Through the Mountains to the Merritt Walk of Stars

I feel like such a globetrotter!  I’ve been from one side of the continent to the other in the past several weeks, but definitely the highlight of my travels was last weekend’s visit to Merritt, B.C. to perform at the 6th Annual Merritt Walk of Stars Gala.

The views in B.C. are absolutely breathtaking – an experience that was completely lost on me the last time I visited the west coast because I was 12 years old and had my nose buried in book #7 of the Anne of Green Gables series.  But this time, I soaked in every second of it…the misty mountains and deep blue ocean views of Vancouver during my flight’s arrival…the breathtakingly stunning drive through the snow-capped peaks and rushing rivers of the coastal mountains (even though we got stuck in a 2-hour traffic jam when an 18-wheeler flipped over on the highway in Chilliwack, I would have sat there for another 2 hours just to take in the view)…and finally the rolling green pine-covered hills of Merritt.

And what a party the folks up there throw.  It really is a small town with a big heart, and they LOVE their country music!  Thanks to a fantastic annual music festival, personalized bronze stars featuring the big names of country music, and a collection of giant murals of legendary musicians’ faces, Merritt has become a central location for country music in Canada, and they welcomed us with open arms.

Not only did I share the stage with Michelle Wright, Aaron Pritchett, Lisa Brokop, Bill Henderson and a host of other talented Canadian artists, I also got to handprint and autograph my very own star for the Walk of Stars, which was a tremendous honour.  So now I can say that no matter where I go, a part of me will always be in beautiful Merritt, B.C.   :)

Posted in Blogs

Video Shoot, Radio Tour and a Near Death Experience

When I think about last week’s trip to southern Ontario, I remember it in a series of moments.  Surreal moments, peaceful moments, joyful moments and terrifying ones.  Here are a few of them…

Moment #1: Standing on a rooftop in Toronto with the CN Tower behind me and the sun beaming down…Buffy the makeup artist fussing over my hair and makeup while director Warren Sonoda organizes his team for the first take of my very first video shoot.  Completely surreal for a girl who usually spends her time writing songs in her sweatpants.

Moment #2: Strutting down the sidewalk through a sea of briefcase-lugging suit-and-tie-wearing business executives in the middle of rush hour in downtown Toronto’s financial district, playing my guitar and singing at the top of my lungs, while the whole crew runs backwards in front of me with cameras and lighting, Casey Clarke and the crew of the CMT Chevy Top 20 Countdown report from the sidelines, and buses full of camera-happy onlookers crawl by on the street.  And being so caught up in the song I’m singing that I don’t even feel weird about it.

Moment #3: Driving to pick up my sidekick Kate (from my management company) en route to some radio stations, listening to Toronto’s Country 95.3 alone in my car and daydreaming in the pre-dawn glow of a Wednesday morning, and spilling my tea all over myself when the DJ says “Coming up next, Victoria Banks.”

Moment #4: Driving back to the city on Wednesday night after visiting radio stations in Owen Sound and Sarnia and cranking up “The Wheel” on the radio again…for the 6th time!

Moment #5: Thursday afternoon, after visiting radio stations in Peterborough and Belleville…I’m doing an on-air performance and interview in the studio at Kingston, Ontario’s KIX 93.5 (where I spent my first couple of University years studying chemical engineering at Queen’s).  It’s like I’m in a time warp.  So close and yet so far from that dorm room just a few blocks away where I used to stay up all night writing songs.  Really bad songs, but you’ve gotta start somewhere!

Moment #6: Friday afternoon on Toronto’s QEW highway…Kate and I are on the way to a CMT shoot.  A low crunching sound…the back of our rental car being nudged by an eighteen-wheeler.  That moment when you lose control and suddenly everything comes into focus.  The sideways skid of the car and then the impact of the truck smashing into our driver’s side and spinning us out like a pinball across 3 lanes of fast-moving traffic. Through the windshield all we can see is cars hurtling at us in slow motion.  We turn in circles, holding our breath and wondering which one is going to be our last, until we skid to a stop in the fast lane against the concrete median.  “Are you OK?,” I say.  “Yes, I think so, are you?” “Yes.”  We jump out of the car and run to the median wall while the traffic starts to filter around us.  A construction worker on the other side of the wall says “How are you alive right now?”

Moment #7: Saturday afternoon.  A few precious hours for an early Mothers’ Day visit with my Mom before flying back to Nashville.  I can’t stop hugging her.

Moment #8: My last night in Ontario…the 40th anniversary gala of the choir I grew up singing in.  Being called up on stage with the other alumni to close the show by sight-singing some Handel pieces.  Looking over at my Dad and Uncle Ross in the bass section and hearing the soloist voices of my Uncle John and my sister Amy soaring above the choir, just like old times.  Sending up a loud, heartfelt musical prayer. A perfect way to wrap up a rollercoaster of a week.

Posted in Blogs

Hey Canada – Please Help Me Celebrate CD Release Day!

Wow!  It’s finally here!  Tomorrow (Tuesday April 14th) is the day that my official debut CD “When You Can Fly” will be in stores all across Canada.

Through all the years of slogging it out in the music business, I always told myself that on the day my first CD was released, I would go to Walmart or Best Buy (or one of those big retail stores that will be sure to have it) and buy one off the shelf myself, just to celebrate.  The problem is, I’m in Nashville right now, holding down my day job as a staff songwriter for Sony/ATV Music Publishing.  So while those shiny new CDs are stacked on shelves all across the Great White North, I’ll be sitting in a room with a guitar and pen, working on more songs for the next project.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my job – but I am a little bit sad that I’ll be missing this special day.  So I’m going to ask my Canadian fans out there to do me a favour…if you buy my CD at the store this week (and I REALLY hope you do!), would you take a photo or a little video of yourself doing it?  And post it on Facebook or MySpace?  (You can either post a link to it on my wall or tag it with my name so it shows up on my page.)  That way, we can all celebrate together (and I can celebrate vicariously through you)!  I would really love that, and so would all of the friends who have supported me on this long journey.

Here are the links:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/vbanks

Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/victoriabanks

Thanks, guys and gals!

Posted in Blogs

Listening to “When You Can Fly”

A couple of days ago, Sony/ATV publishing (where I work as a staff songwriter here in Nashville) threw a “Listening Party” for my “When You Can Fly” CD, which is pending release to stores across Canada on April 14th.  It was a small, intimate gathering where all of the songwriters, publishers, musicians and engineers who contributed to the project got to eat, drink and be merry, and then got to sit down and hear the final product on some REALLY big speakers.

It has taken over three years of recording for me to build this CD.  Actually, it’s probably taken more like 8 years of work to do it, if you count the songwriting process and the demo recordings that sparked the magic in these songs.  So it was an amazing feeling to look around the room at so many faces that have been on this journey with me, and to see them closing their eyes and tapping their feet and bobbing their heads to the music.  Take Eric Legg for example – as the engineer and mixer of not only the CD versions but also the demo versions of all of my songs, he has probably listened to each of the tracks on the record over 100 times in the past eight years…but there he was, listening to them one more time, with a big smile on his face!  And Ralph Murphy – Ralph works for ASCAP in Nashville to help new songwriters find publishing deals, and he was the guy that found me a home at Fame Music Publishing ten years ago when all I had left to my name was a $20 dollar bill.  And Rachel Proctor, my dear friend and co-writer on the Jessica Simpson hit “Come on Over”, who lent me her amazing voice for some of the background vocal tracks.

We cheered for John Lancaster’s beautiful piano fills on “Back to the River”.  We marveled at Billy Panda’s rock-solid acoustic guitar triplets on “When You Can Fly”.  We gave a shout out for Lisa Brokop’s groovy clap track on “The World Turns”.  We oohed and ahhed over Mary Sue Englund’s beautiful album design work and we clapped for each of the songwriters who poured their hearts into co-writing these songs with me.  But the biggest cheer happened when I got to announce to everyone that their work is being heard all across Canada now that my debut single “The Wheel” has hit #25 on the Canadian country chart!!!  That was a great moment.

I can’t wait to share this record with you – keep an eye out for its release in stores on April 14th!

Posted in Blogs

Radio Tour Whirlwind!

I’m sitting here on the couch at my sister’s house in Toronto right now, completely wiped out.  My feet hurt, my eyes are heavy, I’ve put about 500 miles on the rental car and 500 more on my guitar in the past four days.  But I’ve loved every second of it!

I flew up here from Nashville last weekend with a bunch of promotional kits, two guitars and a suitcase full of clothes that felt like it weighed 500 pounds.  (Sometimes a girl just needs her shoes…ALL of her shoes.)  Objective:  hit as many southern Ontario radio stations as possible in four days, and throw in some CMT show tapings and some private showcases to boot.  Some of you have been following my Facebook status updates and Twitter tweets, which I’ve been sending in via cellphone.  (Did I break the Twitter etiquette guidelines for too many posts?  Well, at least I know I’m not as bad as John Mayer – he’s on there all day long.)

My manager Louis O’Reilly (who also represents Shane Yellowbird and Brad Johner) picked me up on Monday morning and we headed out to the Toronto radio station Country 95.3 FM.  Nothing like jumping in the deep end by having my first on-air interview at one of the biggest stations in Canada!  I can’t say I wasn’t nervous, but the morning show staff (Lea, Paul and Bradley) made it easy.  As I was sitting at that microphone, I had a flashback…me, 10 years ago, riding on the subway on the way to my zoology classes at U of Toronto with my headphones cranked up loud, listening with intense concentration to the songs playing on the Toronto country station, losing the signal in the tunnels and waiting on the edge of my seat for the train to come out the other end into the sunlight so I could hear how the song ends…it made me wonder if there was anyone out there doing the exact same thing now!

From there we were off to London’s BX93 for an interview with Chris Harding (a wonderful guy), then 107.3 in Tillsonburg where I got to spend about an hour on the air live with Randy Owen (very sweet – he even wished us a safe drive via the airwaves after we left the station), and finally a quick recording with Bill Hart over in Kitchener at KIX 106.  And after visiting 4 radio stations in one day, we still had enough energy left to go to the Johnny Reid concert in Hamilton, where I even got my name called a couple of times from the stage when One More Girl (the opening duo) played one of my songs in their set, and then when Johnny himself introduced “Dance With Me”, the title track of his new record which we wrote together.  And what a show it was!  I knew I had to sing a lot in the next few days so I tried not to scream too much…but it was hard not to.

Tuesday was just as crazy as Monday!  We had a blast visiting KX96 in Oshawa for a live appearance on the Ellis and Archer show, and from there we went straight to the CMT headquarters in Toronto where I performed an acoustic showcase for the staff.  Then I was interviewed by Paul McGuire for the CMT Weekend show, which will air this weekend (March 21/22).  But our work was far from done!  Then we zipped off to the headquarters of my record label, EMI Canada, where I did a private acoustic showcase for the movers and shakers of the Canadian music biz.

By Wednesday I was starting to resent being a girl and having to wake up at 4am every day to start curling my hair and putting my makeup on (Hey, I’m a songwriter – I’m just not used to that!  And I guarantee you Shane Yellowbird doesn’t have to spend that long in front of a mirror to look good.)   So it was a great relief to have someone else do it for a change!  CMT’s hair and makeup artist made me look like a rock star for my “CMT Four Tracks” shoot, which we filmed down at the Cadillac Lounge on Queen Street in Toronto.  I was backed up by an incredible 3 piece acoustic band.  I can’t wait for you to see the results!  We’ll let you know when it airs.

Today was an especially fun day because I got to visit my hometown radio stations!  KICX 106 in Orillia was the first stop, which is the country station covering the Muskoka area where I grew up.  I had a great time on the air live with Jack Latimer there, and then I was off to Bracebridge to visit The Moose 99.5FM.  The Moose is actually a rock station, but the folks there are wonderfully supportive of their hometown talent (which also includes country singer/songwriter Deric Ruttan – we both went to high school there).  Mike Fry recorded an interview with me, which will air tomorrow on his morning show before 10am.  

Needless to say, this week has been a really surreal experience.  I mean seriously – imagine yourself in my shoes…I’ve been wearing sweats and hanging out in closet-sized songwriting offices for the past 10 years and now I’m singing my songs into microphones at radio stations and wearing fake eyelashes on TV.  Pretty wild.  And through it all, I’ve been watching my single, “The Wheel” enter the Canadian country chart already at #46 and climbing.  And so many of you have come along for the ride with me on my facebook page – I have really enjoyed and appreciated all of your feedback and encouragement!  

Anyhow, I’m heading back to Nashville shortly to do some more songwriting and to film another show for CMT, so I’m gonna put my feet up for a little while and just try to absorb all the craziness I’ve just experienced.  Oh, and by the way, we got lots of video footage so we’ll have some new webisodes up for you very soon!

G’night everyone!

Posted in Blogs

“The Wheel” Hits the Airwaves

My cell phone rang Wednesday morning, and my heart just about jumped out of my chest when I picked it up.  My cousin Barb was shouting on the other end of the line “It’s your song!  They’re playing your song on the radio!”  In the background I could hear a loud, static-filled version of my debut single “The Wheel” – but it was music to my ears!

Barb had been listening non-stop to her local radio station up in Tillsonburg, Ontario since my song was released on Tuesday – and many of my fans, friends and family are continuing to keep watch this week, sending requests to their local country stations and keeping me posted on facebook and myspace with the results….”I just heard it in Vancouver while I was driving home in my truck”…”I sent a request to the folks at the station in Toronto and they said they are adding it to their playlist next week”…I have to say, you guys have been fantastic!  I even managed to listen to the last few bars of the song here in Nashville, straight from Manitoulin Island, Ontario via streaming internet radio, thanks to a well-timed facebook tip from a fan who was listening.  How cool is that?

I’ve heard my songs playing on the radio before – but always sung by other artists.  The first song of my own that I ever heard was Sara Evans’ recording of “Saints & Angels”.  I was driving down a back road in Mount Juliet, Tennessee when it came on one of the big Nashville country stations, and I just about had a heart attack.  I cranked the volume knob up as loud as it would go!  I didn’t realize how fast I was driving until halfway through the song, when I saw the blue lights flashing behind me in my rearview mirror.  (If you’ve ever lived in Mount Juliet, you won’t find that surprising – they don’t like their speeders there.)  I pulled over to the side of the road and rolled down my window, and when the police officer walked up to my car I said “THAT’S MY SONG!!!  THAT’S MY SONG PLAYING ON THE RADIO!!!”  He just looked at me and drawled, with a thick southern accent, “Lahcense and registraytion please ma’am.”  Didn’t blink an eye.  Sent me to traffic school, too!  (Did I mention I was going REALLY fast?)

I’m heading up to Ontario in a few days to do a bunch of private showcases and radio visits, and with “The Wheel” already getting added to the playlists of major stations like JRFM Vancouver, Country 95.3 Hamilton, BX93 London and KICX 96 Orillia, hopefully it won’t be long until I get to hear it in person.  That is going to be a seriously cool moment.  In fact, just for the safety of my fellow Canadians I should probably refrain from getting behind the wheel of a vehicle while I’m up there.

I’m off to pack my bags…stay tuned and I will keep you posted with lots of diary entries, videos and twitter status updates!  (If you aren’t signed up on Twitter yet, you might want to click on the link on this page and check it out – it’s a very cool way to subscribe to real-time status updates.)

Posted in Blogs

Getting Ready to Fly

It’s 2:30am and I’m rubbing my red eyes. They feel square from staring at the computer screen in my home studio, doing the slow, painstaking work of editing background vocals. I’ve been up since 7am yesterday, and tomorrow will be yet another early morning over at Sony Publishing where I hold down a day job as a staff songwriter for other artists. It feels like I’ve been running on nothing but adrenaline for the past few months, and these late nights are starting to take their toll. But I’m working on my debut record, and I can’t help it – it’s a labour of love.

I’ve been a songwriter for other artists for about ten years, and I’ve been lucky enough to have some success with it. But it hasn’t been easy. I can’t complain – I love working in the music business for a living – but you get your heart broken a lot. The songs that you are most proud of are rejected, torn apart right in front of you, played over tinny speakers in record label offices and turned off in the middle of the first verse. “Not good enough.” “My artist would never say that.” “I can’t do anything with this.” “We don’t need a ballad.” “No sad songs please – uptempo, positive only.”

Life is not glamorous for songwriters. You live below the poverty level for years, and when you’re lucky enough to have a hit, you’re even luckier if you can pay your debts. There are no red carpets or couture gowns for most of us. Most people never know our names. But we do this because we love it. We do it because no matter what it costs us, we can’t imagine doing anything else.

I don’t know how it happened, but somehow I have stumbled onto people in this industry who really believe in me. I’ve had the chance to hear great artists singing my songs on the radio, and now after all these years I’m finally being given a shot at being an artist myself. So here I sit tonight, working on a record of my own. And all over this record are my little babies – the songs that I love so much. Some of them were written in the middle of the night while I was staring at the ceiling of my tiny rented apartment with the rusty air conditioner rattling in the window. Some of them were poured out with my tears on the shoulders of my co-writers when I didn’t know what else to do with my broken heart. And this record…it was paid for with macaroni and cheese dinners and rustbucket cars and bitterly cold winter nights with the heat shut off and lonely holidays spent far from the people that I love. I’m very, very proud of this record. I can’t wait for you to hear it. I hope that you will love it as much as I do.

(Victoria’s debut CD, “When You Can Fly”, will be released in April 2009 on OnRamp Records/EMI Canada. Victoria’s fan club members can order exclusive autographed pre-sale copies now.  To become a fan, click on “Join the Mailing List” at the top of the page.)

Posted in Blogs

Brand Spankin’ New Site, Brand Spankin’ New CD, and Brand Spankin’ New Songs!!!

Hi everybody! My website has been closed for re-construction for a few months, so I haven’t been keeping up with my blog entries as much as I’d like to. But I’m very excited to have it back up and running!  And I promise that I will keep you up to date with regular diary entries from now on!

I have had an EXTREMELY busy time here in Nashville.  I’ve been working very hard to finish my record, “When You Can Fly”.  It’ll be ready for release on Canada’s EMI/On Ramp label in April, so it will be available in stores across Canada as well as online. I produced the record myself (and even engineered part of it), so it’s been quite a journey. It’s taken over a year to make it, but I’m really proud of how it’s turning out.  There’s even a duet on there with Jason Blaine (he’s such a sweetheart, and we had a blast recording it together).  Along with finishing the record, I’ve been working on album art, promo packages, website redesign, radio interviews and other promotional stuff.  So it’s been a bit crazy lately. But I like it that way.

My first single hits the airwaves at the beginning of March!  As soon as we release it we will post it for your listening pleasure.  That reminds me, please become a fan on my Facebook music page to hear songs:  http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/pages/Victoria-Banks/47376782468 and also MySpace:  www.myspace.com/victoriabanks.

I’ll be hitting the road in March to cross Canada on a tour of all the big country radio stations in the country.  We’ve got lots of live appearances and promotional giveaways planned, so we will keep you posted on that as well.  We will also be giving my fan club members a special opportunity to buy an autographed copy of the CD before it hits the stores, so please join my club here at the site to become one of “Victoria’s VIPs”!

So, what else have I been up to…?  Well – I’m also holding down a full time job as a staff songwriter for Sony/ATV Publishing here in Nashville, so I’ve been at the office writing songs 5 days a week for other artists.  No rest for the wicked!  But it’s been great – not only have I been working weekly with my regular collaborators Rachel Proctor and Tia Sillers, but I’ve also been writing with lots of artists like Whisperin’ Bill Anderson, The Coppolas (Big Machine recording artists from TV’s “Can You Duet”), Atlantic Records’ Jesse Lee, and a bunch of Canadian artists including Johnny Reid, Shane Yellowbird, Jessie Farrell and Doc Walker.

A bunch of my songs are being released by other artists this spring.  Johnny Reid’s “Dance With Me” album and tour are named after a song Johnny and I wrote with Tia Sillers.  Jesse Lee’s debut single on Atlantic Records in the USA this spring, “It’s a Girl Thing”, was written by myself, Jesse, and Rachel Proctor.  The new Canadian duo “One More Girl” has released two of my songs on their new record:  “You Don’t Know Me” (which I wrote alone) and “When it Ain’t Raining” (which I wrote with Gretchen Wilson).  And the CCMA-winning group “Hey Romeo” has recorded a song we all wrote together called “Searchin’ For You” for their upcoming record.

Thanks for visiting my new site!  Please come back and visit regularly!

Posted in Blogs

“Remember That” – The Stories Behind the Song

‘REMEMBER THAT’ LYRICS:

(Sung by Jessica Simpson, Written by Victoria Banks & Rachel Proctor)

Remember how he told you you were stupid

How he couldn’t even look at you anymore

Remember how he told you you were crazy

How he got out of the car and slammed the door

He said, ‘You can’t do anything right. Why you gotta make me so mad?

Just get out of my sight’ – Remember that

When it’s 3 am and he’s at your door and he wants you back and he’s begging for forgiveness  -Remember that

When your phone keeps ringing all night long and that same old weakness gets so strong that you’re helpless – Remember that

Remember how he pushed you in the hallway

Just enough to hurt a little bit

Remember the whiskey in his whispers

And the lies that fell so easy from his lips

He said he’ll never do it again, but he can’t take it back

The proof is on your skin – Remember that

When it’s 3 am and he’s at your door and he wants you back and he’s begging for forgiveness – Remember that

When your phone keeps ringing all night long and that same old weakness gets so strong that you’re helpless – Remember that

It doesn’t matter how he hurts you

With his hands or with his words

You don’t deserve it, it ain’t worth it

Take your heart and run

When it’s 3 am and he’s at your door and he wants you back and he’s begging for forgiveness – Remember that

When your phone keeps ringing all night long and that same old weakness gets so strong that you’re helpless – Remember that

Remember, you’re gonna be alright

Take it from me, I’ve stood there in your shoes.

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

You may have heard the new Jessica Simpson single ‘Remember That’ playing on the radio recently. Rachel Proctor and I wrote the song together, and it’s a song we’re very proud of because every line of it is written from personal experience. It amazes me how many intelligent, strong women fall prey to abusive relationships, and how difficult it is to break that pattern. When you’re in love, you always want to see the beauty in the person you’re with, and to remember the good things about your time together. But in order to find the strength to break the pattern, you have to force yourself to remember the bad things.

Abuse comes in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes the line that’s crossed is a blurry one. It doesn’t always leave scars on your skin, but that doesn’t mean the scars aren’t there. In this blog I’ll tell you my story behind ‘Remember That’. You can visit www.myspace.com/rachelproctorsongs to read Rachel’s story too. The names have been changed, but everything else is accurate. I know that this will be upsetting for some people to read, but I’m not doing this to hurt anyone. I’m doing this because I want to stand up and share my own story, in hopes that it will make a difference in someone else’s life. The more open we are about this topic, the more we can help women who are standing in those shoes step out of them and into a new life.

&f&f&f&f&f&f

MY STORY:

I moved to Nashville from Canada in my early 20s with all of my belongings stuffed into a Chevy Sprint. I have always been very close to my family so leaving them a thousand miles behind me was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But I knew that songwriting was my calling, so I was following the call to Music City to work as a professional songwriter.

I guess I must have been pretty naÔve about love. I had only dated one guy   I had been with my high school boyfriend for ten years. We had gone through a lot together, but by the time I moved to Nashville our lives were heading in different directions.

We were still trying to maintain a long-distance relationship when I first met Steve, but the flame had begun to fizzle out and we were calling each other less and less often. I liked Steve, but I didn’t really think much of it. He had taken one of the head positions at the company where I worked. He was very friendly, and had a great smile and an infectious laugh. Most people loved him; he was the kind of outgoing, charming man who never met a stranger. He was quick with a compliment, had an exciting, almost manic energy about him, and he could start up a conversation with anyone, anywhere. But there were some people who instantly disliked him. And the people who didn’t like him REALLY didn’t like him. I never quite understood why at the time. I guess his personality was like a magic spell; it worked on most of us, but others could see right through it to the flaws underneath.

Occasionally I would spend afternoons sitting in his office, trading stories. I was sitting there with him one afternoon a few months after we’d met and he invited me to go out for a margarita after work. It didn’t seem unusual; it was pretty common to go out and discuss work over drinks. So I did.

Instead of one margarita, he ordered us a pitcher. And then another. And then he started to tell me how he felt about me. First I was stunned, and then I was flattered, and then I started to get that butterflies-in-my-stomach, pulse-racing feeling that I hadn’t felt in a long time. For the first time I looked at him and realize how attracted I was to him. With all that tequila going to my head, I don’t remember much about the rest of the night, but I know I woke up beside him the next day and the rest is history.

Within a few days, I called my boyfriend and broke up with him, and then I jumped right in with Steve without giving it a second thought. We were inseparable. We spent every night together, sitting on the bridge over the river next to his house, telling stories about our pasts. We shared everything with each other. I could see that his life was a mess &unpaid bills, two failed marriages, weekend visitations with his kids &but he seemed so vulnerable and so honest about his mistakes, and I couldn’t help feeling sorry for him and kind of protective of him. He just seemed like a guy who had always meant well, but had been in a series of difficult relationships and had ended up running for the hills every time. I didn’t realize that in most cases, someone’s past behavior is a good predictor of their future behavior. I believed in change, in giving people the benefit of the doubt. If I had known then what I know now, I would have seen the red flags from miles away.

Steve always saw himself as the victim. He had cheated in most of his relationships, but it was always because he was unhappy, manipulated, or nagged. He had even been accused of physically assaulting one of his ex-wives, but he claimed he just hit her in self-defense because she hit him first. I saw no reason to doubt that; the stories he told me made her sound pretty crazy.

I also turned a blind eye to Steve’s drinking. Every night, the vodka or wine bottle would be opened up and he’d keep pouring us drinks. I’d get a little tipsy, but I wasn’t a big drinker so I’d nurse my glass all night long. Steve, however, drank a LOT. And he held it well. I could hardly even tell that he was drunk until his eyes got a little unfocused at the end of the night. But I told myself it was just part of the fun. It seemed like a natural way to unwind after a long day at work, sitting on the bridge and dangling our feet off the edge over the river below, drinking vodka and cranberry juice with the ice cubes tinkling in the glass, and watching the fireflies flicker and rise in the distance while the heavy Tennessee midsummer heat trickled sweat down the backs of our necks. And he was such a romantic. He would look straight into my eyes with his deep gaze, and tell me how beautiful I was &how lucky he was &how I wasn’t like any other woman he’d ever met &how I was an angel sent to rescue him &how he wanted to start his life over with me, have a family with me &how nothing could ever tear us apart &how he would love me forever and ever. And I soaked it in. I thought to myself &THIS is how love is supposed to be. Passion. Fire. I couldn’t get enough.

I caught him in some pretty big lies about his past, but by the time I figured that out, I was so deeply in love with him that I somehow managed to justify them all. He was just scared. He didn’t want me to leave him. He had whitewashed the truth because he thought I would run away. But he didn’t know my strength. He didn’t know what an understanding woman I was. I would show him what true love really is. That’s what I told myself.

I found myself turning away from the large circle of friends I used to have, until one by one they fell out of my life. Steve didn’t really have any close friends, and when I spent time with mine, I missed him. I felt vaguely like I was abandoning him, and he’d sulk and be grumpy about it afterwards. I started to believe, like he did, that we should be everything to each other. We shouldn’t need anyone else.

I began to depend on him as my advisor, and I became his protegÈ. He had a lot of experience in the music business, and I trusted his instincts far more than I trusted my own. At home, I was his secretary, his nurse, and his cheerleader. I would sit enthralled and listen for hours to his stories about work. I’d spend days sorting through his piles of overdue bills, sorting out what needed to be paid and helping him to repair his credit. I would plan visits with his family, who welcomed me with open arms. They had been estranged from him on several occasions in the past (something that I didn’t find surprising, knowing how turbulent his life had been) and I enjoyed playing the role of the healer and helping him to make those bonds tight again. I also really hit it off with his kids, and enjoyed the weekend visits we had with them.

I took Steve to visit my parents for the first time about a month after we met. They were immediately suspicious of him. They knew his track record with relationships was not good, and they were worried about their daughter. I think they wanted to warn me, but they could see how I felt about him, and they knew that there was nothing they could say or do to change things   I would have turned a deaf ear to their criticisms if they had tried. Steve had an irresistible boyish charm – he was so sincere about the way he felt about me – and I was so obviously in love with him that they eventually embraced him as part of the family.

I moved in with him after three months, and two years later we bought a house together. It was a beautiful old farmhouse with a tin roof, set back off a secluded road in the country about 45 minutes outside Nashville   it was a miracle to find it, because it was exactly what we had been imagining we wanted to buy one day. It needed a lot of fixing up, so we started work on renovating it, and for the next couple of years we single-handedly gutted each room down to the studs, jacking up floors and ceilings, insulating walls, cutting through the roof to build a dormer, and making it into a dream home that we were going to live in for the rest of our lives. It was a lot of work but we loved doing it. We’d spend weekends hanging drywall and painting ceilings with classic rock blasting on the transistor radio. We’d carve crooked hearts with our initials inside them into the studs inside the walls. Every so often I’d pick up the video camera and film Steve playing air guitar with the nail gun, or he’d film me looking cross-eyed at a blotch of paint on my nose, and we’d laugh until our sides ached.

Every night after work, Steve would pour himself a glass of vodka and cranberry juice, and he’d keep re-filling it all night long. Sometimes I’d even wake up on Saturday morning and look out the window to see him mowing the yard with that glass already in his hand. But it never seemed to be an issue. It was just his way of relaxing.

A year after we bought the house, Steve built a beautiful white arbor in the front yard between my lily beds, and we were married there in a small ceremony with just our families and some old friends in attendance. Each morning we’d wake up in each other’s arms to the birds singing in the trees outside our windows and the sight of the neighbor’s black horses in the long green grass. I had never been so happy.

I can’t put my finger on exactly when things started to fall apart, but it happened over the course of about a year. Two years into our marriage, Steve lost his job and became frighteningly depressed. I did my best to stand by him, to support him emotionally and financially while he worked through things. He cried all the time, lost a lot of weight and went to the doctor over and over again, convinced that he was dying of some unknown disease. The doctor prescribed antidepressants, but Steve refused to take them.

I wouldn’t admit to myself how scared I was or how crazy he was acting   I was determined to be calm and positive and put on a happy face to the world as if everything was OK. Looking back now, I realize that I should have taken that a lot more seriously than I did. Paired with his usual manic personality, this period of depression seems suspiciously like a sign of an undiagnosed psychological problem.

A few months later, he was inexplicably acting normal again, and I breathed a sigh of relief. He started a new job that demanded a lot of his attention, and it was nice to see him excited about something. How could I complain when he started to spend more and more time at the office? How could I be upset when he didn’t come home until after dark and the dinner I had spent hours cooking got cold on the stove? He was happy, and I was happy for him. But I missed my best friend, and the house that once seemed like such a haven began to feel empty and sad. Night after night, I’d sit at the kitchen table in silence and eat my cold dinner alone, watching the sun going down on the fields outside the window and feeling for the first time how isolated I had become from the rest of the world. And then I’d go up to bed, and sometime in the night I’d feel him climb in next to me and take me in his arms. But then I’d wake up in the morning, reach over to his side of the bed and find that he was gone again.

Soon the long days he was spending at the office turned into stretches of time when he didn’t come home at all. He said he was sleeping on the office couch to avoid the long commute, or that he was taking trips out of state with the company’s investor. He had rarely missed a weekend with his oldest daughter before, but he started to miss several of those at a time. His drinking started to increase. He’d always called me several times a day, but now sometimes he’d forget to call me at all to say he wasn’t coming home – he’d gone out for ‘business’ drinks after work and was too drunk to drive   and I would spend the night lying awake with my stomach in knots, picturing him broken and bleeding in a wrecked car somewhere.

It was like all the old rules of our relationship didn’t apply anymore, and I didn’t understand the new rules. He was the one that had taught me that we were supposed to put each other first   that it was the two of us against the world   but now I was suddenly the last thing in his life, and I began to feel a kind of desperation and emptiness in mine that I had never felt before. We started to argue more and more often. I wanted to talk about starting a family, but he insisted that he didn’t want any more children. That’s why I married you,’ he said. ‘I TOLD you I didn’t want any more kids, and you told me you were OK with that!’ I must be crazy, I told myself. I must be remembering things wrong. But I had ALWAYS wanted kids. How did I end up married to someone who didn’t?

When he came home after several days away, he started to be increasingly annoyed and rude with me. When I was panicking because he hadn’t deposited his paycheck into our bank account in weeks, and I couldn’t figure out how to pay all the bills and child support with just my own income, he called me a nag. ‘No wonder I never come home, if it’s going to be like this,’ he’d say, ‘Why are you being such a bitch? Can’t you just shut up and let me relax for once?’ If I didn’t mow the two acres of yard while he was gone, I was lazy. If I did mow the yard, it was too short and I was going to kill the grass, and why couldn’t I do ANYTHING right? If I looked at him the wrong way, he was outraged with me. Sometimes I’d start to feel angry about the way that he was treating me, but then I’d start to question myself &maybe he’s right &maybe I AM being unreasonable &maybe I AM just lazy and clingy and I’ve become that stereotypical sniping, nagging wife. So I tried to tiptoe around like I was walking on eggshells. But no matter what I did, it was always the wrong thing.

He told me I was driving him crazy, that I was driving him away. He stopped coming home altogether and started staying in hotels instead. I cried myself to sleep night after night, wondering what I could possibly do to be the woman he wanted me to be. I just wanted my husband back. After a couple of weeks, I broke down and drove to the hotel he was staying in, knocking on the door of his room in tears in the middle of the night, begging him to go to couples therapy with me, begging him to come home. He looked at me with cold disgust. ‘No,’ he said. ‘It’s too late for that. Go home. Leave me alone.’ I was devastated. It was as if there was an impostor walking around in my husband’s body. How could the love of my life suddenly become so cruel and uncaring?

When I finally got it together enough to look at the cell phone bill, I saw that he had been making over 30 calls a day for the past three months to a number I didn’t recognize. I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. I dialed the number, and heard a woman’s voice I didn’t recognize on the other end of the line. My heart fell out of my chest. I thought I was going to throw up. He was seeing someone else. His trips out of state hadn’t been business. They hadn’t been time spent alone to think things over. Nothing had been what it seemed.

I was enraged, I was crushed, I felt like I’d been hit by a Mack truck. How could this have happened to us? I was his angel! We were meant to be together! We were different from the others! I couldn’t even imagine my life without him. When I confronted him about it, he admitted there was someone else, but he insisted it was just an ‘emotional affair’. The phone bills and credit card bills gave the truth away, but I still didn’t know what to believe. He was so good at lying that it was frightening. He would look me straight in the eye and tell me something I knew was untrue with such honesty that I began to question my own sanity.

I didn’t know where to turn, so I began to read self-help books about midlife crisis, about surviving your husband’s affair, about waiting things out and putting things back together again. I tried to choke back my rage and despair and smile. I didn’t call him, didn’t pester him, stopped nagging him &I tried to act like a saint. When I talked to him I would pretend everything was fine. I was a shoulder for him to cry on &ignoring my own heart breaking into pieces as I listened to him talk about how torn he was, how attracted he was to this other woman, how he didn’t want to lose me but he couldn’t stop seeing her.

I held it together for a few weeks, until the night of our 3rd anniversary. That was the night that changed my life, the night that finally gave me the strength to leave. That was the night that our dream home became my nightmare.

I was supposed to meet Steve for dinner at a nice restaurant downtown to celebrate our anniversary. I was thin and pale, weak from all the tears I had been crying, but I covered my the dark circles under my eyes with makeup, put on a pretty dress, and tried to smile as if everything was fine. When I got to the restaurant, Steve wasn’t there yet. The hostess sat me at a small candlelit table, and I propped Steve’s anniversary card up against his wine glass. I had made the card myself, like the old love letters we used to give to each other, and inside it I had written a list of all the beautiful and special things I loved about him. I sat there alone for almost an hour. Steve finally arrived in a rush, kissing me on the cheek and apologizing for being kept late at work.

The evening felt like a masquerade, heavy with a sadness that was hard to ignore. Steve ordered a lot of drinks with dinner, and I was trying not to think about the knot of suspicion in my stomach. But the moment we got home, I couldn’t help but go straight upstairs to check the online cell phone records.

My suspicions had been right. He hadn’t been working late. He had been on the phone with his girlfriend the entire time I had been sitting there in the restaurant staring at the red crayon hearts on the envelope of his anniversary card.

When I realized that, it was like a dam burst inside me. I couldn’t hold it all in any longer. I called him into the room, pointed at the phone records on the computer screen, and screamed at him that I couldn’t deal with this anymore, that I was going to call his girlfriend’s husband and bring their affair out into the open. All of my pent up anger came pouring out, and I thundered and roared and threw all of his lies in his face.

Steve became like a cornered animal. He completely snapped. He shoved me so hard that I fell across my desk, smashing my computer. He began picking up furniture and throwing it, breaking a window. He started systematically destroying things that were mine &a little antique bedside table I had bought &pictures of my family &a coffee table book about my hometown. He went into my closet and started throwing my clothing out onto the lawn. His face was beet red, and he pushed it up against mine, his nose pressed to my nose, and screamed a string of curse words at me, calling me every ugly name you can imagine at the top of his lungs.

It didn’t take long to realize that things were out of control. I got quiet. He got louder. I got scared. This was escalating into something serious and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I was in trouble. So I went downstairs to get the phone and call someone. He followed on my heels, tore the phone out of my hand, smashed it on the floor and ripped the line out of the wall. I ran back upstairs and locked myself in the bedroom where my cell phone was. He ran up the stairs behind me and started beating on the door with his fists, shouting.

I dialed 911 and told them in a hurried whisper what was happening. They said the police were on the way. I wondered how strong the door was, and how long it would keep him out. Then the doorknob started to shake and I realized that he had a screwdriver and he was taking the door handle off. I wondered how long the police were going to take to get there, and I wondered what would happen when he got through that door. I sat curled up in a chair in the corner of the room we had just painted   my stepdaughter’s sky blue bedroom with the seashells from our Florida trip on the windowsill   and waited. The handle came off. He reached his hand through the hole. I couldn’t breathe. Time stood still while he struggled to open the door, but he couldn’t get the lock to let go.

He went away for a moment then, and I sat there curled up and silent in that chair, too scared to even cry, wondering what was going to happen next. I could hear him storming through the house, breaking things, and then I heard the back door slam as he went outside. I heard the rattling of the extension ladder, and the thud of it hitting the wall just below the window of my room. I was terrified. I turned toward the window and counted his heavy steps up the rungs, waiting for his face to appear.

The moment I saw him, a sickening awakening came over me. This wasn’t the face of the man I loved. It was the face of a stranger   a terrifying, ugly face. I remember telling myself &REMEMBER THIS. REMEMBER THIS MOMENT. REMEMBER THIS FACE. REMEMBER HOW YOU FEEL RIGHT NOW. FREEZE IT INTO YOUR MIND. This is your real husband. This is the ugly, terrifying truth. This is not something you can paint over later. There is no way to make this ok, no matter how hard you try, and you are going to try really hard. There is absolutely no way to put your life back together again. And as he stood there on the ladder, reaching for the window, I heard the gravel crunch in the driveway. The police had arrived.

After they left with my husband, I packed some belongings in a bag. With shaking fingers I dialed Christina, my only friend. I told her what had happened, and she told me to come straight over to her house. I did. Later that night, I called my parents up in Canada and told them what had happened. They were beside themselves, devastated that they were so far away when I needed their help. I was in shock. I remember apologizing to them for some reason, as if I what had happened had been my fault.

Taking my life apart from Steve’s was like tearing half of my heart out, piece by piece. In a series of trips back to the house while he was at work, I separated the photos in our albums, his laundry from mine, divided our wedding presents into two boxes. It was all I could do not to answer the phone when he called, not to fall under the spell of his apologies. But I had to remind myself that what someone says and what they do are two different things, and you have to believe what they do. Steve could say he was sorry a hundred times, but that wouldn’t change anything. BEING sorry is what really matters, and that takes changing behavior, changing patterns, therapy, solitude, and doing whatever else is necessary to make sure the hurt never happens again. Steve didn’t do any of that.

I don’t know why I ever expected anything to be sacred to Steve, or how his behavior could continue to shock me. Still, for some reason I was determined to handle the end of our relationship with some level of respect and fairness even though he had shown none to me. I found it impossible to completely shut off the love I had once felt for him and harden my heart enough to divorce him. I kept praying to God not to force me to be the strong one – if Steve and I couldn’t be together then at least he could be a man, pitch in and help me make the divorce quick and clean. But for almost a year, I lived in an apartment of my own while Steve continued to live in our house, making a series of never-ending promises to finish up the final renovations and prepare it for sale. In his eyes, he was the victim again. He was the victim of his own demons, of an unfair world, of a wife who was leaving him and forcing a divorce on him that he didn’t want. But with some distance between us it became more and more easy to see how ridiculously skewed his reality was, and slowly he lost his power over me. I didn’t care what he thought anymore. His problems were not my problems.

By the time I found enough strength to end our relationship legally, I found out that despite everything he’d been telling me, he was already several months into an affair with a new girlfriend. The day before the divorce was final, I took the real estate agent through the house to list it for sale. It was all I could do to choke back a scream as I walked past the cards, Valentines and love notes between my husband and his new girlfriend. ‘We were brought together for a reason,’ they said. ‘You are my angel. You rescued me. I will love you forever and ever.’

After the divorce, the full weight of loneliness set in, and it was crushing. Everywhere I went and everyone I met reminded me of Steve. I went out on a few dates, but I wasn’t really interested in anyone that I met, no matter how well they treated me or how attractive they were. No one measured up to the Steve I had loved   the old Steve, who used to make me laugh until I cried &who left me crooked hearts in the shower steam on the bathroom mirror every day &who bought me every rose in the flower saleslady’s bouquet down at the bar on Friday night &who twirled me around the dance floor at our wedding with tears of happiness streaming down his face. But the only real evidence of Steve was the wedding ring up in a box in my attic, and the occasional ringing of my phone in the middle of the night. His drunken, slurred voice whispering ‘I miss you. I messed up.’ That was not the man I loved. The man I loved didn’t really exist. He never had. I had created him out of the best parts of Steve, but I had left out all the pieces that didn’t fit.

I wanted it to stop hurting, and that left me no choice but to move on. So I did the only thing I knew how to do   I took one tiny footstep, one minute, one hour, and one day at a time. I changed my phone number. I distanced myself from Steve’s family (they had always been supportive and sympathetic with me, and I loved them dearly, but it was too painful to be around them). I bought a new house. I started sleeping in the middle of the bed instead of on the side like I used to. I bought new clothes, started eating healthier food, and tried to adopt a more gentle and respectful attitude towards myself. I wrote song after song to purge the pain and work through the heartache of what had happened. I started seeing a therapist. I went out to a lot of social events. I still didn’t date anyone, but I reached out to new people and made new, deep and lasting friendships   some of the best I’ve ever had. I took trips to places Steve and I had visited and filled them with new and better memories. I wrote page upon page in my journal, trying to understand what had happened to me and why I had made the decisions I had, and trying to figure out how to avoid making them again. And instead of feeling lonely, I gradually started to feel more comfortable being alone, and I started to feel real happiness again.

One February morning almost two years after the divorce, I woke up and realized that I was strong enough to deal with the last remaining unfinished business Steve and I had left. I knew instantly what I had to do. So I went up to the attic and got the wedding ring from the box where I had kept it, scraped the morning frost off my car windshield and started driving. I drove to the restaurant where Steve and I had spent our first date, and I parked the car in the parking lot. I closed my eyes and allowed my mind to go back in time and remember the two of us there   every detail of that evening that I could resurrect. And I whispered, ‘I forgive you. I release you.’

After that, I drove to the office where we had worked together &to the house where we first lived together &to the hotel where I’d knocked on his door in the middle of the night &to our old farmhouse, ripe with bitter and sweet memories &and I pictured the two of us there, in as much detail as I could, tears running down my face, repeating the mantra, ‘I forgive you. I release you.’

By late afternoon, I found myself back at the bridge where we used to sit and talk when we were first dating. A cold rain had started to fall, so I turned up the collar on my winter coat, curled my fingers around the ring in my pocket and walked out to the middle of the bridge over the river. I sat down, closed my eyes and pictured the two of us sitting in that exact spot together, talking, laughing, and falling in love. I remembered the tinkle of the ice in the glasses beside us, and the whirring of the cicadas under the summer stars. Time turned itself backwards until I could see us perfectly, sitting right there next to me: a younger me, and a younger Steve &so innocent, so oblivious, so messed up, and destined for such pain and destruction. I cried for us, and for how beautiful and terrible that simple image was. My heart broke with pity for Steve, who was no longer a tyrant or a traitor, just a tiny, powerless, desperately lonely and hopelessly flawed soul who couldn’t be fixed – it was poison to even try. And my heart overflowed with love for the young, inexperienced girl trying to fill an emptiness in her spirit, looking right past the truth to see only what she wanted to see, making a choice that would change her life forever and bring her to this moment nine years later.

I wiped the tears and the rain from my cheeks. I stood up and looked down at the grey sky reflected in the river below me. I reached into my pocket, pulled out the wedding ring, and cradled it in my palm. I stretched my arm out over the edge of the bridge and slowly opened my fingers. I smiled and whispered, ‘I forgive you. I release you.’ And I let go.

*****

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.

 

Posted in Blogs

#1 on iTunes!!!!!

Wow!!!!!

I just checked iTunes this morning and the Jessica Simpson record is the #1 record in North America!!!!

And my song “Remember That” is the #1 most downloaded song on the record, with a huge popularity rating – even more than our single, “Come on Over”. That is AMAZING!!! I’m so happy! “Remember That” is Jessica’s next single, so I’m really excited to see how much the fans like it.

By the way, keep an eye on Letterman tomorrow night (Thursday) – Jessica will be performing on there.

Posted in Blogs

Get 3 Free Songs!!

Stay informed

Stay up to date! Subscribe to my RSS Feed and receiveinformation about Tour Dates, News Items or Blog.

Latest Tweets