I had a listening party over the weekend for my upcoming album. This was a small get-together of a handful of trusted musician- and artist-friends, giving us all the opportunity to contribute our thoughts and suggestions about the mixes and arrangements before the record gets mastered. This has become a tradition for all the artists on my record label within the last few years. Quite a useful and fun ritual indeed..!
It is interesting how the mere presence of other people can change the way I listen to my music. Last Wednesday, a few days before our little party I had listened to the whole album with only my producer in the room. Because of our mutual close involvement with the music and the process of making it, I was able to be fully present and express the emotions that I was feeling without shame. In fact I was flooded with emotion during our listen-through. It was that cathartic for me to finally hear the (almost finished) end result. The songs that I’d written, backed by the production I’d envisioned… I felt a sense of freedom and trust that I’ve never felt before surrounding my work as an artist. I experienced a deep knowledge, that after so many years of uphill battles, everything was now going to be alright. I carried that feeling for the rest of the day with deep gratitude.
The Saturday listen-through with my friends was a different animal all together. With the awareness of all of the people in the room, close friends though they are, I became hyper-conscious that they were hearing the music for the first time… I drained my energies by trying to hear the music like they were hearing it, and not really being able to listen to it with my own ears. All of this unconscious of course. I mindlessly calmed my nerves by eating a shitload of muffins. But please don’t get me wrong: the listening party was a great success and an absolute delight, and we got some amazing feedback and helpful comments out of it. Some work still remains to be done.
What I’ve come to realize is this–although perhaps a cliche–a piece of art is a baby, and bringing into the world a collection of songs is a birthing process. Artists have said this many times over the years, but it is only now that I truly understand it on an emotional level. The overwhelming feelings that I felt last Wednesday were the result of having poured so much of myself: my loves, my losses, my will, my defiance, my grief and my experiences into these songs. Perhaps I will never experience it as strongly as I did that day, but I will never forget it. I had two episodes of heaving cries of ‘childbirth’ and an unbelievable amount of relief. Friends, I’m being very vulnerable here…
The most memorable insight that I received on Saturday came from the drummer who plays all the drums on my album, Jonathan Ellinghaus, who said that the album is like an intense train-ride. He described a feeling of having been lifted onto a train for the duration of album, where I told my story, allowing him to see what I’ve seen and experience what I experienced. After the ride ended, I dropped him off and the train vanished into the distance. Quite a vivid illustration… I love this man..! And I hear what he’s saying. Although my train has already traveled past the point of the story that is being told on the record, it will always be an accurate account of one passage in my life. For that I am very proud.
I have spoken of this record for so long, and I’m dying to let it out into the world finally. The wait is not quite over yet, but the baby has been born. I’m happy to say that she is alive and well! Ten fingers and ten toes.