Thinking Back, Looking Forward

“Another year over,
And a new one just begun.”
-John Lennon

It’s interesting to see all the different perspectives going into the new year. Some people make resolutions, some make “intentions,” some say “screw it.” Some look back on 2013 with relief that it’s finally over, some wonder how 2014 could ever measure up to the wonderful year they had. Whatever you’re perspective, I hope that the prospect of a new year gives you hope and encourages you to reach for whatever dreams and goals you have.

So much seems to happen during the year that it’s nice to take some time to reflect on the good and the bad. Thinking back on the experiences we had is helpful to look forward and dream and plan for the future. So, here are some of my own personal notable experiences of 2013.

1. We have a band! At the beginning of the year, Jay and Jessica joined the team full time, and a few months later Josh and Hammer also came on board. It’s been really great having a band to work with, write with, and tour consistently with, and Zoltan and I are so thankful for each of these talented people and all that they bring to Lauren Mann and the Fairly Odd Folk. I’m excited to see what happens with everyone on board as we get into writing for a new album and continuing to tour this year.

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2. We live somewhere! After our tour finished in November 2012, we decided to hole up in Brooks, AB for the winter, where Jay and Jessica are from. We started by renting a room at our friend’s house, and somewhere along the way my mother-in-law decided to move across the country to Brooks, and now we live in The Cabin in her backyard.

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Having a community to be involved in when we’re not on the road, and an actual home (albeit small, poorly insulated, and with occasional visits from mice) to come back to is probably the biggest highlight of the year for me. We’ve built up a little painting and odd jobs business that has allowed us to meet so many people in town, and we’re even starting an open mic in a few weeks. It is very fulfilling to build relationships with people on a regular basis. It has also made me feel so much more grounded, and having a place of rest has really helped me enjoy tour a lot more because I know that I have something to come back to, and my life is no longer in a  constant state of motion and uncertainty. Not to mention that I can finally fulfill my inner nesting desires!

 

3. We made it on CBC Radio! Ever since we started doing music full time, we’ve had the goal of someday being played on The Drive, one of my favourite CBC radio shows. We had had support from some local CBC stations in the past, but nothing on the national level until the spring. We started getting notes and messages from people saying they heard us on the radio, and I thought they meant their local station, but one person said that they had heard us on The Drive! It was a pretty momentous occasion, and we’re quite honoured to be played among so much great talent that we look up to.

 

4. I wrote a lot of songs. After Over Land and Sea came out, I went through a really long period of little songwriting. I think I probably wrote less songs in 2012 than in any other year since I can remember. It wasn’t the easiest year, with lots of change, and lots of touring, so having some time in early 2013 to just sit and write was like heaven. By the end of the summer Jay and I had demoed twelve songs, and I’ve been continuing to write more. I know I keep saying this, but I can’t wait to hear how the songs will turn out now that we have the opportunity to write with a whole band. I’m excited to start sharing them with you!

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5. I actually made it to a wedding. Since Zoltan and I got married and started travelling, we’ve missed a lot of weddings. Granted, we’ve been able to see our friends before and after their weddings and spend quality time with them, and almost none of our friends were at our wedding because we did things quickly and quietly. But it’s sad to get invited to all these weddings and not be able to make it. In July, one of my oldest friends, Kelsey, got married to an amazing guy. For some reason I thought that the date was two weeks earlier, and we were still going to be on tour, but it happened to be the weekend after our tour ended in the summer. It was so wonderful to witness someone I’ve been friends with since elementary school get married and start a new adventure. I’m so thankful for her friendship, and sharing in her special day meant a lot.

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6. We played in a beautiful theatre. Our tours take us to a variety of different places and different kinds of venues, often small, dark, clubs with sticky floors, gross washrooms, and black paint everywhere. There are definitely exceptions, but we’ve come to have relatively low expectations. On our fall tour, however, we had the honour of being the musical guest at the Guelph Lecture at the sold-out River Run Centre in Guelph, ON. The event itself is an annual lecture series put on by an organization at the University of Guelph and it features a musical guest, literary guest and keynote speaker, and the theme revolves around “Being Canadian.” It was an honour to be invited to play in front of a packed audience, not to mention on the best stage we’ve ever played on. We definitely felt like rockstars that night.

 

7. I started an online store. Our long drives through the North American wilderness have given me hours and hours to knit. It’s a hobby I started when I was younger and picked up again when we started travelling, and it’s since become a much appreciated creative outlet and way for me to decompress. I can knit all my emotion into something beautiful and practical, and it gives me great satisfaction. Since we started touring, I’ve sold a few knitted creations at shows, and this year I made the plunge and started an online store, Lauren’s Creations! I don’t get a lot of traffic, but it’s a goal I had for a while, and I’m proud that I made it happen. I update it whenever I make something new, but I also love doing commissions, so if you need something knit for yourself or for someone else, I’d love to help!

 

On the flip side, there were some experiences and circumstances in 2013 that were unexpected and/or didn’t go the way we had planned. The first, and most major, was finding out in July that I have Graves Disease, an autoimmune disease that causes my thyroid to operate beyond it’s normal capacity. It explained a lot of symptoms I had been experiencing (huge appetite, weight loss, shaking, hot all the time) and now that my body has balanced out, it is easily manageable. It came as quite a surprise because no one in my family, to my knowledge, has ever had a thyroid condition, or any serious health problem in that case (praise the Lord!). But it’s not life threatening, as many health conditions are, and I am blessed and extremely thankful that I can continue touring and playing music full time.

The other circumstance that didn’t go as we had planned was our Indigogo campaign that we did to raise money for a new album. We thought long and hard about it, and made the decision to go through with this campaign, and it was so encouraging to see people wanting to get on board with us. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make our goal, so none of the money went through. Near the end of the campaign, when it looked like we might not make our goal, we were faced with deciding what to do if we didn’t make it, so we started talking about other options. At first no one really wanted to talk about it because we didn’t know what to do; all our eggs were in this one basket. But as we thought about it and kept the conversation going, some new ideas came out about changing a few things about the way we tour to hopefully save some money, pushing back recording to have more time to write with the whole band, and pursuing some of the awesome grants that the Alberta and Canadian government offer artists. It was a really interesting time because we had this plan that we were all focussed on, and had we been successful, we never would have thought of these other options. But now that we’ve been rethinking, we’re actually really excited about what this next year holds. It’s going to look a little differently than past years, mainly because we will be spending almost all of the year touring in Canada and we might only do a small US tour, but I think some new opportunities might just come out of the changes in direction we’ve made.

Well that about wraps up the major events of 2013. This coming year, I’m looking forward to writing and recording a new record, being home a little bit more and investing into my community, and hopefully getting some little projects done around the house! I’ll definitely try and keep you all updated along the way.

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What are you looking forward to in 2014? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,
Lauren.

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One thought on “Thinking Back, Looking Forward

  1. I enjoy listening to your music as a form of conversation and this blog entry somewhat reminds me of a confessional to complement the recorded work. It’s an opportunity to see behind (and beyond) the music and the people who make it and thank you for being so brave and sharing it. I look forward to many more installments AND to enjoying much marvelous new music as the years unfold.

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