Just a day before Valentine’s Day 2020, I didn’t perform the gig with any knowledge that this would be my last live performance in Iowa. You don’t know it is going to be the last time you experience something, but have you ever been in that moment and know you need to pay attention, to savor this moment? I had this pull to enjoy and be present. It felt like a treat I was consuming that I might never have again.
My husband and I pulled into Perry, IA this day a year ago. We turned onto the main street and passed the beautiful Hotel Pattee stretching a block long and holding authority like a court house in a small town. We have played many times at the hotel and memories came flooding back.
We weave through the downtown and see many old buildings that have been brought back to life and others that have not. Just around the corner is the magnificently restored, La Poste, where we were scheduled to play. This place was refurbished by a team of wildly dedicated individuals who have teamed together to breath creativity into the Perry community.
The Cellar’s Handle Bar Happy Hour was in the basement bar of this building. More than a bar, this space is a community gathering place. Glowing from the inside, it looked inviting and warm. We park the van at the back of the building and I do a quick stroll of the block in the nipping February air snapping a few pictures as I went including a few selfies to promote the show.
We start to unload our gear and get ready for the perilous load in down the back steps. A fun entrance for the simple couple to pop in, but we are not so simple. We start carrying, one load after another carefully navigating the long row of small cement steps with guitars and gear in hand. This is what keeps us strong, we say. Of course, always greeted with the kindest and warmest of welcomes, we greet our Perry friends and start to set up.
After, I found myself in a moment alone spending company with the art work that was being featured that month. With no one in the whole place, I had a private moment just for me and I pulled out the new song I had been working on, just wrote it the night before. I opened up and began to sing to just the paintings, the mismatched chairs, the brick walls and my voice rang, the acoustics of the place enriching the sound. I sang alone.
When you don’t know something is going to end, is it really less sweet? I have been struggling with the live gig life for some time, a divide of who I was and who I had become. Still madly in love with music, my creative creature needed nourishment in different ways and this gig was nourishment.
We do our thing. We sing our songs. We fill requests. The night is full.
Laughter, food, music, comfort, friends…all were present this night. My soul was full.
It was the last live “in person” gig that I performed.
It feels weird to say but also fitting. This was the end and and soon, there would be a new beginning.
The year in front of me was going to bring more challenges, and more enlightenment, and I have never needed it more. But this night, I was not encumbered by what the future would bring.
After the gig we pack up and teeter our gear back up the stone steps. One step at a time was how to get this job done.
After our last load we went back downstairs to do the once over look to make sure we had everything.
“You two make a really good team. You are really lucky.” the gal cleaning up told us.
“Yeah, we do. I think we make a pretty good team too.” I said.
We have been doing this long enough. We better be! I never forget how lucky I am to get to do this job with my husband. This exchange lifts me up and I felt proud.
I didn’t know what gig or lack of gigs was coming around the corner but I did know that the only way to go, at least this night, was home.
The song I sang to the paintings…
When I’m Alone
When I’m alone, I think of you
When I’m alone, I miss you
When I’m alone, I feel you
I feel the tears falling down my face
Too long, I’ve been in this place.
Never again will I be here to say
what it is the moment means
All these questions leading me
To a place I’m supposed to be
A place, I can’t even see
When I’m alone, I think of you.
When I’m alone, I miss you
When I’m alone, I feel you
I feel the tears falling down my face
Too long, I’ve been in this place
I am bending in the wind
I am blown all the way down
I am waiting for the break
I know it is coming around
To that pain, I am bound
When I’m alone, I think of you
When I’m alone, I miss you
When I’m alone, I feel you
I feel the tears falling down my face
Too long, I’ve been in this place.
By Kat Darling
The High Crest has taken some new turns during this pandemic. We were traveling through the southwest of the US when the country began closing down and we were issued the "stay at home" order. It was surreal absorbing the news of our new life while we were on the road. As we arrived back in Iowa, our journey continued...in a place we call home.
To adjust to this "new normal" we knew right away that we wanted to bring our music to our listeners as quickly as possible. I am a firm believer that music is therapeutic and in the face of our new reality and Covid19, I knew we could use some relief. My first desire was to connect to our friends in our live music community and sing some songs for everybody.
We need music! It connects us, revives us and encourages us. Now, here came this chance for us to bring The High Crest music directly to you, where you live.
The High Crest began, what we called, the Hunker in the Bunker Sessions. We recorded several performances and streamed them live on Facebook. We are in the process of putting these recordings together for an album. We connected with so many of you through our live streams! We laughed and sang, read all the comments and received tips and encouragement.
As I explored other options to stay financially afloat, I applied for a grant through the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. I was chosen to receive a $1,000 grant. With the help of this grant and our fantastic community, my creative career has been validated and The High Crest can continue to operate.
I believe the arts are extremely important to preserving individual livelihoods and our collective culture. On behalf of The High Crest I want to thank the Iowa Arts Council, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and YOU for continuing to invest in creativity. Thank you!
The High Crest
Read the full press release below:
DES MOINES – The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs (IDCA) announced today that it has awarded $191,000 in grants to Iowa artists and small nonprofit arts organizations who are reeling from the financial impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. The first-round relief grants were limited to artists and small nonprofit arts organizations.
The list of recipients includes community theaters, choirs, youth arts groups, a documentary filmmaker and a blues musician who has entertained Iowa audiences for more than 40 years.
In all,156 Iowa artists and creative workers each received a $1,000 award to support their artistic career. In addition, 14 Iowa nonprofit arts organizations each received a $2,500 grant to support their operations. The IDCA received a total of 285 applications in this funding round.
Applicants cited a range of financial losses resulting from canceled performances,
festivals, residencies, commissions, teaching opportunities and more. Organizations lost revenue from admissions and gift-shop sales, as well as canceled classes, programs and fundraising events.
“Iowa’s creative professionals and cultural organizations have been deeply impacted by the current crisis,” Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Chris Kramer said. “Our industry is incredibly resourceful and resilient, but with so many revenue sources threatened at once, it’s extraordinarily challenging for the creative workforce to navigate.”
Kramer added, “The economic loss to arts organizations is estimated at over $4.5 billion nationwide. Here in Iowa in a typical year, the creative sector accounts for 2.3 percent of our economy and more than 42,000 jobs.”
This was the first round of grants from the new Iowa Arts & Culture Emergency Relief Fund, which is administered by the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. Grants awarded through this fund are intended to support the Iowa artists and nonprofits that have suffered the most, serving as a bridge between severe financial loss and other state and federal assistance.
"Artists and community arts organizations have been hit particularly hard by this emergency and are some of the most vulnerable members of our industry right now," Iowa Arts Council Administrator David Schmitz said. "We want to help Iowa artists and these arts groups bridge the gap, so they can sustain a basic living until audiences and patrons return."
In a recent survey conducted for Iowa by Americans for the Arts, 255 arts and cultural organizations across the state reported a total financial loss of $2.85 million as of April 7. On average, those organizations lost approximately $11,000 due to closures, cancellations and increased expenses.
Nearly all of the respondents reported that they have canceled performances and other events, affecting an estimated 100,000 audience members and participants.
Sixty-two percent of respondents expect the pandemic’s impact on their organization to be “severe” or “very severe.” A quarter of the organizations have reduced staff or payroll.
The Iowa Arts Council will accept applications for a second round of emergency grants April 24 through May 1 from all Iowa arts and cultural organizations that have existed for at least three years, maintain a 501(c)3 nonprofit status and had an operating budget of at least $10,000 during the past fiscal year. The details and application will be posted online at iowaculture.gov.
Funding for this second round of grants comes from the National Endowment of the Arts, through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The grants are intended to help save jobs in the arts sector and keep the doors open to thousands of cultural organizations that add value to America’s economy and the creative life of its communities.
Last week I had the opportunity to tell my story on the Hoyt Sherman Place stage for the Des Moines Storytellers Project - My Great Adventure: Wanderlust. The Storytellers Project is a series of live storytelling nights where Des Moines Register journalists curate and host nights of true, first-person stories.
Like the rest of the storytellers, my story was very personal to me. The story I tell walks the listener through the last four years of my life. In telling my story I claim ownership of the events and feelings that have taken place. I am confronting dreams of full time travel put on hold, the deepest parts of my grief and the moments that have kept me going through it all. And why after everything I've been through, I still Wanderlust!
This was not an easy thing to do! To have this story in repeat in my head for two months was exhausting and overwhelming, not just for me, but for my family too. I want to thank Aaron Short, my husband, for his unconditional support and love through this process. We've been in this together and that isn't changing. His support helps my strength and belief in myself.
But it took accepting who I've become, the person I am - right now, to give me the personal power to write my story, edit it, then say it aloud and share it with others.
I signed up to do this because I know the power that storytelling has on the listener and the teller.
Linda, my mother-in-law, passed away in December and after, I felt giant waves of grief. I didn't want to be alone in my grief. So I reached out and found support services and I am using them, my family is using them. I found this so beneficial that I decided to really tap into some healing and bring my story to Hoyt Sherman, sold out crowd of 1,200 people..."Holy hell, what have I gotten myself into!?!"
It was healing! I had many people come up to me and speak of their own experiences with grief and how my story touched their lives. I had friends show up to support me through this whole journey and I am so grateful. Thank-you! I also want to thank Lee Rood for being my coach and the whole DM Register Storytellers team who makes this event happen.
Every storyteller has a unique perspective that no one else can have. That is what makes the human condition inspiring. That is why it is important to share our stories because the only way we can walk in someone else's footsteps is to discover and learn more about their lives. That is why storytelling is so important!
I have new music to share too! The High Crest will be releasing a new song I wrote, You Have To See It, that accompanies my story so you will be able to hear that soon.
The Storytellers Project will be available on different platforms, including Iowa Public Television, streaming live at https://www.storytellersproject.com/ and in print in the Des Moines Register in the next few weeks.
The inspiring stories from last Tuesday can be found on Sound Sound Cloud at
Thanks for listening!
My 1st and biggest fan was my Mom, no doubt about it. She was the single most strongest source of support in my life. Even though she is gone, she remains an enormous part of who I am right now. I turn to memories of her in my darkest moments and in my bravest moments. She is still with me, helping me.
I am eternally grateful for her patience listening to every single "bad" note I sang. I really could go on and on but I am THE MOST grateful for her encouragement towards what made me happy, and music always made me truly happy.
All Saints Day, All Souls Day and All Saints Sunday has my heart and mind on my loved ones who have gone. Music is my connection to so many friends and family who have passed on. Music helps float memories into your consciousness creating the soundtrack of our lives.
I have a couple of songs that, when I hear them, remind me of my Mom. When I listen, it is a moment when I am given permission to stop and think of her, to be with her for a moment. A meditation on my love followed by the act of letting go when the song ends.
Music connects us to everything. The rhythms of this world, of our universe, are at work creating waves that connect us all.
This is the month of November where every single one of us is encouraged to be thankful and full of gratitude. So this month The High Crest has decided to revive our blog and share stories of our gratitude from our experiences as independent musicians. We want to share why your story has helped us live ours.
This is the month of November where every single one of us is encouraged to be thankful and full of gratitude. So this month The High Crest has decided to revive our blog and each day share stories of our gratitude from our experiences as independent musicians. We want to share why your story has helped us live ours.
Yesterday we were taking a walk in the neighborhood where we are currently staying and we hear someone yell, "Aaron Short!" There is a fella approaching obviously excited to see us. We are hard to miss when we are all together.
He swings in and gives Aaron a hug and says, "I've been to a lot of your shows and they have changed my life. I love your music!" He was smiling and genuine and wasn't hesitant about coming right up and telling us how he felt. I love this. Even though this encounter was brief and we were on our way just a few minutes later, what he said to us stayed with us.
You see, this is a job that requires you to believe in yourself. Creating is a very personal and therapeutic experience. It is intimate and needs to be nurtured forward into the world where it will eventually be shared. Creating music and art (and sharing it) is an important job but it can drain you...into a million pieces.
This moment was the moment we needed to keep believing, to be encouraged, to want to continue to do this job. In this one moment we were reminded that people need what we have to give and that it does good in the world when we do the hard work to express ourselves.
We are grateful for the moments when we are reminded that this job means something to somebody..and that means A LOT! Even if you can't always see the love and support, make sure you always remember it is there for you, waiting for you when you need it the most.
-The High Crest
The High Crest got a wild hair last night and decided to submit to NPR's Tiny Desktop Contest...just in the nick of time!
New Year, New Songs
by Kat Darling from The High Crest
This is a new day with a brand new song.
It has been a very, very long time since I have written a song - to the point I was starting to get anxious every time I tried. I wrote a chorus two years ago on my birthday. I sat there at my kitchen table and wrote just these few sentences, crying my eyes out.
"When it's time to move on, I won't know how long I've been missing you.
If I have the strength to change, I know things won't be the same
As they were when I was with you."
My words warning me, it was going to be a long time.
Just the other day I picked up my guitar, paper and pencil and found more words to go with this chorus. I felt like I was sewing together this piece, stitching myself together. Just today I finished the bridge and the last of the verses.
And I'm going to share it with you tonight at the Greenwood. The song is called Chance to Change.
Plan for the future, stay in the now, learn from the past. Life can be a dizzy dance.
THE ICEBERG ILLUSION
By Kat Darling from The High Crest
There is one question going through my mind in the wake of David Bowie's departure from this planet, what are you waiting for?
Make art. Make it because it means something to someone, but most importantly, make it for yourself. Reinvent your "how". Reinvent your "why".
I have been, in my past, a closeted artist from the public, but now I feel like I am a closeted artist from myself. There is actual fear in making art. You wouldn't know it by looking at Bowie, but I am pretty sure at some point he paused and asked, "What the hell am I doing?" - Then again, maybe not, it is Bowie.
Whether it is an elaborately designed outfit, paint on the paper, some photograph hiked miles to get, a song that has finally unearthed itself out of your soul, it has to mean something...to someone, but most importantly yourself or else why would you have gone through all that work.
Art is self discovery, art is pain, art is beauty, art is controlled chaos.
What if more of us shared our art!?! Oh, what a world we would see!
But we have to take responsibility. Even as artist we have responsibility. And we have to function out in the world of reality and responsibility and think in monetary terms of what is realistic and achievable, just like everyone else.
Does the art/music world support the arts as it should?
Yes, fans support the arts the way they should, with undying passion!
Do we are artists have access to the best tools to create?
The internet and technology has blown our minds!
Do we have the financial income and infrastructure to make a living making art?
Money is a bully!
This last question is one question that has scared my art into a dark corner and is actually yelling really loudly at me. Do I sound crazy? Yep! I'm an artist!
I still remember being taken back when my Mom defended me, "Well, she's an artist. She might be broke, but she is happy." It was so weird to hear those words, "She's an artist..." I heard my mom admit that I'm an artist, and what the heck does that mean!?! I really AM an artist.
And making music and art with my loved ones has made my world a very happy place. I have given a lot and put so much into everything...then why even now is it hard, very hard to make art my living? Well...that's life! You learn your lessons when you do, whether you are young, old or in between.
Get down to get up.
This year has been a crazy ride from the tip top of the white crest of the wave to the dark bottomless water in between.
There has been failure and continuous sacrifice, there has been social/personal pressure and disappointment. But there has also been some divine moments, hard work and lots of dedication.
In 2016 The High Crest is refocusing and shaping our goals. We are working hard and training our self discipline. Right now for the winter we are hunkered down on the Eastside of Des Moines, taking this time in hibernation to...plan.
In those plans...
Reporting from The High Crest base camp...
Booking to travel - We are booking in Iowa and the Midwest (also including CO and TX).
Aaron's Solo Album - Aaron is working on putting together a ticketed show in the recording studio that people can attend, live! More dates and details to come.
The High Crest family style single - The 10' Dragon, is set to be recorded this year.
In the dead of winter it is hard to see the spring but I am dreaming of easier times and I am working hard to ensure that they prevail.
This is more than keeping the dream alive...it is keeping sanity in tact! Oh yeah, and the bills paid.
Living the Dream
by Kat Darling
I have heard this so much since we've made our transition out of our traditional living style to continue to make music. This statement is just crazy to me! First off I have no idea what it means. Unless I look at my life with extreme positivity (you know, the kind where you are trying to convince yourself everything is OK) it just seems really hard and sometimes really impossible - not very dreamy.
Yes, I am happy and grateful for the beautiful things in my life, but I'm also stressed and probably scared if I am truly honest. This current life transition came from financially hanging on by a thread. Now, as our business continues to s l o w l y grow, I'm going a little crazy not having gotten into a groove of knowing how to make money playing music, produce more product and get on the road.
We moved into our trailer and are living with Aaron's Mom and Dad (John and Linda Short) on the Eastside of Des Moines. I really can't say enough about John and Linda. They are the coolest in-laws I could have. They believe in their son and our abilities to make music as a living. They know how tough it really is and how important creating music is. Who are these people?!? And thank goodness they are in my life. I really DON'T KNOW WHAT I WOULD DO WITH OUT THEM. They are the only reason we are able to make music they way we have for this many years. I don't want to let them down and I also want to get out of their house.
The road is not under our feet yet and it is paved with gold, meaning it costs A LOT to tour with our music. We are also introducing our music everywhere we go, nobody knows us. We have concocted an exciting plan for 2016 but it doesn't put us on the road for a while, sigh. The plans feel huge and there is so much to get done that overwhelming doesn't cut it. How do we do this? So a few times a day I find myself thinking of my resume, other jobs in the world and where would I even fit. Do you know how bad this is for an entrepreneur to think?!? It is like kryptonite for your business mind - "the grass is always greener" complex.
I've been a little scattered recently too which isn't good for business either. Sept. is the start of our home school year. Each new school year brings new plans, conquests and challenges including lot's of questioning, responsibility and explaining yourself. It's not the most socially acceptable choice which adds another emotional layer to the transition.
Coming out of the busy summer is rocky. In this business our income drops by half and nobody is buying. Enter into the picture, the "soul-crushers". This is a series of gigs that are hard. You might have a handful of people to entertain for the night but most of the time you are publicly practicing, picking up your pay and hoping that your moral will pick up. The holidays are creeping toward me like this $$$$$$ and I'm are already feeling it, the stress of the winter months.
To top it off for me, Sept. 24th is when my Mom passed away. She isn't here with me. That means many things, too many. She is with me in my heart and I try to feel her strength everyday, but sometimes you want to have a cup of coffee and just talk and I can't. It should be pretty simple for a human mind but 6 years later I still get paralyzed missing her. Where I am today and where I was 6 years ago, there is a very stark difference. I can't look back on that time and be proud of how far I've come. I just look back there and hate it. I think I should be further along. I wish I could prod through life not feeling, but that is certainly not me. How do I take these intense feelings and creativity and put them to work? I've been trying for the last 3 years and I'm not going to stop trying.
I won't stop trying to continue to be a creative individual running my own business. But I'm going to stop being shy about how hard it is, how much help I really do need (because I don't know everything) and how much I really need positive support. Everybody needs it! I am running a small business. It might not be "successful" yet but I'm not stopping. I'm learning and I'm believing that the future is musical. And I'm not stopping! Did I say that already? I'll just keep saying it just to make sure I don't forget to keep going, no matter what.
Thanks for reading!
Interview with Kat Darling from The High Crest
How did you get started in music?
I always have loved music. All through school my music education continued. In college I became uninterested in the music other people wanted me to make and was introduced to a plethora of women singer/songwriters. This is when I began to pick up the guitar and write my own songs. After that I just knew that this was what I wanted to do. A few years later I met Aaron, my husband, and we played an open mic night at Java Joes. We booked our own show there and I remember so many people I loved showed up for that very first show. Pieta Brown and Bo Ramsey were playing a show next door that night, walked in and watched our show on their break. They had to hear me while I was super green, but even then it was cool. I feel the universe has continued to inspire me musically. Music became the way I could connect to the world around me and discover just who I was and where I was heading.
What are your current plans in music?
It is a constant balancing act of career, family, schooling and now traveling. As many people know, Aaron and I have sold our house and are now working to do music full time. The transition is slow with lots to learn. We kicked off making music full time in Feb. with the Folk Alliance International Conference in Kansas City. In October we head to the regional conference, Folk Alliance Regional Midwest – FARM.
What are your future plans in music?
Traveling and making music! Because we would like to be able to travel more next year we are really focusing on building relationships with venues and becoming a multi-faceted music machine including The High Crest Folk & Roll, Family Music and Aaron’s solo music. That way we have more opportunities for work along the way. Aaron has a solo project in the works and will be releasing some older recordings as well. The High Crest will be taking the fall to record our family album. We are still working out the details. I am super excited to be working on our family music. It is a huge part of the puzzle for us. I think we will see our world come together once we have released the CD and are touring with our family show.
Who is your biggest mentor?
Aaron Earl Short is my biggest mentor. We both say that we wouldn’t be doing this without each other. It is a really hard industry to be in, starting your own business full time, learning how to travel and play music, being a family…throughout the years it has been build, build, build. He hasn’t stopped believing once. Aaron is a musical powerhouse and sometime I want to see just how many hours in a row this man can play, maybe some sort of Guinness book of world records test! Watching his passion as he writes songs and creates music has been my biggest inspiration. He never stops and my job is to make sure that he never has to. Aaron taught me how to play a lead on the guitar. He stood beside me when I first began playing my songs on stage, something we used to call “feeding yourself to the wolves.” Through all the musical ups and downs he has been there for me reminding me that the music is more powerful and important than all of it.
I also need to include another mentor – my very good friend, Grant Baetz. I met Grant before Aaron. He saw my passion and began to listen to the music I was making; oh do I feel sorry for him! I remember the first Bobby McGee I ever sang for him, ouch! Not only did Grant listen but he began to help me find my voice. His talent on the keys is unmatched, in my eyes. He taught me so much and kept believing in me, even when I was the worst! Since then we have performed some awesome shows together and he will always be one of my favorites to perform with. Grant is a huge reason The High Crest is where we are today.
What band or concert left you a first and lasting impression?
The very first singer/songwriter performance I saw when I was 19 was Brenda Weiler. At that point in my life I had seen very few live music acts, being from small town Iowa and all. I saw her perform at a quaint little coffee shop in St. Joseph, MO. I had heard her CD but it didn’t compare to what it was like to see her perform live. This show was truly intimate and transformative for me. It was the moment when I began to want to be a singer songwriter.
Special Note to Wendy Hull (Wednesday's Notes creator) - Hey, thanks Wendy for loving music so much to get the back story. It is always great to see you out at the shows, posting about the shows and your Wednesday’s Notes. I know I am not alone when I say, Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!