Sometimes, when you jump in with only faith and a blindfold, life leaves your head spinning, trying to re-trace the steps that led you to a certain place – because it certainly wasn’t planned. Often, it isn’t events, but other people who are the authors, who help to write the plots of our lives. In a pretty major way Steve Bell was a catalyst for huge change in my life.
After booking my flights to the JUNOs last night and reading about the itinerary for the Red Carpet; I had a profoundly humbling moment. I am going to the JUNOs. Not as a guest but a nominee. What??? With my partner flying around the globe, being invited to play private parties for the elite, and having interviews with Rolling Stone or People Magazine, I feel like slowly and subtly I have become somewhat desensitized to grand romantic gestures from the world. But last night it sort of hit me in a raw spot. I have been so lucky. Being nominated for this award is such an incredible honour, I feel like it acts to silence many of the doubts that wash up on the shores of my subconscious, which is always hinting that maybe I am not good enough.
Although this JUNO nomination is a happy detour on the adventure, the really life changing event happened in Starbucks a year and a half before. A stranger named Steve Bell asked me to help him with his upcoming album “Pilgrimage”. Over coffee that day I had no idea that this project would change the trajectory of my own life. Having heard of Steve Bell only in passing, I had no idea about the following he had accumulated over his 25 year career, or the amount of respect that his name commands, but even more important than those things, I had no idea what a great guy he is. I don’t think it really occurred to me to be intimidated by the magnitude of this project until I walked into the Centennial Concert Hall, where he had invited us to his sold out holiday concert with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.
While Steve joked with the audience, the string section of the Orchestra came to life like snowflakes in a street-lamp at night. I was completely moved. This was magical. I spent most of the concert with goosebumps, brought on by that rare quality some experiences are flavored with – completely modest grandeur. The real kind of grandeur, that is born from love instead of pretentiousness. Where a few weeks prior I had naively agreed to tackle this project, I was suddenly feeling hugely intimidated. How to do justice to this beautiful thing I had just witnessed? As a designer, the task is to visually represent the story your client is trying to tell. That grandeur I witnessed at the Concert Hall? It is a beautiful experience to be a part of, but to try and reign it in and represent it– I must say that is rather intimidating.
Through the year, piece by piece it came together, eventually taking on an identity of its own. Working alongside Mike Latschislaw and Amy, Faye, Dave and Steve at Signpost; the many many parts of the project were stitched together with tons of hard work, patience creativity and lots of proof reading (thanks Amy). But another thing that was simultaneously coming together was that I was gaining confidence in my own skills. Half way through the project I had the confidence to make a major life change and quit my day job in favour of freelancing full time.
Leaving your day job that is not only financially stable, but also fulfilling and enjoyable, to walk into the unknown can be utterly terrifying. Making the decision to work as a freelance designer was just that: terrifying. For as much freedom that freelance allows, unpredictability and risk are equal parts of the equation. You are completely accountable, from finding new work, to managing your time, to taking complete ownership over any mis-haps. It is a lot of responsibility, but I feel that through working with Steve on this project he gave me the gift of confidence. He took a huge risk on me... Entrusting his compilation of 25 years of masterful music to someone with no reputation at all. Although a JUNO nomination is validating, the true gift was Steve taking this chance and trusting in me to run with this. His faith in me gave me faith in myself, and that is way more valuable than a walk down the red carpet.
If you haven’t heard much of Steve Bell’s music, I suggest you check it out!