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Friday, December 24, 2010

The Madeleine Brand Show for December 24, 2010

89.3 KPCC | Southern California Public Radio

Spending a year with The Smiths

Radio piece by Sanden Totten

New Year's resolutions are often made and often broken. But Janice Whaley took hers very seriously. She decided to record an acapella version of every song written by the British pop band, The Smiths.

(drum roll....)

Janice Whaley.

By the power invested in me as Chief Mozipediac it is my great pleasure to anoint you before the all-seeing eye of the cosmos and everyone in it as, officially, now and forever...


-Simon Goddard

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Where to begin...

This year has been staggering.

I sang for 10 hours a day, 5 days a week, every other week. 50 hours times 26 weeks is 1300 hours spent on The Smiths Project in one year. If nothing else, I have earned myself the award for the most time spent voluntarily sitting in a closet. Who knows, I may even have beaten some world record for the most a cappella songs recorded in one year? The only person to cover an entire catalog of music in one year? I'll have to see if Guinness World Book of Records has a category for me. But here's one thing I know for sure: I am the luckiest girl in the world.

It was exactly this time last year that I decided to stop being miserable and get back into doing the things that made me happy. I wanted to sing, and sing I did- in a much bigger way than i could have ever imagined. I could not have anticipated any of the events of this year. My lofty goal was to sing a single vocal track of each song, blog about it, and hope that someone would sample my voice into one of their songs. That was it.

This year has constantly reinforced a simple yet profound concept for me. Do what you love, and something good will come from it. Try it! I absolutely guarantee it's true. Even if it's just the personal satisfaction of doing something that matters to you, it's important to do it- and the best part is, your happiness will be automagically contagious to those around you.

It will say though, it was a challenging year. I noticed that my brain would play tricks on me a lot. For example, I would spend all day getting a song just the way I wanted it, one hour later I would completely forget that I did it, and then I was back to worrying, "what the hell am I going to do to make this song sound good?!?!?" Many times I'd open a song file and be completely surprised by what it sounded like as if I'd never heard it before. I'm sure that has NOTHING to do with the insanely fast pace at which I was working or the fact that I was generally always rotating between 10 songs in progress. There was no time to reflect or even bother to remember. Just keep going! After I posted a song, I would hi-light it yellow on my list and it would immediately be gone from my thoughts. As long as I saw the list becoming more yellow, I knew I was getting there. I put a completion date by every song and stuck to it. The pressure to complete this was self-inflicted torture at times (my eye is STILL twitching- it's been months!!) but there was no way I was going to give this story a sad ending. My Julie/Julia project would end on a good note and maybe, just maybe, members of The Smiths would put their own twist on it by NOT HATING IT, unlike Julia Child.

One thing that I'm very proud of is that my son doesn't even know this happened. Nearly all of this project took place while he was at school or sleeping. This meant that I haven't gotten much sleep or anything else done at all this year, but I wasn't an absent mom. Also, when my family is home, we're making dinner, playing, getting ready for bed, etc. so playing the music for him was furthest from my mind. But now my son listens to the music while commuting home from school with his dad, and he asks to sit in the studio and listen with headphones on. One night, I was putting him to bed and he was nearly out- then suddenly he turned to me and said, "Mom, I love your musics so much!" and he gave me a big hug. That meant more to me than any living thing on earth.

Many people have asked if any members of The Smiths have contacted me and the answer is no. During the project, I dreaded it for fear of having to complete the rest of the songs knowing exactly what they thought of it. YIKES. But now, contact from them would be icing on the cake. Whether or not I hear from them, I'm very proud of how the project turned out. It was amazing to get deep inside the music and get to know it from the inside out. I have even more respect for the music now than I did to begin with (and I started with A LOT). I'm in awe of Johnny Marr's masterful guitar playing at such a young age, his songwriting, the way he layers guitars, weaves melodies and harmonies together... Add to that Morrissey's lyrics and voice! Singing the music was emotional journey into the outskirts of Morrissey's mind. Plus, his vocal melodies are genius. Think about the background music without his voice- could you have come up with that melody to put over that? The music and lyrics are in absolute harmony. The Smiths are a magic moment in time. Their songs have saved and changed my life time and time again. I am forever grateful.

People are asking what I'm going to do next. First off, I'm going to enjoy the holidays as this is my first real break from the million little deadlines I have been under this year. But, next year's plans are taking shape. First, I'm going to be collaborating with Curt Smith from Tears for Fears. How awesome is THAT!!! Next up is an album of my own original material. I've had many songs kicking around in my head for years and it's time I release them into the internet-ether. Intethernet? (ethernet is already taken). I also plan to do many collaborations with people I have met online this year. In 4 months, my unemployment will run out and I'll have to get a day job but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. In the mean time, I'm going to cram as much music into the next 4 months before my music time is reduced. And you know I'm capable of getting a lot done.

The other thing I'll be working on is getting a 6-CD box set of the project made. Many people have been asking about it and how they can help. I have set up a Kickstart page to raise funds and make this a reality. One of the reasons this is is costly is because I need to purchase the bulk physical distribution rights to 71 cover songs. But I must do this the right way and make sure that The Smiths get their rightful royalties. The last thing I want to do is upset the people who have brought me so much joy. And they deserve every penny of those royalties.

I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for believing in me and cheering me on. There were many times I thought I really might not complete the music in time. Between the spectacular computer crashes, being laid off, owning a 4 year old and a family, and the often horrible 1st, 2nd, & 3rd versions of a song before I found a style I liked, I really was not sure I could do it. You guys kept me going. Every day people send me emails, facebook messages, tweets, comments on blogs... it was really overwhelming at times. People poured their hearts out about what The Smiths mean to them. One man said The Smiths saved him from killing himself a long time ago and more recently, my versions did the same. I don't feel worthy of the praise I received but I appreciate how profoundly music can change us. I personally believe that music is a form of therapy and healing. It can reach us and connect us in a way that nothing else can. Music is a time machine that transports us directly to the core of a time or feeling or place and allows us the gift of being able to relive that moment. This music has connected me to all of you and I am deeply honored to be a part of your lives and grateful that you have come into mine. We will always be connected through this music. I honestly expected a lot of fan resistance once the word got out about these covers but I was very surprised to be welcomed with open arms. People misread Smiths fans the same way people misread Morrissey and his lyrics. We're not all miserable saps! We openly relate to and express emotions that others would rather suppress BUT from this comes a lot of joy and humor. In my opinion, Morrissey's lyrics are witty and hilarious. Smiths fans are some of the funniest people on the planet. I've laughed SO MUCH this year from all of your comments, it's unreal.

I can't thank you enough. Anything I have given you this year is nothing compared to what you have given me. You didn't just watch my life change, you are the reason my life has changed.

Now it is time for me to sing my changed life!

A Tour of the "Studio"

The room is has become a dumping ground for random crap the last few weeks but, here it is: The place I recorded all the Smiths Projects songs.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I Keep Mine Hidden

for @ThomasLennon

Free download here

This is the very last original song The Smiths wrote and recorded together. I've always thought it to be too simplistic... like it wasn't really done. If they had continued to work together or had been in a better state of mine at the time, I think the song may have turned out different. At least, more developed. I decided it was my goal to make this song as polished as the rest of their songs and maybe give it a little bit more of the justice it deserved.


The only problem is that I can't whistle. I know, I know. I should just sit down and learn how to do it. But, this was a good opportunity to ask someone who DOES know how to whistle, the very person who found me and first let the world know about me. The fabulous, the funny, the wonderful Thomas Lennon. Besides, it's fitting to end the project with the same person who helped start it to begin with.

A few months ago, I asked Tom if he would be my stunt whistler and he responded, "Of course!" literally seconds later. Then he did a dry run over the phone and and I said, "yeah, like da ta da do ta do" (since I can't whistle!) and he whistled back, "Like this?" I said, "Yeah! do ta doo doooooo" and he whistled it back again to verify. After I got off the phone with him, I realized that was probably the best phone dialogue ever. In all the history of mankind.

Thank you, Tom!!! You really helped make this a year I will never forget.

Thomas Lennon and Janice Whaley, recording a jam session in May 2010.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy birthday to Simon Goddard!! xoxo Janice

I Won't Share You

Free download here

We have arrived at the last song on the Strangeways album. Months ago, I could not even comprehend getting to this point- and now that I'm here, I don't even know what to say. This week I announced that I have completed the whole Smiths Project but the actual day I finished was not all that eventful. After I mixed down the last song, I got up and washed dishes. I had to clean the house for my son's 4th birthday party and didn't have time to pause for reflection.

This past Sunday was a different story. I received so many wonderful comments, words of congratulations and thanks- and it finally hit me. I DID IT. I burst into tears and hugged my man and my son. I'm so relieved to be done, proud that I actually did it, and also a little sad that this journey has come to an end.

But, you haven't heard the last of me. You will soon hear my collaboration with Curt Smith, lead singer of Tears for Fears. I will be doing some internet collaborations with several of the wonderful and talented people I have met online this year. I'm also going to record a CD of original songs that have been floating around in my head for years.

You have all been the most amazing cheerleaders, supporters, and friends. I will not share you!

And now....

With the drive and ambition, the zeal I feel, this is my time.


I am dedicating this song to my love, Josh Cadwising. He is the one who suggested I do the whole project in a layered vocal style like I had done only two times before. He is full of good ideas! Many of the images you've seen on this blog were his photographs. I'm in awe of his creativity and the way he views the world. Josh, thank you for listening to me babble about music all year and putting up with an often-stressed-out me. I love you.
Josh and our son Jaden. The two people who matter most to me.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Death at One's Elbow

Free Download here

I took this song in a dark direction. I think it was all that Dexter I watched around the time I was recording it combined with the bloody lyrics...

I'm dedicating this to my brother who has watched me dream of being a musician my whole life. He sat through many a high school concert, parades in 100 degree heat to see me march by in my dorky band uniform, he saw me spend most of my teenage years glued to the piano, he watched me record my first multi-track recording. He's always been there to cheer me on. I love you, bro!!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Today's Big Announcement!

Here's my guest spot on Breakfast with The Smiths radio today on Indie 103.1 with Jose Maldonado, April Richardson, and Romeogirl

I miscounted when I said there are 74 tracks. I have 71 tracks plus, an alternate live-loop version of Handsome Devil. There are also four songs with Thomas Lennon (Lt. Dangle from Reno 911) and four with Jose Maldonado, the lead singer of Sweet and Tender Hooligans tribute band. There *would have been* 74 tracks if I had also done the songs THEY covered, which I decided not to do. A cover of a cover... But I still might some day.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Paint a Vulgar Picture

For @bagstranded

Free Download Here until it reaches the download limit.

I went the way of the Bjork on this one for sure. Not intentionally, at first... but once I heard the way it was headed, I just went with it. She has been one of my music heroes since I first heard the Sugarcubes in 7th grade. It was inevitable that some of her influence would show up in my music eventually...

When I want to dedicate a song to someone, I write their name next to the track on my (almost completely hi-lighted in yellow!) master list. One day Cameron Smith, who has followed me from the very beginning, asked me how much he should donate to get me to dedicate Paint a Vulgar Picture to him. I looked at my list and saw no name next to the song and said, "Done, it's yours. No donations necessary, your support and encouragement is payment enough!"

It has been a pleasure to get to know him this year. He's one of those twitter guys that makes me smile every day with quirky tweets and his blog Bag Stranded is also hilarious. Please check him out!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Unhappy Birthday

Download for free here

Not sure exactly when my version was taken over by the 1980s but it seems to work so I kept it. At this point in the project, my hard drive was full and I was hoping to just finish this song before doing another backup. Bad idea! Somehow, all the bass and drums had disappeared the next day so I had to re-do them. The snare drum was not easy. I don't have sequencers or fancy gear, so every snare you hear is copied and pasted to form the rhythm patterns manually and then volume is added to each hit to give it depth, otherwise it would sound like a machine gun. Seven years of playing snare in marching bands will make you picky about such things.

My dear loyal supporter, Peter Finan aka Uncle Skinny, you've been looking forward to this one for a while so I'm dedicating it to you!

Here is Peter- with the most amazing knitted Smiths replicas.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me

Free download here until it reaches the download limit.

It is a miracle that I finished this song. Between the complexity of my arrangement and the four hundred billion computer crashes, it marks the single most stressful moments in this entire project. I was literally in tears this week thinking I would have to start over from scratch. It turns out, there was a corrupt cross-fade in the mix. After an entire frustrating day of transferring everything into a new session, I was finally able to mix it down.

And there was much rejoicing. (yay)

Mixing was also tough. There were so many elements that I wanted to get just right: vocals that mimic the physical action of playing a piano at the beginning, samples from some of my favorite movies (anyone guess what they are?) and most importantly, it needed to be BIG- a Pink Floyd rock anthem of vocals, if you will. This song also has my highest vocals in the project. I often use the computer to lower my voice by an octave, but raising the pitch is a one-way ticket to Chipmunksylvania. You just have to sing it. At the end of the song, the high note is a D, two octaves above middle C.

From the very beginning, I knew I wanted to dedicate the song to a particular woman who is a big inspiration to me. I am eternally in awe of her vocals and the way she doesn't just wear her heart on her sleeve, she rips open her chest to let you see where her heart lives. Morrissey and David Bowie have both requested to work with her. She speaks her mind, she's bold, witty, inventive, an amazing clothing designer, and to my delight, a wonderfully sweet human being as well. It has been a pleasure to get to know her through my project.

Miss Kristeen Young, this song is for you.

Kristeen Young with the one and only Morrissey

Friday, December 3, 2010

Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before

For @colestratton

Download it free here.

This song is for Cole Stratton, who was quite literally the very first person I met when I moved to San Francisco in 1995. A day after I moved in, I went across the street to the video store and rented some movies. I came from a small desert town that had nothing in the way of good movie rentals... and I was really into movies. I had to special order and wait two weeks for Fire Walk With Me because I wanted to see it SO BAD. So, here I am in SF with a video store across the street and I was excited. I walked in and a guy behind the counter (Cole) said hi. I looked around like a kid in a candy store. This place was organized by director! There were obscure releases! A "Top 100 Movies of All Time" section! Employee suggestions! A HAND-DRAWN WHITEBOARD WITH UPCOMING RELEASES AND FANTASTIC ART RELATING TO EACH MOVIE! Clearly some movie nerds worked here. I may have well just won the lottery.

So needless to say, I was in there all the time and got to know this Cole guy behind the counter. He was responsible for the whiteboard. He had the BEST movie suggestions. I really tried to stump him a few times but he had a movie for any situation. Once I walked in the the video store with two Japanese exchange students and asked, "OK Cole, what would you recommend for one person who speaks English and two people who don't???" Without batting an eyelash, he said, "Mel Brooks Silent Movie." He was right. It was the perfect movie.

We lived in the same neighborhood, went to the same school, often ran into each other at movies and concerts. At some point, he invited me to see his sketch comedy group called Small Chicken. And that's when I realized holy crap, this guy is FUNNY. I've been a fan ever since. When he started a new sketch group with Janet Varney and David Owen (Dave also worked at the video store!), I designed their website. The design was basic and probably super cheezy, but I had high hopes for those guys and wanted to help any way I could. It wasn't long after that those crazy kids started the SF Sketch Fest which is now a premiere sketch comedy event pulling in amazing comics from all over the United States.

For example, how many awesome people can you fit into one photo? Front row: David Owen, Cole Stratton, Thomas Lennon. Middle row: Kerri Kenney-Silver, Jo Lo Truglio, Michael Patric Jann, Janet Varney, Michael Ian Black. Back row: Janeane Garofalo, David Wain, Robert Ben Garant, Tod Holoubekd, Kevin Allison, Ken Marino, Michael Showalter

He is a true talent and it has been a joy to watch him come up in the world- from the humble sketch shows performed in the college dorms, to tv, movies, comedy festivals and now his new Pop My Culture Podcast with Vanessa Ragland. So, ladies and gentlemen, if you don't know who Cole is, you do now. Check out the podcast and if you get the chance, go see one of his shows. You will not be disappointed!

Cole, thank you for years of friendship and laughter. Plus you are the only guy I know who is as excited about acapella covers as I am. (ahem)

Cole Stratton and Vanessa Ragland (and Cole and Vanessa and Cole and Cole...)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Girlfriend in a Coma

Dedicated to James Roday

I moved to San Francisco in 1995 with a 20 year old's dream of starting a rock band. Through, I located a drummer (who was also a stripper- smokin' hot but she couldn't keep a steady beat), an Irish guy who liked my music but really wanted to do his own "better ideas," and a bass player who just wanted to silkscreen some original band t-shirts. We never played anywhere besides a liquor store basement on Mission Street.

After my Christmas jobs at the mall ended, the guitarist told me he had started temping downtown and so he got me an interview. I had NO office skills, never used a computer, and flat out lied in the interview about being able to type. Before they could test my skills, they got an urgent request for someone to stuff envelopes so I volunteered. A few hours later I was working in downtown San Francisco in an office with a sleezy guy who chased cable cars on his lunch for exercise. The company asked me to do some data entry so I stayed on and quickly taught myself to type by signing up for Yahoo mail and emailing friends.

My next assignment was a receptionist at video game company downtown. I was seriously obsessed with the band The Sundays so I spent most of my time emailing friends on the fan mailing list. We came up with a plan to make our own tribute cd which was really exciting to me since none of my music had made it past my friend's ears. This was going to be a doorway to a music career! So the guitarist and I recorded a song together and I also did one on my own- just me and a piano. On Earth was my first cover song ever. We sent in our submissions on a high quality VCR tape. Someone from the group mastered all the submissions, the person who had a home color printer (ohhh, FANCY!!) printed out the inserts and someone else put it all together and sent them out to everyone. It was a real passion project considering this was well before the world of mp3s and affordable digital recording equipment.

This was my contribution:

The cd actually earned me some fans and for a while I had people following my progress asking what I was going to do next. The fact was, I just didn't know how to proceed. I did some music for myself, put a few tracks online in fabulous Real Audio (remember that?!?!), and it all went nowhere. Over the years, life happened- work, school, social life, boyfriend, and then my first child. I wrote about ten songs in ten years.

Flash forward to 2009, two good friends died 5 weeks apart in unrelated incidents and I was devastated. I thought about their lives and what they had left behind for us. I thought about my friend Nancy who always said, "Do what you love and some day there will be a job in that for you." Even though she wouldn't be around to see it, I finally decided to take her up on that offer. I was going to spend all of 2010 singing.

*scene change*

James Roday, star of USA Network's Psych and a loyal Smiths fan, heard from his makeup artist about The Guardian article on The Smiths Project (incidentally, the exact same day i lost my job). He said something like, "Oh my god, I know her!" and immediately contacted me. You see, way back in the day, he had a band who contributed a song to a little internet tribute cd for The Sundays. The world truly is, as he put it, "smaller than a baby porcupine." But I would have never known that was him all those years ago because that was in an internet land before time- before user icons and pictures and Faceplacing and U-Booking.

This year, James worked with Tears For Fears' lead singer Curt Smith on Psych, so he told Curt about me and we've since met in person to discuss possible future collaborations. Curt is an amazing musician and I never thought my music would reach his ears. I feel like I'm living in a dream. If anyone had told me that ANY part of this story would happen, I would not have believed it. It seems that Sundays cover still might be a door leading to a music career...

I'm so glad I held my ground to submit my On Earth cover even though the guitarist didn't want me to (since it didn't include him). I'm proud that I decided to stop giving up on myself, and I'm eternally grateful to James for remembering me all those years. As it turns out, he had more faith in me than I did this whole time.

So James, since Girlfriend in a Coma is your karaoke go-to, this one is for you. Your support means the world to me and I can't thank you enough.

Oh- and in true Psych style, there are a few things hidden in the song.

Can he solve the mystery?

James Roday and Dule Hill singing with Curt smith.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Death of a Disco Dancer

Happy Birthday Joey Flispart, AKA @changingmyplea

Free download here.

Joey Filspart has been one of my faithful supporters and he has been looking forward to this song for a while. AND today just happens to be his birthday so, Joey, this one is for you.

I worked on this one forever. There are so many layers of drums and it took a while to get just the right drum sounds I was looking for because, as you know, I'm not a beat boxer. Never in my life did I think that I would attempt beatboxing, let alone let anyone hear it! It just goes to show how little I know. There are so many fun elements in the original song and I wanted to represent them as faithfully as I could, such as Morrissey's plinky piano solo, and the siren and snare drum rhythm at the end. Every song teaches me something new I can do with my voice and electronic manipulation techniques- this song taught me a lot.

I hope you like it, Joey!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I Started Something That I Couldn't Finish

9 songs to go.

Click here for free download.

Throughout this year, I have often wondered if I have started something that I couldn't finish. I have had the entire list of songs taped to the wall and I mark my progress with a yellow highlighter. If I got discouraged, I would look at the list and see just how much I had already accomplished. One day my boyfriend asked me how far I was getting in the music and I started babbling about how I still have such a long way to go, I'm stressing out, I don't know if I can do it, etc... And then I looked at my list and yelled proudly, "BUT LOOK AT ALL THAT YELLOW!!!" like an official crazy person. Well, my list is almost all yellow now and the highlighter is just about out of ink. Nine songs to go.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Rush and a Push and the Land Is Ours

Strangeways, Here We Are!

Free Download here

This one is dedicated to the one and only Johnny Marr and Morrissey, for whom my life would be so amazingly different without. If you are reading this, thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing the best music for me to spend my life (and now this entire year) singing. I would write a long flowery speech about it... but I'm hoping my voice can say what I find impossible to boil down to a mere paragraph. Point is, music is a very powerful thing- and your music has changed my life.

The Kings

This is on the wall above my microphone. It's an actual playing card my boyfriend found online and I sorta took it. :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Money Changes Everything

Moving on to the last album!

Click here for free download

And here we are, headed right to Strangeways. I have made it to the last album and am working as fast as humanly possible to get the whole album done before December 31, 2010- a date that feels like it's just around the corner! With holidays, sick days, changes in schedules, etc. this whole *being laid off* thing just hasn't given me all sorts of extra time like I thought it would. I just keep thinking, "5 weeks to go." I pretty much can't think beyond that point anymore because I really, seriously, have no idea what happens after that. I take a nap? Buy myself a beer? Faint?

On that note...

*runs back to her microphone*

Friday, November 12, 2010


for @StephenPKelly

Free download here

This song is for Stephen Kelly who I have had the pleasure of getting to know because of this project. He is a witty dude with black-rimmed glasses and a heart of gold. What started out as "friending" an online stranger has turned into a real friendship- one of the beautiful things about the internet. A long time ago, he mentioned that he couldn't wait for Asleep, one of his all time favorite songs, so I flagged it for him on my list of song dedications. A few months ago he approached me about including a bit about The Smiths Project in his article on musical tributes in the digital age. One interview turned into another, and before you know it, the article became a Smiths Project article and it was published in The Guardian UK last month. This article was a real game-changer for me, for which I am eternally grateful. So Stephen with a "ph", I know you've waited forever, but this one is for you.

A lovely photo of Stephen, Journalist for the NME, Guardian and beyond. Add him on Twitter: @StephenPKelly

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Download free here until it reaches the download limit

I grew up in a very religious household where nothing *on earth* is important compared to getting to heaven and you're only noticed at all if you are living the life that everyone around you wants you to lead. I was only really accepted for things my parents (the minister and the church organist) could understand. For everything else, my parents tried, they really did, but they couldn't fathom how music could be more dear to my heart than religion. I was trained to make others happy. I spent my whole life attempting to conform and striving to be accepted as a valid human being. There was always a nagging feeling the real reason I had such a hard time being accepted was because at my core, I was unloveable. This was my song.

Then I was diagnosed with a muscle disease at 14 years of age. It is such an alienating feeling to be trapped in the body of a 80 year old woman while still looking like a normal teenager. It was impossible for me to be loved in the way that I needed. People had no idea what I was going through. I sat in my room, almost completely immobile and listened to music while painting and drawing for a couple years. I played the piano and sang when nobody was home. I hid way down somewhere inside myself and dreamed of having the physical strength to run, of escaping my small town, and mostly of being a singer. This was my song.

Up until this year, I've been terrified of putting myself out there as a singer. I have put up a few songs on the internet over the years but the idea of being unloved, not being accepted, not being understood has been paralyzing. Up until this year, my friends knew I was "a singer" but almost nobody had ever actually heard me sing. My family never heard my true singing voice around the house. I buried my dreams and was permanently miserable.

Doing this project is changing my life. This song no longer defines me. I will always love this song for standing by me but now I'm ready to sing my life!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

LA Weekly Article

There's a blog article about me in the LA Weekly and I'm dieing of laughter over the picture they used:

Friday, November 5, 2010

Stretch Out and Wait

Click for free download until it reaches the download limit

This is the song I always want to sing to my cat when she's sleeping. She's got this whole stretch out and wait thing down. A true master.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

This morning's interview on Newstalk Radio in Ireland

I'm about 20 minutes into Part 2.

Oscillate Wildly

My second "vocal-mental" track!

Click here for a free download until it reaches the download limit

This song has been my boyfriend's ringtone for at least the 6 years that we've been together, so I'm dedicating it to him! XOXO

Friday, October 29, 2010

Rubber Ring

For @Apey because it's her favorite song!

Click here for free download until it reaches the download limit

This song is for the one and only April Richardson. She's one of those amazing people who just decided one day to put her heart and soul into following her dreams and has not looked back. She's a hilarious comedian, one of the most knowledgeable Smiths/Morrissey fans I've ever met, she's gorgeous, she's talented and just an all around wonderful human being. In general, she's the bees knees. I'm so happy that I've had a chance to get to know her this year and I wanted to publicly thank her for adding laughter to my life!

P.S. That snare drum sound (made from a sample of me going "ts!") took HOURS to program... but I just had to have it in there. And the samples of voices at the end were SO FUN to re-create!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Golden Lights

Free until it runs out of downloads

There are varying opinions on The Smiths version of Golden Lights and it seems most people think it's too happy? I decided to do this one in a much darker tone, more in keeping with the lyrics... and very far from both the original and the Smiths versions. Simon Goddard said the world would forgive me if I skipped it, but I thought I'd give it a go. This will be the only cover-of-a-cover that I do in this project!

Friday, October 22, 2010


Click here for free download until it reaches the download limit

If I though so many people would be listening to these covers when I first started out, I would have been too shy to do this project- BUT I'm so glad that I did. I'm doing all the things in life I'd like to!

Speaking of, I'd really like to finish this project! I just calculated that I need to post 2 songs per week from now to Dec 31. INSANITY. Wish me luck, guys...

photo by Josh Cadwising

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby

Click here for a free download (until it reaches the download limit!)

This song is for Kristy MacColl, a very talented woman who died to save her kids. I had a hard time NOT hearing her voice while singing this one, so I decided to keep some of her harmony lines in the song in tribute to her.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Shakespeare's Sister

<a href="">Shakespeare's Sister by smithsproject</a>

I have run out of free downloads but I can give you the song for almost-free this way:

Go to Bandcamp: for your 95% discount (isn't this silly?)

Discount code: SS_OCT15
Code will expire in two days, so get it while you can!


This week has been absolutely crazy. The same day the Guardian article came out, I started receiving loads of new fans, amazingly supportive comments, donations, requests for interviews for articles and radio... It's overwhelming and I still have trouble believing that any of this is REAL. Many times this week, I have been brought to tears by all this love.

I can't tell you what this means to me. Ask anyone who has ever spent time with me and they will tell you the only thing I have ever wanted to be is a musician. Yet, the story of my life is that I consistently given up on my dreams. There's always something more important to deal with, a diaper to change, a job to commute to... And at the end of every day there's always me regretting giving up on myself.

This project has been difficult, I'm not going to lie! And then made even more complicated because I was laid off from my job this Monday- the same day the Guardian article came out. I don't care. I am determined to finish this project. I'm done letting myself down.

The universe must be trying to tell me something.

"I've seen this happen in other people's lives, and now it's happening in mine."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ran out of free downloads!

Up until yesterday, I have been giving my music away for free but, due to the recent Guardian UK article, interest in the music has spiked and I have run out of free downloads on my and Bandcamp accounts for the month. My appologies! Thank you to everyone who has opted to donate a few dollars to my project.


P.S. new song on it's way soon...

Friday, October 8, 2010


<a href="">Panic by smithsproject</a>

This one is for DJ Jason Matthews who does a radio show called Hang The DJ on every Friday at 10am PST. The show streams on their website so please tune in to check it out. He has been very supportive of my project and often plays two songs each week! Thank you Jason!

Follow him on twitter @HangTheDJason!

Monday, October 4, 2010


<a href="">London by smithsproject</a>

I had the great fortune of spending a day in San Francisco sightseeing with Simon Goddard over the weekend. He was in town to interview bands and promote the release of Mozipedia. He had some free time so we took a boat over to Alcatraz. We also drove down crooked Lombard Street and he even got to witness the amazing speed of San Francisco fog! Wooooosh!

I also had my son with me and he just loved Simon to pieces. He spent most of the day trying to hold Simon's hand and asking him very important toddler questions like, "Ummm, Simon? Do you know about trees?!?!? Are you taking me to jail?" My son got a bit fidgety on the Alcatraz tour so I put his favorite song on headphones. He sang "Bad Romance" loud enough to resonate throughout the prison. Yep. Toddlers love Gaga.

It was great to meet Simon in person. Who knows, maybe I'll get to London one day and he can prove to me that SF crazies are in fact crazier than London crazies. There HAS to also be some people over there who dance around holding signs that read, "I love my cat!" right? Right??

Graphic by Simon Goddard, made specifically for today's song.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Half a Person

<a href="">Half a Person by smithsproject</a>

This one is for my friend, Chris Gethard. He's a very funny comedian who is also a passionate Smiths/Morrissey fan. He hosts The Chris Gethard Show at the Upright Citizen's Brigade Theater in New York every month and I recommend going to his show if you can. One of the things I admire about him is his ability to embrace what is real, even at the expense of doing things that are awkward or uncomfortable. You know, like risk telling a joke that's "not funny" and getting shot by a paintball-gun-wielding audience. Or hosting a show naked to raise money for charity. He is genuine, funny, and not at all afraid to be a little clumsy and shy.

Follow him on Twitter: @ChrisGethard!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sweet and Tender Hooligan

<a href="">Sweet and Tender Hooligan by smithsproject</a>

Who else could I dedicate this song to but The Sweet and Tender Hooligans! They have been so nice to me and even invited me to perform with them in May. I had such a great time meeting all these guys. They are just fantastic!

Here's just one story of how great they are- when we got to the Anaheim House of Blues, I was told by the stage crew that I wasn't aloud to perform because I was listed as a separate act from the Hooligans but they had no clearance forms from me (none of us knew I needed this!) and would not be able to perform. I told the Hooligans and they had a few minutes of group huddle. They came up with a plan to tell the stage manager that I was the "intro music" for their stage entrance and that they would be on stage with me. Once I was performing, the guys waited 'til the last minute to casually stroll on stage, get set up and then start their first song as soon as I was done.

Thanks to the Hooligans for skipping the regular intro and crowd cheers so that I could perform at the House of Blues!!

P.S. I made this one uptempo and danceable, just in case Jose wants to try and spin it at one of his DJ gigs.

Picture from back stage at the House of Blues, taken by my boyfriend Josh Cadwising.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Shoplifters of the World Unite

<a href="">Shoplifters of the World Unite by smithsproject</a>

This song ended up being a mish-mash of vocal influences- and because I worked on it over a long period of time, I wasn't even aware of my own vocal shoplifting for quite a while. Maybe you'll be able to name a few of the influences...

This image is from the blog Film Noir Photos which has so many great photos!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sheila Take A Bow

<a href="">Sheila Take A Bow by smithsproject</a>

This one is for the lovely Gina Vadnais who plays flute for The Sweet and Tender Hooligans. I had a great time hanging out and performing with her this past May! One of her kids needs to marry my son so that we can really be sisters. <3

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Is It Really So Strange?

<a href="">Is It Really So Strange by smithsproject</a>

I will dedicate this song to Miss Dale who was supposed to go north, but traveled south again... and ended up meeting Morrissey last night- a lifelong dream of hers. Thank you for all your support of my project!

Untitled by Chris Koperski.
Chris is a friend of mine- check out his other work, it's fabulous!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Simon Goddard's Mozipedia comes out Sept 28, 2010

I have just received a wonderful gift in the mail from Simon Goddard: his new book, the amazing Mozipedia ! It's set to be released in the United States September 28, and I highly recommend getting a copy for your very own. Simon is truly one of rock and roll's greatest detectives. He is so very passionate about Morrissey and the Smiths and his dedication shows. I have been using the UK edition Mozipedia as source of inspiration for many of my Smiths covers. I find this book to be endlessly fascinating and helpful.

Thank you so much, Simon! (also, you are a clever jokester!)

Click the picture to go to Buy it!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Draize Train

<a href="">The Draize Train by smithsproject</a>

My first "instrumental" or as my boyfriend says, "vocalmental" which may be accurate considering I must be mental to have spent several months on this one. There were two previous versions of this song that I abandoned because I didn't like how they were going. Plus, my computer crashed and corrupted the file several times. Although it took a while to come together, I'm proud of how it turned out! It is very much inspired by Zoe Keating's new album Into The Trees, which you absolutely must check out!

vintage magician making a rabbit figure Photo from Flickr by by justagigolo

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

<a href="">There Is A Light That Never Goes Out by smithsproject</a>

This one is dedicated to my love, Josh Cadwising. He is my inspiration, the father of my crazy toddler, and an amazing photographer. This is one of his favorite songs. Also "our" song is Jack the Ripper, so I combined the two, slightly. If you listen to the bass line, it's almost exactly the same as the Jack the Ripper's verse. I spent a lot of time on this song and it probably has more layers than anything else I've done to date. It's impossible to say at this point, since many of the layers contain multiple voices bounced down to one track, but I'm guessing somewhere in the neighborhood of 50+ layers.

I decided to end it the same way Morrissey does in the live 2004 version of Who Put the 'M' in Manchester. I always loved how everyone floats off stage one by one leaving Mike Farrell to play the beautifully haunting strings and flute melodies on his own.

back when we were new...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Some Girls are Bigger Than Others

<a href="">Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others by smithsproject</a>

I used a two-octave drop and some good ol' crunchy distortion for the bass line on this one. Sometimes I wish I had the vocal range that men have because it would really come in handy at times! Even though my main inspiration was taiko drums it took on a Radiohead Myxomatosis feel. Also, I don't know if I should be saying this out loud but, I finally listened to Lady Gaga's The Fame album yesterday (the rock I live under is beautiful) and there is a song where she does the Taiko yell just like I did in this song. For the record, I had no idea!

Anyway... this song is for Morrissey's superfan Russell Brand because a) I can just imagine him saying some random girl-fact like this off the top of his head, can't you??? and b) both Morrissey and Russell Brand operate on some other witty and unique plane of consciousness that I don't fully understand but greatly admire. Granted, Russell's brain synapses are firing at warp-factor nine- or maybe he just talks faster that Morrissey? I don't know. Whatever!

Russell, you're hilarious and I adore you. If your wedding registry is at Target, I sure couldn't find it. So, this is my wedding present to you. Sorry, I forgot the card...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Vicar In A Tutu

Morrissey influences people in the best of ways. This picture is just one more reason to love David Byrne.

david byrne at benaroya hall

David Byrne at Benaroya Hall.

Photo by Laura Musselman.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Boy With The Thorn In His Side

picture by Josh Cadwising

Friday, July 30, 2010

Bigmouth Strikes Again

Speaking of bigmouths! I seriously have NO IDEA what was happening in this picture, but it always makes me laugh.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cemetry Gates

Taken at one of the many cemeteries in Colma, CA.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Never Had No One Ever

Photo by my dear friend Hillary Wright Hildebrand

Friday, July 16, 2010

I Know It's Over

<a href="">I Know It's Over by smithsproject</a>


Dear Mr. Lynch,
It means the world to know that you've listened to my music! Thank you for giving a mere nobody a moment of your time. If you ever need an all-vocal soundtrack, I'm your gal.

Thank you again for years of inspiration!

I'm dedicating today's song to David Lynch and Julee Cruise as a thank you for years and years of inspiration. Eraserhead was the first "experimental" film I watched as a young teen and it had such a huge impact on me. I didn't have cable TV growing up, plus I'm the daughter of a minister, so there wasn't a whole lot of experimental influences in my environment. His movies have such stunning visuals, raw emotions and quirky sense of humor. The way he combines beauty with fear is genius. I used Julee Cruise as my musical inspiration for this song since it already seemed to want to be a 50's ballad of sorts. Pairing wispy vocals with the dark lyrics seemed like a very Lynch-y thing to do anyway.

Mr. Lynch, where ever you are, I thank you. You absolutely blew my mind and changed the way I think about music, art, movies- even the way I decorate my house. In fact, the room I'm sitting in (total mess- no picture!!) has black and white striped carpet and red walls.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Frankly, Mr. Shankly

I know several of you were waiting for my take on this one. I literally just finished it TODAY!

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Queen Is Dead

This song was previously posted a few months back from my performances with the Hooligans, but it officially marks the beginning of the next album: The Queen Is Dead!

I'm about halfway through the project now. I recently went back and listened to some of my earlier songs I can't believe how much I have grown musically in the past 6 months. Having to constantly push myself to try new ideas and arrangements is really taking me into new territory. There are times when I think, "What on earth will I do for THIS song?!?!" and I'll have several mini panic attacks while the song rattles around in my head for a few weeks. It's a delicate balance to do justice to the original songs while still making my versions stand on their own as good songs. At some point, the "Ah ha! Moment" happens and the piece quickly takes shape with each idea building off the previous layer of vocals.

Before this project, I had no idea I was capable of this. I'm able to reproduce the arrangements I hear in my head pretty accurately without a single instrument being played. I've been practicing my beatboxing and coming up with new ways to record vocals. I'm incorporating more pitch-shift (down an octave) into the songs, which really opens up the sound field to get more of a fullness that would otherwise require me to hire a whole choir. The Smiths are helping me discover what my voice is capable of and who I am as a musician. In many ways, this project is quite literally changing my life- and you're watching it happen in real time.

So when you're wondering what the next song will sound like, just know that I'm wondering the very same thing.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Meat Is Murder

(Last song on the album!)

This song is for the lovely ladies at my two favorite vegan blogs!
Quarry Girl:
Have Cake, Will Travel:

And also for my cat, Marzipan. AKA Marzi, Steven Pantrick Marzissey, Marzi Davis Eyes, Thrillerpan, etc.

Pimpin' Pan


Wait, was there confusion as to why I dedicated Meat is Murder to my cat? I'm not trying to say people regularly eat house cats! I'm just saying animals in general are cute and nice and we should be nice to 'em. (Except sharks. Maybe.)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Recording Session with Jose Maldonado

photo by Josh Cadwising

Interlude by blackpiano

Jose Maldonado (singer of The Sweet and Tender Hooligans) has been one of my great supporters from the very beginning. I can't thank him enough for all the encouragement and opportunities he have given me through radio play and inviting me to take part in the Sweet and Tender Hooligans Shows last May on Morrissey's birthday. Months ago, we decided to do a cover of Interlude by Morrissey and Siouxie. I put the backing track together ahead of time and then recorded Jose at the Indie 103.1 studio in LA after we did the Breakfast With The Smiths radio show. Here it is!

I also did an impromptu recording of Jose playing his guitar and singing whatever songs came to mind. I took them home and added my vocals to them a few weeks ago. I think they came out great as well!

Lovelife by blackpiano

Speedway by blackpiano

Ask by blackpiano

Friday, July 2, 2010

Barbarism Begins At Home

You will notice there is something missing from my version. There is not one single "WUUUHH!" in the entire piece. My boyfriend kept saying, "YOU GOTTA DO THE WUUHS!" And then he would snicker.

But no. It's called "creative license," people. And for the record, I also do not hump rocks or play bongos for cows. (I'm sorry, Morrissey. There are just some things that should remain special, just for you.)

If you must, consider this your chance to do some karaoke and add in all the woops and wuuuhs you like.

Speaking of COWS...
Here's a Friday funny for you. Check out the comic How Soon Is Cow, by Theo Radomski. Thank you to Lyndsie (one of my new listeners!) for sending it to me.

Here's Theo's site: Hastily Put Together

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Well I Wonder

This one is for my dear friend Carina M!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Nowhere Fast

Sometimes the arrangements for these songs happen easier than others. This one started fast-paced with lots of ba-da-da-das but it ended up sounding way to silly for the lyrics. I ditched everything but the base line and a few harmony tracks. I chopped a bunch of each track out randomly, added new backing vocals, drizzled a little olive oil, and baked it at 350 degrees until golden brown delicious.

A rebel song deserves a picture of a the legendary rebel, James Dean.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Headmaster Ritual

Several people have pointed out that I didn't do an official posting of The Headmasters Ritual. I started an unsuccessful studio version but then started practicing a live version for the LA shows with the Hooligans. I decided to make that one the "official" version. I included the song in my Thank You to Jose Maldonado, Thomas Lennon and Simon Goddard- and then went back to my regularly scheduled program without saying anything more. OOPS! Well, here is the official post!

This project is taking it's toll in interesting ways. Mostly, it's making me a total scatterbrain. If you are following me on Twitter, you may have noticed that I am often unable to form complete sentences. This is largely due to the fact that there are about ten billion things fighting for attention in my brain, and they are all being annihilated by the mental arrangement and planning of Smiths songs. Most days, I'm just happy happy if I remember to brush my hair. Today: mismatched socks.