Fucking Hell

6 min 30 sec read

Just my luck. Four solo shows booked this year and I happened to get sick right before the first one.

A frenzy of vocal maintenance has earmarked this week. Luckily my vocal coach Mitch has been readily available on text. He encouraged me to “think like an injured athlete” and make everything stretchy and don’t push. Warm-ups were essential but I only did about 10 minutes as opposed to 40. I felt like i might lose my voice in Forest and in St. Marys but another one of my saving graces was having John Hazen and Darryl Lahteenmaa in charge of the sound. Knowing they would boost my mic level and ensure the band stays at a manageable volume gave me great confidence. Songs like “Stereochrome” and “Gold Soul” were the most challenging. Hydration, green tea, zinc, the help of lots of friends including my fan/friend Sandra... were key. I also have to thank my doctor Mike Trevail who prescribed some steroids which I am positive helped me make sound at the St. Marys show.

I also had to parent through the show weekend which added a bit of extra duty to everything.

In the video I’ve posted this week, I do an interview with the London Free Press. I’m not used to talking about my personal life, but since it is intertwined with the new record, there’s some point to discussing it.

I’ve also been tip-toeing around the subject for over a year, partly because I like to protect my heart and those around me, but also possibly because talking about major upheaval somehow makes it more real. I also am keenly aware that as bad as my problems can seem, there is always someone out there with deeper heartbreak.

So last September my partner of many many years and I separated. It happened on my 12th anniversary, though we had been together for 16 years. We were deeply in love, but overwhelmed by life and we had a problem making time for one another. Yes I am a wandering musician, and he is a rebel artist, and we were navigating parenting, life, running a household and in my heart of hearts, I always thought we would be together. Our kids were just about to both go to school and I was sure we were about to hit the proverbial sweet spot, where I would finally get some freedom back and I could really step back and take a look at where we were headed together.

I didn’t see the break-up coming, and there are so many layers to it, I won’t even begin to go into them now. In retrospect, I gave up a lot of myself to protect someone I loved. I did this almost from day one. The cost of doing that meant that my partner and I never really talked about the problems we were enduring, not in any real, difficult-to-do, heart-to-heart way. And when you stop talking to each other, life takes over. I felt very unloved for a lot of the time I was married, and I looked for that love in other places - traveling, friends, music. I was under the false impression that once things calmed down after having kids, that my partner and I would reconnect. We never got that chance, and we never will.

I used to come out of the Grand Theatre in October where I was doing the Joni Mitchell play, and see the office building where he worked looming over me. There would be couples getting married at the church across the street. I was so glad I had the obligations of being in that play to distract me from real life.

To this day, I see people having babies, getting married and blissfully in love, and I wink to myself, knowing that it will all fall apart for them too. Most likely. That what is meant to be a promise of happiness is often a very hard road ahead. At the same time, I looked at other couples who were doing well and I was grateful to see how they could be best friends to one another. I encouraged everyone around me to work on their relationships, to check in with each other and do the hard work of really getting to the bottom of problems.

Over a year later, there’s still a long way to go, and it seems cliche and almost cheap to say that music helped me through this time. It’s more complicated than that. And I certainly wouldn’t trade a marriage for album material.

But as much as the first Only of Earth album is written about my entire life story, so much of this year is a massive chapter in it. The making of the music doesn’t solve anything, but the way it was made - with many musicians giving so generously, including Greg Lowe who played during the last months of his life when he could have been doing any number of other things…and that I believe there is an element of bravery in it…was like glue for the cracks on my heart. Your notes, your comments, your letters and stories…some of you have lost people close to you, and it signifies that we are all together. Ultimately, we are all alone. Greg said this to me before he left us. I put that line in “The Passing of Ayro”. Because it’s true, and even though it is, after this year I feel that we don’t have to endure things alone. I know kindness and love are the only way through to the other side.

So that’s all I say on that. Maybe some of you have been in a situation where you say, “I can’t believe this is happening to me”. It’s almost like a bad Lifetime movie. But, I encourage you to find the good in the tragedies around you…

My daughter said “fucking hell” at school last week. Of course, she got it from me. It was embarrassing - I had to tell the teachers that I say it sometimes, that I’ll watch my language, and I’ll have a chat with my daughter about appropriate language. My positive approach was to start a bad word jar at home. 25c goes in everytime anyone says a bad word and then we give it to charity when it’s full. But my daughter, who every day teaches me to be better, to be funnier, to be strong…took it one step further and announced we were starting a jar for when people say funny things and all the money that goes in we get to keep for ourselves.

And i thought, fucking hell, there’s someone seeing the bright side.