Essays-Marissa Lamar

Music Emerging has collected essays from four musical women, a musical trio and myself. A simple word: struggles. I asked these women to send me essays about their musical journeys and their struggles. Hope you find inspiration in these personal stories. 

 

Marissa Lamar: Highland Kites, Los Angeles, CA

 

     "I always had a passion and love for music, and from a young age became obsessed with music that made me think, and made my feel. One of the first CDs I remember playing on repeat as a child was the Tracy Chapman album "Fast Car" that I'd taken from my dad's CD case. 

I spent most of my early 20s doing various types of volunteer work and working all the time. I always maintained that passion for music and writing and had books upon books of stories and poetry but never considered myself a singer, and didn't play an instrument. 

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When I was 24 or so I ended getting extremely ill. For years I degenerated, going to various doctors to find out what was wrong with me. I was being cared for full time and was unable to do much of anything. A doctor in L.A. finally tested and diagnosed me with Lyme Disease. I spent a year and a half once diagnosed doing various treatments and recovering. Once recovered I wasn't myself, I felt numb, like I couldn't think, I had been on many medical drugs and felt like  my mind had gone to waste, the life I had prior to getting ill seemed distant and vague. 

I decided that I was going to do what I had always wanted and learn music. So in 2013 I started taking piano lessons and writing songs. Music quite literally brought me back from the dead. I started using my mind again to learn something new, something I loved and it gave me an outlet to turn everything I've experienced into something beautiful. Music helped me let go and it helped me move on. 

I knew from this point on that I had to pursue music, I had to make it my life and help people with my art in the same way art had saved me. 

In 2014 I formed my band, Highland Kites and released our first 7 song EP entitled "So Vicious". Since this time we have done many shows, toured and released our full-length album, "All We Left Behind". We are planning the release of our 3rd album in the summer - and are about to leave on another tour starting in Austin for SXSW. 

My goal as an artist is to help people. I want people to listen to my music and feel understood, I want people to know things can and will get better and that you can always turn your own life around for the better. Our goal as a band is to tour and play live as much as we possibly can, to do volunteer work and benefit concerts for causes we believe in and to just generally contribute to making this world a better place in any way we can with our art."

---Marissa Lamar

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Essays-Honey Whiskey Trio

Music Emerging has collected essays from four musical women, a musical trio and myself. A simple word: struggles. I asked these women to send me essays about their musical journeys and their struggles. Hope you find inspiration in these personal stories. 

Honey Whiskey Trio-Los Angeles, CA

 

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     "There is a moment in every musician's life when they think about their future and see that music is the path they must choose, for it has chosen them. For some, the memories of this moment are vivid and bright, and others may have taken a bit more time, perhaps several moments. After the decision to make music for the rest of your life is made... along with it comes, of course, the panic.

Courtney, Ann Louise, and I studied music in high school and college, earning degrees in Vocal Performance and Education. Our journeys were different, yet very similar. We had classes, rehearsals, sectionals, performances, exams, recitals, just like every other music major. We were taught when to arrive, what to play, how to sing, how to dress and how to feel for many years. The panic arrives not when you are in the thick of it. It hides itself during hour 3 of rehearsal, and while you're frantically writing an essay, and even when you have fallen asleep on campus. The panic arrives when you have graduated, and you no longer have your schedule planned out for you. The freedom is beautiful and frightening.

We came together at a point in all of our lives where we were experiencing the same feeling. We all dove straight into the workforce, and soon realized that what we missed more than anything, was singing. We missed that feeling you get when you are making music from your body, the original instrument. We missed being able to improvise, blend, and get lost in the sound. Courtney had been writing some vocal arrangements and contacted my to sing through them. After just a few minutes of singing, it was very clear that we needed a third voice. The next week, Ann Louise hosted a gathering at her place where she met Courtney for the first time. We shared an amazing connection in just our first rehearsal, we knew that we found something special.  

While studying at the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at California State University Long Beach, we learned invaluable skills on being ensemble singers. Through the top vocal jazz group under the direction of Christine Guter. We learned that there is a unified sound that can be created from the most diverse collection of voices, and that it was our job to serve the music through tapping into that idea of being one voice. We have such different solo voices, and we have all struggled through accepting our own sounds. The human voice is such a versatile instrument, and also a very personal one. You are so deeply connected with your voice, that it's truly difficult to hear something leave your mouth that you aren't in love with. Being a part of Honey Whiskey Trio has shown us that everything that comes from us is contributing to our group sound. All of the little quirks, pops, and crackles in our individual voices brings something real, honest and genuine to our music. We are truly in this together.

The way that we consume, experience and share music has changed so much in just our short lifetimes. Social media platforms bring the artist closer to their listeners, keeping an open dialogue allowing growth. Unfortunately, it also allows artist to become closer with the negative comments as well. We had been welcomed into the performing world by The Harmony Sweepstakes Festival, as well as the Women's A Cappella Association. The performance opportunities gained from just these two organizations have been wonderful, and the a cappella community is incredibly supportive. Yet, there are still the ones that think three females can't possibly be doing everything right. We've heard comments from we need a male voice to really round out the sound all the way to there's nothing interesting about three part harmony. What we must understand, is that everyone has unique tastes in music, and that's one of the wonderful things about being human. You love what you love. The negative comments about what we do has no direct correlation to the effort we've put into each of our musical journeys, the rehearsal and sharing of music we love, and wanting to bring the most honest, genuine versions of ourselves to every performance.

Our goals have come into focus the longer we make music together. It began as a struggle to make music, and now we make music. It became a struggle to accept our voices, and now we couldn't be happier. We now hope to inspire music makers to continue to make music, work through the struggles that a life in music carries, and let their voices be heard."

 

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Essays-Cynthia Brando

Music Emerging has collected essays from four musical women, a musical trio and myself. A simple word: struggles. I asked these women to send me essays about their musical journeys and their struggles. Hope you find inspiration in these personal stories.

Cynthia Brando-Los Angeles, CA

Busking on the Santa Monica pier.

Busking on the Santa Monica pier.

     Four years ago I moved to Los Angeles with $450, a temporary place to stay and no job or connections. For whatever reason, now was my time, and I was filled with an overflowing energy to finally pursue a dream I had obsessively thought about for my whole adult life-music. I gave away most of my belongings that I had collected for seven years of living a life where I had established roots for the first time. Those roots were in Humboldt Co., in Northern California. I had spent most of my 30’s there; healing from the damage of deep depression and anxiety that I had suffered throughout my 20’s; damage that caused me to not pursue much of anything to its completion. My 30’s were more productive and was a time of getting a degree, starting meditation and Buddhist study and continuing my music in my secluded space in nature.  It was then that I started to perform out a little bit, but was still too terrified to really put myself out there. It wasn’t until the end of my time in Humboldt that I started to play out more, when I realized that I wanted to possibly leave and pursue music more professionally. I left behind a best friend, my tango and meditation community and my easy going existence. I packed up my Jeep with my cat, my small musical collection, some clothes, family heirlooms and some other items of importance. I had no idea what was in store for me-I had never even visited Los Angeles. When I arrived, I sprung right into action. I was elated when I received some responses online from music related sources I reached out to; and was left feeling naïve when nothing transpired, but I persisted. I got a couple of gigs and learned about the “pay to play” system of the city, where an artist agrees to a contract of selling a specific amount of tickets, and pays out of pocket if they don’t reach the quota. I was stunned by this, and would have none of it, but I managed to talk my way into getting gigs at a pay to play venue, the House of Blues, as a “fill in” performer when someone would cancel their gig. I “friended” random people on Facebook that lived in Los Angeles and had a musical instrument in their profile. I started to make some connections this way, and would eventually meet these people in person and form friendships. I started to go to music industry talks and events, and out to hear live music, mostly local singer songwriters. I got a low paying job at a group home as a fill in person, and later a steady 30 hour a week job in the school system which allowed me to get my own place-a very small and perfect studio behind a house.

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     As I reflect back on my 30's in Northern Ca, before moving to Los Angeles, and the beautiful time of healing; I remember often feeling like I still wasn’t ready to take on the world. I continued to suffer a lot from depression, but was more functional. I accomplished much-like going back to school and graduating, but then I would sink back into seclusion. I also did a lot with my music, but nothing would happen. My life began to shift slowly and slowly until I had focused on my healing for enough years that I started to break out of my shell around my mid 30's. I had a new found energy that came from a strange mixture of deep sorrow and ambition. I always had great regrets about my lack of pursuit with music, which I always knew I wanted to do. I also was not very good; even though I had been playing and writing songs for many years. I never had training, and didn’t really know approaches to help me gain a perspective of my musical deficiencies and how to improve, but I practiced a lot, and got stronger-my music did end up improving to the point where I thought it might be good enough to do something with; unfortunately, I was in my late 30’s, which in my mind, seemed kind of late to be pursuing such an incredibly difficult career. Still, I didn’t care-I figured I wouldn’t know until I tried. Success at my age meant something very different than my thoughts about success in my 20’s. It meant navigating within the scope of my own unique path and not someone else's. It meant surviving in Los Angeles under difficult circumstances, which I did. It meant being involved in all sorts of musical activities, such as; playing gigs, street performing, running my own music magazine and concert series and ample studio time-I am currently in the recording studio working on two projects. These are just some of the things I am involved in that I had only once dreamed about-and I’m happy. This is success to me right now. I am not fully making a living off of my music-but I’m working on it, and I haven’t had to leave L.A. yet-and that is all that matters. I still think about the future and have my worries and fears as I now am in my 40’s. Sometimes they debilitate me for a day, but only a day. My life is trying and I’m tired all of the time, but I don’t let that get me down. I could give up music and get a more conventional job and have all of my worries disappear, but I wouldn’t be happy-I would be miserable. I’m still an able bodied individual full of ideas and an abundance of creativity. Until that runs out-this is right where I want to be.

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Heather Zide-Sound Majesty Interview by Cynthia Brando

Heather Zide started out small booking a few local bands and is now a booking extraordinaire with her company based in Los Angeles called "Sound Majesty."

 

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M.E.  "How did the birth of Sound Majesty happen?"

H.Z.  "Flashback to 2013 - I started working for HRS Records (vinyl mastering) and worked on Kyle McNeill’s “Happy At Last” record, which led me to try to get him and a few other local bands booked at various local venues. Then in April of 2015 while at a Deadfinger show (now called The Dose) I met someone who runs another music booking collective and we started booking shows together. Last July I booked my first show on my own under the name Icy Flamingos, in August I changed the name to Sound Majesty. The name Icy Flamingos came about from a dream I had back in March of 2013, but besides myself there is only one person who knows what the reference is about. The name probably sounded weird to the people who didn’t know the reference." 

M.E.  "Do you have a background in music?"

H.Z.  "I don’t actually have a formal background in music. My background is actually in medicine! But I feel like music is better medicine than anything you can find in a bottle of pills or i.v. bag. Music has always been a big part of my life. My first job was at Banana Republic in 2004 - each month corporate would send us the soundtrack for that month that was always filled with the coolest indie/chill/atmospheric music. I discovered a lot of really great music through that, like Sebastien Tellier, Zero 7, Röyksopp, Goldfrapp, and Death Cab for Cutie. I was like a little kid on Christmas morning each month waiting for that month’s CD to arrive, I used to get so excited to rip open the package and pop it in the store’s sound system and find out what gems I would discover and hope that it was good because it would be playing on repeat for the next month!"

M.E.  "What is the most challenging aspect of the job?"

The most challenging aspect — oh God do you really want to know? I’m not sure there’s one thing, it’s more like a bunch of little things. But at the end of the day it’s totally worth it! I guess one challenge is getting people to go see a band that they are not already familiar with. I always put bands together that I think have complimentary musical styles, so if you’re coming to see one band you’re probably going to like ALL the bands on the lineup. I want people to think of shows like a 4-6 course dinner, meant to be experienced from start to finish. In other words don’t just come for the entree (headliner) - get there early for the amuse bouche, hors d'œuvre, and appetizer (openers) the second course (main support) and stay for the palate cleanser, cheese course, and dessert (closers). Another challenging thing when booking shows is when bands don’t communicate, if every band could tell me right away either they can play, or can’t, or are checking that would really make the show booking process faster. Sometimes they just leave me hanging with no response - which I’ve found can mean anything from ‘we are checking to see if we can play’ to ‘no weren’t not gonna play’ to ‘hell yeah, we’re down! (but got too excited and forgot to actually say that)’ or ‘we have multiple band members running our Facebook page and thought that one of the others responded to the message.’ Probably the most challenging aspect is finding the time to do everything I want do to and all the things that go into throwing shows - booking the bands, making the flyers and event pages, promoting the event, making sure the bands are promoting the event, sending out the show advances and coordinating set times, load-in and backline etc., photographing the show, taking video of the show, editing the photos and videos and posting them online - especially during weeks when I have multiple shows. 

M.E.  "What is the most rewarding part?" 

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What I do is very rewarding! Music is such a powerful force, I think it's the most powerful force besides love. That feeling of getting lost in the music - where in that moment you forget about everything else and nothing else exists. It’s almost like stopping time. Almost a transcendental experience. The most rewarding part is packing a venue from side to side and front to back - and everything that goes along with that. Everyone’s happy and everyone wins when that happens. The energy in the room is incredible! When that happens it is a result of everyone working together and doing their part to make it happen, so it's a great feeling of togetherness! It’s great having an idea for a show in my head and watching it come to life and see it actually happen! I love seeing people at my shows having a great time and knowing that I had something to do with that - I get to create something and make people happy. It’s great when people come together a for a few hours and forget about their differences and just enjoy the music. It’s also rewarding getting to help bands that I really like and believe in get exposer. Hearing one of my band’s songs on the radio is really rewarding too! Getting acknowledged by the local music community and having bands/other promoters/venues reach out to me because they see what I’m doing and want to collaborate with me is also very rewarding! It used to be when I would discover a new band, the most I could do would be to tell a few people about them. But now I’m in the position to bring that band to a wider audience by booking them which hopefully leads to radio play or write-ups in music blogs/publications or them getting booked to open for a national touring band. 

M.E.  "Any others involved with Sound Majesty?"

H.Z.  "It’s just me running Sound Majesty. I’ve been really lucky to get to book and collaborate with so many talented bands. I kind of like challenging myself to see just what I’m capable of on my own. But I’m also excited about some collaborations that are happening... My motto is everything is better with music - I want to put music everywhere!" 

SOUND MAJESTY ON FACEBOOK

Interview: Holli Moon-Objects of Desire Interview by Cynthia Brando

photo by Cynthia Brando

photo by Cynthia Brando

     Walking into Holli’s beautiful Beverly Hills home is like walking onto the set of one of those perfect homes you see in magazines like Home and Garden, which showcases beautifully decorated abodes. It was light and elegant, with her equally elegant pastel-like paintings throughout. Her home is how she describes her art, “my art is Hallmark; it’s like comfort art”…Currently based in Beverly Hills, she also lived in Manhattan for many years and divides her time between the coasts. One of her talented daughters is Hannah Rose of the New York band, “Luna Rose.” Music and artistic talents run in the family…

M.E.  “Were your parents artists?”

H.M.  “My mom passed away a couple years ago and she was my greatest inspiration. She was the reason I became an artist-literally-painting, singing…she had beautiful voice. She put me into private lessons and that was it for me. My dad was an amazing self taught photographer, and he worked for the L.A. Times, and some of the really cool photos that you see-he did; like the old Jane Mansfield photo with Sophia Loren; he also started his own newspaper….My parents were super talented in different ways; I was the one that really took it and ran with it. When I had my kids, Hannah and Abby, they were surrounded by it. When I was first pregnant with Hannah, I was singing full time; studio, film; television and painting on a scaffold 20 feet high while pregnant; so that’s all they ever saw their mom do. I was singing here in L.A. at all the clubs; the Whiskey, Madame Hopsings; some that aren’t even here anymore. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, but lived in New York a long time”.

M.E.  “What are the pros and cons of being an artist in New York and in Los Angeles?”

H.M.  “Manhattan is so accessible-Los Angeles you have to be in a car and I hate that. The club scene isn’t as cool in L.A. as it is in N.Y.; all the young and up and coming bands; the indie rock groups like my daughters band Luna Rose; they’re just killing it out there in lower Manhattan; there’s so much more accessibility; Here in L.A.-20-25 years ago; it used to be amazing. Places closed down; the House of Blues-that’s crazy to me; so my thought in moving back to L.A. after being in N.Y. was that I could get a clean slate after a divorce, and I had art contacts here, and my daughter Abby, for acting; I thought this would be a good place. I lucked out-I found a studio in Culver City-this guy David Sigman who is an amazing artist-sculpture artist; I found a cool little vibe over in Culver City and now he’s taking the studio that I’ve been in and renovating it now; but it’s happening here; a real cool area"…

M.E.  “How would you describe your painting style?”

photo by Cynthia Brando

photo by Cynthia Brando

photo by Cynthia Brando

photo by Cynthia Brando

H.M.  “My art is Hallmark art-it’s like comfort art, but  I also love vibrant color; it’s all internal; the art always has something to do with what is going on in my life. You can see in this impressionistic painting of Manhattan; this was me missing Manhattan; that was a day I was so sad…and here you see the Lighthouse-that has everything to do with me and my girls and home base…I was trained by some really amazing classical artists and plein air artists-and I used to live in Carmel. In Carmel it was all little small landscape type paintings and that was too tight for me; so what’s ironic, is that I got back into a gallery in Carmel with an abstract piece; now I’m a lot more abstract then I used to be. These pieces are about balance-I was just really in a zone when I started painting those, and I wanted them to be calming-it was really important to me-I really seek art balance like that. I’m a true Libran quintessential artist I guess! I love Juan Claude Basquiat. So this new piece I’m working on; I’m starting the process of graffiti like art-it’s a start-a funky idea. This is totally different; my Indian Corn. I did a show in Southern Utah and I did all South Western art. I have Cherokee Indian blood in me; so I love the whole South Western theme….If you say things out loud-the universe listens…it really does. I used to say “I’m gonna live in Carmel one day-I will be in New York one day”…and I did it; and you kind of don’t believe it-but it really does happen."

photo by Cynthia Brando

photo by Cynthia Brando

photo by Cynthia Brando

photo by Cynthia Brando

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M.E.  “Besides being an accomplished artist, you are also a singer. How did that come about?”

photo by Cynthia Brando

photo by Cynthia Brando

H.M.  “I started singing when I was in second or third grade, and then got the bug when someone saw me. I started when I was in high school when I was thirteen. I had my first band called Rock Candy-we played everything-Southern Rock, Fleetwood Mac…and that was the bug-and someone saw me perform and then I got my first radio station jingle when I was thirteen. I was so excited. I knew I wanted to do that for the rest of my life”…. At thirteen, it was all rock when I started to write songs; Stevie Nick was my idol and Janis Joplin, and all the rock chics-Tina Turner…and then, later, I learned jazz. Jazz is so intimidating, but I could hear it. I think from having the experience as a studio singer and doing lots of different styles. I didn’t perform jazz until my late 20’s and then when I moved to New York, there were a lot of jazz clubs. Here, I still perform with the jazz people that I met in my 20’s-great people like Tom Zinc and Melvin Davis who played with Chaka Khan and Anita Baker. When I came back here to Los Angeles, I got together with these really seasoned jazz guys; John Mayer, Chris Conner; these guys are giants.”

M.E.  “Do you have any thoughts or feelings about being in the music industry and age?”

H.M.  “To me, it just enhances us and makes us more beautiful from the inside out. I have some amazing artists friends that are so beautiful; like to the core beautiful and I honestly think that if we can keep it going and not stress out over the crap-the stresses of life and finances…it’s not always consistent being an artist; but the key is that you gotta do what you love, no matter what age-I could not do it any differently-people say to me, “I don’t know how you do it Holli, you always land on your feet-you keep it going”, but it's because I’m an artist. If you stop-you’re dead. You have to juggle a lot of things…..I do stuff on the side sometimes like catering; because cooking is my third passion. This is a funny story and is so L.A.-I got a call to cater a dinner for a medium, so I thought, “this will be fun”-and then she said, “It’s a dinner for Estelle Getty, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor-they’re all coming.” So I said, “Ok-cool, this is awesome!” So I did a sit down dinner for eight people; full on chicken cordon bleu….my daughter was my assistant and she said, “what are you doing?’ “Just go with it”, I said…I set it all out-and then the witching hour hit, and there was a camera crew and the medium and the friend; we served the food and the door rang and the medium said, “we would like to welcome Marilyn and Elizabeth and Estelle”…..I’ve done some crazy stuff.”

M.E.  “What’s your biggest struggle as an artist?”

H.M.  “Financial-because when you’ve been doing it as long as I have you’ve got to keep it going, and I’m never gonna quit-but you have to pull that extra income-that’s hard; to do what you want; if I could be a full time singer…that would be it. Honestly, I don’t feel my age…I started out as a singer-songwriter, and I’m going to go out as one.”

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Pics from the Music Scene-Around L.A.

photos by Cynthia Brando

 

Allen Morris at the San Fernando for "Music Emerging Presents."

Allen Morris at the San Fernando for "Music Emerging Presents."

Dave Osti at the Copper Still Bar for "Music Emerging Presents."

Dave Osti at the Copper Still Bar for "Music Emerging Presents."

Ali Handal at the San Fernando for "Music Emerging Presents."

Ali Handal at the San Fernando for "Music Emerging Presents."

The Wild Mountain Mystics with Jake Kelley at Matt Denny's Alehouse for "J.C. Hyke's Songwriter Serenade."

The Wild Mountain Mystics with Jake Kelley at Matt Denny's Alehouse for "J.C. Hyke's Songwriter Serenade."

Brit Rodriguez at the Spoke Bicycle Cafe. 

Brit Rodriguez at the Spoke Bicycle Cafe. 

Syd Straw in Atwater Village for "Music Emerging Presents."

Syd Straw in Atwater Village for "Music Emerging Presents."

Syd Straw with Lyn Berteles and Karyn Kool in Atwater Village for "Music Emerging Presents."

Syd Straw with Lyn Berteles and Karyn Kool in Atwater Village for "Music Emerging Presents."

Jaime Wyatt at the Hope Lutheran Church for "City Roots."

Jaime Wyatt at the Hope Lutheran Church for "City Roots."

Teresa Tudury at the Coffee Gallery Backstage

Teresa Tudury at the Coffee Gallery Backstage