The Institution

The struggle of all working artists who haven’t broken through the surface of their craft’s domain is the day job.   All those years of music education to be a secretary… and have a bed to sleep in, a pot to piss in, and maybe with enough hard work, you’ll manage to break through, but at least you won’t be sleeping on the street somewhere dreaming about the would have could haves.

Some dreams die easily.  I’m not going to be a famous dancer, doctor or a National Geographic  investigative journalist which were dreams that lit up like a firefly and burned out fast.  But I do have a particular set of skills that have grown into an ability from a teeny tiny little mustard seed and that ability continues to carry the root of who I am and what I have to offer.  That’s where this song comes from.

Flaming needles prick the darkness, hosed down halls that house the heartless, two pills in a paper cup, liquid soul, drink it up.

The Institution describes the cognitive dissonance I feel in my day job.  It doesn’t even matter what the day job, so it’s not tied to my current organization of employment.  I know I’m not the only one….

Free

This is my latest song baby. She was born the first weekend in May and came back from Mastering a week ago. She is definitely one of my more inspired pieces. What does that mean? It means that everything came quickly and easily from the words to the sounds to the recording. I played around awhile with the mix using different vocal effects and ended up happy with a clean version, just a touch of reverb.

The lyrics of this song haunt me. I got up Saturday morning and watched the Bruce Jenner/Diane Sawyer interview and the idea that we all just want to be “free” really stuck with me. I think the darker imagery stems from realizing that Bruce had been struggling with this issue for so many years. For me “Free” represents the deep unabating desire we have to reach self actualization and fulfillment. That’s really the American Dream is it not?

David Houston and String Theory

If you haven’t caught David Houston and String Theory, make it a point to get to one of their gigs.  I’ve nicknamed David, Professor Houston because his talent deserves that level of respect.  As a songwriter I have a particular affinity for wordsmiths and this man is a genius.  The way he turns a phrase will catch you off guard and open your heart before you’ve realized what’s happened and then here comes String Theory with a sweeping line to lift you out of the mechanics of the lyrics and into the job that music is meant to do –  move you to another level, another hemisphere, another view.  Several times during their performance I marveled that this combination is so powerful and effective.  It’s vibrational open heart surgery, hits you in the nostalgic area of your gut, but the strings and arrangement saves you. They hold you up, help you feel and keep you from falling too far down.  That’s the feeling of an open heart.

It doesn’t get any tastier than this delightful pairing of aural pleasure.  Solid song structure, expert musicianship and powerful lyricism that at one point brought up a few tears.  Now that caught me off guard, I can’t recall when a performance delivered that kind of punch, hence this post.  Kudos Prof Houston & String Theory, I look forward to your next gig!  Stay informed:  http://www.davidhouston.com

Photo by Carrie Jenkins.
Photo by Carrie Jenkins.
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Photo by Carrie Jenkins

Indie Band Guru – Review of the Wild West Medicine Show

http://indiebandguru.com/kally-omally-a-testament-to-having-a-musical-passion-even-with-a-day-job/

I love this review.  This guy gets me.  Part of me had to do this project just to see if I could and what I would learn along the way.  I’ve never believed in being a “starving” artist, or that you have to “suffer” for your craft.  My parents were both cops. They worked incredibly long hours often picking up additional off duty jobs to help pay for the extra’s.  They weren’t particularly musical either.  I’m pretty sure they saw that my head was in the clouds early on and perhaps that worried them.

When I was sixteen I asked them if I could run rickshaws in Coconut Grove (I thought it would be a great way to make money and lose weight).  After a resounding NO from the parental units I opted for a summer job at JC Penney’s.  After coming back from the military I started going to school at Miami Dade Community College on the Homestead Campus and ended up getting a job as a dispatcher for the Florida Highway Patrol.

At the time I was studying classical music and it was not uncommon for me to be humming or singing softly in the dispatch room in between calls, especially when I worked midnights and the shift was slow.

Slow and steady, with the full intent of improving along the way is how I approach my craft.

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Blurred Lines in the Music Business (Mimicry and Risk Aversion)

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Marvin Gaye’s family won the lawsuit to the tune of 7.5 million dollars.  So now Thicke and Williams have to pony up the loot. I’m a songwriter, a multi-instrumentalist and producer who strives for originality.  Now nothing in songwriting is purely original.  Most of us stick to the Western scale system and use I, IV, V as the root of our music.   Different formula’s for different styles but the fundamental platform in which we write a song has been an established paradigm for years.  So then what’s the problem? The business wants Mimicry! Repetition and for you to make it sound familiar!  One need only look to Glam Metal to see the obvious….lol.

IuAmz 

Making music is a huge business where ridiculous profits are possible (not probable for most).  Promoting the new and unique is akin to risk taking and like any big business, they’re risk averse.  They want to continue to reap profits from a proven method.  It’s understandable.  Fear of losing one’s paycheck is enough to incentivize them to want to err on the side of caution, so everything soon starts to sound the same.  Follow the rules, sound like someone popular, get to the hook fast, have production that sounds like the pro-sounds that the major houses put out.  One of the best examples of this is the Nashville sound, which has pretty much ruined country music.  The commercially produced music coming out of Nashville is sounding like pre-packaged meals, looks great on the outside, but inside it’s bland.  As long as the standard operating paradigm for the music business continues to be “do what has been done before,” we’ll continue to see judgements such as this.

We love songwriting for the framework, it’s like you’re given free range to roam within a certain set of rules and boundaries.  But there’s nothing new in the universe, so being creative is a challenge.  As a voice student, I was taught to never try to sound like anyone else, but to discover and cultivate my own sound.  The same approach applies to my songwriting craft.  I sonically isolate myself from popular music or even any music at all when I’m creating and let the words drive the melody.  Even with all safeguards, it’s still possible to end up with something that may sound a bit like something else.

To intentionally create music that sounds like something else flies in the face of true artistry, but we can’t help but wonder if the jury had really been peers of Thicke and Williams (meaning a jury of fellow songwriters) would the outcome have been the same?  I can easily distinguish the cowbell rhythm differences, and other major differences, but could the jury?

I use a submission service to place my music and I’d like to give you a little taste of my last rejection from Warner as it demonstrates this paradigm: “Hi Kally, First I want to say you are a true artist/writer.  I admire when an artist is not afraid to do something new.  The problem is, we work with straight middle America pop and RnB.  I wouldn’t know where to begin to place your project so for that reason, I have to pass.  If in the future I receive an opportunity that fits your style of music I’ll reach out to you.”  I’ll take the rejection over watering down my artistic integrity any day.

I’d be willing to bet that many artists get worn down over time and eventually bend to what the business wants, which is guaranteed profits.  It would be all to easy to sacrifice that integrity for the idea of “success” which is something every composer/producer must face.

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Friday Night Music in Sacramento

Where to begin?  Last night was packed with fun, friends and superb talent.  If you don’t get out to see live music in this town you are really missing out.  I started the night out at The Shack in East Sac and got a Lyft down to Old Ironsides right as Anton Barbeau was going on.  I recognized some of his songs and was blown away by the tightness of his band and how the songs themselves had matured into really fine works.  Aural pleasure.  Here’s Anton:

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Next I ran over to the Fox and Goose and walked in on Dr. Velocity playing and singing some beautiful songs.  I was struck right away by the quality of his songwriting and the sweet vocal delivery.  I will definitely be following his work.   Next up was Kimberlina and Jeffry Wynne-Prince.  Both of them are excellent musicians in their own right and you put them together and bliss is the word that comes to mind.  It was heaven to hear Kimberlina sing with Jeffry backing her, great guitar sounds and I swear that woman has perfect pitch.   I did not hear a single wrong or off note and I am in awe of her consistency.  Great work and I look forward to seeing them again soon.  Photo by Allyson Seconds.

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I ran back over to Old I and caught Harley White Jr. with his band Clouds Roll By and again, I was struck by the superior quality musicianship and Harley’s performance.  Dripping with sweat he easily commands attention, he settles into the beat and lifts you up.

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Next up was Blame the Bishop.  I’m biased as two of the members play in my band as well.  But I love these guys.  Great songs, harmonies that are infectious and unfortunately for the video guy, my big mouth can’t help but sing along too from the audience.  I get a little enthusiastic when I hear great local acts.  I love that about this group, accessible songs and some truly gorgeous harmonies.  Add to the mix the fact that you’ve got two great guitar players who sing well and it’s a recipe for magic.  Down with the Ship is a favorite.  That song is something else, but they’re all well worth hearing.  Photo by Dan Smith.

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If I could have been in two places at once I would have put myself both at Old Ironsides and the Fox and Goose as I unfortunately missed Kevin Seconds and his wife Allyson play and they too are top quality musicians.  I’ll be catching them the next time.  I caught a Lyft back home and was tucked in some time after midnight.  I can’t believe I got all that entertainment for less than twenty bucks.  I couldn’t have asked for a better night out in this fine town.

Happiness

Oh I’m a happy gal these days! I worked my booty off over my two week break from my med center job and during that time I worked with a fervor I didn’t even know I had. I went deep and at times felt like I was cliffhanging- my Craigslist super iMac kept crashing and there were several times I thought a song was done in that I couldn’t get past the crash factor. But persistence and patience paid off.

A great mix is key – it’s the hinge. I was good to go through the mixes but when it comes to mastering that’s where I sorta kinda know what it should look and sound like but there were times I knew something wasn’t quite right. Thankfully there’s a service for that process.

In the end, I feel like I grew my grey matter and pulled out the tools in my arsenal, humor, harmony, and a dose of whimsy. Let the Wild West Medicine Show take you on a journey! To be released soon!!!

Bourbon on my Deathbed

I’m terribly impatient. I want to release these as I get them recorded and don’t have anything keeping me from doing that. Freedom is a beautiful thing. I’ll eventually pull them all together into a CD format and hopefully manage to keep a few songs a surprise.  

My family is from Ashland Kentucky and my Granny and I had an especially close relationship.   She was an amazing and entertaining lady.  She would talk about how beautiful Kentucky was and how she ached to return to the land of her roots.

When she was in the assisted living facility she was a hoot.  I was visiting with her one afternoon and she was telling me about what was happening with the lady she shared the room with and somehow we started talking about  Kentucky and she said, “Oh, what I wouldn’t give for some KY bourbon.  Just a taste would be sooo good.”  and I said, “Granny, I can take care of that for  you right now.  There’s no good reason why you can’t have yourself a little swig of bourbon if you want it.”  You could see her eyes just light up at the thought and then she said, “Oh, no…no. I just couldn’t,”  “Yes, Granny, yes, you can.  It’ll only take me a moment to run to a package store and get you some!”  She refused.   It was a funny moment that stuck with me.  So this song is for her.  I tried to capture her passion and love for the state and I accidentally made up a word, which I can fix in editing  – I’m just  not sure I want to.

Lyrics:

Give me bourbon on my deathbed
fill my cup, before I die.
In that cup, I place my solace and the
secrets of my life.

Kentucky bourbon on my deathbed
when the bells begin to chime
Oh the devil comes a callin,
If I drink before it’s time.

Give me God that sweet refreshment
it’s like horses running wild
through the bluegrass fields of heaven
as I cross the great divide.

One last kiss of pure delightment –
one last taste upon my tongue,
for this land has been my heaven,
Kentucky bourbon take me home.
Kentucky bourbon take me home.

Two Days Gone

I’m terribly impatient.  I want to hold back until the whole CD is finished, but I can’t wait to share when I think I’m onto something.  I guess the great thing about being an indie musician/producer is that you don’t have someone telling you not to do something.  So here it is.  I typically close out my shows with Two Days Gone as it’s a natural fit.  I love to sing and play this song live.  And I admit to being somewhat twisted.  When I wrote this song, it was with the intent of writing the “complete” country-blues song.  It had to have certain elements (I think I even collected a list of these words before finally writing the lyrics), trains, a gun shot, lightning and a shack, red clay roads, Alabama and Memphis, family drama, someone in jail, someone in heaven, a bar, a hotel and a twenty.

The photo is by Pat Henson and can be found here: www.flickr.com/photos/80297647@N00/2275352946

Two Days Gone by Kally O’Mally
I got crippled back in Memphis when Bessie
shot me in the knee.
Lightnin hit our run down shack and I was
begging God to please, take me now I’ve had enough
I can’t take another day. So I packed it on up and took
the south bound train.

Whoa Momma’s gone to heaven.
Bessie’s all locked up in jail.
Papa ain’t been seen nor heard from for the
past fifteen years.
I’m sleeping here in this cheap hotel.
Girls in short skirts hanging out in the stairwell.
Down on my luck ain’t got nothing,
nothing to sell.

Chorus:
I’m two days gone, so all alone, no
dial tone on the telephone,
holes in the wall, no one to call, no one at all.

So I made my way to a bar named Sam’s
Deep down in southern Alabama.
Where the land is red and there’s fools a plenty
bought me some beer, spent the last of my twenty.
Gonna find me the reaper he’ll have plenty to sow.
Gonna pack it all up, it’s the end.
Gonna pack it all up, it’s the end, end of the road.

I’m Gonna Run

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For battered NFL wives, a message from the cops and the league: Keep quiet By Simone Sebastian and Ines Bebea came out today in the Washington Post.  These two brave writers are peeling back the layers and shining a light on domestic violence in the NFL and the tacit reaction on behalf of law enforcement and NFL leadership.  Spousal abuse and child abuse are issues we continue to face in this country and the costs associated with this type of abuse are astronomical.

So what kind of costs am I talking about?  All sorts of costs, health related, educational and emotional costs that put the victim into a type of emotional bankruptcy.  How do you measure the value of self worth or the value of one’s potential?  Abusers are excellent at whittling you down, making you believe that you deserved the beating you got.  Messages like, “you can’t do anything right!” and “you’ll never amount to anything!,” and let’s not forget “you made me do that!”  degrade a person slowly over time until the they start to believe it.  It’s a slow erosion of self worth that will eventually color their perception. Like a form of PTSD, the victim will start to see things only from the abusers angle and actually believe that they’re inciting the anger and if they just did things a little better, it would be different.

Abusers manage the abused in very clever ways.  Their raging anger spilleth over like a pissed off volcano so the abused will look for ways to cope and mitigate the effect. They’ll walk on eggshells,  have dinner on the table, have the house sparkly clean, do a once over the house to make sure there’s nothing to trigger an outburst. They’ll engage in polite supportive conversation that avoids triggers. They may seek to console their pain in substance abuse or forms of repetitive behavior that have a calming effect.

The longer these coping mechanisms are in place the more the abused loses their voice and their power.  Their life gets sucked out by the abusers volatility and the constant effort to keep the abuser pacified. The costs to the physical and psychological body may seem like they can never be recovered but they can, only if the cycle is broken.  The road to healing starts with the desire to reclaim your own self worth and voice and the recognition that something is very wrong.  But for real change to occur, you’ve gotta hit the tipping point, the point where the desire to live in a different way overcomes the abusers conditioning.

How does someone who finds themselves in this circumstance reclaim their voice and their right to live in a safe environment?  Talk about it, reach out, make a plan.  Involve your healthcare provider.  Healthcare professionals in California are required to report injuries related to abuse.  Reach out to the local or national organizations that are available to help.  In Sacramento we have WEAVE.  In Jacksonville, FL, there’s the Quigley House.  The National Domestic Violence Hotline number is 1-800-799-7233 and they’re equipped to provide local resource information for victims.

The one thing’s guaranteed, abusers escalate.  They get off on abusing and seeing their victim tip-toeing around their rage.  Get out when you can, before it’s too late and before #WhyIStayed turns into #HowIDied.

I wrote “I’m gonna run” with all of this in mind. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month #DAVM.  Let your voice be heard and stand up for every woman’s right to live in a safe environment without fear. Run if you need to.

Lyrics:

It’s gotten bad, it sure ain’t good.
His temper’s rising, he’s gotten cruel.
It’s time to go. I’m no longer safe.
Ain’t no therapy, gonna change that face.

I’m gonna run, I’m gonna hide
I’m gonna find, the strength I left, behind, I’m gonna run.

I’ve got a plan. I’ve packed some bags.
Gonna head straight up through North Carolina
I’ve got three thousand dollars, and a clean car title.
I know I’ll be just fine, if I can make it past the state line.

Bridge:
I’ve grown stronger. I’m standing tall.
I may bend, but I’ll never fall….
cause I’m gonna run.

I made the video using images from Flickr’s creative commons and am not monetizing the video.

Most importantly, #KnowWhenItsTimeToRun and #Dontstay #itcangetworse.

Every life is valuable and everyone has something to contribute.  Don’t ever let someone else tell you differently.

Stay Safe,
Kally O’Mally

*Kally O’Mally is a composer, performer and multi-instrumentalist living in Northern California.  She writes and produces her own works.