First of all, I’m not writing this to be negative. Life is full of lessons and curve balls, all you can do is roll with the punches. I wanted to write this out because I believe you and I have a lot in common when it comes to the art of failure. From birth I’ve battled the world to march to the beat of my own drum. I was born an early baby at home with the help of a midwife, who was also an astrologer, in a hut without electricity… As you might of guessed, I had a hard time fitting in at public school. There were daily traumatic experiences with teachers who were annoyed or terrified of my independent nature. You see, I loved the outside world, the one just outside my classroom window. I never understood why I had to sit at a desk and read about it in a book, when it was right there for us to taste. That type of behaviour was not rewarded or celebrated in my schooling life, I was often told I was stupid, lazy or had a form of a learning disability. My parents endlessly battled with principles who wanted to “place” me in detention or the slow learners class. Instead of someone taking the time to recognize the fact that I was neither stupid nor lazy; I was creative and an outside thinker, dying to be understood. Right out of the gate, I had a good handle on what was important in life (thanks mom and dad) and felt like I should of been seen as an equal in the classroom, not a lesser. But there I was sitting in a circle with kids my age, learning “D” is for “Duck”, tolerating the stench of my teacher’s coffee breath and asking if I was allowed to go to the bathroom. At the time I did not know this was the beginning of my rebel heart and the becomings of my creative passion to be heard.
I was raised in a household that celebrated creative thought and independence. My mother was a brilliant songwriter and musician, who had a zest for life that made almost everyone that met her, fall in love with her. My father was a reformed hippie that battled “the man” and loved talking about it, brilliant as he was handsome. On top of their creative ventures, they together ran a school teaching people how to build their own homes – the office was set-up in our living room. So I got a direct schooling on how to be an entrepreneur starting at the age of 4.
Like most in the 80’s, I had a complicated childhood, thanks to the rising popularity of divorce. My parents split when I was 6 years old, I didn’t take it well. The day they told me it was over, I ran to my room and painted a picture of a broken heart with a little peach at the bottom of the page. I wish I knew what the peach represented; my guess would be it was the sweetness and bitterness of love? (yes, I was that deep ). They worked hard to put me first, but for any child with divorced parents, you fall through the cracks in a way. I don’t blame them, I’ve learned in my aging, being a parent is really hard and you just try to do your best as a flawed semi-adult. I found comfort in my imagination and running around in near by fields and forest, creating a world of fairies and pirates. Living out in the country there isn’t a lot to do during the summers when your family was on a budget. One of my favourite activities was collecting road kill and giving them a proper funeral next to my play house, OG goth right there. I would run across the street to the graveyard and collect flowers from the graves and bring them back to place them on the poor souls I scraped off the pavement. Maybe I am missing my calling after all ?? Either way, I became comfortable with death at a young age. As comfortable as one can get, I suppose.
In my comfortable loneliness I did find something very freeing and expressive that intensely entered my awkward pre-teen life – music. It was in my blood and bones, starting from my mother holding a guitar against her belly as I grew inside of her, to sitting side stage watching her play with her band, to my very first cd I bought (Siamese Dream, Smashing Pumpkins). It took me awhile to get to a place I could sing and play in front of people, not until I was 17. Up until that point I mostly sat and watched my mom, friends and high school lovers play on stage, daydreaming it was me. I remember very clearly the first time I stepped on a stage, I felt so comfortable and free. I could be me, without apologizing or being punished by the outside world. As soon as I left the stage, I went back to feeling uneasy and ashamed of who I was. This went on for many years, right up to my last performance with the band, Hands & Teeth. Not because I did a bad job – although I almost always felt like I let someone down – but because the world I created on stage was safe and mine and off stage was not. Performing live is like living the most you can live in one moment. Every hair on your body holds the attention of the world, you are the sweating, reeling minster of a gospel church, passionately preaching to your conjuration the good word. Music IS my religion, my faith, my gospel and my god/goddess. With that faith comes a struggle, I will warn you, if you didn’t already know. Being a musician is a blessing and a curse, especially in this day and age. I’ve been pounding the pavement of this industry since I was 19 years old and I can tell you, I wouldn’t wish this driven passion on anyone. And I am aware, it is a choice, I’ve chosen to be here. But, just as I am about to walk away and “grow-up”, something amazing comes along and I have to jump on it. And then it takes me on this magical journey of artistic pleasure and discovery, I am like “DAMN, this is SO GOOD”. As much as it has been a burden, it has also saved me.
The night the band I was in for 5/6 years came to an end, it felt like I had lost a lover and a best friend. It had been my outlet, school, family and emotional crutch for 6 years, and with a swift swipe it was over. The world I worked so hard to create and keep felt like it had betrayed me. I collected myself over the weeks and decided I was leaving town. Not to run away or have a fresh start, I needed to process the failure in a neutral place. So, I packed my bags and moved to Los Angeles, California. I was lucky enough to have a sister living in Los Angeles, that took me in with open arms. After having 3-4 voices around me at all times, guiding me through all sorts of different processes, I found myself in an empty room, paused in silence. Who was I now as a artist? Where did I want to go? How was I going to do this alone? WTF MAN. I had wrapped myself up so tightly in this project, when it unravelled I was like a naked baby crying for it’s mother’s teet. In this new silence, I started with small, focused steps.
Every morning I got up at 7:30am and meditated, trying to settle that inner stillness. To get the juices flowing I’d make myself coffee and would write out streams of conciseness in a big notebook. Setting a routine was really important to feeling like I was heading to a goal, creating a new pathway for myself. Slowly the music came back to me, mostly just building tracks, but never making past the first chorus of a song. But, for the first time, I didn’t shame myself for not completing an idea. I just went until I wanted to stop. To create for the sole purpose of creation, to just get it out of my brain/heart was almost a new way of conducting business and new territory. What was and has been coming out of the ol’ thinker has been some of my most creative and honest work I’ve done. I think overthinking the raw process is a killer, it becomes more about making it right, instead of the process telling you what it needs to be. As I got deeper into exploring pop music writing, I’d spend the other half of my time just letting my mind bleed pure creative juices. Trusting the process has been a slow learning curve for me, maybe because of my past experiences of self doubt or just fear of the unknown. Whatever it may be, all I can do is trust myself and my skills. Tension and release, tension and release, the makeup of a great life and great art.
So I titled this blog as I did, not because I actually failed at anything. Something I’ve learnt over the past year is “failure” is SO GOOD FOR YOU. It pushed me to grow to new heights and really investigate who I was and who I wanted to become.
So here’s my two rusty cents..
The only thing that’s stopping you from becoming all that you want/can become, is you. So get the heck outta your own way and go for it. You’re awesome and you deserve it.
One thought on “The Art of Failure and other stories from the abyss..”
Love how you express yourself kiddo; i look forward to reading all about your future ‘failures’.
PS I don’t really think your dad is or ever will be a REFORMED hippie!!