this week’s download is “la petite mort” (or “the oh estelle” song), from the original versionof Distillation. it tells the story of a wedding day gone wrong!
i went to school in providence RI, a medium-sized city with a gritty arts scene and a surrealist bent to its public art. living in a city was a new experience for me. i had grown up in a small town in virginia, and, at the time, it was far enough away from DC to feel like its own entity. today, with the swell of cookie cutter housing developments, it’s harder to make that argument.
i started my career in high school, and by the fall of my freshman year in providence, i was in full swing. i didnt have a car, but i could “tour” by taking the bus to boston, or northampton, philly, or… new york. i’d been to the City a few times as a kid, and then later to visit some older high school friends. but starting to play there seemed daunting.
what i remember most is how often i went. multiple times a month. and i also remember playing a lot for free or for tips plus a modest guarantee. there was that epic night in brooklyn with my friend trina hamlin where i took my shirt off during my set in an effort to get people to shut up and listen. there were many nights on the matchbox sized stage at postcrypt, under columbia. and a little later there were many nights at the old living room, on the corner of stanton and allen. i would be one of 5 acts that night, slowly getting more and more people to pay attention. i also dipped my toe into the sacred waters of the bottom line, opening for anyone they asked me to.
everything changed for me in new york when “distillation” came out. “blackbirds” marked my entry onto radio playlists for the first time. and for the first time i began to see how powerful radio could be. what radio did in a few months would have taken me years to get to on my own.
so i feel incredibly grateful that “blackbirds” caught the ear of my friend rita houston and WFUV. in new york, if you’re listening to songwriters, you are listening to WFUV. over the years, they’ve cultivated one of the coolest, most loyal, and fun audiences i have ever played for.
i remember one night, at the old knitting factory on ludlow. it was my first real headlining show at a proper venue in new york. i had my band, and one of my favorite songwriters, veda hille, was on the bill with me. standing center stage in a quiet moment, i was able to take a second and appreciate what i saw before me. to a packed crowd on the floor, and the people filling the little balcony, i said, “thanks FUV for playing my music!” the roar that greeted me was tremendous.
10 years later, celebrating “distillation” at the highline ballroom, i’m so happy to also celebrate my relationship with FUV. they’ve grown with me and continued to support my music through all it’s own left turns. the music business is a complicated and delicate tightrope walk, but i thank FUV for taking the risks with me.