04 - "Song of Heaven"
This song was written to help people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by supporting them in telling their stories. It is meant to draw people in lyrically, and to create a safe space for PTSD suffers to be able to share their stories, knowing they have the support of loved ones and those who have already left this world. When I was talking with Reg and Rose Crow Shoe of the Piikani First Nation about this song, Reg mentioned he had a similar song that was passed along to him from his grandmother and father. It is a song to acknowledge war veterans and others who deserve to be honoured. It is fitting that both the old song and the new song are brought together on this track.
05 - "My Father’s House"
This is a fun little tune, a play on the biblical story where Jesus says his father’s house has many rooms. It is about hope and optimism, and reminds us that God (the Creator) is around us all the time and within each of us. This song is fast and doesn’t leave much time to reflect while listening, but hopefully it brings the listener to a good place.
06 - "Indian in the Child"
This song fulfills a special request from Vincent Yellow Old Woman, former Chief of Siksika Nation. Chief Vincent asked me to write a song that included these six words: “Kill the Indian in the Child.” We talked about his journey as a residential school survivor and the importance of ending the song on a positive note. A friend and a fellow musician, Jim Peace, spent considerable time working with me to find a way to capture Chief Vincent’s vision. We found ourselves deliberating about music that could appropriately reflect the sombre tone of the message. So, in Leonard Cohen fashion, Indian in the Child became lyrics with minimal musical content. Chief Vincent is hopeful this song will help people in their healing and help others better understand the impact of residential schools.
07 - "Peaceful Nation"
This song is bookended with the resonant sound of Scottish bagpipes, also part of my ancestry – the part that helped conceal my Indigenous heritage to facilitate my adoption as an infant. In the spirit of the song, I harbour no anger or resentment – I feel peace and gratitude that I was raised in a loving family and was able to uncover who I am, and that I have reconnected with many of my blood relatives along the way. Peaceful Nation is meant to show that we have more in common than we sometimes think, and that we all desire one thing – to live in peace and harmony with each other and with nature. This is our natural way of being. We need to remember to be compassionate since we are all brothers and sisters.
08 - "What did it Cost You"
Stemming from my long-held admiration for country music legend Patsy Cline, this song is kind of an anomaly for this project. I developed an appreciation of Patsy’s story and music when I recorded one of her pieces for a compilation project. I was nineteen and in a metal/heavy rock band at the time, so recording a country song was a stretch. I remember reading about how she would sew her own costumes until her fingers bled and thought often about how her many other gifts were never fully realized because of her sudden death. What Did It Cost You is a reflection on not only Patsy Cline’s life, but also the tremendous sense of loss we feel when someone dies prematurely.
09 - "Real"
This song is a metaphysical and spiritual reflection, recognizing a deep yearning from within to feel connected with someone or something, whether it’s other people, nature or a higher power. When we feel inauthentic, don't belong or have no family or meaningful social group – perhaps in times of loss and grief – we forget to connect in ways that work for us individually. I wrote this song during a time of loss when I was reflecting on how we have to move forward with our lives. Trusting in our faith in the Creator doesn’t stop us from reflecting on what it means to be real and authentic, or realizing that we may already be there.
10 - "Thank You"
This song speaks not only to the gratitude I have for my mother – a totally quirky and talented artist – but also to the respect and appreciation I have for Mother Earth. Life isn't always easy. From time to time, we seek guidance from our parents with the expectation of a child; that they have all the answers. Sometimes they don't. Mothers try to steer us toward a good path in ways we don’t always appreciate, just like Mother Earth is trying to steer us towards a more responsible path. I believe mothers always love their children to the best of their ability. It can be difficult to show love, when you have not been shown a lot of love. We can still feel grateful for the ultimate gift, the gift of life.
11 - "Breathe"
This song was written in remembrance of Dr. Joane Cardinal-Schubert, a First Nations artist and advocate for Indigenous and women’s rights worldwide. For many years, Joane led a non-profit Aboriginal arts organization that sought to build bridges of understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Joane always stayed true to her words of advice. While encouraging others to dream big, she also accomplished a lot in her lifetime. Breathe is meant to remind people that we are all created to be our best and that our breath connects us to ourselves, to each other, and to the Creator.
12 - "Goodbye"
This song was written for people who have had to say goodbye to someone they love, especially for those whose children were taken away, or who had to leave their children for someone else to raise. Although never directly stated, the song is meant to connect with the many people affected by the “sixties scoop” or who were lost in the foster care system. We never get over that kind of loss. Hopefully, we can hold on to the dream of someday reuniting, in this life or the next. I, personally, have been able to fulfill that dream and have been reunited with many of my blood relatives. I now enjoy the best of both worlds.
Additional Notes on Song Order
The song order is intentionally structured to take the listener on an emotional journey. The story begins with our ancestors, the internal connection we have with them (although we don’t always realize it) and the power they have to help us through feelings of isolation, times of loss or domestic violence.
My Father's House is where we retreat. It’s a safe place where we can share brutal truths about where we've been, knowing we are moving toward something better. Our natural ways are peaceful, yet so many of us leave this world suddenly, with unfulfilled dreams and stories left untold. We eventually come to realize our connection to the star people, our guides and ancestors, and those who have gone before, offering us a glimmer of light so that we can follow a good path.
Realizing our connection to where we come from allows us to be Real, Breathe and express our gratitude (Thank You). And yet, we are continuing on a journey knowing that our souls and families can still be ripped apart, but we retain eternal hope that we will find each other again.