The Gift of Music


This card, a gift I have treasured for years from a close friend, symbolizes a new track for me — renewed commitment to making music.

I’ve written a lot of songs since Love Is Hard came out in 2010, some of which are posted on this blog. What I don’t have right now are three things: polished, instrumentally complex recorded versions of these songs, many available venues to perform because of the pandemic, and money.

Why money? I was blessed to have Connecticut friends with a home studio produce my 2010 CD, friends who would accept nothing in return for their labors, save a party, which I threw to honor and thank them for their support of my work. Now living in Vermont, I have connected with musicians here who want to work with me and have the means to record me in a studio with all the professional trappings. This, of course, costs money.

It doesn’t help that the pandemic has cost me a new calling, and I am trolling the region looking for work in my field to pay the regular bills, never mind an investment to support the songs.

It is, of course, all about the songs. One, about a friend’s depression. A couple others, about betrayal in love. Yet another early one my life partner loves that has evolved into a rocking ballad I perform better today — a song one fan at an open mic referenced when she said, “You should do more of those!”

On my birthday on Nov. 8, before I lost my latest job to economic pressures from the pandemic, I pledged to myself to recommit to music by producing a CD or EP of my mostly unpublished new songs. Not out of a sense of vanity, but because the songs deserve it. And because an EP could help give me a path to securing my own gigs.

My life changed for the better when I embraced my identity as a lesbian and a songwriter. Friendships flourished. Risks transformed my performances. I found meaning in writing about love lost, love found and people’s complexities. And my heart opened.

Fellow musicians in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont and Massachusetts are all struggling in this pandemic, but finding ways to thrive by writing about the challenges, sharing demos on Facebook and performing online to keep the spirit alive.

So maybe Kickstarter of GoFundMe is a path I take, as well as securing new employment so I can pay my own way. I also plan to feature more fellow artists whose work demands an outlet here, on this blog. And I am now practicing to a metronome, learning to play guitar tracks without singing, and preparing to come into my own again as a songwriter by making my best songs even better vocally, instrumentally and lyrically.

What I would love is your encouragement along the way. As the lyric says in “Come Back,” the song Lee loves:

“Go where you have to go/Take off like you know/Where you’re meant to be/Then come back to me.”

Queer Women Making Music


It started as yearning.

June 28’s Queer Women of Pride Virtual Music Festival on Facebook spun out of Rita Amethyst’s longing to hear many of the queer rock-and-roll female musicians, balladeers, DJs and comedians she was missing because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This event has special meaning, coming on the heels of the Supreme Court decision on LGBTQ rights in the workplace.

A tour-de-force in her own right, music enthusiast Rita took on this project single-handedly, though she has marshaled help to pull it off.

Starting at 10 a.m. Sunday, June 28, and running through 10 p.m., the line-up includes everyone from co-host Sister Funk to Carrie Ashton to yours truly (I now have a slot at 8 p.m.).

Behind the scenes, I have had to get the right kind of equipment to make this happen, including an ethernet cable and USB microphone. Items I really should have had anyway, since I play live online for other groups.

Mixing up covers and originals, performers typically will play for a half hour (some acts are 15 minutes) and it’s all available on Facebook on Sunday, June 28 by clicking this LIVE LINK: https://www.facebook.com/ThatAmethyst/live_videos/

For the line-up and other details, simply search Facebook for Queer Women of Pride Virtual Music Festival, like our page and let us know you are going!

JOIN US for as much of this celebration as you can. You won’t be disappointed.

Introducing “Magic Treason”


Magic Treason Rough Mix,” newly added to this website’s “Sampler,” is in fact the most finished version ever — with guitarist Mike Ball accompanying me and Arlene Wow producing.

This version has been hiding in my email archives for a couple of years, one of the few I had the joy of recording with Arlene at the helm.

The song is special to me, emerging from a crush gone bad. It’s a highly stylized rendition that fictionalizes a woman I could not get out of my head or heart, but could not work into my life, either. It is not real, but rather a dramatized portrait of someone with whom I grew disenchanted and came to mistrust. But mostly, it is a character many of us, man or woman, have known and felt betrayed by.

Yet, she was the inspiration for many a song. And so, I offer this with gratitude and yes, with love for the journey.

Thanks for listening, and please: let me know what you think!

Hanging with the Locals


It’s only taken me eight months to investigate the Vermont music scene. Moved here, lost a job here, got back on my feet here — and I’m ready to play.

Happy to report it is a great way to stay in touch with my musical side, and witness the small but mighty community of songwriters and performers that are keeping the spirit alive here.

 The Millhouse Heaters — including Jan  and Mike Sheehy and a harmonica player I did not get to meet — rocked the Pizza Stone in Chester last Tuesday night. With longtime friend Bill Brink on hand, a few of us performed as well.

Paden Kalinen, guitarist and host, welcomed open mic’ers to two hours of fun.  

And a few short weeks ago, I got to play, again courtesy of an invite from Bill, at the Vermont Apple Festival in Springfield, with a handful of talented performers.

Part of my inspiration? A neighbor named Chris Kleeman, who has his own jazz band and lives a stone’s throw up the road. As summer trailed off, I and a friend got to see them perform in the Chester Summer Music series on the Green.

Also inspiring: another neighbor, Scott MacDonald, who repairs guitars and shapes custom models to a player’s soul. He adjusted the action on my dear old Yamaha — just because. It still has a sound better than some expensive guitars, and now I can play it without losing all sensation in my left hand.

What else can I say except: It’s time to get back in the saddle as a singer/songwriter, and as a blogger, too. I hope to have more to share in coming weeks and months, including an original or two.

Please stay tuned.

 

She Just Wants to Rock ‘n’ Roll


Sue Menhart is sassy. She’s sultry. And she’s sympathetic as the subject of a memoir that pulls no punches in detailing the trials and triumphs of a life led working a day job while founding and fronting a rock band.

Full disclaimer: I have shared the solo-acoustic corner of a pub or two in New London County, Conn., with this woman and joined her in the audience at occasional Sinners’ Circles where newcomers and veterans alike performed originals to a packed listening room. I also have seen her prance and project on stage with the Sue Menhart Band, ripping through some bluesy number with the energy and fury of her idol, Pat Benatar.

So too, have countless others, and when she belts out the tune, “Where’d You Come From,” her soulful presence rocks the room. But she is a singer/songwriter at heart, persisting in an unforgiving industry where streaming songs pay a fraction of a cent and competition is fierce.

They Made Me Play a Polka reads like a hybrid of stand-up comedy and a playful whodunnit: laugh-out-loud funny but fast-paced and driven by a mix of well-known and unnamed characters populating a world where Grammys are as elusive as (and not unlike) the lottery, and you keep waiting for an answer to the question: Why isn’t Menhart a star? A page-turner, the book invites you to uncover layer after layer of reasons for this stark reality — some her own doing and some the fault of a maniacal music industry that takes no prisoners.

Living through everything from Lyme disease to motherhood to husband/drummer Kevin’s life-threatening illnesses, Menhart has bigger wars to wage, mainly with her illusions about the viability of “making it” in the music world.

Maybe she should have stayed in California as a young wannabe instead of coming back East. Maybe she should have made an even more concerted effort than she did at self-promotion on Apple Music. Maybe she should have never accepted that gig at a local vineyard that didn’t exactly go as planned.

There is very little whining in this memoir, or regret. There is no glossing over struggles with alcohol or real human emotions of frustration, aggravation and the lust for lasting fame.

What there is is self-deprecating humor; a bold, scrappy commitment to her role as leader of a southeastern Connecticut band with rock ‘n’ roll roots; candid heart-to-hearts for those of us with dreams of fame or, at least, airplay on Sirius radio; and, in the middle of the book, a searing and well-researched assessment of exactly what it takes to produce and promote original band or solo material. The pitfalls, the behind-the-scenes manipulation and the sheer hard work.

She reaches several conclusions at the end, but — spoiler alert — one rings truest: “I like singing,” she writes. “And nobody’s gonna stop me.”

That conviction may have landed her her latest gig. Look for Menhart at the Maugle Sierra Vineyards in Ledyard, Conn., from 3-6 p.m. on Oct. 7. Then pick up this memoir and follow her on the Sue Menhart Band website. Why? Because she knows her why. She’s still at it, and thriving.

 

 

Back in the Saddle (or is it Guitar Case?)


A few short months ago I promised major changes were coming to this blog, and to me, though I couldn’t reveal them because they involved relocation and a job change.

Okay, so I over-hyped a life transition. But, to be honest, my songwriting, and blogging, had taken a back seat to that overdue evolution for longer than I care to admit.

Well, I’m back to say, Yes, please come here to find songwriting stories and inspiration. Too much time has passed undocumented since I wrote about what moves me most in life and the comrades who likewise are making something of their art.

I commit here and now to breathing life back into both my music and this blog. As a show of good faith, I even ponied up the twenty bucks to add mp3 files for another year. I also published pix here of the wall in a shared study dubbed “the music room.”

So, what exactly is this momentous transition? you ask. In fact, it’s been a life-changer.

I have moved back to Connecticut and am developing a new freelance writing career along with a future with my lover — the subject of much long-distance angst until now and a few songs as well. I am also exploring new open mic venues, starting with one in Cheshire at C.J. Sparrow Pub and Eatery, where Ken Safety’s dynamic house band hosts.

And I’m trying to figure out what exactly to do with all the songs that have emerged since the lovable Mike Bailey, irrepressible Mike Ball and irreplaceable Ron Gletherow blessed me with production of the CD, “Love Is Hard,” an unfathomable six years ago.

As impetus for this re-dedication, of sorts, I am blessed to be collaborating again with bass guitarist Joe Cavanagh for the 10th anniversary of the Shoreline Acoustic Music Society’s Folk Festival at Sailfest. SAMS was the impetus for my musical growth as a songwriter and as a performer. We play Sunday, July 10 at 1 along with a host of other talented performers.

The newly resurrected Wailing City website has all the details.

Please continue to follow my songwriting musings and those of others here. We only go around once – how could I abandon my domain name, “userloseit”? Too symbolic. Too meaningful. As are you, my friends. Thanks for visiting. Come back soon!

 

People’s Pick: Daphne Lee Martin


WELCOME to “People’s Pick.” Each “pick” is an interview with a songwriter and guitarist popular with the public, mostly from places I’ve met them in Connecticut, Vermont or Rhode Island. But they come from everywhere, full of verve and insight into what it means to write a song, pluck a guitar, pound the ivories — and make a joyful noise.

Daphne

When a songwriter like Daphne Lee Martin describes her history on www.daphneleemartin.com, the Ohio-born singer sums up her persona better than any blogger could. She describes her vocal style in three guises: “the chanteuse sticky-sweetness of Blossom Dearie, the twang of Patsy Cline and the indie wistfulness of Neko Case.” Our paths crossed in New London, Conn., where the well-traveled Martin and her husband, Rich, run the record shop The Telegraph. Dynamic and always onto the next thing, Martin here discusses some of her latest work, and why she loves it.

PEOPLE’S PICK: What moves you to write songs?

DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: Everything. I read constantly, and often I’ll trip over a sentence that shows me a point of view that I’d not come across yet and I’ll read it over 10 times, write it down, chew on it for a while and come up with my own way of walking in those shoes.

Sometimes it will be a memory, my grandfather was a wild character and the more moments in my life that come up reminding me of things he said will move me to want to share that “wisdom” in song. And rarely, it’ll be a flash of inspiration, literally like a lightning bolt and the song will fall out nearly fully formed. It makes you very humble when you think of it that way -that no mater how much you agonize over your craft, this stuff really is coming from someplace greater and it’s a gift that you’re able to hear it.

PEOPLE’S PICK: Alter egos vie for the listener’s attention in “Frost” & “Moxie,” your two collections, one that “treats a queen like a whore” (Moxie) and the other that “treats a whore like a queen” (Frost). Did you conceive of them together or separately and where did the pairing come from?

DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: They came together, a long time ago. I actually described it in the video we made for my Kickstarter for Frost. Originally, Frost was to come first. Life has a way of changing things. I knew that my songs fell pretty distinctly into two camps: easy sweet love versus unfulfilled desire with all the craziness that comes in tow.

PEOPLE’S PICK: Who are the sultry persona and musical stylings of Moxie modeled on?

DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: There are a few narrators on Moxie. The first cut, “Sweet & Low Down,” is in the voice of Mehitabel the Cat from Don Marquis’ books about Archy and Mehitabel. The tattered Dame Alley Cat, re-incarnated over lifetimes as great women in history, faded somewhat from her former glory, but there’s a dance in the old dame yet…

“Molotov” is written from the point of view of Tony Bring in Henry Miller’s novel, Crazy Cock. Basically about going insane as your desires collide with your principles.

“House That Built Itself” was written from one of [Jorge Luis] Borges’ sonnets.

PEOPLE’S PICK: How about Frost?

DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: Frost is a little more personal. “Little Birds” was written after some of the lyrical ideas in “Another Side of Bob Dylan,” but it came from a deeply personal friendship that fell apart. “Night We Fell In Love” is completely personal, about my husband.

PEOPLE’S PICK: “Make It Rain” is contemplative, suggestive and plaintive as it reaches the line “I am not afraid to be caught in the rain.” Who is this song about?

DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: Ha ha! I don’t name names unless it’s my husband. Sometimes I sit on things for years before I come up with a good way of writing through it. Sometimes I take other kinds of relationships and couch them in the “love song” form. The idea in this song is that there are no mistakes, no regrets – just live and do the best you can and sometimes you will fail, no matter how right you try to do.

PEOPLE’S PICK: Congratulations on your two 2014 Whalie Awards for Best Pop Act and Best Pop Performance! You were nominated CT Music Songwriter too, but James Maple nabbed that title. What’s your take on Connecticut’s music competitions?

DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: Thanks! The awards are a fantastic opportunity to rub elbows with other performers and writers. They are also a great excuse to buy a new dress, hug friends, and take pictures and maybe get your name in some press. There are people that get way too competitive and even mean about them – I suppose they take it too personally.

I don’t make music to get awards, although I do make music for a living. It’s a different approach than folk who make music for a hobby, and every little bit helps. A rising tide lifts all ships, and if the Connecticut music scene is making national waves, then we are all better for it.

PEOPLE’S PICK: If you could take one songwriter with you to a studio on a desert island to collaborate who would it be?

DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: Tom Waits. The things we could do with coconuts!

PEOPLE’S PICK: What are your latest touring plans?

DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: I’ve been on the road much of 2014 already, but I’m going to be home for the summer working on a new record and touring again in the fall and winter. I’m doing a run with Pocket Vinyl out Mid-west again and then South with the great James Maple.

PEOPLE’S PICK: Name three top musical influences.

DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: That changes weekly. Sometimes minutely. RIght now I’m leaning hard on Beck, TV on the Radio, and Peter Gabriel.

PEOPLE’S PICK: What do you do when inspiration is flagging and the lyrics or melodies are simply not presenting themselves?

DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: Be quiet. Sometimes the muse just gets drowned out by all the static of everyday life.

Otherwise, try something new. Anything new. Go for a long drive. Listen to music out of my normal circle. Run. Get crazy. Read something by an author I haven’t tried yet. Tear apart something old and try to think of it a new way, fall in love all over again.

My musical life is about constant re-invention, it’s like I want to try on every hat in the shop! Some days, it’s a safari, others it’s big pink flowers.

PEOPLE’S PICK: What’s your favorite album, the one that shaped your relationship to singing and writing and still shapes it today?

DAPHNE LEE MARTIN: I don’t think I could point to one. Honestly, I’ve always been swimming in music, keeping as much of it around me as possible – I opened a record store, if that gives any indication. I’ve seen the questions go out about what records people would take to a desert island, and I always think – couldn’t I just bring a guitar instead?

After Midnight


One a.m. Listening to SoundCloud on my mobile phone in bed.

Chris Castle. Arlene Wow. Songs by me that sound foreign, songs I’ve uploaded here but forgotten about.

Twenty hits. Sometimes only two. Lovely comments by songwriters like Carl Suiter.

This blog has taken a backseat with my relocation to Rhode Island, my long-distance relationship, as I try and find my way to Providence area open mics and concerts.

Renting an apartment limits when I can make noise.

Songwriting comes in the in-between of life, when nobody’s looking.

Sharing comes virtually nowadays, when nobody’s looking, and with surveillance, as everyone is looking.

Funny how lost we still can get despite the 24/7 web access and prying eyes.

Recording music seems to give creation purpose, and apart from a few GarageBand mp3s, I do not have the means to do that right now.

I listen for the call. I dream of the stage, the show and amplification of my life that music makes.

More gigs would help, continuity in love and making good on threats to meet up with like-minded musicians through MusicTown and Reverbnation and the Rhode Island Songwriter’s Association and the Mediator … all possibilities, all venues where I am partially engaged.

So what do you do when you’ve only got one foot in the pool?

Jump in.

 

2013: Year of Collaboration


This SAMS2013  is what I’m talking about!

Sailfest 2013, like open mics run by Bernadette Golden and Larry Kern and a fabulous fall Hoot organized by Sherry Stidfole and Hugh Birdsall, turned out to be platforms to play with Joe Cavanaugh, Mike Ball and Dana Takaki.

I also had the pleasure of playing with some rocking guitarists, vocalists, drummers and keyboard players at the Common Ground Open Mic in New London on more than one occasion and at the Barn in East Lyme.

I learned a lot by practicing and performing with these gifted musicians.

Rhythm is something to be respected.

Violin can accent anything — up-tempo tunes as well as the more melancholy ballad.

Bass builds a base that elevates.

Instrumental solos by backup guitarists, particularly Mike, stitch the whole song together and make it memorable.

As luck would have it I’ve moved to Pawtucket, and Mike and moved to Oklahoma. This particular collaboration probably can’t happen quite the way it did this past year.

But if I learned anything — as Joe so lovingly told me and my first producer Ron Gletherow always reminded me — the songs I write lend themselves to other instruments and voices. Call for it.

As I look back on 2013 and these posts I am filled with joy, wonder and gratitude.

As I look toward 2014 I can only hope to meet new collaborators, and maybe, with some luck, reunite with Mike, Dana and Joe as time and geography permit. I had even come up with a name for us, though all of these musicians perform actively with other people. I called us Side Effects.

For now, performing solo at open mics will be the way I roll. But if it is meant to be, building a band that approximates the respectful, dynamic, jelled connections made with the three pictured here is what I’ll be up to in 2014! Collaboration has turned out to be a side effect with good indications.

Too much!


Here is a song I wrote at 16 Rogers St. in New London. My last one in that space.

This was recorded on my mobile phone tonight as I await my Internet hookup tomorrow. Using a beta music recorder. Nifty, yes?

I know I have neglected this blog while moving to Pawtucket, R.I., but I am settling in. And back to playing online, and hopefully playing out, too.