Barry Power

Offical Site of Melodic Indie songwriter Barry Power.

Filtering by Tag: #mentalhealth

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.

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.

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!

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! 

 

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. 

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! 

019. Communication breakdown

Art is essentially communication. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum. That’s why people make art, so other people can relate to it.
— Conor Oberst

Isn’t it true that 90% of human communication is based on non-verbal and body language? Well, where does that leave us when we are trying to make meaningful connections online? I, for one, have decided to try and embrace this new age of accessibility, so I really do hope there is a way to a truthful connection. Otherwise, a lot of us are wasting a lot of time.

One of the greatest experiences you can have in life is to go to hear and see music live, the tactility of it all, the murmurings of the audience before the performance, that shared vital energy from being in a big crowd in one place sharing the one moment together and the performers being the lynchpin to it all. As an artist and an audience member, this is what feels real.

So my question of the week is this; Is it possible to make these real and tangible connections in the digital space? For me, I think there is, because of how I first encountered music. It wasn’t because my favourite band had decided to tour the Irish midlands and I happened to stumble across them. It was through my headphones, as if the singer was talking directly to me or through a movie that opened my mind to ideas that were so brand new I couldn’t have experienced them in any other way. My point is, the delivery system may have changed but the feelings stay real. We all have a favourite song or movie that we have experienced digitally, It didn’t diminish our feelings for it.

So I’m going to go out on a limb here, but could you call the whole internet a new artistic medium? One that’s so all-encompassing that we are simultaneously creating it and experiencing it all at the same time? And if this is true, is the connection we are receiving from it as valid as a real-life communication? Or do you have to actually be there? 

While it’s fair to say, hearing a song on my phone speakers might never compare to the feelings of a real-life performance, the feelings I have for a song, that I may have never got the chance to hear without the freedom of delivery from the online world will still be the same.

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!