One Woman Band

I had a birthday recently, and for the first time in many birthdays, I got exactly what I wanted: A lap steel guitar.  I spent the whole day noodling around on it, and was so excited about how many great sounds you can get out of it, even on the fairly low-end kind I got, the Rogue RLS-1.  It’s a perfect starter lap steel, and will do the trick accompanying me and my banjo.  Like the banjo, it’s in open tuning and is usually played in a three-finger picking style.  Playing an instrument that lays down flat will also make it easy to switch between instruments when playing live, without having to take off my banjo to strap on a guitar.

I also have my eye on the Boss RC-30 Loop Station.  I know first hand what an excellent machine it is–I used to have one before I stupidly sold it in a fit of poverty (Never, ever, sell your music gear.  You will always regret it).  But at the time, I wasn’t quite ready for it, anyway.  But now, I have ideas for a new, fuller sound, and once I have the Boss in my clutches, I’ll be hitting the ground running with it.

I knew at some point I’d eventually want a bigger, fuller band sound (while still doing my best to keep things stripped down–I’m a big believer in simplicity.  To my mind, you should only add on when what you have is not enough and not before.), but have always been skeptical of having a band.  I still am, for a few reasons:  I worry about keeping people motivated when they aren’t being paid for rehearsals.  I worry about how most backing musicians who are any good are in 15 different bands.  I don’t want my songs to come apart should a band come apart.  But mostly, if I’m being honest, I’m worried about the notion of other people trying to change and take credit for my songs.  I’m worried about others assuming the (most likely) male musicians in the band are the ones who truly wrote the songs, and that I am just a “good singer.”  Is it paranoid?  I’m sure some people would think so.  But I’ve had enough experiences even as a solo performer to make me think otherwise.  I’d rather play all of my own instruments poorly and take the blame than create something great and receive none of the credit.  To that end, I’ve decided it’s time to expand my sound, and to do it myself.  My music education is going to continue on both the musicianship and production front:  I’m hoping my next album will be one I produce entirely on my own.

Truth be told, I’m not so mad to take on extra work and multiple roles.  The world needs more women who can play and produce.  I’m happy to take on extra work to be one of them because whenever a woman takes on something new, it gives permission to other women to do the same.  And then perhaps, one day, we can all relax a little bit and not HAVE to do everything, because there will be enough of us doing something.

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Going Home to a Foreign Land

Samantha Church is taking her music to a new part of the country, but seeing her family makes it feel like home.

I’m currently just outside of Groveland, CA, at Rush Creek Lodge, approximately one mile from Yosemete National Park.  I’ve been hired to play here for the summer, in large part thanks to my mother, who works here at reception (Oh, the nepotism!  Those hotel receptionists call all of the shots!  In truth, she was playing my music in the lobby, and the owner asked her who she was listening to, and that’s how I got this lovely gig, playing three times weekly poolside at a lovely resort in the most beautiful part of the country.  It’s a living.).

I’m rooming with my mother, which many of my friends were worried about.  “Are you going to be okay being roommates with your mom?” they’d ask, eyebrows all-the-way-cocked.  It’s a huge relief to me, honestly.  The family motto may as well be “All or nothing.”  We approach our time together much like everything else:  We either have an entire nation between us, or we’re bunking together in the wilderness for months on end.  Of the two, I prefer bunking together.  Being thrown together with people who know you too deeply can be feel claustrophobic if it happens all of the time.  But in my case, every time I see my family, I remember who I am.  It’s nice to see your own reflection every once in a while.

My mother is so very much herself at all times, the small studio where they have us feels like home, even if this part of California is unfamiliar to me.  Having thrown everything I’ve owned away so many times in my life, it’s nice to be surrounded by familiar items–books and pictures and knick knacks and an endless supply of cheesy Christmas movies that I grew up loving because my mom loved them.

I could go on and on about playing here at Rush Creek Lodge–and I’m sure I will in future posts.  But in the meantime, I’ll just leave you with a song.