Songwriter’s journey

In the early days the very idea of making a melody that went with guitar chords seemed like something only people could do if they were raised by Andrew Lloyd Webber and they were descendent of Jean Sibelius.

So my first attempts were only after I had seen other people playing their songs as a bassist…a long time after that. I had also already played lots of other songs on my mom’s old classical guitar. Eventually my first attempts started. And they never used much more than four chords.

This song I released today was actually one of those. I was at a friend’s place and couldn’t sleep even though she and her baby daughter were. The guitar was there and I just started doing this “E minor” and “A minor” riff back and forth.

I was making music with a mod player called Scream Tracker which played sampled sounds in order and I tried putting the song there, ending up on my first 3 song demo CD.

Now twenty years later and hundreds of songs later I decided to try it out. That’s really my favorite thing. Give a song a real try and see the reaction.

My new album “The Goldblacks” was made up of mostly media favorites.

But yeah, if you have wanted to write just have pen, paper, instrument and maybe something to eventually record your ideas (way easier today with what devices can now do). Social media is a fun way to share your ideas and from the start you can grow your ideas by learning from the masters and just experimenting. I still do. Each one is me trying things out. It’s exciting, which you get swept up in.

Anyways here is my lastest as of literally this morning, Tattered Sails based on how my friend and I had gone through so much in our recent years.

Enjoy!

And if you want to write then find time you know you will be productive and go to it. As I said previously…just show up to the page. And again. You will be surprised!

☺️

Cheers,

Tom

☺️

Advertisements

Stage fright, comparing yourself and other frets

Me with Cookeilidh at a new bridge opening show

It is very easy to get nervous about going up in front of people, and even more frustrating when you see someone else seemingly do that like no problem, doing stuff you never thought of. So what to do?

Have I been nervous in performance recently? Yes of course! Do I compare myself? Oh probably that too, but that’s just natural. You see someone doing what you never thought of and well, now it is thought of and you can choose to slueth it out later. Truth is we all have such different tastes, approaches and physicality so naturally that other guy (or girl) is going to do things you’re not. Like if I see someone who is slapping and popping all over the place or playing complex Bebop patterns on their bass…on one hand it’s like “I can’t do that” but on the other hand, would I actually want to study that music for hours on end? With what I listen to…is that stuff present? No? Well that explains that…

Not to be flippant but it kind of goes into the heart of the other bugaboo of stage fright.

You don’t have to explain anything, feel bad or apologize for anything. What you do (which could be musical or not) comes from your soul, your heart, your study, your world and it’s you. That isn’t going to change so why be nervous. You are doing your work up there so it’s better to be the most relaxed you that you can be.

How do you get there? Practice is the obvious one, but then there’s how to do that. I have lots of different things to work on so I like zeroing in on certain rough parts daily and repeatedly working them until I’m satisfied. I never practice the day of a show on the instrument I’m playing (got that from, of all places…Anne of Green Gables)

“promised I wouldn’t open a textbook so I wouldn’t get the jitters!”

So instead of playing my bass, or opening any textbooks respectively, I’ll go for a walk, play piano which I actually started really getting into between sets at a big Christmas gig last year, or even meditation. For the latter…yeah, yeah, get the Calm app. I have the subscription to that one and it’s totally worth it. Going for walks is my magic cure all. I take, oh lots of anxiety in my tummy and so walking is just the best for settling that and if you feel bloated or what-have-you it’s really calming. And for weight loss it’s great as your target range isn’t very high so you can keep healthy while you get centered. Walking to music has been my thing since decades ago. Find music that puts you in a calm (not pump fist in air) state. Or go the other way with it. Before a show, like on the way there, I listen to stuff that’s fun.

Do the practice. Be slightly early. Now just have fun with it.

“Out the door…thank you very much..”

Just having fun with it 😂

Cheers ,😉

Tom

What while waiting

20151111_095151

Morning!  Haven’t posted anything about what I’ve been up to for some time so I thought I’d take a silly photo (in which a probably copyrighted character steals the show) and put something out there.  Here it is.  It’s out there.

Not actually sure if I want to give that lamp a lampshade yet.  I mean, I don’t really need to give every lamp a shade.  It belts out lots of light for when I work at the desk at night.  This is morning page style rambling which is really coming from my now scrutinizing of that ridiculous photo.

Even before I left the day job world behind I have been doing morning pages, based on the Artists Way series.  If you want to read books on creativity the Julia Cameron books are a natural place that if you haven’t gone to yet you definitely should.  Another less know one is The Widening Stream by David Ulrich which I went through over the last month and now my co-writer Cheri Jacobs has my copy.  Much in the same way as Julia’s classic it takes you through understanding the whole creative process and then gives you exercises that force you to stretch.  I far prefer that over anything that screams affirmation time.  My ADHD brain goes straight from people telling me to do an affirmation to “and gosh darnit, people like me.”  Some things simply link like that.

Cheri and I have been working more than ever on our different projects including the Ollie and Emma show in a collaborative writing group.  Cookeilidh is getting ready for a very busy Christmas season including shows at Craigdarroch Castle which has become something of a band tradition being that it was built for the Scottish Dunsmuir family and designed by Robert Dunsmuir himself.

I also have my recent little project Westsound Magazine which came from honestly trying to figure out what to write about on here.  I don’t want to slam everyone who comes to my page with blatent self promotion, which is sort of weird because naturally this site is unashamedly just that.  I might try doing some other outside myself posts in future, which I would explain better if I knew what those subjects would be but we will just have to see as the time comes.  When I say outside myself I am not referring to some sixth sense sort of thing.  I won’t be very likely going there, though I do like spooky and strange sorts of stories.

The Westsound project came from wanting to write about music in a way that was unique to me.  Having been trying to make it for twenty years I know how every little bit helps in getting your word out and I now have the background with all this social media stuff, writing and music so the idea flowed together easily and I set up the whole thing Saturday morning with part of the work done in the back of a friend’s car because I was too excited to leave it for later.  The reaction to it after not even being a week now has been just great and I have been working out things I can do to make the project all it can possibly be.  Part of this will be interviews with the groups since I already have the little Dictaphone recorder that Cheri and I use to work on dialogue for our shows.  I honestly don’t know if or when that project will make any money but I just like the idea of doing it in the first place.  It’s a bit giving something back.  It’s naturally a bit rock and roll.  It could be even a little bit country.

I haven’t decided what I will do in terms of putting my band in it.  I mean, you don’t want to make it look like that’s the only reason you did it but you can be too self effacing and sometimes its best to just be honest and let that elephant go smashing around the room.

My Adhd thing is moving me along so here is the links to the project-dropping I’ve done.  My elephant just jumped into the kitchen and wants a muffin.

Cheers,

Tom 🙂

Cookeilidh – Celtic Band

Ollie and Emma

Westsound Magazine

It’s really all so very small.

peter-jackson-young

There’s a few people who would be good examples of this that I could have chose but Peter Jackson was my most recent biography find so it’s still the freshest in my head.  I could have also mentioned Peter Hook of Joy Division for this one, the man who literally grabbed a bass and joined the band.

Peter, the one pictured that is, was inspired by film at a very young age.  Only in his teens he was trying to make his Super 8 go as far as it could until he finally discovered a slightly better camera and began messing around with other little films.  Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit was a long way off from those first initial attempts.

Being a singing bass player Sting is another huge inspiration that naturally springs to mind.  Sting played gig after gig for years in a variety of bands (including a cruise ship gig) before he ever met a drummer named Stewart Copeland who already had this idea for a band called “The Police”.

The work these three gentlemen have created is indeed timeless, and they are only three examples of probably hundred of artists I could name.  The connection to me is those early years of the work and the creative approach.  During a tour of American colleges, Sting explained to music students “We’re not building cathedrals, we’re building sheds.”  This is an insight that I think is worth keeping in mind when approaching anything creative, and possibly other things in life that don’t fall under that category.

It doesn’t have to be great.  It doesn’t have to even be good.  If you think of the early Beatle’s cuts from the beginning of their career they genuinely did not know what they were doing.  Most bands (using music as an example) evolve slowly over a period of years and that’s the stuff we hear.  The same goes for writers, visual artists, and film makers.  Defy the white page and it’s patronizing nature.  Make it all messy in spite of it because the odds are that it probably isn’t a big deal anyways.  You’re just mucking around with it.  I do this with Twitter and Instagram and I fully admit that.  I just kind of go “Hey, what about this?”, usually said out loud because I admit I do in fact talk to myself.  That’s me.  I’ll be talking one way or the other and someone else may or may not hear it.

It even fits into most creative theory with the fact that the first part of creativity is simply getting it out of you and the second part is editing that mush for the little bits of gold in there.  Also if something isn’t working, or you find it boring, try some other thing.  Considering the expanse of possibility and remix culture out there you can always switch gears and bear in mind that you never have any massive thing expected (and should share that same expectation to others).

Even my biggest projects typically have roots that started little bits at a time, little bit each day at a time.  You just relax and let those small things pile up.

So go ahead and mess it up all messy now.  I’ll try to not sound like a motivational speaker now.

Cheers,

Tom

🙂

Once you’re there you’ll like it.

12033405_10153562240368886_190480368_n

It is very easy to get locked into a specific pattern.  The image above is an example of that.  I was working three jobs at the time, trying to finish a film project, going to university and watching things in these and personal places fall around me.  For some reason I had time that afternoon and went for a walk with headphones for the first time in ages.  Not all that much of an escape but something as simple as that is well worth it.  Take time and get out.  On your own.

Victoria is a wonderful place for doing just that.  Take a time each week where you intend to wander and take things slow.  One of my favorite books is “Faster” by James Gleick.  In this he talks about the number of ways we have tried to speed ourselves up, the multitasking and then fact that these things that were supposed to help have just given us excuses to need to go faster still.  Step out of all that.  It’s not real, you are.  There is so much to be grateful for here as a human being that it staggers the mind.  Literally anything you couldn’t think of is available for you to explore.  Our city is a dream of little communities within communities.  Go to a open stage night and listen to some of the musicians who have honed their craft alongside fellow musicians, some for decades now.  Go to Imax and watch a show you never would have thought of watching.  Explore the library for titles you never would have thought of.  Get lost in the streets of Oak Bay with headphones (you can always use google if you get hopelessly confused)  Twitter search #yyj to see what is going on in town today (and yes, you’ll probably run into yours truly on there.  I’m @tomrambles.  Hi!  :D)

Does this all seem a little oversimplified and not in the adult world?  Yes.  But I’ll be honest.  I’ve tried being an adult and I find it a mix of both stressful, kind of boring and not much in it.  Mostly joking there, and the ironic footnote is that this blog was not written in one sweep.  I don’t mean to run down the effort we all put in to be responsible but who the heck wants to make strata councils, finance and long line ups when we don’t have time our whole life?  In the arts and even in the martial arts there is the concept of the child’s mind.  It’s roughly related to the “from the mouths of babes” idea.  It’s also, I feel, connected to the same concept of meditation.

You step out of your reality and accept that you only know the world from your perspective in the same way that I know mine from mine and the guy driving the bus (for instance) knows his from his.  In creativity its like pretending you don’t know how to do your craft at all…now what are you going to do?

The best way to explore it all is with the sense of gratitude, which was the original spark that started this blog.  Feeling that your actually lucky is one of the best things you can do for yourself.  Being outside of your world and just exploring the city is one great way to discover how lucky you really are.  So leave all of the adult world behind for a couple hours.  Have the meeting tomorrow.  Go play outside.

Houston, we’ve left normal

image

My long time co-writer and friend Cheri Jacobs

     It’s really early.  It’s early enough to still be considered late.  Making coffee now because I know I won’t be going back to sleep for quite some time.  That’s the perfectly normal thing right about now.  I have never slept well, due to a large part that I never liked to do that.  My schedule has little power naps and as I type this on the tablet Cece is sleeping.  I give full points to a girlfriend who sticks by her creative man.  We’re the most difficult breed there is if we’re good and likely worse if were not.

      In now less than two weeks I voyage out into the waters that I have always wanted to sail.  Thanks to a mixture of my work with Cookeilidh, my work with Cheri Jacobs and our partnership with Less Bland Productions I have made the leap to being a writer and musician full time.  I do feel ready for these waters but naturally it is a place that I sort of half thought I wouldn’t be sailing.  The choice to make the leap is one that does scare me since it’s not as though I have made it in the conventional sense.  The work I do is exhilarating in both fields (two sides of my expression  that have always been there relentlessly since I could make baby noises most likely) but the work is still very much in the day to day grind of a local craftsman.  That is something that doesn’t bother me that much.  If you want superstardom you don’t really pick the fields of bass player and screenwriter.  I’ve certainly stepped out of those less lit parts of the stage to do things like acting (in little bits with Cheri on the Tom and Cheri Show) and singing (open stages and backup for Cookeilidh) but with those the need to do that came from the fact that there is this material and its simpler just to do it.  I swear its not false modesty.  I have, when a singer has been I’ll in the past, tried to fake that role for the evening.  Didn’t like it.  Much more relaxed to stand on my side of the stage and focus on making the best work I can.  Its similar to writing.  I want your imagination or the actors to take my ideas and make them soar.  I far prefer to get up early, make coffee and get an idea that makes my toes wiggle in the carpet.

But I won’t say that the ides of venturing out into doing this full time isn’t scary too.  Part of me does feel like “who do I think I am?”. I have routines down so I am always busy, which can include blogging at 4:30 a.m.

Still less than two weeks to go before I officially sail.  With all the making preperations for the journey I still wonder how I’ll feel when the anchor rises.

Work in the arts.

image

“There’s a job…there’s a gig here” Billy Joel

It’s probably one of the hardest things about a career path that’s already not the easiest choice.  If you do any other kind of work and let’s say you’ve just started and you’re not making that much coin people still respect it because it’s still considered “real work”.  In the arts though it’s seen strangely as not being given the same accolade unless you are one of us fortunate enough to have a creative field as their primary source of income.  But the trap here I think is that we run the risk of treating it like a pipe dream or a hobby.  Having a hobby is fine but for those of us who think of ourselves as artists we have to give our craft that same attention as any other tradesman who puts in forty hours a week.  Will this immediately pay off?  This I can’t say but there is certainly a pride in putting serious determination behind what you do and one thing I have found is that you never know where your creative road will take you, but the more work you do on your craft, the better armed to fight you will be when you get there. 
Our role is different from some trades as just hammering the same thing again and again can work against us so being creative you have to find ways of still focusing on your craft without making yourself bored (creative death here!)  As a writer I like to play with different forms or ideas like this or my other blogs, narrative experiments, prose, non-fiction, or a thing I sometimes do called morning stories.  In this one I do a thousand words (usually ends up being more) of something.  In the same way as a Artist Way morning page you just go with what pops in your head and roll or riff on that.  Writers probably have it the worst for practicing because there’s the natural assumption that everyone can write so it’s easy to get complacent.  The great thing about it is the portability though and I have so many of those little Hilroy 300 page books just full of material and even a little mini one that fits in my coat.  And just like a musician who listens and transcribes what they hear the more well read you are, naturally, the better.  Check out some of the books on writers and writing as well.  Try a new form like creative non fiction or poetry.  Poetry is not to be sniffed at as people think of folks in berets musing on the moon.  Taken to its highest level poems are the writing equivalent of making every shot count.  This fine art, and the origin of all writing in western civilization, is all about specific details and sense and particularity.  Trying to write in a non ambiguous way and connect with people at gut level is genius.  That’s one thing I found with well crafted (and you’ll laugh) country music.  You can’t be ambiguous in that form.  It’s from the hip and for a musician it’s usually written in a bright major key which makes it just that much harder to emote in a way that connects with listeners.  And that’s why some of that style can hurt.
Don’t shoot the country pianist.  He’s doing his best.
A good idea is to set up your work at a time when you know you are at your most alert and won’t be too distracted.  Set that as a daily habit that you don’t intend to break even if the building is burning down around you.  Ignore the fireman.  You’re working. 

So pour yourself a coffee, punch the clock and rock. 

Cheers,
Tom

Posted from WordPress for Android