Coleen Rider

I'm a waitress at a fine-dining but casual restaurant (555 East Steak House, Long Beach) with the best steaks in town—well, I think the best steaks anywhere. It has a New York/Chicago steak house feel. We have fantastic regulars who have actually become good friends. I've met a lot of people through here who are very supportive of my music, a lot of businesspeople who I wouldn't have met otherwise—I don't really hang out with people in suits.

I've learned a ton about food and wine, too. I never realized that people would spend $500 on a bottle of wine. That was really foreign to me, that people will go out and spend a grand on dinner, but now I can appreciate it. Fine dining and expensive wines are big business. Usually summers are dead, but this year and last have gotten busier. The economy is getting better with the real-estate boom and the stock market. People are living for the moment and indulging in the good life. We get a lot of businesspeople who are prospering, and a lot of expense accounts are flowing. On Saturday nights, there are more couples who bring in their kids or friends from out of town. I have regulars who ask for me. I know about their lives and where they take vacations and stuff, and they know all about me.

The only downside to waitressing for me is coming off a total high when you're in the studio, feeling like you've created something really magical, then going into work and putting on your uniform and serving a customer who you can't possibly please. It's coming down from those highs into the lows of the real world—that's a big reality check.

—As told to Arrissia Owen

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