From Hank to Hendrix (…and Buckingham to Nicks)

As my songwriting journey winds it’s path, this week’s travels had me learning about myself and listening to some amazing artistry …

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Monday night my wife and I went to see the Stevie Nicks movie ‘In Your Dreams’. It’s a documentary on the making of her new album and reveals a side of her that is truly inspiring. She has a steely confidence and an unbending conviction of what she wants. Her art is her driving force, her desire to have things her way is her backbone. My wife is a massive fan of hers, and now I know why : Stevie Nicks lives for her music, for her own convictions and does it all with compassion and love. When I left the movie theater I was taken by her story, by her nerve and her belief. Since, I’ve been hell bent on writing more songs and getting them heard.

The following night we went to see Fleetwood Mac at the Air Canada Centre. I didn’t know what to expect from the evening other than what others told me – “They are awesome live”?? And you know what …they are and then some.

Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar playing is unreal. But it was his passion for the music that drew me in. He is ‘in the moment’ and lost in the music (I’ve been there as a performer and there is no better feeling). Plus the band on a whole is so authentic – no flashpods, no big lightshow – just a group of people playing great songs with an infectious energy and passion. I completely and absolutely loved the show.

And now, as I sit and write this blog, and take it all in, I realize how much I’ve learned about myself over the past few nights. Firstly, that believing in yourself and who you are can easily translate into a feel-good energy for those around you. “Power to the positive people”, as my buddy Robbie says. Stay positive, believe, be passionate.

Secondly, that music is what truly moves me and makes me happy.

You know, sometimes things happen for a reason and I believe these past few nights came into my life to restore and inspire. So, with a pen and paper I write my next song and continue onward and upward on this journey called life, learning more about myself and about others along the way.

Thanks for reading, see you next time.

http://www.craigrobertson.ca

Winterlong

Spring snow.

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I know, I know it sucks and driving in it is a pain and after all, it is APRIL.

So what do you do on a snowday? I’m inspired to write music today and I’ve researched some great songs about the seasons. Here are a few to ponder:

‘Song For A Winter’s Night’ by Gordon Lightfoot. Or ‘Winter’ by the Rolling Stones. Or ‘Summertime’ by Janis Joplin. Or ‘From the Morning’ by Nick Drake (an ode to summer). Or ‘Autmun in New York’ by Billie Holiday.

Any song titles come to mind?

Funnily enough, I can’t seem to find anything that strikes me as being very ‘springy’. Maybe that’s because, well it’s NOT springy outside!

But, in it’s own way, it is unique and special. We don’t see it very often and for most of us I guess it would nice not to see it at all! Snowfall in the spring! (that could be a song title ...)

In closing, if it’s not a song to help you through the day, here’s a little something to inspire us to trudge through the snow. It’s a line from one of my favourite poets, e.e. cummings ::

“The snow doesn’t give a soft white damn whom it touches.”

Thanks for reading, see you next time.

http://www.craigrobertson.ca

Field of Opportunity (…and for the love of the Jays!)

Statistically speaking, I love stats.

When I was a little kid I couldn’t wait for the weekly hockey statistic updates in the newspaper. I’d pour over the leaders in goals, assists, plus/minus, wins, shutouts, etc etc …I would make my own stat-charts and maintain stat books that I still have to this day (no joke, stacks of ’em in my garage!) Yeah, I became kind of obsessed …

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… and when it comes to stats, there is no other sport like baseball. It’s all about the numbers – the HR’s, the RBI’s, the ERA, SB, AVG., Holds, Saves, OBP, etc etc etc …

Did you know that R.A. Dickey has only had three winning seasons in his career? If he wins the Cy Young this year, he’ll be the 4th Blue Jay to do so. (Roy Halladay, Roger Clemens and Pat Hentgen are the others). Did you know that Jose Reyes lead the National League in stolen bases three times during his career and is ‘statistically’ projected to cop 55 bases this year for the Jays (last year’s SB leader, Mike Trout, stole 49 bases) Did you know that Brett Lawrie, at only 23, is on pace to match or better the career numbers of Hall of Famer Andre Dawson! …ah I could go on.

Since this blog is primarily based on music, here are a few musical ‘stats’ and tid-bits about baseball ::

*R.A. Dickey’s warm-up song is the Darth Vader theme from Star Wars.

*San Fransisco Giant pitcher Barry Zito is a published songwriter. The left-hander co-wrote a song, “Butterflies,” that is featured in an Eddie Murphy movie called “A Thousand Words”. Zito comes by his talent naturally as his father was a conductor/arranger for the great Nat King Cole.

*Retired New York Yankee Bernie Williams pursued his lifelong passion of music after his baseball career ended. He took up classical guitar and has been nominated for a Grammy Award.

*Geddy Lee of Rush has been a longtime Blue Jays season ticket holder and baseball junkie. Tonight (Tuesday April 2nd, 2013), Geddy will toss the first pitch as the Jays open their 37th season.

Statistically speaking, I could go on about stats all day. I love the numbers, almost as much as I love the chances of the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays. Has their been this much buzz about a Toronto-based team heading into a season before?  If so, I can’t remember.

It’s starting to feel like 1992 all over again …time to get out my stat books.

Thanks for reading, see you next time.

http://www.craigrobertson.ca

Don’t Be Denied (…and the words of Dave Grohl)

I woke up this morning and discovered this. I wanted to share it.

Dave Grohl gave a keynote speech at the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas last week. His words are a gentle reminder to enjoy yourself.

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Top 5 Ways to a Better Life According to Dave Grohl !

1. No one is you and that is your biggest power.

“It’s YOUR VOICE. Cherish it. Respect it. Nurture it. Challenge it. Stretch it and scream until it’s f**king gone because everyone is blessed with at least that, and who knows how long it will last . . .”
“Who’s to say what’s a good voice, and what’s not a good voice? The Voice? Imagine Bob Dylan sitting there singing ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ in front of Christina Aguilera.”

2. Don’t be afraid of not fitting in.

“I can truly say out loud that ‘Gangnam Style’ is one of my favorite f**king songs of the past decade. Is it any better or worse than the latest Atoms for Peace album? Hmmm… paging Pitchfork! Come in, come in, Pitchfork! We need you to help us determine the value of a song! Who f**king cares.” Don’t be someone who designs their lives to impress others.

3. Give a damn about yourself.

It’s about taking care of yourself so you can be a better human being. A 2.0 version of you is way more equipped to help others in need. Take up yoga if you’re stressed. Ask for a big raise. Walk away from a relationship that is abusive or draining. Or just take a nap, for Christ’s sake.

4. Be humble.

No one wants to go to lunch with a supermodel who says things like, “My cheekbones, if you’ve noticed, have a similar incline to an escalator.” One thing I’ve noticed is that if you are good at something, people will acknowledge it. Appreciate the hell out of those people. Should you be blessed enough to have the fortitude to work so hard at something that people celebrate you, your first reaction should be gratitude. And know that there’s a ton of people out there from all races and socioeconomic backgrounds who can still teach you something. I don’t care if you’re Bill Clinton or Jay-Z – always be learning; always be improving.

5. Spark a revolution.

Always have the highest bar for yourself. Wake up everyday and no matter how crappy you feel, want to change something for the better. Do something that makes someone happy. Create something that inspires someone. Be someone’s light when they are hopeless.

Reading these words was a great way to wake up this morning, as it sparks a little something in all of us.

Thanks for reading, see you next time.

http://www.craigrobertson.ca

There’s A World

One thing about making this plunge into a life of music is …

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The positive vibes and great nature of musicians, everywhere!

I’ve been lucky to have met many great people along this road, and bad vibes rarely exist along the path of making music. The positive spirit is alive and well in people who love being creative and strive for a life of music. It’s hard work though, and for some never easy …

A friend of mine recently thought about getting a ‘real’ job and putting the music biz behind him. This is a guy who has worked on Juno Award winning material, has toured and worked with some of Canada’s most famous names and yup, wanted to pack it in. No money, no gigs lined up, barely getting by. But he’s still at it, and can’t think of doing anything else.

He, along with most musicians I know, creates a vibe all his own. You have to make your own scene, trust your own judgement and do your own thing (good lessons in life I do say!). Do that, and people will come to you, doors will open (albeit sometimes only slightly …), because the good nature of people is such a cool thing.

With that in mind I’m planning more gigs, and more studio sessions to record more music. Plus I’ll be opening a studio this summer (those doors will be open …)

Thanks for reading, cheers.

http://www.craigrobertson.ca

The Painter

Inspiration can come from anywhere. This time from a movie I saved on PVR …

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The movie is called ‘The West Wind‘. It’s the life story of Canadian artist Tom Thomson, who died under curious circumstances on Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park. The movie however, tried to unveil the tale of his life, rather than the romantic mystery of his passing.

He was a man driven by his passion – to paint. For a time he had a very promising career as a graphic designer that took him to Seattle and back to Toronto, where he lived most of his days. But he ultimately gave it all up to pursue his own art and his love of capturing timeless moments in Algonquin Park. Even odd jobs he took on wouldn’t last as he never had enough time to paint. In the end, Thomson started spending more and more time in the north, really embracing his true calling.

He drew countless sketches, painted small works and larger masterpieces. That’s what he did, every day – paint. He sold a few during his lifetime and began making a small name for himself, but nothing like the legend he is today.

His death at the age of 39 is a huge part of his legacy for sure. How he died, which is explored in the movie, is still a mystery. His story is mythical, and us Canadians have nurtured his life into a great national tale. But in the end, he was just a man living his life. A life he pursued on his terms, deciding how to live it and how to create it for himself.

I’m glad I recorded that movie (in fact I haven’t erased it …), as it can serve as a great reminder.

Now I just have to watch everything else I’ve saved (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, The Departed, The Twilight Zone TV shows …).

Thanks for reading, see you next time.

PS — I don’t know if you’ve ever had the chance to see Tom Thomson paintings in person, but it is a surreal experience. The Jack Pine, The West Wind, Northern River (the painting I posted here) are insanely amazing. The guy was crazy talented. Here’s a link to the TT gallery in Owen Sound: http://www.tomthomson.org/

http://www.craigrobertson.ca

String Quartet From Whiskey Boot Hill

Another week in the life of a dreamer …

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In these early stages as a working musician and a redefining life course, I have found that one has to find new criteria for ‘what to do‘ during the day. And I never thought I’d be so busy …

Music motivates me, so that’s not an issue. But how does one incorporate that motivation into something tangible?

I did research on other blogs and found that a daily routine was important. As are little goals, whether daily or weekly or monthly, that we can set out to achieve.

So I set myself up with a routine, a structure, of waking up at the same time every day and working on things I set out before me the night before. Those ‘baby’ goals could be anything from writing songs, fine tuning lyrics, recording demos, social media updates, rehearsals, recording sessions, contacting and meeting industry people (a key part of this process!), booking gigs, playing gigs!, practicing guitar or drums or piano, making a list of future goals. That doesn’t include other every day life stuff that comes into play either.

You never know, one day this work might pay off with a song being published, or a tune being picked up by another artist, or more session work, or who knows. I have found that the most important thing is to enjoy the process. Enjoy it for what it is; time in a life to enjoy the dream.

Thanks for reading and feel free to check out the website for shows in March.

http://www.craigrobertson.ca

Motion Pictures

Movies. A great song. A stellar album or book …

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Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted in one moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip? – Eminem

I love being inspired. Getting that inner-gut sensation and motivation to write a song, jot down ideas, cook a family meal, be a better husband, father, etc … that feeling to be creative. To make something that is yours and yours only. That feeling that anything in life is possible.

There are many things that inspire me including an amazing passage in a song, the sound of a choir, an uplifting moment in a movie, a walk, a long drive … it’s endless. So, with the Oscars this weekend, I’ve made a list of movies that have inspired me and extend an invitation to you to include your favourites as well;

“Rudy” – Whenever it was on TV (and it’s on a lot!) my Dad and I used to watch it and we cried like babies every time Rudy hit the field.

“It’s A Wonderful Life” – I saw it for the first time this past Christmas and I think I’ll make it a yearly tradition. Considering it’s sixty years old, it still packs a powerful message.

“Dead Poets Society” – That scene when they all stand on their desk chairs. Carpe Diem.

“The Shawshank Redemption” – Determination.

Music can be such an inspiration too. Whether picking up my guitar or listening to an amazing recording or hearing a heartfelt vocal, there are so many ways to be inspired by music. Too many favourite to list, so here’s a short list;

“God Only Knows”, The Beach Boys – Easily on this list. I love everything about this song including the heartbreaking lead vocal by Carl Wilson. I get goosebumps every time I hear it.

“Dark Side of the Moon”, Pink Floyd – In dreams albums don’t sound this good. A masterpiece that has inspired so much great music.

‘Lose Myself”, Eminem – Amazing story sung with conviction. He means it, and you can feel that. I crank it every time and feel the possibilities.

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What gets to you? Is it something in nature? Your family? A movie? A book, a song or an album?

Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section. The conversation is yours.

Thanks for reading. See you next time.

http://www.craigrobertson.ca

Bad Fog of Loneliness

You know, this journey I’m taking and this blog I’m writing is a great metaphor for life itself. Things are not always positive, or inspirational for that matter. The reality is, sometimes we can get in the way of ourselves.

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There are days that I doubt everything. Doubt my decision to leave that job behind. Question my talents. Fear for the future. Watch my money shrink away! (my next blog will focus on money$$)

But I truly believe that all of us have our own share of fears. Don’t you? Doubts can crop up on the best of days and bouts of questioning can send me into a tizzy of disbelief. I’ve realized over the years, that it’s okay to be fearful, doubtful and questioning. It makes us human. The fact is battling through with belief in our own intuition and more importantly, belief in ourselves, is the only way to get through it. It’s not always easy, but it does work.

I love this quote from Alan Alda. It inspires to not take things too seriously, especially ourselves.

“Laugh at yourself, but don’t ever aim your doubt at yourself. Be bold. When you embark for strange places, don’t leave any of yourself safely on shore. Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory.”

Enjoy your moments.

Thanks for reading.

http://www.craigrobertson.ca

This Note’s For You

Well my new album has been released this week. Have to say it’s pretty bloody rewarding getting it out there.

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I started the recording sessions three years ago this month at Trent River Studios, just outside of Havelock, Ontario. I went in with four or five songs, a batch of lyrics, a boatful of ideas and a heart full of sadness. I mean my life was not at it’s greatest stage – my folks just passed away, I was going through a break-up and I couldn’t go one weekend without getting drunk and stoned until I couldn’t walk.

You know, booze and dope have a funny way of catching up to you sometimes. I had always liked a good party, and usually got somewhat tipsy every weekend since I was in my early twenties. But I took it to a new level this time around — a case and a half of beer, 2 bottles of wine, a bag of weed and a pile of coke was my weekend intake. I’d start Friday afternoon, wouldn’t stop until Sunday and then I’d go to work. Then I’d start up again the next Friday (sometimes Wednesday or Thursday). Then again. Again. I told myself I could stop. But I never did. Four years later I realized I was numbing some serious pain.

That period in my life seems like a dream now – my dad dying suddenly, my mom suffering through cancer after my dad’s passing, my eventual break-up, the drugs and booze. Even at the time it was happening, it all seemed surreal. I needed catharsis through it (other than the drugs), and so I relied on what I’ve always leaned on …music.

I have always been a creative person, and this void in my life was fueling a new creativity I had never been able to tap into. In the end I’m grateful for going through the tough stuff as I wrote TONS of songs, began to believe in myself as a songwriter and ended up with this record. I know it won’t be for everyone, and as with most creative projects there are things on the album I would change. But, it was a process I had to see through from start until finish, and I’m very proud of the results.

I quit the booze and the drugs two years ago. It took it’s toll on my body (I still have lingering digestive problems) and I still have cravings. But I’m glad to have had those experiences as I’m more grateful for the things I have, more aware of others, hopefully a better songwriter and an even better person. So with the release of the album this week, it feels like a circle has been completed and I can put a lock on that part of my life. But, I’ll never throw away the key because it’s good to peer into that time to realize what I have now.

Thanks for reading. See you next time.

You can check out the lyrics for the album right here http://www.craigrobertson.ca