Tiny Magic [+ Ontario/NS/PEI Tour]

To the coolest person in the world (that’s you),

Holy smokes - do I ever have a whole lot of updates. Many, many teeny tiny little updates, each one exciting in its own right. Historically, I’m a jaded optimist at best, and I’m certainly not a mathematician, but I do know that big things are most often just the sum of many many little things working together, and thinking about it in these terms gives me strength to push on in a very challenging [sometimes disheartening] industry. It’s a strange feeling to try to express, and the best way I can put it is to say that there is a healthy amount of what I like to call “tiny magic” going on at the moment. Magic feels like the right word because magic doesn’t have to make sense in order to be exciting. Magic almost requires confusion upon reception in order to be given its illustrious title, thriving somewhere near the borderlines of mystery, fear and intrigue. Some of this current magic I speak of is microscopic and barely incubating, while some of it more visible, tangible, and growing. Nonetheless, each of these tiny glimmers of greatness, slivers of promise, and seeds of growth is each adding up to something. And whatever that something is, I’m excited to be able to share it with you someday soon.

But for right now, I just wanted to let you all know that I’m thrilled to be going out on tour with PEI songstress and pal Rachel Beck for two weeks at the end of November. We’ll be doing a string of co-bills and songwriter’s circles with local artists throughout Ontario, Nova Scotia, and PEI. It’s gonna be magical. I promise.

And look, its on a poster.

 Fall 2018 Tour w/ Rachel Beck.

Fall 2018 Tour w/ Rachel Beck.

Hindsites

 Photo by  Jen Squires  

Photo by Jen Squires 

The Story:

Several Februarys ago, I was an unemployed full-time busker in a city whose skies hadn't stopped raining in over a month, and the very recent sudden death of one of my best friends was still occupying my every thought. I was lonely. I was broke. And I hadn't seen the sun in what felt like an eternity. l don't know why it is that the mind tends to seek comfort in memories, but for whatever reason, on this particularly gloomy February day, I found myself holed up in the bedroom of the shared house I was living in... sprawled out on the bed just dwelling on the fact that the love-type relationship I had been in with someone the year prior was no longer. I'd close my eyes and try to take myself back to a time that didn't suck so much, and in that fleeting instant, it was was comforting.

In hindsight its easy to look at the situation and brush it off as a formative dry spell, but in the moment I felt powerless. Maybe it was because of all of the Valentine's Day crap everywhere, or maybe I was just having a bad day, but I kept wondering if maybe I had done things differently, tried a bit harder to keep that love alive, then maybe we would still be together. I SERIOUSLY thought that I had lost the "love of my life" and that I was doomed to be alone forever.

[For clarity: I realize now how ridiculous that was, as I only ever found true happiness when I stopped looking for it in other people and found it in myself. ALSO - I haven't spoken to this gal in years and am currently very happily married to someone else. haha.]

But anyways, in that moment, I sat up, grabbed my guitar, and quickly wrote a song about it. I went downstairs and played it for my roommates, and they liked it, so I decided I would occasionally bust it out during my busking sets in the hopes of some pity tips. (jk. Sort of.)

THE TWIST: Later that spring, I was busking on Granville Island in Vancouver and decided to play the song. I started telling the back story, and a pretty lady sat down on the bench beside me. She listened, smiled, and walked up to my case and took my very last business card. She ended up emailing me that night to say that she loved my voice and that she thought the girl from the song had made the mistake. AND LO AND BEHOLD, that email exchange spiralled wildly out of control and I ended up moving to Ottawa and marrying the pretty lady from the bench the following summer. Crazy right?

So this is an older song of mine that was nearly retired, however the pretty lady from the bench told me it is still one of her favourites, so we decided it was a keeper and put it on the record, which will be coming out real soon!

In the meantime, here's a live video that we shot in the studio during the making of my debut full length record "Restless", thanks to the masterful skills of Jim Bryson / Fixed Hinge Recording and Jeff Watkins.

 

You can now buy / stream the album version of this song on iTunes/Apple Music and Spotify

 

Love always,

 

Mark

 

Around the bend, to the next blue sky.

 Left: July 2006. Calcutta, India. Age 18. 134 lbs. Photo credit: Rosie Boggis  Right: July 2017. Vancouver, BC. Age 29. 180 lbs. Photo credit: my mom. 

Left: July 2006. Calcutta, India. Age 18. 134 lbs. Photo credit: Rosie Boggis

Right: July 2017. Vancouver, BC. Age 29. 180 lbs. Photo credit: my mom. 

[Listening to: The Next Blue Sky - Joel and Bill Plaskett]

Some things never change, I guess. On the left is an 18 year-old me in Calcutta about to board a long-haul train ride south to Hyderabad. On the right is 29 year old me, about to board a 4-day train from Vancouver to Toronto. Taken almost 11 years apart to the day, its funny how seemingly everything has changed, yet there are some essential pieces of my self that have somehow endured through it all. Maybe its just a coincidence, but even the idea that the desire for adventure has lived on as a major part of my adult self is really comforting for someone who feels existentially lost often. I have a tendency to get reflective, and sometimes in my mental wanderings I am reminded that nearly every awesome thing that has ever happened in my life can be traced back to some deliberate choice to hit the eject button from my comfort zone and wing it. 

And in that vein, I write this from a cafe in my new hometown of Antigonish, Nova Scotia. This move marks the most recent phase of adventurehood for us (myself, my wife, and our sassy two year-old). Now, admittedly, my personal conception of “home” has become a bit skewed over the past decade or so. Home is no longer a physical place for me - now its just a feeling. It’s the feeling I get when landing in Vancouver and smelling the ocean air. It’s getting to know an audience of would-be strangers and leaving the gig feeling closer to each one. It’s giggling at something knowing only my sister on the other side of the country would find it as funny as I do, and suddenly feeling like we’re in the same room. It’s seeing the big dipper from my bedroom window and realizing that we’re all more connected than we realize. And it’s knowing that my family loves me unconditionally, despite my quirks, whims, and unstable moods. Home lives in our senses, I think. It’s not a tangible home, but it’s a nice home, and I’m happy to live in it. And life really is beautiful. I feel really lucky. 

I realize it has been a long while (again) since my last update, but there has been so much going on and I feared I wouldn’t be able to do it coherently without being outrageously wordy. This has a been a pretty crazy year of excitement and change, and even though it may have been unsettling at times, the path still feels right and the days are never boring. I’m starting to think that life can be characterized more accurately by its setbacks than by its gifts. 

Was it John Lennon who said that life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans? (Yes. Confirmed. I just googled it so you don’t have to. Excellent. Wise words, Mr Lennon.)

Anyways here’s a point-form update:

  • my debut full length record is being mixed at this very moment: In the months leading up to the move to Nova Scotia, the great Jim Bryson and I worked out of his private studio in Sittsville (ON) at building up a collection of my songs. I’m really excited to share these tunes with you all. We were both juggling with our own respective tour dates, personal lives, creative brains, and other commitments, but I’m really happy we managed to finish all of the tracking in Ottawa and can’t imagine a more appropriate way to wrap up my time there. 
  • Amateur lumberjack status: Our new home is 100% wood-heated. I’ve been using a chainsaw and a splitting axe nearly every day, and I feel really cool about it. I wear chaps three days a week now, and that has to count for something. 
  • In the time since moving to Nova Scotia a month ago, I have already left on music-related business twice. Once to the FMO Conference in Toronto, and the other to Nova Scotia Music Week in Truro. Both were awesome and filled my heart with musical joy and I feel particularly excited to be based on the east coast now. 
  • The summer was jam-packed with shows across Canada, many private event and wedding gigs, recording recording recording, family adventures, packing packing packing, writing writing writing, moving moving moving, and a renewed sense of childhood wonder as I get to explore a new part of this country and, as a result, a new part of my self. 

Anyways, I just wanted to give a little update. I’ll have some new things and news to share very soon! In the meantime, I should probably finish unpacking and get the studio set up again. Until then, please know that I thinking about you constantly and you’re sexy. 

Love always,

Mark 

Dans la rue, again.

I'm just about to hit the road for a few weeks of shows around Canada and I'm pretty gall darn excited about it. I'll be starting off this adventure at Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia (ON), then heading to the west coast for a week of gigs around Vancouver and Whistler, and will be returning to Ontario by TRAIN with the VIA Rail Artists on Board Program as the feature performer for a 4-day trip across the country, finally stopping in Toronto to play at Burdock with the amazing O'Pears. 'twil be quite fun, yes. 

Love,

Mark

[Oh also, the new album is about 3/4 of the way towards being mix-ready! I'm excited to finally get to share some of these tunes with you all.]

The Middle of Somewhere.

 Peace. Quiet, too. Feb 2017. Sainte-Lucie des Laurentides, Quebec. 

Peace. Quiet, too. Feb 2017. Sainte-Lucie des Laurentides, Quebec. 

A year ago at this time, I was probably staring at a cactus, trying to write a song that had nothing to do with that cactus. Ha. I guess that’s sort of what this past year has been about for me; working at developing a creative process that works for my life and doesn’t place undue pressure on undeserving desert plants. I’ve been working really hard at growing a writing muscle, as I like to call it. I’m starting to believe that it might be necessary to train the creative brain a little, if the goal is to be steadily creating. It’s sort of like working out...the worst gym visits are usually the first ones after long periods of the non-gym life (ie. my life). But if you go to the gym three times a week with a bit of a structured approach, you’re far more likely to get in shape than if you stayed home and just thought about going to the gym while eating nachos (also my life). So that’s what I’ve been doing with writing. Slow and steady keeps you ready…for when the good songs come. 

 Toasty toasty. Feb 2017. Sainte-Lucie des Laurentides, Quebec. 

Toasty toasty. Feb 2017. Sainte-Lucie des Laurentides, Quebec. 

The almost-silence of snowfall in a forest is maybe the most calming sound I can imagine. I spent last week in a tiny cabin in the the woods in Quebec. Very basic, but perfect: wood stove for heat, no running water, outhouse with icicles dangling from the toilet seat, etc. I brought a cooler full of food, my geetar, snowshoes, sleeping bag, warm clothes, and a pen and paper. I watched the sun rise and set each day. I went out hiking through the woods for hours everyday. I melted snow to wash myself with. On the last day, I took my time and snowshoed a giant heart in the middle of a snow-covered lake. Oh, and I finished two new songs and started a few new ones too. This was a writing retreat, after all. Quebec is a beautiful province, and we are so fortunate in Canada to have so many cool, peaceful places to visit (and for many other reasons, of course). 

It has been an eventful year. Dadhood is in full swing and life feels like it has never been busier, but it's amazing what can happen once we start to live life with a bit of intention. I recently started doing this amazing new thing called “planning ahead”..... and it has been a total game changer. While I will always be a spontaneous spirit, there is certainly something to be said for having a rough long term road map. Thanks to this secret life hack, over the course of one year I: played my first major festival, showcased at two music conferences, brought on a gifted violinist/backing vocalist (Annie Martel), went on tour around Ontario, went on two writing retreats, received an artist development grant from FACTOR, met a lot of amazing people, played a ton of weddings and private events, and wrote a zillion songs. But most importantly, I managed to make it all happen while still fulfilling my fatherly and husbandly duties, which I wasn't certain I was going to be able to do before. 

I’m also excited to have another year of fun ahead. Activities include:

  • Recording a full length record in April (with Jim Bryson producing)
  • Releasing that record!
  • Growing the band with a drummer and a bassist
  • More touring
  • More showcasing
  • A few confirmed (but still TBA) summer festival dates
  • New videos!
  • Fire, Danger, Excitement! 

While we’re here, I also want to express a public thanks to my lovely supportive bride for not only recognizing the importance of me doing things like going on writing retreats and touring (or spending countless hours on something that hasn’t made me much money yet but demands such a huge emotional investment), but for actually encouraging me to continue to do what I’m doing even during my episodes of crippling self-doubt (which is a whole other beast I won’t get into right now). It could definitely seem to an outsider as though I’m just trying to hide from my responsibilities at home, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I have a tremendous amount of guilt every time I go away, but we both see the big picture and recognize that these are some of the steps I need to take in order to continue down this path. Many of you won’t know this story, so I'll tell it, but my wife and I actually first crossed paths one day while I was busking. She happened to be in Vancouver for a conference, skipped the afternoon to check out Granville Island, and caught a few minutes of me playing. We never spoke to each other that day. I saw her sit down, smile at me, listen for a few tunes, and then walk up to my case to take a business card. She walked away and I remember thinking she was gorgeous and that I would probably never see her again. But that night I got an e-mail from her, telling me she thought I had a nice voice and encouraging me to never stop making music. Just a kind e-mail from a stranger, and nothing more. But I e-mailed her back, and somehow we hit it off, and the emails just kept going. Eventually we met in person after a few months of long-distance crushing, and here we are almost six years later, married to each other, living in Ottawa. Moral of that story is (actually, there are two): 1. tell people how they make you feel — odds are they probably need to hear it; and 2. if you are someone who has a partner in your life, yes it’s important to have shared goals and plans and all that, but it is also important to make sure you both help each other to reach your personal goals too. *barf* I’m a lucky dude. 

Anyways I think thats enough for now. 

Love always,

- Mark

 'snow big deal. Feb 2017. Sainte-Lucie des Laurentides, Quebec. 

'snow big deal. Feb 2017. Sainte-Lucie des Laurentides, Quebec. 

See-Saw

 Coffee Sweats. July 2016. Ottawa, ON

Coffee Sweats. July 2016. Ottawa, ON

Holy smokes it’s been a long time since I updated this thing - sorry! A lot has happened since February! I guess I haven’t had the urge to hit the old blahg as much as I should. While I can feel in my heart that I’m finally getting back to where I’d like to be in terms of musical activity after my extended existential detour, I can simultaneously feel that sense of fulfillment getting crapped on every time I remember that I should probably be updating the interwebs more often. Ah well. I guess there’s sort of a silver lining in that my first instinct when something cool happens isn’t to whip out my phone and tell the world. The 90’s child lives on in me — sans mushroom cut — and although this mentality is probably good for the soul, it’s also probably bad for business… Whomp whomp. 

The last few months in a nutshell:

  • Songwriting madness! 
  • Recording Demos
  • Playing at weddings on the weekends
  • Being a dad and doing dad things (dad noises, dad jokes, dad stretches, etc.)
  • Hosting open mic nights
  • Shawarma
  • Applying for grants
  • Self-Doubting
  • Booking shows for a fall tour!
  • Coffee sweats

 

Lots of new music. A lot of garbage, but there are some gems in there. Most of it isn’t ready to share yet, but it feels great and its an exciting feeling to have it all coming together. The biggest part of the new leg of this journey has been trying to figure out a creative process that is functional and that also comes from a place of sincerity. I’ve made the mistake of rushing the finish on songs in the past and the result was always something I didn’t have a lasting emotional attachment to. Not surprisingly, those are the same songs I don’t really like to play anymore. I’m also a person who likes efficiency but who greatly values spontaneity at the same time, so it can be a bit of an uphill battle to find a balance between both. I know I touched on this after I got back from my writing retreat, but it still rings true — you just can’t force inspiration. In theory, it’s easy to tell yourself that you’re going to spend five whole days in a row writing songs and be demo-ready by the end of it, but there’s only so much meaning to be gleaned from within the same four walls. 

 

I used to be the best at taking the scenic route — a perpetual rose-sniffer, one might even say — but somewhere along the way I temporarily lost that quality and got tricked into becoming an adult [luckily, I think it may have just been a phase...]. I have, however, been trying to open up my senses more and let my surroundings take the driver’s seat. It’s tough because there’s a huge part of me that finally sees the real value in taking control of certain aspects of my life, but in order to do so, I’ve had to relinquish control of others to let the creativity flow…as if I’m on a seesaw with myself, and both of "us" are working together to balance an insanely delicate crystal ball at the centre. The ball represents inspiration, creativity, and ultimately art. It’s taken a while to recognize it, but while there is definitely beauty in balance, this balance may not necessarily be a requirement of the art I'm interested in making. Balance limits motion, and isn't art is meant to move us? So, I guess I kind of just want to let loose on this teeter-totter and watch this crystal ball roll off the edge and smash into a gazillion tiny little pieces and glue those pieces back together and call it my first full length record. Or something.