Posted by: Maggie Ross | July 3, 2011

Did Somebody Say Ducks?

Strange. I no sooner wrote about our parking lot ducks than they disappeared, never to be seen again. Maybe I blew their cover, I don’t know. Gee, I miss the little guys…

Chemo treatment #29 happened this past Thursday. Feeling good as always. Staying busy, much of it on Skype. But I did get to write face-to-face last week with Jay Semko, former bassist/vocalist/songwriter with the Northern Pikes, a name my Canadian friends will recognize. They were an excellent group who made a pretty big splash in the late 80s to early 90s. Jay is working solo now and, though he’s based out of Saskatoon, Sask., he’s managed by our friend Jeff Liberty who lives here.

Anyway Jay was in town to do a couple of shows and, courtesy of Jeff, I got to meet and write with him. A humble, talented and very likable guy. We wrote a wistful little ditty called “Hole In My Heart” Tuesday afternoon. The next evening I went to hear Jay’s show at the Bourbon Quarter. Just him and his guitar, and he rocked the place. For the second set he called on Mike Biggar and Grant Heckman (one of The Honeyboys and a top-notch guitarist) to do a couple of their songs and then finish the set with him. Great stuff! Another stellar night of entertainment out here in the Maritimes.

I also Skype-wrote a song last week with Alee Adomski who’s a fine 18-year-old singer living in Edmonton, Alberta. She also has an N.B. manager (what’s going on with this?), Steve McCauley, who was a Toronto based record guy in a former life. I’m totally impressed with Alee…lovely, smart, sings like a bird and plays very decent guitar. The whole package. We wrote a song that she is touting as a “keeper” and have a second date on the calendar. I tell ya, this Skype thing is a life saver!

I’m continuing to have fun with my little home recording unit. I had Melissa Hunt over here to sing on another unplugged demo, this one a tribute to her late grandfather. “Grandpa’s Dream” recalls his own unfulfilled music dreams. Ivan Daigle, perhaps the best country voice in this province, was here one night also to add a vocal to “You Can Stop The Music,” one of several country songs that we’ve written and that I love. Ivan is currently in Dauphin, Manitoba where he competed, and finished second, in the Countryfest Talent Contest…the only one of the 20 finalists not from Manitoba.

I’ve added these two new demos to my blog music page so you can take a listen.

I’ll run along now, but let me send out a slightly belated Happy Canada Day to my Canuck friends, and a premature Happy Fourth Of July to those south of the border. You’re all in my thoughts!

Posted by: Maggie Ross | June 18, 2011

Of Ducks And Forget Me Nots

Just back from St. Joseph’s Hospital for my bi-weekly “baby bottle” disconnect, following last Thursday’s chemo. I guess I get lazier all the time about my postings here since it occurs to me there was no blog whatsoever following the treatment before that, which is usually when I do these things.

Truth is there’s nothing huge to report. Although here’s something curious: we have a pair of ducks that visit the parking lot that our apartment windows overlook. The parking lot’s probably a bit smaller than a basketball court and tends not to be terribly busy most of the time. Often we look out the window and there they are, two ducks standing idly in the middle of the lot, staring duck-like at pretty much nothing. Occasionally they waddle from point A to point B 10 or 20 feet away. There doesn’t seem to be much food foraging involved. They just like standing around. Approached, they’ll waddle off but don’t seem to be panicked. Once or twice I’ve seen kids toss breadcrumbs or popcorn kernels at them but they seem more interested in escaping the kids than in the food offerings. Maggie thinks they actually live in a marshlike area beyond the trees that border the parking lot. Of course she worries endlessly about them but, thankfully, has refrained from giving them names.

Speaking of Maggie, it looks like she’s about to become a tour guide. Saint John handles a lot of cruise ship traffic (80 scheduled dockings this year) and she applied to a company that conducts bus tours. She did an audition the other day, taking a couple of the company’s employees on a short walking tour near their offices, offering commentary on various landmarks along the way. She was extremely nervous but needn’t have been; they proclaimed her to be “spectacular.” Must be the British accent. Now she has to take some training and procure a period United Empire Loyalist costume but it looks like a go. Which is good of course. We can certainly use the money, I think she’ll find the job interesting and will shine at it, and, let’s face it, she and I spend a lot of time together in this rather small apartment! I see no down side to this at all.

As for me, the usual. Lots of guitar noodling, a fair bit of songwriting, much of it on Skype. One thing that’s new is that I have reinstated my home studio. When we fled Nashville like a pair of refugees we got rid of a lot of stuff, even several of my instruments. But I did hang on to a few things. My trusty K. Yairi acoustic of course. I’ve had it since 1980, have written many hundreds of songs with its help, and can’t imagine being without it. I also kept the key ingredients of my compact recording setup: a Korg 12-track digital recorder, a little Presonus preamp and an AT-250 condenser mike, inexpensive but surprisingly good. I’ve probably owned this stuff for five years or so. I used it a fair bit in Nashville to make “unplugged”-style demos…vocals and harmonies, a guitar track or two, maybe a mandolin or Dobro part, perhaps some light percussion. It was always a love/hate relationship between me and the gear: I drive myself nuts at times trying to create perfect parts that belie my instrumental limitations. That’s probably why I’ve avoiding setting it up this past year. Everything sat in a suitcase in the closet up till a couple of weeks ago when I assembled everything onto a table in our computer room/office/spare bedroom.

Anyway I had the lovely Melissa Hunt over the other day to put down a vocal on a song we wrote called “Forget Me Nots.” It’s in memory of her maternal grandmother who died very suddenly several months back. It’s a sweet song and Melissa sings it beautifully. Listen for yourselves–it’s the first song on the “Listen To My Music” page.

That’s about it for now. Thanks for keeping me in your thoughts!

Posted by: Maggie Ross | May 18, 2011

Spring? What spring?

Hi folks,

Just a few words from the East Coast where it seems to do nothing but rain, rain, rain…and then rain. Boring and a tad depressing at times. However today the downpour is indeed at bay though it’s a grayish sort of afternoon and you still don’t want to go anywhere without a jacket.

But life goes on regardless, and we’ve been fairly active and busy.

Last week we had a lovely visit from Pat Taylor, a friend from BC who we hadn’t seen for 16 years or so. Pat, who has a background in artist management and theatre, has become a cancer crusader in recent years. She lost a 26-year-old daughter to the disease in 2000. A documentary film, Sara’s Story, was made during Sara’s last years, and then a second one, Chasing Rainbows, was made following Sara’s death. Pat began touring and showing the films to cancer societies everywhere, with a particular slant toward young cancer patients and survivors. Now she’s touring again with a similarly-themed film called Wrong Way to Hope , which she didn’t create but strongly endorses. Representing Young Adults Living With Cancer, Pat travels the country spreading her message of hope and survival. Noble work, and no worthy cause ever had a more generous-hearted and enthusiastic cheerleader than our friend who, miraculously, looks no older than she did when last seen.

I met Pat for dinner in uptown Saint John last Wednesday. Maggie has been dealing with a bad cold that’s taken on bronchial overtones (she’s actually a lot better as I type this) and chose not to join us. Pat and I had a fine meal at the Urban Deli after which we headed to nearby Bourbon Quarter where our buddy Dann Downes was having a CD release party for his New Wolf at the Door album. Dann and his band played a terrific couple of sets. He calls his music “North Americana” and I don’t think I can top that for a description. The Bourbon Quarter was pretty much packed and it was a fine evening. Pat took multiple pictures and purchased not one but two copies of the CD.

Other than that I’ve been doing a fair bit of Skype writing…with Bri Arden in Manhattan, Shawn Dodd in Nashville and Kaitlyn Baker in Pound, Virginia. Good results all around. I’m becoming a Skype Junkie! Also wrote a good new song this week (in person) with Melissa Hunt. Plus I’ve been in the studio some with the tireless Mike Biggar, working on some new tracks toward his album.

And lastly, the results of my latest CT scan show continued improvement and tumor shrinkage. Even the crappy weather can’t cast a shadow over news like that!

Chemo #25 happens tomorrow. Till next time…

Posted by: Maggie Ross | May 10, 2011

Another Dave Woods interview

Maggie here again to tell you about another interview Larry did with Dave Woods recently, this time for a new series he’s doing on “The Story Behind The Song”. They talked about five songs Larry’s written over the last twenty years or so that are particularly meaningful for him, and you can listen here. (There’s a short commercial before the show starts.)

Posted by: Maggie Ross | May 1, 2011

Return of the Hall of Famer

Hello, fair readers. Having traveled many a mile recently I am indeed back in New Brunswick pleasantly burdened with my shiny Hall of Fame plaque and memories galore…and a few freshly-minted songs.

All in all, a successful and fulfilling visit.

It began with a week in Medicine Hat, Alberta, visiting my mother. I was able to be there for her 88th birthday, which was a nice added bonus. She’s doing well, still living in her own condo with her 13-year-old Shihtzu, Honey (who’s also pretty frisky). She couldn’t have been prouder of the Hall of Fame deal, kept telling everyone we encountered about it. You would have thought I was getting a Nobel Prize!

Then off to Vancouver. I was met by my friends Ron and Sue Irving on Friday night. I spent my time there in the Irvings’ guestroom of their South Surrey townhouse. It was a great time. Saturday, day of the Hall of Fame ceremony, was a perfectly glorious BC day, sunny and warm, mountains crisply viewable in the distance. The event was held at the lovely Red Robinson Theatre which seats 400 or so. It was a full house. There were 10 inductees in all (one of them posthumous), including radio programmer Ted Farr, comedian Kenny Shaw, country singer Jess Lee, journalist-publisher Cheryl Homan (many an article of mine appeared in her Country Wave magazine)…all of them friends of mine from back in the day. Everywhere I looked I saw faces from the past, including singer Lori Jordan who sang my earliest charted releases, and singer-actress Beverley Elliott (she played one of the saloon hookers in Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven) who recorded my “Once Upon A Heartache” in the early 90s, and journalist-songwriter John McLaughlin, who has been writing music articles for the Vancouver Province for a dog’s age. Everyone looked just a little older but totally recognizable and we fell into conversation as though we’d been separated by a few weeks instead of 16 or 17 years.

Ron Irving and I sang and played “The Cowboy Thing To Do,” a song that I wrote in the late 80s and that Ron and Bootleg, his band at the time, recorded. It was the BCCMA Song and Single of the Year in 1989…an “old” song for the younger members of the audience, but it went over well and received huge applause. After that Ron and Sue (both long-standing BCCMA members) inducted me and handed me my Hall of Fame plaque. I blathered out my off-the-cuff speech (I can’t stand the stiffness that comes with reading notes), stressing the excellent training ground that Vancouver provided for me back in the 80s and 90s, a time when two local country stations were enthusiastically playing records by local artists and producers. That sense of near-instant gratification was marvelously encouraging and one would be hard-pressed to find anything like it now. For me the evening was like a “return to the source” and I said as much.

The next several days were spent visiting with friends and doing some songwriting with Ron and other people. We completed songs with Michael Behm, Angela Harris and Emily Taylor Adams, and I liked all of them. The time flew by. Ron drove me to the airport Thursday afternoon and, several hours and four time zones later, I set foot on New Brunswick tarmac.

Friday night we drove north to Bouctouche, NB, where my friend Brian Mallery was having his CD release party in the local community center, which he packed with local people only too eager to spend $25 (plus purchasing a CD in many cases) to enjoy a night of mostly traditional country music. People of all ages were fervent in their fandom and it was a lovely thing to see…country music enrapturing its true audience, without the cynical industry presence we became so used to in Nashville.

This crazy songwriting game has introduced me to many people and places and continues to do so. Gotta love that.

Posted by: Maggie Ross | April 5, 2011

Confessions of a Lazy Blogger

I know, I know…it’s been several days since my last (uneventful) chemo and no appearance here. What can I say? A tad unmotivated would accurately describe me. Things were heading nicely toward spring, then on Friday we received another dump of snow making driving hazardous and spirits low. The snow’s long gone now but it’s a nasty rainy day, not in the least inspiring.

But other than that, all’s well. Except for an aching in the right side of my mouth: I had a tooth yanked today after weeks of increasingly persistent pain. A couple of more days and I should be able to forget about that but it’s throbbing a bit now. We’re settling nicely into the apartment, mostly just a few cosmetic things required now. I’m staying active musically. Mike Biggar’s three songs are mixed and sounding good but he, on his manager’s advice, is going to send the two most single-worthy songs to LA to be re-mixed for added radio punch. I’m anxious to see how that turns out.

On Friday I’ll be helming a strange but intriguing production project. Melissa Hunt and her family want to cut three sides as part of a promotional package for the CCMA (Canadian Country Music Association). We’ve decided to cut them in Nashville…without going to Nashville. I’ve sent down rough vocal-guitar mixes. These will be incorporated into the recording there for the band to build upon while Melissa and I observe via Skype. The sound won’t be great but with a little imagination I’m thinking I should be able to produce in this fashion. Then the Nashville tracks will be sent up here for final vocals and mixing. Pretty astonishing what you can do these days in the recording world!

Ruth Rosen, a Nashville friend and co-writer, gave us a nice surprise a few days ago. Several years back Ruth, Renee Lopez and I got together to write for the first time. Renee’s a great singer. She had the name “Rosa” on her mind that day…wanted to write something to include that. Ruth’s day job is signing for the deaf, and she was thinking of a song along those lines. So we combined the two and wrote a sweet song about a deaf girl called “Little Rosa” that we were all proud of. We had a nice demo recorded and Renee and I played it out a few times. After than, not much…until Ruth sent a YouTube video of her signing to the song. Very moving. Maggie’s parents were both deaf and I got to know her mother well (in spite of her living in London) and was exposed to a lot of signing. Like many, I find it fascinating to watch and Ruth is clearly a wonderful exponent of the art. Here’s a link so you can all have a look.

Also came across yet another glowing review of Halie Loren which quotes our co-write “They Oughta Write a Song.” And here’s a link to that.

Other than that, not much to say except that I’m looking forward to my two-week trip out west. I leave on the 15th to visit my mother in Medicine Hat, Alberta until the 22nd when I fly to Vancouver for some co-writing and the Hall of Fame ceremony. I return to Saint John on the 28th, just in time for another chemo. In fact my next one is scheduled for the 14th but I’m going to skip that so I can enjoy my trip without a bunch of rampant toxins surging through me.

And that, kind friends, is the news of the moment. Stay healthy and happy!

Posted by: Maggie Ross | March 20, 2011

Spring is here, sort of

It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon and this will probably be a lazy blog to reflect it. We’re sitting around the apartment tending to various e-mails, phone calls, guitar strummings and all that good stuff. But there are a couple of pleasant developments. For one this apartment is actually beginning to feel like home. More and more stuff is finding its way into our midst and it has definitely become “where we live,” still in need of some odd furnishings but certainly serving its purpose.

Another welcome thing is that we have various windows open as I type this. The temperatures are warming, the snow is melting and it’s beginning to feel like springtime in New Brunswick, which deserves a robust hallelujah after that fierce winter. Oh we’re not entirely done with it; there was a sprinkling of snow on the ground when Mike Biggar and I left the studio late Friday night. But the worst of it is unquestionably over. So I’m sticking to my guns: spring is here. Sort of.

Feeking good after chemo #22. I’m really enjoying the project with Mike. Nothing mixed yet but the vocals sound great and I know the end product will be one to be proud of. I’m also working on some songs with Melissa Hunt that we’d like to record soon. The studio and the apartment have been taking up most of our time lately, which is fine with me.

Well, like I said, a lazy blog today. I hope wherever you are the air is likewise filled with spring and all its rich promises that we never quite outgrow.

Bye for now!

Posted by: Maggie Ross | March 9, 2011

Blogs and More Blogs

Oops, I’m way late getting around to writing, which usually happens the day of chemo or the one following.

Actually things have been unusually busy, a lot of which is due to our recent move. We are now settled, more or less, in our new apartment in Rothesay. We’ve been staying here since last Friday. We’re not totally moved in…we need lamps, end tables and a kitchen table (not that we’re strangers to eating out of our laps in front of the TV). We’ll be picking up some more stuff on the weekend. This place is smallish (but there are two bedrooms) but certainly very functional. I have to smile because we’re like a couple of 20-somethings starting out–it’s that kind of place. Maggie and I have been living in our own homes for 30 years. Now suddenly we’re remembering what it is to hear footsteps in the hall and overhead, faint echoes of voices and music, cars coming and going in the parking lot outside. But the neighbors we’ve met seem decent, Cleo the cat seems happier and better adjusted than we dared expect…and, hey, it’s Our Little Place.

I’ve also been busy working with Mike Biggar on his recording project, which is evolving a little slowly but sounding very good. The three songs on the slate are top notch and I think this is going to be a very special year for Mike, who is very talented and very driven…the cocktail of success.

Another assignment I took on this week was to write a “guest blog” for the Songwriters Association of Canada. I was encouraged to write about the events of the past year…my diagnosis, leaving Nashville, relocating and how all of this has affected my songwriting and creativity. They seem to like what I submitted, which runs today. Many of you will know the details of the story, and some of you may also have found your way to this blog through Facebook but, in any case, here’s a link (it’ll open in a new window).

Also as a “special added bonus” there’s Jaydee Bixby’s new video of “Dream Bigger” at the end of that blog which looks pretty good, I guess (I never know what to make of videos). It’s in medium rotation on CMT Canada which is music to my ears!

Posted by: Maggie Ross | February 18, 2011

No, no…not THAT Hall of Fame

Hello all!

Here we are again, a slightly drizzly Friday (good for helping melt the endless banks of snow but ugly when the melt freezes), and Maggie and I are taking it easy. Yesterday I received my 21st chemo treatment. All is well on that front although, as seems to always be the case the night of chemo, last night I had no interest in sleeping. Read, listened to a few CDs, played the guitar until finally I grew drowsy at about 7:30 am, at which point I retired until early afternoon. Makes for a strange, truncated day, already darkening as I type this.

I had a Skype session this afternoon with Brian Mallery, a New Brunswick friend from further north whose acquaintance I’ve not yet made in person. He’s a country singer who was interested in a couple of songs for an upcoming CD to be cut in Nashville. Since then we’ve communicated a lot and even co-wrote a song via Skype. He’s now down in Music City having the time of his life. The tracks are complete, recorded at The Tracking Room, a state of the art facility, with a lineup of great players…Brent Mason, Glenn Worf, Lonnie Wilson, Biff Watson, John Hobbs, Aubrey Haynie…it doesn’t get any better than that. It’s probably a statement of the times that an indie artist from out of town can descend on Nashville and snag that kind of talent and recording facility on a fairly modest budget. But good for him! Brian says the tracks are terrific and I can’t wait to hear them.

It’s been a pretty interesting week. Toward the beginning I got an e-mail from someone I don’t know in Vancouver informing me that I will be inducted into the BC Country Music Hall of Fame in April. A very pleasant piece of news! The BCCMA was a big part of my life in the late 80s/early 90s…I was on the board, I edited their newsletter for a few years, wrote scripts for the annual award show, actually produced the show one year…and I took home several of those awards myself for production and song of the year. So it’s gratifying to be remembered and honored in the place where it really all began for me.

The timing couldn’t be better too, with Jaydee Bixby’s “Dream Bigger” single doing well on the charts. Jaydee’s an Alberta native but now makes his home in BC.

Mike Biggar and I have been writing up a storm and now, to my delight, he’s enlisted me to co-produce a project with him at the beginning of March. It will be a three-song EP (two of them our recent co-writes), the first installment of a full album to be completed later in the year. Mike’s a great singer and songwriter, and I’m really excited about this, my first New Brunswick production gig (with many to follow, let’s hope). We’ll do it at Ripple Effect, a nice studio that can accomodate a rhythm section (if just a bit snugly) which is what we’re aiming for here. Many of the local productions take place in basement studios with instruments being recorded piecemeal, a very painstaking and “cool” way to get the job done. The adrenaline flows much better when tracking is done off the floor.

One other item of interest before I disappear…Maggie and I will heading up a publishing workshop under the auspices of Music New Brunswick. This represents another first for us in this neck of the woods. We’d like to do more of this sort of thing, also addressing songwriting.

Interestingly, the seminar (which is only an hour long followed by a meet-and-greet session) will take place at the Vintage, a charming restaurant and show venue in nearby Hampton. The Vintage was the first venue that Maggie and I explored after moving here, and the act that night was the lovely Laura Biggar on piano and vocals performing some superb originals, backed by a combo that included husband Mike on drums. That was the night we first met the Biggars who are now our good friends. Playing bass that night was Tim Davidson who owns Ripple Effects studio. Somehow a recurring theme seems to be running through this post, about the circularity of things in our lives.

So that’s a taste of what’s going on with us at the moment. Overall we’re pleased. Also gathering up housewares and whatnot for our move in March. Everything’s proceeding well thanks to the generousity of friends and relatives.

And with that I’ll sign off for now. Thanks as always for your good wishes and responses in general. I love hearing from ya!


Posted by: Maggie Ross | February 5, 2011

Birthdays and other adventures

Well, Thursday in the chemo room I left my teens behind: I’m now a survivor of 20 treatments and still, to my mother’s great relief, have a full head of hair…even if it is thinning just a tad.

Friday marked another special passage: I turned 61. That means it’s just under a year ago that I received my diagnosis. Everything that lay in store seemed bleak and murky then; I didn’t know if I’d see Christmas, another birthday, another spring. Now I find myself feeling positive and energetic, making new friends and surrounded by family, working on some great songs, looking forward to every tomorrow. As a person who, perhaps perversely, believes that a total life upheaval every decade or so can be as refreshing as it is scary, I’m embracing all that happens. I received a Facebook message today from Tammy Brown, a Nashville friend and cancer survivor, saying, “B-days are more special nowadays, huh.” I couldn’t agree more, Tammy, and there’s no one I’d rather be agreeing with.

Let me take a second to thank everyone who has extended birthday wishes here and on Facebook. I’m quite overwhelmed by the outpouring.

Some other news on the continuing adventure: Maggie and I will be moving into our own apartment in March. We’re not going far, trading Quispapmsis for neighboring Rothesay, no more than a five or six minute drive from where we are. Again the generousity of family and friends has been incredible. We’ve been offered all sorts of housewares and furniture, leaving very little to be purchased.

I’ll sign off now, feeling very much the happy birthday boy. Again, my deep thanks to all who read this blog for your kindness and well wishes. It’s very much appreciated and more than a little healing, I’m sure.

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