March 23, 2013

SHOTS! SHOTS! SHOTSSHOTSSHOTS!

OK. I got my headshots back from the fantastic Carrie Meyer! She was even able to get them to me in less than a week! Miraculous! I love them all so much that it was difficult to narrow it down. In the end I got these 4 fully edited images as well as a few others that are just “soft edits.” I’ll probably put those on my Facebook page. But for now, here are the 4 best shots.

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I plan to use this one as my primary promo shot. This will be on posters and included in my Electronic Press Kit.

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This one I just HAD to get to show off my tattoos. I love them. And just for the curiously minded, Zach Dole at Freedom Ink Tattoo Co in Peoria IL did my tattoo at the St. Louis Old School Tattoo Convention. And Lauren Busiere at Tower Classic Tattoos did my back piece, which is based on the Model 66 “Red Eye” Singer Sewing Machine.

 

 

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Everyone loved this one, which is not to imply that I didn’t love it. But I was only allowed to choose two, and everyone loved this one so much that I had to get it and pay additionally for it. It’s totally worth it. 🙂

 

 

 

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And then this is the first edit that Carrie did as the sneak peek. I think it’s a darling photo. Although one friend said it looked like I had no eyebrows. lol…

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March 19, 2013

Promo Kits

I’ve mentioned the book Beyond Talent before. It’s fantastic. Probably my favorite career guide ever. And right now I’m working on putting together my promo/press kit. The book is really helpful because it offers checklists of things that need to be done. “Letterhead design, bio, photo.” So that has been my focus the past few days.

Yesterday I had a photoshoot with the amazing Carrie Meyer of Insomniac Studios. Carrie is a great photographer, which is good, because I still don’t feel very comfortable in front of the camera! The purpose of the shoot was to get a few shots of me, my mic, and my tattoo. Headshots. I can’t wait to get the results and share them with everybody. The few she showed me on her display looked FANTASTIC!

I’m also working on setting up a new youtube channel so that I can send potential bookings a link to my work. It’s just a placeholder right now, but soon I will have all my videos transferred and ready to watch.

But the thing that seems most elusive is the letterhead design. I’ve been pouring through font page after font page, trying to find the right one to convey what I stand for. Something that is classy, yet casual. I tend to gravitate towards scripty handwritten fonts. But I’d love something with a retro feel. And of course, once I do pick a font I like, I’ve got to figure out if it’s public domain, or needs to be licensed.

I have seriously looked at my name written in so many different fonts that it doesn’t even look like my name anymore. But one thing I’ve realized is that it REALLY DOES matter what font you use. Each one sends a different message. I’ll show you a few.

Procrastinating-tiff

My favorite part about this one, called Procrastinating, is that it connotes irresponsibility. This is not someone you would trust to show up on time or do a good job.
ZnikomitNo24 Name-tiff
Called ZnikomitNo24, this font is adorable, but completely irrelevant. I love it, but it’s not for me.

Inkpen-tiff
Inkpen is getting closer to the right track. It actually came in a font package for the program Finale. It’s the font used for jazz sheet music. But it feels a little masculine for my taste.

Dream Orphans-tiff

This one, Dream Orphans definitely seems classy. It’s clear to read. But it still feels too formal, and it’s not nearly as feminine as my stage presence is.

Aspire-tiffDancing Script-tiff

These two, Aspire & Dancing Script are definite contenders. I love the casual script. But I still don’t LOVE them for my persona. They’re missing some sort of vintage/retro edge.

Engagement-tiff Honey Script-tiff
The last two are probably my favorites. They both have a retro feel, without being kitsch or cliche. They’re both script. I love the diamond dots on the i’s of the Engagement font. But I also love the fine structure of the Honey Script. It reminds me of a retro hotel, some place Frank Sinatra would sing.

I’m still not sure which one I’ll pick, or if I’ll end up picking something entirely different. But I just thought you might enjoy seeing what this whole process looks like.

Which one do you like?

March 6, 2013

That Old Black Magic – The Importance Of A Good Arrangement

It amazes me how very different a song can be depending on the singer and arrangement. Take these four versions of Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer’s That Old Black Magic for example:
Ella Fitzgerald:

Doris Day:
 
Sarah Vaughn:
 
Peggy Lee:
 
All four are phenomenal singers. But I think Ella does the best job in capturing the sentiment of the song. It reminds me of the excitement you feel when you’ve just fallen in love, that “burning desire.” 

Doris seems almost bored and disappointed that she’s being caught up in that old black magic. It drags on and by the time the refrain returns I am tempted to turn it off.

The horn arrangement in Sarah’s version are stellar. To have that in my arsenal would be a dream come true. But I’ve never been much of a fan of her timbre. To her credit she really seems to propel the libretto forward. I actually feel like she’s “lovin the spin she’s in.”

 
Peggy almost does it for me. A decent tempo. I love the Latin flare, but it doesn’t ever seem to take off. And ends up feel lackluster to me.

I think if I were going to record this song, I’d love to take it in the Ella direction, but nobody does it like Ella, so I’d probably end up doing something all my own. It would be up-tempo, perhaps with a touch of the Bossa Nova style, really emphasizing the syncopation. And I’d have to have those horns. One can dream right?

January 22, 2013

This is gonna be my year

That’s what my dear hubby keeps saying. And I hope he’s right. I think I’ve learned a lot and I’m finally beginning to piece it all together.

2012 was a great year. I had a few gigs here and there, probably averaging out to about one a month, and made some great new contacts. The highlights were being part of the St. Louis Cabaret Conference, doing a private birthday party for a 70 year old woman, doing a zombie-themed act for the St. Louis Zombie Squad, and being part of the Christmas show for The Randy Dandies.

But 2013 looks even brighter! I met a wonderful pianist. I hope to record an EP of public domain songs. And I’ve been accepted into the St. Lou Fringe Festival and will be doing a FOUR SHOW RUN June 20-23!!!

This festival is gonna be huge. They expect foot traffic of 3000+ people, and the venue I will be performing in will seat up to 80. That’s the potential for 320 seats over the course of the festival, and a countless number of people seeing my name.

So for the next 5 months I’m gonna be elbows deep in a pile of sheet music, planning, charting, shooting promo photos, creating flyers, dipping into marketing, and of course rehearsing. I’ll finally be putting together a band and doing this thing. I’m so excited I can hardly contain myself. Maybe this will be my year after all. 🙂

Oh, and I owe you all a video, so here’s one from The Randy Dandies show at Plush.

August 23, 2012

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July 20, 2012

Being Different…

WHEW! First off, sorry I dropped off the face of the blogosphere. Although, it’s not like one can consider posting a mere 3 blogs as a meaningful contribution… Perhaps one day I will explain the reasons for my absence, but probably not. Suffice it to say, it was part laziness, part procrastination, part nothing to post, part shame for not having posted anything in so long. BUT I now feel so inspired to post something, so I will.

I am different. I’m pretty sure we’re all different in our own ways, we all have things to set us apart from our otherwise homogenized lives. But I am here to talk about the ways in which I am different and how they affect my music life.

I was born with a condition called Microtia. My right outer ear is deformed. It is further complicated by the absence of an ear canal, and a CAT scan I had when I was 12 revealed that I was also born without a cochlea, stirrup, hammer, and anvil, although my ear drum seemed to be present. 

When I tell people today, most of the time I wait several weeks or even months before bringing it up. I may say things like “I’m deaf in my right ear,”  but I don’t usually get into the physical deformity bit until much later. And when I do my little show and tell act, I do so bravely, almost proudly. And they all have the same reaction… “oh, I NEVER noticed that before…” practically verbatim, practically every time.

The person I told most recently gave me a little chuckle when he referred to it as a “little thing.” I think his exact words were “I never notice little things like that,” but I can’t be sure because I was so taken aback by it.

You see, when I myself was a little thing, it was not a little thing. I was constantly afraid my fellow elementary school classmates would notice it and make fun, like they are wont to do. And some did. And sometimes it was awful. For the first 3 years of my schooling experience, K-2, I NEVER wore my hair up. I would insist on half ponytails. In fact, I can remember the first time I allowed my mother to put my hair up (although, she will probably add some contextual argument against it, but this is MY first memory). It was for 3rd grade class picture day and it being the early 90s the thing to do at the time was to wear side ponies. FINALLY! a hairstyle for me! I remember having her put the ‘tail on the right side of my head and throughout the day I adjusted it, pulling it snugly down, making sure it would cover the offender. I’m sure that picture is floating around in one of my grandmother’s photo albums somewhere…

The childhood game Telephone was the WORST. In 5th grade I went to a girls party and the game began play. The basic rules of the game are that everyone sits in a circle and one girl whispers a sentence into the next girls ear and each girl whispers it into the next girls ear until it reaches the end of the circle and the final girl announces the sentence. Usually once the sentence has gone full circle it has been mangled by mis-hearings. This game was fun for me as long as the game play went counter-clockwise, into each girls left ear. But inevitably, even after I vehemently suggested going CCW, the girls would suggest switching up game play and I would dread it coming to my turn. 

But my differentness made me stronger. Yes it came with a hefty price tag of insecurity and deep sadness, and of course I struggled with feeling cast out, but for the most part I am stronger person who is comfortable in her skin. It is a situation that I can do absolutely nothing about. I certainly can’t change my past. And I’m mostly ok with it.

I remember when I heard the results of the CAT scan that I was absolutely devastated. I sat in the room listening to the doctors explanation, staring blankly at the backlit films until I was practically blind. I didn’t know what those images meant, I barely understood the words coming out of his mouth. I was only 12. But later that night I showed a level of maturity that surprised my mother. After a fair deal of crying into her shoulder it dawned on me that though the news was not what I hoped, it wasn’t necessarily the end. I told her that it was only 1996, and that I was only 12, and who knows what kinds of scientific advances could come in 10 years… My mother looked at me with a look of love and shock and compassion that only a mother could give, and she embraced me again, hugging me tighter than I had ever been held before. The comfort I received in that moment remains unparalleled. I made peace with my ear right then and there, or at the very least took the first step on the journey towards making peace with it.

Of course there have been moments since then that weren’t so great. On my 16th birthday my dad made a light-hearted joke about my ear and the joke itself wasn’t terrible. I probably would make it myself today… but at that time on that day I wasn’t ready to deal with it, and I sobbed in the parking lot of the pool hall he worked at for quite a bit. Of course with every new boy I was interested in, I was worried. Would he like me less if he knew I wasn’t “whole?” It turned out that the good ones didn’t mind. And the best ones loved me more for it.

As most people do, I really came into my own in college. Every year I had to patiently remind my choir director which side I was hearing impaired and which side of the choir I preferred to sing on. Was it his left and my right, or the other way around? People would stare at me as I interrupted rehearsals saying that this spot or that one didn’t work for me. Who did I think I was? I learned to revel in that moment. That little bit of self importance. As I went on, passed college and into my professional life I’ve simmered down a bit. It’s much more matter-of-fact, because, quite simply, it is a Matter of Fact that I am hearing impaired. There are things that I can’t do that most people can…

I can’t wear earbuds. I can’t enjoy stereo/surround sound. I have trouble keeping my balance and fall a lot. I can’t hear people very well while I’m driving. When I’m at night clubs I typically stand to the right of other people or turn my head so they can yell something into my good ear. And glasses and earrings are rarely level due to the size discrepancy.

But there are some pretty funny/cool benefits too. I can put my good ear down on the pillow and have a much quieter nights sleep. This is so nice on road trips and airplane rides, provided I have a good seat. Ear plugs come in 2 pks so I usually have a spare. I only have to plug one ear while I’m in the shower, and when I jump in the pool I can use one hand for my ear and the other for my nose. I can pretend not to hear my spouse pretty convincingly. But the best perk of all has been my strength. I am such a stronger person than I would have been, had I been perfectly hearing. I have to fight for the things I want.

And of course it’s affected my musical life. There are accommodations that must be made. I only use Supercardiod mics so that I can keep my monitor at a 45 degree angle from the mic. I have to explain it to fellow musicians quite frequently, and singing in the crook of the piano is probably my least favorite option. But I also have a unique perspective of sound because I’m more aware of the feeling of a sound while it’s in my mouth, and I’m less distracted by the sound that everyone else hears.

I think my final battle with my ear was in October of 2010 when I got a tattoo of a treble clef behind my ear. For me, it was a symbol of me finally being over it. If I could draw even more attention to that part of my body, I must truly have accepted it. And I did. And ever since then I’ve felt empowered.

And lastly a pic of my ear without and with the tattoo…

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March 21, 2012

Success and Luck

I have several people in my life that I would consider career inspirations. It’s not so much what they do, but how they enable themselves to do what they do that impresses me. I deem them to be so inspirational because they do the one thing that I want to do more than anything: monetize doing what they love. It’s not their particular field, or even necessarily how far advanced they are within their field. They are successful merely by never giving up and being able to pay their bills working within a field that they feel passionately about.

What amazes me more than anything about their careers, however, is that a vast majority of them describe themselves as “lucky.” Several of my friends will say that they “just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” or that they were lucky to meet a person who connected them with their current employer. This is not meant to belittle their efforts, it’s just that they view some of their accomplishments to be in the realm of luck.

It’s this concept of luck that I think leads to much frustration on the part of some of my more unsuccessful acquaintances. And it’s particularly an issue within the performing arts fields. There are so many stories of performers getting “discovered.” They read like fairy tales. A young singer crooning along to a song at a record store, a dancer breakdancing on the corner, a horn player playing for tips on a busy street. And over night they’re the next sensation.

It took me a long time to realize that theses stories are falsehoods. It’s not to say that some person didn’t happen to see them performing in a surprising setting. That is entirely possible. The falsehood lies in the fact that the endless hours of training and preparation are left out of the equation. Not to mention the process of simply deciding to dance or play on the street.

Take my friend Bethany Laska for example. I’ve known Beth for about 8 years now and during that time she has been “lucky” enough to land a job as an Artistic Technical Trainer for L’Oreal Professionnel, meet several of her own career icons, including Jo Blackwell-Preston (Senior Portfolio Color Artist for L’Oreal Professionnel and owner of Dop Dop Salon in New York City), and attend and even teach at numerous seminars. She’s even done the hair of a leading anchor on CNN. That’s the lucky part.

The success part, however, is a much bigger story. I met Bethany pretty much straight out of beauty school. She went to college with my husband Dan for a few years before deciding to do hair instead. While she was at Greenville she was the go-to girl for her friends’ hair and after graduating from International Academy of Hair Design, she used that clientele to really build up her experience. She took a job that was more like an apprenticeship at a high-end salon in St. Louis and worked her tail off, often calling me and other friends in for “model night”. Her life motto was practice, practice, practice! And after a year at that salon she moved on to Dominic Michael Salon in Clayton, MO (ranked among the Top 20 Salons in the United States, according to Elle Magazine in 2010).

This is where she really came into her own. Now decidedly beyond the basics, in a stable job, she could have simply chosen to stagnate. She could have gotten comfortable. Instead she pushed herself even harder. She attended seminars, entered competitions, and spent her weekends on portfolio projects. And she surrounded herself with like-minded people, fashion designers, photographers, makeup artists, and most importantly, loyal clients. She built up an amazing support network and together they built themselves amazing portfolios.

It was this network that led her to the CNN anchor. The anchor was in St. Louis for a story and her usual stylist was stuck in a snowstorm. The anchors assistant happened to be from St. Louis, so she called her mom hoping to find a stylist familiar with textured hair. Of course she recommended her own stylist, Bethany Laska, saying “she’s just this little white girl, but she can do some hair!”  While some might consider this luck, I attribute it to Bethany’s unrelenting desire to learn.

After 4 years at Dominic Michael she applied for the job at L’Oreal Professionnel. The main part of the job was as a traveling trainer, going to salons in her region to give presentations on L’Oreal’s color treatments and products. I remember the weekend before her big interview she invited some of her friends, myself included, over to her house, served us wine and gave us her presentation. And by the end I felt like I understood everything about L’Oreal’s products!

Since she began working for L’Oreal “luck” just keeps coming her way most recently culminating in meeting Jo Blackwell-Preston through a L’Oreal seminar. As if working for and with one of her career heros wasn’t enough Bethany joined her for tapas at a restaurant and “talked shop,” picking the brain of her mentor. She actually had the opportunity to sit down and talk with a mentor for a casual dinner, a situation I think everyone would consider to be a stroke of luck.

Another one of my friends, Cindy Henry has recently launched her own fashion line Rebel Tart. She is another go-getter. Cindy has many accomplishments under her belt, winning the Project:Design! People’s Choice Award during St. Louis Fashion Week, and the top honor at St. Louis Science Center’s Eco Expo fashion show three years in a row. Due to her domination in the show, she has since been asked to judge the show to allow other contestants the chance to win. She never says no to an opportunity and just submitted her audition video to Project Runway!

My “luckiest” friends were in the right place at the right time because they asked the right questions, learned the right skills and materials, and connected with the right people. I sat around St. Louis for nearly 4 years waiting for the right band mates and players to fall into my lap. And they never did. It wasn’t until I decided to meet with Lola Van Ella and take stage presence classes at Van Ella Productions that I finally started to see that my career was up to me and not up to Lady Luck.

For 8 weeks I met with Lola privately, going over the same song for an hour at a time once a week. I performed My Man countless times until I had finally shaped it into a meaningful act. Then I was asked to participate in her Student Showcase. I brought the house down, earning my very first standing ovation. I had done it! After that came a gig at her annual burlesque festival Show-Me Burlesque. I sang as part of the live band for two featured performers. And in the months following Lola was kind enough to book me at several variety productions at Jumpin Jupiter. Lola taught me a lot about confidence and presenting myself well. But she taught me an even more important lesson, the value of meeting the right people and then putting a ton of work into my craft.

During that time I also met Kevin O’Connor. He’s a super-talented multi-instrumentalist that was playing drums at Show-Me. He is in my opinion equally skilled at playing and ear training. He has been incredibly helpful in showing me the ropes of performing around St. Louis. He never hesitates to answer my questions, and I have a lot of questions. He has been like a guiding light through this whole process.

Another stroke of luck was when I found that book Beyond Talent. I went to the library to browse chord books and jazz theory books and was putting some books back on my way out when I stumbled on it. It has been the most incredible resource! It is like my career-bible. I carry it with me every where and if I need some courage or pointers it never fails to point me in the right direction. After I return it to the library I plan on downloading it digitally to keep on my iPhone.

My most recent potentially lucky situation just occured on Monday night. My wonderful husband scored tickets to a very intimate Fiona Apple concert, (one of only 6 to take place this year)! We were waiting patiently for the opener to start when a waitress mentioned that he was sick and would not be performing. So I marched right up to one of the guys in charge and said “I realize the answer is probably no, but I heard that you guys were without an opening band and I just wanted you to know that I’m a jazz singer and I would be happy to help out if needed.”

Now, I KNEW that the answer was 99.99% likely to be a no. I really did. BUT I also knew that if I didn’t say anything at all it would be a 100% chance that I wouldn’t be performing. And that .01% chance that someone would say yes was worth it to me to risk hearing the word no. And of course the guy did say no. BUT he also said that he really appreciated my “balls” in coming up to ask him, and he gave me the email address of the guy in charge of booking.

Some people would look at that scenario and view it as a failure. But  all I saw in that moment was opportunity. And for once I was actually prepared to meet said opportunity. And that to me is a complete success. A year ago I wouldn’t have felt even close to prepared for such a situation. But I’ve grown a lot this past year. And for the first time in my life I feel like the future is in my hands. Of course I can’t predict outside influences, but I can control my reaction to them.

Also, due to said trip to see Fiona Apple, I was unable to complete a new video recording for this week. So I decided to include for you TWO old videos. The first is the video that started it all, Lola Van Ella’s Student Showcase. The second is from an opportunity I had to sing with Everett Dean . It was another one of those situations where opportunity meets preparedness!

March 13, 2012

Fundraiser Results

The fundraiser went really well! At first I was a bit nervous, it’s been a while since I’ve done a set longer than 3 songs all by myself, so singing for 25 minutes with just backing tracks was a little nerve wracking.  I’ve done longer sets before, up to an hour at a time, but those are usually with another player. I don’t feel quite so exposed when someone is on stage with me.

Of course, once I got up there everything went fine. I didn’t majorly flub any lines or go horrifically out of pitch. And it seemed like the audience genuinely appreciated me. It’s funny, dinner gigs are entirely different than when people come to just see you. It’s not like a rock concert where most everyone is there specifically to see you. Most people barely look up from their table, so it can feel like you’re singing to no one.

Luckily, there were several people there who really dug my performance and who contributed to the benefit! We raised close to $700 for Linda, and we all know that every cent counts when it comes to medical bills. Linda was REALLY sweet too. It was hard to believe that she was old enough to be Lindsay’s mom, she had such a youthful positive personality. I don’t think I could be half as strong as her if I was battling cancer.

After my performance Elvis impersonator, Steve Davis, took the stage. Steve, errr ummm, Elvis, was great. He came out in the perfect glitzy white jumpsuit. I thought I might blind myself staring at all the rhinestones! He really worked the crowd, a skill that I need to hone. After the show Steve came out and talked to me. He is a genuinely really nice supportive guy. He took a couple of my business cards and offered me tons of advice. It’s so nice to know that I’ve got such wonderful, talented people in my corner.

Steve mentioned that I really need a band. A thing I’ve been working towards for a while. My friend KO is a fantastic drummer and he’s been really helpful offering me advice and helping me to find bandmates. My next step is to book a gig so that I can nail down some players and for some stupid reason I’m having a really hard time picking up the phone, or logging into my email to get that process started. Insecurity is stupid. I know. But it’s still hard.

Luckily, I have a wonderful support network in my friends and I have a wonderful new resource. Angela Myles Beeching wrote a fantastic book called, Beyond Talent: Creating A Successful Career In MusicThis book is everything I’ve been looking for in a career guide. It goes over subjects like networking, branding, recording, online social networking, booking gigs, attracting media attention, connecting with audiences, performing, freelancing, time management, and funding projects. It is practically everything you need to know about being a successful musician. And it was updated in 2010 so it is still fresh and current. I’m really looking forward to seeing  how it will impact my career.

March 5, 2012

My first post!

My name is Christy Strickland and I am a vocalist. And this is my blog. I guess I should start with why I am writing a blog in the first place. While there are many reasons, I guess the primary one is that I wanted a place where I can share my vocal journey with all my family, friends, and fans.

So my goal is to post at least weekly about where my career is going, when I’m gigging, if I’m touring, whatever! And as a reward to my readers, at the end of each blog I will post a video of me singing a new song. Please feel free to comment with song requests. I’ve already got a few in my “queue” but I will be glad to take your suggestions into consideration.

Currently, I’ve got a few gigs slated. One is this friday, March 9th at The Wood in Maplewood, MO. It is a benefit concert for my friends mom, who has cancer. The facebook event page can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/events/307183202676262/   I’m really excited to be a part of this concert. I love that I can already take my gift and use it to help someone else in need.

After that, I’ve got a private party on April 15th. Yes, I do private parties! I’m singing for a woman’s 70th birthday party and I’m really looking forward to being able to bring back a little music from her heyday.

And other than that, my next steps are to book a gig, hire a band, and start getting out there on the regular! It’s funny. This whole process is nothing like I thought it would be. I always thought that I would find people I liked to work with, practice weekly until we had a solid hour of music, THEN find the perfect gig that suited us. It turns out, that at least in the Jazz Standards world the process is exactly the opposite. Book a gig. Then find players that suit that gig. Then rehearse a few times before taking the stage. Or at least that’s what my buddy KO says.

I also find that I’m struggling with what exactly my goal should be. Should I be looking to book small coffee shop gigs with just one player or should I be booking larger gigs? I know I really want to tour someday. But mostly, I just want to sing. I just want to share that with anybody who will listen. So that’s what I’m hoping to do.