Musicians are Trained to Trust

I showed up to a town of 800 without a guitar. There was just too much stuff to bring and carry, and as Lanah puts it, “What better a souvenir then a guitar?”

Knowing I would need to buy one in order to teach my online students and play out while I am here it was a main priority. Our first stop in Waverley was the Main Street Cafe.  It’s the only cafe but quite a nice cafe. It’s nice to walk into intentional spaces. You can tell the owner has taken the time to create a space that is exactly what she wants. It’s a perfect space for coffee by a warm fire.

Luckily, Lanah is the gregarious type, and doesn’t wait for people to figure out that we are in town for a while.  Life is too short for mystery and besides, her husband needs a guitar and when she has a goal in mind, the world will know. Upon meeting the owner and the friendly staff, she finds out the owner of the bookstore is a musician. Perfect.

The Book Bank. I can spend hours talking in that one room bookshop that used to be a bank partly because Patrick, the owner, is a genuinely open fellow, interested in life, and insatiably curious about music. Patrick also happens to be mentioned in the annals of the History of New Zealand Rock Music. “Mostly for bad behavior” he says according to an interview I found of him in a not so local paper.

We talk about music, expectations of music, young and old musicians, the feel of music, just get right into it as if continuing the discussion we have had years before. Which is probably because it’s a constant discussion we have with others on the musical journey, if not ourselves

He shows me his guitars he keeps in the shop. A Tony Emmanuel limited edition and a 3/4 Japanese Gibson. Made of unknown wood but does the job. I only ask what kind of wood a guitar is made of because I think I’m supposed to ask that when someone shows their guitar, but Patrick is similar to me in that he doesn’t care what it’s made of as long as it feels good to play and sounds good. Patrick also has a three quarter nylon string he is saving for when his grandson gets older. He would never sell it to me, but he is happy to lend it.

“Musicians are trustworthy people,” he says. I argue that maybe we are just trusting, but counter my own argument with the conclusion that you can only trust another person as much as you trust yourself.

Thats the “thing” isn’t it? Trust must be what helps make a musician a musician. You have to learn to trust the world. Trust that if your heart is true and you pursuit of music is as diligent as it is reckless, that somehow the journey will present itself, or at least give you treasures along the way to let you know you are on the right path. Musicians are trained to trust. It’s the only way to find the groove.

As I travel so far from where that trust that has manifested into a humble career, I put that trust again to a test and find it still rings true. There is always music to be made with perfect strangers and if I am honest, diligent and reckless enough, they will help guide the way.

Our only picture from our first gig together – Lanah’s 40th Birthday. Patrick is behind my son’s head. We share a propensity for reducing multiple songs to two chords and rearranging the melodies on the spot.It’s fun because your ears are open and your brain is always playing and tinkering with the tune.

Driving Through Rainbows

So my family has finally settled into our writer’s retreat in Waverly, New Zealand. It’s a place where we can call home and instead of focus on the day to day of running our businesses, we can focus on writing and creating the content that inspires us to DO business. How we got here is a whole conversation that we will get to,  but what it means is that I plan taking the songs I have in my head, completing them and finding out a way to get feedback from my friends and family before I head into pre-production for recording or whatever the next step may be.

The trip getting here was song worthy itself, not to mention the prep, but after 24 hours in a plane or at an airport with a three year old and six month old, and an additional 4 hour drive, we made it to our first stop for the night, New Plymouth, NZ. On the way consisted of a drive through “Rainbow Road” as we are calling it. I think we saw about thirteen rainbows and literally drove through 3 or 4. It was the first time I have ever seen the end of a fully arced rainbow, let alone driven through three of them.

Driving through rainbows

So now we find ourselves in a little farming community of 400 on the West Coast of New Zealand’s North Island. As I am only teaching online lessons and  digging into local music contacts here, life can be slow and quiet enough to hear ourselves think. Chopping wood, loading up the log burner and the wood burning stove, feeding chickens, measuring our rainwater supply and keeping the kids happy and healthy still provide a heavy load, but something that will allow enough mental bandwidth to tune into the thoughts, ideas, the music and the silence that runs through our heads.

New Plymouth – Home of the WOMAD music and art festival


Our home for 3 months: Kainga Tirohanga – Maori for “Village View”

How do I become a better singer? Relax.

Sing.  Listen.  Adjust.

Sing. Listen. Adjust.

That’s essentially all it takes to improve our singing, but none of that adjustment is possible without relaxing and freeing ourselves of tension. Every singer has a relationship with tension that limits our vocal potential. It effects everything. It effects our range, pitch, register, tone, breathe, performance, etc. It’s not the only way to improve our sound but it’s hard to make any positive change if we are holding on to tension.

Tension comes from lots of places and is usually an unnecessary, learned habit. You can see it in our faces, our bodies and hear it in our voices. Usually an overcompensation for a lack of breath support, proper placement and trust in ourselves, it builds and builds until it stops our voice dead in its tracks and we have start our phrase over, we crack or we strain.

Every singer is different so there is no one exercise that is a cure all but the key is to observe your self while you sing. You can use a mirror for visible tension in the mouth, face, shoulders, neck, etc., but will have to become in tune with your throat, tongue and larynx to notice the tension that is not obviously seen.

Ask yourself, “Where is my tension coming from?” There has to be away to achieve sound without unneccesary tension. What is it?  Singing should feel good. Is your breathe relaxed? Is your body, face, jaw, throat relaxed while you sing? Relax. The worse thing that can happen is that it sounds bad. That’s the worse case scenario, but we have to make bad sounds before we can make good sounds, especially if we are relearning to sing.


What have you got to lose?

In the mean time…Sing On!

If you need a bit of extra help, let me know. We can always schedule an online singing lesson via Skype or FaceTime and get you started on the right foot.










What’s a healing artist?

It was my first day on the job as a healing artist at Parkview Regional Medical Center and my fist assignment was to sing for patients in the Pediatric Unit. Children and babies. I was escited and nervous at the same time. “Nerve-cited” is the word one of my voice student uses to describe the very combination of feelings. 

The first room I visited was a 1 week old, newborn baby with his mother and father. My wife wast a few months pregnant at the  time and I just could not imagine how frightening and stressful to have your new baby hospitalized.

 I nervously offered music – a lullaby for the baby. They had too much going on to be able to think of a song to sing so I quietly offered  You Are My Sunshine.  

I had never realized the magnitude of the lyrics and melody of that song. It’s as sad as it is happy but there is a comforting waft of relief when the right song is welcomed into a room. It glows like a gentle sunrise in your chest, arms and right in front of you. Suddenly you feel like you are a giant ember – cooling. I’ve felt it many times as an individual, and through my work as a healing artist  I can now feel that warmth build and release in a room with other people. It’s palpable, but that instance and like every time before, I assumed it was just me that felt it.  So I strummed my final chord, nervously thanked them and exited the room.

A month later I was surprised to receive a heartfelt message via my Facebook page thanking me for the comfort and peace the music brought to the room. Music had helped turn a stressful life cringing moment into a moment of beauty the family could cherish. For a moment they felt peace in that terrible situation and reading that message gave me that warm glow again.

Music. It does that. Doe is it heal? Maybe not. Maybe it just shines a light on the whatever good is still there – because you can’t really experience sadness without acknowledging your love for what you miss. It’s finding the good that is the healing part because it glows and warms everything around it. 

If an artist can make that happen for you  – make you feel good on any level, then that very moment, they have become your healing artist. Think of a time music has done that for you. Do you feel the warmth?

“The other night dear as I lay sleeping I dreamt I held you in my arms but when I woke up, I was mistaken. So I hung my head down and cried.”