This is about Karla Chisholm

Let me tell you a little story.  I don’t do this often.  Or ever, really.  I’m no good at self promotion and by extension not good at promoting others.  This is unsolicited, by the way.  But first, a song is worth much more than my trying to explain.  So you can skip a lot of this and listen to the songs if you prefer.  Again.  Or for the first time.

Another Quiet Night

Stars are Falling

Well, she’s collecting “Likes”.  I told her that I can only Like her once.  She said, “Yeh, but you can tell your friends.”

Huh.  Good point.  So I’m doing it the best way I know how.  I’ll write it out.  Here’s a link to Karla’s Facebook fan page.  If you like music, particularly singer-songwriters, go there.  “Like” her, even.  There are some sound clips under the Bandpage link, too.  I WANT her CD.  I’ve been waiting for a long time.  The release party/concert — I’ll have to find out when that is now.

http://www.facebook.com/KarlaChisholmFanPage

You Never Know

In the Fall of 2002 (I think), I was driving across the country from San Jose, CA to Baltimore, MD.  I stopped to visit a friend, Natalie, in Denton, TX.  She took me to one of her vocal jazz classes.  I had done an arrangement of “You are My Sunshine” — hm, I should do a version myself — that she recorded.  A beautiful rendition.  I’ve probably got that around here somewhere.  Have to share it with you guys some day.  It was fun to sit in on the class even though I’m kind of shy, especially around that many attractive, young women.  Hard to focus, but it was great to see them all trying to hone their craft.

Natalie introduced me to Karla in that class.  In passing, really.

Fast forward three or four years

Natalie, probably during one of our many IM chats or online Scrabble games, told me that her friend Karla was moving to Baltimore so could I keep an eye out and maybe introduce her to the jazz scene.

Karla got in contact and we got together a few times and played songs from her book.  She sounded great.  I was busy with work and had moved to Alexandria, VA so I couldn’t gig or work with her like I wanted to.  Then, a few months later, I was talking to Karla and she knew just about everyone that I knew.  And more.  She knew every jam session and had started gigging.  Pretty impressive.  She came, she saw, she conquered.  Like that.

I chalk all that up to two things:

1. She did what she had to do to learn the scene and network.  Chased down leads, followed up, did her work.

2. She sounds so good.

And it doesn’t hurt that she’s, you know, really really ridiculously good looking, if I may quote Zoolander.

Substance

I had an epiphany a few years ago.  I had been composing and recording tunes here in Studio Pig Sty (my apartment), but vocals weren’t and still aren’t quite my strong suit.  I made a New Year’s goal declaring 2009 my Year of Collaboration.  I bought a laptop and musical hardware so that I could travel to fellow musicians’ homes or wherever and record them.  I got some good stuff, but man.

I’m going to be honest with you.  I’ve always enjoyed Karla’s voice and style but I didn’t really know … like, there are a lot of pretty, female singers.  They all have their approach to music and their profession or aspirations.  A fair amount of them get by on looks and presentation.  But I had no idea at the time that Karla is a musician, an artist, a storyteller.  (I didn’t know that she wrote her own tunes.)  You’ll understand why I say that in a sec.

Channeling

I emailed her and asked if she’d lay down vocals for some tunes I had been working on.  She said, sure.  How about Saturday?  I said, Okay!  Even though I hadn’t written the songs.  I had a few late, late nights pulling things together.  Somehow I managed to write two new original songs, lay down passable instrumental tracks, come up with some lyrics, write out lead sheets and all that business in the space of about 24 hours.

I don’t know where they came from.  Or how vague ideas about a concept for a song with vocals (I wanted to do a sequel to Jobim’s “Corcovado” aka “Quiet Night of Quiet Stars”) magically turned into something “tangible”, but when I pictured her voice in my head and her delivery, it flowed.  There was practically no effort.  If you write literature, draw, paint or write music, you’ll have one of those experiences every once in a while where it feels like some force is creating through you.  It was like that.  Like the sculpture that lives in the chunk of stone waiting to be released with a chisel.

“Another Quiet Night”

I sent the materials that I could send by email to Karla and she checked them out.  Her now-husband, Todd Googins, was there for the recording and did everything in his power to make things run smoothly.  The chemistry between them in a professional sense made the hours we spent there calming and fun even though I was nervous.  Even when I had one of those “I’m not getting any signal and I don’t know what’s going on and it’s been ten minutes and I’m still farting around with these wires I’m sorry guys” moments.

We started recording and — here’s the thing — Karla started asking me questions.  Not just, “How do you want this?  Was that okay?  This part repeats?”  Not just logistical questions.  She wanted to know what the story was behind the lyrics.  I would explain it the best I could and she would summarize it better than I had explained it.

“Wait.  This phrase repeats.  ‘What’s your hurry?  What’s your hurry?’  Is it supposed to do that?”

I’d say, “Uh, yeh.  It’s kind of like, you know, pleading.  The second time is a little more urgent.  ‘What’s your hurry?  Where are you rushing off to?  I may not see you for … ever.  What’s your hurry?”

She’d say, “Oh!  Got it.  I have an idea.  Can we try this?”

After playing with inflections and tones she would tell me the story of the song.  Her interpretation.  She … got it.  She gets it.  And when she describes the story of a song — when she gets the big picture with the nuances and lays it out for you — it feels like you just watched a movie.

When we listened back to the recording — Karla, Todd and I — I had tears in my eyes.  It was beautiful.  It was music.  It was a story.

“Stars are Falling”

And real quick because I’m in the mood to have a guitar in my hands.  This song is more of a poem than anything else.  Images.  We talked about it.  What did it mean?  What was I thinking about when i wrote it?  Karla recorded two versions and she had two different interpretations.  One was of Bacchanal revelry and the other spiritual reverence.  I used a little from each.

“Anteros”

Okay.  One more really quick thing.  Anteros is the theme of the music I’ve been working on for the best four or five years.  I’ve got lots of songs.  About two dozen and I want to just put them on a CD and maybe iTunes just to get it out the door and move on.  But the song “Anteros”, I haven’t been able to do a version (and there are four versions) that’s … right.  I talked to Karla about it and we had a consulting session where we went over the chord changes, lyrics, melody, phrasing.  Section by section.  I recorded the consulting session and Karla wrote notes with suggestions and recommendations.  Brilliant stuff.  I understand what I was trying to.  Like, all the things I was consciously and subconsciously doing musically, she picked up on and pointed them out.

If you asked, I would tell you that I can’t really play the guitar and sing at the same time.  I don’t know how she does it — she asked me to do it and I was doing it.  Like when you first learned to ride a bike and realized that your mother/father wasn’t holding on to the seat anymore.  I’m doing it!  She’s like the Musician Whisperer or something.  Creatives Therapy.

So when I dust off my music thang, I’m going to work my way up to a polished version of “Anteros”.

Hi, Karla.

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