One week into the West for a While tour, I have seen so many beautiful places for the first time. My journey started in Eugene, Oregon, home to the beautiful University of Oregon.
I was invited to perform on the college radio station, KWVA, on a morning program called Emma’s Restaurant. The host, Emma Burke, is a sweet college student who I knew I would get along with before we even met, as her previous playlist included Jenny Lewis songs. JACKPOT! She sent me a list of creative questions to help choose the playlist. They were as follows:
Song from the first album you bought: “Mmmbop” by Hanson (obviously)
Song that inspired your pursuit of music: “You are What You Love” by Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins
Favorite song of the past year: “Mexico” by the Staves
Song you wish you had written: “How I Love” by Casey Black
Favorite karaoke song: “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen
Song that reminds you of New York: “Skin and Bones” by Niall Connolly
Song that reminds you of Florida: “With Arms Outstretched” by Rilo Kiley
Your ultimate feel-good song: “King of Anything” by Sara Bareilles
Guilty pleasure song: “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift
Song that you’ve been replaying throughout the tour: “Lost in my Mind” by the Head and the Heart
Song by an artist you think everyone should know about: “Be there if I have to Swim” by Niall Connolly
We spent the hour talking about these songs and music in general, touching on my tours in Europe and my new record. It was such a pleasant on-air interview experience. Everyone go listen to KWVA right now. They are good people playing cool music. It was an honor to be included on their program for the day!
I played that night at the most badass venue - Black Forest. I found out once I arrived that it is mostly known for its metal shows, which made me feel even more honored to play a set there. The regulars all had a very expressive style to them - piercings, blue hair, studded jeans. I was wearing a polka dot dress and a flora print sweater, so I’m pretty sure my pattern-mixing was the only thing that got me in there. :) Emma Plant and Novice Bear, two Canadian acts, opened up the night with acoustic tunes tunes. Novice Bear had some bluesy songs. Emma did a cool cover of a Sam Smith song that you can listen to on her soundcloud here. I ate a delicious burger and advised the bartender, Jason, that he should get a twitter and tweet everything he says because he was very funny. He said that his strategy of rounding up the regulars who had a little too much to drink was to speak to them like toddlers. The strategy worked, and it was very funny. It was really cool to kind of slide into this scene of Oregonians for the night, and the perfect start to the tour.
If you want to know anything about a city you have never been to before, take an Uber ride. I had the most interesting discussions with my Uber drivers. One of the drivers was doing it in his spare time to save up for a trip to China. He also told me that the cab drivers in Eugene were not happy about Uber coming to the city, and that they would gang up on any Uber drivers who picked up passengers at the airport by surrounding the car and threatening to torch the Uber car. Naturally, as a 20-something girl traveling by herself, it made me want to jump in a taxi cab in Eugene ASAP. (Not.) But all of the Uber drivers were very friendly and very interesting to chat with. Eugene was a super cool town. Can’t wait to go back!
The next day I took a bus ride to Portland. It was a sweet way to travel. Lots of farms and mountains and sheep along the way. My friend Sean picked me up and took me to hike about 20 minutes outside of the city. It was a little misty and gray, so not very many people were out hiking. We had it to ourselves. He took me to a place called Multnomah Falls to see the Columbia River Gorge.” I pointed out that “gorge” is a really ugly word until you see a beautiful waterfall that becomes associated with the word, and then gorge becomes far less ugly. There’s something about climbing the trails and the scene of the river below surrounded by mountains with gray fog hugging them that just stops you. It made me feel so teeny tiny and in awe of the world and lucky to be part of it.
I had a night off in Portland, so we met up with some other Portlanders and sang karaoke. I also visited my first strip club. Did you know Portland is known for its strip clubs? I did not. So much nakedness. If you do not know this about me, I get very embarrassed about overt nakedness. I’m sure my feelings as a woman about being in a strip club for the first time are not very original. At one level, I say, do your thing, ladies. I don’t like when people judge me, so I will do no judging. I did, however, wish that there was a person who would come and pick up the dollars. Here’s all the reasons I think this would be a good idea (and yes, this is what I was thinking about the whole time I was in the strip club). First of all, that would create a job for an able-bodied human. Then, this lady who is all naked and just climbed up and down a tall pole (rather impressively, to “Welcome to the Space Jam” I might add), would not have to pick up her dollars. Just in case anyone reading this is considering opening up a strip club, be a job creator and a respecter of women in one fell swoop: hire a dollar picker upper. Maybe a college student who needs a job? If it’s a college student boy, he probably would feel like he won the lottery. OK. I think that’s probably much more thoughts on a strip club than anyone needed from me.
Portland reminds me of Hamburg, Germany. There are lots of ports and bridges, and the downtown area with all these strip clubs has a lot of things going on - it's sort of an American version of the Reeperbahn. It’s also rainy, and when I was in Hamburg, it was rainy too. The residents of Portland have a relaxed, happy way about them. We visited a few bars and coffee shops. One of my favorite things to do on tour when I’m in a new city is creepily listen in on conversations and watch groups of people interacting. Ooh when I type that out it sounds so creepy! But it’s just fun to see people in their lives and admire it as it’s happening. Lots of smiles and laughs and toasts in Portland.
The next morning, we went to the Pittock Mansion where there is an amazing viewing point for Mount Hood. The sun was out and the skies were clear, as if the universe knew I needed to see some awe-inspiring mountain peaks on this tour. From there, I scouted out a little spot downtown by the river to do some busking. People were out and about, and one of the greatest moments was when a group of high-school age kids came up to listen. Next thing I know, I have about 15 iPhone cameras on me. So if anyone comes up on some random Instagram videos of me busking in Portland, send them my way!
It was so interesting to witness this generation and how they take in an experience. I sound really old. They took my business cards and were very excited about the ukulele. I played Nick Jonas’ “Jealous” for them. One of the kids came up to me and looked like he was going to put a dollar in my case, but then he looked at me and said, “You are great. You just got yourself A FOLLOW!” I giggled and thanked him. Truth be told, that’s probably more valuable than the dollar. haha. It was a fun experience.
From there, we took a beautiful drive from Portland to Seattle for my set at Pies & Pints. In case you guys were wondering, the place serves actual pies and let me tell you. THEY ARE DELICIOUS. I also had a plate of heaven known as the feta & bacon mac and cheese. I would only like to eat there ever for the rest of my life. Pies & Pints was a lovely set. It’s such a cute place and they were amazing hosts. If you are in Seattle, go visit them and have a pie and a pint.
I stayed in Seattle with my friend Leigh who I knew from NYC. She is a grad student at the University of Washington, or “U-Dub” as the locals reference it, studying Digital Media. She hosts a radio show on an online radio station called Rainy Dawg Radio. You should all listen to her because her show rocks. Her music taste is excellent. Her house is on a hill close to the University, and she and her housemates are all using their brains big time. It was fun to rub elbows with them for a few nights. Hopefully some of their intelligence rubbed off on me. :)
I was a total tourist the next day in Seattle and I loved every minute of it. I went down to the Pike Place Market and just took it all in. I tried to busk but was thoroughly unprepared. Fun fact: you can totally legally busk there if you have a permit. The permit place is open Monday-Friday, so don’t go on a Sunday, like me. I think that was for the best though, because it forced me to just enjoy the surroundings. I saw the gum wall, had a delicious apple and some coffee, and took in some beautiful sightings of Mt. Rainier. That night, I watched the pilot of Twin Peaks to get pumped for my trip to Snoqualmie the next day. Twin Peaks was shot in Snoqualmie and Falls City, in case you didn’t know!
The next day, I made my way to Snoqualmie, which is about 25 miles east of Seattle. The drive was gorgeous! I can see how all this beautiful music comes out of this part of the world because the landscape is so inspiring. I stopped at the Snoqualmie Falls before my show and got there right at 4:30 when the sun was setting. If you have heard pretty much any of my songs, you know I’m all about the sunrise and sunset metaphor, so you can imagine my feelings about seeing a beautiful waterfall at sunset with a pretty pink sky hiding behind some cool mountains. If you can’t imagine, well, I’ll tell ya. I was all smiles.
I asked a kind looking fellow to take a little video of me singing in front of the falls. Turns out he and his wife were from Anchorage, Alaska here on vacation. They ended up coming to the show and invited me to come play in Alaska. I told them they should be careful in inviting me to do that because I will come. haha. Here’s the video:
The show that night was absolutely wonderful! The Black Dog in Snoqualmie is a sweet spot that has such a nice community. Jay Pinto, a musician and producer out of the area, has been my email buddy for a while, so it was very fun to meet him finally! You can check out his sweet music here. He did the sound for the night and also invited a young local, Emilia Glaser, to open the show. HOLY CRAP, this girl is good. She’s 17 years old, too. Jay is working on her debut EP right now. Check out her Facebook page and keep an eye out for these tunes. She’s like First Aid Kit meets Bon Iver meets the Staves. You can see a little video of one of her songs on my Instagram. Great night of lady tunes.
Next leg of the tour begins in San Francisco, where I’ll cross tour paths with one of my favorite NYC ladies, Ms. Zoë Sundra for a show at Amnesia. I’ll also be joined by my favorite German percussionist Max Brüderl, who is one of my favorite tour buddies. If you know folks in San Francisco, send them to Amensia! Thursday, January 29 at 8pm! Can’t wait!
Hugs from sunny San Francisco!