Basement Memories & the Creator's Crucible
At the end of 2013, debilitated, I waved my white flag and moved back home.
At the end of 2013, I waved my white flag and moved back home to Saskatoon, Canada. I had been struggling with severe and debilitating fatigue from late 2011 which had only continued to worsen in spite of what I can honestly say were heroic efforts on my part to both get well and try to fulfill my academic duties.
I had been at graduate school in Austria, navigating life in a foreign country in both its excitement and stress. For years I had spent most of my waking hours with ancient and scholastic philosophers like Plato and Aquinas, fighting my way through Latin and Greek and sorting through all of my groceries and mail in German.
Strangely, at my sickest point while still in Europe, I had also serendipitously connected with the former manager of a massive late-90s pop star—while on a bus to Lisieux, France for a St. Therese pilgrimage.
(Catholics like to go hang out at the graves of saints, for those unaware. I could have a Substack committed just to those stories from my time overseas, from an angle of both the weirdness and joy of it all.)
The connection I made on that bus quickly turned into the stylings of a record deal—the kind of opportunity that most people pound the pavement for in LA or Nashville for years—so while fighting to keep myself afloat academically in the face of a mountain of fatigue, I was also beginning work in and out of the UK, developing as an artist and pursuing my first album with the label.
I should have been in my prime, and everything should have been thrilling—except that I could barely get out of bed in the morning due to shattered health. It was devastating.
It was at this time that I finally transferred my studies to a distance program to finish my thesis work, waved my proverbial white flag, and came back home.
I thought it would be a small pit stop on my way to full-time living in London.
But, although there is much more to the story, I ended up staying in Saskatoon for almost 5 years, and the fatigue persisted with only spurts of improvement in that time.
In retrospect, while those years were challenging beyond words, it was also a time of incredible creative fruitfulness. Among many other things, I wrote hundreds of songs and poems, and grew leaps and bounds in ways only profound suffering can facilitate.
One of the consolations along the way during that time was stumbling into a cryptocurrency “backwoods of the internet,” as I regularly and affectionately refer to it. I began recording and sharing dozens of covers there, as well as a lot of original material, with only a small slice of those recordings shared anywhere else. I had struck gold, and few knew about my secret, well-paying creative outlet. And I liked it that way.
The recordings and compositions from that time (and from all of my time as a writer and composer) I have also affectionately referred to since late 2016 or so as “The Archives.”
This video and song is one from then—from my dark basement apartment an old friend had graciously rented out to me at a price I could (barely) afford. That basement, while a great gift at the time, will always remain the symbol of my personal crucible, which prepared me for and led me to my beautiful life as it is now, looking out at the coast of Southern California.
I would sing it differently now (also a story), but here is “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” by Crowded House, and heavily influenced by the Sixpence None the Richer version I fell in love with years ago.
I hope you enjoy, and I’ll be in touch more soon. I’m dreaming up much to share.
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