“Conventus The Eye of the Heart” is my new and ninth album born out of life’s unions and struggles. The past couple of years I encountered many unions in different disguises. I was diagnosed and cured of colon cancer. As I lay in my hospital bed last January, I listened to my roughly recorded demos of these songs and I let them show me the way to health. Music was a healing activity that held my interest and focus in my recovery.
This past year I also embraced a most magnificent union. I married my partner Alice of 25 years on the anniversary of our first meeting. I watched my partner’s mother dementia advance and witnessed a great love and strength as we moved through this life transition. I looked at the union in my own family of origin relationship and how my life’s journey as an adoptee has greatly shaped who I am. All of these unions, union of self and body, self and spirit, family union, union of love and marriage are found in the creation of these songs and my new album.
Do you have a favorite track on your new CD and why?
Fire Flames is my current favorite, it started as a different song many years ago that I had long forgotten. It seems to me the past and present are merging in this song. When digging through my archives last year I came across the tune and loved most of it and wondered why I never finished or reworked it. I sat down and the song started to flow with a new tango feel with the sliding guitar that I also play on the recording. Strangely the only part of that song that remains now is the intro and bridge, the rest of the new song emerged as a result from the new feel of the tremolo guitar. I struggled with the lyrics and was not sure what I was really writing about which is quite common for many songwriters, its often years later we understand what we were really writing about. It seemed like I was writing about being a jilted lover but now I think I was writing about the betrayal of my body. The song is also quite challenging to sing but I dug deep and was happy with the outcome.
What do you hope that people get or feel from your new CD?
I hope my audience grasps the message of coming from their heart and living life from the heart. There is joy in survival and to live life fully. The music is joyful and heartfelt and is about surviving and moving forward.
How did you pick your title track?
The title came to me from quotes that I kept coming across in my reading. The words “Eye of the Heart” spoke to me and I made an art piece and titled it as such. The cover of the CD is that artwork and these passages that touched me are inside the CD as well. I wanted to feel, smell, hear and see, but not see with my eyes and my mind only. I wanted to see with CANTE ISTA – the eye of the heart. – Lame Deer, LAKOTA
Ephesians 1:18-19, I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of his calling, what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints and his incomparably great power for us who believe. – Apostle Paul, The Bible.
The path to reach the real includes the third element of removing the opacity or the veils that prevent the “eye of the heart” from seeing God and viewing everything as a theophany of God. Sufism – Seyyed Hossein Nasr –
The light which shines in the eye is really the light of the heart. Look at Love with the eyes of your Heart. – Rumi.
Conventus is Latin for coming together or union and the title track for the new CD. The themes centre around this concept of union.
Tell us about the CD cover and what inspired the images.
The artwork is mine and is called The Eye of the Heart. I created this image as part of a piece I made during an art process evening with Vancouver artist Kat Thorsen last spring. When I came home from making my art, I realized it was The Eye of the Heart in my song Conventus and knew I had the album cover!
The packaging is as eco-friendly as possible (like my last 2 cds). I decided on the cardboard eco-sleeves because there is absolutely no plastic except for the disc of course.
How much input do you give through the producing process?
I am very involved in the production process and totally love recording! I sit in on all sessions, edits, mixes every step of the way. Before we begin work I send the producer Adam a rough demo with all the songs for Adam to listen. Then we meet at a preproduction meeting to go over the new songs and ideas for recording and I play them live for Adam. He joins me on his guitar as well. We go over the keys and feels, Adam makes suggestions and reasoning and we go with the flow. Next up we set the feels in for the drummer and do scratch tracks for him with BPMs and examples of styles for the track. The drummer comes in and lays down the foundation, Adam often records his bass improvising along with the drummer and scratch tracks. We are always looking at each other and tend to be in agreement as we record. I do know how to get out of the way and let people do their job and I know when to intervene which is very helpful to the process. Then slowly we add each instrument until it feels done. I record the vocals at the end usually although not always, on the No. 8 album I did them early on.
Do you try to create an overall mood for the entire CD or do you prefer mix up styles and genres?
I go with what feels right for recording what needs to be born so to speak and that tends to be a mix. We aim to be cohesive however, which is part of the fun having that broad range work together.
Is there one song from your CD that you just can’t get out of your head?
Lightning Strikes Twice my guitar riff keeps on going forever in my head not to mention my unleashed my inner Elvis lol
What part of the recording process do you enjoy the most?
All of of it! But to pick one, the process of everyone playing and hearing the songs take shape is always so magical and exciting for me.
Do you play on your own albums or bring in studio musicians?
Yes I play guitar on my recording, sing and do the background vocals as well. I am truly blessed with the amazing musicians on this album! They are my dream band and the same musicians that played on No.8 except my partner Alice Fraser who plays the keys on the new album.. Adam Popowitz produced the new cd and also plays bass and lead guitar with some synth on Conventus and extra percussion. Adam recruited groovemeister Elliot Polsky to play drums. Huggybear Leonard plays electrifying blues harp and penny whistle. We had a great time recording No.8 and so when I wanted to record Conventus all the musicians were excited and eagerly joined in creating this new work. Alice came on board as she accompanies me on most gigs and was great to have her join on Conventus too. You can hear their hearts playing, these musicians gave everything they had to each song and it is apparent on the recording how much they loved playing.
Does writing music come easy for you? How long did it take you to write the songs for this CD?
Writing comes very easy for me and I also never throw any little piece of what I wrote away. Some of the songs were written in a few minutes, others took 25 years and most a combination. The album is a mix of old tunes, old mixed with new and brand new. I tell beginning songwriters never throw anything away, from my experience little seeds of dust sometimes take years before you realize what you have is real gold and just needed time to sprout.