A BEAST THE SIZE OF AN OLD BARN

After putting out BLACKSTONE on the Fall Equinox, I thought it would be telling to listen both of my records back to back — I was struck the difference of one record to another. Blackstone vs 2017’s Howls From Deep In The Woods release. What’s cool is it seems we might have learned more than a thing or two since the first. But what’s surprising is all of Blackstone is technically older songs — I’m talking well before Howls material.

This year has seen huge changes on many levels, one of them expressly being after two collaborations with fellow songwriting partner and producer Alex Vazquez I’m taking the year to write solo. I’ve got a protools station and guitar rig all set-up at the center of my space and I am going for it.

Chunky fuzzy guitar sounds over hip hop beats is what’s showing up in the initial songwriting phase — and who knows maybe that sound’ll stick. What I’m writing about is still forming.

Reflecting freshly on the newest release, I’m enjoying the more intimate rawness of Blackstone. I like it’s particular floor to ceiling attitude — it’s much smaller than Howls, which fits my nature more. I try to pack allot of spirit and punch into the songs I write — but I’ve discovered I like the beast I bring forward to be about the size of an old barn not a stadium.

Well, wish me luck in this next phase of solo writing. I’m feeling very inspired launching off the heels of these two previous records — into, who knows maybe into something entirely different. I’m ready to experience it unfold. What will be will be, right?



BLACKSTONE

BLACKSTONE — this Fall 2019 release, is the record I didn’t have the guts to put out a some years ago. I was experiencing a rough patch in my life and the poor thing just didn’t get the light of day it deserved.

So, a few of us have dusted her off, added a few things, and have finally brought this beautiful beast forward.

From it’s origin, Producer / Songwriter Frank Gryner, was “the guy” to walk the album forward with me. I was completely compelled by the idea of making a record that sounded and felt like my tribes Reservation.

Every morning I’d wake-up to something that was — black oak forest, buzzsaws, family working on cars, gatherings, shotguns, crow arguing, winds bending yellow grass, aimless tarantulas, diamondbacks sliding through the dust, and rusted pick-up trunks being swallowed up by the earth.

To me we got the record the sounding something like a large organic rusty moan — which this woman’s type of gorgeousness. Frank and I took all these influences and mixed it through my lens.

At the time, I was especially into my tribes stories — a good handful of them involving animals. I also got into revisiting a collection of Aesop fables I grew-up listening to. I loved how these simple stories packed punches of wisdom. It became a quiet challenge of mine to write as many songs as I could in a similar way. It was tough — turns out what the badass writers of all centuries have said is true, writing so simply is not so simple.

To make the sound happen — Frank and I reimagined a drum kit by throwing trash cans at concrete and hit hand drums made of tree trunks so large they were too heavy to hold. We found ways to make double basses and flutes moan and tweaked a resonator guitar to a place that was so unruly it’s voice became a saw-like howl.

Hope you enjoy this lovely beast of a record we’re calling, BLACKSTONE.

AFTER THE BEAUTIFUL STORM

I admit it was especially crazy of us to plan so many shows while mixing this new record. And it was also crazy with birthday parties to plan, holiday hosting, and the list of things that come along with saying yes to live shows.

At one point, between the band and these extra life commitments, I was working with over 30 people’s individual schedules. It was nuts!

It was especially crazy to put all of this on our plate because the live shows are physically intense. We wrote songs that are not easy to sing, so they require allot of muscle power. As well as what we’ll call my “dance moves” for lack of a better phrase — always push my limits. The quotations are there because I was once called a wild organism up on stage, and I like that because I can’t put my finger on what I do up there.

Whatever you call it, allot of stamina and technique are absolutely necessary to get the job done.

Anyway, I’m laughing while I write this because I knew full well what I was getting myself into. This ramble is not about feeling sorry for myself, but a funny reflection on a challenging and exhilarating Fall experience I know full well I signed myself up for.

Now as we enter the winter, I’m reflecting how something told me I couldn’t wait for life to be organized and easy, and my intuition was right. Don’t know if I’ll make this a lifestyle but I liked the kind of “trial by fire” thing that came from it.

Now, after the dust has settled, I’m looking forward to burrowing into my home in the woods, going a bit low-key for a few months, and songwriting with my songwriting partner, Alex Vazquez. 

We’re still wrapping up mixing, and I might have a couple shows in these darker months before spring.

Mostly I’m looking forward to hibernating after that beautiful self-created storm. So if you don’t see much of me on social media, I’ll be cooking up plans for Spring / Summer. Keep an eye out for the new record in the early of 2019. Till next time, A Howling Songbird

HOWLING SONGBIRD IN THE WOODS

I am literally staring out of the window of our new home into dark winter woods. What a whirlwind this last year has been. When you’re doing what you love, time flies like some beautiful bat outta hell.

It’s been a house buying year (with a full basement studio build in our 2019 Spring/Summer sights). There were a couple of Native American Music Awards nominations that had me feeling so encouraged, so grateful, along with a string of Live Shows and Radio Spots experinces we collected with others. I’m reflecting on the connections of mutual love for art and music I was lucky enough to share with so many fun and interesting people.

I’ve felt so much support this year. So it’s particularly important during these dark and magical twilight hours of 2018 that I send out a soulful…. THANK YOU! Count me ready for 2019 and MUCH Gratitude, I no doubt feel emboldened and full of courage due to all the support sent my way. Love, A Howling Songbird

WOMAN WHO STARES PAST WAVES

Man…..I finally feel like I’m near the top of the mountain – of this particular chapter of being someone who creates. It’s one of the many chapters, where you are scraping together all the assets you’ve got, all the grit, any amount of wit you’ve got in your pocket – even if it’s a few crumbs.

This is not weakness. Without the context, intent, and choice known – it can look like a person is flailing around, messing up. This, I’ve learned, is what being outside of your comfort zone looks, tastes, and feels like. And I feel like a very particular badass when I knowingly choose to move past my comfort zone over and over again.

It’s like walking straight into the sea and staring straight past all those 7 foot waves you know are going to pull you under for about 10 seconds but you’ve got your sights set on making it to that buoy 200 yards from the coast. You wanna get in there for the adventure and to see what you’re made of.

Right now I’m in a good spot in all of this. I’m at the “seeing the fruits of my labors” part of the cycle. The summer/fall harvest cycle. There will be a winter somewhere in the future. I don’t know when. But for now I will kick back (relatively, I’m always making) with peace of mind that I’ve been giving I’m doing everything I’ve got.

UPON THE BACK OF OUR MOTHER

In the middle of the night. I sit and think on it all. My little world and the bigger world surrounding it. Maybe everyone feels they are living in strange times when they are at the crux of their generations moment to step up to the plate. Being Native in this American Life means being born within two worlds. Coming out of the womb straddling a line. It’s weird when you discover your very presence is political. Before the casino’s we were invisiable. Almost full century since the violence at Wounded Knee. A sea of bold and many burnt out circles scattered across the curve of this particular land mass. Upon the back of a mother, who became mother to wandering children with unsual ideas like Manifest Destiny. Life in these times seem surreal. Many ideas that were outdated from their inception implode across her back right now. It’s always been a battle for the minds. So while these times may feel surreal. It’s an age old cycle set on repeat. Human beings running around thinking they’re bigger than the mother of all mothers. And yet we are just circles within many others. Beautiful late summer storms now brew at my back.

THERE ARE OTHER PLACES TO GO

There are other places to go, yet I don’t know quite where. Places to expand into. Putting things out into the world is very revealing, and there are parts of myself yet to be revealed even to me. There are parts of my jagged sea-stone-self that are being smoothed off by the tossing and turning in the ocean of life. It’s unusual how much I’m willing to "look bad" or put my shadow-side stuff out there these days and genuinely feel pretty even about it. I know being present in the world means feeling the harsh winds whip at you from all sides and I’m finally willing to stand upright, fully bold like a great tree with her roots digging into the ground and her long branches rising joyously up to the sky. It comes from that feeling, a force inside that says I must be myself. Being any other way than enjoying the process of trying out life only amounts to a strange pressure building inside that hurts and has nowhere to go. Some of who I am, and am becoming, is not yet fully reflected in the art, or the person I see in photos, or even quite fully in the music. Maybe it’s unfair to expect all of what you’re about to show up in one record. Maybe each record is about revealing another facet of your being. I am still learning about who I am and who I am becoming and how to reflect that.

BURSTING HEART

Bursting Out. Expanding Like the Roots & Branches of a Twisting Turning Oak. 

This is what my heart does - after following a dream - after pursuing that call from the gut. This is what my heart does after choosing to stick my neck out through the whole thing and say - this is what I think, feel, and believe at this exact moment. This is what my heart does at the completion of this record. Expanding every which way. Very grateful for those who helped it all through to fruition. 

DANCING WALKING OAK TREE

The oaks across my reservation were a deep inspiration for this record. The oak branches you see suspended on the album cover are ones that fell on my tribes land 20 some years ago. Oaks I used to lean against, read, and day dream by. They’ve traveled with me from the Rez to LA and at the moment they are in the dark forests of Massachusetts. They mean that a bit of Home and Earth walk with me. The character that comes through on this record is very much like a Dancing, Walking Oak tree. Her steps are slow and heavy, long and wide. She peers through Oak Tree Eyes. 

 

SINGING EARTHSIDE

I may not be the most introvert-iest introvert, but I'm up there. Still let me say – it's amazing to find something that channels all your love to the point you can't shut up about it or put enough into it. To me that has become music, and more specifically creating a world to house my deep love of singing. Singing, just plain glorious singing - when it locks in, the whole world transforms around you, it all turns into a vortex of the spirit of every magical thing you've ever loved spinning around you. And I'm there, very much at home even for a moment. It is one of the greatest pleasures I have come to know. I think I'm comfortable enough to share one of my favorite soulful moments in relation to that.

Last year, mid-winter when we were just in the middle of recording the record I went west to honor the life of my Grandpa who had just left us earthside. It was at the funeral for grandpa Munoa where a few of my relatives stood up and sang amazing grace in our tribes native language. That sound, the sound of humans resonating together for a purpose, for a life that meant so much to everyone, made all the world feel right again in the middle of all that grief. That out of any moment that whole weekend back home fed me the most, and singing the highest kind of food there is. 

HOWLING RECORD

So deeply proud and excited for the wrap of this record and for it to exist out in the world. These songs are each very much Howls calling out to like minded spirits, asking for a Howl back. These songs are Howls of release, expression, celebration, and of grief, anger, and heart ache. It’s been a looooong winding road to get here. But I’m so glad we’re almost there.

SURROGATE GREAT AUNT & MENTOR - Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I think of the great storyteller and Jungian analyst Clarissa Pinkola Estes as my surrogate great aunt and mentor. I've listened to hours upon hours of her stories and teachings. Seriously, I think the last 10 years I have had each of her eight hour main audio books on heavy rotation. She's one of the few special beings on this earth who've helped keep me alive and helped teach me the ways of symbols, the power of story, the gravity of personal power, and soul retrieval. Call it a form of New Ageism if you want. I call it the more ancient way of gathering wisdom, collecting experiences, washing and rinsing them as a fine and lost art. She is among a small group of humans who helped turn me into every bit of who I am today. I feel so much gratitude. Thank you Deep Elder.