Showing posts from May, 2011


Long ago, before I got all fancy and went to graduate school, I never missed open mic night. It was at a gay bar on Halsted Street in Chicago, a bar that has changed names several times. I learned more there than I can express. These open mics were (are) state of the art as far as I'm concerned. There were two in Chicago then, hosted by well-loved and talented pianists who hosted the evening with grace and humor, and enforced a surprisingly high level of courtesy and respect in the room. They are still going on today.

Open mic night was frequented by a lot of us in various stages of aspiration and success. The talent level was pretty high, partly because this is a piano open mike, and we had a lot of trained theater singers and actors. I loved singing and making it all about me and showing off my new songs, and all that. But I loved listening too. I learned so much, and I was surprised by who I learned from.

Jacob rarely missed a Tuesday open mic. I didn't get much in the way …


As a performing songwriter people would sometimes ask me advice about songwriting. Guess what was by far the question asked most often? "How can I make sure my songs aren't stolen?" I was always surprised by this and kind of saddened.

I always wanted to say "What makes you think your songs are worth stealing?" (But I didn't).

Are we good, and do we think we're good, and are we as good as we think we are, is another conversation I want to have. But for now, let's just say that the people asking me this weren't getting their songs heard by anyone. Maybe they were scared their stuff would be stolen, as if plagiarizers and song thieves haunt every jive-ass bar and cabaret, as if we, the artists, were flashing our gold chains in the wrong part of town.

Maybe they just missed the entire point.

Doing art, or music, or dance, or theatre-or-whatever isn't about possessing. That great American novel that we always hear is in someone's drawer isn&#…