Barry Power

Offical Site of Melodic Indie songwriter Barry Power.

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039. Full Stack Creative

The artist is the medium between his fantasies and the rest of the world.
— Federico Fellini

I first heard the term full stack creative from a digital online music marketing company called Indepreneur. The term is borrowed from the web development world. It is the idea that a full stack developer is someone who is fluent in many different areas of the so called tech stack. Simply put a tech stack is all the online infrastructure needed to run a digital business from the web design thorough to email marketing and ecommerce. Now I don’t really know much about tech stacks but when this concept was superimposed over a creative stack so to speak it started to make a lot more sense to me. 

I have always held the belief that If I can be creative in one area then it follows that I could be creative in another. Much like the way a good athlete might be very proficient at several sports all at once. It is only time and practice that makes one of them more dominant than the other. Before I get too excited about being brilliant at everything.I want to add a caveat to all this. I think as an adult especially one who has spent a lot of time on a particular field it can be equally as frustrating and ego challenging as it can be rewarding to try to express yourself in another medium. 

I think a good analogy for this would be to imagine you like cooking Jamie Oliver style. Where you add your ingredients by rough estimates, intuition and taste. Over time you get better and more confident and your meals start tasting great. One day you decide well “Im good at this so naturally I should try baking”. But although baking is kitchen related its techniques are very different. You need to be much more specific with your measurements, cooking times and oven temperatures. So it starts to fly in the face of your usual improvisational culinary style. 

So in an effort to stay true to this new found philosophy. I have decided to stack several brand new projects and challenge myself to get them all off the ground.

On june 19th I will be running my first crowdfund campaign to help with the completion and release of my debut album “Of Little the instant”. The launch will be a unique interactive experience. I am really excited about it and can’t wait to share it.

Project no2. is a podcast I am developing called from the Maker to the Made where I will be having long form discussions about the overarching issues of life as a creator and the ups and downs of the creative process as a whole. I am currently looking for guests for this so if you are a musician, photographer ,filmmaker or anyone who makes something creatively I would love to hear from you. Email me at fromthemakertothemade@gmail.com please include your links where I can check out your work.

Project no.3 is to improve my youtube channel which is at the moment rocking a total of 0 subscribers so the only way is up from here.

I will be updating the progress of all these things here on the blog but if you would like to know more about any of the projects please consider signing up to my mailing list here so I can let you know the minute the official release dates are announced.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Ps.

At the beginning of this blog I mentioned a company called Indepreneur. I can’t recommend this company highly enough if you are trying to improve your skills as an online creative and particularly if you are a musician who like me was clinging on to the archaic version of the music industry where your art was being released into the ether with only a vague hope of some sort of interest. To learn more about them check out the youtube channel conveniently called full stack creative or their podcast Creative juice.

038. Whats in a name?

It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.
— W.C. Fields

Words can be so powerful, and none more so than the words we use to describe ourselves. The titles we choose to assign ourselves represent who it is we think we are. What we don’t always realise, is that held within these titles are limitations. Self imposed ideas of what we think these titles represent. Although this could be part of a much broader discussion. I’m interested in how it applies to us creative types. 

I am a guitar player. That is a name I have self assigned for more than 20 years of my life but what does that even mean? Well for me it means that I live and die by what I think of as being a good player. This of course is a total fallacy built completely on my own pre-conceived notions of what I think a good guitar player should actually be.

If I sit behind a drum kit I don’t suddenly identify myself as a drummer. However through this I am totally free to express myself on that instrument however way I want to. I can’t possibly fail because I can’t play these things anyway. There is freedom in being ignorant to all the vaults of preconception rattling around in my head that goes along with being somewhat proficient at something. 

I recently had to learn a song for a gig. The guitar part wasn’t particularly difficult but I just couldn’t figure out exactly what was going on. The reason I think was because whoever wrote the part wasn’t using traditional concepts. I don’t think they were being clever. I think it was probably due to that they didn’t learn the guitar in systematic logical way using regular scales and voicings.  This created something really unique that a so called self identified guitar player may never even think of. They made something new from a non-learned place. 

For the past few months I have been working on starting a new podcast and practicing for more regular content for my YouTube channel. I am becoming more aware that to be a modern musician requires a more holistic approach which means I need to become more comfortable with many many more titles. To become a full stack creative, so to speak, a jack of all trades, a digital renaissance man.

My plan for when I am trying to launch all these new things, that I can’t really do yet, is to try not greet them with a sense of inadequacy. Instead, embrace them with that feeling of discovery and fearlessness, like sitting behind a drum kit and not being able to play it but being cool with that. Not to put a cap on myself that a pre-ordained title would bring but to leverage that feeling when it comes to maneouvering this ever changing landscape of the utility man.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think! and If you like this post please consider joining my mailing list here, where I'll keep you up to date with whats going on with me.

037. Accentuate The Positive

I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.
— Vincent Van Gogh

The negativity bias is the idea that whenever we are presented with two equal choices one positive and one negative we tend to favour the negative much more often than it’s counterpart. It seems we are just wired this way. Somewhere down along the evolutionary ladder biology decided we needed to be more sensitive to the bad than the good.

Recently I posted a video of me performing a song. The post did pretty well and had loads of comments saying very nice things. Except for one which of course stood out above the rest, this one comment said the music was derivative and they basically didn’t like it. Now the rational mind goes “Thats cool, it’s the internet you’ll get things like that, don’t worry” But it stayed with me more so than the many more positive comments. 

I realised that it happens all the time. For instance If I play a gig, I might not remember the ten songs that I played perfectly but you can bet that I'll remember the one where I fluffed a note or sang out of tune.

I have been thinking about this all week and how it relates in general to the way I work. I Wrote the first draft of this blog on Tuesday. I wasn’t happy with the idea so I scrapped it. This happens quite regularly so I didn’t think too much about it. I tried again on Wednesday and the same result. By Thursday the negativity bias kicked in and I didn’t even try because I had presupposed that whatever I wrote was bound to be really bad.

The thing I really want to know is, is the negativity bias useful? Does it really keep you getting better at something in a constructive critical thinking kind of way or does it just hold you back?

As a musician I have to practice a lot. I practice all sorts of things that need improving songwriting, rhythm, production, singing, scales, arpeggio’s music to prepare for gigs. But in all of these things I practice. I don’t think I have ever actively tried to practice looking for more positives. I wouldn’t consider myself an overly negative person, I’m not Eeyore. But, now that I am aware that as a humans we lean a lot more toward the negative in general, it’s like realising something that you can’t unsee.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think! and If you like this post please consider joining my mailing list here, where I'll keep you up to date with whats going on with me.

036. Found Time.

There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.
— BIll Watterson

I recently traded in my car. Now, I am not usually sentimental about material things in general, which is weird because being a guitar player is second only to car enthusiasts when it comes to the overwhelming love of the inanimate. But something about this car made me a little emotional when we parted company. It was mainly due, I think, to the amount of time I spent driving around the dual carriageways, backroads and mud tracks of this little island. 

I sound nostalgic about it now but for I long time I wasn’t. I really wasn’t. In fact I used to dread the thought of epic commutes in the dark. When the car finally left my tenure I had managed to rack up 345,000 kms thats 217,479 miles (although this is less impressive looking)

So if I averaged around 100km per hour I spent, give or take, almost 145 whole days in that car. No wonder I was getting feels.

For a long time, I thought of travel as a burden. Dead hours wasted, wishing I was somewhere else. You know it’s bad when you can recommend a really good service station for other people’s trips. I passed through places but never really saw them. Music was always good but I found that, particularly on the return journey, I didn’t have much bandwidth for it after playing for a couple of hours. There is always the radio of course but when travelling late a night the choices here start to narrow. (Thats me being generous to Irish radio by the way)

After a year or two I started to discover audiobooks and podcasts. A bit late to the party on this one I know. But Podcasts, who could have thought or predicted that something so simple like that could take off and grow so exponentially? It might sound a bit naive but just knowing that there are millions of people out there consuming two or three hour conversations every week is a positive thing. It means people are still hungry for getting in deep instead of just skimming along the surface. Not only that but that there were long form conversations about whatever off the wall, crazy niche Interest you could think of. Producing techniques, movie reviews, art, politics, religion, sport, current affairs, history, opinions, theoretical physics, singing lessons, comedians talking with fear factor hosts about conspiracies. It was like the world just opened up.

It is not an exaggeration to say that it literally changed my life, It was like my own private cultural and spiritual awakening that no one else knew about except for me and that car. What I was looking at all that time as a burden was actually what I luckily now call a gift. A chance to explore, to learn to expand and to grow. I look forward to many miles in my new car, but more so to the new doors it will open. No pun intended.

Last week I asked for your recommends for the things that keep you grounded when working. Well here are a few of mine. Top ten podcasts, audiobooks and randoms. Everyone loves a good list too, right? 

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think! and If you like this post please consider joining my mailing list here, where I'll keep you up to date with whats going on with me.

The brand new podcast version of this blog is now available here.

NOTE:

Some of these links below are affiliate links. This means that should you decide to purchase anything from them I will receive a small commission. This commission means that as an artist I can continue to deliver my best content. 


Podcasts

1. Creative juice

2. The rich roll podcast

3. The joe rogan Podcast 

4. kermode and mayo’s film review

5. The Blindboy podcast 

6. The Ground up show

7. Song Exploder

8. WTF With Marc Maron

9. The Adam Buxton Podcast

10. Desert Island Disks


Books

Fahrenheit 451
By Ray Bradbury
Dune
By Frank Herbert
The Martian
By Andy Weir
The Book of Five Rings
By Miyamoto Musashi


035. Anchors

It’s easy to get sidetracked with technology, and that is the danger, but ultimately you have to see what works with the music and what doesn’t. In a lot of cases, less is more. In most cases, less is more.
— Herbie Hancock

How many tabs are open on your browser? Usually, for me, it’s a lot. So much so I get lost. I skip from one thing to the next until I’m not actually sure anymore if what I’m doing even resembles work anymore. I don’t mean that I have gotten side-tracked by my shiny object syndrome and fell down the amazon black hole; Although that definitely happens sometimes. I mean when there is too much platform hopping.

In a typical day I can usually get around 2-3 hours that I can dedicate to my own music business this includes writing and recording, so Its important that I am productive when I get that time. Typically, what happens is, I’ll start with some recording. I’ll open up logic and try to nail down one task and get it done, a bassline or maybe some mixing. As the clock is ticking I wrap that up and move onto maybe some emailing. Then a little bit of blogging and finish up with some ad copy or podcast prep. 

The point is that by the time I am done with my block of time I have jumped through several different areas. I guess it would be like someone working for a big company deciding to spend the morning in Marketing the afternoon in research and development and the evening in the canteen serving food. 

This kind of juggling is not my strong suit. I am always looking for Anchors. Anything that can keep me in the right place in terms of the specific task I am doing. I have done some research and there are several online solutions to these problems like the pomodoro technique or any amount of companies offering a get your shit together spreadsheet. But I find that the task of organising my tasks becomes another task.

Maybe its just the way my brain works sometimes I feel like that dog in the movie UP reacting to what is directly in front of me. I get so lost in the mire of bits of jobs its hard to remember what Im supposed to be doing the first place.

So this week it’s a plea for any tips, tricks and advice to help to keep on point with work tasks. I would love to hear what your Anchors are what are the things that keep you on track or anything that worked well for you.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think! and If you like this post please consider joining my mailing list here, where I'll keep you up to date with whats going on with me.

The brand new podcast version of this blog is now available here.

034. What have you got?

It’s better to speak your mind and tell the truth, than to stay quiet and lie to yourself.
— Anonymous

Did you ever get that feeling you have more to give than you show the world? That side of you that is pure potential? Imagine yourself on your best day. Like that feeling when you first join a gym in January you tell yourself, this time, I’m going to train five days a week and in your mind you play out your very own Rocky IV montage. (I picked Rocky IV specifically because it’s montage is the best)

Then a week or two passes and you miss a day. The next week there is an appointment and the gym day gets missed and you start telling yourself, well I missed those days so I’ll get back on track on Monday and before long the gym counts the rest of your money and you sit on the couch deflated. The more times this happens to you the more you think, “I can’t do it”, it becomes a story you tell yourself. “Im not really a gym person I tried it before and it didn’t stick”. 

This is an analogy of so many experiences in my life. Like that time when I took up Brazillian ju jitsu which I went to once then quit. The point is that, when we start something new we are full of potential about it. There is a spark somewhere even just briefly that this could be the thing that defines us. Every kid with a football thinks they could play for Man United and in their minds they can, right? Unlimited potential. Somewhere along the way life gets in the way for most us of regular people and we end up managing our expectations. Writing a story for ourselves where we are the best supporting actor not the lead role.

Where this turns really tragic is when this story of not quite, stops us from starting to do things at all. When we are so caught up and so convinced that our story is written that we don’t even try.

What if Paul McCartney had decided not to bother finishing Hey Jude or Martin Luther King decided ‘I have dream’ wouldn’t be understood. Where would you be? if your most inspirational idol let the story they tell themselves come in the way of their contribution to the world.

Now imagine how many people are denying the rest of the world something truly special because of how they feel.

I personally feel everyone has a something in them that is theirs to share with the world. A song to sing, an ear to hear, a house to build, a piece of advice to give. How much of what you have to give will be withheld by what you tell yourself? In the end you are not just holding yourself back. Ask yourself, what are you denying the world? 

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think! and If you like this post please consider joining my mailing list here, where I'll keep you up to date with whats going on with me.

The brand new podcast version of this blog is now available here.

033. Killing it.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a horse master. He told me to go slow to go fast. I think that applies to everything in life. We live as though there aren’t enough hours in the day but if we do each thing calmly and carefully we will get it done quicker and with much less stress.
— Viggo Mortensen

There is a certain way of thinking in the modern zeitgeist that is about being so busy and so productive so as to be almost superhuman. In fact super humans are so pervasive in our culture now that our role models can literally do impossible things. Even the word super has infiltrated our language way more than it should. I’m superbusy at the moment or this coffee is superstrong. We now have a world of go hard or go home and all the new buzzy adjectives that go along with it killing it, crushing it, owning it.

There is an ever increasing pressure to be busier and more productive. Always on top of your game grinding in those extra hours that all your rivals are not doing.  A fight like mentality, where success is some sort of aggressor to be overthrown and the only way to do it is to lay everything you have on the line constantly regardless of how this effects you and your life. Living in a perpetual state of stress. Caffeinated and adrenaline wild, making sure all these slightly out of reach deadlines are being constantly met and you are killing it everyday. I don’t think it really matters what kind of job you do either because the pressure to be always on it is a myth perpetuated by the modern age that no-one is immune to. 

I have found that conversely to this, in trying to become more creative in my life I need to be in the total opposite state of mind. I need to have the space, the quiet and the calm to let my mind wander and dream up ideas. I don’t mean in a vacant daydream kind of way. I mean in a flowing stream of consciousness kind of way. Like when you go for a walk and the solution to a problem pops into your head out of the blue. The more I hold on to deadlines and self imposed pressure to get things done the tighter Im gripping my creative flow and consequentially the less productive I am. 

Don’t get me wrong hard work needs to happen but this all pervasive attitude to be turned on all the time just seams so unbalanced and unhealthy to me. If I try to follow the chain logically then the burnout would negate any good work that I think I would be getting done. 

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think! and If you like this post please consider joining my mailing list here, where I'll keep you up to date with whats going on with me.

The brand new podcast version of this blog is now available here.


032. Raw Footage

When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.
— Stephen King

Sometimes the best solution to a problem is by simply changing the angle at which you view it from.  As if someone turns on a light in a part of an overfamiliar room to illuminate your missing shoe. You knew it was there all along but couldn’t quite remember where exactly until that flick of a switch. 

Over the past few months I have been working through a book called The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. For anyone who is interested in getting a bit more creative in your life in general, I would highly recommend it. There are countless lessons to be taken from the first reading. Although, I suspect I will be revisiting this book again many times in the future. One of the most valuable I have found is the idea of creating from a place of abundance as opposed to scarcity.

I’m going to use songwriting as my example but I feel it could be applied to whatever your chosen field is.

From when I first started writing I only really saw one way to go. If I had a verse I would write the six or eight lines that I needed and then move on and write the four lines for the chorus then move on. I only ever wrote what I thought was necessary. This made the writing far more challenging than it needed to be because I was always only trying to find my best four lines. 

It never even occurred to me to write any more than what I felt I needed. Before I even put pen to paper the line had to be great, otherwise I would discard it and move on. It was this throwing away that was really my biggest mistake. It left me with almost nothing to draw from, not only this but I was totally dismissive of 99% of all my work. If it wasn’t a killer line; Bang, gone, never to be heard from again. 

The angle from which I viewed my problem changed completely by doing the very first exercise from The Artists Way. It’s called morning pages and its premise is quite simple; three pages of stream of conscious writing every day where the only goal is to write. It doesn’t matter about what, just whatever comes into your head even if that is the repeated line, “I can’t think of anything to write” or “all work and no play makes Jack a something something”. 

At first its seems so pointless, pages and pages of disparate ideas and random thoughts, but, over time it becomes something else. It’s like opening up a dialogue with yourself where you start to tune into subtle ideas and thoughts, that, had they not been written down, would be gone forever. 

I have found that part of the function of these pages is to help unblock any creative obstacles and it does that in sometimes uncomfortable ways. It was only after a few months that I found I had pages and pages of writing, way more than the brief sketches and outlines of songs I used to put into my notebooks. 

This may seem really obvious but It took me a long time to get into my head that writing and editing should not be done simultaneously, they need to be separated. The time to judge your work is not as you do it, but after the fact, when it’s done when it’s written down when it already exists. The way I work now is by fishing through all of the collective work, all those scraps, half thoughts and throwaway ideas until I can find my best four lines from that. I mean you cant have hindsight for something you never wrote down or you can’t remember.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think! and If you like this post please consider joining my mailing list here, where I'll keep you up to date with whats going on with me.

031. Going Deep

The conscious mind may be compared to a fountain playing in the sun and falling back into the great subterranean pool of subconscious from which it rises. 
— Sigmund Freud

So its been a while, my last blog was August 15th. What have I been up to for the past two months? Well, I made a semi-deliberate decision to unplug for a while, also I just got out of the habit a bit. It stemmed from the influence of two books in particular. The first of which is The Artists way by Julia Cameron Im currently going into week eight, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If you have an artist living inside you, this book will help you express it. Its not really a spoiler to say that the main method used in the book is to keep a morning journal, three pages of stream of consciousness writing. Through this process you gradually uncover obstacles and self-resistance to your artistic self. This process has been a real game changer for me in terms of my mindset towards writing and creating in general.

Another recommended method in the book is to take a week off from all reading material, so considering the book was written in 1992 I took this to mean in the modern age taking break from all media, social or otherwise a kind of low media diet. This one took me a few weeks to warm to, and to be honest, is still very much a work in progress. 

My second book recommendation is Deep Work by Cal Newport, another amazing book. This book argues that we are in an age where the majority of the work that we do is shallow and arguably unproductive. The reason for this are all the distractions which are not only prevalent but often encouraged. Faster email response, good social media presence etc. The problem with this is that it keeps us on the periphery, in the shallow waters.

Think of all your very favourite works of art, I mean the really influential ones, the stone cold classics. A common thread for all of these was a clear focused concerted effort to apply laser focus to the task at hand. Now try to imagine creating one of these yourself with your phone in one hand and the desktop open with all notifications turned on. How deep do you think you could go?

Ok going a little bit outside here now, but bare with me, I have a point…….I think. There are two sides to our minds the conscious and the subconscious. The conscious mind is awesome at problem solving and completing tasks, the emails, the spreadsheets the minutes for a meeting etc; The so called shallow work. The subconscious mind is where the deeper existential, artsy, bigger picture problem type thoughts live. So lets get binary and look at these two states of mind as tools i.e. one of these tools will be better at a specific task then the other. Then it would make sense to deploy what ever tool would suit best for whatever task you are currently doing, right? Well it makes sense to me anyway but I know for a fact that I am hugely imbalanced with my states of mind. 

My artistic self loves to live in subconscious mindland you know, like when you’re out for a walk and an idea or solution pops into your head, out of nowhere, without you actively thinking about it. Well it wasn’t out of nowhere, it was out of your subconscious mind. The subconscious mind loves to be free to roam, untethered to the shallow work it just does its own thing and gives us whatever we are prepared to listen too. The problem is with so many distractions I don’t prioritise giving the subconscious enough space to breathe and tend to the jobs it is best suited for, namely creating things and generating ideas.

I like to assign all my tasks to my conscious mind, to think out everything in a linear fashion. I have realised over the last few months that this approach is fine for the business, marketing organising things side but it’s kind of a disaster to my artistic side. So how do I bypass my conscious mind and access this all-knowing subconscious creative behemoth living within…..erm I don’t really know Im still figure that one out. 

But here are some of the methods I am currently trying. Turning off my phone more, not just the do not disturb button; Walking more; Meditation; Less TV; more boredom, basically denying all the cool distracting stuff. Deep work sessions, ninety minute blocks of total immersion. No email open, no phone on, just the exact specific task Im working on Songwriting, writing, whatever. Its harder than it sounds, give it a go. We are so hardwired now to be constantly engaged with our conscious mind, checking things and channel surfing, like digital magpies finding shiny stuff. Give the other half some room see what happens.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think! and If you like this post please consider joining my mailing list here, where I'll keep you up to date with whats going on with me.

030. The inner game of isolation or the importance of others.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.
— John Donne

I spoke with a good friend on the phone this week.  He is one of those people that really props you up, gives great advice and is incredibly enthusiastic about what you're doing. We talked about organising gigs and getting out there to play music for people. I found myself agreeing with but also strangely resistant to the idea. Every suggestion he made I had a slight counter for “I’m not quite ready yet,” “the albums not done,” “I need to round up musicians”. Now Playing gigs is not a foreign concept to me in fact to the contrary I have probably played in the thousands at this stage. But these are mostly cover gigs with songs pretty much guaranteed to connect with people straight away, not original music where you are trying to put across your own thoughts and feelings.

So why was I reacting like this?  I thought about it for a while and I came up with two main reasons. The first one was easy to figure out, fear, for all the neurotic musciany reasons which, if you have read a few of these blogs, you will be aware of.

But the second reason ran a little deeper than just, sing your songs and get over it. It was isolation. I am about to sound very narcissistic for the next few lines but hey it is my blog and I can say what I like (see what I did there?). Over the last year or so I have been mainly focused on establishing all my online infrastructure, photos, website, youtube this blog, social media. All with the express purpose of launching my first album and with it hopefully a sustainable music career.  When I was making all these things I had full autonomy, full control I could make it any way I liked and happily tell everyone what I was doing. In a way, I had created a little isolationist bubble that I could hang out in and was easy and safe, the online version of me which is easier to manipulate and to show.

But talking on the phone about organising the gigs and the upcoming actual release of the album hit me with a reality check that I was going to have to put my head above the parapet, to pop the bubble.  

To use a modern metaphor I spent a long time creating the perfect selfie and now I have to let everyone see my bed head. So in a lesson to myself, I will try not to disappear up my own isolationist bubble and try to remember there will always be two worlds we live in, Selfieland and Bedheadland. 

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think! and If you like this post please consider joining my mailing list here, where I'll keep you up to date with whats going on with me.

 

029. The revolution will be live streamed

Like art, revolutions come from combining what exists into what has never existed before.
— Gloria Steinem

This is for musicians, how much of the following do you believe is true for you?

There is no way to make a living from making your own music. You have to be really lucky to get a break. You have to gig every tiny non-paying pay to play venue at the bottom of every bill to pay your dues. To release music you send it to your online distribution company who delivers it to iTunes and Spotify, you send a couple of tweets, post it on Facebook and all your hard work and effort in making your art gets boiled down to sheer luck. 

Imagine you wanted to open a coffee shop. Coffee was your life you loved it and you knew that your coffee would make people so happy. Now imagine that you decided you would set up your shop next door to ten other coffee shops. Now imagine that you only opened three days a week but you didn’t tell anybody which three days it would be. Next, imagine that you hired someone to sell your coffee for you and instead of charging your regular price they charged people a tiny fee and gave you back .0000009 of a cent on each cup. Now picture yourself going to the bank and trying to negotiate a loan for your coffee business. If you were the bank manager how do you think it would look.

Now I can only speak for myself here but I have a strong belief I am not alone. This was exactly how I thought about being an independent musician. The music will win if its good enough it will connect. If I am lucky a song will explode and go viral, whatever that even means, exposure? opportunities? money? fame? 

If you are reading this thinking, you didn’t really think like that did you? let me add this caveat, the way the music industry evolved was unlike any other sane business model, it is too long to get into it here but suffice to say that thinking your career could suddenly break overnight and propel you to fame and fortune wasn’t outside the realms of possibility.

What polarised my view from fantasist to pragmatist was how the next generation of independent musicians were leveraging that great leveller, the internet. In particular, a company called Indepreneur their overarching philosophy is simple, autonomy in your career. Running it with the same efficacy as a small to medium-sized business. Still making the best coffee, but instead of letting it go cold on the table, finding the perfect people who will enjoy it most and pay you the right price for it. Not because you want to be the next Starbucks but because there is a real and tangible sea change for indies.

Now imagine a world where more and more musicians take control of their own destinies. A new generation making art not to let it slip into the ether but delivered thoughtfully and deliberately into the hands, ears and minds of the people who will appreciate it most of all.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think! and If you like this post please consider joining my mailing list here, where I'll keep you up to date with whats going on with me. There will be access to bonus content and a free song! 

 

028.Deadlines and the accidental tourist

A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it’s better than no inspiration at all.
— Rita Mae Brown

Deadlines, I missed one…well, actually I missed two but who’s counting? When I started writing these blogs I fell into a weekly format and that really suited me, daily is too much and monthly is too long, but weekly felt just right. When you work as your own boss or at least your own time manager keeping self-imposed deadlines can be tricky there are no real repercussions if you miss any, other than how hard on yourself you are, lucky for me I have a very understanding boss who pretty much lets me do whatever I want. This is not always helpful. Anyway, I am back in a writing chair this week and I want to give you my excuse.

I missed these particular deadlines because I had a grand notion of trying to turn the blog into a vlog and I underestimated both the time it would take and more importantly my skills as a filmmaker which are at the moment zero. I have watched movies and tv undoubtedly too much, I watch Casey Neistat’s daily vlogs. I have a HD camera in my pocket, I have pithy, epigrammatic ideas about what its like to be an independent musician in the modern age this should be easy right? 

It's like that feeling you get when your watching football, if you were to be suddenly transported to actually being the keeper would you have the real-life skills to actually make the save you were so hypercritical of from your couch? probably not, and neither was I.

I fell into that conceit of the zeitgeist, The instant fix, I was trying to do a hack. Take the red pill and wake up in the matrix where I could download a particular set of skills and instantaneously unleash my inner Stanely Kubrick (good thing I was reserved about my expectations!)

So long story short this blog is not a vlog yet but it will be evolving soon whenever I can make a deadline I can stick too!

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027. Please keep off the grass and don't feed the gurus

Don’t follow leaders and watch your parking meters.
— Bob Dylan

I just finished a documentary series The wild wild country on Netflix, all about an Indian Guru who tries to set up a utopian commune in Oregon. What struck me most about the story, which was true by the way and definitely worth checking out, was his followers, they were so devoted to him so filled with an absolute unshakable belief. Now I would consider myself a cynic, not so much that I don’t believe in people, but I don’t believe in organisations, especially ones where there is a messianic spearhead promising Shangri-la. 

I wasn’t there and I don’t know what really compels people to follow so blindly, but here's what I think. People underestimate themselves in such a profound way, they feel, like we all do, that life should be giving them so much more but that it's passing them by and they are powerless to do anything about it. How we grow up doesn’t help, we have a society where we put our sense of worth at the mercy of other people, grading, critiquing and dogmatically categorising us in generalities. So much so that we no longer have the ability to accurately assess ourselves without wanting approval and validation from someone else. Then along comes someone who seemingly has answers and can empower them to finally live the life and be the person they feel they were always meant to be.

Unfortunately, there are and will always be people who will exploit and manipulate these insecurities. These people are not just old mystics with long beards starting communes, they are people on keyboards writing alluring marketing emails and making irresistible click-bait about how you can be your best self in five easy tips. It is a seductive thought, I'll just download this ebook pdf and get my life sorted and If only it were that simple. I have folders full of ebooks by the way I am by no means exempting myself from this phenomenon. 

To sum up, I believe that we are not just capable of more than we think, I believe that we have the ability to be our own Guru’s and FITFO for ourselves, I'll leave it to you decipher the acronym.

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026. You give what you get.

Creativity requires input, and that’s what research is. You’re gathering material with which to build.
— Gene Luen Yang

I am a diarist, a very inconsistent one, but for some reason over the years, I have kept diaries of some kind. Occasionally, I end up going back through them and I start to notice the repetitive trains of thoughts and ideas. I tend to move in cycles where I swing from being totally committed and productive to the exact opposite where I let things slide for a few weeks and convince myself I’ll never get back to being productive again. For me, it's a little bit like being on a diet where I eat healthily for a few weeks, then one weekend gorge on delicious things and when Sunday rolls around decide, “well there goes the diet so I may as well not even try anymore.” and so the cycle continues. 

When I am on the bad side of the sliding scale, I’ll often turn to things that influence me more and more. I’ll stay up late watching movies or youtube videos about music theory or listen to podcasts about composing or songwriting in general. Anything to regain that spark that motivates me into action. But what if the inaction is as important as the action? What if there needs to be time and space to absorb and let the life experience strain through the mind sieve? 

The way I see it, being a creative person is like being a chef trying to make a new dish, every now and then you need to hit up the market and see what new ingredients are available. But when you have nailed down what you want to use, you still have to make it into something that is worth eating and that takes time. Unfortunately, it has its own deadlines. I can’t really decide when its a time for input or a time for output. I just try to be more aware of which time I'm in and work with that, diaries definitely help.

It is so easy to see these fallow times as being frustrating and ineffective when in reality they are a hugely necessary step in the process, well in my process anyway. 

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025. Subjective matter

An optimist is a person who sees a green light everywhere, while a pessimist sees only the red stoplight... the truly wise person is colorblind.
— Albert Schweitzer

How do you see the world? I have often been asked this question and not for the reasons you may think, I get asked this because I have colourblindness, nothing severe or life-threatening or anything like that, it just means I'll probably never fly a plane but thanks for the concern. I have a hard time defining colours like brown and purple. I find people are so fascinated by what I see or in this case what I don’t see. I don’t really have an answer, I tell them I see the way I see. It is purely subjective to being me, just like the way you may see yellow or green is purely subjective to you.

Whatever way my genes and biology decided to organise themselves is my reality. It is how I view the world. This translates fluently into being an artist. Your view of things and how you see the world as an artist is totally unique to you. Try as you might to explain it to someone you always fall short. Just as my blue is my blue your blue is your blue. 

The only way to even come close to explaining is to show it through your work, your painting photography or in my case music (insert “but where is your music? joke here”) In a way I often see being creative as a personal attempt to try to explain that colour you can’t quite see.

The artistic process is like holding a personal mirror to the world you see. What makes it amazing is that everyone has a totally unique view of it. your art is unmakeable by anyone else. Therefore if you don’t make it, it will not exist. Think about it, there could be a whole shade of colour never quite seen by anyone except by you. If ever there was a motivation to go do something that’s it.

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024. The Why

The hardest thing is to listen to your instincts, your human personal intuition it always whispers; it never shouts
— Steven Spielberg

I sat at the piano today and I started putting together a chord progression. There was an idea I found online about changing chords in a minor key. So I put the metronome on and started cycling through the chords and singing some gibberish words over it trying to shape a melody on top. This is very typical of how I like to write. I was just about to record a little section into my phone when I realised something which may seem very obvious to other songwriters. I have even heard and given this advice before but for some reason it had never really stuck with me. I had no real Why for what I was writing other than just a technical exercise about chords. 

It is never about the how, it is always and always has to be about the Why. Anyone can put together some chords in a row, but what was I trying to say with those chords, why did I want to use them in this way. I couldn’t come up with an answer. 

The Why, in my opinion, is the most powerful element of art. There has to be the reason to see it through. Be it the unrelenting emotion bursting through or the story that you simply have to tell. What is the reason behind what you are doing and what you are creating?

For me finding the Why is the most elusive part of creating anything. Whats more it is usually the very last thing I try to do, or I mostly try to avoid it altogether.  You know sometimes when you have a really important job to do, so you make a list, and put it at the very bottom do any other job to avoid doing that one. Like, “I’ll just clean the house then I’ll do it” or “I’ll do it after I make this cup of coffee”, I’ll do it later and later and later. 

The how is easy, think about it as a filming analogy all of us have a camera in our pocket that is capable of shooting a cinema quality film. Why then are we not all filmmakers? The reason is our Why. Most of us, I would argue, would have a similar outlook to myself when I say, “but there is nothing to shoot” or “I can’t do that”. But equally look at youtube, there are millions of filmmakers and vloggers making the everyday extraordinary. They are the people that look for the story in their day, what life is trying to tell them moment to moment and shoot that.

I so often preoccupy myself with the how, because I know the how, chord structures, harmony rhythm. The Why is not so easily found and that is probably why I avoid it so consistently but that is exactly why it is so important. It gives the creedence to what you are making. It is the real truth of what you do. It the small voice of inspiration that you need to be always aware of.

Please leave a comment and let me know your WHY! and If you like this post please consider joining my mailing list here, where I'll keep you up to date with whats going on with me. There will be access to bonus content and a free song! 

 

If an album falls in the woods and no-one is around to hear it does it make a sound?

The first act is writing, the second act is filming, the third act is releasing. If you have to partake in the third act, it hurts the first act of the next one. It’s like a prizefight. You get punched.
— Albert Brooks

If you have followed a few of these blogs you will have heard me ranting on about highs and lows of being a musician. But you may ask where is the actual music? If you have checked out the rest of this website you will notice there is only a couple of songs, whats going on?

Well in an effort of full disclosure here it is. I am currently working on an album which will be released later this year. I have been working on it on and off for the past seven years, so why is it taking so long?

Of course, time and money are always a big factor, but they will never be the biggest barriers to overcome. when its a labour of love, you will manage to get there somehow. I find that, for me, the thing that is actually the most difficult to get past in terms of finishing is that when It’s done I have to put it out there and invite all the scrutiny that comes along with that. Or what's worse the lack of interest that might be out there; Facing the void of obscurity.

What happens when an album by an unknown artist is released? Needles and haystacks spring to mind. As you can imagine the buzz you may be able to create for it could be ephemeral to say the least. When you weigh that up with the time and effort you spend on making it, the neurosis instinct can kick in fast. 

How do I deal with it? I do what any rational human does, I procrastinate and do the opposite of what I should in an effort to deflect the asperity.

I realise I am leaning towards the dark side a bit this week but the next time you hear a brand new song that comes on the radio maybe hesitate that extra few seconds before mindlessly skipping to something that is more familiar. You might not realise the time and effort that went into its creation.  

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022. Do your research.

Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.
— Rollo May

The first thing that you will learn from the music marketers is to define your genre, your niche where does your music fit on the music map? What does your music sound like? what other artists are you like? From there you can springboard into finding the people who might be likely to have an affinity for your music. There are a few ways of doing this; If you are a Spotify user, you can create a radio from your soundalike artists and an algorithm will compile a playlist of similar music or for a cool visual map of every genre you could think of check out Every noise at once.

For me, it was an eye-opening experience. I never cared that much about genres or being pigeonholed into being this way or that, I wanted to be unique, free of the confines of style. This, of course, was more ego massage, as I am prone to doing. Of course, I sound like people! and that's a good thing I want to sound like people it helps me to make the music I would like to hear myself. So I went to research land to try and define what my music was like. 

At first, this was not a job that sounds like fun but as with any task that has resistance it has big rewards. The more soundalike artists I found, the more familiar patterns were in the orbit around them. A band could lead to a movie I hadn’t seen, or a book I hadn’t read, or a comedian I hadn’t heard before. Researching these artists was in a way like researching myself and it really couldn’t have been any other way, could it? It was like taking a tour of all the things that I was interested in; Like the way Netflix will recommend something as a 97% match. 

An amazing thing I have found is that there are so many people out there with the exact same interests and tastes. For everything, I found there were hundreds of comment threads, likes and shares for the same things. There was a heartbeat to it, a community, a tribe.

And so for the last paragraph, I am going to go a bit meta. What have I learned? For all the anonymity and seaming vastness of the online world, it appears that we are still trying to break out into small little Islands to find our communities and our tribes. Not only this but the advancement of machine learning and algorithms means that the digital landscape is sending these like minds to similar places. I am not naive enough to think that this is not a frightening prospect but nor am I cynical enough to feel that this is the doomsday machine. I believe, for the optimistic among us, that this means a way to connect, a bridge for ideas, advancement and creativity.

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021. Absolute beginners.

I’m an artist, and if you give me a tuba, I’ll bring you something out of it
— John Lennon

When I started to play in bands as a teenager, I was lucky enough to be adequately proficient at playing my chosen instrument, namely the guitar, that I didn’t get landed with the role of being the bass player. At the time, the bass player in the band was always the person who said, "Fine, everyone is playing the cool instruments so I’ll take one for the team and play the bass." Bass players, don’t hate me, I am going somewhere with this and besides this is what happened to Paul McCartney in the Beatles so you are in good company. 

In my experience, not one of my friends who decided to take on this, or any other instrument, has ever regretted it. Not because of the usual, learning an instrument is really rewarding stuff, but because being forced to think about the way a different instrument functions made them appreciate music in a way which they may have never gotten to otherwise. However, I think there is an even more profound side effect; Choosing a foreign instrument allowed them to be more creative.

I feel that so much of the creative decision making can be caught up in identifying yourself in a certain way. I'm a guitar player, therefore, I play like this or I try to put more and more flashy techniques into songs to prove what a good guitar player I am. I think that the people who adopted different instruments have a great luxury in whatever they play because they don’t have the weight of their own preconceived notions.

For me it's the piano, I love to play it, I love to write on it, but I would never call myself a piano player and this is the beauty of it. Because it's not me, I am free to use it in whatever way I want. If I play a weird voicing of a chord that a trained player would never use, it's fine, because I'm not a piano player; If I don’t have independence with both hands, It's fine, because I’m not a piano player.

Look at how many great songs were written by people who were not trained in music. They were free to put things in whatever way suited them. They didn’t have to be bound by the regular rules because they didn’t know what the rules were. 

I think one of the greatest ways out of a creative rut is to pick up an instrument you can’t play and write with it, or try to approach your own instrument in a new way. For guitarists I recommend playing with your bad hand I guarantee whatever you play will be unique.

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020. The answer to a question nobody asked.

If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.
— Stephen pressfield

A few days ago my daughter and I made a jigsaw of Disney princesses, when I was younger I used to love making jigsaws too, and I realised that in some ways metaphorically speaking I still do. What i mean is, this is the way I approach my creative process in general, the satisfaction of revealing a big picture from smaller disparate fragments.

Since I have started writing these blogs and learning more about putting myself out there as an artist. I have spoken to so many people who want to start something themselves but have met the dreaded resistance. That little voice in your head that goes  “what you want to do is the answer to a question that nobody asked” or “What gives you the right to make something?”. Ultimately for me it was about giving myself permission to be a writer.

I always thought that you had to be this unique kind of human who heard all the music in their heads first and who had an overwhelming compulsion to write and bear their souls and couldn’t stop unless their complete artistic visions were manifest. But this always seemed to be at odds with my process of fitting the parts together like a jigsaw. For me it as always more about tinkering and tweaking things like working on a giant machine of sounds. I never hear it all in my head first or feel like I have a total vision of what Im working on. I simply fumble with the pieces until they start to fit together and eventually, a bigger picture appears. 

I felt that because I didn’t approach making music like these real artists did, whatever I was doing was not as valid, this of course was all in my own head. The simple truth is it doesn’t matter which way you approach things and it doesn’t matter if you don’t know what they mean or you don’t have a grand vision for it all. It only matters that you did something. 

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