Helen Gillet

Lessons from an indie musician

On a recent trip to New Orleans, I chanced on a performance by Helen Gillet and her band at the Three Muses.
I was looking for what I described to the doorman as interesting jazz, and he recommended I come back for the 9 o'clock show. Helen, a cellist, and her group, which consisted that night of a sousaphone, a clarinet and ... (I forget the fourth instrument), delivered a set that charmed me with its rhythms, playfulness, and the novel combination of sounds. On the way out, I ran into Helen, taking a break, and thanked her and she recommended that I come to Bacchanal where she performs regularly on Monday nights. So I did, and when she announced that she was going to be touring the northwest,  and was willing to do house concerts, I wrote down my email and invited her to stop in my town, a ferry ride north of Vancouver.

Short version is that in middle of February she started out from Louis Armstrong airport with a roadie and her equipment in a rented car, and drove across Highway 10 to Joshua Tree, south of San Diego, then headed north, stopping at various venues along the way and eventually arriving in Vancouver for a show at the The China Cloud on March 1.
The next day she sailed over, and that night performed for a petite but wildly enthusiastic audience at Boomers Burger Bar. The Boomers group may have been her smallest audience, maybe not, but it didn't matter to the quality of her work. She played with all the passion and inventiveness I admired when I first saw her on Frenchman Street, and the next day, after a walk on the beach, she packed up to continue onto Denver and Kansas City, and finally back to New Orleans, where she had a date around St. Patrick's day.

I admire her not only for her musical chops, but also for her go-for-it spirit, the way she maintains contacts, works hard to organize a tour and then drives herself all over the continent to play for most any audience of most any size. She feels comfortable as an indie musician, managing herself, promoting her work, producing cd's she describes as self-released.

That's like self-publishing, really, but self-releasers are better accepted - even considered cool - in the established music world. In the literary world there lingers that stigma of vanity publishing, and I can't say that I have been able to entirely shake it, despite joining the leagues of self-publishers with my latest novel You Again. Maybe I'm the wrong generation. I hear about committed, adamant and successful self-publishers (Cory Doctorow) and read rah-rah self-publishers on the various sites I peruse each week. I agree with the principle of being an independent, and, now, having set up a couple of dates to introduce the print version, I'm working to feel just as confident about presenting You Again as I did about the previous two novels in the trilogy, Shinny Girls and Flashing Yellow, which were published the conventional way. Here goes!