In addition to experiencing the finer things of being home in Ottawa last week, I was also able to board that familiar bus out to Aylmer, Quebec, for a visit with none other than my friend & collaborator Darren Holmes. Beginning in 2011 Darren and I embarked on our recording project ‘Tiny Army: The D. Holmes Sessions’ and while I’ve been anticipating the day when we can set this baby free from the get-go, I have undoubtedly been enjoying every step of its progress.
Moving to Flin Flon hasn’t slowed down that process either; in fact although much of the vocal tracks for ‘Tiny Army’ were laid prior to my leaving last July, we’ve spent a great t deal of time chipping away at the rest of production; via countless emails & several enjoyed phone calls. I’m proud to say that it’s a real labor of love and for all of those to who have contributed to this ‘tiny army’ I am eternally grateful and inspired; roughly 2 years and 16 tracks later – it is undoubtedly something special, & I think I speak for us both.
Naturally when I made arrangements to come to Ottawa, Darren was high on my priority list of folks to see; not only had I missed our regular coffee talks but was itching to do some more work on the album & time was of essence. I was real happy he was able to receive me & more so that we could get a couple of great mornings in to do what has felt long overdue.
It’s really difficult to put into words just what this opportunity means to me, but I will say in those brief hours of catching up and recording I was able to find great excitement & inspiration & I’m ever thankful D has welcomed me into his world, both in family and creative connection.
In addition to re-recording vox on the Aileen Martella penned ‘Open Up My Heart (You’ll See A Tiny Army)’, Holmes original ‘Meant For Me’ and my redo of ‘Illusions’ I was able to nail a newer original called ‘Hole In My Rowboat’, which I wrote in my time up North in Manitoba. Subsequently we talked at length about artwork for the album & all that creative stuff which will help us as we prepare to package & eventually launch it. Again, the release date is TBA but I can only say that the wait is going to be well worth it and my life has taught me a great deal about the value of patience.
Check out my little gallery below for some visuals of our time together at D’s home & studio. And stay tuned!
Today I’ve got no prairie stories or adventures to recall yet I do have a reason to recollect a certain Ottawa adventure, pertaining to my friends & collaborators back in that particular home.
Leading up to my flight home to Manitoba, I was in a mad rush. I had to work hard & fast on wrapping up several very fun projects, of my own as well as of my counterparts in TORRiD PRODUCTiONS. For those of you unfamiliar, TORRiD PRODUCTiONS is an Ottawa-based multi-diciplinary artist collective I am still a part of, along with amazing artists like AiLEEN MARTELLA, OLEXANDRA PRUCHNiCKY, BONNiE FINDLEY, & of course TORRiD’S co-founder DANNiEL OiCKLE. Although I am adjusting very well to the small-town life after years in the Nations capital, I think of these friends often; it was in their company I found a lot of fun & welcomness. I miss them.
Speaking of – as I was mentioning earlier, leading up to my departure from Ottawa I had to tie up some big projects that we at TORRiD had on the go; one of them being the filming of a music video for DANNiEL OiCKLE’S song ‘Caring & Hate’ (from THE CORRUPTiON OF FLESH, TORRiD PRODUCTiONS, 2011). Filming took place in two locations: one at Ottawa’s MERCURY LOUNGE, a bar located in the Byward Market, the other in a downtown apartment where we shot additional footage. BONNiE FiNDLEY & DAN ZiEMKiEWiCZ lent their cinematography/production skills & although I have yet to see the finished results I can promise you they will look nothing short of sharp & amazing. Through out shooting, FiNDLEY, a photographer of the highest calibre, shot some additional images which she released publicly today. Below I have shared a few with you -
It’s also worth noting that DANNiEL’S hard work has recently landed him on the cover of Xtra!, Ottawa’s Gay & Lesbian News Publication. I received my own personal copy right from DANNiEL myself – & I’m not only thrilled he continues to be true to himself on this journey, but blessed to meet him, & be a part of TORRiD PRODUCTiONS. Way to go DANNiEL! Here’s to friends left behind but most certainly still in the heart. Love you all -
Had a fantastically productive and creative morning yesterday with DARREN HOLMES. We’re still plugging away at tracks for an undetermined future release and I’m exceptionally happy with the results.
In typical fashion I trecked out to DARREN’S place for coffee/talk/music – and on all scores it proved to be good times. In particular we continued our work on HOLME’S original tune ALL i NEED and the AiLEEN MARTELLA orginal OPEN UP MY HEART (YOU’LL SEE A TiNY ARMY). These songs are friggin’ fantastic and for me to be able to come in and interpret them in my own style has been a great learning process not to mention a whole lot of fun I think all involved are happy with the evolution of these tracks. I know I am. I’ll leave it at that for now – as only time will tell where we go next!
Thank you DARREN for the times – and for your wonderful generosity and commitment to me and this project.
Check out these pics from yesterday and stay tuned because I may have some photos to share that DARREN took in between coffee/recording.
Last Friday, my friend and fellow Torrid Productions member AiLEEN MARTELLA got together for some much needed bonding and creative time.
Some of you might recognize MARTELLA’s name; her work as a painter, poet and singer/songwriter are admirable and she has been a great source of personal and creative support and inspiration for me over the past two years as I share more of my arts and music with the public. For anyone who happened to catch my set at THE RAiNBOW a few months back, you might recall I performed a MARTELLA original for the first time live – that song being OPEN UP MY HEART (YOU’LL SEE A TiNY ARMY). It’s a beautiful number that she wrote for and inspired by me – resulting in what I believe is a truly poetic song with every potential to blossom into an even more amazing recording. Hence why I am currently toiling away with it as we speak in the recording studio with other collaborator DARREN HOLMES.
More to come on OPEN UP MY HEART but in the meantime, MARTELLA and I hooked up in effort to put our heads together for some song-writing and general fun times. Together we jammed in my living room, in and out of conversation and song; MARTELLA is also working on new material, both song and poetry so I also had the wonderful opportunity to get a taste of it myself. Not one to be too familiar with collaborating on music, I enjoy the time spent with her, and I usually find myself inspired to create and push myself even more. These jam sessions, if you will are encouraging as well as important to the collective process. Check out the youtube video below of my RAiNBOW performance of OPEN UP MY HEART and be sure to stay tuned for more from MARTELLA.
In other news, while there no future dates set to perform THE CORRUPTiON of FLESH with DANNiEL OiCKLE and OLEXANDRA PRUCHNiCKY, we at TORRiD PRODUCTiONS are nevertheless always toiling away on something special. Right now TORRiD PRODUCTiONS is currently putting together my very first official music video. The video is set for release at the end of May, and will feature my original song LONELY BLUE WAVES (i WANT YOU) from the 2011 album THEY SAY i’M DiFFERENT. Filming the video has been a fun process, and I look forward to seeing the final outcome so stay tuned! If you want to check out my album, be sure to visit iTunes (http://bit.ly/zQFwDg) or Reverbnation, where I currently rank at #6 on the Ottawa Folk Charts (http://bit.ly/HHwuXy). These are just some of the creative things going on that I’m particularly excited about.
I’m also continuing my work as an artist/facilitator for ARTSWELL, where we are about half way through the 10 week workshop MOTiONS AND POTiONS. I’ve tried to blog about as many of the sessions as possible, sharing photos of the work going on by myself, as well as the other facilitars and participants. I value this work very much – and this Saturday ARTSWELL will continue with a workshop on PASSAGES . For more information on ARSTWELL and MOTiONS AND POTiONS, please visit www.artswell.ca.
In other random news, I was featured recently in THE KiT Magazine, (which also has an online blog – check it out here www.thekit.ca). In a feature on clothing and fashion – I was mentioned among others as having the best street fashion across Canada. Inside I’m laughing – although on the outside I feel nothing but gratitude for the mention. I’ve always loved fashion and style and although I would not say they are among my priorities in life, I have always appreciated the value of self-expression through style. I’m just lucky they caught me on a day I wasn’t running to the grocery store in my sweatpants! Thank you to JUSTYNA for stopping me and giving me a featured spot. Check out the image below.
Finally, I’d like to make a comment for anyone interested in hearing something a little more confessional. I say this as someone who continually strives to make the best of life, but admittedly contends with a lot of anxieties, most of which are socially based.
I’ve never been officially diagnosed with any disorders, although I have been in and out of counseling for years. When the chips are down I’ve never been too ashamed to ask for help yet I recognize as much as I have pushed through a lot of said anxieties, I have also seen opportunities to advance in life, pass me by as a direct result of not knowing how to ask for help in facing the fears. Feeling ALONE in life’s journey can be a paralyzing experience for anyone familiar.
That said, lately I’ve been at a cross roads in my life and without meaning too sound vague I have been re-evaluating not only where I have come from, but where I am and where it is I wish to go moving forward. At times this commitment to making these changes and advancements in life can feel unsettling, as to embark on change can bring on many anxieties – yet I’m also invigorated right now because I have never felt more serious about finding my place and making that mark.
For years I believe a part of me has been afraid to shine – but for now I’M READY TO SURRENDER to the VULNERABiLiTY – and I admit that for me to be supported and connected to loving and positive people is a key ingredient to my survival. I thank those who are committed to me in any way and for any reason -
Continuing with a busy and creatively productive week – I had a chance to record more with my friend and musical collaborator DARREN HOLMES this Wednesday. Anyone following me may already know that HOLMES generously brings me into his home/recording studio in the basement where we jam and work on music, often times laying down potential tracks for a future independent release.
As far as I can tell, this past Wednesday feels like one of the most productive sessions we’ve had to date – and our meetings tend to happen sporadically, as this project is all about taking our time and above all – enjoying the musical process.
We really focused our energy this week on AiLEEN MARTELLA’s ‘OPEN UP MY HEART (YOU’LL SEE A TiNY ARMY) – as its a song very close to my heart that I also enjoy playing. It’s one I’m honored to sing, in fact, so getting the chance to ‘dress it up’, so to speak, with DARREN is an opportunity I can’t miss. Together we played the tune, and the more DARREN played around with his banjo and guitar on it – the more I can see it fleshing out into a song I thought was beautiful enough on its own with just a voice and guitar. It’s coming along beautifully – and I would hope DARREN agrees!
The most beneficial thing that came out of the session this week – was a new found focus or ‘theme’ if you will – of the album to be. As we played together – I found myself trying to articulate to DARREN just where it is I go in my head, whenever I sing, and what I mean by that is, where I go to find that ‘click’ or zen with the music that either tells me a song is right or wrong for me. I told him of how as a kid growing up in Manitoba, one of my favorite past times was putting my head-set on with whatever music of the day I enjoyed (usually CARLY SiMON, SiMON & GARFUNKEL – the list goes on) and head outside for a long walk along the dirt roads at the lake where my family home was. Of course, I had my German Sheppard KARMAH by my side (she was our family dog for18 years and lived every day of her life free from a leash) and soon enough we were trotting along the dirt roads together, heading to my ‘special place’; a hide-away in the woods near the lake – where I loved to sit and take in all the nature. It was a peaceful place, and I could sit for hours and sing with my dog by my side and the sun shining down on my face. To me – this was paradise – and because I link music to this memory – I find even today when I close my eyes and sing, its easy to go back to that frame of mind, that paradise, if you will – where I can still feel the beautiful kiss of the sun on my face as I squint through and sing…..
This – is the essence of the music I want to play – and this has now become the focus or theme of our recordings together. I want to send anyone listening to my music – to MY SPECiAL PARADiSE – to where they can feel the kiss of the sun and the beautiful tranquility of nature, which is comforting and warm. And if I’m really good at translating this message through out my music – I would even wager that you’ll find my beautiful dog KARMAH by your side too – and let me tell you: she was and is the most loyal and loving dog you’d ever want to have at your side on the dirt roads of life.
Stay tuned for more of these sessions – and I will continue to keep you posted on its evolution. Thank you to DARREN for all of the collaborative fun and to AiLEEN for the song to sing. Scroll down for a youtube clip of OPEN UP MY HEART – performed at THE RAiNBOW last month.
Well, today is indeed my birthday. I’m 33 years old – and beyond that I just want to take a moment to really thank everyone for their wishes and kind words. Not one to focus on my birthday, I do appreciate the out pour of love from friends, family and acquaintences alike – I’m lucky.
One more thing about aging: I’m not opposed to aging at all; life looks and feels better the older I get. So far my 30′s have been the brightest and most rewarding years – and while I have many dreams and goals to accomplish, I’m blessed to see what I’ve seen, experienced what I’ve experienced, and loved the people I have loved . And continue to love! I guess going forward I hope to even get back into University to work towards a Masters in Art and/or Music Therapy – but in the meantime grow creatively and just have fun with people.
Speaking of which – yesterday iSAAC and JENNY came over to jam and record music – mostly just hang. The three of us continue to enjoy our weekly sessions together as it would seem that we all seek connection and opportunity to flex our creativity in the company of friends. Needless to say, my home is my sanctuary, so to have my friends enter it and feel comfortable enough to sing and share and laugh – is very nice. JENNY shared a solo song for us and sounded lovely – and if you’re reading this JENNY I encourage you to continue sharing your voice because it is a beautiful instrument! Singing for or in front of people, even friends is not necessarily an easy thing to do – for everyone; so I’m especially honored to hear her sing solo because I know she is letting me in and that’s a beautiful thing. Part of these jam sessions and recordings is about connecting and extending ourselves – as much as it is about making beautiful music.
I had previously mentioned our having recorded ‘iLLUSiONS’ last week – and this week we continued to add or tweak vocals and some percussion. I’m very happy with the results thus far; and it was interesting to hear JENNY and iSAAC mention that whenever the song begins they have a familiar sense of comfort attached to it – and I take that as a compliment in that I know I turn to music for comfort myself so to know we ignited something that can potentially comfort people is….nice (is that the only word I knOW?!)
Moving on, I recently felt inspired to take one of my original tunes (PRAiRiE BOY) and turn it from a song into an instrumental piece instead. PRAiRiE BOY is a very personal song to me that I wrote back in 2010 at the invitation to write and perform a song at ViCTiMS’ VOiCES MATTER, a two-day conference for Law Enforcement Organizations, Community Groups and GLBTTQ Communities. Bullying and having a voice were major themes of this conference, and so when I was invited to write and sing a song from the viewpoint of my own experiences, I did so as a way to support what the conference was about – HAViNG A VOiCE. BECAUSE MiNE MATTERS TOO.
Writing PRAiRiE BOY was somewhat cathartic – but challenging too in that I had never quite written a song under the same circumstances. The lyrics speak for themselves and are merely a snapshot of how I felt about that aspect of my life at the time I wrote it. But for me that’s how I view my past in a lot of ways; snapshots or embellished movie scenes. PRAiRiE BOY is a snapshot of what I like to remember most about being a teen, as we all know those are monumental years, emphasis on the word ‘mental’. I remember a very young and isolated boy who loved being outside in nature. By taking away my original lyrics, PRAiRiE BOY can now perhaps become a fresh and blank canvas to paint a picture of that sort of image; the sun shining down on a PRAiRiE BOYS face so much he has to squint. This will all be slowly teased out by the help and accompaniment of iSAAC and JENNY, singing and playing guitars and heck even a mandolin! We’ll see, we’ll see.
Finally, we tinkered with an AiLEEN MARTELLA poem by the name MiNE, MiNE, MiNE – now for anyone who remembers I have been singing another MARTELLA song by the name OPEN UP MY HEART (YOU’LL SEE A TiNY ARMY) but this time I recieved permission from her to play around with my own compositions to her poetry, as I not only love her writing, I also find it an exorcise for my own playing – having lyrics to structure a song around is much easier than writing an entire song. Her words make it easier to enjoy finding a tune to sing with – so MiNE, MiNE, MiNE stood out to me as this twisted, sort of love song. Together with iSAAC and JENNY we will use it as another opportunity to play around together. So far I think it has potential!
Heading out to DARREN HOLMES’ family home in Hull, Quebec, last Thursday morning (December 1st), I was very much looking forward to continuing our work together. It had been some time since either of us could make our schedules work, in terms of meeting up and working on any music; and what with DARREN being the busy man he is, and I working on THE CORRUPTiON of FLESH – any music outside of it would have to wait.
However, Thursday with DARREN was another day to reassess things and get back to recording some potential tracks. Back to doing that folk and country style that I personally love.
Brewing up some coffee to start, DARREN and I caught up on life and work ; coffee-talk time is essential to us both before laying anything down vocally. I truly do enjoy this warm up time with him – and like I said, we had a lot of catching up to do. DARREN is a character- one I’m proud to know. And before you know it we were ready to get started.
Thursday felt like an accomplished day in that first we were able to lay down vocal and guitar for a song given to me by AiLEEN MARTELLA, a friend as well as an accomplished visual artist and writer (THE DROUGHT, 2010). I guess it goes to show how much I admire MARTELLA’S work as both a painter and poet. For example, the image of a painted prairie field on the CD of THEY SAY i’M DiFFERENT dons an original MARTELLA – a charming and fitting image for my personal liking. In the last year I’ve also gotten to know MARTELLA the poet; and as she draws from her own experiences she sets words to music that are simple, yet open to interpretation. OPEN UP MY HEART (YOU’LL SEE A TiNY ARMY) for instance, is a MARTELLA original; one that stands out for me personally as a story-tellers song and what her lyrics bring to the table reminds me very much of JONi MiTCHELL or NEiL YOUNG’S early confessional songs about weakness or love – yet MARTELLA offers a tender self-awareness and a submission to the joy and the pain of life. This perspective she has appeals to me – which is why I’m honored to be a part of OPEN UP MY HEART at all. When song feels like its been ripped from the pages of your own life – you pay attention, and fortunately for me MARTELLA is a generous person to extend her song for me to interpret. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing how HOLMES and I can develop anything of it.
Additionally to OPEN UP MY HEART we laid down the basic foundations for an original tune of mine called MAGGiE BROWN EYES – inspired by my love for a dear friend of mine. Anyone who has had to leave behind a friend, be it temporarily or long term – might understand how difficult it can be to do just that – leave. I know personally its never easy to be apart from those you love – I wrote MAGGiE BROWN EYES just as much for her as I felt a need to express something inside myself. Essentially it is my lullaby for her – and again I look forward to bringing it more to life.
That pretty much sums up Thursdays session – and although I can’t predict when HOLMES and I will get to continue this project, do trust that it is certainly a passion and priority to do so.