• Song #49: Occupy (2015 52-song Project)

    This song feels like a complicated one to me.

    I had a lot of mixed feelings about the Occupy movement. I felt there were some parts of it that some parts of me really agreed with and also some parts that other parts of me really didn't agree with.

    I think the Occupy movement stirred up a lot for me in terms of my own privilege as a university-educated white woman who has some strong feelings both for and against capitalism.

    To break the song down a bit, the first verse, about getting beaten up by a police officer, is my expression of my understanding of the callousness and cruelty that was meted out against the Occupy movement and other anti-capitalism protestors, and in particular, the experiences of a number of friends and acquaintances who were involved in the G20 protests in Toronto. Many of the protesters there had their rights severely violated and I felt the response from the majority of people was a big "who cares".

    Which is often what I felt myself about the Occupy movement – who cares. Sorry the middle class dream is evaporating, kids. Suck it up. I'm not sure how much of this sentiment was a product of me being manipulated by the media, which certainly showed a lot of petulant and obnoxious behaviour from Occupy protesters and how much of it was just me being a little too old and entrenched in the status quo. This is the thinking that comes out in verse 2.

    And yet, I still had some ideals and protested stuff around the time of the Occupy movement. Verse 3 is inspired by an experience I had where I went to join a protest with some friends, and when the secret location of the protest was revealed, I realized I couldn't participate because it was my workplace. This is when I realized that I was in a deep conflict between the part of me that thinks capitalism is a lousy system and the part of me that makes my living within that system. I am one of the bloody tourists who gets called out in this verse.

    Verses 4 and 5 make the point that there are terrible injustices that have been going on in Canada for generations and are still going on. Attiwaspiskat and similar aboriginal communities that struggle for clean water and acceptable housing seem to me like a more valid situation to protest than a lack of good-paying jobs for middle class college graduates. I've often been interested by the lack of a civil rights movement in Canada and a general disinterest in aboriginal issues and confronting racism and racist government policies.

    Hopefully, with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission findings and a new government that says it is interested in nation-to-nation relationships and eliminating racist, paternalistic policies, Canada and Canadians are going to enter a new era.

  • Song #42: The Election Song (Please Tell Me)

    I wrote this song over the weekend and posted it yesterday, but it took me hours to record, and I was too exhausted by that process to write the blog post that I wanted to write about it.

    I think that the Canadian election campaign that has lasted for the past 11 weeks (which ends today) has felt difficult for a lot of people; I know that it has been a challenging one for me.

    There has been so much wrangling and hostility. Complaints and accusations. Mud-slinging, slagging off "everyone who doesn't agree with me" and grasping at "all the marbles".

    And I have found many of the hot-button issues either misguided (the economy, militarization) or offensive (terrorism, whether two women should be allowed to wear the niqab during their citizenship ceremonies, "Barbaric Practices" tip lines).

    And meanwhile, the issues that mean the most to me: justice and reconciliation between all Treaty People (i.e. all Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada), drastic reform of environmental policies and a massive overhaul of Canada's internal mentality (regarding conservation, racism, greed, etc.) and our international relations, have seemed mostly side-lined, making way for personal attacks and pandering to "middle-class Canadian families".

    Anyway, I tried to put all that in a song and this is the result:

    The overarching theme is that I desperately hope Harper and the Cons get voted out today.

    In verse one, I object to the Conservative Party's attempts to manipulate Canadians' beliefs using greed and fear – and I express my hope that a majority of Canadians are not going to fall for their ploys.

    Verse two talks about my disillusionment regarding Canada's lack of racism. As a child, I lived for seven years in a multicultural neighbourhood in downtown Toronto. It was the idealistic seventies and I believed Canada was awesome, open and accepting of all. I had no idea about residential schools. I had no idea about my own embedded racist biases. In a long (and continuing) journey since then, I have come to believe that establishing respectful nation-to-nation relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people is something that needs to be done immediately. And it is absolutely do-able. It only requires good faith, open minds and hearts and an understanding of our true shared history, as Joseph Boyden states compellingly in this excellent interview. It will take time to reconcile, heal and grow together, but the process can begin immediately – as soon as there is a political decision to do it.

    The bridge is my little, cynical sorrow about how there is not a lot of purity in politics. But that no matter the choices, I desperately hope that in this election the Conservatives are not an option for Canada.

    And the final verse is about how I think that all of the parties are headed in the wrong direction, anyway. They are all waving their little prosperity flags – more jobs, more money, bigger flat-screen tvs for everybody, instead of more sharing, more generosity, more community, more happiness, more conservation, more care, more mindfulness.

    I know that's not really the politicians' faults. If the majority of people want affluence, that's what politicians are going to offer them. But I think our culture is barking up the wrong tree. And sometimes that frustrates me. And it seems like this sideshow of an election campaign has been a distraction from thinking about real things, like climate change, environmental degradation and how to not be selfish jerks.

    But given that it is highly unlikely that we will ever have the type of government I want for Canada, I am hopeful today that we will at least acquire a better, less mean-spirited and savage government than I feel we have had with the Harper Conservatives for the past 10 years.

    Please tell me.

  • Song #30: New Day or The Morning Song

    This is a new departure for the 52-song project - a co-write and a duet!

    My friend Trevor Marty asked me if I would be interested in writing a song together. Via the magic of the Internet, we engaged in some cross-border collaboration this past winter. 

    Trevor brought the initial verse and chorus for the song, but in keeping with the bluesy sound - and my mood this past winter - it transitioned from Trevor's original love song into a breakup song - albeit a hopeful one. I contributed the bridge. The coffee is all Trevor's idea! As those who know me know, I do not drink coffee – or even make coffee. 

    When it came time to record, Trevor generously offered to do the video editing for a virtual duet. 

    I'm super happy with this song! Thanks to Trevor for your interest in my 52-song project and for being a part of it!

  • Song #34: Stalking (2015 52-Song Project)

    It's been a while since I have felt the need to write a blog post about one of my 52-song Project songs. Many of them have felt self-explanatory, or in a couple of cases, I just didn't feel like I could find the words I wanted to say about the songs, so I left them to speak for themselves.

    But this song feels like it could use a little discussion.

    The song was inspired by the experience of harvesting wild mushrooms. This is something my mom started doing more than a decade ago. Many times I have gone out into the woods with her and my stepdad.

    Mushroom hunting is a very focused task. One's eyes have to be sharply tuned for variations in colour and shape. Mushrooms have excellent camouflage among the rotting wood and fallen leaves of the forest floor. Meditation teachers know well that focusing one sense can set the other senses and the conscious mind free. It is no surprise that harvesting wild mushrooms can be a deeply meditative activity.

    This song came out of the thoughts that rose up on several mushroom hunts I went on in the mid-naughts. But the bridge that I originally wrote for the song didn't work very well. And because of that, the song languished for a number of years without being played more than a handful of times. It was only in the summer of 2013 that I came up with the current bridge:

    We said we came for one thing only
    Ah, but I guess it's no surprise we lied
    Something 'bout the light
    And the silence here
    Quiets the troubles that we hide


    Just a few additional notes on the lyrics: the line Death trumpets herald our meeting is a reference to Black Trumpet mushrooms (Craterellus cornucopioides), which in French are known at trompette de la mort, or trumpets of the dead.

    The line: At sight of porcini so regal refers to the porcini (Boletus Edulis)'s status as the King Bolete.

    And in the final verse, the line The fire and the frying pan are waiting, is a reference to the Lord of the Rings, hobbits' love of mushrooms and Tolkien's use of the expression "Out of the frying pan and into to fire" as a chapter title in his book The Hobbit. I was a HUGE Tolkien fan for many years and I rarely hunt mushrooms without thinking about what a very Hobbit-y activity it is.

    Here's the song:

  • Song #26: Tapestry

    I wrote this song at some point in the late 90s or early naughts.

    There are a couple of things going on here.

    The weaving metaphor has been a favourite of mine ever since reading Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain when I was a kid. The characters of Orwen, Orduu and Orgoch, the fates who live in the Marshes of Morva and weave the patterns of peoples' lives, have always been compelling ones for me. The story of Taran, the protagonist of the Prydain Chronicles, is one of free-will, of exploring, experimenting and choosing the sort of person he wishes to be.

    For me, the process of psychotherapy was about that same process. It was about gaining insight about the ways I had been shaped by my genetics and upbringing, deciding what I wanted to change and finding the skills to grow into the type of person I choose to be.

    And that is what this song is about, essentially.

    There is also a little tongue-in-cheek in-joke in the title, Tapestry. At the time that I wrote this song, I was a HUGE fan of The Simpsons. There is an episode of The Simpsons (Episode 114, the Internet informs me) in which Marge goes to a therapist to help her with her fear of flying in an airplane. At the end of the episode, the therapist dismisses some additional memories that Marge brings to her with the words, "Yes, yes, it's all a rich tapestry," whereupon Homer dashes in and grabs Marge, pulling her out of the room with the words: "We don't need her perfect, we just need to get her on a plane."

    Since perfectionism was one of the many qualities that I was trying to work through in therapy, these lines struck me as HILARIOUS. Through my years of therapy, I learned that some of my personality traits and archaic feelings are a lot easier to shift than others. Some things about myself I am more or less stuck with, and the best I can do is learn to accept who I am and where I'm at.

    Some days, my perfectionism or my other unresolved feelings (some of the big ones are: humiliation, fear, anger) raise their ugly heads. And I have to remember that it's okay to be imperfect at being imperfect. Sometimes I wish that therapy could have "fixed" everything about me that is challenging or makes me feel uneasy, anxious, depressed, scared, angry, etc., etc. I have to remember to accept that that just isn't how it works. I'm a lot more comfortable in my own skin than I used to be. Most of the time now I'm able to enjoy being alive and I can feel good about who I am and how I'm choosing to be.

    And that is good enough.

    (And it's good to have a sense of humour about it all – Yes, yes, it's all a rich tapestry.)

  • Song #25: Strychnine (2015 52-Song Project)

    This is one of the many songs I wrote in the wake of my longest relationship.

    In 2008, I recorded an entire album of those songs, called Love Bites. And then I wrote an entire second album worth of songs. That album has not yet been recorded, but in my mind it is entitled "(un)Mutual Street".

    This is one of the songs that will go on that album, if I ever record it.

    The idea for this song comes from two true stories: the story of Lorena Gallo Bobbitt and a amazing true story that one of my dear friends told me about one of his university friends who was actually poisoned by his girlfriend. She put strychnine in his coffee after she found out from someone else that she was not his only lover. He almost died, but did not. He did not stop having multiple simultaneous lovers, but he did switch from a don't-ask-don't-tell policy to a full-disclosure policy. She sought professional help.

    Combined with these ideas, this song explores the difference between using our angry feelings to create art and using them to inflict pain on another person. What this song is trying to say is that there is a big difference between wanting to kill or harm someone and actually doing it. And that creating art can provide the type of catharsis that enables us to resist the urge to harm another person.

    Another theme explored in this song is the merit in deciding to leave a difficult situation.

    This reminds me of one of my favourite stories. Years ago, I used to play squash at the St. Lawrence Community Recreation Centre. There was an after-school program there and one day, as I walked up to the counter to pay for my court time, I overheard the recreation worker at the desk and a pre-teen after-school participant talking:

    Preteen: But she said–

    Rec Worker: I don't care what she said. When–

    Preteen: No, but she started it. She was–

    Rec Worker: I don't care who started it. I know you know what you're supposed to do when something like that happens. I know you know that you are supposed to Remove Yourself From the Situation.

    Preteen: But, she was–

    Rec Worker: No. I know you know enough to Remove Yourself From the Situation, and you didn't.

    Preteen: You don't understand.

    Rec Worker: Yes, I do. It doesn't matter what she said or did. You hit her and that's why you are up here with me.

    Remove Yourself From the Situation has been one of my mottoes ever since. When something is really getting my goat and making me angry, I know that I have to remember what that preteen was struggling to learn:

    If you can't do or say something nice, get outta there.

    P.S. I can't believe that in 25 songs, this is only the second one that I have felt I have to age-restrict because of inappropriate language. Who knew I had so many "PG13" songs?

  • Song #20: Falling Apart (2015 52-song Project)

    This is a very sad song about some of the many different sorts of things that can drive a relationship into the ground.

    I think this songs is mostly self-explanatory, but I'd like to say more about one of the lines:

    "We don't want to fall apart
    So we'll use anything as glue."

    The "glue" is a direct reference to alcohol and the trap that one can so easily fall into when living with an alcoholic – the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" trap.

    From what I've seen, it isn't a solution for a troubled relationship – just the cause of more problems.

    Here's a link to my 52-song project playlist:

  • Song #19: Black & Blue (2015 52-song Project)

    My dear friend Chris Kay Fraser (fantabulous Founder and Writing Coach at Firefly Creative Writing) requested that I include this song in my 52-song project.

    In 2006 (or maybe 2007? Or 2005?), Chris invited me to play a house concert at her home, colloquially known as Pape House. I was just starting to get back into performing and Chris' invitation was an important confidence-builder for me at a crucial moment (thanks, Chris!)

    Apparently, I played my song Black and Blue at that concert and Chris has always remembered it. Which is more than I can say for myself. This is one of those songs that I stopped playing entirely; I had forgotten all about it until Chris' request.

    The reason I stopped playing it is because I saw a Canadian Stage production of Ain't Misbehavin', which contains the Fats Waller song (What Did I Do to Be So) Black and Blue. The performance of that song moved me so much that I didn't feel entitled to my Black and Blue song any longer.

    Isn't that funny? As it there isn't room for more than one song written around the same phrase – although the racial dilemma of Waller's song makes it a much more compelling use of the phrase "black and blue", in my opinion.

    I had to hunt through my journals to find the song and re-learn it, since I could only remember the hook when Chris requested I include it in this project. It took me a long time to find it! I thought I had two boxes of journals and this song was nowhere to be found in either of them.

    Then, this week, I unearthed a third box of journals! Sure enough, this song, along with a number of other forgotten favourites, was within. 

    This song was written on February 4, 1999. That was a period in my life when I really didn't know what I was doing with myself. I had been to cooking school, but didn't think I wanted to be a cook. I had not yet started to learn to be a graphic designer. 

    My Journal pages for this song. These journals pages were
    Kraft paper, which accounts for the quality of the images.

    I did some work that year covering vacations at the job I had held in 1993-1994, right out of university. It was a reception job that I had left telling everyone that I was going to become a folk singing star. Something that had obviously not happened. I fielded a lot of questions about my grandiose plans.

    And to make matters worse, my partner at the time had finished his engineering degree and was well on his way with his professional career. Hence the line "figuring out seemed so easy for you, but for me it's a choice between black and blue."

    I suppose I stopped singing this song because I stopped feeling it. I became comfortable working as a graphic designer and eventually found the courage to perform as a singer. 

    I wonder sometime if I'm headed back into another period of career transition. Perhaps this song will come back into more frequent rotation. Anyway, I'm very happy to be reminded of it. Thanks, Chris!

  • Song #17: Tecumseth (2015 52-song Project)

    Tecumseth is a short street in Toronto that runs from Queen West to the railroad tracks.

    When I lived in Toronto, I often used it as a cycling route/shortcut from downtown to the west end.

    I never lived on Tecumseth, but about 20-odd-years-ago, I had a dream that I had lived there in an old abandoned church with my most recent ex at the time. (That should be an acronym. My MREATT.)

    That dream resulted in this song:

    This is not a song I've performed very frequently. It's a bit more jazzy than my usual vibe and it never seemed to fit into my sets. I like it, though.

    And I can still vividly remember that dream. Even after all these years.

    *Because I'm super-busy
    and traveling and homeless this month, I'm pre-scheduling these posts. That means that I can't provide a link to the song on YouTube, because it doesn't exist yet, at the time that I'm writing this post. But here's a link to my 52-song Project playlist where you can find the song with the final version of the lyrics.

  • Song #15: Portland Street (2015 52-song Project)

    This is a song about the terrible trap of living in over-priced rental accommodation.

    Often, when a person can't save up enough to put a down-payment to own their own house, or if their rent is such a high a proportion of their income that they are financially hamstrung, they end up at the mercy of less-than-decent landlords.

    Frequently, tenants and landlords end up in awkward agreements – often unspoken – that go like this: I won't make a fuss about you being late on your rent if you won't make a fuss about repairs that need to be done to the house. As a result, tenants can end up living in places with un-inspected and unmaintained furnaces, faulty electrical, bad plumbing, poor ventilation, leaks, mold, etc, etc.

    This song was inspired by one such real-life situation, located in this instance on Portland Street in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

    Please see YouTube for the final lyrics.

  • Song #16: Queen Street Coffee (2015 52-song Project)

    This is a pretty old song which I wrote in my early 20s when I lived in Toronto.

    This song was composed on my back back when I was an avid cycle commuter.

    It's essentially about a "relationship hangover", the experience of one relationship hanging on and overshadowing the beginning of the next relationship.

    I am often a vivid dreamer and this song describes the experience of my unconscious mind holding on to longing after a person even after my conscious mind has moved on.

  • Song #14: Small World (2015 52-song Project)

    This is a song I wrote in 1996 in response to a moment in Toronto when I realized that someone I had known from high school in Nova Scotia, and with whom I had been briefly and unsuccessfully roommates during a university summer, had started dating a guy who lived next door to me in Toronto.

    Awkward run-in!

    It was one of those big-city/small-world moments. And it brought out all of the elements in my personality that long for hermit-hood.

    This song depicts my dream for an idyllic, rural lifestyle, shared with just the right person.

    As I am currently enduring a somewhat nomadic month (for reasons I won't get into here—long story), I find myself yearning for this vision of a settled spot, a homestead.

    I'm interested to find that my concept of a good, rural home hasn't changed much in 20 years. I still hope for a clothesline, tea, popcorn, a vegetable garden (and the time, energy and interest to tend that garden). And hopefully some good company.

    It took me a long time to get out of Toronto.

    It's taken me a while to decide what I want here in Nova Scotia.

    I'm getting there.

    This ideal is something I hope I can create for myself.

  • Song #13: Four Walls (2015 52-song project)

    This song was written in Spring 2014, shortly after I moved into my Tiny Home, just in time for five long, miserable days of snow, rain and sleet.

    It's part love song for my house and cat and part break-up song for a relationship that had ended shortly before my move. The references in the song are to off-grid living in a converted trailer. No electricity. No running water.

    My Tiny Home c. March 2014
    I added a third verse to the song in the fall of 2014.

    Here's the song:

  • Song #11: We Will See Stars Again (2015 52-Song Project)

    As I say in the video, I started this song last year and finished it this year.

    Blogger seems to be having issues finding the video to embed, so here is the link to watch on YouTube:

    It's inspired jointly by a Garnet Roger's house concert I attended last June and also Tannis Slimmon's song There's a Lift.

    I feel bad that this failed to post March 8 – I had some major tech problems and while I thought this had uploaded, it had not. Better late than never, eh?

  • Song #12: Where To? (2015 52-Song Project)

    I wrote this song in 1996. It doesn't have an exact date on it, but judging from the dates of other entries in this journal, it was written at some time between March 9 and March 31.

    I wrote the song on my bicycle, bombing around the city of Toronto. I was an avid cycle-commuter there for many years – even in March.

    That's why there are no edits on this page where I first wrote the lyrics down – I had already worked all the words out in my head before I ever put it on paper.

    I'm quite fond of this song, though it feels like it belongs to another time in my life – but perhaps I'll be a cycle-commuter again at some point...

    On the video, I misidentify this song as having been written around 2005 or 2006 – I think because that's the first time I can remember performing it – it took me a long time to develop the guitar skills to play this song the way I wanted to.

    For some reason, Blogger won't let me embed the video. So, here's the link:

  • Song #10: Comin' Round the Mountain (2015 52-song project)

    This is a simple little song – one of many I wrote for a doomed relationship I tried to have in the late naughts.

    Some of the lyrics and imagery are direct lifts from the old folk song "She'll be Comin' Round the Mountain When She Comes". The third verse is based on the idea of a dream in which all of one's past lovers come back to show you how what goes around comes around and your deserve every ounce of misery and failure that you're experiencing.

    At its inception, this song had a completely different chorus (which really feels more like "B part" than a chorus) which I can't remember now. I obviously didn't like it very much because I didn't play this song very often until I wrote the current B part sometime in late 2013 or early 2014.

  • Song #9: Shame is the Name of the Game

    Most of the songs I've posted in this project so far have been fairly fun and positive. In eight songs I've only done ONE break-up song. Those of you who know my music will know that this is not really representative.

    I guess I've been trying to cheer myself up and it seems to have worked. Which means that I think I can risk a downer today, especially since it is so beautifully sunny:

    This is a very simple little song that I began in August 2004 and finished in September/October of the same year. Going through my 2004 journals, I'm a bit shocked by how many great songs I wrote that year, many of them never recorded. This is not a song I play often in public performance. I've tried it, but it doesn't go over that well, frankly. It's a bit slow and depressing.

    It is, however, heartfelt and very meaningful to me. Putting it up on YouTube is kind of perfect, actually, because if you get bored you can just go do something else. In a live situation, that would hurt my feelings – but in the virtual world, I'll never know unless you tell me (and please don't). 

    This is another song with a reference to Paul Simon, though I wouldn't have thought he was that big an influence in my musical life. The line "I've crapped out" in this song is defintely a reference to the line "4 in the morning, crapped-out, yawning, longing my life away / I never worry, why should I? / It's all gonna fade" in the bridge of the title track of Paul Simon's album, Still Crazy After All These Years, which was one of my favourite records in my stepdad's collection when I was a kid. 

    *As usual, view the song in YouTube to see the typed final lyrics.

  • Song #8: Jezebel (Just Call Me Al) (2015 52-Song Project)

    Well, well, well! Song 8 falls on my birthday. The numbers, if you like that sort of thing are all lined up. I'm 44 on the 22nd and this is Song 8. I love 2s, 4s and especially 8s! So this song feels particularly auspicious.

    My first birthday phone conversation this morning travelled from many things through Moby Dick to Ahab and naturally to Jezebel.

    And that made me think of this song.

    This is an oldie. It's about the kinds of relationship dilemmas we face when we are in our early 20s – offers often abound while maturity and empathy often do not. The choices we make help us figure out who we are and/or who we want to be.

    Those sorts of situations (and listening to a lot of Ani DiFranco) lead to these sorts of songs:

    As usual, you can click on the YouTube icon to see the lyrics.

  • Song #7: Golden (2015 52-song Project)

    Happy Day After Valentine's Day!

    I was tempted to post a break-up song today, but I have decided on a love song instead. If you were hoping for a break-up song, I recorded an entire album of them in 2008, called Love Bites (available on iTunes, CDBaby and Bandcamp). That album could have been a double album – I had the material, just not the resources to make Love Bites bigger. And sadly, I've written more break-up songs since 2008. I'm sure many of those songs will no doubt be included in this project at some point. But not today. No, today will be an old, sweet love-song of mine, Golden.

    This song is not dated in my journal, but I know I wrote it in late July 1996. I was camping at Agawa Bay on the shores of Lake Superior with my then-partner. He and I were both in our early 20s and probably like a lot of smart, high-achieving young people we both tended toward perfectionism. Neither of us liked making mistakes.

    It was a difficult trip – it was my first real camping trip (not counting a couple of nights with the Girl Guides and a couple of nights in the Sierra Nevadas with my dad and sister when I was 10). I was in a place that was very precious to my partner from his childhood. We had terrible (wet, cold) weather for the first three days, I felt sick and was very grumpy.

    I felt bad about being so cranky. My then-partner made a mistake that he felt really bad about (which he asked me not to talk about ever again, so I won't). I wrote this song as a way to try to figure out and accept fallibility in our relationship. We do not always behave the way we want to behave, but that doesn't make us less worthy of love. (Sometimes our behaviour makes us impossible for another person to be in a relationship with us – but let us leave that for other songs.)

    The title of the song was inspired by the way the sun would come out at sunset every day – even on the wettest, most miserable days. We would take a walk on the beach and a beam of light from the sun would seem to track us along our walk. I know this is just a function of the way human eyes perceive light, but it felt like magic, like grace.

    Around the time I wrote this song, I took a songwriting course
    with Peter Linseman through the Toronto Board of Education.
    The notes in black ink above, were ideas that arose from that
    course that I added to the song after I played it for that class.

    Here is Golden:
    As usual, the final lyrics are typed on on YouTube. Open the video in YouTube to read them. 

  • Song #6: Stage Fright (2015 52-Song Project)

    This song used to be in heavy rotation in my repertoire. I wrote it in 2002 – as I was coming closer to the end of a ten year span of not performing my songs in public.

    I found this song in one of my journals while looking for Black & Blue, as song that had been requested for this project that I couldn't remember how to sing.

    While going through my journals, I found a track list for a proposed album that I was going to record, entitled "New Shoes". On that track list was the title Stage Fright. I looked at it and thought, "That looks so familiar! But what is that song? Stage Fright? Stage Fright..."

    I kept flipping through my journals and soon found the entire song. Instantly it came back to me. I really, really like this song. I think I only stopped playing it all the time because it didn't feel as true for me as it once had. I stopped feeling mostly anxious both as a performer and in my life. And therefore, the song dropped out of frequent play.

    A couple of notes on the lyrics

     I'm pretty sure that when I borrowed the first part of the line: "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned," I thought it was written by Shakespeare, though I realized subsequently that that line was written by William Congreve.

    I still don't know where I heard the line "Freedom is picking your cage," but I did hear it somewhere. A google search has not given me any clues. Anyone have any insights about where I might have heard this (deeply cynical) line sometime prior to 2002?

    I still think it's a really good song. It makes me want to feel anxious and cynical again just so I can feel more authentic when I play it. (Kidding. I kid.)

    As usual, the lyrics are on YouTube. Click on the YouTube logo at the bottom right of the embedded video to visit the song on YouTube and see the typed, final lyrics.

  • Song #5: This Little River (2015 52-Song Project)

    I seem to be having some technical difficulties embedding this video, so here is a link to watch it on YouTube.

    The Occasion

    I wrote this song for the Petite Riviere Community Park's opening ceremony held in October 2014. The park is a beautiful reclamation of former industrial land near the mouth of the river in Petite Riviere, Nova Scotia. The park has been gorgeously landscaped with indigenous plants by Rose-Marie Lohnes and her team at Helping Nature Heal.

    I was invited to sing at the opening ceremony by my friend Leif Helmer, who was instrumental in the creation of the park and is also the founder of Little River Folk (where I've helped out and served on the board) and other community endeavours too numerous to mention here.

    When Leif invited me, I figured I would sing River Road, a song about the neighbouring LaHave River which I know many people in our community appreciate. But, as I got closer to the ceremony, I decided that I really wanted to write a song specifically about the Petite River, if I could.

    Just a couple of days before the ceremony, I put a call out on Facebook for people to share their stories about the river. Many of my friends and neighbours contributed their stories, thoughts and feelings, and I scrambled to write this song.

    The Process

    Here's the first draft:

    You can see how I tried to squeeze in as many stories as I could: about the group of seven painting the Petite, about a child falling through the ice. There were many other things I would have liked to have included - about the artists, especially the painters and rug hookers who thrive on the banks of the Petite, about some of the stories of daredevil stunts that have involved the river and its many bridges. 

    But in the end, I knew that I couldn't fit everything into the song or it would be a 9-minute-long epic! It is only a little river, after all.

    Here's the final version:

    Because I wrote the song at the last minute, I didn't actually know it very well when I performed it at the ceremony in October. There were a few flubs for sure, but I made some people laugh and some cry. Any performance that does that is a success in my eyes. 

    Still, it's nice to present a more polished version now.

    The Details (and the In-Joke)

    This song contains several "insider" references on its lazy inner-tube ride down the Petite.

    The reference to "whitefish" in the fourth verse is a tip of the hat to the Petite for being one of only two rivers that forms habitat for the endangered Atlantic Whitefish

    The otter in that same verse was desired for its rhyme with "water" obviously, but I did get a river resident to confirm that river otters have been spotted on the banks of the Petite.

    The mention of "Sperry's" in verse six refers to Sperry's beach, a small beach on an outcrop of sand that faces the Petite River on one side and the Atlantic ocean on the other. It sits across from one end of Risser's Beach and is one of five amazing beaches within a ten-minute drive of the community of Petite Riviere. Sperry's is considered the "local" beach. It is accessed by an unmarked road and tourists are generally not told how to get in.

    With thanks to Jennifer, Stephen, Bernadette, Susan, Rose-Marie, Dana, Tara, Leif, Anne, Margaret, Scotty, Stacey, Angela, Stephanie, Sharon and Annie for their contributions to the writing of the song.

  • Song #4: Chainsaw Boots!

    I wrote this song in the summer of 2014, while I was splitting up my firewood in my steel-toed, orange Chainsaw boots.

    I don't have a scan of the journal page for the song, because I never wrote it down, just made the words up and learned it by repeating them over and over again (with occasional tweaks) while I chopped up my wood. The first time I wrote out the lyrics was in the comments on the YouTube page, so you can see them there.

    This song is a great favourite in my home community of West Dublin. If I don't wear my boots to the firehall breakfast, I'll almost always get asked where they are. And when I do wear them anywhere, I'm sure to encounter at least one person who'll say "Nice Boots!"

    I hope you get an orange, steel-toed kick out of this song.

  • Song #3: Rockabilly

    I wrote this song during the first Creative Marathon I ever did, which was back in the summer of 2006. I can't remember the exact date of that CM, but I think it's safe to assume that it was shortly after I attended the Hillside Festival in Guelph, which is always the last weekend in July. This song is based on my experience of seeing Luke Doucet perform Bruce Springteen's I'm On Fire at Hillside that year. I hadn't heard that song in years, and in that way that certain songs have to lock into our memories, it took me right back to high school.

    My mother taught at the same high school I attended for Grade 11 and 12 (living in a rural area, there was only one consolidated high school, so there wasn't any way out of that happening). I decided to handle this situation by being a really good student, studying hard and not making any waves. I didn't drink, do drugs, skip school or date. I just put my head down and got through it.

    I don't regret it; I got an awesome scholarship to U. of T. out of those diligent years and came through university debt-free. But, it meant that I didn't work through any wild rebelliousness when I was in my teens. And that has come back to haunt me once or twice.

    I've never recorded this song because I couldn't get the performance right for my record in 2008 and there's also the issue of arranging the rights for the cover of I'm On Fire that this song segues into. Hopefully, I won't get sued for posting it on YouTube.

  • Song #2: Shadow of Your Shadow (2015 52-Song Project)

    The first song in this project was one of my newest; this second song is over 20 years old.

    I wrote it in October 1994 in the wake of a bad break-up. I was 23 years old. I was just in the process of defining my identity and that is essentially what this song is about.

    The first verse of this song is inspired by Jacques Brel's song Ne Me Quitte Pas, which ends with the lyrics: "Laisse moi devenir / l'ombre de ton ombre / l'ombre de ta main / l'ombre de ton chien" – which translates in English to: "Let me become / the shadow of your shadow / the shadow of your hand / the shadow of your dog".

    The relationship that ended in 1994 had consisted of a great deal of Jacques Brel and also many shadows. 

  • Song #1: Weather Hold (2015 52-song project)

    Welcome to my 2015 52-song project! 

    I'm going to post a previously-unrecorded song to YouTube every Sunday for a year and some of the songs will have corresponding blog posts telling a little something about the origin of the song.

    I invite you to subscribe to my YouTube channel and request that you please comment or give thumbs up to the songs you particularly like. I'm going to use feedback I receive to decide what to record on my next album, which I'll hopefully record toward the end of 2015 or in 2016.

    I will be including some new songs and some songs from my archives. It seems only right to kick off with one of my most-recently written songs, so here goes.

    Song #1: Weather Hold

    I wrote this song in November 2014 while I was in Happy Valley-Goose Bay for the Labrador Creative Arts Festival. On the first day of the festival, I was scheduled to fly up to Nain to do some workshops with the kids there. But everything in Labrador is weather dependent and the wind did not co-operate. So, I sat in the airport, along with a number of other LCAF visiting artists, for about seven-eight hours, each hour bringing another update saying that we were on weather hold and there would be another update in an hour or an hour and a half or an hour and 15 minutes.

    While having fun getting to know the other artists, my mind was also thinking about waiting, and ceasing to wait (taking the bull by the horns, as we say in my family). The next morning I had nothing scheduled (because I was supposed to still be in Nain) so I sat down at wrote this song. It was a wonderful way to transform my disappointment about not being able to travel up the coast into something positive.

    I hope you enjoy it.

    (If you'd like to read the lyrics, they are posted on You Tube with the song.)