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. 

LIVE at The Sugar Shack

While on tour through London last month, we stopped in to see my good friend Simon Larochette and spent the night at his magical studio, The Sugar Shack

A few hours before the show, we did a few songs live off-the-floor and Alex Lam caught the takes on video! Here is one of a new song called "Sometimes", which I think is about the struggle to find conscience when you need it and the funny human tendency to ignore it when you probably shouldn't. 

Anyways, there's lots of new music coming down the pipe and I'm really excited for the coming year!

Here she is: 

 

 

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. 

Deserting Myself.

Howlin' at the moon. Arizona Desert. February 2016.

Howlin' at the moon. Arizona Desert. February 2016.

I just spent 9 days alone in the Arizona desert writing songs. The idea for the retreat came back in December after finally admitting to myself that my writing efforts over the past year had been less than fruitful (oh, and the songs were all complete crap) and that I needed to step up my game in the name of all that is meaningful and important in life…..(*snore*….see post for context). The purpose of the trip was to change my surroundings, eliminate distractions, and hopefully find inspiration for some new tunes. I chose the Arizona Desert because it offered the exact opposite of what February in Ottawa could: warmth, cacti, clear skies for stargazing, and increased accessibility to tacos. So, before long, I had cashed in all of my travel rewards and booked myself a modest (but free) little getaway. 

I found myself emotionally conflicted beforehand. Half of me knew it was the best thing I could be doing for my music, while the other half of me felt tremendously guilty about leaving my wife and baby behind knowing there was a chance that I could come home with nothing to show for it. Luckily, that wasn’t the case, and I came home with a bunch of full songs and lots of new ideas that I’m excited to see through (hooray). But, I still missed my ladies everyday and found myself reverting to that feeling of guilt during my least productive moments of the trip [Oh - I should also mention that this guilt was completely self-inflicted and that my wife was super supportive of the writing retreat idea the whole way through. She’s the coolest.]. 

There were definitely some unforeseen - yet wholly expected — challenges. 

My plan at the outset was to write a new song each day, but it only took one day of attempting to do that before I learned that it just wasn’t gonna happen that way.

Trying to force-write a song can be like trying to find a mate when you’re painfully lonely, have no self-confidence, and have been out of the game for too long. The stinky cologne of desperation can be detected by a prospective mate from so far away that by the time you’re in each other’s immediate vicinity, you might as well just not even bother trying. Just accept defeat, finish your beverage, go home, and prepare yourself some nachos in a giant casserole dish while you regroup [because if you’re interested in having your confidence slowly whittled away, at least this way it will be delicious]. 

It just seems like regardless of how well-intentioned your pursuits may be - whether to write a song or to secure some romance potential — the odds are quite high that you reek of creep vibes. Just chill out, stinky. The point of me saying this is that I learned on this trip how much of a creep I’ve been towards my own inspiration for so long — like a Peeping Tom who spies on imaginary songs that are way better than the songs he actually writes. This is a horribly unproductive, and awkwardly desperate way of going about this process. I’m just learning now that I need to put down the binoculars, climb down the tree, and introduce myself to these songs in person like a GD gentleman. Like romance, you can’t force inspiration. It will find you when the time is right. I guess the best thing we can do for ourselves in the meantime is to be patient, learn to be at peace with ourselves, and to not expect too much. The time will come.

Before going into the desert, I had expected to spend approximately 25 hours a day writing - as if I was some sort of nocturnal Beethoven-esque madman. Papers would be thrown everywhere with sloppily-written half-baked ideas written on them, coffee would be ever-present, and I’d do most of it wearing nothing but my underwear. But alas, that also didn’t happen as expected. Writing all day every day is hard! It’s especially tough when the inspiration isn’t there in the first place. So, I ended up spending about half the day each day going on aimless adventures through the desert on bicycle, attempting to bond with the cacti. With the warm sun on my face, the whistle of the wind teasing my ears, and the ever-changing sandscapes elusively making home for themselves, I managed to get some good thinking time in. At night, I would look up at the stars in fascination of just how many there are, while pondering just how many other people might be doing the exact same thing at that very moment in the privacy of their own thoughts. That stuff helped. 

It was a self-reflective journey more than anything. One of the biggest realizations I made about my writing style is that almost all of the music I’ve ever written is rooted in some form of sadness. Despite being an overtly happy person now, I definitely had an existentially rough few years when I was a bit younger, and the result was a very depressing bunch of songs. In fact, my inclination towards songwriting in general probably blossomed out of a need to express my disdain for the things I couldn’t change about a world that I didn’t see my place in yet. I mention this only because I guess this is the first time I’ve acknowledged that I should probably learn to write about all of the other emotions with the same sort of gusto. Luckily, the dark grey doom cloud of depression no longer lingers above me. I can still occasionally see it looming off in the distance — as if an impending storm — to remind me how far I’ve come but also how close it remains. It will always be a part of me. I am also reminded that simply ignoring it doesn’t protect me or anybody else from any unforeseen  disasters. Acknowledgement is key. 

In general, though, there is certainly something valuable about going on this type of writing retreat and dedicating an extended period of time to just creation. With the inability to force inspiration, the next best thing is to be well-prepared for it. While I was there —alone with my paper, my guitar, and my thoughts - I often felt like I was just living a relatively regular pseudo-vacationy sort of life, except that I was constantly “on-call” for songwriting duty. It was great in that regard. Any time a new idea would come, I was fully equipped and ready to get it down and build upon it with a sense of purpose. As diligent as I can try to be in my day-to-day life at home, it’s hard to switch off all of the other responsibilities that come along with work, family, and general grown-up stuff. I’ll definitely do this again. 

It remains to be seen, but I might try to do another [shorter] similar retreat soon, but in some remote Canadian location before the snow melts. I like the idea of having an album that was half written in +30C and half written in -30C. 

And that’s that, folks. Feeling groovy. I hope you are too.  

- Mark 

Re-birth day.

 

Hello.

It was my 28th birthday the other day. Life is funny. One day, you’re a free-spirited 18 year-old west coast kid with face piercings and a sorry attempt at a chinstrap beard—and then BAM!.... before you know it, you’re an “adult” [def: a large, old child with responsibilities who has to pay full-price for grilled cheese at restaurants] living in suburban Ottawa with a wife and a sleeping baby. The crazy part: in many ways, you’re still just as mystified by the notion of a real world as the 18 year-old was, the only difference is that now you’ve tried enough things and made enough mistakes to have a generally translucent idea of how you might want to fit into the world.

On my birthday morning, before anything had really happened, I received an e-mail through my website from a man named Henry. Henry is an elderly man from the UK who was writing to inform me that his best friend of 48 years, Malcolm Everett, had passed away this past August at the age of 82. Malcolm Everett was a man I briefly met during my busking days in when I still lived in Vancouver. He had become a genuine fan of my music during his visit to Canada in 2012, and we passed a few e-mails back and forth that summer...

Henry went on to tell me that he had inherited Malcolm’s enormous record collection, and that he was actually e-mailing me to let me know that my record was one of Malcolm’s favourites. He recalled Malcolm sharing some of his fondest memories of his trip to Canada, specifically the one in which he felt so moved by a street performer’s music that he walked up to to hug him afterwards. To this day, I am honoured to have been the recipient of that hug. Those are the types of connections that make art successful. I truly believe that. If art can make somebody feel something, anything in a way they never have before, it has served its most basic purpose. Henry’s e-mail reminded me just how important music is to me. I want to be able to share those types of moments with other human beings for the rest of my life. Henry signed off with: “He was my best friend for 48 years and I just want to thank you for making him happy when he saw you when he was in Canada.”

Shortly after reading that e-mail, I found myself lying peacefully on the couch with my three week-old baby napping on my chest. Unfazed by the pool of regurgitated breastmilk accumulating on my shirt, I laid there listening to her tiny little rhythmic breaths, and I had a bit of an epiphany. I realized in that instant that I actually have the power—through the choices I make and the actions I carry out in my own life—to be the best possible father I can be to her. I may never be the perfect father, but I can choose to be the best father that I, Mark Fossen, am capable of being. It was a beautiful moment of reflection as I recounted the types of lessons I have had to learn in life that I still find valuable today. After sifting through memories of my greatest adventures and all of the dumb shit I did in my early twenties, I dug a bit deeper and began to consider all of the people who have had profound impacts on my life. The list is very long so I won’t tackle it here, but that got me thinking of what it truly means to be a good role model. One overarching idea really stood out, and that is that you just can’t learn anything worthwhile from a hypocrite (well, except how to be super fucking annoying). The most inspiring people I have ever met are the ones who carry their own torch but choose to share that light with others, as opposed to the ones who simply tell you that you must have light in order to see where you’re going.

In general, I think it’s easy to get lost somewhere between where the heart already knows it belongs and where the minutiae of day-to-day life might lead us to believe we should be. We all have bills to pay, mouths to feed, and lifestyles to satisfy, but its heartbreaking to think that we could live our entire lives believing that’s all we are capable of. We are full of so much more than that.

It is no mystery that pursuing a career in the arts can be daunting. There is no clear-cut path to success, the rewards are often not monetary, and every artist’s definition of success is different. Many artists give up on their art because they feel the pressure to find a “real job”. I am definitely guilty of this. Despite playing out regularly, going on busking tours, and releasing self-produced budget EP’s, I have been pursuing it halfheartedly because I've been afraid to fully believe in myself. It’s crazy. I have somehow managed to live the last ten years of my life convincing myself that I don’t have what it takes to be an actual artist, but somehow in the process of pursuing a whole bunch of other shit I just didn’t care as much about, I actually became one! The issue is that I have never once given it as much attention as it really deserves. I have always been pursuing something else, just in case, for fear of failure or something. Of course I know now how completely ridiculous that is, and that failure doesn’t work that way. In everything I’ve done, music has always been there so prominently in the background that I have often forgotten about the foreground. It took two full rounds of postsecondary education, many odd jobs, a few heartbreaks, plenty of travel, lots of busking, many shitty gigs, and a hefty amount of crippling self-doubt to finally learn that the only “real job” any of us have in this life is to discover the thing that really makes us feel alive, and just do lots of that thing until we are old and grey. The world needs us to be the truest possible versions of ourselves so that others can be inspired to have the courage to be true to themselves. Of course it won’t be easy, but as the old adage goes, nothing worthwhile ever is. It will be really fucking challenging, but what’s wrong with that? I just think that if you’re going to work really hard at something, it should at least be something that puts a smile on your face every day.

During my daddy-daughter nap yesterday, I realized that my biggest fear is that one day I'll be trying to explain to my daughter the importance of listening to her heart and pursuing her passions in life, and then subsequently have to also explain to her why I never did. I never want to have to do that! I hope that my kids grow up to be brave and open-minded, to make informed choices, and most importantly to follow their hearts and stand by what is dear to them. But what kind of message would I be sending them if I wasn’t able to say I did the same for myself? Or worse, that I gave up on my dreams so I could be a better parent to them. That irony would stink. No, thank you! 

The last few months have been a bit of a whirlwind. I finished a long and existentially burdensome university degree, I became a father, and for the first time in my adult life I feel like I feel like I’m as close to where I’m meant to be as I ever will be. I consider myself very lucky to be able to make a decent enough living doing what I do, but it is time to step it up a bit and start putting more meaningful music out into the world. Not for me, but for my little Lucy and any other tiny people to come. 

I would like to dedicate this post to the memory of Malcolm Everett, and to thank his best friend Henry for reaching out to me. I will be forever grateful, and I will never forget the feeling I had on my 28th birthday for as long as I live. Thank you both. 

CD sale! Villains EP

Hi friendos! It has recently come to my attention that I have, in my possession, a half box of physical CDs of the Villains EP. Hoooray! There aren't many left, so if you'd like to order one, you can do so by clicking HERE, or find it under the "Store" tab.

All proceeds from this sale will go directly to the new album fund for which I am still writing and demoing. 

Thank you so much for your ongoing support. It means the world to me that I am able to make a living with music and do what I love every day. I owe it all to you.

I'd like to extend an extra special thanks to all of the couples that hired me to play at their weddings this year! Without those gigs, I wouldn't have been able to make this all work and would have probably had to get a real job (gross). 

- Mark 

Free Serena Ryder Show - July 3rd - Ottawa!

Happy Canada Day folks! I'm super pleased to announce that I'll be playing at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa on July 3rd in support of the free Serena Ryder (w/ sg The Strumbellas) show happening at TD Place later that evening. I'll be sharing the TD Music Cafe Stage with The Riot Police and Scott Helman, and it's gonna be a great day to celebrate Canadian music.  

I'm on at 3! Come party. #TDMusic 

 

image.jpg

I'm a grown up!

I've been working on this for a while now. I decided it was time to treat myself to something awesome, and it feels great to finally be able to say that I have a nice anechoic booth that I can make some decent home recordings in. It's dark and the ventilation is poor, but it's permanent and it's all mine! Up until really recently, I'd spent nearly decade living in overpriced apartments in urban centers with paper thin walls and no space. Adulthood moved me into a 'burb with a beautiful lady, and I suddenly had space to make this. When I get in this booth, there is nothing but me, my guitar, and an eery silence. It feels great to not have to tear everything down when I'm done breaking that silence. High five, self - ya done good. 

I'll have some booth-recorded stuff to share soon, most likely in the form of a live video. 

Love,

 

Mark 

image.jpg