9000 RPMs and accelerating

September 30, 2010

Up early. The gears are turning, I’m at 9000 RPMs just above the red line. I keep the oil temperature just on the edge so to last.

5 days remaining. Down to 3 main vocals. But still loads of guitars to do.

Today I have not really had time for anything else than a bit of food and work. I am in a time warp, in a parallel universe, getting into the special driving zone, the “no service” area.

There are beautiful moments. Some notes… just right. Where the vowel and the tone make a perfect blend and I am moved beyond words.

Right now I am between two songs, Perry is getting the multi-track ready to record new tracks. I’ll go back in the booth in a short while and if it’s not too late after that I’ll try to lay down a couple of guitar tracks. As I write this chords from Sweet Night For a Ride ring out.

I love you all. Thanks for being there. I know you are there. Gotta go.

Bass Day

September 29, 2010

Clock reading : 01:11 AM that is when my Monday ended…

I had looked at the clock when it marked 11:11 PM. We had been going all day and were going to continue with the third vocal of the day. The phone rang and time went out the back door quietly, making sure no one noticed. Resumed singing maybe 40 minutes later and went on to 01:11. Interesting symmetry in numbers.

The day had started with me reluctantly tending some personal business like banking, balances, statements, and that kind of necessary evil. It stressed me out, taking me right out of the present moment into a web of phone automated services, disembodied voices and money worries.

But back in Tennessee and back to the job at hand. Monday was a huge day. Looking at a bunch of details that led to serious decisions regarding bass lines, arrangements and even the dumping altogether of on of the song.

A lot of the decision making process in creating music or any art for that matter seem to involve these non-sequitur out loud, heart felt declarations out of the blue. They are statements of knowingness based on no scientifically proven protocols. They just are. Like Goddesses with attitude to whom you can’t say no. Why pick this line or that chord? Why this word over that one?

Because.

After a mid-day coffee break and then back in recording vocals from 5 PM to 1 AM.

I got 3 vocals recorded, big victory. My voice was able and willing. The voice is always an X factor for a singer, fatigue, emotions or even what you ate can just annihilate your best intentions. On the guitar you can fake it, muster energy, crank up the volume but the voice does not lie. The half-day off on Sunday has paid off.

Today, Tuesday.

Bass day for Wicked Girl and Sweet Night For A Ride. Robbie showed up on time. It’s good to see him. The last time was back in March which seems like lifetimes ago, before the trip, before all those miles, before knowing what I know now.

He pulled out Ella, his black Fender bass. The name was carved with a screw into the bass’ sides when Robbie’s daughter Ella was born. I love it. Visceral, total love. People. Their stories. Their lives. The beauty of life lived, felt and expressed without compromises.

We worked until about 3 something PM. Robbie brought in much needed grit and verve. He rocks that bass. I love the way he plays it and I love the way he gets invested in getting the best possible tracks for the song. He brings his heart and soul and we can feel it in the music. Thanks from all my heart Robbie.

I will not lie, I am feeling the pace, the relentlessness of the approach of the deadline. I am riding this course at threshold for sure. Gotta jockey all the parameters with full cognizance : the energy, sleep, mind set, emotions, meals.

Time for a break, we go out to get some supplies. My phone rings : it’s Duane. It’s so good to talk to him. And while I think about it, I have to say how much I miss my California friends. My new family who is there all along this crazy venture writing emails, comments, calling or texting. I miss you. I love you. Today I paid the bass player with what I called “music-love money”. The money that was donated in the jar on the last show I did. So now guys you have a share in this album. You made it happen along with me. Thank you.

I do miss my bike too. My bike feels like my brother in arms and here I am fighting a battle without it. But it’s better this way. The Suzuki needed some TLC. I don’t have all the details yet, but the word “transmission” was spoken, the third gear trouble I had when I rode it last. Thanks Steve, Suny and all the other people I have not met yet who are working on it as we speak.

Now, 8:40 PM.

I will get back in the booth and sing some more. Got to. The clock ticks.

I hope you guys will like what we’re recording. It’s rocking. It’s intense. It has a heavy-darkness and light thing going.

I’m giving my all and it seems the Universe is along with me too, furnishing me with “found” guitars, available people, enough money and enough courage and determination to go on.

The only possible way is forward.

tic toc tic toc…

September 26, 2010

Friday
0900 Hours

The alarm rings, Oh damn…
I’m hurting. My shoulders, my whole body… Phew… 3 more minutes… Must get up.. I forge on. I’m not sure why, but my whole body is just in disagreement with everything right now. I’m not used to sitting in a chair for hours on end. I wake up fuzzy, but determined. Breakfast, cooooohfee.

1000 Hours

I walk in the studio in my jammies (I will stay in them all day) and start “compiling” vocal tracks from the previous day. That means sitting at the computer and and editing the ugly stuff out of the vocal tracks, listen, once, twice, layers 1 to 7 or 8. Pick a segment, listen trough layers again… I spend three hours on two vocal tracks. It’s sounding really good on Fear & Desire. Criminal Mind well, I might re-record, it’s not bad, it’s just not great. One thing I notice: my hands have not been that clean since sometime in April when I was just a musician. No grease, no oil or road dirt… Got clean nails… but the calluses have certainly reappeared in force.

1300 Hours

Yeah I’m still hurting but I tell myself : “I can take it”. The luck of me being here and doing this… it is my job, mission, purpose in life, reason to exist in this world to dig in to take it in order to make it happen. Like when the wind, cold or heat would beat me up on the road. I guess that was pre-production for what happens now. Deep breath when I feel like zonking out.
Perry walks in, we start on editing a whole intro on the one song. Clip, snip, pull, fade, listen, do it again…

mixer, levels, strips, EQ, busses....

1500 Hours

I’m hurtling. Break time. Food time.
We sit outside, the sky is overcast. It’s around seventy something I think, really nice. Not too hot for a change. Randall the studio owner walks by stops and chats. He’s a really sweet guy with a heart of gold. I walk back in and make a ground beef casserole. I start giggling because I have not cooked that sort of thing in months. It smells damn good. It tastes damn good. Then I have fruit. FRUIT!!! wow… luxuries. Coffee. Back to work.

1700 Hours

In the demi-jour lighting of the studio I bring up the song Gotta Lose My Fear. Listen. Listen more. Listen again… Grab the PRS (my electric guitar) and play some riffs unplugged. The ideas start to flow… get a pen, paper, write little notes so I don’t forget.

1600 Hours

Perry walks in. Lets get a guitar sound, Lets record this! We do. Between good takes and some needed patience suddenly we got rocking guitar parts. The song just went up a whole notch in the realm of rockingness. Yeah. We record guitars for then next while.

2100 Hours
Oh how the hours fly… Randall walks in, we play him the song, he’s all smiles. Mission accomplished.

2200 Hours

Time for a snack and a break. Oatmeal baby with apples and cinnamon. So good. I know you don’t understand… Oatmeal. Just works for me, it helps me find my center.

2300 Hours

Back in the studio. I cue in “Dont Wanna Drown”. Listen, Listen. Listen. I crank it up because it’s very different from playing it with an acoustic guitar and the vocal line that’s on the demo now sounds wimpy with the gigantic guitars on the tracks. Louder. Listen, Listen… OK. Lets edit the last chorus, double it up, then I’ll sing the vocals.

0000 Hours

The edit took much longer… a thing about getting off the click (metronome) and then finding a weird guitar part that was edited before the edit and now had lost the changes because we changed everything… follow me? That’s OK, no worries. Now I gotta decide if I sing or not. If I do I’ll have to get up later in the morning. If I get up later I’ll lose some Danielle the mad scientist alone at the computer work hours… It’s a fine balance, keeping the mind, the spirit and the body functional while you work full tilt. Kind of like bicycle racing where you have to keep at threshold, on the edge between lactic acid overload, moral and fuel availability. You need to economize enough fuel to finish as strong as you can but you also need to use as much of it so to be at your best. But unlike bicycle racing there is no drafting behind a team mate here. This is a time trial, a “contre la montre”.

0100 Hours
We decide to do the vocal. Worse case scenario we got levels and the multi-track ready for tomorrow.

0200 Hours
We quit. Got a scratch vocal maybe better but none of us can tell anymore. It feels good though, Music feels good. I got a new melody that carries the song to where it has to go. We’ll revise, review, regroup and restart tomorrow.

Nighty night…

files, layers, wave forms

Muzik & Moons

September 24, 2010

Yesterday was the 12 days – 12 songs mark, meaning I had 12 days to finish the 12 songs before I fly back. We are steadily progressing. A guitar here, a vocal here, digging for sounds, exploring interpretations of songs that have never seen the lights of the stage and finding what they want to become when they grow up. It’s a steady grind but organic.

I’ve not had too many daemons coming to poke at me, that is good. That has happened in the studio before, but Perry is keeping the ship on course.

Those who know me, know I am working with my “ex”. A few have expressed their disbelief or distrust, but we are here to make music. Period. And I must say, Perry is the best sound engineer I’ve ever worked with and he’s the person that’s always made me sound the best I ever could so I’d be an idiot not to partner up and make-create this music.

Leo checks out the mixes

I just love the fact that we are doing this on our own terms. No outsiders who pretend to know anything, or people who are only there for the money. That is one thing in that music business : Many wave flags, flatter you and promise the moon, castles and riches. They will vacuum all money out of your bank account, make you redo stuff, rework your image, criticize your ways, invalidate the crap out of you while telling you they hold the answers on a road to “success” filled with tolls. I’ve sure met my share of those. But at this point in time for me, all that matters is that the music is good.

I can only do what I do : Write. Play. Sing. Create… & ride my bike. It has to be real. This is very real. Life has been incredibly real since June… I want to keep it that way.

And speaking of promising the moon, lately the moon has been not only promised but it has been occupying the skies unapologetically. It hung out with Jupiter a couple of nights ago, was bloodied and full the following night, and just radiated last night, occupying the sky like a queen on a throne glaring at those who dared to stare at her magnificence.

I feel supported by her. The Harvest Moon. September glory. Out here, in Tennessee, I am drowning in the smells of grass, it is the last haying before winter so the air is saturated with greenness. It is undeniably the hot south here, 90F plus on a daily basis with that humid heaviness that takes all the will out of you. Thick, heavy smells, spells cast under the full moon, coyotes in the distance, and every evening magic skies with beams of light as if God himself was preparing an entrance. It’s all good.

All the while we travel inside the spaceship like innards of this recording studio.

Mowing at twilight


magic skies in a human world

Oh and Happy birthday mom… Bonne fête Madeleine. I love you.

Mom’s been following this blog since I left. She has every post in a folder on her computer. She gave me her blessings for the journey and the crazy dreams I harbor of playing and coursing the world on my motorcycle.

Hugs.

Phantom Power


Zssswwwwooooosh…

September 22, 2010

I feel far away here in Tennessee.

I guess coming from me it’s a strange statement. I’ve been far away ever since I left Vancouver… even in Vancouver I was faraway from where I am from…

But I always feel more far away in the east than I do West of the continental divide. I now know that for a fact. But here, to me, it is an alien world. You got the same stores, corporate businesses, cars, etc. but it’s so alien. Don’t get me wrong, there are loads of cool things about the place. Mainly the people are so very warm and friendly but I don’t feel like I am anywhere near something that resembles home.

Each night when I see the sun set on the horizon in the orange hues, birds and crickets and cows and dogs create a soundtrack which is very serene. (the studio is in the country) But I get seized by these thoughts about how far the coast is from where I stand. As the sun sets, a slight panic hits me, I long for the coast, the ocean, the end of the world on that West coast and feel utterly lost for a brief moment..

sunset in Tennessee, west over yonder

1.I find comfort in the junction of earth and waves. Knowing that the end of the continent is right there. There is an end, a start, a space with the idea of infinity, a sense of the ocean’s mystery and unknown depths. A place where the land ends a space that humans stop occupying. No fences. All space. A beautifully defined line, no confusion.

Nashville.

Well, in truth, Gallatin. North of Nashville. A studio built in the middle of farmland. Hence the cows, crickets, tractors and hounds barking in the distance.

Many women are pretty in a Dolly sort of way, the cars are big and everywhere. The men are manly and with an air of Malrboromanness about them. The innumerable churches and Wall Mart seem to be in the heart of it all.

Yesterday I bought an air mattress in said Wall Mart, cost : $11.99 for a 6.2 feet tall rubber thingy. As we walked towards the cashier we passed the pet section, I looked for fun to see how much it cost for a “pet beds” which are basically some fabric and foam sewn together. Price : $40.99. Hmmm… Interesting.

Yes an air mattress. The first night I slept on the floor and when I tried to repeat the second night, my body completely rebelled. I went on to the couch, but I woke up pretty mangled. So I went and got the air mattress. I slept much better last night. Surprisingly it’s really hot. I did not expect that. You touch the front door handle in the middle of the day and it’s just burning. California is hot but it does not cut your legs like the heat out here. I spent most of the days so far holed up in the control room of the studio as it is air conditioned.

I also bought a bottle of Shout! for my jacket… the white jacket that I wore for 14 thousand miles. this is the bottle of Shout! with the little brush thingy on it. I spent about an hour scrubbing the inside and I am glad to report that the fabric and now, once more be construed as white. That stuff works. I took pictures… but I won’t post them… for the faint of heart. Just tryin’ to be thoughtful here… Shout! works!

I then went to take a shower… there is no shower at the studio so it means driving to a fitness center to take the shower. Sleeping on the floor and having no shower seem to come as a pair…

The fitness center offers lots : pool, gym, squash, racket sports, sauna and a nutrition center… here are some photos of the products offered to athletes :

I was duly impressed.

So the music… yes, that is why I am here.

I had recorded the “bed tracks” ( live off the floor tracks with drums, bass and guitar that are to be added to by way of overdubs) and I had done a lot of electric guitar tracks. Since I am playing all the guitars I have to overdub (recording a new musical part over an existing music track or tracks) the different parts. All the playing done in California is proving very useful. Over the last month I have been using borrowed guitars of all types and styles just to play my songs. That helped me get my hands back in playing shape, rebuilding calluses, muscles, reflexes but also forcing me to adapt to all the different instruments to play around with a different sound and to create a new sound stage for my songs.

I walked in the studio on Saturday and my PRS guitar had not arrived yet, in there studio there was two acoustic guitars, two old sisters, a Gibson found in an attic and an old Yamaha. After listening to some of the tracks we decided that they needed acoustic guitars so I was ready to bring that on. Sometimes all is so perfect.

My guitar arrived on Monday. We were heading out when we saw the FEDEX truck approach, “here she comes” A lady driver pulled out the guitar case and the pedal case…

“you can grab that” She said because both cases are heavy

“Oh yeah” I replied thinking of how many times I had hauled, held, pulled, lifted and transported those things in my life.

“I called fedex and they said you’d be here around 7 PM” I said.

“Ha! These guys don’t know anything! Did you talk to an American?”

“hmm?”

“On the phone, they get foreigners to answer the phones, they got a lot of complaints over that, you cain’t hear what they say”

“No, I got an automated system…”

“ah… Y’all have a good day”

“thank you”

I grabbed the guitar… the case is covered in various stickers, a way bill, bar codes. It’s heavy. I feel the black leather skin on the handle settle in the grip of my fingers. Oh my.

It is only later that night that I get to open the case. I feel this disconnected sort of place I go into when I know things will be emotional. As if I try to pretend that nothing will affect me.

they have arrived

I put the case down. The middle latch has almost been ripped off but the other two are covered in tape so they held on. The case has numerous new dents and nicks and much, much new dirt on it. I pull the tape off. The way bill, the stickers… I open it. There it is. I catch my breath. There it is.

Smaller than I remembered, the leather strap sits right there. I just look.

Zzzzzwwwwwooooooshhhh.

Back on the last day of May, back in the house, back in the basement, picking up the last pieces, packing up the last remnants of my belongings out of the house. The guitar was the last thing I put away. I just could not do it earlier, I had to keep it with me as long as possible.

I can smell and feel the air, the light. See the cot and the floor with stuff strewn around before they went either in the garbage, recycling bin or some bag or box. But mainly it’s the feeling in my heart. The emotional turmoil of abandoning this guitar, the physical exhaustion of a month where every minute was spent emptying a 3 storey house where I had lived 8 years of another life with someone who left me, where the dog had died and where I made this decision to just sell everything and go.

Tears run down my face. I love this instrument and the indifference I tried to maintain just melts down. A strange feeling of loneliness, eternity, time and space expanding and contracting. I put it on my lap and cry quietly.

It’s just stuff. I know it. It’s only worth what we decide to put in them. What we invest them with.

I opened the case with the pedals and the same thing happened : more pictures of this recent past that seem so damn far away, tears and the feelings tied to these little metal boxes, the meaning they had, the stories they tell me about me, about what I was doing. It’s as if they are all magic lanterns that you can extract stories out of.

Now I’ll have to carry those around, protect them, little anchors in the material world.

Back to the music, it took a couple of days to go through all the songs, 14 to start with, I’ve already dumped one deemed not ready and in need of restructuring so 13 now. So we listened through them all tweaking, assessing, evaluating, adding some quick acoustic guitar parts played on the “found” guitars, some electric parts. We found the perfect microphone, microphone set up and room for the vocals, the perfect set up for the acoustic guitar recording. Now we will dive deep into getting these songs done.

After going through all the songs I have my little schematic of what is needed on what song. Got 13 days before I fly back to California. 12 work days. In theory that means completing one song a day.

Deep breath.

Stretch.

Plunge.

Flying into the East

September 19, 2010

5 AM.

Man, that is early. It’s pitch black outside. The night was filled with coyotes twirly howls and yelps. I slept in Lancaster, near the desert, and a gang of coyotes was on the prowl.

Yesterday was almost like a actual road day. Left Idyllwild in the morning, landed for a haircut and some last goodbyes in Altadena, then rode out to Lancaster. About 200 and some miles. You know what that means? I have now coursed over 14 000 miles since I left Vancouver on my Suzuki. The magnitude of this was not quite real until I looked at a map inside the in-flight magazine and was hit by the enormity, the sheer size of the continent…. Whoa.

I was just leaving Idyllwild shifting into third gear when it did it the first time. Bwaaa… Bwaa…. whaaaa…

Hmmm… what is that? Do I have enough gas? …yeah, I do…. I kept going.

I made it down the mountain without trouble but the same thing happened in third gear when I pulled out of the gas station, then on the freeway when I had to downshift for traffic. “Hold on baby, hold on” I said patting the gas tank. I told my baby to hold on because Steve is going to have a look at it while I go away. So I pleaded : Just take me there… you’ll get love and care soon.

I made it to Altadena. Got my hair cut.

After checking emails, google mapping my route and writing the highways to take on my wrist I was ready to go. Big hugs to Duane, Forrest, Donna, Corn Woman, Leslie, “I’ll see you soon!”

The route : 210 West, 5 North, 14 North then I’ll GPS the last miles to Steve and Suny’s house.

Traffic. Lane splitting, watch, watch, watch. I still get a sort of wild emotional buzz that covers the gamut of terror and fun flowing into my arms and heart when I lane split. It’s an exercise in math, calculation of angles, speed, acceleration and deceleration, converging courses and analysis of the factors of probability and behavior analysis based on wheel motion and directionality, grumpiness load and a driver’s affinity with motorcycles.

It’s quite Zen.

And F#$% scary at times.

Second, third, Bwaa, Bwaaaaa.. Bwaa.. Whaaaaa… Fourth, “Come on baby, we’re almost there, almost there….” I get on the 14 North. Up the hill, in the HOV lane. The speed limit is 65 the average speed is 85. My friend Aaron, the police officer, said something to that effect the other day : “ on the 2 people don’t commute, they qualify” as for a race. The same thing is going on here.

We made it to Lancaster.

Shortly after arriving I had to take all the luggage off the bike. This is a disconcerting if not upsetting act. Because usually it means that something has gone way wrong with the bike. It speaks of a kind of death, disability. It speaks of loss. Failure. It speaks of abandonment. Separation. I get separation anxiety each time I leave my baby.

luggage is off, clothes in the laundry basket. I'm about to leave my baby behind...

My bike. In a world of stuff and possessions’ obsession it’s all I got. All I have. And yes, I know, it’s just a thing, a composite of metals, plastics and other matter assembled under the nomenclature “1983 Suzuki GS 750 ES” But it’s everything I got. And to me it’s more than a thing… It is a being of sorts.

I always want to keep what I love, what I care about close to me forever. But this is not a ‘forever’ world as I have learned. The loves, bodies, and material things, they decay without mercy.

The rise and the fall. Life and death.

So I took all the luggage off. Got the pieces and things needed for the trip to Nashville in one pile and stored the rest. Steve and Suny will take care of you… Steve and Suny took care of me. A bed, a shower, laundry, dinner, great conversation. Steve is up at 5 making coffee for us. It is Suny who takes me to LAX at 5:30 in the morning. So much goodness. Thank you. I get to the airport. “See you soon” and we’re both off in separate directions.

I enter a strange world, everything is shiny, news stands, glossy rails, glass windows, even people’s eyes are glassy… There is an ebullience in the air. Carpet absorbs the thousands of footsteps. Arrivals. Departure. Luggage pick up. taxis… Go, go, go….

Then we do this little dance at the security barricade. The agents will not look at you in the eyes. Probably regulation. People walk barefoot on the cold rock like floor. Guys are putting their belts back on. Ladies rebuild the creation of themselves after this disrespectful partial disrobing.

I feel this nervous energy. It is abuzz. A little old lady in a wheel chair has to get up and walk through the body scanner. Pink jacket, white hair, bent over her cane. Plastic trays cycle through the machine over and over. Boots, bags, laptops, jackets, jewelery. Ah! Water bottle! Crime! “you can’t take water with you” said an officer relieved to find something wrong with someone. A slow motion process in a hyped up, hyperventilated atmosphere.

They could not figure out what the motorcycle gloves were. , they were in my bag. The knuckle protection pieces… I should have left them inside the helmet. A note to remember for return flight… so the bag went through the scanner 3 times and 3 guys came down to analyze, assess the situation.

“We apologize for the delay” the guy says finally.
“no worries” I answered.

Breathe.

cowboy hat on a girl awaits the boarding call to Nashville

Gate 46 B. Starbucks. There is a pretty good line up. The mood swings between boredom and a sort of “it’s too early for this” look. It’s all about surviving. Needs. A few hours in transit. Coffee, water, snacks. Magazines, books, candy, horseshoe shaped neck pillows, blankets, bags, batteries, stuuff & stuff & stuff… all the needs. All offered. All available for the right price.

foggy morning at LAX, my plane

This lady in organic cotton clothes behind me orders :

“Can I get a Grande tai chi…”

the Starbucks associate looks at here with a blank stare.

” Uh, I mean a Chai tea, a grande Chai tea latte.. and yeah I need tai chi right now…” I laugh. No one else seems to have caught this twist of the tongue.

OK. I’ll be an electron again. I’ll glide through this all. Glide to my destination.

I hear over the speaker phone “ Passenger Cantrell for pre-boarding at gate 48 B to Honolulu.” I try to imagine what it would be like if it was Jerry Cantrell from Alice in Chains…. I look. No. I crane over to see gate 48 B. Not so. Sigh….

Right now I am flying. Heading East, from California to Tennessee. Up in the air, sitting in a fabric covered seat in a Boeing 737. We will cover almost 3000 miles in a few hours. A blur.

On the road I covered 14 000 miles in 3.5 months…. mile after mile. Each second bore an emotion, each inch of that road was felt, lived. Now, up in the sky I am covering distance in an seemingly illegitimate way. I’ll land there and I won’t know what was between there and here. Poof.

Weightless up in the sky now we are. The seatbelt sign is now off. I pull out the laptop. A movie plays on the TV. Silent. I type until the battery runs too low.

Glide.

See you soon.

Tennessee from way up.

Magic in Idyllwild

September 19, 2010

It’s 11:13, Thursday night, I’m sitting in Idyllwild.

Star is making a fire in the wood stove. I hear the sound of wood being broken to small pieces, the air being pulled in the chimney. Outside the crickets do their thing. Yeah, here too, like just about everywhere else around this immense country, something is cricketing in the night.

I had an incredible day. I mean, yesterday too… and the day before… How to say this? My life has taken hold of the steering, it’s not me anymore deciding, I’m in for the ride. I get daily surprises, they are gifts. I still wonder what have I done to deserve this all.

I had decided to come to Idyllwild for a couple of days before flying to Nashville in order to focus on the music, songs, fingerings that need polishing before recording, to work on my voice, do all that reasonable stuff. I headed out of Altadena around 4:30 PM. Pretty much zoomed unhindered in the HOV lane or splitting lanes all the way to the 234 up the mountain. There was not a single car in front of me, the bike just decisively growling its way up the hill all the way into Idyllwild to the house. I stopped the engine.

“…. “

Ah. Quiet.

Ah. This air, this thinner mountain air that manages to still hug you somehow.

Ah. The colors, the trees… But I got here and Star had made some plans for me :

“ Did you get my emails?”

“Yep”

“you’re playing the Rustic tomorrow at 5:30 PM”

“hmm, hmmm”

Well that wasn’t exactly what I had planned but when is it that what I plan is the best thing to do anyways? I don’t have the bets imagination to organize things, so again, letting life organize itself for me has worked really well lately. Plus just give me a guitar and I become a willing puppy : I’ll play.

We went for dinner, I had only had some breakfast and coffee so I was ready for food. We went up to the Aroma Cafe. If you go to Idyllwild, you have to go there, for a drink, a meal, breakfast, espresso, whatever it is, it will be good and you will very likely have “real” music, with “real” musicians to serenade you as you eat.

Star drives his Toyota pick up up and down the mountain roads with a lot of zip. He knows these roads like the back of his hand. I’m hanging on the door handle. We park. I get out of the truck. I’m suddenly overwhelmed by emotion. This place… I’ve already got memories here, from last week and there is also something else, as if the place takes a hold of you… Oh my God. It’s big, it’s deeply moving, I’m not sure I understand.

I take a short moment, gather myself again and we walk up the few steps to the restaurant.

There I met Hubert, the owner. Hubert is from Belgium, the French part of Belgium so we got to speak French. He carries an Ipad around everywhere. He consults it constantly, he is interested in everything. He is fascinating. He is a mathematician, a restaurateur, a computer programmer, a rock climber, a university professor…. We talk about Quebec, music, sculpture, programming, the town and its people. Hubert deemed me an “interesting person”. Which I took as a gigantic compliment.

Hubert perusing and pondering in the light of the Ipad

As we talk a trio of musicians : two double bassists and a guitarist plays jazz, they are brilliant and the whole vibe is just perfect. As the night falls and the air cools one of the staff brings me a Mexican blanket. The stars shine above as we are on a semi-covered patio.

The hours flew and it was now time for goodbyes. On our way out Star introduced me to one of the bassists. Marshall. Marshall is originally from New York. He has played with the big names in jazz up there. He now lives here, he started a music program here that is now a first rate music program. I knew when I saw him play that he was the “real deal”. We chit chatted a bit, then he suddenly said to me : “ You are an older person, are you?”

Hmm?

“an older person…. An old soul”

“hmm… well, yeah…”

Our hands met into a clasp. On contact it felt like some sort of energetic time travel, I could almost see light around us. It was like a recognition, a greeting from eons past. We smiled. What a moment.

Shortly after we walked out.

“Wow.” I said. Under the stars shinning above, the moon seated in this pristine sky of dark night. It’s so quiet. It’s so perfect. It’s so unreal and yet so very real. I take a deep breath. “This is my life” I thought.

We got home, said good nite and I slipped into my sleeping bag and went straight to sleep.

I woke up around 9 and totally indulged into the double whammy of bath & shower, no less. Then, yoga. Then I headed out to the Higher Grounds Cafe for, well, coffee and of course wi-fi.

I met with Star at 1:30 for lunch and a bit of sightseeing. We went up the mountain. He showed me some of his work on the way, stone walls, water features, wood work, beautiful stuff, very integrated in the environment. We had lunch then he went back to work.

I like this US flag

I went to the Aroma Cafe for espresso. I walked in there and a man came to me and said : “you are Danielle?”

“huh?” How did this guy know my name?

“…Saw you on the internet, saw the YouTube video”

“Oh! The show tonight!”

Hmm.. that is kind of wild… Been here only a few hours and people have found me on YouTube….

I got a double espresso and checked my email again then left to get ready for the concert.

Getting ready, well it’s pretty simple. Clean shirt, wash your face, brush your teeth and there you go. No make-up, dresses, jewels or anything like that. It’s just me. Me and someone’s guitar. I was talking about that recently. The simplicity of it. No trying to be something, someone. No games. No pretense. Which also means no insecurity about having to live up to something you know you’re not. It’s the music that takes precedence, not the ego or the fears.

The guitar? Tonight it will be Star’s guitar. A very honest classical guitar that has been outfitted with steel strings. I love classical guitars. That is what I started on. I can always play them no matter what.

Star with two guitars

I walked in the venue, it’s an old style movie theater with a stage. Kind of a romantic space. Warm, old velvet seats. There will be no microphones, no amplifiers, no PA. Just me, the guitar and some people to listen. You got to remember this is a very impromptu, last minute event that Star organized a day ago.

There is I believe 10 people present. All seated in the first two rows. But they are all there.

Nothing beats that.

You could have one person who is all there and that is all I need. You can have 200 bodies present but if they are not with you, you’re in hell.

It was freeing to not be tied to a microphone. A patch cord. A set of guitar pedals. I could walk around, lean in any direction, close my eyes and not worry about getting off mic. I thought that I need to practice being free… On a stage like this. It would change the sounds, rhythms…

One of the ladies in the room is an accomplished musician, she is from Argentina. She has written scores for movies, is a renown pianist and arranger. She has amazing energy. I am totally feeding on that. Hubert is there too. Everyone there is intrigued and curious and generous.

I play for an hour. It is perfect. The circle happens. The magic comes alive.

Then it’s over.

But it’s not. Cynthia a massage therapist comes and gives me a massage, numbers are exchanged, everyone is elated. One guy says : “ it’s been a long, long time since music has been so incredibly satisfying”. Hubert invites us to the Aroma Cafe, dinner’s on the house, the energy spirals, rolls, moves.

We drive up about ¼ mile up the road to the Cafe. Alex, a local bass player, luthier, plays with Joe, they invite me on the stage, I sing Summertime, then Give me one reason which I manage to completely forget the lyrics to… then I sang one of my songs… a big roar of applause rises when I’m done, then again when I come off the stage. Huh? Well thank you!

at the Aroma Cafe with Alex and Joe

An exquisite dinner waits for me on the table. Hubert sits with us at the table, we are like the guests a the King’s castle. The art work, the woodwork, the food, the company, the music, the stars above… I wish I could really convey how magical this all is to me.

Motorcycle girl lands into a dream where everyone loves her… Where there are guitars to play everywhere and where she can sing her songs… and where people like her music… Huh?

Maybe that is what it feels like when you are in the right place at the right time. When I was days from leaving for my trip I had thoughts of landing in towns, meeting cool people, playing, sharing… I could have never quite imagined this as it is now.

We head back home.

Star fell asleep with the guitar on his lap in front of the fire. I’m getting pretty sleepy. I go quietly to my own room and slide into my sleeping bag.

In the morning I have to pack up and head down towards Los Angeles. Then over another set of mountains to Lancaster which will be the home for the Suzuki for the next two weeks while I go to Nashville.

But for right now I’m here and it’s unbelievably perfect.

California days and nights

September 16, 2010

Saturday in Idyllwild

A. Star in Idyllwild

Carlsbad beach

The mighty Forrest

Aaron's bike and my baby sharing information

Friends : Forrest, Duane, Aaron

rock and roll tools

sunset strip

Justin, Corn Woman, Julie, Forrest

Jimi

Temecula, CA

Nashville bound

September 15, 2010

Forward motion… always, toujours…

I just booked a flight for Nashville…

No… Not riding there this time.

There is some serious work to do there and the ride would be a race against the clock, the possible elements, the advance of winter, the wear and tear on the bike… But mainly because the real goal here is to get there and put myself fully, totally into the work so it seems smarter to fly in, jump in and get to “getting ‘er done”.

Why Nashville? That is a long story but a good one. A real “musician” story. Hope, work, betrayal, redemption. It was in March 2010.

I had been “signed”. Oh joy! Signed! Well.. the actual paper still needed to be physically engraved with real ink but we were it seemed, all on the same page. Ready to record an album on this new label. I trusted. We were firing on all cylinders to do this. Well I was. 16 valves, turbocharged jet fuel engine. I had spent months songwriting furiously, demoing continuously, recording tirelessly, arranging songs, to create a body of work worthy to be recorded.

I worked to the last minute on charts, on the arrangements, guitar parts, trying to make sure every element of the puzzle was ready…. Sunday night the partner showed up, asked me to go out for dinner but I declined because I was still struggling to finish up the charts for the musicians…. in retrospect I think he did not like to be denied… Hindsight is 20/20…. All that mattered to me was the music…

Monday, we started to record. Things were bit slow, as we were all learning to work with each other, play the music, get a sound, a groove and a feel that was meaningful. That can take time.

Tuesday morning the producer was gone. Perry walked in my room and said :

” xxx is gone”

“Gone?” my stomach went to my heels.

He had left in the middle of the night. He drove back to Mississippi with for excuse the following : “ I could not sleep… you guys would not listen to me and you are just in it for my money”

“…. ”

His money! I had paid for my flights, my food, had worked the last 6 months like a slave for nothing, stayed at the studio to save on accommodations…. His money!?! Not listening to him??? What the…?

That was stunning enough. We arrived at the studio, had to tell the musicians about the departure of the producer. Everyone is shocked.

But that was not to be the last of the shocks. We walked in the studio kitchen, had coffee, chatted. Then we walked into the control room…. Second stunning moment of absolute disbelief…

There were gaping holes in the racks for outboard gear. Microphones were gone, guitar amp : gone. Microphone stands on the ground, cables, disconnected wires, lying on the ground… the equipment racks had been burglarized. Half of the stuff was gone. Our set up to record which had taken hours to organize was in complete disarray.

Holy F@#%!

Now I knew. We were not going to record. I still had the ghost of a hope before that. Now my stomach laid solidly into my heels for the second time that day.

Ah the music business. Many dream wide, wild, large dreams of fame, greatness, limelight and self-congratulatory events… but few are rewarded by materialization. Many end in acidic regrets and bitterness.

So the whole thing ground to a halt, the musicians who had all already seen this too many times before left after making sure they were getting paid for the previous day of work and recounting past horror stories of flushed musical hopes of all sizes, colors and shapes.

After pinching myself for a couple of hours wondering if I was maybe, possibly still dreaming this nightmare and finally accepting that no, I was in fact wide awake, I came to have this little conversation with myself.

“Now what?”

“Maybe you should get a flight out of here”

“No way!! I did not work that hard to run home defeated like this.”

“OK, fine, so what do you do?”

“Lets go listen to the music we recorded so far and see if it’s worth fighting for”

“Fair enough.”

I went into the control room cued in the first song and listened, then the second, the third, the fourth…

“Holy shit. This is good.”

“So?”

“I can’t let that die. Period”

“Hmm hmm?”

“Money. Need money. To get the guys back and record.”

“And how are you going to do this?”

“….. Ted!”

I then called these guys back in Vancouver who owed me some jobs I had done for them a ways back.

“Ted, I’m in trouble”

“What’s going on?”

I tell him the story.

“Let me see what I can do. I’ll get back to you”

He got back to me and I got just enough money to call back the drummer and the bass player. After a couple of days everything was set up. We reconvened a week later and recorded. I got all the bed tracks for the 14 songs for the record. But, I ran out of time to get everything done. The whole thing has been suspended in the air ever since.

So Tuesday morning all the connections were made to make this all work : the studio, the flight and… my guitar.

My guitar… Oh boy. My guitar. I’m choking up thinking about it. My beautiful PRS (Paul Reed Smith, like… Santana’s guitar) that I left behind. It was the hardest thing to leave behind, it was the thing I missed the most all along this journey and now it’s coming my way. There is worry that it will get lost, broken, stolen, then the worry about what I am going to do after the recording because I don’t have a roof or a safe place guaranteed to keep it safe. But I can’t worry about what has not happened

me and my PRS back in April 2010

I called Chris, yes the Chris who was hurt in a motorcycle crash recently. He has been the keeper of my guitars because he is the most trustworthy person I know. I heard his voice and it felt so good. Choked on tears again.

Forward motion, keep moving…

So we discussed the how, I called FEDEX and arranged the financial details, called Chris back, booked a flight with American Airlines. The guitar should be in Nashville Thursday or Friday, I’ll be there Saturday, in a few days… wow.

Decisions. Co-creations. Commotion. Emotion. Direction. And the magic of timing.

It’s all perfect. My voice is getting to where it should be, especially for recording… my fingers and arms are de-motorcyclerized (meaning they can do more than brake, shift and use the throttle)

I know this is what I must do now. Finish this project. Bring on the music. Bring it to the world. What else can I possibly do?

So It’s all set. I fly out Saturday. In the mean time I’ll go spend a couple days in Idyllwild. To focus, prepare, work on my voice, fingers and music. And to indulge in one more ride… It’s a bit wild to leave my baby behind… but it will be in good hands, inside a garage with 3 or 4 more bikes, what stories they will tell each other…

Whoa…

Forward motion… Always, toujours.

Ride & Showtime

September 15, 2010

Idyllwild.

I woke up early, not the best night of sleep as I was bitten by something and then my mind kept creating crawly things biting me all over. But when I wake up, the sun’s out, Oh that California sun… I’m in the mountains, I hear music in my head start to hum then sing and the shower is nice and hot. What more can one ask for?

We headed down the mountain after a delightful breakfast at Cafe Aroma. There was a classical guitar player there, we had a table outside in the shade of trees on the patio, the light is magical, the air… Wish we could just linger here… But I got to go and so does my friend. I have to be in Altadena around 1 pm to rehearse the songs one more time, do sound check and be ready for a 7 PM call.

We wound down the mountain 6, 5, 4, 3 thousand feet. The air warms up as we descend. We stop to see the edge of a wind farm poking between hills in the distance.

All those wind mills Don Quichotte would have had a field trip…

2, 1 thousand feet, down to the desert floor. We stop. Discuss road choices. Say goodbye now as later it won’t be possible.

I’m not good at goodbyes so I’m glad to have a tinted face shield on that helmet.

Off we go, up unto the I-10 my friend revs up his bike, the front wheel up in the air, like a horse rearing and blasting into a mad gallop, I rev up, speed up, the Suzuki is gnarly. Power, speed, unchecked energy flowing into the burning sun. I ‘m fired up, any fatigue has vanished, the bike just bites the road in big hungry gulps.

210 Passadena ¾ miles… Oh already… I pull to the right to get the exit, my friend looks back, he waves… a semi goes by as I wave. Bye bye Blackbird. Maybe I’ll see you soon.

I get to Altadena at 1:00 PM I made it in an hour and a half even after being stopped by police for speeding… I got away with a verbal warning, the funny thing was that at that point I was just following traffic… Thank you officer Milliken.

As I arrive I am greeted with big hugs, loud laughing, huge smiles and an amazing energy. Bo the bass player sits we me, we go over some stuff, chat. Then Forrest, the drummer arrives, and Duane makes his entrance. I still cannot believe all this incredible good feeling, good will and energy. wow…

We set up in the backstage, we have to rehearse the whole second set just to make sure everyone knows their parts. It’s brand new material for them and we need to tighten up the stuff. I did not even have time to get out of my leathers.. Justin peeks through the door, comes and sit along with Donna, their smiles tell me we’re doing the right thing.

Suddenly it’s 6: 30 OK, gotta get changed, I jump in my jeans, change shirt (another black shirt!) as people start to stream into the Coffee Gallery Backstage. I need some time to focus. I went to sit outside the back door. Feel the air, try to relax, get my mind on the songs, chords, lyrics. Sometimes my mind can go blank if I don’t do that, as if I knew nothing… scary.

The first half of the show is going to be just Forrest and me playing delicate material, mostly new songs that have not had much stage time. They are new and I’m still finding the right inflections, notes, dynamics for them… Inexperienced babies, so it’s a bit nerve wracking.

Duane opens the show. I look in and there are a lot of people, all the tables are occupied. Re-wow… that is very special. Duane shines. I’m so happy to be here…. Then it’s my time to get up on stage.

I guess that is all about the changes that have taken place within me in the last year, the last 3 months, the freeing, the finding, the seeing. I don’t know really. But I’m up there and I feel so damned lucky, blessed, happy, to have these people there with me. I mean, these guys came out of their homes, took their own time to come share this moment… My heart brims with something I can’t quite describe.
Maybe that is what love is?

I started to play, Forrest was right there, playing a sort of mix of a drum kit and percussions : Kick drum, high hat, djembe, cahone, shakers… Forrest is amazing. He does not realize how much he brings to the game I think. He plays and the whole structure grounds deep into the earth so it can rise higher. The sound sculpture can grow, elevate and ultimately fly off and out of the stratosphere because of his heartbeat. Everytime I turn around he’s right there, a fabric has been woven between the guitar, the voice, our souls, the percussions and the audience. So many angles to form a perfect circle. He is masterful.

Second set, Bo and Duane join us and two more souls, double squared the root of the amount of energy put out there and coming back to us. In simple words, it rocks.

I’m sweating. That’s good. I’m beating the crap out of that nameless, brandless wall decoration guitar that was hanging on the wall of the Coffee Gallery Backstage forever and ended up in my arms as I was guitarless…Poor thing, ignored, unplayed. Kind of like my bike come to think of it. Their motorcycle hearts and guitar hearts allowed to be what they were made to be. The strings snap, buzz, creak but they do not break. The stories flow, the voices rise, the harmonies work. The bass & drums groove and I can fly. Thank you.

The night came to a close and after all the goodbyes, the thank yous and the sharing the stories I realized I had nowhere to sleep. With all the preparations, travel and rehearsal I had forgotten to handle that minor detail. Bo, the bass player invited me over to his home. I slept in the “healing room” his wife Revvell is a healer. Wood floors, wood walls, countless vials of essential oils and their essences flowing, a fibre mat. I get to use a double decker air mattress. Pretty cozy.

I pulled Leo out of the bag, hugged him and slid in my sleeping bag.

I slept like a rock.