Are you Afraid to be on the Playground?

I was 100% sure I was doomed.

I was 100% sure that I didn’t care if I was.

I was 100% sure everyone else was an idiot.

I was 100% sure that I didn’t care if they were.

The ‘didn’t care’ parts were the hurdles. The question could be, "Do you even care if you are out on the Playground?"

You would think my own admission of defeat would have been a big deal! Shouldn’t you at least give it one last shot, risk it all, come out with all guns firing and take that last chance? I really felt like I was in a fox hole surrounded by the enemy. I didn’t have a white flag, I didn’t submit…I just sat there and starved.

It wasn’t until I felt like I was as low as one could get, I began to realize, there is always lower. How could I use lower in my favor? The revelation that struck me was, “Nobody’s pulling me out here, but dirt moves.”

Anyone who rides a subway knows that there is a whole world underground. We keep hearing about “come into the light”…but why is the dark entirely bad? Whoever thinks the whole world is covered in sunshine and big white fluffy clouds has apparently never left their tropical village. The sun can burn and dehydrate. I was surrounded by self-help people, the power of positive thinking, religious groups who all kept saying, “Karen-come into the light”. Well aside from the lingo being completely unappealing, it’s unrealistic.

Now, I am not suggesting the subway is where you want to be, but some people enjoy that way of commuting underground as opposed to angry drivers on the road. In our world…all over the world, there are so many things going on underground. Look how many animals have made their homes there. Look how many mile long caves and caverns there are. I won’t dispute that lack of sun can make you deficient, but I am suggesting that our view of darkness is equated to being bad. “Out of the darkness and into the light” is a phrase drilled into our brain at a young age but we’re never taught that everything has its place! With the soaring heat in LA lately, I welcome the night and complete blackness. It’s nature’s way of evening everything out so the world can cool down a bit.

Dirt moves. It’s an interesting thought you know. Some of us know what it means to dig our way out of the hole by going down farther, choosing left or right…going sideways for a time, then pop out when and where it’s more favorable with less people surrounding. However, when you find yourself in a cement block with no tools, you have to apply some patience. You may have to even place some trust in the people who love you to assist you. That’s a very hard thing to grasp. “Don’t give up” is another popular sliver of advice. I personally found it useless, but it might sound good to someone who can handle it.

When I was in the dirt, I started to trust the dirt. Let me explain;

I have loved making music all my life, but my voice was considered unpopular. I worked in many studios where the engineer wanted a country-style or opera singer to do back-ups. I was encouraged to become more like those people. Now this is not considered being in the dirt, this is simple studio drama. The dirt part was the horrific depression I was going through. Imagine hating yourself and then others hate you too. It’s not that we should care what they think, but when your own self-esteem sucks, it stands to reason their arrogance isn’t helpful.

I had a war with my music. I have written well over a thousand songs in my life. Many are on 4 track tapes, cds and obsolete hard drives. They represent my journey, but also represent my struggle to just find myself. Some I like and some I hate but I consider them chapters. They are pretty dirty, ugly and paper-shredder worthy for the most part but they were made from my dirt. It may not have been completely enjoyable but it was therapeutic.

PLAYGROUND ISOLATOR represented a time for me where I was brave enough to just say it how I wanted to….but I kept it in between Frank Gryner and myself as he was the only other producer I knew who didn’t suffocate me. You may have noticed the insert says “No other musicians were harmed…etc”. That is because I wasn’t about to let ANYONE in.

The PUBLIC PLAYGROUND single we are working on with the community (it’s atthepublicrecord.com/Stever) has been quite an experience for me. I have produced and written for many bands in between the PI release and this project, but I’ll tell you what is super rad;

I am out on the Playground with others. I was quite ok with working in the music industry and I will continue to, but when we lifted the pressure from this single making any money by making it for charity, it alleviated the crap. I don’t feel ego. I see people who have been victims and bullies playing together without competition. Sure, everyone wants to get better at what they do and would like their parts and music included or heard, but the group is so unbelievably encouraging to each other.

I have been overwhelmed by the music and spirit flattening the fences and giving the scissors back to those that want to run dangerously with them, ignoring all these sunny life lessons. (DISCLAIMER; if you impale yourself on a pair, you do it at your own risk)
Society hasn’t been taking risks and playing. We’ve been scared, bitter and retreating. I am so sick of watching the news. I am so sick of people telling me to play it safe. Safe left me sad in an armchair staring out the window at bright sunshine. That didn’t even matter.

Everyone has a source of fear. Some of us do it to ourselves, some of us have had it instilled. I have been so excited to see people coming out and playing with us. There are people who can’t play music, but they can record themselves hitting some metal. There are people out there who play music who are fearful to express. The rest of us are overwhelmed and humbled by the surrounding love…and we stand in awe…absorbing it all.

Life is short…this is not a dress rehearsal. It’s waiting for each of us to grab a hold of it! If you like the dirt, make art from your dirt! If you prefer a dark room, stay there! The light does not necessarily guarantee happiness. Some people do better with light, some of us feel connected to the dark.

The important part is that we get in touch with who we really are, what we really love to do and then do it with our whole heart.

I would love to see you back on the Playground!

Karen :)

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
~T.S. Eliot


Are you putting too much pressure on yourself?

IDEAS! There never seems to be a shortage!

I always said if I didn’t get into the arts, I was destined to have my own Advertising Agency. Although, if you look at my lack of promotional skills…lol…you would wonder about that.

I say that because my whole life I have been the idea girl. I have probably accumulated 100,000 pretty good ideas that were not implemented by me. It’s like I have had this crystal ball in my living room, I see what the future holds, I go tell someone what the next big wave is and then I do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ABOUT IT! Hahaha! They take it and run with it.

But my ideas have been foiled on smaller levels too. (mostly due to me) I have stared at a crack in a wall promising to go to the store to buy some fill….and didn’t go. But more than that, I had a dream for the whole wall. I was going to resurface it with buckets of fill, buy knives to dig in designs and paint 1 foot of each color and hue from the entire wheel onto it. What started as merely procrastinating over a simple crack fix, turned into me setting myself up for a disappointment in not implementing my grand idea. Then, I would beat myself up. The crack wasn’t the problem anymore, it was that I abandoned my design, therefore I sucked at doing anything with my life. “Not only is my life bland, but I can’t even fix a simple crack…I must really suck.”

The people who take it and run aren’t really thieves, they are just self starters. It’s an enviable skill I have been trying to work towards. Now having had a long history with abuse and depression doesn’t really give you that get-up-and-go spring in your step. I sort of had to work out some demons first.

My depression was my crack in the wall. I needed to fix it first otherwise; all the weight of my extraordinary ideas would have created a gravitational pull that would have filled the floor below hardened putty chips. See for me, ideas on top of my sadness added to much weight. I’d sit in a chair completely bummed out, I decided my problem was that my life was dull…come up with a huge solution that would overwhelm me and then do nothing about it…still left with the fundamental problem of a crack in the wall too big to tackle.

I had to begin by focusing on getting better first. I wanted my broken car to compete in the quarter mile.

There is a right and wrong order of healing. It doesn’t mean with sufficient time and accidental fortunes it can’t go another route but I don’t know many people who become successful without getting in touch with themselves first. The definition of success if certainly up for debate, but my point is that once we are in touch with the inner child again, we can create with the freedom of a child. We’re asking for this freedom while locking ourselves up. It’s not working.

I know we all have dreams…and ideas…and become inspired from time to time. But how sturdy is your wall? Can it handle all the ideas you are throwing at it? Is there something about yourself you can be working on that creates a solid canvas for your art? Are you putting too much pressure on yourself to become something? Is guilt, anger, depression, sadness or loneliness making it impossible for any of your ideas to stick?

Lastly, are you putting a time limit on your healing? Don’t you owe it to yourself to invest in YOU?

Much love on ya!
Karen :)

“Adults are obsolete children.”~Dr. Seuss


In my opinion...

This is something I posted in the forums at thepublicrecord.com/Stever site. For those of you who weren’t following, basically it’s concerning the release of Tommy Lee’s new record that came out yesterday. The people who are credited on it didn’t find out until yesterday and there was mixed reaction to either seeing the names in the credits or not seeing them. This was my response;

Hi guys, just wanted to chime in on the MOM Release!

Congrats to Tommy and everyone who is on the release. It’s a great day! But, I wanted to give my deeper thoughts on why it’s a great day.

Over a year ago, Scott came up with this amazing idea, but it was more than an idea he had…it was an opportunity he wanted to extend to all of you. You may have seen a video way back when where he felt nothing online was “truly interactive”. I believe Scott wanted to bridge the gap and shrink the hierarchy. It’s a very good day for Scott because he is seeing TPR’s first major release, but I believe he is very proud of the community as a whole.

This is not a shallow singing contest constructed by a bunch of men in suits, this is a concept sprung from the mind of a guy who worked like mad to build his way up in the music industry and understood how difficult it is for musicians everywhere. He more than anyone knows the industry with all of its ups and downs.

For me personally, I have been at music long enough to know the reason to do things is to make the most out of your day. You try things and move on…allowing the greater purpose to guide you and not get wrapped up in what could have been. People who do well often move forward and may even miss the rewards because they are so busy moving!!

For those of you on the release; this is your opportunity to use your credits to promote the community here. It would be the best thing you could give back! This whole site is working because we view it as a community.

For those of you who have emailed me feeling disappointment from not seeing your name on the credits, I want to share a bit of advice in the hopes that you will keep your love for music alive! “This is a Public Playground and WE’RE allowed to be here. This is OUR time. This is OUR space.” As the lyric suggests. ;)

This is OUR community! View it as your home…these people are YOUR family. I hope every single member will view our first release as being good for the WHOLE community! When one of us moves forward, we all move forward. I still believe music is going to be the most powerful weapon to turn this world around. Music is a gift, music is a tool to draw people closer …I hope we can keep reminding ourselves of this!

We ARE a community…we are NOT that shallow contest. This IS about everyone. Let’s keep Scott’s vision for the site alive!

Karen :)


Do you ever wish you could play an instrument?

Know what I tell everyone who wants to learn? And I am NOT kidding when I say this. Go start with the ‘Sound of Music’. The scene where she is going through Doh a Deer and says, "it's a very good place to start" is VERY true. But everyone thinks it's too rudimentary! But everything in life has to start somewhere. Why not at the beginning? If you planted one bulb in your garden every year, you'd have quite a garden as the years go by!

What I think many of us don’t notice is the bad habits we accumulate over those years. We learn bitterness by picking it up every day. We learn to hate by seeing it every day. We learn to be jealous by the ads thrown at us for seconds at a time.

With music, I believe we think a certain age is too late. It seems like the magic number is 30, but for some, they may have thrown the towel well before that. Once a person reaches 45 and 50, they are absolutely sure there is no reason to start something like that. Subsequent ages that follow seem to laugh at the prospect of learning music.
Well, let’s look at the reasons then. I think the (cough cough, failing) music industry is responsible in part or maybe in whole. You are supposed to be under 25 (these days under 5…lol) and you better look like a model. Guys better be sleek with “just off of Melrose” stitched clothing. You better be able to sell products that are not music-related too. Oh and the odd favor on a casting couch…oh man…let me stop there…

Those reasons seem traditionally obvious. But, what about our own personal reasons? I have heard countless stories of people who won’t do any music because their own family and friends make fun of them. This isn’t even getting booed at the bar, I mean the people who claim to love you! “Oh my children would laugh at me” “my husband would think I am nuts”.

How about the “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? (the biggest crock of crap line ever spoken IMO)

Of course the older we get, the more difficult it is to break old habits. Wrapping your fingers and brain around a cello IS a hurdle. But since when has a hurdle stopped us in any other area of our life?

Gratification almost always comes from hard work paying off. But I think before we ever get there, the hardest work is teaching our brain to go along for the ride.

I used to be involved in the Second City Improv in Toronto. Our teacher would tell us, “Say Yes to everything”. While that is completely impractical in many areas of our life, it’s completely imperative in our creative endeavors. Trying stuff, getting dirty, mucking around in the mud are methods of freeing our spirit in order to try the things we want. It’s kind of like yelling in a shopping mall. Scary, but after you’ve done it, it’s quite gratifying. (Don’t ask me how I know that) ;)

For the last few weeks atthepublicrecord.com/Steverpage I have had the opportunity to be immersed in the creativity of very artistic people while we are all working on our charity song together. You know what I love about TPR though? The spirit. I have encountered the smallest amount of ego in this community than any group of musicians I have ever worked with. These are people with varying degrees of musical knowledge but I am feeling the childlike spirit again. It’s the spirit where children just run free with each other because it’s FUN!

Music started off that way. There are many areas of our lives where we accuse others of deceiving us, but to me the biggest lie ever spread has been that we cannot do something. The crappy part is the lie is fed to us in tiny spoonfuls like preservatives in food. No one thing makes us feel ill, it’s the accumulation of the lie.

If you want to pick up a guitar, play a keyboard or buy a set of drums, you should do it.

I was just telling some friends on my FB account (facebook.com/karen.stever if you haven’t found me on there) that my Mother learned to play the guitar 5 years before she died. Know what? I have never seen her that happy and content. She was fighting a terrible disease for those 5 years and that didn’t stop her from enjoying this new instrument every day. She said it was an awful hurdle to get over. The Chemo was taking the skin from her fingertips. She did it anyways.

If you want to, go and DO IT!

Much love on ya!
Karen :)

“The chief enemy of creativity is ‘good’ sense.” ~Pablo Picasso


My SUPER CRAZY Long Weekend Videos!

In case you were away all weekend, this is what I did on the long weekend. ;)
( I've been posting daily videos since the 22nd of August on thepublicrecord.com/Stever
These are just from my long weekend!)

I will be accepting DRUMS & PERCUSSION parts; Sept 6-12
I will be accepting GUITAR parts; Sept 14-19
I will be accepting BASS/KEYBOARD parts; Sept 21-26
I will be accepting ADDITIONAL OVERDUB parts; Sept 28- Oct 3

ALL PROCEEDS go to charity. If you want your say in which charity, make a video and upload it for everyone to vote on at the site!

I will be posting Daily Videos (under Daily Video tab on the site) every day around 6 pm. Come SIGN UP and join us on the PLAYGROUND!

STEVER COLLABORATION PAGE; thepublicrecord.com/Stever

Karen :)

"If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” ~Vincent van Gogh