Strange Things are Happening…

June 9th, 2014

When I play my music in public, strange and funny things happen to me that either put me “on tilt” or to throw me for a loop. Since there are so many I’ll divide this blog between outdoor and indoor happenings, so let this be Part 1.

Funny things can occur when playing music outside in a park or farmers market. Nice people walk over to me to start a conversation, which would be great if I wasn’t in the middle of a song! So I usually just smile and nod - and keep the song going - hoping they will realize - “oh ya, she can’t talk yet”. Last week when playing at Julia Davis Park by the Rose Garden, the nicest gentleman came up to give me a large bag of popcorn while trying to tell me something, but I was singing. I did the smile and nod thing so he kindly set the popcorn down in my CD tote. So generous and sweet of him to give so openly and freely! Later I absent-mindedly ate a little of it between songs remembering too late that dry stuff gets stuck in a dry throat. Thankfully I had some water bottles on hand! When the Stuart Family came by on their bikes, I shared the popcorn with the 3 teenagers! Yay, a chance to pay it forward - a gift that keeps on giving!

When I first started playing out I’d get cotton mouth and my lips would invariably stick to my teeth before the song was over. After time I became more comfortable and now so it’s not so bad. However, I’ve learned to hydrate more than usual the day of the gig and try to avoid too much coffee. Also vitamin B12 helps AND I am now never without my trusty chapstick!

The same park day of Nice Popcorn Man, while singing my song Dark Night of the Soul, I kept hearing little bursts of whistling behind me - little staccato notes. At the songs end, I turned around to a beautiful little sprite that looked like what Joni Mitchell must have looked like when she was a girl. I told her “Wow, you are a really good whistler; I wondered who was doing that! If you had been off key I would have had to ask you to stop but you were actually pretty spot on!” She smiled sprite-ly and whistled again for me but her parents may have talked with her because after that she only danced through my songs - even the slow ones :) I should have taken her picture!

Speaking of children, I’ve had some burst into my space to help me play the keyboard which doesn’t work out too well. Scanning the crowd for the parent, I explain to the child that it’s MY turn to play right now. For the most part, parents are great about retrieving the child once they see what’s happening!

Kids are great though. Depending on their personality, they will either stare at me with big round eyes without blinking, or will clap and sachet through a song. It’s really cute to watch, but can be a challenge to stay on beat when the clapping is off. This is when I could use a percussionist by my side, lol.

Another incident at the gig by the Julia Davis Rose Garden was when tiny white worms were falling from the canopy of trees above me into my space, which was just a little creepy. The duo who played before me warned me about this upon my arrival. I asked if the worms bite and they said “no biting, but they are annoying.” Thankfully I had worn a hat that day, but I did worry about the creatures damaging my keyboard which led me to think seriously once again about learning to play guitar. Guitars aren’t as heavy as pianos either. Anyway, as I set up, I watched the little critters plop onto my keyboard and amps. They were so small that no one but me noticed, but a distraction nevertheless; when one would land between the piano keys, I felt compelled to try to fish it out without making mistakes in the song. Finally I just ignored it and hoped for the best. When loading my gear back into the car, I noticed the ones on my amp had died and dried up so I was thankful our home wouldn’t be inundated with unwanted house guests. Since then I haven’t noticed any piano keys sticking or anything so no lasting effect I guess.

Flies, during the season of the little black fly, can be an annoying distraction while trying to keep a song going. I was playing for 3 hours at a farmers market last year and the flies were landing on my arms and legs - yes I did shower that morning - even landing on my mic windscreen (the cover for the mic that helps with noise etc). I was a little worried I’d inhale one accidentally, but fortunately I didn’t. Bees - yellow jackets - also can be a nuisance. I’m glad I finally outgrew the crazed fear I had of them when I was a child. Still, if I ever randomly scream into the microphone just know I’m not venturing into hardcore punk, but something terrible has happened.

That’s all that’s coming to mind today, but stay tuned for Strange Things Happening Part 2 - more wacky details of my music life - indoor happenings. Next time you enjoy a musical offering whether it be inside or outside, just think, more can be going on than what you see and hear!

By the way, if anyone else has a peculiar incident to share whilst playing live music, please feel free to comment. I’d love to hear from you so I can be encouraged that I am not the only one who goes through this stuff!

Wildwood Flower

May 12th, 2014

Amazement! Found treasure amidst the rubble when I stumbled upon “Wildwood Flower” a year or so ago on YouTube when searching for flower songs. I’ve been meaning to blog about it ever since. The first version I listened to was EmmyLou Harris (melody) with Iris Dement (harmony) and Randy Scruggs (flatpicking guitar). Go ahead and click the first video below and listen while you read. I was smitten by the old fashioned lyric and lovely harmonies eminating from these two songbirds, so thought to dig deeper and find out more about the song. And of course, had to learn it for myself.

This video is the Original Carter Family singing and playing their version of Wildwood Flower. The Carter Family really brought it forward when they first recorded the song in 1928 on the Victor label. It was A.P. the husband who wrote, or rewrote the lyric:

WILDWOOD FLOWER
As recorded by The Carter Family
Written by A. P. Carter

Oh, I’ll twine with my mingles and waving black hair
With the roses so red and the lilies so fair
And the myrtle so bright with the emerald hue
The pale amanita and eyes look like blue.

Oh I’ll dance, I will sing and my (*laugh) shall be gay
I will charm every heart, in his crown I will sway
When I woke from my dreaming, my idol was clay
All portion of love had all flown away.

Oh he taught me to love him and promised to love
And to cherish me over all others above
How my heart is now wond’ring no mis’ry can tell
He’s left me no warning, no words of farewell.

Oh, he taught me to love him and called me his (*flow’r)
That was blooming to cheer him through life’s dreary hour
Oh, I long to see him and regret the dark hour
He’s gone and neglected this pale wildwood flow’r.

A Wikipedia page on Wildwood Flower says it’s “a variant of the song I’ll Twine ‘Mid the Ringlets, published in 1860 by composer Joseph Philbrick Webster, who wrote the music, with lyrics attributed to Maud Irving”. The link will take you to the original words which reflect the language of the day. Here’s the first verse just to give a taste of the difference between that lyric and A.P. Carter’s version. Fun!

I’ll twine ‘mid the ringlets
Of my raven black hair,
The lilies so pale
And the roses so fair,
The myrtle so bright
With an emerald hue,
And the pale aronatus
With eyes of bright blue

I decided to draw from both lyric versions for the rendition I play mainly because I don’t feel the word mingles is one many people will get these days. Also it’s closest to what Iris and Emmy sing and that is the version of the song I fell in love with: the first line of the song being “I will twine and will mingle my waving black hair”.

As far as meaning goes, wildwood flower isn’t a name of one flower so it’s meaning would be too broad to make a difference. Wiki says “Gardening author Ed Hume is unaware of a plant known as aronatus” and I notice amanita turns up as a mushroom on a google search. So there you go.

By the way, here is Reece Witherspoon singing Wildwood Flower when she played June Carter in the movie Walk the Line.

Reece Witherspoon as June Carter

Wallflower Friend

April 12th, 2013

Aegean-Wallflower-flower-close-up - photograph by David Kennard

In The Phaedrus by Plato in a dialogue between Socrates and Phaedrus we find the famous quote Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.” Plato’s meaning probably relates more to deception than anything, but I think it also applies in the idea that we need to take a closer look at everything worthwhile and not rely on first appearances - if we take the time to look deeper, the rewards are great.

I experienced such a reward in researching the Wallflower flower when I kept running into Wallflower people meanings which inspired me to include the people aspect to my blog post. Some of us are interested in flowers and their meanings, but most of us are most curious about people and how we relate to each other because it’s about US! And, of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m happy to say, I found Wallflowers, both flowers and people, to be mysterious and beautiful especially as you take a look up close.

(Speaking of looking close, I want to thank David Kennard for giving me permission to use his Agean Wallflower Close Up photograph for this post. Click here to go to his website for more beautiful photographs!)

Here’s what Wikipedia says about Wallflower People: “In social situations, a wallflower is a shy or unpopular individual who doesn’t socialize or participate in activities at social events. He or she may have other talents but usually does not express them in the presence of other individuals. The term comes from the image of a person isolating themselves from areas of social activities at ballroom dances and parties, where the people who did not wish to dance (or had no partner) remained close to the walls of the dance hall.”

The Urban Dictionary gives us a variety of definitions of wallflower people that I found interesting. I like this one posted by a guy named Rod because he actually defines the flower too and the history of the word wallflower:

“Perennial plant native to southern Europe, bearing fragrant yellow and orange flowers. The name is derived from the fact that the plant, when naturalized to a region, is often found growing out of the nooks and crannies in an old wall, or a cliff. The natural tendency for this plant to separate itself from the other denizens of a formal garden, and grow in isolated locations, doubtless led to the use of the term “wallflower” to describe an anti-social, or shy individual, who lingers in the background, against the wall, as it were, at social occasions.”

Turning to the actual Wallflower flower, I found its meaning is given in 2 places:

Victoria’s Dictionary of Flowers on page 318 in Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s book The Language of Flowers, and on a website called www.languageofflowers.com. Here, Wall-flower is listed as “Fidelity in adversity” - which seems in harmony with the character of the wallflower people definitions. So, if you have a wallflower friend, rejoice! He or she is the type who will stay with you in the difficult times in life! How can we not appreciate the beauty of that?

Speaking of Wallflower friends, here is a sweet song about a Wallflower person by Blue Note artist, Priscilla Ahn, describing what it feels like to be a wallflower reaching out to another wallflower. This song is what first peaked my interest in including the Wallflower in the FLOWER SONGS category of my blog. Another reason I found myself intrigued is I can identify with the feelings of shyness Wallflower people experience since I was shy as a child. Even though I grew out of that shyness, the shy inner child still resides and I often have to work through feelings of hesitancy in being noticed, whether it be in performing music or being singled out in a group. Hmmmm, once a Wallflower always a wallflower at heart - but I guess that isn’t such a bad thing according to my findings on the internet!

Chestnuts!

November 10th, 2012

Not too big for squiirrels
Stan brought home a handful of chestnuts after a cruiser bike ride one evening and told me the location of the tree so I could get some more. Since I already had a vintage mason jar full of acorns I thought it would be fun to have a jar full of chestnuts to go with it since I had a larger jar waiting. Stan’s stepdad, Gordon, had given me the jars a few years ago and I love them even when they are empty!Small Mason Jar from Gordon (Giving credit to whom it’s due, I got the idea and the acorns from Pottery Barn - called acorn vase fillers - but didn’t really want to buy more vase fillers, thus my thought to go on a nature walk instead.

I must say, even though it can be therapeutic to shop, free therapy is always better. I had no idea the discovery that was waiting for me that morning. Here’s what I found!Chestnut Tree!It took me awhile to figure out which trees were the chestnuts but Stan said I’d know by the lumpy nuts under the fallen leaves. I didn’t realize the trees were the ones with such magnificent size and glorious fall color. Standing underneath the tree I felt like I was under a giant umbrella giving me a temporary sense of security which was nice. Tree Umbrella
I wondered how long this particular tree had been standing and what year it was planted.Chestnut Leaves
I could’ve stayed all morning but thought I’d better start collecting but not before I took a photo of these twin leaves laying on the ground. Later I learned this shape leaf makes the tree a horsechestnut, a species which originated in Europe. Fan leaves!
Back to my task at hand, as I began to gather, I didn’t notice any squirrels bustling about and wondered if the nuts are too big for them. But not to worry, later in the week I saw a squirrel carrying an apple so I guess a chestnut would be no problem! Anyhoo, I decided to take only what I thought I’d need for the big mason jar and believe me, there was plenty leftover for an entire congregation of squirrels! Most of the nuts were out of their burrs (prickly casing) but a few remained.

Chestnuts!
I took my basket of nuts home feeling a little like a big squirrel myself. The rich deep color of the nuts gave me a visual to the phrase “chestnut colored hair”. Basket of nuts It’s like coffee…Chestnut Coffee and chocolate like PhoebeChocolate Labrador sniffing my new haulPhoebe’s eyes are like Chestnuts too! Little Brown Girl

Here’s my complete collection in Gordon’s fabulous vintage jars. The only thing is, if I keep them as decorations we won’t be able to eat them later. When I looked up how to store chestnuts it is suggested to keep them in the frig. We may want to try to roast them in December - yes over an open fire - hmmm - better look up how to do that.Mason Jars from Gordon

UPDATE: oK, it’s a few months later and I discovered that chestnuts get moldy if you leave them in a jar with no fresh air coming in so best container would be a bowl. I threw them away and put the mason jar in the dishwasher!

Chrysanthemum

October 28th, 2012

I came across this song by Amber Rubarth after hearing her for the first time when she opened for Emmylou Harris in Boise this summer. I fell in love with the honesty in her writing and flair for a pretty melody. Huffington Post hails her as “part of the new old-soul generation”.

Having just read the Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, I looked up the meaning of Chrysanthemum at the back of the book which Vanessa lists as “truth”. Other meanings found online are optimism, joy, cheerfulness, long life, the light of hope in dark times. Chrysanthemums are the November birth flower, the 13th wedding anniversary flower and the official flower of the city of Chicago. In Japan, there’s even a “Festival of Happiness” to celebrate this flower each year.

For this song, though, I like the meaning Truth. Dictionary.com lists truth as “the true or actual state of a matter”. This can easily be found in Amber’s lyric. She sings about planting a flower in a little soil in a pot and her mood lifts to “yellow”. In verse 2 she tells about a boy who struggles with depressesion and what his parents do to help him. Each scenario leads to the chorus:

“And it goes to show that there’s a natural way,
Of healing what we’re feeling inside.
It goes to show that before we prescribe,
We should first try a simple smile.”

What a sweet reminder to embrace the simple ways and allow them to heal us. They can lift us out of the grey even if they don’t make us soar like the wild ride of an addiction can. The question is can we be content with a balloon ride if we are craving the speed of a jet? Either way we face the grave truth about gravity - what goes up must come down. I guess it depends which way you’d rather return to reality. Nothing wrong with excitement - we all need a sudden jolt from time to time - but a life in balance can benefit from all degrees of elevation, not only the instant gratification kind. Healings, even small ones, are gifts to be appreciated that bring us into balance and focus.

Take a minute to listen to Chrysanthemum - I’ve uploaded the record version above and the live version below. Couldn’t decide which one to include so added both since I love the strings accompaniment on the album version but love the inflections of Amber’s voice and the bells Alex plays in the live video.

Have you ever experienced a simple pleasure that turned your day to yellow? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below the live video - I’d love to hear!

North End of Town - Song Story

June 15th, 2012

I asked my friend Alisa to record my song, North End of Town, while I was playing at the annual Art + Roses festival on June 3rd. It has quite the song journey since I first began to write it when I lived in the Boise North End during my college years. I never quite finished the song although I’d pick it up every so often and work on it, but since I was no longer living in town it wasn’t quite happening. Guess I just needed a little inspiration which unexpectedly came to me in the summer of 2005 when Stan and I had taken our cruiser bikes downtown to have dinner and tool around the neighborhood. We were thinking of moving back into Boise from Meridian and were spending more and more time in and near the Boise Foothills which played a part in providing the muse I needed to bring this song to the front of my music set.

That particular evening we hitched our bikes to a tree and shared a pizza at Lucky 13 which used to be on the corner of 13th and Eastman. Marcus Eaton was playing music in the street and everywhere we looked there were people milling around in the sunshine - some with kids and dogs, some with their favorite brew, everyone content. It was such a happy mess of humanity and time stood still for a spell. Over dinner we talked again about how we really needed to try to find a little place in the North End and the steps it would take to make that happen. We both loved the ambience of one of Boise’s oldest quarters and the fact we’d be so close to the Foothills and the Greenbelt that links all the parks with access to the River which happens to flow through town. And to think that any event we wanted to attend would just be a bike ride away! As it was, everytime we wanted to go for a scenic ride we had to pack up our bikes, sit through Meridian traffic, and then drive 20 minutes to Boise. But it wasn’t just about the bike riding, Boise was calling to us because we were in a transitional season of our lives and we sensed a change would really do us good.

After dinner we rode around town till dark and my old unfinished North End song wouldn’t leave my mind. Later while I was humming the perky little tune, I dug it out again to see if I could breathe new life into it. Much to my surprise, the words flowed freely, thanks to our recent excursion, and each new verse easily complimented the next. I was already happy with the original melody and format, so I guess all it needed was a magical experience and a new spark toward a dream.

Speaking of dream, I never would have guessed that finishing the North End of Town would then became a muse for our move to town. Every time I sang it, I felt it was like a prayer. 2 years later we were settled in a little cottage up on the Bench by the Boise Train Depot. I admit, the Bench isn’t exactly the North End, but it’s still just about a bike ride south of town - which is another song story for another day. For now let’s just say real estate on the Bench is more affordable and made our move possible. Sometimes your dreams don’t work out exactly as first pictured but you end up living the dream, nevertheless, and often with an even brighter outcome.

A few more songwriting details before I forget: The early lyrics were penned through the eyes of a 20 year-old and the latter through my eyes in 2005. It’s amazing how the 2 perspectives coincide. Perhaps it’s a nod to ‘authentic me’ which has always been partial to the back streets of a cozy neighborhood. It’s like the young me and ’seasoned’ me agree. Perhaps I caught a glimpse of college-girl me on 13th Street that day. Now that it’s 2012 I think she’d tell me I made the right decision to freeze the song in 2005. I mention Lucky 13 instead of the Sunray Cafe which stands in its place and every once in awhile I wonder if I should write in the update. But if I did, I wouldn’t be able to use the line “…Lucky 13, such the happening scene - and if you can find a seat, indeed you are lucky!” which makes me smile every time I sing it. After all, it was the venue that hosted the summer evening that inspired us to take steps toward one of our dreams instead of just talking about it.

By the way, Lucky 13 is thriving since it moved out to Harris Ranch. It’s a perfect destination for a longer bike ride to dinner.

Ok, enough song story for now. Hope you still have time to listen!

One Song at a Time

March 15th, 2012

singing bird

The journey to understanding what I want to accomplish with my music has been an evolving revelation.  My goal to  ”brighten the world one song at a time” releases me to be who I am, an individual who processes life through creative expression and finds joy in sharing what I see, but in bite-sized pieces.  Sometimes what emerges is a collection of pieces as in record production or live performances, but it all starts with one song.

When I decided to establish a web presence in 2003, I just wanted a place to post my music where it could be heard by whoever happened by.  Peter, the IT guy where I worked created my first website for me, the theme of a happy flower where each petal presented a different page.  It was fresh and sweet, representing my essence well.  However, Peter was the only one with access so when I wanted to input or change content I had to wait till he had a moment.

A change came when I produced my Vessel CD in 2004.  A musician friend, Georgette Dashiel, let me know I could sell my CDs on CD Baby (an online music store specializing in independent music) which led me to also sign up with HostBaby (webhosting for independent musicians, authors and artists) where I have happily thrived since.  Hostbaby outfits you with tools that are fun, easily learned, and affordable for anyone on a budget! 

My next steps were MySpace, FaceBook and Twitter, Instagram/Webstagram - in that order - where I began networking with other musicians, artists and people of all types.  The web is certainly a learn-as-you-go experience and you can’t help but wonder how we ever navigated without it.  It’s definitely connecting us to one another globally.  (Another blog entry for later lest I digress …)

All this to say, my web presence, with all its honing qualities, is helping me discover who I really am and what I’d like my purpose to be.  I’ve heeded some advice posted by social network bloggers along the way, and though I’ve used what works for me, I’ve noticed some of it doesn’t apply to my goals.  To determine my goals, I’ve learned to live with an honest assessment of my strengths and weaknesses which has come through trial and error, not just on the web, but in the real dimensional world as well. 

This journey to my true purpose has revealed to me there’s a fine line between believing all things are possible and discerning who I am and what I am meant to do.  And for now, I believe it’s to brighten the world, one song at a time. 

And with that, feel free to chime in what you have learned in your journey along the way.  I’d love to hear from you!

Little Birds and Old Friends

March 1st, 2012

New songs seem to light themselves like little birds in my musical space - I’m fortunate to usually have some kind of flow going.  But with all the new visitation, I’ve found it important to keep my older songs alive, too, so they don’t disappear into the lonely void.  Lately I’ve been revisiting some of those forgotten pieces that gathered dust over the years, crowded out by the spiffy younger ones.  It’s been  satisfying to tweak them and bring them to the front again; to make them a bit more current by adding a riff of piano to the arrangment or removing some cluttery notes that could now make it annoying (sometimes less is more); or rephrasing the lyric so it’s less of an eye-roller.  I must say, I find myself shaking my head in wonder at some of what I’ve written in years past. 

It’s a bit like cleaning house and remembering a picture that once graced the wall.  You dig it out of  storage, shine it up a bit and rehang it just to see if it still reflects who you are and what you’d like to say.  Then you find a new home for the artwork you just replaced, whether it be on another wall or leaning in repose behind the closet door waiting for another turn in the spotlight.

ambientkeys.jpg

NKM New Website Design!

December 29th, 2011

 NKM_New_Web_Design.png

I am in the process of redesigning my website which is great fun.  Stay tuned and hopefully I will post it at the beginning of the new year.  The reason I do this is to keep things fresh and new - plus, because I’m a creative, I can’t help myself - I’m always in Creative Mode.  Since my website is through Hostbaby I have access to the templates they provide.  The newest development available is that within the templates I have more liberty to customize the template I choose to my liking.  It gives me more options without having to get a degree in graphics design or pay hundreds of dollars to a web designer.  Website on a budget, so there you go!  In essense I can put as much time or as little time as I want into the design with the functionality remaining pretty simple.

Just thought I’d share that.  Click HERE if you are interested in a musician or author website of your own!  Thank you HostBaby! 

NancyKelly-Marketplace

October 1st, 2011

I had a blast playing at the Farmer’s Markets this year! The more I play at Farmers Markets the more I hope to in years to come. Just like coffee houses, this type of venue seems to be my niche where my songs fit in and lend a little atmosphere without overpowering. People attend coffeeshops and markets to talk amongst themselves and browse - conversation is flowing - so it’s not just about the music yet the music adds a layer of color and warmth. And if people are hanging out solo the music can then add a bit of companionship without requiring interaction. Win - win for everyone! So, you will be seeing more farmers market gigs on my calendar. Be sure to drop by a market near you to check out all the lovely local flavor!

Market Music Sign


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