Once upon a time, there was a girl who wanted to be a rock star. Okay, it’s me, but my name wasn’t Zen Greenway then. It was Kiyomi. At the time, there was no internet to speak of. No streaming music, no digital rights management, no 24-hour connection to anyone and everyone around the world. So there was no reason to worry that another musician had my name. And no way of really knowing.
I made music as Kiyomi from 1985 to 1996. I sang with bands, I played coffee houses and bookstores, I wrote and performed background music for a play, and I recorded a lot of original songs, some of which ended up on my one and only CD, Shelter (which I rereleased in 2014 as Zen Greenway). Then I decided that schlepping my equipment around and singing the same songs over and over wasn’t for me. I gave up trying to be a rock star.
At the time, I was supporting myself with office work which was enticingly stable, so I decided to pursue that. I was good at it. It paid tolerably well. And best of all, I knew where my next meal was coming from. I thought I was doing the reasonable thing. The responsible thing. But I didn’t bank on the fact that reasonable and responsible would not do what they said they would, namely give me adequate health insurance and let me save money for my old age. In fact, reasonable and responsible effed me royally. After awhile I felt I didn’t have the time or the energy to make music even for fun. I stopped entirely.
Life went on. Some of it was really good, because I ended up marrying the producer of Shelter and we are still the happiest couple I know. But we were both frustrated artists living in a wasteland of retail and office work that was about as fulfilling as coal tar.
In 2007, I started jamming with a bunch of guys called the Barnflies. They met in an old barn in the bass player’s back yard and just kind of fired it up. The personnel changed from session to session, the music we played changed depending on who was there, and it was … well, it was magic. I woke up there.
I learned that my music didn’t have to be this polished, static thing that I’d always worked so hard to make and maintain. It could change and shift. I could fit in with whatever was happening. I could make mistakes. Some of the best ideas come from mistakes. For a borderline perfectionist, that realization is a game changer.
I started writing music again. Since the guitar player who introduced me to the Barnflies was interested in doing some writing and home recording, I collaborated with him and his son (a preternaturally talented teen drummer). Again, the whole process was a paradigm shift for me.
I found that, rather than exhausting me, making music nourished me and became a way of staying connected with everything my office job was trying to kill. Music took back its rightful place in my life. Now I sing, I dance, I write. I do the hokey pokey and I turn myself around. (That’s what it’s all about.) And I’m never going to stop.
(If you’re looking for a more poetic take on who I am, read my Claimdisser.)