Authenticity

I can authentically say that it was such a pleasure to see familiar faces from my career in health and wellness at Exhale Pilates Studio while I was home in Newfoundland over Christmas. I was so surprised when I heard that those fitness clients who inspired this travel blog years ago were still intrigued and reading. It touched me and reminded me of the community that exists, that we built through our passions and openness.

So for an authentic update, today, is a struggle. Yesterday I made a joke about how many balls I was juggling up in the air, but this evening, it’s that paralyzed state of what to do next. My health and wellness took a back seat on the priority bus since getting back to Melbourne early in January and now my favourite pants don’t fit. I do know the one thing I will do this evening is head to Armature Pilates for a 6PM workout. My body and mind needs it.

With the guilt of things to do, the blog often takes a back seat… but I just read the most inspiring quote and I thought, how can I share this? Well, I could commit to a 15 minute blog session that sees both writing and posting done within that time. How authentic would that be?

A fellow Music Therapy Student at my last placement suggested “12 Rules for Life” by Jordan Peterson and my turn to get this book from the library finally came on Sunday. The librarian told me he was controversial… now I’m even more excited for this book! In the forward by neuroscientist Norman Doidge, the idea of recruiting people for TV comes up. Doidge is referring to his friend who knows how to spot people “who can really talk in front of a TV camera and who look authentic because they are.”

Apparently the camera picks up on that. In my experience, I know so do kids, as well as audiences. I can be authentic and tell you that when filmmaker Ivy C Lin asked to film me in 2016, first I thought it was a scam but then I figured well, we’re meeting in a public place where my gig is, and she knows where the gig is, and who the booking agent is, so if she is a well-researched scammer… anyways, 5 minutes to go….

So as months passed and then years, I figured, well my face must not be for the screen, she couldn’t use the material, because I’m not pretty enough. I’m not good enough. All the shit negative self-talk we put ourselves through. All the shit negative self talk I can put myself through while editing these damn posts sometimes.

Since taking a few weeks and finally sharing the video on Facebook, people have told me they really like the video, and that it is “so me.” I’m a little touched. There’s no make-up, there’s not even any lipstick! Someone said: “I wish I was in a room with you playing music and entertaining all those people – it’s beautiful!” I now realize, my love for pianos is something that takes over my entire being and something that I can’t hide from the camera. And apparently, it’s still interesting, even if I couldn’t be bothered to put on a little lipstick. Check out the 12 minute documentary on Vimeo here: https://vimeo.com/317377881

Here’s to you. Here’s to me. Here’s to authenticity. And here’s to my Oscar performance 🙂

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Jungle life… round two?

It’s 4:20 in the afternoon and I’m sitting in the sweltering heat reflecting on what’s been an incredible 5 weeks in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. I thought… goodness, maybe I should write a short note? It’s been a year since I opened WordPress.

Staying with Suzy, the queen of the Jungle, has been a great adventure for me, but maybe not for Mark who was bitten by a snake! But hey, he’s still here and smiling. For me, I wasn’t impressed when a possum pooped on my bed twice. I’ve been woken up by savage storms, but it’s been so refreshing to reconnect with nature after calling Melbourne ‘home’ for a year. And let’s be honest, Newfoundland will always be home. I’m reminded of my unique roots by colleagues talking about the beauty of ‘Come From Away’ and by everyone’s fascination with me being a ‘Newfie’.

Things change though. I was interviewed about my travels by a French dude and it was weird because I don’t really find myself traveling anymore, even though mom says it’s time for me to settle down. HA! I discard the tourist sites and rather choose to learn about the city’s local culture and what makes a place special. I’ve learned that hanging out in your underwear is what the locals do during the build-up, best explained as maximum humidity before the rain season begins. Last night there were lightening strikes every 10 seconds. Apparently people travel from all over the world to witness these storms. Is there a scientific explanation? You tell me!

So, sharing my pride or Suzy’s story is my inspiration today. At 65 years young she just came back from one of her regular trips to Bali. She runs several households and prefers to call them communes to refer to the communities she builds. I heard her say that I’ve done a great job taking care of the jungle while she’s been away. This is amazing for a woman who has very high standards, Suzy, not me. She’s inspiring because of all the things that are hard work or a little soul destroying, she says, but I love the people. She said: “how else would I have met you?” Through opening the doors of her home to ‘travelers’ like me, she makes friendships that last a lifetime.

I’m still going, and sorry ma, but I don’t know if I can see myself settling down anytime soon. There are too many beautiful people to meet and incredible spaces to share.

Here’s to you, here’s to me. Here’s to Suzy, queen of the jungle!

The good old way

Yup! I’m going there. At the Australian Music Week I heard it, keep the postcodes and emails because Facebook is changing and you may not be able to reach those people as you did. How does a musician know about the upcoming changes in online marketing? Well I would say because musicians are often DIY creatures but to be honest, I knew because of the conference I attended.

Maybe you’re wondering what is going to a Music Conference all about? You find local music fans who are excited to take in multiple venues playing simultaneous hosts to exceptional musicians who have been selected to perform by a panel after having expressed interest and a application. Heaps of music professionals – think managers, publicists, producers, talent buyers – attend to network and get business done. Most are subjected to a conference fee, or a showcase application fee, and the panelists, well someone is guaranteed to offer them to at least buy them a coffee for their expertise. Boom bada bing everyone is in business.

The panels or workshops are (from my experience) all good, some exceptionally good, and this year, at a panel about touring, a point made by all professionals was that more than ever musicians need to compile an email list and contact fans through email as Facebook may no longer provide the service it did for so long. It’s kind of a musician itself I guess: it was offering a valuable service for free for quite some time and now it demands to get paid? FOR FREE you can enjoy some performance videos of Shred Kelly and Terra Lightfoot on my Facebook music page, Laura Madonna Murray Music or check out photos on Instagram @laura_madonna_murray

I met a possible producer for my original music. Love Hz appeals to me as a place with a great sense of what’s important in life, using puns whenever humanly possible. More kind and creative kindred friends were made and best for my soul I met a fellow pianowoman, Lisa Crawley,  wrote a play about all the crazy shit she’s heard while working as a lounge pianist. I had the pleasure of hearing Monique Clare performing clear vocals while being a cello ninja, trust me and look up Settle! Most unexpected, catch-ya-off-guard comment came to me from Twin Peaks: “You’re like the Terra Lightfoot of pianos.”

So, here’s to the good old ways from the good old days, everyone getting together in person to get innovative shit done together; here’s to extraordinary music conferences.

I forgot to tell you about all the good stuff

Hello blog-readers! I don’t know how many of you there are, nor do I know how many drafts of blog-posts I have written and have not published, but, while having coffee with a friend today, I realized I forgot to share all the good stuff with you.

Recently, someone from home asked: “What’s new?” My response: nothing. We all have our moods which can change as fast as the weather in Newfoundland, and I guess I was in a shitty one. But today, while having coffee with my fiddle friend Pete and listening to everything that was wrong, I remembered that one of the first instances of ‘all the good stuff’ happened at Pete’s house.

You see, Pete’s house had been broken into and his prized fiddle had been taken. They didn’t carry his 88-key electric piano away… maybe it was too heavy. But while jamming a few tunes post break-in, his phone rang and it was an unknown number. My attitude in February, still highly optimistic, encouraged me to exclaim “MAYBE IT’S THE POLICE AND THEY FOUND YOUR FIDDLE!” Guess what – they had located his fiddle at a pawn shop and me and Pete have since shared many tunes on that fine instrument.

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Shortly after, I headed to Tasmania (keep in mind, the actual time frame is late February – sorry for the lack of posts but I’ve been busy writing songs). Of course I had to go see the island of down-under, and, bien sûr I went kayaking. What I didn’t expect is that my travel partner did not heed an important request, and when I heard a few curse words, I knew the worse had happened. I wasn’t particularly mad that my camera had fallen into the sea, I was mad because this person that I trusted had refused to listen to my wishes to attach the camera case securely to their life jacket… or just hand it back. The guide was kind and suggested that maybe it would turn up. He explained that many people went spearfishing in the area, himself included, and perhaps someone would find it. In the back of my head I’m thinking… sure b’y.

But, I think now, that hope, or faith, or optimism, or whatever you’re comfortable with calling it, doesn’t have to be a raging fire, it just needs to be a small flame to make you take action. So, the morning after my camera went diving, I sent an email to the tour company so they would have my email, and I gave them my phone number, and blah blah blah. The thing is, it worked. In less than 48 hours…

I got a call from a man named Wade. He was about 3 hours north of where I had went kayaking, and he had found my camera while spear fishing. He said he was attracted by the black and white case and upon examining, the WATERPROOF camera, he thought, ‘hey, this is nice, I’ll keep it for myself.’ I’m glad he was honest and told me that because, to be honest, it made it much more special that he got it back to me. The story goes that once he got home, he put my memory card into his computer and saw that there were pictures from 2015 still on the card. In his own words, he realized he had to find me. He saw in the last pictures we were in Freycinet kayaking and rang up the company. Because I had emailed the office, they passed on my phone number. You know how ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’?

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It was Wade who said, “I need to get a photo of this for my Facebook.” This is what he posted: “So an amazing thing just happened yesterday, I went spearfishing and I found a waterproof camera on the bottom in around 7 meters of water. This morning I managed to get the card out and searched the most recent photos, they were taken from kayaks so I rang coles bay sea kayak tours and they had an email from a young lady that had dropped her camera so they gave her my number. Laura rang me and they had just been in St. Helens so they turned around and picked it up! Whats the chances of finding it less than 24hours later! Also got a nice trevaly for tea lol!”

I’m not sure what a trevaly is, but I think he’s referring to the CD I gave his as a thank-you gift. So, have hope, faith, or optimism, or just try and you could be amazed by the results. And when you feel like you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on!

Here’s to you. Here’s to me. Here’s to sharing more good stuff with you fine folk…

Like the original songs I’ve recorded and wrote, you’ll see I have been busy! Here’s the first Australian gem: Nature’s Law: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZCCrnBsY9c

Check out a live piano version on my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/lauramadonnamurraymusic

 

 

 

Goodbye Groundhog!

While booking my ticket to Australia, just a week prior to my departure in true last-minute style, I decided it would be most memorable if 02/02 didn’t exist at all. What do I mean with this crazy talk? Well, Bill Bryson of In A Sunburned Country has a comedic take on the impossible feat: “Each time you fly from North America to Australia, and without anyone asking you how you feel about it, a day is taken away from you when you cross the International Date Line.” I was flying backwards through time zones (St. John’s – Toronto – San Francisco) until I reached the 180 degrees longitude north-south line and then I just skipped a day! I remember when some said the world was going to end on 12/12/12… and, well, I had my piano delivered that day so an important part of my world had really just started. What does this have to do with anything?

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At the weekly Tom Waits open mic, Nighthawks at the Black Sheep, someone made me realize that February 2nd, my day of choice to make magically disappear, is Groundhog day. It’s a holiday I never really thought too much about, so little I forgot about its existence until my friendly reminder. The phrase ‘Groundhog Day’ has been paraphrased as “same stuff, different day” and has entered common usage as a reference to an unpleasant situation that continually repeats, most likely due to the movie of the same name starring Bill Murray. During the movie, while stuck in a time loop, Bill Murray learns how to play the piano!

Saying “So long, farewell” to my home and native land wasn’t all that challenging as I had begun to feel as I was stuck in my own time loop. Visiting Australia has been a top priority since 2007 or earlier and my wanderlust was stagnated by work and small city living. More refreshing than the heat of the land down under during mid-winter freeze was a change. I did love sharing my passion for movement and music with people of all ages through the operation of Ananda Fitness and Murray’s Music Studio, but I felt like I was running around the wheel, same thing day after day, maybe as many of us do.

It’s so easy to be scared of change when it comes to relationships, work, and family, but for me it’s so very exciting, it keeps my heart beating, and it brings joy to my being. To my older yoga and fitness students, your zest for life has always been inspiring for me. I know for some of you joining a new fitness class was a huge step. I’m sure you can reassure yourself and speak to others about the rewards of a lifestyle change even though being a beginner in a yoga or fitness class may have terrified you at the start. To my piano students, my first ever piano teacher is now living in Melbourne and I can’t wait to see her! She posted to my Facebook:

“I’ve been in Melbourne for over 21 years since I left Carbonear in July 1995. You were such a little kid then and I had lots of tears leaving all my music students & friends.”

So for you younger students, do not be scared of change! I remember sharing tears with some of you. Embrace change and keep building positive relationships with your peers, teachers, and mentors. Maybe you’ll see me down under in 21 years… but I hope it’s before then! To the crew at Portugal Cove – St. Phillip’s, you’ll never know the inner- dialogue I had for about a month: ‘I’ll tell them next class.’ In the end, the tears were unavoidable, but I already met someone on the train who was happy to share her love of F45. I’ll let you know how it feels to be the nervous new person in class.

Here’s to you. Here’s to me. Here’s to the change that brings laughter or tears, it will give our lives meaning throughout the years.

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Thanks MusicNL!

Hey readers! This is my third and final post that I promised to deliver about MusicNL week. I’m taking a creative license though, since it’s two months after the event, and the annual Christmas party just passed on Monday (yes, we’re musicians and have parties on Mondays), I figured it’s best to do a short ‘year in review’ THANK YOU!

So what is MusicNL? It’s not really a union, it’s an association. And, wouldn’t you know – they also have a directory! It was on that directory a musician named Wayne found me and invited me to play in an ‘event’ band. These are the number one paying gigs, think weddings and corporate events. Wayne was very organized and my life was a mess. He saw the break-up, the anxiety that started bubbling up out of control, my inability to commit to future dates because although I love Newfoundland I wanted to get the hell outta here! Long story short, Wayne and his wife have become great friends. Even if we don’t play together and I missed out on the top-paying gigs, I’m grateful to MusicNL and Wayne for everything he has taught me.

How do you become a member? Simple – just give them money! Members pay to be a part of the association, it’s a relatively small fee and anyone can join. This past year the MusicNL staff have provided great support to this lone member. One morning, after very little sleep pre-release, I met with the program coordinator with a “Please help me plea.” Rebekah was reassuring; she helped me clearly see that I did have it all going on! Releasing Solo/So High was nothing short of a challenge and creating flowcharts really helped ease the panic. But I wanted a checklist. She provided a reality check: a CD release doesn’t happen in neat steps, it happens all over the place! There are certain events that lead directly to others but ideally it’s working on many different facets simultaneously. Although I thought I was failing and I was at a stress level where I just wanted to pay someone to do the heavy-lifting for me, I was reassured by Rebekah and directed to Roz MacPhail who was on a similar path. Rozz has become a great mentor and friend and I was so blessed to find her by my side back in the spring discussing problems we faced, and in Bonavista during MusicNL Week. She’s done so much for the music community and I’ll never forget when she bought me lunch on show day… it really can be the simple things. Thanks Rebekah and Roz!

MusicNL acts as a funding agency (is that right? I don’t know?). Basically, it gives you MONEY! YAY MONEY TREE! No, I should say they provide opportunities. I was granted an Artist Development Grant November 2015 to help offset the costs of CD manufacturing and promotion. Did I celebrate? I couldn’t because it was the same day as an attack in Paris. People enjoying music in a nightclub perished as a result of hatred. I could not celebrate. I talked with a friend who suggested I celebrate when the project was done. But here’s the thing I learned, it’s never done. Once the official release was complete, I got to work on securing performances, radio appearances, and award applications. There were more professional development grants to complete to help me offset costs of playing at the Halifax Jazz Festival with the CMW and final reports to complete after spending the money. All while trying to learn as many songs as possible before hitting the sea as an entertainer on a ‘cruise ship…’. Seem like a blur? I think it was.

It’s been quite a year with MusicNL but most memorable is perhaps the executive director’s comments that keep pushing me to have thicker skin and to remember that the work is never done. I know how to deal with the critics, the hecklers, and the man’s world nature of the industry in general. Thanks, Glenda. And now, in my immediate future, there are no grant applications, just immigration applications. My work is done here for now and I’m off to Australia to see what the land down under has to offer this island gal!

Here’s to you. Here’s to me. Here’s to a heart full of gratitude for MusicNL (because you’re more than just a week).

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And of course a big thank you to Rich Blenkinsopp of Studio Bee Creative for this wonderful graphic! I think he does a great job at making MusicNL look great.

The Promises We Keep

Have you ever considered the promises you keep versus the promises you don’t keep? Wow! Out of the gate with some life philosophy – think about it. I wanted to start kickboxing on Monday; I NEEDED to start kickboxing on Monday for my sanity… but, I didn’t.

I promise I’ll write a book someday. This past week I played at The Citadel House in Lewisporte and what Dean said was true, my life has been nothing short of very interesting. It all seems very ordinary when it is your own life. From solo travels in Borneo to teaching in France, volunteering in Vietnam, ashrams in India and Jungle Yoga in Thailand, I will have enough for a book someday. I promised you I would write three MusicNL Week related posts, and today has been one month since I kept a promise to myself during the conference. A promise I made back in July: to speak up when I strongly disagree.

On foreign trainings and workshops, I’m pretty shy. I keep my mouth shut and I listen carefully. I make an intention before each learning journey and they are always along the same lines of ‘listen well.’ I participated in the Halifax Jazz Fest Creative Music Workshop with Jerry Granelli in July… I don’t even think I blogged about that! It was a personal and professional experience that I hold dear to my heart; I did my very best and really put it all out there. After a morning meditation, Jerry discussed the danger of becoming invulnerable. He suggested: “be vulnerable.” Sitting in silence and stillness my mind screamed, “is this guy kidding me!?” During a movement exercise I broke when Suzanne said “let them see you as you are.” I cried with a heavy heart in front of twenty strangers. I cried for my family, for a lost love, for leaving my teaching career in St. John’s. I cried for myself, for all the times I had to show up with a smile on my face when I felt like my world was falling apart.

MusicNL Week featured a workshop entitled “Destroy the Stage” by Luther Mallory. When I asked a fellow female musician if she was attending she said, no, she likes her stages intact. Basically Luther challenged ideas and boundaries and when I heard it again: “Yeah! Cry on stage!” I was like no…. no b’y. I had to speak up.

Emotion and honesty, SURE! Crying on stage and being strangled by the sadness that gets you around your throat is impossible to sing through. When you’re dealing with authentic life-shattering sadness, not showmanship sadness, you just can’t cry and sing. You are controlling your emotions and choosing to focus on the music rather than the emotion because you can’t sob and sing simultaneously. I cried in front of my ensemble at Halifax Jazz Fest’s Creative Music Workshop and I was seen as weaker because of it. I’ll never forget the coach who said after the fact: “You’re in this group because you can read music.” Thanks asshole but I thought women could compose too and I thought that was why I was here – to share my compositions. Sorry if my honesty made you uncomfortable. An apology didn’t matter because my composition idea was already deemed ‘not ready’ because I cried when explaining the story behind the music. The sad, heart-breaking story of a young Nova Scotian girl who took her own life after she was raped.

I would never want anyone that was in an assigned ensemble to play a song that made them uncomfortable. For me, the sad story of Retaeh Parsons deserves to be heard as a lesson to all humans. It deserves to be acknowledged that she did not have sufficient support in her struggle. A great yoga lesson I absorbed many years ago is that you can not control any other actions other than your own.  I played that song at my solo MusicNL showcase and I can sleep at night knowing that I am brave enough to sing her song. Her parents are the bravest souls as they put their sorrow asides to discuss a key issue that affects all youth.

So a big thank you to the composition ensemble at the HJF CMW for convincing me that the song was indeed ready with your reverse psychology. Your discomfort somehow made me more comfortable, more courageous. Your doubt made me less doubtful. You have proven that as soon as you put something that’s disturbingly real in a song, you lose, because the majority of people feel deep discomfort when they hear the word rape. Thanks to Jerry and Luther for reminding me that being a female in the music industry is a completely different experience than that of a male. It’s very rewarding to have teachers who challenge you to your core and make you rethink what you believe. Thanks Luther for telling me to sing after I cried while explaining why you can’t cry on stage. It was a great challenge.

Here’s to you. Here’s to me. Here’s to females everywhere finding their voice and speaking out.