FIRST OF ALL SPECIAL SHOUT OUT TO MARIKA HALLENDY AND HER FAMILY AND FRIENDS FOR TAKING ME IN AND MAKING ME FEEL LIKE A TRUE CANADIAN. DREAMS ARE ONLY POSSIBLE WITH THE FRIENDS YOU MAKE ALONG THE WAY
A month or so ago I went to Canada. It was more than magical and I want to write it all down before I forget how awesome it was.
The Canadians I met, from first impression, are the kindest folk.
My agenda for the weekend was this:
Thursday: serve as judge for a children’s drama festival during the day, relax that night
Friday: serve as judge again for festival, play at Redneck Bistro
Saturday: relax, play matinee show at Neat Coffee Show with local artist Kevin Lentz, write with cowriter Marika and songwriter Jeff Callery, and then share the bill with Arlene Quinn for Dean Batstone’s Northern Ramble.
I went into the weekend with a lot of worries. “What if I forget some detail of the flight and miss it?” (It was my first time flying internationally as an adult by myself)
“What if no one comes to my gigs and I look like a loser?” (I’d never played a show internationally)
“How do I judge little plays for students when I myself know little of drama performance?” (Marika, my cowriter, teaches drama which is how I got the opportunity to judge the event.)
There were a lot of firsts. I was really anxious.
This anxiety was changed joy throughout the weekend. Everything went better than expected.
Between watching cute children find passion and love for their craft, and being loved by people in the Burnstown, Renfrew, and Calabogie communities of Ontario, I could only be left with gratitude.
There were a lot of fun parts of watching the plays. A lot of the kids in the drama festival were from difficult backgrounds. One play was put on by a group of refugees from the east who had never had formal schooling. English was their second language.
At the end of the festival I was asked to play a few tunes for the kids last minute. I felt honored but also nervous. This was the youngest crowd I had played for but also knew that if I did become a pop artist this would be my main audience.
A few minutes before I went on they showcased a student who was amazing at beat boxing.
I had a new song of mine that’s pretty hip-hop oriented so I decided needed to come up on stage with me.
After my first song, I looked into the audience and asked, “where is my beatboxer? He has to help me with this next one.”
He looked so surprised to be called onstage. When I gave him the rhythm he looked at me and said, “I can’t do it… I don’t know how.” He had never collaborated with a guitarist before as a beatboxer.
So I did all I knew… I started to beatbox to get him more comfortable. I was ok enough to stay on rhythm but from there he understood what he needed to do and blew the crowd away. The performance was nothing less than flawless.
After the performance the teacher thanked me and said it meant a lot to him to go onstage.
Sometimes we don’t know how truly extraordinary we can be.
Friday night I gigged at the Redneck Bistro. This was a tougher venue because it is a restaurant.
I’ve found that in restaurant settings its good to know that you’re the background music for the evening.
Its not necessarily important to be the star of the show but help set the mood for a good night out.
So I was happy just relaxing and playing some tunes as the background.
When I thought I was done, people stopped eating and told me to keep playing!
I was surprised by their support and love– I thought they hadn’t been listening. After I was finished I kept getting tipped and given encouraging words.
The owner, Sheila was hip and cool and had a powerful presence. I was honored she wanted to book me again. Marika, my cowriter is the one who helped get me the gigs and is a great go getter and inspiring songwriter.
Both were there that night and I could not help but feel strong hanging out with two women who knew what they wanted and had the courage to pursue their dreams.
Marika’s son, Cayden, served as my merchandise and business manager that night. He sold a lot of my music art and handed out Sarah Mae Pop Artist posters.
If it weren’t for him I wouldn’t have made half the sales I did at the Bistro. I tried to pay him telling him he did great business and deserved to be rewarded. He was so gentlemanly though and refused on multiple occasions.
That night I hung out with Marika and her family as well as Canadian friends Peter and Denyse. I drank whiskey and sat by a big fire.
The stars were shining so bright because we were an hour out from the city. I was blown away by the positivity and hospitality of everyone. I truly felt like I was with family.
The next day was even more incredible despite the challenges that arose.
I started out with a show at this hip venue right down from the cabin I was staying at.
I went over to Denyse’s house again– she lived within walking distance of the cabin I was staying at as well as the music venue.
She had a large breakfast already spread out with homemade pancakes and maple syrup.
Of course I had to be well fed before I performed, as is the Canadian way.
When I first got to the Neat everything was disorganized. I didn’t know how to start to set up a show. There were a lot of logistics I didn’t think about.
I found out its important to have change for people paying to get in. You need a system of ticketing itself, as well as a person to man your table if you are the performer for the show. I had some artwork I was selling because my album is done yet.
Luckily, a local businesswoman and kind soul, Rua, happened to be stopping by the Neat at the same time that I was having a mini meltdown about getting the show organized.
She helped me develop a system of ticketing and worked on getting people into the venue. Throughout the event she managed music and art sales and was an encouraging light for what I was doing. We got started a little late, which was okay in hindsight because it made for a more relaxed afternoon.
When I performed I was met by a excited and receptive crowd. Afterward I was connected with a couple of band members for Dean Batstone’s gig later in the evening.
Together Marika, John Wilberforce, Jeff Callery and myself practiced my set in the Neat space where I played that afternoon.
I don’t know what it was about the travel and the beautiful Canadian countryside, or the way the band and crowd loved the songs I was playing, but Id never been so in sync with my true, authentic voice and power.
We sat and jammed and I closed my eyes and could almost see my pop star dreams coming true. The energy of having a band behind songs Id written with amazing writers in Nashville on a tour to a foreign country expanded my limiting beliefs about who I could become.
I was doing it. I was touring. I had a band of cool people. I had community members who helped sell the merchandise I had made. I had a great supporter and collaborator Marika Hallendy who was helping to organized the whole trip.
I say it was I that had it but really it was a we. The whole tour wouldn’t have happened had I not had so many players working and weaving it together.
Ari, one of Marika’s dearest friends is a lawyer that we’ve been working with. She showed up to the gig at Northern Ramble with my merch Id forgotten back at the cabin. Despite myself lovely people were willing and ready to help.
I’m grateful to have Ari and Marika as we’ve gotten to have a lot of fun dinners and slumber parties since we’ve all started hanging out.
I didn’t know going into music that I would get not only to create epic stuff but I would get an adopted family of people from across borders.
It’s like– we work on writing, we work on copywrite, but we also talk about boyfriends new and old and share each others life stories.
I shared the bill for Northern Ramble with the kindest soul and country artist Arlene Quinn. A lot of her clients for music therapy came out to see the show. Some were special needs. They were a really supportive audience.
I was struck by Arlene’s power presence as well as vulnerability onstage. From her lyrics and stories I could tell she was someone I wanted to learn from.
I told Marika, “I want to write with that woman.” We had already planned a relaxing evening at this place called The Peaks the following day. Marika came up with the idea to write with Arlene while we were at the resort. It was set.
The show went better than expected with a full house and my full band. Jeff and John understood me so well musically and gave the music the support it needed.
Dean Batstone was so kind and cool. He rewarded me with a Canadian cooler hockey backpack for playing. It’s like he already knew me so well. 😉
The Peaks the following day were beautiful. Marika, Arlene and I sat on the patio next to a pretty lake and mountainous scenery. We had drinks and appetizers and played for a quite funny bachelorette party.
After an hour of relaxing and talking we got to writing. Writing is so interesting because you have to share your experiences and get to the route of why the song is important. I got to learn about Arlene and her husband as well as share my own take on love and my experiences with it. We came up with a good hook that I won’t mention here because we haven’t recorded it yet but its pretty rad.
I have a lot of faith that everythings happening for a reason. Marika and Ari are coming down to Nashville soon. It just so happens that Arlene was planning to come the same week. The circumstances of the write as well as the exact travel dates for my two Canadian cowriters syncing up is beyond accidental.
We scheduled time in the studio because it was too good not to plan to record the song we’d had so much fun writing that day.
It was sad to say goodbye to Canada and everyone at the end of the trip. I’m trying my best to explain all the elements of the weekend that made it beautiful but Its really hard to put into words. I’ll sum it up in bullet points.
- People can be REALLY nice.
- DO NOT LIMIT YOURSELF OR YOUR BLESSINGS- things can always go better than expected
- Canadians, or at least the ones I met, kept me WELL FED.
This week is another busy one. Writing a bunch. Playing a bunch. If you are in Nashyvegasville this week check out me at Belcourt Taps Friday June 15 5PM and Bobbys Idle Hour Saturday June 16 6PM.
Heres a freeform poem for those who made it to the end of this post:
WHY NOT BELIEVE
Are you a dreamer?
Don’t lose your spark
cause darling no matter what
you can’t avoid the dark
do you have the courage
to do as you please?
you’re who you answer to
why not believe?