overcoming trauma

Q: How do you proceed in a traumatized situation when you have both a mental and emotional attachment to music? Thanks much!!!

A: I can only do my best to share what has worked for me as I walk this wandering & wondering path of mine.

Your comments remind me of my recent visit to LA. I was there for a music conference, but also played the tourist in Hollywood. It seemed like everywhere we went, someone wanted to sell us something. A tour, a map, a t-shirt, a photo with someone dressed up as Elvis, etc. I felt like I was fighting a swarm of locusts greedy for the few dollars I had in my wallet, saved painstakingly over several months in preparation for the trip. It exhausted me and I found myself getting more curt with each outstretched hand.

There was one guy in particular who came up and tried to sell us a map to movie star homes. "No thanks," I said politely, as I stood by a star engraved on the sidewalk, waiting for my mom to take a picture of it. He continued, stepping into my Mom's shot... "No, thanks," I said again, moving so that Mom could focus on the star & the star's name... and he followed, and he continued to tell me how wonderful his map was. I finally said, "We do not wish to buy a map! Get out of the way!"

It must be very hard to feel that people you trusted to show you the way actually got in the way and that time was wasted.

First, you have to let go of the past. There is nothing you can do about the time that was lost... all you have is this present moment. Regret, recriminations or guilt will not change what has gone by. At the same time, you can regard your experience as a lesson, and ask yourself what you have learned as a business person in the arts.

Because I wasn't there with you and I don't know all the details it's hard to be specific, but in my own journey, I know I bowed to the experience of someone who I thought knew what they were doing... and found out later they really did not (nor did they know it)... and I wasted 3 grand recording songs that should never have been produced as more than worktapes. I learned that even if someone is more knowledgeable than you are, they still may not have the 'right stuff'.

Secondly, don't let the past stop you from going forward. If you love music, then do music - get up and play it, sing it, write it. Don't let anything stop you. It's the experience, in the moment, of creating & doing music that feeds the soul. Remember it's why you do what you do. Let the music heal you.

Thirdly, research & explore & learn about the business. Decide what success means to you over the next 3 to 5 years. Get an objective & non-involved-in-your-career business/artist coach that you can use as a resource in supporting your journey. Get legal advice whenever you are offered a deal, research the background & credentials & testimonials of your potential 'helpers', and tread warily. A great resource for this is Just Plain Folks - there are some great mentors there who will answer questions & give you advice.

I don't know if this answers your question... but it's what came to my mind as I mused over it the last few days.


Here I am in limbo, caught between Christmas and New Year's with more time than normal on my hands... but not feeling much inspired to create anything. Last night I played through several work tapes of songs I created over the past year, but nothing leaped out and grabbed me. Today I toyed with two or three lyrics and added a line here or there. I've been staying up too late and not getting out for enough walks, I think.

Still, I've been musing over the New Year, like most people, and thinking about my goals for the next few months. I definitely want to get a new computer - a faster, bigger model with lots of RAM - to run the little orchestra programme I bought myself for Christmas. The design project I just finished (and worked countless hours into the night on) will pay for that.

I really want to take some of the songs I've written and develop them for a new age/ classical folk a la Enya kind of feel for a mystical-magical-fantasy CD. I also have some instrumentals I've written I'd like to develop further.

I'd like to write a little more... I have a couple of ideas of novels I've been mulling over in my mind, and I also would like to write something on the subject of creativity & healing through the creative process - something very close to my heart.

I also would like to improve my skills on various instruments - guitar, harmonica, mandolin, pennywhistle... so I think some lessons are in order, but I don't want to commit to anything until I try out my new, rather busy teaching schedule.

I want to spend more time with my Dad, and my Mom, which isn't as easy as it sounds as they are long divorced and live in different places.

I hope to continue the trend of doing more performing locally & perhaps also spreading that a little, to Seattle and Vancouver.

And I want to travel a little more... maybe Nashville, certainly California again... continue to learn all I can about this music industry, the business of songwriting, and indie artistry.

I hope you all have a happily creative and magical New Year!

be the architect of your own success

Q: Hello, I think you have a great blog. I'm a newbie in the music industry and agree with your points on defining success for yourself and ways to improve as an artist.My situation has been that I'm a solo artist and the people that I've met along the way who offered help (people that have been around for years, a few famous) have done greater harm than good for me. Now it's the end of the year and I feel semi-jaded on how to approach the future with the wounds of my past. How do recommend treating the wounds for a newbie in the industry, so that past wounds don't become future phobias?

A: Well, first I think we have to acknowledge that we all have bad times. We've all had projects fail, or folks take advantage of our lack of experience, songs rejected, unsuccessful gigs.

But I think it crucial not to put the strings of your career or your artistic life in someone else's hands. It's very easy to listen to the propaganda of those who promise (I'll pitch your music, just pay me for a demo) to help you make the 'big time'.

Since it's New Year's in a couple of weeks, why not sit down and map out your own plan. Be the architect of your own life. Figure out objectively where you are now and where you'd like to be. What are your strengths? What do you need to work on?

Can't figure that out? Resource: "The Artist's Way" - it's a work book, do the work, you will find answers you didn't expect.

Define: what does success mean to you? Money, gigs, album, playing out there, what? Get really specific. Give yourself achieveable, measurable goals. Look at your artistic and creative wishes and think about how they could come true. Then set yourself daily, weekly and/or monthly routines that are going to move you towards your goal.

For example.... if one goal is to play out more in 2007... then set some steps up:

- write a killer press kit (resource: Bob Baker, www.thebuzzfactor.com)

- get a pro photo done (...check with hairdresser, who mentioned her friend the award winning photographer)

- organize your killer press kit into a EPK (electronic press kit) - this could be updating your web site with the new info & photo & a couple of strong demos

- record a couple of songs for a demo to give to those you're trying to book with

- check out local live music venues that play your kind of music, make a list, and call each of them up

- don't forget to check out open mics & house concerts.... Resource: http://www.openmikes.org ; http://www.shenandoahmusic.com/usa-musician-house-concerts.htm

- if you'd rather not/don't have the skills to play solo, head out to some open mics / songwriting events and network, see if you can hook up with like-minded musicians

- check the (resource) Musician's Atlas & do on-line research to find out about venues & events in and around your area.

- don't forget to work on playing & singing, adding new repertoire, expanding your musical horizons!

Put a to-do list together and do it.

Remember that as a solo artist you are acting as your own booking manager, promoter, bookkeeper, etc. Include research into these areas as part of your plan. Know how to keep your own books (sign your own cheques), book your own gigs, send out your own press kits. Be proactive. Resource: Dan Kimpel's "Networking Strategies for the New Music Business"

In terms of your recovery from the wounds of the past... have a ceremony. Think about what you would like to let go off.... perhaps write it all down on paper, and then shred it.... let it go... it's yesterday. Start from today.

If you have a history of relationships that haven't worked for you, perhaps it's time to look at how you are, what you think, and how you react... that brings these people into your life. I'm not saying blame yourself for their wounding of you.... but I'm saying it's time to grow beyond your programming.

I recommend taking time every single day to spend with yourself, alone. Turn off the cell, the radio, the tv, and be quiet with yourself. Write (as per Julia Cameron), morning pages everyday. And/or, go for a walk every morning. It's crucial you start to hear your own voice, and you can't do that when you are living according to someone else's rules.

You have the strength, skills & resolve to step forward. You don't have to do it all right now. But take a baby step everyday. That's what I do.

Let me know how it goes :)

Getting that 'break' - is it possible?

Q: Do you believe that one day you will get the break that you've been looking for all this time? Explain why or why not. Sometimes it feels like we get told that we don't have a decent shot in this buisness/industry. How do we skip all that negative thinking and find a more intelligent way to get our material noticed?

A: There's no one way to make it in the music industry. We all have different skills, and some may perform and some may not. We all have different goals and aspirations, and a 'break' to one of us may mean nothing to someone else.

You need to define success for yourself - and I don't think it's a 'negative' to be honest when you are making this choice. You need to decide what 'success' means to you today and then make a plan & set goals to lead you towards that goal - and part of that is assessing where you currently are.

Perhaps some of what you read as 'negative' is information being imparted to you so you can assess your current skill level against that of the pros. I don't think that's a negative either. If I clearly know where I want to go, and where I am on that path, then I've got a much better chance of actually reaching my destination.

Once you have clearly defined what success means to you, then the steps that will lead you there will become clearer. You don't have have only one musical goal, either.

I think it is crucial to recognize that once you have that "thoroughly tweaked music" your job is only 50% done. You now have to become the marketer for your music. You have to understand the industry, how to network, speak the language… be determined but don't turn people off.… make friends, not use people.

Some of the goals I've set for myself are....

perform live more often
- improve guitar playing/take lessons
- take more harmonica lessons
- get some help on the mandolin
- think about maybe learning to play bass

make better demos, cut out the middle man
- place more music in film/tv in 2007
- buy a faster stand alone system, more ram
- buy an orchestra program
- work hard to understand how to produce at a higher level

market my music effectively
- learn more about networking & do it
- visit the music centers at least once a year
- stay up to date with blogs and newsletter

develop a Christmas & a new age album in 2007
- write the music, get it vetted
- slowly work on producing the music

write more commerically viable music
- work with experienced co-writers
- complete courses at SongU & Berkeley

IMO 'getting a decent shot' at the music industry doesn't happen overnight. It takes determination, songwriting chops, and people skills to get that first break. And those same skills are required to get your second break, and your third break.… etc.

Being a successful songwriter is just like becoming a successful artist… there's a big process of learning/developing/growing & networking that often isn't 'seen' once you become established. Establish your goals and work towards them systematically with passion & 'stick-to-it-ness'.
I'm a firm believer in the impossible. :)

cheers Vikki

Recommended reading:
"The Artist's Way" - Julia Cameron (it's a work book - do the work)
"6 Steps to Songwriting Success" - Jason Blume (ditto)

we are human....

I know it seems obvious, but I remembered today just how vunerable we are to nature.

It's a bit of a story.... we don't get much snow here in the southwestern most part of BC. We tend to get rain, and maybe a sprinkle of snow one or two afternoons in the winter months. It just doesn't get that cold. Well, last Sunday snow started to fall -- not the light dry snow you get up north, but huge flakes of wet snow... which, over the next few days, brought down trees & branches & power lines all over the city. The damp snow compacted into ice and the roads were really really slippery for days - even pro drivers had problems. Some folks were (and still are) without power for days. Some folks had fender benders and some worse. And a lot of people had falls - so many, that I was scared to step outside the house.

This morning, though, I heard my Mom had fallen - and thankfully not hurt herself too badly, but enough that she needed some day surgery to put her thumb back in place (ouch). I took the day off and spent it with her, at emergency, back to place, back to the hospital for the surgery. She's over at my sister's now, getting lots of TLC.

She's amazingly resilient, my Mom, the nurses couldn't keep up with her. They kept giving me instructions, and I kept saying. "you've told Mom this, right?" Cause my Mom, at 83, is fiercely independent and looks after herself. Even when we shared an apartment for a few years, she was the one that looked after me -- not the other way around.

Anyway, as I was waiting for her to come out of surgery, I could feel how worried I was. You forget sometimes just how vunerable the folks you love are. I've spent some time in hospitals over the past year, after my Dad's stroke, and this brought it all back. I'm not ready to face my life without them!!

It reminded me, too, that I need to look after myself better if I don't want folks sitting in a waiting room worrying about me... because I've been foolish enough to let my health go. Then we get busy and it's easier to pick up fast food or eat a bag of chips than it is to make a decent healthy meal - and take a walk.

Anyway, not to preach or anything... but that's what was going through my head sitting in the hospital waiting room....

keeping the musical fire alive

Someone asked on a songwriting board, what would happen if you got to the place with your music that you had to write great songs to deadlines... how would you keep your passion alive?

One of the ways I keep the fire burning is to play with other aspects of creativity. I think it's really important to "play".

I play at painting and writing and jewellery- making;

I play at finding small and joyful things in my life;

I teach because my students consistently teach me, awaken me, challenge me, inspire me;

I collaborate because my co-writer(s) take me places I never would have gone on my own;

I sing new songs written by the members of my trio, or by collaborators, so I'm challenged & excited to work on new things;

I love working on music, but sometimes it can be frustrating or feel overwhelming or mechanical. I find the element of play is really important to me. If I push to try to match the perceived expectations of others, I lose my joy. So I have to just allow that I am where I am, knowing what I know in this moment. I am still growing and learning... music (and life) is a process.

I've worked in theatre & opera, so I know what it feels like to rehearse like mad for a few short weeks, and then need to be "on" every second night in repertory or shows that go up 5 nights a week - plus a matinee on Sat.

You have to know your own needs & take good care of yourself, look for space & time to be alone, and get enough rest.

Most importantly? I believe in naps :)

home at last

Got home yesterday despite the near hurricane-force winds up here in the Pacific Northwest -- but instead of boarding a boat in Seattle to bring us directly to Victoria, we were bussed up to Canada, and the ferry to Vancouver Island - only to find it wasn't running either. We waited at the ferry terminal for 5 hours, and finally got on the first ferry that left at 3:45 pm. I was home at 6:30 - instead of 11 am as planned. I went to bed and slept for hours but I still feel tired.

The Road Rally was an awesome experience, and I met so many musicians, singers, and songwriters there, as well as talking person to person with John Braheny, Debra Russell, Michael Anderson, Pat Pattison, Susan Turner and many more. I really enjoyed my stop over in San Francisco too.

I'll be posting some of my notes from the Rally in a couple of days. Stay tuned!

Jason Blume

Hey - today I heard a very inspirational talk by Jason Blume (6 Steps to Songwriting Success; This Business of Songwriting). He basically said you gotta do these things to get where you want to go:

- be persistent and determined; when knocked down, dust yourself off and keep going

- be teachable, be willing to rewrite as many times as it takes

- success in music is not a straight line. It's not like, studying to be a doctor - you know if you do the work, you'll end up with your degree. Songwriters/artists have to do it all, cause we don't know which approach will work.

- we have to be good at creating opportunities (not wait for them to come along)

- network, connect, exchange CDs, emails, links - you don't know where the guy sitting next to you is going to be

- we're in a business where "good" is worthless. Only 'exceptional' will work, and you need to maintain that exceptional level, cause, if you do, and you keep putting it out there, eventually something will stick Be unique, special... blow them away.

- "luck" comes from working your butt off AND being prepared for the opportunity when it comes up. Are you doing everything you can do to get 'lucky'?

in LA for a week

Hey, just buzzed thru San Francisco (lovely city, great time - love Little Italy) and am now in LA for the big music conference (road rally) -- they had a record high here yesterday of 95C, today it went to 97C. Needless to say I didn't do much sightseeing, I laid on the bed with a cool compress on my eyes & the air conditioning on. However, it is much cooler this evening, so went out and explored a little, bought some lighter clothing & had a bite. Tomorrow the rally begins. Much to do in just 3.25 days. I have gone thru the schedule with a fine tooth comb to figure out what is most important for me to do. Hoping also to touch base with some other musicians I've been collabin' with over the past while.

I had planned to have 60 demos ready to pass out, but, because my studio engineer dropped the ball and I had to scramble to find other resources to produce at least 2 out of the 3 songs I'd expected him to complete... I didn't get the final song until the evening before I left. I sat up til 4 am burning CDs and then got up again early and started again. When you've got one old computer, and several songs to burn, each CD takes about 10 minutes. So, at about 5 an hour - you do the math... 12 hours to burn em.

Other than today, when it was so overwhelmingly hot, it's been a good trip so far.

getting ready for California

Yeah, I'm headin' to CA next week to attend a music conference in LA - but I'm stoppin' in San Francisco for a couple days first. I been slowly working on getting ready for the trip, doin' things like buyin' a few new clothes, and some new walking shoes, get the hair cut, get the demo mastered, stuff like that.

My other projects right now doing vocal tracks on a couple of songs for collaborators, writin' music for a couple lyrics, gettin' my newsletter out, and rehearsing with my trio for our upcoming Dec gig. I'm also working on a couple more originals for that.

The next album is slowly coming together. I have most of the songs written, but it will take some time to get them produced. I don't think it will be ready til maybe summer 2007. It's amazing how long it takes to birth a song... from that first scribble in the middle of the night til the final master. I just keep puttin' one foot in front of the other and trust I'll get there one day ;)

Pursuing a dream AND paying the rent = ?

Q: What are some of the things you are doing to make the moves that are necessary to make your musical dreams come true and eat at the same time?

A: Sixteen years ago, when I started taking voice lessons, I could barely read music. I'd played instruments in high school but dropped them all except strumming the guitar now and then. I was also working full-time in an office - something I found creatively limiting and time-consuming, but we all have to pay the rent…

Six years later, the company I worked at was sold… and we were told that our jobs were safe.… and a week later, they laid off 9 people - I was one. I was pretty bitter about that… but I met an old friend on the street that I hadn't seen for a while.

She said, "why don't you teach singing?"

I said, "I couldn't do that."

"But you've been taking lessons for years. And you don't have to think about training someone for the opera.… lots of people just want to be able to sit around the camp fire and sing comfortably."

She was kind enough to help me prepare 6 proposals for group voice classes that I sent to the different community centres in Vancouver… and one of them said yes. The class minimum was 6. Only 4 people signed up - I said I'd take a cut in pay to teach it. Once the class began, 2 more signed up.

The next semester, another community centre got on board. And I got a part-time job in the office of the church where I sang in the choir. Not only did I need a part-time job to pay my rent, but I also could then use the piano rooms for practice....and eventually got permission to teach there as well. Within a year, I'd changed the group voice classes into 30 minute private lessons at both community centers.

Within two years I was teaching 3 nights a week at community centers, a few hours at the church, and working part time in the church office. I did that until I moved to Victoria, where I was fortunate to find a place I could live and teach.

Through a fortunate turn of events - one of my students suggested I get in touch with a local recording studio who was looking for singers.… the producer and I started talking.… we ended up writing a few songs together (I hadn't written in years).… he inspired me to get back into songwriting....

Now I write music, record music, teach music, perform music… I live in music every day. I've since taken piano lessons, guitar lessons, harmonica lessons, I just picked up a mandolin... and I'm taking courses in songwriting, too.

I can tell you quite honestly when I started voice lessons I had no idea I would be teaching singing, writing songs & instrumentals, recording in my own studio, etc. I'm still amazed by it. I can also tell you that I have sacrificed financially on an ongoing basis to be able to live this creative life. To me it is worth it, but I didn't have to worry about bringing up a family. If I did, I'd probably still be working in an office and playing the guitar now and then.

You must perververe. You must find a way to bring music into your life everyday. You must do music for the love of it, because you can't imagine doing anything else. And keep moving forward yes, but don't limit yourself in your definition of success (a hit record, singing at the Opry)… my goal in life is to "be IN the music" and that's what I try to do everyday.… and I trust that is leading me somewhere.

Most of all, I thank God for the people who have come into my life - especially people like you, who take the time to listen to my music and read my words, and who take the time to share a little of their journey with me :)

How subtle and sneaky our psyche

This week has been one of insights shared with my students, who are often catalysts for my personal growth. They honor me with more than just being in my studio. They are present with me on many levels, allowing me in, and so we work together to find the voice that has been hidden by past experiences, wounds, bad habits, and programming.

This week it seemed that many lessons developed into a conversation about how our behaviors make us scattered, or tired, or stressed, or anxious, and therefore, because we have somehow created that internal storm or lassitude... that we again do not take a active step forward in our journey.

The paintbrush sits in the jar, the canvas attracting dust. The lesson tape is forgotten, lying on the seat of the car under something else. The things we've left undone crowd upon us, convincing us we have no time or energy to do our artistic practice.

How subtle and sneaky our psyche is. We have a thousand reasons for not doing the one thing that we long to do.

Each day that I live I am aware how hard I have to fight my programming. How easy it is to slide into the slough of despond and end up on the couch watching reruns.

Each day I am aware that yes, I accomplish a fair bit... but how much time is wasted by avoidance, procrastination, feeling scattered or overwhelmed by all there is to do.

I find myself talking sternly to myself, on the one hand, telling myself that I may not play on the computer before I've done my chores, had my daily walk, prepared for my day.

On the other hand, I find myself talking back to the gremlin in my head, saying, 'Yes, I am worthy. Yes, I have accomplished something today. I walked, I taught, I wrote, I sang, I created a new song, I wrote a lyric, I paid a bill, I ate healthy, I called a friend. I am all I need to be in the present moment, and I am beautiful.'

"the shy speaker" :lol:

I know lots of folks look at all the stuff I've done and think it all comes easy, but it don't.

I've been painfully - and I mean painfully - shy all my life. I've avoided social situations, stumbled through conversations with a red face, walked out of restaurants before ordering because I felt too uncomfortable to stay. Even worse, as much as I wanted to sing, I had so much stage fright when performing that I literally could not stand up because my knees were shaking so hard. I'd have to sit on a stool & even then I never sang in public the way I sang at home.

It was only after I began to work with a voice teacher who was also a terrified singer that I was able to slowly, with his help, over time, recognize how my negative thinking, habits and programming were limiting my ability to sing.

And of course, it only makes sense that what stops you from performing well in music also appears in other places in your life. It was like peeling away layers of an onion... getting past one barrier only to find another, each little habit feeling like it was part of my DNA.

I almost gave up, just about every week. But, thankfully, because I was so passionate about music and creativity... and because I didn't want to live a life that didn't include them anymore... I didn't let the internal resistance shut me down or quit. I began to heal.

I did some stand-up comedy about 5 years ago - it took me about 3 years of practicing, thinking about it and watching my friends do it, to get up the courage to actually go to the amateur night and perform my set. When I finally did it - I killed. I left the stage and the audience was cheering, and the MC called for me to come back on stage - but I couldn't. I couldn't.

I wasn't able to because I was backstage, on the floor. I literally had collapsed and couldn't get up, I was shaking so much. I think I lay there for at least 5 minutes, listening to the comic who came after me. I was eventually able to walk again :lol: and I did go back and do it again - about half-a-dozen times. It was something I challenged myself to do, and I felt like I had finally faced one of my fears head-on.

Then, about 3 years ago, when I was auditoning or performing as an actor and/or singer, I noticed a real difference. I'd get off stage after doing my thing, and then realize... 'oh my God, I wasn't nervous! Wow!'

And this week I did something I would absolutely have considered impossible at any time in my past. I actually successfully gave an inspirational talk to a local group of corporate/government types. Yes, a public speaking gig. I talked about my creative journey and what I've learned from walking this path.

I found four things in the process of rediscovering myself and my passion for music. Four things that helped me stay on track, and I want to share them with you.

1. -Spend time with yourself. Quiet time. Daily if you can, walk to work but leave the walkman at home; or meditate, or stop in a café and have a quiet coffee while you write in your journal. You need to stop, and listen to your soul. Raise your awareness of yourself & discover or rediscover what you are passionate about, and start in small ways to bring those things into your life.

2. -Forward action. Set your goals and move through the doubt with purpose – shine a light on that part of you that isn't on the bandwagon & invite it to come along for the ride. Understand that change is difficult for the psyche to accept and realize that the doubts and procrastination come from the Greek Chorus of negativity that lives in your head... and the GC don't want to lose their hold on you. Which brings me to...

3. -Routine. Work to achieve your goals in bite-sized chunks by taking action on a routine basis, as part of your life style and way of being. Action defeats doubt. Action creates energy, which moves us forward. Do something little every day towards that dream.

4. -Never give up.


"Still I Dream" - free download

A couple of years ago I was talking to a gentleman about singing at a fund-raising event, and he told me about his grandaughter. She was a streetwalker on Vancouver's East Side, and was one of the women who had gone missing from there in recent weeks, and was quite possibly dead. I could hear the sadness in his voice as he told me the story.

It made me think about how we lose people in our lives through misunderstandings and wrong turns.... mistakes we make... actions we regret.

So I sat down and wrote a song called 'I Will Remember You'. I soon discovered that Sarah McLachlan had a hit song with the same name. So I rewrote my lyrics and called it 'Still I Dream of You'.

It really means a lot to me.

After I recorded the lead vocal, I listened to the playback and I liked what I heard. The ethereal nature of my voice seemed to express the longing I felt as I thought about those in my life that have taken paths I cannot see, and how they are lost to me. Those who know me know I'm a big fan of harmony & creativity with the vocals on my songs... but for this one, I decided to leave it as one simple quiet voice.

I hope you find it meaningful.

Free download: http://www.myspace.com/vikkiflawith
The full CD is available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/flawith

TGIF - eh?

Today in my muic bubble I’m getting 6 demos ready for mastering; am in the process of writing several other songs; am reading Jason Blume’s ‘6 Steps to Songwriting Success’, am choosing the repertoire for a prestigious gig; I just organized a face-to-face with the author of the ‘musician’s bible’ when I’m in LA; I walked (and came up with 3 song ideas), did my vocal exercises, ate a healthy lunch; am listening to MTV & brainstorming ideas for pop-rock songs; am organizing a rehearsal schedule for my trio; I’m reading guidebooks for my trip; I’ve been playing with the ‘the songwriter’s source book’ to come up with more interesting chord progressions.… plus taught my Friday students. Oh, I have to do my Pilates & update my websites with gig info.

Time for a nap :lol:

inspiration & perspiration :-)

I was thinking late last night about the 'inspirational talk' I'm giving later this month. I haven't felt very inspired about it - not that I don't talk all day and every day about the creative process and its capacity to lift us and move us forward - but everytime I think about it, I get this picture in my head of what the audience is going to see, and I picture them saying to themselves, 'yeah right, like she knows anything'. And right there is the problem with most performance anxiety.

I decided to overcome that by reading a book about public speaking. Funnily enough, it just happened to be on my sister's bookshelf yesterday when I was browsing to see if she had any interesting novels to read. I've read the first few chapters now, and one truth that jumped out at me was that if you talk about something you're passionate about, you will engage an audience. I see this as Passion plus Courage = Inspiration.

I get many comments from folks on how much I do and how deeply involved in music I am. But for me it doesn't feel like I'm doing anything extraordinary - I'm just living my creative life, fueled by the passion to do so, and thrilled everytime I am inspired to create, teach, perform and play.

When you have a healthy passion for something that lights you up inside - whether it's collecting elephants, running, or songwriting - and you embrace that passion on a routine basis, and you make choices in your life that support that passion, then I believe that light shines through you. And that your act of being passionate about that great thing you love to do.... sends ripples out into the energy of the world and because of your creative act.... someone else you probably will never know will be inspired to do the same. You don't set out to 'be' inspiring, you just 'are' because you are living your life with a meaning that you have defined for yourself.

Just think what would happen if half the world's population got passionate about peace. And they started by looking inside themselves and finding peace within, doing acts of peace like meditation or running or writing or painting or whatever it is that makes them feel still & serene inside. They worked on understanding their programming & preconceptions, and live with compassion, tolerance and understanding. They learned to listen rather than preach. They learned to hear instead of judge. They passionately believed that most human beings have the potential to be something extraordinary, if they could rise above the doubt, the integrated limitations, and live with passion. Slowly, as their passion for peace manifested in their own spirit, they'd begin to do acts of peace in their own family, in their neighbourhood. They'd make it a goal to have a peaceful home and a peaceful community, and they'd approach that work with passion, compassion, and belief. Passion would motivate them to overcome the setbacks. They'd 'pay it forward' whenever they could.

See what I mean :lol: - I started to talk about something I'm passionate about.... and that's what came out of my head & heart. Thought for the day, I guess.

I hope this week you will renew your passion for music and embrace it everyday in small ways as you walk along the path of life.

Ack! (and "artist development")

Ack! Look how long between posts. Yikes! If I had readers, they have now gone elsewhere. But I'll still post, cause this is supposed to be a journal. Had a busy summer, mostly spent out of town and away from computers. Have been back a few days, and busy getting back to teaching, paying bills, organizing my life, procrastinating, and generally being ineffectual. Then I got a cold. But I am now bouncing back so here I am again... :-)

Hey, well I was just on another board and someone had posted about 'artist development' and it got me to thinking. How many of us want to be professional singers/artists? And how many of us have mapped out some sort of development plan for this goal? If you were starting a business, for example, you would be expected to create a business & financial plan showing your goals and ideas for the next 3 to 5 years. So, do you have a treasure map for your personal artistic success? Say, for the next year?

Here's mine:

- continue vocal coaching
- continue guitar lessons
- take mandolin lessons
- try out the fiddle
- take some jazz piano

- open stages & open mics
- songwriter's nights
- look for hour-long paying gigs or feature performer slots
- apply to music festivals for next year

- Road Rally music conference (LA), November
- Nashville next spring??

- complete my solo electronic-pop album
- pitch film/tv & songs
- complete all current collaborations
- read up on industry
- keep marketing current CD
- keep writing!

- read Studio Buddy
- get a larger hard drive

- stay up-to-date with all web pages
- get CD reviews
- work on getting more radio play

How about you? :-)

organzie, smorganize

02July06 - Hey, I am getting organized. I got all kinds of paper spread out on my coffee table in little piles, and envelopes set up to put them in, and I got the recycle bag right here so I can put the endless papers that I don't need but seem to keep around in there and get rid of them.

I thought we were supposed to be the paperless society, but when I look around, all I see IS paper. Music (on paper). Bills (on paper). Diary (made of paper). That ever-changing schedule that I print off every two days - which invariably changes as soon as I print it off :lol:

And lists. I've got lists right here in front of me as I type. A list of songs for my summer album. A list of listings to submit songs to. A list of names that are on my newsletter list twice. Lists of co-writes to work on.

But I have to list things. I can be really bad at prioritizing and I will forget something important if I don't write it on a list. Lists are good. Doing something that is on the list is even better. And hey 'update your blog' is on the list, for Sunday. And today's Sunday and I'm doing it even though I feel like a nap... and the little piles of receipts are feeling lonely without me shuffling through them and trying to remember what I did on March 11th.

Today I signed up for "50 songs in 90 days" = sort of a personal challenge. I did something similar a couple of years ago, which was to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. I think I came up to about half that total. Anyway, 50 songs in 90 days starts on July 4th.... so stay tuned, I will let you know how I am doing. I'll be away for some of the time, but I can write and travel.

Yesterday I found out my entry into the made it to the second round of the Just Plain Folks Lyric Contest. I made the top 50 out of 500. I'm really pleased about that. There's some really great lyrics in the top 50, so we'll wait and who moves to the next round of 20.

Hope you are enjoying your Canada Day long weekend, or your July 4th long weekend.... or if you live elsewhere, just have a great weekend!!!!

Summer Solstice

24Jun06 - As the summer solstice began I felt a shift in energy. Even tho the sun is shining, something in me feels very low. Sometimes the struggle feels like an impossible one. I know we all feel this from time to time. I comfort myself with the knowledge that it is the *act* of creating, of playing, of singing that is meaningful to the spirit - not the validation of others. Still sometimes this journey of ours feels very lonely. You put out your CDs and post your music and play your gigs... and the money you get never covers the bills. You start to read the want ads as your heart drops through the floor.

And you wonder if you'll ever get good enough to get some real recognition or some real money. But the next day you wake up and you do it all again, because it took you so long, it took so many years to finally find your passion and live it... you just can't give up on it, no matter what. It is life to you. It's who you are and what you do all wrapped up into one. It's as vital to you as your heart and lungs.
So you weep a little, and watch dreadful re-runs on tv... and after a couple of hours, you get out the guitar and write a sad song. Somehow, you feel better.

Seasons change, pulse with fluid movement, flow softly over our consciousness... beat on our foreheads or dance on our pillows as we dream our dreams. And, from time to time, we are awake enough to acknowledge that there's something undeniably magical about being alive.

:) I don't know if any of that makes sense, but it's what came to me as I sat here clickin' on the keyboard.

Cold facts on IQ study

Here's an interesting factoid.... this one from professor Richard Lynn of the University of Ulster, who has been doing a study on IQ. Among other things, he claims that people who live in countries with cold climates have higher IQs, likely stemming from the fact that they have to look for food in harsh conditions and that takes brain power. I know what a struggle it is to find the grocery store in the snow, especially if you want to park your skidoo near the entrance so you don't freeze on the walk back to your vehicle. Keeps the groceries fresh, though.

He also claims that people who live in cities have higher IQs, because, he says, people who live in towns were smart enough to leave rural life behind, perhaps because country grocery stores are more elusive & tend to hibernate, making mealtimes skinny.

Still, I would like to introduce the professor to a few of our Canadian citizens, who live and work in the cold climate of the big city of Ottawa, Canada's capital, supposedly running this country. Based on their current activities (or lack thereof), I don't think the prof can use them as an example to prove his theory. I'm sure he missed them when he was doing his survey. Perhaps they were out hunting moose.

When I lived 'up north' I was fascinated by the things we intelligent cold city folk would get up to, like getting your tongue stuck on an icy metal pole or driving a skidoo on thin ice, or wearing slacks underneath your dress so your legs wouldn't freeze on the way to school. I see big city girls in warm places like LA copying this fashion nowadays.

They take it a step further though - perhaps because it's warmer - and only wear their silk slips, which are finished with lace, over their slacks -- attractively ripped, of course. Another fine fashion, adopted by big city boys, is the wearing of pants so loose your fly is down at your knees. I hate to tell them, but really what they are wearing is a mutant version of the skirt-over-slacks.

In the boy's case, they are wearing a skirt that turns into slacks at the knees, and then bags down over their ankles so they have those attractive trailing bits of cloth decoratively drooping around their expensive, scuffed running shoes with loose laces flapping musically as they lounge by, hands in their pockets & ball cap jauntily hiding their intelligent eyes as they hunt for nourishment.

Anyway, it's nice to know that living in a cold, damp city makes you smarter. I hope I can find the grocery store tomorrow. I'm out of country crock.

Klingon vessel de-cloaking off the port bow

*Warning: what follows is a Blog Entry. Blogs are personal logs. This may contain dishelved and unorganized thoughts. Readers should note that the Train of Responsibility is chugging away far ahead of me while I run after it, falling ever behind. Some adults may be offended by my candid ongoing listing of projects and things to do, which I continue to enumerate in the hopes I may motivate myself to grow up and complete a few things. (If I didn't have to pay rent, I would play in the yard all day.)

Back to the Klingon vessel... did you know that researchers now claim that we will have a cloak of invisiability within 5 years? Yes, through some magic with the use of metamaterials, they will be able to make an object disappear by doing something to the light that travels around it. Just imagine how cool that would be. You could, almost literally, be the fly on the wall, the Harvey at the dinner table, stand in a corner of the office as your ex plots with his/her lawyer, maybe even be sitting in the music publisher's office when she/he listens to the first 30 seconds of your song and then files your CD in that handy basket... which you hope says 'contact for licencing' and not 'trash'.

The researchers are a little behind actually. If they'd spent some time here in my little abode, they would have, through extensive study and the use of various scopes and sensers, found that things disappear here at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, they often are not the sort of things you would like to disappear. Like the tax bill, for instance. They could beam that up and cloak it to their heart's content. All this administrative stuff I have to do... wouldn't be nice to just have that disappear... well, no really, what you want is to be able to twitch your nose and have it be done.

Let me check... no, there are still some dirty dishes in the sink. And the laundry hamper is occupied. No cloaking there.

I spent an hour on Monday going through all my craft totes to find my crimping pliers. Cloaked.

The things I'm really looking for.... like my membership card for the Songwriters Association of Canada, or my passport application and the pictures I paid $30 for... can't find them. They are definitely cloaked. They would have told me if they were going out, methinks.

Still, when I look at how I live now compared to how I used to live... I can tell you I'd much rather have it this way.

I used to be called "Ms Organization" when I worked as a dental claims examiner for an insurance firm. I was as anal as hell, stiff as a board, fairly judgemental and awfully insecure. I was also terribly unhappy. I was making lots of money, but there was no joy in my life. My guitar was 3,000 miles away in my Dad's closet. I only sang when I was in the tub. I made my life about being what other people wanted of me... the efficient clerk at work, the good wife at home. I tried very very hard to be the "good girl" that I felt other people wanted. I wanted them to like me, and not judge me, and not be angry with me. I expended all my life energy on pleasing other people.

One night, thank god, after I'd worked an entire day on my own packing up the house to move the next day, and my husband came home from being out with his friends and ripped my head off for 'packing things up wrong' ... I lay awake all night thinking about what my life had become. I had an epiphany.

I decided that being good for my husband was not so good for me. I packed what I could take into 2 suitcases and got on a plane and came home.

Totally demoralized, I looked deep into my soul and asked myself some serious questions. If I wasn't going to live my life by the "rules" of others, then I needed to find what was important to me and set out to do it. Two things became very clear. One was that my creativity had been totally stifled by the life I had been leading, and that I desperately wanted to do someting that was more creative as a living. Two, I'd wanted to be a singer for as long as I could remember... since I was about 5 or 6 and joined my first choir.

So I managed to get myself into a 7-month graphic design course and, when I was hired by the firm with whom I had done both my practicums... I began to take voice lessons. The process of taking voice lessons, over the next few years, was a form of healing therapy for me. The self-awareness, the focus of attention on the 'now' and the work to release my voice from its fetters helped me see how much I had limited myself in the past. After several years of voice training, I began to teach voice myself, cutting my time in the office to 20 hrs/week, and then to 14 hrs/week (just enough to cover the rent). After a few years of that, I gave up the job entirely and became a full-time musician.

How much I have changed. Yes, I still have to organize my time, and schedule students and cope with adult responsbilities like bills, groceries, laundry, spending time with my 83 year-old mom, and worrying about my 81 year-old-dad who has been in hospital 3 times since late November (they're divorced). But I try, whenever possible to play.

Play to me means that I have at my disposal, any number of projects I'm working on or could begin, if I feel one of them 'calling' to me. At the moment, I have beading supplies on my kitchen table and I'm making some jewelry for the summer market. This afternoon I bought some 'art trading cards' from the art supply store... you're supposed to paint them and trade them with other people (neat idea). My guitar is sitting right here, waiting for me to practice. This morning I listened to a tape of my last coaching with my voice teacher & sang the exercises and made a list of what we did for future reference. On my desk right here is a time sheet for the ebook I am helping a client write... I need to complete the drafts of chapters 5 and 6. Underneath the phone are some Taxi listings, I need to organize getting some songs ready to submit to them. Also on my desk is my studio teaching schedule, on which I've noted some changes... so I will have to update the schedule I post on line for my students. On the coffee table in the corner are some cover letters, I need to address envelopes & pop a CD in and send them off to radio stations. I have 3 or 4 unfinished songs waiting my attention. There are also some unfinished & blank canvases in my bedroom.

So I ask myself, 'what do I feel like playing with right now', and I follow the inspiration of the moment... unless there is a deadline to meet (ah, the dreaded deadline... it's amazing how hard it is to get out of bed when you have a deadline :lol:).

I trully believe it is the act of doing something creative that heals us, moves us forward, that changes us, fosters a growth spurt, opens the mind, frees the spirit, makes us happy, lifts us up, allows us to touch the divine in us & in the universe. When I write music or poetry or lyrics or paint... I look for that flow. I try to shut off my mind & my ego and just follow the muse where it leads me. Thus something is created, a something we define as a song, or an instrumental, or painting, or a story....

When we have the final product, we may spray it with fixative, or run it through the spell-check (or ask a friend to proof it), or take it to a studio engineer for a better more polished mix.

If at that point, when the inspiration for that one piece of work is done, and we've moved on... is it wrong to place a monetary value on our completed work? Is it wrong to say... 'you know, it cost me $$ to make this, plus my time, plus my inspiration. I hope you find it worthy'. Does the act of selling our act of creativity devalue it?

We post our work and our bios and our photos and our artwork and our links to CD Baby on our web pages, marketing ourselves and our work. Does that mean that we value commerce over the creative spirit?

two new projects? :)

Well, although I am not finished catching up on the collaborations on my list....

yesterday I came up with an idea for an ebook, and I actually have even written a page or two on it. It's going to be about what I've learned about living by being in the music, how music (art) was a process by which I became who I am today.

I just had a meeting with my 'Waiting for the Bus' co-writer, Mike Kavanagh - and we decided to work on another CD together. We already have several songs we've been working on. We'll put our noses to the grindstone over the next 4 months & see if we can come up with a winter album to balance our spring album

I also still want to put out my own ambient album & I have 3 pieces written for that and ideas for more.

I had a cold/sore throat last week so didn't get much singing done. But I did have a harmonica lesson (yes!).

We've had to order a second run of the CD (yes!) it should be ready in the next couple of days :)

I wrote the music for a lyric by Lloyd Kyrk & Michael Buller last weekend, and I wrote the music for a lyric by Michael Kavanagh this week as well.

I bought an external harddrive for my computer but I need to spend a half day setting it all up.

I have a headache for some reason so I'll sign off and hit the sack. Have a creative week, everybody!!

the Life of a small “a” big “I” Indie artist.

Many of us aspire to be artists or songwriters of note... maybe not famous, but well-respected, working... well, I've been taking tiny baby steps towards that goal for awhile... but I'm finding out just what it means to say... for an Indie artist... it's DIY all the way.

A few days in the Life of a small “a” big “I” Indie artist.

The CD that we worked to put together over 8 months finally was complete at the end of April. Writing & recording, artwork, mastering, duplication, done. Hurrah!

-oh. Send 5 CDs to CD baby with a bank draft. Encompassed trip to bank and post office.

-oh. Send 5 CDs to CanTunes. Encompassed trip to post office.

-Ya, buy expensive padded envelopes, nice stationery for press kits

-okay, write one sheets, track list… on hold til get CD Baby web address for CD sales

-yes, get promo photo done, run off copies

-go through Indie Bible, select appropriate reviewers, radio stations, radio hosts…

-find the list of radio shows, reviewers & hosts I’d been making over the last 8 months, too

-look up each radio station on the net and get the name of the current music director

-write individually addressed cover letters to each MD at each radio station, each host of a radio show, each reviewer… try to be clever, fun, short, sassy… suggest a track that their listeners might particularly like

-address each envelope, to / from

-CD Baby is set-up! Hurrah!

-put album address on one sheets and track list, run off

-sign each letter, stuff each envelope…. laboriously remove expensive shrink wrapping from CD before putting it in envelope – note to self—always get 100 unwrapped CDs for promo purposes

-trip to post office, weigh a promo pack… spend $70 on postage

- put postage on envelopes

-make three trips to the mail box

oh yeah... update CD Baby page with bios, track lists, credits

-oh yeah… CD Baby is set-up…. now I have to update all the websites with the address… I hope I remember all the passwords. Upload a jpg of the cover to my server so I can link to it.

-my folk trio is starting to get bookings. Hurrah. Oh. Now I have to update all the websites with upcoming gigs. Oh. Now we move from rehearsing once a week to three times a week. We got an opp to sing in a Christmas concert series. Oh, they want a press kit. Now we need a bio, a demo, a song list, a promo photo. Recording time? We want to do more originals. Spend time arranging two songs for the next rehearsal. Make a list of places to call for potential bookings. Make the calls, make the bookings.

-look at that, I had another sign up for my ezine, The Shy Singer’. Oh. I haven’t put an issue out for awhile. Too busy. I should do that. Before I do that, though, I should revamp my website. Spend weekend revamping website. Looks good. Haven’t got newsletter done yet.

-fan mail. Yes, I get fan mail. Not a lot, but usually two or three emails a week, PM’s through various boards, messages on MySpace. All need to be answered. Set aside an hour at least once a week to answer.

-The Collaborators – the collabs are my internet band. It’s a group of 6 talented songwriters & musicians. We take turns producing each other’s work. I love them because they always give their best to every project. Because they work on my songs, I work on theirs. They are a top priority for me. I often mix / produce as well – that means downloading tracks, lining them up, mixing them in, rendering audio, uploading the updated version of the song. Plus singing, adding piano, synth, etc.

- I have 18 students. Each week I schedule their lessons, prepare for the sessions, choose music, answer their emails and calls, give them my full attention when we’re one-on-one. Not to mention keeping the ‘studio’ tidy.

-my co-writer, Michael Kavanagh. Mike is my songwriting partner. We meet at least once a week to brainstorm and write together. We talk business & marketing, throw ideas at each other. We are now working on a second country-folk CD and we’re talking about a Christmas CD too.

-my virtual client(s) – I have one steady client for whom I work as a ‘virtual assistant’. I edit/design & distribute two ezines a month for her, perform other administrative tasks, and meet with her once a week for an hour, by phone. At the moment we are working on writing an ebook – I set aside an hour each morning for the task of writing.

-my finances. Money drips in from various sources. I have to figure out what needs paying, when I’ll have the money to pay it, get to the bank, etc.

-my collaborators… I love the fact that I have the opportunity to work with talented lyricists, musicians and songwriters from all over the world. I probably have about 20 projects on the go, in various stages of completion. Some just require vocals, most require me to write music, record tracks, mix/produce. Each song probably takes, as the crow flies 3 to 7 days to produce. I rarely have the time anymore to work on one song on a consistent basis. I get an hour here or there. They are very patient with me… and I appreciate that very much...I hope I’m worth waiting for ;)

-my coaching & vocal practice – yes, I’m still coaching after 16 years of training. I need to sing at least an hour a day.

-my guitar lessons – I’d almost given up on playing the guitar due to the effects of carpal tunnel. However, my new guitar fits me much better… but I have to learn to play with a pick… and I also want to be as ergonomic as possible in playing. I should be practicing every day.

-my solo album… I really want to put together an ambient pop album… I’ve got the lyrics and sometimes even some music…. but it all needs to be developed – record tracks, etc.

-my songwriting boards… I belong to 5 songwriting boards which I try to visit at least a couple of times a week. I used to critique several songs a day…. I think I’m down to one or two a week, if I can.

-my blogs – my blogs are important… I like writing, it helps me sort out my thoughts & feel less scattered. I like sharing my journey, and I appreciate the messages and comments I get from my readers.

-my computer. memory is full. I picked up an external hard drive. I have to find the time to clean up my drives & back them up. I’m talking with my album producer about his building me a hard drive for my audio work.

-somewhere in there I need to do mundane things like buy groceries, cook, do laundry, tidy the house, pay bills…. and keep up with my family & friends… and go for a walk everyday… and sleep. Note to self: sleep is good.

Exploring the voice to find freedom from fear

I did this World Talk Radio show a while back, with Dr. Shoshana Bennett, talking about how singing helped me overcome my shyness.

I post it here because it's my philosophy that it's the creative process (of singing, of songwriting) that can heal & nurture & inspire... and that "voice" is not just the sound we make, but how we talk to ourselves, and how we 'speak' through our writing.


Let me know what you think :)

singing in the rain

...I'm just sittin here surfin' the web and watchin that old movie, 'Singin in the Rain'. I had an outdoor gig this mornin' and I thought we might end up singin in the rain cause there were some pretty gray lookin clouds in the overcast sky and a cool breeze blowin. But it didn't rain and our sets were well received. It was the first pro gig for my folk trio (Easy).

Haven't felt too inspired musically this week - goin' thru one of my 'incubating' periods, I think :lol: But, I did send out two armfuls of promo packs to radio stations for the new album ( www.cdbaby.com/cd/flawith ), and rehearsed 3 times with the trio in prep for the gig. Had lunch with my mom yesterday, had coffee with a client earilier in the week.... after the gig today, went out for coffee with a couple of songwriting pals. I also spent some time writing/designing my newsletter for distribution (comin soon - sign up on my profile page), and redesigning my teaching website ( www.theshysinger.com ).... plus the usual teachin'.

I love these old movies, there's so much energy and excitement around puttin' on a show, and you get the feelin' that anything is possible, that everything will turn out okay in the end, that love at first sight can last a whole life long.

Sometimes I think that love has become such a commodity in our society that we've lost our innate knowledge of what it really is. Movies & magazines & tv shows trumpet on about romance and love but the vision that they project to us is superficial.

We fall madly in love and madly out of love. I know, I've done it, I've watched my friends do it -- it's like all or nothing.

To me love is like art - a process. We deny process, the fact that good things like love and artistry and success take daily waterings and steady little steps in the right direction.

And think the truth is.... at least, generally speaking, for woman... the truth is we give ourselves up to love and lose ourselves in the process. We're like Julia Roberts in 'Runaway Bride', who didn't know what kind of eggs she liked.... because she liked whatever her finance liked. Because she didn't know how to hang on to who she was while hanging on to someone else.

I guess my point is, it's an old cliche, but we really do have to know & like ourselves first. Not only who we are, but what we dream for ourselves.

Years ago, I gave up my dreams for a relationship (again). I wasn't asked to do that, not directly, but I did. I did because I wanted to be 'good'. I wanted to be the good girlfriend, the good finance, the good wife. And while I was busy being good... I slowly lost myself. When I finally left that relationship and came home.... I felt like I had to put myself back together, brick by brick.

So now, when folks are kind enough to comment on my blogs, my music, my teaching, my small successes --- it means so much to me because I am finally here, again. Doing what inspires & interests & challenges me. Doing and being who I am, imperfect, human, night-owl-grumpy-in-the-morning, so-lucky-to-have-great-friends, be living my creative musical life, and even luckier to have some fans who seem, unaccountably, to like what I do.

I'm glad to finally be Me!

flying dreams

Most of the time I dream and only fleetingly grasp at the meaning of the pictures, which fade quickly, although I have often woken up inspired or with an answer to something I've been struggling with.

But I have had dreams so powerful that I can still see the images of those dreams in my mind right now. Once, when I was a child, I was dreaming of the Disney cartoon, 'Dumbo' - the little elephant with the huge ears that everyone laughs at... of course, in my dream, I was the baby, embarrassed and ashamed and hurt by the malicious laughter of the others.... until one day, I spread my ears and flew.

The sensation in my dream was absolutely unreal. I could feel the wind rippling over my skin, my whole body vibrating with joy... soaring through the sky, looking down at the earth.

I woke up. I was lying in my bed in the fetal position - on my side with my hands wrapped around my pillow - and it took me a little while to understand I had been dreaming. I must have been only 5 or 6 at the time.

I still remember how it felt to fly.

It's interesting, cause, in a lot of ways, my life has resembled that dream. I was, for a very long time, teased and put down for being different. But my being different eventually made me stronger... and now and then, I soar.

Just two days ago, I was feeling down. It was one of those days where you feel like all your efforts are futile and maybe it's time to get a real job and who am I kidding anyway. Inside, I was feeling like that little, odd, sad baby of my dream so long ago.

Then someone sent me a lovely note about how they had felt inspired by something I wrote in my blog. Someone else wrote me a note to say how much they enjoyed my folky CD. Someone else took the time to give me some much needed information. One of my students generously drove me around to do errands (I hurt my ankle and can't walk or drive) and refused to take any money for gas or for her time. Another student gave me a hug at the end of a wonderfully moving lesson where we were both close to tears because of the beauty of the sound that he was releasing.

I can't tell you how meaningful those things are to me. Making those kinds of connections with people - deep, inner connections - in a world that seems to have lost its capacity for serenity and peace - makes it all worthwhile.

home grown, folks

I'm always talking about process. Life is a journey, I say. Now and then I also confess, "oh, yes, I'm the great procrastinator'. I'm really very good at not doing today what I could do tomorrow. So it's rather a surprise to wake up and find I've actually released a CD. It's a gentle little disk, and when I look at it I can see my journey reflected back at me, warts & all. When it catches the light, the path in front of me is illuminated... and I know the final, title track is the sun rising, showing me the path in front of me, and my steps into an unknown landscape become more confident.

I hope there's coffee where I'm going, :lol:


swimmin' thru mud


Q: why is it sometimes, with the best will in the world, it feels like you're swimmin' thru mud?

A: perhaps if I didn't stay up til early in the mornin' I'd have a brain the next day

- not a lot to report at this moment in time, 'cept I got a meetin' with Michael, my co-writer, tomorrow morning - we're gonna talk about marketing our CD; and I have a rehearsal with my trio tomorrow night in prep for an appearance on Friday.

- been working on some new age ambient instrumentals, let you know when I've got something together

- my to-do list hasn't got any shorter :)

- I hurt my ankle somehow on the weekend -- too much walking? -- anyway, it's swollen & I can't wear a shoe without feelin' discomfort. I'm alternating heat & ice... and I just can't do any housework like this :( (oh, yah!)... wah wah violins play.

Oh, hey, I 'opened' for Nonie Crete on Friday night - went very well!

it's hard to catch up when nothing will willingly finish!

Yeah, well, I know I haven't posted a blog for a while. I was sticking to my list, determined to finish some of these projects -- but they just keep coming back for more! I don't know how many times I've said, okay, THAT'S DONE!! Whoo hooo!!! Only to find out... the timing's off there, can you redo it & upload? I need your vocals on 4 different tracks, can you redo & upload? That bass track isn't working, what shall we do? The link to your track is broken, can you reload it? Or, even worse -- tryin' to upload and getting error messages, over and over again, just when you want to get it finished and move on!!

ha ha hee hee, that's my little rant for today. I suppose things are moving along, albeit SLOWLY.

Okay, where are we .... well, remember I said I was NOT going to take on any new projects until the old ones were caught up... hee hee hee, ya, right. The day I said that, I took on another one, and the day after, two more. Call me crazy. I'm just a girl who can't say no to interesting musical ideas :)

Now, where did I put my list?

If Wishes Could be Granted (Richard Larabie) - the demo of this co-write is getting good reviews - http://www.soundclick.com/vikkiflawith

This Sinking Ship (Arie Boom) - in progress, gotta redo the vocals

Tired Eyes (Billie Spencer) - demo in progress!

I May have Started it (Cliff Hitchcock & the Collaborators) - DONE - check it out: http://www.soundclick.com/thebullets

The Cat with the Strat (Joe Wrabek & the Collaborators) - DONE - check it out: http://www.soundclick.com/joewrabek

In That Moment (Errol Chugg) - lead vocals complete

Time (Noel Downs) - back-up vox complete

Mutual No Society (Boomboom) - lead F vocals complete

I Could Dream (Lucian Blaga & Dean Taylor) - lead vocals complete - the demo just got forwarded to a publisher, too!

Long Distance Love (David Van Camp) - promise to add more back-up vox to his song

Trying to Get Over You (Richard Batt) - must check in with Richard

One Tear at a Time (Bob Lazzar-Atwood) - workin' on guitar part for this

Send an Angel (Billie Spencer) - waiting for demo

CombOver Romeo (Richard Larabie, Gregg Jansen, Marvin Perkins) - gotta work on demo

Rolled the Dice, Paid the Price (Richard Larabie), need to redo some of the music

Why Keep Him (Richard Larabie), rough demo up - http://www.soundclick.com/vikkiflawith

Can We Start Again (Lloyd Kirk) - gotta work on demo

Gravity (Dean Taylor) - gotta work on demo

Scent of Your Betrayal (Rebecca Peaden) - need to get some pro feedback on demo

On Open Wings (Richard Larabie & Marvin Perkins) - gotta work on demo

Lying (Matt Hirt) - Matt's workin' on demo!

Big Boots (Michael Kavanagh) - I'm workin' on music

Still Ain't Rich (Lloyd Kirk) - we're hashing over lyrics

Also possible duet collab with Michael Shane.

Finally, the final proof of the final master of the CD is on its way to me tonight -- I sure hope this is it!!!

bad week ends well + ideas

well, I had a pretty bad week this week. Monday I had to go out of town to deal with a family matter that was very stressful and concluded with the conclusion we'd have to come back and do the same thing again!!!! On top of that I couldn't get away when expected and ended up having to stay overnight on Tuesday and rush home the next day, missing 3 lessons with students. I didn't sleep much Sunday, Monday & Tuesday nights.

Wednesday afternoon I tried to pick up the reins of my projects and teaching... I was so glad to be working with my students again - and I swear, I don't know how they did it, but every single one of them blew me away with the progress I could hear.

On Thursday, in my after-stress fog & in my eagerness to get back on track & do the 'right thing', I ended up upsetting a good friend & talented musician - I'd misread an email, made a choice I thought he'd supported, and everything blew up in my face.

Friday, my final 3 students of the week all revealed more confidence and more beauty in their voices; had lunch with my mom; cheerfully paid my rent; I met my author friend in the afternoon and got to see a proof of the book I'd edited & proofed for him... and he paid me for my time; I went out to James Bay Coffee & Books and sang a couple of originals, and was told I'd be asked back for more; and my music was played on CKRG 89.9 FM Radio Glendon (radio play - royalties - yeah!).

Saturday - I've been considering taking my lyric writing skills into the next realm and offer my services as a reviewer of lyrics for the novice songwriter. Often the novice writer has difficulty with crafting a lyric so that it can be set to music, and, altho the feedback on songwriting boards is valuable, much of it can be given by other amateurs. I can help with form, structure, contrast, imagery, rhyming, & grammer, and I'd charge $20 US to give detailed feedback on one lyric within 7 - 10 days; if the writer would like a back & forth, $35 US and I'll look at the re-write. My contributions would be as a work for hire, and the copyright would be retained by the lyricist.

The other area I'm thinking of is creative mentoring. I have a coach as a client of mine, we have weekly phone meetings and often at the end of the meeting she thanks me for my coaching lol. Many folks say they find my blogs & journey inspirational (I'm always a little taken aback by that- I'm just doing my thing)... and, as a voice teacher, I often am working as a life coach or a creative coach with my students. I have the skills, the question is how to deliver it. Certainly a weekly phone call is best, or perhaps a chat on-line - I really think it needs to be interactive. I love folks like Bob Baker (http://www.thebuzzfactor.com/) but I could never afford his prices! I'd charge $35 US per hour. I'm getting a new computer next month & could get Skype set up, so over-the-net consultations would be possible, or the creative client could call me.

I'm always surprised to find out people are actually reading my blog, so if you're out there, and you think these are good ideas... please let me know.

I have to go get ready - my trio, "Easy," rehearses at 10:30 :)

How do you make a song?

'How do you make a song,' someone asked on one of the songwriting boards I frequent. That's an interesting question, and there is no "right" answer to that. I think we all have our own way of working... and I think the manner in which we create really depends on the inspiration of the moment.

My old method of writing was to sit with a notebook & pen and my guitar, and just start playing... I'd fool with different chord progressions and just sing whatever came to my mind until I found a scrap of lyric that resonated with me. I'd continue, improvising melody, lyric and chord progression. During this process the most important thing to me was how the song "felt". The vibrations and energy in my body as I sang were most important... if I was moved in some way, if I had tears in my eyes as I sang or if it made me laugh or feel good, then I wrote it down. Say at that point I had two lines I really liked. Then I'd sing those two lines and improvise a line after them. I'd continue to improvise until I found the next line. Sometimes that next line would come two weeks later... but I'd keep mulling around with what I had until inspiration hit for the next part.

Other times the whole thing would just flow out of me in one sitting. (Nice when that happens - but you can't force it, it comes when it comes, you have to have your antenna up and immediately run to write it down or record it in some way... or sing it over and over in the hopes that you won't forget it before you get home cause it's really hot and is really and truly the perfect next line.)

Obviously the organic response of my inner spirit was and is a big part of this writing process. The sensations within me as I play and sing are my touchstones, my guides to what is "working" for me.

As I put these songs out for feedback, I received critiques that my melodies were meandering (I come from a classical background, I thought repetition within a section was boring) and that the sections in my songs lacked sufficient contrast, my songs were usually too long (5 to 6 minutes long). I began to understand that my organic process was vital in creating something unique, but was just the first step in crafting a song.

Nowadays I usually begin with lyrics. The reason for that is simple: the lyrics set the structure, and form & structure, good rhyming, visual imagery, etc., take time to craft. Once I have crafted the lyrics to my satisfaction, then I keep them on my desk and read them over now and then… sometimes I’ll play a little with music and nothing will come… another time I might get a line or two -- so my process with music is that same organic process as I've described above, but it has a frame of reference. I’ll improvise (singing) repeatedly, trying different chord progressions, and then sing the stuff I like over and over until I can remember it… I’ll usually record a verse & chorus once I’ve got the basics together.

For me, lyrics tend to ‘arrive’ more easily to me than ‘melody’ so it’s always a challenge to be inspired to create music… and good lyrics inspire me.

Sometimes, through collaboration with an awesome musician, I am challenged to create something in a different way. For example, Arie Boom (Netherlands) and I are working on a song. He sent me an instrumental sample he had - it had a great groove and some really awesome change-ups for the different sections. I took the groove and wrote a lyric that matched the pentameter... and then improvised the melody over his cool electonica-styled background & added vocal harmonies. We both think it's great & are working on putting it all together.

Another thing I enjoy doing is working on back-up vocals. I'll improvise harmonies around the lead, just following my organic process. It's fun and refreshing.

I have several lyricists I work with, Michael Kavanagh in particular. If they send me something which instantly leaps out at me - to which I respond organically in some way - then I use that inspirational response to improvise and come up with music that reflects my reaction to the visions their words create in me. Again, the process can't be rushed and may take two hours, two days, or two months (in one case, I think it took 3 years lol).

Sometimes people say to me "is there anything you don't do" (and the answer is, 'yes, there are many things I can't do lol'), but I believe that diversity is tremendously important in keeping the creative spirit engaged. So if I work on painting a picture, or cook a nice meal, or make a piece of jewelry, or edit a book, or go for a walk in the rain, or smell the newly blossoming lilacs, or hug a friend, or have a really yummy cup of coffee, it's just as important to my process as taking guitar lessons or participating on a songwriting board, or singing. My teaching is also very important to my process... I am honoured that my students share their individual vocal & creative journey with me, they keep me focussed... and everything I say to them I also say to myself... which is often a very good thing lol.

My soundclick page is a collection of various things I've worked on, in various stages of completion (some are masters, some are roughs). http://www.soundclick.com/vikkiflawith

Songwriting boards I recommend:

Creative resources:
- if you have the motivation, I highly recommend "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. It was the reading (and DOING) of this book that galvanized me to begin painting, songwriting and 'playing' again... and paying attention in my life again;
- I also highly recommend Bob Baker's blog & books - always inspiring -- www.thebuzzfactor.com;
- for songwriters, books by John Braheny, Jason Blume and Pat Pattison are great resources as well;
- my “wise bird” blog contains info & tips about the music industry… I enjoy posting on songwriting boards and the info is hopefully helpful, so I thought I’d start a blog with the Q & A’s that have come up -- http://wisebird.blogspot.com/

Let me know if you found this helpful/interesting. You can always post a comment here or email me at diva@vikkiflawith.com... I'm a little slow at answering emails and sometimes read them and think I'll answer later and then forget... lol... I'm just a kid. Which reminds me... I got several projects on the go... what do I want to play with today?

catch up days!!

Well, I have been busy... have a few things I'm working on with some great folks.

THIS SINKING SHIP - with Arie Boom, electronica/pop = it's gonna be so cool I can't wait to hear the whole thing put together

I MAY HAVE STARTED IT - with Cliff Hitchcock & the Collaborators - another great rockabilly song - it's in the mixing stage now

CAT WITH A STRAT - with Joe Wrabek & the Collaborators - a cool & funny talking blues song, just getting going on it

IN THAT MOMENT - with Errol Chugg - I'm working on the lead vocals for this at the mo.

TIME - by Noel Downs - I'm doing back-up vox

MUTUAL NO SOCIETY - by Ray Shafer; I'm doing the F vocal part, just need to tweak my track, render it, and upload for mixing.

I COULD DREAM - by Dean Taylor & Lucian Blaga - just some little tweaks happening to the lead vox I've recorded.

My EP - 5 or 6 little things to get done when my studio engineer gets back from holidays... hope to have it all wrapped up in April - stay tuned for the CDBaby address where you can preview & purchase!

Long Distance Love - by David Van Camp - I promised to add more back-up vox to his great song

Trying to Get Over You - with Richard Batt; have a rough cut, need to work on producing a good demo

One Tear at a Time - with Bob Lazzar-Atwood; have a rough cut, need to work on producing a good demo

Send an Angel - with Billie Spencer; have a rough cut, need to work on producing a good demo

CombOver Romeo - with Richard Larabie, Marvin Perkins & Gregg Jansen; have a rough cut, need to work on producing a good demo

Rolled the Dice, Paid the Price - with Richard Larabie; have a rough cut, need to work on producing a good demo

Can We Start Again - with Lloyd Kirk; have a rough cut, need to work on producing a good demo

Gravity - with Dean Taylor; have all the tracks, need to add some guitar and do a sample mix

Scent of Your Betrayal - with Rebecca Peaden; have a rough cut, need to work on producing a good demo

On Open Wings - with Richard Larabie & Marvin Perkins; have a rough cut, need to work on producing a good demo

Lying - with Matt Hirt... still waiting to hear the master

Plus, of course, the songs for my solo album, which are going to be mystic spacey electronica-influenced fusions of folk, pop and world.

Had a lovely meeting this week with my songwriting circle, very inspirational to hear the creative work of each individual.

My folk trio (www.myspace.com/easyfolktrio) performs tonight and we're booking gigs as we speak (we don't have any music up yet, but trust me, the singing is awesome, lol).

My students continue to inspire me by doing me the honour of sharing their process with me. Oh, and my guitar lessons are slowly paying off!!

I've booked the next 3 days off to have some much needed serenity time and to catch up on some of these projects before I head out of town for a couple days.

As always, I have things I'm working on posted over at soundclick - www.soundclick.com/vikkiflawith

I also have my 'Wise Bird' blog - http://www.wisebird.blogspot.com

Stay well, stay focussed and never give up!

what a week!

Ack! I couldn't believe how many deadlines I had this week... plus bein' a little under the weather. Yikes. Spent most of the week alternating between editing a manuscript for a friend, and working with the studio engineer on my CD... and in between, teaching my students!

Was invited to collaborate with someone new on something new.... ha ha I can never say no if it takes my fancy... it's always neat to work with another musician, it broadens the mind and takes you places you'd never find on your own.

I had many interesting conversations with students this past week. It sometimes amazes me, the synchronicity of thought that is shared in the studio... it's like moments of inspiration linger in the air and are gently transmitted to the next person. We talked about how voice sessions are therapy sessions because they make you aware of how you think and how you hold yourself and how you deal with complexity, in a very positive and uplifting way. We talked about how, when the voice is suddenly released in a new way, it can be a scary, exhilerating experience... and you don't recognize yourself for a moment. As we work to release & develop the voice... our self-perception grows too. We realize that perhaps our voice IS beautiful... and is a very real reflection of the beauty within us. :o)

overwhelmed with GREAT musical projects

Ha ha, I keep getting asked to collaborate on such cool stuff I can't say no! My list never gets shorter.. hee hee ha ha!

I was recently invited to join a 'virtual music collaboration' site, and I'm workin' on two tunes for them (TIME, IN THAT MOMENT), and also another VMC site I hooked up with (MUTUAL NO SOCIETY). My internet band, 'The Collaborators', always has a project in hand, they just completed my song "Wilted Heart" and they did a great job with the music. - http://www.soundclick.com/pro/view/02/default.cfm?bandID=292748&content=song&songID=2139572

I was also asked by a member of one of my songwriting boards to collab on a song - Rolled the Dice, Paid the Price... a rough demo is posted at http://www.soundclick.com/vikkiflawith

I have several other collabs on the go:
I COULD DREAM - lead vocals, almost done
CAN WE START AGAIN - rough cut done
ONE TEAR AT A TIME - workin on rough cut
LONG DISTANCE LOVE - add harmonies
BACK TO THE GRAVITY - mixin tracks
SCENT OF YOUR BETRAYAL - rough cut done
ON OPEN WINGS - rough cut done
SEND AN ANGEL - rough cut done
COMBOVER ROMEO - work on rough cut
Plus some songs of my own I'm working on.

Big news is the CD is with the studio engineer right now! Whoo hoo!
stay tuned!

P.S. - my Dad is doing very well, by the way!

climbing the mountain - nice view!!

OKAY, where am I on the big projects... after some procrastination I finally got the lead out and achieved a few things. Here's my progress report... in no particular order! If anyone's at all interested, LOL

I COULD DREAM - Dean Taylor (lyricist) & Lucian Blaga (composer)
- re-record bridge vocals, musical theatre version
- work on recording vocals, pop version -DONE!
- paperwork -DONE!

CAN WE START AGAIN - Lloyd Kyrk (lyricist)
- paperwork -DONE!
- complete rough cut

ONE TEAR AT A TIME - Bob Lazzar-Atwood (songwriter)
- paperwork -DONE!
- complete rough cut

*BLUE COLLAR MAN - Michael Kavanagh (lyricist)
- get music & lyrics to session singer -DONE!
- rough cut with vocalist

- final production

LONG DISTANCE LOVE - David Van Camp (singer/songwriter)- download MP3 -DONE!
- record back-up vocals for approval -DONE!

WRAPPED AROUND MY FINGER - Nicholas Billings (lyricist)
- musical & lyrical ideas -IN PROGRESS!
- rough draft
- paperwork

*WAITING FOR THE BUS - Michael Kavanagh (lyricist)
- production -IN PROGRESS!

NEVER GOIN' BACK TO GRAVITY - Dean Taylor (lyricist)
- paperwork -DONE!
- production -IN PROGRESS!

*SHE WAS ALWAYS THERE - Michael Kavanagh (lyricist)
- production

SUNSET STARSHINE - Diane Rulliere (lyricist)
- paperwork -DONE!
- production

DEAD THINGS IN THE SHOWER - Joe Wrabeck (The Collaborators)
- waiting for ref track
- then do piano track
- vocal track

3 spacey songs - Dave Walton (musician)- touch base- discuss ideas

SCENT OF YOUR BETRAYAL - Rebecca Peaden (lyricist)
- touch base -DONE!
- production

ON OPEN WINGS - Richard Larabie (lyricist) & Marvin Perkins (musician)
- paperwork -DONE!
- production

LYING - composer, Matt Hirt
- session singer fees & work for hire- final cut

SEND AN ANGEL - Billie Spencer (lyricist)
- paperwork -DONE!
- complete rough cut

possible collabs:

Sandy Patten, lyricist (country)
James Mitchell, composer (pop)
Erin Simms, singer/songwriter (duet)

My new duo has become a trio, and we have our first rehearsal this Sat!!

Oh, I posted a professional remix/master of one of my favourite ballads... not considered "commercial" but very close to my heart - Still I Dream of You - http://www.soundclick.com/vikkiflawith See what you think :-)