My Christmas Letter

Ok, here’s the latest plan. Think Springsteen’s “Nebraska” record, only with drums, or at least a groove of some kind. Maybe some occasional strings. Not traditional strings but rough strings. Gravelly strings. Like the ones I used on the demo of Cold Water. Just simple songs framed frugally.

This may be yet another promising but overly gaudy float in an annoyingly unrewarding parade of potentially do-able creative blueprints that has been taunting me all year. This one sounds good to me - but I’m in a positive frame of mind. It’s Christmas.

The complex and frankly threatening idea of song writing often floats to the top of my consciousness on those few occasions when, because other less controllable thought has subsided slightly, I could be pursuing the elusive relaxation that I claim to want so badly. As I began, on this quiet and calm day after Christmas, to formulate a tentative year-end list of 2007 events and milestones, I was not surprised to see songwriting once again stepping to the foreground, grinning accusingly. I will plow on regardless, on the premise that those things that did happen in 2007 are more significant than those that didn’t.

Right now, I feel as though the whole year tired me out, but more than likely it’s that Christmas thing - or at least that Christmas thing that we do here. We try very hard to do Christmas as Ebenezer was said to have done it after returning from his visits with the three phantoms. We try to do it well.

A little over a year ago my mother moved from the 1800 square foot house in Langley where she’d lived alone since Dad died, to a 600 square foot apartment here in White Rock. We helped her dismantle a home bursting with a lifetime’s treasures. We helped her with impossible decisions about what could be kept and what had to go. This was unimaginably difficult for my mom, and possibly equally as painful for the rest of her family. We all put on our brave faces, but it was no fun. Weeks of hard work saw us cleaning out the house, moving into the brand new apartment and setting up Mom for her new life. As 2007 began, she put the Langley house up for sale - it was sold by February 2nd.

By then we had already begun preparations for Connor’s first album. The recording of “Different After Dawn”, a brilliant collection of passionately performed acoustic-based original songs, was a culmination of so many things for Connor - and for his three-piece family. The recording sessions were fun, difficult, and massively rewarding. The finished CD will remain a triumph for Connor as he moves forward into his music. Connor and I co-produced the album and, for the most part, found the perfect balance point. When that wasn’t possible we struggled for the right thing. In all respects, the music won. Debbie didn’t get production credits, but should have. It was a real team effort.

Recording was often interrupted by shows. Trooper was, as always, the strong and consistent thread that ties my years together. In 2007 we performed sixty-seven shows at festivals, casinos, concerts, theatres and clubs from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland and as far north as Inuvik and Chisasibi. We spent more time in airports than any other year of our career. Over the past two or three years we have spent far less time huddled in rented vans driving for hours on end. I miss that.

In the spring I signed on as a ‘judge’ for the CBC’s Seven Wonders of Canada project. By June that supposedly modest project had attracted national attention. I devoted a surprising amount of time and brain-space to the suddenly necessary task of knowing Canada more fully and deeply. By the time the two “National News” TV news segments had aired - featuring the three judges narrowing 52 nominations down to 7 winners - I was more than ready to step back out of the public eye. The upshot downside is that I received equal amounts of kudos and hate mail, neither of which I read. The upside was that I came to know Canada more fully and deeply - and that I met and kicked around with Roy MacGregor - a fellow SWofC judge, a great Canadian and a great guy.

By July we were finishing up the mixes for Connor’s record. Boxes of CDs arrived in August. A few weeks later, in mid September, Connor and Debbie and I were in Barcelona Spain drinking San Miguel beer in Gaudi’s beautiful Parc Guell. After Trooper’s gig in Barcelona, the three of us toured that amazing country for three fun-filled weeks. It was a great adventure in a beautiful and passionate country. In November Debbie flew to Toronto and joined me, mid-tour, for a week of big-time downtown fun while I played a few shows in the area. We ended the week with our very first Grey Cup game.

In 2007 I also went to Nanaimo to sing on S. George Brown’s first CD, wrote a heartbroken song with my friend John Pippus, went to Warped Tour with Connor, went to see George Martin (the Beatles’ producer) with Connor and Debbie, went to see Ratatat with Connor, did a father-son TV interview with Red Robinson, held my breath while my friends Monty and Jon miraculously beat Heart Disease and Cancer respectively, welcomed Paul Cloutier back to the band as Tour Manager, stayed in close contact with our accountant as Trooper was audited by the tax department, attended Tuesday morning meetings of the Gentlemen of Leisure, Spent eight months successfully convincing (and then helping) Universal Music to post ALL of their Trooper recordings on iTunes, and, finally, burned up a great deal of time taking care of all those disparate chores that fall under the general heading of “Trooper business”.

I’ve managed to devote more time to my family. It’s been an ongoing goal and I’m proud of my few successes in 2007. The three of us working together on Connor’s record was the unforgettable milestone of the year. Debbie and I huddled happily in our new favourite Queen Street italian restaurant (Terroni) on a cold and wet Toronto afternoon runs a close second.

Connor scored a great job as an assistant editor at a local film company when we returned from Spain, and just attended the company Christmas party last week. His record has received great reviews and he’s playing lots of successful shows. Debbie is sewing and creating again and happy to see a hopeful horizon looming in the distance. Her Mom has remained in her White Rock home since Alex passed away and seems content and reasonably healthy, and I do not recall my mother ever being happier and more full of life than she is at this very moment in time.

For myself, I’m unsure about what happens next. I can say, though, that on these final grey days of 2007, it seems like anything’s possible.