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 New Project

First, I want to thank those of you who follow me here on WordPress. I know that many of you here suffer with health issues like I do, and the main reason you follow me is because we have that in common.  I also hope that I have gained fans and followers of my music, so much of which comes straight out of my struggles with my illnesses. First and foremost, I am a musician.  That’s where my heart is and, really, if you don’t want to hear/read me ramble on about my music and why you should listen to it (and support independent artists in general), you pretty much shouldn’t be here (just sayin’ it like it is). So, saying that, I want to go on to say that I really do appreciate my readers, watchers and listeners, and sincerely hope you will stick with me.

**(For those of you who would rather watch and listen to a vlog version of this post, here you go…otherwise, keep reading.)** 

Inspiration has struck for doing a series of posts about obscure/independent/unsigned musicians (other than myself), in an effort to make more people aware of the talent that is out there amongst us lesser knowns.  So, I am beginning ‘Project: Now Hear This (Music & Musicians You Should Know)‘ in order to spotlight the treasures that dwell amongst you.  Because, they are worth knowing about.

Now, in doing this, I know that musical tastes vary immensely.  But, I will try to provide something for everyone…well, for most people, anyway (if you like grunge metal, move on now). Thus, I will have categories for genres, so that if you really aren’t interested in a certain genre, you can skip that one if you must.  However, I encourage you to check out all the artists that I will be sharing over the coming posts; you may surprise yourself by finding you like something in a genre you never could imagine liking.  Hey, it happens all the time.  Music is like that, and so many of my fellow artists cross genre barriers all the time (I do it on purpose).  So, don’t count something or someone out just because you’ve never liked a particular genre before. Try to keep an open mind, and heart!

Now, this is simply an introductory post to whet your appetite for what I plan on sharing as an ongoing series – an advertisement for future posts, as it were (I’ve also written it for myself, in order to solidify the inspiration and importance of doing this) . So, as I say, stay tuned. Watch this space. And, get ready to Now Hear This!

Kicking Around Ideas

Do you have a bucket list? I’ve never had a formal one. The thing is, when one longs for death, the top of the bucket list is to kick the thing. 

I’ve sort of had ideas of things I’d like to do or accomplish, though. Some of these things – like recording a studio album, performing at The Musician, performing with Melanie Page – I’ve done. Some things I’ve done above and beyond. Like, I used to want to visit the UK. Now I live here and have done for over 12 years. I used to want to put a wild coloured streak in my hair. Now I have coloured it several times in wild, bright colours. Some things I’ve gotten close to, but no cigar… like, I recorded the album, but I still have no physical cds made, and that’s something I really wanted to do.

My informal list has changed since I was young, adjusting to what was possible and what was forever out of reach. When you’re young you can dream crazy dreams of singing a duet with Sting. You later realise that you’re filling your bucket with pipe cleaners when you add something so ridiculous to it. So, singing at Carnegie Hall and the London Philharmonic became singing at the Musician in Leicester. And, winning a Grammy by the age of 16 became just being satisfied with having a regular platform to share my music with others.

I can’t be climbing any mountains or travelling to see Greek ruins. I will never have the energy or the money for those things. A bucket list shouldn’t be full of pipe dreams; otherwise it would be called ‘a wish bucket’…or, a Bottle full of dreams, but that’s another story. 😉

My proverbial bucket looks rather empty. It sits there taunting me…shit, I’m rhyming. No, this isn’t going to be a song. 

Today, I began trying to think of things that I would like to do before I get out of this wretched skin…things that are actually possible.

Some days, when the longing for death is intense, it seems like just dying is impossible. There’s that taunting bucket, not letting me kick it.

Alas, miles to go, and all that. I’m so tired.

But, ok… let’s see. Let’s list some new things to do while I wait – some possibles…but challenging ones.

1.Do a gig (proper gig, not an open mic or folk/acoustic club, but a gig where I’m the featured artist) where I primarily play guitar (rather than keyboard/piano).

2. This edges near impossible, but it isn’t totally out of the realm of happenables, so… I’d like to meet Ryan Gage in person, give him a hug and see that amazing smile up close.

3. Visit Bradgate Park again.

OK. ..well, there’s a start, anywho. Feel free to tell me yours. 

Oh…and here’s a new song… it isn’t about buckets… it’s about longing.

Musings of a Multi-Instrumentalist 

That title sounds like I’m bragging. I don’t mean to be. I started out a singer. I became a songwriter. I learned piano out of necessity in order to have something to help me write and, then, to be able to accompany myself when no one else was available to do so. Then…many years later, I became a ‘pianist’. It still shocks me when I hear someone refer to me as one. But, I’m digressing before I’ve even started. Yeah, I play multiple instruments…and that makes me cool. So there. 

I’ve come to the guitar late.  I should’ve done it much sooner. I’ll add that to the rest of the regrets in my Bottle. But, I came to it. Drawn, like a thing that gets drawn into another thing. And, the lesson here is:

Learning another instrument will make you a better musician and, specifically, it will make you more skilled with your primary or other instruments.

I had an experience last night to prove this. I had gone to a folk club to play with one of my bands, ‘The Way Out‘. I sing and, primarily, play piano in this band, although occasionally I play the lyre or spirit flute or percussion with them. I had my stage piano there to do my thing. 

At a folk club, generally it’s a sing around.  People take turns sharing songs and if anyone else in the group can ‘grab a note and hang on’ they’re welcome to do so. 

Also…it’s rare to see a piano at one of these places; most of the folkies play guitar or a stringed instrument of one sort or another (it’s common to see lutes, mandolins, along with the non fretted violins and violas, etc. Piano is a novelty). A woman from the group asked the others in the circle to join her and…instead of struggling to pick out what she was playing on the guitar by ear, I watched her fret hand.

I know those guitar chords now. So, all I had to do was watch her hand and I knew what to play on the piano. It was a serendipitous moment. 

I’ve had guitarists and bass players who know enough about the piano to watch my hands and, therefore, be able to spontaneously play with me in a jam session situation. And now I was doing it in reverse. 

Yeah… that’s cool. 

I’m loving playing guitar. It hurts. It’s difficult. I’m not great. I let my voice cover for mediocre playing…but, thankfully, I can do that. It’s therapy.  It’s rather magical. It’s one of the best things I’ve done in years…for many reasons.