Barry Power

Offical Site of Melodic Indie songwriter Barry Power.

Filtering by Tag: the online musician

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.

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.


032. Raw Footage

When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.
— Stephen King

Sometimes the best solution to a problem is by simply changing the angle at which you view it from.  As if someone turns on a light in a part of an overfamiliar room to illuminate your missing shoe. You knew it was there all along but couldn’t quite remember where exactly until that flick of a switch. 

Over the past few months I have been working through a book called The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. For anyone who is interested in getting a bit more creative in your life in general, I would highly recommend it. There are countless lessons to be taken from the first reading. Although, I suspect I will be revisiting this book again many times in the future. One of the most valuable I have found is the idea of creating from a place of abundance as opposed to scarcity.

I’m going to use songwriting as my example but I feel it could be applied to whatever your chosen field is.

From when I first started writing I only really saw one way to go. If I had a verse I would write the six or eight lines that I needed and then move on and write the four lines for the chorus then move on. I only ever wrote what I thought was necessary. This made the writing far more challenging than it needed to be because I was always only trying to find my best four lines. 

It never even occurred to me to write any more than what I felt I needed. Before I even put pen to paper the line had to be great, otherwise I would discard it and move on. It was this throwing away that was really my biggest mistake. It left me with almost nothing to draw from, not only this but I was totally dismissive of 99% of all my work. If it wasn’t a killer line; Bang, gone, never to be heard from again. 

The angle from which I viewed my problem changed completely by doing the very first exercise from The Artists Way. It’s called morning pages and its premise is quite simple; three pages of stream of conscious writing every day where the only goal is to write. It doesn’t matter about what, just whatever comes into your head even if that is the repeated line, “I can’t think of anything to write” or “all work and no play makes Jack a something something”. 

At first its seems so pointless, pages and pages of disparate ideas and random thoughts, but, over time it becomes something else. It’s like opening up a dialogue with yourself where you start to tune into subtle ideas and thoughts, that, had they not been written down, would be gone forever. 

I have found that part of the function of these pages is to help unblock any creative obstacles and it does that in sometimes uncomfortable ways. It was only after a few months that I found I had pages and pages of writing, way more than the brief sketches and outlines of songs I used to put into my notebooks. 

This may seem really obvious but It took me a long time to get into my head that writing and editing should not be done simultaneously, they need to be separated. The time to judge your work is not as you do it, but after the fact, when it’s done when it’s written down when it already exists. The way I work now is by fishing through all of the collective work, all those scraps, half thoughts and throwaway ideas until I can find my best four lines from that. I mean you cant have hindsight for something you never wrote down or you can’t remember.

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! 

027. Please keep off the grass and don't feed the gurus

Don’t follow leaders and watch your parking meters.
— Bob Dylan

I just finished a documentary series The wild wild country on Netflix, all about an Indian Guru who tries to set up a utopian commune in Oregon. What struck me most about the story, which was true by the way and definitely worth checking out, was his followers, they were so devoted to him so filled with an absolute unshakable belief. Now I would consider myself a cynic, not so much that I don’t believe in people, but I don’t believe in organisations, especially ones where there is a messianic spearhead promising Shangri-la. 

I wasn’t there and I don’t know what really compels people to follow so blindly, but here's what I think. People underestimate themselves in such a profound way, they feel, like we all do, that life should be giving them so much more but that it's passing them by and they are powerless to do anything about it. How we grow up doesn’t help, we have a society where we put our sense of worth at the mercy of other people, grading, critiquing and dogmatically categorising us in generalities. So much so that we no longer have the ability to accurately assess ourselves without wanting approval and validation from someone else. Then along comes someone who seemingly has answers and can empower them to finally live the life and be the person they feel they were always meant to be.

Unfortunately, there are and will always be people who will exploit and manipulate these insecurities. These people are not just old mystics with long beards starting communes, they are people on keyboards writing alluring marketing emails and making irresistible click-bait about how you can be your best self in five easy tips. It is a seductive thought, I'll just download this ebook pdf and get my life sorted and If only it were that simple. I have folders full of ebooks by the way I am by no means exempting myself from this phenomenon. 

To sum up, I believe that we are not just capable of more than we think, I believe that we have the ability to be our own Guru’s and FITFO for ourselves, I'll leave it to you decipher the acronym.

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

026. You give what you get.

Creativity requires input, and that’s what research is. You’re gathering material with which to build.
— Gene Luen Yang

I am a diarist, a very inconsistent one, but for some reason over the years, I have kept diaries of some kind. Occasionally, I end up going back through them and I start to notice the repetitive trains of thoughts and ideas. I tend to move in cycles where I swing from being totally committed and productive to the exact opposite where I let things slide for a few weeks and convince myself I’ll never get back to being productive again. For me, it's a little bit like being on a diet where I eat healthily for a few weeks, then one weekend gorge on delicious things and when Sunday rolls around decide, “well there goes the diet so I may as well not even try anymore.” and so the cycle continues. 

When I am on the bad side of the sliding scale, I’ll often turn to things that influence me more and more. I’ll stay up late watching movies or youtube videos about music theory or listen to podcasts about composing or songwriting in general. Anything to regain that spark that motivates me into action. But what if the inaction is as important as the action? What if there needs to be time and space to absorb and let the life experience strain through the mind sieve? 

The way I see it, being a creative person is like being a chef trying to make a new dish, every now and then you need to hit up the market and see what new ingredients are available. But when you have nailed down what you want to use, you still have to make it into something that is worth eating and that takes time. Unfortunately, it has its own deadlines. I can’t really decide when its a time for input or a time for output. I just try to be more aware of which time I'm in and work with that, diaries definitely help.

It is so easy to see these fallow times as being frustrating and ineffective when in reality they are a hugely necessary step in the process, well in my process anyway. 

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

025. Subjective matter

An optimist is a person who sees a green light everywhere, while a pessimist sees only the red stoplight... the truly wise person is colorblind.
— Albert Schweitzer

How do you see the world? I have often been asked this question and not for the reasons you may think, I get asked this because I have colourblindness, nothing severe or life-threatening or anything like that, it just means I'll probably never fly a plane but thanks for the concern. I have a hard time defining colours like brown and purple. I find people are so fascinated by what I see or in this case what I don’t see. I don’t really have an answer, I tell them I see the way I see. It is purely subjective to being me, just like the way you may see yellow or green is purely subjective to you.

Whatever way my genes and biology decided to organise themselves is my reality. It is how I view the world. This translates fluently into being an artist. Your view of things and how you see the world as an artist is totally unique to you. Try as you might to explain it to someone you always fall short. Just as my blue is my blue your blue is your blue. 

The only way to even come close to explaining is to show it through your work, your painting photography or in my case music (insert “but where is your music? joke here”) In a way I often see being creative as a personal attempt to try to explain that colour you can’t quite see.

The artistic process is like holding a personal mirror to the world you see. What makes it amazing is that everyone has a totally unique view of it. your art is unmakeable by anyone else. Therefore if you don’t make it, it will not exist. Think about it, there could be a whole shade of colour never quite seen by anyone except by you. If ever there was a motivation to go do something that’s it.

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

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! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

022. Do your research.

Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.
— Rollo May

The first thing that you will learn from the music marketers is to define your genre, your niche where does your music fit on the music map? What does your music sound like? what other artists are you like? From there you can springboard into finding the people who might be likely to have an affinity for your music. There are a few ways of doing this; If you are a Spotify user, you can create a radio from your soundalike artists and an algorithm will compile a playlist of similar music or for a cool visual map of every genre you could think of check out Every noise at once.

For me, it was an eye-opening experience. I never cared that much about genres or being pigeonholed into being this way or that, I wanted to be unique, free of the confines of style. This, of course, was more ego massage, as I am prone to doing. Of course, I sound like people! and that's a good thing I want to sound like people it helps me to make the music I would like to hear myself. So I went to research land to try and define what my music was like. 

At first, this was not a job that sounds like fun but as with any task that has resistance it has big rewards. The more soundalike artists I found, the more familiar patterns were in the orbit around them. A band could lead to a movie I hadn’t seen, or a book I hadn’t read, or a comedian I hadn’t heard before. Researching these artists was in a way like researching myself and it really couldn’t have been any other way, could it? It was like taking a tour of all the things that I was interested in; Like the way Netflix will recommend something as a 97% match. 

An amazing thing I have found is that there are so many people out there with the exact same interests and tastes. For everything, I found there were hundreds of comment threads, likes and shares for the same things. There was a heartbeat to it, a community, a tribe.

And so for the last paragraph, I am going to go a bit meta. What have I learned? For all the anonymity and seaming vastness of the online world, it appears that we are still trying to break out into small little Islands to find our communities and our tribes. Not only this but the advancement of machine learning and algorithms means that the digital landscape is sending these like minds to similar places. I am not naive enough to think that this is not a frightening prospect but nor am I cynical enough to feel that this is the doomsday machine. I believe, for the optimistic among us, that this means a way to connect, a bridge for ideas, advancement and creativity.

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! 

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! 

016. Slow is fast

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit
— Aristotle

Did you ever notice how in movies about time travel, everyone is really worried about how one small action in the past can throw off the whole space-time continuum, yet nobody is really worried about their small actions in the present? These small actions when compounded are the ones that make for the big ideas and the big achievements but in order to have them lead to something tangible, you have to be consistent. Through time and repetition, the big moments will realise themselves. 

But this small consistent momentum is so far from the modern approach of, "I'm sure there is a hack for that." It can be a real challenge to enjoy the incremental. Even though I know the rewards are so much deeper in the long run, I kind of just want to be good at something straight away. It's like when you cram for an exam, the result might be really good but the knowledge is only at surface level, it is never really internalised.

I think it is a question of integrity and how deeply I would like to experience the things I find important in my life. The more I find hacks for things, the more I only experience them on the surface. I think it is in the small daily actions that you can gain a profound depth and insight into your life experience.

Why then is so easy to avoid these small things in the day, to make excuses and to not follow through? If they are so small then they should be easy to do right? For me, I feel it is the weight of expectation that comes with them. You go to the gym once and suddenly in your mind, your going six days a week and in amazing shape, then you miss a day and that's it, you quit. The emphasis is no longer on getting to the gym for that one day, it's that now you can't do your imaginary six days. 

I think what I am trying to say is that, for me, I find the choice to practice something daily, be it  writing, playing guitar or even not having a muffin with coffee, can be simultaneously the easiest and most difficult decision as it holds both the most pedestrian and the most extraordinary.

 

 

 

 

015. Out with the old, in with the old.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and the by-product from one food can be perfect for making another.
— Yotam Ottolenghi

In the house where I grew up we had, and still do have, a room that was totally devoted to music. It is the room where my mother has taught piano for over thirty years. It is filled from floor to ceiling with sheet music. Nothing is digital in here, all tactile and organised in a unique filing system that is only really known to the librarian. This room also has a vast collection of instruments from weird ethnic strings, to ukuleles and percussion toys.

I recently performed a song in this room for the Sloe Sessions check it out here. While we were making some space to shoot I moved an old bass guitar that had been lying around idle for years, so much so that I didn't even see it as an instrument anymore, it was just some wood and metal that had been accumulating dust and cobwebs. Ben (who runs the slow sessions) Suggested that I should give the bass to our close friend and all-around Bass enthusiast Alan to have a look at and see if he could bring it back to life. At first, he thought it was too far gone but a couple of weeks later he told me that with some meticulous care and attention he had worked it back to a playable working instrument again. 

Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 19.41.28.jpg

I always find that one of the biggest struggles to overcome when trying to create something, is to stop procrastinating and just do the work. In Stephen Pressfield's book The War of Art (I highly recommend it), he maintains, the biggest barrier to creating is what he terms resistance. This resistance is the times when you sit staring at a blank page and can somehow think of everything except what you are trying to do, Resistance is the, "I'll just go on youtube for five minutes first," I'll just make coffee then I'll be ready," You get the idea.

How does this tie in with the old bass I was just talking about? Well, it started me thinking about how often I use the excuse of not having the right equipment as a resistance. I so often say to myself, If I only had this piece of equipment or I can't finish this because it really needs a bass part and I don't have a bass when all along I actually did have a bass I just wasn't seeing it as a bass.

I think my point is that although having the right tools is important actually seeing things as tools is a path to least resistance, so go have a look in your attic or wardrobe and see if there is anything in there to reclaim and start seeing as a tool. You never know what you might have been forgetting about in the quest for the new and shiny. 

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! 

012. Do it yourself, Punk!

So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality, nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit.
— Christopher "Supertramp" McCandless

This week, I want to write about how accessible I think it is, to be an independent musician today. Let me start with how I see how things now. Musicians today and I include myself in this, are locked in an archaic and outdated view of what success is. A cyclical generational epoch that we refuse to see in any kind of new way. Because of how the music industry has been run, we feel that we don't have any real control. We feel we need intermediaries in order to validate what we are doing. The problem is that these middlemen exploit musicians at every step. 

The list is long but here are a few small examples. Gigs for exposure, slots at festivals in exchange for social media likes. Pay to play gigs. Radio playlisting. Not to mention streaming royalties. But the real tragedy is that musicians are letting themselves be exploited. They continually undervalue themselves waiting for their big break to be handed to them. And settling for these empty promises from people who are lining their pockets. 

But on the flipside of this, what inspires me are the anti-establishment movements like the underground punk scene of the 70's and again the grunge scene of the 90's. The mentality back then was not so much about your ability, but your balls to go for it. If things were not within reach, you got your friends around and moved to grab them for yourself. In those times they made their own flyers, cut their own records, designed their own record sleeves and even set up their own record companies out of sheer necessity. Look at the Buzzcocks or Subpop, they embraced their own ingenuity and built their own culture around their bands and their music. 

These people circumvented the major record labels and the so-called tastemakers and communicated straight to the people who loved their music most, their tribe. And in doing so had complete creative control and a real movement of like-minded people was born. 

I think we can go back to that attitude that made the movements of grunge and punk so vibrant and alive. Not to make the music the same but to embrace that idea of doing it yourself of taking the reigns. Everything is within your grasp. Whats more is we have the massive advantage of technology. Flyers on telephone poles are now Facebook events, record sleeves are now a collaboration with that amazing artist you found on Instagram. Pressing records is now an email away, finding your tribe is no longer turning up for that one off post-punk night and hoping you can give your demo to some record PR guy. It is joining online groups who live and breathe the same culture as you.

Ok, I definitely feel old writing this and maybe any millennials who are reading this will say "are you just realising this now?" The answer is yes, I like so many of my peers, was institutionalised. but now I see the future is bright and it is never too late to embrace your inner Punk.

 

007. All part of the process

There are three parts to the creative process. First, there is inspiration, then there is the execution and finally there is the release.
— Eddie Van Halen

I am almost finished with the recording part of my debut Album entitled "Of Little The Instant” If there is anyone reading this who feels they should make an album themselves; What follows is an abject lesson in how not to make life easy for yourself.

Back in December 2011, three of us arrived in Bay studio, Wicklow to begin recording some bass and drums for a couple of tracks called Abjure and Incertitude. I had a rough idea of what was happening in these songs but had a, “let's see what happens” kind of attitude. This is fine when you are on your own time but when you're paying money for studio time and a producer, then this attitude is nieve and green. Tip no. 1 have your shit together. 

So after a blunt conversation with Pete (Producer and all-round genius), I knew this method was not going to work.  It was time to get deep into the concept of pre-production. I have to say, this turned out to be my favourite part of the whole process. I began by making rough demos for all the songs I felt were the strongest and we began to pick them apart and focus in on every aspect; the arrangements, instrumentation, what microphones to use, the whole sonic palette. I put together a playlist of reference tracks on Spotify, check it out below, so I could borrow instrument sounds and production techniques from music that I loved. It started to make so much sense as a whole project, sounds from one track we could use as motifs on others to tie them together. It was like a giant puzzle that we were adding to, piece by piece. It may sound like a methodical method but for me it meant that you could shine a light on even the smallest part of a track and make sure it was right.

When It was time to go into the studio again, it was a very different experience. There was a direction, it was an easy enjoyable time and recording takes were less stressful because you knew exactly what was to be done and how you were going to do it. Furthermore, you could hear all the temporary tracks melt away to real performances. 

One of the drawbacks of this way of working, was that it is very easy to disappear into the ether of creation (or up my own arse). It was so satisfying to put all this together, that I forgot there was a finish line. At some point it was going to have to be done, ready to release, Shared. Tip no.2 Know when it’s done. In the time it will have taken to do this one record I could have made and released three! 

The Record is called “Of Little The Instant” (Yes an ironic title I know! but thats for another blog) It will be released in 2018. I hope you will enjoy it. Whatever comes from it, I will not work on music in the same way after it and whatever I release after will not be as long in the making.

 

 

 

006. Love your masks and adore your failures.

When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.
— Eloise Ristad

 

I remember deciding that I wanted to be a musician. It was an easy decision. There simply wasn’t anything else I could imagine being, or at least, anything else that I felt I was as good at. It took me a long time to realise that the way a musician thinks about themselves can be quite different than the way people in other professions view themselves. 

When you grow up with a skill for something, you start to value yourself through your skill. So, if I play well, then I’m a good person. If I play badly, then…well you get the idea. I wonder if a graphic designer, who goes to work and has a bad day, comes home and think they are a terrible person? There is even a term for this; It’s called Musicians Focal Dystonia. It basically means, “I broke a string, I hate myself.”

Now, obviously, this is not the healthiest state of mind. However, I think that the worst outcome of this way of thinking is that, because your sense of identity is so strongly rooted in being something, a writer, an artist or in my case a musician then you find yourself afraid of failing. If I fail at my task then I fail as myself.

The problem is not that failure is not a bad thing; Failure is great! It is one of the only true ways that you really know that you are going in the right direction, creatively. How many times have you gone over and over something so you could get it just right? Failure, after failure, until its perfect. If it’s too easy then what you’re doing is not worthwhile. If you are not failing, you are not growing. If you are not trying something thats outside your comfort zone, then you are not living. You’re just going through the motions and playing it safe. 

005. Under the influence

The real beginning of influence comes as others sense you are being influenced by them - when they feel understood by you.
— Stephen R. Covey

 All week I have been racking my brain about how to approach this post. You see, the idea I have is a kind of philosophical observation and these ideas are difficult to explain, especially by me! So this weeks blog comes with a disclaimer; I am attempting a big idea.  I will probably fall short and it will take a big leap to get on the wavelength with this one, but I definitely think there is something in it.

(You can always just listen to the song at the bottom)

Ok here goes;………

From when we are born we start to understand ourselves through the influence of others. We see someone walking and we try to copy them until we can walk ourselves then we keep doing it until it becomes our own natural movement we internalise it, it is now ours.

As  musicians, we follow the same process. We learn our instrument, how to write and how to understand by copying the influence of others who inspire us; Until one day we internalise it and make it our own. 

Ok, here's where it is going to get far out. Where do our influences come from? The first music started somewhere in the prehistoric period and subsequently each generation influenced the next, who  in turn internalised it and changed it to represent themselves. This process grew and grew exponentially all over the world until we have all the variations of music that influences us today. So you could say that when you listen to music you are listening to the result of influences on the whole human race since the beginning of time. 

Did you ever get a song stuck in your head but couldn't figure out why? Me too; Most of the time it is a random song that doesn’t seem to have any relevance on my life, but every once in a while a song gets into my head in a way that seems a bit deeper.

This happened to me recently when I saw an ad for The Blue Planet 2 and the soundtrack was a Radiohead song called Bloom. It was a reworked version with the film composer Hans Zimmer. They were influenced by the concept of pointillism in art, which is a series of tiny dots which when looked at as a whole makes a picture. A perfect analogy for influences? 

So, whether it was the history of the world conspiring or just finding meaning in random coincidence; I had to do a version of the song, a reworking of a reworking, an influence of an influence.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

003. Create before you consume.

I hear and I forget,
I see and I remember,
I do and I understand
— Confucius

There is a phenomenon among musicians called Gear Acquisition Syndrome or GAS. The Idea is that you become obsessed with buying the latest equipment and thinking it will somehow make you become a better musician. It's like if a photographer has the best camera and doesn’t take any pictures with it.

I think there is a parallel with how we consume information online. I have signed up for countless online courses thinking that somehow I would magically attain a deep understanding of complex skills by reading a 2-page pdf and watching a youtube video.

Everything moves so quickly it is easy to mistake learning for understanding. There is a disconnect between what you know and what you can do. I think it's easy to fall into the trap of absorbing knowledge and not doing anything with it but having it still feel like progress.

The internet sets you up perfectly for this. I follow people on social media who can do amazing things and because they can put it in a 5 min video I get fooled into thinking that's how long it takes. I put it in my mental notebook and think "yeah Ill get around to that", regardless of how complicated the task.

This, of course, is a fallacy, It's the illusion of participation. Vicarious achievement. 

This is not a totally negative comment I actually have learned very useful things. In fact, I built this website by learning how to do it online. 

but here is the rub, with acquiring more information you are a more enriched creator. But by only consuming, what are you enriching? 

So for me, I am going to try to redress this balance and apply things more. Use them to create with rather than thinking if I just move to the next thing then I'll be better.

Create before I consume.

 

 

#showyourwork #createbeforeyouconsume #indiemusician

#showyourwork #createbeforeyouconsume #indiemusician