Ejo #101 – Nice Day For A White Wedding

This photo of me was taken on Sunday, 2nd August 1998, just one week shy of my 27th birthday. I was at Melbourne International Airport, surrounded by my family and closest friends, about to embark on an overseas adventure that would change my life. I was off to Connecticut, USA for a year to be an au pair for two little kids I’d never even laid eyes on. I was excited, nervous, and soon to find out that I had absolutely no fucking idea what I’d signed up for.

1

Can you see the hope in my eyes? How about the terror? Can you see the terror?

I also had no idea that twenty years later all four members of that family would still be in my life. That they would all hold a very special place in my heart and that I would love them all as much as I do today. They are my second family. Twenty years ago they invited me into their home, but since then they have invited me to remain in their lives, and for that I am eternally grateful.

2

The Connecticut house where I spent a year of my life. 

My year in Connecticut was amazing, but it wasn’t easy. Most of the other au pairs were young girls. Teenagers, just out of school. I barely made the upper age limit, just scraping in by three days. Unlike the others, I wasn’t a pliable adolescent. I was a fully formed, strong-willed, independent woman suddenly living under the roof of two very powerful personalities. Understandably, there were a few sparks, especially in the beginning. My second week on the job, following a run-in on the tennis court, I hid in the garage so no-one would see me sobbing in despair. Cursing the mistake I’d made, missing my family back home and wishing I was still in Melbourne. I could have pulled the plug at any time, but I chose not to. I chose to stay. One of the reasons was to test myself. To see what I was capable of withstanding. That moment in the garage was a milestone in my life. It was the moment that I made the choice to grow up. But mostly I stayed because of the children. Daniel and Holly had already became the loves of my life. I didn’t want to be assigned to another family. This was my family, and I was going to work shit out.

3

These little poopies stole my heart the moment I met them.

One of the reasons I was hired to help with the kids was that Tim, the dad, was often away on business. So most of my time was spent with their mum, Kate. It is an understatement to say that she and I had a complicated relationship. We grew, during the span of that year, to really love and respect each other but we did it through a minefield of power struggles and emotions. Frankly it’s a miracle that our friendship survived, which makes it all the more precious to me.

My relationship with Tim, on the other hand, was a relatively breezy one. While Kate had to deal with the difficult au pair on the daily, he would just swoop in from his trips, larger than life, filling the house with his exuberant presence. He would cook and sing and bellow heartfully. Of course it must have been hard for him to be away from his family for so long, but one benefit of being absent is not having to deal with the day to day shit. You get to come home, and be king. And we all loved it when the king was home. Things were easier for me when Tim was around. I didn’t have to do as much around the house, and I was always invited to spend time with them off-duty, as a member of the family. They were never obligated to include me, but they always did.

I’ve always looked up to Tim. He has a commanding quality about him, and his personality always fills the room. He exudes a confidence and positive energy which is intoxicating, and fun to be around. I’ve never really thought of him as a full-on father figure, but there might be just a tiny grain of truth to that allegory. I have just one single memory of him acting in the role of patriarch, back in Connecticut. I’d had an argument with Kate one evening because I wanted to go out and she didn’t want me to take the car. I was in my room, fuming, when Tim knocked on my door and asked to come in. As he sat on the edge of my bed and explained why he and Kate weren’t letting me drive the car in the ice storm (oh, did I forget to mention the ice storm), I felt like a little girl being unfairly grounded by her father. But in that moment, he wasn’t just my boss. He was my Dad’s surrogate, acting on his behalf, looking out for me.

Like I said, that year was a life changer. It had ups and it had downs. It was an incredible year in my life, but I was definitely relieved when it was over. I was super sad to be leaving the kids, but I was so happy to be going back home to Melbourne, to my own family and friends. It felt like the shedding of a great load, and I’m sure they enjoyed having their lives back to themselves too.

After lustfully relishing my freedom for a while, I started looking back on my year abroad through a softer lens. With a lot more appreciation for the remarkable experience I’d had. And of course, I started to miss them all. I missed getting the kids up for school every morning. And waiting for them by the side of the road at the end of their day. I missed their hugs, their silly jokes and laughter. I missed the house, and my space in it. I missed the four distinct, and very beautiful, seasons of Connecticut (ice storms and all). And I missed my second family on the other side of the world. After a couple of years, I reached out to them and, happily, they reached back. We reconnected, in a new way. A better way. No longer bound by our employer/employee shackles, we were able to explore each other as real friends, and wonderfully we discovered that we all still liked each other. In fact we liked each other more. Over the years we’ve rendezvoused around the world, meeting up in California, London and a couple of times in the south of France, where Tim owns a cottage. Several years ago Kate and Tim divorced but I keep up with both of them, separately. They may no longer be together, but they are still my family and, amazingly, it seems that I am still theirs.

Over those same years I’ve watched the children grow from my beloved poopies, to self-assured teenagers and into the beautiful young adults they are today.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Daniel and Holly as teens. 

7

Daniel and I out on the tiles in LA.  

6

Holly and I loving each other in Reno. 

As some of you know, in 2016, Daniel suffered a major heart attack and almost died. The whole family has been to hell and back over the last two years. Which is why when David and I got an invitation from Tim and Rachel, his partner of five years, to attend their wedding in France, I was ridiculously overjoyed. What wonderful, happy news. All I’ve ever wanted for my crazy au pair family is for them to be happy. If I can be a part of their happiness, that’s just icing on my cake.

And so David and I went to France. The wedding was, of course, absolutely beautiful. If you ever have the chance to go to a wedding at an 11th century château in the south of France, I’d highly recommend it. It was a glorious setting to celebrate the beginning of a new chapter in Tim’s life. And here’s where things get emotional for me. Why? Because on this very special and intimate day, Tim wanted me to be there.

a10

Husband and wife.

a2

The château.  Not bad, eh?

a4

A new chapter. 

Years ago, in a black cab on the way home from a boozy art exhibition in London, I drunkenly whispered to Kate that I hoped to one day meet a man just like Tim. And I meant it. I’ve never met anyone like him before. He eats life up. He charismatically brandishes a wild streak, while remaining as steady as a rock. He is an all-round awesome human being. I’m pretty damn lucky that I did find my own awesome fellow, not long after that night in London. And Tim and Rachel are both lucky to have eventually found each other.

During dinner at the chateau, just before dessert and after many bottles of wine, I had a….. well, I had a moment. I looked around at the other guests, the room aglow with merriment, and I was just blindsided by how lucky I was to be there. It hit me that everyone at that table was either an old friend or a family member. Oh yeah, and me, the former au pair. I felt proud, and honoured, and just bloody grateful to be in that room on that very special night – my place at the table revealing the place I must hold in Tim’s heart.

a6

Places of honour.

Tim caught me looking at him all starry-eyed, and winked at me. We both smiled. He was happy, his new bride luminous by his side. I glanced over at Daniel and Holly, and my heart filled with love. We have been on a unique and incredible journey, the Brittons and I. I don’t know where we are going next, but I will move mountains to be at all of their weddings, all of their anniversaries, all of their celebrations in life. And as long as they keep inviting me, I promise you, I’ll keep turning up.

a9

❤ ❤ ❤

 

Ejo #100 – A Love Letter To Melbourne

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not
be questioned.

Maya Angelou

Melbourne, my beloved, you are not the city of my birth, but you became my home before I was old enough to form memories of anywhere else. You will always be my hometown. And no matter where I live, you will always be my home.

I became aware of my capacity to love you only after we parted ways, nine and a half years ago (ack, has it really been that long?). Oh dear Melbourne, when I moved away in search of adventure, to “broaden my horizons” and to see more of the world, can you believe that I was actually happy to leave you. I was excited to embark on that brave new endeavour. It wasn’t that I was leaving you, it was just that I was going somewhere else. And even though my journey has been more difficult than I could have imagined, even though I left behind all my family and all my friends, and even though I have struggled with that, I don’t regret any of it. I have seen the world, and it’s wonderful. I have broadened my horizons and I have had adventures. Hopefully I will continue to have them.

What I do regret are all the years that I took you for granted. All the years that I failed to appreciate how entwined we were, and how dependent my sense of self was to yours. I moved away to have new experiences, arrogantly presuming that I would find the same sense of belonging and the same sense of security and oneness that you and I have always shared. Naïvely thinking that these things were inside of me.  But they were not.  I found that I did not belong anywhere else. I do not belong anywhere else. I blamed myself, for years, thinking that there was something wrong with me. Only after a great deal of painful introspection (and therapy, lots of therapy) could I see that you and I have something special, something that I will never find anywhere else in this world, no matter how hard I might search for it.

Melbourne, you have contributed so much of yourself to so much of me. I spent my formative years, my growing up years, inside of you. But until it was gone, how could I have known the extent of your influence? Does anyone ever realise how much they’re shaped by their environment, until they leave it?  The place I live now is nothing like you. The place I live now hates me, and quite frankly, I hate it back. I will always belong to you. And you will always belong to me.

I recently spent two wonderful weeks back in your embrace. In the comfort of your big sky, your clean air, your beautiful light. Enveloped in the glow of your sparkling constellation. You are my galaxy, and though my chosen orbit forces us apart, I am forever drawn to you. We resonate, you and I.  My cherished family is with you. My friends live in you. My history resides within yours. When I am “home”, I am normal.  My guard drops.  I breathe more deeply, and with less effort.  I remember who I was.  I know who I am.  I like myself more.  I regain a sense of belonging. And I do belong.

My beloved Melbourne, please, wait for me.  I promise you, one day I will return.

IMG_4829

Best fucking coffee in the world.

 

IMG_4827

David and I missed out on the “smashed avo” trend, so we make up for it every time we go back.  Also: bacon!!!!

 

IMG_4860

Afternoon cocktails at Madame Brussels. A quintessential Melbourne experience.

 

IMG_4831

Of all things, a lichen covered mailbox in Mount Waverley brings on waves of homesickness.

 

IMG_4834

Park.  Land.  Every.  Where.

 

IMG_4837

A track behind my childhood home.  You don’t realise how much you can miss trees and dirt and insects and bark and grass and fallen leaves and dappled light and twigs and Mother Nature until you have to live without them for so many years.

 

IMG_4939

The light.  Just, the light.

 

IMG_1093

A delightful afternoon in a delightful garden with delightful friends.  Melbourne.

 

IMG_1108

Yes, you can hire a yacht anywhere in the world.  But only in Melbourne is it helmed by such a good mate.

 

IMG_0988

Mah bitchzzz!!!!  Melbourne is where I am free enough to be my crazy self.

 

IMG_4909

Friends.  I’ve lived with these people.  I’ve danced with them.  I’ve gone to university with them.  They know me.  I know them.  Love is in the air!

 

image

My gorgeous Mum in her incredible garden.

 

FullSizeRender2

My best friends in the world.  My sisters.  Melbourne girls.  ❤

Ejo #99 – The Extraordinary People I Know: Terry Oubre

 

About a year ago I stormed one of the stages at an electronic music festival in Europe (coz that’s just how I roll, bitchzzzz). Alright, technically I didn’t “storm” the stage. But I did sneak in from the back when the security guard went to the toilet. Somehow I found myself in the middle of the stage, next to the DJ, looking out at the thronging crowd. And it was one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever experienced. My rock’n’roll moment!

IMG_1101

Make some noise!!!!  My three minutes of glory.

I’ve recently had the pleasure of getting to know an Actual Fucking Rock Star. The real deal, folks. Someone who spent years performing in front of millions of people, before moving onto a successful career as a producer. He’s the best electric guitarist you’ve never heard of – I’m talking about the extraordinary Terry Oubre. Let’s chat!

My one experience on (someone else’s) stage blew my tiny little mind. Tell me about the time you played with The Grass Roots in front of 600,000 motherfucking people in Washington DC on 4th July, 1982?
That gig was so surreal that I was totally relaxed. It’s like when my wife was giving birth to our son. The moment is so big and fraught with the possibility of something going wrong, that you just let go of the worry and roll with it.

Ejo 1

A news clipping of the event.  Over half a million people attended.  Let that sink in for a minute.

How long were you on stage for?
About one and a half hours. CNN and MTV were covering the event, and it was broadcast live over the radio. No pressure though.

Were you nervous?
No, I wasn’t nervous. We were so battle hardened from the road. We could have played through a hurricane. But, like I said, it was very surreal. Sometimes things are so huge that you just go with it. As long as the equipment didn’t blow up, I could handle it. Smaller clubs can be more intimidating, because people are right under your nose. At the DC gig, we were on a big stage and the crowd was a sea of people. And everybody just wanted to party. It was July 4th, Independence Day. They were ready to rock, and we did our best to deliver.

You recorded just one album with The Grass Roots, Powers Of The Night. Lead singer Rob Grill was supposed to be the heart-throb of the group, but you would have been my favourite, for sure. Definitely the cutest.
Haha! Thanks. We once played a big club near New Orleans, and the club owner and I went out for a midnight ride with a couple of women afterwards. He told me, “Women might wanna fuck Rob, but they wanna marry you!”

Ejo 3

A photo of The Grass Roots.  Check out the cutie on the right.

Ejo 2

A promotional photo of the band.  How adorable is Terry!!!!


You definitely have a wholesome nice-guy thing going on there, which is very appealing. So how did you end up in The Grass Roots? And why did you leave?

The singer of The Grass Roots wanted to go on the road, and he needed a band. My group had just moved to LA and someone recommended us. And things just began to happen. A record producer for MCA Records came to see us at a venue in LA, and wanted to sign us. The irony is, I went to LA to make it with my own band and do session work, not be in The Grass Roots. So, after about two and a half years I quit and moved to Austin, because I wanted to produce. I wanted to make serious music. Something that meant something to me, that was based on what I was about.

Can you tell me a little more about what you do? You’re a producer – what does that even mean?
A music producer is like a movie director. I do everything necessary to bring a song to fruition. Which means shaping the arrangement, sometimes helping with lyrics, coaching the musicians and vocalists on their parts and generally pulling everything together. We’re making a record – a fixed piece of art – and because my name is on it, it has to be as good as I can make it. And that means I have to be able to read people and get what I need out of them without hurting their feelings. I have to be convincing, without making anyone feel threatened. So, a good producer has to wear a lot of hats. I also do a lot of mixing and mastering. Mixing is an art in itself. It’s a performance. You can make or break a recording in the mix. I usually do a ton of editing and shaping of the sound, blending it all together which makes the sum of the parts stronger. Not unlike an orchestra conductor.

So how much of a record is your vision, and how much is the artist’s?
My job is to help the artist realise their vision. The listener thinks it’s all the artist, but I work my ass off to make it sound great.

How did you get into producing?
I think it was just an organic outgrowth of my love for music and creating music. Especially the idea of trying to create music that I wanted to hear, that nobody else was recording. So there was a strong desire to be inventive, to express myself in a personal way, rather than trying to emulate what had come before. Prior to becoming a producer, I listened to music. Decoding what they were doing to achieve certain sounds. Particularly the Beatles and Hendrix. I was interested in sound from very early on, even as a child. I would pay attention to mechanical sounds and sounds of nature. Like the way sound bounced off the walls of houses in my neighbourhood. We had large yards with a lot of space between houses and if you hit a baseball, the crack would echo in a very complex way. Also, the sounds of a marching band in a stadium, especially the drums. To hear those drums playing in unison and the way that sound reverberated. Or during a parade, hearing them approaching from down the street and how the sound changed as they got closer. The sound of trains on tracks, the horn and the “Doppler effect” always fascinated me, as did the sound of a jet flying overhead. I love that shit.

Can you study producing, like law or medicine or engineering? Or do you need to have some kind of musical experience?
I don’t know how far studying will get you. It’s more of an innate ability, based on years of listening and trying to understand how sounds are recorded and how a record is made. So, for me, it was just a matter of calling on my experience as a session musician and recording with various bands over the years. I got tired of arguing with recording engineers about what kind of EQ I wanted, so with the advent of digital recording I bought my own recorders and turned my garage into a recording studio. I would rather do it all myself than have some motherfucker tell me what can’t be done, just because the text books say you can’t do it. I remember reading about George Harrison asking the engineer to boost the treble of his guitar during Nowhere Man, and the engineer telling him, “You can’t do that”. At that point the Beatles had earned the right to demand whatever they wanted. So George said, “Turn it all the way up, and if that’s not enough we’ll run it through another channel and boost it there too!” It was good to know that even the Beatles had to put up with engineers and their rigid bullshit.

What advice would you give to someone interested in producing as a career?
Anyone with the desire to learn how to make records can start with acquiring recording gear, whatever they can afford, and just learning from their mistakes. At first, it seems really hard to make it sound like a professional record. You have to sweat bullets for a few years and continue to upgrade your gear and add to it. You have to be detail oriented. And you have to have a real passion for it. Just like any other form of self expression.

What kind of music do you produce?
I’ve produced singer/songwriter artists, old school country, hard rock, blues, pop. For myself, I plan to record a hybrid of electronic and raging electric guitar. Also, cinematic style instrumental music.


Woah, love me some raging electric guitar! Tell me more. Are you planning on recording just a few songs, or a whole album? How long has it been since you’ve made music for yourself?

If I record an album again I will make it vinyl only. With a vinyl record you have a flow, like a movie or a book. It’s a listening experience. You go on a journey. I mean, it can function just as a collection of songs, but I like arranging songs so that they have an ebb and flow. My first and only CD, Future Blues, came out in 1996. I’ve recorded since then, but not released anything.

Ejo 5

Terry’s album, Future Blues


Tell me about making Future Blues. And why you waited over twenty years before thinking about making another one?

The original plan was a band album, but that wasn’t working out so I decided to put out a solo CD instead. The intention was to follow up with the band album, but in the meantime I’d transitioned to full time music producer and became more reliant on that income than putting out my own music. And that’s been the case for over 20 years.

During that period, I was also raising my son. My life in suburbia overtook my previous life as a full time musician and I got stuck. My marriage was not what I had hoped it would be either. I’d lost touch with who I was and, frankly, I’m still a long way from getting my life back as a working musician. So, after a 20 year marriage we decided to divorce and I finally had the chance to get back to some semblance of my previous life, which is where I’m at now. I bought a 100 year old building in a small town about an hour outside of Houston, which I’m renovating as a studio/loft apartment. The place will be combination recording studio, listening room for showcases, man cave and Americana museum, with many artefacts from my life. And I may have some kind of teaching academy there as well. I figure I’ll get more done if I immerse myself in a lifestyle that revolves around making and recording music, rather than going back to a more conventional life. I’m happier now, and anxious to re-establish myself as a musician as well as continuing to produce.

What kinds of artefacts?
Well, when I was very young I wanted to play drums. My parents gave me a toy drum set, and I played it til it fell apart. I remember being around 4 years old playing the toy drums in the garage, along to my mum’s Elvis records, when the garbage truck pulled up. The garbage men saw me playing – a couple of black guys watching this little white boy getting after it on the drums. They were cracking up laughing, but they were loving it.  So I’m looking for a toy drum kit similar to the one I had to proudly display in my studio.

Who has been the biggest influence or inspiration for you?
Jimi Hendrix, to me, was the most important musician of the 20th Century. The Chili Peppers guitarist, John Frusciante once said that “when you hear Jimi Hendrix play, it’s a pure expression of him as a person. You see him on stage and there’s absolutely no separation between him and his guitar. They’re completely one, because he’s just putting every single bit of everything in his whole psyche and every single part of his body into his guitar playing”.

That’s how it feels when I watch the clip of you playing in Tucson. No joke. Like the music is coming from inside you, and the guitar is just a tool for that expression. It’s truly magnificent. What piece of music from Jimi Hendrix is your favourite?
I don’t think I could name one piece. If I had to choose his best album, I’d say Electric Ladyland. Listened to from beginning to end, it gives you that experience of having travelled through space and time. It’s transcendent music.

Anyone else?
Jeff Beck. One of the reviews I got for my album said, “If Jeff Beck lived in Austin, you have some idea where Terry Oubre is at.” There are many other great guitarists and musicians I love. Everything I love in music has influenced and inspired me. Hendrix is still number one for me though. I can hardly believe he walked the earth, even now.

So let me ask you something. You are an extraordinary musician. You have the talent, so why aren’t you a household name? Did you ever want that level of success? Or that level of fame?
In the past I pursued success as part of a band. My first band was considered the best around (or at least I was). But I couldn’t have gone on the road, because I was in high school. I wasn’t really driven to be famous anyway, I was more about the music. And I would have needed management that believed in me. In the ensuing years, I was in several bands and was a session musician. But bands are extremely difficult to maintain. So, if I want to achieve a higher profile, I’ll have to do it as a solo artist. When I put out Future Blues I got good reviews in all the guitar magazines. But the live music climate changed. Music doesn’t mean what it used to. People don’t support it like they once did, which is why I got more involved in producing. And I’m not someone who craves validation from people. I know what I can do.

Ejo 4

 


Are you still in touch with any of the guys from your old band? Would you work with them again?

The drummer, Ralph Gilmore, and I are still in touch. He played on Future Blues. Yes, I would work with Ralph again. He and I have played thousands of gigs together over the years. The keyboard player, Charles Judge, is working with all the big names in Nashville now. But he was jealous of me.

Why?
Because a fucking piano player can’t compete with a guitar player.

Oooh, can I publish that?
Sure, you can publish it. It’s true! I was always Charley’s biggest fan. He was the one with the problem. He can be a condescending fuck.

Hmm, I don’t like condescending fucks.
Me either. I eat them for breakfast now. I learned not to let them get away with that shit.

How do you feel about getting older in this industry? I mean the goddamn physical aches and pains of getting older versus the emotional and mental freedom and wisdom that come along with it? How does that affect the way you produce music, or play it?
Getting older hasn’t had much of an effect on me as a producer. There aren’t any physical limitations, yet. The good thing about it is that I play with more feeling, and more economically, rather than trying to play too fast with a constant stream of notes. Young players haven’t developed an appreciation for space in music. They overplay – and I did too, especially in my teens and 20’s. So the energy level has changed and I take a more thoughtful approach, which is a definite improvement.

But, what’s even more important is to explore new things, with a childlike curiosity. Experiment. And be fearless and take chances. Aging can soften you, and I personally don’t ever want to succumb to that.

Oubre

OK, this photo’s a private joke but it’s pretty fucking cool, am I right?  Just like Terry Oubre.  Also, I think he should use it as the cover art for his next album.  What do you guys think?