6 Things (or The Good, The Bad, and How You Can Make a Difference)

I was inspired by Laura Kidd (of She Makes War) the other week when she posted 5 things she liked on her blog.  What a simple, clever way to share new inspirations. I meant to do the same, but this time there’s a little twist.  I’ve got six things, and they go like this: 3 things I liked, 1 thing I didn’t like, and 2 things I did this past week.

1) One thing I didn’t like: Let’s start with the bad news, shall we?  Our awesome friend Steve Lawson (genius solo looped bass player) just had his laptop and studio headphones stolen by wicked thieves. No one deserves that awfulness, least of all a brilliant and lovely working musician with a family.  So, I humbly suggest to you, please GO buy a bunch of his music for as generous a donation as you can afford. Here’s an album of his from 2011 – it’s beautiful, but don’t stop there. The others are all exquisite. Explore.



Steve is playing lovely bass goodness on a few tracks on my upcoming Body of Glass album.  Also, he recently did a couple *amazing* live shows with our own Daniel Berkman (aka Colfax) which they plan to release on album later this year, so your contributions will help enable both these projects to come to fruition!  Thanks ever so in advance.

2) Something I liked: Did I mention being inspired by She Makes War?  That happens a lot.  Laura Kidd is a powerhouse of creative fire.  She’s doing tons of stunning things, including releasing a new album in just a few weeks, not to be missed. Take a listen and pre-order your very own copy!



Also, I recently saw this video she did for her first album, and it’s a testament to her genius as a musician and visual artist.  Laura takes DIY to a whole new level.

3) Another thing I liked: I recently got turned on to another UK artist named Emily Baker, and her album House of Cards is absolutely gorgeous. Songwriting, playing, production:  perfect in every way. Check out her album, you’ll not be disappointed.


And here’s a beautiful video of her singing Hit and Run (gives me goosebumps):

4) One thing I did: I’ve lately been developing new material for solo performance, as going solo (or duo) seems like the most sustainable way forward these days.  Since I wrote several new piano songs for Song-A-Day last month, I’ve started teaching myself to play them (they were written in simple layers, but playing them is quite another ballgame)… Of course I picked a challenging one to learn first, but after several days of practice, I’m getting into the groove.  Here’s a little home video of me playing Turningwheel.  Far from perfect, but full of heart.  Works in progress!  The new songs from Song-A-Day will become another album I hope to release later this year.

5) Another thing I did: I’ve never been to SXSW music festival, but this year I heard of something for all us musicians too busy/broke/insustry-disenchanted to pack ourselves down there… an interwebs-based alternative called Couch By CouchWest. Awesome. Indie videos from all over the map.  Go there and entertain yourself with several hours of musical talent and silliness. I did a couple performances.  This one is me and Tom Lattanand performing Here and Now, a song we co-wrote for the Auralei EP.

Here’s to the next post being ALL good & happy news…but I guess we get to share the ups and downs, so thanks for being here for all of it.  Your presence and participation in our musical journeys makes all the difference.

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Making the ‘Ella’ video

When we released the Ella video last week, I asked Nicky Cairney, the talented artist (and musician on RTFM Records) who directed and animated the video, if she wanted to say a few words about her experience and the process of making the video.  She sent me this really lovely description which merited its own blog post, so here you go – a glimpse behind the scenes into how the ‘Ella’ video was created.  Hope you enjoy!

P.S. I even added a little snippet of the raw footage of me ‘falling off the cliff’ in real life – the shot that Nicky turned into me falling off a cliff and becoming an eagle – see below for a giggle :)

Ella Animation - Nicky Cairney


The animation for Ella is one of my first using this particular technique. At this stage I had only just become accustomed to stop motion animation during my course of study at Gray School of Art, and had immediately fallen in love with the process. I had the honor of choosing a track to animate from the album and found images and atmospheres came naturally to me while I listened to Ella and became immediately inspired by the lyrics. I had not yet worked with charcoal in an animation and always had a love for its soft look and workability, and so I began with my initial drawings of a sun over water and began to animate this with my SLR over the lightbox. Each frame was changed by using an eraser over the charcoal to create movement in the waves and the sun beams. I was happy with the look and continued the process and where I needed to, used Photoshop to create what I couldn’t on paper. This however was rarely used within the animation as a whole.

Each scene was a learning process for me, which I feel is evident looking back at the whole animation. It started as just images from my imagination, such as the sun, the light beings dancing on water, the forest fireflies and the cliff. My initial thoughts of ‘Ella’ being an innocent and pure being, looking down on the world, the forests, the rivers and seas and watching how they worked but too afraid to be part of it. But as the character evolved, so did the animation. I tried by hand at rotoscoping some footage of landsapes, rivers and cliffs. This then became the technique I used for the rest of the animation. It was time consuming and tedious at times, but the end result, even if only a few seconds long was worth it and I felt rewarded for the effort each time. In the story,  I wanted Ella to fly somehow, to evolve and come into being with the world as a brave winged entity of some kind.


We came across a dilemma, which then projected the ideas for the video further. We were running out of time as the launch of the album was soon arriving and my studies took me away from the project. So after some discussions we came up with the idea to use real footage in the video. This would solve the problem of time as the 6 minute long track would take an immense amount of time to animate on my own.


This idea of combining video and animation gave the story a whole new dimension and the story continued to evolve as if on its own. We of course had to have Artemis in this as a video and I also decided to change the character of Ella and base it on our lovely singer herself. Ella would be Artemis in the imaginary world of charcoal where anything could happen and Artemis, the human form, unaware she is being watched playing on the shore.


Certain lyrics such as ‘Cartwheels on the sand’ influenced what her character would do and the beautiful footage of her dancing on Muir beach was sent back over to me in Scotland. I enjoyed feeling part of that world again as I remembered my visits there, and felt closer to Artemis, the team and the feelings we tried to capture within the mood of the video. After a few days, the story seemed to magically come together on its own. Not something we are taught to do at Art School, but I just didn’t feel that every move needed planning out at this stage as it became something of its own entity, organic in its own right. I enjoy looking back and wondering how the final story actually came together at all? Without much thought it was already there. All we really needed was for something to happen so the characters of each world could interact. And so an accident happened, it didn’t need to be anything major. Just a fall. (Although poor Artemis had to actually to this is reality a few times for the cause). Enough for Ella to react, to want to help, to leave her cliff and come and help any way she could. And so she spread her wings and for the first time flew. (As this was rotoscoped, I had to ask Artemis to brave an even bigger fall off a table with her arms spread, not an easy feat I can imagine).


from Artemis: Here it is, the little snippet of me taking my big swan dive and somehow miraculously avoiding whiplash:

Her character took the form of the majestic eagle and her feathers reached the hands of our lovely Artemis as she lay on the shore and she awoke. Excited and full of wonder she danced and ran to chase the eagle, up the hills and to the cliff tops where she could see the whole world. Ella was with her and watched as the world changed again, like the circle of life. She lay her head on her arms as the sun set and all returned to how it was like a dream “Always be together”.


I felt the final story was working well and I was now rotoscoping scenes and animations of Artemis  I could then do transitions from a real to ‘imaginary’ world as Artemis ran and reached to top of the cliffs. It took what felt like forever but the animation was finally finished and ready to share. I chopped each of the footage in Photoshop and printed each frame. From there I sketched over original on new paper with charcoal using a lightbox. Each picture was then taken back onto computer by photographing using SLR and Photoshop to align each shot with previous. I marked out an area on my wall to photo graph each shot using tripod and remote on SLR. I loved working with the RTFM team who have encouraged me in every step, went out their way to stay in touch throughout the project and shot the beautiful footage just perfectly. I am honored to share this project with them and hope you enjoy watching.



If you missed it the first time round, here’s the Ella video again:




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New video for ‘Ella’ from Auralei!

Ella Video Screenshot

Ella Video ScreenshotHappy Valentines Day lovelies!

Here’s a little (and long-awaited) token of love – the new video for ‘Ella’ from the Auralei EP.  The video was actually completed quite awhile back, but as it was in rotation in the film festival circuit, we had to wait to release it.  The video premiered in 2011 at the Columbia Gorge International Film Festival, and also won the John Muir Award for best music video at the Yosemite Film Festival – that was quite an honor and a nice surprise!  I hope you enjoy the video as much as we enjoyed being part of its creation.




Video concept, direction, and animation by Nicky Cairney, an artist from Aberdeen, Scotland

Photos and video footage shot by Keith Crusher of RTFM Records: http://www.rtfmrecords.com

Nicky’s animations can be found at: http://www.youtube.com/missartimation

Nicky is also a musical artist at RTFM Records: http://rtfmrecords.com/artists/nicky-cairney/

Download the Artemis song ‘Ella’ or the entire Auralei IP (pay what you want) on Bandcamp:  http://music.artemis.fm/album/auralei

About the video:

The video for Ella was conceived, directed and executed by Nicky Cairney.  Keith Crusher took photos and shot video of me according to Nicky’s instructions and sketches, and she very painstakingly transformed those still and motion shots into beautiful hand-drawn animations.  The animation of the eagle landing took many hours to create.  One highlight of the creative process was shooting the video footage for the animated shot of me falling off the cliff and becoming the eagle.  To do this, I had to literally ‘fall off a cliff’ with arms spread wide – we used a rickety table about 1.5 meters high, and I swan dove into a pile of couch cushions generously provided by Lynda Arnold at the Oakland Noodle Factory, where some footage was shot.  Managed to avoid whiplash. We may post some of the original footage soon, just for a laugh.  Beach footage was shot in Marin County, California.  It was incredibly cold.  I was barefoot wearing my grandmother’s nightgown.  A woman asked me if I had just gotten married.  That made me giggle.  I like doing cartwheels.

About the song:

The song Ella was inspired by the birth of my neice Ella Wilson in June 2008.  Much of the lyrics were inspired by the essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and reflect on the joys of being a child, having a child, and the beauty of the natural world and ourselves as its fleetingly embodied echoes and reflections.  When Ella was born on a warm evening in June, at home, there were literally and quite randomly fireworks in the sky outside the window as she came into the world.  Fittingly, her first word was “Bang!”


nature’s child
wildly wise
awoke and opened ancient joyful eyes
danced down from heaven
trailing fireworks cross the sky
bright soul shine ten thousand fireflies

lucky child
born of love
sunlight on water dancing
write our names on the wind

turning cartwheels on the sand
casting shadows on the sun
weaving blankets of light
digging secret gardens

lucky child
born of love
sunlight on water dancing
write our names on the wind

in the woods
on a winter afternoon
see your stained glass heart shining
adorned in colors of the western sky
seen through bare crossing branches high
cathedrals blossoming of stone
mountains of granite bloom eternal flowers
in stem and petal lotus and fern
trace your gypsy footsteps home

lucky child
born of love
sunlight on water dancing
write our names on the wind

to those not yet here
to all who have been
offer these hands
for you to begin again

give to her
she give back ten times to you

may we always be together



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New video for ‘Easy’ from Auralei!

Artemis - Easy Music Video IconI’m so excited to announce that we’ve just released a new video for the song ‘Easy’ from the Auralei EP.  It was a long time in the making and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.  The video features a new remix of Easy (Easy: Mijomix) by our dear friend Michel Jordan aka Mijo, and you can listen/download/share the remix for free (or pay what you want) exclusively at on Bandcamp – we love it when you get our music here.


Video concept and animation by Sara Abtahi, an Iranian artist currently residing in Offenbach, Germany – http://sn-abtahi.tumblr.com/
Music remixed by Mijo – http://www.rtfmrecords.com/artists/mijo
Artemis Official Wesite – http://artemis.fm/
Download the ‘Easy (Mijomix)’ or entire Auralei EP (pay what you want) on Bandcamp:


Or purchase the Auralei EP on iTunes:


The song Easy was partly inspired by (and the first verse adapted from) a poem by a Bay area poet, Ellery Akers (from her book Knocking on the Earth, poem titled “Letter to Her Sister: Volcano, California, 1854), and partly melded into newness from bits of older songs like ‘Summertime’ and ‘Only Water’ (unreleased) with additional inspiration from a painting by Amy Allen. Imagery of tropical beaches, warm sun, fluffy clouds, daydreams, thoughts of stars as portals into other worlds, their light glimpsing back to us through cracks in the sky…

The song Easy was written by Artemis Robison (lyrics, melody, arrangement) and Mike Jordan aka Mijo (original music) with additional production and mixing by Keith Crusher. The video features the Easy: Mijomix remix by Mijo.

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