Wednesday, February 26, 2014

New England, New Album (Day Three & Four, Recording)

        Welcome back true believers!  Where were we? Ah, yes, we have been staying with our friend, my collaborator D.o.drent and if you haven't downloaded his free project on bandcamp yet, you ought to. it's not the most polished work but it has so much heart and raw potential and passion, and it is based on this and knowing how he could affect the people of the world and that he sincerely desires to, if only he were to cultivate his talents more so, that drove me to attempt to work with him and provide any sort of help I could.  On "All With Good Intentions" he is reaching hard to make a statement and a difference, to embrace his alternative Straight Edge culture and his unorthodox and open support of the LGBT community, which is refreshing and admirable.  Additionally, for every download, regardless of if you contribute money, he donates a dollar to "Get Equal Ohio" an LGBT activist group started by his friend Autumn.

The Studio (Sunday 2/16/14)

    Come Sunday, it was freezing cold and snowy.  It was the first recording day we were scheduled for with Ryan Stack at Format Audio in Amesbury, Massachusetts, which was an hour and a half from Owen's place.  Ryan has quite a lot of experience, although none with hip-hop music, and one the albums he did ("The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die" album that he engineered, Whenever, If Ever ended up going gold!) We had a freezing and snowy long drive ahead of us, I was suddenly getting sick, my nose congested and my throat hurting.  I've found this happens probably 50% of the time that I have scheduled studio time, I don't know why this is, but it is very frustrating and scary, especially being that I was away for this opportunity to do so.  Luckily, this condition, although it worsened over the day and the next, did not affect my breath control or the sound of my voice at all!  After grabbing some decongestant, energy drinks, apples and a bunch of trail mix and gas on the way (of course, tagging the gas station pump with an AllOne sticker) we began our drive.  During the lengthy trip Owen and I listened to Run The Jewels and practiced our lines and talked out ideas regarding the album.  
     I had a spoken word piece that I wrote as a guest outro to Owen's song "Walking Nightmare" as well as both of my solo songs to record and our two collaborative songs.  Our session was only 6 hours and we were nervous about getting it all done in time, especially considering Owen hadn't even had all of his material completed.  One boon was that I was very familiar with my solo songs as I've been done with them and performing them for about a year now so I knew everything by heart and generally how I wanted things to sound as far as the mixing and effects.  I was also a little nervous anticipating working with someone on a serious project that wasn't Michael Korb for the first time in a professional environment.  There have been a handful of people I've recorded verses or singles with, but primarily my entire recording experience has been through Sixth Street Studios/Space Debris Productions with Mike Korb and his patience and our longstanding friendship was an environment I'd come to be accustomed to and maybe even dependent on when it came to recording.   

                                             Format Audio, Working with a New Producer
      We arrived in Amesbury around 2pm, it's a quaint little town and the studio was in a modest red brick building in a snow-ridden space that Ryan was renting out to utilize as the headquarters of Format Audio.  Luckily Ryan was really accommodating and patient, he was professional and easy to work with.  We had decided the priority was to get all my material done first since it was rare that I'd be here.  The first thing we recorded was my poem, this was an auspicious and interesting start.  The way that Tony Mahoney's beat for "Walking Nightmare" ended initially was with a bit of piano and then the beat came back in for a while.  I decided that it would have sounded better if ti were just the piano part while I did my poem so that I wasn't to be compelled to stay on beat and to truly maintain the general rhythmic lawlessness of my spoken word piece.  This being decided, Ryan asked me how long he should make it.  I threw a guess out there "I don't know, 60 seconds?"  Owen, somehow says "Run the piano part for 70 seconds Ryan", though I don't know how he got 70 from 60.  Regardless, I performed the poem perfectly in one take and Owen's odd misinterpretation ended up perfectly ending my piece with the last two letters right after the music ends. It was so serendipitous and perfect, it was very encouraging and funny!  
     While I worked on my songs, Owen productively used the time to work on his final verse for the project.  During those next few hours I recorded my solo songs for the project.  The first song I did was "Work In Progress", a raw and confessional song discussing the idea that we are always changing and encountering challenges and finding flaws in ourselves.  In the song I share a lot of personal woes and standpoints, as well as acknowledging my history as a wild aspiring stuntman when I was younger.  My overall message is that is important is to maintain a persistent willingness to evolve, to love yourself and the ebbing and flowing world around us, and to humbly improve upon ourselves and encourage others to do the same. "Ideally I wish I'd whisper 'sweet nothings' in your ears, but really I'll just speak so much you'll wish I wasn't there. My heart isn't encased in any sort of picture frame, it ripped the cage and slipped away much like the Grinches' eh?"  
         The second song I recorded, which I ended up asking Owen to do some guest vocals on, is called "Quality Vs. Quarantine". It is about my personal romantic history as well as examining and cautioning against being so cynically guarded that you shut yourself out from the beautiful things of the world.  At a certain point, caution becomes a diseases in itself.  "Intense, advanced or cultured, this mentally relaxed persona is actually a fragile, vulnerable bundle of nerves I control with intent to use empathy to effectively represent life vividly." It is a tribute to the spurned, a helping hand and a hope to remind us that while it's important to learn from the past, we should be careful not to let our wounds restrictively govern us!
        I sing on the choruses of both of these songs, making use of that new found passion, and always hoping to evolve the vision and contribute new aspects of myself to what I make.  Owen and I then started working on the closing track of the album that he creatively spearheaded called   "Cause and Effect".  We have a call and response interaction on the chorus and we both get long solo verses as well as an aforementioned 32 bar verse that we trade 4 bar phrases on.  I feel that "Cause and Effect" is a great song with strong writing and delivery over an instrumental that is uplifting and amazing. It is a beautiful way to end the album.
     Around 8:30 we had to wrap up and we still had the title track of the album, the last collaborative song, my brainchild, to do.  Ryan was generous enough to agree to have us come in for another three hours the next day on Monday the 17th.
We drove home tired but ecstatic to have the end of this long and interesting journey in sight!

The Final Day and Final Song! (Monday 2/17/14)
I woke up Monday morning with my throat killing me and my nose paradoxically runny and yet congested.  I was not happy about this at all and was really nervous about how it'd affect the recordings.  Owen was dead tired having worked eight consecutive days prior to my arrival.  We got breakfast at Friendly's and was working on Owen's verse that he'd written at the studio the day before.  We rapped back and forth and brainstormed and cleaned up and contributed to what I feel is a really solid verse from him (his solo verse on the song "Creative Differences").  "Creative Differences", a sort of alternative music/lifestyle anthem to introduce the project, a proud forewarning of the unorthodox nature of our styles and approaches both stylistically and in terms of subject matter.  It is some of my strongest and most direct writing and precisely issues a challenge to the listeners, to other musicians and a reminder that I/we will always endeavor to challenge ourselves, for that is what defines an artist!   We were certainly tired but our spirits were high, and all motivated we headed back out to an earlier session in the studio, arriving about quarter to 1.  
We cleaned up some parts we had scrutinized from the session before and went in wholeheartedly on the last of the material.  Ryan was really in sync with us this second day and was even more socially involved with us and Owen and I had gotten into a productive rhythm that was no-nonsense but also was amiable and positive.  We got our songs done and I feel and felt really good about them.  All that was left to do was do some mixing and mastering as well as sample in some voice-mails that we had collected over the past year or so to tie the project together and the theme of our experience as friends and artists, a testament to the connective power of music.  We thanked Ryan enthusiastically, surprised and glad to have gotten everything done!!  

Job Done, Just Begun, The Support of Friends and Family.     
   Owen was completely done overall and we opted out of attending a Boston poetry slam.  As though to make up for it he treated us both to an incredible offshoot of Chipotle (you may remember this as Alexa Dexa and my tour food of choice) called Cilantro in Providence.  We then went back to his house to visit his funny brother Myles' friends Julien, Joe and Remy, all of whom were really hilarious and kind to me.  We talked and watched funny internet videos and bad rappers and just goofed off.  They all generously (including Owen's Mom Libby) bought CD's and t-shirts and asked me to sign them and overall it ended up paying for my portion of the recording, which was incredibly humbling and amazing.  So much love to all of those guys for supporting me and making me feel like someone special, I hope I can return the favor!  We ended up hanging out until maybe one in the morning despite having to be up at 5am to get to my 6:45 Megabus from Providence to NYC and return home.  
     The trip went differently than we both expected, we didn't perform at all but we spent a lot of time together, we created something we were proud of, we are on track to releasing a work of art that we are proud of and genuinely feel will contribute something to listeners.  We got along well and met a lot of new people and learned things about one another and ourselves.  We went from distant friends and artistic collaborators to close friends with inside jokes and a work of art we will give the world in a few months and feel justified in doing so.  I am grateful to have this experience. Many thanks to Owen and his family for posting me up and supporting me and believing in my music and my visions, for being family to me!   
Now all the post recording work needs doing, we are on schedule, I got my photo shoot done and half my half of the artwork finished, Owen has a photo shoot planned and we are waiting on Ryan Stack to send us mixes back.  We will release the album in may and celebrate and share its release in June on a tour which we will begin planning around several states and across the northern border into Canada!  If anyone would like us to come out to see us anywhere, plan a show with us, share a living room/stage/couch/night/weekend with us, please contact me at

Thank you all for staying tuned in, I hope to affect you positively.  Go connect with people despite (or because of) your differences! You will surely find yourself enriched and surprised!
Much love!


New England, New Album (Day Two, Writing)

Welcome back to the continued chronicles of my Massachusetts trip, album recording adventures with North Attleboro's own "D.o.drent" my travel host/album collaborator and friend! Feel free to read the account of the prior day of arrival HERE!

Turn (Snow?)Pitfalls To Windfalls (Feb 2/15)
  I woke around 6am and started my day as I always do, reading.  Then I began working on some of the writing I was doing (for this piece "Flesh" for an avant garde sort of ep I've been writing on and off for a while).  I found that I wake much earlier than Owen and, in his words: "My friends say I've got an overbearing amount of energy but you're on another level from me even, I don't know how you do it.".  I think I'm just really hard on myself about relaxing so I'm sort of frantic and hyperactive, it certainly isn't always a good thing!  Regardless, I started my day as I always do, reading.  There was snow on the ground and, according to Owen's mother Libby, there was more impending.  Our agenda for the day was really to finish writing our material for the record in anticipation of the studio the following day, and to attend a rap cypher at Providence's own AS220 at night.  Around 11am Owen and I headed out to a quaint local owned diner called JD's and ate delicious breakfasts (mushroom/cheese/franks hot sauce omelet? My tongue is drowning in watery reminiscence!)  We thought out some more lines and figured some verses, laughing self-consciously about these older folks starting their morning with some young jerks mumbling through raps excitedly over breakfast.

 Snowed in: 12 Hours Of Writing and Rehearsing
   We returned to the house as the snow began falling harder and upon arrival, were informed that there was definitely a foot or so impending, and it's likely a parking ban would be issued in Providence, preventing us from attending the event.  Rather than get upset, we just took it as an opportunity to work more on our material.  We now had an entire day and night snowed in to rehearse our songs, write the pieces we had to    (Owen and I both had material for two songs to do for the Sunday afternoon recording sessions tomorrow).  That being said, we holed up and worked on songs for roughly ten hours, taking breaks to eat and freestyle, toss ideas back and forth and just got to know each other better as people and as artists.  Prior to this, I'd never really collaborated with another writer/rapper.  I mean, Mr. Phillips and I did a few songs together, where he generously invited me on a guest verse (Check out his debut album "Songs For Selena") but never  sat down in a room with a person and wrote with them.
       Owen's writing style is different than mine, which is to be expected.  His musical influences are totally opposite of mine for the most part, despite the origin of our friendship being a mutual appreciation for FL rapper 24/7 he writes very dense referential lyrics, similar to what I do, the difference being rather than most of my work being phonetic or simile-based plays on words with references, he utilizes a densely clever patchwork of nods to song titles/album titles and band names to create a sort of lyrical quilt or ransom note to paint his pictures and get his points across.  Admittedly, a lot of what he says goes over my head, but then he breaks down why it's intricate and intelligent and I'm blown away by the amount of puzzle-riddle-meticulous work he has put in.  Grindcore/hardcore music fans will probably need GPS diapers (because they're going to lose their shit) in the event of hearing his verses.  He has grown a lot as a writer and performer in the year or so that I've come to work with him, and in the least condescending way possible, I'm proud of him and the direction he is taking his talent.  The work I've put in on this project has been undoubtedly my most vulnerably introspective and stripped down to date.  The messages and honesty I've worked to impart on this small batch of songs are on a totally different and from the response thus far, emotionally impacting level than much of my previously, perhaps more cryptic or esoteric and philosophy driven work.  I am eager to share it with you, for I'm very proud of it.
    By nightfall exhausted, excited, and elated I finished writing my last song worth of material with him, (A song he came up with called "Cause and Effect" which will be the album closer) and continued to tweak it syllable by syllable tediously and obsessively as I always do.  I use the song as a platform to ponder who I am as a person and an artist, what my motives are and how I've gotten here, what this means to me.  We got to do a 32 bar final verse where we trade off four bar phrases and that was a really fun new experience for me.  It reminded me of a new era version of what I do at the end of Origami Observance with Joli Ienuso or at the end of Intertwining Storytime on my own.  This segment is particularly strong I feel, some of my most lyrically clever/intricate work on the project as a matter of fact!  I endeavored to end the album with boldly optimistic and strong statements regarding dedication to my craft, to myself and most importantly, that listeners will realize this same necessity for passion in their lives!
"The world a stage, one act play, we don't bow after
curtains closing. We, child actors? Earn Tonys! "wow-factor-in-
spread smiles past your sadness, Pagliacci performed that best!
Your role in Wonderland? The Looking Glass a Rorschach Test" 
-My last lines on the album during"Cause & Effect"
Come back again to hear about the last two days in the studio recording of the album! 
You'll always work harder if you love your work, but if you truly love it, you'll never notice it or care!
Much love,

New England, New Album (Day One, The Arrival)

Hey AllOne Family I've got great news! My new album with D.o.drent "Creative Differences: A Split" has been entirely recorded (at Format Audio by Ryan Stack in Amesbury Massachusetts) and just needs some mixing and design work and to be pressed and we are on schedule to release it in May!  I stayed with Owen from Friday February 14-18th (tuesday)! Here is an overview of the trip in a series of thoughts and anecdotes...

Connecting With People Old and New (Friday 2/14)

 The night before I left, I stayed with my Grandma, so we could spend time together and I could leave my car there and she could bring me over to the train Friday morning.  She has been living alone since my Poppy passed,the one I wrote "Pennsylvanian Patriarch" for, and I can't imagine how difficult that must be to suddenly have your life switched over like that.  We talk and tell each other stories and eat all sorts of homemade food and listen to music and comment on silly television shows. It is relaxing and beautiful, she is a wonderful woman who is always loving and supportive of me and my music, I miss my Poppy whenever I go over there, but I'm grateful to at least have my Grandma still with me. Valentines Day, Friday morning she dropped me off at the train station at around 10:30.  It feels surreal that this time last year I was in a healthy relationship and in Houston, Texas.  Appropriate to be on the road again to make something new, to have a change of scenery musically and geographically. I had to be at the Megabus in NYC(which you all need to use for travel, my ticket from NYC to Providence, RI was $1. Seriously, one dollar) at 11:45am.  My train ride into NYC was fine and I was able to get a little reading done. All weekend I was reading Kurt Vonnegut's "Welcome To The Monkey House" which has since become one of my favorite works by him.  The walk to the Megabus was really cold but I managed it fine.

    I got on the bus and found my seat, people were looking for spots and this young guy was looking around apprehensively, I moved my backpack and coat off the seat adjacent to me and invited him to sit down.  He thanked me and I went back to reading and writing.  He was on the phone for a while with friends and I overheard him talking a lot about music and video, it seemed he was a rapper.  After he got off the phone he saw me writing in a notebook and we got to talking.  He went by the name Chris Real, and was an aspiring rap artist from the city.  He was a really nice guy and it seemed like his head was in the right place with what he wanted to do with music and why.  I asked him if he knew anyone of my friends from the Buendia Brooklyn crew, and he didn't, so I advised him to seek them out as they have a very supportive and tight familial group of good artists they run.  I also showed him "Work In" which he flipped out on and loved it.  We kept talking for another two hours about all sorts of things, he was headed to meet his girl in Providence for the weekend and we arrived not only uninterrupted by the snow, but a half hour earlier than expected!  I felt that this went on to show that taking risks isn't so bad, socially and otherwise.  I've yet to hear from Chris, but I wish him well with his life and music career!

Owen Arrives
   Owen picked me up at the bus station, I spent a cold half hour stickering up the area.  Owen arrived highly animated fresh out of work to taxi me around in his appropriately yellow car, decorated with band stickers (some of which were mine!).  He took me to his home in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, which is right on the border of Rhode Island.  We listened to his music of choice, grindcore/emo/hardcore, none of which is my flavor at all, and I was reminded how interested and true the "Creative Differences" theme/subject really is!
   We transitioned to listening to a series of rap duos/groups to sort of get some inspiration about what other pairs of lyricists have done.  This became a sort of staple throughout the weekend. We listened to the following, all of them are incredible groups and their individual participant's solo careers are incredible and worth perusing:
Run The Jewels (El-P and Killer Mike)
Prey For Paralysis (Sadistik and Kristoff Krane)
Hail Mary Mallon (Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic)
The Contraverse (Obeah and Kontent)
Flight Distance (Bender and Patience)
Greenhouse (Blueprint and Illogic)
                                        Deep Puddle Dynamics (Slug, Sole, Alias and DoseOne)
Our drive brought me to his beautiful house where he has three adorable dogs and where his mother and father invited me in like family.  Owen was festively and flatteringly wearing his AllOne shirt and it impressed me as his mother and I spoke ,how involved and interested in her son's life musically, creatively and socially she was.  She knew what friend was involved in what band and so on, she had listened to songs he listens to and knew local music history/venues as well.  I don't have that support of kinship in the creatively colloquial with my own parents, so it was something I really appreciated and admired seeing.  It was really cute to see "All1 Bruce coming" written on her day planner and on her several cork board mosaics of the most incredible pinback button collections I'd ever seen, and peering humbly out from the crowd was her AllOne pin!  I felt like a celebrity!  We goofed off imitating aggressive rappers on our way to eat something new and interesting (ended up being a sort of pizza hut type place called Papa Ginos, which Owen was baffled I'd never eaten at)  I only had a salad and was munching on apples and trail mix all day, trying to maintain healthiness.  We retired to his place, they'd set up a pull out couch bed for me in Owen's spacious finished basement apartment. I worked on some writing (for the split and otherwise) and we eventually I passed out mid-writing, his laughter from a Ron White comedy special in my ears.

Stay tuned for the account of the rest of the trip!
Be adventurous, take risks and meet new people!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Love, Travel, and New Music!

Happy Valentines Day!
   Whatever that means to you! or whether the holiday is a primarily capitalist venture pressuring couples into spending money on each other as opposed to time or genuine humble appreciation whenever/wherever they feel like it, that is besides the point.  I want to wish you all days and lives filled with love and sincerity, be it romantic love or love for your friends and family or passion for something intangible like art or a hobby or a career.  I can't help but feel we as a culture undervalue vulnerability and the necessity that it is to express affection to one another.  I don't mean you have to be all mushy and lovey all the time, but just remind people why they're important to you.  I make a habit of letting people know when I think of them, and if I reminisce about them, I reflect on how they've affected me positively or what they've taught me.  This could be a symptom of my ever-wandering brain but I think our thoughts stray to people from time to time and why not just tap them on the shoulder and give them a hug, figuratively or literally?  Times are tough for everyone, and you'd be surprised to know how much a bit of love can do.  So from the, the ENTIRETY of my heart, I love you all for supporting me and helping me to be where I am today.  I sincerely wish you a, a life during which you can see the magnificence in everything and fall in love with yourself and the people and surroundings and experiences around you!  Take a listen and feel free to download my song with Dyslexia and Sik Sense called "Warm Love" I have the last verse in which I talk about the affectionate relationship between myself and my listeners, and how without you I'd be unable to do what I do half as well!

Back on the road! (Island Hopping)

     I'm back on the road! This time last year I was in Houston, Texas with Alexa Dexa staying with our friend Nick!  I find myself at my grandmother's house again this year, about to take a four hour Megabus trip from NYC to Providence, Rhode Island. I've yet to visit Rhode Island, but it is the place that my favorite artist, the one who sparked my entire interest in hip hop music, Sage Francis, an artist who I can't emphasize the importance of in music and my life enough who I highly recommend.  He brings a cleverness, intelligence, and a candid vulnerability to hip hop and music in general that is just refreshing, jarring and beautiful.  I have missed being on the road very much, and once I release my new projects I am eagerly looking forward to traveling a lot more and bringing my art and passion to new places and people!  I've thus far tried to set a goal to be on a significant trip for music at least once a month this year!  As for the four hour bus ride, I'm rather excited for it.  It will provide me an opportunity to work on some writing I've been needing to get done.  It's sort of a mobile forced work-station.  Many people groan when they anticipate a long trip, even if I am driving, I simply don't mind the travel, I just put on some music and enjoy the montage that unfolds.  I have recently been listening to Eddie Vedder's Into The Wild Soundtrack, and it is beautiful and only fortifying and encouraging my wanderlust.  Highly advised you listen up!  Go adventure, the world is huge and the people are wonderful!  Onto the nature of the journey...  

Creative Differences: A Split

     The purpose for this trip is to make progress on my forthcoming collaborative album, which you should be able to hear in May.  I'm going to stay for a few days with my friend Owen aka D.o.drent, whom I've been working on this collaborative six song project titled "Creative Differences: A Split" for a while now.  The production on it is handled moodily and masterfully by UK producer Tony Mahoney whose gritty lo-fi beats provide the perfect backdrop for the most bare and emotional lyricism Owen or myself has released to date.  There are topics of passion, oneself, love for others, a sincerity for your craft and coping with heartbreak thus far addressed.  The format of the album is that we both get two solo songs, and then we are doing two songs collaboratively.  Everyone who has heard my material for this project thus far has generously claimed it to be some of their favorite work of mine, which I'm very proud to say, as I'm always trying to advance myself to a new level or uncharted territory.  This trip is the first time I've spent a length of time with Owen in person, although we've become close friends over the phone for a year or so now as we've worked on this project casually.  I did meet him when I took a trip to perform at All Asia in Cambridge with Aqua Cherry earlier last year, I've posted a silly photo from our hangout below!
         My big goals for this trip are as follows:
**Finish the writing of the album (Owen has some parts for our collaborative songs he's still working out, and the song that closes the album still needs a lot of leg work, I've yet to be told the concept or have a chance to write on it).
**Perform a few different venues, we have primarily open mics involved, as despite my hard work and research we couldn't seem to find anywhere fitting that had an open schedule.  My advice with touring is even when you can't find feature shows to book, spend those nights at open mics.  Often, these are even more advantageous than featured shows because they have a built in crowd and a more social atmosphere for you to meet people in the area.  This being true, I don't entirely view the inability to book shows (this time around, who knows what our experiences this weekend will bring for our opportunities next time) as a loss.
**Lastly, to record the majority of the album with Owen.  We have studio time booked for Sunday with Ryan Stack at Format Audio in Amesbury.  I've heard fantastic things about Ryan and his accolades are noteworthy.  My approach will be at least to get our collaborative songs done first, as we don't easily get an opportunity to work together.  I may record my two songs ( "Work In Progress" and "Quality vs. Quarantine") as well, I have them embedded in my head so I could probably just do them in one or two takes without referencing a lyrics sheet.  Here is a video of me performing "Work In Progress" the WITT live last month, courtesy of Peter Paprota.  We are also going to have Owen's friend from Mandee Rose Photography  film and document the whole studio experience so that we can later use the footage for teasers/videos/promotion/nostalgia whatever else.

Of course, my biggest goal is to enjoy the experience, take in all the new sights and sounds and spend time with a friend and make good memories and art!  I've got to finish this coffee and get myself ready for my departure!  I'll keep you updated!
So much love to you all!
Sincerely and ever lovingly,

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Super Poem Sunday (my first Slam Poetry Contest)

Hey AllOne Family...Yep, that's me, Steven T. Licardi and Kathaleen Donnelly, with 3rd, 2nd, and 1st place positions (respectively) in a SLAM poetry event, the first one I'd ever attended!  In short, be sure to always challenge yourself and bring yourself into new situations, the worst thing that happens no matter what is you have a new experience!  My new motto...(no, not "Y.O.L.O.")
"Compete with yourself, you'll always come out a winner"
Here's the story:
    Being as I'm not a football fan or follower in any capacity this past Sunday, (February 2nd) I went to a function called Super Poem Sunday at the Walt Whitman Birthplace in South Huntington.  During this event the main entertainment was to be a SLAM poetry contest, where upwards of 40 poets would share a poem that was 3 minutes or shorter and would be judged, winning awards and nominal amounts of money.The event was set up by The Bards InitiativeThe Long Island Poetry Collective, and The Performance Poetry Association.  If you are a poet or writer of any kind I recommend that you get in touch with or become involved in the social and creative circles cultivated by these three groups.  The atmosphere that is promoted and perpetuated by these people is friendly, inspiring and encouraging.  The talent is abundant, humbling and motivating!

    I'd never been to the Walt Whitman Birthplace, which is a completely unassuming little building that you can pass by easily even if using a GPS.  It has a rustic lodge feel with the informational panels that you'd think herald the opening ups of zoo enclosures.  Admittedly I didn't know much of Whitman's history or work, despite knowing that he was a Long Island native/resident. His story is/was really interesting, a pioneer and a bit controversial for his time.  He looked like Santa Claus or Karl Marx, or an old picture of God and from what I gathered, he was sort of the Woody Guthrie of poetry. Whitman was a speaker of the people, a dusty hardworking man with no ego and a lot of heart.  His recurring and widely recognized work "Leaves Of Grass" (released in 1855) was influential and innovative for it's time and continued to grow as he was reprinted dozens of times over his lifetime.  What was really interesting to me was that the first run of "Leaves Of Grass" didn't have his name anywhere, just a picture of him in it.  Ralph Waldo Emerson was a fan of his and this encouraged him to continue to write.  One quote that I read that stuck out to me, that I ended up writing down was in response to friends and critics that advised he censor or alter the course of his work and vision.  On this he says: "I felt down in my soul the unmistakable conviction to disobey all and pursue my own way".  I think we'd all be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't identify with that, whether they recall having acted on that necessarily selfish desire to be who and what you feel you are in spite of everything else, or you are someone who wishes so badly to "be able to do that".  We pilot ourselves through this life, let nobody hijack your flight!  The birthplace, as you'd imagine was very informative both on his personal history and the style of his work and progression of it.  Here's an archive of his work, and some photos I took of the informational parts of the building.

        The building must have filled in with something like 50-70 people, which is huge, especially for a poetry event!  My friend Kelly accompanied me to it.  There were tons of great poets there, and while I made a list of those who performed,  I think it'd be exhaustive to list it here (no disrespect to any of the poetic family that gathered here!).  Quite honestly, everyone involved was supremely talented, genuine and supportive of one another.  I always feel confident and loved and loving at these events. I feel proud of myself and my surroundings, not because I think I'm great, but because I think what we are all doing is great and it is affirming to be among those who share your love for something dear to you! I consider myself a writer before I consider myself anything else (performer, musician, singer, ect).  I've been actively and purposefully reacquainting myself with the poetry scene  because there is no ego or competition at these events, there is just a refreshing love for the craft and those who love it likewise.

   I ended up being the third or fourth performer.  The piece I performed is called "Anti-social-network-ethic" which I originally wrote as a guest part on my friend Knife's song "Least Entertamed" for his forthcoming album, I highly recommend you helping him and his group Dope Sandwich Productions  they make some fun and traditional hip hop.  Knife's album is a sort of blend of Trent Reznor and hip hop, as he explained to me when I met him and The Contraverse at a Comiskey Park show that my friends Last Of The Horsemen played while on tour.  I have been integrating it as a spoken word piece into my set lately.  You can watch the performance my friend Kelly filmed on this video here or on the AllOne Youtube (which I'd appreciate if you subscribed to, this year I'll be adding a ton more video work to it!).  The sharing of this poem ended up earning me third place, which paid for me entry fee to the event, meaning I got to have a beautiful experience socially and artistically for free, which would have been worth it, whether I won anything or paid to get in!  My friend Steven T. Licardi (The Sven Bo) performed in the slot just after me.  He is a phenomenal poet and person and you should visit his blog "Cross My Heart and Hope To Write" He ended up getting 2nd place, and I'm glad he placed because his performance was impacting and it was a poem with a lot of meaning.
     There was a silly Super Bowl parody vibe about the entire production and it was entertaining and goofy and everyone was in good spirits. There was  "half time" intermission and a hilarious skit involving a false news reporter in the vein of Rod Serling with a "poem vortex" that only resurrected poet impressions could salvage, (such as Whitman, Edgar Alan Poe, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost and Sylvia Plath) all with mock-style-parodies written and performed by participating poets.  Kathaleen Donnelly performed a piece which more than earned her first place and the "Most Valuable Poet" title!  Despite being a "contest", I think it is important to emphasize that nobody felt hurt, no one felt cheated, everyone was happy for everyone and there was an amicable and supportive environment throughout the event!

   This experience was a phenomenal one.  It gave me something to do on a day that is largely governed by a sports tradition that I don't identify with.  It allowed me to spend time among talented people whom I really loved interacting with, seeing plenty of old friends and meeting many new ones!  I did something not entirely different for me, but taking the idea of "competition" (even in a fostering and warm environment) to my work was new to me, and it felt really good. I felt rewarded just by the enriching rattling of my nerves and the inspiring hard work and heartfelt sharing of other's art.  I will certainly seek out more SLAM poetry events, to compete in and to spectate during.
 As it is, I am doing two poetry features in the next two months. Feel free to attend and read during the open mic portion, share a poem in an environment that is positive, open and supportive!
February 25th at Sachem Library,
March 17th at the Bellmore Bean 
    I encourage you all to get involved in your local communities, gather together, regardless of your interest, whether you're poets, athletes, whittlers, singers, songwriters, whatever it is, just connect with each other and relish in your passion for something.  Something as private as our favorite things to do can paradoxically be fortified by the discovery that others love it and worship it as much as we do, in their own ways!
So with that story shared I encourage you:
Compete with yourself, you'll always come out a winner!
Love always,

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The End Of The Tour//Return Home//Departure Anniversary

Hello my AllOne Family!
Today, February 2nd, 2014 marks a year since I left for the little piano//BIG MOUTH tour with Alexa Dexa.  I can't believe it, what a year!  I've missed the road nearly everyday, and a lot has happened.  We have reached the end of our chronicles, it seems appropriate to close out our accounts on the anniversary of our departure....  2014 is going to be an important year in my life and I'm excited to use this space as a way to keep you up to date and involved in the various adventures and progress being made!

The Importance of Family

    Alexa and I hopped on our last Megabus to NYC.  It was surreal to see New York City again after all of our travel.  New York city is foreign to me despite the fact that I live so close.  A funny assumption that happens to people around the country is if you say you are from new york, everyone assumes you spend all your time in the city!  admittedly, I've probably only been to the city two or three dozen times in my life.  It is a 2014 goal of mine to remedy that.  I got on the train, returned to Valley Stream and my grandmother picked me up.  It was wonderful to see her and be in her arms again and for the first person to be her was just wonderful and humbling.  We ate together a nice home meal in my grandma and poppy's house.
     It has taken me a long time in my life to truly understand and appreciate the uniqueness of family.  It is easy to take it for granted, and in America with our traditions, it is easy to feel like family is an obligatory group of people, each with their own dynamic and as a youthful individual, you're longing to rebel from it.  Also, perhaps as you age, tradition is now encouraging older generations to push the younger ones on into the world, which is a little different these days, and more difficult to make a go at.  I've also been young and stupid. Regardless of this side-tracking of excuses for why I might have had a diluted understanding or appreciation for the bonds of family, I'd just like to impart that I think it is beautiful to have a group of people you're bonded to by blood and by genetics and tradition.  No matter how much the black sheep you are, you will never been closer to anyone in the same ways that you are with family.  I have been fortunate enough to have a supportive family and be brought up in a safe environment.
    Then again, any one group of people can be a form of family.  It is incredible what it can do to a person's motivation, and resolve, just to know that they have a rock of Gibraltar in their life!  I sincerely and hopefully consider the movement I'm making with this whole music and poetry and storytelling "AllOne" thing a family gathering.  I long to cultivate a group of people, through my friends through listeners of my music, with my family, who can feel as safe and in sanction knowing that we will each be there for one another.  We all have so much to offer, something having someone to offer it to helps you know that it is there.  Stop feeling afraid and awkward...the great majority of us, (if not all of us) are yearning for connection and experience, for knowledge and safety.
    After spending a few peaceful and warm hours with my grandmother, I drove out to the Pape House, to see my friends and family and perform the very last show.

The Pape House (The Tour's Last Show)
   The Pape House, is a Babylon home owned by, if you might have guessed, the Pape family.  I met Charles and Leah Pape at a show randomly at Beanberry (now Crazy Beans) in Miller Place. They are a brother and sister who are both wonderful musicians, intelligent thoughtful people and proactive human beings.  Through them and several other friends, I got involved in a beautiful community called the Common Courtesy Collective which serves as a place for independent musicians to set up and perform house concerts all over long island.  Robbie of Beach Moon//Peach Moon started this, and it is what every community needs.  The Common Courtesy Collective is how Alexa and I ended up meeting (at Centerville Studios in Bellmore, you can read about that initial show here by clicking HERE.)  It was only right that we finish off the tour that would not have happened due to Alexa and my meeting due to CCC, by performing a show they'd hosted!  They do a great job of promoting and highlighting their artists, tumblr periodicals which Leah Pape writes eloquently and masterfully.  Feel free to read their AllOne Artist Spotlight!  We arrived and so many of my friends from work and music and everything were there.  The CCC family was there and it felt like the warmest most wonderful homecoming ever.  Heather lovingly ran over and jumped on me, nearly tackling me over with excitement and I just barely was able to keep my balance! I was also barely able to keep myself off of her!  The performers were really good and this was one of the most gratifying shows of the tour.  To come home and to feel so missed and loved, to meet so many new people and yet to feel so at home even in a place where I've only visited a few times...was just an incredible experience.  They say that it is not the destination but the journey that is the true prize and goal, and while that is certainly true, my goodness does it feel wonderful to be home and feel enriching and gratifying to be among the family I've grown.

Never Stopping
   I played a long passionate set list that everyone involved themselves in, my freestyles were fun and on point in this little wonderful home space that was set up, Alexa did fantastically, and we eventually retired, exhausted, to our homes.
From there I haven't stopped, I've performed dozens of shows the past year and been writing and writing and working with musicians on my new projects constantly.  I have two albums coming out this year in 2014 which I will be informing you on regularly and thoroughly!  I've done podcast interviews (one with Brooklyn Props.  AllOne Brooklyn Props Podcast as well as the Taleteller podcast that will be up soon.  I've released a new compilation project called "We'll Make It Together" among other things.  Thank you to everyone who has helped me along this journey.  We are all works in progress, lets keep working and progressing!  Life is growth, and I hope we all grow together, I will be eager to help you along the way however I can!
Keep pushing and Pull Through!!
Love Always and all ways,

Saturday, February 1, 2014

2 days in Pennsylvania. Finding new friends, losing old ones.

So we are a day away from it being a year since the tour, and I'm unbelievably just finishing this journal now!

Steven Minissale (the loss of a mentor and friend.)
     Our experience of Pennsylvania was only two days and each day was spent in a different city.  I will give you the details of these events as they are but they were sort of stagnant and cheapened by the surrealism I felt from a loss of a friend I'd suffered.  Around this time, on the ride into Pennsylvania, where he is/was from, I found out that my friend, a talented an ambitious blues player, Phil Minissale, whose father Steve was a hero and a dear friend to me had passed away.  He was a young 50 years old.  I hate the feeling of this serving as some sort of eulogy, even nearly a year later, and the pressure to represent the vibrancy of a live and beautiful person, and to attempt to convey the inspiration he inspired in me and the closeness I felt as a friend despite our age difference, makes me sick.  He had been in the hospital throughout autumn and winter battling cancer bravely. It was a rapidly accumulating chain of events that ebbed and flowed between hope and then sudden horror as surgeries would go wrong or infections would occur, and other complications would fight his resolve, as his improvement and declivities would roller coaster with maddening and heartbreaking capriciousness.
     I visited him at Stony Brook hospital with my new girlfriend at the time, another friend of his, Heather, just before I left for tour.  That day he was hopeful and improving, he was emaciated but had a wattage in his eyes like few men have anymore.  His inky long hair and tan aged skin, giving him the appearance of a wise and dignified native american chief.  He told me to give the world what I am and to mean it, that he believed in me and was proud I was taking this tour.  He said he considered me another son and wished me the best and gave me so much love.  I told him I'd do my best, that he was such a catalyst to so much of my work and my passion, and that I looked forward to sharing the accounts of my adventures with him when I returned a month later.  It was hard for me to leave that day because there was a sense that neither of us believed that promise of a meet up when I returned.  It was the last time I saw him.   Steve was artistically talented and brilliant. Loving, witty, blunt and self aware.  He made me challenge everything, especially myself.  He'd cut to the chase with everything he said and asked, and made sure we both knew why I said or felt something and visa versa.  He had an ageless and yet eternally experienced quality to him, possessing the energy and passion of a young person but the wisdom and bluntness of one who has seen many years.  The aura he radiated was confident, calm, mirthful and intelligent.

   The Power Of Storytelling (One Of Steve's Great Lessons) 
   He was a mentor and a friend who changed writing, performance and music with me forever with one assessment.  We were at Cool Beanz in St. James where Phil and I met.  It was an open mic and I'd performed as well as a few other poets and musicians.  Later we retired the night to Michael Korb's house where Steve accompanied us.  We spoke about the open mic and I commented on a friend's poetry performance. He said (paraphrased) "There's too much about her in the poems.  Nearly every poem she performs, she makes the alienating mistake of making it about how she suddenly had this epiphany and we are being graced to hear it and learn from it.  Bruce, the greatest writers and songwriters are story tellers.  They represent life as best they can, and from that people can relate to what you're saying.  Think of people like Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen who write about real life characters and scenarios, and from that, they provide the emotions and lessons for people to digest in the process.  If you can do that, you will successfully provide entertainment, enrichment, and emotion for people."  I was struck immediately.  Being a huge reader and writer all my life, these words ring in my head and heart years later ever since he said that.  Analyzing my appreciation of many singers and rappers I listened to, the majority of their work that I remembered was their narrative focused work.  I've since written more than three dozen story-songs, some of which you've heard, the vast majority of them, you have not.  I'm currently recording my first entirely narrative album, Rapologues, which I'm dedicating in part to Steve, because every time I write a song, I think of him, and nearly every time I go perform, I think of him.  He came to see an AllOne & The Room show the year before he passed and he was so impressed and pleased, despite it being so left field, he listened intently and he GOT IT and he pushed me as he always did, to continue to make sincere and impacting music, a promise I made and will keep until the day I pass.

Coping With Loss, Eternity Through Memory
   This may seem cold, and though I am an emotional person, I will not pretend that I have ever truly felt rocked by death.  When my childhood friend passed, when my first dog passed, and both my grandparents passed, I did not cry profusely or sink into an irrepressible depression.  I get sad and I feel like the world is dimmer and my stomach and nerves are hurt and heavy, but it is temporal.  Every time I have experienced loss I have felt pain, but then an intrinsic logical and rational process washes over me to think of that person and the things that they taught me and the times I spent with them, and how I can make use of those things and radiate them out into the world.  I know that my sadness will not bring them back or affect them at all somehow.  I know that me putting my life on hold or shutting myself down and shutting the world out would not be something they would selfishly approve of.  I don't believe in an afterlife, I'm not a particularly spiritual person.  I won't go into these feelings in depth, or my feelings on belief systems because that is not important currently.  I bring it up because for most people a huge part of comfort for them when someone they love dies, is a belief that they're in "a better place".  I know that Steve, and all the people whom I love dearly and have lost, is "in" a good place. That place is in my heart and thoughts.  He exists because he lead an important and a passionate life as a talented painter and a supporter of people and a lover of life.  He lives as all those who have deceased live, in the memories of those he touched with sincerity.  So  long as I carry the lessons of understanding, adventure, creativity, integrity, passion, humor, respect and love with me, he will continue to expand outward in a network of positive events.  I loved and love Steve, he was a wonderful friend and second father and mentor to me, and I will always cherish the times I had with him.

A (mentally) foggy Pittsburgh day.
March 4th was a Monday, we arrived in the afternoon, staying with Alexa's friends Noah, Justin and Chris, they had just recently moved into this new house that seemed like an apartment on the outside and was huge and spacious on the inside.  All the guys were really kind and a ton of fun.  I was likely reserved because I was still trying to process that I had just lost Steve.  I kept my news from Alexa and tried to just enjoy the time and see the world new and be impacting to the people around me, as I promised him I would.  We wandered around the swooping hills of Pittsburgh a bit, I was quiet for once, I thought about how I'm often hyperactive and absurd and should be more selective with what I say and how I say it and should endeavor to be powerfully miserly with my speech.  I'm still working on this.  Pittsburgh was the first time where we had no plans to perform anywhere on a stop.  It was around this time of the tour I'd discovered how easy it was to download music on my Ipod. Here's a list of things some things I downloaded on the trip that I really enjoyed:
Felt: Felt 2 A Tribute To Lisa Bonet
Felt: Felt 3 A Tribute To Rosie Perez
Sadistik- Flowers For My Father
At The Drive In: Relationship Of Command
Blink 182- Dogs Eating Dogs EP
I was working on writing some new poems and just trying to sort out my head.  Steve's death made me feel incredible stagnant despite being on tour for a month and performing and meeting all of these people.  The guys of the house all pitched in to buy some pizza and I got a hero, which was disappointing.  However, we did go over a list of funny things people from Pittsburgh say oddly, which cheered me up a little.
Here is the list of words either affected by accent or odd colloquialisms:
rubberband = gum band
downtown = dan tan
soda = pop
Carnegie = carnaygee
Albany = al-bany
huge = youge.
Eventually I was able to sleep, having been given an upstairs room with a phenomenal view of the city that spanned out really far.  The next day we headed to Philadelphia.

  It is Tuesday March 5th, the eve of our return!  We arrived in Philly in the afternoon.  We ate, as tradition asked us to, at Chipotle.  We stayed with a really sweet girl named Stephanie.  She made vegan blondies from chickpeas.  I downloaded an absurd amount of music from Kristoff Krane's band Abzorbr.  I still don't know how I feel about it.  The idea is there but the music is often jarring and too intense and scatterbrained to comprehend easily, then I realize self consciously that is exactly what most people probably think about AllOne & The Room.  I picked up Stephanie's guitar and she and I sang the Decemberist's The Crane Wife 3 part opera together.  She had an adorable charcoal colored cat with piercing eyes (so cat eyes).  We had an open mic planned that day, at Mugshots Coffeehouse.  I recommend going there if you are around.  My friend Stasia met with us there and again, while we were so close to home it was still such a pleasure to see people I knew and visiting them in their environments.  There were a few great performers and I gave a tribute to Steve aloud, and performed Pennsylvanian Patriarch, for my Poppy while in Pennsylvania, and dedicating it to Steven.  Stephanie and her friends were there and very supportive, and I felt really emotionally drained afterwards.  While Stasia gave us a ride home, Alexa performed her song "Two Tusks: A Waltz" from the album she later put out "A Bedtime Anthology" in the backseat of the car, which I recorded a video of, and have disclosed below.  We fell asleep exhausted glad to know that we were just one day away from returning home to our welcome home show at The Pape Space!
I will leave the last day and show of the tour to it's own blog page, as it has exhausted me to write this one.
I love you all, never forget that you leave an impression on others, and to take advantage of that positively.  Never forget those that you've loved and lost, carry them with you, share what you've felt and learned from them with others.  It helps our deceased loves to thrive even now.
Thank you,
I am with you.