dear santa.

Dear Santa,

At this time of year, I know you’re quite used to folks writing to you asking for things.  This letter will be different.

I am writing to thank you for all you have done for me throughout the years.

When Larry decided to portray you, I was happy he found something to keep him busy during the months of November and December.  Little did we know that his portrayal of you would become something much deeper for both of us.

When Larry began networking, little did I know that he would meet people who would become friends for the rest of his life.  Little did I know that many of these folks would become good friends, mentors and spiritual advisors to me.  The men who portray you are often incredible people who set aside their lives to portray you, and eventually their lives are shaped by you and what you represent.

It never ceases to amaze me.  And those that remain in my life have been blessings to me – I am reminded of your giving nature and love in their actions.  My faith in humanity is refreshed when I am with them.

Your biggest and best gift to me was Larry being given a focus and drive.  Your next greatest gift to me are all the men who portray you who have stood behind me and supported me when my world fell apart.  You continue to give in the men who were inspired by Larry to grow their beards and don the suit of red and portray you.

At least two of these folks have been a large part of my life before you entered it and they remain a large part of my life.  They continue to support me in their actions, words, prayers and deeds and they remind me that faith can be a powerful thing when given the right intent and reason.

The latest gift you have given me is the latest Santa who has asked me to be his “elf” in the way I was for Larry – supporting, helping connect him with resources and continue to serve your spirit by helping another great friend portray you.  Michael kept me going when I hit rock bottom with PTSD and Depression and I am blessed and honoured to call him friend.

The only reason why I’m still walking this earth is because of him and I am indebted for his quiet love and peaceful resolve to keep me talking when my mind and heart were trying to shut down, screaming for my body to join them somehow.  I wear the semicolon on my left forearm because Michael gave me reason to stay alive – because I need to honour a promise I made to Larry.

You have given me a good friend who both portrays you but also has taken me under his wing and works with me musically.  David has been my most ardent supporter, believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.  He still does.

You have given me a number of spiritual supports and guides who are showing me that faith is a personal thing and can be balanced with my scientific mind’s desire for rationality and evidence.  Just as I believe in your existence in the hearts of the people who portray you, I believe in a higher power that exists in the hearts and minds of people who are searching for more.

You have given me the drive to keep going when everything within me fought forward motion.  I have recorded and released a CD that is singularly me, I have started writing new songs that build upon while moving away from table for one.

You have continued to keep my family in my life and I am blessed with a supportive and caring Mother and an amazing brother, sister-in-law and nieces.

So.  For once, it’s time that someone thank you for all you have given me.  Gifts that aren’t material, however gifts that have supported me and provided me strength.

Thank you, Santa, for all you have given.

Love,

myke.

P.S. I’d like to ask you for one thing.  If there’s someone who is supposed to be in my life to make me happy, can you make it happen soon?  If he has long white hair, a beard and chubby belly – even better!

 

 

on on being human.

For me, this is the hardest song from table for one. It represents a pretty ugly period for me and accurately describes how I was feeling when I was at my worst.  on being human. was written on a train ride home from Ottawa in December 2014. I had just hit rock bottom and after years of fighting PTSD and the dissociation from it, I had completely been cut off from my emotions. Even things that once brought me pleasure left me more often than not confused and wanting to withdraw further from life, I was shutting down and detached from emotions, caring and desires…

“i’m going through the motions
just to see if i still can care.
i’m going through the motions
just to see if i’m still there;
i’m just trying to be human.”

I had finally experienced a full tilt nervous breakdown and even something that came naturally to me – playing bass – stopped “working” entirely. My hands felt like they were in oven mitts and my brain stopped talking to my fingers. I was, for all intents and purposes, useless.

“i’m going through the motions
but that doesn’t make me any less real.
i’m going through the motions
but it doesn’t mean i still don’t feel;
i’m just trying to be human.”

I went home and hid from life for a few days, just trying to make sense of it all. The last little piece of what made Myke Myke was completely lost to me. I was scared and my future had pretty much hidden itself from me at that moment.

“i disconnect again.”

Until that moment, music and playing bass in particular was the one place in life I found solace, peace and joy. After Dad died, it seemed as though that was slipping away until that fateful afternoon in Ottawa when it was yanked out from under me, bowling me over in the process. I had nothing left, no husband, no music, no love. Nothing made sense except the overwhelming sense of loss, anger and nothingness.

“after years of alienation, ambivalence and fear,
i’m just trying to prove to myself that i am still here;
wanting to restore the past i have lost.
attempting to find myself again, no matter what the cost –
just trying to be human.”

And in that I failed. Miserably. If it weren’t for Michael Morin and Drake Jensen – I doubt I’d be around writing this today. Those two men saved my life – I am indebted to them and love them dearly because of their handling of my situation. They both were gentle to me, even though I failed them and others. They are still there for me when I need them and they are two of my most ardent supporters AND providers of reality checks.  I want them to be proud of me. I want to show them that I can.

“i start going through the motions
but i don’t know if i can.
i start going through the motions
because this is who i am;
just trying to be human.”

And I’m still just trying to be human. I still haven’t regained the passion to play bass yet. Even though it’s my main instrument, I still haven’t found the “love” of the instrument and ones that I was once connected to, feel little more than tools to do a job. That’s why I’ve been so heavily focused on acoustic guitar the past two years, particularly the baritone acoustic as it combines my love of the lower frequencies with a more melodic form of expression.

The baritone acoustic is the instrument you hear on this particular song. I’ve further detuned it to make it deeper and darker as a representation of where I was at the time this song was written. There’s something joyfully perverse about taking a lovely acoustic instrument and cranking it through a guitar amplifier to get some distortion which sums up how my emotions were at the time – jagged and chaotic.

I hope, one day, to reconnect with the bass. Until then they sit in my living room, out of their cases for once, waiting for the human me to pick them up and make their voices heard.

no such thing as a free ride: budgeting for an album explained

I’m going to preface this with the fact that I’m happy, overwhelmed and honoured by the response to table for one., both the live show and the recording.  However, this is my response to the most asked question about this.
Well folks, it’s happened.  Less than 24 hours of being available online, I’ve had the inevitable requests for a free copy of table for one.
If this happens in person, the person asking will likely get a head tilt, followed by “the look” and then a brief and simple “no.” from me.
If you were going to get a free copy of the $10 download or the $15 CD, you would have been notified of it already – my next list is the folks who graciously pre-paid for copies of table for one. along with their tickets to the August 28, 2016 concert.  These folks should expect their email from me by the end of the day!
However, even as a labour of love, I cannot simply afford to give my music away.  And honestly, as it represents 7 years’ of my life distilled down into 10 songs, putting a monetary value on it hurts.   But it also represents a LOT of work and the accounting below does not include the hours of writing, rewriting, rehearsal, travel and administrative work necessary to produce such a document.
Keep in mind that I did this album as frugally as I could without resorting to doing it myself on Garageband, as I wanted to focus on the actual performances while an incredible professional focused on technical things like microphone placement and compression.
tableforoneaccounting-page-001
I’m grateful for the folks who have supported me, however I’d like to at least break even on this, so I can continue to afford to make music.  So, if I don’t offer you a free download or CD…this is why.
You will note that even on such a small budget, I still have quite a way to go before even recuperating the expenses of producing this album and why I’m equally frugal with who gets free copies of my life’s work.  I make music because I love doing it and I’m driven to do so.  I’m not asking for huge success, I’m hoping it will be at least self-supporting.

rediscovering the muse

So after jumpstarting my musical output on August 28th and finally getting table for one. out of my system – the big question is: what next?

I’ve been muddling around with that one for a while and trying to avoid forcing the issue, and I suspect the answer will be an ongoing process of evolution and discovery.

Until then, I’ve had a few major epiphanies as of late:

The discovery of what has become for me “the perfect guitar.” By now, most everyone knows about my first “good” guitar being stolen from a gig and finally recovered 7 years later. By then insurance had replaced it with my now mainstay Taylor dreadnought guitar that I had developed a decent rapport with. When my old guitar was returned to me, courtesy of the shop I purchased it at and Metro Toronto Police, I tried to rekindle the magic but it was gone. I eventually sold it on consignment and continued to play the dreadnought.

Cue the fateful visit to The Acoustic Room in Hamilton and the discovery of a Taylor Grand Concert model steel string guitar that was built more like a nylon string classical guitar. I asked the owner about this guitar and proceeded to play it in the store, falling in love with its playability and tone immediately. I convinced the store to trade in a guitar I had purchased earlier but did not love. While it was gorgeous, it didn’t speak to me in the long run and I felt no love for it.

The Grand Concert guitar was different – it felt like the original time I picked up my first good guitar and then some. Since getting this guitar, I have fallen more in love with its feel, its tone and yes, its quirks and foibles. It was the main guitar used to record table for one. and both engineers on the project could not get over its tone, how easily it played and how it “fit” the mix. It is truly a special guitar and would be (along with Chloe) what I grab from the house in an emergency.

I’m in love with this guitar and have begun to focus on it becoming my instrumental voice.
Bob Weir’s loose, live performance at Amoeba Records. Following up with the perfect guitar, I have fallen in love with former Grateful Dead guitarist, Bob Weir’s current record Blue Mountain. I’m not the biggest Deadhead to say the least, however Bob’s solo discs from the 1970’s and his work with RatDog have been music I’ve enjoyed over the years. Earlier this week he performed an hour long set at Amoeba Records to promote Blue Mountain and his honesty, looseness and voice blew me away. I could sit for hours and listen to music like this – as it highlights my love for bluegrass, acoustic country and Appalachian folk music.

As a classically trained pianist and vocalist I used to strive for musical perfection (I still must singing chorally) but as a solo performer, I’m more focused on entertainment, vibe and honesty. Yes there are a few vocal clams on table for one., however the music is real and expresses the pain, anger and grief that the past few years have brought for me.
Bob’s loose, honest performance at Amoeba, combined with his humour and precision – when his guitar began feeding back, he asked the sound person to notch out at 300hz and the feedback disappeared immediately – showed his professionalism despite the clearly disheveled appearance. There was no pretense about it. Just a guy with a guitar, playing to a few hundred friends…I hope to give that experience in the years to come.

What’s more interesting to me is that the pieces from table for one. that are gaining the most attention are the two songs where I am at my most relaxed and, honestly actually letting go. “on being human.” is perhaps the most difficult song for me to listen to as it’s the song where I finally LET GO and let all the rage, fear, anger, angst and disconnect out, “moving on.” is a song which surprised many people as they aren’t used to me actually letting go and…GASP….HAVING FUN musically. Honestly I’m not used to either so they are both quite the experience for me.

After visiting the Chihuly exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum and revisiting the photos from my 2013 visit to the Desert Botanical Gardens in Scottsdale, I decided to watch the documentaries “Dale Chihuly Outside” and “Dale Chihuly Fire and Ice.”

Both documentaries focused on Chihuly’s creative process – particularly how he is inspired by the spaces he will be exhibiting in and also how he works with the craftspeople who actually make the glass and metal objects he creates. It is amazing how he collaborates with both the space, nature and the people whom execute his vision, being inspired and pushed to create objects and make art that both adorns, emphasizes and co-exists with the spaces he is given to work with. Incredibly some of his works reside in nature years after he has created them becoming as much a part of the landscape as the features and organisms around them.

His ability to repurpose and recontextualize older creations, giving them new life in new surroundings amazes me and, seeing him visiting installations days, weeks, months later and reworking them as they no longer suit his vision is inspirational. This constant reworking of past ideas is what has endeared Frank Zappa and the Residents to me as they often revisited older works and recontextualized them with fresh eyes and ears.

Hence the song “table for one.” is an evolution of an earlier song “Untitled.” Interestingly enough, a number of the songs from “table for one.” are already taking on their own lives and continue to evolve, change and grow. It will be interesting to see what they will end up becoming as I continue to discover how they will fit in with my life as I move forward and build on my past.

So between finding what seems to be THE instrument to express myself with. Finding a new honesty in letting go and just being there for the music, warts and all. And learning to work with my environment and evolve with who, where and what I am at any given point in life.

I honestly haven’t found my muses, at long last they have finally found me.

an open letter to Devin Townsend 

Dear Devin,

I am writing this a few days after your Toronto show because I needed time to compose my thoughts and feelings.I sat in the balcony of the Danforth Music Hall, weeping, several times during the show. Your music has meant so much to me over the past few years as I’ve rebuilt my life from the foundation up.

You see, my husband of 15 years died in 2013 after a 7 year battle with cancer. My Dad died one year later and circumstances finally forced me to face and finally deal with an ugly truth about what happened to me when I was 13 years old.

I ended 2014 with a nervous breakdown and considering quitting my career as a musician, selling my home and walking away from it all.

Throughout all of this, Ki, Addicted, Deconstruction, Ghost and Epicloud were a major part of the soundtrack to my grief, my own dissolution as a human being and my subsequent efforts to rebuild myself.

I particularly gravitated to Ki and Epicloud as they were both introspective and positive in outlook.

As a longtime fan of yours – I first heard and saw you on the Vai “Sex and Religion” album and tour and have since followed you through Strapping Young Lad, solo, Devin Townsend Band and DTP efforts. I was kind of unthrilled with Z2, knowing that it was one last visit to your ego and “craziness” run amok – perhaps that’s why I listen to Deconstruction the least as I feel it is essentially a Ziltoid album at heart.

So I approached Transcendence with trepidation and hesitation.

When I first listened to it, I was walking through the city park near my home and actually had to stop, sit down and LISTEN. Stormbending brought on the first set of joyful tears, followed by Stars and From the Heart. I still can’t listen to From the Heart without my eyes welling up.

Thank you.  

For seven long years, I cried out of pain and sadness. Your music finally made me cry from joy.

Hearing Stormbending live, followed by Where We Belong and the closers Kingdom, Ih-Ah! and Higher was pretty much the perfect concert for me…

If Ki and Epicloud were the soundtrack to my grief and reconstruction, Transcendence has become the soundtrack to my rebirth.

I performed my first live solo show on August 28 (I covered “Divine” in tribute to my husband), followed by a week in the recording studio, working on an all acoustic album of the music written during the past seven years. The original four DTP albums gave me the strength to go through the mountains of notebooks and cull the ten best ideas and finally get them out there.

I am now ready to move on with my life and Transcendence seems to be the ideal audio representation of that. I thank you and the band for “being there” for me when I was overwhelmed and couldn’t do anything but sit/lie down and listen to music.

Wishing you peace and grateful for your music through the years.

Myke Hutchings

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

P.S. Apologies to Beav – I was going to have a bass lesson with him in Toronto, however my bronchitis got the best of me and I didn’t want to share it with the band and crew.

thinking thinky thoughts

Feeling interesting.  It’s funny because the lastest song is entitled “Another Man’s Dream” and it’s about moving out from under the shadow of my Dad, Larry and the people in the church who hurt me those years ago…

It’s kind of a statement/manifesto of self.

Once recording and promotion is done for table for one. there are the new projects already on tap.  Not the least of which will be a non-holiday Balderdash & Humbug collaboration.
The other Myke Hutchings works are going to be recorded and released as they happen to me.  The joys of not being tied to a project or CD release, and the realization that I don’t need to hit the studio unless I have something big, allows me to make on the fly and produce regularly.
Next step is refining what happened August 28th into something more concise and a little less traumatic for me and the audience.  Then taking the show on the road (albeit without four damned guitars) – I’ve heard that people elsewhere are interested and I’m more than willing to play house concerts or events if expenses can be covered.
I think my nervous breakdown in December 2014 was a good thing in hindsight.  I get that working as a sideman for another musician meant I would have only ever been the sideman and potentially another songwriting collaborator versus staring down the barrel of finally recording table for one. as an artist in my own right.  Again, evidence I can no longer live someone else’s dream.
A tough lesson to be taught and in all honestly a fucking brutal way to learn it.
At the same time, the band members have been fully supportive of me since, despite my letting them down.
I am constantly reminded how lucky I am to be surrounded by people who believe in me, even when I don’t believe in myself.
You all are blessings in my life. I am truly grateful for your patience, kindness and support.

on healing, recovery and rebirth

Today, it’s as if a massive weight has been lifted my shoulders.  I sit here writing this with my heart filled with peace, love and a sense of victory.

Last night, in front of 95 friends, I performed the contents of my new album in its entirety from beginning to end.

I then followed it up with a set of cover songs that have been instrumental in my recovery from the deaths of my husband and my father and the resulting PTSD and anxiety.

This also marks the first time in almost seven years that I have performed as a solo act.  I haven’t been on a stage beyond with the Hamilton Gay Men’s Chorus since the last house concert I did in Durham, North Carolina that long ago.

This is big for me and I doubt I could have managed this last year or even two years ago.

The evening was painful for me both physically (my hands are trashed from playing the guitar for two and a half hours straight) and emotionally.

See two of the songs of table for one. were written using quotes from Larry’s journals as he processed his illness and impending death.  I literally sang my deceased husband’s words in celebration of his life and his acceptance of his passing in front of our friends.

I left my heart on that stage, in addition to the pool of sweat and tears (as seen here, compliments of Paul Hawkins).  14199267_10208386125543034_7457111477907093581_n

Yup, that’s an ugly cry indeed, in front of people, while singing.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way – because it’s real and what I was feeling.  Seven years ago, I would have been embarrassed to do this in front of anybody, let alone an audience of people who paid twenty dollars each to see me.

But it’s done, people were happy and I am satisfied.  Songs that I was unsure of, I know work well and were received well.  Other songs fell flat and need tweaking before they get recorded.  But I’m going to take some time away from the material – about a week or so – and then revisit it with fresh eyes and fingers in slightly better shape.

But it was a great evening – I now feel this chapter in my life has concluded – recording the project and releasing it will be a great postlude to the period of recovery and rebirth.

Iain Bennett said it most succinctly to me last night when he whispered in my ear “Welcome back.”

am back indeed.  It feels good to be here.  It feels good to be me.  I feel good.  I feel reborn.

Welcome back Myke, it’s been a while!  What took you so fucking long?