#1 We Were Pioneers (“Millennials Are Going Gray” track by track)

Welcome to blog #1 of 7 in my track by track guide to my new DIY album, Millennials Are Going Gray! The first track is “We Were Pioneers,” a song that is musically on the acoustic punk side, and conceptually about a literal dream about being a 19th century American pioneer while actually being an underachieving 20-something in the 21st century.

For your convenience, you can stream the track on Spotify and YouTube and read the lyrics at the bottom of this post.
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Like most singer-songwriters who wear their hearts on their sleeves, everything I write in a song is pretty much true. I do indeed dream of what I think about before bed (probably pretty normal, I guess) and I did once have a dream about braving the Old West with an old friend. I also did spend an entire day watching Ken Burns: The West (it’s still on Netflix! Come back in a couple of days when you’re finished, I’ll wait) and a different day staying up way too late playing classic Oregon Trail on Archive.org (sigh, okay, fine, I’ll wait for you to do this too). Those are all individually true. But I’ll confess that I don’t remember if the dream actually occurred on either of those days, so technically, the implication that one or both of those activities directly caused the dream may or may not be accurate.

You might notice a pattern in how I come up with ideas for songs. It’s not that I go out of my way to find poignant metaphors in every little thing that happens in my life; they just randomly pop into my head because to be honest, I’m a little bit emo. (I remember once in high school, a classmate asked if he could scroll through my iPod, and I let him, and he said, “I’ve never seen so much emo music on one iPod in my life!” I was obviously deeply wounded by this comment!)

In this case, the dream was about a friend I hadn’t seen since high school, not even on Facebook. Just remembering her got me thinking about my life and imagining hers potentially being similar in certain ways. I never imagined my life would be so unsettled in my late 20s. To be fair, I’m happier than I’ve ever been because the one thing I’ve gotten better at year after year is being true to myself and doing exactly what feels right to me every single day. That’s a good path to contentment, though, evidently, not really any kind of path to financial stability for most of us. I think I just imagined myself to be successful at something by this age, and to have at least some idea of what the rest of my life would look like. As it is, I have no idea. I know how I’d like it to look (and I’m pretty outspoken about it), and I like to be as optimistic as possible. But I’m still aware that a lot of my dreams are probably not that realistic, and I honestly just don’t know how things will turn out in the end.

Another part of it is, yes, I’m trying, hard (to the point where a lot of people tell me I inspire them, and I so appreciate that sentiment!), but deep down, I know I could be doing so much more. I have plenty of lazy, unmotivated days (usually caused by something small and frivolous causing me to lose confidence in myself). As the song alludes to, some days I waste hours playing games, some days I eat enough junk food to grow a “food baby,” and some (okay, many) days I stay in my pajamas all day. It bothers me especially because reliable people (read: people who work in music and aren’t that nice) are constantly telling me I’ve got potential, and typically when I set a goal I always achieve it. As I say, I’m someone who’s not supposed to lose. (Incidentally, because they sound pretty much the same, I can never decide if it should be “we’re people who are not supposed to lose” or “we’re people who were not supposed to lose.” The latter alludes nicely to being a teenager with big dreams, but the present tense tends to hit harder. So I still haven’t settled the matter yet and opinions are welcome.)

As these thoughts were inspired by a dream about being a pioneer, I felt a metaphor coming on. Faced with the image of my old friend and I minimizing our possessions, packing them up, and heading out on a dangerous adventure where pretty much anything could happen, I felt lazy and cowardly in my own life. Just like a pioneer, I have things I want to change about my life. But all too often, I take careful, safe baby steps, when sometimes a big leap is warranted. I have plenty of excuses like anyone else, but the more I actually examine them, the more I can see how obviously illusory they are.

My own songs are therapy for me (which is also common among songwriters), both as I write them and as I perform them and mull them over. In the case of this song, it helped inspire me to begin planning two DIY tours in the next year (one on the East Coast and one in Europe — and if you can help with a sofa or a performing opportunity of any kind, please fill out this form!). I have no idea if anything good will come of it, and while I probably won’t die (I hope), there’s a good chance I will be very uncomfortable and exhausted during most of my time on those tours. But of course, those are the nights when I sleep better than ever.

As far as the music goes, generally speaking, all of the songs on this album remain simple and, some might say, uninspired in terms of chord and melodic choices (and of course I didn’t use any fancy instrumentation or production to hide that fact). Occasionally I get feedback, from people who aren’t particularly invested in my music, that I need to go back to the drawing board and develop my musicianship rather than focusing on performing and releasing music. But by and large, a lot of the people who hear my music (and are the right audience for it) already enjoy it. This is who I am musically right now, and I’ve got an endless stream of things I want to say in song, so I’m going to keep doing it. Hopefully, I will always have some time and energy left over to develop that musicianship, learn new techniques, listen analytically to other music and see what I can glean from it. But if I run out of time and energy, so be it. Saying what I want to say as best I can while I still have it in me is more important to me than saying it in an impressive way. And that pretty much sums up my entire music career through the present moment.

SPOTIFY

YOUTUBE

LYRICS

I dream of what I think about before bed
And I had a lazy Sunday marathon of Ken Burns on the West
So I had a dream we escaped all oppression
And we went somewhere, somewhere where no one could touch us
And there we were
Modest possessions packed up in our wagon
All to leave this behind for a better, freer life
And it’s a dangerous world out there
We could fail and we could die
But we’re itching for adventure, for a change and it’s our time

Why do we spend our days lazing around?
Talking a big talk and playing games
We don’t do what we want because we’re too afraid
And I know, I know, I know we could do better
There’s nothing we can’t do if we stick together
Because once, we were pioneers
Yeah, we were pioneers

I dream of what I think about before bed
And I played Oregon Trail last night until my eyes were red
Do you remember when we played it in school as kids?
Do you remember the dreams that we dreamed when we played it?
Back in our new home
More than a century and two thousand miles away
We plotted over drinks with the exciting friends we made
We’ve got a blank canvas here, this town is the edge of the earth
And we can make it anything we want it to be, it’s our turn

I had a dream that you and I were pioneers
I woke up wondering what had happened that we wound up here
We were the kids with the big dreams and the bright minds
And now we’re overgrown kids cramping our parents’ styles

And it doesn’t seem it’s going to work out how we wanted
You’ve got a food baby, I’m still in my pajamas
But the way I see it, life’s a game
Where you maximize its length, maximize the pleasure and minimize the pain
And you and I, we’re people who were not supposed to lose
And every day is a potential new beginning

We’ll leave everything behind, build a new life in a new place
If only in our minds
Because once, we were pioneers
Yeah, we were pioneers

On the DIY “Millennials Are Going Gray” EP – out July 19th

It’s been quite a year since I released Secrets I Told to a Sound Hole last March. I’ve been performing more than ever and finally made it to the Nick Alexander Stage at Lost Evenings, a big dream for me (at least for the past few years since the festival began, haha)!

I haven’t been as focused on writing and recording except in short bursts (as usual), most notably the period surrounding Frank Turner’s amazing songwriting camp last August, one of the best times of my entire life (so far). But I did end up with about 14 new songs in total, and 7 that I actually wanted to release.

Feedback has been mixed, but I like to think that this new batch of songs is musically and lyrically more interesting than what I’ve done before. I was going to wait to release until I had a larger batch of songs that I really loved, but I’ve been playing them out for so long and people keep asking when they’ll be on Spotify, so I thought I might as well get them out there sooner rather than later.

I did spend a few months agonizing over the best way to use my limited resources (classic DIY artist dilemma) – is it worth spending a chunk of cash on professional production, even if it means I might not then be able to afford to tour over the next year like I wanted to? Touring is important, but professionally recorded songs are also much more likely to win over fans and achieve something than ones that aren’t, so there would be a definite trade-off.

In the end I decided to do it myself. That would also let me take my time to get the best performance possible, which doesn’t always come easy for me. I’m still not sure I made the right decision (next time, I might work with a fellow amateur just to have an unbiased second pair of ears that I don’t have to go broke for). But part of following a dream is being decisive, committing to a course of action and then sticking to it, so that’s what I’m doing. And the good news is there will be many more batches of songs for me to throw money at if I choose to.

I learned a lot about myself and production from this recording, like I always do. I didn’t achieve perfection in the performance or production, but as in all things, I had to strike a balance between perfectionism and knowing when I’d achieved my best, not actually being a perfect person. I don’t want to bias other people’s listening by pointing out the specific flaws I can hear even after thinking I’d fixed them all. All I’ll say is that I hope I did an adequate job to allow everything I’m trying to express in these songs to shine through, and that’s all that matters right now.

I’ve got plans for this EP, including a track by track blog guide about the music and lyrics, and a Facebook Live listening party (Sat 7/20 at 12 pm ET) and virtual release show (Sun 7/21 at 2 pm ET) – if you know me, you know how much fun I have with Facebook Live! I also have a plan for finishing up a second batch of songs, which will be released in a second digital EP in November, and then I will combine the two EPs into a single physical release and maybe some cool merch to go along with it.

Finally, I’m hoping to tour the US East Coast in November (on my way to the Flogging Molly Cruise) and the UK/Western Europe in May (on my way to Lost Evenings Berlin). I’m still collecting contacts for those, so if you might have a sofa for me to crash on or a platform for me to perform (which could include your house), please fill out this form!

I’m so looking forward to the next year or so and I’m so grateful to everyone who’s been following my journey and supporting me along the way. Thank you and I hope to see you soon!

7 Female Singer-Songwriters You Should Check Out (+ a longer playlist)

March is Women’s History Month, International Women’s Day has just passed, and people are talking more about gender inequality in music.

This particular blog isn’t to discuss inequality and discrimination, but to be the change I want to see in the world. When it comes down to it, women will be better represented in music when we all support and promote them more often. And we female musicians in particular need to collaborate to create new opportunities rather than compete for what may very well be token spots.

So this is a list of 7 female singer-songwriters I’ve come across in my travels or browsing who have impressed me with their music and/or achievements.

I’ve also made a longer Spotify playlist including the women from this list who are on Spotify, some others they have suggested or mentioned, and some other female or non-binary singer-songwriters I like. I have embedded that at the bottom of this list for handy listening.

All of this is entirely subjective based on my experiences, exposure, and tastes, and in no way meant to be definitive. So if you’re reading or listening and thinking of who would be on your list, please make one! Send it my way and I would be happy to share.

I’m not including myself below since this is my website after all, and I’m plastered all over it. But if you stumbled on this blog without knowing who I am, please do check out my music, and if you like it, follow me on social media and come see me live if you’re near where I’m playing.

In order to be as fair as possible, this list is ordered by Facebook fans from least to most. I haven’t made any qualitative judgments.

#1: Katie MF


Current home base: London, UK

Describe your music in one sentence: classic folk narratives set against a rowdy and fun backdrop – contagious punch-the-air folk/punk.

Something unique about you: I nearly died in a car accident last year when an 8 inch, 1 kg piece of metal smashed through my windscreen at 80mph on the motorway… OK I say I nearly died – I was totally unharmed, but it came this close to decapitating me. Obviously I wrote a song about it – Lucky Motherfucker (yet to be recorded).

Which women in history (in music or otherwise) do you most admire and why? Tina Turner. After everything she went through at the hands of Ike, then battling the racist, sexist and ageist music industry and still being one of the most successful artists of all time – incredible.

What is the single most important action people can take to support your music right now? Listen to it! Preferably on Spotify or Bandcamp. And if you like it, tell people about it – word of mouth helps us beat the algorithms and the endless damn hashtags.

What advice would you give to someone just getting started with writing and performing music? Writing-wise: listen broadly (lots of different genres), read a tonne of books, write stuff down somewhere as soon as it occurs to you – even if you’re just drifting off to sleep. Don’t force it! Performing: every single gig you play will be worthwhile in some form, even if there are only two people there, so give it everything and keep going.

LINKS: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Spotify | Bandcamp | Official site

#2: Lucy Bernardez

Current home base: Southampton, UK

Describe your music in one sentence: I don’t identify with a particular genre, but if I had to, I would say my music best identifies with folk/singer-songwriter and a hint of pop, with soothing melodies and chilling lyrics.

Something unique about you: Probably not that unique, but I started seriously writing songs and playing shows when I was around 14-15. I am now 18 and I’ve got some exciting news for this year that I’ll be announcing soon.

Which women in history (in music or otherwise) do you most admire and why? Lisa Mitchell has always been a huge inspiration for me, she has a beautiful and unique voice and she cares very much about the environment which comes across a lot in her music, which I greatly admire and also try to achieve that in my music.

What is the single most important action people can take to support your music right now? I’d say, if you like my music, spread the word. Tell other people to come to my shows, bring them along or merely tell them to listen to my music, which is easily accessible on all major platforms via my website.

What advice would you give to someone just getting started with writing and performing music? I would say don’t give up even if you doubt yourself or are made to doubt yourself. If you think you’ve got something to share with the world, keep on practising and your confidence will build. I would never tell someone they should stop expressing themselves through music, even if by most people’s standards they aren’t very ‘good’. There are loads of different aspects to being a musician, whether it’s writing good poetry, being an engaging performer, having a beautiful voice or talent for songwriting, if you keep practising you’ll invite more and more ears to listen to you.

LINKS: Official site | YouTube | Bandcamp | iTunes | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Soundcloud | Spotify

#3: Chloe Glover

Current home base: Manchester, UK

Describe your music in one sentence: A blend of punk and folk music, combined with a raw lyrical honesty.

Which women in history (in music or otherwise) do you most admire and why? As a fierce feminist I’ve always admired Emmeline Pankhurst, ever since learning about her in school when I was younger. The votes for women motto ‘Deeds not words’ has always struck a chord with me. I love that she pissed a lot of people off- as someone who can be a bit of a pushover, I often think about the strength and bravery of Emmeline Pankhurst and everything that she endured in the name of feminism and equal rights. She was an utter legend.

What is the single most important action people can take to support your music right now? Like my Facebook page! It helps enormously with getting booked for shows and you’ll be the first to hear about the release of my new EP or exciting gigs in your area!

What advice would you give to someone just getting started with writing and performing music? Try to write or play music every singe day. The more confident you become, the easier it is to share your music with the world, and that is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

LINKS: Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram

#4: Natalie Farrell

Current home base: Asbury Park, NJ

Describe your music in one sentence: Expressive contralto vocals with an eclectic mix of musical genres, including soul, rhythm and blues, jazz, pop, and rock.

Which women in history (in music or otherwise) do you most admire and why? Etta James, Amy Winehouse, and Hayley Williams. They present themselves as powerhouse songstresses that perform with emotion and feeling which really connects with me as a listener. That inspired me to give my audience the same connection.

What is the single most important action people can take to support your music right now? To connect and relate to the music. My biggest factor when creating my music is to inspire the listener to learn more about themselves and relate it to their own life.

What advice would you give to someone just getting started with writing and performing music? Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Sometimes musicians can be hard on themselves and it may feel uncomfortable letting people listen to the raw emotions you put on paper. But at the end of the day, you will change someone’s life with your music and it all starts with showing the world what you’re made of.

LINKS: Facebook | Instagram | Spotify

#5: Dori Cameron

Current home base: Boston, MA

Describe your music in one sentence: Dori Cameron and the Invisible Monsters is a four-piece rock band with punk undertones from Boston, MA. Members: Dori Cameron (vocals, guitar), Tom Majkut (bass), Jesse Buday (guitar), and Benjamin Buday (drums)

Something unique about you: I never thought I’d be able to be the front woman and guitarist of a band. I was talking to Dave King (Flogging Molly) a few years back about wanting to be part of a band, and he said to me, “Dori… start your own band.” That chat really resonated with me, since I adore Flogging Molly, and Dave King is a huge musical influence on me. I admire his honest lyrics and ability to bring so many different types of people together with his music. I’m so glad I learned how to play the guitar and started a band… it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I’ve hit the jackpot with my band mates Tom, Jesse, and Ben – they also perform as the Boston band “Look Sharp” and I’m very thankful for them. They bring such energy and depth to each song. They fucking rule!

Which women in history (in music or otherwise) do you most admire and why? Sister Rosetta Tharpe (the Mother of Rock and Roll!), Stevie Nicks, Joan Jett, Grace Slick, and Liss Victory. I look up to these women so much and admire their tenacity, dedication, and conviction. Liss Victory personally encouraged me to purchase my first guitar and gave me that extra encouragement I needed to really embrace the dream of becoming a musician. She is so inspirational, and I love her music. These amazing women have paved the way for musicians like me, and I’m thankful.

What is the single most important action people can take to support your music right now? Spread the word about Dori Cameron and the Invisible Monsters! And come out to see us perform… seeing friends at shows is the best thing about being a musician!

What advice would you give to someone just getting started with writing and performing music? Keep going!! Keep going, no matter what happens. Music can become your anchor in a world full of uncertainty.

LINKS: Official site | Bandcamp | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify

#6: Kim Boyko

Current home base: Metuchen, NJ

Describe your music in one sentence: I am a self-reflective singer/songwriter who creates confessional acoustic pop songs.

Something unique about you: I’m a nerdy science teacher. I bring my guitar into class on Fridays and my students write science songs with me to show me what they’ve learned.

What is the single most important action people can take to support your music right now? I’m not performing right now because I’m a month away from giving birth to my first child, but people can subscribe to my YouTube channel!

What advice would you give to someone just getting started with writing and performing music? My advice to someone just starting would be to keep writing and performing no matter what, and stay out of your own way. We are all our own worst critics, and it’s incredibly easy to compare yourself to others & get discouraged. Don’t do that. Just write. Even if you think it sucks, just write.

LINKS: Official site | Facebook | YouTube | Instagram | Bandcamp

#7: Reina Williams

Current home base: Elizabeth, NJ

Describe your music in one sentence: Soul medicine.

Something unique about you: To spite everyone over the years telling me I need to stick to one genre, I refuse to. If I make the music I like, then that’s all that matters. Being open to that diversity afforded me the opportunity as a producer to create music that has been placed in over 200 TV shows and commercials. Do what you want.

Which women in history (in music or otherwise) do you most admire and why? Currently it’s Nina Simone. She gave zero fucks about what people thought of her. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind in her songs and she was an amazing pianist.

What is the single most important action people can take to support your music right now? Share my videos and music with your friends.

What advice would you give to someone just getting started with writing and performing music? Be kind to yourself.

LINKS: Facebook | Instagram | Bandcamp | Official site

SPOTIFY PLAYLIST: Female/Non-Binary Singer-Songwriters