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.

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.

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! 

 

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.

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! 

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.

 

011. Flow States.

The zone is a state of mind which is marked by a sense of calmness. In addition, there is a heightened sense of awareness and focus. Actions seem effortless and there is an increased belief that your dreams or goals can become achievable and real.
— Dr. Jay Granat

This week I learned one of those, especially valuable lessons. You know the kind that leaves you feeling irritated afterwards, but ultimately you know are the most important. 

I was at my tai chi class, the first day back in the new year. It had been a few months since I had been able to attend a class. I had been practising, but without the direction of a teacher, I had drifted off into my own idea of what the practice should be.

When I arrived I said to the teacher, "I have lots of questions." I had stockpiled, and my brain was brimming with tiny, and as it happens, quite inconsequential details. As a result, when I tried to do the form It was slow, thoughtful, uptight and robotic. There was no flow. I was trying too hard thinking too much and outside of the moment. 

Musically, I find this happens to me all the time. I tend to think about the details of the music rather than the sound and the feeling. If I'm playing a gig and it's my turn to solo, I'll often think major scale, diminished arpeggio etc. which as terms really mean nothing, but as sounds can mean everything.

Then there are moments when I don't think about anything at all, those small slices of time where everything is still and I am simply observing what is happening. I feel like I am not in my own way, like a brief ray of sunshine breaking the clouds and then disappearing. It is these moments that I am most fascinated by. When you are in the zone, the greater truth of life appears. I am so often in awe of the people who are truly world class at whatever their chosen field is, how they can transcend all the mental clutter and seem to live in that space that I can only catch glimpses of.

I watched an interview recently with the Irish fiddle player, Martin Hayes. When asked what went through his mind when he plays, he answered that he would take inspiration from the local musicians he was surrounded by growing up. Not so much from their big achievements, but from those small fleeting instances of truth, those magical moments in sessions where the world stopped. That was what he wanted to present when he played.

So I find myself questioning, how do I get there? How do I tap into that zone? that flow state where I am simply in the moment and expressing myself honestly. I think the answer that most regularly presents itself to me is, as always, the simplest and yet the most ethereal; In the words of Yoda

"Do or do not there is no try" 

 

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.