Life Update #1: Blogs, Job Hunts, and Coffee (of course)

Hey everybody!  It is the fourth and final week of our September coffee shop music theme.  It is also nearing the end of my first full month as a blogger!  I have really enjoyed learning about the blogosphere through writing and reading various blogs.  This is such a great community here on WordPress; I love how you can literally read and write about anything under the sun!  I have also rediscovered my love of writing through this process, and I can’t wait to refine my style and learn even more about blogging in the coming months!

For this blog post, I just casually want to chat and share some of my personal experiences and thoughts from the past month.  I’d also love to get some input from you all about my first month of blogging.  How am I doing?  Do you all like the format of these posts? Am I missing something?   Is there something else you’d like to see on the main blog page?  Please feel free to give me some criticism!

LIFE UPDATE

This month has been quite hectic for me personally.  I’ve been in the process of job hunting, and I tell you what, IT IS STRESSFUL.  I have been searching for church music directing positions in my area for a while, and I am realizing just how hard it is for people right out of college to find work in their field of study.  I finally got accepted to do an audition at a church close to Nashville, TN, and I traveled there a few days ago to visit and interview with them.  I conducted their choir and met a lot of nice people; I believe it went well!  I’ll keep you all updated on the job hunt, and for anyone in the same boat as I am, DON’T GIVE UP!!!  The right opportunity will come along for you…keep applying (even if it gets tedious) and keep trying (even if you get turned down).  Have faith that everything will work out in the end; I surely have to keep reminding myself this!

STORY TIME

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As you can probably tell by my blog posts this month, I LOVE COFFEE!!!  Coffee has gotten me through music school, provided me with a paycheck last year, and has given me a small caffeine addiction that I am oddly enough okay with.  Working as a barista helped me to appreciate coffee, where it comes from, and all of the work it takes to get from bean to mug.  Coffee has given us such a fascinating and fun culture too; coffee shops provide a great venue for creativity and a chill atmosphere to relax and enjoy life.  Whenever I visit a new place, one of the first things I do is scout out the local coffee shops.  I think local coffee speaks for the location itself!  Everyone should go and support their local coffee shops. Who knows?  You might just find a new, cool place to hang out (or better yet, a new favorite beverage)!  Go feed your own coffee addiction!

WHAT HAVE I BEEN LISTENING TO THIS MONTH???

For those that ask me, “What is your favorite song”, I can never give them a direct answer.  My taste in music changes so much and there is so much great music out there, so I can never pick a “favorite song”.  Listening to new music is also a fun hobby of mine, I highly recommend it!  I will, however, come across songs that leave an immediate impression on me.  I call these my Jams, and at my discretion, I have every right to change them or to find new ones 😊 Here are some of the Jams that I have been enjoying this month:

LOVE YOURSELF 承 ‘Her’ by BTS

So…I have recently fallen down the rabbit hole that is K-POP, and I am not ashamed to admit it.  This is a whole other realm of music that I had no idea existed until about five months ago, and it has been SO MUCH FUN learning about all of these highly talented groups and listening to this great music!  If you haven’t given K-POP a try yet, do yourself a favor and DO IT!  Okay, back to my point.  BTS, or 방탄소년단, has released a much awaited new album this month called LOVE YOURSELF 承 ‘Her’, and everyone is FREAKING OUT.  The seven-member group has gained much international recognition since their Billboard Music Awards Top Social Artist win back in May, and as of today, their most recent music video for the album’s title track “DNA” (posted above) has received over 55 million on YouTube.  Impressive, right?  I have had their album on repeat since it came out last week, and I highly recommend every song on it!  With its diverse musical genres and socially conscious lyrics, this is an album with a little bit of something for everybody!

Here is another song from the album called “MIC Drop”, performed live at the BTS Comeback Show globally streamed live last week.  One thing that I have always admired about this group is their tactful combination of choreography, catchy songs, and socially aware lyrics.  This song in particular talks about overcoming the struggles that this group faces as award-winning entertainers, and they end the song by quite literally dropping the mic for the haters.  If you liked this song or “DNA”, go support these boys and check out the rest of the album wherever you listen to music!


I hope that you all have enjoyed learning about coffee shops and the music they play as much as I have this month.  Maybe you have learned about a new artist and have checked out some more of their music.  Or maybe you are just craving a coffee now.  Either way, I hope that you have a take-away from this month’s music!  Thank you for reading my posts and sharing your thoughts with me this month!  Stay tuned for next month’s new musical theme, and check in every Monday for more Music and Muses!

♪ Lauren

Twitter: @ofmusicandmuses

Listen to the September Coffee Shop Playlist here!

Learn about this month’s featured musical artist here!

Why do public places play music? Find out here!

Coffee Shop Cadenzas: Why do public places play music?

It’s coffee shop music month here on the Of Music And Muses blog, and in deciding on a topic to write about for Theory Week, I came across a Billboard article from 2016 talking about the Starbucks partnership with Spotify (read the article here).  So apparently, customers can use the Starbucks app to add their favorite songs to assist in creating playlists of music to listen to while inside the store. It kind of reminds me of the 50’s diner jukeboxes where you can put in a nickel and listen your favorite doo-wop bop.  I had no idea that this was a thing at Starbucks (I am a Caribou Coffee girl myself)!  I guess technology just baffles me sometimes!  This is such a neat way for music to be incorporated into a public place!

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Coffee shops aren’t the only places incorporating music into their business, however.  On a day out-on-the-town, you might hear music in grocery stores, book stores, elevators, subways, lobbies, the dentist/doctor’s office, gift shops, restaurants, and the list goes on.  Wow, music is everywhere!  Why do public establishments even incorporate music into their venues in the first place?  Here are four reasons as to why I believe music has a purpose in the public place:

Atmosphere and Culture

Different kinds of music have different effects on people.  For example, you might listen to a Beethoven symphony during a study session to help you focus, or you may listen to Heavy Metal in your shower to help you wake up in the morning (I am not ashamed to admit that I have done both of these!).  The same goes for a public place.  A coffee shop might play acoustic indie folk music to invoke a feeling of calmness, and a Japanese restaurant might play a song using traditional instruments of the Asian culture to give you the impression that you are in Japan.  This ambiance is a key factor in giving people an authentic experience at that public place; people crave that experience and authenticity!

Customer Duration

Studies have shown that music can contribute to determining how long you stay at a public place.  A coffee shop, for example, might play slower, calmer music during the slow part of the day to keep people in their seats, lose track of time, and maybe stick around and order another cup of coffee.  However, during rush hour, they might play a more up-tempo playlist to get people in and out the door quicker.  As an experienced barista, I can say that this method works if you need people to give up their seats!    

Improving Business

People are influenced by music, and if the place plays music that a person likes, that person is more likely to stop by that place again. The opposite can occur when a place plays music that isn’t in that person’s taste.  Music can also reflect the brand of the business, giving people a taste of the company not just through their product.  

Keeping Minds Busy

Waiting in line is the absolute worst.  Impatience is my weakness.  However, if there is music playing in the background of wherever I am waiting, I notice that I become a little bit more tolerant of the wait.  I think because my mind becomes more occupied with the lyrics or the instruments of the song and not the torturous wait in line. This kind of correlates with the atmosphere reason that I mentioned earlier, but music just has a way of taking you to a different place or mindset, even if you are standing in line!

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When used appropriately and properly executed, music can benefit business, attract people, make them feel good, and maybe even encourage you to buy that extra coffee!  Again, music is everywhere…we just have to listen (August Rush, anyone?)  Until next week…

♪ Lauren

Questions: Are there any other reasons that I didn’t talk about as to why public places use music? What public place draws you in with it music?  (ex: I love it when Barnes and Noble plays a Pentatonix Christmas album during the holidays; it puts me in a good, Christmas-y mood!) Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

*Need some coffee shop ambiance???  Check out this month’s Coffee Shop Playlist!

Twitter: @ofmusicandmuses

September Music Spotlight: The Civil Wars

Nothing is perfect.  Musically, notes go astray, people sing off-key, instruments go out of tune, and melodies fail to impress.  While nothing is perfect and while no musical artists are perfect, there is one duo in particular that I believe came pretty close.  Just listen to this:

Right?  There is just something magical about the music that this duo creates…a unique mingling of timbres and a simple spark that is not easy to find or create.  The pair create timeless, sentient music that just so happens to fit perfectly into the sound of our “Coffee Shop” theme for this month.  So cue the spotlight…it’s The Civil Wars!

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The Civil Wars is an americana/folk/rock/indie musical duo composed of Joy Williams and John Paul White.  In 2008, they met at a song-writing festival in Nashville where they were randomly paired together to compose songs for a country group.  As White puts it, when he and William’s “started singing together, there was this weird click; it was like there was a dance going where I knew I could lead her but she could lead me, too.”  Thus, The Civil Wars was born!  In 2011, they recorded their first studio album Barton Hollow, which featured the songs “Poison And Wine” and title track “Barton Hollow”.  It received critical acclaim and won the award for Best Folk Album at the 2012 Grammy Awards.  The duo went on tour with Adele, and then embarked on their own US/international tour later in the year.  Their second full album titled The Civil Wars was released in August of 2013.  It was also well received, earning the No. 1 spot on the US Billboard charts.  It featured the track “From This Valley”, which won the duo their fourth Grammy (Best Country Duo/Group Performance).  Again, nothing is perfect, because the duo permanently parted ways in 2014 due to due to “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition.”  I suppose all good things must come to an end, but one can hope that they might make music again someday!

Notable Songs

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Oh I don’t love you, but I always will…

While I highly recommend listening to both albums and all other music from these two, I’ll mention some of my all time favorite Civil Wars songs. First is the song that I included at the beginning of this post: “Poison And Wine” from the Barton Hollow album.  This was the first song that I ever heard from the duo, and I immediately fell in love with it and had to learn the piano part!  The opposition in the lyrics is just brilliant, and the blending voices fit perfectly with the text.  It has an almost melancholy air about it, but an air of hopefulness mingles with it.  Again, brilliant!

This next song is on The Civil Wars album, and is also used in the 2013 remake of the horror film Carrie.  Here is a little snippet from an NPR article talking about the song and the chemistry between the musicians:

What I like most in this song is also the thing this pair of musicians does best, what Johnny Cash and June Carter did best: a conversation, a duet between two people with underpinnings of tension that add to and even confuse the meaning of the song. “Dust To Dust,” seems to be a dialogue between two singers who make every inflection count when they sing:

John Paul: “You’re like a mirror, reflecting me”
Joy: “Takes one to know one, so take it from me”
John Paul: “You’ve been lonely”
Joy: “You’ve been lonely”
John Paul and Joy: “Too long, We’ve been lonely, We’ve been lonely, too long”

Although this chemistry was dwindling by this point in the duo’s timeline, you can still hear that tender sweetness and longing in the lyrics and in the way the lines are sung, or conversed.

This last song that I will mention is a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean”, which is featured on the duo’s EP titled Between The Bars.  I chose to include a live video of this performance; not only are they fantastic live performers, but their musical togetherness is on point also.  The Civil Wars added their own unique twist to this well-known song, and it is so much fun!

So while indeed nothing is perfect, the harmonies and melodies of good music like that of The Civil Wars can give us a glimpse of what perfection might sound like.  So…what do you guys think?  Do you have a favorite Civil Wars song?  What music sounds “close to perfection” to you? Feel free to comment and ask questions below, here, and on my Twitter!  Also, give The Civil Wars some love and support!  Go listen to their music and watch their music videos wherever you listen to music and watch music videos; they are unbelievable!  Until next week…

♪ Lauren

 

Resources:

Pictures: screenshots, Barton Hollow CD Cover

Information and Quotes:

Wikipedia

McKinley, James C. (August 2, 2013). “The Break Up Album, 9 Months After”. The New York Times. Retrieved August 30, 2014.

Boilen, Bob. “Song Premiere: The Civil Wars’ ‘Dust To Dust’ Is An Ode To The End.” NPR. NPR, 22 July 2013. Web. 11 Sept. 2017.

 

September’s Coffee Shop Playlist

Living in the mountains of North Carolina has its perks (pun intended).  Cool summer nights, hiking and skiing, gorgeous magazine-worthy views, and best of all, fall.  I know…fall technically doesn’t begin until the end of this month, but I am ready for some sweater weather!  That crisp, cool chill in the air has already begun here in the high country, and I couldn’t be happier!  The epitome of happiness for me is waking up in the morning, pulling on a warm and cozy sweater, sipping on a cup of coffee (as a former barista, coffee is literally my favorite), and just enjoying a few moments of peace.  Ahh…bliss!!!  So, in honor of “almost fall”, coffee, and the peaceful moments in life, September is going to be all about coffee shop music!

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For those who are coffee addicts like me, you definitely know what I am talking about when I say coffee shop music.  For those that aren’t, take a field trip to your local coffee shop.  Go order your favorite latte, sit on one of the big comfy couches, listen to the music, and support your local business (I swear, I’m such a hipster).  You will hear soft, mellow sounds of acoustic guitars or smooth jazz, intertwining with velvety, gently vocals.  You will feel so calm and serene, you will never want to leave!  That is…until the coffee kicks in about 20 minutes later 🙂

For this week, I have compiled a playlist of 25 songs that you might hear as you are sipping your coffee in that coffee shop.  This list focuses mostly on soft, acoustic sounds featuring guitar and vocals.  I didn’t include any jazzy tunes…we’ll save those for another month!  This playlist features songs by Ed Sheeran, James Bay, The Civil Wars, and more!

September’s Coffee Shop Playlist

  1. Sweet Louise by Passenger
  2. Morning Song by The Avett Brothers
  3. How Would You Feel (Paean) by Ed Sheeran
  4. Rivers And Roads by The Head and the Heart
  5. Call It Dreaming by Iron & Wine
  6. Sweet Creature by Harry Styles
  7. After The Storm by Mumford & Sons
  8. Three Empty Words by Shawn Mendes
  9. Need The Sun To Break by James Bay
  10. Early Morning Light by Sarah Jarosz
  11. Nobody Knows by The Lumineers
  12. Dancing On My Own by Calum Scott
  13. This Town by Niall Horan
  14. Slow Dancer by Noah Gundersen
  15. Landslide by Fleetwood Mac
  16. Just Like A Child by James Morrison
  17. Cherry Wine by Hozier
  18. Moving In Slow Motion by The Sweet Remains
  19. I Found by Amber Run
  20. April Come She Will by Simon & Garfunkel
  21. Emmylou by Vance Joy
  22. Nothing But You & I by Keith Harkin
  23. All I Want by Kodaline
  24. To Whom It May Concern by The Civil Wars
  25. Blackbird by The Beatles

You can listen to all of these songs on my YouTube playlist!

It was so hard narrowing this list down to just 25 songs…there are just too many great songs!  What are your favorite coffee shop songs?  I love listening to new music…send me suggestions and tell me your favorites from the list in the comments below.  You can also email me (ofmusicandmuses@gmail.com), contact me here, or message me on Twitter!

I hope y’all love this playlist as much as I do!  Grab yourself a cup of joe, sit down, relax, and enjoy the new month with music!

♪ Lauren

First Post!!!

Hello, and welcome to my first ever blog!  I am so excited to be trying out a medium like this for the first time, and I can’t wait to learn more about blogging as I go along!

I would like to take just a moment to briefly introduce myself and give you some insight as to why I am starting up this blog.  My name is Lauren, and I am a coffee-drinking, ukulele-playing, book-reading, mountain-loving 23 year old from North Carolina.  As you will be able to tell by this blog, I am pretty much infatuated with all things music, and I have been ever since I was young.

*Story time!* When I was in Kindergarten, I knew I wanted to make music!  Our teacher gave us an assignment to draw a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up.  I drew a picture of myself standing at a microphone singing the alphabet (because I didn’t know how to spell any of the lyrics to my favorite songs, I guess!).  Even at five, I wanted to become a singer!

That dream came true for me.  Don’t kid me wrong, I’m nobody famous, but I do sing for a living.  I studied vocal performance and sacred music in my undergrad, and I am now working towards becoming a music minister.  I guess that my ultimate goal in life is to help others to witness the power of music.  I have a lot to say on this subject, but we’ll save that for another time!

Now, in working towards my goal, I have decided to start this blog.  I think that this will be a good platform for me to share my ideas and thoughts on music, as well as to share song suggestions and playlists with you all.  Even if no one finds this blog, this is going to be a great way for me to get these thoughts out of my head and to make them more organized 🙂

Since this is my first time blogging, I am making the month of September into a sort of “trial period”.  There will be an ultimate musical theme for the month, and each week (maybe Mondays? We’ll see…), I will make a post highlighting a musical aspect of that theme.

*For example…

Theme of the month: 80’s Rock Ballads  Week 1: playlist of favorite songs in this genre  Week 2: band spotlight-talk about Journey!  Week 3: Theory week-What makes a song a ballad?  Week 4: Personal blog-sing a cover, fangirl, personal thoughts, etc.

*This is a just a hypothetical theme, but you get the picture!

I will try out this format for the month of September, and I will probably use this month to get my foot in the door, make revisions, get a feel for blogging (I am new at this, after all!), and even get some outsider input!

Well, that about covers it!  I am SUPER excited about beginning this journey, and I can’t wait to share my musical muses with you!

♪ Lauren

PS:  I have a new Twitter!  Follow @ofmusicandmuses for blog updates, fun facts, and who knows what else!