Quote of the week:
“Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.” ~Henry van Dyke
WOW ! Yet another full week with our fifth exciting week with Ariel Hyatt’s Music Success in 9 weeks and the SAC gang ( Songwriters Association of Canada) as we took a look at specific ways to build our YouTube channel. Here is mine: http://www.youtube.com/ChristieGraceMusic . I began sharing home videos of a few performances a few years ago, and look forward to trying out more artistic video productions in the near future. Thanks to YouTube, anyone, anywhere can now launch home spun to high-tech quality videos with the potential of them going viral. This is a rare phenomenon of course, but hey people do win the lottery. It’s amazing really, because before the advent of YouTube it used to be that only the label supported artists had access to professionally produced videos, but now thanks to iMovie and ingenuity, it is possible for anyone, including we independent musicians, to create a signature video. For instance, check out this great video filmed from my hometown Thunder Bay: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAwmUBlqZmc&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL
The skies the limit now! I’m also really turned on by my online Berklee Music marketing class that I am enrolled in with our wonderful teacher Jeff Straw of INgrooves. In last weeks lesson, for instance, Mike Dreese co-founder of the massively successful Newbury Comics introduced the concept of “time poverty”. Mike elaborated on the idea that because we are all collectively “time compressed”, the ways that we communicate technologically need to be quick and to the point. Which supports the widespread burgeoning of YouTube ( Twitter, etc) becoming so popular as it is now the most rapid global means of communication available, not to mention downloading and streaming.
Another really inspiring experience was the opportunity to conference call with Dave Cool of Bandzoogle. Our talented group from all across Canada, discussed highlights and challenges to date. Then relative to topics for writing a blog, Dave encouraged us to speak from our passions . He acknowledged how our journey may be overwhelming at times (uh huh) and emphasized anticipating the inevitable ups and downs that come with the territory. He also pointed out how blogs are not necessarily meant to win the Pulitzer prize with some weeks being better than others, as we each find our own unique voice. I sure found his comments helpful.
Then to blow the cap off the week, I participated in a powerful vocal workshop coördinated by Vancouver jazz singer and former teacher, Kate Hammett- Vaughan. Along with 10 other jazz singers we were privileged to be mentored by the illustrious 84-year-old jazz master vocalist, Sheila Jordan from New York: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9ZpI4foexk&fb_source=message. It was such an honor to spend time with Sheila and her bass player Cameron Brown which culminated in their marvelous performance last night at The Jazz Cellar. What an experience!
During our workshop I was inspired by Lara Crema’s beautiful jazz lullaby for her daughter Serafina and so in honor of our YouTube theme this week, I decided to share a video of my folk song I wrote for my daughter “Ashley’s Lullaby” twelve years ago while driving up to a guitar workshop in Wells, BC. My music has swung more into the jazz arena, but this folk gem has a very special place in my heart, and is a family favorite that still makes me cry! It was filmed at my daughters 8th birthday especially for my Mother. Ashley is now a lovely young woman but still lets me sing this to her from time to time. So for you soft-ees, you may want to get out your Kleenex. It was filmed and edited by my friend Miles McNamara. I never thought of uploading it till now, as I felt it was too personal and homespun, but this week I have also thankfully addressed my self-sabatoge- ing habit of perfectionism. So, here’s me throwing all caution to the wind with a walk down memory lane. I hope you enjoy it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CvB8lL_tHA.
I feel very fortunate for my rich experiences this past week and look forward to sharing more with you next week.
Happy Valentines Day!
Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth. ~Alan Watts
I have a magnificently intense aversion to being put into a box and labelled. So as you can imagine, I have been very challenged by this weeks exercise in Music Success In 9 Weeks : THE PITCH . In chapter two, author Ariel Hyatt gives multiple sensible marketing reasons why defining my musical style in a 15 second “elevator pitch” is a must should I ever bump into Clive Davis on the way up. So with gusto I threw myself into this challenging exercise.
For starters I listed off some early influences that shaped me to become the singer I am today. Like watching my talented Father , John McCullough sing his killer version of “ INK SPOTS at his many gigs with the “ by theRoy Coran Orchestra. Or the first time I ever heard Ella Fitzgerald swing “Paper Moon” on a ’78 on my grandfather’s gramophone , and Nelly Lutcher ‘s R+B version of “Fine Brown Frame” that lit me up. Then the turning point was “The Juliette Show”. Every Sat. night after the hockey game, I was enthralled watching Juliette descend a flight of stairs in some glittery figure hugging gown. She was our very own Canadian female crooner. “A star”. I recall my young 10 yr self vowing to myself, ” I want to be a singer like Juliette”. At school on the playground, I drove my friends crazy with my imitations of her! Imagine my thrill when twelve years ago, just before releasing my début cd, I spotted Juliette in the audience at the Centennial Theatre in . I took the chance to introduce myself and we had the best talk. In fact she introduced me to the late Arni May, who owned two Jazz club’s called Rossini’s in Kitsilano and Gastown. Thanks to Juliette, the Gastown Rossini’s venue became my first Vancouver Jazz Club for the cd release : LATE BLOOMER. Later, Kits Rossini’s provided many opportunities to play with Lynton Garner. I can’t tell you how important it was to tell Juliet directly, what a positive, powerful influence she had been to me. Other influences…were my charismatic Mother Kay McCullough . She was a tall, striking brunette who loved to sing and although she was not a performer per se, in our household, she rivaled Juliet …AND Elizabeth Taylor. Seeing Diana Ross & the Supremes live at Expo 67 . Diana was unforgettable. She was the coolest singer around… until I heard Joni Mitchell at the Mariposa Folk Festival . What a total contrast she was with her confessional writing style, long blonde hair, guitar and dulcimer. Thanks to Joni I turned within and discovered the writer .
After daydreaming over the early days, I decided to focus more on the present and who I am now and to ask for some help from my friends as I went along. Brian Fraser creator of “Jazzthink”, kindly took the time to suggest describing myself “like the taste of a fine wine – hints of this and that blending into something unique.” I loved this approach. Then I asked my astute hairdresser Kristy Davies to suggest essences of myself. “What’s an essence ?” says she. “Aspects of my personality” that you think set me apart from your other clients.” says I.”Statuesque comes to mind… sparkly , and yet weathered…mmm in a nice way,…to describe how you integrate your life experiences and always land on your feet”. Smiling, I added her descriptions to my long list of “self” definitions.
Once home I shared more ideas with my sage 17 yr old daughter who knows me very well and excels at metaphorical writing. We both dove into scribbling ideas and within ten minutes she had descriptions that made my heart pound with excitement: “tuned to a vision whilst in the key of reality”. We acknowledged they weren’t “it” for this exercise, yet Ashley provided the focus of what I wanted to say. I felt elated and stayed up till 3:45 a.m. writing like a fool and then sent my mini drafts to the wonderful Spider Robinson sci-fi novelist extraordinaire and musician. Later that day he generously offered helpful feedback and editing ideas : I’d even recommend tightening it a bit further, so it can be read slowly, languorously.”
Have I come up with the perfect pitch for me? Well, you can be the judge. All I can say is, it’s as true to who I am that I can muster – this week. What I’ve learned from the process is this. That by defining myself I am not limiting my options, but actually expanding them. And, by comparing myself to other artists I am not trying to be something I am not, but simply painting a verbal hors d’oeuvre for a total stranger that could open a window between us…or not, for I certainly cannot be all things to all people. And distilling a weeks worth of notes into a 15 sec pitch really affirmed to me once again, that simplicity of thought in this cluttered cyber world, is indeed potent. As my hero Leonardo da Vinci once said “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
So if I miss that elevator ride with Clive and instead get hit by his limo … and we happen to find ourselves in an ambulance together, it will be great because I’ll be ready and primed for when he asks :” what kind of music do you play Christie “? And I’ll be able to confidently yet nonchalantly say :
Christie Grace – An ambrosia of Ella, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell & Bacharach déjà vu with a twist of Audrey Hepburn.
…then , I’ll sue him!