About Deborah Crooks
Deborah Crooks (www.DeborahCrooks.com) is a writer, performing songwriter and recording artist based in San Francisco whose lyric driven and soul-wise music has drawn comparison to Lucinda Williams, Chrissie Hynde and Natalie Merchant.
Singing about faith, love and loss, her lyrics are honed by a lifetime of writing and world travel while her music draws on folk, rock, Americana and the blues. She released her first EP "5 Acres" in 2003 produced by Roberta Donnay, which caught the attention of Rocker Girl Magazine, selecting it for the RockerGirl Discoveries Cd. In 2007, she teamed up with local producer Ben Bernstein to complete "Turn It All Red" Ep, followed by 2008's "Adding Water to the Ashes" CD, and a second full-length CD "2010. She's currently working on a third CD to be released in 2013.
Deborah's many performance credits include an appearance at the 2006 Millennium Music Conference, the RockerGirl Magazine Music Convention, IndieGrrl, at several of the Annual Invasion of the GoGirls at SXSW in Austin, TX, the Harmony Festival and 2009's California Music Fest, MacWorld 2010, Far West Fest and many other venues and events. She toured the Northwest as part "Indie Abundance Music, Money & Mindfulness" (2009) with two other Bay Area artists, and followed up with "The Great Idea Tour of the Southwest in March 2010 with Jean Mazzei.
Latest Posts by Deborah Crooks
We had another great time in Austin, playing at MEOWCon 13 and getting completely inspired by all the other artists (hello Leni Stern African Trio*, Bluebonnets & Suzi Quatro), while catching up with new and old friends (Katie Garibaldi, Sue Quigley, Willow &The Embers) with gigs at The Driskill and Cedar St Courtyard to bookend the conference experience.
|MEOW Showcase, photo by Jo Wymer|
|MEOW Con 2013|
SLI wouldn’t quite say, “post-parenting” yet. My son is still three and I hear this job goes on for quite some time. The biggest challenge at the moment is going from having more open-ended time before my son Gabe came, to now having to fit the writing into shorter, more scheduled blocks of time. And as a former night owl, I now aspire to meet the muse at 2pm instead of 2am. Wild Writing was the perfect practice at just the right time since it was the first opportunity I had where I gave myself extended time each week, just for me, to feel whatever was there and express it in words, in a safe, honoring group of women. And to be so moved and inspired by the other writer’s experiences and words…to be reminded and grateful for this wild, precious life.
Q Who do you count as your main influences and who are you listening to now?
SL I grew up listening to lots of different music thanks to my parents and older brother and sister. I heard a lot of classical, some jazz and bossa nova, Ella Fitzgerald and Harry Belafonte to name a few. Then came the Beatles, Motown, Stevie Wonder and the singer/songwriters—Joni, Carole King, James Taylor…When I started composing on the piano I was aware some musician’s music felt so kindred to me, like hearing a Todd Rundgren song for the first time when I was 12 and saying, “Hey I just played those same exact chords yesterday!” And hearing the last movement of Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite in a college classroom that made me weep, (and still does to this day). Lately, I’ve been listening to Anais Mitchell, who has such heart and honest lyric writing. I also got Michael Franti’s new album and like dancing to it with my boy!
Q How do you approach songwriting: do you wait for the muse or do you show up daily with intent to finish (or get a good start on) a song?
SL As a young person I was inspired every day just by virtue of learning how to play the songs I loved, and playing them for hours. Then I started writing lyrics and singing my own songs, and again spent hours on end. As I got a bit older, I did wait for the muse with my songwriting, and seemed to be more interested in developing musical ideas and arranging. And now that I have less time, I want to be more economical with it, while at the same time wanting to dig deeper with my lyric writing. So I am aiming to start a new routine of writing daily, with a couple of days each week for longer blocks of writing time. As I’ve been getting back into it again, the more I do, the more I want to do, and so it’s building momentum.
Q What can listeners expect in the next year? Where will you be playing? Will you be releasing new recordings?
SL Well I’m so looking forward to performing with you and Monica Pasqual at Laurie Wagner’s house concert on Saturday Sept. 7th! And I’ll just see where it leads from there. I am working on several new songs and have some ideas for possible new recordings. My son came up with a great title for a song so I’m sure there’s a kids record in the not-too-distant future. I have this idea for a record of Lullabies for grown-ups. We could all use a little soothing from time to time, right?
I awoke this morning and thought, ‘oh, duh, Laramie is a mountain town.’ Sure there were cowboys and cowgirls dancing in the street to a band wearing LARGE cowboy hats, and it’s pretty flat in town overall, but the elevation is 7165′ and the thunderstorms mountain-issue. We waited in the car for an extra half hour before unloading our gear last night as lightning flashed, thunder rumbled, and a deluge of rainwater filled the gutters.
Earlier in the day, before the clouds moved in, we did a short walk/hike on the Happy Jack Trail in the Medicine Bow National Forest, 15 minutes out of town. Today, starting our return trip home, we drove the Medicine Bow Scenic Byway west, enjoying views of 12,000 foot peaks and… a wolf! By its size and color, we were sure it wasn’t a coyote loping through a clearing in the woods, but we weren’t certain of our assessment until a little fact checking revealed Wyoming wolf populations are deemed ‘healthy’ enough to permit a hunt. The concept of trophy hunting these animals is not a pleasant thought to my mind. Especially since Wyoming wolves were just down listed from Endangered and Threatened Status in 2012. Ugh.
Coos, clucks, the occasional rasp. The sun rose at 5:40 am and so it seemed did every other creature in the desert. I popped my head out the door of our rented casita not far from the West entrance to Joshua Tree National Park and saw a flock of quail, several finches, cactus wrens and hummingbirds busily foraging amid the cactus before the temperature skyrocketed.
Yesterday’s high was in the 105 degree range which seems unlivable until you find yourself in it (not that we would have lasted without AC). On the way in from LA, we stopped at Desert Hot Springs Spa and marveled at how odd it was to have air and water hovering around the same temperature.
It’s not the ideal time to be here but we intentionally planned a stop in JT on our way to New Mexico and, as expected, the desert has charmed us.
Within a few minutes of rising we watched two coyotes waltz by. A pair of sparrows landed on a nearby rock and sang a sweet song as we drank mugs ful of strong coffee. We were greeted by friendly staff at the Park visitor center who helped us plan some beat-the-heat morning nature walks through Joshua Trees and the rounded granite rock formations the place is known for.
By noon, we were ready to head back to town for smoothies from The Natural Sisters Cafe and lunch provisions from the weekly Farmer’s Market. It may not be peak season but JT was abuzz with friendly locals and farmers. Everyone we talked to seemed to be an artist or creator of some sort. Perhaps it’s the heat, perhaps it’s the vistas. Maybe it’s the fabled ‘vortex’ of the area.
All told, we’re similarly inspired and invigorated, wondering aloud how and when we could return for a longer stay….
Modesto Unplugged Music Festival June 21-29
The hit acoustic/folk festival in downtown Modesto returns for its second year at the end of June! 50 acts will come together to jam, both national players and local favorites. You’ll enjoy the sounds of bluegrass, Americana, old-time country, swing, gypsy, folk, anti-folk, orchestral-folk, acoustic pop/rock, Irish/traditional, roots, blues, vintage ukulele tunes, and more.
FRIDAY 6/21 @ Deva Café (1202 J St.), 6 PM – $10
THE THOUGHTS (orchestral folk from Seattle, WA)
Award-winning NZ singer/songwriter JACKIE BRISTOW
D. Henry Fenton
Fox & Woman
SATURDAY 6/22 @ Theatre 417 (417 7th St.), 4 PM – $10
THE HOT DARK (formerly Descendants Of Prospectors)
Of Us Giants
She Killed Kurt
Evan Middlesworth (from Eau Claire, WI)
SUNDAY 6/23 @ Theatre 417 (417 7th St.), 2 PM – $10
The Dustbowl Children
Brandon Sutton w/ Victoria Sutton Krippner
WEDNESDAY 6/26 @ Peer Recovery Art Project (1222 J St.), 5pm
Free songwriting workshop led by Alan Williams, doctor of ethnomusicology, master folk songwriter, and lead man of Birdsong At Morning.WEDNESDAY 6/26 @ Barkin’ Dog Grill (940 11th St.), 7:30 PM – $5
MARIA QUILES & RORY CLOUD (bay area Americana duo)
Birdsong At Morning (master folk songwriter from Lowell, MA)
Rusty String Express
THURSDAY 6/27 @ Kane Studio (1010 Tully Rd.), 7 PM – $5
THE BREAKING YARD (indie folk from Portland, OR)
National hammered-dulcimer champion DAVID MAHLER (Nashville)
FRIDAY JUNE 28 @ Deva Café (1202 J St.), 6-10 PM – $10
PROFESOR BURNS & THE LILAC FIELD
The Goat And The Feather
Ryan David Orr (from Lakeside, AZ)
SATURDAY 6/29 @ Center Stage Conservatory (948 11th St.), 2 PM – $15 advance/$20 at door.
Bay area gypsy string ensemble DIRTY CELLO
Award-winning songwriter JEN HAJJ
Mark Lemaire & Twilight
SUNDAY 6/30 @ Center Stage Conservatory (948 11th St.), 2 PM $15 advance/$20 at door.
PATTY CASTILLO DAVIS
GHOST TOWN GOSPEL
The (Secret) Hitchers
Bourbon Legend (ukulele rock from Las Cruces, NM)
Patrice Webb (award winning songwriter from Sandpoint, ID)
The Dandelion Massacre
Read: I’ve been studying up on all my raptors in prep to volunteer at the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory this fall. Glenn Stewart’s Eye to Eye with Eagles, Hawks and Falcons isn’t on the recommended reading list but I’d recommend it to anyone interested in raptor conservation. Likewise, it will be of interest to anyone who had any association with the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group and its work in the recovery of peregrine (and eagle, and hawk) populations. Stewart, the current director of PBRG, was in on the group’s work from the beginning, and offers fascinating accounts of the group’s origins, conservation efforts in Idaho, Arizona, California, Alaska and Canada, as well as falconry in general.
Eat: When in Pasadena, it’s usually a toss up between Real Food Daily — gourmet vegan with a good wine list to boot — and Green St. Tavern, a cozy restaurant with a menu dictated by the seasons. We were won over by the Green St.’s chef offering of a daily ‘pie inspiration’ on the dessert menu. Who wouldn’t be? (The apple pie was a winner.)
Listen: Most of the music happening on this trip was either rehearsal related (Kwame and I are polishing up some of the tunes we wrote for the most recent RPM Challenge) or on the car stereo (a lot of classic rock and top-40 pop happening on LA radios). Nonetheless, somewhere along the routes of the past few weeks, I’ve been turned onto Escondido, an Americana band out of Nashville. Check ‘em out.