Rockin’ In the Free World

How I love Canadian music and Canadian musicians.

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Let’s rhyme off a few who totally dig the scene – Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, The Band, Arcade Fire, Patrick Watson, The Hip, Rush, Joni Mitchell, Blue Rodeo, Rufus Wainwright, kd lang, Bryan Adams, Ron Sexsmith, David Francey, Bruce Cockburn, Ian Thornley, Anne Murray, The Guess Who, Oscar Peterson, The Daddy Cokes, Daniel Lanois, Destroyer, Metric, Harmonium, Hawksley Workman, The Rankins, Sloan, Stompin’ Tom Connors, Leonard Cohen, Matt Mays, Michael Buble, Max Webster, Paul Anka, Saga, The Sadies, Sarah Harmer, Sarah McLachlan, Teenage Head, Corb Lund, The Trews, Wolf Parade and more …

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CANADA KICKS ASS.

Thanks for reading, see you next time.

http://www.craigrobertson.ca

Country Home

Recently I discovered a great new (or maybe old?), Canadian music talent …

David Francey

His name is David Francey. His story is very cool.

He lived the bulk of his adult life working as a carpenter, tradesman and general labourer. All the while, he was writing songs about his life. But these songs never saw the light of day as he would hide them away for only himself and his wife to see.

He was finally convinced by his family and friends to perform. He did so, catching the eye of a CBC producer who went on the produce his first album which slowly won him fans across the country. His second album won him a Juno Award for Top Folk Artist. Upon winning, he decided to pursue music full-time and quit his job as a carpenter.

I happened upon this story from the documentary called ‘Burning Bright‘. It’s a great tale of later-in-life success. You get to hear his songs too, which are honest and real.

Here’s a link to his website – http://www.davidfrancey.com

Well worth checking out.

Thanks for reading, see you next time.

http://www.craigrobertson.ca

What Happened Yesterday

They say it’s your birthday …

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This week marks Paul McCartney’s 71st birthday. Maybe the most famous musician on planet earth …

My first memory of a Beatles song is listening to ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and being SCARED. Yup, actually getting frightened of the loneliness and the tragedy in the song. I can also vividly remember being fairly freaked out by ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ (and this was long before I started to ‘experiment’). Their music was, for me, something out of this world, something I had never heard before and it intrigued me.

Soon after I found out that Paul McCartney used to be in this little band called The Beatles. Prior to this discovery, I thought he was a solo artist who had a few cool tunes like ‘Band On The Run’ and ‘Jet’. I never knew he was a Beatle !?

And then I found out that John Lennon was a Beatle too? I was floored. The guy who wrote ‘Imagine’ was the same guy who wrote ‘Help!’? Seems weird now, but I was 9 years old or so, and was discovering on my own.

I love them both for their unique twists on songs – McCartney for his sweet melodies, old-fashioned charm and a voice that can sing anything. Lennon for his dark, introspective lyrics and a voice that felt hurt and lonely.

Mustn’t forget George Harrison, who, for my money, may have written one of the classiest tunes of all time – ‘Something’.

Oh yeah, Ringo as well. Some will argue, some will say I’m nuts, but his drumming kills me. Awesome player, who innovated the way drummers play to this day.

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I still listen to The Beatles. It’s hard not to admire what they did for music and their brilliance. At times, it takes me back to the days when I would listen to a Beatles record in my bedroom, completely engulfed in the sounds and the images conveyed with the words. Even if it still scares me …

… back to McCartney being so famous. I saw him in concert a few years ago. The guy is so well known, has so many hits and fans – young and old – that he opened up for HIMSELF. The show started with a half-hour video/music montage of Beatles, Wings and solo stuff with photos of him throughout the years. Paul McCartney, opening for Paul McCartney. Too good.

Thanks for reading. See you next time.

http://www.craigrobertson.ca

Here We Are In The Years

It’s been six months since I left my secure, full-time job to pursue other opportunities in life …

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… and I’ve never been happier.

It hasn’t all been roses and sunshine, as I had my doubts and reservations early on (and still do at times …), but in the end it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.

The act of quitting my radio career to pursue music was, and will be, one of those milestone moments. I had a great run in radio, met some amazing people and had a ton of fun, but it had it’s time in my life and what I’m doing now feels more true to who I am. I still get lots of people asking me “Do you miss being on the radio?”. I actually thought I would, I really thought there would be times of really wanting to get back on the air. But I don’t …

These past six months have been a whirlwind – I’ve written lots of songs, done a swhack of gigs, met some great industry people, recorded some new music, travelled, taught a few classes, rehearsed for future shows, etc etc — but the one thing I’ve done the most of is learning about life, and that enjoying our time here is so important. We are here for one shot, one round, one life, so we should make the most of it.

Amazing thing about this journey is meeting others who have done the same! They are coming out of the woodwork – old friends who quit secure gigs to pursue their dreams. It’s been very cool to randomly run into them, to get their phone calls or to find their emails in my in-box. It’s nice to know that we’re not alone.

I’ll tell you one thing, this whole process would not have been possible without the support of an amazing person – my wife Crystal. I can’t think of doing anything as crazy as quitting your job to pursue something that notoriously makes people POOR!, but she has not only supported it, she has been my spark and my biggest fan. To her I owe more than thanks, I owe a part of me, as this is my life pursuit and without her, it would not have happened.

In closing I want to thank you for reading my blog, my little journal of life. It’s nice to know people are on the other side of these words, so thank you.

See you next time.

http://www.craigrobertson.ca

This Old Guitar

I love it when an album comes your way that surprises you, makes you love the ‘art’ of the album. I bought one last week that I can’t stop listening to …

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Her name is Laura Marling. She’s only 23, hails from England and her new album “Once I Was An Eagle’ rocks. It’s an acoustic guitar-based folk record with stripped down drums, bass and cello. But it’s her voice that gets to me – it’s so compelling that I get lost in her lyrics and melodies. Her sound reminds me of a cross between Joni Mitchell and Beth Orton with a touch of Bob Dylan, Mumford & Sons and PJ Harvey.

The record is also a real album – with a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s a 45-minute snapshot of one idea where songs and ideas blend into each other to form one piece of ‘art’ – a rarity these days. It’s a throwback to the 70’s, when bands and artists defined the word album.  It’s nice to hear.

There have been a few albums and artists I’ve really latched on to the past few years – The Vijay Iyer Trio, Michael Kiwaunka, Atoms for Peace, Frank Ocean, Arcade Fire – but this album stands out for me as one of those records you stumble upon that stays with you.

One other artist I’ve been digging lately is Ron Sexsmith, the Canadian songcrafter who is still a-top of his game. I saw him live recently and love his honest, simple approach to writing songs. He has such a way with words, such a beautiful range of melody in his songs and such a unique voice to tell his stories. He is still one of my favourites and hasn’t lost his touch.

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Thanks for reading, see you next time.

http://www.craigrobertson.ca

Just Singing A Song

You ever get lost in something so good, that it takes you to another place?

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I love performing live. What a buzz it is.

This past Friday night I played the Free Times Cafe in Toronto. It’s one of those timeless clubs that has hosted so many amazing artists, has a great vibe and is still cooking after all these years (when so many other Toronto clubs have come and gone …). A great crowd turned up and I, along with Rob Isabella who plays guitar me, were primed to play.

We nailed it  —  Rob’s guitar solos were soaring and beautiful. His feel for the emotional impact of the songs had me lost in the music (audience ovations after his solos attest to that!!). My vocals haven’t felt this good in a long time and the buzz from the room was heartfelt and joyous. Could not have asked for better.

It was another reminder why I love music so much  and why performing is in my blood. I get lost in it by closing my eyes, feeling the lyric, sensing the guitar interaction and taking in the vibe from the audience. It can, at times, be an out-of-body experience and there’s no better feeling.

To be able to play music, write these songs and experience moments like this, I am truly grateful. I’ve worked very hard for it and still work at it, but I also know that it’s a gift to enjoy and fully realize these moments. So to the music gods I lift a glass of thanks.

And hey, not all gigs are as cozy and cool as this. I’ve played some bummer shows when it can all go wrong :: guitar doesn’t stay in tune, vocal mics go dead, nobody claps, the band isn’t in sync, nerves get the best of your performance. So when it does go right, it feels so right …

More gigs to come, more songs to write, working on a new album (actually working towards 2 new releases and a bunch of singles …) and hopefully the music gods will offer up more of those inspiring on-stage moments. It’s too good to not do it again.

** A special shout out to Matt Holtby and Robbie Patterson who shared the bill. They were, as they always are, awesome. **

Thanks for reading, see you next time.

http://www.craigrobertson.ca

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

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

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

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