Notes from the Road
by Catherine MacLellan
We are headed to Toronto by car, fighting a wicked winter storm to get there. Highways are full of snow drifts but the beautiful glassy ice of a silver thaw keeps me excited about winter. We are headed to a massive music conference called Folk Alliance International which brings people from all over the world to play music as many times as possible over five days.
The last five years it has been held in Memphis and will move on after this year to Kansas City for another five. It is a pretty interesting phenomenon. The last time I attended FAI it was in Memphis and I was excited to see the city, so famous for music, Elvis and Martin Luther King Jr. The strange thing was that you didn’t ever have to leave the host hotel. We stayed there, played there, ate there and only by peer pressure did I leave the conference to wander around downtown and head to Staxx Records and the Civil Rights museum. (Which, by the way, is the most moving museum I have ever been too.)
This year will be a bit different, as I am staying with friends in Toronto and it is a city I know well. I have my favourite spots to visit which is one of the joys of my life as a traveling musician - drinking, eating and seeing fine things that aren’t really available in PEI. Also, with the conference being in Toronto, there will be a lot more Canadians in attendance than usual which means a ton of my friends will be there that I don’t get to see very often.
We stay for 3 days at the conference, playing 10 times, and then we head to Tamworth, Ontario, for our first of several shows with Texan songwriter Jonathan Byrd. Son of a preacher man with a very interesting bio (check it out at JonathanByrd.com), he comes highly recommended from a host of my Toronto musician friends, with whom he recorded his last record.
After this trip I get to take a real break and sit with my ideas for my next record, finish writing and arranging songs for it and maybe even go to bed at normal times! Over the last few years I have been suffering from stress and food related health problems, mental and physical. It’s no surprise, really, living as a single parent and a road-weary musician. Regardless, I have always found the inspiration needed to keep me writing and performing and growing. Over the last year, though, my songwriting slowed to a near stop and my moods became more polarized and extreme. It is amazing how long a person can last under these circumstances. I am not what you might call tough. I have a fragile make-up but as I start to listen to the messages my body sends me I am learning to take care of myself.
Recently a friend pointed out to me that music is medicine, and in forgetting what my music has always been about for me (personal exploration and self-expression) I had stopped giving and receiving the medicine that I so need. Now I am getting back on track and healing in leaps and bounds. One of the greatest gifts I receive from fans is hearing that my music somehow helped them through a hard time. I’ve even had a few people tell me that their babies were born to my music!
I hope that everyone can find their own medicine, to do what we are put here on this earth for, whether it is playing music, catching fish, raising children, or even building model train sets. Whatever it is, the world is a better place for it and for you.