There are nights like tonight….

…that make all the work you’ve put into creating something so worthwhile. Tonight I had the great fortune to spend the evening at the Mothlight, a venue I really enjoy, surrounded by people I hold dear for a very important cause. The Heartbeat Sessions is a project we started last year at Echo Mountain thanks to the amazing people at Arts for Life NC. It all started when the talented Melissa Hyman from the band The Moon in You was in the studio singing background vocals on a session for NPR’s World Cafe with the River Whyless. I mentioned to Melissa and some of the other musicians in the room how I had seen the documentary Alive Inside, which shows the incredible impact that music can have on people with dementia or Alzheimers. I wanted to see if I could use Asheville Music Professionals as a platform to connect musicians with music therapists or nursing homes that work with individuals struggling with memory loss. That’s when Melissa told me about her work with Arts For Life, which is a non-profit dedicated to supporting people facing serious illnesses, especially children with cancer. Melissa uses music to help nurture the minds and spirits of sick children and their families.

She told me she had this great idea where she wanted to get a stethoscope to record the heartbeat of some of the kids, and then use that as the backing beat of a song of their choice. I told her that if she was able to get the stethoscope, Echo Mountain would offer the studio time to record the song for the families. It took some time to get details worked out, but by November of last year, we had our first date booked.   To date, we’ve recorded 4 songs, for different people (I hesitate to use kids because I don’t think a 14 year old is a kid) and this is just the beginning.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Clay Miller, audio engineer extraordinaire who makes these sessions sound so amazing.

Tonight Arts for Life presented Heartbeats, An Interactive Arts and Music Show for all ages. It was here people were able to experience the Heartbeat Sessions live, with a myriad of the local musicians who have made this project possible. All four songs were played live and Melissa shared some information about each person and why the chose that particular song.

When she introduced the second song, a cover of Jason Mraz‘s I’m Yours,  chosen by a young man named Daniel, she told the audience that he had just passed. This was news for me, and a number of other people involved, and we collectively felt a wave of grief as the song started.  For the recording session, Daniel’s mom made sure to give some photos to Melissa to put up in the studio which was really great for everyone to see who the song was chosen by, and whose heartbeat was the foundation for the song.  This was one of a number of times during the evening where I bit my lip to hold back the emotions that swelled inside me.

At the end of the evening Leigh Glass and I were talking to Melissa about how we were caught off guard when she mentioned Daniel’s passing. Melissa had said she thought she had caught a number of people off guard as she had not had the opportunity to let everyone know. Just as we were finishing that conversation, Daniel’s father walked up and thanked the three of us for all the work we had done recording this song for him and his family and he looked at Melissa and said, “Thank you for making the last 10 months bearable.” I didn’t cry then, in public, but I can do so now, in the privacy of my own home thinking about the support that Melissa, Rachel Zink, and Annie Rogers (both also from Arts for Life) have provided for these families. And Daniel’s parents will have this song as way to remember him, made by a group of artists that wanted to help preserve his memory.

At the beginning of this year I made a conscious effort to focus more on projects that have a bigger meaning, that are about lifting us up collectively as one human race. It was a leap of faith as I had to give up some good paying gigs to make room for the things that pay me in other ways. I felt like I was on the right path, but tonight made me realize there’s no turning back.

Here’s a video for the first session we did for 10 year old Jesse. Check it out.

The Heartbeat Project: Jesse from Erin Derham on Vimeo.

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6 Overrated Things In Asheville

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Many people have been up in arms over an article from the Huffington Post that named Asheville on a list of most overrated places to visit.  Now we Ashevillians pride ourselves on our unique and eclectic little town.  But it got me thinking about all the things that are not so great about this place.  I didn’t have to think about it for too long, before these examples became glaringly apparent to me.

The Blue Ridge Parkway – The name is a little misleading.  If it truly were a “parkway”, then I should be able to drive up right next to the elevation signs at the scenic outlooks so that I can have my picture taken while my ass is still firmly “parked” in my car.

Dog Friendly Restaurants – Don’t these places know that my dog incessantly begs for food at the table?  Allowing me to bring her on the outdoor patio really takes away from my locally sourced dining experience.

Arts Community – This city is supposedly known for having a large and diverse art scene.  But I can tell you that I have not been able to find one Thomas Kinkade replica print to send to my Grandmother for Mother’s Day.

Independently Owned and Operated Businesses – In today’s economy I really need to be thrifty and look for bargains.  But shopping downtown or in the river arts district can prove to be not so consumer friendly. Just the other day I tried to use my two for one fish taco coupon from Mamacitas to buy a pair of skinny jeans at Union and they refused to take it.  The nerve of some of these business owners!

Marijuana – Now, I don’t know about this one personally because I for one, would never do anything, and I mean anything illegal. Hell, I won’t even cross Coxe Avenue until I hear that creepy voice tell me that it’s okay.  But I would like to think because of the tree huggin’, Phish lovin’, congo playin’ granolas in this town that there would be at least 3 to 4 strains of the gnarliest shade grown, fair trade, organic nugs around at all times.  Strains with names like Purple Nurple, and Oh Shit, What Did I Come Upstairs For Again?  But what I’ve been told by folks is that sometimes it’s hard to find some of the ole wacky tabaccky in Cackalacky and it sometimes comes from as far as California.  Could this be the real reason James Franco is at Norman Nelson College?  Should be calling him, Mule Franco???  Note to self, find out if you can be sued for what you write about someone in a blog…

The Innsbruck Mall – Now, I have to say, this place wasn’t so bad.  And I rode up the escalator  I started to get a little stressed out about the overwhelming shopping choices I was about to be bombarded with.  What a pleasant surprise it was to see that there were only a few choices, and what quality ones they were! After spending an hour reading back issues of the Christian Science Monitor without paying for them, I strolled over to the insurance office to compare rates on my  current homeowners and vehicle policies.  From there, I figured I mine as well get a second license plate while I’m here, since I’ve been considering buying the school bus that’s parked in my neighbor’s  front yard. Alas, I was still slightly disappointed as they didn’t have a Chick-fil-a or even an Auntie M’s Pretzel place to satiate the appetite I had acquired on my shopping excursion.

Perhaps I am jaded because I have lived here so long.  Or maybe I just need to get a way for a bit.  I’m looking into a time share in Myrtle Beach for the whole month of August.

I Was An Assassin In A Former Life

Here’s another story I shared as part of the Listen To This series at Asheville Community Theatre.

I usually end this story by telling people that I was born and raised in Detroit. I casually offer this information as an answer to the looks of horror and bewilderment that this story tends to solicit. The truth is I am really trying to make it seem that my brother and I were products of our environments, instead of the little monsters we really, truly were.

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You see, my brother and I had already established a history of violence between us at a very young age.  We are two years apart and he is the older of the two.  We were continually doing so many things to one another, that it’s surprising that one of us didn’t lose an eye.  I mean, literally didn’t lose an eye.  When I was 5 and my brother was 7 I was trying to follow him to the neighbor’s house to hang out and he threw a flathead screwdriver at me.  He threw it, and from a pretty far distance I might add, and it came through the air and hit me right here, and stuck in my face. Just missed my eye!  I ran into the house screaming, ended up getting stitches….you get the point.

I was no angel though.  I had an affinity to dropping tonka trucks on my brothers face.  There was a time, when we were actually getting along and we were going to push one of his trucks down the slide together.  I climbed up on the top of the slide and he took the truck up, rung by rung and then handed to me at the top before he was about to join me at the top.  When he looked up to take the next step, I dropped the truck on him, watching him and the truck tumble to the ground.

I can say with certainty though, that he was much worse than I was.  Being the older of the two of us, he was definitely stronger than I was.  There were the times he would try to light the ends of my hair on fire. And many of my attacks were from getting sick of his shit.  And there was one night in particular that I had just about enough.

My brother and I were coloring on the hearth of our fireplace. I was coloring a Care Bears book and I think my brother was probably coloring a He Man book.  My mother was in our bedroom.  I say our bedroom because the three of us shared a bedroom.  After my parents divorced, my mom rented out our rooms and so the three of us slept in a king size waterbed together.  Oh, the 80s, waterbeds were one of the worst inventions of all times…..  There was a tiny color television in the bedroom with a coat hanger for an antennae.  This is were my mother liked to watch her “stories.”

So my mother walks into the living room and announces, “Tonight is the season finale of Dallas.  If either of you walk into my room during the next hour, you better be fucking dead.”

Now, I was six years old but I can tell you that these were my mother’s exact words.  This wasn’t one of those, “I will remember this for the rest of my life” moments.  It was more that she had instilled the fear of God in me.  She is a very patient woman but when she gets pissed off, you do not want to bear her wrath.  She would get this vein that would pop in her neck and you would know you were in for a serious ass whooping.

I would like to think she at least got through the first half hour without incident but I can’t really remember those details.  Just what happened next.  I was coloring and all of a sudden my brother took the purple crayon right out of my hand.  Now normally I would be pretty cool about just letting things go.  But I was coloring Share Bear Care Bear, and she just has to be purple.  She’s the one that encouraged people to share their feelings.  Well at this point I was ready to share my anger with my brother. We argued for about 5 minutes.  Then, all of a sudden, I don’t know what came over me but I grabbed a newly sharpened Number 2 pencil with my right hand.  Sharpened end pointing towards my pinky finger.  I then stabbed him right in the face, underneath his nose.  Not only did I stab him, I snapped my wrist so that the lead broke off in is face, leaving me a sharp pointy object as a weapon if I needed it.

His eyes got wide and as the shock wore off, he ran into my moms room with his hand over his mouth.  He opens the door to the bedroom and she turns around and I can hear her say, “Damn it Jason, this better be good!”  He removes his hand from his face to expose the piece of lead sticking out of his face.  I want to see what’s happening so I’m kind of careening my head from the hallway, while also hiding to see what she says.  The next thing I hear is, “Goddamn it.”  But at this point I began contemplating the deep amount of trouble I was about to be in.  My mom called the emergency room to find out if she had to take him in.  It turns out pencils had not been made of lead for quite sometime at this point and she wouldn’t have to worry about lead poisoning.  All she had to do was remove it and put a little peroxide on it.  What was I doing while all of this was going on?  What any other 6 year old would be doing, lying on the couch pretending to be asleep.  I figured, I can’t be punished if I’m asleep, right?

My mom came out after she took care of my brother.  I was just waiting to see what kind of ass beating I was going to get.  Was it going to be a pants on or pants off spanking?  What it going to be by hand or by belt?  First thing she did was tell me to go take a shower.  Not to wash the shame off, but most likely because I was disgusting.  I hated bathing as a kid and I guess my mom figured that I certainly wouldn’t put up a fight now since I was in such deep shit.  So I went to take a shower and then she did one of my favorite things.  She cleaned my ears.  I loved it when my mom would clean my ears.  I would lie on her lap and she was so gentle and it felt really good.  I was waiting for her to freak out on me, or yell at me, but she didn’t.  We talked about it and she realized that I had probably gotten to the point where I just couldn’t take the older brother pummeling anymore and just let him have it.  She did chastise me for STABBING HIM IN THE FACE, “Look” She said,  “This is one of the first of many times you are going to get fed up with some male’s shit” “But you can’t go around stabbing every boy in the face that makes you mad.  Next time you need to be the bigger person and walk away.  And if you’re backed into a corner, well then you just hit them in the nuts.”  They’ll recover eventually but they’ll remember the pain and normally don’t have to go to the hospital over sore nuts.”

The stab wound left a perfect blue mark on my brother’s face, which stayed there until he could grow facial hair.  Which regrettably for him was much later in life.  That blue dot would cause many of fights between us for years to come.  I think sometimes he would get teased at school about it and then come find me at lunch time at school and punch me.  Or I would taunt him about it myself which would end up in a beating as well.

That blue dot is finally gone and now my brother and I laugh about it.  I will say that we still have a tendency to want to beat the crap out of each other although it’s not very often.  We live in the same city now and see each other on a somewhat regular basis.  We verbally pick on each other but we don’t actually come to blows anymore.  We save that behavior for when Mom comes to visit.

I Thought I Had An Original Idea But…..

So last night I was stripping some beds after a band from Nola had been renting my house.  Randomly, the idea of a bluegrass Bon Jovi cover band, called Banjovi krept into my brain. I started thinking how you could not only play the songs with traditional bluegrass instruments and time signatures but also change the words of the songs.  Fiddle On A Prayer or Blades of Glory.

Naturally I took the most obvious course of action and I googled that shit. And wouldn’t you know it two guys beat me to it.  Tim Turd and Long Schlong DeLong recorded this little ditty.  I would like to say that I was completely sober when I came up with this idea.  Something tells me this guys were not.  Enjoy!

Oh My Moogfest….

So here it goes, my first blog post.  I write posts all the time, just not for myself.  Always for my alter ego, which is studio manager at Echo Mountain Recording.  But enough about that place.  I love it, but it consumes my life and this blog is supposed to be the opposite of that.    I decided this first post would be about my adventures during the week of Moogfest.

I started my festivities on Tuesday night with a night out to see the ska band, the Toasters.  I was with a random group of people, first being my bestie aka my wife, Carson.  You’ll be hearing loads about her as she and I are quite like a retired married couple.  We do plenty of fun things but also spend plenty of time on the couch watching really bad tv.  We were invited out by JD and Tim, the guys who work on our houses for us.  Both in their late 50s, they made sure we knew if we met any young cute boys that they wouldn’t be offended if we decided to hang out with them.  Carson assured them that we were quite content to hang with a couple of old farts. And lastly, my buddy Carl joined us.  Carl is the distiller for Troy & Sons Moonshine and Whiskey Distillery.  He was bringing me some provisions for Moogfest and turns out, he’s a big fan of the Toasters so he jumped on the wagon.

I try to learn something new everyday and this day was no different. I learned that the term skanking is not just reserved for the activities of dirty girls anymore.  It’s a type of dance you do to ska music which looks like the running man sans rhythm.  It was a good time even if I wasn’t ever a fan of the band.  And what do you know, we also ended up hanging with some PYTs.

On Thursday, I was invited to a lovely dinner at Zambras with the fine folks from AC Entertainment and Google.  It was very nice of them to invite me out although while I think Zambras is amazing, tapas in not my favorite type of food.  I always feel like I get to just the smallest taste of something delicious.  It’s such a tease.  Have you tried the little potatoes? Oh that’s too bad, they were amazing.  There were 6 on the plate and 8 people at the table.  None the less, it was a good time with some interesting people.  We left there and went to see Justice at the Civic Center.  This was still pre-party for the upcoming weekend and not actual Moogfest festivities.  It was cool, the freaks were already starting to come out as we in Asheville love any reason to dress up.

We left there and I suggested we go to the Southern, to have a second dinner, because if there’s one thing I love, it’s late night food.  The guys were into it and we headed there as I spoke highly of the deviled eggs.  There are a few things that I love like it’s my job; my dog, the Golden Girls, and deviled eggs.  I will find any excuse to make them.  And I can make a damn good deviled egg without mayonaise.

We sat down and it wasn’t long before we ran into Les Claypool and Jay Lane from Primus.  The AC dudes knew them and introduced me.  I had such a great conversation with Jay.  He told me all about his family, his wife and kids and some pretty cool things about his mom, who adopted him as a single mom when that was something unheard back in the 70s.  He ended up leaving and I ended up hanging with the rest of the dudes until it was just Les and I.  He started giving me relationship advice.  Now here’s the thing, he’s been married for a long time, has two beautiful teenage children and has been out of the dating game for a quite some time.  So let’s just say I don’t think he’s the best person to take advice from.  I on the other hand, am a newly single woman, in my mid thirties who has never been married and yet I too, don’t know much about dating in today’s world. The first thing he pointed out to me was that I wasn’t getting any younger and I better hurry up and find myself a man if I want to have a baby. The thing is I don’t know if I want to have children or not.  But he seemed to think my biological clock was like a grenade that was about to go off and I needed to “shit or get off the pot.”  This is not his quote, but one from my mother that she loved to tell me as a child when I couldn’t make a decision.  The other little nugget he bestowed upon me was that I should join an online dating service.  I tried to explain to him that if he knew me he wouldn’t say that, that I’m not the type who would join a dating service because I have no problem meeting new people.  And I like the idea of meeting someone through someone, or bumping into them at the supermarket, something where you see someone, and you don’t know them and they make your heart race.  His stance was a dating service takes all the guessing out of it, that running into someone with your cart in the grocery store was great and all but it was going to take you some serious time to figure out whether you were compatible with that person. With a website, you are paired with someone with personal interests, weed out the guys that who smoked if you didn’t like that, do they have kids, etc.  While I agreed with him, I pointed out that people lie about themselves all the time and just because they put it on their profile doesn’t mean they aren’t a chronic nose picker, or that they’ll divulge their Precious Moments collection on their profile.  But then again, I guess when your biological clock is a ticking bomb, you might as well speed up the mating process as soon as possible, right?  Hard tellin’, not knowin’.  I’m sticking to my guns on the dating service thing, despite the fact that some of my friends want me to join.  I am not in the space to date anyway right now.  I have plenty to do and would rather spend my time doing other things.  Like writing this blog.  What would the three of you who read this do without my internet musings?  You should probably read a book…  While we were having this discussion, numerous people would come up to us and take our picture and buy us drinks.  I don’t know if you know this, but when you are sitting next to a well known musician, people will buy you drinks too!  And they take your picture because they are not sure if they should know you are not.  I kept telling people I was a back up dancer.

We closed the bar and I walked him back to his bus.  He invited me on to the bus, I joined for a moment, took the tour and then said that my mother always told me nothing good happens after 2 AM, especially on a tour bus.  I excused myself and went home.

The rest of my Moogfest was great although none of the stories are as good as this one.  It was a blast from the past to see Richie Hawtin and Carl Craig, reminding me of ye old rave days back in Detroit. Santagold was my favorite and made me really want to be a back up dancer.  If it wasn’t for this damn old lady hip, I would give it the old college try.

Here’s my proof that this actually did happen.  I don’t know how many other pictures I ended up in.  I only know of this one because it happened to be posted on twitter.  Good times.