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!
Doing an 80/35
by Kat Darling from The High Crest
Throwing these numbers around can be dizzying, especially when you are a musician. It might have even been a little surprising to be at 80/35, even for us. After a 10 year stretch for me and about 20 years of playing music in Des Moines for Aaron, we both found ourselves performing at one of the largest music festivals around – 80/35. How did we get here? We aren’t in Des Moines any more Toto!
And yet we were here, right in the heart of Des Moines, IA rocking out to some of the biggest bands, the most rockin’ hardworking locals and more music fans then I thought was even possible to fit into downtown. We were right there in the middle of this huge celebration of music in our home city. And better yet, we were playing it. Our name was on the schedule and being accessed by over 30,000 music lovin’ people.
I bet a lot of them were asking the question, who is The High Crest? I know I was asking who was on this line up and what did they sound like. This was our very first time experiencing 80/35. Summers are almost always booked full so our schedule never allowed us to line up attending 80/35. It is two days of straight up of non-stop really loud music. I loved it! Power to the music!
The major acts drew huge crowds. Wilco and Weezer were the end of the night headliners but so many more very popular groups were scheduled through out the day. You didn't know who or what you were going to see next? There was this feeling that someone just popped the lid off a container of crazy.
Two free stages allowed access to anyone and that is where The High Crest performed. Each stage had such a variety of music that sometimes you'd get music genre whiplash, but this effect also added to the fun. We also got to play Iowa Public Radio Studio One Stage. Love that crew! For an event like this you have hundreds of tireless and passionate people working hard to create this musical dream. It was an honor to be a part of this event.
Top two photos by Jeremy Kim
The picture I took right after we got done playing on the Nationwide Stage
Wilco in Des Moines, Iowa
Aaron and Abileen enjoying Wilco
Feeling good before our set on the Nationwide Stage at 80/35
16 Reasons I WILL go to the Iowa State Fair
By Kat Darling from The High Crest
1. The Music - I go to see the FREE music and every year my band, The High Crest, performs on one of the newly renovated free stages. The High Crest will perform again on Monday Aug. 17th at Noon on the Bud Light Stage. The free stages keep the entertainment running all throughout the fair. You have dancing, music, and street performers from local, regional and touring acts. I’m not a huge fan of the Grandstand selections but they always draw a crowd.
2. The Eastside – Yep, come to the fair because it is on the Eastside of Des Moines and there is nothing you can do about it. This is the time of the year when the eastside just blows up. Even the night before, families are prepping this side of town for parking, vending and more, all so you can park close and have fun at the fair. This is the best the Eastside’s got, so quit using it to slam the state fair.
3. Food On a Stick – There is a reason it is on a stick. Have you ever walked around in the 90 degree Iowa heat trying to eat anything? It isn’t easy. Food that is easy to hold for any age, in any capacity, is brilliant. We are not talking gourmet, here, just fried yummy easy to eat food.
4. Iowa Craft Beer – How about Iowa craft EVERYTHING! The Iowa State Fair is the best Iowa’s got to share with you.
5. The Heat – It’s Iowa! You are really going to let the heat deter you from enjoying the fair!? Don’t let it. There are many cool spots to stop and take a break. You are not going to see the whole fair so let these cool air-conditioned spots help your opinion of your trip. Drink lots of water and just sit back and watch the fair roll by you.
6. Free stuff - Free entertainment, free goodies for the kids, giveaways…so many companies are advertising for you at the state fair. Grab a bag and fill it up!
7. The Animals – If it smells like the fair, it must be the fair! So many Iowa families work hard all year round to represent at the State Fair. I tip my cowgirl hat to all that have dedicated themselves and wish them a great showing. Good luck on winning that Blue Ribbon/ Best of Show!
8. 4-H Projects and the Arts – What creativity!!! Competing to show at the fair isn’t easy. Over 1,000s of people of all ages compete. The winners are a great cross section of Iowa’s talent.
9. The Butter Cow – Imagine the time and passion to keep this piece of Iowa’s history alive! One woman is crafting this cow every year and she is really cool (and not just because she has to work in the walk-in cooler). We got to meet her!
10. Iowa History – Iowa’s years past are featured all over the fair. Learn a little bit about this great state of Iowa. It is fantastic!
11. The Classic Rides – I love riding down the sky glider from the top of the hill toward the midway at sunset, Des Moines sky line in the distance, lights from the midway, rocking high above the crowd, in a little moment of peace. That is my state fair moment.
12. The Volunteers and Staff – It takes a village! Even though there are 1,000s of people streaming through the gates, somehow these people remain friendly and helpful, all to make this huge event run smoothly.
13. Family and Friends – It is a time to come together for all ages. After walking through the crowds you might find yourselves apart, but there are plenty of familiar landmarks where you can reconnect.
14. The Fair Grounds – This huge area is opened and staffed all year round. It is always being renovated and updated. Its campground, during the fair, hosts 2,400 campsites (with expansion in the future) and has 500 people on their waiting list to get in. It is a true Des Moines landmark.
15. The Pain – You will come out of the state fair bearing some sort of pain: sunburn, blisters, headache, etc. You’ll be dusty and dirtier than you could’ve imagined and your skin will salty and your shirt will be wet from the sweat. But you will have done it – You survived the Iowa State Fair! And you can do it again and again for 11 days in a row.
16. Iowa State Fair Passion - You can’t help it! If you love it, you love it. And there are plenty of people who love it, so if you don’t…don’t feel bad about yourself or feel sorry for the people who love it. We know what we are getting into and that is the fun of it!