Wow, this time last year I was in Woodford playing with Mic Conway and Gregory Page after a record bout of touring that stretched from August to January and encompassed the entire east coast, London's O2 Arena and gigs all over The Netherlands. It was an incredible experience, but one that didn't include enough of Steve Vella and the things of my Central Victorian home. So it's not surprising I entered 2013 somewhat tired and overwhelmed, with a really strong desire to rethink some of my routines. If you do what you always do, you get what you always get, huh?
I am so grateful for this awesome, mysterious, blessed existence, deepened by connections with fabulous humans. My gratitude flows in particular to:
-My astonishingly wise, super-hard-working, clever, resourceful, intelligent, generous, handsome and uber-talented husband, Steve Vella. You never give up when it's important. You have taught me so much about perserverance, hard work, responsibility and accepting myself. I love you so, and the way we can talk about anything is one of the central joys of my life. Especially those times when we push on through hard subjects and always manage to arrive at a place of open, warm acceptance and closeness. This is one of the most precious aspects of my life.
-Those of you who support me financially and artistically by purchasing my music and paying to see me perform. You are forever sending me encouraging words, sharing stories from your journey, and have offered me some life changing advice. I would not only be unemployed without you, I would be half dead from having no one to share my musical heart with.
-My blood family, yes we aren't all close for many reasons but I feel we are getting a little more so, despite differences in ideas, personality the physical distance. Things make more sense as we grow in wisdom. I love seeing some of the beautiful things you post on Facebook, and hearing the stories from your growing families, and exploits. Please drop in, call, write- any time. I will endeavour to do more in the new year. Our shared history still has many lessons that I will soon be ready to learn. Thanks for your patience and love.
-My creative family, you have honoured me by sharing your art and lending it to enhance mine. The many and varied ways you express friendship has become oasis of understanding in this crazy minstrel existence. You inspire me endlessly. Your music fills my house daily and replenishes my creative well.
-My local circle, I float on the smiles I get from visits to the chemist, newsagent, hardware store, bank, IGA, cafe and pub. It is amazing to know most of the names of these people and have them know something of me. It's the gift of a small town. I hope I can spend more time here in 2014 and give back more to this little patch of Central Victoria. I hope that despite my consistent absences I am still considered one of the Lyonville brunettes, and that whoever is serving at the Radio Springs will continue to know exactly what to pour in my glass.
-I played a goodly swag of music festivals including Woodford, Illawarra, Newstead, Kyneton, Daylesford, Port Fairy, Yackandandah, The National and Wintermoon which meant smile-worthy shows in front of listening audiences, and catch ups with friends from near and far. I toured with Fred Smith throughout the year to celebrate 10 years of music making since our debut collaborative release of "Into My Room". I'm still really proud of that album and it was a pleasure to sing all of those songs again in a single show format. We also played Dust of Uruzgan and Bagarap Empires themed shows and Fred was featured on ABC's Australian Story for his unusual and incredible work as a diplomat singer/songwriter. It continues to be an honour and a privilege to work with Fred. He's not only an incredible one-of-a-kind artist and entertainer, but a genuinely brillant human as well. The year included other enjoyable shows accompanying Mic Conway, Chris While & Julie Matthews, Miriam Lieberman and Alanna & Alicia Egan.
-Steve & I finally took a break for our honeymoon in a beautiful self contained apartment at Airlie Beach. I tried to rest and relax and probably came the closest I have ever come!
-I played a tour of my own music early in Spring with the help of the awesome Cathy Kirkpatrick and discovered one of my favourite combos- Damien Neil on guitar, Nick Southcott on keys and Tim Bradley on drums. It was a beautiful series of gigs where I felt I rediscovered my own place and personality on stage. I also played some great 'Liz Frencham' shows with Pete Fidler, Carl Pannuzzo, Silas Palmer and Sarah Bussuttil throughout the year. With the confidence inspired by this collective of accompanists I am DEFINITELY going to be doing more of my own gigs in 2014. :)
-I created a new website at www.lizfrencham.com so it would be self contained and I could develop it at my own pace into a worthy representation of my musical self on the web.
-Owing to Steve's tireless energy and vision we now have a professional recording studio in our backyard. Dog and Bear Studio. It has already played host to the making of albums by Jane Thompson, Freya Hollick, Ian Dearden, and four more live duets for my upcoming album You & Me Vol.2.
-I now have my own office space with a custom made desk (Steve Vella again!). This freed up our larger spare room to become a combination guestroom/yoga/dance/sewing/practise space that multi-functions surprising effortlessly despite how ridiculous it sounds. :)
-I have finally settled enough here in our Trentham house to re-engage in some old hobbies that have given me lots of joy and satisfaction. I've rediscovered sewing, sketching, watercolour, jewellry making, blogging and my garden actually looks quite resplendant in it's summer clothes, especially those crazy buttery orange California Poppies.
-I enjoyed engaging more with my local community, gradually getting to know some awesome Central Victorians and benefitting so much from those connections. I've started a solo residency once a month at our local cafe, Chaplin's, so I can develop my skills presenting solo material. I'm really finding this to be a satisfying challenge to really stretch my musical skills and imagination.
-I took up tap dancing and have been consistently working my way through video lessons from a couple of great websites. It has been the most fun I've ever had exercising and though I'm not exactly a natural, I have progressed. :) Steve will tell you that my footwork looks a LOT more impressive now than when I started.
-I explored some online communities this year and made some really valuable and precious connections through Twitter, Facebook & online blogs. Now I can sense some of you sniggering, but I am serious. Social media can actually be a good thing!
-Firstly, I continued my connection with Birmingham super solo-bassist, Steve Lawson and his awesome singer songwriter partner, Lobelia. This led to me releasing my solo covers project of 2012 as two exclusive Bandcamp EP's, and on a pay what you want basis I've made an unexpected number of sales, to people who only came across it through social media sharing. Steve has agreed to act as mentor for me during 2014 and through a couple of great Skype sessions has already challenged me to some great music provoking activities.
-Secondly, through reading Leo Babauta's Zen Habits blog about developing healthy habits, I signed up for his Sea Change Course which works on 12 different keystone habits over 12 months. It has an incredible forum community, a couple of whom are fast becoming friends, and some of those habits have actually stuck and made an ongoing difference to my life.
-Lastly, the internet brought me chance encounters with the talented artist, Virginia Poltrack, who did some art work for me during the year, and the beautiful singer songwriter Sarah Humphreys who will be dueting with me in the New Year if all goes to plan.
-2013 was definitely the year where I had to face some recurring health challenges. Chronic back and neck pain, impacted my sleep and practise regimes, and a LONG seven week bout of bronchitis/flu that turned towards pnuemonia, prevented me from completing You & Me Vol.2 this winter, much to my disappointment and frustration.
-I also had a pretty bad winter of income, due to poor planning/booking earlier in the year. It was an understandable consequence of my tiredness from constant touring and taking time off for our honeymoon, but it was still uncomfortable to live through and put a lot of pressure on Steve to be the main provider during that time. I have never been a great business-woman, and am still learning how best to manage money, but I must keep developing my skills in this direction and learn to be bolder in my search for opportunities to perform.
-I still live (and always will live) with the now transparent challenges of my ADHD brain chemistry. It's good to know why some things are so much harder for me than what they seem for most others, but it's also dispiriting to observe so many repeated impulsive mistakes, a truckload of unfinished projects, and to re-live painful observations of my social shortcomings. I DO need to keep remembering how far I've come. In the couple of years since my diagnosis I have made plenty of successful innovations to my daily workflow, and every day I get better at working with and not against who I am.
-Steve had some bad weather and some serious problems with his earth moving machine early in the peak land-scaping season which saw him losing time & therefore money and caused a lot of stress and frustration for the hardest working man I know. He is still working long hours to catch up, but gets out for some fly-fishing to relax and unwind.
Epiphany & Process
-I began a process of decluttering my life last winter, going through possessions more and more agressively in progressive stages. I've been questioning each piece (whether physical, digital, mental or emotional) to see if it's presence was actually enriching my life. And the opportunity shop has been receiving box after bag of things that no longer cram every square inch of our small house. I'll take this opportunity to say to anyone who loves giving gifts: I don't need any more stuff, and would rather the gift of experiences, and time with you, whether that be on skype, on the phone and in person.
-I've been attempting the slow move towards a paperless existence. This means digitising photos, tax reciepts, significant letters and cards and actually disposing of the originals which has been amazingly freeing. So a note to anyone sending cards and photos: don't ever print out photos or letters for me, just email them. They will end up in that form anyhow!
-Later in the year I took a pause from the endlessly depressing stress of trying to lose weight and mostly failing. Instead, I have been attempting to slowly unravel the unhealthy emotional associations I have with exercise, food and alcohol, tracing them back to their sources and looking for healing and acceptance within myself. I don't know where that will lead but the cycle needs to be broken. It has caused me enough pain and anguish, it has sucked enough energy that could have flowed into my art and my relationships.
-I've struck a deal with my inner critic. I've always been hampered by a searingly negative inner voice during performances and was growing weary of the endless, repetitive abuse. I finally came to the conclusion that trying to change it or ignore it simply wasn't working. Instead for the first time we sat at the bargaining table. I promised to listen to any constructive advice that was being offered as long as it was not abusively phrased. It also had to be saved for appropriate times when I had the concentration to listen and learn, and not yelled incessantly while I was trying to access the music and connect with an audience. In turn, I promised to listen carefully and respond by making notes of anything I needed to work on and then email these notes to myself as practise reminders. I would then make any adjustments I could in response and honour the good intentions of my inner critic. It has been amazing! So much more mental space and freedom in performance.
-I'm cultivating a more mindful, present attitude to everything I encounter. This is especially challenging and only embryonic in development. I still rush. I still feel a lot of future anxiety and past regret. But every judgement-free, present moment is adding to my happiness exponentially.
-I've been endeavouring to find a way to give myself anything that I noticed I wanted from someone else. I've been looking for positive thoughts to dwell on and trying to radiate a more openly positive demeanor. I also have endeavoured to start thinking of projects as being accomplished in the NOW instead of constantly framing them as a future achievement, and unintentionally pushing them away. All of this will hopefully empower me to take more responsibility for the situations I'm faced with and give me space to transform. I don't want to waste anymore time in feeling trapped by circumstance.
What I want MORE of in 2014
All this I can sum up as a process of letting go of things that weren't helping me in order to free up time, energy and mindspace to do more of the things that DO enrich my life.
-music, music, music
-prayer & meditation
-stretching & exercise
-writing songs, and blogging
-time just being present, wherever I find myself
-time spent in a grateful, positive frame of mind
-working on my bass and vocal skills
-time talking more honestly and openly to my husband, family and friends
-listening to more new music
-making new connections
-sleep & rest
-refining my business skills so we are more financially independent.
-gardening, working with my hands
-laughing and dancing
-cooking with Steve
So that was my 41st year on planet earth. So much to be grateful for and so much potential for a incredible new year. I would love to hear your stories, especially to hear about what you learned and what you are grateful for.
If I were to take one snapshot of 2013 to hold to my heart into this new year it would be Steve & Liz waltzing in the front yard under a starlit New Years Eve sky.
"How do you waltz, anyhow??",
"Give me frame! Like Kristina taught us!",
"I love you."
with a big cheesy grin,