Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Suzy Sellout-- Far from your "Ordinary Sell Out"

Sell Out: Someone who betrays a cause for personal advancement.

Suzy Sellout: Exactly the opposite. A talented, passionate, singer-songwriter living in New York City; a motivated and driven performer; a star.

"I don't have any idea what I am doing, I don't have any idea where I am going, I don't have anything but my heart, and what i know in my heart to be right--I've gotta fight the good fight--and someday when I am ready--I'll be alright...I'll be alright."
-"I Have No Idea"-Suzy Sellout

It has been less than a year since I was fortunate enough to meet a young New York City singer, songwriter, and artist who refers to herself and her band as Suzy Sellout. The young woman, however, sometimes rides solo, and can be heard everywhere from small nooks and crannies, to coffee and drink houses, to spaces as big as the Empire State Building and the Duplex (March 29th).

If you've heard her at a show, you may know her as Kathrine Becker. If you haven't heard her at a show: it won't be too long until you do. Kathrine, who has just released her first single on iTunes "I Have No Idea," is making big footprints as she takes a childhood talent and hobby and goes from her living room to the stage, performing original and inspiring music.

As a native Californian, Kathrine moved to New York several years ago to continue working on her musical career. It is clear that she has taken her music to another level, even in just the short time that I have known her.

When I first met Kathrine, it was only for an hour at a Tapas bar in downtown Manhattan. It was her birthday and a friend of mine had invited me to tag along to drop by for a drink. Nearly, immediately, I could see a unique and bubbling soul full of passion, motivation, and drive toward a dream.

Soon after, I had the pleasure of sitting down in a studio with a few others and watching Kathrine record her three song CD (out now). Each of the songs play like a silhouette to anyone's ears. It was the first time that I had ever heard Kathrine perform, but I knew it wouldn't be the final time I let her music grace my eardrums. As I left the studio, I found myself singing her songs in my head over and over again--feeling inspired by her songs--skipping a long the city streets beneath the city skyline to her melodies.

It has been less than eleven months since I first listened to Kathrine in the studio that day, and it is clear that Kathrine's music has only elevated in those eleven short months. Upon arriving home from Italy, I had the opportunity to watch Kathrine perform at the Empire State Building for a half-time show at a Superbowl Party, and then again, recently, at the Waltz-Astoria in Astoria, Queens. As she sang out to a crowded basement, followed by the more recent crowded coffee house space, I was instantly reminded why I love Kathrine's music so much--why I constantly return to it on Myspace, and why I have always felt so close to it: Because it's personal, and it's real, and it has a story: Her story--yes--but a story we can all look at and say "A part of me feels that way too." Her music connects. She connects.

As she sang the song "I Have No Idea," (which you should know has been deemed the graduation song of 2011) at her more recent show , tears formed in my eyes. Listening to her song, feelings of being lost in the big city, in the big world came to light--but as she sang, it was impossible to avoid humming along with her as these lyrics flowed brilliantly from her vocal chords: "I'll be alright, I'll be alright," because no matter the struggles or turbulence this life offers, how far we are taken from home, from family, from friends, it's important to remember that we will be alright--at least in our hearts.

Kathrine concluded her recent show with new material, a song called Rat Race, in which Kathrine sings about going from desk job, to the big time: but I don't think she'll have to wait the eight months she sings about...or raps about. I think it will be very soon that we hear the lovely and wonderful Kathrine Becker taking over our sound waves.

Check out Kathrine at the Duplex this coming Tuesday, March 29th.
Also check out Kathrine's music at
And then head over to iTunes and purchase the Suzy Sellout song on iTunes: "I Have No Idea"

Friday, March 18, 2011

From selling Girl Scout Cookies to the Fight for life in Japan

Girl scout cookies. Thin mints. Lemon. Oh and those delicious ones that I can never remember the name of, but have caramel and chocolate and gooey wonderfulness. Right. Caramel delights. Stacks and stacks of girl scout cookies.

That’s right.

As a young girl, I was a brownie—and then a full out girl-scout. Boxes of girl-scout cookies would fill the piano bench in our living room, the floor, and the end table. It is the last real fundraising I can ever remember really trying hard at—or being permitted to try really hard at.

Sometimes, I would be signed up for fundraising off of candy boxes—and the candy boxes would sit in my room until my family had gone through all the peanut butter cups, Hershey’s, Kit-kats and Krackels. Then my mom or dad would hand me fifty dollars at the end of the box and say “Now you can turn in the right amount of money.”

When I had to raise money for a travel athletic team, my parents would ask: Is there a buy out?

And in college, when my teammates and I were told that we had to take part in a fundraiser that would involve giving 15 names and addresses of people who our program could send a letter to, desperately asking for money, I submitted fifteen names of people who I thought should have been helping my athletic program.

The governor of Rhode Island.

The president of the university.

The athletic director.

You see where I am going with this.

I was always taught and raised to only take money from friends, strangers, or outside non-immediate family members when I accidentally left a few dollars at home, or really just couldn’t make it to the ATM. My parents always said something to me along the lines of: No one should ever pay for you and your team, or for you, to go on a trip…to do something that you want to do, or for your new pair of cleats, or for your anything, because trust me—I am sure their money is being saved for something that they want to do or for something that they need.

So I come from a family of non-believers in soliciting money for your own good. Money comes from hard work and dedication—from sacrifice of time—not from simply saying please. Money should be raised when it goes toward a good cause, something with great magnitude thatcouldn’t be fixed without that money: money that is truly, helping others, rather than yourself.

I reminisce on all of this as I sit on the train ride home from Manhattan to Brooklyn, as I hear the voice of a white teenage man step onto the train and begin his speel:

“Good evening ladies and gentleman,” he begins.

“I am raising money for a trip to Europe. Each candy bar is just a dollar. I have just two left. If you could please support me and my trip, I would truly appreciate it.”

As I shake my head in disbelief, I find more reason to shake my head in disbelief just moments later. Someone is reaching out the young man with two crinkly one dollar bills, and sticking their hands in the goodie box. The young man smiles, stuffs the money in his backpack, and in the next few moments jumps off the train as it reaches it’s next stop.

An Irish man is sitting across from me, and laughs, “Right on cue.”

Moments later, the automatic MTA announcement over the train intercom comes on. “Ladies and gentleman, it is illegal to solicit money…” and it continues.

And I think to myself….

“Ladies and gentlemen, it is ridiculous to solicit money for a trip to Europe, when people are dying of radiation, dehydration, and starvation across the world—when people are without shelter, without clothing, and without family—when Japan is completely and utterly devastated—when we are still recovering from the earth-shattering events of Haiti just over a year ago, and the ruins of Hurricane Katrina.”

I pause.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” I say under my breath. “Please take a look at the world around you. Please tell me if you are really as in need of that dollar for Europe as much as that young child or elderly man, or middle-aged woman is in Japan, Haiti, or New Orleans.”

Monday, March 7, 2011

I traded in my light up shoes for a billion light up smiles

“Tag you’re it,” a boy yells as he touches my shoulder on the elementary school playground.

‘Damn,’ I utter in my mind before I continue the game by chasing anyone who I deem slower than me. As my feet touch each patch of dirt, each strand of grass, each piece of the pavement, my white and blue kicks began to blink a red glowing light. The collage of black, green, red, and orange shoes that I chase around also light up the playground in a similar fashion. Eventually, the monkey bars, the red fire truck, and the silver smooth slides have a better light display than Macy’s at Christmas time.

Light up shoes.

I think it was around my ninth birthday that I traded in my light up shoes for a billion light up smiles—when I went from chasing kids and stringing blinking Christmas lights on the four square boxes and dodgeball circles to causing a contagious strands of smiles, ones as big as the acre of land that stretched from the fence of the playground to the back parking lot of the school.

When I was in fourth grade, I won the egg award for my smile. And when I was a freshman in college, the assistant athletic director said to me, “Smile more. You have a wonderful smile.”

I think it was around my sixteenth birthday that I first traded in that light up smile for a look of angst as I became a broody teenager who suddenly thought not smiling was the cool thing to do—who believed that an angry look far exceeded the power of a happy one. I was pretty emo. (Ha)

But near the end of college, like the time I traded in my light up shoes, I found a way to trade back my angst and broodiness for my light up smiles. I found ways to make the Rhode Island athletic fields look like the exterior d├ęcor of the Empire State on a clear night—I found a way to light up the world again with that brilliant smile that I once bared in the cafeterias of my elementary and middle schools—on my first day of high school softball practice, and on that last day of high school in which I went from smiley to broody.

As I took a seat on the train, just the other day, a child sat across from me with furry, calf high boots, that blinked that brilliant red light I recognized from the playground. I smiled with each blink the young girl’s boots made. And with my smile—I took a look around the train, and made “smile contact” with a stranger, and just like that a strand of shining smiles began to blink on what would normally be a dull tooth ache of a subway ride. Smiles—the light up shoes of adults.

With each stride I take, I’ve got another smile for another purpose, for another person, for another memory, for another reason. For each step I take I light up from cheek to cheek, and like yawns…it catches. And for that thought, I smile again.

How do you light up the room? Do you have a billion smiles? I bet you a pair of light up shoes that you do.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

You can't buy what I am putting on this passion is priceless.

It’s November 2005: It’s halftime at a district semi-final field hockey match. The winner of this game will go on to the district championship as well as the state tournament. I look at my teammates, carefully. Sweat is dripping from my eyebrows, and tears are working themselves up from behind my eyes. The score is 0-0. I look at my teammates again, and I think ‘We are tied with what is considered the best team in the nation…we have a shot.’ Once more I look at my teammates, and I feel love, compassion, and determination on this night. Most of all…I feel passion for this game, for this fight, for this chance.

Fast-forward two years to August 2007: It is late afternoon and one of the first practices of my college field hockey season has just let out. Our coach has told us that not every player will be traveling this season, that some will be left behind, and that some won’t get to go on the road, maybe ever, that they will post the names a day or two before each game. My teammate and I enter our temporary dorm suite.

“I am not missing any games this season!” I proclaim. “Kick my butt every-time I let down. Push me harder each time I stumble. Whatever you do, help me to make that team every week. I am not getting left behind!” I was more passionate in that moment about field hockey than I had been since the night my high school field hockey team lost the semi-final district game. I was more passionate that day about field hockey than I would ever be again.

It was in these two moments that I truly learned what passion for anything was, what passion for doing well was; what passion for success was; was passion for a sport was. Sure I had played sports for twelve years, but it was in these moments that I knew true passion. Regardless of my team losing on that November night and regardless of my being left behind for a game in Maine that fall of 2007…I came away with something more than I could have ever imagined…I came away with a passionate heart.

I am not sure that anyone would have guessed that four years later I would be more artistic than athletic, more savvy with words than with a molded metal bat or composite stick, or that my weapon of choice would be a video camera rather than a dodge left or spin on a field hockey field. But here I am…passionate. Passionate about life, about words, about filmmaking, about sending a message to people—passionate about art and creativity!

I am not the only passionate one out there. People write about passion all the time. Some people talk about it. Some people sing about it—and normally those people who sing about it are actually doing their passion at that exact time. Sometimes our passions and our talents go unrecognized, unnoticed, and unacknowledged. Sometimes we perform for someone, or do a task for someone revolved around our passion and we never get the pay off; we never get the check for the concert we agreed to put on for some extra cash; and we never get the favor in return for doing ours.

But at the end of the day our passion is still ours—and whether or not we get stood up on a paycheck…No one can buy our passion from us. No one can put a price tag on it—because simply enough, 100 dollars for a concert; 200 dollars for beautifully stunning words, 1 million dollars for what we love—could never be enough to pull whatever we are passionate about away from us.