Boulder, CO – Wendy Woo – April 27, 1998

Wendy picked me up at “The Other Place” coffee shop in North Boulder. It was grey but not raining and I’d done an hour’s worth of vocal exercises, taken 2 Sudafed, a hit of “Singer’s Saving Grace” throat spray and drank almost a gallon of water before our meeting.  I wanted to be prepared to sing well.

She joined me in my little purple Rav and we listened to my newest songs on the tape deck.  Usually, I tense up listening to myself but with Wendy it’s different.  She soothes my nerves.  She was excited by the songs and said she wanted to produce the demo herself if I’d let her. 

I was so honored and excited.  I grew up distrusting women’s intentions but here. In the mountains, on the way to my first professional solo recording session, I felt embraced by this muse, this goddess of a woman who believed in me.  Who believes in my music.  I was nervous about recording my songs.  To birth them into something solid… a CD that will encase them for eternity like a tomb.  But when I opened my mouth to the microphone…. It was a relief.

Boulder, CO – Tiny Yellow Ducks – April 23, 1998

I sat outside at The Trident coffee shop where white hippie stoners pridefully stroked their dreadlocks the way Park Ave. princesses stroke their pearls. They talked in smoke-filled syllables and cackled endearments like “duuuuude!” and “mannnnnnnn!” as I pressed the cell phone closer and pluged my right ear with a finger.

Tim White, Editor in Cheif at Billboard was calling to tell me he loved my album!  “It’s original and strong,” He commented before suggesting I take out the first song “The Complaint,” explaining, “It’s not as strong as the rest of the record.”

He recommended putting “Red Room” first then “Tomboy Bride,” then” In My Mind.” I scratched notes on a napkin. Everyone has opinions on song sequencing it seems. I’m grateful for advice. Dad recommended making a tape recording of the first and last 15 seconds of each song and patching them into various orders. This is a brilliant strategy. His sequencing suggestion is the following:

“Do you need help finding a record deal?” Tim asked me before we hung up.

“No,” I cringed as I said it. It felt heretical to be turning down such a once in a lifetime offer. “I think I’m gonna do this music thing on my own for a while. But thank you. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for your help and advice Tim.”

“Just promise me you’ll perform your best every night whether it be to one person or 100,000.  That way I can gloat when people come up to me in the future and say “You know Timmy, you were right.  She is awesome.”­

I drove to rehearsal at the warehouse with the band formally named “Not Eric,” recently renamed “Tiny Yellow Ducks.” Inside the refrigerator of a rehearsal space, I found Tom, Dave, and Jeff fighting over what an awful name “Tiny Yellow Ducks” is. 

Luckily, today a bass player named Kenny Castro left me a message on my cell phone saying he’d love to hear my tape and would I meet him at “Albums on the Hill” record store to drop it on him.  I left rehearsal early, frustrated. 

Kenny Castro on the Bass

Boulder, CO – FTS – April 21, 1998

This is my last week of college!  For graduation, I bought myself my very own cell phone!  A potential drummer named Brian McRae was the first person to leave me a message on my new voicemail.  He said he’d be interested in working on my demo.  This cell phone thing is the greatest. 

I did vocal exercises on my way to rehearsal with Tinny Yellow Ducks who sometimes sound really good and sometimes awful.  Last night was awful.  Dave, the bassist, decided he wanted to pull out of the gig opening for The Samples because “it’s not even going to pay for gas to the gig” and frankly I’m done with this whole garage band scene.  The late drunk nights, the cold, the ringing in my ears, the drums so loud that I can’t even hear my voice coming out of my mouth.  I’m sick of the crackheads that jump when the motion sensor lights betray their efforts to break into our cars.  I’m sick of the ceiling stain which drips again.  I’m sick of the infighting, the other bands in neighboring garages that compete for airspace with their never-ending jams.  I’m sick of driving home dodging deer and worrying the gigs I’ve lined up for us (Like these with The Samples) will be gift horses looked straight in the mouth.  God, Please send me my own band.  FTS.

Boulder, CO – “Waiting for my Musicians” – April, 12, 1998

I drove to North Boulder yesterday.  My lovely purple Rav 4, balloon animal of an SUV purred along the edge of the continental divide.  I was late to meet up with Wendy Woo, a local musician with great street cred connections to both musicians and local studios and effortless style.  Wendy was sipping coffee out of a broad-rimmed mug near the drafty front door of “The Other Place,” an uncreatively named coffee shop across the parking lot from the garage where I rehearse with Mary Sister Reload/Not Eric/Tiny Yellow Ducks.   One cup of bitter grounds later we drove up to Wendy’s studio in Lyons an hour away.  On the way, we listened to my demo tape.  Her knee bounced along to my untammed drum tracks and ½ way through each song she already knew the choruses and sang harmonies along with them in perfect 3rds.

“Sky Trails Studio” was in a house nested in a canyon up a 2-mile-long dirt road lined with tumbleweeds and crumbling boulders.  The low ceiling space was small but light.  It looked more like a living room than the fancy studios I grew up doing homework in circa 1980 in Times Square.  but I liked the place and I liked the people.  They played me a recent track of a local gal named Michelle something who’d just finished her CD and used Wendy’s house band to record.  It sounded really good.

Driving back, I was all but determined to use Wendy’s musicians as my band until I called my pop and he convinced me of two things.

 #1 I need to find my own players. 

“Your songs are great Sal and you’ve been working on them for a long time and you know, even though it’s a self-released record or a glorified demo, it’s still The Release of these songs and the players on it are going to make all the difference (wise words). 

#2 There’s no rush to do this fast. 

I should take my time.  Once I put out the first recording the countdown starts on my second. 

But all the same, there are butterflies in my stomach itching to dance with lightning bugs in my head and my intuition screams: “IT’S Time!”

At $200 bucks a day (not including engineer, recording tape, or musicians) at Wendy’s studio I’m looking at approximately $6,500 to do my demo.  Not out of budget and I could probably still get my touring van. 

Candles winked flirtatiously across tables tonight at Dandelions restaurant. Kipp and I joined up with some musical friends for dinner and everyone agreed “Wait for your musicians!” How frustrating!  They don’t come in the mail ya know guys!

Sally’s To-Do List:

Finish writing my final term papers.

Study for finals

Find a drummer.

Find a bassist.

Find a keyboardist.

Find a rhythm guitarist.

Find strength in my music.

Sing on stage as much as possible.

Decide what songs I want to record.


Copyright my songs.

Get over my fear of flying.

Graduate from College

Rehearse to go on the road with Not Eric to open for The Samples on the 3rd.

Get good at guitar.

Look at other possible studios.


The opposite of success in music is not failure, it’s silence.  I won’t be silent.

Boulder, CO – Mom & Dad React to my Demo – April 5, 1998

I successfully handed out all 10 copies of my rough demo of songs on my trip to LA.  Some of the songs I recorded with “Not Eric,” now calling itself “Tiny Yellow Ducks.”  Others I recorded on my 4-trac in my apartment which feature the scratching skills of Fatty J who likes to get in on the action.  I felt weird about handing out my cassettes with their handwritten song titles.  It was so self-promoting and forward but when I was sure I was going to die on the airplane back to Denver I kept chanting through hyperventilating breaths “Everything is gonna be OK” and “Your babies (songs) are out there.”  And that made me feel reassured. 

I woke up to an enthusiastic message from Mom.  Overly enthusiastic in fact.  She was raving about my music.  “I just got the tape this morning and it’s so amazing.  I’ve only listened to the first 4 songs but I love ‘Complaints’ and ‘In My Mind’ is great and ‘Sign of Rain.’  The line about Alex liking when the weather matches how he feels inside is fabulous.”  It was sweet of her to overzealously compliment my music.  Before I put the cassette in the mail to her I told her how much her opinion meant to me and how vulnerable I felt about sending her my “Babies.”  She was excited for me but in my heart, I disbelieved her enthusiasm.  It felt too expensive and perhaps too elusive to claim.

Dad met in Boulder for lunch at “Dot’s Dinner with a bunch of my pals, musicians, record company execs, and Kipp, my new boyfriend.  Clustered into a red pleather booth inside the makeshift gas station, we bribed waiters for egg white omelets and talked shop. 

Back at Dad’s hotel room #300, I played him a couple of songs: “Cowboy” and “I Meant To” which he tweaked and twanked but said he liked a lot. “I’m blown away by what you do with your voice.” He told me, “Your soul really comes through in your music.” 

“That means a lot to me pop.” I said and of course, that was an understatement.

He asked me if I wanted to take Ben’s route into the music business:  “You know, find a manager, a record label, and a booking agent and go all in?” he asked, elbows on knees watching the floor like it were a taro card.   I Couldn’t tell if he was offering to help me or not.  “You’ve got what it takes to make it in the industry though I’d never wish this career on anybody.” He said.  “Being a musician, it’s a blue-collar gig my Sal. It takes a ton of elbow grease and grit and it ain’t easy on relationships either” He said. 

It was the first time I actually believed such a thing (a big famous-filled career with all the glitz and all the shit) was possible.  As I peered in at the possibility in the cloud bubble above my dad’s head, the idea looked not so appealing.  Too big, too scary, too fast.  Too many sharks swimming in the icy dark water.  So I said “No. No pop. I think I want to go it alone.”

Leaving Dad and walking back up the hill to my pad it hit me, I don’t really know all that goes into a music career.  You think I would, having grown up with two legendary musicians as parents but frankly, I don’t even think they fully know. 

As the sun dipped below the surface of the day I realized I wanted to create my own label.  I want to find my own band, I want to book my own gigs, and do my own PR until I know how much I’d pay someone not to have to do those jobs anymore.  I want a hands-on music business career. 

My pace picked up as the night grew sweater-worthy and I passed by the Fox Theater where people qued in Birkenstocks to see Zuba in concert.  The first thing I’m going to do next week is make a better recording of my demo tape, next, I’ll find a bunch of band mates and then. I’m going to buy a big ass van.