Limerick Mania! In which you are All Terribly Clever

05/02/2011 at 8:02 pm | Posted in How to this-or-that, Just for Fun, News & Explanations | 8 Comments

I asked you all for limericks, and wow, was I inundated! About a third are featured here, though I read and loved every single one. Even the ones that weren’t quite limericks.

As I suspected, the topics divided themselves neatly into the same material that seems to fill my Twitter and Facebook feeds most of the time. Enjoy, these are fantastically fun:

on Sci-Fi and Space

When Marian one night dreamt/
of Han Solo, hair all unkempt/
of Wash crashing a Volvo/
and Starbuck singing a Solo/
she smiled and slept on quite content.
– Andreas Ista (Facebook submission)

Mmmmmm scruffy Han…I’ll be in my bunk.

The worlds of the Twelve Tribes of Man
Were nuked in the Cylon’s grand plan
So jump did the Fleet
Toward Earth in retreat
And all this will happen again
– @dunemuaddib

He walks with a strut in his stride
His chest will be puffed up with pride.
He sleeps with his gun
starts bar fights for fun
But it’s good to have Jayne on your side.
– @realityfree

One last opportunity soon
Atlantis is flying in June
The astronaut’s choice
Is Marian’s voice
They ‘d rather hear “Good Morning, ____” [Moon!]
– @bird2brain

This poet pulls the neat trick of making the last three lines a haiku(ish). A limerick-haiku hybrid. Sounds dangerous:

There was a warlock, Zaboo,
Who wrote the following haiku:
“I really love Cyd
I’m kind of obsessed’d
What’s a gnome to do?”
– @alalcoolj

And a show cancellation lament, which could be its own poetry genre among geeks:

SGU was sub-par, we all knew it.
 / Just at first; oh, my gosh, David Hewlett! 
/ Season two’s gotten good / 
…Wish I’d known that it would / 
It’s too late; Syfy, why did you do it?
– @DiscotrashUK

on Marian

In Alaska, the largest of all
There are sounds guaranteed to enthrall –
If you listen at night
And you’re lucky, you might
Hear a loon or a Marian call!
– @tokenskeptic

We have a successful Alaska rhymer! Voilà:

There once was a girl from Alaska,
A musical multitasker.
She’d play melodies,
On typewriter keys,
And rainstick whenever you’d ask her.
– @treelobsters

A couple of Trusty Rainstick odes I loved:

A rainstick was fearful of flying
for TSA sure wasn’t buying
the whole instrument gig
and they don’t give a fig
that poor Marian would be left crying

There was a musician named Marian,
Whose rainstick was carried as carry on.
but she waved it and cracked it,
so she auctioned and packed it,
and now she can go get another one.
– @monkeysailor

Since I was going on about Waffles all week…

My breakfast this morning is awful
So bland it should be unlawful
Give me some fruit
And sweet syrup to boot
My kingdom I’d give for a waffle!
– @programmerman

And a bragging poem from my bestest girl in NYC and the author of @_CityStories and other fine blogs:

Are you waiting, dear Marian, on me?
I’m a talented poet, you see.
But I won’t win the contest,
for I’ve known you longest,
and I get your voicemails for free.
– @thefauxgourmet

Self-Deprecating and Self-Referential Poetry on Poetry

Some of you were stuck for rhymes:

‘pon eating a huge Baked Alaska,
My girl said she’d dance if I asked her.
Her moves were so fine,
I said “Do be mine!”
What the frak rhymes: Madagascar.
– @RichardBuckle

Of redheads I have to opine,
A particular penchant of mine,
I love hair that’s ginger,
Especially when oranger,
Oh bugger, I’ve run out of rhymes.
– @treelobsters

There once was a hipster in Homer
Who turned out to be quite a world-roamer
She drove everywhere
And sang for her fare
And I can’t come up with another rhyme for Homer. But she could, she’s really clever at lyrics and stuff.
– @edrafalko

Flattery will get you everywhere, Ed.

A limerick for Marian Call?
But I’m no good with poems at all!
The words come out wrong,
they’re usually too long
and in the end they don’t even rhyme. Damn…
– @Fengschwing

Every once upon a long time
I attempt to compose a nice rhyme.
But I’m rather afraid
That I’ll never be paid
And I’ll end up becoming a mime.
– Shoshana Bailar (e-mail submission)

Mimes aren’t paid so well either, Shoshana, you might want a Plan C…

A complaint I must bring to our host.
At another time, this I would toast!
For the hour is quite late,
to add this to my plate.
Bad timing, you have, for the east coast.
– @jbrodman

Thank you Yankee Yoda. And a complaint about the PG-13 restriction:

There once was a man from a land
Which sounds like a masculine gland
Sure you know what I mean
But to stay PG-13
Requires this punchline be bland
– @dunemuaddib

Finally, commentary on Twitter limitations, for those of you who didn’t know you could submit via Facebook or my blog:

A Limerick contest is fun,
but twitter’s a son of a gun.
I had an idea,
but it’s painfully clear,
I’m going to run out of charac

A Twitter limerick
Is quite a nifty trick
You have to cut
The lines all short
To get them all to fit
– @omir55

Limericks are fine
But Haiku is much better
To write on Twitter
– @arwenanang

and a terrific limerick too, on my very favorite topic:

A woman so eager and pure
I went like a fish at the lure
We shouldn’t have kissed
But I couldn’t resist
Special Hell awaits me for sure
– @alaskarobotics

(You MUST see the image at Also, all his other comics which I am now reading with gusto.)


For good scansion, rhymes, a clever line wrap, humor, and topical pertinence:

I thought Marian’s lovely young tone
Would sound perfect upon my cell phone.
My wife gave me a wallop
After hearing “some trollop”
Leave a message. Now I sleep alone.

– Jonathan Strickland (blog submission)

So sorry, Jonathan, but you will be sleeping alone. Although I can sing uglier if you like — the karaoke song, perhaps, wouldn’t put your wife off so much? E-mail me to claim your prize, mariancall*at*!

Thank you all SO MUCH for entering. You are fantastic and I want to give you guys every fun and good thing. Thank you for the community and the fun!


Limerick Contest!!!

04/28/2011 at 2:45 am | Posted in How to this-or-that, Just for Fun, News & Explanations | 26 Comments

Impulses are fun!

Today and tomorrow I am calling folks who bought singing voicemails from me in my fundraiser for my new album Something Fierce, and I was a tiny bit sad because not every fan who desired a voicemail got one.  I wanted to give more one away for free just for fun, but didn’t want to devalue the messages folks already paid for.

Then @joethepeacock swooped to the rescue and generously purchased one more voicemail to be awarded to the lucky winner of this contest!  Rules as follows:

  • Submit a limerick (or as many as you like) to me via Twitter, Facebook, or e-mail (mariancall*at*!!
  • Material should be PG-13 please as I’m going to post it on my blog!!
  • It doesn’t necessarily have to be about me, it can be about anything that might amuse us all!!
  • I’ll pick a favorite with no guarantees of impartiality or fairness, and the creator will win a voicemail from me!!
  • Several non-winners will be posted on my blog for fun!!
  • Contest begins now and ends whenever I wake up tomorrow, likely to be about 10am AKDT!!

The Voicemail portion of my annual fundraiser is of course inspired by the radio show Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me! in which contestants play for Carl Kasell’s voice on their home answering machine.  Which is pretty much one of my favorite prizes I ever heard of.  So in addition to winning a voicemail, the winner gets the fun of being announced as winner on Twitter by @PeterSagal.  (If this means nothing to you, well, you should listen to the radio more often, because then you’d know how frakking awesome that is.)

Why limericks? Because I love to rhyme and scansion is my life.  Points for working with/against the form.



Fundraiser 2011: Releasing Something Fierce!

04/12/2011 at 11:41 am | Posted in How to this-or-that, News & Explanations | 5 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

**Update: fundraiser now closed.  Thank you so much for contributing!**

As of about 3am yesterday morning, I’ve finished one of two discs of Something Fierce, the new album that’s been in production for over a year and a half now.  Still more work to go, but I’m racing to the finish and want to release it VERY SOON.

When, you ask?  I’m so, so afraid that if I name a date before I have a master, I’ll jinx it.  But VERY SOON.  I’m planning so hard.

That means it’s time for the final push of fundraising to release the album.  Why fundraise? Read the highlighted bits of this blog from last year (scroll down) to answer that very good question.  What production expenses remain? Only a few, but they’re pricey ones — mixing and mastering, artwork, duplication, shipping, and the bare essentials of promotional materials.  Plus Marian’s survival on Spaghetti-O’s until the album comes out.

Fundraiser Stuff is going on sale Monday, April 18th, roughly midday AKST and the auction will close during that week, at staggered hours on 4/22.  I strive to think up the awesomest and strangest stuff to give you guys at Fundraiser Time.  Here’s what you can enjoy this year, in a wide price range, scroll down for more on each item:

  • Autographed personalized poster (for Something Fierce!) with the crowd favorite library photo by Brian Adams, $15 +S&H
  • Custom ultra-sassy jewelry by Bella Boutique’s @anniepants: #frakabanjo necklaces, dog tags, and actual banjos, $30 +S&H and up
  • A voicemail from Marian singing your favorite verses right to you, $25
  • T-shirts and tote bags, print to order at (these are actually available anytime)
  • On the Auction Block: 2 sets of framed handwritten lyrics, “Anchorage” and “Highway Five”
  • On the Auction Block: 3 cover songs.  Bid and tell Marian what you want her to record and release for you!
  • On the Auction Block: my beloved rainstick, which has played in all 50 states and most of Canada, with thanks to TSA for letting me keep it despite its appearances. Half the proceeds from this item go to flood relief in Australia. Why? See below.
  • Still room for a few folks on the Donors’ Circle, meaning you get tons of exclusive goodies when the album’s released

There are details and limited quantities and such on all these, so scroll down and read up on the item you want and please, pay attention to instructions so you don’t miss out or mess up.  Again, links to purchase/bid are below, on this exact same blog post.  You can always ask me specific questions via FB, e-mail, or Twitter.

If all that’s a little rich for your blood and you just want to support, or if you don’t care about getting stuffs, you can simply tip $5, tip $10, tip $25, tip $42 (the geek solidarity pledge!), pick up of my some tunes at Bandcamp, or give $200 or more to join the Donors’ Circle funding the new album.

And hey, if you got no money, that’s ok.  I have oft been there myself.  If you want to support without money, just talk about it, buzz about it, tweet or facebook or call Grandma about it.  I am so thankful for your support, and listening and talking about the music is the best possible gift.  Dollars come and just as quickly go.  Songs in other people’s lives, those stick around.  So don’t worry, I don’t calculate fan devotion in dollars. That would be stoopid.

But first!  The reason it’s worth buying this stuff, tipping, talking about the project, or joining the Donors’ Circle** — besides the fact I think it’s really cool stuff — VOILÀ!  Behold, for the first time in public:

That’s right.  These are first draft album covers.  Artwork not yet final, photos by the totally incredible Brian Adams, originally from Alaska, now living in Brooklyn.  This project features a lot of his work — the double disc will be as much an art project as a music project.  It will have all the lyrics inside.  It will be gorgeous to hold.  It will be made from post-consumer recycled materials and nearly carbon-neutral.  (Update: oh yeah, you’ve seen the Volume II cover on Bandcamp, but the Volume I cover was the big reveal, and is pretty much my favorite photo Brian & I have ever taken.)

As soon as I have a master in hand, I’ll begin pre-orders.  And yes, I will be taking a waiting list to print beautiful beautiful vinyl.  It’ll be exceedingly spendy, but if you want it, I’ll print it.  Anything for you.

(And yes, that is the O.E.D. over my head in my local public library.)

Personalized Autographed Posters

The poster to match the new album is out, with a much-celebrated photo by Brian Adams of Marian in the reading room of her local library (under the O.E.D.).  Only 10 available starting 4/18, so set an alarm; ships rolled, with any concert date or dedication you like handwritten on it.  Signature too, of course.  Click for larger photo // $15 + $7.95 S&H for those darned expensive tubes.  International shipping possible, order as you normally would and expect a small extra invoice to cover cost only.

Custom Jewelry by Annie Ciszak Pazar

I love the savvy, chic modern jewelry and other goodies that @bella_boutique sells here in Anchorage, and Bella’s owner @anniepants agreed to do some custom pieces for you guys!  The pendant necklaces below are made of sterling silver and real pearls on 18″ silver chains, and the dog tags are stainless steel on 22″ ball chains.  Each piece is hand stamped with a little extra sass because that’s how Annie rolls.

I also custom-ordered two copper & silver banjos for the auction — Annie’s never made banjos before, and unless some sterling-happy bluegrass band orders some more, she probably never will again!  Scroll down to the auction items to see the truly incredible silver & copper 5-string banjos.

The necklaces & dog tags for sale come in four varieties — pictures, specs, & shipping details are below.  Only 10 of each are available (first-come, first-serve).  Auction items at the bottom (2 #frakabanjos).  You can find more of Annie’s amazing work at or

  • #frakabanjo became my favorite curse word sometime in January 2010 when I couldn’t get my banjo, trumpets, and cellos to line up properly in ProTools.  It’s seen plenty of Twitter airplay since.  Pendant diameter is about the size of a quarter & solid sterling silver, chain is 18″.  $45 plus $5.95 S&H.
  • “anchorage” is spelled here with a lower case ‘a’ because though my song by that name is about my preferred city, it’s even more about the larger notion of anchorage — finding a harbor, dwelling awhile in some peace, hope, and protection.  Also, coffee and beer.  Pendant diameter is about the size of a quarter, & pearl is dark blue/turquoise. $48 plus $5.95 S&H.

  • “mc” is simple and understated, and can stand for anything you like (suggestions welcome).  The pearl is actually chartreuse, photo here makes it appear to be orange.  This silver pendant is smaller, a little bigger than a dime. $32 plus $5.95 S&H.
  • For those less inclined to silver & pearls, these stainless steel dog tags may do the trick.  Simple, durable & banjo-y on a ball chain. $30 plus $5.95 S&H.

All shipping is domestic priority USPS — items normally ship only a few cents over the cost of materials & postage.  International shipping available for these items, overseas rates vary.  International friends place your order as usual, but expect to work out a small extra Paypal invoice to cover additional shipping costs, as per mutual agreement with mariancall*at*

Voicemail by Marian

I will skype your voicemail and leave you a message with whatever snippet of an original song you like!  I’ll also record what I sing you and send it to you as an MP3 so you can do with the clean audio whatever you like.

Rules and stuff: first-come first-serve. / Be sure to specify what time zone you’re in and what piece of a song you want; don’t say “surprise me,” you should be a grown-up and choose something. / No, you don’t get my phone number. / If I catch you in person, we’ll talk for no more than about 5 minutes and I’m sure it will be lovely and I am friendly and love to talk to you.  Please don’t try to keep me on the phone forever though.

T-shirts and Tote Bags

(How very NPR of me.) The T-shirt store is open all the time, so this is nothing new.  But now’s a good time to snag one!  Have a look over at the Marian Call Store.  Shirts and bags and such are environmentally-friendly printing and sweatshop-free production and they’re print-to-order.  They have a very cool vintage faded look but should stand more washings than traditional silkscreen.  Choose your own merch, cut and color — be aware that designs will be subtle on darker fabrics offered.  I’m aware that not enough sizes are available at this time, sorry, hoping to remedy that with an additional store in the future!

#frakabanjos by Annie Ciszak Pazar

These are two separate auction items, handmade and therefore not quite identical to one another.  Update: auction now closed.  I love the savvy, chic modern jewelry and other goodies that @bella_boutique sells here in Anchorage, and Bella’s owner @anniepants agreed to do some really special custom work for the occasion!

These are my #frakabanjos.  Annie’s never made banjos before, and unless some sterling-happy bluegrass band orders some more, she probably never will again!  They’re made of sealed copper and sterling silver, and each 5-string banjo is about 3″ long on an 18″ sterling silver chain.  They’re handmade and stamped with a little sass because that’s how Annie rolls.  You can find more of her amazing work at or

#frakabanjo became my favorite curse word sometime in January 2010 when I couldn’t get her banjo, trumpets, and cellos to line up properly in ProTools for the song “Dear Mister Darcy,” from which the album title comes.  It’s seen plenty of Twitter airplay since.

$5.95 S&H, ships insured, USPS priority — international shipping available, increased charges apply.

Handwritten Framed Lyrics: “Anchorage” & “Highway Five”

These are two separate auction items.  Update: auction now closed.  Marian has nice handwriting, and she likes to write out her lyrics for fans.  Two songs will be available this time: “Anchorage” and “Highway Five,” both from Something Fierce, one of each.  The songs will be abridged so as to fit nicely on one page, but will definitely include hooks/choruses, and at the winner’s request, specific very important lines from those songs.  Dedication & signature included of course.  (Pictured below are a previous year’s lyrics, the finished product.)

$24.95 S&H, ships framed, insured, USPS priority — international shipping available, increased charges apply.

Cover Songs of Your Choosing

These are auction items.  There are three of them, closing at different times.  Update: auction now closed.

Three winners will each get to choose a song for Marian to cover and release online, as part of a 5-song EP of all cover songs to be released soon after Something Fierce. Here are the rules:

– Each winner will suggest three songs, all of reasonable length (less than 6 minutes), ratedPG-13 or milder, and within Marian’s character
– Marian will choose the one song from each winner that she thinks will work the best for her as an adaptation
– Songs will be recorded in April-May 2011, so allow 6 weeks for delivery
– Winners will get to preview the track before release, and will be shipped a physical copy of the EP (homeburned, signed, smooched, &c.)
– The fourth song on the EP will be voted on by fans after the fundraiser, no purchase necessary.  The fifth will be Marian’s choice at the end (to bring some cohesion to the set).
– The full EP will be released online to the winners and the Donors’ Circle immediately, and to the larger world approximately whenever Marian feels like it and has time after Something Fierce comes out.
– Disclaimers:  Bidders should note that this is not a dare, so please don’t suggest “Quit Playin’ Games With My Heart” just to bother Marian.  That’s unhelpful.  And please don’t ask for a song by a super-obscure artist you want to promote.  The ideal songs would be at least moderately well-known so that other listeners can enjoy the experience of a cover as well.  The production will also be very simple, so don’t suggest something that won’t work with just guitar or keyboard.  And don’t try to control the production.  Let Marian be Marian and you’ll get a good cover.

The Trusty Rainstick

This is an auction item.  Half of the proceeds go to Flood Relief in Australia (see below), half to the completion of the album.  To bid, visit Marian’s eBay page.

Once upon a time in 2008, boys and girls, the Browncoats of San Diego welcomed an insomniac Alaskan singer-nobody-ever-heard-of to their bonfire on the beach and presented her with a rainstick.  That was Marian’s first proper tour concert outside Alaska, and instead of keeping her rainstick for a tchotchke, she started playing it in her shows and on her albums, and she took it on tour.  And she got it signed by some medium-famous people, namely Adam Baldwin, Alan Tudyk, & Nathan Fillion.  She shook it in every state and nearly all of Canada; it’s been wrested away from TSA’s clutches more than once, and it’s played shows of all sizes for all sorts over its three-year term.

So it’s time to retire the rainstick, which is an instrument with a shelf life — the beads and thorns inside break down so it’s getting quieter.  The signatures of famous people have nearly worn off from actual use.  And (this is true) on the last concert of the last night of the 49>50 Tour, in Honolulu HI, Marian emphasized the end of “Avocado Song” by swinging it over her head, and *SMACK!* it cracked on a low ceiling beam.  In March 2011 the rainstick played its last concert, on the beach in Orange County near the origin of its Marian Call story.  Now it wants to live with a collector who will love it and let it chill out for awhile, quit making all that rain.

The rainstick comes shipped lovingly as is, well worn, with the same yellow and orange yarn lovingly wound by Dwight Bragdon, the original rainstick provider.  The Nathan Fillion & Adam Baldwin signatures are still visible, and traces of the Alan Tudyk signature can be seen if you know where to look.  But it’s not a pristine object by any means.

Auction closed, sorry.  Thank you for raising $762.50 for Flood Relief in Queensland, AU!  If you wish to donate yourself, visit this site.


You are all awesome.  Any purchases you make during the fundraiser that add up to $200 or more will add you to the Donors’ Circle, and a purchase in the right amount if you’re already a member will bump you up to the next level &c.  If you suspect you should be in the circle or else bumped up a level and I haven’t taken care of it, just shoot me an e-mail and let me know.

*Why flood relief in Australia? The planet had more than its share of disasters in the last couple of months, and enough funds can hardly ever be raised to help everyone in need of help at this time.  I am moved by all of the urgent causes right now, but I find that by and large this one has been nearly forgotten, and I’m following the lead of the SoCal Browncoats in doing a very small bit to help a few people.
*Why only half? I am bothered by not giving it all, but at the same time I can’t afford to.  On Art And Charity:  As an artist, I really couldn’t afford to make a sizable donation like this at all except by selling something that I have that’s of value.  So really, it’s a donation from the buyer straight to the cause through me, and the hope is the buyer is making a donation they might not have otherwise made if they didn’t want to purchase something from me.  This is an age-old nonprofit fundraising strategy.  Artists don’t have money to give, so we sell stuff and give that money.  I’ve become a little distressed at the consistent pattern, though, of artists giving a substantial percentage of their work away entirely for free to raise money for nonprofits.  Charity auction season can impoverish artists.  And that’s shortsighted on the part of both artists and charities.  The original materials or time (or whatever added value there may be) that go into a work of art have a cost, and after a few massive donations of all that stuff with no compensation, we can’t even afford to make more art to sell, let alone to give away.  I think (I hope) it’s a more reasonable standard for artists to sell or auction things for charity and recover a fraction of the cost or value they put into creating something valuable so they’ll have a means to A) stay alive and B) create more to give to charities or nonprofits in the future.  I’m not taking a firm or severe stance here or trying to sell this point to others, just trying to start setting a precedent that works for me to raise funds for charity and at the same time keep eating and creating.  I try to do a charity fundraising project per month at least, and the more I do it, the more I learn the importance of sustainability for artists fond of nonprofit work — and for the nonprofits who are constantly asking artists for completely free stuff, with the assumption that it won’t cost us much to give it away in exchange for exposure (and often very little of that).
*But you didn’t make the rainstick. Now you’re being persnickety.  I know.  But hopefully I added value to it, and by doing so made a charitable donation possible, as well as a happy fan, as well as some funding for my new record.  The auction will tell how valuable it is.  Now go troll someone else, stupid troll inside my brain.  I haz good reasons for what I do!

Special Shows: all about community

04/06/2011 at 9:22 am | Posted in How to this-or-that, Music, News & Explanations, Stories from Alaska | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

There are some special-enough shows coming up that they deserve more than 140 characters.  Because I’m sensing a theme.

First, the show details, then the important-ish things I’ve been thinking about for months:

4/14/11 Vagabond Blues in Palmer AK – Marian Call Poetry-Themed Solo Show

I only have one serious solo show in Southcentral AK this month, and it’s at one of my favorite venues in the state.  If you haven’t heard a show at Vagabond, it’s worth going and bringing friends.  Quiet, intimate, one of the best natural acoustic spaces for music anywhere in Alaska, hardly any of amplification needed.  Plus great coffee & healthy food.  I do hope you’ll come hear this show — I’ve been sort of creating my own venues lately, which is fun, but oh, what a relief to play in a music venue designed exactly for what I do! And this will be a special show for National Poetry Month — if you hadn’t picked up on it, poetry is deeply important to me and to what I do.  You may hear some unusual stories & poems!  Tickets available online at this link or at Vagabond Blues or Fireside Books. Bring the kids, it’s all ages and kids should enjoy concerts!  Facebook event to share here.

4/15/11 Acoustic North AK – Live at the Snow Goose Theater – Streaming Online at

Last year I helped coordinate a showcase of four female singer-songwriters in Anchorage.  The show sold out, tons of people watched online, and universally we heard the same thing: Do More Stuff Like This!!!! For a number of folks it was their most memorable concert of the year; I heard those exact words over and over.  It was like Mountain Stage or Prairie Home Companion, people said.  It was magic.

Why it was magic:  we were community.  We were experiencing something all at the same time, all together.

So we’re doing it again, but this time with more musicians (boys even!), several poets, and a more serious focus moving forward.  I love the touring artists we get through Anchorage.  But I want to see our very own local talent on the same great stages in the same quiet venues, not just consigned to noisy bars or background music.  We have incredible folks here in Anchorage (so many we couldn’t begin to fit them all on one bill) and I am excited to experience a few of them together in the right kind of place.  And you can see this event live in Anchorage, it will be amazing — tickets on sale now at, $10-15 — or you can watch it on Ustream, live or after the fact.  This will be a show to remember. Facebook event here for the live concert, Facebook event here for the webstream.  Invite someone!


Acoustic North AK Poster

Now for some ill-informed ramblings that I’ll likely regret when someone brings up politics in the comments (don’t).

The 49>50 Tour all over the continent taught me a great many things, like how suspicious I should be of Cincinnati chili (60%), how to eat a crab that still has its shell on (cringeing), and how often the GPS is infuriatingly correct (about 98% of the time. Infuriating).  But mostly it taught me that our culture is trying really really hard right now to figure out community.  That’s why social networking hit a nerve with this poor species and took off so quickly — and that’s why advertising is trying to sell you not shampoo, but a relationship with your shampoo — we’re reaching out for people, for a sense of connection, for sharing.  And yet in some ways isolating ourselves more.  We can select our company and our entertainment with incredible precision & customization, yet I don’t think that’s quite the route to happiness.  Two things have been rattling around in my brain with respect to this Acoustic North show:

1. I love my online world, Facebook, Twitter, &c.  I don’t see it as interfering with community — for me it actually creates community.  But then — I personally spend a LOT of time going out in real life, with real people, to real events that we share all at once.  I chat on Twitter with people and then try to get to a Tweetup or have coffee.  I make friends online and then drive several thousand miles to meet them in person, and try to create a real life experience we can have in common — including online Real Time Experiences.  (Webstreams and radio, I find, have a more unifying community feel than customized entertainment like Pandora.  Why?  You’re sharing the listening experience with other people.  It’s not just for you.  You selfish human you.)

My point is: the Internet is as community-creating or as community-sucking as you let it be.  If the Web is sucking your community away from you, if you’re getting Facebook-depressed and refreshing to no effect, then go have an experience together with a lot of other people in real time.  If you’re shy, find one that doesn’t make you nervous, possibly even a webstream or online radio that has a strong community.  It really really helps.  And it scratches far more deeply the itch that social media only begins to reach.  Don’t your most satisfying social media experiences happen when, for a brief moment, everyone’s talking or joking about the same thing? (#HollywoodPostItNotes tonight.)

2. I got to see a lot of towns & cities this year.  In fact I made a list, and it was short, of decently-sized metro areas in North America that I have not seen after my crazy tour.  And towns have different characters.  Citizens love to talk about the character of their city & compare it to others, by the way — just ask them what their town’s like and step back.

There are cities and states that have an incredibly strong sense of community and local identity, and there are cities that don’t.  This is not a value judgment, it’s a fact, easily observable (if difficult to quantify).  Just visit Austin or New Orleans or Joshua Tree for awhile, you’ll feel how much the community is a living, breathing character, and how important it is to the people who live there to participate in and protect and nurture its character.  Or just observe the way people behave & think differently about their town during the World Series or Superbowl — oddly I found a very strong strain of localized devotion & sense of community in smaller collegiate-sports-fanatic towns in the Midwest and South, far removed from the Austin or New Orleans sort of music/nightlife culture.  Where does this feeling come from?  Why did it bother me so much when it was absent?  Because it was often absent.

I think part of this sense of community comes from experiencing stuff all together in real time.  You know very well the difference between watching a sporting event in the arena, watching it live at home, and watching it recorded later — those three very different degrees of involvement — the depth of connection is about being a part of something at the same time & in the same space as other people. Weather and seasonal changes, which touch absolutely everyone, have the same effect — the unusual environment here in Alaska bonds people together like very few other places I’ve been.  We experience so much out-of-the-ordinary stuff all together that even when we disagree vehemently with the Alaskan at the next barstool, we still have an incredible amount in common.

In my very favorite places on the continent, this sense of community translates into (or is it created by?) people going out all the time instead of staying in.  Maybe it’s to watch the sunset or the ocean, maybe to run a marathon or play in a pickup basketball game, maybe to hear free or paid concerts a couple nights per week, maybe a friend’s backyard barbecue, maybe it’s going out to the Farmers’ Market — there are cities and small towns where people go out All The Time.  And there are places where everyone stays in and the streets are barren.  I know which places I feel an immediate connection with as a visitor.  I know which I’d pick to live in.

And it’s not about nightlife, or spending money, or subsidizing certain industries, or a certain income or race or lifestyle.  Unless that lifestyle is Get Outside Of Your House And Your Head If You Want To Be Fully Human.  (Poor communities are sometimes much better about this than wealthy ones — sometimes not.)  It’s about crossing the mental hurdle that may keep you from connecting with strangers and getting out of your home.  It’s about building and participating in the structures that make it possible for a whole community to get out more — more family-friendly venues, more childcare, more free activities that are actually good, more accessible cabs & transit, &c.  Going out doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.  And if it does cost a bit — wouldn’t the economy of any town be invigorated by this sort of activity?  Isn’t that what every chamber of commerce wants, a vital social life on a broad scale?  USE them streets and sidewalks and parks.  VISIT your small businesses.  Drop a few dollars on a hot cocoa, a few cents on a good busker, and walk down a bike trail, and you’ve participated in the life of your town.  And probably made yourself feel more like a person.

For some of you, this is duh.  But I know a heckuva lot of folks who need to have this revelation for real.

I feel strong community in Anchorage.  Always have.  It could and should get better — I’d really like to see the local population turning out a little more for the evening entertainment.  We have so much going on that’s underattended (though admittedly lots of it is underpromoted too).  I’d love to see more all-ages venues here, and more quiet, grown-up friendly venues.  I want to see the average Joe coming out more for music and art here — I know it’s possible from visiting other cities where that is simply embedded in the local culture.

But here’s what I already love about living here: when the sunset is amazing and I’m not too pressed for time, I detour to go watch it.  And when I get to my favorite spot by the water, I find dozens or sometimes hundreds of other people already there.  When the lunar eclipse occurred, the whole town turned out to look for it in freezing temperatures, and everyone was talking about it the next day.  When the aurora went active at 1am on a weeknight and my roommate and I go went a quest to find it, the parking lot at Point Woronzof was already totally full of people of all ages and races.  It was a holiday atmosphere.  I was rubbing elbows with people different from me, people I likely disagree with, people I rely upon, my fellow Anchorage dwellers.  That felt like community.  That made me love my city.  That, world — we need more of that.

Come out to a show!  Get out of your house and go see what’s happening where you live!

(You know you have the internet on your phone anyway.  It’s not like you’ll miss anything important happening here.)

Calling Cards: Road Movie to the Yukon

11/11/2010 at 6:21 pm | Posted in 49>50, How to this-or-that, News & Explanations, Stories from the Road | 16 Comments
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UPDATE ON THIS BLOG: much to my shock and awe, nearly 400 people have already requested postcards. That’s a lot more than I anticipated! I have about 200 postcards to mail out, I’ll get some Alaska ones to round out the bunch. This means 2 things: 1) this might take a little longer than I thought, and 2) I need more postcards! If you want to send me some from your area, mail them to me (clean and unposted so I can use them) at PO Box 190926 Anchorage AK 99519! Beautiful, tacky, everything’s welcome as long as it’s rated PG. Read on, you can still apply until midnight 12/6.

UPDATE #2: Final count for postcard requests: 485.  I have some thank you notes to write as well. This may take a while. But thank you for your support and interest!  I’ll be working on this for a loooooong time.

SO! I have finished playing shows in 49 states out of 50.  And I am driving back home.  Through the Yukon.  In winter.  #survivethedrive

I had lofty aspirations of blogging and photoblogging this trip, but that will have to happen retroactively.  Because, the thing is, when you travel to all 50 states — you spend an awful lot of time driving.  I have been collecting notes for some badass blogging, and possibly short stories, once I’m home.  And I have amazing photos ready to share once I have some time alone with my beloved laptop.

This whole insane seven-month-long nonstop tour was made possible by an unbelievable wave of support from a very, very small group of people.  In a sense I set out to prove that a small sustainable friendly community on Twitter (5000-9000 people) and Facebook (1000-2000 people with lots of overlap) could support a tour of tremendous expense and reach.  It was a test of the Long Tail theory and the 1,000 True Fans proposition.  It was a test of the tensile strength of the internet and social media on the whole.  It was also a test of my health and endurance and mind and heart in every possible way.

And here’s the thing:


I left Anchorage on May 15th in my Subraru, drove through and played in 48 states as well as every Canadian province except the Maritimes (I’ll getcha next year, guys).  I’ll be home in Alaska by Thanksgiving, weather permitting, and I’ll hit Hawai’i in December.  My grand Victory Concert will be on 12/23 at the Tap Root in Anchorage, AK.

Twitter and Facebook have preserved my soundness of mind on this trip.  It’s psychologically devastating in ways I can’t describe to see nothing familiar for weeks at a time.  I might need therapy.  Or else a good long round of singing “We’re Out for Blood.” But when I was alone and witnessing something amazing, my Hive Mind was there — people I know, people I don’t, all keeping tabs on me.  You all kept this crazy lady sane.

I wish I could think of a good enough way to even BEGIN to thank you guys.  Instead I’m always begging you to come to shows or do more promo, come up with more ideas, answer my questions about groundhogs…and while I can’t afford to stop asking those things, I want to do SOMETHING nice for you.  I’ve been trying to think up a good thing.

So here’s what I’d like to do: send you a postcard!!!

I’ve been purchasing postcards from all the states and provinces I’ve been to, and I have a couple hundred by now.  And one is for you!*

If you want one, fill out this form: (If the link doesn’t work immediately, try copying/pasting it.)

This is free, and for everyone. U.S., Canada, overseas. You don’t have to have come to a show or even been helpful. You might have discovered me last week. I don’t care, I’ll send you a postcard anyhow!

I’m also collecting memories from the tour in this spreadsheet — from your perspective.  Like a yearbook.  Don’t let me ever forget about the Tribble Hug at Thinkgeek, or how Grandma nearly got run over at my show in North Carolina, or how I threw pineapple at my host’s son’s nose for missing the a capella dinner show in Bend, OR.

This is, again, totally free for all — including folks overseas!  Won’t lie, right about now I’d really appreciate a tip or a T-shirt sale or an album purchase, as getting up the Al-Can is unearthly expensive and I’m a little broke without shows every night.  (Plus, the many holidays are approaching! Happy Festivus…) But whether or not you tip, this is totally free.  I want to thank you for being one of the Most Amazing Little Fanbases on the Internet.  I’m gonna make up an awards ceremony with a not-so-meaningful prize and give it to you.**  Because you may not be many fans, but you are clearly the RIGHT fans.  You are mighty.

I’ma go home now, plan my Hawai’i trip (help welcomed), rest up, pay my late taxes, and finish an album or two.  Phew.

I love you guys all.***  Thank you SO MUCH.


Homeward Bound

*You can’t choose a state for the postcards, sorry.  I tried to pick cool ones.  If somehow I run out, I’ll send you an awesome Alaskan one.  This offer good thru Dec. 6th.  And I have really nice handwriting, I promise.

**Actually I think I just did.  Postcard trophies for everyone!

***But not that way.  You’re imagining things.

A Critically Important Announcement and a Special Event

08/30/2010 at 1:40 am | Posted in 49>50, How to this-or-that, News & Explanations | 2 Comments

I think most of us know (or remember) how it feels to be a little low on funds. But it’s much worse to be a little low on funds when other people rely on you. I’m doing an event in two days that means a lot to me, even though it’s only one of many stops on this crazy 50-state tour, for an organization that needs a little support right now.

In Biloxi, Mississippi, on Tuesday night, I’m playing a benefit concert for the Bethel Free Health Clinic, The Clinic was founded in response to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. It will take place at Bethel Lutheran Church, 2521 Pass Road, at 6pm. Anyone in the area is invited to attend — I’ll be breaking out some special songs that I don’t usually perform.

But here’s what concerns you: I’m inviting my amazing online fans around the globe to participate in this fundraiser. The funds go to help the Bethel Free Clinic continue their work bringing quality health care to the many uninsured residents of South Mississippi. They already operate through the help of tons of amazing volunteers and donors, but they need you too. It’s easy: give $5, $10, $50, $100, doesn’t matter. Click here to make a donation at

Here’s why this matters to me, Part I: I expect to arrive in Biloxi early enough to visit the clinic for a checkup myself, which I badly need and haven’t really had the spare funds to spring for. I am one of the many uninsured that create the need for clinics like this one. It’s safe to say that most of my friends and cohorts are uninsured or underinsured. I mostly skip getting any health care at all, except where clinics like this can help me out.

Last fall I had a little scare about a lump in my breast, which is something tons of women go through (see blog about it here). I can’t explain to you what panic that inspires in an uninsured young entrepreneur — you just have to go through it yourself. And odds are, you have or you know someone who has. Thankfully I’m all right, but after this winter, I see serving the uninsured as one of the most important places your donations can go. If you’ve had a friend, relative, coworker go through a serious illness uninsured, take a second to donate just a few dollars.

Here’s why this matters to me, Part II: I’m in New Orleans tonight for the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The city is both somber and celebratory, devastated and unsinkable. And, setting the tone, it’s raining and blustery. This anniversary is incredible to see for myself — I went to the thriving exciting neighborhoods and to the Ninth Ward, and listened to a lifelong resident tell me, “Oh, now we start every paragraph with ‘before the storm’ and ‘after the storm’ and we don’t even think about it.”

New Orleans is the hub of the Katrina attention, but the fact is hundreds of miles and millions of people on the Gulf Coast were affected. I think it’s particularly fitting that I’m going to play this show for the Clinic almost exactly five years after it was founded. The Gulf Coast deserves a little support in honor of how much things changed that week, and though there are tons of worthy organizations who deserve a gift on this anniversary, this is the one I’m asking you to support with a donation now. If you give five dollars, that’s something more than what they’d have otherwise. Do it now.

You guys are awesome. I know because I’m meeting scores of you every week and discovering how incredible you are myself. I love my fans and listeners, for real. I hope you’ll join me in supporting the Bethel Free Clinic. They need it and they deserve it. Thank you —


Upcoming shows, details at

8/29 Circle Bar, New Orleans LA
8/30 Open House Concert, Sulphur LA
8/31 Fundraiser for Bethel Free Clinic, Biloxi MS
9/1 Open House Concert, Huntsville AL area
9/2 Gnu’s Room Coffeehouse & Bookstore, Auburn, AL
9/3 Warehouse Concert, tickets on sale now, Atlanta GA
9/4 Parsec Awards, Fark Party, Browncoat Shindig, Dragon*Con Atlanta GA
9/9 Fremont Abbey, tickets on sale now, Seattle WA
9/11 Cocoa Nymph Chocolatier, Vancouver BC

Annual Spring Fundraiser, or, I Got Your Number Baby

04/29/2010 at 11:59 pm | Posted in 49>50, How to this-or-that, News & Explanations | 2 Comments

Let’s talk, darling.  As in — let me call you up and leave you a custom voicemail, including any snippet of any song I’ve ever released, on your phone.  If I catch you in person, let’s chat for a couple minutes!  A singing telegram from Alaska.  This is my idea of a client meeting.  I’ll sing for you over the phone.

Announcing the Marian Call 3rd Annual Tour Fundraiser Extravaganza Bash Thing!

(This is how I do accounting and pay the bills, with a little whimsy.  You see, in every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.  You find the fun, and — SNAP!  The job’s a game!  If you’re wondering why I need to raise a little more cash at the beginning of the 49>50 Tour, see below.)

Nearly everything I’m offering this year was requested by fans.  You guys.  So please, have a look, snag something sweet, bid in the auction (4/30-5/7), download an album, or spread the word!  It’s time.  If you don’t want any fanstuff, but you’ve enjoyed either my music or my tweets or my friendship — please help me come down and see thousands of people all over the U.S. by dropping $5 in my online tip jar.  You can do that.  Like NPR or your favorite local bar, good music only exists if you support it now and again. Here are some of the items up for grabs this week at

  • Personalized Voicemail from Marian — get a singing telegram of any song snippet you like! Only $25 (no shipping of course).
  • T-shirts (for the first time ever!!!) — sweatshop-free garments, organic options, choose any color or cut for any design!
  • Photo Prints by Brian Adams, valued at $125 each, now only $55 + S&H.
  • New Tour Posters! Autographed with any show date or inscription you like. Only 30 are available. They ship rolled domestically, folded internationally. $16.99.
  • Auction: Original Marian Call Lyrics. First scrawlings of the songs “Dear Mister Darcy,” “Good Morning Moon,” “Perilous Road,” and “Temoporal Dominoes” (commissioned inadvertently on Twitter by Phil Plait).  Straight from my journal! With doodles.
  • Auction: Autographed Limited Edition Serenity Blueprints by Quantum Mechanix, Inc. Signed by Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk.
  • Auction: Handwritten Framed Lyrics to “I’m Yours” or “In the Black.”
  • Auction: Custom Typewriter Necklace, one of only two — Marian owns the other! — by Take to the Sky Jewelry (featured recently in the celebrity gift suites at the Oscars and American Music Awards. Not too shabby! Image avail. soon.)
  • Auction: the last 3 existing copies of the First Run Limited Edition of Vanilla, with a bonus track and hand-assembly and home printing, made in 2007 for Marian’s earliest fans.

Any questions, just ask me at mariancall*at*  Again, all these items are linked from

I received this question on the other day, anonymously, and it’s one of the best I’ve ever received:

I am not familiar with how the art world of independent musical artist works. I take it that you are not making enough money selling your music and merchandise and you are also asking for donations to go on tour. Is this correct? Can you elaborate?

My answer: This is SUCH a good question. Allow me to explain why I am having my 3rd annual fundraiser.

1) I love Alaska and I love living here. But getting outside of Alaska, with touring gear, is a proposition of at least a grand or two. The Al-Can is one of the more expensive road trips you’ll ever take — food and gas in the Yukon are pricey. And I can’t earn quite enough just gigging here in-state to kickstart me. So that’s the first reason I do a Fundraiser just as I begin my annual touring season.

2) I’ve been working on an album this year. So nearly half of my income over the last 9 months (what I’ve earned AND what I’ve raised so far) has been spent on the musicians, recording studios, artwork, plane tickets, and now the mix and master for the new album.  (Thanks to my incredible Donors’ Circle, by the way, for helping me to raise the money!)

3) I’m quite new at this. I’ve only been a full-time musician for two and a half years. I’m proud to proclaim that I believe my business model is a sound one, because for the first 9 months or so I operated in the red (like most small businesses), by 18 months I was barely in the black but not enough to make a living, and now, if I weren’t making a very expensive double album, I WOULD have a full-time living. And I’m one of very, very few Alaskan musicians for whom that’s true. So I believe the business is worth investing in, and hope to not have to solicit donations or have fundraisers when I have a couple more years or many more fans under my belt.

4) Unexpected divorce, breast lump, and a year without a home describes my 2009. I was left homeless, carless, and deeply in debt in the middle of last year’s tour. Currently making good progress on the debt, relieved not to have borrowed from friends or family, investing in my own business, and totally solvent (aside from album project).  And proud of making it through to this point. ‘Nuff said.

5) My fans often ask for special weird stuff, since they’re special weird awesome fans. I can’t offer said stuff all year, but I can once a year. So I do! I love giving fans things they value. And I hope to keep coming up with creative merchandise even after I don’t “need” the extra income.

Thank you all for being awesome.  My Donors’ Circle most of all.  I will see you as soon as I possibly can!  And I mean that.  If it’s too hard or too far off for you to wait — tip me and I’ll call you, and sing right in your ear.


Instructions in Excruciating Detail: Booking Shows Near You, or, Fan Power!

03/28/2010 at 10:13 pm | Posted in 49>50, How to this-or-that, News & Explanations | 4 Comments
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**NOTE: This is an awesome blog post, but it is out of date!  Instead, see this page for updated 2013 show booking notes!  The writing below is wonderful but also it is a historical document from early 2010.  New info:**

This blog entry is your complete guide and FAQ to making a Marian Call concert happen in your area on the 49 to 50 tour.  Odds are I sent you here so we can make a show happen!  Below you can find links for the forms you’ll fill out and answers to a number of questions.  Please read the applicable sections before requesting a concert.

There are two kinds of shows: House Concerts and Venue ConcertsHouse concerts I set up directly with you (even if they’re not at a house, or not at your house).  For venue concerts, such as cafés, bars, farmer’s markets, and music halls, I collect information about a venue that you think is really a perfect fit and has dates open, and I contact them myself (unless the manager happens to be your brother-in-law or something, in which case you introduce us).

If you get a mass e-mail or a contact from an minion of mine during the booking process, I hope you’ll pardon me.  This project is so huge and so exciting I need a little help and a little automation to manage it all.  But the good news is it makes it possible for me to meet you in person at sometime soon!

The bestest newest ever e-mail address for booking questions, which goes to me and my various helpers:!!!!!

Use this e-mail address for booking questions and venue suggestions.  No need to cc; all the mcminion42 messages are forwarded to me automatically, and I still read everything myself.  I might have a very cool helper answer some of it though.  Don’t worry, your personal information (home address particularly) is very very safe.

Applying for a House Concert:

If you want to host or set up a house concert (even if it’s not at a house), be sure you’ve read all about how I do house concerts and then follow the instructions here.

  1. Check my Public Google Calendar by clicking here [link disabled later] to see when I plan to be in your area, and what dates I already have scheduled gigs.  The schedule and map are flexible — until I have concerts anchoring me to this location and that (so don’t cry if you don’t see your city just yet).  You can ask for a date when I’m trying to be elsewhere; worst I can do is say no.  You’ll notice that later in the fall, i.e. farther east, I’m not sure which state comes in which order yet — gigs that get nailed down will determine my route. Also note: some days I will designate for “travel” or “rest” and those are unavailable.
  2. Choose a date or dates to request. If it’s way in the future when times are flexible, just pick something you like!  Know that for house concerts, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sunday afternoons or evenings usually work just fine — and even more non-traditional times, like brunches or lunches, have worked in the past if you’re interested in something a little different.  If you’re looking for a date in, say, August, September, or October, know that we may have to hold out on nailing down the date on one show until I’ve confirmed a few others, etc. (events are very interconnected). So let me know if you have a time constraint, too, i.e. “I can do Thursdays but not Wednesdays,” or “I’ll be home this weekend but gone the next.” I deeply wish I could play in every town on Saturday night, but I can’t. I also wish I could play every day without resting, but I can’t do that either.  I’ll accommodate every request I can without running myself into the ground.  If I can’t play your town or your day, I’m sorry — hopefully I can come back!
  3. Gather information and make decisions about the kind of event you want to plan. Just figure out the basics — find out how many people you can fit (more than you think); if it’s not a house, make sure you can secure the space or find out if it costs anything; if it is a house, check to be sure that it’s yours, or that the neighbors won’t mind coming home to a big surprise.  Decide what kind of food you want to provide or coordinate, and whether kids will be welcome.  And actually count how many people you believe you can get to come from within your own social circle (I can provide more sometimes).  Decide whether you want a public or private event.  Feel free to ask  questions: or, for quick questions, @mariancall on Twitter.
  4. ****Most important**** Fill out this Google form: [link now disabled]. This is how I can keep all of these requests organized and make the tour happen.  If you don’t have ALL the information, especially the optional stuff, don’t sweat it.  Though the more clearly you can visualize the event, the more likely I am to approve your date over someone else’s.  (But it’s not the LSAT.) Then e-mail me so I know there’s a new entry in the form.
  5. If I can’t choose your proposed concert, I’d like to say in large, friendly letters: DON’T PANIC. I still love you, and I will nearly always provide you with a personal invite to another nearby show. Please don’t be bitter.  If you want to know what makes me choose some shows over others — larger house concerts will probably be better than small ones if they’re in the same area; public ones are usually preferable to private ones, so other fans can come; kids and pets have no influence on the yes or no vote, I just need to know about them; if you or your community can lodge me for free, you may have a slight advantage (though no lodging is not a dealbreaker); money overall is less important than connections — i.e. lots of people barely listening is worth less to me than just a few people really listening and caring.  Also, please don’t hold back because you think I’ll reject you — I’m happy to do small shows and out-of-the-way places if they fit into my schedule and you’re willing to bring some open ears to the event.
  6. If I do choose your concert: DON’T PANIC.  You may freak out about it sometimes, but trust me, when you look back you will find it was pretty easy.  And it will be really fun.  I’ll notify you, we’ll iron out the details and reserve the date, we’ll arrange a (very informal) contract, and I’ll equip you with what you need to set up/advertise/invite/manage RSVP’s and so on.

Explanations and disclaimers: The calendar and route are subject to change, because they must be.  The reality of such a large tour is that I may have to rearrange a date with you if my travel schedule changes (or my car breaks down).  I hope for no cancellations at all, but the universe will ultimately decide that.  So please be understanding and a little bit flexible.

If you’re offering lodging, that lodging will be for me and an accompanist (almost always a guy). We’re cool sharing a room but we don’t share beds. We’re also cool crashing on couches, air mattresses, cots, the floor, what have you.  Some accompanists are allergic to pets, so let me know in advance if you have them.

Let’s make it happen!

Recommending a Venue Near You:

If there’s a local cafe, restaurant, or music venue — or maybe a podcast or local radio station spot — that you think I should play, please, let me know about it!  It’s so hard to know which places are a good fit or locally loved when I’ve never been.  I may or may not hit them all on this tour, but I do want to know what venues I should be aiming for, and fan recommendations are the number one way I decide where to try to play.

  1. (same as above) If you want to recommend a specific date, Check my Public Google Calendar to see when I plan to be in your area, and what dates I already have scheduled gigs.  PLEASE check your venue’s website or calendar to make sure they have openings around that time before you send me pursuing them — if they’re already booked I’d hate to waste your time or mine.
  2. Not all venue recommendations require a date. So if it’s more a recommendation to file away for the future — or a radio station or podcast or another musician to work with — and not a specific concert for this tour, that’s ok.
  3. ****Most important**** E-mail Marian at mcminion42*at*  Let me know what the opportunity is like, and if you really want me to book a show there on this tour, please provide a date if you can and let me know you see this as a real, immediately possible event.  Let me know if you think you could bring people you know to it.  Otherwise I will probably file it away for reference and use it only if I need it, since this tour is mainly made possible through house concerts.
  4. Venues that might seem great but aren’t actually that useful: the premier venue in town, i.e. the Grand Ole Opry or Carnegie Hall. I’m unlikely to be able to play in the best spot in your city (yet).  Also, music festivals.  Folks are always inviting me to play at music and geek festivals, and I’d love to because they are FUN, but generally they aren’t the best use of my time.  I don’t make much money or connect with fans very well, the dates aren’t flexible, and I can’t take the time to keep track of all the different application processes.
  5. Venues I might like better than you think: bookstores, galleries, shops, radio stations, farmer’s markets, really good local open mics or showcases, cafes open to free lunchtime background music. 
  6. Really Good: connecting me with a local musician who does roughly what I do (someone making acoustic music full-time, touring, accessible to all audiences) to share a show.  I love to open for other artists, I love having other artists open for me, and I love to share the stage with locals.  Recommend a musician!

It’s really preposterous to attempt a tour of this size without a booking agent or full-time manager or promoter.  But you are already helping so much, and I’m hopeful your enthusiasm will only grow as this thing takes off.  I know mine is.  I can’t wait to hit the road again!  And I can’t wait to meet you or see you again.

I’ll be there soon — all my best,

Marian Call

Coming Soon to a Backyard Near You: the 50 States Tour. 49>50

03/26/2010 at 9:38 am | Posted in How to this-or-that, News & Explanations, Stories from the Road | 11 Comments
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Somebody stop me.  I’m about to do something nutty again.

Of course, nutty can be good. Like a rich deep brown locally brewed ale on tap. …..What were we talking about? Right.

When I release my new album Something Fierce, I’m going on a very long driving tour of the U.S. and Canada, as musicians are wont to do.  And on this tour I shall attempt to play a show in each of the fifty United States as well as a number of Canadian provinces.  All without a label, manager or booking agent — without a steady paycheck — fueled only by fan goodwill and positivity and coffee.

This unnecessary yet numerically satisfying scheme hit me when I was counting things (as I sometimes do), and I got to this nice, round, somehow pleasing number that came after forty-nine — you know the one.  I was holding fifty dollars of petty cash in my hand as I cleaned up the till after a really beautiful concert last Friday.* “Fifty,” I thought. “Aren’t there fifty of something else too?”**

I wouldn’t be the first to do this, not by a long shot.  Just another joining the ranks.  I want to see the country where I live, I want to meet all different kinds of people, I want to feel the distances between things.  I want to swelter in summer heat and break down on straight flat stretches of highway and barely sleep and drink gas station coffee.  (Actually I don’t, but it’s worth it to come and play for you.)  I want to meet you all!

And yes, Canada, Europe, and Australia, you’re next.  Though this could take a while.  It’s a pretty big country and it’s hard to gig on Mondays and Tuesdays.

A venture like this, without label support, is only possible through your participation.  And though I love your participation, I don’t want to selfishly bank on it — it’s the kind of gift that it would be rude to budget for, like birthday money from Aunt Mae.  Every time you help me I’m amazed and grateful.  In the last few days over Twitter and Facebook, you have proved that this venture is possible by inundating me with e-mails, advice, and invitations to come to your various neighborhoods and play house concerts.  To which I say: all right! You win!  I’ll come to every corner of the country I possibly can.  If you want a show in your area, you can read about how to get it here.

Here’s my very, very general route, subject to change, color coded by month:

Eeeeeeeeeeee!Green = May / Blue = June / Red = July / Orange = August / Slate = September / Pink = October

This is such a massive project that I need a system.  Actually I need a cute personal assistant and a caffeine IV and possibly a nifty robot that makes toast and prints money, but lacking those, I need integrated docs and maps and calendars and contacts.  I’m designing an online infrastructure to make it possible to book this tour without an agent, based entirely on fan involvement. 90% of my shows on this tour will be requested and set up, with very little effort per gig, by fans.  All the details about how to set up a show near you are in this blog entry here. Let’s make it happen!

I can’t play absolutely everywhere in the U.S., but this is about as close as I can get.  So come and meet me when I’m close to you!  I’m already imagining what sorts of silly souvenirs I can try to collect in each state.

I love my job.

Also: T-shirt ideas, anyone?

More to come shortly. If you have an idea you simply must share with me right away, you can write me at mcminion42*at*  Comments on WordPress, Facebook messages/comments, and Twitter responses are important to me and I read them all, but may not make it into the final informational mix. E-mail is king for the moment.  This post will be modified once booking forms are really and truly open.

In conclusion, I’d like to say: WOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOO!


P.S. States where I don’t know many people and could use help or local expertise: HI, ID, NV, MT, ND, SD, NE, AR, IN, OH, LA, MS, FL, NC, VA, RI, ME.

* The concert last Friday was really and truly gorgeous and inspiring.  I sang with three other Anchorage female singer-songwriters and we streamed it live on the web. You can see video at

**My favorite number is actually 51, because it feels so like a prime number — but NO! 17. Fooled you. 51 is surprising like that. Someday 51 will be the new 42.

Update: The tour now has a name: 49 to 50. Or 49>50. Alaskans will get it instantly the rest of you may need help: we’re the 49th state, and proud of it.  So 49>50 is shorthand for “from Alaska to every other United State.” Or possibly “Alaska is awesomer than every other state.” Don’t tell Texas I said that.

House Concerts 101

03/22/2010 at 10:25 am | Posted in How to this-or-that, Music, News & Explanations | 17 Comments
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**NOTE: This is an awesome blog post, but it is out of date!  Instead, see this page for updated 2013 show booking notes!  The writing below is wonderful but also it is a historical document from early 2010.  There’s an updated version that is very much the same.  New info:**

My 2010 tour will consist primarily of house concerts. Yet most of my listeners have never attended a house concert. Even fewer have hosted.  So what’s the deal? Here’s the deal.

Let’s go back in time, back to the millenia before television brought Mick Jagger at halftime into your living room through a glowy blue box.  If you wanted live music, you had to make it happen in your own house, yard, church, pub, temple, piazza, or outhouse.  The best modern equivalent is a house concert.  I’m not saying those old days were better, but I am saying it’s probably been too long since you’ve listened to fantastic music up close and live in a quiet environment — that’s a transformative experience.  It’s way different than going out, way different than listening to MP3’s, way different than anything the glowy blue box can bring you.  And you still make it happen.

I’ve played dozens and dozens of house concerts now, and 90% of them were with hosts who had never organized a house concert before.  So don’t say you can’t do it — you can!  It’s entirely simple, cheap for everyone, friendly, fun, environmentally smart, economically smart — and the food and alcohol are way better and cheaper than what you get going out.

How does it work? You contact an artist, set a date, get them your address, invite your friends by e-mail and take RSVP’s, plan for food or drinks (if you want to), and then I show up, set up my gear, and play for you!

Things prospective house concert hosts ALWAYS say to me:

  • “I’d love to, but my house is too small.” EVERY host says this at first. No, it’s not. I’ve done house concerts for 5 people in a tiny cabin in Alaska and for 25 in an even smaller crowded standing-room-only flat in Hollywood, with everyone shoulder-to-shoulder.  I’ve even played a dorm room.  Your house can fit way more people than you think.
  • “I’ve never done anything like that before.” You probably have.  Take any kind of house party you can think of — a drunken BYOB bash, a child-friendly family potluck, a birthday party with presents, a backyard BBQ, a fancy wine and cheese event — and just imagine that the theme of the afternoon/evening is music.  The artist (me) will provide absolutely everything related to the music part of the show; all you do is put on a very normal party, invite people, set out drinks, and wait for all of us to show up.
  • “I don’t know if I want strangers in my house.” No need to have any (besides me).  You can have a private event, just for your friends and family.  Or you can host it at a local community center, school, place of worship, park, swimming pool — anywhere!  People get all sorts of creative, using these concerts for fundraisers, community events, conventions, kids’ time, etc.  The host sets the parameters.
  • “It will take so much time!” Well, it can, but it doesn’t have to.  I’ve played some elaborate, carefully coordinated house concerts, and some that the hosts just let happen. Potlucks and BBQ’s, especially, are low-to-no maintenance and take only a few e-mails to coordinate.  To get everything you need to compose the invitation and promote the show, see the “Publicity Tools” tab above.
  • “My place is a mess.” Everyone says this, and everyone is lying.  By the time I arrive you’ve usually scrambled for thirty minutes and made it look lovely.  (If you need an excuse to clean up, this would be it…)
  • “You can’t come to my town, I’m out of the way.” People who contact me and ask nicely usually get me to come sooner or later.  If you’re out of the way, just guarantee me a certain number of people in attendance, or a certain amount of money (surprisingly little) and I’ll make it happen.  As long as I don’t lose money coming to your town, I will probably be game!
  • “Wow, that was amazing and special and unforgettable. And it was so much easier than I thought!” I hear this Every. Single. Time.

Most hosts and guests are thrilled by their first house concert.  Get out to one in your area if you want an idea of how they go!  There are lots of normal folks like you beginning to host monthly or quarterly concerts because they’ve found it’s so easy, fun, and memorable.  Artists love to be asked to do house concerts — after the bars-and-cafes grind, they’re a pleasure.  Your favorite local artist would probably be thrilled to play one for you.  Why not ask?  Ask me anytime: visit this blog entry to actually request a concert, or e-mail to ask questions.*

Answers to FAQ’s are below if you’re thinking of hosting. If you’ve hosted or attended a house concert before, do leave your thoughts in the comments!

– What do I need to provide? Just some comfortable space where people can stand or sit and mingle, and later listen attentively to music.  Consider what your sort of crowd would be comfortable with.  You also need to provide at least some of the people — most house concerts are populated by the host’s friend and social circle, though occasionally one will be promoted as a public event and I will invite other fans to RSVP.

– What’s the food and drink situation? This is completely up to you.  I’ve played at fully catered gourmet dinners, potlucks, barbecues, desserts, wine tastings, and even afternoon or late evening events which had no real food — only beverages and cookies. Anything goes, as long as your guests are prepared for what to bring and what will be available.

How does the event flow? Usually the event starts with about forty-five minutes to an hour of mingling and food and drink.  When the moment feels right (or right on the clock, however you like it) you invite people to claim their space for the show, and I begin performing.  I usually do two forty-five minute sets with a break (so as not to wear down guests’ attention span.  I am very generous with my tunes;  if folks are engaged I’ll go as long as the audience likes and do any and every request I can).  During the show at some point, I invite people to give money, usually $10-15, and/or buy CD’s, and I leave it at that.  The host can keep their hands clean of the money business for the most part; I’m used to doing it myself.  After the show people mingle some more, in varying stages of sobriety, sometimes staying all night and sometimes going home right away.  When everyone’s gone usually you and I crack one last beer or heat one last cup of tea and sigh and chat about how fun the evening was.  Then I drive away (or sleep on your couch, depending) and provided your guests are the good kind, you’re left with minimal mess.

How do I promote the event?  Do I have to post my personal information on the internet? You can make your event private — only for people you know — or public.  If it’s public, I will advertise it, but I will not post your name or address on the web unless you ask me to.  Usually prospective guests can get the address in exchange for a firm RSVP by e-mail.  (And my fans are awesome people that you’d want to meet anyway.)  To get the word out, e-mail invites and a Facebook event usually do the trick; some folks use a service like evite, but I’ve almost never seen that go very well.  The very best promotion in the world is word of mouth. If you’re excited, your friends will be too.  I’m happy to help with a free MP3 for invitees, plus all the links and photos and posters you could want — or a spiffy e-mail/web invite like the one below.  Plus I’m happy to give you CD’s and bonus things.  House Concert hosts get Marian Call perks of all kinds — just ask!

UPDATED: for help writing an invitation or get official images, posters, etc., just click on the tab at the top of this page called “Publicity Tools.” Everything you need is there (scroll down to the bottom).

Things it’s important to clarify when you invite people: 1) this will be a house concert, not a house party, and the music is the feature event; 2) bring your own (chair, food, beer, kids, whatever they should bring, as people want to know); 3) whether kids are welcome, and if they are, whether childcare will be provided.

What about the *gulp* money? Awkward… I understand completely. Asking guests for $$ is awful. If you mention it up front, in the e-mail invitation, it’s actually less awkward — and if you leave a basket at the door, instead of passing the hat, again, less awkward.  People don’t like letting other people watch them pay.  A good way to phrase the invitation is to say there’s a “$10-15 per person recommended donation for the artist, pay-as-you-can.” I’ll reinforce that with a friendly announcement that I’m used to making.  I never begrudge folks coming and not paying, or paying less than $10.  But I do have to make ends meet.  So the idea is to prepare guests for what to expect before you’re speaking to them in person.  I don’t require a minimum guarantee, unless I’m flying far afield, but if you think you might have less than 12-15 people, it’s good to tell me that directly, since that may affect what other shows I look for in the area or what date I book with you.

Can I really do this? Absolutely!  And to paraphrase most of my house concert hosts from around the country, it’s a fantastic and memorable and [insert many glowing adjectives here] experience.  You’ll be so glad you did.  So will I.  I’m proud of you!

*To inquire about booking a house concert with me, visit this blog entry and follow the instructions.  I don’t respond to Facebook or Myspace booking requests, nor Twitter DM’s; it’s not official booking business ’til it’s in my real inbox at  Also: you may hear from an assistant of mine sometimes, but rest assured I’m overseeing all correspondence that goes on.

House Concert InvitePhoto by Brian Adams. or

P.S.: this is an old invite for a show in 2009.  But don’t worry Arizona, I’ll be visiting you in June!

***Update, by request: you can see my rough calendar dates on this Google calendar or at  If you want me to come visit, tell some friends about me!***

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