Saturday, December 15, 2012

This Used To Be My Daydream

Happy Weekend!

I hope this update finds you having a beautiful and blessed weekend! I apologize for such a lapse of time since my last update! I had been racking my brain for the right thing to do with the money that was so generously donated during my last Indiegogo campaign.

Sometime a little after the deadline, I found myself having a conversation that was sparked by a Bob Marley bracelet. A long conversation with a friend, and a fellow regular at my local Bronx Starbucks, led me to discovering the music of one of his friends from Jamaica, a reggae artist by the name of Plente Maq. We watched several of his music videos and I had brought up the idea that I wanted to do a reggae version of my song, "Screaming to be Free," after I had performed a reggae version of it during one of my last performances at The Bruckner Bar & Grill in the Bronx. I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do with the song in terms of where I was going to record it or who I would feature on the song, but somehow our chat led me to having a fairly lengthy conversation with Plente a few days later.

When Plente &I first spoke, I was in the midst of planning a trip to Florida to work on some new music with the very talented Doue Carter, who produced my song, "I Cry," as well as some other songs that are still unreleased at this time. A few conversations later, Plente had suggested recording the reggae version IN Jamaica. The idea sounded great, but the reality of getting to Jamaica, finding musicians, getting studio time, etc...all seemed like more of a daydream than a reality. But as lofty as this idea sounded, Plente and I continued talking and, at one point, after much deliberation, I decided that this just might be the best opportunity ever...for both of us.

With the song's growing popularity, I've realized it's an undeniable hit, with almost 53,000 views on the music video for the original version produced by super producer, GI Joe, a reggae version would give the song an opportunity to open up in another genre and bless both myself and Plente with a bigger buzz!

The same day I went and bought the documentary, "Marley," was the same day I ended up booking my flight to Jamaica. It seemed like everywhere I turned, I saw Bob Marley and it seemed like a nod from the universe that I was doing the right thing. Even with all the signs pointing to this being the right move, there were plenty of people that talked to me about the dangers of traveling to Kingston by myself. I talked to many of my friends, natives of the yard, who warned me about what I should and shouldn't do during my time in Kingston.

Leading up to the trip, Plente and I spoke frequently, almost everyday, planning the details of the trip. He had already written his verse within the first couple days of us speaking so the rest of the planning had more to do with the logistics of getting the musicians together and booking the studio.

At the beginning of September, I left for Florida, spending basically my entire time there working on new music with Doue. We worked into the late hours of the night as he built a new track from the ground up and I diligently wrote along to what he was creating. I wasn't feeling well during my time there, but time was limited so I sucked it up and put by best foot forward with the time we had. The fruits of that labor will soon be revealed. I wrote a song called, "Give Love to Get Love," which will be released in the next few months as I'm still recording it.

I left Doue's, packed a small carry-on suitcase, and headed to the airport around 4:30 in the morning. Somehow, I still managed to miss my flight leaving out of Orlando heading to Miami. I was originally supposed to meet up with Plente in Miami and we had booked seats on the same flight so we could get to Jamaica at the same time. The minor setback caused me to arrive about 3 hours past when I was scheduled to arrive originally. As I ran to the gate to see if I could still catch the connecting flight, my sandal fell apart. I had to laugh at that point. I walked to the bathroom to get myself together only to realize it was closed off. It seemed like something was trying to keep me from going, but I was determined to turn every obstacle into a win.

I used the best of my time, grabbing something to eat at the Miami airport, as I waited for the next flight out to Jamaica. I got on the plane and smiled, still feeling a bit anxious from all of the conversations I had prior to leaving New York about going to a foreign place for the first time to meet someone I'd never met before, trusting only in my faith in God and the journey this music has taken me on thus far.

A short flight later and I found myself in Kingston airport, ready to meet Plente for the first time in person. I had no service on my cell phone when I walked into customs so I had a hard time filling out the paperwork, listing the address I would be staying at during my time there. Customs blocks all use of phones/ internet until you get cleared so I couldn't call Plente to get the info or access my email to pull it up from our earlier correspondence. My nerves started to rumble as I anxiously awaited the airport personnel to page Plente in the surrounding area of the airport so they could retrieve the information from him. Until then, I was stuck in customs with no phone and no internet...just nerves...lots of them.
Thankfully, Plente heard the page and gave them the required information in order for me to make my way to my luggage.

I had just brought a carry on as I would only be in Jamaica for about 3 1/2 days. At the last minute, as I was boarding the plane, American Airlines had made me check my bag, which had successfully boarded a plane as a carry on just a few days before. I had no time to think or to challenge their demand to check my bag so I handed it off. When I landed, I retrieved my bag and made my way to meet Plente. Plente was outside the airport waiting for some friends to come pick us up. We hugged and waited for our ride. I was still pretty nervous at this point so I just stayed quiet and did my best to be aware of all my surroundings.

Plente's friend, Peggy, came to pick us up, along with his wife and their newborn baby. I sat in the backseat just trying to take it all in. We drove quickly to drop off our bags and make our way to Tuff Gong. Clive Hunt, legendary producer and musical director, whom Plente had been in contact with prior to our trip, came out of the front entrance at Tuff Gong. There were gates at the entrance and guards standing watch as we entered the legendary studio. It felt as if an out-of-body experience. I had only gotten a couple hours sleep the night before and my hectic flight experience was definitely adding to the effect of this already overwhelming experience.

I walked into the studio and just tried to take in the memories and the energy that existed in that space, walking slowly into the control room, where all the musicians had already started learning my song. It was like sensory overload trying to take in all the sights and sounds of this legendary studio. I watched on as Clive Hunt directed the musicians to play the rhythm as he had in mind. They would play my track then play the song over and over again. I heard my own lyrics, "This used to be my daydream and now it's my reality," and all I could do was smile and give thanks for the fact that something I couldn't have imagined in my wildest dreams was now becoming a reality before my very eyes and ears. I was still delirious from my lack of sleep and my crazy flight, but I was doing my best to just soak it in. Plente was full of energy, bouncing around and taking pictures, as I mainly just stood in awe.

For those who have been part of my journey for a while now, you know just how tumultuous it has been, living on next to no money, living out of my car, and doing whatever it takes to get my music recorded and out to the masses in an effective way. It's been a struggle, but at that very moment, I remembered again WHY I was willing to go through all of it and why I would do it all over again. This is what I live for...that feeling...that music coming to life. It's like the air I breathe.

I went to get my laptop from my bag so I could go online and use my web cam to get some shots of the session. I pulled it out of my carry on for the first time since American Airlines had me check my bag as I was boarding the plane only to realize my computer was destroyed. It had been crushed during my flight. It was all I could do to remember where I was and to just focus on staying grateful for the amazing experience and not get overwhelmed or depressed that my main lifeline to the world was now destroyed. I closed the computer somberly and took out my phone to start shooting pictures, which are what you see within the blog. To this day, I haven't posted many pictures from my trip due to the fact that I have no computer and no real way to upload them to share them, but one or a few at a time. My computer has yet to be replaced, but that's a story for another time.

In the span of a few hours, the musicians finished their parts, laying the new foundation for the reggae version of my song. Many thanks to the musicians who brought my music to life: "Monty" (guitar), Aeion Heiolett (bass), Kirk Bennett (drums), Phillip "Winta" James (keyboard), & Azul (percussion).
I headed into the live room to record my vocals. I looked around me and once again tried to take it all in. I felt so small in the huge room, the room that had once been recorded in by legends before me and I tried to just take a deep breath and remember that it was faith that had gotten me here so I did, in fact, belong there. I thanked God, and Bob Marley, and started laying the vocals over the freshly laid track. My lack of sleep and stress of the day were taking their toll. It was time to call it a day.
I thanked all the musicians and we headed back to the place we had rented in St. Catherine's. I hadn't eaten all day so by the time we made it back, I barely chewed the chinese food they had gotten for me while I was recording. It was time to get some rest to get ready for the next day, realizing we only had 2 more days to finish what we came to do.

I woke up the next day feeling refreshed and ready to finish laying my vocals. Plente and I first headed to go see his sister, who still lives and works in Jamaica. We went and grabbed lunch with her at Devon House. She gave me an abridged version of a tour of Kingston as we drove her back to her job. While at Devon House, we talked a bit about music and faith. I bought a onesie for my new niece, Parker Mae, whom I had yet to meet due to all my recent travels and she bought me a Jamaica key ring, showing her true hospitality. We dropped her back off to work and headed to House of Hits Recording Studio, where Clive was expecting our arrival.

I promptly went into the booth and started recording. I changed up my stylistics a bit on the vocals for my verses and pulled from the vibe of the new track, which gave off a beachy, dreamy feeling. I finished up my vocals and it was time for Plente to head into the booth to do his verse. He had written his verse within 48 hours of first hearing my song when we first spoke over the phone. He was able to pull from the song the feeling and the message and bring his own story into the mix, mentioning other legends like Martin Luther King and Ziggy Marley. The track was really coming together. It felt amazing to hear the track taking on a whole new life than before.

We still needed to lay background vocals/ harmonies. I had something in mind for what I wanted it to sound like and I sang it to Clive. He liked my idea so we began to lay it down. Just then, someone else entered the studio, an artist by the name of Lymie Murray. He's the kind of person you like pretenses whatsoever and his energy abounds from his very presence. I hadn't heard a note from him, but I already knew that he would add to what we had started. I started to sing the harmonies to him and he quickly went into the booth to begin. When he began singing, I found myself crying, tears uncontrollably streaming down my face. He was the missing link, the final piece of the puzzle that made the song complete. Plente looked over at me and asked if I was crying. All I could say was, "Yes."

In two days, we went from nothing to something...AMAZING! I don't know if it was the pressure of the time crunch, the fact that the song was destined to be made in this way, or if it was just God's divine intervention, but I'll tell you one thing...this song is proof of what's possible with an unrelenting work ethic, heaps of faith, and a pure love for music.  We completed the entire track in 2 days and had one day left to complete the mixing, which would be done by Clive Hunt and the same engineer who had recorded our vocals that day, Michael "Mikey" Williamson.

I stayed behind and talked to Lymie for a while after our session, discussing our music and our journeys. He would be in New York just weeks after I got back to perform in Queens. We traded our music and wished each other well. I felt truly blessed to have met him and gotten to work with him. I honestly felt this way about everyone that I had the honor of meeting and working with during my time there, but our artist spirits were connected on a truly higher level in particular.

I left the studio with Plente & Peggy and we headed out to grab something to eat. We returned to Island Grill, where I had already felt like I had become a regular, to go get jerk chicken, rice and peas, and my favorite, festival! We were almost done. Time to get some rest and spend our final day getting the track mixed.

A final day at House of Hits Recording Studio led us to the completion of the project in only 3 days. It still amazes me what can be accomplished when the goal is set and you're racing the clock. I've always been someone who works well under pressure, perhaps even better under pressure in some circumstances.

I had no computer to even play the track before I left Jamaica, but I had faith that it would all work out. I left the studio feeling truly grateful for all the amazing hands on deck, the wonderful musicians that played, the amazingly high spirited people in the studio including Masta B Master, who still checks on me and encourages me throughout my journey, Clive Hunt, who's visionary ear made it all come together, and Plente Maq, who helped take an unbelievable plan and make it an outstanding reality.

I woke up on my last day in Jamaica, feeling ready to come back to New York with an amazing record and a big plan for its release. As we drove to the airport, I took in as many sights of the yard as I could, realizing I had mainly seen only the four walls of the studio and my bedroom during my time there, but feeling so incredibly thankful that we had a finished product authentically recorded in Kingston, the birthplace of reggae! I looked out the window and thanked God, and my angel, Bob Marley, for this life changing experience, realizing it was only the beginning. The music has yet to reach the masses and already I feel its effect on me and the people involved.

I got to the airport early as Plente's flight left before mine. We hugged and made our plans to keep in contact as we prepared for the creation of a music video of the song and the release here in the states.

I went to go grab a coffee and something to eat as I waited to get ready to board my own flight. I took a seat next to a man who people seemed to be very intentionally avoiding. We began to talk and I told him about my trip and what I was there for. He said that he was there waiting for his son, but as he spoke more and I observed the clothes he was wearing and his bare feet, it became clear, that he was there for another reason. It also became clear that he thought that because of what I was there for that I was something that I am not...yet. He assumed I had money and that I had already made it big in the states. He then asked if I would buy him something to eat. I looked at what was left of my Jamaican currency and used the last of what I had to get him a coffee and a muffin. I didn't have much left, but I realized I still had more than he did at that moment.

That moment taught me a lot about perspective. Looking in from the outside is a much different reality. That man didn't realize that I was coming back to the states with hardly any money at all, using all the money that I had raised in order to take another step to make my dream become a reality. He was simply trying to survive and he assumed I was doing a better job of it than he was. Fact is, I've given up most of what people take for granted to live even a small part of my dream. I've gone into survival mode to spend my money mainly on rent, food, and music. Those are my three necessities in life. Every once in a while I splurge on other things and it feels like a guilty pleasure, like I'm wasting my money. But I'm human and I recognize my desire to have certain things that I want versus only what I need. The gemini in me is always on the fence about the needs versus the wants, but I have a lot of amazing people around me reminding me that it's ok to be human, to want things once in a while, and who encourage me to keep chasing my dream by any means necessary.

Another spectrum of perspective makes me realize that, for as little as I have now versus what I once did, I still have an ABUNDANCE, especially when compared to so many others in the world. Not only that, my lifestyle is a CHOICE and not something that has been forced upon me. In all of this, I must give THANKS for all that I have and for all the TRUE BLESSINGS in my life. I am still SCREAMING TO BE FREE from so many things, but I pray that my music sets me free, as well you! "Have you ever had a dream? Well, then I know you know exactly what I mean. Just don't you let go. 'Cause this used to be my daydream!"
Stay tuned for the Martin Luther King Weekend 2013 release of the reggae remix of "Screaming to be Free" featuring Plente Maq! The music video is in the works, as well. More details coming soon!