Oh Canada

7 February, 2013 

I remember about two years ago I stopped at a gas station in West Virginia and had the following convo with a sweet old man who was marveling at the amount of dirt on my car (i'd been driving for about 9 hours at that point).   It went like this:  

Sweet old man:  WHOA!  Looks like you're on quite a journey, where are you from? 

Me:  Toronto 

SOM:  Never heard of it! 

Me:  It's in Canada 

SOM: Hmm, Canada?  Nope, never heard of that either! 

Me: Oh.


Which reminds me a bit of this conversation I just had with a sweet British girl during sound check 15 minutes ago (in England): 

Sweet British Girl: Where are you from? 

Me: Canada

SBG (to her friends): See!  I told you they were American!

Me:  Well not exactly...we're Canadian

SBG *blank confused stare*: Right.

SBG *uncomfortable pause*: But Canada is in America, right?  

Me:  Yes, just like Wales is in England.  Right?   

SBG: Ohhh.....








Lost In Translation (Jan 16, 2013)

January 16, 2013 


Ahh the British accent (which I adore).  

In studio today in Cambridge recording some backing vocals for Damian Cox (Canadian-turned-Brit).  

Producer Keith just gave me some feedback on one of my lines:  

Keith (Jordy -ie northeast Brit): "ok, bit shorter" 

Me (Canadian): 'Ummmmm...did you just call me a bitch?   A bitch otter??' 




UK Word Of The Day: Potato (Jan 9, 2013)

January 9, 2013.

UK Word Of The Day:  POTATO 

Today’s “how to read a menu” adventure in the Yellow Brick Music office, London.

(I say potayyyyyto. You say potahhhhhhto).

Me (Canadian): Jacket Potayyyyyto?? What is THAT?

Sammy (American): Baked Potayyyyyto

Meredith (Brit via Oz):Jacket Potahhhhhhto

James (Brit): Baked Spud.

Meredith: Do you want chips?

Me: No, but maybe fries

Sammy: Those are chips

Me: Then what do you call chips?

James: Crisps

Me: This is exhausting. I’ll have salad thanks.



Charlotte: Furry Roomie (November 1, 2012)

I've gotten a few notes from people wondering how the Pants-less in London Episode turned out.  My sincere apologies, friends...shameful of me to leave you hanging like that, not knowing if I was still wandering around London half in the buff.  

You will be relieved i'm sure to know there was a successful rescue / recovery mission for said pants (including - but not limited to - notes on random neighbors' doors) and eventually we were reunited - much to the delight of my legs.  I hope we shall never part again in such, errm, dramatic fashion.  

Now that that's resolved, I can tell you about my furry roommate Charlotte.  There was no rescue/recovery mission for Charlotte.  That is, there was no one to rescue me and I am still in recovery.  

Rewind.  I've got 2 shows in Stoke-On-Trent the following day.  There is a soccer (read: football) match in town and all the hotels are sold out.  The show promoter finds me quite literally the only room left in the area which is at a cute (and by 'cute' I mean 'quaint bordering on dodgy') typically british pub-with-some-rooms-upstair kinda deal out in the country.  I get in around 11:30pm, exhausted.  Crawl into bed almost immediately.  Get up a few minutes later to use the loo, don't bother turning on the lights, and wander barefoot across the room to the bathroom.   Flip on bathroom light, sit on toilet, glance up to see what appears to be a large, furry, black...what the hell is that thing?   A blob?   A huge stain on the carpet?   A mouse?   A small squirrel?  No.  It's an eight-legged creature and it is FURRY as all hell and is the size of half my hand.  And I have big hands (for a girl). 

I know what you're thinking.  But you're wrong - I am not the most squeamish of girls.  I spent years working at an outdoor summer camp living in a cabin with tent-flap walls, multi-day day canoe trips, dock spiders, and all kinds of furry creatures.  But this...I simply was not prepared.  So I did what any reasonable human would do.  I texted my manager alerting her of my current predicament / life-threatening situation (like there's anything she can do about it from London at midnight), got dressed, packed my bag, killed the spider with my boot while trying to ignore the 'squish/pop', and evacuated the room.  Straight to the bar I went and marched up to the 'receptionist' (read: bartender). 

Her:  you alright?  (insert british accent) 

Me: yeah, not so much.  And i'm sorry if I sound like a crazy girl, but there is a monstrous furry spider the size of half my hand on my floor.   No exaggeration. 

Her: Uh-huh 

Me: *staring blankly at her* 

Her: Well this is England and you're out in the country.  They're everywhere. 

Me: What do you mean 'everywhere'? ...(*my voice getting progressively more high pitched with each syllable).  In my ROOM?!?   HOW?   WHY?   WHAT?!!?

Her: Sure, just everywhere.  There's nothing I can do about it, you just get used to it.  And we don't have any other rooms to move you to anyway, we're sold out.

Me: *still staring blankly & now also incredulously at her*

Her: Do you know how many spiders humans ingest in their sleep?   Lots.  Happens all the time.   You know when you wake up with a bit of a sore throat?  That's because you swallowed a spider in your sleep.  

Me: *staring at her incredulously with a (growing) hint of rage* 

Me: Yeah...NOT HELPING. 

Her: Well, you can do what you like, but i'm shutting down the bar and locking up now.   You can sit here in the dark or you can go back to your room or you can try to find another hotel, but everything's sold out.   I'll leave one light on for you, please shut it off when you've decided (as she walks out the front door and locks it behind her, so i'm now sitting in a mostly dark, deserted, apparently gigantor-spider-infested pub).    

So I sit there for a good 30 minutes calling every hotel in a 30 mile radius (keep in mind I have no car).   All sold out.   Defeated and still exhausted, back I go up to my room.  I leap over dead Charlotte.  I dump out the contents of my backpack and put on every piece of clothing I can find, including my tuc and boots.  I wrap my scarf around my entire face except my eyes.   I turn on every light in the room.   And I lay on (not in) the bed drifting between sleep and wakefulness for the next 7 hours.   

Rest in peace, Charlotte.   Thank you for a lovely evening. 

(Objects in photo may appear smaller than in real life.  Seriously.  I should've set something beside this beast for scale).   

Pants-Less in London (October 16, 2012)

 Pack light.   Any smart touring artist's mantra, an art i'm finally starting to master. 

I did not factor yogurt into my plan. 

Context: my slighty-larger-than-carry-on-sized suitcase (for two months on the road - that deserves a high five) is safely stowed at my manager's office on the other side of London.  I am carrying only a backpack with basic essentials.  

I pop into a supermarket and whilst standing examining the vegetable options a woman drops a huge tub of yogurt on the floor, which explodes all over my (only) pair of jeans...which are of course jet black.   Embarrassed, she looks me up and down and then kind of skulks off while I am left examining my now black+white spotted jeans.  Well shit.  But shit happens, no biggie. 

Fast forward to the next morning.  I'm in a flat on the top floor of a building, scrubbing said jeans in the sink while wearing my only other 'bottoms', teensy weensy (and definitely at the end of their life) sleep shorts.   It's a glorious sunny/windy day in London, and I mosey out onto the rooftoop to hang my now presentable pants in the sun to dry before I have to take off for a meeting.   I use clips to pin them nice and tightly to the railing, with the majority of them hanging on the inside of the patio.  

Fast forward two hours (an ambitious drying-time by london standards, I know) --> 

I am showered and ready to go to my meeting.  I pop out onto the roof for my pants.  No pants.   Huh?   NO PANTS!!   I frantically look around the roof.   Nada.  

With a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach I slowly lean over the railing.  

Hello pants.  

Hello only pair of pants.

Hello only pair of pants sprawled in the next door neighbour's garden 4 stories down.

Hello garden that is completely walled on all sides.

Hello garden with no entrance except through someone's house. Whose house? Hell, I don't know.  There are 5-6 flats in each building. 


I am now pants-less in London.    Excellent. 


Tug of War: Notes & Lyrics

 May 22, 2012 


Tug of War.   

All good things happen in the kitchen.  TUG OF WAR was the last song to pop out for the album,  I had written and re-written the album at least three times over, thrown out most songs, whittled down from about 50.   The day I was heading to meet with Vincent about the schedule I was sitting in my kitchen at 6:30 in the morning, skimming through pages and pages of lyrics and these ones jumped out.   I'd written them in the summer of 2011, but I guess they needed a gestation period.  I grabbed my guitar and it all fell out in one go (this rarely happens!).   I sat there at the kitchen table playing it over and over for about two hours.  I had more lyrics but it didn't seem like they were necessary, it was complete just the way it came out.  I played it for Vincent that afternoon and now it's not only our favourite but also the title track.   

Lyrically, it blossomed from a romance (surprise, surprise), and more specifically from that helpless feeling when you want to give and someone quite simply is not open to receiving, but neither party seems willing to walk - so there's this constant hope / disappointment thing being fed on both sides.  That space between giving up and holding on - so uncomfortable and sometimes so hard to extricate oneself from.  But it quickly turned into more of an anthem for the whole adventure of making the album and the literal tug of war it was to get it finished.   When I said to the guys that I think the album should be called Tug of War they both immediately said 'of course - what else would it be called?' 

In the studio we laid down a simple guide track - just me on guitar and vocals, and as I was doing that Vincent created a kind of Depeche Mode-ish loop; a pure, simple sparse combination of basically two sounds, which immediately gave the tune a vibe that we loved and that just worked.  And then it was Tim's genuis that stole the show, I sat in awe while he weaved these incredible guitar layers and took it to crazy heart-tugging heights.  He also played the drums, and Kitty came in with her magic on the cello.   The first time I listened to a rough mix in the car I had tears streaming down my face.  Tim says it's now ready for a stadium...so I guess all I need is a stadium.    Can't wait for you to hear.  

(Lesley Pike) 

Push me, pull me, forward and back 
This tug of war breeds heart attack 

Elevate me, sink me like a stone 
Love me big, then you leave me alone 

Why won't you let me love you?  

One step up and two steps back 
Trying to carve a future out of a past 

You could have me but you never asked 
Only want me when I turn my back 

Why won't you let me love you 
Why won't you let me love you 
Or let me go

White Lies: Song Notes + Lyrics

 May 15, 2012

White Lies.  

Or 'Speed Lying' as it was called at one point in the studio when we tried out a super-fast arrangement. 

I wanted to write a song about the myriad ways we lie...to ourselves.   We all do it.  Whether we do it thinking we are 'protecting' ourselves, protecting someone else, insulating, appeasing, avoiding, or we're not even aware anymore that we do it.    I wanted the song to sound happy-go-lucky oblivious, like this little kid skipping around a playground whistling.   Ignorance is bliss? 

Wrote this song with Emma-Lee and Karen Kosowski one afternoon in a Toronto studio - we came up with the little riff and a chorus and the whistling bit, and then I wrote the verses a few weeks later at the crack of dawn on a sunny Los Angeles morning. 

We tried out a few different studio treatments, including the aforementioned 'Speed Lying' version, but in the end landed on a super simple arrangement.  The entire song consists of 1 cello, 1 saxophone, vocals, and a whole lotta percussion.   In Tim's words: 'here's what happens when I listen to Graceland too many times - play it loud, and hold on to your African hats'.  

Director extraordinaire Gavin Michael Booth and I are getting set to shoot a video for this song -  coming soon :) 

Meantime, here's a clip of me singing it on a roof in London: 

(Lesley Pike, Emma-Lee, Karen Kosowski)

Deny, deny... 

Tell you that it doesn't mean a thing to me 
Isn't that the way you wanted it to be 
I've got so many things to do and I know you're busy too 
I wouldn't miss you if you go 
You won't always be around, I know

These little white lies 
They're keeping me alive 
I don't even have to try 
To tell these little white lies 

Deny, deny...

Tell myself that I don't mind your eyes on her 
Never bothered when you're out with other girls 
I'm not the jealous type
Cause I know what guys are like, you know 
I'm not the kind to tie you down 
You won't always be around, I know 

These little white lies 
They're keeping me alive 
I don't even have to try 
To tell these little white lies 

Deny, deny....

Weapon Down: Notes + Lyrics

 May 8, 2012 

I've always maintained that songwriting is a way to process and make sense of my daily experiences, especially the ones that have moved or affected me the most.  And simple as that sounds, it's not always easy to do.  'Weapon Down' is probably one of the most difficult and yet most important songs that i've felt compelled to write / share.  

Late June 2011:  I had just gotten home from a trip out West and was craving Bikram yoga, so I hopped in my car and headed over to my usual studio.   Just so happened that on that particular Saturday the class I was going to had been canceled (those who do Bikram know that this NEVER happens...classes are like clockwork, pretty much 365 days a year).   And since i'd been out of town i'd missed seeing the notices in the studio announcing the change in schedule.   I was desperate for a class and started driving to another studio about 30 minutes away.   As I was sitting at a stop light of a huge intersection I heard what sounded like gunshots immediately to my left.   You never think it's acually gun shots.  I turned my head to see a man being shot repeatedly from a car window as he rolled across a lane in this busy intersection and onto the curb.   It was the middle of the day.  The light changed, and the cars kept driving, like nothing had happened.   I drove through the light, and for a moment wondered if i'd just imagined the whole thing.  Amazing how fast your mind goes into denial.   I started shaking uncontrollably and as I was pulling a u-turn to go back and help I called a close friend and could barely utter the words 'I think I just saw someone get shot'.   He very calmly said 'ok - we're going to talk about this in a few minutes but right now you need to hang up the phone and call the police'.   (Which I did).   

A few weeks later I went up to a friends cottage for a few days to write, and this is the song that came out while I was up there.   Quite simply, it was necessary for me to find a way to process what i'd witnessed and not feel so helpless.    After quite a few writes and re-writes it eventually morphed from pure anger into more of a plea and my genuine desire to understand.  

The demos for this song were piano-driven, percussive and aggressive, with intensely angry vocals.  But when I got in studio with Tim & Vincent, Tim suggested we take a different approach to give it an intimate and vulnerable vibe instead of an angry one.   I switched to Wurlitzer instead of piano and it was a whole new song.   Tim did an amazing job creating this progressive tension throughout which builds and builds and pushes right to the edge but never quite resolves.    

(Lesley Pike) 

I saw you look a man in the eye 
In a trigger happy moment try to take his life 
That's somebody's lover 
And someone else's child 

So your mother didn't love you, now you're justified 
And your father ran away and never looked behind 
And no one ever noticed, no one realized 

That you tried and you tried... 

But what will it take to turn it all around? 
What will it take to put your weapon down? 

So tell me how you figure where to draw the line 
How many shots until you set this right 
Won't you tell me the story 
The story of your life 

And if there's one more dead here in Toronto 
Will it put an end to the pain you know 
Will it end the suffering 
Will it settle the score 

And you tried, and you tried....

But what will it take to turn it all around?
What will it take to put your weapon down? 

If it's an eye for an eye then we're blind 
If it's pain for pain we'll never get out alive 

The Great Unknown: Notes + Lyrics

 May 1, 2012 

Slot #2 on the album goes to The Great Unknown.  

Names like Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave came up as references when we were working on the final version of this song and that made me immediately excited.  It's a sparse, lilting, haunting arrangement that I quite simply fell in love with in the studio.  Vincent sings on it.  Plus, we got to use this little mandolin that our friends at Gibson Guitars so kindly loaned us.   In fact, I believe Tim taught himself to play mandolin in about 4 minutes flat to be able to play the parts in the chorus.   

I think one of the hardest things about walking away from something or someone is the letting go of the possibilities, the potential, the expectations & hope.  And then of course, the unknown.   You leap and you never really know where (or how) you're going to land.   

PS - this song is streaming in the site-wide music player ;) 

(Lesley Pike) 

We got our pleasure mixed with pain 
A little more than what we had bargained for 
And I can't help myself but love you all the same 

So when there's nothing left 
But loneliness from time well spent 
Is this the part where we're supposed to turn away? 

Just turn away... 
Just turn away....
To the great unknown 

You brought your swagger boy, and your charm 
And it's enough to turn this young blood on 
We played it out just like a TV show 

Of course I understand
You came to me with heart in hand 
Doesn't make it any easier to go 

And just ride off into the great unknown 
Ride off into the great unknown 

The last goodbye, the last hello 
The best of me i've yet to show 
The last goodbye, the last hello 
I don't want to go 

And just ride off into the great unknown 
Ride off into.... 

We Build Towers: Song & Studio Notes + Lyrics

April 24, 2012

The album closes out with 'We Build Towers' - a collaborative creative experiment between myself, Vincent and Tim.  On the final night in the studio the three of us sat down in a circle (well, more of a triangle, really), Vince had his programming gear ready, Tim picked up Dusty, and I had a few lyrics that I wanted to include on the album but that were not yet in any actual song.  I read them out loud, Vince added a few lines and then played us a groove he'd been working on.   We hit record and improvised for one 21-minute stretch, the result of which is We Build Towers; entirely raw, entirely written & recorded live, in real time.  A spontaneous Saggitarian's dream!  (ha!).   Tim edited it down to 8 minutes and that was that.   I love the moodiness & groove of this tune and Tim's improvisational guitar work is simply brilliant (if I do say so myself).  

There are only a few lines in the song, simple imagery reflecting the myriad ways we try to hide what we are feeling for fear of the consequences / fallout should the truth become known.      

Now, could someone please pass it on to the frickin Cirque du Soleil, I think it's the soundtrack for their latest show... ;) 

(L.Pike, T. Glasgow, V. Marcone) 

We build towers 
To keep it out of sight 
Brick by brick 

We plant flowers 
To cover up the fight
Bit by bit 
Inch by inch 

I Go Wild: Song & Studio Notes + Lyrics

April 17, 2012

Slot #1 on the album goes to a kinda sexy, kinda gritty and very raw song about lust & infatuation.   You know what I'm talking about, you see 'that person' and you almost can't stand it.  You want to scream.  That whole experience deserves at least one song, and this is it. 

This was one of the earlier songs I wrote for the album and there are about 10 versions of it (no exaggeration). I first recorded it as a demo in Toronto with Steve Wingfield producing and he did some amazing stuff with it that many of you have likely heard along the way.  But this acoustic version didn’t come into the world until the very very end of the recording process.  It was the first song that Tim worked on when we were still exploring working together (he did a DISCO version!), and the final album version ended up being the last one he worked on, which is a sweet blend of acoustic + electronic sounds courtesy of both Tim and Steve.   

This one is for the lovers...  can't wait for you to hear.   

(Lesley Pike) 

I go wild when I see you in the night
I get high, I no longer try to hide it
Can’t deny you’re the only one who makes my heart go wild

I go wild when I see you in the day
I fall apart and I wonder if it fades
But in my heart you have always sparked a fire that I can’t tame

So if I scream it from the top of my lungs will you come running 
Cuz all this whispering that i’ve done seems to tell you nothing
When will you give me some of your love

I go wild when you look me in the eye
I come alive, I no longer try to fight it
Can’t deny you’re the only who makes my heart go wild

I go wild when I hear you say my name
I fall apart and I wonder will it change
But in my heart you have always sparked a fire that I can’t tame

So if I scream it from the top of my lungs will you come running
Cuz all this whispering that i’ve done seems to tell you nothing
When will you give me some of your love?

Little Spark: Song & Studio Notes + Lyrics

The Longest Goodbye: Album Notes & Video

Where Do I Begin (March 3, 2012)

Across The Pond (October 1, 2011)

Full Swing (July 29, 2011)

I left my heart in LA LA Land (July 17, 2011)

Pike on a bike (June 29, 2011)

Mountain Goat's Gruff (June 22, 2011)

Billie Goats Gruff + Me (June 18, 2011)

CMW / Junos / Album Update (April 17, 2011)