ABOUT THE SONGS
When you lose a child for any reason you spin out of control. "The story of Life is not supposed to end this way for your child. It’s not supposed to go this way for you.” Trying to recover from this loss is as impossible, just as impossible as growing another leg if it’s been amputated. And yes, here’s what my therapist said when they felt I was ready to hear these words. “The pain of losing your daughter will always be part of you. It will always be very hard. Learning to cope and be positive is your opportunity to help yourself and others”. So that’s what I’ve decided to do, to the very best of my ability.
Weight is the catalyst that gave me the strength and the will to record this album. It was written and initially recorded on October 14, 2012, in my hotel room with the tiny little microphone on my Mac laptop. I was attending the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP) National Conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario. It was entered into the CBC Lynn Miles Song Writing Contest that same day where it finished top five.
Although Weight is an uplifting and hopeful song, with the powerful message to “Please Wait”, tears were falling onto my guitar and on my laptop as I worked to bring it to life and those uncontrollable tears are now recorded in that scratch version. Those tears were for my beautiful daughter and for all those others that we’ve lost to suicide. We/Survivors walk the dark road in the aftermath of grief. We are all connected to the pain that broke our hearts and shattered our lives. The breakout workshop that I’d attended was the first I’d ever attended. The story of a young couple losing their daughter, only six months before, was too raw bringing back so much pain. I cried all the way back to the room and I called out to my daughter and theirs, for all of those that we’ve lost, I felt like I was channeling all of us at that moment. There’s no coincidence that I felt a strong connection to Bruce Springsteen in this song. I asked all my supporting cast to channel the E-Street Band in their performances in the studio. Ross brought the Max Weinberg. Listen for it.
Speaking of Springsteen – Canada’s America?
You can like it, or leave it, there is no denying how close Canadian’s are to America, both geographically, socially, financially and inspirationally. There is so much about America that draws us to it. The border between us was once the world’s longest un-guarded border. Times have changed, and the world is a scarier place. We have a growing sense of fear that is shutting many of our connections down. Gun sales are up! The world is now a world of fear-inducing words and acronyms like WMD’s, drone’s, internet-surveillance, and now going into the album release a new tariff on foreign musicians coming to Canada. Imagine 100’s and even 1000’s of musicians being turned away at the border. Welcome to Canada!
I have crossed this border so many times over the last two years, this in search of love and hope, in the aftermath of grief and in the process I've come to know America and my own country much better. This album is a cross-border/no-border test for me. Americans and Canadians and trotters of the Globe alike will be the judge of whether I have reasonably captured our similarities and differences.
Here’s my list of songs inspired by stories and events from the USA.
Ogdensburg is a song of two hearts searching for and finding love. In finding that love, it comes with an acknowledgment of each other’s loss, and their insecurity and it comes with fear, in this case, a hybrid of homeland insecurity and the growing economic and social depression of small-town America. I have combined that with the risks that we all take, crossing over to find our way through hard times and to better ones.
Last of the Hot Summer Days was written on September 11th, 2011, ten years after 9-11. It speaks to my strong feelings of connection to America’s 9-11 grief, a grief that we all shared. Unintentionally, it speaks to America’s continued loss of innocence in tragic events like Newtown where parents also lost their beautiful children in December, like I did. I wanted to also make that visceral connection to the end of school day dreams for parents that lose their child. September will always be hard for a parent or family member who has lost their loved one. I was in the studio recording this song when the Newtown news hit. It crushed me to know that these parents now felt like I did. This was suicide and murder, a terrible and all too frequent combination. At the time of the album's final tracking, another American tragedy happened in Boston. Let’s stop the madness.
Business is Business is a ‘yacht rock’ parody about the absolute sociopathic businessman. Make no mistake, this type of individual can affect the lives and the mental health of those that work for them. A number of recent media reports show that many of our political and corporate leaders display classic sociopathic and even psychopathic behaviour. After all, it often takes ruthless actions to make it to the “so-called” top. Perhaps we need to have annual Mental Health tests to determine if our political and corporate leaders have gone a little too far. I wanted to include it as a tribute to The Occupy Movement and in particular I think it fits Occupy Wall Street. I can imagine the Gordon Gekko’s slicing their way through people’s savings with impunity. I've actually run into a few along the way. How about you?
As for the song, the great alto saxophone work was performed by New Orleans musician and Theolnius Monk finalist Aaron Fletcher. It’s a song that has brought many laughs and great harmonies when I played with my good friend James Clugston (BG on this) and friends. In a sense, it’s a tribute to those better days, the days before my loss. There’s a Flight of the Concords (Business Time) reference for good measure. I hope listeners will hear the message to business men and women, that power and greed can result in terrible outcomes. It’s a reminder that we will be more spiritual by sharing profits and reducing greed, and if we can do this, then we will affect peoples lives. If you are an employer you have a responsibility to be fair and caring for your workers and to raise the bar of spirituality in this world.
Lookin’ for the One was written in March 2012 to support a USA-based suicide prevention video that was raising funds for www.CrisisChat.org, founded by Jill Wolski, a noted suicide prevention expert. Jill is an amazing woman who is committed to making Mental Health work better for everyone. It was a great honour to help. See the video at http://www.crisischat.org/support-us/.
The Canadian Connection
Canadian landscapes and imagery are woven into songs like Still Standing, Even in the Cold, The Well and Afterlife.
Afterlife was written and recorded in 2005, following a dream where I met the soul of a loved one on a trail, much like those around my family cottage on the Rideau Lakes, Ontario. It was never released. It was wonderfully rearranged with Ross Murray and recorded for this album. I hope you will enjoy it. Many of us are skeptical about the afterlife and many are not, but we all have hope that we may be somehow united “face to face” with those that we love when they leave. This dream was one of many that I had that link to future events. Somehow in the shock of my loss I was able to play this song at my daughter's wake, hoping that people would understand and be comforted by my hope for an afterlife and the message to live fully.
Even in the Cold was written to celebrate the legacy of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, arguably Canada’s most famous and certainly Canada’s most flamboyant prime minister. I wrote it following his funeral in Montreal, October 2000. I was moved to attend Pierre’s funeral for a number of reasons. Primarily I was very moved by his legacy, but on a human scale, the loss of Trudeau's son Michel in 1998 affected me the most. It showed us all that public heroes and icons are still fragile and vulnerable people like the rest of us. Many believe that Pierre's loss of Michel was his undoing, and that he lost his will to fight for life. Little did I know that I would experience the same anguish when I lost my daughter. Was this experience and others preparing me for what was to come in my life?
I wrote Still Standin’ in January 2008, only 6 weeks after losing my daughter. It would have been her 21st birthday on January 20th. It snowed relentlessly that winter, the 2nd highest snowfall on record. I was staring at the rock garden where my daughter had proudly built her Inuksuk. Although the garden is overrun with weeds now, it still stands untouched there today five and a half years later.
I wrote The Well as a coming of age song for my living daughter, my youngest, as she prepared to go to Italy for a summer trip in 2008. It was so very hard to see her go. We all need strength that comes from the well. May the water be pure.
Hello was written six weeks before losing my daughter, and perhaps it provides a glimpse into things and feelings to follow. This duet version was sung with Marion Xhignesse without rehearsal. Marion knew my daughter like a sister and mother and the loss affected her very deeply, as it did for so many. We all miss her so much. I hope you can detect this in her beautiful performance. I look forward to performing it live with her soon.
I decided the album needed one more song that would be an appropriate finale’ to it, so I wrote the musical hook for The End about March 15th and then finished the arrangement and the lyrics on March 23, 2013. The lyrics came after I reached out to Lynda Collins for assistance with them. I told her I had writer's block, and Lynda writes amazing lyrics. However the lyrics just flowed on that Saturday morning and it was done. I hope you enjoy it.
The One You Love – It’s about people being different, and reminding us all to focus on what is important, the Ones we/they love.
ABOUT THE COVER ART
The artwork for the album cover captures many of the thoughts behind my struggle with surviving my daughter's suicide. The picture has many links to the album and I’d like to tell you about those links and acknowledge the contributors for their amazing support.
To Jill Wolski for her amazing photographic skill in taking the picture, and her ongoing work and commitment to Suicide Prevention. To Dave Turner Design for his seeing the story in that picture. To artist and friend Steev Morgan for his artistic input and design assistance, and to his partner and fellow artist, Catherine Orfald for her artistic input and emotional support. To the amazing artist and naturalist Aleta Karstad for her artwork that is inside the CD cover.
New Orleans Connection
My trip to New Orleans in the summer of 2012 was a milestone artistically and spiritually. Being in the city of music and tremendous resilience was an important part of my evolving struggle towards healing. New Orleans has suffered. I have suffered. Thank you New Orleans for embracing me with your spirit.
Themes of Struggle and Healing
The cover art itself is representative of a number of themes in the struggle for a suicide survivor. Note the background painting depicts the evolution of black culture like the blacks of America depicted in the background, My guitar neck is in parallel with the banjo player’s. I am in parallel, enslaved by the hardship and grief of loss as the blacks have been enslaved by their white masters, yet within that enslavement is the great capacity for hope and positivity as we have all witnessed in the culture of Black America. Like the blacks, I am singing of hope from the enslavement of my pain, my back leaning on the memory of my beautiful daughter who is frozen like the statue. Frozen in time. Forever on my mind. Forever bringing tears, most often when no one is watching, or can hear. She holds me up. Gives me strength and I fall.
The significance of the fountain is important for me as well. My song The Well, written before the picture, connects to hope and the legacy of raising a child. When we are lost, we go to the well for sustenance and advice. Always go to the well.
As my project is about art, I encourage anyone that has art that deals with the topic of suicide to contact me and I would like to see it and possibly catalogue it here on this website to honour those we’ve lost, those that are grieving and those that we can help.
Peace and warmth to all.