Jes Raymond

& The Blackberry Bushes

Walking with Fire

I was once a part of a Peace Walk in Taos, NM. The leaders of the walk had come from Japan and they carried with them an alter like pan that held a small fire they kept burning. One of the leader's grandmother had started that fire, and they tended it so that it never went out. The grandmother had gone to Hiroshima right after the bombing, where her son was one of the deceased. They would never find his body, and so she took an ember from the fires that were still burning and brought it home to her alter. She tended it and kept it ever burning. The Peace Walkers had started their flame from that alter fire and brought it to the us on a ship. Then they had walked across the US carrying it and gathering people to walk some of the miles with them. 

I was changed by those people, and now, 17 years later, I don't remember their names, but I vividly remember how dedicated they were to that flame. 

I started a song right after the election about fire, because it is apparent to me that we need some passion. I was writing it in the middle of the chaos, the chaos in my heart and the chaos in my life, since we had just moved and I was trying to set up a mic amidst towers of moving boxes and piles of things with no shelves yet to put them on. But that is where the flame came from, that acute pain of seeing so many people vote against the well being of their neighbors. I took the flame from that moment, and now I am trying to best determine how to keep it going for a long time. It has to be kept going. I can't sleep in, I have to have my space orderly, I have to take really good care of myself. All these things are part of keeping a flame going for a long time. It is obvious to me now that all the songs for my next album will come from that flame, and when they are ready, I will walk them out into the world.  

There is a tyrant who is a stranger. There is a tyrant in our bed. There is a Tyrant in our stories, There is a tyrant in our head.

We do it all up, we suck it all in, we smile and agree. We're the center of attention while we bind our own feet.

Damn that phony shine. I am after something brighter. I will stand up tall in my get it done boots, and I will set myself on fire.

I will set that fire, I am after something brighter. 

In spite of the weeds, in spite of the ache- Today is a pair of hands and tomorrow is the clay.

What they didn't tell you, that's their biggest lie. 

See, there is nothing like the way that your heart reflects the light. 

Damn that phony shine. I am after something brighter. I will stand up tall in my get it done boots, and I will set myself on fire.

I will set that fire, I am after something brighter. 

 

 

Yesterday I cried. A lot.

I cried alot yesterday. I cried because a platform of hate, greed, and celebrity strategically won over a platform of unity and service. It still isn’t the majority of us, but millions and millions of people were willing to align themselves with racism, misogyny, and the denial of science and knowledge. So many more than I thought could do that- did that. Yesterday was one of the darkest days my heart has seen. I, and so many of us, are grieving. 

Grief can have transformative powers. There is such a thing as post-traumatic growth. When our hearts are broken, when our psyche is so broken up that we don’t even recognize ourselves, we have an opportunity. We get to choose how we will put the pieces back together, and we have a very real opportunity to become a better person. We don’t want it, we would give it back if we could, but that is what we must rise to. Jonathan Haidt writes about this phenomenon in his book “The Happiness Hypothesis.” (Very worth reading)

Friends, this is what this means. The stage is open and we have all just realized we are the ones who are supposed to sing. We are going to find strength we didn’t know we had. We will see more clearly who our real friends are and hold each other closer. What is actually important will come into clear focus, and the trivial will fall aside.

I would rather have the first woman president than this growth right now. Growth happens from joy and possibility too, and I wish with my whole broken heart that was what I was writing about.

So yesterday was for crying. Today, I am an artist, and I am awake early. I am working to heal the people I love and the culture of the world I live in. I will be working longer hours.

You Can't Censor Your Inner 15 Year Old -or- Why I Want To Make A Cover Album

Before the guitar, my singing interest was mainly in musical theater. Those of you who have known me a long time remember. I started writing my own songs when I started playing the guitar. Youtube didn’t exist. I skipped over my adolescent cover song period. My inner 15 year old wants her due. 

Making a cover album is about really tuning in to what moves me. It is about transcending the fear of disapproval. We can’t spend our artistic energy worrying about whether we move anyone else. We have to move ourselves. 

Making a cover album is about listening more than I speak. When we are speaking, we say over and over what we already know. There are mountains that we can’t see past the valleys we are camped in. We have to be willing to know we don't know most of what is out there to know. (Don't you know?)

 Making a cover album is about connecting deeply with those whose work I stand on. Every artist has a family tree of great influences, and each of those have their tree of influences. I want to dig into the roots of what moves me. I want to connect with my artistic family tree. 

Also fun. It sounds fun. I like fun.

I will give it everything I have. I promise. I want to learn. That is a central value to me as an artist. I believe in my heart of hearts that we are always capable of growth. For me artistic growth goes hand in hand with spiritual growth and it is a lot cheaper than therapy.  I will always be pushing myself to work beyond a censor and to tune into truth. I feel like it is time for me to really spend some time with the artists who have “brought me to church” over the years and learn what I can now at this point in my journey from them. I want to cover the artists that have sung to me at my highest and lowest. I want to cover the songs that I put on repeat while my head rested on the speaker. The ones in my headphones on the long Greyhound bus rides. I want to learn. I intend to take what I learn and let it inform the 2nd phase of this writing/recording project which will be a cycle of new original songs. I am calling this whole project “The Call and Response”.

Here is the thing- I’ll find a way to make what I need to make. All artists do. But in order to SHARE it, I really need support. If you join in and support me in this project before Sept 15, you will get your name printed in all the credits. Like the Patron that you are. You will be along for the whole ride, and we'll be doing it together. That will be fun.

Circle Back or Singing as a Spiritual Practice.

 

Several years ago, I was playing a show in a nice venue in Montana. At the time, it was one of the nicer stages I had ever performed on. When we rolled in at about 2 in the afternoon, there was a man sitting at the bar who had obviously been drinking. He wanted to give me a massage. I was really uneasy until the bartender told me that he was a wonderful massage therapist and that he was here drinking today because his brother had died that morning. After hearing those parts of his story, and watching him give my boyfriend Jakob a massage that he was raving about, I let him give me a shoulder massage at the bar. It was a turning point for me. I don’t know if it was just his intensity or what, but it felt like his hands reached deeper into my body and pulled more tension from me then I could ever have consciously known was there. He told me as he worked my muscles, that I had to be free if I wanted to make the people feel free. It was the moment that concept came into my awareness as a singer, and I have been circling back to it for the past several years, finding ways to be more free both in my mind and in my body. 

Singing is my spiritual practice. Studying singing has made me a better person. It is a humbling, unfolding study of your depths and a search for simplicity.

It is also all just muscles. We all have more or less the same equipment. We can all learn to let our voices resonate without tension, which is the foundation of the kind of singing that sends a chill down your spine. 

My biggest leaps in performance seem to come from a deeper understanding and implementation of something really basic. 

That being said:

I found a new level of release this week, just by adding a facial massage and tongue stretch to my warm up routine. (Do that! No really, don’t skip it!)

My advice for singers of every level: You are a singer. I am a singer. It is amazing how hard that can be to say. Say it. Then find a way to release tension. Repeat. 

nameonalbumannuncement.jpg

Keeping and Leaving

The days are short and we are inching closer and closer to the tipping point. The darkest time of year, and the time when the light starts coming back. The time where we touch  an end and a beginning. A time where we take a close look at what we are going to leave behind and what we are taking forward with us. It is traditional to imagine that we will leave all our baggage and take our lessons with us, but actually, I have found that to rarely be reality. 

Most of the time when we go to step off that void into a new unknown, we are leaving behind some dreams and relationships, however tangled they may be that we had love and really good intentions for. And what we take with us for the time being, are imperfect wounded hearts that probably won't be able to learn the lessons they need to heal without time and space. 

That is the nature of it. You can't plan for every move. If we knew what we needed to get somewhere, we would already be there. We take what we have. It probably isn't enough, so we'll have to find the rest along the way. 

 

"Sleeping In" Is A Creative Act

We live in a world with so much emphasis on productivity. The struggle for relevance in any field requires long, hard work. But after long hard work, and really as a part of it, we have to respect our need for rest.

Some days you don't have much to say. Maybe you are tired. Maybe you need rest.

Athletes know they can't train endlessly. Their strength is built in the recovery. It is often the same with music. We practice something new with diligence, but we can't really know it until we have stepped away and slept. 

We can't create the kind of transformations and connections that make the work that really touches people without time for dreaming.

So get inspired, burn that oil way past midnight, and then sleep in. 

 

Growth Comes With A Shock

Here is a kind of uncomfortable truth. We don't get to a new place without a storm. We all know that birth involves some violence. A chick has to burst through an egg. Even a seedling has to crack and destroy the casing of its seed. 

That is the natural order. We need stillness. We need silence, and rest, and contemplation. We need the steady drip of the day to day, but we also need to recognize that we need the winter and the storms she brings. The pain of editing something we have created clears the way for the growth we need.

Perhaps our best work would not be possible without the death of our previous work. Our maybe we just need the space to see new possibilities. (Can you tell that I recently brought ALOT of stuff to the thrift store?)

I was reminded yesterday of a metaphor I heard once, about how we can let our ideas that don't work get given to bugs. Let the bugs tear them apart into little pieces and then carry them forward with you as fragments that may be just what your newest idea is looking for. Editing can hurt sometimes, but growth comes with a shock.

The Space Between In and Out

Just after a new idea hits me, I want to collect as much information about that idea as possible. I want to find images and songs and poems and books and do Tarot readings and take in as much as I can. It helps. I see what has come before me. I try to make connections. I swim around in a pool of inspiration.

But you can't take in forever. 

At some point, the breath stops and rests inside you. It is the same for creative work. It rests there, flows through your blood and bones, all that inspiration. 

But it can't stay there forever. You have to breathe it out. 

My best work comes when I keep the rhythm.  In and Out. I can refine it once it is out. Breathe it back in and back out again. The work is there - the in and the out. The muse is in that space between.

A New Perspective for The Day formally known as Black Friday...

I just opened my email inbox to 250 Black Friday emails. 

Luckily, I had already gone for a jog on this beautiful Seattle day and had my coffee. I was ready for the mass delete. 

We all have to make a living. I don’t judge people for sending out sales announcemnets on this fabricated consumption day. If there is one thing I know from being self employed, selling is hard and we are all a part of it and connected to it. Art is not separate from it. 

I also don’t judge people for wanting to find gifts for people that we love. We want to give someone something that makes them feel seen and known. We want something to represent our connection to them. There is love and devotion there. 

The part that is a problem is how Black Friday plays on our fears of losing out, and not our desire to be generous. It makes total sense that the day after we reflect on all that we have and what we are thankful for that we would then reflect on what we want to give. That could be a beautiful thing.