Category: Nonfiction

Inside Amsterdam Station’s Debut Album

On any given day, I get dozens of emails in my inbox, typically from clients or potential clients, sometimes from friends, and, of course, a handful of messages that are subscriptions and spam. Most of the time, managing email is the activity on my daily to-do list I dread the most. But on occasion, I’ll get a message in my inbox that completely makes my day. This past March, I got one of these exciting emails from the handsome and talented men of the alternative rock band Amsterdam Station, announcing the upcoming release of their first full-length album. In preparation for this monumental event, the band enlisted me for a collaborative partnership.

We started with styling the band for a photoshoot for the album, “The River. The Sound. The Wake.” The band and I jumped on a live video call on a Sunday night during one of their weekly rehearsals to discuss the inspiration behind the album and some of their style influences. As the title of the album indicates, the central theme focuses on the forces of nature, specifically the river as a source of cleansing, forward motion, and the cycle of life and death. In addition to embodying the energy of the outdoors and capturing the tones of the earth, the band wanted to stay true to their minimalist style approach that mirrors other alternative rock bands, like The Killers, Mute Math, and Dead Weather. Over the course of the next month, we worked to compose individual looks for each of the band members that reflected the concept for the album and stayed true to each of their individual styles. Then, on an unseasonably cold and windy Saturday morning in April, the band convened at the Chattahoochee River in Roswell, Georgia for the shoot.

For the next several weeks, the band worked tirelessly to complete the album. At the end of their long and arduous journey, I was fortunate enough to get an exclusive preview of the tracks and learn more about the creative process that went into composing the album.

AOC BLOG GIRL: How did you come up with the name for the album?

AMSTERDAM STATION: The album title first originated from the song “The Sound”. This song has been in our writing room for about two years and was the first song written for the new album. This song demonstrates a key change for our band and the maturity of our writing, with haunting harmonies and a tip-of-the-hat to great southern literature and iconic murder ballads. The River has been an archetype throughout history as a place for the soul and the body to be cleansed, a place to offer up the horrors that haunt our minds, and a place to break free from the demons that bind.

The sequence of the wording is important too. The River. The Sound. The Wake. It equates to the place, the event, and the aftermath. A wake is the tracking of waves after movement cuts through the water. When you approach a river, you bear witness to its constant state of change, and, in the wake of the aftermath, a future that is flux, pushing and pulling against an ever changing present. It’s never the same river. With every action or event, there may be admission and regret, but there is never an undoing. If you come to the river heavy with burden, so much so that it consumes you to the core, then you shall sink and bear witness to the bed you’ve made. But, if you allow yourself to purge, grow and persevere, your life becomes buoyant again, and so you float on.

AOC BLOG GIRL: Describe the creative process that went into conceptualizing one of the songs on the album.

AMSTERDAM STATION: In the song Florence, the idea is that the woman (Florence) is having a conversation with God during her last waking hours. Greg (Vocalist/Bassist/Guitarist) wrote this song while his Grandmother was in terminal hospice care last year. She was at a point in her life where her COPD had rendered her unable to catch her breath, even doing the simplest tasks. Once in hospice, she was surrounded by family, reminiscing and telling stories, all while tethered to a wall by an oxygen container and confined to a bed and a body that was merely a shell of herself. Her soul was still vibrant, but her body had run its course, and she died peacefully in her sleep. She had given their family some scares in years past, but during her final moments, she seemed content, accepting and at ease. This song is a tribute to her and a hope that she’s living in peace with her maker.

AOC BLOG GIRL: What’s one signature quality that defines the album as a whole, lyrically, musically, or otherwise?

AMSTERDAM STATION: The signature quality of the album is probably the flow of the songs throughout the album. Like a River, it’s dynamic and constantly changing. Every time you listen cover to cover, it might bring you to a new or changing place in your life. It is a roller coaster of emotions, with constant peaks and troughs, instead of remaining static in one music style or feeling. It mimics real life, instead of the cookie-cutter lives we see ourselves adapting to from time to time.

AOC BLOG GIRL: What’s one thing you’ve learned in producing your first full-length album that you’d like to share with aspiring artists?

AMSTERDAM STATION: However long you believe the album is going to take, double it. In the world of DIY recording these days, you need the extra time to learn and better yourself and to allow for the magic of the studio to rub off on the tracks. Sometimes the last minute changes you make in the studio can really be what MAKE a song have that extra sparkle or resonance. Having more time decreases the stress for the artists and the pressure on the creative process.

Amsterdam Station is releasing their first full length album, “The River. The Sound. The Wake.” this Friday, July 1. Visit their website for details on how to purchase the album, upcoming tour dates, and more! If you’re in the Atlanta area, join the band at Smith’s Olde Bar for their album release party tomorrow night!

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Freelancers Union Spark Happy Hour Recap

A majority of the monthly Freelancers Union Spark events are educational and focused around a specific topic or speaker. However, once or twice a year, Spark hosts an open networking happy hour. In addition to offering drink specials, snacks, and opportunities to win free drinks and Freelancers Union swag, these particular events tend to draw a strong crowd because of the promise to connect.

As freelancers, we don’t have traditional co-workers, clients, or employees. Most of the time, our work is done remotely, our meetings are conducted over phone or video, and our day-to-day operations take place in our home offices. There are things that seem commonplace to those in more conventional jobs, like getting up and getting out of the house each day, bouncing ideas off your office-mate, or taking a lunch break with your boss. However, these things are luxuries to freelancers. So, when a chance to connect with our peers presents itself, it’s no surprise that we’ll flock there.

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This month at the Manhattan Spark happy hour, we convened in Tribeca over cocktails, craft beer, pub fare, and prizes. Freelancers gathered around high-top tables, and the other co-leaders and I circulated the space. As we moved from table to table, we asked the attendees who they’d like to meet at the event and worked to connect them.

While the topics discussed in the more educational workshops are always incredibly relevant and useful, this ability to connect is what makes the monthly Freelancers Union Spark events invaluable. Before I became a co-leader, I connected with two girls through Spark events, one who has become a dear friend and another who has become an incredible accountability partner and friend. Now, as a co-leader, I’m honored and thrilled to be able to facilitate connections among other freelancers.

Freelancing can be a lonely and isolating line of work, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re looking to make more connections with fellow freelancers and grow your work community, I highly recommend checking out a Freelancers Union Spark event. There will likely be another happy hour event later this year. However, at the end of every Spark, there’s about half an hour of open networking following the workshop. To find an event near you, check out the Freelancers Union website. If you’re in the NYC area, stop by the Manhattan event and say hi – I’ll be there co-leading, and I’d love to connect!

 

YCDA Pop-Goddess Workshop w/ Jess Grippo Recap  

You may remember last fall when I started dancing again after a four-year hiatus thanks to Jess Grippo and her You Can Dance Again (YCDA) program. Since then, Jess has started to expand the concept, offering alternatives to her core workshop. YCDA began as a six to nine week experience, available both online and in-person for those living in the NYC area. This spring, Jess offered the first pop-up version of YCDA – a four-week mini workshop with a focus on pop-goddesses.

You might be wondering, what is a pop-goddess? Jess may very well have coined this term herself! She took three major goddess archetypes – Artemis, Kali, and Aphrodite – and paired them with a modern pop star whose personality, style, and dance reflect the core characteristics of the goddess archetypes – Pink, Beyoncé, and Lady Gaga respectively.

Over the course of the four-week Pop-Goddess workshop, the weekly virtual sessions focused on the core characteristics of the goddess archetypes and their pop-star counterparts. After exploring each theme, Jess shared guiding prompts and action steps to help us integrate the concepts into our dance practice and beyond. For those in the NYC area who were able to participate in the in-person program, each weekly class allowed us to put the prompts and integration steps into action with a community of fellow dancers.

The studio sessions allowed us to work collaboratively with the other dancers to create movements that embodied the goddess archetypes and pop-star qualities. Jess also incorporated choreography from the pop-icons and created a curated set of playlists with music from the core pop artists as well as other female artists whose music channeled the goddess spirit. The culmination of the virtual sessions and in-person classes allowed us fully embrace and embody the energy of the goddess archetypes and direct this energy through our bodies and into our dance.

The very specific and guided focus of the Pop-Goddess workshop provided a perfect space for introspection and internal work as well as a supportive community to outwardly express our inner-goddesses through dance. As Jess’s YCDA programs evolve and progress, I believe this balance of internal and external exploration, both individually and communally, is the core. Creative self-expression starts from within – dance is merely a medium to convey that expression.

The four-week Pop-Goddess workshop flew by, only brushing the surface of the themes, internal exploration, and expression through dance. I, along with many of the other dancers in the program, was left craving more. Jess listened and was inspired to create the next version of the YCDA program – a four-month experience with monthly themes, a two-day dance retreat, and a culminating showcase. This YCDA workshop is available online and in-person for those in the NYC area, and it kicks off in less than two weeks.

If something is holding you back from dancing again or you’ve been hoping for an opportunity to dance again free from comparison or competition, I highly recommend speaking with Jess and exploring the YCDA program. Maybe you’re already dancing, and you’re looking for a strong community to support you in working through internal ideas or barriers and expressing yourself fully through dance. This upcoming workshop might be just what you need – check out the full details here. If you’d like to chat further about my personal experience with YCDA, feel free to connect with me!

Creative Habit: Spring Cleaning

In most cases, when you want to make room for something new, you have to let go of something old. If you want to update your wardrobe, you might consign or donate items in your closet that no longer fit or are out of style. If you’re moving into a new home, you may have a garage sale to get rid of furniture that you no longer need. There are even small, everyday instances in which you simply remove the old to make space for the new without even thinking. Before taking a trip to the grocery store, you might clean out your fridge and discard leftovers or items that have spoiled. Purging something old to make room for something new comes naturally to us in so many facets of our lives, yet we don’t instinctively turn to this practice when it comes to creativity.

Creativity is intangible – it doesn’t literally take up space like a new pair of shoes or a couch or a carton of milk. Even though you don’t physically have to make room for a great big piece of creativity, you have to make space for it mentally. Just like your dresser or fridge can become unbearably full, so much so that you can never find the right pair of jeans or marinade when you need them, your mind can become cluttered and creativity can get lost. It’s easier when you can physically see that you have so many throw pillows you can no longer comfortably sit on your couch. You know it’s time to sell or give away a few. However, when you’re dealing with something more abstract like creativity and making space in your mind, it can be more challenging to know when and how to clear things out.

Like New Year’s Resolutions or bikini season diets, spring cleaning is a bit arbitrary. There’s never a wrong or right time to define goals, commit to a healthier lifestyle, or clear out clutter in your life. While these annual milestones are somewhat trivial, they serve as good reminders that it’s important to regularly set intentions, practice healthy habits, and let go of something old to make room for something new.

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For this month’s AOC Blog Creative Habit Challenge, do a little metaphorical spring cleaning. Actively find ways to clear your mind and make space for creativity. This could be as simple as shutting off your computer, powering down your phone, and allowing yourself to detach and decompress for a few hours. Maybe you just need a breath of fresh air – go outside and get lost in the beautiful spring weather. Perhaps you’ve always been curious about meditation, and now could finally be the time to give it a try. If your mind is feeling particularly cluttered and the thought of freeing your mind sounds paralyzing or impossible, you might want to dig deeper into your spring cleaning.

Over time, the buildup of stress or the pressure of the never-ending to-do list can really start to saturate your mind. In these instances, a simple walk around the neighborhood park won’t suffice – you don’t just need spring cleaning, you need deep cleaning. Carve out some time and space to ritualize the process. Grab a pen and paper, and physically free write or sketch whatever you need to release. Try to be as raw and honest as possible. Then, tear it up, burn it, or throw it into a nearby body of water – really let it go and allow your mind to empty.

Whatever mode or method you choose, don’t just clean out your house this spring. Clean out your mind and make space for creativity. Let’s continue the conversation – tweet me @AOCBlogGirl using the hashtag #AOCBlogCreativeHabit!

Why You Can Benefit from Reflecting on Your Former Self

I admit, I have a hard time being present in the present – I’m constantly thinking ten steps ahead, and I’m often reflecting on the past. This quality can be a blessing and a curse, but I used to believe it was only the latter. It’s not particularly healthy or practical to go through life always thinking about the future or living in the past. For a long time, I fought against my impulse to plan ahead and my tendency to reminisce.

Recently, I started to explore the benefits of looking forward to the future and back to the past. It’s easier to see the potential payoff of the former. Most things in life can benefit from some sort of “future planning,” from making dinner to building a business. On the other hand, seeing the advantages of reflecting on the past is a little more challenging. Sure, we don’t want history to repeat itself, and we could all do to learn from our past mistakes. However, constantly thinking about the past can spark regret, remorse, or a longing for a life that no longer exists.

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In all my days spent reminiscing, I’ve been guilty of pining for the “good old days” of my youth. The last time I started to spiral down the road of yesteryear, I didn’t stop myself or beat myself up for getting nostalgic. Instead, I decided to dig deeper. I stopped focusing previous cities, past friends, and old haunts and started focusing on who I was during that time. I began tapping into my former self – looking through old photos, reading entries in old notebooks, and listening to old music. After about a week of devoting some time each day to this internal exploration, I found myself reconnecting with my former self and bringing her into the present.

As I’ve continued to approach the practice of reminiscing differently, I’ve noticed the presence of several selves living within me simultaneously, reuniting like old friends who had dearly missed each other after being apart for years. I’ve felt more energized, full, and content. I feel like I’ve found parts of myself that were lost.

My experience aside, here’s why I believe you can benefit from reflecting on your former self: when we’re in our youth, we’re typically more creative, imaginative, adventurous, spontaneous, and open-minded. The moment we’re thrust into adulthood, those youthful qualities tend to dissipate, and we become more practical, logical, and judgmental. Taking time to reflect on, tap into, and reconnect with my former self has helped to reignite some of those wild, hopeful, and youthful ideals within me. So, next time you find your mind wandering to the past, don’t shy away – dig deeper.


After writing this post, I discovered this interesting article on a similar subject that was published on the Freelancers Union blog back in 2015. Take a look if you’d like some additional reading on the topic of nostalgia and creativity from a more scientific perspective!