Can you briefly describe your path as a creative professional and how you came to seek out Kind Aesthetic?
I’ve been a professional musician—guitarist, singer, songwriter, arranger, producer—since 1999 and a life coach since 2011. My musical journey so far has been like all true journeys: exciting, interesting, hard, mysterious, pointless, painstaking, serendipitous, miraculous, boring, bewildering, humbling. I am so very grateful to have made music with more than a handful of my heroes and have had some of those people say very nice things about my music, my guitar playing, my songs, and my producing. Life coaching is a way of sharing the lessons I have learned along the way. As Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Helping people accomplish their biggest, most secret of dreams is such a privilege. As a life coach, it is my actual job to get people to a place where they say, “Pinch me! This is my life?!” How awesome is that?
I tracked down Kind Aesthetic when I decided to get serious about my music blog and when I decided it was finally time to have a website for my coaching practice. A little back story might be in order.
My mom was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of ovarian cancer in October 2011. I chose to leave NYC and move home to Chadds Ford, PA to be her primary caregiver. She went through a major debulking surgery followed by more than 20 rounds of chemo. Her care was so overwhelming and I was so in the trenches with it that I hardly played my guitar at all. Anyone who has ever had the experience of taking care of someone who is terminally ill knows exactly what I am talking about.
Finally, in the summer of 2013, my mom went into remission, meaning there was no “visible sign of disease,” meaning the surgery and chemo had worked. She was given an indefinite amount of time to regain her strength and live a “normal” (ha!) life. I knew I’d have a window of opportunity (a breather, let’s say) to do something for myself before her cancer came back and she’d choose to start another brutal cycle of chemo. This time around, I vowed, was going to be different for me. This time I was going to make music as I was taking care of my mom and I wanted a way to share that music with my fans. I reached out to Kind Aesthetic to help me make that dream a reality. For the record, I was right: my breather came to an end. My Mom started radiation in February 2014 and has been taking a course of chemo every month since then. I am once again in the trenches.
Can you describe a day, or week, in your professional life?
My days and weeks since my Mom got cancer don’t look ANYTHING like they used to; my world was turned upside down.
My week is split between NYC and Chadds Ford, PA where my Mom and Dad live. Now that my Mom is in chemo, I spend 4 days in PA and 3 days in NYC depending on where my Mom is in her cycle of chemo. If she is feeling particularly terrible and having major side-effects from the chemo, I will stay in PA for a week or more.
When I am at home in PA with her, I do Crossfit at 5am and then come home and make breakfast for her and Dad. I might get a couple hours in the morning to myself. If so, I will jump into work. I meditate, practice my guitar, work on song ideas, and have a coaching call or two with clients. Usually, the afternoons are filled with chores or errands for the household, calls to doctors or nurses, and tasks for my Mom (quite frankly, things she wants done before she dies). Late afternoons, I prep and cook dinner. After dinner, I read or watch a Joseph Campbell video with my Mom. And because I get up so early, I go to bed really early. Sleep is my secret weapon.
If I am in NYC, my days are more monk-like. I am up at 4:15 for a 5:30 am for Crossfit class and then I do deep work: meditation, two to three hours of guitar and song work, coaching client calls, and calls with my own life coach. The afternoons are more flexible. I might be rehearsing for a show, teaching a guitar lesson, songwriting, practicing guitar, or reading. At night, I might have a gig. If not, I am practicing, reading, writing letters, or drawing. Some afternoons, I’ll go to a museum (the Met and the Cloisters are my two favs … but I go see whatever interests me). I never go anywhere without my black notebook and pen. Overheard conversations and slow walks through the Met are two sources of inspiration for song lyrics and drawings.
What is your favorite project that you've worked on (and/or are currently excited about/looking forward to working on)?
I just started a new band, REDSTACK, with my dear friend, the guitarist Julian Lage. I am writing a batch of new songs for the band right now. Our music is vulnerable and gritty—think Tina Turner meets Jim Hall meets early Bruce Springsteen meets Milton Nascimento. Our motto is “primal not pretty.”
Our next gig is in NYC at Rockwood Music Hall on Thursday, December 11, 2014. The show WILL sell out. You can get tickets here.
I am always excited about my ongoing letter-writing, pen pal project called the Postcard Project. Basically, I ask (dare?) my fans to write me a postcard. If they do, they get one back. And if they write me a letter, they get a letter back. I’ve been sent letters in the form of scrolls, paper airplanes, blocks of wood. I’ve been sent some of the wackiest, tackiest postcards ever printed … for fun, I assume! The postcards come from far-flung place—the UK, Brazil, Japan, Austria. You better believe I get creative and send some tacky postcards back, too! I also send first drafts of songs, sketches, set lists, poems, etc. Lately, instead of asking people to sign up to my mailing list at my gigs, I have been bringing a stack of stamped postcards and having people fill in their address and leave them with me. I finish the gig and go home and write 10 or 20 postcards to the fans that came to see me! Super fun!
You can read more about all the Postcard Project awesomeness here.