Barry Power

Offical Site of Melodic Indie songwriter Barry Power.

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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.

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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.

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.

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! 

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. 

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! 

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.

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! 

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! 

 

018. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

I’d like to point out to people the divine in a musical language that transcends words. I want to speak to their souls.
— John Coltrane

I received my first trollish comment on a song recently. It wasn’t anything bad or insulting it was just that they compared my song to another artist (how dare they!!) This artist happens to be a big influence on me, (so much so I did a blog about it here) so I took it as a compliment. I didn’t deliberately set out to copy this particular song and although there are elements that are similar harmonically, I don’t think I could be accused of stealing really.  

But It did get me thinking about plagiarism in music. Normally, I don’t give this idea of stealing too much credence because we all have to take our cues from the artists who inspire us, but is there something even deeper? 

You know that feeling when you hear a song somewhere that you haven’t heard in a long time and suddenly it starts to follow you around, you hear it in all kinds of other situations. Or you are thinking about someone you haven’t heard from in a while and suddenly out of the blue, they call.

I find this happens to me in music, particularly when I am writing. I'll start writing something and a song will spring up that I would like to emulate the feeling of. Suddenly I start hearing that song in random places even if it's really obscure. Is this a sort of cosmic influence? Or is it just because my brain is subconsciously looking for connections and is finding them everywhere. 

So why did I mention plagiarism? well, what if, for argument's sake, it is some sort of divine machination at work when you sit down to write. Are these songs that you want to emulate served up by some otherness? Could they be manifesting themselves as some sort of divine through line, moving from artist to artist expressing themselves by a weird synchronicity?

I know, I know, conspiracy theorists of the world unite, (How many smiths references can I fit in here?) "we are all connected man." But maybe there is something to it, and if there is then it certainly lets all those artists who got sued off the hook. But then again, it could be just too much caffeine talking.

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! 

017. Wait, what was I talking about again?

Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity
— T.S. Eliot

Last week I began with an analogy about time travel movies. This week my analogy is about those movies where one man or woman has a singular vision, they disappear into the woods in an epic training/preparing montage and emerge totally ready, usually to catch a criminal or to get revenge. To the detriment of everything else in their lives, they commit one hundred percent to their mission and nothing sways them in their steadfastness.

Well, I am kind of the opposite of that. I have several visions, a hundred tasks and some seriously poor time management. My training montage would probably consist of making coffee and scrolling through my phone. 

It is simultaneously the curse and the advantage of the fluid creative brain, to brim with ideas and to pursue them. What happens to me is I tend to lose track of where I am at with things. Ideas, no problem, follow through erm... not so much. More often than not, this isn’t really a problem; Over time I have learned to accept how I approach things and if I throw enough mud at a wall some of it will stick.

Where I find a real danger in this is that it can lead to a feeling of anxiety, the unknownness of the results when you are working for yourself. It is difficult to quantify whether what you are spending your time on is the most productive it could be, or even that it will actually lead to much at all?

I have also found that for me, when I am in one of these more unpredictable times of having several plates in the air and not really sure which ones are the good china and which are the two euro shop ones, that If I spend too much time on social media it can compound this anxious feeling; Comparing where I think I am at, with where I think I should be with all these other people, are who are seemingly dealing with things much better than I am. Now I am usually a champion for technology and social media but It can really have a sharp edge to it if not handled carefully.

I am not playing the poor me musician has a crisis of confidence card here. It would be much easier to get a different occupation with some regular working hours and a regular salary. It is no one's choice but my own to pursue this kind of life but I thought it might be nice to share warts and all version along with the idealised vision version.

So, what do I do about this? I try to think of it like the weather, constantly in flux and similar in many ways to the fluid creative mind; occasionally overcast, dark and damp but with that is the perfect conditions for growth. Or something like that.  

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! 

013. Cognitive Dissonance

If your in marketing or advertising ...........kill yourself
— Bill Hicks

Your music is really good but how do you get people to hear it? The answer is you find a way to put it in front of the people you think will enjoy it the most. How do you do this? apparently, it is called marketing.

Learning about running my music career as a business this past year, has been like exploring an alien planet. I was always more interested in the creative side, the artistic vision, I didn’t care about all that business stuff. But to get where I want to go, I needed to understand more. So I went down the rabbit hole and how did I go about this? The internet of course.

As I am prone to mentioning, the amount of free resources available to the human race today is astounding and the people willing to teach their unique skillset is unparalleled in history. But when I started looking into the business world, and more specifically marketing, it was like the gate closing in the alligator pit. You suddenly start getting marketed to in a very specific way because these people are really good at well...Marketing. The problem is that there are so many Snake Oil salesmen out there.

For all our advancements, it is like going back to the wild west; The universal Panacea readily available for whatever in the world you desire, and they know how to get you hooked too. Unfortunately, this is what also part of what makes really good marketing.

Now the irony of all this is not lost on me. Being someone who considers myself as having a relatively good moral compass, what I ask myself is, how do I Juxtapose these ideas for my own career? Can the artistic and business really live together? To what extent do you become the seller of a product over the provider of existential solace which can't really have a price? 

My answer is, for me, there can be creativity in both and there can be artistry in both. You need to do it with your best intentions and if you are going to sell something then provide something of real worth and real value that is worthy of your art.

 

008. Children of the resolution

The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.
— Steven Pressfield

Happy new year! I Don't know how you feel about coming into a new year, but I have always found that there is a great feeling of possibility. The air is fat with promise, like the reset button has been pushed and It goes back to zero again.

And normally, I would start making plans, resolving to do things until my list gets longer and longer, but oftentimes, the longer it gets the less likely it is to happen. I swamp myself in thinking, but thinking is not doing; it is thinking about doing. There is a certain satisfaction in making a plan, it's like having a safety net. When I write something down, it is like I have already done it. But it is an illusion of control; having a plan doesn't really mean anything, it's just a list of things that are written down. In the same way, resolutions are just a list of things written down, they are not real.

Don't get me wrong; I am not against resolutions and plans in general, this is just what I have found to be true for myself. There are plenty of people out there who are amazing at resolutions, seeing them through and holding themselves accountable; it's just I am not one of them. You know the type of shoot first, ask questions later people? That is not me. I tend to ask questions first and people would have died of boredom long before I pulled the trigger.

So this year I am making one resolution and that is to DO MORE. I find that my biggest problem is that I think too much, I analyse things, I make too many lists and I have too many plans. In a way, by even making a resolution I feel like I have already set myself back. I think of all the things that I would like to achieve this year and instead of actually going out and doing them, I make a plan instead.

To get a little deeper for a minute I think there is also a philosophical parallel, if you examine life too much you are not experiencing, you are thinking about experiencing.

So this year I am going to DO MORE, If I am thinking, I am not living. If I am planning, I am not experiencing. If I am not experiencing, I am only imagining and I do not want this year to be a year of imagination; It will be a year of experience. 

So stop thinking, stop planning, stop watching, DO MORE.