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Time Is Limited, Life Is Brief – Get Out And Do Something

1613950_726124950742676_152982606_nOne thing I never want to find myself saying is “I used to play music”.  Sometimes when I am tired, overwhelmed with work or family or just feeling funky I think about how much easier things would be if I did not write songs or have to book gigs and go out a lot. Then I think about the alternative.  Would life be better if I sat on my couch more, met fewer people and heard and saw less art?  It seems like an easy answer but for those other artists reading this blog – you know of what I speak: the temptation to just be can appear deceivingly comforting. But there is no real comfort in giving up – and honestly after the experiences of this past week I think comfort is overrated.


8 open mics in 7 days, 9 performances in 8 days. Murphy’s Open Mic at Scotty’s in Springfield, The Inspired Word at Tammany Hall in NYC, Espresso Joe’s in Keyport, Molly Maguires in Rumson, Roxy And Dukes in Dunellen, The Dragonfly Music and Coffee Cafe in Somerville, The Minstrel Open Stage in Morristown and The Green Planet Coffee Company in Point Pleasant. The amount of talent I have come across is amazing; the connections, friendships, opportunities are too many to name…although I have tried throughout this week of blogging to share the people I have met with those of you reading. There were many times when I felt uncomfortable and even tired by mid week – but every night I was so glad I pushed through these feelings and continued my challenge. There was not a single night that wasn’t worth it and where I did not witness the inspiring bravery of the other artists who willingly share their souls with strangers because they are compelled to and because they also do not want to say they used to be artists.

To speak to the power of connections my last night of the challenge was rescued by Arnie Baird, who I met at Molly Maguires on Tuesday night when he was the featured artist, and who offered me a set in the middle of his set at Green Planet when the last open mic of the challenge fell through.  It was a very generous of him and was a fine set for me -plus I got to hear his wonderful music again. The connection to Molly Maguires and Carol Barbieri has gotten me the featured artist slot there on 9/19!

I have heard over and over this week about how unique my music is. I appreciated this because  I have struggled over the years with feeling inferior to other writers because my content is not always serious – or at least does not seem so at first.  I have not tried to be different – I have actually spent quite a bit of time trying to write like others. That never worked for me – I felt phony. So I write in my own – call them as I see them – way.  I loved hearing my music was unique – I loved that this week!

Although yesterday was not an open mic, I wanted to share the wonderful artists that performed:at the Al – Vis and Friends show: Al – Vis – who put the show together and connects so many of us, Gregory Irish, Gina Leigh aka The Real Jersey Gina, Bob Kearns, Mickey Butler, Todd Goldin, Tara Dente, Samantha D’Arienzo, Carol Barbieri

The moral of the story – get out and do something!!!!  Take a risk, be very uncomfortable – it will be worth it.  Time is limited so prioritize and make the time to do something challenging.  The great Al-Vis opened up the show at Espresso Joe’s yesterday with a beautiful and wrenching original song.  His lyric “life is brief” resonates and stays with me.  There are few statements more true than that – so get out and do something – you will be so glad you did!!!!!!!

jill red bank

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An Entirely Different Kind of Evening at the Minstrel Open Stage

minstrel guitarThe Minstrel Open Stage is put together by the Folk Project which you can read about here. In short is a wonderful organization made up of musicians and music fans and it is run by volunteers. They have 6 guaranteed slots for the first six people to reach out the Saturday before the show, one guaranteed slot for the first person that agrees to volunteer on the night and asks for it, and 6 slots given out by lottery on the night.  I was able to get the volunteer slot so I baked cupcakes and worked the door.  The event is held at  the Morristown Unitarian Church which is absolutely stunning.

It was really my good luck that things worked out this way since it gave me a chance to get to know some of the volunteers who have been involved in the organization for years and love it. They were happy to share some Folk Project history with me and happy to take me in and show me the ropes. They treat their artists well and nurture and grow the independent folk music scene in NJ.

I have very few pictures from the evening because once the performances started there was such a level of quiet and attention that it felt disrespectful to get up and take a picture.  There was a reverence for the music, the space, and each artist that made you feel like you were in a sacred music space. The pictures I have of the performers I stole from the internet.

The person who really puts this together and also does the booking for the Folk Project and the sound for the evening is Mike Agranoff.

mike agThe attention he pays to the sound – constantly listening and adjusting – is extraordinary.  I also had the privilege of hearing him perform a song towards the end of the night and he was great!

Carolyn Messina started out the evening with her deep and personal songs that she beautifully sang and shared.

carolyn messinaThere were many wonderful performances and a lot of great songwriting. I got a chance to speak with a few of the other performers during a break. I spoke with Bobby Steel of Elm Treason

elm treasonHe and Andy Roman make up the acoustic duo and they were fantastic.  A lot of energy and heart and a lot of fun. If you get the chance go see them play!

I also got to speak with Scott Krokoff:

scott krokoffHe had a great way on stage and wrote one of my favorite songs of the evening about being an introvert – and traveled all the way from Queens!

Christine Deleon, who will be the headlining performer at The Minstrel on Friday 8/22 was wonderful. 

christine deleonShe had a beautiful soprano voice and a genuineness on stage that made me feel so glad to be there.

Bill Hall was a lesson to me in why you never leave before the end of a show.  Not that I would have, but he was the last performer and one of the best.  He kept saying he was so nervous but honestly for me he brought an energetic calm to the stage that ended the evening perfectly.

I got a lot of really great feedback from performing here.  The experience was so excellent that I joined the Folk Project today and will definitely go back and volunteer and perform again.

Here are the few pictures I did get:

minstrel green roomThe green room – stocked with water for the performers and a comfortable place to get your thoughts together and your guitar tuned before taking the stage.

minstrel stageA view from the back of the room before the music started.That is Mike Agranoff in the white t-shirt- and I am sorry to say that this is the only picture I got of him.mark and christineChristine DeLeon and Mark Schaffer. Mark was the MC for the evening and also played a mean fiddle and was a fine entertainer himself.  Many thanks to Andrew Hines who was the head of the staff and who kindly and patiently trained me – and who made me laugh.

Today I am performing at Espresso Joe’s in Keyport with Al-Vis and friends.  This will wrap up what has been an incredible week of 8 open mics in 7 days.  I cannot think of another place I would want to finish up in – and I am happy to do a full set for a change.  Look for the wrap up blog tomorrow and thank you for following along!!!!!!



I Wish This Was My Living Room

df living room I am not talking about the furniture – although it is definitely comfortable, or the big window that lets the lovely light in, or the fact that if The Dragonfly Music and Coffee Cafe was my living room then I would have immediate access to amazing food and drinks whenever I wanted them,  I am talking about the music and the family type atmosphere.  Imagine live music by very talented artists and even the occasional poetry reading in your living room instead of a flat screen TV.

This was what I walked into on night 5 of my 7 night open mic challenge.  Let me tell you – it was exactly what I needed. I will admit that I was hitting a wall by night 5 and feeling a little tired and run down. Initially I had planned to attend a different open mic but changed my mind because it did not start until 9 and went until 1 and the Dragonfly seemed like a much better bet for me – and it was.

This is Peter Prasa

peter betterHe and his partner Susan run the Dragonfly and Peter hosts the open mic.  He starts it out with a few songs which is a treat because he is a fine song writer and engaging performer.  He sets the tone of the evening and it goes from there. He started the evening with his song called “Trouble” which was excellent.

As I was listening to the wonderful music and drinking my iced Moroccan green tea I looked out the window and saw Todd and Dale Goldin. 

photobombRemember Todd from Tuesday’s open mic at Molly Maguires – the man with the list and the tambourine? Well he and his Mom Dale had seen my change of venue posted on FBook and came to the Dragonfly to see me – how cool is that!!!

me and toddI also got to have Todd play with me on “If You Leave Me I’ll Kill You” – which always makes that song better!

There were so many talented people and I got to sit back, relax and take it all in.

Here are a few pics of the performers. I am afraid it will be become painfully obvious that my husband was not with me this night to shoot the great pictures – but I tried – and I stole some from Facebook 🙂

first guyChristopher Rollings.  He sang a wonderful original song about the tree in his front yard that was planted when he was born – a lovely song idea and well written.  He sings with a lot of passion and I thought he was great!

piano playerBrian Klinger. His first song was an original instrumental that blew me away.

folky spanishAmy’s sang a song in Spanish with her sweet beautiful voice and it was lovely.

melissa betterThis is Melissa Anthony.  She is the kind of singer I could sit and listen to for hours.  Her voice and delivery were unique and stunning.  Go see her play – I think it is a must.

stefan dfI was so happily surprised to run into Stefan Startek!  Remember him from Espresso Joe’s on Tuesday? He talked about sibling rivalry and then played a song about Jesus’s brother.  I loved it because that kind of thing is right up my alley. It was interesting because when we talked about it after, he said that this was not at all one of his favorite songs but that people really like it so he plays it sometimes.  It was good to hear that because I have songs that I wrote as a joke that are loved by others and I feel like they are not my best songs at all.uke and sisterThis is Amy and her sister.  Amy played a couple of original songs solo first.   She is a fine writer and a fine entertainer and had the audience playing along on percussion instruments with her.  Then she had her sister come up and they were fantastic – beautiful voices blended perfectly together.poetPat Bush the poet

native somethingNative Spring – loved them!!!!!

davidDaniel Shust – a great writer with a great voice!  Loved his songs  and his storytelling within the songs.. 

As you can see it was a great night. It was exciting, comfortable, inspiring and cozy.  It was everything I needed to help me regroup as I hit the wall during my crazy open mic challenge.

Hitting a wall means that sometimes you have to compromise.  Sometimes you have to take the long way to the end of the wall and go around it.  Sometimes you have to take a sledgehammer and pound your way through the wall.  Sometimes you have to close your eyes and find a magic spell to make the wall evaporate.  The one thing you cannot do is just sit and stare at it.

dragonflyOn to night #7.  This will also be a change since the Bitter End has booked a rock showcase during their normally scheduled open mic.  Fortunately Arnie Baird has come to the rescue and offered me a few songs during his show at the Green Planet in Point Pleasant tonight!  See you later and thanks Arnie!!!!!

acoustic, guitar, jill cagney, Music, opem mic, Open Mic/Music, original music, performer, rock, Roxy And Dukes, singer, songwriter, Uncategorized, writer

6 Degrees Of Separation And The Most Glorious Reason Of All To Share Your Art

roxy and dukesNight # 4 of the open mic tour at Roxy And Dukes blew my mind for many reasons. Take a look at the decor:

sexyYou will see in all of the pics the eclectic, creative and theatrical atmosphere at Roxy and Dukes that just makes you want embrace your inner wild side.

The host of the evening is Lenny Depiano

me and LennyLenny is a wonderful host.  He sets everything up, does the sound – which is excellent here – introduces the acts and is positive and encouraging. He also kicks ass at the keyboards:

lennyI must introduce you to a few more people and then I will explain the title of this blog.

me and wayneYou remember Wayne Lyle – the great bass player from Sunday nights open mic at Scotty’s – well not surprisingly he is the house player at Roxy and Dukes – because he is outstanding!

faithFaith Chambers – she made my face melt.  She is 16 and writes these incredibly beautiful and heartfelt songs – and if you really sit and listen to her lyrics your eyes will pop out of your head. I want a recording and I want to sit and listen with my eyes closed. She is absolutely amazing and I bet you will be hearing a lot about her in the future.

bard cmColin McKay.  You must see him play – whether you see him on his own or as a part of The Wandering Bards – he is a force of nature.  Watching Colin and his amazingly talented friend Tommy Osuna


play with the band made my spirit want to jump out of my skin and dance all over the place! By the way Tommy was also an awesome person to get to know and connect with.

me and the authorThis is Mikael Mizeski.  He is an author, a songwriter, a great musician and a generous human being.  Musicians almost never charge each other for CD’s, we  trade them to get to know each others music.  Tonight was an amazing first for me.  I gave Michael a CD and he gave me an autographed copy of his new novel:

awesome tradeThis was one of the coolest things that happened this evening.  I have started “Parallels” and it has definitely grabbed me! You can check it out here

Two more performances I saw before I got involved in an intense conversation outside that really is at the heart of the impact of this night:

randy leeRandy Lee – blues guitar and vocals – he started out the night and was great.

sailorCraig Sailor Project – first band of the night – excellent tight rock and roll!

I learned tonight that there really are 6 degrees of separation – maybe even 4 – amongst musicians and that the most glorious reason for getting out and sharing your art is to connect with this amazing group of people.

outsideSo here we go – when I got to Roxy and Dukes and started talking to Lenny, I found out that he had read my blog from Sunday night because he plays at that Open Mic and has the connection with Wayne. I met Wayne on Sunday night; he knows the guys from Brother John Brown, a local band from my home town of Cranford whom I know – my kids have gone to school with some of their kids!  I have played on the same bill as Colin twice and he is from Cranford. Michael Mizewski is good friends with Peter Prasa – who runs the music at The Dragonfly Music and Coffee Cafe – where went for open mic #5!  I sang back up vocals for Peter at a show at The Saint last December.  You get the picture…we are all connected.

It is a small world in music.  Music people are my tribe.  They are the people I automatically connect with, they are the people that I get and that get me.  They are the biggest reason I get out to perform.  It is an amazing thing – to share my music I have to leave my home and go out and travel.  When I am out and traveling and sharing music with the members of my tribe – that is when I feel most at home.

Bring on Open Mic Night #6 – The Minstrel Coffeehouse



BTW the credit these great pics goes to my amazing husband Kyle Hislip who is the #1 person in my tribekyle

acoustic, coffehouse, Espresso Joe's, folk, guitar, jersey shore, jill cagney, Keyport NJ, Molly Maguires, Molly Maguires Gastropub, Music, opem mic, Open Mic/Music, original music, performer, pub, rock, Rumson NJ, singer, songwriter, Uncategorized, writer

2fer Tuesday – The Jersey Shore Scene Holds My Heart

mollys me 2

Some might say it was ambitious to do two open mics in one day but I chose my venues carefully.  You see, a year ago I was doing my best to break in to the group of amazing musicians that perform and support each other down the shore and a year later I am in!  So even though it was a long day – it was like coming home – playing for many people who already know and love my music.

The day started at Espresso Joe’s

ed and gorillabob

On the left is The Gorillabob – who generously gives of his time and talent to run the open mic.  It is a very laid back and supportive environment where people listen intently and support fiercely.  On the right is Ed who is the proprietor of Espresso Joe’s.  The thing you need to know about Ed is that he is one of the most devoted and true supporters of original music and independent musicians.  You would be hard pressed to find another venue that goes so all out for musicians and music fans.  You have to love Ed!

You cannot go wrong attending this open mic.  I am working on getting my 19 year old son Eamon, who is a wonderful songwriter and musician to come here with me before he goes back to college.  This would be a great 1st open mic.

Here are some of the great writers and performers from the afternoon:


Stefan Startek – a wonderful wonderful songwriter who offered to let me cover one of his songs – an honor for sure!

gb and champ

The Gorillabob and The Champ – bringing some great rock to the afternoon


reilly's phone pic

Mary Pat Reilly, Art Reilly and The Champ – could not help but tap feet, bob my head and smile

kevin and m.e.

M.E. Obrien and Kevin McGowan.  M.E. is one of my favorite folk singers – a lovely voice with  gritty and truthful writing! Kevin has a wonderful jazzy voice and touched my heart with a song he had written for his wife JoAnn, seated to the left of him in this pic, years ago.  They are about to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary!  I also go to see Kevin at Molly’s open mic later in the evening – he kicked ass on Pinball Wizard!



Elaine Orzechowski – a very talented songstress with a gutsy voice and delivery!

Oh – and there were some great snacks including fresh out of the oven peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies!


So after this great experience I took a small break, went home and made sure my teenagers were behaving themselves and my house still stood, and then made my way to Molly Maguires in Rumson for open mic #2 of the day.


bobby and carolXX

This is Bobby Donofrio and Carol Barbieri. They run the open mic at Molly’s with Bobby doing sound and playing guitar  (he is a great guitarist) and Carol hosting, taking pics of all the performers, posting it all on Facebook and making everyone who performs feel like a star….she is also an extremely talented singer/songwriter with a beautiful voice!  I took a great pic of Carol last night that I have to add here because I am proud and she is beautiful!


carol b

The other VIP of the evening is this fellow:


Todd Goldin aka Coffeehouse Todd – the man with the sign up list who lets you know when you are on deck.  He is an avid music lover and music supporter.  He also sings with a deep and awesome voice and plays a mean tambourine.  Todd joined me during my set for “If You Leave Me I’ll Kill You” – a crowd pleaser and Todd’s favorite song of mine.  It is so cool – he knows all of the words to my songs!!!!

There were so many wonderful performers here including featured artist Arnie Baird below:


arnie better

He started out with a beautiful song he wrote for his granddaughter and then followed that with a song for his daughter – very touching.  Arnie is such a down to earth and melodic songwriter – it was a pleasure to watch him perform.


When I did this open mic tour last summer I remember feeling shy and trying to figure out how to get in with these amazing people. What a difference a year makes.  I have come from being a new person on the scene to being a part of the scene – and it feels amazing!  It would not have happened without the encouragement and support of this man:


me and al-vis

He saw me perform at Espresso Joes and instantly became my biggest fan and supporter.  He is the one who introduced me to the amazing, crazy and wonderful Jersey Shore scene and I am so grateful!  During  times when I feel insecure or like I can’t do this anymore – I remember that Al-Vis – the amazingly talented Al-Vis – loves my music and that inspires me to get off my ass and keep writing and performing!  So a huge and heartfelt thank you to Al-Vis Al

Thank You to everyone who organized, ran sound, took pictures, performed and listened yesterday – it was a great day!

On to Roxy And Dukes in Dunellen tonight!!!!!

Music, Open Mic/Music, songwriter, Uncategorized


Brave is in the eye of the beholder. Being brave is relative to each individuals sense of risk and fear. There are all kinds of bravery. Last night at the Inspired Word Open Mic at Tammany Hall I witnessed some of the emotionally bravest people I have ever seen.

Imagine stepping on this stage.

tammany stageNow imagine the room is filled with artists listening intently to you. You have written a poem, song or piece about something deep and meaningful to you and you are about to share it.  Are you brave enough to do it?

While getting on stage always takes a fair amount of guts, it seems to me there are levels of vulnerability depending on what you are doing.  When I have played with a band I felt less nervous and exposed because I was part of a group.  The attention was not solely on me and if I made a mistake it was easily covered.  Playing solo with just my guitar definitely ratchets up the pressure but I still have my guitar.  If I forget or get stuck on a lyric I can go around my chords until I remember.

Getting on stage with just your words is the ultimate nakedness of performing. There were many poets and writers at the Inspired Word Open Mic who shared there work.  The poems were beautiful, ugly, tortured, inspired, gut wrenching, hilarious and always so very real. 

The bravery involved in writing alone is hefty – ask any writer to talk about their self editing piece and insecurities while writing – you will see they are brave even if they never share what they wrote.

What is clear to me is that in that next step – the step where writers share their work- is the combination of the knowledge that all human beings have the same feelings and need to connect, the faith that they have been genuine in their craft and the courage to be emotionally naked in front of strangers. 

Bravo to Mike Geffner for giving a forum such as this to artists in NYC.  Bravo to Ryan McCurdy who MC’s the night and not only makes every performer feel special – but obviously and genuinely appreciates each person that performs. But most of all Bravo to the brave writers who fight through all of the voices in their heads to get up there and share their souls.

On to the day 3 of my open mic tour.  Today is a 2fer Tuesday with an Open Mic at Espresso Joe’s in Keyport at 2 and then Molly Maguires in Rumson at 8. Busy day!

Music, Open Mic/Music, songwriter, Uncategorized

Shaky Knees, Great Musicians and the Magic of Kool Aid

And so it has begun – My 2014 – 7 Night Open Mic Challenge!

ListNight 1 – Murphy’s Open Mic at Scotty’s Pub and Comedy Cove

Scotty'sI have to say that for as long as I have been singing and performing in public – I always get nervous.  I can try to breathe through it, talk myself through it, have a beer or picture everyone in their underwear but it does not matter.  My knees still shake a little through the first song and sometimes the second and I have to settle myself down every time – which is why an open mic is such a good challenge for me because in order to enjoy performing – I have to settle down quickly since usually there are only 2-3 songs! 

The other challenge for me is that I feel very shy amongst people I don’t know – which just adds to the nervousness.  Luckily musicians are awesome people and usually very welcoming!

Danny MurphyThis is Danny Murphy and he runs this open mic.  He was wonderful – not only immediately friendly but also quite an amazing guitarist.  He started this open mic 6 months ago and obviously loves doing it.  If you are just starting out or just getting back into music – this is a great open mic to come to!


This is Justine Bevan.  You know when you meet someone and you connect immediately – this is what happened.  First of all you need to know that she has a stunning voice – truly. I heard her do a Pat Benatar cover that brought a level of heart to the song that I had not heard before. We immediately bonded because she also feels nervous every time she performs.  She is also a mother balancing work and a passion for music – and she is just tremendously cool. 

Joe raber

Joe Raber – great vocalist, multiple instrument player, photographer, sound person – another one who made me feel instantly welcomed last night. I was sitting by myself and he involved me in a conversation with himself and Justine about air conditioning, the best seat in the bar and if we had to choose hot or cold all of the time which would it be. The general consensus is cold since you can always put more on but there is only so much you can take off.

wayne lyleExtraordinary bass player and blues singer Wayne Lyle. I had the privilege of singing the Talking Heads song Take Me To The River with him, Danny and the band.  I just found out that he is the house bass player for the Open Mic at Roxy And Dukes on Wed. night – so I am thrilled that I will get to hear him play again!

nick dTwo songs into my set I hear a call from the bar “Play Big Fucking Liar”.  I look out and realize that saying this is Nick D’Angelo.  He is here to play drums.  He is also a dear friend of my husband and he played bass for me at the CD release of my first record…crazy!!!!!!!!! I apologized for not recognizing him at first.  He said he did not recognize me either since the last time he saw me I was blonde – he recognized me by my distinct voice – how cool is that!!!!!

There were many other musicians including Dennis Leahey – an incredibly multi-talented musician and awesomely down to earth person and James Gregory who kicked ass singing – whose pics I did not get and others whose names I missed – but this one thing is for sure – there is an amazing well of talent around at all times – you just have to go out and listen!!!

So lastly the Kool Aid thing .  Justine is also a hairdresser and I asked her how to get my hair this color:


She said Kool Aid.  I think I am gonna do it.

See you tonight at open mic #2 – The Inspired Word at Tammany Hall