“You will face your greatest opposition when you are closest to your biggest miracle.” ~ Shannon L. Alder

blog_1I’ve never really cared for New Years or birthdays. I’m just not a big fan of mile markers. They tend to force me to look back and become painful aware of whatever I failed to accomplish. It’s been a tough year for a lot of people. Death, divorce, illness, heartbreak, some unforeseeable crisis; it seems like almost everyone I know, had something truly challenging happen to them this year. And those are just the personal, private challenges. Violence, mass shootings, acts of terrorism, and displacement seemed to abound, leaving tragedy in it is wake.

blog2Though, one thing I’m beginning to appreciate about getting older. Is knowing, no matter where you are in life, (on top of the world, or at the bottom of the barrel), no one is exempt from random shit just landing on them, and fucking them up. It’s never personal. It’s just life. Life has joy, and beauty, and laughter, but no matter how pristine we try to make our environments. No matter how safe we think we are. Eventually we can’t escape that life is struggle. In fact, it’s been my experience, the more we try to run from that truth, the more of a struggle life becomes. Which is why it’s still important to believe in miracles.

mosesWe can become dismissive and cynical about the notion of miracles, because when we say the world “miracle” we think of, Moses parting the Red Sea or Jesus healing people. We think of otherworldly acts of magic. To me, miracles exist, through benevolent and random acts of kindness. Do I believe, that there may be divine intervention in the timing and outcome of such acts? Absolutely! But, almost all miracles (at least the one’s I’ve witnessed), came from one thing, and one thing only. Our capacity to love one another and the tenacity to believe, against all odds, that even when we can’t fix an entire problem. Doing what we can, with whatever we’ve got, will at least help. Miracles never come from fighting, belligerence, ambition, envy or jealousy. Miracles come from compassion.

blog 5When I look at the things I’ve been challenged with this year. And the myriad of things the people I love have been challenged with this year. I’m reminded, that all of us are doing what we can with what we’ve got. What has made the difference; what’s made it all okay, is that we have all been there for each other, large and small. We have all, at one time or another, taken each other in, and taken care of each other. Literally and metaphorically, we have held each other close and, (in our own generosity of spirit), offered whatever we had available to us. The miracles come from believing that what we have to give, will be enough.

loveI mentioned divine intervention because it is my belief that it does come into play. Think of it like an energetic domino effect. Because love, if nothing else is an energy. And energy has the power to move things beneath the surface in ways that we can’t see. I’ve been told that when people are ill, those who are prayed for, have better and more miraculous recovery rates. I don’t know if that’s true but I’d like to believe it.

helping handsSo, as this year comes to a close and a new one begins; I’m going to try hard to remember. That looking back on what I have or haven’t accomplished in a year is meaningless. Looking back and realizing, what I have been given, and what I have to give, on any given day, in any given year, at any given age, is where the miracles lay. There will always be struggle. There will always be challenges. There will always be pain. But the miracle is in knowing, when we reach out and help each other, (in whatever way we can), the spirits come rushing in, to make the most of each, and every, miraculous act of love.


earrings“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.”  ― Ansel Adams

I remember when I was in my early twenties, dating a guy, and finding a pair of diamond earrings, still in the box, in his dresser draw. I knew instinctively, these earrings were not meant for me. So I asked him who they were for. He told me he had bought them for his last girlfriend (before me), but they had broken up before he had given them to her, and he just never got around to returning them. I know this sounds like the story of cheating man but it isn’t.

I then got kinda jealous of the ghost of ex-girlfriend past, and asked, “How come you never buy stuff like that for me?” To which he replied, “I don’t know. It never seemed like you wanted stuff like that, but if you want me to buy you diamond earrings, I can do that. Or you can just have these?” At which, he held up, the ghost of ex-girlfriend past’s, diamond earrings in offering.

MarylinIt was at that moment, I realized he was right. I didn’t want stuff like that. Which left me a little confounded since, I wanted to be the kind of woman that a man bought diamonds for, but in actuality, had no interest in them whatsoever. Nevertheless, I took the (bought for ghost of ex-girlfriend past’s) diamond earrings anyway, out of principle. What that principle was, I can’t say but it felt like principle at the time. I still have those earrings and I still never wear them.

imagesI also know that was a defining        moment for me because that was when I realized, if I wanted to feel like a princess, I was going to have define what princess meant to me. Since, I could no longer follow the Walt Disney model I had been fed, up until then. My style was more Pocahontas than Sleeping Beauty. And I grew up before Walt Disney had come to the marketing epiphany, that not all American girls were white, Anglo-Saxons, longing for a dance in glass slippers with their prince.

Okay, most of us still want the prince, but we’re hoping he’ll think we’re just as beautiful, bare-foot and in rags as in our ball gown. As a result, over the years I’ve had to developed my own sense of style, so to speak, along with millions of other women and girls beset with the same problem.

My generation of women were the first to be told [en masse] “You can become anything you want”. We were the first generation of women [en masse] to benefit from the women’s movement. soccerWhen I was 8 years old, I, along with Kimberly Gray, were the first 2 girls in our town allowed to play on a little league soccer team. Which sounds awesome, but way less awesome when you’re the only two girls showing up at the soccer field; being greeted by twenty boys and a male coach who didn’t exactly roll out the welcome matt.

My first day, the coach put me in “goalie” position.  I have no idea where he put Kimberly because I was too busy dodging the ball that was being pummeled at me, like I was target practice. If that sounds like a challenge, the hardest part was, as girls we wanted the boys to like us. And there was no example or play book, on how to be the kind of girl, boys liked, and also be the kind of girl that could do anything the boys could do.

astronautsWe were the first generation [en masse] to become astronauts, and scientists, and serious journalists, and lawyers, and rock stars. This left the boys of my generation in an equal quandary. Since, all the things they had been taught would distinguish them as men when they grew up, were now apparently so unremarkable, “even a girl could do it.”

And, while it’s always been a man’s world, I’ve come to realize that perhaps men too, could use a little encouragement in the Aniliberation department. And be reminded, that sometimes truly expressing yourself, may take a little courage but once you do it, it’s something you’ll never regret. If women could re-define what makes them feel feminine and what femininity is; then men can also re-define what makes them feel masculine and what masculinity is.

suitsThis is one of the reason I  love designing jewelry for men because I feel like I’m filling a void that’s been around much too long. The idea, that the only way men can express themselves, barring becoming artists, is by purchasing, and displaying generic, over priced, designer goods that lack creative imagination and reek of status conscious, one-upmanship.

etsyEverything I make I imagine on a man. In particular I imagine it on the kind of man I’d like. What I think is hot, if you will. The kind of man that has fashioned his own brand of style and isn’t particularly interested in what you or fashionable people think. The kind of guy that has a sense of himself and is more interested in expressing rather than impressing; a man that’s looking for quality and something that will tell the world who he is.

I’m not the only one with this vision. There’s other designers out there. One that comes to mind, is Karus Chains,  who just featured my work, along with quite a few other’s in their blog. Here’s a link http://karuschains.com/blogs/news/19135583-from-gold-chains-for-men-to-skull-rings-and-everything-in-between-men-s-jewelry-that-we-like-part-1-by-karus-chains . I look at a blog like that and think, “That’s what I’m talking about!”

bill & deppWhat I like best about men’s jewelry as a means of self expression rather than a means to impress people is, he can display it proudly or just keep it tucked under his shirt or shirt sleeve. Whether he is shy or flamboyant, subtle or gregarious, straight or gay, black or white, Asian or Latina, Native or mixed raced. Whatever kind of piece he chooses; it will be a symbol of who he really is and what the truth of his heart is. I think of it as a small token that serves to remind him and communicate, “This is how my soul shines!”

the-creative-process“You see, in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.” ― Junot Díaz

Below is an e-mail I sent to all my patrons today. Patronism.com is a new approach to helping musicians and singer-songwriters survive, thrive, and dedicate as much time as they can to living a creative life and sharing their work with the world. I am sharing this letter on my public blog just incase someone out there would like to join in the fun a become a patron too. So without further ado.

Dear Patrons,

Happy New Year!

I hope you’re all doing well. I’m writing you because I want to thank you for having become a patron and supporting me on Patronism.com . As we enter a new year I’ve been thinking a lot about what kind of changes I could make to re-invigorate my creative process and feel more connected to the people I share those things with. I have thought a lot about what I am about to share with you so I hope you have a moment to read it through.

For a while now, I have felt that I have been unable to hold up my end of the bargain on this site. And, on some levels I felt I was doing you all a dis-service. My first thought was to shut the page down. To instruct the administrator to cancel your credit cards and let the account “float” in an inactive status until such time that I felt I could participate, through it, in a genuine and consistent manner. I came very close to doing just that.

The current market, as I see it, demands a constant churning out of material and social engagement that I struggle to maintain with any sense of consistency. Writing songs for me has always been something like an exchange. It is not something I can always force. It’s always been a dialogue between me and some kind of higher, unexplainable power or energy. When I was younger I wrote songs because I needed to be understood in someway. As I matured, that exchange changed and I found I no longer needed to be understood; so much as I craved, on some deep level to understand.

For the past year I’ve been struggling to find inspiration through songwriting and, just as much trouble finding motivation to put that work into the world. So, rather than shut down the page, thank you for your support, and say goodnight. I thought it might be interesting to invert the equation and see, if through these tools I might derive a way to let you inspire me. Therefore, I am going to make you a proposal.

For the next 6 months I am going to try and write 1 song a month that I will post on-line for you to see/hear. I may share it through an audio recording, a video recording or both. I haven’t decided yet. What I would love from you, if you’re so inclined, are prompts! A prompt can be a simple as: The prompt is ‘Home’. Or the prompt is: ‘drinking coffee at night’ . Whatever you can think of! I would ask you not to make it too complicated, since a prompt is meant to act as a creative “spark” not a full scenario that needs to be explained.

And by the way, if some of you are budding songwriters yourselves, (pro’s or hobbiest) and you want to join me in this challenge and write a song [yourself] from the prompts I’ld love to hear what you come up with! My hope in doing this, is to make our relationship more symbiotic and interactive without either of us feeling obligated in the exchange like it’s goods and services.

I do hope this is something you are interested in being a part of! You’ll be notified when the first song of the month is written. When it is, know this is something I’m doing for you, but just as importantly, something I might not have been able to do without you! So, send me those prompts and I’ll get started!

Thank you so much again!

All the Best,

Stefanie Fix

Please note: I will only be taking prompt requests from active patrons on http://www.patronism.com I do hope you’ll consider being part of this project. If you want more info go to http://www.patronism.com/StefanieFix and sign-up! Looking forward to sharing with you in this new year!

party life

“We are becoming the servants in thought, as in action, of the machine we have created to serve us”. ~John Kenneth Galbraith

I was recently on my way to a gig when I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in quite some time. We began to chat and she said, “I’ve been seeing you on facebook. You seem so busy. That’s awesome! Congratulations!” I was taken aback for a moment.

Suddenly, it dawned on me that I’m not the only person, who gets on facebook and sometimes feels like everyone else’s life is so much more fabulous than mine.


tranqAnd, to be clear…my life is the opposite of busy. I’m a songwriter, and a jewelry maker, and as you can see I write these essays. These are all activities that require quiet time. I don’t have noisy kids that need to be carted everywhere, or messy relationships that need to be sorted out. For the most part, I live a fairly quiet and uneventful life. To me, life is about balance.

I’m not interrupted incessantly by texts messages and notification. I don’t watch or look at the news everyday. I’m a quality over quantity type of gal and I’ve never been too impressed with information overload. Which, given our gilded age of technological advancement; and the seemingly, universal celebration of “the glory of all things information” is a genuinely inconvenient predilection to have.

rushIt’s seem’s like there’s a premium these days on being busy. Everywhere I go, I hear people lamenting about how busy they are; and most don’t elaborate much about what they’re busy doing. Like it’s some massive faux pas when asked what you’ve been up to, to say, “Oh ya know, taking time to smell the roses. I sit outside a lot, drink coffee, listen to birds sing, and make stuff”.

For a while now I’ve thought the problem was just me. After all, I can be, well, a little particular. I kept wondering why I can’t just stand up and fly right and embrace the movement like everyone else?

imagesWhy can’t I develop an umbilical attachment to my smartphone? Why can’t I find witty repartee to share and tweet for every benign moment in my life? When I go to dinner with friends, why am I almost always the only one, who doesn’t have my phone on the table? Why can’t I look at selfies as sharing rather than see them as a public billboard that says, “Really, I don’t even have a friend to take my picture right now?” And why, oh why, can’t I believe that my life in 2 sentence, one hundred and sixty character snippets, is truly interesting to other people?
koolaidReally! I want to drink the Kool-Aid! I really do! Life’s easier when you drink the Kool-Aid. I’ve learned this the hard way. I remember once when I was a teenager being at a party, where I was the only one not tripping on ‘shrooms’…trust me when I tell it was not pretty to witness, and that’s a lot of what this feels like now.

But, now, I’m not sure it just me. My epiphany came in two parts. The first is the recent conversations [over the past few months] I’ve had with almost everyone I know, who almost unanimously report feeling more, and more, disconnected and isolated; and not knowing why? When by all standards we are by far more connected.

advertThe second, is the recent, rapid, accelerated,  mutation of facebook “social network” to facebook “social advertising agent” (and socio-economic experimental database). Where we can now “sponsor” our posts for hard earned cash or fall to the waste side of “obscurity” if we are unwilling to drop coin. All of this insidiously coupled with the subtle shift in facebook’s user format into two different news feeds ‘most recent’ or ‘top story’. It doesn’t really take a brain surgeon to figure out why these changes were rolled out at the same time.

What I’ve noticed about social networks is that it seems like there are particular personality types that thrive and succeed on them. It requires a psychological finesse with a healthy dose of bloated self-importance; coupled with an engaging sense of humor. It requires understanding, how to be just enough about yourself that viewers want to be about you; while at the same time appearing just enough about others [or world peace, or inner zen, or anything that appears altruistic] that people are convinced that you care about something other than yourself. The kind of personality that’s more comfortable projecting who’d they like to be rather than just honestly being who they are.

sleep textI say viewer because to some degree that’s what we are becoming to one another. This kind of engagement is the opposite of intimacy. But when mastered, you can be fooled, or fool people into feeling, [at least for an instant] that maybe they are experiences something better than intimacy: instant, gratifying, attention. All it requires is maintaining a consistent, relatable, endearing, responsive persona.

It’s like there’s this strange vortex, where we can’t quite see yet, the line between our natural human urge to want to be liked; and our live’s as one long, continual presentation where we are neither genuinely liked, nor disliked but rather we are disdained, ignored or admired. It’s as if we’re all becoming micro-corporations even when the only thing we’re selling is ourselves.

textThat, to me is at the core of why so many of us are feeling isolated in this sea of connectedness. We are viewers and posters. Whether it’s social networks, text messaging, instant messaging, youtube, chat rooms, whatever, pick your poison; but none of those activities are anything like genuine conversation or genuine engagement. And because of social networks, and text messaging, and dating sites, and instant entertainment at our fingertips 24/7; I think many of us are staying home more, and more, and gathering in real time, less and less. Unfortunately, instant gratification tends to disappear just as instantly; leaving us helplessly hungry for more.

porch 2We used to sit in kitchens, and porches, and bedrooms and dens, hanging out, talking, laughing, crying, confessing…we still do, but not nearly as often; and almost never are those moments uninterrupted by our devices anymore. More and more, we sit alone (even when we’re with people), texting, while we’re check something on a social network; while we’re doing our laundry; while we’re glancing at a tv; while we’re IM-ing with someone else; while we’re checking stats on the new on-line business we’re launching; while we’re reworking the marketing approaches to our new on-line business; while we’re ordering takeout. While we’re studying SEO’s. While we’re typing a proposal. While we’re touching up the photos we took from the outing we took last Sunday. While we’re editing a video. While we’re writing a song. While we’re re-working a budget. While we’re…

lonely bearThis, I’m pretty sure is what most people who tell you “they’re so busy” are pretty much doing. Multi-tasking, on top of multi-tasking, on top of multi-tasking, rarely giving any one thing our undivided focus and attention. Which begs the question are we busy? Or are we just running as far and as fast as we can from the human condition of loneliness; head long into a vacant chasm? Many of those things lead to tangible achievements [outside, in the real world] but I would venture to guess that if we break it down only a small percentage of those multi-tasked activities actually contributed to tangible activities and/or achievements.

From what I can tell. We are not being encouraged to have a conversation about this. Everywhere we turn we are being asked to ignore the question and just drink the Kool-Aid; imploring us not to be left behind. Not surprisingly, this message comes most strongly from the corporations that are most heavily invested in us embracing their products. I keep coming back to an advertisement I’ve seen a number of times for iPhone. Here’s a link to the ad on youtube: 

In it, we see musicians, and performance artists, dancers, scientist, athletes, choreographers all connecting, and seemingly being creatively inspired, and becoming their Best-ist selves through their devices; while a song (by The Pixie’s) with the benign lyrics of, “Gigantic, gigantic, gigantic, big, big, love” are couched in an infectious groove, with images that urge us to be part of the “movement”. I’m almost sold till the closing clip.

A woman is standing, in what we presume to be a school gym, with children sprawled out on sleep bags on the floor; as she magically projects an astronomically correct projection of the celestial sky with the names of the constellations on to the ceiling through her magical [iPhone] device. That one snip-it is the ad’s undoing. Because,when I see it all I can think is, kids campingWhy is that better than just turning the damned phone off and taking the kids camping?” Do we really believe that an artificial reproduction of the stars in a gym, is somehow more spectacular than witnessing the real thing? What are we really teaching them when we keep widening the divide and separating our children from nature? We’re teaching them to drink the Kool-Aid! Because the further those kids get from experiencing and understanding nature first hand, the more intimated they will become by it.

momThe most painful thing I see today is parents buried in their smart phones while their infant child sit, helplessly unstimulated, staring at their parents who aren’t looking back at them. Go to any airport, or laundromat, or anywhere people are “waiting” and you’ll see this. We think it’s just a second. It never is. It’s lots and lots of consecutive seconds, as a continual distraction. And what’s being communicating every time our eyes are focused on a phone rather than our children is “this is more important than you” and “this is more interesting than you”.

There’s also mounting evidence that this is hindering, the ability for our children to develop basic vocabulary, and rudimentary communication skills. Because, early language learning is heavily dependent on eye contact. What that’s going to translate too when these kids grow up is anybodies guess?

light trainI’m not sure what the answer is. Maybe there really is no way to stop the train. But I do think it worth talking about. In real time, face to face, where people have the time and space to muse, ponder, question and perhaps even change their minds. This is a dialogue that can’t be vetted intelligently via any communication device. Nor should this discussion be interrupted by them. Because, while we may care deeply what direction that train heads I can assure you, that the train has absolutely no concern whatsoever, where it takes us. It’s up to us to decide.

“I have sung in hobo jungles, and I have sung for the Rockefellers, and I am proud that I have never refused to sing for anybody”.~Pete Seeger

I found out last night around mid-night that Pete Seeger had passed away. I thought to post something on social networks in the way of paying my respects but the more I thought of it, the more I realized I needed to honor his passing with more than a cursory RIP.


As I thought about him and what I might say, I realized Pete Seeger has had a greater impact on my life than perhaps any other performer I can think of.

Pete Seeger changed my life not just as an artist but personally. From my early teens when I volunteered at ‘The Hudson River Clear Water Revival Festival’; to working and living on the actual boat, ‘The Clearwater’; clearwaterto fashioning most of my life as a traveling troubadour. I suppose, I imagined myself as some angst-ridden, Woody Guthrie meets Bob Dylan; but really it was Pete Seeger who taught me the meaning and virtue of living my truth.

I am most grateful for the handful of times I got to meet him. Most especially those opportunities when I was child. When I look back, I’m amazed now by [what was] his patience, kindness and generosity of spirit. No question was too small or too big. He always seemed to have time for all of us. The only times I ever saw him angry was when he encountered defeatist, negating, cynicism. That pissed him off.

Later, as an adult I remember being asked to perform at a demonstration. Pete Seeger was to headline. It was a miserable, cold rainy, Upstate New York day.  Pete showed up with a smile on his face and a spring in his step. Eager to rally the people and fight the good fight. Every opportunity he was given to bring people together (no matter what the cause) brought him joy. He love to galvanize and empower people.

pete on stageI had the honor to sing behind him that day with maybe half a dozen other singer-songwriters as we joined him on Woody Guthrie’s, “This Land is Your Land”. Backstage I said hello and he had no recollection of me, but he was kind, and warm, and gracious. It seemed everyone wanted to meet him that day. He was in his eighties, surrounded by perhaps 20 or 30 people all clambering to get a word with him. I remember Toshi trying to get him to leave because she was worried, he was getting too tired and it was really cold. But Pete was determined to stick around, he considered it his duty to stay until anyone who wanted to talk with him got a chance.

bonfirePete Seeger never had any faith in the ‘powers that be’. He believed, heart, mind and soul that the power was, and always would be, with the people. I believe to him, creating meaningful change in the world was like building a bonfire.  Start with a few twigs, set the spark, and blow on it, till it catches. Then keep blowing and adding wood, till the fire is raging. Because if you’re going to take the time to build a fire, then build one to be reckoned with; and never forget, all fires start with the tiniest of sparks but one spark is all it takes.

05-01_PETE_SEEGER_H_108_02WEB-e1390894992509When I think about what he’d say to us now, now that he’s gone, I imagine him saying something like this, “I appreciate your love and concern but don’t waste too much time crying. There’s still too much work to be done”.

Goodbye Pete. Thank you for everything you gave to us. Rest in Peace.

There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into sun” Pablo Picasso 

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written a blog. For whatever reason, I just didn’t feel the need to check in. Sometimes, I need to just checkout. imagesRegardless, of the fact, that it’s been drilled into me that silence on the internet = death. I still can’t embrace the ethos of just writing, so I don’t disappear.

So, what have I been doing these long months? I’ve been busy doing something I’ve never done before in my life. For the first time ever, I’ve been focusing, in earnest, on something other than music. These past 6 months or so I’ve been focusing on my jewelry collection.

I’m kinda old school when it comes to focus. I have to do one thing at a time. I’m the opposite of a multi-tasker. I’m pretty sure this is because I’m mildly dyslexic and it was left undiagnosed as I a child. Make no mistake, they knew I had a reading disability. It’s just, no one could figure out what kind of reading disability, let alone help me with it.

blogThis meant, that as a child, I had to come up with painstaking systems to learn how to read and write. It’s too long to explain in detail. So, just imagine if you will, every time you need to read something, you have to read each word individually, and then string the words, one by one together, breaking the sentence down by sections, till it flows like a whole sentence. Once it flows, read that sentence five times till you understand it. Now do the same thing with next sentence. Then go back to the first sentence and read it in relation to the second sentence. Now read both sentences three times together till you understand both sentences and how they might be related. Now, keep doing that, always doubling back on the last sentence. If after doing this you still can’t understand a sentence, move onto the next sentence; till finally, you’ve read a paragraph, then a page, then a chapter, then a book. Every book was a daunting and arduous task. There were rare occasions when, as challenging as it was, I did enjoy a book but mostly, books just meant work.

blogNeedless to say, while technically I did read most of what was required in school, my comprehension was mediocre at best. This problem, prompted a second system I had to create. That system required analyzing classroom discussions and asking questions, in such a way, that I could garner enough information about the book, to piece together all the jumbles parts, (that I had just kind of skipped over, to get through the book); without revealing how much I may have missed and didn’t understand. Ultimately, these strategies paid off, because I wound up going to college and becoming a Philosophy major. This baffles a lot of people but I’m pretty sure the reasons for this were two-fold.

First, the topics of philosophy fascinated me, God, the meaning of existence, the nature of reality, morality, etc. Second, I think my logic was, if I have to do all this reading anyway, (which is really hard), then I might as well read something worth reading. What I loved the most were the class discussions; and they were beyond a necessity, given all the jumbled parts I had to skip over. image-brain-questionsIt’s also one of the few majors where [barring Logic 101] questions, rather than answers, are what constitute engagement, and there is very little in the way of a definitive right answer; just a whole lot of interpretations. Given my learning strategies, this was like heaven in an academic discipline. Ultimately, as an adult I became an avid reader. If there is one thing I am grateful to my ex-husband for, it is the gift he gave me, of teaching me how to enjoy reading.

I tell you all this because I wanted to give you a picture of just how, (and why), I can be so intensely single minded. Perhaps, help you to understand why I can’t; plan a tour, record a new CD, develop a product line, continually re-book local shows, work social networks,  simultaneously plan and implement promotional strategies, write blogs, write songs, make jewelry, do home spun video’s, do whatever I can to endear people to me, (when I’m not particularly endearing), respond to e-mails and text messages, and work a day job all at the same time.

I like goals and end games. I like to work on something and see it completed and until it’s completed it’s difficult for me to really focus on something else. This causes something of a perception problem in terms of an on-line presence, particularly in the realm of “active and engaged” singer-songwriter. Since, I’m beginning to see, that there is no end game on the internet. It’s just a continual stream of consciousness, a continual spiral of the next thing, and the next thing, and go back and improve the last thing, and the next thing….

Unknown2Honestly, the hardest hurdles for me in the past few years have been trying to find a goal – or even a destination – to take my music. I need an end game. And the entire industry just looks like one big money pit to me. I see very few opportunities, [for genuinely independent artists] that will garner an artist any real or meaningful visibility, let alone leverage. The most disturbing development to me, is seeing so many artists and musicians, who are beginning to look, more and more, like politicians, and less, and less, like anyone I believe in or trust.  This single-mindedness spills over into my identity as well.

All of my adult life I’ve had one fixed identity. It has never varied. I am a singer-songwriter. I sing and write songs; anything else I have ever done was not me.it wasn't me It was me (the singer) acting like a teacher. It was me, (the songwriter) acting like a house painter. It was me, (the musician) acting like a cocktail waitress. Whatever I was doing, it wasn’t me. It was just the stunt double I ushered in to do whatever needed to be done to survive.

In this time, there has only ever been one exception to this rule. Because, I am also a professional Tarot card reader and when I’m doing that. I’m not acting. Then again, when I am doing that, “I” don’t exist and “I” don’t matter. Not to sound completely trite, but the truth is, the only way to read tarot cards well is to “be a vessel” and make your ego disappear.

mythic tarotReading Tarot cards professionally, over the years, has given me a unique perspective on the human psyche. Through it I understand, without judgment, a myriad of things I don’t think I would have garnered insight on. Those insights have become invaluable to me as a songwriter. It’s helped me to better understand the human condition, universal hopes, dreams and desires. I’m beginning to see how those insights may also be the reason I am learning how to diversify my notions of what constitutes “my identity” .

It gets driven into us that we can only be one thing at time. When in fact, becoming something else, may ultimately complement the first identity, so both identities walk in tandem, seamlessly, rather than in contradiction, or cancellation of one another.

In full disclosure, originally, I started making jewelry just to make more money. That was it. Make some pretty things, hock them at my gigs, and walk away with a little extra cash. Of course, I always strove to make beautiful jewelry, and (even at the start) my jewelry had “a look”.

The Stefanie Fx Collection: Keychain

The Stefanie Fx Collection: Keychain

A look, I’ve come to realize, that is intricately linked with my spirituality, which I’ve also discovered, is intricately linked to my music. A friend of mine who, shall I say, is more capitalist minded than I, took one look at my jewelry and said, “Stefanie, I’m sold. This is brilliant. This is a Brand”. A brand?…Hmm, why he’s right! It is a brand! It is a brand! I then set to work at building my “brand”. This wasn’t too difficult to do since, toss a stone; and you’ll find a singer-songwriter, actor or celebrity developing, a product line [i.e. a brand].  But recently, I’ve come to realize my jewelry is so much more than a brand. It’s more than a brand because I make it myself.

assembly-line1It’s not a T-shirt I designed, and then tossed to a silk screener to make. It’s not a pendent necklace I designed, and tossed to jeweler to caste. It’s not a fragrance idea, I described and tossed to a perfume maker to mix and develop. It’s not just a product I attach my name to, and make available, so you can feel like your part of my tribe; and forward my cause, which for most artist, is themselves.

Every single piece of jewelry I sell, I make with my own hands. I string the beads, my fingers touch and arrange and rearrange, each and every bead in each and every design. There’s energy in that; and I only use natural stones, and there’s energy in that too.

Stones1I’m beginning to see my jewelry, as if each one is a song. The most beautiful thing about it is, metaphorically, I have the ability now to write a completely unique and individual song for each and every person who wears the jewelry I make.

Red Jasper necklace and earring set: The Stefanie Fix Collection

Red Jasper necklace and earring set: The Stefanie Fix Collection

It’s like I can string a song around your neck and everywhere you go people will see it. And it’s not my song. It’s your song, your melody, and your version of what is true and beautiful. Each piece is unique; and even on those occasions when I make more than one of the same design, no two are exactly alike (because I’m using natural stones), and stones are like people. All made up of the same molecules but each one, forms in its own unique way.

My last blog was about artists and musicians finding ways to survive in the “new frontier” where, eventually, no one is going to be willing to really pay for music. When I wrote that I was coming up with the idea of a brand. What’s astounding is, you can come up with one idea that follows convention; like create a product line or a brand.

crossroads_fullBut if you’re willing to take it a step further; you may just find that you can use that conventional idea to come up with something way beyond anything the original idea had to offer.

All my life I’ve been a singer-songwriter, one cause, one direction. Anything else I put my energy toward, felt like energy being taken away from what mattered to me most. As soon as I allowed myself to see that giving time, and even priority to my jewelry does not, somehow make me less of a singer-songwriter, I was free. I can do that in good conscious because I’m making something, other than music, that I believe in. And that realization changes everything.

I feel good about selling you that jewelry because I make it, with my own hands. And I can take that money and go sing my songs, and make my music, and now, I can give that music back to you. It’s a business model where I invest in you, as much as you invest in me, symmetry.

focusWhen you grow up with a learning disability that no one knows how to help you with, you have to come up with unique strategies, to successful master rudimentary tasks, that are seemingly effortless to other children. There were a lot of times when I was a kid, that I wondered if “learning disability” was just everyones  polite way of saying, “stupid, retard”. Actually, I didn’t wonder it, I knew it.

I also know now, that while I still don’t appreciate what that did to my self-esteem. I do know, it taught me that you fail hundreds of times before you ever succeed, even once. I do know, it taught me how to remain driven, determined, and focused when something was hard or even, seemingly impossible to do. Because there is nothing, absolutely nothing, you aren’t capable of learning. I do know, in those hundreds of times when you’re failing, people will doubt your abilities, dismiss your efforts, and assess your worth, based on paradigms that may or may not be relevant to the way you need to something.

brickwall1In spite of all the New Age gurus who will tell you the contrary; resistance isn’t always put before you to tell you that you’re going in the wrong direction. Sometimes, resistance is put before you because you need to come up with a solution to a problem no one has taught you how to solve. It is at this junction, where finally, you’re only recourse is to rely, utterly and completely, on your own imagination. That is the moment when you step out of the confines of what you’ve been taught is possible; and leap into the world where you create the possibilities and truly become, the author of your own life.

Find out more about Stefanie’s Jewelry: The Stefanie Fix Collection on Etsy

 “I like it when a flower or a little tuft of grass grows through a crack in the concrete. It’s just so fuckin’ heroic.” ― George Carlin

flowers concreteA couple of months ago I saw a video on Ted Talk of “Amanda Palmer: The Art of Asking”. The video had been circulating among many of my peers just as SXSW was beginning here in Austin. It was the subject of a number of discussions I encountered that week and in the couple of weeks that followed. Here’s a link:   . The issue she’s addressing in her presentation, in the coming years, is going to be true for everyone who is creating original intellectual property.

It’s obvious to me that Amanda Palmer is a driven, compassionate, smart, savvy and thoughtful woman. Everyone I know found her talk inspiring and at the same time a little distressing, because most of us understand that Amanda Palmer has a confidence and self-assuredness that few of us possess. As I watched her talk I knew, (like so many of my peers) I couldn’t do what she’s done. Not because I lack the savvy, or even the talent, but because I simply don’t have that kind of personality.

images (2)From the conversations I had with other musicians I think many people walked away thinking, “She has an amazing story. I wish I could do that but I don’t know how” Which leads me to believe that perhaps they missed the point. Part of why Amanda Palmer has achieved what she has (and make no mistake, it is truly remarkable) is she is absolutely clear with herself about what she really wants.

She said, “Everyone is asking the wrong question. Everyone is asking how can we get people to pay for music?” For her the right question was “How do we let people pay for music?” She’s right. We are asking the wrong question. But I’m going to take it a step a further because the question she came up with was the right question for her. It may or may not be the right question for you.

images (1)I think there are two questions. The first question is “What do you really want?” If you can answer that question honestly then you’ll come up with the right question for you; and just as importantly, hopefully come up with a creative solution to that question. As I watched and listened to her I realized that our obsession with “making a living from our music” is a goal we’ve been fed; but it may not be what we really want.

Because of how the music business has been structured for the past fifty years or so, many of us may incorporate the myth that we have only succeeded professionally, and we are only truly validated as artists, if we are able to make a living specifically from our music. The fact that that’s no longer a particularly realistic goal doesn’t change the power that myth has to convince us it is achievable.

downloadBare in mind the over arching structures in place within the music business have a lot to gain from you believing in that myth; because the engine (as least to my eyes) that is driving the vast majority of dollars circulating in the music business is not the [artists], music itself anymore, but all the services that are being creating that musicians are being asked to pay for. CD duplicators, recording studios, pay to play competitions, on line music distributors, graphic designers, tons of web base services, i.e., mailing list services, gig finding services, data configuration services, web review services, web design services, crowd funding services, web-radio placement services, social networking services, as well as conventional PR and radio promotion services, and let us not forget the almighty music conferences. All, or none of which may be worth your investment. Which keeps bringing me back to the same question, what do you really want?

cdmailorderThey’ll lead you to believe that you have to do these things (go to conferences, pay for premium web base services, crowd fund your next project), if you want a viable career because they will tell you [for example] it demonstrates you’re dedicated and serious about your work.

I’d argue, the only thing that demonstrates you’re dedicated and serious about your work is finding viable, financially sound solutions, that allow you to keep doing it and SXSW, Folk Alliance, CMJ, Kickstarter, Sonicbids, and using premium based web services may or may not have anything to do with that equation. It all depends on what you really want?

If you want to be a viable, national, touring singer-songwriter (like say, Ryan Bigham) there’s a good chance Folk Alliance can’t help you with that. If you want to be a relatively obscure, singer-songwriter and make a modest [read: poor] living touring house concerts then Folk Alliance probably can help you with that. If you want to be a major pop star there’s a good chance Sonicbid’s can’t help you with that. _MG_0493

Perhaps you’d be better served to hit the L.A. party circuit [read: network] in search of TV and movie cameos, and music placement. Ultimately, you’d still need to look for a major label. Major labels do still exist and they are still responsible for the majority of national and international acts that most of us have heard of; though they’re not particularly interested in finding the next Wilco or Radiohead. They’re looking for the next Justin Timberlake, Green Day,  Beyonce, or Keith Urban. So don’t go there if you can’t produce for the masses like that. Those folks are all great at what they do and I doubt any of them ever used any of the “pay to play” DIY services I’ve mentioned.

Success_Next_ExitAs inconvenient as it may be, there’s no formula to success and there is no one left to impress. There is no one trajectory that will guarantee you that your approach will get you where you want to go. You could copy what Amanda Palmer did step by step and never garner more than $1000 via crowd funding, if it’s not really the right platform for you. And I’ll remind you crowd funding is not going to work for everyone and that doesn’t mean you suck or you’re doomed.

My primary concern with Crowd funding is that it may fund a project but ultimately, the model keeps the majority of artists still starving, even after they’ve managed to raise tens of thousands of dollars to make a CD.  I think this is because it’s still fashioned on the same myth; that enough exposure for an artist, through project creation somehow, magically produces financially viable careers but I’m not really sure that’s true anymore.

starving_artistIf I thought I could raise 1.2 million dollars via crowd funding I’d work my ass off to do it; because with that kind of cash anyone could sustain a career and Amanda Palmer did work her ass off.  But the majority of artist that I know (personally) who successfully raised anywhere between, $5000-$25,000 also worked their asses off. Once, the CD’s were made, and all the copies and incentives were delivered to their supporters, all of them (without exception) were right back where they started financially. They were also, for the most part, exhausted and left to figure out how, or if, they were going to be able to afford to tour. Let alone put out another CD.

My point is not to dismiss crowd funding but to recognize its only one solution to one problem and it will work remarkably well for a certain percentage of artists. However, if it’s not a platform that’s going to work for you, don’t despair and don’t waste your energy trying to make it work for you. There are other solutions and you will find them if you keep exploring the possibilities.

525077_608082955872215_1216074529_nYears ago I had a friend named Michael Nesbit. Michael was and still is a wonderful singer-songwriter. Michael also had a talent for making Etch-A-Sketch art. He made really wonderful and elaborate pictures with Etch-A-Sketches and he started selling them at his shows. It got to where during his shows there was a like a ‘gallery’ of his Etch-A-Sketch pieces all set up around the room and the audience members could buy them when the show was over and people did buy them.

Was he really “making a living from his music” in a way, kinda-sorta, but not really; which begs the question does it matter? Does it make his accomplishment somehow less miraculous? It was just a fabulously creative solution to the problem of being a broke-ass, touring folk singer. That’s what I’m talking about. Michael’s approach required that he abandon the myth of “making a living from his music” and embrace the solution of making a living with his music. Granted it doesn’t have the profit margin of say, your own clothing or fragrance line but it was a viable solution to an immediate problem, which is pretty amazing when you think about it.

Crowd funding is one kind of solution. Patronism.com is another kind of solution; product line development is another kind of solution. Like what Michael did or another example; Kinky Friedman recently launched his ‘Man in Black Tequila’. If you’ve seen him perform lately he sets a bottle of it on the stage right next to him when he plays, [where] his tequila is prominently featured all night long. He’s using his music to sell his tequila (not the other way around). As a result, I’d venture to guess he doesn’t give a damn whether or not anyone is paying .99 cents a download for his music.

All my life I thought what I really wanted was to ‘make a living from my music’. Some years I have, some years I haven’t.  I realize now, what I want, (and what I always wanted) is a life style that affords me the time, and freedom, to create my music and put it into the world. No where in that sentence can you find the words,  “make a living from my music”. Now, (after how many years?), I have finally answered the first question.

yadin-tarasFor me, the answer to the first question, what do you really want? Is a lifestyle; then what are the models that can afford me that lifestyle? [There is my second question.] Then it came to me, Surfers! Yes, Surfers. Those folks obsessed with catching the perfect wave. The vast majority of [hardcore surfers] have structured they’re lives so that they have the time and freedom to surf. Some open surf board shops. Some make surf boards. Some offer surfing lessons and some work their asses off six month a year and take the other six months off to surf and the list goes on. Ultimately, they fashion their lives around doing what they love, with absolutely no presumption they will ever make a living as professional surfers. They are serious and dedicated about surfing and they prove it by living it.

images (4)We as artists are going to have to figure out what works for us; and each one of us may come up with completely different approaches. It just comes down to being able to ask yourself what you really want. If you can answer that specifically, and honestly, you’ll find the right question for you, and hopefully a solution. As for me, well, I just dusted off my bikini and I’m heading to the beach, because I’m on the look out now, in search of the perfect wave.


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