Friday, February 20, 2009


as a rule, i don't rework my old songs, but i think it's time to try.

my book of songs is split in two, basically the good and the not-so-good. i was surprised to find the one i'm thinking of in the front half. i don't play it often, because it seems to fall flat when i do. but i think its potential is what made me put it with the "good". i really want it to work.

it's a song i wrote from my wife's perspective, a rather ambitious notion at the time, and a bit of a stretch. risk is good.

it started with a simple, killer chorus, the main idea:

"Don't say goodnight - say everything is gonna be all right".

and there's the problem. i'm an acoustic roots player, and it's a rock chorus. hell, even now i can hear the explosive horn section.

when i look at the song as a whole, it's pretty good. maybe what i need to change is HOW, not WHAT. do it more gently, without the bombast i hear in my head. hey, it's cheaper than hiring a backup band every time i want to play that one song.

and it's supposed to be from Deb's point of view. she's not the rockin' shout-it-from-the-rooftops kind of gal. it should suit her style as well as tell something of her story.

it's entirely possible that the lyric will need reworking as well, once it's done differently. probably best to try it out, see if it simply FEELS better, and then adjust the words to better fit the new mood. yes. i think so.

hey, thanks for listening. you've been a great help. if you've got another 3:47 to spare, close your eyes and listen to this. tell me what you think.

"The walls are spinning madly off in every known direction
The sanity that's with me still is in need of your protection
It won't take much to help me out, love and trust and patience
A few words at the right time could be my salvation
Don't say goodnight - say everything is gonna be all right

The book i write consumes me, i'm disappearing ink
Omen crows and deadlines loom in shadows, i can't think
The geometric tangle is of my own design
Life and Art don't imitate, here they intertwine
Don't say goodnight - say everything is gonna be all right

I know the work is worth it
Its beauty i conceive
I know my life is better still
Still i don't believe

Sometimes i forget to breathe, colours pull me in
A sea of grace so deep, i sink until i swim
And swim until i'm grounded on your foreign shore
Lift me up and take me home, and promise me once more
Everything is gonna be all right
Everything is gonna be all right
Everything is gonna be all right."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

this just in...

breaking news from the Mariposa Folk Festival front, where the battle is ever waged to bring the best of entertainment and education to an expanding demographic.

this year, for the first time ever, you can get an early start on a great festival by taking part in Mariposa Arts U, two days of fun and creative classes with experienced, friendly instructors.

two sessions each are scheduled in Singing, with the entirely wonderful Alyssa Wright, and in Photography. single sessions are offered in Printmaking with the very accomplished Juliana Hawke, and in Songwriting, with none other than... me.

i'm very excited to be a part of this. the committee getting it together is fantastic - hard-working, dedicated, and positive. co-sponsors Mariposa and Lakehead University are heavy hitters in Orillia's cultural scene. the dream is to expand over the next few years to become a major summer school of the arts.

it's a case of being in the right place at the right time. in my last post, i mentioned the triumphant return of Mariposa to its original home, forty years after it began. i was part of a folk band called Alex, which morphed into the Orillia Folk Society, and whose members were the driving force behind discussions which led inexorably to the festival's return to Orillia.

i can't take much credit for that. while most of the band was involved in The Big Show, and all the bureaucracy that entailed, others of us were happy to grow the folk society, hanging out at weekly song circles and discovering the best of Canadian folk talent at our monthly concerts.

when Mariposa returned in 2000, the folk society offerred equipment and personnel to run the Open Stage. soon after, we were asked to put on songwriting workshops at the Interactive Stage. what would become Arts U was the dream of a wonderful woman who ran the latter. it's been a few years since we started talking about it, but there was a very distinct feel - that it was only a matter of time before it came to be. it was supposed to happen in 2008, but circumstances conspired...

it was a disappointment, but we all learned a great deal from its loss. folks were naturally a bit gun-shy, but as soon as we got together in the fall to decompress, it was obvious the passion to make it happen was still there, and renewed confidence.

so pencil us in, in ink, on your calendar. Thursday evening July 2, Friday July 3, 2009. my class is 2 1/2 hours, slated for Friday afternoon. 24 bucks early registration (by May 24 - it's the two-four special!)

there may also be some sort of meet-the-teacher night in the spring at the Mariposa office. stay tuned.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Get Away!

i live to build community. and although that sounds like a noble and selfless thing to do, it hasn't really been like that.

when there was no discernible folk scene in our home town, the band i was in started up a Folk Society. now we have a weekly song circle where i can showcase my writing, make friends, and jam with them. and a concert series where we get to hear the best of rising Canadian talent, make friends, and jam with them.

i see a pattern developing...

when my best friend and i were suffering from a huge case of writer`s block, after co-writing a fabulous song, we started up a writer`s bloc. the next month, we were both writing again, getting together with helpful friends and...

when the Mariposa Folk Festival returned to its ancestral home, thanks in large part to the work of the aforementioned band and Folk Society, i volunteered our bloc to lead songwriting workshops, where we spread the love, made friends, and...

when i needed to supplement my meager income, i started teaching evening songwriting courses through Parks and Rec., where i widened my reputation, made money and friends...

when the bloc was firmly established, i realized it was, by necessity, a closed group. i wanted some way to share what we were doing with a larger community, make new friends...

i had also been working with my buddy David at a beautiful local outdoor education centre, which at some point came to be the setting for our shared dream of a winter weekend of fun and learning and healthy physical activity with our current and brand new friends. and jamming.

i introduced the idea to the bloc, who gave me unanimous support. so we booked the lodge, spread the word, lined up volunteers to lead workshops, and hoped we could entice enough people to drop a very reasonable $120 so we could meet expenses.

well, we did, just. and one weekend in the middle of January 2007, we all came together for an amazing time of shared music and joy. complete strangers became fast friends. atheists joined in the sunday gospel session.

the name, and the whole idea of the weekend was `D.I.Y.` Do It Yourself. we didn`t bring in big names, or outside experts. and it was fantastic.

i guess that`s my entire raison d`├Ętre: if you want something to happen, it`ll probably be quicker, and more to your liking, if you do it yourself.

i spent a lot of years complaining about things not happening, waiting, wishing. what a waste.

as soon as i started these little projects, i knew there were a bunch of people who would prop me up and support anything i tried, and thank me for doing it for them.

so now i`m in the middle of a beautiful, thriving community of musicians and listeners, that i`ve helped to grow. the folk society celebrated fifteen years this week. the writers`bloc is in its seventh. Mariposa nine. my Parks and Rec classes have expanded to sessions for teenagers as well as adults. i`ve started performing and teaching songwriting in public schools. the DIY weekend three weeks ago was the third annual, and by far the best ever.

selfless and noble, you might think. a bit of it, i guess, but mostly i did it because i wanted it to happen.