Happy Solar Eclipse 2017! How many of you experienced the magic in our ceiling? Wow. I took one photo which really just looks like a partly cloudy day, and became envious of everyone else’s amazing eclipse pictures. Ecliptures. Where are your photos?? Let me see!
Since I’m on a performance sabbatical until at least November, I thought I’d share some of the other artistic projects I’ve become aware of in the past couple weeks. There are a TON of amazing, talented musicians out there, and here are just a few of them:
Ess See – this chick is seriously SO fun. I spied her at a gathering for an amazing non-profit called Reveal NYC. Her music is dancey, peppy, high integrity skill and what caught my attention the most was her stage presence. Despite the party being completely engaged socially with one another (which is fine! Friends are good!), she refused to take the roll of background performer. She never once lagged in power or ‘tude, and I really appreciate someone who can do that. You can catch her every week at Rockwood Music Hall where she has a summer residency. Esssee.com
Melanie Penn – I could see Melanie Penn every week and feel like I just had a shot of joy energy. I caught her show at Rockwood Music Hall last week and was so pleasantly surprised by the effortlessness of her vocals, lyrics that grounded my mind while allowing my heart to wonder. Her stage performance reminds me perhaps of my own—quirky tangents and fun little jokes that are perhaps rehearsed but you kinda feel probably not and just generally want to laugh with her. She welcomes you into the space and you don’t want to leave. Melaniepenn.com
Above (or on the side, maybe, depending how this comes up on your screen?) Jenna (left), Melanie (right) (Those directions will be correct regardless of your screen.)
Jenna Nicholls – Blown. Com. Plete. Ly. A. Way. I didn’t recognize this name opening for Melanie Penn (I mean, I didn’t know who Melanie Penn was, either), and I just settled down for what I assumed would be a decent artist, because, Rockwood. Let me say, “decent” should not even be in the same paragraph describing Jenna! Her range is crazy, her voice sultry and inviting, her songs entertaining and evocative, and she is just a darling on stage! If you have the chance to see her, do! DO! Jennanicholls.wordpress.com
And there you have it, a short but amazing list of FANtastic (all female – nice!) musicians. Enjoy, and you’re welcome!
Comment or shoot me a note with your current favorite local artists – I’d love to know!
OVER ONE YEAR has passed since I moved into the City. I told myself, “Do it for a year.” Evaluate, assess, decide. How hard could it be? What could possibly go wrong?
Well, in some ways, EVERYTHING. And in other ways, what could go right? EVERYTHING.
And that’s just how New York City is. It’s everything wrong and everything right. It’s rarely a smooth ride in between hell and heaven. You swap places with Right and Wrong NYC all the time. Right now, everything is right for me, and only getting better. From what I am hearing lately, however, this is not the narrative for all my musician peers.
Let me give you an example of NYC when it’s Wrong.
(Now, I don’t consider myself an anomaly amongst humans in regards to “doing life”. I think I’m an average life-doer, with an average amount of rising and falling with an average amount of pain and growth. BUT.)
At a recent singer/songwriter showcase in which I was honored to participate, the chorus to one writer’s tunes was,
“YOU EXHAUST ME NEW YORK!”
IT’S IN CAPS BECAUSE THAT’S HOW IT FELT WHEN SHE SANG IT.
She had been here long enough to capture the height, depth, and breadth of her experience here in one capitalized agony.
“I don’t belong here, I can’t belong here, maybe I just don’t belong anywhere?”
This was the lamenting of a young (young looking?) girl who had moved to the city from Wisconsin to chase her dreams, and found it unwelcoming, unfriendly, and unforgiving.
“There are people all around me and I’ve never felt so alone.”
This is probably the most common lyric I’ve heard, in various forms. This particular gent’s soul was collapsing under the weight of the loneliness.
Now, let me give you a few examples of NYC when it’s Right.
That isn’t a song lyric, that’s me after showing my visitor from France around the City for a solid four days of walking, touring, walking, eating., and general fun.
“I belong here, you belong here, we belong to each other.’
This is paraphrased from a conversation I had with another musician friend of mine regarding identity, relationship, and our mutual connection to the world because we are human.
“We’ll build our cathedrals tall and fill them with our love.”
This IS a song lyric of mine, taken from my brand new song, “Cathedrals”. It’s reflecting the importance of community, building and growing something together, and filling it with the most important element this life can offer.
Maybe these examples don’t relate well as other-side-of-the-coin examples, except that they are very real feelings for very real people.
|| What is your point!? || you ask ||
The point is I am where I am because I have been extremely lucky to have fallen into the eyes, hands, and hearts of people, friends, fans, and saints like you. That may be the cheesiest thing you read all week. But I’ve never written anything truer. From the beginning I have not been alone, and as I’ve met some of you and you’ve followed my musical journey during my time here, I’ve only become richer in relationship.
So from my last post literal months ago until now, from last year until now, what have I learned? I am exhausted. But I belong here. And I am filled with love. And I know you’re with me in every moment and I could not be more grateful.
Thank you for ALL the support and love! Really great things are happening, I’m moving and grooving and loving it all and SO happy you’re here with me!
On September 10th,
you can be part of one of the greatest gifts.
“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” – Victor Hugo I have never believed more strongly in this statement. You know what it is to be inexplicably joyful, unrelentingly sorrowful, and then – the most beautiful sound arrives at your ear. Your heart leaps, your lips sigh, your nose tingles with unbidden tears… This is the power of music.
This fall, I am traveling to the far off land of the Philippines, a land deep with beautiful people, rich culture, and delicious food. Unfortunately, it is also known for illegal, cruel, and demoralizing human trafficking. On this journey, I will be meeting and teaching girls who are survivors of this horrible injustice, giving them a little more of what they already have – music. Pilipino’s are very musical people, and the girls are so excited! They’ll learn how to read music and how to write their own. I’ll teach them a bit of voice, a bit of composition, and the little guitar I know. We’ll be playing, singing, and worshiping together. And ultimately, they will learn how to use music as a healing art.
The home I will be visiting is with a non-profit organization called Wipe Every Tear. They are currently hosting around 75 girls and women. I am raising funds for a plane ticket, a keyboard for the home, piano books for the girls, a few music stands, and maybe even a second guitar! With 75 girls, you can imagine one guitar and one keyboard would not go far!
On September 10, five days after Labor Day and five days before my birthday, I invite you to be part of this amazing, powerful gift of sound. I will have a link to the fundraiser online, which you may and should share with everyone you know who cares about music, or who cares about girls, or who cares about birthdays, since this is my birthday gift to me, in lieu of gifts!
You may remember this past spring I was organizing a trip with a different NGO, which unfortunately fell through. While anything can happen, please trust I am putting forth every effort to make sure this trip with Wipe Every Tear becomes a reality. You can be part of this reality. You can be part of giving the gift of music to hearts that need it.
Please learn more about the organization HERE, and in the meantime, share this with everyone so we can have a great first fundraising day on September 10th! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Are you ready for Story Time with St. Eloise? I am, so here we go!
This past Wednesday I played a show at a rooftop hotel bar and encountered a record number of… interesting interactions, to say the least. Aside from very enthusiastic kid dancers, the man scaling the Trump tower, and an extremely passionate Greek businessman, there was one moment in particular that stuck with me I will always remember.
I was in the final set of my three-hour gig. Three hours was a long time to sing, even with breaks, so when two boys who looked eighteen or twenty came up requesting Kanye West, I felt justified in my curt “I don’t do requests.”
[Side note: “breaks” at gigs are not a real thing. People want to talk. I am fine if you want to talk at me, but don’t be offended if I just sip water and listen and smile and nod. Because to be honest, if I still have two more hours to sing, I probably don’t want to do a lot of talking right now.]
So! Back to the last of my sets.
I was feeling (again, just honesty here) a bit annoyed by the persistent, “Sing Kanye West!” They were a group of three, with the third kid sitting to the side, waving off his friend’s requests to join them in front of my keyboard. The two dancers just made faces at him and kept dancing. Well, I assume they would have called it dancing.
Flash forward to the end of my set.
“Can we get a picture with you?” the dancer kids begged. I didn’t move towards them and they inched closer. “Just one picture! Can we take just one picture with you!?”
I nodded. “Just one!” They got a photo, and when one kid didn’t like the way he looked and wanted another, I pulled diva card and denied him a second chance.
“Aw, c’mon,” the kids whined. “You’re like Justin Bieber! No pictures with your fans!”
I shook my head and smiled. “I said one picture! You were okay with that. I gotta pack up now.” I began turning away.
“Wait, can I get one picture with you?” a dude-bro stood to my right, holding his phone out to the man who’d taken the kids photo. He looked at me with a hopeful smile. “Just one?”
I may have rolled my eyes. I really hope I didn’t, but I may have. I stepped back over towards him. “Sure! …Just one.” Pose, smile, flash.
“Thank you,” he said, shaking my hand. I smiled at him and quickly turned away from what appeared to be two more bros heading my direction. Kneeling down, I began packing up my cords and keyboard.
“I think you’re really good,” a voice to my right pronounced. I looked up. It was the third non-dancing kid, sitting on an ottoman next to my keyboard.
“Thank you very much,” I smiled.
He gazed at the increasingly loud bar crowd. “I think you’re really on the right track. You just gotta keep playing.” He then peppered me with questions about music, venues, and music business. I wondered how he ended up seeming so much more mature than his peers. As I wrapped up my last cord, he gave me a final encouraging, “I think you’re really good.”
I zipped up my keyboard bag. “Thank you,” I said, standing. “Thanks for the kind words.”
He nodded and I walked away.
I had made it about two blocks when I realized I’d gone the wrong direction. I walked back a block and stood at the corner, waiting for a green light. I felt a light tap on my shoulder.
“Excuse me,” said the non-dancer maybe 20-something kid. He was slightly breathless as he opened his wallet. “I wanted to give you this, because I felt like people weren’t really appreciating how good you were.” He handed me $20. “Do you want another one?” His fingers wavered over another twenty-dollar bill.
I felt the stares of the few people gathered at the light.
“Oh my gosh, no!” I stammered. “One is more than enough!”
He shrugged slightly and stared at his hands. “Yeah, I just wanted to give you that because I don’t think people were listening. You’re really good. And I just wanted you to know that. Because I don’t think people were appreciating how good you are.”
I stared at him. He’d followed me out of the hotel and down a block to relay that message? “Well… Thank you so much!” I smiled big. “Really, thank you so much.”
The light turned green.
“Yep!” the kid nodded, turned around and walked off.
I decided the people at the light probably couldn’t care less about our interaction. I took off in the correct direction and wasn’t sure if I’d start crying, or just keep smiling so big.
My initial reaction in the venue was to entirely dismiss the third kid by association with his friends. They were young, they were pester-y, and they were definitely out of their zone in the midst of the 30 and 40-somethings crammed in and around the hotel bar. The Bieber dig was uncalled for, and so was their dancing.
But how beautiful was this moment stemmed from the least expected place?
He wasn’t wrong about the crowd. People didn’t hate the music, I received about fifteen “Your voice is beautiful!” fly-by’s … but nobody was there for St. Eloise. Luckily, 90% of the time I am perfectly okay with this.
However, when someone, completely unexpectedly, goes far out of their way to make sure you understand they appreciated you and your art, that really stands out. That really, really sticks with you.
That’s why when I say I appreciate your comments, your letters, emails, and especially your presence at my shows, I REALLY mean it! It’s unexpected. It stands out. YOU stand out. It’s beautiful. And I will never forget.
Thank you, non-dancing kid whose name I don’t even know. Your effort to make sure your message was clear moved me. You are encouraging more than you know. Thank you.
DID YOU KNOW? … I moved to New York City! You may have seen that on one of the social medias, but I’ll confirm it in this letter – I’m here! I’ve been here almost two months. (What!?) I’m paying rent, buying groceries at the local market, and doing laundry (for the first time in my life) at a laundromat! It’s all very new, very big, and very, very exciting! I guess that also means I haven’t written in months. So here we are!
So what does this mean for St. Eloise?
Many of you have asked about the band. Your FAQ:
“Did the band move with you?”
No, as much as I would love them to have ventured up here with me, the guys I play with are married with kids and homes and all kinds of adult responsibilities. All good things! But I’ll be either having them join me for important gigs up here, or meeting and playing with the endless musicians already living in the City.
“Do you have gigs?”
I’ve had two in Manhattan so far, with one happening this Wednesday in Brooklyn! The first two were on the same day – a crazy sort of adventure, one on a fancy hotel rooftop, the other in a fun, dive bar. My small audience was very encouraging, and plan to come to future shows!
“Will you carry your monster keyboard around with you?”
If you’ve seen me perform live, you know the beast spoken of. It’s possibly 100lb with the case. Thankfully, I don’t have to try to lug that about! I bought a smaller, 15lb Yamaha MOXF6, a synthesizer with more capabilities than can fit in an unabridged version of Les Miserables.
“What do you hope will happen?”
Honestly? Here’s what I really hope for: to learn more about my craft, my passion and my Self. I hope to become more engaging in my performances, to become consistent in my practicing, and stronger in my songwriting. I hope, yes, the “right person” will hear my music and it will take off – viral videos, tours, sold out shows, CD’s flying off the virtual shelves. But at the end of the day, I hope that in this great big city that wants to chew you up and spit you out, pursuing music will make me a better person.
Thank you so much for supporting me, for your encouragement, feedback and thoughts! It truly means so very much.
Any time I meet someone interested in my music, I of course shamelessly suggest they can look me up on line. “I go by St Elouise,” I say.
They dutifully begin typing in their phone. “Hmm… nothing is coming up.”
I knowingly nod. “There’s a ‘U’ in Elouise, did you get that in there?”
“OH! There you are.” They beam and click “like”.
Many moons later, I am still qualifying “St Elouise with a ‘U'” at every show. And after many moons of thinking “I should have made my name without the U. Probably lots of people think they can’t find me.”, I have finally taken the plunge. Pulled the plug. Dropped the other shoe. Thrown the bathwater and held on to the baby, hoping for a growth spurt.
Officially, I will be going by St Eloise, withOUT the U, the way Eloise is typically spelled, the way 99% of my audience tries to spell it. My middle name is Louise, WITH a U, but I feel no part of me is losing out on this deal.
However! I wish dearly to hear back from you about this change! What do you think? Does it bother you? Will you survive the change? Will you still come to shows?? Will you suddenly start spelling Elouise with a U??? Do tell me.
I’m excited and nervous about this. It’s a seemingly small shift, but it’s a name. When names change, it signifies an important moment. So here’s to significant change via a small element! May it be great, and may you continue to be a great part of it!