The world has turned a page. So I suppose it is only fitting that I have, too.

I think it started when I bought the tambourine. No telling what kind of crazy things are gonna happen once you buy yourself a tambourine.

But percussion aside…for now, because I actually do have a percussion story for later involving shakers, this has been a period of doing things I’ve never done before.

One such instance happened in December, when I was asked to sing a couple of my songs at a black tie gala in New Jersey…

I don’t know about you, but I don’t get asked to sing at black tie galas every day, so when the opportunity arose, I jumped at it. And to make things even sweeter, for one of my songs, In Color, I had the chance to sing it with a band and a full choir of theater kids accompanying me. Who could pass that up? Not me.

On the day of the event, I sat in the darkened theater, listening as each Broadway and cabaret star did their tech run-throughs. That’s when I realized the enormity of what I had gotten myself into. There’s nothing to make you question your own ability more than listening to the original Eponine in Les Miz sing right before you.

I took my place center stage for the sound check. All I could see was a bright white light…like death coming for me. I was aware of the band behind me and the kids to my left. I was holding the microphone and I heard the introduction to my song. What were the words again? No, really. What were the lyrics to my song?

I had no idea.

I had only ever sung the song while I myself played it. I’d spent my life playing and singing my own songs. And though I longed for, really longed for the opportunity to stand center stage and sing, I hadn’t done it like this before, and funny thing – it turns out there’s this muscle memory brain thingy-do that had my lyric memory inextricably intertwined with my little fingers playing on the keyboard.

Holy hell. That was an embarrassing sound check. And it was followed by me finding a quiet corner of the shared dressing room with all the performers and having a little conversation with myself, followed by prayer, meditation, and me taking a piece of paper and writing my own lyrics start to finish, ,just to prove to myself that I actually knew them.

Now, ordinarily, I might not want to share the previous embarrassment with you, but it turns out this had a happy ending. My performance went joyfully and without one lyrical hitch.

This brings me to the new band – The Inspire Project.

Most people form bands when they’re in high school. They play really loudly and badly in someone’s parents’ garage and get complaints from the neighbors. And if they’re lucky, they get a “gig” at their local high school or at a dive bar if their fake ID’s are convincing enough.

I never went through this phase. I sang in choirs, as a solo artist, and in musical theater, but not once was I in a band. So while my professional singer friends all “did time” in wedding bands and cover bands, I accompanied theater people for auditions and voice lessons.

I tell you all this, because my giddiness at being in a band at this stage of my life cannot be overemphasized.

When I think about it, The Inspire Project could not have formed at a better time. It was the brainchild of my friend, co-writer and producer, Tanya Leah, and the band is comprised of Tanya, myself, and Lorraine Ferro.

Kind of like the aforementioned gala, I had the shocking realization that I had never been part of a 3-part harmony-singing group before. Large choirs, yes. Duets, yes. Tight 3-part harmony – not so much.

The great part is that it is beautiful, and soul-stirring, and immensely fun and fulfilling to be putting uplifting music out into a world that needs it. And to do that with your close friends that you’ve shared the ups and downs of life with, makes it all the more meaningful.

I’ll be honest with you, the hard part is finding outfits we think look good on ourselves and schlepping equipment and instruments. At some point of physical exhaustion, we inevitably look at each other and laugh, as we say, “What were we thinking?!!”

But then there’s the music, and the harmony, and the laughter and joy we get interacting with the audience and each other, and we schlep onward to the next event on our calendar.

Speaking of both schlepping as well as things we’ve never done before, The Inspire Project marched together at the historic women’s march on January 21st. And not only did we do that, but there’s a music video to commemorate all of our collective experiences as marchers that day. It is definitely a day that will remain with us for the rest of our lives.

A couple of weeks later, I played at a benefit in NYC with two other amazing artists, and here’s where the shaker story comes in.

Let’s just say I’m not particularly percussively inclined. So I think when someone hands you a shaker, which you’ve never played before, and says, “Wanna play it?” the answer should be a resounding, “Yes!” And you should definitely do that the day of a performance, because nothing screams rising to the occasion of trying out new things like agreeing to learn background vocals and play shaker on the day OF a performance.

Do you know how fast a shaker can fly out of your hand if you’re sweating because you’re nervous?

I’m sure no one noticed my graceful retrieval of the flying shaker on the first song. It all happened so fast. And also, it’s possible that I might have stopped shaking the damn thing altogether when I was singing, because you know – walking and chewing gum and all that.

So things to work on for next time: shaker staying in hands and playing while singing.

And that brings me to today – hearing my song on the radio and watching the Grammys.

A couple of hours ago, I heard my song “No End to Love” on WFUV here in New York. And while I have actually heard one of my songs on the radio before…a lot, I have never heard myself singing on the radio.

I don’t mind telling you that I reveled in it, because I am not young and it hasn’t been easy. So I savored the moment, just like I did being on the Grammy ballot this year.

As each year passes, we have the choice – of regretting what didn’t happen or of celebrating what did. It is easy to forget how far we’ve come, or to hurt over what did not pan out.

The beauty of growing wiser is in knowing what to appreciate and make a big deal out of. We all must find ways to nourish our souls in these trying times. I recommend we all do the things we’ve never done before, whether it is marching in peaceful protest or playing the shaker.

Let’s be the ones to take a chance on ourselves and each other, and to remember to laugh.

Our most cherished memories are of how we felt in individual moments and who we were with in each of those moments.

Below is the video I mentioned earlier. I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

 

It’s Super Bowl Sunday, boys and girls, and if you’ve been with me a while, you know it is an annual tradition that I write a special Super Bowl blog.

I make no secret of the fact that the only players I’m familiar with by name are Joe Namath, the Manning brothers, Tim Tebow, and anyone who’s appeared on Dancing with the Stars.

Speaking of Joe Namath, I recently saw him on QVC, selling an indoor grill. I often wonder how celebrities come to sell particular products. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy watching Joe grill hamburgers, but it did seem a far cry from my memories of him in his youth.

Today’s big game is between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots. Yes, I had to Google that, all the while stifling the voice in my head that was screaming, “Who cares?!!!!” But now you know, and I think the key point here is that I Googled because I care about you, my readers.

I’ll admit, other years found me more excited about the teams that were playing, but this year I’m rooting for the Falcons, because, well, first of all, why not, and second of all, we here in New York are not fans of the New England Patriots. We’ve got our own Giants and Jets, who, by all accounts, didn’t do very well or we’d be watching them. But I digress.

Thanks to an SNL skit last night, I’ve now got a hankering for Totino’s Pizza Rolls, which were not on my shopping list for today. Frankly, Super Bowl Sunday is all about the food, if you ask me. Nothing says “touchdown” quite like Cool Ranch Doritos. Am I right or am I right?

My cousin Jill, bless her heart, used to try to explain the finer points of the game to me. She loves football. There’s teamwork and strategy involved. And I love that she loves it so much, because all I see, strategy or not, is a bunch of men jumping on each other. Call them Falcons or Patriots, or call them the Easter Bunny. It’s still men jumping on each other and the allure escapes me.

I think the enjoyment people feel is from the shared experience of watching. It gives people something to talk about at the local diner. And if you’re into wearing sports attire, it makes you feel like you’re in a club. And from a psychological perspective, everyone wants to belong and wants to feel like they’re a part of something, even if it’s only in their imaginative little heads.

Me, I realized a long time ago that I prefer the sports that are about an individual’s personal best. I admire the ones whose victory is over their personal demons of doubt. Not to mention that I find grace and beauty in a figure skater’s routine, a snowboarder in mid-air, and the tennis player’s perfect stroke. I can’t even begin to compare it to a bunch of men jumping on each other.

Be that as it may, the Super Bowl is also always about two other things: the half-time show and the commercials.

I’ll be honest, I could care less about the ads, unless something is so undeniably brilliant that it makes me take notice. And when has a Super Bowl ad been undeniably brilliant? Right, not in my lifetime so far. But here’s hoping today shatters their streak.

The thing I really am looking forward to is Lady Gaga at half-time. There is much speculation about how political Gaga will or won’t be and the appropriateness of such a statement.

I’d like to remind everyone that the current leader of the free world is nothing more than a reality TV star who utilized ratings garnering techniques to get a job, the specifics of which he did not know when catapulting himself toward possession of the nuclear codes. So judge not lest ye be judged.

Anyway, I, for one, welcome whatever Gaga’s statement may be, or if she decides to make no statement at all, which I think is unlikely. I think this worldwide televised event would be the perfect time to mention to the rest of the world that this reality TV star does not represent the majority of American citizens and sure as hell should not be taken at his word, which is largely unintelligible and ever-changing.

Yes, I went there.

So it’s time for me to head out and forage for some Super Bowl snacks. I imagine people’s carts will be filled with beer, chips, and the occasional 7 layer dip. Wow, I just made myself really hungry for that 7 layer dip.

Thanks for stopping by, and please tell your friends.

Enjoy the big game!!

People come into our lives unexpectedly sometimes. Sometimes they stay forever; sometimes they don’t. But if we’re lucky, we always learn and grow and become someone we wouldn’t have been otherwise from having known them. Such was the case with today’s birthday blog recipient, Kenny Loggins.

Kenny came into my life in the autumn of 2012, when I was in the midst of major personal and professional transformation. There was nothing plausible about it or foreseeable. He lives 3,000 miles away. On paper, there was no way this could have happened. But the universe isn’t about the theoretical, nor is it confined particularly to the plausible. No, the universe moves the chess pieces as it must for our highest good, and it is up to us what we make of it.

And so we met, in what by Hollywood standards could best be described as a “meet cute.” It was backstage at a concert, where he tried to have a conversation with me about writing, while I brilliantly stood there, awestruck, saying nothing. It would have been hilarious if it was a scene in a movie, but because my life is, in fact, not a movie, it was heartbreaking – a fabulous example of how paralyzing and pervasive fear was and in what regard I held myself at the time.

Of course, I can say that now, because the ensuing months and years and experiences have cured me of my silence, a lot of my doubts, and quite a bit, though not all, of that fear.

When I look at it in retrospect, there is a lot I have to be grateful for, none of which has to do with the duet. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Following our debacle of a first meeting, I went home and suitably chastised myself for screwing up what I was certain was a once in a lifetime opportunity. The next night, I regaled friends with details of my encounter. And they, in turn, entertained the rest of the patrons at the Greenwich Village restaurant we were eating at, with a raucous rendition of “I’m Alright.”

I would go home in the wee hours of the morning and later the next day, craft the blog that would change my life. (Here it is, because I know you’re curious now. http://ileneangel.blogspot.pe/2012/09/the-kenny-loggins-blog.html )

That Kenny would read it and reach out to me is not something I could have known. And that, once he did, I would find myself living my life more authentically and with a greater willingness to be seen and to allow my own vulnerability is not something I would have dreamed, especially considering our rocky start. But life presents us with choices in every moment – who we want to be, how we want to choose to show up. It gives us a chance to take a chance and see what happens.

I became cured of his fame and the whole “fame” thing in general, because once you catch a glimpse of someone’s humanity, frailties and all, it becomes impossible not to see that we are all of equal value. And upon knowing that, it becomes impossible not to act accordingly.

For two people who are singer/songwriters, our life experiences, and therefore, perspectives could not have been more different. But I think that is the beauty of forging any kind of new relationship of any sort – we get to try on a different vantage point and expand how we are willing to consider ourselves and the world around us.

It is part of the bigger weaving, I suppose, that people come and go and friendships ebb and flow. We lose touch, and we change. We come into and out of each other’s lives to provide a lesson, or some healing, or simply to walk together for a while. We share laughs and explore new aspects of ourselves. We encourage and admire and call forward qualities the other sometimes needs reminding of.

We inspire each other from both the happy and sad moments.

At our best, we become more than we would have been or could have imagined, and at our worst, we see our “stuff” reflected back at us and get to put into practice the true meaning of forgiveness – first toward ourselves and then, toward each other, as we move on.

Every person whose path we cross provides us the opportunity to be more and to choose wisely, if not differently than we ever have before.

If there are lessons in someone’s presence, then there are also lessons in their absence. And if we are to live richly, it would serve us well to heed both.

So as I pause on this snowy Saturday to reflect on the time spent, the lessons learned, and the blessings gained, I want to wish a very happy birthday to you, Kenny, and to say thank you for the period in which you were a part of my life.

And thanks to all of you for stopping by and reading this, and for always embracing me wherever I am in the journey.

Peace and blessings to you –  Ilene

It’s the first day of the New Year, and traditionally, I would have taken stock by now, set some goals, made resolutions, forged a semblance of a plan for the coming year. Instead, I’ve been working the entire holiday season, and so this is the first moment I’ve had to sit down and contemplate who I am, who I’ve been and who I’d like to become as 2017 progresses.

I lost a cousin suddenly on December 23rd, and though I was not in constant contact with him, his joyous life force was so pervasive in our family, that it’s given me pause to think about how I’m living…or more precisely, how busy I am and how little I’m living. Death will do that for you – halt the merry-go-round. It’ll make you stop and ask yourself, “What really matters?”

So here we are, on the first day of 2017, and I’m painfully aware that days are numbered, my energy has a limit on it, love endures, and we must leave something of value for our having been here, even if that is the love in someone’s heart for having known us.

2016 sapped us of some of our greatest artists, truest voices, and left a void that we’re wondering who will fill. The truth is we must fill that void. We must find the humor that Garry Shandling did and the beautiful awful honesty that Carrie Fisher did. We must greet the morning like Debbie Reynolds in Singin’ in the Rain, and come to our senses like Glenn Frey begged us to in “Desperado,” because the hour has grown late.

If we are to collectively be anything, I hope it is the embodiment of kindness and compassion. I hope that in the midst of the trials we will undoubtedly face with the new administration, we will heed the calling of our better angels and become an example of love and peace.

We are in the moment of the last gasp of separation. Fear and blame are making a comeback not so that they can win out, but so that they can die away for good. The next generation sees the world from the vantage point of unity, not us versus them. They see equality as a natural birthright and wonder why it matters to anyone which bathroom you pee in.

For all the entitlement we criticize millennials for, they should have a sense of entitlement when it comes to freedom, equality, justice and opportunity. We all should. But we live in a world of dualities, so we don’t think we can know good without bad, right without wrong, peace without war. And the truth is we can. Of course, we can.

We can know light in the midst of darkness and hope in the midst of uncertainty. We can choose gratitude during loss and calm in the sea of chaos. But we won’t have it without embodying it first within ourselves.

So yes, I have goals for 2017 – to be kinder to my body and my heart, and to do things that nourish my soul and the souls of others. To speak, and write, and sing truth. To laugh. To enjoy every moment I possibly can. To choose myself over my fear. To build it and allow them to come. (I’m all about the Field of Dreams references.)

To be someone’s miracle. To grow in my relationships with others. To ask for what I want and carry forward only that which truly serves me. To remember the good times more than the heartache, and to trust that part of me that knows the next step to take.

As I welcome 2017, I pray that passion propels us, love unites us, and kindness pervades our thoughts, our words, and our deeds.

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends…

I’ll be honest with you. It’s been a rough couple of weeks for me. And if there has been any solace in them, it has been in shared moments, both spoken and unspoken, with kindred spirits who get it – all of it – but particularly the enormity of this time in our collective soul’s journey.

I was at a memorial service for a friend about a month or so ago, where a question was posed to those of us in attendance. The question was this:

What is your offering?

On this day of Thanksgiving, I think the bigger question is what are we bringing to the table besides our thanks? What are we contributing? What are we creating? What are we offering?

Are we offering our significance? Are we offering our power? Are we offering to rise to the greatness that we can be so we set an example of what that looks like for future generations? Are we offering love? Are we offering our voices when they most matter? Are we offering to move past our fears so that others can, too? Are we offering compassion and kindness? And are we offering any of this to ourselves, first?

I am thankful for these questions, and for this time of reflection before moving forward. At the start of this day, I wasn’t certain I could take a moment, or a deep breath, even. But here I am, with you, still breathing and oh, so grateful for so much.

Each year on my Thanksgiving blog, it has become customary for me to list a bunch of things I’m thankful for in whatever random way they pop into my little imaginative head. So here it goes for 2016 in no particular order…

I am thankful for…

  • Clean drinking water, hot showers, and indoor plumbing.
  • Luggage with wheels
  • The sound of my niece’s laughter
  • Ulta and Sephora
  • Cloudy days with no precipitation
  • Aaron Sorkin’s writing
  • Teachers who enlighten and inspire me
  • Subaru vehicles
  • Every day I get to spend with my father
  • Good friends, good food, and good wine
  • Opportunities for my songs to be heard and make a difference
  • Romantic Comedies
  • New York’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo
  • Comfortable shoes
  • The absurdity of loving to parasail, but being afraid to stand on a ladder in the middle of a room
  • Saturday Night Live
  • Purple – deep, royal, passionate purple
  • Answered prayers – even when the answer was “no”
  • The invention of the DVR
  • Coffee!
  • The gift of those who touched my life but left their earthy bodies
  • Our local diner
  • The completion and release of my CD!! Yay!!!!
  • The ways in which I’ve grown
  • The right shade of blond
  • The experiment known as democracy – we had a good run
  • Anyone who’s ever read or heard anything I’ve written, which means YOU, right now – I am thankful for you.

May all of you know peace in your heart, joy on this day, and love enough to share with the world.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Love,

Ilene

 

There’s a song that was a hit for Barry Manilow in 1980 called “I Made it Through the Rain.” And though I always liked it, I didn’t know until years later that his was not the original lyric. The song was written by a singer/songwriter named Gerard Kenny and his co-writer, Drey Shepperd. And the lyrics were about what it is like to live the life of a musician and songwriter.

He used words like “survive” and “weather-beaten” and “luck” and phrases like “played my point of view” and “found myself respected.” So I’ve been listening to the writer’s original recording of that song today, because this moment doesn’t happen every day or for every one of us who has spent a lifetime in music.

Most of the time I keep my gaze forward and my feet moving in the direction of loftier goals than I am certain I can achieve. I try not to look back too much or too often, lest I become worn down by just how hard a lot of this journey has been. But the problem with that is that if you don’t take a moment to reflect, you cannot realize how far you’ve come, either. And I don’t want to wax nostalgic or become complacent, but I think there is a time to stop and appreciate, to honor and pay respect to, if nothing else, perseverance, fortitude and tenacity.

I got my first round Grammy ballot in the mail a few days ago, and immediately logged onto the website to see the list of people in each category. And there, in nine categories, was my record, In Color. And me – Ilene Angel, alongside Tanya Leah, my producer/arranger/engineer/chief cook and bottle washer, the rest of my engineering, mixing, and mastering team, and yes, the one and only Kenny Loggins, my duet partner.

At first, scrolling through and seeing this was like taking stock, counting numbers. It really didn’t register in my little noggin that this might be, say, an excellent time to break out into my happy dance. (My happy dance, by the by, is not to be missed. I’m just sayin’.)

I believe I did, however, manage to audibly exclaim, “Oh my God!” and “Holy fuck!” quite a number of times. (You really never know what’s gonna come out of your mouth in these moments.)

Immediately following my delight was complete and utter overwhelm. Suddenly, the magnitude of it dawned on me. And I was straddling, one foot in a familiar past, and one in an unknown future.

Anyone who tells you that they don’t want to win, or that they don’t feel like this is validation of a life’s work, is flat out lying to you. But the truth is that no award can shield us from future heartbreak or guarantee us good health to enjoy the remainder of our days. So I think I have a reasonable assessment of what Grammy Awards can and can’t provide.

Thanks to my friend Alisa, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what I hope to gain from this experience, what I want to get out of it, and I keep coming back to the reasons I wanted to make the record in the first place – to put some goodness out into the world, to encourage, and empower, and inspire people to reconnect with their hearts, and their dreams, and the limitlessness of what is possible at any time.

And if you think that those are woo-woo pipe dreams that have no basis in the real world, I’d like to point out that I am 51 years old, not a size zero, and I’m on the Grammy ballot as an artist.

If I can be an example of something to someone, let it be that you’re not too old and it’s never too late. Let it be that when you pick yourself up, day in and day out, even when nothing in your circumstances looks like it’s changing, and even when you don’t feel like it – if you can move forward even then, then great things are inevitable.

So I hope this Grammy process and journey exposes my music and that message to anyone and everyone who could benefit from it.

And so, it is my honor to share with you, for these 59th Grammy Awards…
For your consideration…

  • Record of the Year – Ilene Angel, In Color
  • Album of the Year –Ilene Angel, In Color
  • Song of the Year – “In Color”
  • Best Pop Solo Performance – Ilene Angel, In Color
  • Best Pop Duo/Group Performance – Ilene Angel & Kenny Loggins, “Friends Like Me & You”
  • Best Pop Vocal Album – Ilene Angel, In Color
  • Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals – Tanya Leah, “Hallelujah Song”
  • Best Engineered Album, non-classical – In Color, Tanya Leah, Brian Mann, Brian Montgomery, Alan Silverman
  • Producer of the Year, non-classical – Tanya Leah, In Color 

A very special thank you to those who supported this project through crowd funding, as well as everyone who created it with me – Tanya Leah, Mark Prentice, Matt Bubel, Caitlin Evanson, Kris Wilkinson, Everett Bradley, BethAnne Clayton, Lorraine Ferro, Kenny Loggins, Brian Mann, Brian Montgomery, Alan Silverman, my co-writers, Anthony Barone and Fred Rowles, Stan Tomczak, Marina Drasnin, my additional singing angels – Arnie Roman, Garry Novikoff, Jeryl Brunner, Alisa Swerdlove, Sue Fabisch and Marvin Levy.

You can take a listen to In Color  and buy it here: http://www.ileneangel.com/music/in-color/

Thank you so much for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

Peace and blessings,
Ilene