Right Brain Reacquaintance

A Hard Days Work …

My G2 and MacMy Dad was a jazz guitarist, and a pretty good one too. When I came along though, he did what he must have thought was the honourable thing and took up a trade to support his new family. As a carpenter, he found new ways to express himself and became one of the most sought-after and trust-worthy contractors in our neighbourhood. It also gave me the opportunity to learn the value of hard work, being safe in dangerous environments, and how to make something from nothing … good times with the old man indeed.

 

Best Of Both Worlds

Once a musician, always a musician, and even though our family construction company kept us busy, you’d occasionally hear the magical sounds of jazz riffing tempting us from the basement on a Friday or Saturday night. A long week’s labour would give way to some tantalizing musical interludes as Mom made incredible meals and cleared away the aftermath of the endless coming and going of friends and family … I remember wondering, isn’t it like this for everyone?

 

Serious Fun

Living in the musical shadow of my Dad’s raw talent, I sounded out my own niche as a blues singer playing the biker bars and seedy east-end clubs of Montreal throughout my youth. The constant reminder in my ear from a cautious father, kept me saddled firmly on the fence between a musician’s life and the corporate¬†world of computers, middle-management and business politics. My 20s and 30s were spent, like most, taking very little too seriously and burning several candles at both ends … because we’re all invincible for a little while ūüėČ

 

Taking Responsibility

My wife Liz and I were some of the last few hold-outs on the bar scene; old kids who never succumbed to the dark side but also managed to skip setting down roots. We found each other and quickly began the process of propping and pulling each other out of the crappy world that was clinging to us after too many years alone; giving birth to our own new selves, and also to a couple beautiful baby girls. Our universes were transformed and made anew; not without some swift-kicking growing pains to get us on track, but all for the very best, and certainly long overdue.

 

Old New Songs

So many old riffs, half-jotted-down ideas and beer-soaked melodies, scrabbled together in various forms; all of them finally collected into a clear snapshot of my musical life. Decades gone by since I wrote the first one, and already 5 years since I last left the stage resonating with the hum of¬†a hundred¬†tired cover songs. I finally revisited my old originals repertoire tonight, a Thursday night, one of my favourite nights of the week. Everything to look forward to after many years¬†of problems solved, and only the best yet to come in the ones ahead. I realize, I really love my songs, my life, my kids, my wife … what a feeling, all in a day’s work. It feels really nice to use the right side again.

The Best Gift Of All

Things …

434px-MerryOldSantaEverybody likes getting stuff, even little things can make people smile on Christmas morning … a box of chocolates, some new socks, it doesn’t take much. It’s easier than ever before to get stuff too; online shopping is a no-brainer, there are gift cards every where you shop … these days, just¬†laying a finger aside of your nose, presto, you’re Santa!

 

Ideas

Something that has not gotten any easier over time however is coming up with thoughtful gifts, these still require insight and understanding of our fellow giftee. Not only that, but the truly thoughtful gift can go further than showing one`s appreciation, it can also make a statement that inspires the receiver as well. To me, sharing ideas is the real challenge in life, and finding ways to turn material gifts into vehicles of expression is really tough.

 

The Message

Even though retail has flourished as the true motivator behind the current popular form of Christmas, there is an interesting return to that whole Miracle on 34th Street message; you can see and feel it in smartly produced campaigns by folks at Ikea and Sainsbury¬†… R.H. Macy would no doubt have been impressed. What makes me smile is that the message seems to be important again, it feels old-fashioned and brand new all at the same time.

 

The Method

Just like a truly thoughtful gift, a truly thoughtful song can make a difference in someone’s life. The overwhelming supply of mediocre fare that is instantly available to us … on store shelves, as well as on the radio, makes it hard to remember that the truly important message is one that is conveyed profoundly. Mediocre stuff is fine, but drumming up some real emotions once in a while is worth all the casual trinkets in anyone’s collection.

Pass It On

I’m very fortunate to be in good health, surrounded by a beautiful family, great friends, and live in a country where we can live free and do as we please. It makes me want to write great music, or at least try very hard to do so, and put into that effort as much genuine emotion as I can spare. By doing so, it makes me feel confident that I’ve done my best to share an important message, whether it’s whimsical, melancholy or just plain catchy, at least I’m being true to myself … and with any luck, that genuine message will be received, remembered, and passed on.

It Hasn`t All Been Done

Seeking Imperfection …

Jenny LewisWhen I have the misfortune of listening to popular radio, I’m easily annoyed at the sterile perfection of … everything … right down to the predictable production with echoed chorus vocals, and synthetic classical instrumentation added sparingly for effect and “depth”. The most enjoyable part pf any hit radio experience for me is when a chart topper from the 90s gets a turn at the wheel, and this lovely sharp contrast of refreshingly beautiful imperfections appear. It reminds me that there are actual human beings performing, but then the moment is gone and back they go to pitch-perfect, condenser-rich, focus-tested, pasteurized pop.

 

Where Have All the DJs Gone

Anytime I drive alone, I love tuning¬†in to my favourite station which is always brimming with fresh ideas and real musicians sharing their message in an organic and natural way. Time-permitting, a steady dose of live shows would be the preferred way to stay musically connected, but while rushing between destinations these rare radio gems are a welcome ear-full. It makes me wonder what it must have been like to grow up listening to revolutionary music spun by pioneers like¬†Jocko Henderson, Kid Leo & Margaret Anderson … in the present though, I’m thankful to be able to still settle in to a meaningful mini, musical voyage¬†with trippy, educational monologues from old salts like¬†Randy Bachman & Holger Petersen.

 

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that some performances don’t matter, you might not always be in the mood for a stellar performance, and the bassist may be drunk, and you maybe there’s a few too many drunks near the stage for your liking … but somebody somewhere in the back of the hall is hanging on your every note, and you’ll probably never know it but you might be the most inspiring thing they hear at just the right moment to make a difference.

 

Every Note and Every Silence Too

Deep down inside, I know that popular tunes and crappy radio do not represent the musical majority, and it’s beyond reassuring to hear incredible songs that make me feel like every single note was earned, and every silence intentional. Slight pauses at just the right moment, making me want more but artfully¬†never getting it … sometimes I could just jump out of my skin it makes me so happy. I can’t think of any more satisfying musical¬†moment than to be witness to genuine creativity that I know will never happen quite the same way again. Even a recorded moment of musical brilliance¬†has layers that only reveal themselves over time; it’s what makes all of us, the performers and admirers of genuine music,¬†so committed to the passion of our craft.

 

James Taylor - WinterfestIt Hasn’t All Been Done

The¬†“same three chords” may often be used as an excuse for many upstarts to follow an easy path with quick returns, but a dedicated artist takes every single instance of those chords and makes them their own. I caught the tail end of a James Taylor song not so long ago that reminded me so clearly of how important it is to take every note very seriously, but at the same time playfully … oh what magic this creative tension brings.

One chord, one perfect spot light, it’s all you need, there are no excuses for a bad melody, only lazy performance and influence from the negative forces around us; it takes courage and dedication to always be on your game.

 

Music Is Important

This all¬†reminds me¬†of how important music is, especially music that comes from the heart (and rarely¬†from¬†popular radio). Those old DJs from days gone by, they were more than personalities; they were the first real music critics; not there to tear music apart, but to introduce us to the unknown and make us expand our ideas about the world. There are still good music critics today,¬†but the most important critic is you … don’t be duped into the constant bombardment of popular crap, sure they may have a great morning show and some funny pranks, but the music is elsewhere and waiting for you to rediscover it in all it’s raw glory. You’ll know it when you find it because you’ll feel something you’ve never felt before, or maybe just haven’t felt for a very long time.