Well. This has sort of taken off on me. In a good way, I suppose, but it's got me at once reeling and driven.
When Mom passed, in the middle of a last tumultuous year, I decided I had to take a new direction. I don't know that it was precisely related to her passing - but the timing was ... well, not coincidental.
For quite some time I'd been contemplating stepping out of my role as weekly syndicated columnist. It had become an exercise in repeating myself - not necessarily the exact same topics, but the style, the feel, the craft all felt timeworn and old. I was essentially filling in the blanks - first paragraph, the set-up. Second, two solid jokes; third, a bit of a switch; fourth and fifth, set-up/joke combinations; and so on, to the inevitable conclusion, which was a twist on the first paragraph. I tried to keep it fresh and interesting, and from reader reactions I guess I did ... but ... for me, the bloom was off the rose, the rose had wilted, and, well, fill in any rose and/or horticultural analogies you want. It was just old.
So I decided I needed to "write without purpose", as my friend Catherine Ann calls it. And I guess I thought I might play at a novel or something. Perhaps some poetry ... I had no idea. I was open to what the Universe had to say on the subject. So I sat still and listened.
(I'm sorry - this is going to sound hopelessly "New Age" or overly spiritual for a guy who is not above a good booger joke.)
But the Universe didn't speak to me. It began to sing.
Literally. I would be on the golf course. In my car. In bed. Anywhere. And these tunes would come to me. Some were kind of half formed, but some came to me whole and complete.
And I listened. And if a tune seemed particularly catchy or compelling, I would take out my Blackberry, and I would hum the tune into my Voice Notes.
I had no idea what would come of any of this, but it felt like it was being ... I don't know, "otherwise directed". I have no other way to describe it. It had never happened to me before. But as the tunes began to pile up, an idea formed ...
What if ...?
What if I wrote lyrics to those tunes? Well, then they're songs, aren't they?
Yeah, but I'm not a singer. Oh, sure, I've done some musical theatre (character parts, but a little singing). I've been in choirs (back row). I've sung around a campfire, or, properly liquored, at parties. I play a rather thumpy, clumsy, limited-chord-selection party guitar. But I'm not a singer/songwriter/guitarist. I can't possibly ...
Shut up. Stop saying what you can't do until you've tried and failed.
So, I decided to try.
It was ... sort of sudden. I just decided to stop listening to the part of me that says "Yeah, but ..." and instead, heed and honour the part that says, "Yes, AND ...".
So I said Yes. And I committed to the decision. And I announced my intention to the Universe. And to all my friends and family and anyone else who deigned to listen. I was going to do a show, filled with original music, music that I'd written, music that spoke to me and flowed from me. And goddammit, I was going to sing it.
Mom's passing was a catalyst in the sense that there was a tiny bit of money in her estate. Enough to hire a band and do all this right. So I set out to find a band.
And how about that? The Universe provided.
As a writer and a performer, I've always respected and supported other artists. When I hosted a radio show on CBC, I would do everything I could to support local musicians, push their music forward, get them recognized.
Hello, Karma. How nice to see you.
When I began assembling musicians for this show, and other artists to write with and perform with, I found I could pick and choose from among the most talented people I have ever met. My band fell together literally in one conversation. Guest musicians all stepped up and volunteered. Virtually every artist I wanted to sing or write with said, "Hells, yeah."
And "One Night Only" began to take shape.
I have eclectic musical tastes. I'm all over the place. I just enjoy what I call "good music", and the music that began to build up in my voice notes was predictably all over the map. I have a tango. A French ballad (Oui, je parle Francais). A blues song. Some kinda pop-ish, Jason Mraz kinda tunes. Songs inspired by other great musicians I love, like Christine Lavin and Tim Minchin and Leonard Cohen. And I'm not any one of those people, but that's OK. Leonard Cohen can try all he would like, but he can never be me, either.
I decided that I wanted to do one show. Just one. That I would not look beyond that. It would be what it would be, it would be as entertaining and delightful as I could make it, it would succeed wildly or fail spectacularly and either one was OK with me because it was One Night Only.
Once I decided on that and committed to it, I had to decide where I would do this one show. I settled on a venue here on the island called The Dunk.
The Dunk is Hal Mills' home. Hal has become a good friend over the past few years - a warm, gentle man with an impish sense of humour and a love of great music. He regularly hosts small concerts in his open-plan home, as well as larger events on a bandstand on his property.
A tiny nook off the kitchen serves as a stage. The kitchen and living room are where the audience sits or (more often) stands, with others choosing to climb a ladder to a surrounding balcony/loft and view things from above. Virtually every performer who has done a show there says it is the most welcoming, warm room with a generous and embracing set of regulars who populate every show. You're amongst friends.
So ... what better place.
Late last summer I said to Hal, "I have an idea for a show I want to do ...". Hal pulled out a calendar and said, "Pick a date."
Well. Now was the time to actually commit. I took a deep breath and stepped off the edge.
I chose February 25th. If this concert was going to be my Mom's final gift to me, it should be a birthday gift. My birthday is February 26th. So .. easy call.
Since then I've been pulling the show together and writing songs - both solo and with some amazingly talented performers. And I was excited that a lot of people seemed interested in the show, but kinda bummed because a lot of my friends around the world will never get a chance to see it.
Then a friend named Rich - who I met quite by accident - said, "Well, if you want to stream it live .. I can do that for you."
Hello ... what now?
It turns out .. he can. And ... that's just what we're going to do. So friends and family around the world can actually tune in and watch the show as it unfolds. That's kinda .. cool, huh?
Mark it on your calendars. Saturday, February 25th. 7:30 AST. 6:30 EST. 5:30 CST, 4:30 MT, 3:30 PST. Emma and Katy over in England, you're on your own. I'm guessing at 11:30PM, but ... consult your time zone calculator.
So all of yez who have been saying, "Gosh, I wish I could see it!" ... I'm callin' ya on that.