Genre: New World Music
I have thought a lot about genre, about where I should place my music and after all these years, I still have no idea. My favorite description of my music is neoclassical, although I often call myself Contemporary Celtic or that nebulous singer/songwriter category. As a kid, I had strict classical teachers and mentors as well as folk, neither could seem to find merit in the other, but I see music as simply music. Genre, you always hear about genre. Classify yourself, categorize, but be interesting and unique while doing it. My music, to me, comes from the natural world. That is what inspires me, that is the imagery I place in my songs. Trees, and forests, light dappling through the canopy, The feeling of fiery leaves falling around as I walk on an autumn day, a cherry tree full to the brim with blushing blossoms, springing to life. The way ice forms in intricate patterns on my window, the sound of the wind in the trees. My lyrics come from there and that is what I want to share with my listener. Words, how they carry meaning for me; whimsy, cycles, inspiring, haunting, dreamlike, peaceful...I could go on. In the end doesn't everyone think that their music is unique? I don't want to say...my music sounds like the blood red of the dogwood against the white snow, so instead I play around with words and say contemporary Celtic. And really those Celts had a healthy respect for the natural world, so perhaps it is fitting. How about this, you make up your mind what I sound like and then let me know. If I like it, I will put in on my site! In the end, placing your music in a category or genre has its advantages and disadvantages. People get an idea of what type of music you play, and if they might like it, but it also brings up pre-conceived notions about that particular genre which may or may not be true for you. Some days I honestly have no idea where I should place my music, but in the end, you have to say something when people ask you "what kind of music do you play?"
Songs, to me are emotional landscapes; fraught with all the turmoil of life. There is a certain vulnerability to setting lyrics on a page. For a song to have emotional resonance, I believe it must, on some level, be truthful. In writing I feel I need to delve into the truths within myself, to contour the thoughts with music and then to clothe them in words. It is not enough to simply write about the masks that are worn for others, it is not enough to treat an emotion as an object to gaze upon, rather than an experience to be felt. As a lyricist, I strive for true honesty, for if it is to be real, if it is to find its mark, the words must be shaped from the secret whisperings of the heart.
At times it feels as if I am trying to spin straw into gold, always searching for that one perfect word to sum up the subtle nuances I wish to inflect within the music. There is power in naming, in giving substance to thought, but such naming does not always come easily. I often need to dig deeply, and feel profoundly influenced by my favorite books and poetry.
What is most satisfying about the writing process, is that we all have our own unique associations for words, strings of consciousness that pass through the limited definition, expanding the word from the inside out. Thus, though I have my own intent that I press into the malleable wax of phrasing, every listener will find their own meaning, their own subtle gestalt made up of images, sound and fragrant memory. Each song is an evolving story as it passes from me, to you.
On Being a Musician
It has been quite a journey. Most people will say to you "I always knew I wanted to be a singer". Not so for me. I had many dreams growing up and ended up studying psychology in school with the idea that I would become a clinical psychologist. Not that music wasn't important in my life...it sure was! I just never thought I would end up as an aspiring musician. I have always needed music in some way though in my life. My first big purchase (after a house) was a piano, that I put in my little tiny house. That same piano now sits in my living room, and I play it almost every day. At the time I bought it, I just knew I needed to have some kind of music, I wasn't even singing at that point! When I found my voice, I let my piano sit for a few years, almost untouched, and would practice, and practice voice. Now that I feel some confidence in my voice, I feel this need to round out my musical experiences. I sing almost every day, play the piano almost every day, even if just for a few minutes, and then try to pick up my violin now and again. Oh, and I am also learning how to play harp.
I have always thought that inspiration is doing what brings you joy. Doing that which your soul longs to do, and desires to do with life and love. Inspiration, creation, these two words work together to me. My inspiration comes from a number of places. I definitely find that nature forms the basis for almost all the imagery in my music. I find a lot of peace and wonder in nature and often small little moments that hardly seemed mentionable weave themselves into my music, almost without notice. I am inspired by stories. 'The Birch's Lament' is one such story. I found it so poignant and sad, it was just begging to be a song. What I like to do is tell the story from another perspective, letting the characters speak for themselves in my music. Some of my songs are inspired by people that I have known and their impact on me.
I draw from my experiences, good and bad...and it is usually strong emotion that fuels the beginnings of a song. I feel things very deeply, empathize quickly and easily, laugh a lot, cry a lot. I am a very emotional person.
I grew up in a household in which top 40 music was shunned. I have vivid memories of driving with my family through the blazing heat of Saskatchewan, which we did every summer, listening to classical music. I was always a sucker for the Romantics, and the desire to play Beethoven burned like a torch within me. Layered within such memories are always the sweet ones of the folk my dad loved to listen to, Stan Rogers, John Denver, and all manner of Irish drinking songs. I took classical piano and violin lessons for many years, performed, competed and toured. I was in the Calgary Youth Orchestra and in the Calgary Fiddlers, two worlds that were entirely separate and yet seemed to both bring joy. I must say that classical music has had a profound effect on my life, a realization that has taken me years to come to. It has shaped who I am. I have a great appreciation for all the music I listened to growing up, and usually find myself coming back to classical music, when I need to let go, when I need to find myself again. Still the music within me, has never wanted to voice itself completely through either classical or folk music, I guess I have always been a bit different. I suppose it is a truth that I have very diverse musical influences. How do you pick through the the memories of music and choose what most influenced me when I cannot even name of the most influential songs?
Once, I went to a dress rehearsal of the philharmonic's benefit concert, I was, I think 16 at the time. I listened and thought it was "pretty" until these two men walked onto the stage in their tattered blue jeans and faded T-shirts. They sung a song of such exquisite beauty that the tears rolled down my cheeks, unhindered, unwiped, so mesmerizing were they. That, is inspiration: a connection to a moment that those men created. A moment in which we were all sharing the same breath, our hearts sung the same song. Did I decide to be a singer then? No. But that was most certainly one of the more influential musical moments of my life. Just as each drop makes an ocean, so does each song I have ever heard filled my own music. I love so many different musicians and types of music, from Rachmaninoff to Enya, and it all has helped to create my music. But as to style, I guess Loreena McKennitt is my greatest influence. I have loved her music from the very first note on the very first song I heard, many many years ago. She is an inspiration to me. She is the only artist in which I can listen to every single one of her CD's all the way through and love every song. Amazing! Other influences include Tori Amos, Jewel and Sarah McLachlan.