Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hello friends,

My blog has moved to a new address
I will continue to share my thoughts and experiences every Saturday at my new home. Now you can subscribe too, to make sure you won't miss an entry. Looking forward to continuing my journey with you!



Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Fab Four!

 "Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results." —Andrew Carnegie
 A couple of hours ago I had my first weekly conference call with my ECR Music Group-labelmates Blake Morgan, Melissa Giges and David Cloyd. Here is one option as to how a record label can operate in this day and age, where many major-labels are closing or being folded into one another: have the artists "run the asylum!" We four are all part of each others' artistic lives in one way or another. Blake runs the label and all the myriad tasks that it involves, David acts as a vice-president and designer, Melissa helps out with events, and has at one point or another been a fantastic bandmate to the rest of us. I myself have provided help with styling, makeup, photo-shoot production, etc. We all have more tasks and abilities than those I just mentioned, and new ones are being added to the list all the time. These weekly phone calls are a way for us to stay accountable and motivated, and also to connect with each other on an even more consistent basis.

I became a part of this crew soon to be four years ago, and I find that as we have all grown and evolved on our own, we have also gradually, collectively, risen to a new level. It has been inspiring to see the change happening in each of us in this period of time, and it even is quite a gift to have the opportunity to witness others' evolution so close up.

Being an artist requires forward movement. Stagnation means the end of career in many cases, or at least a noticeable slowing down of it. That's why it's so important for us to continue to feed our brains, to feed our hearts and to feed our souls (....and this is not just true for artists, actually....). In different ways Blake, Melissa, David and I have each continued to 'fill our wells' during the time we have known each other. It is thrilling that now, as we are all about to release (or have already released--as in the case of Blake) our new albums, we are starting to work as an ever tighter unit for the benefit of all of us. There are ways in which we can all teach each other things, and it's nice to not have to figure everything out on our own. Community is a great perk!

I have said it before, but I'll say it again: I am so happy and proud to be a part of ECR Music Group. On a technical level, it is great to know that I own my frickin' masters, that I have a fair record deal and that I am free to leave if I ever need to or want to. I'm free to express myself as an artist, I'm encouraged to develop and learn at every turn, and what's more: I love my labelmates! It is invigorating to be surrounded by these great musicians and artists and leapfrogging it with each other we can all reach higher and higher, further and further. Fucking excellent!
(By the way--the picture above--not us.)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

I can't believe that it's almost November already. Never has a year passed by this fast! And what a ride it has far..! I shared in the beginning of the year in one of my posts about a ritual that I do with two of my close friends, where we draw a tarot-card to suggest a theme for the coming year. I drew the Death-card for 2013, which, while initially frightening, was in fact not an actual death sentence by any means. Instead, it hinted of a year of transition, change and destruction, followed by renewal.

"Whether you like it or not, Death is one of the most powerful cards in the Tarot. Humans naturally fear the unknown, and so Death is our greatest fear since it is the greatest unknown. The majority of us are unaware that our mind and spirit die all the time, constantly shedding old beliefs and acquiring new ones. It has been said many times by many readers: the Death card is not a card of death - it is a card of transformation."
-- James Rioux,

I've thought about the Death-card a lot this year, as I have most certainly been through immense transformations. The way I view myself and my life is different than before; the way I operate in my career is being renewed time and time again, and many close relationships are simply not the same as they were, nor will they ever be. While there have been moments of devastating realizations, there has also been the peace that followed. When a truth that I've been unwilling to look at becomes evident, there is always a reward of clear-headedness. I wouldn't wish to be challenged in all the many ways that I have been, but then again, I also wouldn't wish it any other way. 

"When Death appears it almost always signifies a major change in one's life. Sometimes the change will appear disruptive and unexpected, sometimes it will be a breath of fresh air - clearing away obstacles and allowing you to surge forward. So do not assume that Death is a negative card - it is often just what we need in order to progress when fear is holding us up."
-- Jan Shepherd,

I have found that our yearly card-drawing-ritual has been helpful to me in that I've been more welcoming to the changes that have come. I've also possibly been a little more willing to allow myself to feel all the feelings that have come along with those changes -- knowing on a deeper level that all things, feelings included, shall pass.

All my life, I've been dependent on people and things in many different ways. The biggest transformation for me this year has been the cutting of numerous strings and even some chains. I still have some left that bind me, but I'm no longer tangled in the way that I was. Perhaps there's a feeling of safety, being tied up in all kinds of knots, but I'm willing to let that go now and stand on my own two feet. If that requires a series of deaths, so be it.

In honor of Halloween, I attach a picture of a vintage Death-card, that looks a whole lot like the card I picked out from the deck some ten months ago. Actually, it doesn't look so scary at all..!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

I've been thinking a lot about the difference between privacy and secrecy recently... In the past I have often been open to a fault about things that are going on in my life, whenever I've been asked. People have inquired about my private matters in social situations and I have often felt obligated to answer, truthfully to boot, which has frequently left me feeling violated. It is only now that I have understood that I have a right to privacy about things that I choose to be private about. I am the only one who decides what business of mine I share with people around me.

noun: secrecy
1. the action of keeping something secret or the state of being kept secret.

I have very few secrets. Most of my fumbles and foibles, likes, loves and hates are known by somebody close to me. My troubles and my traumas have too become a lighter load to carry, after I've shared them with a friend or a loved one. What I'm learning now is privacy--to not automatically think that I'm being dishonest if I don't share everything with people close to me. It is still somewhat of an adjustment to understand that I am not lying when I choose not to discuss something that is significant in my life with someone near and dear to me.

noun: privacy
1. the state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people.

I love the idea of boundaries versus walls. I'm not interested in walls. Instead, I love that there is an invisible structure in place now in my life, which keeps me increasingly safe from unwanted intruders. People have the nerve (and a right) to ask all kinds of questions, and as a public persona, this is even more common. My responsibility is to know what I feel comfortable sharing and what I don't, and to know how to say no, kindly.  My chosen boundaries may be surprising to some, as I have decided to be open about certain things that many others don't discuss as freely. It is a personal choice for us all; a part of the vision we have for ourselves. I chose to share this with you today.

“Friends don’t spy; true friendship is about privacy, too.”
Stephen King, Hearts In Atlantis

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Today, I share with you a Buddhist story that a friend recently told me regarding anger. I found a number of versions of it online, but for whatever reason, this one was the one that resonated with me the most. Personally I still find it hard to refuse unwanted "gifts" that people give me, but I appreciate the story's sentiment. I am learning...

 One day, the Buddha and a large following of monks and nuns were passing through a village. The Buddha chose a large shade tree to sit beneath so the group could rest awhile out of the heat. He often chose times like these to teach, and so he began to speak. Soon, villagers heard about the visiting teacher and many gathered around to hear him.

One surly young man stood to the side, watching, as the crowd grew larger and larger. To him, it seemed that there were too many people traveling from the city to his village, and each had something to sell or teach. Impatient with the bulging crowd of monks and villagers, he shouted at the Buddha, "Go away! You just want to take advantage of us! You teachers come here to say a few pretty words and then ask for food and money!"

But the Buddha was unruffled by these insults. He remained calm, exuding a feeling of loving-kindness. He politely requested that the man come forward. Then he asked, "Young sir, if you purchased a lovely gift for someone, but that person did not accept the gift, to whom does the gift then belong?"

The odd question took the young man by surprise. "I guess the gift would still be mine because I was the one who bought it."

"Exactly so," replied the Buddha. "Now, you have just cursed me and been angry with me. But if I do not accept your curses, if I do not get insulted and angry in return, these curses will fall back upon you—the same as the gift returning to its owner."

The young man clasped his hands together and slowly bowed to the Buddha. It was an acknowledgement that a valuable lesson had been learned. And so the Buddha concluded for all to hear, "As a mirror reflects an object, as a still lake reflects the sky: take care that what you speak or act is for good. For goodness will always cast back goodness and harm will always cast back harm." 

From Kindness: A Treasury of Buddhist Wisdom for Children and Parents (Condra Enterprises, 2005), collected and adapted by Sarah Conover.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

I'm having a good day! The sun is shining, it's a beautiful, warm fall Saturday, I just got my laundry done, I'm going to see a movie later... Fucking awesome. One reason why I'm feeling so good is that things have been moving forward with the production of my album. It took me a while to get comfortable in the studio, to not get hostile, defensive or detached, (yes, unfortunately I've been all these all things at different times) but I think I've finally been able to move beyond my fears and go on to create some beautiful music with my producer Blake Morgan, on a consistent basis.

Working on my music has a lot of heavy baggage attached to it, because I used to make all my albums with a person who I was also married to. (This is no secret.) At first, I expected the current process to be similar to what it had been in the past, back when I was not encouraged to be a part of the process. I will give you an example of a studio-day during the recording of my Sony album in 1998: I would sit on the sofa at the studio, reading Cosmopolitan or sleeping all day and all night, until 4am in the morning when the recordings ended. At another session I would be playing Ms. Pacman all day. I was anything but behind the console and was very detached from the production itself. This, even though I am marked as the executive producer of my albums. It happens, people.

Being in the studio now is different like night and day from what it used to be. My producer Blake Morgan and I are very much a team, and I feel like I'm being listened to at every turn. I also wrote every tune from top to bottom, so the roots of all the songs are in me anyway--can't no one take them away. And by the way, no Cosmopolitans anywhere in the vicinity! Hehe. I feel free to express my ideas with Blake, whatever they may be, and know that I won't be ridiculed or ignored. I am constantly encouraged to do more, to play more myself and to follow my vision. It's all I've ever wanted: the encouragement, the empowerment. I'm gobbling it up.

It took some time to develop trust, as working in the studio is a very intimate process, but I think we're finally there. It can be challenging to see a new, healthy and fun situation for what it is, instead of hanging all my old "Christmas-ornaments" on it, but it's worth the effort. Looking forward to some fun and productive times in the studio!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

I have now finished the first couple of days of a trial, after having been picked on Wednesday to be a juror in a court case. The whole concept is new to me and I'm learning so much from the experience, but alas I cannot share any information whatsoever about the proceedings, so as not to compromise the case, or get slapped with a penalty. I can say that I'm looking forward to being a part of the process and the deliberations, which may or may not be similar to what goes on in the movie "12 Angry Men." I eagerly anticipate watching it again after many years, now with some personal insight to the American judicial system. It'll be quite a different experience for me than when I read and saw it in school, at age 12 or 13.

This is one of those moments where I am extremely grateful for my bilingual education. I went to the English School in Helsinki for 11 years of my life, and I can honestly say that without those early years of consistent training in the English language, my life in New York these days would be quite different. I can thank those years for instilling in me my love of the English language and a great foundation in grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. I still have an accent, but I feel quite confident in my communication skills these days. It is my Finnish skills that I really need to be working on right about now....

If it weren't for my history at the English School, I suspect it would be difficult for me to serve on an American jury today. And yet, at the same time, here I am--not even having finished high school! Who am I to talk about education? Well, the amount that I did receive, I received well. And I certainly want to study more and expand my horizons for the rest of my life. I have come to see very clearly that the adage about education being the silver bullet is no joke. I'm admittedly making up for lost time.

Here's one area where I am extremely grateful to my parents: for understanding that learning a second language at a very young age was important. There are many things that can be said about the school I attended as a child, and not all of it is positive. I certainly remember numerous traumatic experiences and injustices, and I'm sure I'm not alone with these recollections. But I've also put plenty of the lessons I learned to good use. And as with any experience, I can always take what I like and leave the rest; I am learning that now. I can finally apply that to my old school and heartily appreciate the gifts it has given me, "12 Angry Men" among them. I've now officially opened the wrappings.

"The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet."