My prime rock and roll years were those between 1992 and 2002. I was living on Mulholland Drive just a couple of houses from Laurel Canyon. That location tended to separate me from my former beach cronies from the Venice decade (1982 – 1992), but it was perfect for feeding my habit of going out to hear live music. There are dozens of quality live music venues within a five mile radius of my eagle’s lair, and I could swoop down to any of them in very short order. It was not at all unusual to go out two or three tines a week to different clubs, following artists on my ever expanding list.
I don’t remember when I first encountered Cindy Alexander, but if I had to hazard a guess I would say it was probably at one of Jenna Leigh’s Circle of Song events at the Gig in West LA. Jenna would bring together a number of singer/songwriter types and they would take turns singing their songs. That is an environment that Cindy thrives in, and once she captured me there was no return.
There was a period of a couple of years where I became a Cindy Alexander groupie, and if there was a Cindy gig, I was there. Then economics reared it’s ugly head; in 1997 I realized that if I ever wanted to retire (I was 47 at the time with $25K in credit card debt and no assets) I was going to have to put my nose to the grindstone, leaving little time to play. I did manage to still get out until in 2002, but when I bought a house in Long Beach and began working two full-time jobs I also stopped getting out. I dropped out of the “Cindyverse” at that time.
Meanwhile, Cindy kept chugging on. She was named Songwriter of the Year in 1998 by the Los Angeles Music Awards, and released 5 self-produced albums between 1999 (See Red, 1999, nominated for Album of the Year by LAMA) and 2012. In 2006 Cindy won a record contract by winning the online “Star Tomorrow” competition for independent songwriters produced by David Foster, but she wound up turning down that contract. There was a three year hiatus in there where she also got married and produced her twin daughters Jette and Perry, but she got back on the horse and back in the game with the production and release of Every Rise and Fall in 2012.
Then life threw a curve at her when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. My philosophy is that “Life is a process of accumulating insults and injuries, dealing with them, and moving on.” The barriers will come. It is what we do with them that counts, and Cindy is a champion in that regard. Cindy’s illness barely slowed her down, and even provided her with new sources of inspiration.
Cindy was diagnosed in July of 2013, and started writing the songs for her fifth studio album while she was awaiting the results of her biopsy. In July of 2014, after a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgery, and recovery, she finished recording that album, Curve, which chronicles her journey through cancer, and released it under the Blue Elan record label in October. Cindy is now cancer free and a fierce advocate for breast cancer awareness. Cindy is donating the proceeds from her current tour to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
Cindy has just released Deep Waters, her third studio album under the Blue Elan label and is currently touring in support of that album, playing mostly small venues and house concerts. I was very happy to see that she had booked a show at the Hotel Cafe for Saturday, July 8.
The Hotel Cafe is the perfect venue to see Cindy in particular, and pretty much anyone else for that matter. If you just had to pick one place to hang out and scout great music in Los Angeles, I don’t believe there is a better choice than the Hotel Cafe. They have a lineup of great music seven days a week on two stages. My strategy was always to go to the earliest show and then just hang out afterwards, and I found a lot of great performers by doing that. Both stages are in relatively small rooms, so viewing is easy, and there are a limited number of tables claimed by early arrivals.
Speaking of early arrivals, I was waiting waiting at the door with a handful of others when Cindy and her band arrived. I scored a hug, hauled Cindy’s keyboard from the limo to the door, and was dubbed “Cookie Manager”. Cindy is in the habit of baking chocolate chip cookies for her fans, aka the Peanut Gallery, and I was put in charge of the distribution of those cookies, a job akin to “spreading happiness and joy”. It certainly did not take me long to reintegrate into the Cindyverse, and it’s great to be back! I managed to score a front-row table, and an added bonus when I was joined by the ever so lovely Allyson Gottfried who was handling the merchandising for the evening.
An already awesome evening was further enhanced when I saw that Cindy was backed up by Ali Handal and Tina Trevino. Ali is a very talented singer/songwriter in her own regard, and someone who I had also followed “back in the day” (BITD). Tina was the percussionist for Cindy, and I seem to recall her working with other folks as well BITD. What a great way to shed the last fifteen years!! Like stepping out of a time machine.
Cindy and her band played a short set, about 4o minutes, of songs from across the spectrum of her releases, and all too soon the concert came to an end. The band was tight, and Cindy’s vocals were as strong as they have always been. Cindy has always been a gifted songwriter, and she has a new writing partner in Colin Devlin, formerly of the Irish band The Devlins. in addition to co-writing most of the tracks, Colin also produced Deep Waters.
Cindy is currently touring on her Play it Forward tour, and is also available for bookings. If you have a big house and a lot of friends, then a house concert featuring Cindy (and friends!) would be a real treat. Her next release, a live acoustic album titled Nowhere to Hide will be released this October, providing further proof that you can knock a strong woman down, but she will be back on her feet and stronger than ever and providing inspiration for others through her music.