The Unbelievable Stark Contrast Between Me and…me.

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It’s time I wrote about this.

A few months ago a friend of mine I have known for a few years now came for the first time to see me perform. Her amazement at the difference between the person who makes and performs music and the painfully awkward, strange person she sees almost daily at the schoolyard reminded me of something I need to make clear to those of you who have been avoiding coming out to a gig for years because you just think ‘someone like that couldn’t be very good.’

IMG_20150928_125813[1]I see it all the time, in the people who have seen or talked to me elsewhere and then seen and heard me perform. The shock. The sheer amazement. That not only a singing voice can be so vastly different to a speaking voice, but that I could actually entertain people instead of repel them – it’s one of the many reasons I would like to be a hermit that never darkens the outside world EXCEPT to step on a stage and perform.

Your misinformed preconceived ideas of what consititutes a person who is talented, able to perform well and entertain people, is sorely wrong!

The fact is, many of the most talented people in the world suffer from some form of social anxiety or are neurologically untypical in some way. The great majority of artists (really good artists) draw their inspiration from their pain and difficulties with this ridiculous thing we call life.

Of course, the reverse happens.  People who have seen and heard me sing before getting to know me better are just as flumoxed by my inability to handle what other people just take in their stride as ‘normal’. But, that’s not as bad, because I’ve already won them as fans, and their inability to comprehend my inability to function in ‘everyday life’ is not so much of a problem…except when it is.  I also remember immediately after Robin Williams committed suicide, an uber extroverted positive type friend of mine remarked something along the lines of, “I don’t think he could have actually killed himself – he was so funny and seemed so happy.”  I love this woman, but this statement is pure ignorance.  Depression just doesn’t work like that.  And, more often than not, the great comedians are the ones that struggle the most with severe clinical depression and thoughts of suicide. One who only sees the talent and doesn’t see the struggle is in danger of losing the whole person.

I was also talking to another musical friend of mine last night.  She is very talented.  She is highly educated and intelligent.  She also has Aspergers and suffers from severe anxiety, among other things.  We were both lamenting how we have encountered the attitude (even from health professionals) that ‘we are too intelligent to be mentally ill.’  WTF????!!! This is just ridiculous.  Would you tell a well-educated and articulate person with cancer that they were too intelligent to have cancer?

So yeah, it works both ways…but, what I am mainly focusing on in this post is the former problem of getting people who avoid coming out to hear me because they can’t believe that someone who isn’t capable of making a phone call and struggles to get out of bed in the morning would be able to entertain them from a stage. PLEASE, get rid of the preconceived (ignorant) notion. You’re missing out on some good music.

Now, I realise, I’m probably preaching to the choir here. And, those of you who read my blog have already been won over, while those of you who are thinking ‘someone like that couldn’t be very good’ are also the ones who would never ‘waste your time’ reading my blog.

Do I sound a bit angry?  Sorry/not sorry.  It’s just frustrating.  No one wants to be judged on just one aspect of their personality and ability.  And no one wants to be judged on their DIS-ability.  Yes, I have issues.  Yes, they are a pain in the arse and make life a burden a great deal of the time. NO, they do not stop me from being a talented person worth listening to.

And that goes for everyone who is ‘different’ in some way.

Take your bloody filters off.

Accept both sides of the coin.

We are fucked up (so society would say), but we are also awesome.

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Managing Expectations

Fact: I am a nearly 41 year old woman with serious health issues. One could say my prime left a long time ago.

Another fact: while perhaps somewhat dimished by time, age and illness, I still have a voice worth hearing.

Contrary to some popular belief, I am confident of my ability to sing.  It’s never been in question. I greatly enjoy making music, and it is a wonderful feeling when others appreciate both the gift and hard work that has gone into a performance. The fact that I have had limited success has little to do with talent, and much more to do with wrong place, wrong time and various life situations that kept me from the right connections and being discovered on a bigger scale.

When I was young, I had a dream.  And, I believed that despite all odds and crappiness of life, I would be discovered and have a big musical career.

Decades passed.  Life continued to bombard. But, I also continued developing my craft, and I never stopped making music. Mostly because it is the fabric of who I am. As long as I am forced to live in this world, I will sing and play. And, I will always keep doing it professionally when and where I can. Since moving to the UK, I have been well received, overall. And, I’ve been given opportunities to be heard.  And, in almost every case, as I say, I’ve been very well received and the music has been appreciated.

I’ve done what I could to get the music out there.  Recording a couple of albums for download, and submitting my stuff to places like BBC Introducing.

I was heard by someone from BBC Radio when I played at a meditation centre in Leicester, and he gave me his personal e-mail to send him my stuff, telling me they champion local artists.  I sent him my stuff. Never heard back. Just like I never heard back from the BBC Introducing folks.

This is all to say, I am under no illusions. First, I am under no illusions that I am talented. Bloody well gifted, even. But, when I go on about that too much, I sound conceited.  If, on the other hand. I try to manage expectations about being heard by scouts from The Voice UK and urged to audition for the show, people begin to think I doubt myself. Believe me, I do not. I’m simply being realistic.

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The card I was handed from The Voice scouts.

Since announcing that I had been heard at the Loughborough Acoustic Club by said scouts, and that they told me I have a great voice and they would love me to audition for the show, I have been getting a steady stream of “Oh, I can’t wait to see you on the tele, Autumn; you’ll be great; we’ll vote for you!” comments.

I feel the love, people. And, genuinely, from the depths of my broken heart and contralto pipes, thank you! The support is lovely. Awesome. It makes me feel all warm and shiney. Let’s be clear: I really appreciate it. And, if by some miracle, I make it to the televised voting bit, I’ll hold you all to it.  But, let’s not count our chickens.

There was a time when I would have allowed my hopes to soar. I have learned never to do this again. Not after all these years. Not after all the attempts to “make it”.  Not after the disappointment ravaged my weary soul and left permanent marks I feel every waking moment of every single day.

I’m managing my own expectations, as well as other people’s. It’s all about perspective. Here’s what it is: I sang well (after all, I am good). I was heard and appreciated by a couple of official representitives from The Voice.  I was asked to apply to audition for the 5th series of the show. After giving it some thought (my first being, “this is like 20 years too late for me”), I’ve decided auditioning can’t hurt. Getting a day out in Birmingham and singing to some new people…well, that’s all good.  But, that’s where I expect it will end, as far as the show goes.  Other things may come out of it, or not.  But, I am not even in the slightest going to allow my mind to go to that place where I see myself on that show.  Because, if I do that, and nothing comes of it, it would be another devastating blow to an already destroyed soul.  No, I cannot afford to even entertain the notion.

It’s a day out in Birmingham. I get to sing to new people. And, it’s all good.

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.