UP BY NOON, I decide to go to the library and begin researching how to market my songs. I now have enough songs I really like -- about 20 of them -- to make an effort to do this. When I come back, I work on a new song idea; the several days I've had off lately have been good for songwriting. This one is a protest song of sorts about my apartment. Our complex is a low-rent district witha lot of students and elderly living here, and is in the process of being turned into condominiums and townhouses.
Receive a phone call from a musician who is interested in backing me up. I have to tell him it is financially unfeasible to think of adding another person; to make a living at folk music is to be either a solo act or an already established name.
Spent a whole day recently having publicity photos taken by a photographer friend. I look over four sheets of 36 and try to select the best; he is good, and the decision isn't easy.
Dinner, vocal warmups and time to head off for Gallagher's Pub with microphones, two guitars (6-and 12-string), dulcimer and stool. I sing four sets, from 8 to 12:30. Home again, I work on the song I started this morning, catch the end of a late movie on TV and hit the sack of 4. Thursday
Slept in later than I wanted to, since I have a 1:30 voice leasson with Naomi Frenkel. Half asleep, I grab a cup of coffee and an orange (not too smart, since both have the effect of closing the throat).
Next, a rehearsal with my mother for a readings-with-music presentation of a collection of writings by my grandmother, who lived on a Nebraska farm during the dust bowl/Depression years -- a remarkable and resilient woman. My mother has edited her story and arranged a dramatic reading; I set some of the writings to music and read with her.
Home again, a voice warmup and off tothe Warehouse. In general, the evening goes well, with a good audience,but the fourth set on this cold Thursday night is slow and I find in my audience a not-so-sober fan at the side table and a "let's-get-smoochy" couple at the table directly in front of me. Trying to look as though I don't notice either of these, I sometimes wonder who's the performer. Friday
Reading the paper, I find and clip out the Eskimo Nell's ad in Weekend for my publicity portfolio. Make a few entries in my expense register: I must keep track of even the smallest amounts for tax records.
Spend a few hours at the health spa; I had to forego buying a banjo to join, but fitness is extremely importantfor my energy level, and I don't have the discipline on my own.
At home, I pick up the apartment andclean a few dishes. While having my customary of herb tea, honey and lemon, I put on evening makeup, practice song lyrics and do some vocal warmups. Click on my telephone answering machine (I hate them, too, but there's no other way), tape a message telling where I'll be performing for the evening and I'm off to the Warehouse.
Several musicians come by to see me, and I have the chance to find out what they are doing, too. The musicians in this area are very supportive of one another; the fact that we are also competitors makes for delicate situations at times, but everyone seems intent on putting this aside.
Tonight I'm unusually wound up when I finish and stay after the last set for a beer with the other people working. We all watch part of a Marx Brothers movie.
When I get home, I manage to carry two guitars, my dulcimer and a bag full of equipment up the apartment stairs in one load -- don't ask me how. Sometimes you discover a reserve of energy just waiting to surge when you are ready to zonk out. Tonight is one of these times; I go to bed at 4:30 a.m. Saturday
While making coffee, I listen to a tape someone gave me last night with songs on it they think I might like to learn. I feel as if I am always memorizing something; I must know the words to 150 songs by now, but there's always someone in the audience who is surprised to find I don't know the one they want. I'm flattered by requests, but people have no idea how much time it takes to learn songs.
As a folk singer, I'm swimming against the tide in a day when country, jazz, rhythm and blues are big. Although I've dabbled in all these, the music I really like is folk. I consider myself on a "folk crusade" because I enjoy it, regardless of whether it ishighly marketable at the moment or not. I'm more a progressive than a traditional folk singer; I like what the Roche sisters do, and write a bit in that vein myself.
Read the paper and make plans for theday; calls regarding bookings for next month, to musicians and business contacts, updating my expense records, designing my monthly ad for the UnicornTimes, the local music and arts magazine. The turnover of management-owners who book singers is frequent; I like to keep booking options open andauditions set up.
At 2:30, I go to the spa. It is beginning to snow, which means there could be trouble getting over the winding hilly roads to Hunter's Inn in Great Falls. That, of course, would mean no pay for the evening.
The snow does continue, but I go anyhow, lugging my two 60-pound speakers, mike stand and amplifier, in addition tothe guitars, dulcimer, stool and other things. My trusty little Colt stationwagon is just the right size for all this, and gets me through the snow admirably.
It turns out to be a nice evening, and on the way home, the newly fallen snow glistens like mica -- and not a footprint in it. It will have melted by morning; oh, what the sleepingpeople miss. Sunday
What a day! We perform my grandmother's material at Annandale Methodist Church before a wonderfully warm and responsive audience. Everytime I read her writings, I love them even more. We chat with people, enjoy their supportive comments, encourage them to suggest our program for other organizations.
Back at my apartment by late afternoon; I warm up again, plan what I am going to sing at Eskimo Nell's.
The evening there with folksingers Bob Ortiz and Robert Cummings is magical. There is an excellent sound system and lights, and a jam session at the end of the evening turns into oneof those times when there is that spark between audience and performers that makes it all worthwhile. If I ever have doubts about quitting my job at theArts Endowment to go into singing full time, nights like this reassure me.
At home, I listen to my demo tape recorded at Nell's, hear a mocking bird singing and get an idea for a new bird song. I now have a sort of "bird trilogy," which started with my "Urban Bird Song" about pigeons. That idea I got at a bus stop, thinking how silly all the people rushing to and fro must look to the pigeons up there watching them. Monday
I work some more on the song I wrotelast night. Between 3 and 5 a.m., you're in a different state of consciousness; in the morning, when you listen to the tape, it's almost like somebody else wrote it. It's weird sometimes, and I don't know where the words come from.
Have a voice lesson at 1:30, but am hoarse and tired, so I have trouble commanding my voice. Naomi suggests that I not talk much or loudly so as to get over my hoarseness. The smoky atmosphere and long evenings are murder on the voice.
Have this evening off, and decide to just relax, read and watch TV. Sometimes it's nice to have a quiet evening at home. Tuesday
Up at 11:30, take care of bill-paying, record-keeping, getting the car washed, singing schedules photocopied, other odds and ends.
Run through the song I wrote earlierin the week, and decide to bag it. I often tuck rejects away to work on later, I tell myself -- knowing I never will. Just hate to admit I'm throwing all that time away.
This time, though, I have another idea on that apartment song. The tune wasn't right and the one was too negative. I'll take words from the journal I keep, describing the things I like about my apartment, and keep the beginning light. People like to behappy; I want to make a point, but in an upbeat way.
No booking tonight, so I practice voice lessons; I must use my voice at least an hour a day -- almost no excuse. Work on a few dulcimer numbers I would like to try at Gallagher's tomorrow night. How I love that dulcimer, and people seem to be fascinated when I get it out; it's as if they're just waiting for a reintroduction to folk music.
I keep adding songs to my repertoire; that variety, plus singing at different clubs, keeps me from going stale. You have to learn to accept the fact that at some places people are not there because of the music, and want it only in the background. In those places, I am content as long as somebody is always listening. I do hope, though, someday to play only at places where people come primarily to hear the music.
I really enjoy talking with the people where I sing, and getting comments and questions. One I always get a kick out of: "What a fun job! But what do you do all day?"