Monday, February 10, 2014

wherein I requite...

Oh boy.  There's a storm a coming.

I have this habit of pushing myself to the limit, without perhaps realizing what I'm taking on.  I can't decide if it's ambition, or naivety, recklessness or just straight up stupidity.  But I do it.  Over and over again.

I like being busy.  I like working with talented people on exciting projects.  Most importantly, I like what I do.  I've got six weeks of solid activity coming up, not the least of which is two nights of shows with my band, The Unrequited Love this Friday and Saturday night.  And the first night we'll be recording the concert for a live album release.  Oh boy, indeed.

It seems that I know when I've taken on too much at about 3:30 in the morning.  Y'know, when I wake up with heart palpitations, certain that everything is going to fall apart and that I will be left in the rubble of my crumbled dreams wondering why I didn't see this coming.

It's rather dramatic.

Panic and anxiety seem to be part of my business plan.  A part that I'd like to edit out.  My friend Elan, aka Schmutzie, wrote a beautifully honest blogpost about just this very thing.  The presence of anxiety and one's attachment to it.  It resonated.  So much.

But you know what really kills me about it all?  The fact that I am so supported by my community.  I mean, Jesus... prairie dog magazine put my damn band on the cover this week.  Verb Magazine ran a piece about the show too.  The Leader Post is publishing a bit later this week.  Then there's everyone behind The Lyric Theatre and The Artesian on 13th - Shann, Marlo, Chad, Vince, Deb and my dear friend Andrew... people who have encouraged me and bent over backwards to assist in whatever way possible since I started the Belle Plaine project.

I can't even start to count the man hours that my amazing band has dedicated to these two shows thus far.  They keep agreeing to my demands and I am so grateful that they feel my music worth their effort. It is a true privilege to play with them.  I appreciate every rehearsal, contribution and pep talk they offer.  This is especially true of Jeremy and Beth, who give more than I could ever ask for.  And then some.  I am very lucky to have them all on my side - even if I do tell the prairie dog that their heads are on the chopping block for comedic value. 

And then there's everyone who comes to the show.  You guys who buy the tickets and merch.  It just doesn't happen without that support.  It overwhelms and astonishes me every time.

You would think I could rest easy amidst the confidence of those around me.  But that's anxiety: the loudest voice, and the one that transmits the most bullshit.

Listen.  I just want to put on a show that you all will enjoy.  And it seems I'll make myself crazy doing it if I have to.  I truly hope you enjoy what we have to offer this weekend in Regina on the 14th and in Swift Current on the 15th.  We've worked hard for you.

All my love and gratitude this Valentine's week.

xoxoxo
bp


Monday, January 27, 2014

keep on keepin' on

This photo may as well be an re-enactment of my first meeting with Chris Prpich at Buy the Book in 2010.  He asked me to come into the shop to talk about music and the potential of Belle Plaine joining forces with The Lazy MKs.  That day I also officially met Chris's dad "Coach" and nearly begged to be told his proper name, Greg.  (It's just a bit strange to call someone Coach right off the hop, isn't it?)

I didn't realize how serious Chris was about working together until he started talking about tour dates that were within the next six weeks.  I responded to the proposal by saying,

"Don't you think we should play some music together and see how it goes before we all run off on tour?"

Cue Coach's laughter.

I wasn't trying to play it cool.  I was actually pretty terrified at the idea of stepping into a jam space.  It was a completely unfamiliar situation for me.  I was a very new songwriter (still am) who worked alone for the most part (still do) and was incapable of jamming (still true).

But despite my anxiety, the rehearsal went off without a hitch.  I played through a bunch of songs and they picked the ones that they thought would be a good fit for them.  I focused on trying to make them laugh more than anything.  I was a fan of their record A Field Guide to the Lazy MKs, and I figured they'd keep me around if they thought I was funny.  In only a few rehearsals they managed to learn the the tunes and BOOM.  I had a back-up band.  This was completely new to me.  Then the Lazy MKs recommended that Anna Rose come on board.  And she sang harmonies so unexpectedly pretty that I'd forget my own lyrics due to distraction.  At the end of April 2010 we went on a mini tour to Saskatoon and Bruno.  Our Regina gig on May 1st, 2010 was the first time that I ever played at The Artesian.  The tour was called The Sunset Travelin' Revue.  It was the best.

And on it went.  Over the years my love grew for Buy the Book. It was far more than a bookstore.  There was sports memorabilia, records, curios, girly mags, vintage bicycles, stereo equipment...  It got to be that if I needed anything second hand, I'd just ask Chris.  If he didn't have it, he'd probably have an idea of where to get it.  And I just enjoyed being there.  What was supposed to be a short visit would more often than not turn into hours.  Sometimes Chris and I would go down to the jam space below the shop and I'd play him some new song I'd written.  Sometimes we'd have snacks at the oak desk.  Once I beat Coach at cribbage so badly that I never asked him to play with me again out of guilt.  Sometimes many musicians would unexpectedly converge and a bottle would appear in stealth.  I just never knew what I'd find.

It was years later that I heard how I managed to secure that first gig with the MKs:

1. An artist had dropped off the tour, and they were looking for someone to fill the spot, preferably a female.  I answered the call, and was available for the dates.  Woody Allen did say that showing up is 80% of life.

2. During the first rehearsal Chris made some suggestions to the chord changes in "Advice from a Vicar".  I played his ideas through once or twice with him and then said that they sounded great, and that maybe he should try using those chord changes in the next song that he writes, cause my song was already done.  Apparently that was the real clincher.  They figured I had the chutzpah to be in the ring with them.

I owe a lot to this little spot in the world.  Chris both created and shared community at Buy the Book with his dad and Claire – their long suffering (and only) employee.  I've met so many people there.  The connection it's given me to the Regina music scene is just irreplaceable.

If you're a local, chances are that you know that this week everything at the shop is 90% off.  Most of the books and records are gone, as are the bikes, curios and memorabilia.  The jam space has been cleared out.  Buy the Book is closing the doors on January 31st.

It makes me sad that I won't be able to bike down on a future Saturday afternoon to see what's happening.  That I won't be able to make a shop visit my first social outing after a long tour.  There's lots to miss, but the people are still around, and that's what made it.  We'll find another spot.  Change is hard, but what else can you do other than roll with it?

If you never had the chance to visit, you can experience everything that the shop was in this music video by The Lazy MKs.

Thanks for the memories, friends. xo

 
The Lazy MKs - You Don't Have To Go Home With Him from Young Soul on Vimeo.

Monday, January 20, 2014

cold comfort

Ugh.  I remember when I took that self portrait.  I was at a cabin that the lovely Trevor Herriot offered to me as a writing retreat.  I was young.  Healthy.  Capable of not issuing a cough every two minutes that pointed unmistakably to a case of acute bronchitis.

Those were the days, back in November 2013.

Yup.  I've been sick.  Anyone got some great ideas on how to shake this Demon Cold?  I'm gonna sleep as much as I can this week, drink my fluids, and keep it as low key as possible.  You see, I just updated the Shows page, and if seeing a bunch of gigs stretched out ahead of me doesn't scare the sick away, nuthin' will.

What I'm working on hardest now is preparing for twin shows on February 14th and 15th.  I'm putting together an eight piece band!  On the 14th we'll play in Regina, and on the 15th we'll all head westward to Swift Current.  This is the most complicated Belle Plaine show thus far, and there's still some announcements about it to come.  (I'm trying to get you jacked by cleverly withholding information in an effort to build anticipation.  If I do that, will you buy advance tickets when they go on sale?)

So!  Mark your calendars and bring a date to see this really big show!

OK guys.  I should lie down under a humidifier again.

xo
bp

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

be it resolved

Guys?  First things first:

I love popcorn.

In fact, I love popcorn so much that Jeremy and Beth gave me a popcorn maker that I can use in the van when we're on tour; aka best Christmas present of 2013.

If you peer closely at that photo, you may notice that I can also make soup in the van with my little saucepan.  Now, that's a whole new level!  Thank you, innovators at RoadPro® On the Go... Living Industries for your portable electronics line.  Your hard work has made driving both more delicious AND dangerous.  With products like the 1.5 Quart Slow Cooker, the Portable Stove, and the ever popular Coffee Maker with 16oz Metal Carafe, I feel a freedom I've never known.  And it's clear that you have my back, because if a spill should ensue while we're out cookin' and cruisin' I can rely on the old Wet/Dry Canister Vacuum for easy clean-up.

OK.  Enough of that.

Every year I make a resolution pertaining to my career.  This year it was that I would post to the blog once a week.  That's 52 posts.  I figure it's enough to keep y'all up to date on what we're doing (and cooking).  If you've looked at a calendar lately, you can plainly see that I broke my own rule in the first week of 2014.  Suitably, my second resolution is to work harder at my resolutions.

So here's some rather belated wishes for a happy, healthy 2014.  Year of the Horse!  Feels like that may have a special significance for my life.  Hope it does for you too.

Hey, and here's a picture of me, moments after I received the most delightfully hazardous gift of 2013.

See you cats next week.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

the next contestant.

And then I thought to myself, "Wait...
 "Could we go to The Price is Right?"

Allow me to explain: 

It's -21°C outside in Regina today. -36°C with the wind chill.  But I don't care.  Nope.  Know why?  It's because today, I'm going to California with Jeremy and Beth.  Band trip!  The very generous SaskMusic is taking us down to Los Angeles on a marketing initiative that will introduce us to some good people working in film and television music placement.  (Hey guys, they believe in me!!!)

I'm going to do them proud.  Sing all my songs and shake all the hands and sleep when I get home.

There's a lot of boring stuff that you have to do when you're going over a border with your band to work for the first time: join the musician's union, get approval letters written up, pray that they'll give you that work visa... I'm still half terrified they won't let us in today.  Despite all that, I spent most of the morning dancing to Fleetwood Mac's "Rumors" because it felt somehow appropriate.

I'm stoked.

And tomorrow we've got tickets to The Price is Right.  I can't even take it.  All my dreams are coming true at once.  If some amazing work opportunity suddenly comes up I'll have to bump the Price is Right, but if not... I'll totally bid $1.

Thank you SaskMusic.
Thank you Creative Saskatchewan.
Thank you Government of Saskatchewan.
Thank you anonymous jury who thought I was ready for this. 

We're totally ready for this. 

xo
bp

p.s. pictures to come!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

round two

Put up your dukes, cause it's on!

In May 2012 I played The Artesian with The Lazy MKs for our first Brawlers' Ball.  We decorated with animal skins, and taxidermied heads... I'm not sure what the connection to brawlers was, but we did it anyway, and it was great.  For those of you who have forgotten, I sang my set with the MKs into the mouth of an otter pelt.  I do apologize if you're offended by that sort of thing, but it just felt so right.

Tomorrow night the Lazy MKs and I will suit up for Round Two, and we've added a crapload of local ringers to the mix.  This BuzzCity article covers all the bases of who's going to be there.  They also have some photos of me arm wrestling Chris Prpich if you're so inclined.

This is one of my favourite events to organize with the MKs.  Repeat offenders are heartily welcomed.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

a trio of shows

Hi all,

It was a busy Labour Day long weekend for me.  Between a show in Lemberg on Friday with The Lazy MKs, and then driving to Usona, AB with Jeremy and Beth for a gig on Sunday (and then driving back home again on Monday), there wasn't much time to waste.

The sold out crowd in Lemberg at The Jam Space was warm to us musicians.  They laughed at nearly all of my jokes, even if the majority of them were made at Jeremy's expense.  Apparently I'm in the business of cheap shots lately.  You can see our smiling, satisfied faces in the photo above, courtesy of Richard Groulx of The Jam Space.

We had another good night with the group in Usona.  Beth and I played a house concert out there last Labour Day weekend, so I suppose this is becoming an annual thing.  That audience sported a lot more camouflage than I usually see at my concerts, but I took that as a cue to tell an extended version of my first experience deer hunting.  I'm adaptable like that.

Tonight I'll round out the grouping of shows with some friends at the Creative City Centre.  I'm sharing the bill with Jenny Berkel and Robyn Koester.  I had the opportunity to meet Jenny and her sister Kristen this winter.  We did a couple of shows with them in Saskatchewan and then Kristen ended up buying my beloved Bruno Arts Bank with her husband after the ladies did a gig there.  Jenny is the real deal, and I hasten you to check her out tonight.  Or now, in this excellent video.

We'll be joined by a relative newcomer to the Regina scene, Robyn Koester.  I met her about a year ago when I heard her perform and was taken by her clear voice.  I'm excited to see what's developed for her in the last year.

Hope we see you at the CCC tonight.  Here are the details!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

double duty

The last few days in Regina have been stinking hot.  I like this kind of weather.  Makes me yearn for Australia.  (Though not quite as intensely as the unrelenting Saskatchewan winter does.)

Lucky for me, I've spent a few of this week's evenings in an underground bunker (as pictured, thanks to Michael Bell's sweet photography skills).  I've been rehearsing for show that takes place tomorrow, August 30th, at The Jam Space in Lemberg, SK.  The manager/janitor of the venue is a fellow Grant MacEwan alumni, and has welcomed a few other bands from the 13th Ave Records family this summer.  (I recommend you check out what the Lonesome Weekends had to say about their experience.)

I'll be doing double duty on Friday, as I'm not only the headliner, but also the opening act... with the superb assistance of Jeremy Sauer on this task.  Jeremy and I have put together a set that includes songs that we haven't played for many years, and stuff that's really new.  I'm looking forward to performing a darkly themed waltz written by our actor/director friend Joey Tremblay.  It's entitled "Nobody Likes A Loser" and includes such lyrical gems as: I can't offer you much, my legs have gangrene.  I may bleed on your shoulder, but I'll treat you like a queen. 

My set with The Lazy MKs will be more of a country-rock affair, with lots of my tunes, including even more brand new stuff we'll debut.  There will also be a healthy dose of old favourites like "Crazy Arms" and "Streets of Bakersfield".  I'll have the delightful Anna Rose joining on me back-up vocals, which is always a treat.  I need some lady-solidarity to keep things running smoothly, and Anna delivers.

So, may the heat wave continue, and may Lemberg be receptive on Friday night.  If you're in the area, you can find the details here.

xo/bp

Thursday, August 22, 2013

long may you run

Earlier this summer my fella and sold our 1985 Toyota Corolla.

I had some history with this car, specifically that I took it on my first tour.  When I pulled up to my tour mates' houses in January 2011, my sweet ride was not greeted with expressions of conviction.  I doubt they believed that my rusty but trusty hatchback would get us through our prairie winter expedition.

But she did.  And them some.  This baby always started, no matter what the temperature, and whether or not she was plugged in.  The body was rusted out on every panel, but she'd seen no accidents and her heart was young from a lifetime of short jaunts with the original owner.  When we purchased the car in 2009, she had only 70, 000 km on her.  (Seriously! Do the math.)  In 2010 I heard a podcast of This American Life that talked about a car plant in Fremont, California - a joint venture between Toyota and GM.  It was called NUMMI, and was known for its high quality of manufactured cars.  This vintage of Corolla was among the models that were assembled at the plant.  The news made me feel disproportionately proud to own this beaut.

Our only caution was that she was simply old.  Door seals, window cranks, and anything made of aged, brittle materials like vinyl or plastic were predisposed to easy damage.  Thus, we dubbed her "Gentle" as this was what we'd yell if anyone was being a bit rough on the girl.

Gentle was purchased by a father who was looking for a cheap, reliable car for his 16 year old son.  We came to the decision to sell her after we had received a few parking tickets and undergone two missions to find her after she was towed for street cleaning.  When she was demoted to being our second vehicle, she no longer got the love she needed.  I haven't seen her cruising the streets of Regina yet, but I'm still hoping.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

fan the flames

What a week!  The day after the Regina Folk Festival ended I ran away to the remote areas of the West Block of Cypress Hills for a few nights of camping.  The festival weekend was exhausting and the R&R was much needed.

Not that I'm complaining.  I was more than happy to be a part of the weekend.  From Friday to Sunday I worked with my pals on the stage crew for approximately 16 hours a day.  It's hard to describe exactly what goes on in those long days backstage for someone who's never seen the likes of it.  Generally, we start the day by loading in the headliner's gear.  This is followed by an extensive set-up and sound check.  The rest of the bands file in throughout the day for their own pre-show stage time, albeit shorter than the headliner's.  Our main objective is to absorb all the details of each band's set-up, and then recreate that as precisely as we can in the 15 minutes between the main stage acts.  As you can imagine, some change-overs are more difficult than others for a multitude of reasons.  Many acts tour with a support crew that may include a monitor technician, front-of-house sound engineer, lighting designer, road manager and so on.  Some artists bring amazing support staff who are a delight to work with and recognize the efforts of the stage crew.  And then there are the few artists who hire total dinks.  These guys seem to only insulate and distance the artist from the local crew.  Despite my dedication, these types do not bring out the best in me.

As a musician, I've learned much from both ends of this spectrum.

Like all years, this one brought its rewards and life lessons.  For me, Sunday was the day I was looking forward to, and when everything locked into place.  In particular, it brought the opportunity to work for two artists that I truly admire: Charles Bradley and Neko Case.  I'm fairly new to Bradley, and so it was just so fun to meet the band, most of whom reminded me of the musicians I went to school with at Grant MacEwan.  It's the first time in my five years at the festival that any band has ever asked for a drink table, or lit up a giant spliff onstage during the sound check.  And Charles... he's worthy of celebration.  He is full of honesty and gratitude, and truly understands the gifts of performance. Just watch him open his eyes and take in his surroundings during a concert. He does not take for granted what a privilege it is to have an audience, and I can wholeheartedly say that this is a rare thing to see in a performer.

The sound check for Neko Case was another story.  I was overwhelmed by the mere thought of it.  I deeply respect her integrity, and her determination to build her career achievement by achievement over 25 years.  She is a force, and anyone who appreciates her work knows it.  Just seeing her three guitars lined up on stage was enough to put a lump in my throat.  Not to mention my love for her sideman Jon Rauhouse, Tom Ray and Kelly Hogan.  When Hogan introduced herself to me I did my best to not stare at her goofy and gape-mawed, muttering adoringly, "I know who you are."

So, fighting my natural instinct of becoming a blathering idiot, I focused in on what mattered, which was assisting them in whatever way I could in hopes that it would contribute to a performance that left the artists and audience both feeling full.  In a rare occasion, I aimed to over-achieve.

And, I'm damned sure that we all came together in a beautiful way to make that happen – crew, audience and performers alike.  I heard the sincere gratitude of Case's band first-hand as I said my thank yous and goodnights to them all.  I was especially touched by Case's road manager, Mahina, who came back twice to say thanks to all of us for our help.  And then there was this:


How can those small tweets do anything but make us all feel amazing? 

There's one more thing I must share with you.  After my gleeful goodbyes, I heard that an iPhone was lost and that it was Neko's.  I found my dear old friend Jeremy the Piano Player (the folk festival's stage manager) under the stage looking for the phone in the dark.  Informed by my personal experience, I said to him,

"Has anyone checked her purse? It's always in the singer's purse."

Mahina came around the corner a moment later and Jeremy felt at liberty to repeat my words to her, prefaced with, "She can say this.  She's a singer."

And then, Neko Case comes running, shouting Mahina's name, and saying that she found it.  That her phone was sandwiched between two cheques, and that it was totally hidden, and that she was sorry for making everyone look for it.

Mahina asked her with a level tone if it was in her purse, took in Neko's affirmative answer, and gave nothing away of our conversation.  But I did detect a tiny wee smirk.

Neko spontaneously hugged Jeremy and I both, and thanked us for looking for the phone.  And then she was off.  We were left with dumb-faced smiles, grateful that the phone was retrieved.

It was a rewarding end to a long, hard festival.  So enriching.  So exhausting.  I'm always deeply proud of what our little prairie city pulls together for this one weekend in August.  It's just a pleasure to be a part of it all.

On this high note, I'm going to leave you with a track that Case's sound engineer played on the main stage speakers before their sound check.  It totally bowled me over, and made me crave more from Miss Sharon Van Etten.

xo y'all.