Monday, August 9, 2010
In June, you can taste the east coast air. You can also grab a handful of it and use it in lieu of hair gel.
I hadn't been back to PA in the summertime since 2003. And it wasn't a joyful occasion. I felt oppressed by the heat, and oppressed by the anxiety attached to cancer invading my beloved mother.
This was the state of the atmosphere when I got off the plane in Philadelphia a few weeks ago. My high school boyfriend (and still good friend) picked me up at the airport and took me to my childhood home about an hour and 15 minutes outside of Philly. I was disoriented and feeling strangely 17 again when I walked into the house.
Ma was not as chipper as I would have liked, but it was understandable- losing a breast is no small matter, and as the day drew closer, even our family's customary dark humor couldn't dispel the reality of the situation.
I gave her the card with all the wonderful words of support and sympathy that so many of you good folks sent, and the donations made for her health care, and she was astonished. She said "But this one and this one and......they don't even know me!" She was deeply touched, and, as I hoped, the realization that so many people, many of them strangers, cared enough to help her, in a recession(!!!), moved and cheered her.
However, Ma and I went for a walk around Birdsboro the night before the surgery, and that's when she let slip the admission that her last mammogram had been in 2004.
I flipped out. I had been consoling myself with the notion that this was her first bad mammogram, and so we were obviously catching the cancer early. But 2004? When the doctor cut into her, what would he find?
Thank God, he found no more than what I'd originally hoped for- the beginnings of cancer, which he was able to remove. In fact, she did not even need chemo, and was a good little patient from start to finish. We watched her every day to make sure that there wasn't too much blood coming through the tube attached to a small drainage bulb (kind of like a plastic grenade). And we chased her down to REST, while she evaded us like Bugs Bunny and scurried about trying to do things around the house.
Her only complaint has been that she feels a bit lopsided. This was met with our hugely inappropriate rejoinder that now she was a proper Amazon woman, set for a new bow and arrow, and archery practice, which would now be better than ever.
She promised to keep me a'BREAST' of things, to which I admonished her not to be a 'BOOB', and life went on in our bizarre family unit.
We dodged a bullet.
But, as my brother said, "Let's not do this again, shall we?" From now on, mammograms WILL be done regularly. And yes, I will even drag my perky rack to the the squashing machine to make sure all is clear on my end.
Ladies- PLEASE do the same. Although Ma is fine and fit, she will always have to be mindful: of her limitations when flying, of having her blood pressure taken...of a surprisingly large scar and a space where a part of her used to be. Breast cancer is very treatable, yes, but it is still life-changing. Catch it early if you can.
This week Ma was given the all-clear to get her new mastectomy bra, which will even out the landscape, so to speak. My sister and I thought it would be great for her to get an impressive Playboy-bunny bosom, but Ma was not enticed. She'll settle for just being even.
May it be said of all of us.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Exactly 13 years ago, Sean and I took the leap from 'like' to 'love'. And as I sat tonight at the OC Fair, listening to Pat Monahan sing, I reflected on the past decade and change, and how we've changed...and stayed the same.
Train is a motif in our relationship. Sean discovered them with 'Meet Virginia' back when we were still living in South Philly, in a walkup apartment at 4th and Catherine that we thought was the edgiest artist nook in town. It was a surprise, because when I met him , Sean was a seasoned connoisseur of hip/hop & R&B. However, he took to the band immediately; I dismissed them as a one-hit-with-a-novelty-kind-of-song act, and went on with my raging Melissa Etheridge addiction that was at its zenith then. About this time, both of us were coming to the realization that for an actor and a musician, Philly wasn't the best place to be.
"I think I'm moving to Idaho- or Santa Barbara."
We moved to LA with our roommate Mike, also an actor. Almost immediately, Sean was cast as the lead in 'This Is Our Youth' in Santa Barbara. Which was great, except he had to live there for three months while I had to stay in our new apartment in Van Nuys, working. However, it turned out to be one of the best summers we ever had; I drove up every weekend, and we'd spend his days off exploring the beaches, State Street, etc. And on my way back to the Valley, to 'keep him with me', I'd put his copy of Drops of Jupiter in the car CD player. Train was growing on me, as an extension of him.
" Don't give up on me- I'm about to come alive"
Finally we married and moved out on our own. We were living in what we now call "The Box", a 'Jr. one bedroom' apartment in Winnetka. If you stood at a certain spot in the middle, you could see every corner of the place simply by pivoting on that spot at different angles. But we were newly married, it was all ours, and the rent couldn't have been lower.
Unfortunately, Sean's diabetes was becoming more and more unmanageable. It seemed completely indifferent to his impeccable diet, his diligent workouts, his careful monitoring of his sugar. Type 1 Diabetes is a brutal taskmaster- He was tired, grey, at turns listless then snappish- and losing weight at a frightening pace. His doctor finally convinced me to convince him that his best option was an insulin pump.
Although uneasy at first, Sean soon improved exponentially, and the thousands of dollars we'd put on a credit card to purchase the beeper-sized machine seemed like nothing compared to having him back again, jolly and energetic. And as if it was a gift from Pat himself, My Private Nation was released.
I remember cooking dinner while Sean took a shower, with the CD playing through for the first time in the bathroom (of course I could hear it perfectly....remember- "Box"?;). I only half-listened, while Sean analyzed. I was making my own CD, Black Halo, at the time, and I was wrapped up in all that it entailed. Then one night I came home tired as Sean was singing along with Train; I made an offhand remark, and he became incredibly emotional; his sugar was dangerously low, and after some juice and lying down for a few minutes, we talked more calmly. He told me that the songs made him think of me, think of us- our situation. I suddenly realized that this music really meant something to him on a gut level, and so, I would have to give it a more thoughtful listen.
The next day, I drove slowly around Canoga Park doing my errands, with tears running down my face as I listened to "I'm about to come alive". This was what he meant. All the pieces fell together. I got it.
From that point on, Train was our band. "The Box" was in a bit of a 'dodgy' neighborhood, and many a night we would just go to Woodland Hills and drive around the park with the windows and sunroof open to look at the stars with "When I Look to the Sky" playing at top volume. We "Followed Rita" up the 101 to Visalia to visit friends on Thanksgiving. My band was doing a weekly residency; Sean had gotten a promotion at work- things looked bright.
(During this time, we had a memorable Train incident- Sean's birthday came around, and I was delighted to find that Train would be playing the Wiltern. We got tickets and made sure we were there early enough to station ourselves right at the front of the stage. We chatted with some other couples about what song they'd open with as the pit started filling up. The concert began, and I was thrilled that Sean was getting such a great birthday present...that is, until I saw a thin arm wrap around his shoulder. I looked over, and a slatternly blond with a beer in hand was leaning against him and trying to wriggle up beside him. I said, "Do you know her?" He disentangled himself and said "No- I think she's trying to cut in front of us." And try she did. She and her equally drunken friend began pushing between us and trying to cozy up to him, and the man standing next to him, so they could get closer to the stage. Sean firmly told them "We've been here for hours. We're not letting you cut in front of us." The brunette of the two said, "Why are you so uptight? Just let us in front of you." Then she nearly toppled over. The man on the other side of Sean said "I'm with you- they're not getting past me."
At this point, I was pretty ticked. This was supposed to be Sean's night, and these tipsy trollops were disrupting everybody. Sean gently put me in front of him to keep me calm, and put his arms around me. "Don't worry, they'll get tired of bugging us and - ouch!" I snapped around to see his head jerk back; the brunette had pinched him on the neck in a reckless last ditch effort...however, she didn't count on me- because after that there was no containing me. I cocked my fist back and swung over Sean's shoulder; he caught my fist in the air. I ripped it away, gave him a look that made his hair stand on end, pushed him to the side, poked my finger in the girl's face and said "You need to back up, bitch, right now." I was ready to stand on her hair and she WOULD know my name. They both scurried away with the blond saying, "It's not worth it, it's not worth it, that girl's crazy." Around us, the other people slowly started clapping.
I was still pretty full of adrenaline, but I managed to smile and return my focus to Pat. The last time we saw the girls they were both on their knees, crawling through people's legs at the other end of the pit to try to get to the stage.
During some stage banter, Pat mentioned he was from PA, and Sean hooted. He said "Where are you from?" And Sean yelled, "Philly!" Pat leaned out and shook his hand, "I'm Pat", he said. "Sean". The audience laughed, and it was the perfect capper to a very eventful evening.
The next day I heard Sean on the phone with his brother. He was saying, "Dude, she SWUNG!! She SWUNG!")
"When it rains, it pours and floods the floors"
Summer was waning, and we went to Laguna Beach to see a friend's play and spend the weekend with him. We stayed out late after the play, laughing and drinking, then went to bed to sleep in before heading back to LA. However, at 6:00 am, Sean's cell phone rang- It was his aunt telling us his mother had had a massive heart attack that morning and died instantly.
When someone who has been sick for a long time passes away, it is tragic, but there is time to wrap your head around the inevitable. When it happens without warning, it may be more merciful for the deceased, but for those he or she leaves behind, it is staggering, ravaging, halting. Sean was blindsided, and we were 3,000 miles away.
We got to PA as quickly as air travel would allow; because it was last minute, we had many stops and layovers; and 13 hours later we arrived at PHL, exhausted and drained. Sean was the rock that he always is for his family, but I knew that inside he was lava. I tried to keep his spirits up and be a mini rock for him when I could.
Over the next few years, he often kept his own counsel. He's not one to feel sorry for himself, or get bogged down in sad things. But it would hit him at unexpected times, and I would try to draw him out. Little by little, he allowed himself to grieve, and we both took a more sober look at the blessings in our lives.
We decided to move out of "The Box"; the neighborhood was degenerating, our financial situation had improved, and we wanted the change. We moved into a rear house in North Hollywood, and Sean promptly lost his job.
This was another shock to his system. We became more active in our church, and Sean poured his energy into running their audio. The bills began piling up; we fretted.
My now new band began garnering more and more attention; Sean got a new manager and commercial agent. It seemed that things had begun to turn around. I bought Sean "For Me, it's You" for his birthday.
But this time, Train didn't have the unifying effect it had before. Our professional situations, at first blush, were positive upward moves, but they became increasingly negative and divisive, and we were both irritable and on edge. Our fiscal resources were tapped as Sean's unemployment drug on, and I decided to go on a diet and not come back. Anorexia, debt, anger, resentment- we were losing who we fundamentally were, and only brief moments, when "Always Remember" would take Sean back into his grief, and I would console him, brought us back to the reality of who we used to be.
"Move on, you know we'll be stronger in the end."
I'd like to say there was a moment, a song, a 'switch' that clicked to bring us out of it- but there wasn't. There was a gradual series of awakenings; and, slowly, we cleared out the negative people and things that had somehow cluttered our lives. And once that process was done, we could see each other clearly again- and we'd never looked so good.
The next few years were filled with rebuilding- Sean was working again, I set about getting healthy, writing and organizing new songs. We created and filmed a web series, and we met new, positive people. I eventually went to Denmark to record a new CD, and set about promoting it.
Christmas came, and I bought "Save Me, San Francisco" for Sean. Although I listened to it about 10 times before I gave it to him:). It was everything we'd hoped it would be, and so when we saw that the band would be at the OC Fair, on our 13 year anniversary, we bought the tickets, and tucked them away.
2 months later my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
I got on a plane, and stayed 2 weeks with her as she had a mastectomy. Two days into my stay in PA, Sean called- he'd been fired.
I was so tired that I couldn't even be stunned. I just felt numb. Everything was falling apart- again.
And I could have gone down that road- but the Good Lord said "No. No more."
Mom recovered nicely. I flew back to LA. Sean and I took a good hard look at our finances, and our lives. Opportunities were materializing for me musically, and we knew that suddenly we were at a crossroads.
Sean got a new job. I took on more work. And we made a plan to downsize, cut back, reorganize, and do whatever it takes to get "Whiskey or Water" out to the world. So it can do for the world what Train has done for us.
"I'll open up and be your parachute- and I'll never let you down."
Last night, I sat in the ampitheatre, as Pat Monahan told the audience that this was the biggest crowd Train had ever played to- and he thanked us for being part of it. And I looked around at all these people singing their songs- What were there stories? What events had brought them here? Were they new "Hey Soul Sister" fans? Or were they one of the only people on their feet during "Mississippi" like we were?
Then I thought about 3 years ago- when "For Me, it's You" came out- and for most accounts, it failed commercially. And so did we. And Pat went solo. And to some degree, so did we. And the Train stopped running.
Yet here they are, tonight, with the biggest hit of their career, playing to the biggest crowd of their lives.
Things can change. They can ALWAYS change.
I looked at Sean, and thanked God for every minute of the last 13 years. I can't wait for the next 13. And the 13 after that. And the 13 after that.
Change is coming- 'things are gonna look up'.
"I won't give up- if you don't give up".
Saturday, July 3, 2010
It's been quite a year, and this last month has packed in any last bits of challenge that hadn't made their ways into the other 11. So perhaps it's appropriate that as I start another chapter in this VK Lynne story, I am reminded again of who I am- good and bad.
Whiskey or Water is more than a song for me- it's the most important thing I've ever learned about this earthly life, it's the explanation for all the mistakes I've made, it's really, in a nutshell, who I am. To know and feel this song is to know VK Lynne.
So it became the title track and my anthem, my mantra, my modus operandi. Thus when my friend PJ, filmmaker fantastique, called and said "Let's make a music video", we decided on Whiskey or Water...It was the best choice for a first video, because it very clearly introduces- me.
PJ Gaynard, the jolly mastermind behind , Goat Milk Fudge Productions was first brought into my sphere as a replacement DP on our web series, Trading on 15. His work, and overall awesome personality, was so unimpeachable that we continued past the first 3 agreed upon episodes, and shot the next 2- which will be completed and up on the new Trading on 15 website soon- but that's another blog:).
PJ is a full-steam ahead, shoot first, ask questions later kinda guy, which I dig the hell out of, and so, even though we had NO budget, and neither of us had the extra time, we set about shooting.
We were blessed with locations that serendipitously appeared from kind, generous friends- Jessica Duffy and Clark Schaefer happened to have a baby grand piano in their garage that they were willing to let us shoot in, and Jessica "Playbunny" Duenas and Ozzy of the Tribe not only allowed us to take over their home and the fabulous 'O'Bar that Ozzy built himself, but Bunny also appeared in the video.
We'd gotten the Whiskey, but we still needed the Water, so I turned to the owner of the largest body of water that I knew, Brad Myers. Brad played bass for me for 4 years, and has had and will have rambling philosophical discussions in his hot tub with me, hopefully, for many more...he and his wife Debi allowed us use of their backyard and pool, and voila! The shooting wrapped.
And now here it- so, in honor of the many birthdays that the 4th of July brings, I give you Whiskey or Water- the first video from the CD. I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, please share it with your friends, enemies, relatives- anyone who might need a little whiskey:)
CLICK HERE FOR WHISKEY OR WATER
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Saturday, May 15, 2010
However, Lilith in the digital/social networking age has some new facets- most notably the local talent search, bringing an indie on to open the event in each city. Sounds like a great idea, right?
Sarah McLachlan created Lilith Fair to showcase and support women in music, and connect them with the fans. How better to further that agenda than to include the indies, the unsigned, the overlooked? But how will we choose from the throng, though, include one lucky artist in this event about community, mutual respect and support?
Pit all of them against each other in a virtual online cage match.
Our Stage and Lilith have ostensibly gone to the fans to decide, in a 'voting' mileu, who each city should choose. The process is, at best, complex, at worst, it contravenes everything that Lilith initially set out to do. It breeds competition and rivalry, and the all-too pervasive sentiment that artists are, in essence, competing for "ownership" of fans.
Once a fan logs in, they are presented with 4 songs- he/she is required to devote 15 seconds of listening time to each, then rank them in order from best to worst. Then 4 more come up. (In OurStage/Lilith's defense, I do believe this is an attempt to get folks to really listen to the music and not just mindlessly vote for a friend or a name or a title that seems cool). However, some fans bemoan that they've spent upwards of 3 hours 'judging', waiting for their favorite artists to come up, so they can show their support and cast their vote. And of course, they are able/expected to vote in this way EVERY DAY. This begs the question: Are the artists that will be chosen truly "the best"? Or do their fans simply have the most time on their hands?
It also puts the artist in the unenviable position of persistently pleading with their fans to "vote daily!!" for them (and this artist is no exception!). However, it also brings to light an issue that is not-so-slowly creeping into our modern culture, the short attention span consumer. I logged on to vote for a fellow artist in Boston, Elle Gallo, and while wading through the songs to get to Elle, I thought "15 seconds?? Why do we have to wait that long?" Then I stopped. Really? Really? I can't devote 15 SECONDS to some fellow artists who are busting their butts the same way I am to do what they love? I can't give 15 SECONDS to maybe discover some new music, when music is my passion and the hemo in my globin?! REALLY???
After I self-flagellated for a few minutes, it dawned on me that the same thing was probably happening on computers all around the country, and that, as a result, many songs weren't getting a fair shake because they didn't "kick in" in the first 15 seconds. Again- this artist is no exception, and I smacked a hand to my forehead as I realized that I'd submitted a song with a 41 SECOND intro to the competition. "Good grief!", I thought, "If I'd known this was the way it was going to be done I would have..."
What? What would I have done? Submit a different song to cater to an online voting format? The broader implications of this line of thinking write themsleves, and again, I sat back in my chair and wondered where Zeppelin and the Eagles and countless other "classic" bands would be if they'd had to have been judged by the first 15 seconds of their songs.
Because it's not just about this one competition. I've been told "industry standard" is that you have 30 seconds to catch an exec's ear. Songs are sliced and diced to death on mainstream radio to squeeze them into acceptable time parcels. Even YouTube viewers routinely give about 3 minutes of attention to a video.
Current popular media tells us that's what we want- we want to get in, get entertained and get out. We want art to take us away, but only as long as it gets us back in time for dinner- after all, we've got things to do.
And maybe that's true, by and large. But when Paul McCartney played in March at the Hollywood Bowl for 3 hours, DJ's trumpeted it as one of the best nights they'd ever had. And they'd have sat there for 3 more.
Because it's proven good music, given it's freedom to develop and be the timeless art that it is. Quality will lead to longevity and, as a result, quantity.
But artists now are told quantity, quantity, and while the powers that be weed out the commercial "quality", they keep the artist running like a rat on a wheel to produce even more quantity- they pluck out the 'Hey Jude's' and toss out the 'I'm Only Sleeping's'.
But now I sound like a curmudgeon:) And this is another topic for another day. Right now, I'm going to go devote at least 15 seconds to some talented ladies- how about you?
Friday, January 29, 2010
Whiskey or Water
VK Lynne is a blues rocker with soul. Soul that’s derived from strong Christian beliefs and a stark honesty that’s unfiltered in her music. It’s readily apparent that she’s being doing this for a while - an inherent confidence flows through Whiskey or Water, punctuating each syllable she sings.
Her latest effort is a heart-on-the-sleeve recollection of the last three years the singer has experienced. And what a journey its been, her passage through that period including struggles with anorexia, Hollywood, religious hypocrisy and love has been a long road.
The album provides great evidence into VK Lynne’s grasp of melody and cadence that puts several modern acts to shame. Tracks like the dark and sprawling “Dust Between The Dirt” and the pure and sincere effusiveness that is imbued from songs like the gliding “He Rolls” is pretty refreshing. Elsewhere, [on her previous release, Black Halo] the heartbreaking “Her End of The Phone” and “Black Halo” with its expressive reprises, sound like mainstream country standards.
On Whiskey or Water, VK Lynne comes close to reaching indie perfection and flourishes a vulnerability that should make her a queen of this often turbulent musical landscape. She wears her scars well and brings strength to several of the autobiographical songs on this well executed record.
-Rukshan Thenuwara, Muzik Reviews
Monday, January 25, 2010
Do you ever watch American Idol? If so, you may have heard Simon mention a performer having the "it" factor. It's like a quality that's hard to exactly define, but you know it when you see or hear an artist perform. The first time I heard that distinct voice of V.K. Lynne, I could tell that she was different. I can tell you that she has that "it" factor and she is a young star that is about to burst loose on this dismal music scene that we are being subjected to right now.
Her newest CD is entitled "Whiskey Or Water" and one listen will set your senses on fire. This is her third Cd and she approached it much differently than the first two. "The new Cd is different in many ways. First of all, it was different in process. I went to Denmark to work with an amazing producer, James Thomas(Cher/Beth Hart), who really had a handle on what I was trying to say lyrically. We set out to make the best record we could; style, expectations and convention be damned! It's different writing-wise in that this record has an arc. Each songs details chronologically a different piece of the story of what I've been through and learned over the last two years. I think it's different in sound in that it's much more blues and rock than my previous work; which is where I've wanted to be all along and which is absolutely fitting considering the lyrical content," said Lynne.
VK has a very unique voice. The first thing that I thought of was the innocence of Jewel's voice with the harder edge of Melissa Etheridge mixed in. Her CD is somewhat of a photo album with each song being a snapshot that captures an aspect of her life over the last few years. "The song 'Whiskey or Water' was written around probably the lowest point of my life. I was struggling with anorexia and self-destructing. I was drinking too much, working too much, making bad choices, hanging out with negative people, not sleeping or eating enough and was pretty much miserable. I sat on my couch and cried for three days and at the end of it, I'd written 'Whiskey or Water'. It's probably the most important thing I have learned and I'm still not quite there, that everything has it's place and time and that moderating those things is what life is about. Too much of one thing means not enough of another. Some people and things are water; you can have unlimited amounts and you only benefit. Others are whiskey, one shot and you're probably good for the night and anymore and you may get sick," responded Lynne.
"Whiskey or Water", the title track to her new CD is a very powerful and emotional song. This song is a prime example of the power of her voice and how she makes the listener feel the impact of what she is singing. "Mess Like You" is another favorite of mine. It is a completely different song in context and style. This song is very fun and shows a sexier side to Lynne. "Salvation In The Skies" is actually a Christmas themed song but probably could be played year round and enjoyed just as much. I think this song is the best example of how pure her voice truly is.
I had to ask for the story behind another favorite track of mine "Dust Between the Dirt." Lynne told me, "I actually wrote this song a long time ago, it was essentially for my foster brother whose parents died when he was young. There was alot of hypocrisy from the local church surrounding the death of his father and it struck me that people may seem to be "good" from the outside, but they can be just as "bad", or worse,on the inside as the people they are condemning."
I really enjoyed this CD and I continue to listen to key tracks on it. Lynne mixes up rock and blues and ties all her songs together with religious undertones that are subtle sometimes but make a great point. You can learn more about her at her official website, www.vklynne.com or her MySpace page, www.myspace.com/vklynne or on Facebook. Jump on the bandwagon now before it fills up and you can say that you were here for the ride from the start!