LivingArts: Find Your Own Genius

This month, we continue our series of LivingArts Hamilton blogs featuring guest writers from a variety of arts disciplines across the community. This week, we're pleased to welcome Canadian country music singer and songwriter Lori Yates.

To be creative and search for your authentic voice takes courage and a conscious decision to not listen to your inner critic. It takes guts, courage, chutzpah to chase a new idea. "Eat, Pray, Love" author, Elizabeth Gilbert speaks of "your elusive creative genius" and muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses.  She shares the radical idea that instead of the rare person "being" a genius, all of us have a genius and that ancient tribes, the Greeks, and the Romans had a concept of genius as an "other," something that is outside of ourselves. It floats on the wind or down a river, and if we're quiet enough, attentive enough, we might be able to catch it and be stewards of its light, for a while.

I was attracted to living in the post-industrial steel city of Hamilton, partly because of its rich musical history and its scrappy creative spirit but because it was where Ronnie Hawkins and The Band cut their teeth in whiskey-soaked bars like the Flamingo and the Golden Garter. Its where Conway Twitty wrote "It’s Only Make Believe" in a Herkimer Street apartment, and its where the famous Washington family (Jackie Washington and his brothers) opened their home to Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and Mississippi John Hurt when touring. And it was home to a band I had cut my teeth on, Canada's legendary punk band: Teenage Head. 

Jackie Washington

On a cold February afternoon in 2002, we came to town with my baby son and saw Frankie Venom leaning on a Bold St balcony smoking a cigarette. My husband didn't have a clue who he was but seeing Frank cinched the deal for me, and we moved not long after that to our patch of green on Herkimer St. 

Being in the music business for over 30 years, I started Creative Genius Songwriting based on a need I saw in the community, a desire to support, in particular, many of the young female musicians that were coming up in Hamilton.  I figured I had something to give back, so I started offering lessons in songwriting and performance coaching and started a songwriting workshop where a person could "write, record and perform" their songs in 6 weeks. I was thrilled to help new writers follow their muse and find their "authentic voice as a writer."

Frankie Venom and Teenage Head

I still remember, as an eager 17-year-old,  walking into a music store asking to rent a "p.a."  The inquisitive clerk wanted to know why I needed a p.a. Did I have a gig? No, I didn't.  A rehearsal, I didn't?  I didn't even have a band, but I did have had a burning desire to start a music career, to write and perform, I just didn't know where to start. I wish I would have had a mentor who could have pointed the way.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage" - Anais Nin