The upside of 1%

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!

Cheers,

Tom

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Show up to the page. And tomorrow the same.

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,

😉

Tom

Rainy ride

Bundle up and

Get something warm and

Get your keys and

Stand and wait sip your drink and look out traffic

Pull your hood close and

Wave your pass and

Wait in shelters

Bleary burn stained glass

Look for the white white roof of the

Crosstown connection.

#MondayMotivation

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.

Click here!

Cheers!

Tom

☺️

How to build your creative castle

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!

Enjoy!

Tom

🙂

Alpha, Beta, Gamma…what to do?

Speak low when you speak love…

Kurt Weill

Do you put more faith in a clear abundance of ego or someone who convinces with facts?

Kurt may have been more introverted or what is called a Beta male. There’s Omega too, as well as an army of others but let’s keep to the two main ones here.

Alpha male. Dominant.

Beta male. Submissive.

Off the top of my head I can add the names Nick Drake, Vincent Van Gogh, and Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins as strongly potential Beta males.

Alpha males are far easier to spot as they naturally feel perfectly ok under the intensity of white hot light. Most actors, politicians, employers, sports figures fit here but… ok…Frank Sinatra, Stephen Colbert and…yes, you guessed it…Donald Trump.

There’s things I’ve heard, read and experienced where the reality of Beta males comes into question. Like shouldn’t they not be like that and step up as it were. I see the point because it is really what it is about Alphas that we naturally like.

An Alpha will look you in the eye and shake your hand (typically) and will sell you something with actual confidence. You feel confident with them. It puts your mind at ease. They are the company breadwinner, the pointman and the guy at the front.

Betas get flustered. They might be extremely intelligent but when asked to produce on the spot it throws the whole game. Betas can’t sell it smoothly and have to work like crazy to play the same game. They are usually at the back and prefer that.  Sometimes men are dominant or submissive depending on the situation as well but when someone is not the supremely outgoing/extroverted/Alpha-type as I’m not for the most part, that does tend to be the default setting.

Anyways, here’s the thing…we need both guys.

It’s the ying and yang of how it works. It is ludicrous to try to impose Alpha rules on Betas like Vincent Van Gogh should have really left his ear alone and took up, say, tackle football. The kind of man he was gave us the beauty of his work.

Same with Nick Drake who had a very difficult time due to shyness and depression to perform live. And yet Nick’s beautiful sound still resonates today. Sometimes you want to muscular sound of Van Halen’s Jump and sometimes you want the soft, close sound of Nick Drake’s Riverman

To wrap up this one… here’s Five Leaves Left – Nick Drake (Full Album)

Have a wonderfully exciting, or chill, long weekend.

Your choice.

Cheers!

Tom

Many hands

Ever wanted to be a rock star?

Even better… Imagine being a central figure of a massive band that then breaks it up to be a huge solo act, traveling the world and trying everything under the sun from different music styles to acting to writing.

Yeah, I’m pretty much talking about this guy…

You can add dark glasses if you wish

…but lots of musicians have been down similar paths from Beatles to Byork (though I will admit I don’t know the mechanics of The Sugarcubes band of the latter)

But the reason I chose Sting was because of something he rightly said in the sleeve of his first solo album.

Since I started this thing people have referred to it as my solo album, which is of course ridiculous.

I know what you are probably thinking.

What? I just called it that. But as he goes on to explain there’s absolutely no way that it could have been a success without the work of his team of musicians, sound engineers and everyone else that would have been needed in 1985 to make that album finally release in the June of that year.

“The Dream of the Blue Turtles”

Whether your a rock star from the Northeastern England or someone working on a company project the truth is we all need other people to make something of substantial value. Often it’s best for one person to oversee the vision of the thing like in Sting’s case but as he said, it would have been crazy if he tried to hop around and do everything. When you work as a team, not only does the whole become greater than the sum of it’s parts (which it does) but also each person can bring the full effect of focusing on what makes them awesome.

What’s cool here is…each part is usually fueled by other people too. As a bassist myself there are plenty of other people involved to make it so that I can sit there and develop what I do from luthiers to teachers to other musicians I’ve worked with, to the entire life world outside of that that makes it so I can sit there and work on 2nd inversion arpeggios and triplets and one-e-and-ah stuff that you have to work through enevitably.

Of course this is a metaphor for the whole world outside of this.

It’s not just “nice” or “cute” to be inclusive and do away with us-and-them tribalism but it’s actually good business. If your on Team A and you want to work with the best of the best but that person, or even part of their network is in Team B, then you either resolve or accept that it wont have that person.

What’s more is the reality of possibly undiscovered talent. The bass playing world freaked out when we all first heard Bakithi Kumalo playing on Paul Simon’s Graceland album.

Now controversy behind the album rightly said things like “So it took a white person for this music to be heard?” It’s true. It should not take one of us at all and this is because of the pigeonhole thing we have that comes from a tribalistic background.

The trick is to have learned we can’t be divided. We are superior as one tribe.

Speaking of Bakithi, for today’s tunes…check this out!

Now I know…a bass album? But again, here is a project driven but many hands to make not just a light load but a beautiful one!

Check it out here and enjoy!

Bakithi Kumalo – Change

😊

Cheers,

Tom

I’ll admit it

I had definitely a time back in my twenties when I was much more angry. I don’t know if it was a mix of disillusion with some other stuff going on. I know I wasn’t happy and was perfectly prepared to burn any bridge, do anything.

I wasn’t happy. I was Mr. Confrontation.

I’m not now, and this is what I will admit. Is it bad? Oh, possibly. I don’t come on here or anywhere saying that I have the best answer to all things, I just know what has worked for me.

There is a lot of everything out there to confront and a large portion of that will be not only unavoidable but part of how you make your money. Why seek that out in daily life? It’s rhetorical by the way. Not actually asking.

You should protect what is yours and so on, but I have no interest in creating wackiness where it didn’t need to be. I guess that’s my thing with so much I see going on. Life can be fun and pleasant and a paradise for everyone so why do we have to fight, squabbling over who gets what…where the borders are marked…how unfair it all is.

I know people who were born with so many ticks against them that it’s crazy. In lots of cases it certainly is unfair. But we can be there for people and be empathetic in those cases.

I guess I’ve just seen too much of the no end in sight, escalating side of confrontation to want to be part of it, especially intentionally. In every one of those situations I’ve only ever had the same thought…I’d right now rather be far away, be someone else, be where it’s quiet and this is not.

I mean, so much of the most growth and most beauty in life comes quietly and simply. When studying music, or geography, or history or doing most things of value, you don’t aggressive. If you started an argument in the middle of making love you would ruin it. It’s like putting a hole in her dress at a party. It’s just a path to upset.

It also reminds me of what happened, or where I was after my turbulent twenties. I’ve always called it by the slightly lame title of the Back of Bay Street because, well, it was on Bay Street, in the bottom back of the same house I had first moved to when I first left home. This location was so quiet that I responded to that and that became a great time of study, writing, and even the earliest days of Cookeilidh for me. Only challenge has ever since because it’s so tempting to go back there, which is impossible as you are only 30 once.

But it was perfect. You could sit in stillness and watch the movement of the sun through the room. I had a night light at one end, in the kitchen, and two different colored blankets covering the windows, so from the chair in the bedroom the effect was a magical pink and blue with a white star at the end.

Happiest places I’ve been have always been like that.

You can never run out of things that can upset you for some reason if you really dig far enough. You can be the wealthiest person alive with a flawless everything and still be a miserable person because something will always disappoint. You have to pick your battles but also enjoy just leaving the warfare alone.

“It’s no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.”

————————————————————————————–

Thanks for reading! Today’s ambient music for reading is mum – Finally We Are No One (full album) which is the 2017 release (Couldn’t get the symbol over the u) and is just one of many of their great lush works!

Enjoy

Cheers 😊

Tom

Anyone can learn anything

Wanted to kick off by saying happy father’s day since I don’t blog Sundays. I remember learning stuff from my dad from math to stuff to do with the car, but of course lots of what I learned is more about who I became.

I’m an ADHD person who has been told by some that he can’t learn fast. I had doctors suggest I had a special typewriter as a kid because of my handwriting.

And yet I spend most my time these days playing my guitar, keyboard and guitar, and when I’m not here, learning as much as I can through audiobooks.

Different people learn differently. An interesting one came from my study of First Nations in Standing on the Edge of Yesterday where the writer talks about how for Native children it is (to her mind) more effective to communicate orally and have the student work on something physical than use pen and paper. Why? Because it has only been a few hundred years (not even) since all information was transferred from Elder to young person by oral traditions and learning. In fact it’s a reason why there would be multiple nuances in spoken language because there was hardly a public school system back then, so language was learned quite literally “in house”.

For myself I had two interesting experiences, one at school and one with boy scouts.

At school I absolutely failed my first year of typing. It was like I just couldn’t bother and was bored of it. For some bizarre reason that I can’t remember (hey, this was 1990…kind of a while back!) I took the course again. I was not distracted by the usual people of my grade and low and beyold…I utterly aced it. I got so fast that people would stare annoyed when my typewriter (like I say, 1990) would sound like a machine gun compared to other kids who were still pecking along slowly.

The other was to do with knots. In scouts they wanted you to learn the different knots such as bowline, reef knot, and so on. Just like in school I was a picked on nerd, so I didn’t want to be there at all. And as the whole thing was already not fun and now I was being talked at about these knots, I couldn’t do one to save my life.

I think that’s the thing too. I’m not Native but I don’t think the school classic system and me ever worked. I get this funny feeling that for me it’s about self directed study because years later I decided I wanted to learn everything about boating. My dad had, and still has, a little sport boat in the garage. Well I thought this thing was amazing and so on my own I learned, and could repeat like Forrest Gump showing his firearm, every single knot in existence…no sweat.

I sucked at music education back then. On my ukelele I just liked strumming, because picking and learning to pick notes in class was boring to me.

Uh…

⬆️Not to brag but, same kid.⬆️

Listening to The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner last night reminded me of this when it talked about grades. The idea behind grades was to assess how the learning method was working on the child and not to identify the “wheat” and the “chaff”. He talked about the source of cheating where, because of this same all or nothing mentality, kids would cheat because it was the grade that was important and not the knowing of the material.

Now some kids do learn perfectly in the normal method. Some are more kinesthetic and others like myself are prone to self directed study. This latter gets more interesting when you apply the idea that ADHD tends to promote deep dives into singular subjects (which I experienced with knots, bike mechanics, and then after the age of nineteen, bass guitar)

Gonna wrap up as, ironically, I have to practice and I got up late. Hope this helps annnnnd…

Today’s music choice is another classic, especially with the upcoming Queen biopic which looks amazing. John Deacon is where my curiosity peaked about the bass, and even though he’s not in this, it’s just great.

Bijou – Queen

Enjoy!

Cheers 😎

Tom

Let’s Talk

Just got paid this morning and I’m actually avoiding looking. I wonder how many other people do that.

There’s something wierd about when you just got paid. Bills and things haven’t gone through yet, like an animal released or a bunch of pacmans sent shooting across a field of marbles. It’s like you really could go any direction, like you’re at the crossroads.

I miss that kind of conversation, don’t you? Now some divides have been around for ages, to be fair. I’ve always, always thought of those as stupid. Little kids, with their wide open wisdom, never see that. They go straight in. They play with that other kid, no matter who they are. They don’t decide that they and theirs are from Heaven (or wherever) and anyone from the other side, or who doesn’t agree with every thing they believe, is from somewhere below.

I am really considering getting rid of two social media platforms, which I know won’t help me, but I get frustrated too. This one and Instagram are fun places to connect and be creative. It’s those other two, Twitter and Facebook, where you go on only to wish you hadn’t.

It isn’t sticking your face in the sand. I don’t know how you could because news comes at you from all over, and most of these are not news (and what is gets questioned) so what do you believe?

I made a point of trying to keep both “sides” visible, but this just leads to waking up to anger.

There is too much anger and too little listening. I can only hope that this burns out as it can only keep going for so long. Neither side is discussing anything from what I see. He and her are certainly the most polarizing force we have seen and it has fueled it seems every division we have ever had. It made all the cracks glow. Now the question is can we turn our situation into an actual positive force?

I wish I had an actual answer or the thing that finally brought everyone together like some big party in Zion from Matrix.

Apparently one day we will all rave and be in amazing shape..

Or even to make things calm down, but the thing is, I think it could actually get better if we hold the rigging through the storm. This could break us with the pent up anger that has been there all along. I just saw today that they found writings by Einstein that were not racially good, and I’m not surprised. The most forward thinking explorer of First Nations people here on the west coast was Franz Boas, back hundreds of years ago. He wrote books that are actually in the Friendship Center and they refer to Coast Salish people as “savages”. Let make this clear, he was considered one of the “good guys”.

I always have problems with that phrase straight away. I haven’t always been a good person. I can’t be alone in this. Good and bad guys are for cartoons. I remember a woman talking about living in a mob family, where 90% of the time she was respected and saw nothing but a loving Catholic-Italian family. But, every now and again “business” would be conducted and, as she put it, it was like seeing these iron masks come down.

Another powerful scene involves the most evil man in history, and the one who gets too often used to compare people, Hitler. Where am I going? Well, there is an interesting movie called Downfall and we have all seen that clip of him ripping into his Generals in the bunker office, but there was that other scene with his dogs and his family where he is lucid and acting like any other German older man. And I mean, that’s him. I am of course by no means condoning what he and his did and I am not a denier, but it is interesting to see humanization of that most iconic evil.

My point is that we should not apply Occam’s Razor to how we interact with each other.

Don’t judge me, you could be me in another life, in another set of circumstances” from “Tommorow We’ll See” by Sting.

Going back to before, what’s great is that we are going through all these things that have been buried. It’s crazy because these days at work I listen to comedy shows of the early 2000s and you really would think by how they talk that discrimination was eradicated.

But it wasn’t, was it? And there are so many forms that it has taken.

Ways to divide people into groups.

Maybe one day we’ll stop.

One day.

We’ll learn we can stop and listen.

Reach out.

Talk.

—–

Today’s music was me finally listening to the soundscapes of Sigur Ros, an Icelandic avant-rock band from Reykjavík.

Here is their album Sigur Ros – Valtari

Cheers,

Tom

😊