Isolation Blues

Isolation Blues

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Isolation Blues – Video Playlist

Hold On

Well, friends. Here we are. The last video for Isolation Blues! Official album release happens Friday. 

When Alasdair and I sat down to start recording these songs with Dave and Sandy, I don’t think we envisioned this is how they would come out into the world. And I don’t think when Ali, Tyler and I concocted this music video series, that we envisioned the arc that would take shape or the intense creative learning that we’d share. 

That’s the beauty in making art with people – surprises happen. Everyone brings ideas, inspiration and skills to the moment, and the art gets transformed. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, the people making the art also get transformed. And if while making these we somehow connected to some deeper human truths, hopefully your lives got transformed in some small way as well. 

While music doesn’t have very tangible, live-in-the-flesh audiences these days, it’s been wonderful to read people’s comments and get your feedback on these songs as we’ve gone along.

You can now watch all 10 videos as a series, starting with Oh General – we’ve love to hear your thoughts! What songs get stuck in your head? Which ones did you skip or ignore? What have been your favourite videos?

Hold On is a song about empathy and struggle. It’s about the people that slip through the cracks of the world. It’s about the emotions that, if we’re not paying attention, can slip through the cracks of our selves. And it’s about looking to the future with hope and determination. 

Thank you for listening, for watching, for sharing with your friends. These songs are yours now. Take good care of them.

Actress: Ali Tataryn

2nd Actress: Michelle Lecnik

Camera: Tyler Funk


My Generation Knows

When we started getting news reports from Florida of people ignoring public health warnings and going to the beach anyways, it struck a nerve. Sometimes we need to personally sacrifice for the greater good, for our fellow human beings to stay safe and healthy. 

This video came out of that frustration – watching people not care about how their actions might impact others. This song about the struggle of youth was already just sitting there. Felt like a good match.

It took a while for My Generation Knows to find its lyrical footing, and a lot of different verses got bounced around. I wanted to write about getting lost in the the whimsy and vibrancy of youth while also chasing deeper meaning. About the paradox between being the guy quite happy to get messed up on the proverbial lawn, while also wanting a more mature, thoughtful relationship with the people and world around us.

Actress: Ali Tataryn

Camera: Tyler Funk


Listen

A big part of my songwriting process is just trying to open myself up, so that if a song wants to show up, I’m in a welcoming creative place where I can catch it. My experience has been that songs have a life and soul of their own; they don’t get written so much as they get found or caught. And for that to happen, I need to be open to the song poking its head in, and to what it asks of its finder. 

Sometimes it’s easy to get to that place – especially if you’re a bit emotionally raw. And sometimes it’s harder, especially coming out of a time with lots of what the world likes to call “real life” – you need a few days of conscious effort to push the rational / technical / political / fearful parts of the mind to a far corner and leave space for songs to feel welcome again.

One of my favourite things about Listen is that the vocal “fell out” one day. What you’re hearing is essentially a stream of consciousness, improvised vocal take that arrived almost fully formed. For me, that is extremely rare – so Listen holds a special place in my heart. I tend to go through a long process of phonetically connecting melodies to the song, then slowly finding key words or feelings, and then gradually pulling in lyrics to fit the narrative that emerges. It can take a couple weeks, it can take a couple years. But Listen happened in an instant. 

I’m still a little surprised that Portage Place mall was so cool with us having three skateboarders rip around on their tile floors. And with Born Lucky’s lyrics referencing skateboarding as a kid, it was cool to create another link between the songs in Isolation Blues. (There’s a few more of them, if you feel like getting sleuthful.) I like how our three skateboarders in Listen are kind of like ghosts or sirens, voices of Ali’s subconscious – they never actually engage with Ali and Ali never actually acknowledges them.

Actress: Ali Tataryn

Camera: Tyler Funk


Born Lucky

Born Lucky is a song about entitlement and chasing your dreams and the privilege of having the solid childhood, supportive parents and financial security that make chasing your dreams even possible. 

I wrote this song as both an external criticism and observation of others, and as an internal exploration. How am I privileged? I’m a middle class white kid who grew up in a quiet Canadian suburb. Most definitely, my family had our struggles, but we also had a path out of them. The ceiling wasn’t inches above our head. 

Sitting here today, after almost two weeks of protests against police brutality, this song reads a little different. 

I didn’t know that friends of mine spent years being afraid of the cops until I was well into adulthood. I’ve watched my own city slowly militarize its police, negatively profile Indigenous and Black citizens, turn a blind eye to its own acceleration of conflict and racism, and rarely hold its officers accountable. “To serve and protect” they say. But whom are they serving and protecting? 

I’ve flipped the bird to a cop before, because he was harassing a homeless guy. I got a talking to, but I didn’t get arrested or beaten or pushed around or worse. That was my privilege, though I didn’t know it at the time.

So I gladly stand with my neighbours of colour, and anyone who have spent their lives having a very different relationship to police. And I support calls to de-fund and de-militarize our police, to have our very concept of what police do and how they are structured be radically altered. 

Actress: Ali Tataryn

Camera: Tyler Funk


All My Worries

All My Worries is a song about the winds of change and what they require. They ask for honesty of intention from us. They ask us to leave situations that aren’t good for us, to follow love to places that bring out the best in us. They ask us to reflect on our lives and our decisions and our future. But also to understand that actions have consequences and for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Plan/don’t plan accordingly.  

I wrote this in the summer of 2015 at Wallace Lake. It’s a beautifully remote spot in northeastern Manitoba just past the edge of civilization. No cell service, no internet, no tv – just rocks, trees and lakes. There was a lot swirling around in my head and my heart that summer. It was one of those turning point times that would shape how the next few years would go: a little bit gunshy, a little bit determined, a little bit beaten down, a little bit hopeful… I suppose it was the beginning of the path that led to this batch of songs now coming to you dear listeners over the internet. I’m glad we could shoot this video in eastern Manitoba to tie it all together.

This song wove its way through our process for a while… I recorded the main guitar a couple different times. Ivan Burke laid down the beautiful drums and his harmony vocals one afternoon and I recorded the keyboard parts on a whim after he went home. Alasdair and I let the song sit almost abandoned for a couple years before adding some of the finishing touches. 

Actress: Ali Tataryn

Additional Actress: Michelle Lecnik

Director of Photography: Tyler Funk

Drone Operator: Jason Funk

Director: Michael Falk

Production Assistant: Luke Thiessen


No Easy Way Out

Sometimes we get trapped out in the world. Sometimes we get trapped inside our homes. Sometimes we get trapped inside ourselves. 

And sometimes we toss a little politicking into the murky personal muck. When I wrote this, the little bits about manipulating southern American voters seemed disjointed from the rest of the song. Turn on the news or the internet right now and it’s playing out loud and clear in real time. 

I wrote No Easy Way Out during the flurry that came out of a week at Clear Lake. It seems almost all of these songs came out of cabin getaways of some sort – they seem to be the times I’m finally able to turn off the outside world for long enough to tap the song well. 

Recorded with Alasdair Dunlop, Dave Quanbury + Sandy Fernandez at Paintbox Recording.

Actress: Ali Tataryn

Camera: Tyler Funk


Better Off Alone

Sometimes you have to retreat and take some time to think through everything that’s happened. Sometimes you get to make that call, sometimes the world makes the call for you. 

Better Off Alone is a song about realizing that you need to back away from the world you’ve built for yourself, that it might not be a good place for you after all, and to take all the time you need to get yourself sorted out. 

Actress: Ali Tataryn

Camera: Tyler Funk


Let Me Be Lonely With You

I wrote most of Let Me Be Lonely With You in a flurry of songwriting at Clear Lake during the summer of 2018. My wife and I went out for dinner half-way through the week and she said that it was the first time all week we’d actually had a conversation. That caught me off guard. I realized that between looking after our kid, extended family meals and outings, and me retreating to my writing station, we hadn’t connected at all. And to be honest, this had been the state of our relationship for a while. 

Both of us were pretty self-isolating, escaping to our own little worlds whenever we finally had some downtime after work and parenting. It’s hard – sometimes you just need to collapse into your thoughts … and the thought of having to put energy into crossing the slowly widening divide between you and your spouse – it can be hard to summon.  I understand why a lot of marriages fail or are seriously stressed when children are small. It’s a hard time.

Later that summer while Alasdair and I had been working on the songs in the studio,  this lyric “let me be lonely with you” emerged. It’s a contradiction that seems to sum up that odd feeling of living with someone but also sometimes feeling so alone.  All gulfs of isolation are passable with time and care.

Actress: Ali Tataryn

Camera: Tyler Funk

Additional actress: Michelle Lecnik


The Darkness

For anyone struggling with their mental health during this quarantine: you are not alone.

When I started writing The Darkness, it was about me. When I finished, the song also interwove stories and experiences of many family members and friends. 

Struggling with mental health and finding meaningful support is a rats nest of mixed messages, ill-equipped and untrained medical professionals, and a public health system that doesn’t fully understand what or how and perhaps most importantly why

I’m glad that our society talks about mental illness more than we ever have previously, but there’s still so far to go.  Depression, bi-polar, anxiety … whatever shape it takes, it messes you up and it impacts your relationships and clouds your judgement. It’s real and it’s alive in me, and in so many people I love. My wife said to me the other day, “It’s like you have two modes: depressed or working on a project.” 

I want to thank Ali and Tyler for so deeply embracing the video part of this project. They’ve met the emotional core of the music with generous hearts, thoughtfulness and respect and one can’t ask for much more from collaborators. 

I also want to thank Kelly Beaton. She wrote the lovely ascending-thirds piano part that I tucked into these other piano chords I’d been rolling around with for a couple years, and she has given her blessing for this adaptation of her idea. Go check out her band @GlassReel.

Drums on this track were recorded by Ivan Burke. I think Curtis Nowosad played the first version which Ivan then updated after Curtis left for New York, but it’s been a long time. 

Actress: Ali Tataryn

Camera: Tyler Funk


Oh General

I wrote this song one early morning at my mom’s place in Pinawa, with my then-1-year-old sitting on my lap. At its core are observations of complacency and divisiveness. When I listen to it today I also hear the challenge to contemplate who and what is most important in our lives, and following that path requires tough choices that sometimes have to be taken alone. Perhaps quarantine makes these decisions of the heart a little simpler.

When I wrote this, The Donald was a relatively recent but concerning entry into North America’s political sphere, even from the relative safety of the deep Canadian hinterland. I pictured The Orange One as a dinner host and had a terrible time imagining a way we could have a rewarding conversation. I pictured him as the new Commander-In-Chief, the General’s General, and no, I did not want to go where he was going.

The world has been turned on its head in the last few weeks by this virus. And it had kinda been turned on its head in the past 4 years as well. It’s been a weird time of tumult that has exposed a decidedly ugly underbelly within our culture. Extremes rule the day and it’s been hard for gentleness and empathy and compassion to find their way into the public sphere. My optimistic side says that this is their quiet power though, and a more respectful cultural dialogue is possible. I already see it in our collective response to this pandemic.


Isolation Blues

I’ve had a large set of songs percolating for some time. Alasdair and I have been moving slowly  on them. Methodically. Patiently. In the years since I last released any music I’ve become a dad. Alasdair and I both work for festivals, and have gradually become creative partners as well. Life has been full. There’s also a lost year in there somewhere (but we’ll get to that later.)

A lot of these songs are about being alone. Isolated. Disconnected. Struggling with mental health. I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that the last 4 or 5 years have been comfortable or easy. And so when the Coronavirus showed up on our collective doorstep a few weeks ago and we shut our country down, our cities and towns down, we shut our lives down… well, it felt like a lot of these songs resonated with what we are all going through right now. 

So here’s the plan: 10 songs in 10 weeks. Each with a video to accompany it.

I’m not sure why I tend to set somewhat ridiculous challenges for myself to build projects around, but it energizes me. While I write from a place of introspection and cultural observation, I’m also a pretty competitive guy. I think that the adrenaline rush of taking on something which could flop magnificently if we don’t tap into a deep, meaningful creative spirit and pull off something impactful on a shoestring … well, there can be a magic found amongst limitations and you gotta just hope you’ve surrounded yourself with people who vibrate the same way that you do and that it all works out in the end. 

When I ran this idea by filmmaker Tyler Funk and actress Ali Tataryn, they both got excited about it too. Maybe we all needed something to get our creative selves activated during this time of collective isolation. And maybe, hopefully, there’s something in the work we’re doing that you, dear listeners, will find valuable. And so you know – we’ve been ensuring that all of these videos can be made while keeping social distancing protocols. 

Lastly, Touching has essentially been a studio project until now. We haven’t lost gigs or tours to the Coronavirus, but we sure have lots of friends and peers who have. So it would feel weird to take our first official step into the world without trying to support those who have been hustling in the trenches and are now facing some very real, very challenging realities. 

50% of all proceeds from this project are being donated to the Unison Benevolent Fund to assist their efforts to support musicians in this difficult time. Most musicians make their living from concerts … and who knows when we’ll be able to have a few hundred or few thousand people in a room together again, having life-changing musical experiences. I miss those. I imagine you do too. So let’s do what we can to help out the folks who make that happen.

The most effective ways to support:

  1. Purchase the songs from Bandcamp
  2. Purchase the songs from Apple Music
  3. Add the songs to your personal playlists on Spotify or Apple
  4. Tell your friends. Share our posts. Listen until your ears bleed.

You can follow along here:

Email subscribers will get access before the public.

The music has been made by me, Michael Falk, most closely partnered with Alasdair Dunlop. He has been absolutely instrumental to these songs turning out the way they did. He’s got a detailed and creative musical mind which balances my madhatter quickly-moving big-picture ways well. Dave Quanbury plays some guitar, some keys and some wacky synth sequences and has been a trusted musical confidante throughout this process. Sandy Fernandez is a helluva drummer, a beautiful soul, and a great positive spirit of encouragement.