03 March 2010

Muses and Monsters

by guest columnist Dolores Dagenais.  Follow her on Twitter.

Last night a huge vociferous wind sprang up along the coast, battering the clap board of the house and sheering off the metal shipyard that resides opposite with a nails on chalkboard screech associated with cats in heat or sea monsters, a leviathan of wind noise. I could hear the surf pounding the shore a block away and the salt air was leaking through the cracks in my old Victorian’s walls, burning my nasal passages with every weary breath.  

Needless to say sleep was playing coy, but although I could blame the wind and rain’s general noise level for my three hours of sleep, it wouldn’t be entirely true.  It is true that the wind knocking on the shingles was what woke me a 2am but it wasn’in fact what kept me awake. That particular assignment was snapped up by a stomach gripping realization that today is the first of March and we are now officially two months off of the release of my fifth and most complex album.

I’ve been through this four times prior and should be used to the idea that at sometime during the process I will wake in the middle of the night doubting everything - including my own talent and the abilities of my fingers and vocal cords to reproduce what I’ve written. A calm but sardonic voice in my head asking exactly who I think I am and who I think is really interested in the musical musing of a late 30’s somewhat introspective lady writer.  Aim well past the age of calling myself a ‘girl singer” lest it bent on irony.  It sets off panic alarms in all my synapses and sleep is a dead issue for the greater part of this stormy night.

The truth of the matter is that I’ve tried to quit this business several times, but since songwriting is more addictive than crack or cigarettes and they haven’t come up with an effective patch or methadone (metronome?) substituteI continue to write.  Yes, the reader could rationalize that I could simply write the songs and put them in a box under my bed when they were done. Let them grow dust rabbits and a thick jacket of grime rather than expose them to the wind and the rain of public consumptionbut song writing like all writing cannot exist in a vacuum, without a reader or a listener it might as well not exist at all. Besides, the muses wouldn’t have it that way even if I could box up the music and hide it away somewhere safe. They don’t play safe. They like to lead me in all manner of deranged and dangerous directions with topic matter and structures that are untried and I have no choice but to follow because for all the stormy nights of self doubt I’ve suffered I’ve spent many more with a pillow over my head trying to suffocate a tiny but insistent voice which, more often than not, presses itself hard against my ear drums until I’m forced out of bed and into the studio.

I’ve learned to live with this sleeplessness both the type due to blind terror and the nocturnal prodding of divine inspiration because, in the immortal words of Popeye “I is what I is and that’s all that I is."  

For better or worse I am a songwriter. It isn’t something that I chose.  God knows there’s more gold in accounting or clerking in a law office, more sanity in it, more normality and more sleep. But, no real passion and without passion life is just one long grey day with no sunny breaks and no dramatic storms, a flat line, a flavourless banquet. So we chose the tempests and the tests, the long late night arguments with muses and monsters, and sweetly orchestrated dreams....when we finally sleep.

Dolores Dagenais' songs are a blend of insightful, poetic lyrics and sweetly crafted Blues/Folk/Rock fusion. They cover every topic, often straying into the realms of her childhood, exploring relationships, spirituality, politics and even delving into the lives of her friends and family, she takes her inspiration where she finds it and it finds her often. She has collected a catalogue of over 200 finished songs and always has a new idea brewing on the back burner. Dolores has connected with audiences at countless venues in Nova Scotia, Toronto, Barrie and Northern Ontario including Northern Lights Festival Boreal, Brampton Folk Festival,  Sudbury SummerFest, Tall Grass Festival, and New Glasgow Jubilee, OCFF, CBC Radio, CKLU and CKEC. Her fans span all ages and social stratas and live as far away as China, Germany and the UK.


S P Tatum said...

This really resonated with me. I have similar sleep-disturbing compulsions. But, as sleep disturbing compulsions go, songs are one of the best. As the wider world demonstrates, you could do worse...

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