Musical Journey

6 minute read

It’s been a very long time since I wrote a journal. I did it many moons ago, and some of you who read those journal entries are still hanging with me today. I could wrap my heart around you. I write to you from a place that bears quite a bit of resemblance to my 21 year-old self…i feel like the world is ahead of me once again. The tightrope of solitude is once again mine. Well, not when the kids are singing nonsense and doing body tattoos jacked up on cupcake sugar. But, perhaps we are all alone at the end of the day.

Maybe I should take this time to re-acquaint myself with old friends, and introduce myself to new friends. My name is Emm. It was not my birth-name. I was named Mary after my grandmother Mary McCabe, an irish-Canadian bad-ass who smoked cigarettes and played the piano and raised two kids on her own. I grew up in the countryside where there was literally nothing to do but watch paint dry on a porch, learn the piano and the dance steps of Madonna, and later Axl Rose. I learned piano from the age of 5 and started writing songs at age 10. By 14 I was playing the bass, the first song I played on bass was Free Fallin by Tom Petty. My computer insists on changing that to Free Ballin.

I rejected a career in journalism to make records. I made my first real record at 21 in London and had a brief rendezvous with a major label. Though my picture was blown up on the walls of the big skyscraper in Manhattan, and though they’d send around limousines and tell me I was gonna take over the world, I never believed in it, but instead, felt sure of the healing power of music, it’s power to connect and empower people, to break down boundaries and just get you the fuck through life.

At 24 I started singing with David Bowie and through that experience of being on late night shows, touring Europe and headlining Glastonbury I was humbled, turned off of fame, but inspired forever by a beautiful, funny, intelligent soul. I curled up next to him in a studio in New York for a little nap, we went to see shows together, we weren’t friends but we got each other. I spent time with him during what I would consider was one of the happiest times in his life, before his daughter was born. He was still smoking a million Marlboros and laughed with his whole body. From David I learned the joy of being curious about life and music, and that that curiosity should not be limited by age or where you come from. I learned about treating people with respect, keeping my sense of humour intact and to always do what interests you, before trying to please others. It strikes me now, as I write this, that the lessons I learned then…possibly overshadowed by the glitz of the touring lifestyle, the fashion lessons, the first class travel and hotels…are somehow more relevant to me now than ever.

I’ll leave the life story there for now, but I’ll say that I consider myself extremely lucky. Sure, i set out at age 19 to sell a million records, but in many ways, I’ve been liberated by the rejection of that plan. As soon as that plan failed to make sense to me, I abandoned it. And now I live what I consider a happy balance. I can shop at the grocery store without people asking for an autograph, but I can play to audiences who I love and I believe love my music. I love real life, I love walks with my kids, holding their little hands, I love getting to know new people, in the words of Peter Gabriel, I love to be loved. And seeing through that illusionary veil of celebrity was an early lesson, and learning it quickly allowed me to carve out the kind of life I want to live. That being said, I can’t live this nice balanced life without your support, so to you I say thank you: for sending a note, a comment, a letter, for coming to a show, for buying 25 different records made by someone with vastly shifting tastes in music, and because you’re reading this or listening to it, I thank you for sending me on the next phase of my musical journey.

An A&R woman once mocked me for using the phrase “musical journey”. Maybe it sounded too cheesy. Maybe it sounded pretentious. Maybe it didn’t sound pretentious enough! Maybe she didn’t like it because it had the band name “Journey” in it. But as a celebration of my independence, and the joy of letting go of people who hold you back (and mock things you say), I’m going to keep say it over and over again, and you can say it with me. Musical journey. Musical journey. Musical journey. MUSICAL JOURNEY. It’s mine and it’s yours, with nobody in between.