Interview with Canadian Band: Neon Dreams

Interviews, Uncategorized
neon dreams logo
PHOTO CREDIT: NEON DREAMS

This post is dedicated to Lauren (IG: @neon_dreams_lover), who I met through Instagram because of our shared love of Neon Dreams.  I don’t know Lauren personally, but I could tell by her posts that her life is profoundly affected by Neon Dreams’ music and her interaction with them. Plus she reminds me of a younger version of myself.

Get in touch with Neon Dreams

www.neondreams.ca
Instagram: @neondreams
Facebook: Neon Dreams

Love at first concert

If you have been following my other posts, you would know that I only discovered Neon Dreams in October, 2019, after I saw their name listed as one of Tyler Shaw’s opening acts. When I searched for their music on YouTube the night before the concert, I started dancing the moment the smooth and catchy rhythm of About You played.

Long story short, Neon Dreams played at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts. I enjoyed their performance so much that immediately following the concert, I bought their album, Sweet Dreams Till Sunbeams. I was really lucky to have a chance to meet Neon Dreams’ dynamic duo in person at the Meet and Greet following the show. I told Frank and Adrian that they have a new HUGE fan.  I just had to see them again as I was hooked. For the first time ever, I bought tickets to a concert for the opening/supporting act and not the main performer. Sadly, the Strumbellas concert was cancelled due to a health issue of one of their members. Neon Dreams and Frank Kadillac have already inspired a couple of my blog posts (Dreamin’ of Neon Dreams and Pure Happiness) which are posted on my site. If you are curious about the meaning behind their vibrant orange and white logo, you can read about it on Neon Dreams’ Instagram account and Facebook page.

neon dreams
PHOTO CREDIT: NEON DREAMS

About Neon Dreams

Canadian talent alert! Neon Dreams is made up of Frank Kadillac (Vocalist and Ukulele player) and Adrian Morris on drums and guitar. Frank and Adrian are from Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Neon Dreams released their album, Sweet Dreams Till Sunbeams in 2019 and was touring in Canada and the United States up to the time the Coronavirus (now known as COVID-19) began its spread across the world. Neon Dreams is currently working on a new album, which will include the three songs they released this year, Turn Back Now, Walk Away and most recently released – Sick of Feeling Useless. Did you know that Neon Dreams was also nominated for the 2020 Juno Awards?! Also, the super-creative guys created their own stop motion video for Sick of Feeling Useless (see YouTube video below the interview).

Interview

Me: Frank, you rock. Adrian, you rock.  I have nothing more to say. Just kidding! I always have more to say. 

Frank, you command the stage with your constant movement and jumping off speakers – and of course, your vocals are incredible. Adrian, I am totally mesmerized by your drumming. You are the most amazing drummer I have ever seen perform.

You guys make it look so easy performing on stage – a true indication of the hard work and dedication that goes into your music and performances. How much time would you estimate that you put into the preparation for your concerts? And how do you handle the stress of touring?

Frank/Adrian:  Since we were kids we’ve dreamed of being on stage, played in so many bands and watched so many YouTube videos of our favourite acts crush it live… I feel like we have been preparing for each show since grade 10 haha. To this day I’m watching Linkin Park at Rock am Ring on YouTube hoping that one day we can do that!

Me: Frank, I read on your Instagram post that you have to do a lot of cardio to maintain your energy on stage.  What else do you do to keep in shape both physically and mentally? 

Frank: Reading self help books to get different perspectives of life usually helps my mental health a lot. Before doing this I was a wreck… I don’t know why “reading books”  was an uncool thing to do when I was growing up. After reading the books I’ve read, I gained this knowledge I can never forget that just adds to my armour.

Me: Frank, I can totally appreciate your comments about reading books. I didn’t go out much as a kid and spent my time with my nose in a book. My love of reading lives on. You can visit a whole other world through a book.

Adrian, I ask you the same question – how do you keep in shape both physically and mentally? Also, I saw from your posts that you are a movie buff. What are your top 3 favourite movies of all time?

Adrian: I find it pretty hard to keep up with working out when we’re on the road (although moving all the gear counts right?!), but when I’m home I make sure to run and hit the gym as much as I can. I try to run 5 km every other day or so. Mentally I try to explore and enjoy everywhere we go as much as possible even if that’s just taking a walk in the town or city we’re in or checking out some locally fave spots. I’m usually the one on the road trying to find all the good food spots. 

Top 3 movies!

  1. Lord of The Rings Trilogy
  2. Entire Star Wars Collection
  3. Tarintino Films

I couldn’t just pick three so I went with collections.

Me: It’s great you work to stay in shape. About food – I totally get you – I love food too! Adrian, your drumming is crazy amazing. I mentioned to you before that I tried to do your drumming move where you effortlessly cross your arms over to hit the cymbals. I admit that I was struggling! Frank mentioned somewhere that when he was initially looking for a drummer you were able to play his songs immediately. When we were chatting at the Meet and Greet, you talked about your talent for playing many instruments.  It’s obvious to me that music is in your blood. How long have you been drumming and playing guitar? And what other instruments do you play?

Adrian:  I’ve been playing drums since I was about 13! I started off on piano before that. I didn’t have a lot of friends that took music as seriously as I did so I had learn as many instruments as I could, so I could record demos on my own without having to rely on anyone else. But then I met Frank! 

Me: Adrian, it’s really interesting that you learned how to play instruments so as not to rely on anyone. You have such a gift. Wish I had musical talent.

I know you guys must be disappointed that your tours are postponed for now because of the pandemic, but it’s amazing that you guys have been going live on Instagram during this time. It’s so kind of you to chat with the world and share your music.  What are your thoughts about how the pandemic has changed the world?

Adrian:  We try to find the positive or upsides to every situation no matter how hard or blindsiding it may be. We’re actually really excited to have this time to work on our new music and live show. It’s like a video game, you can’t make it to the next level without training your skills first.

Me: I am really excited about your new album. What are you thinking about for a theme for your album?

Frank/Adrian: All I can say is that its going to feel like the soundtrack to a coming of age movie from early 2000s!

Me: Can’t wait! I am curious how you guys co-ordinate to work on your album with Frank living in Arizona?

Frank: I don’t live there – just there from time to time between seasons! Me and Adrian are always together.

Me: Awww…you guys are the sweetest! Based on your fans’ posts on Instagram and your own posts, you guys really have a way of connecting with people. You mentioned that people tell you their own personal stories about their lives and how your music may have changed things for them. Frank, you have shared your deepest secrets about your life with the world. Your message is constantly one of staying positive and love. What is the message that you would like to share here?

Frank: I told this once in an interview because I can only express things that are deep with people that seem like they care but I feel like you do. I tried to harm myself and it didn’t really work thankfully, but before that I had an ex share with me a book – she said I was gonna need it someday (she was very spiritual) and of course the book was right there when my darkest night came around. It taught me how to meditate and find my purpose. Over thinkers like me that don’t have a purpose can get lost in a fog of thoughts that lead to one thing “why am I here?” but I found my purpose through meditation. I’m just here to help people find their true selves. I used to try and be person that helps people one on one and fix problems they bring to me but I was bad at that and realized I have the power of music, so I’m just building this sanctuary for all the misfit toys that were lost like me. 

Me:
 Frank, I really appreciate you sharing something so personal with me and your fans. I know you have been through a lot growing up, and I am happy that you have found your “path”. Your story is very inspirational.

Adrian, what is your vision for the music that Neon Dreams produces?

Adrian:  It has to feel good when played live! We have so many genre influences and we incorporate all of them into our music but the one thing about all the artists we love in all these different genres is their music ALWAYS feels massive in a live show and makes the crowd move. 

Me:
 Do you guys have any tips for people who want to pursue a career as a musician?

Frank: 
Listen to people that live the life and have the career you’re working towards.

Me: “I had a dream, you were a red lush maple leaf, losing its identity…I wish there was a little flood, a little flood just to carry you…” (Lyrics from About You).  Those are probably one of my favourite lyrics so far. I spent a long time learning the lyrics and belting out the song with my then five-year-old.  He is one of your big fans too. We had About You on auto-repeat for about two months straight. What I love about your music is the vibe and energy. Your songs are upbeat compared to other sad songs out there. I also like that some of your songs begin with a certain rhythm then changes in the middle to a different style at together – like your song, If Not Now, When?

What is/are your favourite song(s) on your album, Sweet Dreams Till Sunbeams?

Frank: Sweet Dreams till Sunbeams and Life Without Fantasies!

Adrian: If Not Now, When? We Were Kings and About You.

Me: Adrian, those are my favourites as well. Frank, I like Life Without Fantasies too. When I am out hiking, I think how amazing a place is and fantasize about all sorts of things. I think of your lyrics, “what is life without fantasies” and it’s true – life is nothing without some fantasies. Fantasies keep us going. You have no idea how many times I have sung, About You, in the forest – usually when I am alone lol. Thinking about your red lush maple leaf! I just did a whistle version video!

I believe that the type of music someone listens gives a lot of insight into that person. Most of my favourites are Canadian – you guys, Matthew Good, Moist/David Usher, Ria Mae and Craig Stickland. Who are your top 3 favourite musicians?

Frank: 
Funny you say that. That’s what I say all the time. When someone tells me their favourite song I know instantly who they could possibly be. If I was rating it off of which artist I can listen to every single song and love, it would be Linkin Park, Coldplay and The Fray.

Adrian: I feel through music instrumentally first then lyrically usually. I need to feel emotion through what’s going on through the instruments. Blink 182, Sum 41 are the only artists I probably know their entire discography and I return to the most. Bring Me The Horizon’s album AMO ignited a whole new sense of inspiration for me.

Me: On a topic unrelated to music (directly at least): I love tattoos. I currently have three of my own. One of them says, “This Thing Called Life”, which is the title of my personal blog site.  It represents my journey through life and its ups and downs, and my love of writing. I notice that you guys have a lot of interesting tattoos, so here’s a more personal question that I hope you don’t mind answering. What is the symbol of one of your tattoos and the meaning behind it/reason why you got it?

Frank: I have 3 hearts on my hand from the game Zelda. Only one half of one heart is filled in to remind me when I’m at my lowest I’m still alive I still have a heart beat and the game is not finished yet.

Adrian:  I’m Algonquin of Pikwakanagan and I have my tribes emblem tattooed on my arm. My grandmother was forced into residential schooling in the 1950’s and after that some of my family hid our indigenous blood. I can understand why that may be. But it’s important for me to show proudly who I am.

Me: Very cool Adrian. Great story behind your tattoo. Your arm tattoos are beautiful. Frank, after you returned this interview to me, I wrote back to you about how I got chills reading about the symbolism behind your hearts. I can relate to how you feel when you are down to just one ‘life’ in video games – same thing for real life.

It’s been great learning more about both of you. I have been wanting to chat with you guys for a while. When you agreed to do this interview, I had to sit and think long and hard about the questions that I wanted to ask you. There’s just something magical about you guys and trying to capture the essence is not an easy feat.  Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview.  It means so much to me and probably your fans out there.  I am really looking forward to hearing new music from you guys and seeing you in concert again.  Also, your friend, Alex Gayoso (IG: @alexgayoso_) has done some amazing videos for you guys! I enjoy all of your videos. Everyone out there – check out Neon Dreams’ music. They rock!

Is there anything else you would like to share with your fans?

Frank: Look out for each other this is your family you guys built this – we just provide the music.

Adrian: Take care of each other, meet each other, become friends with each other because like Frank said – you guys created this and we’re a community together. 

–End–

Check out the cool stop motion video for Sick of Feeling Useless:

A few of my favourite Neon Dreams tunes

In this thing called life, really “connecting” with others is a truly an amazing experience.

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The ring.

Life, Uncategorized
ring

I dedicate this post to an old friend, Kevin. Kevin went to a different high school. Way back then, I met him through a couple of my high school friends and we used to hang out for some underage drinking in the park.

This post coincides with my 100th post and what better way to celebrate than write about a real-life mystery?

The ring

Here’s the story of the ring. It’s not just a regular ring, but a graduation ring.

When I moved to Toronto, I realized that I left Montreal with two guys’ graduation rings. One belonged to my close gay friend, Chris and the other I thought was Kevin’s (because it has Kevin etched into the ring and had the diamond gem for April birth month). Chris wanted me to hold onto his ring, so I kept it. But Kevin – I had no idea why I had his ring and wanted to return it. I messaged him on Facebook and asked if I could send back his ring. He gave me his address, but I hesitated to send it in case the ring got lost in the mail. I continued to hold onto it.

A few years later, I chatted on Facebook with Mike (Kevin and my mutual friend) and told him about Kevin’s ring. He said the he could return it to Kevin the next time he saw him. Then I mentioned it to my BFF and she told me that she occasionally saw Mike. I live in Toronto, my BFF lives in Ottawa and Mike lived in Brockville – so picture this: When my BFF visited Toronto, I passed on the ring to her. Then we got very sad news about our friend Mike’s sudden passing. The next time my BFF visited Toronto, I asked her to return the ring to me and I would figure out how to get the ring back to Kevin.

So, I was stuck with the ring again.

I was in touch with Kevin recently through Facebook chatting about his education and asked if was ok I just finally delivered the ring to him in person. Luckily he doesn’t live far away. When I was driving away from his house, he called to tell me that the ring wasn’t his. I drove back to get it.

So, I am stuck with the ring again.

Well then…if it’s not that Kevin’s ring- who the hell is Kevin?!

Too many guys lol (kidding)! It was a total coincidence that Kevin lost his ring and I happened to have a ring with the name Kevin on it. Plus the ring had the April diamond. I can’t say I took a good look at the ring all these years so I didn’t notice it had a different school name on it.

I only know a handful of Kevins, so I had no idea who it could be. I had to dig really really deep into my memory, but finally remembered that Chris collected a ring from some guy he was interested in. Not sure why I had that ring too. Sadly, I lost touch with my friend Chris. I might never find out the owner of the ring.

Silver lining

While Kevin did actually lose his ring and I am stuck with an unknown person’s ring – a plus side is that I had a chance to meet Kevin’s lovely family after all these years. I very much enjoyed his kids’ show-and-tell from the porch (social distancing!).

Mystery? Case not solved.

In this thing called life, you never know where life will take you. Go with the flow!

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Super-moist VEGAN banana choco chip cake recipe

Uncategorized, Vegan recipes
banana cake
This recipe post is dedicated to my friend, Sharon Holden – my interior design teacher who became a good friend. Sharon helped me find my school placement position as well as my dream job in a kitchen design/manufacturing company. Sadly, I lost touch with Sharon for many years, but recently reconnected – thanks to Facebook. Sharon graciously agreed to risk her waistline for trying my cake!

If you don’t already know:

1) I love to eat. Sweets are my weakness. However, I don’t like to buy the store-bought sweets, because they are full of artificial ingredients with names that I cannot decipher. I actually do not really enjoy baking either. It could be a lack of patience for perfect measuring, or simply the dislike of cleaning up the dishes after baking.

2) I am vegan. Since November, 2018.

3) I am working on a vegan cookbook. Recipes will be super-fast and healthy, and mostly made with every day ingredients. Did I mention the preparation of all recipes will have no more than 10 steps. Who has time to cook anyway? With my cookbook, there is no excuse for not making a healthy meal.

Issues

Ok. So now I have a few issues. I love to eat sweets, I don’t like “fake” cakes and don’t really enjoy baking (a rather lazy baker), and I am vegan. The solution: bake quickly with as few dishes to wash as possible.

Hope you enjoy this recipe. It will be featured in my upcoming vegan cookbook. Besides the amazing taste, no animals were harmed in the process. You might think to yourself – can I really just dump all the ingredients in the bowl? Yes, you can!

ONE BOWL WONDER

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: about 55 minutes depending on your oven

You will need: 1 large mixing bowl, 1 small plate or bowl and fork (to smash banana), 1 whisk, measuring cups and spoons, a tube pan (the one with a tube in the middle), 2 medium sized plates (only if you use tube pan) and 1 spatula or butter knife (only if you use tube pan) and a kettle or pot to boil water. If you don’t have a tube pan, you can also use an aluminum 9″ circular baking pan.

Ingredients

2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup raw cane sugar (can use brown sugar)
1/3 cup light tasting olive oil
1/2 cup unsweetened oat milk (can use soy milk)
1 cup of boiled water
4 medium size bananas (smashed into chunks)
1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips + a couple of tablespoons to sprinkle on top

Steps

1

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2

In large bowl, combine and mix all dry ingredients with a whisk.

3

In the same bowl, add olive oil, oat milk and boiled water. Mix to combine with fork. Note: no need to overmix, just mix until you don’t see anymore dry ingredients.

4

In the same bowl add banana and chocolate chips. Mix to combine with fork.

5

Spray some cooking oil or use a bit of flour in the tube pan to prevent sticking.

6

Pour batter into tube pan.

7

Sprinkle chocolate chips on the top of the batter and put into oven.

8

I read that you should use a toothpick to poke into the cake to make sure it is cooked. But if you are like me, I use a wooden chopstick lol. Remove from oven when ready.

9

When cake is a bit cool, use a spatula or butter knife to loosen the cake around the edges. Let cool, then use one plate to flip the cake upside down, then the second plate to flip it upside up. If you use the 9″ circular pan, it’s even easier – you don’t need to flip anything.

Recipe made possible by Enjoy Life brand vegan chocolate chips.

A quick note: beware of sugars. Not all sugars are vegan. Cow bone char may be used in its processing for filtering and bleaching.

It’s that easy…Bon appetit!

How did your cake turn out? Would love to hear from you!

Food for thought:

In this thing called life, we can eat delicious food without the cruelty.

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2020 Moving Walls Tour – Matthew Good

Events/Shows, Uncategorized

Moving Walls Tour


COVID-19 (aka Coronavirus) cancellation?

Ticket in hand, I was on standby. Hearing about a lot of other cancellations and closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I wasn’t sure if Matthew Good’s March 12, 2020 concert would be cancelled. Of course, part of me could ABSOLUTELY NOT wait for the show, but the other part of me was dreading the exposure to public transportation and a crowded concert hall.

Concert a go!

The concert was on. I said goodbye to my family as they bid me safe travels.

Meridian Hall, Toronto

I always try to arrive in time for the opening acts because it’s a great chance to discover new music. The supporting bands that evening were Ellevator (Instagram: @ellevatorband) and Born Ruffians (Instagram: @bornruffiansmusic). I never heard of either band, but was really impressed with the unique music style of both. Also, the singer of each band have really fresh unique voices.

Ellevator

autographed Ellevator CD

Ellevator is based in Hamilton, Ontario. The band’s singer, Nabi, is a soft-spoken person on the mic, but man – when she started to sing, her vocals blew me away. She occasionally sat down on the stage during her songs, commanding the audience in a different way. When they first came on stage, I was reminded of old high school band days (maybe because they look young). But be warned – they do not play “elevator music”.

I had a chance to chat with Nabi briefly at the merch table after the concert. I asked her when she first started to sing and she said since she was very little. Nabi has this really amazing aura surrounding her. I have been enjoying my new CD for the past few days. Check out their music!

Instagram: @ellevatorband

Born Ruffians

Instagram: @bornruffiansmusic

Our very own Torontonian band! The guitarists are absolutely wild and a pleasure to watch. Luke, the lead singer, has a powerful and very fresh voice, and was super-animated on stage. I don’t know if he ever found his glasses that he dropped while jamming on the guitar…Check out their music too!

Matthew Good

Instagram: @matthewgoodgram

There are no words to describe the moment MG comes on stage and delivers his first vocals. It happens at every concert of his that I attend. BAM! A chill runs a mile a minute through my body and I am like “OMG”! Short for Oh my gosh or Oh Matthew Good!

Matt’s performance was beyond incredible as always. His music has been part of my life for about 20 years. Where has the time gone? Did I mention that he’s Canadian? I love Canadian music. In fact, most of my favourite artists are Canadian: Matthew Good, Moist, Neon Dreams, Ria Mae and newly added, Craig Stickland.

Matt recently launched his album, Moving Walls, which includes songs such as One of Them Years, A Momentary Truth, Beauty, Sicily and The Heights. It was amazing to see him perform songs from this album in concert. The songs have a whole new meaning to me now.

Matt is a lyrical genius, sings like a male angel and is talented to the max. He’s a songwriter, singer and guitarist. He also speaks publicly about mental health and his own bipolar disorder and battle with depression.

Yes…Matt, this, Matt, that…I just love him!

If you haven’t had a chance to listen to his music, I hope you find some time.

Rest of Tour Postponed

Right after the show, Matt posted on Instagram that the rest of the tour would be cancelled due to the virus. He wrote that people DM’d him with anger that he irresponsibly did not cancel that evening’s concert. It must have been a really tough decision for Matt not to cancel, considering the circumstances. But on that note, I feel like I caught the last train. If I die, I will die happy.

Other songs

Matt also played one of my favourite songs from his album, Something Like a Storm. It’s called Something Like a Storm. It was wild on the stage.

Here are a few of my favs from Moving Walls: Selling You My Heart and A Momentary Truth

Of course one of his classics: Load Me Up. The crowd went crazy for this!

In this thing called life, music transcends life. Not sure if that makes sense – but it sounds good 🙂

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Interview with Canadian Musician, Craig Stickland

Interviews, Uncategorized
Craig Stickland musician
Photo credit: Craig Stickland
https://www.instagram.com/craigstickland/

How Craig came into my life

To be honest, I never heard of Craig Stickland until October, 2019, when the Richmond Hill Centre for Performing Arts announced his name together with Neon Dreams (as opening acts for Tyler Shaw).  That evening, all of the artists put on an awesome show and later came out for an amazing meet and greet. I find that meet and greets are the ultimate part of a concert experience – as it’s a chance to make a connection between the music you listen to and the musician(s). Some artists are particularly interactive when it comes to social media as well. From my personal experience, Craig and Neon Dreams take the time to interact with their fans, which makes them really down-to-earth and personable.

Typical me, when my writing bug comes out, I write about everything new that I experience. However, it took me some time to write an Instagram post about Craig’s performance after I first saw him in concert, because I needed time to digest it. During his performance he played mostly rock songs that I couldn’t really relate to, but I was blown away by his last song, Break Every Rule. That song really showcased his powerful and soulful voice.

Craig has this intangible quality to him – a certain vulnerability and old soul wrapped into a rugged yet sexy “stereotypical” rocker (wink, long hair, goatee, t-shirt, black jeans and black leather jacket). Craig left me wanting more. I was so happy when he announced that he had an album in the works.

Release of Starlit Afternoon

Photo credit: Craig Stickland

Craig just recently launched his album titled, Starlit Afternoon, on February 28, 2020

I listened to his album the morning it was released.  My favourites so far are: Starlit Afternoon, Break Every Rule, Good Love and Stop at Nothing. If I were to take a stab at Craig’s album music style, I would say it’s a mix of alternative rock, with a touch of country, jazz, blues and soul.

About Craig

Photo credit: Craig Stickland

Canadian talent!

Craig was born in Vancouver then moved to Toronto when he was 3 years old. He is currently living in Los Angeles where he continues his modelling and singing career. Craig discovered his passion for music when he was about 16 years old. He picked up his first guitar when he was 16 years old and was the singer in his high school band. Finally, after finding his true passion in life, he released his first EP titled, Leave me to the Wild, which includes songs such as Break Every Rule and Tears in the Rain.

Craig has toured with some amazing Canadian talent. To name a few: Tyler Shaw, Alessia Cara and Matthew Good.

Interview

Me: Craig – I am so excited and honoured that you agreed to an interview with me. Thank you for taking the time for me and your fans.

Congratulations! You just released your new album titled, Starlit Afternoon on February 28, 2020.  I read that the last song, Good Love, on your album took about five years to write. What part of the process took the longest? And how did you finally “let go” and decide that it is complete?

Craig: The part of the process that took the longest was finding the right production to match each song. When a song is written it can be produced any number of ways, and the experimentation until I was satisfied is what took so long. There’s a gut feeling when you know something is done. You also need to trust your friends and collaborators. 

Me:  I only recently discovered that you are multi-talented.  You are a songwriter, singer, guitar player, piano player, actor and model! Do you have any other interests/talents? Being a musician is quite different from modelling – what would you say was the “turning point” in your life, where you decided to become a musician?

Craig: I decided I wanted to be a musician in high school when there was a band that needed a singer. I auditioned, got the role and was hooked. Recently I’ve been very into designing and making furniture as well. I started a studio furniture company with a close friend called @callusandco

Me: I love that you are so real. In one your Instagram post’s you mentioned renting out your apartment as an Airbnb, so that you could afford to keep touring/working on your music career.  I messaged you if that was the life of a musician, and you replied, for some.  With this in mind, do you have any tips or words of advice for people who are considering becoming a musician?

Craig: Everybody’s path is different, but I’d say there’s no substitute for hard work and dedication to your craft. Unless you get incredibly lucky very early on, you’ll have to make sacrifices in order to continue pursuing your dreams. My journey is coming up on a decade and a half, and I just put out my first album. 

Me: Your white van seems to be a huge part of your life. You coined some of your songs as part of the “The Van Sessions” (Very creative by the way!). For some reason your van reminds me of the one in Scooby Doo!  I enjoyed watching your YouTube video (see video below) where you were building the interior of your van to make it liveable and Canadian winter-proof. I am sorry to say that I was chuckling when you were cursing in your video 😊 What is it like to live out of a van? Do you ever feel claustrophobic?

Craig: I really like living out of the van and I do feel claustrophobic at times, but only when my van isn’t clean. It’s taught me a lot about living simply, focusing on minimalism and being organized. 

VIDEO OF CRAIG BUILDING HIS VAN

Me: I know that life inspires your music. What was your inspiration for Starlit Afternoon?

Craig: I’m always inspired by my personal experiences, feelings and emotions. The daily things I go through in life, that we all experience in some form or another. I try to find the best expression of that and create it into a song. 

Me: Other than meditation, how do you manage all the stress that you are going through?  It couldn’t have been easy touring and trying to finish your album at the same time.

Craig: If I don’t center my day with a workout, I feel stressed. I’ve been really into daily journaling as well and making furniture keeps me in a very present mindset. 

Me: Please also finish this sentence (lyric from Phil Collins’ song, Groovy Kinda Love):

Craig:  “When I’m feeling blue…all I have to do is sing a tune.” 

Me: Very cool. I wish I could sing. Is there anything else that inspires your music? 

Craig: Other music, or often times a powerful film or documentary. 

Me: So many of my favourite musicians are Canadian: Matthew Good, Moist, Neon Dreams and Ria Mae. I love my music like crazy! But I recently discovered that I had no idea what type of music my family and friends listened to.  I find that knowing what type of music people listen to is enlightening and tells a lot about that person. Who/which bands are your top 3?

Craig: I’ve recently been incredibly into Frank Ocean. Coldplay is one of my favorites especially after touring with them and seeing them live every night, and John Mayer was a huge influence when I was coming up. 

Me: I am really enjoying your new album. I think you would be happy to hear this:  My daughter always shuts down my music the moment I start the music in the car.  When I was playing your album for the first time, I told her I could sing Break Every Rule. Suddenly she turned off the music. I was like What the hell?! -thinking she was shutting me down again. Turns out she was waiting for me to continue singing your song. Then she actually turned the music back on.  But of course, that now that she’s heard your album once – it’s turned off again.

When will you be touring again?

Craig: I’m pretty much always on the road at some point or another, although I don’t have a tour booked at the moment, I’m sure something will come through with the release of my album! 

Me: Is there anything else you would like your fans to know about you and/or your music?

Craig:  I think you covered it all, thank you! 

Me: On that note: Craig, you can sing to me any time.  I hope to catch one of your Toronto shows soon.  Thank you again for being so open to this interview and your time.  You are super-talented and not to mention – gorgeous! I hope everyone discovers your music soon. Best of luck with your new album.

***** END *****

A few of my favourite tunes

In this thing called life, you never know what could happen when you just ask. Like this interview!

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Pure Happiness

Life, Uncategorized

This post is dedicated to Frank Kadillac of Neon Dreams (www.neondreams.ca), as it was inspired by him.

What is pure happiness? What is innocent happiness?

Do such things exist? If yes, do they still exist? I sure like to think so.

A short while ago, I wrote an Instagram story about the days of innocent happiness (as a child) (pictured top left). You can’t tell from the photo (me on the left), but I was carrying my favourite small pillow in the fabric carrier tied around my chest. I can actually remember that moment. I was happy. No other care in the world.

After I created my IG story (pictured top right), the creative juices started to flow and I knew I had to get off the couch and write a post.

Here’s the story…

Ever since I met Frank Kadillac and Adrian Morris of Neon Dreams at Tyler Shaw’s concert (they were the opening act) back in October, 2019, I have been listening to and digging their tracks. Check out the video of one (among many) of my favourite songs, “If not now, when”:

Anyways, in this song, one of the lyrics go “I wanna make you smile like in CPH”. It was driving me crazy what CPH meant. Was I that old that I didn’t know that acronym – OMG! LOL! I Googled it, thinking that maybe it was a drug. Finally, I decided to send Neon Dreams a DM.

Frank explained that it was a place where he was happy. I won’t reveal this place in case he wants to keep it private. Of course, I then start to think about myself…was there a place where I was truly happy?

I couldn’t come up with any specific place, but thought that maybe certain events would stand out. Often happiness is paired with other emotions, so our happiness becomes muddled. Pure happiness is something special. The best I could come up with was my recent trip to Killbear Provincial Park. I have an inflatable two- person kayak. When I got in my kayak and left the shore, I could feel the sun shining on me. My kayak supported by the waters of the Georgian Bay. The majestic Georgian Bay rock formations stretching in the distance on my right. My destination was a small island not far from the shore. I was so excited. With every paddle towards my private island, I was smiling. I was so happy. Nothing could bring me down.

Life jades us

Not being able to quickly recollect a “pure happiness” moment makes me a bit sad. Life really jades us. Think of our daily grind. Work, work, work, pay bills, eat, exercise, sleep… I know you are feeling stressed now! Unfortunately, life consists of good and bad things – seems like more bad things sometimes, don’t it? Like how my car broke down when I was about to go to the gym…

Take home message

I think the goal is to make every happy moment count. Dream about your happy moments often. And even better…create more happy ones!

In this thing called life, it’s important to cherish the happy moments and like Frank – remember that there are happy moments. Cheers!

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Attention: First-time novel writers

Life, Self-Publishing (books), Uncategorized

10 handy things to keep in mind when writing

handwritten text
Yes, handwriting does still exist!

My first attempt at novel writing

For as long as I can remember (probably since high school), I wanted to write and publish a fiction novel. More than ten years ago, I started writing one. I never made it past page 35. Why not? Well, my storyline and characters were not developed enough and I couldn’t figure out how to go further. In my head it was a great suspenseful book!

Children’s Books

In 2017 (the year Canada celebrated its 150th), I was inspired to write and illustrate childrens’ books about Canada. In 2018 and 2019, I published three: My Great Canadian Adventures and my series – Winter Moose Visits Montreal and Winter Moose Visits Alberta. Check out: www.CanadianAdventureBooksbyMonica.com

I loved that experience and will continue to work on my Winter Moose series, but I still long to publish a novel.

Ding! An idea.

I knew I wanted to write a fiction book based on my parents’ lives, because their stories are so crazy and unreal. But again, the problem was, I didn’t have my “catchline” to get me going. Suddenly when I was driving one night in February 2019, I had my “Eureka” moment – the first sentence of my book. That first sentence was all it took to start the brain gears turning. I am more than half-way through my manuscript now.

While I knew my general story line, spinning a whole story out of it would be a challenge. I realized that I had to breakdown the task, by brainstorming and jotting down my preliminary ideas down on paper. The writing process can be overwhelming and daunting – but rewarding too. If you ever read, David Usher’s “Let the Elephants Run” (a great read by the way) – when faced with writer’s block, David recommends that you just start writing. In my interview with my friend, Tony Wong (writer for the Toronto Star), he suggests the same thing: “My advice is just to start writing. Get something down on paper. It might not be your best stuff, but good writing is really in the re-writing.”

Is reading the same as writing?

I don’t think so. Even though I have read so many books, I found that writing is something different altogether. When I was trying to organize my chapters, I realized that I had no idea how to do it effectively.

Online surfing

I am by no means an expert writer, but I did some research online about novel writing. Here are a few things that I found really useful to keep in mind when writing my own novel.

10 things that I keep in mind when writing

  1. Draft an outline for your book. Spend some time jotting down some rough notes about your storyline, story setting, mood and characters. When I read the first short chapter of my book to my 6 year-old, he asked me to stop because it was “too scary”. That means that I was successful in setting the “mood” through the choice of my words. You can update your outline when you feel you need to build your story more.
  2. Don’t be over-wordy. Unless you really need to be wordy, keep your sentences as concise as possible. Example: The spring flowers looked really lovely with the sun shining brightly on them. Try: The sun shone brightly on the lovely spring flowers.
  3. Keep sentences short. Run-on sentences like the example above are not only hard to read, but are hard to follow as well. When reading books with long and overly detailed sentences, I find myself needing to re-read. Often I set aside those books because I can’t get past the first chapter.
  4. Work on catchlines. English is a great language as each word means something and can convey a deep message. Here’s a line from one of my poems titled, A Whisper: “time is like the steam rushing to escape the kettle…only to be left with none.”
  5. Create cliff-hangers. Cliff-hangers are not only for the end of a book in a book series. Make your reader want to flip the pages quickly by creating suspense at the end of each chapter.
  6. Develop your characters. Write down as many characteristics for each person as possible. Think about their temperament, passions, weaknesses, etc. It could be helpful to write down a description of what your character looks like physically and to explore their nervous habits or movement (such as jerkiness).
  7. Chapter character revelations. Your protagonist can go through ups and downs every chapter. Maybe at the beginning of a chapter you think they are succeeding, then at the end, there could be a set-back – or vice versa. For example, a shy girl is overjoyed as she overcomes her stage-fright during the rehearsal, but then she finds out that she is cast out of the play.
  8. Create a suitable environment for writing. Find your own space. Pick a time of day that you can channel your creative juices.
  9. Copy edit. You can ask a trusted friend to read your finished manuscript. You may not want to do this too early in the process, as the expectations may be too high. There are professional copy editors as well, who for a fee, can provide you with a lot of excellent feedback. I found that copy edit was a very important part of my childrens’ book publication process. My grammar is not as good as I thought!
  10. Don’t beat yourself up. If you haven’t written as much as you hoped for, or get stuck – just give yourself some space. Find some inspiration. Then get back to work.

In this thing called life, an idea may strike – but it’s the hard work that produces your final written piece.

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This Thing Called Life

Life, Uncategorized

Well…hello 2020!

Wishing you all a successful and happy year! Don’t forget to pursue your dreams 🙂

Almost every year, I watch the countdown (except one where I fell asleep before midnight) to cheer in the new year.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3…2…1… Happy New Year!

Sure, it might be happy. A set date for a fresh start. New resolve to join the gym, start a new career..or simply to put the negative things from the past behind you. But you probably feel the same way as I do…another year and in this case, a year plus a decade gone by in the blink of an eye. That’s life. There is NO turning back the clock.

My blog

I have been writing entries for my blog for over a year now. It has been a great forum for me to communicate and express myself. For me, writing is therapeutic. Plus I enjoy sharing things that I learn from life. Thank you so much to those of you who took the time to read my musings. I appreciate the support.

Why I titled my blog “This Thing Called Life”

I titled my blog “This Thing Called Life“, because life is just there. Everything can happen in this thing called life. Life is constantly changing and throwing things at us. Parts of it we can control, while others we cannot. We just have to deal with life as it comes. I was so inspired by my tag-line that I tattooed it on my leg last year. No matter what crap happens in life, I can sum it up as something that happens in this thing called life. So, it’s ok. I can move on.

In this thing called life, perfection cannot always be achieved. It’s your determination and effort that count.

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A tree is a tree is a tree.

Uncategorized

The title says it all. My obsession with trees!

I dedicate this post to my sister, Annette (Instagram: @showmerockieshikes), her husband, Gabor (@grizzlymedve) and Jonathan Fast (@jonathan.fast). I check out their gorgeous landscape posts whenever I am itching for nature but can’t get out. There is nothing more satisfying and humbling than being at one with nature.

Saying goodbye to 2019

What better way to say goodbye to 2019 than a post about what I love. Below are a few tree photos that I put together. Trees make great “models” – they stay still for the most part and they charge nothing to photograph them. Aren’t trees just amazing?

The photos below were taken from my hikes/travels (including Rattlesnake Point, Killbear Provincial Park, Fernie (BC), Toronto, Forks of the Credit Provincial Park). When I look around, a unique tree or arrangement of trees might catch my attention. It’s important to always have your smart phone (with camera function) with you – as you NEVER know when that special tree will come into your life – kinda like people.

If you have never hiked before, I highly recommend you try it. If you are afraid to get lost (like me), there are usually some hiking groups/clubs that you can join. Or just take a friend.

There are so many reasons to love trees. Below is a list of 10 things that I came up with.

10 reasons to love trees:

  1. they provide life-giving oxygen.
  2. they absorb poisonous carbon dioxide from the air.
  3. their foliage gives shade.
  4. their roots prevent soil erosion.
  5. they give shelter to animals and insects.
  6. they are beautiful and unique.
  7. they tell us the age of the forests that surround them (tree rings).
  8. their forest provides great footage for films.
  9. their beauty inspires writing and photography.
  10. maple trees give sap for making maple syrup.

In this thing called life, you have to take the time to hug a tree, enjoy Mother Nature at her best, and help to preserve the beauty for everyone and future generations.

It is almost 2020. Beat yourself up – NOT!

Life, Uncategorized

I am a lover of trees. No joke. I have a bigger collection of tree photos from my travels, but include a few here. Trees are life-giving (oxygen), stand the test of time, don’t talk back, are unique and majestic. Ever try placing your hand on the trunk, closing your eyes and feeling the power of the forest within the tree? If not, I highly recommend it. You will feel a vibration surge through your body – a recharge.

Year-end self reflection

I self-reflect daily, but thinking about year-end always seems to bring up a lot of events from the past. Now it’s DECADE end. That requires even more thought! My son always asks me why I post daily on Instagram/Facebook – and I tell him that it is therapeutic for me, and I like to share with others. Maybe someone out there just needs to hear that they ARE good enough.

Top 5 things to leave behind this decade:

  1. Mean and hurtful words. Mean and hurtful words cannot be taken back once said. Think before you speak. Don’t say them. In my teens my mom basically said I was stupid (because I was not as academic as my older sister who got awards for this and that). In grade 2, I struggled with English (so my teacher let me borrow a dictionary). In my weekly Chinese school, I truly hated and struggled every single year (my friend classmates were witness), but was relentless and made it to Grade 11 (with the help of my friend – “look at my paper”!). In high school my overall grades were passable, but got high 90s in English lol. Got a Bachelor of Arts in University (Major in Sociology). Graduated from a certificate program in Interior design. Got a Law Clerk Certificate. And now, work as a Law Clerk, speaking Cantonese almost every day. The point is, growing up is already so hard. We don’t need to carry a stigma our whole life.
  2. Bullying others. If you have no self-confidence or have personal issues you are dealing with, don’t take it out on others. Growing up people made fun of me for being Chinese and fat. I was a painfully shy kid with a heart, so I internalized everything and it really ate at me. Even relatives were abusive about me being fat. It took me decades to come out of my shell, as well as to not care what people thought of me.
  3. Negative words. If you have nothing good to say, don’t say it. This one is self-explanatory.
  4. Negative thoughts. A new decade is around the corner. Give yourself a break. It’s okay to make mistakes.
  5. Self-doubt. You are the only person who can doubt yourself. When in doubt, pretend you are confident and just do what you set out to do.

In this thing called life, a new year is a chance for a fresh start. Leave behind everything negative!

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