Then in 1989, I got a call from a promoter, whose opening act was a no show. She asked me if I’d fill the bill and I said all right.
The concert was at the Salmar Theatre, which was a pretty big venue in Salmon Arm, BC. That night, by whatever stroke of luck, I stole the show.
That gave me a lot encouragement. I moved to Calgary and found a great community of musicians there, including James keelaghan, who helped me cut a demo of some of my songs. I sent that cassette to everyone and ended up getting a lot of festival gigs, and some airtime on CBC. I even made a few appearances on television.
My name was getting out there.
After a short sabbatical I took a job running the seafood counter at a Whole Foods Market in Kensington. It was somewhat underwhelming after all of the excitement of Fishworks.
A couple of months later I was offered a job teaching cooking classes. It seemed like a good compliment to what I was doing and not overly stressful.
It was horrendous.
The middle-aged women in my class would come to class drunk, slip me lewd notes under their wine glasses, and even make overt sexual suggestions in front of the entire class. It was all pretty aggressive and if the roles had been reversed I might have expected charges to be laid.
One day, a woman appeared and changed my life.
She wasn’t like any of the other women in my class. In fact, she wasn’t like any other woman I’d ever met.
Her name was Micayla. She was a Canadian, living in London, studying towards a Master’s degree. It was my good fortune that she also worked part-time as a nanny for one of the woman in the class.
I was smitten, I asked her out, and soon we were hanging out together every day.
After a few months we were totally in love.
After six months I left England behind and moved with her to Canada.
Just as my music career was starting to blossom I got a call from the elders in my band. They wanted me to come back home to Moberly Lake and be Chief.
The elders had picked me, through the traditional ways, to lead the community. It was something I couldn’t say no to, even if in the end it was the wrong decision.
I went home full of excitement and for nearly ten years worked really hard to make the community a better place. It wasn’t easy. A lot of the ideas I brought to the table were met with resistance. People were stuck in old ways of thinking. They weren’t always ready to move forward.
I kept thinking about how happy I was making music and that if I didn't get back to what I loved soon, that I was just going to end up old and full of regrets. So I said goodbye to my community once again and moved to Victoria to pick up where I’d left off.
When we first arrived in Canada we lived with Micayla's parents in Victoria, BC.
I can’t imagine what they were thinking, having their daughter at home with some unemployed guy she’d met abroad.
After looking around, I got a job at the very bottom of the ladder. Every morning at 5:30am I would show up at this company in a rough part of town and they’d send me off to some construction work site for the day.
And for a variety of reasons I just didn’t want to be in the kitchen. I needed a real break from cooking. I needed to find my footing.
I also loved Victoria.
I loved the city, the size of it, and the people. I loved living on the sea, and it’s easygoing lifestyle.
After a while we got a cute little place of our own. I would finish work at four o'clock every day and spend the early evening fishing.
It was heaven.
In Victoria I worked, wrote a lot of songs, and tried to play as many gigs as I could. After a year or so I had enough good material worked out to head into the studio and cut my first album.
It turned out pretty good and that led to steady work performing. Over the next five years I played a lot of festivals and schools, shared the stage with a lot of big names, recorded three more albums, and started a new family. After having to face many hardships in my life, including addictions, it truly felt like a second chance. My life had not been conventional but now I saw it as one big adventure.
Life was sweet.