I’ve never been very open to co-witing songs. The thing is, for me, song-writing is deeply personal. When other musicians off-handedly remark, “Hey, we should hang out and do some co-writes” I’m stunned, thinking, “YOU MEAN BASICALLY GET NAKED TOGETHER?” I can jam into the wee hours of the morning with others — there are many ways, of course, that music is playful and spontaneous in my life — but song-writing is messy and divine. Song-writing comes with tears and shouting and sighs, and is part of a tenuous relationship with the muse that I have often felt I couldn’t risk adding anyone else to.
I did, a few years ago, have a good run of co-writes with Don Harrison (two of those songs appeared on my EP Lost: “The Most Lovely” and “Let it Go”) but the key was that he gave me recorded instrumental tracks and then, alone in my apartment, away from any watchful eyes, I’d sing along and later get back to him with the result. Song-writing, at its best, for me, is that: I just start to sing a song, like it’s been on the tip of my tongue and I’ve suddenly remembered it.
But to remember it I have to be alone.
I always felt a little jealous of those that had the comfort level, the lack of self-consciousness, to write with others. What have I been missing out on? Am I just taking it all too seriously?
In February this year I participated in the Aboriginal Music Program’s week long Market Builder Residency, with huge thanks to Manitoba Music and Canada Council for the Arts. When the opportunity came up the participants were encouraged to pursue creative development, not just professional. I decided to take the co-writing plunge and asked the fabulous Coco Love Alcorn, experienced co-writer extraordinaire, if she’d spend a couple afternoons with me and be my in-person co-writing first. Coco and I have toured numerous times over the years, she probably has seen me naked at least a few times, and I felt safe enough with her to let my guard down and be open to other ways of writing.
We laughed a lot. She encouraged me to simplify. We distilled ideas. I was grateful to be pushed out of my comfort zone. And we wrote a couple songs! Alan Greyeyes filmed this one in its complete newness, inside the Coalition Music chapel. Half of the chorus came from an already in-progress song of mine that I may still return to one day — it has rather sadder undertones than this (I will always like sad songs) — and the rest came from the two of us together, talking about home, anchors, and family.