This past weekend I had the pleasure of hosting the very first Songwriting Intensive at Wildwood Artist Retreat, put on by Ptarmigan Music and Theatre Society. Nine wonderful people decided to come and learn together and we laughed, ate food together, and became friends, all while learning the different aspects of songwriting (including alliteration!), and how to maintain a songwriting practice. On Sunday we had the studio all set up so each participant was able to record a demo of a song they either wrote or were working on during the weekend.
It’s amazing to see how when you get a group of creative people together, the creative and collaborative energy is so great, and we feed off each other. Being a bit of an introvert and not much of a talker, it was tiring for me to be facilitating and teaching the entire weekend but though I was quite exhausted come Sunday evening, I was so full of joy and inspiration and gratitude for the opportunity to share one of my greatest passions with others.
If you’re interested in songwriting and would like some help in the right direction, send me a message! I am definitely planning on hosting more workshops, and I’m also available for individual sessions.
Find a mountain to see where you come from Follow your footsteps back to the forest You belong here, out in the wilderness Among the dust that brought you up
In July 2013, we were on tour through America, and on one particular day found ourselves driving from the desert of Oregon to the California coast. We had just played a backwoods festival called Crawfest in Bend, OR (think dusty desert, rockabilly bands, lots of dogs, very windy, and a delicious burger food truck). Instead of staying the night and participating in the late night “activities,”, we got a head start on our drive to San Francisco. It was a long, hot drive, and as we crossed the California border and made our way to San Francisco, I remember seeing hills off in the distant with the glow of fire coming off of them. We had noticed some smoky air on our drives, but seeing the wildfires during the height of California’s drought was a sobering sight.
I remember sitting in the front seat of the van, watching the fiery hills roll by in the distance, thinking of the birth and death that happens so naturally, and the fleetingness of it all. I have always been struck by the contrast of the barren desert and the lush, old growth forests on the west coast, and those paradoxes wove themselves into the pattern of this song. A few weeks before this drive I had penned the lyrics “Even the mountains strong and silent crumble to dust someday,” and as we were driving through those starkly contrasted landscapes, I was inspired to write the verses of Oregon on that drive, and hummed a quick melody idea into my phone. When we got home from tour, I was finally able to sit down and pair the melody and lyrics to some chords I had written shortly before that, but it actually wasn’t until January 2015 that I actually finished the song.
It’s one of those songs that has stuck with me for years, and has taken on new meaning as I’ve experienced the paradoxes of life…travelling and seeing so many parts of the world but not having a home to come back to; building relationships and the end of relationships, having plenty and having little. But finding meaning through all the mountains and valleys, and staying grounded in truth and in the purity of nature has helped turn those experiences into beautiful things: memories, songs, and grateful attitudes.
This is probably one of my favourite songs from Dearestly because it captures some intense feelings, both musically and lyrically. It is brooding and haunting, but there is lots of life, and a sense of ethereal wistfulness. Josh Rob Gwilliam (who co-produced Dearestly) had a huge part to play in the soundscape of the song, even encouraging me to re-write the second verse and a few other lyrics. The song mostly took shape in an early pre-production session months before the actual recording. We decided to keep the percussion minimal but build the dynamic with the piano and layers upon layers of different sounds including mellotron, clarinet, vioin, pedal steel, a choir, and lots of harmonies.
I hope you enjoy this live video of Oregon that we recorded at our house. It was so fun to strip the song down and capture the beauty of it, especially with some wonderful friends. Thank you Austin, Josh, Johnny, Charlie, Mat, Bob, Lyn, Katie, Tija, and Nadia for being part of the choir!
If you are part of the Exclusive Content Project (sign up HERE) you will also be receiving an EP of voice memos and demos of Oregon from throughout the writing process. You’ll be able to hear how the song sounded at various stages, and what changed through the process.