Barry Power

Offical Site of Melodic Indie songwriter Barry Power.

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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.

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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? 

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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.


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.

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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. 

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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.

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