This is the fourth in a series of articles. Click these links to read the previous entries:
Part 4 – Challenges Everywhere. And Meet the First Mate
So, if I’ve had the Mutineer name, concept, logo and songs in hand for almost a decade, why haven’t I moved forward with it before now?
Here are just some of the excuses I’ve made for myself:
– I don’t have the money
– I don’t have the time
– I don’t have the talent as a guitarist
– I don’t have the ability as a singer
– I don’t have the right gear, or know anything about what the right gear even is
– I have an electric guitar I bought for $150 at pawn shop
– I don’t have a band
– I don’t have anywhere for a band to rehearse
– I’m not in good enough shape, physically, to perform the way I want for a couple of hours
– I’m not in good enough shape, vocally, to record or perform the way I want for a couple of hours
– I don’t know how to properly record rock music, or where to do it
– I’m a single dad with a busy career whose top priority is his kids. My time with them is off-limits to much else. What sense does it make to take this on?
Plus … who would possibly care about the songs or come to see it?
Those reasons have always been enough to stop me from starting. And in fairness, I don’t think it was really time for me to move ahead until now. And yet those obstacles are very real and must be overcome if I’m going to bring this project to life.
But here’s why I’m going to try and overcome all of that and do it anyway:
– I want it to exist
– I believe in the concept and feel it’s a worthwhile thing in which to invest some of my time and spirit
– I believe in myself to figure it out and I want to see if I can do it. I’m curious to see what happens!
– I don’t want to look back on my life one day and wish I’d had the courage to try it. I’ve got other things I want to do in my late 40’s so I may as well try this now.
– I want to know how it feels to be able to buy the Mutineer album on iTunes, and to stand on that stage and perform those songs well, even if it’s just one time
– I want my kids to see me go through process and see what kind of time and commitment it really takes
A year ago, I forced myself to take a step toward making Mutineer into something that existed more than what is just in my head. So I created a (fairly humble) website, as well as a Facebook page and a Twitter feed. My thinking was that I’d be able to invite people in on the journey and share what I already have as I go. And I’ve been amazed at how some people on Twitter have been responding to nothing but a few lines of lyrics, asking me where they can hear the songs.
My plan has been to make quick little videos of some of the guitar riffs to start giving people a feel for the songs, and to continue sharing lyric lines. I also thought I’d do some articles referencing some of the other artists that have influenced me, encouraging others to share their thoughts. In doing that, I’m hoping I’ll get turned on to some other artists I’ve not yet heard of that I might really enjoy. I figure I’ll be able to eventually start sharing demo versions of the songs online. I’ll need to get those done in order to “recruit” other people and players into the project. So I may as well share them. Either way, it’s up to me to generate content worth publishing.
As for getting the content out there, about a month ago, my oldest son, Eddie (who is 12) asked me if he could help by assisting me with the social media side of things. Eddie believes strongly in Mutineer and he wants to see it come to life (he’s the only one in the world so far who has a Mutineer T-shirt, which I made him for Christmas last year).
As a parent, I’d like for him to see the amount of work it takes to set a goal and then go about making a plan and then doing the work to bring it to life. I also want him to see that it’s okay to not have all the answers, or to not be the best at something. Just get started, and see where it takes you. Be flexible but keep your ultimate destination in mind. I think he’ll learn a lot. (On a sidenote, Eddie writes his own rap battles, records and edits his own videos and has a YouTube channel with over 430 subscribers. His level of skill for his age is astonishing. He inspires me just as much as the other way around. Perhaps more so.)
Having my son involved makes it even more special. If I’m Mutineer’s Captain, Eddie is definitely the First Mate.
As for how I finally came to a point of setting the intention and making the commitment to move forward, despite all these obvious challenges, I’ll cover that in Part 5, tomorrow.
Here’s how I remember it. As a little fellow, I had one of the original Han Solo Star Wars figures. It was the model made by Kenner. Han had that cool black vest over the white shirt, just like in the first movie. Of course, neither his elbows or knees would bend, and his action figure pals, Luke Skywalker, Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader, all had light sabers that literally slid out from inside their arms. No matter. They were all super-cool and, to me, Han Solo was the coolest. Still is.
I would have been 3 years old when the original Star Wars movie (now referred to as “A New Hope”) was released to theatres in 1977. That would make me only 4 by the time those Kenner toys were released and available. Viewed in this fashion, I’m hoping you’ll be able to see it as not inappropriate, then, that I used to regularly take my Star Wars action figures, Han Solo and all, into the bathtub with me.
As for what happened next, well, I don’t recall the specific circumstances. And even if Mom, Dad or my sisters declared that they knew, I think I’d choose to chalk up their recollections as hazy as well. But what I know for sure is that, after one particular watery cleansing session, Han Solo’s head was gone.
I’m pretty sure it came off and went down the drain.
The specific details are lost to time. I have 37(ish) years of life experience between that particular event and the person I am now. And if Han’s head did in fact swirl away with the bath water, can you blame me for blocking that from my immediate memory recall?
I know for sure that I used to have a headless Han Solo figure. Oh, I wished I could have had a new one, of course, but that not being in the cards, I played with him anyway. I loved Han Solo that much. Han Solo without a head was better than any full-bodied character. Certainly I cannot be the only person to feel this way? Or perhaps I was just the only one with a Star Wars character figure that could have doubled as the villain after Ichabod Crane, and so I made the best of it.
The exact amount of time I played with my headless Han Solo is also a detail lost to time. And so is the recollection of the exact year that I accidentally dropped him down the storm sewer on the street in front of our childhood home. I tried to fish him out with an impromptu rod made of string tied to a popsicle stick. Alas, what remained of my headless Han Solo was then gone for good.
I wasn’t able to get another one of those Han Solo figures. But he’s never stopped being my favourite character.
Some two decades after that, the original Star Wars films were re-released to theatres. To accompany the occasion, a new line of action figures were put to market under the brand line “Power of the Force.” The characters all looked like they’d been jacked up on human growth hormone. But I didn’t care. I bought one of all the original main characters, including, of course, Han Solo. This time, I left him in the package to ensure his head held tight. No bathtubs. No storm sewers. He and the others are still locked away in a box somewhere.
In the many years since then, I acquired a few other Han Solo action figures, like the version that has him in Stormtrooper armour. For that one, his helmet is removable, but his head remains intact. At least I think it does. I’ve never taken it out of the package.
This past weekend, I took my two sons with me to see the new Star Wars film (“The Force Awakens”). Of course, Han Solo is a key character in the film, the same one I’ve loved since I was a single-digit bathtub-dwelling ankle-biter back in the day. To see Harrison Ford play that part again was like being reunited with that miniature, so very innocent version of myself. It was a joy. I’ve little doubt there are many other people who can relate.
But the most special part of the weekend was not seeing the film, even though that was fantastic. No, the best part was the day before, when my 12-year-old son presented me with an “early” Christmas present that he went out and purchased, all by himself, and with his own money. He wanted me to have it to get “excited” for the new movie.
Here’s what he gave me:
The next day, he lamented that he didn’t know the figure he’d purchased was actually a bobblehead. We only discovered this because I immediately took Han Solo out of the packaging and put him on display in our home. Han’s head wobbled. My stomach tightened for a moment, but all proved to be well.
At my son’s somewhat ironic observation, I could only give him a hug and chuckle. I told him not to worry, that even if Han’s bobbling head should fall off, I would still love him anyway, and had the resume to prove it.
But what I love most was that he would even grant me such a kind and thoughtful gesture. The moment I opened his gift, his eyes sparkled at knowing he’d given me something that instantly reconnected me with my younger self. The Force is strong in that one. And he gave me the gift of a little Christmas magic.
Harrison Ford looked a lot older in the new film, of course, but he’s still the same person that portrayed my favourite character all those decades ago. And though I may now have parental responsibilities, a career and a home to care for, I am still the same guy who loved and appreciated being able to imagine his own adventures with an action figure representing the character Ford played. Even without a head.
Han Solo is still in my house. And thanks to my son and the timing of the film, I believe I’ve just experienced what Christmas is supposed to feel like for the first time a long, long time.
And May the Force Be With You.
Ultimately, we aspire to all three. But for the moment, I’m interested to know what your raw gut first reaction is if I were to say that, for this holiday season, you could be immediately granted just one of these three choices. Which would you choose at this moment in your life?
And please feel welcome to say why in the comments section or on our Facebook page.
When concert-goers take over for the singer and deliver the vocals of a tune as one, my voice sometimes catches and I have trouble singing along. Even in the car, when the mood strikes, I will sing along with a song and, beginning to sing a harmony part, the vibrations will kick in, and my emotions will often swell up and bubble over.
Heck, I’ll even get choked up hearing thousands of people sing the national anthem en masse at a hockey game.
There’s just something about several voices blending together that makes me feel full of hope.
One of the first recollections I have of this sensation came from a Christmas Eve church service. I was just a kid. I recall that my family and I were in the balcony, the perfect spot to absorb some beautiful sounds. I’m sure there were many songs sung that evening, yet the one I recall clearly was “Silent Night.” Hearing, and feeling, all those voices collectively offering such a gentle song into the atmosphere was a wonderful thing to behold. I will never forget the feeling that overtook me when my grandmother, who was standing and singing beside me, began to sing in harmony to the rest of the congregation, during the third verse of the song. I was young enough that I didn’t really know what “harmony” was, but I vividly remember how completely beautiful it sounded and how I immediately became emotional at the sound and didn’t quite know why. It was one of the sweetest things I could ever remember hearing, and I’ve been hooked on harmony and people singing as a group ever since.
I once wrote a song lyric that says, “One voice alone can be enough to lift an angel’s wings.” I love the line, and believe it to be true. But adding a second voice can give you the vibration of harmony. Add even more, and you begin to generate an energy that fuels a real spirit of hope and togetherness.
Regardless of what you celebrate or recognize at year’s end, I bet that music is some kind of key part of it. Have you ever wondered why that is?
Music, to me, is the sound of creativity expressed and hope kept alive. If I’m right, the more voices, the better.
One of the things I enjoy most about my work is that it puts me in the path of some wonderful organizations. I was thrilled when my journey took me back into the office of the Southwestern Ontario Lung Association about three years ago. I’ve been working with them ever since, in my capacity as a marketing consultant at Bell Media Radio in London. However this project transcends those day-to-day necessities.
First, a little background:
I’m a lifelong asthmatic, though you’d hardly know it to see me now. Treatment has come a long way in forty years, and I’ve also outgrown many of the daily symptoms (though allergies and other irritations still chase me at every turn, but that’s another story). When I was a child, I was very sick with asthma. I was in and out of the hospital and doctor’s office on what seemed like a regular basis. A big turning point in my life was when I was sent to a facility in Toronto that was better equipped to monitor and treat asthmatic children. I lived there, weekends excluded, for three months when I was seven years old.
At that time, my family was very involved with the Lung Association, as my parents and family doctor would do anything they could to gain access to any resources that might assist them in helping me. I’ve never forgotten that, and whenever I see the Lung Association’s red cross logo, I automatically think of others with asthma and other breathing problems.
Much later in life, after the worst of my asthmatic days seemed to be behind me, I wrote a song called “Broken Breath,” which is essentially sung from the perspective of a child with asthma who can’t breathe, doesn’t understand why, and wishes for something – anything – to help. The song also touches on the subject of my parents having no choice, for the sake of my own health, but to “send me away” (to that hospital in Toronto).
I remember when I wrote the song. It’s dated 1997. I was going through a phase of listening almost exclusively to artists like Bruce Springsteen and Steve Earle, and wanted to have a track of my own that fit the mold of many of their acoustic, introspective songs that tugged at the heart. To be more direct, I wanted to write a song somewhat like Springsteen’s “Shut Out the Light” (originally a B-Side from the “Born in the USA” era), which is the story of a Vietnam veteran who is haunted by his experiences well after returning home, just looking for comfort, calls for his mother to “Throw your arms around me in the cold, dark night. Hey now, Mama, don’t shut out the lights.”
“Broken Breath,” obviously, doesn’t sound much like Springsteen’s song. But from an emotional and narrative standpoint, I feel I succeeded in capturing something similar. I’ve always been proud of the song.
A couple of weeks ago, I played “Broken Breath” for my two curious sons, who also happen to be my biggest supporters. It left Eddie, my 11-year-old, in tears. His reaction was a compliment in a roundabout sort of way, although I was sorry to see him react that way. He said he was sorry he got upset, but that he thought the song was touching and that he didn’t know I’d been through any of the things I sang about. His reaction told me that the song may indeed be able to kick open some doors for some people to have a better understanding of the kind of work the Lung Association actually does.
So here’s the plan as it stands: my friends at the Southwestern Ontario Lung Association have asked me if I would perform / MC as part of their “First Noel Preview Night” for their annual “Festival of Trees” event, Tuesday, November 25th from 6pm to 9pm at the Covent Garden Market here in London, Ontario. They would like me to debut “Broken Breath” that night, so I’ll do that along with, perhaps, a couple of other songs. And I’ll happily MC and help out however else I can that night.
Whether we record or videotape the song that evening is still unclear. And plans to make a studio-quality version of the song are also very much up in the air, depending on time and cost. Ultimately, it would be great for the Lung Association to be able to use the song however they like in an effort to create more understanding and support for all they do.
I’m also trying to recruit a friend or two to come along with me to make the night more special on November 25th and give the performance more impact, but if that doesn’t work out, I’m happy to do it on my own, as the song was written for just acoustic guitar and one voice. That said, I tweaked the lyrics and melody just a bit to create a bit of a sing-along element to it toward the end of the song, so it would be great to have company that night! We’ll see.
For now, it would be wonderful for you to consider attending the “Festival of Trees” at some point this holiday season (it’s free, and it’s a great display that kids will love). And if you’re so inclined to assist the Lung Association, perhaps consider their Christmas Seals program or at least keep them in your thoughts or spread the word.
I well remember the Lung Association’s phrase, “When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters.”
It’s true. I know what it’s like.
Maybe I can help.
It’s been almost a month since KG and I last put anything on tape. Whatever momentum we had is long gone, and it will take some work to find it again. We’re still not sure when we’re going to start up again, although the time seems to be drawing closer. I talked with Kev yesterday and he told me that the re-construction of the new control room was coming along well, and that he was hopeful that the details of the Christmas Eve break-in will be resolved sooner than later.
Meantime, I haven’t seen him in about two weeks and that’s far too long. In that time, I’ve strummed my guitars for a few minutes here and there, but haven’t sung a note in a great while.
In any case, the last couple weeks have been an absolute blur. It feels to me like Christmas was a year ago. Last week in particular was one of the most intense times in recent memory, as our crew worked overtime (and then some) to confirm and announce a mammoth event for our friends at Delaware Speedway, while at the same time prepping and executing a large-scale trade show (our 3rd Annual CPT Racing Experience).
The last seven days have been a wild roller coaster ride of contrasting emotions. When you’re focusing with such intensity, working long hours and celebrating the highs while acknowledging and attending to the inevitable lows, it wears you out. This past weekend, I was mentally exhausted before we even opened the doors for the trade show. But we got through it and on the whole, I feel pretty good.
But I’m ready to get back to my music. I don’t even care if anyone wants to listen to it. I’ve learned that I just need to do it for my own sense of well being, and whatever happens with it is fine. I don’t like deliberately setting it aside, because I did that for about five years when I was working at Delaware Speedway and I won’t ever make that mistake again. But just like there is a time to sing, there is also a time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
My crew worked hard the last while. And we will continue to work hard.
But soon it will be time to sing again.
It was two weeks ago (less a day) that KG and I last lit the red light by hitting the “record” button on our music project.
Thankfully, the last two times we worked on the CD, we caught some nice momentum, which surprised me a little bit. On the evening of December 21st, I went to KG’s place having followed his orders for “vocal prep” to the letter (he’d told me to wear a scarf when I was out – to keep my neck/throat from sudden changes in temperature – and to drink lots of water). I was proud that I’d done what he told me. I drank so much water I was constantly running to the washroom to get rid of it. And the scarf makes me look like a real artist.
But I got a cold anyway.
Nonetheless, I could still sing, so we managed to get the lead vocals recorded for “Sunny Day in November” that night. The following evening, I felt worse. I didn’t think we’d get much done, but we started in on the lead vocals of “Do Better.” After three or four takes, my energy dropped and my voice started to give out. I could feel it. The same thing happens sometimes when I do my radio work; it’s like a switch gets flipped and then you just don’t have it anymore.
Kev called for a break. At that point, I thought we might be done for the night. But Kevin wanted two more takes of “Do Better.” I thought he was crazy. I suggested perhaps we try something a little softer (though “Do Better” is not really very demanding vocally) and then to come back to “Better.” KG said to go ahead and try that.
But then I changed my mind and said, “Let’s do those two takes right now. I’m ready. Let’s go.”
We did the first and KG said, “Wow – I don’t know what happened during our break, but it sure worked. That was the best yet. Now give me one a little better.” So I did. And Kev was happy.
I don’t know how my voice recovered, but it did. Perhaps it’s all in your head? Could be. As Yogi Berra said: “The game is ninety percent half mental.”
If we’d called it quits then, I could have been tricked into being pleased about it. But we kept at it and a funny thing happened: not only did we finish the lead vocals for “Do Better,” but we also did the vocals for three other songs, including “Bagley Avenue,” “Kevin’s Prayer” and “Awake (But Not Alive).”
In fact, sensing some momentum, we pushed it a little longer. With only about 20 minutes left in our scheduled session (and already three lead vocal tracks in the bag) I asked Kev if he was up for another one. I said, “I figure we’ve got just enough time to for me to sing ‘Awake’ about four times.”
So that’s what we did. I think I ended up singing that song six times in total, just to give KG some choice as to what sounded best (plus, in my opinion, that song is all killer and no filler so I’m happy to sing it as many times as KG asks me to).
I don’t know how we got that much done on that night. Perhaps the universe knew what was to come, and squeezed all it could out of us. Immediately after that, I sniffled and coughed through most of the days surrounding Christmas. It was nothing debilitating, but not good for singing. And of course, if you’ve been following this story, you know what happened next: The break-in at the studio on Christmas Eve (for more about that see last week’s blog).
For a quick update on that situation, Kev is recovering from it okay, but it is by no means over with. He’s had a ton of extra work to do because of the thefts, not to mention dealing with the psychological burden that goes with being violated like that. Add in Christmas (“holidays” … yeah, right) and other day-to-day stresses, and he’s got a lot to deal with right now.
He’ll get through it. His other buddies and I are doing our best to keep his spirits up. But by and large, he does a fine job of that on his own. We have great admiration and respect for him and love him very much. No person who has that need ever worry, as he’s already earned everything that really matters. It just doesn’t feel like it sometimes; times like these. But he’ll get through it.
Meantime, I managed through Christmas as well. During that time, I largely put the brakes on anything related to the music project, other than playing guitar here and there and noodling with some new song ideas for down the road.
A highlight of the holiday season was getting to see my sister Karen who was here from St. John’s, Newfoundland. I love my family very much and wish I got to see my sisters more (my kid sister, Janna, is in Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories, of all places. Not exactly a day-trip).
Another great good friend of mine zipped off to Vegas and married his better half (who is also a great friend), so that was a terrific piece of news.
And beyond that, I was pleased that I finally gave myself a little bit of time to just sit. I enjoyed watching the first two “X Men” films just prior to Christmas (I never thought I’d say that), got completely wrapped up in the Canada vs. USA World Junior Hockey Game (that hasn’t happened since I was a kid), began reading a great book by Jeffrey Deaver (lent to me by the same friend that got married) and started watching the newer version of the “Battlestar Galactica” TV series on DVD, and I absolutely love it.
Oh yeah – I also managed to be on the radio on BX 93 for 6 hours every weekday around Christmas and New Year’s too.
But other than that, nothing happened.
Meantime, getting back to the point of this journal, while KG and I are unable to record, we are getting together at his studio for our regular Tuesday night session tomorrow night. The show goes on. We’ll be rehearsing. Singing. Playing. Having fun.
And when the time comes for that red light to go back on, we will be ready.
From one of my favourite Jimmy Buffett songs:
“Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
Through all of our running and all of our cunning
If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane”
I took to a different latitude last week, jetting to Orlando, Florida to attend the Performance Racing Industry Show with the team from CPT Entertainment. My latitude changed, but my attitude did not.
We went full tilt.
It was a fun time but also a very hectic few days that took my busy head and made it busier. We scoured through the event, which featured more than 1,100 exhibitors, and went steadily for three-straight days in an effort to get to know more people and build our own business. I feel we succeeded with our goal, but we worked hard to do it. Those two-and-a-half days in Orlando were no vacation.
When we landed back at home, I was relieved to be back, but everything I’d been working on was still here, plus the new stuff I’d brought with me. Yikes.
If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.
While I was away, our internet kicked out here at home, stranding my wife without computer access to her friends while her husband was gone. I tried to help from down south. Alas, it is still not working correctly over a week later. A crew is coming in tomorrow to try and get that up and running again.
Thankfully, I had my faithful sidekick, “Twiki” the Blackberry. He kept me in touch with electronic communications while my internet was down. Well, except for today, when the entire Blackberry email system crashed across North America.
If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.
I also managed to brave my discomfort of flying by joking with the boys from CPT (I wouldn’t say I’m “afraid” of flying; it’s just not one of my favourite things to do). While up in the air, we shared several laughs as we wondered what had to be faster; a top fuel dragster or an F-14 launching off an aircraft carrier. We wondered how fast our Spirit Airlines plane had to go to get airborne. We asked each other what we would do if we fell out of the airplane (would you just wait for the ground to hit you or would you try and do something?). In general, the guys helped me deal with my anxiety through some dark comedy, like when the landing gear drops with a large “kaahhh-blunk!” and Jory quips, “Uh-oh Kev – I think the engine just fell off!”
If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.
Then, a couple days later, it was back to our music project and into KG’s studio to start putting down vocal tracks. Tuesday night, we started in on a song called “South Carolina.” I sang it three or four times and thought, “Hey, that was actually pretty good.” And then KG called me into the control room and gave me a review that was a little more gentle than what you’d expect from, say, Simon Cowell, but still very direct. His point was: you’re not doing well enough. You can do better.
I confess I felt frustrated and considered giving up. Instead, I decided to make fun of myself and try to sing part of the song with a voice impression of Shaggy from the Scooby Doo cartoons. That put KG into fits of laughter and, after about ten more takes, we got the lead vocals for that song done. And after that we got the lead vocals for “Everything’s Just Fine” done.
If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.
Now Christmas is coming, and I’m not ready. I ordered some very special custom-made gifts for my family, and they are not here yet. I am supposed to visit with my Dad on Sunday, and his gift is not here.
If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.
Through all of that, I heard myself say something tonight that made me quite happy. In the midst of an interview for a radio program called “Race Time Radio,” I was asked by the host what I wanted most for Christmas. I immediately said, “A little peace and quiet.” He laughed and told me I couldn’t have that. Fair enough. So I considered his question again and came up with the following conclusion, which I shared with him: “Y’know. As cliché as it might sound, I have everything I need. My kids and wife are healthy, I have great family and friends and a nice place to live. I truly don’t need a thing.”
The irony, of course, is that I do honestly feel that way, and yet I keep working and driving to achieve more. Strange. But on the other hand, I suppose you could argue that it’s that very support system and level of comfort that helps me not be afraid to try new things (and to sometimes fail).
After all, I can relate with these words, also from that same Jimmy Buffett song:
“If it suddenly ended tomorrow
I could somehow adjust to the fall
Good times and riches and son of a b-tches
I’ve seen more than I can recall”
I’ll drink to that.