I write this while drinking a cafe con leche in a plaza facing los Torres de Serrano, a landmark special to Valencia, Spain, but particularly special to me. I lived right around the corner in 2010, studying at Florida State’s campus in Valencia (more on that in a bit), so returning here to play music has been so special it is hard to find the words. But I will try!
I arrived in Madrid, on no sleep as usual, one week ago, completely ecstatic to be here. I have one carry on suitcase that has maybe 4 outfits and at least 100 CDs. It’s a very colorful Sakroots carry on, probably made for a weekend trip, but I am now using it for a six week trip and using it to its full capacity! That suitcase along with my guitar, ukulele and a really big purse are what I’m carrying from city to city. I look forward to (hopefully) offloading a lot of these CDs as I go which will lighten the load, but in the meantime, I like to look at my luggage as a portable gym, building muscle with every travel day.
Back to Spain. This is the lightest my tour schedule will be for the next six weeks, so it was a good way of easing into tour mode (also good for the jet lag). I played three shows this week, each one very different and wonderful. The first one was in the center of Madrid, at a great listening room called El Buho Real. I shared the bill with a local cantautór called Carlos Eleta, who became a pal the minute I met him. We got together and jammed the day before the show and ended up collaborating on some tunes. (Check out a little bit of “Twist and Shout” on my Facebook page. He knows how to get a rise out of the crowd!) It was a very full room, which always feels like a gift as a touring artist, especially for a show in a new city. All the other shows I have played in foreign countries were places I did not speak the language, so this was an interesting new experience to play in Spain and attempt to speak in Spanish. My accent was a little rusty, but it was exciting to try!
The next show was in Zaragoza, the hometown of my friends Chus and Sara. Earlier this year, Chus found my music online and reached out to me to grab a drink in NYC. We stayed in touch and when I found out I could go to Spain on this tour, I asked him if he might know of any places I could play. He set me up with the show at Buho in Madrid and with another gig at a market in Zaragoza called Terraluna Terraza. Set outside with gorgeous weather, I played to a bunch of families and people hanging out having cervezas and enjoying their Sunday. It was the best. One little boy in the crowd came up to me after the show. He said in Spanish that he was leaving, and that he would like to give me ‘un beso’ and kissed me on the cheek. SO CUTE!
I can sum up my experience with Spanish people in two words: generosidad and karaoke (generosity and… karaoke, ha!). Chus and his girlfriend Sara drove me around, set up these shows for me, and invited all of their friends and family to come experience my music. Carlos spent the whole time we were hanging out helping me with my Spanish. They made me dinner, or insisted on picking up the check, despite my attempts to treat them as a thank you. I was wrapped in the kindness of these new friends who felt like old friends I had known for years. As I mentioned in the previous post, the generosity of people I encounter on these tours is something that knocks me on the ground, stops me in my tracks. It’s totally inspiring. It’s also a nice reminder to me to pay it forward. In New York especially, it’s easy to get caught up in my busy day-to-day, but taking time to meet traveling friends and treat them to coffee and show them the sites – it’s so important and rewarding!
Oh, yeah. I said there were TWO words that could sum it up. We did Karaoke twice. Both times it was amazing. It was fun to hear what the typical Spanish karaoke hits were, but many of the songs were the usual karaoke anthems: “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” among them. I sang Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated” one night, and then Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and then did a duet of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” with Carlos. We discovered early on that we are both big Boss fans, so I felt right at home.
The third show was sort of a full-circle experience for me. Florida State University has a campus in Valencia, with dorms and classes offered to students. I had the opportunity to do a concert for the 117 students studying at FSU Valencia this year. The majority of them are freshman, participating in FSU’s First Year Abroad program. It’s only their second week abroad, which is still a transitional time for many of the students. I gave a little talk about my experience studying in Spain and shared some tips that helped me make the most of that time. I was honored to have the chance to perform and talk to the students. Plus, they sang along with me on the covers which was really cute.
I was able to spend some time with the students during the few days I was in Valencia, and that was really special. It also made me realize I am like…almost not that young anymore, which was weird. I am 26, and most of these students were 18. They were telling me about their goals and where they want to travel, and I was bursting with pride and excitement thinking about all the growth and great experience ahead of them. See? I am officially on my way to old lady-dom. I’m alright with it.
Next up, stories from the Netherlands where I played the opening ceremony for Open Monument Day in Groningen, the Netherlands. The concert was held in a medieval church on September 11th, and it was a very profound experience for me! Then a couple of weeks of touring in Germany! Until the next post, I say, “Hasta luego, mis amigos.”