A Blather-Free Tutorial for Wildwood Flower

This here is my first foray into the world of YouTube tutorials—a realm where people, often with middling competency of their instruments and feelings of musical superiority, blather on and on about how to finger a C chord on the ukulele, over and over and over again. The internet only needs so many explanations of this.

This tutorial is inspired by the spare video tutorial stylings of Ukulelezaza, who I love love love.

Maybe it’s unfair to call this a tutorial. It’s really just a camera pointed at my hands on a uke, but I think it’s plenty. It’s what I want in a tutorial. Monkey see, monkey do.

So, my monkeys. Get out your ukuleles. You know what to do.

Another Ranty Rant on How Music Is Undervalued

My cheerful optimism - Sage Harrington

My cheerful optimism (still not pictured). Photo courtesy of Lucie Provencher.

So after writing a ranty rant on how music is undervalued I really wanted to write something else to kind of bring everything around to a more positive space. I want to talk about good things, about feelings of renewal and optimism—but really, I’m not in the mood yet.

I’m still in a funk.

This. This, y’alls:

Rude Music Fan - Sage Harrignton

Exhibit A: The RudeMusicFan.

This is a Twitter feed that one of my (need I spell it out? full-time working, touring, song-writing) musician friends created as an outlet for all the weird, gross, misdirected things people say at shows.

People say shit like this. And they mean it. And they just don’t get it. People can be really ignorant about art and music and not realize what they’re doing hurtful or sexist or racist or just plain asinine.

Rude Music Fan - Sage Harringotn

Exhibit B: A a friend of mine (need I spell it out? an incredibly beautiful, lovely, surreally talented person), mentioned doubting that doing music is worth it. That doing music is the right choice. The right life choice.

At first I was confused. Like, are you for reals? Of course it is! How could you let anyone tell you otherwise?

Then I remembered what the world is constantly telling us: you can’t make a living doing music.

As in:

Can you play for our thing? We can’t really pay you.

This gig doesn’t pay, but you can get exposure and can sell CDs and stuff.

The 3-hour-long sets your band is supposed to play for $125 where you’re basically background noise and no one gives a shit. Focus: Music? No. Beer sales? Yes.

I remembered that, and I understood what she was saying.

Rude Music Fan - Sage Harrington

It’s also weird because the world is simultaneously telling us the opposite: that it’s really, really important to be a famous, supertalented pop star, and that you’re gotta work really hard to get to the point where millions of people adore you and you can sell out stadiums. People don’t seem to get it—you can be a successful musician without being famous. You can also be a “successful” musician without even making enough for rent. The cultural narrative is really fucking schizo in that way, and it’s totes annoying.

Yeah, we musicians are all a little bit counterculture. We don’t wanna do the prescribed thing, probably because that would be boring. And stifling. We wanna be out on our own. We want to do things the wrong way, the not-standard way.

But there’s a time when you just gotta call it bullshit.

Originally posted at Pyragraph.com.

A Ranty Rant on How Music Is Undervalued

My cheerful optimism - Sage Harrington

My cheerful optimism (not pictured). Courtesy of Daniel Zedda.

It’s been a weird year, in some ways. About while ago this happened and a Happy Gland Band video went sort of fungal. No, bacterial. No, virulent. No, viral. And I spent a bunch of energy trying to ride that wave as hard as I could, which led pretty swiftly to the fresh, warm spring wave of Gotta Get Outside And Plant Some Plants, rather than the rip tide of Oh Shit Look At All The Various Ways I Could Spend Hours In Front Of My Laptop I was getting sucked into.

Sometimes a girl just can’t deal with the idea of tweeting every goddamned thing that enters her brain. Okay, if we’re talking about me, it’s all the time. Awllll the timmme.

Things happen in waves (to further bludgeon you with this metaphor), and a bunch of stuff has happened lately that’s pushed me into this really private-feeling space. I don’t want to always be thinking about presenting myself to the world. I don’t want to be visible, all the time.

Social media is all about constructing this version of yourself that’s supposed to be attractive to people, and that pressure can just be exhausting. (By the way, maybe I should compartmentalize social media stuff more, the way Danielle Vincent does. Then maybe I wouldn’t feel the horrible weight of guilty avoidance weighing down on me at all times.)

Then, more things happened.

This ohsohilarious April Fool’s joke, for instance. Yes, you’re hearing the bitterness of one upon whom the joke was played and she was got and she talked about it publicly on social media and spent a really really long time drafting up a blog post about it before she realized that, hey, it’s April first and…shit. I mostly felt angry that I had spent over an hour wasting precious time in front of the computer screen, after I had so recently renewed this sense of Learning To Prioritize and Using Computer Time Wisely So That I Don’t Become a Cranky Musician Who Never Practices Or Enjoys Life!

But seriously, I wanna talk about why this April Fool’s joke is so funny. Because isn’t it hilarious to think that working musicians would be paid a wage comparable to that of people who have real jobs? Isn’t is just dandy that we’re basically expected to scrape by? Isn’t it awesome that what we do is so undervalued?

I met some amazing musicians recently who played their songs and performed beautifully and broke my heart and brought me to tears when I listened to their music and thought about what they had told about ageism, about needing to keep side jobs, about trying and trying and trying to make this career work.

These amazingly talented, lovely players, these two people who have spent so much to become such beautiful artists, these people who are reservoirs of beauty who, by doing their art, can open us up to the truths of life—we don’t even have the dignity as a society to make sure that they are modestly taken care of.

TRANSCENDENT BEAUTY—THAT’S NOT ENOUGH FOR US. We’ve gotta make sure that on top of doing their heartbreakingly beautiful things, they’re also serving the masses their faux-Italian-sized lattes, answering tech support calls, stocking groceries on the shelf. THESE are the things that are really valuable to us. Not education, not music, not art. Not people’s emotional well-being. It just feels so arbitrary and sad.

Clearly, it’s more than just the fact music is undervalued. This is a systemic problem that affects a whole hell of people harder than educated middle-class white chicks who play the ukulele (hey, that’s me). We could talk about the need for universal single-payer healthcare, about grave income inequality, about racism, about sexism. Inga, wanna chat sometime?

Ah, you guys, I feel so ranty and whiny and complainy, and I’m sorry for being such a bummer, but I just really needed to talk about this.

Also, April Fool’s Day is a stupid holiday.

Originally published at Pyragraph.com.

The Joy of Taking Breaks and Learning Something New

Sage Harrington, red nose clown

Me and my circus pals, Callie and Tasha.

Due to the crappy way I’ve been feeling lately (as discussed previously) I needed, just needed, to do something real. Something, er, analog. Something that did not involve pixels. Something that did not involve booking underpaying shows that I would struggle to get through.

I wanted to do real things with my real muscles, so I signed up for a circus intensive. Besides, I didn’t have any shows booked (I was tired of the pixels, remember?) so what else was I gonna do with myself? It was perfect timing.

What can I say about it? It was so much fun. It was beyond liberating to do something so new, so exciting, so beyond my brain’s normal functioning patterns. It was a six-week intensive with classes in all sorts of disciplines: aerials (fabrics and trapeze), clowning, physical theater, stilts, acrobalance.

There’s this thing that happens when you’re taking a fabrics class, for example, and you’re a beginner. The teacher shows you how to do something (and usually they show you about three different things you can do once you’re all twisted up in there), and you go, “Oh, cool, okay, I could totally swing that, that looks super do-able,” then you get up there, you reach for the apparatus, and you’re like, “…uhh…”

Everything’s gone.

You have no idea what to do, and feel totally lost.

This is really refreshing. I’m loving being a beginner. Not to say that I don’t feel like a beginner at music in a lot of ways—I totally do!–but it’s so exciting being at the very start (like, three months and counting!) of this aerial thing. What’s exciting about being at the very beginning is seeing your own progress. Because during one class you’re hanging upside-down, inexplicably not knowing which way is up (note to self: the ceiling is up), and the next you’ve totally got it: What seemed like an interminably long sequence of impossibly complicated tasks has somehow solidified. Understanding has come to the fore from a dark, foggy netherworld of confusion.

And when that happens, it is beautiful. It looks like this, but in your mind.

Rainbow, clouds parting - Pyragraph

Courtesy of kansasphoto.

I’ve got circus muscles now. I have upper body strength, which is something that I’ve never had any reason to develop before. Flashback to Sage’s early teens: At a summer dance intensive I attended, a yoga instructor referred to all us ballerinas as having “weak little dancer arms.” So, that’s been the image of my upper body strength I’ve carried for all these years. Until now.

Surrounded by wonderful women at this wonderful studio (by the way, I am totally going to keep taking classes up there—the atmosphere is just so dang warm and supportive), I’ve become stronger, more confident, and totally jazzed to keep learning the aerial arts.

The workshop concluded with a series of performances. I performed in a clown act (hence, the nose you see in the above photo) and a trapeze act. And, ironically enough, we choreographed our trapeze act to this steampunk song about the evils of the man who invented digital clocks. (It’s ironic because I didn’t choose the song—my trapeze partner did. Remember how I said I was tired of the pixels?)

And now I feel like a strong, tricked-out trapeze badass.

I took a fabrics class the other night and climbed all the way to the fuckin’ top—although I think it was maybe a little shorter than the ones I’ve become accustomed to climbing—I MEAN, it was the longest fabric ever and I just feel so confident, strong, and totally refreshed.

I’m so excited to keep going with this.

Originally published at Pyragraph.com.

White Imperialist Racism And Eyeglasses I Do Not Need

This is a blog post wherein I attempt to deconstruct the anxiety I feel about white imperialist racism and the purchase of new eyeglasses I do not need.

I recently finished up reading Inga Muscio’s Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil: My Life and Times in a Racist, Imperialist Society. I think everyone should read this book. It is a book about racism, yes. White imperialist racism. A book about how white imperialist racist ideology bleeds into pretty much everything we do and see. It’s a book about genocide, a book about sexism, a book about ecocide.

Oh Inga, how I love you. You give voice to the parts of me that our racist, imperialist society has tamped down over the years. There were so many moments in the book where I felt this keen recognition—this feeling of ah, that’s me. That’s a more badass, eloquent, educated me. Those are the thoughts I would be writing about if I were braver. Those are the kinds of critical skills I so wish I’d already been developing, but I hadn’t because I’ve allowed our, you know, racist, imperialist society to hack away at some of the more just wishes of my heart and soul. I’m talking about wishes of equality, wishes that I’d had the bravery to call BULLSHIT, for example, when my mom told me that yes, I had to go to college because there were just some hoops that you needed to jump through, or when the gross ex-boyfriend (soon to have a restraining order set against him, so I guess my family and I did have the bravery to call BULLSHIT) dragged me across his dorm room by the ankles.

But, Inga, you exposed those ideas in your lovely book, which uncovered the germs of similar ideas in me, and there they are! Now, to just read the entire bibliography of Cunt, Blue-Eyed Devil, whichever book of yours I read next, and l shall watch those ideas fully germinate, growing into a veritable forest of pinko commie convictions within my heart! Mom will be so proud. (Maybe not.)

After I finished Inga’s book I got the summer flu. I suspect I got the summer flu due to some antibiotics I was on for bacterial vaginosis. Kill all the good bugs in my gut in the process of killing all the “bad” bugs in my cunt, and destroy my immune system. Western medicine at its best.

While convalescing, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Small Wonder in three feverish hazed days. (Such a race through a book is unusual for me. Busy life and no time to hang out sniffling on the couch enjoying yourself, see.) Incidentally, especially after reading Inga, Barbara Kingsolver’s eco-friendly-motivated garden growing, left-wing leaning political essays seem positively tame.

So this is the fevered brain-space I was swimming in for days and days. White imperialist racism, bad! And it’s everywhere! It’s means government-endorsed autogenocide, ecocide, climate change. These things are caused by ignorance and greed! Shit is hitting the fan! And what can we do? What can I do?

Here’s what I did. I went about my business.

I went to the eye doctor, because I’m turning 26 in a week, at which time my parent’s insurance plan will no longer cover me. But, yay, Obamacare! for extending that timeline from age—what was it, 24?—to 26. You gotta use that shit while you still can. I had the exam. Then funneled me in from room to room and performed their tasks and deemed my eyes in almost the exact same condition they had been last year (and the previous year).

Then for some reason I put a pair of those fancy trial frames on anyway, and sat down with the salesperson. And then bought the glasses that I DO NOT NEED, because the glasses that I currently wear are of almost exactly the same prescription.

This is the state that I am in. Because I am a white, privileged, middle class person, I am in a state where I am able to agonize over how much waste will go into to the production of the glasses I will purchase even though I DO NOT NEED them. I can agonize over what the longer-term costs may be for the environment based on said unknown waste. I can agonize about what the workers conditions are like where the glasses are made, I can agonize about what toxins may or may not be leached into my face from the plastic of the frames or the anti-reflective coating of the lenses. I am able to agonize over whether or not they should put the slightly creepy dilation drops in my eyes (which temporarily paralyze the muscles surrounding your pupils so that the pupils remain open, with I-don’t-know-what-other-known-or-unknown-long-term-side-affects). I am in a state where I can agonize about what it will do to my bank account in the long term to spend $160 on a pair of glasses I DO NOT NEED that would have cost over three times that much without the coverage of the happy insurance of my parents.

I should probably mention that it has taken me up to this point in my early adult life to not feel a deep, cringing sense of remorse and fear for my future each time even the smallest amount of money is emptied from my wallet.

I can agonize about all the waste that goes on within the office itself—all the paper used, all the tiny little disinfectant wipes wiped on all the elaborate optometry equipment, I can agonize about gender equality in the offices—on why my doctor is male, but everyone else who works there is female. I can agonize about their respective salaries. I can agonize about race, too—on why, for the three years I’ve been going to this office, I have only seen one black woman working there, just this last time. I can agonize over how much energy is used to keep that place at frigid temperatures during the warmest summer months.

I can agonize about a hell of a lot of things in a very short period of time, realize I am a ignorant of the answers to basically all of my questions, and then go ahead anyway and buy the glasses I DO NOT NEED.

I am incredibly fortunate to have the luxury to worry about these things instead of the many other perils plaguing people around the world, often at the hand of our gross government (see Inga for more details).

My glasses saleslady could sense my agonizings, I suspect, and told me that I was merely spending 43 cents a day on them for the next year. But you don’t understand… I moaned internally, there’s so much more to it than that. The earth, you know. The waste. The labor. The money. Plus, if I’m gonna make an investment in something for 43 cents a day for the next year, it might as well be something that has a better chance of improving life for me and everyone else than a pair of glasses I DO NOT NEED. Like some fund for pandas. Or zooplankton. Or a fund that would make sewing machine repair free to this badass self-employed cool-things-making woman.

Instead, I was handed my receipt, told the dilation drops had only worked for around twenty minutes, rather than the four to eight hours they should have, and had this extremely pointless conversation about those “disposable,” “one-use” sunglasses things you’re supposed to slip in behind your eyeglass lenses after you get your dilation drops. See, I DID NOT NEED to waste the resources involved in taking this little sheet of tinted plastic shaped charmingly like some fifties style glasses, because I had a pair of prescription sunglasses in my purse, and, as you might remember, the damned dilation drops had stopped working anyway. (My eyes, just like my heart, shall be paralyzed by ignorance no longer!)

We were almost at the end of our pointless negotiation, the glasses saleslady and me (I didn’t want to take the one-use sunglasses because it’s a waste of resources, and she had already taken them out of their little plastic sleeve and wanted to hand them off to me and be done with it), when she finally said, “You can just take them and if you don’t need them, you can throw them in the trash.”

I took them.

I did not need them.

I threw them in the trash.

And, clearly, I am still agonizing over it.

The Standing O Project: a new way for fans to connect with musicians

So there’s this website called the Standing O Project. It’s kind of like a hybridized musician’s funding platform, support system, and rich online membership community. Fans can contribute through a musician’s page (such as the Happy Gland Band’s page!) and get access to the entire site, which is chock-full of music and fabulously insightful interviews with great musicians from around the world.

With today’s relaunch, they’re offering a ten-day free trial of the site. Click through this link and hit the blue “Start Free Trial” button at the top of the page.

Or, hell, you could just skip that and go straight for the Fan Signup, and help us make a living making music! If you’d be so generous as to contribute any amount of money—any at all—within a week (by July 11), I’ll send you my very very first digital single, a cover of Regina Spektor’s Samson, for freesies. And if you contribute at least $10.00, I’ll send you my just-released Song a Day collection for freesies, too!

Just make sure you use this link.

Please and thank you, thank you, thank you for your support. We couldn’t do it without you.

Standing Ovationing-aly yours,
Sage

Releasing a cover of Samson—my first digital single

And, no, I don’t mean I’m getting rid of a finger! This is a recording I made on my very own, and after slaving over both a ukulele and a hot keyboard, things have happened! HarryFox.com has been visited. Pixels have been shifted, money has changed hands. Deals have been cut. Licenses have been licensed. Now I am proud to announce that this shit is available for sale on the interwebs.

iTunes!
CDBaby!
Bandcamp!
etcetera!

Thank you, and goodnight!

What’s Your Deal, Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay?

Originally published at Pyragraph.com.

I met Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay just last year, when we were booked at a tiki-themed bar on one of the first frigid Tuesday nights of winter.

Needless to say, the bar was nearly empty and I basically ended up performing for Brennen and Noel. They were a great audience, and when it was time for their set, Brennen said she understood that it was late on a weekday night and wouldn’t be offended if I took off before their set ended. Even though I’m kind of the old lady at heart (perhaps like the one Brennen wrote about in this song) who would rather have gone to bed than stay out on a frosty November evening, I had to stay. They were so great.

Also, really friendly. They told me they occasionally tour with a giant, slobbery redbone coonhound. I countered with photos of my chihuahua. 

Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay will be performing in Albuquerque, NM at DUOPALOOZA! this Sunday, June 8 at Marble Brewery.

I hope they’ll bring the coonhound.

1. What’s your act?

Some nice quotes about us will hopefully do:

“Noel and Brennen are great songwriters.” —Guy Clark

“Before the World Was Made is a witty, heartfelt record of dusty barroom shuffles, sassy two-steps and ethereal country-folk. It’s informed by the vintage duets of George Jones and Melba Montgomery, as well as the more modern pairing of John Prine and Iris DeMent.”  —Chicago Tribune

“Before the World Was Made is a delicious mix: raw, retro country plus sweet irony. That’s apparently the specialty of Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay, the Austin-based duo whose debut is hilarious, sentimental and profound, usually all at the same time.”  —CMA Close Up

2. Tell me about your backgrounds as artists/performers. 

Brennen: I grew up in the midwest playing country music with my brother Seth. I moved to Austin in 2002. I worked on my songwriting there, played music with lots of fantastic people and eventually started collaborating with Noel. We made our first record together in 2013 and are now touring the country in our car with our redbone coonhound.

Noel: I started playing in bars when I was 15 years old. I had a band with my brother called McKay Brothers for a good little while. When I was a young songwriter I played a show with songwriting legend Guy Clark and he took a shine to my songwriting, took me under his wing and has been in my corner ever since. I’m most happy traveling and writing songs with Brennen.

3. What was the worst gig you ever played? Dish all the juicy bits.

Noel: One time my brother and I got booked at this crappy place in a town called Yantis in North East Texas. Having spent lots of time in South Texas I’ve written several songs that are in both English and Spanish. It only took one of those before the 20 or so people in the bar were standing in front of the stage expressing their extreme dissatisfaction at our cross-cultural offering.

One particularly meth-addled looking fellow kept saying, “Why would you do that?” over and over again. I thought these folks were gonna kill us. It was a sufficient ruckus that the cops showed up. I was pretty disappointed when they left. We had to jump through some hoops to get paid but we did. We rolled up the gear in record time. We made like a bakery truck and hauled buns down the road “muy pronto!”

4. Who are your favorite performers at the moment?

Loves It!The Carper FamilyThe Cactus BlossomsSilas Lowe.

5. What’s the most helpful tip you could share with aspiring performers?

Brennen: Be nice! Your fellow musicians are your friends.

DUOPALOOZA! is Albuquerque’s favorite (and only) music fest of duos, and it’s happening this weekend. Featuring:

Brennen Leigh & Noel McKay
Todd and the Fox
Alex Maryol Duo
Sage and Jared’s Happy Gland Band
BaBa

Sunday June 8, 1-9pm
Marble Brewery
111 Marble Ave NW
Albuquerque, NM

Photo courtesy of Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay.

You Are Cordially Invited To Look At This Duopalooza Poster

And then attend Duopalooza!

duopalooza poster

Sunday June 8th, 1:00-9:00pm
Marble Brewery
111 Marble Ave NW
Albuquerque, NM

Announcing Duopalooza!

You are cordially invited to DUOPALOOZA!

It’s true; it’s a thing. It’s Albuquerque’s favorite (and only) music fest of duos.

And it’s happening Sunday June 8, 1:00-9:00pm, at Marble Brewery.

Here’s the deal: the Happy Gland Band noticed that something was awry in the land. The cosmos were astir, our chakras were imbalanced, the Happy Gland Dirigible listed slightly to the right. It was a terrible time, indeed. How could this ever be solved, we wondered? As Jared stroked his thinking rabbit, I took out my pen and newsboy cap. Moments later, we looked at each other in astonishment as we simultaneously cried:

DUOS NEED THEIR OWN DAY IN THE HOT ALBUQUERQUE SUN!

Just like George Michael the Chihuahua does!

So, we got a handful of New Mexican duos and one fabulous Austin/Nashville-based duo together, and we’re throwing a party.

Free admission for those who arrive by dirigible.

(Free admission, also, for those who arrive by foot, car, bicycle, or camel, but don’t tell that to the folks who piloted the dirigibles. Those who come by blimps pay an exhorbitant parking fee yet to be determined.)

And here are the lovely people whose arms we have twisted to play at this show (but not too hard, because we still wanted them to play their instruments):

Brennen Leigh & Noel McKay
Todd and the Fox
Alex Maryol Duo
Sage and Jared’s Happy Gland Band
BaBa

Come have The Supper Truck supper and Marble Brewery beer.

Sponsored by Pyragraph.com.

Sunday June 8th, 1:00-9:00pm
Marble Brewery
111 Marble Ave NW
Albuquerque, NM