In my last journal, I mentioned that I had a story about taking pictures. I guess I’m going to tell it now.
I view promotional photos as a bit of a necessary evil with this whole process (even though “evil” is not the right word). I can get behind a microphone on the radio or jump on a stage and start talking or singing and feel completely at home. But going out in public and posing for a camera is not really my cup of tea.
Then again, I suppose should clarify: going out in public with Tracey and my two boys and snapping photos of us having fun and goofing off is most definitely my thing. For instance, I have no issue whatsoever having people stop and watch as I take a picture like this:
It bothers me not in the least to have people pointing and staring for photo poses like this either:
Nor am I phased by standing in line for the chance to have photo like this taken in front of other parents and children:
Although these photos do indicate a little bit of who I am, they don’t necessarily represent how I want my music project communicated. For instance, after working for a year on an album’s worth of heartfelt music, I don’t feel it’s in my best interests to send out a press kit headlined by a photo like this:
No, I’m afraid that won’t do. So I realized that I had to bite the bullet, leave my kids at home and go get some “grown up” looking photos taken to go along with this CD and the related promotion.
The pictures I’ve been using are about two and a half years old so it was time to do something new to have in promotion of the CD. Truth be told, I actually began thinking about this months ago, wondering where I could go and what I could do to make the photos something more than just another yokel standing by the train tracks trying to look artsy, or some goon with his guitar trying to make you think you were worth listening to more than the million others doing the exact same thing.
Naw, I thought, I couldn’t really do any of those things. I figured that if I was going to go to the trouble to do some photos, I wanted to do them in a way that meant something to me so that I would be glad to have them regardless. Thinking in that manner, I asked myself where I would like to go to have my picture taken. I wondered: What is a place that means something to me; a place that is unique, a place that reflects part of who I am, a place that reflects some of the qualities of my music and a place that is part of my hometown? The answer came to me almost instantly.
Kool’s is a restaurant / bar in downtown London that has held a special place in my heart since the early-to-mid eighties, when it advertised itself as the headquarters for Detroit Tigers fans. It seems a long time ago now, but Tigers vs. Blue Jays was actually a big deal in this town once upon a time. There was a bar on Wharncliffe Road called “Auto’s,” and it was reported to be the home of the Jays. But Kool’s was (and still is) the home of the Tigers in this town (Auto’s, by the way, is long since gone). On top of that, Kool’s has always featured an irresistible, self-deprecating sense of self worth and a hard-won collection of paraphernalia on the walls (and ceiling) in the exact spots they’ve held going on thirty years.
Years ago, when I was working for Delaware Speedway, I got to meet the owner of Kool’s, Mike Smith. We met quite by chance at a tourism-related function. To me, it was like meeting a rock star. I liked Mike straight away and sensed maybe our paths would cross again. Years later, they did just that when I was asked to fill in as on-air host on CJBK Radio. I called Mike to interview him and share stories about the Tigers. He was gracious with his time and I found that talking with him was easy and I’d have liked to have chatted with him for much longer.
Years went by and I had no reason to bother Mike. But then I got this idea that I’d go shoot some photos at Kool’s. Well, I wasn’t going to do it without his blessing so I called and left him a message. He promptly returned the call saying he was “honoured” that I would think of his place in that way and encouraged me to come by. So I told my favourite photographer (who also happens to be my mother) and we made a date.
When we got to Joe Kool’s, I told the waitress what we were up to and that Mike had given me approval to shoot some photos. I also asked for a specific table near the front door that has some great old newspaper pages on display; pages from the days when the Tigers had triumphed. The staff was very accommodating and, true to the style of the place, hardly paid us any notice when we were snapping photos.
I never imagined that we’d actually get to visit with Mike. He owns several restaurants and likely works at a satellite office. I imagine he’d have managers responsible for each place, though I can’t say for sure. I hadn’t told him when I was coming by and I didn’t expect to see him. What were the chances? Nonetheless, he was there. He stop over and visited with Mom and me and we had a great chat about the Tigers, music, business; all sorts of stuff. He was kind enough to let me take a picture with him.
I promised Mike I’d come back after the CD was done to give him a copy. Whether or not he digs the music is beside the point. The message, to me, is that it’s true that it really is the journey that matters, and my visit to Kool’s and reconnection with Mike was more proof. (As a side note, I got to telling Mike about my plans for remembering Tiger Stadium in conjunction with the song “Bagley Avenue,” which will be on the CD. He not only sounded enthusiastic, he seemed as if he might be able to point me in the right direction too. To be continued.)
It’s probably not an accident that one of my other favourite spots in London, Victoria Park, is right across Richmond Street from Joe Kool’s. Since I’ve lived in London all my life, I’ve had many happy memories from Victoria Park. I’ve been taken as a kid to see the Christmas lights with my parents, and I’ve taken my kids to do the same thing. I’ve performed in that bandshell, attended countless festivals and community events and even met one of my musical “mentors,” David Francey, for the first time in that park.
But the real reason I wanted to go back was because Victoria Park also gave me the inspiration for the song “Sunny Day in November,” which was conceived in the fall of 2008 when I sat at a picnic table, quietly eating my lunch while observing an eclectic collision of nonsensical circumstances. The story is in the liner notes of the CD and I’ll also tell it at shows, but for now I’ll just say that it was important to me to go back to that spot where the idea(s) for the song came to me. So we did.
We took a few photos in and around the park. As with Kool’s, we got some good ones and some goofy-looking ones but more than anything, we had fun being there and enjoying our time together. Photos or not, I can live with that.
It’s all part of the journey, right?
All of these things are a part of who I am. As are all the songs on the CD. I cannot begin to tell you how much fun it is to see them all coming together all at once.
Back to the journey …
PS – A very Happy Birthday to my sister, Karen. She is not only my sibling, she is one of my best friends, a mentor and an inspiration. She also happens to be a gifted musician and I admit that I don’t care if I ever sell a copy of the CD as long as my sister is proud of what I’ve done. Happy Birthday Karen. I love you.