Women Making Music – Abby Bryant

Women Making Music – Abby Bryant

We’ve been “friends on Facebook” for the past few years, but we’d never met in person until a few months ago. We were invited to a mutual friend’s house with several other female musicians. Abby’s aura is warm and inviting. Everyone’s taller than me, but she’s a good bit taller. She bent down to keep me from having to stretch up for a lovely-to-meet-you-in-person hug, and a gesture like this is not lost on me.

Post release of Abby Bryant and the Echoes’ 13 track debut, Not Your Little Girl, she called me from the road for our interview. We began our conversation before a show they had that evening and she’s excited, blessed and grateful for the large audiences they’ve been attracting. 

My aim for this feature is to skip the incidentals. You can read her bio on her website. What I want to do is dig into each of the tracks on NYLG, giving my reaction to each one, and getting her responses to share with you. Abby agrees and clears us for take-off. 

The debut album is heavy emotionally, but throughout there’s hope, joy and liberation. “Challenges expressed in an inspiring way” is how she summarizes the crux of the record.

Track: Not Your Little Girl

P:  This feels like a celebratory liberation song; especially when the horns kick in.

A:  I wrote this song as I was first navigating the music industry. Especially because I’m young, I often hear conflicting voices spouting every type of opinion. I liberate myself from the opinions of others as best I can. This song is me finding my own voice in there. The horns especially express the positive take I’m going for just the same.

Track: Tried

P:  Confronting the conundrum of breaking up and how taking the high road is a good strategy when faced with questions from friends about the reasons why. 

A: Of the different facets of breaking up, the social piece of the break up is hard. When someone can’t control what you do or say anymore, they’ll respond to that by trying to control how other people see you. While that can be hurtful, time will reveal the truth as long as you stand there with integrity.  

Track: Better Now

P:  Now you’re feeling trust again. 

A: It’s about a mix of core people in my life. Allowing myself to trust means I allow myself to thrive. It’s also about my business partnership and longstanding friendship with Baily Faulkner (her co-founding friend, co-writing partner and lead guitarist). 

Track: When I’m Gone

P:  I’m inspired to call this an “exit” anthem. That trying to hold you back in any situation, only makes you want to break free. Here’s another example of you taking the high road with someone who’s been oblivious to accountability. While listening to this, I actually pictured you throwing open the storm door of your house, sauntering down the steps and onto a side walk, and as you stroll you begin boogying to the beat of your own song.

A:  What you’ve imagined is right on with what I was intending with this song. But I also hope people take what they’re hearing and imagine what they will, cause I’m okay with any interpretation. 

Track: Had To

P:  Being you, doing you is not a slap in the face to anyone. Sometimes you have to make decisions based on the natural next step in your life. 

A:  That’s very true. It’s about making tough choices and sitting in your own resolve about what you need to do in your own life, in your own career. But it’s also about the pain that comes in the aftermath of changing something that wasn’t working. 

Track: Hold Me

P:  It’s such a fine, melancholy groove. “That you’ll long for me, way after I’m gone” from the chorus struck me. That use of the word “way” really sticks with me. The vocal improvisation at the end too, was super compelling.

A:  We spent a long time on that ending with the backing vocals and it’s a special moment on the album. It’s about deeply connecting with someone even though circumstance and lifestyle can’t sustain it. It’s a song of longing and hoping I stay on that person’s mind.

Track: Roll with Me

P:  The first time I ever heard your band was from a YouTube video, and you’re performing this one live on the ‘Floyd Fest Bus Stop.’ I thought what an appropriate tune to choose to do on the bus! 

A:  (Laughing) I get happy just thinking about that bus stop recording session! We had just played to one of our biggest crowds when they invited us to play on the bus. We ended up winning the “artist on the rise” prize that year. It was a really big day for us; even more then I realized at the time. 

Track: Love Crush Blues

P:  I hear a double meaning on this one. It’s a revelation every bit as much as it’s an accusatory lament.

A:  It’s a song that describes a sort of pre-teen, preconceived notion that I was going to one day be magically swept away by love and romance. And I come to realize that that doesn’t necessarily happen for everyone. “If I want love, I can only love myself” is the bottom line.

The Last 3 Tracks

A: *Keep Moving is about our resilience and our determination as a band. *Time Wasn’t on Our Side is the most personal and vulnerable track. It’s a mournful acceptance of when things don’t align. 

*I’m Telling You has a jubilant groove. It contrasts the struggle with its joyful sound. It mirrors my personality. There’s a lot going on in my mind and there’s always a lot I could complain about but I’m also pretty good at laughing things off cause riding the highs and lows of this business is so crazy and it’s so easy to get caught up in that rollercoaster ride. It’s a tough skill to master, but the middle ground for me is laughing with my bandmates. 

Visit her website for tour dates and links to streaming platforms and to pre order the album: abbybryantandtheechoes.com 

Peggy Ratusz is a vocal coach, song interpreter, and songwriter.
For vocal coaching email her at
peggymarie43@gmail.com

Get Away Without Going Away

Get Away Without Going Away

Family vacations are a great way to bond and take a step back from the hectic schedules that accompany everyday life, but sometimes time or money (or both) make planning an elaborate trip a non-starter.

However, a staycation – a vacation you take right in your hometown (or nearby) – can be much less expensive and fit into nearly any amount of available time with the added bonus of skipping out on potentially stressful travel.

Consider these staycation ideas to take advantage of your local area’s attractions and prove you don’t have to go far to spend quality time together.

Visit local landmarks. Just because it’s not a traditional vacation doesn’t mean you can’t pretend to be tourists. Start by visiting the places you recommend to friends and family from out of town or pick up a city guidebook to uncover hidden spots you may not even know exist. Make a plan to seek out historic sites, visit local landmarks like museums or try an out-of-the-way restaurant (or two) you’ve never eaten at before.

Camp out in the backyard. Camping doesn’t have to be done far from home. In fact, it can be done right in your own backyard. Pitch a tent to sleep under the stars and plan a night full of traditional camping activities like roasting s’mores, telling spooky stories by flashlight and trying to identify stars and constellations.

Set up a picnic in the park. Pack a basket with sandwiches, fruit and other treats and head to the park. You can enjoy a casual meal then take advantage of the open space for a family walk or game of tag before retreating to the playground to let the little ones expel any leftover energy.

Have a home spa day. If you’re looking for some relaxation but don’t want to splurge on the full spa treatment, plan an at-home oasis instead. Light some candles, run a bubble bath and break out the facial masks and fingernail polish.

 Visit an amusement park. No matter where you live, there’s probably an amusement or water park within driving distance. A quick online search before you arrive can help prepare a strategy for hitting the most popular thrill rides and waterslides while skipping those that may not provide quite the same entertainment value.

Find more tips and tricks for enjoying family time together at eLivingtoday.com. 

Check Your Skin, Save Your Life – 6 simple steps to perform a skin self-exam

Check Your Skin, Save Your Life – 6 simple steps to perform a skin self-exam

While it might not be the first thing on your to-do list, prioritizing regular skin checks could save your life.

Though a trip to the gym wasn’t uncommon for John Ahern, the bruising he noticed after a particularly strenuous workout was unusual. Ahern’s board-certified dermatologist, Lindsay S. Ackerman, MD, FAAD, made a life-saving observation: the bruises indicated a severe blood issue. After testing, Ahern was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia.

Ahern’s story offers an important reminder to pay attention to the body’s largest organ and is one of many examples that show how the skin is a window to overall health.

“While bruising can be common, when it appears in unusual areas or in the absence of trauma, it can represent problems with other organ systems,” Ackerman said.

Performing regular self-exams can familiarize people with their skin and help identify areas of concern. For example, Yvonne Basil noticed changes to a mole on her toe and quickly scheduled an appointment with her board-certified dermatologist. After a same-day surgical biopsy, Basil’s dermatologist, Dr. Seemal R. Desai, MD, FAAD, confirmed it was melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Because of the early diagnosis and treatment, doctors stopped the spread and Basil is now cancer-free.

“While Yvonne’s melanoma was very serious, it could have been much worse had she not found the mole and quickly made an appointment with a board-certified
dermatologist,” Desai said.

Regularly checking your skin from head to toe can help catch skin cancer and other conditions early when they are most treatable. These simple steps recommended by the experts at the American Academy of Dermatology to perform a skin exam could help you detect a condition early:

Examine your body in a full-length mirror

Look at your underarms, forearms and palms

Look at your legs and soles of your feet and between your toes

Use a hand mirror to examine your neck and scalp

Use a hand mirror to check your back and buttocks

Take note of all the spots on your body, including moles, freckles and age spots

People of all skin tones should perform skin self-checks. When skin cancer develops in people of color, it is often diagnosed in its later stages, making it more difficult to treat. If you notice any new or suspicious spots on your skin, or any spots that are changing, itching or bleeding, make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist.

To learn more, visit SpotSkinCancer.org.

ABCDEs of Melanoma

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. However, when detected early, it is highly treatable. These warning signs can help you identify melanoma:

Asymmetry: One half of the spot is unlike the other half.

Border: The spot has an irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.

Color: The spot has varying colors from one area to the next.

Diameter: While melanomas are usually greater than 6 millimeters, or about the size of a pencil eraser, when diagnosed, they can be smaller.

Evolving: The spot looks different from the rest or changes in size, shape or color.

Did You Know?

Dermatologists are trained to diagnose, treat and manage more than 3,000 conditions of the skin, hair and nails. 

Put More You into Your Wedding Day

Put More You into Your Wedding Day

A wedding day is filled with symbolic tradition, from varied religious customs to the never-ending circle reflected in the rings and the types of flowers accentuating the celebration. Even with all the traditional rituals to consider, nearly every bride and groom can find ways to give their special day some unique touches that reflect their personality and love.

Music sets the mood for every wedding, and it’s an easy place to put your own spin on the celebration. Whether you forgo the traditional bridal march entirely or simply look for an arrangement that gives an updated twist to the classic version, let guests know this isn’t your average wedding by setting the festivities against a soundtrack that lets your true character shine.

The wedding party is intended to be a collection of those nearest and dearest to the bride and groom, who help ensure the day goes off without a hitch and who lead fellow revelers in celebrating the start of the new couple’s life together. That being said, there’s no reason this group must be limited to women on her side and guys on his, or even that it’s limited to humans – a beloved pooch can make for an adorable ring-bearer, after all.

Photography is an essential element of your big day, but think beyond the images you’ll capture throughout the wedding and reception. Photos lend a personal touch, no matter what your color scheme or theme. Integrate photos of the two of you at various stages of life, together as a couple and with loved ones (perhaps even some you’re honoring in memoriam). You can display these at a table with the guest book, as part of the table centerpieces, or even on the gift table. Or take things digital and load all your images into a slideshow set to music.

Make favors meaningful. Forgo more common items like bubbles and chocolate, and instead send a little of yourself home with your guests. Maybe it’s a memento from a place with special meaning to you both, or a bottle opener shaped like a bicycle to represent the way you met. Just think about the moments and things that define you as a couple and do some searching online. You’ll probably be surprised by how quickly the options pile up.

Serve up a menu that shows guests more about your life together. Your loved ones can order basic beef or chicken anywhere. Instead, give them a glimpse into you. Make your main course the same food you enjoyed on your first date or during another monumental moment in your courtship. Or plan the entire menu around a region that you hold close to your heart.

 Weddings are filled with traditions, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put your own touches on the day for a special event filled with memories that are uniquely your own. Find more advice for life’s special moments at elivingtoday.com.

Shifting Wellness Attitudes Shape 2022 Fitness Trends

Shifting Wellness Attitudes Shape 2022 Fitness Trends

In adjusting to the constraints of the pandemic, many Americans had to improvise where and how they work out. After months of adapting to a “gym anywhere” mentality and learning to accommodate more flexible workout schedules, this new fitness mindset is inspiring some larger trends for healthier living.

“We’ve learned that wellness is not one-size fits all, and that it’s achieved by small habits like regular hydration that can really impact how you feel throughout the day,” said celebrity fitness trainer Harley Pasternak, MsC. “Collectively, nourishing both body and mind together as one makes holistic health a sustainable lifestyle.”

Pasternak and the experts at Propel Fitness Water are forecasting five fitness and wellness trends to watch for in 2022:

Accountability Buddies

When gym closures ran rampant, folks leaned on others for inspiration to get moving, so it’s no surprise working out in pairs (or more) is a continued way to focus on fitness. Feelings of burnout may be common heading into 2022, so having a partner who gives you a healthy sense of camaraderie and competition can help push you to show up on days when you’d rather rest and stay committed to your goals. It also provides a sounding board when you need suggestions for nutritious recipes or fresh at-home cardio ideas.

Versatility in Gym Spaces and Schedules

When a large segment of the workforce started working from home, the rituals of before- and after-work gym visits fell by the wayside. People grew more accustomed to improvising where they work out, whether it was their neighbor’s garage, their living room or a running path in the city. As exercisers are less beholden to studio or gym schedules, the “gym anywhere” mentality is a level of flexibility many are holding on to, even as they ease back into more normal work routines.

Health in Small, Achievable Doses

This trend is all about recognizing health transformations don’t happen overnight, and even modest steps can make a big difference in how you feel throughout the day. One example is paying more attention to your hydration. If you aren’t properly hydrated, few other things tend to go right either. Small habits like throwing Propel Powder Packs into your gym, work or school bag can make a difference. Filled with enough electrolytes to replace what is lost in sweat, they are handy for on-the-go hydration and are easy to add to a water bottle.

Wellness Goals vs. Fitness

Committing to overall wellness is more about lifestyle changes than numbers like weight loss or muscle mass. People embracing this trend are forgoing numeric goals based on performance in the gym or on the scale and instead emphasizing outcomes that affect life, nourishing both body and mind together as one. Fitness goals are an essential component, but so is supporting your mental health as well as being cognizant of what you’re putting into your body. When each piece is well taken care of, your body is better able to work like a well-oiled machine.

Low-Impact Workouts

This year, walking treadmill challenges gained virality on social media, marking the increasing popularity of workouts that are low impact yet effective. Getting moving is the key, even if it means taking your tempo down. You don’t need to do hours of HIIT every day to see results. In fact, less time- and energy-intensive workouts are easier to sustain and can often yield the same, or better, results.

Find more hydration options and wellness tips at propelwater.com.

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