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.


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