I Finally Made It There, BUT…

…getting lost in Leicester yesterday took its toll.

I try not to go to too many places alone outside the town where I live. I easily get turned around and my sense of direction isn’t what one would call stellar. Plus, suffering from anxiety (both social and general varieties), navigating what feels like hostile terrain without moral and directional support can be terrifying. 

But. Sometimes needs must. 

I had a gig and I had to get to the venue on my own; there was no one else to go with me and play glorified emotional roadie. The first hiccup was I missed my train. So, I was going to be late (even if I hadn’t got lost). This set the stage for me feeling rushed and stressed. Stress makes my brain go on lock down – brain fog becomes total brain cramp; it’s safe to say that I do not thrive under pressure. 

So, I was going to be late and I wouldn’t have the luxury of a slow and gentle walk to the venue. Now I knew this would be a brisk walk which would tire me out. I’d be winded and sweaty by the time I reached the venue.

The place where I was playing is The Musician Pub in Leicester. It’s a venue I’ve played quite a few times. I like playing there as, normally, you get an appreciative and listening audience of true music lovers. I’ve been driven there, and I’ve gone with other people on the train and then on foot, time and again. I really should have had no trouble finding the place on my own. All things being equal, that is. And, all things simply weren’t equal. Chronic illness and anxiety doesn’t keep to logic and it can greatly tip the scales…and NOT in one’s favour! 

I got off the train and made my way out of the station, walking in the direction I needed to go. I was shaken up. Alone in the city, strange purple haired, middle aged woman, in stripy knee socks, rucksack on my back and carrying a guitar. The first wrong turn I made I caught relatively quickly; I righted my directional wrong and carried on.

And, on…  missing the next turn I should’ve taken. Suddenly I realise I don’t recognise what I’m seeing and panic starts to grab me.  

I kept, audibly, telling myself ‘don’t cry’ even as the tears came streaming uncontrollably down my face, while trying not to hyperventilate and hoping my makeup wouldn’t be too smeared up from the tears AND the sweat IF I ever did make it to The Musician Pub to perform. I tried Google Maps, but I was in such a state by the time I realised I had gone the wrong way, that my brain couldn’t make heads or tails of what I was seeing. At some point in my crying, blurred vision madness, some sort of vague sense of direction kicked in…probably one of those primal, evolutionary mechanisms…and, I’m glad it did, because I was seconds from collapsing in a corner with wracking sobs. However, since we’re in England and NOTHING is on a grid work, I still had no idea if I could get there on foot.

But, I did. I made it. I had a Guinness to calm my nerves. And then I had a wonderful time doing what I do. 

In my element. Fear, anxiety and pain miles and miles away. On form.

It was a great afternoon of making music in tribute of Ian Babington, a local singer-songwriter who died very suddenly a couple of months ago, and all proceeds went to the Air Ambulance charity. While it was sad, it was also a very feel-good event, a celebration of Ian and of live music (which was so important to him).  

All in all, the best of times. Unfortunately, however, the prior worst of times had taken its toll upon my body. After the gig finished, the fatigue and aches and sick feeling hit me. Even after a night’s sleep, a weepy and shaky feeling remains. 

This is the reality of living with conditions that make everyday things that don’t phase other people such difficulties. And, it makes you feel so much less. I feel fragile. Weak. Pathetic. 

Fortunately, this episode didn’t negatively affect my performance, for which I am intensely grateful. There were elements of the performance that could’ve gone better, but it had nothing to do with getting lost, and, overall, I was satisfied with the day’s musical endeavours. But, it did affect my frazzled mind and weary body extremely negatively. It’s wounded me. Made me more frightened of the next time I have to go somewhere on my own and more likely to just refuse to go, meaning I end up missing out on opportunities. 

Obviously, the mega-rich and commercially successful musicians out there are never going to have this particular problem; they can afford to be driven to every gig and pay people to accompany them. Alas, I am among the number of talented, professional, working musicians who barely have the funds to buy replacement strings, let alone purchase an entourage! And, my physical and mental disabilities make me even more frustrated at the sore lack of enthusiasm there is for original independent music in this society! I’m not only providing quality music, I’m also fighting an ongoing health battle to bring out this music to others. Having what I do met with apathy makes me both angry and sad beyond articulation. 

There are many times I feel like giving up. But, the idea of no longer doing music is anathema to me, as it is to all true musicians. And, I am good at what I do. It’s not a lack of talent that makes me consider giving up. It’s my physical and mental condition coupled with societal apathy that causes the bouts of despair. 

I’m not sure how to end this piece. I just knew I needed to write it. Many who also suffer with these conditions will identify with my experience in Leicester. And, fellow original independent artists will identify with the pain and frustration of the apathy all too many of us face. But, there really isn’t any END or HOPE in sight for either of these problems until there is more understanding and awareness out there. 

Sigh.

The Art of Not Blogging

I have a thought, and I think, ‘Ooh, I’ll write about that; I need to SAY SOMETHING about THAT.’ Used to be, I would immediately get to some device and hold forth about whatever it was I was thinking and feeeeeeeeling. Now, I just wait until the urge passes, with the thought that comes, ‘No one gives a shit about what YOU think; no one is waiting anxiously to read about how YOU feeeeeeeeel.’

So, ironically, here I am, blogging about not blogging, writing about what I’m not writing about. 

All these blogs. All of us longing to be HEARD. Shouting deafeningly into cyberspace with all the effect of a whimper. 

My frustration and weariness grows with each waking moment…oh, but I am dangerously close to writing about how I feeeeeeeeel. ‘Fuck off, Autumn; no one wants to hear it!’ The thing is, it’s not so much that no one wants to hear it, it’s that no one is listening: there is too much noise. We are desensitised. And so, the good, the poignant, the profound gets lost with the bad. No one is listening. Thus, shout = whimper.  

The word ‘futility’ springs to mind. But, forgive me; there I go again, frighteningly close to sharing a thought. And, perhaps, I only state the blatantly obvious. There’s the damn forest, the damn trees are falling all over the fucking place, no one’s there to hear them… you get the idea… or, maybe you don’t. 

My friend Stevie Jones has a brilliant song about what we do here on the Internet. It’s better than any commentary I could or could not make… 

https://steviejonesandthewildfires.bandcamp.com/track/instant-world

I still have hope that music can carry a message to this world (damn it all, I just shared a fucking thought again; the art of not blogging is a difficult one, apparently). Artists have never been here to entertain you; we are here to make you feeeeeeeeel. So, who knows, maybe this little whimper will get through. But, I’m for sure NOT writing about it.

The Strength of Shadows 

I haven’t written a blog post in a while. I haven’t been doing well, and I haven’t been posting all over about it. No anguished Facebook statuses expounding on my less than coping condition…with the exception of last Thursday, when I admitted that I had to take a double dose of duloxetine in order to make it through the day.

In one sense, I am better than ever. Musically, things are happening for me, things that should’ve happened years ago. And, I am grateful for finally being in (somewhat of a) demand and appreciated for this music that IS me. I have a diary full of gigs, and I’ve been asked to play and sing on two different artist’s albums (one of which is a national artist). 

This keeps me busy. This also keeps me tired. Tired, on top of the chronic fatigue and pervasive everyday weariness I experience. Am I glad about my musical opportunities and successes? For certain I am! Does it change my brain chemistry and my worn out body? Certainly not.

It’s hard. My musical partner doesn’t know how I struggle. I hide it from him (thus the afore mentioned double dose so I wouldn’t fall apart in him during rehearsal).

My kids are an added stressor and cause of anxiety. One is facing her own set of health issues (‘gee, thanks, mum, for the lousy genetics’)…and, I feel guilty and frustrated because of that. Fucking bad genes! 

I have to force myself out of bed. I want to hide. Escape. The music is worth it, and I feel free and as close to ‘good’ as I get when I’m doing it. But, the anxiety and exhaustion persists. It waits until I step off the stage and then jumps on me with a vengeance. 

Sometimes, I am the shadow. Without substance. Waiting, longing even, to fade out of existence. Other times, I am all too real, heavy, and the shadow over me makes me heavier yet. 

But, dayum, do I sound awesome!

A Thought For A Grey Winter’s Day

It’s easy to cut people from one’s life using the popular excuse that they are ‘toxic’. And, there should be no doubt that place should never be given to manipulative, gaslighting, narcissistic persons. However…

I see too much of ‘difficult’ individuals getting discarded by people using the toxic excuse, when these individuals aren’t toxic at all; they are simply different. They may be wounded. They may deal with life and its frustrations and disappointments in a way that you disagree with. They may feel about matters very differently than you do. But, different isn’t toxic. And, giving up on someone and their friendship means you miss out on seeing things from another perspective than your own.

I guess many people are afraid of looking – really looking – at things from a different perspective than their own. And, I see friendships lost because of this stubbornness. 

A recent situation between two friends of mine has brought my song ‘Incomprehensible‘ to mind:

‘We’re at an impasse, no bridge exists between our worlds. And neither one can fathom the view from the other’s eyes.’

Yet, there should be some fathoming going on! 

Alas, I fear that both of my friends are unwilling to see things from the other side. One feels they have the moral high ground and doesn’t seem to want to give an inch. The other isn’t in a place where they can make allowances for such an ideological view of things. Impasse. Sad. 

Friendship is precious. Life and loss is painful. Compassion remains the key and can act as interpreter. But, now I’m just getting lofty and preachy and sounding ideological myself, and I’m not an idealist; I’m a realist.

I guess I’m just frustrated at my own inability to get these two to mend up their friendship, as well as being annoyed with the general way of things.

There’s no way to end this post except with a deep, heavy sigh…oh, and a link to that song.

https://autumndawnleader.bandcamp.com/track/incomprehensible

Reflections on 2016 & Beyond

I suppose many bloggers will be doing posts on a similar theme. My post may just get lost in among the multitude, as my music, similarly, gets lost amongst the glut of music that is out there. But, as I continue to make music, I will also write and share this post.

This year has been marked with an inordinate amount of loss. In addition to the passing of so many celebrities, there have also been very personal losses. An old friend tragically dying in a car crash. One of my best friends taking her own life. A dear friend and one of my favourite musicians moving a world away. These things have defined this year with a lot of pain. 

My continued dissatisfaction with how my music career is received has also been a distressing and irksome characteristic of 2016. 

It hasn’t been all bad. There’s been a lot of bad, but there has been some good happenings this year. Friendships have grown. Love has grown and strengthened. I was prescribed new meds. I met Chris Chambers and, together, we are a formidable musical force. 

As I look towards 2017, I have no rose-coloured delusions. I don’t make resolutions. Ha, that rhymes. But, no. I’m not making it into a line of a song. This year, I tried out vlogging. I don’t know if that will continue; it’s a lot of work – editing the videos – to only have a very few people watch. I’d rather just write. It’s much easier and I don’t have to edit out all my stuttering. Basically, I’ve decided not to bother trying to get people’s attention anymore.  If you want me and what I have to say, YOU can do the effort. I’m tired. 

I’m not going to share my music or ask people to listen to it on Facebook and Twitter anymore. It’s on YouTube.  It’s on Bandcamp. And, I perform live. Come and get it, or don’t.  I’m tired. I’m done.

I will continue on with The Way Out. I will continue writing and recording. I will NOT grumble on social media about people not giving a fuck. I’m tired. I’m done. I’m no longer wasting my breath.

It is what it is and will be what it will be. 2017 will come and contain new sorrows and continued madness and a whole lot of shit. It will surely also have a few bright spots. There will be great performances, brilliant gigs, music shared with people who appreciate it. There will be coffee, meeting with friends, shared special moments. There will be laughter. There will be love. Always love. I’m tired. I’m done. I’m no longer wasting my breath on the ignorant, prejudiced, ageist and tasteless; I will use what precious little energy I have to try to make the most of those bright spots. Fuck everything and everyone else.

NOW HEAR THIS (Music & Musicians you should know) Episode 1

now-hear-this-ep1

Back in October, I presented this idea.  Lots of life stuff has happened since then, and it’s been difficult for me to put something together for even the first post.  But, as there was some actual interest for this – and because I owe it to the musicians themselves – I better crack on. In this episode I will introduce you to three artists that I love.

Now, I know I told you I’d put people in categories, but I really do hate doing that. Categories suck.  I suppose you could stick these three under a sort of indie-folkiness category if you were shoving them in a pigeon hole, but I’d really love if people had more of an open mind and just forget the labels.

I’m going to begin with Tom Kane aka ‘No Man’s Heath’ – a singer/songwriter after my own bruised and broken heart. Tom packages raw personal truth in velvet metaphor, with an intricate, mesmerising guitar style and clean vocals. Every lyric is packed with meaning, every note is breathed through silver.  I challenge you to listen to this artist and not be touched and moved.  Here you will find longing and pain expressed in such a beautiful way, and – if you are at all the type of person like I am, who lives in a half-world of wishes and what-ifs – you will find yourself in Tom’s music.

Next, we have Melanie Page. The word ‘exquisite’ comes to mind when thinking of Melanie and her music. This woman’s artistry upon the classical guitar is a musical feast for the ears, while her lyrics paint very visual pictures. And, her voice! True sopranos are nearly as rare as true contraltos.  Melanie’s voice is a high, sweet, clarion call straight to the heart. Her songs are of love, loss, friendship, longing, hope, frustration and memories – the keepsakes of the heart. Her music is like starlight and thunderstorm, and can be likened to the musical equivalent of a good book that you get totally lost in; Mel’s music has the power to transport you to another realm.

Now, for Les Hayden.  This young man is ridiculously talented. I don’t think there is an instrument that he can’t play, and play well.  And, what I love about his songwriting is that it pulls no punches. This is life as it really is, minus the rose coloured scales and other nonsense people blind themselves with.  His musicianship is, as I say, totally outrageously good. Fellow musicians will appreciate the complexity of Les’s compositions, while everyone can appreciate the truth and power of the songs he writes. I recently got to see Les perform at The Musician (music venue) in Leicester, and knowing I was doing this series, I captured some video for this post (watch the video version of this post to see Les perform). Awesome stuff. Just awesome.

So, there you have it.  Now, GO HEAR IT! And, stay tuned for the next episode of NOW HEAR THIS!