I cant stop thinking about The Hip, and how precious life is, and how much beauty Gord Downie has made for us, and will leave for us, he has changed my life. I remember being back in high school sitting in the parking lot in someones car and someone started blasting some Tragically Hip from the radio and I couldn’t stand it, this happened all the time, a bunch of my friends were really into them and I didn’t get it. I couldn’t stand Gord’s voice, in fact, I hated it. And I hated how much they got played on the radio, made me so sick of hearing the same 4 songs getting played over and over again on every station which seemed like a million times a day. Ya know.. New Orleans Is Sinking, Blow At High Dough, 38 Years Old, Little Bones… we all know these sounds instantly when we hear them.
It was only until about 3 or 4 years later that it all changed for me, for some reason, and I didn’t know exactly where to pinpoint the explanation or the change, perhaps my ears matured somehow, perhaps i was listening to things in a different way, like when you hear The Beatles for the first time. I heard things I was missing before, things I didn’t care about or think about back then.
I remember picking up a DVD of the Hip playing live in Toronto, a full concert footage, I got it from the library in Fort Saskatchewan, probably when I was bored one day and wanted to get high and groove out and give them a real shot, aside from the radio. I remember going home and putting this thing on in my bedroom and how much I felt, how inspired I was, how much Gord killed me, and especially his singing and performing, his odd and enchanting stage persona, he killed me!
It took me a while to really get it, however to this day he has become one of my favorite singers and influences on the planet, a huge influence on my own musical style. His voice to me is that level of perfection and real purity, his own, it touches the naked, it’s powerful, emotional, unique, and all out guts and rock n roll, all out. Aside from that, I give credit to Gord Downie on making me realize how important melody is in a song. How endless the possibilities are of where to go with it, the unlimited creativity of it, regardless of the vocal range of a singer. Ive heard Leonard Cohen murder Celine Dion on a melody before. When I write, I experiment with the instrumentation and the vocals with a much more conscious and appreciative approach, until what comes out is what I imagined in my head. That comes from Gord, and his gorgeous melodies that I would have never thought about until I heard him. For example listen to the song Escape Is At Hand For The Traveling Man, Lake Fever, or Its A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken, Or Scared, Bobcaygeon, the list goes on.
Anyways, I could talk about this forever, I didn’t know I was going to feel this much, the news that has come forward makes me very sad, and not even for the fact or the thought of the Hip being without Downie, but I feel so overwhelmed imagining what he must be feeling. What anyone feels in that place or state.
I have had the pleasure of meeting Gord twice two summers ago, first in Toronto and then later on in Edmonton. It was the most eerie and ethereal experience, as if he had this glow around his whole body that walked with him, as if the special, the real special was shining through him and traveling by his side.
I love you Gord, thank you, thank you, I love you.
Everything has been going very well here, its been a bit rainy and grey, gets chilly on nighttime walks, I brought a toque with me but i realize every toque I’ve owned gets massively stretched out by my enormous head that it hardly even fits me anymore.
This past weekend was incredible, and was let loose into the streets of Brighton, and into the wee hours of the night. Brighton is beautiful, like a city out of the movies, cobblestone streets, beautifully old fashioned, it looks like Audrey Hepburn, amazing food, right on the ocean, the hotel i crashed in was like 600 years old apparently. Called the Old Ship.
I had two showcases on the Saturday that were both packed and went amazingly, I felt really good about it. This was part of The Great Escape, sort of a discovery festival for all up and coming bands and artists who are starting to break out a bit in the scene. Everyone said it was Europe’s SXSW. Bands and Artists and industry folks flooded the city.
On Saturday night I met a Scottish man named Phil who was at my second show upstairs at a place called The Prince Albert, after the show we had some drinks with my new agent Claire, and I met another one of his friends who used to play in a band called The Proclaimers. Ya know.. that song I would walk 500 miles.. I ended up going back to this guys apartment and jamming until 3 in the morning and sharing some new songs with them all, very cool people, I then capped things off with a dip in the ocean with The Velvatines and Alberta Music crew, Ive gone about two weeks without shampoo and am just letting it all fly, it was quite a salty shower.
That morning I had to get up at 8am, catch a train to Reading then from there take a bus out of Oxford to the countryside to play a festival called The Wood Festival, very earthly and had North Country Fair vibes but was a bit smaller. Made me miss home, and love home, and love here.
It was a rough and rainy day after a night of absinthe and the sea. When the bus dropped me off it was a 5 mile walk down a gravel road to get into this place, dragging all my gear and luggage, tracking mud on my tires, it was so fun, tough and sweaty. Truly walked through some fields of Gold. The clouds here are different, they are like castles or something, they are thick and have more structure, and definition to them.
That night I made it back to London at about midnight, and have been here since, found a hostel in Camden, which is a pretty cool district here. To be honest, Im starting to feel the wear of these places, and the sadness that comes with it. In the past I have found that the hostel life can be quite stimulating and exciting, a place to meet strangers and their stories that travel with them, just like you, just like me. However this time around, I feel and see more of a darkness, not so much in myself, but in the walls. It just seems like everywhere I go, all people want to do with their day is get wasted and fucked up, I don’t know how far the growth climbs up the ladder when travelling that way. And of course, I am one for a party, however not that way, Im on a different mission this time through, so it has been a bit lonely, I just don’t feel like being part of that scene here. That being said, its all ones perspective and can be carried two different ways.
I cant help but think of my Woody Guthrie here, his lyrics are every where I walk.
Walking down the Old Kent road, I was thinking of Varley and all the songs he wrote, on the back streets of Camden and through Hoxton Square, I felt it rising through me like a rose or a prayer.
A couple of days ago I spent an hour watching a man, spill words onto the sidewalk, amidst all the hustle and bustle of a mid-day London street, and all the traffic that comes with it. He was like a ghost in the middle of all these folks, and the busy chaos that comes with each of their days. Like a spider being trampled by the herds.
I read the chalk on the sidewalks, hours of poetry scribbled over pavement.
I didn’t shake his hand, but I wanted to, I wanted to feel the chalk on his skin, and then he shook mine, and I almost started to cry, he said thank you for the music.
“I am an Emperor, But
I see opportunity with each
In my own peace I sit and smile
Thats the essence of living
Drunk or sober stoned or straight
Theres many ways to the
“Om Shanti Shanti Om
I think one last one and
Then am gone but thats
The rainbow warrior way
We only ever briefly stay
Then like the chalk we fade
Om Shanti Shanti Om”.
Today I head off to Liverpool, well Im pretty sure, I’ve checked out out of this hostel now, just using there wifi in the lobby, writing this, Joni Mitchell is on, and ahhh so soothing. It will be nice to get out of London for a bit, and discover a new place, the home of The Beatles, lay me down on abbey road.
Oh my god, Neil Young is coming through the speakers now, needle and the damage done.
I am lucky, I am thankful, and I cant believe I have got to come here to sing and learn, it has been an experience, and I only have one week left, not even until flying home. Amy Winehouse is painted all over this city and forever loved, she will be my train music today.
Liverpool here we come.
I will leave you with a verse from Gord,
A mountain of hugs to you.
“For a good life we just might have to weaken
And find somewhere to go
Go somewhere we’re needed
Find somewhere to grow
Grow somewhere we’re needed”