To Quote Sir Elton John…

“Sad songs say so much.”

Autumn Live at Queen's Park

Yesterday, an exceptionally talented fellow artist, Robin Chapman (seriously, if you get the opportunity to hear this guy, do it) asked me if I was going to sing depressing songs on this beautiful day.  It was a beautiful day, and, yes, I was going to sing depressing songs.  Although, that’s not quite an accurate description. They are written and performed by someone with severe clinical depression, and they reflect a lot of my experience. But, you’re not going to catch depression from them, any more than you’re going to catch my irregular heartbeat.

I have an advantage in that people like sad songs.  Music is a safe place to express and explore what we call negative emotions and life’s pain (and, life is FULL of pain). All the better if you’re good at it (the music, that is).

Yes, I sang sad songs, but I was glad to be doing what I love (even if I did have to wrestle with a keyboard that didn’t want to cooperate with me  – bloody electronic things *&^£”!!! – and everything didn’t go strictly to plan); I was out in the open air, making music for an appreciate audience, and that felt good.

Two moments in the day stand out for me as precious. One was, when the last performer of the day, the delicious Mo Shotter, called me back up on stage to sing some improvisational blues with her.  So, we sang ‘The Queen’s Park Blues’ together. This was a magically spontaneous and pure fun.

The other was when I was singing this song:

There’s a point in this where you see me smile, and it’s where I look into the audience and see my 6 year old son singing my song along with me. It was one of those serendipitous moments, a fixed moment where time stops.

Things had come full circle.

I was on the stage and my child was in the audience proud of his mummy and, very happily, singing one of my sad songs along with me. And, I saw myself at that age, in the audience, proudly looking up at my mother…singing along with the sad songs…’I saw the harbour lights. They only told me you were leaving’…

Pardon me while I wipe the tears. Pardon me while I smile during a very unsmiling song. And, pardon me while I cherish the songs – and the moments – that say more than the sum of their words ever could. Because they interpret what cannot be said, but only be felt.

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Compulsions

While success continues to elude me, I continue on because:

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It’s sort of like breathing. I’m a wreck at life. I don’t like it (life, that is). It annoys me (and that’s on a good day – the rest of the time I detest it). And, yet, I keep breathing… it’s that thing I do. But, unlike life, I am good at making music. Talent, I have. But, talent means so little in this business. I do this when there is no real reason to other than the compulsion to do it. If I could stop myself breathing, oh I would.  One day I may figure out the way to do that. Until then, apparently, I’m going to continue making music.

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At the moment, I’m getting in touch with the tribal; I’ve gone native. It feels right. It feels now. It feels ancient and now. Sometimes, I picture myself sitting against a tree in Queen’s Park or somewhere, with my hat off on the ground (to collect any stray change a kind passerby might give), playing my wooden flutes to the wind. I doubt that I will actually take up busking any time soon, but  that’s the visual in my imagination right now as I compose pieces layered with driving rhythym, accented by the haunting sound of my “second voice“.

I’m not releasing any more music (not putting out any more to sell, that is). What’s out there is out there (on bandcamp, cd baby, amazon and i-tunes). It is failing to fly off the virtual shelves. I will continue to share some of my new stuff online (and if and when gigging comes back into the picture), but it isn’t worth the amount of time (blood, sweat and literal tears) and money (I don’t get my money back, let alone make any on what I put out there) that it takes to produce and distribute if people aren’t going to buy it. It’s good stuff, but there’s too much competition and far too much apathy. I’m trying not to be bitter. Did I mention, life sucks?

I am always grateful for those who do enjoy my stuff. So, as I say, the stuff will still be there, but no new albums or singles.

I spent time this morning on another stab at an exercise in futility: uploading yet another song, one of my best (or so I’m told) to BBC Introducing. I’ll wait to hear that it’s been listened to…and then remain hopeful for a few days until I realise that, just like all the other times, they don’t want me.

Screw it. I’m breathing. And thus…I can’t escape it. I’m driven to do it, to make music whether anyone else is interested in what I have to offer. It’s beautiful. It just is. It allows me occupy the present moment and almost, nearly (as close as I get except maybe during orgasm), to enjoy it (the present, the moment, that is).

It used to be all about my voice. I finally realised, it’s bigger. I’m not just a vocalist. I’m a musician. I make music. I’m not a failure at making music. I successfully do the making thereof. I’m a failure at getting discovered/heard/famous. I’m a failure at making my passion and what I am good at pay my bills and contribute to the financial needs of myself and family. But, making music? At making clever, unique, versatile and pretty damn awesome music? At that… I’m a colossal success.

Perhaps, after I’m dead, my music will be discovered. Perhaps it never will and it will die with me. But, whatever the case, I’m making it because I don’t sing the song, it sings me. I don’t play the music, it plays me. And in it… in it is something pure and beautiful, something untainted, something that – for a moment – can make me feel like fucked-up-me is contributing something beautiful to this world…for a moment. And, I must do it. Like breathing, it’s a compulsion.

 

This is the piece that I composed as a thank you to the dear friend who sent me the gift of a second voice – my Native American wooden flutes. I have this set to play automatically so that, if you have the volume up on whatever circuity device you are reading this on, you can listen while you read. If you like what you hear, why not check out my other stuff? Thank you for reading and listening.