Saturday, January 23, 2016

...your world now

I have been known, on many occasions, to write blogs eulogizing and paying homage to those who have passed – some famous figures and some relatives, friends, and acquaintances.

It seems fitting to try to capture some small detail of a life lived and impact made. The truth is we all impact each other in profound ways that go unspoken most of the time.

It’s that teacher who encouraged you, that event that changed the course of your life, the love you thought would last forever. We are destined to grow and change, despite our best efforts not to. We become who we are, and along the way we are accompanied. We are accompanied by a soundtrack, the songs that take the journey with us.

Maybe it starts with the music our parents played. Maybe it’s an older sibling. We are not conscious, most of us, of what forms us until we look back much later, until we start making our own choices, dabbling in different genres, until we find what speaks to us, and maybe even more importantly, what speaks for us.

My tastes have never been the avant-garde. I’m not drawn to art that disturbs me. I’m drawn to what makes me feel a part of something larger, or at the very least, less alone in the world. The world is disturbing enough. I want harmony, both in my music and in my soul.

You would think that, being a songwriter, I would have a long play list when it comes to favorite bands through the years, but the truth is I’ve only ever really truly loved two – the Beatles and the Eagles.

If you scoured my CD collection, that is pretty much who you would find for bands, not that there haven’t been other good ones, but let’s be frank, the other bands I’ve liked can trace their sonic lineage directly to the Eagles, so why not stick with the source?

When John Lennon was shot, it was one of those events where you could remember exactly where you were when you heard the news, what you were doing, how you felt. Our world would never be the same, not only because of the way in which he died, or how young, but because his passing made any hope of a future reunion gone to us forever. We’ve had decades to live with that, now and accept it.

The Eagles, though, that’s another story. We’ve seen and heard hell freeze over. And no matter how long they’ve each had solo careers, it never seemed to shut the door on the band, on that sound, on the songs that have been our soundtrack.

Glenn Frey died last Monday, and though his passing has been one in a long line of recent musical passings, I have hardly been able to speak about it, so profound seems this particular loss.

I didn’t know him personally. I knew nothing about his life or his family. I couldn’t tell you his birthday or favorite color. But if you asked me for a list of my all-time favorite songs, there was sure to be at least one of his on there. And that is saying something.

In a world where melody and lyric have been replaced by a driving beat and mindless repetition of disposable hooks, it’s easy to see why respect must be paid to those whose work endures. I often wonder what songs our current youth will be reminiscing about four decades from now. Justin Bieber? Jay Z? I feel sorry for them. Truly.

Me, I’ve got these songs, timeless, and enduring, and so much more poignant to me now. The world seems a much sadder place, with the Eagles, like the Beatles, relegated to a memory now. The harmonies seem that much sweeter, and my own life, that much more fragile.

Artists are struggling nowadays. We seem perpetually torn between trying to stay afloat and trying to stay true to ourselves. Bands like the Eagles never seemed to have to endure this struggle. They never seemed to go away or lose relevance.

I find myself telling people to say something that matters, because our time here is brief and the need is great for that.

Glenn Frey seemed to already know that, and with his passing, I hear this song of his and Jack Tempchin’s in a new way…

“It’s your world now, use well the time
Be part of something good, leave something good behind
The curtain falls, I take my bow
That’s how it’s meant to be, it’s your world now.”

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Project Update...the other kind of players on my project!

First things first, the record is being mastered and the artwork completed as I type this! So we are on the home stretch of this project…which you have so patiently waited for.

This brings me to the rest of the team involved…

You can have the best band, singers, and songs on earth, but if your mixes and mastering fall short, your album is in a heap o’ trouble. And that is why I am unbelievably fortunate to be working with the most talented and wonderful people on our good planet earth.

So I’d like you to meet Brian Montgomery, my mixer, and Alan Silverman, my masterer. (Is “masterer” an actual word?)

I will be completely honest with you – I did not know either of these gentlemen before this project. And that has been one of the added bonuses of making this record – getting to work with the best people in the music business and also the loveliest. And believe me, I do not bandy the phrase “best people in the music business” about willy-nilly.

Sure, I could give you the really long list of artists that each of these gentlemen has worked with, but let’s just hit some highlights – Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, the Rolling Stones, Shawn Colvin, John Mayer, Michael Buble, Alison Krauss, Darlene Love. Do I need to go on? No, I didn’t think so.

To say I am grateful and thrilled and excited about how this record is turning out, is the understatement of the century. It has surpassed my wildest expectations in the best way possible, and every single person who has contributed in every way, shape, and form has done so with their heart as well as their gifts. And I thank you all.

It also bears mentioning that there are other people who have contributed in essential and extraordinary ways to this project.

Stan Tomczak has taken some incredible pictures of me over the past several months and during multiple shoots. Some of them will appear on the project artwork itself, and the rest will be in a newly revamped website to come. He gets a gold star for not only the beautiful photos, and his generous spirit, but for making it so much fun.

Speaking of pictures, the cover photo that people have been admiring online was both taken and transformed into art by my good friend and genius producer, Tanya Leah.

Tanya, in addition to producing and playing and singing backgrounds on this record, is also the graphic artist.

I know, I was thinking the same thing – it is unfair for one person to have that many talents. (And let’s not forget the tambourine and harmonica playing that she also did on the record!) She has made the entirety of this project beautiful both visually and sonically.

How the back cover artwork for the album made its way to me is an interesting story worth sharing. It was created by an amazingly talented California artist named Marina Drasnin.

I believe we cross each other’s paths for a reason, and that our steps are, at least sometimes, divinely guided, because truthfully, whether it is this artwork or singing a duet with Kenny Loggins, I know neither would have happened without someone upstairs looking out for me.

Facebook – ah, that double-edged sword of social media! Are we really “friends” with someone if we’re friends on Facebook? Does that count? Is the connection real? Is it possible for it to become real, if it’s not initially?

I think so. And that is where the story begins. It starts with me becoming Facebook friends with an Olympic athlete and world champion figure skater – Tai Babilonia.

I’ll be honest, I don’t remember exactly how that happened, but I’ll be forever grateful that it somehow did.

So in the grand landscape of Facebook algorithms, I somehow saw a post on Tai’s Facebook feed that Marina had posted on her wall. And Marina, who is also a figure skater, was friends with Tai since childhood.

Well, I fell in love with this piece of art that Marina posted. And here is the only thing I know about art (or anything, really) - I know if it moves me or if it doesn’t move me. And this moved me. I immediately saw it as the back of my album. It was perfect. It was a butterfly.

So to recap for a moment here, I am about to ask a complete stranger if I can buy or use her artwork to put on my CD, and I know neither her nor her skating champion friend whom I adored since I was a kid.

Long story short, Marina’s artwork is my back cover, we did actually meet face to face recently, and her beautiful art is truly a reflection of her beautiful soul.

A glance at a Facebook feed!! I’m telling you – divinely guided!! 

This project, for all the time it has taken, has grown in magnitude from what I once thought it would initially be. So part of the obligation of having it turn out grander than my wildest imaginings is that it demands the same effort, energy, faith and perseverance once it is out in the world as it had during its creation.

This is the point at which most artists run screaming into the night, because, frankly, artists are not generally born with the constitution to want to market, promote, and strategize about demographics and sales. Many of us break out into a rash even thinking about such things.

But I didn’t spend the last few years of my life creating this just to wimp out on marketing because it gives me a rash. Nope. That’s what medicated lotions are for.

My greatest ace in the hole, of course, is you. 

If you love it, don’t be shy. Say something – to your friends, colleagues, relatives, neighbors, hairdressers, bartenders, accountants – you get the idea. Post a picture of you holding the CD on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Subscribe to my YouTube channel here: Ilene's YouTube Channel Buy a copy for a friend. Make it go viral. (The good kind of viral, not like the flu.)

I will be doing my best to promote it as well. And part of that includes some additional angels who are working behind the scenes to help me. These additional angels are Patti Petow of Petow Publicity and Jeryl Brunner, who, like Tanya, is assisting me in more ways than I know how to count or thank her for.

There is so much more to come, and I am so grateful for every one of you who came forward and championed this record. There is not a moment I don’t know that I am extremely blessed, or a moment I don’t appreciate you making it possible. As I will say many more times – thank you.

Me & Brian Montgomery, my phenomenal mixer

Me, Stan Tomczak, my fab photographer, & Tanya Leah, my genius producer

Me and brilliant artist Marina Drasnin