AUDIOBLOG – please click here

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

Live performance
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!




Right then…

I think I’m sorted…

I have materials and equipment required.

I have sketchbook, notebook, and a pile of recordings from domestic and urban sounds, to song ideas, bits of rhythm, melody, and odd bits of sound collage. I have drawings. I have bras! I have loads of bras!

So… Official Start Date is January 5th. That week we will start recording, I will start hanging some work in the exhibition space next to my studio. I am planning an open studio event towards the end of the month, just to launch the whole thing, invite people in for tea and cakes, and start talking…. And start singing….

I will be advertising the event here no doubt – it would be great to see you!


AUDIOBLOG please click here!

I took all my new gear to the studio.

Once alone, I took a deep breath, then started.

I carefully took it all out of the boxes.

I assembled the mic stand, figured out the pop shield and shock thingy. I screwed and adjusted and got it wrong and started all over again.


I booted up the macbook ready

I got out the interface little red box.

I unwound the leads.

I plugged plugs into sockets, I flicked switches.

Lights came on.


But it appears no one was home.

Certainly not me that’s for sure!


I clicked on the screen for various options for input and output, trying desperately to remember what Jamie and Dan had said.


WHY didn’t I make notes?


WHY didn’t I at least take photos of all the settings on red box and screen?


BECAUSE I was over-excited and stupid that’s why.


I can do a great line in feedback…

And I had the small amount of knowledge required to move the microphone away from everything else to cure it.

So now I’m stuck with two weeks of having to attend to something else until I have the time and space to sort it out.

Christmas is happening in a different dimension in which I am temporarily stuck for a couple of weeks. There is probably a Doctor Who analogy that I could use, to enable me to do both things at once… no? Ok.


I’m looking forward to Christmas, of course! My boys (men) are both home, and we have stuff to celebrate! It will be lovely….


oh but….


…in my studio lies unresolved frustration… I cannot get the technology to register my voice exists, let alone record it! I swear I have tried every combination of switches, knobs, settings and clickings, but can’t get it to work.


So my determination to be up and running and to have some sort of relationship with this object before Dan comes in is severely thwarted!


I expect he will come in, me having torn out all hair watching YouTube “how to” videos… he will amble up to the mic and say…

“E, you haven’t flicked the Secret Idiocy Guard Switch”  and all will be well.





AUDIO BLOG – Click here

I’ve been shopping.
Not Christmas shopping though.
I wasn’t part of the crowd that rushed to pick up the free vegetable peeler in Debenhams. I wasn’t part of the argument and vehicle denting that was going on during a dispute for a parking space in Birmingham city centre. I certainly wasn’t the target for the six burly gentlemen in festive knitwear sprinting towards a shoplifter in the Bull Ring….

I went shopping with Dan.
I met him in Fair Deal Music. I got there first. It was like entering a foreign land. Everyone spoke a different language to me. There were items on shelves and I had no idea what they were for. Maybe like a sex shop in a foreign land…

But they were great. I talked about what I wanted to do, talked about the project. They were patient, I didn’t feel patronised, I felt like a prospective convert. Things were explained that needed to be, glossed over if not “you can deal with that later…” Jamie Clayton was just lovely! I’ll be back…

My MacBook was greeted with a big wide smile. Thank goodness… PCs just don’t cut it I’m told.
(This I already knew)

My purchases were plugged in and demonstrated. This was great, because like many of you reading this I’m sure, reading instructions is not an option. I need to see, need to hear rather than read words. Words float about, they don’t attach themselves to anything, until I have made sense of things with my eyes and my own fingers.

I’m going to play over the weekend. I’m going to plug it all in and have a go. There is a temptation to panic and leave it all in the boxes and just let Dan do it. That really these things belong to him, not me. But it was my money, I need to get to grips, to get a grip. The whole project is about getting to grips… Pull on my crampons and grapple up the learning curve!

I’ve got: a microphone, a shock mount and pop shield, a mic stand, and an interface to go between the mic and my MacBook… with assorted cables.

My first microphone. The object of desire as written about for The Museum for Object Research a few weeks ago.

My palms are a little clammy and my heart is beating faster……


AUDIOBLOG – Click Here

Last night was the end of term Songwriters’ Circle Showcase.

I sang “Invisibility is not a Super-Power”
I wrote the lyrics, Simon Coverdale wrote the music.
For the performance, Simon played acoustic guitar, Dave Sutherland played acoustic bass and Dan Whitehouse played electric guitar. Surrounded by such expertise, I felt well supported and encouraged. I feel more confident singing live these days, and actually… I quite enjoy it! I need to practice such a lot in order to feel comfortable, that it will be ok. It takes a long time, and lots of repeats for it to get into my brain and stay there.

I think I blogged after the last performance, on Threads, that the experience is warm and fuzzy, or something similar, as you get an instant response to your art, rather than when you hang work in a gallery, where you may not get any feedback at all!

In the bar after, we were discussing the possibility of me doing a nine song gig… I laughed at the prospect, but the seed has been planted and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
Now, I am filtering out the warm fuzzy sensation caused by flattery, the thought that someone thought I might be able to do it… A 45 minute set… it is daunting at this point. It was asked why would I write nine songs and NOT perform them live?
Good question…
A question I am thinking about very seriously. I think what I have to do is separate these things to examine them. Personally, this is an amazing challenge to think about. I have not done much performing. I’ve not done much live singing. It is a craft that I can develop. New skills… Exciting don’t you think?

And then… For this project, that isn’t what the songs are for. The songs are for ears, the bras are for eyes. The two things experienced at the same time. By throwing in a live performance, I become part of the visual, detracting from the pieces I have made to hang in the gallery space. The funded project is about the recording and production skills….

I have a whole year to figure this out. But I would appreciate any thoughts people have about how this COULD work.

I may have a recording soon… If it is good enough, I may post a soundcloud  link to it here for you to listen to!

(If I feel brave!)