Are you on a journey, too?
tl;dr: This project will share my song demos that have been helping me heal, on the journey to produce a full album. You might like to join/stay if you are a person on a journey of processing themes of purity culture, religious trauma, dismantling systems of oppression, through personal storytelling, who wants to support the project. It’s about music, healing and life, trying to find a way forward, with each other.
My journey started, like it did for many of us, in 2020. I was experiencing a crisis, a “dark night of the soul” that wouldn’t quit. It wasn’t depression, it was an awakening.
The journey started for me as I started learning more about narratives that had escaped me as a settler Canadian: the ways in which Indigenous people residing in what is now called Canada were treated over the generations. My heart broke as I recognized the ways in which my faith tradition actively participated in the displacement and subjugation of these communities, and their languages, stories, culture and ways of knowing.
It joined in a thread that had been unravelling for years, but quietly inside me: the ways in which the evangelical faith had colonized me, too. The mis-calibrated gospel that reached me through podcasts and churches and communities over a lifetime had been wreaking havoc on my insides, especially the thread of purity culture.
Meanwhile, during all of this, I was leading a church community through a massive transition — one that did not include meaningful steps towards reconciliation, change, or reorientation.
To make sense of this, I turned to the piano to begin writing songs.
I read from the Nagoski sisters that trauma is carried in the body, and it is through the body that it needs to be released. I wondered what my body might teach me about the stories inside me I need healing from. I let my fingers try out melodies and music on the keyboard in my kids’ playroom to see what would emerge.
At first, what they found were familiar places: hymns and worship songs from my childhood — singable, innocent melodies of faith. Inspired by Audrey Assad’s goosebumps-induced re-write of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, “Your Peace Will Make Us One,” I began looking closer at these old hymns: noticing the places where the language of military strength and might were used in contexts of spirituality, and rewriting them to centre on themes of peace and wholeness. It helped me notice how a dominant thread of power ran like an electric wire through a lot of the faith stories of my youth, and how absent or obscured were the threads of redemption, peace and love that extends to all humankind.
The songs I was writing during this period are part of what helped me navigate, process, endure and make sense of my own needs during the rockiest parts of this transition. I was writing songs daily and weekly for more than a year, letting my fingers on the keys lead me home towards a new knowing. Who was I, underneath these calcified beliefs? What’s next, as I let go of this previous way of being? I have been finding my voice, learning new things, and participating in an active journey of healing.
At first, the songs were just for me. I recorded them on my phone’s voice memo feature, and I would play them for myself, alone. I generated hundreds of voice recordings, all with the chaos of kids in the background, and the melodies of certain songs would float to the surface and get hummed in the kitchen, sung by the kids, shared with the family.
Over the course of more than a year, I began to feel a strong desire to get them recorded in a fuller-fashion, so I brought them to my own workstation to record rough demos of the whole songs. This took time and intention, as a father of four who works full-time, to make the space for even this: I needed a workflow for recording, I need some new cables and gear, I needed to make time in evenings. I would share the finished recordings with my partner, often trembling with the significance of what they were bringing to light. And a new chapter of growth and learning would begin through them.
I began sharing select songs with close friends, and with my counsellor and coach. What happened next surprised me…
They resonated. People said things like:
“My heart sped up, I had goosebumps at the end, and when it finished I left out an exhale that had everything inside loosen up a bit more than usual. It's really beautiful, Kevan, and I think more than that - cathartic in a resonating way with many folks experience. It's powerful because I know your own story - but it’s also powerful because of its connection to other stories.”
I realized I wanted more people I hear them. And this terrified me. It still does.
The demos are deeply personal, giving musical treatment to some of the most vulnerable areas of my life.
They challenge existing norms, in a fashion that some might call blasphemy or heresy.
They reveal “me” to the people who will read and listen, in a deeper way than I have shared before.
I had told myself these songs were just for my own healing, and they were too intimate to be shared externally. Does sharing disrupt the personal healing?
Yet, I’ve realized I’ve reached a place where my healing and growth can only continue if I am sharing in community, My suspicion is that many of us have been suffering in silence with similar themes, and I’m sick of us doing this alone.
And so this is the way. This is the path. The path from healing, through sharing, so that more of us might heal.
So here’s the plan: I’m going to be released one demo every 2 weeks for the year ahead. These are unproduced, home recordings of the full-length songs I’ve been writing. As the songs get shared, I will be working with a professional producer to bring these songs to a format where they can be released on platforms like Spotify, eventually in the form of a full album.
You are already on a journey. You’re plumbing the depths of your own upbringing, you’re asking new questions of the life you are living, you are deeply motivated to tear at the wallpaper and drywall and reveal the structure of the world we’re in, so we can rebuild a healthier reality for our descendants. These are stories and songs from a fellow journeyer, giving voice to what ails us, bringing joy when hope fails us, and making songs that kind of nail us.
I’m asking you to join me if you are a curious person, who can bring compassion and kindness to this work, who is also interested in exploring their own healing journey. If you’re wondering about how we might find a common ground through music, story and each other, I invite you to join this community.
Why pay money?
The reason I’m doing this as a listener-supported, subscriber-powered community, with money involved, is as follows:
This work is some of the most valuable creative work I’ve ever made. It’s deeply personal art and expression. It has value and worth. I invite you to exchange money as a signifier of that value.
“People pay attention to what they pay for.” I am not an advertisement. You are not the product. This is not a social media platform. This is my life’s work. I want your ears and your heart. I want this to be something you’re ready to sit up straight for, put your headphones on for, and let it interact with your own story. I don’t want this to be another optional spam-marketing email in your inbox. I want you to be here for this.
There are real expenses ahead. As I mentioned, I’m beginning to work with a producer this year, to turn these songs into professional recordings for release on streaming platforms. The rate I’ve found will have me paying about $1500 per song. I have more than 40 demos. Through this project, I hope to identify with 12-15 songs have the most resonance with the community, and produce those as a full album. The production costs alone for that add up quickly (at least $22,500). There will be additional costs like travel to the studio (not in my city), promotion as the album finishes. Additionally, the cost of continuing to be involved in the important work of counselling (one does not heal by music projects alone) is real this year, as our family benefits maxes out after 2-3 sessions per year.
There are also human costs. My time will be going into this. I am actively working to write messages like this, re-record demos, upload songs, manage the technical details, which requires not only time away from my big family, but time spent doing the type of authentic, vulnerable, spirit-aligned work that requires a big emotional investment. That’s not insignificant.
That being said, I am extremely motivated to make sure that those who are suffering in silence, experiencing any form of trauma, abuse or neglect as it pertains to religious exploitation, do not have any sort of gate in the way of experiencing content or community that could help the heal. Please send me a message if you’d like access for free, and I’ll make that happen.
Are you here for this?
If you are not here for this, that’s not a problem. I will not be hurt, bothered or insulted if you choose to step away. You can unsubscribe with a simple click.
For many, these themes will simply not resonate. It’s not your journey. It’s simply an irrelevant combination of ideas, where music and and healing and religion do not intersect with where you are at or what you need. No problem leaving.
For others, it might be too painful, or even offensive, to stay close to themes like this. That’s okay. Feel free to sign off.
For some of you, you simply and literally did not sign up for this. You signed up for an earlier version of a Kevan Gilbert mailing list that had different content and different expectations. If this pivot surprises you and you do not desire to come along, I release you. You can take your name off the list.
I hope that if you choose to stay, it is with full intentionality and awareness of the journey ahead.
I ask this for me. I want folks to stick around who are committed to staying curious and bringing compassion. I don’t want trolls or bullies (not that any of you would be), I don’t want folks who will gaslight or deny the experiences and work I’m sharing here. I welcome open questions, switched-on wondering and active learning. Bring your curiosity, pain, uncertainty, tenderness, compassion, hopefulness, hurt.
If you’re here for that, I’m here for that.
Join a group of wonderers and wanderers
You are not alone. Other people are asking questions, revisiting their traditions, laying down their swords. I envision a community of readers and listeners who wonder what’s next, who feel in their hearts that change is emerging, and are ready to be part of a journey of healing together, where music and story and community plays a big role.