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  • jaiaslin

Dusty Gems: Returning to music after 15 years

Updated: Nov 19, 2022

I started playing guitar when I was 12 and really got inspired about songwriting when I first heard Ani Difranco at age 17 (when a girl really needs a boost of female empowerment!). As I began songwriting in college, I felt like I was being called into my life's work and it was sweaty, intense, soul-searching, uncomfortable and often euphoric. I started performing in Santa Cruz (one time even topless) for the wonderful folks there who bolstered my self-confidence and encouraged me to take it to a wider audience (though fully clothed).

Around the time of my graduation from UCSC I released my first CD (Luna-tic) and went on tour in an old Dodge Ram van with my musician boyfriend up the West Coast all the way to Canada. Driven by a sense that I needed to do this work completely on my own, I began touring solo in the US and Canada, partially to conquer my own fears and partially because I love solitude. I didn’t like that I was polluting the air in my gas guzzling rig, so somewhere in the first few years I converted my truck to run on vegetable oil. I released three indie records and a fourth that was never released (but miracle of miracles, it’s finally going to be released!). I lived on the road in my small RV and acquired the blessed assistance of a manager and a producer and was gaining some traction on the folk/acoustic circuit and was making enough money to support myself.

In 2007 I experienced a great loss that caused me to re-assess everything. I realized that so much of my motivation around performing was to try to fill an ancient hole inside myself that simply could not be filled by anything external. So I began a deep spiritual quest. I started a yogic and meditative practice on my own and very quickly moved into Christian Mystic community, leaving my fiancé, a home we owned in Oakland, our cats, and all my friends and family. I tend to do things full-on, and this felt incredibly important to me so I entered into a monastic lifestyle of intensive spiritual work for the next 7 years (I’ve noticed my life definitely seems to flow in 7 year cycles!) There’s so much I could say about these years. It was life-changing, tremendously transformative, and deepened my spiritual connection, as I’d hoped. And also, the group tuned out to be increasingly cult-ish which is the reason I eventually left after being ordained a priest. One of the first teachings I received early on from my teacher was to leave my songwriting path, because he claimed, “it was of the ego.” I longed so deeply to be free from the binds I was experiencing, that I followed his advice and stopped songwriting, performing and recording for the years I lived monastically. But during those years, the songs kept coming. They trickled in through the cracks of my consciousness during sleep and I would wake up humming their melodies. They came to me in moments of solitude asking patiently to be written or recorded. So I collected them on bits of paper and voice memos on my phone. I now have hundreds of them. I secretly loved them all those years but it wasn’t until I married Timothy and tentatively began playing them for him and saw that he loved them also that I began to explore maybe, possibly, getting back to my life’s work. I had to do a lot of digging to get to this point where I am now, having built a small recording studio adjoining our garage and now, at this moment, recording my first song in 15 years. I had to admit to myself that the career which I was previously trudging along in (which was guided by the same teacher who told me to stop songwriting) was slowly eating away at my vitality and leaving me depressed. I had to truly know for myself whether my songwriting endeavor was just “of the ego” and in the process examine my ego and my divine nature thoroughly for many years after leaving that teacher. Now I have come to a place where I know myself much more deeply. And the truth is that songwriting is an authentic expression of my true nature, which includes my divinity as well as my ego. And the hole I mentioned earlier, the one that used to drive me to seek the love outside myself, isn’t something I experience as a hole anymore. I explored it for years and saw every crevice. And somehow, by being willing to feel the emptiness and the pain of it and understand all the terrain, that hole has mostly dissolved and, in its place, I often feel a plump, vibrant, loving fullness. So now I can share my music with a full cup (which runneth over? Nah, not quite yet as I still have two young children who exhaust my introvert reserves, so maybe my cup doesn’t QUITE runneth over yet but check back in a few years when they’re both in school!). My hope is that by me doing this sweaty, uncomfortable, deep-diving, truly life-giving, euphoric work which I feel I am meant to do, that it will affect the whole and all my relations. We are all connected and I believe each of us has unique work to do here. I hope my songs, these little dusty gems kept in my pocket all these years, and all the future songs to come, will inspire you and help ground you in beauty and wonder as you continue on your own journey.

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