Sunday, October 28, 2012

A New Song for a Community in Mourning

On Friday, October 12, 2012, police confirmed that the body found in Arvada, Colorado was indeed that of Jessica Ridgeway, a 10-year-old girl who had gone missing the prior week. Several of my friends have been experiencing grief and loss recently, so the topic which had already been weighing heavily on my mind of late was brought into stark relief at this tragic news. After reading through Facebook comments from friends, particularly those in the metro Denver area, I sat down to work on the songs that I'd be performing that Sunday at Living Water Spiritual Community (a Unity church). While rehearsing a cover song I felt would be appropriate to help my community find healing, I felt another song trying to come through. It began with the phrase "all that remains is love," then a chord progression followed and the words began to pour out.

After performing this song on Sunday, it became clear that it was what many in the community needed to help them grieve the loss of this beautiful child and their own personal losses. With the help of my friend Andy Ard, who offered his home studio and expertise, I recorded the song "All That Remains" and offer it now as an mp3 download at It is my hope that this song brings some level of peace and healing to those who are experiencing grief and loss of a loved one.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Attention all writers, songwriters, and poets

This Wednesday is my next songwriting class and I've decided to tweak the direction of my teaching. I'd like to focus on the part of songwriting that I'm passionate about: the lyrics and ideas that we're trying to express musically. I want to help people dig down to discover the well of their own authentic self-expression, their own unique voice.

At the same time, I recognize that this focus of topic broadens the audience of people who might benefit from the discussion. Writers, poets, and people who just wish to better explore their own lives through journaling will find these ideas and the sharing of others' journeys useful. To that end, my goal is to open this group to these other writers (aspiring or otherwise). We'll explore free-writing and other exercises to prime the pump and I'll introduce you to things that I've found very inspiring. Think of it less as a class and more of a workshop/support group meant to inspire your creativity.

That said, next Wednesday, August 8 at 7:00 pm, I'll be sharing a movie that greatly inspired me. It's a documentary called "Finding Joe." It is an exploration of Joseph Campbell's study of the hero's journey. I know, you're thinking, "what on earth does that have to do with songwriting?" More than you know, especially if you write songs that tell stories. Even if you're writing about one moment in a story - falling in love, for example - understanding where that moment fits in the context of the subject's journey will help you bring it to life with more depth. Also, we are all living our own hero's journey, and this film will help you become more aware of your own story (or stories) and might inspire you to live a more fully realized life by "following your bliss."

Space is limited so if you're interested in joining us, please email me at to RSVP.  We meet at a private residence in Westminster so if you haven't been to a class before, I'll email you directions.  The cost of the class/group will be a suggested $10 donation and it will meet on the second Wednesday of the month (unless otherwise noted on my website).  I will still facilitate the critique group on the fourth Wednesday of the month.  There is no cost for the critique group and it is open to any songwriter who wants feedback on their songs whether they take the class or not.

If you're a poet, songwriter, or writer and need a little inspiration, direction, or just want to be among a tribe of like-minded creatives, I hope you'll join us sometime.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Lughnasadh: Let the harvest begin

Today, August 1, is Lughnasadh, the first of three Celtic autumn harvest festivals.  With the heat and drought much of the US has experienced this summer, it is perhaps a time to more finely focus our gratitude on what we have.  In my case, hay for my horse will be hard to come by so I'm already planning to stock up for winter.  Feed prices for grain have also increased.  However, my small pasture has been resurrected by recent rains (little rain thought it was), so Tori has been able to graze for a while each day, therefore allowing me to feed her less.  That little patch of green has been a welcome blessing!

As I reflect on what I've sown this season, I realize I've cultivated gratitude for my home, my friends, and my abilities (both creative and mundane).  I have also returned to a much closer relationship with nature than I've enjoyed in years, spending more time with Tori and other critters that cross my path, and taking time being observant, still, and open with the natural world.  I've had the wondrous pleasure of walking amongst literally dozens of large dragonflies, I've taken walks in the rain, I've watched some amazing and colorful cloud formations, and I've experienced kayaking on a lake at sunset.  (I love Colorado!  Can I get an "amen," brothers and sisters?!) 

In the next couple months, I hope to start some new projects and I'm a little apprehensive about taking these next steps.  But when I reflect on all that has come to me this summer, both externally and internally, and when I realize how inspired and excited I am at the prospect of these new doors opening, I feel confident that I'll be reaping a soul-sustaining harvest that I can share with others who hunger as well.

What seeds have you sown this year?  What is coming to fruition for you to harvest this fall?  As we begin the autumn months and prepare for the introspection of winter, what will you gather now to sustain you through the darkness?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chipping Away At Worry

The last month has been a very introspective and enlightening time for me. Things are always shifting and changing – sometimes in very turbulent ways – but this period of time has been different. I have been less shaken by the physical changes in my life.

I’d like to say I’ve learned to trust the Universe and have truly accepted that everything will work out for my best and highest good. Perhaps I have become more trusting. At least I am allowing myself the benefit of the doubt these days and give myself a little credit for growing, which is certainly an improvement. But it’s more likely I have just burned out on maintaining my high stress level. I’m done with the constant worry. My give-a-damn is busted.

If worrying was an Olympic sport, I’d be a gold medalist. My mind has always jumped ahead to land on the next possible disaster. I’m always looking ahead to the worse case scenario, the logic being that if I plan for that, I’ll be prepared. And being prepared is the closest you can come to being in control when your world falls apart.

A few months ago, I saw this quote at a coffee shop: “Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of its strength.” I’ve taken that to heart, finally. It hasn’t been easy. Changing your mind’s habits is a struggle that requires persistence and vigilance. You gain ground in inches, not feet. And sometimes you need to hear the same thing said in different ways over and over again. At some point it all starts to coalesce when the conditions are right and you’re ready to do things differently.

I think the shift for me came when I realized what I’ve accomplished and survived. I began to look back and give myself credit for the long haul through the wilderness. When I looked ahead at possible obstacles, I found myself thinking, “been there, done that.” I guess when you’ve put out enough fires, you stop worrying about how to handle the next one. You gain confidence in your ability to deal with whatever arises. But you can only truly gain that confidence if you take the time to step out of the fear long enough to objectively assess the road you’ve traveled.

Don’t be surprised when your ego shows up to coax you back into fear mode to maintain that sense of separation. For me, a little voice arose to question my sudden surrender. Had apathy set in? You’re being lazy! Are you so depressed that you just don’t care anymore? It was a good try, but I found myself enjoying time with friends, spending time nurturing myself with walks and meditation, and gaining interest in creative activities again. Certainly not the behavior of someone who has given up.

Some doors are opening and others are threatening to close, but I’m not worried about it. I’m focusing on the opportunities ahead and taking time to just breathe. It’s been so long since I’ve had my feet under me. I just want to enjoy being in the eye of the storm for a while, experiencing balance and peace amidst the chaos. I want to absorb that feeling so I can carry it with me. Learning to hold that peace as you walk through life is the answer to everything.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Goodbye Davy

Today, I was very saddened to learn of the death of Davy Jones. We take for granted that those people who are woven into the fabric of our childhood will be with us forever. It stuns us when they leave, a cold reminder of the inescapable passage of time, especially when it is sudden and unexpected.

I'm not old enough to remember "The Monkees" when it originally aired, but I grew up on the re-runs. One of my siblings had a couple of their albums, which I played constantly and still have in my vinyl collection. There are baby pictures of me, still in a diaper, playing with maracas and beating on a tambourine. At some point, I graduated to a cheap kid's drum kit. My best friend Shawn and I started a band (if you can call two singers playing drums and percussion a band) and dubbed ourselves "The Mustangs." My first attempt at lyric writing came when I rewrote the lyrics to The Monkees theme song to fit my band ("people say we horse around").

Sometime in the late 1980's, Shawn and I finally saw The Monkees live at Great America. Though it was just Davy, Micky, and Peter at that time, it still ranks up there as one of the best concert experiences I've had as far as the "feel good" factor. Everyone in the audience was friendly and sharing childhood stories before the show. It felt like a reunion. During "Daydream Believer" we were all swaying and singing along, arms over the shoulders of complete strangers, all united in a moment of joyful nostalgia.

I am always perplexed by people who dismiss The Monkees because they were a manufactured band, created by television executives. Their songs were written by others and they weren't allowed to play instruments on the tracks. But they sang the songs, and later wrote, recorded, and performed their own music. There are hundreds of artists I can name today who "only" sing songs that are written and produced by others, and some bands that were formed by outside sources (managers and promoters). Do people ever question whether they are "real" musicians or bands? Hell, in this age of auto-tune, it's impossible to tell if a singer can even carry a tune outside the studio!

Regardless of how the songs or the band came about, The Monkees gave us some of the best "feel good" music of the late sixties and no voice in that band could make you smile like Davy's. There was a joyful innocence in his voice mixed with a hint of impishness. And of course, there was that British accent.

If I were to put together a CD of tracks that pick me up no matter how low my mood, "Daydream Believer" would be on the list. Thank you for sharing your voice and enthusiasm, Davy. You brought great joy a generation. You will be missed.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Songwriting class begins March 14, 2012

On March 14, 2012, I will begin offering a monthly songwriting workshop. Each class will focus on a different aspect of writing songs. The topic of the first class will be how to craft compelling lyrics. Each class will be two hours (7:00 - 9:00 pm) and will fall on the 2nd Wednesday of the month. The workshops are geared toward beginning songwriters or intermediate songwriters looking for new ideas and approaches to spur their creativity. The cost is $20 per class and the location is at a home in Westminster near 88th and Lowell Boulevard. If you'd like to attend, please contact me at and I'll forward the exact address.

In addition to the monthly workshop, participants are invited to attend a free monthly song critique group. The purpose of this group is provide constructive feedback on participants' songs in a supportive environment. It also encourages participants to put into practice the techniques and ideas they gained in class, and to share their own thoughts and insights on the work of others. There is no cost for this group. It will be held on the 4th Wednesday of the month (March 28th) at the same location and time (7:00 - 9:00 pm).

Space is limited for both the workshop and critique group so if you are interested, please contact me soon. I look forward to sharing my knowledge and insight to help you express yourself through song!