I am sitting at the precipice of a new decade, and as I’m sure is the case with many of you, I am feeling contemplative. So contemplative that I just cut and pasted the previous post I had written since I had to accept that I was really writing chapter one of a book, and not a goodbye to the teens hello to the twenties of this century.
Over the past ten years, I have been fortunate to release five cd’s of original music plus a cd of Christmas music. Truth: each album has its strengths and weaknesses. Studio time is expensive, and I was always working around the budget, still, I am proud of each project for its own reasons.
identity – 2012. studio album recorded with Dan Marcelino, Chris Schriek and Joe Harrison at DMA Studios. I play keys. Occasionally guitar. All vocals are mine with the exception of the kids “choir” (Jerome Laroche, Sheena Macfarlane, Thea Ley) on “Save the Children” — about trafficking. I wrote all the songs, the guys made them sound like actual songs. Favorite part of the album? It was the first. Every second for me was charged with joy. What might have been better? I was a brand new guitar player and I sucked. lol. Also, I wish we’d gotten the kids choir a little louder in the mix.
Trusting You – 2013. Studio album recorded with Greg Wenger at The Groove Studio in Vernon. The intention with this album changed, Originally, it was only meant to be a demo I could give the band so they could learn the songs, then I decided to publish and so things changed. Best part of the album? Cover art – me riding the carousel in San Fran while on a school band trip with Alison (my daughter). Also, it represents two different bands. One I sang with plus the first I led. Band one, Me, Joe Harrison, Gordie Harrison, Dan Harrison. Band two, Me on guitar and keys and vocals. Pete Petrescu on drums, Cole Hubscher on bass, Deanna DeCosta, guitar and vocals, Lynne Ivanoff, keys and vocals. Guest spots by my niece Adrienne Alexander on bass, Chris Schriek lead guitar, Alison Macfarlane on flute, and Jon Buller on bass. The worst part of the album? Not my best work. Sorry guys. Better material to come.
Legacy – 2014 (?) Live album. SO MUCH FUN! We recorded this entire album in one five hour session — which shows in my voice by the end of some of the songs. lol. Because we were recording live, I stacked the deck with all my friends plus some super strong extras. In no particular order – Lynne Ivanoff, Deanna DeCosta, Mary Machibroda, Dave Newland, Karen Wolfe, Chris Schriek, Dan Marcelino, Gordie Harrison, Alisha Margaret, that guy Deanna was seeing, and my daddy, Marlin Kenneth Penner. The best part of this album? I love this project. We were all breaking up. Lynne moved a week later, Karen moved that summer. Things were changing. But, for this one last moment, we were all together and it was a brilliant night — even if some people complained that I gave them too much to learn to fast. Whatever… I love this album because we all just flowed against one another, just ad-libing, vibing off each other, bringing out the best in each other. And mostly, I love that I got to record a duet “Great is Thy Faithfulness” with the most faithful man I know — my dad. All my feelings associated with this album are happy ones. Worst part of the album? Live. Perhaps some takes could have been better in studio. Like, you know, where I sang the wrong words in one song. I mean, not like I wrote it, or anything! Still, all in all, sound quality is surprisingly good.
Joy to the World – 2015 (?) Ten songs, four originals, one remix of Joy to the World. At the time, I was leading in churches and was soooooo sick of Christmas carols. I think I recorded this partly as a form of rebellion, partly as a way of putting my own stamp on some old favorites. Best part of the album? There are some songs I really love. I love my take on Joy to the World, although it’s at the top of my range and now that I am not singing all the time, the vocal cords are not impressed. I love the way the duet with Dan Marcelino — Merry Christmas — turned out. I love The Smile of a Child as a song. Could use a studio quality recording on that one to improve the sound. And I love The Coventry Carol, which I sing acapella in four part harmony — all me. Fun stuff! Worst part of the album? Definitely the sound quality. Since this was never going to be a main project of mine, we recorded in three different formats — on the church sound system, which provided a fuzzy background hum you just gotta love, on Joe’s personal recording gear, which sounded better but still not perfect, and in Dan’s studio. Which rocked. Stupid money. Why do you always have to be a factor that messes with creativity?? Oh, on this album, Joe Harrison, me, Dave Newland, Mary Machibroda, Dave Anthony on Away in a Manger, and Dan the man Marcelino.
Lion’s Roar – 2016. This was definitely my most experimental — thus creative — album. Back in studio in Vernon with Greg Wenger at the helm. Greg gave me a skookum deal on the recording of this baby. Best part of the album? First, that we messed around and tried so much stuff. Second – saxophone, yeah baby! Third, Wings, which I recorded and turned into a video which I gave to my niece when she was going through a hard time. Love that song. Love that sound. Oh, I suppose also the fact that a friend’s partner was having brain surgery, and my friend told me at that time in her life she played the song Quiet Me over and over daily and found strength from it. Yeah, that’s kind of the point, after all. And the very best? Cover art by my dad- Marlin Penner. Hands down. XO dad. Worst part? Trouble in the band. sad face. Some of the memories don’t make me so happy. Some of the experiments worked better than others. c’est la vie. On this album, Dave Newland, Mary Machibroda, Curtis Kieres (sax, yeah baby), Randy Roberts, Dwaine Alexander (my bro-in-law) and Nolan Basset on trumpet. Special thanks to Greg for the woohoos on Lion’s Roar — he knows what I mean! lol
All In – 2016. To me, this is the best sound I produced — ever. After going to town with all the bells and whistles on Lion’s Roar, I stripped it down for All In. Recorded in the Seburn’s basement studio with Luke Seburn as engineer. The price was right, and Luke, you are and likely always will be by far the most creative musician I have ever met. Point in case — he bought a pair of sterling wine glasses at a thrift store and turned them into percussion instruments… and they are on the album somewhere! I wanted to do an acoustic, sitting on the country back porch vibe-ing album, and this comes pretty close in parts. Courtesy of Paul Seburn doing something amazing to the tuning of my guitar, this album is far and away the best my voice ever sounded. If I do say so myself. Best part of the album? It is as close to the sound inside my head as any of my albums ever got. Also, Mary is recorded singing lead on the song she always liked best of mine — pretty cool. Also, one song I wrote in one night and recorded the next day — swaggy (stealing my daughter’s vocab). Also, on Hand this guy I met plays the spoons. Yep. The spoons. There are also birds and other sampled sounds Luke put in there and Dave plays harmonica and it kind of sounds like a train coming round the bend. I got Luke playing my banjo — whoo baby — he got me playing a legit Hammond B3 organ (hehehehehehe), and, yeah, musically, this one works for me. The worst part? Band broke up a week before the album came out. SUCKED. Not only did I take a big financial hit, but I do have some sad feelings when I listen. Then I go all vain on my voice, and I get over it. As well, mastering could have been louder. To be fair, he offered to redo it. On this one — Dave Newland, Mary Machibroda, Luke Seburn and featuring Ken Riley on spoons!
I learned so many things while pursuing music. Things about myself, such as, I am more in love with creating than with performing. Things about leading, like, it requires humility, the ability to render constructive criticism appropriately, and it takes as least as much work ethic, vision and drive as it does talent. Things about people, for example, supremely talented people will follow a mediocre talent if that talent is coupled with vision and genuine appreciation. I also learned technical things, like singing too close to the studio mic will not sound great on an album, that infusing passion into a song (as a vocalist) is a matter of connecting with the lyric, that it is good to let someone tell you how to hit the high notes better but bad to let them tell you to try to sound like someone else. Plus some other stuff, which, perhaps most significantly of all for me was, it was never only about the music. In the six years I was making albums, I was able to include 49 people on my albums or on stage with me. These people ranged from professional musicians, a couple award winning ones, a couple professional music teachers, to a whole bunch of amateurs of varying skill levels, to children as young as six years old. Musical accompaniments included: Grand piano, Korg and Roland keyboards, Hammond B3 organ, bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, banjo, various percussion, djembe, electric drum kit, acoustic drum kit, flute, sax, trombone, trumpet, violin, the spoons, harmonica and voices. So many beautiful voices. I loved all of it — and you. Thank you to every person who was involved in the music I made this past decade. People, I have discovered, follow a vision. And when the vision is gone, people will find another vision to follow — myself most of all.
Shortly before 2019, I started daytrippinwithleighmacfarlane thinking it was going to be a travel blog. There is some of that on here, and there will be more — please, God. The thing I’ve realized in the teens of the twenty-first century is that the journey of life really happens inside. Whether that is a geographical journey or a metaphorical, metaphysical one, the way I interact with events and with people is the real journey which counts.
This past decade has seen so many things in my life. Physical injuries which turned me from an athletic focus to a creative one. Growing pains and joys with my children, who now are well on their way to being self-supporting adults. Spiritual highs and lows. The almost marriage which wasn’t. The deaths of people I love. Jobs jobs and more jobs. I think in the last few years I hold the record for how many different industries one person can work in. Friends who have come in and out of my life and thankfully, the important ones have come back in. So much love and joy and pain and sorrow and growth and hope and dreams…
And now, I am pursuing another dream — writing.
That is a whole other blog post. Because in 2010, I graduated with a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, and since then, I have written two memoirs, a co-authored cookbook, a children’s picture book, a book of poetry, and am now up to eight completed novel manuscripts — four of which were published in 2019.
There have been times in my life where I have jokingly said, I wish God had made me an accountant. Life would be simple and financially secure, and I’d know what each day would hold. Gah! Worst. Plan. Ever.
I am no accountant. I am a creative. And how much more fun is that?!
I am so thankful, at the end of 2019, that God didn’t make me an accountant. People ask me all the time where my story ideas come from, and I can’t answer, because they just come from bumping shoulders with life, from breathing and observing, and experiencing. They are just there. One of my greatest realities is I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO TELL ALL THE STORIES. So, maybe being an accountant looked good to me at one time. Now, though, I am embracing the journey of being a creative — this is me, at the end of 2019, excited for all 2020 will bring.
Including but not limited to:
The Way of Things – April
The Best of Things – July
The Merry Kind of Things – November
Santa’s Surf School – December
(stay tuned for future daytripping, both geographical and existential!)