I keep this book on my coffee table and read it at least once a week. All the way through.
Do you ever find yourself, living in your own life...and you don’t remember who you are?
I was thinking about the times in my life when all I did was music. I wrote, toured recorded, and then repeated all that. Every once in awhile I would try to tackle a huge project like learning 31 Covers in 31 Days but mainly I just...coasted. If I had an idea, or a convenient collaboration popped up, it was something to do and usually enjoyable.
I don’t know what I did with the moments in between but I feel like there were so many moments in between when I was just doing nothing. So here I find myself, in my present day life, doing many somethings, and there’s no time to sit around and do nothing, which is the usual time when a song seems to write itself.
Every time someone comes to me to help finish an idea or figure out why they have writer’s block, there is always, always a reason. Something in their life has changed and they either can’t admit it or haven’t found the right way to look at the situation and truly see it. But there’s always a reason. You got a new job, a new relationship, a new puppy, it’s summer so you’re spending more time in the garden...whatever it is, you went from spending tons of time on making a thing to nones of time making anything. I get it. There is tons of good stuff on tv.
In 2012 I read a book called The Brain That Changes Itself (highly recommend). I read a bunch of books on the topic but that’s the book that really resonated with me the most. My memory sucks. My brain sucks. It has always sucked. Further research that I’ve been able to do combined with professional help has me at a place now where I believe it has something to do with ADD, depression and CPTSD. I also struggle with symptoms of dyslexia and a mild undiagnosed (well, self diagnosed, for what it’s worth) type of aspergers (or at least a slew of spectrum-type traits, such as light and sound sensitivity). Add to that a history of seizures and a neurologist telling me I have a “seizure center” in my right brain in my 20s (maybe it’s right on top of all my memories, hiding them from me as we speak).
I know it probably drives the people in my life crazy but there’s so much of my life I just can’t remember. Like… Years. Specific events, day-to-day stuff, huge things that most people would surely find unforgettable. It’s just… Gone. I also struggle with very specific short term memory issues. For example, if I’m counting change, I get to a certain point and I just blank out. I can’t remember stories you’ve told me, events that have happened and people I’ve met. Once, a young man put on a show for me in Toronto and later that night at a different venue, we were talking and he asked me if I remembered who he was. He was very, very upset when after a combination of jet lag and playing three shows that night, I didn’t remember meeting him. He later wrote me an email outlining how disappointed he was. It made me never want to leave my house again.
I hated how it felt, feeing so dumb all the time, and I wished I could do something about it. I must’ve happened upon an article suggesting that we weren’t stuck with the brains that we had, but in fact, we could change our minds. Or at least had the capacity to. The concept that the human brain was “plastic” or malleable in some sense was the most hope I had felt in a long time. I consumed everything I could on the topic. One thing that stuck out to me was the idea that immersing yourself in a particular field or activity was far more beneficial than spaced out or “interval” learning. So I got an idea.
One thing I never really struggled with was music. I mean, I could remember hours worth of chord changes and lyrics on a nightly basis. I was also able to memorize any song my piano teacher played for me so that I never had to read the music in front of me. I pretended I was reading the music, and she caught on quite quickly and very often, so she stopped playing me any of the songs I was supposed to be learning. I could hear a song in the supermarket once and go home and be able to play it on the first try. I couldn’t remember what letter came after L or R in the alphabet...unless I sang the whole alphabet song. So maybe my brain wasn’t a lost cause.
Many of my friends knew many of the same cover songs and because I was very passionate about creating my own songs, I just didn’t know ANY cover songs. Like, at all. I think a part of me knew I could figure it out pretty quickly so I didn’t spend too much time on it. But I’d always be kind of sad when I’d be at a party or something and everyone knew all the same songs… Except me.
I decided to do something about that and maybe get some risidual brain-betterment benefits. I learned 31 songs in 31 days (sometimes less than 31 days, if I had tour or studio time booked) for four years in a row. With the knowledge that it was more beneficial (and “time-cost” effective) to immerse oneself in a particular field, I started out planing to learn 52 songs (or one song per week), then decided it would be better to learn one song, every day, for a month. Surely, the benefits would be far greater, and perhaps even exponential.
If anything, I learned how to learn in a more efficient way and I learned how to create a habit.
So back to wondering who I was and who I am now...
I know I used to write way more songs than I have been. It was all I cared about. These days, I also care an awful lot about helping other people to learn music and start out their own music careers. So I spend less time on my own life and craft. How do I get that fire back? How do I build a habit once again?
Try writing a song every day?
Sometimes my schedule won’t allow it but the best thing, by far, about this crazy project, is that...
When it’s 1am and I’m exhausted, I find myself in bed thinking of lyric ideas. When I decide “this will be a day when I won’t write a song or stress too much about finishing a song” I find myself going “alright I’ll just write one idea down” and the next thing I know, I’ve got a guitar in my bed and it’s 3am and the song is done.
I’m hoping I will see some lasting effects from this experiment. And sometime next month I’ll take a listen to all the demos and see what is worth taking to the studio and what was just a fun thing to make. Maybe we can do a vote for which songs should make the cut.
Thank you so much for being here and for listening.
What has been your favourite demo so far? Or favourite couple?