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.