“What’s this podcast all about? Who’s it for?”
I’m sure those are some of the questions you have.
In this debut episode, I talk about my origin story a bit: the family and community members that influenced my growing-up years in Appalachian Kentucky, the artistic journey that brought me where I am today, the ups and downs of being a self-employed performer, and how my art informs my activism.
It can be overwhelming to look at all the problems in the world, and it’s easy to feel powerless. But I believe that we can inspire each other to use our voices and talents to make the world a better place, which is what this podcast is all about. I’m showing up to help you connect with your own source of creativity and keep you inspired to live your most juicy, authentic, and fulfilled life.
Oh, and you’ll want to listen until the end, when I share for the first time how a COLOSSAL disappointment was one of my biggest creative catalysts to date, and how it ironically helped me believe in myself like never before!
So, raise a glass with me and toast the beginning of the What Dreamers Do Podcast! Let’s jump right in!
Note: If you’d like to learn more about the organizations and groups I mention in the show, here are the links:
Appalshop Cultural Arts Organization
Cornbread & Tortillas Collective
CornMaiz String Band
Welcome to the what dreamers do podcast. I’m your host Carla Gover and Appalachian musician flatfoot dancer, mama creative and dreamer from kentucky. i’m on a mission to inspire others to realize their dreams and live their most creative lives. grab your mason jar full of sweet tea or something a little stronger, and pull up a chair, because it’s time to get your dream off. that’s what dreamers do.
welcome to the what dreamers do podcast. i’m your host, carla gover. and appalachian musician, leopard dancer, mama creative dreamer from kentucky. i’m on a mission to inspire others to realize their dreams and live their most creative lives. rabea mason jar full of sweet tea or something a little stronger? that will be because it’s time to get your drink.
that’s what dreamers do. how are you everybody? i’m karla grover, and i’m so excited to welcome you to the very first episode of this new podcast what dreamers do. to celebrate this launch, i wanted to share a bit of my own story and take a minute to introduce myself as your host. and let you know a little bit more about why i’m starting this podcast. i’ll start by saying that i’ve been a lifelong self employed musician, dancer, songwriter, artist, and educator. and one of the things i hear most from people is something like, oh, you’re so creative, i wish i could be more creative too. or, i’d love to be able to do the thing that i love for my job, or even sadly, i used to love to dance. but then my mom told me i had two left feet and i haven’t danced since i was eight years old. in my 30 years of working with students of all ages, as well as working with myself on my own creative journey, i have come to believe that every single person on earth has a unique gift to share. i believe that each one of us is born with a special purpose, even if it’s just showing up and being ourselves most authentically with the people around us each day. so if you come back and listen as the week’s go on, you can expect to find inspiration, my personal sharing about my insights and best practices for living a creative life. and some really stellar interviews with creative people who are living in alignment with their own dreams, and working to make the world a better place. because i want you to feel empowered and inspired and excited to bring your dreams to life in the world. but like i said, i need to step back and introduce myself because i know some of you are brand new around here. and this is our first chance to get to know each other, which i’m very excited about. so i want to back up and tell you a little bit about my creative journey, my life as an artist. and what brought me to this point in my career where i feel called to reach out to other creative and engage people who are living their dreams. so going back to the beginning, i was born in eastern kentucky in a coal mining town and i had deep relationships with my very large, extended family. i’m not 100% sure. but as best i can count, i have 31st cousins, and countless second, third cousins. i grew up with 12 aunts and uncles plus their spouses and living in a community that was steeped in music, dance, square dance and amazing folk stories. in my hometown, there was also a brilliant organization. i gotta give a shout out to them here. they were called apple shop, which i think really helped set me on my path because even as i was surrounded by this amazing culture, the apple shop through their community outreach, educational programs, radio station, we’re always encouraging those of us in eastern kentucky, especially the youth to take control of the narrative about appalachia to tell our own stories, as a counterpoint to a lot of the exaggerations and stereotypes and let’s face it outright lies that are perpetuated by the mass media about our region.
as the years have gone by, the seeds that apple shop planted have become even more important to me in the work i do. because i believe it’s really important to help not only change the perspectives of how the world sees us here in kentucky, but also to help other kentuckians like myself, and especially the younger people, to stop internalizing the narrative that mass media tells about us because when the world keeps telling you that you’re backwards and ignorant and things like that it can become a self fulfilling prophecy. and there is a lot of brilliance, talent and deep, deep culture here in kentucky. and i’m also going to be sharing that with you guys as well in future episodes. another strong influence for me as an artist is that at home, my parents were both incredibly supportive and gave me the message from a young age that i could do whatever i wanted to do. now, they weren’t perfect people and they had their problems and struggles. but i will be eternally grateful that when it became clear that i was drawn towards the artistic path, shall we say, they were both completely on board from day one. they never encouraged me to get a backup plan or to do anything other than what my heart directed me to do. and i believe that that’s one of the things that helped me dive in headfirst, and become a professional artist from the get go. so i wound up getting a music scholarship to the university of kentucky. i got a degree in appalachian studies and spanish and when i graduated, my first big act as an artist was to make an album of bluegrass and old time music that i learned growing up in eastern kentucky. in the course of making that album, i met some incredible bluegrass musicians, old time musicians. and i was also invited to become part of a touring appalachian dance and music ensemble based in the washington dc area, which was founded by tennessee native aileen carson. i only stayed with that group for a year and a half. but during that time, i learned so much about touring, performing being on stage. and i also made a lot of valuable connections. i was so homesick. and i really wanted to come back to kentucky, and work and perform in the state using the state as my home base. and i met a musician from berea, kentucky, started hanging out with him. and we eventually got married, had a band had two daughters. we toured together for 12 years. so we’re not together as a couple anymore. but our two daughters are now both musicians. and that’s been a fun part of the journey of being a musician and a mom was raising kids that are also expressing themselves creatively. after the breakup of that band and relationship, i found myself at a little bit of a loss. and i came to realize one of my biggest challenges as an artist, which is that while it’s pretty easy for me to promote groups i’m in or performance as i’m doing with other people. it’s hard for me to promote myself. but we live in a capitalist society. and it’s necessary to make money in order to survive in this world. and one of the ways that we have to do that is through promoting ourselves. if you’re going to have a sustainable career in the arts, and you don’t have an awesome manager straight out of the gate, which most of us don’t, it’s a skill that you have to learn. so i worked on it, and i had a few more important collaborations. i wound up co creating a bilingual folk opera with my current life partner Yani Vozos and members of his fusion band appalatin, and that ensemble is called cornbread and tortillas. we work together to perform and teach about the diversity present in appalachia, latin america and kentucky, and share stories that show the similarities and differences between the cultures and celebrate it all.
look at busan. song, school challah dance you also have a string band with my daughter and her husband, and my partner Yani Vozos and we play kentucky string band music. i’m in several ensembles. but up until recently, i was really struggling with promoting myself still, i’m not going to go into all the reasons why it’s been so difficult for me. but i will say that i definitely come from a culture where humility and modesty are prized and where bragging on yourself is kind of a no, no. so i’ve had to work with those ideas a little bit. and i’ve also had to learn how to believe in myself. so i’m going to tell you about one more important thing that happened that was truly a catalyst for one of the most creative and productive years i’ve had as an artist in my life, which was 2020 strangely enough. so what happened is that in 2019, i was nominated at the beginning of the year for this big humongous fellowship in the arts. it was a national contest. it had a huge cash prize, tons of prestige and recognition and you could only be selected by an anonymous nomination process. and just getting nominated was a huge deal. like, it’s really exclusive. and then there was this process once you were nominated, that you had to go through in order to be considered. so you accept the nomination. and then you have to prepare your resume is an artist, which is really a special kind of resume. and then i had to prepare a portfolio of my work. and i had to write artist statements and new bios. and basically, it was one of those, this is your life moments, because, you know, i hadn’t really sat down and looked at all the stuff i’ve done, the festivals, the workshops, the projects, the fellowships, and so forth. so just the act of doing that, and imagining that i might win this huge fellowship, it was a huge deal. it’s difficult for me to convey. but what happened is that i began to shift the way i thought about myself, i was shifting the way that i perceived myself. and this is really powerful. of course, anytime you start reading a self help book, or listening to an audio meditation, or listening to a new age, guru or teacher, and you know, i do that sometimes, one of the things they always talk about is how powerful our thoughts are, and how we have to reach those deep levels of our subconscious mind to change habitual negative thoughts, or habitual limiting thoughts, in order to experience a different reality. well, for whatever reason, being nominated for this award was causing some of that stuff to happen for me on a deep level. and i had to wait. it was like a nine month process from when i was nominated to when they made the announcements, and then it got delayed even more at the end. but i was just sure, i knew in my bones that i was going to win it, i could just feel it like, this is my time. and you know what, i didn’t win it. i did not get the award. and of course, you know, i was disappointed when i when i heard the news, but at the same time, it didn’t negatively affect me, as much as i might have predicted. because i had started to think of myself as somebody, i have started to take myself seriously as an artist, as an activist as a world changer as somebody who is worthy of using her voice. and speaking up and sharing her opinions and sharing her creative perspectives. i mean, i’ve been doing this for almost 30 years now professionally, and making a living at it and raising three kids. but somehow, that really deep seated belief in myself had been elusive for me. so that was a really profound experience that whole process. but you guys know what happened next, right. covid hit. and like so many other musicians and artists and other industries, i watched every single job i had worked so hard to book and send out contracts and plan and tours, it all went away. within the course of two weeks, every single thing i had on the calendar cancelled. and i took a week or so to just regroup and freak out a little bit and vent to my fellow artists. it was it was a really shaky time. and i know a lot of you know what i mean, a lot of people felt it in their own way,
in their own places, and that’s over and above all of the people that were getting sick and dying. but instead of giving into despair, i had my little freak out and then i dove in headfirst more than ever before. how can i make a living? how can i reach people? how can i help other people get through this? so i started writing emails to my email list. i started offering classes and courses online, i started reaching out to people answering messages, answering emails, really connecting with people one on one and even though it wasn’t electronic means it felt very real to me and significant. and i think it felt real to the people that i was communicating with as well. i eventually wound up creating a digital dance course in appalachian flat footing and clogging. that was pretty much the culmination of everything i’ve learned about the art form over my entire life. and it’s been a really successful project for me in that it’s enabled me to keep earning a living during the pandemic and also get wonderful students from all over the world. and i have treasured, getting to know them and the relationships that i have have developed with them. during this time, i’ve also written some music made some videos and those little breaks we had when we could gotten public and i’ve taken this time of restriction and loss and made the best of it, and i feel really, really grateful for that. and ultimately, that’s the journey that brought me here to do this podcast because i love music. i love connecting with other creative people. i love dancing, i love art. i love journaling. i love poetry, i love spirituality, i love cooking, i love homemaking, gardening, canning, preserving an appalachian culture. so you are liable to hear any and all of those subjects addressed on this podcast. and ultimately, i’m going to bring it back to you. because you are the reason i’m doing this. i want you to feel creatively fulfilled. i want you to feel inspired. and i want you to feel excited to go out there and live your dreams. heck, i just want you to feel excited to get out of bed every day. another still so much going on that we have to contend with. and i’m not minimizing that. many of us have lost loved ones during this pandemic. we have issues like climate change, human rights, women’s rights, systemic racism, all these things are real, and we’re all facing them. i believe that if we’re using our gifts, our talents, our skills, and even our privilege, to speak about dream about write about draw about dance about the changes that we want to see in the world, then we’re becoming part of the solution instead of remaining part of the problem. so what i want to leave you with is this. your dreams are important. your skills are needed. your voice is powerful. and i can’t wait to get to know you better and hear how you’re navigating your creative journey because after all, that’s what dreamers do.
thank you so much for joining me this week. if you want to make sure you never miss an episode. please hit subscribe wherever you’re listening now. or visit my website to get on my email list at www.carlagover.com. when you sign up, you’ll instantly receive my mountain mama digital care package, a bundle of music and videos to help you wring every drop of the heart of life. you’ll even find a dance lesson as well as my granny’s cornbread recipe with new goodies being added all the time. i’ll see you next thursday on the wet dreamers do podcast
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Carla is currently based in Lexington, KY, ancestral lands of the Adena, Hopewell, S’atsoyaha (Yuchi), Shawandasse Tula (Shawanwaki/Shawnee), ᏣᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱ Tsalaguwetiyi (Cherokee, East), and Wazhazhe Maⁿzhaⁿ (Osage) nations.
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