Learning from Baby Elephants

The age of the city zoo and the animal based circus is or perhaps even has finally drawn to a close. That is for the best, but that’s not my target here. I’m more interested in talking about learning and creativity.

They can teach us something very valuable here which I’ve recently ran into first hand.

And yes, in their little way these adorable youngsters and there gentle grownups have an interesting story to teach us.

Ok, it sadly involves the circus. Sorry about that, but best share the idea while we know of it.

When a baby elephant is outside of the big tent and waiting between travels, what the circus people would do is take a big stick and drive it into the ground. A rope would be securely fastened to this and the other to the elephant. The baby would not be able to pull it out and learn eventually that it had a certain space it could move, but that’s it. Eventually it stopped trying to strain on the rope.

What’s interesting here is that the Elephant’s training stayed that way. So in this way the animal fully believed that it could never escape the rope and stick, despite the obvious fact that this huge creature could now either just pull it easily or take one foot and crush it to twigs.

The metaphor is clear and I’ve certainly experienced it as a musician. I’ve come back to artists and songs that I had thought “nope, i could never come close to doing that” but I’ve not noticed my own growth.

The recent ones for me were those first artists I got into like Queen and Bruce Hornsby whose music just seemed to complex for me. I avoided them until recently when I actually found myself playing them.

I can now here what I couldn’t before. The same guy with the same instrument.

As a bassist I get this from watching (and I’m by no means suggesting I’m now his level) the video “Jaco Pastorius – Modern Electric Bass”. I’m still in awe, but when he goes over concepts I can hear what he’s saying with far more clarity. Even some of his more elaborate parts I’m hearing the idea behind it or how it works. It’s not just this ingenious blur.

I dont mean to toot my own horn, because you do it too. You’re doing it now. You’re reading a blog, when long ago you sat there mouthing an alphabet. We are all growing, in fact that is a requirement of life. We are so close to ourselves that we don’t notice. But outside of reading you more than likely have things in your life, which may be creative ones, that are in the same boat.

As person explained, I think it was Tony Robbins, imagine what you can reach is a circle, like perhaps range reached by a rope? But then something falls just outside that circle. You strain a little and reach it. Your rope just got longer now. Then another one happens, and another.

How do make this happen? Just keep going. Show up to the page and look for those things that challenge you.

You may be still trying to pull that stick from the ground, but dont worry. Just keep working at it. Your growth won’t be denied.

One day you’ll give this old circus a run for it’s money.

Have a great weekend!

Cheers,

Tom

🐘

Band Survival Guide

So you’re finally going to do it! You’ve been playing and have decided to get in a group and the next step will be under the lights. The lights might be a cafe or a senior’s home or a friend’s living room but theres no need to be nervous.

Trust me, it’s all about having fun. I have been working in the same band for over 800 shows now so on my end I’ll try to get you started.

We’ll do it as a top ten, so here are my top ten suggestions to the applause.

Gear ready?

Now imagine you have some but when you’re just getting going you want something simple and reliable. Try everything you want to bring before a jam or gig and make sure theres no wierd noises. Bonus hint : No patch cords from pawn shops. Super cheap gear will always get you. If it’s super cheap you will not want to know why!

Oh Hungry? Hang on…

I got this from my mom who tried doing a gig after a dinner. Yeah, it was rough. You want to wait two and a half hours between your last meal and your gig and make the meal light but with decent protein. Classic peanut butter or almond butter is my favorite but then I dont have allergic so aim for light. You want to feel relaxed and light and able to sing fully.

Imbibe after.

This actually comes from working with some pro filmmakers. Especially if you are a bassist or drummer stick to beer and weed at the end of the show not before it. Especially with my last bit of advice which I also follow if someone gives me a beer I can actually make it last 2 hours. Melody players are better for this but for rhythm players you want to be ahead of the beat and not behind it.

It’s about time.

“Rhythm is the whole deal” Jaco Pastorius. This is something to bear in mind both playing but also about your musical life. Putting in time practicing at your most creative time (morning person versus a night owl). Being on time. For a small show my band will show up 30 min before and 60 minutes before a big event where you need to connect with people like the sound person. Early is fine as you can settle into it. Late ain’t fashionable.

Practice

Now we all to a degree know this but you should more importantly practice the bands material on your own between jam sessions. I use a Sony recorder which then loads into the computer so I can pull up any tune we’re doing and make sure I’ve got it down. Even if you’re great you need to be there for “shots” or hit the right chord on that one beat when the drummers kick comes down. One great player said it “if i dont practice for two days i know it. If i dont for four days my audience knows it.” Heres my harshest advice though…abandon ship if the rest of a group only practices at rehearsal. My band isn’t like this but ones in my early days sadly were. This doesn’t get better. You’re better off with people who take their craft seriously.

Attitude

Dont worry, this ones chill, which is the point. Bring a fun vibe to the game. Take it seriously on your end but be supportive and have a laugh. Your great attitude and the fun you’re having will rub off and they’ll feel it out there too.

As Billy Joel said “theres a job, there’s a gig here.” Some stuff you have to do in a band isn’t playing : setting up gear, hauling equipment to and from vehicles and stages, interacting with public, organizing things and even helping with things not in a musician’s role (like moving a table when you get to the venue, or setting up chairs). I remember seeing Martin Gore of Depeche Mode helping their opening act in set up with things like winding up cables. Egos stay outside. Many hands make a light load.

Marketing point I was told ages back…never talk the band down. I understand being self effacing but too much makes you sound like you really think it’s not worth their time. If people ask what’s happening dont ever say “Nothing…”. Instead tell them how you’re going into the studio soon…you got some new sounds you’re trying out, even if the studio is your friend’s living room and the sounds is a delay pedal-doesn’t matter. If you’re not into it why should they be, let alone pay for your art?

Stick with it. The greats ground through it too.

Speaking of Martin, lots of bands like Depeche Mode had absolutely terrible public debuts. ABBA’s first performance fell flat and Sting’s first review in a local paper said that “If the Police get a better singer they will be great!”

Just because it’s not perfect now doesn’t mean it won’t get better. I remember lots of well meaning people voicing shall we say concerns that it wasn’t working for me. That rarely happens now. I’m the same person but I’ve practiced, performed and kept showing up for years.

Creative 1 + 2

This is a classic which falls in sync with attitude. The basics here is that in the creative process you have :

Stage one.

– anything goes, bring every idea you have to the table.

Stage two

– take all the ideas and make them into a work.

For us it’s great to just apply this concept to rehearsal where there is lots of creativity happening. Try your weirdest ideas out and try what ideas are pitched from the others as well. Not just in playing but in how to run the project. There are so many things you can do that as one music business mentor said

If you run out of things to do, your doing it wrong

How you look

I’m not good at this, but fortunately others in the band are, which helps. Take how you look seriously in terms of what you are presenting to the world. While the sound should speak for itself you want to look like you are meant to be there. Look into things like basic design or color theory, or have someone you trust go with you on what looks right for what your doing.

How you look 2

Easy one I got from a friend and it’s a simple lady one, but try to look up. An old saying is never turn your back on the audience which is sometimes true, but try to find parts where you dont have to shift position on your instrument and look out there. I sometimes look above them or sort of dont focus on one specific person, but you will find what works for you. It also helps with posture which helps with both resisting injury but also for vocals. Not only that but like with attitude, it sends a strong signal.

Well that’s it, and like I say this is more a loose guide but I hope it helps.

If this did help and you go huge, send me tickets for the west coast Canadian leg of the tour.

Cheers,

Tom

A Young Man’s Game.

Inspired by some of the photographs of Brian Griffin on “The Worker”

I never know if I’ve ever got poetry. I like to try. The greats seem so effortless like one of the Marsalis Brothers on horns.

Did it in university to mix feelings. Still, I say do it anyways.

Go with your gut.

That’s all this is.

Tom

Videos in the can!

I usually start working on Christmas in September.

The reason for this is because not only did Cookeilidh’s Celtic Christmas season just have its first show yesterday at the Kiwanis but I also try to have some own music ready for social media set up. Seems silly but most of it is building towards this little tradition I now have of posting a song on Christmas Eve.

First year was Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant in 2016 which I did on my fretless with a video of the Victoria legislature in the snow.

Next year and around the same time I did this I was pushing to learn to actually play piano properly so I could accompany my own songs. So the challenge was Oh Holy Night. I don’t play an acoustic piano due to being in an apartment but I liked the idea of finding one somewhere and so booked 30 minutes to use this beautiful upright in the hall of the Cook Street Activity center I’m pretty sure I was on the way to a show right after this as well as work so that was quite the day!

This time around there’s actually three. Ok, four but my band does Silent Night and I think I did it before too on a bass. I just recorded one now which drops soon…

( follow me at @tompogsonmusic by the way! 😁 )

…and I just did Here We Come A-Carolling, which seemed right to kick it off. I’ve been following folks on YouTube like DanTheComposer and Joseph at Creative Piano Academy and so much of this I owe to them. So many that I listen to at work as well, putting YouTube on Premium so it goes with me…

For Bass… Scott’s Bass Lessons, Talking Bass, Adam Neely, Talking Bass

For Guitar and everything else…Rick Beato. His “Beato Book” is something I am strongly considering as his musical depth of knowledge is absolutely vast.

Still trying to find time to write as well! That’s part of the reason I locked this down, so now its Quiet City, shows and some script ideas I’ve started. Keep you informed about that as things go.

And of course there’s video 3. The December 24th one is actually one that just happened, wasn’t planned but was so fun that I absolutely had to use it.

For more about what I do musically check out the music page. Same goes for my writing including the free Prologue of the Quiet City.

Please follow and thank you so much for reading down to here!!

Cheers!

🙂

Tom Pogson

Trying to get there

I have gone viral a few times now.

Well, that is in terms of tweets. I haven’t done it as much with YouTube yet.

But I do know what others say when they say it just happens because it does. Some things just click into place. I’m reminded of my other successful venue, Cookeilidh. Now I had been in other bands, but right from the first performance people’s reaction to what we did was enthusiastic and positive.

Both are the same. It just happened. There was no research or plan. Dave even said it about when he and Kim started playing outside for fun, people kept trying to give them money. They weren’t busking with a case out. It just worked.

Every time I have a tweet go beserk I think “that one?” The last one I didn’t even think it was done right but off it went. And yes, clearly there is a difference between them but in a way not. You just do something you can do. Then chips fall.

The other thing I’ve noticed recently is my impatience. This might be because my time these days is limited or maybe because I want to get the idea out but it does speak to something I’ve talked about before.

Like with tweets, just return to it daily.

It’s all made up of one bit at a time. Even for me this is something to remind myself of. I’ll know where I want the story to go and I’ll race there. I wont give a song idea time to breathe and race some bit of it to Instagram long before it should get public scrutiny.

Creatively things need to cocoon. If it involves you sipping coffee and just staring at a wall that’s fine. Every moment doesn’t have to be glorious. Every second doesn’t have to be Snapchat ready.

Things have increased in tempo, which is part of the reason for the used image. The Lord of the Rings was written back in the time of the first movies, like the languid pace of Wizard of Oz or even the first Star Wars. I know from research how this has effected books, trust me! From Sol Stein on Writing he goes on for ages about how writers of yesteryear could take a slow narrative summary approach to storytelling that would be “suicide today”.

Today’s audience would find Jeffrey Archer slow.

But anyways it was the thing mentioned by Siskel and Ebert back when Fellowship of the Ring came out, it was too action packed considering the pace of when it was written. Its been twenty years since back then when the closest thing to social media was a messageboard.

I have been deliberately putting the phone aside and forcing it’s none use. I’ll bring a book on a bus ride. I practice drum patterns on my break. I let them charge away from my station as I create and turn my back on them.

Allow yourself the space to work.

Even back in my cowriting days I noticed this. The first near hour at your station is decompression.

Then you flow.

Step back in your water.

Have a great Sunday and last week of November!

Cheers,

Tom

After two years it’s a little like blowing off a leg.

Poor Poe.

Had that image around since Halloween and never got around to using it. But almost two weeks before that I’ve been half tempted to return to smoking.

I was orginally using them to deal with constipation and insomnia and really they were just there and I did, sorry but, enjoy them. It was due to the cost, social pressure and having not tried everything yet that I finally quit two years ago.

I have tried to eat better to make up the difference but primarily I would run, a lot. This was both in the gym and outside. I was getting so good at it I was genuinely looking into doing marathons. This was until arthritis suddenly kicked over the ball of my left large toe. Surgery for this with my work would be impossible. On recommendation I’ve used large doses of Tumeric and now run exclusively on either chip trails or a treadmill less than 15 min per day but still I’m inevitably sore and barely able to walk at work.

I tried returning to cycling which I once did across Canada back in 1994 but that did not help matters. In the first place it was the jogging and exercise that took away the feeling of constant nausea and unwellness.

A day does not go by when I feel well. This has not changed for 2 years since I quit smoking. I’ve been trying a low thc cannabis product in a dry vaporizer and it has helped a little with the pain but sure enough the thought of returning to the more normal smoked product has come back. Maybe because weed is 5 times the tar of a cigarette, perhaps because current rules impose on you to act the same way, or even perhaps because after all this time you are inhaling, waiting for that feeling that only a smoker knows.

Could you describe the feeling of swimming to someone who had not, or sex, or becoming a parent. Writer’s are supposed to but truth is no one can. It is one of life’s one way doors. Only those on the other side can know.

Clearly I get addicted easily, so it’s a good job I never went for anything harder that these two.

Presently I’m charging my vaporizer as it died with weed in it and I’m in my usual Tim’s after a day off’s worth of frustration. To start again I know exactly what I would get:

Smokes of a decent quality first time around

Lighter

Nicotine gum for times like the ferry’s where you now cant for absurd periods of time.

Gatorade as your body probably wont like the first “halfy” you try and draw (a clue by itself)

I literally just walked up to the first one on the list (which was the necessary last item, the Gatorade, thinking just do it. My mood has been crap recently so one thought was to try for a month and then if things dont change then use the gum to quit again.

Only, as stated in the title I couldn’t do it. You also cant not know what a feat it was two years ago to quit, let alone get all the way to here now. But even with that, and walking away, here I sit feeling like I should have started and shouldn’t have at the same time.

Creatively outside of writing this I did also funnel this frustration into a play called Vivacity set inside the head of a woman who is trying to make a simple decision whether to go out or not. I might develop in more. Meanwhile my device is charging in the seat mounted power outlet using the charger I just bought for it.

I’m not sure if I’m asking advice as most will naturally say to not start again but there it is.

🙄😂

Cheers,

Tom

Update.. as possibly expected I did try a little, literally 3 drags of one and put them away. I didn’t throw them out immediately the last time and wont immediately either as I want to not force the choice. Immediately it was like, oh no I didn’t want this…it was probably just romanticizing the idea of them. I want to stay dry and stick with weed.

Got paid my own rent, which is fun…

Switched over banking information as I was frankly fed up with my old one and, well, I’ll have to make another phone call.

I’ll double check, but definitely a fun way to start November.

If only life was like that, that would be amazing! My apologies to anyone who thought I had landed the perfect financial independence scheme. Imagine that! Your rent would pay for your food!

So, with that not the case, I’m presently focused on two things outside of work…musicianship and The Quiet City. Within musicianship is getting ready for this season of Cookeilidh Christmas, bass study, guitar and keyboard. Songwriting tends to come to me in bursts so I like the idea of just developing the packaging for the next album after The Goldblacks.

Keyboard especially as using one had always been around but trying to “actually play” has only been going since one year before the last cd and I’m proud of how that went, especially with songs like Precipice and Missed Connections that were recorded in one take of vocal and piano.

Quiet City is still going a bit a day after the free sample.

If you haven’t read it yet check the blog just before this one.

On my bus and about to get off for lunch so I’ll catch up in a week or so!

Cheers!

Tom

Prologue – The Quiet City (a Halloween sampler)

The Quiet City

By Tom Pogson

Prologue

It started the moment she locked the door.

As soon as the gold-colored tumblers of the deadbolt clicked into place she felt something inside of her twist. Her chest felt tight; her neck like it was swarming with spiders.

Then came a tremor in the cartilage of her bones, in her sinews and the fiber that binds a soul to the earth. Amy knew she was in the worst kind of trouble.

Something had felt wrong since she left the employee entrance of the British Columbia Archives building beside the museum. Skirting the long concrete bench she climbed the eight stone steps to the sunlight and traffic of Government Street. Even with the warmth of afternoon sun on her face she could not lose the feeling that something wrong was weighing her down. It was not like those final nights she had with her cousin Amber. This was not sorrow or guilt. It was bigger. There was no shaking this off.

Amy Paul crossed the road, passing the grey stone buildings of the Victoria Legislature, hurrying past the stone memorials and the fountain on her way to her apartment on Croft Street. It was the same thing she usually did with the exception that she did not feel like stopping off anywhere on the way home. Normally something would tempt her in. As she got closer to home it felt like she was hearing the drone of a nearby bee farm.

Now on the other side of her front door, it felt like she was inside of the hive.

Cautiously Amy lowered her backpack to the floor. Strands of her long brown hair rested on her glasses as she moved slowly, no idea what was keeping her so fearful. The bag slumped against the brown wooden closet in her front entrance way as she turned around for the hallway light switch. It was early November, so the little one-bedroom apartment was still illuminated by a soft silver-grey seeping through her drapes.

She could not see anything different as her brown fingers slid up the to the plastic rectangular fixture, setting upon the curved plastic light switch.

Listening to the still air as the lights came on, the soft tungsten glow spilled into the kitchen and the living room. The only sound was her grandma’s old metal fan on the dresser in the bedroom that she never turned off.

Amy stepped forward and turned on the kitchen light beside the rounded green fridge. She looked towards the dining room table where the wide silver smudge bowl that Aunty Kathy gave her rested next to a ceramic bowl of bright red apples. She looked towards to the bedroom, which had become slightly darker, save for the softening light from between the curtains.

It did seem dark for that time of year.

It did seem quiet.

Then the air became heavy. Amy froze. It was like you had a giant racehorse breathing on your cheek, but the kind of horse that wanted to drive you straight through the drywall.

Her head turned.

Black swirling terror froze the blood in her veins. Growing in the still air of the kitchen, the gathering black seemed made up of something between flies and finger-sized daggers. Next came a horrible hissing, tearing noise as the shape formed before her, the figure always in motion, its changing form darting around a widening mouth and red orange eyes. Jagged orifices of eye sockets, nostrils and non-existent lips perpetually altered in shape, the undulating spectral skin continuing to swim and scurry as its throat brought forth sounds from hell’s deepest heart. From there, the demon shrieked with a fury that could have dropped her to the floor.

Instead she ran, bolting around the wood division in the apartment’s center into her living room, the creature passing straight through the fridge and the cupboards to the other side causing her to leap back as it emerged with a horrifying smile.

Her first-floor patio door latch was stuck. She pushed on the latch, the white plastic refusing to budge as the spectre slunk closer. Desperately Amy tried throwing whatever she could find at the horrible face that sneered at her, shoes and books and her large white coffee mug just passing through it. She ran back around through the kitchen to the hallway, the demon following and screaming inches from the hairs on the soft nape of her neck. She tried the deadbolt at the front door, but it would not move. The gold latch was as solid and stiff as if it had never been made to turn.

“You’re mine!” it screamed from every direction in a cacophony of thousands of horrible voices.

She ran through the kitchen again, hoping to this time smash a window but it appeared there as well, blocking the way. Each way she tried to turn it faced her, shrieking almost victoriously, until Amy was cowering, trembling in the corner of the dining room, under the table holding onto the smooth curved ash table leg.

Then it began laughing at her crumpled shape, a horrible grating noise surrounding the young woman as the demon neared her from the kitchen. It grew in size and darkness until it blotted out the light from above. Then another demon just like it appeared and began closing in, this one from the living room where it rose from behind the couch. Then another appeared and another.

A demon rose up behind her, right out of the wall, followed by five more, all of them now laughing viciously, the sound becoming a single scream. All of them wanted her death.

The first one gave a great scream like the roar of a thousand eagles, the room shaking and the table snapping in two above her. Red apples scattered across the floor.

In front of Amy’s near crumpled form fell the sage stick and her mother’s zippo cigarette lighter with the Jack Daniels engraving.

Without thinking or realization she snatched the lighter and the sage, her body smoothly swinging into unconscious motion. She rose.

Into the hellish hurricane she stood defiant, her back arching and her frame becoming taller than she even was. The noise in the room rose to piercing as the stick of sage began to burn, the white plumes of smoke billowing by her side.

Her eyes were not her own. They were ablaze with an ancient light. In a world that even the very stones beneath were in consistent flux, those oak brown eyes faced out like the one single purest element. Walls shook as if the entire city was about to sink.

By the Great Spirit, you will leave!

Louder than bombs she screamed, swinging the sage like a sword.

*** bonus teaser, Chapter One first half ! ***

Chapter One

Homecoming

Morning light through glass squares of a patio door flooded the dark wooden stairwell as he hurried up panting. Enoch found every day busier than before, ever since taking ownership of the Inn less than a year back. He didn’t have time for this, even if he knew he had agreed to it. Betty was sick. He needed to hire more staff somehow. Everything was piled up.

In the room at the end of the hall, Daniel was sitting on the soft white linen bed with the copper frame. He felt only slightly lethargically numb since he was not actually sure if he had fallen asleep.

A knock at the door broke the quiet.

“Mr. Whitmore!” came the voice of the older man.

“Yes Sir?”

“Well…it’s your wake-up call Mr. Whitmore. Seven thirty!” He said through the five- panel door. “Would you like breakfast brought up to you?”

“Umm…no, no that’s ok Mr. Sage,” he called out, “I’ll be right down!”

The response from the man outside was him knocking on another door further down the hall on the top floor of the Prairie Inn, the sound muffled as Daniel rubbed his eyes and got up to dress. Without even thinking he took out one of his Duke, Sons and Co cigarettes from the pack on the table and lit a match. Taking a drag, he went over to the source of the morning sun.

The room had two windows, both tall and rectangular running from the roof to only a little ways off the floor. The north-facing side with the tall chair in front of it looked towards a small cluster of shops, post office, little homesteads and the hutch-like railway station nestled amongst the woodland. Daniel stood facing the other sunnier window, morning sun streaming in through the light cotton curtains. Wearing only his white linen pajama bottoms with the blue drawstring, he looked outside to see what he could not have made out when he arrived the night before.

From the railway tracks that passed just yards from the steps of the hotel, he saw a single dirt road running east to west between the rolling fields where two farmers were already busy under the cool mid-October sun. A single country road crossed just beyond the first ridge, evident by a single horse drawn carriage that rolled along, it’s black hood like a little sail crossing a sea of sporadic woodlands, farmland and irrigation.

Except for the white capped mountains in the distance there was very little to remind Daniel Whitmore of his last clerical posting in the young town of Cranbrook, deep in the Kootenay Mountains.

Now on the Saanich Peninsula the only sounds was the singing of little chestnut chickadees that had decided to make a nearby poplar their gathering place.

He blew smoke towards the window which curled up over the wood frame towards the sky. In the clear glass ashtray on the dresser he extinguished the single red ember of his cigarette.

His little room it was so peaceful after the steamship journey through the Gulf Islands, and before that, the port of Vancouver.

The train he now needed to Victoria was not for another hour and a half so he decided he would get something to eat first from the pub downstairs and maybe a cup of coffee. He grabbed his felt hat of the low-slung white dresser, clicked the door latch, and went out into the hall.

An hour later he walked out into the warm light of a near cloudless morning, Daniel in a slight hurry toward the village up the tracks.

The little hut with the words “Turgoose” written in black ink over it’s rain cover was empty as he climbed onto the dusty slats of the wooden platform. The wood creaked under his weight, which was still somewhat slight even after being a regiment veteran of the South African war as a younger man. Now at thirty-two, the only clue to this was his colt six shooter that still travelled with him, concealed deep within his case.

*** to be continued…***

Thank you for reading and supporting independent artists! If you enjoyed this please link and follow me! Have a great Halloween!

Cheers,

Tom Pogson

The Quiet City – Halloween announcement

Really stoked to finally let this cat outta the bag!

🐈 – meow!

Ok so, like I mentioned in the last blog, but now across the other platforms…

Twitter @TheQuietCity1

Instagram @thequietcitynovel

Facebook @thequietcitynovel

…the prologue for the Quiet City is scheduled to drop here Thursday, October 31st at 7:30 am PST.

Make sure you follow this blog so you dont miss it, and wordpress should send out a reminder email as well!

If this is your first time at my site make sure to check out the About, Musician and Writer pages to give you more of an idea of my background such as my band Cookeilidh, my other writing and music projects!

There is lots of older blogs here as well on everything from creativity to Georgian wine so feel free to cruise around!

Thank you for your support!

Cheers!

Tom Pogson