The next rehearsal evening was booked in for January 21st.
But I’ve been feeling very “January”. I’ve been writing new lyrics, and I’ve been drawing. Over Christmas I was at home enjoying being with my family… and then once the new year started, I felt a bit down. It always happens.
So I put the call out to the guys in the band that if anyone fancied a bit of singing and noodling about, I was up for that.
We have four gigs booked in for February, and I’m looking forward to these, as most of them are good long sets – 45 mins which is good. Most seem to be up to and around the 30 mins which gives us about 6/7 songs. But 45 minutes is great. It gives time to get warmed up, settle in, get something upbeat to start with, have a spot of mellow in the middle and then build up to the finish… with maybe one or two more up your sleeve just in case. Maybe even a cover or two.
Anyway… Andy came over to the studio and we looked at a few songs we had written in the summer. We’ve played them live a few times too, but in playing songs live, little bugs and snags crop up. So it was good to just play through them and think about why little things were going a bit awry, or just didn’t feel quite right. Usually they’re small things that in discussion fall away. Sometimes the arrangement doesn’t seem right. Sometimes the chorus needs to move… a bit of a break provides a little distance and objectivity.
The morning’s work was productive, and definitely mood-enhancing!
As with most things there is a balance to be achieved. And the balance between the amount of rehearsal and the amount of live playing is no different. As a Newbie, I have only just begun to appreciate this. There comes a point at which you have to go for it and put it in the set. Prepared, but a bit scared is the feeling I’ve become used to. But there’s nothing like playing live to sort out the issues with a song… things that don’t seem to happen in rehearsal.
I am happier these days to take a bit of a risk with a new song. Many of the gigs we play are to an audience of other performers and songwriters. So it is comfortable to say “we have some new material we want to air” and they get it, and will feedback any ideas. All good. I’m now past the terror of getting things wrong, and feel I can chat to an audience rather than curl into my boots and go bright red and wish the floor to open. The new found confidence means that as long as we keep going and smile, we can get away with it.
We are hoping to get a few songs recorded for our second EP at the end of February, the gigs are worth much in the rehearsal stakes, so the songs to be recorded will feature in the sets. I might even ask the audience to let us know their favourites.
And in terms of solo stuff… I also have a list of things that probably won’t get played live (certainly not at the moment). These will be formed in the studio, then released as recordings. If they develop a live life, that will be exciting. But will happen later. I want to make them. Then I will decide what they are for.
So here we are, possibly my favourite day of the year, Boxing Day!
I have some time to myself.
I have begun sifting and sorting some of the sounds recorded on various devices. At the moment this is just a case of organisation, there’s nothing for you to listen to yet. But I’m also sifting through lyrics, deciding which are of worth.
This piece has actually become a song already, but I didn’t know what to do with it. It exists as a very poor first recording, just a writers’ note. So I won’t be posting that just yet. But I’m looking at it, and considering it. I like the picture and the unfolding drama that I see when I read it.
He watched her laugh at someone else’s joke
He saw her nod while other people spoke
He heard her swear when she spilled a little milk
He felt her tongue as she licked her coffee lips
He knew the sting that she never could be his
She watched his green eyes sweep around the room
She felt his touch as they paused at her and smiled
She barely heard what other people said
She heard the depth of his seldom spoken words
She knew the sting that he never could be hers
They sat apart so they could look and not be seen
They didn’t touch
They didn’t touch
But they felt the pull between
They made excuses and left by different doors
They talked in silence
Their feet beat out the rhyme
The rhythm set by separate beating hearts
Not close enough to synchronise their time
The parting hug was a second far too long
A conversation by any other name
His breathing deep so that he could smell her hair
A guess how soon they might not quite meet again
She whispered a kiss just below his ear
It wasn’t much
It wasn’t much
But they felt it all the same
So a new blog then.
Originally, my other blog ‘Threads’ contained everything. Occasionally I’d branch out for specific projects, for a specific time, returning to ‘Threads’ afterwards (Nine Women, Shedding and the a-n bursary blog ‘Time and Space’).
In recent months I have come to see that perhaps to give the sound work the attention it deserves, I need a different space for it.
It might be an idea to give a potted history to this, rather than refer people to wade through archive postings on ‘Threads’.
Sometimes it seems a lifetime away, sometimes it seems like yesterday… in 2010 I started a Masters in Arts Practice and Education at Birmingham City University’ School of Art in Margaret St… you might know this wonderful building, and it’s history… anyway… I started… with a severe case of imposter syndrome. It took me two years part time, during which things changed dramatically. I look back and see a different woman, and certainly a different artist!
I was working on themes of relationships between children and adults/parents, overprotection, parenting and of course teaching, which was why I chose that particular strand of study. I was working in a primary school, as an artist teacher. I made a series of garments and items that explore the connections between protection and constraint. I made a straitjacket which was quilted and embroidered, a child’s jacket with mittens on strings that wrapped around the child, A mother’s coat with the baby-pocket on the inside, and a child’s rocking chair that had arm and leg restraints, and wedges to stop it rocking. You get the message I’m sure.
This was about half way through the course and I installed these pieces in the studios for assessment and decided that I would like to have some music playing, something child-like perhaps… nursery rhymes, musical box, or a lullaby maybe… I searched the internet but could find nothing that fitted. One day I moaned to my new friend Dan Whitehouse about it, and asked him if perhaps he had something I could use. He definitely rolled his eyes and said “Write your own!”
It had never occurred to me that I could!
But I did. I wrote the words. Dan sent me a recording of some guitar chords over which I tentatively sang a melody. After much work and loads of help, I had my Lullaby. My first song, age 50.
For my final show installation I wrote another. Called ‘Keep Calm’ which played continuously over the balcony haunting the foyer exhibition space. I even performed it live for the assessors. Nerve-wracking!
Moving things on a few years, I wrote more, some poems and some lyrics, and joined Dan’s songwriting circle. There I met loads of wonderful people who helped me work out what I was doing. This gave me confidence to perform, to look at ways to create music as a non-musician, and to collaborate. It was the collaboration aspect that was definitely the catalyst for change.
Dan put me in a room with fellow circlers: Ian Sutherland, Andy Jenkins and Dave Sutherland. We wrote a song, very quickly, and it was good. And then we wrote a few more. Then when we had about six, we decided it would be good to let them out into the world and do a few open mic nights. Talk about new territory… I was terrified on a regular basis.
And then I wasn’t.
Then, gradually, I discovered I loved it . The whole thing. Writing lyrics, sending them to Andy, Ian and Dave (although not Dave later on) and them writing music for the words, and then working out arrangements and vocals and harmonies… all of it.
This band The Sitting Room has been writing and gigging since January 2016. We are still at it, and we now have a rhythm section with Lloyd McKenzie and John Kirkman. We have an eclectic range of influences between us, which gives us a unique sound I think. We have recorded an EP, and are in the process of deciding what to record next, as we now have around 30 songs.
Alongside this ran my Nine Women project. I wrote and co-wrote 11 songs (couldn’t decide which two to cut) and a variety of small intersecting sound pieces to play with the installation of nine embroidered old bras,
I am still writing with the band on a regular basis, but I have heaps of lyrics that are not really appropriate for the band, and a bigger heap of recorded sounds, some of which have been manipulated into percussive loops to use in songwriting. This heap is getting more unwieldly, and I have decided it is time to work on a solo music project.
It is all to easy to go into the studio to draw. Less easy to write music as a non-musician. I have tricks and what have you, (the old dog has learned a few) but the process doesn’t come easy.
So I have a new table in the studio, with all music related paraphernalia. And although I don’t do new year’s resolutions, this is sort of what I’m planning.
And the inauguration of a new blog space will hopefully keep me on track, critical, reflective…