The Album Is Complete and I Want to Say THANK YOU!

Today is a warm and significant day for me.  I am thrilled to announce to you that my album is complete —- the one you helped to create with your support (back in August 2013!).  On Monday evening, while sitting by my Christmas tree with Jerome — my dear friend, producer, and partner on this journey —- we pressed “GO” and ordered the duplication of our album, “Waxwing”.   Just like that —— After three years (including pre-production, raising children and making a living) of epic moments, huge life changes, mountains of tears and laughter, guts, arguments, practicing, arranging, playing, editing, mixing, mastering, photo shoots, lots of focus and the creation and transformation of friendships and partnerships ——  one “CLICK” on a mousepad and “Thank you for your order!” …. It struck me that the computer’s mousepad doesn’t know the difference between the “click” of ordering socks for Christmas morning stocking stuffers versus the “click” of ordering what feels like a carbon copy of my heart, soul and life’s work.

This album took more time than I anticipated to say the least (not much longer, mind you, than most professionally produced albums take on average).  But it’s as simple as this:  That’s how long it took to get it right.  And by “right” I don’t mean perfect … I mean authentically RIGHT.  This music is …. well … me.  Every note and word.  It is not separate from me.  It is not a job I go to.  It is not an identity that I put on at 9:00 a.m. and take off at 5:00 p.m.  It doesn’t leave me when I go to sleep at night or when I play with my daughter or jog in the woods or eat dinner with friends or fight with a significant other or cry on my bathroom floor or laugh after midnight.  

…And all of that …is hard to get “right”.

There’s a line from a song called “Breathe” by Anna Nalick that might sum up much of what I’m trying to say:

“I feel like I'm naked in front of the crowd

Cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud

And I know that you'll use them, however you want to”

Yup.  Exactly.  … And how long do you think it would take for you to feel ready to release your diary?  For me, every note and word had to feel authentic to who I am and where I am.   It could not have been forced to completion; that would have ripped it of it’s value to me.  It had to feel “right” and there had to be a clearing in my life to let it go.  And that’s what I feel today.

I started writing the “thank you” section in the liner notes to the album this past August. I kept coming back to that section and revising it on a weekly basis.  …And it was the last edit I made … a re-wording of a ‘thank you’.  Point is, it is important to me that you understand how much I THANK YOU, the donors of this album.  Embracing your support was one of the most powerful experiences of my life.  I know that the monetary and energetic support you gave me will boomerang its way back to you in some wonderful way.  And I do hope that what I have to offer in this music feeds your heart and soul in some way.

This is a verse from one of my songs, “Alive”, from the album that I feel very connected to as I prepare to release my “diary” to you:

Here before the crows I shake

In towers all my own

The land beneath is yours to take

The master let it go

Long before this broken day

I held myself inside

But now before this world I wait

To see what they will find

In this sacred place of mine

That now becomes alive

Much love to each of you!  I will let you know when the album lands in my hands and will get it out to you during the holiday vacation.

!!!!THANK YOU!!!!

Love, Chrissy

Spice Racks

I found a journal entry earlier this year that I completely forgot I kept the year after my daughter, Luciana, was born. And I wrote a poem-ish thing in it.  At the time, I bet it felt really private. It doesn't anymore.

January 18th, 2008

- C. Gardner

"Sometimes I look at my spice rack and think I feel full of life like the crack of an egg in the morning.

Sometimes I look at it and feel greedy for having a spice rack.

Sometimes I can't believe I have a hole where the ground ginger should be.

Sometimes I think I should really be growing my own spices instead of importing them from another land that might have been America.

Sometimes it looks like clutter.

I shouldn't even have a spice rack when I don't even know what one spice smells like from memory; I am such a terrible cook.

I bought it while pregnant.

How could I be a mom without a spice rack?

But I'm supposed to be writing a song about my Dad retiring from his career as a pilot.

My mind keeps hiccupping.”

 

Reading this 'poem' six years later, I hear my 29-year-old self having a ‘who am I now?’ and ‘what kind of mother should I be?’ identity crisis.

In the first few months of parenting, the objects (and people) around me felt like foreign satellites --- watching and even judging.  In one phrase of this poetic ramble, I seem to be concerned about what Martha Stewart would think of me for having an empty slot in my spice rack, and in another, I feel as though I should restrict my purchases to spare the feelings of some hypothetical foreign land that might have been were it not for the 521-year-old navigational mistake of a pioneer.

My experienced guess is that a majority of first time mothers “lose it” in the beginning.  It’s the loss of free will, it’s the sleeplessness, it’s the inability to use the bathroom without someone screaming in abandonment, and frankly, for me, it was the feeling that I must give my soul over to someone else … someone with whom I couldn’t totally connect just yet.

I’m sure there are some women who feel genuinely ready and truly peaceful when their first child is born.  I just wasn’t one of them.  I felt like I had run out of time.  Whatever my desires were before Luciana was born, I knew they might as well be placed on the spice rack --- to be used as infrequently as I use my cardomom.

Before the baby (one of the great 'before and afters' of life!), I absolutely had an ultimate dream (beyond becoming a mother), as many of us do.  From the time I was six-years-old (the age my daughter is today), I can remember belting out songs on the top of my swingset, recording songs into a little tape recorder and dreaming about performing.  I had always known that I wanted a life in music, but it felt like a secret; I knew I had it in me, but I had no idea how to make it a reality.

The short version of my very long, non-linear, bumpy journey to 'find myself' in music is this:  In the year before I became pregnant (surprise, surprise), I had just “found my voice”, discovering that I could write music and might be good at it.  Up until that point, I had classical piano training, performed in musical theater, was in two a cappella groups, played in a piano bar, sang in a band called “Dental School Swim Team” and worked as an accompanist (all the while shifting from day-job … to day-job …. to day-job) ---- searching, searching, searching.  But none of it felt completely right until I started writing, singing and playing my OWN songs.  Ah ha!

Fantastic! I finally figured out what my focus should be in the music world, and at the very same time I found out I was going to become a mother (on top of already being a 29-year-old dinosaur by popular music industry standards).   Not the best timing.  The success rate of women entering into the music industry as mothers comes in somewhere just above zero percent.  I know, I know -- we all define success differently and all that matters is our own definition of success --- blah, blah, blah --- I believe that to be true.  I really do.  But for perspective, I want to pull back the lens to the bigger picture using the measuring stick of a traditional definition of success by a popular magazine.  Time Magazine just published their Top 100 List of Best Albums of All Time (This is already annoying, I know.  Who are they to say what the top 100 albums are?  But just go with me here for a second.)  Do you know how many female artists were on that list?  Nine.  And how many of them were mothers?  Four.  And how many of those mothers had children BEFORE they got their foot in the door in the music industry (i.e. before they had money to have help raising the children)?  Two.

A gal can't help but feel like there is a wall to climb over here.

“Oh well!” says I!  At 29 years-old and 7 months pregnant, I started recording my first album with money I had saved from a day-job (and with significant additional help from my father and mother).  But after two days in the studio I knew I had to stop; the baby was moving up on my lungs and my voice had changed – not for the better.

“Breathe deep.  Perhaps I could get right back to it after the baby comes out.”  Of course, I had no idea what was about to happen to me.  My gorgeous daughter was born, and it was amazing for about two days (yup, just two days), but then I started to sink into the strangeness of the poem that opens this blogpost. 

Luckily I had a saving grace: my own wise mother.  A few weeks into Luciana’s life, my mother said something to me that somehow rose to the surface.  My husband and my father were headed out to see the Phillies play the Cubbies.  I stayed home because I was nursing every couple hours. And I felt like a prisoner.  Just after they left, I was rocking Luciana in our yellow chair against the deep blue backdrop of her room, not saying much, just crying; my mother knew.  She just knew.   She peacefully and directly said,

“Life is long.  There is time yet for all of your dreams.” 

Her words hit me so deeply.

And she was incredibly and completely correct.  Moment by moment, hour by hour, I began to follow my own bliss again … in a more specific, focused way than ‘before the baby’.  Time had shifted after having Luciana and every moment mattered.  It went something like this:  “In this moment it feels good to sleep … in this moment it feels good to drink coffee … in this moment it feels good to stay silent … in this moment it feels good to hold my daughter … in this moment it feels good to walk her around the neighborhood … the air feels good, the colors are vibrant, the people seem content, the world goes on … I have a good feeling … I have a poem … I have a song … in this moment it feels good to write it down …” 

In climbing out of the strangeness, two things became incredibly clear to me.  The first is the overwhelming love and connection I began to feel with my daughter (thank freaking goodness! those first few weeks/months scared me).  The second realization was that I did not want my daughter to feel like I resented her, which would inevitably happen if I squelched something that was so much a part of who I am.  I might have been “losing it” and paranoid when writing a poem about the world watching to see what I do with my spice rack (ha), but my own child, Luciana, most certainly IS watching.  And when she takes the time to observe me … time away from her delightful, vibrant, hysterical, clearly entertaining world … I want her to see me … happy. 

And so, I recorded my first album when Luciana was ten months old.  I made a thousand mistakes, but I did it and I was happy I did.  I had absolutely found my home in music.  And oddly, I am so grateful that I became a mother first -- my songs (and life!) are richer and the connection I am able to have with an audience is deeper than it ever could have been before being a mother.  I just keep taking steps --- for my life as a musician and my life as a mother, wife, daughter and friend.  It is a tight rope walk that every mother knows all too well.  But I’m doing it – always with my daughter’s well-being AND my own well-being equally present in my mind.

So now here I am with a six-year-old (who is presently sick on the couch with a croupy cough and fever) in the middle of a crowd-funding campaign to raise funds to record album number two.  I am so ready to record.  It is NOW, amazingly ‘AFTER the baby’(!!!!), that I have written the songs AND gathered the experience, the studio, the producer, the musicians and the incredible support from YOU to make this happen in the way in which I have always wanted.

Thank you to those of you who have shared the link to the Indiegogo page, to those of you who have made a contribution and to those of you who simply wish me well.  I am creating my own path here (as we all are), and I thank you for your support and belief.

Here is the link to the indiegogo campaign which closes at midnight tonight:  www.igg.me/at/chrissygardner

Oh … my husband knows how to use a spice rack, so I’m off the hook!!

Much love,

Chrissy

(Here's a photo taken around the writing of 'Spice Racks'.)

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Things That Are Clear and Move (Some Thoughts About Motherhood On The Road)

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(Photo by Beatrix Berei)

"HEY MOM, Did you know that pee and ghosts are the same color?!!  They’re both clear!  Let’s think of other things that are clear and move like pee and ghosts!”  So goes the always out-loud thought process of my 3-year-old daughter, Lucy, from the backseat on this past road-trip to Chicago.  There wasn’t so much of the daydreamed, super-cool musician driving the open road with my (wickedly talented) photographer friend, Beja, letting the horizon and flat land speak to us while riding the radio wave.  Not so much.  Lucy fed our thoughts with her hysterical, always present wonderings.  Lucy and Ramona, that is --- the audio book “Ramona the Pest” played over the speakers without much pause for 16 hours on the way to Chicago and the 21-hour road trip back … in the snow.  And then there were the devastating cries for help every 10 minutes when, dear God, a marker would fall to the floor out of Lucy’s reach, the stops to pee at what seemed like every rest stop, the fast food that destroyed our digestion for most of the trip, and the stories … oh God the stories.  Lucy and I like to make up stories together, but my mouth really started to get tired.  (How come this doesn’t happen to children?)  I came up with some seriously wacky ones this time around: a Princess named Chuck who carves wood, an impatient lion in Turtleville, a frog that made friends with a lizard and a family of birds that joined the circus because they could change colors (a lot of that was Lucy).

But the topper of the trip was Lucy’s Pink Eye.  About 100 miles into our journey from Connecticut to Chicago, it was clear that we needed to find a good pediatrician to get some drops for Lucy’s obvious bout with pink eye.  After much ado, we found a doctor, got the drops and then snuck into the locker room of a random dance studio to administer the first set; ahhh, I’ll always remember that moment before I administered the drops --- life was simpler then.  Ever have to give drops to a 3-year-old with pink eye?  You haven’t lived.  I’m sure the people in the room next to us at our must-sleep hotel stop en route were concerned about their own safety.  We blatantly had to pin Lucy down; the doctor showed me how, but I still felt awful doing it.  Of course, when we got the drops in, Lucy would pop up with tears gone instantly and say, “Is it over?” and then break into the hokey-pokey on the hotel bed.

But somehow we got to Chicago.  We were all twisted up like stale pretzels, but we got there.  And I actually arrived with lyrics for my new songs completed, which was my goal.  Lucy had taken a brief nap in the car and I guess I made a miracle happen. (Oh hell, I admit, the road really did speak to me in that hour).  This is one of the beauties of motherhood I think. Whenever there is a window of opportunity to complete a task, I focus like I’m cramming for a final exam.  Which gets me thinking about ol’ time again.  What did I do with it before Luciana was born?  What did I do?  What did I think about?  Why did I ever feel tired?  I don’t think there is a mother alive who hasn’t contemplated this.  I have a good friend, Deb, who always says, “You don’t know what you know till you know it.”  I love this saying.  You just can’t force a ‘knowing’ onto someone else, including whoever I was before Luciana’s grand entrance.  I can’t stand in this moment and force the ‘me’ of the past to appreciate my time more.  So I guess I’ll just move forward, happy to have this new understanding.

But back to the trip.  After crash landing in Chicago, I moved right into setting up my daughter (I actually unpack now … so damn grown-up of me; I always pat myself on the back for it), then to rehearsal, then a fast sleep, wake to typing lyrics, promoting show, feeding child, quick brunch, Trader Joe’s for week of groceries, practicing, shopping for dress for show, shopping for promised ‘special stone’ for daughter, pick up babysitter, throw dinner in oven for daughter, shower, dress, drive to venue, sound-check, breathe, stage … breathe, stage … breathe, stage.

And, of course, I know that all of the things I’m describing could compare with many a working day in terms of the busy factor.  We’re busy.  We have busy lives.   And maybe I was technically busier in my life before Lucy was born. But I think what feels striking from this trip (and just life as it is now) is the CONTRAST and trying to stay peaceful within the fast and furious shifts between childcare and performing.  One minute you’re making up a story about a princess named chuck while wiping a 3-year-old’s behind and the next minute you’re in front of a crowd of people singing at the piano in a nice dress pretending to feel put-together.  It’s like a dream that skips from scene to scene without a blackout.

So oddly, while performing my three gigs on this last trip, a thought crossed my mind.  “I think, perhaps, I’m here to perform for the same reason that this audience may have arrived here tonight: to take a break and connect with myself and hopefully some other people. To feel myself, alive.”  I just don’t get to do my part in the dark.  (Slight bummer.)  So, like my little tangent before about time, I suppose my performances are starting to fall into a similar category.  With so much child rearing surrounding these gigs, I am forced to be even more present and conscious and focused in the spaces where I get to perform.  Not so bad, huh?  Motherhood continues to churn up the good stuff.

This time around, so much life cradled each performance that it made playing feel like I was sitting at a piano in a sandbar; Caught in the in-between with no choice but to love and embrace my own imaginings.

By the way, when it comes to thinking of things that are clear and move, beyond pee and ghosts, Lucy and I only came up with bubbles and wind … but I could stretch this to the land of metaphor and suggest that imaginings and time are clear and move, but then you may think I just sound like an obnoxious poet.

Much love and happy travels,

Chrissy