Music Monday: Annika


She’s an extremely intelligent, hardworking, multi-talented woman.  She’s the most determined and creative individual you’ll ever meet. Her name is Annika, and she’s a beautiful R&B/Pop artist that simply oozes the “it” factor elevating her miles above her competition.  Just wait until you hear her sing.  And boy, can she sing!  I’ve had the pleasure of hearing several live performances and never tire of the smooth and sultry undertones of her rich voice. Please give your undivided attention and your ears to our guest, Annika.

Describe your music style to our readers.

I am an R&B/Pop artist. A lot of the music for my current project is slow or mid-tempo. I love to go in the studio and create something people can just chill and groove to. My music is very melodic. If you listen closely you will hear how layered and textured my vocals are on each record.

How and why did you become a musician? Are you full-time?

I became a musician because it is a talent, a dream, and something I love. I am passionate about making music and entertaining. I began dancing when I was 9. The singing was inevitable. I began recording in college. I walked past a young producer named Ennis Newman playing a keyboard in the communication and fine arts building at the University of Memphis. The rest is history. I am not a full time musician. I am an independent artist and I perform mostly on the east coast. Social media has been instrumental in my ability to promote my music worldwide.

What inspires you?

My biggest source of inspiration comes from my family and friends. How can you disappoint people who love and support you unconditionally? They make me strive to be greater. Great artists like Alicia Keys and Robin Thicke are my musical inspiration.

What are 5 items you wouldn’t leave home without?

iPhone, Phone Charger, Favorite Scarf, Purse, Positive Attitude

Describe a typical day.

My daily life cycle changes every 3 to 4 months so here is a typical day for me at this present moment in time. I wake up and check my eHarmony matches. (LOL love is important too) I head to work while answering emails and tweeting. (shhh only at the red lights, don’t tell anyone) I work from 8am-5pm in an office. Throughout the day I continuously answer event planning and music related emails, tweet, Facebook, etc. (gotta stay up on your social media) I come home and change clothes before heading to the gym or dance class. I return home to my laptop to send emails I may not have been able to send earlier at work. I eat dinner or drink a protein shake. I take 30 minutes to practice my vocals. I watch some TV, organize my calendar on my iPhone, shower, say my prayers, then watch Family Guy, South Park or Golden Girls before going to bed.

What are your fondest musical memories?

I’ve had the opportunity to open for a few really great R&B artists so I am extremely proud of that, but the moment I am most proud of is right now. It has been a long road to completion of this project and it is a great feeling to have the completed work available for others to enjoy.

What advice would you give to other musicians?

Surround yourself with experienced people doing what you want to do, but on a higher level than you. Pick their brain. Most importantly support other artists. Don’t be so self consumed that you don’t pay attention to what’s going on around you. Respect the work that others like you are putting into the business. Also, don’t ever give up! Especially if it’s something you enjoy doing…don’t ever let the craziness stop you from enjoying your art.

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My EP (I’m In Love with SAM) will be available on iTunes December 2013.

ATG_9399 update

GIVEAWAY: Win A “Maura” Straw Cross!!

GIVEAWAY: Win a “Maura” straw cross!!

Go to this link on Facebook, and comment to the post with a favorite quote from any Author M.L. Gardner book for a chance to win a “Maura” handmade straw cross. Earn a second entry by posting a picture of yourself holding any M.L. Gardner book to the comments of the post. The winner will be chosen randomly by Rafflecopter tomorrow at noon. 2 entry maximum per person. Good luck, everyone!

This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email 48 hours after the giveaway ends. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!


Free-For-All Friday: Mountain Girl Soap With Naomi Murray

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Naomi Murray, Founder of Mountain Girl Soap

Naomi Murray, Founder of Mountain Girl Soap

Christmas is right around the corner. Wouldn’t it be lovely to receive something as thoughtful as handmade vegan soaps, lip balms and facial masks?  Enter Naomi Murray, founder of Mountain Girl Soap, and creator of some of the most eco friendly and beautifully packaged products I’ve ever seen.  She runs every aspect of her business as evidenced by the artistic touches you’ll see in everything from the photographs to the scent combinations. Naomi’s passion for Nature fuels her business. Her Etsy site says, “The name ‘Mountain Girl’ was inspired by real women, it embodies the spirit of women who are strong, Earth wise, and who nurture the connective relationship between the mind, body, spirit, and environment.”

What is your name?

My name is Naomi Murray; I am an artisan soap maker and proprietress of Mountain Girl Soap. I live in Oak Run, California with my husband, Don, and our two Boston Terriers Rogue and Raven. I received my Soap Maker’s Certification from the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild and my Associate’s Degree in Business from Shasta College.

Describe your products.

Tag Lines: Handmade in the foothills of Northern California. Inspired by mountain living. Soap for the Mountain Girl’s soul. I hand make each batch completely from scratch, using the traditional cold process method. I never use sodium laurel sulfate, detergents, dyes, or parabens. And my soap never contains animal-derived ingredients, animal by-products, nor ingredients tested on animals. Because every batch is hand stirred, hand cut, and hand wrapped, each bar is characteristically unique and will vary slightly in shape, size and weight. The charm of my soaps is that they are left natural; no trimming, no polishing.


How and why did you open an Etsy store? Is your Etsy shop your full time job?

Sharing my creations with others makes me happy. I love connecting with my customers and filling special soap needs for them. I also like the challenges of being a small business owner. I’m a make-and-do person; I love doing everything myself from product photography to logo and label design, to balancing my own books, so it just followed that I would manage my own shop. In addition to running my Etsy shop I work full-time at a garbage and recycling company.

What inspires your creations? Are you working on any new products?

I find inspiration from the outdoors; my Native California Plant Series of soaps was inspired by local flora. I also take inspiration from my customers and I fill special requests often. The next creation on my to-do list is body lotion. I also have plans to make a body wash and shampoo.

Why did you begin making soap?

About 8 years ago I was helping my husband slaughter a steer that we raised on our 11 acres which we do about once every couple of years to feed our family. I looked down with disappointment at this large pile of waste (head, hooves, hide, organs, fat, etc.). My thoughts went to the Native Americans and how they never wasted any part of the buffalo. And I remembered how in the “old days” people used to make soap from animal fat. Desiring to live even just a little more sustainably I was curious to learn how this could be done. I purchased a book on soap making and asked my husband to save me the fat off the next steer. And so then I rendered my own tallow from the fat off the kidneys (suet) which is known to produce the best soap. The stench in my kitchen from rendering the fat was really bad, but I’ll never forget my very first batch of earthy Oatmeal Soap. It was a chunky dingy gray rectangle of the smoothest, hardest, longest lasting soap I’d ever used and it was my creation! Because of health reasons I later became a vegan and I no longer use animal derived materials. I now use high quality vegetable oils and non-animal ingredients.

Describe a typical day.

I spend my time researching new ingredients, wild harvesting plant materials, formulating, and designing new soaps. The endless color and scent variations provide an array that is ever exciting and new.


What are 3 fun things we should know about you?

I am an advanced certified scuba diver. Pearl Jam is my favorite band. I played the clarinet in school.

What advice would you give to others beginning their own businesses?

My advice to others beginning their own business is define your brand, keep a narrow focus, and know your target audience. Always use the best materials, strive for quality rather than quantity, and learn to trust yourself.

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