"The hottest days of the summer
They brought us here together, you know it's true
But this cold now it's getting warmer
Maybe come September I will feel brand new"
-Kathleen Edwards "Empty Threat"
Well, hi. It's been a while. Again.
I've been thinking about this post for some months now, but it's time to stop thinking and start writing. I have something to announce, and I'm not sure why it's been taking me so long to get around to announcing it--maybe because I wasn't really, truly, 100% sure it was happening yet--but it looks as though it is. I'm going back to school this fall, pursuing a Master's of Library and Information Studies at UBC in lovely Vancouver, British Columbia.
Many of you will already know that my "day job" has been working in a public library for some time now. Lately I've been realizing how much I enjoy the work, really: it's interesting, it's creative, it usually involves people who are (to me) relatable and likeable, and it does something good for the world. Plus, it pays the bills. What a lucky combination! I finally decided that I'd like to be able to go further with it than I can with my current credentials, and so I'm taking the leap.
Where does this leave music? you may ask. I would answer: on hiatus, for now but not forever. I'm not sure exactly how it will go. I've been playing some music over the past few years, though mostly on a very small scale and for my own amusement. During that time, what I think I've arrived at is that I am just not interested in or able to commit to the life that being an independent, touring musician entails. I have friends who are doing it, and good luck to you, brave sailors! It seems like it's really, really fun when it's going well, and there's nothing like doing something you love as your job and your identity.
But it's a life which is also tough, extremely tough, in ways that make me particularly anxious and unhappy. I'm no good at rootlessness, and I suffer a lot in states of instability--not to mention the fact that I find performing to be an exhausting rollercoaster of highs and lows. Having a job as an artist these days means little money, no benefits, no pension, no vacation, and lots and lots of the kind of work I really dislike doing. Maybe this doesn't always have to be this way (read a really good article about how we talk about artistic economics, by my friend Miranda Campbell, here). For now, it is. So I am going to experiment for a while with another path, one that suits my disposition more, and let music continue in some form I haven't quite discerned yet.
I have been inspired by the recent choices of a songwriter I admire very much, Kathleen Edwards. Not long ago, after putting out what I think is her best work to date in the album Voyageur, she announced that she was taking an indeterminate break from music, and instead, opening and operating a cafe in Stittsville, Ontario, with the perfect name, Quitters. I read lots of the comments on her social media posts about this, many of which curiously both supported her and lamented her choice. We have this idea, I think, that someone has One Thing they are meant to do, and if they do anything else, they are betraying it somehow. We see it as a kind of tragedy. But you know what? Everybody has only one life or so, and if a certain path is doing them more harm than good (which I think is what Kathleen found, maybe), then it's okay to choose another one for a while. You don't have to have only One Thing you do, One Thing you are. (There's another good article about this here.) Maybe you write great songs AND you make a helluva latte. Both things are good for the world.
I love seeing pictures of Kathleen Edwards on Instagram now, grinning, happy with her dogs and her cool cafe and little hints of music here and there, when she feels like it. I applaud her for resolutely grabbing hold of what she needed, when she needed it. Her story made me feel a little better about admitting to myself what I think I need right now.
I'm hoping to become a children's librarian. It makes me feel good in a deep, peaceful way when I see kids in the library, reading, playing, creating, relating. I'm following the deep goodness, and seeing where it leads me. Plus, being able to play guitar and sing is a strong, secret kung-fu to have, in that line of work.
So, here we go. Goodbye for now, Victoria, and hello Vancouver. I have one more local show, a solo set opening for my dear friend Simon's fabulous duo, Stanton Paradis, on July 27th at Solstice Cafe here in Victoria. And then, off on a new adventure for a while. I hope you keep an ear out for me, because there may well be more music from me in a little while. But first I have to take care of me.
PS: It's not an empty threat.
PPS: Seriously, go buy that Voyageur album. Maybe even at your local record store (remember those?). And if you're near Stittsville, go get a coffee and tell Kathleen I say hi.
PPPS: Did you know that Keith Richards wanted to be a librarian? True story!