On Dec. 20, 2009, I lost my sister Dawn to suicide. To say that her death was terrible, shocking, and the single most life-altering event to occur in my life would be an understatement. It is a loss that has impacted every aspect of my existence, including my work as an artist.
Two days after her death, I had a gig with my band in Dallas at one of the spots we played regularly. It didn't even occur to me not to go, not to play; so much more than believing that "the show must go on", my sister was one of my greatest champions and came to as many of my gigs as she could, when she wasn't in some other part of the world (she was an international flight attendant). So I knew that she'd be there in spirit, and in the faces and voices and warm embraces of the friends, family members, and supporters who came to rock with us that night. That was also the first night we covered Sade's "Nothing Can Come Between Us", a song we'd just added to the set list and which happened to be one of Dawn's jams. As a performer, it's always of utmost importance to me that I connect with the audience, that their experience be authentic. I never want to be in a space when I'm on stage where I'm so distracted or separated from the moment that I can't deliver; and with live music performance, this is especially critical. Who wants to get dressed up and drive across town to their favorite local venue (or spend their hard-earned money on concert tickets at a major arena), only to be met with a half-assed, heartless show? So that night, it was even more urgent for me to stay put, to stay in the moment; as Montrose strummed the opening chords and Flip, Pockett, and Larry fell into the groove, I inhaled deeply and prayed that I would just get through the song without falling apart. I did, and smiled the entire time because I felt like I was singing for her.
During all of this I kept hearing this voice telling me "You've got to write something". Writing--and songwriting in particular--has always been cathartic for me. Still, putting down on paper all of the thoughts, words, and images swirling around haphazardly in my head in those days immediately following my sister's suicide was impossible. I tried, I failed. I would sit down on the couch with my lyric book and my sister's Yorkie (who has now become "the family's" Yorkie :}) and try with all my might to say something--anything--meaningful and worthwhile, and nothing came.
And then one morning, about a week after her memorial service, the song came. I was standing in my kitchen waiting for my coffee to finish and engaged in the random what-notting that I tended to do every Saturday, and it just came. I grabbed my lyric book and scribbled the words furiously, then my Blackberry to record the melody onto my voice notes so I could work on it later (don't judge me; I'm still getting the hang of this new-fangled technology, y'all!). But then, every time I'd try to sing it and play through it I couldn't. So I set it aside, knowing that one day I would be able to sing it from beginning to end without struggling, and finally turn it into something...
Last week, out of the blue, I decided it was time to try again. I sat down at my keyboard and banged out some VERY basic chords to accompany the melody. I tooled around a bit with the rhythm, then plugged my mic and midi cords into my Mac and hit record. What emerged is a very raw, still a work in progress, demo of the song "I'll Wake Up Every Morning". What will happen next with this tribute to my sister remains to be seen, but in the meantime, I'm sharing it with whomever will listen.