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Bucket list: Manage a band – Check

Time flies.  It feels like it was just last week (when it was really December 2014), that I was sitting at the bar at Boar’s Cross’n with Vivienne at the helm and Justin and Paul beside me. Paul reminiscing over the days of playing music with Ned. Justin musing over the idea of starting an Irish music band.  Wheels turning in my head as their words soaked in and started to take form like a Reese’s peanut butter cup commercial…

I sent a text to Brad saying we’d be coming over the Sunday after New Year’s to play some Irish music.  Took but a few seconds before the enthusiastic response, “YES!” came back.

(LtoR) Paul, Brad, Justin, Ned and Len

If you don’t know Ned, you missed out.  He and his wife owned an Irish pub in Carlsbad (CA) village (Escondido and Fallbrook) from 2000 until around 2009.  Ned was head of the house band.  Not only a talented musician, but he knew how to work a crowd like no other.  No two shows were ever alike, because he often shared the stage with a random selection of musicians and singers who popped by.  If you played or sang and he saw you, you were likely to get called up. Brad, Len and Paul were in the band. Brad on drums, Len on the Bodhran (Irish drum) and Paul on just about every stringed instrument known to man as well as a young guitarist/singer from Ireland and then later, Ned’s nephew John Dawson, but Ned was the force that made it all come together. When he and Bren moved back to Ireland back in 2012, he left a bigass Ned shaped musical gaping hole in our corner of the world that no one else could quite fill, so the band fell by the wayside. Some playing in other bands, some dropping the Irish playing altogether.

Fast forward to 2014…Enter Justin.  A Berklee trained musician come home to Escondido. He showed up for the weekly Irish sessions at the pub in Esco and that’s how he met Paul.  In the spring of 2014 I finally took Paul up on the long standing offer to work on my guitar skills by jumping into a session and that’s how I met Justin and convinced him to join in on my project to record a full length CD of my original music (bucket list item #8).  Brad, Len and Paul all joined us in the studio to record the song I’d written for Ned and Bren as their going away present (See You Around) and that’s how we all got to know each other.

Which brings us to the Sunday after New Year’s 2015. Justin, Paul, Brad and myself at Brad’s place, running through some of the old songs with Justin.  It’s a tricky thing bringing in a new one.  Finding the balance between the sound before and whatever the new energy brings.  Sometimes it clicks, sometimes it doesn’t.  That’s why we held off bringing Len in until the 2nd practice.  Didn’t want to get his hopes up until we knew we had something.  An hour into it we knew and it was time for me to pipe up.  Paul had asked if I wanted to be in the band.  I did, but with the uncertainty of my situation, going in and out of remission and the effects of chemo on my voice and body, I just wanted the opportunity to sing a song once in a while with them (as I did with Ned), but mostly I just wanted the magic back.  To look forward to the evenings in the pub when the band would play.  That, and I needed to do something with my time.  My brain and my body couldn’t handle a “real job” but I needed to do something to fill the space in between treatments, so I offered up my services to launch, promote and manage the band for a year (ish) before moving onto my next bucket list adventure (12 Adventures).

DSC_2329-the-whole-gangJanuary through February, we practiced weekly, had a couple photo sessions and I worked on a website and logo for social media and t-shirts.  Our first gig was in the back patio of the Wrench & Rodent, a unique and brilliant seabastro pub.  We also got a request to play an Irish pub on St. Paddys’ day which is pretty good considering we’d only been together for a couple months.  Unfortunately, Paul was already booked.  This was a challenge from the beginning, because unlike the others, Paul didn’t slow down on the music.   He was regularly seen in almost a dozen different bands, often having 2 gigs in a day, so if the band had any shot at longevity, we couldn’t count on Paul to be available for all gigs.  Justin grew up with a girl that played violin.  We asked her to jump in on a practice and voila, another spark of magic.  You could almost hear the fairy dust whirl across the room as she played.  I’ll never forget the look on the guys’ faces when she first played, “Could this get any better?!” Sure, she wasn’t a Bastard Son, so we came up with a more pleasant nickname; our “Distant cousin” and it fit Anna Stasia to a T.  She’s cool as a cucumber and is the caliber Ned would expect in a fellow musician.
Justin-and-NedThe motto of the band was to follow Ned’s tradition to keep the heart light, the Guinness flowing, the gigs professional and foster the vibe that all are welcome.  We weathered the rumor mill (two guesses), the differences of style, opinions and sense of timing. We played for small crowds, big crowds, for charity and for children.  We are worn around by hundreds of people and have shared the stage with other local musicians like: David Sias, Clay Colton, Johnny Dawson, Joe Doyle, Steven Reno and Shelby Ingram. We even got Justin out to Ireland to meet and play music with Ned Giblin himself in the self proclaimed “Road to Da” tour.

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Friday, the day after St. Paddy’s was the last gig being their quote, unquote manager and it couldn’t have happened in a better place, at the Fallbrook Brewing Company. A great place, great vibe, beer and full of great people (thank you very much for the t-shirt :). Still, I felt a little down afterward.  I wondered if I’d failed because I wasn’t convinced these guys would stay a band or even a band of brothers.  Not because they need me.  They don’t.  The brand is solid and it’s out there.  Just google: DSC_5829The Bastard Sons of Ned Giblin and you’ll see for yourself, they fill up the screen. They have access to the FB page, see and respond to msgs and the email for booking: gigs@thebastardsonsofnedgiblin.com. It’s because I wonder if I failed to instill in them just how magic they are. Not as individuals per say (though they are all uniquely talented and I do love each one of ’em), but because I don’t think they’re fully aware that every time they play together, share the stage with others, laugh and bond over a pint, put the music first and the differences aside, they each bring a bit of Ned with them, enough to fill the stage. And that my friends is the je ne sais quoi  they bring to the table the other bands can’t. That’s not a diss on the other bands. Sorry, you lot are good, but my heart belongs to the Bastard Sons of Ned Giblin, though the door is closing on being their manager, the window is wide open for being one of their biggest fans who’s on the ready whenever they need any help or if I’m invited up for a song. And my heart will jump just a little every time I see a new event added to their calendar because I know there’s a great night ahead to look forward to…

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We Can Be Heroes (or at least do 60 good deeds)

This last year was a tough one.  It seemed far too many people I care about were leaving this world and far too few were coming in.  I suppose that goes with the age, being over 50 and closer to AARP than INDIE.

On the upswing, this is the longest I’ve been in remission (over 7 months) in 5 years. It’s the kind of milestone that makes you want to jump up and down for joy, but it’s hard to do when so many others are struggling or worse, have lost the battle.  This last year alone, 2 friends from different parts of my life, gone to cancer and several others were diagnosed.  Just when the heart wrenching sadness was starting to lift, WHAM, one of my greatest inspirations in music and film, David Bowie dies, cancer. WTF people ?? WTF~ Though I do like what Simon Pegg said about how lucky we should feel that during the earth’s billions of years in existence we got to be on it the same time and place as them, sometimes being a stage IV survivor is a frustratingly lonely thing to be.

David-Bowie-postI was laying there in bed that morning, mulling over my daily pep talk, strolling through emails and Facebook, waiting for the smell of coffee brewing to waft in from the kitchen,  when I saw the news about David Bowie.  I was crestfallen.  Then I was obsessed with which cancer (there are over a hundred y’know) he died of, but they didn’t release that information. Given that he was a smoker most of his life it’s a pretty educated guess, but still. This is something we cancerous people think about.  Always trying to connect the dots.  I looked up to the ceiling, feeling helpless and asked myself, “What do you do when your hero dies?”  Now, maybe I’m going a bit senile.  Maybe I can hear the dead, or maybe my conscience is just that creative because I can totally imagine my dad up there, dragging him by the arm and saying, “You need to tell my daughter this. She’ll listen to you.” But what I heard back was definitely in David Bowie’s unmistakably quiet, yet commanding voice, “You become one.”

There are a lot of ways to take that.  Design and wear a costume, running around like a vigilante.  Join the Peace Corps or just keep doing what I’m doing, beating the odds and making the best of my extended life, e.g. the 12 Adventures. You say maybe I’m already a hero, but I don’t quite feel heroic. I feel like I need to do/be more.

So I came up with something to help create a counterbalance; 60 Good Deeds. Throughout 2016, every month I’m going to give a total of $X to 4 different places helping others in need.  It’ll be a combination of supporting the arts, health, friends and community.  Without big fuss, after I’ve chosen one and done my part, I’ll post it on Facebook.  Not a “Look at me. I did a good deed,” and I’ll try to stay off the soap box with just a simple “I like this.” or “This is cool.”  But you’ll know what it means. I say “X” because I don’t want to put a number in anyone’s head in case they are inspired to follow suit.  “X” should be whatever number you’re comfortable with whether that’s 20, 50 or 500 (or more).

Before you think that something as small as $20 won’t make a difference, check out Alex.  Never met him, but someone I trust brought his situation to may attention and his struggle is all too familiar. 509 people (and growing) got together to help a young man at the end of his life give his mother one less thing to worry about. The average donation was $25, but some were $20, some were $100, each giving what they could, which took the mountain of a $25,000 need and turned into proverbial mole-hill.  If everyone who gave $20 thought their smaller donation wouldn’t make a difference, they wouldn’t have made their goal.

I was already on my kick when I saw it, so I made my donation and plugged it into my new spreadsheet along with the other three signs of support.

Alex's-Funeral-costs

  • (RED) – Aids awareness/support
  • (Komen 3Day) – Supporting friend who’s walking the walk
  • (Alex) – Fundraiser for terminal patient’s funeral costs
  • (Sandra) Fundraiser for a good friend fighting cancer

Next month there’ll be more of a balance between art and health, but this month it seemed fitting to focus on creating some kind of balance in my c-world. I’ll peruse the crowdfunding sites like Rockethub, Indiegogo, Kickstarter and GiveForward to name a few and invest a little in other people’s dreams while striving to reach my own, because every time I do, I feel just a little less alone, a little more empowered, maybe heroic even.  C’mon, let’s do it. Let’s make 2016 the year for being heroes.

That’s my New Year’s resolution sorted. Now, to figure out what heroes should make for dinner…

P.S. – Get screened.

P.S.S. – Within a week of writing this, actors Alan Rickman and Dan Haggerty (Grissy Adams) died from cancer, so

P.S.S.S. – Fer fkssake, go get screened~

12 Adventures

It’s been a while since I’ve written an update and I think this is a first, me writing across both platforms (theccardandme.com/cancer and aligilmore.com/music n photography). It’s a clear sign that my worlds are finally converging.  For a while now I’ve been able to take off the gloves, put the sword down and focus on what I love most, inspiring others.

As I’m writing this, it’s the 1st day of my birthday month and believe you me I am ready to celebrate.  This month marks 5 years since I was diagnosed with what was once and for some is still sadly, a death sentence; Stage IV cancer. Through the marvels of modern medicine and sheer force of overly optimistic will, I’ve beaten it 3 or 4 times since then and about to again.

If that’s the first you’re hearing of this, all I can say is don’t feel sorry for me because since my diagnosis my life has taken a huge upturn.  I’ve taken more chances and risked more in these five years than I have in the 45 that came before them. I’ve jumped out of a plane, swam in the Mediterranean, sang at a festival in Positano, Italy, stood on the Cliffs of Moher, floated along the canals of Amsterdam, become a sports photographer with highlights of photographing greats like; Beckham, Keller, Ronaldo, Donovan, Keane and Kaka, written and published two humorous cancer survival guides, was the subject for an original TV program (My Human Case:Cancer) and professionally recorded a full length CD of my original songs.  Some ventures, like the book and CD were crowdfunded, while some were a combination of generous friends/family and wholly unaware creditors who were foolish enough to bet on this lame, yet opportunistic horse.

DSC_4095 proof positano2 cliffs of moher

Six years ago the only obstacle I had was time. I was always too busy with whatever I was busy with.  Now, the limitations are more fiscal, physical and mental due to the cost and side effects of nearly 50 cycles of chemo and radiation therapy and yet, again, I’ve accomplished more in these five years than in the 45 before.

Right though.  We were talking about 12 Adventures or about to at least.  To tell you about them I needed to fill you in on what came before because I’m pretty sure its all been building up to this…

Every three months I get a CAT or PET scan.  It screens my body for any signs of active/growing cancer cells.  If there are then I have to go back into treatment. If there aren’t then I get to be free to go about my business (apart from monthly blood draws) until the next scan.  Today marks my 7th month without chemo.  The second longest I’ve gone in the past five years.  The first was about 11 months.

So last month I’m on the train to the airport, on my way home for a 3 week visit to see friends and family when I get a call from Dr. H’s (my Oncologist) office.  It’s Annie, his head nurse and she’s telling me I need to come in.  The results of the CAT scan run the day before didn’t look good. I told her in the most head-in-the-sand kind of way that I was busy, on my way to see my family and my dad isn’t doing well (CHF), so I don’t have time to come in, but I’ll be back on the 18th. She calmly (as she often does with me in the way a mother or teacher does with a thick student) explained that wasn’t an option.  I said Ok, but I don’t want to do chemo. She also calmly, but with a sadness in her voice said that also wasn’t an option.  Shit. this is it (I thought).  I’m toast.  Apparently there’s a mass in my right lung.  You can’t just zap a mass like they did with other little dots that cropped up over the years…

We compromised and I was able to stay long enough for my sister’s bday plans, my dad’s bbq plans and other things I’d hoped for, but I missed out others and seeing many friends because I was in my cave.  I didn’t want to see anyone for fear I’d burst into tears and give up my story. I was desperate to stay in my “happy place” and to keep them in theirs (for if you don’t know Seattle. Summer is our happy time and don’t anyone dare impose upon it~).

Now that you know my mindset, here’s what happened next…I’m sitting across from my best friend (who is the mastermind behind SHINE PR Etc.) and we’re talking about my next bucket list adventure (because that’s what we do when faced with adversity, think up far more pleasant things)…how cool it is, the responses I get from people following along and how many have said they’ve taken more chances because of it.  I love it.  I love that it’s a positive thing and it’s not about cancer, but about saying #NeverSayNever, that even with these kinds of hurdles you can still lead an adventurous life. You don’t even have to fly halfway across the world to find adventure. Sometimes, it’s literally across the street or down the road from you, but our heads are too often buried in our laptops, cell phones and such to see it.

On a whim I had registered 12adventures.com a few days before, then I secured Facebook | Twitter | Youtube. I thought I’d document my adventures in more detail this way, with tips and guides on how to get there for those who want to follow suit, but like me, were unsure of how and needed a push from a trusted source. Michelle being the natural promoter pushed it out further (where I see an acorn, she sees a grove of oak trees), “Why not put it on the screen, don’t just tell them, show them.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine how much a video series could say.”  And, we’re off~

This is how it works with us.  Energy bouncing across the desk at each other and back like a mental game of hyperspeed pong until there’s a 6 page document detailing the venture and a letter of sponsorship request out to none other than John J. Legere, high king of T-mobile (hey, if you’re going to dream, dream big I say). I love T-mobile.  Especially since he took over and I wanted to personally invite them to be the primary sponsors of my hair brained, but potentius (as in man, that actually has a lot of potential) scheme.  After all, they were with me on most of these adventures and I want to take them with me on the rest, so made sense to me…I can say proudly that I heard back within just a few days…and it was…seriously the nicest rejection letter I have ever received.  It even recommended I hit them up next year (yes, I do have a note in my calendar to write to them again on January 1, 2016).

There’s always a thud that happens when you read or hear the words “we regret to inform you…,” but anyone of great success will tell you that these are necessary stepping stones to “yes” so try not to take them personally.  Hey, in my mind I was dying, so what did I care?  Again, sitting across the table and the subject of money came up.  “So, if you were to do this on a cinematic scale, how would you pay for it?”  “Let’s not aim for the cinema” (though it is on my bucket list to ‘sit in a movie theatre and hear one of my songs being played in the background’). I like control, especially when my life’s schedule runs on 90 day windows of time, so I countered with a web series instead.  It can run on our own schedule (filming in between chemo cycles if need be).  I also didn’t just want to run through it then present it.  I wanted everyone to have a chance to put an iron in the fire, to have a say in the direction the series goes and when I’m done with my list, start focusing on other people’s lists and how to help them realize their own bucket list dreams.  Now that seemed like a noble way to make my mark and in a refreshing way.  Frankly, though I love the feedback I get on my cancer survival guides and I’m honored to be a part of the changing face of cancer, I wanted to light a fire under some over utilized couches (including my own).  Still, funding is good, especially if we want high quality sound and video and voila, “Remember, Mike and Sofia…the ones that recorded my CD release event?” “Yes!”  One quick call and they were excited, on board and sending me a painfully realistic quote.  Funding…yes, ok, back to crowdfunding we go…

contestI did a google search on what was out there.  I funded the first book and CD through Indiegogo which was/is a great platform, but I was curious to see what else was out there.  What caught my eye first was the word “contest.”  I clicked on the link and discovered Ovation TV was pairing up with an unknown (to me) and 3 winners would get 5k added to their campaign funds.  Of course…I had that thing filled out in 5 minutes and afterward pinged across the table what I’d done. ‘Excellent!” ponged back. To prepare for it, we built a campaign on RocketHub.com to get to know the platform.  The more we built, the more it evolved into a visually interesting and engaging array of options.  Yesterday we received the promo video that R3 Films made for us and it hit us…holy crap, this “whim” is actually picking up momentum and we’d better get busy building proposals and contracts~

Fast forward to two weeks later and I’m sitting in Dr. H’s office. He explains to me that after further investigation the radiation specialist (hot doc that’s been fixing my right lung) disagrees with the radiologists findings and after a further telling PET scan, confirms that “mass” is actually scar tissue from recent treatments.  “However…(another word that makes me go ‘thud’), there is a tiny spot in right lung…”  Usually this means 6 more months of chemo, but to my surprise Dr. U. has convinced all that he can blast it with radiation only (he is now my new favorite, sorry Dr. H.) and I’ll be back to my routine in time for my birthday this year (September 22nd), so this year’s birthday month is full of all kinds of cool goodness.

Now, back to the contest…as I understand it, if you’re picked you’ll need to build a fresh campaign, but if we aren’t picked then, we are ready with one slightly feral, but in tact campaign. The contest entry closes on September 4th. Sometime in the couple days that follow selected entries will be announced.  If we are, great, would love it. If we aren’t, we are good to go and have a launch date set for September 12th.  I’ll be mostly managing the campaign while Shine PR Etc. introduces 12 Adventures to potential branded sponsors for ads and product placement. Why so many 12ves you ask?  A: It’s my favorite number (and the secret to the universe according to Neil Simon). B: I may live around and love San Diego, but I’m a Northwest girl born and raised and anyone from there knows exactly what 12 means~

So, now you know…the rest of the story, as they say. 12 Adventures will consist of 12 episodes in a web series, based on 12 adventures of a 50-something, incredibly imperfect Stage IV cancer fighter.  It’ll be interactive and collaborative, allowing all viewers to guide the direction of the series from voting on adventures, locations and even excursions. It’ll feature music from independent artists (not just mine), introducing their unique sound to new audiences. We’ll have “simul-watching” parties, share recipes of foods associated with the locale, do live streaming from location and share tips and tricks for anyone with the same ventures on their bucket list, but needs a little nudge to go for it.  There’s more, but we’ll save it for later.

For now, take a look at the promo video for a sample of the value R3 Films will bring to the project then CAST YOUR VOTE!  Polls close at midnight on September 4th, then somebody’s winning a cool hat~

Help us spread the word: Like, Follow and Subscribe on Facebook | Twitter | Youtube.

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Class in Session: The Carlsbad Music Festival and Village Walk

What could get my lazy butt on a bike to ride into the neighboring village?  Music, of course.  Music and the thought of sitting comfortably in a wine bar enjoying said music and that’s what the Carlsbad Music Festival and Village Walk was offering, so I was all for it.

I’ve been reminded that it’s been a while since I wrote anything, so I took this as a sign and an assignment.

posterI can’t remember how the notice came across my screen, but it did a few days ago, that  Carlsbad Village would be hosting a walking music fest.  The thought of wandering through the village brought back fond memories of living at the edge of it and meandering through it on a daily basis.  That was my first stop when I moved to SoCal. What a great place to land.

I had to go to this.  I checked out the schedule of who was playing when and where and came across these words “A call to musicians” which immediately peaked my interest.   Turns out they were so confident of the success of the upcoming event that they’ve already scheduled it for the weekend of my birthday in September.

Without asking the boyz I immediately started filling in the blanks…”Band name”…”Three Sometimes More” and so it went until I hit the “Submit” button. I’m just that sure we’re supposed to play there.  Will be interesting to see if Three Sometimes More makes the cut and I convinced Justin (justinhelland.com) to apply as a solo artist as well.  For a white, Berklee trained button-up, he sure can play like a Conquistador.

mapI printed out their schedule then carefully followed each link to give a listen to each artist’s sound.  I found it really frustrating when the link brought me a page that was only the first in a long list of breadcrumb like pages you had to follow to get to the one where you could actually hear their music (note to self, add links to hear my music to the website home page), but I did give each one a listen then highlighted the name of the band, time and location on the schedule.

I was so prepared~  My friend and neighbor Wallace even fixed the flat on my bike, so I was ready to ride on in via the new bike path..  The only trick (for my brain) was that I thought I knew where Magee Park was, so I was on the wrong side of the village to start and missed the first act.  Bummer, but I did see Ana, ali gilmore blog - csarlsbad music - red fox tailsRyan and mini Ryan on the way there who said The Red Fox Tails sounded great.  I can say I thought their CD sales case was very cool.  That was the first thing I noticed.  It was laying on the side of the stage (Gazebo) way out of the view and reach of the listeners.  I have a brain that loves to revamp things as I see them; change those curtains out for leaf embedded blinds, add an accent wall and in this moment it was;  add a table on the audience side of the stage for band members to set at after their turn up, so they can easily sell their swag and autograph the merchandise for  the nice folks…

Gift Machine

Gift Machine

The first three on my list were at this location, so I settled in at the back where I could get some clear footage when I noticed the front tire on my bike wasn’t rock hard like it was an hour before when I’d set out on the ride.  Definitely losing air.  I stuck around long enough to get in a couple songs from The Gift Machine (who reminded me of a cross between The Stars and something…can’t quite put my finger on it).  Then I raced back home as fast as my chubby little legs would carry me, swapped the bike for the car and headed straight back.

Ali Gilmore Blogs - Wu man - chinese lute

Wu Man

I arrived just in time to catch the last two songs of Wu Man, an incredibly disciplined Chinese lute virtuoso.  As you can imagine, she is soft spoken, but watching her play you feel her passion for music and the far off place it takes her.

After Wu I met up with friends at the Cantina, went over the list and rendezvous points.  I then made my way into the heart of the village where I heard sounds that reminded me a bit of Guster and something from the 80’s.  A lot of sampling going on, which was an actual deterrent from the great sounds they had all their own.  Even with that said this was the band I listened to for the longest and even followed to their second session.  They’re called Eyelid Kid.  There are a few clips of them in the video footage.  Have a listen and share what you think of their sound on the AG Music Page on Facebook.

Jug-bandBefore that, there are a couple more groups to cover.  After Eyelid we moseyed over to the Old Train Station just in time to hear the G Burns Jug band. I didn’t see a jug, but there was a washboard, a fiddle, a guitarist and some great harmonies.  This was the first group I heard play mic-less that day and even with the noise interference from being outdoors and next to the tracks, they were just awesome.  Pure, clean sound that just resonates well and makes you tap your foot and sway your hips.  Next time I’d love to hear them in an more intimate venue.  I’ll bet their sounds would fill the room from wall to wall, every nook and cranny.

Time to move to our last and  hopefully best act.  I was looking especially forward to this because it was in a local wine bar that I really enjoy.  Great atmosphere.  They were just setting up when we got there.  Unfortunately they were sticking to the rule that you walk up to the counter and order your food/drink by the one, overworked Irish-musicserver behind the register.  They also seemed to be hosting a private party in the back which made for even worse conditions.  The poor couple in the 2 top in front of kept getting bumped and overshadowed by newcomers trying to get a good view of the trio Gallowglass Collective.  They played traditional Scottish-Irish tunes and talked a bit between the songs.  The acoustics in the room were outstanding, but I could get over the irritations of the constant bumping of elbows n hips and the endless line to get a nice glass of wine to savor the experience.  Hopefully if they return they’ll given a larger venue to perform in.  Maybe the local Irish pub?

All in all it was a great experience.  One that I’m ashamed to say I was unaware was even going on this past decade or so.  Well, yeah I’ve been a bit preoccupied, but still~  Makes you think.  When we say “There are little or no opportunities out there.’  Have even really looked?  Next time I am totally bringing the Nikon.

The Cover Story – How the Piece of Cake CD Cover Came to Be

how the piece of cake CD cover came to beHow the Piece of Cake CD cover came to be…where to start is the question…2013.  December of 2013 and we’re all gathered at Lee n Kerri’s place for their annual Christmas party.  I had to skip the past three because it was either a chemo week or I was photographing the MLS cup, so I was especially happy to be there.

I remember I was a bit obsessed with the fundraiser for the CD and how we were about 15K shy of our 18K goal and one week left to go.  This is when the wheels in my head start churning away like a blender until everything smooths out…what will I have to leave out?  How can I work this and still get 10 songs plus a bonus track on it?  I’d already promised contributors they’d get a “full length CD with a bonus track”, so I had to deliver.  I overheard Ana talking to Nat (who was my housemate for about a year when I first moved back to the area). I drifted in and out of the conversation and the room as I buzzed about making the holiday good wishes rounds.

The next morning I woke up with a clear vision in my head.  It was the conversation Ana was having with Nat.  This time I heard very clearly “You should really get back into painting.  You’re really good and it makes you happy.”  I knew exactly what this meant and so I got up immediately and sent Nat a message asking her to design the CD cover.  I told her I couldn’t pay her, but I could trade it in VIP passes to the screening event…

She wrote back with an enthusiastic “Yes!”  She asked me several questions so that she could pinpoint what I wanted, but what I wanted had nothing to do with me and everything to do with her.  I wanted her the friend, the artist, to draw her interpretation of what the song meant.  I sent her the lyrics and an MP3 of a rough cut of it (though she’s heard me play it several times at BBQ’s and open mics over the past few years.  I asked her to listen to, to read the lyrics and then paint.

The extraordinary image above is what came of that.  Some people who don’t know us or the story asked how come there were flowers and not an actual “Piece of cake” on the CD cover, so here is the answer in both parts:

For me: Piece of Cake is an unintentionally tongue in cheek phrase to mean that something accomplished is easy, but it’s also used jokingly to pretend something difficult was indeed easy, “climbing Mount Everest was a piece of cake.”, or “beating stage IV cancer was a piece of cake.”  I choose the facetious version.  Love and life can be hard or a piece of cake.  All depending on your point of view.  Given a choice, I will always pick the tongue in cheek version because it’s far more fun and to me, far more true to life.

For Nat: “When I started on the concept, the lyrics ‘it’s too late…’ kept running through my head. And I thought about love.
Then my thoughts turned to a new love long ago, when I was young and naive, and the first time he brought me flowers I had butterflies.  The flowers were so pretty and vibrant and had a life of their own, but the stargazer lily brought a moment of regret
It’s scent and sight reminded me of a time and day and place in the past of funeral arrangements and that awkward moment when you realized he thought that the lily was your favorite flower, but my favorite flower was really a daisy…
Simple and lovely, not the elegant, perfumed flower he wanted me to love.
Why didn’t I just speak up and say that my true love was daisies?
I just allowed it to happen and the flowers faded with my memories.
I couldn’t really save them, but I tried. I tried to press them and preserve them
I tried to look at them from time to time, but not the stargazer lily, they’re too big and awkward for any book and they were never really ‘me’ anyway.

If someone asked me what love is, I would say just be yourself.

Click here to see the Piece of Cake lyrics

Where I’m From Lyrics

Where I’m From

Where I'm From Lyrics - Ali Gilmore - Madison Park - Seattle

Where I’m From Lyrics & Music by Ali Gilmore © 2012

 

Where I’m from

The skies are mostly gray

And we crawl out like moles from underground

When it’s a sunny day

 

And I grew up near the sea

The sea lions and me

Every spring you can hear them sing

From miles and miles away

 

That’s why no matter where I roam
I will always call it home sweet home

 

Well the house I grew up in

Was filled to the brim

With 9 lives

Chaos thrives

Much to their chagrin

 

And those I grew up with

Keep me grounded to this day

Cuz they’re not afraid to say

When they feel me start to stray

That’s why no matter where I roam

I will always call it home sweet home

 

All the times I’ve left it behind

To find a life of another kind

But, every November

I start to remember

Till it’s in the forefront of my mind

 

*(Rain is its middle name

Living there you’ll think its lame

And though it’s rare to see it snowing there

That kind of beauty can’t compare)

 

Oh no matter where I roam

I will always find it home sweet home

And though I don’t often phone

I know this other life is just on loan

 

Cuz no matter where I roam

I will always call it home sweet home

Sweet home…sweet home…

 

* This verse was omitted from the recording on the Piece of Cake CD.

Musicians That Will Make The CD Magic – Russell Ramo

russell (moppet) ramo, ali gilmoreAh, my heart has a special place for this guy.  I found him shortly after I moved to Pacific Beach at the beginning of 2010 I think it was…I found the local music shop and went in to get some strings for my guitar.  Was chatting with Alan, the guy behind the counter, saying how my beloved guitar teacher John Shipe had moved away and I was reticent to try anyone new.  He boasted about the shop’s resident instructor so well that by the time I left the shop I was convinced it was worth a shot.  When I arrived there was this strapping 6 foot-something with a giant mop of hair, deep eyes and pearly white smile.  Radiant soul just beaming from him.  I kid you not.

The picture you see here was taken the day that Russell introduced the Ukelele to me and to my song “If He Were Mine”.  I loved it so much that I bought it that day.  That’s Kala I’m holding there, the Uke I refer to in so many of my stories and the one that my friend Natalie hand painted for me.  Such great memories~

My first guitar teacher, John, helped to draw out the Americana song writer in me, then Russell’s rhythm and blues/rock persuasion gave my songs a little kick in the butt.  From him, I learned Travis Picking  to pick up the prussell ramo, ali gilmoreace of some songs and the Ukelele to lighten the tone of others.  How I was so lucky to find just the right teachers at just the right timing is beyond me, but there you have it and after having Russell in the studio with us and reconnecting to one of the great sources of my success made me wish I could fly John down to be part of the CD as well.   After all, this CD isn’t just about recording my music.  It’s a testament to those who inspire it.  Since that’s not in the cards though, John Shipe and Oregon are top of my list for locations to travel and record a single.  More on that later.  For now I’ll leave you with my lovely attempt at capturing some moments in the studio with the infamous Russell Ramo (who by the way, is currently playing in band called The Routine in San Diego and touring up the coast, so if you’re anywhere near, you should go.  I saw them play the other night and they are awesome~).

6 songs down.  4 more to go.  Going back into the studio with Justin and Jim to work on two more tonite…

Day 1 In The Studio

I promised you updates and what better place to start that day one in the studio.

First off, you might have noticed that we changed studios and engineers.  I’m still really looking forward to working with Alan Sanderson, but it will be on a single that we’ll record later in the year.

For the full length CD we decided in the end that the best fit overall would be to return to Sound Source Studio and its owner, Bort Schrader.  Bort and I go back to the beginning,  recording the Boomerang CD back in the summer of 2009 and then again with the two singles By New Year’s Day and Dear Santa in the fall of 2010.  His studio also happens to be just down the road from most of us involved in the CD, so you can imagine how pleased my dear, sweet,  under-payed musicians were to hear of that.

Yesterday was proof positive we are well on course.   I met up with Bort the week before to go over details, expectations, etc., but this was Justin and Jim’s first time in the studio/working with him, so we talked over how it would go.  The plan is to have Justin (or whoever will be playing lead guitar on the song we’re working on) to lay down the foundation of the track with guitar, then add placeholder vocals, then other instruments and harmonies, then polish it off with fresh vocals and fine tuning (ok, pitch fix).

Jim lugged his upright bass, electric, amps and accordion (not knowing what we’d need on day 1), so they are camping out there for a while.   Jim is not only my band mate, but my partner in music, so even when he’s not strumming the bass his presence is much appreciated, to bounce ideas off of and to help me stay focused on capturing the sounds and feel of the the music that’s authentic “me.”

Justin was brilliant.  So many times while he was in the quiet room running through the tracks we would look in through the window, commenting on what a great find he is, how professional, positive, what a great spirit…all said from the other side of a sound proof booth of course, so as not to over inflate his young, Berkley educated ego ;).

Jim himself is more relaxed knowing that he won’t come in until the foundation is complete on several songs and then he can just plug in and play them all the way through, where Justin plays the songs piece by piece; intro, verse, chorus, bridge, end.

Part of Bort’s magic is cutting/pasting and color coding each piece into his editing software, making each song look like a colorful EKG.  That’s an over simplification of what he does, trust me.  Every musician who knows anything about editing has been in awe watching him as he slices, dices and smooths out the rough edges.

There really is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to make a song CD worthy.  Some would think you could just sit down and play it all the way through (and some veteran musicians do), but just as a camera captures every mole, hair out of place and scar, the recording microphone picks up every slip, breath and popping sound…

Day 1 was an excellent start to this venture.  We laid the foundation for two of the ten songs and we all feel really good about it.  I had my little camera and my cell phone to capture some snippets to give you a fly on the wall perspective of how it went.  Enjoy and more to come~

PS – Have your ordered your copy of the limited edition CD?  For a short time we’ve extended the offer, so get yours now or don’t say we didn’t warn you~

 

 

 

Musicians that Will Make the CD Magic – Brad Rehn and Len Crowley

Surround yourself with the right combination of people and magic happens…

Ali Gilmore Music - Brad Rehn and Len CrowleyBrad Rehn (confirmed)
Len Crowley (confirmed)

I met both Brad Rehn and Len Crowley about ten years ago, through Ned and Brenda, an Irish couple who owned and ran our local pub.  Brad and Len were members of Ned’s band “Brehon Law” that played in the pub a couple nights a week.   Ned is a master at working the crowd and can play mandolin in a way that makes you wait for the smoke to rise from it.  My friends and I couldn’t wait to get home from work on Friday nights, change and head down to the pub for what was sure to be a great night filled with great food, music and merriment.  This was before I returned to music myself. I was in awe of them and a quiet student for years.  Besides the fact that they were fun and played really well together, it was easy to see how much they loved their fearless leader, warts and all and I’ve always admired their particular brand of loyalty.

Both Brad and Len are deeply ingrained in my vision of this CD.  There is one song in particular that I hear them in. I always get verklempt when I think of it, because I know how much the story (behind the song) means to each of us.

All of my songs are stories.  Some of them are mine, some belong to others, but most often they’re a blend of moments and memories of mine as well as ones that my emotional antennae have picked up along the way.

Brehon Law

Paul, Brad, Johnny, Ned and Len at the going away party and the final performance of Brehon Law.

My song “See you around” is the latter. It was bubbling up inside me over the course of a couple weeks a­s I witnessed the progression of the impending move of our good friends from our world here in Oceanside to their home land of Ireland.  We knew they intended to return there to retire “one day”, but this decision of “when” came a few years earlier than we’d expected, which left many of us feeling torn between being happy they would be near their families again and sad to see such an integral part of our lives traverse from almost daily to “See you next spring”.

It was hard to keep cheerful under the weight of all that sadness. So, a few days before their going away party, I was home, opened a bottle of Pinot Griggio, poured a glass and started playing my guitar.  I started on A, did some Travis picking to lift the spirit of it and then the words came out…”Got half your stuff stowed in my basement…and your mailbox, well I’ve got a key…so when I see you packing things and tying ‘em all up with string, it don’t worry me…”

The rest flowed out of me as easily as the wine was going in.  I’d take a sip and start playing from the beginning again and then the next phrase would bubble up and out “but rumors are flying…while everyone is trying…to figure out why you’d want to leave…” Then I’d stop,  write down the lyrics, take another sip and sometimes wipe a tear as more and more of what I felt and sensed from the others around me sprang up, out and onto paper.

The night of their going away party was especially intense.  I had been taking my usual cheerful route and saying I wasn’t sad because I knew they were just a flight away, but inside I was struggling.  Especially as I looked through my camera’s lens and into the eyes of the others in our crew like Len who’s eyes looked like they were a damn about to burst.  Such profound sadness.  I imagine like a kid who wakes to find Santa was a no show.

This video is from that night.  We were all about two sheets to the wind by the time I braved the stage, my voice was week from chemo and the recording is from another 2 sheeter in the crowd, so don’t focus on quality of the production so much as the captured moment.  You can’t see Brad or Len, but if you listen really closely you will hear them come in when the story starts to build to…”It takes something so much wider than the ocean…to break the ties of our devotion…”


I listen to it and I know exactly where the song is supposed to go and that these two guys are meant to be part of it.  It is our way of bridging the distance between those days and the next time we are with “the Gibs”.

I am so looking forward to running this song with them and through Alan’s brilliant filter.  I believe the result will be extraordinary.  Mark my words…

‘Ali

PS – Just two days left in the campaign and 2 days left to order your copy of the limited edition CD: www.indiegogo.com/projects/aligilmore

Musicians that Will Make the CD Magic – Justin Helland

Surround yourself with the right combination of people and magic happens…

That’s advice I lived by in my IT management career and have smartly carried over into my musical endeavors. Some of the musicians I’ve hoped to surround myself with are “confirmed” for the recordings by means of “contributing” their time and talent while others are still on the “wish list”, because either:

  • they live live far off and we can’t afford the travel costs
  • this is their livelihood and they literally can’t afford not to get paid
  • they don’t know me from Adam, so once I find a way to contact them, I need to convince them this project is worth their time.

For those who have already invested or are considering investing in the CD, here’s an inside look into what your money will be going towards:

Ali Gilmore Music and Justin HellandJustin Helland (confirmed)

Justin is new and still a bit of a mystery to me, but here’s what we know so far and how he became part of the magic that is this upcoming CD…

I met Justin a few weeks back at my friends’ old pub in Escondido (O’Sullivans Irish).  Paul Castellanos (wish list) had invited me to join in an Irish session several times, but I didn’t think I was quite ready to try and keep up with all those fast chord changes, however, as part of this campaign was to “get myself out there”, I packed up my guitar and ukelele and off to the session I went.

There were about 6 of us in the session that night, including my drummer friend Brad Rehn (confirmed).  At one point I thought I heard a mandolin playing, but when I looked over it was Justin playing my Ukelele.  Astounding is the best word for it.  After the session I gave him my card and asked if he’d be interested in playing together.  He came over the following week for a session.  Jim, my upright bass player (confirmed) joined us and well, he said it best last night that when I put down the guitar and Justin picks it up, my songs “Ricochet”, to which I say “Exactly~”  This brings a smile to both our faces, knowing just how good this is all turning out to be…

Justin is young, but he’s an old soul.  He’s been playing music since he was a kid and studied at Berkley School of Music in Boston.  Music is his livelihood.  He has a studio in Escondido, California where he patiently and enthusiastically teaches guitar to students of all ages and when he’s not teaching, he’s performing at local venues.  Oh, and he recently met his musical hero Guinga, the world famous Brazilian guitarist.  Ask him about it and watch his face light up like a little kid at Christmas.

Justin is soft spoken, warm-hearted and the perfect “third man” for our trio.  There are plans for Jim, Justin and I to perform together ahead, but for right now we are focusing on getting the three of us and rest of the magic music ensemble into the studio all at once, which as Alan Sanderson, our engineer says is “like herding cats.”