Saturday, May 31, 2008

Blame It On The Rain

I think I've managed to overcome this week's crisis. It was helpful to take a step back and look at my work habits, which are nonexistent. The way I used to have an actual schedule dictated by my daughter's school hours, the isolation of the French countryside and maybe the fact that it's rained every day for the last year all add up to leave me constantly reaching for the internet like it was alcohol or comfort food (which I usually manage to hold off on until at least, umm, after five PM). I have to keep better track of the things I want to do, and trawling around online comes after. If it was only so simple. But at least I've got time management as my number one priority now, when I can get around to it.

We've had sun and blue skies for almost three whole days, and yesterday I finally managed to cut a springtime's worth of grass and weeds in the garden. So with the smug self-satisfaction that comes after only very occasional hard physical labor, I'm writing again. Without guilt!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I had a dream the other night and it wasn't so much what happened in the dream that was disturbing. It was the realization that the me who was in the dream was thinking "and I'll put this in the blog later."

I go around and around with whether to keep writing here. Sometimes it's enjoyable, having a little structure and a few friends and strangers who check in and who I like to check in on. Sometimes it's more like torture - wondering what's it all for, thinking I should be accomplishing things instead of reaching for the quick fix. Sometimes it feels like excellent writing practice and some kind of discipline, and other times it feels like the very opposite of that.

I started writing online in 1999, a tour diary that I updated a few times a year. I would pour myself into those entries, spend hours on each one. I kind of missed the whole blogging thing when it started, maybe because I had little or no internet connection. I barely wrote my diary for a year or two due to the fact that there was not much going on in my life that I was willing to share with the very small part of the world that might be interested.

And then when I got back online a few years ago, I saw there was this whole world of parent blogs. In one way I wished they would've been around when my daughter was young, but at the same time I wondered if I'd have written notebooks and cassettes and albums worth of songs, if I'd had such easy access to sharing with people. And then when I got to France I found the expat blog world. I believe it's been a really helpful thing for me. Who wants to hear "Song Cycle From A Cow Pasture" or "Size 44 Ain't As Big As It Sounds", anyway? I've loved seeing how other people cope and adapt to their new lives in France.

I go back and forth between thinking I should just accept that it's part of my life and enjoy the sharing (didn't I come up with all kinds of reasons to stop writing last summer, and didn't I come back in, timidly waving "I'm still here" a few months later?)

On Sunday I was reading the NY Times online - oh how I miss being able to read the actual paper. I try to make do with the local Populaire which features scintillating news such as "three umbrellas were found in the cinema in Saint Junien last weekend" (that's good, but did they ever find my gloves?) and got caught up in a Sunday Magazine article by this young woman, Emily Gould, and her trip down the rabbit hole of blogging. Though a lot of the choices she made in her personal and work life were just plain stupid (and the accompanying photos reinforce the false drama of the whole thing), I thought it was a good description of how the lines between living and blogging can get a little (or in her case, a whole lot) blurry.

But even more interesting than the article was the reaction of Times readers. People are so incensed that this woman's story is not Times-worthy that the online version of the paper has taken the drastic step of shutting down the comments section.

It's reassuring, somehow, that there are still huge numbers of people out there who use the internet but don't blog, hate blogging, have no interest in it. It makes me feel like I could always step away. Life would go on, just like it did when I was traveling a week or two ago. But didn't I find myself checking into a sleazy internet cafe to post, "just this once"? At the same time there are the people whose writing I enjoy reading. I love checking in on what they're up to. There's something reassuring in thinking maybe I'm that, for someone else. Not for long with posts like this, probably. I wonder how other people do it. Write, I mean. Without feeling conflicted.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


I can’t keep my holidays straight. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day in France, and that will make it the third time this year I sort of feel like I should have a special day but don’t know whether it’s the right one to be celebrating. There was the UK one back in March, which we learned about too late to do something for Eric’s mother. There was the US one two weeks ago, where I was in Swindon (see below) but I did get an email from my daughter which is a rare enough occurrence that it qualifies as cause for celebration. They seem to make a big deal about it here too, so maybe I can parlay that into lunch out somewhere. I could use a little cheering up on the mother front, as my daughter takes off on a rock and roll road trip and I find myself echoing my father’s words that ring in my ears, even to this day - “What about a job? Aren’t you going to use your talent? How are you going to support yourself?”

Meanwhile we’re booking a tour in the fall (I know, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and all, but someone in this family has to be the responsible one and I'd always felt sure it would be Hazel) and the US part is sort of like a board game where you throw darts at the various sections of the country and see what sticks. There are the obvious highly-populated areas where we have to play (New York, DC, Chicago) and the ones where it’s never a sure thing (Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia). And the rest of the country in between. Complicated by the fact that the first dates are in the Northwest. It’s all beginning to take shape, only yesterday the email box was a little inactive and I got kind of anxious and frustrated. Then I realized it’s the start of that long Memorial Day weekend there. Who's working? I remember dressing up bikes with red, white and blue streamers when we were kids, and parades honoring soldiers and going to the cemetery. My family are all meeting up in Pittsburgh and I know Eric and I will see them in the fall but it’s kind of strange being so far away. If I were actually there I doubt I’d think about "Memorial Day" at all. Or I'd be too busy to get together.

I think I’m definitely going to play the mother card tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Somewhere Between Southsea and Brixton

I often bring my laptop along on tour, thinking sure, I’ll have time to write. But that’s pretty much never the case. Between driving at least a couple of hours every day, soundchecks that take two hours what with the loading in and setting up and getting everything to work, then the mad dash to find food/somewhere to change clothes & put on eyeliner then back to the venue to play for two hours, sell merchandise, talk to people, pack up/load the car and find the hotel (though with the GPS we’ve managed to gain an hour or two that used to be reserved for driving around lost) there’s only time left for watching whatever must-see movie is available at three in the morning. Then it’s sleep until five minutes before the “full English breakfast” shuts down, pack up the car, spend an hour finding some decent coffee and un-disgusting food to eat, and then it starts all over again.

Oh no, it’s time to get back in the car.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

In Transit

When I was looking at the NY Times online the other day, I saw this music blog they started a few weeks ago. It's written by some well-respected songwriters: Roseanne Cash, Suzanne Vega, Andrew Bird and another more kind of professional songwriting guy whose name I can't remember. They take turns each week writing about songwriting and creativity and a few years ago it would have really interested me. But reading it now I just felt kind of disconnected from it all. There was a time when I lived in New York and songs came to me at all times of the day and night and I couldn't stop writing. It was imperative that I wrote those songs and then just as important to get out and play them for people. I don't know what motivated me, but I just had to do it. Then I lived in Nashville and had a publishing deal and did the writing and the co-writing and I feel really proud of the songs I've written, on my own and with other people. Well, most of them anyway.

But the truth is I've only written about 5 songs in the last two or three years. After calling myself a songwriter for years, I'm not sure if I really qualify anymore. I hope I'm moving into some other classification now, or possibly just back to the all-encompassing "artist"? Luckily I've had this album to work on with Eric for the past year. Maybe I only came up with the number of songs I needed to, or else I'd be doing that classic "covers" album that so many people resort to when they hit the wall.

As I write this Eric's finishing up the last mix (and he apologizes to everyone who loves reading his site, including me, because he has done a huge amount of work on this record and hasn't had time for diary writing). Then we're getting in the car to go to England for a few weeks - I'll try to keep writing here. I can't believe how important the blog has become to me, as a way to stay connected. Am I taking my creative energy and putting it all here? I don't know why that would feel more satisfying than picking up the guitar or sitting at the piano (my new love) but for the moment it does.

We're both nervous and excited about our first album together. It's like having a new group or something. We find ourselves in the position of asking people to book our band. But the alternative feels sort of like those uninteresting (to me, anyway) entries about the unexplainable act of songwriting.

Sometimes it feels like starting over, after twenty(cough) years as a musician. Maybe that's what I am? It's a little nerve-wracking, this being in transit.