August Gigs!

Mark your calendars for the next two dates!

Saturday, August 13th at the Actual Café in Oakland.

6334 San Pablo Ave (between 63rd St & 64th St) 7:00pm-9:30pm

Ryan and I will be performing our acoustic material following the fabulous Ms. Katherine Peck.

The show starts with Katherine at 7pm goes until about 9:30pm and is kid friendly!

There’s great food, beer and wine.  So, plan to settle in for a great show. 

There’s also indoor bike parking so leave the car at home!

Saturday, August 27th at 9:00pm LIVE at the Stork Club

2330 Telegraph Ave. Oakland, California 9:00pm-Midnight

Ryan and I will be performing as Chance’s End which means our entire electronic set!

The lineup is fabulous:

Cop Sound
Bigelow’s Treehouse
Chance’s End

$5 at the door

This one is 21+ so dress in your finest drinking pants and head on over!

Hope to see you at either or both shows!


I was having tea with my good friend Miriam in San Francisco the other day. She was just about to fly off to New York City for an intensive theater program after quitting her job as an accountant.  I was gearing up for another gig.  We were having one of those existential conversations that I seem to be having pretty regularly these days.  The kind of conversation that always circles the “am I headed in the right direction with my life?” pond.   I found myself admiring her bravery at leaving her steady, well-paying job for the thrill of the unknown and to deepen her artistic training.  I also found myself starting to feel…trapped?  I thought, no matter how badly I wanted to travel with my music, I simply couldn’t leave the job I have now for my own pursuits.  I felt the world wouldn’t have me in my current artistic state.  Miriam responded with her own apprehension about how the world would take her after she finished with her studies.  We discussed.  As we did so, Miriam and I found ourselves repeatedly mentioning a word that started to stand out after a while.  The word was “permission.”

This word had been creeping into my environs steadily and, after recognizing its potency, Miriam and I decided to give it the stage.  We exchanged meaningful quotes that have stuck with us through the years.  These words gradually assumed the frequency of mantras that we would regularly gravitate towards for one reason or another.  I seemed to do so during periods of doubt and self-evaluation.  These quotes are the friend one invites over to serve as a buffer during tea or luncheon with the neighbors.  A reminder that you have all that you need already.  All you need, when the neighbor starts questioning your lawn, gardening or parenting skills, is to look over to your friend and watch her nod confidently into your eyes.  “You got it, sister.”

You know when you are in the middle of a conversation and you think of something murderously witty that could either send everyone into fits of laughter OR damn you for all eternity from that social circle?  And for a moment you hesitate.  You think “Should I say that?  Would they think me crude or unsophisticated?  Or WORSE! Would they think me a racist or that I have a limited view of a woman’s role in society?”  That entire conversation takes all of a 10th of a second.  But it decides for you.  It becomes your mother.  You need to ask it permission to say or do something that seemed to want to come naturally at first.  Permission.  That nod.  “Go for it sister!”  If you don’t have any of these quotes in your arsenal, or any form of encouragement from your past that you keep for just such occasions,  where does this internal nod of confidence come from?

Please allow me to share with you some thoughts that were exchanged between my dear friend and me at our tea-date:

To paraphrase a 70+ year old lady figure-drawing model from a short documentary film I recently saw-“The one thing we give ourselves in life is permission.”

What?  Of bloody course.  The one thing we do that separates our ability to act from our self sabotaging, self-preserving instinct to play dead is giving ourselves the “Go for it!”  I don’t know when I decided that I needed to look outside of myself for that nod.  It probably happened during a particularly traumatic moment on the playground in elementary school or in the lunch hall in high school.

Here is one that Miriam mentioned that I had never heard:  “There is a vitality, a life-force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is; nor how valuable it is; nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.” -Martha Graham

How beautiful is this one?  To take the responsibility of  an action’s or creation’s impact SO blatantly off of the creator or “actor” is so blissfully liberating.  Empowerment is thick in these words and I believe empowerment is what one needs to take action.

And lastly, the famous speech from Nelson Mandela.  This one Miriam and I were both very familiar with: ‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us…Your playing small does not serve the world… And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”- Nelson Mandela

There’s that word again.

I want to do that.  I want to help inspire people to do their greatest.  Be their most generous, contributing, beautiful, artistic, intelligent selves whenever they have the chance.  I want to inspire people as MY mentors and heros inspire me.  I truly believe that by inspiring each other to do and be our best even in the face of failure, that we can not only serve the world, we can save it.  I also believe there is no other way.

So, if it will help you, please take the quotes with you wherever you go.  They may help you give yourself the permission you need to do what you love (as Miriam has) and thus inspire someone else (as Miriam has inspired me) to do what they love.

So, when the time is right and I have my act together, I will hit the road and sing my heart out for anyone who will listen.

Chance’s End Released Into the World Ye Be Warned.

Ryan and I finally did what we had been talking about doing since we first started making music together three (I think) years ago. This past Saturday evening we did an entire 45 minute set of completely electronic music. According to plan, we billed ourselves as Chance’s End and suited up for the evening. We were sandwiched into a lineup between a soul/pop groove band and a rap-group-thingy with a back-up pot smoker. There were faeries flitting about with trays of vodka shots, selling spankings with a wiggle and a smile. There were fire dancers and a fortune teller. The crowd was costumed in pirate gear and there were grilled cheese sandwiches being enjoyed by many a drunken sailor. Did I mention this was a Burning Man associated venue?

Did I need to?

In order to fill the 45 minute set, Ryan worked diligently to program what he called “no-vox/no-lin” tracks (or, tracks minus the vocal and violin tracks) that can be played and manipulated with live performers (us). And I spent the last two weeks making sure our 4 new tracks were performance ready(bring it on pro-theater training!).

Up until that evening I had been performing mainly acoustic, singer-songwriter material of my own construction where I hide neatly behind a guitar that easily covers two thirds of my visible form on stage. The most I’ll do for those gigs is wear a nice shirt, jeans and put on a little bit of makeup. Or not. I’m singing and smiling and playing the shit out of my instrument; what’s to look at?

But there was no hiding behind anything during this gig. Indeed, besides singing, I was at a loss as to how to be entertaining after hanging up my guitar. Also to be acknowledged is a heightened sense of drama built into the electronic music that we produce. So, aside from dressing up like an Elvin princess from Lord of the Rings and waxing enigmatic a-la Enya, what do I wear and how do I present this stuff? Ryan and I had worked pretty intensely for a couple of years on the actual music. But hadn’t really discussed the presentation of our work.


No matter! This is all part of the fun. I consider myself a bit of a social anthropologist and this presents a uniquely fascinating experiment for me. I get to choose a method of delivery and see what people respond to.

For the debut performance, I chose a sweet number suggesting 40’s glam. Bright red lips, high waisted, blue sailor pants and an off the shoulder fitted blouse. It was an unusually bold move for me. I was beginning to suspect that my inner feminist (whom I had previously drugged into a stupor with a couple shots of whiskey) would start to stir and protest. I was slightly scared that I could chicken out and slip back into my jeans for fear of her berating me and calling me a harlot. But I have a sneaking suspicion that she secretly enjoyed the getup….Can I say I felt particularly slinky that evening? Especially after the main pirate behind the bar handed me a tall-red plastic cup full of the “special” fruit punch. Yum.

This seemingly benign getup allowed me to adapt a slightly more diva-esque persona than I would have in my denim and boots. I have to admit, it felt quite lovely to be so blatantly feminine in front of a crowd. This feeling inhabited my performance and the crowd seemed to appreciate it. The ONLY thing that would have made the outfit better were if I had had my hair done by THESE LADIES. They specialize in retro styling and managed to tame MY hair into a sexy 40’s up-do at one point in time. I kind of want to carry them around in my pocket with me…. But, even without those lovely ladies coiffing my fro; I felt powerful enough to perform.

This new-found ultra-femme confidence also gave me permission to really explore a deeper connection to the music, lyrics and my on-stage partner. The songs were a pleasure to express and I had one of those performances where time passes in the blink. I wanted it to continue into the evening until I collapsed with exhaustion. I can’t wait until the next chance I had to sing those songs again.

Now, to continue testing this hypothesis: What to wear to the NEXT Chance’s End sha-bang? The music is hot. I should be too.

Chance’s End to perform all-electronica set!

Chance’s End is joining the lineup of the 7 Sirens Cove “Carnival In Never Neverland” fundraiser this Saturday July 9th in San Francisco. We’ll be premiering not one, but two new tracks featuring vocalist Emily Zisman!

The event is located at The Hive, a new outdoor venue whose entrance on Treat Ave, between 20th and 21st Street. Doors open at 4pm, and admission is only $5 until the party ends at 2am! Come early, because there are some great performers during the day, and Chance’s End will go on promptly at 8pm!

For more information, go to the event’s Facebook page.

I am a lonely painter

Songwriting can be a lonely art form. There is only one accredited college program for songwriters. That is at the Berklee College of Music in Boston MA. I had thought about going at one point. But the moment passed. I’m not sure if academia would encourage or eradicate my creative tendencies. And tuition is too hefty a litmus test.

There are some pretty engaging songwriter groups and forums. Some, like the West Coast Songwriter’s Association are really large and require some sort of payment or other form of dues. They are also, seemingly, pretty exclusive and…..critical? Some people like that and even thrive on it. Some people need the exclusivity to be challenged and fed. I don’t particularly need that. I’m fairly hard on myself as it is. But I do need guidance.
There are other groups that are a bit more my-pace. There are two of note that I’m going to thank right now. I found them both rather serendipitously. The first one, in Manhattan. The second one, in California. I would find out later that the two were almost one in the same.

When I wrote my first song I didn’t consider myself a songwriter. When I started writing songs regularly I didn’t consider myself a songwriter. I assumed this was pretty normal after speaking with other songwriters about songwriting. But I didn’t find these elusive “other songwriters” until I started performing regularly. I noticed pretty quickly that people I met who write songs were desperately looking for other people who write songs. Sure there were some of the “I can write songs all by my lonesome. I don’t need anyone’s opinion. Lalalalalalaalaaa…” But those folks tended to fade from the scene.

It was the people who were interested in their impact, the ones that needed to find others from whom they could seek guidance who stuck around and did the writing. I noticed their songs becoming more familiar. Their songs became something I could relate to and I started to wake up with them in the morning. The songs, not the songwriters.

I lived in Manhattan from 1999 to 2005. In that time, I graduated college, held down three jobs and began performing my fledgling songs at open-mic nights and cabaret performances around town. I met a few folks and traded writing tips and methods with them. But Manhattan is a transient town and doors rotate quickly there.

I came to join my first songwriter’s forum through one of my poetry writing classes at the New School University. I had taken poetry writing as a “back-door” approach to songwriting after becoming increasingly frustrated that a songwriting community hadn’t yet found me. I made an error when I assumed that songwriting and poetry were interchangeable. I wasn’t very good at writing poetry. In fact, without music, I had a hard time writing anything worth the ink. It wasn’t until the last class, when we were asked to perform our favorite piece that I was finally told by my professor “What the hell are you doing writing poetry? You should be writing songs!”

Thankfully there was another songwriter in that class. Jeremiah Birnbaum of The Ramblers leaned over to me and said “There’s a songwriter’s group that gets together every Monday night to share songs. Here’s the address and the phone number of the guy who run’s it, Jack Hardy. You should check it out. Bring 5 dollars or a bottle of wine. “

Coming from a home headed by a super-proper, English raised Czech mother, I was NOT going to just show up unannounced. I called Jack Hardy three times, leaving lengthy messages each time before he returned my calls (my neuroses seeping through the telephone wires); “You’re more than welcome to come over, Emily.” The only words he returned. But they were all I needed.

My first evening with the songwriters group was stunning. I had lived in Manhattan for 3 and a half years at that point. As I summited the stair, turned the corner down the narrow hallway and stepped into Jack’s tiny, one bedroom studio, I was back in Berkeley, California. It was a veritable Bohemian feast for the senses. Wine and cheese on the table with a ginormous pot of pasta simmering on the stove. Jack, sweating over a frying pan full of hot peppers repeating “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” And songwriters. Everywhere. Squeezed onto the two loveseats, huddled on piano benches or squatting on the floor, plucking guitar strings or poring over notes and lyrics. Some nights, it was so crowded that there were people spilling out of the door and into the tiny hallway. One night, during the rainy season, there were only four of us. Me, Jack, Leslie Mendelson and Suzanne Vega (I didn’t realize it was Suzanne Vega until after I left the East Houston St. Apartment that evening and boarded the Staten Island Ferry). We all listened to each other’s songs and gave each other some ideas to play with. Then we walked home in the rain. I went to every songwriter’s meeting until I left New York at the end of 2005.

When I returned to California I was back at square one. What entrepreneurial new career can I now build from my fabulous Bachelor of Fine Arts/Liberal Arts Degree?! Northern California is liberal and free! Surely I’ll find a nice group of underrated, genius scenesters looking to build a theater program out of a back room studio somewhere in the Mission. We’ll read Kafka and D.H Lawrence and turn Bogosian’s Suburbia into the next big Musical hit! I’ll tackle the entire score and bring Jason Robert Brown AND Stephen Sondheim to tears. I’ll meet and marry Dave Eggers and he’ll build me a Pulitzer Prize out of paper mache and he’ll present it to me in Fairyland on one of those tiny bumper boats.

Or…….I’ll work at Guitar Center and sell guitars. Again.
This kills my songwriting libido dead in the face. I stop feeding it. I neglect it. It packs an oversized carpet bag and leaves me for Tom Waits.

After about three months of this nonsense, I start working at a company that I will stay at until this very day. Still there.
In between there and here, I meet a man who invites me to join his band as a back-up singer. This man and his band become my University of Musical Camaraderie and Collaboration. I learn and practice the art of dynamics and balance, building an on-stage relationship and sensitivity. I am also still there.

One day, in walks a violin player/songwriter named Cara Wick. We get to talking about songwriting and I mention how much I miss my songwriting group in New York. “We should start one here!” I mention hopefully. “I actually already am a part of one, you should come!” She says encouragingly. So I do.

It turns out that the organizer of this forum, Wendy Beckerman, used to be a part of Jack’s group a few years before I got there. In fact, she’s a featured artist on the Smithsonian Fast Folk collection that I have in my music library. There’s a picture of her in it and everything. I don’t think there was is a word for the emotion I felt upon finding this out. I think Wendy may have understood a bit by the way she looked at me when the story was shared. Especially the part about my hometown of Hercules being two freeway exits away. However I don’t remember anything concrete being mentioned. I was no longer the songwriting orphan that I was when I left New York. My community was there, right in my own backyard.

So, there she be. The story of how I re-loctaed my entire songwriting community and how it, in-turn, re-kindled my relationship with my songwriting. It’s still a lonely practice from time to time. But at least I know other lonely painters with which I can paint.

I believe all passionate people need other passionate people with which to commiserate. People in similar mind-sets know when to give criticism and understand that the process also needs space. That each person’s practice deserves it’s own respect and due diligence. As long as you “keep writing” as Jack would say.

I guess, by way of me telling my story, I can illustrate this point: If you really love something and you really need something, if you make yourself open and follow-through, it will find you. IT will find YOU.

Nomi Harper and I play at the Chit Chat Cafe

Nomi Harper and Emily Zisman
at The Chit Chat Café – Friday June 3rd
7 – 9:30 p.m.
5 W. Manor Drive, Pacifica
Talented Pacifica singer/songwriter Nomi Harper returns to the Chit Chat Café on Friday June 3, 2011. Always a treat, her soulful performances of original gems never fail to sparkle in this casual seaside setting. Anyone who has been to her shows will tell you she is a must see.
?In addition, newcomer to the Chit Chat crowd will be talented singer/ songwriter, Emily Zisman, born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since picking up the guitar at the tender age of eight, Emily’s musical journey has taken her all over the world gracing the stages up and down both sides of the United States and at festivals in Europe. Her natural musical talent combined with her deep passion and love for music has made her live performances truly something to write home about. 

Come join them and the warm folks at The Chit Chat Café, 
5 W Manor Dr., Pacifica.  (650) 738-2380

The show starts at 7pm. What a beautiful way to spend a coastal spring evening sipping wine, or a beer, eating yummy food,
all with a view.

Upcoming gigs to decorate your calendar with!

Hey folks!
May is shaping up to be a busy month! Set some (or all) of these lovelies into your free evenings. I’d love to see your beautiful faces in the crowd.

Saturday, May 7th : Singing with Rich and The Rhythm Roustabouts at Lindy Central in Burlingame
Come on out, learn some new dance moves and listen to me sing all jazzy.

Sunday, May 8th (Bring Mom!): Playing at the Actual Café with Kwame Copeland
The Actual Café
6334 San Pablo Avenue
Oakland, CA 94608
4pm-6pm all ages, no cover. Yummy foods.

Tuesday, May 17th: Ryan & Myself with Rich and the Knickerbocker Blues Band and James H. Thornton III
50 Mason St.
San Francisco, Ca
21+ 9pm-Midnight
There will be dancing.

Thursday, May 26th: With Beggar’s Jamboree at the Hotel Utah!
The Hotel Utah Saloon
500 Fourth Street
San Francisco, California 94107
7pm-9pm 21+

Friday, May 27th: with Ryan Avery and Marty Atkinson, opening for Michael Vincent
The Half Moon Bay Wine Bar
270 Capistrano Rd. #22
Half Moon Bay (Harbor Village Rd), CA 94019

Sat, May 28th-Monday, May 30th: Private Party on a Farm. Yes. On a Farm.
ee-eye ee-eye o.

Saturday, June 25th: Opening for Michael Vincent and Ruth Gerson
Hotel Utah
500 Fourth Street
San Francisco, California 94107
8pm-11pm 21+
to purchase advanced tickets (encouraged):