Worry, Australia, worry.

Gregory Hoskins (L) and Stephen Jenkinson (R) somewhere on the Great Coastal Road, AUS.

A few thoughts on the recently completed Nights of Grief & Mystery Oceania Tour 2017.

First off, a flurry of thank you’s to the intrepid people who organized the thing on the ground in Australia and New Zealand.  It is no small thing welcoming a small band of tired men into your busy lives for a few days, tending to all the details that need tending to, sending us on our way, and rejoining the regular broadcast that was your life before signing on to promote one of these gigs.   It is my hope is that some echo of your efforts comes to your ears every now and again…something good.  Things are felt for such a short while it seems these days.

The land was beautiful, there were good people met (there were some challenging folk, too), and there was  the rare empty seat in all the halls we played…something astounding to me considering the night can detonate a kind of sorrow that makes ovations unlikely but, still, there were always those who hung back to connect, struggling to find the words to acknowledge the night and our part in it.

Here’s the thing:  what I wasn’t prepared for (besides the vicious jet lag on my return home) was feeling like the alien from that postulated theory “what would an alien say if it landed here”.  So much of what I saw and heard felt foreign under the skin but nothing more so than the phrase “No worries.”  Even typing it gives me the shivers.  At one point, I thought my head would explode if I heard those two words together on more time.  Mysteriously chosen to replace “you’re welcome” in the English language, the phrase found itself concluding almost every single transaction one might have in Australia.  To utter “thank you” guaranteed a “no worries”.  Really?  None?  I gave you $10 for a $4 coffee, you give me $6 change like you are supposed to, I say “thank you”, and you tell me I shouldn’t worry about it.  About what, exactly?  All the trouble you went to in getting me the correct change or my Long Black (an Americano down there)?  The impact on the environment of the cup?  The carbon footprint of my plane ride to and from the country and the 10 or so in-country flights we took?  The shady trade practices that makes a good cup of coffee so easy to find down here?  The exploitation of baristas and the worse treatment of 7-11 employees?  The quiet despair that is crushing the developed world?  The harsh awakening from the dream that whatever we want we can manifest?  No worries about dying, either?  Not the after part we aren’t around for, but the actual doing of the thing…no worries about that?

My niece tried to tell me the French (in Canada) have the same kind of phrase with “de rien” which is roughly translated to “it’s nothing”.  However, there is also “bienvenue” which is widely and respectfully used and means, quite literally, “welcome”.

Australia, there are worries: small, niggly little worries and HUGE FUCKING BADASS WORRIES that should keep you up nights.  You would be well advised to carve out some time to carve some worry sticks because sometimes worrying about something can sometimes lead to some kind of action.  I’ll admit I’m being pretty vague there, given the fact that worriers are more likely to be seen as ineffective lumps of worthless worry, but worrying could be the first step in changing something.  Your political landscape, for instance.

I think that—without you knowing it—the phrase “No Worries” has become your national motto.  Deeper than just a phrase uttered at every cash register in the land, it just might have been spoken aloud soooooo many times that it has become a real cornerstone of the colonial Australian culture.  I’d definitely worry about that.

A Singer and a Painter: Encore Concert Presentation with Tina Newlove, Dec 12, Hamilton, ON

Buy Tickets:

https://gregoryhoskins.bandcamp.com/merch/ticket-to-pearl-company-hamilton-december-12-2015

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I first met Tina Newlove at this time of the year in 2012 in a factory loft art space (sadly no longer there) in Kitchener, ON.  We performed as part of a series that curated a visual artist and a musician for an evening.  Not content with just singing in the midst of art hanging on the wall,  I thought maybe live painting would be an avenue to look into and Tina had had plenty of experience with painting on stage.  Then I thought it would be a lot cooler if somehow the painting and I could interact more, and that’s when I proposed training a video camera on to Tina’s canvas and projecting the feed over me onto a screen behind me.  The singer and the song become sort of subservient (nice alliteration) to the “hand of god” and the brush as the audience watches the birth of a painting, the mess of it all, the seeming disorganization and the sometimes horrifying white-ing out of a part of the image that one might have grown attached to…

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The singer, the screen, the hand.

It.  Was.  Amazing.  The painting sold (you would be advised to bring along a chequebook), the audience was exhausted, and we had done something a little off the beaten path.

We are very excited to try this again in the lovely factory confines of The Pearl Company in Hamilton, Ontario.  Please join us.

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gh and artist Tina Nelove and a piece of the finished painting still being projected.

Vain and Alone all over the place.

It started, actually, as a bit of a lark:  when you’re travelling alone, how can you make it seem like you’re not?  That, indeed, your travelling companion is snapping off intimate shots?  In NYC, you can’t point the camera anywhere without the backdrop being amazing (unlike the cities I frequent in Canada).  However, selfies are a drag.  So, while in NYC, I placed my phone on the ground, set the timer, ran away, and strolled nonchalantly toward it, trying several times.  I posted the result, called it “Vain and Alone in NYC?”, describing how the shot was taken.  Then I just kept trying to see how far I could push the un-selfie selfie.  Each post on Facebook was accompanied by a little anecdote of shooting the thing…you had to at least be able to not be embarrassed being obviously vain.  Someone suggested I hash tag the stuff.  So, #vainandalone

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NYC, New York
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NYC, New York, in restaurant attached to Chelsea Hotel
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Boulder, Colorado
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Berkely, California
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Boulder, Colorado
#vainandalone
Sacramento, California
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Austin, Texas
Somewhere Up There
Somewhere Up There
Denver, Colorado
Denver, Colorado
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Seattle, Washington
Seattle, Washington
Seattle, Washington
#vainandalone
Berkely, California

The Almighty Inbox

A small arty clip from a vid for a song we like to call Glow Fonder but is actually called The Almighty Inbox from the new Henrys recording.  Its a beautiful song–I think of it as a prayer, but I didn’t write it so you’d have to ask Don Rooke.  Quiet Industry from The Henrys will be available June 11, 2015

Quiet Industry

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At the end of 2014, I spent some time in a small room recording vocals for 11 songs written by Don Rooke, the man behind The Henrys.

The recording features Don on guitars, baritone uke etc, Andrew Downing on bass, Davide DiRenzo on drums, John Sheard on pump and electric organs, Hugh Marsh on violin, Jonathan Goldsmith on muted piano (plus a string arrangement) and harmony vocals from Tara Dunphy.

It’s an odd thing these days, the making and releasing music: it kind of feels like yelling from behind a waterfall. The task this time was made sweeter by the fact that the songs are inventive, emotive, and accessible; the players are all from the “A” team; and the attention to detail on Quiet Industry is a rare thing these days (the record took more than a year to make and most of that time it was one lonely man spending unending hours in a little room in Toronto on the edge of a forest, toiling and tinkering…thus the title of the recording).

The Henrys are an institution in Toronto and have been critically lauded around the world since their debut in 1994. I’m totally impressed with myself that I got to sneak in and hang with the cool kids for a while.

I’ll keep you posted on how you can check it out, concert dates and what not.  Please let your music loving friends know about this record.

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A man toiling in the quiet of a room in an industrious manner.

 

 

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Taking a run at “When That Far Shore Disappears”. The first song we got a complete take on, top to bottom.

 

 

When Will I Dance 2

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I don’t dance.  Which is to say I don’t dance well, so I tend not to dance.  If life or love is on the line I will rise to the occasion but its an entirely self-conscious affair.  Which is why I’ve decided that 2015 is the Year of The Dance— kind of a solemn vow to lubricate whatever psychological joints need loosening, and tend to the physical ones, too.

Truth is, I’ve been thinking about this for a while.  In the summer of last year, Suzette Sherman   ( Senior Artist, Founding Company Member, Associate Artistic Director at Dancetheatre David Earl) choreographed and performed a dance piece to “To Be Open”.  I’d never seen a song of mine interpreted in movement.  It was humbling, moving, and inspiring.  In the early fall of last year, on a whim before heading to the city,  I set up a camera here at the shop and danced around like a fool, to no music, just whatever was in my imagination.  I was curious to see what I’d look like.  I thought of it the same way as I view recording my voice to see what I sound like singing a particular song. To ease the shock, I filmed it in slow motion…much like smothering a voice in reverb and echo to make the performance more palatable.  The pics up at the top are from that video.  In slow mo, it looked…probably better than it did in real time. Everything looks better in slow mo, though.

Then this New Year’s Eve I danced with my daughter after playing a set with The Dogs.  I’d tried to move while playing, but the most I could put together was a pogo of sorts.  Now my daughter, she could move, as several patrons noted.  As for me, a voice in my head tried to assert calm when I realized people might see me dance— “Honestly, Fuckhead: no one cares.”  I’d have preferred a more benign approach, the gentle assurance of a quiet farmer saying, “That’ll do, Pig.  That’ll do.”

So here’s to the Year of The Dance.  It’s a beginning.

Singing on The Henrys…holy crap.

 

The Henrys are a critically lauded band led by Don Rooke.  Too many “lauds” to go into here…Google them.  They are well lauded.

I was surprised and excited to be asked to sing on a brand new Henrys recording, a slot usually saved for female vocalists like Martina Sorbara, Becca Stevens, and Mary Margaret O’Hara.  Eleven tracks, all words and music written by Don Rooke.  If the stars align, we’ll get to do it live.
Here’s a piece from one of the tracks, a work in progress:  Far Shore (one of my faves).

Rick Roberts to join GH at Soulpepper Cabaret…and ask the tough questions.

Soulp.Annon2Award-winning actor/playwright Rick Roberts has been tapped to act as host and moderator for the Cabaret at Soulpepper (The Young Center for the Performing Arts, Distillery District, Toronto) this Saturday, May 10. While the evening will feature a healthy dose of solo performances of songs new and old, these Cabaret performances also serve as an opportunity to engage in spirited discussion a few times throughout the evening with the featured artist, a discussion led by a member or a friend of the company.  Every topic…except math…and politics…and what constitutes “art”…and religion…and sports…and fashion…will be on the table.  What’s left to talk about, you ask?  Plenty, but you’ll have to come to find out.

To get your tickets, go to Soulpepper – Cabaret Series

Just in: A reunion of The King(s) of Good Intentions

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A late-breaking opportunity came up at the venerable Toronto Club Hugh’s Room (we wish Jesse Winchester a speedy recovery!) and the idea was proposed that Gary, George, and I reconvene the trio that recorded on The King of Good Intentions and The Beggar Heart. It’s been some years since we last played together…I’m thinking maybe six…so I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen on stage.  That rhythm section was the envy of many a singer-songwriter, and I always knew how lucky I was to have them along.  If you were (are) a fan of those recordings, we hope to see you April 6, 8PM for what is sure to be a memorable night!!

To reserve your seat, go to TicketBreak Ltd. Online Tickets Canada

It’s all non-fiction. And “troubadoury” is a word now.

Coule ReviewThis is from a music blog review.
I forget that when strangers listen, they’re not sure if the songs are fiction or not.

“Not knowing Hoskins, I can only guess at the darkness that haunts him, can only imagine the wee voices bringing substance to the visions he creates. Whether he is documenting reality, or creating a reality of imagination, Hoskins’ songs provide much to consider- even when lyrics inspire the listener to look away.”

Just to be clear:  it’s all non-fiction.

For the whole review, go to http://fervorcoulee.wordpress.com/

A Painted Providence Line

A lovely, lovely contemporary painter (who dropped by the concert in Montreal) Suzanne Caron has, from time to time, done paintings based on snippets of songs or poetry of mine.  I am a huge fan of colour, though you might not know that from the blacks and grays I wear.  Seeing this makes me happy.  The snippet (included in the painting at the bottom):  You take yours and I’ll take mine/And we’ll leave the rest all behind/Dip our memories in turpentine/Watch the colours run down Providence Line.Artwork 153_PROV

January 11, 2014. Montreal.

This is a very cool space to see music, surrounded by wood and machinery, with great sound and lighting.
From Michael Greenfield, Luthier;
“I have organized an intimate series of concerts which take place right here in my workshop! I have no interest in becoming a concert promoter, want to keep this REALLY simple and 100% of the proceeds go to the artists! As there are only 50 seats available, please RSVP at your earliest convenience to let me know how many places to reserve for you. Your cash donation will be collected at the door. As these concerts take place in my workshop, please do not bring any food or beverage.”

To get in touch with Michael for reservations, please email him at mike@greenfieldguitars.com
Saturday, January 11, 2014. 8PM. $30 Suggested Donation.

JAN 11

Singing “Pilgrim” by Steve Earle

A rehearsal for a performance a few weeks ago captured on an iPhone by reed player Rob Carli.  I don’t often sing other people’s songs…not saying that is a good thing.  It’s hard to do—for me, at any rate— but there is usually a pay off when I finally figure a way into the lyric.  What started out as a chore singing this song turned into to something quite the opposite when it came time to perform.  What a great job I have…

Piano and kalimba:  Andrew Burashko
Bass:  Andrew Downing
Cello:  Thomas Wiebe
Guitar:  Rob Piltch
Violin:  Benjamin Bowman
Dobro:  Don Rooke

Singing with The Art of Time Ensemble, Oct 25 & 26, 2013

Very excited to be singing versions of “You’re Not Alone”, a song penned by Jeff Tweedy for Mavis Staples on the record he produced for her from 2010;  “Wayfaring Stranger”, the arrangement by Gavin Bryars, based on Charlie Haden’s killer version of this plaintive spiritual/folk song; and Steve Earle’s “Pilgrim”.

I’ll be joining gospel powerhouse Jackie Richardson, preeminent contemporary choir Choir 21, along with choreographer David Earl and 5 dancers.  These evenings with The Art of Time always….always…hold a few surprises and are unlike evenings out in any other concert venue. Top notch artists and an eclectic mix of genre and style…I always learn a ton.

You oughta’ come.  Click here to go to the A.O.T page for a complete listing of artists and repertoire.

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