After that last trip in 2007, life changed a whole lot more, and not in a good way. My mother broke a hip, which brought an end to a wonderful living situation with her as she transitioned to life in a care home. After selling the house, which took months during the 2008 financial meltdown, my marriage imploded, and I moved a few more times before finally finding my dream rental apartment in a lovely old mansion.
When my mum died I discovered the true meaning of that old saying “whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.” The Muse deserted me during this phase, and music stayed on the back burner because every time I picked up the guitar it would just make me cry.
I decided that going back to university to finally finish my history degree might be therapeutic, and I got offered funding to go to grad school to do an MA. Writing history is just another form of storytelling, so I got to express myself in a whole new way that was quite satisfying, and it got me out of the house and interacting with some very talented people. Aside from having one of my research papers on the history of polio epidemics published in the undergraduate journal The Corvette, my honours thesis won an award, and I landed one of four summer studentships offered to undergrads in Canada to write another paper on the history of thalidomide. It came with a stipend of $5,000, so that made me really happy!
In between writing papers I started playing my guitars again and going over the songs I had in my tune bag. Some of them had been marinating for a really long time, and they still sounded good to me, so I decided to finally bite the bullet and get back into the studio to do some recording.
I was very lucky to find Spirit Studio, a funky chalet in the wilds of South Surrey, BC, and resident engineer Shawn Soucy. We had been travelling in the same circles for years, but our paths had never crossed while he was recording and touring with major country rock acts and making a name for himself as an all-around A-list drum guy. (This connection came full circle: he was in Tumbleweed when they had recorded “Woman She Used to Be” in 1997 and here we are in the studio together 20 years down the road…)
I called up some old friends from my Vancouver days, Brent Gubbels (bass), Charlie Hase (pedal steel/lap slide), and Darryl Havers (keyboards). I had always wanted to play with Darryl, probably the most popular and in-demand keyboard guy in the Lower Mainland, and a treat to work with. We were very lucky to get him.
Charlie is a phenomenal player who gets more atmospheric sounds out of ten strings than just about anyone I know, and he had worked on my tunes before, so he was a natural choice for these sessions. Brent and I had history from gigging together in Hogan Sings Holiday and I knew he was versatile enough to nail down anything I gave him to work on.
With the wonderful country ambience of the studio, and Shawn’s excellent coffee, conditions, as they say, were perfect. We did two three-song sessions, and Nolan Murray stopped by later to add some special flavour with his fiddle and mandolin.
I also got to record some more tunes with Brian Campbell, which was a huge treat as we hadn’t worked together since the 80s. (!) I tracked the vocals for the CD at his downtown studio and we did an unplugged session with Charlie and Brent which was quite magical.
These sessions were very healing for me. Do I look happy?