Last night, I signed up for the Open Mic at Kulak's Woodshed. I got there first so that I could get to the front of the list since it can get very long. But what I didn't know was that they throw all the names into a bucket and draw them randomly.
In fact, I got there with another first-timer named Fernando. We put our names in at the same time and the rule is that the last name drawn goes first. Sure enough, it came down to the two of us. He got chosen and I was put on last, with the host saying, "I think there'll be enough time to get you on." (The open mic is broadcast over the Net, so it has a time limit.)
I didn't really know anyone there, but I recognized a name, Julie Chadwick. Wasn't sure where I knew the name from.
The night began and the songwriters and singers all took their turns -- everyone is allowed one 3 to 4 minutes song.
Finally, just before 10pm, they mentioned that my name was coming up. I was standing in the little waiting area when this woman came running up to me. "I know you! I sang in Alan Satchwell's choir back when you were first creating 'The Last Session.'"
Indeed, if you listen to my Bonus Round Sessions CD or the cast album from NY, you will hear them singing background on "When You Care."
She said, "I'm just so happy to know you're still around and playing music!" We hugged and she went back out to the room.
I got up and sang the song "Holy Dirt," from the upcoming "Pantheon Bar & Grill."
After I finished my number, I got a message to visit Paul Kulak, who runs the Woodshed. He was in the booth doing the live switching for the Internet feed. I know Paul from way back when he fist started the Woodshed and it was half the size it is now. It has always been a labor of love, existing on donations.
As we were chatting, someone walked in. It was Julie Chadwick. She looked me right in the eye.
She said, "You changed my life!"
"Yes. It was back in the days when you were running the National Academy of Songwriters. I had sent a tape in and you called me into your office. You told me you loved my singing and playing, but that I needed to work on my lyrics. You told me to stop explaining things and use pictures in my words."
"Right. Because people think in pictures. Endless lines of plot and explanations are hard for the mind to follow."
"I have told everyone for years that you changed my life. I can't believe I'm actually seeing you again."
Then, another guy came in and Paul said to him, "I want you to meet Steve Schalchlin. He is the godfather of the entire modern acoustic music movement in Los Angeles. Everything we do here is based on what he did at the Acoustic Underground shows at the Troubadour."
Back in the late 80's/early 90's, the last acoustic club had shut down. The only music playing on the strip were "hair bands." So, in my capacity as managing director of the National Academy of Songwriters, I (along with Paul Zollo, Dan Kirkpatrick and Blythe Newlon Brown) created the first acoustic music industry showcase.
And, slowly but surely, the record labels in Los Angeles started listening to actual songwriting again, and signing artists with music based on actual songwriting rather than noise making (not that there's anything wrong with noisemaking, mind you, but there should be room for it all).
So, I was completely taken aback by the recognition and the praise, especially because it comes from a period in my life before "The Last Session." I was a tireless advocate for great songwriting. Just about everyone in town knew who we were and what we were doing. And then, I got sick and, to them, disappeared off the map. (The music industry has a very short memory).
So, it felt amazing to walk back into a place and to be remembered.
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