It’s Okay to Not Be Okay – Today I Am Not Okay

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. One of my strengths is that I’m good under pressure. In fact, I thrive under it, which is one of reasons that I always pack my schedule. You give me two or three things to do in a day and tell me to get those things done by midnight and I’ll start an hour before. But give me 17 things to do, and the same deadline and I’ll have that shit delivered by 6. I don’t know why I’m that way, but I’ve been so my entire life.

Three weeks ago I had to make the very hard decision to postpone Connect Beyond Festival. I spent every moment that I wasn’t working on festival planning on reading or listening to every piece of information I could find on Covid-19. There was so much conflicting information at that point and figuring out what was true and false was so frustrating. I finally woke up one morning after little to no sleep and thought, “I cannot in good conscience move forward if it’s going to put people at risk.”

I have put everything into this festival; my heart, my soul, all my savings, and all the credit I have in my name. The point of the festival is to help people create the world they want to live in. We do this through stories, sharing different viewpoints, listening, learning, and collaborating. It involves months of curation of people from around the country, coordinating schedules of bands on tour, journalists, filmmakers with yet to be released films, activists, authors, and various other creators all making the time in their busy lives to come to Asheville. It was really hard to let all of that go.

It was equally as hard to go from running 100 miles an hour, working 14 hour days for weeks and months on end to a dead STOP. I couldn’t stop working and I didn’t. Once we announced the postponement of the festival (which we did a week after SXSW) we started to see live events everywhere deciding to cancel. I always say the music industry is the canary of the economy, and this proved to be as true as ever. I threw all of my energy into helping the music community, and specifically my community in Asheville. I reached out to MusiCares to see how I could help and spoke with my dear friend Josh Blake about what we can do. Josh and I are partners in crime when it comes to trying to help others. I didn’t take the time to process the loss of Connect. I cried for about 4 minutes the day we announced, told myself to suck it up, and went to work trying to raise money for those in the music community who lost gigs.

I decided to look at this sudden amount of time on my hands as a blessing in disguise, and decided I wasn’t going to waste it. My partner is home from the road as all his tour dates with Pitbull are canceled. He’s wanted to make music together for years and I never made the time…until now. We’ve been spending time in our home studio which has been great, and we’ve been cooking and gardening. I’m teaching workouts online as it’s another way I feel like I can support my community during this time. I’ve been sleeping in. Until the last few days, I was still going into Echo Mountain everyday and working as we’ve had sessions with one or two people. I’ve been very grateful for this last bit of normalcy in my life, although that just ended as of Saturday.

I’ve been enjoying my time, but I’ve also been ignoring this feeling in my stomach. A couple of days ago a good friend lost his mother unexpectedly. It wasn’t Covid related but because of the boundaries in place he could not be with her as she passed. This broke my heart for him and got me thinking about all of the people dying right now who do not have their loved ones by their side. What a terrible thing to not be able to hold the hand of your dying parent, or child, or partner. This bothers me so much to my core that it instantly brings me to tears each time I think about it. I am worried about my 73 year old mother who is still working in Florida who is not in great health. I am worried that I too could have to experience this terrible thing firsthand. The news of John Prine being intubated last night was hard as well. I have met John a few times and while I do not know him well at all, I had a wonderful experience with him at the celebration of Cowboy Jack Clement. He said to me, “This is one of the best nights of my entire life, and I just don’t want it to end.” I have a number of friends who are very close to John and I do not want them to have to experience losing him in such a way. Before bed last night I prayed for him, his family and loved ones, which is not something I normally do.

Today is my first day working from home and I woke up with a crick in my neck and a chip on my shoulder. I have been missing my dog that died in June and Facebook reminded me that 4 years ago today she was featured on NPR’s Instagram page for a story they did about Asheville. All I keep thinking is I wish she was still here so I could have this precious time with her, where I can be around 24/7 because she was attached to my foot. I don’t use the word hip because she was like a cat and only wanted to be touching me if we were both sleeping. If you’ve ever lost a pet, you know what I’m talking about.

Then I realized that this was the week that the festival should have been taking place. It’s funny how quickly the days and weeks run together, isn’t it? I also realized that I needed to be “staying relevant” and could do so by sharing past festival content that we hadn’t gotten around to posting. But then watching all the past concerts and panels and workshops made me really sad. I finally began to mourn the festival. It’s not just that I’m sad about postponing. As I said earlier, I created the festival to help people create the world they want to live in. To find ways in their personal life, in their community, in our social/economic/political systems to make change, to not feel so helpless. Right now, as I look around at all of our broken systems, I feel helpless. I know that deep down going through this will help us to change our broken systems and more than ever we need to persevere to use Connect Beyond as a resource to help that happen. But I feel sad, and helpless, and angry, and I’m missing my dog and my heart hurts both for people that I know and love, and strangers I don’t that are struggling right now.

Yes, we are all in this together and we can be in pain together. If you are struggling right now I just wanted to say…me too. And it’s okay. It’s okay to not be okay and for the time being I’m going to sit here in pain and cry and drink too much wine until I’ve had enough of all of it. And then I’ll be here for you when you need me.


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.

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.