Northwest Territories Recording Session and Lessons of the North

(Sorry for the delay in this Blog! It is without intention that I discover this gap in my eager literary rapport.  Time and all its wonders lend funny twists to intention I find.  So, now I will tell you how the next steps unfurled upon departing the wondrous Nunavut….)

I had a lump in my belly and a warming in my heart as I boarded the Canadian North airline.  The latter, a gift from the girls of the  Inuksuk Drum Dancers and the many kind people I met in Iqaluit.  The former, a gift from a big Canada Council disappointment when I learned that my grant application would not be juried because the contract I had attached to the abundant application was from the Province I currently lived in.  Pursuing a musician’s dream is hard road, seldom filled glam and glitter; often thwarted with trials and obstacles we don’t anticipate.  Worth it always, because the alternative of not, is the most lonesome sound a music-filled soul can imagine.  But, it is a financially challenging path, an energy and soul demanding path and many times a lonely path.  In harmonic tandem to these demands- it is also engaging, fulfilling and drenched with possibility in its reach.  Hence, the addictive yet elusive romance between musician and music business begins.

So, on that cold day in January (and this is not ‘cold’ as in chilly here….this is…I’m talkin’…minus forties) when I departed Iqaluit on a plane I took with me the beautiful moments happened there and the disheartening disappointment that something I had placed great hope in was no longer a possibility.  While thick winds blew the small plane as through lonesome air, I wondered how I would continue to make this dream a reality.   We were to land in Rankin Inlet on our way to Yellowknife but the kindly Pilot periodically alerted us that the weather was not likening this deposit.  I watched as people far too accustomed to such inconveniences chatted easily about alternatives and when confirmed that we would not land, they quietly chatted themselves into planning mode.  I needed to learn from them.   So often while I was visiting the North, situations seemed to lend metaphoric solutions  Whether it was simply where I was at at the time, that the history of the land and its people were simply inspirational, or that clarity is revealed more easily in the rock and air of cold barren lands, I’ll never know-but I was grateful.

When I landed in Yellowknife in early evening, I was met at the airport by my generous host Lone Sorensen, who I had been connected to through yet another lovely contact I made in Iqaluit, Heather Daley.   She met me at the airport and drove me to her home and then immediately back into town to my interview at CBC North Radio.  As I got out of the car, the air in Yellowknife was frozen still and I wondered how I might walk through it and I was thankful for Lone’s kind offer to drive me to my first event in the area.  I was met at the CBC North Studio by Jennifer who had worked with my publicist Heather Kitching to arrange the interview.  As we chatted easily, I felt like I had resurfaced somewhat from some of my funk and that perhaps the flight through the bitter weather had led me to the other side.  The other side of what exactly I wasn’t sure, but I was moving from disappointment to seeking purpose, and that is always a forward step.  I was interviewed by CBC’er Norbert Poitras for the ‘Trail’s End’ show that airs while people are doing their drive home from 4 to 6pm.  He was kind and personable and we had a great interview. His questions and genuine interest in the project re-stoked my faltered passion and I felt inspired again by the time Lone picked me up to call it a day.

The next day, Lone gave me a tour of Yellowknife.  She had lived there for 22 years so was well versed on the sights and doings and I was equally heartened by the resilience of the natural environment as I was by the people.  We drove out onto the Ice Road on Slave Lake where I saw colourful box houses happily wedged into winter ice in the same spot they floated during the summer.  How gratefully residents drove up into their frozen ‘driveway’ appreciating the novelty of a floating home having one at all.  Evidence that their front yards normally lapped on their docks was found in the tires secured around their Boathouse boundaries and various other sundry flotation devices.  The best example of the celebratory resilience of the people of Yellowknife was the side-boarded ice hockey rinks they set up in their now-frozen ‘yards’ on Great Slave Lake.  It was minus 45 degrees and they were out playing hockey (see the pics) and enjoying Canada’s greatest pastime (yes I realize this moniker will be disputed, but we could at least agree that hockey is a recreational essential in this country I’m sure.)

Lone and I chatted about the landscape, culture and people and about the ‘Canadian Girl’ project and projects she was focusing on at that time.  It was amid this exchange, there came a moment I shall always remember.  I explained to Lone that I had learned some disheartening news regarding a grant and was wondering how I would afford to take it to the next level when my most hopeful touring funding option had been dashed by my technical oversight.  I spoke of how important the project was to me and that the investment of time and money was nothing in comparison to what I believed the project to be….but I was still, in the moment, feeling a bit lost.  I looked at her and said, ‘I feel like I need a sign–something that can tell me I’m not crazy” (yes, this also might be disputed, there is room for commentary at the end:) ) “and that the project really is as meaningful and worth finding a way to make it work.” Lone parked the car on the ice at this point and we were sitting facing the sun, looking at the vast stretch of milky white ahead of us.  And, that is when they came.  Floating in, as if on cue.  Ravens. Not one or two.  But twenty-three ravens landed surrounding our car.  And they just sat.  All around us.  They sat in full confidence, splendor and wisdom.  After numerous moments of shear speculative appreciation, I had the wherewithal to get out my video camera.  I have watched that video moment more than once with Lone’s voice breathing  her mesmerized comment at what we were seeing: “…in 22 years, I have been parking on this ice…and I have never seen anything like this happen before.”    The last of my disheartenment melted into the snow and my hopes flew with the ravens after their at-least 15 minutes with us.

Now, I don’t suppose of course, that Mother Nature, the Universe or any other omni-or-uni-present Deity of any kind might have the time in their busy world-saving schedule to choreograph  a raven soul-revival on my account; but on that day, in that moment, those ravens were there, at a time when I needed them, and because of that; they were there for me in a way.  And we were bonded in sheer freak possibility of our colliding schedules, if not the spiritual awakening it delivered.

Days like those are ones you are grateful for forever.  They last so much longer than they lasted.
The tour of Yellowknife continued on that day and in spots of free time on other days, with a frozen climb to the top of the The Rock to witness the early sunset on the City of Yellowknife, to brave standing over a crack in the ice road, to shamefully mutter at my own absence of hardiness as I stood shivering for a photo on the frozen Great Slave Lake at minus 45 while a local rode by on a bicycle and waved cheerily.   I saw the diamond mine and Buffalo planes (yes I have pics of all these things!) dog sleds, whisps of northern lights and frozen eyelashes of passer-by’s.  I happily coffee’d and fed with Ben Nind of the Northern Arts and Culture Centre  one day and Lynn Feasy of Points North Creative another; both helping me to learn more about the Arts in the North.  All of this was amazing and tale-telling and a great precursor to a much happily anticipated day in the studio with a friend and singer/songwriter extraordinaire, Leela Gilday (www.leelagilday.com )

I had met Leela in Vancouver when we both lived there, participating in many common events, fundraisers and shows.  She is a soul-raising singer who can stand barefoot on a stage and take over a room with one vocal note–she is a musical force to be reckoned with who can inspire you into action with her songs full of intent and message and just as easily will your heart open with her gentle melodic tales.  She is a proud Dene woman who has won a Juno and endless other awards for her captivating capacity.  I was stoked.

But even the most soulful of songstresses is not immune to the common flu.  As it turned out, Leela had the flu and when I called her on my first day in Yellowknife, I asked the strangely raspy man on the phone if I could speak to Leela.  Oh dear.  It was her.  My heart fell into my shoes and I worried at her well-being and simultaneously my position.  There was no contingency plan for flu.  Lets see.  I had packed Sorel boots, I had snow pants, my favourite touque, I had booked the studio, confirmed the guest artist, worked with my publicist, booked the flight and flown to the North, found a place to stay, brought my favourite tea, chalked up on blistex….but…no….no thought of the what-if-I-land-in-the-Northwest-Territories-and-the-guest-artist-has-the-flu scenario.  Leela kindly coughed out a reassuring albeit gravelly, “I’ll be fine by tomorrow I’m sure.”

As inconceivable as it seemed, Leela showed up on Lone’s doorstep the next day to pick me up so we could go over the song together at her place.  (I must inquire as to the specific meds she used to resurrect her from her ashen state, they could be a legitimate tour sponsor.)  Bless her heart, she was somewhat weary I could tell, but as always professional and determined.   We went over the song over copious amounts of herbal teas and citrus fruit and Leela welcomed the thought of doing a vocal solo for the song.  The song was ‘You’ve Already Got What You Need’ and it had a nice drum groove that had felt like a natural fit for the northern territory.  While imagining how the song would turn out, I had always felt that a First Nations chant for a vocal solo would bring to life the imagery the drums alluded to.  And when Leela agreed, once again, I was stoked.

So, I went to bed stoked and praying to the Flu-Gods for Leela’s continued recovery.  Sure enough, on recording day she picked me up and off we went to meet Norm Glowach at Spiritwalker Studios.  Leela had emboldened her immune system and stalked up her determination and there was no one more grateful than I to hear her first notes as she stretched her natural vocal graces into the harmonies.   Everything was going to be just fine.

Of course, it was more than fine, that vocal solo, to this day is one of my favourite parts on the album. Norm was fabulous and we enjoyed an easy afternoon (there were still throat lozenge and water breaks of course) where Leela nailed the parts and the song was lifted with her harmonic injections.  I had many moments of pure gratitude right then.   Leela apologized to me on the way home saying she felt terrible that she had not toured me around her hometown of Yellowknife nor taken me out to local venues. I couldn’t believe that she had even considered that!  I was happy she was upright nevermind being my tour guide!  However, she was feeling a bit better and with that, invited me to dinner at her family home where she showed me around the beautiful place she grew up in and I got to meet and chat with her parents.  Her mother had cooked a traditional meal of bannock and caribou stew.  I had a brief moment of oh-dear-I-haven’t-eaten-meat-in-25-years but appreciated sharing the meal so much that we simply got out my camera and took a few shots of me eating my first meat in many years and my first caribou meat ever!   At the very end of the night as I stood at the door and Leela’s mother told me that caribou had previously been an easily accessible meal and was now becoming much harder to come by as the caribou population dwindled.  But even with this distressing comment, she had to laugh out loud when I replied in mortification “You mean I haven’t eaten meat in all that time and now I’ve just contributed to the extinction of the animal?!!”  They were charming and I had a lovely time with them and felt honoured to share a traditional meal.

My trip to the Northwest Territories tested the thickness of my skin.  Not only as to whether I could muster up true ‘Canadian Girl’ gusto and embrace the minus forty-something weather (yes, Lone and I even climbed to the top of “The Rock” in these temperatures to snap those sunset-over-Yellowknife photos you see!) but also to test my willingness to move forward giving everything I could to the project without knowing exactly how I would take the next steps.  I felt good.  I felt like I passed.  I didn’t retreat from either and I was better for it.

Travel isn’t just about seeing different places and experiencing culture.  It is also about learning who you are through the lenses these new experiences provide.

Go visit the North of Canada. It is so worth it.

Til next time
bonnie


Nunavut Recording Session

From the first moment I saw Nunavut from the plane, I knew it was going to be an experience I would remember and cherish.  Seeing the expansive tundra and sharp colours of Frobisher Bay took my breath away.  Here was a land that was part of my home country that I was getting to know for the first time.  Seeing the town of Iqaluit nestled on the shore amid so much land and water spoke to the resilience of the people before I even landed.

My own resilience was tested quite soon too as my luggage was not on the plane!  It is one thing to arrive on vacation in the Bahamas without your clothes and quite another to arrive in the Canadian Arctic!  However, I learned very quickly about the hospitality and generosity of the people who live in Iqaluit.  Cindy Roache was there to pick me up at the airport.  It was the first time we met–she had agreed to open her home to  me through the request of a mutual friend of ours from Nova Scotia (where she is originally from.)  And open her home she did!  Her home. Her car. Her food.  Her mittens. :)  She welcomed me to Nunavut and proceeded to introduce me to a number of people at the airport (the airport was a hub of activity and in small town spirit everyone was chatting away and shouting hellos) including the former Premiere of Nunavut who had been on my flight.

After taking me to her home (that had the stunning view you see in so many of the pictures I’ve taken!), I was handed her car keys and I dropped her off and drove off to check out the town and the scenery.  The first survival skill of the North that I learned was what Cindy called the ‘Cambridge Bay shuffle’ which is simply taking very small careful steps to avoid falling on the ice.  (Because of the recent warm temperatures and rain, followed by very cold, the entire town of Iqaluit was icy.)   My second survival skill was door slamming.  Metal and wood sometimes shifted with the cold and if you didn’t slam the car door or the house door, you would have instant air conditioning!

That night my kind host and her friend Melanie took me for dinner at the Frobisher.  After they picked me up off the floor after seeing the meal prices, we enjoyed a great meal and amazing art.  Local artists come to the restaurant and tour table to table to see if you are interested in buying their artwork.  There were amazing sculptures, beadwork and jewelry.  What a treat!

The next day I awakened to that stunning view of the bay that was to become such a part of my experience there, and I was surprised to see hunters out near the flow edge.  It was later explained to me that this was highly unusual and was a result of the warm weather they had had.  Normally hunters would not be seen from the village at all–they would instead have to travel miles and miles out onto the ice to reach the flow edge where they would hunt.  But again, the warm weather had impeded the bay from freezing that far out and so hunters were hunting very near the village.

The next day I was treated to a tour and we traveled around sight-seeing, picked up my luggage on a flight that arrived at noon (yay! long johns!) and she drove me to Apex where I took some pictures of one of the first Hudson Bay buildings, saw seal skins drying against a house and saw a local man building a new qamatik for hunting.

At 3:15 I had a rehearsal booked with the Inuksuk Drum dancers and I walked into the surprisingly large school anxious to meet them in person.  Their choir director, Trudy, welcomed and introduced me and I took a moment to get to know the girls and to tell them more about the ‘Canadian Girl’ project.   They were so great—excited to be part of the project and had evidently spent some time listening to the song and becoming familiar with their parts.  When I think back to that moment, it is surprising to me how by the end of the recording session I felt like I knew them so well, when we really had such a short time together.  After going over the song several times, we took a break and they did throat-singing for me, drum dancing and sang a traditional song.  It was amazing and I did catch some of it on video and will share that when I am able to upload it.  They were so talented and so proud to share their amazing culture with me.  I felt so honoured.  We parted ways that day knowing that we were all sharing something very special.

That evening, Trudy and Heather Daley (the Executive Director of the Alianait Festival) invited me to dinner with them at the Discovery.  I was quickly realizing that my social schedule in Iqaluit was busier than it was in Halifax!  We had a lovely dinner there, great company and great food where I enjoyed learning more about their experiences in the area and about the Alianait Festival itself.

The next day I had my interview at CBC North at 10AM and enjoyed meeting the staff there and had a great time chatting on air and sharing a live version of the song (thanks to a very quick guitar loan from Karen Mackenzie) I was to record with the Inuksuk Drum Dancers with the CBC host, Abe.  From there (again with Cindy’s car!) I went directly to the school for a second rehearsal with the girls and then did some sight-seeing, driving out to the pier and going to the museum.

The next day was recording day!  We were recording at Chris Coleman’s studio which was in his beautiful home that overlooked the town.  We met there at 6PM and all the girls were EARLY!  This, it was explained, was a first! :)  As Chris was setting up the girls and I had some time to chat and I was able to share the song ‘Canadian Girl’ with them and give them each a gift of a CD and a hand-made maple wood necklace (that I had had made just for them) just like the one I had as a token of appreciation and something that would remind them of being part of this and sharing this journey with me–a tangible reminder of this process that brought us all together and bound us together forever in a song.

Chris was wonderful and the room was a great space to work in–the night went so well and felt like such a heart-warming experience, I was sad to see it all end.  The girls shared more throat-singing with me and told me about the history of throat-singing.  That a woman had begun making the sounds when her baby was on her back and noticed that the sounds soothed and calmed her baby.  She shared this with other women and they began to do it together and created a game out of it to see if they could match each others sounds.  This technique was practiced and perfected and while the men were hunting the women were throat-singing and creating something that would be passed on from generation to generation.  It is amazing to watch.  I went to bed that night feeling deeply moved by everything I had just been part of.

The next day I went for a walk on the ice and was in awe of the beauty (you can see much of it in the pictures I took during that walk.)  That evening as I was preparing to fly out the next day I learned that some of the video I had taken of the girls did not work, so the next morning I went back to the school and did a bit more video of the girls–I was disappointed the video hadn’t worked but happy to have a chance to see them again before I left.  I even drove up to the store where one of the girls worked to catch her on video too!   From there we went for a community Lunch at the Francophone Association that had great turn out great food!  It felt a little like old home week as I saw Heather, Mylene, Cindy and Karen.  It was a great way to end my visit there and to appreciate how many connections to community I had made in my short time there.

The culture, the land, the community and the resilience in Iqaluit was extraordinary.   It is an experience I will always remember and hope that many other Canadians get a chance to experience.   The Inuksuk Drum Dancers sounded amazing on the song, “You Are The Reason” and I knew that I had chosen the right place and right group to be part of a song that already had a significant place in my heart.


Newfoundland Recording Session

I have wanted to go to Newfoundland my entire life.  When I was just wee and running wild on the shores of Gaspe, I would look out at the ocean and picture what it would be like to cross the water to Newfoundland.  So there was no one–simply NO ONE happier than me to hop on that plane and head to St. John’s Newfoundland on December 7th than I was.  I wrote the song for Newfoundland and Labrador (‘If I Could Sail’ )  just a couple of months ago — a sea shanty song that I welcomed on paper and six string with a sigh of ‘There you are!’   I had been waiting for that one.

I knew exactly who the perfect guest artists would be the song.  I had heard about The Once (pronounced d ‘wonse) www.theonce.ca through a number of reputable music-lovin’ people, so I had checked them out on-line–and from the moment ‘If I Could Sail’ came to be, I knew that the Newfoundland and Labrador song would truly resonate with the richness of the area it was being recorded in if this talented trio would join me on the adventure.   They had stunning harmonies, beautiful playing and were so connected to the music they played, it was palpable. When their happy agreement to come on board with the project rolled in via email, I was thrilled–I knew they were so busy and fitting it into their schedule would be a challenge (they had just been nominated for three Canadian Folk Music Awards)…so with their resounding ‘yes!’ …well….I woulda danced a jig if I’d known how.

The flight to St. John’s was a bit rough, high winds had shaken Henry(my van for those of you new to this story) up on the way to the airport, so I knew the ride overhead was going to be a doozie.  But, come hell or high water, I was ready.  I was going to Newfoundland! Finally!

I had booked a bed and breakfast right downtown just a couple of blocks away from the studio (Record Time Studios) and driving into the city left me no doubt that St. John’s was going to be everything I always thought it would.  The rows of colourful houses lined every steep street as it plowed its inevitable path to the water (Geraldine and I joked about how she could just ‘go’ to the gym a few times a day and be in shape in no time—that is she would never actually have to go IN the gym because walking there and back was such a work out on those steep streets.)

In keeping with my tradition upon arrival in each place, I walked and walked as much as I could that evening-exploring the city and breathing in the views.   The landscape was partially reminiscent of my hometown of Gaspe, yet completely unique and of course, had the vibrancy borne of St. John’s personality and character–the City became, in my first moments there, one of my very favourite spots in Canada.

The next day was recording day!  An easy few blocks to the studio got me there and Rick and Kevin from Record Time www.recordtimepro.com were there to greet me.  After a tour of their studio and some chatting about the project, we went right to work getting my vocal track down before The Once arrived.  I have been consistently amazed at how easy it has been to work with different studio folks across the country, and Rick and Kevin were no exception to that rule.  Accommodating and professional, we worked easily together, finishing up the vocals in little time–giving us a chance to engage in some banter that just got us warmed up for the rest of the day.

Geraldine Hollett and Phil Baker arrived right on time (Andrew had an appointment so he was coming a bit later) and we had a chance to talk about the project and what has been happening with their music before diving into the song and what parts we needed to do.  Geri did her vocals first and I think the goosebumps began at that point and lasted right through to the last moment of the day with Phil and Andrew adding percussion.  They were all fabulous–talented, professional and fun!  Andrew and Phil each did a harmony track and then came out the mandolin, the bouzouki, the bodhran, the tambourine and the shakers…and I sat in awe (and goosebumps) as they added layers to the song, filling it with colours reflective of their hometown.  I felt very lucky that I got to bring them all back with me in a song :)

During our session Tara Bradbury came by from the St. John’s Telegram and took some pictures and did an article on us that was in the paper the next day (see it here: http://www.thetelegram.com/Arts—Life/Entertainment/2010-12-08/article-2026206/Singer-crisscrosses-country-to-make-CD/1 ) She spent a bit of time with us that day in the studio and felt like a part of the process of building it all by way of bearing witness and documenting–she was great! We ended the day with a swift lesson in Gaspe lingo (ie. ‘By da Lord ‘tundering!’) which I was surprised to learn they weren’t familiar with and they were equally surprised that Gaspe had a dialect all its own! LOL

In keeping with Newfoundland hospitality, which clearly is in their blood, Geri and Phil first offered me their car to tour around the next day, then when Geri realized she had the day free, she offered to play tour guide for me.  We had a blast!  Driving out to Cape Spear (were those Lobster mittens you loan me Geri?  They are hard to miss in the photos! LOL) walking along the most Easternly point in Canada, taking in the power of the Atlantic as it thrust against the rocks was breathtaking- it is a different ocean right there on that point, where there is nothing but wind between Canadian Land and Europe.  You can see why ships have not been able to fight her strength at times.   Of course, I asked a million questions about every thing you can possibly imagine, wanting to know as much as I could about the history and tales –poor Geri–she didn’t know what hit her! (see her very happy moment in the photos where she can answer one question finally!  Sorry Geri! :)  We then went up to the top of Signal Hill and captured a few moments of breathtaking views from there, and a tour around other parts of the town.  The next day, I wandered up to ‘The Rooms’ which is the St. John’s museum and Geri was able to get away to meet for a coffee there too where I got to see some of the locals offer their appreciation for a recent performance.  During my tour at The Rooms, I saw an exhibit on the history of women in the area, and had heard and read various stories as I wandered the streets over those few days…it was a hard life those very young women led and I ended up writing a song about it entitled ‘Ode To The Fisher Daughter’ which I hope to share during live performances during the tour.

I know these sessions must sound too good to be true–but it really has been just as amazing as the story it tells.  Now I could bore you with stories of endless hours of banging my head against the computer or the telephone while organizing the endless details for this project, but that you can hear anywhere–the reward for me has been every moment of travel and recording with other artists, learning the histories and stories all across Canada and seeing first hand the amazing landscape and people we have from coast to coast to coast.  My hope is between this blog and the songs themselves, you will be able to feel like you have experienced it all too!

I left Newfoundland with one sure thing.  I will go back.  Often.

bonnie :)

PS. Thanks for reading folks –it means a lot to have you sharing this journey with me…now….off to Iqaluit and Yellowknife!


Ontario Recording Session

On December 1st it was time for my 7th Province for this crazy cross-Canada recording project….Ontario!!!  From Saint John, New Brunswick I flew to Toronto to record the Ontario song “Front Porch Song” with Stephen Fearing http://www.stephenfearing.com/, Lynne Hanson http://lynnehanson.com/ and the Six-String Nation Guitar (Jowi Taylor)(http://sixstringnation.com/ if you scroll down a bit, Jowi also did a brief write-up on our day of recording together!) at Jean Martin’s Barnyard Studios.  Getting off the plane at Pearson International really speaks volumes of the sheer size of Ontario and its role in Canada’s International traveling and travelers!  It be dang big and with that… comes a lot of waiting and a lot of paying (even for baggage carts–grrrrrr!!!)  but it also some of the most amazing people watching you can find in this country!

I stayed right in the heart of downtown Toronto at my friend Michelle’s on the corner of Dundas and Yonge so I really got to be in the heart of the busy-ness of this happenin’ city!  I am in constant amazement at the diversity of this country and Ontario (which I have driven across oh-so-many times (!)) embraces so much of that diversity within it–from geography, to culture to farmland to major metropolitan.   Toronto is one of those cities you can walk for days in and never see the same thing twice.  And I did exactly that.  Not on purpose though.  Far be it for me to realize early in the game that the transit system was mostly underground to get around the area I was in.  Instead,  I kept looking for a bus stop–thinking ‘Man how do people get around this city without them?’ (and yes, I do realize this expands into a hot political ‘Ford’ topic–it was in the headlines the very day I was walking and I kept thinking ‘Well he may be a dud but he sure made the buses disappear fast!’)  –So in exceptional Pollyanna fashion, I just kept thinking I’d find a bus and in doing so walked straight across from East to West of metropolitan Toronto!

Dec 1st was recording day and after some very sore legs and some serious internet research, I hopped on to public transit to head to Barnyard Studios http://www.barnyardrecords.com!  When I walked up the steps to the brownstone I immediately fell in love with the place.  Jean lives and works in his studio and he has the coolest set up you can imagine!  A loft-style space filled with eclectic artwork, artifacts, light fixtures and decor–it was just about the best place to record as I could dream of for this blue-grassy Front Porch song!   I ran into Jowi Taylor (the man behind the six-string nation guitar!) on the way into the building and he was carrying the one and only Voyageur with him and while we sleuthed through hallways figuring out how to get around the building, my eye kept wandering to the bright yellow case that held so much of Canadian History and Culture with in it.

Jean greeted us at the door and the next half hour felt like a few friends gathered together over espresso on a weekend morning.    So while we waited for Stephen and Lynne to arrive Jowi kindly gave us a tour of the Voyageur (this is the name of the Six-String Nation guitar) and all its various parts, from Pierre Trudeau’s canoe paddle, to Wayne Gretzky’s hockey stick, to whale bone, to the big nickel, to Don Cherry’s pants (not kidding!) You can share the moment he shared with us on my youtube site (I’ll be posting the video on January 3rd.)

Stephen Fearing as many of you reading this will know, is somewhat of a Canadian Folk Music Legend–and although not living in Ontario, he qualified for many reasons.  First, he’s Stephen Fearing.   Second, well, I don’t really need a second because he’s Stephen Fearing (but Guelph and many parts of Ontario do claim him–I know.  However he is now conveniently just living up the street from me in Halifax–so truly–like me he is a nomad and has called many parts of this country home–a Canadian Boy)  Stephen was  a great inspiration for me when I was first realizing my inevitable surrender to my love affair with music–it was way back when at the Canmore Folk Festival that I first saw him play–Stephen, Colleen Peterson and Valdy were all performers that year-all of them inspirational.  It was the first time I saw Stephen play and he was so talented and so full of music I wondered how he made room for air and food.  He embodied the sound he delivered and it was riveting.  I carried that energy with me home that night and sat up writing songs till the wee hours.   So, having Stephen be part of this recording session, and part of the ‘Canadian Girl’ album was especially meaningful for me because he was part of the stream of events that led me to being a performing songwriter.

It’s hard to explain how each of these traveling recordings actually feels, because each one has been unique and much of what happens is in the energy in the room.  This day in downtown Toronto, while recording the Ontario song felt so comfortable, warm and laid back–yet full of creative collaborative juices– if I hadn’t been so laid back it would have been more than I could stand!  Stephen blew us away with the guitar track that he did–he made that Voyageur purr–I can’t wait for you to hear it in the recording!   Lynne, who was just on her way back from hosting Bluebird in Nashville, kept us all company while she recovered from her long drive (yes she DROVE from Nashville) and then in about 6 minutes flat laid her vocal harmony track!  (She WAS anxious to get home! LOL)  Jean captured it all with ease and topped our day off by giving us each a copy of the Barnyard Records Christmas CD which is borne of a tradition of all his artists gathering together in a day to record whatever Christmas cheer comes to mind–and it quickly became our family favourite over the holidays, even if our five-year old kept asking what the bare-chested male picture on the cover had to do with Santa–all he wanted to hear was the ‘whistling tune’ and the ‘bird song’ :)  Jowi and his six-string simply topped the day off, bringing oh so much history and info to the table, not to mention being instrumental (pardon the pun) to the moment where ‘Canadian Girl’ meets Voyageur.  If there were a maple leaf left on a tree anywhere in the country, I swear it waved!

Jean, Jowi, Stephen and Lynne made this day feel more like an easy Sunday morning coffee than a recording that will go off into the sunset as the Ontario song for the cross-Canada recording project–but I that is what it has all been about–just being with each place and group of people to create and see what naturally happens….and each time, I get to walk away with the greatest souvenir of all…a creative moment in time captured for the purpose of sharing with the world.  I am one lucky Canadian Girl!

Stay tuned for the Newfounland Song story coming up next!

bonnie

PS. For the latest Canadian Girl update you can go here: Canadian Girl Update


New Year’s Day Stream of Thought

I love New Year’s Day
How it is filled with the sense of possibility.

A fresh start.

All the mistakes made are now somehow behind
And ahead there is potential to do it right
To change the things I need to change
Because today in some way I am newborn
And I can learn new ways to mend old wounds

When I step ahead
One foot at a time
I feel the earth meet my feet

Solid. New. Reliable.
Lending me comfort and strength
To move in the directions I need to

On New Year’s Day, I put on my favourite clothes
No matter what they are
Have a cup of my favourite warmth
And stare out at the day that holds a full year of possibility

Today, January 1st 2011
Happens to be a beautiful day
And it makes the hope
Burn even brighter

2011 is one I have waited for
11 always being a number that has held significance for me.
I am grateful for its arrival
Grateful for so many things
Grateful I had a Mom to call today
She is here on loan now I know, and I appreciate every day we get.

Grateful for the warm bed I woke up in
And the love around me
And the sense that this new day
Brings with it 365 gifts that I get to open one at a time
Not the kind of gifts someone else chooses for you
-the gifts you create
The gifts that you make into whatever you want them to be
They are the best gifts there are.

I think about the year that past and pick out favourite moments

-Standing in awe on the downtown streets of Vancouver during the 2010 Olympics in amazement of the fantastic energy of people coming together with just lightness and celebration

-My first day of recording my new album in Vancouver when Shari and Julia joined Bill and I in the Studio to launch the beginning of a cross-Canada recording when I wondered how it would all unfold into reality

-and every recording day after that in each Province, with such amazing people—what an incredible journey this has been

-Theo’s first day of school

-watching the waves the day after the Hurricane at Crystal Crescent Beach

-the day I discovered Frog Lake trail is walking distance from my house

-Seeing Newfoundland for the first time and falling in love with it

…the list could go on and on and on
So many great moments

On this New Year’s Day
I know as I look ahead
I will face troubles along this path
But work to greet them with acceptance so I do not strain against their inevitability
and curiosity so I can learn from them and move on

I appreciate the learning that happiness is moments.
And although these moments may be speckled with everyday struggles

At the end of it all, they are the moments I remember-
I don’t stop and recall being late
Or being stuck in traffic
Or waiting impatiently in line at the bank
Those fall through the panning sifter
And I walk on with just the moments that shone.
On this New Year’s Day I look ahead and fill up with
So much hope that it almost hurts my heart
-There is so much I want to do-
So much that just waits for a breath to bring it to life

On this New Year’s Day I think
I will find courage this year
And walk where I haven’t before
Try—not only new things-but things I have abandoned
I will try again
I will push through my fears when they rush to meet me
And though they may push back
I will remember this day
And know that hope wins over fear every time if you let it
And I’ll move forward

I will be kinder
And gentler with self and others
I will embrace age with the grace it has met me with
Take from it all its lessons and wisdom
And then let it go
Because it is only a measure, not a value.
And I will move forward with and old soul and a young heart.

I will be brave enough to make mistakes.

I will take more time to write
That is a big goal for me and any and all are welcome to remind me of it :)
I will take more time to be in nature
And breathe in the medicine if offers my soul

On this New Year’s Day
I offer appreciation and gratitude for every note and word of encouragement
I have received that has helped me reach this New Year’s Day
Without them, I don’ know where I’d be

On this New Year’s Day
As I hold my mug and stare into the wide blue sky of possibility
I wish for everyone to hold in their hearts
Even, if just for a moment,
This hope and sense of beginning
That lies before us
And the wisdom to open
Each of these 365 gifts
with care and love.

Peace and Hopeful Hearts to you all my friends
bonnie


New Brunswick Recording Session

Driving to New Brunswick from Nova Scotia is a short and familiar ride–so the trip for the November 27th recording session felt pretty laid back–no planes to catch, no baggage to check, no tweezers to have seized and no pat-downs from strangers in uniforms (it’s not as fun as it sounds :).

Since the New Brunswick song is about Theo, we decided that bringing him along to at least one of the studio sessions would be a good idea (I was doing two recording sessions in two separate towns for this song), so even if, at five years old, he didn’t fully understand what it meant to record a song and put it on an album, the hope is that later in life, he would have some memory of being part of the process of creating a song that was written for him.  So we packed up Henry, and with our dashboard Buddha bouncing happily away (see video :), made our way to our first stop.

I was feeling pretty lucky that this song was going to have guest feature artists Dominique Dupuis and Jessica Rhaye  as well as a guest guitarist, Aaron Currie.  Dominique’s partner, Danny runs his own studio called Pumpk’n Patch right there on their own beautiful piece of land, so we were stopping there, in Memramcook (just outside Moncton) to record Dominique’s fiddle part on the song before driving to Saint John to record Jessica’s vocals and Aaron’s guitar part.

Pumpk’n Patch is a beautiful studio nestled in the woods–an inspirational setting to create music in for sure.  We weren’t long into the recording session when Dominque mentioned that she and Danny were five months pregnant and due in March with a baby boy!  How fitting to have her on the song for Theo!  Needless to say, it took only a few moments of discussing the song and a few warm-up takes before we said–’…just let go and play with all focus and emotion on your own little one….’ and with that she proceeded to play a beautiful connected take–emotive, full and stunning.

I brought Theo out (we had him set up with a video and headphones in the kitchen area) while Dominique was playing so that he could see her playing the fiddle and hear it being added to his song.  He beamed and pulled my head down so he could sing the words to the song in my ear while she was playing.  A few great moments of connection… and then…..he quickly scampered back to the Scooby-doo DVD and headphones with resumed interest that would never allude to any disruption whatsoever.  It’s all you can ask from a five-year old :)  Please see the video:  Theo listening to Dominque record the fiddle part for the song \’Theo\’

With a fabulous fiddle part added and a great time getting to know Dominique and Danny we packed up Henry and headed to Sussex to take a break for the night before I drove to Saint John for the next session.

On the following day, we drove to Saint John (without Theo this time) to Fluid Audio Group studios.  Traveling into Saint John is always great, the colourful architecture of the city telling different stories every time you see it and evidence of the importance the port has had in the city’s past and present lending images of ship-building and industry to its actual history of being Canada’s first incorporated City.  Originally inhabited by the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet, the location of Saint John attracted Europeans due to its proximity to the water and shelter from some of the weather the  more northern areas were plagued with.   I always feel the history of this place when I drive into the city.

Fluid Audio Group Studios are right downtown and proved to be colourful well-equipped studios in an older character building lending lots of fabulous character to the space.   When Jessica arrived we had time to chat about the song and get to know each other a bit, which, to my absolute surprise led to Jessica sharing the news that she TOO was five months pregnant and due with a baby boy in March!!!  Now I assure you, it is hard enough to find artists from each province, whose schedules can match up with mine and who are available and able to participate in the project.  Trying to find TWO artists who were due with baby boys (ahem! in March, no less!) was NOT a requisite criteria!  But what an unbelievable coincidence and somewhat celebratory synchronicity that they were the two people who would be contributing to the Theo song!

The Telegraph Journal stopped by to snap a photo of us recording and other than that, we went full steam ahead and captured some beautiful harmonies courtesy of Jessica and a great acoustic part by Aaron Currie.  Matt and Andrew from Fluid Audio Group helped out greatly and we ended the day with a sun setting on the city of Saint John behind us as we drove, some fabulous tracks on the Theo song safely saved on the hard drive (Lacie) and one more Province/Song completed for the project…this one a unique tribute to one little boy that had grown to become a tribute to three little boys….two of them just aren’t quite here yet :)   There is evidently lots of ‘Canadian Boy’ in this ‘Canadian Girl’ album!


Prince Edward Island Recording Adventure

Well, I’m a wee bit tired from the drive but still feeling the glow of yesterday’s recording adventure in PEI.  After my fabulous Bed and Breakfast experience at Evening Primrose B&B I hopped into Henry the 2nd to head into Charlottetown to meet up with Catherine MacLellan at a coffee shop to go over the song.  After some VERY attentive :) service at the cafe (everything ok?  everything still ok?  how was that bite?  LOL -they were great!) we sauntered over to the van for a very official rehearsal singing while listening to Henry the 2nd’s stereo play the a capella version of the song we were about to record.

From there, there was a 1pm interview at CBC Radio in Charlottetown with Kerry Campbell (who was sitting in for Karen Mair) for their ‘Mainstreet’ show.  Every single person I met in PEI was SO NICE!  From the guy who let us in the CBC building, to the car sales/musician guy who appeared in the back of Catherine’s car, to the wait staff in the cafe, to the B&B folks to the fabulous musicians, Catherine and Emmanuel and rockin’ engineer/producer/last-minute ‘sure I’ll sing’/dad/etc, Jon Matthews…the list goes on!  Truly unbelievable.  I had a Happy hangover today!

After we left CBC, scooted over to the car shop and did a Big-Box store drive by tour, we headed over to Big Grey Sound Studio where we all were in one room for the first time!  As soon as I download the program for my video camera I will add the video footage from our session there–so great!

It was different this time because the song for PEI (called ‘Harvest’) is an a capella song–so we didn’t have any tracks to guide us (hello?  what key again?) so it was a new challenge but it all came together so amazingly.  After they bravely witnessed my ‘Its like the play ‘Rent’ but about Farming’ overview–we dove right in and got to singing, drumming, harmonizing and witnessing each other add a layer to something that didn’t exist before we started.  I love that part–bringing people together to share creativity and talent and ideas to create something that only exists because of those exact people in the room.  If it were other people, it would be a different song—and that is the great part–the uniqueness of each song is being born with inter-linking creativity of the people who come together in that moment.  And with every layer, I got more and more ‘cited!  When Emma started playing the Bodhran I almost forgot to sing, I was so happy to hear that sound outside my head (she plays way better than my head played it!)

Somewhere in there the lovely Odette from Radio-Canada came by and I slipped out of the room during one of the takes to do a quick interview in—Henry!  Yup!  We had to sit in the van to do the interview so our mutual recordings wouldn’t seep into each other. LOL! Too funny.  (Please add Odette and Kerry, both from CBC to the ‘great nice folks list’ I started above!)

We brought the whole thing together by the end of the session–only interrupted occasionally with small delirium moments, laughter, bloopers and of course, the very memorably “What do you think of the Wiggles?” conversation!  (Thankfully we all agreed that the Backyardigans have better music.  Things could have gone awry if we had found some discord on that one!)

Sessions like these always have a bit of sadness for me as they come to an end.  I love that feeling of creating with people and there is a bond made among people who may or may not know each other–you have created something together, and that something will live on and go out into the world as a product of that moment on that day.  And truly, I couldn’t have asked for a better moment or a better crew to be with….thank you PEI and Catherine, Emma and Jon and Odette and Kerry, you are all part of this cross-Canada journey and are woven into the strand of music slowly making its way throughout this country.


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