Hello Dolly!

Anyone that knows me knows I love me some Bette Midler.  She first entered my aura when I was about 13 and I was blown away by her first album, The Divine Miss M.  When I heard the beginning of Breakin’ Up Somebody’s Home and her kinda Janis scream, I lost it.  Ol’ Bette is why my hair went from brown to red in high school (thanks to my Aunt Mary who was a hairdresser) and has stayed that way for most of my life since. Spin ahead a bunch of years to a couple of weeks ago where I managed to score some tickets to the last performance of Hello Dolly.   Box seats mind you – the closest I’ve ever been to her I think.  When the lights went down, the audience went batshit crazy and then when Bette appeared I was surprised to find myself getting pretty emotional and I thought the ceiling would fall in from all the fans screaming and how electric it all felt.  Once she quieted us all down, we settled in for a wonderful performance from the entire wonderful cast.

I love David Hyde Pierce, especially from his Frasier days and he was fantastic as Horace Vandergelder.  I was pleasantly surprised to see another Broadway favorite, Gavin Creel. (He’s from Ohio, too!) I saw him a few years ago in one of my absolute favorite musicals, She Loves Me.  (You’ll know that story from You’ve Got Mail which originated from a play in the 1930s titled, Parfumerie.  More than you maybe wanted to know but I love the history of these things!) He’s such a wonderful performer, and he became emotional during a short but touching soliloquy as the dialogue and real life were mirroring each other.

I was with my jazz songstress pal Michelle Walker and made new friends in our box seats with a guy from Ireland who is from around Lisburn near where my family is from – small world – I love stuff like this!  During intermission Michelle spotted Victor Garber, Ellen Barkin and Julianne Moore – she sees famous folks all the time when we’re together – it’s freaky.

I was able to snap a few photos during the curtain calls – love this one.

After the show ended we went outside to see a good sized crowd of folks waiting for Bette to come out – someone thought she might since it was the last show.  We were hopeful but doubtful.  Most of the cast trickled out and even David Hyde Pierce but sadly, no Bette.  People would have gone nuts if that happened.  I know I would have so we went to a bar and toasted our fun evening…  I will meet her someday, I will, I will, I will!

Big Dreams and Big Love,

What’s Going On?

Hey Y’all,

The past few weeks have been filled with bad news right and left.  The devastation from hurricanes Harvey and Irma (and more on the horizon) and the earthquake in Mexico are forefront in our minds.  Losing a home, all of your belongings or more importantly, a loved one is unimaginable.   My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by these natural disasters, and, if you haven’t done so yet, please consider supporting the Red Cross or MusiCares.

Closer to home I learned that a beloved venue, IOTA Club and Café is closing at the end of the month after 23 1/2 years of support to the area music community.  I had my three CD release shows there and have had countless fun times, some I remember and some I don’t!  Steve and Jane and everyone from the club will be sorely missed and I send them much love and well wishes. Read more on the closing here…

We’ve lost music legends Don Williams and Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry, and, on Sunday, Walter Becker of Steely Dan.  Reading through The New York Times’ list of obituaries was an education, so many people I knew of and those I didn’t.

The loss that touched me the most was Glen Campbell on August 8th.  I’ve loved his music for so many years, my favorite being Jimmy Webb’s Wichita Lineman.  I became a bit obsessive and watched a 1968 video of that song over and over.   I felt such a connection to Mr. Campbell and the song.  The line, “I need you more than want you” is beautiful in its simplicity and possibly heartbreaking truth.  I was fortunate to see him at The Birchmere some years ago – what an experience that was in such an intimate setting, and, of course, I wrangled my way into getting an autograph!

Hold on tightly to your loved ones, be kind, pay it forward and make every moment count!

Big Love,

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Au revoir 2016, howdy 2017!

As I sit here with two kittens in my lap (and they did indeed fall into my lap) to write y’all, I’m shocked at how quickly 2016 has sped by. Is that something that happens as we grow older or have we filled our days with a to do list that would frighten Martha, that time now flies at warp speed? Back in the beginning of the year I shared my goals for 2016 and I can tell you already without even looking at that list, I fell quite short. Things got in my way on a daily basis it seems, and I lost focus here and there. Merde happens, doesn’t it?! I have improved on guitar, begun writing new songs and made new musician friends. While I didn’t make it to Europe, I did take my mom on a trip to Vegas and LA where we were able to spend some nice time together. I didn’t get my garden under control mainly due to the fact that I threw old pumpkins out in the yard in the winter and a couple of them seeded, the vines went crazy and grew over everything. Bonus was I didn’t have to buy any pumpkins for Halloween! So a silver lining anyway…

Many of you knew of my cat, Georges, a stray that showed up on my doorstep about 6 years ago.  I had decided that when Henri passed away that after Georges was gone (he passed away in March and I miss him like crazy), no more cats for me.  It was so heartbreaking to see them go.  Well, the Universe laughed good and hard in my face.  Two more strays showed up before Georges was gone – I think he was spreading the word – one of them had two kittens and before I could get her fixed, more kittens this August.  She has been taken care of now…  So instead of no cats, I have two pet kittens, Georgette and Francois.  Their mother, Maxine, their aunt, Chartreuse, and older brother and sister come and go.  And then there’s Asshole cat, so named by two of my former Airbnb guests.  AC shows up for meal times but is very rude to the other cats, hence the moniker.

Losing my grandmother, Dorothy, in July, while not unexpected, was still upending in so many ways. She was 101 and I was lucky to have her in my life for so long. We didn’t always see eye-t0 and she could be a challenge (and I suppose she felt that way about me a time or two!) but I learned quite a bit from her and I’m grateful for all of the time she spent with me and my sister. I have many wonderful memories. When I was home for her birthday in June, I was practicing guitar in the living room and she and my aunt came in and I gave them a mini concert. My grandma referred to me as the girl with the pretty hair since she couldn’t always remember our names at that point. That was a bit strange for me, but she had 101 years of info crammed into her brain so if she forgot my name that was ok – my grandma was still there. Just over a month later she went to heaven to be with my grandpa, lasting 11 days instead of the 3 the doctors gave her after a stroke – still doing things her way! As I went through her things with my mom and aunt, we found some wonderful treasures. The best thing I uncovered were letters that my grandfather wrote to her while they were still in high school. Unfortunately, they were written in pencil so they are a bit faded though after reading through one of the sweetest letters, I saw a different, totally mushy side of my grandpa that I wasn’t privy to, of course. I think I’ll find some songs in there which will hopefully make it up to them for my reading his love notes!

So as we say goodbye to 2016 and howdy to 2017, I’ll move the unmet goals to next year and get a head start this month and keep on keepin’ on. I wish all the best to each and everyone one of you and may you and yours have a wonderful holiday season filled with love and music!

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P.S.  What goals did you reach or not reach this year?  What’s your secret for meeting a big goal? xo

The Big To Do List of 2016

I’ve decided to share my gigantic 2016 to do list (or at least a chunk of it) because y’all have been such a great support system over the years – attending shows, buying CDs and being good friends –  I appreciate each and every one of you!  At first I was a bit gun-shy sharing these goals and dreams with you – what if something on my list doesn’t come to fruition or I just plain fail miserably?  Sometimes failing is a good thing and can lead to something even better so my list will ebb and flow and change, I’m sure.

Putting dreams out into the world somehow makes them seem more attainable and when family and friends cheer you on, even more so. Those dirty dishes will have to wait!  Cleaning is one of my go to’s for procrastination or when fear starts creeping in (my house should be cleaner somehow!).  I’ve quite a lot of dishes, so here goes, and, to quote my old pals, A Month of Sundays, “Dream Big!”  Here is a smattering of goals… the list is too large and I don’t want to put you into a coma reading it all!

Music goals 

Keep working on guitar everyday and maybe be as good as Max some day… it could happen!
A tour of England and Ireland
Find new and interesting venues in which to perform
New videos
Write new songs with Max and on my own, especially for my next album which will be called Ohio Girl.
See more live music, especially new-to-me music
Attend the AMA conference in Nashville
Write and record 2-3 Christmas songs for a holiday EP

General Goals

Spend more time with family in Ohio and friends
Go out and experience new things more – I used to go out all the time!
Go to Germany and France in the fall with my niece
Ride my bike more
Get my garden under control and have fun doing it.
Make new recipes from my small horde of cookbooks
Be more on top of family birthdays, sending out Christmas cards, etc. – I like real letters/mail!
Listen more

Big Dreams

Have songs licensed
Tour!
Record the CD and all that goes with that.
Get my house painted!
Be ridiculously organized.  Yes, I want to be Martha Stewart, Jr.

Have any dreams you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them so post below…

Big Dreams and Big Love,

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Night of 100 Elvises!

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Happy Holidays, y’all! ‘Tis the season for giving and a great way to give and have a blast at the same time is to head to Baltimore for the 22nd annual Night of 100 Elvises.  Besides being a tribute to Elvis, the evening is most importantly a benefit for Johns Hopkins Children’s Center – a very worthy cause indeed and they need your $$$.

Being a part of this show from its first year at Lithuanian Hall has given me quite the collection of memories.  Some amazing and hilarious times, many too crazy to mention.  No, it wasn’t me that shoved someone’s face in the Elvis cake or came waltzing out of the men’s bathroom because the line was too long in the women’s… It’s all hearsay!

So if you haven’t made plans for this Saturday night, December 5th, and wondering what to do, I highly advise sporting your best Elvis/Charm City get up and hightailing it up to Baltimore.  You will not regret it!  Have any fav memories of Night of 100 Elvises you’d like to share? – you can comment below.

Big luv,

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Airbnb

I love traveling – and I imagine most of you do, too.  If you aren’t familiar with the website, Airbnb, you may want to investigate as it could end up being one of your best friends!  This site offers unique accommodations from local hosts in cities all over the globe.  My original intent for opening my home and renting a room was a financial need, but it has made for an amazing three years.  Folks from Singapore to Chile (and yes, my favorite, France) and just about everywhere in between have stayed with me (from as little as one evening to four months), many of them fellow musicians producing impromptu jam sessions and lots of serious fun.

One of my favorite memories is a couple from Connecticut came through on their way to North Carolina – he a musician and state park caretaker and she an organic farmer – on Christmas Eve.  They arrived late that evening and joined me at a neighbor’s home for some holiday cocktails and cheer.  Christmas morning was nothing short of magical:  A neighbor came over for breakfast, and while we cooked up our holiday feast, including the purple potatoes that were grown by my guest, her husband serenaded us on his concertina with Irish jigs and Christmas carols.  We had a wonderful time celebrating the holiday and getting to know each other before they continued on their journey.

This past May, I had a couple from Shanghai, China, stay and Yao and I traded songs on my guitar – very cool.  He sang in his native language and the song was just beautiful.

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Times like these remind me of ways we can touch others’ lives and they ours.  I’ve made life-long friends and learned a few guitar tricks, too.  Opening your home and your heart can lead to new friends and fabulous experiences!

Big Luv,

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What I did on my Summer Vacation – Nashville!

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Just back from Nashville and a songwriting workshop with the fabulous Jonatha Brooke. While I had always been aware of Jonatha, I had never delved into her music and after three days of hearing her songwriting process, stories and beautiful songs, I am now a forever fan.   A much-needed kick in the creative pants and not only from Jonatha but Mike Reid (who wrote that little song I Can’t Make You Love Me), Emily Saliers of The Indigo Girls and Christopher Cross!  They were our surprise songwriters throughout the workshop and then a surprise Keb’ Mo’ concert in the beautiful Nashville symphony hall.

Our group consisted of 19 songwriters from all over the country, and we all became fast friends on this musical journey.  We received feedback on songs, collaborated on new ones, cried from Jonatha’s stories as well as our own, and opened our hearts to each other.  Big luv and thanks to Lydia Hutchinson of Performing Songwriter for organizing this workshop and being such a music/musician/songwriter supporter.

My pal Billy Coulter happened to be in N’ville over the weekend, too, and we visited the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum  as well as RCA Studio B where Elvis and so many other greats recorded.  Our guide played “Are You Lonesome Tonight” in the room with the lights dimmed as that is how Elvis recorded the song – in the dark – and then when he was finished, he smacked his noggin right into the boom mic.  Even though the engineer lessened the sound, you can still hear a bit of the clacking at the end.  Definitely worth the price of admission!

Billy and I then headed to Bobbie’s Dairy Dip for burgers and a shake. You. Need. To. Go. There… Next stop Carter’s Vintage Guitars where I purchased a very cool Jodi Head guitar strap.  Yay!  Later that evening I met up with about half of my fellow songwriters and we attended Jonatha’s concert at City Winery.  Just brilliant (more crying….)!

If you haven’t checked out Jonatha yet, please do – you’ll love her!  See some of the photos here..

Big luv y’all,

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The Recording Academy

Hey my fellow musicians in the DC area, are you aware that The Recording Academy (the organization that puts on that little show known as The Grammys) has a local Washington, DC, chapter?  I have been a member about 15 years and have found it to be a bounty of riches in so many ways.  Not only for the amazing people that I’ve met but also the cool things I’ve been able to be involved in, especially Grammys on the Hill where musicians and industry people from all over the country gather to lobby Congress on behalf of artists’ rights.  Yes, I’ve attended the Grammys, too, and what a blast that was.  Walking the red carpet almost running into Queen Latifah was memorable to say the least.  Please consider joining The Academy, making your voice heard, meeting other amazing artists and industry folks and making lasting contacts.  We’re all in this together!  

Big Love,

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Vintage Christmas!

joyeux noelI love vintage Christmas ornaments and paraphernalia, especially from the 1930s  and 1940s.  Those old balls just give me a thrill when I find them tucked away in boxes or on display in antique stores.  The one pictured here, I found in a Christmas store on a trip to Chicago with my Dad a million years ago.  I was immediately drawn to it since it was in French, and we all know that I love all things French, but what is it about objects from before our time? For me, it’s many things – the design, glitter (put glitter on just about anything and I’ll buy it!), cool factor but mostly I love to wonder where these things lived before my house and who loved them before me.  Oh, I wish they could speak and tell us all that they’ve seen.  What wonderful stories they must have and think of all the Christmases they were unwrapped and put on display. Tell me about  your favorite Christmas memory or tradition, and if you’d like to see more of my vintage Christmas, you can take a peek here on my Pinterest page… Much Love to y’all this Holiday Season! janine_signature

Under the Influence!

Hey Y’all

Many of you may know that one of my biggest influences is Bette Midler, especially her earliest material (pre-Wind Beneath My Wings).  I was introduced to her by my Uncle Joe who passed away back in May.  When I was a young teen I loved Barry Manilow – one day Uncle Joe showed me an album by Bette, The Divine Miss M, and pointed out that Barry was the pianist on the record.  Of course I had to listen to it, and I lost my mind! 

What a range of material on that album – songs by Leon Russell, John Prine and her signature tune, Friends, by Buzzy Linhart and Moogy Klingman. Not to mention classics such as Do You Wanna Dance, Leader of the Pack and Delta Dawn all with the Divine Miss M’s spin and kick-in-the-pants emotion.  The material she compiled gave me a music appreciation education, too.  Liner notes are so important!  I learned about so many artists and writers this way.  Who is this Glenn Miller and Bob Dylan?!  I don’t know, but I’m gonna find out!

Melissa Manchester was one of the backing vocalists on this album and so my investigation continued…  Melissa is still one my favorite vocalists to this day.  I always find myself reaching for the early albums from the 1970s when they were still a little raw and adventuresome.

I had my little holy trinity (I am a bad Catholic girl, you know…) of Barry, Bette and Melissa and drove my family and friends bonkers yapping about it.  The cover art on my second album, Save Me From Myself, is a tribute to Bette’s first album cover. So far I’ve met Melissa and Barry and hopefully someday I will be able to kneel before the Divine One and chant, “I’m not worthy!” as Wayne and Garth did before Alice Cooper (Alice and I share a birthday!).

Then my best friend, Pat, turned me on to Bruce Springsteen, and, well, he’s been my main squeeze since.  I have strayed (there are so many artists that I love and have learned from), indeed, but those stories are for next time.

Thanks, Uncle Joe!

So who was your biggest influence, and why?!  I wanna hear all about it so do tell in the comment section below!