Posted by: anniebacon | May 25, 2012

the logistics of living a purposeful life

this evening I have spent hours – and those hours are built upon tens of other hours – updating my content around the inter webs. facebook, reverbnation, hear it local, last.fm, myspace, deli radio, bandcamp, wordpress, youtube, vimeo, twitter, cdbaby, soundcloud … it’s an almost inexhaustible list, because these are only the sites I actively use. (except I think I’m going to officially abandon myspace at some point here …)

this is the less fun side of music as business. innumerable hours at a computer, pretending that I know how to do all these sort of specialized things. they called it DIY (do it yourself) but I call it DEY (do everything yourself).

a few weeks back I had the privilege of speaking on an informal panel at the Oakland Museum of California’s THEN/NOW exhibit about making music in 1968 versus 2012 in the Bay Area, and this was one of the topics that came up. it’s not a new one, and I’m sure you’ve heard me moan about it here as well.

it goes something like this: in the old days the labels stole your content and most of your money but they also did all your promotion, distribution, design, branding etc for you … these days you retain the rights to your content, there’s hardly any money to be stolen, and you are responsible for all aspects of your own career up to a certain point at which you either can afford to or can’t afford not to hire a manager, booking agency, agent etc.

sometimes, I won’t lie, I get so frustrated by the logistics of a life as a performing musician and I want to say fuck it, I’m just gonna sit around in the living room banging on my guitar. but the truth is that I absolutely love the dynamic nature of it all. I love that I am on a path and it is changing and evolving every day. I love getting to play better and better venues as a result of hard work promoting shows and bringing out solid crowds; I love getting to work with better and better musicians as a result of cultivating my songwriting and bandleading skills; I love how progress is like a sine wave, sometimes up sometimes down but always moving forward. 

and good god do I love the 45 minutes or 3 hours or however many minutes we get to be on that stage. the lights burning hot on my face. the drums pounding behind me, locking eyes with whoever’s about to take the next solo, hearing the sounds emerge from me and us as if possessed by some magic. time loses all meaning, the world melts away. 

and when I’ve done my job right and I see people dancing, swaying, crying, staring, smiling, or feeling anything at all … I’m flooded with this sense that I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing in the world. 

some people are meant to save the forest, some are meant to save the children, others to build bridges or buildings, cultivate minds or bodies … me, I am meant to cultivate emotional richness, compassion, and empathy, through stories and music. that’s my purpose in life. for now. until I’m told otherwise.

so given that … it makes it a little easier to drudge through the logistics of all this. Image

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Posted by: anniebacon | June 12, 2011

i’m in a listening way

When I used to think about what it would be like to be pregnant, I guess I thought of it in a very masculine way: I thought about what I would DO while I was pregnant.

– Drive cross-country alone one more time
– Write an album
– Document every craving, sensation, and dream
– Listen to our whole record collection
– Write poems and letters to my unborn

I’m a do-er type. I am most comfortable when engaged in multiple projects, and my favorite kind of weekend is the one where at the end of it I have checked items off my to-do list, or worked on something tangible. I like to accomplish things, to make things. It grounds me and gives me a sense of permanence amidst the ever-change.

But pregnancy is something altogether different.

Let’s put aside for the moment the fact that I am actually accomplishing something miraculous right now – that despite the almost stupidly simple act of conceiving a child (not accounting for the years it takes to be able to do it well), and the fact that about 300,000 babies are born every DAY, it remains perhaps the most profound mystery of human existence.

That aside – the urge remains strong to DO something now – to mark this time with projects or products, to tick off the weeks and months by turning them into work-flows or deadlines.

Most mornings I wake up thinking “I should be planning a tour for the Folk Opera; I should figure out how to order the songs on the new OSHEN album; I should be sending stuff out to blogs for reviews; I should be updating the websites; I should be auditioning new Aunt Sara’s; I should be writing new material; I should be making another video; I should . . . ”

It goes on almost endlessly.

And yet it occurs to me that in the 22 weeks that I have been pregnant my happiest moments have been devoid of doing. They have been moments of listening.

Listening to Kacey Johansing at the Walk Like An Egyptian festival.
Listening to Breathe Owl Breathe at Bottom of the Hill.
Listening to Waylon & Willie and David Bowie on the record player.
Listening to the wind in the leaves.

I think this is the feminine part of music. Listening is a type of surrender (which has such negative connotations), shutting up, quieting our own ego. For me this can be hard – I make art because I feel a profound need to say something, to express SOMETHING. If I shut up, I’m not making my art.

But it’s about balance, right? The listening fills us, and the making empties us out. Geez, the words to my own song say it “To be heard you have to listen, to be seen you have to see, if you want to be full you have to start out empty” (Anyway). (Is it weird to quote myself in my own blog post?) At the least I should listen to my own advice.

There’s no way I’m driving cross-country alone right now. Some days I don’t feel qualified to make my own piece of toast in the morning. And most days I long for company – people to share this change with, and to build the little monkey’s nest and network of caretakers.

I’m writing new songs, but only as they come. I’m not forcing them. I’m not expecting them. I’m waiting for them.

I want to listen. I want to surrender to sound and silence and to change.

It’s a challenge in a music world that demands constant activity, where we’re told that our audiences will forget us if we aren’t pushing ourselves in their faces on a regular basis. Where the next-best-thing is always just around another corner, always no matter what.

I’m grateful for this pregnancy forcing me to shut up and to slow down. I’m not trying to be famous here. I’m not trying to hold your attention with cartwheels and firecrackers. I’m trying to say something. I’m trying to create something that will outlive me, yes, but even more I’m perpetually trying to make one sound that holds the enormity of being human.

And if I want to do that . . . I have to listen.

Posted by: anniebacon | January 12, 2011

yes! great video!

just found this on YouTube! if you have videos, please put them up and let me know about it 🙂 that way we can share the love all around . . . thanks and thanks again.

Posted by: anniebacon | December 31, 2010

looking back at 2010

what a year. I keep writing sentences and then erasing them, because to be honest this was both an incredibly trying year and a miraculous one. and right now we are at the meniscus between 2010 & 2011: the almost-imperceptible edge between one era and another.

I like to make lists, they soothe me and bring order to chaos. but I don’t make lists so that they will be read in order, or so that they will be followed. I make lists because each item on the list is like a little poem: a complex set of feelings and experiences distilled into a few words. so I will make you some lists-poems as I look back on 2010.

the 3 defining joys of my 2010:

1) seeing my beautiful Elizabeth commune with her highest self and all the ages of mothers as she moved a tiny Louise Athena out of her body into this extraordinary time and place;

2) being given the opportunity by so many of you – family, friends, fans – to immortalize the Folk Opera in a way that exceeded my wildest dreams;

3) coming back to my mantra: “music, movement, mindfulness, kindness, poetry” to guide me through . . .

. . . the 2 biggest challenges for me this year:

1) anxiety . . . sigh . . . not new, but presenting itself as though in its death throes in wild and chaotic moments and demanding that I stop, drop and roll with the punches;

2) losing the support of the record label that released the OSHEN’s first EP.

11 things I am ecstatically grateful for in 2010:

a – the continued good health of those friends struggling with diseases of body & mind
b – healthy babies in abundance
c – having found some of my art supplies in my sweetheart’s art box
d – my sister’s decision to quit her job and go experience the world
e – a new acoustic Martin dreadnought guitar . . . mmmmmm . . . happy last birthday to me!
f – the Folk Opera on vinyl
g – the Superwaitress Working Girl Remix Anu Kirk did for us
h – the memories from playing the Folk Opera to almost sold-out crowds at the Jalopy Theatre in Brooklyn, NY and the Swedish American Hall in San Francisco
i –  those skinny tires with see-through rims on practical cars like a Honda Civic
j – Bliss Dance
k – a recording studio in my living room
l – (one to grow on) robot heart 

my favorite new/new to me albums/artists from 2010:

* All These Slippery Things, Il Gato (far and away my favorite of the year, a stunning orchestral, emotional journey, in turns profoundly inward and infectiously pop-ish, “baroque folk” with a string quartet, horn section and highly poetic lyrics, all written by dear friend Daimian Holiday Scott, with arranging help from occasional OSHEN trumpet-er Matthew Souther, and performed by a whole band of people we love including founding OSHEN member Howie Cockrill)
* Brothers, The Black Keys (omg, this album made me swoon and sweat, and I knew at first listen that I would force feed this music to future generations of music lovers, unabashedly soulful, sexual, electronic blues rock with hooks as sharp as a rattlesnake’s jaw)
* Breathe Owl Breathe – (don’t know the album name but their live show is a mix of virtuosic but spacious folk music with playful storytelling (with costumes & props!), whimsical vocals dandelion whisp delicate, and a super hot lady bouncing between drums, cello and assorted instruments)
* {{{sunset}}} – (Bill Baird’s new project/band) (again, don’t know the album name but saw them 3 times live and they made me dance despite sickness, apathy and exhaustion on different occasions, definitely at the vanguard of the new wave of danceable sincerity)
* Live at the Tower, Andy Friedman – (only me, Jeremy and Cristian have heard this so far, but it will be on your favorites soon too, Andy (growling baritone) alone on guitar (finger plucked) in our richly acoustic living room)

four goals for 2011:

i. record the OSHEN’s first full length album

ii. get the Folk Opera on a Prairie Home Companion – you can help – click HERE & suggest us!

iii.  go to Thailand

iv. begin writing the next opera-type thing (ideas are already flowing, time to get the melodies down)

what I wish for you in 2011:

– a new car!
– an epiphany or three
– that you’ll start trying again to learn how to play that old ______
– strength of spirit, and resilience for whatever may come
– AAAAAABBBBUUUUNNNNDDDAAANNNCCEE (just realizing that could be broken into “a bun dance” so take that as you will :))
– an inexpensive pair of jeans at the thrift store that fits you like a glove

so there you have it. my lists to say “goodbye and thank you” to 2010, and “welcome” to 2011. now it’s time to go celebrate the unspeakable joy of being alive still.

I love you.
I thank you.

xo/Annie

Posted by: anniebacon | July 24, 2010

update on the Folk Opera

Update time!

* RECORDING: Main portion of the recording is done and the bulk of the editing is also finished. I now have in my possession a rough/raw Folk Opera! And you know what? It sounds amazing already. The next step is to do a few small over-dubs (which means we record one portion of a song on top of what we already did, like a violin solo or something), and then to get to mixing. This portion is going to be spread out over the next month plus, due to vacations and the like.

*ART: We’ve got our artists and graphic designers all lined up and will be starting in on this portion this week. Some great folks involved including my friend Jonny Possibly who is a wonderful visual artist, and someone most of you know, Chris Ross, who designed all of my favorite show posters. Excited.

* RELEASE: We’re looking at a November release at the moment, which is a little longer than we thought (we originally said 90 days) but this whole “people enjoying their much deserved summer vacation” thing has put a bit of a push back on the date. Which we don’t mind. We’d rather everyone feel REALLY good then to rush this out. Besides, if this is going to be a masterful work of genius that will endure well beyond our time, it will still be that a month later 🙂

*DONATION: We’ve also decided that given the content of the piece (for those who haven’t seen it I’m referring to dementia/alzheimers and the elderly) we are going to donate 10% of the profits we make to either the Alzheimer’s Association (working to eliminate Alzheimers) or a local senior center called St. Mary’s Center which provides invaluable services including housing and art therapy to homeless elders. Any thoughts about this? Prefer one or the other? Other ideas?

All in all, I’m happy to report that I am ecstatic about this process. So many beautiful hands, feet, brains, and voices have already participated (including yours) and the product is already stunning.

Posted by: anniebacon | July 14, 2010

the folk opera is recorded!

photo by Clayton Mitchell

well almost completely recorded . . . we still have a few little things to add . . . some trumpets, a violin solo . . . the sound of an exploding café . . .

photo by Clayton Mitchell

but Sunday through Tuesday we spent many hours in preparation and then in recording here at the Tower . . . and it went, in a word . . .

spectacularly.

from my sweet Jeremy-of-all-trades who tenderly held my Left Brain and coordinated a million little details for us . . .

photo by Clayton Mitchell

to long hours given freely by our Townsfolk Choir . . .

photo by Clayton Mitchell

to our engineer David Luke who came home half a day early from vacation to get to work with us . . .

photo by Clayton Mitchell

to Cristian Hernandez – the OSHEN’s bass player – who came hours early to set up and who let us use all of his amazing recording gear . . .

(BlueBird) photo by Clayton Mitchell

to Ann Peters and Nicole Francois giving up large chunks of days just to ease my mind, to the unEFFINGbelievable meals lovingly prepared for us by Iron Seth Nickinson . . .

photo by Clayton Mitchell

to these gorgeous photos taken by Clayton Mitchell . . . this was truly a community effort.

photo by Clayton Mitchell

last night and today when I’ve had the chance to listening back to what we did I am amazed. in particular today I listened five times over to one particular take of Savannah Jo Lack singing “I Remember” and every time I cried.

photo by Clayton Mitchell

and then there’s the take of Joel Dean . . . the opening line to “Rita” melting me like I was an ice cube in a desert.

photo by Clayton Mitchell

and Ms. Elizabeth Greenblatt, who we all swear did not make a single mistake, was stunning of course (and as the picture below demonstrates) . . . powering through these long hours and unending takes despite the fatigue from being in her second trimester of incubating a perfect little being.

photo by Clayton Mitchell

at one point I had an epiphany about the piece – realized that Rita and Elizabeth are two versions of the same life. Rita chose to stay in town, take over the family café and pop out a couple of kids and found herself divorced and sharp around the edges by the time we meet her, while Elizabeth chose to get out, go away and drift off into a world where she could forge her own path but more often finds herself lost. I wrote this so you’d think I’d thought it all through, but really so much of the creative process happens (for me) at the subconscious level. the epiphany stopped me dead at the beginning of a song and of course I had to share it.

(having the epiphany) photo by Clayton Mitchell

today I barely made it through work . . . exhausted beyond belief . . . but there’s an excitement that is building. we are making something beautiful here.

photo by Clayton Mitchell

Iron Seth asked me – for his parents – what the ultimate goal of this recording is . . . my first response was “A Prairie Home Companion, and a world tour”, but when I thought for a second I realized it is so much bigger than that. my hope is that in 50 or 60 years our grandchildren and their peers count this among their must-have records, right next to Blue, Grace and A Love Supreme.

(Lady Sunrise, Townsfolk #4) photo by Clayton Mitchell

and now we move forward . . . putting the sounds through the microphones was one part of the art. now a whole other round of artistic endeavour begins – now is the editing, the fine-tuning, the mixing, effecting (don’t worry, it’ll only be the slightest effect), and the mastering.

photo by Clayton Mitchell

simultaneously we’ll be working with Chris Ross, Nicole Francois, and a couple of other artists to put together both the Puppet Package (which is really a Toy Theatre, thank you Amber West), and to get the general design of the whole project together. we welcome any ideas you might have of course.

thank you all again so much for all the love, toil and funds you have given to this project. we literally wouldn’t be doing this if it weren’t for you. you are our heroes. you are our dream-makers.

much love. xo

photo by Clayton Mitchell

Posted by: anniebacon | June 15, 2010

the folk opera

today has been a crazy day for the Folk Opera . . . while I’ve been working away at HHREC we’ve been racking up the funds and percentage points faster than any day since the very first day we launched.

so far (the day is not yet over) we’ve had EIGHT brand new backers and 3 backers who increased their pledges. this brought us from 66.7% last night to 72.9% right now! AND we’ve reached 100 backers . . . this is astounding.

I have cried three times in this process so far: once on the day Elizabeth’s father sent an email out to his friends/family asking them with heart in hand to give; once on the day a friend told me her boss would give us $500 if the Celtics win it all (the pledge is contingent upon their win, but the generosity is not); and once today when a stream of new backers just absolutely poured in between 3:29p~4:15p. I couldn’t catch my breath.

I’m stunned with gratefulness. family, friends, friends of family, family of friends, there are even a couple of strangers in there. this is what a grass-roots project looks like, and you just WAIT til we actually start in on the project. so many different hands will touch this project before it is completed it’s going to take one whole page just to print all of your names.

stunned. oops, crying again. that’s four.

Posted by: anniebacon | June 14, 2010

great Red Devil sitting in the sun

what a night. I won’t go into all the gritty details, because some of them were actually grisly. but I’ll tell you this, at the end of it all . . . it was a great success.

we got some amazing feedback from the venue and the audience and on top of that had a kickin good time making music on such a sweet stage. I was excited from the beginning, but walking into the room – really quite a small one, but pulsing with energy of many amazing performers – bumped it up a notch.

there were posters all over the back stage are (there was a backstage!) of some of the performers who have played on that stage: KRS-One, Digital Underground, Jason Mraz, Tiffany, Bonnie Rait, Sir-Mix-A-Lot, Jesse DeNatale and Jonathan Richman.

and now add “annie bacon & her super-effing-amazing-OSHEN” to that list. seriously, my OSHEN is my favorite. so happy and excited about the night.

now to throw all our energy into the Folk Opera . . . 19 more days to raise funds and $2,098 left to raise . . . here we go . . .

Posted by: anniebacon | May 4, 2010

a response to Bob Lefsetz’ Quote of the Day

you can read his analysis HERE. but this quote sums it up for me:

We’re at an endless smorgasbord where we can cherry-pick the best items, and don’t even have to pay for them.  Don’t complain, this is reality.  You just can’t sell crap anymore.  It’s almost impossible to sell good.  And even if you’ve got incredible, you might have to pay people to listen at first.  Whether it be with free food at a gig, never mind free admission, free beer…

my response:

This is harsh and honest and I like it for that. But it’s also flawed.

It assumes NO change in our system of “value,” and I feel like that is about to change dramatically in the next few decades. Especially in the music industry. It’s assuming that you hold out / work forever for the exact same reward of days gone by, and I feel like the rewards are changing. Are we really still working towards the end goal of a major label deal and multi-platinum album sales? What do we do when there are no more major labels?

Audiences are shrinking, but they are also becoming more connected to the Artists themselves. The middle man is (gone?). I keep saying this I know, but I think this is a big change. Before you NEEDED that major label deal because you only got $1 (at best) per album sold. But now if you can sell 1,000 of your home-pressed CD it’s as good as having sold 10,000 under the old model. You don’t NEED as big an audience to get the same outcome.

Also it’s not taking into account the massive shift in the workforce in general – new generations of workers who don’t want to work 40/week, with 2 weeks vacation. Jobs are necessarily shifting to accommodate people who believe they should get their retirement now, while they’re young enough to enjoy it. Not entirely sure how this will affect things, but I feel like it’s important. When you are defining “work” in old school terms but trying to apply them to a new school, it just doesn’t quite fit.

Basically what I’m saying is that Mr. Lefsetz isn’t accounting for social evolution. And it’s pretty goddamned bleak if you do that.

Three words: Commi-Folk Collective. That’s the future I’m looking at.

[I also think something will step up that will be better than CDs and better than uber compressed mp3 files, and people will buy again. We’re moving out of the WalMart era, and back to boutiques, which means people might become more interested in higher quality sound than what you can get from mp3s. Just a theory. Years off still (at least) in my guesstimation.]

Posted by: anniebacon | May 3, 2010

techno-OSHEN-music musings

following up with yesterday’s post  . . .

. . .  after a brilliant afternoon hanging out with Daimian Scott of Il Gato, folks from the Cardboard Institute of Technology, Joel Dean of Folk Opera fame, Jason Bobe of the Genome Project, fashion blogger Nicole François, and so many stunning minds . . .

. . . and a wonderful evening waxing poetic and prophetic at Om Shan Tea with friends and Wallace Stevens (thank you Geoff Bouvier) . . .

. . . and after welcoming A NEW MEMBER TO THE OSHEN!!!! Ms. Caitlin Fahey (see her birthday cake below, deliciously designed by Heidi Lehto) will be joining us as a harmony vocalist. her first show with us will be at our 2 year anniversary show on Saturday June 12th at the Red Devil Lounge . . .

. . . come some additional thoughts on technology and music. although by now I am at Revolution Café, sitting on the sidewalk on yet another hot Mission morning and musing with table sharing new friends about Experience and the similarities between journalism (where now everyone is a journalist, tagging information and tweeting and passing it through the webs, and how will we get technology to replicate that amazing feeling of a newspaper under your fingers?) and music (where now everyone is a musician (yay!) playing and creating and performing and how will we get technology to connect the Artist and the Arts Consumer now that the Middle-Label-Man is dying, dead, gone?)

. . . have just been introduced to this amazing idea – 48HR Magazine – “a raucous experiment in using new tools to erase media’s old limits . . . write, design, edit, and ship a mag in 2 days.” awesome!

I love San Francisco.

. . . oh and hey! it’s Xav! this is a super awesome Monday already and it’s not even noon.

happy birthday Caity!

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