Making an album doesn't only mean playing and recording music and working only with musicians. You need an album cover, interior art, design and layout, photos, the whole 9 yards. I have been blessed to be a part of a community that has so many artists, and I am proud to announce that my good friend, Tegan James, has completed what will become the cover art for the album!
I can't exactly say when I met Tegan. Tegan is a bit shy, and frankly so am I, but slowly over time our friendship began to grow. Tegan has been very active in the community of Addiction Recovery, and we came to know each other over time through Tegan's efforts with groups like the Wharf Rats, providing a safe space for people in recovery to dance and celebrate live music events. I've come to make many friends in recovery thanks to these efforts, and it was through a very special mutual friend that my friendship with Tegan was truly forged.
Ed Barcellona, or "Big Ed" as everyone affectionately knew him, came into my life near the end stage of his own. Every show he came to you could see the ravages of cancer slowly taking his body, but it never took the smile from his face. Big Ed showed a love that only a rare few are even capable of radiating. He made me feel like coming to see us play music was the single greatest thing on earth he could be doing. No matter how empty I could feel in a moment, simply looking at Big Ed would fill my heart. He became the inspiration for my song, Crooked Tree. Though he was clearly beaten and weathered by the harshness of life, he always stood tall to inspire those around him. His "scars of heavy winds and when the lightning tore his soul" were always evident. But it was always "love that he sowed", and "every seed of his eternal warmth reminds me that I must grow". All I needed was to know Ed to write Crooked Tree, and that will forever be a blessing to me. Eventually Ed would be confined to a hospital bed, and Tegan and I began to share words of comfort over time as Ed was slowly drifting away. Ed was a very spiritual person, as is Tegan, and at the time I most certainly was not. I was only in my beginning stages of beginning to open my heart. On my last visit Tegan warned me that most of Ed was gone and he might not wake up, and if he did he likely wouldn't recognize me. I held Ed's hand and quietly sat with him. Suddenly Ed woke up and turned his head towards me, a completely gray lifeless body with pale gray eyes suddenly filled with radiant color and I hugged him so tight when he pulled me in and said "Mike, from now on I'm gonna be at every one of your shows". And as he let go he returned to the pale lifeless gray, waiting his turn for God to take him home. Tegan and I hugged and cried, and Tegan asked if I would share in prayer. And there in that moment I felt God for the first time in my life. All my life up to this point I felt so resentful towards God for lost loved ones, lost opportunities, loss...... But at this moment I felt the love because Ed told me he'd be with me at every show of mine, and I believe him because he is. But that affirmation made me realize if a stranger I'd only come to know in his final years would be with me everywhere I go, then so are the spirits of all I lost. They are with me, they are in me, they guide me, they are me. I carry that badge with one hell of a load of pride. What a gift. All this, thanks to the friendship and kindness of Tegan. What a gift!
I'm sure those of you that read these blogs realize by now I can tend to be wordy. Rest assured these artists are worth every one. Tegan James the artist is every bit as deep and multifaceted as Tegan James the person. Tegan's art raises questions. Tegan's art raises awareness. Tegan's art bears an entire heart and throws it on the ground before you and says "here, take from it what you will, stomp it if you must, but I am not ashamed of who I am". Tegan's art visualizes the feelings of addiction, the feelings of self doubt, the feelings of questioning, the feelings of anger and resentment towards a world that just refuses to be open hearted. But Tegan's art always includes a feeling of empowerment, a feeling affirmation, a feeling of openness, and a feeling of love of both self and others. Tegan's signature Heart design encapsulates everything you ever need to know about life in one simple design, and I am proud it hangs on my bedroom wall.
As a staunch member and supporter of the LGBTQ community you can find Tegan all over Asbury Park showing support and using art to further a world of inclusivity and love for all. Tegan's art questions sexuality and visualizes the internal pains that people in the LGBTQ community feel. Tegan teaches that in the end gender is irrelevant to love. We are all souls with such high purpose, a purpose well beyond the simple meatsuits we wear on our journey of enlightenment. Souls searching for love will find love regardless of the genetic programming of said meatsuit they may be wearing. It's high time we as society spend more currency on nurturing our souls and less on fighting about who's meatsuits are better than others.
As a recovery advocate Tegan has helped me through my sobriety from alcohol, but most importantly as a friend Tegan has been there for me in low times and celebrated with me during the highs. It doesn't matter if you're a stranger or a close friend, if you need someone who understands and is willing to help, Tegan's hand is always there reaching out.
The album cover for Send The Flowers has a truly deep meaning to me. And while I'm usually an open book, this one is just for me. What I knew is I wanted Tegan to be the one to paint it, and I am so honored to formally grace a Tegan James Art piece as the cover of Send The Flowers. The irony is what I was asking for probably took Tegan into unchartered territory as an artist and while I can easily explain things pretty well musically, artistically I speak like a child. "More red maybe.......or maybe less red..... can you make it less colorful, but with more color??" Yeah, Tegan is a SAINT! Well, if a Saint is someone who watches over you and is always there for you then Tegan truly is a Saint. Most importantly Tegan is my friend, and for that I am blessed. I can't wait to reveal the cover once all is completed, I am so proud of what Tegan created for me! Stay tuned!
Get to know Tegan's art through the links below, and also learn about Tegan's passion in supporting the local artist community in Asbury Park, NJ as well as the trans community: