I belong to The Songwriters’ Circle at mac Birmingham. (I know I’ve mentioned this before) At the end of each term we choose a song we have written and we perform it. Some of my fellows are old hands and think nothing of it, they do it all the time. Some of my fellows are timid, and perhaps even reluctant performers. There is the option to record rather than sing live, and also to get someone to sing your song for you.
I think I fall somewhere in the middle, having now done three terms, so therefore I now have recordings of three of my live performances. I am hugely critical of each. I can hear the bum notes just as clearly as the rest of you. I can hear it when I’ve got the phrasing wrong.
But it’s not about that. It is about solidarity I think. The circle is about sharing ideas, nurturing each other, and mutual support. It’s a special and precious thing, that changes feel each term as the participants change. I don’t plan on having a term off, as some people do. Some people only do the summer term, some come for a few sessions and are never seen again. But there are a few who are there all the time. It never feels cliquey… It feels welcoming, because you can never tell who has just walked through the door… “Oh….. You play the flute? How lovely (useful)!” This is why I was a hesitant joiner… I don’t have anything to offer musically, and my ears are slow. But, I think I have something else… A sort of haphazard attitude to music and words that occasionally throws up something interesting or unexpected. I’m not a rule breaker, simply because I don’t know the rules! Performing at the end of the term is part of that, to not participate would seem churlish!
I’m not going to be doing any open mic sessions anytime soon. I’m not going to be seen gigging round the West Midlands, so don’t bother doing a search. But the chance to do the occasional live performance gives me the opportunity to develop another set of skills. It gives me the opportunity to find out what works and doesn’t, what an audience appreciates. It gives me the reason to sing the same song over and over, trying it out in different ways. I can hold a tune most of the time. I’m no Aretha, but I think I have an ordinary range on a good day, depending on the weather and so on. These things get better with practice. Having other people around me to help me practice is great because I then have an experienced, critical audience. The thing I would like to extend is the way I deliver the songs. I can extend the octaves a little maybe, or at least make them steadier at each end of the range with practice. What I mean is the emotional content… How I deliver this mediocre voice to an audience, through recording or live, to convey what I’m trying to.
A live performance is the way to do this … Scary but instant feedback. There’s nothing quite like it in the visual art world. We might all stand around at the PV night, but everyone is very polite, having possibly formulated their responses on the way to the exhibition.
This song, from December’s concert, I will attach here via soundcloud.
It contains, in the original lyrics, the word fuck. I wanted fuck. I didn’t want to make love, shag, bang or spoon, or do horizontal dancing. Only a fuck would do. I knew this, but sent it round a few people anyway asking for opinions. I was shocked at how many people kind of stopped at the fuck… A halt happened. I found this absolutely infuriating and wanted to shake them by the shoulders ( you all know who you are!) but it was their honest opinion and I had asked for it. This song might turn out to be important. I am going to launch the project with it… A sort of album title, theme throughout, the leader of the pack if you will. So I have to get it right. After a ridiculous amount of lyric changing and experimenting and fannying about, I decided to try this out in front of the live audience. I am pleased with the reaction. The fuck was obvious, they all knew it was a fuck… It kind of rhymes with look, and I had a sort of saucy pantomime look on my face when I sang it. What it got, as you will hear, is a laugh.
I hadn’t aimed for a laugh, I had aimed for an understanding of the hint. The laugh was brilliant. A laugh is definitely what it wants and needs. Musically, they are given a break afterwards to get over the shock, and then I start the next verse. This is why I do the live thing, to gauge reaction… There’s no better way. So now, when it comes to the recording of this for Nine Women, this is how I will do it, not with a hard and sharp and shocking fuck, but with a gentle, blowing out the candle sort of ladylike Fffffffffffff………
Credits for “Invisibility is not a Super-Power”
Lyrics: Elena Thomas
Music: Simon Coverdale
Vocals: Elena Thomas
Acoustic guitar: Simon Coverdale
Electric guitar: Dan Whitehouse
Bass: Dave Sutherland
Thank you for being so lovely and encouraging and making it happen in such a great way!