Philadelphia – Nov 22 2020

SUN, NOV 22 AT 12 PM EST
Valley Green InnPhiladelphia, PA

It’s getting cold outside, but I’m hoping for a couple of more outdoor, socially distanced events before we go into lockdown again.

This time my co-hostess in Lia Alaniya, and we are meeting up at noon on Sunday directly in front of the Valley Green Inn. FYI, there is no cell coverage inside the park, so if this is your first time, please contact either me or Lia Alaniya for parking info, etc.

We will decide which trail to take when we see how crowded the park is, and what the ground conditions are, so be prepared for any terrain (though most are easy).

Dogs and children welcome :).

Sherry {philadelphia (at) eurocircle (dot) com}

Houston – Nov 26 2020

Friendsgiving potluck

Thursday, November 26, 2020 at 3 PM

 

Potluck with social distancing and masks.
November is still amenable for picnics. Please join us on Thursday (November 26) for a Friendsgiving picnic We will meet at the park across from Menil Drawing Institute on West Main and Loretto. ( 1412 W Main St Houston, TX 77006)
Please bring food, drink, fold out chair/ blanket.
Weather forecasted to be partially sunny. All social safety guidance rules will be followed

CONTACT Shahla houston@eurocircle.com  OR directly here at the forum

Shahla  https://forums.eurocircle.com/profile/162251-shahla-h/

Philadelphia Nov 09 2020

Philadelphia Freedom- A Socially Distant, Masked, BYOB Sunset
Hosted by Sherry Mila and EUROCIRCLE Philadelphia (Europeans in Philadelphia)
Monday, November 9, 2020 at 4 PM – 7 PM EST

Happy Hour!

The sun is setting at 4:50 pm, and Monday is the last warm weathered day! Sorry for the short notice, but Philly people have so much to celebrate!

Join me for a masked, socially distanced, BYOB happy hour! If you haven’t been here before, the party is on my front lawn. Bring a picnic blanket, your own food and bottle (no sharing), wear a mask, gloves preferred, no double dipping, bring your camera, and enjoy the Happy Hour!

If anybody has battery powered lights, or charged solar lights bring them because it gets dark early!

We need all the cheer we can get. Let’s celebrate America, say thanks to Philly, and our NYC welcome our long-quarantined NYC friends! You have a long drive back :).

But please join me, and my co-hostess Argjenta Orana. We know it’s early, but if you want to see us while the sun is still out, please arrive as early as you can (or message us).
facebook.com/events/488805315338051/
Sherry Mila & Argjenta Orana
Eurocircle Philadelphia
email Sherry at philadelphia (at) eurocircle (dot) com

My First Six Months Living in Helsinki by Audrey @ LaxHel

It is such a pleasure to introduce to Audrey who moved to Helsinki in 2019. LAXHEL is a blog about her journey moving to Finland, the fascinating differences between living in LA and Helsinki, and life living abroad… and featuring her French bulldog, Rambo.   Audrey has over a decade of experience with doing marketing for LA-based tech companies who have an international presence. Having experience in marketing/ content marketing (in tech) with native English skills is a very marketable skill in Finnish job market so she had no problem getting a workpermit.

I also enjoyed reading Audrey’s article about Finland’s COVID-19 situation. I am so happy they have been doing so well despite of having no huge lockdowns for months and no mandatory masks (recommendation exist of course and Finns tend to be very careful by nature. We are no “kiss-kiss” nation.
THE CORONA BUBBLE IN FINLAND AND DEALING WITH BEING HOMESICK

It has been about half a year now since I’ve moved to Helsinki. It’s my first time living somewhere with actual seasons, and the leaves turning is truly a beautiful thing to see during the autumn. Although I get super homesick and I miss the LA weather, it hasn’t been as hard to adjust as I had imagined. But then again, winter hasn’t come yet, so ask me again in a couple of months.

I think a few reasons why it hasn’t been terribly hard to adjust is because the architecture of Helsinki is really modern, it’s a small city that’s easy to get to know, everything works well, the quality of life here is really high, and most people speak English, so it doesn’t feel like such a foreign country. But don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been a walk in the park either. I miss my friends and family immensely and it took some time to make my own friends here. Also, just because people speak English, doesn’t mean anything is written or spoken in English. So let’s just say I have to rely on copying movements in gym classes and my grocery runs take extremely long, since I’m constantly using the Google translate app camera function. By the way, Google translate for Finnish – 60% of the time, it works every time.

But in all seriousness, I feel so lucky to have the chance to live in another country and continent, actually. I’m learning so much and just trying to soak it all in and appreciate every new experience and learning. All I’ve ever known is my LA and Orange County bubble. The rest of the world is doing things differently but here’s what I’ve learned about Helsinki so far…

Top 10 Reasons I Enjoy Living in Helsinki

      1. Free Healthcare – Basic healthcare is free, and even covers dental work. Most companies also provide additional private healthcare insurance at no cost to the employee. If health is wealth, then I’m set for life here.
      2. Free Education – Meanwhile, I’m still paying for my grad school loan while Finns can get their PhD for FREE 99!
      3. So Damn Safe – People even leave their €1000+ Bugaboo strollers outside WITH the baby inside, because apparently the cold air is good for babies and can often help them sleep. But more importantly, people don’t fear their children getting kidnapped. I couldn’t even walk home alone from school, which was only a few blocks away. Here you see elementary school kids on public transportation alone, it’s wild! Oh wait, I guess that’s the opposite of wild.
      4. Public Transportation – Speaking of public transportation, there is no need to have a car in Helsinki. The public transportation here consists of trams, subways (called the Metro here), and busses. It costs €60/month for an unlimited pass, which my work paid for. So basically my transportation costs are €0, except the occasional Uber, taxi, or electric scooter. In LA with a car payment, gas, auto insurance, and tons of Ubers whenever I was having drinks, I’m sure I easily spent $1000/month just on transportation alone!
      5. 5 Weeks of Holiday (vacation) – It’s the law to get five weeks of vacation in Finland, no matter what company you work for. In California, an employer is not required to provide paid-time-off under California vacation law, although most companies provide at least 2 weeks as a job benefit. 2 weeks sounds like a joke to me now. No wonder Americans are so stressed and get burnt out easily.
      6. Work Life Balance & Benefits – The generous vacation speaks to this, but in addition, I don’t often see Finns work overtime. At the company I worked for, they paid for my cell phone which can be used for personal use as well, but it wasn’t mandatory to answer any work related emails or calls outside of work hours. Most companies also provide a lunch card, where they cover 25% of your lunch (up to €10.50) which encourages employees to go out for lunch, especially with colleagues. Lastly, most companies also provide a sports and culture benefit of up to €400/year, which can be used for gym memberships, movie tickets, concerts, etc. So far I’ve used mine for an annual museum pass (€60), rock climbing, and pilates classes.
      7. People are Smart – Everyone knows at least two languages. And the water cooler talk here is rarely about TV, the latest fashion trends, or celebrity gossip. Instead they’re about things like the “Third Industrial Revolution”. Sometimes I feel like Finns are more in tune with what’s going on politically in the US than the average American.
      8. The Library is Cool – Finland is the most literate country in the world and publishes more books per capita than any other country, except Iceland. On average, every Finn buys 4 books and borrows a dozen from the library each year. So, yup it’s definitely cool to read and hang out at the library. I’ve started reading way more and have read about 1-2 books per month since I moved here. Also, how could you not want to hang out at Oodi, our central library? Besides the beautiful architecture of the building, this library holds concerts, has music studios and instruments that you can book, an urban workshop for the DIYers like me (soldering station, laser cutter, and sewing machines included) and even digital gaming rooms. It was also voted as 2019 World’s Best New Library.
      9. Nature & Foraging – Finland has a concept called ‘Everyman’s right’. It allows everyone to roam freely in nature, eat, and pick berries and mushrooms anywhere in forests. Our fridge always has a supply of homemade berry juice, berry jelly, frozen berries & chanterelle mushrooms from Kimmo’s family forest. Also, you can camp out overnight in a tent, vehicle, or boat, as long as this causes no damage or disturbance to the landowner.
      10. Island Hopping – I love that Finland is like one big forest surrounded by the Baltic Sea. Our apartment is along a canal, and I walk Rambo by the ocean every day. There’s something so calming about just staring into the waters and feeling that ocean breeze. Finland has over 180,000 lakes and almost as many islands! I can take a 10 minute ferry or cross a bridge and be on a new island. There’s even a Dog Island for Rambo and a Zoo on an island. It’s such a nice way to get out of the city, hike in a forest, have a picnic, and even go foraging!

    Top 5 Favorite Finnish Home Things

    1. Magic Cupboard – In every kitchen, there’s a specific drying cupboard above the sink where you put clean dishes to dry. The water drops down to the sink. Ok so it’s not magical but it’s freaking genius!
    2. Sauna – If you didn’t know, Finns invented the sauna, so it’s a big part of the culture here. We have one in our bathroom. Until I came to Finland, I always thought a sauna was basically an electrically heated wooden room. I was wrong! A real sauna should have stones (heated by a wood fire or electrically) that you throw water on to create steam. The more water you throw on the stones, the more steamy and intense it gets. I was on the fence about it at first, but now we have “Sauna Sundays” at home. There are so many benefits to the sauna. It helps you recover from an intense workout, flush out toxins, relieve stress, and get a good night’s sleep.
    3. Butt Washers – Ok, they’re not called that, I made that up. I’m actually not sure what they’re really called, but I love them, and Americans need them! No more using baby wipes or wetting toilet paper, only so they can rip into shreds in your butt as you wipe.
    4. Heating – Every time I step into our apartment, it always seems to be the perfect temperature, except on the rare occasion it gets really hot, because we don’t have AC, like most homes in Finland. Over 90% of Finnish apartments are connected to a district heatingnetwork, which is part of the rental agreement as a fixed cost. District heating supplies heat from a combined heat and power (CHP) plant directly to buildings through a network of pipes carrying hot water. This means the buildings do not need to generate their own heat on site. With CHP, Helsinki saves so much energy compared with separate property-specific heating produced by condensing electricity that it would heat up to 500,000 detached homes each year.
    5. Own Blankets – I’m a little on the fence about this one because I love snuggling and playing footsies. But… not fighting over the blanket, not waking up to the blanket being pulled off of you, and Kimmo’s favorite, being able to wrap yourself like a burrito, are reasons why this one made the list.

    Finnish Things I’m still Getting Used to:

        1. Light (too much & too little) – During the longest summer nights, the sun doesn’t go down until almost midnight. But during the winter, there might only be a couple hours of daylight. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is definitely a thing here, so I’m loading up on Vitamin D pills and having coffee in front of my happy (aka SAD) light. If you’ve never heard of one, these therapy lamps mimic sunlight to enhance mood, energy, sleep, and focus – but without the UV rays
        2. No tipping – Since I’ve worked in the food service business, it has always been ingrained in me to tip. In Finland, and most of Europe, it’s not customary to tip, unless you get exceptional service, and even then it’s not required.
        3. How small it is – Although Helsinki is the capital and biggest city in Finland, it’s still pretty small. The population is about 630k (LA is 4 million) so even though I only know a handful of people here, I still run into people all the time. To give you some context, the day I moved here, I ran into 2 people I knew during the train and tram ride from the airport to the apartment. And at that time I knew like 10 people! Back home in LA, I could meet someone, and never see them again for the rest of my life.
        4. The language – Like I mentioned earlier, everything is written in Finnish. The second official language of the country is actually Swedish. So most signs are in Finnish and Swedish, which doesn’t help me either way. I started taking a Finnish course twice a week, and boy is it hard. Besides the words being ridiculously long, and there being a hundred different ways to say something, I find it confusing that there is no intonation. The language sounds pretty monotone, since your tone should always go down at the end of a sentence, even if it’s a question or has an exclamation point at the end. You can imagine how hard this is for an animated speaker like myself.
        5. No small talk – Finns don’t like small talk and I actually appreciate this. Meetings tend to start and end on time since you don’t spend the first 10 minutes small talking. And if you ask a Finn how they are, be careful because they might actually tell you.

      My current fall & winter morning routine with a happy light, vitamin D pills, and my Finnish language course textbook.

      So that’s what I’ve learned during my first six months living here. I’m not sure I agree that Finland is the happiest country in the world (more about Finns in a future post) but it probably has the highest quality of life. Stay tuned for the next six months…

    This article was originally written by Audrey and published in Oct 2019 on Audrey’s blog  called  LAXHEL

. Make sure to check her blog out!!

Denver – Oct 03 2020

EUROCIRCLE DENVER SOCIAL DISTANCING PICNIC

Friends, we are meeting up in Wash Park this Saturday afternoon for a Social Distancing Picnic ❤🍀 People should wear a mask when less than 6 feet apart. There won’t be any policing of rules so everyone who is uncomfortable or unsure should not attend.

Friends, we are meeting up tomorrow early afternoon for a Social Distancing Picnic. 🌸🌸🌸Please bring a blanket or Chair, and your own food and drinks (no food sharing due to Covid).

Location: Meeting point is the lawn right next to the Picnic Area 3A (you will see Grills, Tables and Benches, we will be on the grass close by) which is right across the Basketball Court and next to a Play Ground.
Please take a look at the map and the circled area! Also, there are restrooms close by! Feel free to bring Badminton, Volleyball or other fun games! Wearing gloves when playing is encouraged but not enforced. Please be respectful and wear your mask when approaching someone less than 6 feet apart.

How to attend: Please send me a direct message for the exact time of the event and to let me know you are coming. Please DO NOT message me if you are unsure about attending.

This is going to be fun and I am so happy to finally see many of you again after so many months❣️ See you there 🥰

Email denver (at) eurocircle (dot) com

Demir Demirkan “Brings It On” with his music – Part 2

We had the pleasure to chat with Demir Demirkan, a 25+ year veteran Turkish singer-songwriter/guitarist.

Beginning at age 19, Demir Demirkan has produced and released close to 50 solo and collaborative albums and singles ranging from blues, rock, metal to film and TV series soundtracks composed for symphony orchestras, choirs and Anatolian instruments.
His life and career has been a journey igniting from Turkey, through Europe and to Austin, Texas – USA where he now resides with his wife and son.

His latest works reveal that he is back into where his roots are, Metal.

While building his career from ground up in Istanbul, he recorded and performed with Turkish musicians and bands mainly as a member of the Turkish Heavy Metal band The Pentagram a.k.a. Mezarkabul. Internationally, he recorded and performed with world-renowned names like Mike Stern, Al Di Meola, Dave Weckl, Trilok Gurtu, Omar Hakim and Phil Galdston to name a few. However, you likely now him best for the only Turkish song that won Eurovision Song Contest, Demir composed that song for his girlfriend at the time, Sertab Erener. Sertab Erener is a pop singer whose first album sold over 1 Million copies.

This interview is PART II. Part I was published a few weeks ago. Read more

Demir, can you tell us what brought you to professional musician/composer/producer career path?

I started playing at 12 and my first band was in high school when I was about 17 years old.
I was learning how to write songs and arrange them to the band and write lyrics and play guitar because I started with the acoustic guitar, and then I switched to the electric guitar.

I was going to come to the United States and study business. That didn’t happen because when I applied for that visa, I was denied.
I had to stay in Turkey and study something else. I could speak English. I was really good at writing stuff like songs and stuff like that – the literature. I had a chance to attend a college in Ankara to study English literature and humanities, so that’s what I did.

I met a lot of other musicians there and there was a conservatory. I made friends, formed different bands. I met my bass player friend from the band Pentagram, the first professional metal band ever recorded in Turkey. We still go on by the way.
In an odd way that visa setback turned me on to making professional music. I realized it is s possible to make a living in music IF you’re good. I wanted to be better – non-stop. I would practice eight or nine hours every day. Every day. I got better and better. Finally, I told my father that, “Okay, I’m going to be a professional musician.” The problem was that my older brother said the same before me.

Oh no, how did that go…what happened to your brother.

He came to the United States to study in conservatory. He dropped out after two years. He kind of got lost. He has perfect pitch. My father thought if your brother wasn’t able to do this, you’re never going to make it because you don’t have his talent, right?

I’m like, “Well, this is what’s going to happen.” They supported me as they sensed that whatever they say I’m just going to take my way. That’s how I came to Los Angeles.

I attended a school called Musicians Institute in Hollywood Guitar Institute of Technology, GIT was the department. A pretty good education. I stayed in Los Angeles for four years and that’s how my whole professional story began.

Right before I came to Los Angeles, we recorded an album with that heavy metal band that I was talking to you about – the Turkish metal band, PENTAGRAM . We never thought it was going to be released. I landed in LA and after a month or so, I heard the news that somebody is releasing that album in Turkey. That’s a first. It was year 1992 and the band got to be a huge hit, obviously, in the metal circles.

After four years in LA I went back to Turkey in 1996. I went into production because I learned so much in LA as a musician.

I learned how to become a producer, a songwriter, a shredder guitar player, like really fast and flashy and I learned a bunch of other music. I played with African bands in LA, I’ve played with jazz musicians, I’ve played with metal musicians, I’ve played with rock musicians, whatever. I produced different singer-songwriter material.

With all that knowledge and know-how I came to Turkey. It took me a few months to rise up to the top and become a hit. A hit producer, a hit guitar player, a hit songwriter, and then things started picking up so fast.

I had never seen that much money in my life first of all. It was crazy. I always thought that the more attention I got, the more responsibility it laid on me. I had to be better and better. I wasn’t sleeping for three days for production. I would get sick at the end of it, but it all paid off in the end, right?

It was kind of like a race within myself. The more good work you put out there, the more you have to work to be better. If you produce a few hits, and write a few hit songs, and then write a few bad songs, you’ll be the flavor of the month and then disappear. If you want to be in that light all the time, you just have to do better and better and that takes its toll.

The hair was gone, long nights, endless days, a lot of partying, I have to include that. In the end, you build a foundation that cannot be shaken. You’re a part of the culture and you win Eurovision Song Contest. The only win (for Turkey), and you’re one of the most popular heavy metal bands, flashy guitar player. You have your hits that you sing. You have your film music. TV series music and all that so this whole chunk of work actually is embedded in the whole musical culture of Turkey, which is a good pay off for all that work that I’ve done, without all that sleep, you know.

So what drove you? Gary is as eclectic and as crazy as you are. He is always sort of “I don’t care. I’m just going to keep going until I make it happen.”

I never thought about that. Maybe it’s good that I never thought about it because if I had thought about it, I would just break the spell.
I think it was a very magical run. If I see magic somewhere, I don’t really ask questions about it because if you do the science of how that magic happens, I think it will ruin it. I didn’t really poke into some of the things that I thought were magical. Love being one of them. I learned this in my whole meditation circles.

The drive. I don’t know, maybe it’s a character. I’m the fifth sibling of a huge family, maybe I just wanted to stand out. Maybe it was too much responsibility. Once you do a good thing, you have to be better. Maybe I like the attention or the money or it could be anything. I don’t really look into it. I just did it. I didn’t really think about it.

There were things that I thought about and analyzed, and they failed really badly. If I put thought into something then, like a purpose, a target, an intention, like a preconceived result, to start one thing, and put that preconceived target, or aim or result, as the fuel of the work, I always failed, I have to admit.

There are some projects that I left unfinished. There’s been projects that came up and finally ended into something which sucked and a lot of things like that. I learned not to follow results that my mind produced, if I’m making sense. If I look at the market and say, “Okay, if I do this and that, and after three years, I could be at that point.”

See, this is really a studied guess and it might work in business, but in art, or arts-related businesses, I think it ruins the artists and the creativity. It did in my case, and I lost a lot of motivation. There were times when I took breaks. I didn’t know what to say to my audience or what kind of music to put out. I was still practicing playing, practicing in my room, in my studio. I didn’t want to write or release anything because I was kind of lost because of those preconceived works that I tried to do in that period.

I learned not to do that because that’s also kind of like ruining that magic. If you are authentic and find the spot in the audience, you don’t touch it, you don’t mess with it. You can’t find the person that you’re going to fall in love with and get married and have children with and make and build a family with. You cannot look for that person, that person will come to your life. If you go on dating sites and all that and start doing the dating circle or whatever, or find the person to have kids with, it won’t work. I mean, this is just too much mind. You have to let go and your subconscious or your soul or your spirit or your heart will find its way. It’s just like that in music too. Those kind of projects were successful.

What motivated you to write the winning Eurovision song for that singer in Turkey?

The singer was my ex-girlfriend Sertab Erener. I wrote and produced her records for years as we were together for 18 years. We did some really, really serious hit work.

Wow, 18 years is a long time.

it’s kind of like half of my life. I wasn’t going to write that song. I hate the idea of music being in a competition. I told her, “If you attend, don’t ask me to write any material because I don’t like my songs to go into competition.” The market is a competition in itself but deliberately writing a song to win something is a different story, right? And Turkey’s Eurovision history is not that bright.

Sertab was a huge pop star. So if she lost, if she came even second, that would have been a really bad thing for her career. if I backed out of it and the song didn’t win, I would feel responsible for my girlfriend. Finally, I wrote two songs. One of them was a ballad, and the other one was– You know, they liked the ballad, but she said, “Why don’t we write something that’s really, really easily graspable so people can relate to it. We can make it as Turkish as possible, as easy as possible and then we’ll take it from there. So that figure actually – [mimics music] – that figure is a phrase in a very traditional Turkish anonymous phrase. You can make any song with it.

I made that the first part of the song and then kind of went into the blues territory by going to the fourth degree. And then I wrote a big chorus to it. It worked out. At that time Destiny’s Child and Beyoncé and all that, they were really hot, and I said, “Why don’t we do this with a three-part harmony?” We did that and then I gave it to some other producer to produce the record and then it went to France and a duo named Galleon, they did the remix and the version of it that won the Eurovision Song Contest was the remix of it. So yeah, they went there and did the whole dancing choreography and all that. They did their publicity, and that was the only win of Turkey in Eurovision history, 2003.

So how long were you with your girlfriend after she won?

Oh, until 2015 or 14 and something. So yeah, many years after that. I was 31 and she was 39

Did you feel at that point that in Turkey, that was a height of your popularity or did that success open up new horizons for you?

I quit music right after that for about six months to a year. I didn’t know what to do with the idea of being a name in popular music. I am more from a rock and metal background. I was doing the pop productions, songwriting stuff, hit producing because I was with my ex. She was a pop star.

I was financially doing really good too. I was doing the solo rock / metal stuff on the side but producing a lot of records in pop and writing love songs in the pop genre. And, having won the Eurovision and all that, it kind of places you in the mainstream pop genre. I didn’t know what to do with that. And all my friends were like, “All right, man, it’s time to come out with a new record. You’re hot, just go out there.” I moved out of Istanbul and moved to Bodrum and started living there and just forgot about music for a while and it was a great time. I partied really hard there.

Finally, my manager at the time says, “Okay, well, why don’t we do a record?” I said, “Look, if I want to make a record, I’m going to release it from my own company because I don’t want a record company person coming to me and asking me to make it ‘poppy-er’ or whatever because that’s the story of my life.” Somebody from the company just walks into the studio and says, “Hey, these are really great, but can you make it a lot more ‘poppy-er’?” and all this shit. We formed our company, and then we released that record through that company. I was very happy about it.Those songs are still hits. It’s actually proof that I know what my audience wants. They want what I like. I don’t want any record company person coming in and asking me to change the material to what they think my audience will like even better.

I continued with my career the way I wanted. I still release my songs through my own company.

So would you say the majority of what you released from then was more metal rock or did you mix it up and make it eclectic? I noticed you move from different moods, from ballads to rock to metal. Does your music reflect different phases of your life.

I just wanted to make that album in the style of what I was feeling at that time. If I wanted to put a single out, I would just sit down and write something. I had the freedom to freely express what I was going through at that time of writing that song, or that full-length album. That’s why there’s kind of like stylistic differences among all of them. If I was looking from a business point of view, I wouldn’t do that. On my own material, I was looking from an artist’s point of view. Because if I looked at it from a business point of view, I would have to continue with that album that I released right after Eurovision – the 2004 album. Why? That was my best-appreciated album, right.
I mean, you don’t change things, you just go with that and you just cash in on it, right? That’s the business sense. But no, I didn’t want to do that. I waited. In 2007 I was meditating a lot. I went to a bunch of places in Asia – Japan, China, and Thailand, and all those places. I’ve met a lot of meditation and Qigong masters. I came up with that album in 2007, which was a concept album [for] which everyone thought I was crazy. Because, you know, like instrumentals and all songs are connected and all that like cross-fades and all that kind of stuff. It’s different, like totally way out there. If you want to listen to it, it’s on Spotify. It’s the one with the hand that’s sticking out and then the guitar’s head is coming out of my hand and it’s a white cover. (The albums name is “Ates Yagmurunda Cirilciplak” if you’d want to put it in here) For each album or for each single, I just did what I felt like doing and people seem to like it too. I mean, not all of them are hits or anything like that. Listen, if I want to go for a hit, I’ll produce a hit. That was my day job kind of, but I didn’t want this to be a job, you know? That’s the bottom line.

You got this artistic restlessness . “All right. I’m restless. I don’t want to be pigeonholed in this. I’m going to go over here.”

Exactly. Your niche market, whatever, directs you if you listen to what people like and which is your most listened song. You can follow that too. I have a problem with authority. That kind of feels like another authority to me. I am the producer. I’m the creator here – it’s coming out of me. I’m living this life, and music comes up and lyrics come up. So let me do this thing, and listen to it if you like it. Don’t listen to it if you don’t like it, it’s just that simple. Everything that you release, or you produce, or you just create and put out there, will have an audience if it’s good, you know what I mean? So my criteria is about the song being good and true rather than being correct, right. ?

A lot of the places in Austin don’t like to pay any musician unless it’s a ticketed concert, but then you have to have some kind of a name that people are willing to pay.

Nobody is going to pay you if you’re not a well-known name. You just have to sell your own tickets. And I am the same way in the United States.
I’m not like how I am in Turkey. Obviously, my manager sells the shows there, but here, you can’t do that. Nobody knows you, maybe some Turkish people around, but it’s not a big crowd. Like if I booked or like if I wanted to play in Antone’s or something, it’s just whatever comes from the door. It’s not like, “Hey, I want this much money.” That’s not going to happen. Yeah, I mean, if you prove that you’re drawing in at least 300, 400 people every night, okay, then you can kind of like say, “Okay, why don’t we do this, then? We can switch into the payment system.” But I don’t think that’s the case now. I’d like it to be the case, but it’s not. And still, there are no venues. Who knows when Antone’s is going to open? And who’s going to be playing the first show there? How is that going to be? Will people attend? Will they attend with their masks? Will they be social distancing? So 25% of the audience that you usually draw… So if you draw in 200 people, 25% was 50. Is that going to be enough to pay your band musicians? Is that going to be enough for gas? Is that going to be enough for your rentals, for the sound guy, whatever? Obviously not, it won’t happen. So I mean, the music industry got a huge hit out of this, man. I mean, I don’t know what’s going to happen next.

The record industry, no problem. Everybody makes their record in the studios and all that, they put it on Spotify, but the streaming pays, you know what it pays, it’s basically nothing. And if you don’t own your company, and you give your song to the record label, obviously, they take their cut, and the cut that you get out of that point zero one cents or whatever every dollar that you get from one stream is divided into your percentage. So, forget that. That’s not going to save you. Putting records out there for streaming or YouTube videos and all that, it’s not going to save you. You have to make yourself a name even in your niche market. But how are you going to do that without playing live? Can you just do it online on social media? Look, all these people, they’re over 35, 40 years old, and they’re not really that social media savvy so they don’t go around with TikTok open on their phones and doing all that stuff and interacting with their fans. They are people like you and me, man. We’re not going to be like some teenager who’s like a YouTube phenomenon, having like hundreds of thousands of subscribers and actually, different companies are rolling in the money to have their advertising, whatever products on their videos, anything like that. No, I’m talking about regular musicians who live in Austin and go play out there and make a few hundred dollars and then come back to their home and do that over and over in a month, and then be able to take care of their families and then pay their rent and do that again next month. So I don’t know what’s going to happen to that. I mean, that industry, that’s gone. I don’t think it’s ever going to come back because all those people, they quit being musicians. That’s it. How are they going to come back? They have already started looking for jobs. You don’t just form a band just like in a day or anything like that. It takes months and to get your band well-known, it takes years of hard work and playing around and a lot of sacrifices. And all that thing that you build up, can go just like that with a virus.

What would you tell other people who would like to be professional musicians?

Making music is very easy these days. You don’t need studios. We weren’t able to make music because studios were really expensive at the time when I was coming up, but right now everybody can [make] music in their room. I’m talking about world standard recordings if they know what they’re doing. The studio doesn’t matter anymore. Not that much if you’re not a huge band or anything like that not recording like a violin section or something. But it’s just that making music is free, you can write all you want, you can record all you want in your bedroom, and you can be all that good. It’s just putting it out there in that noise cloud and being able to get the attention of some people and build up on that. And that is the hard part. This is marketing territory. It’s not artistry or it’s not musicianship or anything like that. It’s just cold business, so they have to be all of it. In the old times, you just had to be the musician. You just had to create and create and so you would have some other people doing the work for you. So your record would be out and then it could be distributed and all that kind of stuff and marketing and all. But now, especially if you’re starting out, you have to do everything. No manager will pick you up, no agent will pick you up, no record company will pick you up unless you prove that you have some kind of a following and you’re actually promising like 20% or anything that you will make it and you will continue making this.
So you’re on your own basically, it just depends on how much you love this. If you don’t love this 100%, I would recommend [finding] something that you actually love 100% because that’s the only fuel that you’re ever going to get. Your dreams of becoming famous and rich and all that, that won’t fuel it, man. Two years down the road, five years down the road, just working, working, working, and burning out and all that, you are just going to fail, you’re just going to drop out. You’ll be pretty much burnt out if your fuel, if your driving force, your motivation is fame and fortune, but if you really love doing it, you will go like, “Fuck it. I’ll just do this even if I die. I don’t give a shit if nobody listens to me. This is what I do, this is what I am”, that guy is going to make it. He will. Trust me, he will.


I guess that’s why they have started all these competitions that people actually get a platform but whether it’s going to help them, that’s a different story. Because if you look at a lot of the contests, whether it’s American Idol or The Voice or whatever, very few of those even the winners have really made it because you can be really good, you can be everything but if you don’t have good music, what’s going to happen to you?

Yeah, look and the other guy who believes in himself 100%, believes in making music and loves his music. Even if he is shitty, even if the song is just a jingle or something like that, he will make it. He’ll build up on it because that’s what he does. And he’s like, 100% content with it and it’s fine. It’s just he is what he is, and he knows what he’s not. So he’s just going to keep doing that and he will get an audience and he will make it. But if you’re thinking about, like, “I want to be a musician because I want to be just like that guy. Free, reckless with all that attitude, famous, with all the girls and the parties and the money and the jets and all that”, you’ll lose. That’s not it. You can’t go with that. It won’t work. That’s what I’m trying to say. So find a good reason to get into the music industry. That is not a good reason. That’s a really bad reason actually. That’s like the worst reason.


Thank You, DEMIR!!
This was a really cool way to learn about your music, life and thoughts.

AUSTIN MUSICIAN MEMBERS!

Please connect with DEMIR – either via EuroCircle website, his website or through our EuroCircle Austin facebook group.

His website: Demir Demirkan
YouTube: Demir at YouTube

Philadelphia – Sep 17 2020

SUNSET PICNIC

Although we are still not planning formal indoor events in Philly, we are doing the best we can to stay connected. Join us Thursday for a masked, outdoor BYOB picnic on our organizer Sherry’s lawn. We will drink Prosecco and watch the sunset together. Group size limited to 25 so please DM Sherry @the_fox_on_the_road to reserve your spot and get the address.

Due to social distancing and group size limitations, this event is limited to Eurocircle members only. RSVP on a first come, first served basis. bring your own snacks and drinks.

Email Sherry at philadelphia (at) eurocircle (dot) com

Chicago – Sep 23 2020

Please join us for responsible networking + mingling at the closest to being in Italy in Chicago!

Mozzarella Store, Pizza + Cafe is a delicious addition to Chicago- owned and operated by Italian chefs and foodies from Naples, Mozzarella Store
offers authentic Italian food and cocktails, as well as in house mozzarella + salami for sale!

They also have a great sidewalk patio perfect for social distancing and that will be specially reserved for us!

Please note, due to Covid restrictions, this event will be limited to max 50 guests.
Temperature checks will be conducted upon arrival and masks are mandatory. Please ONLY RSVP if you plan on attending. Once we reach capacity a wait list will be started for cancellations.

Let’s support our restaurant industry guys!!
We can’t let Chicago lose these neighborhood gems. Please join us for some human interaction and good food + drinks before the season is over!

Co-hosted by Honorary Consul to San Marino Robert Allegrini + artist extraordinaire Lynda Simonetti

Turkish singer-songwriter/guitarist Demir Demirkan’s new life in Austin, Texas Part 1

We had the pleasure to chat with Demir Demirkan, a 25+ year veteran Turkish singer-songwriter/guitarist.

Beginning at age 19, Demir Demirkan has produced and released close to 50 solo and collaborative albums and singles ranging from blues, rock, metal to film and TV series soundtracks composed for symphony orchestras, choirs and Anatolian instruments.
His life and career has been a journey igniting from Turkey, through Europe and to Austin, Texas – USA where he now resides with his wife and son.

His latest works reveal that he is back into where his roots are, Metal.

While building his career from ground up in Istanbul, he recorded and performed with Turkish musicians and bands mainly as a member of the Turkish Heavy Metal band The Pentagram a.k.a. Mezarkabul. Internationally, he recorded and performed with world-renowned names like Mike Stern, Al Di Meola, Dave Weckl, Trilok Gurtu, Omar Hakim and Phil Galdston to name a few. However, you likely now him best for the only Turkish song that won Eurovision Song Contest, Demir composed that song for his girlfriend at the time, Sertab Erener. Sertab Erener is a pop singer whose first album sold over 1 Million copies.

This interview is PART 1. PART 2 will be about his music, his thoughts about business business, success, his desires..and how it all affected his life.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with is. First of all how did you end up in Austin, TX?

We knew we wanted to bring our kid up in America. So we said, “Why don’t we go to New York for about a year and we’ll do our research to pick a place to set a home. My brothers live in Virginia, Maryland and Florida – so we started with that. We went to three different places in Florida and North Carolina. We have two Professor friends there – a couple – they are music professors. We tried Maryland, different places in New York and Santa Fe. I used to live in Los Angeles, so I knew that I didn’t want to live there. We stayed in Manhattan for two years.

Then I called a friend of mine, a guitar player, who lives in Austin – Lance Keltner. We met years ago in Europe when he was playing with Mike Tramp. You might recall him from White Lion (hard rock band). Lance was the only American on that tour.

It really helps when you know and like someone for years like that. So your friend Lance said what…

I finally called him: “Hey, man, what’s it like down there?” and he says “Well, come check it out.” I told my wife, “Hey, you want to do Austin?”

She goes, like, “Where is Austin?”

I said “In Texas.”
My wife says: “Okay, why don’t you go there and kind of vent out and party with your friend. Come back and we’ll take it from there. And call me if it’s really, really happening so I can get there with our son.” So we did that.
Three days later she came down, liked it – this was two years ago. We rented this house in downtown Austin for about a year before we bought a place in Oak Hill.

We are curious what prompted you to go from Turkey where you’re very well-known and now you come to the States and you go like, “All right, now I’m here but now what?” So how did that happen? That’s pretty challenging.

It is. But I always went back and did the tours, released material and kept on with my productions for different artists. I did not leave Turkey for good. We still have business investments running there and my career still is going on. The idea was to keep that up and also bring out material in English and expand into America.

I released a bunch of English songs, a five-song EP and a full-length album and I did some tours of playing around and all that. But the whole thing got so complicated because, until that time, I never released material that sang in English on.
And my audience in Turkey was like, “Okay, is this how it’s going to be after this?” and I had to stop doing that and actually start another project with a different name for the English material.

We had many reasons to move to the USA.
I lived here before. My wife studied in Pittsburgh and graduated from Duquesne University in advertising. Our son was four or five months at that time. We wanted him to grow up in either Europe or America. I have the green card so this was the easiest option.
I have family here, we both know the country and we speak English. We also considered France, Italy, and Holland, and maybe the UK.

So now you’re in pandemic world in Austin. How do you survive? What do you do?

Well, I’m just glad that I wasn’t in New York during the whole thing. When the whole city shut down… My friends were sending me pictures.

I was looking at the pictures on social media and the news – it was horrible there. I thought we were lucky to be in Austin, TX. If you think about the density of the population, it’s not like New York or Chicago. People are kind of spread out in Texas. It’s a million people in Austin. You think about 17 million people living in one city. This is just kind of like a village compared to that. I lived in Istanbul for 20 years.

My best friend in New York, he owns a club. He caught Corona. It didn’t turn into pneumonia or anything like that, but he says, “Man, that was horrible.” But he already had underlying condition. He has stents in his heart and all that kind of stuff. He’s lucky since he got over it. He’s okay now. There’s no problem.

The whole thing is politicized so I cannot really relate to what’s real, what’s the truth. Seriously, now it’s more like a political issue to wear a mask, social distancing or say whatever thing that you say about this whole pandemic thing. That’s a big problem. I’m trying to figure it out. When I look at all my friends in Turkey, it’s business as usual. Everybody’s at the beach. There’s no problem. Everything is open. Nothing is wrong with anything. I mean, everything works. So who’s dying? What, they don’t report cases? I don’t know anybody who died and I’m asking around. “Do you guys know anybody who died of this?” They go like, “No. We know people who got sick, but we don’t know anybody who died.”

So, it wasn’t that hard on me. I mean, we moved to our new house, right at the beginning of the pandemic. This is like a gated community so we would take walks. Of course I wasn’t able to go to the gym, but I would run outside or ride my bike or something like that. My studio is already in the house. I don’t have to go somewhere to make music. I actually released two songs during this pandemic. I was pretty creative!

The problem was, the schools shut down right after the spring break. My son was going to the preschool. Him going to school actually gave us a break. I don’t know if you have kids, but so we can kind of get on with our agendas, right, like music or my wife with work stuff. My son staying in all the time… I mean, we’re not educators or anything like that. It was pretty hard, and it had an impact on our daily routine. We had to find a way to set the schedule, so I could still work and he could still be happy, keep up with his education and the social development. The isolation has a huge impact for little kids like that ( at age four to six) that they can’t see their friends and their social development and their ability to understand is restricted – by the Boogey man out there! Everything is being written in their minds as reality. My four-year-old son comes to me and asked me, “Can I talk to that little girl? Does she have Corona?” It is really sad.

Yes, that’s really hard for toddlers. They need other kids even more than adults need friends for proper development.

Yeah, exactly. I am really sorry that this happened to those kids. Imagine kids from ages three to six. They are in their social development stage. They are trying to understand the world and all of a sudden, they are separated from everybody. Their relatives and their friends, teachers that they love, their school, and locked in the house because there is a virus out there. They don’t even know what a virus is.

It’s just when I look at all my friends in Turkey, it’s business as usual. Everybody’s at the beach. There’s no problem. Everything is open. Nothing is wrong with anything. I mean, everything works. So who’s dying? What, they don’t report cases? I don’t know anybody who died and I’m asking around. “Do you guys know anybody who died of this?” They go like, “No. We know people who got sick, but we don’t know anybody who died.”

Austin’s official motto is the “Live Music Capital of the World” due to the high volume of venues hosting live music performances in the city, sometimes over 100 on the same night. The lives of all the musicians has also changed dramatically in Austin. No live venues. The City was the fastest growing city in the USA prior to the Pandemic – which also meant rents and property values went up fast.

True. Nobody really knows when the venues are going to open. Nobody really knows when the whole Austin City Limits (ACL) or South by Southwest (SXSW) is going to happen. People are throwing out ideas. Some of the clubs, especially in Europe, they kind of have bookings. They started listing some dates and stuff like that. It’s just, they can get canceled or postponed anytime because you don’t know. If the second wave is real, then it’s going to come in October, like everybody says, okay, we’re going to have another shutdown, which is going to be—– It comes in waves so how many times can we do this? How many times are we going to shut down? How many times are we going to stop the whole system and reboot again? So some of the industries, they’re going to have to take shape.

My expanding into the United States and all that became hard. I stopped. I can plan and think, you know, “What am I doing here? And what’s going to become of us?” Thank God of all the savings and royalties and investments in different industries that we have. We can make a living. We’re not in a bad shape or anything like that, but I’m one of the few having that status in music business. I’m privileged. I’m grateful and I’m very thankful.
However, people in music business need to work. My problem of not being able to expand to America right now is an advanced problem. There are real basic problems that matter much more. People can’t pay their rents. They can’t feed their children. They can’t get gas for their cars because they can’t play.

See what I mean? I can wait, I don’t have to do anything. Those musicians who need a show to get get paid, they’re really in a bad shape. Nobody is going to pay you if you’re not a well-known name. If you don’t have a draw, nobody is going to pay you or advance you or anything like that. You just have to sell your own tickets.

When you started out in music, what challenges did you face, were you immediately attracted to music?

I started playing at 12 and my first band was in high school when I was 17 or something.

I mean, I don’t know if you were good or not, but we were winning contests and the school was backing us up. It was a great school and they were pushing us to get better. I would be excused from a bunch of different classes, like lessons so I could actually start writing. They gave me the key to the conference room where all the gear was in. I could just go there and play anytime, even during the weekend, and they really supported me. I worked a lot, I worked very hard for this.

At that time, I was learning how to write songs and arrange them to the band and write lyrics and play guitar because I started with the acoustic guitar, and then I switched to the electric guitar. They were actually buying equipment like gear, like amplifiers and drum sets and stuff like that. They were really supportive and so was my family.

But – there’s a but – I wasn’t going to be a professional musician.

I was going to come to the United States and study business. That didn’t happen because when I applied for that visa, I was denied. I had to stay in Turkey and study something else. I could speak English.

I was really good at writing stuff like songs and stuff like that – the literature. I had a chance to attend a college in Ankara to study English literature and humanities, so that’s what I did.

His website: Demir Demirkan
YouTube: Demir at YouTube

We continue Demir’s story – and talk about his music, music business, composing winning Eurovision Song Contest song for his ex-girlfriend Sertab Erener, etc PART 2 soon…Demir Demirkan is a multi-faceted singer-songwriter/guitarist but he also understands business which is a key to survive in music business.

You do not often have a musician who loves heavy music and composes a song that wins Eurovision Song Contest – a pop song. Note: Heavy metal music has only once won Eurovision Song Contest (Lordi 2006)

Meet Sabrina Dérian Matthews – French Photographer and a Fashion Stylist in Chicago

I had the pleasure to chat with a Chicago-based French Photographer and a Fashion Stylist. 

Her name is Sabrina Dérian Matthews.  Sabrina was born and raised in Brittany, France.  She worked in
Germany and France for several years as a Model Booker and managed the Elite Model Management  Agency in Marseille, France.

Sabrina moved to Chicago, USA to accompany her husband. She is a Photographer and a Fashion Stylist. 

She speaks French, English and German    
                                                                              

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us  Sabrina! This was a rare pleasure.

** All photos: Copyright L’Image By Sabrina Derian Matthews. All rights reserved 

Sabrina, can you tell us what brought you to this creative career path?

Yes, of course! I feel that I have always been attracted to Photography and Fashion in
one form or another. As a child and as a teenager, I was often flicking through fashion
magazines and catalogues, looking at the photographs, the fashion stories, the stylism
and model poses. Then, when I was living in Munich, Germany, I met a make up artist
who told me that I would have a good profile to work in the profession as a model
booker. At that time, I was working as a stewardess for Lufthansa Airlines. So I decided
to go ahead and give it a try, and send my resume to a model agency. I obtained an
interview with Louisa Model agency in Munich. That is how everything began! I then
developed, more and more, my eye for photography, styling, and working within the
different model agencies in Europe. When I moved back to France, where I grew up, I
started working for Success Models, and it was during this period that I was offered a
position to manage the Elite Model Management agency based in Marseille. For each
model we represented, there was a need for many digital photos. I realized that I really
came to love taking these photos, and, at the same time, be able to be creative and play
with light, and different poses, so as to present to our clients the best digital results as
possible.
Years later, I moved to Chicago following my husband. Shortly after, a friend of mine
proposed to me to photograph models to promote her brand. This was an experience I
enjoyed very much. It was so satisfying to be behind the camera and create visuals for
a commercial brand.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you’re working on right
now?
Right now, I am working on different projects to expose my photographs in different
places. As we are now spending a lot of time at home during this pandemic, there are
more and more people who wish to open up their interiors to the outside, and the feeling
of a connection with the outside, and this instills a feeling of travel to someplace else.
It’s one of the reasons why I re-built my website, where you can discover this feeling, I
believe, within my photographs, under the section ” Art Photo Boutique”.

** All photos: Copyright L’Image By Sabrina Derian Matthews. All rights reserved

ART PHOTOS

At the moment, I photograph mostly family portraits and children portraits, generally
around their homes or at the most emblematic spots in Chicago. Families like
beautifying their walls back home with “souvenir photos” of the entire family together.
Also, I’ m proposing some personal E-Styling Session by skype and help people with
my styling advice and guidance to feel more confident about themselves.

FAMILY STYLE

I’m planning to shoot more Model Tests in the future which are combining photography,
styling and artistic direction. With the current social distancing situation, I had to
postpone most part of this activity.

In partnership with a friend of mine, Rachel Christophe, we are talking about a virtual
workshop associating Fashion and French language learning. Rachel was associated to
my project” Lettre de Mode” on my blog “&other stories” where you learn English or
French through fashion and other inspirational subjects. We are looking to expand the
concept.

Who are some of the most Interesting people you’ve interacted with?

Isabelle Olivier is immediately coming in my mind. She is a French harpist that I was
honored to style and photograph at many different occasions. She is so generous both
in life and in front of the camera and this makes her easy to direct. I feel so lucky that I
was able to photograph such a unique person and her instrument.
I have so many interesting people around me, from different cultures, different
characters, different point of view and for me, being connected with different
personalities allows me to grow a little every day.

PORTRAITS
(Click on the photos to see them)

Which people in photography inspire you the most and why?

I feel like I am inspired by many photographers and particularly a combination of details
from each of them… Elle Von Unwerth and her sense of playfulness, Inez and Vinooth
for their ability to photograph using different angles, Luigi and Iango, Karl Lagerfeld and
many other photographers as well who are not necessarily making a business out of
photography but who are very creative and talented. …. Also, Peter Lindberg, who
passed away last year will always be an inspiration. He was one of the photographers
who was playing a big role during the top model era.

How has your business evolved, as a result of the pandemic?
We certainly have to reinvent ourselves, reshape our lives and become creative in these
unprecedented moments and that is the reason why I am trying to develop different
angles around photography and fashion styling like I was talking about before.

What do you do, to bring goodness to the world?

I try to be a good listener and to be there for the people around me. Also, I am taking
time to explain to people of what we can do daily to improve the environment. I think
that we do not realize enough that with small gestures, we can make the situation
better.

I am continuing to work with charities, and will continue to offer photo prints to support
good causes.

What tips would you give to your colleagues in your industry to help them thrive and
not burnout?

I would probably just tell them to be themselves, stay humble and not to listen people
around them, who are sometimes critical. Photography and Fashion Styling are very
subjective like any form of arts. Each of us will have other points of view and tastes but
with following your own thoughts and intuitions, you will stay unique.

Is there a thing you wish someone had told you?

Yes! “If you feel it, just do it!”. I realize that I was wasting a lot of time wondering too much if
I was legitimate as a photographer, or if I was good enough. I had so many ideas and I felt
that I needed to express myself through photography, but it is sometimes hard to make the
step, and have enough self confidence when you launch yourself into a new challenge.

Is there anything French that you miss, in the States?

Yes, like “aperitifs” with family and friends, the long and deep discussions, to try to change
the world when everybody is talking at the same time, with a glass of rose wine (or even two
!), the “Galette Bretonne“ (Breton cake) with a fresh glass of Brittany cider ..
and then there is the European healthcare (especially in France) … it is very much missed
… to not worry about healthcare … with hope, the US will one day have the same …?!?

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with?

I think, Karl Lagerfeld would have been someone I would have loved to have had lunch
with. But clearly, it is too late! He was creative in so many ways, and I loved so much his
French and German sense of humor. Other than that, for the moment, I wish I could have
a lunch with my family back in France, but obviously, this pandemic makes everything
very difficult, but we still have “Espoir” one day !…

EDITOR’s note:
Karl Lagerfeldt quotes:
” Don’t dress to kill, dress to survive.”
“Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. …
“Trendy is the last stage before tacky.”
“I am a fashion person, and fashion is not only about clothes—it’s about all kinds of change.”
“Never use the word ‘cheap. Today everybody can look chic in inexpensive clothes (the rich buy them too). There is good clothing design on every level today. You can be the chicest thing in the world in a T-shirt and jeans—it’s up to you.””

FASHION

Sabrina, how can people follow you on social media to see what you are doing?

You can like my professional Facebook page www.facebook.com/limagebysd
and follow my Instagraminstagram.com/sabrinaderianmatthews

To discover my creative universe and contact me, you can visit my website
www.limagebysd.com.

Thank You, Sabrina!!

CHICAGO MEMBERS!
Contact Sabrina for lifestyle family, children, engagements, portraits photos, model tests etc, and to purchase some prints to beautify your home