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.
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!
One of the biggest mistakes ever has certainly got to do with dreams.
We tell people to follow their dreams but that is it, which inevitably has them either fail and think not for me or they actually move forward. The second case is sadly more rare.
But the point here is how are you learning something?
To me the classic has got to be when I was in scouts as a kid. We had to learn knots, as in all the different kind of ways of tying two ropes together (or one in the examples) like the bowline, reef knot and so on. It’s been a while since this all happened. I will also admit it is not super magical but bear with me.
I couldn’t do it at all. I could tie my shoes but even then only just barely. I remembered left over right, right over left, but that’s it. (Or was it the other way around? Anyways)
Years later I wanted to help fix up my dad’s boat and have everything perfect and for some reason I decided to learn the same knots by myself. In one hour I could flip through the same knots, the exact same ones, over and over.
What happened? Well, it’s the same as with music. I did take guitar lessons once as a kid and got bored. Years later I’m studying bass, then guitar, then keyboard and I have an album coming out.
What happened was the way I learned. The person is the same. The material is the same. The difficulty is the same. But now as a Adhd person who deep dives into subjects, my self teaching makes it actually work.
That’s the magic here. It isn’t limited to guitars and reef knots. Our approach to anything including how people learn can be opened up. You can become literally what ever you imagine.
If you have the dream you have what’s in you to succeed.
It is really easy to feel like to have plateaued in what you are doing and creative endeavors are no different for this. I don’t have lots of time as I’m writing this between gigs and I have the release for the single She Lives There literally in under 24 hours but I wanted to pass this along.
Any regular time spent working on something does have a positive effect, in fact anything you focus on regularly will become refined. I’ve noticed this over the month with, of all things, music production.
I don’t consider myself a music producer or engineer by any stretch, but I’ve sort of had to play that role while recording The Goldblacks CD and onwards since I still have the same gear. In doing that there’s little nuances that have improved or approaches I learned in the blur that was the album recording, like how to give myself plenty of virtual tracks of a take to lessen the stress, or my trick of singing backup to a temporary instrument track for guidance.
The point is you may only improve what you’re working on like 1% each day. But truth is that is actually huge because if keep doing that the difference in a year isn’t 365% because you will adding that percent to the day before. Your learning method will also become refined too, like in my recording example. I wasn’t trying to become an engineer, I was trying to make some songs, but the engineering advances came as a by product. Sometimes you can blow through plateaus through consistency, sometimes it comes thanks to an outside source but as long as you keep that focus and show up to the page each day like I said before, you will get there.
Some stuff isn’t easy or fun, but it can lead to more fun if you hold on. I like my new philosophy for being at the gym which works in creativity too. If you’ve shown up and you’re doing it you’ve succeeded. The effort takes you immediately past where you would have been, and anything you actually do is just a bonus.
Enjoy the journey!
How do you start something creative? It’s always that first line, that first note, that first brush-stroke that’s scary. It can set the whole tone, can’t it?
What if I’m no good?
I’m reminded of the kept-me-up-that-night excitement of a Abba documentary that I saw. I think the music just got me buzzing all over again, but it could have been this bit.
Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus would keep office hours. Bjorn would make the coffee and hike up the hill to their little cabin/studio in the Stockholm Archipelago where he’d hear Benny was already tinkering on the little upright piano they put in the tiny hut. Sure, gorgeous scenery to write Eagle and Dancing Queen but I don’t think that’s what did it.
I wrote a book ages back and just recently finished my CD The Goldblacks which I’m releasing May 1st, first single out on Friday stay tuned lol (plug out of the way…😜) and I genuinely took a leaf out of their book on both things (with the second knowingly)
Just show up to the page (or the easle, or the keyboard, or in my case my little studio spot of my place.)
There’s something that happens thats true of Goal Setting where even if a goal seems too lofty that it’s worth it just to check it out anyway. It’s like the meta-you takes over and makes it more real. If, like my Mom for instance, you play Irish harp then each day at a time you’ve decided is your most focused, got sit behind that harp (add yours here…it would get way too distracting for me to list them each time)
Where were you yesterday in playing? What haven’t you tried? My note app on my phone is amazing for this. Throughout the day you can give yourself ideas to use at this special time to kick you off. Much as you want direction for your endeavor it’s perfectly ok to just ramble, trying things out. Ricky Gervais on set of the Office called it his “mucking about” that often came up with great natural ideas.
Don’t forget, you’re supposed to enjoy it. I don’t believe in everything being final-end product focused but to be true-you have to enjoy it for them to as well.
Some stuff is certainly hard, and one thing worth looking into is deliberate practice where you can make great stides but first…
Make the coffee.
Go up to the hilltop.
Sip your coffee.
See what your hands do.
Take a chance,
This will be a blog on the move.
I practice music every morning, and did so this morning for a short period but we planner to head out to my parents and that means time to travel. Traveling makes me think because, well, most of the time you are stuck with that.
In some situations you can play music on ferries or busses, and I have, but to me writing works better. It’s like you are already doing something so anything you add is a bonus. And you’re stuck there for a while so don’t worry about being too keen.
What I want is to perform more, which was recently inspired by the story of Ed Sheeran. Now I have performed lots already, but I want to do more especially with my keyboard which is fast becoming my second primary instrument. I learned guitar as a early bass teacher told me I should learn a chord instrument and my mom’s nylon string was around so I started learning, accelerated when I told the church choir I had started and then the guitarist quit, putting me alone in front of a congregation (along with singers). They were a forgiving audience 😏 but it did help to get me ability to play and change chords fast happening.
Even with all that though, and being a bassist, I could never really get into crazy levels of playing, or taking it seriously. I wanted to because I knew I should but it was like a less comfortable bass to me so soloing and really fine playing has never really happened.
Playing keys really didn’t become a thing until almost a year ago now (I had one around for multitrack attempts, a la Depeche Mode) but never actually tried to play a song solo and sing. Naturally I knew C major. Not altogether hard to find, that one.
More recently I have fallen into a once a day pattern of putting something out there. I’m still on the bus as we speak and between parent’s and work I imagine this will be today’s.
Kind of fits with the sleepless one before. What would you like to try? Take some time when you are next stuck in traffic of any kind. Note apps are just amazing for this.
“You dream of something and it’s a thought. You write it down and take action on it and it’s real” Anthony Robbins
Today’s music will be this one I just rediscovered of Scott Walker of the Walker Brothers. I think last time was Scott as well but I thought I would add his hit.
You can hear Potter’s Theme in the mist as we circle your castle rising above the morning’s fog, it’s spires set against perhaps some fading last star.
Ok, so where do you get started?
It’s about the 1%. No, not that one percent, this has nothing to do with money.
No obligation and no salesman will visit.
This means if you improve something just one percent a day, what is the difference after a year? It’s not just 365% because not only does it stack on top of the numbers but also you will have days that you lunge forward.
It’s a little like going to the gym. Just showing up is half the success. Anything above that is a bonus. Same here. This is why the castle idea. What is a castle really? I have a really pretty one featured there but take a boring one.
It’s a bunch of walls. What are walls made of? Stones. Lots of stones. Some are not that big. One stone after another stone after another stone. The workmen didn’t go…ugh, these stones are boring and it won’t work anyways. They just kept adding stones. Eventually everyone complimented them in their pretty castle.
Same here. People will see your creation and marvel at it, but only you will know the stone after stone that put it there. Plus, like a castle, there is something nice about the fact it took so long. You have built it up over years and it won’t fail you. It’s sturdy and even you are a little impressed by the whole thing.
So when you see your endeavor before you and it looks so impossible just think, today…I will put down what stone I can find. Tomorrow may be a bigger stone or smaller, but I’ll find one then too.
For today’s music, I just got into this guy and so I had to share some of it. This is Scott Walker who was apparently a huge inspiration to David Bowie.
For the first track from this album click here!
I like to put in about 4 hours each morning but last night probably had less sleep than that. So what to do?
Practicing technical stuff seems a bit pointless as I’ll be practicing mistakes. And yeah, I’ve definitely had that experience of being too awake to sleep and too tired to spell the word “the”. It can make you feel really forlorn and frustrated so what do you do now?
Step back. Explore.
This is actually a time that really works wonders. Don’t beat yourself up with a) trying to sleep when that won’t kick in and b) get upset that you’re performance isn’t up to your ace level when of course it couldn’t be.
For me this morning it was playing through songs I hadn’t heard, working on an original idea I meant to do and then just finally going for a walk. I mentioned walks before and one of my favorite things is to get totally lost (I bring my device with data if it’s bad lol) and listen to music. Treat it like an artists date.
And that’s the gag here. You don’t have to be in “Fine Arts” to enjoy this. Explore your world in something you haven’t done for a while. You’ll get a second wind soon enough so enjoy this off the beaten track crazy moment. Be like a kid that’s stayed up too late and it all feels different and exciting. Take photos, go through old boxes, check out the books and niknaks at a Thrift store. Go up that trail you always drive past and wondered what’s over there.
Be over there today.
Today’s music is a really cool Jazz standard by Chet Baker called Alone Together.
Did read the recent Twitter run about Geoffrey Owens? He was that guy from the Cosby Show that someone photographed working at a Trader Joe’s.
Or what about those local bands that have yet to go huge and end up on Jimmy Kimmel?
Like that relative you have you is still writing the same novel?
Isn’t talent meant for just those you see in mainstream media?
Ok…by now you might pretty much realize where I’m going here…the answer is no. ☺️
We’re all Geoffrey in a way. I work as a cleaner and I’ve worked behind multiple counters as well. For a year I did go full time thanks to some funding, but that didn’t stick as rules changed (I swear, and yeah, it sucked).
While being a bassist and writer I have been lucky in one way though, and that’s that I consistently have interacted with other creative people and seen what they have been doing, getting a taste of what’s out there, even if it’s just here on Vancouver Island.
From Native artists like Roy Vickers and Alano Elzerza to the Black Angus band to the Eighty Sticky Fingers show in Colwood BC that represents local artists and potters I have consistently been surprised by what’s out there and of course with the very medium you’re reading this from, I have uncovered more.
And it isnt… here’s the thing…”not as good as it’s not famous or whatever”. It doesn’t work that way. It’s like espresso. Someone tamping a perfect shot produces a better drink than…brace yourself…the machine that does it fast at your local Seattle giant chain. The latter just has gone that direction with it. It’s like when I was young and I (embarrassing..) asked a local jazz horn player why he didn’t put out an album like Kenny G.
I don’t have the hair..
And that’s not to run down Ariana Grande or Ed Sheeran… they’re excellent at what they do too…truth is the arts is just that…it’s a craft and these are the craftspersons. The very doing of it is part of the joy and beauty as is the fact that it is not easy, that it is not necessarily lucrative involving a Hollywood tycoon with a cigar.
So I suppose the take away from the Geoffrey situation is to see what’s going on in your own home town. Got some extra white on your walls? Make them pop with local art where not only will you have some nice color but you might have a story of actual interaction with it’s creator. That’s one of the best parts. When we do a Cookeilidh gig we end up answering questions about things like Woody’s Irish flutes that are handmade from African blackwood which is incredibly dense and are cut precisely from an old original.
While we are discussing local music, I can only wrap it up with this example. This is the late George Essihos who I did take a lesson with once and his bassist who was pretty much the most influential teacher I probably had. Don’s pretty good too.
Listen here … https://youtu.be/2u4AEvgFDcc
And yeah, see what’s happening in your local arts community. From stage to film, visual arts to music and beyond I can strongly say you will be richer for it.
One of the best things I have discovered is literally one of the absolute simplest, walking.
It’s strolling in the city or hiking in the woodland but it’s really that same thing. It’s the way you discover the world around you the way nature meant us to.
It is a great simple way to burn calories as well, with a brisk walk bringing your heart rate close to a target rate. If you don’t feel like jogging or don’t have the equipment for cycling or cross country skiing it’s always there. It is low impact and it is great for battling anxiety, bloating/nausea (it works like a mother burping you essentially) and of course you can mix it’s exercise qualities with doing actual errands. What barbell can pull that off?
There is also the creative element. There’s always more streets to go down and places to explore (don’t venture into people’s property…they don’t like that…I know, right?) and this is always great for being inspirational. I have definitely worked out ideas in walks and there’s also that liminality quotient of bringing you out of your comfort zone and into the experience of the world.
Locally you will get to know your way around which is great and one of my favorite things is combining that with a pair of headphones. Any of the music that I’ve been recommending on this blog would be awesome, as would your favorites, but for today’s…
Here’s a classic Tom fav from a classic album…
Today’s track is Depeche Mode – Freestate
Open your mind – Freedom’s a state