“While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.”
-The Amazing Maya Angelou
I recently had the pleasure of journeying up into Laochuan Mountain, an hour outside of Taipei which is far enough removed from the city but still close enough to overlook it. This easy distance from Taiwan’s bustling capital hosts thick forests of old and new growth, steep cliffs, hiking trials, narrowing and harrowing roads, gorgeous palms, giant spiders and tea gardens. The altitude and moist temperatures make it the ideal climate to grow tea leaves and is also an ideal place to be devoured by mosquitoes.
While in the hills I met two Zen Masters, Master Liu and Master Huang of the infamous U-Theatre who invited me to enjoy tea and meditation and converse about life and art. Their philosophy, “Art is Life and Life is Art” introduced me to a whole new view of life and art by suggesting they are one in the same. I often say onstage, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” This is the same philosophy.
The masters asked, “How do you drink your tea?” Do you guzzle it down quickly, or are you conscious to your movements; pouring the tea, adding sugar, bringing the cup to your lips, enjoying the flavor and temperature on your tongue… Or are you busy with thought? This is the basic idea of Zen. Zen is about sustaining a meditative state; truly living in the moment, being artful in every breath. Meditation doesn’t always mean sitting in repose, with your eyes closed for hours on end. Meditation can be while you walk, surf, cycle, sing, dance, cook, draw, drive, whatever, so long as you aren’t consumed with thoughts about the past or lost in a made-up future. Master Huang asked, “Can you hear the birds singing?” If so, then you’re meditating. The birdsongs are almost always playing but we lose the sound of them to our own misguided thoughts. By slowing down to the natural speed of our breath, we can again be present to the beautiful songs of the birds, the sound of the wind, in tune with nature, at peace, where true love resides, where hearts and minds are aligned, where bodies heal, and life is consciously enjoyed. At this pace one begins to see life in all it’s glory. At this pace it is much easier to accept it. From this place comes compassion and understanding, which then only leads to greatness as you feel a deeper connection with the earth, its inhabitants, and whatever your connection to source may be. This is why meditation is important. It’s no different than prayer. It’s about taking a few minutes to get centered, listen, ask, learn, love, and let go.
When in Morocco I was most impressed with my Muslim friends who stopped and prayed 5 times a day. It made so much sense to do so as after each session they would return so blissed-out and happy.
Can you hear the birds singing?
I wished I’d have taken an extra breath before walking onto the Coliseum stage in Manila last week. The 11,000 strong audience was the largest ever to attend one of our headlining “intimate” acoustic performances. I can’t think of a room as grand or recall a crowd as excited.
According to astrology and the calculations shared with me about my human design, I have a gate open that can’t help but feel and feed the needs of others. Such as, if there’s a person in the room who isn’t enjoying the party, I will bring myself down to their level to empathize with them, or make it my mission to see they enjoy the party. I’ve been know to flee physically or mentally because the pressure of their unhappiness becomes mine and is too much to bear.
I took the stage in Manila with that gate open, experiencing the very level of excitement and anticipation the crowd was conjuring. 11 thousand pairs of eyes and ears all directed at us, which tricked me into thinking the experience of 11 thousand was on my shoulders. Consumed with thought while playing songs I hadn’t attempted in years, I slipped in and out of consciousness wondering if the essence of the songs were being received all the way at the top of the arena. I would bounce back and forth between the support of the lyrics reminding me that I won’t worry my life away, and the future conversations I would have with my agent and management to please not book me in rooms built for sport. My music at heart is made up of mellow, lyric driven compositions. That is especially obvious on this acoustic tour and I simply haven’t the tools to keep a Coliseum quiet.
However, keeping a Coliseum at bay is a made-up demand. By the sound of the crowd at the end of the show, no one noticed what was going on in my head. The audience would have accepted anything I gave them as they did with my inaudible and apparently invisible shortcomings that night. Don’t let your mind stop you from having a good time right?
The experience in Taipei a few nights later was the complete opposite, not just because of the beautiful theatre or well tuned sound system or the smaller crowd of 3500, but largely due to our taking one extra breath to be in the moment just before we walked onstage. That changed everything. Of course, the lessons from the Manila show were weighing heavy on my mind and I knew what I did and didn’t want to do onstage regardless of how the audience would react. The final backstage hour before the show was just as hectic if not more than in Manila, but by taking that extra breath, I realigned myself and seemed to have closed the aforementioned gate, protecting my heart and stomach, giving me absolute freedom to express what I wished to express that night, making it a far more magical experience in the end. One of my gurus recently asked me put more silence in the show. I remembered that only after playing in Manila where I thought I needed to keep something happening at all times. Taipei was the first place I got to practice that intentional silence and wouldn’t you know it, the audience slipped neatly into my pocket, or in a coma. Either way. It was golden.
All tours usually begin with a warm-up show and in this case our warm-up show was viewed by 11,000 people. No big deal. I don’t mean to undermine their experience by suggesting in this blog that I didn’t give my best performance. About 20 minutes into the show I woke up and told the crowd what was going on. That moment became the breath I needed. And by the end of the show I had grown so comfortable in my skin that I mentioned it in the improvisation leading into I’m Yours. The response in the Philippines has been overwhelming and I look forward to getting back there again soon.
Also, be sure to check out MTV Exit: a rad campaign to End Exploitation and Human Trafficking. MTV abroad is wise to have hosted more than 30 concerts on this topic and I got to participate in one while in Manila as well as visit and perform at a rehabilitation shelter for girls rescued from trafficking. The migratory region of southeast Asia is especially susceptible to this epidemic where humans, mostly young girls, are kidnapped, bought and sold to be servants or sex slaves. CNN has recently joined the fight too, placing their watchful eye on the modern day slavery issue. Visit any of these sights to learn more:
“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
- Leonardo Da Vinci
There comes a time when every artist has to walk away from the work, allowing the world to see it, hear it, or smell it. Some artists know exactly when to walk away. If food is your art that is, then yes there IS a best time to abandon the heat and let people eat. Otherwise, it takes trust, intuition and a bit of mastery and/or naïveté. Although, nothing inspires like a deadline.
Since December of 2009 I’ve been writing and recording demos at home, in London, New York, in various studios around Los Angeles and the occasional hotel room, Integratron or tree limb. More than 80 songs were tried and tested in that time and eventually 20 were selected for the final session (12 of which will end up on an LP and the remaining might see the light in future EP’s, bonus add-ons, and/or possibly carry over to another record.) The final album (untitled) was recently recorded in LA with Producer Joe Chiccarelli and a line-up of all-star musicians. The sound is new, but not a departure from the previous albums. It’s rich in texture with great vocal performances over solid instrumentation and clever arrangements and as usual showcases a variety of moods, from soulful-baby-making-jams to colorful-new-jazz to love-fueled-acoustic-guitar-strokery to rhythmic-sunshine-pop. So far, the songs’ themes tie together on this album unlike other albums. The contrast between light and dark is a constant study, as is love lost and found within.
Stay tuned to this website and blog for updates about album title, track listings, release date, etc.
With reckless abandon
Driving home at night on empty streets, ominous fog holds the tune in my headphones in a much tighter but gentler grip than my helmet does. Some nights I listen to Radiohead, Blonde Redhead, Muse, Switchfoot, My Morning Jacket, Black Keys or Crazy Horse. Anything that has intense guitar and drum presence, is gritty, and is also steeped in reverb. On less foggy occasions I like to get shamanic with Nakai Carlos or Lorain Fox and I might pretend I’m a low flying bird, carving out lanes of low lying sky in and/or under Hollywoodland.
I’m also a junkie for classical adagios, 70′s synth-organ rock by Mark Moulin, choral music and yogic-mantra-tantric-chanting. However I perceive my emotions to be pairing with the weather, I make my musical selection. I am by far no musical egotist. My selections are limited. Pandora is my Dj and even that is the trial version with commercial interruptions.
Almost any genre goes well with autumnal midnight racing. At this hour the less-than-crowded streets are mine and mine alone. I am the developer of the game. I am the designer of the dream. I am enveloped wholly in awe, racing home to my wife, Amazement. We snuggle so closely the two of us have become one. You know when you accidentally grab two spoons from the drawer because they’re pressed together so tight and neat? That’s us.
It’s a 20 minute commute from the studio space back to my room downtown. I take Rossmore through Hancock Park, privileged to putt my way through such an affluent area and for those few pot-hole-less blocks I belong there. And it’s the same when I’m cruising Koreatown. At every red light, I’m already home. That’s the beauty of being married to Amazement. You go everywhere together. We ride with our bewildered smiles behind the tinted shield of our space helmet. You get odd looks on a scooter. Motorcycles think you’re cute and post pub crawl drunkards like to prove they’re idiots at the core by blaring scooter hate from cracked back seat windows. I pay them little mind. I carry a secret that my life is great and no matter what judgment is cast upon me, it doesn’t divorce me from Amazement. Plus, with no gears to jostle thru, I know I’ll be the first one off the line and long gone before they can unlock the door to fall out and puke.
I love the commute as much as I love making the record, which is what the gurus, ministers and luminaries will remind you. The journey is about the journey. There will always be the road. Even the morning drive in dense traffic retains it’s privacy, speed, and total immersion in the elements. Wind, Air, Water, and a Fire inside propel us all forward making for an expanded experience of the path. I like that you can’t check your emails in this lane and there’s no GPS on board to tell you where to go. You can make all the illegal u-turns you want. You can also stop and start faster than anyone else on the road and the short-cuts are up to you. Of course, there are no seat belts and if you’re ever sideswiped, you better be wearing a jacket, not to mention be loose and limber. Road hurts. Period. Like Buddha said, There will always be suffering. I’ve only wrecked once after jamming on the brakes to see if I could make the bike skid. Needless to say it did what I wanted it to. It just wasn’t very graceful. But in that not-very comes the clarity of all that is.
Enjoy your journey. Enjoy your commute. It’s your movie even between takes. Acknowledge how incredible you are as walk to and from the set. Listen to music as much as you can. Especially while driving. Don’t text behind the wheel. But if and when you run a red light, you’ll not only want to be paying attention, you best wave to the camera. Because if you get your picture taken in that moment, or worse, sideswiped, I want everyone to see how much fun and humility one can possible have because you simple chose to do so.
everyday the instruments come and go. cartage brings in the basses. techs build the drums. a bald guy I’ve never seen before wheels in the vibraphone. space gets carefully claimed in a room perfect for cartwheels. the same room zepplin recorded Whole Lotta Love. the same room eddie made Van Halen 1. the same room the doors made their first 4 albums. Janis Joplin. Rolling Stones. Buffalo Springfield. Prince. The Doobies. the list goes on and on. each has left their mark, a scratch on the wall, or a juicy stain I’ve been swimming in since July.
musicians cut from the same cloth are on call and when they come to play they bring not only their talent and expertise, they also bring their friendship, camaraderie, and/or perverse & experienced comedy. I view all this human action and interaction thru a window in the back of the room, inside the very cocoon new songs transform. from grounded ideas to winged messengers of light, the space is warm with vintage audio equipment set up for production & sound capture of the first flutter of flight. from the singer’s lips to his fingertips, the room’s practical purpose is for the organization and arrangement of the word. it’s a temple reflective of the very space between mine.
I am on the ball, literally, balanced on a yoga ball, managing posture deep within contentment of a dream. I know I am not sleeping, though the elements that contribute to my life are so astounding it often goes beyond what is humanly possible for me to imagine. it is because of this ease, this grace bestowed to me by the mighty universe at large that I am of service to the sound, a messenger for those willing or eager or accidental to receive it. it isn’t a game, or a mission that has a specific ending. there’s no It to answer what is It about. it just IS in each new moment. this isn’t a business. this is the music Is-ness.
I first tried surfing when I was 28. That may seem late for some, especially since many in the surfer scene began their adventures at sea way back in the their single digits if not their teens.
I wasn’t raised on the coast. In fact I grew up a few hours from the nearest beach and even if I had spent much time there, it wasn’t a good spot for surfing. We were often on a riverbank or a bay, neither which generate waves.
Now after a good handful of years in a wetsuit, surfing has become one of my passions. All it takes is one good wave to get you propelling through life on a wave of metaphors. Synchronizing your location and speed with that of a wave that traveled perhaps 1000′s of miles to reach you is not unlike seeing a ghost or riding a dinosaur. It’s a rare, exhilarating and fleeting experience. But now I’m rambling, and feel I’m getting further away from the truth, which is that surfing is perhaps the greatest waste of time. It requires mind/body focus with spirit surrender. Even on a small day it can take you to your edge and re-introduce you to who you really are, a beastly creature of the sea.
There are myths that serve as deterrents for new surfers, such as “this beach is for locals only.” In some cases the crowds can become strict enforcers of these made-up rules and are usually done so out of a love for their special location. There’s nothing worse than overcrowding on waves, especially by inexperienced surfers. However, when approaching a new beach with that same love and respect, most surfers can’t wait for you to ride their wave and see how beautiful life is from their perspective.
I’ve been fortunate to travel to Costa Rica, France, Australia, Morocco, (and soon Bali & New Zealand) all in the name of wave-riding. And though surfing is generally understood as something you do alone, I caught some of the best waves of my life with the help of friends, other surfers who welcome me in the water with encouragement and enjoyment. One of those people is the incomparable Jesse Billauer, an incredible surfer, perhaps the best in the world.
I met Jesse at a concert in Ventura. He a lover of music and I lover of surf saw eye to eye right away and knew we had a lot we could share with each other.
He would invite me to great locations and events up and down the coast of California and I would give him copies of my demos, dozens of songs that never make it on my albums. Like any friend, we talk about love, life, food, fishing, surf, girls, etc.. And like good friends, we often travel for lengths of time without connecting but never make the other person feel guilty for not reaching out. Good friends are like money in the bank. You can go back anytime and tap into those savings whenever you want, without hassle. A true friend will only add interest when you’re gone.
In this case, Jesse is as good a friend as it gets. And what’s more extraordinary about this awesome being is his story. In 1997 Jesse hit a shallow sandbar and suffered a spinal cord injury leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. With limited movement of his arms and a lot of help from his friends and family he started his life all over again, learning how to care for his body, and make the best with what he still had access to. Most impressively is how he chooses to live in his mind. As a child he had an unwavering dream of being a professional surfer who traveled the world to harness of the energy of amazing waves, fleeting moments that every surfer lives for. Today Jesse lives that dream with extraordinary gusto, proving that nothing can get in the way of your dream. AND when you do it right, others will take notice and see their own dreams realized as well.
Jesse also tours the world as a motivational speaker and launched LifeRollsOn.Org, an organization devoted to helping those with disabilities overcome limitations of the mind. LRO hosts surf and skate events, contributes to spinal cord injury research, and holds a variety of fun fundraisers throughout the year. A Night By The Ocean, the annual gala is this Saturday night in Marina Del Rey. I’ll be there to play a few songs and win some prizes in both the silent and live auction.
I don’t have a date for it yet either. Wanna come?
Here a link to the upcoming event:
Saturday, October 15, 2011 | 6PM
Life Rolls On 8th Annual
Night By The Ocean
@ The Ritz-Carlton
4375 Admiralty Way
Marina del Rey, CA