History of Jay Burns
Those in my circle know of my penchant for long winded letters but I will do my best to Coles Notes this epic…you know what?...this is my website, and you can stop reading anytime you like, no hard feelings…FYI, this is a novel. Besides, it is somewhat cleansing to re-hash this stuff and you can tell a lot about how you reflect about something when you write it all out…I hope I still like me when I’m done. There's plenty of other pages in this site if you so desire.
Jay Burns, born in the seventies in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The child of William (Bill, Willy-B) and Catherine (Cathy, Bunny Fu-Fu) Burns. I was raised Anglican and on put on a pedestal early on. I’ve been extremely blessed to have the most supportive family in history…actually, in hindsight; some discretion might have been of value, especially when it came to diving headlong into the music industry. I’ll get to that.
My mother was a stay at home mom (I love her for that) and my father was the salesman of salesman, spending a good portion of his time on the road. She supplied him with the love and foundation to support his wild dreams and passion to be his own man/boss. They are polar opposites, in my eyes anyway, but completely essential to one-another’s survival. They are still happily married which is everything else you need to know about them, given the state of today’s cesspool of divorce and separation…actually, there’s a bit more. Through their crazy rollercoaster lives I have been able to take wonderful notes on some of life’s prerequisites; family, honor, hard work, respect and dreams. I will never be able to repay them for these lessons other than passing them on to my own children (one day). I should mention that, like every other kid out there, I’ve also acquired plenty of their weaker aspects as well, but since this is supposed to be honest, let’s pretend I didn’t and that they don’t exist…like in real life.
I also have two fantastic sisters who have both turned up aces as well with wonderful families and incredible kids of their own. Like me, they have also been branded their parents children...for better and for worse. That was the first thing my folks taught us, “All you need is the love of your family”. In my opinion, there’s nothing that parents can do that is better than making their children believe that…and backing it up.
So now you know where I’m coming from, and why I believed that I could make a career in the music industry despite one big flaw…lack of talent. Yes, it’s true; I was bloody awful…shut up. I have the recordings to prove it; in fact, one day I may even post those awful first attempts at singing on this website. Maybe one day they will be an inspiration to some other overly confident Canadian Idol reject. Then again, with the state of our industry, maybe it's time I let the "discretion" enter my consciousness.
To preface, I was also raised in the church of hockey, which in hindsight was destined for failure as “Jay” loves his solitude and does not play well others. That’s a bit of a stretch, but there is some truth to it. I have never had a lot of friends…I’ve had lot of acquaintances, but not a lot of real friends. I think, because I put so much stock into terms. The term friend means something to me, sort of like the expression, “I love you”. I don’t use them unless I really mean it, which has caused problems for me over the years as sometimes people just need to hear it…even if you don’t feel it at the second it’s said…which bugs the shit out of me.
Anyway, I’ve always done my best when I was solely responsible; Motocross, BMX, fighting disciplines, and now music. I have the tendency to let others direct me despite my initial confidence, and I have had a pattern of becoming lazy if I think someone else will do it. In hindsight, this has likely been my biggest challenge.
Growing up, I never really contemplated music as anything more than a feeling I got when I listened to music I liked. I never really thought about performing, but I was acutely aware of how a song could make you feel, happy, sad and everything in between.
My parents had a wide array of records and 8 tracks that I loved. Lot’s of Golden Oldies, some classic rock and then a bunch of odds and ends that didn’t really make sense in the same collection; Lobo, Bony M, Roger Whittaker and Meatloaf …unless you were a person who just liked what they liked…that’s me. I love music. Not all kinds, but lots. I love it only for how it makes me feel. I get very emotional when music touches me. Not sad, or joyous, just emotional…shut up. Sometimes my own songs do it to me; usually it's when the inspiration for the lyric takes me over or when I'm performing live. I think that’s my strength as a performer and my goal as a recording artist.
My first musical “experience” was via an uncle who introduced me to Kiss. I recall walking into a room that was plastered, floor to ceiling in Kiss posters and paraphernalia and nearly falling down. That Christmas, I received Kiss Alive II and I was in! Next was Love Gun. I remember being swayed by the scantily clad women on the cover, writhing at the bands feet, because going into the store that day, I had my heart set on “Breakin” the first instructional break-dance record…Breakin came soon after, on cassette, I might add, and so did hundreds more.
I think the two greatest music days I had as a youth were the days when the Columbia House package arrived and inside there were 12 new tapes of all my favorites. When they were first ordered, I lost sleep thinking about the day they’d arrive and how it seemed like I was getting the world in a basket...for a fucking penny! Eventually I would forget, and then, out of the blue, they’d be sitting there when I got home from school. By then I couldn’t remember what titles I had ordered so it was like a second and third Christmas! Oddly enough, Columbia House stopped sending the cassettes after the second time I never bought any additional CD’s for regular price. Bastards.
I spent years making compilations, for every occasion, every friend, every girlfriend. I was the guy who brought the ghetto blaster to the dressing room, and the guy who would do “whatever it took” to get the right mix of tunes. Still, I never thought about music as a job. I guess because I was supposed to play hockey. At the time, that was it, no more questions please.
When I look back, I realize that my closest friends also shared that emotional bond with music. We sang, recorded it on our cassette players and then played it back in fast speed by holding down the play and fast forward buttons simultaneously...we did not take into account that we couldn't stand the awfulness of our voices at regular tape speed, and I guess we thought sounding like chipmunks was funny business. I wonder if that's how Alvin and the Chipmunks got their start? Yeah, they likely sucked at regular speed too.
My love for music continued into my teens...CD’s and good stereos were everything. My passion for music continued to grow, but my reasons for loving it never swayed. I still always liked what I liked for no other reason than that. I'm very proud that my parents blessed me with the confidence to never give in to peer pressure (almost never). I remember being in the playoffs in Junior A hockey and giving our audio guy a cassette I had made for when we took to the ice for warm-up. Our customary song all season was “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC, then a variety of other jock-rock favorites. I told the guy it was just in a different order. When we stormed onto the ice in front of all our fans, “Teddy Bear” by Elvis was blaring through the arena sound-system.
I was alone in my enthusiasm.
When I turned 19, I was traded to a small town in Manitoba called Dauphin, home of the Kings. While there, I fell in love with a girl who was aspiring to be a singer/dancer/actress. I would often go to her performances and be awed by her ability to do what I loved…and do it for a live audience! One day, in casual conversation, she asked me if there was anything I dreamed of doing that I hadn’t done yet. Without much thought, I told her I would love to get up and sing in front of people like she did.
Later that year, in the off-season, she phoned me and asked if I would like to perform a song with her at her sister’s wedding. I laughed and said yes, again not really thinking about it too much. I had been to karaoke with my friend Dave (who eventually became my musical partner in my first band)…how hard could it be.
Well, long story longer, the wedding approached and it was time to practice with her cousin, the acoustic guitar player. I was mortified and awful, but not awful enough to back out. The wedding came and we were situated on the upper level of the church, behind the priest and facing the congregation. My nails were bleeding from biting them and I was sweating like a MF. Anyway, it came time to sing and I wasn’t sure my legs were going to carry me…but they did and we did and it was the greatest feeling I had ever had in my entire life. While I sang my bit, I said to myself, “Self, this is what I’m going to do with my life”.
That performance, which didn’t sound half-bad due to a wicked sound-system and a boomy church, landed me an audition with the cousin’s rock band, and I figured I was on my way. I lasted three songs (yes, the same songs I threatened to put on this site) before the audition was cancelled and I was turfed. Here is where my confidence and support factor kicked in. I had decided that I was going to be a singer and that was that. I played the awful music to my parents who had invested so much into my hockey career and told them that I was quitting it all to be a rock star (actually a country star). They sat quiet and stunned for a bit and then said they loved me and that they would support my decision and my new dream. Remember before, when I mentioned discretion…
Every day since then has been about music. That’s how I am…all in, or all out. I took my coach aside, between periods in a junior hockey playoff game in my final season and told him I couldn’t play again, that I was going to be a rock star and my heart was not in hockey anymore. With that, I quit, sold everything I owned and moved to New York to be with my girlfriend who was attending the American Music Dramatic Academy on a scholarship. On the way, I bought a guitar at a pawnshop in a rough area of Detroit and hit the streets of Manhattan, destined to be the next…Garth Brooks?
I made signs that I put on bus shacks and street lights, up and down Broadway, that read, “On the 8th Day, God Created Country Rock”…no calls?
I tried a more subtle approach, “Singer-Songwriter Seeks other Singer-Songwriters to Play With”.
I would get calls from artists with hundreds of songs, some even published, whom I would arrange to meet in Central Park to jam. I would show up with 6 strings on my 12 string guitar, three songs and a four second pause between every chord change.
I eventually upgraded my acoustic to the guitar that Garth Brooks used in his shows and which, incidentally, he got into the habit of smashing on stage (dick). I also purchased a four track recorder, an FX unti and a microphone and began recording some of the magic;-)
In the middle of my stay in New York, I came home for Christmas and had the opportunity to perform some of my material for my uncle whom was now a farily successful producer working in Toronto. He politely told me that I was likely 2 years away from performing a show with a band. I was kind of hurt but mostly figured he was nuts...I figured 6 more months...
Fourteen months after landing in NY, I came home to Winnipeg. No girlfriend, No jamming partners, no belongings and no band…no problem.
New York had given me a bird’s eye view of what it was going to take to crack this industry. Clearly more than the 6 months...shut up. It had supplied me with so much inspiration to write about and had slowly pushed the country thing out of my songs…not surprising considering there was only one semi-country bar in all of Manhattan…God bless “Coyote Kate’s”.
I was now into acoustic based pop music, a bit of Celtic and a bit of folk. My favorites where the Proclaimers and the Barenaked Ladies…two groups whom I ripped of badly in those days.
I managed to convince my best friend, Dave, to join me in my pursuit. Dave was a better singer from day one…and he didn’t even have to be humiliated. He was a natural, and I was the worker. Sort of like when Paul McCartney joined John Lennon’s first band…only crappier. We sang our hearts out, and spent countless hours busking and performing for our families. We actually weren’t that bad, and eventually began looking for more people to make a band. It became a three piece, which eventually led to a real good guitar player joining us and introducing us to his drummer and bass player.
My first band! We held a contest at our first gig, to pick a name and the winner (out of a hat) was, “What’s Up Chuck”. That stupid name was short lived and we soon became, “The Willies”…shut up.
As is usually the case with me, I wanted it all now, and I demanded a lot out of everyone I worked with, even thought I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about half the time. I relied on hard work and dedication; things I needed to catch up for starting so late.
Six months later, as, Sans John Henry", we were in the studio with a new drummer and bass player, recording our first five song cassette, "Get Off the Fence", with a box of T-Shirts and 1000 stickers to boot. In 1996/97, and after selling nearly 800 tapes, "SJH" recorded our first full length CD, Zeal" for around $15000.00 that we borrowed from family and friends. This quick start got us into some great venues in Winnipeg and some heavy events like Music West, North by North East and several C.O.C.A. Conferences, from Vancouver to Ottawa. It also got us some great opening gigs for bands like The Mahones, Mathew Good, The New Meanies, and even Blue Rodeo...although we were actually just on the same bill as them on Canada Day. Shut up.
Our familes and friends would be out and supporting us at every show...seriously, every show. This wasn't a big deal at first, when we were only playing once every couple weeks, but when we started playing three nights per week...Suffice to say that it was they who got us our gigs...the bars loved them, in in turn, us!
"Zeal", being my first full length album, was a crowning achievement and represents that period of time so vividly. It is a true statement of my life in that period. The songs are specifically about cetain people and event that occoured from the time I went to New York until it was released. When I hear it today, I am so much prouder than I was when it was released. I'm thrilled to have those memories burned into a CD.
So there it was, a career starting to take shape. Not six months like I thought, but still only 3 years from the day I sang my first song. Pretty decent I guess.
As with many bands, the pressure to pay back our families for the album became a real burden. We were playing original shows for $60 and a 6 pack, so the prospect of repayment was daunting.
One day we were contacted by a booking agency that offfered to send us to Northern Manitoba for 2 weeks in Flin Flon and Thompson. We were a little mortified, especially since I had played junior hockey in Flin Flon and knew that rowdy side of the north. It wasn't until we learned how much they were going to pay us to play...$2000.00 per week!! that we agreed to go. And there it was, the beginning of the end. The cover band virus had attacked us and we never saw it coming.
Like so many others, before and after us, we said to ourselves, we'll just do these "cover" gigs until we pay off the disk and then it's back to being an original band....and....like so many others before and after us, we got hooked on the cover scene and the ability to support ourselves with music. We got hooked on the full bars and dance floors, the nightly popularity and of course the idea that the people who loved us playing covers would clearly love us doing our own music.
This part of the story is not something that needs to be re-told as it thouroughly depresses me. Suffice to say, try as I did to create a band that could walk the line between being an original group and a cover band, I more often than not failed...probably mostly due to my ego. We tried to incorporate the original music into the cover scene, but those days were gone and so we toiled...and became the hottest band on the Winnipeg cover circuit.
I continued to write and in 1998, hooked up with Mike who became my guitar player (or I became his singer if you ask him;-) and song writing partner. We wrote a completely weird style of music that incorporated every one of our influeces. You can hear some of these demos in the "Music" section. It was a mixture of funk, country, rock, dance, ska and 50's Doo Wop. Shut up.
In 1999, in an effort to separate ourself from the cover scene, we changed the name the band to, "Flesh Tone Rockets (FTR)" which was a lyric from one of my songs and not a phallic reference like som many people thought. (Sidenote: Sans John Henry also was thought to be a penis joke (or lack thereof) but was actually concieved as a way of going "without a name" as we could not agree on one.) Once again, we borrowed a tonne of money to record another CD. We enlisted the services of my producer uncle and moved to Toronto to record "FTR's" debut CD. We spent close to a month living in a high rise in downtown Toronto recording at a studio that had housed, Kiss, the Stones, and many, many more. In fact, while we were tracking, we were bumped by Colin James who (who was incidently bumped for a Frank Sinatra impersonator) to record a Molson Canadian commercial...fuck you Colin James lol.
Anyway, at the end of tracking, we travelled home to Winnipeg to wait for the mix process to occour. The plan was for the producer to send us mixes that we would listen to and give him our two cents. Basically, we could not afford to stay in Toronto any longer and this plan seemed ok with everyone. The process was going well for the first few months, albeit pretty slow. We had received four rough mixes over three and a half months. This put alot of stress on the band as obviously we were losing alot of momentum. In November of 1999, the mixes just stopped arriving and the producer (yes, my uncle) became unreachable.
To make a long story longer, we had to enlist a lawyer to get our reels back from the studio. This process took nearly half a year and ate up the balance of money we had available. The songs were scattered over 48 tracks and the bill to figure it out and remix from scratch at a new studio was too much.
Fleshtone Rockets split, my family lost it's savings and some great friendships were put on hold. It was a low point for me, musically, but I don't think I really ever contemplated quitting, in fact, I don't think I missed a weekend of playing. I kept the name Fleshtone Rockets and put togther a new lineup of players and began rebuilding from the ground up. Over the course of the next year, FTR was once again amongst the top cover bands in Winnipeg and we were working a minimum of 48 weeks a year. I continued to write msuic and by the later part of 2001, FTR was ready to go back into the studio to record.
We decided to take a more cautious approach and recorded a 5 song E.P. that was released in 2002. The music was a mixture of pop and dance with a little techno mixed in. We sold the disk off the stage and I continued writing.
Over that year or so we shared the stage with acts like Trooper, Chillowack and some of my heros, the Proclaimers! Unfortunately, the Proclaimers blew us off and I was crushed.
In 2003, I had enough material to record a new CD and we enlisted the services of some higher end Winnipeg producers and engineers and decided that we were going to record a new, full length CD in a reputable downtown Winnipeg studio. We sent demos out to some grant organizations and recieved a grant for this disk.
We were 3 songs into the disk when we made a member change on bass. This move was best for everyone involved and seemed to make alot of sense on paper. We were happy as a band and we were really happy with the recording process and how it wasproceeding. We were spending a suitable amount per track and were staying on budget and the songs were coming out great. Things were looking good for this release and the sting of the Toronto disister was slowly slipping away.
Here it comes...our newest member Joe, was also a producer of sorts and out of the gate, we all really gelled well. We were partying together alot and relishing the vibe we four had, especially on stage. We aslo got to work right away and produced a couple demo tracks in our basement, one of which, "New" I am truly proud of. Incidently, I re-recorded "New" a couple years later but I still prefer the version Joe produced.
Joe presented us with the idea of recording the balance of the CD in our basement. The logic was, we got along great, we had already recorded a decent song on our own and of course, we could do the balance for free. I think that last part, coupled with my recent history, made me decide to go along with this plan...not my logic.
We set up my basement and began laying down tracks. Then we began to argue about the tracks... then we stopped recording the tracks. It was hugely depressing and kind of put a divide in the group. We went back to being a cover band and stewed for a few months.
Towards the end of 2003, we decided to release the four songs we had as a give-away for the fans and actually, it generated a bit of buzz for us going into 2004. That summer we entered a multi provence band contest called "Next Big Thing" and over many rounds of competition, that fall, Flesthone Rockets won the entire thing. We opened up for the Headpins, America and BTO and things seemed to be coming around.
I made my mind up at that time that I was not going to continue doing covers and I hoped the band would follow suit, but the prospect of day jobs did nothing to inspire the guys so around the end of 2004, I quit the band to become an original solo artist.
It was like quitting hockey all over again. The most liberating yet terriying decision ever. I had spent years surrounding myself with fantastic players that truly made me better than I was. I had spent so much time trying to sound like other artists that I had no idea what I actually sounded like.
I played out the remainder of our contracts in Winnipeg, and on my birthday, March 16th, 2004, I loaded up my belongings into a semi-trailer and moved to Calgary to start a new solo career and be closer to my family whom had all migrated there over the previous 5 years or so. They probably moved so as not to have to tell me that they didn't want to come to my shows anymore...lol.
Calgary was incredible for me. I was invisible and had no ties to "that pumped up cover guy". I was ready to shed that persona and immediately settled into writing songs that meant something to me...and practicing guitar. Unbelieveably, until I moved, I had never performed without a band. I was terrified and really had no idea how to do it...I was literally starting over...except for one thing...I had that incredible base of support from my family.
I got a job for the first time in 10 years and went to work every day at 9...maybe 10 o'clock. Shut Up. At night I played guitar and wrote songs.
One night, a friend of my fathers told us to come down to this little place downtown to see this singer songwriter, Ralh Boyd Johnson. In the course of his set, he broke a string, so I offered to fix it for him so he wouldn't have to take a break with his band. I guess he appreciated it because when his set ended, he approached me to say thanks. While he was there, my dad's buddy obnoxiously hounded him to let me get up and play a song. I was embarrased but he relented, and about 40 minutes later, I was on stage, by myslef for the first time! I actually played a song with his band first, telling them the wrong key and chords to my own song. Shut up. Anyway, it was awesome, so thank you Ralph. I ended meeting a wonderful couple who told me about this great open mic circuit around Calgary, and starting the next day, I went to jams, 6 nights a week. I made all kinds of friends and more importantly, honed my skills as a solo singer-songwriter.
Actually, the next jam that I went to was the night I met the love of my life and fiance, Sheri. Sheri and her partner were going to be taking over that jam the following week, which I found out about after we both had played a couple songs. Sidenote: this was going to be Sheri's first proffecssional gig.
Sheri invited me back for their debut night (and her birthday) and on my return visit, I knew that she was the one. The Lord works in mysterious ways! I should mention, that from the time I moved to Calgary, I was uncomfortable with my name (it's a long story). I wanted something with a bit more pizazz. I also wanted to use a single name for the stage, like Sting, or Bono...just a little less out there....so I decided to go with Jayden. It met the criteria and I felt that I could still have people call me Jay for short...so I introduced myself as Jayden to all my new peeps. Shut up.
I also met another guy, Rick, who hosted these jams. He took me under his wing and was (and remains) a great supporter and friend.
Several months later, I went back to Winnipeg for a funeral and mended fences with a couple of my ex band mates. I invited them all to come visit anytime, and low and behold, Joe, the bass player who had joined Fleshtone Rockets, arrived for a visit...and never left. Joe and I hit a couple jams together and had a great time playing as a duo. He had nothing holding him in Winnipeg and decided to stick around and play bass Jayden.
Joe and I played our first gig that fall in Kensington began booking more shows. One of those shows was being side guys for Rick in Sundre Alberta. It was at this gig that we me Paul, the drummer. Paul Joe and I hit it off and before you knew it, I was back in a band...but at least playing mostly original music.
The three of us played around Alberta for a few months and I knew I was ready to record a my first solo CD. Paul had introduced me to a Vanccouver producer so we went out there, met the guy and did some pre-production. I should have followed my gut and fled back to Calgary, but we decided to go ahead with it. We recorded the the bed tracks without too much trouble and then Joe and Paul went home. I played some acoustic beds and then we did the vocals which turned out great. So far, the music part was going pretty well. The personal issues were glaring and the process got real tense by the time we got to guitars...I had no guitar player and had agreed to let the producer play the guitars. His style worked for some and not others and I was too inexpereincecd to tell him what I wanted...on guitar, so completely unfair and frustrating for him. I had always had great guitarists to handle that so I was a fish out of water.
It was the beginnig of 2005 and I headed home with everything but the guitars finished.
This is going to sound like deja-vouz, but I couldn't afford to keep missing work and travelling to Vancouver. The produver was going to record some guitars and send me tracks of which I could approve or pass on...which never works. We ended up scrapping and hanging up on each other. I was losing my shit and I think for the first time, contemplated saying Fuck it, I'm done.
I went home and contacted Mike, my old guitar player from SJH and FTR and asked him if he would consider recording my remaining guitar tracks. He agreed and about a month later, we set up Sheri's basement as a studio and recorded mikes tracks, which we then sent to the producer in Vancouver.
He mixed there, sent mixes and I gave my two cents...didn't work again...weird. Finally, I went back to Vancouver and we finished up the tracks. They were then mastered and sent off for reproduction, and in May of 2006, after a year battleing to get this disk out, I had 1000 Jay Burns, Letters Vol. 1 CDs! (yeah, I dropped the Jayden when I realized I'd never get higher on Google than Jayden the Porn star. Thanks Jayden...and shut up.
It was bitter sweet due to the crap process and I was really hurt by that and the fact it was my first solo one that I hoped would be a great expereince. When was I going to get a great experience?
In reality, this CD represents my independence as a singer songwriter and I am very proud of the fact that it is the first representation of a project solely created by myself. I owe a great deal to the contributing members, especially Joe and Paul for all their efforts. I don't thank Paul for the Vancouver connection.
Joe and I eventually fell out again so I hired a bass player named Owen and my good friend Greg on guitar, Paul on drums...and Sheri on Keys. This was a really fun band and we toured East and West over the next year as a bonified original act! Paul eventually had to leave the band for personal reasons and we hired Donnie, who brought a great live energy to the group.
In 2007, I was presesnted with the opportuntiy to work with a guitar player I had basically wanted to work with for years in Winnipeg. His name was Dave, and we ran into him while he was performing in Calgary casino in a Rod Stewart tribute band. He looked miserable, so we scooped him up and took him home to party before he had to fly out in the morning. Well, before we poured him onto his plane, he had decided he wanted to be in my band. It was bitter sweet, as Greg, a folk/county picker, had become a true friend; I guy I loved like a brother, but Dave was a guy who brought out the rock in me and that was where I wanted to head for the next Jay Burns CD.
Two weeks later, Dave arrived in Calgary to stay with Sheri and I. We were leaving on a western tour the following day and had one chance to practice that night. We began to run my tunes and I new instantly that he had not rehearsed them much, if at all. I was livid, but kept my cool as we had been talking about this for two weeks. The band showed up and we ran about 6 songs before me saying fuck it, what choice do we have. Dave assured me that things would be fine but I was nervous. Off we went....and you know what, he was great. Despite the fact I'd had a drummer change and Owen couldn't really tour, we didn't let that stop us. We hired bass players and toured to Vancouver a couple times and Montreal twice as well. The only crappy thing about this was that we had picked up some cover songs to fill out some nights were we had to play for three sets. Touring was rediculously expensive and we needed to pad the original shows with some covers to simply not lose our shirts altogether...and so it began...again.
We eventually grew tired of hiring bass playersand the cyclical, incestuous nature of the industry once again reared it's head and we began working with Joe again. The Winnipeg connection inevitably brought us back together and we once again, we decided to try it on for size. Besides that, Sheri and Joe's wife were best of friends. Honestly, it was based on the fact that we would work together as long as it was fun and on the understanding that when Joe and Audrey got married and they had their baby, he would likely have to pull back.
With Joe's arrival (again) we were presented with the opportunity to work with the drummer he was currently working with. "Kent", wcame with an impressive resume and a glowing report from Joe so we took the leap and hired them both. I say, "we", because the band had become, "Jay Burns & the Council". That was a difficult decision to make, but I think I felt like I was gaining talented, dedicated players and still keeping my identity.
Anyway, Kent and Joe brought an immediate gain to the band and innitially it all seemed like the right thing to do. Unfortunately, with this caliber of players came pressure to really consider the project a band and shortly thereafter, we dropped the, "Jay Burns" from the title and became, "The Council".
This is my biggest regret. I let go of my identity and any ability I had to continue forging the career I had left everything behind to build. Like I said, on the plus side, the band was great, but I had let it slip back into a diplomacy, while in my mind anyway, continued the workload of the solo entertainer. At the time, I defended the decision to those who challenged me. They were right.
Anyway, I kept writing and we kept playing. Dave and I had developed a good thing as writing partners in that his guitar playing inspired me and I think I inspired him as well.
The Council played a mixture of cover shows and original shows throughout Calgary. We entered another band contest and one that as well. As I write this, my stomach is beginning to get knots as it simply amazes me how my path has had so many things happen, time and again. See if this sounds familiar...
Dave had introduced to a producer out of Manitoba named Don, whom he swore was the perfect guy to produce the Council. Don had been in Calgary to see the group and the match seemed pretty good. We had had an incredible recording process with a drummer that Don recomended and the whole situation seemed really cool. This was prior to Joe and Kent joining, so with that addition, we felt we were in the right place at the right time.
Unfortunately, I had let the recording process, coupled with the pre-procuction process take place in yet another city...WTF? AAANNNDDD, surprise, surprise, things began to happen that cost money too much money and took to long.
We were definitely on the right track with the music, and working with Don was great, but having to go to Manitoba (Or fly Don to Calgary) to demo and do pre-production, wheather it was driving or flying, began to put too many presuures on our budget...and we hadn't even begun the album yet. Joe was working, Sheri was working and both were having trouble accomdating the schedules. Coupled with the fact that Don got hired to do some other projects that eventually began taking up a good chunk of his time.
We applied for and recieved another grant, our fan base was building and our tunes were pretty happeing yet we were still waiting to get the recording started.
In May of 08, we spent 8 days in an expensive Calgary studio and recorded the drums, bass, guitar and keys for the new disk. The process was a painful one that seemed to be frough with issues, be they technical or personal, the entire time. On the plus side, all that was left was some additional keys and vocals. On the downside, because of the distance and scheduling, it took several more months to get them finished. The overall delays and expenses were once again taking their toll on the group. This amplified our personal problems and threatened to put a knife into yet another one of my projects.
One other cool thing happened in this time as well. Don had made a contact and done work with the guys that produced Coldplay's, "Parachutes" album. At some point, Don had the opportunity to play our stuff for them and they had agreed to mix it...the catch...they insisted on mixing in the UK. As a band, we were incrdinly excited about this oppportunity, but as business people, we were scared to death about the reality of the expense, considering we had to factor Don's wage into the process. We agreed the opportunity was important enough and a plan was made to fly Don to the UK in the near future.
Cue the ominous music that always seems to pop into my head, just as something good is about to happen..
A few weeks before Don is set to go, one of the producers injures his eye and as quick as that, the Council is out of the picture as they only had a short window of time before they were to mix Crowded House. Unbelieveable. We ended up mixing with some great guys in Vancouver and mastering in LA, and by the time 1000 CD's landed in our lap, we had spent close $45,000.00.
We released the Council album, "Recover" and began playing some shows in support of it, but once again, the effort, expense and time it took for it to come out, had hurt us. We were accomdoating jobs and other gigs and personal issues. On top of that, I don't think we really liked each other that much and it was begining to blow up in our faces.
The nail in the coffin was when Dave and his girlfriend got pregnant and decided they were going to move to Kenora. We did our best to accomodate him and keep it together by trying to fly him back and forth, but even that blew up. There were issues at every turn and one day, Sheri and I looked at each other and said, fuck this, we're done, let's move on and that was that. I thing each of the band members had had that personal conversation with themsleves.
In hindsite, it was destined for failure do the extreme personalities of the group. We had very little in common, musically and by the end, nobody was pretending we did anymore. There was no way we were ever going to live on a tourbus together for months at a time. Regardless, it was a terribly difficult and dissapointing decision to make and once again, the entire process is scarred for me, which sucks. I am however, extremely proud of the CD. It is the rock album I always wanted to release and it was recieved greatly, in fact, it actually charted on some the radio stations in Alberta and still gets played to this day on a few stations. I just would change so many things if I had it do over again, but onward and upward right? We split the remaining debt and have barely spoke since then.
After the Council dismanteled, Sheri and I stepped up our gigs as a duo and continued working at our jobs...yeah, I had gone back to a day job and was enjoying being out of nightclubs. I was doing some graphic arts work for UPS and Sheri was in the Oil and Gas industry. We were making our money at the jobs and thus, our gigs as "Jay Burns & Sheri" Young were alot of fun and very little stress. We loved the same music and we loved each other.
We had also been working on an original side project called, "Bloody Sundays". It was a drastically different vibe than our previous work and it was based on a sort of musical theater idea with a script and soundtrack.
To step back, the sound was inspired by my brother in law Dan, who turned me on to some bands like Clutch and Scott H. Biram. I immedialty loved this music for some reason but never really saw myself playing it as I was pretty steeped in pop/folk, rock and alt-country. I heard this new sound (to me) as sort southern rock and blues based, neither of which I knew too much about.
Anyway, one afternoon while working on one of my alt-country tunes, I grabbed my little recorder and set it up. I began to run the tune, just tapping my foot and playing acoustic and singing. When I listened back to the recording, I realized that I was actually stomping my foot (I get excited) and due to my crap abilty to keep a solid count, would tap some parts on the 1 and other parts on the 3. which gave it a pretty cool vibe. I also had the recorder on the wrong setting which made the vocals distorded. I thought the combination was really cool and it reminded me of some of the music Dan had been playing me.
I figured I would try and write an entirely new tune with this new direction. I wrote the song, "The Freeze", with Dan and his music in mind, and by the time I was done, I had probably the most original sounding piece of music I had ever written. I recorded it that night and had Sheri play on it as well. I was pretty stoked about it and excited to play it for Dan. Well, Dan, whom I respect deeply, both as a musicain and person, loved it and gave me some great props for the tune, encouraging me to write more like it...something I really wasn't planning to do, at least right away.
Shortly after that, Sheri and I were playing on the road and discussing the new sound, in our hotel room after the gig. We were talking about how we would present that type of sound as a duo and it quickly escated into costumes, staging and even some acting. I actually wrote a rough outline of the script that would eventually become, "Bloody Sundays" that very night.
Bloody Sundays became our musical child and the more we worked on it, the more we felt it could definitely work...someday. Unfortunately, I think we were pretty fried from the Council experience, and despite our best intentions, were unable to really apply ourselves to any solid plan for several months. We needed to be away from the pressures of the music industry and began talking about our lives outside of music...careers and family were things we had both put aside for so long. The Council had nearly destroyed our relationship and we were pretty happy to be back on the same page. We didn't want to risk losing each other for the music industry again, rather, for the wrong thing in the music industry, again.
Sheri was also in need of recording her debut CD, something that she had sort of put on the burner due to the Council and I was also eager to release a follow up to, "Jay Burns Letters Vol. 1" as I had never stopped writing for that opportunity. I had ammased 25 or so songs for that project. It was exciting to think about getting a second chance at my solo career, to step back and forget that I had let, "Jay Burns" get away. Maybe he didn't get away, maybe he was just lost.
By the begining of 2009, Sheri and I had gelled pretty well as a duo and were getting quite a bit of work at a decent price. We had decided to call our cover duo, Cumberland (the Street we've lived on for the last 5 years). I had written and recorded demos for about a half a dozen tunes for Bloody Sundays and Sheri and I were getting pretty excited about music again. We made a plan for the upcoming year and then made the decision to quit our jobs and concentrate 100% of our energies on Bloody Sundays and getting our solo disks recorded. Gulp!
The only problem we had was we didn't plan our gig schedule well enough and for the first few months, we weren't playing enough to pay the bills. We ended up diggin a bit of a financial hole, which took us several more months to square up. This definitely added some stress to our relationship again, but eventually, we figured out how to make it work and by summer time, had sort of found our groove. Towards the end of 2009, Sheri and I had the first draft for the script ready and a plan of how we wanted to implement the show. We had established that Bloody Sundays was going to be a live, theater rock show that would be portrayed via music, narration and animation. We had confirmed an animator, and figured out a lot more of what it was going to take to implement the plan. Truthfully, the more we got into it, the more daunitng it became, but also still very exciting.
About that time, we reconnected with my first Alberta drummer, Paul for some Cumberland dates and he offered to record the drums for, "Letters Volume 2". I thought back to the days when Sheri, Paul and I had played with Owen and Greg, and how much fun that was. I contacted Owen and he agreed to do the bass. One more call to my buddy Darren who is a local producer who had said he would be intersted in doing the disk, and TA-DAAA, "Letters Vol.2" was underway in March 2010!
Just like that, it felt like I was going to be able to shake the demons of my past albums. I was recording at home, for a reasonable budget with like-minded people who actually got along and made the process stress free. There was no studio clock to pressure us and no "members" to throw wrenches. It was a really awesome process that felt right from day one. Sometimes when that happens, things just seem to continue fall into your lap, and thanks to Paul, Sheri and I both received grants to do our CD's, which opened up some really cool oportunities to work with some wicked players.
Mike Little, keyboardist for the Roadhammers and currently, George Canyon, played the Hammond B3 and accordian for the entire project and was an incredible mentor for me during the process. Mike also introduced me to Cam, the Drummer from from Aaron Lines who re-recorded a couple of drum tracks that I had screwed up the tempo for. Paul has moved the west coast and was unable to re-cut the tracks. Also,through Mike, I was introduced to guitarist, Russell Broom (Jann Arden's co-writer and musical director) who is the Canadian guitar player of the year, as well as Engineer and Producer of the year. His accolades are many, as are Mikes and the experience of working with that caliber of professional is something I will always cherrish. It was absolutely incredible to me how easy it was for them to find the right parts for the songs. How seeemlessly they were able to appease my musical nuances and how proffessional and efficient the sessions could be. Awesome period. That, coupled with a producer who is very passionate about the trade, has a great ear, great gear and maybe most importantly, an intense hunger to do a great job, has finally offered me a happy experience.
I firmly believe that if I had known that there was this level of player and professionalism available to Joe Blows (Jay Blows) like me, I would likely have never got into another band after Sans John Henry. That's not meant to discredit the talents of the players I've worked with, only to say that it didn't have to be so hard. I didn't have to be so dsperate to keep the bands together, to keep players happy (ironiucally, I likely wasn't keeping anybody happy). Bands are difficult things and musicians are difficult and complex people. We are all a bit flakey and all a bit egomaniacle. Besides that, all the shit that bands deal with internally and the rediculous nature of our industry puts so much pressure on what is, in essence, your "other family"...it's no wonder that the odds are so staked against us.
I wish I would have had this experience 10 years ago , beacuse, although I have so many great memories that I would never trade and so many experiences that I would never want to lose, in reality, it has taken me an awful long time to be truly happy as a recording artist. My heart has been broken too many times to count and I feel I have been irreversably damaged by the industry, by the players and mostly by my own stupidity. My biggest hope is not for huge financial successes or stardom, rather it is that I have the ability to really aprreciate the little things that I hope to accomplish in the coming years and to avoid the mistakes I have made in the past.
The key is, I'm on my way back to being happy, in fact, I'm the happiest I've been since I met Sheri. We are getting married in March and I couldn't be more excited.
It is now June of 2010. The "Letters Vol. 2" CD is still in production and that's just fine. I've had some delays, due to scheduling conflicts, but I am happilly recording the vocals, on my own, in my home studio as we speak...for free. I will also be tackling the Bloody Sundays project this summer and hope to have both CD's, as well as Sheri's done by the fall. The finnish line is in site and I am finally winning the race.
I feel like Jay Burns, the solo artist has returned from exile! He seems refreshed and rejuvinated...and a bit chubby. Time to hit the gym.
I will eventually get off my sorry ass and update this...