Kindness Brings Kindness: Baby Olivia’s Benefit

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I’ve always been happy to help people out when asked, but I’ve never considered myself particularly pro-active about it. I’ve supported causes, but I’ve always just kind of fallen into them…the causes have found me…and really, how hard is it to stand on stage and sing a few songs at a fundraiser, or donate a few CDs to a charity auction?

But over the past few years of touring and performing at charity events, I have been spending a lot of time with people who have accomplished incredible things, just through the power of their own passion and vision. They’re just normal people like you and me – not celebrities, not people with any qualifications or experience for event planning. But they have built fundraisers from the ground up…dreamed them up while sitting at their day job…recruited volunteers…asked for help…worked tirelessly…and ended up creating something that has changed people’s lives.

So when I found out that my friends and co-writers Rachel Proctor and John Lancaster were struggling under the weight of the medical debt for their baby Olivia’s heart surgeries (she was born with a heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot), the first thing that crossed my mind was that somebody should put on a benefit show for them. And then I thought…wait…why does it have to be someone else? What if I actually took responsibility to try and change things for this family?

Over the next few weeks as I planned the event, there were a lot of little doubting voices in my head, saying things like: “What qualifies YOU to do something like this? What right do you have to think you could take this responsibility on? Surely somebody else could do a better job. What if you botch this and ruin this family’s chance for getting proper help? What makes you think anyone is going to call you back when you ask them to contribute? How much do you wanna bet that this whole thing is going to fall apart at the last minute because you don’t know what you’re doing? I bet nobody’s even going to come to the event.”

Well, the doubting voices were wrong. People came, and the seats were filled. Six massive hit songwriters called me back when I asked them for help, and they performed their songs for the cause out of the goodness of their hearts. Gary Allan agreed to headline the show, and also to meet and greet two auction winners who paid over $1000 each for the opportunity. Facebook friends from far and near donated at the fundraising site we built online, many of whom had no connection whatsoever with Baby Olivia or her family. Twenty-five people donated their services and items to a silent auction that raised thousands of dollars. Audience members donated at the door – some gave as much as $1000 – because we didn’t ask for a cover charge, we just asked people to give whatever they could.

Now that the event is finished, and with just a couple of online auctions left to close, we have raised over $16,000 for Olivia’s fund. That’s enough to pay her existing medical bills off entirely, and to save a little towards her final heart catheterization scheduled for this summer.

Yesterday, Rachel texted me and said “I woke up this morning and felt like a giant weight has been lifted off my chest.” She and John have been in tears, unable to find the words to express their gratitude. But the truth is, I’m the one who’s grateful.

I’m grateful for the little voice that said “Vic, why don’t YOU do it?” I’m grateful for a huge network of friends, neighbors, co-workers and even strangers who answered when I asked them for help. I’m grateful for the chance to stand with Baby Olivia in my arms beside a stage full of incredible performers and feel her little head rest against my shoulder, almost like she knows that I’ve been a part of something that will make her life better.

I’m grateful for the knowledge that you don’t have to try to change the world, because the world is changed when you just help one person. Kindness brings kindness. Love brings more love. And because all you can leave behind when you’re gone is the mark you have made on other people’s lives, so it’s nice to think that my little mark will be carried around next to the surgical scars somewhere inside Olivia’s tiny, beautiful, incredibly strong heart.

For more information about baby Olivia, or to donate online, visit http://www.youcaring.com/oliviasfund

 

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Another Whirlwind Weekend at the 2012 CCMAs

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As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in my hotel bed during the first few hours of down time before I catch a plane home from another whirlwind Canadian Country Music Week. Last night’s CBC-televised CCMA Awards broadcast from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was just the finale to an event that started last Thursday, when I flew in from Nashville.

This annual event is always a bit of a marathon, packed with performances, media interviews, meetings, fan meet and greets, industry cocktail parties, gala events, rehearsals, and jam sessions that last all night long. Put this many musicians in one place, and you’re not gonna get much sleep, but you’re also gonna be thoroughly entertained. It’s kind of like an annual reunion for the family of Canadian country artists, road musicians, managers, agents, producers, songwriters, talent buyers, promoters, radio and TV broadcasters, print media, and quite a few fans too. You can’t walk more than 5 steps without getting a big hug from someone that you know from some aspect of the business. It’s a pretty cool thing.

The televised awards represent just a small portion of the celebrations for the weekend. I performed between awards presentations at the Industry Brunch, backed by the incredibly talented duo Pear. I shared the stage with Lori McKenna in the Songwriters’ Café, and was just mesmerized by her music. I also got to cheer on my friend and mentor, Ralph Murphy, during the Gala Awards as he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, which was a wonderful moment.

The day of the televised show is an absolute whirlwind for the nominees. If the fans knew everything that goes on behind the scenes to make this show work, they would be blown away. I was delivered to the arena by the transportation team 8 hours before the show kicked off to be primped, preened, hairsprayed and mascara-ed to the hilt by a team of makeup artists, wrangled around the building by a team of ear-radio-wearing assistants, interviewed and filmed backstage by a team of media, escorted onstage for a series of run-throughs surrounded by scurrying camera teams with a constantly changing teleprompter script. I was driven in a red Mustang to walk the “John Deere green” carpet lined with thousands of fans calling my name for autographs, escorted through a media tent to deliver a series of quick soundbite interviews to everyone from CMT to local cable stations, posed in front of a backdrop for a team of photographers, and finally delivered back to my chair in the second row of the arena for the kickoff of the show at 5pm. Seated in between Miranda Lambert and Jason Aldean, I watched Taylor Swift introduce the Female Artist category and cheered on my fellow nominee Carolyn Dawn Johnson who was crowned this year’s winner. I shared the stage with Aaron Pritchett to present the Stellas with the Video of the Year trophy, and watched fantastic performances by my friends in the industry, and finally got to change out of my painfully high heels to hit the after parties where more jams ensue every year until about 4am.

I think I’m gonna need about a week to recover from this, but it was worth it! Now, time to re-pack my bags with the 20 different outfits from the weekend, and off to Nashville. Next stop, American tour!

 

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Some of my Favourite Quotes

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. – Wayne Dyer

Do not regret growing older.  It’s a privilege denied to many. – Unknown

If you don’t believe in miracles, perhaps you’ve forgotten you ARE one. – Unknown

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. – John Watson

Finish each day and be done with it.  You have done what you could.  Some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can.  Tomorrow is a new day.  You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice. – Unknown

We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather recognizing what we do have. – Frederick Keonig

When it comes to the bouncy castle, I do not care about how old I am.  I am going in. – thatonerule.com

No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everyone on the couch. – 125pounds.com

The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison. – Ann Wigmore

Courage does not always roar.  Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying “I will try again tomorrow”. – Mary Anne Radmacher

What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you think the grass is greener on the other side, it’s because it’s fertilized with bullshit. – Unknown

21 Suggestions for Success:

  1. Marry the right person.  This one decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery.
  2. Work at something you enjoy and that’s worthy of your time and talent.
  3. Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.
  4. Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know.
  5. Be forgiving of yourself and others.
  6. Be generous.
  7. Have a grateful heart.
  8. Persistence, persistence, persistence.
  9. Discipline yourself to save money even on the most modest salary.
  10. Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated.
  11. Commit yourself to constant improvement.
  12. Commit yourself to quality.
  13. Understand that happiness is not based on possessions, power, prestige, but on relationships with people you love and respect.
  14. Be loyal.
  15. Be honest.
  16. Be a self-starter.
  17. Be decisive even if it means you’ll sometimes be wrong.
  18. Stop blaming others. Take responsibility for every area of your life.
  19. Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.
  20. Take good care of those you love.
  21. Don’t do anything that wouldn’t make your mom proud.

- H. Jackson Brown Jr.

*****

Interested in more behind-the-scenes musings about songwriting, creativity, the Nashville music biz and life in general, along with some free songs? Sign up for my email newsletter here.

 

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Doing the Work

I haven’t blogged much lately. Sorry about that. It’s just that I’ve been really busy doing the work.

When people ask me what kind of work I do, I always tell them that I have the best job in the world: I’m a staff songwriter! And usually, in return, I get an incredulous stare. People can’t believe that you can write songs for a living. And pretty soon, that incredulity turns into a smile that says “wow, that’s a sweet gig”. Sweet, in this case, meaning easy. However, there I’d have to disagree.

Being a staff songwriter is an amazing job. But it’s not for the faint of heart.

It IS getting tougher and tougher to do it, and there are fewer and fewer of us doing it successfully (there are only 10% of us in the business now compared to the numbers of us when I started out 15 years ago), but that’s another blog entry about how 70% of downloaded music is stolen these days. I’ll save that one for another time.

To write for a living, you need to spend every waking hour thinking of song ideas. I mean when you’re watching TV, going to the movies, sitting in a coffee shop and talking to your friends – nothing that you see, hear, think, smell or taste is off limits. You can get song ideas from your trips to the grocery store, your meditations, even from the dreams you dream when you’re fast asleep at night. And especially, you mine your heartaches, explore your fears, and collect your most personal emotions – because those make the best songs of all.

You collect those ideas in a hook book, or in snippets of melody recorded into your computer, and you stockpile them…you’re gonna need them.

In Nashville, you’re gonna be collaborating with other songwriters or artists 4 or 5 days a week. That means you’re in the office, butt in the chair, at the keyboard or behind your guitar, coming up with a new original song every day of the week. You start at about 10:30 in the morning (after a couple hours of preparation – I’ll tell you about that later) and you work until the song is done or until the song defeats you enough that you need to stop and schedule another date. Many pro songwriters schedule 2, or even 3 cowrites in a day. You find your own balance between quantity and quality, but either way, it’s the kind of concentration that can make it feel like your brain is bleeding out your ear day after day. For every staff songwriter, there are 100 people out there who would kill to have the job. For every song that’s recorded and released to earn money, there are 1000 songs out there that were turned down and didn’t earn a cent. So you need to stay on the ball and be as productive as possible. Sure, there are some of us who get off easy and have success quickly, but as a whole, the songwriters I know are some of the hardest working people I’ve ever met.

Songwriting is not just the time you spend dreaming up hooks or sitting in the co-writing chair. You also spend a lot of time preparing for your cowrites. If you’re writing with an artist, you should listen to their music to figure out their style, study their vocal range so you know what your melodic limitations are, and also do some research on their life so you know what kind of ideas might catch their interest. If you’re working with an artist who doesn’t have a lot of songwriting experience, which is often the case, you will be responsible for the lion’s share of the collaboration – but you will need to draw from that artist’s life experience and learn how to use their instrument (voice) in a way that works for both of you.

Co-writing is like being on a series of blind dates. You just have a few hours to meet someone for the first time, tell each other your life stories, and then write a song from the bottom of your hearts. You can’t be shy, and you can’t hold back, even if you feel like you’re talking about intimate experiences with a stranger. You also need to be tuned in and listening to what’s going on in your subconscious brain – melodies, thoughts, little whispers in your ear – and you need to be able to multitask by doing that while carrying on a conversation with your cowriter. Not everyone is comfortable with silence, so that can be a tough balance to strike in a co-write – the sharing versus listening balance. Some writers have more internal processes than others.

In between writing songs, part of your job will be to go into the studio and produce demo sessions. You’ll have about 30 minutes per song with 6 musicians, a singer and a couple of engineers, and you’re responsible for making sure your song comes out on budget and sounding like a record. In order to do that, many of us also learn audio engineering in order to cut costs and use home studio software such as ProTools. That’s a whole other learning curve!

Finally, one of the most important things you’ll need to learn as a staff songwriter is resilience. You’ll struggle to make ends meet on a poverty-line salary – sometimes even after you’ve had hits to your name (this business has a very short memory for success). You’ll be signed by a company that thinks you hung the moon…and then you’ll be dropped a year later because your songs didn’t have the success they were expected to have, no matter how good the songs are or how hard you worked. You’ll be told that one of your songs is about to be recorded by Carrie Underwood…and then it won’t be. You’ll be told your song will be a Kenny Chesney/Tim McGraw duet by the end of the day…and then it won’t make it out of the studio. You might even be told your song is on a record, and then buy the record at Walmart, only to find that it was dropped from the album at the last minute. You’ll be so used to having your heart broken that you’ll start promising yourself not to get excited about anything.

But you have to get excited. You have to keep that hunger, keep writing, and keep that sense that anything is possible, or else you’ll lose your spark. Staying positive in the face of constant “no, that’s not good enough” is a tough thing to do. And maybe somewhere along the way you’ll have a moment when you get to hear one of your songs coming through the radio speakers, and that’s gonna be a pretty amazing moment. But that’s not the moment that makes it all worthwhile. What makes it all worthwhile is being fully present in every day, taking responsibility for doing the work, and experiencing the joy of doing something that you love.

Staff writing jobs are fewer and farther between every day. There’s no retirement plan for a staff songwriter. There’s no career advancement for effort put in. You work on a series of short term contracts, so you’re never guaranteed a job for more than 2 years at a time. There’s no benefits package or medical insurance – you have to figure that stuff out on your own. So maybe someday, it’s just gonna be too tough to keep doing it. But for now, if you ask me what I do for a living, I’m still gonna tell you that I’ve got the best job in the world: I’m a staff songwriter.

*****

Interested in more behind-the-scenes musings about songwriting, creativity, the Nashville music biz and life in general, along with some free songs? Sign up for my email newsletter here.

 

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One Crazy Summer

It’s been a while since I posted a diary entry. Forgive me. It’s been a crazy summer so far, and it’s only getting crazier!

Every week from Monday to Thursday, I co-write songs and produce and sing demos for pitching in Nashville, where I work full time as a staff songwriter for BMG Chrysalis Publishing. Then I spend Fridays flying to Canada, Saturdays performing at various summer festivals, and Sundays flying home to Nashville.

In June, I had the chance to help raise funds for Alberta’s Slave Lake fire victims through CBC’s televised Slave Lake fundraiser in Edmonton. I also spent Canada Day performing at a benefit concert in Slave Lake itself, where it took my breath away to view the destruction first hand. In July I opened for Creedence Clearwater Revival at Grande Prairie’s Bud Country Fever Festival, sampled gourmet food while performing at Park City Utah’s Bluebird Café at Promontory, and most recently, opened for The Judds and Jason Aldean at Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose, Alberta.

My new single, “I’m Gone” (the second single from my new “Never Be The Same” CD), has also been climbing the chart over the past few weeks. Keep an eye out for the accompanying video too. We shot it in beautiful Calgary, Alberta and it airs regularly on CMT Canada.

Coming up, I’ll be performing at the Kamloops Appreciation Celebration (Aug 11), Havelock Jamboree (Aug 19), Lucknow’s Music in the Fields (Aug 27), Huntsville’s YWCA Fundraiser at the Algonquin Theatre (Sept 3), Paris Fair (Sept 4), the Canadian Country Music Awards weekend (Sept 10-12), and opening a string of dates for Reba McEntire in Fort McMurray Alberta (Sept 1), Halifax (Sept 26), and St. John’s Newfoundland (Sept 29 & 30)…as well as helping to headline Moose Jaw’s wonderful breast cancer fundraiser Concert of Hope yet again this year (Oct 1). Check out the tour page of my victoriabanks.net website for details on the shows.

And after that, I’m taking a break, taking a breath, and taking some time off to get married! Dave and I are planning our Connecticut wedding on Canadian Thanksgiving in October, and a subsequent tropical honeymoon in the South Pacific. We can’t wait!

I’m super busy, but I’m definitely not complaining. I am doing what I love to do, and I wouldn’t trade a moment of it!

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A Diamond Ring at the Mother Church

They say that the Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry, is the Mother Church of Country Music. That may be the case, but the Mother Church of Songwriting is Nashville’s Bluebird Café.

Much like the songwriters who frequent the Bluebird, the café is understated. It’s not glamorous. It hides away in a little strip mall in the outskirts of town. But for decades, the best songwriters in the world have performed there.

For years, I have visited the Bluebird Café, sitting in the “cheap seats” – the old wooden pews in the corner of the room. I sat there with my heart busting open on my first visit to Nashville, listening to my heroes perform the songs I grew up on. I sat there through my years as a struggling, unknown writer, soaking in the magic and hoping it would rub off on me. I sat there through love and loss and heartache in my personal life, when it was all I could do to drag myself off my tearstained pillow to get there. Through it all, I always found comfort and strength and inspiration in the songs I heard there. If the Bluebird isn’t a church, I don’t know what is.

Last night, I got to perform my own songs at the Bluebird, for my “Never Be the Same” CD release party. The audience was full of familiar faces. There were fans there who have followed my career for years, from my early days as a struggling songwriter. There were co-writers there who have shared those struggles with me, and there were friends there who have given me a hand to hold when I needed it most. As a performing songwriter, your life is an open book, and I was surrounded by people who have been there in one way or another every step of the way through some of the darkest times in my life. A lot of the songs on my record are about those tough times, the healing process that follows, and the journey to finding strength and love again. To sing those songs together with my dear friends was an experience I’ll always remember.

Just to have a night like that would have been enough. But I had no idea how amazing the night would turn out to be.

As I was wrapping up the show, my sweetheart announced that he had a surprise for me. He walked on stage, sat at the keyboard, and played a beautiful song that he had written for me. And then he got down on one knee and proposed to me.

Last night I got engaged to the love of my life, with his grandfather’s diamond and a song sung from the heart, surrounded by my dearest friends, in my church, the Bluebird Café.

I couldn’t have written it better if it was a song.

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I Will Never Be The Same

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My new album, “Never Be The Same”, will be released to stores across Canada this Tuesday, April 26th!!

Like my first CD, “When You Can Fly”, this record is self-produced – believe me, you don’t have to do much producing when you surround yourself with the best studio musicians Nashville has to offer and grammy-winning engineer Eric Legg to man the mixing board – and it has been a labour of love from top to bottom.  It’s a collection of the most honest songs I’ve written over the past decade, so it covers a lot of ground.  It traces my steps through love and loss: escaping from an abusive relationship, rediscovering my own strength and getting back on my feet, grieving the death of a parent, learning that scars can make you beautiful, falling in love again and finding joy in the simple things in life.  In the words of the title track, “I have lived and learned and healed and hurt and laughed and cursed and prayed, and I will never be the same.”

The songs on this record are torchy, swampy, rocking, poppy, acoustic, introspective, and everything in between.  I hope it makes you crank the volume up and sing along.  I hope it gives you those delicious goosebumps that come from music that touches the heart.  And I hope it makes you cry those good tears – the uplifting kind that make you feel better for having cried them.

I dedicated this album to my fans – I hope it gives you as much enjoyment and inspiration as you give me.

And to my mom – who taught me how to sing constantly, laugh outrageously, and dance uphill when it gets too hard to walk.

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My Movie Debut

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I had the incredible experience of acting on film for the first time last week.  I played a supporting role in a Christmas movie shot up in Langley, BC with a wonderful cast and crew that took me under their wings to help me learn the ropes.  Here are just a few of the things I learned….

Learn your lines.

I only had a few days to drill my character’s lines of dialogue into my head, so I spoke them to the mirror, said them to the walls of my hotel room, walked the streets and whispered them under my breath like a crazy person, recorded the cue lines and spoke my answers back to them while I drove around, and finally I rehearsed them with friends.  And thank GOD I did all the preparation, because once you’re on set, the pressure is on!  I sure wouldn’t have wanted to trade places with the lead actress, who was in every scene of the movie (and seemed totally capable of learning dialogue 5 minutes before she spoke it!)

Learn the lingo.

Your “call sheet” is your lifeline – it’ll be waiting in your trailer every morning to tell you where to be and when, which scenes/pages of the script are being shot, which days in the storyline you’re shooting for continuity purposes, and the names and jobs of everyone on the set.  If someone tells you to report to “the circus”, that’s the area where all the trailers are parked. If they ask you if you want to “travel”, don’t say “I’ve always wanted to go to Italy”…that actually is a term that means going from the circus to the set.  If they offer you a “cozy”, take it – that’s a warm and unglamorous coat, usually 10 sizes too big, that the actors practically live in until the cameras start rolling (along with warm booties).  You’ll be glad to have it when you’re shooting a scene in a thin shirt in freezing weather, as opposed to your “picture coat” which is part of your character’s wardrobe, is probably stuck into shape with double sided tape, and will inevitably wrinkle if you sit down in it.

Hit your mark.

When you start working on shooting a scene, the first thing you do is “block” it.  The director arranges all of the actors in their positions and walks you through the scene.  Each time you stop somewhere, someone swoops in with a roll of tape in your specifically assigned colour and makes a “T” on the floor where you’re standing – that’s your “mark”.  When the cameras start rolling, you must “hit your marks” and stand in those places.  If you miss by an inch, you’ll be off camera or blocking the shot for someone else, so it’s crucial that you do it right.  And it gets even harder, because for the actual shot, your big “T” on the floor becomes a teeny tiny dot of tape masked in black marker. Plus, on camera you can’t get caught looking down to see if you’re standing on your mark!!  So you have to either find it off camera and aim for it when you walk into the shot, or count your steps and hit it blindly for mid-scene marks.  Not easy!

Get used to your props.

As soon as the director shouts “ACTION!”, everything suddenly feels very foreign…the doorknob won’t turn, you’re tripping down stairs, and you’re putting your coat on inside out.  I played a nurse, so my acting coach warned me to ask for my stethoscope and wear it for as long as I could before shooting my scenes.  I tried to put it on and take it off over and over again until it was second nature, and I still hit myself in the face with it a few times on camera.  I also had to take someone’s blood pressure, so part of my job was to watch a bunch of YouTube videos to see exactly how the cuff is positioned, how you pump it up, and how to put the stethoscope on the brachial artery.

Expect to be primped, preened and picked at constantly.

The moment the director calls “CUT”, people will come running out of nowhere.  Makeup will be re-applying your powder, Hair will be curling your locks, Wardrobe will be rolling your pants with a lint brush, Lighting will be holding a light meter an inch from your nose, and someone from Sound will be sticking his hand inside your shirt to reposition your microphone (which is wired to a small pack that fits on your belt or around your ankle).

A scene takes a long time to shoot.

Shooting just ONE scene when you’re an actor goes something like this….  Go through hair/makeup/wardrobe, hop the shuttle over to set, get your props, block the scene, take a 20 minute break while cameras/lights are set up.  Rehearse the scene, tweak the lights, marks and cameras, finalize hair/makeup/wardrobe, shoot the scene a couple of times with a wide angle, 20 minute break.  Fix hair, makeup and wardrobe, set new marks, shoot the scene a few more times from another angle, shuttle back to “the circus” for lunch.  Hair/makeup/wardrobe again, go to set, get your props, move the furniture around and block a completely different mark for your close-up and re-set cameras/lights.  Shoot your closeup a few times, delivering your lines to your co-actors off camera (if they’re on set with you – otherwise you deliver them to a barrel with a stick on top or something).  Break to re-set cameras/lights and furniture.  Shoot a close-up on the actor you’re talking to by contorting yourself into some ridiculously tiny corner right next to the camera and sitting on an apple crate to play your side of the scene off camera so the actor can interact with you with the proper “eyeline”.  It’s really all quite glamorous…and on the screen, it looks like it just took 45 seconds.

Acting is WAY harder than it looks.

I was so blessed to work with two great acting coaches during the shoot, I learned that preparing not just about learning your lines, it’s about dissecting every scene you’re in.  I created a chart summarizing my relationship to every person in the scene with me (including the unnamed extras).  I answered questions like: “What happens in this scene (in one sentence)?” “What must be true about this scene?” ”Why is this scene lucky to have you in it as an actor? “  We took my dialogue apart, so each line of my script became a road map of different thoughts, motivations and emotions directed at different characters.   We underlined the certain important anchor lines to be delivered in a way that stood out from the others.  We created spaces between the lines where I was saying things inside my head instead of speaking them out loud.

Plus, when the cameras started rolling for my close-ups, I had to be constantly reminded not to move my head so much, not to scrunch up my forehead, and to find an internal calmness that’s a bit elusive with cameras and lights and boom mics right in your face.  And all this just to come across like a normal human being!

Working with great actors lifts your performance to another level.

I know actors always say this, but it’s really true!  The lead role – my sister – was played by a wonderful actress named Erin Karpluk (from CBC’s “Being Erica”).  We had a pretty intense scene together where I had to give her some “tough love”.  In real life, confrontation makes me uncomfortable, so it’s a bit of a struggle for me to be blunt and direct with a stranger.  But when she delivered her lines to me, she made me love her and be exasperated with her at the same time, just like a sister would.  So it felt natural.

There was another scene when we were drinking apple cider at a party together, and before the cameras even started rolling, she turned to me and said “Remember when we were kids and Mom used to let us have cider?”  It totally put me in the moment, and her generosity helped to put you me in character.

My movie “family” really did feel like my family.  We shot a scene by the sickbed of my ailing grandfather (played by the amazing Shakespearean actor John Innes), and in between takes I caught myself staring at him sadly and feeling really worried about him.  And my movie mom, Rebecca Toolan (Fox Mulder’s mom from X Files), was fantastic – off camera, she called me “kiddo” and jokingly disciplined my “sister” and I when we started poking fun at each other.

Anyhow, I did my best at jumping in with both feet, so here’s hoping the final product turns out OK!  I’m so very grateful for this experience and to everyone in the cast and crew who opened their arms to me and made a newbie like me feel so welcome!  I’ll keep you posted when the show airs.

P.S. Click here to hear and purchase my 2 soundtrack songs from the film.

P.P.S. Click here to view our behind-the-scenes cast interview featurette.

*****

Interested in more behind-the-scenes musings about songwriting, creativity, the Nashville music biz and life in general, along with some free songs? Sign up for my email newsletter here.

 

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Another Miracle in Saskatchewan

I can’t even begin to explain the generosity that I’ve witnessed as part of the national cast of the 35th annual Telemiracle – a telethon for special needs here in Saskatchewan.

I can tell you that a six-year-old girl collected $80 in donations instead of birthday presents at her birthday party.  That a local hospital patient walked his IV pole around the ward for an hour to collect $700 in last-minute donations.  That a local corporation pledged to match every dollar collected during a one-hour period of the telethon, and ended up writing a cheque for $250,000.

I can tell you that a man who is unable to speak past the trach tube in his throat organized a bake sale and raised over $1000 from his hospital bed, and then parked his wheelchair in the theatre alongside hundreds of others for 20 hours straight to watch every minute of the telethon.

I can tell you what it’s like to hold a photograph in my shaking hands on live TV, take a big breath to hold back the tears, and announce that at her death, this lady with the beautiful smile had left a bequest of $60,000 to help those in need.

I can tell you what it’s like to look into the eyes of a 34-year-old woman who would never have survived past her first birthday if her family hadn’t had the access to the funding Telemiracle provided to keep her prematurely-born body alive.  Or a 7-year old child who now has a Day Care center that can provide him with the medical care he needs, and that can stay open all night long to give his parents a night of respite.  Or a young woman who can live independently in her own apartment because of the mechanical lift that helps her from her bed to her wheelchair.  Or the little boy who can run across the room into his mother’s arms because of the dollars Telemiracle provided to send him to a hospital that was able to cast and re-align his legs that were hopelessly twisted at birth.

I can tell you what it’s like to stand on a stage in tears after 20 hours of live television, looking up at a grand total of $4,635,768 raised by a province of 1 million people.

I can tell you that it was an honour and a priviledge to play a small part in something so incredible, and that my heart is overflowing this morning as I board my flight back to Nashville.  Thank you, Saskatchewan.

Posted in Blogs

BRING ON THE NEW STUFF!!!

We’ve had some “snow days” here in Nashville this winter (Canadians, insert scornful laugh here), so it’s been a good time to be indoors avoiding the 2 inches of snow that shut the city down.  So what have I been doing to pass the time?

Recording a new CD – YAY!!!

Having new photos taken – YAY!!!

Building a new website – YAY!!!

Writing new songs – YAY!!!

Having knee surgery – YAY!!!

(Well, not so much yay for that last one, but you can’t win ‘em all.)

I’m seriously excited about this new CD.  It digs even deeper than the last one in a lot of ways.  There are a few of my favourite songs on there that I have saved over the years specifically for my second CD, and there are some brand new ones on there too.  The CD itself will be coming out in April, but you won’t have to wait that long to get a taste of it because the first single because it will be sent out to Canadian radio on Valentine’s Day.

On that same day, I’ll be unveiling my brand new website at victoriabanks.net, with new pics and new material on there for you to explore.

And in the meantime, I’m crutching around like Tiny Tim, recovering from this knee surgery, so I can perfect my David Lee Roth split jump in time for touring season this spring.

I’ll keep you posted as things unfold!!

Posted in Blogs

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