rachel elizabeth

Formerly Known as Fern

"A dream that you'll never want to wake up from."

-Razmataz Magazine

BreakOUt West wrapup: Friendship is the best ship

*Hi! For those of you who don’t know, I’m writing a blog a day about my time at a music biz conference and festival called BreakOut West. Yesterday got away from me, but I’m back at it today. You can check out my previous posts HERE.* 

Today’s ramble is going to be a short one about making new friends! Because at the end of the day, friendship is the best ship.*


The most helpful advice I got about going to BreakOut West for the first time was to just enjoy connecting with other musicians. I mean, it sounds pretty obvious, but I needed that reminder. Big gatherings of people can be chaotic and stressful + it's really easy (for me) to get overwhelmed by that. Luckily, I still had some good times hanging out with new and old friends. On that note, one of my favourite parts of the conference was definitely getting to know Elsa Gebremichael (We Were Lovers) better!

Elsa and I have crossed paths a fair few times in Saskatoon over the years, most recently at Girls Rock Camp this summer, but we've never had the chance to have a heart to heart. Being at this conference together totally opened the doors for that to happen!

After catching up during the day on Friday, Elsa and I made a plan to show hop together that evening. We ended up going to Shopper’s Drug Mart for snacks, then headed back to her hotel room to get ready, chatting the whole way about everything from music to relationships to like, life, man. Can’t think of a better way to start a night, tbh!

By the end of the first set of shows, I really felt like I had a new friend (even though we’ve always been friendly). So Elsa, thanks a million for being so kind, generous with your time + knowledge of music, and for being super fun to hang out with! My first BreakOut West wouldn’t have been the same without you. <3

A photo from the bathroom of the Wawa Shriner's building, where SaskMusic hosted a tasty perogy dinner. 

A photo from the bathroom of the Wawa Shriner's building, where SaskMusic hosted a tasty perogy dinner. 

Thanks also to everyone who made my BreakOut West weekend unforgettable (it feels overwhelming to list you all knowing I’ll probably forget someone, so I just hope you can feel it in your hearts?). Special shout-out to SaskMusic and the organizers + volunteers who made things happen!!

I'm still processing the weekend as a whole, but won't be writing daily posts about it after today. Feel free to ask questions if you have any though!

Thanks for reading.

xoxo Rachel

 

*I think this is a sing-along that happened at a Twin Voices show, but I can’t totally remember. It stuck with me though!

A Break from BreakOut West :P

Ok, so. I’m supposed to be writing about BreakOut West, but I can’t focus long enough to finish anything because I haven’t been feeling well today!

Also, a LOT happened over the weekend and it’s taking me a long time to write these posts because I’m basically debriefing as I write.

Instead of forcing myself to do this today, I’m going to share some lyrics with you!

These are the lyrics from the re-worked demo I released a couple weeks ago called ‘Proximity.’

I’ll have a BOW post tomorrow. <3


Proximity

There you are five feet from my door

with your hand on the wall

like you’re catching a fall

 

Here I am five feet from my mind

and I’m stretching the sun

so you think that I’m fun

 

Open the door and see all the people

Oh I wish I knew your name

Oh I wish you knew my face

 

Proximity

 

We’re walking forward five years later

Oh I wish you knew my name

Oh I wish I knew your face

 

Oh I wish you knew my fate

 

Proximity

BreakOut West Day Two: Surprise Cats, Friends, Websites

Hi! For those of you who don’t know, I’m writing a blog a day about my time at a music biz conference and festival called BreakOut West. I’m doing this until Friday! Yesterday I wrote about my first day in Regina (this year’s host). You can read about it HERE.

To summarize day one: a bit of a schmozzle, but ended on a chill note.


Day Two:

On Friday morning I woke up feeling less tired but still scattered. I took most of the morning to try to curb those feels—picked up some granola bars to have on hand in case of low blood sugar + restocked on allergy meds ‘cause there was a surprise Air BnB kitty that I was mildly allergic to.

Very serious in my Air Bnb room.

Very serious in my Air Bnb room.

This meant skipping the first workshop of the day, but that was fine with me because I knew the rest of the day was going to be jam-packed. It also meant I had time to catch up with Elsa from We Were Lovers in the hotel lobby! Neither of us knew the other was going until the last minute, so it was really awesome to meet up and debrief a bit before getting going. Saskatoon womenz represent!

The first workshop I had signed up for that day was an online presence review where you could show a panel of industry reps your website/social media and get feedback about it. You better believe I removed the twitter icon from my site the night before. 😆 

In all seriousness though, as someone with a fairly new website, I figured it would be helpful to glean some professional opinions. Even though it’s tedious sometimes, I do aim to use my site and artist page to present the things I’m doing in a way that is easy to access + looks good (subjectively I guess?). And these people look at hundreds of websites a week, SO.

I thought the pre-registration meant I’d be meeting with the panel solo, but it actually meant having your site reviewed in front of EVERYONE who registered. I was not prepared for this at all, but it went well regardless. There was some valid criticism about logistics and fonts and the like (working on it), but I also got to talk about the live-songwriting I’ve been doing from my band page and got some great feedback on that! 

It was also helpful to see how other artists had their websites set up. I’m not sure if I should be sad or happy that this stuff is really interesting to me now that I’ve worked on my own site.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

S/O to a band called Windigo from Calgary, who was part of the workshop + worked with the same graphic designer as I did (S C K U S E). Small world, always.

After finishing up website stuff, I poked my head into a panel about national touring, then headed to my one on one meetings. Sticking with posi vibes here, but they went much better than the previous afternoon. Still nervous, but was able to communicate more + better about the things I wanted to talk about, such as working towards releasing a full length album + touring.

Thanks to Jen Fritz, Devin Latimer, Jared Falk, and the Canadian Federation of Musicians for passing on some of their wisdom to me!

This mostly sums up my second day of conferencing, so I’ll stop here. Let me know what you think! Do you want to know more about certain things?

Check back tomorrow for another post! 

BreakOut West Day One

7:30am: Somewhat frantically finish packing.

I went to the wrong Cosmo centre for election worker training the previous afternoon and ended up having to go in the evening when I had planned to get organized. For those of you who don’t know, Saskatoon has a Cosmo Seniors Centre as well as a Cosmo Civic Centre. One I can easily walk to, the other is an hour and a half bus trip from my place. Guess where I went by mistake?

8:00am: Try to get my hair to look good because I have to get my driver’s license renewed on the way out of town and it’s a new photo year. Bless the goddesses (ALL OF THEM) that it ended up looking really great. :P

8:20am: Drop partner off at work ‘cause he generously let me take the car to Regina for the conference.

8:30am: Coffee, renew driver’s license, hit tha road.

I hit good weather aside from a chilly pocket of fog around Blackstrap, which was ok with me because the hoar frost on the trees was beautiful. I think seeing potentially dangerous road conditions as “beautiful” officially makes me a city kid. I do like highway driving for the most part, though.

11:00am: Experience Reginaaaaaaa.

I rolled straight up to the conference feeling, honestly pretty shaky and gross. I didn’t have the best sleep the night before and was already nervous about going to the conference for the first time. Once I got myself registered, I plopped down in the lobby and scanned the room for familiar faces.

I FOUND NICK FAYE, who I played a show with in Saskatoon earlier this year. So that was comforting. We caught up for a bit, he introduced me to Jon Neher (Orphan Mothers, Nick Faye & the Deputies), then we parted ways before the first workshop.

From here on out, the timeline gets pretty hazy, so I’ll summarize my afternoon. I took in a lot of information provided by everyone from label management to show promoters and booking agents, caught up with a couple fellow artists I hadn’t seen in a while, and took a couple mental health breaks. Burned my tongue sipping tea. Tried to track down a food source. The usual conference things, I suppose??

My biggest apprehension was going to one on one meetings with industry mentors that day. In this particular setting you could pre-book 15 minute meetings with participating delegates to chat about your work, ask questions, and potentially (for some artists) ‘pitch’ your project. I mean, honestly it was a pretty cool opportunity to be able to talk to people with experience who might be able to pass on their wisdom and advice to artists. It also felt like a lot of pressure. With only 15 minutes a meeting you need to be pretty clear + concise or you risk not representing yourself well. There is also no guarantee that you’ll click with the person you’ve booked in to talk to, which makes for a loooong meeting.

If I’m being totally honest, the first couple meetings felt rough. I was stiff and nervous and had a hard time articulating the things I wanted to talk about. By the third meeting I had loosened up a bit. Coincidentally it was with Nathan Stein, an A&R rep for Arts & Crafts.

I SHOULD have been most nervous about this one because I spent a good portion of my early 20s listening to A&C artists like Stars and Broken Social Scene. They’re arguably the most famous indie label in Canada + I’ve definitely fantasized about being represented by them.

By this point though, I was tired + my adrenaline rush was wearing off. I was reminded that my intention going into the conference wasn’t to try to get a big record deal, it was to meet people, talk about my work and take in new experiences. Why worry, right?

So we just chatted about the things I was doing and in what capacity. I’m pretty sure I said I didn’t think I was ready to work with big management/labels yet, which was/is true. He affirmed some of the things I was saying about my long-term plans and when I couldn’t think of more questions to ask we chatted a bit about our local scenes. I think that counts as a win.

It was nice to settle into that. A big part of my ‘artist growth’ over the past few months has been to consider whether or not the things I’m doing are sustainable. Now that I have some experience under my belt, I feel a lot more centered in making decisions. I’ve been working at building things slowly (with help) and I feel good about that. I don’t think that makes me unambitious, but you might have a different opinion and that’s ok.

Maybe this comes across as ‘throwing away an opportunity.’ Maybe he felt like I was wasting his time. 

I don’t know. I do know that I skipped an after-party that night in favour of poutine, Netflix and a good sleep.

NO REGRETS.

Break Out West 2016

So for those of you who don't know, I just got back from a music biz conference and festival called BreakOut West. It was the first of its kind for me and I'm really glad I went.

Long story short it was overwhelming as hell, but I learned a lot, made some new pals, reconnected with old ones and was reassured that I've been doing a few things right.

On the way to Regina for BreakOut West! 

On the way to Regina for BreakOut West! 

To keep the post conf blues away, I'm going to write a blog every day until Friday! I plan to keep them centred around BOW until I run out of things to say, so if you're curious about anything conference wise let me know below. I'll try to answer it in a post. This is going to count as the first one, because I need to take it easy today. 

ICMYI tho, check out the live song-writing video I did last week! https://www.facebook.com/rachelelizabethmusic/.

xo Rachel

All the Fall Things

--All the Fall things. Wake me up when September ends. I Fall to Piieeeeces.--

It's Autumn! Please fallgive me the puns.

Seriously though, very busy month. All the fall things DID start up again. And we all know that all of small things end up taking more time than anticipated. That being said...

I’m still song-writing, playing shows, albeit less frequently, and back into regular volunteer board work for Tonight It’s Poetry (your weekly Saskatoon based poetry show). I’ve also been putting more time into my online shop, Mother Fern Vintage. Also, I turned 29 + celebrated many other family birthdays!  I almost wrote a post about aging, but um...I'm still a bit bitter about that, so maybe next time.

Some of my Fall stock for Mother Fern Vintage. Love greeeeen.

Some of my Fall stock for Mother Fern Vintage. Love greeeeen.

As I’ve mentioned, my Spring/Summer project is in (slow) development for recording. It’s hard not to want to rush the process, but I think there’s more for me to learn (and people to meet) before taking these songs where they want to go. Very excited to keep working at it over the next few months.

In two weeks I’ll be at BreakOut West, which is an industry convention for Western Canadian musicians. I’ve never been to a conference of this scale before! I’m anticipating a pretty big learning curve, but feel confident that at the very least I’ll make some new friends and come out of it with a clearer vision of what I want/need for myself as an artist. 

Definitely going to be polishing up my social skills, artist pitches, and making a solid personal plan for if/when conference madness gets overwhelming.

I’ve also been spending some time with old demos that came after my EP Strange Fingerprints or didn’t make the cut for whatever reason. I was kind of surprised to find some decent stuff hiding out in my old garage band folder! Perspective is a good thing.

Most of these songs are gonna stay on my hard-drive, but I wanted to share one with you because why not and you’re all being so patient with me. It’s called ‘Proximity.’ I started writing it four years ago but never finished it, so I polished it up and recorded a new demo version. You can listen to it below. It's a sad song about a crush. hehe. 

Take care until next time! 

xoxo

Rachel

Bonding with Your Instrument: A Case Study

I have a confession.

I bought a new guitar at the end of May and it’s taken me until now to bond with it. If I’m being honest, I’m still a little wary of it! It’s been causing me some not insignificant grief.

Before I went on tour with Sarah Farthing, I had the bright idea that I should trade my guitar in for a new one. I had just had my first Saskatoon newspaper interview and was riding high on those feelings. Adrenaline is so powerful. You guys. I went for it. I walked into the guitar room at Long & McQuade and found one within 5 minutes. I was immediately drawn to it, in that hippy dippy sense of…yes, this guitar was made for me! Done, sold. Bye, old guitar that constantly gave me feedback on the low end!

Now, I shouldn’t betray the amount of thought I actually put into this decision. I’d been thinking about finding a new guitar for months. My Martin was by far the nicest I’d ever owned, but I was outgrowing it as a gig instrument. I probably could have done more work to figure out how to make it work for me. Instead, I decided that my relationship with it had run its course and it was time for something new to reflect the progress I felt I had made over the past couple years. I was all like, "Listen up, world. I changed my band-name and I’m going on a tour and I’m going to buy (* cough * finance) this guitar for myself, so THERE!"

Totally pretty reasonable, right? In hindsight, I wish I would’ve bought my new guitar sans trade-in. It would’ve given me time to gradually shift instruments, but cost was also a factor. Although financing CAN be pretty affordable, it also means more interest and longer payment terms. I felt too nervous about committing to the full tag, so I traded-up.

It really is a beautiful guitar that plays nicely, but my biggest regret is not taking the time to get to know its amplified sounds before playing it live. Every instrument has its own quirks, qualities, limitations, and strengths. It requires work to figure these things out and really make an instrument yours. I chose to learn this the hard way by fumbling through a few songs at my first show on mini-tour with Sarah. The sound and feel of the guitar was much different through speakers and in front of an audience, as opposed to practicing at home. I did my best to work through it all weekend, but it was frustrating nonetheless. I really should have known!

I didn’t want to admit to myself that this experience left a bad taste in my mouth. Like many, I can be a stubborn, petty perfectionist sometimes. If I can’t do it perfectly the first time, why even bother? I know it’s ridiculous, especially considering that my work is far from perfect. Regardless, the sentiment tends to manifest itself as avoidant behaviour. After tour, my guitar stayed in its case a lot of the time. I re-focused on writing songs for the piano. Motivation to get to know it, low.

It’s continued to be low for most of the summer. As I’ve been finishing up my writing project, the level of uncertainty in my life has increased tenfold. Some things haven’t worked out the way I expected them to (touring all summer? Nope!) because I’ve had difficulty staying focused. I haven’t had such a rocky foundation in awhile, and when you’re already an anxious person, this is a pretty big deal. I’ve had to accept that it’s a two steps forward, one step back kind of year. All I can do is keep working and not punish myself too badly. Plus, normal humans take breaks. I keep forgetting that those are totally normal. Anyway.

Recently, my situation has become more stable and I’ve been able to work more on my solo stuff. It’s not that I didn’t play ANY guitar, I just wasn’t coming up with anything I really liked, in any sort of consistent way. A couple weeks ago though, I had a moment of inspiration on a day my keyboard wasn’t set up, so I reached for my guitar instead. Maybe all I needed was time, but we had a *moment* where something clicked. The next night I was playing the song that came out of this moment, a sombre finger-picking jam, and it started to storm. Like, hail, wind, the whole deal. It was magical and reminded me that a) I made it rain, awesome. b) if i want to keep writing for guitar, I need to work to get over this hump of not connecting with my instrument.

It’s also worth mentioning that jamming with someone else has really helped me bond with my guitar. I recently started co-writing with a good pal of mine for a different project; when we finally jelled as a team, my solo work also improved. So, it you’re stuck on something, anything really. Try working with someone else! You might just figure some stuff out and form a badass team at the same time.

So, there you have it. I finally got to know my guitar better and will continue to figure it out. It feels really good. I’ve committed myself to more regular/structured solo guitar jams and I feel pretty positive about the results. It just took longer than I wanted it to. Obviously, it wasn’t so much about the instrument as it was about me. What a shock!

I mean, whatever, who cares, music, or whatever. Just keeping it chill over here!

Has this happened to you? Do you think I gave too much space to something that’s totally normal? Would you like me to talk more about the logistics of choosing an instrument?

Feel free to comment below.

xoxo

**Disclaimer: I absolutely don’t believe that you need to spend a lot of money on an instrument to be a good musician. I’m still a bad musician with a nice instrument most days! You don’t need to buy a $3000 vintage guitar. You may want to or be able to, but I don’t think it’s a requirement to being a serious musician. That being said, as you progress as an artist, especially one who plays live, you might start to feel like you’ve outgrown your instrument. I think that’s normal. Quality is important, regardless of the brand and cost snobbery that exists in all art related things. I also believe that it’s ok to treat yourself to something that reflects your personal growth! Just, maybe don’t do it on an adrenaline high.**

Friday Favourites: The Weather Station-All of It Was Mine

I wanted to do something a little different with today’s blog, so I’m going to talk about one of my favourite albums! In relation to me though, of course. Cause it’s my artist blog and I do what I want. xo Rachel

Artist/Album: The Weather Station – All of It Was Mine

I first saw The Weather Station play when they opened for Timber Timbre at The Company House in Halifax. It was Spring 2009, I was a baby musician, and my cool older cousin was taking me to see a show! Sweet. At the time I wasn’t familiar with either act (we missed the other two openers), but sometimes those can be the most magical shows. I was prepared to be enthralled.

Tamara Lindeman's (aka The Weather Station) vocals were haunting and unusual. My ear was still getting used to hearing less poppy chord progressions and melodies, but there was enough there for me to want to hear more. I'm usually late to the party/late bloomer/etc and independent Canadian music was no exception.  When I think back on this, it feels like I was standing in front of a door with my hand on the knob, just slightly unsure if I should push it open or not, but knowing that eventually I’d turn my wrist enough that it would click open and new sounds would flood over me. I've developed a lot as a listener since then, but at the time...it changed me, man! 

[Yes, Timber Timbre was also good and haunting and if I recall correctly, both acts backed each other up. He made a whole lot of whistlin’ type train noises, so I really got in on the ground floor with that one.]

I made sure to buy TWS’s album, The Line after the show. I gave Lindeman my money with shaky hands and tried to not to scream, ‘YOU’RE SO COOL!’ out loud. Can I be honest with you? If nothing else, I’m a really good fan girl. And let’s be real, buying merch directly from an artist can be nerve-wracking. When I don’t sell a lot of stuff at a show I try and tell myself it’s because of this. I know it’s probably not, but it makes me feel better. Hashtag fragileartistego. Anyway.

Worn out copy of The Line. Unfortunately, the CD has gone missing!

I took my new CD back to my cousin’s place to play the next morning. I was initially disappointed. Lindeman had been sick at the show and her vocals sounded super different on the recordings. I wasn’t sure if I liked it, but I gave it a chance. I’m glad I did, because that album grew on me like a wild garden. Poetry has always been a huge influence on my person/practice and The Line’s lyrics were exactly that. I even wrote down the lines that gave me goosebumps at the time, like these:

“I’d just like to see my Christmas Rose / my birthday snows / my heart on its feet, walking strange down the street/ his heart on his feet, walking strange down the street.” –Can’t Know (The Line)

This album builds a landscape that explores grief in such an affecting, raw way. When TWS’s next album, All of It Was Mine, got a release date I was super stoked, but part of me didn’t know how it could top The Line. Given that that album came out of specific life experiences that propelled Lindeman to write about a profound loss, I didn’t really know what to expect from a new full length. Was I still going to listen to it? Absolutely.

I remember getting All of it Was Mine as an early birthday gift in 2011. I immediately turned the cover over to pour over the lyrics. Maybe I’m just not very critical of the music I like, but it only took about two lines before I was sold. I not-so-tenderly put the record on and proceeded to lose my shit over a folk album. I told you I was good at fan-girling.

Really though, there are reasons I love this album so much. The instrumentation is intricate and sparsely lush, finger-picking galore, leaving ample space for her vocals and lyrics to land square on your shoulders and sink into your skin. Lyrically, the album takes familiar surroundings and uses their minutiae to express a sort of wild magic. Bugs, cats, moths, floors, flowers, cheap cotton, and a jar of honey are all vehicles for metaphor on All of it Was Mine. I love that I can have a visceral reaction to something in my kitchen:

“Just cause you came so willing I never made you, I didn’t call for you, so sure I was needless but all the strange things of the dirt are obstinately drawn to sweetness bite through plastic through the masonry. You came uninvited with a jar of your parent’s honey.” -'Came so Easy'

What comes out of this album for me is longing, coming of age, and exploring the meaning of love, sexuality, and womanhood. There’s a beautifully melancholic moment in 'Running Around Asking', where Lindeman (or the speaker, at least) describes sitting on her grandmother’s seafoam green couch, unable to get past the weather, and in my opinion, acknowledging the lack of communication that can be ever present in familial relationships between women. The secrets held through generations, the fumbling through wondering why no one will tell you exactly how it goes, but to still find solace in sharing space. Oof. Yes, all of that, please.

Aside from verbose imagery, a thread of grief still connects All of it Was Mine to The Line, but it’s more tempered. These are the songs you write when you have some perspective, but still haven’t figured it all out. I love, love, love it.

I’m sure I could find something to criticize on this album, but it’s 5 years old now and I still get so much joy from listening to it. This artist came into my life at a time when I was just starting to perform/develop my own folky style and they set the bar nice and high. I don't ever want to mindlessly copy another artist, or be uncritical of what I consume and how it's all part of a larger, flawed scene, but I think it's really important to acknowledge what inspires us even if we end up rejecting parts (or all) of it down the road. 

When I saw The Weather Station open for Bahamas last year and heard songs from All of it Was Mine live for the first time, I felt something come full circle. I got her to sign my CD copy of the album and remarked that I’d seen her play in Halifax a few years back. She said something along the lines of,

“I hate to break it to you, but that was seven years ago.”

I walked to my car, put the album on and let that statement sink in. I took the long way home.

 

P.s. If you missed last week's post you can read it here: http://www.rachelelizabethmusic.com/new-blog/2016/7/28/writing-updates-girls-rock-camp-an-etsy-shop

Writing Updates, Girls Rock Camp + an Etsy Shop!

It's been ages!

I've been pretty quiet since my tour with Sarah Farthing at the end of May. For the most part I've been enjoying/cursing the summer heat, as well as working on some things behind the scenes. In the interest of sharing (my horoscope keeps telling me that I need to do this more! so far it's been right), here's some of the things I've been up to!

After going on a short, dreamy vacation to Ontario in early June, I had to kick myself into to gear to finish up the writing project I've been working on since the Spring. It's tentatively called Wildflowers of the Prairies and is inspired by an educational book about wildflowers written by my great-grandfather. I'm getting close to finishing it and have started sharing rough demos of some of the songs with friends and peers. It feels exciting! I know these songs will continue to evolve, but I'm feeling ready to move onto the next chapter of development: how I want to capture/record/release this new material! 

Lots left to plan and consider. I'm making it a point not to rush things. So many more updates on that to come.

xxx

Another really important thing I got to do this Summer was Girls Rock Camp. GRCS is a volunteer run organization dedicated to the empowerment of self-identified female, trans, two-spirit, and gender non-conforming youth and adults through collaborative music creation and performance. I was originally asked to facilitate a song-writing workshop for the 8-13 year old camp, but due to an injury (we love you Lenore!) I also became involved as a band coach for the 11-16 y/o! 

I was so continually impressed by the campers, volunteers, and organizers. GRC gives me hope for the future and I'm really curious to witness/be a part of how Girls Rock Camp (it's global u guys!) progresses and evolves as a movement. Also, my band Galaxy Queens was super fun to work with! #galaxyqueenswillruleyou

Oh, I also got to facilitate a song-writing workshop at camp. We wrote a song about Minecraft! I made sure to sit in on Megan Nash's songwriting workshop for week two and get inspired myself, though! Megan and I played a really fun, relaxed house show that week as well. (Check out her brand new music video for 'Deer Head' here.) <3 <3 <3

xxx

Last, but not least! I started an Etsy shop for vintage jewellery and accessories! It's called Mother Fern Vintage. A low-key homage to my old band name, with zero musical strings attached.

This has been a pet project of mine for some time. For now, I am keeping it a 'hobby,' but since I'm currently self-employed I have more time to keep up an online shop and search for treasures. Check it out and let me know what you think!

You can also follow MFV on Instagram and Twitter.

More updates soooon!

xoxoxo

Ticks, tattoos and tacks: EXPERIENCE REGINA

After our show in Fort Qu’Appelle, Sarah and I loaded up our gear (in the rain of course) and started the 45 minute trek to Regina, SK. Since we were playing a show there the next afternoon, Sarah’s Grandma had offered to let us stay at her empty condo. Of course we accepted, because free accommodations/beds is pretty ideal.

The plan was to eat and crash, but upon several unsuccessful tries to open the suite door, it became very clear that we didn’t have the right keys. Now, when you’re tired, have a car full of gear, and a bag of A&W waiting to be eaten, this is not the best news.  Luckily, Sarah had other relatives in town, so she went on a text spree to figure out who was still up (it was around 11pm at this point) and could get us spare keys. While she was hustling to solve our accommodation woes, I ate my chicken strips in the lobby, like a jerk. To be fair, there wasn’t much I could do in regards to texting someone else’s family. It turned out that her Grandma had accidentally given us her lake keys, but an Aunt about 10 minutes was able to save our butts. Sleep was now in the realm of possibility.

So we get to the apt, unload, and start to unwind for the evening. Everything is good and chill, until Sarah comes out of the bathroom to ask ‘Is there a tick on my back?’ There was definitely a tick on her back. To most prairie people I feel like this wouldn’t be a big deal, but I hate ticks. I hate every kind of bug that bites. I am terrified of getting Lyme Disease. I really, really hate ticks. They embed their heads into you and suck your blood. No, thank you. It’s gross, but when your friend and tour mate has a tick on them, you rally your nerves and help get it off.

Removing the tick was gross and I hated every minute of it, but I faced my fear and got it off of her with minimal difficulty. If you can call five minutes of squealing minimal difficulty. I can. It was obviously worse for Sarah, so I shouldn't complain too much! Once the adrenaline high wore off, it was time for sweet sleep.

I slept well (hard mattresses are amazing) and woke up to some fresh tea courtesy of Sarah. I had had the bright idea of maybe getting a tattoo at the Pile of Bones tattoo convention, so we decided to check that out before out show. Now, every once in awhile I royally screw up GPS directions. This time I put in the address that I thought was for the convention. In reality it took us to the doorstep of the Hell’s Angel Clubhouse. I mean, whatever. But this was not where we needed to be and time is a precious resource when you have a 2pm show. I quickly corrected my mistake and we were off in the right direction

It turns out a room full of tattoo needles is super loud. The noise was audible before we even entered the room. At that point, I was pretty sure I was going to chicken out. Partially for budget reasons, partially because the tattoo artist I wanted to go to was already working on someone, and partially because I didn’t want an adrenaline crash right before a show. Instead, we poked around, looked at cool art and flip flopped about getting our own tattoos.

Spoiler alert. I didn’t get one. One day I will get a tour tat, though. One day.

By the time we got out of the tattoo convention it was around 11am and we still had to eat and load up our gear. 2 hours till load in. No problem, right? So wrong. Rather than write several paragraphs about what went led us to almost being late for a show, I made a list: 

1)   The restaurant we planned to go to was closed due to an equipment malfunction. Mercury Lounge, I’ll get to you one day!

2)   The next restaurant had a long line up and we weren’t enthused by the menu. At least I wasn’t. That felt important to me at the time. If I could go back in time, I would probably suck it up and order something.

3)   The next place we ended up was suuuuper busy, but we decided to stay rather than risk wasting more time driving around just to find another packed place.

4)   The food took so long, we almost thought it wasn’t coming. Then it did.

5)   After scarfing some grub and packing the rest to-go, we realized the line-up to pay was, also super long. Shit.

6)   We weren’t able to pay for our food until uncomfortably close to our load in time AND we still had to run back to the apt to get gear. This is when I started to panic. Bad news.

We arrived uncomfortably close to show time, but WE MADE IT. I was keeping Alex, our library (RPL) contact updated, so at least it wasn’t a surprise. Still, not my ideal first impression or a good way to start a gig. Amazingly, she was super chill about everything. I felt a lot better when she told me Carl from Library Voices once showed up 10 minutes before his show of the series. Carl, thank you for setting a precedent. You were our guardian angel in this scenario.

Stressed and sweaty, we hustled to carry our gear upstairs (more panic), get set up and quickly sound-check. I’m pretty proud of our hustle. We rocked the set up and only ended up starting 15 mins late. I mean, at a bar show that’s considered an early start, so not too bad? Right?

The show was part of Regina Public Library’s Songwriting Stories series, which is a monthly event where, you guessed it, songwriters have a chance to play and talk about the stories behind the songs. Sarah and I had a pretty good banter rhythm as we switched off playing, so we were able to break the ice a little bit by talking about our almost tattoos and our ‘oh, crap we’re going to be late’ moment. For this particular situation, it felt like the best way to acknowledge shitting the bed a bit.

Despite our tardiness and stress, the show went pretty ok! Because we were taking turns, we each got 5 minute breaks in between songs. This was a nice change, especially since I was very sweaty from load in/set up. I took that time to take some deep breathes and enjoy Sarah’s music until it was my turn again. I wish I had remembered to take a photo of the little stage. It was a square platform decked out in a bearskin rug and backed by a folding partition. To the right of the stage was one of those portable fireplace shelves, complete with little wire stands for our CDs. Super cute.

After the show, we chatted with Alex and a couple show-goers, then headed back to Sarah’s Grandma’s to pack up and head home. Sarah had mass to get back for and I was ready for a chill car ride home. Whirl.wind.

I think the moral of the story here is that YOU PROBABLY DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THAT when you’re playing shows at new venues or in cities you’re not from. In our case, a lot of these circumstances were out of our control. I still feel like I should have known better, but it was a good learning experience.

Huge thank you to Sarah Farthing for coming along for the ride, making pretty noises, and indulging my whims re: tattoos and finding food. Great, reliable tour mate there folks!

Thanks to all you folks who stuck around to read this series! It’s my first attempt at tour blogging. It’s been a cool way to process the events and have a record of them for the future. If you feel like I’ve missed something or have feedback for me (aside from grammar corrections), feel free to use the comments below.

Until next time.

xoxo

Rachel

I have almost no pictures from Regina because we were so busy! Next time…

Pottery and Good Crowds: Singing in the Qu'Appelle Valley

The first time I played in Fort Qu'Appelle was also the first stop on my first week long tour (Spring 2015). I wasn't sure what to expect. Honestly, it could have been a pretty rocky start to my tour, but it ended being one of my favourite stops. The community at the Qu'Appelle Valley Centre for the Arts is so welcoming and attentive. Their dedicated board puts on events (their poster wall is impressive) in a 100 year old, restored school-house that also serves as an art gallery, art studio and dance studio. Super cool. Obviously I wanted to go back, so I was glad it worked to play there again.

Portrait of Brian Baggett and me by his daughter Dominique. Fort Qu'Appelle April 2015. 

Portrait of Brian Baggett and me by his daughter Dominique. Fort Qu'Appelle April 2015. 

Sarah and I left for the Fort early Saturday afternoon (after doing yet another gear tetris in the trunk of her SUV). Unlike last year (it was freezing rain when I left), we left Saskatoon in pretty decent weather, which made for a chill drive down the 11 and into the Qu'Appelle Valley.

Now, I love being on the road for shows. This might change, but right now it combines a lot of my favourite things: snacks, music, car chats, and coffee. It's also a little more enjoyable than driving to a vacation destination because you (I) have just the right amount of nerves to almost not want to get there. Maybe it's just me? Either way, it's a good segue to another thing about travelling to gigs: there is never enough time.

Whatever you think you have time for on tour, you probably don't. Even though I thought we had left in plenty of time, our last leg felt rushed. Enter me STILL feeling like we definitely had enough time to stop in at my friend Amy's Mom and Step-Dad's Pottery studio in FQ. After a quick visit and purchase, we were on our way to the venue. Luckily, it was only about 3 minutes away (yay, small towns). We were only a few minutes behind schedule.

Sarah and I set up pretty efficiently, had a quick soundcheck, then headed to Penny's (our booking contact) for a nice meal, prepared by her Husband, Hal. As nice as it was to sit down for awhile, we were running pretty short on time *again* and rushed to get changed and head back to the Arts Centre for the show. Once we were back at the venue, I gave Sarah a quick tour of the rest of the Centre and watched some familiar faces trickle in and take their seats. 

Despite our busy day and previous evening, Sarah and I were both ON that night, musically speaking. Sarah was up first and played a really strong set, complete with charming stage banter. When it was my turn, I felt like I had a couple magical moments in my set where I felt raw emotion that didn't destroy my focus. Generally those moments derail my songs live, but it helped that this was our second consecutive show. The space and crowd didn't hurt either. The lighting there is ambient, but not too dark. The general atmosphere is casual, but intimate enough to feel like you're connecting with people. All in all it was a really nice show. And like any good small town event (or any event really) there was coffee and dainties to be had during the break. Do I want to eat a brownie after my set? Yes, yes I do.

After some post-show visits it was time to load up and head to Regina for the night. Time flies. Special shout out to Dylan Evans' (of Fancy Diamonds fame) 93 year old Grandmother, Doreen, who is a proud G-ma AND supporter of the arts. If I'm still going to shows at 93 I'll know I did something right.

Thanks, Fort Qu'Appelle! Joan, Penny, Lorna et. al.

Next blog: Regina, ticks, not having enough time for stuff, making it work, gear set up superstars.

Nerves Normal (Breathe Normal): Saskatoon mini tour kick off at Creative Commons

When I officially changed my band name to Rachel Elizabeth, I knew I wanted to play some shows in celebration of it. That was this weekend's mini-tour with Sarah Farthing.

We started off in Saskatoon, playing a very intimate show at Creative Commons YXE. Creative Commons is the workshop and event space connected to Void Gallery's newest iteration on Ave B, owned and operated by Michael Peterson. I've known Michael for about 10 years now (we even played a few shows together back in the day), so it's been pretty cool to see his artistic vision grow into Void Gallery, and now Creative Commons. Michael recently hosted a show for Seattle musician, Rocky Votolato, so when it came time for me to book a Saskatoon date, I thought of Void/CC. Luckily Michael was down to host us, and we were able to be CC's first local show.

Michael and I performing at Prairie Ink in Saskatoon, circa 2012. Check out those music stands!

Michael and I performing at Prairie Ink in Saskatoon, circa 2012. Check out those music stands!

On show night, we played to a cozy crowd. It's always tough when attendance isn't quite what you want it to be, but I have to remind myself that life happens and the people who show up are who you're playing for. They shouldn't get a lacklustre show just because the event didn't sell out. Luckily, these cats were very attentive and seemed to genuinely enjoy Sarah and I. What more can you ask for? 

Aside from a few technical difficulties (my sustain pedal kept sliding around on the floor, such that I could barely reach it), the show went well. Nerves are always a thing, but we both had some good laughs with the audience. I seem to have started a tradition wherein I ask for audience participation to sing Dolly Parton's 'Jolene', but proceed to forget at least one or two lines. Perhaps this comes across as the epitome of unprofessionalism, but I like to think I'm just charming enough to make it work. Usually, I at least get a few chuckles, or everyone is too busy singing along to care. It's a thing.

After the show, I was s.p.e.n.t. I love playing songs for people, but it can be an overwhelming experience for a weirdo, anxious person like myself. Sometimes I reach a point where chatter/noise become stressful and I need to take a step back. This can be a challenge when you also want to stick around and talk to the people who've come out to support you/bought merch/etc. So much of it has to do with my week leading up to a show, how much prep work is needed to be ready the day of, what the vibes of the venue are. This particular week I'd been doing a lot of press/admin related things about my name change/shows (like this Star Phoenix article) and was more tired than I wanted to be. In the end, I pulled through, but it's a delicate balance I'm still trying to figure out. 

S/O to my partner, Ryan, for helping with load in and merch sales, and to my sister Christina and her fiance Jon, for helping work the door. Obviously, huge thanks to Creative Commons and Michael for being open to the event and giving us the space to put it on. Watch out for their upcoming workshops!

It was also a pleasure to play with Sarah, who in addition to being a rad song-writer, knows a thing or two about live sound (and remembered to bring a merch float). Check out her video for 'Ghost' here.

Since this ended up being a long one, I'm going to save the other dates for separate posts. Fort Qu'Appelle's up tomorrow! Until then, please enjoy these photos from Friday night.

Listen to 'The Spendthrift and the Swallow:' www.rachelelizabethmusic.bandcamp.com

 

 

 

 

What's In a Name

When I started performing as Fern around 2011, I was in a pretty fragile state. I had just graduated from University, moved out of my parent’s house, ended a long term relationship and overall, made some very poor life decisions. I was broke, teetering on the soft edges of alcohol abuse, in constant crisis. Music was coping, it was life. I’d stumble home from Lydia’s (RIP) and wake up the next morning with bruised legs from my guitar case banging against them on the walk. It was the best I could do.

At the time, I was very against performing under my given name. I wanted a magical, safety blanket moniker, and that came to me in the form of Fern. My initials re-arranged. Still me, but safer. With my mind still full of University course material, I wrote esoteric songs about depression and dead relatives. I thought I was clever, but I also couldn’t write a love song. That was ok with me. I thought love songs were for weak people.

I continued writing, performing and recording music as Fern, releasing a lo-fi EP in 2012 and a more polished effort in 2014. I was slowly getting my life back together after the literal shit storm that was 2011. I was making progress with my mental health struggles and trying to be more accountable for my actions. I was finding words for my feminism and cementing friendships with amazing women who have had my back in so many ways. I was in a new relationship. Things were getting better. I was doing things.

I released Strange Fingerprints as Fern in 2014; however, I was starting to feel like the moniker was a weight on my shoulders. I’d put so much of my time and money into the EP that the boundary between Fern and Rachel had become even more blurred. My peers called me Fern, hell some of my good friends in the music scene started calling me Fern. I was uncomfortable, even if I didn’t show it. I felt like Fern was a concept, but I was a person who happened to be a songwriter. Maybe that would be exciting to some people, but given my life-long history of being called the wrong name, I was getting tired of saying, ‘You can call me Rachel.’

Side note: There are also many Ferns on the internet, including a children’s performer. The competition is stiff, let me tell you.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the things I accomplished as Fern. I’ve grown immensely as an artist over the past years. I’ve worked with some amazing people and put a lot of effort into my career. I’ve also realized that Fern represents some things that are just not ‘me’ anymore. I rarely drink, I sometimes write songs about love (ew) and I have no interest in pretending that my art is completely removed from the intersections of my identity. I know I don’t need to take up more space as a cis, white person, but I do feel the need to take up space as a femme/inist artist who is not always as able-bodied as I look. I have more to say on the able-bodied thing, but in the meantime I don’t really want to talk about it with strangers or acquaintances. Please respect this boundary. 

This is a short history. It might seem excessive, but luckily I have enough delusions of grandeur lurking in the back of my mind that I think you might want to hear it. I’ve been really lucky this year. I received grant funding to write (just write!) an album and was able to quit my job for a few months this Spring. I knew I wanted, needed, to change my band name and felt that the timing was right.

So here I am! Writing songs that are exciting to me, even the love songs, under a name that feels good.

xoxo

Rachel

Bye Fern!

It’s a new moon, everybody. My horoscope says this is a great time to call in the love I need, so I’m doing exactly that.

Fern’s had a good run. Over the past 4 years we’ve recorded two EPs, applied for our first grants, gone on our first tour, played countless shows and worked with some amazing humans. It really has been a pleasure.

You might be thinking, why change your band name? We love Fern! Fern is good. First off, thank you. Second, Fern will always be near and dear to my heart, but I think we’ve outgrown each other. We also turn up many plant images in our Google searches and can’t get the website we want. ;)

There’s more, but I’ll save it for next week’s announcement. In the meantime, please join me in letting Fern go and making some space in your hearts for something new. 

This is also your last chance to listen to/download my 3 a.m. Fires EP. I’m so happy it exists, but this baby was the first thing I ever released online and as such, the recording quality isn’t great. I’d rather showcase more recent efforts. 

Feel free to message me encouragement or share your favourite memory of Fern. I want to know how you feel! I, for one, am excited, nervous and a little sad! ☺

As always, thank you so much for being here! Keep your eyes peeled for the new name, show announcements, as well as a single release with Juniperus (aka Jeffrey from Minor Matter) on May 12th, 2016. 

So many things!

xo Rachel

https://wearefernmusic.bandcamp.com/album/3-a-m-fires
Cover art by S C K U S E.