Cayley Miranda Schmid: Home Tone of the Bellingham Folk Music CommunityJanuary 24, 2019
This month, we feature Cayley Miranda Schmid, in our series of people working to make a difference in the world and in their communities. Schmid is a professional musician, fiddle instructor, community event organizer, dancer, writer and magical weaver of connection for people interested in traditional and folk music and dance. In a recent podcast interview, her bandmate and interviewer, David Pender Lofgren, credited Schmid with drawing him into celtic music and their band. It is safe to say that there are many musicians in the Pacific Northwest and beyond that owe their introduction to music and the social circles that it can provide to Cayley Miranda Schmid.
We were curious to discover what motivates someone to spend so much time and energy creating opportunities for others in her community.
I love being able to create environments for people to enjoy music and enjoy their communities. Once I find something I love, I want to find a way to share it with other people and enjoy it, together.
Born in Vancouver, Schmid’s family moved to a quieter seaside town in Northwest Washington when she was just a child. Not being a big-city child, this was a decision for which Schmid remains grateful.
I’ve never lived anywhere else for long enough to compare; Bellingham is small enough that information spreads by word of mouth, but large enough to support lots of projects. A lot of people move to Bellingham from larger cities to have more of a sense of community. Bellingham is also starting to get more of a reputation for being a folk-music-loving town, which attracts more of the same!
Schmid began her performance career as a ‘tweenager,’ participating in competitive Scottish Highland dancing. She soon found that she enjoyed Irish dancing and preferred the celtic music that accompanied Irish dance.
Irish and Scottish music drew me in first as music to dance to, and then as music to play. Jigs and reels at a good tempo feel like a heartbeat, and playing it with other people feels like a natural human function. The tunes jam so many notes into a phrase of music, but it feels exhilarating and not chaotic. Sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on what draws you to something you love, but I know it makes me happy.
When she was just 12, she saw Anna Schaad perform in Bellingham and was mesmerised by her glamour. Realising that her violin lessons could be re-focussed on learning fiddle tunes, Scmid’s musical journey began. Under the mentorship of Schaad, she began performing at the age of 14, developed a lifelong performing partnership with cellist Clea Taylor Johnson, (a fellow founding member of the traditional celtic band, Giant’s Causeway), had her first professional paid tour as a fiddler, and returned to Bellingham and a roster of fiddle students, by the age of 20.
Schmid currently plays in Giant’s Causeway, and in the multi-genre band, Polecat, which she joined at the request of guitarist Aaron Guest, who later became Schmid’s life partner as well as band mate.
Schmid is grateful for the many wonderful opportunities that she received as a young musician and recognizes that many music students don’t have these same chances to experience performance, mentorship and the social aspects of being a musician. Over the past decade, Schmid has dedicated much of her time to providing safe spaces to explore one’s craft, with more experienced musicians, in workshops and jam sessions. Schmid hosted a weekly Celtic Ceili gathering (roughly translated as an Irish kitchen party), which has evolved into the multi-day, multiple venue autumn Bellingham Irish Festival. Schmid also organises a diverse festival of workshops, performances and jam sessions of many sorts of traditional music in the celebrated multi-day, Bellingham Folk Festival. The 2019 Bellingham Folk Festival takes place at the Bellingham Unitarian Church and offsite concert venues this coming weekend; January 25-27th.
Schmid seems to never rest. A typical day consists of:
Lots of computer stuff. Emailing and calendar coordinating. Feeling guilty about not cleaning the bathroom. Four or five private fiddle lessons, sometimes group classes. Feeling guilty about not exercising. Play a show or go to a show, have a rehearsal or recording session. Making a big to-do list for tomorrow.
As a precocious and self-motivated youngster, Schmid’s experience with home schooling and self study taught her that if there is a gap in her knowledge or experience, she has all the skills and resources necessary to fill it or find those who can help her fill it.
I’m always excited to learn new things about the subjects that I’m passionate about. Expanding my understanding of music and folk traditions makes me appreciate it even more, and it seems like other people want that as well. I don’t think there needs to be a definite line between teachers and students, we can all be open to receiving new information.
In a teaching role, the most valuable thing I can do is to share why I love doing it, and to help other people find their musical happy place. Everyone learns so differently, and everyone has a different idea of what they want to achieve. I try and adapt to each person’s learning style and speed, and to push folks a little further than they think they can go. Some people are able to work on music every day, and some only have an hour a week to play, but everyone can still experience the joy of playing. For myself, I’ve had times that I’m really motivated to improve on my instrument and times that I need to take a break.
Recognizing that there are many ways to learn, Schmid has for the last 5 years, organised a multi-day festival with a full roster of workshops on songwriting, singing, dance, and in depth sessions with senior musicians on various instruments that aim to help developing musicians take their skills to the next level. When one thinks of music festivals, one imagines summer sunshine, camping in a field and jam sessions that go into the late evening with the long summer light. A bright light in the space between summer festivals is the Bellingham Folk Festival.
I like that the festival is in the middle of winter, when days are short and you want to be cozy, inside, with your friends. My friend Sam Vogt designed the perfect logo for the festival; a lantern in an evergreen forest. I think that sums up the feeling of being at the festival pretty nicely. The Bellingham Folk Festival has a pretty huge offering of workshops, so it appeals especially to those who are interested in playing music as well as listening.
I have loved seeing new communities of folk music players and appreciators start to form in Bellingham over the last few years. I am constantly trying to introduce people to each other that have already connected! We are bonding with the people we share happy times with, and community seems to spring naturally from those shared experiences.
We wondered how funding impacts Schmid’s choice of festival performers and instructors and where Schmid sources the money to fund these events.
There isn’t any! Everything I organise is supported by ticket sales. The festivals receive some financial sponsorship from generous local business and individuals. Those donations are crucial to getting the events off of the ground. Then I shoot for ticket sales to cover most of the operational expenses.
For me, an ideal festival line-up would include half local musicians and half touring musicians, performers and teachers who are passionate about sharing with the people who have showed up to be there, and a blend of current friends and new people to connect with. I so appreciate teachers and performers who come with the ‘all in’ attitude, ready to participate and connect.
Undoubtedly, love of the music and craft inspires this ‘all in’ attitude, but we suspect that Schmid herself inspires people to want to give generously to these events.
As if her to-do list was not massive enough, Schmid has recently revived an old passion for fiction writing.
In high school and college I did a lot of creative writing. Mostly poetry and short stories. I think I stopped putting energy into it when I didn’t have a class or peer group to share it with. Right now I’m VERY slowly working on a (piece of) young adult fiction about kids playing traditional music. It’s sort of sitting on my desktop right now, waiting for creative moments.
Creativity is a quality that is not in short supply with the multi-talented and tireless Schmid. We at TTDOG look forward to reading her fiction, in print, soon. As is our way, we asked Cayley Miranda Schmid to tell us what makes her most grateful and where she finds her greatest joy.
I am grateful that I get to work with and be friends with so many kind, supportive, and fun people. People who are generous with their time, passionate, courteous, hilarious and loving.
Amongst musicians and music lovers across the Pacific Northwest and beyond, it is hard to overstate how beloved Schmid is. Her goal in all that she does is to make people feel good about playing music, and to create opportunities to break into the jam sessions and social events around which musicians congregate. Her gentle warmth, charm and delightful sense of humour endears her to others, brings them to her performances, and draws crowds to sold-out sessions in the multiple festivals and gatherings that Schmid has organized.
I hope that the festivals continue to grow and bring people joy. I want to have a lot of fun and to get better at everything I’m already doing. I would like to continue to do work that I am proud of, and to have more memories of great times with friends.
Perhaps it is in performance, where we can best see how this joy of making music, together with others, has been the motivation for her work.
The Bellingham Folk Festival runs this year January 25-27 at the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship, 1207 Ellsworth Street, Bellingham.
Click On the Links, For More Information About:
Fiddle lessons with Cayley Miranda Schmid
Shaunda Moore: Impacting Future Generations Through EducationOctober 19, 2018
It has been awhile since we’ve featured someone working in the world to make a difference. Much public attention has been drawn to the political arena, and so we turned to local politics to find someone working to make a difference in the public arena. Shaunda Moore is one such person, running for an elected position as a School Trustee on the board for District SD43, in the suburb of Port Moody, outside of Vancouver, British Columbia.
We spoke with Shaunda Moore while she was taking a break from campaigning for the role of School Trustee. For Moore, child advocacy and education are passions that have been a feature of her entire adult life. Before stepping into the political arena this year, she has devoted her life to her family, and to the raising of five children.
Being a mother has been one of my most successful jobs. I think I’ve worked really hard to be a good mother, combined with pretty decent raw material with my kids. They seem to be pretty amazing. I’m going to take some of the credit but mostly it is theirs.
My priority has really been the kids and my family and supporting them through school and PACs (Parent Associations). And once that has evolved into a way that I’m not needed, I get to jump into some other shoes. I’m excited to fill those and I think I can.
Throughout their lives, Moore has been involved with the parent associations and fundraising. With her youngest child now in high school, where independence is key, Moore finds that the need for parental involvement in school activities has decreased, and with space in her life to dedicate, Moore would like to work in local education in a meaningful way.
I’m at a point in my life where I want to move my focus outwards, to start having a bigger role within our community. If I combine the desire to give back and be active in our community, with the thing that I always care about – children and education – this is just the perfect natural fit.
Working at a board level there’s an opportunity to have a lasting impact by bringing fresh ideas and having the opportunity to propose possible programmes or even lobby for curriculum, if given the opportunity. I think that one of the benefits of working on the board is that you rely on everyone’s different abilities and common interests to really make it work. For myself, I am a hard worker, committed, excited, compassionate and I have the ability to take in other ideas, value them and work in a collaborative way with any number of people, easily.
As School Trustee, Moore will be making difficult decisions that impact several groups whose interests may, at times, be at odds.
Some provinces don’t have trustees, and there is an argument that they’re not needed. The Maritimes has an alternate framework in place. I think that what a school board offers is a stewardship, with a group of different people that have accountability, to cohesively make sound decisions that are really going to be in the best interests of the students, and their families and then certainly the teachers and the administration as well.
Safeguarding the education of the children of the school district is the job of all School Trustees.
I think education is essential and I think that, globally, if we could empower children through education I think we would have a completely different world. I think that equipping children with a combination of knowledge, curiosity and compassion is essential for them to peacefully engage and resolve, together, the complex issues that they will face.
Children are as good as we enable and as good as we encourage. It’s a combination of their environment and the people they’re around and then their own individual spirits. I think kids just need to know that they’re loved no matter what, and that they’re good enough just the way they are.
My children would not benefit from my work, so much, but for me that never really matters. I consider all children to have equal value, whether they are my children or someone else’s children.
Moore’s commitment that all children have equal value is reflected in her hopes for what she can do within the role of School Trustee.
Whenever I make a decision, period, I regard all children in the exact same capacity as I regard my own. I think they’re all equal and I think that whatever is going to be good enough for my children is exactly what I’d want for every other child, without a doubt. Within the district there are some schools that I think have higher needs than other schools. That’s something I care about and I’d like to be a part of evening that out. I don’t know what that would look like because it’s a role that I don’t have. But that’s something that matters, that all the children in the district are being offered the same opportunities.
Politics is not for the feint of heart, Moore admits. But, having successfully advocated for the safety and wellbeing of children, many of whom were not her own, Moore is not one to give up the battle lightly.
One of the challenges for me is that I’m not a political being and this is not a political aspiration. It is not a stepping stone and I don’t want to move on to other political endeavors. I am interested solely in education and children. The combination of those two and being able to be a part of the process where they’re growing up and entering the world is amazing to me. My intention is not coming from a political place and I’m not a competitor, so this process is very stretching for me, particularly when the job at the end of the tunnel is one of complete collaboration.
For a long time we were part of a school system where families were oppressed and our voices did not matter. We had no recourse and children really struggled. The people who should have cared didn’t care. I saw so many weaknesses, and so much disappointment and frustrations. When we donated money, we didn’t get a voice in what happened to that money. We didn’t get a voice in policies. There were too many people with too little compassion in charge of making all the significant decisions. I became very frustrated and very disillusioned.
Moving to a public school was a worry for me because previously we hadn’t had great experiences in another district. I quickly discovered that we should have moved years ago. It was just the very best experience and we have found that the teachers have been phenomenal. Our administration in SD43 continues to surprise me in all the best ways all the time. I can’t find a point to criticize and I’m so proud of that school and that district that I want to be a part of what makes it great.
As with all political races, Moore has faced her share of negative commentary and challenges on issues that are not relevant to the role. What keeps Moore motivated most is the needs of children.
I have a lot of experience advocating for children and families which I have done tirelessly and fearlessly, under really challenging circumstances. I’ve advocated for a lot of kids that are not my children, over the years. When children don’t have a voice and their parents either don’t step up or can’t step up, I will. I’m always going to be that voice for them.
Once you’re out of a school setting those opportunities aren’t really there anymore.
Voting for the position of school trustee takes place in Port Moody on Saturday, October 20th. As a newcomer to politics, we asked Moore how she would deal with not securing a seat in this election, should it come to that.
If I don’t win this seat, I will be back again in four years, until I win a seat. I have given a lot of thought to how I can continue to work for children’s education
in Port Moody. Through this process I have been meeting some of the most amazing people that are contributing to our community in really inspiring ways, and I’m quite certain that even if this role doesn’t come to fruition, right now, that an awful lot of other opportunities will be presenting themselves in the next little while. I’m really excited to see what they are and to find ways that I can continue to be involved and continue to make a difference.
Children are our most incredible resource. They’re the most amazing human beings. If I want something reframed or I want someone to uncomplicate something or I want an honest critical answer, if I ask a kid, I come closer to the truth than with just about any adult.
We asked Moore the question we ask all who are interviewed for the website: For what are you most grateful, and where do you find your greatest joy?
I find joy in people. This human connection we have with one another and this spiritual connection we have with one another – be it near or far – and the support we offer each other, are what make people amazing. Add the elements of love and friendship and that makes everything just a little bit easier, better, happier and a lot more fun.
I spend my days keeping my focus on what’s good and what I’m grateful for, so for me on a daily basis there’s so many things, all the time, that I’m grateful for. And so, to just choose one of them, I can’t. I’m grateful for the fact that I have so much to be grateful for. That might be the only way that I could honestly answer that question.
Follow Shaunda Moore on her Website, and on Facebook .
Instruments of Change: Community Sounds in Contemporary Classical New MusicNovember 4, 2017
For years, I have longed to make music but I had missed the opportunity to learn as a child. Earlier this year, as I sat with a musician friend watching videos of new world music, I spotted a percussionist playing some grooves on a bottle. “I could play the bottle!” I declared. My friend laughed and we thought no more about it.
The next week, while looking for a woodworking class, I happened upon an advertisement to join the Street Beats Band, at the Roundhouse Community Centre, in Vancouver. Street Beats Band is an urban percussion community band that makes grooves on found objects. I remembered that street musician playing the bottle and decided to take the leap.
Street Beats is a 2 year project produced by Instruments of Change, a not for profit organization founded by flutist and activist Laura Barron. The project was commissioned by David Pay of Music on Main for the International Contemporary Music Society’s World Music Days in Vancouver, this week.
The mission of Instruments of Change, is to use “the arts as an educational tool to empower individuals to become instruments of transformative change in their own lives. By expanding community access to cultural activities, we allow diverse populations to make and experience music and art.”
We asked Laura Barron to reflect on the inspiration for creating this platform and project:
I’ve always been a social activist but mostly not in a music capacity. I worked as a phone crisis worker for Vancouver rape relief and women’s shelter and I taught yoga at a downtown East women’s shelter and in a women’s prison. I did some music as a performer in hospice, doing therapeutic music, not music therapy, but I was not finding a way to really intersect my musical expertise with the kind of empowering work that I wanted to do in a social engaged way.
Instruments of Change was born out of that interest and I took a class at SFU on exploring art for social change for mid career professional both from the arts sectors and from the social sectors: artists wanting to find a way to apply their work in social contexts and social service workers wanting to infuse their work with more art.
It’s a really great meeting of minds and I got tremendous inspiration and ideas from that course but also met probably a dozen collaborators that I’ve since done many of the projects that are Instruments of Change initiatives.
Among the initiatives are the Women Rock programme, Artist in School programmes locally and internationally, the Stick Together programme and Street Beats, amongst others.
This (Street Beats) project was born out of my constant interest to find the most accessible ways for anyone and everyone to make music.
Surely we can all find objects and surely we all have a heartbeat and we can stick together with a groove and so it is, in my opinion, the most democratic kind of music making that I could think of.
My board member and good friend Dave Pay who runs Music on Main got the bid for Vancouver to be the host city of the International Society of Contemporary Music World New Music conference three years ago, and once he knew this big conference was going to happen here, he knew that he wanted one community engaged piece in this rather challenging, complex, avant garde music context which is not unheard of but not that common.
Community music often you know takes its form in choirs, in drum circles and other kinds of music but has very rarely intersected with this more esoteric classical new music context.
A resourceful, multi-talented musician with a multi-disciplinary team and a network of community partners, Laura Barron set about creating a transformational community music experience.
I’d already been doing some found object drumming and thought this very democratic music making form could work extremely well and of course be fused with any number of composed classical elements.
We had first just a Street Beats band to learn what community was capable of doing, what kind of rhythms were possible, how we were going to teach those, learn those together, strategies for working with the community, what sounds were possible out of these instruments.
James Maxwell, our composer, whom David Pay selected, observed that process (in the first year and a half) and let that inform the piece that he wrote for us to play collectively.
As a community band, Street Beats Band plays percussion on found objects from the city streets. Aside from the affordability issues involved in equipping a band with instruments, we wondered about the appeal of found objects:
Duke Ellington said “You gotta work with what you got.”
Anyone…at any time…with whats available to them…can be musical and creative and artistic.
And we’re doing some pretty complex rhythms right? Look at this really complicated piece that many of you who have not played an instrument or certainly not played a drum before are able to do right? And that’s something over my years of leading community ensembles I’ve realized is that there’s just a greater, faster learning curve when you’re just paring it down to one music element which is rhythm. Though some people say ‘I can’t keep a beat’ or some people say ‘I’m tone deaf.’ I don’t really believe it. I think we can all eventually connect to our own inner pulse in the inner ear.
Teaching those who have not traditionally had the opportunity to make music can sometimes present unique challenges, particularly for a diverse and inclusive group of community members. Through the use of pneumonics, and music theory which is stated in everyday language. Laura Barron and fellow musicians and facilitators Martin Fisk and Robin Reid, have managed to take a group of individuals who might not have made music and who did not know one another and turn them into a cohesive band.
It’s always my job to find the most skilled, multifaceted musicians who can play those roles because that does not just require that you’re a good performer or require that you’re a good teacher but requires that you have you know true facilitation skills and understand how to work with a broad demographic, understand how to work with people who might have language challenges – we have a few people in the group that are ESL – and in the first iteration we had some people with mental illness. And those are things that when you open your doors that are possible and we really want to be as inclusive as we can so I’ve built a great team over the years for all our projects of these multi-talented artists who have the sensitivity and the skills within their disciplines to do this work well.
The found objects that Street Beats band members play range from buckets to frying pans, thanks to the Vancouver binners’ community.
The involvement of the binners came in the nascent stages because I’ve always been super interested in trash and concerned about trash. Since I was a little kid. I used to have nightmares that we’d have nowhere left to put the trash, that we’d be living in piles of trash and then I went to India and realized that some places people live like that.
The binners are our foremost repurposers and recyclers in our city. They hear and see and think in ways very different from most of the rest of us and I knew of their work and I knew of the Binners’ Project which is a non-profit which supports them was really trying to raise their profile in the city, legitimize what they’re doing, provide better income opportunities for them and I thought wouldn’t it be great if we could actually hire them and pay them to be the curators of our instruments? So that’s what they did to create this whole inventory that we’ve held onto throughout the whole two years of the project.
The Binners’ Project was on my radar as a passion and interest of mine and I approached them and they were thrilled to be involved, right in the early days of the project. I walked their routes with them and went to their meetings. You know when you build these community partnerships its all about trust, and building connection.
And I’ve since hired them for other projects.
One of my school projects was a kind of found object project and I brought the binners in to talk about being responsible, non wasteful citizens and that was fantastic for the kids and those adults who said they have often not been made to feel welcome in those spaces. So to be paid and asked to come in and be an expert on something in a school environment was super confidence-building for them.
The Street Beats project has evolved over the two years, with the first year’s performance of Street Beats Band being solely urban percussion composed by 4 community groups.
A sample of the 2016 grooves:
In 2017, Street Beats Band will be accompanied by professional musicians, Music On Main All-Star Band to collectively play a classical score married with a sonic landscape of the built/urban environment composed for the festival by James Maxwell entitled Eight or nine, six or seven.
Music on Main is a fluid group of musicians that have known each other and played together for years. It was always the concept that they would be featured in the piece.
We’ve had City funding for two years, Instruments of Change funding, partnerships with the Roundhouse who lets us have our space for free, the Binners’ Project the UBC Learning Exchange that is also in the downtown east side and let us store the instruments for free so all in all this is probably a $50,000 project so we had to work towards success.
We never use volunteer facilitators. One of the things that drives this is how much I value the arts and want to impart a value of the arts in everyone we reach and so by allowing participants to make and do art, of course that increase the value in their lives but paying artists commensurate professional rates is one of the most important ways I can demonstrate value for the arts.
Certainly there seems to be some interest in having a community found object band so we don’t know what the future might hold but this was a two-year project. We‘ve asked for nine 3-hour sessions from you all and that’s already quite a lot for people’s busy lives.
Barron hopes that her work will encourage people to participate and support her programmes. The more people that participate, the more it proves to funders that arts are worth funding.
Having worked so hard for a successful performance this weekend, we wondered how Barron will know if this has been achieved:
I really hope that it inspires other people to realize that there’s music around them everywhere. There’s the possibility to make music with things you might not have considered instruments before so that might happen to some of our audience members or participants.
And then I think that probably all of us underestimated what would be possible merging a community ensemble and a contemporary new music classical ensemble and so all of those composer that are in the room – hundreds at least, from around the world – I imagine are going to be quite impressed and inspired not necessarily to write a piece for found object drum ensemble but to have confidence in what non-traditional music makers are capable of.
That’s what I really hope to see.
We asked Barron to consider that which brings her the greatest joy and for which she is most grateful:
My greatest joy in life is allowing people to find their true voices while I find my own. And, as a passionate connector, I am most grateful for my relationships with family, friends and community.
Of course, you may be wondering: Has Instruments of Change and my participation in Street Beats Band transformed my life?
Making music together is a one of a kind bonding experience. People I considered strangers just weeks ago have become a part of me and I will miss playing with them, come Monday. Playing in Street Beats has given me the confidence to seek out new and varied ways of making music. I have joined a community harmony workshop, joined the Vancouver folk society to attend sing alongs, as well as the Pacific Bluegrass society that hosts jam sessions for Old Time and Bluegrass players. I am set to pick up my new ukulele – which I am told is an easy first string instrument to play – this week. My preference is for world music and jazz, and my bandmates have even talked about continuing our grooves together in informal jam sessions. Whatever the future holds, I have become a musician through this process, and I don’t intend to stop.
It has been an empowering transformation to participate in the band.
I hope that you, too, will find a way to engage with this wonderful work.
James Maxwell’s Eight or nine, six or seven will be performed (free) by Instruments of Change Street Beats Band and the Music on Main All-Star Band on Saturday 4 November and Sunday 5 November at 11 AM at the Roundhouse Community Centre, at the corner of Davie & Pacific, Vancouver, BC.
Portland artist Jesse Narens is most at home in nature. Artworks with tree motifs, raindrops and layers of mark making reflect the forests and coastlines of the Pacific Northwest. Collected and followed by a global audience, Narens’ work is both lucid and magical, with creatures that seem to emerge, disappear and re-emerge from an ethereal plane. What draws one to the artist’s work is an individual preference, but there is no denying an ineffable quality of being transported to another world – sometimes primal, sometimes whimsical – vaguely familiar, if not altogether forgotten.
It is easy to make comparisons to visionary art when one looks at the works of Narens, although the artist would eschew any hierarchy – spiritual or otherwise – between the artist and other living beings. In the creative process, Narens becomes one with both subject and object and returns both artist and audience to their wild essence of being. Narens’ work embodies a transitory moment that is the quintessence of life, death, and art.
TTDOG met with Jesse Narens earlier this year and began a dialogue with the artist in advance of their upcoming show Asleep in A Field, opening Friday 4 August in Portland. Narens describes the artist’s career to date.
I started painting at the end of 2010 after my friend and artist Jesse Reno suggested trying out some alternative techniques. Prior to that I had never painted before. I focused on ceramics in high school, and dropped out of art college in less than a semester because I felt like they were creating artists, not letting people just be artists. I have always done something creative with my time.
I do whatever I feel like doing, creatively, at any given time. Painting and music are my go-tos , but every so often I get the urge to try something else.
Collaboration and a sense of community with other artists has always been important to Narens. As a teenager, the artist created showcases for their own and other artists’ works.
The shows I was hosting when I was 15-20 were one night music and art shows at different venues around the Chicagoland area, made up of people from the midwest that I found online, back when Myspace was popular. I showed my own work and played music at those events.
I’ve always enjoyed sharing the things I like with friends, so when I started playing music and making art it just made sense to try and be an event organizer or curator of some sort.
Collaboration extends as well to the audience where meaning-making becomes an adventure between artist, subject, object and audience.
My paintings, titles and music never really have specific meanings. I am trying to create a feeling. The feeling I get when I am in the woods or on the coast in the Pacific Northwest. Where people see bear and wolves, I just see a generic animal form, usually.
Sometimes I choose words just for the way they sound or to further push the atmosphere in the painting. It’s also important that all of the elements (music, words, painting, etc) are taken in together at the same time to get the full experience of my art.
Observing Narens’ recent body of work, one gets a sense of both forthrightness and mystery that allows the artist to give birth to and express the unutterable. Whether seemingly benign or ferocious, the creatures in Narens’ works seem to belong to a world that adults, living in contemporary society, are no longer able to see, let alone access and engage. Returning to a clarity and confusion akin to that of childhood, Narens leads us back to our own natural connection to the wild that we have distanced ourselves from, over time. To do this, Narens draws upon motifs of the natural world.
Looking back on pieces I can remember making in high school, most of them were tree related; people with branch arms, bark texture on my ceramic pieces…I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and I don’t remember experiencing much nature before the age of 20 when I moved to the Pacific Northwest. The few experiences I did have before then were all very memorable, and while I might not have thought about it then, I recognize now that the feelings I have now when I am out in nature have always been the same. It’s the only place where I feel I can just be. It’s the only place that feels correct to me. When I go back home I tend to spend a lot of time worrying about things that shouldn’t matter, but we have made them matter. I paint the places and things that make me feel good.
I find my greatest joy in nature.
As an intuitive artist, Narens’ artistic process mirrors the cycles of the natural world. The artist composes and decomposes each piece over and over again. Each layer, rather than adding armour and complexity, seems to strip away artifice and repression and restores freedom of vision. There is no attempt to obscure what has come before and the history of mark making, evident in the pieces, is like a treasure map the artist has left behind, to lead the audience to a sense of uninhibited being.
I don’t have the final piece in mind before it’s done. I just start painting, whether or not I have an idea, and the piece evolves as my mind processes what I’m seeing and thinking about at that time. Pieces get to a point where they definitely look like they could be called finished, but something just doesn’t feel right to me. I’ll paint over “finished” pieces again and again until they are done. Even pieces that are done might someday become unfinished again. If I have to sit with them for a long time, at some point, my mind might be in a different place than it was when a particular piece was finished, and I will no longer feel connected to it, so I paint over it. When I sit down and examine why I do certain things, I feel like working this way is a lesson in letting go and embracing change.
I get stuck at some point in almost every piece. Usually when they get to a finished looking point, but I don’t like it. To move forward, I usually have to paint over the parts I like the most. It frees up the piece to become something drastically different at that point. It’s not always the easiest thing to do, but it’s almost always the answer.
Narens does not create artworks for archival purposes, and believes that decomposition is as valid as composition in the making of art. For Narens, an artwork has a life that continues beyond the moment when the artist and the subject have transmuted the mystery of creation into form. What happens beyond that moment is a part of the life cycle of the art and Narens delights in seeing, for instance, works weathered in nature or by time. An ecosystem of its own, Narens’ art is in a constant state of flux and adaptation.
I don’t like making products for the sake of having things to buy. Sometimes I draw something and want it on a shirt for myself, so I get maybe 20 shirts made. When I do make something like a shirt or a book, I only make a small number to keep the items special to whoever ends up getting one. I try to make things on my own, or work with friends so I can keep the prices as low as possible.
Narens work is primarily self expression, yet the artist aims to allow their artwork to be a catalyst for a return to the wild. Using social media, Narens showcases the natural world through the artist’s own adventures as much as showcasing their artworks, encouraging followers to get outdoors. On occasion, Narens has left free artworks at natural sites as incentive. Having experienced nature, followers may be encouraged to protect the wilds. Yet, in the face of our society’s failure to protect ecosystems and natural preserves and our failure to act to avert the catastrophic impacts of climate change, Narens accepts the limits and responsibilities of one’s own place in the lifecycle of this living planet.
I’m alive, so I’ll live the best life I can, but I don’t have much hope for humans.
The earth will fix itself when we are gone, if we can’t learn to live with it.
Even though I feel this way, that doesn’t mean I’ve given up. I’ll continue to try and inspire people to care about the planet, and to share and support the work of people who I think are doing a better job than I am, like E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and Archangel Ancient Tree Archive.
While humankind may provide no solace for Narens, it is to the pockets of community, cultivated by the artist throughout life, that Narens turns.
I am currently going through a big transition in my life, so at the moment I am most grateful for the friends in my life that have been around since I was young.
Like an old friend, Narens has returned to the artists’ roots, performing live music with art at the upcoming exhibition, Asleep in A Field. For many of Narens’ fans, this will be the first opportunity to experience the artist’s music (performed under the name Ghost&Flower) with Narens’ artworks.
The last time I played music live was in 2011 and the last time I played music where my art was on display was probably 2008.
As with my visual art, my music is for me. And with music, I am again chasing a feeling that I don’t get from anything else, and I can’t express it in words, but when I am making music I very quickly go somewhere else in my head. I’ve recorded very little over the last 12 years of playing music live. I make music the same way I paint. It’s improvised, and I build layers through loops. I use a prepared guitar instead of electronic instruments, and build most of my rhythmic parts with a contact mic to play the room. Recording, even live, takes me out of the headspace that I am doing music for, so it’s no fun for me.
I went to a Bang On A Can marathon show when I was around 18 that had a big impact on my music. The show was something like 12 hours of non stop experimental music, but at the beginning they encouraged you to come and go as you wanted because doing so meant that each person would have their own unique experience with what they heard.
I’ve played so many great shows that I wish I had recordings of, but I know they would have gone different if it was being recorded. I like knowing that everyone who has seen me play had a unique experience that no one else will ever know.
Asleep In A Field opens Friday, August 4th in Portland and runs through Tuesday, September 5th at True Measure Gallery. Jesse Narens will play live music under the name Ghost&Flower on opening night, at sunset. For those interested in purchasing artworks but who cannot attend the exhibition, contact Jesse Narens (Jesse@Jessenarens.com) or True Measure Gallery.
Follow Jesse Narens:
One Thousand Days of GratitudeFebruary 17, 2017
The number 1,000 appears in the Bible some 50 times. In terms of time, 1,000 is a ‘millenia’ and when referring to quantity, the number conveys the immensity of the thing in question without the totality of it. In health and development, research has shown that the first 1,000 days of life are what UNICEF call’s the ‘brain’s window of opportunity’ where the future health of an individual is largely set and can either set a child on the path to wellbeing or to a life of morbidity and early mortality. The first thousand days are are immensely important for the totality of one’s life and that is why health and development agencies focus their investments in those first 1,000 days. So how do we apply this to a spiritual practice?
The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali advises:
Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and in all earnestness
In some Buddhist traditions, 1,000 repetitions of a practice is the magic figure at which one becomes an adept.
In some traditions, it takes ten years to even begin to walk the path. So, let’s not get carried away with pats on the back just yet. We have another 9,000 days to tackle!
My friend and much admired colleague Alicia once reminded me that we are in such a fast paced world that we often don’t pause to take a moment to reflect and appreciate our accomplishments before we move on to the next challenge. And although I am inclined to continue to push the envelope by explicitly adding new practices, it is a joy to reach the first 1,000 days that have firmly grounded us in the practice. This has been the heart, soul and mind’s ‘window of opportunity’ to become attuned to a higher vibration, develop new neural pathways for positive emotions and for the practice to become habitual.
In the first 1,000 days of Gratitude practice, we organically added joy as a by-product of gratitude and then came to see that a sense of abundance led us to want to give back to the world in service. A sense of connection with others when we looked to be of service in the world grew into our concept of looking for a sense of Oneness in our lives. After the first year of practice, we moved to a weekly post and started to look for meaning in our experience. Without being explicit, this has become a fifth practice.
Meaning as I define it, is the symbolic value we give to our experience. It is the sense we make of the chaos of our lives. It is the thread of narrative that we write out of our daily experience and which helps us to know who we are, to be in awe of our place in creation and to discover our values in this lifetime. Meaning then, is no small thing. It tells us the why of what we are doing. We can find meaning in times that are good as well as those that are full of sorrow. As we reach upwards to spirit with Gratitude and Joy, we reach into our depths of soulfulness with Oneness and Meaning.
Related to the concept of meaning is living with a sense of Purpose. Purpose, as I define it, is living in alignment with our values and using our gifts to translate those values into action with the intent to create a positive impact in the world. Happiness scholars argue that having and working towards a sense of Purpose is one of the key ingredients to creating a life of Meaning. And so, the two are inextricably lined and as we formally add the search for Meaning to our practices, we will add working towards a sense of Purpose, as well.
As I anticipate the road ahead and reflect upon the 999 days that preceded this one, I feel so grateful for all those who have been on this journey with me. Getting through the first 1,000 days of practice was no small feat and it didn’t happen without inspiration from others. If there was something wise that I did to get this practice grounded, it was to seek out and speak to those who inspired me, so that I could learn from them the secrets to carrying on with a difficult task when things were not always easy. I am grateful to all those artists like Louis Masai, WRDSMTH, Food of War, Noriaki, Matthew Del Degan, Monsu Plin, and C. Michael Frey who have inspired us and shared with our community their beautiful hearts and souls through their artwork. I am grateful to all those who are not necessarily artists but who are working in their own capacities to make the world a better place, including Alexandra Jackman, Alicia Altorfor Ong, Lord Richard Layard, Action for Happiness , Elie Calhoun, and James Wheale of the Nomadic Community Gardens. They have been an inspiration to me, and I hope they have been, to you as well. And, because love, and music are my own personal spiritual path, I am grateful to Dan Shears, Jesse Cook, Chris Church and Josh Savage for sharing their music and their hearts with us.
I never know who is reading these posts unless you choose to comment. But I do always write these posts with you, specifically, in mind. I am grateful to you for coming here and witnessing this journey. It is a joy whenever I hear that someone has been inspired to live more gratefully and even if I don’t know who you are, know that you are embraced by me, and we are a community. You are always part of the circle of Oneness at Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude.
Over the past 999 days, I have at times wondered why I continue to post publicly about my private life. I wonder why I do what many could see as a pedestrian practice, over and over and over again. I have come to realize that I value inspiration and one purpose of my life and my time on earth – one of the things that sets my soul on fire – is the potential to inspire others to live a more sustainable, meaningful and connected life. Rather than just quietly living my own life of gratitude, I have chosen to make show up and make public my triumphs and my struggles with as much truth and vulnerability as I can muster. And so, as we turn the page from 1,000 days my service is to continue to keep showing up to these practices with you.
In the past few weeks leading up to this milestone, I returned to writing a daily gratitude post with the audience being my friends on Facebook. For me, personally, if there is any meaning in the writing of a 1,000 day post, and the work of the 999 days leading up to it, it is the way opening my heart to you and laying bare my life has repaid me with love and fullness beyond measure. Words today fail to express how grateful I truly am for you. I hope that witnessing and (it is my hope) joining in these practices has and will contribute to your deeply fulfilled life, dear reader.
For what are you most grateful, today?
Josh Savage – Living Room TouristJanuary 19, 2017
Last year, TTDOG featured one of London’s finest troubadours, Josh Savage as he was releasing his 2nd EP, a first french-language offering: Quatre Épines.
Savage creates a direct connection with his ardent followers through the vulnerability of his lyric, the poignancy of his voice and his virtuosity as a musician. What sets Josh apart from others in the industy is his absolute committment to intimate living room performances throughout the world. When we last saw Josh, he had completed his living room tour of Europe to promote Quatre Épines and was awaiting the release of a film documenting his unprecedented tour. The film, The Living Room Tour, by independent filmmaker Duncan Trevithick, follows Josh Savage as he plays 44 gigs throughout the summer.
We caught up with Savage to discuss The Living Room Tour, a Winchester Short Film Festival Official Selection, released last month.
Sofar Sounds inspired me with the concept. Living Room Tours are the only way I can tour independently on a large scale and guarantee an attentive audience.
TTDOG asked Savage whether filming the tour impacted on the intimacy his audiences have come to expect in his concerts.
Being documented takes some getting used to. it didn’t feel like it impacted the intimacy of my shows however. I guess cameras are more commonplace in today’s society.
Did Savage have a single favourite moment captured in the film?
My optimism about chewing gum when my car was broken into. At the time, I was in shock so I can’t remember what I said but I’m glad I’m able to see the light at the end of the tunnel in nightmare situations.
Just 24, he reminds dreamers of all ages to follow their hearts. In a message to his fans at the launch of the film, Savage called The Living Room Tour:
A short documentary about choosing yourself as an artist. About not waiting for the gatekeepers to say yes. About finding your own path to your own definition of success.
TTDOG asked Savage whether there was something for which he was particularly grateful in the making of the documentary.
I’m most grateful for the wonderful people I met on the road who supported me and keep me going to this day. It’s lovely to have a documentary to reflect back on the adventure and I hope it will inspire new artists to take the plunge and follow their passion.
Savage has inspired thousands through his performances and music. His latest single, Whisper in the Snow, featuring Alice Pearl will launch tonight in London before Savage heads out on the road for his 2017 Living Room “Whisper in the Snow” Tour this Friday, 20 January.
Follow Josh Savage on his Website, Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud, YouTube and Twitter
C. Michael Frey: Heart in the CloudsSeptember 9, 2016
In a city like Los Angeles, whole industries are based on revision of reality. One Georgia-born artist, turned LA native, C. Michael Frey, seeks to capture the sublime in the every day world. His exhibition “Clouds” is currently showing in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles. With this collection, Frey invites viewers to “get lost in a sense of wonderment and escape.”
Frey achieved a B.F.A. in painting and drawing from the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia and later moved to New York City to pursue his art. There, Frey worked in a commercial photographer’s studio, where he honed his skills in digital illustration and photographic retouching. An award winning artist, Frey’s work has been featured in advertising campaigns, on album covers, and in magazines such as The New York Times, New York Magazine, Numéro, V, and Wired.
We caught up with Frey in Los Angeles about his upcoming exhibition of Clouds, and his other current works.
TTDOG: Tell us about the move from painting and digital design to photography. Why Clouds?
CMF: I’ve always used photography as part of my creative process, so I don’t really feel I’ve moved away from painting. It’s more of an exploration of another medium that has happened organically.
The Cloud photos weren’t really planned. I moved to Los Angeles about ten years ago from New York and the sky feels so different here. It’s expansive and seems limitless. If I’m having a bad day or feeling stressed, I can easily escape in nature by taking a walk around the neighborhood or going for a hike. The open sky puts things in perspective. We seldom have clouds, but when we do the sunsets are often amazing. I started photographing these moments and really wanted to capture the drama of the clouds and take a subject that is generally seen as pedestrian in art and reveal the sublime nature of these clouds. Clouds are representative of the creative process itself: daydreaming and romanticism. There is a quote by Henry David Thoreau: “you must not blame me if I do talk to clouds.” This communion with and escape to nature and finding divinity in nature that the Transcendentalists strived for really resonates with me.
Romanticism is about the heart and idealism. Clouds are great symbols of idealism to me. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve so not engaging my heart isn’t really an option.
TTDOG: When you say spirituality in this context, do you mean Judeo-Christian concepts of heaven being in the sky?
CMF: It can mean that, but it doesn’t have to. Even in non western and pagan traditions, the sky is held in high regard, often where the gods reside. But specifically for me, spirituality is about a connectedness to our environment. It’s more about recognizing the power of Nature and how there’s a seemingly “other” world happening above us all the time.
TTDOG: What is your creative process? Does it differ for photography, art and design?
CMF: With painting I always have a clear idea of what I want to paint and a plan before I take paintbrush to canvas. I mostly paint people and photography has been instrumental in capturing subjects and developing the image I want to create. Usually a subject will sit for me and I take a series of photographs. I’ll edit the shoot and pick my favourites and then start manipulating them on the computer until they are close to what I want to recreate in a painting. I’ll print out images I refer to while I’m painting. But it’s not so much about just recreating what I see. It’s about the feeling. When I paint someone’s portrait, I really want to show their essence. Georgia O’Keefe said: “Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things.” This really sums up what I’m trying to accomplish as a painter.
With photography it’s a much more simplified process that’s about being in the moment and being a witness to that moment. I capture what I see in front of me. There’s no planning and I’m not controlling the subject. With the Clouds photo series, I’m zooming in on details to find something that’s compelling. In a way it’s much more freeing than developing a painting that I spend weeks working on. The tedious part comes with editing thousands of images down to the best ones and getting the printing right. With the Clouds series, I wanted to capture the same ephemeral nature of clouds with the printing, so I had them mounted on acrylic to get a sense of lightness and light. It also helps the colours to pop and gives the images a gem-like quality.
Graphic design is a totally different animal that requires a mindset that is often the opposite of what I’m doing when I paint or take photographs for myself. With design, I’m always trying to communicate to a specific audience for a client. It’s not about my message. I may be using many of the same tools, but the goals are different. In creating art, whether it be a painting or photograph, I’m trying to inspire or challenge a viewer to think about things or view things differently, which can sometimes be uncomfortable. With graphic design, you generally aren’t trying to challenge the viewer. It’s more about positive engagement and commerce. Good design usually makes the viewer feel good whereas good art may leave the viewer crying in the fetal position.
TTDOG: Goodness! I’m not going to your gallery with you!
CMF: I meant that more figuratively but I did have someone start bawling in front of one of my paintings, once.
TTDOG: I think if I were to start bawling in front of your cloud series, it would be in a healing way; they are full of joy and love and even innocence.
CMF: Yes, and it’s actually a big change in the subject matter of my work. The paintings of my earlier years are very dark, intense and melancholy.
TTDOG: To what do you attribute this change?
CMF: Mostly, deciding that being an artist doesn’t have to be about suffering. At 41, I’ve also become content in who I am as a person. Presently, life is more about what I can accomplish now and being happy in the moment rather than struggling to figure it all out.
TTDOG: I know that you paint from a sense of deep connection to something bigger than yourself. Do you experience the same connection with photography?
CMF: They are very different experiences. When I’m painting I can go into a very meditative state where I lose track of time and really just start feeling what I’m creating. There’s a flow to it where I feel like I start to channel that creative muse. There is also a lot of time spent just looking and thinking. There is something very therapeutic about it that I don’t experience from anything else.
Photography is much more about a single moment in time. It can actually be frustrating because the camera separates you from the subject. The real challenge in photography is capturing what the subject is making you feel.
TTDOG: How much of the feel of the cloud photos is from digital manipulation? What do you make of those purists who define photography as only that which is captured in camera?
CMF: For the Cloud photos, there is very little digital manipulation beside some colour tweaks to make prints match what I’m seeing on screen. For the most part they are cropped the way I have shot them. I try to find the most interesting moment happening at the time and shoot many frames so I have options.
I can understand why some people define photography that way, but I’m no purist. It gets boring to have too many rules.
TTDOG: Your photographs in the cloud series have a painterly quality to them. Some of them have a feel of a Rothko or an Agnes Martin, in that the colour and subtle gradations draw the viewer in to a meditative state. How, if at all, do you think your painting has influenced your photography?
CMF: That’s a very flattering comparison. Thank you. My most recent paintings have been minimalist portraits that use colour gradients. I’ve become interested in the way colour and subtlety can have an impact, rather than spelling everything out with great detail and realism. That interest has definitely carried over to my cloud photos. I like the idea of breaking things down to their most basic parts.
Minimalism is very freeing, I think. It allows you to see things you’ve never noticed before in a new way. It’s amazing to me how a single colour can evoke emotion.
I want people to have an emotive response through colour when seeing my work but it’s not as simple as if I paint someone’s portrait in blue that I want them to feel sad. Mostly I’m using colour, when I paint, to relate to the individual I’m painting. I guess it’s more about how I see them and the aura they give off. With the clouds, I don’t have any control over that.
Of course I’m in control of what I choose to photograph. But how the subject changes while I’m photographing, I have no control over. I love the ephemeral nature of the Clouds for that reason. If I’m not fast enough I can miss out.
And definitely through the editing process, it’s all about what speaks to me and what I find interesting.
I have a long work history working in print so I’ve learned the technical ins and outs of how to get a print to look the way you want. But, having a printer who you are confident in is definitely vital. Luckily most printers these days have colour profiles available if you are making digital c-prints. But, there is still a lot of trial and error.
TTDOG: Who are your influences?
CMF: In general, I really love old masters like Caravaggio, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Jacques-Louis David. I’ve always been drawn to figurative work and especially artists who know how to manipulate light and expertly render the human form. Cindy Sherman has been a big influence on the subject matter of my painting. I used to primarily paint self portraits and have always been drawn to exploring the concepts of identity and perception.
The cloud photos have been a big change in the type of art I make. When creating the cloud photos, I thought a lot about William Turner’s cloud study paintings. His expressive use of colour captures the power of nature in a way that I wanted to communicate through these photos. It also made me think a lot about color theory and has influenced my recent portraits which are much more minimalist in colour. I’ve developed a great appreciation for modern minimalist artists that play with colour and spectrum like Josef Albers, Elisworth Kelly and James Turrell.
TTDOG: You mentioned colour theory before, when we were looking at some artworks together. Can you explain more about that for those of us who are unfamiliar with it?
CMF: Color theory is understanding how different colours relate to each other and how they interact when they are combined. Color created by light and color created by pigment work very differently. It can get rather technical and complicated, especially when you are trying to get a photograph to match what you are seeing on a digital screen.
Colour created through light is additive. If you combine Red, Green and Blue, you get white and there are millions of colour variations. The opposite is true with paint, which is subtractive. Mixing those colours together in pigment would leave you with a muddy mess. And the spectrum is much more narrow with pigments: there are only thousands of colours that can be reproduced.
TTDOG: You have some pretty exciting work that has come out of this collection. Tell us about that.
CMF: Yes, Urban Outfitters recently contacted me about doing an artist partnership with them using some of my Cloud images. The images will be printed on a variety of products like tapestries and bedding as well as clothing. The first pieces of the line will be available this coming holiday season.
TTDOG: Will there be more photo series?
CMF: I intend to continue photographing clouds as long as they are in the sky, which is hopefully a few more years, at least. I’m not sure where this series will lead; I’m just going to see where it goes naturally. I’ve been thinking of ideas for how to mix the Cloud images with painting. But in my heart, I’m more of a painter than a photographer. Ideally I’d like to be able to work successfully in a variety of mediums, and for there to still be a common thread that can be seen.
TTDOG: Artists have a certain reputation for being free spirits and promiscuous. But you are married, settled and stable. How has this helped or hindered your work?
CMF: For the most part it’s given me the space and ability to work freely without having to worry so much about income. My husband, Tim, is very supportive of my work. If anything I’m sure he wishes I were more prolific and spent more time painting. It is challenging to work as a freelance designer and manage my time so that I have time to paint.
In western culture we have a very romanticized view of the ‘starving artist.’ When I was younger, I had the notion that one needed a lot of drama and sadness in their life to be an artist. That’s not very sustainable or interesting after a certain age. I’m very grateful for the happiness I’ve found being in a happy, long term marriage. It’s been freeing for me to let go of my preconceived notions of what life as an artist and particularly a gay man, should look like. I’m not really one to look back and question what could have been. Life is a journey about learning, and I’m grateful for the choices I’ve made that have led me to the life I have today.
TTDOG: You have exhibited Clouds in a West Hollywood shop at now an Eagle Rock craft beer tasting room. They are not conventional venues. What made you choose to show this collection in this way? Why do you suppose more artists are exhibiting in this way?
CMF: I originally showed my Cloud series at TENOVERSIX in West Hollywood. The owners are great friends of mine and I’ve been doing design work for them since they opened. They’ve an amazing eye for everything from fashion to housewares to art. I was honoured that they showed my Cloud photos.
Craft Beer Cellar, where I’m showing the Clouds from Saturday night is in Eagle Rock, a couple of blocks from my house. They opened about a year ago and recently started showing art. I’ve become friends with the owners and asked them if they would be willing to show my work. Eagle Rock has a unique art and social scene and in many ways feels more like a small town than just a neighborhood in LA. I haven’t been showing my work in Los Angeles until recently. I’ve mostly been focused on my graphic design business and haven’t been putting my art out there. Honestly, I find the art world extremely intimidating, but I’m getting over that and am taking the first steps to have my work seen.
I think more artists are showing their work in unconventional spaces because there is so much competition out there for gallery shows , and there are also just a lot more interesting spaces that people can interact with your work these days. But non-gallery spaces like coffee shops and restaurants have always been great starting points for getting your work out there so people can see it. You have to start somewhere.
TTDOG: What’s next for you?
CMF: I really hope to show more of my work in the coming year, get in some group shows, and hopefully have a solo show in a gallery. I’m going to continue to grow my portrait series and cloud photos. I’d love to create a book with the Clouds, but the expense of printing a fine art book is rather prohibitive. If I could find a publisher, that would be wonderful.
TTDOG: Where do you find your greatest joy and for what are you most grateful?
CMF: I find my greatest joy in sharing food with friends and loved ones. I love to cook – it’s a quick creative outlet that helps me be more social and share my talents with other people. There’s something very comforting about providing nourishment for others. We host a weekly potluck for friends that has become something I look forward to each week.
I’m most grateful for my relationship with my husband. Tim is my rock. He’s my biggest support, but he also grounds me, gives me very practical critiques in my design work and art, and keeps me balanced.
***UPDATE: Clouds will be showing again from 6 Feb-12 Feb at Space 15 Twenty, 1520 N Cahuenga Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Closing event will be held on 12 Feb 11am- 2pm***
(Previously, there was a Clouds opening event Saturday, 10 September, at Craft Beer Cellar at 5 p.m. as part of the NELA Second Saturday Art Walk. Craft Beer Cellar is located at 1353 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90041. Tel: 323-206-5164.)
Images from the exhibition will be on sale at the shop and tap room and via Frey’s website. The show runs now through the end of September.
For more on C. Michael Frey, follow him at:
Frey Art and Design;
To commission Frey, send him an email at:
Voices of the TTDOG Community: A GratitudeaversarySeptember 5, 2016
Gratitude, Joy, Oneness and Service (Day 725 – Day 738)
Last month we celebrated our first year as TTDOG and 2 years of personal gratitude practice. When we reached the first milestone of a year of personal gratitude practice, I threw a party in London. This year has been much more subdued in terms of celebrations. This milestone comes in the midst of the most stressful, chaotic and manic-paced 4 months of recent memory. The pace may slow down soon (I hope) and while I had anticipated this would be a challenging time, and tried to set things in motion to cover my absence from TTDOG, things don’t always work out as we plan. We haven’t been posting much here at TTDOG.
When we hit 365 days, I was grateful for all the people in my life because without them, there would be nothing to write. I am even more so, now. We knew that keeping up with the website during this challenging time would be difficult but we wanted to do something meaningful to mark the milestone. Since community has been a key theme in the past year, we put a call out to the community to help create a milestone post and you responded.
With gratitude, we are delighted to present the voices of TTDOG’s community on our gratitudeaversary!
URSPO is one of TTDOG’s most dedicated readers and a writer in his own right. We have followed one another’s writing for nearly a decade. I am personally delighted each time he takes a few moments to write a comment. His words are always well considered, insightful and advance the conversation. Candidly, it means a lot to me to know that the time I take in reflective practice and in writing about it publicly is having an impact on others – even if it is only one person. I would still do the practice, but doing it publicly is a vulnerable action that I need not undertake. While there are likely lurkers out there reading and not commenting, it is satisfying to know that it means something to someone. We are grateful for all the comments from URSPO since our first day of practice and we asked him to share a little about what being part of this community has meant to him:
“I have been a regular reader of TTDOG for some time. I am very glad to be part of the blog. I’ve had many delights from reading its prose; I have greatly benefited from the entries. The chief lesson from Tania’s blog is gratitude, of course. She continually reminds us to look for the gratitude in all that happens in our lives.
There is always something for which to be grateful. This is not mere complacent wish-thinking. Studies show when we focus on the positive it trains our brains to think positively and be healthy in our approaches.
A happy consequence of her posts is I do not lose touch of gratitude. She comforts me; she stiffens my spine when I feel despondent. I start each day with the prayer “I thank thee lord for thou hast given me another day’. When I need help I evoke Tania and find the gratitude. I feel grateful for her and her journey. I am honored to be part of it.”
At the annual gratitude celebration, our friend Faith Romeo took on the task of making sure that everyone wrote 3 things for which they were grateful on the wall at the Canvas Café. For many people this was easy. For some, however, this was deeply challenging and brought up all sorts of emotions. Faith helped me to identify the people who were facing emotional challenges with being grateful so that we could sit together and could come out the other side. Everyone left the event with an understanding that gratitude isn’t about having an ideal life or even a fulfilling life but that by working through the small wonders in our day, we can build our emotional resilience to be able to take on the challenges that keep us from being fulfilled. I would like to believe that the event was the start of a transformational journey for some.
Faith shared with us her thoughts on the journey she has taken alongside TTDOG:
“When I attended the launch of Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude in the Canvas Café last year, things were going well in my personal life but could have been better in my working life. I had left my job as a teaching assistant to look after my son who’s behaviour had become unstable following a diagnosis of ADHD and was working in a unsatisfying job that was personally unrewarding.
Following the party, I decided to adopt a more positive approach to life, an attitude of gratitude, if you will. I applied and was accepted as a volunteer youth wellbeing trainer for a charity that delivers mindfulness and wellbeing sessions to young people. Part of this scheme is that I have to develop my own mindfulness practice, which has been very beneficial to me but also to those around me too. In the last year since the launch of TTDOG there have been a lot of changes in my life.
I got married in November to my long term partner and have never been more happy or fulfilled. I feel very fortunate to have a loving husband and son and never forget how lucky I am to have both. I returned to teaching assistant work in January. It took working under a terrible manager for me to realise that I needed to leave a job I didn’t like. Since returning to teaching assistant work I am working in a lovely school, with some amazing children. I can honestly say that this is my vocation and I feel incredibly lucky to be working in a job that I love.”
Seeing gratitude practice transform others has been one of the highlights of the last two years for me, personally. With gratitude, we added joy, when a long time friend, Paula Montgomery started posting about moments of joy in her life. We noticed that gratitude practice created that joy and so, in the first year of practice, we made that connection more explicit in our writings. TTDOG is grateful to Paula for that prompt. And in turn, it is rewarding to hear that she, too, has gained something from the experience:
“Since being part of the Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude community and having the chance to reflect on gratitude on my life, I have become less angry and judgemental. I find that having gratitude for what I have in my life, instead of focusing on what I don’t have, takes the edge off my demeanor and makes me more understanding. I have some unhappy negative people around me who complain about everything and everyone, and knowing that we all have allot to be grateful for helps me keep a positive perspective, and to feel better about my life.
I am very grateful for a community that reminds me everyday that I have much to be grateful for! Thank you.”
I am delighted to present to you some of the key voices that have been part of this journey. The community that keeps me accountable to keep coming back to the basic practice. This summer has been tough. The last 18 months have been tough. Honestly, the last 3 years have been tough. But this practice really has been like drinking an emotional energy drink. Without taking the time to come back to and reflect upon those things for which I am grateful, the moments of everyday joy, my sense of oneness with something greater than myself and the reminder to give back, life really would be meaningless, for me. When we have meaning, we can withstand any temporary trials, stresses, health concerns and problems because we are living a life of purpose. My purpose, I hope, is to make the world a better place, by the way that I live.
This year, I chose to feature several people who also seem to be living their life on purpose to make the world a better place and to build up that community of positive change makers. And so, we went back to the seminal moment that prompted that series – an article about the charitable work of Dr. Alicia Altorfer-Ong. Writing to us from Asia, she said:
“I think you are the community. The value of the springboard that you’ve given each person is in affirming, encouraging, incubating. I often enjoy the “work” — the gritty and backstage bits — but not so much talking about it, because of the attention. Yet if we don’t tell people about what’s being done out there, we might miss an opportunity to teach touch or inspire.
The world needs connectors: people who seek nothing else than to bring others together.
I am grateful for the chance to have shared an episode/a belief/an anecdote in my life on TTDOG. I also appreciate the power and energy that I felt from reading about the others who were profiled.”
It has been a great journey for me, personally, these last two years. In many ways, the first year was so much easier. I was buoyed with the next milestone – one month, three months, six months, a year! Then the spectre of more than 27 years (Ten Thousand Days) of practice hit me, in the second year. This cannot be a project. This must become a way of living, if I am to achieve Ten Thousand Days. And so, in year two, the hard work began.
None of us is an island, and we need to draw inspiration from others. I have been so fortunate to have been able to bring you feature articles about artists and musicians and people living their lives on purpose to make the world a better place. James Wheale completed a crowdfunding campaign to install a sustainable pedal power energy source in the garden, and has brought new life into the world with the birth of his first son, this month. Action for Happiness has celebrated their 5 year anniversary and continues to grow its membership worldwide. Alexandra Jackman has become a contributing writer for Huffington Post and honoured with a university scholarship to be able to continue her education that will ultimately involve advocating for people on the autism spectrum. Elie Calhoun completed her crowd funding campaign and together with Code Innovation, is working on developing a rape crisis counselling app for survivors. Wrdsmth, Matthew Del Degan and Louis Masai have continued to thrive as artists, bringing their messages of inspiration, love and animal welfare across North America and Europe.
There are so many good news stories out there and so many good news moments in our lives. I don’t expect that the next 365 days will be easy. In fact, I anticipate that they will be very personally challenging with changes in my circumstances and personal life. But nobody said that living gratefully was always easy. I am individually grateful to CM, FR and LK who always remind me to come back to my practices when things get too difficult. Although it is difficult to carve out time to sleep, let alone write at the moment, it is a joy to sit with you readers and disclose myself each time. I feel a sense of communion and oneness with you, known and unknown readers and it is my ardent hope that if you’re having a bad day, week, month, or year – coming here gives you that sense of community as well. My service is simply to dedicate myself once again to keep showing up and together, I hope that the process creates meaning, for both of us.
For what are you grateful this week, month, year?
Protected: Monsù Plin: Illuminating the dark corners of cultural historyJuly 27, 2016
Action for Happiness: A Social Movement, Creating HappinessJune 28, 2016
Last month, TTDOG featured an article on Lord Richard Layard who, together with Sir Anthony Seldon and Geoff Mulgan, founded Action for Happiness. In this article we depart from featuring an individual making a difference to introduce a group of individuals in a worldwide movement working together to create as much happiness in the world as possible, and as little misery: Action for Happiness.
TTDOG interviewed the director of Action for Happiness, Dr. Mark Williamson and Head of Campaigns and Communications, Alex Nunn, who agreed to speak on behalf of the organisation.
TTDOG: What is the mission of Action for Happiness? How do you hope to achieve this?
AfH: Action for happiness is a movement of people taking action for a happier and more caring world. We bring this about by provoking people to think more deeply about where happiness really comes from, with learning from the latest wellbeing research, and helping them commit to taking action in their own lives. These actions go on to benefit and inspire others in their families, workplaces, and communities. It is through the collective force of these ripples that we hope to see values shifting in society.
Action for Happiness is organised as a UK based not for profit organisation as part of the Registered Charity, The Young Foundation. Action for Happiness is run by a Board of experts in various fields related to Happiness and a team of dedicated volunteers. The organisation hosts large events in London with inspiring guest speakers and self-managing groups meet worldwide. The organisation has provided a (by-donation) 8 week course ‘Exploring What Matters,’ which is facilitated by volunteers, to help these self-managed groups get started. The patron of Action for Happiness is His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.
According to the Action for Happiness website: “Everyone’s path to happiness is different. Based on the latest research, we have identified 10 Keys to Happier Living that consistently tend to make life happier and more fulfilling. Together they spell “GREAT DREAM.”
The letters in GREAT DREAM stand for: Giving to others; Relating, because as we have seen from the work of Layard and others, relationships are the greatest contributor to happiness; Exercising, because we feel better when we’re fit and healthy; Awareness, because it’s impossible to be happy if we are not present in the moment. Living mindfully helps us to be aware of our emotions, including happiness; Trying Out, because people who try new things throughout life are able keep the brain healthy and feel happier. Direction, because people who have goals and a sense of purpose are happier; Resilience, because having the tools to bounce back from hard times is key to long term happiness; Emotions, because paying attention to, and generating more positive emotions, like gratitude, helps us feel happy; Acceptance, because it is not possible to be happy with ourselves until we accept ourselves – warts and all; and Meaning, because happy people cultivate a feeling of being part of something greater than themselves.
These are the keys, according to the organisation, to build a happier life. However, the mission of the organisation is not just to focus on each individual’s happiness, but to create more happiness in the world.
TTDOG: In what ways are the members of Action for Happiness taking action in the world to promote happiness?
AfH: Everyone’s journey is different, and the actions they take along the way can be really diverse: we have members who do small daily acts of kindness, helping out strangers, picking up litter, practicing mindfulness to reduce quick-tempers and stress, to people who quit high-paid jobs that aren’t making them happy to try out something new. It’s great to see that a lot of our members also take action to support the mission and movement also (e.g. volunteering to run one of our courses, host a local gathering or set-up a happy cafe).
London’s first happy cafe, the Canvas Cafe in East London will be featured next in this series of articles. It provides a venue for people to meet, share conversation and to attend events related to self improvement, the arts and – of course – Happiness.
TTDOG: Critics of positive psychology and the happiness movement might say that the focus on individual happiness and wellbeing leads to a society of selfish and isolated individuals. Does the pursuit of happiness make people more or less concerned about social justice and issues like rising inequality in the world?
AfH: There are two reasons why people fail to stand up for social justice issues, either they are insufficiently aware, or they insufficiently care. Taking happiness seriously helps with both. When we start to look at where happiness really comes from in our own lives two things tend to happen: we gain perspective on the things that don’t matter, that distract us and fill our heads with unnecessary stress, and pay more attention to the things that really do, particularly the importance of our connections to other people. This shift frees up people’s minds to become more aware of what is going on around them, and cultivates caring for others – the very foundations of a social conscience. It’s also worth noting that relationship between inequality and materialism, the fact that we’re in the collective habit of seeking happiness in the insatiable consumption of stuff, and the pursuit of ‘wealth’ which provides it. A more enlightened understanding of happiness can be quite helpful in liberating people from this.
Like all organisations, however, it is really the ‘tone at the top’ that creates a pervasive ethos and determines how an organisation will contribute to a society. And so we thought it incumbent upon us to inquire a little into the personal motivations and feelings of those who lead the organisation and its volunteer activities.
TTDOG: Why is Action for Happiness important to you, personally?
MW: As Aristotle said, ‘Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life; the whole aim and end of human existence’. And when you ask parents what they want above all for their children, by far the most common answer is: “to be happy”. So happiness is the thing we want the most for the people we love the most. But in modern society we spend too much time focusing on money, status and possessions – and don’t give enough priority to the things that really matter for a happy life… like good relationships, mental wellbeing and having a sense of purpose. That’s where Action for Happiness comes in. We help people take action to focus on the things that really matter and help contribute to a happier and kinder world.
AN: My background is in campaigning and activism, but I became deeply frustrated that so much energy in that space is wasted on generating anger (however righteous) towards society’s problems, creating unproductive ‘us and them’ divisions and only very rarely putting forward constructive solutions that everyone can get behind. Action for Happiness to me is exactly that: a positive idea, with the potential to radically improve the world that anyone and everyone can get involved in. Whereas in other movements constantly suffer from activist burnout, our members become happier, more aware and more caring the more they get involved. It’s got such potential, and it’s hugely exciting.
TTDOG: Are you a happy person?
MW: Yes I’m generally very happy, although like everyone I have my moments of sadness, anger and despair. For me a happy life isn’t about smiling all the time or pretending everything’s fine when it’s not. Rather it’s about being your own authentic self, finding ways to cope with the dark times and learning to respond constructively to what ever life throws at you.
I attribute my happiness to a combination of my upbringing (grateful to have a close and loving family), my good fortune (lucky to have good health, freedom, opportunities and a degree of stability) and my choices (ie habits and behaviours I’ve learned that make a big difference to my wellbeing – eg mindfulness, helping others).
AN: The idea of a ‘happy person’ suggests it’s some intrinsic aspect of my personality – which if true, would be pretty unfortunate for anyone who’s not happy right now. I have the same ups and downs as anyone. But when tough times come around I’m really fortunate that I’ve invested time in cultivating skills that contribute to happiness and wellbeing: I’ve trained my mind to notice things I’m grateful for, to seek learning in a challenge that can help me grow, to accept problems without obsessing about them, and if things get too much to step out of my own head for a moment by exercising or doing something kind for someone else. So happiness isn’t about yellow-washing the dark times, it’s about finding ways to accept whatever is happening, remember that happiness is possible, and stay willing to try to make things better for yourself and others.
TTDOG: Action for Happiness recently celebrated their 5 year anniversary. What have you accomplished?
AfH: We’ve accomplished a lot but we’ve really only just started and there’s so much more to do.
In terms of numbers, we believe our messages have been seen by over 20 million people, around 7m have used the resources on our website, we have nearly a million online followers and over 70,000 signed up members in 160 countries.
Since our launch in 2011 over 100,000 people have taken some kind of personal action based on our ideas, including over 2,000 people who have put themselves forward to run local activities and 200 of these who have been actively running Action for Happiness courses and groups in their local communities.
The Action for Happiness 8 week course: ‘Exploring What Matters’ was featured on the BBC, following the Dalai Lama’s visit with Action for Happiness members in London last year:
As is our custom at TTDOG, we asked Mark Williams our final question: For what are you most grateful and what gives you greatest joy?
I am eternally grateful to my mum and dad for all their love and support and for giving me the most important start for a happy and meaningful life – ie a loving, safe and supportive family environment. I am also hugely grateful to all the amazing and inspiring people who give their time so generously to support Action for Happiness and help bring our vision to life in their communities, schools and workplaces.
What gives me greatest joy is spending enjoyable time with the people I love, especially my wife Kate and our three young children. Other things that make me very happy include cycling (a lot!), time with friends, singing in a choir and taking time every day to notice the good things, however small.
TTDOG would like to thank Action for Happiness for providing all the photographs appearing in this article.
For more information on Action for Happiness, follow the links below:
Action for Happiness Website
Action for Happiness on Facebook
Action for Happiness on Twitter
Josh Savage – Lost and FoundMay 29, 2016
Anyone familiar with the acoustic music scene in London will have heard of singer/songwriter, Josh Savage. In their ‘Ten Artists to Watch,’ The Huffington Post says: “Fantastic song writing and a resonant, rich voice, Josh exhibits real skill as a musician and singer.”
At just 24, Savage has garnered himself an international following, performing his own acoustic rock and folk compositions in the UK, USA, Europe, Canada and the Middle East, despite being unsigned and without representation. The self disclosure of his lyrics, coupled with unexpected phrasing and emotive musical composition engages the ear, and once heard, lingers like the scent of French perfume on a silk scarf.
Listen to him once, and it is easy to get hooked.
Following the success of his first EP, Savage recently launched himself as a bilingual singer/songwriter with his 2nd EP, the french-language Quatre Épines. To promote the EP, Savage booked his own “Living Room Tour,” packed up his guitar and a bag, and with his cameraman, set off for a dizzying schedule of shows in living rooms across Europe. The tour culminated in a sold out EP launch at historic Winchester Guildhall, surrounded by friends, family and fans from across England and Europe.
We caught up with Josh Savage shortly after the launch of Quatre Épines. He had just moved to London and was working on writing his first full length album. We asked him about his sound:
“When I get asked, I say my sound is Folk/Rock but I don’t really know. I don’t believe it truly represents my music but it gives an idea. I don’t like labelling my own sound. When I write music I don’t aspire to sound like someone else, I write songs to get things off my chest. I am obviously influenced by other people’s music but more on a subconscious level.”
Savage’s voice, sometimes soulful, sometimes innocent, has a clarity that blends and contrasts with his instrumentation to generate a timbre of perfect harmony. Vocal purity, delicate features, floppy curls and a gleaming smile mix with evocative lyrics, to create a cocktail that earns Savage a place in the tradition of medieval French troubadours:
“I would say ‘troubadour’ is an accurate summary of what I do, perhaps not what I sound like. I definitely travel a lot! In time, I’d like to tour with band and more ambitious arrangements.”
Ambitious arrangements are well within Savage’s grasp. As a child in Paris, and a youth in the UK, Savage stretched and refined his voice, performing as a choral soloist in France, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. A piano player from the age of 4, it wasn’t until Savage began to sing that his passion for music was born. After school, Savage went on to complete a music degree at University of York in the UK.
The influence of classical choral and orchestral arrangements is clear in his music, as Savage moves with virtuosity between guitar, keyboards, trumpet and vocals, and glides from ballad to rock with ease.
“I recall Henry Purcell was a favourite of mine when I was singing in choirs when I was 10 and Coldplay influenced me into writing songs. I’m a sucker for melodies and I love all sorts of music like Bonobo, Bear’s Den, Olafur Arnalds and Yann Tiersen.”
For Savage, writing is something that begins with melody and composition. A piece will run through his mind and he hums out the chords, refines and rewrites the melody before he begins to work the lyrics into his melody. Yet time for composing can seem difficult to find:
“To be fair, I’ve done very little writing since releasing Spaces EP. When you’re managing, booking and tour managing yourself and couchsurfing, it’s very hard to find the right balance and unfortunately it’s difficult to find time to write songs. That’s why after 3 years since university, I decided to move to London to focus on writing.”
Part of the urban myth that has grown around his music is the story that Savage chose to write his final University thesis in French, in order to prevent his professor from grading him on his lyrics. Those who understand French will know that he is equally versatile as a French and an English lyricist.
Sais-tu je rêve toujours aux mémoires de nos baisers
Mais tu m’as brisé le coeur car tu préviens du malheur
Avant que rien n’ai vraiment commencé
Do you know I still dream of the memory of our kisses?
But you broke my heart because you foresee misfortune
Before anything really happened
–Lyrics © Josh Savage, from ‘Quatre Épines’
Even those unable to understand French cannot fail to be moved by the title song from his EP, Quatre Épines, inspired by the devotional love of the Prince for his ‘Rose’ in Antoine de Saint Exupery’s famous parable, The Little Prince.
We asked Savage about his influences, as a writer:
“My granddad has an endearing habit of muttering random lines of poetry to himself. I ask him about his favourite poems and borrow his poetry books from time to time and they sometimes inspire me to write songs but other than that I know little of poetry.
Of course, I aspire to get better and better. The danger with art is that success tends to have an influence on your creativity. You can end up taking less risks and trapped in creating what you think you should create rather than what you want to create.”
Savage manages to keep taking risks, writing emotionally complex and mature lyrics with authentic vulnerability. Deeply personal, his unguarded songs invite the listener to visit their own private places of love, loss and hope.
New bonds won’t stretch thin
In this high tech world we live in
I could see ours rust across our shores
Then I stumble upon clues
And I see them haunt you
You’re so scared to tell the truth
–Lyrics © Josh Savage, from ‘Your Lips’
Being an affable and optimistic young man, we wondered how Savage managed to achieve such melancholy in some of his lyrics:
“…When I hit rock bottom, I write a song about it and it gets it out of my system. I always aim to add an optimistic spin on my sad songs though. When I’m happy, I tend to be too busy making the most of it rather than writing about it, unfortunately.”
An old soul in a youthful form, Savage achieves a wide range of lyrical moods. He is a musician that is hard to categorise.
“My demographic is actually pretty spread out and I’m not sure why. I have an international fanbase and my music seems to suit older audiences as well as younger ones. When I first toured the US, Poland and Germany for the first time, I often had people coming up to me after the show saying they’ve been listening to my music for a while and it blows my mind!”
Savage is particularly beloved in Europe. While in Poland this spring, Savage was invited to participate in his first TedX performance. The performance has helped to showcase him to a large crowd in Warsaw, and to a larger, worldwide, TedX audience.
Savage has striven for every bit of exposure he has achieved. As a teenager in Winchester, he worked the summer music festival circuit, studying the bands and meeting people in the business. Over time, he has been steadily invited to play more and more of these same festivals which are so important for showcasing musicians. His summer tour schedule is already filling up with festival gigs. Large audiences, according to Savage, bring a great energy and unpredictability to his performances.
But perhaps it is in intimate settings where his poignant music is best experienced. Savage holds the worldwide record for performing the most shows (over 40 shows as of last month) with Sofar Sounds, the secret-location, indie gig organiser that was founded in 2010. Taking the ethos of Sofar to towns even without a local group, Savage booked 44 living room concerts across the UK and Europe in the summer of 2015. The previous year, Savage undertook a similar living room tour of the UK and France.
TTDOG has had the pleasure of hearing Josh Savage perform in both large and small venues, but the living room concert is a uniquely intimate experience.
“If I had never played my first Sofar Sounds show in Oxford back in January 2013, I might not still be doing music today. It was the best show I had ever played and it was such a breath of fresh air compared to demoralising shows playing to drunken audiences who talk over you. Sofar Sounds has been a great way to introduce my music to new audiences in new cities where you don’t have the pressure of bringing an audience and can actually focus on playing a good set.”
Savage doesn’t just show up and play Sofar concerts. This enterprising musician took the idea of these gigs to his own town, organising local acts and venues. TTDOG wondered how Savage, a singer/songwriter, manager, performer, promoter, and tour manager found the energy and time to take on the committment of organising a concert series involving other bands.
“The energy and hard work I’ve put into setting up Sofar Winchester has never been an issue. Hampshire in general doesn’t have a great music scene and I felt it needed something like Sofar. It’s made me really happy to see Sofar Winchester flourish in the last 3 years and supporting other struggling acts I’m passionate about. I’ve had people help me in my music career and it’s my way of giving back.”
TTDOG asked Savage if he had further plans to work with other musicians in their own careers:
“I would love to produce other musicians but there are only so many hours in the day. That may be something for a later time.”
What strikes everyone about Josh Savage is his unwavering hope, both for himself and for others. Perhaps the most personal piece he has written is ‘Mountains in Hurricanes,’ a track from his first EP, Spaces. Savage explains that the song is about someone close to him, who was suffering psychosis. The way this person managed his psychotic episodes was to take long runs along a path that led up a local hill. His lyrics reveal a man willing to go to almost any length to overcome, and to help others overcome adversity.
If it’s too much, give me a call
But I doubt that too much will be enough
You can take it all
You can take on mountains in hurricanes
And if you fall…
I’ll give you my bones to break ’cause I have faith
I’ll give you my bones to break ’cause I have faith
–Lyrics © Josh Savage, from ‘Mountains in Hurricanes’
At many of his gigs, Savage tells the story of his talented friends who have given up practicing their art, because it is unlikely that they will succeed in the business. Josh Savage is not so daunted. He is a man of passion and determination to pursue his dreams and that serves as an inspiration to other musicians and to his audience. Savage relates a story of a former heroin addict, who, upon hearing his music, decided to walk to the South Pole and achieve his own dream. TTDOG admits that on days when it seems difficult to be inspired to write, the memory of Josh Savage quoting Nelson Mandela to inspire his audience to never lose sight of their dreams is enough to shake off any lurking defeatism.
Josh Savage is no starry-eyed dreamer. He knows the odds and yet, he persists:
“I have 3 part-time jobs to keep me going and the reality is that you may never be able to make a living solely in the music business, which is why if you go down that path you have to be very very passionate about it. If it never leads to anywhere, I can safely say I’ve had a fantastic journey and no regrets.
…I don’t see any point in thinking that far ahead. If it feels right to move on from being a singer/songwriter, I will know. However, I have a feeling that whatever I do will always involve music.”
Savage has begun work on his debut album and plans to release another English language EP, shortly. Yet, he knows that everyone must have a Plan B. Should he fail in the pursuit of his dreams, Savage’s plan B is to get lost in his childhood city, Paris. The thought inspired this song and video from his Spaces EP.
Whether at a Sofar gig, in the recording studio, on a festival stage, or lost in Paris, we at TTDOG are grateful that Josh Savage has found and continues to share his passion: Music.
TTDOG asked Josh Savage: For what are you most grateful and where do you find your greatest joy?
“My friends and family who keep me grounded and have helped me on my journey.
I find my greatest joy after finishing a song, performing or losing myself in a beautiful place.”
To hear more of Josh Savage’s music, buy his EPs , attend a gig, send him jars of honey, or fresh roses, click the links below:
Josh Savage Website
Josh Savage of Facebook
Josh Savage on Twitter