Tell us about your tour vehicle. Any notable breakdown stories?
It’s a 2004 Chevy Express 15 passenger van. It has about 194,000 miles. Have already had to have a few major repairs, including fixing and/or replacing the AC twice now.
A couple summers ago, the AC in my house conked out the day before we were leaving for tour. We didn’t have time to deal with it, so we headed out and then the AC in the van died in a traffic jam as we were pulling into soundcheck in DC. It was a whole east coast heat wave, so probably 90 degrees with thick humidity! We couldn’t get the van fixed due to the tight tour schedule so we had to drive the rest of the weekend, luckily it was only a few dates, with the windows down (front only since back windows just crack). Everyone was dying of heat, wearing minimal clothing, and no one could talk because the highway sound was so loud, plus no one was in the greatest mood. On top of that, my drummer, who also happens to be my husband, was covered in poison ivy and was jacked up on steroids… I’ll just leave that there.
We were supposed to stay with friends in DC but then their AC broke that same night – I’m not making this stuff up. The last day we had a late night bar gig end at maybe 1am; I was sexually harassed at the merch table by a bachelor party of dudes, then we had to drive a couple hours north. Because it was a beach town, all the hotels were triple the reasonable price and we couldn’t get a room with multiple beds. So myself, husband/drummer and fiddle player all slept in one bed, then had to wake up by 5 or 6am to get to a noon load-in for a festival in upstate New York. ALL WITHOUT AC IN A 15 PASSENGER VAN IN THE MIDDLE OF SUMMER. I seriously didn’t exaggerate any of this. Oh yeah! And I had a wad of cash stolen out of my purse in one of the green rooms.
How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?
As much as I hate to admit it, I’m a sensitive being so I have learned that I have to take care of myself. Otherwise, I break down and lose my voice. I pack a lot of snacks including instant oatmeal, chia seeds, power bars, my own coffee, teas, fruit, veggies, etc. Whole Foods and health food stores are top Google map searches. I love to have some tour cheats though like late night pizza in NYC. And I definitely have a thing for doughnuts… and gas station hot dogs, but only in Scandinavia. I won’t do it in the U.S. This distinction is based on feeling alone and not factual information.
How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?
Honestly barely any, maybe that makes me less cool? It has happened a couple of times on stage but not in years. I use medium or light gauge strings by Straight Up Strings, depending on which guitar I’m using, and change them as soon as they start feeling a little dirty or gritty on my fingers.
Where do you rehearse?
We rehearse in my basement which is our functioning recording and studio space. No crazy experiences that I can think of, maybe just hearing me mess up and curse a lot… it’s pretty uneventful down there.
Before moving to Nashville, I lived in Brooklyn where my husband/drummer and I shared a rehearsal space in Gowanus with a couple guys from Elvis Perkins’ band. There was no parking, so often times you’d get a $100+ parking ticket while loading in gear, then go park 8 blocks away. The elevator was mostly broken and the rehearsal room was on the 3rd floor so we spent a lot of time carrying drums up and down those stairs. And whenever there was heavy rain, the very polluted Gowanus would flood so you couldn’t get to the street of the building. And people still ask me why I moved to Nashville!
What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?
Well the very first song I wrote was when I was 5 and it was an instrumental piano piece called “When Daddy Comes Home”. My dad was out to sea in the Navy a lot. When I was about 9 or 10, I wrote a rap called “Hey Don’t Smoke” – lyrics below. I don’t think I attempted to marry lyrics and music until I was 17 and that was another sad song called “These Tears”.
“Hey don’t smoke, smoking isn’t like ya
Listen to your heart cause that’s the way you do it
Listen to the people, what are they saying?
‘Don’t Smoke!; It’ll hurtchya”
Describe your first gig.
It was a little place on the Upper West Side in Manhattan called the UnderGround Lounge. I walked in and gave the owner a burned cd with a print out of one of my high school senior photos. I’m pretty sure the burned cd was of me doing jazz standards as well. I didn’t play guitar yet so I had a guitarist friend play and I think I only had 3 original songs, so mostly covers. I think there was a Dixie Chicks cover, Joni Mitchell and a Jewel song… and probably some jazz standards. “Cry Me A River” was a staple. I’m really glad there are no videos or audio recordings of that time.
What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?
I still teach private music lessons (piano, guitar, voice, songwriting) as well as at camps and workshops. I probably always will teach as long as my schedule allows because I love it and feel like it helps simultaneously ground and inspire me.
My last “day” job was the only “real” one I had, which was working at Nonesuch Records as the marketing coordinator for 2 years, right at the end and out of college. That was the greatest job. It’s been 10 years since then and I still sometimes miss it. It was just such a great education/introduction to the music business, exposure and access to incredible albums, artists, concerts and culture. And the greatest people worked there, some of whom remain very close friends today. What other job do you get to roll in at 10, not have to conceal that you’re hungover because you were out late at a concert the night before, because everyone else was there too, and then go to a Jimmy Fallon taping in the middle of the work day afternoon? (I also worked very very hard promoting records.)
How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?
It has definitely grown and diversified the last 5-10 years but I have learned that as income grows, expenses often grow as well. I expect it to keep growing over the next 5-10 years and diversifying even more. I’m especially excited to keep growing my tour business and income as the performance side is one of my favorite aspects of being a musician.
What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?
That I’d be doing this for life so enjoy it, take the long road and let the anxiety go. I still have to tell myself this daily.