Vowel States and the Letter "C"

So, I’ve got some shows coming up in Iowa, Illinois and Ohio this month and next. I’ll give you the overview. For details, check out my website, bejaefleming.com. Jackie Blount will be with me on all of these shows, good news for you and me both. We have a couple house concerts on this tour, one in Cedar Falls, IA, one in Edwardsville, IL. We love doing house concerts, so please contact me if you think you might be interested in hosting one for us. We’re thrilled to have Dylan Boyle joining us for a couple shows and to have Nate Logsdon sharing a show with us. Life is good!
Thanks to Bonita Crowe for all her work putting this tour together. Besides being a great booker, Bonita is also a wonderful singer. I’m so eager to have a chance to hear her again. When, Bonita Crowe, when? Don’t make me nag you.
Here’s the schedule:

  • Fri. 4/24/15 – Prairie Meadows, Altoona, IA (with Dylan Boyle joining us on guitar)
  • Sat. 4/25/15 – Peace Tree Brewing Company, Knoxville, IA
  • Sun. 4/26/15 – Byron’s, Pomeroy, IA
  • Mon. 4/27/15 – Des Moines Social Club, Des Moines, IA
  • Thu. 4/30/15 – DG’s Tap House, Ames, IA (with Dylan Boyle and Nate Logsdon)
  • Fri. 5/1/15 – Towle house concert, Cedar Falls, IA
  • Sat. 5/2/15 – Log House Concerts, Edwardsville, IL
  • Fri. 5/22/15 – Bokes Creek Winery, Raymond, OH (with TJC – TJ George and Jasey Schnaars)
  • Sun. 5/31/15 – Barcelona Restaurant, Columbus, OH

My friend, Bryon Dudley, challenged me to a Facebook game a while back. I didn’t take him up on it on Facebook, I was saving it for you. Bryon assigned me the letter "C" and I’m supposed to tell something I like, something I don’t like, someplace I’d like to go, someone I know and my favorite movie, and all of that has to start with the letter "C."
Okay, so, something I like that starts with "C": Cape. I never liked capes that much, not until I saw Mark Gerking’s poster for our show at Byron’s. It made me laugh and cry and cry and laugh. Thanks you so much, Mark. Nobody knows how to be visually fun and respectful at the same time quite like you do. Now I’m all about capes. Here’s that poster:

Something I don’t like that starts with "C":  Conflict. I think I used to like it better, back when I was younger, back when I was more interested in drama and excitement and angst. Now I get all the drama, excitement and angst I can stand just trying to remember what day it is.
Someplace I’d like to go that starts with "C": Carolina. North Carolina. It’s where I’m from.
Someone I know that starts with "C": I used to know this guy named Charlie Dudah. I always thought that Dudah was probably a made-up name, but Bryon (I would have talked about Bryon, if he’d given me the letter B) says it isn’t. I heard Charlie play at the Jaded Angel tattoo parlor (I love that term, tattoo parlor… it seems very old fashion, kind of prim in a twisted sort of way) in Ames one time when Jackie was out of town. I went there with Bryon (who I would have talked about if he’d given me the letter "B"), who hears about things like that. So, Charlie Dudah (he moved away to Minnesota or someplace) has this chain (see that starts with "C") of effects pedals, a looper and a microphone and he starts dragging this microphone across the wooden stage and then he plays bird whistles and slide whistles and a kazoo and just makes weird noises with his mouth and it sounds like total chaos. It sounds like nothing…. Until, all of a sudden, it turns into this amazing, deep grove thing that makes perfect sense. It was a percussive miracle. And during all of this, there’s a pretty woman in one of the tattoo chairs and you can hear the buzz (I would have talked about Buzz, if he’d given me the letter "B") of the tattoo needle and the pretty young woman starts to writhe just a little in the chair and it was all so great and so weird and I went home and wrote Ink and Needles. Charlie.… I miss him. Ames is a little too normal without him.
Favorite movie that starts with a "C": I couldn’t think of any movies I particularly like that start with the letter "C", so I looked online and there are multiple websites that list movies that start with a "C." Can you believe that? There’s everything online, absolutely everything. And, whoever runs the site I looked at reviews all the movies and hates them all, as far as I can tell, all the movies that start with the letter "C." They can’t all be bad.… can they? I saw a video recently of Christopher the Conquered playing a venue in Italy as a trio. They did a Lucinda Williams song so beautifully that it made me cry. Does that count as a movie that starts with the letter "C"? I think it should.
There ya go, Bryon Dudley.  You asked for it.
Thanks for listening,

The Tinkerer

The tinkerer's assistant

The tinkerer's assistant

So, Happy New Year and all that.

Jackie’s on vacation. It’s the longest vacation I can remember her having since we’ve been in Ohio. Instead of lying around doing nothing, which is my idea of a vacation, Jackie has been tinkering with my website.  When I say “tinkering,” what I mean is that she’s completely revamped the whole thing. Once J starts tinkering, it’s hard for her to stop. This particular site was skillfully and generously set up for me about a year ago by Mud Dauber Records founder, Patrick Bloom. I haven’t done anything with it over the past year, because I haven’t known how. So, Jackie, who is determined to spend her time productively, decided to take it on as a vacation project. I love what she’s done with it. J has added lots of pictures and an historian’s stroll through my musical past. You’ll now find such gems on the website as a picture of the Wigwam Village in Cave City, KY. (I can’t believe I get to play Wigwam Fest for a second year in a row in June of 2014. This year’s Fest has been dubbed by promoter, Jay Johnson, “We Are the Trailer Park.”) Or, you can hear a set by Ritchey and Fleming recorded live at Poor David’s Pub in Dallas, TX in the early eighties in which I play mandolin and … wait for it … banjo. Or, you can hear a snippet of Ritchey and Fleming from a compilation CD series called Kerrville Folk Festival: The Early Years. Oh, it’s amazing what J was able to dig up. The website has my schedule (such as it is), some of my past newsletters, some videos, a photo of me, Roger Feldhans and Byron Stuart all wearing funny pants … Oh, it’s worth a look, it really is: bejaefleming.com. Thank you so much, Jackie Blount. And she plays bass, too. How’d I get so lucky? (I’m sure many of you have been wondering that for years.)

Rachel and Bryon Dudley, aka "Rat" and "Buzz," at DG's Tap, Ames, IA. Photo by Roger D. Feldhans, January 4, 2014.

Rachel and Bryon Dudley, aka "Rat" and "Buzz," at DG's Tap, Ames, IA. Photo by Roger D. Feldhans, January 4, 2014.

I’m very happy to share Bryon and Rachel Dudley’s Anniversary party with them on January 4 at DG’s Tap House in Ames. Bryon will join me on bass for my set. We play “sometime around 8:00,” Buzz said, “but you know how these things go...” Not really. Surprisingly enough, I’m not usually the first choice for music for anniversary parties or weddings. I get invited to do a wedding about once every ten years by friends who get carried away and book me because they love me and I always say yes, because I love them. Then we all start to think about what my material is like and realize that we’ve all made a horrible mistake, but none of us wants to say that, because we love each other. So, we carry on, combing through the songs about misunderstood hookers, dishonest card players, discontented ghosts, misfits and ne’er-do-wells, looking for material that might possibly be suitable for a happy occasion. I don’t have to worry about dark material with Bryon and Rachel, they’re very accepting. But, I realized, after I said yes, that what I do have to worry about is the other act playing the show: Mumford’s. They’re an incredibly high-energy band with lots of sweating guys (and the occasional sweating gal), acrobatics and a horn section. Nate Logsdon writes amazingly great lyrics, but you hardly notice that at live shows, cause you’re all caught up in the screamin’ heebee jeebees vibe of the whole thing and you’re concentrating on not dropping Nate as he crowd surfs.

Nate Logston and Mumford's at DG's Tap, Ames, IA, January 4, 2014. Photo by BeJae.

Nate Logston and Mumford's at DG's Tap, Ames, IA, January 4, 2014. Photo by BeJae.

“What am I gonna do?” I thought to myself (or maybe I said it out loud, I can’t always tell anymore). “There I’ll be, sitting down on a low chair (you know, like the old blues guys do) behind that brass rail at DG’s, nobody will even be able to see me, the crowd will be boisterous and celebratory and I’ll be doing my quiet, slow, morose singer-songwriter stuff in front of this band that juggles knives and sets things on fire, this is SO not going to work, what am I going to do, what am I going to do? …” Then it came to me: I’ll hire somebody to juggle the knives, jump around, crowd surf and set themselves on fire … I’ll hire a bass player!!!! (“Hire” is probably a misleading term here. It suggests that there will actually be compensation involved.)

I haven’t told Buzz about anything except the bass playing part yet. I’m waiting for the right moment.

Buzz and BeJae at DG's Tap, Ames, IA, January 4, 2014. Photo by Roger D. Feldhans.

Buzz and BeJae at DG's Tap, Ames, IA, January 4, 2014. Photo by Roger D. Feldhans.

Well, anyway, even though this is Buzz and Rat’s anniversary party, it’s open to the public, so come over. Expect to have a good time and consider wearing flame retardant clothing.

A number of people here in Columbus have asked Jackie and me recently where they can hear us play. Well, we’re hardly playing in C’bus these days, so here it is: Grandview Public Library, January 23, 7:00 till 8:00. That’s all I got, so if you’re in C’bus and you want to hear us play, this is your chance. Since Jackie has steadfastly refused to get a band tattoo for me, I’m pretty sure she isn’t going to set herself on fire for me either, so expect a calmer show than the one at DG’s. However, Canaan Faulkner (Is that the best name ever or what?), the PR guy at the library who books this series, is a musician himself and says that he feels it’s important for people in the community to experience all kinds of music the same way that artists present it in clubs, not in some cleaned-up library version. Okay! Just remember, though, Canaan, you asked for it. Here come the misfits.

Thanks for listening,

Playing the Four-Letter States

As usual, I’m putting the shows at the beginning of this note for those of you who aren’t so interested in the chatty, ranty, keeping in touch part.  I asked Jackie Blount if she thought sending out email like this is too old fashion.  She said that it probably is; that the way people do it these days is by creating Facebook events and calling it done.  What do you think?  Remember back when we used to send out postcards with the schedule of our gigs?  I’ll tell you something you might find hard to believe.  Way back when I was in a duo with Jim Ritchey, when we had a local show, my mother would call everybody on our Greensboro mailing list on the phone!  “Jim and BeJae are playing at Dolly’s this Saturday night; I hope we see you there.”  Like that.  It’s even hard for me to believe and I was there.  Such a long time ago.

Massage line at Maximum Ames Fest '13 - BeJae is 4th from left. Photo from Maximum Ames Music Festival Facebook page.

A very vibrant music scene has developed in Ames, IA over the past few years.  It is extraordinarily inclusive and broad, but it is mostly fueled by a few devoted, energetic, relentlessly hard-working folks who just insisted that it happen and that it flourish.  One of the results is the Maximum Ames Music Festival, a four-day event that books both national and local acts in venues all over Ames.  I am honored to be part of the festival again this year and I am deeply grateful to the people who have worked so hard to organize it and to fund it.  Amazing!  Wanna know who all is playing and when?  http://www.maximumames.com/?post_type=tribe_events
The Ritual Café in Des Moines is one of my favorite venues.  I got married there four years ago on Andy Fleming’s birthday in between sets at my last show before moving to Columbus.  Lots of happy and sad goin’ on that night.  I’m nothing but happy to share another show at the Ritual with one of the best songwriters on the planet, Andy Fleming.

I’m fairly new to John Moreland’s music, but I loved it from the first time I heard it.  John writes beautiful, dark songs and, man, can he turn a phrase.  I’m thrilled to get to hear John play live and grateful that I get to have Jackie Blount help me out on bass for this show.  Thanks so much to my friend, Adam Dawson, for suggesting me as opener for this house concert.  Adam does a podcast called Broken Jukebox.  He interviews roots/Americana bands and songwriters, reviews new releases and lists area appearances of acts of interest.  You can check that out at www.brokenjukebox.com.
Thanks to Rj Cowdry for inviting me to share her songwriters-in-the round show at Natalie’s in December.  Rj is an extraordinarily fine singer and player, a winner of several songwriting competitions and is really making a name for herself on the folk circuit.  I think I’ve convinced Jackie Blount to come play bass for me, even though this show is during the workweek.  The fact that the show is at Natalie’s makes the argument for a weeknight show much stronger.  The staff and owners at Natalie’s are wonderful people working hard to establish a listening venue (with great food!) in Columbus.
That’s it for now.  I gotta go figure out how to create a Facebook event.  (Jackie is usually right about things.)
Thanks for listening,

That Song about that Girl Who Can Throw

Wigwam Village #2 in Cave City, KY.

Wigwam Village #2 in Cave City, KY.

On Saturday, August 3, Jackie and I are doing an event called Wigwam Music Festival in Cave City, Kentucky.  This is a two-day event hosted by some of the Honky Tonk House Concert folks (some of my favorite folks) in an old fashion motor court with stand-alone units shaped like Wigwams.  My policy is to just say yes when people invite me to play, I don’t ask a lot of questions.  I’ve since read the description and am kind of horrified to see that this event includes softball and spelunking.  You’d think that Cave City as a town name would be a giveaway on the spelunking thing, but it’s amazing how often I just don’t think things through.  I’m not much of a spelunker.  It’s all dark and wet and scary in those caves and you might have to cut your arm off to get out. I sort of wish I hadn’t seen that 127 Hours movie.  And I definitely throw like a girl, you know, a girl who doesn’t know how to throw.  I’m not talking about those amazing women and girls who can knock your hat off your head with a softball from forty feet if they’re in the mood, women and girls like the one in Andy Fleming’s song, Bonita, on The Flyover album by Brother Trucker.  I may have to arrive late to Wigwam Fest to avoid all the stuff I’m scared of and/or not good at.
On Friday, August 9, Jackie and I play Concerts at the Historic Cooper’s House in Columbia, Maryland.  Steve and Myra Gnadt host these concerts.  They’re friends of mine from back in my North Carolina days.  Not only do they host concerts in their home, they attend around two hundred music events a year.  Amazing folks!  And this show includes a barbecue, I hear.

I’m playing a songwriters-in-the-round show in August in Columbus at Natalie’s.  Natalie’s is a relatively new venue that’s presenting music in a listening environment six nights a week.  Boy, ya don’t see much of that anymore and I appreciate anybody who tries to do it.  I don’t know the date of that show.  I should find out, shouldn’t I?  Yeah, I will, I’ll find out.  It’s a Thursday.  That narrows it down, right?  I’ll list it on my website as soon as I know.
I’m very proud to have been invited back to the Maximum Ames Music Festival.  Andy Fleming and I will share a show at Stomping Grounds, my mainstay gig when I lived in Ames, on Thursday, September 26 for the Max Ames Fest.  Man, am I ever looking forward to that.  Going home!  Yeah!  Nate Logsdon, Chris Lyng and other Max Ames folks have worked together to create a thriving music scene in Ames.  Here’s to ya, guys.  Maybe Andy will do that song at Stomping Grounds about that girl who can throw and it’ll change that phrase “throws like a girl” to mean something entirely different.

Julia Egli presided as BeJae and Jackie officially married -- between sets --at the  Ritual Cafe , Des Moines, IA, May 28, 2009.

Julia Egli presided as BeJae and Jackie officially married -- between sets --at the Ritual Cafe, Des Moines, IA, May 28, 2009.

 I’m working on booking another show that same weekend with Andy at the Ritual Café.  Jackie and I got legally married at the Ritual Café on Andy Fleming’s birthday in between sets of live music.  It was about a month before we moved to Ohio back in 2009.  Just think, if Jackie and I still lived in Iowa, we could get the federal benefits that the rest of the married folks get.  But, we now live in a state that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage and that’s a real shame.  But, things are changing, they are.  My next door neighbor owns a public relations firm.  He’s a Republican and his firm does a lot of political work for Republican causes.  He told me the other day that he’s working hard to create bipartisan support for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Ohio.  I am so deeply grateful for our Republican allies, especially those who put time and effort into moving us along the path to equal rights.  We really are all in this together, whether or not we agree on everything.
Well, of course, I gotta stay the week in central Iowa, since the week after Max Ames is First Wednesday at el Bait.  A wonderful community of friends has grown around these regular Brother Trucker shows the first Wednesday of each month at el Bait Shoppe in Des Moines.  If you don’t live in Des Moines, you should plan a visit for a First Wednesday show.  Maybe Andy Fleming will do that song about that girl who can throw.
Gayla Drake and I are looking for a show in eastern Iowa for the first weekend in October.  Lemme know if you have suggestions for that.
Okay, that’s what I’m up to.  What’s going on with you?
Thanks for listening,

End-of-the-World Show

2012-09-24 09.56.55.jpg

Wow! I just heard from my friend, Herbert Buckel, that the Mayan calendar ends on the twenty-first of this month. Depending on who you talk to, there's either gonna be a spiritual transformation (which is touted as all good, unless, of course, you’re a writer of dark songs ... then you're in trouble) or an end-of-the-world catastrophe. Predictions for apocalyptic catastrophes include an interaction between Earth and the black hole at the center of the galaxy, and Earth's collision with a planet called "Nibiru." Why am I always the last one to hear about these things? I didn't even know there was a black hole at the center of the galaxy and I've never even heard of the planet Nibiru. I'll bet Jackie Blount knows all about this stuff, but has just been too busy to tell me. She really should have let me know about that end-of-the-world thing, though, I mean really. Of course, I should take it upon myself to stay more caught up on current events ... Well, I should have ... Maybe I don't need to worry about that anymore. The good news for me is that I think I have enough clean clothes to last me through the twenty-first, so I may have just finished my final load of laundry.

So, this gig at Vino Where You Live on Friday night, this could be your last chance to hear Jackie and me play. And, even if it turns out not to be the end of the world on the twenty-first, we don't have any other shows scheduled in the Columbus area. That doesn't mean that we'll never have shows in the Columbus area ever again (though you never know ... that whole black hole thing ... wow), but we don't have anything scheduled right now, so you might want to hedge your bets and make that haul out to Mount Vernon.

This may be the last email you get from me from this particular website, even if the world doesn't end. My friend, Patrick Bloom, one of my favorite songwriters, my labelmate at Mud Dauber Records and bass player for the Iowa City-based band the Feralings, is working on a new website for me that features photos by my friend Roger Feldhans. (Thank you Patrick, thank you Roger.) Because of the stage lighting, you can't see them very well, but in one of those photos I do have on funny pants. I'm so glad to have that documented.  I have to admit, I set all of this new website stuff in motion before I knew that the end of the world might be so close. Well, since we’ve already started on it, we might as well keep going just in case that end-of-the-world thing turns out to be pseudoscience.

One of my musician friends was complaining on Facebook recently about being hit up by other musicians/songwriters for money to finance their recording projects. While it's true that it seems like there are an awful lot of these Kickstarter (and the like) campaigns recently and some people looking for funding have a mighty broad notion of who their friends and fans are, I'd just like to say that I am honored and pleased to support and be part of recording projects that matter to me. I've contributed to a couple of these projects recently, one for Chad Elliot and one for Gayla Drake. Both of these Iowa artists are, in my opinion, exceptional at what they do and very worthy of support. Even small donations (if there are enough of them) can make a real difference in whether a recording project gets done or not. There used to be grant money available to help artists with their projects, but a lot of that has dried up. I hope you'll go find Chad and Gayla on Facebook or on their websites and give a listen to what they're up to. I hope you'll choose to support artists and projects that mean something to you. In all honestly, I doubt that either Gayla or Chad can finish up their projects and get them out by the twenty-first of this month ... but, maybe we won't need our money by then either, so what would it hurt to send them a contribution? And, if the world goes on and the projects are completed, these artists will send thank you gifts for your contribution. My favorite is Chad's promise to send me a chatty postcard from the road telling me how he is and what he's doing. I love making people write to me.

If we make it to next year with our dark songs intact, I'm planning to tour with Eric Taylor again on the west side of the Midwest in May and on the east side of the Midwest in July. We're working on a Columbus date for you holdouts who don't plan to show up in Mount Vernon on Friday. See how I take care of you?

Okay, I should close. I've got to go make a bucket list and work my way through it over the next ten days. I really prob'ly shouldn't put that off any longer.

Thanks for letting me keep in touch with you and thanks for listening.


The Funny Pants Tour

Byron Stewart, BeJae, Roger Feldhans

Byron Stewart, BeJae, Roger Feldhans

Now, about the pants.  I saw them in this very groovy little shop in Asheville, NC.  It was in the afternoon.  I liked 'em.  Jackie Blount took me out to dinner that night and I had two glasses of wine and, walking back to our hotel, I suggested that we stop by the groovy little shop with the unusual pants, since it was right on the way.  When we got there, Jackie insisted that I try on the pants and, I have to admit, they looked pretty good on me after two glasses of wine under the spell of Asheville's hipster ambiance and I forgot I was me and that I usually dress like a twelve-year-old boy.  Jackie, with her generous nature, insisted that I buy not one, but two pairs of these very arty, Asheville-fabulous, very odd pants.  I was giddy.  My first thought when I woke up the next morning was, "Oh, jeez, I gotta take those pants back!!!"  But, Jackie talked me out of returning them.  They were my Asheville souvenir, a couple of pairs of expensive pants that I'd never feel comfortable wearing.

BeJae considers funny pants. Photo by Leigh Rigby-Adcock, 2013.

BeJae considers funny pants. Photo by Leigh Rigby-Adcock, 2013.

The pants hang in my closet and I visit them from time to time.  I've taken them out on tour and I've actually worn the black pair twice.  The first time was at a house concert in Iowa City that I shared with my friends in the band, Thankful Dirt.  I was emblodened by Darren Matthews, remarkable guitar player and songwriter in Thankful Dirt, who can, and often does, wear fabulously odd clothes.  I often don't recognize Darren, because he looks completely different every time I see him.  One time he'll have on bell-bottom pants with hand-painted flowers all up and down the legs and cowboy boots and he'll have long flowing hair and a full beard looking like a hippy guitar player headed to a pot (I meant pop) festival in 1969.  The next time I see him, he'll have on a loose-fitting black Goodwill suit with a wide, half undone tie, unkempt collar-length hair under some broke-down hat, the I-haven't-shaved-in-three-days, scruffy beginnings of a beard and scuffed up dress shoes looking like a street person on his way to a funeral.  Here's the thing about Darren, though: He always looks "who's that guy" cool.  And that's how I recognize him these days.  When I see an unusually cool looking guy and think to myself, "Wow, who's that guy," I know that it's probably Darren.  The other thing about Darren is that, when he's on stage, he always looks like a musician.  See, that's what I was going for when I bought the funny pants.

So, I thought, "I'm gonna wear my funny pants to this gig, cause Darren will be there and he'll wear something odd and fabulous, and I'll just sort of blend in with him."  (Like I could blend in with Darren Matthews, yeah, right.  I'm always fooling myself like this.)

Darren arrived in the most normal looking clothes I've ever seen him wear.  He had on jeans and a polo shirt ... a polo shirt!!!  He did have on a knit cap, but it wasn't an unusual looking knit cap ... And I had on funny pants, which, in contrast, seemed like ridiculous pants.  I was so discombobulated that I never make it to the second, more colorful pair of funny pants.  They were in my suitcase, but I just couldn't make myself put 'em on.

The pants hang in my closet and they taunt me, "We dare you to wear us, you big fashion sissy."

I packed both pairs of funny pants for my last trip to Iowa just last month.  "Two gigs, two pairs of funny pants," that's what I thought.  I was not going to let the funny pants get the better of me.  Again I thought I'd start with the black ones and work up to the more colorful ones.

My friend, Sandy Clarke, was already at Stomping Grounds when I got there.  "Wow, those are fancy pants," she said.  "Fancy" is the word she used, because she's nice and she's my friend and because she doesn't just blurt out the first thing that comes into her mind, which was probably, "What were you thinking with those pants?"  Andy Fleming played guitar with me that night and what he played was so great and so perfect for what I do that I actually forgot that I was wearing funny pants.  But, I remembered every time Andy stopped playing guitar.

I was staying with my friends, Bryon and Rachel Dudley (they're in four or five Ames bands and run a recording studio, The Spacement, out of their home).  When it was time for me to get ready for the ACCESS CD Release benefit show the next day, I said to Bryon and Rachel, "I can't do it, I just can't wear funny pants two days in a row, I just can't."

"But, you promised," Bryon said.

Oh, jeez!!!  Well, I didn't exactly promise, not exactly ... Okay, I sort of did.  I told people at Stomping Grounds that, if they'd come to hear me at the ACCESS show, I'd do all different material and I'd wear a different pair of funny pants and they should come for the pants, if nothing else.  Yeah, I think I said that ... And I did not deliver.

So, once again, I'll pack the funny pants for the next tour and I'll try to wear them, not just the black ones, but the colorful ones, too.  I haven't figured out when or where yet.

This Sunday, Jackie and I will be at the Hot Times Festival in one of my favorite Columbus neighborhoods, Olde Towne East.  There will be lots of art (my favorite being the decorated cars), food, music and enough people wearing funny pants that I won't feel like I have to wear mine.

The first show on my September Iowa tour is in Nebraska ... But, it's still part of the Iowa tour, because it's hosted by former Iowan and M-Shop honcho, Eric Yarwood.  Nebraska would be a good place for funny pants, because I don't know many people there and, even the ones I do know, I don't see very often.  So, it's not like I'd really have to face people after wearing the funny pants.  Besides, I have Jackie Blount playing bass for me and Jerome Brich, a great guitar player who runs his own house concert series in Omaha that I've played several times.  They're such good musicians that nobody will probably even notice what I have on.  Back when we both lived in Ames, Eric Yarwood used to cook for me and get me so drunk every Tuesday night that, for all I know, he's probably seen me naked, so funny pants won't be a big deal to him.

BeJae, Dave Moore, and Jackie at  Byron's  in Pomeroy, IA, 2012. Photo by Roger D. Feldhans.

BeJae, Dave Moore, and Jackie at Byron's in Pomeroy, IA, 2012. Photo by Roger D. Feldhans.

Next, Jackie and I go to one of my favorite venues, Byron's in Pomeroy, to share a show with Dave Moore.  I once heard Dave introduced at a music gathering in Memphis as a national treasure and I would sure have to agree with that.  I got a note from Byron asking me to tell Jackie how much he was looking forward to her virginal appearance at Byron's.  Since it'll be Jackie's first time at Byron's, maybe I can make it my first time to wear the colorful funny pants.  Byron's seems like a place that would celebrate funny pants, especially out back in Hippyland where everybody's pants look funny.

 Friday, the 21st, Andy Fleming and I share a house concert in Knoxville, IA hosted by Megan Day Suhr.  Megan is a consumer advocate lobbyist who is running for the Iowa House of Representatives.  This is a family-friendly event (little kids like funny pants) and a great way to get to know Megan and her vision for Iowa (which may not include funny pants).

Next, I am very lucky and honored to be part of the Maximum Ames Music Festival on Saturday and even luckier to be sharing the stage with Brother Trucker.  I'll wear funny pants if Brother Trucker front man, Andy Fleming, will wear funny pants.

On Sunday at noon, I'll be part of the Maximum Ames Music Festival's Women of Ames Showcase.  My friend, Leigh Adcock, after attending last year's Women of Ames Showcase, suggested that (okay, she nagged him into it) Bryon Dudley spend a huge number of hours putting together a Spacement compilation CD of the Women of Ames.  I'm on that CD and all proceeds go to ACCESS, the women's shelter in Ames.  You can purchase the CD at Where It's At or The Vinyl Cafe in Ames, or by contacting Bryon Dudley at bryon.dudley@gmail.com.  Amazing and important things are happening in the Ames music community.  I'm so grateful that they keep letting me be a part of that.  This year's Women of Ames Showcase is at the Ames Pantorium ... I swear I'm not making this up.

Later that evening, Andy Fleming is going to play guitar with me at the Grapevine in Clive, IA.  Bonita Crowe, co-owner of the Grapevine, will be there to sing with Chad Elliot.  If you haven't heard them, you need to.  Not only are they a stunningly good act, they're also two of the nicest people you'll ever meet.  We'll all be joined by Iowa legend, Dave Moore.  With any luck, all the funny pants will need laundering by then and I'll be back to normal clothes.  This is going to be a momorable show, but the seating is limited, so you need to make a reservation by emailing afinetime4wine@aol.com.

If you think this email is too long, you just don't understand the depth of my pants angst.  I should probably see someone about this.  There's probably something I could take for it.

Thanks for listening,


Iowa comes to Ohio

I know, I know, I don't write to you enough ... Or is it too much?  We probably won't all be able to agree on that, will we?   Most of the musicians I know have stopped sending out gig emails.  Most of us have gone to announcements on Facebook and that kind of thing.  I still do it, because it gives me a reason to write to you, to stay in touch with you.  I've thought about giving up these notes to you, but a couple of months ago I got an email from someone who heard me play a show in Milwaukee and wondered if I was ever gonna come back to play Wisconsin again.  I'll bet it's been ten years or more since I played Milwaukee.  I was so amazed that someone would stay on my mailing list, read these emails and even write me back after all of these years.  It inspires me to keep writing to you.  (Thanks, Mal.)

Leigh Rigby-Adcock, Kevin Marken, and Pat Horton surprised us by driving all the way from Ames, IA to see our show with Eric Taylor.... Photo by Leigh Rigby-Adcock.

Leigh Rigby-Adcock, Kevin Marken, and Pat Horton surprised us by driving all the way from Ames, IA to see our show with Eric Taylor.... Photo by Leigh Rigby-Adcock.

Jackie and I will be at Vino Where You Live in Mount Vernon this Friday.  Vino Where You Live is a charming, friendly venue where proprietor, Tom Noonen, will aerate your wine for you, if you order the red.  (I always order the red just because I like the gurgling sound of the aerator.)  If the weather is good, we'll play out on the deck.  It's lovely, it really is.  My friends, Leigh Adcock, Kevin Marken and Pat Horton, surprised me a few weeks ago by coming from Iowa to a show here in Columbus that Jackie, Eric Taylor and I did together.  I'm hoping that they'll come back over for this one.  It's only another hour further away.  You can sleep on the floor in my basement again, Kevin.

Good news from Iowa: I'm working on a show at Byron's for September, a split bill with me and Dave Moore.  Dave is one of my favorite musicians, so I'm very excited about this show.  But, the news gets even better.  When I told Dollface (Eric Taylor's name for Jackie) that I was going to Iowa in September to do a split bill with Dave Moore at Byron's, she said, "I love Dave Moore, I've always wanted to play Byron's, I'm coming to Iowa to play that show."  Wow!  That woman knows how to make me happy.  We'll see if she can actually take time off of work to do this.

I'll also be at the Maximum Ames Festival in September and I'm fishing around for some more shows to do.  Oh, this just in: something's cooking in Omaha.  I'll let you know the details as I find them out.

My tour with Eric Taylor last month was demanding and wonderful, crazy and inspiring.  We did nine shows in eleven days all across the Midwest.  Eric is already back out there for a couple weeks of shows on the west coast.  Travel well, my friend, and play it like you mean it.  I miss you, man.

Thanks for listening,


Poetic Champions Compose

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In her November 22 blog, Gayla Drake Paul writes: “OK, this is SO strange...I can no longer write songs on paper. Can't do it. My brain has been completely rewired so I now think in keyboard...there used to be something so satisfying about the feel of a pencil moving across paper...but now a pencil on paper just feels like balancing the accounts...the ticka ticka of a keyboard is the opposite of sensual, but somehow it's the only way I can get any words onto anything like paper.

I truly don't mind - it doesn't matter to me how the words get down, just that they do. But it seems so curious. When I write with paper it's CRAP. Total crap. I move to the keyboard and suddenly it's all ok. I guess I am evolving into the new info age whether I like it or not. Well, mostly I like it...”

I think it’s so interesting the way our creative minds adjust and disadjust (which my word processor tells me isn’t even a word, but it should be in my opinion) to the tools we use. We spend so much time on keyboards nowadays doing email, blogs, games and poking around on the Internet. Gayla makes part of her living writing for Premiere Guitar Magazine, so she spends even more time tapping away on a keyboard than she used to.

I like lyric writing on a keyboard. I like the ease with which I can change things and move them around. I often don’t write songs in a linear way. I write in phrases. Sometimes one phrase suggests another which leads to another from the beginning of a song-in-the-making to its end, but usually what I have is a jumble of phrases that catch my ear and my imagination. I don’t know what goes where, what stays, what gets added and what gets axed, until those phrases tell me their story and explain to me what the song is about. I don’t always know to start with. The notion of needing to know what a song is about before beginning keeps a lot of people from writing. For me, it’s sometimes better if I don’t know. I can get in the way of my own creative process if I know too much too soon.

If you had told me when I first got a computer that someday I would write lyrics on a keyboard, you would have stretched your credibility with me. I was very resistant to keyboard lyrics at first.

“No, I’m not doing that! It’s ridiculous to even consider.”

I had a friend years ago whose daughter, we’ll call her Blossom, was an angel child; sweet, cooperative, good natured. Then Blossom turned thirteen. Overnight, it seemed, she became a sulking, complaining, stubborn contrarian. Every time her mother spoke to her, Blossom rolled her eyes with a big, dramatic sigh of exasperation, the universal sign for “you are SO stupid!” My mind has a gatekeeper at the “try something new” door: thirteen-year-old Blossom.

This is what I usually think before I try something new in my process of songwriting: I would NEVER use that, it couldn’t possibly work, it’s distasteful and something only a hack would do and I’m better than that, much, much better and I will never, never, never change my mind about this. Yeah, right.

I’ve changed my mind about writing lyrics on a keyboard. Now it makes perfect sense to me. I’m lazy and unmotivated and I like puzzle games. I play lots of games with keyboard and mouse. Puzzle games intrigue me for hours at a time mostly as a way to avoid chores I don’t like very much. Vacuuming comes to mind. Maybe I’ll play just one more round of Scrabble on the computer before I vacuum the living room. Maybe I’ll wait until tomorrow to vacuum the living room, it’s not like I’m expecting guests or anything and I’m learning all these important new words by playing Scrabble, words like “qat” (an evergreen shrub) and “ilex” (a type of holly), I’d better keep playing. Then several hours pass and it’s time to fix dinner. That’s how it works for me.

I’ve noticed that, for me, songwriting is very much like a puzzle game. My mind comes up with phrases then figures out how to put them together. I like to think that all of those hours spent playing computer puzzle games were training for my creative process rather than a huge waste of time. This is what I tell myself.

I got a tremendously useful songwriting tip from a workshop that Gayla Drake Paul did at the Guitar House in North Liberty, IA a couple of years ago. She said, Don’t sit down to write a song, sit down to write a line. One line. Sit down to write for ten minutes.

Just one line or just ten minutes will often give my mind a puzzle to work. Maybe I’ll write just one more line before I go vacuum the living room. Then several hours pass and it’s time to fix dinner. That’s how it works for me.

I still write lyrics on paper sometimes. It’s an old habit. Occasionally, when I have an idea for a phrase, without thinking much about it I’ll just jot it down on a piece of paper. Those lyrics often lose their way, not because I can’t write with pencil on paper, but because I can’t find what I wrote with pencil on paper. Paper tends to get shuffled and lost among all the other stacks of paper on my desk. I don’t even know what’s in those stacks. I don’t even care. I know it’s mostly stuff I didn’t want to make a decision about. “Do I keep this or throw this away? Oh, I don’t know, I’ll decide later …” Only I don’t decide later. I just let a stack sit there for a year or so then assume I must not need whatever’s in it anymore. I keep all those pieces of paper long enough that throwing them away without looking at them seems like a safe thing to do. I’m better at tidying up when there are no decisions involved. Sometimes I get confused and throw away a new stack instead of an old one, but that hardly ever seems to matter. Nothing really terrible happens when I throw away the wrong stack but, I wish I had those snatches of lyrics back. That’s how I am. I always want what I don’t have, but not enough to keep it. There is a significant responsibility and obligation in both keeping track of things and throwing things away. I don’t do much of either.

Sometimes paper lyrics go through the wash and end up shredded all over a load of clothes, especially lyrics written on cocktail napkins and receipts and such. Lyrics come off of clothes pretty easily, which is more than I can say for lip balm. I swear I try to check all my pockets, but once or twice a year a tube of lip balm gets by me and ruins a whole load of laundry.

I should write all my lyrics with a keyboard (and stop using lip balm). At least I’d have a better chance of being able to find them again. But, sometimes, like when I’m waiting for a flight at an airport or waiting for the band to start in a bar, I might not have a keyboard handy. I have a Blackberry … Oh, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I don’t seem like the Blackberry type. You’re right, I’m not, but Jackie is most definitely the Blackberry type and this is one of her hand-me-downs. So, I have a Blackberry, but I can’t imagine writing lyrics with my thumbs. It just wouldn’t be right and, besides, my thumbs aren’t smart enough yet to write lyrics. Perhaps in time they’ll come around, but right now sometimes it’s paper or nothing … and I can do it, I can still write lyrics the old fashion way. There’s a good chance I’ll never see those lyrics again, but at least I look busy and sometimes that’s enough in an airport or a bar. And every once in a while I run across one of those scraps of lyrics long after I’ve forgotten what I meant by them. They’re often even more useful then. I’m usually better off if I’m not in the throes of whatever I meant.

Now, if only I could come up with riffs using my computer. There are programs that do that, but I would NEVER use one. (That’s what Blossom tells me.)

“Poetic Champions Compose,” by the way, is a late-eighties recording by Van Morrison. The line comes from the song “Queen of the Slipstream,” a song that I learned way back then and preformed a few times. I don’t remember many lines from that song, but I do remember this one: “There’s a dream where the contents are visible, where the poetic champions compose …” It’s hard to tell exactly what Van meant by that. Not many writers could get away with lyrics like that with me, but somehow, I can’t explain how, Van does. You can say anything if you figure out how to say it like you mean it. Van has always known that. Van can make nearly anything sound convincing.

I can imagine Gayla Drake Paul right now sitting at her keyboard, composing like a poetic champion, ticka, ticka, ticka … Try to work in the words “qua” and “ilex,” Gayla. I’ll feel so much better about how I spend my time if you do.



It's Snowing... Sort of


It’s snowing. Eeesh! You know I was raised in the South, right? In the South when it snows even a little everything closes and your mother won’t let you go anywhere close to a car no matter what. So, if you’re female and raised in the South, you don’t learn to drive in snow because you never get to do it as long as you live with your mother. It you’re a musician, you live with your mother for a very long time. You see my predicament. Oddly enough, it’s fine for men and boys to drive in southern snow. I’m not sure they know how to do it either, but they act like they do and at least they get a little bit of practice at it.

So, it’s snowing just a little and Jackie and I have a show tonight in Burlington, IA at Starr’s Cave Nature Center … And I have to go because I booked a hotel through one of those services where you get to pay less money, but you get charged when you make the reservation not when you actually show up. So, I have to go whether the show gets cancelled due to snow or not … which it would if this were the South. But, it won’t because this is Iowa. We drive in the snow here even when there’s more than a little. Even I drive in the snow in Iowa … you pretty much have to … but, I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m that person driving fifteen miles an hour, the one you have to pass, the one who makes the road dangerous for everyone else. When you’re behind me, you think you want me to drive faster, but, trust me, you don’t want that. You’d be sorry.

Maybe Jackie will drive to the show tonight. She was exempt from the no snow driving rule because she grew up in the mountains of North Carolina. It snows there. The roads are tiny and winding and aren’t ever safe even in good weather. People who grow up driving on roads that are never safe, if they make it to adulthood, are pretty much fearless. Jackie is not afraid to drive in a little bit of snow or even in a lot of it. Jackie is hardly afraid of anything.

Next Saturday Jackie and I, along with Mary Pat Reasoner on saxophone and Laurie Haag on drums, will be in Minburn, IA. I hope it doesn’t snow. Jackie won’t mind if it does.

Thanks for listening.

Gloomy Stories

Living a little on the edge...

Living a little on the edge...

I have a guestbook on my website that I almost never look at. I don’t know why I almost never look at it. Probably because I think that no one ever visits my website and so I don’t expect new postings in the guestbook. Jackie looks at my website nearly every day. She checks all the charts that HostBaby provides about traffic on my site so that she can tell me that people do too visit my website, “more this month than last, more this year than this same time last year.” Jackie is like that. I am not. I don’t even balance my checkbook.

I’m not sure why I decided to look at my guestbook the other day … Maybe because, a while back, the immensely talented, young Des Moines blues singer and guitar player, Matt Woods, left a comment in my guestbook. I might have just wanted to read that comment one more time.

So, I looked.

Aside from a long, nonsense computer code message, which Jackie says that spammers leave in order to attract robots and crawlers … She said something like that … See, when Jackie tells me stuff about technology, she sounds like a demented person to me and I immediately snap into my polite face and I nod my head as though I’m taking in what she says when I’m really not, I’m backing up slowly and thinking up excuses for other places I need to be … But, I swear, I think she said something about robots and crawlers … Anyway, aside from that, there was this new message in my guestbook: Gloomy stories.

Okay, okay, you’re gonna love this, you are … When I told Jackie about this message, here’s what she told me …(this is so good) … She told me that sometimes spammers leave random two-word messages that don’t mean anything. Is that great, or what? “Gloomy stories” are just two random words that accidentally wound up together as robot crawler bait. Jackie thought that, since I’m somebody who doesn’t even balance her checkbook, I might possibly fall for this explanation. She said it so that I wouldn’t take the guestbook off my site just so people can’t say things like “gloomy stories” to me. This is my way of dealing with things. Recently, Jackie told me that she didn’t think I played very well at a gig and I told her that the perfect solution for that problem was for me to never play again. Can you believe that Jackie has to live her astonishingly productive, let’s-get-on-with-it life beside someone with such teetering confidence? I’m easily devastated. You just can’t say things like, “You didn’t play very well tonight” or “Gloomy stories” to me, you just can’t.

I got a very nice note recently from Bob Dorr, deejay at KUNI and front-guy for the Blue Band. Referring to our long lives as performing musicians, he said, “Persistence is the hard part, right?”

It is indeed the hard part.

I immediately erased the “gloomy stories” comment from my guestbook (along with the crawler-attracting nonsense code). It’s one of the only ways I manage to persist as a musician. I get rid of the spoilers as quickly and as thoroughly as I can. They’re everywhere, these spoilers, people with egos as fragile as mine, closet self-loathers who make themselves feel better by diminishing and criticizing what others do under the guise of being “helpful” … as though leaving me a message like “gloomy stories” is going to help me write some cheerier ones. I have exorcised people from my life for one comment that I thought was intended to unravel those thin, fragile threads of my persistence at music. I have. And I’d do it again. Some things are more important to me than others.

In all likelihood, my “gloomy stories” spoiler was no spoiler at all, but, instead, some guy from Finland who grew up speaking a different language and meant to leave the message, “dark stories,” which I would have agreed with and taken as a huge compliment.

A journalist recently asked me in an interview if I thought I wrote angry songs.

“I prefer to think of them as dark,” I told him.

I’m all about dark stories.

I’m probably way too quick to erase my critics. There are probably ways in which their criticism would make me better at what I do. I’m just terrified that their criticism, instead of making me better, will make me quit. And one thing I know: You don’t get better at something by not doing it. And I know that it would not make me happy to give up music and dark stories.

And then there’s the other side of it. There is Jackie who has allowed me to set up my life so that it can be all about music. Hardly anybody I know gets that kind of support for their life as a musician and songwriter. If Jackie hadn’t done that for me, my fragile persistence would have broken long ago. If I had what many musicians have, a fulltime job outside of music, children and the plethora of activities that go along with having them, and other interests and talents besides music, I never would have made it this long. I don’t see how Jackie does it. She has always given enormous time and dedication to her academic work. She has an astonishing number of interests and talents outside of her job and outside of music. She puts in far more hours, even on sabbatical, than I put in on one of my occasional productive weeks. And, yet, she still manages to play shows. And she doesn’t just play them. She plays them with great skill and intensity, and she gives herself over as a musician to my songs. Jackie is remarkable. I am not. I would have folded long ago as a musician without everything that Jackie does for me.

My friend, Gayla Drake Paul, who is a wonderful singer-songwriter and a world-class and world-recognized guitar player, came to hear me play a while back. Gayla and I shared a number of shows years ago when I first moved to Iowa and, through her playing, I learned a guitar tuning, DADGAD, that has become the foundation of a lot of my playing.

I said to Gayla after the show, “Can you believe that, after all these years, I’ve finally figured out that I can play in other keys besides D when I’m tuned in DADGAD? It’s only taken me about twelve years to figure this out. We can’t all be prodigies like you.”

“Don’t kid yourself,” she said to me. “I learn something from you every time I see you play live.”

These are the things that get me through my own gloomy stories when the pull of persistence is weak and waning.

I was all ready to take my guestbook offline to protect myself from those “helpful” critics who leave me messages that are code for, “Why don’t you just go ahead and give this up, you were never that good at it, why not save yourself a lot of misery and just stop.”

Then I saw Matt Woods’ entry: “BeJae Fleming is the queen of the world.”

I decided to leave my guestbook as it is for now.