Have you ever wanted just to numb the pain away?

But a car is spinning tires just outside Blush Lane

They ask for help, you – “of course!”, there is no other way

Their smiles make it hard, at least not today

Have you ever just wanted to grow up and blow away?

Up in the clouds where you’re dreaming almost every single day…

With blinders on you’ll never see or taste or hear them say,

Thanks for stopping to lend a hand so I can get up on my way

I just want to feel loved

Iwant to feel comfortable inside my skin

I want to feel loved (ahwoo!)

Gotta feel it from within

So now it all seems trivial, the things that I could say

Nostalgia of my childhood dreams, for them – just ripped away

Maybe when the time is right, we’ll drop the puck and play,

And kiss and hug and sing and dance as if we’re gone today

I just want to feel loved

I want to feel comfortable inside my skin

I want to feel loved (ahwoo!)

Gotta feel it from within

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It’s actually amazing how you can rise to new heights the minute you lower your expectations…

Today has been special. I didn’t expect any of this…

Following the news of last night’s fatal bus crash involving the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Humboldt Broncos, it’s been a quiet day of reflection. As a former junior hockey player, the news came to me as a living nightmare. I don’t know how I could deal with that kind of trauma. I wish nothing but the best for the survivors, the families and the entire hockey community. This is a huge shock to the world and I’m not sure if the pain will ever go away for those families. It was an absolute tragedy.

Despite the sombre news, I made an earlier commitment to get up and move my legs after a couple hours of screen time – I’m working on writing a few big features for Canadian Musician Magazine and I wanted to get some fresh air and get Darwin out for a walk anyway. So I bundled up (Yes, Calgary is still -19 with a windchill because it’s January 75th apparently…) and headed down the hill into Bridgeland, a sleepy community in the heart of Calgary to grab a coffee and some bread for the week. They serve the best sourdough in town at Bridgeland Market. It’s made at a local bakery, called Citizen Bakery.

I leave Dar leashed off on his little bench beside the store as I go in. All the passersby know and love the goof so I wasn’t surprised to come back out to see a young family excited to pet the puppy. I noticed an elderly woman with a walking stick crossing 10th street as the family carried on their day and I went down to unleash Dar and head back home. As I did, I noticed the elderly woman remove her sunglasses and pause on the sidewalk, just within reach of Darwin’s curious nose and full on “body wag”. She spoke in a broken German accent, I couldn’t quite tell, but it sounded like a northern dialect (my mother was born in West Berlin and I at a time had conversational German). We got to talking about how her and her husband are the dog whisperers of the local off-leash park, and how she knows the type of person the keeper or handler is by the behaviour of the dog at the end of the leash…the dog is a beautiful creature that is just the extension of the owners soul. She spoke as an angel. Like you wouldn’t doubt a word she said. It was captivating.

Meanwhile, it clicked. I’m sitting there going, “Oh man, she’s judging me…” but she clearly meant it as a compliment as she praised Darwin’s amazing behaviour.

“He’s such a beautiful, happy, and strong pup,” she said, “he’s wise beyond his years and his energy for life will take him all the places he wants to go… you just have to let him be and trust him.”

I was blown away.

I then asked he where she was from. She quickly responded “Germany”, and then realized I knew that and was seeking what particular region. I told her of my family origin, of which I’m incredibly proud and she told me east of Hamburg, as part of the former Prussian empire. The conversation will never be replicated with the magic that existed in that moment, but after I learned that her family was a bunch of academics, and had to flee from the war-torn Germany or face Hitler’s wrath, she asked me about what I do.

I told her about my health and wellness career and she light up.

She started to tell me about human magnetism. Previous to her talking about this I had never heard of such things. She explained it in half German, half English and told me to look it up on my computer. Here’s what I’ve found so far. I plan on researching it more but I have a few more hours on this magazine article to get to first – http://www.spiritualgarden.net/info/human+magnetism.html

She was so excited to connect and tell stories and engage in a real conversation. I asked her what her name was. “Rosemary”. I said that wasn’t as German as I had expected. Then she put it into her German tongue. Absolutely beautiful.

She said it was especially important to have met because of her hip. She was injured when she was younger but it was okay because she exercised all her life – she loved swimming… ate very good food – herring from the Baltic Sea, vegetables, rabbit, you name it… she kept a healthy mind, read many books, and really the walking stick was just a “security thing”.  I learned so much from that moment with Rosemary…

She asked me my name.

“Michael” I replied.

“Michael, thank you for this. It has been wonderful to speak with you. I want you to research that human magnetism because it is in your field. You will enjoy it. It is fascinating. He [Darwin] would like to go walk now. I can wash my gloves, don’t worry (Darwin sheds a lot) and we will see you again.”

I’m not sure if I believed in angels before, but this was one heck of a sign that I am on the right path. Don’t let anyone – blood, stranger, best friend – doesn’t matter. No one can throw you off of your path. Follow your dreams, be persistent. Be humble. Be you. Affirmations like these will be there, you might not see them at first. But they’re there.

Rosemary, thank you for being a part of my life. Whether I see you again some time soon or not, that moment will forever be etched in my memory.

I always seem to comprehend experience through my art and when I came home the following few phrases just flowed out of me. So here you are. This may explain things clearer to some. And I hope they don’t fall deaf on others ears. I am working at it. Harder than you’ll ever know. And just because it’s not a path you chose, with all due respect and as Rosemary suggested, you have to let go. Let Darwin lead.

Thanks for reading.

M

xo

———————————————

Rosemary

Father was sent to flee

Packed the family and hit the road

Before the Germans came around

Bundled up on wisdom and a pocketful of hope

 

Her steel blue eyes, simply capsized

By oceans of night and day

Captured as fairytales from what I know

And what my mother had to say

 

The keeper’s hand down the leash

Can turn him beast or friend

It’s the soul inside and the heart that gives

Life or death in the end

 

Every word from every lip

Has some certain sense of grace

It’s all up to how you arrange

The letters in every place

 

Since ’72, her heritage true

An old German, like half of me

She lit right up, eyes wide shut

When I told her I help to free

 

Others from themselves inside

Sounds silly but she agreed

No amount of human magnetism 

Could polarize the seas

 

The good, the bad, the sick and loved

Ich liebe dich, meine freund

Du bist ein Engel, der zu mir geschickt wird

To mend this sobering wound

Photo by Alina Sofia on Unsplash

The relationship we have with our lifestyle is a learned skill. That means it can be changed. In order to foster and develop a healthy environment, one of the first things we must do is provide accessible education. By empowering individuals to make lifestyle choices for themselves, we will create a culture people will gravitate towards. That’s super rad.

Xo

M

The irony is unmatched, eh?

Canadian hip hop, r&b, soul, spoken word, beats, rap and all other sub-genres of urban music got a huge break Sunday at the 2018 JUNO Awards in Vancouver, BC.

Tory Lanez couldn’t have planned it better if he tried. Due to his absence at the awards show, Rascalz, Thrust, Checkmate, Kardinal and Choclair busted into “Northern Touch” in an impromptu self-proclaimed “takeover” of the JUNOS. This, much to the likely chagrin of the brass (and my parents) was a very radical and much needed shakeup in the musical landscape. I think is sad that a nation so proud of its heritage, proud of its diversity and proud of acceptance still has “-gasp- moments” when a group of artists take the microphone and lay down the facts like they did last night…

Its 2018. Let’s get real. Urban music is very much a part of our national identity and because of the talents that took the chance at the shake up last night, we are leaders in the urban space. Much love. Much respect. You’re true foot soldiers. We need more of that.

I had the pleasure of meeting one of these legends of Canadian Hip Hop, Kardinal Offishall this winter, when he hosted an event at NMC, interviewing another leader in the World Music genre, fellow Calgarian, Raghav.

Kardinal is hilarious, classy and it’s great to see him continue to give back to the music community and really help to continue to grow the hip hop movement.

So yeah. I wanted to not just base my argument solely off of opinion, even though I know a lot more than the ignorant, culturally narrowed-minded opposition… so here are three of my favourite arguments to counter those who deny urban music and its legitimacy in the industry.

1. “Rap is not music.”

Oh, is that so? Well, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition music is:vocal, instrumental, or mechanical sounds having rhythm, melody, or harmony.

So if you believe rap is not music, you would be incorrect.

They tie lyrics together in multiple rhythms and rhyme schemes to a beat generally, but not always. Case closed.

2. “Rap Artists have no talent.”

Have you ever tried to fit 14 syllables into one sentence and line it up like poetry and craft stories around your experience?

No? Still not sold?

Okay. Watch this then – The Greatest Rhymers of All Time

3. “It’s just a bunch of gangster noise”

Awfully insecure, ignorant and insensitive, don’t you think? Here, watch this clip and tell me urban music hasn’t moved entire political, socio-economic and popular culture agendas. Straight Outta Compton – trailer

Urban music is charged by emotion. Rhythmically, lyrically and ingeniously it is an art form simply reserved for an elite class of forward thinking artists. Sure, there are some pretty shitty artists out there, like any industry. But generally speaking, the urban scene, especially in Canada is alive and well.

I find that most people fear change. These are typically the same people that horde, and share an incredibly narrow focused belief system about how the ways things are.

We fear what we don’t know.

And a lot of people don’t know urban music, hip hop and the like…

Tonight’s takeover was a huge step in alleviating that fear.

Thank you, Kardinal et al.

A little context

The following is a piece of poetry I just wrote. Last night I was at the Our Lady Peace concert and before OLP closed the night off, they made sure to dedicate a song to Matt Good. To paraphrase Raine Maida, he’s been an amazingly strong voice and brave ambassador in the fight against the stigma of mental illness. “It doesn’t matter if you’re f*cked up here (points to his head) or if you break your arm, it’s all the same. And we need to support each other instead of running away and give each other a safe space while we get better.”

Talking about mental health is slowly becoming a more common occurrence and it’s platforms like this with influencers like OLP and Matt Good that can make a difference.

If you know someone suffering, please reach out and get them help. There are local distress centres in just about every major Canadian city, and if you’re an artist like me, there are specific organizations to help you continue to craft. You can call Unison Benevolent Fund to speak with a counsellor. Call emergency of course if it’s an emergency, but head to unisonfund.ca and register your free account so when you feel you need some help, support or emergency relief, they’re there for you. Completely confidential, completely on your side.

Like I said, this is a piece of poetry I just wrote. I’m working on a solo singer/songwriter project, learning to write and perform pieces like this on an acoustic as nice, safe outlet for my own self care and enjoyment. It also provides me with a platform to get my message out to the world. I hope you dig.

Soundtrack Of My Life LP

No matter if it’s all in your head

A broken arm,

or what pills you’ve been fed

We’ll be right there with you, baby

We can’t escape from a living hell

The chaotic neutral,

Disempowering spell

So we’ll be right there with you, baby.

Time ticks on

Can’t see

We’re blind

Can’t hear

The cries

Out for someone “help me please

I’ve fallen again, actually”

You see

It goes

You heard

The notes

Songs that bring hope to me

The soundtrack of my life LP

Stress. It’s a real thing. The last couple of months have shown us how important wellness really is. Unfortunately the repercussions of not being well, physically and/or mentally, have taken the lives of many of our beloved industry colleagues. The darkness of anxiety, depression and addiction is slowly coming to light. And for good reason. Nowadays it’s very rare to come across someone that says “no” when asked if they’re feeling stressed. It’s become engrained to the hustle-bustle, 60 hour work week we all know and love to hate. But does it have to be like this? Not a chance. Here are my top 3 picks to help alleviate stress and get you back to being the best version of yourself.

The number one thing you should do when you’re struggling with something is talk to a professional for help. Yes, your friends can lend an ear, but unless they’re trained professionals you’re not getting the full meal deal. Speaking to a professional counsellor, therapist and/or a psychiatrist will help you identify the root of the stress and they’ll then be able to provide you with the right resources to get you back in action, stat. I still go to therapy and I would recommend it to anyone who’s seeking direction, closure from a relationship, financial advice, how to conquer their fears or anything that’s got them feeling down, stressed, helpless or worse yet – suicidal. It’s serious. Below I’ve included a few links to some services ’round these parts and a brief description of what they do.

Elephant Artist Relief
  • Great local resource with everything from funding options, financial aid to counselling etc… connectors to all aspects of better well-being

Distress Centre 

  • 24/7 crisis support for Calgary and southern Alberta. These fine folks do not define crisis and are there for anyone at any time. This is their 24-Hour Crisis Line: 403.266.HELP (4357) and you can find them on the web at http://www.distresscentre.com/contact-us/

Unison Benevolent Fund

  • Non-Profit registered charity that provides counselling and emergency relief services to the Canadian music community. They help professional music makers in times of hardship, illness or economic difficulties. Here’s their assistance number 1-855-986-4766 and website – http://unisonfund.ca
  • We actually have a “Mental Health and Wellbeing” Download session happening Wednesday, March 21 at 6:30pm in Calgary session for Alberta Music members. Amanda Power from Unison Benevolent Fund will be joining me on the panel, so be sure to head here to save your seat in Calgary (if you’re not a member, get on it! You get free access to the awesome programming – albertamusic.org/membership)
  • I actually had the treat of interviewing the Executive Director of Unison, Shiela Hamilton back last fall. Hear our conversation about Unison Benevolent Fund and how us artists can utilize their services here Shiela Hamilton – Unison Benevolent Fund 

2. Journal and Meditate 

Oftentimes, just putting the proverbial pen to paper (talk about alliteration!) can remedy a lot of stress in our lives. A new brain imaging study by UCLA psychologists reveals why verbalizing our feelings makes our sadness, anger and pain less intense. [Read the full article here]

As far as meditation goes, this is a favourite quote of mine:

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes everyday – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”

I personally like to use an app called “Headspace” for my mediation and another app called “Daylio” for tracking my mood and a daily journal entry.

However, I don’t like being on my phone. I find it’s actually quite contradictory to disconnecting and being mindful, as we spend so much time glued to the Snapface and Instabook already. So, if you’re like me, I’d recommend going out and grabbing a journal from a local bookstore for $25. Or better yet, I wrote a 21-Day Self-Love Journal. It’s easy to follow along and start placing gratitude, self-worth and consideration at the top of your charts… Super helpful if you’re struggling to get there on your own. Day by day you just implement the tools I prescribe and voila, you’re on your way to becoming the best version of yourself in just 21 days. Start reading it here for free – Start With U: 21 Day Self-Love Challenge

3. Exercise!

That’s right, in general, findings from research indicate that exercise is associated with improvements in mental health including mood state and self-esteem, although a causal link has not been established. Research on acute exercise indicates that 20 to 40 minutes of aerobic activity results in improvements in state anxiety and mood that persist for several hours. These transitory changes in mood occur in both individuals with normal or elevated levels of anxiety, but appear to be limited to aerobic forms of exercise. [Read the full article here]

So what’s the difference between aerobic exercise and all that other stuff? Well, aerobic exercise is exercise where your body’s cardiovascular system (the lungs and heart and circulatory system) work to provide the main source of energy to the body. Things like long walks, jogging, resistance circuit training (sorta), swimming, hiking, cycling, flow yoga and trail running are all examples of aerobic exercise.

We also have Anna Beaumont a voice teacher sitting in on the “Mental Health and Wellbeing” download session in March with myself and Amanda, so be sure to register if you’re interested in learning more about how mindset, meditation and movement can help your playing, reduce your stress and essentially help you to become the best version of yourself.

Here are a few other ways to get active, try something new and have fun:

Edmonton

MindBodyLogo-1

City Fit Shop – Whip around obstacles and play like a kid again in Edmonton’s premiere

obstacle course gym.

logoss.pngThe Surf Studio – Hang ten, dude. Get your surf on at this one-of-a-kind fitness experience. You’ll understand why those surfer dudes and babes are ripped! Holy core, Batman!

topVertically Inclined Rock Gym – If you’re not afraid of heights or awesome things this might be the ticket to getting a new activity down. Kids programs, adult programs and birthday party specials, this place has it all for veteran climbers and rookies.

Calgary

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Bodhi Tree Yoga – Looking for the best Yoga studio experiences in town? Look no further than Bodhi Tree. Plus Alberta Music’s own, Amy Thiessen teaches here. Incredible instructors and space so this spot is great for the seasoned yogi and first timers alike.

Click here to learn more about the MusicFit Collective Affiliate discount to save some coin on your yoga passes.

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Bike and BrewCalgary’s first cycle shop and cafe, these guys offer it all. Have a cup of the best brew in town, snack on some baking from Corbeaux Bakehouse or try a sandwich from locals vendors Peppino while you get your bike serviced. They also offer group rides, information sessions and product knowledge workshops so once the snow clears you’re all set to ride.

Click here to learn more about the MusicFit Collective Affiliate discount to save some coin on your caffeination and select merchandise. 

There are some musician specialty clinics happening in March and April as well:

Sunday, April 8 “How To Effective Load Gear”

Load Gear Without Fear

This is a musician wellness workshop that will focus on practical theory and knowledge combined with practical movement patterns to ensure you’re keeping your body in good form and avoiding injury. Limited space, AB Members only (get your membership at www[dot]albertamusic[dot]org/membership") Price includes taxes and service fees.

C$59.00

Sunday March 25 “Down-regulatory exercise: Working-In”

How To Use Exercise To Inspire Creativity and Performance March 25 (AB Music Members Early Bird)

This specialty clinic will touch on effective down-regulatory exercise and stretching techniques to help alleviate pain, reduce stress and help you increase creativity and performance. You’ll be at 11. Why don’t you just make 10 louder? Because this one goes to eleven. AB Music members discount (get your membership at www[dot]albertamusic[dot]org/membership) Limited space. Price includes taxes and service fees

C$59.00

Well folks, I hope you can take something valuable away from this. If you’re interested in a consult to determine how to organize parts of your lifestyle you’d like to improve, please reach out. For all Alberta Music Members I offer 50% off, all hour long consultations  and I can meet in person and via Facebook video every Friday. Contact me to book a spot.

Quick recap and I’ll get out of your hair:

  1. Talk to a professional if you’re having challenges in life.
  2. Journal your thoughts and take time to be with yourself.
  3. Exercise! There’s plenty of ways to move your body and they don’t all revolve around the gym…

As always, thanks for reading,

Namaste sweet!

Peace.

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Ps. Rad photo eh? Check my brother out on Facebook Sean Schwartz Photography

I just had a brief “aha” as I was perusing through my social media feeds…

Authenticity.

Is it today’s overused catchphrase. A trend? Or can we still milk some sort of value amidst the shadows of hashtags, followers, filters, overproduced content and the need for the dopamine hits that result from that pesky like button.

Do you agree with me? Listen in here. “Authenticity”