21 June, 2005

the ladies who rock

hello. and how are you?
a sincere greeting and sincere question. i was hoping to do this blog-ing thing once a week, but alas i am already off that wagon. perhaps the last entry was so effective we could skip a week? perhaps. also, before i get into this one, i want to say that i have really been enjoying all your comments and friend profiles etc etc. i can't respond to everything, but please do know that your props are well received over here. you make me blush.

i've just come back from a pair of trips: the first was to toronto to play at NXNE. included was much good canadian friend hanging and some groundwork was laid for the shows later in the summer. the second trip was to pittsburgh just this past weekend to tape a session for the world cafe and play a festival for the great local radio station, WYEP.

this was my third time recording a session for the world cafe, and i know how lucky i am to have enjoyed their support for a good 5 years now. it doesnt happen all that often, and i appreciated the opportunity to test the legs of the trio and to start figuring out how to talk about this record. i love david dye, and i never think there is enough time to talk with him about everything i want to... plus i get such a thrill out of interviews, especially live ones, because i always feel like i am juggling 17 things at once, hoping not to drop any of them. for example:

thing no.1: answer the question asked.
thing no.5: try to sound intelligent. try.
thing no.10: answer the question asked in a new way.
thing no.11: don't tell the people where you live or give out your phone number and address. you know you want to.
thing no.17: remember not to cuss.

one of the questions david asked struck me as a particularly good one because it pointed out something very true but that is rarely talked about- or at least i am not asked so often. it was this: david noted that most female performers who write get pigeonholed as "folksingers". he also was cool enough to note that there hasnt been anything remotely folky about what i do for a longtime. so, specifically, he wanted to know, was this annoying? i guess what i liked about the question was that someone noticed that i have been trying to do something besides folk music for awhile now. and that he was maybe giving me an opportunity to vent a little.

i answered this way: that yes, it is annoying. and that i appreciated him pointing out how inappropriate it is in regard to my music (also noted: not implying any judgement whatsoever to folk music or singers. i hope that's obvious). but, my main thought in answering the question was that it doesnt do any good to be annoyed, or negative, or actively complain about whatever tag you get stuck with, being that there are so few things you can control in the music business. you can write your songs and you can make your records, but you cannot make people like them or you. they have to come to it themselves and form their own opinions. on the list of things you can control is your own sense of what is artistically right for you. you can control how your records look and sound and how your show goes. and as the years have gone on, i have become more and more clear about what that means for me. that's the best thing i can do to fight the presumption that female artists (if they aren't on MTV and in spin or rollingstone) are "folky".

but,a few hours later i was sitting at lunch with my band and my manager, still turning over the question in my head. as is often the case with me, i began to wish i had said something different. or rather, more... the music that i make is a direct reflection of the music i love, and i love music that lifts you, that makes you feel invincible and incredible for 3 and a half minutes of roaring guitars and choruses- the highest hopes, the deepest faith expressed in the dynamics of emotion and sound. so many amazing bands make this music and make me feel this way, but why are the "greatest" among them all men? the current and holy triumvirate for most people is U2, radiohead, and coldplay who have grown out of the beatles, the rolling stones, and led zepplin. and while i dont like the latter three at all, i really do live for their contemporary counterparts. i buy the records, i raise my lighter, i aspire to make music of the same size, scope, and reception. each time i get in front of a crowd, each time i make a record, i try to get a little closer to that ideal. when david asked that question, i wish i had affirmed my faith in the power of rock and roll and called out the ladies who are making it and making it well: sleater-kinney, pink, bjork, liz phair and on and on. beyond being annoyed at getting labeled a "folksinger", i think it's a crime that the ladies are not standing shoulder to shoulder with the men of rock. this will change, it is changing, and i aim to be a part of it.

a coda to this: in the last week, i have been fortunate enough to share my music and spend some quality time with two heros of mine, amy ray and michelle shocked. their music came into my life around the same time, age 15 or so, when i was realizing that i liked songs that made my mind turn and my ears burn. over the years, i have learned from their intensity, their daring, their volume as writers and as performers. i try to see them as much as i can, to check in, to ask questions, to see what they are up to, to show them what i am doing. this week they both reminded me, in their own ways, that the path is right there in front of us still, despite distractions and obstacles. they've both released albums in the last several months that show they are still pursuing that goal of rocking out, as only ladies can, but making a sound that everyone can pump their fist to.

they inspire me so much, those damn "folksingers".