On September 2nd last year I released my tenth independent recording, ‘Zombie Heart E.P.,’ after two years of touring with my ‘Make Believe’ album/coloring book. I have offered very little explanation for the songs, other than that they reference love, death, and insanity.
This isn’t intended to be some Jerry MacGuire-like manifesto. It’s not even entirely cohesive. This may be a long blog entry, but it is definitely the short version of my path toward creating “Zombie Heart E.P.,” to be read at your own risk and at your leisure.
I’ve always tried to be as open and honest as possible as an artist, and it has been incredibly important to me to seek beauty and truth by sharing my heart. Though that can sound pretentious and lofty, it’s really quite simple. My songs are honest and from my heart. Much of why I write is that, like other artists, I’ve struggled with intense loneliness and alienation throughout my life. To inspire others, to seek connection, and to find beauty in an often hideous world are deeply important to me.
Unfortunately, for someone who has been told since the dawn of time that I am “too sensitive,” putting myself out there has been, at times, a crushing and crippling experience. As you might already know, at the commencement of 2011, my mom Cathy was diagnosed with cancer. The day I found out, I gave an interview for a San Diego publication about my album, “Make Believe.” I spoke all about what I went through to put the album together– my friends who came together, my fans who made it possible, and my friend Rocky who inspired it and who passed away on my birthday. In the middle of the interview I broke down and cried about my mom, but I didn’t want to exploit our family’s pain and so I asked that it not be mentioned. When the interview came out, it said nothing about my album, but brought up some really old drama that wasn’t even a part of my life anymore, and which created new drama for me. During what was already an impossible time for me, this added blow was almost unbearable for me and triggered anxiety that caused me to seriously consider quitting music for my own health and sanity.
Stubbornly, I kept pushing forward. Sinking my teeth in, I worked harder than ever. We all lose people we love in one way or another throughout our lives. Some of us experience more loss than others. If you know me well, you know for certain that I am a part of the ‘some’ and not the ‘others.’ Since I was a small child I have been around a considerable amount of death. I could go through all of the stories, but that would take a book… which I may someday write, and would be similar to a book I saw recently while shopping in Hillcrest, “All My Friends Are Dead.” It had a sad little dinosaur on the front and made me laugh pretty hard, albeit callously.
Right before my mom was diagnosed, I met someone absolutely wonderful. For a very, very long time, I wondered if I would ever meet someone with whom I could connect in such a deep way. Until I met him I never had any luck with relationships. I couldn’t believe that I had found someone so caring, thoughtful, creative, funny and handsome. We clicked right away and when I was home from tour we didn’t spend a day apart. He was a bright and shining light after what had been years of loss and heartache. That was a time of incredible personal growth and healing for me and I truly believed that the seasons had changed at last. He helped me to have hope for my mom. It was incredibly refreshing to be with someone who lacked pretension, was always reassuring, and who had so much excitement about the future. He made me the absolute sweetest little gifts and built me a flower box in which we planted marigolds. Nobody’s perfect, of course, but when you love someone, you love their imperfections as much as their perfections and hope they love yours. Things were good. We were happy.
In the fall, my mom was declared to be cancer-free! Praise God! To top off my happiness, my boyfriend and I had agreed to get married. For about a few weeks, I was as happy as could be. Our marigolds were in full bloom.
Then there was what I refer to as ‘The Apocalypse.’ In a drawn out, painful, traumatic, horrific manner, I lost him. We were cruelly separated in such an irrevocable fashion that there is no hope of restoration. I went through what was, in all ways but one, another death. It is still confusing and sometimes just as painful as when it had just happened. For about six months, there was not a single night that I didn’t cry for hours before I went to sleep to have nightmares. A lot of people were pitiless and brutal toward me during a time when I was so sad I literally thought I was going to die.
There were, however, those who walked with me through the pitch black night. I realized how very, very, very blessed I am. Kat Jones and I toured in March 2012 out to SXSW and for the first time since September I stopped crying every night. I even had whole hours where I didn’t relive my trauma. After a while, I had fun. I even felt a little bit happy. When I met Gary Clark Jr., I felt that thrill of excitement that only doing what you love can bring. When I played my little showcase at the Tiniest Bar in Texas (thanks to Belmez Entertainment), I felt joy. There is a joy in performing, a moment of transcendence, when the heart speaks as it is meant to speak and everything else dissolves into oblivion. It is for that moment that I continue to strive, and it was a collection of those moments on that tour that gave me a glimmer of hope. At the end of my week in Austin, I met James from Ninkasi Brewery (www.ninkasibrewing.com) through my friends Fierce Creatures, and the encouragement and support I’ve gotten from Ninkasi made the latter half of 2012 much happier than I could’ve anticipated.
Since March, I’ve had many exciting opportunities in my music career. Needless to say, 2012 was the most difficult year of my life, but by the grace of God I’m still going. There have been many unbelievably positive things that I would have missed if I had given up. None of them can make up for what I have lost, but they have been awesome nonetheless. I got to meet Billy Corgan (!!!!!) who actually liked my coloring book (!!!!), Lucinda Williams, Everclear, Vintage Trouble, Gary Clark Jr., and so many other amazing artists! I was able to play at Sunset Sessions three times. I toured out to NY with the incredibly talented Chelsea Wilde of Minor Birds. We got to chat with my all-time favorite band, Clare and the Reasons, at a beautiful venue in Manhattan, where they played a secret show. Lisa Loeb tweeted about my album (!!!!!!). I finally found a team of people to work with to move on to the next level. My good friend Matt Curreri generously helped me to record three songs that I wrote about what I went through last year, and on September 2nd, I released them as the Zombie Heart E.P. On February 7th, I will release my first ever vinyl record, with ever grateful thanks to Ninkasi– a 7″ vinyl version of the Zombie Heart E.P. The Casbah is hosting my show (I can’t believe I’m finally headlining the Casbah!) and Ninkasi is sponsoring the after party.
Honestly, I wanted to somehow explain to my friends and fans what this little three song E.P. means to me without really sharing anything about it. I’ve stuck to a simple and guarded explanation of the E.P. and have even declined to comment further on the stories behind the songs in several interviews I’ve done. I wanted you to feel like my songs were powerful and meaningful without telling you anything about them. Losing someone I loved so much is still hard to comprehend and is so personal and deep a loss that it is still difficult to speak about.
It’s scary for me to share. There is a lot of risk involved. Misunderstandings are common. The internet is full of weirdos. Yet, I think it is doing a disservice to you… and to the songs… and to what I went through to put out this E.P. not to give you some idea of the blood, sweat and cascade of tears that went into making this happen. Perhaps it will encourage you to persevere through whatever you are going through, be it an afternoon shadow, a shady grey dusk or a pitch black night. At the risk of sounding trite, I want to tell you that it is worth it to pursue your dreams. It is hard to express to you how much I mean that. It was ridiculously hard for me to get to this point and to be able to share these songs with you. It’s still so difficult sometimes, but it’s glorious, too. Life is worth living. It is worth surviving tragedy after tragedy to experience the love of our families and friends and all of the singular moments that this weird existence has to offer. Don’t give up on yourself. Don’t give up on others. Don’t give up. It’s okay to be afraid sometimes, but don’t let fear consume you. Don’t let sorrow eat you alive. There is hope.
My zombie heart is coming back to life, and I never thought it was possible. I got very lost in the wilds of my soul for a long time, but I escaped. I buried my heart in a field of marigolds, but it found its way out.
Don’t give up.
If you’d like to listen to Zombie Heart, you can stream and download the songs here: http://gayleskidmore.bandcamp.com/album/zombie-heart-e-p/
If you’d like to join me, Goldenboy and Leanna May & The Matadors at the Casbah on Feb. 7th, you can find details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/107327836108152