Last night, I went over to my longtime friend Brayden Wilkinson's house, as I've done dozens of times since we met in high school back in 2008. In 2019 at age 23, we're still kicking it old school - we had dinner with his incredibly supportive parents, and then went down to his basement to do our favourite thing in the world: make music.
Brayden and I have been fellow musicians since day one; we were in the same school bands for our entire high school career, did the same musical theatre shows, won school district talent shows and other fun things as bandmates. In 2017, Brayden was a key member of the circle of musicians who helped me compose and finish my album Café des Rêves, even creating his own original arrangement that wound up carrying his own name as the performing artist on Track 13 of the album.
Needless to say, there's a reason we continue to jam! We've always had fun, and we've always been able to take each other's ideas and energy and bounce them back with a new twist.
I've been stubborn in the past. As an artist, I've fell into the pattern of having an idea, then becoming overly attached to it. In band practices, this has manifested in stressful ways; a band mate may have had a simple suggestion for how to improve the execution of a melody, or a way to build on a previous idea, and I would become upset and feel threatened - simply because any suggestion would feel like a way of saying, "Liam, your art is not good enough, and neither are you." Yikes.
Well, fast forward two years and I've come a long way. I'm so proud of everything I've done so far, largely because of the risks I've taken knowing my way wasn't necessarily going to be universally well-received (see The Georgia Straight's review of my first album, Hit the Stage). Café des Rêves is no exception. But looking at that album critically, there are a few songs that stand out above the others - "Woah!", "Tuesday Afternoon", and "Kingdom Come" all fall into this category for me. And while I'd like to say that this was all my doing, the credit is certainly not exclusively mine to take.
If you listen closely to those songs, you'll notice that there is a plethora of instruments and musical things happening that I did not A) perform, or B) come up with. The reason those songs sound so good is because of the creativity of the people I shared those songs with early on, namely Brayden, Mark Daudlin, Alex Balanko and Kristian Goze.
As we five gathered to prepare for that Summer's gigs, they continuously brought a positivity and excitement to the sessions that lead to an open door of awesome ideas to spawn from their own varied musical backgrounds. Complex, interesting bass lines from Mark, expansive, emotive piano arrangements from Kristian, roaring, earnest guitar solos from Alex... I was the fortunate recipient of such amazing creative benefaction, and I am eternally thankful for their contributions to our mutual art.
So, Brayden, as we talked about at length last night... I've learned that it's my duty as an artist not just to have ideas that I think are interesting and worthwhile, but treat them with the respect they deserve and allow them to be created, broken down, recreated, and broken down again for as many times as is necessary to achieve their full potential. Art is collaborative in every sense, and while others may not be so lucky, conversations like ours last night consistently remind me that I'm surrounded by people I can trust, and that care about my, and our, success as much as I do.
I brought three new songs to Brayden, all of which I'm excited about for different reasons. For several hours, we played through them, identified what was cool about them, and opened cracks in them for new ideas to grow. I'm so lucky that Brayden is so full of excitement for music, and so diverse in his skill - as the drummer and a huge creative force in his band Ka Pala, he's also continuously growing and learning, which results in a well-fertilized field for the next seeds to be planted. And after the days and weeks and months of work is done, harvested and shared with the open eyes and ears of the world.
Keep being Awesome.
- Liam Sturgess