The audition report

April 25, 2012

The audition

 

My mother woke me up. I had been in a slumber close to a coma. The cat woke me in the middle of the night, she was playing with a mini felt mouse, and I decided to just let her be and put ear plugs in. So I disappeared between the very many blankets that had been gotten for me.

I was emerging from dreams in a fantastical world where we were trying to figure out thing, escaping, long medieval dresses, horses… Oh, yeah the audition.

 

I took quite a bit of time, I like doing that as a diversion to stress, I leisurely get closer to the target time, kind of pretending that nothing special is going on, all the while systematically getting each detail attended to and ready. I warmed up my hands and they were stiff, I washed my hair, put on my war paint, uh.. make up, got dressed, had breakfast, coffee, chatted with mom, then played some more guitar until almost 1 PM. Then I got geared up, helmet, gloves and jacket and headed out to Montreal to the CBC building. I got there really quickly. Sundays are sleepy in Montreal, as if the whole city cures a massive hangover, every Sunday without fault. There were a few cyclists, some hard core health nuts by the looks of them, zooming by on the bike lane but not much else.

As I dismounted I wanted to take a photo of the bike, as a reminder of this moment. I was doing that when I heard a voice from behind me say : “ Would you like me to take a picture of you?”

 

I turned around and there was a woman I had seen walking on the sidewalk a few moments earlier as I was getting there. Usually I say no, I’m not crazy about having my picture taken, but this time I did. I handed her my phone and showed her how to operate it.

 

“Just press this icon on the glass” I said.

“on the glass?” Yes right there.

 

I stood in front of the bike my stuff laying around it. Click. Done.

“So you ride this?”

 

“Yes I do.” I answered.

 

She was beautiful, at least her late forties, her hair was white, she wore a colorful but tasteful coat, she exuded gentleness, kindness. Her face was open, her bright eyes like the sparkles in a waterfall.

“I used to ride a Suzuki 250… that was a lifetime ago…”

 

“Oh I used to have an old Suzuki, loved it. It took me everywhere…

 

“What is that?” she asked.

 

“Oh it’s my guitar, a travel guitar, I’m going for an audition, here at Radio-Canada, I wanted to capture the moment with a photo. What is your name?” I asked.
“Marie, what is yours?”

 

“Danielle.”

 

She looked deeply in my eyes and said : “ It will go great. You will do great.” She came closer and hugged me.

 

It was so pure. Beautiful. Impossibly real.

 

“Thank you.” I said.

Marie's photo

 

She handed me the phone, said something about not wanting to make me late and she walked away as I was pulling the guitar over my shoulder.

Those,

those are the gifts of life. Those are what I live for. I was blown away. I felt I had been touched by an angel.

 

I felt charged with an otherworldly purpose.

 

I walked towards the building, It is a huge tower. A place where so much cultural history, for French Canadians, has been created, has filled airwaves and has shaped the people of this province.

 

the big tower

 

I got to the door, well, the doors. There were many and they were all locked. I backed up one step and saw and intercom. I pressed the button as another lady was getting close. The door opened slowly, almost with reverence.

 

“Oh just like magic!” I said as we entered the building. The lady laughed a sweet laugh. I looked around, saw the reception and approached.

 

“I’m here for Petite Vallee.”

 

“Your name?”

 

“Danielle Hebert”

 

She explained how to go down the escalator, turn left at the bright lights, follow the studio numbers.. You are going to studio 14.

 

the lobby

I engraved that in my gray matter.

 

“Can I get a bottle of water around here?” My mouth was drying up at an alarming rate.

“Yes, go left, then turn right, the cafeteria is right there.”

 

So I went got some water, turned around, went to the studio, I was early, so I got time to warm up in the washroom, voice, guitar. My voice is pretty good. I wish I could be a bit more relaxed. I wish I did not have to have two sleepless nights Thursday and Friday night, I wished I could have done just a little bit more on Friday, but Friday was the 13th and things went to hell and back that day. So one has to make the best with what is.

 

one of the beautiful features inside a lit up wall decoration

I did some vocalises and started on a song, then it happened, my voice opened up on the high notes. That was a good sign. My voice is a strange entity.

warm up space, an ante-chamber to the washroom

It has surprised me many, many times. Once, I was so sick I could barely talk, went on stage and a giant sound came out of my throat. That was an impossibility but it was… The voice is the mirror of the soul, it does not lie. My fingers were not as nimble as I wished… two minutes to 2. Time to go to the studio.

 

follow the sign

I got there, a really nice woman was there, Alika, probably the wrong spelling… she had me fill up the forms for the judges. We chatted a bit while I was getting ready.

 

Finally it was time to go in. I met with the sound technician. I saw that there was amplifiers, piano, microphone… I assumed it would be a dry audition…

“oh, I could have brought some toys…” I said. I had debated bringing musicians, pedals, produce the presentation a bit more, then on someone’s advice, I went solo.

 

I warmed up, the room sounded absolutely great. How I miss that. A great sounding room. Not the din that one finds at open mics and such places.

 

The judges walked in. They were nice, warm. I started. I started with a very solid song. I did what I have to do : hold back, use the dynamics, let the voice feel welcome and grow in confidence. It worked but for some micro moments when I could feel my tension. More than I would have wanted, but I smiled, enjoyed the process, started to actually play.

 

My main mistake, and it came to haunt me, was to forget to grab a pick of the second song. I needed the pick to create the dynamics, instead I fumbled over a chord, and could not do what I wanted on the guitar. Vocally it was there though.

 

After I was done, the judges deliberate and then you go meet with them. I came in and in the air was a yin and yang vibe.

On my right, the one judge loved it. He was extremely complimentary on my voice.

 

On my left, he said, it took me quite a while to get into it… It is your music, it’s as if I had to imagine what was in your head in order to understand your music. The judge on the right then added : “I was ahead of the game, I had listened to your arrangements… you have very rich arrangements…

I knew exactly what they meant. I sound better with a band. I write in multi-tracking parts in my mind, I hear them, others, not necessarily. My recordings are the sum of those parts. I don’t really do the chugga-chugga three chord songs… It gets dense, complex and at times it’s brilliant and other times it works against me. “On the one song I did not get your chorus at all..” I totally knew which one he meant. That was the one with the pick missing… That one had been designed to be played with someone else… I had considered getting people to play with me… then changed my mind. I was going to use the looper pedal and make rhythm tracks to create the 3 dimensionality, then I thought there wasn’t going to be any equipment there and decided to go for the bare approach. I made the wrong choices.

They asked me to play another song. I did. I went for it all the while wondering if I picked the right one. The left side judge said he was going to listen to my recordings, to see what it was that I was trying to do. Then it was time to go.

 

I left. Exited the building. Clouds had covered the sky, the city looked empty, too quiet. I wondered if I failed or not. 50/50. That is not victory. I climbed on the bike and left. At least I have this. On the way back I reflected on the music industry-scene. They now have songwriters school… people go to school and come out with diplomas. It’s a formula thing. You do this, then add that, stir a bit and hopefully you got the “whole package” (charisma, a pretty face, and some quirkiness to differentiate yourself from the pack)

 

I do my “artist thing” and fail the industry standards…

 

So I’m either brilliant or they don’t get me. But I did my best despite life’s push and shove and throw me off of my game on the few days just before the audition. They will tell us next week. Honestly, My feeling is that I did not nail it. One feels those things. It’s written in the sky, in the threads of the fabric of the universe. I do perfectly understand why. My talent or skills never in question, just my wild ways and a few things that put you behind. The few percentage points that make winners win and losers lose. So close yet so far.

I arrived at mom’s home, changed, removed the make up, ate a sandwich, hugged her very close and headed out. Clouds were thickening, the rain was in the air it was going to be a bit of a storm cloud race. Hopefully I won’t get soaked.

 

But my day had pure magic. Marie was magic, some notes I sang were magical and the sound was perfect and that was quite a gift.

My future is uncertain. I may find myself on the road or somewhere else very soon… After the high of getting ready for this and the nerves that have carried me since yesterday I am gradually sinking as the muscles and the tension releases.

Happens what must.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It had been raining, I stepped out for a walk, first by the Rideau Canal then I landed by the Ottawa River, just behind the parliament.  It ended near the bridge, where even the trees are numbered here in this government workers town.   But there was magic, there always is magic if you can let it touch you.

Life goes on

April 11, 2012

To ride or not to ride

To live and ride

Live and let ride or Ride and let live

 

I felt the wind hit my face, a stream of air coming from the gap between my helmet and my chin. I smiled.

 

What is this? Why is it so damn vital?

 

Maybe I and my fellow rider friends come from some far away race in a distant galaxy who were “Riders”.  Maybe they rode some mighty animal or impossibly fast and nimble machines through the Universe?  Maybe it is an heritage that we are carrying in our long lost memories?

 

I don’t mind anything when I ‘m on two wheels, my world can fall apart around me and I’ll still find a way to paste a smile on my face. To take that deep breath the fills me with ultimate well being. To tell myself “Peace” while all the idiots, the blind, the selfish, the harried, the angry, the self entitled can swear, threaten, speed, cut three lanes, pass on the right, tail gate, slow to a crawl and I am just fine.

 

How to explain that I could plan my future on the one fact that “here I could ride all year ’round.”

 

So here we are, April 10, yeah, 4 months into this 2012 year already. I’ve been floating it seems for months. Winter was like a coma of sorts. Now it seems I have until October to make something happen. After that it gets harder, more terminal.

 

There has been some good things happening, my album is actually progressing, I’ve been waiting for so long, it has been hard. Get your hopes up, then slowly losing focus and hope and patience over the whole endlessness. I am working with someone now to plan the release and every time we discuss it’s exciting but when that is over, I still can’t quite believe anything will ever happen. In a way it’s better, there are no expectations. But in another way, it’s not so good because you’re either stuck in the past, waiting, unable to move forward.   Waiting kills inspiration and doingness.  that is bad for a creator.

 

I’ve been attending quite a few music events, conferences, and workshops since last fall. Just about a month ago I was in Toronto for the Canadian Music Week getting my head filled to the gills with someone’s opinion on what it takes to succeed. These are interesting times in the industry. I learn more everyday, like the fact that most of the artists from the major labels from 35 years ago will start regaining the rights they gave away when they signed their recording contracts. Which could mean that the major labels could lose most of the source of catalog income, which is a huge shift. That could also mean that the speed of changes we’ve been witnessing might yet accelerate some more.

For those interested, I got this little booklet from Tunecore called “Music Industry Survival Manual. I would recommend it to all the musicians-artists slugging it out there.

 

For one, all your creator’s rights are listed, how they work, how you collect them, how you’re getting ripped off. Then there is a chapter about how to approach the industry, build your own little industry, where the revenue streams are. Yeah, revenue streams and monetizing your songs are two big, popular lines these days. check Tunecore.com if that is relevant to you.

 

And… I had applied months ago to the Petite Vallée songwriting camp in June. I applied then promplty forgot about it. Well, last week I got an email inviting me to an audition in Montreal at Radio Canada Sunday April 15. I was practically in shock! Then the email said I was going to get a call… I was tremulous about that. I mean, for me to be ‘accepted’ and to be part of something in this part of the world is kind of … profound for me. So I got on the phone with Nelson Minville and he told me immediately how much they loved the music, the lyrics and the recording, how impressed they were!!! Wow. I was just blown away.
So I will go and play 4 songs to earn myself a spot for this two week dream songwriting camp. I had been thinking that maybe I could write another French project, this intensive would be ideal to ignite the process. They have some of the best instructors, coaches, artists to support us for two weeks. There will be performances too and the camaraderie of other writers. The place is located in Gaspésie, by the Atlantic ocean, an old character home turned auberge, a brand new concert room, and … the wind. So wish me luck.

 

If that happens it will help shape my next few months. This takes place at the end of June beginning of July, then I have shows in Winnipeg in late July and I`m still hoping to hop in Vancouver… and if the CD does get done I`ll probably prepare for a fall release…

I`ve also procured myself a permit to play in the Byward Market in Ottawa. That is something I want to experience. Go and busk.

In the mean time I bought some chain lube for the bike, got the missing cable to be able to plug in my heated vest (it`s still pretty cold around here, especially when the sun is not there) I just froze last Saturday coming back from Montreal… brrrrr!!!! so now I can plug in that heated vest and crank it!

 

I also bought some cleaner, I had forgotten the mess with chains! The BMW had a shaft drive, no mess but not as much fun!

Last week I had coffee with a friend, she looked at me in the eyes and said : “You’reso lucky, you get to ride a motorcycle… You’re so lucky you have love in your life… You’re so lucky you can play an instrument and sing… You’re so lucky you can do sculpture…” And it was so crystal clear. I was reminded that we chose everything we do. We have the power to make our lives what they are. And yes, I am so damned lucky. I must continue dreaming and imagining. Continue creating, forging.

And riding.

 

 

 

 

The new ride…

 

my Suzuki SV 650 S

Well, I love it.

 

I would not let myself believe it was going to materialize until it happened. It was a strange thing for me. Usually I would get so excited, thinking,  jumping,  talking, sharing, bubbling over like a shaken can of Sprite. But not this time. I’ve noticed that over the last months, I am not as readily extroverted as I used to be.  I don’t know if it’s good or bad… for some people I guess it make me less of a wild bronco to handle…  but somehow I did not want to jinx or create something that would change the direction of the Force.  I guess I am in a much more conservative place than I am used to…  did not want to ruffle feathers…

So Saturday morning we went to see the bike.  I wasn’t even sure if this was just going to be a meet and greet thing or if we were going to go all the way and I was going to take my new baby home (!)  So I had taken my helmet and jacket and left them in the trunk of the car in case all went well.  I was strongly hoping for that.

 

In the morning light, black, copper, silver

We arrived on time and there it was.  Parked in the driveway with a black sun bleached bike cover.  I was feeling tremulous.   Almost shy.  We pulled off the cover and had a look.  It’s beautiful, the aluminum frame, the copper color, and the black accents.  It shines in the morning sun.  It’s simple, no extra things, beautiful lines.  It has been really well cared for, even all the warning stickers are still on the bike!  It only has 9000 KM on it.  Everything is stock and original, even the tires and brake pads.

 

The owner started it. the  Bzzzzt! sound from the injection system  instantly reminds me of Little Blue, Ozzy’s Buell XB 9 back in California.  The engine sounds good.  It has the original exhaust system so it’s very quiet and I like that.  Beowulf was actually quite loud and I always had to wear ear plugs so this is another plus.   We lowered the seat by softening the suspension, backed it up near the road….

Finally I took it for a ride.  The owner is warning me about the zippyness of this thing.  “Go easy on the throttle, it will accelerate in a hurry.  I’ve ridden nervous machines before so I know what he means.  I will go easy, a new machine is a bit like a new horse, you gotta make friends first.

Let go of the clutch, forward motion.  Wow.  I love it already.  The foot pegs are high up, it feels just perfect.  I go around the block of a residential area, so I did not go past 2nd gear but I’m sold.  I was sold as soon as I saw it.

 

The next step was to go get the licensing process done so we went to a Service Ontario office, took a number : 56 and waited. The line was big but somehow we did not wait very long. The lady who helped us was beyond efficient. Within minutes we were done, taxes paid, papers signed and now my next step was to get the bike “safety checked” before getting a permanent sticker for my plate. But I could ride it in the mean time.

So there I was : new plate and papers in hand, ownership transferred, money paid for taxes and for the bike….  As we head out of that office it finally happened, I burst out:”OH MY GOD!!!  IT’S HAPPENING!!!”  and I did a little jump and stomp, smiling from ear to ear.  My friends are looking at me and they’re smiling too.  I think the owner is quite glad to see his bike go to someone who will really enjoy it.  It’s a good moment.

 

We then went back to the bike, put the new plates on

 

Today I went to get the safety check done. A $50 formality where they check all the main components of the bike for safety. It passed.  I will need to get new rubber within a thousand KM. But otherwise all is well.

To go back home I took the highway, I hit 100 KM per hour for the first time. Yeah, slow stuff but as I said I’m into taking my time with a new machine, get to feel how it responds and all before opening things up but I can tell you that I got to bank it on the on ramp and it promises some exciting stuff for future rides.

 

It is hard to explain but in an inscrutable way, it is as if some part of me came back to life. Those two short rides I took brought back this feeling in my heart, sparked my soul in a way I had forgotten.  How to explain?  Those who ride know exactly what I mean.  It’s like reconnecting into timelessness, being on, alive, fully, right here and now.  Being outside time and space in some sort of ultra-present state.  To fly, unburdened, weightless.  To be free of gravity on this earth.  To un-be the body and become the electron, the particle in this world of energy.

 

hello to you too!