Friday, July 20, 2012

Writer, Rocker, Biker, Geek: Michael McFarland

Hello Readers!
The talented. . . Michael McFarland!
Last Wednesday I attended a concert held at my favorite coffee shop, Thirty-Thirty Coffee Co., featuring the very talented Michael McFarland. Armed with an acoustic guitar, a Boss Loop station, and a collection of thoughtful narratives set to music; Michael is currently on tour in support of his latest album: Waking Up Is A Letdown. ("Next Train South" is my favorite track from that album!)

Singing to the crowd
It looks like the bear is singing along
 After the concert, I had a chance to briefly chat with Michael and found that we shared an interest in storytelling and even fashion as a storytelling endeavor. As we talked, I realized that he would be a great person to interview for this blog! He graciously agreed to an interview and the next day I sent an itinerary of questions via email. Before I share the interview with you all, I wanted to share a video from Michael about his take on storytelling and anecdotal value:

And here is the interview:

Q: Tell me (and the readers) more about yourself. How did you get started as a musician? Where are you from? What inspires you?
A: First, Laura, I'd like to thank you for asking me to do this interview! 
I grew up in Kent, Ohio, my father was a professor at Kent State University. My start in music began at age 6, when I began studying piano, but I didn't really begin down my path as a songwriter until I picked up a guitar at age 14. I learned how to play every song on Third Eye Blind's debut album, but didn't have any conception of how to write songs. One day, while on the riding lawnmower going in circles, a melody popped into my head that I didn't recognize. It continued repeating in my mind and each pass I added a few words, and by the time I finished mowing our half acre I had my first completed song. 

As far as inspirations, musically I don't specifically look to other songwriters or bands for inspiration, but if I'm listening to something a lot a little of that has a tendency to bleed into the music. I definitely owe a debt to the 90s alternative rock that I was listening to when I first started writing songs, but there are also elements of modern pop/rock artists (think Mat Kearney, Matt Nathanson, The Fray) and of course the classics like Paul Simon and The Beatles.

Q: How would you describe your music? (ie; how it sounds, what you write about, etc)
A: The description I usually use for my music is "Rhythmic Alt-Pop". For my live shows it's just me, my acoustic guitar, and my Boss Loop Station. I beat on the body of my guitar to build backing rhythms, then play catchy acoustic pop songs over those backbeats.

All my songs are autobiographical - and I try to live my life in such a way that I'll always have new stories to tell. (Youtube video blog about that -

Q: I understand that you are on a tour, can you tell me more about it? What do you hope to achieve through this tour?
A:  Of course! I'm currently on a 6-week tour, ranging from Nashville to Chicago to Austin to San Diego to Portland to Denver. I'm traveling by myself, staying with friends in towns I have them, and complete strangers in towns where I don't. Most of the cities I'm playing in this tour I've never been to, much less played a show in, so I'm looking to make some new friends, share my music, and discover the country!

Q: During your concert you mentioned that you live in Asheville, NC. How would you describe the city's style? What makes it distinctive?
A: Asheville is an awesome city - sort of like a mini-Austin, Texas or a mini-Portland, Oregon, set in a mountain paradise. Amazing arts scene, incredible food, beautiful landscape. The music scene is an eclectic mix of americana, roots, indie, bluegrass, and the occasional wildcard artist like me that doesn't quite fit in. There's a lot of bohemian/hippie style you'll see around town, as well as healthy dose of hipsters & outdoorsy types. It's a very accepting city of whatever your personal style is, but it certainly doesn't hurt to have an impressive beard.

Q: Speaking of cities, what did you think of Peoria?
A: One of the things that's both a blessing and a curse about playing so many shows on this tour is that I don't get to stay in any one town for very long - I get into town in the afternoon, and leave the next morning. The parts of Peoria I did get to see were great. Thirty-Thirty Coffee where I played the show, my new friend Nate's awesome old house where I crashed for the night, and One World Cafe where we grabbed dinner - the food there was fantastic, and their Long Islands are not to be toyed with!

Q: How do you define your personal style? And does it change when you go onstage?
A: For several years I've been mostly unintentionally pursuing a style I'd describe as vaguely post-apocalyptic - distressed military jackets, henley shirts (I'm convinced they're the official shirt of low-tech wasteland freedom fighters), worn out jeans, and heavy motorcycle boots. If you catch me on a day I'm not playing a show, you'll find no difference in what I'm wearing from when I'm on stage.

Q: What is a "typical" concert outfit? Do you have any lucky or favorite items or clothing or accessories?
A: When I'm touring, I pack really light - aside from workout and sleeping clothes, I bring with me 5 shirts, 3 pairs of jeans, 1 pair of boots. What you're likely to catch me wearing is:
A short-sleeved Mossimo henley tee from target, slightly modified to let my great uncle's dog tag sit a little better.
 -A beat up pair of Express jeans.
 -A belt from Bare Tree Apparel ( - the day you saw me it was the Black Bird on Cranberry (
 -A pair of motorcycle boots.
 -My great-uncle's dog tag, a cross necklace, and a big bulky Fossil watch facing inwards so I can tell how long I've left to play without conspicuously staring at my wrist - I forgot to wear that when you met me in Peoria!

Q: You tell stories through your music... do you think that what you wear is a storytelling endeavor? If yes, how so? (I tried to remember what you said about wearing anecdotes but I couldn't remember the term you used).
A: I much prefer to wear things that have their own stories, to carry a bit of my history with me. For example, the jeans I wore on the day you met me have the right knee ripped from catching on the rifle mount on my motorcycle the first day I got to ride it (It's a swiss military bike, with rifle mounts on both sides - 
I wear my great-uncle George's dog tag to honor him - he was a musician before the United States joined World War II. (more on that - 
I'm not wearing them on this tour, but my other pair of motorcycle boots was given to me on my last tour (which I undertook on my motorcycle, guitar strapped to my back) by a woman who saw me sitting next to the bike in a grocery store parking lot and handed them to me saying, "These were my Father's. He passed away two months ago. You look like you're on an adventure, and I'd like you to have them."

Q: What has been your favorite experience or story from this tour so far? 
A: Nothing so far to match the story about the motorcycle boots, but the tour is still young! So far my favorite moment has been on my day off from touring in St. Paul, Minnesota. I stayed with my brother Phil and his family, and in the evening I got to skip stones with my 10-year-old nephew Joe on the Mississippi river. It was a perfect moment of serenity in the midst of a hectic schedule.

Q: Is there anything else that you want to add or share?
Just that it was wonderful meeting you, and I can't wait to come back to Peoria to play again, and see all my new friends again!

Thank you, again, Michael, for being a part of my blog with this interview! I wish you the very best in all of your endeavors!

To learn more about Michael, to hear his music, or to see if he will be playing near you, check out his website:

Saturday, July 14, 2012

So Fresh So Floral: Rent The Runway Free Dress Rental

Hello Readers!

Last Friday, I received something very exciting in the mail. But before I tell you what that was, I should tell you a bit more of the story.

Last spring (March 2011) I needed to find a dress to wear to my cousin's (Joe) wedding. I had dresses in my wardrobe, but nothing to wear (so to say). All of the dresses I owned were dresses I had already worn to previous events, but I wanted something new. After a random Google search, I found a website named Rent The Runway, where customers could rent designer gowns (way beyond my price range) to wear to events like weddings for a fraction of the dress' actual cost. A perfect solution for my dilemma.

Since then, I've told friends and family members about Rent The Runway (RTR), but I haven't used their services (although I do check their website on a weekly basis to see what's new). A month or so ago I completed a survey about RTR with the incentive of receiving a FREE surprise dress rental on a weekend TBA. I chose 2 possible weekends and 5 dresses for each weekend, and waited for the email to inform me that my dress (a surprise until I opened the box) was in the mail.

My surprise dress was AMAZING! The RTR stylists did a tremendous job choosing a dress that I loved wearing and a dress that was long enough for long legs! Ready to find out which dress it was?

The So Fresh So Floral Maxi by Shoshanna (Rental, $100; Retail $615)
There really is so much to love about this dress, but the colors are probably my favorite. Shoshanna makes dresses with impeccable patterns and oh-so-alluring colors, patterns and colors I've only admired from afar until this free surprise dress rental from RTR (thank you, stylists!)

I would have loved to wear this dress to a wedding, but since I had no weddings that weekend (or other "special" events) I decided to make a special event of the dress by wearing it to church on Sunday as well as Sunday dinner at my grandparents' house. And I LOVED wearing it! At church I paired it with a cardigan from Zara and a sparkly belt from Anthropologie. My experience with this dress (thanks to RTR) was thoroughly splendid. In the midst of an arduous search for a job, this lovely blue and purple dress showed up on my doorstep to lift my spirits and boost my confidence.

Here are a few pictures of me in this lovely dress! Enjoy!

I love this dress!
The church-appropriate version of the dress (with cardigan)

So Fresh!
The weather was (finally) perfect for a breezy maxi dress!
I look like I'm swimming the butterfly! Subconscious tribute to the Summer Olympics? 
I couldn't stop smiling! 
"The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind. . . "
Thank you, Leslie, for taking these pictures!
Retail Details:
Blue and Purple So Fresh So Floral Maxi Dress: Shoshanna (free surprise dress rental)
Grey and Rhinestone Belt: Anthropologie
Dark Silver 'Chirp' Pumps: Seychelles via Nordstrom Rack

Friday, July 13, 2012

Crazy Hair!

Hello Readers,

The other night, while watching River Monsters, I came up with this crazy hair style:

It's a bit sloppy (it was created without a mirror), but I kind of like it. I think this Heidi-esque style is worth recreating. . .

If you are interested in trying this style (or something similar), here is how I made it happen:

-first divide hair into two equal (or somewhat equal) parts and braid into pigtails. For this style it is important that you have long hair in order to achieve the next step.

-then, take the pigtails and tie (or pin) them together... and voila!

If you try it, let me know how it goes! If this crazy style catches on, maybe it could be called the Laura! Here are a few more pictures of this zany style!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Preparation: What to Bring to a Job Interview

When you learn that a company or organization wants to interview you, on the phone or over skype or even in person, you may experience moments of excitement followed by moments of nervousness and even self-doubt.

That's ok. It's ok to do your "I have a job interview" victory dance and it's even ok to feel so nervous that you want to lock yourself away from the world to research and practice until the interview. Wherever your reaction may fall on this spectrum, it is crucial that you PREPARE for the actual interview. Here are a few helpful tips:

-Review the job description: one of the best ways to know if you are qualified for a job is to, well, read what the qualifications are that a company desires in a person who would fill this position.

-Review the company or organization: this is your chance to figure out how you would fit into the organization. Carefully read through the mission and vision statements, look at their portfolio, read about them in the news.

-Review your resume and portfolio: remind yourself who you are and how you fit into this company. What skills, interests or experiences do you have that would make you a great fit for the job?

-Practice answering "typical" interview questions: while it is virtually impossible to know exactly what an interviewer will ask, it's important to do your homework. If the company is passionate about helping the community or caring for the environment, there is a great possibility that an interviewer might ask you questions about those topics. And be prepared to answer those typical interview questions: strengths, weaknesses, where do you see yourself in 5 years, tell me about a time when you..., how did you find out about this company/opening.

-Figure out how to get there, on time!: arriving at your interview location on time (or a bit early) requires careful planning. The person who contacted you about the interview might tell you how to get to the interview location, and sometimes even where to park, but they also might not give you this information. You may have to ask for these details- and you should! If you are traveling to a different city or state, make sure that you give yourself time for construction, getting lost, and other unpredictable  time-gobbling situations. If you are close to the location, I recommend a drive by. Sometimes maps and directions can be confusing and even inaccurate, and you don't want that to be your excuse for being late to an interview. You don't want to start your interview with a need to apologize!

-Select your interview outfit: it may seem odd to pick out an outfit ahead of time, but (believe me!) this is a helpful step to take before the big day. You don't want to be late to an interview because you couldn't decide on a color of shirt or choose between pants or a skirt. Choosing an outfit, ahead of time, will not only save you time- it will also provide a great boost of confidence!

Preparation is a key step in the interview process- but it's not everything! It is, however, an important thing to bring into a job interview. Gaining knowledge about the job, the organization, yourself, the interview, how to get to the interview, and even what you will wear to the interview will help you be (or at least seem) a confident and knowledgeable candidate for the job!