Ilchi-Lee_CallofSedona_Jim-SheridanLT: Jim, Ilchi Lee shared the dramatic story of his personal journey in The Call of Sedona. Please tell us what brought you to Sedona?

JS: I had been in Ft. Lauderdale, playing music for like 25 years, five nights a week, but I had visited Sedona in 1993 when some friends came out, and I loved it. And when I stopped playing music, there was a Windham Worldwide out here, and I knew the guy that was working here. I came out and moved to Sedona in 2000.

LT: Sedona has had a profound impact on your career. Please tell us about that.

JS: When I first got out here I hadn’t played out. (I was so thankful not to be playing five nights a week. It was nice.) And then, in 2004 I wound up having heart surgery, and when they took the [breathing] tube out, they scratched my vocal cord, so I wasn’t singing; I was just playing the guitar.

In 2008, I got invited to Big Sur for a week with a group of singer/songwriters. They were really inspirational because I had never seen anybody that played so well and had written all these great songs; they had written songs for other people that were on the radio. I’ve been going there now for nine years in a row. I began writing my own, developed new friendships, and it’s been great.

In 2010, I still thought I couldn’t sing because of my throat, so I just started really concentrating on playing instrumentals on the guitar, and I wound up doing an album called Sedona Time. In doing the album, I kind of created a different tuning, which gave the guitar more of an orchestral sound. I think three of the titles were about Sedona: “Sunset,” “Sedona Time,” and “Sugarloaf,” which came from ideas I was getting when I was looking at the surrounding area.

From listening to the songwriters playing and singing every year, I just started writing my own songs and singing again. I’m in the middle of doing an album that should be out in February 2016 where I’m singing songs I wrote.

Sedona’s a big part of it; it’s a great place. It’s beautiful! And it seems like it’s very easy to write here. I’d kind of thought I was finished with playing and singing, and now it’s almost like it started all over again; except now it’s all my stuff. Which is great!

LT: Sedona continues to be an important influence in these new compositions.

JS: In speaking with all of the people at Big Sur, I’d ask them, “What do you write about?” They would say, “Write about what you know.” So I started writing some songs about Sedona and different things that had happened to me. I’d written a bunch of them and one day I went outside and discovered I had new neighbors. The woman was eight months pregnant and she came over and introduced herself and her [unborn] baby and said, “This is Avalon.”

I thought, Wow, what a great name. I hadn’t heard that before.

I didn’t see them for two weeks, and one day I went outside as the mother and her son, Seamus, were getting in the car, and I said, “Hey Seamus.” His mother replied, “He’s not Seamus, he’s a wizard. He goes by many names, but Seamus isn’t one of them.”

I’d hear him outside playing, dressed like a wizard: he had a little cape and everything. A week went by and the same thing happened again. When I called his name, his mom said, “He’s still a wizard.” During the next month I kept waiting to see what was going to happen with the baby, and I was thinking about writing a song, but I didn’t really know what to write about.

Then one day, I went outside after a month had gone by and the young couple was taking a walk. I was leaving in my car, so I stopped and asked, “What’s going on?” and she said, “Well, today’s the due date.” I said, “Wow, I guess everyone’s just waiting for Avalon!” And immediately I thought, Oh, that’s what I’ll write the song about! I just turned left, turned left, turn left and came right up my driveway and wrote the song called Waiting for Avalon. At that point, I realized at the end of writing it, that it would be the name of the album.

That’s how that came about and why the song was so easy to write: I had a wizard living next to me and we were all waiting for Avalon to be born!

People ask if I have played it for them; and yes, they came over with Avalon, and they said that she liked the song. Avalon’s mother started crying when I started singing the song, about the wizard living next to me, and she didn’t stop crying until the end of the song, she was so touched. It was inspirational; once I had that, I realized I had a lot of other songs that I liked!

LT: So that one song became a catalyst for you!

JS: I felt good; “Waiting for Avalon” was just perfect, so that kind of spurred me on. I normally wouldn’t have gone out to do an album, but now that I did, it’s changed everything. I have friends that are just wonderful musicians that are playing on this album so I feel like I just went through a whole new musical door.

I’d been playing guitar for almost fifty years, and I’ve played other peoples’ songs; I know thousands of songs, but just writing my own stuff changes everything. Really what it did for me, because I thought I was done playing music, is now I feel like I’ve just started: now the good stuff’s coming out! I mean, all the music I’ve been playing and what I can do with my fingers, and it allows me to be free and just go out there.

I found my writing voice! Now, instead of doing other people’s songs, I get to express the things I’ve been thinking about and it’s like good therapy.

LT: Is there a place you love best in Sedona?

JS: I live right across from Thunder Mountain, so I just walk out the door and across the street and start walking—I love hiking.

I was taking the hike on a full moon where people go up and they walk about halfway up Cathedral Rock. I went up there and watched the full moon come up over the Mogollon Rim. That night it was unbelievable, and I met this girl and I wrote a song for the album from that experience. I mean, it’s a very magical thing: a full moon coming up over the Mogollon Rim, with an absolute clear sky, it’s just amazing! So that song also just kind of wrote itself.

On the album, there’s a song called “Looking for a Miracle,” and that was actually the first song that I wrote when I decided to “write about what you know.” And that was kind of the first song I wrote about being in Sedona. I was watching all these people looking for vortexes and astrology, and I started thinking about it.

I go over to the Java Love Café four or five days a week and read. And, just listening to people, I realized everybody’s kind of looking for a miracle. At the end of the song, (it was like that’s where therapy came in), I realized, Wait a minute, the miracle is us! From the very fact that we are born in this huge, unbelievably big universe, we’re it! You don’t have to look for miracles; we are the miracle!

LT: Thanks, Jim and best of luck with the new album!

Lynn A. TrombettaBy Lynn A. Trombetta: A freelance web writer on topics of art, music, and wellness, Lynn is also a wildlife artist/photographer, professional flutist, recording artist, and published author.