head against all the things an artist has to bang against. Indifference. Poor attendence. Situations that are over your head. Every night, curve ball, curve ball, curve ball. But stagecraft cannot be taught. You have to be onstage to learn it. So after 10 years of doin’ it, I got good at it.”
Louisiana native-turned-Nashville resident Gauthier (it’s French; pronounced Go-SHAY), whose songs have earned praise from Bob Dylan and Tom Waits, and been recorded by Jimmy Buffett, Blake Shelton and many others, is not bragging, just explaining, in that practical way of hers. It’s the same way she discusses experiences that led to some of the extraordinary songs she performs on the album. Renowned songs, such as “I Drink,” “Drag Queens in Limousines” and “Karla Faye” — which addresses the famous fate of that convicted killer, but starts out with lines that undoubtedly reference their author as well: A little girl lost,her world full of pain.He said it feels good,she gave him her vein.
Then there’s “Blood on Blood,” from her last release, 2010?’s The Foundling, which plumbs the particular hell of children given up to closed adoption. With a cinematographer’s eye and a lyrical economy that suggests far more than her 15 years of songwriting experience, she chronicles an always-present sense of rejection and rootlessness, the nagging “whys” and “what ifs,” the endless search of every face for a possible resemblance. I don’t know who I am I don’t know who I’m not/I don’t know my name I can’t find my place, she sings, her voice rising from a whisper to a wail. She’s not just offering a vein here, she’s cutting several wide open. Like all of her songs, “Blood on Blood” takes on even more power when performed live.
“As a songwriter, I’m always trying to go to the deepest possible place inside of me. Past the navel-gazing, past the self-conscious, to get to that ‘we,’” Gauthier explains. “’Cause deep inside of all of us is the universal. And that is an artist’s job, to transcend the self. … I’m in there, but then hopefully, it goes past that and it hits something far, far bigger and more important than me. That’s what I’m aimin’ for every time I write.”
She’s proud that The Foundling opened the floodgates for thousands of fellow orphans who had never heard anyone articulate their pain with so much insight. Gauthier reports therapists are now using the album to better understand the adoptee experience. It’s also resulted in several reunions between children and their birth parents — though Gauthier’s birth mother declined that option after Gauthier made contact five years ago. And she understands that decision, even if she’ll never have the full closure she sought.
Sometimes, life just goes that way — particularly for the outsiders with whom Gauthier has always identified most. They populate Live at Blue Rock, which also contains covers of three songs by fellow poet/philosopher (and recent “Tin Can Caravan” tour leader) Fred Eaglesmith, another master at illuminating the sympathetic sides of characters society is not used to regarding kindly, if at all.
“I find the stories I want to tell are the stories of characters who may or may not make it,” says Gauthier. Though she’s no longer dangling on that precipice, she adds, “I believe in redemption. I needed redemption; I continue to need redemption.”
Luckily, she sometimes finds it onstage, in front of an audience. And just as audiences change from night to night, so do her accompanists.
When Live at Blue Rock was recorded, she had fiddle and percussion adornment. But she’s experimenting with different configurations all the time, which means the songs also take on new identities nightly.
“They’re living things,” Gauthier says of her work. “You record ‘em one way, but that’s just the way you played it that day. Some words change, the tempo changes. It has to go with the flow of the room and the flow of the night.”
Gauthier, a teen runaway who attended college in Louisiana and operated a Cajun restaurant in Boston before getting sober, long ago learned how to go with the flow. And to be patient. Because it takes time to get good enough to wing it.
Between Daylight and Dark, is filled with both hope and anguish, with faith as well as fear. Mary Gauthier knows these places well, having traveled through a night that had stretched into years, from a turbulent Louisiana childhood through odd juxtapositions of accomplishment and devastation. [less...]
These discs were followed by the self-released Somerville Live (2000), lionized by the Boston Globe as the disc "young songwriters should study the way law students cram for bar exams," and One Thru Fourteen (2002), a stylistically varied offering that New York's Town and Village called "lively, eclectic, electrifying and transcending." Gilbert followed with Side Of The Road (2003), a duo album with Ellis Paul, lauded as "haunting, artful, and lovely" by Boston Magazine and nominated for a 2004 Boston Music Award. Then came Unfamiliar Moon (2005). "The songwriter's most compelling work; literate, heartfelt, rippling…emotionally resonant songs" raved the Boston Globe, placing the album in its Top 10 CDs of the year (#4). On Angels, Castles, Covers (2006), "Gilbert's choice of an album of covers seems both fitting and fearless. …he displays his vocal virtuosity with some unexpected choices from the late 20th century songbook. From the sounds of Motown, through the R&B of Al Green to classic Joni Mitchell and Shawn Colvin…He makes each and every tune sound fresh and new," writes Roberta Schwartz of FAME.
Gilbert then launched into a year and a half as support for George Carlin, leading up to the creation and recording of Up On Rockfield (2008), a landmark album noted for being written in the styles of some of his favorite songwriters. Of this disk Vintage Guitar proclaimed that “His fervor for composing is as powerful as a Colorado thunderstorm...accomplishing the seemingly impossible...Up On Rockfield should be on your must hear list.”
Who else would name their most recent album “Old White Men”, and actually have recorded a groundbreaking, heartbreaking title song to back it up? That’d be Vance Gilbert.
This latest release has received raves based solely on the material folks knew would be on it! The soul aching title cut, OLD WHITE MEN, the winsome BOY ON A TRAIN, and the comic tour de force MY BAD are present. The lonesome KING OF THE RAILS will leave a diagonal crease across the listener’s heart. DRAGONFLY WINGS is a delightful throwback to 70‘s pop. NO ONE CAN LOVE YOU LIKE MARY is an all acoustic life story punctuated by Billy Novick’s funky saxophones. The maddened rant of HELPLESS MAN is followed by the big hearted NEW YEAR’S EVE AT THE LION’S HEAD HOTEL - HOURLY RATES, a one-sided conversation between a prostitute and a policeman. Vance’s original YOU SHOULD BE HERE sounds like a refugee from the Rogers and Hart songbook and is just Vance and a classical guitar. GO and COME HERE MY LOVE are both solo snapshots of breathless points in time. The acapella BRAKEMAN’S SON is a small story of a search for big peace. Eleven killer songs, pared down to their living core, listener ready (OK, there’s a buried track. Listen for yourself…). [less...]
On the new CD, Love In the Ruins, Bonnie infuses her barbed lyrics with her own unmistakable vocal style and adds a new fervor for crunchy guitars and incendiary drumming. The sum is ironic, literary, melodic, tragic, wild, honest, joyful music that also flat out ROCKS. Known for years as a keyboardist (she actually toured as a keyboard player/backing vocalist with such arena acts as Belinda Carlisle and Billy Idol), she turned to writing on guitar to stimulate the creative process. Bonnie's personal reinvention is typical of her uncompromising attitude: "I reject the idea that music has to be either smart or kickass---why not both?"
Famed for her kick-out-the-jams live show, Hayes has also enjoyed success as a recording artist and producer. In 1984, her pop/punk debut Good Clean Fun was released on seminal LA indie Slash Records to critical raves and national college airplay and in 1995, the Hayes-produced CD Steppin' Out by the Gospel Hummingbirds was nominated for a Grammy. Her new CD marks a return to center stage for this exceptional songwriter.
Bonnie Hayes is a popular and experienced teacher with an original slant on writing songs that satisfy both artistic and commercial criteria. She teaches classes in various aspects of songwriting and popular music regularly. Her students have won prizes in the John Lennon songwriting contest, the WCSA songwriting contest, the Soulmaking contest, and others. [less...]
As the songs emerged, ranging from the irresistibly catchy love song "Change My Channel" to the earthy blues narrative "Georgia Clay" to the wryly observant "Medicine," Himmelman knew they were winners. What he didn't know, having knocked them out so unselfconsciously, is what they meant. Like DNA samples, they needed to be analyzed. To paraphrase a line from one of his tunes, they knew him better than he did.
Ultimately, great artists are more than the sum of their recordings. More than the sum of their performances. More than the sum of their press clippings (speaking of which: "Himmelman writes songs with the same emphatic edge and aesthetic urgency that impelled the Lost Generation to write novels" – Time Magazine; "One of rock's most wildly imaginative performers" – USA Today). What becomes an artist of Himmelman's stature most is continuing to reach deep inside for answers to life's mysteries, while continuing to reach out to listeners. Himmelman may not have the mystique of his father-in-law Bob Dylan or the swagger or hipitude of some of his contemporaries. But his honesty and soul-searching intensity make him one of the most treasured rock musicians of his era.
As convenient as it is to categorize him as a singer-songwriter, it is as a singersongwriter-husband-father-son-supplicant that Himmelman has left his mark. His devotion to his wife and four children is its own work of art. At critical junctures in his career, he has resisted pressure to stay on the road flogging an album and returned home to raise his kids instead. To make it easier to navigate between touring and homebodying, he has performed more frequently as a solo act. The first highly recognized (and highly applauded) Observant Jew since Sandy Koufax, he has refused to perform on Friday nights, when the Jewish Sabbath begins. What pop artist would turn down a guest shot on "The Tonight Show" (which he did more than once) for religious reasons?
Himmelman makes no bones about being torn over the career sacrifices he has made in the name of family. Even knowing he made the morally appropriate decision in putting his wife and children first didn't ease his sense of regret over the chances at greater fame and commercial success he had missed. But if some artists can resist the pull of their little boy or girl crying on the phone from thousands of miles away, begging "Daddy, come home," he was – is – constitutionally unwilling.
In the post-9/11 world, his songs have gotten darker, losing some of the idealism of earlier efforts including his much-loved "Woman with the Strength of 10,000 Men" (based on an encounter with an ALS survivor who could communicate only with her eyebrows). A few years ago, Himmelman was in a serious funk. Between albums, dulled by the strain and monotony of TV work, and unsure as to where to go next, he found himself reading and thinking about Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter executed by Arab extremists for no other reason than being Jewish. He regretted that he had never met Pearl, or become friends with him, or performed for him. Then a friend sent him an article in which it was revealed that Pearl had been a fan of his – that, in fact, Himmelman was his favorite artist. Himmelman also was stunned to learn from the author of the article, a longtime friend of Pearl, that he and Danny had bonded over Himmelman's songs and had come backstage to meet him following a 1995 show in at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. Himmelman, he said, gave each of them a broken string as a souvenir.
The revelations proved life-changing. "The knowledge that my songs have had reach beyond what I could ever begin to imagine has made me less concerned about the difficult choices I've made and focused me with a greater sense of mission," said Himmelman, who has become close with Pearl's parents, Judea and Ruth Pearl. "Sometimes when I write, I feel like I'm connecting with my Dad, who died many years ago, or my sister, who died six years ago in a car crash in Wisconsin, or Danny Pearl, with whom I'm strangely forging some kind of Earthly/heavenly relationship."
The unfathomable loss of Daniel Pearl resonates in the strange cry that rises from "Raining Down from Satellite," a new song that muses on the sad global divisions technology seems to only widen. "The Mystery and the Hum" is frequently about distance and detachment, opening twangily with a guy holed up in a "Motel Room in Davenport," "waiting on a resurrection," and ending movingly with a lonely soul in an empty house yearning for lost connections, feeling the "Trembling in the Beams." As moody as it is, "The Mystery and the Hum" may be the most radio-friendly of all Himmelman's albums, for which he gives credit to the friend who mixed it, veteran producer Don Smith (Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, U2), whose recent death was a major blow. As always, Himmelman's belief in the power of love, and the power of music, to lift us above and beyond our circumstances shines its special, uplifting light.
If anyone can call the performance stage home away from home, it is Himmelman. Many fans prefer his solo shows because there's no band to get in the way of his improvised verbal riffs and hilarious back and forth banter with the audience. Unlike such celebrated rock wits as Randy Newman and Warren Zevon, he keeps humor out of his songs, preferring to use it as a "counterbalance" to the serious themes in them. There's Himmelman the singer and Himmelman the comic. "Sometimes they duke it out with one another on stage," he says approvingly.
For fans of Himmelman the comic, his groundbreaking webcast, "Peter Himmelman's Furious World," is manna from heaven. Originating from his Santa Monica studio (and accessible at peterhimmelman.com), the newfangled variety program features live music and spoken bits by the host (joined by his cast of regulars), off-the-wall videos, and guest performers. "Furious World" has featured acclaimed veterans such as Joe Henry and Michael McDermott, up-and-comers such as Joe Firstman and Raining Jane and compelling non-musicians such as Judea Pearl, a scientist/philosopher, humorist, Sandra Tsing Loh, and Jeff "the Dude" Dowd – inspiration for the Coen Brothers' film, "The Big Lebowski." A second webcast, "Peter Himmelman's Curious World," is aimed at kids, for whom Himmelman has recorded five albums – among them, "My Green Kite," which was nominated for a Grammy. "I'm as proud of those albums as anything I've done," he says.
Himmelman started his first band in sixth grade, and, armed with the red Fender Duo-Sonic his father bought for him from his cousin, led several others in junior high. A Jewish kid among gentiles, a boy with curly brown hair in the land of uncurled Scandinavian blonds, an introspective soul among jocks, he found escape in black culture: in funk and R&B, reggae and blues. During 11th grade, he auditioned for R&B star Alexander O'Neill, an original member of The Time. Before his senior year was out, he was playing lead guitar and writing songs for Shangoya, a legendary local band with Caribbean origins. "Maybe because I write songs and talk too much, it's easy for people to forget that at the root of it all, I'm a guitarist," said Himmelman, a cutting soloist inspired by Jimi Hendrix, Taj Mahal, John Lee Hooker and Luther Allison.
He first made a serious noise with his power-pop unit Sussman Lawrence, which released a pair of well-received albums in 1980 and 1984, respectively. But it was his 1985 solo debut, "This Father's Day," the moving title song of which was written following his dad's death, that announced him as a special kind of artist. It led to his first major-label effort, "Gematria," the title of which comes from a system used by rabbis to interpret scripture by assigning numerical values to words and letters. He has soared ever-higher in that special place where romantic and spiritual expression meet – and where it's sometimes difficult to separate one from the other – on a succession of acclaimed albums including "Synesthesia," "From Strength to Strength," "Flown This Acid World," the bold conceptual effort "Skin," "Love Thinketh No Evil," "Unstoppable Forces," "Imperfect World" and "The Pigeons Couldn't Sleep."
(Ever generous, he also has made available, in some cases as free bonuses, 11 volumes of previously unreleased songs from the "Himmelvaults" and other rarities including "Blackout In the Book of Light," an album he recorded years back with a name producer but didn't like enough to put out then.)
There has been plenty else to keep him busy. In addition to his soundtrack composing (his TV shows have included "Judging Amy," for which he received a Grammy nomination for the song, "The Best Kind of Answer," and the Fox hit, "Bones"), he has written music for commercials, fashion shows and a Teddy Bear used with rape victims and autistic kids and penned songs, "like Cyrano, for lonely, speechless men to woo unwilling lovers." Himmelman also is an increasingly prolific visual artist whose work has been purchased by art collectors the world over.
He's never in danger of not working on something. "My Mother tells me," he says, "that when she gave birth to me in 1959 without any anesthesia whatsoever – a completely natural childbirth – there was a group of medical students watching the delivery and that they actually applauded when I emerged. You could say I was born to be onstage." [less...]
He’s got a voracious musical appetite. Known for his many years as founder and leader of Trapezoid for over 25 years, he’s recently embarked on several new musical adventures: His new band Paul Reisler & A Thousand Questions featuring Howard Levy and Angela Kaset with their new album At Night the Roses Tango , his Kid Pan Alley children’s songwriting project, and his duo with Amy Speace. He also continues perform with the inter-disciplinary Ki Theatre and compose for film, theatre and orchestra.
He’s passionate about inspiring other people to live the musical life. He’s one of the most popular songwriting teachers in the country and he’s also the founder and artistic director of Kid Pan Alley, a project in which he has now written over 800 songs with over 18,000 children nationally. Their recent CD, Kid Pan Alley Nashville, features many of that city’s best-known artists recording the songs written with the children. That album received a Grammy nomination and won both Parents’ Choice and NAPPA Gold Awards. He has taught songwriting to adults at workshops and songwriting schools throughout the country including the Rocky Mountain Song School, Utah Song School, Swannanoa Gathering, Blue Ridge Songcamp, Augusta Workshop, Hollyhock, Kerrville, NSAI, Songcamp in the Mountains and many others. [less...]
Steve's other #1 hits are “No Doubt About It” and “For a Change,” both recorded by Neal McCoy, “No Man’s Land” and “If You’ve Got Love,” both recorded by John Michael Montgomery, and “Daddy’s Money,” recorded by Ricochet. Other chart toppers include “I Think About You,” recorded by Collin Raye, and “All I Need To Know,” recorded by Kenny Chesney. The video for Raye’s “I Think About You” single was named the Academy of Country Music’s Video of the Year in 1997, and the song and video were also given an award by the Tennessee Task Force Against Domestic Violence. Recent recordings of his songs include “Pictures,” by John Michael Montgomery, “We Shook Hands,” by Tebey, and “I’ll Always Be There For You,” by Brian McComas.
“Don’t Laugh at Me” was recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary and became the impetus for the Operation Respect/Don’t Laugh at Me project, a curriculum designed to teach tolerance in schools. This program has already been implemented in more than 20,000 schools across the country. Steve now enjoys performing at school assemblies in support of this program. The song is now available as a children’s book, Don’t Laugh At Me, which was featured on PBS’s Reading Rainbow in September 2002.
Steve spends time in Nashville writing for Larga Vista Music and pitching his songs, while maintaining an active performing career both back home in Northern California and at festivals and acoustic venues throughout the United States and Canada. He has been a featured performer at the Kerrville Folk Festival, the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, the Vancouver Folk Festival, and the Napa Valley Music Festival. [less...]
In addition to his performing and recording endeavors, Mike is the founder of Access Film Music Ltd., an organization that helps independent recording artists expose their music to directors, producers and music supervisors working in the realm of film, television and other visual media. The 10th annual Access Film Music Showcase will take place during Film Festival Week in Park City, Utah next January 17 - 27, 2013. Access Film Music is also the Official Music Partner of the ÉCU Film Festival in Paris, France and the On Location: Memphis International Film & Music Festival, where Access showcase events have helped further the mission to connect music-makers with film-makers.
Mike loves empowering and inspiring musicians to pursue their dreams, and enjoys sharing practical ideas, methods and information to help make them real. He's currently at work on a new album, and hopes to have some new recordings available in time for SongSchool! [less...]
With its blend of acoustic and electric instrumentation, Last of The Long Days harkens back to a time when well-crafted lyrics and timeless melodies ruled the radio airwaves. “Real Someday” is a hopeful mid-tempo tune with a lyric that promises there will be better days to come. The chorus is a descending, wordless harmony with Jill Andrews, formerly of The Everybodyfields, supplying the soaring backing vocals. The folksy “Pot of Gold” sings the praises of a long time relationship while playing on traditional methods of fortune seeking. On this track, muted upright bass and James Digirolamo’s accordion complement Hecht’s warm, assuring vocals and intricate fingerpicking.
John Deaderick (Dixie Chicks, Patty Griffin) adds shimmering B3 organ and piano to the swelling melody of “A Reckoning of Us.” Here, Hecht’s heartfelt vocals tell the tale of a failed romance while assuring that forgiveness will eventually and inevitably ease the pain. Jill Andrews again supplies the harmonies that back this and so many of the other arrangements on Last of The Long Days. She duets with Hecht on Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You” – where Hecht’s slight variation on the melody and the weeping pedal steel of Paul Niehaus (Calexico) make this cover something special. The album closes with the quiet, devotional sentiments of “Never Let Go.” Deaderick provides ambient notes on the accordion enhancing what may be Hecht’s most quietly passionate vocal.
Last of The Long Days is a low-key stunner, an album marked by well-crafted melodies, poetic lyrics and arrangements that bring every note and emotion to life. Producer Lex Price (Mindy Smith, Matthew Ryan) has fashioned an intimate yet powerful record full of understated touches that add emotional resonance to every song. “I loved working with Lex on the last project – we have complimentary styles and I wanted to build on that compatibility,” Hecht says. “He has a unique vision in the studio that adds incredible layering and nuance to my songs.” As with their first collaboration, Late Last Night, Hecht and Price have created a record that slowly unfolds to reveal its emotional depth, the more so with every listen.
Growing up in Knoxville, Tennessee, Hecht was exposed to his parents’ collection of 70s acoustic pop albums and his dad’s mandolin playing. “My mom loved Paul Simon, Jim Croce, Dan Fogelberg and other classic singer/songwriters. When I started writing songs, I was listening to their modern counterparts, artists like Tracy Chapman, Sarah McLachlan and David Gray. That combination was a big influence on my writing.”
The summer before he started college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Hecht made a conscious decision to become a singer/songwriter. “Playing music just never seemed like work, so I knew that was what I was meant to do. I used the Internet to teach myself guitar. I discovered I had an affinity for fingerpicking and went from there.”
After graduation, Hecht moved to Paris with a friend and busked on the streets to make money. “A guy who played bagpipes used to set up across the street from me; he’d drown me out and make all the money. It wasn’t an incredibly lucrative gig to be an American folksinger in Paris, but still was an amazing experience I’ll never forget.”
After returning to the states, Hecht moved to San Francisco where he fronted the folk/swing band AllDay Radio and then settled in Nashville to pursue his songwriting career. He toured and wrote relentlessly over the next several years, winning the Great Waters Music Festival Songwriter Competition in 2006, the Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk Competition in 2008 and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival Troubadour Contest in 2010—along the way garnering comparisons to early James Taylor, Paul Simon, and Amos Lee. Like these celebrated artists, Robby Hecht is a unique voice—one that is stirring, instantly recognizable and truly original. [less...]
Mary has studied food as medicine and cooks professionally. She has served billionaires and famous chefs, but in her restaurant kitchen, Mandarava, she makes the daily bowl with Mom. She sees service as a form of grace and can boss you about with joy.
At Song School 2014, Mary is offering two movement classes - one cathartic and the other contemplative. She'll also hold one group session on the natural kitchen. [less...]
Then we moved to town, and those sweetly subversive dreams of "getting off the grid" got papered over with the normal shit of child-rearing in the '90s; parent-teacher conferences, piano lessons, insurance, VHS camcorders, rollerblades and skis and skateboard ramps, high-school musicals, ramen noodles, roofing leaks, Les Miserables 2-CD-Box Set, puppy obedience training, TV-watching time limits. My mother turned to religion, maybe to counteract our bad hair-dos. My father got into the internet before it was very popular. And before I knew who I was, I was an under-size under-weight teenaged dubiously born-again-Christian who was really actually Jewish but who was raised a mystical-agnostic-wood-nymph, trying to fit into meth-riddled logging mill small-town America. I wasn't allowed to listen to Nirvana so I sneaked it on unmarked cassette tapes.
To the West of our town, the freeway disappeared into a mountain pass called Deadman's Pass, making a little notch like a gun sight between the hills. And when the sun went down into that notch, it was like watching the glow of a distant party. I wanted to go to that party. Like any other kid I wanted to be where the action was, and it was clearly elsewhere, or so I thought. Like I'm sure it was for a lot of people, breaking out of my hometown was a revelation for me. I was 17 years old and I'd only ever had 4 radio stations to choose from. I liked the pop country songs that blasted from the doors of mud-covered trucks with oversize wheels in the high school parking lot – they seemed like they were about us. But I had a feeling there were things going on somewhere else that I needed to know about.
I never learned the importance of specialization, still haven't. So when I went off to college I was like a raccoon and I got into everything that wasn't sealed shut. I studied everything I possibly could. It was a feeding frenzy for me. I gobbled up new music, languages, philosphy, poetry, math, physics, literature – I thought it was all… cool. This was in 1999 and I remember listening to a Led Zeppelin record under headphones at the library and feeling like I had just discovered some ancient Mayan ruins. I had never thought of myself as sheltered, I mean not in like the Amish sense of the word, but college was definitely blowing my mind. And I loved my alma mater, Eugene, OR. Then suddenly I couldn't wait to get out of there either. I wanted to go somewhere very far away, totally alone, to test out the theory of absolute freedom and to prove to myself that I could do it.
So I split. I had a plane ticket to anywhere, a graduation gift, and I opted for the South Pacific because it sounded like the most exotic place I could think of. A place so isolated by ocean that time hadn't had a chance to tarnish it. A place where paradises were so numerous as to be expendable, where whole islands could be nuked by atomic scientists wearing safari hats and sunglasses, and no one would miss them. Everyone was going for Costa Rica or Europe. Nobody I knew was buying the Lonely Planet guide to New Caledonia or The Cook Islands. I figured chances were good that I could find an uninhabited island and play Robinson Crusoe. I really just wanted to learn how to hang out and survive off the land. And if I happened upon some exotic fellow travelers, maybe Swedish backpacker girls or something, that would be fine too. But the basic goal was pretty simple: to get out of the cycle of earning and spending money to buy things that really only serve the purpose of facilitating that selfsame cycle. I had also started writing a lot by then, poetry and music, countless half-baked songs and one or two good ones. So it was a journey to get away from everything I knew and find my voice as an artist too. I wanted to tear it all down, everything I'd learned and seen and tried to emulate in the past. I wanted to start with nothing, a clean-burning unfiltered life-form reacting to a world full of wonders.
It never came out quite as clean as all that. When ideas become realities they take on a form and a shape that's unpredictable and always beautifully deformed and mutilated by the whims of circumstance. I headed for the "South Pacific", but I was waylaid cavorting with hooligans in Australia. Hooligans that I now love dearly, by the way. I did eventually find an uninhabited island to inhabit, but it was only about 100 yards from the shore of the mainland in New Zealand.
I only stayed there for a week or two, till I got tired of the sand-flies, and rowing back to the mainland every time my water jug ran dry. I hopped sailboats to the Tongan islands, in search of a pure virginal culture, a romantic Rimbaud-like disappearance into something impossibly distant. But there I found Mormon missionaries, donuts, a lot of pregnant stray dogs, and gangster rap. I learned gospel songs, in English, from Tongan fishermen who didn't speak English. I made some field recordings of their curious blend of Christian tradition with the sounds of the islands. They couldn't believe their ears when they discovered that they could listen back to themselves on my Minidisc recorder.
I was trying to get somewhere pure, away from the world I knew. And I was a little sad to find that I couldn't. But I think it took me until then to really appreciate that human life is mixed up and messy, that we are all painted into landscapes that are tarnished and inconceivably varied. Because that's the way the world is now. The fluctuating matrix stew of cultures and ideas that we exist in is so fast and so thick, you just have to let it wash over you, embracing what you can and rejecting what you can't. There are a lot of people trying to pose as purists of one type or another. Pure rocker, pure folkie, pure punk, pure street. I'm not a pure anything. I'm an American male, whitish, aged 31.
I have now moved to Nashville, Tennessee – bastion of "country" music, land-locked Southern-fried pseudo-Christian ecologically-insensitive comfort zone where rent is cheap, jeans come with rhinestones, "co-write" is the word on the street, and life couldn't be much more different from where I started out. But it is also in Nashville that I have found my indispensable musical comrades – people like Abigail Washburn, Bobby Bare Jr., Carl Broemel, Jamie Dick, James Wallace, Brittany Haas, Bela Fleck, Tommy Hans, and countless more. There are way too many great people in this town to list, and as much as I sometimes get a hankering for those heady, romantic days of high-seas, high-mountains, high-ideals, and a lot of general high-ness, I also love being in a place where even your pizza delivery dude is really good at music. It's headquarters, it's our community, and it's really good to us.
I'm now going to attempt to sum up my entire life, and leave you with a mission statement of sorts… The one constant that I can distill from the grand total of everything I've ever seen and done, and my strongest belief, is this: Life is mysteriously divine, and this planet we are a part of is host to infinite wonders. Our challenge while we are here is to appreciate them fully. [less...]
Annie’s experiences span over 25 countries "bringing people together through music”, performing & teaching for earthquake victims & dignitaries in SE Asia, to "New Zealand's Millennium Celebration", The Kennedy Center, festivals & theater productions in Costa Rica, Germany, Sweden, Thailand, Vietnam, Bali & more!
Her former band members & include Senegalize talking drum wizard Massamba Djop of Babba Mal's band, percussionist Jose Gonzalez, Steppenwolf's Guy DeVito, & London's Robert Dean (of “Japan” & Sinead O'Connor's guitarist). She’s taught with Roy “Futureman” Wooten of Bela Fleck & the Flecktones & co-written/collaborated with Dr Jeri Nielsen of the Ice Bound book & movie, and National Boyd Award winning novelist Robert Macomber.
Her story songs are inspired by her journeys... as a biker, kayaker & backpacker, working as a registered nurse, rafting guide, activist and teacher. Annie also travels throughout the world sharing her grant winning songwriting, percussion, flute, piano accompaniment & dance/yoga/movement inspired workshops !
She has 7 recordings on her own indie label “Island Gypsy” including her newest buzzed about CD “Ride The Sky” penned at stoplights while twirling about dusty back Americana roads on her Harley. She lives in her natty boots. "it's a muddy road out there, but somebody's gotta ride thru it!" [less...]
Ysaye Barnwell, Mary Gauthier, Vance Gilbert, Bonnie Hayes, Lynn Miles, Pat Pattison, Paul Reisler, Steve Seskin, "Chicago Mike" Beck, Michael Bowers, Ron Browning, Terri Delaney, Val Denn, Ellis, Rebecca Folsom, Robby Hecht, Jagoda, Arthur Lee Land, Mike Meadows, Clare McLeod, Bill Nash, Brendan Okrent, Siobhan Quinn, Justin Roth, Alan Rowoth, Sarah Sample, The Sea, The Sea, Christopher Smith, Amy Speace, Judith Wade, Tom Wasinger, Kai Welch, Annie Wenz
2012 Song School Instructors
Mary Gauthier, Peter Himmelman, Holly Near, Pat Pattison, Gretchen Peters, Paul Reisler, Darrell Scott, Steve Seskin, Richard Shindell, "Chicago" Mike Beck, Michael Bowers, Ron Browning, Don Conoscenti, Terri Delaney, Ingrid Elizabeth, Ellis, Rebecca Folsom, Girlyman, Jagoda, JJ Jones, Diana Korpi, Arthur Lee Land, Danielle Morales, Bill Nash, Brendan Okrent, Siobhán Quinn, Justin Roth, Alan Rowoth, Maggie Simpson, Christopher Smith, Amy Speace, Mary Vyn, Judith Wade, Tom Wasinger, Annie Wenz
Ysaye Barnwell, Mary Gauthier, Vance Gilbert, Sarah Lee Guthrie, Johnny Irion, Anais Mitchell, Pat Pattison, Paul Reisler, Steve Seskin, Livingston Taylor, "Chicago" Mike Beck, Tim Burlingame, Michael Bowers, Ron Browning, Ellis, Rebecca Folsom, Girlyman, Bob Hemenger, Jagoda, JJ Jones, Diana Korpi, Arthur Lee Land, Terri Mazurek, Bill Nash, Siobhán Quinn, Etan Rosenbloom, Justin Roth, Alan Rowoth, Sarah Sample, Kathrin Shorr, David Slater, Amy Speace, Mary Vyn, Judith Wade, Annie Wenz
Jonatha Brooke, Sheila Carabine, Vance Gilbert, Pat Pattison, Paul Reisler, Darrell Scott, Steve Seskin, Amanda Walther, David Wilcox, "Chicago" Mike Beck, Michael Bowers, Ron Browning, Joe Craven, Ellis, Girlyman, Bob Hemenger, Jagoda, JJ Jones, Diana Korpi, Arthur Lee Land, Terri Mazurek, Bill Nash, Brendan Okrent, Siobhan Quinn, Justin Roth, Alan Rowoth, David Slater, Amy Speace, Mary Vyn, Judith Wade
Mary Gauthier, Peter Himmelman, Karin Bergquist, Linford Detweiler, Pat Pattison, Steve Seskin, Vance Gilbert, Paul Reisler, Carmen Allgood, "Chicago" Mike Beck, Michael Bowers, Ron Browning, Tim Burlingame, Chuck E. Costa, Ellis, Rebecca Folsom, Thomas Golubic, Jagoda, Jennifer "JJ" Jones, Diana Korpi, Arthur Lee Land, Terri Mazurek, Ryan Mintz, Kathy Moser, Bill Nash, Brendan Okrent, Siobhan Quinn, Justin Roth, Alan Rowoth, Kathrin Shorr, Maggie Simpson, Christopher Smith, Amy Speace, Annie Wenz
Josh Ritter, Melissa Ferrick, Pat Pattison, Susan Werner, Steve Seskin, Vance Gilbert, Paul Reisler, Carmen Allgood, "Chicago" Mike Beck, Michael Bowers, Ron Browning, Tim Burlingame, Ellis, Rebecca Folsom, Jagoda, Jennifer JJ Jones, Arthur Lee Land, Terri Mazurek, Bill Nash, Brendan Okrent, Julie Portman, Siobhan Quinn, Justin Roth, Alan Rowoth, Kathrin Shorr, Moira Smiley, Amy Speace, and Annie Wenz.
Peter Himmelman, Darrell Scott, Mary Gauthier, Zoe Lewis, Catie Curtis, Steve Seskin, Vance Gilbert, Arthur Lee Land, Moira Smiley, Annie Wenz, Rebecca Folsom, Ellis, Terri Mazurek, Alan Rowoth, Amy Speace, Kathrin Shorr, Tim Burlingame, Jennifer "JJ" Jones, Siobhan Quinn, Michael Bowers, Anna Wolfe, Justin Roth, Ben Wisch, Carmen Allgood, and "Chicago" Mike Beck.