My first memory was a music box given to me by my parents, a mystical wooden toy that was a 3-in-1: three hand-powered wind-up tunes installed cleverly in an old (and I mean old) Old Spice deodorant box that had been handed down from my grandfather to my dad. It was one of the first objects, along with a handmade wagon, given to me when I was born:
Tune #1 was a sweet melody with a peculiar twist.
The second tune is “Lara’s Theme” from the film Doctor Zhivago, which I hear my grandparents loved. I never knew my grandparents. They died before I was born. But the melody -- playful, bittersweet -- brought them back to me.
The third tune was different. It had the same sweet melody over and over.
And it had lyrics:
He’s got the whole world / in his hands He’s got the whole world / in his hands He’s got the whole world / in his hands
He’s got the whole world in his hands
How to describe the feeling of listening to those songs? It was intangible. It shaped my soul and has influenced my musicality ever since. Now I’m a 193 lb. musician, but on the inside, I’m still that kid in awe of a little wooden box that emitted magic. Magic you can’t see but you can feel.
Back then I Iooked like an eggplant (don’t all newborns?) destined to be...what, who?
That’s me in the 11th grade, “flying off in a tone” for an analog camera I’d set up in the basement to capture portraits of my parents for my pre-digital photography class. Ironically, the images that my teacher liked the most were my self-portraits, which at the time were afterthoughts.
The first the harmonica came to me was in my teens, in my uncle’s garage in Levelland, Texas, where I was working for the summer.
It was like learning to speak all over again. Soon, it felt like flying.
My first guitar came to me at age 13.
That got me into Fatal Coincidence, a punk-rock band and into a rap trio dubbed Sneak Thief.
After an Honours BA in music, and winning 1st place in a province-wide competition with my best friend, after founding a harmonica school (and they said it couldn’t be done…) and touring the Blues Trail, paying homage to Robert Johnson’s sad old grave in rural Mississippi, after playing at the Taos Inn, where a good woman in the audience gave me a $50 bill, after taking in the sights of Broadway, after building a professional recording studio near the Stockyards in Toronto (and they said it couldn’t be done)--it’s time to ask: where to next?
Truth is, I still feel like an eggplant sometimes. As much as I’ve established myself as an artsy young business man, I have yet to share my creations with the world.
The music I’ve made for the last 14 years has mostly languished on my hard drive, and without a band or record label, I haven’t felt compelled to tour. Not yet.
But something’s shifted.
I need to rediscover how to fly.
Which is where you come in.
I’m honoured that you’re reading this now. You might be one of the first to hear my music as it’s meant to be heard, with all the instruments and voices I hear in my head.
It’s daunting to imagine what your purpose is on earth. I have a hunch, mine is connected to being creative, and freeing up creativity in others.
My mother nurtured my creativity with weekly trips to cafes where she would write and I would doodle in my own little notebook. You can catch that cafe vibe from the video she and I made together a few years back.
My first career dream was to be a cartoonist. Little did I know, my sister’s precocious art chops would turn me into a cartoon :)
If you follow my journey, I think you’ll be surprised by what you’ll find.
My aim is to offer up a song or two a month -- some old, some new -- each with an illustration, drafted masterfully by my sister, the indie filmmaker, Cailleah: fantastical visual renditions of my musical creations. If you subscribe, you'll get my latest tracks+lyrics+song-art right in your inbox.
* If I had to choose one word to leave you with, it would be freedom -- freedom to be, think, work, feel, and dream as you wish, forever more.
I’ve been lucky, being surrounded by people who have encouraged me to be creative and to go wherever my imagination takes me. This is a privilege I do not take for granted. I have made it my mission to encourage others to pursue their creativity as well.
Freedom and imagination -- it’s the only way we’ll find our way.
I invite you to take 5 minutes, and join me as I fly off in a tone.