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.

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

031. Going Deep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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! 

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! 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

004. Digital Kung Fu

The Renaissance man did a number of things, many of them well, a few beautifully, he was no damned specialist
— Lucius beebe

The Original meaning of Kung Fu doesn't just apply to martial arts. It is the Practice of any discipline or art that takes time and effort to attain. You could say that anyone who has achieved a level of mastery over a particular skill is a person with good Kung Fu. Anyone can have it if you know a really good plumber they could be said to have good Kung Fu.If you know a good tea maker you can say they have good kung fu.

Traditionally, it was also quite common for a person pursuing a life of Kung Fu to have a mastery, or at least an in-depth understanding, of many other different arts and skills. You could be a skilled martial artist but also a skilled Painter or writer. There wasn't a pigeonhole to say I am only this, you could be many things.

I always felt that being a musician defined me as such. As a musician, I allowed myself to be good at music but not other "things". Promotion? nope, I can't do that, Marketing? nope, I can't do that. Running a business? the list goes on. 

Starting a business online by yourself means having to figure out a lot of different skills, and If you close your mind to only believing you are one thing means other areas will fail, or at least not be approached with confidence. It would be like putting a Ferrari engine in a Volvo, unbalanced.

 So what to do?

Firstly,  abandon the titles, Musician, Artist, Promoter, whatever you choose to call yourself does not define you. As a person of Kung Fu, you are all these things and none of them at the same time. 

Secondly, Embrace the idea of applying your skill level in your specific area to all the other areas. If you're already a person who knows how to achieve in one place, you can achieve in another.

It's the digital renaissance, master one thing and master many, Be a person of Kung FU.

 

 Before you say anything, I know there are no belts in Kung Fu.

 Before you say anything, I know there are no belts in Kung Fu.