Power in Creation: Pneuma

If you have been following this blog, you will know about how I relinquished the title of my album, “Breathing Again”. If not, you can read about that here. I am satisfied with the new title, and I am delighted with the interaction that brought the new title, Open Water, forward; grace in action! One additional benefit to this happening was that my son introduced me to a new word: Pneuma.

I have known of pneumatics, as the word pertains to air-based systems, but I have never thought of the root word, or its definition: “the vital spirit, soul, or creative force of a person”. The word, and its meaning, have captured me; captures my experience of returning to music to write, produce and record this album in a profound way – even better than the title, Breathing Again. To say I am “breathing again” is to highlight the return to something I had done in the past (it did feel as though I held my breath for the past ten (10) years), and this is accurate – four previous albums, here comes a fifth — but this is incomplete.

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Surprised by Grace

The english language is full of interesting challenges to understanding the definitions and context of words and expressions — but never more than today it would seem. Its difficult to have a conversation about some topics today – things turn so volatile, so quickly. Two friends can be enjoying a chat over coffee, and then, BOOM. Someone asked a question, or inferred that they have an alternate opinion to others. Blood pressures start to rise, and defensiveness sets in – you start to feel like you have no appetite for the dialogue, but you are also aware that the subject is important and so you feel the need to stay engaged – no matter your perspective.

I have been strongly encouraged to change the title of the album “Breathing Again” to something else. It has been suggested that the expression may not be well received by some people following the passing of George Floyd. I had chosen this title to describe how it felt to come back to writing and performing music again after a difficult 10-year hiatus, and all of the encumbrances to peace that I had experienced over that time. The album is a musical expression of my resilience journey, and if the title causes people to draw inaccurate conclusions and miss the message, that would seem to be tragically self-defeating.

It is a good title, and I did not want to surrender it – but, I began to feel that I may be foolish to ignore the advice I received.

So, I decided to run a crowd-sourcing post for a new title to the album.  Please Continue Reading …

Stupid or Faithful?

Have you ever felt stupid? You feel like you have been doing the right thing, but it seems to stand in stark contrast with what others are doing — which leaves you left wondering if you’re actually doing the right thing…or if you’re just stupid. One of my best friends passed away ten years ago this September; his name was Ken Rutherford. Some of you knew him. If you knew Ken, you might have heard him say, “Sometimes I don’t know if I am faithful, or just stupid!” He stated this once to me over a coffee conversation (some twenty years ago) about life and faith, and the statement immediately resonated with me. I wrote a song for him…and I decided that the message never expires – and that it was time to update the song.

The 10th anniversary of my good friend’s passing is a milestone for me. His funeral was one of the last times I performed any music before enter my 10-year silence…and I am now emerging on the 10th anniversary of his passing. He was a good friend. I miss him.

Here is “Stupid” — it will be part of the Breathing Again album project — if you like it, please consider sharing.

How/Why Breathing Again?

Do you ever stop to think, “how did I get here?” I’m not talking about the big question of “here in life” – but rather the journey of daily, moment by moment left ands right turns that leads us to some present place in time and space. Have you ever wondered if “this is as good as it gets”, or if “things will ever change”, or if you will “recover” or “overcome”? These are moments in life when it can feel like you are holding your breath – they can be heavy enough that you feel like you can’t breathe…and when you can’t breathe, nothing else matters.

I am an orphan. It was not my choice. I’d prefer to not have this label as part of my identity, but I don’t get to choose that either. It is part of who I am, whether I like it or not. I lost both of my parents young: my father when I was 7 (to permanent mental and physical disability through an accident), and my mother when I was 12 (to heart failure). Resilience has been a subject of keen interest to me for obvious reasons. Much more than a curiosity or area of work – it has been a matter of survival.

Breathing Again – is a musical narrative of my resilience journey.

I had enjoyed music all my life — up until about ten years ago. It was an effective way of working out my thoughts and emotions. Much more than entertainment, music was a prayer language, and a means of communicating things that were difficulty to say. Ten years ago the music in me died – or maybe I tried to kill it. I started to feel as if no one was interested in hearing anything of the turmoil that was welling up inside of me. I felt as if I was an imposter, acting out the expectations of others, with little to no sense of joy. Roots of addictions matured to offer shelter from being present with my insecurities. They worked for a time as a supportive friend – but they eventually became the master. I lost my confidence. I felt that I had nothing of value to offer anyone. I contemplated suicide. Depression set in.  I sold all my gear, took my CD’s to the dump – and paid to leave them there.  I stopped listening to music.

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Creating (Collaboratively) with Grace – Update 6

When I first began to work on the music album Breathing Again, I had set a goal to create with grace – this was specifically to focus on overcoming my own fears of re-entering music. I could never have imagined where this trail would lead!

Image credit: Aleena Rahman (Fiverr Freeancer)

Twenty (20) artists from thirteen (13) countries to create 11 songs of original music; . Their common connection is to me, but in another way they are inextricably connected with all others as a truly collaborative project. I never dictated exactly what they were to do, I only gave suggestions and let the individual artist engage with their style – which means I have had to set aside some of the specific visualizations in deference to whatever was ultimately created. I believe that the end result was “net gain” – meaning: the album has become something better than I imagined.

Have you ever tried to create something with someone when they have dictated every aspect and left you no room for your own expression? Did you find it frustrating? Was it hard to breathe?

Grace enables creativity. I knew this before I started this project, and I am experiencing it  Please Continue Reading …

Creating with Grace – Update 5

It’s a bit surreal. It’s hard to comprehend all that has happened in such a short time frame. Over the past 10-year period, I have been musically silent. It was a painful season. I couldn’t write, play or sing – I didn’t even listen to others much. This decade-season stands in stark contrast with with 40+ pervious years of music love…but this current season has been a wilder one yet.

 

Highlights:

  1. 30 Songs written and/or recorded since April 2nd – approximately 2 months.
  2. I struggled with pitch and vocal control at first…now sing more powerfully than ever.
  3. 10 Songs selected for a vinyl record.
  4. 20 artists from 12 countries involved in the recording project – unknown to each other.
  5. The most diverse and eclectic mix of instruments I have used on an album – with amazing results.
  6. Self-produced – which, if you have followed the blog to date, challenges insecurities a bit.
  7. All recording completed as of Monday, June 15.
  8. Final mix/master in process.
  9. Video planned and scheduled to begin next week – in support of the Ride to Remember single.
  10. Partnerships forming provincially and nationally…

Just a few highlights – and all of these have me in awe, but none so much as Please Continue Reading …

Creating with Grace Project – Update 4

“Within this multidimensional tapestry, enters the Gracenote. It is of seemingly muted significance; brief and delicate, yet intentional as ornamental addition; the extra in ordinary.”

When I wrote the paragraph above into the Gracenote card, I was reflecting on the brevity of life, and the insignificance of one being in relation to the whole of creation – it’s mind-boggling. Our lives are brief and delicate. We know this more as each day passes. When I am deeply reflective I can feel the trinket reality of my life — an ornamental addition — that’s all — and yet, that in and of itself is also extra-ordinary.

Most (all?) of whatever I achieve in this lifetime will not be recorded or remembered by anyone…but there is beauty in this: it gives room for others to play their part.

As I have been producing this Breathing Again album, I note the significance of giving room for others. At the end of one of the tracks, I was planning to sing a tag line of the title, but hearing the lead guitar, I decided to let him “own” that spot (it’s SO TASTY!). In other places, I would deliberately join with the harmony or the snap of the snare drum – and it added power. The takeaway here is  Please Continue Reading …

Breathing Again: Pre-Order Available!

It’s almost complete! Pre-order your limited production 12″ (10 songs) vinyl record now – proceeds  ($30 from each sale) going to support the Saskatchewan Police Memorial Ride to Remember! One chance only for the Vinyl Record: Order here!

I’m not trying to pressure you 🙂 it’s just math: a fall release, and 8-10 weeks of vinyl press time will mean that there will only be a short time to secure an album with this pre-order – then it’s gone. The R2R fundraiser is directly connected to the vinyl album.

Here’s a sample of from the album – Song:  Open Water

 

ALSO: Breathing Again contains a song dedicated to the men and women in blue: Ride to Remember – with the final vocal recording happening on Friday!

It’s my best effort to encourage!

Each pre-order album purchase entitles you to MP3 copies of each song on the record, plus one free bonus MP3: Let it Rain, featuring a background vocalist from Australia, a cellist (Serbia) and a Celtic (wooden) flute (UK)! Coming soon!

I originally wrote Let it Rain during a time when Saskatoon was experiencing a difficult season of racial tension. I thought it fitting to re-record it today, with some tasteful additions to my original production of guitar and vocal only –  from my Irish roots! I hope you enjoy it, and that it brings hope today, as it has in the past.

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Creating with Grace Project – Update 3

I have come to experience something unique and unexpected since beginning the Breathing Again album recording project. While my goal has been to experience the work of grace in and through me in the project, my expectation was smaller than what is actually occurring: incremental transformation through collaboration – a team of people unknown to each other prior to the start of the project is contributing to growth in and through the connection.

The expanse of the collaboration is mind-boggling to me. The list is lengthy — and growing.  There have been no less than 18 artists making their contributions from around the world:  Australia, France, Netherlands, Russia, Bulgaria, Italy, Pakistan, Serbia, USA, Greece, and of course, my Saskatoon, Canada. This will be a 10-song album, but it is also going to have a bonus MP3 track. A song that I recorded 20 years ago (Let it Rain) is getting revived and refreshed – an unexpected bonus, made possible through collaborative vision!

Also unexpected – I am finding joy as a producer. Most of my previous music production was guided by skilled producers, but in their process I am much more active in the direct shaping of each song as producer. But it’s not just about the song – it’s also about the artist. I’ve always enjoyed affirming artists in their craft. I have many pieces of art around the house, which I bought simply because I had met the artist, and I could not walk away without buying (the same applies to girl guide cookies – though I think that’s possibly another matter). Producing the song gives me the opportunity to encourage the artist.

I have had several of the artists write me to say that they appreciate the way that I am handling the relationship. One that stands out as a summary example is this response: Please Continue Reading …

Creating with Grace Project – Update 2

The album is getting closer to being complete! 5 songs are in the final mix stages, while the last five will be recorded over the coming week.  I am pleased to report that the GRACE experiment seems to be working well and achieving better results than anticipated. I hope to have a webpage ready for pre-order of the limited production, 12″ vinyl record in the next week or two (stay tuned!). There will be 10 songs on the vinyl – with all being available in MP3 format as well…plus one bonus MP3 track.

Draft Cover Design

Draft Inside Panels

Here’s a highlight from the text above:

“Have you ever been there? Have you ever felt yourself longing to create; to bring something uniquely inspiring and encouraging into the world, while you are held back by fear? Grace enables us to overcome fear; it holds open a safe space for us to “be”. Grace enables works to be created that touch others at a deeper level. Grace enables capacity in the midst of creation, as the creator’s heart can find peace in the outcome — to grow unto fulfillment. Grace for self, others and life. Grace for what arrives and what becomes of our effort. Grace for our decisions and those of others. Grace offers us the opportunity to recover, to stop holding our breath and start Breathing Again.” Please Continue Reading …