Misinformed Audiences & The Musician’s Facade

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I think people are innately good. People like to do good deeds, want to be generous, are thoughtful and caring – but only when they know how to be. Sometimes, people act based on misinformation. And when it comes to how the music industry works these days and how musicians make their living, people are completely uninformed.

I was recently having a conversation with Neil Whitford, my Toronto guitarist, who is one of the most diplomatic and intelligent people I know. He said something that has really stuck with me. He said that he believes it is the responsibility of the artist to educate the public about the music industry.  And right now, if we may feel invalidated, that is because the public simply doesn’t know what really goes on off stage.

We musicians seem to always be griping about the state of the music industry, about how hard it is, how audiences don’t appreciate our work, how people have no problem spending $9 on a beer but will complain about paying a cover, and would rather pirate your album than buy it, thinking that just listening to it for free is at least some “exposure”… and … isn’t that all musicians really want?

Well, no. Just like everyone else, we want to be respected and it seems that this era of music is void of the same cultural respect that our parents remember.

You wouldn’t believe how many times I have been told after a show that I just need a label and then I would be famous. I appreciate the intent behind that comment but it is naive. Such comments make it apparent that musicians have not been sharing the facts of music-life with our audiences. We have not been honest about our situation. In fact, what we are are very good actors.

I believe that you should not be angry at someone for something they are doing that is hurting you until you have told them and given them a chance to change their behaviour. I think our society is hurting the music industry without intention or awareness.

And who is stopping this flow of information? It is the musicians themselves and their vanity that stems from the pressure felt to seem on top of the world at all times, no matter what.

Although we all struggle, with the decline of the music industry there are no longer labels out there ready to pick up an emerging artist with great talent and invest money into their career just because they believe people will buy their album and come to their shows once the label has put in the marketing power to gain exposure. And they are right to act this way, because it is true: people do not buy music the way they used to, so all facets of the industry are struggling and have had to cut back immensely.

But back to the artists, this means that these days we, the musicians, have to build our following first, before any label will ever pay any attention to us. Thus, we feel as if we can never let anyone know how hard it is for us. Life is always great (?) and our careers are always skyrocketing (?) because, if not, who is going to help us further our career? What label or booking agent is going to put their neck on the line unless the future looks pretty much guaranteed? Sure, everyone wants to be the first to discover the newest talent, but believe me, they feel much safer jumping on board when that talent has a serious track record.

So you, the public, don’t ever get to see the truth. We are masters of the facade. Never tired, never in a bad mood, never complaining, never broke … although we usually always are – dead tired, grumbling and broke. In a way, we pretend to be super human. But this is ridiculous! And I am realizing that I can’t keep up this façade. I, like all musicians, am human and – although I love what I do more than anything – I feel the need and the responsibility to let you know just what this career entails so that maybe you won’t be so put off by paying a cover, or buying a physical album so that we can keep doing what we are doing.

It’s not all about money. It’s about validation, respect and appreciation and in our screwed up society the tangible form of these concepts is money. You demonstrate your priorities and what you believe to be more worthy by where you spend your money.

Ask yourself where you put that worth. Is it on the newest Toms? Is it on your favourite bar? A new purse? Some special brand of bottled water? Cab rides?

And don’t think I am above this. Even being a musician, I am asking myself the same questions because this needs to change.

Somehow music has become an unappreciated “backdrop” to our lives. Although we love and need it and can’t imagine a day without the soundtrack to our bus or bike ride, somehow we still don’t get it. We don’t realize how much of a necessity music is in our lives and therefore, we unintentionally take the people who make it for granted, casually assuming that validation in the form of clapping is enough. It isn’t.

We don’t realize just how much experience, pain, concentration, strength, courage, ingenuity, tears, disappointment, criticism, heavy lifting, coordinating, trial and error, debt, sacrifice (in love and life), and personal financial investment… goes into making that music …

How many sleepless nights, colds, hours in cramped cars, long repeated rehearsals and more that go into taking some notes, emotions, words, combining them and turning them into songs that eventually land on the stage in the form of a cohesive piece of work that, when combined with other songs – each of which required the same painstaking dedication to be born – becomes a smooth, integrated concert that seems to flow effortlessly … for your entertainment.

These songs then end up on an album that sells for only 10 or 15 bucks at the merchandise table.

But what actually went into that process?

Well, the songs have been written so what’s next? We need to record. Well, that’s easy nowadays isn’t it? No, it’s not. Really.

First, create a reasonable budget, and find a producer, which on the low side of things is going to be about $10,000, and that is only if you can find someone who – although they have already invested tens of thousands of dollars on equipment and a studio (whether rented or owned) – bills you less than they deserve to earn because they just truly believe in you and your music.

You still need the people who play on your album. Let’s hope you’ve made friends over the years with exceptional musicians cause you’ll be needing friends here for sure. Perhaps you are extremely fortunate: surrounded by musician-friends who want you to realize your dreams and believe your work deserves to be put in the world – so they agree to play on your album for only a small fraction of the pay they actually deserve. So, now we are at about $12,500.

Let’s skip over all the technicalities of recording. All I need to say is – as much fun as it is, it is no easy endeavour. It is a tedious, slow, and demanding process.

Okay. So we have 10 songs that are awesome and we are so happy about. Hmm … now we need (at the very least) to get it mastered. This is what makes it sound like what you hear on the radio: loud and big! What sucks is this also costs money, so once again you need to find yourself someone equally hit by the decline of the industry who desperately needs all the business they can get. So they have a special “indie” rate which is, say, $2000 for the whole album. (Keep in mind you can easily spend $1000 per song if you wanted to.)

Now, we’re at $13,500.

Then there is the actual CD.

We need graphics. It has to look pretty. Hire a designer for $1000.

We need to manufacture say 1,000 for our first round That’ll be about $1,800.

Now we’re up to $16,300 and this is most likely coming out of the pockets of … guess who?

No, not the label. The artist. Even if you do have a label and they pay for it, this sort of cost is recoupable (for the label) and the artist will have to pay it back eventually.

And then there is press because nobody will buy your album if you don’t promote it. So that’s what? Maybe $3,000 for 3 months. Now we’re creeping up to $20,000.

But don’t think it ends there. Remember, there are costs to playing live to promote the CD: travel costs for you and your musicians, food, accommodation, rental cars, gas, staging, lighting, sound, instruments, insurance!!! etc. And don’t forget, venues take a big cut of ticket sales. The artist is likely only taking home somewhere between 50 to 75%’s of the door.

Just to be fair, however … If you happen to be Canadian like me, you are lucky enough to have the slight possibility of receiving a grant that will help cover some costs. But do not think this is easy either. The grant writing process is tedious and time consuming so a lot of musicians find it too daunting or are stretched too thin to add this to their plate, so they have to hire professional grant writers who charge 15% of whatever the grant total is. And that is only if you are one of the very fortunate applicants. There are many more who are turned down.

Then as you get bigger and busier, you realize you can’t do everything yourself. You can’t book shows, write songs, coordinate rehearsals, bookkeep, plan routes, plan recordings, design websites, graphics, etc ., so hopefully you find a manager who can help. That’s another 15 to 20% percent of your gross income. Then you need to find a booker and when you do, there goes 15% of gross revenue from all shows.

Then there is the label. Lets just say you paid for your own album, as I have done, and score some licensing deals (sorta like the label rents your album from you for a period of time). You then have to buy your albums from them, to sell at your shows, so you can net about half of whatever album sales you make at the concert. See? Things aren’t sounding so rosy anymore, are they?

Oh, but what about iTunes and Amazon? Well, that’s another story. Just take a look at this graphic breakdown from informationisbeautiful.net of how online sales pay the artist …

Badabing badaboom, hockus pocus, what is the average annual income of the Canadian indie artist?

Drum roll please….

Between a whopping $7,228 and $9,336.

Read more in this disheartening article from the National Post. 

So, my friends, I don’t mean to gripe.  Well, I am —  but that is not the intention of this post.

Don’t get my wrong, I love what I do more than anything and the people I know around me can surely attest to that.  There is nothing that makes me happier than playing on stage, or hearing my ideas come to fruition, rehearsing or writing by myself.

My intention is to inform you because I believe that if the public knew more, they would want to be more participatory rather than passive music consumers.

You’ve heard it time and time again, but the arts are an integral part of our society so please don’t neglect or take them for granted. Please take the time to show your appreciation and respect for the artists you love.

I love you all.  There is nothing more fulfilling than feeling the reciprocal energy between me on stage and you the audience.  We develop a relationship in that short period of time and that for me is incredibly important.

 With that, let me close this with a few tips on music consumption:

1. Come out to concerts if you love the music. Remember, a music career cannot exist without a physical audience.  Show your support in person, not just online.  Music is about connection and so much of that is missed when you miss the live aspect.

2. Remember that 10 to 20 bucks isn’t much for an album or entrance, that you spend that on a few coffees, a beer or two, entrance into a club on the weekend, a night out at the movies with popcorn.  Instead of buying 2 beers or one cocktail, buy a CD for yourself or as a gift.

3. Buy CD’s off stage rather than downloading via iTunes/Amazon because, as shown in the diagram, online sales help the big companies more than the artists you love.

4. Don’t assume that it’s all good for the artists.  Even if what you hear is, “Everything is AMAZING!”, I promise you there is a lot you are not hearing.

5. Take the time to interact with the musicians you respect, follow them on their social media sites and spread the word to your friends.

  • Now that labels require some sort of proof that an artist is successful on their own before investing in them, the first thing most labels ask these days is, “What are your social media numbers?”  They assume this to be a good representation of future success. Although more followers on Twitter or likes on Facebook  or views on Youtube don’t necessarily mean more talent, don’t assume that these things are frivolous.  As much as I wish they didn’t, let me tell you, they matter.  They really do.  So like, follow and share;  share their videos, their name, and help them get exposure, and then let their work speak for itself.

6. Call your radio stations and request the music you want to hear. Don’t let the radio dictate what you like.

 Anyway, I hope this clarifies a few things for you and thank you for taking the time to read this!

Also, please chime in on this as I would love to hear your thoughts.

And, if you have any links to information pertaining to this blog, send ’em on over!

I love you all loads!

XOXO

Chloe

Perfection, Songwriting,Ted X & Other Updates

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Nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Composition entails accepting imperfection, having the confidence to be vulnerable and opening oneself to judgment. Life’s imperfections are what make up life and flaws are what lead to progress and adaptation. When you strive for perfection you risk stagnation because mistakes and flaws need to be actualized in order to learn from, grow, develop, motivate, evolve, challenge and inspire new ideas.   My life goal has been to let go of shame and accept my humanity, live vulnerably and never dismiss an idea.  This is my compositional process.

I have dedicated this summer to songwriting.  I set out with a goal to write 30 new songs but it looks like I will end up with a ton more.  I’ve been writing by myself, with artists and producers and songwriters — soul, pop, folk, electro, whatever.  Not all of them are incredible but each and every one of them brings out something new in me.  Each and every person I write with inspires me and shows me the world through a new pair of glasses. 

I wanted to grow this summer.  I wanted a challenge.

Not that this life of touring like a mad woman isn’t challenging.  But I wanted to try something new.

How about sitting in one place for a legitimate amount of time?

Sounds different!

So here I am in Toronto living on Queen West with some of my favourite people.

Nate Daniels happens to be one of them, from the about-to-be-huge Toronto band Cai.ro.

Toronto summers are incredible.

Outside of writing like a mad woman, of course I  had to perform just a little.

Most exciting performances:

  1. I’ll be performing at the Markham Jazz Festival right before Maceo Parker!  Um…Hello…that’s BIG!!  Friday, August 16th   7:00 pm
  1. I will be a Keynote Speaker at the 2013 Ted X Conference held in Richmond Hill.  What an honour!  Who doesn’t love Ted X?   Monday, August  12th

Oh, and of course I had to drop and shoot a couple of new music videos.

1.  Break the Balance shot by Natasha Kudashkina:

2.  And life would be boring without some crazy coloured smoke bombs and 14 dancers.  Shot by Danielle Da                  Silva, Refrain From Fire will be coming out in the fall.

So that is my life in a nutshell for summer 2013 in Toronto.

Hope you are loving your summer!

Lots of love

XO

Chloe

Just Ask…

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Who would have thought that when you ask the universe for a little break, a sign that you are on the right track, it would deliver?

Leaving Toronto I was emotionally exhausted and in need of some sort of clear and strident sign that everything was going to work out.

I had been invited to play a festival/conference in Bremen, Germany, called “Jazzahead!” and, having never been to this conference before, and not thinking of myself as jazz musician, naturally I didn’t have high expectations. Yet, somehow I ended up with the prime slot of the official showcases for their Overseas Night. So I knew that this show was going to be an important one … and I needed a band. (Sadly, my budget prohibits the cost of flying my 6 piece band from Toronto, forcing me to piece together a band in Berlin.)

Fortunately, my surrogate Italian brother Davide Santi is always here for me with his unique finesse, imagination and violin in hand. Angel that he is, he flew up from Milan, ready for whatever I threw at him.

Last October, Davide and I played at one of my favourite venues, Horns Erben in Leipzig. I fell in love with the place immediately: an old distillery for a Leipzig speciality, Leipziger Allash, turned restaurant, bar and music venue, it’s operated by a couple of young idealists, one of whom is Bobby Herrmann.

He and his associates have refurbished this old and absolutely gorgeous building, so full of character and colourful stories, and revamped it for all to enjoy.

In October, it was the last show of our 2012 German tour and I was sick as hell with a rotten cold, praying for a good final show to leave us feeling fulfilled. And, boy, was it ever fulfilling! The audience and staff fed us all the energy we needed and I, surviving on nothing but cold medication, managed to be extraordinarily funny.

The show ended and the two guys running the Horns Erben came up to me and said that our concert had been one of their favourites of all time. They were both pianists (it was obvious that someone had to be, with two gorgeous grand pianos, one for each floor!), and I appreciated their compliments but didn’t it very seriously until one of them, Bobby, said that he would love to play with me someday. Hmmm….

Didn’t think much about this until, about a month after my return to Toronto, Robert sent me an email reiterating that he really wanted to play with me … And then came the next email … Robert was coming to Toronto.

Whaaa?

This guy was SERIOUS!

He sent me beautiful compositions that spoke of his excitement and inspiration, and all without words. Who could say No?

During his two weeks staying as a guest at my Nana’s house in Toronto, Bobby couldn’t help but fall in love with her boisterous personality and I couldn’t help but know he was the right man for the job: an absolutely wonderful person and musician who had just fallen into my lap. So here we are, good friends, months later, in Germany, and I have a new addition to the band.

So that’s me, Davide and Bobby … but I still thought I needed a bass player and cellist. However, after 4 last minute cancellations slash failed matches, I accepted that this wasn’t meant to be — and opted for a viola player to compliment Davide.

Through a connection in New York, I was directed to a Julliard graduate living in Berlin. Finally, there were four of us, all set to work together. Then, bam, only one week before rehearsals my violist regretfully advised that she too had to cancel. Frustrated beyond belief, I demanded she find me a replacement. A couple of days later, there was an email from Yuval Hed from Israel. He was on board toting his viola. I didn’t even think about it. As it just so happens, Yuval is a perfect addition to the band, both personally and musically. Another unique and delightful character to throw into my now very international mix of talented musicians.

Rehearsals were set and we all met in Berlin: Chloe, Davide, Bobby and Yuval, together for the first time, playing these songs in new arrangements for the first time. Oh, what fun!

Oh, and guess what? All these boys can sing! Mmmm, harmonies …

So off to Bremen we went, to play at a new venue with no idea of what it would be like and — ta da — it’s AMAZING! Just look at this! Need I say more?

But Bremen’s Kulturzentrum Schlachthof is also a big place and none of us knew what to expect re attendance. It’s intimidating to play for a small audience in a huge venue, so of course we were all just a little apprehensive.

Well, as luck would have it, at 9pm we went on stage in front of 750 people … the Schlachthof at full capacity.

I didn’t think this night could get any better. Not possible. I hadn’t even imagined we would be received by such a crowd. We bowed and left the stage with huge smiles on our faces. And then this incredible applause: the clapping didn’t stop. The audience wanted an encore. And at a showcase full of music industry professionals that just doesn’t happen!

Totally surprised, flustered silly, having not even considered this happening and, restricted by the usual time constraints, we just went up for a quick second bow. I was so happy, I didn’t know what to do with myself. But common sense prevailed and I raced back to sign CDs, selling five times more than I had ever expected.

Hey, and that’s not the end of it …

Attended as it was by a roomful of industry people, the Bremen show brought even more awesome things my way. All because of this one show … Chloe, Davide, Bobby and Yuval have been invited to bring our music all over Europe. Fingers crossed, we will be playing in a bunch of new cities, all over the map, this time next year. I can hardly wait!

So, there you go. When you ask for a sign, when you’re really in need of some positive reinforcement, encouragement and motivation — the universe delivers!


Here is the 2nd showcase of Jazzahead at Kito Club.

And all I can say is THANK YOU to whatever, whomever, wherever, tree, god, toad, space, stars, water, Mom, friends, fans, souls, hearts, science, whatever it was that was listening to me when I needed it …

You rejuvenated my soul.

Cheers to the future…

As the tour is now over, below are a few pictures that tell the story of the last two weeks much better than I could right now…

Here we are in Zurich signing the guest book at Kultur Zentrum Schlachthof where the likes of Norah Jones and Katy Perry have played.

And here is the soundcheck video:

Just outside of Zurich visiting a good friend and awesome musician, Christina Maria AKA Rykka.

Last show of the tour, backstage after the amazing show at Kulturzentrum Zurich, right before we partied like goofs.

I’m a monster!

In Dresden!

Evelyn relaxing in Dresden.

These are Nutria, Muskrat or Bisamratte in German.  I am in love.

Hangin out in Halle at Cafe Brohmers.

Solothun Switzerland is too gorgeous.  We played in romantic lighting under a giant tree beside this canal.

Chillin killin illin in Ludwigsberg, Germany.

Just doin’ what I do best.

Me and my boys…

Robert in 40 years.Davide in 40 years!

Leipzig…

Feinkostlampe, Hannover.Me nerding out backstage.Altes Rathaus Leipzig rehearsal.

Life is a Pollock Painting: From Tears to Ecstatic Screams

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2013 has already shown me its colours. And boy, are they ever bright, blinding and bipolar. In only four months fate has painted my path using all corners of the palette.

What is the overtone of this painting?

It’s a mixture of everything: possibly looking something like a Jackson Pollock … and then, every once in a while, life splatters a few black blotches onto the canvas. Some people would think it’s ugly and sometimes it hurts but in the end all those spots, black or bright, create the full picture. It’s a story unfolding, one that at first perhaps even you can’t read.

So here I am, riding the rollercoaster of 2013.

How did it begin?

The passing of both my Grandfather (Jan 17) and my Father (Mar 10) cast a bitter black splat over my winter, already dreary (as Toronto winters are apt to be).

It’s strange. My family has always been very female dominated. With girls being the ones fighting harder to be born, I didn’t have the strongest male experience. And now, within 2 months of each other, they both disappeared.

It’s strange and I still can’t wrap my head around it (that thing we call Death), but I think about them every day. Who knows if that will ever stop?

Fortunately, to balance out this heavy start, I’ve also had an abundance of delightful things fall into my lap to remind me that life goes on, Spring does in fact arrive, and all will heal — with time. 

On Feb 13, I celebrated my album release for “Break the Balance” at the Revival Bar in Toronto. It was a proud moment for me. We packed the house, with thanks to all of you — as well as a little extra special promotion generated by my. Feb 8th interview with Jian Ghomeshi on Q (listen here). A memorable morning, for sure, because it was also the day a meter of snow shut Toronto down but couldn’t stop us from reaching CBC at 7 am. (Yes,that’s A.M.). What a feat and a privilege!  

I know my Poppa (Grandad) would have been proud.

And then came the press: a very complimentary article with live montage by the Globe & Mail, album reviews from all sorts of media, including The Star and Now Magazine, an exclusive interview & performance on CBC TV (see here), and shout outs by one of Canada’s most recognized Much Music VJs, Michael Williams on CTV. 

I feel lucky and all warm and fuzzy all over. Thanks, Canada!

Also released my new video for “Find Her Way”. The filming of this flick was by far one of the best days of my life — or at least one of the most ridiculously hilarious!

Now, don’t you agree, Neil Whitford should really go into acting?

We somehow managed to shoot this video in only 2 days, with about 100 costume changes, inside, outside, & wherever, and at 7 different locations! I don’t know how we even slightly coordinated our outfits in such a hurry. Wonder why Mariel is wearing rainbow gloves? Why Im wearing leopard print with a bow tie and sequins? Well, that’s why. We had begun to lose it, in the best of ways. 

I owe so many thanks for this video. I have such an amazing group of friends and cousins out there (side note: Friends include the lovely canine (Raiden) and feline (Max) who made cameo appearances). To check out those involved, see below. And please do our hard work and public nudity some justice and share the heck out of it.

…and then came Folk Alliance (an international music conference) where I got to spend time with some of my favourite Americans! AKA @DouglasJayboyd and @BenBalmer. If you need a laugh, I highly suggest you watch ‘Ben Balmer’s rendition of”Soon on a Snowflake””. He may have stolen the limelight on that one! 

Bracketed between 2 conferences, I had the honour of singing at a Carole King tribute show put on by Juno Award winning graphic music designers, Michael Wrycraft, who is always magically creating awesome album covers (Ron Sexsmith, Bruce Cockburn, Murray Mclauchlan). His tribute shows have become a staple in the Toronto Music scene where Michael always packs the house, bringing together some heavy artists.

So, which songs did we choose to take apart and put back together with a Chloe finesse? “Natural Woman” (which some people thought was far too dangerous) and “So Far Away”. My father had just passed away that week so I dedicated the songs to him, and I think he would have loved to see me shine for him that night at Hugh’s Room..

Less than one month later our dear friend CMW (Canadian Music Week) put on its party hat. With one show at Tattoo Rock Parlour (No, I have not turned rock) and one killer show at the infamous El Mocambo (where I got to play before Boy), countless afternoon parties, evening parties, fabulous concerts (AKA Cai.ro), and free nasty energy drinks (don’t think they went unappreciated but let’s be honest, they are NASTY), and my surrogate sister’s always-welcome company (Aly Tadros), I came out of that week an empty sack of delirious.

To my surprise, a music writer from EXCLAIM attended my show and wrote a rave review! Not too shabby eh?

“so dramatic that you could feel a cold wind blowing through the song’s clenched bass tones, brooding cello swells and scurrying guitar touches.”…”There was little question as to why such a diverse cross-section of music fans and seasoned players alike have been caught by Charles’ impressive creative light.” (see full)

But soon after this whirlwind I had to fly away yet again. The day I was leaving Toronto to begin my German/ Swiss tour, feeling a little sad to say goodbye again, my cousin called with some amazing news: Billboard Magazine had listed me, yes me, your little Chloe, as one of “5 Canadian Acts to Watch”.

WAAAAAA?????

Yes, I screamed a little. (I am now adding up the happy scream moments and will share with you one day.) What a nice way to hop on a plane.

So, now you understand how 2013 (so far) feels something like a Pollock painting, and how, with both a heavy and a light heart, both tears and a big smile, I begin my tour and a new chapter in my life.

Love you all
XOXO
Your Chloe

 

P.S.  Check out my tour link if you are in Germany or Switzerland because I may just be coming to you in the next weeks!

P.P.S. Who contributed to ‘Find Her Way’?

Danielle Da Silva directed
Shawna Downing did makeup
Justin Johnstone starred as the guy who talks to himself
Neil Whitford starred as always amazed Alice in Wonderland-like man
Eugene Draw as crazy drummer
Kelly Lefaive as hot chick getting hit on
Mariel Gonzales as deep art critic
Adam Jenkins as record collector
Raiden the dog as fuzzy assessor
Max the cat as pissed of fur ball
Brock Dishart, Lindsay Dworkin, Evelyn Cream, Robert Wraith as yarn pullers
Zoe Edwards, Danielle Knight, Robert Wraith, Freddie Mojallal as hyped audience
Of a Kind as super cool record and vintage store
Saving Gigi as my favourite Toronto cafe

And for sure I’m missing someone… 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheers to the next chapter in my musical story!

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A few days ago, I was busy at my computer, typing away, working on the tedious but necessary tasks involved in my career, trying to plan this release as if it was any other show.  Suddenly, it dawned on me that this is not JUST any other show.  It’s probably THE most important show of my musical career up to date.

Sometimes I am so busy looking into the future, planning, planning, planning and working, or  OVER-working myself,  that I forget to pay attention to the present.  But, hey, the present is so awesome!

I have worked so incredibly hard, particularly the past 2 years, touring, writing, recording, booking, getting sick, picking minds, meeting characters, driving, flying, jumping in rivers, lakes, oceans, crying, laughing, dancing in the dark, dancing in the streets, dressing up, sharing clothes, running out of clothes, running out of underwear, driving, flying, driving and more driving, following the summer, and sunsets, and sunrises, not sleeping enough, eating awesome food, getting food poisoning, and of course doing stupid wild things such as running naked in the streets of  Kentucky  in the midst of a tornado, with The Sweetness.

I have been at the wrong place at the wrong time.  For example, at the scene of 2 shootings (guns, not cameras) on my U.S. tours. What did I learn from this?  Do not venture into parties in foreign towns with total strangers (especially not in the States).

I have sung on mountains, hiked up mountains, been followed by a German film crew, eaten too much German bratwurst, lost too many things to even remember, forgotten my computer, forgotten my guitar, nearly forgot my head, spent months living off of 15 cent noodles, avocados, hummus and oatmeal; all the while breathing in and mixing together every experience.

In 2 years I think I lived 6 and now I have something to show for it.  I am so proud of this album and I hope you will love it too.  In this industry it seems nothing is finite, nothing is ever finished. You are always crossing out and adding to the list of probabilities and possibilities.  But … an album is one of the few things that can be finished.  It is a culmination of creative minds, determination, support from fans and friends, stories, wishes, turmoil, bliss, love, motivation, inspiration and hard work.  It’s something I can hold in my hand in a nice little package signifying a new chapter in my life.

There are a lot of people I want to thank at the release.  I am so lucky to have so many incredible people around me. I don’t know how I got so lucky.

I hope I’ll see you at the Revival for my first full-length Album Release (already released in Germany) AND I hope you will take a copy of my CD home with you, because music is not just sound –  it is physical, it has colour and shape, and you lose a lot of this when you merely download mp3s.  The CD is a tangible memento from a special evening and, for me, February 13th, 2013 will always be memorable.  In my hometown Toronto, with some of my favourite people in the world, playing on stage with my best friends and then, of course, partying!

Please come and celebrate with me the next chapter of my musical story!

Love you all!

A here’s a little snippet of the album, Break the Balance…

And by the way Dr. Draw will be opening the night up with some mind blowing tunes.

 

Beards for Canvases

7

Last week my grandfather John Richmond passed away. I’d never had anyone I loved die, not even anyone I’d been even slightly close to.  It was a strange experience but I am glad I was there with him at the end.

Life is something strange.  How incredible it is that one person can fit so much into one life, touch so many people, and leave traces that ripple endlessly –  even when the initial wave has subsided.

My granddad, or as I called him Poppa, was an artist, a larger than life character with wildly blue eyes, enthusiasm, imagination, passion (sometimes too big for one family let alone one man), gentle hands, a beard so long it collected stories, so white that now and then his dinner used it as a canvas. I had never seen the skin under his beard until the day he died.   It was as if the secret of his vulnerability was only then revealed to me.

He hid his sins and the inner workings of his mind inside his art. Towering over most humans at 6 feet 4 and a half inches, he often seemed disconnected from the ground and people of earth. With his head floating high above most, his presence was daunting, and to some intimidating.

His mind was a labyrinth that only he could understand.  I’d follow him on these journeys through a maze of stories, watch him cross back and forth over his path, jump decades and universes, seemingly lost and caught in a trance, shouting, growling, enacting scenes of the past, future, truth or fable; it didn’t matter.  Sometimes you could see the scenes he saw as he relived his truths. And when you thought he’d never find his way back, you’d realize he’d left a thread to guide him back.

His mind was brilliant and terrifying because I never really quite understood it.  And I don’t think he really understood ours.  But for him life was not about understanding and connecting – it was about bringing the imagined into fruition – and that he did in a myriad of mediums.

He lifted boulders to build a bridge under the water so fish could walk with humans and we could walk on water; he planted thousands of trees to paint shadows on a vulnerable landscape so thoughts and children like me could hide and find themselves.  He put faces in walls so that at night I had friends with lives who’d whisper their stories. He made a house out of old barns, churches, and sleeping trees, all with secret pasts that nurtured the unknown. And when life became too serious, he set a mermaid on the water to become, like himself, a living myth.

There was always mystery with my Poppa.

His nose was commanding, his prose was enchanting; his script was flamboyant and personified with a personality of its own, each word embodying a character. His art was grand, bigger than man.  He would have painted the world if he could have  – and he tried, leaving indelible, colourful traces of himself inside and outside  the minds of many, many people, on walls, and fabrics, on cedar trees, rocks, and swimming pools and swing sets.

He wanted to be a legend, a myth, remembered.  And in my world, he will be.

I owe a lot of who I am to my Poppa.  He gifted me with canvases that had no borders, clay that could be molded into life, and books for me to fill with endless stories. He created the landscape I grew up in, and now write songs about.  And I know he was proud.of me.

So, Poppa,, if you’re still around somewhere, come visit me in my imagination anytime.