KUAR the Holly Jolly Trolley with the Damsels in Distress

We were asked to come up with a fun Christmas sounding song with many variations for the KUAR Arts & Letters “The Holly Jolly Trolley: A Ride Through Arkansas History,” so we came up with “Snow Angels.”

We used vocals, electric guitar, bass guitar, percussion (ride symbol, drum pad wrapped in foil, jingle bells), glockenspeil, banjo, piano, and harmonica to create a catchy and fun Christmas tune called “Snow Angels” in which two people go out into the morning winter snowfall and make snow angels before they have to go to work.

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Snow Angels
Snow angels, snow angels lying in the sun.
Snow angels, snow angels winter’s just begun (or so much fun).
You and I, we made them this morning at play.
Ten o’clock we had to go to work, we had the bills to pay.

“The Holly Jolly Trolley: A Ride Through Arkansas History” to air Friday, December 23, 2016 at 7:00 pm CST on KUAR 89.1 in Arkansas. You can listen to the show online at ualrpublicradio.org/programs/arts-letters and you can listen to the “Songs for KUAR Arts and Letters 2016” on the Damsels in Distress bandcamp page at thedamselsindistress.bandcamp.com

Happy Christmas from the Damsels in Distress!

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The Bus-y-ness of Art

“I’m busy.” There, I said it. You are probably busy too. What kind of busy is  a better question. Too busy busy? Too tired busy? You may not even know what year it is busy or pretending it is still last weekend busy.

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Wherever you are on the busy scale, there is still time…

I have been busy lately. Busy at work and with house chores, with organization and family relationships, busy with pet maintenance and meal planning, busy with fixing all of the many broken things in my house and car and life! I am also busy with my art and music projects amidst the busyness. What’s that you say? I am actually working on art and music projects while being “life busy” busy?! Yes I am! The deal is, that I just keep the art and music projects on my giant to-do list. And I do mean GIANT – it’s like never ending in my mind…

The bus-y-ness or business of art is that it just keeps going. You keep making it, keep generating ideas and writing them down, keep on keeping on – whether calm or not.

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My friend S recently said he can only paint when he feels secure. He hasn’t painted in almost 7 years. My advice was to just pull out a sketch book and draw something. Not a finished masterpiece something, just his foot or something. It’s never going to be the perfect time to make a painting or write a song. Even retired people don’t get to really retire anymore. So there is never going to be time. Add it to your to-do list, and I guarantee sketching your foot is going to look a lot better than scrubbing the bathtub on a Saturday afternoon. So, I must show that I practice what I preach, so you won’t roll your eyes while hating me.

I will share with you projects I am working on this week – these projects come after work, carpooling, dinner, and daily chores.

Romania paintings

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I have been working in my art studio on the Romania painting series for Livada orphan sponsorship. This one has been difficult to get through – emotionally. Though it feels amazing to be able to be what I think could be called an artist missionary, there has also been a lot of internal pressure on myself to make these paintings excellent. Also, I don’t know how much money they will raise for child sponsorship, and that makes me feel like “will this make a difference for the Livada orphans?” I am most likely over thinking it and psyching myself out – just need to paint!

The Last Baby Angel set design

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Then there is the set design for the Last Baby Angel play based on the novel “The Last Baby Angel” by Sam Brown. It’s the first time I have ever done set design, and am still working on the research phase. I was able to call someone in the social work field this week and they were helpful and described some details of what an addicts home looks like.

Banjo Practice

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Playing music is just something I have to keep doing. if you don’t use it, you lose it. I try to practice my banjo rolls and songs every day – whether for 15 minutes or an hour. I take one banjo lesson per week with the amazing Bill Nesbitt (who currently plays with the Clark Family Trio).

KUAR Arts & Letters

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M and I are working on recording songs for the KUAR Arts & Letters Arkansas Authors show to be recorded in early October. We are also in the process of writing a Valentines Day song for the KUAR Arts & Letters Valentines Day show (The Damsels in Distress interview) to be aired in February. The cool thing about this is that I have someone to work with (motivation) to complete the projects!

So, I know you are “life busy” too, but what can you add to your giant to-do list to make space to continue functioning as a creative person?

 

 

 

KUAR Recording Studio

The Damsels in Distress were asked to record at the KUAR studio for a music performance and interview for KUAR Arts & Letters Valentines Day show.

We arrived at the KUAR recording studio and were met by Brad Minnick, Mary Ellen, and Chris Hickey. We followed Chris Hickey down the long hallways and maze of KUAR to get to the recording room.

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Once in the recording room, we settled in, played some songs, and answered some questions. Interviewing is a lot of fun. Brad had some really great questions. M was better at answering what specific songs were about, and I was better at answering the history and organization of the Damsels.

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It took us a couple of takes to play the songs without any mistakes. And I just couldn’t get a good whistle!


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We had lots of fun during the interview and there was much laughing taking place. The neat and weird thing about giving an interview was summing up 8 years of our work and life in a couple of sentences.

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We will write a Valentines Day song and go back to the KUAR studio for a follow up interview. The show will be released for a Valentines Day special.

Thanks Mary Ellen for taking pictures and videos of the recording session!

Father’s Day Music

KUAR Arts & Letters aired a special Father’s Day show called “In Search of Lost Fathers.

The Damsels in Distress composed much of the music in this episode.

We wanted to write something that evoked a feeling of loss and sadness, but also of hope and reclamation. We wrote “My Namesake” – which was the theme – while writing for this show. Both Micah and I were raised by loving and supportive fathers, so we had to place ourselves outside of our own experience and imagine what it would be to not know our fathers.

My Namesake

Where is my father, the one who was to raise me?
Now I’m all alone. Now, I’m on my own.
He was to keep me and name me for his family.
Father’s name. Family name. Where is my namesake?

Below are images of  the Damsels in Distress writing and recording.

  

 
 

Listen to KUAR Arts & Letters “In Search of Lost Fathers” show here.

Listening Party Experience

This is a “selfie” on one of the happiest days.

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I went to a fancy listening party downtown in the 300 Third Tower. The listening party was in the party room and the view of downtown Little Rock was really nice.

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The listening party was for the KUAR Arts & Letters, “Searching for Latini” episode. UALR Chancellor Joel Anderson came to the event and even gave a short speech of his support for this project.

So, what does any of this have to do with me, and why do I look so happy in the selfie?

In December last year, The Damsels in Distress were hired to create music for a new program on KUAR called Arts & Letters. We wrote the opening theme music – also used for the radio spots – based from “Corey’s Song.”

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The first show, “Ethics Bowl” aired in January. It was about what “ethics” are and played a sample Ethics Bowl.

From left: Marla Cole, Angela Johnson and Dr. Allison Merrick hold a trophy after competing at the Texas Regional Ethics Bowl in San Antonio, Texas. Credit ualr.edu

From left: Marla Cole, Angela Johnson and Dr. Allison Merrick hold a trophy after competing at the Texas Regional Ethics Bowl in San Antonio, Texas.
Credit ualr.edu

On one hand, we wanted the music to emphasize the experience of a game show -poppy, fast, bright, upbeat, but also with an edge (for the feel of competitiveness). We also wanted to put a serious tone for the idea and debate of “ethics.”

Here’s how it works.

As composers, we get a phone call. In the call, there is a title and description of the coming show. The discussion extends to what sort of music that specific show needs in terms of how many songs, length of songs, the general “feel” or “mood” of the show. This call is followed up with an email of the script. We (The Damsels in Distress) each read through the script and then together, we brainstorm general ideas – kind of like story boarding, but with music.  We grab our instruments and go to separate rooms and write.


  

We come back together and do a rough recording of what we wrote. We write off of each others initial song, and create a “sketch” – which is a more detailed recording with many different parts we can mute/unmute. Once we get the detailed sketch we like, we record on our more professional gear.

 

This does not all happen in one day! This process takes weeks. Once we have recorded and are satisfied, we email the files. From here, we may need to rewrite or rerecord songs based on what the producer wants. The show airs, and we get a check in the mail.

So, back to the Listening Party.

At the Listening Party everyone that worked on the show ate delicious Thai food catered by Chang’s and listened to “Searching for Latini” live. It was super exciting – much like an actor’s cast party when the production is completed. It was also the first time a lot of us got to meet each other because so much of the show is done through phone conversation, email, and separate recording sessions.

“Searching for Latini”  is about Brunetto Latini, the teacher of Dante and the first translator of Aristotle and Cicero into a vernacular language. We wanted the music to sound Italian/Italian Renaissance for this show.

Listen to Searching for Latini here!

Credit Parlor Press

Credit Parlor Press

Listen to the songs we wrote for “Searching for Latini” here.

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