In my hands is the new-to-you piano CD, called “Longest Dream”. I want to tell you a little about the album. It all started with a video session… (listen while you read)
One day in June, I was invited to play Dubravka Bencic‘s beautiful new piano. This piano was housed within a warehouse that also contains the largest African artifact collection… in the entire world. There I was, sitting at her audibly perfect Steinway grand, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of figurines, masks and handcrafted items, just uphill from the Allegheny river in my beloved former hometown of Pittsburgh. I had to call my videographer friends. We recorded the next day, on the piano as well as amongst the artifacts. Andrew Obenreder put together the above video, as well as the video for Skipping Stone (coming in 2016).
I returned to West Virginia without audio for the video. Andrew was as excited as I was to share this eye-candy with the world, but he needed music to set the video to. Enter Seth Maynard of Lone Wolf Studios, the local guy in Elkins, WV. Seth is of the most efficient and effective recording engineers I’ve worked with. After finishing the Skipping Stone audio for the video, I decided to record my other piano songs with him.
As the piano songs got edited, and as we added in the fiddling of Liz Sloan and cello tracks from Wytold and Josh Stevens, I realized that this project was growing it’s own voice. I hadn’t intended on recording a piano album, but here it was. And itt was trying to tell me something. I listened to the songs, and started to hear the story. I remembered the true beginning: 25 years ago, my father passed away suddenly. At six, with few words to communicate what I was experiencing, the piano became my original means to grieve and heal. Over the years, the guitar has become my main instrument, but the piano remains my primary companion for composing songs with deeper, more personal themes. I can always sit in front of it, pound on it’s inviting keys, hammer on the harp, and thank it for the gift of always being there to let me feel heard when I was most alone.
The concept in Longest Dream is indeed one of loss. This album deals with directly with the suicide of friends, the lost companionship of former lovers, the environmental destruction that we all participate in simply by being humans in a human world, remorse for things that we wish we could have done differently… Ultimately, between the lines, the album is about the intimate bond between each of us of us that makes all of our lives so very important. It’s a sort of backwards story: life is short, therefore every moment is vitally important. The happy moments are full of desire and longing. The sad moments are full of reprieve, release and gratitude.
As I started telling people about the album, people shared their own stories of loss. During the holidays, especially, it is clear how little Hallmark has to say about it. We spend our time and our money on toys and gifts for those we love, but we can never get back the love of the ones we have lost, that thing that only intimate connection can give. That is the love, we bury deep in our hearts, sometimes remembering with joy and gratitude, and sometimes remembering with the oft’ return of grieving.
I didn’t want to release this album, at first. It was just a collection of songs. But as I began reflecting on the album (which, really, are all just collections of songs), and as the gift of other people’s memories of loved ones became more real, I had a chance to sink into the grief a little, to let myself recognize how hard this time of year has always been for me, and how hard it is to be separated by too many miles from the family that I do still have. This album suddenly reminded me of the origins of Christmas — bringing light and merriment to the darkest time of the year. You can’t say that it’s not a dark time of year – it actually, physically, is. But you can burn the candle just a little bit brighter, a little bit longer.
So, letting this album come to life has given me permission to let the light shine in on the places that still hurt. This self-permission has actually given me MORE JOY than I could have imagined. I find myself wanting to celebrate, to decorate, to sing holiday songs, to share time with loved ones. I don’t know if this would have been possible without allowing the grief to sit on the mantle, holding its own place in my heart. The pain is there, but it has joined in the singing now.
In honor of my father, his & my wonderful family in New England (and beyond), and all of us who have lost family and friends either by distance or by death, I offer this new collection of music as a chance to sink in a little deeper, to feel both the sadness and the joy inherent in the dark parts of the year. Thank you deeply for being a part of my life.
PS – This was not the intended plan for the next album — I had been prepping to go into the studio with Ben Shannon at the production helm, backed by a full band, to tackle an entirely different collection of songs. All the proceeds from this and the Three Seasons ep, as well as downloads from bandcamp, will go towards the production of that CD which I hope to get started soon after the new year!
So, this album has also provided a chance to tie up loose ends and… begin again. May all beings be happy. Anitcha. And here’s some music for you who have read to the end! Love you guys :)