JCRC – Gunma Bicycle Race. July 14th, 2013. Winner!

Sunday July 14th I entered a race with JCRC (Japan Cycling Racing Club)  My first time to this event and I was a little nervous. There were heaps of intimidating riders who had come from all over Japan. It was as expected a well organized event.

One lap is 6 km.

One lap is 6 km.

We followed the pace motorbike for the first 2 km until we reached the first hill and then the race was on. I wanted to stay near the front of the pack because of all the dangerous corners, hairpins and bad road sections. I thought I might have an advantage on the hilly sections if I was close to the front because I live in the mountains and climb them every day, so that if a chance came – I might be able to break away. Well, in the very first loop as we were climbing the steepest section near the end I pulled away effortlessly. I didn’t know if they all were saving themselves or what? I thought about falling back into the pack and waiting until later in the ride to attack but it was only a 24 km race so I didn’t. I said good-bye and left them and rode behind the pace bike until the finish. I totally expected to be swallowed up by the group near the end but that never happened. I won by a good 1 minute and 20 seconds. I totally surprised myself. I wanted to finish in the top 5 but instead, left everyone behind.

That's Me at the Top.  Woot Woot

That’s Me at the Top. Woot Woot

A happy day pour moi.

It reminded me of my youth in Canada when I used to do well in the race circuit but never thought at this age I’d still have something to offer. This ain’t the Tour de France I know! But it was packed and riders came from all over Japan, booked hotels and probably set out to do well, too.  I’ll pat myself on the back, sleep well and then go about my daily life again tomorrow like it was dream!

Vitus frame, the first look clipless pedals and the first Oakley cycling glasses.  Cooooool

Vitus frame, the first look clipless pedals and the first Oakley cycling glasses. Cooooool

Sorry for the bragging here but hey… I don’t get a chance to do it so often!  And… this is my blog. hee-hee

Avg HR: 169 bpm   Avg Pace:  37 km/hr

20 year old song gets new life.

Anyone remember these?

Anyone remember these?

Back in the 90’s when I was busking every day at the seabus and going to University I wrote a song with a woman named Kate MacColl.  I had this chord progression I kept playing but that was it.  She came back the next day with these lyrics and moving melody.  We recorded the song on my guitar and her vocals at a studio just to “have it”.  I really never thought about it much until 20 years later when she contacted me to tell me she entered it in a contest and it got runner up.  I went to her website and had a listen.  It’s still got legs all these years later.  You never know in the music business when your songs will finally mean something to someone.

Use to busk at the terminal. The seabus departed every 15 min. & we would make some serious money.

Use to busk at the terminal. The seabus departed every 15 min. & we would make some serious money.

You can here the song here if you wish.

Kelly

I Lost the Fight with TREK – Part 3

The 3rd and final episode of the ongoing saga regarding my TREK replacement frame ended with the protagonist getting a pump shoved in his front wheel by TREK and sliding on pavement with road cherries.

My baby.  We've been through a lot of miles together.

The non Hollywood story is much more anticlimactic with a simple email from TREK Japan that reads:

Hello Kelly,

We are sorry to keep you waiting.

This past week the US customer service manager, APAC customer service manager, sales rep and I discussed and concluded that we cannot replace this frame.

The reason is that the store sold the custom painted frame, and then it was taken home.

However, we are working with the shop on options to help you on their behalf.

The store mentioned that they would like to contact you but have had difficulty contacted your cell phone.

Could we tell them your email address?

We appreciate your patience in working through this!

 

Regards,

XXXX

So, I’m left with the new frame.   I don’t mind it. I would have preferred a different color.  But my friends tell me they like it.  What do you think?

The new Frame colors.  Not ugly at all.  But not what I wanted.

The new Frame colors. Not ugly at all. But not what I wanted.

10562531_686656801420931_7810367393120019470_o 1795270_691953967557881_5183402139455113107_o

 

Making an Album is Sadly a Fond Memory

There is something ironically sad about looking back on fond memories.  They were so wonderful that you want to relive them.  But you can’t.  So you file them into a happy place and visit them from time to time.

I would love to jump on a plane bound for Australia again and say hello to the guys that made my 5th CD “THESE DAYS” a reality.  I’d like to walk down the same beaches that helped inspire lyrical ideas, or swap trivial stories with the locals, stare out the window of the downtown trams at the passer-by’s and of course, step back into the studio with the blokes who helped create the album.  Fond memories are usually moments you would love to experience again.

I could sing any lyrics and you wouldn't know!

I could sing any lyrics and you wouldn’t know!

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons making a CD is something I absolutely love.  It’s not just about the song.  It’s about the whole journey.  It’s about the hard work, the goal of making this dream a reality, the great friends that share the same interests, the challenges, the small details, the life long memories, and ultimately the final product.  Then you have it. All wrapped up and stored onto a compact disk in the palm on my hands.

That’s what’s left.

For me, “These Days”, isn’t just an album of tunes.  It’s a chapter in my life.  A challenge set out and completed.  It’s an idea that started with a chord on a guitar, a melody in my head, or a lyric stolen from a street sign. It’s a search for a cheap airplane ticket, it’s hotel rooms, a new city, new friends and a common goal.

Shibuya, Tokyo.  Promo pic.

Shibuya, Tokyo. Promo pic.

I see a million small tasks that I must do for my dream to finally become reality.   I see the inspiration of family and friends and above all, I see myself doing something that gives me a sense of self-accomplishment.   When it’s finally done, there is an immense satisfaction I hold but at the same time a yearning begins to do it all over again.  An addiction to the whole process.  A desire to be better.  The drugs have kicked in and I’ve started new memories.  I’ll be recording the newest CD in Nashville come August 2013.

Live at the Bunkakaikan

Live at the Bunkakaikan

7 Steps to writing a song you’re proud of.

Playing iive at the Bunkakaikan in Japan.

There are 7 factors that I require when writing a  song that makes me happy and they are:

1) Emotions: The best place to find these are through the turmoils of your life.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  They are the driving force behind wanting to write something in the first place.

2) Catchy melody: Usually my songs start with some sort of chord progression on the guitar but not always. Then a vocal melody wrapped around the chords in an interesting and satisfying way. If you interviewed most famous songwriters, they’d tell you most of their best songs seemed to channel through them in an almost effortless fashion. If I look back on the songs I’ve written, I’d agree that my stronger songs were the ones that seemed to write themselves.

3) Strong lyrics: If you put strong lyrics with a very catchy melody then you’ve got something to be proud of for sure. Don’t ignore the importance of lyrics.  I’ve only recently realized that they are the “icing on the cake”.  A great melody gets you far but if you have lyrics that connect, they you’ve made a fan or two.  Write from the heart.  Write about something we all can relate to but do it in a way that you feel hasn’t been done before.  For example, write a love song without using the world “love”, or write a happy song with “minor chords”.  Whatever you do, make it ‘yours‘. 

4) Re-writing: This is where a lot of people fail miserably. They’re always too damn proud of their first take and are afraid to throw away something to make the song better because they really like one line.  Don’t be afraid to trash a line even if it was your best line.  If it doesn’t fit, save it for something else.

Changing Chords and melody can lift a song too. Sometimes for example, you can replace the root chord with a minor 6 and give it some mood.

5) Play it live: Play your song to your friends and ask for honest opinions. Don’t let the negative vibes get you down either. A lot of the time, you’re friends won’t know what they’re talking about- but a good song is pretty much universally liked and you’ll be able to weed out the good from the bad and generally get a sense of what is strong.

6) Write lots: You’ll get different opinions on this but for me, writing a lot of songs just makes me a better songwriter. It’s like learning to play the guitar. If you practice every day, you’re going to be much better than if you play it once a month.

7) Sleep on it: It’s weird but often I’ll wake up in the morning and play the new song again and it doesn’t have the same impact on me. That’s a sign that perhaps it just wasn’t the hit song I was planning on retiring on.

But I’m sure I’ve got one in me ready to surprise the world.  It’s just around the corner!  🙂

Good luck fellow songwriters.

In Melbourne Australia with the legendary Greg Arnold.


Bicycle racing in Japan.

It’s sunny but cold outside today.  I’m getting antsy to get back out there and ride a heap of kilometers this year.  The last couple months have mostly been in the gym riding the trainers and doing upper body workouts.

My favourite past time nex to writing songs.

I’ve spent the last few weeks surfing the internet for cycling gear and the Garmin 500 GPS computer As I had expected, what I wanted was going to cost some money.  Fortunately the Japanese yen is strong and because I took my time browsing cycling sites on line I have got some great deals.  When buying these items at a store in Japan it can almost double in price.  That is probably because most Japanese customers can’t understand English and are unable to find what they are looking for outside of Japan. At any rate, it’s great to get paid in yen at the moment.

My first race this year is on April 22nd.  It’s a 13 KM hill climb up Mt. Shirane in Kustasu village.   Kusatsu is a famous hot spring area and has been for over a 1000 years.  Shirane is a volcano.  At the top is the worlds largest sulfuric lake.  It’s a beautiful turquoise blue but it smells like rotten eggs. 

This is my first time to enter this race.  Apparently there are over 3000 cyclists.  The fastest time is usually around 30 minutes and the slowest around 1 hour.  Anyone who doesn’t do it in 2 hours is disqualified.

Ride like the wind.

I hope to do it in about 45 minutes which would put me somewhere in the middle of the pack.  I have ridden this hill many times (when it’s warm).

zig zag is a good thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Several years ago when my brother came to Japan, we shared a few beers one evening.  He said, “that sounds interesting.  I could climb that no problem because I used to ride all the time when I was going to university“.  My friend and I said “Let’s do it tomorrow morning and then go for a hot spring“.   We all agreed and that’s what happened.  Long story short, my brother Kevin made it to the top but not without going into oxygen debt and taking a few breaks.  Not knocking my bro.  He’s the best.  I’m merely saying that it’s not as easy as it might seem.  So, I’ll just keep training and hope I have a time I’m proud of.

Can’t wait for spring!!

The Waiting Game

The waiting game

I will forever be grateful for the invention of the internet and high speed connection.  It has changed my life dramatically.  12 years ago when I first arrived in Japan the only way I could really communicate with family and stay in touch with Canadian content was by telephone and snail mail.  At that time, I was the only member of my family to have email so it was almost useless and long distant telephone calls were very expensive.  Today, it is very different.  If I’m in front of my computer here in Japan, then I’m as close to home as I am sitting in a chair just one city over from those I want to talk to.  With SKYPE, chat, video, youtube, bit torrents, on-line newspapers and so on, I’m up to date with pretty much everything I’m interested in the moment it becomes news.

As most of you know, the music industry is going through some major changes.  For better or for worse it is happening at a very fast and sometimes chaotic pace.  But when I weigh my options I have to think it has been a blessing for me.  With the making of “These Days”, the internet was the heart of everything that came to fruition. From contacting and introducing myself to Greg Arnold via his email I found on google; to re-singing some of my vocals in my apartment in Japan and sending the files over the internet back to Australia; to receiving mastered samples of the final product the same way, all without ever so much as having to leave my room.

A simple widget application on my desktop tells me the current times of all the major cities I usually work with and I’m ready to do business anywhere.

The tough part at the end of the day is the waiting game.  I’ve put 3 years of hard work into this project and sometimes waiting for an email regarding an issue was tough (and that’s such a oxymoron because years ago none of this would have been possible) .  Such was the case during the final 6 weeks of completing “These Days”.  As it became apparent the CD would not be released as soon as I had hoped and the anxiety and stress started to mount a little each day.  Sometimes I felt that if I had been able to actually be there  and not just communicate through email, that things would have happened much sooner.  The 4th CD, “FUEL” was the same.  But us beggars can’t be choosers and at the end of day.   The quality of the product was by far the most important and for that, things went much better than I expected.

To be honest, while I harp on the amount of time it took, I wouldn’t have wanted to rush it.  So, I guess patience is a virtue, really.

September/2009 Hey everyone!

September/2009
Hey everyone!

blck-wht-Kell-w-CameraHow are you doing? It’s been a while since I sent a newsletter out and I am surprised how quickly the time has past by. For most of you its summer and I hope you’ve been able to enjoy it. I was very busy the last two months and I performed over 30 shows. Half of those shows where at my reliable Theme Park where I’ve been gigging for years but the other half were made up of a wide variety of venues. One of my favorite places to perform is in a town called Kusatsu. It’s a beautiful place with many natural hot springs and visited by many Japanese throughout the year. I did a video blog while staying in my hotel there if you want to check it out.

I also went to Tochigi prefecture and shared the stage with two other bands at a cool place called Nemu Nemu. My good friend Hibiki and I drove there from Gunma and it took about an hour but it turned out to be a fun night. I played an acoustic set and tried out some of my new songs I might release on my next CD and the response was good.

On August 23rd I did a show at a new venue called “JHK”. It used to be a place for weddings but the owner converted it into a really funky place to perform live. After the show the owner turned on the Barbeque and poured ice cold beer and we all sat around sharing stories.

September has been really busy. I’ve got a foot inside the door of a bunch of projects.  For starters my friend Mark Clay and I are working on a very cool song he sent me called, “Dunkirk Spirit” that has a Celtic vibe to it. He also helped finish off a song of mine called, “What Have I Done”, and recorded his take on it with just a couple of acoustic guitars. Mark is generous enough to offer it to you exclusive on my website for free. You can find it here. Down the road I will attempt to record my version of it, too.  I’m also trying to finish up a song and  enter it in an annual songwriting contest that takes place in Japan.  I must have that song complete and submitted by the end of September.  I best buckle down and get on with it!

October 16th, a friend of mine Simon Smith is coming to visit me in Japan. He will be here for 5 days and is flying all the way from England. Some of my loyal supporters might know him from our small community. I’ve got a few  small shows lined up that I’ll be dragging him to. One of them is a venue I’ve never gigged at before so we’ll both be checking it out for the first time. (Simon, I hope you’re ready for a culture shock)

Aside from my music career, I’ve been cycling and training often. I road over 2500 km during the summer.  It’s getting dark earlier lately so I’m not able to ride as far. But ice hockey has started again and so now I’m doing that 2 to 3 times a week, too. If you want to go on an 8 minute bike ride with me, click here (but I warn you, it’s not too thrilling unless you like that sort of thing).

OK, I’ll sign off now. Sorry for the long delay from the last update. Hope you’re all well. Feel free to email and fill me in with what you’re up to. I’ll be sure to get back to you.

Until next time, take care.
Kelly

May/09 Newsletter

May/2009
Hi!

Too cool for school - not.How is everything going? I hope spring is in full bloom and you’re able to get outside and enjoy some decent weather. It’s been fantastic weather here in Japan and it’s nice to put winter behind me for a while.

I want to give a big thank you to all of you who have joined my mailing list and my eteam. As you might know, I’ve posted a couple new songs on my site for free download. I’m really happy with how many came by to grab them and leave comments as well. The newest song “What Have I Done” as you know, is a really rough demo (recorded in my bedroom live). It needs a bridge, and the lyrics need to be moved around, axed, or altered. But the feedback on the song makes me think I might just re-record it when I’m making my new CD. Hopefully in the upcoming months I’ll post some other ideas I have so that I can get your honest feed back. I really want the songs on the next CD to be for you. Meaning – while I always write from the heart, I write often and sometimes it’s hard to know which songs will end up being the most universal. Your opinion really matters to me.

May was a great month for gigging and it was nice to play on a regular basis after a fairly quiet winter. Hands down, playing live is where I sell most of my CD’s. It goes to show there is nothing more captivating than a live performance. To me, a great CD and a great live performance are completely separate from each other. A great CD can have all the bells and whistles and be polished to perfection but doesn’t always show the true artist. I wish I had a chance to play live in front of most of you on a more regular basis. If I get enough support and a healthy budget I am planning on doing that after the release of my next CD.

I would really love to know more about your music interests. What do you like in a good CD? What do you like in an artist? How I could better myself? How can I better my interaction with you? If you have any questions or comments please email me or join my forum and share your thoughts. Again, I’m looking for ways to improve in all areas of music. After all, it’s not called the music business for nothing.

Don’t forget to join me on facebook or twitter or myspace.

I hope to see you around and thanks again for your support!

Kelly