Terry Little

Cabaret Nights, Rock Chix and Wayfinder

"There are a million singers in a million small towns," quips a bystander at a recent TV taping for the band Wayfinder. On stage in a small local bar on a sunny Sunday afternoon, not quite a rock and roll time of day, the four band members mull around waiting for a playback while a couple of engineers try to get the uncooperative equipment to behave. On the other side of the room, as if to prove the unheard speaker wrong, the band's frontwoman, Terry Little, sits on the edge of the stage with an acoustic guitar. After strumming aimlessly for a little bit, she settles into a song, her voice commanding the attention of the room, even the sports fans none-too-happy about the band disrupting their hockey game. When she finishes, the room pauses for a moment, breathes in, then gets back to normal. Even at million-to-one odds, someone's going to make it, and Little intends to be that one.

The singer/songwriter started playing music before she was a teenager, and has developed a style and stage presence that allows her to get an audience's attention. Her latest projects prove that she's not only a talented performer, but a budding scenemaker and an innovative musician who looks for and creates opportunities that can make the difference between successful career musicians and, well, everyone else.

As host of the Wednesday evening Cabaret Night show at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey, Little works triple duty. She hosts the shows, working the room and introducing a variety of performers booked by Little and her partner in Rock Chix Productions, Jane Haas. In addition to the four or five bands booked by the duo each evening, as well as participation by artists, fashion designers and other talented folks, Little's own band, christened Wayfinder, usually tops off the evening with a dynamic stage show, that can make it just a little easier to make it through the rest of the week.

Little shows a unique ability to bring good people around her, and allow them to display their own talents. As the public face of Cabaret Night, and Wayfinder, the beautiful and charismatic Little could easily hog the spotlight and become single-minded in her own pursuits. Instead, her partnership with Haas, and the construction of Wayfinder, show that she's a good collaborator, who takes pride in nurturing the goals and career ambitions of those around her, to mutually-beneficial effect.

Wayfinder, which proudly boasts Chorus and Verse's own Josh Davidson as lead guitarist and resident rock god, has three musicians who could each be, and have been, the cornerstone of any band they were involved with. The dynamic of the entire group on stage just serves to highlight each one's own strengths and talents, which are improved in the presence of like-minded musicians.

Chorus and Verse got Little to spend some time after a recent band practice to talk about her own music, the new band, and the future of Cabaret Nights at The Stone Pony. She has great things planned for the months ahead, and it will be exciting to watch what will become of these projects as the months progress.

Lets start off with the Stone Pony Cabaret Nights, which you've been booking and hosting for the past several weeks. How did the concept get started, and what precipitated your own involvement?

I was booking some solo gigs as a singer/songwriter, and I stopped by with my Promoter Jane Haas [of] Kameleon Music Marketing to speak to Kyle [Brendle, one of the local bookers at The Stone Pony] about getting a gig. He started telling me about the Cabaret Nights, the concept of a mellower industry showcase for singer/songwriters. On a whim, I said, "I'll host it." He thought it was a great idea. I booked a gig, and on the way home, Jane and I were talking about it and started getting all these ideas.

Jane thought of presenting a new menu, as well as maybe having band surveys, and recording. I came up with the idea of having an art show, then Jane said: 'how about trend reports?', and I said, 'why not bring in a local fashion designer?' Then I think, 'why not do an improv jam and create music right there on the stage?' Have one of the band members, along with a few guest musicians, do a jam. I have to say, it is one of the most innovative and exciting parts of the show. I also have some downright amazing cats sitting in with us.

Anyway, next thing you know, we have this meeting with Domenic Santana [owner of the Stone Pony], who loved all the ideas, especially the coffee art and improv jam and, as the say, the rest is history.

For those who might not be familiar, describe the concept of the Cabaret Nights, especially as it relates to art and fashion aspects of the evenings.

The whole idea of Cabaret Nights is to present a variety of different types of art. My intention was to have all these creative types of people gather in the same place, and hopefully become inspired by each other. Artists always draw on others for inspiration.

We, myself and Jane Haas, a/k/a Rock Chix Productions, are trying to bring people together so we can get some synergy going between artists and musicians. If people focus their energy towards a purpose, stuff will happen. I am trying to relieve a little bit of the apathy that seems to be around the Asbury Park and [New Jersey] shore scene. I can honestly say I have been getting a lot of support from both the local musicians, artists and club owners. The ball is definitely rolling.

How did you go about booking acts to play each Wednesday night? Have any of the bands that have played thus far stood out in your mind, or really got a great reaction from the crowd?

We book by reference and by demo. Some people we've worked with or have seen. Others are sent to us by people, [such as] other musicians and managers, that we trust.

The Lemongrass band has played for us and people love them; and, actually, the Cabaret show is what got them back together playing. That was very gratifying for us, to help a band to heal some wounds and reunite.

Miss Dee Farace is also amazing, the whole package, great songs, great look, great band. I am sure she will get signed in the near future. Mellissa Chill is an absolute rock chick, with a great band. Quite honestly, we think all the talent we book is a cut above; to quote Jane: "the best of the best" for our shows.

What are the plans for Cabaret Nights moving forward? Have the events been successful, and do you see them as remaining a part of the club's calendar? Do you enjoy putting shows together and handling the promotional side of the business, and are you looking to get involved with projects outside of the Pony?

Cabaret nights are every Wednesday, unless a national is booked, so check www.rockchix.org to be sure on any given Wednesday.

Yes, we plan on moving forward through the summer. The Pony is pushing for us to sign a contract; they love the program and what we are doing. Sometimes we get a little frustrated because, quite honestly, it is a lot of work, but the staff at the Pony tell us to keep going. Barring any political issues, yes, I would like to continue the program.

There has been some discussion about Rock Chix doing things outside the Pony, but as of now, nothing official.

I love promoting, but for me my main focus is really my music and my band, the newly-named Wayfinder.

Let's backtrack to your own musical career. How long have you been singing and performing? Can you give a little recap of your career and how you first realized that you wanted music to become an important part of your life?

I have been performing since I [was] fourteen, and have been playing the coffee house/club circuit for over a decade. I have had a few production deals, done some local touring, and even got to perform at the Woodstock 25 year celebration. I've been pretty close, but no cigar, as they say. I had some success recently with a band called Tall Ego and, more recently, with Wayfinder.

Wayfinder is definitely the band and sound I have been trying to create all my life.

I remember the first time I realized I wanted to be a songwriter was when I was about 11. I was laying in my bed listening to the radio, WPLJ, I think, and they played "Born to Run". I had no idea who Bruce Springsteen was, or anything. I just remember the lyrics, "The highways jammed with broken heroes / On a last chance power drive", "Just wrap your legs round these velvet rims", "Kids are huddled on the beach in a mist", [and] "I wanna die with you out on the streets tonight / In an everlasting kiss."

I was like, whoa, that's so beautiful, romantic, and powerful. I wanna do that.

The Cabaret Nights have helped bring about the development of your own new band. Can you introduce everyone?

Well, I had just split with my old band, and was booking gigs on my own. It was a very difficult time for me, because I also had some upheaval in my personal life as well. In the meantime, Jay Walker, the bass player from my old band, said he would help me start a new band. Actually, he is a big part of this project's success, and really reached out and helped me keep going. More importantly, he is a great bass player and musician, and really knows what sounds good. He then brought his friend, Josh Davidson, who he had jammed with a few times, in to play guitar. Josh is great. He's got that real flashy guitar hero style of playing going on. He is very theatrical and melodic in his playing style. Finally, Josh and myself placed some ads on the internet, and met Junior Padilla. Junior is a R&B/funk drummer, so he adds that aspect. Junior is also a great keyboard player to boot, so that musicality adds to what is already a wonderful mix.

It took you a while to settle on a band name. What do you think it is about musicians that makes thinking of lists of band names such a favorite pastime?

I think the reason why musicians like to make up band names, is that it is just another form of creativity, and it doesn't have to be so serious. Jay's grandfather Lou, a retired drummer, had lists and lists of band names. We've called him on the phone, just to see what he comes up with.

Talk a little about your songwriting process. Where do you find yourself getting your song ideas, and how do you usually nurture a flash of inspiration into something you can bring to the stage? Do you like to just sit and play around on the guitar until something clicks, or do you start with a specific idea and work through it?

It's kinda a little of both. Sometimes, I get a melody while I am working, sometimes I am just messing around with my guitar; then, once in a blue moon, I get it all at once. Songwriting it definitely cathartic for me. I write most prolifically when I am upset or sad. I'll just come up with a bunch of stuff in a sitting. Later, I will go back and arrange, rewrite some of the words, or maybe make a groove a little more articulate. For me, writing is probably one of the most natural things I do.

I have been writing songs, poems and melodies for as long as I can remember. For me, it's just a way to sort things out.

My ideas can come from something as simple as a rain dripping off the roof. There's a certain pattern or groove in it. Other times, it just kinda comes out.

The band's got great stage presence. How aware are you of how you look and perform on stage, and is that something you feel a good musician should work on as part of their set? Has theatricality become a lost art in rock music and do you think fans are looking for more than rockers who just stand there and sing?

I think it is very important how you look and perform. The truth is that you are there for the audience and they have spent their hard-earned money to see you, so you should give them a show. I have a lot of respect for my audience and, yes, I believe people should be entertained. I do think theatrics are important in music; not that you should be "fake" or pretentious. I am very honest with my emotions, but I and the rest of the guys definitely give 110 percent to the audience. People want to see movement and sweat. Josh is especially fun to watch, he plays behind his head and between his legs without missing a note. It's great!

I also think part of the reason you don't see theatrics and performing, is that it takes a lot of skill, effort and confidence to pull it off. You really have to put yourself out there, and it's difficult.

What are your plans for recording and releasing an album with the band? Any ideas yet where you might record, and which material you think would sound best on an album?

Actually, we have a production deal with SOTC Productions in Middletown. Our producers, Billy Brown and Eddie Stremler are doing a great job. We started recording in May, and hopefully will be done by September, and will release the album [shortly afterwards], as well as shop it around to different labels.

We are using some songs that are in our set, "Little Sister", "Ticket", "To Follow" and "Medicine Man." We are also putting four new songs the band has, as well as one called "Crossroads," which is just me and an acoustic.

I wrote it a long time ago, and I was just messing around between takes, and Billy and Eddie loved it. It's a very folky, innocent song about losing someone, very pretty and sweet.

Finally, we are going to put a dance remix of "Medicine Man", which is this real funky, sexy groove, just another aspect of us that you might normally not get to see at our live shows. Also, it will give us different opportunities to get our music out there.

I think as a band we kinda got that jam band element, as well as a very earthy, edgy sound; with that in mind, we are going to try and keep the recording really basic. What you hear live will be on the album. Also, the process we are using is very organic, kinda a go-with-the-flow type of thing. I personally don't like to go into the studio with too many preconceived ideas, because nothing ever turns out quite like you planned it.

Plus, I want it to sound very real and in-the-moment, not contrived, like too much of the stuff you hear today is.

Also, Billy has been getting some really great stuff out of us in the studio. He's got wonderful people skills. I don't even realize what he has me doing until the playback, and I'm like, whoa, that's great. Eddie also has a great ear and is a great engineer. I completely trust them.

You've recorded in the past, and recently taped a show for broadcast on local television. Are you comfortable with hearing yourself on tape, and watching yourself perform, or does it still make you self-conscious?

I hate it, hate it, hate it! I look at myself and laugh. It's like, what am I thinking? If I didn't know me, I would think I was cool; the problem is: I know me. If I detach myself and watch it, I feel great about it. But generally, I am my own worst critic. Also, I find I need to get some distance from something before I can listen to it.

Write a movie script for how you'd like to see your life, and the band's, shape up over the next twelve months. What are the short-term goals for your music, and how would you define ultimate "success"?

Ultimately, I want us to sell ten million copies and get tons of Grammys.

But, really, in the next year, our first goal is to finish the album, and start playing out more, and start spreading out to New York and weekend tours up and down the East Coast. Getting it out there is the main thing.

Right now, I feel as though I am ultimately successful. I am recording an album with musicians and producers that I trust and love. I get to play at the Stone Pony with Wayfinder, almost on a weekly basis. What more can I ask for?

Matt Mrowicki

Matt Mrowicki founded Chorus and Verse in 2001. He is a rock star designer and technologist, Internet professional, content creator, and entrepreneur specializing in web development, IT consulting, branding, social media and online marketing. www.imprtech.com