Everyone is up against something difficult in this life; difficulties are unavoidable. Covid 19 has introduced some unexpected hardships into most peoples’ lives. And there were hard times before then, and there will be after. We’re never truly finished the job of striving towards balance, health, excellence, whatever we’re striving towards. It’s an active process, and it sucks a lot of the time. Burnt Toast is one of my songs about finding one’s courage and strength to go on, even when there are no clear solutions to incredibly massive problems.
The images in this song came from an exercise I did a couple of years ago, in Linda McRae’s song-writing class at Smithers Adult Guitar Camp. They’re images that are connected to my closest family members. Songbird, to me, is representative of my two mothers (bio and adoptive), and amethyst was my grandma’s favourite gem stone. And burnt toast is pretty unappetizing stuff, y’know. I can never scrape enough of the charcoal off to really enjoy eating it. Especially when it’s really burnt. Life can be like that.
The guitar camp where this song was written is based at the edge of Tyhee Lake, so there were loons making crazy beautiful sounds all week. It was very therapeutic to finally be able to do something so sane and normal, and self-care focussed. I won’t go into full details because it involves family members and private stories. Maybe in ten or twenty or thirty years (or never) it will be far enough behind us that I will share about it in more detail. But it was kind of at the end of a very troubling time for our family. There are on-going repercussions from that time that we are still dealing with, but the worst is hopefully over. At one point in the months preceding the writing of Burnt Toast I found myself on my knees, sobbing in the basement, with my hands in the potato bin, as I brought in the harvest. I cried so hard that day; my heart was broken by what my family member was going through. It’s true that these deeply emotional experiences change a person. Those feelings can be all-consuming and terrifying. Song-writing has been a life saver for me, to get these things into words and melodies. And to have people around to encourage each other and celebrate music together at guitar camp was just what I needed at the time I wrote this song. It was the one song on the Burnt Toast EP that I asked Colin Maskell (my producer, audio engineer and all round amazing music team mate) for more studio time on. We went back into the studio and redid the vocals, because there was one little word that came out in a way that grated my nerves so much!!!
I often feel very lonely and aimless as a musician, even though music helps with the loneliness. And I’m pretty good at putting one foot in front of the other, which usually leads to more forward motion and helps a lot. But people can’t be replaced by activities (although creative solitude is also absolutely necessary). There are always way more things to be done than time available, and a sense of overwhelm is often not far away. I think I will always need these type of songs, songs like Burnt Toast, to manage my emotional world. I encourage everyone to do creative things, to find your form of play and make the time for it as often as possible. Even tiny doses of play is the best medicine for any heart!
Thanks for reading once again. And thank you to those who reach out to me, it means so much to hear from you. I get a lot of encouragement from these genuine connections. Next week I will write about Running in Jeans!