On The Spot

It’s been quite a while since I wrote a blog post. I figured it was overtime for an update.

Life has been busy; I won’t bore you with long stories or too many details. My health continues to be a thing that gives me many complications and grief, with new conditions/ailments/symptoms rearing their painful heads. Meanwhile, I am continuing to write, record and perform music, and I am very actively gigging. Besides the odd solo show, I am regularly gigging as one half of the prog-folk duo The Secret Magpies, performing our original songs, and I play with the original rock band Stevie Jones and The Wildfires.  I’ve also recently had national radio play on BBC6 Radio Music, something that was very exciting, indeed.

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So, it may appear that I am in demand. But, it is a seriously a challenge to stand out and get noticed among the glut of music that is out there and available these days. I am only now beginning to embrace digital media and streaming, in the effort to get my music out there to YOU who will hopefully listen and even share my music with others (word of mouth is still the best advertisement).

Do you use Spotify? Do you like music that is distinctive, emotive and intense? If so, it is you who I am appealing to in an effort to increase my music’s reach.

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For a while I have been using the hashtags #supportoriginalmusic and #supportindependentartists. What I do like about Spotify, as a streaming service, is that it allows its users to discover more of what is out there off the mainstream. Sure, you can stick with what you know, what is familliar and comfortable, but where is the fun and adventure in that? We miss out on so much when we do that.  I have personally discovered artists I had not known before by using Spotify – artists I now love. And, when you follow an artist on Spotify, it updates you whenever artists you have followed release anything new – so you don’t miss out on new music coming from your favourite artists. This is beginning to sound like an advert for Spotify, and in a way it is (although, I can assure you, I am not on their payroll and they have not commissioned me to plug their app…more’s the pity). I’m not trying to get you to download Spotify if you don’t already use it and don’t want to use it; my aim here is to engage with people who are already sold on Spotify and use it regularly*.

 

What I am doing is fan-fishing. I’m not going to deny it. I’m looking for people to follow me on Spotify.  I don’t write and perform music for it to sit on virtual shelves. I know my music is not for everyone. I am a particular niche. While being trans-genre, or cross-genre, or multi-genre, whatever you want to term it (because sticking with one genre is just far too fucking limiting!), my music isn’t EVER happyclappypoppyfluffy. It is more moody and edgy and about all the anquish, frustrations, longings, sorrows, struggles and pain and grief of this life. Many of my songs deal with longing for death. Ocassionally (as in my track Siren Song), I delve into the realms of fantasy and mythology. But, nothing I do is what anyone would call ‘happy songs’. So, if you don’t do morose, move on now. If, however, you question and rail and scream and cry at the general madness of the world, or if you tend toward introspection, over-thinking and daydreaming, my music may just be for you!

So, with no more ado, I leave you to (hopefully) go listen for yourself. If you dig what you hear, please click that follow button so you will be updated when I add more music (I am presently recording a brand new EP which will be released in the next month). Thanks for reading and listening.

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*If you aren’t a Spotify user and you are still interested in checking out my music, it is available to download or stream from i-Tunes, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Google Play Music, Pandora, i-Heart Radio, Deezer, Napster, Tidal, Pandora, Bandcamp, & YouTube Music

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Kegels and Kindness – a plan for 2016

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When life gives you lemons it is, then, perfectly acceptable to make lemonade. However, when life kicks you in the teeth, lemonade just isn’t the answer. You find yourself bleeding and missing teeth, the last thing you’re going to feel like doing is make some bloody lemonade.

The problem with these sayings like, ‘Life is what you make of it’ and the ever-detestable (gag, barf) ‘That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, is that they simply aren’t true.

2015 is gone now.  For me, it actually wasn’t a horrendous year. There were some really good bits.  There was a whole lot of hell, too.  But, interspersed in there, there was some truly decent stuff. I made more music and had my music appreciated by more people. I met some cool people and I became closer with a friend who has proven to be a real lifeline in hard times – a fellow battler of mental illness himself, we share a bond over the squishiness of brain and body. I wish he lived closer, but I have long accepted the fact that the best of my friends will always seem to dwell on the other side of the planet from me.

And, here is 2016.  I don’t do resolutions.  They’re stupid. I have some plans, yeah.  But, I have learned to be resolved to nothing. Stuff/life/shit changes too much to be resolved. So, here are the plans:

There are only TWO exercises worth doing: vocal exercises and Kegels (aka pelvic floor exercise). You can waste your time and money in the gym if you want to and stay in competition with society and media’s insane ideals, or you can come to the side of good sense and do what you can instead of what is ridiculous. You can skip the vocal exercises if you aren’t a singer, but I’d still suggest doing them.  They will do you more (longterm) good than any crunch or press up ever would. Why? Just humour me and try it. You’ll see. And, everyone should do Kegels. A strong pelvic floor will guard against incontinence and, as a (BIG) side benefit, increase sexual pleasure.  Plan number one is to do some vocal exercises and Kegels everyday.

Practise mindfulness. This is a form of meditation for everyone that simply helps one appreciate the present more. I’ve practiced mindfulness, off and on, for a couple of years now.  Like most things, it’s difficult to stay consistent; thus the reason resolutions are so pointless. So, I’m setting a reachable goal of just 5-10 minutes a day. That’s plan numero two.

The world is full of hate and sorrow; be kind. Try offering kindness instead of throwing out more hate. Look, I don’t like people very much either.  Humans, as we have concluded, are stupid. But, kindness goes a long way to counteract the great idiocy out there. Why add hate to all the stupidity when there’s another choice? So, that’s number three: looking for ways to show more kindness. I have a strong suspicion that the making of music and the practice of kindness is the cure for many, many of the world’s ills.

Lemonade is fine, if all you’ve got is lemons. But, squirting your lemonade on me isn’t kindness; that shit stings when you’re the walking wounded. Let’s try being real in 2016. Let’s be kind. Let’s be mindful. Let’s do Kegels (then we won’t pee on each other…’cuz if you’re into that, you’re just wrong).

Happy New Year.

 

(And, yes, I’ve done my Kegels today – along with the other stuff, too – have you?)

 

Can I Go Now?

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The older I get, the more frightened I become. Not of death. But of continuing to exist. Oh, I long for death. Please, death. But not this deteriorating going on. Please. I don’t want to be a pathetic, useless old woman.

The older I get, the worse my health is; the less good I am to anyone, the more of a burden I become.

Being a woman, I am scared I will outlive my husband. And, being unable to take care of myself, I wonder what horrors await me on this wretched mortal plane.

I am so scared. I am so weary.

Where is the mercy? Why can’t I go now?

Highs and Lows (and, How Time Can Make Things Worse Instead of Better)

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Mark and I arrived at the Festival excited and looking forward to performing. To abbreviate a long story, things didn’t go as planned. A rough crowd and a worse sound system ensured failure regardless of our talent and performance. Needless to say, it was a bummer. However, last night, when it happened, I handled it with objectivity and humour; instead of throwing a tantrum and dissolving into a torrent of tears and ragings against the bastard that is life, I was calm and positive. “Hey, it happens to the best. This wasn’t our night or our crowd. There will be other/better gigs.” I consoled my friend and music partner, even regaling him with one of my mother’s favourite gig horror stories. I wasn’t even faking it. I was disappointed, but I didn’t feel despairing.

But, that was last night. Time is supposed to help things. This is a myth. It rarely helps. It often makes worse.

When I woke up this morning, the despair sat waiting to pounce on me. I’ve been drowning in it since.

Last Sunday was such a massive high, and it’s difficult not to get hopeful from such experiences.

Life plays this cruel cat and mouse game. And, I’m sad and angry. And, so tired.

Tomorrow, I have a very overdue appointment with Mental Health. I wonder what new exercise in futility it will be. The Dr. I had previously seen is no longer there, then I missed an appointment back in May because I had forgotten the date and was too ill to get out of the house and deal with it. Now, there’s someone new to have to deal with. And, I have no hope to spare for the appointment. Perhaps, I’ll be pleasantly surprised, but it’s most likely going to be a waste of time.

Did I mention, I’m tired? When I say I’m tired, I mean that every aching bone in my body is crying out with weariness.

I am still very thankful for those rare good times, of course. And, a little good is better than no good at all. But, those times always make me want and expect more. I get hopeful. I start visualising success (which “they” say is the thing to do).  And, then, the kick in the teeth comes…and, it’s overwhelming, gut-aching sorrow.

And, yeah, maybe there will be some more good coming…there will be the last Sundays. But, then, there will be the last nights and the tomorrows, too. And, I’m just so fucking tired.

I’ll leave you with this… because it’s what I do, and this song seems fitting…and, who doesn’t love some Mumford & Sons? And, because, I’m still pathetic fool enough to hope.

Life Goes On

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“Life goes on.” Don’t you just hate this saying? It’s right up there with “snap out of it” and “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” (gag). The problem is, unlike those latter sayings, “life goes on” is true.

I recently watched an episode of a tv programme I like. In this episode, one of the characters has lost his wife to cancer. He looks out the window and laments that the view is the same. The love of his life is gone from him and so the view shouldn’t be the same.

I agree.

When there is grief, or when life just generally fucks you over, or when the complications that are a part of chronic illness happen, the world should stop. Life shouldn’t go on. But, it does. Relentlessly. Maddeningly. It just keeps going on. And on. And on. It’s wrong, on soooooo many levels.

And we wear our fake smiles and masks and try our best to appear normal because people we encounter are going to tell us “life goes on”. Human compassion has its limits, and they don’t have the capacity to deal with our pain (another reason life should not go on). So, we prepare our lies for when they ask us how we are. “I’m fine.”

I’ve often said this:

Life goes on. And that, my friends, is the tragedy.

It isn’t the loss, or the unfairness of life, or the issues that arise because of our illness – those things are bad enough, but they aren’t the tragedy. The tragedy is that life goes on…when it shouldn’t.

And, so, with all this in mind, I wrote this song and created the artwork for the video.

No, not everyone will get it or like it. But, there will be many who will. It will resonate with anyone who has ever suffered a significant loss, and it will resonate with my fellow squishy brainers. We’re the ones who know what the tragedy actually is.

This Is Where I Am

I refuse to say,”This is where I’m at.”  I may be very down, very low, and certainly not functioning well, but I still know correct grammar from incorrect, even if it has become socially acceptable to say “where I’m at”.  What does society know anyway?!

This is where I am.wpid-20150630_093436.jpgAnd, now, yes…I’m going to sing to you, here in this place where I am.

Seems I’m always sitting in the waiting room of life
Staring out the window at the world that is outside
Wondering when my time will come – if I’ll ever have my day
Whiling the time away

Doctor, Doctor, can you tell me what is wrong?
Can you fix me with this song?

Seems I can’t get out of here, and the walls are closing in
The pressure in my head is high, and the air, it feels so thin
Will someone call my name, please? Won’t you open up the door?
This room’s more like a prison cell; I can’t take it anymore!

Doctor, Doctor, can you tell me what is wrong?
Can you help me with this song?
Doctor, Doctor, I’ve been waiting here so long
It hurts when I breathe, and all my strength is gone

Feels like I’m gonna die here in this room (still waiting)
Feels like I’ll never get out of this room

Doctor, Doctor, it’s been hurting for so long
Can you help me end this song?

Doctor, Doctor, there are no words left to say
And I have no more chords to play

©Autumn Dawn Leader 2015

Little Improvement

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But, improvement is still improvement even if it is only little. I should be pleased with my progress so far, and not beat myself up for the slow going nature of said progress.

I’m speaking of my accent, of course. If you’ve been following my recent posts you will have read of my obsession to rid myself of my native American accent, and replacing it with the tone of my residence. Living in the UK for over a decade now, I had hoped – assumed – that my accent would naturally soften and, by osmosis, I would gradually, but surely, lose the harsh American sound to my speaking voice. Like in so many other things, I’ve been woefully disappointed. After so many years with so little softening, I’ve come to the conclusion that hard work and retraining is the only way to get what I want. But, hard work is what it is. Very hard work.

I have undertaken elocution exercises. And, I am finding, like all physical exercise, it causes me a great deal of pain. My whole head aches with the effort.

Today, after the school run, I decided I would record some of this baby step yet painful progress, with the idea to share it here. I went to the computer…

I haven’t recorded anything since we got a new computer and everything was different. My recording software, the operating system. Different now. I’ve been avoiding recording anything lately because… well, I didn’t have anything desperately pressing on me to record (people still aren’t beating down my door for my music), but more because of the changes to what I was used to and could use well.

The new computer was given to us…and, I’m not ungrateful…but, it hadn’t really been given with helping me out in mind, but more for my husband and the children. Granted our old one was on its last circuity legs, but I was on firm footing with it and it was only that familiarity that allowed me to use it to record two albums and all my singles. It was a crap piece of machinery, but I did do true wonders with it.

So, school run done, I approached the new with trepidation, and…

Autism reared its head and I found myself unable to navigate the changes.

Frustrated and in tears, I walked away from the strange and hostile hardware and software. Talk about your technical difficulties.

Now, I have a voice recorder on my phone, but I can’t, for whatever reason, upload what I record there. I can share it via whatsapp message, but it won’t go anywhere else.

I resorted to downloading the soundcloud app on my phone, so I could use my existing soundcloud account.

After several attempts at getting it right, the above recording is what I settled with sharing here.

What I recorded yesterday, on my phone voice recorder, sounds better…truer. But, this is what I could manage today. It’s one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, and one that particularly resonates with me.

Shakespeare is a benchmark, a starting point. The language and rhythm is helpful to mastering the necessary cadence. I know, I’m far from mastering anything here. And, there I go, beat beat beat, smash, hate myself for…

all my inability.

Can I go to bed now, wretched world?  No. Now, it’s nearly time to pick the kids back up from school.

I’ve wasted a whole day. My God, how miserable.

But, even pain sounds better in an English accent. Too bad my pain is simply and acutely painful and doesn’t yet – and might never – have that “better” thing going for it.

I leave you with the Bard and my imperfect voicing of his brilliant words.