AcousticEnergy Nitely: “So I Sing To Their Hearts”

By Traci Nubalo

After I had been in Second Life for several months - and had already fallen in love with the live music scene here - a friend suggested that I should check out a singer she had recently seen. I dutifully added his name to a growing list that I was keeping (and still keep) and there it sat for a number of weeks. To be perfectly honest, it was the name AcousticEnergy Nitely that kept me from making the effort to track him down. I realize how juvenile this must sounds, but we humans are full of strange ways of ordering and understanding our world and the power of a name can sometimes be a factor in that baffling process.

Several weeks later I walked through the doors of a well known SL music spot at thirty past the hour, having finally decided that this Acoustic guy was worth a half-set of my time. What I encountered that evening not only changed my mind about AcousticEnergy Nitely, but it opened the doors to a very special relationship with the man behind the name.

So I started regularly attending his shows and gravitated into a friendship that lasts until this very day. James - turns out that’s his given name - is a man of great intelligence and deep personal conviction. I was drawn to him right away, and learned a very good lesson about prejudging people on spurious bases.

AE, as we call him here in SL, is also an extremely talented man. To begin with he possesses one of the very best sets of pipes inworld. He sings with great clarity of tone, and with immense passion. In all of the hours I’ve spent listening to AE I have never heard him give less than his best while singing a song.

I recently sat with the man for a couple of one-hour discussions in my SL home. As is often the case, we began with what I call “tech talk”:

Traci Nubalo: What guitar do I hear you playing these days?

AcousticEnergy Nitely: It’s a brand new Martin; purchased from the money I made playing in Second Life.

TN: Do you go straight into the board? Or do you use some effects?

AE: I plug into an Alesis Multimix 8 - but I have a TC Electronics M350 processor for voice.

TN: Excellent. Your sound is always so present; always mega-clean.

AE: The processor has compression - that's the secret ingredient.

TN: Is that what allows for you to get to almost whisper-level so cleanly?

AE: Yes. And it brings all the hidden nuances to life.

TN: One of the things that SL listeners (myself included) seem to like about your vocals is that every word is crystal clear and that the emotional content is so high. Is that voice training?

AE: Mmm not at all. Let me comment on that. The emotional content is high during my performances because I try and put everything I have into each one. This is why I don’t sing back to back gigs; I sing as if I’m singing to one person. I learned a long time ago that I need to sing to the faces. So, I usually pick someone out from the crowd, in SL or RL, and sing to them. After a gig, someone always comes up and says, “I thought you were singing right to me.” So, I’m always tired and hungry after a performance because I try to give 100% of me.

I do back to back gigs sometimes and it still seems to play well - I'm just very tired afterwards. In RL I do two-hour gigs often - but there is more time to break and interact with the audience to create pause and connection.

At a Second Life music venue called Rumbled, AE's recent Friday-night set incuded a few of my favorite original and cover songs, each of which exhibited his ability (and willingness) to use his amazing talents to captivate his audience, individually and collectively. After warming the crowd up with an original called "One More", he launched into the Elton John fave "Rocket Man". During the body of the song AE told that haunting tale, using both voice and guitar to remind us of the feeling of deep loneliness. The audience (and myself) responded in kind, but after setting that mood he ended the piece with a plaintive vocal improvisation based on singing audience members names. It was a a routine that only a master-level voice like his could pull off. Then, using very minimal guitar backing, he pulled it back together with a simple "La la la"-type vocal vamp that the room picked up on and sang to him.

Following through again with abstract, practically bare guitar work he half-whispered his way into "In A Moment", one of his most -loved original songs. It was at that point that I realized the intensely sybiotic nature of the vocal/guitar interplay. Had AE attrempted even a slightly more complex or intense musical backing, the loveliness of the vocal work would have been overwhelmed. This, dear reader, defines AcousticEnergy's magic: artistic balance!

There's one more revelation that happened for me at that same gig: AE's voice is able to move almost effortlessly between high full-voice and falsetto. This means that he has a pallette of audio "colors" that very few male vocalists have access to. This greatly enriches his sound, and also offers the listener an emotional connection that is rarely found in either world.

TN: How did you originally get involved in performing, AE?

AE: I used to play in Skype almost every night. Skype is an IM or chat software and they used to have something called Skypecasts where you could talk with almost 100 people at one time in a controlled and monitored environment. Well, I met many beautiful and talented people on Skype and one of them was Aussie Blackburn* who’s an amazing Australian singer and performer. He basically dragged me into SL, got me a stream, and completely set me up for performing. I owe my SL presence to Aussie. He had faith me and supported that faith with solid actions.

TN: When did you arrive in SL and begin performing?

AE: Last July - so I've been performing here for over a year now.

TN: And what a year it's been!

AE: *smile*

TN: I see audiences getting very much involved with your music and lyrics. You were and even selected as Artist of the Month at Bringiton Paine’s** Music Hall of Fame.

AE: I love my audience with a passion. I don't expect anyone to show up, so when I see five or six I get pretty excited.

TN: I've certainly seen very large audiences for you.

AE: Well, you probably came when I played after Maximillion Kleene*. LOL

TN: How big is your SL song list? Variety seems to be a big thing at your shows.

AE: Well, I'm a little different in that I do both secular and Christian gigs. I know maybe 150 secular originals; maybe 25, Christian covers - shhheeesh - 200+, Christian originals - 60.

TN: Since you mentioned Max, who are your role models among SL musicians?

AE: Hmmmm. Unfortunately, I have not heard too many. And I don’t know about “role models” but the musicians that I really enjoy are Maximillion Kleene*, and Ayden Kruh*, and Blu Ducrot*, and Jackdog Snook*, RaRa Destiny*, AMFORTE Clarity*, JueL Resistance*. Ayden is not in SL any longer. He was one of my favorites because of his passion and originals. I’m forever looking for other original artists to listen to. I can turn on the radio and hear any cover song a thousand times. Originals rock.

TN: Indeed. In that vein, you are the first performer in SL that I ever saw who could effectively make use of audience members names in your live shows. How did that come about?

AE: Well that’s just a part of my interest in creating more intimate, spiritual relationship with not only my audience but with everyone I meet.

During my first musical introduction to AE, in those early days, I cought on to the fact that he was using audience members' names as part of his songs. Essentially, he will zone in on a particular person, and by including their SL name into his lyrics, sing a much more personal love song to the audience. The effect can be rather pronounced. It's not unusual to see ecstatic reactions for the avatar being name-dropped, along with audible sighs from others.

When I first expereinced this it felt a little bit off-putting to me. But as I heard it more and more I actually began ot love it to the point that I now consider the technique to be a wonderfully-savvy piece of stagecraft. It's all done from the heart, which makes it all the more endearing to me.

Interesting story: Quite some time ago I was chatting with a very well-known and very polular SL musician and I brought AE's name up. Immediately this talented performer mentioned that he was turned off by this use of names from the stage. However, a few weeks later I happened to notice this very same muso employing the name-drop technique in his set! AE, don't forget - they only copy the Rolex!

AE's deep desire to dreate profound bonds with others led me to broach the topic of faith with him.

TN: I know you are Christian.

AE: Yes.

TN: How/when did you get into the Christian music scene?

AE: Really, when I first made the decision to follow Christ (during high school) I was playing guitar and writing poetry at the time, and the transition just flowed naturally into songwriting. I learned a few songs but for some reason I always felt more comfortable writing, playing, and singing my own songs. It wasn’t but a few years ago that I started learning secular music.

TN: So your worship songs came first?

AE: Yes.

TN: Were or are you part of a specific ministry?

AE: Oddly enough, I never really fit into the church scene. I always wanted to learn things on my own and experience God rather then be a part of a church. But, I was a youth pastor for about five years for a small church and I’ve lead worship at various churches throughout the years. I don’t stay long in one place, though. I’m always changing things up for one reason or another. I can talk forever about my thoughts on the church but it’s all good. God is my focus, though.

TN: How has your faith impacted your secular writing?

AE: Hmmmm - It leads me in so many different directions and offers me avenues, insights, and deeper revelations in my songwriting process. I guess it gives me a more expanded canvas to paint what my spirit, soul, and body wish to express. I’m kind of “fully integrated”. But, I guess we all are in most ways of course. We simply don't realize it.

TN: I agree. It feels to me that your secular songs are definitely rooted in, shall we say, a higher love.

AE: My life reflects my art, as others in our same situation would. I sing of Jesus and I sing of sex. I can't deny either. Both are a part of my life and balanced at that and I'm not ashamed nor afraid to share that through music or my writings.

TN: When you write, do the lyrics come first, or does the music?

AE: A popular question. Most of the time the melody comes first. And it’s birthed from another song. I play one of my tunes, and then I kind of wander off into a lala land where another song lives. I hear, consume it, and breathe it back out again. The lyrics almost come naturally. My philosophy is that all the songs are already there; you only need to have the ears to hear them and the heart to transpose them.

TN: Excellent observation.

AE: There is a piece of me, my flesh, in everything I do or say. But I know that God speaks to His children in many ways. I take those words, pass them through my heart, and pen them on paper. I'm very aware of what I write.

TN: May I inquire about your personal spiritual practice?

AE: I'm a very transparent person. You can ask me anything.

TN: Do you employ prayer? Meditation? If so what form(s)?

AE: I pray daily. I read the Bible often. I worship through song, sitting still, and through loving.

TN: I see. Do you regard your music as a type of ministry?

AE: I regard my life as a ministry. God says in Romans to offer your body as living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.

TN: Well, you truly have impacted a lot of us here in Second Life in some very deep ways. What are you working on musically now?

AE: I'm working on a Billy Joel song.

TN: Which one?

AE: “Just The Way You Are”

TN: Love it! You truly are one of SL's masters of the love song. I think you have a profound level of communication with your audience, and this is your chance to speak directly to them. What would you like to say to them?

AE: My audience is a very diverse group. They are more than a group of listeners, more than fans, more than avatars; they are my friends. And without these friends, my songs are empty. I need their ears and hearts to explode life into my music, and to fill the space between the melodies.

I’ve shared this before in a recent note that I sent out to them, thanking them for their support. I hope they all read it. I’ve developed deep relationships with them over this past year. Some have left and some have endured with me. Such is life in both worlds. I've laughed with them, shared tears, listened as they spoke about their break-ups and encouraged them while singing at their weddings. My love for them is deep and I'm in continual awe as each attends my performances over and over again.

I love this group of friends and I try and say 'I love you' to them as often as I can, in and out of performances. As I mentioned, my audience is a very diverse group - diversity with one common ground - a beating heart that animates each avatar. And I get that. So I sing to their hearts.

Addendum: On Sunday, January 10th AE will team up with POL Arida by participating in POL's great stage spectacle called MONSTERS. AE will be singing an original of his own, and also gracing us by singing his own version of POL's great song "Passion" Please join us at Shine Stage for this event, which begins at 11:30 am.

Pilgrim75 Swashbuckler (Pete Mroz): "The Rhythm That Comes Out Of Me"

by Traci Nubalo

I was totally thrilled when I learned that Pete Mroz was willing sit down for an interview for The Word. I’ve been a fan of his since my earliest days in Second Life. I’ve always considered him to be among the best we have to field. He’s a stunningly-clean and passionate guitarist, and boasts the voice of an angel.

He appeared in my office in the SECOND TIMES building that afternoon, along with his lovely and highly-professional manager, Jemma Bonne. Usually, these interviews are done one-on-one and I suppose they could sense the question mark forming over my head. “Pete thinks he’s broken a finger. He can't type very well,” Jemma pointed out. So the process would be that Pete would relay his answers to Jemma and she would type them in. (Remember later that we discussed this).

TN: Let’s start off easy, Pete, kind of warm up with some tech talk. What guitar(s) are you using in SL these days?

PM: I play Taylor acoustic guitars because I have an endorsement through them.

TN: Six-string? Twelve-string? Both?

PM: 6 string.

TN: Straight into the board?

PM: No, what I do is record with one microphone. I've tried different ways, but I've found the best way is to use one vocal mic and capture the room sound.

TNL Do you use any effects?

PM: No effects. I have a small room reverb on it but it's very, very minimal.

TN: Your sound is so direct and clean. You must be using a killer microphone.

PM: I use a pretty good mic. It's a Sterling S-5000. It's a good condenser mic. I've tried to use much deeper systems, but it all gets too confusing so I've found simpler is best.

TN: Pete, your guitar skills are up there with the best I've seen here in SL. What kind of background do you have?

PM: Background wise, it's important to know I've always sung, but guitar playing is most important. I feel like I've fallen short in the area of guitar playing. It's something I've toiled and worked hard at, while singing is just something I just do without much thought.

Guitar playing is a labor of love. I'm always striving to improve my guitar playing to get much better.

TN: You aren't self-taught though, on either guitar or voice?

PM: Yes, I'm self taught, but in a sense I'm not because I've learned from the best guitars players in the world.

Let’s stop here for a moment. It’s all well and good for him to say that he’s basically self-taught. But I’d like to go on record as saying that Pete Mroz is among the finest, tastiest, and most complete guitarists that I’ve heard in either world - bar none. While not a speed demon or in-your-face soloist, he exhibits very strong rhythm and chording skills, almost perfect intonation, and has a very well-developed sense of fluidity in his movements along the fretboard.

But there’s another even more powerful muse at work here. Pete knows how to put this remarkable package of skills together in an almost playful sense of service to the song. In other words, I hear in his playing an uncanny ability to make use of precisely what’s best for the moment. Sometimes, that might be the simplest of moves: a passing note, or a slight change in chordal coloring. At other times, this might call for a flashy, artsy run or set of power chords. The ability to assess what is needed and the courage and accuracy to play that particular flourish at that exact moment is the mark of a serious musician.

(I also realize that in his modesty Pete will give me no end of grief when he reads this, but - oh well!)
There’s yet another aspect of this same argument that I raised in the interview session:

TN: Your guitar and voice work are very closely complementary. It reminds me of Van Morrison's sax work, where his alto saxophone takes on tonal colorations that sound very much like his singing voice.

PM: Thanks. I've worked really hard to get them to be as equally as strong, but I never really feel like I'm there. I'm my own worst critic, really.

TN: Pete, how did you first break into real life music?

PM: Well, I started singing when I was 16 in church. When I was 19 I moved to Nashville to sing country music. I had never really written anything until I moved to Nashville, and after some time there I began slowly moving away from country back toward my gospel, blues and soul music background.

TN: Did you play in any groups along the way?

PM: No. I've played in bands that backed me up, but never really played in a group that wasn't backing me. I was never really in a band per se.

TN: So how did you make the jump from basement to live public performance?

PM: I played a ton in Nashville and all around in bands that backed me up. I played shows, festivals, and parties. I've had a lot of time playing my guitar - just me, my voice, and my guitar and have found that's always what works best for me.

It starts with a song - that's just my voice and a guitar. That's just what seems to always work best for me.

TN: Any early writing/performing influences?

PM: Yes. My earliest influences blues-wise are Eric Clapton and BB King.And Robert Johnson. My biggest interest in Christian music is Steve Green. And as time went on people like like David Wilcox, Indigo Girls, and Sheryl Crow.

TN: What kind of shows were you doing?

PM: Festivals in Nashville, shows all around Nashville, college concerts, all around. Wherever the gig took me.

TN: So, somewhere along the line you discovered Second Life. How did that happen, Pete?

PM: I released a record called “Detachment” and found a website called thesixtyone. A listener from thesixtyone told me about SL. I resisted for a long time thinking "whatever", but they sent me a link and it tripped me out when I checked the link out.

TN: What was your impression of SL when you first got here?

PM: My impression was it freaked me out; it really freaked me out. I started talking to my computer, saying hello and my computer talked back to me and it really tripped me out.

It still really does. It trips me out that I'm sitting on a chair talking to someone asking me questions. It still trips me out. But it's an interesting world and I thoroughly enjoy my experience here.

TN: Where did you play when you first arrived here?

PM: Merry Pranksters. Bebe Ballinger found me and invited me to SL.

TN: Do you recall about when that was?

PM: Oct. 17 of last year. Then Tangle Giano took me under her wing, showed me all around. She showed me Trax. Bones Writer* and Tangle both took me in and nurtured me. Kat Vargas from JoyKat productions managed me and showed me the SL music scene and really facilitated everything until Jemma took over and has taken it to another level.

TN: Any interesting/fun SL stories?

PM: The most interesting story is probably when I hit 'Remove All Clothing' and thought, “OMG, I have a mangina!”

TN: I recall you wearing open toe sandals to one beach gig and someone took a snapshot of your toes. Passed it all around the audience. LOL

PM: LOL Yeah. I had that flip flop feeling. I have such good toes in SL.

TN: Yes, you do! But instead of discussing them, I'm going to discuss a couple of your songs, if you don't mind.

PM: Oh okay. Sure.

TN: “Heartache and Lace” - what's behind that one?

PM: I wrote that song with a great friend of mine named Steve Allen, then I kind of forgot about it. I started playing it one night and a friend said, “I like that song.” So it reminded me how much I liked it and so it made the cut.

The story behind the song really is just the feeling of this person that needs to let go of something that feels maybe like he‘s behind the 8-ball in a kind of a way. Someone that can never get out of their own way.

TN: Yes, it’s a lovely song and a delightful recording. Where was it done?

PM: A good friend of mine named Robin English sang on it with me and it was done at Blue Planet Studios in Nashville. That song really set the tone for the whole record “Detachment”. We recorded that one first.

TN: Another of my favorites is "Phone Calls and Photographs".

PM: I wrote that one with Robin English, but I wrote that song about six months before I recorded it. Before I got to Nashville I hadn't finished it. So Robin met up with me and gave me the rest of the lyrics and the first time I sang that song to record it, I had never sung it in entirety before.

TN: Wow. To me, that song sort of epitomizes the Pete Mroz sound.

It does. Part of why it was so easy to record that is because it’s who I am. Everyone has their own way of singing blues and that one shows that's my way of singing it, the rhythm that comes out of me. Yeah, it was really meant to be. It came out and I left it exactly as it was.
TN: There's one more i wanted to ask you about - co-written with (leafing through my notes) a…Mr. Moonwall?

For the regular reader of The Word you know the admiration that this writer has expressed for Buckley Moonwall*. I was the first (and wonderfully not the last) pundit to compare Moonwall favorably to Bruce Springsteen. In my opinion he and Pete Mroz share some very special musical and personal honors both as performers and gentlemen.

PM: “Someday Soon“. Gordon (Buckley Moonwall) wrote that song. I just have the pleasure of singing it. He wrote that 10 years ago and forgot about it. I started to tinker around with it and added it to my set. Gordon wrote both “Someday Soon” and “Hey Lorriane”.

TN: Did you two meet here in SL?

PM: No, I've known Gordon for 15 years.

TN: Are you two as tight as it seems to us listeners?

PM: A lot of people don't know how close we are. We are tighter than people think in SL. We grew up in Nashville together; spent hours and hours playing music, drinking beers, hanging out. I can't tell you how many hours I've spent with him.
Gordon and I we have a special bond. I respect his music. He's one of my biggest musical influences.

TN: Awesome.

PM: He is awesome

TN: Pete, when you write, what's the process? Music first?
PM: The process for me usually is that I pick up my guitar and heal myself. Usually the guitar first, yes. Picking it up and finding a musical pattern I like. I've tried to write with words first, but it tends to be too much like process to me. I'm a big melody person. I'm all about the melody of a song.
To me, a melody supersedes any lyrical content. Melodies are what stick in your head. How many songs can you just start humming that you know without even knowing the words?

TN: What might inspire you to write a song, Pete?

PM: Life. Not to be cliché, but life. I write to heal. It's my healing process. That's why I don't write a lot. I don't hover in a negative place for long periods of time. Once I think something through and pass it through my spirit I move on.

TN: Do you have any favorite Second Life musicians?

PM: There are no other musicians in SL except for one - BUCKLEY!

PM: u
PM: c
PM: k
PM: l
PM: e
PM: y

TN: Too funny! Here's one you might choose not to answer. At the end of your set, just before you cut the stream, you whisper something personal. I hear it as "goodnight Traci". LOL (Don’t kill my dream here, Pete!)

Well, I say, “Goodnight Gracie” because as a kid growing up there was the George Burns Show and at the end of the show he would say to his wife, “Goodnight Gracie”. And I always thought that was so sweet. He would say, “Goodnight Gracie” and she would say, “Goodnight George”. It always seemed like true love to me.

TN: So, what's next for Pete Mroz?

I'm going to record another record, probably an all blues record. Get back to my roots and play what I always wanted to play but never felt like I deserved to play. Now I feel like I love it enough and am a good enough ambassador to represent it well now and present it in a good enough light.

Who knows, maybe it won't be blues. Maybe I'll go to record it and something else will come out!

TN: Here in SL, you certainly have an incredibly devoted and vocal audience. This is your chance to speak directly to them. What would you like to say to them Pete?
Yes they are wonderful. They are awesome. That's what so enchanting and alluring about SL is the fans. The fans are wonderful; the people who come all the time to listen. It's touching.

I've spent a long time playing music. I've played all around the country to all kinds of people, and SL people have been the most devoted, charming, loving fans in the world. It's motivated me and gotten me to play again when I was putting my instrument down. This recharged me and got me to play again and for that I am completely thankful.

At this point in the winding down of the discussion I felt it only appropriate to bring Jemma into the mix. So I asked her one question and was surprised to see Pete (damaged finger and all) attempting to co-op her answer, providing a moment of high hilarity for us to end the discussion on.
TN: Jemma, since you're here, is there anything you as Pete’s manager would like to add?

Pilgrim75 Swashbuckler: I would like to say
Pilgrim75 Swashbuckler: Pete is awesome
Pilgrim75 Swashbuckler: he is the best
Pilgrim75 Swashbuckler: :)

JB: Just that helping Pete has really been a blessing to my life. His friendship and music have touched me and helped me get through tough situations in my real life. Helping him is one of the best experiences I have had in SL.

TN: Thank you Jemma. And good try Pete! That finger sprung right back to life didn’t it? LOL

Pilgrim75 Swashbuckler: hehehheheheh You know dat’s right!

* Bones Writer and Buckley Moonwall (Gordon Vincent) are wellknown SL musicians.

*** Kat Vargas

Carmel Daines: Paying It Forward

by Traci Nubalo

A few months ago my friend Nance Brody invited me to listen to a new singer/songwriter. Ms. Kristi and I attended the show and were thoroughly pleased. Carmel Daines proved to be one of the freshest and most talented new performers on the grid.

I recently spoke with Carmel about her beginnings in music and her approach to performing here in Second Life.

Traci Nubalo: Carmel, how did you get started in music?

Carmel Daines: Well, I've mentioned in my shows that my parents were both into music. My mom grew up with it, her dad was a vaudeville musician, so the instruments were just around the house. My dad had a Kay bass fiddle in the corner. He also had a gorgeous old 1939 Epiphone guitar, an old upright piano, a uke and a ton of assorted old guitars.

TN: Wow.

CD: We used to go to my grandparents' house and they'd have these jams and I wanted to jam so bad, but I couldn't play anything! So one day I picked up a guitar, and Alfred's Basic Guitar Method, which was in the house and started teaching myself.

TN: Good old Alfred's.

CD: Yeah, and every once in a while I'd hand my dad his guitar and make him listen to me, and he'd give me pointers. Me and my older sisters sang and harmonized all the time, singing old folk songs, girl scout songs, etc. And at grandad's we sang stuff out of this old Reader's Digest songbook. It had the old classics, like Someone To Watch Over Me, etc.

TN: How old were you at this point?

I was seven when I started playing, eight when I wrote my first song.

TN: And your first group? Did you have any groups?

Do you mean like a band?

TN: Yes.

CD: Nah, I sang at home with my sisters. I sang backup when I was in LA for a guy named Bill Spann for a very short while but I was not assertive enough to do my own band.

When I moved to Louisiana and ended up getting divorced. I found that playing gigs paid a whole lot more than any regular job I could get, after being a stay at home mom for so many years.

TN: What kind of gigs were they at that point?

CD: Well, this is a small town. There are only a few bars and a couple of restaurants that offer live music. It took a while to work up to private parties and later, did a few regional bookings for my own music. So playing out, I ended up doing covers to make a living, which is not unusual.

Carmel has progressed quite a way in her guitar technique since her days practicing from the Alfred’s series. The books stress precision in rhythm and accuracy in noting. Miss Daines has actually progressed beyond that, into a colorful, relaxed mode of professional strumming and finger picking. This allows her a variety of styles with which to tell the story of a particular song.

And what a storyteller she is! One of her many originals is “Louisiana Lullabye” - a song she wrote in 2006 that sounds so authentically cajun that my mind plays the scratchy fiddle and wheezing squeezebox parts every time I hear it. I asked Carmel what inspired the song:

CD: Well, I had been feeling like a fish out of water; major culture shock moving from CA to LA or L.A. to LA, either way. I realized how much I loved living out in the coun
try here, so I wanted to write about that. The chorus and bridge came all at once, but the verses didn't work, so I changed it to be about someone who grew up in Louisiana and left it. You know, the grass is always greener.

I also asked her about one of her original songs called “Old Horses”

CD: I woke up about 4 a.m. on my birthday and wrote that song. I was just thinking of how society values youth and how other people tend to tell you you've outlived your usefulness, that your day is over.

So me being in my middle age - some would think it's sad I'm still singing - not realizing it'll never be over as far as I'm concerned. I'll always create when it comes to me, regardless of whether it's commercial or not.

TN: Yes.

CD: I thought of my dad, too. He worked in the airline industry at a job he loved. Towards the end the younger executives came in and said, "Why don't you retire old man? Nobody needs your kind anymore."

He was from another age, where they just had an overall knowledge of airplanes, and at that stage the industry had become specialized so he was obsolete. So sad for him.

TN: Amazing.

CD: So "Old Horses" always makes me a little choked up.

Another of my favorites also involves her father. It’s entitled, “Are You Calling?” I first heard this at a Halloween gig where Carmel mesmerized the audience with the true tale of being revisited by her father after his death, the haunting coming in the form of the smell of his pipe burning. It’s a brilliant and sensitive piece - an example of first-person storytelling at its best.

During our second interview sitting we got to talking about storytelling; about how much we both enjoy songs that really tell a tale. Here’s an illuminating part of the exchange:

CD: Almost all of my older songs have stories. It's only when I started writing for Nashville that they lost the truth.

TN: Wow. What a line! What a poignant concept!

CD: Well sadly, I think it's true. They write in teams set up by publishers. They write formula hits; they write what sells. No heart to it.

This commitment to honesty and excellence in her work is one of the things that I love most about Carmel and her music. Her entire delivery - both on and off-stage - just radiates a gentle but powerful truth. It’s a real pleasure to attend one of her shows here in SL.

I finally got around to asking Carmel how she eventually found her way to Second Life music:

CD: Through Capos Calderwood!* I think I meet a lot of Texans! I met him at a singer-songwriter gig and we've stayed in touch. He let me know he was doing these online gigs. I checked out his website but never looked into it, that was three years ago. Then Eva Moon - EvaMoon Embers.*

TN: I love her stuff.

CD: I belong to a chat group called GoGirls, and she mentioned it on there. So Capos helped me figure out the techn
ical stuff, how to hook up and play. and Eva helped out too, just steering me in the right direction.

And my second day on SL I met Nance Brody*. Eva had told me about the online forum for SL, and in reading that, Nance mentioned she had a stage that she let anybody play on. So that would be me.

I showed up there, couldn't figure it out so I contacted Nance through the forum and asked her about it. She popped into SL, asked me to play just to see if the stream worked. And she asked me back to play that very night with her, which was amazing of her to do!

TN: That’s the night I first met you and saw you perform. I had just completed Nance's article for The Word.

CD: It was a funny coincidence that you had just happened to write about. Her. That first night I was walking into walls, didn't know how to control my avatar. I mean even worse than now. I couldn't see anything, couldn't wait in the chair for my turn. But everyone was so kind!

TN: Yes, and you blew the crowd away, I recall. Ms Kristi and I were amazed. The buzz on you that night got serious.

CD: Really?

TN: Yep.

CD: I can hardly remember it, I was dazed. It was all original, which Nance insisted on. I was very grateful for the opportunity.

TN: So where did you go from there?

CD: Well, Capos mentioned my name to a few people, notably Amy Ferguson and Ed Lowell***. And they helped me play the Hummingbird and a couple of other places. Capos twisted a few arms for me, and then once I started playing, I got IM's about playing more. And it's just gone on from there.

Other people have been amazing, as have you. You introduced me to Russell [Eponym]*, who spent a couple of hours talking to me late at night for him when he'd been playing for hours!

TN: So now you've acquired management here in SL. How did that come about?

CD: Yes, I can't even remember when I met Pablo [Blauvelt]**. He was just there one day, helping out, giving advice, bringing people to listen to me. Not pushy at all, which I love. So eventually he said he could help as much or as little as I was comfortable with, and since I obviously needed help I was glad to accept his help and he's been wonderful.

TN: Well, this is your chance to speak to your Second Life listeners. What would you like to say to them?

I can't type THANK YOU big enough. It means so much that people are willing to give me a listen, especially my own songs, which they don't know. And you Traci, and Capos, and Eva, and Russell - you are just amazing people. I can only hope that I can not only be worthy of their help, but also have the opportunity to "pay it forward", do the kind of stuff that Nance did for me, for example.

TN: Exactly. That's the way it seems to work the best.

* Capos Calderwood, EvaMoon Ember, Nance Brody and Russell Eponym and Edward Lowell are all well-known Second Life musicians.

** Pablo Blauvelt is Carmel's SL manager and co-owner of Pegasus Knights, a music club in Second Life.

*** Edward Lowell and Amy Ferguson own and manage The Stream Team and the Hummingbird Cafe on Second Life.

Lexi Luan: "Meet Lexie"

Lexie Luan, veteran SL rocker,
releases new song collection
entitled "Meet Lexie"
Shine, new Second Life music/arts sim
to feature Buckley Moonwall, Strum Diesel
and others in Grand Opening Concert - December 10th

(story below)

by Traci Nubalo

It’s always exciting when a Second Life musician releases a new song collection and all the more so when several SL musicians collaborate on a project. It displays the huge depth of talent that we have among the working musicians here in SL.

That’s the case with veteran SL player Lexie Luan and her newly-released project appropriately titled “Meet Lexie.” She comes from the Philadelphia live scene where she gigged and recorded with The Lexie Smith Band. She’s been playing the virtual club circuit since March, steadily building a large and loyal following.

Lexie and I sat together recently to listen to the four tracks on the set. I found it to be a nicely-performed and produced piece. In fact, it turns out that our friend Zorch Boomhauer, one of Second Life’s premier singer/songwriters took the helm as producer and session player.

Traci Nubalo: Lexie, I really enjoyed the collection. Who are the backing musicians on it?

Lexie Luan: Well, I played two rhythm guitar tracks and sang lead and harmony vocals. Zorch produced the project and contributed another layer of guitars, and also played bass and drums.

TN: Excellent. Very nice work. I especially enjoyed the open and spacious feeling in the production. Everything sounds crystal clear.

Let’s listen to the first track “I Could Get Used To You”. What’s the origin of the song?

LL: When I wrote the song I was looking to describe the feelings of a new , fresh kind of love. It was like meeting someone I could really like; it's about the possibilities. I had written so many sad break up songs and I wanted to say something positive.

TN: Yes, I got that. But I can also sense a little conflict in it. You want this new relationship to move forward, but there’s something holding a part of you back. You sing “Still there‘s a part of me/I don‘t want anyone to see.”.

LL: And it’s not just me. I think that just about anyone can identify with it.

TN: Yes, of course. We've all been there.

LL: *laughing* Well, you don’t want to give away the whole store without using a safety net!

TNL: *laughing*

LL: I also like that the song has this James Bond feel to it. Sort of Lexie 007!

TN: Yes. Great observation now that you mention it. It really would make a great Bond theme.

Zorch also added a very tasty Spanish guitar-style lead guitar break.

LL: He had been playing with me for a while and he said that he heard it turning out like this all along.

TN: That’s classic Zorch, isn’t it?

LL: Yep! *laughter* Overall, I’m really happy about the way this track came out. It’s really honest.

The rest of the collection impressed me as being as good as the opener. Lexie’s voice throughout carries great emotional weight. She’s able to express herself in a number of significant ways via dynamic change, alternate voice inflection, and even a sexy little growl which she uses sparingly but to great effect.

Her guitar work is steady all the way through with rhythms that accurately support the story, and occasional little lead bits that add some sonic color.

A couple of the tracks, “Throwaway Girl” and the set-closing rocker “Warning Label” are already crowd favorites at Luan’s numerous SL club gigs. I’m certain that this collection will be eagerly gobbled up by her many fans inworld.

TN: Lexie, you have a very loyal audience here in SL. What would you like to say to them?

LL: They come to my shows because they identify with the music. That means they are paying attention and listening. And I thank each and every one of them for that.

They are the reason that I play here.


Shine stage to welcome Buckley Moonwall,

Strum Diesel and others

in Dec.10 Grand Opening Concert

by Traci Nubalo

On December 10th, Shine - the new Second Life music and arts sim - invites you to a Grand Opening Concert featuring the great Buckley Moonwall and SL favorite Strum Diesel. Opening the show will be Carmel Daines, one of SL’s new and popular female singer/songwriters, and the 19-year-old “one-boi band” Geoffrey “Goof” Unsworth who will continue his series of Beatle album covers with a performance of RUBBER SOUL -- the entire album, complete and uninterrupted!

* * * *

One of my early spiritual teachers taught me that the only things one should have in her home should be items that are either beautiful or functional. I was reminded of that lesson when I first saw Shine, Second Life’s new music and arts sim.

The performance area at Shine is truly a thing of visual wonder. From the air I was guided in by the three intertwining rings (symbolizing eternity) laid into the dance floor at the mainstage, just next to the wood swirls of a gorgeous fire sculpture. There is truly beauty in every direction with whimsically-stunning mountains rising up on two sides and a fascinating eyelet of rock emerging from the mysterious sea behind the stage. Total beauty and function - a perfect place to dance and sing and celebrate our Second Lives!

And on December 10th that is exactly what we are invited to do!

The owners of Shine - my good friends Kaitlyn Merlin and DJ Babenco - are presenting a fabulous Grand Opening Concert, with the help of me, Traci Nubalo and SECOND TIMES.

With one of the hottest and most interesting lineups in memory, the extravaganza will kick off at 4:00 pm SL time with Goof Unsworth, a 19-year-old musical phenom. His forte is called “album immersion” in which he creates complete backing tracks for a song or album, and then uses them to perform the piece with his own voice streaming live. At the Shine event he will perform The Beatles’ “Rubber Soul” in its entirety, uninterrupted. This is a unique act - not to be missed!

At 5:00 Carmel Daines will grace the Shine stage with her country-tinged originals and pleasantly-surprising selection of covers. She’s a first-rate acoustic guitarist, and has a voice from heaven. Only in SL since August, Carmel is fast becoming one of the darlings of the SL singer/songwriter set. If you haven’t seen her yet, this is the place to catch her act!

6:00 will bring the great Strum Diesel to the stage. He’s one of Second Life’s most-loved performers both for his awesome instrumental/vocal/writing abilities and for his commitment to raising consciousness on the planet through his work and his life. His shows are fast-paced and upbeat with lots of audience interaction. With eight song collections under his belt, and a nonstop inworld playing schedule, Strum appears to be everywhere in Second Life. And we’re very glad that he’ll be joining us at Shine.

Buckley Moonwall rocks the house at 7:00. BILLBOARD MAGAZINE has called him “One of the top independent artists in America” and both SECOND TIMES and TREET-TV have compared him to Bruce Springsteen. Moonwall is one of those “can’t take your eyes and ears off him”-type performers. Backing his amazing storytelling songs with powerful guitar and melodic harmonica, Buckley weaves a musical web that is capturing music lovers from all corners of the grid.

And after the smoke clears, the Shine stage will continue into the night with dancing to streamed music featuring live Bob Marley and much more!

This concert is dedicated to raising awareness and consciousness in both worlds, and to sharing personal and global peace and happiness everywhere. So put that darkness aside for an evening, and join us to Shine!

4:00 - Goof Unsworthy

5:00 - Carmel Daines

6:00 - Strum Diesel

7:00 - Buckley Moonwall

8:00 - Dancing under the stars to streaming music

Clairede Dirval & WashedUp Sideways: “It’s All or Nothing”

by Traci Nubalo

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for what I call “working musicians.” This would be a player or group who is totally dedicated to learning their craft. They write, rehearse, tour, record and perform on an almost-daily basis, never stopping until they finally achieve their career goals (or burn out in the process!).

Some of these men and women - the true road warriors of the rock lifestyle - are among the most interesting people I’ve ever met in my life. They’ve dedicated their lives to the preservation and growth of art and music. Essentially, they are the contemporary version of the traveling storyteller of days gone by. Before rapid transit and electronic communication, the minstrel, the storyteller, was an essential figure in the spreading of “news”, and also was functional in keeping the oral portion of mankind’s tradition from disappearing. Today’s traveling musician bears some of that same responsibility, only he or she is preserving our musical traditions.

One characteristic of an act that’s been road-tested over time is their sound. No matter the style of play, a musical group who performs night after night, year in and year out develops an-almost recognizable essence, or feel to their sound. There’s a cohesiveness - a depth of delivery - that comes with those long periods of laying in the groove together.

I could name many, many acts like this that I’ve observed; it’s especially impressive to find this sound in an emerging band. Just a few acts that have particularly impressed me with this early-career sound are: DC’s The Nighthawks, Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers from Philly, The Ralf Illenberger Band from Germany, and Jason and the Scorchers out of Nashville.

One night, in particular, I can recall promoting a 5,000-seat sold-out concert with Jason and the Scorchers opening for George Thorogood and the Destroyers. Jason came out loaded for bear, and within three or four songs began ripping the audience up bigtime, to the degree that Thorogood’s road manager tried to sabotage Jason’s sound until I stepped in and stopped him!

It’s truly a moment of rock and roll joy to watch such a group in action, and when I ran into Clairede Dirval performing solo on Second Life some time ago, the bells started to ring for me. I could tell she had been a long time touring artist just from her sound. Then, quite independently I attended a WashedUp Sideways SL event, and had that same feeling about him. It was only much later when interviewing Clairede that I learned that he was indeed her live-band guitarist for a dozen or so years on the road.

So when Clairede began offering double-streamed events with WashedUp on guitar I decided that this would make an interesting interview article. Seems that these two have been there and back again, logging thousands of miles playing the circuit through the Dakotas, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Colorado and New Mexico. An astute reader (perhaps with a US map handy) will quickly realize that is a lot of turf between those stops. This must have been quite some traveling band!

I interviewed Clairede and WashedUp separately, but the conversations were so stunningly alike that I’ve decided to merge them into one article.

Traci Nubalo: At the height of your touring period, what sort of act did you have?

Clairede Dirval: Hmmm. Well, we cut our teeth on country. We also did some blues and rock stuff. I pretty much told agents to kiss my ass and did it my way. Did my own booking and touring for the last fifteen years we were out there.

TN: What type shows and venues?

CD: We did what ever I wanted. Venues were a mix. We were a three-piece to five-piece band; it just depended on the year. We were a party band; we used to goof around a lot. Washedup was with me for the last twelve years of it.

Toward the end, though, I was not happy; sort of half alive.

TN: WashedUp, what was life like on the road with Clairede?

WashedUp Sideways: She's an awesomely talented performer. In fact, she is that and more. She also is the most upfront, honest, biggest-heart-but-take-no-crap-from-anyone person that I know. I know it shouldn't all go together, but in Clairede’s case it does.
As far as the road goes, I’ve always loved going to new places and seeing things I've not seen. A lot of the road work I've done was week long or two week engagements, and that is nice, as long as you have something to do with yourself which, if you are a player, well you always have that.

TN: You know, there’s a tightness of sound that seems to take place in a band who has traveled and played together a lot. I’ve always loved that.

WS: Yes. It seems like magic, and it is, but it's also listening and responding. We become in tune because we know how each other plays; it's really subconscious. All of that shared experience lead to camaraderie. Then with playing together, it becomes what seems intuitive. It's like when someone makes a mistake and goes to a chorus instead of the verse the whole band will sometimes make the mistake together.

TN: Yes. I've always loved that tightness of sound. It gets really precise; very punchy.

WS: And that is where the energy of rock and roll, and blues lives. It's not in tempo - it's in tightness.

TN: So after all those years together things started to get tougher. I know personally that the industry went through some very dramatic changes. (My music career was caught in that shift, too).

CD: It did. Cutbacks, live venues turned into sports bars. It’s just cheaper to buy a big screen TV than pay musicians.

TN: Exactly.

CD: First the glam pretty boy bands died. Then it was a matter of time before it hit us all. MADD had a lot to do with it. They pressured the local cops and with that they ended up killing an industry that was older than the hills - the traveling bards.

The musical world as I knew it died. It went from 48 weeks on the road every year - six or seven days a week - to weekends once a month. That’s just not for me. It’s all or nothing.

WS: Yes. The world has changed. To begin with we were not a big name on a major label touring act, we were a dance band a party band playing the freestanding clubs all over, mostly the west. So these changes hit us hard.

CD: For a long time we stayed busy. We were not hurting at all. It just took more work to line it up. When you are not mainstream, you have to find where the water flows. It was more difficult to keep the schedule full, but we did it.

But there is only so long you can fight when things are dying around you. It was no longer affordable. You spend your money on gas to get to the next gig and live hand to mouth. The road had been good to me financially. Not everyone can say that. But when it stopped being a good thing, it was time to get out.

* * * *
So there I was innocently minding my own business when I walked into Clairede’s blues club named Club Voyant (get it? Clairede Voyant!). Even her club has that “rock and roll lived-in” feeling. I had to smile when I saw the cones on the speaker cabinets pulsing as if in time to the music. Now that’s a true road memory, for you!

Early on, the show was somewhat sparsely attended giving it a cozy, back-porch jam session feel (although a much larger crowd was to filter in later). But the loose feeling went out the window pretty quickly as they swung into Delbert McClinton’s “I Want To Love You.” Clairede stated the theme powerfully with some tough-sounding acoustic guitar, then Washed slid in with some muy tasty flourishes between her guitar phrases.

But that voice! Lawdy mamma, that girl sounds like she ate up the blues and is spitting out the bones! All gravel and sass, Miss Dirval has an instinctive feel for breath and phrasing, making the delivery as much about story as song. And I can’t stress enough how much those road years come into play when she sings. There’s a passion present - a love borne from dedication - that literally coats each word she sings; and a deep weariness that can only be heard in the voice of a woman who has lived the blues.

Without missing a beat the duo charged into a chugging, up-tempo truck-driving version of “Me And Bobby McGee.” (No, Janis did not write it; it’s a Kris Kristofferson piece which is very often misidentified). However, the lead vocals were all Pearl, from beginning to end. Backing herself with some of the fattest, chunkiest chords I’ve heard on an acoustic, Clairde just tore the song up, giving me a sense that I was hearing how Janis might have sounded had she been around to do a gig in Second Life. It was not a perfect Janis Joplin; it was more. It was a loving improvisation on that raw, earthy sound.
* * * * *

TN: So after the road had come to a close what did you do next?

CD: Well, I didn’t pick up a guitar for almost three years. It was almost like I was in recovery from something dying.

TN: Wow. Like a grief.

CD: Everyone went their separate ways. But the band never really did break up; it’s never been official. Nobody ever gave notice.

TN: But then, along came Second Life. How did it feel when you and Washed realized you could actually play in SL?

CL: It was…like a great old favorite pair of shoes. SL came along at just the right time for me. Any sooner I might be here but not playing. Everyone talks about how it has changed here. lol I’m just happy it is here.

TN: Where did you start playing at first?

CD: Well, my first gig was on a sim that isn’t there anymore. It was called The Lighthouse, and it was charming.

TN: I remember The Lighthouse. And yes, it was very charming.

CD: Then I played a lot of the all-women sims like Greek Gold and Sidhe. They are a blast! I still have some really good friends there. I get to be Melissa (Etheridge) there. I still play a few of them. For ma sistas!

And no, I’m not a lesbian. I like the dangly parts!

TN: *laughter*

* * * * *

At Club Voyant the house was filling and the party was heating up. After a wonderfully creative and non-traditional take on the traditional “Summertime” the due introduced an original entitled “Jack and Charlie.” Maybe I wasn’t in the sharpest of heads because it took me a while to catch the Daniels connection, but then the first chorus came around - “Charlie sang the blues to me, Jack helped me wash it down.”

It was quite refreshing to enjoy the Grateful Dead feel with which these two professionals informed this original. Even with just the two guitars they managed to send me (and the growing audience) back into those awesome days of tailgating, partying and dancing all night to Jerry and Company. I was instinctively tempted to turn to the person on my right and ask him to “miracle me.” In retrospect I am so glad I didn’t!

WashedUp took to the mic next with one of his originals. He had told me that he chose his vocal material to suit his lovely, deep baritone voice, and “Sometime” fit that bill perfectly. Against a backed-off, bluesy vamp he chimed in clear as a bell, the perfect complement to Clairede vocally.

But when the duo swung into “Still Got the Blues” (the Gary Moore hit) it was guitar, not vocals, that made me sit up and take notice.
WashedUp, I should mention, is a master of playing overtones on the electric. I’ve been to a few of his solo gigs here in SL, where it’s always a sure bet that the audience will ask for some Santana, which he sonically recreates to a tee. He’s one of those rare players who displays an ease of dexterity, even on the most complex finger patterns. So, on “Still Got the Blues” he chose long, overdriven, gorgeous guitar lines, punctuated on the end by scratchy, sharp-edged, side-of-the-pick accents. The contrast was absolutely an inspired choice. We might be calling him WashedUp, but that name has nothing to do with his musical abilities and taste!

His sound - especially contrasted with Clairede’s rhythm work - was fascinating enough that I felt it necessary to quiz them about it in the interviews with a few “tech talk” questions:
* * * * *

TN: What guitars and rigs are you guys using here in Second Life?

WS: I've been playing two so far, a Strat Plus, and a Les Paul Custom; the Strat more so, but I do love a Paul.

TN: For the sustain?

WS: Well, I get much of the sustain from my amp. I just think that the tone of a Paul is like cream sometimes. I just like it, I like the weight too because it feels like it can take what I'm going to give it.

CD: In RL I have a Gibson335, but I use one of my Ovations most of the time. Playing alone, accompanying myself I’m not as comfortable with a cold electric sound.

TN: I love the sound of the Ovations, but I never got used to the rounded back. It always feels like it's slipping away from me.

CD: Well - lol - I’m really a “girl girl“, and I find it less obtrusive on my breasticles. It fits right under.

TN: And what are you each playing through?

WS: For the SL shows I am using a Mesa Boogie preamp and just a little reverb to give it some stereo width. I use Mesa Boogies in RL too, but the full amps.

TN: Yes, the Mesas have both a great clean setting and a killer over-driven sound.

WS: Yes, and often a pronounced mid range tone which helps cut through a mix.

TN: Exactly. Clairede?

CD: I run the Ovation through a Behringer head. It has built in effects. I’m running voice thru it too and it’s the same effect. I add a little reverb, that’s all. I’m not big on circus tricks.

TN: Your sound is big and full and rich, though.

CD: Yes. Not many holes. It’s the acoustic with a little reverb, just like the voice. If I were to play some harder stuff as in more rock, etc. I’d switch and try to distort a few things. But its not needed with this right now.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (did I really say that?) the audience had become a larger, louder animal. They seemed to be hanging on every lyric and lick, absorbing the music and giving Clairede and WashedUp a whole lot of love in return. I was drawn into the exchange, as well, when the opening notes of one of my favorite songs of all time rang out. They had delivered an endearing comic banter during Dylan’s “Trust Yourself”, and then downshifted both tempo and key to kick start “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.” I’ve long held this song dear, even in its many cover versions, but theirs brought a tear of joy to eyes throughout the room, mine included.
Against a sweet-yet-powerful rhythm guitar statement from Clairede, they told the tale of the dying outlaw Billy the Kid laying down his arms to Sheriff Pat Garrett in the softest of vocal tones at first, then growing into an fully dynamic motif. W contributed some gorgeous descending guitar runs at the end of each vocal line. All in all, this piece was the mid-set show-stopper, for my taste anyway.

Like the true stage pros that they are, they barely gave the audience a breath before cranking out the staccato, unison guitar intro to “Pretty Woman” a la Van Halen. The team had the crowd laughing out loud by first shifting into a neko theme singing “Furry Woman” then erupting into a hardcore “purring attack” by Lady C.

They hit the home stretch with a wise choice: Marshall Tucker’s classic “Can’t You See?” - a song totally suited for them both musically and vocally. Clairde’s chugging acoustic set the stage with some mega-tasty call-and-response play from Washed. He underplayed very nicely here, leaving some welcome dynamic spacing overlaid with well-thought-out punctuation licks.

By this time the assembled crowd was tearing up Local Chat with ongoing applause and shouts of approval. Clairede closed the night with a lovely rendition of the Lucinda Williams ballad “Righteously.” She delivered her deepest sultry vocals in an improvised bridge before wishing us all a good night. No one moved to the door, however.

I smiled and smiled.

* * * * *
CD: I try to perform a little something for everyone. Just because you like blues doesn’t mean you don’t like rock. And it doesn’t mean you want to have a steady dose of Muzac.

I have friends of all kinds, heights and colors and genders. Each one - like a song.

TN: Clairede, your audience is one of the most devoted I have seen in Second Life.

CD: Awwwwww.

TN: Here's a chance to speak to them directly. What would you and WashedUp like them to know?

WS: There are times when the response is significant enough that I know I have touched them. When that happens, in one sense I get validation, but more than that, I too am touched. It all becomes very real at that moment and I am so pleased we have found each other in this world.

CD: Yes. I hope that they know that they are a godsend to me. I wake up and look forward to seeing them every day. I laugh with them every day. They are the getaway; they are the light in the refrigerator. Without them it would be a little darker than it should be. Some of the humor here you just don’t find in RL. Everyone has a funny bone to some degree. And they are not afraid to say the wrong thing. It just comes out.

Isn’t it funny how it takes a cartoon for some people to be who they really are?

Buckley Moonwall: Love Me Do

by Traci Nubalo

The harmonica. It was that wailing harmonica sound that got both of them. And once it had them, it refused to let them go.

One of them picked up a guitar, learned to sing and never looked back. He became Buckley Moonwall, one of Second Life’s premiere musical artists. The other one became me, Traci Nubalo.

I write this blog.

Buckley Moonwall: I became obsessed with music at an early age, especially with writing and performing. I loved the harmonica sound on The Beatles’ “Love, Love Me Do".

Traci Nubalo: Wow, so did I! So did that inspire you to start playing? Or writing?

BM: Yeah, well, it all happened at once. I think I may have actually started writing before that, but it was all happening at the same time. I was a kid,pretending I was on the radio.

TN: Do you recall any of your early songs?

A few rhymes and lyrics but not much else. I've forgotten a lot of my songs over the years. C’est la vie.

TN: Have you been primarily a solo artist in your career, or were you also in bands coming up?

I've been addicted to writing since I was a kid. I've kept notebooks since I was fifteen; don't know how many I've filled up, but I‘m always trying to work with words. I'm always writing songs and listening to music and I'm interested in art and finding new ways to stretch my mind.

BM: I've had a few bands along the way, but I’ve never have been able to reconcile my acoustic style into a live band situation. So it was either rock and roll with some players (I love Led Zeppelin), or me with my acoustic guitar simulating the rhythm and lead, by myself.

TN: How did you land in Second Life?

BM: Pilgrim75 Swashbuckler (Pete Mroz) told me about it. He'd been on here for about a month and was starting to get pretty big here. I was fascinated with it from the start.

TN: When you first started played here, were you doing some of the songs you do now?

BM: Yes. I've always tried to be doing my own stuff, at least as many originals as covers. So, in writing over the last twenty or so years, I've got some songs that seem to resonate.

TN: When you write does the music appear first or the lyrics?

BM: Usually some guitar part will elicit a phrase and then they grow together. At a certain point I step back and ask, "What is it?" Maybe it needs honing, maybe not. I try not to second guess myself too much, but sometimes it takes me a while to get back to where I started.

I usually just sit with a guitar on my lap and songs develop out of where I'm at emotionally. But I never really sit down specifically to write. I just like spending time with my music.

At a recent Second Life gig, Moonwall opened with the set of covers from heaven. He would have given the late Mr. Lennon a run for his money on harmonica as he kick-started the evening with a fierce restatement of the Ray Charles blaster “What’d I Say”, ripping through a racy intro and then an improvised harp solo with a vengeance. A couple verses and a chorus later he slashed and sliced his way through John Prine’s “Automobile”, answering his own vocal verses with mouth harp hot enough to put a blind beggar to shame.

Then, as the partiers had just started to break a sweat, he adeptly downshifted back into “What’d I Say”, restating the theme with a tinge of a reggae backbeat. Finally, to the delight of the dancers, he magically morphed it into a soul-satisfying rendition of “All Along The Watchtower” - much more Hendrix than Zimmerman. On this night he was a master saucier, and what a spicy gumbo he was cooking up!

Astonished, I took a quick peek at my watch. The entire journey had taken fifteen minutes.

* * * * *

TN: How would you describe your music?

BM: Well I guess you could say that I play in somewhat of a folk style, though I don't like calling my solo music "folk".

TN: Yes, what you do is rather indefinable style-wise. In a good way.

BM: “Roots" is a nice word. Or maybe “organic.”

When Buck used these two words - “organic” and “roots” I was reminded of the one comparison that most strongly seems accurate in describing his work as a whole - writing, performing, and relating to his live audience: Bruce.

I simply can’t attend an inworld Buckley Moonwall concert without being reminded of how he feels like Second Life’s very own Bruce Springsteen.

I’m a veteran of at least a couple dozen Springsteen concerts, and I hold The Boss in the highest regard as a writer and performer. And, while I fully expect Buckley to disagree with me out of modesty, I see him in that same category of style. And equally as adept in talent. Check out these lyrics from an original song called “Turn Out The Light” that Moonwall debuted on that same night:

She left her twenties somewhere behind her it was the dark before the dawn. She learned to lie about the bruises she wore collars and sleeves. Between denial and excuses she never found the time to leave.

The honesty - especially within the context of a topic as dark as spousal abuse - just brought tears to my eyes. It can rightly be compared thematically to Bruce’s “Streets of Philadelphia” (gay/AIDS awareness) or “Blood Brothers” (veterans issues).

I’ve long felt that it took a lot of artistic confidence and sensitivity for Springsteen to take on these dark-yet-significant issues in his work. Certainly, he took some large-scale career risks in championing such controversial themes. But he did them (and quite a few others) powerfully and poetically, and Buckley seems willing to put himself on the line in that same way.

In concert Moonwall has a fascinating way of assembling guitar, vocal and harp parts. He not only states the basics of the song, he also knows how to slam the instrumental parts against one another sonically, creating complex and aggressive stacks of sound. He’s also learned how to make those same parts just tickle one another to create some delicately-interwoven instrumental figures.

Quite frankly, there were times in this mini-set where the musical/vocal artistry and the pure live fire was so great that it rivaled many of the best live Springsteen shows that I’ve seen. Virtual or not, Buckley is a master musician who works his audience as well as anyone in either world. He also stands up as a true poet, lyrically.

* * * * *

TN: I’ve always been fascinated with the themes and poetry in your lyrics. Would you like to choose one or two songs and fill us in on how they came together?

BM: Sure. I wrote one called “Too Short to be a Man.”

TN: *smile*

BM: I was doing a set in Nashville, and noticed a woman sitting near the stage watching me closely and making all kinds of gestures and faces. I didn't know what she was up to, but being young and single, I decided to approach her afterwards.

She proceeded to cut me to shreds saying I needed to work on this and I needed to do that, etc. When I got back to my table my friend asked what she wanted, hoping for something real interesting. I said, without thinking, "She said I was too short to be a man."

TN: Excellent.

BM: I went home and a day or two later I wrote it. I was proud of my follow through on that one. That one had a definite beginning. Most of them aren't so easy to trace.

TN: How long did it take to build an audience here in SL?

BM: Not long. I was lucky and got hooked up with Kat Vargas and her team. They really got me going, and since Charmm Magic took over, it has been very easy for ole Buckley. She works very hard and is very good at what she's working on.

TN: You have one of the more passionate followings in Second Life.

BM: They've put up with a lot from me here, lately.

TN: Tough summer, huh?

BM: Yes, the summer has been difficult and I haven't been on SL nearly as much as I would have liked. My life is usually pretty unstable, but this was rough.

TN: How are you doing now?

BM: Feeling great, and settling in - getting ready to get back on SL a whole lot more.

TN: I know a lot of people missed you here.

BM: Yeah, it's tough, I find a lot of fulfillment playing here. It gives me a lot! And I don't mean just lindens. The lindens are nice, though. I sure would like to start to make a living doing this.

TN: And you deserve to.

BM: "Deserves got nothing to do with it" - Clint Eastwood, "The Unforgiven".

TN: What do you love most about performing in SL?

BM: I love reaching so many people every performance - it's incredible. it's all over the world. I love trying out new songs. A lot of times I've written songs when I wasn't actively performing and they just sat there. I've forgotten a lot of songs because of that. It's exciting to play new material.

TN: Let’s switch gears and talk technique for a moment.

You have this amazing chunky guitar style. What’s the secret to making that so tasty? Are you playing mostly in standard tuning or do you use alternative tunings?

BM: I’m not sure what to say about it, except that I’ve been writing a lot with an open tuning, but I play mostly standard tunings live. I never took lessons. It‘s all basically organic.

TN: Who do you admire, instrumentally?

BM: Well, I'd have to say Jimmy Page and George Harrison. But then, again, I admire a lot of players. My favorite might change every time something catches my ear, which is often.

TN: By the way, George is my favorite Beatle.

BM: Yeah, he was really beautiful. I loved his playing and I loved his songs too, although John was probably my favorite. He would have been 69 today, I just saw in my chat.

TN: Wow!

BM: That's what I said.

TN: I’m glad I'm not getting older! LOL

BM: Me three.

TN; So…what's next for Buckley Moonwall?

BM: I’m looking forward to regaining my presence in Second Life. I have a few things I’m going to try to get going to give my shows a little bit more pop. But mainly it's just going be more of the same, only better.

I’m still writing, of course, and I have some new ones. And, the goal is to be on tour by next summer in RL.

I’m just about to release two new CDs: “Redemption” and “Confessions of a Hummingbird Farmer.” The first one is full production, the second is really intimate - acoustic.

TN: When will we hear them?

BM: Hopefully by Christmas.

TN: You seem to have quite a loyal and loving SL fan base. How does it feel knowing that so many here look forward to seeing your next performance with such intensity?

BM: It's an amazing feeling to have a "fan club". It reminds me that in my Second Life I'm doing pretty good, you know.

TN: Well, this is your chance to speak directly to your fans out there. What do you want to say to them?

BM: Well, Buckeroos, it's been a long, hot, dry summer, and I want to thank y'all for hanging around and waiting for me. I promise there's a tall, cold, foaming glass of Buckley coming your way real soon!

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