Inspirations / Shana K. Tucker, follow-up, 6 months later

 

Shana-Tucker-singer-song writer

Not too long ago I did a blog post about a fabulously talented woman, who was living in Chapel Hill at the time we first met. Her name is Shana Tucker. She is currently performing with Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas NV. BUT... she will be in Greensboro, NC. at Greensboro College on September 27th of this year for one night only in a special engagement.

Here is a link to an interview she just put up on her Facebook page. Have a listen and enjoy learning more about this incredible artist.

I am certain I will have my chance to sit down and speak with Shana before her show in September and will be proud to post that interview here for your enjoyment. In the meantime, I hope you will take a listen to her chat with the folks at "BlogTalkRadio" and mark your calendars to help us make September 27th one of the sold out house for her show.

Music Gurus: the voices of "Musivangelism"

Say what you will about musicians. We can be flaky, flighty, irresponsible, prone to procrastinate, loathe reality, unaware of time, lost in a daydream, in love with fantasy, broke most of the time and always in search of a party. There are easily a thousand  excuses to be found justifying almost all of those traits. That's not my intention. What I want to look at is the phenomenon of what happens to those of us on this planet that experience a genuine passion for what we do and how I believe it connects us to the divine on some deep inner level. As a musician, I can only speak about music and those who write or perform it, but I know without question that the divine connection is there in any passionate pursuit.

To get some fodder for my premise, I googled the top 500 songs according to Rolling Stone Magazine. I will work my way through the list seeking the performer and/or writer of each and then search out quotes made by those individuals to see if their own passion felt words back up what I have theorized. It will be an interesting journey for me and I hope for you as well. You could take the journey all by yourself now that I have given you the idea and I wish you well if you choose to go it on your own.

Kevin Mazur/WireImageRapper Jay-Z introduces the Rolling Stone top 500 song picks and he has some eloquent words that immediately hit me. Here are portions of his essay.

"When I'm writing a song that I know is going to work, it's a feeling of euphoria. It's how a basketball player must feel when he starts hitting every shot, when you're in that zone. As soon as you start, you get that magic feeling, an extra feeling."

"When you hear a great song, you can think of where you were when you first heard it, the sounds, the smells. It takes the emotions of a moment and holds it for years to come. It transcends time."

"A great song doesn't attempt to be anything — it just is."

 

John LennonThose words tend to make me think of the divine, though he doesn't ever come out and say it. Now... I will start the journey to discovering the "guru" quality in many musicians that I didn't  include in my previous list of descriptors in a purely random way by starting with a profound quote from John Lennon, one of the more prominent musical voices of the 20th Century, though I have no idea where he ranks on the list. For some reason, of all the thought provoking things he had to say, this one has stuck with me over the years...

"Life is what happens while you're busy making plans"

There's plenty said in those few words...think about it.

Inspirations: Susan Buslett

Susan Buslett As I sat down in front of the computer to write today's piece, I find myself going back in my mind to March 16th 2013, the date of the most recent Showcase of Original Music. There I was behind the sound-board hearing Susan Buslett's name being announced as the next open mic performer and watching her make her way - with some assistance -  to the stage. As I pictured the scene again in my mind, I wondered silently how she felt in that moment, in front of mostly strange faces, about to put herself "out there" after such a long time. I remember feeling her nervousness empathetically, but could hardly imagine what kind of physical effort she was having to exert. That part is important and you'll understand why when I tell you some of her story. But first; since this series is about inspirations, I thought it might be a good idea to see just what the dictionary says about that word. Here's what I found:

in·spire  (n-spr)

v. in·spiredin·spir·ingin·spires
v.tr.
1. To affect, guide, or arouse by divine influence.
2. To fill with enlivening or exalting emotion: hymns that inspire the congregation; an artist who was inspired by Impressionism.
3.
a. To stimulate to action; motivate: a sales force that was inspired by the prospect of a bonus.
b. To affect or touch: The falling leaves inspired her with sadness.
4. To draw forth; elicit or arouse: a teacher who inspired admiration and respect.
5. To be the cause or source of; bring about: an invention that inspired many imitations.

Inspiration can be, and often is, a two-way street. My connection with Susan Buslett and her eventual performance at The Showcase is a perfect example of that. Susan and I were introduced through a mutual friend a couple years ago. Over the course of time and with the aid of some material solicited for this blog, the picture of her journey is now much clearer. Susan began her performing career singing and playing guitar back in 1977. Becoming a mom in 1983 meant juggling responsibilities with dream chasing and so music became, by necessity, more of a part-time endeavor. Being a mom was not the only big event that year. She also wrote and recorded two songs that received air play. Now that might not sound like a big deal today, but in 1983, it was still quite an accomplishment. There are not many performers out there, when asked if they have recordings someone could hear, are able to answer "Yes, and I have them on vinyl." That's real records folks, round black plastic discs and pretty damn cool, if you ask me. Life must have looked pretty good at that point and I imagine what happened next could have hardly been imagined as a possibility in Susan's mind. But then tragedy never announces its arrival nor does it discriminate when choosing its next victim.

With a blinding flash and the grating sound of crushing metal, Susan's life took a horrible turn in 1996 when she was involved in an automobile accident that left her with a serious spinal cord injury. As you can probably imagine, there have been multiple obstacles to overcome in the effort to recover some semblance of her former life. It's been a long, trying process dealing with doctors, hospitals, red tape, pain control and rehabilitation, not to mention her struggle with her ability to play guitar and sing again, which were both affected by the crash. It might have been enough to make someone else give up, but not Susan. By finding the courage and desire to perform on stage that night, for the first time since 1996 (except for some church singing to tracks) as nervous as she may have been and as uncertain of how her hands or voice would respond, Susan was an inspiration for me and reminded of how much I have to be thankful for. Oh, but you know what? The crowd provided her with their own inspiration in the form of some enthusiastic applause.

Inspiration... it's a two-way street.

Inspirations: Matty Sheets

If you Googled "blockhead definition", the first thing you would see at the top of the page of results is the following:

block·head  

/ˈbläkˌhed/
Noun
A stupid person.

Synonyms
dunce - numskull - dolt - loggerhead - dunderhead - fool

 

Greensboro-singer-somngwriter-Matty-SheetsMatty Sheets. photo from Monkeywhale ProductionsBut then... why would I ask you to look up blockheads, or what interest could there be in what is pretty widely accepted as a descriptor of a dolt? Well, all is not as it seems in the world and being a "blockhead" can be a good thing, if you're among the right friends. Such is the case when these dunderheads, as the synonyms would have you believe, are really the supporting musical cast of "Matty Sheets & The Blockeads". But first, some personal history...

The year was 1997 (roughly, and that's as good as it gets in my brain these days... heh). A coffee shop called "Perks Coffee & More", newly opened on South Elm Street in Greensboro, had become the talk of downtown coffee lovers who would no longer have to travel blocks or miles to find the nearest Starbucks. Once rumors hit the street that Perks would be hosting live music, a regular flow of curious musicians started drifting in with hopes of booking a gig. I know all too well. I was one of those musicians and a fortunate one at that, for I did get a gig at Perks. But I digress. During that time, a pair of unassuming guys with rather cavalier attitudes going by the name "Matty & Gino" began playing from time-to-time at Perks. What struck me about them was, unlike me or many of my other musician colleagues, they did not play the expected cover songs, caving to audience or business-owner pressure. They boldly played their own songs with a bit of happy-go-lucky irreverence. But I never took that to mean they weren't serious. I kind of got the feeling it didn't matter what I thought, or anyone else, as far as they were concerned. These two seemed to have decided quite early on that doing their own thing was the ONLY thing to do.

Flatiron's open mic recently celebrated its 10 year anniversary.As is often the case in life, we all ended up going our separate ways. It has only been in the last couple years that I have seen the name Matty Sheets popping up in all sorts of places around Greensboro, but that's not because Matty hasn't been busy. Oh no, quite the opposite. It's more that as I begin to change direction in my own music endeavors, I am becoming more knowledgeable and aware of what's happening locally. Perhaps Matty's most visible and recognized achievement has been hosting what could possibly be the longest-running and arguably most successful open mic in the area, which happens on Tuesday nights at The Flatiron on Summit Avenue. You might even catch him on stage there doing a tune if you're lucky. He is a confident and animated Emcee who has built a family of performers who seem to know and like him and each other, breaking into spontaneous collaborations on any given night.

Open mic Host is only one of a long list of notable things Matty has been involved in since he and I last spent any length of time together. What does the rest of the list look like? Well here, take a look...

Add to the list above the fact that he has been in at least a dozen different bands over the years, the most current being "Matty Sheets & The Blockheads" and "The Slow Drivers", and you can quite easily see that finding time to eat and sleep must be a challenge. You have to be passionate and driven to work this hard and you have to make peace with the struggle that is a way of life for many in the arts. Oh, and by the way, Matty is also a huge advocate for his fellow musicians and doesn't mind "speaking his mind" on the subject or making efforts to lift up the "Creative Class" when possible. I ran into him recently at a meeting hosted by the City of Greensboro to discuss the drafting of regulations and procedures to provide permits for local and travelling musicians which would allow them to "busk", which is to say... perform on the streets as can be commonly seen in many other cities throughout North Carolina and beyond. Matty was very honest about his feelings on the subject and very clear and concise when asked to speak, or offer his take on the topics being bantered back and forth that day. We owe Matty Sheets some big thanks for being an ever-present, ever-persistent force to be reckoned with on the local music scene.

Here's to you Matty!