Sunday, May 27, 2012

Introductory Prattle

Welcome to my blog! I've been procrastinating about writing one for the past couple of years, and am taking advantage of my five-month break from college to begin.

My name is Carolyn Soyars. My “maiden” name (was I ever really a maiden?) was Carolyn Edwards, and that is still the name under which I perform music. Though it is not my bread-and-butter (if it was, I'd have surely starved by now), it is my favorite hobby in the world. I played in bands for many years, and will be writing some (hopefully amusing) posts about my various experiences.

I abandoned my dream of rock stardom when I was about 29, and have frankly been enjoying life much more ever since. I'm currently 47, and even if I had become a huge music star, in a music industry obsessed with age I'd surely be approaching the “witching hour." (Yes, I realize Madonna's in her 50's, but she's an anomaly; not every celebrity is fortunate/fabulous enough to be carried on a golden throne onto the Super Bowl stage, in full Cleopatra regalia, by her handsome Egyptian dancer slaves.) I don't at all regret not having “made it,” but have come to realize over the years it was a blessing in disguise. Younger people might roll their eyes and say, “Yeah, right,” but the people my age probably know what I'm talking about. More on this later.

I have a job as a copyright supervisor at a music publishing company, which I won't be writing about very often because 1) it's boring to anyone who doesn't work in that world, and 2) I don't want to be fired for writing about my day-to-day experiences at the company on a public blog. I will say that I enjoy it, especially the nerdy, research part of my job in which I get to search through old song files from the 30's and 40's. The crumbling, decades-old letters between struggling songwriters and the cigar-chomping executives supposedly guiding their careers, are often amusing and sometimes painful (songwriters were so naive back then). It's a fascinating aspect of my job which makes me think about eventually working as a library or museum archivist; I love digging into old historical documents and letters.

As far as my music – will tell you everything you would ever want to know. Though I usually play several shows throughout the year as a keyboardist for other bands and projects, I only perform with my band (under Carolyn Edwards) once a year or so. (Why? The simple answer is I'm busy working full-time and also going to college part-time. It takes less time to play for other people than to organize my own shows.) These occasional shows are usually performed at my favorite little Echo Park French restaurant (okay, the only French restaurant in Echo Park), Taix (pronounced “tex,” not “tay.”). It's a small, dark lounge, with very 70's decor, and it's packed on Friday and Saturday nights with lively, chattering people of all ages. People can order a delicious French meal (I recommend the trout almondine) and enjoy a quality dinner while seeing bands. It's a very “grown-up” venue for music (as opposed to standing for hours in a crowded, dingy club and drinking cheap beer; it seems like my friends and I are well beyond that stage in our lives now). 


I recorded my eponymous album “Carolyn Edwards” and released it in 2006. The (rather lengthy) recording process and the eventual release of the CD gave me a great sense of artistic and personal satisfaction. It was well-received critically and was played on college radio stations in small towns I didn't even know existed (thanks to a college radio promotion campaign). Unfortunately, it was released right around the time record stores were collapsing, and right before most people started buying their music via downloads. Several friends of mine and I had a little co-op label called True Classical (an incredibly misleading name; not my idea). True Classical had distribution, but at the time my CD was released, Tower Records went out of business, along with many other record stores. And none of the songs from my CD landed that major film and T.V. placement I'd been hoping for (the holy grail for musicians nowadays, as it's difficult for indie artists to make money from CD sales). So needless to say, I didn't see a return on my investment.
The practical side of me thinks it's ridiculous to spend all that money again and release another CD (I'm not romantic enough to “do it for art's sake”), not to mention trying to find the time to record between a full-time job, college and my personal life. Still, perhaps I'll record and release another one eventually. Since I don't write, record and perform music for a living, there is no motivating factor to do so other than for the love of the music, and also no established time frame - I could record it next year, or I could do it when I'm 60.

In other music news – my husband and I have recently formed a folk duo called Dave & Carolyn, in the spirit of Ian & Sylvia (and, more importantly, Mitch & Mickey from “A Mighty Wind”). One of the appealing aspects of a folk duo such as this is its extreme low maintenance. Our act consists solely of vocals, acoustic guitars, and a melodica I purchased recently from McCabe's. There are no rehearsals to pay for as we can rehearse at home, and no lugging of heavy equipment to the shows. The word “organic” is overused nowadays in describing acoustic music, but there is something pretty cool about not having to plug in; we could play our music anywhere, at any time. There is also a great satisfaction and excitement in discovering “new music” as old as the 1700's, and participating in the folk music tradition in our own little way. 

We perform mostly covers and traditional music, and have been playing the second Tuesday of each month at the Unurban Cafe in Santa Monica. I'll definitely be writing a whole post about the experience of playing there, which has been both positive and – how shall I put this? - an extreme test of our patience. The last gig was the most trying of all of them, but, as a rock drummer I used to work with philosophized daily, “It is what it is.” Yep, the Unurban "is what it is." I view the Unurban shows as free rehearsals, the chance to entertain a few friends on a weeknight, and a challenge in getting the Unurban college student regulars to occasionally glance up from their homework and watch us. It is also really fun to play this music, and to play instruments (guitar and melodica) that I usually don't play otherwise. Eventually Dave and I hope to play other venues, but despite its, ummm, quirks, the Unurban is a fun place to start.

Oh, and if I don't have enough to occupy my time with – did I mention I'm a part-time college student? I'm nearing the end of month two of a five-month long break, then classes will once again commence at the end of August. (I will be writing much about the joys and challenges of being a middle-agedcollege student.) After avoiding college for years, I started attending in spring of 2010, and found that I loved it! My goal is to earn my AA in English and to then transfer to Mount St. Mary's Weekend College, which seems to be the best option for working adults.

I have done extensive research on various college options for working adults, and I'll be writing about my experience here. Hopefully it will help other adults in a similar situation, who are thinking about attending or returning to college. It's not as intimidating as it seems! Plus, working adults, who have had years of real life and work experience and hopefully a degree of self-education, often excel in their studies more than kids who attend  collegeimmediately after high school. (I was added to both the president's and the dean's honor list for last year, which I guarantee you would not have been the case when I was 20!)

This concludes my Introductory Prattle.  Thanks for indulging me. I've always had fun with occasional blogging on Myspace (remember Myspace?) so this is something I hope to regularly contribute to, work and college permitting. Future prattles will be dwell further on college and music adventures, as well as other obsessions like vintage Disneyland and Victorian literature.