Confession time… my underwear is falling apart. The weak elastics are popping through the haggard threads and the beleaguered undergarments are hole-y… no, not holy, hole-y, full of random rips and worn out. I really don't mind, they are very comfortable and they are certainly moulded to fit my body. My socks are falling apart too. The other day I was sitting in my lounge chair and my big toe was sticking out like some sort of prisoner trying to escape.
So why, you may ask, are my garments falling apart? The answer is simple. I HATE SHOPPING. No, I mean I really hate it with a vehement passion. The whole ritual… avoiding the oblivious drivers in the parking lot, avoiding the zombie-like pedestrians that are filing out of the stores with their bags of STUFF, the boring pop music playing from the ceiling, the glaring florescent lights, the rows of endless STUFF, the smell of chemical products, the exchange of money for this STUFF that society declares you need. I just find the whole ordeal unnatural. So, I avoid it until the bitter end.
Now I'm chuckling as I think of the promoter who recently told me that I need to cut my hair, dye it blonde, wear a miniskirt, and get a makeup artist. Can you imagine his reaction if he read this blog? Hahaha, ah this Raven Child does find the thought humorous. I am the antithesis of girly… I have never dyed my hair, I don't even straighten it or do anything with it other than wash it and let it dry on its own. I barely wear makeup, my nails can break for all I care, I really don't give a shit (I work with horses and play guitar for Christ's sake!), I don't even have my ears' pierced. The only skirts I ever wear are the occasional long flowing hippy skirts on hot summer days because they're damn comfortable. I don't like diamonds, I don't care about fashions or trends, I don't even have cable or satellite t.v. - I like older movies that actually have substance rather than the modern trend of weak plots covered up by special effects. I think high heeled shoes are ridiculous, just give me an old pair of cowboy boots thank you very much.
So, now you know a little bit more about this Raven for better or for worse. Hopefully I can dispel the myth that because I'm a female guitar player I'm some sort of ridiculous sex object. I am sick and tired of society's portrayal of women and how we're "supposed" to be. I am a GUITAR PLAYER. Period. And for anyone that wants to change me into some glamorous foofoo bunny, well…
People often question me on why I am referred to as The Raven Child, and why specifically do I have such an affinity to this mysterious black corvid.
I grew up in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada where rain forests abide and the lush greenery of the west coast meets the crashing, mysterious shores of the Pacific Ocean. Wildlife abounds; deer, bears, raccoons, birds of all types, rivers stocked with salmon - British Columbia is teeming with life and I was obsessed with every aspect of the natural world. I grew up surrounded by the native Haida People and their spirituality based on Nature, especially the belief in animal representations of one's soul. I discovered that the Raven is my "totem animal", or "spirit guide" and that the dark bird is nestled within my soul. Indeed, my personality is entrenched within the persona of the Raven.
Many of my friends and fans alike know my song "Raven Child", which is a cheeky and playful self analysis of sorts. One of the lines that receives attention from listeners "Don't ask me to smile/Don't tell me to smile/You ever seen a raven smile?" stems from one of my biggest pet peeves... people telling me I'm "too serious" and that I need to "smile more". There is a frustrating societal trend that desires women to be smiley, happy, bubbly, outgoing beings. That is not who I am. I am a thinker and a ponderer of humanity and its place in nature. This is a melancholy undertaking.
Do I love to laugh? Absolutely. Am I goofy at times? Most assuredly. So too is the Raven, cheeky and playful at times. But there is much more to me and the Raven than that. My music is a conduit of internal reflections of the human condition. If you read my first blog post you will remember that playing guitar for me is a release of the burning ember that glows inside me, the Raven that needs to get out. My job as a musician is to set my audiences free for a duration of time, and as such I turn to emotional honesty and depth to allow people to feel, thus releasing their own inner emotions. The Raven, when doing its job properly, is a healer.
Music is a powerful art form, unique in its non-tangibility. The passion, love, hurt, joy, tears, anger, sorrow and all that it can create is one of the driving forces of humanity... a universal language. As such I am drawn to the deep, dark soul of humanity as my muse. Within darkness one can find light. Within the dark feathers of the Raven resided a lightness.
My next couple blogs are taking a rather narcissistic turn for the worst I cringe to report. Many people are requesting to know a little more about me and as I am not even remotely worthy of a larger narrative of self explanation I figured I would try to answer some questions in blog form.
So, if you care to learn about my humanoid person in a little greater detail, whether it be out of some mild curiosity or for more substance to snicker behind my back, stay posted. You will learn why I have an affinity to ravens, how much I actually hate shopping of any kind, how I came to pick up my first guitar, my dislike for societal norms, how truly bizarre I was as a kid, my dream living situation, how horses became such a big part of my life, and other such trivialities that make up the oft described "weird" one I am.
I apologize in advance for this seemingly self obsessed excursion. However, keep in mind that I really don't like talking about myself at all as many of my friends know and I am already experiencing a sense of cognitive dissonance at the thought of revealing some of my inner sentiments publicly. But I figure this can be a test of sorts to see how honest I can actually be for the very remote possibility that I live enough of an interesting life to one day write an autobiography. Riiiiiiiiight...
A strange twist of fate landed me in one of the most mind-altering towns I have ever encountered...
Amidst the craggy mountains of southeastern Arizona, approximately an hour and a quarter east of Tucson, lies Willcox, Arizona, founded in 1880. With a population hovering around 3,500 this remote little town has been knocked down hard by the recession. Abandoned buildings and burnt down houses cry of times when this old west town was booming. Yet despite the weathered and abandoned feel of this poor town there is an enchanting charm. Indeed, once you steer off Interstate 10 and head towards the town centre, it is as though you slip through a time warp. The diners, antique shops and even the local bank look like something out of the 1950's. The downtown strip that runs parallel to the train tracks stands proudly reminiscent of the quintessential western town - an old saloon, now for sale, begs for a hitching post out front and the rest of the town is modernized only to the extent that one imagines 1950's Fords and Chevies ambling down the street.
A few buildings down from the saloon lies the "Willcox Cowboy Hall Of Fame" which literally stopped me in my tracks and garnered quite the chuckle out of me. Hall of fame? Really? Here? And now the true mystery of Willcox is revealed.
Willcox was the birth place to country singer and actor Rex Allen. Admittedly I had never even heard of Rex before, but it didn't take long to clue in. Across from the Rex Allen Museum (the Willcox Cowboy Hall Of Fame) stands a larger than life statue of Mr. Allen, and upon reading the plaque I learned that he was the last of the singing cowboys, known as the Arizona Cowboy. Born in 1920, Rex moved to Hollywood in 1949 where we was signed to Mercury Records and cut a few hits and top albums. He starred in many cowboy movies and was the last of the American singing cowboy vogue of which such greats as Gene Autry and Roy Rogers were part of. His beloved stallion, Koko, is also honoured with a plaque in front of Mr, Allen's statue.
Rex Allen was renowned for his beautiful, rich voice, and later in his career he became a narrator in movies, television shows and commercials. He was the narrator for Walt Disney's The Incredible Journey and the animated Charlotte's Web. As a kid I loved both these movies, so who would've known that this mysterious statue that I gazed at is a tribute to a fellow who had touched my life in his own way!
I suppose in my own overly-wistful way I learned a lesson in all this. I could have stayed in my hotel room, working on my computer and focusing on my own music career. But by taking the time to explore this precious little town and stumbling across the museum and statue I discovered the story of the life and times of this amazing character. From one musician to another, Mr. Allen, it was an honour to come across you. And Willcox, forever may you stand, a relic of America's heyday! I will see you again soon...
I had the most fortunate experience of seeing two of my top influences in concert recently, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, and Fleetwood Mac. After undergoing a case of cognitive dissonance as my bank account glared menacingly at me after the two indulgences (ticket prices are crazy these days!) I was tossed into two completely different experiences of musical ecstasy.
Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Neil, stomping around the stage swaying and snarling in absolute musical freedom, hammering on Old Black to produce the magical and unique solos only he can create, his hair waving around maniacally like some mad scientist. Ralph Molina pounding away on the drums, Billy Talbot head banging while walking in circles with his bass, Poncho Sampedro providing the grunge-like rhythm guitar and humanly pitchy vocal harmonies. I have seen Neil Young two times before, but never with Crazy Horse. It was an experience I could not miss, and thank goodness I did not! They captured the raw, crazed otherworldly genius of Neil's inner depths, the ultimate band of humanness and emotion perfectly exemplified in my favorite number of the night; "Fucking Up". Grungy, dark and intense, Neil is just... well... from a different planet.
Fleetwood Mac: Perfection of production, this concert was outstanding. It was downright surreal to see my heroine goddess, Stevie Nicks, singing some of my favorite songs - her haunting, mystical aura was enchanting and moving. Lindsey Buckingham was on fire, singing and playing like he was at the top of his game. Mick Fleetwood arguably stole the show; my favorite drummer of all time, his mastery, tone and nuances are just out of this world. And of course that English personality and sense of humour ever-present. Mick, in combination with John McVie's perfect timing and bass tone, created rhythmic euphoria. What a show! Backdropped by moody videos on a huge screen and lighting to fit every song perfectly, backup singers and percussionists, a keyboard player, what a stellar experience! Very slick, not a bad note or glitch to be heard, underlying some of the biggest hits of the 20th century... oh my!
So, as aforementioned, two completely opposite musical experiences, both fulfilling and magical in their own unique ways. Are there modern day bands that achieve this level of greatness? I have yet to find any... please inform me!
I recently released a music video to my blues-rock song "Wrong One", and as expected, the horse that I'm riding in the video received more attention than me or the song... well, almost anyways. ;-)
So, let me introduce Johnny.
Johnny's registered name is Hezatheonefritz and he is a 5 year old American Quarter Horse that I bought from Nielsen's Performance Horses just south of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I fell in love with this little guy the moment I rode him. He was three years old when I met him, gangly and just started under saddle. I fell in love with his mind first; so level-headed and easy going, smarter than your average person, and his beady eyes always watch you even when he's not looking at you directly.
When I moved to Nashville he came along for the ride... a five day drive. The further south we got the hotter it became and the U.S. was actually in a heat wave at the time. When we left Calgary it was 56 degrees, by the time we hit South Dakota it was in the 100's. When we hit Nashville it was 104 degrees with 70% humidity. Johnny and the two other horses that came along for the ride (and the dog and cat in the cab of the truck with me) were wondering where the hell I'd brought them to. However, the lush, rich, knee-high Tennessee blue grass quickly gained the horses' attention and the heat became bearable as they stood around eating for two weeks soaked in sweat until they acclimatized (which horses are phenomenally good at).
Johnny has been my pal ever since the day we met. Loyal, willing, smart, playful, sensitive, calm, athletic, just a pure joy to be around. He does have a cheeky side and he's not a "anybody can ride him" type of a horse. At times he's too smart for his own good and I have known him to take merciless advantage of people unless I'm around to keep a stern eye on him. He has been known to eat brooms, knock things over for fun, he poked his head through a window screen and tore it to shreds, he leans on the farrier and can be a general brat. And all the more I love him for it!
But when it comes down to business there's no other horse I'd turn to. Whether it's checking the pastures, sorting cattle, or heading out for a long trail ride, he's my man. He even won me my first Ranch Sorting competition last year! It is not very often you meet one-of-a-kinds, but that he certainly is.
Sometimes when I hear powerful music I envision a rearing horse, mane flowing and nostrils flaring. I don’t know, it’s strange, it just floats in slow motion through my mind. Burns a glowing ember inside my soul. Makes me want to turn into the music, living in that moment of perfection – or to turn into that horse and strike the air with angry hooves, eyes wild and glinting with freedom and rage. There is something similar to understanding the spirit of a horse to understanding the emotional release of playing guitar.
I can look into the eye of a horse I’m training and see myself. Sometimes it’s cathartic, sometimes it’s enlightening. Sometimes it’s scary, sometimes I don’t like it. If you know how to read horse behaviour their thoughts become transparent to you because they live in the moment, and they want you to understand them because it makes them feel safer – they take comfort in knowing you’re understanding them. And they make it very obvious if you know how to pay attention.
Like the horse, the true guitar player is living in the moment and exuding the raw emotion of that exact moment. That is the pinnacle of guitar playing. At least it is for me. Your soul seems to take over from your physical being. Often I catch myself in mid solo where time slows down – or does it speed up? – and it doesn’t seem like I’m playing, I’m just feeling. Just like a horse. So perhaps there’s nothing better than playing guitar except maybe being a horse.