Taking a break

I’ve been working on my usual two primary fronts now for ages and I’m one of the few who the current situation didn’t effect as much.
My day job is as a cleaner and the contracts got reduced but more spread out so there’s no lack of leaving here.  I’d say the main thing I miss is coffee shops. 
Two of these posts were written in them at the very least and they have been great for escaping my environment here to consider options, challenge myself and more importantly, focus.
When I’m there I’m not as surrounded by the little details of things that beg and behoove my involvement.  My first television pilot Bass Line was written entirely at the Starbucks near the intersection of Gorge and Tillicum here in Victoria.  As it was a comedy and I was the most influenced by Ricky Gervais at the time I had this thing of leaving first thing in the morning (my then-girlfriend and her kids would be asleep in our bedroom and livingroom so turning a light on was not an option).   Going with my influence I would then put on the Office Theme, the original Rod Stewart version of Handbags and Gladrags, as I walked past all the morning commuters to where I would be working for the next few hours.  I had always used cafes as escapes but this cemented it as my office.  I did have an office  with my former cowriter as well and I genuinely miss that little spot we had in downtown Victoria.
Anyways today is the first day I’ve had off, due to the Victoria Day long weekend since this thing began.  I am doing final edits to the Quiet City novel which I’ve been working on slowly for a little under a year (though parts of research and the idea has been around since before Bass Line in 2013.  As I said on here how content creators should create content during this lockdown I have been trying to put out song a day on Instagram (tompogsonmusic).  I sometimes do them on Sundays but this is usually the dead day for that, though maybe that has changed as the idea of days has.  And without Cookeilidh I have been primarily focused on music study so I’ve been using some online sources to improve at keyboard and of course bass guitar.  There’s been some songwriting as it just happens organically but I’ve not wanted to push it as it’s so easy to make music about the most obvious subject.
I still maintain my belief that this whole thing is the natural world’s shot across our bow.  I think it’s more one part of a whole, which can be solved.  If we didn’t feel pressure to achieve, be number one, conquer seemingly everyone around us, whether a single soul, a corporation or a country maybe we wouldn’t be creating the pressure which has us pushing our luck.  We keep adding pressure until something breaks.  This doesnt work. 
Anyways, steering away from my politics I feel like creatively I’m finding my own threads musically and as a writer like finding what my groove is with more certainty and what sounds like me.  I’ve been listening back to my work and putting it into playlists and finding what has actually worked.  I mean I like everything from hard rock, industrial and electronic to Sibelius, Kurt Weill and Shubert but there is a sound that is my natural home.  Havent done as much livestreaming lately as my devices aren’t up for that but that’s fine.  I am curious to see how different things will be after all this is over. 
I dont know if I’ll put out an album soon as I have done Goldblacks (over in the Music section  click here for more on that ) and might put out just singles.  I wanted to do that album to prove to myself that I could, but its interesting as Depeche found their groove during the creation of A Broken Frame, and I think in some ways I did the same.  From it and beyond I know what works and what won’t. 
I also have my really out there vanity project called Song of Devotion which is script based onto the most controversial and dramatic part of the Depeche Mode story from 1993 to 1998 but that’s just when I’m between edits.  I like the creation process for screenwriting but I have had enough negativity in the production processes to stop a train so I’ll see how this goes.  If fully fleshed out I might bring it so someone but theres the question of who with something like that.  Due to its subject matter it could not be small budget so I would have to be connected to someone with serious firepower.  Not sure about that, but it is fun to work on anyways.
Fun is hard, which reverts right back to the political side again.  Artists shouldn’t feel like their activities are based on what has the most financial potential.  I should be able to suddenly start using watercolors without thinking I’m on the wrong course.  After the death of the legendary Florian Schneider of Kraftwerk I watch a documentary on that scene and the level of out of box thinking that led to them, Tangerine Dream and Krautrock and eventually synth-pop like DM was incredible.  This included a non musician artist who formed a band stating how he didn’t like melody as it “grows in your head like a worm”.  Some of these supposedly crazy things are how real change happens.  Instead of trying to catch up to what’s happening now, like singers tried to sound like Eddie Vedder in the nineties, your better off starting it from scratch on your own and finding your trail.”Go the other direction, your chances are better”
Anthony Robbins Cheers,
Tom

You are not a straight line.

Aslan is not a tame lion.This one applies to the divine if you believe in that but you dont have to. I’m not wandering into that. Half because trying to influence a choice on people’s beliefs is pointless up to being thoroughly moot, and part because that’s not my focus.It’s on you.I’m a bassist. It was my first serious instrument to any extent and it’s the breadwinner instrument in most things that I do. It gets me in the door.But i also went to Uvic and switched from music to writing.Record scratch. What?That’s right, the music side of University of Victoria’s Fine Arts program wasn’t working for me, especially with how limited my position in it was, but with the encouragement of a literature professor…writing seemed interesting. I went from this to screenwriting and working in film for a while, all the while playing bass.Songwriting which I slowed at back when I was gearing up to play classical bass reamerged after my filmmaking time came to a close, especially with the International open stage of LiveMe, Instagram and so on.Still playing bass? Yep. Still writing. Well, I think that’s clear. So am I just getting this down between scales and arpeggios on my Fender? Nope.I’m doing something totally crazy I haven’t done in a while. I’m on a bus to hike Mount Quimper which is way out above the Sooke Potholes Park. Why? I saw an image and have wanted to do this for a while and I’m going to record a cover up there.Passing the Luxton Fairgrounds as we speak. I haven’t been out here since I was getting ready to cycle across Canada back in 1994. I hadn’t played bass yet.But you see, it’s ok if you haven’t got the plan yet or if you explore. This is what gives you a richness of life and soul.

Enjoy!

Little clip from the top…

The creative person you become made simple.

I read a friend’s post that was a eulogy for a creative mentor and about the advice he was given. First thing I thought was what advice I would give.

You are the sum total of your daily focus since you started.

There, that’s the condensed soup version but I’ll expand, and keep it short as my time is limited too.

Practicing, working at it, “showing up to the page” or whatever you call it is how things move even incrementally from where you were to where you are. It is really easy to run yourself down, thinking anyone can do what you do, and other kinds of self taught. The truth is you are raising your own kid in your playing (writing, painting. I’ll stick to music from here on and just insert yourself into that as needed). You’re so close that you dont see how much you’ve grown since you’ve started.

The most important thing is for it to be daily, whatever it is. If you can do hours that’s amazing but even if its 30 min do it daily at the same time.

The reason for this is that you are building literally in the day before. I’ve been trying to push for more time with guitar and I’ve been working with chords I never had memorized before. That’s because I did them two days ago, and then yesterday, and then today. Saying I cant during the week but I’m going to go crazy on Saturday just isn’t the same.

Also, not only do we all compare ourselves to that other person, but we do it totally unfairly.

As a bassist, for instance, it is so easy for me to be jealous of guys that can slap and pop and tap crazy notes all over the place or look at a piano player doing a blues shuffle like out of a western until I realize…

I dont listen to that stuff to begin with!

So of course my practice doesn’t focus there. Now I can do some as we all need to do fundamentals or what’s needed, but all of this is about creating and enjoying.

Your joy is what you are harnessing. In songwriting I get that rush of following the conception of the idea and what comes out is a mash of usually what I like to begin with.

Even if you dont sound like the person who inspired you, fear not, their influence is in you now.

Now, in every sense of the word…

Play

Cheers,

Tom

🙂

Learning from Baby Elephants

The age of the city zoo and the animal based circus is or perhaps even has finally drawn to a close. That is for the best, but that’s not my target here. I’m more interested in talking about learning and creativity.

They can teach us something very valuable here which I’ve recently ran into first hand.

And yes, in their little way these adorable youngsters and there gentle grownups have an interesting story to teach us.

Ok, it sadly involves the circus. Sorry about that, but best share the idea while we know of it.

When a baby elephant is outside of the big tent and waiting between travels, what the circus people would do is take a big stick and drive it into the ground. A rope would be securely fastened to this and the other to the elephant. The baby would not be able to pull it out and learn eventually that it had a certain space it could move, but that’s it. Eventually it stopped trying to strain on the rope.

What’s interesting here is that the Elephant’s training stayed that way. So in this way the animal fully believed that it could never escape the rope and stick, despite the obvious fact that this huge creature could now either just pull it easily or take one foot and crush it to twigs.

The metaphor is clear and I’ve certainly experienced it as a musician. I’ve come back to artists and songs that I had thought “nope, i could never come close to doing that” but I’ve not noticed my own growth.

The recent ones for me were those first artists I got into like Queen and Bruce Hornsby whose music just seemed to complex for me. I avoided them until recently when I actually found myself playing them.

I can now here what I couldn’t before. The same guy with the same instrument.

As a bassist I get this from watching (and I’m by no means suggesting I’m now his level) the video “Jaco Pastorius – Modern Electric Bass”. I’m still in awe, but when he goes over concepts I can hear what he’s saying with far more clarity. Even some of his more elaborate parts I’m hearing the idea behind it or how it works. It’s not just this ingenious blur.

I dont mean to toot my own horn, because you do it too. You’re doing it now. You’re reading a blog, when long ago you sat there mouthing an alphabet. We are all growing, in fact that is a requirement of life. We are so close to ourselves that we don’t notice. But outside of reading you more than likely have things in your life, which may be creative ones, that are in the same boat.

As person explained, I think it was Tony Robbins, imagine what you can reach is a circle, like perhaps range reached by a rope? But then something falls just outside that circle. You strain a little and reach it. Your rope just got longer now. Then another one happens, and another.

How do make this happen? Just keep going. Show up to the page and look for those things that challenge you.

You may be still trying to pull that stick from the ground, but dont worry. Just keep working at it. Your growth won’t be denied.

One day you’ll give this old circus a run for it’s money.

Have a great weekend!

Cheers,

Tom

🐘

Band Survival Guide

So you’re finally going to do it! You’ve been playing and have decided to get in a group and the next step will be under the lights. The lights might be a cafe or a senior’s home or a friend’s living room but theres no need to be nervous.

Trust me, it’s all about having fun. I have been working in the same band for over 800 shows now so on my end I’ll try to get you started.

We’ll do it as a top ten, so here are my top ten suggestions to the applause.

Gear ready?

Now imagine you have some but when you’re just getting going you want something simple and reliable. Try everything you want to bring before a jam or gig and make sure theres no wierd noises. Bonus hint : No patch cords from pawn shops. Super cheap gear will always get you. If it’s super cheap you will not want to know why!

Oh Hungry? Hang on…

I got this from my mom who tried doing a gig after a dinner. Yeah, it was rough. You want to wait two and a half hours between your last meal and your gig and make the meal light but with decent protein. Classic peanut butter or almond butter is my favorite but then I dont have allergic so aim for light. You want to feel relaxed and light and able to sing fully.

Imbibe after.

This actually comes from working with some pro filmmakers. Especially if you are a bassist or drummer stick to beer and weed at the end of the show not before it. Especially with my last bit of advice which I also follow if someone gives me a beer I can actually make it last 2 hours. Melody players are better for this but for rhythm players you want to be ahead of the beat and not behind it.

It’s about time.

“Rhythm is the whole deal” Jaco Pastorius. This is something to bear in mind both playing but also about your musical life. Putting in time practicing at your most creative time (morning person versus a night owl). Being on time. For a small show my band will show up 30 min before and 60 minutes before a big event where you need to connect with people like the sound person. Early is fine as you can settle into it. Late ain’t fashionable.

Practice

Now we all to a degree know this but you should more importantly practice the bands material on your own between jam sessions. I use a Sony recorder which then loads into the computer so I can pull up any tune we’re doing and make sure I’ve got it down. Even if you’re great you need to be there for “shots” or hit the right chord on that one beat when the drummers kick comes down. One great player said it “if i dont practice for two days i know it. If i dont for four days my audience knows it.” Heres my harshest advice though…abandon ship if the rest of a group only practices at rehearsal. My band isn’t like this but ones in my early days sadly were. This doesn’t get better. You’re better off with people who take their craft seriously.

Attitude

Dont worry, this ones chill, which is the point. Bring a fun vibe to the game. Take it seriously on your end but be supportive and have a laugh. Your great attitude and the fun you’re having will rub off and they’ll feel it out there too.

As Billy Joel said “theres a job, there’s a gig here.” Some stuff you have to do in a band isn’t playing : setting up gear, hauling equipment to and from vehicles and stages, interacting with public, organizing things and even helping with things not in a musician’s role (like moving a table when you get to the venue, or setting up chairs). I remember seeing Martin Gore of Depeche Mode helping their opening act in set up with things like winding up cables. Egos stay outside. Many hands make a light load.

Marketing point I was told ages back…never talk the band down. I understand being self effacing but too much makes you sound like you really think it’s not worth their time. If people ask what’s happening dont ever say “Nothing…”. Instead tell them how you’re going into the studio soon…you got some new sounds you’re trying out, even if the studio is your friend’s living room and the sounds is a delay pedal-doesn’t matter. If you’re not into it why should they be, let alone pay for your art?

Stick with it. The greats ground through it too.

Speaking of Martin, lots of bands like Depeche Mode had absolutely terrible public debuts. ABBA’s first performance fell flat and Sting’s first review in a local paper said that “If the Police get a better singer they will be great!”

Just because it’s not perfect now doesn’t mean it won’t get better. I remember lots of well meaning people voicing shall we say concerns that it wasn’t working for me. That rarely happens now. I’m the same person but I’ve practiced, performed and kept showing up for years.

Creative 1 + 2

This is a classic which falls in sync with attitude. The basics here is that in the creative process you have :

Stage one.

– anything goes, bring every idea you have to the table.

Stage two

– take all the ideas and make them into a work.

For us it’s great to just apply this concept to rehearsal where there is lots of creativity happening. Try your weirdest ideas out and try what ideas are pitched from the others as well. Not just in playing but in how to run the project. There are so many things you can do that as one music business mentor said

If you run out of things to do, your doing it wrong

How you look

I’m not good at this, but fortunately others in the band are, which helps. Take how you look seriously in terms of what you are presenting to the world. While the sound should speak for itself you want to look like you are meant to be there. Look into things like basic design or color theory, or have someone you trust go with you on what looks right for what your doing.

How you look 2

Easy one I got from a friend and it’s a simple lady one, but try to look up. An old saying is never turn your back on the audience which is sometimes true, but try to find parts where you dont have to shift position on your instrument and look out there. I sometimes look above them or sort of dont focus on one specific person, but you will find what works for you. It also helps with posture which helps with both resisting injury but also for vocals. Not only that but like with attitude, it sends a strong signal.

Well that’s it, and like I say this is more a loose guide but I hope it helps.

If this did help and you go huge, send me tickets for the west coast Canadian leg of the tour.

Cheers,

Tom

A Young Man’s Game.

Inspired by some of the photographs of Brian Griffin on “The Worker”

I never know if I’ve ever got poetry. I like to try. The greats seem so effortless like one of the Marsalis Brothers on horns.

Did it in university to mix feelings. Still, I say do it anyways.

Go with your gut.

That’s all this is.

Tom

Videos in the can!

I usually start working on Christmas in September.

The reason for this is because not only did Cookeilidh’s Celtic Christmas season just have its first show yesterday at the Kiwanis but I also try to have some own music ready for social media set up. Seems silly but most of it is building towards this little tradition I now have of posting a song on Christmas Eve.

First year was Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant in 2016 which I did on my fretless with a video of the Victoria legislature in the snow.

Next year and around the same time I did this I was pushing to learn to actually play piano properly so I could accompany my own songs. So the challenge was Oh Holy Night. I don’t play an acoustic piano due to being in an apartment but I liked the idea of finding one somewhere and so booked 30 minutes to use this beautiful upright in the hall of the Cook Street Activity center I’m pretty sure I was on the way to a show right after this as well as work so that was quite the day!

This time around there’s actually three. Ok, four but my band does Silent Night and I think I did it before too on a bass. I just recorded one now which drops soon…

( follow me at @tompogsonmusic by the way! 😁 )

…and I just did Here We Come A-Carolling, which seemed right to kick it off. I’ve been following folks on YouTube like DanTheComposer and Joseph at Creative Piano Academy and so much of this I owe to them. So many that I listen to at work as well, putting YouTube on Premium so it goes with me…

For Bass… Scott’s Bass Lessons, Talking Bass, Adam Neely, Talking Bass

For Guitar and everything else…Rick Beato. His “Beato Book” is something I am strongly considering as his musical depth of knowledge is absolutely vast.

Still trying to find time to write as well! That’s part of the reason I locked this down, so now its Quiet City, shows and some script ideas I’ve started. Keep you informed about that as things go.

And of course there’s video 3. The December 24th one is actually one that just happened, wasn’t planned but was so fun that I absolutely had to use it.

For more about what I do musically check out the music page. Same goes for my writing including the free Prologue of the Quiet City.

Please follow and thank you so much for reading down to here!!

Cheers!

🙂

Tom Pogson

Trying to get there

I have gone viral a few times now.

Well, that is in terms of tweets. I haven’t done it as much with YouTube yet.

But I do know what others say when they say it just happens because it does. Some things just click into place. I’m reminded of my other successful venue, Cookeilidh. Now I had been in other bands, but right from the first performance people’s reaction to what we did was enthusiastic and positive.

Both are the same. It just happened. There was no research or plan. Dave even said it about when he and Kim started playing outside for fun, people kept trying to give them money. They weren’t busking with a case out. It just worked.

Every time I have a tweet go beserk I think “that one?” The last one I didn’t even think it was done right but off it went. And yes, clearly there is a difference between them but in a way not. You just do something you can do. Then chips fall.

The other thing I’ve noticed recently is my impatience. This might be because my time these days is limited or maybe because I want to get the idea out but it does speak to something I’ve talked about before.

Like with tweets, just return to it daily.

It’s all made up of one bit at a time. Even for me this is something to remind myself of. I’ll know where I want the story to go and I’ll race there. I wont give a song idea time to breathe and race some bit of it to Instagram long before it should get public scrutiny.

Creatively things need to cocoon. If it involves you sipping coffee and just staring at a wall that’s fine. Every moment doesn’t have to be glorious. Every second doesn’t have to be Snapchat ready.

Things have increased in tempo, which is part of the reason for the used image. The Lord of the Rings was written back in the time of the first movies, like the languid pace of Wizard of Oz or even the first Star Wars. I know from research how this has effected books, trust me! From Sol Stein on Writing he goes on for ages about how writers of yesteryear could take a slow narrative summary approach to storytelling that would be “suicide today”.

Today’s audience would find Jeffrey Archer slow.

But anyways it was the thing mentioned by Siskel and Ebert back when Fellowship of the Ring came out, it was too action packed considering the pace of when it was written. Its been twenty years since back then when the closest thing to social media was a messageboard.

I have been deliberately putting the phone aside and forcing it’s none use. I’ll bring a book on a bus ride. I practice drum patterns on my break. I let them charge away from my station as I create and turn my back on them.

Allow yourself the space to work.

Even back in my cowriting days I noticed this. The first near hour at your station is decompression.

Then you flow.

Step back in your water.

Have a great Sunday and last week of November!

Cheers,

Tom

Got paid my own rent, which is fun…

Switched over banking information as I was frankly fed up with my old one and, well, I’ll have to make another phone call.

I’ll double check, but definitely a fun way to start November.

If only life was like that, that would be amazing! My apologies to anyone who thought I had landed the perfect financial independence scheme. Imagine that! Your rent would pay for your food!

So, with that not the case, I’m presently focused on two things outside of work…musicianship and The Quiet City. Within musicianship is getting ready for this season of Cookeilidh Christmas, bass study, guitar and keyboard. Songwriting tends to come to me in bursts so I like the idea of just developing the packaging for the next album after The Goldblacks.

Keyboard especially as using one had always been around but trying to “actually play” has only been going since one year before the last cd and I’m proud of how that went, especially with songs like Precipice and Missed Connections that were recorded in one take of vocal and piano.

Quiet City is still going a bit a day after the free sample.

If you haven’t read it yet check the blog just before this one.

On my bus and about to get off for lunch so I’ll catch up in a week or so!

Cheers!

Tom