My Wish Book

I have a special keepsake from back in the days before I moved to Nashville.  I call it my “wish book”.  It’s just a dog-eared little green pocket-sized binder, but hundreds of hours of work went into that book.

I used to come home from a double shift of waiting tables (or one of the other four jobs that eventually paid my way to Nashville), turn on CMT, watch for a song that really moved me and then write the names of the songwriters in that book.  Other nights, I would work the closing shift at the record store, stay into the wee hours of the night listening to new CDs, and crank the speakers until the floors shook while I copied songwriters’ names from the tiny liner notes into my book.

It wasn’t just a notebook of names, really.  It was more than that.  Each page in that book represented someone that I aspired to be.  A master songwriter.  Someone who touches your life…makes you laugh…makes you cry…someone that you respect.  Writing down those names was like making a wish.  Someday, I wanted to meet these people, to hear them perform, to learn the secrets of the craft from them and maybe – if the stars lined up right – to even count myself as one of them.

By the time I moved to Nashville to pursue songwriting, the book was getting pretty thick, and I knew it like the back of my hand.  If you had told me you liked the song “Strawberry Wine”, I would have pulled out the book, showed you Matraca Berg’s page, and showed you that she also wrote “You Can Feel Bad if it Makes You Feel Better”, “Wrong Side of Memphis”, “Wild Angels”, and “Everybody Knows”.  If “When You Say Nothing At All” came on the radio, I would show you Don Schlitz’s page (“The Gambler”, “Forever and Ever Amen”, “I Think About You”).  If you were singing along with “I Think I’m on a Roll Here in Little Rock” I would show you that Tom Douglas had also written “Something Worth Leaving Behind”, “My Little Girl”, and “Love’s the Only House”.

I was thinking about this today as I was driving through Nashville on my way home from a co-writing appointment.  I had a vision of myself ten years ago, sitting in that chair in front of the TV set in Toronto with my sore feet soaking in a bucket of hot water, writing Tom Douglas’s name in that little green binder.

Today I wrote a song with Tom Douglas.

And this summer, I performed with Don Schlitz in a songwriters’ round.

And last year, I hugged Matraca Berg as she walked off stage from her induction into the Nashville Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.

Sometimes you don’t realize how far you’ve come until you look back at where you started.

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Best and Worst of the Road

In the last 4 1/2 weeks of this cross-Canada radio tour, I have…

Been interviewed on air at 21 radio stations

Played 36 performances

Filmed 9 TV shows

Visited 8 provinces

Taken 15 flights

Ridden in 31 taxis/shuttles

Stayed in 12 hotels

Rented 6 cars

Visited 19 cities

Thank you to ALL of the radio stations that invited me for a visit – it was so nice to feel so welcomed – and to all of the fans who joined me for shows and meet & greets along the way.

It ain’t over yet – now that I’ve finally hit the east coast it’s time to fly back to Dawson Creek, BC to open for Lonestar and then back to Ontario to play a couple of shows with Johnny Reid!  But since this marks the unofficial end of the radio tour portion of this trip, I thought it might be fun to list a few of the high and low points along the way….

BEST DINNER:

Lobster in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Tasted like heaven.  Although you do so much work cracking it open that you barely break even in calories.  (So I had to order mint chocolate chip ice cream cake for dessert.)

WORST DINNER:

A bag of Starbursts from Jason Aldean’s band’s dressing room in Calgary.  We were too exhausted to go and find food.  And the resulting sugar crash put us into a nice deep coma until our 4am wakeup call.

BEST HOTEL:

The Best Western in Chocolate Lake, Nova Scotia.  Because not only did it smell like chocolate (where on earth do you find chocolate flavoured air freshener?) but it also was decorated in chocolate leather furniture, had chocolate brown marble on the floor, had a chocolate finish on all of the wood, and had a resident chocolate Lab at the front desk named Cocoa.

WORST HOTEL:

I won’t name names here, but let’s just say there was one particular hotel where we wouldn’t take our shoes off and slept in our clothes. (And hey, I’ll lie down under my car and change the oil…so I’m not a squeamish girl.)

MOST INTERESTING HOTEL:

The Moose Jaw Temple Garden Mineral Spa which featured a giant mineral bath whirlpool tub in the hotel room – right next to the bed!  I ran myself a bubble bath and flipped channels on the TV like Scarface.

MOST INTERESTING LOCATION FOR A PERFORMANCE:

I did a meet and greet performance in a feed store in Prince George, BC, surrounded by saddles, bridles and bits, cowboy hats and boots.  It was pretty cool.

WORST SERVICE:

The valet at a hotel out west that delivered our car to us and then sat in his chair and read a book while the two of us girls – neither of whom weighs more than 115 pounds –  struggled to load three 50 pound bags, a guitar, and 4 heavy carry-on bags into our car.

COOLEST GIFTS:

A “Welcome, Victoria” cake baked from scratch for a meet & greet performance in Sydney, Nova Scotia.  A box of “Anne of Green Gables” chocolates in PEI.  And some more Starbursts from a fan in New Brunswick (who had been following our twitter feed).

FUNNIEST MOMENT:

Kate (my companion on the tour – she works for my management company) and I were on a red-eye flight from Edmonton to Calgary.  We boarded the plane and were immediately a little freaked out at the size of the plane (tiny) and the age of it (very old).  Then, the plane started up.  And the props began to roar.  And the plane began to shake and shimmy…and the wall panels began to flap in and out…and the acceleration began to bump us up and down in our seats…and the lights began to flash on and off…and the luggage began to shift and tumble around…and we were terrified!  We sat there for a while with our hands clenched in a deathgrip on the arms of our seats, eyes closed, holding our breath….and the engines got louder, and faster, and we bumped up and down even harder…and then after about 5 minutes we finally opened our eyes and looked out the window to see whether we were falling out of the sky or not.  And we both busted out laughing.  We hadn’t even left the gate.  We hadn’t moved an inch.

MOST HUMBLING MOMENT:

Not being let into my own show because security didn’t know who I was…and having to stand outside the locked doors of the stadium and play a complicated game of charades (involving an invisible microphone, air guitar, and a lot of pointing) to try and explain it to them.

BIGGEST “HUH?” MOMENT:

En route from PEI to Nova Scotia, following the GPS signal until it went straight off the coast and across the ocean.  Turned out we were supposed to take the ferry.

BIGGEST EGO BOOST:

On the plane one morning, hearing the woman in the seat in front of me telling a fellow passenger that she’d heard my show was “awesome” the night before – not knowing that I was sitting behind her.  (This could just as easily have been my most humbling moment, so I’m glad she gave me a good review!)

COOLEST VISUAL:

Seeing a freight train crossing the prairie in Saskatoon.  I’ve never seen an entire train all at once before!

COOLEST LUMP-IN-THE-THROAT MOMENT:

Walking through Anne of Green Gables’ Haunted Woods and coming upon the remains of the foundation of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s house in a beautiful grove of birch and apple trees.  Such a beautiful, idyllic spot.  I could just imagine her sitting at the window and writing all of her novels.

HARDEST PART OF THE TOUR:

I thought I had hit this mark after doing 6 performances in 36 hours at the CCMA fest.  But 4 days later, I had traveled to 4 more cities, done 4 more nonstop days of evening shows and 4 more mornings of radio performances, with 4 hours of sleep per night.  I fell asleep standing in line at the hotel check-in desk in Winnipeg (now I know how horses do that – I probably could have slept all night standing right there).  Once I got to my room, I slept for 14 hours straight.

WORST THING ABOUT THE TOUR:

Being dragged like a water-skier down parking garage ramps behind runaway luggage carts weighing at least 3 times as much as I do.  (Close tie with pushing them UP the ramps again.)

BEST THING ABOUT THE TOUR:

Seeing my beautiful country from coast to coast, and finally getting to meet my fans face to face.  Singing my songs and watching them sing along.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Posted in Blogs

CCMAs and Cross Canada Tour

I’m not even sure where to begin telling you about the past week.  It’s been a whirlwind!

I spent a few days in Vancouver before Country Music Week began, so I had some time to visit JRFM radio, perform on the Global Morning News, interview for a TV documentary, and even do a little bit of exploring the downtown area.  But once the weekend came along, the serious marathon began!

If you watched Sunday night’s CCMA Awards on CBC, you might have seen the short video segment of me performing “The Wheel” acoustically on location in downtown Vancouver.  That was actually filmed on Saturday morning at…gulp…7am!  But after a 4am wakeup call, several cups of chamomile tea, a small curling iron accident (what do you expect at 4am?) and a bunch of makeup to cover up the burn, I was off to the races.

From there, I rushed over to the CCMA Industry brunch just in time for soundcheck, and half an hour later I was performing “This Old Halo” for all of the movers and shakers of the Canadian country music industry.  From there I headed out the backstage door to grab a ride to Fanfest, where I performed acoustically alongside Doc Walker, Jessie Farrell and Steven Lee Oleson for a wonderful crowd of enthusiastic fans.  It was especially fun to be the honourary 4th “Doc” in Doc Walker’s performance of “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”, a song that we wrote together which is included on their new record.  Those guys are super talented!

But the day wasn’t over yet!  I had a few minutes to interview with CMT, “meet and greet” with the fans and sign some autographs, and then I was whisked off to the SOCAN Songwriters’ Café where I performed alongside Dean Brody, Codie Prevost and Dave Gunning.  It was really cool to hear Dean perform his CCMA-winning single “Brothers”.  I could listen to that guy sing all day!

I was getting a little cross-eyed at this point, but I still made it over to the SOCAN dinner at the Shore Club.  SOCAN always knows how to throw a good party, and this was no exception.  Gord Bamford and Dean Brody were there, and so was legendary singer/songwriter Dan Hill…which left me with the song “Sometimes When We Touch” running through my head in an endless loop for the rest of the night.

Sunday was a whirlwind of hair curling, makeup, false eyelashes, uncomfortable shoes, rehearsals and nerves…but it was a day I’ll never forget.  I got to visit the CCMA gift lounge – I’m still flabbergasted that anyone would want to give me free stuff, but they did – and I left with some beautiful handmade jewelry, a custom leather wallet, a leather baby bib with a guitar on it (for Lisa Brokop’s baby), fancy underwear, delicious treats, and even a pair of tall black leather boots with 4-inch heels that I wore on the show later that night.  They treated us like absolute royalty.  I felt so blessed!

The CCMA Awards were a complete rush.  There was a camera man in my face for most of the night, so any of you who watched the show on CBC could probably see how much fun I was having!  It was such an honour to be nominated in so many categories, and I don’t think the reality of it sank in until I watched the nominees listed on the big screen up over the stage.  I kept leaning over to my boyfriend and saying “Holy Cow! That’s ME up there!”

Watching Reba and Martina perform firsthand from front and centre was amazing – they’re such consummate pros – and seeing Johnny Reid sing “Dance With Me” gave me chills.  It was very surreal to see the little song that Johnny, Tia Sillers and I wrote in my living room last fall being performed on national TV to crowds of adoring fans!

After that, I was pulled from my seat and flew through the backstage hallways at a full-on run to get my performance costume on.  I barely had time to catch my breath before I was stepping out on stage with the other Rising Star nominees to close the show with Jann Arden’s song “Good Mother”.  The CCMA band leader was aware that I had lost my Mom 2 weeks earlier, so they had purposefully assigned me a specific line to sing…”I’ve got a good mother…and her voice is what keeps me here”.  It was the perfect tribute to Mom, and I sang it with all my heart.  When I stepped off the stage afterwards, it was all I could do to hold the tears in.

But there was no time for getting emotional!  I was rushed off to the red carpet for photos and interviews, spent some time at the CCMA Post Awards Reception, and then I was off to the EMI/Gibson Throwdown where I took the stage right after Terri Clark and performed a few songs, backed up by some of the best musicians in Canada and with the help of One More Girl on background vocals!

I was so tired by the time I went to bed on Sunday night that I could hardly move…but Monday morning I was on a plane again and off to Calgary.  Over the last 2 days I had a great visit with the CCMA-winning Odd Squad on the morning show on Country 105 Radio, filmed an interview for CityTV, crashed Jason Aldean’s performance at the Ranchman and hung out with his band, drove up to Red Deer and had a great lunch with contest-winners courtesy of the wonderful crew at KG Country (congrats to Greg and Tera Lee for your CCMA too!), and now here I am in a hotel room in Edmonton.

I’ll keep you posted as the cross-Canada tour continues!

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Mom

I lost my mother last Sunday.  I was in Nashville, my bags packed for a month-long cross-Canada tour, when I got the call from my sister up in Ontario that she was being rushed to the hospital.  One gut-wrenching, heart-pounding, prayer-filled hour later, she was gone.  At age 68, my gentle, lovely mother had lost her battle with bipolar disorder, and her death was a shock and a trauma to my entire family.

By nightfall I was on a plane to Toronto, and at midnight I walked through the door of my Aunt’s cottage in Muskoka and collapsed into the arms of my family.  For the next three days, we cried.  We wept out our grief over her lonely and untimely death.  We raged and screamed at the medical system that let her slip through their fingers, denying her care when she needed it most.  We poured out our feelings of guilt for not fighting harder somehow, and for not knowing how to save her.  We held each other and comforted each other and reassured each other.  We talked and talked and talked it through, trying to find a way to accept and understand what had happened.

It was the most raw, most cathartic three days of my life.  I have never seen such strength or such pain, and I have never felt such love before.  And I have never seen such healing.

Three days later, my family put me on a plane to BC, with their love and blessings, having postponed my Mom’s memorial service so that I could begin my tour by opening for Johnny Reid at the Prince George CN Centre.  That night my family sat together and prayed for me back in Ontario while I walked out onto a stage alone with my guitar and performed to thousands of people.  I sang my heart out.  I felt naked and fragile and immensely strong at the same time.  I have never felt anything like it.  And after Johnny and I sang “Dance With Me” as a duet, I walked back to my dressing room with the roar of the crowd in the background and tears of gratitude streaming down my face.

The next night found me onstage at the Mae Wilson Theatre in Moose Jaw, headlining the Concert of Hope to raise funds for a breast cancer treatment facility at the local hospital.  As I sang, a group of cancer survivors stood silently on stage behind me.  The strength in that room was palpable.  We were trying to raise $20,000.  We raised $100,000.

I flew back to Toronto yesterday for Mom’s funeral.  It was held in a church by the water in a grove of Muskoka pines.  260 of us gathered there to celebrate Mom’s life.  Almost everyone in the congregation was a musician.  We lifted up our voices and sang Bach chorales in four-part harmony.  My cousins played a beautiful cantata on cello, oboe and violin.  My sister sang a beautiful soprano solo.  My broken-hearted dad, who was the love of my mom’s life for 52 years, fought back his tears and read lovely poetry for my Mom.  My uncle sang “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” in a rich bass voice from the back of the church.  I delivered the Eulogy that I had written during the stolen moments on my flights and in my hotel rooms out west.  And I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it, but I sang too – a song I wrote called “The Other Side”, which my Mom had always loved.  I had to sing it with my eyes closed, but I sang it with my heart open.

I don’t know how we did it, but somehow we all took that pain and shock, and together, transmuted it into a celebration of Mom’s life.  By the end of the service, we had all laughed together, shared wonderful stories of Mom’s past, and we had helped each other see past Mom’s death to what was really important – her rich, full life that had touched so many people.  It’s what Mom would have wanted, and it’s what her memory deserved from us.

I hugged my family goodbye today and now I’m a flight back out west.  I’ll be performing on the Canadian Country Music Awards in Vancouver on Sunday.  I’m nominated for six awards.  Mom was so proud.  She told me she was going to come with me.  She is.

*****

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 Heck of a Suitcase

I’m standing here staring at a big empty suitcase and an even bigger explosion of clothes scattered all over my bedroom.  How exactly do you pack for a month-long tour of Canada?  We’re talking16 flights, 31 hotel nights, a pile of rental cars and 8 provinces worth of on-air radio station visits, TV performances & guest hosting, meet and greets with fans, charity concerts, radio-sponsored concerts, and stadium concerts, with the CCMA awards weekend thrown in for good measure.

That is one heck of a suitcase to pack!

The trip begins Wednesday, when I fly up to Prince George, BC to open Johnny Reid’s concert at the CN Centre Sept 3rd.  From there I’ll be heading to Moose Jaw, SK for an event with Country 100 FM and to headline the Concert of Hope on Sept 5th at the Mae Wilson Theatre (to raise funds for the cancer ward at the local hospital), and heading over to Regina to catch a Riders game and visit the radio station there.  After that, it’s back to Vancouver for the CCMA festival, where I’m performing at various events.  And I’m one of this year’s most nominated artists for the Sept 13th awards show, which will be broadcast at 4pm PST/7pmEST on CBC TV!  Very exciting.

From Vancouver I’ll be working my way all the way across to the east coast.  The details are still being finalized on many of the events (all I can say right now is that there are some VERY exciting things ahead), but I’ll keep the tour details updated at http://www.victoriabanks.net and for any of you who want to come along for the virtual ride, I will stay in touch from the road as much as I can with Facebook & Twitter status updates via Blackberry.

The last time I traveled across Canada, I was eleven years old on a Via Rail train and my nose was permanently buried in a copy of Anne of Green Gables.  This time, I intend to soak in every minute of the trip across my big, beautiful country.  Canada – here I come!

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The Music is the Reason

I just celebrated the 11th anniversary of my first steady paycheck as a staff songwriter.  Somehow or other, for the past 11 years, music has been keeping me fed, clothed and sheltered.  Music has taken me to places I never would have been, introduced me to dear friends I never would have met, and allowed me to spend every day focusing on doing what I love.

But it’s funny how even when you’re doing what you love, you still find a way to get frustrated, disappointed, overwhelmed, insecure, and distracted from what is truly important.  I guess it’s the human condition.

You can spend your time feeling bitter about the “down” side of it….in a business where, on average, you have to write at least 100 songs in order to get one recorded, you can get very frustrated that song after heartfelt song that you write is collecting dust on a shelf somewhere because the demo recording wasn’t mixed right, or the company you were on staff with doesn’t pitch it, or for one of any other myriad reasons.

You can also spend your time getting distracted by the “up” side of it…when you experience success, you can ride the wave of it like a surfer, soaking in the attention that it brings, checking the charts every day, analyzing the market and trying to come up with a recipe for how to do it again.

But looking back at the “successes” and “failures” in my career over the past 11 years, I can say that I’ve learned something.  If you’re in this business to make money, you’re in it for the wrong reasons.  If you’re in it for the accolades, the attention, and the success, you’re in it for the wrong reasons.  Those things are nice if you can get them, but they’re just the gravy on what is important, and they will never truly satisfy you in the end.

The most important thing is to do it for the music.  Love your music – love every second of it.  You don’t have to have a song on the charts to get high on the rush of adrenaline you get from finding the perfect rhyme to finish out your phrase.  You don’t have to be standing in a spotlight to sing a melody that brings tears to your eyes.  Accolades and success will come and go, but that is the kind of happiness that you can have from the day you’re born until the day you die and every day in between, and no one can take it away from you.

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CCMAs, Radio Singles, Big Mamas and Chicken Chili

I’m taking a day off today to cook up a storm and freeze a bunch of food in preparation for the birth of my friend Lisa Brokop’s first baby, which based on the size of her, will be happening any minute now.  (She looks like she swallowed a basketball.)  So while the chili is simmering, this seems like the perfect opportunity to sit down and reflect a bit on all the exciting things that have been going on lately.

If someone had told me last year that I would be the most nominated female country artist in Canada for the 2009 Canadian Country Music Awards, I probably would have had to be checked into the hospital myself.  I’m still in shock!  Since the release of my debut album “When You Can Fly” this spring I’ve been nominated by the CCMA for Female Artist of the Year, Rising Star, Single of the Year, Album of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, Producer of the Year, and my website even made the Website of the Year category! Some people are probably saying “who the heck is this girl and where did she come from?” – but those of you that have been a part of my journey know that it has been a very long and rocky road that brought me to this place.  So I thank those who voted for me from the bottom of my heart.  This is an incredible honour, and I am humbled by your support.

In addition to the CCMA excitement, my sophomore single “When You Can Fly” is currently climbing the Canadian charts, with a video airing regularly on CMT Canada.  And on the songwriting side of things I’ve also had a couple of songs released by other artists:  Johnny Reid’s “Dance With Me” (written by myself, Johnny, and Tia Sillers) is a big hit right now, and One More Girl’s brand new single “When It Ain’t Raining” (which I wrote with Gretchen Wilson) is also getting a great response from radio.  So thank you, Canadian country radio!

I’m about to head up to Canada at the beginning of September to open for Johnny Reid in Prince George, headline a breast cancer benefit in Moose Jaw, attend the CCMA Awards (live on CBC TV from Vancouver, BC on September 13th with Reba McEntire, Martina McBride, Terri Clark, Doc Walker, Johnny Reid and more!), and then I’ll be kicking off a cross-country tour from there.  I’m gonna have to pack one heck of a suitcase for that trip!

So in closing, I’m pretty much over the moon right now.  For over ten years, I’ve been waking up in the morning and doing what I love every day.  Sometimes the disappointments and heartaches added up until they seemed like mountains that were too tall to climb, but the next morning I would wake up and write another song – I just couldn’t help it!  And somehow it has always kept food on my table.  Sometimes it only fed me macaroni and cheese (with tuna in it for special occasions)….but today, the pots in my kitchen are spilling over with beef stew and chicken chili, and my heart is spilling over with gratitude.  I am savouring every moment of it.

Posted in Blogs

About Me (Using Only Song Titles)

I saw this quiz on Facebook and it seemed like the perfect challenge for a songwriter to try.  So I’ve answered these questions with the titles of songs I’ve written that have been recorded and released (either by myself or another artist)…

Pick your artist: Victoria Banks

Are you male or female? It’s a Girl Thing

Describe yourself: Tomboy

How do you feel? I Will Never be the Same

Describe where you live: I Can’t

If you could go anywhere, where would it be? Back to the River

Your favorite form of transportation? The Wheel

Your best friend is? Sacred

What’s the weather like? Arizona Rain

Favorite time of day? Midnight at a Red Light

If your life were a TV show, it would be called? Dance with Me

Life to you is: Beautiful Tragedy

You fear: This Old Halo (won’t stay on)

The best advice you have to give: Love Somebody

Thought for the day: Come On Over and Kiss Me (do I get extra points for using 2 titles?)

How would you like to die? Don’t Leave the Leavin’ up to me, Saints & Angels (Ha! 2 titles again!)

Your motto: Ain’t it Great to be a Woman

*****

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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The “When You Can Fly” Rollercoaster

My new single “When You Can Fly” is a song that has definitely been the source of some heartache for me!

A week after I wrote the song, Reba McEntire’s record label flipped out over it. I got a phone call saying that Reba and Trisha Yearwood were taking it into the studio to record it for Reba’s “Duets” record. I spent the day on cloud nine, holding my breath…imagine having a song recorded by not one, but TWO of your musical idols!! But by the end of the day I hadn’t heard anything…and the next day, still nothing…and finally I got a phone call from my publisher. “No dice on the Reba cut, Vic. At the last minute they recorded a ballad instead.”

Needless to say, I cried myself to sleep that night. I was devastated. Since then I’ve had those kind of near misses more than I’d like to mention, but it’s all just a part of the music biz rollercoaster. You always risk having your heart broken every time you pour your guts out onto the page.

Anyhow, as time passed I couldn’t fight the feeling that this song says something very special. I also felt in my gut that it was destined to BE something special – I just didn’t know exactly what. Of course, I had no idea I would end up with a record deal, and that one day “When You Can Fly” would be my new single, my title track, and also my first official CMT video (airing soon!). So go figure.

Anyhow, as usual, the rollercoaster was worth it. Just like the song says:

“Why walk when you can fly?

I’d rather jump, I’d rather fall, I’d rather trust, I’d rather try.

Why crawl when you can climb?

Even if you’re gonna hurt, even if you’re gonna cry

Why walk when you can fly?”

So PLEASE CALL AND REQUEST IT AT YOUR LOCAL RADIO STATION!!! (How cool is it that I can say THAT??!!)

Posted in Blogs

Piracy Made Personal: The Making of “When You Can Fly”

I Googled my album” When You Can Fly” yesterday and then I burst into tears.  Page after page of results were links to  free “file-sharing” sites.  Links to music piracy sites.  Links allowing people to steal the music.

As a songwriter, I’ve known for a long time about the problem of music piracy, but this is the first time it’s felt personal.  If I tell you the story of how I made this album, maybe it you’ll understand why.

***************

“Why don’t you have a CD?  You really should make one.”

I must have heard that question 1000 times over the past 10 years as a performing songwriter, and I always nodded my head in reply and said “you’re right!  I really should!”  But the answer was a lot more complicated than that.

The answer is because of what it takes to make a CD.  I’m not talking about the songs – I’ve had most of the songs on my debut CD “When You Can Fly” ready to record for years.  Here’s what it I’m talking about…

It takes working every gig you can possibly find, from packed rooms to peanut-husk-filled roadhouses with one disinterested drunk guy as your audience, until you save up enough money to pay for one day – ONE day – in the studio with the best musicians you can get….that’s $600 for the studio, $850 union wages for the lead musician, $500 each in union wages for the other 5 musicians, $100 for “cartage” on each instrument (you pay a cartage company to move the drums, keyboards etc), $100 to tune the piano for the day, $500 for the engineer to record the session, and $150 for the engineer’s assistant.  So that’s about $5000 for ONE DAY of recording – that’s six hours and not a second more – to capture 11 songs.  Some major label projects take weeks or even months in the studio and easily cost half a million dollars…but you don’t have that option when you are an independent artist paying for your own CD. So you spend hours and hours at home in preparation, going over and over the songs, writing out charts, making notes about what you want to hear, which instrument goes where, what the solo should sound like, what speed you want the song played at, what kind of guitar tone you want to hear, whether the songs fade or end cold…so when you finally get into the studio that day you know exactly what you need to do.  And six heart-thumping, nerve-wracking, adrenaline-ridden, rollercoaster hours later, you walk out of that studio with the basic tracks for each song.  And you’re not even halfway done.

Then you have to record the vocals.  So you go out and play more gigs. You back up some other artists in their shows.  You paint some houses.  You babysit.  You borrow a great microphone from a good and trusting friend instead of paying steep rental fees, you find a great but cheap vocal engineer for $40/hr and a tiny vocal studio for $400/day and you sing your heart out as fast as you can until all 11 songs are done.  And then you take the tracks home and spend night after night editing the vocals yourself and singing the backgrounds into a $100 microphone in your “home studio” (which is an old desktop Mac with old, constantly-freezing audio software, but it does the job!)

But you’re still not finished.  Now you have to mix and master the record.  Most good mixers charge $500 to $1000 per song, but with 11 songs, you’d never be able to afford that.  Luckily, you are blessed with a dear and loyal old friend who is a dynamite engineer and he agrees to do it for a fraction of that cost because he cares about the project as much as you do.  And he finds you a good mastering service who will master the record for $600.  If the CD is going to be on store shelves you’ll need a good professional photographer to shoot the cover and liner pictures, so that’s gonna cost another couple of thousand dollars.  And then there’s usually at least $1000 more in graphic design.  So when your best friend is a pro designer who offers her services for free – and for the odd shoulder massage when she’s spent hours hunched over her computer screen – you know you’re really blessed.  But the printing of the CDs is still going to cost at least $1000 per 1000 CD shipment, so add that to the pile of bills too.

So you cancel your cable service.  You raise your insurance deductibles.  No vacations, no restaurant meals…you pinch and earn every penny you can.  And after 6 more months, you’re still lying awake at night because you still don’t have anywhere near enough money to pay for it all.  And then one evening when you’re playing a gig at the Bluebird Café a fan says…

“Why don’t you have a CD?  You really should make one!”

…and you can’t even answer the question because you’re choking on tears of frustration.  And the fan sees the look on your face and takes out his pen and writes you a check for enough money to finish the record.

It takes dedication…it takes sacrifice…it takes the help of friends and angels.  That’s what it takes to make a CD like “When You Can Fly”.

****************

It’s certainly easy to burn a copy of a CD or to visit a file-sharing website.  I know lots of people do it without even thinking about it.  But I wish people would realize what that means to each of us who has put years of time and effort, heart and soul into the music you listen to each day.  When you spend your hard-earned money on a CD, you are doing something very important.  You are helping artists like me pay the costs of creating that music and allowing us to make more.  And you are making sure that it won’t take ten years for us to make the next CD!

So thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to everyone who has bought my CD.  I couldn’t have done this without you.

*****

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