Kari Kirkland stands on a narrow platform high above the ground. As a trapeze instructor, her job is to convince students to jump off that platform. Kari says that's especially difficult for people whose jobs require them to stay in control. But when it comes to her musical career, Kari needs a bit of coaxing herself to let go.
Want to learn more about the musicians in this episode of Day Job?
Kari Kirkland and Seamus McLoughlin perform together as "Great and Small"
Tracks used: Waiting In The Sea
Want to learn flying trapeze?
Find out more at the Emerald City Trapeze Arts website.
You’re listening to Day Job. It’s a podcast about what musicians are doing when they’re not making music: they’re making a living.
This is episode 5.
KIRKLAND: "Whatever happens up here, I’ve got you. Don’t worry, I’ve got you. Do you feel my knuckles in your back? Do you feel my hand around you? Do you feel that? You don’t have to think anymore. Just listen. All you have to do is listen. I will take care of the rest."
DAYJOB: "What do you do in a day?"
KIRKLAND: "Well, uh, I teach flying trapeze."
MUSIC: “I Know What Fear Is.”
AMBIENCE FROM CLASS: So as soon as you lean out, I’m going to bring the bar up. Okay? You’ve got this. So lean out. Lean out with your belly?
KIRKLAND: There’s a steel bar suspended by two wires. And it is pulled back into the student’s hand by a metal hook.
AMBI: 'There we go. Okay, so I want you to lean out and grab that bar. I’ve got you.' ‘Oh my god, I’m the one who’s afraid of heights!’
KIRKLAND: "So in that moment, they are a spring. They are a spring, ready to be released. And we say 'hep.' And that’s their moment to jump off the platform."
AMBI: 'Second hand on. I’ve got you, Stephanie.' ‘You’ve got me?’ I’ve got you. Push your bootie away. ‘I don’t even know your name!’ 'It’s Kari.' ‘Ok, where do I put my other hand?’ 'Right next to Brian.' ‘She’s going to guide you, just listen to her.’
KIRKLAND: "And I can pick out the people in my classes who are used to doing jobs that have them be in control. I mean, you could hear me up there with that girl, and yeah, she works with foster kids, she is in charge of keeping people safe. And so to allow herself to become, in her mind, unsafe and out of control, is the most dangerous thing for her to do."
AMBI: 'Bend your knees. Hep. Jump off.'
KIRKLAND: "To take that jump, to take that leap off means for them to let go, of everything that’s holding them back. And that’s why trapeze is so transformative."
AMBI: 'Jump! Hep!' (scream) 'I have you! You’re doing fantastic! I’m holding on to the rope! Nothing can happen to you! Nice pointing toes. Okay Stephanie, when I say ready you bend your knees.' ‘I don’t think so!’ 'Just try to bend your legs - you’re doing fantastic.' ‘No no no!’ Swinging ambi.
MUSIC: “I Know What Fear Is”
Hear the woman’s voice in the background?
That’s Kari Kirkland.
She composed the song with her friend Seamus.
They perform under the name Great and Small.
But Seamus always sings the lead.
Kari has a fear of the spotlight.
KIRKLAND: “Honestly, I still struggle with that. I’m a musician who is more comfortable being a flying trapeze instructor than letting someone listen to my music. The other side of that, the funny flip side of that – put me on a Karaoke stage – I’ll sing all night. I don’t care. It’s someone else’s stuff. But when I put my stuff out there – it’s definitely like – oh, crap.”
That’s surprising, when you know Kari’s background.
Because she’s the daughter of travelling musicians.
As a baby, she slept in a guitar case
while her parents criss-crossed Canada from music gig to music gig.
But her family wasn’t a healthy place to grow up.
KIRKLAND: “My dad has a lot of crazy in him and he would up and say, ‘okay, we’re going here… tomorrow.’ And so you never really knew… am I going to be in school for awhile, or am I going to be homeschooled for awhile? Is it going to be two weeks here, is it going to be three days there? It was just hand to mouth, it was literally hand to mouth lifestyle. And it was very difficult.”
Kari left home at age 16.
At 19, she formed a band.
The band decided to put on a big concert.
KIRKLAND: “I had never performed in front of an audience before.”
They packed a big Vancouver club with friends and supporters.
A music magazine showed up to interview them.
The band came out in ridiculous outfits.
KIRKLAND: "I was gonna be kind of like Gwen Stefani and have this big wild mane of hair and punky and there was nothing good about it at all."
But the people in the audience were their friends, and so they cheered when the band came out on stage. And then, they sat back and watched one of the worse train wrecks of a performance any of them had ever seen.
KIRKLAND: "And nothing’s tight… and I sang so quietly and the mic was so hot that it was feeding back…"
The guitarist seemed to think he was a guitar god.
KIRKLAND: "And we looked around and you can see in the eyes of your band mates on stage going - oh Jesus, this is not good, this is not good. And therefore everybody starts to melt a little bit. And you’re like argh, can we just get through it please."
The audience grew more and more quiet.
KIRKLAND: "And then, by the end of the second or third song it was like clap – clap – clap. It was terrible."
Her mom had come out to see the show.
She tried to offer Kari some emotional support.
But Kari had already made up her mind about the performance.
KIRKLAND: "I actually stepped on the video and burned it. Got rid of it. I didn’t want anyone to ever see it again. It was so bad."
MUSIC: “Change It If I Could”
That performance was a long time ago.
But Kari still remembers clearly how afraid she felt.
When everything spiraled out of her control.
That knowledge makes her an empathetic trapeze instructor.
AMBI FROM TRAPEZE CLASS.
KIRKLAND: "Some people who instruct are all about the business. All about the business of let’s get them hooked in, let’s get them off the platform because that leaves them less time to be afraid. I subscribe to that, but at the same time, I prefer to let people walk through that fear, rather than around it. So I tend to have people up on the platform with me a little bit longer. I like to let them take a breath, I like them to feel how high they are."
AMBI FROM TRAPEZE CLASS – ‘Stay right there. You’re doing great.’ ‘Hey Honey, this is nervewracking’ ‘You’re going to be holding on to me when I lean forward?’ ‘I’ve got you right now. Do you feel my knuckles in your back?”
Kari got married recently.
To the owner of Emerald City Trapeze Arts.
KIRKLAND: “And we flew, before the wedding. Gary, my husband, caught me. I flew in a tiny little white tutu. It was rhinestones and blinged out, it was amazing.”
Kari says it’s been good to be near someone who sees her potential.
She says he challenges her.
Reminds her it’s okay to take risks.
And she’s learning, slowly, to accept his praise.
At the end of our interview, Kari let me strap a microphone to her arm.
DUCT TAPE AMBI
Then she climbed the ladder
grabbed the bar,
stepped off the platform.
MUSIC: “Waiting In The Sea For You.”
Kari Kirkland’s music can be kind of hard to find.
She performs under so many different names.
But we have a link to her music at Northwester.org.
You’ll find her solo work, plus her work with Seamus McGloughlin under the name “Great and Small.”
We also have a slideshow of Kari and her trapeze students at Emerald City Trapeze Arts.
If you liked this episode, please post about us on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Pinterest, wherever you hang out online.
Many of you have helped tell others about Day Job already –
And I thank you for that.
But a podcast has to develop strong roots– if it’s going to survive.
And so, we need to reach more listeners.
But I think we have something good to offer them.
Because in the end, Day Job is not just about work and music.
There is also… an unspoken question:
How do we resolve the tension
between who we are
and who we want to be.
For Day Job and northwester dot org, I’m Joshua McNichols.
I’ll be back with a new episode in a few weeks.