Tenth Anniversary of Second Take or Why I Have Not Put Out Another Album In Ten Years
March 30, 2015
It has been ten years since I released my second album Second Take; I have not put out another album since then nor do I have any foreseeable plans to do so. Why? After all, I consider myself to be a singer/songwriter, don’t I? The answer is Life. The last ten years have seen births and deaths and a prolonged losing battle to save a loved one from severe mental illness coupled with drug addiction. When the most important events of one’s life occur, there is usually little room for much else. On this blog and on public forums in general, I am usually careful about the personal information that I share; however, as a vocal coach who teaches out of her home and as a musician, my personal life is tied to my professional life in ways that I don’t expect.
I held a CD release party for Second Take in May 2005, recorded most of it in the winter and spring of 2004, and the year between finishing the recording and the CD release was the beginning of a dark time. My husband’s father passed away in May 2004, leaving behind three young children, a wife and a nineteen year old son who, and we didn’t know this at the time, had the beginnings of psychosis which he was self medicating with crystal meth. I’ll call this son J. My husband was playing guitar on the album and while the family was grieving, no one was in any shape to be thinking about finishing some recording, never mind promoting the thing. To my husband’s credit, he still played guitar for me at the CD release party and on subsequent gigs in the midst of this hell. (Note from The Husband: I loaned my five-string electric bass to the bass player on Mir’s album only to have him turn around and hock it for money to buy heroin. It was indeed a time redolent with the chaos of lives in the grip of addiction to street drugs.)
The world has a way of carrying on and that’s what people do in the middle of a disaster. Between trying to and eventually succeeding in getting J committed and certified under the Mental Health Act (not for the faint of heart) and working as a freelance voice teacher, I managed to promote Second Take and get as many gigs in as I could. Even so, J’s mental illness coupled with his persistent meth addiction wore on the entire family. I found it increasingly difficult to emotionally support my husband, assist him in navigating social services and continue to work as half decent singer and vocal coach, never mind be a hip and happening singer/songwriter. I had less and less room for creativity, less capacity to care about things that I had thought were important. Sometimes though, it’s better to have normal tasks that need to be done despite the chaos. I think that my involvement with Laudate and with Japanese Cowboy was helpful at this time because even though my personal life was dark, I still had music that wasn’t going to learn itself. I put my head down, attempted to keep going with all of my musical projects.
By February 2007, things were temporarily stable with J, and I discovered that I was pregnant with our first son. The pregnancy was unplanned, but I was also thirty-two going on thirty-three. We had always planned to have kids, and, sometimes, nature has a way of ending one’s procrastination. There really is no good time and at least the human body gives a woman nine months to plan. Our second son was born in 2010. Now, at the age of forty, I’m glad that we had the kids when we did.
I continued to write songs during the recording of Second Take and between 2004 and 2007 but I stopped writing shortly after I got pregnant with our first son, a dry spell that has continued almost unabated. I have tried to write but I find that anything I write sounds like a hollow echo of what I used to write or at best, I’m just repeating myself. I obviously have plenty of experience on which to draw but I have found myself without a language with which to articulate this experience. Being a parent is not compatible with the slow, contemplative process that writing demands. It’s hard to be creative when you’re fighting to stay awake after the kids are in bed and the laundry is folded. When the kids are awake, you can count on being interrupted at any given point, regardless of whatever idea you may have. Over the last few years, I have been focusing on singing art song, working on my vocal technique, teaching, Laudate and picking up freelance gigs here and there. When my youngest starts school, I can work on my piano playing more. Who knows, maybe I’ll start writing songs again and they will be songs that smash genres.
Though I seem to be permanently out of phase with my time, Second Take is a damn good album and I’m proud of it. In 2004, digital downloads were on the cusp of becoming common place but most people still purchased the physical artifact of the CD. MySpace was just becoming known and Facebook was still several years from being widely used. I was several years too late for the new technology that was about to arrive. I was also a thirty year old making music for people ten or fifteen years my senior but trying to market it to my peers. I am an introvert and I dislike schmoozing. In order to really succeed at the music business, you have to be driven but not appear to be. That is a fine balance and it wearies me.
I have learned over the last ten years that I cannot be all things to all people nor should I be. You don’t get everything, but you’re not supposed to. Want a wildly successful career? A marriage or two may end. If you’re a woman, you may miss your window to have children if you want them. Second Take is an important creative statement for me but it is just a recording that doesn’t love and accept me. It won’t call me on my birthday when I’m an old lady. Moreover, I had the guts to put out not one but two albums of original music and face public like and dislike. I am also raising a family and growing as a musician and as a vocal coach. So far, not a bad career. Second Take is still out there and one day, a third take may be the charm.