Monday, May 08, 2006

Step aside, Mom!

Just as my little song called "First Day of School" seems to be growing up and out into the world, the little boy who inspired it is doing the same thing, and with no help from me of course.

This afternoon, Tucker (turning 12 in August) will be spending the day at TVOntario, sitting in with the production team of TVO Kids. It's his prize for winning the TVO Young Filmmakers' Award a few weeks ago for his animated short film, "Spiders".

I love this film. It's simple and pleasant, and it has a happy ending. Actually it doesn't have a "happy" ending exactly, no big dramatic epiphany, but it doesn't have a dramatically tragic one either such as a foot stomping on the spider. One of the judges told us it was that fact--that the spider doesn't meet a tragi-comic demise as expected--that decided the win.

I like the fact that "Spiders" was made for fun, that the contest entry was an afterthought, and that the win was an utter surprise. It reminds me that positive and steady steps in the right direction often lead to happy surprises. ("When I walk, I run..." etc.)

It's funny, of course, that Tucker would be invited to "spend a day in a TV Studio!!!!" as a prize. As if nobody in his family has ever spent any time in tv studios...and have actually turned corners to walk into new places.

Calla, too, loves television... On our last trip to Winnipeg, she fell in love with the studio at the Children's Museum. Immediately at home, she took charge and directed strangers, read the news and reported the weather.

The weather today is sunny.

We notice that children are rewarded for these artistic things, encouraged early on, and any clouds of "what on earth do I do with this artistic talent?" are far off in the distance.

The spider walks happily on, and so do we.

I have to run now, to drive Tucker to TVO.

"...happy down the street, up the stairs, cross the hall, happy in the door..."

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Sounds Like Motherhood

This coming Friday, May 12th, I'm going to be a guest on CBC Radio One's "Sounds Like Canada" with Shelagh Rogers.

This is part of my Canadian Dream.

So I'm just going to pause and savour it. (Pause. Savour.)

As I do, I'm going to resist the temptation to do what I've often done; that is, immediately raise the bar on myself and set a new much-higher goal.

I'm not going to tell myself, "Yeah, sure, but I still want to play Massey Hall and be awarded the Order of Canada".

Nope, I'm not saying that today. Today I'm saying "This coming Friday, May 12th, I'm going to be a guest on CBC Radio One's "Sounds Like Canada" with Shelagh Rogers."

I'm going to be singing "First Day of School" and "The Tooth Fairy Forgot" in honour of Mother's Day and in support of an event I'm participating in called Mamapalooza on May 14th.

This is interesting, because for the past several years I've been slightly annoyed when people highlight the "motherhood" angle of my music.

Even though the vast majority of my songs are about other subjects (relationships, spirituality, urban living...) it's been the "motherhood songs" that have stood out for many listeners. Reviewers have written "She writes about everyday subjects! Her house, her kids!!" and it's always been a bit mystifying to me.

Harry Chapin wrote "Cats in the Cradle" (well, actually, his wife wrote the lyrics) and nobody called him a "Dad Singer". Eric Clapton wrote "Tears in Heaven" and nobody called it a "grieving father's song". Bono has a song about his father on U2's latest album. And then there's Lee Anne Womack's "I Hope You Dance" which is in a class all its own.

Our relationship with our parents and our children (if we have them) is a crucial part of life. It's a universal theme.

And yet, writing songs from a mother's perspective is sometimes considered less than cool.

I've been advised, more than once, to keep my "mom songs" in the closet and off the stage. To sing more "love songs". To be more "mysterious".

My song "First Day of School" is probably the least mysterious song I've ever written.

It's the one that makes people cry, even people who don't have children.

It's the song that pushed me out of my house and onto a stage; the song that propelled me after twenty years of closeted songwriting into a local cafe to announce "I want a gig".

It's the song that started my education in what it means to be an artist: to express myself truthfully, to take a stand for the things I believe in, to live according to my values.

It's a song about the "true", the "false" and the "all of the above" of life.

And it's the first song I'll be singing on "Sounds Like Canada".