Updated: Aug 21
You could be an actor / model. Yeah. But I guess I became an artist / musician.
I don't even really like calling myself a musician, to be honest. True, I was in a couple bands. True, I put out an album all my own in 2021. Wrote all the songs, composed all the parts, recorded it all and put it out on the wild web for anyone to listen to.
But I don't like to call myself a musician.
Weird, stupidly long songs that, if you're patient enough, can produce a feeling of being on a strange journey. My husband (the record nerd) even thinks it's great. He requests me to put it on.
But I don't consider myself a musician. No way.
Because sometimes when you finally do a thing that you've wanted to do since you were a kid, you feel like you can't live up to the label.
You can listen to the album on the portfolio / golden evil tab.
In the meantime, I'll tell you a story.
When I was younger, and my mom worked nights as a nurse at the hospital, my dad would take me to the local Hasting's to find some great new cd's to listen to. Once in a while he'd tell me to pick out one or two that I liked, and each trip, we'd take turns listening to each others new purchases during the car ride home. (It was annoying, the excitement of having to get those sticky wraps off the cd- the anticipation was too great! What had we found? Why won't this FUIABSAKHKSJFing thing OPEN ALREADY?!?!
Around this time, Modest Mouse had come out with their big radio hit Float On. I thought, that's interesting, I like it enough to see what's on the album.
When I played the album, I was impressed by the range of fucked up emotions and perspectives, all expressed by one band, on one album. The rest of the songs on the album became favorites, and soon I was excited to share this with my friends (they were a bit confused, generally) and more so, to get back to Hasting's to see if this band had any other cd's. And boy did they.
Soon I was listening to The Moon and Antarctica on repeat, which my friends definitely thought was fucking weird. And then I got my hands on the Wilco album A Ghost is Born, and then Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and I lay on my bedroom floor in an indescribable mood, 17, confused at why I felt so strange, staring at the skylight and tossing one of those free Aeropostale beach balls up in the air until it bounced away- and, unable to will myself to get up and retrieve the beach ball, just kept staring up, while the melancholy beauty of these songs helped me make sense of my state.
I was a totally sober straight A varsity runner, team captain of the Cross Country and Track teams. Homework was done, naturally. Practice was over. I ran my best time yesterday. I think that boy might actually like me. My friend said the funniest thing at lunch today. Everything is pretty great. Why do I feel like this?
Modest Mouse is some strange shit for a sober person to listen to, but I was moved by the intensity of the sound. Wilco felt like listening to the great sadness of life that I hadn't yet experienced. I didn't know exactly why, but it made me feel like I made sense.
Around then, I thought, "I'm definitely going to try to be an artist. And once I was really interested in acting. Maybe I could try to be a singer. A musician in a band."
My friends in school were all either in the church choir or in the school band or just didn't care about stuff like that. One day people thought I was being a particularly naughty person when I hung out with the guy known as "the stoner guy" and he gave me an ear bud during gym class and demonstrated why Led Zeplin is amazing, and why stoner kids are awesome even if you don't smoke.
I was embarrassed to tell anyone I wanted to be a singer. I sung to every song on the radio in my car, any song I knew on the radio was good enough, but I liked my Oasis cd's best. "Tonight I'm a Rock and Roll Star." I probably wasn't any good at that volume. I was freaked out that anyone might hear, but if I was going fast enough, I figured nobody would notice!
I finally cured my fear of singing by going to church. In college in Idaho, after getting married to (19) and divorced from (21) a horrible douchebag whose family got me involved (and subsequently banned from) an evangelical church, I found myself in a church full of other college kids, that met in an old theatre in downtown Moscow (Idaho) on Sundays. The plus of the old theatre situation was that it had an upper balcony, where nobody sat.
I desperately wanted to sing, I was on fuckin' fire for the lord, even though the good lord had dealt me a few blows in the last couple years regarding my life situation, I was really faithful, and I trusted him to guide me to my greatest happiness, which in the christian evangelical world, is praising him in everything you do. You get you a christ-like heart and you will be fulfilled and full of love, an outpouring of love that comes straight from god, through you, and out to other people and the world. And there's no greater way to express your love to the lord than to sing to him. So, SING I CERTAINLY DID!
Except, you know, from the upper balcony where only the lord could hear me.
I listened to the tones carefully, trying my best to match those of my fellow church goers, and even listening to my friend who would sing harmonies oh so beautifully.
All from above.
Eventually I felt so comfortable with my intense emotional singing that I joined back in with the regular congregants and, having studied their intonations well (and memorized all the words by heart now), came to stand with the others and sing with the group. It felt like part of my faith wanted me to join back in no matter how bad I sounded, but I could actually do it ok, now. And, I wasn't afraid of their judgment. They were my friends.
I still know those weird contemporary gospel christian songs, some of them. They're all so formulaic, and all sound quite similar, but because of how long I spent in those churches, they became familiar to me. Nearly as familiar as the songs I'd listen to on my way to college classes (but of course you find god in there, too, if you're a christian.)
I still listen to those songs sometimes, too. Which is weird- I'm not really a christian anymore- but there's a certain nostalgia there. And Even though now I think religion is garbage, the community I found at church and that stable thing to hold onto really got me through a lot of even greater garbage for a season of my life. Thank god, huh?
When I moved to San Francisco, I basically forgot all about the dream to become a singer. Who cares, right? There are enough good bands to see every night here, I don't have anything to say really, and besides, I'm over here making my artwork.
BONUS- I still can't play an instrument. Nobody just sings.
Then, in probably 2016 or 2017, I had a dream. The dream was a song. It was some kind of Black Angels meets 60's hippie country meets doo-op 50s pop. It was a song I'd never heard before- and when I recognized it was a dream, I knew I had made up this song, right here, right now, in my fucking head. The song was called "Lora." The lyrics were simple but the progression and instrumentals and beat and vibe of the song were out of this world fun. A stomping driving writhing story about Lora, who hung around with boys. The dream was complete with a music video and choreography and camera angles and - what could I say- it was a complete thing. This song I made up in my dream. I awoke and thought, "well, if the dream can make up a song, I guess I could try out writing some songs." Then I thought, "Nah, I have enough going on."
Later that day I popped into a thrift store and, HUH, a little cream colored mug with old timey flowers and the name LORA emblazoned on it caught my eye.
What are the chances, I thought? I dreamed of Lora and here she is.
I took it as a sign.
(Lora the mug has faded, and been chipped- the design is barely visible anymore- but I still drink out of my Lora mug on a morning that I know I'll need to give it my all.)
A couple of days later I determined that, at the very least, I could be a girly Joel Gion type character in a band. I had style, I liked to dance, and I had a sense of rhythm. So I went to the Haight music store, and a lovely fellow named Reese sold me the first little tambourine I ever owned. He said "There's plenty of bands in the city who would love to have a tambourine girl on stage." I kinda knew I had bigger fish to fry, though. But a little tambourine and some weird poetry would do the job.
I ran into these people at a show, who invited me to a party, and that's how I came to be in a "band" with someone who I thought I could trust and genuinely start a music project with, but turned out to be someone addicted to drugs and lying to me about being clean, someone who could never manage to be on time for anything, who despite us practicing all the time could never remember how the songs went, who would fall asleep mid strum, who kept me strung along, captive to his sob stories and made-up stories, or else be told I wasn't devoted enough to the band or that I wasn't trustworthy.
I sure had a weird time with that one. When the two of us had tried joining another band, and he had been kicked out of that band for showing up extraordinarily fucked up to practice one day, and I asked to break up this project once and for all and get my stuff back, I think he called me threatening to kill himself- a bunch of shenanigans ensued, with him leaving me a voicemail saying he was just going to become a serial killer now, along with "I know where you guys practice" and me asking the police if I should be worried or if the guy was just bluffing to freak me out. I ended up getting a couple of friends to come with me to get my stuff from his house, where we had been practicing, and that was that.
The kind support I got from the folks in the other band was felt immensely. The main guy told me I'd been verbally and psychologically abused for a year and a half by that fool- he wasn't wrong- But I did write some good songs- so I took my poetry, tucked it in my pocket, and saved it for a rainy day.
The new band started out really fun. Eventually we started playing shows, and I was somehow smashing the tambourine on stage singing backups and being the girly Joel Gion I had hoped to be. But everything was always splintering. Main guy was proving himself to be more than difficult to work with, and the band became a great american melting pot and rotating cast of characters- most of whom he either fired in a rage, or who quit out of frustration with him.
We rented a studio space- I paid half, with the promise that I could bring some of my art supplies in there and it could become part painting studio and part music studio. Of course that never happened. With me buying pieces of equipment for the band under the promise that I'd be paid back my half, and that not happening, I started to wonder why main guy was a dick to everyone else that would come into the band, and everyone who was ever in the band, except basically me. I was like his favorite. And that started to bother me. The only reason I was still here was the cash I was bringing to HIS table.
That manufactured closeness really fucking made me angry, and it made me squirm- at a certain point, nothing I could do for him as a friend or an ally was enough. I was unappreciated and unseen. Members of the band piped in and asked for me to be made band manager. Handle the bookings, handle the communication with the venues, sound guy, etc. No way, main guy said. I knew apparently nothing about dealing with those people. It was his way or the highway.
When I was just about done, I expressed my frustration with the rent. I wasn't allowed to be there or use the space for my own music, the main guy was living in there, I wanted to re-negotiate to pay less than half. The main guy called me a stupid liar, and I stormed out, only to arrive home to a text message saying he'd be willing to help me with my music (finally) but I questioned his motives. Shortly after I took my drum set and my stuff and quit the band.
Exasperated by this constant feeling over the last three years that I was unappreciated and everyone thought I was just some dumb tambourine girl, I finally went, "FUCK IT- I'll do it on my own."
And over the next year that's what I did.
I had a midi keyboard, a silly program called garage band, a bunch of percussion, a little lap harp, a couple of mics, a voice, and a lot of un-used poetry and unrecorded songs in my arsenal. So, even not really knowing how to properly PLAY the keyboard (what are notes? What???) I somehow began recording and layering things in.
My husband and I were in the process of getting the fuck out of San Francisco, and we were fixing to move into a trailer on some land we bought near Joshua Tree. There'd be no room to work on my artwork, so, I decided, my task for the next stage of life (until I got a studio built) was to PUT. OUT. A. DAMN. ALBUM...!!!!
And that's the story, I guess. I still don't really know how I did most of the stuff on the record. It gets rave reviews from people who listened to it and get what I'm trying to do.
I learned a lot from those three years of being in other people's bands.
I learned that few men take me seriously (lol)
I learned that I can put all my heart and soul into helping people get their own ideas off the ground, and get my own swept under the rug.
I learned musicians may be even flakier than artists.
I learned to be wise with who I put my energy into.
I learned that it is better to be a team player than a music nazi.
I learned that, kinda like restaurant work, some places are ruled by people with narcissistic personalities who want everything to be miserable for their underlings, by people who think very highly of themselves and think everyone else is an idiot.
Some people are still children.
Some people, no matter how generous someone is, will always think your best is never enough.
I also learned that some bands are presided over by generous and gentle people who have everyone's best interests at heart, whose main goal is to make the band fun for everyone,
especially those who play in the band.
I learned that I can do whatever shit I set out to do, even if it takes a little while.
I learned that I can keep the beat better than most drummers (lol)
I learned that I can be on stage and not shit myself.
I learned that I'll never fit into the in crowd, even if that means trying to fit in with the out crowd's in crowd.
I guess I became a little more confident in my ability to learn, to do, to express in a different way than I usually do. And I learned, even more, to take no shit.
Definitely, take no shit.
Golden Evil- it was originally the name I chose for myself as a witch. (I am an occasional witch)... (don't cross me...)
When I think of the sun, it is both life-giving and oppressive. It depends upon your perspective, or the moment you find yourself in its path. Like life, like its twists and turns, there's a consistency to it, but an ever changing depth that makes it extraordinary.
There's a lot of me in the songs. And from my roots of being what I now can call depressed on my bedroom floor as a teenager listening to Wilco, to The Moon and Antarctica being my go-to training album for college sports, to finding god through evangelical gospel, to feeling understood by Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized, to listening to all the Beatles albums in a row while creating new artwork for a show, to knowing (by witnessing the destruction it caused in those around me) what Lou Reed is droning on about in Heroin, to falling out with band leaders who took me for granted, to singing "Joy to the World" at the top of my lungs in a wheat field in Idaho all alone, I guess that's all in there.
And a little bit of girly Joel Gion remains.
Oh, and if anybody ever tells you they're like Anton Newcombe, first, check their discography. If they have none, Check their attitude again. If their attitude is more grandiose than the music they're trying to make, that oughtta tell you right away to run for the damn hills before you lose your sanity.
(speaking from experience).
-Golden Evil (a facet of Enlightenment Barbie)