Category: Songs

Writing Songs for Living Proof and a Battle for Recovery

 songs and lyrics

“No Choice At All” lyrics: a song about feeling exhausted by struggle.

When I began writing the songs for this album, I was in a very dark place. I had been struggling with lasting concussion symptoms for 3 years, I had two young children who I was struggling to look after the way I wanted to, and a husband who was working himself to the bone trying to hold everything together. Around the same time I lost a close family member to cancer, another to suicide, and I was dealing with the crumbling of my relationship with a dear friend. I was reeling from the sheer pain of it all, from living with chronic illness for so long, and from the many losses. The head injury made it difficult for me to go out and do the things that I would normally do to stay positive: see my friends, go out for dinner or even go to the gym. My once very social self had been cut off at the knees, and to this day I don’t know if I will ever be the same as before.

Songwriting exercise, lyrics, songs

A list of all of the metaphors I could find for death. This eventually turned into a song called “I Don’t Want To Wait ‘Til Its Over”

 

Writing songs has always been the thing that I have turned to in times of struggle, but this time I was so far gone I didn’t even have the will to write. But something finally shifted ever so slightly, and I decided to learn how to play the piano. I got a beautiful Roland keyboard on monthly installments from Long & McQuade and the floodgates opened. Around the same time I began working with amazing songwriting mentor Debra Alexander, which helped to focus my songwriting and give me the extra push I needed to write on the piano.

All of the pain of the last few years, all of the loss and frustration, came pouring out of me. I was playing and writing every spare moment and when I felt anxiety or sadness creeping in, I would start playing to ease myself out of fight or flight mode. That piano, and the songs that came as a result, have been a saviour of sorts. I am not totally better, but a huge part of me that was lying dormant has been awakened and I have been able to work through much of my pain in the process.

 

Songs, songwriting, lyrics

A songwriting exercise where you free-write without lifting your pen from the paper to solidify what you are trying to express

 

How I Picked the Right Producer

Emma Cook - Same Old Song, producer Mitch Girio

Same Old Song (2016), producer Mitch Girio

Finding the right producer for an album is quite possibly the most important part of the whole process. The songs have to be there of course, but having badly produced songs is like having mushy pasta: there may have been nothing wrong with the pasta itself, it was just overcooked. I have been lucky enough to work with some amazing producers, including Mitch Girio for my last album Same Old Song. There is a magic that happens when someone brings out the ‘true’ nature of the songs, or can bring forward some truth that you didn’t necessarily even know was there when you were writing them.

Producer Dean Drouillard

Dean Drouillard

I came across producer Dean Drouillard by happenstance. Although I didn’t meet him on Yelp as he likes to joke, our kids became friends in JK at our local public school. An amazing musician and composer in his own right, he is also a sought after guitar player and has played with everyone from Royal Wood to Buffy Sainte-Marie. I asked Dean if he would produce a few demos for me to use to for licensing opportunities and to apply for an Ontario Arts Council grant. Working with Dean for the demos was a pivotal time for me. I hadn’t really admitted to myself that I was ready to get back out there and record another album. I wasn’t sure I could do it with my continuing health struggles, and I felt a mixture of fear and self-doubt.

The songs however, and what Dean was able to bring out of me, told a different story altogether. Listening to the finished product, I heard someone who had both a story to tell and the drive to tell it. I heard power and intimacy and sadness and strength. It was then that I finally admitted to myself that I had to do this. It was Dean who pushed me to apply for the coveted FACTOR Juried Sound Recording Grant which I later received and which is making the dream of Living Proof into an exciting reality.

Video Shoot for CBC Searchlight Competition

Yesterday my family helped me to record a video for the CBC Searchlight competition. I am submitting one of the songs from Living Proof in an effort to get some exposure for the upcoming album and also to possibly win some much needed prize money to put into the album! My five year old helped by singing “Let It Go” at the top of her lungs in front of the camera, my two year old helped by spilling her potty (which was full of pee) during one of my takes, and my husband helped by, well, doing pretty much everything, including very complex lighting with a kids nightlight as pictured below.

My adorable husband helping to set up the lights for the video shoot

My husband helping me set up professional lighting

This kind of thing is WAY outside of my comfort zone. I don’t wear a lot of makeup, I am uncomfortable on camera, and I have actually never shot a music video before, professional or amateur. It ended up being a pretty fun family activity and we were not only able to finish, but I sent in the video later last night (working mom win!!!).

Makeover for video shoot for CBC Searchlight competition

Me with more makeup on than I have ever worn in my life!

The highlight of the shoot for me was having my whole family involved, as music is something I usually go off quietly and do by myself. The best take is the one where you can hear Charlie yelling about wiping her bum in the background. Classic. I can’t share the final video for CBC Searchlight quite yet but it will be up on the CBC Website on Feb 14th at 3pm. The first round is based on votes, so I need friends and fans to vote once per day from Feb 15th-Feb 27th.

I made a two minute video of ‘bloopers’ from the days shoot, so I hope it will give you a little chuckle. Included in the YouTube description are a few sentences about why I should win the CBC Searchlight competition 🙂