A Happy Reunion With My Muse

Once again, scheduling time with my muse proved to be fruitful as I tried to finish my week 5 assignment for the Coursera Songwriting course with Berklee professor Pat Pattison.  Having peers from the S.A.C. join me in what has proven to be a challenging 6 weeks has helped motivate me to not let myself down.

To be honest, my biggest struggle was carving out the time.  But when I used Pat’s tools, and sat down with my piano…well – I encountered an old friend, the version of me that existed before I tried to release a CD.

There is no shortage of artists out there trying to make a living from their craft.  One need only to look at the multitude of paid services and tools out there looking to make a profit on the dreams of the already financially challenged, and you will see that helping artists “get out there” is an industry onto itself now.

But once upon a time, before I got obsessed with social media, graphic design, crafting my elevator pitch, etc., there was a girl who just enjoyed the way words would flow over melodies and how the resulting songs could capture something deep in her heart.

Thanks to this course, and the encouragement of my peers, I had a happy reunion with that girl.  And though that girl is now a mom – I’m hoping her visits will be more frequent as I allow the pursuit of success as defined by monetary value to fall to the wayside.

Holding a 3 month old baby, countless strangers have told me to enjoy this time because it is so sweet yet so fleeting.  Nurturing a new life has put so many things in perspective in my life, including   my definition of success. At this moment, it means living in the moment with a deep appreciation for the wealth of inspiration that surrounds me in my new role.

Here are the lyrics to my week 5 assignment – still on the same topic…”A Mother’s Love.”  This is the first complete song I’ve written in at least a year and a half!

A Mother’s Love

She looks into her baby’s eyes and knows that this is love
She looks at him in wonder, he is her soul and blood
This moment has defined her life beyond what she can see
Mere words cannot contain this bond, it is a mystery

PRE-CHORUS
And for him she’ll be strong
In storms she’ll be his calm
She’ll hold him for as long…as she can…

CHORUS
A mother’s love
Will last a lifetime
A mother’s love
Heaven’s design
That we are held and gazed upon
When we are born, daughter or son
This love
This love
A Mother’s love

VERSE
She sees the light is fading from his eyes he lies so still
She wishes she could take his pain in spite of all those pills
These thirty years like grains of sand now beyond her grasp
How can their story come to this, it was not meant to last

 

 

First comes love, then comes discipline…

I sat down to do my weekly homework songwriting cram session.  I would love to say that I’m on top of things and organized with my time…BUT it hasn’t been happening due to the greatest thing that happened in my life 2 months ago – I gave birth to a baby boy.

So, amidst the sleepless nights, I have to give myself a few pats on the back for challenging myself to take on this craziness.  I take this as a chance to awaken my muse which has been dormant for what feels like a very long time.  However, because it has been asleep for so long, I’m reluctant to stifle it and box it in with tight parameters – which is what this week’s assignment felt like (from Week 3 of an online Berklee songwriting course with Pat Pattison).  How could I employ assonance, consonance, additive and subtractive rhymes while trying to open up my tender heart that has been closed for so long?

The short answer is I didn’t.  Rather, I let my heart speak first before trying to fit it into the formula.  I was surprised to find myself writing on a subject I would NEVER have written about a mere 2 months ago – the experience of motherhood.  It’s not going to be a Top 40 hit, but it already resonated with some of the moms with whom I’ve shared these lyrics.  It authentically captures the magic I’ve experienced in this new phase of life.

The instability of the chorus comes from the truth I’ve grappled with that here is a mini human being for whom I’ve fallen head over heels who will one day leave the nest and in doing so – wrench away a piece of my heart I can never reclaim.  I know that the happiness and love that overwhelms me at times comes at a price.  There will be tears and letting go.  It is inevitable.  This is the price of love.

Now I’ll try to wrestle this into an analogy on songwriting – which I’ve always likened to the birthing process.  Albeit these days I see some errors in this analogy when I consider the weight of meaning and responsibility that comes with motherhood in comparison to songwriting.  However, there is still some connection, in that the fruit we bear, comes from our heart – and in the process of emoting and getting to know your creation – there is a joy, a feeling of euphoria as I’ve experienced in gazing into my baby’s eyes.  In songwriting as with bringing up a human being, there is also the important role of process and discipline – which ultimately shapes the final outcome.

So to complete my assignment, I waxed on in my journal about the sea of emotions that have come forth from my experience of motherhood – and then I tried to shape them with these tools.  This is actually very close to the theory of attachment parenting, where bonding that comes from love establishes the foundation for effective discipline later on.  Similarly, I believe a good song must come from the most genuine and holy place in our hearts before we start to apply any rules and tools.

I admit – I’m not going to be a good disciplinarian as a mom, at least not from what I can see at this early stage.  Similarly Pat Pattison’s rhyming tools are still cumbersome to me and will take some time to develop. Hopefully further down the road, I will improve, both as a mom and as a songwriter.

Here is what I wrote…

My Little Lamb

VERSE
The minutes melt into months as I watch you grow
How I’ve poured my heart out, will you ever know?
I hold you close and cherish your baby smell
With every wink and smile you cast your spell

I could not imagine how I would come undone
From a heaven-sent love for you my little one
Your every breath a song that lifts my soul
I try to catch these memories as they go

CHORUS
But you are growing up too fast,
How can I make these moments last
I will watch you grow from boy to man
You’ll find your wings and leave my arms
Take my love and leave with no regret
But remember you’ll always be my little lamb

The Gift of Being Intentional

ImageThis past year has turned my life upside down.  Many of the events that happened seemed to be out of my control and so I often chose to live life both passively and to some extent numbly.  When you feel like life is just happening to you, it’s hard to imagine that you can actually find a steering wheel.  

This week unfolded like so many others, time seemed to slip out of my control, and 12 hours before my assignment was due for the 2nd week of Pat Pattison’s Songwriting course I am taking, I sat in front of my computer praying silently I would meet my muse.  

At first the words and feelings that came forth seemed rigid and detached from my heart, an accurate reflection of how I have actually been feeling.  But I persevered – intentionally.  Called to raise the bar by Mr. Pattison who not only demands that we take time to meet our muse, but also be intentional about how we engage with our words, in number of sentences and in sentence length. That degree of intentionality felt very unnatural and unfamiliar to someone who has been simply riding the waves in life and in songwriting.

But I persevered – continued to dig – into my heart and soul – looking for words – and then challenging my mind to shape and mould those words according to parameters that had been set by the assignment.  This was more intentional than I have been in a long time.  And as a result I finished the first verse and chorus I’ve written by myself in over a year.  

Life happens to all of us.  Illness, death, work challenges, family issues, etc., there will always be good reason to put our hands up and give up on charting our own path.  But there is another way – even when things get rough.  It doesn’t mean it will be easy – but in songwriting and in life – I believe we will always be surprised when we give ourselves the gift of being intentional.

Here is my verse and chorus.  I look forward to finishing this song…

Something Bigger Than Me

VERSE
I never looked for someone to complete my life
I took the road less travelled enjoying the ride 
I travelled round the world looking for pieces of me
But everything I wanted seemed just out of reach
Or so it seemed 

All these roads led me to a place I never dreamed
I lay down my freedom so willingly 
How can it be 

CHORUS
In my arms you sleep as I watch you breathe
So much I didn’t know, but now I finally see 
A love song written in the stars from eternity
In your eyes I found something bigger than me

Back to Basics – Boxes are a good thing!

ImageTaking this course has been a refreshing reminder to go back to the basics.  Similar to life, I have been prone to overcomplicate the songwriting process, wanting to be clever with my words or story without actually building a foundation beforehand.  

Pat Pattison reminds us to keep the end in mind, i.e. the Title.  I think Pat should rename his process “Song-crafting” – because truly, that is what he is calling us out to do.  Not my old way of letting the writing take me to some unknown destination, rather gathering all my thoughts and ideas so they point in the same direction for the same purpose.  

I choose to develop the title, “It’s hard when you miss someone.” 

This is a song that I’ve been writing in my subconscious ever since my mom passed away late August.  It’s still a fresh wound, and the emotions are so complex that I’ve written ideas and images here and there, but never been able to develop a narrative for fear of over-simplifying my experience and not giving it the weight it deserves.  Now I see that I overcomplicated things and stalled my creativity.  Instead, using boxes to draw a map for how this idea can develop gives me safety barriers within which to explore my feelings without being overwhelmed or getting lost in them.  

Will this eventually become a song? I hope so, simply because I know this is a universal experience, however sad, that will find much resonance once I’ve had the courage to go through the mining process.  Writing the skeleton as directed by the course assignment was relatively easy, but I can see that if I were to begin to add flesh to these bones, it would take an extra dose of courage.

Hopefully that day will come…

Spring is coming…another reason to blog!

Spring is comingDearest friends, it has been far too long.  So many things have happened since releasing my CD, which I can’t wait to share more about – but I needed time to digest, adapt, and evolve.  Such is life.  Change is truly the only constant.

I’m happy to have the impetus to reconnect by taking part in a blogging challenge hosted by the Songwriters Association of Canada.  To persevere at our craft, we really need the help of community – hence I am excited about joining almost 50 songwriters across Canada who are committing to a 6 week songwriting course taught by Berklee Professor, Pat Pattison.  This brings me back to my love – which took a bit of a beating with all the business and marketing strategizing that happened prior to my CD release.  Taking this course and reconnecting to community is very much like going home and remembering what is most dear to me.

I look forward to taking this course and sharing what I learn.  I have signed up because I want to reawaken my passion for songwriting while also strengthening my skill.  This course signifies a reawakening from a long hibernation.  Spring is looking good!

Lily C’s Sophomore Album Lands at the Drake Underground June 3rd with a Distinctly Fresh Pop Sound

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Toronto, ON – After garnering critical acclaim and radio airplay with her debut Mandarin album in Taiwan, Lily C comes back home to Canada to release her debut English album, “Reaching For Sunlight,” a collection of songs that reflect her journey to stay hopeful despite challenging circumstances.

Lily C moved back to Canada in 2009 to be with her mother who lives courageously with ALS (Lou Gherig’s Disease).  During the past few years, she fought to create precious memories with her mom, while healing from an eating disorder and starting her life from scratch after living in Asia for many years.  Amidst these intense struggles, music became her refuge and her avenue of hope.

Her voice has the authentic vulnerability of Jewel paired with the passion of Nelly Furtado.  The songs include lush vocal arrangements that provide a refreshing backdrop to songs that cling onto the hope that the best is yet to come.  The name of the album, “Reaching For Sunlight,” comes from a lyric from a song co-written with famous Canadian songwriter, Christopher Ward, entitled, “City Flowers.”

In honour of her mother who continues to defy her prognosis, despite living bedridden for 3 years now, Lily C is donating $5 from every album sold at her CD Release to the ALS Society of Ontario – an organization that has provided immense support for her family.  The CD Release Celebration happens at the Drake Underground (1150 Queen St. West, Toronto, ON), June 3rd at 7pm.  The evening promises to be a celebration of the songs, stories and people that have formed the fabric of this album.   For more details please visit:  www.lilyc.com, www.facebook.com/lilycmusic

Tickets can be purchased in advance here:  lilyc.eventbrite.com

Click Here for press photos.

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For More Information Contact:
Diane Foy, Director of Public Relations Skylar Entertainment,
Phone: 416-413-9672, email: diane@skylarentertainment.ca

Are you having fun yet?

Sometimes I feel like I’m in the back seat of the car, on the journey of my life, and I keep asking, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”  Living a life outside the standard parameters of Asian parent’s expectations (“respectable” career, stable income, benefits, etc.,) has caused me to feel like I’m still en route to a destination I can’t see or describe.  So much for goal setting.  In the wise words of Lewis Caroll, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”  That, just about sums up where I’m going these days…

When I was in high school, we had a visit from a motivational speaker whose message still stays in my mind.   He said that when you’re in high school you’re always looking forward to university.  When you’re in university, you can’t wait to graduate and start your career.  When you start working, you can’t wait to get married.  When you get married, you look forward to having children, then you look forward to having them grow up, then you look forward to retiring, then you look forward to…well, you get the point.

The truth is, there may never be an ultimate destination.  While many of my songwriting pals lament the impossibility of “making a living,” as we scrounge around looking for a viable way.  The path of pursuing our dreams can also be a bottomless money-eating pit with the cost of marketing, publicity, production, etc., all in the spirit of DIY.  Never mind the time and life-energy spent.  All of this to play to audiences for whom music is now like tap water, and not the valuable gold it used to be (remember when you had to save money to buy your favourite CD?).  As my CD release approaches, and the next wave of expenditures begin, my left brain can’t help but ask, “Will this be recoupable?”

I am reluctant to whine about the disappointment and discouragement that is so much a part of this journey towards actualization.  I’ve had some bystanders comment, “But, you chose this difficult path…” Luckily, I was recently comforted, when a group of songwriting pals echoed in response, “NO!  We didn’t!  This path chose us!”

I think of Rainer Maria Rilke’s words to the young poet, “Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.”   I think that for any true artist, there is the risk of death if we were asked to stop.  But, then what to do with all these thoughts and feelings of discouragement?  What do you do when you’re on your way, but you can’t see a clear path?

Knowing that you were made to do something (even if that something may never be profitable), and mustering the courage and strength to do it are entirely different muscles.  It’s in the doing that we face our most brutal demons.  And that is where I find myself these days.  Fighting intense resistance that questions my faith, my value, my contribution to this world.  Is my music good enough?  Will they like me?  What if they don’t?  Will I still like myself?

It’s when these dangerous thought patterns emerge that I have to fight back.  And then I remember that motivational speaker and his message, that all we can have of life is in this very moment.  So, if I’m not having fun, I’m not doing a good job.  It’s not to say that there won’t be pain along the way, but I was reminded by a mentor years ago, to live life like a dog on a car ride, head sticking out of the window, feeling the wind.  The dog doesn’t know where it is going, but it is enjoying the ride.  Are you having fun yet?