Friday, January 12, 2018

The Power & Healing Energy of Horse Spirit Music

An Interview with Jennifer Grais & Byron Metcalf

By Ann Baldwin 
Jennifer Grais photo by Allyson Wiley
Jennifer Grais is a professional singer, shamanic practitioner, author, and public speaker. She toured with singer-musician, Jackson Browne and uses her voice in sound healing. She is a graduate of the 3-year advanced program taught by Michael Harner at The Foundation of Shamanic Studies and studied energy healing in India at the Oneness University. She leads healing circles for children and adults and speaks to teens about her fiction novel, Christa’s Luck: the story of a girl, her horse, and the last wild mustangs. She co-wrote Christa’s Luck with her husband, Michael Grais, who is also a screenwriter (Poltergeist, Great Balls of Fire, Cool World). Her new album, They Were Here, is a collaboration with Byron Metcalf, which has a world-wide release on February 16, 2018. 
Byron Metcalf
Byron Metcalf is an award-winning musician, recording artist, producer, shamanic practitioner, and ceremonial leader. Byron’s successful music career spans over five decades and he’s played on several gold and platinum albums such as Kenny Roger’s album The Gambler. He’s performed at top venues including Carnegie Hall and The Grand Ole Opry and performed on The Tonight Show, The Grammy Awards, The American Music Awards, CMA Awards, and many others. Byron holds a Ph.D. in transpersonal psychology, a master’s degree in counseling psychology, and he’s trained, studied, and worked with shamans, healers, and psycho-spiritual teachers such as Stan Grof, Jack Kornfield, and Sandra Ingerman. Since 1988 Byron has focused his musical talents toward the healing arts facilitating shamanic drumming circles and producing meditation CD’s collaborating with award-winning artists such as Steve Roach, Mark Seelig, Rob Thomas, Erik Wollo, Peter Phippen, Dashmesh Khalsa, and Ron Oates.

 One of the greatest gifts we’re given here on Earth is the ability to feel the vibration of energy within and around us that music creates. Music literally moves us physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Listening to music is the only activity that actually uses all parts of our brain and quickly penetrates every cell in our bodies as well as everything around us. Music is one of the fastest ways to open us up to creativity, higher vibrational frequencies, altered states of consciousness, intuition, and healing. 

Ann: What was your inspiration for creating your new album, They Were Here

Byron: I’ve had a vision and dream about doing an album with Jennifer for 12 years, ever since I first heard her sing on an album by Steve Roach that I also played on. Once we finally connected and discussed recording something together, Jennifer asked if I would open to sharing some of the music with a film maker-activist who was involved in saving the wild horses of the American west. I agreed and eventually the plight of the wild horses, combined with the power and healing medicine that Horse Spirit brings to us, began inspiring the production of the album in a more direct way.

Jennifer: We loved each other’s work. I am a huge fan of his drumming, producing, and series on the Shaman’s Heart. I respect Byron for doing advanced spiritual work without leaving the heart out of the equation.  

Solo, Jennifer, & Michael Grais photo by Jak Wonderly
 I met and worked with Byron on the Steve Roach album, Fever Dreams 2, but we had lost touch as Michael and I had moved to Mexico and kind of dropped off the grid for a few years. After we moved to Northern California in 2012, Byron found me on Facebook. He called me and I was of course thrilled to hear from him. I was at the stable with my horse, Solo, at the time and jumped at the chance to work with him. 

Synchronicity works in delicious and mysterious ways; just before Byron called and suggested we make an album together, I had heard from my friend and documentary film-maker James Klienert. He was looking for music for his latest documentary, Disappointment Valley, about, you guessed it, wild horses in the American West. So, when Byron asked what my inspirations were I told him that everything I offered to the world seemed to be influenced by and a prayer to Horse Medicine. 

I asked him if we could donate a track or two of whatever we created to James. Byron was completely on board. He was so impressed with James Klienert’s film and the horse concept that he sat with James’ recordings of horses running in order to pick up the energy and rhythms of Horse Energy. I couldn’t have been more excited by Byron’s reaction and willingness to jump in with both feet. We did donate music to the film, which should be released in early 2018.

Ann: What is your understanding of how music helps to heal us? 
Byron: There’s some science behind this, but I’ll try to simplify it as much as possible. The bottom line I think is that music helps us to connect with our interior life such as our feelings, emotions, passions, memories, and most importantly, the wisdom, intelligence, and healing potentials of our hearts. The heart center is where transformation and healing happens. 

Real healing is not a function of our reasoning mind. Music invites us inward to work with whatever unfinished personal issues we may have, and paradoxically, music also invites us into expanded states of awareness to that which is greater than ourselves to connect with Universal intelligence, cosmic consciousness, and the transpersonal and spiritual realms of reality. Being in touch with and being present with our inner life and higher levels of consciousness in this way provides access to the Truth of our experience. We can learn to trust the inner guidance we receive. Music invites, invokes, induces, and supports these experiences and transformative states of awareness. 

Jennifer: That belongs in the category of ‘the mystery’ for me, but I will take a shot at it! Music is a universal language, which allows us to be held in a higher vibration beyond words and therefore we can enter into a state of connection closer to “oneness”. Music can invoke memories, emotion, and create movement in a stagnant or blocked system.  Movement is life.  All healing modalities seek to unblock stagnant flow and facilitate connection within the systems of the body and the energy body. By either inspiring one to feel something (creating movement in the emotional body), or inspiring one to dance (creating movement in the physical body); music is the master healer. 

Jennifer Grais photo by Richard Blum
But most importantly, there is a quality of the heart and of the spiritual mysteries that music invokes for me. My teacher Michael Harner used to say that you know you have reached the ‘Upper World’, when you hear beautiful music. What if it were possible for us to channel even a sliver of that Divinity into our more dense dimensional experience? I believe it is possible and that is why I feel so many chills and emotions as I am singing with the intent of healing.  

Music has the potential to elevate us and carry us to places we’ve been. Music is transportive. I am sure many of us have experienced music as a time-machine; how many times have you heard a song you loved in sixth grade and suddenly you’re back in that time, remembering the wind on your face, the sun slanting through a window, the smell of oranges, or a friend’s laughter?  

So, when you listen to music created with the intention to heal through channeling higher vibrational spirits as Byron and I do and you resonate with that music, then you have found a beautiful key to awakening your own life force and perhaps even a memory of your divinity.

Ann: Do either of you work with your sleeping dreams for guidance, when creating music? 

Jennifer: When I was a diligent songwriter, I slept with a recorder by my bed and sang into it. Many of my song melodies were given to me through dreams. Now, when I dream a song, I generally smile, thank the spirits, roll over, and go back to sleep. Unless I am involved in a project, where I can easily write and record, it is too heartbreaking to not honor them fully!

Byron: I often receive inspiration from my dreams, especially early in the morning, when I’m in a more liminal space; the place between sleeping and waking. I trust that space to provide inspiration, ideas, creative problem solving, and so on. When I’m in the mixing phase of a project, I regularly receive a lot of ideas in that liminal space that I try to incorporate into the music and the sounds I’m creating.

Ann: Have either of you ever received lyrics and/or musical compositions from one of your sleeping dreams?
Byron: When I was more involved in the singer-songwriter scene in Nashville many years ago, I often would receive lyric ideas, song titles, a melodic phrase, and that kind of thing. Over the past few years as I’ve been working with predominately non-lyric music, my dreamtime will typically reveal song title ideas, album concepts, and inspiration for production approaches. Almost always, these are like snippets or snapshots of something.

Jennifer: Yes. One recent example is Wild Horses from the Songs of Christa’s Luck EP. The chorus words and melody were given to me in a dream. 

Ann: Byron, how did you go about composing/creating the music and songs for your new album? What are some of the processes that you use?

Byron: I created some basic percussion grooves and sent them to Jennifer to see if she liked them, which fortunately she did. So I added some more parts to make them more interesting for her to respond to when she came to my studio to record her parts. We worked out keys for each track and laid down a synth pad for pitch reference. When Jennifer arrived to record her parts, we wanted to have the process be as spontaneous and pure as possible capturing whatever was to come through in the moment. 

We did some shamanic ritual and invited the spirit helpers that wanted to show up and support us. Obviously, Horse was present in a very big way. When Jennifer stepped up to the microphone, it was absolute magic and bliss for me to hear what was happening. We both trusted the process and did very little preparation in terms of arrangement construction or any of that kind of thing until we recorded all the parts. 

Later, I reviewed what we had and began formulating ideas for arrangements and other instrumentation. The project had a larger than life sound and energy to it; so, we decided to add orchestral parts (primarily violins, violas and cellos) and brought in keyboard player and arranger, Ron Oates, from Nashville to help us create a kind of cinematic vibe. We used some vintage orchestra synthesizer modules that worked perfectly for this. We also added didgeridoo on two tracks performed by my long-time collaborator, Dashmesh Khalsa. The sound is absolutely huge! 

Byron Metcalf photo by Richard Blum
After we had all the parts recorded, I began the process of mixing everything together in my studio. All of this unfolded in a very organic way. I sent rough mixes to Jennifer for her input and feedback, which I would then incorporate, and we would go back and forth like that until it was completed. Throughout the production process, we both were aware that the music had its own intelligence and so we stayed committed to allow the project to unfold in the way that it needed to. For artists and producers, this means staying out the way enough to let the magic happen and reveal itself. I love working in this way, because it’s more in alignment with my own path and journey.

Ann: Jennifer, it sounds as though you do include a few lyrics into your vocals; however, most of the songs sound like Shamanic chants. Can you share how you went about creating the vocals for your music? 

Jennifer: Shamanism is when we call in loving and compassionate spirits of those who have gone before and have compassion for our suffering and are willing to work with us for the sake of healing or acquiring information that could serve others.  Byron’s studio and home is set up as a very sacred space.  We called in the directions together, gave offerings, and invited the spirits of the ancient and compassionate ones and our spirit allies to join us. 

When I sing and I am inspired by beautiful music as I was with Byron’s recordings, I am channeling those beautiful and powerful spirits. It is an honor and quite thrilling. In those moments some themes may develop, words may come, and always lots of emotions, but I am not drowning in the emotions. There is a higher knowledge guiding me and giving voice to deeper wisdom.  The spirits may have a particular idea in mind or they may just want to express through my voice. 

One of the greatest things about having so many years of shamanic experience is that I know better how to create a safe space for this work, so I can let myself go. I also really trust Byron and his shamanic ability; I feel really safe working with him, which allowed me to let go, fly and soar, so the spirits could sing through me freely.

Ann: Do you ever use visual images/imagery to help you get into the flow of energy for a particular piece?
Jennifer: No. It is not necessary.  Once we called in the directions with honor and gratitude, and I heard the music Byron created, the songs and melodies just came with no effort.

Byron: For me, images come as a natural part of the creative process, but I don’t visualize or use images with an intention to do so. I want the images to use me, to work me, and inspire me, instead of me using the images. I view the images as gifts from Spirit.

Ann: Can you tell us what the ‘Spirit Animal Horse’ represents, how your music from They Were Here helps to summon that particular ‘Animal Spirit,’ and the benefits for the people who listen to your music?   

Byron: Horse often brings the energies and qualities of authentic power, companionship, support and love, but there’s a lot more that Horse can represent. So it really depends a lot on how the listener might be aligned with Horse. In my view, because Horse Spirit is so embedded in this music, Horse as a spirit helper is already invoked in a foundational way and for most listeners, Horse will show up in whatever way is best for the listener’s healing and highest good.

Jennifer: Each person has their own person relationship to Spirit and/or to their Power Animal.  So, I don’t want to put words or concepts into anyone’s experience. There is no one ‘right’ way to see the qualities of Horse Medicine, or to experience the music from They Were Here.  For some people, their connection with Horse is of the heart, very grounded in a love of a particular horse or a stubborn, loyal, unforgettable pony. For others, it is a more visionary idea of Horse as magical, as in a breathtakingly beautiful Unicorn that can take them to far-away imaginary places. Common themes for Horse Medicine are: Freedom, Wildness, Running with the Herd, The Power of Movement, and Travel. 

In relation to the elements: Horses create the sound of thunder with their hooves striking the earth, which invokes power. They have a connection with thunder and lightning, with the earth, the wind, and all of the elements; that alone hints at the potential for balance.

Horse could be known to you as a Soulful Listener, who is able to hold the space for your sorrow with their giant heart capacity and liquid brown eyes. One of the most potent abilities of horses is to simply graze together and create a sense of bliss together, while it seems as if they are doing nothing. Learning to honor the stillness of being vs. doing is part of their magic.
Horses are also known in shamanic traditions to carry souls from this world to the next. Many indigenous traditions saw the drum as the horse that would carry them to other worlds. Because of the quality of the drum and the rhythm, Horse could also represent the heart-beat of the mother. In wild bands, the lead mare is very important. She is the one who leads them to water and food; they follow her, while the stallion pushes them from behind.  So, there is a leadership quality that can be invoked by Horse Medicine of both the masculine and the feminine.

I know from personal experience that if you are not walking your talk and being a leader around horses, they will generally not have respect for you. Each day is its own proving ground and isn’t that so much of our own experience?  Each day we get up and try to lead ourselves and others toward something meaningful. Each day we may experience wild fluctuations in our leadership capacities, but we do our best to come back to center and begin again. I invite everyone to have their own experience of Horse and what it represents to them. 

Ann: For people new to Shamanic music, can you explain the significance of drumming?  

Byron Metcalf photo by Richard Blum
Byron: Traditional shamanic drumming is typically a repetitive, consistent beat that is usually performed or played for a minimum of 15 minutes and often much longer. The human brain and heart center will entrain with the rhythm and overtones of the drumming and depending on the tempo, the drummer, and those within listening range, will shift into an altered state of consciousness. This is usually a theta and/or alpha brainwave state, which is ideal for accessing psychic and emotional material that is generally not available to us in our normal state of consciousness. This ‘journey state’ is where creative problem solving can happen, where we can receive higher guidance to the issues that concern us. Drumming will shift the listener from their reasoning mind very quickly and provide access to a deeper wisdom; the wisdom of Spirit and Soul.

Jennifer: We are all drummers. We listened to our mother’s heartbeat in the womb and the earth has its own rhythm and resonance.  When we drum or hear drumming, it can help shift us into a trance state, where we can more easily access spiritual realms. Sandra Harner, Michael Harner’s wife, did some important research that showed how immune system functioning improved in subjects who listened to the simple steady drum-beat often used while journeying.  

From what I understand from her studies, the brain shifts from alpha to theta while listening, which is why we can create visionary states without the use of plant medicine.  Many indigenous people did not always use plant medicines to journey, they used rattles, singing, and other percussion instruments to create a trance state. When I use the drum in my healing work, it can raise the energy just with its power and create movement in a person’s energy field.  The healing spirits may work through the drum or my voice during a healing session. 
Ann: Did you create any songs that help the listener to experience shapeshifting and what can they expect from it? 

Byron: Not intentionally. Although shape-shifting can occur spontaneously in a journey session or from listening to this music; however, it is considered a very advanced shamanic skill and is really beyond the scope of what we were attempting to work with in the production process. That said, I could easily imagine someone shape-shifting into Horse with the support of this music.

Ann: Were any of the songs designed to affect specific chakras in the body? If so, which ones and why?

Byron Metcalf & Jennifer Grais photo by Richard Blum
 Byron: Except for Womb of the Serpent, we didn’t work with the chakra system in an intentional way. When I first began creating the drums and percussion parts for this track, I knew immediately that it was what I call a ‘in the body groove’ (very sensual and body oriented) and it can really activate the 2nd chakra for listeners who feel it and can tune into it. It also has a slow moving serpent-like kundalini rising vibe as well and I think it’s almost impossible to listen to this track on a good sound system without moving to and with these engaging energies.

When Jennifer was ready to record her parts for this, I asked her to tap into those parts of herself as much as possible and she totally nailed it! The inter-play between Jennifer’s vocal and my percussion on this track is a wonderful balance of feminine and masculine energies and pushes it to the edge I think. A couple of listeners experienced it as ‘erotic’ and I can definitely get that. 

Ann: What do you hope people will gain from listening to your new album, They Were Here?

Jennifer: MY DEEPEST WISH is that everyone who listens to They Were Here will have a direct experience of their divinity, a validation of their sacred life, and a remembering that magic and mercy exist in spite of the deep suffering we experience. I also wish that ‘The Spirit of Horse’ that came through on this recording will speak to your wild heart and soul and fill you with a gorgeous and breathtaking sense of freedom, stewardship for your life, and possibility.

Byron: I hope that listeners will be moved to journey inward to a deeper and more expansive reality of who they really are and perhaps gain some insight into what may be in the way of fully manifesting their visions, dreams, and potentials. I hope they touch into and become fully present with the yearning and longing in their hearts for connection and authenticity. I also hope that listeners are guided to take action regarding their personal healing and transformation and the healing and transformation of our planetary and global concerns as well. But, I will be truly happy if listeners simply enjoy the music and that it touched them in some real way.

Ann: Thank you Jennifer and Byron for allowing me to listen to your new album, They Were Here, it had a profound effect on me and opened-up pathways that had been blocked for some time; I will cherish it and listen to it often. I also want to thank you for taking the time to interview with me as it has been a pleasure and honor. 

To learn more about and connect with Jennifer Grais & Byron Metcalf, you can visit their websites at and . To purchase a copy of They Were Here, you can go to Here is a listening sample of They Were Here album. Enjoy ~

Jennifer & Byron are offering a special drawing for a ‘Free Autographed CD of They Were Here’ for the viewers of our interview: just send an email with your name to and type ‘They Were Here drawing’ into the subject line by 11:59pm (PST) January 21, 2018. I will announce the lucky winner on Monday, January 22, 2018 below in the comments section and on my Facebook page at and we will contact the winner by email to confirm where you want your CD sent. Good Luck 🍀

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