Happy Kickstarter Eve! Photos by Valette you’re unlikely to forget

06/29/2012 at 10:47 pm | Posted in General Nerdery, Just for Fun, Stories from Alaska | 4 Comments
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In celebration, I’m thrilled to unveil the complete set of photos I shot with +Valette Keller for the Kickstarter: http://www.flickr.com/photos/valette/sets/72157630338274326/show/. Click through for the whole slideshow, it’s amazing!


This is an amazing wearable art piece from the Anchorage fashion show “Object: Runway,” designed by Anchorage armorer & smithy Chris Cushman of Penguinarms (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Penguin-Arms/172408626146626).  It won third place overall in the wearable art show!  And made me scareder than I’ve been in a long time as I walked up and down the catwalk with no backstrap securing the halter top.  But hey, it’s for art!

Chris made the gorgeous steel rose and the jewelry too, both of which will be making an appearance in my fundraiser.

Yes, these will be available during the upcoming fundraiser in some form.


To be sure you don’t miss the Kickstarter details, get on the e-mail list here: http://mariancall.fanbridge.com.

P.S. Thanks to all the many first- and second-wave feminists who worked so hard to ensure that I could do a project like this and just find it a fun and empowering art project, a tribute to classic high fantasy. It’s not a commentary on anything, it’s just for fun.  You are welcome to think about it whatever you like, but creeper comments are subject to deletion so they can stay in your head.  I really enjoyed doing a project like this with a very normal-sized healthy girl body instead of a wasp waist.

One Song Left.

06/18/2011 at 12:13 pm | Posted in Stories from Alaska | Comments Off on One Song Left.
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It’s 3am, I have a headache from HTML and ProTools, and I leave on a jet plane Sunday to start my traveling again (DC!  NYC!  Philly!  Cambridge!  Look Lively!).  Glory Moses I’m tired.  Feels like I just got done with the last tour, even though I’ve mostly been home for six months.

But I’m thankful.  I’m sitting here thinking how much a collection of friends and strangers online has come to mean to me — lots of individuals, but the whole community too.  I’m about to finish a project you guys have helped see me through, some of you for more than two years.  Some of you gave money, tons of you gave encouragement, thousands have come to shows now.  I’m sorta blown away.  I am really thankful to you.  And I take my responsibility to you very seriously.  I’m happy to come see some of you again, I wish I could see you all.

(Sorry, sleep-deprived headachey Marian = sappy serious 3am blog post I may regret.  Feel free to skip and return when I’m wittier & more amusing (and that’s a sincere, not a sarcastic invitation).)

I’m finding this album tough to finish — it’s called Something Fierce, and release announcements and pre-sales are imminent.  I mean, it’s hard to finish for the usual reason: the total amount of “Stuff Marian Takes On” over “Time Marian Actually Has” always winds up with a remainder, at the moment probably about 7/5.  But it’s also hard to finish because it’s just…big.  I feel the weight of how much people have helped me with this and invested in it.  I wonder how it will be received.  I know I’ll get some of my first proper critiques.  I know some people will like other versions of things better.  And I know I’ll always be vaguely amazed that it’s not sitting on my shoulders anymore like a big cat, the way it has been since early 2009.  It’s heavy but it’s also kept me grounded.

Let’s go back in time a bit, since few of you are clear on the chronology:  I launched this album project with a fundraiser in early 2009 when I had just separated from my husband of 6 years and I was in Seattle, far from Alaska, alone with no car or home or income.  It was quite a shock landing there.  After sitting on the curb for a month wondering what to do, announcing Something Fierce was my first step forward.  It was a thing to walk toward so I could get up, get moving, and either become an artist or give it up and go be a secretary or waitress.  A lot of you guys took care of me back then, as I launched into about a year of having nowhere to live and no income except what I earned singing for my supper and fundraising for the record.  And all that help is hard for an independent lady to stomach.  But I tell you what, for every time you have ever tipped a street or bar or online musician, dear reader, I am thankful.  For every dime you’ve launched into a kickstarter project, I owe you one.

I bought a car with no money in Seattle — not sure why they let me have it — and I drove and drove until I got back to Alaska.  I had never driven long distance before, I had always been driven around by others.  But for the first time I was behind the wheel.  When I made it back to Anchorage I started laying groundwork for the record, and I began laying down audio in November 2009.

It’s 2011 now, and I’ve recorded with nearly thirty people in New York, LA, Seattle, Texas, and Anchorage, with a hiatus to play all fifty states + 5 provinces.  And in the end I don’t know whether all that will be worth it for the audio that comes out.  But it will be worth it for the meaning.  The process means a lot to me.  The people mean a lot to me.  For example, the project was missing a few folks who came to be part of my music community after the bulk of the recording was done.  But I got a few chances this spring to record pickups, and I jumped on the chance to get Bryan Ray, Brandon Cockburn, Errol Bressler, Aaron Benolkin, and Nick Petumenos in the studio.  And I’m so happy I did, because now their voices (drums, guitars, bass, pedal steel, engineering) are on the record.  It feels more complete with them than if I’d released it sooner.  When I hear a song recorded in five different cities, all these musicians I love are in the same space for a second.  And that’s more home than anywhere I’ve been since 2009.

Something Fierce is not as funny or geeky as the last few things I’ve released.  Got to Fly was commissioned to be about geek stuff, and I like to release funny singles, but this record is just straight Marian, recalling my first record, Vanilla.  Marian happens to be a geek, so this art happens to be a geek’s experience of a long stretch of road.  But instead of fiction it’s fact;  it’s a couple years of couch-crashing, debt, penance, illness, insane travel, recession, divorce, and reinvention.  That’s not to say it’s dark.  But it’s not sunny.  It’s dappled light — with interesting clouds, the thick substantial ones that might and might not become weather.  Like “Anchorage,” if you’ve heard it.

Why say this now?  I have no idea.  3am headaches while working on your last song will do that to you I suppose.  And perhaps I feel a need to confess and disclaim as I finish.  Not because I think the product is unworthy, but because it’s honest, and honesty evokes a little confession and a little context, even when it’s not required.

I’m not sure what happens after this record is not on my shoulders anymore.  I don’t know where the compass will point exactly, this record has been my Polaris for so long — I might spin for a bit.  But mostly I don’t know how I could ever have enough days or words or songs to hug and thank all of you.  It would require more sustained gratitude and sincerity than I think most humans are capable of at my age.  I try, but I keep lapsing.

Perhaps the sheer number of you folks out there (you awesome amazing folks) is starting to frustrate my impulses for deeper connection; it’s hard as this group of fans changes from “y’all” to “all y’all. ” I find myself protesting often how deeply I feel for my online community, and I think that’s mostly because I don’t have the time anymore to pay you each as much attention as I feel is fair for all the investment you’ve put into me.  That imbalance bothers me, though it can’t be helped.  Anyway I’m so thankful to you, if you’re reading this, for getting me through the last two years and into the next one.  Even if you never paid a dime, your attention for a moment ultimately helped/helps to make this record I’m about to finish, and your attention is precious.  You didn’t have to spend it here.  I’m grateful.

Oh Marian, be quiet and get to work making a kickass record.  It’s 4am already, time’s a-wastin’.

(But seriously.  I hope you like it.)


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
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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 Ustream.com

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 http://mariancall.com, $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.)

Compiling…Compiling…Rebooting the 49>50 Blog

01/21/2011 at 2:35 am | Posted in 49>50, Stories from Alaska, Stories from the Road | 8 Comments
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Home.  I’ve been living in my own house nearly eight weeks now.   It’s still weird.

I gave myself a couple weeks to recover, but guess who’s bad at vacationing?  I failed to properly relax on Oahu, and I failed again at home in Anchorage.  Meanwhile my business trundles on with or without me, and the nature of the work is very hand-to-mouth, so if I rest too long I don’t eat.  (Marian would be such a good colonial pilgrim! If only she had a fancy hat.)

Tying up the myriad loose ends of the tour — such as chipping away at the nearly 500 postcards I have to write, digging out all the important contacts and business cards, and sending thank yous to the thousand people who deserve them — it’s somewhat frustrating work.  When you do something big and adventuresome it needs closure, a finish line, a wrap party, a book deal and movie rights (kidding, ick).  But usually The End is a slow fizzle of tiny tasks rather than a photo finish.  The first 100 postcards were no problem; the next 400?  That’s daunting.  Plus taxes, plus paperwork for Canada, plus proactively following up on venues that might be interested again next year…the more scattered the little jobs, the harder it is to feel like you’re making progress. I’m a fan of vertical filing, and my pathetic little piles of paper around the living room are starting to whisper urgent and confusing suggestions to me late at night.  Especially since my roommate went out of town. #help

</whine> #shutupMarian

After some computer issues that were all my fault (and which still plague me), I feel as if my brain is stuck on the spinny rainbow wheel of death.  My brain is stuck on the processing and compiling of all the data I acquired on this massive trip.  And I’m not sure how long I should wait before concluding it’s frozen and requires a force-quit and restart — maybe I should just give it a little more time to sort out all the 1’s and 0’s?

I think the key to un-sticking my brain may be this: I had a few lofty goals about reporting the 49>50 Tour back to you guys, goals that I didn’t quite accomplish.  And that’s bugging me.  Mostly I wanted to blog and post photos along the way, and I only managed that for the first few thousand miles or so.  My photos on Flickr stop in Oklahoma, state #10, which is failsauce on my part, and my blogs end in Austin, in state #11.  I sort of microblogged the rest of the way on Twitter, yfrog, and twitpic, but I didn’t have time or space there for deeper thoughts or longer stories at all.

I had been inviting fans to submit their memories of the tour in the comments, as if each post was a yearbook page.  I want to keep that up, because I like having a record of what you thought, not just endless jabber from me about me. That’s boring.

So I’m gonna try starting over on that, and see how it goes.  I can’t guarantee completion, but I’m not really ready to move on to the next thing (CD release) until I bring a small degree of closure to the last thing.

Let’s go back in time!

When I started this crazy trip, planning my route in the very café where I’m sitting now, I had no notion whether I’d finish it.  I’m pretty flabbergasted.  Which is fun to say.  Here’s the blog post that began it all, and the little map that I sort of mentally drew on an imaginary napkin:


(Funny, I stole this JPEG from a Google image search which revealed that on average two out of three U.S. maps on page 1 of a Google image search omit Alaska and Hawai’i.)  You can compare this to my actual route on the official Mapquest map to see how close I came.  Pretty darn is the answer.

Early blogs about the trip, listed here since some of you haven’t been around forever:

  • The Unobserved Life is Busy, On the nature of travel itself and how I roll
  • From Fairfield, IA, on house concerts and a freehand speed map-off competition (apologies to AL, AR, RI, DE)
  • Lost, on things I misplaced along the way and errands I ran between states
  • Uncharted Territory: ND, MN, WI, on the first three states I hit on tour, including a lecture at Kansas for claiming flatness
  • YMMV*, in which I play with Wolfram Alpha and discuss my car and the Cow Game
  • Places I never meant to go, in which I apologize to the Midwest and Heartland states, IL, MI, IN, IA, MO, KS, OK

I’ll be picking up where I left off, namely Texas, state #11.  Yes, I remember what happened.  Along the way I collected receipts, coasters, and other slips of paper, and I wrote my journal on those, in bits and pieces. (And I don’t expect you all have to read this nonsense, it helps me to write it, and if you’re interested and came late to the game, you can learn a bit of how it worked and what it was about.)

Photos!!!  The captions on the photos are practically a blog in themselves:

  • The Al-Can Drive South, with a New Yorker. Featuring tons of wildlife, creepy concrete Santa, a huge beaver, and a brilliant female luthier of the Yukon
  • North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, With glamorous rooftop pizza & hot tub parties in Fargo, the cutest giraffe I’ve ever seen, Zelda tattoos, and the legendary West Bend, WI feast
  • IL, MI, IN, IA, MO, KS, OK, with sunny beach rehearsals, adorable children, American Gothic, Kansas City BBQ, and the American Banjo Museum

I’ll be uploading more shortly to http://flickr.com/mariancall, probably starting with Texas.

Phew. I feel better. Categorizing and filing some links has soothed this pacing brain of mine.  But it’s only a start.  Soooooooo the spinny rainbow wheel keeps spinning, and I hope that if I just let it go a little longer, without panicking, it’ll complete the task at hand, quit, and be ready to open the next program.

Namely ProTools.

Thanks for reading — your time is valuable and I’m always amazed and happy when you spend a little on me.  You guys rock.  More adventures to come shortly!


(This is where I am, but not what I’m wearing, since it was taken a couple weeks ago.)


P.S. The more I look back over these blog posts, the more I’m convinced that I’m totally insane.

In Which You All Rock Whole Wheat Radio

01/22/2010 at 12:49 am | Posted in How to this-or-that, Music, News & Explanations, Stories from Alaska | 14 Comments

So. Last week this thing happened, and it blew my mind and stuff.  Thought I’d share it with all y’all.

I played a concert at Whole Wheat Radio in Talkeetna, Alaska last Friday that streamed live around the globe.  This was my third appearance at Whole Wheat, and I’m becoming sort of a junkie for their online wiki radio station as well as their actual house concerts.  I’ll be driving up to hear Melissa Mitchell and Spiff Chambers there next month.  Talkeetna is pretty close to heaven on earth for a scenery/baked goods/music/bacon lover.

(Incidentally you can download Friday’s WWR concert, in its entirety, here, along with tons of other amazing acoustic concerts Jim and Esther have hosted at their cabin in the woods.  Free live music = good!  Get some!)

Lately I’m waist-deep in a massive recording project, so it’s been over a year since I’ve released any new music.  My Twitter and Facebook friend-fans remind me daily that I ought to provide more tuneage.  (Why is Twitter so awesome for musicians?  Because I can simply ask my listeners what they want, and they can tell me, in real time.  Also they can answer my questions about wireless routers and insult my Momma in real time.)

So at the WWR show, I decided to release a CD of raw-sounding live concert cuts.  I called it the Marian Call Bootleg CD.  It would be available for one night only.  In all of two hours I came up with the track list, advertised it on my many many social networks, and set up the sales mechanism online.  I snagged a spindle of blank CD’s to burn on my laptop, a few jewel cases, and I was good to go.  Presto!  The future is now.  The two-hour CD release is simple.

About twice a week I think, “Why don’t I try this crazy idea and see if it works?” about some element of my career.  With no label, no manager, and no inner voice of reason slow me down, I get to experiment all I want.  90% of my crazy ideas have to do with social networking — which I spend half a lifetime doing, despite the crap I take from my family and Real Life friends.  (Hey, some of us actually do bond over web comics, starship replicas, the fail whale, and photos of stuff on cats.)  Mostly my nutty ideas work just a little bit.  Some are epic failures.  But my experimental flopping and floundering inches me closer to the day when I’ll be totally financially independent as a full-time musician.  Plus it’s more fun than having a real job.

But every now and then a crazy idea works really really really good.  Bam!*

I planned to sell 20-40 of my little bootleg CD’s.  Silly me.  I sold well over 200.  My little stack of jewel cases looked so pathetic.

WholeWheatRadio.org broke every record for online listenership, CD sales, tips — everything.  The more listeners tuned in, the more tuned in, and the more money they gave, the more money they gave.  The crowd online was thrilled to be breaking WWR records.  I drove away from Talkeetna having earned about $4,000 in one night, with a new CD to produce in just a couple of days and an avalanche of e-mail and publicity requests to deal with.  Seldom have I been so happy and so panicked.

I ran home to Anchorage, got the disc commercially duplicated at a local joint that has helped me out before, printed up liner notes, and got busy stuffing and signing and smooching CD’s.  I went through more lipstick in two hours than I do in the average month.  I ran the discs up to Talkeetna, stopping along the way for a quick interview with Alaska Dispatch, and we tried to get them all mailed to their proper owners.  It was a helluva week for Jim Kloss of WWR and me.  (Thank you, Jim.)

Here’s a video from the concert, BTW, thanks to @akcook.  Punk mandolin and zombies.  We had muchly fun that night!

I can’t entirely explain this minor windfall.  I am certainly among the less “famous” artists Whole Wheat Radio has hosted.  Yet I can speak to one contributing factor, and some of you have asked me to, so here goes my little rant:

I spend SO. MUCH. TIME. playing with friends on the internet, particularly on Twitter and Facebook — and I believe there is value in cultivating real relationships with people online.  It’s an investment.  I’ll use that word again: I am genuinely invested in the lives of my friends online.  Not in selling online, not in promoting online, I’m invested in friends there.  (Doubters on this count need only meet folks who actually know me IRL.  I care.  For reals.  Pinky swear.)

Social networking doesn’t come easily to everyone, and I think that many musicians who find it difficult are trying to use it as a promotional tool.  It’s not.  I mean, it is, but — it’s not.  It’s correspondence, sharing, like being pen pals with thousands of strangers.  That’s both simpler and more fun than hacking away at a Facebook Fan Page that just won’t manifest any life or energy. What would you talk about with pen pals?  You wouldn’t send them a list of all your shows.  You’d tell them how your burnt your toast for breakfast and how the weather’s been kooky lately.  Because those silly details are 90% of what relationships are made of.  Social networks are notoriously frivolous and fluffy, because, well — we are.  Human beings are mostly held together by fluff.

Businesses and musicians that succeed at social networking are the ones who create community somehow.  There’s no trick to creating community:  just abide by the golden rule.  If you would be interesting, be interested.**  I spend as much time reading Twitter as writing on it, and that’s a rule that enriches my life.  If you want your online connections to care about your career/read your blog/comment on that Youtube video of your hamster, spend time doing that for them.  Visit their websites, blogs, photo albums once in a while.  I’m far from perfect at doing this, and I can never give all my online friends as much attention as I wish I could.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  I need a clone.

But all this time I’m “wasting” fuzting on the internet, investigating what my friends are doing, is the only way I can repay the favor of the attention they give me.  My listeners’ time is incredibly valuable, and they can spend it on a million things — any time they choose to spend on me is meaningful and ought to be honored and reciprocated, to the extent that’s possible on a scale of several thousand people.  That effort is what moves us beyond a vendor-consumer relationship.  I’m not in an independent singer-songwriter so I can vend to consumers.  Gag.***

It takes a lot of hours, but I’m more than paid back for the time I spend on social networking.  In cash-money a little, but in other forms of currency a LOT.  Attention is currency.  Friendship is currency.  Conversation is currency.  And as a traveling lonely musician, these mean a helluva lot more to me than money.  Being alone on the road for months is only bearable because when something funny or frustrating or beautiful happens, I can share it with thousands of people I’ve never met on Twitter.  And I can read thousands of 140-character true stories from other times and places and moods to remind me how small I am and how vast the world is.

That’s all I have to say about that.  I’m happy to share a success story, because I meet a lot of musicians who are having a hard time navigating the changing music business.  Often I’m one of them.  Thanks to those of you who participated in my magical Friday night.  The energy was amazing, your generosity was overwhelming, and I owe you everything.  Stick around and I’ll do what I can for you,  though I’ll never have enough hours or enough brain cells to catch up completely on giving you what you deserve.


Photo by Brian Adams. http://www.baphotos.com

*Said I, a Lady. FTB.

**Yes, I am quoting Nathan Fillion’s myspace page.  I learned a lot about social networking, online friendships, and healthy boundaries from that page.  Thanks Nathan & friends from that little corner of the internet.

***If you’re all like, “Marian owes me an e-mail or a favor from ages ago!” or “How come she never goes to my website?” Well, A) I’m trying so hard I promise, B) fanmail/fan favors are the hardest stuff to answer, and C) if you chat with me on Twitter/#FB semi-regularly then I’ll get there.  I follow 2,677 people on Twitter so I may not be entirely caught up on your life.  Especially if you change your avatar.  Also, D) I still need a clone, science.

July 08 – Anchorage Rocks. Princess Cupcake?

03/10/2009 at 9:27 pm | Posted in Just for Fun, Music, News & Explanations, Stories from Alaska | 1 Comment

Lemme tell you something about Anchorage. This place rocks.

Pardon my soapbox, but I have to say this. If you live in Anchorage and you’re not going to concerts, start. Now. It’s the absolute best entertainment for your money. You don’t need to go to New York or Austin or San Francisco to hear amazing music — it’s all here, just as good or better. There’s innovation and imagination and tradition and truly amazing skill crawling all over this town — I don’t want to hear of anyone being bored here ever again. I have been to going to a concert a week for a while now, and I am SOLD on Anchorage music.

Last week I went to a truly memorable show; it was as good as, if not better than, anything I’ve ever seen in the Lower 48. It was so good that I very nearly danced in public, which is a rare occurrence indeed. Thankfully the universe was spared that spectacle due to the lack of space. I just grooved a little, so no one was hurt.

The evening was a Who’s Who of singer-songwriters out of Anchortown. Lined up onstage were five terrific local boys, most notably Jared Woods and Sean Mormelo. They took turns playing songs in the round. It was fun, loud, moving, everything a show should be. Evan Phillips of the Whipsaws joined them late in the evening, and at the end of the night Rebel Blues, just back from Austin, stormed the stage featuring a young local prodigy of the blues guitar, Jesse “The Furnace” Ferman. I’ve never heard live blues that good anywhere. Not on NPR, not at Antone’s, nowhere.

Last month I had the privilege of playing in the first annual Spenard Jazz Fest, coordinated by the illustrious Yngvil Vatn Guttu. She had a whole day of concerts lined up at Organic Oasis. I was initially worried about two things: 1) the quality of the music, and 2) the size of the crowd. How many people would come out for all-original jazz? And would the jazz be worth coming out for? But I should not have been nervous on either count. It was standing room only from 3pm until after midnight — the crowd drank the restaurant out of beer and wine, and the kitchen was slammed. And as for the music, well, I would have been proud to be a part of that lineup of performers in any city in the world. (And by the way — the Spenard Jazz Fest will be happening again in 2009. Keep an eye out!)

I am really proud to live here — I plan on staying, even if I have to travel a lot to make ends meet. And I have a sneaking suspicion that all of you Outsiders will start hearing whispers about the music scene coming out of Anchorage within the next couple of years. Our homegrown acts are already big on the national scene (witness the Whipsaws in Paste this month!). This is truly a worthy city. It’s good to be on the edge of the frontier.

By the way, happy birthday, Alaska. We became a state fifty years ago. Way over the hill!

Firefly fans, I have huge news. That I can’t disclose yet. But the secret’s killin’ me here. I actually put off this blog in hopes of being able to make an announcement, but to no avail. Stay tuned for something awesome.

The Song of the Month this month is a very special one — it’s for Princess Cupcake, my MySpace friend Stephanie. She invited me to play at her birthday party, and I couldn’t resist rustling up something silly for the occasion. Since I had to write it before I met Stephanie, though, I used my imagination for some of it. Though don’t we all know a princess?

(Yes, there are two versions of the song — one for everybody, and one for those who are familiar with the details of Stephanie’s deep and abiding devotion to James Gunn and Nathan Fillion. I couldn’t decide which version to release, so both are available for 49 cents on Snocap. And that solves that.)


Photo by Brian Adams, of course. We had fun shooting this. It’s ever-so-slightly creepy, because it’s so not me. I would not don clothing like this for anyone besides you, Stephanie. You know how I hate pink. That’s how much I love you, babe.

“Trobairitz” is the early French feminine of the word “Troubadour,” and I’ve always thought that I might have been a trobairitz if I’d lived in Medieval France. This is one of the many reasons for the chick on the cover of “Vanilla,” by the way. Trobairitz entertained royal courts and wealthy families as well as common folks — they had to be proficient in all the arts and several languages, they had to know sacred and secular songs in every style, they were usually educated and well-traveled, they probably coordinated the entertainment for feasts and holidays, and they told stories and wrote songs for all sorts of occasions. I felt very much like I was preparing to play for the royal court as I was writing this tune. (…Oh dear. As I read this paragraph I see my Stanford is showing. Sorry. Hopefully you’ve read the Nerd Disclaimer from an earlier blog.)

Everyone knows a Princess. I know quite a few. And I love them very much. I don’t think I will ever be one, but I have to admire the self-possession of women who have a certain degree of assurance about their place in the world: in charge.
I now have enough new songs — excluding songs of the month, past and future — to record four more albums. Will any wealthy patrons of the arts kindly step forward?
The amount of work behind this music is staggering, let there be no doubt. The quest for the ultimate goal — solvency — is a massive undertaking. I’ve got an amazing crew of people helping me. And I’ve only been at it since September, when I released my first album and played my first show ever at Side Street. Now I’m headlining a handful of Alaskan music festivals, as in Saturday night at 8pm. Two weeks ago I showed up to play on the Park Strip expecting to be on the little stage, but no — I was on the Big Stage, sandwiched between two large rock bands. That’s some wicked good progress for just a few months! And it’s all thanks to those of you who are spreading the word. Please, please continue.

Inevitably the time for playing around on myspace and facebook is diminishing. I’m sorry! I have several new profiles up now in various networks (the blurb is below), but myspace will be where I make personal contact, for the most part. And I’ll continue to do so as often as I can.

Blurb alert: Find Marian in your networks of choice!
And then pass the word along to a friend. Blog it, Tweet it, Post it.







(P.S. Does anyone have enough free time for a Wikipedia entry? How I would so admire someone who helped me out with that…)

Till next time…



Photos by Brian Adams.

January 08 – I Shaved My Legs for This?

03/10/2009 at 8:36 pm | Posted in Just for Fun, Music, News & Explanations, Stories from Alaska | Leave a comment

It’s cold up here in Anchorage, and even at the finest restaurants, even on New Year’s Eve, the dress code tends to be casual. Well, casual plus fur. But I was bound and determined to dress up for dinner on New Year’s Eve, cold weather or no.

Dressing up turned out to be quite an operation; since we were on foot, I had to wear jeans & long johns, thick socks, snow boots, a shirt, sweater, and a jacket over my slinky dress. I did a quick change at the restaurant and felt extremely silly and a little vain compared to everyone else in the whole state. But I got to dress up and feel girly for a night, which was a rare treat.

I don’t think of myself as a posh, citified type of female — I try to be low-maintenance — but here in Alaska standards are a little different. And according to a lot of my native or born-and-raised Alaskan friends, my behavior last night would be typical of an “Outsider.” Or worse, a “Californian.” And I have to concede their point: a lot of metropolitan fashions and customs just don’t work up here, even in Anchorage. Tiny handbag dogs are just snacks for hungry ravens and eagles. Polar fleece is not as warm as fur. Shaved legs = cold legs.

So I wrote this month’s song as an ode to my strong, beautiful, tough-as-nails Alaskan girlfriends — both the natives and the imports — who really understand how a body ought to live up here. And after I finished editing, mixing, and mastering the song, which I did with an eggnog latte in one hand and a cell phone in the other, I went to shave my legs, paint my toenails, and enjoy a night out on the town in Anchorage.* Hope you enjoy the tune!

Jan SOTM Marian Call

*For those of you who don’t know, Anchorage is not in Alaska. But Alaska is only twenty minutes away by car (or forty by dogsled).

From Dec. 07: Dead Fred & FAQ’s

03/10/2009 at 5:59 pm | Posted in General Nerdery, Just for Fun, News & Explanations, Stories from Alaska | 1 Comment

Once upon a time, there was a very pretty 747 jumbo jet, and this jet was packed full of thousands of Christmas trees. It was headed right over North Pole, Alaska to Honolulu, Hawai’i. The shiny jumbo jet landed at Anchorage International, the busiest cargo airport in the world, to refuel for its long journey to the tropics. But while it was resting on the tarmac, a mean old inspector picked through all the trees, and what did he find? A little dead yellow jacket! So the trees couldn’t go to Hawai’i after all. They had to stay in Anchorage. The jumbo jet was sad to abandon its important mission and lose all its friends. And Hawai’i was sad because it had no trees. Some trees went to live with pilots, some went to live with flight attendants, and some went out to the Alaskan Bush, where you can imagine how difficult it is to find a tree stand (let alone a vacuum cleaner).

We had enough trouble finding a tree stand, and we live right downtown. We got this pretty, costly tree for free, and we haven’t had one in years — and all I could think was, “It’s dead! This tree is dead and it only died to stand in our living room and shed needles everywhere! What a waste!” We also have no tree skirt or vacuum cleaner. Unlike bush Alaska, however, we have Wal Mart and Frd Brfl (Frd Brfl is what I have always called Fred Meyer for no good reason. Albertsons = Snostrebla. Backwards).

But the tree actually makes me really happy in a little kid kind of way. So when life gives you a beautiful and expensive douglas spruce for free, make lemonade (or eggnog). We got a tree stand AND a vacuum, and it was probably about time we got one of those anyway — the sticky lint roller wasn’t working so great on the carpet. Took forever, too. What happened to our old vacuum, you ask? Well, if I’ve learned one thing in life, it’s that if you’re ever tempted to suck up a whole sackful of powdered sugar that’s turned your entire kitchen white, RESIST. You’re better off licking it up off the floor than letting it eat your hoover.

For lack of ornaments, my husband put his ski cap on the top — where the angel ought to go — and his motorcycle goggles are resting in the branches just beneath that. The only other decoration is the broken brown shoelace that’s acting as a fu manchu moustache. Our tree is named Fred. Dead Fred. Well, it’s not dead yet, but it’s gonna be. Fred has lots of attitude.

In answer to some questions that I’ve been promising to answer for some time, Jewel Staite-style:

1) So how are things? Sales, promotion, etc.? When will I hear Vanilla on the radio?

Things are moving very slowly — I’d say about 3mph — and it’s all I can do to keep up with that pace. When you do everything yourself (promotions, website, e-mail list, writing, recording, mixing & mastering, rehearsal coordination, and makeup, to name a few) you really get to appreciate why people get together and form labels. I’m so glad I started Song of the Month, because otherwise I’d never do any actual music.

2) Is your hair red?

This is the color that by rights my mother should have passed down to me, and I’m sticking to it out of pure bitterness that I did not actually inherit her hair. So I’m a faker, but a justified faker.

3) What’s with the name?

I’ve been explaining this a lot and promising to blog about it, so here goes. No, Marian’s not my real name, but yes, it is how I’m introducing myself and what I will be called by most folks from here on in. Marian Marian Marian. Spelt with an A.

It’s not like I think I need a stage name, it’s just that my real name is about as common as Jane Smith. That makes for issues on Google and Myspace. I actually know one other gal with my name — she’s a PhD from Stanford in Psychology, and totally brilliant — and I don’t want the studies she publishes and the albums I record competing for top search results. She’s too nice. Also, I hear there’s this musician in Minneapolis with my same name who’s totally psycho. Is that a pot I want to stir? Not really.

The name is partially the result of a contest I held among family and friends back in March. You should have seen some of the entries — “What should my band be called?” “Sheep go baa. Comfy chicken nest hat hat. The craning necks. Belts, no! Suspenders, yes!” What do they all think of me? Goodness. I almost chose Marian Lexicon, because I wound up with a list over a hundred words that could follow Marian. In the end, I picked Marian Call, because to me it describes my philosophy about art and it has a nice syllabic ring it has to it — I’m really into feet and iambs. And I really feel like I can answer to Marian and it’s actually “me.”***

Phew. Now when people ask I can just refer them here.

4) Will you come and play where I live?

Yes! Tell me where to play and I’ll go there! I’m new to the performing live thing, but as I build up a band and get used to touring, I want to play where you are and probably meet you. Unless you’re a spammer or a robot. By the way, I hear I’m better live than on the recording, so if you like the recording, come out to a show! And watch me make newbie attempts at between-song banter. That’s definitely a learned skill. My bass player is threatening to make cue cards for me.

I will officially be in the Bay Area in mid-May and in Southern California in early June 2008. I will possibly be in Austin in June as well. If you live there, e-mail me! Let’s hang out. If you know somewhere I should play, e-mail me! I want to play there. Even if it’s at your house. House concerts are the best.

5) You’re gonna be in a movie?

Yes: “Lessons in Skagway.” Look for it in the Anchorage Int’l Film Festival next year. I have a bit part — I’m sort of a seemingly nice passive-aggressive bitchy office lady. Like if Pam were actually Angela on the inside. More than this I cannot say. My life is getting weirder by the day!

6) Where did you disappear to this month? Did you just go crazy and fall asleep?

About a month ago my manager, C., kindly observed that due to about a year of extreme stress and food/sleep deprivation, I was deteriorating into a maxed-out neurotic blithering mess of a person (what my husband refers to as reverting to Stanford Mode, or the way I acted in college). According to Webster, to blither (v) is to talk long-windedly about nothing, to speak nonsense. Which is pretty much all I ever do. I should be a politician. But I digress — C. asked me when I last took a day off, and made me look through my planner to prove to her that I actually had taken a whole day off. I got back to March without finding a single instance of a work-free day, and she sort of sweetly smacked me upside the head and told me we’d meet again after I slept and took time off. I never did find the day off that I swore I took…not in 2007, anyway.

But, see, the thing is — I’m terrible at not working. I have no talent for chilling out. But I’m working on it; I have now taken five days off. Well, almost five. And I’m much better slept. C.’s talk with me gave me a sort of permission to be less stressed. Part of that, unfortunately, is that I have released myself from corresponding as much as I want to, so I’ve missed some of you guys. A lot. I think you’re going to have to be happy with periodic comments and letters more often than daily chats. But I still LOVE hearing from you! And I’m wondering what’s going on with everyone, since I’ve had less time to browse. Keep me in the loop if you can.

7) Your website is not as cool as a real nerd’s website should be. There is no flash and no spinny GIF thingies. Are your claims to true nerdhood legitimate?

First of all, my website is very cool — probably cooler than the last time you saw it. Some people ain’t lookin’ for flash.

I took a Nerd quiz recently in Geek magazine, and while I scored a very respectable 59 out of 100, the questions were very much skewed to measure Techie nerdiness (which can be defined as the ability to build one’s own computer from paperclips and ramen) and not Fuzzy/liberal arts nerdiness (which would be marked by the ability to hum every single NPR show theme song and/or the drive to punctuate even myspace comments with almost religious zeal). That bias bothered me a little, and made me want to do some research and present my findings to Geek Magazine. I think that reaction alone should be good for a few points. Paying top dollar for an old typewriter should get me something, too.

8) Do you have self image issues? Do you really think you’re not sexy?

This is the part where I politely disagree. I’m grappling with a very narrow definition of sexy in that song — the Pink/Christina Aguilera Bad Girl version (and that’s a descriptor, not an insult). I’m not fishing for compliments, and I don’t have an eating disorder. Though I’ve been consuming a lot of Orville Redenbacher’s lately…I might develop the popcorn lung.

I could go on and on about gender issues and even venture into music history and linguistics and international cuisine, but that’s a sure way to extract every drop of humor from my unsexy predicament. So I will mercifully stop there. If you like to discuss that kind of thing, message me, and you’ll have a lifetime sparring partner. Suffice it to say that if you’re hearing lots of layers in the music, it’s because they’re there. Like in parfait, or onions, or Waiting for Guffman.

9) Malcolm Reynolds or James Tiberius Kirk?

Come ON people! I can’t believe someone asked me that. Kirk is such a short wussy womanizer compared to Mal. I do wish we knew Mal’s middle name, though. Would it be sacrilege to make one up? And does Jean-Luc Picard have a middle name?

I’ve got to get cracking on the next song of the month, so it’s time to proofread and post. Thanks so much to all of you guys! And merry Christmas! Or happy Solstice! Happy thoughts to you, in any case.


***Plus, Marian Call is an anagram for “Cranial Mal.” I can burn the land and boil the sea — with my brain.

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