Give It Away [on Very Flawed Wednesday]

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There’s a yearly ritual in our home that I have come to dread. The arrival of the BMI statement. Broadcast Music, Inc., one of the performing rights organizations (royalty collectors) that track and collect royalties for the worldwide play of Kerri’s music. If I could hide the envelope and feel good about myself I would do it.

The BMI envelope evokes a dark cloud. Kerri clutches it and disappears into a corner of the house where she meticulously adds the numbers. With each number, her inner emotional rubber band winds tighter and tighter and tighter until it approaches the snapping point. I hear mutters and curses, “Listen to this,” she shouts to no one, “27,000 plays and I made a whopping 6 cents! 50,000 plays and get this! I made 6 bucks! Six whole bucks!!!”

I stand by, phone in hand, ready to dial the medical rescue squad. If her exclamation is ever followed by hysterical laughter, I’m dialing. I swear it.  “Are you alright?” I call out as part of the ritual. There is never a reply, just more clicking sounds from her phone calculator. Click, click, click…More mutters. More frustration. More anger. She is no longer adding numbers, she is adding abuses. Stacking her fury. She is consciously stoking her discontent.

I lose her for days in the black BMI cloud. Ritual anger. Hot fire.

In the old world, these numbers would add up to a very healthy living, a very successful career. In the new world, the numbers mean Apple Music and Spotify and Rhapsody and SoundCloud and YouTube…are making a healthy living on her music and the work of other independent artists. The artists are circumvented from realizing the profits of their work.

“You know it’s coming,” I tell her, “so why put yourself through this every time? You aren’t going to change it.” My ritual appeal.

She doesn’t acknowledge my question. She doesn’t acknowledge my presence. Click, click, click…”Oh Great!” she exclaims! “I’ve had a decrease! Last time it was .00079 and now it’s .00074! OF A CENT!”

I go to the far side of the house where DogDog is hiding from the dark and angry storm. We sit together, DogDog and me, phone at the ready.

The thing is, I agree with her. It is not fair. It is not right. It is a sign of the times that the organizations intended to protect her rights are active participants in selling her out. They make more money by ensuring that the artists makes less. Far less. “It costs them more per penny to send me the check than I’m getting per performance play!” she writhes. “Ten Times As Much!” She’s done the calculation; her indignation is numerically exact.

It is also not healthy to obsess on it. They’ve literally taken her livelihood. For several weeks each year she freely gives them her sanity. She drop-kicks her peace out the door. Her health suffers. Her heart breaks. And, for some reason, she waits with anticipation for the next letter to come so she can descend into darkness and rail again at the injustice. It’s as if the BMI letter is the only real, last remaining validation to her artistry. Over a million people enjoy her music each year.  The red hot anger is her only remaining thread to that deep rich pool of creativity.

In the meantime, she refuses to go into her studio and compose.”Why Bother!” she shouts to no one listening. Click, click, click…

She has, of course, given them far more than they have taken. During one of these rituals, the rubber band will snap as happens to all artists who turn against their artistry. After the snap, after I dial the phone and the good people come to take the pieces away, I will play her albums – all of them – and listen to the life-giving beauty that came from that deep creative pool before she could no longer see beyond the BMI betrayal, before she allowed the clicking numbers to parch her wild abundant artistry.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BMI

 

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Pop Your Bubble [on KS Friday]

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There is a sad mantra in the not-for-profit world: people don’t give money, time, or attention to “causes” until the cause impacts them personally. It has to be personal – it has to be MY son-with-cancer or MY daughter-who-was-shot-at-school or MY community-that-has-no-grocery-store in order for us to care beyond the superficial.  In other words, it is someone else’s problem until it knocks on MY door.

The word “cause” provides some cover – it keeps the cancer at arm’s length. It abstracts and sanitizes. The word “poll” does the same thing. Throughout this pandemic we’ve actually reduced the reality of the virus to a number that indicates personal belief, which has nothing to do with the virus and everything to do with whether or not  it has penetrated your personal bubble. To date, there are over 2 million bubbles impacted and, of those, 113,000 deaths. That is 113,000 people who, on New Year’s Day 2020, had every reason to believe they’d see 2021. Their belief number sits solidly at 100%. Their family’s belief number is way up there, too.

Masks have become a split symbol – or perhaps better stated, a symbol of our split. Wearing a mask is meant, as we all know, to protect others. It is not a measure of personal protection which is perhaps why it is so messy an issue here in these United States. We’ve somehow managed to transmogrify a gesture of protecting our neighbors into an assault on individual rights. It is not merely a consistent problem, it is a national pattern. The pattern plays itself with great symphonic insanity every time we have another mass shooting and can do no more than offer condolences to the dead.  It is the river that runs beneath the richest and most innovative nation on earth and its inability to provide affordable (or any) health care to its citizens. We keep ourselves brilliantly schizophrenic by insisting that this abundant creative citizenry is only capable of considering two choices. EITHER individual rights OR what’s best for the community! BOTH/AND is nowhere to be found. “We” is the word we run from.

This morning Kerri read an article about a server going back to work at a restaurant. She does not feel safe. Her customers are solidly in their bubbles caring only for their dining experience and not their server’s health. Our daughter supplements her life by bar tending and serving. Kerri cried. It’s personal.

She chose her song for this week’s melange in that moment. EVERY BREATH. And, ironically, it is found on the album AS IT IS. The present condition. Every breathe; as it is. It reads like the I-Ching: The air you breathe. The air I breathe. No difference.

One bubble. And, like it or not, believe it or not, we all inhabit it.

 

EVERY BREATH is on the album AS IT IS. Find it on iTunes

 

read Kerri’s blog post about EVERY BREATH

 

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every breath/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 

helping hands ©️ 2011 david robinson

Keep Playing [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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As I reported several weeks ago, if you where standing on the far side of the piano, you’d never know Kerri was playing with casts on both of her wrists. You’d never know that she was playing with two broken wrists, her right thumb completely out of the line-up. Nine fingers doing the job of ten.

As a composer, singer-songwriter, a person whose entire career, her livelihood, has been about playing the piano, she was at the keyboard four days after her fall. She had to know if she could play. I couldn’t believe my eyes or my ears. In my best mother hen voice, I suggested, “Maybe you should wait a bit.”

“I have to know,” she said with THAT tone in her voice.

When I first met her, I took note that she stands when she plays the piano. She is not a bench sitter. Rather, she is a full-body player. She is a full body composer. Sometimes the piano literally hops with the force of her playing. She is little but grows exponentially in energy and presence when she steps up to the keys. The first time she played for me I had to step back from the power that came through her.

Now, several weeks into her mending time, the casts are off and the splints are on. I tell her that they make her look all Mad Max. Michael Jackson’s glove is bush-league compared to her performer-fashion-statement: double black splints.  She looks like a pugilist getting into the ring with her piano. The disparity between her bruiser-piano-vogue and the beautiful music she creates makes my head swirl.

Of course, all of that piano punching has brought a new hurdle in the wrist recovery saga: tendonitis. She went on a Google frenzy when the hard nodules began forming in her palm. They hurt. “My palm is on fire!” she said, “What do you think they are?” Google inflamed her already wild imagination with horror diagnoses and none of the scenarios were good. In fact, they were downright dire.

Doctors were called. Photos of palms sent. A scary foray into the medical facility mid-pandemic was arranged. She emerged from the facility, pulled off her protective mask and climbed into the truck. “Well?” I prompted.

“I didn’t touch anything,” she announced.

“I’m asking about your hands,” I huffed. “What did they say about the nodules growing in your hands?”

“My tendons don’t like that I’m playing with casts,” she said. “Probably tendonitis.”

“That’s good news!” I said and she hit me with THAT look. “Okay, so. Well. Not great news. What are you supposed to do?”

“Keep playing,” she said, looking out the front window. “They gave me some exercises. Advil. But, I keep playing. What else can I do?” she asked, a question not to me.

“Good then. You’ll keep playing.” My mother hen suggestion went unvoiced: maybe some rest? I didn’t want to be hit with THAT look two times in a row. Instead, knowing full well that she is not a bench sitter, knowing that she is a full-body artist and that, for her, to play is to heal, I said, “Okay. Let’s do it. Let’s keep playing.”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE SAGA CONTINUED

 

 

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Become It [on KS Friday]

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Kerri wrote AND NOW for us. For me. It is the piece of music that played as I walked down the aisle. I can’t hear it without being transported back to that moment. Then is now.

The only time I’ve been in the recording studio with her was when she laid down the tracks for AND NOW. It was magic. She was completely in her element, doing what she does naturally and best. I was utterly taken by her mastery, her ease. She recorded it the week prior to our wedding, when the to-do list was endless and the guests were literally knocking on the door. Needless to say the stress was palpable. And yet, she sat at the piano in the studio and played, she stood in front of the mic and sang, and the rest of the demands of the moment simply fell away. There was nothing between her and her composition. She became her music. She lived her song.

It’s what I thought about as I walked down the aisle that day. Eternal thanks. Wonder at a universe that connected the dots. And now? Nothing more or less than living the song in the same spirit in which it was written and recorded. Nothing between us and the music.

 

AND NOW is available on iTunesiTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about AND NOW

 

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andnowcopyright2015kerrisherwood

Intend The Mess [on KS Friday]

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I suspect Kerri chose SCATTERED because it is how we feel right now. A new place. New work with no definitive direction. We will create direction and intention later. Our job is to watch. To listen. To study. To learn a culture and all of the layers of relationship and nuance that implies.

I was encouraged when I listened this morning to SCATTERED. It is hopeful. Bright. Playful. It is filled with determination, like a child racing through a spring meadow. It lifted my spirits and encouraged a good old fashioned exploration trip.

The first really fun step in making any good puzzle is to scatter the pieces. To make an intentional mess, a deliberate challenge. That is the sparkling theme driving Kerri’s spirit-lifting composition, SCATTERED.

 

SCATTERED on the album RIGHT NOW is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SCATTERED

 

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scattered/right now ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

Smile And Yearn [on KS Friday]

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I am a sap for things that at the same time lift my spirit and make me yearn. The great gift of nostalgia, the double-edge of happy memories. It is the gift of great art to open those double doors.

THE TWO OF YOU gently opens those doors. It is my go-to piece when I want a good warm smile of remembrance that evokes a healthy dose of tears. It is one of the pieces that begs me to hit the ‘repeat’ button and play over and over again. Just once more…

The cello line and strings in THE TWO OF YOU kill me. Every time I listen to Kerri’s compositions supported by an orchestra, I am astounded by the deep-river-ease flowing through the conversation between the instruments. In THE TWO OF YOU, I am pulled into that deep current and carried away to a place that breaks my heart with smiling.

 

THE TWO OF YOU on the album AS IT IS available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE TWO OF YOU

 

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the two of you/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 

Appreciate It [on KS Friday]

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Yesterday we drove the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive to see the fall leaves. It was our anniversary gift to each other. A day off. A day away. A conscious decision to step out of the busy-list of to-dos, the concerns and stresses, the tug and pull and demands…. What could be a better gift to each other than presence with each other. Time less wandering with intent to appreciate.

Every Breath could be the soundtrack of our gift-drive. The crisp air, the glow of the leaves (“Look at that hillside!” she gasped). An utter appreciation of all things passing. Every Breath.

On another note, if the cello line in this piece doesn’t kill you, then you need to take the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive and wake up. Kerri’s compositions were made to be played with the rich depth of a symphony. Every Breath will make you catch your breath. It’s gorgeous like the leaves.

 

EVERY BREATH on the album AS IT IS available on iTunes and CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about EVERY BREATH

 

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every breath/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood