Vote for Cherie and Lyndy! ! !

April 6th, 2017

It’s been a long winter but suddenly The Buddy System is getting some amazing attention. I just got word that we earned a Family Choice Award, we won a GOLD Parents’ Choice award, and we are grand prize winners in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest for our song, “The Astronaut and the Mermaid”! This is so exciting.

A month ago, Lyndy and I found out we won the grand prize of Session II of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest in the Children’s category. We won $8000 worth of recording gear and a new guitar. We also got the chance to move up to the next level. Right now, the Lennon Awards are going on. It’s a head to head voting round, against the Session I winners. We need our friends and fans to vote for us! You can vote once a day, every day, till April 30th, and the winners will be announced on May 1st. The great thing about winning this part would be that we would end up being one of the 12 finalists in the running for Song of the Year. That’s the top award, which is a $20,000 prize, and a great honor to win such a prestigious contest. We’re super excited to even be this far, but it would sure mean a lot of you could help us get to the next level on this. I believe our song has such a timely message right now with everything going on in the world. It’s not just for kids. It has such a peaceful message of friendship. I’d be thrilled if it could get a little bit bigger of an audience.

Here’s the link where you can vote.  http://jlsc.com/vote.php   Thanks for all your support!

If that’s what you want to do. . .

August 30th, 2016

When I was a little girl, whenever anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I told them I wanted to be a singer. Music was my earliest and most constant dream. But gradually, the older we get when people ask us what we’re going to be when we grow up, we start responding to cues and reactions we get, and a lot of times we start changing our answers based on that. I think that happened to me a little. I never set music completely aside, but I felt a need to be more practical about it. That’s not all bad. Especially in today’s music world, it’s good, even necessary, to be a little well rounded; to be able to have a whole set of different music and business skills in order to make a career. But practical isn’t good if you start being embarrassed about the thing you used to feel was your calling. Or when you’ve felt that way for so long that you’ve lost confidence.

As a music student at BYU, when I was in the depths of music theory classes and feeling the excitement and nervousness about recording and performing my own songs for the first time, one evening I was walking back to my apartment from school. My friend, Alex was walking with me. He was a music student, too. I was talking about my dreams, feeling silly about even dreaming about being a real recording artist or songwriter, but also hoping so hard that I could make it happen somehow. Alex said, “You need to stop telling people that you like to write songs, or that you hope you can make a living as a songwriter. You just need to tell people, and yourself, that you are a songwriter.”

It seemed so simple, but when I started to do that, it changed everything. Summer passed, and the next semester I was in a circle of new friends, playing some silly “get-to-know-you” game. When it became my turn to tell something about myself, I went out on a limb and just said, “I’m a songwriter.” It felt so right. It was the beginning of me no longer just hoping or wondering if I could do it, but actually just doing it. I wrote more and more songs. Some of them were awful. But I was writing them, and therefore I was a songwriter. Gradually they became better. I still write awful songs sometimes. But songwriters write songs. It’s what they do.

I teach songwriting at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah. It brings back a lot of memories whenever I get the questionnaires back that I hand out on the first day of class. It’s a required class for music majors, so there are always a few students who have never written a song and probably won’t ever do it again after my class is over. On the questionnaire I ask if the student is already a songwriter, or if they’re going to be learning about it for the first time. I see my younger self in so many of the answers. There are so many young people who want to say they’re songwriters but don’t know if they’re allowed. They say that they want to do it on the side, maybe, or that they hope they can just make enough money from it to afford health insurance, but they’re not sure if that’s silly. (I was amazed to see college students thinking about health insurance! I just thought I was invincible at that age.) Or they say that they like to write songs; but they resist calling themselves a songwriter. Or they say they want to become one someday.

Yesterday we talked about where ideas come from and how to find them without being at the mercy of a mystical muse. I told my students they need to look at the world as a songwriter. I want them to know that at least for this semester, they ARE songwriters. They have to put on those special x-ray glasses that make you see songs everywhere. And then they have to write them. Because they’re songwriters.

I think this way of thinking can help in so many ways when we are trying to be better. Obviously this doesn’t work for everything. I mean, if you go around telling people you’re a doctor, you could get yourself thrown in jail. But it works for a lot of things. I wish I could be a better mom. What if I already was? What if I started to look at everyone and everything as a wonderful mother does? Would I look more deeply into my children’s eyes? Would I show more mercy? Would I have more fun? I wish I could be more kind. What if I decided that I am kind? Instead of saying I’ll try it later or tomorrow, what if I told myself that I am kind, and I started giving people the benefit of the doubt? What if I wanted to be more assertive? What would happen if I told myself that I will be respected, that my ideas matter and should be heard, and that I have a lot to offer? Would I speak up more? Would I be slower to be offended because condescension and insults just wouldn’t stick?

I wrote a song about this for kids. Take a listen here, and then check out the whole album of children’s music I just released with my friend, Lyndy Butler.

Is there something you wish you could do or be? What if you just started doing it or being it now?

There For You

August 2nd, 2016

If you’ve been following along, in one week I’ll be releasing an album I’ve been working on with my friend, Lyndy Butler. It’s a children’s album called, “The Buddy System”. This week we are sharing sneak peeks of a lot of the songs, and telling the stories behind them.

Today I’m going to tell you about our song, There For You. Let me start off by saying that the stories I’m going to tell you about my mom will put me in danger of worrying people who feel uncomfortable about the whole “motherhood on a pedestal” idea. In anticipation of that, let me say that I know plenty of people who could tell stories just like this about their dads. In fact, I myself have a great dad. These stories just happen to be true stories about my mom, who inspired this song.

I had a tough time in high-school. I don’t think most of my friends even realized this. I smiled a lot and was friendly, but I really struggled to find my place and fit in. I eventually found my way all right, and I found very good friends. But for a while there were a lot of days when I saw all the groups of people going out together for lunch or sitting together in the cafeteria, and I felt like I had no place to go. Some days I walked the two blocks home during lunch and ate with my mom. I can’t think of many times when a student was actually mean to me. But sometimes I just felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. I didn’t have boyfriends, I was a late bloomer, and I just didn’t get all the popularity games. It’s all pretty cliche, actually, looking back. Add to this that my parents divorced my junior year, and you get a high-school experience with a lot of turmoil under the surface.

Every once in a while, on a particularly hard day, when I was feeling lost and in a tiny bit of a panic, a wave of peace would come over me. I was grateful for it, even if I didn’t understand where it was coming from. Then, once our church had our mothers write us special letters as part of a mother-daughter activity. In the wonderful letter my mom wrote, she told me that sometimes when I was at school, she would go into my room, kneel by my bed, and pray for me. I had a strong feeling in my heart that those may have been the times when peace came over me. Her love found me even when she couldn’t be there.

My mom has been my biggest fan from the time I was a tiny child. She always encouraged me to develop talents. This has never ended. After I graduated from college and started heavily pursuing a music career, my mother was always there by my side. Thanks to my airline job, she flew with me to Nashville and L.A. She came to as many of my shows as she could. I still treasure her insights every time I send her a new finished album. I’m old enough now that I’ve tempered some of my wildest dreams with some logic and reality. But if you asked my mother, she’d still tell you that any day now I’ll be a big star.

She has always been a comforter to me. I’ll always remember going through a tremendous heartbreak at the final end of an important relationship. I was emotionally in pieces. She flew out to visit me, and she cried with me. And she put her arms around me and blessed me. Her love found me, no matter how far away. I felt the power of her love.

My mother is alive and well and I treasure my connection with her. I believe that even on that unspeakable day when she has to leave this world, her love will still always find me.

Our relationship hasn’t been perfect. There are stories I’d rather forget about all the times we’ve clashed. But there’s nothing like the love of a parent.

Now that I’m a mother, I hope my children can always feel that my love will find them anywhere. I hope they feel the same thing from their dad. Even if we don’t know exactly what they need it for that day. Even if we can’t be there. Maybe it’s a lofty wish, but I believe in the power of love.

This is a song about that.
There For You

A high five with just one hand in the air?

July 22nd, 2016

I’ve been trying to think of something profound to tell you about The Buddy System now that we’re done recording and have just started the pre-sales. There are some amazing stories. Strange but cool miracles that happened to make it all unfold pretty quickly and easily. From start to finish, this album just really kind of feels like it wanted to exist. While we were recording, Lyndy told me about a book she was reading, called “Big Magic”, by Elizabeth Gilbert. She kept referencing it every time something crazy happened that made us feel like something was meant to be. I haven’t read the book, and I’m not heavy into self help books or mystical ideas. But Lyndy kind of made me a believer. I might need to check it out.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. I wrote a song called, “There For You.” In the bridge, I had always imagined these soothing “oooh” sounds happening. And in the studio they just didn’t work. No matter what we did. It was really weird. So I finally said, “Let’s bag those. Maybe we should just have a mandolin solo there or something.” Just then, Ryan Tilby, our producer, paused for a moment and then pushed a fader up on the mixer. Right there waiting the whole time, in the perfect spot, was a mandolin solo that he had played for fun on an earlier take. I couldn’t stop laughing. It was meant to be. I think that was the most difficult experience we had in the studio, and that’s how it turned out.

Miraculously the songwriting, the planning, the fundraising, the recording, mixing, mastering, artwork, and layout have all unfolded pretty easily and naturally. Now comes the hardest part. Spreading the word. Sending this baby out into the world and hoping people will love it.

Our title track says, “A high five with just one hand in the air, it doesn’t even know what it’s supposed to do.” Releasing an indie album always makes me feel a little like I am setting up a high five and hoping it will be reciprocated. I have to admit to feeling vulnerable. I have the confidence in the project that it takes to go for my end of the high five, but now I’ve done all I can do. I want to believe these songs will find the people who will treasure them like I do.

This project has brought a whole lot of happiness into my life that I never even expected. My kids have some new anthems about resilience, creativity, play, and motherly love.

Take a listen to the song at the top of this post. Follow the link to our bandcamp page and take a listen to The Astronaut and the Mermaid, too. Consider pre-ordering a copy of our album and helping us spread the word. It would mean so much.

The astronaut and the mermaid

April 19th, 2016

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If you’ve been following along, you know that I’m working on a children’s album with my friend Lyndy Butler. You can click back to my previous post to learn more.

When Lyndy and I started trying to get organized after we had written several songs, Lyndy sent me a google docs file where we could add and edit all our lyrics. She gave it the title, “The Buddy System: An Astronaut Mermaid Collaboration”. We didn’t have any songs about astronauts or mermaids at that point. But I absolutely loved the image I immediately had in my mind of one friend way up in space and the other deep in the ocean, and that they are friends who have a lot to offer each other. I sent Lyndy kind of a joking note to ask her which one of us was the astronaut and which was the mermaid. She said both of us are both. I thought about it and knew it was true. Sometimes she has amazing ideas that seem to be pulled straight from the universe. Then you see her waist-length luxurious magenta hair and know she has to be the mermaid. I go back and forth on a lot of days with this project, to having my head above the clouds with creativity, and other times deep in an ocean of work; fun work, swimming through the rhymes and melodies. I think my mind started trying to write a song about astronauts and mermaids from the moment I saw that juxtaposition on that google doc. But I didn’t ever sit down to work on it.

When we thought about what to do for an album cover, we both thought an illustration would be fun for a children’s album. The first person who came to my mind to create it for us was my dear friend, Heather Solomon. I met her many years ago. I can’t believe it, I think it’s been about 20 years since we first met. We were roommates at The Regency apartments south of BYU campus. I remember when she showed up. She seemed very quiet. I boisterously introduced myself and said I was excited for us to become friends! She later told me that at that moment she was worried she might have gotten stuck with the most obnoxious roommate in the world. She immediately went to her room and started cutting up a stack of brown grocery bags. I peeked in from time to time and realized she had arranged all of these cut out scraps to look like a gigantic, beautiful tree that covered her entire wall! We were different. I listened to Garth Brooks, Erasure, The Indigo Girls, and Chicago. She listened to Suzanne Vega, The Toasters, The Cure, and Bauhaus. As the months went by, we actually did become very good friends. Heather was studying molecular biology. Well, I say study, but I don’t think she ever even had to study, and she just got A’s in all of her ridiculously complicated classes, while I was barely passing my core Physical Science class, and taking Spanish and English and Songwriting. I eventually discovered I really liked The Cure and Suzanne Vega. I don’t think Heather ever decided she liked Chicago or Garth Brooks. Heather was from New Jersey. I was from Arizona. In so many ways, we were from different worlds. Astronauts and mermaids. All six of us girls in that apartment went through a lot that year together. I could write a novel about each wonderful person. We became lifelong friends.

Heather and I became roommates again a couple of years later when we lived in the illustrious Sparks 2 apartments. I’m not sure if there was ever a Sparks 1. Rumor had it that it burned down a long time ago. I guess our apartment was kind of the revenge of Sparks? I digress. While Heather and I were roommates there, she decided, at almost the end of her college career, to just throw on another major, and study illustration design. Our apartment was always full of loud, fun music, and paints and creativity. At that time I was writing a lot of songs, too. I loved the energy.

Heather went on to illustrate some wonderful children’s books. Clever Beatrice. The Secret Keeper. If I Were a Lion. And more. It’s been so fun to read these colorful books to my kids.

All these years later, I’m excited that Heather could help us with a painting for this album. I think it is just perfect. And seeing the astronaut and the mermaid in a painting finally made a song happen about it. Lyndy and I now have a song called, “The Astronaut and the Mermaid”. I’ve attached the voice memo I sent to Lyndy of the finished version. You can click here to listen: By finished, I mean the songwriting. This voice memo is rough. Lyndy and I hope to record it in a real studio together in June if our Kickstarter campaign reaches the goal. We have till May 12th to raise the funds. We’d be so grateful if you could help make it happen!

Here’s the link to that. The Buddy System Kickstarter

I have many layers of love for the idea of an astronaut and a mermaid being friends. Sometimes my kids can’t get along when they don’t all want to be either princesses or robots. They’re so much happier when everyone can be who they want to be in the game. Just like this, in real life, when we see someone who seems like they don’t belong in our world, I wonder what would happen if we decided to give them a chance. How many amazing friendships do we miss out on when we don’t? How many things could we learn about the world and ourselves if we did try to understand people who seem different from us? How many ways would we realize that we are actually more alike than we imagined?

The Buddy System

April 17th, 2016

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When I was expecting my oldest, many people asked me if I was going to switch over and do lullaby albums from then on. Other people told me I would soon be writing nothing but songs about my baby. I knew that people were just happy for me, and that some of their comments were an extension of that expression that follows every songwriter; whenever you say or do anything, someone says with a wink, “Hey, that sounds like a song!” But I always had to hide how these new remarks made me bristle. I was a little insulted. Did people think I would cease to be a normal human with a brain, and that it would melt somehow to the point that I could only write “tra la la’s” or record half a dozen covers of Ring Around the Rosey?

Well, then my kids came. I learned a few things. Number one, I learned that indeed, I couldn’t help but write songs about them. I still wrote other songs, but sprinkled all over them were songs like “Already a Butterfly” or “Invincible” or “Walk You Through The Night” or “Sweet, Sweet Dreams”. On some very long, sleep deprived days, my brain did feel a little mushy, but normally, if I was really paying attention, my kids really inspired me and made me a better writer because of the pieces of my heart that they opened. Next, I learned that there is a whole lot of horrible music written and recorded for kids. A lot. There really are countless covers of the most mind numbing nursery rhymes, recorded with shrill sounding robo-children. People give you these CD’s when you have a kid. I usually found that my kids, when faced with the choice, would normally rather listen to grown up pop songs instead, thank goodness. But I also learned that there actually is some great children’s music. My mother-in-law gave us a Sandra Boynton CD called “Blue Moo” that we all love. We’re also fans of They Might Be Giant’s “No!” There are a lot of classic Disney songs that have come back into my life since having kids. You have to admit that The Little Mermaid soundtrack is catchy. And all those songs from Mary Poppins! And don’t even get me started on the music from Phineas and Ferb. I love it so much. As I listened to these songs as a songwriter, and watched how my kids reacted to them, I came to see that kids are really smart. They know when you’re singing down to them or assuming they aren’t as smart as you are. Usually lullaby albums don’t have this problem, but a lot of “fun” kid’s albums do. I filed away all this info into my songwriting research brain and then went on with life.

About a year ago, my friend Ryan Tilby told me about a singer-songwriter down in his musical neighborhood in St. George, named Lyndy Butler. He thought we might enjoy collaborating on songwriting for a project for her. I have a lot on my plate with four kids, a husband who travels a lot for work, and a fairly demanding music career. I didn’t think I would have time to get involved in a project for another artist at that time. But I looked her up, and when I heard her music, she seemed like a kindred spirit of sorts. I contacted her and asked if she wanted to do some co-writing. She immediately sent me a song she was working on, about a little red wagon. A children’s song. Again, something I normally didn’t jump at the chance to do, but it was a really cute song, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. So we started working on it from afar. Emailing lyrics, recording voice memos with melody scraps. It was a lot of fun. After a few weeks I had the distinct feeling that Lyndy was going to ask me to do a children’s album with her. It was like a voice outside of myself telling me this. Maybe a voice that knew that my knee jerk reaction would have been to say that I didn’t have time. But when the thought took root in my heart, it seemed right. I figured I was probably insane, and I set those thoughts aside. But then I got an email from her, asking me if I wanted to do a whole album of children’s music with her. The angels in my mind kind of sang, and after talking it over with my husband, it felt really right to say yes. Am I now only a kid’s artist? No, and neither is Lyndy. This is a special project, one of those projects that kind of finds you when you have an open heart.

For the past year, Lyndy and I have been writing songs for this project, and I really love them. My kids love them, too. And they don’t love everything I do, so I know they’re being honest. Playing a song for your kid is almost the polar opposite of playing a song for your mom in that way. I think if we get the chance to record these songs, this album will really be a treasure, with songs that people pass down. It has that kind of feeling to me. We’re hoping to record down in St. George this June with our friend Ryan Tilby, who originally got us together. We’ve been planning out the artwork for the CD jacket, too. My dear friend, Heather Solomon, who is a real, honest to goodness children’s book illustrator has been working on a beautiful painting for us. Everything looks, sounds, and feels so right. The only thing left for us to do is find the money to pay for recording, mixing, mastering, and printing. Lyndy and I are both indie artists, so for us, the best option was to launch a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. We’ve had it going for a little less than a week and we’re about a third of the way to our goal. If we don’t reach our goal, we won’t be able to do the project. I’ve been praying a lot, cheerleading a lot, and hoping a lot that we can make it happen before our fundraising time is up in mid May. If you’re here visiting my website, maybe you’re a fan. Maybe you have kids or know people who do, who might love this album when we get it done. It’s going to be called, “The Buddy System”. You can click on this link to see the rewards we are offering for your pledge, and you can watch a video where you can get to know Lyndy a little, and you can see us singing snippets of four of our songs. We also keep posting rough clips of the other songs on our Facebook pages. Follow along, and help if you can. You’d be my hero if you do.

I’m excited to keep you posted on things. The cover art is almost done, and there’s a really fun story behind it. That will be my next blog post. Stay tuned!

Need a neighbor gift? A fun Christmas party idea? Read this.

October 24th, 2015

It’s that time of year, the time I remind you about Christmas sheet music, bulk deals, and holiday shows! Let’s get right down to it.

1. Sheet music:
Some of you are already rehearsing for local Christmas performances and you’re looking for sheet music. I have a lovely Tyler Castleton arrangement of The First Noel that’s perfect for an alto. I have an original song about Mary, called, “I Just Knew”. I have an original song about Joseph called, “The Man Behind The Scenes”. I have a sacred tune that retells some of the miracles of the life of Christ, beginning with his birth, called, “One Star”. You can find it all here: http://www.cheriecall.com/music/gifts/ Now this is VERY IMPORTANT: When you purchase the sheet music, you are emailed a link immediately, then you download it to your own computer and print it yourself. NO HARD COPIES WILL BE MAILED. Please do not write a mean note to PayPal about me when it never shows up at your door.

2. Christmas CD’s!
My Christmas album, “Gifts”, is available here at cheriecall.com for an amazing $5. If you’d like to give lots of copies away as a neighbor or office gift, I have a fantastic bulk deal this year. If you order 10 or more, you can get them at $2.50 each. If you have a gigantic order of 100 or more, send me a note at callcherie@gmail.com and we can make a deal. As an added bonus, whenever you order at least one Christmas CD, I can throw in copies of my latest “Homeless Songs” CD for $5 each. To get these deals, you’d need to go to PayPal and make the payment to callcherie@gmail.com. Specify in the notes what you want, for example the CD title you want and how many. Please also specify where you want them sent. The bulk deals are not available through the usual buttons on my website. If you don’t like PayPal and prefer to send me a check, send it to Cherie Call, PO Box 281, Spanish Fork, UT, 84660. I will mail products when the check clears. Shipping is free on these orders, unless you need it rushed. Any questions, send me a note at callcherie@gmail.com.

3. Shows!!
I’m still working out all the details, but here’s what I’ve got so far. On December 7th-10th I’ll be singing as a part of The Lower Lights at Kingsbury Hall! After seven sold out shows last year at the Masonic Temple, we’re super sad that we’ve outgrown such an amazing venue, but also really excited to be at Kingsbury Hall. Tickets for these shows go on sale on November 2nd at kingsburyhall.com and you’ll want to act fast for great seats. More info will come soon about special guests on various nights. thelowerlights.com is a good place to get info about that. These are my very favorite shows of the whole year. If you’ve never experienced The Lower Lights, you have to check out a Christmas show.
As for my own shows, for now I can tell you that I’m performing for the FM100 mini concerts this year on Tuesday, December 15th at Sandy Southtown Mall, and the recording will be broadcast on the following Sunday evening. I have some new Christmas songs that I might decide to debut there. Come check it out! The show starts at noon. More info soon.

3a. House Concerts!
I have some space on my calendar to do a few house concerts. Would you like to host one? It’s a wonderful way to get into the Christmas spirit with your family and friends. If you’d like to know more, check out this handy guide.

Here’s what a house concert is:
You invite 30 or more of your friends and family to come to your house for a concert. You’d provide the space and seating. Maybe some refreshments. You could tell your friends to bring a treat to share. They’d come specifically for the concert, have a magical, intimate evening of music and have a treat. I would bring a tip jar with a suggested donation amount that I take with me at the end of the evening as payment for providing entertainment for your party. Not mandatory, but it would be courteous of your guests to donate 5 or 10 dollars and/or buy a CD or two. I come with my guitar and ukulele and sing songs for you. If you have a piano, I’ll use that, too. I’ll provide my own sound. I won’t advertise for the show on social media or my website because I’ll assume that you don’t want me to invite strangers to your house, so getting the audience there would be your responsibility. If you feel weird about a tip jar but still want me to come, we can agree on a flat fee for you to pay me, and I’d still sell CD’s in addition to that. These shows have to be local to Utah. Within about 100 miles of my house at the most. I can’t spend the night or travel by plane.

Here’s what a house concert IS NOT:
1. A church activity. Since I’m going to be selling products and requesting a voluntary donation, I’m not able to do these events in church buildings or for church sponsored activities.
2. Background music for a dinner party where guests will be visiting the whole time. My music is very lyric based. It is best enjoyed by a captive audience, people who are listening, who came especially for the music.
3. Me coming to sing to you and your immediate family of 5, or just you. This should be obvious, but just in case, I’m putting this out there that even though it would be fun to come visit you at your house, the purpose of these shows is to provide a festive evening for your friends and neighbors, and also, admittedly, for me to be able to sell CDs. And, I’m a 41 year old married mom of 4, so I’m not looking for a date.
4. An MLM meeting. You can rest assured, there will be no talk of downlines, Amway, eyelash extensions, miracle juices, Tupperware or essential oils. Not that there’s anything wrong with some of those things, it’s just not what I’m about. The only selling that will happen is a very soft sell of my CD’s, which mostly comes from me playing music and hoping you like it.

If you still think you might be interested, let me know right away. I have space in my schedule for two or three of these in mid December. Contact me at callcherie@gmail.com with details about what city you live in, how big of an event you have in mind, and dates you might like. Whew! We made it through that very long note! Thanks for your support!

The Second Time Around

September 2nd, 2015

I’m a total sucker for romantic stories about people being unexpectedly reunited with an old flame. It’s so cliche, I know. I can only think of one romance novel I’ve read in my life. (I promise. It was a Mormon romance novel and I only read it because it was given to me for free by the author who was sitting next to me at a signing table and she seemed nice. Nope, it wasn’t the vampire one. I haven’t read that and you can’t make me.) The whole premise of the novel was high school sweethearts meeting again by chance two decades later after life had beaten them down and finally all the stars aligned. My guess is that this formula is used by pretty much every romance novelist at least 15 times in the course of a writing career. And I can’t blame those authors, because it is so romantic!

Sometimes it happens in real life. Have you seen this? I mean, come on.

Something like this will never happen to me. I don’t carry any old torches around, and Joe and I have also agreed that he will die one second after I do, when we’re both very old and have met, loved, and nurtured all of our grandchildren. Actually we disagree on which person will die first but it will definitely be me. And if he hooks back up with an ex in that one second of time? He has my blessing.

I figured this meant that I’d have to just swoon over other people’s stories in the viral Facebook postings or maybe I would have to accidentally read another romance novel. But recently something kind of amazing happened to me. Did your vision get all wavy right now and did you start hearing harps? That’s because a flashback is about to happen.

When I was in the fourth grade, they told all the kids to pick a musical instrument to play. Not everyone did it. Most of my friends who did chose a band instrument like trumpet or clarinet. I chose violin, which put me in the orchestra. Violin was my destiny. I hadn’t dreamt all of my short life of playing the violin. I played it because my sister had played it for a while and now we had a spare violin laying around the house. It was the cheapest option for my parents and it helped me fulfill my usual goal of trying to be exactly like my big sister. And I really liked it. I was kind of a natural, actually. It seemed kind of heavy to lug to school, but once I was there playing, it felt so right. I didn’t really practice very much, but I always got first or second chair. I loved the sound of all the strings playing together. Sometimes I tried to make my voice sound like a stringed instrument. I think it influenced my singing style.

Time went on. Some of my friends started taking private lessons on their instrument, but I still settled for school orchestra. In junior high, I was still getting first or second chair all the time, and then one time we had chair auditions and I got first chair, but in the second violins. Which is still really good, I think. I can’t imagine that as a 13 year old it should have mattered very much to a girl like me, who never even practiced anyway. But something kind of changed after that. It was weird. I just started caring a little less. I think my teacher wanted me to try harder, but instead I tried less. The only time I ever got detention at school in my life was when I was sword fighting in orchestra with my violin bow. I coasted along for the rest of the year, and then I didn’t sign up for orchestra the next year. My mom thought maybe we should try private lessons, because it seemed to be something I might be able to become good at, and I still kind of liked it. One of our neighbors taught violin, so I signed up. I’m not sure what her deal was or if it was my fault, but for the many months I took lessons, I was never allowed to play anything but Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. I finally quit. My careless romance with the violin had come to an end. I hadn’t really treated it with enough respect. I didn’t work for it. It made sense for it to end.

Many years went by. I had a happy life with piano and eventually guitar. (This is where the analogy kind of falls apart. FYI, polygamy and affairs are not my thing, I promise.) But every now and then I wondered about what might have been.

Time only goes one way. I can’t go back and become the all star violin player I maybe should have been. But my longing to pick it back up recently became so great that I thought I’d see what would happen if a violin became a part of my life again. I figured the universe would sort it all out if I led the way. I asked my Facebook friends how to find a decent violin without spending millions of dollars. (when I was in college my parents traded in our violin to buy me a guitar. Which was stolen. A long story for another day. And once again, kind of making the analogy icky…anyway…) Boom, a neighbor let me borrow her violin! And then, boom, I discovered that my friend and old BYU Folk Ensemble instructor happens to be the dad of the best fiddle teacher ever, and she was taking new students!

I pulled the violin out and played a few scales to see how awful it would be. I did NOT play Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. My playing sure didn’t sound amazing but it felt right somehow. I was able to whip out a few tunes by ear. I started remembering what it felt like to be kind of predisposed to understanding it.

Yesterday was my first lesson. I was nervous. Nervous that she’d tell me my violin wasn’t expensive enough. Or that she thought I’d remember more of what I had known before. But she kept throwing things at me and out of nowhere I actually kind of knew how to do them. She kept saying, “This will probably be easy for you, you probably already know how, but practice this.” And I was too embarrassed to tell her that in this one lesson she had taught me more about playing the violin/fiddle than I had ever learned in all of my life. I had a nerdy grin on my face the whole time. I think I actually giggled with excitement when she told me how to fix my arm to make a scale sound better. It was like my eyes met across the room with that old flame, and we danced, and it was like no time had passed, except now I was smarter and better and willing to work harder and appreciate what we had. Holding and playing that violin lit me up with pure joy. I smiled all the way home and when Joe asked me how it went, I talked a mile a minute about nerdy things like scales and elbows and wrists. I practiced later that night and still loved it, even though it was challenging. Maybe even because it was challenging.

Today I practiced again. I really dug in. It was hard, but still fun. I still feel the electricity and excitement. I think this is the part in the relationship where you find out after all this time that your old flame was much more complicated, brilliant and intense than you gave him credit for long ago. Maybe he has kids now who don’t know if they will ever like you. Maybe in the end it won’t work out. And maybe it will never be as good as it would have been if you had never let each other go. But maybe it will be amazing and wonderful in a totally different way.

Whatever happens, I think it’s safe to say that for me and the violin, love is better the second time around. Maybe this is just what I never realized for all this time that I needed. Or maybe it will just be fun. I’ll keep you posted.

A Way of Traveling.

April 18th, 2015

I had a revelation today that I wanted to share. I do so here, knowing that it might not be of much help to most people. Only because I think it might not be possible to grasp the meaning of it until you go through the pain and trouble yourself to understand. At least I’m thick headed that way. Maybe you are too. I don’t know who you are, so you’d have to be the judge there.

Anyway, if you’ve been following me here for a while now, you’ve probably gathered that I’ve been going through some stuff. The past couple of years have been extra challenging for my music career. Some days were dark. I kind of feel like there have been times when I’ve stared the death of my creative life straight in the face. It’s been kind of gut wrenching. Most of it is too personal to share, but I feel like opening up enough to tell about what I’ve learned now that I’m on the other side of it. I feel stronger and better from it all. As difficult as it has been at times, there has been a huge payoff. I’ve already written a lot here on this blog about the creative benefits of starting fresh. That’s been a treasure to me. But I feel like my whole life has been changed by a deeper philosophy I finally understand. I feel like my eyes and heart have been opened to a concept that I used to think was just a silly cat poster, never knowing the depth of what it really meant.

I think the struggle in my music life has been going on much longer than a couple of years. Even when things have been at their best. Simply because from the beginning, no matter what exciting milestone I’ve hit, I’ve always been quick to say, “Maybe this will help me understand what’s next!” Like it was all leading me to some magical finish line. Success has always been this mysterious magical destination and being happy before I got there is something I thought would be lazy of me. When you feel this way you get frantic and jealous and embarrassed and when it comes time to share your gifts you’re terrified that you’ll blow it. I never realized that every performance isn’t an audition. It’s the destination. The celebration. An example of me just being me. I still wish for big things and I try for them. I still need to work hard and I do. But at this point in my life, I’ve had to ask myself, “What if this is it for my music life? What if there’s no worldwide fame and fortune? What am I doing right now to make my creative life magical, joyous, fun, generous, and happy? Don’t people want fame and fortune to make them happier? What if I can make the same depth of happiness happen right now? Why shouldn’t I?”

Whenever I can honestly answer those questions and put my energy into acting on the answers, good things immediately happen in every area of my life. I feel like I have more kindness and encouragement and creativity and joy to offer myself and everyone around me. The negative stuff kind of evaporates. That’s the gift. I wanted all of this to sound more profound and make a bigger impact to reflect the peace I feel at being able to more clearly put all of this in words today. But I guess all I can say in the end is this. Happiness is truly not a destination, but a way of traveling. And I don’t even have a cat.

Open Mic and The Devil

February 2nd, 2015

“Have you ever done this before?” my new friend asked. “No,” I lied. Well, really it wasn’t a lie. Truthfully, I had never played the open mic at Velour. I had never played at Velour at all. This was most certainly my first time. But I think by “this” he meant to ask me if I had ever played at an open mic, ever. I told him I had attended shows at Velour, but that I hadn’t ever played at the open mic. “Well, let me tell you. It’s different being on the other side. Being the one on stage. But don’t be afraid. It will be fun.” I smiled at him and thanked him for his encouragement. I told him he’d do great, too. We were sitting on the sidewalk in a long line outside that iconic Provo club on University Avenue. It was hot. I could tell that a lot of the other people in line were trying to put on a cool act. By the way some of them were tugging at their clothes and straightening their thick glasses, it seemed like a few people might have been wearing hipster garb for the very first time. How did I get there? Well, in a Toyota Camry, after lovingly pointing out the leftovers in the fridge to my family and peeling off a few crying children as I walked out the door. But I’ll have to go back farther than that to explain.

I have to go back to 2001. I had just released my third album. It was my first album with a record label, and it was my first album of religious music, after two independent albums of contemporary folk. My previous albums had taken me to some thrilling adventures at songwriting festivals in Texas, and even the new writer’s nights at The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. And tiny coffee shops in Utah, California, and Arizona for two or three listeners at a time. I was just getting started. And now I had a brand new record deal. My record company was flying me to stores all over the U.S. to do signings and play for shoppers. They were stores that primarily sold religious music, books, and gifts. I walked into a store in Dallas with my guitar. “Are you Cherie?” a worker asked. “Yes,” I replied. “Glad you’re here,” he said. “I like the new album. We carried your other two, and I have to say, I’m really glad you finally figured out how to make better music,” he said. “Better?” I asked. “Yes. Your other music had romantic songs, songs that were really inappropriate for our shoppers here. It’s like you didn’t even realize that some people come here right after worshipping in the temple,” he said. “Oh, well, I’m glad you like the new album,” I said, trying to stay positive. It was the first time I had heard anyone suggest that my earlier music was “inappropriate”. Had I been making Devil music??? To be fair, this guy wasn’t really a typical representation of the store workers at any of the other religious bookstores where I went. He was pretty zealous. But not completely unlike some of the shoppers at those stores.

Becoming an artist of inspirational music was something I kind of fell into by accident. I had a lot of really wonderful opportunities to write inspirational music that I couldn’t pass up, that came to me while I was on a different musical path. And I originally thought I could take both paths, but I’m human. Without knowing what was happening at first, I ended up changing course. I do not regret that journey. I spent about a decade very actively writing, recording, performing, and promoting my religious music in the LDS (Mormon) music industry. I was blessed by this in many ways. The most obvious blessing was that my husband and I fell in love when he was the sound guy on a musical tour for the LDS boy band called Jericho Road. I was the opening act. I went on to play some pretty big events in LDS music. The gig I’ll truly never forget, was getting to play at the LDS Missionary Training Center on Christmas night for thousands of missionaries. It was a really sacred and thrilling experience.

In my songwriting I tackled some topics that I truly wrote to heal and uplift myself, and I found that the songs were able to also bless others. I treasure the kind messages sent to me from people who loved and needed those songs. I still get messages like that sometimes, and they mean as much to me now as they ever have. It always makes my day. I think writing a song with a message is a hard thing to do well. I think it helped me become a better songwriter in general.

In a genre of music that is often lofty and every now and then in a little danger of being “holier than thou”, maybe I wasn’t holy enough. I wrote from my own perspective, which was far from Heaven, but still facing there, looking up at it, and letting it help me make sense of my earthly life. The guitar was the sonic foundation. Some people liked that. Others had too difficult of a time categorizing such a thing into their lives, especially the way LDS music was ten or fifteen years ago. Every now and then a really honest shopper would confess to me that they didn’t know what to do with my music. They liked it, but the drums and electric guitars and plain lyrics made it too casual for what they wanted to hear on Sunday, and not poppy enough for every day, when they would prefer to listen to Top 40. I ended up just having kind of a cult following for a few years. It was a relatively successful cult following. It makes me happy to think that maybe I reached a few people who hadn’t been reached before with that kind of music. I recorded several inspirational albums on two different labels, but in the end my sales numbers weren’t ever quite cosmic enough to be considered an undeniable success by a record label’s standards. And so this market that had originally overwhelmingly pulled me in, kind of naturally let me go.

I felt a little lost for a while. Along with my talents, was I given a calling from God that I wasn’t able to properly fulfill? I did a lot of soul searching and I’ll spare you most of the boring details of that. I can’t speak for everyone in the market of making inspirational music, but I think it’s easy for strange things to happen to your psyche when you make art that details your personal beliefs about God and salvation and grace and religion. You run into the danger of feeling like the measure of whether or not all those pieces of your heart are good enough is all based on how many people will literally buy it with money. It can add scary emotions to things that are normally more emotionally inanimate, like sales. But there are people who need inspirational music. I can think of times in my life when I’ve needed it a lot. It’s good for it to be made, it needs to be made, and somebody has to make it. But maybe I got to a place where I personally needed to at the very least take a break from so actively making it and selling it, and the universe provided one for me.

Taking a break from being a songwriter would have been impossible. It would have been like taking a break from being human. So I started writing the Homeless Songs. Non religious songs written just for the joy of songwriting. It was so refreshing. After some of the first performances, people came to me and told me they really loved the songs. One night I tried to figure out why I was so thrilled by comments like that after all this time. Suddenly I realized that it had actually been a very long time since someone had really complimented me on the sheer craft of my writing. When you write religious music, people compliment you by telling you that you must be very spiritual. And you either start letting it go to your head, or you know in your heart that you are no more spiritual than they are; you just put it into words and music in a way they hadn’t considered before. And you can’t fully accept the compliment. It still means something, and you still appreciate it in a different way. But none of that is exactly about songwriting. So, as worldly as it sounds, my heart leaped a little with joy when I heard people giving me actual, direct compliments about my writing.

I have to admit I’m still making my way. I’m trying to pick up where I left off before I switched paths, But the original path has changed a bit. It is all sort of like being a veteran and a beginner all at the same time. Sometimes that is scary, sometimes it’s a lot of fun, and most of the time it’s a little of each. As I was trying to figure it all out one night, my husband suggested, “if you really want to come closer to continuing what you started on in the beginning, maybe you need to actually make a specific effort to do the kinds of things you were doing 15 years ago.” That really made a lightbulb turn on over my head. It made a whole lot of sense. So, here I go. I’m entering songwriting competitions. I’m playing house concerts. I’m playing shows in the park where hardly anyone is listening sometimes. A few months ago, my husband and I put on an amazing show in the back of his equipment truck! (More about that in a future post!) I’m playing music for the sheer joy of it. And that’s how I ended up at open mic at Velour.

A lot of people in Utah recognize my name, but not many people can pick me out in a crowd. I change my hair all the time and I’ve been pregnant four times and I’m always a different weight. This made it pretty easy to kind of be anonymous to my fellow open mic pals that night. I just wanted to be taken seriously with no preconceived notions, no worries from others that I might feel entitled to any extra kindness or praise in a place they might not have even thought I belonged. I just wanted to be like everyone else. But Corey Fox recognized me immediately as I walked in. He smiled and said, “Hey, it’s been a long time!” I had played at some of the other venues he managed many years ago. It had been at least a decade since we had interacted in any way though, I’m fairly sure. His kindness put me more at ease. He stamped my hand and I signed the list.

I still had some butterflies but as I looked around at the nervous people, I noticed that some people were really tense, wondering if this performance could be their big break. Maybe they’d get booked there for a real show. Maybe they’d eventually play at the Provo Rooftop, if only they could do a good enough job. As I witnessed all the anxiety, my own jitters left me. Even though I was about 20 years older than everyone there, and not cool enough to be wearing hipster clothing. I felt comfortable in my own skin and I wanted to just cheer everyone on. It was a fantastic open mic. I have to say, Provo, Utah is crazy talented. I felt honored to play there at Velour and when it was my turn, I had a great time. I played with no thought of the next gig. I just did it for love. I’ll probably do it again.

I’m trying to figure out why I was walking on air as I went back out to my car and headed home. Maybe because I felt at home in a place where I wasn’t sure I’d be accepted before that night. Maybe because it just made sense and felt good. When I got home and got into the light of my living room, I glanced down at my hand and realized that the hand stamp was a cartoon character of a devil. It made me smile. As a lifelong Mormon I have heard all the sermons about how important it is to avoid evil music. To not listen to music with profanity and explicit lyrics. And I still think that’s important. But right now, to me, the most evil Devil music is when he whispers in my ear that I can’t do something. That I’m done. That something I always treasured about myself isn’t real or good enough. Devil music is the silence that happens when you hide your true gifts.

I can’t say that I’ve turned my back on writing and recording religious music. I don’t think I’m done writing it and I’m not necessarily done performing it. I wouldn’t want to apologize for my religious albums any more than I would have wanted to apologize to that first store worker about my two folk albums. It has all come from the same real place in my heart. But I’m starting to realize that I’ve never believed that being a religious artist it is the only worthy or blessed use of talent. I believe that whether I have written songs with big messages, or songs that are just about yellow moons, magic carpets and karaoke bars, the making of it all is always a spiritual experience. The songs don’t have to change the world or even be heard by the entire world in order to be valuable. So I keep writing them. I don’t really know what the future holds. I’m just doing what I have always done. I’m trying to drown out the devil, one song at a time.