In It’s Own Time: Part 1

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It’s been a long while since I wrote any updates about my album, ETHER . As it turned out, the universe had other plans for me, with many bends in my road, that included a serious health detour. An abscess root canal had centered in my left side of my jaw, that necessitated immediate ‘state of the art’ surgery for jawbone reconstruction. So, having come out the other side now, I am very relieved and thrilled to share, that I am currently recording my album, ETHER. And if I do say so … the thirteen original pop jazz songs are coming together beautifully!

I admit, the surgery was a bit of a nightmare for this singer, but once I got on top of the jaw joint mayhem, along with my new mouth, and tongue placement, I gained a gentler and more patient approach to myself. It  has been a rather profound healing process. I also learned,  yet one more time…that the creative process has its very own wise timing. Because during recovery, I honed and dug deeper into my music and lyrics while also deepening my spiritual practice and meditation. Songwriting is a humbling and mysterious process I deeply respect and love. So I believe through letting my songs ‘breath’ over this past year in particular, they have benefited all the more… yet I’ll let you be the judge of that after you listen to them, yourself.

 

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For this high achieving mother and musician, it was hard to let go. I always had way too much on my plate.  ‘Running to stand still’ had become an accepted way of life. Wasn’t that why we called it the human race after all? As someone who can revert to perfectionism, I also caught myself measuring my recovery progress and beating myself up for not healing quicker. That was not very nice. So when I finally gave myself permission to be and do nothing… sleep, think and heal, it felt good. Really good. And RECKLESS!  In a most unexpected way.

I spent a lot of time really listening to the gorgeous bird songs outside my window…  the sublime silence… and the rhythmic ocean’s waves… that happen to be right in my front yard. I know, pretty amazing. A memorable day was when two dragonflies literally hung out on my shoulder and lap, for over an hour, with a pod of Orca whales also in view! Which immediately dispelled the limiting thought ‘ life was passing me by’. What a programmed societal hoax because I was exactly where I needed to be, with the most incredible island sanctuary to recover in, and loving family and dear friends to support me… that most people would clamor to experience.  So, the most fascinating part of being forced to unplug from both the global timer and my own inner metronome was that it slowly took me back to my own natural rhythm. An innate kind of timing that as it turned out, was reminiscent of when my child was born.

So, since the ‘so called’ detour happened, I can honestly now say I am sincerely grateful for the insights I’ve learned because of it. For one thing, I am certainly far more in touch with my tongue. That may sound unusual, but it’s true. After my operation…my poor tongue (and joints) took the brunt of it. Dominique Eade, an exceptional Boston teacher and vocalist, first opened my awareness up to ‘connecting to my tongue.’ For instance…did you know that our tongue is ‘ridiculously’ connected to every muscle and nerve in our mouth, throat, neck, shoulders and jaw? I mean, who knew how much tension could be stored in one’s tongue? And what a difference to one’s sound, it makes to release it? It’s just the beginning of my new-found body wisdom and self-awareness, which I happily now find myself self correcting with each conversation, yawn, kiss, each bite of food, and… each note and vowel in every song. Is my tongue relaxed? So, the deeper metaphors of this experience continue to be far-reaching for this evolving singer, songwriter.

With my recording cycle now in full tilt again, I take all these experiences and more… into the studio and my songs.  I feel very fortunate. Sure, my life has sped up once more and my plate is full again, yet, it is at my own pace with an easier stride as I feel a new sense of calm excitement and curiosity, about what lies ahead. I adore recording and the relaxed and intimate process of this recording cycle, with my talented pianist, Juno winning producer, co- writer and engineer extraordinaire, Chris Gestrin. It is the highlight of my year so far.

I LOVE completing my thirteen pop, jazz songs that I happen to feel are pretty special. I hope you will too. I really look forward to sharing them with you, at release time, next fall. So to you who have taken the time to read this, many thanks. I welcome any of your comments or feedback and I will be sure to post ‘Part 2’ and the further adventures of this ‘Reckless Grace’ journey, soon!  Life… isn’t it something?

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An Encounter with Self

Juliette
Juliette Our Canadian Crooner

Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.  ~Alan Watts

I have a magnificently intense aversion to being put into a box and labelled. So as you can imagine, I have been very challenged by this weeks exercise in Music Success In 9 Weeks : THE PITCH . In chapter two, author Ariel Hyatt gives multiple sensible marketing reasons why defining my musical style in a 15 second “elevator pitch” is a must should I ever bump into Clive Davis on the way up. So with Greta Garbo gusto I threw myself into this challenging exercise.

For starters I listed off some early influences that shaped me to become the singer I am today. Like watching my talented Father , John McCullough sing his killer version of If I Didn’t Care by the INK SPOTS  at his many gigs with the Roy Coran Orchestra. Or the first time I ever heard Ella Fitzgerald swing “Paper Moon” on a ’78 on my grandfather’s gramophone , and Nelly Lutcher ‘s R+B version of “Fine Brown Frame” that lit me up. Then the turning point was “The Juliette Show”. Every Sat. night after the hockey game, I was enthralled watching Juliette descend a flight of stairs in some glittery figure hugging gown. She was our very own Canadian female crooner. “A star”. I recall my young 10 yr self vowing to myself, ” I want to be a singer like Juliette”. At school on the playground, I drove my friends crazy with my imitations of her! Imagine my thrill when twelve years ago, just before releasing my début cd, I spotted Juliette in the audience at the Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver. I took the chance to introduce myself and we had the best talk. In fact she introduced me to the late Arni May, who owned two Jazz club’s called Rossini’s in Kitsilano and Gastown. Thanks to Juliette, the Gastown Rossini’s venue became my first Vancouver Jazz Club for the cd release : LATE BLOOMER. Later, Kits Rossini’s provided many opportunities to play with Lynton Garner. I can’t tell you how important it was to tell Juliet directly, what a positive, powerful influence she had been to me. Other influences…were my charismatic Mother Kay McCullough . She was a tall, striking brunette who loved to sing and although she was not a performer per se, in our household, she rivaled Juliet …AND Elizabeth Taylor. Seeing Diana Ross & the Supremes live at Expo 67 . Diana was unforgettable. She was the coolest singer around… until I heard Joni Mitchell at the Mariposa Folk Festival . What a total contrast she was with her confessional writing style, long blonde hair, guitar  and dulcimer. Thanks to Joni I turned within and discovered the writer .

After daydreaming over the early days, I decided to focus more on the present and who I am now and to ask for some help from my friends as I went along. Brian Fraser creator of “Jazzthink”, kindly took the time to suggest describing myself  “like the taste of a fine wine – hints of this and that blending into something unique.” I loved this approach. Then I asked my astute hairdresser Kristy Davies to suggest essences of myself. “What’s an essence ?” says she. “Aspects of my personality” that you think set me apart from your other clients.” says I.”Statuesque comes to mind… sparkly , and yet weathered…mmm in a nice way,…to describe how you integrate your life experiences and always land on your feet”. Smiling, I added her descriptions to my long list of “self” definitions.

Once home I shared more ideas with my sage 17 yr old daughter who knows me very well and excels at metaphorical writing. We both dove into scribbling ideas and within ten minutes she had descriptions that made my heart pound with excitement: “tuned to a vision whilst in the key of reality”. We acknowledged they weren’t “it” for this exercise, yet Ashley provided the focus of what I wanted to say. I felt elated and stayed up till 3:45 a.m. writing like a fool and then sent my mini drafts to the wonderful Spider Robinson sci-fi novelist extraordinaire and musician. Later that day he generously offered helpful feedback and editing ideas : I’d even recommend tightening it a bit further, so it can be read slowly, languorously.” 

So…

Have I come up with the perfect pitch for me?  Well, you can be the judge. All I can say is, it’s as true to who I am that I can muster – this week. What I’ve learned from the process is this. That by defining myself I am not limiting my options, but actually expanding them. And, by comparing myself to other artists I am not trying to be something I am not, but simply painting a verbal hors d’oeuvre for a total stranger that could open a window between us…or not, for I certainly cannot be all things to all people. And distilling a weeks worth of notes into a 15 sec pitch really affirmed to me once again, that simplicity of thought in this cluttered cyber world, is indeed potent. As my hero Leonardo da Vinci once said Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

So if I miss that elevator ride with Clive and instead get hit by his limo … and we happen to find ourselves in an ambulance together, it will be great because I’ll be ready and primed for when he asks :” what kind of music do you play Christie “? And I’ll be able to confidently yet nonchalantly say :

Christie Grace – An ambrosia of Ella, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell & Bacharach déjà vu with a twist of Audrey Hepburn.

…then , I’ll sue him!