A Country Singer Hits the Stage

In front of a venue on the Urban Fences tour

In front of a venue on the Urban Fences tour

The crowd is in the venue, waiting.

I sit in the car. The sequins on my jacket crunch against the seat. I stare at my phone and open the keyboard app. It’s time for me to warm up my voice.

My nerves are jangled, threatening the calm I am fighting to master. I breathe.

I take a deep breath and trill my lips, ascending and descending a major scale.  

The Paisley Fields with Willie Huston on the Urban Fences Tour 

The Paisley Fields with Willie Huston on the Urban Fences Tour 

I close the car door behind me and cross the dark parking lot.

The door of the venue opens, customers glide by laughing. I flash a quick smile and push past them into the venue. My heart is hammering in my chest. My palms have started to sweat.

Sound check 

Sound check 

I cross the floor to the stage and join the rest of the band. We plug in our instruments and start sound check. I study the set list.

Don’t think too much about the audience.

Don’t get distracted.

Focus on the song.

Focus on the moment.

Focus on the performance.

Breathe.

I hit the first chord. My nerves melt, as the stage lights wash my face.

I am in the moment, and I am alive. 

The Paisley Fields with Willie Huston and friends on the Urban Fences tour. 

The Paisley Fields with Willie Huston and friends on the Urban Fences tour. 


My Checklist to Plan a Kickass Tour

 

Photo by John A. Stevens. New album is available at  https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/oh-these-urban-fences...-ep/id1041140905

Photo by John A. Stevens. New album is available at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/oh-these-urban-fences...-ep/id1041140905

The Paisley Fields are on tour this week, so I thought I would share my tips for planning a band tour. Below is my month-by-month checklist.

4 Months Out

Brainstorm tour dates and cities. 

Compile a list of potential venues and bands. 

 

3 Months Out

Plan the route.

Contact the first round of venues.

Contact local acts to share the stage.

Order merchandise.

 

2 Months Out

Confirm about 50% of the shows.  

Have a draft of the press release written.

Compile/update your press list.

Make needed adjustments to itinerary. 

Follow up with local acts. 

 

1 Month Out

Send out press release. 

Start making lodging arrangements. 

Begin social media promotion.

Finalize venues for all shows.  

Finalize lineups for all shows. 

 

2 Weeks Out

Continue promotion. 

Practice, practice, practice. 

Finalize lodging.

Finalize transportation.  

 

1 Week Out

Promote shows on social media.

Practice, practice, practice.

 

Day before

Make a list of things to pack.

Pack that shit!

Practice.

 

Day 1

Have fun!

Make a ton of new fans!



 

 

Creating Art Brings Out the Haterade

 

#TBT to me fascinated by music at a very young age. 

#TBT to me fascinated by music at a very young age. 

Yoko Ono, Miley Cyrus, John Mayer, Justin Bieber, Nickleback and Courtney Love.

These wildly successful musicians are also some of the most hated creators of recent memory.

If you make money as an artist, you will still probably encounter someone who will hate you or your art. You don’t even have to Miley famous.

People have said some terrible things about me online and to my face. Last week, a guy said, “I’m a better piano player than you.”

Congrats, dude. You’re also a bigger asshole, clearly.

Yesterday, I received an email from the editor of a popular online magazine. He informed me he was pulling our review and firing the writer because the write-up on our record was so nasty. Fortunately, I hadn’t read the review.

I accept not everyone is going to get our music, or what I am trying to convey as a songwriter.  People may take issue with a big old homo like me charging into their genre, guns blazing. Many people don’t like change.

The band has received some pretty homophobic messages. Some have been a little frightening.

So why do we open ourselves up to this? Is it really worth it?

Get an advance copy of the new record on  iTunes  or in the store:  thepaisleyfields.com/store

Get an advance copy of the new record on iTunes or in the store: thepaisleyfields.com/store

We all have different motivations, so I can really only answer for myself. Though I return to the question often, I’ve never really been good at articulating a definitive answer. All I can come up with is: what else am I going to do? There’s nothing else that would make me happy.

I love making music. So that’s it. The good days still outweigh the bad days by far.

I’ve never been a middle of the road type of person. If I’m in something, I’m in. I pour my soul into every lyric and every note and every show.

If what you are doing is good, it’s going to sound/look/feel different. It’s going to be unusual, and some people are going to think it’s pure shit. Some people are going to hate it. Some people are going to hate you.

People don’t like what they can’t understand. Haters gonna hate. Ignore them. You’re not doing this for them.

You’re doing it because it’s what you love, and you’re doing it for those weirdos like you that do get it. The most rewarding thing is finding those weirdos who connect with you and your art, whatever it is. And these weirdos, well they fucking love what you do.

Creating music for a living can be heartbreaking. But I still get to wake up every day and do what I love. It’s more than what a lot of people can say. I am grateful for that, and I am grateful for every new weirdo my music brings into my life.  



Yee-Haw! Support Country Music & Grab your Pre-Sale Copy of Oh These Urban Fences…Today

The Paisley Fields album launch party at Branded Saloon. Photo by Stephen Jimmerson. 

The Paisley Fields album launch party at Branded Saloon. Photo by Stephen Jimmerson. 

Oh These Urban Fences… pre-sale begins today! Yee-haw!! I can honestly say this is the most excited I’ve been about any recorded music I’ve created. For me, music is a privilege, not a job.

But musicians need to make money too, so we can’t just give it away. Trust me! It’s worth the $5. I really believe in this music and this band. Get your hands on copy here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/oh-these-urban-fences...-ep/id1041140905

Last night, we had the launch party at one of our favorite haunts, Branded Saloon. So many of our good friends came out, and we had the privilege of sharing the stage with some wonderful musicians like Willie Huston, Blair Bodine and My Gay Banjo. They all put on killer shows.

The show was a blast, and we kept the fun going at karaoke afterwards. Willie and I sang a pretty epic version of “Man, I Feel Like A Woman.” Jessica, Alex and Anna tore the karaoke stage up, and there’s a rumor (and possible video?) going around that our guitar player, Andrew, sang a couple ditties at the end of the night.

I know people don’t often buy new music these days, and I’m not much of salesman. But there is something special about this record. I hope you give these songs a chance. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Buy a copy on CD here, and receive it before the official release date:

http://www.thepaisleyfields.com/store/cd-oh-these-urban-fences

Or download today:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/oh-these-urban-fences...-ep/id1041140905

How I Turn Inspiration into a Song

Photo by John A. Stevens: instagram:  @TheBreakingShell

Photo by John A. Stevens: instagram: @TheBreakingShell

The Oh These Urban Fences… pre-sale begins next week, so I’m reflecting on where these songs came from and what they mean to me. Music comes from a mysterious place. Though the songs represent one thing to me, it doesn’t mean there might not be a completely different meaning for someone else.

This record is The Paisley Fields’ first studio EP, and I am proud of the way this music turned out. Some of you may have heard these songs at our live shows, but this post lends a little insight about what the songs mean personally.

1. “My Best Years” 

The pain of a break up is universal. It is a loss, not only of the other person, but a part of yourself. Heartbreak doesn’t occur only when a romantic relationship dissolves. We can experience similar pain when relationships we have with friends, family members, coworkers, or classmates, end. This particular song is about the end of a relationship between two men, but the song can resonate with anyone who has had their heart broken. 

2. “Brooklyn Rodeo”

Oh These Urban Fences… is the title of this album and also a line from “Brooklyn Rodeo.” The song is a staple of our live shows, and we play it nearly every time we have a show. It’s a song about getting out on the road and playing to a new crowd every night. It’s also about embracing the bohemian in you that wants to pull up your roots and move from town to town. “Making your great escape” is about finding your true passion in life and beating all obstacles to accomplish it.

3. “Highway One”

Two summers ago, on a west coast tour, we drove through the Mojave Desert. I’ll never forget that powerful landscape. This song lives there. It is the dust devils, the Joshua trees, the dilapidated truck stops, the trailer parks, the 24 hour strip joints and the twinkling, neon signs. If you listen carefully, you might hear the whisper of Gram Parsons’ ghost.  

4. “How Low”

When The Paisley Fields released our first music video, we received some attention through blogs and social media. The video portrays a gay couple falling in love and getting engaged. (Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/-4Gy0q07fyA ) Along with all the positive attention and support for the song, there was also some negative backlash. People I had never met said some terrible things about me. Instead of wallowing, I put it into a song. “How Low” is that song.

5. “Butterflies”

This marks the only completely autobiographical song on Oh These Urban Fences... I knew from a young age that I was attracted to guys. In middle school, I had a crush on a male classmate. The summer before ninth grade, we spent many days and nights together. We snuck onto church rooftops. We hid in cornfields and baseball fields to smoke weed. He was my first kiss with a boy. “Butterflies” is about him, me and that summer.

 

The places and the people around us may change, but what moves and inspires us doesn’t have to. We should hold strong to the passions we felt while we are young. We should cherish them, and let them grow with us. Maybe yours will grow into a song, like mine did.

In many ways, I’m still the kid growing up in the middle of nowhere. My life is certainly different, but the core of who I am is the same. I can hear that in these songs.

Maybe you will hear it in these songs too. If you enjoy the music, please share it with your friends.

The Paisley Fields are holding a free raffle, and it’s easy to enter. The winner will receive a limited edition copy of Oh These Urban Fences… on CD, along with a t-shirt, a shot glass and a bandana. To enter send your name and mailing address to thepaisleyfields@gmail.com before September 30th. We will choose the winner on September 30th, so get your entries in now!

Cover art for The Paisley Fields  Oh These Urban Fences...  by Julia McGinley. Design by Derek Bishop

Cover art for The Paisley Fields Oh These Urban Fences... by Julia McGinley. Design by Derek Bishop

The pre-sale begins October 2nd at thepaisleyfields.com and through our iTunes store: iTunes.com/thepaisleyfields .



5 Bands You Need to Know About in 2015

Pre-sale starts October 2nd. Visit thepaisleyfields.com/store

Pre-sale starts October 2nd. Visit thepaisleyfields.com/store

With all this shameless promotion going on for The Paisley Fields new EP Oh These Urban Fences… (due out in November), I thought it would be nice to highlight some of my favorite new bands. Below is my list for new bands to watch this year.

Quarter

Quarter is an avant-garde composer who has stated his influences are hibiscus trees, starfish, rain and Bjork. Like Sigur Ros, he will occasionally use nonsense words as lyrics, though his style and execution is completely different. With Quarter running across the stage dressed as a cloud, his performances mesmerize.

Pig Shit Motherland

Move over Diarrhea Planet, another stinker is coming through. Pig Shit Motherland is a death metal band from Iowa. The group met while working at a Hy-Vee grocery store. The band has built an impressive following in their home state, after playing the prestigious 80/35 Festival. Next up, Pig Shit Motherland is embarking on a national tour in support of their debut album, Fuck Your Eyeballs.

Baptist Explosion

Baptist Explosion seamlessly fuses big band, barbershop and soul music. The group is made up of four former Baptist ministers. Tired of the confines of the church, the singers decided to form the band and hit the road. They don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Their performances at Cochella and Bonaroo brought the crowd to its knees. Baptist Explosion’s harmonies are tight, and their sound rivals the Dap Kings.

Blue Ridge Bandit Mountain Maidens

The Paisley Fields played with these amazing ladies on a big US tour last year. These seven sisters from Appalachia sing incredible, seven-part vocal harmonies and play banjo. They sound like a fever dream of whiskey, banjo and lust. Be sure to catch them at Billy’s Backdoor BBQ in Bushwick next month!

FuckFuckFuck 

Another Brooklyn band made the list. One might think a punk band whose lyrics consist only of variations on the word fuck might get a little gimmicky. But FuckFuckFuck pulls it off with aplomb. Look for their new album, Fuckity Fuckle Fucknubbit in early 2016.

And remember, look for all these bands coming to a venue not near you at all, never.  

 

The Surprising Threat to Christianity that No One is Talking About

I’m not going to use her name, but a certain county clerk was released from jail this week. She stood beside two government officials before a large crowd of supporters who cheered her on.

This woman was jailed for breaking the law. Her defense was the law conflicted with her religious beliefs. Her religious beliefs are that gay people should not be married.

The bigots who support her claim, that as Christians they cannot condone equality for the LGBTQ community. What they don’t realize is the hate they are spreading does more damage to their religion, than it does to the LGBTQ community.

By using Christianity as impetus for their hate, they are aligning their religion with a message of hate. This association has given Christianity a bad stigma. You would think those who claim to be so fervently Christian would be concerned their actions are having a very real and negative impact on the perception of their religion.

These hateful people define themselves by their religion, and any perceived attack on Christianity is viewed as a personal attack. Therefore, what they are doing is fueled by personal opinion, rather than upholding the values of the Christian religion. They don’t care if the rest of the world sees Christianity as a group determined to spread a message of hate.

People that stand against marriage equality are scared of losing power. The LGBTQ community had an enormous victory this year, and that has taken away some of their power. We are one step closer to being seen as equal in the eyes of the law, and these people can’t accept that.

As humans, many of us deeply value our spirituality and religious affiliation. It can define us down to our core. There is nothing wrong with that. I am all for finding strength and solace where you can.

People that stand with that certain clerk are defined by their religion. And because they feel threatened by us establishing our equality, this is the most the most hurtful way they can think of to get back at us. Condemn us to hell.  

But who are they to say they own Christianity? How entitled must someone be to believe that God speaks to them and only them? The message they are spreading is one of hate, not love. And that is not the kind of Christianity I was taught about growing up in the church. They are destroying what is best about Christianity.

The people against marriage equality will continue to attack us, but the good news is that we are making major steps towards achieving equal rights. 

Only light can cast out darkness. I will do my best to be a shining, gay little light.  

Kim Davis: Bible-Avenging Crusader or Bible-Wielding Hypocrite?

Today Kim Davis was held in contempt of court and sentenced to jail for her refusal to issue marriage licenses after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality.

Davis apparently believed her power as a county clerk in Kentucky superseded that of the United States Supreme Court.

But she is a bigoted hypocrite. She has been married four times and was impregnated by her third husband while married to her first husband.

And this woman claims her actions protect the sanctity of marriage?

Here is my letter to her supporters:

Dear Ms. Davis’ Devotees,

It’s my understanding you support Davis because you, like her, want to protect the sanctity of marriage. But someone who has been divorced three times certainly seems to have little respect for the institution.

It seems more logical that a couple who has been together for 20 years and now wants to get married have more respect for this institution.

But you only see two men holding hands. It probably grosses you out.

Try to imagine it is your son, daughter, brother, sister, best friend. They aren’t hurting anyone, they aren’t breaking any laws, and they aren’t doing something that goes against their faith. They simply want to spend their lives with the person they love.

Now picture yourself in their shoes. You’ve finally found the person you want to spend your life with. You’re happy; you’re in love. Your boyfriend or girlfriend proposes, and you’re engaged. You start planning a wedding. You find a day where you both can go pick up that license from the county clerk’s office. You drive to the office.

There you meet a woman who has never met you, but she hates who you love. She denies you your license. Although it is perfectly legal for you to get married, one woman is not allowing that.  

Imagine how your happiness and excitement changes to hurt and anger. You drive home, determined to do it again tomorrow. News cameras show up. Now your lives are thrown into the national spotlight, and you are a public spectacle. All because one hateful woman you have never met before is refusing to do her job.

What’s next? Government officials stop issuing driver’s licenses to gay people?

This post may not change any minds. But if you are reading this and support Kim Davis, I urge you to truly try to see things from the other side.

What you are doing to these couples is hateful, hurtful and against the law. They did not ask for this, and they don’t deserve this. It is time to stop judging others, and let people live their lives in peace.

I’ll end this letter with a quote from the bible, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”



How to Not Let People Rain on Your Rainbow (Or Otherwise Kickass) Parade

Though the LGBTQ community has made great strides towards equality in recent years, many of us still face rejection by those closest to us. We risk family and friends ostracizing us when we bear our souls and come out of the closet.

Maybe they are ashamed or just ignorant. The reason doesn’t really matter. 

There are more than seven billion people in this world. If there are a few people who won’t truly accept you for you… Byeeeeeee. If someone wants to cast you out, cast them out too.

Coming out and living your life openly is a brave, risky, rewarding and difficult thing to do. It can hurt. Don’t make it worse by allowing those negative nancys to continually rain on your rainbow parade.

Nobody has power over your emotions, but you. Accepting and loving yourself for who you truly are isn’t always easy. But it’s an important thing.

Do what it takes to accept yourself. Maybe you need to meditate, talk to someone, blast the new Diarrhea Planet record on repeat, or look up inspirational quotes on Pinterest.

No matter how cheesy is sounds, do the things that inspire you and help you come to terms with yourself. Once you do, happier, more accepting people will be drawn to you, and the haters can just fade away.

I am truly happy with the person I am today. I went through years of self-loathing, wrote hundreds of songs and had more than a few heart-to-hearts with some dear friends. I’m not saying every day is roses and butterflies, but it was undoubtedly worth all the work.

Cutting out people who didn’t respect me was something I needed to do. If someone doesn’t respect you, there’s no need to keep them around. When you find people that love and respect you, cherish those relationships. Because after all, it’s the people you love that matter most.

Here are my tips for when someone does rain on your rainbow, or otherwise kickass parade.

-Call a friend or family member you enjoy talking to.

-Read a good book.

-Create art.

-Write a poem.

-Go for a walk in your favorite part of town.

-Take a vacation.

-Sing.

-Cook your favorite meal.

-Meditate.

-Get a massage.

-Go shopping.

-Meet up with some friends.

-Go to a concert.

-Watch the stars.

-Listen to your favorite record.

-Watch a movie.

-Help someone in need.

-Go bird watching.

-Swim in the ocean.

-Volunteer.

-Reorganize a room.

-Clean out clutter.

-Comment on this blog ;)

Making music makes me happy. You can find me making music with some of my friends on Oct. 1st at the Branded Saloon in Brooklyn. We are celebrating the completion of our new EP Oh These Urban Fences… Visit thepaisleyfields.com to stay updated on all things paisley. 

New Paisley Music Coming Soon

Cover art for "Oh These Urban Fences..." by Julia McGinley 

Cover art for "Oh These Urban Fences..." by Julia McGinley 

After months of recording, mixing and mastering, I’m happy to announce The Paisley Field’s first studio EP is almost complete!

Recording Oh These Urban Fences… was a rewarding experience. It took a lot of hard work from a group of talented people. The studio we recorded in was quite possibly the best studio I’ve ever worked at.

The studio, Atomic Sound in Red Hook, Brooklyn, is a musician’s play land. The amount of gear available is incredible. I recorded on a Yamaha Grand, Hammond B3 (complete with leslie speaker!) and their 88 key vintage Rhodes.

The Neve VR 60 captured our lush country arrangements with the help of our fantastic producer Jeremy Moses Curtis. Oh These Urban Fences… features a Brooklyn Country mini orchestra with players on cello, mandolin, guitars, banjo, drums, bass, slide, lap steel, organ and of course, piano.

We recorded the EP in three days and mixed it in two. The songs are being mastered this week in Nashville.  

Pre-sales for Oh These Urban Fences… will begin on October 2nd.  Sign up for our newsletter to stay updated on the release and to receive exclusive offers! Our listening party will be October 1st in Brooklyn, NY at Branded Saloon.

Check out some photos from the session below:

Top 5 Things that might make you THAT Asshole at a Piano Bar

IMG_3651.JPG

1. Let’s sing something from Rent!

It’s like going to Ireland and asking the band to play “Danny Boy.” I’ve gotten to the point where I refuse to play anything from that musical. We all have our limits. 525,600 is a number that haunts my dreams. Please have mercy on my soul, and stop asking.  

Singing with my buddy Guy at Uncle Charlie's 

Singing with my buddy Guy at Uncle Charlie's 

2. Request the same song more than three times, you’re THAT asshole.

Piano players are human beings. We forget things. If you asked for a song and some time has passed, you can ask again. In the craziness of the night, I probably forgot. Everyone runs their piano differently. I’ve forgotten requests, and I’m not insulted when someone asks again. If you’ve asked for the same song four times in a row…I’m ignoring you. And there’s a good reason for that.

3. If you request more than three songs without tipping, you also might be THAT asshole.

You get good at reading people working in piano bars. We generally know who is going to leave a tip and who is going to slink out the back door after requesting 12 songs. Don’t be a THAT person! Throw a few bucks in the tip jar. This is how we make our living. If you don’t have the cash or don’t think we deserve it, then maybe find another bar.

4. Piano players don’t know every song ever written.

If I don’t know it, I don’t know it. Singing it to me won’t magically make the song pour through my fingers. Playing it on your phone will just annoy me. I listen with an open mind to everyone around the piano. It’s nothing personal if I don’t know your song. I enjoy learning new music and am happy to learn your favorite song, if I have the time. Please continue asking for new music, and share your favorite song of the moment. I really want to know what you're listening to! Don’t be offended if don’t know your favorite tune. I only know so many songs at a time.

5. Respect your fellow patrons.

People go to piano bars for a myriad of reasons. For Billy, it’s the only time he sings in public. Sally just enjoys listening. For Felicia, it’s about singing Britney after four tequila shots. Whatever the reason, we are all there to have fun. So respect your fellow piano bar patrons. Get to know each other. We are all there for the same thing: the music!

Hanging with friends after one of my nights at Uncle Charlie's piano bar 

Hanging with friends after one of my nights at Uncle Charlie's piano bar 

When I’m not playing with The Paisley Fields, you can find me behind the piano at Monster Bar on Friday and Sunday night. The Paisley Fields are playing Thursday, August 20th at the Brooklyn Country Music Festival at the Bell House. Tickets are available at: http://www.thebellhouseny.com/event/908669-brooklyn-country-music-brooklyn/


The Ultimate Taboo in the Music Business

The soundboard at Atomic Studios, where The Paisley Fields recorded "Oh These Urban Fences..." due out in September 2015. 

The soundboard at Atomic Studios, where The Paisley Fields recorded "Oh These Urban Fences..." due out in September 2015. 

 

Salvador Dali said, “The thermometer of success is merely the jealousy of the malcontents.”

In her song “Revelations” Yoko Ono sings, “Bless you for your jealousy, it’s a sign of empathy.” 

Jealousy is one of the most common emotions we experience, but it is rarely discussed in the music world. As much as musicians hate to admit it, we get jealous of one another. I want to win  awards. I want the top selling record. I want to sell out every show. I want to hear my song on the radio.

It happens much less these days, but I have to admit, I still get jealous. Think about the last time you got jealous. Was it when you saw the guy down the street get into his Maserati? When you learned that Rihanna’s net worth is $140 million? When you saw Sally got 28 more likes than you on her new profile pic?

Jealousy can be an ugly thing that destroys relationships. So why do we feel jealous?

Jealousy strikes me when I compare myself to others. I remember sitting on the couch as a kid, watching Alicia Keys perform on the MTV Video Music Awards. Her hit “Fallin’” was nominated, and she started the performance with “Fur Elise”.

“That is so dumb,” I scoffed. “That piece is so easy.”

It wasn’t her competency as a pianist that concerned me, but more so that I was comparing myself to her. I thought I deserved her success because I could do a better job. Keys’ performance was great, but I couldn’t enjoy it because I was too overcome with jealousy.

When I first started out in New York, I couldn’t even go see other bands play because sometimes jealousy overwhelmed me. It was ridiculous, and it prevented me from seeing many great bands perform. I was unhappy with myself, and I let that poison my enjoyment of seeing other musicians play.  

A wise teacher told me, “Never compare yourself to anyone else; only compare yourself to yourself.” It’s good advice, and I try to remember it when I feel jealousy creeping in.

A record executive from a label I was on introduced me to a bandleader who is now well known. His band was just starting to blow up. I wanted that kind of success for myself. I totally blew the meeting because I wanted what he had, and that’s all I could think about. 

Living and working in NYC, it’s easy for a musician to become jealous. U2 sells out Madison Square the fourth night in a row, as you struggle to fill a room that fits 50 people. Madonna lives up the street in her mansion, and you are struggling to pay rent on your studio in Bed Stuy. Everyone you know seems to be two steps ahead with twice as many fans. 

Competition can push you harder, but jealousy doesn’t get you anywhere. Still, jealousy is something we all feel from time to time.

So when you start to feel jealous or angry, you should look at yourself, instead of focusing on those you see as being more successful. Instead of comparing yourself to others, you should compare yourself to the person you were last year or five years ago. It is important to remember the things you have accomplished, rather than getting mired in all the things you have yet to achieve.

Be grateful, be passionate and be happy. You ultimately control your attitude and emotions.

And if that doesn’t make you feel any better, know that someone, somewhere was jealous of you at some point. Because you have done some pretty kick ass things.

 

Every Coming Out Story Is Different. So Is Mine.

I came out of the closet in stages.

I came out to a female friend at 14 years old, shortly after my first kiss with a boy.

“I have to tell you something,” I told my friend, still holding tight to the secret I was eager to share. “Promise you won’t tell?”

“I promise.”

She was very patient and listened through my “I can’t tell yous” and “Nobody knows.”

After several pinkie swears and cross-my-hearts, I spilled the news.

“I’m bi.” I told her.

“Me too!” she squealed delightedly.

We hugged and laughed and talked about liking boys and girls.

I felt relieved I had told someone. I no longer had to bear that burden alone. I wasn’t sure if I was bisexual or gay. I really didn’t want to label myself. I chose to say I was bi because that’s how I felt at the time.

Her reaction encouraged me to tell another friend. This time I basically blurted it out.

As we were walking out her front door, I said, “You know I’m bi, right?”

She stopped in her tracks. “No,” she said.

“Well I am, is that ok?” I caught her off guard.

“Yes. I’m just surprised.”

Her surprise didn’t stop her from treating me the same and telling no one.   

Throughout middle school and high school, I shared my secret only with close friends.

The summer after my senior year, word got out that I was bisexual. I told a couple girls in confidence, and one girl spread the gossip like wildfire.

Looking back, it amazes me it took that long.

I was lucky to have a supportive and loyal group of friends. Growing up gay in small town Iowa was not easy, but having friends I could count on helped me.

I started getting messages online from classmates. A couple of guy friends were angry, possibly feeling betrayed for being friends with a gay/bi dude. They stopped talking to me after that. Two of my female friends were upset I didn’t tell them first because they thought they were better friends than the girls I told. As if their feelings mattered more than mine.

I went to college at the University of Northern Iowa, near where I grew up. I slowly started coming out to more and more people.

The whole town of Hudson knew I was bi, and my parents eventually heard. My dad confronted me about it one day, but I denied it. I wasn’t ready.

By the end of my senior year in college, I was out to everyone I knew, except my family. A lot of people judged me at school, but some really good friends accepted me.

I started dating guys, and I began to feel more comfortable being myself. Still, it felt like a double life. I would come home and lie to my family about a fake girlfriend. 

After graduating from college, I moved to Brooklyn, a place where it seemed less terrifying to live a non-hetero life.

At the first company I worked at, I was told not to mention it, but that was it. I kept that side of my life quiet at work.

The first record label I signed with said I shouldn’t discuss my sexuality. Not an easy task. Still, I dated and had fun and eventually met the man who became my husband.

Then my boyfriend, now husband, and I moved in together. My family visited NYC, and I introduced them to him as my “friend.” It started to get old.

Here I am with the man I love, and I still felt I needed to keep it a secret.

After a couple years, I decided enough was enough. I was pretty confident my parents would not take my coming out as gay well.

I sat down and wrote them a letter. I waited over a week, poring over the words, making sure I said everything I wanted to say. Finally, I sent the email. My stomach sank, and I felt scared, alone.

My mom responded in a day or two and called me a wonderful son, and said she would always accept me. No response from my dad.

I called my Grandma Wilson not long after that.

“How are you, Jim?” she asked.

“Good,” I said. “Grandma, I have something to tell you.”

“Sure, what is it?”

“I have a boyfriend.”

“Oh yeah?”

I didn’t think she heard me. My hands were shaking.

“Yeah. I have a boyfriend.”

“Uh huh.”

“Grandma, I’m gay!”

“So what? I knew that a long time ago!”

I laughed, relieved. I told her my dad wasn’t speaking to me.

She paused and said, “Well you know what that is?”

“What?”

“That’s just too damn bad.”

I laughed.

“Just give him time,” she told me. “He will come around.”

My dad didn’t speak to me for years, but eventually, he did come around. Both my parents attended my wedding and have been supportive since.

It took what felt like a lifetime, but I finally feel comfortable in my own skin. I am unafraid to be myself completely. I used to scoff at the “it gets better” campaign, but looking back, I can see that it does get better.

I feel free to write about being gay in my songs and talk openly about it in my daily life. I am surrounded by friends who support me.


My life may not be perfect, but I’m happy and free to be who I am. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  


How to Rule A Van Tour with Your Band

The Paisley Fields on stage at Midway Cafe in Boston. We are doing this tour as a duo. Photo by Sam Garkow. 

The Paisley Fields on stage at Midway Cafe in Boston. We are doing this tour as a duo. Photo by Sam Garkow. 

Do…

1. Eat Healthy and Exercise.

Try to stick to the same diet as when you’re at home. Touring can be a drastic change from your daily life, so keeping your diet and exercise routine consistent is key to staying healthy.

2. Drink lots of water.

It’s an easy one to forget, but very important. I fill up one or two big bottles of water, and tell myself I need to finish it by the end of the day.

3. Treat everyone with respect.

You never know who you are talking to, or when you will cross paths again. This is a helpful rule to follow not only on the road, but in life.

4. Get your $$$$. 

If you don’t have a manager or tour manager to collect the money, it’s part of your job. You are there to do a job, and you deserve to be compensated for that. Know the agreement beforehand and hold the venue/promoter accountable. If you held up your end of the bargain, they need to hold theirs.

5. See friends and family.

One of the best parts of touring is seeing friends and family you rarely get to see. I always make a point to invite friends and family to the shows, or visit if it’s possible.

Visiting my good friend Sam for a BBQ and bonfire last week on our day off. 

Visiting my good friend Sam for a BBQ and bonfire last week on our day off. 

6. Get plenty of sleep.

It’s not easy, but try to get 8 hours of sleep. It will help your voice stay in shape, and if you’re driving for long stretches of time you need to be alert.

7. Promote your shows.  

If nobody knows about the performance, they aren’t going to show up. Do everything you can to get the word out that you’re coming to town. Whether you hire a publicist or do it yourself, it is essential to create buzz.

8. Get everything in writing.

I’ve heard too many nightmare stories of bands getting double-booked or not paid. Make sure you have everything in writing, and save those emails. You don’t want any questions when it comes to getting paid at the end of the night.

9. Enjoy!   

Have fun! You’re doing what most musicians want to do. Touring is a wonderful adventure. You get to meet interesting people, and see new places.  

Don’t…

1. Have a bad attitude.

I’ve toured with people before who ruined the trip with a bad attitude. Touring can be stressful at times, but having a bad attitude only magnifies the negative. Grow up, be professional and leave your pouty pants at home.  

2. Leave before the other bands have finished their set.

This seems like a no-brainer, but it happens so often. Unless you have something real important happening, don’t leave before the other bands on your bill play. It’s disrespectful.

3. Show up late.

Showing up late is also disrespectful. If sound check is at 6, get there at 5:45. A real professional detests lateness.

4. Show up drunk or high.

It’s fine to have a few drinks or a smoke, but if you are completely bombed before you get your gear through the door, it’s not going to go well.

5. Assume you can read minds of people in the crowd.

You never know what someone is thinking. If someone is blatantly heckling you, then it’s certainly ok to respond. But never assume you know what a person in the crowd thinks of your performance. Just play your best and worry about the rest afterwards. I’ve been surprised by people I thought hated the show, but actually turned out to be superfans.

6. Forget any gear. 

Come prepared. Bring extra cords, power cables, picks, mics, whatever you need.

 

7. Make excuses.

I can’t stand excuses. “Well we can’t do this because…” Excuses and laziness will not get you far on the road, or in life. Don’t make excuses; make things happen.  

The Paisley Fields are currently on tour in the northeast. Tonight we are playing Housatonic, MA. Visit the tour section at thepaisleyfields.com for a full list of dates. 



Damn the Man, Raise Your Voice

                           Joseph Ibrahim on Governor's Island June 2015

                           Joseph Ibrahim on Governor's Island June 2015

 

History was made two weeks ago when the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality. We celebrated a battle for equality won, but the war is far from over.

The fear in this country is palpable.

There is police violence against the black community. There is transphobia. There is discrimination and continued violence against women. And there is continued discrimination for the LGBTQ community in the workplace.

But people are afraid to speak up. Nobody wants to disturb the status quo. Nobody wants to ruffle feathers.

It took me a long time to realize that even though I’m a gay man, there are people who experience more hate and discrimination than I do. My vision was clouded by pain from years of abuse, homophobia and harassment. I couldn’t understand that another person could be going through anything worse.

I’m not trying to minimize what I went through, or what other gay men go through. It was awful, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But we need to realize there is still a long way to go.

It’s time to put an end to this violence. It’s time to put an end to this discrimination. So how do we do this?

Not by doing what we’re told. The most dangerous thing is when we accept everything the government, the media or corporations tell us.

Where is our compassion? People are suffering in this country, while we stand by and do little to change it.

I want to share a couple recent experiences I’ve had regarding lack of empathy and self-awareness.

A straight, white male acquaintance told me he often felt persecuted because he was a straight, white male. He was running sound for a comedy show, and the comic was cracking jokes about straight, white guys. He felt like a victim.

Poor him, right? No dude, you’re still one of the majority power holders. According to WhoLeads.US, “White men in this country hold four times the political power of women & people of color.” Or check out this graphic. 

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/10/10/3578399/survey-finds-white-men-have-eight-times-as-much-political-power-as-women-of-color/

If getting made fun of at a comedy show is the worst you have to deal with, then count your lucky goddamn stars. He is also one of those people who make a point to say “that gay guy” instead of "that guy," or “that lesbian” instead of “that woman.”

The other night I was out having a drink, and two women started talking to me. They were under the impression I was straight and potentially interested, so I casually brought up my husband to avoid future awkwardness. This did not have the intended effect.

They went on to say most of the people they work with are gay. Ok. They rambled on about how one female co-worker was a self-proclaimed “dyke”, and she would frequently announce she was a “dyke.”

“She always goes around saying she’s a dyke,” they explained to me. “You don’t go around telling everyone you’re a fag, do you?”

“No,” I replied, growing annoyed.

They said their co-worker told them not to go to gay bars because straight people shouldn’t. They claimed this was a sad case of “reverse discrimination.” I stopped talking to them after that.

These aren’t extreme examples, but these stories show how far we still have to go. Some people may never understand. Maybe there isn’t a “can’t we all just get along” scenario.

But it’s not about fighting other people; it’s about fighting what has been accepted as the status quo. It’s about deconstructing your level of privilege and acknowledging some people are fighting much tougher battles.

Imagine routinely being stopped by the police simply because of the color of your skin.

Imagine having to explain to every person you meet that you were born a male, but you identify as a female. How is the guy who was flirting with you going to react when you tell him?

Imagine winning the World Cup and then realizing your pay is about 40 times less than your male counterparts.

Imagine walking in to pick up your marriage certificate, only to be denied your legally granted certificate in a room full of people. Denied because a country clerk claims she is too good of a Christian to support “your lifestyle.”

We would all benefit from putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes once in a while. We should all try to acknowledge the privileges we benefit from and then work to level the playing fields.

I am just one voice. But I will use my voice without fear, to try to enact positive change. You can come hear me speak my mind and support change. I am on my tour with my band, The Paisley Fields starting tonight in Becket, MA. 

9 Tricks to Maximize Your Studio Time

Atomic Sound in Brooklyn; where The Paisley Fields recorded  Oh These Urban Fences...

Atomic Sound in Brooklyn; where The Paisley Fields recorded Oh These Urban Fences...

I just wrapped a three-day recording session with my country band, The Paisley Fields. We recorded five songs in the first two days. One the last day, we tackled final vocals and overdubs. The recording sessions were incredible, and I am excited to share them with you soon! Below are my 9 tricks to get the most out of your time in the studio.

1. Practice. Duh.

Are you playing to a click track? Practice with a click track. Are you playing as a full band or recording separately? Practice that way. A mistake I’ve made in the past is practicing the wrong way or not practicing enough. Practice how and what you are going to play in the studio. Things will most likely change once you get in there, but the smarter you practice, the more efficient you will be.

2. Take care of yo’self.

Make sure you always get your 8 hours and plenty of water. A tired voice and a tired mind make for sloppy takes. Take care of yourself, so you’re ready to go when they call you into the booth.

3. Be the worst player in the room. No. Really.

You’re going to be much happier. As a band leader I think the ideal situation is to be the worst player in the room. When I was in the studio, I was blown away by some of the playing. You don’t want to be banging your head against the wall while your tuba player fumbles through his 20th take. It’s much better to get the chills when your guitar player channels Jimi Hendrix and nails the solo.

4. Make a list. Check it twice.

This goes along with practice. Have a plan before you enter the studio. What songs are you recording? What parts are you recording for those songs? In what order? Are you playing to a click track? You should know all the answers to these questions, before laying down that deposit for the studio. Time is money and the more you prepare, the more effective the session.  

5. Keep your crew tight.  

Making an album takes an army. If you’re going to do it right, you must work with the right people. Know what you want. If you’re not self-producing, hire a producer you will work well with. Get the right engineers in there- professionals who know the gear and can get the best sound out of you and your band. If you’re hiring session musicians, get the best players you can afford. If you have the right group working with you, it’s gonna come through on the final product. This also goes for everything that happens after you finish recording: mixing/mastering engineers, publicists, managers, booking agents and the like.

We managed to wrangle about half our paisley crew together for a quick photo! 

We managed to wrangle about half our paisley crew together for a quick photo! 

6. Be comfortable enough to expose yourself. (Not literally.)  

If you’re not comfortable, you’re probably not going to have a great take. Sometimes it’s good to put yourself in uncomfortable situations to grow, but the studio is not one of them. You want not only a comfortable space, but also you want to be comfortable with the people you are working with. Music is a very personal thing. You are exposed when you perform. You probably don’t want to get naked in front of someone who makes you uncomfortable. Same goes for recording.

7. Have your secrets.

This is a bit ambiguous, but important. I think every great artist has secret tricks or rituals when they go into the studio. I have mine. Find yours. Whatever your secrets are, keep them to yourself. Let your tricks give you that edge.

8. Check your :( and your ego at the door.

A good attitude goes a long way. Treat everyone with respect. Not only will you get much more done, but you’ll have a better time. Know everybody’s name. Remember why you’re in there: to make music.  

9. Have fun.

If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right.

Look for The Paisley Fields’ first studio EP Oh These Urban Fences… later this summer. Sign up for our mailing list, and get an exclusive download of a song before the release!


Love and Liberty for All: The United States of Gaymerica

 

This week I wanted to write about the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage. Many people predicted the decision would come Thursday morning. I, like the rest of gay America, waited with baited breath for the decision.

I also waited to write my weekly blog, anticipating the outcome. This morning the Supreme Court announced it ruled 5-4 that marriage is a right for all US citizens. It is a huge victory. Every state in the USA must allow and recognize all same-sex couples have the right to get married.

The news is still sinking in. Today is a historic day we will remember and talk about for the rest of our lives. There’s a line from a country song that comes to mind, “If you don’t love it, leave it.” That line takes on a new meaning today. I like the sound of it even more.

The fate of gay couples across America was in the hands of the 9 Supreme Court Justices. And today the court guaranteed them the right to marry.

The attitudes towards the LGBTQ community have changed enormously since the first state legalized marriage way back in 2004. And now 11 years later, every US citizen in every state has a right to marry, gay or straight.

Last night, The Paisley Fields played a set at the Queer Music Festival in the West Village. The West Village is considered one of the birthplaces of the gay rights movement. Just down the street from the show, the Stonewall Riots took place 46 years ago.

With Nick Deutsch last night, another performer at the Queer Music Festival. 

With Nick Deutsch last night, another performer at the Queer Music Festival. 

I awoke yesterday morning hoping our performance would also be a celebration of victory from the Supreme Court ruling. Still, we waited.

I spoke about the SCOTUS decision from the stage. When I announced the next song was dedicated to my husband, whom I married in NYC, cheers erupted from the audience. I was surprised and humbled by the outpouring of support.

I’ve spent most of my life feeling like an outsider. Last night, I was overwhelmed by the warmth we received from friends and new faces in the crowd. They cheered the band on and sang along with our songs. It was a phenomenal night and a great show.

It’s time for people in this country to realize LGBTQ people are human beings, who deserve to be treated as such. We deserve equality, and we deserve respect.

I am elated the court ruled in favor of marriage equality. Not because of any political bullshit, but simply because we deserve equality.

NYC Pride is this weekend. Let’s celebrate this victory, celebrate life and love each other. It’s been a long road, but today we took a huge step in the right direction, thanks to the decision handed down from our Supreme Court Justices. I want to wish all of you a happy and safe pride.

The Paisley Fields’ song “Windows Fogged Up In Your Pickup Truck” is the love song I wrote for my husband. Download it exclusively through bandcamp: https://thepaisleyfields.bandcamp.com and watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4Gy0q07fyA

God Bless Gaymerica!

And The Paisleys Play On…

Andrew Gialanella, lead guitarist for The Paisley Fields

Andrew Gialanella, lead guitarist for The Paisley Fields

 

It’s not uncommon for bands to lose members. Lineup changes are difficult, but that is a reality of being in a band. Some of the most successful acts in popular music have an almost revolving door of members, bands like Fleetwood Mac, Genesis, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The Paisley Fields have recently gone through some lineup changes. Rob Knopper has decided to leave the group to focus his efforts on classical music. Joe Kimple is pursuing other interests. I wish them success in their future endeavors.

But The Paisleys play on.

Fronting a six plus member band means juggling everyone’s schedules and managing commitments. It’s certainly not the sexiest part of the job. Planning our first tour, I learned how challenging it can be.

I explained to Marty Diamond, a booking agent for the Paradigm Group, that with busy schedules and a tight budget, it’s very difficult to play every show together in New York. Not to mention, it’s almost impossible to tour with the full band. I asked him about touring as a duo or trio.

His response was simple: “Portable and affordable. Do what you have to do.”

So how can a band build a fan base, stay true to their sound and still make a living? Portable and affordable.

Three of us hop in the Volvo and play stripped down sets on regional tours to smaller crowds. And we play together as a full band whenever we can.

Nobody said making it in the music business was easy. If it was everyone would be in a band. Losing two members is a difficult thing for a band.

Alex Feigin, rhythm guitarist and drummer for The Paisley Fields

Alex Feigin, rhythm guitarist and drummer for The Paisley Fields

But when one chapter ends, another begins. The Paisley Fields found some extremely talented musicians to join our gay little country band.  

I am thrilled to introduce the newest members of The Paisley Fields. Andrew Gialanella recently relocated from Nashville and joined the group as the lead guitarist. His playing rivals some of the best in the business.

Alex Feigin is alternating between rhythm guitar and drums for the band. She’s also a wicked beat boxer. Whenever we write our first country beat boxing tune, she will be our girl.

James Steiner joined The Paisley Fields on our last January tour. He plays mandolin and alternates on the drums with Alex.

We are still looking for a full time bass player, but in the meantime Jeremy Moses Curtis will provide bass parts on our EP. He is also producing the EP, due out later this summer.

Our sound is continuing to grow and evolve. Our look may change, but the music is always the most important part of being a Paisley. To play music and share it with others is the greatest gift. It’s something I will never take for granted.

On tour with James Steiner, mandolin player and drummer for The Paisley Fields. 

On tour with James Steiner, mandolin player and drummer for The Paisley Fields. 

Each day I get to bang my calloused fingers against those black and whites, sing some twang and connect with my friends on stage and in the audience makes me feel like the richest man alive.

If you haven’t noticed yet, our website is completely revamped. Big thanks to my friend/publicist/partner-in-crime Pam Dewey for all the hard work she put in getting this thing up. Have a look around. 

Make Art, Not Perfection

I can’t say I’ve ever given a perfect performance. I often walk away thinking I could have done something differently. As an artist and musician, I need to be always improving. On stage, I make choices about the way I play and how I perform.

Perfection is not playing a song or piece through without any mistakes. In this age of pitch correction, it's important to remember slight imperfections or mistakes are often what make a piece of music so beautiful. It’s the human touch that connects us to music and each other.

Live music is about spontaneity. My mentor/piano teacher once told me every performance should be different. At first I didn’t understand, but he explained it could just be a moment or a look that changes. He insisted performers, musicians or other artists must never repeat themselves. This has become my mantra. I vow to never give the same performance. I want to be always growing, always changing.

I believe there is an “it” factor when it comes to music. Something intangible that can’t be articulated. Something otherworldly happens when we play/write/record music. Not everyone can do it, and we must not take this gift lightly. We must respect this power and honor the talent bestowed upon us.

As a piano student, I immersed myself in the study of classical music. More than any other genre, perfection is revered when performing classical music. Listening to an opera or a solo piano recital, mistakes are glaring and viewed as unforgivable. Critics gloat and tomatoes fly. In college, I would spend between two and eight hours in a practice room every day, desperate to perfect those impossible measures in a Beethoven concerto.

As musicians, we place unreasonable standards on ourselves that can be counterproductive. These standards cause insecurity, and we start to doubt ourselves and the choices we make on stage.

Letting go of the idea we need to be perfect is hard. Our culture loves to build people up, just to tear them down. Imagine 1,000 pairs of eyes following your every move. As you fall, 1,000 cell phones document the misstep, immortalizing your failure on YouTube for the entire world to see. The greater your popularity, the bigger the numbers and the farther the fall. It’s no wonder some performers have a debilitating case of stage fright.

Performing is scary, but also exhilarating and rewarding. That’s why musicians do it. We aren’t total masochists.

Musicians take what they do seriously, sometimes too seriously. Perfection doesn’t come from only sitting in a practice room and endlessly going over your part. I’ve grown the most as a performer when I let go and trust myself. Doing that is more difficult than learning the parts I need to play or sing. Practice lays the foundation. The walls, furniture and paint come from actually performing.

Whether I’m performing for five people or five thousand, I intend to give the best of myself for every performance. It may not be perfect, but perfection is so… well boring, right? I’d rather be honest and real.

So go practice your ass off, but don’t do it to be perfect. Do it to be the best you.

I’ll be performing at NYC Pride this year with my band, The Paisley Fields. If you’re in the NYC area, come to the Queer Music Festival at Rockbar on Thursday, June 25th.

http://www.rockbarnyc.com