The 10 Reasons I was “Catfished” and how Jason Mraz & Hal Ketchum were used as bait.

I should have known better. Yes, I swore off “should-ing” all over myself back in 2011, but it somehow feels appropriate this time around. I am an intelligent, educated, strong woman. So how in the world did I get taken on such a psychological head trip that sounds like the plot for a Made-For-TV Movie? I’m writing this as a cathartic exercise to see if I can pinpoint exactly how I became the victim of what turned into a bizarre escapade into fakery and betrayal.

It started out innocently enough. Over two years ago I received a Facebook friend request from a woman who for all intents and purposes, I’ll refer to as Beatrice in this article. After doing my usual pre-friending-page-perusal and surveillance of mutual friends, I accepted. She apparently was a publisher and was very taken with my music. There it is: Fatal Flaw #1: Someone was enthusiastic about my music – therefore from that point moving forward, I am blinded by flattery.

Beatrice became an avid “promoter” of my music on Facebook and Twitter, generously donated $75 to my first fan-funded CD campaign, and then started emailing me and becoming a “friend” by divulging personal information about her past. It included heart-wrenching tales of drug riddled family members, poverty and struggle that ultimately led to her fighting her way to success in the music industry. Fatal Flaw #2: I can’t help becoming emotionally invested in other’s tragedies, and even more so, their triumphs. Now I not only feel for her, I admire her fortitude.

As our “friendship” developed, Beatrice revealed that she had started her publishing company back in Nashville in “Hal Ketchum’s” home. Ok, it was believable. There was even a picture of her in said office in said home of Mr. Ketchum. Wow! This woman really has a history! I’m excited. She loved my music and wanted to play it for some of her close contacts.

Beatrice also revealed on her Facebook Wall that a dear friend was dying of cancer, and would anyone be kind enough to set a poem she wrote for her dying friend to music? I sent a private message expressing how sorry I was. Beatrice asked me if I wanted to take a crack at writing some music and forwarded me a copy of her poem. I had been playing around with a musical idea that had no lyrics…why not? I messed around with Beatrice’s poem, and it kind of worked. I was ecstatic! I quickly videoed myself performing the rough draft to see if Beatrice liked it.. Well, she LOVED it and asked if it was at all possible for me to record it so that her dying friend could hear it. “Of course!” I responded. I went to work with my husband, Gian. We recorded and produced the track and delivered it in time for her friend to hear it on her deathbed. It was even apparently played at her funeral. Beatrice was kind enough to send me a digital scan of the program handed out at the memorial. Fatal Flaw #3: I have to help everyone, so now I am linked to Beatrice musically.

Some time passes and Beatrice and I discuss how to handle the copyright for our new song. She told me that she didn’t have a PRO (Performing Rights Organization) affiliation and that I should “go ahead and use your publishing company. If there are ever any royalties, I know you’ll send me my half.” Well, ok. I would have preferred that everything was split as it should be and all the legalities taken care of, but fine, I’m trust worthy. No worries…or so I thought. Fatal Flaw #4: I don’t practice what I preach. I on occasion teach music business workshops and ALWAYS warn my students how imperative it is to make sure that all of your music is protected with the appropriate agreements and filings. Oy. If I only had a crystal ball to view the future with.

Our relationship really amped up when Beatrice revealed to me that not only did she have a working partnership with Hal Ketchum, but also Jason Mraz. In fact, early on in Jason’s career, he came to her publishing office to pitch himself as a songwriter. Sadly, Beatrice’s partner at the time just wasn’t hearing it and sent poor Jason on his way. Beatrice was smart. She rescued Jason’s tape from the trash and contacted him. She heard the potential and was determined to help him in his musical endeavors. She made phone calls, sent him on meetings, and wouldn’t you know it? He got signed, and well, the rest is history.

You’re wondering right now-I can feel it over the internet. “Jason Mraz? You really believed this woman helped out and was now dear friends with Jason Mraz?” I too questioned it of course. But the story was so seemingly benign, and shortly thereafter Beatrice was writing very publically all over her Facebook wall about how she would soon be joining Jason on the road. That was followed by detailed tales of touring with Jason. We also shared a mutual Facebook friend who I knew in real 3D world who HAD worked with Jason. I asked her, “Do you know Beatrice, and is her connection to Jason the real deal?” My real-life friend said she had never met Beatrice in person but was under the impression that she worked for his foundation. Huh. Ok then, she’s for real! Fatal Flaw #5: I believe the things that people put on their Facebook Walls. I mean, I tell the truth on mine. Hmmm.

Wait. It gets better. As time passes, Beatrice let’s me know that she played my music for Jason, and he LOVED it. By then, I was having serious doubts. I’m not trying to sound self-deprecating, but my music comes from an entirely different planet than Jason Mraz’s. Jason is all about the groove, his music is optimistic and infectious. Mine is introspective and moody. He loves my music? I read the message to my husband. He is perfect in his response. “I could imagine someone of his talent loving your music because he’s very accomplished. Why wouldn’t he love your music?” Very good answer honey. Of course, he too had his doubts.

I then received a follow up message. Jason would love to meet me the next time he’s in NY, and, wait for it…he would like me to open for him when the big tour he’s on right now is over and he’s doing smaller, more intimate venues. I nearly exploded with ecstasy! I’m finally going to get my long overdue break. This time it’s going to happen! I can just feel it. Fatal Flaw #6: I still believe. I can’t help it. Inside me there is still this belief that I will someday attain the audience for my music that I have worked so hard for. At the moment, I’m still onboard with this particular flaw.

The next chunk of time involved numerous ups and downs and close encounters. Jason was playing Jones Beach theater, and had Beatrice “known I was so close, would have invited” me. He’s playing Madison Square Garden, but it was “such a last minute add-on, we were in and out.” I could drag you on and on into the maze that Beatrice dragged me through. Instead I’ll flash forward.

Before I forget to mention it, at some point during the two years, Beatrice herself developed Cancer. It was stage IV. She told me she had been fighting it for years. Her medical bills were astronomical, so both Jason and Hal agreed to cover them for her to the tune of over $500,000. Wow, what wonderful generous friends Beatrice has! I was upset about her cancer, but she assured me that she was in very good hands and, I’m going to paraphrase, was going to live everyday left of her life to the fullest. Oh and her husband also had cancer and died. Truly tragic. Please refer to Fatal Flaw #2.

At this point, I was in the midst of my second Fan Funding Campaign for the next CD. I received an enormous $500 donation from Beatrice. I immediately contacted her. “Beatrice, you’re sick and have your own struggles. I appreciate it so much, but I can’t accept your donation!” She assured me that she could absolutely handle it and wouldn’t hear of me giving it back. Oh, I forgot to mention, by now, since her husband had passed and she no longer had any reason to stay in her home, Jason moved her into his home on an avocado farm in San Diego. I wanted to mail her a bracelet – just a small “thank you” for all of her “support”. When I asked her the address, I was told that I wasn’t allowed to know it because, well it’s Jason Mraz’s home. Of course I understood. I sent the bracelet to her old address where a “friend who is watching the house” will forward it to her in CA. We corresponded via email. She confirmed receiving the bracelet and we proceeded to discuss the next CD and the song that we co-wrote going on it. It was the least I could do-right?

My campaign successfully funded with a week to go. We were going for stretch funding. Beatrice was in full gear. She was posting, she was tweeting. It was exhilarating! And then it happened. I get a Facebook Message from Beatrice; “Marci – check your email. It’s an extra $1000 from Jason anonymously…sort of..”

What? I checked my Kickstarter campaign, and there it was , $1000.00 and I had now surpassed my stretch goal. I was shaking. I was in tears. I called my husband who instantly asked “What’s wrong???” and I told him. He was blown away. I was blown away. Then there was a posting on my wall via Beatrice from “Jason and Raining Jane” (the band he tours with) congratulating me on successfully reaching my goal. Holy cow! It was beyond surreal. Of course, I instantly contacted Beatrice, thanking her profusely, and then I had a realization. Wait a minute – the pledge says it was made by Beatrice. I questioned her and she let me know that Jason couldn’t make the pledge himself because he was on tour and also had to be careful due to his recording contract who he publically backs. This sounded weird to me, but the $1000.00 was real. It cleared after the campaign was over. The money got transferred into my bank account. And then unfortunately….it all started to spiral downward.

I had specifically put on my Kickstarter campaign that the CD should hopefully be done by December 2014, released sometime early 2015. I knew this one would take a while to record and wanted to let people know so they didn’t get anxious about their pledges. In August 2014, Beatrice was by now, emailing me constantly and asking me for status updates. I kindly and politely let her know that we were making wonderful progress and that there had been a few scheduling issues with some of the musicians, and that we also had some tuning challenges with the piano, but everything looked like it was right on track to be done when promised. This was not good enough for her. She started getting volatile and snapped at me in subsequent emails. Then she told me she just wasn’t feeling well and to forgive her. We webcast the recording sessions, and holy cow, who was watching? It was Beatrice and Jason!! And they were chatting away while we recorded. All was good. Or so I thought.

By September 2014, she is demanded a budget and recording schedule on behalf of Jason who was “concerned.” I asked other friends who have run fan funding campaigns in the past if they had ever encountered anything like this. I mean, I back friend’s campaigns all the time and recalled one that took TWO YEARS to get done. I decided that she must not be feeling well, or was just used to big budget projects that go in big name studio cats who are hired to stay and record, and finish an album in two weeks.

Further into the month, Beatrice wanted to know how I planned on handling the copyright for our song that we co-wrote. I reminded her of our previous conversation and she blasted me “OF COURSE I HAVE A PRO!!!!!!! AND THE POEM IS ALREADY COPYRIGHTED!!!! YOU NEVER EVEN ASKED MY PERMISSION TO USE IT!!!!!” Whoa, what? Permission? She ASKED me to write the song, and was excited about it being on the CD. I also know that, legally, a co-write independently and individually allows for all contributing parties to record and release the song the first time, but ok, I could tell that she was upset and I had so much to thank her for. I wrote her and offered a variety of solutions. I suggested that SHE copyright it, or amend the copyright for the poem to include the new version with music. We could just not put it on this CD and put it on a future CD once we sorted all of this out. Whatever would make her happy.

At this point, she was not only furious with me, but apparently Jason was too. Without belaboring the harassing details, I will say that we wrote back and forth to one another for days. I even offered to call her, Skype with her, anything to clear things up. It was obvious that everything I offered infuriated her. I then suggested that we just dissolve the song. She could have her poem back, I my music and we could just forget the whole thing.

The next occurrence was so bizarre, it’s almost hard to write. I received an email from “Hal Ketchum.” He was mad. Crazy mad at me. How could I do such horrible things to his wonderful friend Beatrice? He went on to tell me that she was one of the most respected people in the music industry and not only would he (Hal) NEVER work with me (because he was considering it), but he was going to make sure that everyone in the industry was told about me and what an awful person I was. He assured me that no one in the industry would ever give me the time of day ever again. Fatal Flaw #7: I expect good things to blow up in my face, and therefore, they do.

After reading it over and over again, a calm came over me. I decided to do a trace on Beatrice’s last bunch of emails to me and then “Hal’s” email. Lo and behold, they came from exactly the same IP address-EXACTLY THE SAME. They also did not originate in San Diego or anywhere near CA. Ironically, they originated from original Beatrice’s home state, that place I sent the bracelet to.

And then it all started to unravel. Beatrice is not only volatile, but she’s a nut…and probably doesn’t know Hal, oh God, or Jason. I was nauseous. Gian came home and read the email. He was fuming. The next day he called Hal Ketchum’s management and spoke with a very nice manager-man who confirmed that not only did that email not come from Hal, but he had never even heard of Beatrice. We forwarded over the fake “Hal” email and he was almost as shocked as we were. Gian then spoke with Jason Mraz’s management and they too confirmed that they had never heard of Beatrice, she had most certainly never been on tour with Jason or any of the other claims she made (which, at that point, also included writing half of Jason’s catalog). They too asked that we forward any correspondences and Facebook messages, and we complied. As I archived and forwarded years of lies, I was taken over by a wave of darkness.

The next week was a blur of conversations with friends, my husband, attorneys and a lot of crying, self loathing and loss of interest in pretty much everything. Gian kept assuring me that it could happen to anyone and pleaded with me to stop beating myself up. I couldn’t. I was so angry at her, and me, and at the world. I imploded. Fatal Flaw #8: I instantly abandon myself when things go wrong and assume that it’s all my fault.

There were a barrage of bizarre email exchanges that Gian had with Beatrice, and then Beatrice’s “Friend” who was writing on her behalf because apparently Beatrice hadn’t been in that house or near that computer in ages and “haven’t you ever heard of identity theft?” Once confronted, Beatrice claimed she had never said she had such relationships with either Hall or Jason… but then proceeded to post on her Facebook wall the very same day about how she was “looking forward to going back on the road with Jason soon!” Wow… I then spoke with a friend who divulged to me that, he too was taken on the Beatrice crazy train. We compared stories and it was almost comical how identical they were. I told Gian and he proclaimed “She’s a Serial Cyber Stalker!” He was right. Part of me felt better – at least I wasn’t the only one. Part of me felt worse – she’s still out there. I blocked her on Facebook and unfriended her.

So I’m sure some of you may not completely understand why I consider myself a victim here. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I literally went through all the phases of loss. I mourned, I got angry, I was in denial, etc. It really scared me that I allowed myself to be so gullible. Not to mention the highs and lows of anticipation about connecting with a super star, and what it could potentially have done for my career.

I’ve also had friends who laughed about it and said “hey, at least your Kickstarter got funded!” And yes, it did. But here’s the deal. I’m just not wired that way. I can’t feel good about a woman who is obviously not right in the head and who takes musicians on an emotional roller coaster. I also don’t feel good about the money. Ok, let me rephrase that. The money is great in that it will help me make the best CD that I can possibly make. What isn’t great is finding out that it came from a crazy person who can’t help herself and who may or may not have cancer. Fatal Flaw #9: I feel badly for people who hurt me.

So at the conclusion of this possibly cautionary tale to others, I find myself starting to feel a little more centered. I noticed the sun and blue sky and for the first time in a while, realized I was breathing again. What I walk away with from this experience is that I trust people a little too easily and I’m slightly at peace with that. It comes from a place inside of me that is still innocent, and more so from an incredibly high ethical standard that I keep for myself that makes me honest almost to a fault.

I do wonder if she’ll every truly understand how much damage she did to my self-esteem. I hope that she stops preying on the souls of my fellow sensitive creative’s. I deeply question what would have happened if I found her out before the Kickstarter Campaign, or after the CD was released. I currently feel grateful that I didn’t release a CD with her poem on it. I also feel grateful that I finally know the truth.

I am most grateful that throughout my recent episodes of self-flagellating my husband has maintained his belief in me and has loved me even more, if that’s even possible. I wish for Beatrice that she gets help. I also wish she would apologize, but I truly don’t believe she is capable of it. I do wish her well, and I do appreciate her generosity, even if it came from a really weird place. Fatal Flaw #10: I eagerly forgive.

I am still sad. Sad that the friend I thought I had never really existed. Sad that Jason and Hal have no idea that any of this went on and that they were used to propagate a psychological war on me and others. Sad that my big break didn’t come, and pragmatically I surmise, may never come. Mostly I am still glad that I am who I am, flaws and all because at least I tell the truth…and yeah, I still believe that good things may come.

Marci Geller is a touring singer/songwriter who lives with her husband Gian and cat-daughter Catrina.

To contact Marci directly, please visit the website at: http://www.MarciGeller.com

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Robin Williams: A great loss, and a remarkable revelation

I honestly don’t know many artists who don’t suffer from some form of depression, myself included. I have often wondered if there is a connection between mental illness and creativity. And I mean that seriously. Is it that part of insanity that makes us bold enough to publicly bear our souls? Is it insanity that keeps us passionately pushing our art forward even when it feels sometimes like every door closes, or worse, the wrong doors open?

I think what I find both fascinating and interesting throughout my life is the disbelief from others that I suffer. “You are SO positive!! You’re just having a bad day” has been a constant and common response. Well yes, at the core of my soul/personality, whatever you decide makes up a human, I AM a positive person. Yes, sometimes a bad day can instigate depression. The thing is, there is a difference between having the blues, feeling down, and full blown depression.

The blues – I can manage that. Depression is almost indescribable to someone who has never suffered with it. There are levels that range from a low-grade haze that filters everything I see and do, to a full blown episode where I find myself literally non-functional. It is almost like when you try to walk, or think, there are weights holding your feet to ground, and a persistent sadness that makes you feel tired, and uninspired and worthless. All this while you try with every ounce of strength you have to hide it from the world.

I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I battled severe depression throughout different points of my life and found salvation when I went into family therapy. I “thought” I was going to support my family, I wound up realizing that I needed help. I had played the role of the good daughter for most of my life. I used to joke that I “raised my parents.” I was the rock, and God forbid, I every falter, or worse, ask for help. Thankfully, the therapist our family went to was too smart to dismiss my act. She suggested we each come in for a few solo sessions. Mine resulted in a fantastic journey of self-realization and healing.

We did discuss medication. I was certainly a classic candidate. I was very opposed to it after hearing stories of artists who never created again, and women who lost their ability to have orgasms. That was an unacceptable outcome for me. I was also an admitted control freak. I needed to be the one directing my path. Medication was not an option. I had already decided for better or for worse.

My therapist and I devised an extremely strict regimen of exercise and diet. She warned me, if I wasn’t diligent, I would get myself in trouble. The routine commanded a minimum of 45 minutes a day of high impact cardio to raise my endorphins and eliminating pretty much all sugar from my diet. I was not happy. I’m not a sugar freak per se, although I do have a love affair with ice cream. In truth, I really was opposed to having to live by rules. That may sound really stupid, but as an artist, I love that my life is drawn outside of traditional boxes. Banning things from my life was a perceived limitation. I don’t like limitations.

I agreed to give it a try. It took months and I was getting very, very discouraged. I did however notice that my suicide planning had lessoned. Ok. I didn’t mean to throw something as critical as suicide in so nonchalantly, but honestly, it was so scary for me, that I still have trouble acknowledging it. Yes. I not only considered suicide, I planned it out. On angrier days: how I could pull it off and cause the most hurt to the people who had wronged me. On depths of despair days: how I could disappear myself without anyone noticing. During an uber manic-organizational phase: how I could do it and make sure that everything was neat and tidy so my family wouldn’t have to unravel a mess after my demise. There was a point when suicide was an understood and accepted end to my pain. And then, I forgot to plan. I forgot to anticipate the moment when I would know it was time. It was working, and yet, I still felt like me.

I also still experienced bad days, but they were different. They were still exhausting and mind-scattering, but I knew that they would pass. I believed I could function, and I did. I talked about it in therapy. We kept really careful tabs on me and eventually after about two years, we decided I was “baked” and ready to see if I could manage without weekly sessions.

So here I am today. Decades later, I am married to my best friend who is fully aware and sadly has had to experience some really bad episodes. I honestly believe that I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for his loyalty and belief in me. His strength has been the one thing that reminds me that I do have a reason to get out of bed every morning, even on the mornings when I am convinced that it is impossible to get out of bed.

I also know many people who have had fantastic results from taking medication. Believe me, I wonder if it would just be a whole lot easier if I took them and if I would lose less time to the monster. For now, I am thankful that I found a way to manage my depression in a way that works for me and my art. I could change my mind at any time-I allow myself that possibility. I also allow myself to push my own boundaries at times, and flirt with danger. It is all part of who I am, and I even with the depression, I have finally come to a place in my life where I am very happy with the person I have become.

Hearing the news about Robin Williams sent me into a funk-NOT a depression. If nothing else, I hope that the reader comes away understanding that there is a monumental difference. I am sad. That is a natural emotion. I did not know Robin Williams. I loved his movies. I loved his energy, and I loved the kindness in his eyes. My husband and I met him very briefly at a movie premier years ago. We watched as this one guy literally monopolized him with questions he had written on a pad. He was not a reporter, he was just a guy obsessed with Robin and basically cornered the poor man. Rather than being impatient, or rude, or dismissive, Mr. Williams patiently stood there and answered each question with thoughtfulness and kindness. He winked at us, because he could see us blocked by the monopolizer, and we just wanted to say hi and thank you to him. He had a remarkable twinkle in his eyes, and an aura that I can only describe as peaceful patience. He was just taking it all in. He was special.

It’s three days after we all learned of Robin Williams taking his own life. I am still reading about it all over the web and hearing about him on TV and radio. He was one of those actors who brought us to tears and laughter so seemingly easily. We all imagined that we would be buddies if he got to know us. Of course, he was a man. A man who suffered with addiction and depression. I wish he could have gotten the help he needed. I know he believed that nothing could help. That’s what depression does. It colors your perspective to a point where you only believe the depression. The chemical soup that is raging in your brain telling you that there is nothing that will ever make you feel better.

I feel better and I am thankful. I am thankful for my life. I am thankful that if nothing else the loss of our dear Robin Williams has encouraged many of us to step forward and admit we have suffered too. That is ok to be real about it. That it is an ugly disease. That we can be a little kinder to one another. That maybe, just maybe we can allow for the possibility that if weren’t so afraid of the stigma, that maybe one more person could escape the debilitation of it. That one less family will suffer the tremendous loss and frustration trying to understand WHY.

Take a deep breath. Take in the beautiful blue sky. Take a deep breath. Take a step forward. Live. If you need help, please, please, please ask for it. This is my current brain pattern. I wish you all a better day today. Robin Williams, I personally thank you for the beautiful art you gave to our planet and for inspiring me on so many occasions. I truly hope that you rest in peace and feel all the love.

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I started a crowdfunding campaign on my birthday

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Yep. I did it. I launched my crowd-funding campaign on my birthday April 11, 2014 at midnight. Maybe it doesn’t sound weird to you, but from the gal who has not publicity celebrated her birthday since she was 18, it was a big deal.

If you don’t know what crowd-funding is, in brief there’s usually some kind of portal (in my case, I used Kickstarter this time), and you create a “project” which basically describes in detail what you’re trying to fund and why you need the money. I’m working on a budget to record and release my next CD and I’ll admit, it feels daunting.

In 2012 I ran a crowd-funding campaign on a different portal and decided to switch this time for several reasons. First of all, the other portal charged 50% more in their commission, which I didn’t find out until afterwards. I was pretty upset when I realized I sacrificed a lot more money that I really needed than I had to. Also, I found out after the fact that they had charged “pledgers” (AKA the folks who participate and contribute to your project) a fee that was not disclosed to me OR them prior to their contribution. No one wanted me to feel bad, so I didn’t even hear about it until way after the fact. From the research that I did, Kickstarter has no hidden fees-perk #1.

Now mind you, even though I successfully funded my last project, it was one of the most stressful experiences that I have had connected to my music. Last time I chose my portal based on several musician friends recommendations. This time I did a lot of online research. I looked to see who statistically had the highest success rates for funding, whose portals were easiest to use, and what percentage were music-related projects.

Kickstarter definitely ranked the highest in all areas I explored. Their success rate was significantly higher than the other competitors, but interestingly enough, much lower than I expected (around 43% across all categories). I do believe that the reason their projects fare better is because they use an “All or nothing” model. Basically, if you don’t reach your goal by the end date of your project, you lose all the money you raised-even if you’re $1 short. Other portals allow you to keep what you’ve raised but take a larger commission. I personally think that there is a psychology to the “All or nothing” model.” It creates more urgency. Then again, knowing you can keep what you raise also has it’s appeal. Even though I have part of the budget I need already saved, I won’t be able complete my recording project if I don’t raise all the funds from my Kickstarter campaign. I’m really going all-in.

So I launched on my birthday. I did and we raised 25% over the first three days, and then hit 34% on day six. It’s been exhilarating and nail-biting. A big part of me wishes it would fund before the end date so I can stop not only obsessing about it, but also stop having to constantly post about it. I was one of those artists who always swore that if I couldn’t afford to fund my own projects, well then it was time to let the music become a hobby and move on. That’s what I thought I would do. Only, there are these songs, and this intense desire to share them, and it has become more expensive to get the music out there. I also went back to being a solo artist in the last few years and have had to rebrand myself which has felt a lot like starting over. Regardless, I knew I wasn’t stopping. There I was the week before my birthday; video taping, writing scripts, writing press releases, plotting new and creative ways to get the word out, and driving my poor husband nuts once again.

I don’t know how this will turn out. I would say 99.98% of me believes fully that I will raise my goal and fund my project. There is also that .02% that tortures me late at night when I should be sleeping and distracts me during the day when I was supposed to have turned on that street I just drove by. That’s crowd-funding, at least for me it is. I really wish I was one of those people who could launch it and then let it do its thing. I’m not one of those people. There is a rush of excitement every time I get a notification on my iPhone letting me know there’s a new backer. There is a fall of heart every morning I wake and there have been no new backers. Thrill junky? Perhaps. Mostly, I am a passion seeker. My music is one of my biggest passions and I’ll be damned if I don’t see this through. It is like the project is titled, A Leap of Faith.

Check out my project:
http://www.MarciGeller.com/Kickstarter

Facing Fear; Why I Took the Fearless Songwriter Challenge

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I often tell people that I try to do things that terrify me as much as possible because I almost always come out the other end feeling much more confident and stronger than I did prior to the terrifying task. I haven’t been very public about it, but I haven’t written a completed song since March…March 15th to be exact. I’ve had dry spells before and usually they are attached to stress or well, really bad stress as was the case this time around. Too many in number, some too personal in nature, and mostly nothing that would be very exciting to anyone but me. I might someday choose to write about the hell it was to refinance our home that was underwater and how I was convinced that the bank was trying to kill me from shear frustration, but I’ll save that for a future blog. All in all, I am fine and better yet, the dry spell has been broken thanks to a strange and crazy challenge I stumbled upon called “The Fearless Songwriter Challenge.”

So first I’ll tell you what the challenge is and how it works. The Fearless Songwriter Challenge that I participated in was online and was conducted in the form of a Facebook Group. Explained simply, you are “challenged” to write a song a day for seven consecutive days. There are lots of rules, the details of which are not that important to the story. I will ball them up and tell you that each day right around midnight a prompt was given on the Facebook group for that day’s challenge. The prompts could be verbal, visual or musical and you were not required to use them, but I can say from my own experience, they helped a lot.

Another “rule” was to write something fresh everyday. In other words, we were encouraged NOT to try and finish already started pieces, but to be brave and see if the process would birth completely new songs. Once your song was completed, you were then asked to post it on the Facebook group. For me this meant performing it live into the voice memo App on my iPad, and then doing the unthinkable; posting it unedited and raw for the world to hear.

The last rule, which wasn’t stated, but will be incorporated for future challenges because of my very public faux pas was, since the songs were posted in their virgin form and pretty much all were recorded very low-tech, no feedback other than whether you liked the song should be posted. Now you may not know this, but I’ve been attending the Jack Hardy Songwriter’s Exchange in NYC on and off now since 2011. The whole point of that group is to bring in a new or in-process song each week with no explanation or introduction and then leave yourself open to feedback from the group. This is not the point of The Fearless Songwriter. It’s more about the commitment to actually write everyday for seven days without the creative process being questioned by someone else’s suggestion(s). My bad. I jumped in giving comments and suggestions. As soon as I was very politely and privately told of my error, I apologized publicly to the group. I admittedly felt kind of stupid, and was very relieved to be responded to with kindness and acceptance.

The moderator of the group also offered some helpful suggestions such as trying to allot yourself no more than 45 minutes to write, and that in his experience early morning is the best time to write. He also suggested that as soon as you felt the song was “complete” even if complete meant a rough draft, to be done with it. I of course did not adhere to any of these suggestions. My shortest writing experience was 40 minutes, but most took around 2 hours. As far as the time of day, with a full time job and a complicated life, I never wrote early in the morning and very often found myself under the gun trying to get the song posted around 11pm. I also never felt comfortable posting a rough draft. If I was posting it, it had better be a pretty fleshed out idea even if the recording and performance was rough. It was a whirlwind, and I confirmed for myself that I am in fact an adrenaline junky, just not the kind that physically jumps from buildings, but does so creatively.

Day One. Sunday July 21st. The prompt was a painting called: Boston Common at Twilight by Childe Hassam Click here to see

I will be honest and say at first I was disappointed. I expected a verbal prompt but decided to stop trying to control everything and just see if I could actually write something. Thankfully day one was a Sunday. A good way to ease into the process without having to find the balance between real life and being creative, which is a constant struggle for me. I stare at the painting. Nothing. I go for a run…a melody emerges with some words. “She was happy then.” I realize that I’m connecting to a photo of someone from my past of when they were young and carefree that for some reason the painting reminds me of. Voila, I’m on my way.

I must preface this by saying, in general when I write a song, I’ll “demo” it on my iPhone or iPad just to have a reference, and quite frankly to remember how it goes. Once written I will practice the dickens out of it until it becomes physically natural. WIth this challenge, there was no time for this. You write, you record, you post. It’s out there. It is really scary to know that it and/or I can be so easily judged, but I committed, and I fulfilled day one. I didn’t just fulfill the challenge, I loved the song. I mean really, truly loved it, as if it were a savior in musical form. I have written a complete song. The curse is broken. I am allowed to continue for another day (that’s the drama I hear in my head speaking, and yes, it is overly dramatic, and I’m learning to stop judging my judging of myself).

Day Two. I have to work, food shop and do some posters for upcoming shows. How the heck will I be able to write a song? I feebly surf over to the Facebook group to get today’s prompt. It is ‘What I/I’ve never told you.” Great. I not only have to see if I can write something, it has to be revealing and personal. As if this is a new notion, again, I am fighting it. The storm in my brain tortures me for a bit and then, just like a sudden breeze on a fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk day, relief. It flies out of me. Now the question remains, do I just post, or do I explain who I’m talking about and why? I decide to just post. It’s called “If You Only Knew” and Gian my husband thinks it’s one of the best songs I’ve ever written.

Day Three. I’m feeling good. I have a mash-up of “She Was Happy Then” and “If You Only Knew” in constant rotation in my brain, and normally this would distract me. Generally when I write, the current new one is on a continual loop inside my brain until the next one comes. This was different. Both new songs were swirling around but I had a feeling that I could get there again. The prompt for this day was “What do you hear in the quiet” and I had to laugh because quiet is an abstract concept to me. I decided to once again just let go of my preconceptions and see what emerged. I must note that this day was more hectic than usual. I was doing what is known as a “ride-along” for my day job (I’m in complete denial but most of bills these days are paid by my being a broker in the natural food industry). Basically, I was responsible for taking a vendor around NYC & Brooklyn to meet with my biggest clients. I had to be on the road at 8am, and just being brief, my morning routine includes: upper body work-out, running 2-3 miles, answering any pressing emails from the previous day and packing bags with products for the clients I would see that day. I woke up at 6am and knew that I would probably not return home until after 7pm. Sure, I could write a song, record it and post it by midnight. Oy.

I returned home exhausted but still had a nice dinner with my husband, watched an episode of “Newsroom” while we digested and then headed down into the studio to see if I could make this happen. What do I hear in the quiet? I kept asking myself that question and then the answer seeped in. I hear my knowing that my husband loves me unconditionally. I hear our hearts beat in synch even during the tough times. There it was. The first love song I’ve written for my husband since probably our wedding song (we were married 18 years ago this past May). It’s catchy without being hokey and I love this song. I’m on a roll and I’m starting to feel some small sense of optimism that I will be able to do this.

Day Four. The prompt is “Think of a hero and then think of who their hero is and write about them.” I’m stumped. My Dad is a hero, but who is his hero? I liked Captain Kirk from Star Trek, but who would I write about? Captain Pike his predecessor? Nothing is clicking. I’m nervous. The ensuing dialogue in my head goes something like this: “See? I jinxed myself. I was cavalier. I don’t have this, I’m a failure. No wonder I’m not more successful.” Yikes! I know, I scare myself sometimes. I talk myself down from the ledge and assure myself that every song doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, in fact the moderator said himself “If you get one great song out of this exercise, you’re really lucky.” Of course, I don’t believe any of this for a minute. I have to write something, and it better well be great! Again…oy.

The day is a blur of clients and to-do lists and I keep wondering, do I even have an actual hero? I have musical heroes, but purposely know little about their process or personal life. I never want to poach anything from them other than being inspired by their musical greatness. And then it hits me. I can be light. I can be funny-right? I remember how as a kid all the young girls in elementary school dreamed about growing up and becoming Marcia Brady. I of course idolized Jan. I could relate to her and her awkwardness. Her glasses and less than perfect hair. Jan was my hero and of course Marcia was hers. Song four done….and then I got the phone message….

Day Five. I’m tired. I’m cranky. Why in the world did I take on something that would add even more pressure to my life? The night before I received some less than happy news and it was all I could think of. The day’s prompt was not helping. “Write something that pedals one bass note.” What? No words, no pictures, just a bass note. Ugh. The inner dialogue started up again; “Do you really think this is going to make a difference anyway? Big deal, you wrote a bunch of songs. Who’s going to hear them?” I drag myself downstairs and sit at the piano. I realize that the first four songs were in four different keys using the white keys on the piano. Hmmmm. I hadn’t written in E yet. So I pedal E. The song literally writes me. 40 minutes later I’m reduced to tears. The song is done. It’s as near perfect as I can imagine and I have no idea how I will possibly be able to sing it all the way through without breaking down. It is so potent. I play it for Gian. I cry, collect myself and record it and post it.

Day Six. It’s Friday. After today there is one day left and so far I have what I consider to be four keepers and a fifth possible keeper with tweaking. I believe I’m going to make it. I will be honest and say, at this point, I just want to finish. I am not overly concerned with the quality of the last two songs, just that they get done. I didn’t feel like I was coping out. I felt more like I was tapped out. The prompt is “Steal a great first line from a song.” I don’t like this. It goes against my ethical and moral code. I don’t steal, I try not to even borrow from other people’s music. I realize that there are only so many combinations of words and notes and that they’ve probably all been done before, but to consciously do so felt very wrong. I’ll just write something…and nothing comes.

I resort to going on the internet and Googling “The Top 100 Best first Lines of Songs” just to see if anything even inspires me. It doesn’t. It’s gray and gloomy out and I am feeling extremely overwhelmed an unmotivated.

I decide to trek downstairs to the piano and decide to figure out what keys I haven’t written in yet. I’ve got B & C left. I decide C and start tooling with a chord progression. And then it happens. The room lightens up because the sun literally came out, and yes, the first line is “Here comes the sun” and continues “though I never believed it was really gone.” I am amusing myself at this point and I do it. I complete song six.

Gian comes home from work and he very generously asks to hear it (I say generously because he’s exhausted and I know would rather zone out in front of the TV). I play it for him. He likes it, but thinks the chorus can be a little more sophisticated and more appropriate in relations to the verse changes. Alrighty, I can fix this…and I do. I record, post and breathe. One more day.

Day Seven. It’s Saturday. I feel partially melancholy because this is it. After today I have no further obligation to write ever again unless I feel like it. I also feel impatient because it’s Saturday, Gian is home and I’d honestly rather go to the beach with him. So we go to the beach. We walk our 2.57 miles and I work hard to be present with him. It isn’t easy when I now have a cacophony of six songs playing in my head and this sense of anxiety that I might fall down the very last day. Inner dialogue: “Breathe, watch the water, feel the sand under your feet. Whatever is meant to be will be.”

The prompt for our final day is to “Google image search for your favorite visual artist, and try to describe something from all the images that you see as if there are one. Better yet, try it for your least favorite artist.” Well I know right away I’m going to be searching Dali. I love many artists, but there is something about his work that I relate to on such a deep level. Of course, being in the Google environment I made the mistake of reading a bit about his history. Bad move…I don’t like him as a person. Ok, let it go and look at the art.

We have two pianos in our home. One is the Baby Grand Baldwin I bought myself a few years ago when I built the studio. The other is my childhood piano. It was the first and only until I got the Baldwin and I’ve written probably 80% of my songs on her. Ironically above her on the wall hangs a print of Dali’s “Musical Tempest” that I bought for one of Gian’s birthday’s. Click here to see.

I’ve always loved this painting and particularly relate to the figure that I have deemed a woman in the shadows carrying a boulder on her head. She’s me, or at least a version of me that I connect with. I have one key left that I haven’t written in. The dreaded key of B. It never feels natural. I always want to migrate to Bb or C, but I really want this to be my extra cool little twist, so I commit. I also realize I haven’t written a waltz yet, and again, there it is. “Never asked To The Party” is my seventh song of a week long remarkable journey. I don’t think it’s a brilliant piece, but I also don’t think it stinks. I’ve done it. I am free to go out and socialize with friends!

A quick aside. Saturday night we had plans to have dinner with my in-laws and then hang with our friend Danielle because her sister Laura was in town. I had my contact lenses in and was actually semi presentable. Unfortunately when I went to record the song, I realized that I couldn’t see with my contacts in. I scour the house for my “reader” (you have no idea how horrifying it is to type the word READERS in conjunction with me, but there I did it. Another gesture of bravery). So I try to record but the problem is, I can sort of see the lyrics and chord changes, but I can’t look down and see my hands because I start getting waves of nausea because of the readers. I need to glance occasionally-I don’t know this song by heart, it’s not simple and it’s more of a security thing. It takes me OVER AN HOUR to record the darn thing because I have to keep taking the readers off to drink water and settle my stomach. Needless to say, we were late, but I posted before midnight.

So here I sit the Sunday after the last day and a week since starting the Fearless Songwriter Challenge. I am now free to not write a song. Gian has an unusual Sunday show to tech and I’m here writing this blog. The desire to go write another song, “just to see if I can” is pretty strong. Besides, we already walked on the beach and it’s raining out. Maybe I have one more in me…..:-)

Here are the resulting songs from my first ever Fearless Songwriter Challenge. I suggest you read the prompts in the description and listen in the order they were written, or not. I welcome your feedback, sort of. Truth be told, I do kind of want to stay in this place of accomplishment, but yes, please feel free to share with me any thoughts, feelings, etc. You may also feel free to share this blog if you think it might inspire or be interesting to a friend!

 
You find out more about me at: http://www.MarciGeller.com

The Guthrie Center

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I have played in venues all over the world. To be honest, they are all special in their own unique way. It is always more than just the walls and the roof that houses any given venue, even though some of those walls and roofs are quite spectacular. What I have found that makes each and every venue special is the people and the energy. The staff; which is almost always made up of a majority of volunteers and of course, the audience. They all contribute to the energy that constitutes a venue.

On Friday June 21st 2013 I had the great honor of adding another legendary venue to my list of “places I have played.” I was invited to open for Buskin and Batteau at the Guthrie Center. I only received confirmation about a week and half prior, but since the date also coincided with my Mom’s birthday, it was ringing in my conscious constantly.

I already knew the history and the status of this venue going in. It wasn’t intimidating, however I did feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to be “worthy” of such an opportunity. I sent out an email announcement, plastered it all over my social networks, and practiced like crazy so I could walk on that stage with the confidence that I deserved to be there. During the days leading up to the show, my brain was buzzing and I had to keep reminding myself to stay centered so that I could take it all in. It’s so easy to get caught up in the “idea” of an experience that I kind of feel like I sometimes miss the actual experience when it happens. I wanted to truly be there, and take in all that it had to offer.

Upon entering, I went in the back door and wound up traveling through the kitchen. I was greeted by many smiling people who were busy as bees preparing food for that evening’s audience. They told me to come on through and to make a left out of the kitchen door. I did. As soon as I did, I felt this instant tingling on my skin. I walked further to the door to the stage aka cathedral, and there it was. In all its magnificence. With it’s red backdrop, its piano aching to be played, and the vaulted ceilings. The energy in the room was palpable.

I watched Buskin and Batteau sound check and just knew in my bones that this would be a special evening. When it was my time to soundcheck, I heard David Buskin plucking away at this guitar off to the side. I heard him call out “Hey Marci, do you want me to play with you on this song?” I didn’t even think through a cool response that would sound like it was no big deal that David Buskin wanted to play on MY SONG!!! I squealed back, “Oh my God, YES!!!!!!, REALLY??? OH wow, that would be amazing!!!!” Yes. I am a complete and total dork. I will never be cool. I’m ok with that.

After a brief run through, we all ascended upstairs behind the sound person area to this loft-like area that over looked the concert hall. They fed and watered us and I could hear the din of the audience seeping in. Since I have been the person on stage and an audience member I know that there is this electricity that starts to mount when people enter a venue. Even if they are quiet as mice, we still feel it backstage, and I believe it energizes us for when we go and perform. That night I could have taken in a breath and literally launched into outer-space. The electricity was potent.

Friends came back for a quick hello and words of encouragement. It’s a little blurry in my mind, but I remember Deb Guhl from WPKN and of course my Capital District contingency Mira Shapiro and Renee Ruggles who drove seven hours to be there in support of this monumental moment in my musical history.

I received word that they were about to start the show. I was announced after George Laye did his introduction for the venue and then me. Marshal and I stepped on stage and I went to the piano, said hello to the audience and then invited David up to join us. From the very first note I knew this would be a good night. I can always tell. It’s not that if there’s a funky moment there is no recovering, but there are some nights when you just know that it is going to flow. This night was one of those nights.

I was amazed that I wasn’t nervous. That the audience was with me every note of every song. That B&B invited me on stage to sing background vocals a few songs was the cherry on the cake. The night was pure magic and pure joy. It is difficult to explain how I fully believe that not only am I different after each show, but that we all are different. Music is an energy that transcends all rational forms of experience. At least that’s how I feel about it. I feel like the audience is a partner. That they share the responsibility of creating an experience for all of us.

That evening was no exception. I am different. I am better having traveled to another special venue that was built by love and passion. I look forward to the next show with full heart and hope. Hope that I can continue to create music and be given the opportunity to share it. I hope the audience feels different too. That going out that night made a difference-a very, very good difference in the quality of the planet.

P.S.-if you were wondering about my Mom and her birthday; my parents live down in Florida now so they were unable to attend this show. I am traveling to FL on 7/4/13 to do shows down in their neck of the woods. I am certain they will be there to celebrate!

Videos from The Guthrie Center Show

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