Radio Silence in Cuba: Digitally Disconnecting

sol-cayo-santa-maria-resort-beach-ocean Last month, I flew off to Cuba to immerse myself in sun, sand, and most importantly, radio silence for seven full and glorious days.

Life had been feeling like a knotted ball of stress and my phone wouldn’t stop blowing up with endless emails, texts and other things that pinged.

Something had to be done to quiet both my mind and the CrackBerry, and it had to be done now!  (Hm, does this call for social media hibernation sound familiar to you?)

Well, during those seven days, I was on the internet for a mind-blowing total of — wait for it — ONE hour. On the resort, one might typically find me sitting alone at the beach bar with a strawberry slushy in hand, quietly gazing off into the white sands with a peaceful twinkle in my eye.

I didn’t want parties and I didn’t want to gorge myself in all-you-can-eat-and-drink madness. Taking in the beautiful, concrete-less scenery or having a good conversation with one of the resort staff to learn more Spanish or about Cuban life were all that my little ol’ heart desired.

Time inched by at an insanely slow speed.  It was magical.


The view while sipping on my daily dose of java. Morning coffees have never tasted quite the same *sniff*  

When I returned home, I was thrown into the merciless clutches of The Evil That Is Bronchitis. I quarantined myself indoors for the next several days, slowly gaining energy but never enough to emerge into The Outside World.

It was honestly a blessing in disguise. Because I don’t think I was mentally prepared to jump back into what – after Cuba – felt like a dizzyingly fast-paced, highly-connected lifestyle.

Our (okay, my) obsession with digital communication has been something that I’ve wrestled with over the past few years.  At times I’ve been a complete social media junkie; at others, I’ve wanted to Hail Mary my phone into the far reaches of Black Space.

But while Cuba served as a much-needed reminder to slow down, disconnect and get back to that thing called human interaction, it also taught me another unexpected lesson.

What I hadn’t realized before my beach getaway was how much at the opposite end of the digital-connectivity spectrum the Cuban people are situated at.  (Here’s an article by Mashable that will give you the quick low-down).

I met a few very awesome people who worked at the resort, but the option to ask: “Can I have your email?” was absent for all those I wanted to keep in touch with but one.

And while my digitalized brain had completely forgotten about that other mode of communication (snail mail, anyone?), I discovered upon my return that even sending a letter to Cuba is a highly unreliable venture.

Our ability in North America to effortlessly connect with our family, friends and people we’ve just met and want to grow a connection with was something I had come to take for granted.  It was only after my trip that I realized how lucky we truly are to have such easy access to the digital world.

That being said, I still believe we need to find an everyday balance between total radio silence and becoming a slave to the CrackBerry.  What say you?

Do you ever take time to disconnect?  Can you call it a “real vacation” if you’ve been glued to your phone/laptop the whole time? 

– Cafe <3

P.S. If you’ve been frequenting the cafe, you might be wondering whether Your Daily Dose is going through an identity crisis! Catch up here to find out where I’m at in my blogging exploits.

A great post on digitally disconnecting (or not): Consciously Disconnecting: The Case for Putting Down Your iPhone
And another excellent read on plugging out while traveling:  Turn off, plug out, drop in
Photo Credit: Trip Advisor

Janice on Song Talk Radio! And Twitter!


Hey cafe goers!

So I’ve been fluttering around the big ‘ol Twitterverse lately, doing some live tweeting for a local university radio show called Song Talk Radio.

I’m so in love with the show because it’s all about exploring one of my favourite things in the entire world — ah, no, not fine, single malt scotch, but close(!) — songwriting!

I was actually a guest on Song Talk Radio last month and played a few of my originals (including a new song, “Dance Without Judgement”, live in studio)!  The best part about Song Talk is actually being able to discuss the songwriting process in an intelligent and interesting way — as you know I love to do ;)

And that’s because the hosts — Phil, Bruce and Neel — are so knowledgable about the vast world of music that I often feel like I’ve been living under a very heavy rock.  Plus, they’ve got the kind of laid-back, witty banter going on that has hooked me into hanging out with them every week to tweet for the show!

So here’s the podcast with my Song Talk Radio interview if you want to actually hear the voice behind this blog :)

If you’re also chirping away on Twitter, come join me for the live chat: @SongTalkRadio!  I’ll actually be tweeting in about an hour from now (Monday at 7 pm EST)! [Note: Song Talk is now on Tuesdays at 7!]

And here’s my personal Twitter nest that has a fully-functional coffee machine so we can continue our caffeine-induced chats no matter where we are!: @JaniceHoTweets

See you in Twitter Land! :)

– Cafe <3

“Ghost Town”

Your heart’s a ghost town
Drive by baby, ain’t a soul to be found
Think there’s a hole in your chest
‘Cause the beating’s at rest
Let me give you a temporary fix
To start it up again

– Cafe <3


This was my second collaboration with The Butcher (check out the first one here).

I insisted that we make this a duet — he has one of my favourite voices ever.  Thanks to today’s digitally-connected world, a guy from Germany and a girl from Canada can do just that :)

— The Songwriting Process —

Lyrics: I sent The Butcher my first attempt at the lyrics back in January 2014 — Verse 1 (which hasn’t changed) and a Chorus.

The original Chorus was the lyric you see above, which included lines from another song I had been writing called “Temporary Fix”. However, once putting it to music, I realized that there were too many syllables and it didn’t sing well.

The Butcher loved it overall though and wanted me to “explain the pictures” so he could better understand what the lyric was about to help finish writing it (English isn’t his first language).

So, I went through some of the images, like: “Got a thing or two that you could say ’bout that empty feeling standing in your grave” is about him being physically alive but his soul feeling “dead” — and knowing this feeling all too well in his life.

Drive by baby, ain’t a soul to be found“, for me, evoked this image of the singer driving around inside his heart, which looked like a barren, dusty ghost town — the kind you see in those Western movies.

From there, The Butcher added a Verse 2; but later on, he expressed that the lyrics would feel “more like one” if I wrote all of it. I did keep most of his revision of the Chorus though and Verse 2 ended up being a mix of both of our ideas.

Overall, I tried not to obsess too much with the lyrics. This song is mostly about creating a particular feeling and mood: mystery, sadness, and a hint of sensuality.

Music: Soon after sending The Butcher my initial Verse + Chorus, he got inspired to record some guitar + melody ideas.

I loved the vibe, but it wasn’t until May that we picked back up with the song. At that point, The Butcher sent another recording that was much closer to the final melody.

His vision was to use synths, strings and beats to create an “eerie” sound for the song. In June, he had an instrumental to work off of that sounds close to the final version.

I finally started recording some vox and we went back and forth discussing where the melody needed to be tweaked. The Butcher threw the best snippets from both of our multiple vocal tracks to come up with an idea of how “Ghost Town” could sound. It was an exciting moment to hear the potential!

The Butcher also “had a guy” who wanted to try some electronic beats, and the talented Unklang ended up with the percussion, plus some strings and mixing creds on the track.

Finally, although The Butcher wasn’t sure that singing together was the best thing for the song, I was determined to see my vision of a “duet” through. So I asked him to piece together our tracks in the arrangement I imagined and in September 2014 …

“Ghost Town” was laid to rest!

Okay, it was really done in November with the final mix :)

Lessons Learned: Open communication is always number one in a collaboration. For example, the Butcher didn’t hesitate to tell me that my initial Chorus melody needed more movement. That led to the soaring notes of “Your heart’s a gho—st to—wn” and less spacing between the Chorus lines, which I think worked much better.

We also came to an agreement that we would each focus more on our strengths — me on the lyrics and him on the music. But we also constantly gave each other feedback on our ideas — this allowed the song to progress, plus we were able to push each other past any mental blocks we were experiencing with our parts.

The Art of Collaboration

The first time I collaborated with someone on writing a song together was about a month and a half into my songwriting journey, just over a year ago.

It was such a nerve-wrecking idea that I would be adding my own creation to someone’s else’s creation in the hopes of making it bigger and better!

Well, I have to say that partnering up with Adam Boddy was just about the best introduction I could have asked for to the art of collaborating.

What makes an awesome collaboration partner?  Someone who is a good communicator and responsive (in terms of timeliness and giving constructive feedback), as well as encouraging and honest. It also helped that we both just happened to be on the same page about a lot of things!

It doesn’t always come that easy though.

Some of you have heard our song “For Simone” before but I’m putting it up now as I’m currently into a new collaboration and needing to find some inspiration somewhere! Anywhere!

I guess it’s this way with anything in life — sometimes you have to work with people who maybe don’t do things the way you normally do.  And you’re given a challenging task and could use all the encouragement and feedback that you can get … but, instead, there is silence on the other end.  [Cue the cricket chirp].

Well, we can always learn something from the experience though and use it to better our half of being a collaborative partner.  Always a silver lining to everything!

Have you ever had a challenging collaboration that you worked your way through?

– Cafe <3

“Phoenix Rising”

In the dark corner of my life
I hide in my shell
Escaping the stabs of your blade
But they still penetrate
Keep cutting me down.

Try to run, you won’t let me run
Pull me back into hell
Drowning fast into emptiness
I can’t see myself
You’re cutting me down.

But hold on, it’s not over yet
I will rescue what’s left
This crumpled heap of dreams
Will be rebuilt, redeemed
The fearful whisper that was my voice
Will echo loudly through the noise.

I will rise out of the fire
You can burn down alone
I am free
I’m finally free.

– Cafe <3


This is an original song of mine that started out as a 1+1 (just voice and guitar).

Once “The Butcher” — my songwriting friend from Germany — stepped into the picture as a collaborator, it soared to another level that I could have never achieved on my own.