Friday, April 27, 2007

More new tees!

Here are the images of the girly "Crush" tees. Check it.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

In the meantime...

Sorry I haven't written much lately. Touring, lack of internet access, lack of camera--all these things are reasons. Tonight, however, there is reason enough for me to stay up later than I should, finagle internet access, and write this out. It is this:

I called home today to catch up with my mom for the first time in several days, and my sister answered. "Why are you there?" I asked. "Mom isn't doing so well," she said. My mom had a bad spinal injury over a year ago and has been on lots of medication to help subdue the pain (the doctors wanted to avoid surgery). This has worked fairly well so far, but for the past few days, she hasn't really been able to move and she is in terrible pain. She had an MRI yesterday; results are expected on Monday. Dad says it will probably require surgery.

It would be a lie to say I'm not tempted toward fear. My prayer is that He will heal her, restore her health. My other prayer (for me) is that I will remember where my hope lies and that I will rest in the peace of God's plans and timing and immense love, whatever the outcome.

I'm headed home tomorrow night to see her during a brief break on this tour, but I'll only be able to stay there for about 15 hours. Tonight, as I sat in my hotel room and opened up the Bible study book that I'd been putting off for a few days, I found that the chapter happened to be about peace. It was perfectly timed. I will leave you with this, which comforted me and reminded me of the truth:

"Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:6-7

If you are one of those people who talks to God about things, then I would love it if you would pray for my mom. Her name is Carole. She is amazing. :)

Thanks,
Tara Leigh

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

New Tees

We'll be cranking out some new tees this Friday, and I'm excited about them! You may (or may not) recognize the phrase "all thin and worn and perfect" as a line from my song "White T-Shirt," so we've put it on a white t-shirt for you and we call it the "white t-shirt." Makes sense, huh? Well, I'm a marketing genius... what can I say?

The other one is just a line that came up in conversation with Lee one day. We're calling this one the "crush" tee. The colors don't show up right on this, but it's chocolate brown with cream text. We'll also have these available in girly cut shirts, in a few different colors (I think they are pink, aqua, and red, all with white text).

I'll have them at shows, but you can also contact me if you want to buy one through the mail. We won't have them in the web store for a while, so just post a comment and I'll get you one. They're $20 each. Not much for a lifetime of enjoyment and soffety-softness (I made up that word, but it is so right on).

State of the Fido Address

I'm at Fido right now. The place is less than half full, which means that it was easy to find a table. However, it's not a good feeling. Why so empty, Fido?

Perhaps it's because you took away the outlets. This will be an interesting study in how a business treats its customers. I'm assuming they made this decision because they believe that the Lingering Laptop Users (hereafter known as "LLU") don't yield as much of a return for the time they spend at the tables. If that is their reasoning, I believe their theory is wrong.

People come to Fido not only because they have great food and coffee, but because it's a scene. It's the same reason that all my friends in Nashville go to every Matt Wertz show -- not just because he's a great musician, but because they know that everyone else in town will be there, too, and they want to see those other people. I believe that if Fido loses its "social scene-ness" that it will compromise its longevity. But maybe I'm wrong; maybe they are making more money this way. I'd love to see the numbers.

I estimate that I spent about $20/day at Fido while writing Here's to Hindsight: Letters to My Former Self. I bought lots of coffee and I usually ate two meals a day there. That might only average out to about $2/hr, but I also brought a lot of other people to Fido. I would tell my friends to come meet me for lunch. People would show up just because they knew I'd be there, and they'd hang out with me for a while, I estimate that this brought in about another $40/day for Fido, bringing my table's average to $6/hr.

In addition to that, the same LLU were there everyday working alongside me. I see none of them here now. Fido had a slew of fantastic staple LLU customers, spending their money to work and hangout. But now, the place where I had to fight for a seat currently has SIXTEEN EMPTY TABLES. I just counted, and there are only 34 people here. It used to border on 80 at all times. If you multiply my table's average of $60/day by the 16 other tables that are empty, that's nearly $1000/day, even without turnover.

I wonder if it's working. If they drive away the LLU by revoking the outlets, will the greater turnover yield more income? Or will the scene gradually fade, leaving Fido with an inconsistent clientele who aren't at all enthusiastic about Fido and their brand? As it stands, they're alienating their most faithful customers by lowering their level of customer satisfaction. I happen to be sitting across from one of them right now, and he told me he's already started going to other places because of the outlet situation. I know it doesn't seem like a big deal but it could be in the long run.

I may just have to invest in one of these.

P.S. For the record, Frothy Monkey was packed today.
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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

God vs. Gore?

Let me preface this short entry by saying that it will not be nearly long enough to say all that I am thinking on this matter. I'm going to make a broad, sweeping statement to which there are many bullet-points I will not address. If you have something to add, subtract, or multiply, feel free to put it in the comments.

I loved An Inconvenient Truth. It actually made me somewhat-fond of Al Gore, who previously evoked zero emotion from me either way. I have always been a "turn the lights off when you leave the room" and "turn the water off when you're brushing your teeth" kind of girl. My parents instilled these things in us not so much for the sake of the environment as for the sake of saving money. It makes sense, though, on both counts. I recycle and I try to "decrease my imprint" on the earth. I think that being a Christian naturally requires me to stop being so egocentric and be a better steward of the earth that God is letting all of us use.

But is the sky falling?

Yesterday I had Easter dinner with my family and my dad engaged me in a discussion about global warming and all of the legislation that will occur as the notion of gloom-and-doom is propagated. Then he reminded me of this verse, where God is speaking to Noah after the 40-day flood ended and Noah and his family were finally able to leave the ark.

This is what God says:

"While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease."

In my mind, that settles it. Of course, we may cause some serious problems for ourselves by not taking care of things in the proper way, but I don't believe that global warming will be the end of us.

I'd love to write more, but I'm interested in hearing your thoughts as well...
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Monday, April 09, 2007

New Endeavors

I plan to branch out into some new territory in the coming months, and I'm quite excited about it.

After I finish my current tour of the southeast, I'll be taking three months off from touring to write the new book. This is a HUGE deal for me, because, as I recently realized, I haven't been in the same place for more than a month in over seven years. Since I became a full-time musician, my life has been wrapped up in touring, and it's really time for me to be more balanced. I desperately need this.

There are a few dates that I had committed to before I made this decision, so I will keep those on my calendar, but I'll be home for the greater portion of May, June, and July.

However, just because I'm taking time off from touring does not mean that I'm taking time "off." I'll still be working daily on the book and on bookings for the fall tour. In the meantime, I'm trying really hard to motivate myself toward asking for financial supporters. This is something God has been dealing with me about for nearly three years now, and I haven't been able to summon the humility to do it. I'll explain all that in another post soon.

The other thing is this: Have I mentioned that I'm overwhelmed with love for New York City? Perhaps you've noticed. This past week, I was asked to film a spot for the Fine Living network's show called "We Live Here." I took the cameras around NYC and acted as a narrator and tour guide, showing off a handful of my favorite spots. It was such a great time. I'm not sure yet when it will air, but I'll keep you posted.

Ultimately, what that last experience provided was an opportunity for all of my friends to say (nearly in unison), "You should totally do that on the side!" They weren't referring to TV so much as to giving tours of NYC. My heart leaps at the thought, honestly. Could I really do that? Time will tell.

I've made some initial steps toward it and the prospects look good. I also bought www.SoHoTourGuide.com. In NYC, SoHo is a neighborhood that lies just south of Houston Street, and its name is derived from its location: South of Houston. However, for my own purposes, the name will also stand for Southern Hospitality. Naturally, I'll give tours to anyone, but I'm especially excited about the opportunities to show around tourists from below the Mason-Dixon Line.

There are few things I love more than helping people fall in love with NYC and helping to leave tourists with a positive impression. I love stopping to talk to people who are standing around with a map, trying desperately to navigate the streets or the trains. I love bragging on the great food and fashion finds that I come across. I love the history and diversity of the City. And being able to help out travelers by putting all this stuff to use seems wonderful! I'll keep you posted!

Oh, and if you happen to be stopping by NYC sometime soon, contact me at: info@sohotourguide.com. (The site isn't developed yet, but the email works.)
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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Q & A - Part 2

I get a lot of emails about the book, so I periodically post some of the questions and answers here, paraphrased and anonymous when the sender requests it. In some cases, as in this one below, I’ve combined multiple emails into one. Send your questions to: tlc@taraleighcobble.com

Q:
Danger was my favorite person in the book. Whatever happened with him? Bolivia isn't that far away, you know.


A:
This might be a cop out, but: you're going to have to wait for the next book to find out. I'm working on it right now, but since RELEVANT isn't publishing books anymore, I'm in search of a new publisher. I've never done that kind of thing before, but I hope it goes well! I'll keep you posted.
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Friday, April 06, 2007

Bad News Bears

Someone stole my digital camera (and of course, my 4GB memory card, too) on Monday night, so I won't be able to do Photo-A-Day until I can afford to replace it. If you happen to have an extra one of these lying around, let me know.

Poetry Thursday (late)

Beth has inspired me to participate in Poetry Thursday, even if only this once. Fortunately, my "day" doesn't end until my eyes meet their lids. So this still counts. :)

In this time
Three floods
Could have covered earth
From pole to pole

Could have drowned me over
Swept my city
Strewing taxicabs
To your mountaintops

Through leafy vines
Smothered with water
Whisked past continental divides
Burying history

No bird, no dove,
No olive leaf
(And no peace treaty)
Just waiting, waiting for the sun.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

I left my heart at FIDO.

I wrote about 90% of Here's to Hindsight: Letters to My Former Self while sitting at Fido, a coffee shop unlike any other, located in Nashville's Hillsboro Village. In fact, according to Citysearch.com, "This funky coffeehouse is the heart and soul of Hillsboro Village." Notice: it's not IN the heart and soul of Hillsboro Village -- it IS the heart and soul. True.

Because the temperature at Fido is notoriously unpredictable, you have to wear a tank top and bring a parka. There are only three working outlets in the giant, three-room space. It is often so crowded that finding a spot can try your patience. But despite those few frustrations, there was no place I would rather sit for 14 hours a day and work.

I had my favorite table: the red one by the front door. The proximity to the door meant that I frequently had to endure blasts of cold air (I was writing in winter), but on the flip-side, it was right beside an outlet. Securing that spot every morning was a challenge; I occasionally failed, but I kept a dedicated eye on the table from wherever I'd landed, sprinting full-speed across the cafe whenever the customer seated there made the slightest indication that he would soon be leaving. Stacking his plates? Putting on his coat? Wrapping his power cord? I'd be hovering with my laptop in no time.

There are a lot of reasons why Fido has earned a special place in my heart, but I'm not sure that I can put those down on paper -- they are more the kind of thing you feel, not say. For as long as I lived in Nashville, Fido felt like the center of the Nashville community. Not an hour would pass without someone walking in that I knew. Usually several people. One day, I think I maxed out at seeing 27 friends while I was there working. I made new friends, too.

The drinks were always phenomenal, the baristas warm and welcoming, the food delicious, and the atmosphere comfortable. The music was always at the right level, and it was usually better than anything I had on my iPod. The bathrooms were clean. And since I'm not loaded, it was of utmost value that I could walk up to the counter at any point and get myself a refill for only 50 cents at the honor bar. No standing in line, just fill 'er up and drop in five dimes.

On the morning that I moved to NYC, I met my friends Josh and Shannon at Fido for breakfast. I saw five more friends while I was there, including Steve. (I won't go into the full list of people I've spied there, but suffice it to say that it is a musician's haven.) With my life packed into a mini van in the back parking lot, I said goodbye to my friends and to my favorite table. And I took a picture of the front sign that has served as the wallpaper on my phone since that day.


At Fido with friends from NYC during a visit about a year ago.


Usually when I go back to Nashville to visit or have meetings or to play a show, Fido is the first place I stop. I grab a cup of coffee and visit with whatever friends have landed there for the time being. If I arrive in the late night hours after it has closed, I swing by, just to see it -- chairs turned upside down on tables, lights out, empty. I panic at the thought of anything ever happening to it. I don't want it to move an inch, change at all. It is, quite simply, my favorite coffee shop in the world, mostly because it feels like home.

While I worked there over the course of about six weeks, I learned the names of all the baristas and became acquaintances with them all. But my favorite barista was a guy named Joshua, who spoke adoringly of his wife and daughters, and who always had a kind word for me. I never knew his last name and when I went back to Fido after moving to NYC, he had quit working there to pursue a teaching job. I was sad to see the place had changed -- what seems like a slight change was actually a dynamic difference, because that one piece of the Fido family brought a light into the room, shined the love of God to every customer that came through the line.

When I had the release party for the book, I desperately wanted to have it at Fido, but things didn't work out that way (next time, I will plan this in advance!). I ended up at a coffee shop down the street, a great little place that I enjoyed visiting, that had tons of outlets and great drinks and comfortable seating. But it wasn't Fido. You know how that goes.

But then, when I was behind the banquet table, setting up for the signing, I saw a familiar face: Joshua. A friend of his whom I have never met had pre-ordered the book, read it on the day of its release, and noticed the following phrase in the acknowledgments: "For the creative environments: Fido—where I wrote most of this book and made so many new friends along the way (special thanks to Joshua, my favorite barista)."

"Is this you?" she called to ask him. He had no idea that I had thanked him. So he showed up to thank me and to pick up a copy for himself. And it made my night complete... the whole thing had come full circle.

So I'm a little nervous about finding my "writing spot" here in the City, where I'll sit and drink and write my new book. Fido has set the bar so high that I don't know if I'll be able to tolerate another place if I visit it that frequently, much less love it. There are many coffee shops here that I've really loved, but there's something about each of them that just doesn't suit me long-term. Maybe I can get over it. I hope so. Maybe it's like finding a church family -- you just have to make the commitment and learn to accept those little things that don't go down smooth.

But just yesterday I got this email from Joshua, whom I had tipped off to my plight. It is his letter of recommendation for me, which I will gladly pass along to any barista who gives me crap about staying on the premises from open to close:

To The Barista it may concern,

I am writing on behalf of Tara Leigh. She would be a wonderful addition to your cafe's regular clientele. She is always good for a laugh or two, and her drinks are not complicated. She is very low maintenance and brings a breath of fresh air, I mean, if you like that kind of thing. The most positive thing about Tara Leigh is, that if you take good care of her, she will make you an acknowledgement in her next book.

Sincerely,

Joshua Shanklin,
Fido Barista, Nashville, TN


I hope it works. Otherwise, those daily commutes from NYC to Fido will get kind of expensive.

P.S. Please: there is no "S" in Fido. It is Fido, not Fido's. Fido does not own the place. It is not possessing anything. It is simply "Fido." Check the sign.
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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

How to be a great audience (and what's in it for you)

*
Via Seth Godin, one of the smartest guys around

I participated in an interesting experiment today. I was lucky enough to attend career day with 75 eighth graders. Divided into five groups, I got to see a group at a time for about fifteen minutes each.

Within three seconds of beginning my talk, I could tell.

I could tell who had learned the skill of being in the audience and who hadn't. And I'm worried that it might be permanent.

The good audiences were all the same. They leaned forward. They made eye contact. They mirrored my energy right back to me. When the talk (five minutes) was over they were filled with questions.

The audience members that hadn't learned the skill were all different. Some made no eye contact. Some found distractions to keep them busy. Some were focused on filling out the form that proved that they had been paying attention.

What I discovered: that the good audience members got most of my attention. The great audience members got even more... attention plus extra effort. And, despite my best efforts, the non-great audience members just sort of fell off the radar.

This isn't a post about me and my talk. It's about the audience members and the choices each make. It's a choice your employees and your customers make too.

It's easy to fall into the trap of believing that information is just delivered to you. That rock stars and violinists and speakers and preachers and teachers and tour guides get paid to perform and the product is the product. But it's not true. Great audiences get more.

Great audiences not only get more energy and more insight and more focused answers to their questions, they also get better jobs and find better relationships. Because the skills and the attitude are exactly the same.

I am too much of an optimist to believe that the lousy audience members in today's program are stuck that way for life. But I know that the longer they wait, the harder it is going to be to change.

The next time someone says, "any questions," ask one. Just ask.

The next time you see a play that is truly outstanding, lead the standing ovation at the end.

The next time you have an itch to send an email to a political blogger or post a comment or do a trackback, do it. Make it a habit.
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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Weekend Edition

A new place called Cafe Brama opened up in the East Village and they boasted free wi-fi, so I had to give it a shot. In Nashville, it was kind of a given that every coffee shop would have free wi-fi. That is not the case in NYC. Although there are a few exceptions, cafes here are smaller, so the owners need a quicker turnover of customers and don't necessarily want them to lounge around for four hours checking their email. Their website had a great picture of NYC (see below) and a decent Polish menu, so I went with Ester to check it out and find out if perhaps it would be my new hangout.



The food was tasty (what little we had), but the room just didn't feel warm and cozy enough to keep me hanging out there for hours working on the new book. The search continues.

03.29.07
10th Street is one of my favorite streets in the city. East-to-west, it has a variety of flavors. East village artists, NYU students in pajamas smoking on the street, West Village families and heiresses. This is a church on the corner of 10th & Broadway.



What you don't often see in New York, though, are large, tacky Easter decorations on the exterior of the homes of the Fifth Avenue upper crust. Amusing.



I'm leaving to go back out on tour again soon, so I'm trying to get in some fun times with my friends before I head out. Friday we had breakfast at Manatus, which we learned is Dutch for "Manhattan," although the restaurant itself is Greek. Go figure.

03.30.07
I spent the day working and writing at my favorite spot. I love that it's so small that all chairs are up for grabs, even if there are other people at the table. Only drawback: very few outlets. Makes it hard to stay long if you don't grab the premium spots.



Dinner at Malatesta Trattoria (great atmosphere, service, spaghetti) before heading to the National Comedy Theater for a night of improv. I'm not usually an improv kind of girl, but this was actually very funny. And for those of you who tend to find comedy too crass and inappropriate, the NCT has a "brown bag foul" rule -- they aren't allowed any off-color jokes. Might be a good option if you're visiting the City and want some family fun.

On the walk home, I saw an amusing sight. There were some skateboarders in Union Square and they had broken down a wooden Police barricade to use one of the boards as a ramp. Two funny things about this: the board actually says "POLICE LINE: DO NOT CROSS" in large white letters, and there were a handful of cops standing 20 yards away. I really wanted this to be my Photo-A-Day, but it's fairly blurry and you can't see the writing on the board or the cops in the background, which would've been wonderful added effects.



Saturday brunch at SoHo Park (great turkey sandwich), before hitting up sample sales at LF and Elie Tahari. I didn't find jack at the Elie Tahari sale (too expensive), but I stocked up on stuff at LF because everything was 85% off. Crazy! The place was packed. See for yourself in this blurry photo that I tried to take before the shopgirl yelled at me.



Here are my purchases.



If I told you how cheap this bag of things was, you would want to punch me. I needed some new shoes because I'd been buying shoes that aren't very well made lately and they don't survive the streets well. These were cheaper than even Old Navy but are definitely not cheaply-made, so I hope they last a while.

Dinner with Amanda at Ini Ani. According to their website, they have "an inviting space with over 25,000 strips of corrugated cardboard and a wall of 479 cast plaster coffee cup lids." See the cardboard wall? See it? See it???



They have amazing salads and bruschetta! And cheap! I am definitely going back to this place. A lot.

03.31.07
Then off to Beauty Bar for the cheapest manicures in the City! I normally do not spend money on manicures because I'm content to do my own nails at home. However, since I'm taping the TV show this week, I wanted my nails to be in top shape. Here's Amanda with her top-shape nails, too.



04.01.07
Brunch at Paradou with Erin to celebrate her birthday (which I will miss because I'll be on tour). Deeelicious. Here, she enjoys a tomato rose. Not really.



Also, I wanted you to see this picture of a small wire version of My Boyfriend.



He's stellar.
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New TV Show!!!

I've been asked to be part of a show on the Fine Living Network. If the weather cooperates with us on Tuesday, we will tape some things here in NYC. More details forthcoming. Stay tuned! (pun intended)

And yes, today is April Fools Day, but this is not a joke. It is, however, my 7th anniversary of becoming a musician. I can't believe this has been my J-O-B for that long. Good times, folks! Thanks for the memories... here's to more!