An intimate moment for Sonoma County queer songwriters 

The Lost Church continues its mission of serving as the community stage in Santa Rosa with the Songwriters in the Round gig on March 24. Three queer singer-songwriters gather together at the same time, intimately connecting them with each other and the audience.

I connected with musicians Anne Carol Mitchell, Maya McNeil and RAD to understand what the music scene is like for them, and more generally for queer songwriters in a challenging time. 

What are the challenges facing queer performing artists?

RAD: Getting booked at venues, having a safe place to invite our community to, being seen in the music scene.

Anne Carol Mitchell (Brightdarkdawn): Sonoma County has a vibrant and gorgeous multi-generational queer community. However, I don’t see many of the local spots popular for music and performance uplifting the queer community. There are some great local places like the Brew open mic, The Lost Church and Petaluma Pride. I’d love it if venue owners would consider if what they are presenting is inclusive for not only queer artists but also BIPOC performers. 

Why is the event being done in the round? 

Mitchell: [Playing in the round] messes with the idea of who’s the performer and who’s the audience. It’s less about performing and more about sharing songs in a moment with others. The three of us put a lot of thought into how our songs would fit together, gravitating towards themes like identity, seasons, mystery, songs of seas. We also learned one song from each other to sing on.

Maya McNeil: In preparing for this show, I’ve been warmly reminded of pub sessions in Scotland, where the line between audience and performer is blurred because it’s a form of community gathering, with all ages and skills singing and playing [together]. 

How did you get started in organizing this event?

Mitchell: I met Maya and RAD through friends recently. It’s been incredible working with them. We’ve made a creative community together in preparing for this show. They are both radical and incredibly talented songwriters. 

Can you share a story about being queer in the music world?

RAD: I love playing queer community events. There are kids dancing and bopping around, and then one time when I was done playing they got on stage and started making up original songs and dances.

Mitchell: I wrote and performed music with poet Judy Grahn, whose work was integral to the queer liberation movements of the ’60s and ’70s. In 2008, Judy and I went on tour, and it was inspiring to see younger generations of queers discover the radical poetry of an elder in the queer liberation movement. 

McNeil: I’m not sure I would be in the music world if it weren’t for the queer creative community I first found my footing in a brilliant, kind and deeply inclusive artist community in Sacramento. The vulnerability of performing and being [truly] seen was held by all with care. 

Brightdarkdawn is a project of songwriter/composer Anne Carol Mitchell, a queer woman living in Sebastopol, cultivating food and community with her partner. 

Maya McNeil is a recording artist and healing arts practitioner in the San Francisco Bay Area. Their beyond gender binary/multi-genre debut album, ‘Waiting for the Light to Change’ is out this spring.

RAD is a queer, trans, brown farmer and folk punk playing original, ukealicious, multilingual love for the community.


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