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has proposed $100 per day permit fee that will essentially ban
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Women Buskers of Boston
by Olivia Brownlee http://oliviabrownlee.com/
Meg Hutchinson is a purveyor of hope and gentleness, and her caravan is songs.
A ragamuffin vegetable-picker from Great Barrington, MA, from an early age Hutchinson harbored that sweet fantasy of playing in Harvard Square, being discovered, and having a career lunge into place. At the end of 2003, when looking for a bigger music community and inspired by her friend, Rachel McCartney, she schlepped her battered gear up through the transportation plazas of Cambridge—held together with bungee-cords, sailor’s knots and lovin’ enthusiasm—and even if Brian Koppelman didn’t hear her that night, a slew of others did. Charmed by her face beaming in the night air, voice streaming out with all the light of a dream realized, passers-by dropped enough change into her case to make her finish three hours later thinking, “Well I’ll do that again!”
While we were talking, Hutchinson explained with care and calm how busking was a saving grace for her through a difficult time…
“I was housesitting for someone in JP, and I was playing on the Orange Line, and the best time to make money was on the early morning commute—but for someone with depression, generally morning is pretty rough, it takes you all day to kinda wind up, you know? But I knew it was my only option, like if I wanted to get groceries I needed to get up and get down there. And it always helped me to do it. I feel like music saved my life in so many ways, because it forced me to get out and interact and do something that was essentially therapeutic for me. Music’s always been a way to process what I was going through and I always felt better every time I finished the morning commute. And I also felt this like, deep relief that I wasn’t going to an office for the whole day ‘cause there’s no way I could’ve been capable of it. Most people looked at me like ‘How do you have the balls to stand there and sing in public?’ and I was looking at them like ‘How do you have the balls to go work in an office and talk to people all day?’ I couldn’t imagine being stuck around people all day long because I was in such an ‘inner’ state. But yeah it was a really fascinating time—I think of it as kind of a raw, rugged chapter of my life with the music and being down there…that environment’s so gritty and rugged, it’s kind of down in the bowels of the city and I was kind of in the inner corridors of my heart and mind in that time and it had a nice parallel—it was loud and grimy and mysterious, and that was kinda my inner landscape then, too.”
I asked her if she had any songs about this, and she told me about the first track on her Crossing record, “Coming Up” (lyrics below). But really many of Meg’s songs regale that sensation of coming up, of growing, shifting, falling, holding, protecting, bursting, traveling…these are repeated themes in all her writing. “Gatekeeper,” for example, is a song she wrote for a man in San Francisco who consoled and talked hundreds of jumpers away from the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge (this song is now featured on Kevin Briggs’ current website: http://www.pivotal-points.com/).
Toting seven albums now, Hutchinson credits much of her confidence and success to Martin Sexton, whom she called in a fit of aimlessness before moving to Boston and working with producer Crit Harmon. Sexton told her that playing in the subways was the best education she’d ever get if she wanted to make a record…
“He was right on, too, I mean, I wasn’t really ready for venues, yet. I needed to just really get the hang of it down there. And it’s such an honest poll: [The commuters] tell you within seconds whether what you’re doing is working or not, ‘cause they don’t have to be nice! They do not have to look at you, they don’t have to skip their train. So if you’re catching their attention, or if there’s a spark—I wasn’t good but I had energy and I had focus down there and I loved what I was doing, and I think that came through. As rough as I was as a performer there was this passion and conviction, and that carries really far. I think people really respond to that in a kid down there rather than polish, even.”
Playing all original tunes for hours on end, sometimes playing an “under-construction” song 15 times in a row (since there’s an incredible audience turnover rate when the trains are frequent), Hutchinson attributes most of her Important Lessons Learned to her time below ground—
“…from the physical workout of just learning to sing for that many hours without blowing your voice out, to the immediate honesty check that people give you constantly: Are you playing for the extra dollar? Or are you playing for the joy of it? And if you play it for the joy of it you get the extra dollar, and if you play for the extra dollar, people see right through the bullshit and they don’t put it in your case! It’s like they keep you so honest that way, and I felt like that was really informative. And just rehearsing the songs and learning to play in an environment that’s that distracting—‘cause you know, you end up at some lame gigs down the road and if you know how to plug in to that place where you could play when the green line was squealing, then you’re like, ‘Alright, it’s a lame club and there’s nobody here, but how can I just go into that same zone?’ I think the subway really made me train that part of myself that just plays through thick and thin. To this day, every now and then there’ll be a really weird night—something will happen and I’ll just go to that subway place in my head. And it’s fun, you just play it for the love of it.”
I had the pleasure of seeing Meg share a live show with Natalia Zukerman on Boston’s North Shore not long ago—the house was packed, and I was there ostensibly to take some amateur footage for this article—but I found myself sucked into the performance, charmed and entranced, probably as much as those first passers-by in 2003 when they saw a young girl singing her heart out in Harvard Square. Whatever she learned in the subways, it’s working for her.
Stay tuned of Meg Hutchinson’s doings, comings, and goings at her website: http://meghutchinson.com/
Meg Hutchinson on the Boston MBTA platform
Have you seen the way trees grow around barbed wire?
or the way fog burns off into blue?
have you seen the day turn into a dozen windows?
it’s a great big world out there
Have you seen October rain falling on rivers
or the way leaves gather at the dam?
I’ve been among them too scared to cross over
now there’s nothing keeping me here
so if you hear some kind of singing in the underground
you’ll know who it is without going down
and after this mean coastal winter’s gone
i’ll be the first one you see coming up, coming up
Have you seen the eyes of the men on the Avenue?
they drink until they holler like children at the air
People press themselves into the trains
stare the hard stare of people without names
all these tired bodies riding home in the rain and the
dusk at the end of the day
Coming Up © Meg Hutchinson
I drove an hour to Beverly to speak with the unsinkable Mary Lou Lord—a Singer, Song-miner, Open Mic Hostess and Girls Rock Camp Missionary—about her times and experiences underground bringing the most obscure and heartfelt covers (plus a few originals) to Boston’s commuters for hours on end. The woman has seen it all: from record deals in Seattle to playing for exuberant hobos in California who could only afford to tip her their physical pocket (which she says is her favorite story about busking ever). She related the providential circumstances that resulted in her and two other women kicking off Girls Rock Camp in Boston, and how she was invited to Bahrain in the Middle East to pioneer one there as well. She told me about Billy Ruane and how the Central Square music scene really took off in the 80’s and 90’s. I listened to the story of her fall, a physical drop from her own fire escape that broke most of her bones and healed all of her heart. And most of all, how music, that constant thread, has been instrumental in evolving her—how much she loves the songs she covers, and how deeply she admires honesty in performers and audience alike.
At age 16 all she wanted was to be a DJ. But she kept getting fired for scrapping the playlist and spinning the songs that moved her, and that is essentially what kicked off her performing career. She learned all the obscure, wonderful songs by people nobody had heard of, “little diamonds in somebody’s weird record collection,” and played them herself so others could be moved by them too. Few forces are enough to prevent Mary Lou Lord from doing exactly what she means to. The woman’s a prophet, an outlaw—she has a blatant and violent testimony to the grace of music in her life and the lives of people she’s met. She often relates her busking experiences to her addictive personality, speaking with so much joy and so much caution at the same time she leaves you in a furious flurry of stories and memories, wondering what you would have done in her shoes, and what you will do with your own experiences.
Do you do a lot of concerts?
No not really. I didn’t trust myself. Like, I’ve been invited to go to South by Southwest for the past three or four years now by some friends that I know that are down there, every year they’re like, “We’ve got the plane ticket, come on down!” But I’ve been fearful, like, “Oh my god am I gonna miss the plane, am I gonna get in a carwreck in the rental car because I’m drunk?” Being addicted to something, the ball and chain that alcohol is, I would never have trusted myself to get on a plane to go to Texas in the middle of South by Southwest and not come back completely ruined. But this year the same offer was out there and I said yes. What had happened was, I guess it was 1997 and Elliot Smith and I had just embarked on a little tour. He was my opener and nobody knew who he was yet because he didn’t have any records out yet, but he was like my little buddy and I loved him loved him loved him, and totally believed in him, loved him. Anyway we both applied to South by Southwest, we got rejected, and I was like, “Well fuck that, I’ve got the amp in the back, let’s just go. Who do they think they are? They don’t know! We’re awesome!” So we were on tour anyway, so we drove to Texas. It was right in March, we started on my 30th birthday, March 1st, and it’s always St Patrick’s Day at South by Southwest, and we got there on the 15th. I had never been to Austin, I don’t know if Elliot had, and I picked a spot in front of the Driskill Hotel, I didn’t know that that was a famous hotel, I didn’t know anything, I was just like, “Oh, there’s a Kinko’s, that’ll be good.” So I set up in front of the Kinko’s at 6pm and we began busking. And we had a ball. …And then the next year, Elliot started to do really well ‘cause he had six songs in the movie “Good Will Hunting.” He was on the Oscars and he still wasn’t signed yet. So of course the next year South by Southwest were like “Will you...??” So he gave them a lot of shit like, “Oh who’s the big shot now?” But what happened was, in interviews we were like, “Yeah, they didn’t want us but we went anyway.” We were like the outlaws, and they loved that about us, they loved that spirit, the Outlaw Spirit, the Rebel. We didn’t say, “Well screw that, they’re losers anyway, let’s go to New York.” We were like, “Screw those assholes, we’re going anyway. We wanna be part of this thing.” So we said to South by Southwest “Go fuck yourself, we’re gonna be here anyway. ‘Cause we know it’s cool, but we don’t need you.” So they just loved that, and then every year for twelve years I would go, and I would busk in the same spot, in front of the Driskill, in front of the Kinkos, and watch the store become other things over the years, and I would start at 6 and I would end at 3 in the morning. It was just amazing. …It was just like a fun fun thing over the years, and I would be the last thing standing ‘cause it would be 3 o’clock in the morning and all the bars would be shut and I would still be playing. So after the clubs had been shut, of course a lot of people were still awake—they were eating and they were in the wind-down period—they would be like “Let’s meet at Mary Lou.” And I would wind the night down, and I’d do this every day of the festival, when it was just a music festival. And I could tell a million stories about that but it’s just a million stories about that…
Oh, but one year, South by Southwest really tipped the hat to me, because they said, “Will you do a panel?” Basically you sit on a stage with other musicians and people in the audience ask about your career and see how you got going. So I was on a panel with Nona Hendryx, Robyn Hitchcock, a guitar virtuoso like Jon Langford or someone, Jenny Toomey...so I was like “Why am I here on this panel?” So I went back to the hotel room—and if you’re part of [SXSW], they give you a wristband and all this schwag and you don’t really get paid but you get to see all the bands that are playing—and I was looking through the big book, a schedule of all bands, and I opened it and it said, “This Year’s Highlights,” and I saw four people in a picture: Mavis Staples, Brian Wilson, Robert Plant and ME. They did me a SOLID. That was a huge tip of the hat. It was just like saying, “Thank you, you made us cool. You made us legit.” ‘Cause they knew that I was on fucking Conan O’Brien and then the next day I was at South by Southwest, busking. And it was like, “No, this is how we do it: We do it even when they say no. You don’t question, you just do it.” And this was before the internet, there’s no youtube, you just do it. And they never forgot it. You sometimes forget who’s watching or why you do it, but then years later you’re like, “I did that. I made it happen.” It wasn’t because of whatever that I got a record deal, it’s because I did it, I did the work, I had an audience, I did it. And that’s what a lot of people fail to realize, they think, “If I get a manager, if I get hits on YouTube...” No. You just do it, and you do it wherever, however, to whoever...you just do it. And you don’t take no for an answer, you create it. And that’s what I did. I think it’s really important to love what you’re doing.
And then now, with the internet, everybody’s busking on YouTube. And I think it’s great. But sometimes I think it’s just overkill, like the amount of people, it’s enough to make your head spin, like what are these people going to latch on to? And I hope that they find the same stuff that I found, the stuff that set the bar, that really set the bar, like Joni Mitchell and Neil Young and Bob Dylan...I do think that that will always be the thing that the kids find, even in the world of So Much, that will always be recognized.
How would you compare busking to performing a concert?
The thing I loved about it is if you’re working on a song, basically you can play it all night long. If there’s 25 trains that pass in six hours, you get 25 little audiences, or if you play two new songs, those are like little tiny gigs that you did. So even though you played the same two songs all night, new people heard them, so they’ll be new again every time you play them. It’s a great way to be psyched on the new song you’re learning. So I like that a lot.
And then it was always fun, like say there was a show at the Orpheum, and say there was somebody really cool like Bob Dylan, and their audience come down...it’s really fun when the audience gets it, when it’s not just like a Red Sox crowd—so when they’re like music people that’s really fun. Then you can mix up songs and just have fun.
The other thing about it is, I get freaked out on stage because they paid before you play, and that’s weird to me, like now I have to be good, or I have to show up—they paid, so now they expect something. Wouldn’t it be great if you could do a gig and if they liked it they could put something in the thing when they’re leaving, ‘cause that way they don’t own you. I didn’t like the idea of having an expectation over me, I’d rather have people if they liked it leave something. So it was more of a psychological freakout for me, like “Oh my god they paid. Already. I didn’t do anything yet!” So I didn’t like that, ‘cause it meant that I had to be good or something. Of course doing it for as many hours as I would do, it would take me a really long time to get in the groove; and on the stage, just when I feel like I’d find the groove, I’d be done. So that was another thing that I did not like one bit. I like to play for a long time. And [in the subways] I did, too, and it was good, you know, I was strong, I was in good shape, my legs were strong, I wore good shoes—like these massive, cork platforms—those were my Play-A-Long-Time shoes.
Did you ever busk when you didn’t want to?
No. No, if I needed money, I would borrow it before I would play and not want to. I’d rather borrow it. I wouldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it…
Every time I’d get a dollar—and I’m gonna reveal this, this is a very honest thing to say—but even the act of someone giving a dollar, they’re like, bowing, they’re going down, and money to me is one of the things that doesn’t bullshit. Like if somebody’s gonna give you money, they’re not fucking with you, you know what I mean? Money doesn’t lie. So they go like this [bow], they’re giving you money—and it’s a hit, every time they give you a dollar it’s like a reaffirmation that You’re Okay. So not only are you doing this thing where you’re breathing, you’re meditating, you’re in the “zen-zone,” but you’re also getting this crazy affirmation that You’re Okay out of it. It’s kinda sick in a way, but it isn’t, you know? …You’re getting money for doing this thing that you love anyway. So it was the best of all worlds in many many ways, and it was very very difficult to break that, to stop doing it, and when I did stop I think that I went through a little bit of a withdrawal, even with that too. I think that anybody who does the busking thing the way I did would know.
Why did you stop?
I got spasmodic dysphonia, a vocal condition—it’s weird, it’s dystonia, so it doesn’t have anything to do with my physiology, like my vocal chords, it’s a nerve-to-muscle thing, and not a lot of people have it—Linda Thompson, Robert Kennedy Jr, Diane Rhem—so it’s not a very common thing, but it’s out there and that’s what I have. I’ve gotten better over the years because I’ve stopped worrying about it. But when I first got it, I went to see Steven Zeitels up at Mass Eye and Ear when I knew that something was whacked (and he is The Guy: He’s seen Julie Andrews, Steven Tyler, Adelle…) so I started talking and he’s like, “Spasmodic Dysphonia.” I started talking and he diagnosed it. So I was like, “This is what I got. What are we gonna do?” And I just went into a real funk, a real real depression because of it, because I knew how I wanted to sound and it wasn’t coming out the way I wanted it to. So I couldn’t do the subway or street performing, because I don’t have control over this anymore, it became really really frustrating. And then of course, that’s my identity; not that I ever got to be famous or big or whatever, but that was my identity, and when I couldn’t do that anymore—this thing that I was kind of addicted to—it was a big emotional loss because I didn’t know who I was without this. …So it’s been a really interesting journey for me—not so much the playing and doing busking—but the stopping. That’s when I really started to discover who I really am, when I stopped. It’s really easy to lose yourself in it, it’s very addictive.
Have you found how to use your voice in a new way?
Yep, I think I have. And I think I’ve realized that it’s kinda like a busted trumpet, but it’s MY trumpet and no one’s going to play it the way I do. If anybody sings, as long as it’s honest—Eliza Carthy’s got that great line, you can do it and it’s always going to come out the way you are. I love that because I don’t sing songs unless I’ve lived them; I’m in the middle of the song even if it’s not my song. So I think that’s one of the things over the years that I’ve been known for, if you will, that a lot of people believe these songs are mine because I make them believable. Because they are believable. Because that is me. I didn’t write them but I find these songs that express exactly what I need to express. I have a song for every emotion that I feel. I’m a good song-digger, you know? It’s gonna come out the way I am, and my voice isn’t what it used to be; it used to be this very sweet, soprano, almost too sweet, like fey, twee, and I know a lot of people it probably rubbed them sideways—but that’s who I was then. And now it’s definitely different…but it’s my voice, and everybody’s voice is their voice and that’s what rocks the whole thing about it is that it’s your voice, and no matter what it’s going to come out the way you are. And if you’re kind of alright and if you’re in the right place mentally, you have the right to be sharing it…and if you don’t you don’t, I’m sorry, but if you’re in a bad spot you shouldn’t be pushing it or sharing. So if you’re in a good spot it’s good to share it, and no matter how bad it is it’s gonna come out and reflect that good spot that other people need.
So I have done that I guess. What are you gonna do?
Stay tuned of Mary Lou Lord’s doings, comings, and goings at her website: http://www.maryloulord.net/Welcome.html
There's no sun and no starlight to shine on the rails
The spray-painted words of the prophets have failed
Down in this tunnel, there's no day or night
Up above it, darkness or light
It's all just a dream, I wake up and I'm back
Where the wheels of reality screech down the track
The ride is the moment they're all waiting for
Can't afford to believe that there's more
I can't kid myself into thinking there's more
And he lives in the suburbs and he carries a phone
I watch him arrive and I'll watch him go home
He'll pitch me a quarter as he stops to change lines
He'd stay, but he never has time
Would he stay if he ever had time?
So hold my eye
While the rest of the city flies by
The tips and the tokens you left me today
Are the price of my ride on the subway
And I've seen drowning hobos and rich men who pass
Reflected in fragments of Boston bound glass
And I'll be Jimmie Rodgers, The Cure or The Who
If it makes any difference to you
Does it make any difference to you
So hold my eye
While the rest of the city flies by
The tips and the tokens you left me today
Are the price of my ride on the subway
Subway © Mary Lou Lord
“Anything can happen down in the subway, anything, any any anything.”
Nothing is more important to Ruthmar Boyer than her freedom. A 5’2” Haitian pillar of passion, at age 21 she moved from Haiti to Boston to be with her family and to attend Berklee College of Music on scholarship to study the art of performing. It was at Berklee that a friend informed her she could perform in the streets and subways of Boston legally, which floored Boyer since in her home country, people singing on the streets are considered beggars, not artists. She had no idea when moving here that busking could be a part of her income, and was astonished at how people responded to her music.
I never even thought about it. You can’t do that, my dad would never let me [busk], my mom also. But when I came here and I went to downtown with my dad, I saw a guy playing and I thought Oh my god! And I had twenty bucks for my life and I just gave it to him, like, “Here! Twenty bucks!” And I was trying to talk to him, but at that time I didn’t even speak English, I was kind of like asking my dad to talk to him for me, and I’m like Oh my god I wish I could do something like that, it’s so amazing. And two years later I found out about the process, you know, you need a permit to do it, fill out an application, pay twenty-five bucks, and I started, you know? And it works for me.
Here it’s like the people are enjoying it…I remember once I was playing at Park Street, a lady came to me, and she was crying, and she said, “I was having a bad day and you made my day.” And she gave me like fifty bucks! Oh my god, thank you, you know? And she was crying the whole time. Some people really enjoy the music, you know, it changes the moods of people taking the T, the singing, playing the music for them.
[The first time I busked] was in Downtown Crossing. I was so scared. I did it for like half an hour and I made like forty bucks and I’m like, hey, it’s working! But I saw my dad when I started, on the platform I saw my dad and he was looking at me. I pretended I didn’t see him, and when I got home he was like “What were you doing at Downtown playing? You’re supposed to be in class!” And I was like, “Yeah, dad, I took a break and I was trying to do something.” He didn’t want me to do it, but I fought, and we’re still fighting about that. And I remember I was in the Boston Herald, the newspaper, like two months later. So what you wanna do you do it. You gotta fight for what you believe in, what you love. That’s life.
For Boyer, music is the key to freedom. This is a woman who has busked pregnant, quit her jobs, stood up to her parents’ skepticism, and been living thousands of miles from her true love in order to pursue her passion. It took her a few years here to learn the language and the ropes, but her experiences playing in the subway have been lucrative enough for her to buy a car in Boston, and for her and her husband to build a house in Haiti. Busking has also put her in front of people who have hired her on the spot for wedding and restaurant gigs.
When you play in the street, anything can happen. I’m not looking for celebrity, that’s scary to me. A lot of people say “You will be famous someday” - I’m like Enh, it’s not that I don’t want that, it’s okay, but it’s scary. Because I don’t want anything to take my freedom away. When you get too much money, you’ll need some security guy, you’ll need this you’ll need that, you’ll go on TV, the people will tell you what to say, what to not say…It’s so complicated, you know, it’s too much.
If I don’t sing down in the subway I’ll have to sing somewhere else. It’s like I have to do it. It’s something that I can do. I can do a lot of things, but I feel more comfortable doing it, singing. It’s not even my voice; I got a unique voice, it’s okay, I’m sure a lot of people have beautiful voices. But it’s not about the voices, it’s about I wanna be myself, do what I can do, not struggle with something else I can’t do.
Impulsively, I asked her if she felt busking is different for men and women, or for light- and dark-skinned people?
No. I don’t think so. For me, since I was born I’m a fighter, I don’t think that man is tougher than woman…It’s about your talent, what can you give to the world, you know? What can you give? It’s not about your sex or what gender you are, no, it’s not about what color you are. It’s about what can you give, what difference can you make…Because when you have a talent, when you touch someone’s emotions, it’s about how you do that, it’s not about what color you are.
But no matter what you do, it’s not everybody can listen to it, pay you attention. It’s everything you do, it’s not just for me. Some people will take away their headphones just to listen to me. Some people are like “Yay, she’s down here!” and they’ll listen to me. But some don’t care. Some people are like, “You sing French more than English, why?” They’re asking questions like “Are you singing the same song over and over? Every time I come down here you’re singing that song.” I’m like, No, it’s rush hour. You need to sing something interesting and SHORT, so you can last for four hours; because I’m doing it for the passion, but I have to make some money. I have to play a long time, so I have to be smart about it. I don’t mind playing any songs, but sometimes I have to think about it - I’ll be here for like five hours, I have to go slowly, take it easy. Here you do a lot of things you don’t wanna do, in America. ‘Cause everybody is worried about money, the money thing, the business thing. I’m sure that more than 50% of people here don’t like their jobs. Sometimes I’m tired, my body can’t do it, I’m like Oh my god, I’m going down again in the subway. *sigh* Okay. I gotta do what I have to do. And the funny thing about it is when I get down to the subway, I can’t leave, I don’t want to go home. That’s funny. I was so tired but when I get here I have so much energy, and the people they not only give me money they give me love. They’re like “Yeah, keep going!” Sometimes I don’t wanna do it, but I do it. Because I have to sometimes, I need the money. Sometimes it’s not even about the money, I need to get away from home, you know, breathe somehow, by singing. There were times where I’m like, I’m dying, I can’t sing…but I can, and that heals my soul. Every time I wanna quit, sometimes I think singing is the best thing I do. It’s something that I love doing. Sometimes I wish I could do something else, I’m tired…but when I do it, that gives me strength to go on and keep doing it.
What would you say to other girls who are thinking about playing in the subway?
Ah. They can do anything they want! Show your talent, don’t hide something you have. I believe that there’s a lot of talent that you can’t get it anywhere else. If you have something unique, if you can make a difference, go ahead and do it. You never know. Playing in the subway, it’s a journey, anything can happen. Anything. I was playing at Quincy Market—my first song—it was so hot, like July, it was so hot and I was pregnant, and I‘m like “Oh my god I think I’m gonna go home,” the heat was killing me…a guy gave me a hundred bucks. If you have a talent, go ahead. It’s not about if you’re a girl or a boy, you’re black you’re white—go ahead and do it, share your talent with the world. Now I’m thinking about working on my website ‘cause people are asking me for my music all the time, CD’s and stuff…you know I didn’t want to do a CD, but the people from the subway, they’re asking for it all the time and I’m like okay lemme do it. Some people take the time to email me back and say “It’s good, keep going.” So, why not? Girl, play, you gotta be tough—if you have to get up early in the morning do it. Take the first train, do it. Wintertime it’s tough, you can’t get a spot. Sometimes to come to downtown like South Station, I get up at like 5 o’clock in the morning, take the first train. And think about how I don’t have enough sleep, I have a son—but if I have to do it I’ll have to do it. It’s tough, it’s a tough business, you might go hours not making any money but you have to keep going. Even good musicians, they don’t make money all the time. But they keep going. You make it happen. Sometimes you have to force yourself. One day I was playing for hours and I didn’t make any money, I’m like What is going on? Is it my voice or something? No—try something different, something else. I used to sing a lot of Etta James—I switched and now I’m playing more French music and people love it. Do it! Play, why not? …You know it’s Art.
My house now, every time I look at it I’m like, “Hah, that’s the subway.” And my daddy’s always like “Oh my god, I don’t know how much strength do you have.”
Anything can happen down in the subway.
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