I recently performed for the third time at my alma mater, the Spence School, where I went to Kindergarten-12th grade, and as usual, it was so awesome and was my best audience of the year. Each performance there has been better than the last, because the girls keep up with me online in between performances and know my music before I come perform it, so they’re really excited to hear it and I’m really excited to perform it for them.

I was a bit nervous about this performance because it was the first one consisting of my new dance-pop music and none of my old stuff, and I wasn’t sure how much they would like it, but a few weeks before the performances I spoke to some of the girls on facebook and they said they were keeping up with my new music and loved it, so that made me feel more confident.

The performance was not only tons of fun but also really boosted my confidence in the quality of my new music. It is really fuckin’ good. I worked hard on it and made it the best I could and it really paid off because people really enjoy it. Also, performing with tracks is a totally legit way to perform because people still really enjoy what they hear and they get to hear everything as I wrote it, with the same sounds and all the back up vocals, and I think that is really important. Every time I played a song the girls were dancing along and having a great time listening, and they really cheered loudly at the end of each one. I still get totally exhausted singing and doing minimal dancing when I perform a song, and I don’t quite know what to do about that. Run and sing on the treadmill like Fergie?

The only drawback of the show was that somehow the camera didn’t end up taping the show at all. Not one second. Which REALLY sucks because I was hoping to get SIX AWESOME youtube videos out of this performance that really could have helped my exposure and been an EXCELLENT resource to use for bookings. It is the PERFECT gig because it’s great sound, great lighting, and a REALLY large and enthusiastic audience who knows and really enjoys me and my stuff. It is SO LAME that the taping didn’t work OH MY GOD. Not to mention that it was a really special 35 minutes of my life that I REALLY would have liked to have on tape. GODDAMMIT! Oh well, next time. Barf. Will try to get some great video from the Dec 19th show, where of course the lighting will suck and therefore probably so will the video. Goddammit goddammit goddammmiiiiiiiiitttttt!

Whew. Anyway. Focus on the fuckin’ positive, right? I AM SO ANGRY. Ok. Here are the wonderful moments from the performance:

1. I didn’t chicken out about wearing weird stuff. I did the show in my bright pink wig, my new silver sequin jacket, my black sequin tank, my pink tights, and silver boots, and dramatic makeup. I was considering toning down my look for the audience and then realized–wait a minute, this is what I do, this is who I am, and my fans expect me to do it. So I did it up! And everyone was saying how much they liked my wig and outfit and asking where I got my clothes and shoes. Right decision made!

2. Had the fascinating realization that when 12 year old girls in middle school don’t know you and you’re an adult wearing weird things, the experience of them asking you about it is totally different than when you’re their 12 year old classmate wearing weird things. When I was 12 I would get really upset when people at school questioned what I was doing or wearing and didn’t get it. Today, I just told them I was dressed like that because I think it looks pretty and it makes me happy, and that was that. Realized I probably should have done that in middle school, too. Probably wouldn’t have worked though. That’s middle school for ya.

3. Before the performance I sat down on the floor with the girls in the front, joking like I was a student waiting for the assembly to start, and ended up chatting with a lot of them before the show. It was a nice way to break some ice and was also cool because I went on to blow them away with my show and they were all so excited to tell me how much they liked it afterwards.

4. I did a lot of new songs in the show, including “Friday Night Forever” and “Hold For Your Lovin'” which the girls really loved. Was great to hear that people are really liking my new stuff because I think it’s pretty great, too. The girls also insisted on singing Texas Boys a capella with me, which was really fun. Can’t believe I remembered all the words off the top of my head when I haven’t sang or listened to that song in at least 8 months. Was of course great to hear the girls singing along and knowing all the words.

5. When I performed “Dance Dance Dance” the girls sang along, and it was quite a funny thing to see these tiny 11 year olds singing “I don’t care what you think, gonna flip my hair and sip my drink!” I inserted the words “of juice!” after that phrase the first time I sang it. Very funny. One of the girls said that was her favorite song, which I love.

6. The girls chatted during my songs and at first I thought it was because they weren’t listening but when I asked what they were talking about, they said they were talking about how awesome I was. I told them to keep talking. Heeeeeeey!

7. Got the girls to do a big “Heeeeeeeeeeeey!” with me, which was funny. The girls also made a big banner with my name on it to hold up which was sweet.

8. At the end of the show the girls asked where Socrates was, to which I replied, “Well you know that’s funny, I mean, it’s funny that you ask, because the thing about Socrates is, well, he’s…he’s dead, haha,” quoting the line from Annie Hall when she says that about her grandma when Alvy asks about her. I then explained that that was a joke from Annie Hall which no one in that room has ever heard of BECAUSE THEY WERE ALL BORN IN THE MID TO LATE 90’s.

9. After the show the girls all took my business card and then ran over to me to have me autograph each one. I gotta say, I LOVE signing autographs! It is SO FUN! Hope to do a lot more of it in the future. Plus the nice thing is, hopefully since I signed all those cards they hung on to them and used them to look me up on the web! (A lot of them did–I’ve got a LOT of pending facebook friend requests from the girls and the song plays on my page are way up today. Yay!)

10. A couple of the girls asked if I would come and watch their choir rehearsal, which I did, and they sang the song they were working on for me there. I could tell it meant a lot to them and I was really happy to watch.

11. A lot of the girls were really excited to see me and were telling me that they were my biggest fans and they wanted hugs and to keep in touch and everything. Love that! It’s so cool to be on the other end of the fan love, cuz I know how I feel about the people I’m a big fan of, so it’s really cool to think I have people who feel that way about me. Hooray!

All in all it was a great success and a great experience and next time I will do everything in my power to capture it on film NO MATTER WHAT and share it here! The teacher who books the assemblies said she’d definitely like to have me back, so I’m already looking forward to next year’s performance! Gotta get in on the upper school assembly too, and should look into other school performance opportunities out there in case they exist! 🙂

Workin' it!
Workin' it!
Singin' with LS
Singin' with LS

Above: shots from the 9/9 ITPalooza show at The Tank, NYC

So September has been and will continue to be a very busy month for me, with a total of 6 shows!!! If I’m not mistaken, I think that’s an all-time high, and it’s a lot to deal with, because of course every show is a very important opportunity to do my best and make new fans and book new shows. Here’s the rundown for this month:

9/7 Guest spot in the Legs Malone Show at Public Assembly (www.myspace.com/thelegsmaloneshow). This show was a lot of fun. I did two songs, met some great people, and booked another guest spot at another burlesque show for later in the month! Score! Pictures coming soon I hope…

9/9 Half hour set with LS Huang of Hepnova (who did my “Can’t Stop” remix) as part of the ITPalooza, a showcase of bands containing members of the ITP Grad program at NYU. This was so great and so much fun. The Tank is the perfect music venue in my opinion. It’s small and intimate, has standing room and seating, a great stage, full lighting and sound equipment, etc. My outfit was great and I learned an important makeup tip: painting white around your eyes looks weird, not pretty, and makes your eyes look smaller. You simply have to line your eyes in a dark color to make them stand out more. Note taken! But the cool thing was that my outfit and makeup were eye catching enough that people walking down the street kept noticing and talking to me, asking if I was part of a dance troupe, and what show I was going to, etc etc. The audience at this gig was small (I really gotta start insisting on only playing Fridays and Saturdays asap–it worked for Lady Gaga! :), and I had a whole stage to play with, so I really let loose with this show, singing my balls off and rolling around the stage and being over the top with the dance moves. It was all caught on tape so hopefully I can post some clips soon. Met some great contacts at this show, too. Hopefully that means some new collabos coming up soon!

9/15 One hour show at 12:30 outdoors at 345 Park Avenue, then rehearsing all afternoon with my ex-accompanist the fabulous Socrates Cruz of Moniker for our set of Mexican songs at my friend’s Mexican Independence Day Party at Stay at 7pm. This is going to hurt, but it will be fun and it will be worth it. Ojala que pueda recordar todas las palabras!

9/19 Guest spot at Sugar Shack Burlesque at Jalopy, 315 Columbia Street, Brooklyn, 9pm. (www.sugarshackburlesque.com)

9/24 My MEANY Fest show, 8:30pm, Crash Mansion, 199 Bowery. Followed by an all-night bike ride through the five boroughs! Is there any end to the insanity??

Recently, I played another show for the middle school students at my K-12th Grade alma mater, The Spence School in Manhattan. Hands down, this is the best audience I’ve ever had. Two years in a row now, they’ve blown me away with their enthusiasm for my music, and it makes me feel so, so good. Last year I was so excited because after I played they were all so interested in knowing where to get my music etc etc, but this year blew last year away. Here are a few highlights:

-During “You Don’t Have To Worry,” some girls put their arms around each other and began swaying back and forth to the music, spontaneously! There was also clapping along to the beat.

-When I said I was going to play “Chocolate Cake,” there was a cheer like you can’t believe. They were SO excited for it, and this was 9 months after they’d first heard it. Amazing.

-When I sang “Chocolate Cake,” THEY KNEW THE WORDS! They knew ALL the words, and they were dancing and singing along all in unison–it was amazing!

-When I said “I don’t know if you’ve been following what I’ve been up to over the last few months, but if you have, you might know this next one–it’s called ‘Texas Boys,'” they SCREAMED with excitement. They all knew about it, they knew the words, and they wanted to sing along. So I brought a couple of girls up and they sang it with me!

-One of the girls actually made me a customized “Texas Boys” cowgirl hat, complete with a homemade “I ❤ Texas Boys" sign on it. That’s my first fan gift ever! Amazing!

-After the show they all wanted my and Socrates’ autographs, and we each signed a LOT of them. I love that.

So, Spence middle schoolers are the best. If any of you gals are reading this, thanks again! You made my day and I’m so happy you’ve got this old Spencie’s back!
-JC

I’ve been at this now for two full years. In late fall of 2006, I started writing songs with my friend Socrates Cruz. In January and February of 2007 we made the first terrible, awful, totally scratch recordings of some of those songs in Soc’s bedroom in Harlem with what he playfully called a “Mexican microphone” (he’s Mexican-American, so shut up), which was an old performance mic duct-taped to the long handle of a stand-up dustpan, which was perched on a rolling office swivel chair. Needless to say, those recordings didn’t come out too well. We didn’t spend any time on the production, and my voice just was absolutely not as strong as it is now. Plus, since the songs were new, I hadn’t had the time or opportunity to perform them and let them grow into what they needed to be. And I didn’t have a home studio or any production skills to fill out their arrangements. Anyway, in February of that year I appeared on an internet radio show which I booked myself on through Backstage magazine, where I met the sound engineer who became my sometime collaborator and the co-writer and producer of my songs “Lover” and “Lost/Found.” I was really excited about what we came up with together, but soon after we started working together he took a really serious job and was no longer able to devote any time to working with me. So I realized, if I wanted to get anything done in a reasonable amount of time, I was going to have to start being able to do things for myself. I started a full time day job (which I still have), which allowed me to save up enough money to buy an iMac that September. Over the next few months, I cobbled together the rest of the elements of my home studio and began to teach myself how to use it. I also researched how to get my music on iTunes and other digital retailers, and put the three finished songs I had together to form “The Lover EP,” which I put up for sale. In September and December I filmed my first music video for “Lover,” and put it on YouTube. In the beginning of 2008 I started teaching myself how to use the programs Reason and Garage Band to record and produce my music, and beginning in April, I finally started working on the recordings of the songs I had written a year before. It took me four months of daily work to fill out the arrangements on 11 of the songs on my first album (the other two had been on The Lover EP), and the full album went live on iTunes in September of 2008. In the spring of 2008 I bought a guitar, and in the summer I started taking lessons. By June 2008 I was able to write songs on the guitar by myself, and I wrote “Texas Boys” and “You Don’t Have To Worry.” Over the next few months I focused on finishing my album and practicing guitar. In October 2008 I got out to a couple of open mics, and now, in January, I’ve made a more serious commitment to that and have been doing it a lot more.

So, in two years, I’ve gone from being just a singer/songwriter who was totally dependent on others to being a virtually independent singer/songwriter, who can design her own website, write songs alone, perform them alone, make music videos, self-promote, have worldwide distribution, and on and on. I made a complete album and released it. I put together a live band and have started scheduling shows and will be performing regularly. I’ve gotten my music accepted by two music licensing companies. Now that I have all that under my belt, I can finally get out and really start pushing and promoting my music. It took me a while to realize what I needed to do to accomplish my goals, but now that I know what I need to know, there’s no stopping me.

So what’s my point? My point is that it takes a really long time to get where you want to go. I feel like I’ve been waiting forever to make this my full-time career, but really it only became my main pursuit two years ago, and I had to learn everything from scratch while keeping a full time job and maintaining friendships, a social life, and my health. They say that you become an expert at something after 10,000 hours of practice, which breaks down to four hours a day for about 7 years. So clearly I haven’t even put in half of my time yet.

So always remember, when you’re pursuing your dreams: be patient. And when you get impatient, get patient again. Because it takes a long time. But the longer you stay in the game, the more you’ll learn, the more people you’ll know, and the more competitors you’ll outlast, and eventually, you’ll be the last one standing, with the most knowledge and the most connections, and you’ll be in the position to do what you want. Opportunities don’t all come quickly, and they don’t all come at once. You’ve got to stay in the game so that when someone thinks of you for a project, not only are you still in the right line of work, but you’ve been in the right line of work for a long time, and you’ve built up your expertise and desirability as a player. Don’t quit before the game’s over. Stay long enough to be the MVP.