Working just now on booking dates for a Scotland tour in June/July. Here’s a wee Scottishy track combining a traditional number about the body of water by which I was raised, and a song I wrote about being sick of America and missing home …
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I am an empty inbox
A return to sender
Status: failed delivery
An unanswered submission
A yawning aching waiting
A pile of dirty dishes
Well, if you’re bored … you could always clean your room
An empty crib
Quiet, no longer waiting
A restless yawning
A metallic tasting
The laundry folding
On broken piano
Quiet un-played keys
The thaw is starting
Little rivers running all over my street
The birds a-singing
Their song a-breaking
My restless heart
And trembling knees
I wrote this poem today. I didn’t really mean to, I was just sitting at my laptop, working on some art work and I flipped to facebook to mess around, and blurgh … out it fell … right out my brain and into my fingers and onto my keyboard. I haven’t written a poem (to memory) in my life! (though surely I must have in school!)
I think I like this one. It says just how I feel today.
Happy New Year people. Welcome to 2014. I hope you had a good holiday season. Here’s us at our New Years soiree.
In 2013 we played to lots of lovely folks all over Colorado, released our first single, video and live album: ‘Back to Life’. I toured Scotland and played some beautiful festivals and venues. Music not only paid for itself, but my income from singing songs tripled. I had the privilege of playing at some beautiful weddings, and taking my daughter to Scotland on a mother-daughter gigging tour.
Music opened so many doors to meet so many incredible people … including the folks from Jamestown who lost their homes in the flash-foods this year. They were so welcoming to us when we visited and played their marvelous little venue: The Jamestown Merc. (we’ll be back there January 18th)
We were reviewed in the The Huffington Post, played on BBC Radio Scotland, Amazing Radio UK, KFRC, KGNU, and many more stations, we got 4 out of 5 stars from Colorado’s Marquee Mag for our live album, shared the stage with our talented neighbors: A Boy and His Kite, to packed house in Colorado Springs. I had a large and rowdy crowd at my album release at Sleazy’s in Glasgow, sang to folks in a rehab and a retirement home. We also started recording latest offering: Love Songs … in short, loads of goals were met and great things happened. But, I find myself still so very dissatisfied. All the goals I hoped for were more than met, but I am ravenous to do more. To play better music, to make astounding, breath-taking recordings, to travel as much as possible, to hear music, to meet broken and mended people, to love deeper, forgive fully, appreciate my family more, to let go of ego, to grow into all the true self God has for me!! Phew … that was quite a rant. There’s much to do. The calendar for 2014 is filling up .. so here we go.
This year we hope to …
Finish and release our collection of Love Songs
Tour in Scotland in the summer
Play lots of good music all over Colorado
Here’s our calendar so you can see where we’ll be playing the upcoming months.
In closing, here’s a poem by C.S Lewis that’s been slaying me of late. Its a realization of how little we’ve grown, but also an offering of thanks for grace and love that are enough for us.
All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.
Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love –a scholar’s parrot may talk Greek–
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.
Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.
For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains.
Me and Kris been married 17 years . Its been an inside joke for us since the summer we met that all serious songs are funny when sung with a Scottish accent (its true, try it). This joke has carried over to our kids who think Scottish accents are just inherently funny anyway, and like to mock me daily especially when I’m angry, sad, or excited, which is when my natural accent gets thickest.
One of my only gifts in life is that I can learn songs really quickly. This is not an unusual trick for a musician. Most of the musicians I know, if you sing ‘em a new song, will be able to jump in around the 2nd chorus! However, it is a good trick with your kids to grab the guitar, or sit at the piano, and whip out one of the songs they frequently listen to in their bedrooms … “How do you know that?” they gasp. “Because I’m freakin awesome” I reply, but really its because it only has four chords!
Another factor in making this video this morning was that I really needed to cheer myself up! One of my favorite retributions for being incessantly mocked as “cute” for my Scottishness by my family, is to sing in a Scottish accent while dancing a “mom-dance” in the kitchen. Leyla’s usual reaction to this is … “Mum, no, just NO!”
So, here for your listening pleasure is the Taylor Swift song: ‘Trouble’, performed by yours truly in my natural accent …
Hit play so you got a soundtrack for reading this news update …
Well, we have the great privilege of going back into the studio on November 11th and we’re going to make a new collection of songs called, LOVE SONGS. The title has a little poem that goes with it … something I just made up, which goes like this …
‘Love Songs’ will be Chapter One in a four part series which I hope to title: The Human Experience. I have been building this collection of songs in my heart and head for the past five years, and in my plotting and planning imagination it has four parts:
Love Songs – songs about love.
Blood and Bones – songs about family and community
The Drowning – songs about dying
The Rising – songs about redemption
These songs are written and sitting in my brain space waiting to be produced. I’m sure as we record each collection they will evolve and be added to, or edited out. I hope to record them all over the next few years and in the end carve out something beautiful. Maybe when all the chapters are done we’ll release it as a set on vinyl. Darren says if we have an album on vinyl he’ll be so excited he’ll poop himself everyday. So I think we should shoot for that eh?
So … we’ll be blogging as we go with photo and video, and we’re shooting for Love Songs to be released in the spring of 2014. In the meantime, here’s a taster of the song ‘Always’, which will be on the collection. I wrote this one three years ago and recorded it at home on the ol’ laptop. It’s for my Kris.
We’re super happy and proud to have a new album, launched June 14th 2013. Its called: Back to Life
Back to Life is a collection of 10 songs written by Esther, focusing primarily on her experiences of the last eight years, which include, but are not exclusive to, hurricanes, cancer, suicide, separation, unemployment, betrayal, foreclosure, foodstamps, forgiveness and (thank goodness) redemption.
The band recorded their single, Back to Life in September 2012 at Immersive Studios in Boulder with Jesse Zimmerman of Round Barn Recordings. Some months later while promoting their single at a concert in Colorado Springs (sharing the stage with “A Boy and His Kite”) unbeknownst to them, the band were recorded live. They found the recording to be not unpleasant, and so Back to Life the album was born.
The album contains one studio recording – their single and title track, as well as nine live tracks.
To sample the songs or buy ‘em … go to itunes.
Did I have a wonderful time visiting friends, traveling, camping, sailing, and playing music in Scotland with my daughter Leyla for 18 days this summer? Why, yes, I really freaking did!
Our first day in Scotland we drove to Oban on the west coast with a crowd of my best friends, stayed in a mansion and played a concert to some lovely folks. Here’s us at the top of the hill by Glencruittan House.
Then back to Glasgow for a house concert at my pal Mark’s house.
The next weekend I played Solas fest in Perthshire, a house concert in Edzell Woods. We went camping and sailing …
My sis-in-law Cassandra and I had an evening of song and stitching at the Rio Cafe for the West End Festival. Here’s a pic from the Scotland Herald.
Played the Balmaha Food and Drink Festival, and an acoustic evening with my cousin Eilidh on harmonies …
Here’s Eilidh and I …
I had such an incredible time in my homeland this year. Leyla and I got to spend such a good time with my family and friends and visit so many beautiful places. Best of all was meeting folks after the gigs – the man at Solas Fest who told me my songs were all about his life, the conversation with my uncle’s neighbor about life and loss and redemption and the songs from the concert that were “important” to him, the lady at my album release who told me through tears about her life and how she could relate to my story, the old friend I met when I played at the rehab center – hearing about her journey was so incredible and inspiring. I am so thankful that I get to play my songs to these folks, and that music opens up the doors for us to share our lives with each other. Super-privilaged I am. (That was a Yoda sentence)
I’ve had this collection of songs rattling round in my head the past few years. Songs I’ve written about my journey and my life – the awkward, crappy years, and the getting better years. I’ve wanted to make an album with the songs, but albums take money.
Last year we made a single, “Back to Life” and then as one of our single release dates we played at “The Loft” in the Springs. The concert was recorded and those who listened to it said, “hey, yeah, this is a pretty decent live recording – you should make an album of it”.
So … we did. Its called “Back to Life”, and apart from that first title track the whole thing is a LIVE recording. The art work and the mixing and mastering is done, the cd is at the reproduction company being pressed and frankly, its a little terrifying. When you make a studio album, of which I have several, you get to take as many takes as you like. There’s no coughing or burping, no losing your breath, or your voice breaking in a funny way. Even after all those takes, when you get the perfect take, your producer has some magic “de-suck-ulator” buttons that he presses to make it all sound great and flow together … but, not so with the live album. This is it. Raw and messy and lovely and scary too.
Some great friends and fans of mine have repeatedly told me that they enjoy hearing me live, much more than a studio performance. Lets hope this is true and folks aren’t just blowing sunshine up my arse, cause here it comes folks. Right now as I type its raining outside, and the sun is shining at the same time. Hopefully the album will be something like that – not quite perfect in one direction or the other, but just enough of a good mix to be pleasant and an unusual moment.
So, if you buy it, or share it, or I give it to you, just know, its a live recording and that’s what you’re getting … makes me feel a bit naked really, but hey, lets go for it. Back to Life the album will be on itunes for purchase on June 14th, or you can buy a solid real copy from me at one of my gigs. If you’re one of the people who pre-ordered it, I’ll be emailing a link to you soon!
The moment I gave birth to Leyla-Mya Sparks “the baby” was the last thing on mind. I was sweaty and bloody and staring at the white tile ceiling of the birthing room and thanking God the pain was over and I was still alive! Then I heard a voice say, “Mrs. Sparks, are you going to look at your child?” I took a moment, then glanced down as the midwife pulled back the blankets wrapped around the little naked babe on my lap, and I gasped … “Oh my God! Its a girl” I looked up at Kris – all the blood had drained from his face.
I remember about a year later my best friend Suzanne asking me if I’d ever expected to have a girl. After all, for the past 6 years my life had been filled with three boys … Kris, Israel and Justice. It was just me and the men. “I don’t know if I ever expected a girl,” I replied, “But I didn’t expect Leyla.”
What I meant by that is hard to explain … Leyla is my daughter, and so incredibly familiar to me, but sometimes I feel like I’m just still finding her out. I’ve never met anyone quite so their own person. She can be shy and fearful at times, but she is also ferocious, and incredibly ferral. She hardly ever brushes her hair or fusses over clothing … it’s not that she hates those things, she just finds them such a waste of time. Its almost as if she knows life is too short. Everyday, the moment school lets out, she exits the building and takes off her shoes, preferring to walk to the car barefoot – even in the snow – like she can’t stand to wear the darn things one more minute than she has to. “Who’s child is this?” The teachers are wondering … she’s mine. The one with the hair in a nest, no shoes and ripped dress. I always felt like kind of a scruffy gypsy type, but I didn’t make her this way on purpose – I swear, she just came out that way. She’s like a female Huck Finn.
Animals love her. In our house we call her the chicken whisperer, cause she can get the chickens to come to her when they escape. The moment she could walk she could make animals come to her. She can also paint, draw or sculpt anything. Her favorite place to draw is on her own legs with permanent marker.
So … I wrote a song years ago called Pushy Old Women. Its a love song for Leyla to tell her about her lineage. I think I wrote it because she was such a surprise to me. Her strength and individuality of character. Then, I thought about the kind of women in our family: my mother and grandmothers, my great grandmother and my sisters, eccentricity is a running theme, and I realized Leyla should be no surprise to me.
For years people have asked me where they can buy the song recorded, but I haven’t had a recorded copy. Until now … Pushy Old Women will be on my new album “Back to Life”. I’ll be playing in Scotland this June to sell and promote the new album, and Leyla will be accompanying me on my travels. Sparks Women go to Scotland! Yippeeeee. Lucky us!
We’ll be in Scotland from June 14th – July 2nd. “Back to Life” release concert is at Nice & Sleazys, Glasgow on June 28th, 7:30pm, 5 bucks at the door. Special guests: oldsolar, Matt Macindoe and Linsay Jack – possibly others!
When Leyla is excited she talks incessantly drawing breath – do you think she’ll manage to talk the entire 11 hour flight from Denver to Heathrow?!
Here’s Pushy Old Women live.
Well, I’ve been busy, busy, busy making new things and planning new things. Kris has been super-busy too. Together with our new business partners: Daniel and Rachel we bought an old apartment fourplex that we are gutting and fixing and planning to rent out.
The new album Back to Life is almost ready. Big thanks to my friend Chris Cummings (husband of the fabulous other Esther). He used his clever engineerish geeky skills to put my artwork in the right format for the new album. THANKS Chris!
I’m working on my gig schedule for Leyla and I’s trip to Scotland in June. Cassandra, my sister in law, and I are planning a fashion show/music event on the 25th at The Rio Cafe in Glasgow. I got an album release at Nice and Sleazy’s on the 28th, and a Dumbarton show on the 29th … as well as some house concerts and the Solas Festival in Perthshire the weekend of the 21st- 23rd … all in the works. I’ll be sending you lovely Scotland folks some invites very soon here. Leyla and I are so excited about coming home, we talk about every time we’re alone in the car and almost pee ourselves with excitement! (we avoid the subject when the menfolk are around as they’re all a bit bitter at being left at home.)
I’ve been making aprons to sell at my gigs … its a long story and I will blog about it soon and post pics after the photo shoot with Esther-Too this weekend. I hope to debut the aprons at the Lafayette Jax Farmers Market tomorrow morning.