To The District!

7 Apr
2020

I got to spend the last worry-free weekend of 2020 in the beautiful city of Washington, D.C., playing music and wandering about with Shawnee Kilgore. D.C. has been one of my favorite cities since visiting for the first time in 2017, I have returned once or twice a year since then. There’s never a shortage of stuff to do and see, and I somehow get along really well with the vibe of the city. I know some people find it utterly boring or utterly terrifying to be in the cradle of lobbyists and deal-making, but I get a little charge from it for whatever reason. Walking around the monuments never ceases to remind me about all the good stuff and good people we have had in government, even when it looks dark. Even when it looks really dark.

Here to serve.

We played a WONDERFUL house concert at Lucky Penny – the crowd was a joyous group and Paul, our host, had everything taken care of to a tee, down to some awesome new church pews in his living room for more seating. I had old friends there and met lots of new folks. A show like that can keep a musician going for a long time, and we’re still buzzing about D.C.

We also got to stay at the fabulous Mansion on O Street – an incredible place full of art and wonder and history and inspiration. My favorite thing there is to look UP! The ceilings are just as beautiful as everything else.

And we even got a song written in the Mediterranean Room.

When we were flying back on March 2, there was a little rumbling of something happening with the virus, but we had no issues at the airport and no idea what was coming. Fortunately for both of us, we’ve been back and quarantined long enough to know we didn’t catch anything on our trip. And I’ll always look back on this weekend as The Simpler Time….

Catching Up…

5 Apr
2020

Whelp. I did say I’d continue my Mexico adventures and that was back in February. Since then I’ve gone to Washington, D.C., moved, and a pandemic started. Good lord. I will now attempt to catch this blog up so that I might blog in real time, from this couch, in quarantine. Here we go…

Nothing gets my gears going like ancient stuff. Put me in some ruins and I start vibrating, because I can imagine the people that lived there and fill in the blanks in my mind. Teotihuacan is the perfect place for that, since it was a center of North American civilization and trade, and then…abandoned. Drama! Intrigue!

We had a great tour guide who took us to all three pyramids on site and let us wander to our heart’s content. Take a look at the non-coincidence on how these structures are aligned…

I climbed the Pyramid of the Moon, and then we walked down the Avenue of the Dead, surrounded by people selling all sorts of goods and wares like…JAGUAR CALLS. I bought 2, because I am a sucker. But I also have two jaguar calls, so who’s winning here? I am.

I climbed 3/4 of the Pyramid of the Sun and then felt the tiredness and altitude getting to me. I think if I would have started there, I would have made it, but after 2 other pyramids, I was running out of steam. Now, basically my life’s goal is to go back and climb the Pyramid of the Sun. You know, when we can travel and be around people again.

Mostly I was just grateful to sit in a spot that is a literal cradle of civilization and soak in the spirits and sun and touch the walls and think real hard about how awesome and insignificant we all are. Teotihuacan is highly recommended for a reality check of the highest order.

Oh Mexico

2 Feb
2020

Firstly I think this is amusing so I’ll start with it up front. Most conversations I have had in the last couple of weeks have been something like:

“You went to Mexico?”

“Yeah!”

“Why? Was it a music thing?”

“No!”

“So like…you went for fun? Like a…vacation?”

“Yes! Like a vacation.”

I guess I can see the confusion because I honestly not sure when is the last time I have taken what can be termed as a “real vacation.” I LEFT MY LAPTOP AT HOME, YOU GUYS. I mostly did not check my email for 3 days (mostly). It was…weird. And beautiful.

Mis compadres

But anyway – yes. My friends Denise, Michael, and Charlotte and I took a flight from San Antonio to Mexico City for 4 days and it was an incredible time. My goal was to see Frida…Frida Kahlo has always been an inspiration and a mystery to me. I read about her Casa de Azul where she grew up, her house right next to Diego Rivera’s where they lived separately but were joined by a rooftop bridge (a metaphor for a lot of things with their relationship), her garden in her courtyard, her bed where she painted her intense self portraits with a mirror hanging overhead…I had read it all, I had seen the movie, but I wanted to GO THERE.

Casa de Azul in Coyoacán

Thankfully my friends were up for adventure, so we immersed ourselves in Frida for a couple of days. We stayed in Coyoacán, a few blocks from Casa da Azul. It’s a beautiful part of the city, with colorful houses and walls, a big marketplace, public art, a gorgeous square next to Parroquia San Juan Bautista, one of the oldest churches in Mexico City.

Some Frida highlights:

Frida’s studio at Casa de Azul
Frida’s bed with her mirror overhead.
Frida’s KITCHEN. Holy.

After we visited Casa de Azul, we were informed that Frida and Diego’s studio was not that far from our plans for the day, so we walked over. It was the icing on the cake, and we got to see a lot of Diego’s world here. Frida lived here off and on, but ultimately moved back to Casa de Azul for the most part.

Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo, CDMX
A selfie in Frida’s bathroom mirror.
Diego’s studio.

My favorite kind of tourism is the immersion kind, so any kind of house or studio tour just makes me slack-jawed with wonder. Something about seeing the paints Frida was using to make her last works, or her book collection, or Diego’s collection of indigenous art…it’s inspiring. It makes me think about my space and what I choose to put in it, and what I need or don’t need.

More about Mexico City in another post, but for now:

I hope the exit is joyful and I hope never to return.” – Frida Kahlo

Well, a year of intermittent Wednesdays, but still a LOT of Wednesdays in 2019 were spent at Threadgill’s! I was honored to be asked to play a residency there in the Spring, and Midweek Modern Troubadours was born. I played (give or take) 4 months of weekly shows in May, June, September, and October. All of these kind, lovely, and TALENTED AS HECK musicians agreed to be my guests. Part of it still feels like a thing I just made up in my head of, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?” But these people all joined me on stage and every single show was a unique little adventure.

Thanks to everyone who came once or twice or, for some of you…to just about most of these shows! I’ve stolen some of your photos…thank you for documenting these things when I was busy trying to play in the right key up there. (A bunch of these are by Spring Willow Lee…thanks Spring!)

I’ve linked to everyone’s websites – please check out their music and support them!

May 1, 2019: Shawnee Kilgore: The dynamic duo starts it off with a bang.

Shawnee Kilgore Jana Pochop

May 8, 2019: Susan Gibson: We go way back and we laughed a LOT.

Susan Gibson Jana Pochop

May 15, 2019: Bonnie Whitmore: she brought her 8 string bass and rock ‘n roll was born.

May 22, 2019: Kelley Mickwee: we learned a lot about hermit crabs.

Kelley Mickwee Jana Pochop

May 29, 2019: Mandy Rowden with guest host Susan Gibson: (I had to go see Imogen Heap play an acoustic show in a tiny room…these two kindly made the Threadgill’s scene hoppin’ without me!)

June 5, 2019: Chris Carroll and Adam Carroll: on the heels of their 2 new releases this summer…two of my favorite people!

Adam Carroll Chris Carroll Jana Pochop

June 12, 2019: Barbara Nesbitt: she is queen of many things including harmonies and delightfully inappropriate jokes.

Barbara Nesbitt Jana Pochop

June 19, 2019: Emily Shirley: old home week with my Homeslipper sister!

Emily Shirley Jana Pochop

September 4, 2019: Jeff Plankenhorn: we wrote 3 songs this summer and sung ’em all that night!

Jeff Plankenhorn Jana Pochop

September 11, 2019: Terri Hendrix: harmonica jams, beautiful songs, and a couple of decades of inspiration for me. Whew.

Terri Hendrix Jana Pochop

September 18, 2019: Michael O’Connor: the zen master of guitar and one of my favorite writers to boot.

Michael O'Connor Jana Pochop

October 2, 2019: Hardened & Tempered: two Scorpios and a Libra walk into a gig…

Hardened & Tempered Jana Pochop

October 9, 2019: Shawnee Kilgore: so nice we did it twice!

Shawnee Kilgore Jana Pochop

October 16, 2019: Mark Addison: Mark solo songs and onetwothreescream in the flesh!

Mark Addison Jana Pochop onetwothreescream

October 23, 2019: Grace Pettis: NERD SONGS ALL NITE LONG.

Grace Pettis Jana Pochop

October 30, 2019: Betty Soo: lots of Harry Chapin talk over the Astros/Nationals game 7 updates AND stellar accordion too!

Betty Soo Jana Pochop

Happy November!

1 Nov
2019

No better way to kick off my favorite month (aka my birth month) than by hanging out with a bunch of amazing musicians and playing a Lady Gaga song dressed at Steve Zissou from Life Aquatic. I’m not usually a costume person but Plank made it mandatory. It was fun wearing that ridiculous hat all day. We played “Monster” by Gaga and the insanely great line up entertained all night. I did not eat any candy, which I now regret. Oh well.

The company I get to keep is pretty great. Now to wash the Gaga lyrics off my arm.

Catch A Tiger

22 Oct
2019

Jonatha Brooke, Erin Ivey, and meeeeeeee. (Photo by Blue Rock)

You never know what’ll happen with a song…as I wrote earlier, I spontaneously wrote a song with Erin Ivey while we were both attending Jonatha Brooke‘s workshop at Blue Rock this summer. When I say spontaneously, I mean it. We went from meeting, to hearing Mabel Stark’s story, to writing on the porch in less than 8 hours. Total joy. We recorded it on the 3rd morning of the workshop…pretty quick turnaround!

We decided to forward the recording we made at the workshop to Richard Sandomir, the author of Mabel’s obituary, the gorgeous piece of writing that set it all off. He sent a nice note back, and forwarded it to the head of the Overlooked series at the New York Times, who asked if they could share it.

Thankfully Erin is quick on her feet and decided that we couldn’t just have them linking to the Dropbox file we had, so she set up this landing page at www.thetigersong.com telling about Mabel, the story of writing the song, and the chance to download it if you want it! I made a lyric video so you can sing along if you like. Mabel would dig it if you did, I think.

Write that song, kids! And meet new people to write with…cool things happen. (And check out all the great stuff they do at Blue Rock Artist Ranch!)

MUNA + Maggie

21 Oct
2019

For someone who waited basically since the start of summer for summer to be over, I am sure behind on updating about any of it. The truth is it was 90 degrees on Sunday, October 20th, so summer really had a hard time leaving us. Maybe she didn’t know where to go. Part of me hopes she’s ok, part of me knows she’ll return sooner than she should. For now…yay hoodie weather.

Let’s just talk about a couple of shows I’ve seen lately…because seeing live music is a must in these weird times. It helps. As I have mentioned before, I especially love seeing pretty loud, pretty full-of-people, pretty colorful pop shows. This is weird because normally I don’t go for loud OR full of people. But…

MUNA played in Dallas a few weeks ago and it felt like destiny to FINALLY see my favorite band in person. They also played in Austin, but I had a Threadgill’s show on the same night, so off to Dallas on a Tuesday night it was. Going to a show by yourself is sort of weird if you are not used to it, mostly in the time between getting in the door and the show starting. But there were other solo MUNA fans there and by the time Chelsea Jade started, it didn’t matter because we all got absorbed into the world of glorious electro-pop and joy.

Chelsea Jade – awesome.

MUNA took the stage with a roar and never once stopped flooding the Deep Ellum Art Company room with energy and love. I’ve been a fan since MUNA’s brilliant About U debut, but the new album, MUNA Saves the World, has quickly become a staple. I highly recommend both. (Find all the streaming / video links here).

I am still on the MUNA high…which lead nicely into seeing Maggie Rogers this weekend at ACL Live in Austin. I went with my ride or die concert buddy, Melinda Ann, who is always a willing participant in an adventure though usually it’s a Taylor Swift show. Since T-Swift isn’t touring right now, we were looking for a good heartfelt pop fix. Maggie delivered in spades.

I know I beat the idea to a pulp on here sometimes, but a reminder…no matter what it is, find the thing that brings you crazy amounts of joy and go to it. It’s not even self care at this point, it’s self preservation. Now go have fun.

Good Midsummer to you all. It’s still, what it seems like, the interminable middle of summer here. I even left for 2 weeks and it was pretty summery in New Mexico and Colorado, but at least it would get to the 60s at night. Here in Texas it’s always around 80 and upwards into the 100s. And now I am one of those blogs that talks about the weather.

What kills the summer doldrums? Writing songs! I’ve had the good fortune of collaborating with some great folks lately, and my friend Jeff Plankenhorn (see the A!O!C!) post below has taken another co-write and made it into a real thing! Like a really real song you can stream and download and buy:

Plank and Scrappy Jud Newcomb and I wrote this in Austin early this summer…Plank’s idea was the re-examine the meaning of the term “the bottom line.” We’re use it to think about profits and markets and making money, but there’s a real bottom line as humans and a lot of us in our society live on it, or are in danger of hitting it. We just wanted write ourselves a reminder to look around and help out when we can.

You can stream it on Spotify and Apple Music and all that goodness. Check out Plank’s website here and join his Patreon for extra good juju!

Being a Fan

22 Jul
2019

Happy mid-summer (not to be confused with that weird movie that’s out about people going to a festival and getting murdered or something I don’t know…that’s called Midsommar).

I feel like I have gotten to be a fan of things a lot this month, which is one of my favorite pastimes, so I’m here to share.

I saw my very favorite, Mary Chapin Carpenter, at Red Rocks in Denver, CO last weekend. It had been a whole…9 months?..since I had seen an MCC show and I was FEELING THE DROUGHT. Also, I had never seen her with a symphony before, so that was also a must-do. Her beautiful record, Songs from the Movie, puts a spin on her songs that turn them into something altogether stunning different while remaining familiar. I love it. Red Rocks was a beautiful venue that allowed me to get in all of my Fitbit steps for the day just by getting to my seat, and the rain stopped right when the symphony started tuning up.

My musical tourist cohort Heidi came too, as did my favorite Coloradoan niece, Heather (she is my only niece who lives in Colorado, this is not an inflammatory statement). I am big fans of them, too! Yes, we picnicked from the trunk of my Mustang. I’d call it classy but…maybe more just…functional.

Earlier in the month I had the honor of playing a set at the Black Rose Acoustic Society in Colorado Springs…a beautiful example of a concert series that honors the songwriter.

I also spent over a week in New Mexico, and got to indulge in some of my favorite things there, like hanging out with my mom, my New Mexican buddies, and lots of adobe. Georgia O’Keeffe, too. The O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe is a must see if you are within….1000 miles.

Thankfully my mom is very plugged in to the various streaming platforms, because T-Swift did a concert that was only available on Amazon Prime streaming, which I don’t have at home. I reverently waited through 2 hours of opening acts and Prime commercials to see Taylor live from NYC, and it was cool in a nostalgic way because it reminded me of the time we saw her live in a smallish venue in Houston before the Super Bowl. Thanks, giant corporate sponsors. PSA: Taylor’s Lover comes out on August 23rd!

Fall looks busy already…and I’m suddenly working on two new albums. Things come at ya fast (unless you’re waiting for the new TS album…ok I’ll stop).

Cheers to summer, cheers to being a fan.

June offered a couple of unique opportunities to dive into some deep learning with some amazing folks.

First up, Imogen Heap came to town. It’s been 10 years or so since I’ve seen her perform – she played in Austin a couple of times at La Zona Rosa (RIP to that venue), and then spent a lot of time doing cool stuff like inventing the Mi.Mu Gloves and producing for Taylor Swift and writing music for Harry Potter. You know, normal stuff.

I’m on the fan email list, and last year they sent us all a note and said:

  • Imogen is touring the US in 2019
  • We don’t know where or when
  • Wanna buy a ticket?

Of course I was in. They planned the tour based on a lot of things, I am sure, but took into account all our location requests. I would have traveled for it but luckily Austin was on the list. There was also a workshop about Imogen’s Creative Passport Project, and that was really cool to attend. More about that soon…they’re doing good things with it.

The performance was, of course, insanely good. Aside from writing with Taylor, Ariana Grande is also a big Imogen fan and covered one of her songs on her latest album. It’s cool to see the pop stars of today respecting a real pioneer in self-produced electronic music.

Then it was off to a workshop with Jonantha Brooke at Blue Rock Studios in Wimberley. What a gorgeous place for a workshop. Jonatha is like a pop folk icon for the ages, so it was a no brainer for me to wrangle a way to attend. I think every so often it’s good to be a student, and the opportunity to study songwriting with someone of her stature was incredible.

Erin Ivey (a true badass) was also there and we were so inspired by Jonatha reading this obituary of Mabel Stark, tiger trainer, that we wrote a song for Mabel right there and then on the porch in the evenings after the workshop. Jonatha and Billy, fearless leaders they are, asked us to record it on Sunday morning. That was the fastest inception-to-recording of a song I have ever experienced, and I am proud of the result! It’ll show up somewhere for public consumption soon, I am sure.

I’d say it was hard to go back to real life after these experiences, but they are actually…really real life. Seek out cool stuff and it’ll seek you, too.

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