Katie’s original musical, co-written with Emilie Coulson and James Valcq (Richard Rodgers Award winner, The Spitfire Grill), opened in 2012 to sold-out houses and great critical acclaim. Victory Farmtraces the story of German POWs who came to work on cherry orchards in Door County, Wisconsin during World War II.
“Leaky Boats and Paper Birds” is in! Here’s the Kickstarter/advance orders assembly line in my living room!
Well, as you see from the date of this post, I am woefully behind on my blog entries. The whirlwind of the tour behind me, I came back to Door County and settled right back down to songwriting–another good use of time, if I do say so myself. And I hardly took any pictures in Chicago…but here are some highlights. First off, a video, from our oh-so-fun house concert at our friends Tim and Ellie’s house. It’s “Union Maid,” which we played at every show on the tour and had been trying to capture live for a few weeks. It proved elusive–even this version has pretty funky sound–but at least you get the idea.
Now the photos!
When one has been traveling a long time, one learns to find beauty even in the ugliest of places–like this starry starry rest stop in Indiana.
For my birthday breakfast, my friend and host Nathan took us to the delightful Longman and Eagle for duck egg hash (those are sunnyside up duck eggs on top, with duck confit in the hash itself). Yum!
We visited my old employer, the Old Town School of Folk Music, which induced a big wash of nostalgia in yours truly, especially these guitar strings in their vending machine.
The night of my birthday, we played a private birthday party in Highland Park (birthday squared!). Here’s Rich getting ready for the show.
On our last day in Chicago, we played a house concert at the apartment of my friends Emily and Jess, who had generously hosted a house concert for me last winter, too. Their apartment is pretty perfect for such an event. Here’s their house concert setup empty…
I’ve been in Albuquerque for the last ten days. I spent the first 3 visiting with wonderful college friends (picture at right), one of whom has created two of my favorite children on the planet. The baby’s in Meg’s little carrier, and her older son Boris is below wearing my knit Packer hat like it’s a beret.
And then I spent the last seven days with my dear friend Sonya, a fellow writer whom I’ve known since high school. She and I have been on a self-imposed, self-led, self-policed writing retreat in a little rental house in the northwest quarter of the city, complete with early morning rooster calls down the (relatively urban) road and a view of the Sandia Mountains out the window. I was pretty sure this trip would be a fun way to see my friends, less sure whether my “writing retreat” idea was just a roundabout way to write off my plane ticket–sometimes I’m good at buckling down and writing, sometimes I’m not. A whole week seemed like a gamble. But I’m going into the studio to record another album in less than a month and there weren’t nearly enough songs to justify said studio time, so I decided to give it a shot.
It’s been wonderful. I haven’t worked so long and intently at a single creative task since college, and it’s amazing the difference it makes just to spend so much uninterrupted time with words. You’d think you use words all the time, that they’d therefore be easy to pick out of the vast vocabularic pond. But really, songwriting often feels to me like panning for gold in a deep swamp; if the waters aren’t regularly stirred up the gold seems to settle below the mud at the bottom. So I’m pleased with the five songs that I’ve finished this week–feels like some of the most satisfying writing I’ve done in a long time.
Plus, having someone else in the house really keeps you on track–we realized upon our arrival that there was no door between the bedroom (Sonya’s work space) and the kitchen/living room (my work space), and that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Pretty hard to check our email and pretend it never happened when someone else is diligently working in the other room and totally saw your laptop open.
Plus, this little house is perfect. I wish I lived here all the time. Here’s a picture. And the website ishttp://www.lacasitabb.com/main/
A quick recap of the songs I finished–two reclaiming-a-once-floundering-relationship songs, called “Enough” and “Ghosts of Sheboygan Town,” a reclaiming-a-still-floundering-nation song called “Leaky Boats and Paper Birds,” a lost love ballad called “Pier 33,” and “Kathleen,” a song based on a poem written by my friend and collaborator Emilie Coulson.
There was, of course, the minor creative setback of the Packers losing their playoff game to the Giants. I swore a lot at the dozens of screens in the sports bar and whichever muses had decided that this was a good week for us to hang out probably ran away. Whoever heard of a folksinging football fan, anyway? Luckily for me, they (unlike the Packers) decided to come back.
Here’s a little video of our tiny writing house, which is delightful, affordable, and highly recommended if you’re visiting Albuquerque.
During the length of this tour, I visited three cities I used to live in: Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis. I loved living in all of these cities–in fact, I loved living in cities in general. So as we pulled into Boston, I found myself feeling very nostalgic. As the week went on, I found very few reasons to rein in my nostalgia, helped along by any number of wonderful Boston-y activities, including the following:
We played three different places in Boston, which was pretty cool in itself, since when I lived in Boston this whole “professional musician” idea was just a little twinkle in my eye. Carrying my guitar on the T, I remembered so many trips to open mics, lugging my guitar all the way from Jamaica Plain to whatever open mic was in Cambridge or Somerville that day. So it was nice to realize how far I’ve come since then, at the same time as I felt a little nostalgic for the adrenaline of those days.
At any rate, we played a concert at a church in Cambridge, MA, generously arranged by Rich’s friend (and pastor at the church) Ute. The church (which is celebrating its 375th birthday this year) was literally about a block and a half away from our friends Sonya and Matt’s apartment, where we were staying, which we didn’t know until we looked up directions to get to the church (and having driven for the first time in Harvard Square, we were grateful not to have to brave the traffic and crazy cow path roads again!). Alas, I forgot to take a picture of the church, where we played in front of this magnificent tree mural. Trust me, it was great.
And then we played a house concert at Sonya and Matt’s house (there’s not a much better situation than playing about six feet from the bed where you’re sleeping that night!), which was so much fun. A lot of friends came, plus a lot of wonderful people I hadn’t met before, and Sonya and Matt put out an amazing assortment of “spreads and breads”–all homemade! Oh, and the music was fun, too. Here’s a movie of us performing “Hometown Tables” as our final number (lucky you, you get all the preamble banter, too!).
And then I played at the Cantab, a great little neighborhood bar that just happens to have music seven nights of the week. Every Monday, they have an open mic and then a feature act (yours truly) at the end. It was the first gig on the tour I’d played by myself, and while I missed Rich on bass, it was fun in a whole different way to perform by myself after playing together for so long. Plus it was pretty much my first ever bar gig, and it went better than I could have imagined: (1) the drunk guy weaving his way straight toward me during my first song did not, as I feared, punch me, but instead put a $10 bill on my monitor; and (2) there’s no one like a group of drinking Bostonians to sing along on “Union Maid.” Here’s a video of that night’s “Katharine Hepburn Waltz.” Aren’t the Christmas lights cool?
I can’t bowl because I’ve got bad wrists, so imagine my thrill when Sonya and Matt took us to a bowling alley where the balls are really light, I actually won a game, and you can bring your brownie sundae to the lane with you. Here’s Rich bowling.
More than any of the other cities we visited, I loved eating in Boston, partly because I have such fond memories of eating there, partly because of all the wonderful friends we got to visit over delicious meals, and partly because of Sonya and Matt’s gourmet cooking skills. Here’s a sampling of some of my favorites.
4.We Didn’t Want to Leave…
…but at least it was easy to load out! I seriously considered pulling a Charlie-MTA-worker move and “riding forever ‘neath the streets of Boston”–I’d be the folksinger who never returned. But alas, Chicago called. So we enacted our most clever load-out maneuver yet, loading out through the window. And then we drove off into the sunset…to a cold, wintry Chicago. More on that to come. Thanks, Boston–and thank you for reading!
…but not back to Door County–yet. First Rich and I divided our efforts for a little while–Rich back home to make pottery, me to the St. Paul/Minneapolis area, where I grew up, to spend time with my family and play a few last shows. I played a great house concert in White Bear Lake and a fun show at Park Square Theater, saw a bunch of my favorite relatives, and capped off the week playing at Carleton College, my alma mater, in Northfield. The weather in Minnesota couldn’t have been nicer (given that it was the first week of April), and it was a great way to finish off the tour.
In case you didn’t read the previous blog entry about Chicago, here’s the deal: it’s tricky to line up captions with photos in this blog format, so we’re going to play a fun mix-and-match game with the captions (as in, you get to do it!). C’mon, I know you want to procrastinate on the Internet a little longer. Besides, they’re mostly in order.
- I got to spend lots of time with my mom’s two adorable dogs, Trek and Roxy.
- I also got to spend lots of time with my adorable mom herself!
- It was pretty cool to drive into Northfield and see several wind turbines. I’m pretty sure when I started school at Carleton, there were none.
- We had a great time at our Carleton gig, and it was especially fun to see this group of some of my favorite Carleton professors down at the Cave.
- We happened upon a peace rally in Bridge Square the morning after our gig–complete with banjos and “Union Maid”!
- Perhaps the acadmic rigor I valued at Carleton has slipped since my days as a student?
- Northfield definitely did not want us to go–this is the hail we encountered as we were leaving.
- After our time in Northfield, it was finally time to head home. But it’s not all bad–here’s the sunset we drove through on our way back up to Door County–
- –and eventually, we finally made it home!