Monday, November 24, 2014

Remember To Breathe


I just returned home from a short journey. I spent a week and a half on tour with Springtime Carnivore. I could go on and on about the astounding energy of Dasha, the bassist, or Greta's incurable optimism.  

Greta jumped out of bed every morning with a cheerful "Good morning!", did her yoga stretches, and went on a morning walk, all before I could rub the sleep out of my eyes. I kept waiting for the moment when the tea-kettle lid would pop off, and all of her hidden fury would erupt, but it never happened. 

Sometimes being around striving musicians, screenwriters, and composers in L.A. can be disheartening since there is a lot of rejection, and the way they look at situations most of the time, a lot of failure.

It was truly a breath of fresh air to see an artist doing exactly what she was put on this planet to do with a skip in her step. 

This photo was taken by a good friend, Yoori Shin, at The Bardot in L.A. 

 A personal theme develops on every tour I participate in. I discovered a mild pain that would come and go in my left hand and forearm early on in the tour. This, my friends, is a guitarist's worst nightmare. I am no stranger to the pain and damaging effects of carpal tunnel. My little sister has suffered from carpal tunnel at too young an age. I've watched her struggle to put down her paint brush as she waits to recover. (Thankfully, I'm all better now, just want to throw that out there so you don't worry!)

The pain had a very important lesson hidden for me. During one of our shows, I couldn't ignore the dull aching which wouldn't allow me to focus on my interaction with the audience (my favorite part!) I didn't want to let the experience of playing music for the kind people of Toronto slip away from me, so out of frustration, I turned to the wisdom of my body and began breathing deep. 

I became aware of my breath filling up my lungs and then leaving my body. I realized that I normally breathe shallowly on stage, due to nerves or too much excitement. Breathing deep, allowed me to relax my fingers and my wrists. I instantly began to play with better technique. The music came back into focus. 


During this tour I received news that my uncle had died. I tried to keep it together in front of my new bandmates. 

Luckily, everyone left the cabin we stayed in to see some old friends, and I had some time alone. I tried to implement my new "deep breathing" technique I learned on stage the night before, to allow my body to relax into the feeling of overwhelming sadness, but I couldn't do it. I kept tensing up, and I couldn't find my breath.

I had to remind myself, 

"Meg, It's o.k. if you can't find your breath right away, you've been tense and unaware of deep breathing for most of your life. Give it time."


I'm sorry to bring up this sad, personal moment, but I'm telling you this to show you I'm still a work in progress. I learn a lesson, and I still need to work on it day by day. 

We concluded the tour with a visit to The Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, on a beautiful overcast day. I left that place with a keen sense of the importance of a tight-knit community, tradition, and culture. 

Also, I snapped the below photo, which inspired me to create some clay creatures that I will be showing everyone soon! I'd also like to remind everyone that my jewelry shop will remain open during Thanksgiving and Christmas of course. I'm bringing all of my jewelry supplies with me back home. They will be tucked in between Dia's ice chests of Korean food and Earl Grey pie she is bringing home to my mother.


I'd like to wish everyone happiness and joy this coming Thanksgiving Holiday. Please take time to find your breath and relax when your aunt Juniper asks you to "please pass the turkey", and "are you still doing 'the music thing'?" and if so, "how do you manage to keep your lights and water on, dear?" 

The appropriate response being, "Why my dear aunt, what use to me would lights and water be if there wasn't music?"

Honestly,
Meg





Tuesday, September 30, 2014

(Limited Edition) "Wicked Witch Melting" necklace!


Is it too early to start thinking about cozying up to the fireplace with a book and hot chocolate or taking a walk with a lover while leaves the color of fall float down to the ground? Even in sunny California, I can detect a slight drop in temperature and a dampening of the air. Fall is well on its way. For me, the most exciting part about fall is Halloween! (Well, that and the candy corn:)

I know, I know. I'm not an eight-year-old kid, ready and waiting with my giant pillow case, itchy in my nylon super man costume, but I still love the imagination this holiday brings about. 
With scary movies, creepy camp-fire stories, the undead, hands reaching up out of the ground to grab your unsuspecting ankles, what's not to love?

Instead of making a whole witch for this years limited edition design, I wanted to focus only on the bottom portion of her body (ha! this sounds creepy already!), so I could really work on the details of the striped tights and buckled-shoes. 

I learned two new polymer clay techniques with this piece: the seven-petal rose and how to make flush stripes. 

On Instagram, someone mentioned to incorporate bats. I rather liked that idea, so I added that little touch on one of the witch legs. 

I think my favorite part about this piece though, is being able to use bright, neon orange tones. I enjoy using fun pops of color, and usually those colors detract from the vibes of my pieces, but they only added to the energy of this one! Swirly coils of hammered copper on the edges of the design are the finishing touch to tie this spooky necklace together.
  • ONLY 20 "Wicked Witch Melting" necklaces will be available.
  • These will be released on October 1st at 9 P.M. Pacific time and midnight Eastern time. 
  • Piece measures 2 1/4" tall, 1 3/4" wide, and includes a 27" copper chain.
  • Each piece will vary slightly since they are all handmade.
  • Ships within 3-5 business days from California. 
  • $50 each.

Happy haunting!

Meg

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The NEW Junto Collection available TOMORROW!

In the 18th century, Benjamin Franklin founded a club he called, The Junto Society, for the mutual improvement of its members. They discussed things like politics, business affairs, social matters, basically anything important to them that would make their lives and the lives of others better.

I recently played a show with Kate Nash, and was honored to subsequently be invited to join a local and modern "Junto society" Kate organized called Girl Gang. A Girl Gang is a group of passionate individuals who come together to discuss important matters and make positive changes in their communities and even the world. Girl Gangs also help inspire girls to rock, not only their instrument, but also any other entrepreneurial venture they feel passionate about.

Coming together with other artists to create something awesome has been the theme of this season for me, not just in musically and socially, but also in designing jewelry. 

I will be releasing The Junto Collection tomorrow, September 25th! The planning for this collection has been happening behind the scenes for the past six months with the help of a trusted friend. I can't tell you how excited we are to finally be launching these new pieces!

For my new Junto collection I collaborated with Vil Luangraj who goes by Agent Bear these days.

I think many of you already know Vil. We met at a Meg and Dia concert way, way back. He was sitting on a curb in the parking lot, quiet and thoughtful. He had a sketch book out and was drawing these beautiful pictures. We saw him at many of our other shows after that.

Eventually he started working with our band, designing merch for us. Even after the band stopped performing together, I continue to collaborate with Vil. He designed Pip The Penguin for my last jewelry collection. 

I asked Vil to design a boyfriend for Willie because she was feeling lonely. He went the extra mile and added a bouquet and a bow tie. He's so creative, no?!


I asked Vil to make some men's accessories. He came up with the Wise Owl cufflinks and the Moby Dick tie bar. (Nick stole my first prototypes to wear to work, so that's got to be a good sign:)

Honestly, Meg



Monday, September 15, 2014

How To Play A Rock Show With Kate Nash


Step 1: Receive a phone call from your ridiculously awesome best friend who just happens to be Kate's personal assistant. (She already confirmed you as the lead guitar player before she called, because Kate's manager had someone else in mind. Weaseling you into these types of opportunities are what BFF's are for!)

Step 2: Freak out on the phone, have a panic attack, cancel all other plans for the week (including eating and sleeping), so you can practice her songs and pour through her youtube channel. Then accept the gig. Duh!

Step 3: Annoy your boyfriend by listening to her songs every waking moment, in the car, in the shower, etc… Silence is the enemy.

Step 4:  Practice, practice, practice.

Step 5: Buy a rad distortion pedal from Amazon.com, because if they can deliver reams of printing paper and kitchen appliances straight to your front door, why not order musical gear as well? 


Step 6: Figure out how to work the damn thing.

Step 7: Practice, practice, practice.

Step 8. Seriously doubt that you have any shredding skills at all and consider calling BFF to cancel.

Step 9. Realize that that would be insanely dumb, kick all self-doubt to the curb, and get back to work!

Step 10: Go to first practice session with talented and intimidating female drummer. Smile from ear to ear because you've never played in an all-female band, and it feels incredible. Meet Kate Nash for the first time in person. Be blown away by her optimism and charm. 

Step 11: Have one last practice in her garage (Girl Gang Headquarters). You don't have any equipment with you, so make do with jenga blocks tapping on a wooden coffee table for a drum kit, and plug into a tiny, pink kid's toy amp. Kate doesn't have a mic or P.A. so she just screams into the night. Jump around, because your life is freakin' awesome! 


Step 12: Don't sleep at all the night before the show because you are too excited. You contemplate getting out of bed, and going for a run at 2 a.m., but then you realize that would make your boyfriend think you are even crazier than he already does. 

Step 13: Go to the rock show. All of your friends unexpectedly show up which makes you even more nervous. (As if that were possible.) Proceed to forget all the solos, riffs, and licks you practiced during the week. Do you even remember how to play the guitar? 

Step 14: Watch Kate own the stage, the show, and the night. Be reassured by her confidence, and plug in and play the rock show. Everything is LOUD. Your hands shake, but it doesn't matter. After the first song is over, you settle into the energy of the crowd and the stage, and you just 


LET GO AND WAIL!


Photo courtesy of someone's Instagram.
Photo courtesy of someone's Instagram.

After the show your boyfriend tells you, "you looked like a badass and you got 15% cooler!"(You are slightly confused because you thought you were already 100% cool.) While you mop the sweat from your face with your soaked t-shirt, you say to your boyfriend,

"Thanks. Did I play at least half of the notes right?"
He looks at you incredulously and says, "yes, of course! There is one thing you can do to improve for the next time though."
"What's that?"
"Well, Kate had on gold-glitter eye makeup and wore a cape, and the drummer wore a ripped t-shirt and had a mohawk. What do you think about some sort of signature look?"
"Hmm"

Step 15: Make a mental note to figure out your signature rocker-chick look? Dye your hair blonde maybe??? A tattoo?

Step 16: Hug your boyfriend because even though he played the show in the band before you, and he is tired and sweaty as well, he still carries all of your heavy equipment back to the car.

Step 17: On the drive home ask yourself what you are supposed to do now...

Step 18: Schedule a massage appointment for the next morning, because your neck and shoulders will feel like roadkill due to the constant head-banging. 

Step 19: Disappoint your mother, because you forgot to take videos of the event.

Step 20: Forget to take photos because you were so busy living in the moment. (You did manage to take a picture of the toilet at the venue, however, because for some reason that seemed important.)


Honestly, Meg

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Annie Annie Over

I'm six years old. A few of my cousins and neighbor kids are scattered on the side of the barn that I'm on. There are patches of grass that go all the way up to my knees and other patches that are so worn down, only a few pieces of dead, dry grass are left on top of faded children's shoe-prints. The rotting wood on the barn turns a deep scarlet as the sun goes down. I'm smelling earth, the damp woods surrounding us, and the funny scent that kids have when they are having too much fun. 

My cousins and their friends are a few years older than me. They clear my pigtails by a foot or two. I never catch the muddy, rubber-bouncy ball. I never try to. I'm not out here to be a hero. I'm here to feel the rush of the action. Everyone becomes antsy before we hear the high-pitched scream from the other side of the barn. 

"Annie Anniiee OOoooooovvveeeerr!"

The oldest boy, the one from across the street who likes to come over to grandma's house without ringing the doorbell, who just walks in like he owns the place, runs over to the far right side. Silly boy. Doesn't he know that there is no chance in Hell the ball is going to fly that far?

I start to notice that everyone scatters to the far sides of the barn. A few kids have disappeared all together. Pretty soon it is just me left, me and this giant, red orb looming just over the roof, then arching down and growing larger and larger.

They are screaming at me. I can't understand a word. The adrenaline pumps through my blood, making the ringing in my ears as loud as a the front row of a rock concert. I don't have time to inch my way to the right or left to properly align myself to maybe catch the thing. 

For a moment, I am frozen in fear. Time is suspended, just like in a freak car accident that will happen to me a decade later. My friend will drive into an intersection obliviously. She will be lost in the adolescent mystery of a shirtless football team returning from afternoon practice. Her curly hair will slosh back and forth, as if she is swimming, when her bumper collides into an older lady's clunker. We will spin at light speed, but to me, it will feel as slow as circling around with that dreamy,waltzing instructor I will meet. He will hold onto the small of my back, grab the palm of my hand, and twirl me around, slowly, slowly. 

I spin my head to the right and then to the left. I see wide eyes on me. I see arms waving in the air. I want to scream or run or laugh maybe, but all I can do is fall to my knees and hold my arms out at my waste, my palms face upward, like I'm preparing to accept a gift from an ancient goddess. 

I close my eyes. I feel something crush my chest. The air is knocked out of me. My arms reflexively wrap around the object. I hug it tight to my chest and squeeze my eyes shut. 

I open one eye slowly and notice a few fireflies circling a short distance away. Annie. Annie. It's over. 

I struggle to stand up, my tiny legs shaking. I feel hollow and warm. Everyone is smiling, laughing, and shouting my name. That was and will forever be…


my moment. 


Something about the smell of the trees and the flowers on my hike today in L.A. brought me back to that childhood memory.  Say what you will about the streets smelling like pee in big cities. The places where I go in this big city smell wonderful. 

My days have been feeling a little off lately, even though so many exciting things are happening with music and jewelry. (I'm going to be playing guitar for Kate Nash on Sunday! I just released the "Such Great Heights ring in women's sizes yesterday!)






After some reflection on my mountain hike, I realized, in my pursuit to act like a more responsible grown-up, I have been neglecting activities that used to bring me so much joy as a child. I use to spend so much time outside, catching lizards, and collecting rocks, playing silly and terrifying games with the neighbor kids. I've given up my precious time spent outside in the sunshine and cozy evenings reading fiction for late night debacles in bars and too many episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm and South Park. (O.K. so I guess those activities aren't really "responsible grown up" activities)

So, last night, after spending the day in the sunshine with close friends, I made myself a cup of camomile tea and opened up to the first chapter of a book of short stories called, "The Glimmer Train Stories". I melted into the imaginary world of author, Laura Van Den Berg, as she wrote sentences that shook me such as "My breath made white ghosts in the air" and "Back then I thought I would never grow tired of looking at the sky". How did I forget how much I loved reading fiction?!

While we are so busy working in our jobs, on projects, and on creative pursuits, it's easy to forget to make sure we are re-connecting with ourselves, spending time each day with simple activities that make us happy. And don't give me that, "But it's not productive" or "I don't have time!" excuse. You don't have time to be happy?

Trust me, if you spend a little time doing things that make you happy and bring you joy, you will be MORE productive with whatever it is that is so important and keeping you so busy. Thinking back to what brought you joy as a child will be a big clue to an activity that you may have forgotten about. Now, what was it? What was it that stirred your heart back then?

Oh, and about my Annie Annie Over memory, I learned years later, my grandmother had bribed those kids to let me catch the ball in return for a piece of her famous, raspberry pie. Damn that pie was good.

Honestly, Meg 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Divine Dissatisfaction

Funny how I find myself, at 29 years old, practicing with a cover band in a beat up practice space in Burbank after all this time playing in a band professionally, after everything that I've been through and all the musical experiences I've had that have taken me all over the world. 

I don't have my own bunk on a tour bus anymore or my own guitar tech who sets up my equipment each day and occasionally spoils me with a fresh water bottle and clean towel.  

We will play gigs at venues that nobody has ever heard of. While I battle broken vending machines and weave my way through halls filled with smokers, punk-rockers, and wannabe roadies, I have to remind myself, I'm not starting over. Not really. I'm simply starting, and that's a difficult thing to do after one has stopped for awhile.

The two practices I've had with the cover band have been brutal. I'm never satisfied with my tone. Lugging my amp, my pedal-board case, and my two guitars down the street and in and out of the practice space is a joke. The 2nd guitarist in the band and I haggle over who gets to play what solo. (I swear that when I leave the room to use the bathroom he turns down my amp, but I haven't gotten anyone else to confirm this yet.) 

I've failed every attempt I've made to play a solo at practice. The sparkling riffs and fluid solos I practice relentlessly at home sound like a cat's claws scratching a metal waste can when I play them at rehearsal. I almost have a heart attack any time the singer says, "Alright, let's play 'Hard To Handle' ". (I play the solo in that one.) 

The bass player is on my side in any band argument. (There are many, even though the five of us are complete strangers to each other.) Joey and I are always joking about how the guitar player and the lap-steel player change the keys of the songs at every practice. Joey, and I can't figure out how our two singers never notice the tendons in their neck tensing up as they struggle to reach higher and higher notes. 

You might be wondering why I bother to play in this cover band if things are so terrible? 

The truth? 
I've never been so happy. 

It's a struggle and a challenge. Sure. I haven't gone through a whole practice yet without the the thought of quitting guitar all together. That thought is how I know I'm on the right track to fulfilling my true potential as an artist. 

It's what Steven Pressfield refers to as the "great resistance" in his book, The War Of Art.  He says the closer you get to creating the best art within you, the louder the Great Resistence screams, telling your psyche all sorts of lies like: you will never be good enough, or you must be a crazy lunatic thinking you are going to be anything other than mediocre.

But I'm playing lead guitar in a band for the first time in my life, and although the improvements are small, they are STILL improvements. I'm learning every day, challenging myself every time I pick up my instruments, and it feels amazing! Horrible, but amazing, if that makes sense. Ha!

The small inconveniences are just that, small inconveniences, and in the big scheme of things, they don't matter an iota when it comes to the dreams I've got in store for myself.

So, although I drive home frustrated and cursing my small hands and asking myself why don't my fingers work faster, and why can't my brain communicate to my hands how to play more efficiently, after I roll down the car window and peek out at the one or two stars in the night sky (yes, I live in L.A.) and my fuming subsides, I remembert:

Because I am so upset about not improving fast enough, because I'm frustrated with my skills and my solos, because my disappointments make me down right irate, that MUST mean I care deeply about being the best musician I can possibly be and I have great respect for my craft. I'll never live up to the standards I set for myself. I can only hope to get so, so close one day. 

I love this quote by MArtha Graham:

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. 

It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. ... No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."

So when you feel that struggle, that frustration welling up in the pit of your stomach when you are working on your art, keep going. Don't stop now. You're getting so, so close. 

Honestly,
Meg


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Secret

I arrived at my guitar lesson, bright-eyed and caffeinated. I wore my "thinking" shirt, a white-collared long sleeve I ironed the night before. I brought a tiny video recorder, a notepad, and a pencil I twirled into my hair bun, like the traditional Chinese do with their chopsticks. Today, I would learn the secret if I had to pry it out of my teacher with the chopstick!

My instructor motioned me into his studio with a smile. True, half of my lessons are spent attempting to decipher French, the other half deciphering music. I gave him my full attention during the first half hour.

 I admit sometimes my mind wanders off to think about what I'm going to have for lunch or if I ought to go next door to the Italian pastry shop and order one of those delectable brownies dusted with powdered sugar. Then I re-focus when I think how if there is any time to be "living in the now", it is right now, with the mind of a brilliant guitarist at my disposal. 

He taught me a series of intricate open chords that wove into a pentatonic exercise which starts at the headstock end of the guitar neck and ends near the bridge. He's all about transitioning from one area of the neck to another with gusto. Then he threw in a couple impressive blues licks, because that's what I pay the big bucks for. 

After he was satisfied that I had mentally and physically integrated the new material, at least enough to be able to work on it at home, he asked me if I had any questions. 

I had been waiting for this moment. I sat up straight in my chair and cleared my throat.

"Everything you taught me was great. I'm wondering, though, if I have a simple melody in my head, how to I play it through the guitar? I can figure it out if I play a few notes around it."

At this point, I stopped, and fumbled around the fretboard, until I found the notes in the sequence I sang to him moments earlier. 

"You see, I can find it, but I want the process to be seamless. I want to be able to speak through my guitar, like I'm speaking to you."

I placed my left pointer finger on a fret on the neck, but I didn't pluck the string.

"Can you tell me what this note sounds like?"

He sighed, and started off in French, took one look at the confused expression on my face, and switched back to English.

"You mean perfect pitch. I can't do that, but I have students that can. And they are the life of the party. That's great and wonderful, but it doesn't matter much, unless you want to impress people." (I think he worded it as "the party of the life", but I knew what he meant.)

He went on,

"Meg," (He always emphasizes my name with a hard "g" at the end,) " If I go to China and bring with me a Chinese dictionary, what is that going to do for me in Beijing?"

I thought, "Well, it would definitely make you look like an idiot, and in case you needed toilet paper…." 

"It would do nothing," he continued. He started playing scales up and down the neck at dizzying speed.

"Yes, yes, this if fine. Good. Good. But it won't help you, not really. These are just the notes in a scale like letters in the alphabet."

It was in this moment when I realized something that I think I already knew, but I just needed my teacher to illuminate. To learn how to speak, you don't study a dictionary, saying the same word over and over again, and expect to speak eloquently land on your feet in actual conversations with people. 

Can you imagine going to a dinner party, entering the room, offering your first handshake, and starting out your conversation with:

"Apple. apple. apple. blue. blue. dog. dog. dog." and then just to mix it up a little

"Apple. blue. dog. Apple. blue. dog" and if you want to get REALLY crazy start saying those words in warp speed. That will really impress the dinner guests!

Yet, this is how we novice musicians go about learning how to play and we think we are really somethin' else.

To learn to speak well, you immerse yourself in a culture where people are talking all the time. Some of the things people say don't make sense to you. Maybe they use unfamiliar words, or string them together in strange and new patterns. They speak loudly, they speak softly, fast, and slow. Some voices are raspy, some are delicate and light as a feather. 

Eventually, you start to use these words that you hear. You try them out. You see the reaction you invoke in people. You learn how to communicate sadness, anger, or joy. You make many mistakes. Sometimes you don't make any sense, but you laugh about it, and you keep, talking, talking, talking, and eventually you learn how to say exactly what your mind wants you to say and the best way to say it.

Well, its' the same with music and guitar. My teacher was on the right track in the beginning of my lesson. He was teaching me vocabulary, subtle nuances in phrasing. He was teaching my how to whisper and how to yell when appropriate. 

At one point he literally said, "Good, now PUNCH your guitar." Instead of tip-toeing around the strings, I let out all of my inner pent-up fury in a single chord, and the pangs of the vibrations of sound felt good, DAMN good. 

He was teaching me how to play the guitar and express myself like a human with licks and real songs, instead of like a robot with scales and arpeggios.

I was looking for a short cut. Come on, give me a scale to learn, a magic pill to take, an incantation to whisper over a cauldron of frog legs and a hair of a goat. But it's really so simple, and I knew it all along.

I just need to keep playing my guitar with other people who play guitar, over and over and over. Eventually, after many, many mistakes, I'll learn how organize riffs and chords, and then string phrases together, and someday, oh someday, I'll be fluent in music, and then, at my guitar lessons I'll only have to decipher the French.

Honestly,
Meg