Brian Michael Tracy doesn’t know why he was drawn to poetry at a young age. At around 10 or 11 years old, he would write with a flashlight at night covered by a sheet. Life took him away from poetry for awhile, but 13 years ago he started practicing yoga when it started to flow back to him.
“A poem came into my head whole,” said Tracy when he came out of meditation. “I went downstairs and wrote it out, and haven’t stopped writing since.”
But instead of collecting his poetry into a book, Tracy, a former Manhattan Beach resident, collaborated with musicians, including the South Bay’s Renee Safier and Andy Hill, on what he calls “rock poetry.” The first album, “Midnight Tea,” featured poems and songs alternating throughout the album with a narrative and arc. For his second album, “Blackbird Ballads: Poetry & Music in Three Acts,” Tracy “stumbled upon the notion of weaving the songs and poetry together.
“It’s breaking open the songs and pouring poetry inside ... using only partial songs, maybe half a song, maybe two-thirds of a song, and creating a narrative … and it’s improvisational, like a jazz or jam band,” Tracy said.
“The Mystical Prism of Being,” Tracy’s third album, features his poetry juxtaposed with classic rock like The Beatles “Across the Universe,” Sting’s “Sister Moon” and Van Morrison’s “Inarticulate Speech of My Heart,” among others. The album also features Marty Rifkin, a Bruce Springsteen collaborator who also produced the album, as well as musicians Dave Batti and Edoardo Tancredi. All five musicians will perform Sunday, April 10, at Live at the Lounge in Hermosa Beach for Tracy’s CD release party.
“I think what we’ve stumbled upon is a unique way, kind of a wrinkle to tell story,” Tracy said. “It’s storytelling, but it’s done in a way that I don’t hear anyone else doing it. I think it’s something that I kind of stumbled upon in terms of my desire to expand the boundaries of poetry.”
Safier said that “The Mystical Prism of Being” is one of her favorite CDs, out of 14, that she and long-time partner Hill have recorded.
“Working with Brian and creating the musical structure to surround his beautiful words is both challenging and extremely fulfilling,” she said. “We have to create a balance between the spoken words and music such that they play off each other in a way that elevates them both.”
Growing up Catholic in Boston, Tracy said “The Mystical Prism of Being” started out as poetry, with titles such as “A Virgin Birth,” “Out Last Supper,” and “Original Sin,” about his own interpretations of Christian metaphors and symbolism.
“I wanted to respectfully lend my own interpretation to those very powerful metaphors and images,” Tracy said. “I think that’s important to do. I think each generation desires to do that, should do that. We can look at these perennial issues of life and death, life after death, the mystical aspects of living. Hopefully we’re looking at the mystical aspects of living. If we’re not, then we should be more drawn into those things that allow us to consider the mystical aspects of being alive … so feel it and touch it and experience it.”
Tracy loved writing poetry, but he later received his BA from Stonehill College and his Master’s Degree in urban planning from Harvard University. He received a job offer from a company in Marina del Rey and moved here where he eventually opened his own commercial real estate company. He lived in Manhattan Beach until 2010 when he moved to Palm Desert with wife Kathleen, after their children were off to college.
Tracy created a companion poetry book with his first two CDs and expects to do the same with “The Mystical Prism of Being,” but it might take more than a year.
With some songs as long as 15 minutes, Tracy feels his album is “one of those things you have to bite into the apple to see what it tastes like.”
“Create some white space for yourself and sit back and listen to it,” Tracy said. “Listen to a track at a time. Listen to it in your car while your driving. Lord knows in L.A. you have plenty of time to do that. So ponder the mystical with myself and my fellow musicians.”
The CD is currently available at cdbaby.com.