Life Coaching & Performance Coaching

Life Coaching

In 2014 I made the decision to get certified as a Life Coach.  I wanted to supplement my music career with another kind of work that would allow me to connect with people authentically, the same way music has.  Learning to be a Coach was inspiring and challenging.  My first task as a student was to identify something I wanted to achieve or change in my own life, make a commitment and then do it.  Powerful stuff!!  Being given this challenge AND the support of my Coaches and fellow students taught me how to listen better, honor my deepest desires and steadily move forward towards my goals.  This is what I now do with my coaching clients.

Are you feeling stuck?  Unable to communicate with a loved one?  Having trouble standing up for yourself at work?  Pushing people away with anger issues, or just living with an empty feeling of ‘I don’t know what I want’?

Any issue that gets in the way of fully embracing your life and relationships is a good starting point for working with a Life Coach.  Our work together will be about you taking responsibility for yourself and letting go of what you can’t control, all while receiving invaluable support.  I want to stand with you as you create the next beautiful and wildly fulfilling chapter of your life.

I see clients over Skype or in person if you are in the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina area.  I am now accepting new coaching clients.  Please see my coaching website for more info and testimonials or email me to set up a complimentary first session.

Performance Coaching:

What I have learned after 20 years of performing across the globe and through working with various performance coaches myself is that “stage presence”  – literally the ability to be present on stage and therefore give a captivating show – is an inside job.  The lighting, the sound system, the number of people in the audience, the mood of the audience – these factors are often not in your control as a performer.  What is in your control is what you are doing.   Are you connected to the words as you are singing them?  To the notes you are playing?  What do you do when someone heckles you or you think the audience is not enjoying you as much as you want them to?  Are you frequently distracted by your inner critic?

These are issues every performer faces.  Through our work together you can experience being fully in your body onstage, absorbed in the moment and making music with abandon.  This is what makes for a great performance.  Whether you want to attract a fanbase who adores you based on your authentic expression, or even just feel a little more comfortable getting up and playing your own songs, I can help you feel genuinely excited about performing.

For more information or to make an appointment please go to my Coaching Website or email me.

Sprung Loose

Almost eight years ago, on June 10, 2008, I showed up at Austin-Bergstrom Airport with one large suitcase, a guitar, and $300 to my name. My remaining possessions, a bed and a couple of boxes of cd’s and notebooks had been put on someone else’s moving truck in Brooklyn and were theoretically on their way to meet me. I was picked up by Kasey Pfaff, a very generous friend of my roommates in Brooklyn who had offered to put me up, sight unseen while I waited for my furniture to arrive. We went to Kasey’s house in north Austin so I could put my stuff down and later that day she lent me her truck so I could go look at my new home, a tiny freestanding cottage on Wilson street in the heart of 78704.

I don’t know what these cottages looked like to people who weren’t artists or didn’t live there, but to me it was my first real adult “home”: a place all to myself, surrounded by other musicians who also had places all to themselves. It wasn’t the Four Seasons – they were extremely “DIY”, full of allergens seen and unseen, questionable electrical wiring, no insulation, some of them bordering on unsafe. But there were trees, there was a supermarket two blocks away and most importantly there was a sense of community. For me it was heaven. All for just $425 a month. In Brooklyn I had been paying $650 for a tiny bedroom and tinier kitchen which I shared with four other people.

I had taken the cottage sight unseen. Jessie Torrisi had led me there on a visit where we were both checking out Austin as a potential place to move to. She introduced me to my future neighbor Scrappy Jud and somewhere along the way we picked up Ben Hamilton, the unofficial mayor of South Austin (maybe one of many), an extremely generous and mellow soul who nevertheless had the guts to walk me into the office of Ely Properties and demand to know how many months’ rent I had to put down to secure the place to myself. I still don’t know how this all worked out – in restrospect I don’t even remember where I got the extra months’ rent, but I was able to get the place.

Scrappy took me under his wing and introduced me to Daily Juice (now Juiceland) on Barton Springs. It was only early June and already hotter than hell but I told myself if I could make it through that first summer I’d be able to stay here for good.

Those first couple years were so blissful to me. I had next to nothing in terms of possessions (even the boxes of cd’s and notebooks got lost by the moving company) but I was so happy to have my own place and be surrounded by other musicians who “got it” that I didn’t care. Plus people were so generous. Charlie Faye who lived down at the end of the cottages lent me her car whenever I needed to run an errand or it was too hot to walk to the HEB. Will Sexton bought me a bike, just because he saw it at a yard sale and thought I could use it. Mark Addison let me use his recording studio in return for feeding his dogs while he was away. (Mark and I have since recorded 7 projects together and he has managed me and generally been my right hand for several years.) Super Dave, who had a real job often lent me money and then finally took pity on me and hired me to assist him with his DNC work. He also introduced me to Randy Weeks one night at the Broken Spoke and I was starstruck and awkwardly exclaimed “I’m a huge fan!” Little did I know I would eventually get to sing and play guitar with Randy and be part of his band for a while. I met and played and/or toured with Matt the Electrician, Betty Soo, Suzanna Choffel, Ray Bonneville, Shelley King, Jimmy LaFave, Noelle Hampton & Andre Moran, Sam Baker.

When I was broke again I discovered Airbnb and would rent out my cottage for days or weeks at a time while these same friends let me crash on their couches. I recorded an album called Bound to Love. Up to 2 weeks before recording started I had no idea how I would pay for it. But serendipity struck again and I met a music fan at a show in NY who told me he was interested in supporting the arts and asked if I had any ideas how…He ended up funding almost the entire album. The following summer I had to go on a month long tour and didn’t have a car. I put up a post on FB asking if anyone would be willing to rent me theirs for less than I’d have to pay at a rental company. In response Deb Gray, another live music fan and Austin’s resident expert on Bruce Springsteen wrote to me saying I could just take her Rav 4. No payment needed. I mean, wtf?! This place was perfect. Everyday I sat down in the morning and meditated on abundance and every day I was able to find what I needed.

In 2011 things started to shift. I still loved Austin but my dad who had been living in Arizona passed away from ALS, turning my whole world upside down. The cottages were threatened with and then slated for destruction so that high priced condos could be put up in their place. It was like the whole little idyllic world was being ripped away. Relationships changed. A love affair I naively thought was solid blew up in my face. Prices went up. I moved further south into an admittedly much nicer apartment (i.e. All the appliances worked and the landlord had a face and was friendly and generous). A new chapter began. I met Katharine Flynn and other friends who helped me navigate the changes. I tried to focus on getting ahead in my career and made some good headway, upping my game. I found a new booking agent and manager. I started hanging out with the amazing Havilah Rand and she introduced me to Billy Masters, a guitarist who added something soulful and powerful to my music in a way no other guitarist had. Between Feathers and Billy and I we formed a pretty solid band. I started taking acting classes from the amazing Paula Russell. I met John Fullbright and sang with him several times and was asked to sing harmonies on From the Ground Up. I was learning a lot and I was gaining a lot career-wise.

But I kept opining the previous chapter of my life, the one where I felt like I had a cohesive group of people around me as neighbors who were just there because it was the place we were supposed to be – an easy place, a spiritual home for the end of the day or the end of the tour, somewhere we belonged.

Finally I started hanging out with Mike June and things started to shift again, but this time that seemed like perhaps a good thing. Like maybe we were two people who could choose to make choices together and help each other out and enjoy life together. I met new people who understood my new challenges and had been through similar stuff. Mike introduced me to Jon Dee and I got to absorb the powerful music of another incredible artist.

I moved back into 78704. It wasn’t clear yet whether Mike and I would actually live together so I took the last affordable (though tiny) one bedroom near Oltorf and Lamar. Life was good. Mike did eventually move in and then things got tinier but it still had that long-term feel, like this time the compromises would mean something. They would serve a purpose.

Over the last year, while driving all over the world and playing shows together, Mike and I decided two things: 1) we want to spend our lives together and 2) it was time for us to move away from Austin. Austin is great city. But that sense of tight-knit community, the sense that the same $500 was being passed from friend to friend whenever someone new needed it, the sense that you could just show up with your talent and be welcomed and given opportunities just because it was exciting to see someone new, those things have necessarily changed with all the growth. There’s a lot of people showing up with talent and/or an ability to promote themselves. There’s a lot of traffic and that makes it harder to just pop in and see someone, especially since for many of us living centrally has become too expensive. It’s like a lot of other cities in many ways. For me, despite the incredible times I’ve had and people I’ve met here, the decision to leave came down to the fact that I can hustle to get gigs anywhere. I can sit in traffic anywhere. Maybe somewhere where rent isn’t so high, the summers aren’t quite so brutal, I’m not sick with cedar fever for two months straight every year, and I can be closer to my roots in the Northeast.

Later this spring we will move to near Raleigh, North Carolina. Who knows whether it will be forever or just for a year. I don’t quite have the same wide-eyed innocence I had eight years ago when the future and aging seemed like a distant concept I didn’t need to concern myself with. But I’ve still got it in me to give a new place a chance. A cheaper place, closer to our families, closer to the northeast where I can make a living touring. Maybe this is the fate of artists, to go somewhere new to be inspired. To find the other artists and contribute to that vibe until the rest of the world wants to live there and then it’s our turn to move somewhere else. Maybe because my family is Jewish I’ve always had that internal sense of wandering and it doesn’t seem strange to me to set up shop somewhere new.

Austin feels like the place where I finally became an adult and I am incredibly grateful for that. It could have been a lot harder somewhere else. The significance of that is not lost on me. My life is so good. I will miss immensely those of you who played a role in this time in my life. It’s taken me a long time to really commit to the idea of moving because the concept of leaving this place where I’ve had such important times is heart wrenching. I really came here a child in some ways. And now even though I’ve grown I want to cling to Austin where certain things feel safe. But on the other hand I have a deeper sense that I found what I came here for and it’s time to go find new experiences. I know that I showed up in Austin at the tail end of – or even after – what the old-timers consider the ‘good old days’, but I still got to have the feeling and that’s what counts because now I know what to look for going forward.

I’ll be back within the next 5-6 months to make a new album with Feathers. I’m sure I’ll be back after that to play shows. And visit.

But it won’t quite be the same.

I hope all of you who can make it will come send me off at my farewell show at The Cactus Cafe, Wednesday April 20th at 8 pm. I’ll have the whole band with me -feathers, Billy, Brian, along with a short set by Mike June and appearances by some special guests.

How Creativity Happens….

photo

Photo: Austin Green Belt, responsible for most of my songs

For me its like this: I’ll have a little nugget of an idea, and hopefully as soon as possible after that happens, I’ll sit with it until I’ve chased it as far as i can, til my heart and brain don’t have any more.  Then usually starting the next day the romance wears off and there’s the awkward in between phase when reality sets in: I need real lyrics and a form, not just vague emotional ideas.  Its a lot like moving from the honeymoon stage of a relationship to a real day to day intimacy & commitment.  So then i do the actual “work”, the “95% perspiration” – tinker with words for days/weeks/months waiting for it to really feel complete.  Then all in a rush of emotion the right phrase comes out.  The irony of it is without the hard, sometimes boring/frustrating/uninspired work I wouldn’t get the payoff of a finished song worth performing and going back to over and over.  That’s like a relationship too.

I need to be in a quiet space to write.  Being in nature almost automatically opens up my mind.  I walk in the Green Belt here in Austin.  Any chance to be surrounded by trees & dirt is like a signal to my mind & my emotions – “Ok!  Open up now!”  At the very least, I need to be looking at something a new way, even if it’s the same four walls.  It blows my mind how some people can write while the tv is on, or even other music.  Mike June can do this to great effect.  I can’t.  I’m a focus on one thing at a time kind of gal.  Unless it’s driving alone; that’s another time I can let my ideas run free with no one and nothing interjecting.

If I don’t write for a while, I get anxious that I will have forgotten how or that I have nothing useful left to say.  But maybe I should know by now that just living life can lead to creativity.  If you are alive and aware of being alive you probably have something to say.  That’s what I’ve noticed from talking to other people about their lives.  No one is living some kind of perfect existence.  Everyone has highs and lows, struggles, dreams.  No matter how they look on the outside.

Writing is probably the time I feel most alive and real.  I often have a lot of brain noise but when I write it all quiets down because it has a purpose.  That’s probably why I started writing in the first place, to quiet my mind and give the noise some kind of focus.

Recently I started working on a song where at the end I’m dead and just have this feeling of total peace, no struggle, no demons, just total quiet.  Actually I guess that’s how the song ‘Learning Faith’ ends too “I will simply be asleep with nowhere left to go”.  This one ends with “Only one soul rising from me”. I think that’s really my dream in life, to be totally calm.  I feel like I’m getting there slowly, but there’s a part of me that still loves the drama of writing a story.   I feel “heard” by people around me and I am generally happy.  But my friend Havilah says that she believes artists need to suffer.  In a way I think she’s right.  I’m not really sure yet how to resolve the feeling of suffering with the feeling of happiness.  Maybe it’s just that life is suffering but that doesn’t mean we can’t be happy to be here, even if the happiness comes from writing about the suffering!

-jk

Commitment

Someone recently forwarded me Andy Langer’s Esquire article ‘Music Fans Manifesto’.  Reading it reminded me how grateful I am to have you all as fans – everything Langer describes is exactly what you have been doing for me for years.I love this quote: “A music fan is always asking, “What’s next?” But he [/she] also knows what came before.”Last fall I toured the Midwest – some places for the first time in 5 years.  I looked at the tour schedule and assumed it would be a pretty lonely haul.  Why was I going to these cold, distant places?  Who out there would remember me?

But almost everywhere I went, a group of you showed up and told me things like, ‘“Strawberry Lover” was one of my favorite albums – when I heard you were playing in Burlington, Iowa, I had to come!’.

I was like, “Whoa – that album came out 10 years ago!!”

You people are committed.

I love this quote of Langer’s too “Hitting “Like” on a Facebook fan page isn’t commitment.”

I really don’t know how many people have liked my Facebook page.  What I do know is that you share my Facebook events and invite your friends, bring them to my shows, post videos of the shows, let me crash on your couches, drive me to train stations, give me your cars (yes, 5 years ago one of you actually GAVE ME YOUR EXTRA CAR so I could tour).  You fund the recording of my albums. There was even a stretch back in 2006-7 when I had no booking agent and several of you in different countries stepped up to help me get gigs – more/better-paying gigs then I had been getting with the agent!  I know several people who are so committed to music that they made the ultimate leap and started hosting house concerts, or even built actual venues with stages, sound systems and lights in their houses!

It can be a brutal world out there for an independent touring artist.  There are a lot of nights with 5 people in the audience.  Sometimes the sound sucks or the 5 people talk so loud you can’t hear yourself play.  A lot of nights you lose money.  Some places won’t even give you a free meal. Many clubs now take money for the sound person and door person out of the artist’s pay, despite the fact that the artist showed up to work too, and probably drove about 5 hours to do it.  Pay to play – it’s horrendous.

But somehow people like me are still alive and the reason is clearly people like you. (If you are reading this, you are probably one of these people.)  At Club Passim in Boston, or Music Star in Nordestedt, or The Red Room in Abenraa, or Amazing Grace in Duluth, or my friend’s friend’s living room in Wycombe, or Threadgill’s in Austin, for 4-5 hours I am reminded of our humanity. I’m treated like a person with an important job to do.  I give everything I have and I receive much more.

I’m a committed music fan too, so in theory I get it.  Last week I went to see Radney Foster.  I’ve sung on an album with Radney (Drew Womack’s “Sunshine to Rain”) and have sung with him live.  But I got to just listen this time, and I appreciated every minute of it. Then I bought the album and haven’t stopped listening to it since.  (Listening to artists who inspire me, I am like a 12 year old music nerd all over again – I have to learn the whole album, note for note, word for word, so I can absorb it, so whatever I do next as an artist is a little smarter, better-crafted, deeper.)

Even though I am so blown away that anyone would be committed to listening to my music, maybe I should wonder instead about people who don’t seek out new music: what is life like for people who aren’t committed to finding inspiration?  Isn’t inspiration what makes us human and keeps us believing that things can get better?

This where I believe it gets real – this isn’t just about marketing or some fame-seeking egotist trying to charm people into helping them get ahead.  This is about something that moved you and you want the people you care about to be moved too.  That’s why I do this and I think that’s why you do this.  That desire to share what is real is so beautiful and human.  This world is undeniably nuts.  But so is the tenaciousness of the human heart.  The impulse to love and to invite people in is a powerful force.

Thank you, all of you who go the distance.  It keeps me (and a lot of other artists) alive and kicking.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to sing for you and be part of your world.  I hope Langer’s piece can open more peoples’ eyes to this kind of perfect symbiosis.

-jk

Learning Faith – Behind the Songs

Behind the Songs on Learning Faith

A little bit about the inspiration and process for the songs on this album…

Learning Faith

So much in life is uncertain and yet I feel the most alive when I make a conscious choice to move toward what scares me.  Often, my gut instinct is to take a risk.  I’ve come to see any choice to act on that instinct – artistically or otherwise – as an act of faith.  This song was the first I wrote for the album and also laid out the concept for the whole album.

So Fucking Cool

This song was just something I felt like I had to say.  I developed a hell of a foot cramp stomping my porch board so fast through this track but I think it worked.

If There’s a God

In summer 2013 over 6,000 Texans who oppose Governor Perry’s policies gathered at the Capitol Building in Austin to protest.  Being there was the most moving thing I have experienced in my adult life.  Natalie Maines came with her acoustic guitar and sang “Not Ready to Make Nice”.  I’ve been all over the world and have met some inspiring individuals, but to see this huge crowd of people speaking up for their rights was beyond.  It gave me faith in democracy despite the fact that Perry’s legislation was ultimately (amid much legal controversy about the voting process) passed.  I thought about Bob Dylan’s Masters of War and how his unabashed anger makes that song so powerful.   For me, tapping into one’s righteous anger is part of connecting to God.

Surrender

When I first started writing the album, I was just at the beginning of falling in love with someone.  All my fears about relationships were screaming in my head all the time, “don’t let him in!”.  But then whenever I’d just meditate, I’d just hear the word “Surrender” and feel a sense of peace.  There’s that faith thing again – listening to my intuition.  I brought the song into Feathers and we demo’d it, just me and the guitar.  When I got home later that night he had sent me an mp3 of this super 80’s/Eurythmics sounding track and I was like “oh hell yeah!”  (I loved the Eurythmics).  Also,

I once had a past life regression specialist tell me that in multiple past lives I’d been killed for speaking up for myself or my people.  She said she spent our session removing a karmic plate from over my heart and sword from my throat.  I was thinking about that when I wrote the lyrics for Surrender.

Loving You

A rumination on the stubborn optimism of the heart…it’s really easy to get cynical when you look at the news today.  But then it’s like, I still feel inspired all the time.  There’s so much beauty to find in this world when we look for it.

Wish

This was the one song which had to be totally stripped down: just my vocal and guitar – anything else would have distracted from the story: an adult looking back on their childhood with a parent whose behavior was scary and unpredictable.  So many people with alcoholism or other family problems are afraid to talk about it and that’s where the dysfunction and pain get passed along.  This song is about healing by telling the truth.

Dear God

This is my understanding of what a world without access to women’s healthcare looks like.

Only the Blues

I love the completely basic beat and swampiness of this track.  It’s just a heartbeat and a cry, put through a vocal mic, a couple amps and a porch board.  I am so grateful to Feathers for hearing the sparse simplicity of this tune.  Any time in my life I’ve been at a loss as to where to go for musical inspiration, I’ve turned to the blues; it always works.

Open Road

I have been on the road on and off for 20 years; it can be a dangerous lifestyle for anyone who hasn’t faced their own demons.  So much time alone, away from friends and family and in constant motion is what leads people to rely on drinking/drugs, etc. to get them through.  The road has almost taken me down a few times.  This is the story of a good friend whose demons got the better of her.

Long Way Down

I was part of a weekly songwriting challenge run by my friend Matt the Electrician.  Every Thursday morning he’d email us a phrase and we’d each have to turn in a recording of a song including that phrase by the next Wednesday.  The phrase that sparked this song was “under the northern” which as you can see is not a full thought which leads me to believe that Matt might have been really stoned when he came up with it.  At any rate I’m very grateful to Matt for the inspiration.   The phrase ‘long way down’ – I just feel like whatever drives me to create, to survive, to put myself out there for the sake of my art is some really deep seated thing I’ll probably never fully understand. I’ve just learned to listen to it because it’s gotten me this far.

-jk