Mercy, Mercy Me!!

JB laughing1

Mercy, Mercy Me….

Wow it’s February 2013 and I just realized that I haven’t blogged since July of last year.  Damn is that right??  I’ve meant well y’all…I started a whole lot of blogs about a whole lot of important topics.  But I just didn’t like the way they sounded and never hit that “publish” button.  I would rather not say anything at all than to just keep yapping about the same old stuff everyone else is yapping about.  I know that’s not how “artists” are supposed to do…we are supposed to keep our yapping out there so people will stay interested.  Yawnnn…lol.  But you know I gotta be me and it just wasn’t working for me. 

Seriously though…up through the end of December I was overwhelmed.  My musical endeavors kept me spinning along with my impending day job layoff, sick relatives, and the usual mommy stuff we all have to deal with rendered me blogless.  LOL   But here I am now so let’s go…

I feel it’s important as an artist (and human being in general) to give something back to your community and the world.  While I do frequently give what I can I really wanted to be able to do something with my music as well.  I know there are a lot of important music charities out there but I really wanted something I could be a part of and experience on my own right in my hometown.  I’ve spent quite a long time looking for a LOCAL organization that strives to make a difference while using music as the means to help others.  And as it so happens with all things I’m looking for, the perfect organization crossed my path at just the right time… 

jbrobin

Through the magic that is Facebook I bumped into Robin Fay Massie-Pighee, the director of Musicians of Mercy.  I’m not even sure what the first event was that she posted…maybe Patterson Park or the Jubilee Arts benefit.  But it was an open call for musicians to donate their time/talents for a show to raise money.  Something drew me in.  Maybe it was the fact that once I emailed her to inquire about being a part of the show she responded in all caps and exclamation points!!  “YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!”  I would soon learn that this is no act or internet persona…she really is THAT exuberant in real life!  🙂

So Musicians of Mercy, (MOM for short) seemed to be the organization that was a good fit for me.  They don’t give to just one cause, they respond to whatever needs are out there at the moment both local and worldwide.  MOM raises funds for humanitarian causes through the production of benefit concerts. All performers volunteer their time and talents in concerts that are open to the public at little to no cost. MOM showcases a variety of artists…solo performing artists, chamber ensembles, jazz combos, spoken word, and a full orchestra.  It all started when Robin learned of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and wanted to do something to help.  Maybe that’s what I connect with the most.  So many times I’ve wanted to do something but didn’t know where to begin.  She just grabbed her viola and jumped in!!  I admire that!  I know this is a labor of love for Robin and all the musicians involved and quite frequently she has to pay for some of the expenses associated with doing these events herself.    

I’ve performed for a few Musicians of Mercy benefit concerts and I always walk away feeling blessed to be a part of such a great group of artists coming together for a common cause.  Truthfully I always wished I could do more.  And my wish was heard with an opportunity that presented itself in an unlikely situation. 

QueenEarth asked me to accompany her for her set as a part of the World AIDS Day event at Creative Alliance.  After the show we were approached and asked if we would like to have a concert in the spring.  We were told we could have a few acts together and select a charitable organization to donate part of the proceeds to.  After some late night brainstorming at the Double T Diner, meetings over chicken wings and whiskey, and gmail conversations, we had a show and a charity!! 

Have mercy flyer

So with that being said, on Thursday, March 28th  8-10pm at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore, instead of Musicians of Mercy having a concert to benefit another charity…WE are having a benefit concert FOR Musicians of Mercy!  Brooks Long and The Mad Dog No Good, QueenEarth, and me, Janice B. together on one stage!  It won’t be 3 feature acts…we are performing together!!  It’s gonna be a blast!  Proceeds from the ticket sales and 20% of CD sales that night will go to Musicians of Mercy to help them continue with their humanitarian efforts. 

I’m really excited and blessed to be able to have this opportunity to perform alongside such amazing artists and great friends while giving something back with our music.  As my circle of love widens, the blessings continue to flow.  I hope you will join us on March 28thPic 3

Check the following link for details:

Facebook event page:

https://www.facebook.com/#!/events/144271515722657/?fref=ts

For more info on Musicians of Mercy:

http://musiciansofmercy.org/

Love and light,

Janice B.

www.janicebmusic.com

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Letting Go and Falling Free…

“The only constant is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.”
— Isaac Asimov

Ahhhh  change.  Lots of folks fight hard to avoid it.  They hold onto bad situations out of “comfort” and fear of the unknown.  Fear of what will happen if they let go and move on uncertain of what tomorrow will or won’t bring.  It might be a relationship that isn’t working but hey it’s much easier to hold onto it because the alternative is being alone.  Or maybe it’s a project that someone won’t give up on because they’ve put too much time and money into it even though it’s becoming a complete disaster.  It can also be someone’s appearance.  They are desperately trying to stay “young” and refuse to accept Mother Nature’s little touches on their skin and figure.  And some folks are just plain stuck in a time warp.  They retain the “look” they had at the highest point of their lives.  You’ve seen them…the ones who still have the same style of hair and dress they wore in high school because that’s when they were the happiest, the most popular, etc.

I will admit that in the past I have been there many times.  (except for the hair…that changes all the time lol)  I’m someone who doesn’t like to give up on things.  When I put my whole heart into something it’s very difficult for me to let it go and move in a different direction.  I feel guilty; I feel like a failure, I feel like a fool.  And in the past I would rather feel all of those things than face the possibility that letting go might bring something better.  Taking that leap is some scary shit.  The fall might kill you or it might be exhilarating and change you forever…but nothing happens till you take that first leap.  Over the past years I have learned that in order to grow as a person and an artist, I have to be willing to step out on blind faith and follow my dreams.   When I do what brings me joy everything else falls into place.   I left a job that was paying me well but draining the life out of me.  It was scary at the time but it wasn’t scarier than thinking about how sick I would be if I stayed.  No amount of money was worth it.  I was also in a difficult position with a musical decision a long time ago and I had to decide was I going to stay there and try to make it work or move in a different direction and trust that no matter what happened I would embrace the changes ahead.   A new friend I had met through this musical family at the time asked me why I was holding onto something that clearly was bringing me no joy.  And she reminded me that I won’t ever find that joy until I let go of the things that are holding me back. “You don’t need this.  Just let it go.” I believe were her exact words.

I chose to move forward.  It was challenging.   I lost some “friends”.  I lost a band.  I lost the only musical connections I ever thought I could have, I lost a little bit of who I thought I was.  But the better side of the coin was that I also lost self doubt, I lost that knot in the pit of my stomach after every band rehearsal, and I lost the need for approval from people who were only giving me negative energy in return.  And in this process I gained so much.  I met new musicians, new friends, created new music.  I became a solo artist.  ME…Janice Alexander Buerkli…now Janice B.…a freaking solo artist!  It didn’t happen overnight.  It wasn’t easy.   I remember when I first started posting the songs on MySpace that my producer MoRece and I had created.  I remember getting some negative comments from some people in my musical past that I had moved away from.  I heard some ridiculous shit.  And I admit, at the time it made me angry and it hurt.  And I remember MoRece saying “They are only talking because YOU are making moves…you are creating a buzz.  It’s not a bad thing.”  And he was right.  These folks didn’t think I would keep moving and when there was tangible musical proof that I was, they got uncomfortable.  It sucked but it was a part of the process.   Lord I don’t look back often but when I do I cannot believe how far I have come and how much I have changed.  And I’m still evolving.  I’m still learning, still writing, still creating.  It’s amazing.

Fear used to hold me back.  I had a lot of personal phobias that stopped me from doing the things I wanted to do.  But quite honestly there is very little I am afraid of now.  That is one thing that taking the leap of faith will give you….fearlessness.  Even the difficult things that happen to me I know will result in something joyful.  Every heartache, loss, breakup, disappointment had a purpose.  I like to create a timeline of joy in my mind.  For example if I hadn’t gone through “A” I would never have met “B” and “C” would never have happened.  And “C” rocks!!  🙂  Everything I have today that brings me joy is a result of all of my experiences, good and bad.  I know that I have to keep my eyes open, look for the joy and keep moving forward. 

Now when I am at a crossroads I tell God I’m ready, I let go, and I soar toward what beauty lies ahead.  It sounds silly, I know.  I didn’t believe it either the first time I did it.  But it has never failed me.  You should try it.  Just let go…..

“Slowly..letting go and falling free I’m soaring…taking in the beauty of this flight…and lifted by the light that I’m feeling inside..watch me fly…” ~Janice B. from the song “My Life”

*My new CD “My Life” is available for download for $8.00 on my page at the Stinkiface Music Website.  Here’s the link! http://www.stinkifacemusic.com/janiceb

Love and Light,

Janice B.

Keeping the Balance

Superwoman!! 

So many of us ladies try so hard to wear that big “S” on our chests.  We try to excel at the day job, raise the family and be a good mom, pursue our dreams, oh and don’t forget.. live up to everyone else’s expectations of what we should be doing and how we should be doing it.  Quite simply we have to be everyone’s everything.   Keeping the balance is vital but it’s also incredibly challenging.   

I’m living this to the extreme right now and I know I’m not alone.  In the last year and a half I have become an independent solo artist releasing an EP of original songs entitled “Watch Me Fly”.  As all independent artists know it is a neverending challenge to get heard, get noticed, and get money to make your dreams a reality.  And if you work another full time job along with that you are really stretching the hours in the day.  

In addition to pursuing my musical dreams I spent several years also trying to start a family.  As many of you know this came to be in September 2009 when our 10 month old son arrived in our arms from Korea!!  (coincidentally this was the same month my EP was released!! )

Sheer joy mixed with complete exhaustion!!  Parents know what I’m saying!!  Many people assumed that when my child arrived I would quit my musical/artistic pursuits.  Along with the overwhelming love and support I received as a new mom I also got my share of disapproving looks and flat out judgements on the decisions I was making.  In order to keep the musical wheels moving and keep myself in the “spotlight” (LOL) there is a certain amount of face time I have to put into being a musician.  Whether it’s being out and about at events, open mics, etc. or working in the studio, or even maintaining a presence with online groups and creating a  fanbase, this all requires that I often spend time away from my son and husband.  And since my husband doesn’t work a “regular” 9 to 5 job there are limited hours in which I can make these things happen.  We are blessed to have a lot of love and emotional support with our child but at the end of the day it’s just the two of us making this happen.  We don’t have a lot of family nearby stopping through to help or babysit while daddy is at work and mommy is singing.  We are often two ships that pass at dinnertime.  LOL  Believe me I know there are single parents out there making this happen on the regular.  I bow to you!  I don’t know how you all do it!!  But at some point as a musician, something will be sacrificed.  Whether I am worn out and falling asleep at my day job from being up all night in the studio or writing, or leaving my sick baby with my husband while I hit a venue, or I can’t make that open mic because my husband is working and I have to be home with the sick baby…at some point I have to let go of something.  At some point I simply cannot do it all without one of these things suffering. 

And I have found that some folks are quick to judge you on that.  Hey, I’m a woman.  Women know we spend our entire lives being judged.  Are we pretty enough, smart enough, too smart, too fat, too skinny.  Are we working so much that we are bad mothers neglecting our children and families or are we “go getters” and acheivers because we are busting our asses with our careers?  Are we saints because we choose to be a stay at home mom and give up our corporate careers or are we old fashioned in doing so?  You know how it is ladies….sometimes we just can’t win.  And to be quite honest I stopped trying to explain myself to most folks.  It’s a waste of energy.   I try to move past these judgements and do what is right for me and my family knowing that we all have a set of circumstances or challenges put in front of us that we have to work through and find balance with.  

In 2010 my ability to balance was again tested as I was presented with a few more challenging situations.  My husband was hospitalized for congestive heart failure.  My day job was relocated from 1 minute away from my son’s daycare to almost an hour away through city traffic.  I also found out we’ll be laid off in 6 months.  My father was diagnosed with lymphoma and bone marrow cancer.  It has been quite a ride in 2010.  Most of the time I don’t talk much about super personal things with just anyone.  We can all list a million things that happen to us in our lives that rock your world and pull the rug out from under you.  My situations aren’t any more special or devastating.  We’re all going through something.  It’s hard to feel at peace while you are balancing on that tightrope though.  Sometimes you feel really alone.   We draw from friends and family, we draw from faith, and we rely on sheer inner strength.   And no matter how strong you are, when someone comes along and criticizes your parenting or judges your “grind” or dedication as an artist and a musician it can sting.  No matter how tough you are….words hurt. 

I could abandon music and dedicate every moment to my child but I would be miserable with no music in my world.  I can’t imagine that would be good for my son either.  I can leave my child every night and hit the streets trying to gain more popularity and sell more CDs.   But again that isn’t the right decision for us while my son is adjusting to what is now his third and final home.   I don’t expect everyone to understand that.  I didn’t know I had to prove my dedication to my music or my love for my son to anyone.  But the judgements continue.  Unfortunately I can’t change that.  It’s life right?  When you are making moves and doing something, people talk. 

I’m blogging about this today because it’s been on my mind for a while.  I know that I’m not the only one struggling to maintain a balance in life between the artistic side and the family side.  I know I’m not the first to be criticized and judged for whatever choices I make.  So if you are a woman out there making everything happen for everyone and going after your dreams while dodging the judgements…this blog is to say I’m with you honey!!  🙂   If you think I’m insane for trying to do the things that I do….this blog will probably prove you are correct!  I never claimed I was sane.  And if you are in judgement of me or other women trying to keep the balance…well I’m sure this blog will be just one more thing for you to judge.  Do what you do!!  But remember that you never know the whole story.  You never know what someone is really going through.  Try asking instead of judging.  If you feel you have all the answers to balancing someone elses life then try helping them with that instead of pointing fingers and criticizing.  Just a thought. 

At the end of the day you have to live your life with as few regrets as possible doing what YOU feel is the right thing and what works for you and your family.   Bask in the blessings, accept and learn from the challenges and disappointments, and continue on your journey. 

Much love and light,

Janice B.

**special thanks to the many people holding me up while I try to keep the balance..teetering!

Artist vs. Musician…my former life in a cover band.

Hello,

I know I am late on what I originally intended to be a weekly blog posting from me.  Sorry!  I told you I was bad with blogging!

Anyway let me start this blog with a disclaimer: This blog is in no way putting down musicians who are out there in wedding bands, cover bands, doing cruise ship gigs, etc.  I have mad respect for musicians who do their own material, are out there hustling and trying to promote their CDs… all while also gigging with a cover band doing corporate gigs and weddings to bring in money and make a living.  It’s hard work.  Personally I have made the decision to hang on to my 9 to 5 job while doing my own material, writing, and performing.  I respect the artists and musicians who will take any wedding or corporate gig to make a living …I’m just not one of them.   

Okay back to the business at hand.  Artist vs. Musician. 

When I was in the band Intuition from 2003-2008 (btw the pic above is the band in 2005) we did a lot of cover songs.  You pretty much have to when you are playing in bars, etc. because unless you are doing a small feature set, people don’t want to hear 2 hours of your originals unless you already have a big fan base and even then not so much.  LOL   And let’s face it..most new bands don’t have 2 hours of originals.  But we initially formed the band as a vehicle to perform some of our original songs and throw in some neo-soul covers too.  That was the original plan.  And the good thing was that WE chose the cover songs that WE wanted to do.  So if you came to see Intuition it was a show.  We weren’t a dance band.  We weren’t going to have everyone up doing the electric slide (unless they were really drunk!).  You came to see us because you liked our sets..you liked our style and diversity.   This was going pretty well for a while until the conversation came up about us doing weddings and private gigs to make money. 

I’m sorry..I’m just not a wedding singer.  I got into songwriting with the idea of performing my own songs and possibly writing for other artists as well.  Not once did the idea of singing Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” because it’s some groom’s Uncle Charlie’s favorite song cross my mind, ya know?  I’m not singing “Celebrate” or “The Macarena” either.  (and you don’t want to know about the Hokie Pokie, okay?)

Let me say that most wedding singers have AMAZING voices.  They can cover a wide range of artists and that is very hard to do.  I on the other hand do not have an AMAZING voice.  Okay I’m not putting myself down…I just know that I don’t have that clear as a bell beautiful big range broadway bound voice.  My voice is different and yes that is a good thing.  It’s smokey (so I’m told), raspy, low in register….so unless you want a whole wedding set of Sade, Diana Krall, and Cassandra Wilson songs….I’m not the singer for you. 

I also do music because I want to do it.  So the idea of singing songs I hate for money is not something I desire to ever do.  Here’s where the band started to move apart.  One member got mad and said “you mean to tell me you wouldn’t sing “Celebrate” for $1000?”  That’s EXACTLY what I’m saying.  Now don’t get me wrong, I will sing it right now if you hand me $1000.00 (LOL) but I mean I am not going to spend time rehearsing, loading equipment, unloading it, setting it up, sound check, being the super happy excited wedding announcer (which is what the band usually ends up being) AND singing songs I hate for $1000.00.  Got it?  I have NO desire to do that. 

I said “I’m an artist.  I want to create songs and perform them.”  Well since some band members just wanted to perform and get paid, some considered it a weekend hobby (unless wifey had other plans), and some were of my mindset, needless to say….the band didn’t work out.  After a year of rehearsing for gigs that we had to end up cancelling, we were done.  I was done for sure..but part of me was still holding on.  I put all of myself into it so when it disintegrated after 5 years I had a hard time with it.  And writing songs for real was new to me.  This band was the only musical outlet I had.  These musicians were the only ones I really knew.  So what was I gonna do now?  It was a dark time.  But it was eye-opening.  I didn’t know how to achieve what I wanted….but I knew what I didn’t want.  And I knew I was an artist first.   

There are people who have played music their whole lives.  All they want to do is be up in front of a crowd singing or playing anything just basking in the joy of music and adulation from the crowd and getting paid for it.  Doing what they love for a living!  You can’t beat that.  Some of these musicians aren’t songwriters.  They just want to play.  That was my grandmother and she loved making folks happy playing their favorite songs and she was really good at it.    

There are others who write their own material and also make a living playing in cover bands doing weddings, corporate events, etc. and still manage to do their own shows to promote their material.  These folks really HUSTLE.   

Then there’s me.  Not sure how I fit in all of this.  I love performing…love the interaction with a live band…love it when people feel what you do and the audience comes out just to see YOU or hear your new songs.  That’s a blessing.  But the creative process is equally as important to me and without it I couldn’t survive.  I don’t mind throwing some cover songs in a show but the focus of the show needs to be the songs that I have created.  That is what brings me the most joy.  Crafting a song from an idea is something that I have to do.  It’s a part of who I am.  And singing in a wedding band would kill that for me.  It’s just not me.  And I find myself having to explain this to people a lot. 

“You like to sing why don’t you go audition for a dinner theater?”  Ummm because I don’t want to sing show tunes, don’t want to wear costumes and do dance steps, don’t want to do the same material every night for months, AND wait tables.  No thanks.  That’s not me.  “Well why don’t you get some musicians together and see if you can get some gigs for parties and weddings and make some money?”  Uhh because I am trying to do my own material and promote my CD and get my name out there as a songwriter.  I don’t want my name out there as the girl in cousin Betty’s wedding band who sounded just like Sade!!  What’s her name again?? 

I had a recent conversation with a friend on Facebook, a fellow musician who does his own material.  He had an epiphany onstage one night and realized that he hated what he was doing.  He hated playing these songs that weren’t his.  He decided to quit right that evening and focus on his own material.  That’s a huge decision.  It’s scary as hell to walk away from that income….but it’s also liberating.   And I understand completely.  I was blessed in the fact that letting go of the band opened up more possibilities for me.  People were put in my path that I might never have met or noticed had I not let go of the band.  And I look around me now and can’t believe that I’m working with these amazing artists and I can’t imagine being any place else.

Okay I’ve blabbed enough….until next time..

JB

I Don’t Do Blogs..ughhh

Okay yeah… so here I am.  I named this blog “The Soul of Janice B.” not to be overly dramatic (well maybe a little) but more because I know me and I know that anything I write will have a little of my soul in it.  I have to start by saying that I am not a blogger.  I’ve never been a diary writer or a journal keeper.  My journals are filled with song ideas and completed songs.  When I need to express myself about some situation I am dealing with day to day I never feel the need to write it word for word in a journal.  Anytime I have tried  to write out the day’s events I end up editing it because it seems so pathetic to me.  Why would I want to immortalize the fact that someone pissed me off at work?  What if my future grandkids get a hold of it and laugh at what a loser grandma was.  LOL  I’m certainly not belittling the therapeutic effect that journaling has for many people…..but I know it is NOT for me.  I put my emotions into songs..sometimes literally…but usually figuratively.  I put my joys and sorrows in the face of the portrait I am drawing.   I’ve become very good at releasing emotions this way.  Truthfully this has saved my life more times than I care to remember.   So if my future grandkids hear my songs or see my drawings they might think “wow Grandma was intense!” or more likely “Grandma was nuts!”  Either way I am good with that. 

I’m starting my first blog entry out like this because I just want you to know that I have no idea how this is gonna pan out.   I’m never at a loss for words (ask any poor soul who has interviewed me or got me on the phone at night when I’ve had one too many cocktails LOL) but to sit and type out whatever is on my mind is incredibly intimidating.  Gulp…

That being said let me introduce myself.  You all most likely know me as Janice B., the name I chose for my music endeavors.  Some know me as Jan, Jannie (only a select group of very old relatives are allowed to call me that), JB, Janice Buerkli, Janice Alexander, etc.   There are people in my life who only know me as Janice B, the singer/songwriter on the Stinkiface Music label.  But there is an entire group of folks from my past who don’t even know I sing, write, and create.

Truth be told I haven’t been doing this music thing for that long on a professional level…but I have always sung, have always had a song in my head, have always heard lyrics and melodies that weave themselves together while I went on about dealing with the daily grind.  I just didn’t know this wasn’t normal for everyone.  I didn’t know I could really write and record a song.  I didn’t know what an incredible relief and upheaval it would be when I did.  And I cannot remember how I coped before this musical intervention.  I know I felt like something was missing.   

Guess I need to include some personal tidbits….

 I’m an only child who was born in Washington DC and grew up right outside of the city in a suburb called Forest Heights.  I claim the title of “only child” because that has been a source of great pain as well as great joy for me at times.  It explains a lot when you follow my path in life but I will go into detail about that later in another blog perhaps (if you aren’t already yawning). 

Right now just know that I am a daddy’s girl, a wife, a mother, a portrait artist, lyricist and songwriter, who is desperately trying to keep the balance between all of these titles and still work a 9-5 job and not go insane.  LOL  I have a few friends who have transcended the “friend” title and are truly my blood.  I come off as outgoing and bold to a lot of people…intimidating to some…but I am really a loner at heart.  My quiet “me” time is crucial.  I am a scorpio to a “T”…I am deep and emotional at times.  I am very intuitive and follow my instincts way more than I follow what other folks consider common sense.  I feel things very strongly and often take things way too personally but I do think that this helps me to write better songs. 

I was VERY shy for a lot of my life (no one who knows me now believes this).  I always felt different from other kids, peers, etc.  I can only describe it as being on the outside looking in.  Sometimes I still feel that way but I’ve learned it’s okay and actually it’s kinda nice out here with us weird folks.  We see things differently, we process the world in a whole different way.  It’s taken me almost my whole life to realize that to not fit the mold is a wonderful gift  as an artist and as a human being.

For whatever reason folks seem to relate to the words of my songs.  This boggles my mind but at the same time is such an honor and a blessing.  To have someone take the time to tell you how a song you created helped them, or healed them, or told their own story that they couldn’t tell themselves is very overwhelming.  I am still striving to understand this gift but I feel it’s important so I keep on writing music.  I’m not sure what my role is in this world but I know that whatever it is….I know there is a song to go with it!   

I’m going to end it here for now.  See I’m already finding myself editing my info just like I would in a diary!  Okay I promise going forward I will be more forthcoming.  This is going to be a process for me.  I would love to hear your comments (I think lol).   So many of you said you would be interested in what I had to say in a blog.   Let’s see how many stay for the ride…..

🙂

Until next time….much love,

Janice B.