Re-Introducing Crooked Forest (the website) and Neither Could Dylan (the artist)

It’s Saturday April 16th, 2022 and I almost can’t even believe it.

The last two years since starting this project and officially beginning to release music under this name in 2020 has been a whirlwind to say the least and it feels time not only to just quickly revisit some of what’s all gone down but to take a moment to revisit how we want to approach the years to come.

If any of this blog sounds repetitive, then hey, you’ve been here a minute! Thanks for sticking around.

Where We Were

I started Crooked Forest in early 2020 but things didn’t really start to get under way until late April 2020, and then didn’t REALLY start rockin’ until the release of A Quiet Place To Scream on my 30th birthday in July.

All the while I’d been grappling with a number of things: how to explain the point of this project, how to explain why I do things in the way I do them, and how to garner enough attention on what I’m doing to make a real impact in the areas I most want to see change in.

All of these things are a challenge for even the best of social marketing teams, and after these last two years I can tell you they are an absolute nightmare for someone running it all solo.

It wasn’t long before hate mail starting pouring into my channels and so I found myself writing a lengthy disclaimer to help those who weren’t fully paying attention to every little thing that I was doing at the time. This is no fault of theirs, it is a fault of mine.

You can read that disclaimer still, it’s never been removed from my website:

In fact I’ve rarely removed any of my content for sake of full transparency. I’m not trying to pull one over on you at any point here.

As much as beginning this band was for me to finally actualize my lifelong dream of recording a professional studio album of my own work after spending so much time and energy working on other artists’ work instead, it rarely is ever about just 1 thing for me – I don’t have that type of focus.

I spent much of 2020 thinking about my life and the world I grew up in and the world I was now viewing, almost for the first time with clear eyes, around me now as an adult.

And so there have been a few things on my mind that were all fighting for equal attention:

  • Racism is running rampant worldwide again (did it ever go away? Unlikely, JJ).
  • Women get treated like garbage in the Canadian music industry (you have several examples of this, JJ!)
  • You need to take care of yourself first before you take care of others (I separated and ultimately divorced my husband during this year and decided to quit drinking – hopefully for good)
  • Everyone always pushes the most expensive gear, the most expensive rates, for something like tracking a little EP, and so many people over complicate the art of recording for.. reasons. (You could help with this JJ, you used to teach a little!)
  • Sometimes the only way to get attention is to light a literal fire (but that fire can hit other houses, JJ, so be careful, there).
  • So many people still lack absolute basic needs like water and shelter and here you are humming around about recording studios (you gotta prioritize things better and get your head in check).

Suffice to say it was challenging at the best of times to know what to put my attention directly to, all the while working a full-time job and otherwise, genuinely doing my best to keep my own head clear, my mind and body as healthy as possible while I worked out what I was really trying to do here.

Those types of thoughts have fuelled and funnelled through my social media channels and projects ever since they entered my head.

And since I was constantly thinking about the best ways to run this project, the project kept changing. So let’s talk about some of those changes.

Where We Are

It’s been clear for some time to me that my rough-around-the-edges scrappy tweets were not the best way to shine light on the types of issues I wanted to talk about. These lead to some pretty wild written attacks against me and in opposition of my views, and most of the time it appeared as thought the people who felt so wronged by what I said to then go on and attack me were… completely missing the scope of what I was saying and actually attacking someone attempting to help.

Sarcasm, as it turns out, really does not translate well to Twitter at all and people just love to pile on a dumpster fire.

Jokes, as they turn out, don’t even translate well to comedians who should be a little better versed in this department – I digress.

And this has all been quite a sore spot for me personally because for much of the last 2 years this has been my only outlet into the world, to communicate ideas to other people and try to work towards accomplishing some of my goals.

When I say that I don’t have anyone to bounce these ideas of of anymore, I really mean it. Over the last 2 years, absolutely everyone I’ve ever considered a friend “in the real world” with the exception of maybe 1 have dropped off the planet.

Some of this had to do with deciding to get sober and stay away from certain people, some to do with my divorce and cutting ties with people that otherwise came into my life from my exes side of things, some of this, I assume, had to do with my social media marketing strategies, and some of course just got too busy with their own lives and we’ve moved in different directions – whatever the reason, the only thing I know is that I appeared to be falling very off track with my internal mission which was ultimately to bring difficult subjects to light and facilitate conversations around them using music as the medium.

Because here I was, the most alone I’d ever been, and only after beginning this project did all of that come to a head.

I’ve thought multiple times over the last 2 years that I’m not the right person for this type of, for lack of a better word, activism, and I can own that wholly.

And so I keep finding myself mentally running back and fourth from my other initial mission statement, the one that was really more about me than it was anyone or anything else.

Re-Introducing Neither Could Dylan

Before I stumbled upon Poland’s Crooked Forest, I was working under a different name entirely.

I called what I was doing back in February-April 2020 “Neither Could Dylan”.

Sometime in the winter of 2019 I had a really funny experience.

I was home alone with my dog and for the first time truly in a while, not at all minding my alone time, not at all concerned about where my husband might be or what my friends were up to. I was watching lots of films and shows I was genuinely interested in and I’d begun revisiting a lot of my favourite bands and records in a more focused, intentional way. I’d even begun singing along to them and on one of those nights I belted out along to them, for the first time truly having a big wide open space to myself where nobody could hear me sing and so, I could enjoy it. I sang without fear and for one of the first times in my life as the record I was listening to repeated itself, I had the realization I was actually singing in tune perhaps for the first time.

It was such a strange realization to me that I stopped the track that was playing to start it from the beginning and try again.

And I felt it. It felt right. I wasn’t sure if I was absolutely in tune and in fact I’m almost sure I wasn’t, but I was in the ball park for the first time comfortably and this was brand new territory for me, despite having previously played in bands and been the lead singer of at least 1 in my teens.

And that feeling in that moment was enough to keep going – in fact I was disappointed when my husband eventually came home and spoiled my little party.

But every day I found myself with the house to myself I’d do this, until eventually in February I had the sudden inclination to pick up my guitars again that were collecting dust in the spare room and pull out a piece of paper and write down some words that came out as lyrics.

And I probably wrote 4-5 songs within a week or so when that happened. And then like 20 more in the month that’d follow.

And on March 16th I’d begin working from home and find myself with even more time to myself in a big house with no one to hear me while I built “Neither Could Dylan”.

Neither Could Dylan: The Early Weeks

I didn’t really spend much time thinking about what to name my new “band” which, at the time I knew was just me but I was hopeful I’d be able to wrangle together some other local musicians to fill out the other instruments I’d need to bring it to fruition.

It came to me more as a conversation to myself as I was thinking about what would be the “point” of promoting my music.

Because that’s the thing about music – you can just create it for yourself, or you can share it with the world. But if you share it with the world there has to be a reason for it, right? Even if that reason is just to try and play the world’s biggest and best stages.

That may have been the reason behind beginning to play shows with my first band, just to get out and play and see if we could “make it” like so many of our idols did, but it was pretty clear to me from the outset that wasn’t the reason behind this one for me.

Because when you’ve already been so beat down by the music industry like I’d been so many times before, when you decide to jump back into the pool at 30 you’ve gotta really think about what you’re subjecting yourself to, especially as a woman.

At the base of it all, I’d suddenly written some songs and felt in some way confident enough in my voice that I didn’t totally hate hearing it back on a recording (iPhone voice memos back then), knew I was making gradual improvements and wanted to share some stories with people who might find themselves feeling a little like me sometimes.

And the things I feel sometimes are: nobody cares about me, nobody wants to hear what I have to say, what I have to say is not as important as what someone else has to say, I am not as talented as (x), I will never be a superstar like (x), I don’t matter.

And the goal of Neither Could Dylan was to reverse that thought process.

Because I hate when I feel those things and I don’t want other people to ever feel those same things. There is absolutely no benefit to these types of thoughts and more than that, I don’t believe them to be fundamentally true.

What It Means

Neither Could Dylan is more a phrase than it is a name and that’s by design. As I bounced these types of thoughts and ideas back and fourth in my own mind in hurried conversation with myself I kept coming back to the experience that led me to finally have a morsel of confidence enough in my own voice to eventually share even just a simple cover song with the world.

I spent years and years telling myself I couldn’t sing, that I was a really shitty singer and there was no way anybody could possibly enjoy the sound of my own voice and this, I felt, was the basis for my first band never getting off the ground – the one I began putting together in high school.

And it didn’t matter that so many of my favourite bands and singers sounded like absolutely shit when they sang because they were men playing pop-punk and punk rock and vocal talent didn’t matter for them the same way it matters for other genres or for women.

There are different rules for some of us in this industry and that’s an unfortunate truth that has gone overlooked or ignored since the industries inception – but thats a whole other thing.

When I was trying to give myself the courage to share my new songs with friends knowing that the step afterwards would be to perform them live and share them publicly with strangers, it took some time.

While I worked on developing that courage for original work, I settled into a couple cover songs – that seemed safer.

And all the while I had to remind myself that so many of my favourite singers were shitty singers.

They were really really shitty singers for years.

Some of them never grew into their voice.

Some of them used this to their advantage and it became their sound.

And I had to remind myself that to me what always was more important than a songwriters vocal ability was their songwriting – what were they actually saying and if it resonated with me.

One of the world’s most famous songwriters of all time was touted for years as being one of the worst vocalists of his entire generation. He’s one of my favourite songwriters, too.

“Jaimee, you might not be able to sing as well as you’d like to yet, but neither could Bob Dylan”.

And that’s how I came up with the name and that became the mantra I’d tell myself whenever I wasn’t feeling confident in myself.

And that’s very much how I approach music, especially when I’m teaching any part of it to other people as has come up over the years in some capacity or another.

“Don’t worry if you can’t play the riff to Dammit by Blink 182 perfectly yet, remember that video of Tom Delonge playing it and fucking it up so much? And he WROTE it!”

“Don’t worry if you don’t know any scales on your guitar, some people never learn any music theory.”

“Don’t worry if your mix doesn’t sound great yet, it takes most people years to become proficient in music mixing.”

And that phrase sort of sat in the back of my mind all this time, continuing to be that little voice that pushes me along every day, even when I decided to nix the name and jump into Crooked Forest instead I’d regularly question the decision, because ultimately the purpose or mission behind “Crooked Forest” was a little different than Neither Could Dylan.

If Neither Could Dylan was the empowering little angel on your shoulder that supports your through everything because it’s patient and understands the most important thing about achieving your goals is to keep pushing towards them despite obstacles, then Crooked Forest was the asshole devil on the other side that says, “fuck it, this isn’t happening fast enough and nobody’s listening so maybe we need to be louder even if we lose a few friends in the process”.

They both have the same goals but wildly different approaches.

Who We Are Now

And so after careful consideration and reconsideration it seems to me it’s beyond time to hang up the Crooked Forest (the band) hat and return to the reason we are here at all to begin with.

In all the chaos that has happened during the creation of Crooked Forest leading up to the release of The Clearing, (and boy has it been chaotic), I still have a fondness for the name and what it stands for.

But Crooked Forest is not and has never been a band and it’s time to do away with the charade. It’s a place, a meeting of the multiple personalities that make up my creative endeavours if you will, and that’s what it’ll remain.

This website will remain the central place to branch out and keep tabs of all the different work I do, including short stories, poems and other creative writing as it happens, but The Clearing is the first and last official record for this musical project.

And I don’t quite know what to do with the twitter page yet but it feels like it’s about high time to turn those tides as well.

I’ll be continuing to work on the Jaimee Eat World project (more details on this new format to come in a different blog post because wow am I ever wordy), with scheduled weekly releases, and I’m otherwise looking to gig some acoustic solo shows of my work so far wherever I can find a stage, and slowly I’ll be beginning the first or what I hope to be several Neither Could Dylan albums.

Feel free to subscribe to this blog to stay most up to date because I’ll probably fall off some of the other channels slowly as this new-old direction gets underway.

A Final Thought

I grapple a lot with if I am just beating myself over the head every time I say this but I do want to offer one final thought about the last couple years and my role in all the things I have had to deal with during them.

My Crooked Forest moniker was always intended to be unapologetically honest to best serve the interest of my project(s) but, as it is a moniker, that’s just not who I am as a person and I am constantly at odds with things I have said and why I’ve chosen to say them in the way I have.

I am entirely too aware that words matter. Even when they’re not intended to be hurtful, they absolutely can hurt.

At times I found myself unabashedly saying things that I very much knew could be taken negatively – some of them were meant to.

And that sucks, I know.

As justified as it can feel in the moment it’s never the way to resolve any sort of conflict or have any sort of truly civil discourse and I believe that to my core. At the best of times it just serves to further instigate and perpetuate more problems – I’ve got loads of examples of that, now, too.

So I want to once again apologize to any and all of you that at any point felt you were in the line of fire.

I am very sorry and you did not deserve that.

If you ever want to talk about it further, my inbox is always open (jaimee @ crookedforest . ca) but I understand entirely if you’d rather never deal with or hear fro me again.

I’d love to end this post by saying I’ve learned a lot in these last couple years and that it’s made me a better person in some way but, that’s not exactly true and I know I still have a lot of work to do.

Thanks for sticking this out with me if you do; When I first started creating and releasing music again I did so knowing full well it might not reach any ears outside of my own, so I also just want to quickly say thanks to anyone who has taken the time to listen to any of my songs or read any of these tremendously long blog posts.

Okay, have a great rest of your weekend and… that’s it for CF (the band).

Listen to The Clearing for free in full on my YouTube channel:

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