I Give It My Life..

I am delighted to share with you my news that after three years of being on ‘career break’ from primary school teaching to explore my career options and opportunities in the music industry, I have handed in my resignation and the security of a guaranteed teaching career is no more!

It was said to me a lot over the last few years.. “At least you have teaching to fall back on”. For me, that’s actually somewhat disrespectful to the amazing teachers out there who work at exhaustive levels every day to do the job they love. Yes, I understand it and I understand why so many people tried to ease the pressures I had put on myself by saying that but to me it was actually never really an option for me.

When I left teaching three years ago, the sensible and natural thing to do to ease the transition was to take a career break. It’s a luxury that most people don’t have and it gave me comfort and reassurance that I had a great job to ‘fall back on’. But if the truth be known, my little stubborn and determined self had already made the decision that it was going to be a departure that did not have a return journey.

I was in New York in February 2010 and it was there amongst the magnitude and excessiveness of everything, that I affirmed my decision to follow the career path that felt almost ingrained and natural to me. A part of my soul I guess you could call it.

The “how long will you give it” question that irritated me for three years now is easily and joyously answered with “I give it my life.” There never has been or ever will be an expiry date on what I have chosen to do in my life. Music is who I am now. It always was but conventional life choices and social expectations clouded my understanding of how I could make that possible for me and the skills that are individual to me.

I have had three years to learn, watch, observe and discover if I really have the nerves of steel, the hard neck or the inner strength that will carry me through the days when the music industry feels like the devil doing his best to knock me further and further into the ground. I have learned that on the days that I don’t have enough to defend that recurrent beating, I have family and friends who will help bear that force with me and when I get through it and out of it, my successes become their successes too. A career shared with those I love.

I will sign off this somewhat intense post with saying that by no means have I it all figured out, but what I have figured out is that doing what you love gives you a freedom and energy that genuinely makes the world more alive and vibrant. That freedom will always come with a lot of responsibility and care however. Keep on your toes, adapt and change where and when necessary, don’t be distracted by ego and remember you know yourself better than anyone. Always take advice but sit with it before you act on it and most importantly, share your love for what you do with as many people as possible!

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‘Lyons Tea’, Mondays and lists…

A typical day in the life of a full time singer/songwriter you’d imagine would start with lots of songwriting followed by lots more songwriting followed by organising a few gigs etc etc..

Well, I hope to one day describe a typical day as exactly that but for just under 3 years now its been a little different!!! It starts like most people’s with the alarm going off and then snoozing. Being my own boss obviously affords me the luxury of deciding how many times I press that snooze button. I learned pretty quickly that taking advantage of that control only ends up in feelings of laziness, poor work effort and bad self discipline so I get up like most people round 8am and get started into my work at 9pm. If I have been gigging the night before I might allow myself an extra hour or two!

I then proceed by plugging in the laptop and in my diary I make a list of things that need doing! (This naturally includes house stuff like utility bills, payments etc) I believe my teaching years especially 3 years of Junior Infants has taught me to be be very organised and practical. Oh before this, I will usually pop a little update or post on my Facebook page and on Twitter! They just become such a part of daily working life. It’s the equivalent of ‘filing’ as you go.

Once I have my head straight on what needs doing, I get stuck into it. Every day is completely different in terms of the items on that list, which I love. I love variety and changing things around. It keeps me on my toes and it keeps me interested.

So as an example, today’s list includes preparation for workshops I am giving to a group of St.Pats students in Dublin to help them with music planning for their teaching practice. It’s a great way for me to stay connected to education and earn money as I do it! Also on my list is to finish writing lyrics for a dance music track. I also have to organise my first ‘mini tour’ of 2013 which I have scheduled for June! It’s important to me to get to London in the next month or two so I need to get some events organised for that too. I would absolutely love to busk on the London underground so I need to apply for that!!

Obviously other things crop up throughout the day and I just have to prioritise as I go! In the afternoon I will go and teach piano for about 5 hours so its all go.

Thank God for blue skies too. It really makes a difference to getting up and keeping motivated!! And as for ‘Lyons Tea’… As I reach for my second cup in under 1 hour!!! Till next time..

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Jumping on the PR bandwagon!

PR is something I knew very little about up until I had to start doing it myself when I started to release music. The only other experience I had of PR was way back in 2004 when a song I wrote was a runner up in an Irish series called ‘You’re A Star’. The song got involved in a little bit of controversy over the level of production put into the song. Word was put out at the time that Brian McFadden, who was the writer of the other song had received a much bigger studio production than mine and as a result meant that it wasn’t fair on the contestants, the songwriters or the voting public. I was advised to get a PR company involved so that I knew how to handle the situation if asked about my thoughts and views on it. I was so naive, and wasn’t completely sure what really was going on behind the scenes. I was also naive to the HUGE amount of money that PR was going to cost me and boy did it cost me. Not hundreds, THOUSANDS!!! Whilst having my name broadcast to a million people over a couple of nights was a huge achievement for me, the experience left me broke as I made very little money from the song and single release! So not only did my song lose the competition, I lost a lot of money!! An eye-opening experience for sure.

When it came to releasing my own music, 7 years later I decided that I could give the PR side of it a go myself. A very risky move I know but there was no budget there for PR so I had to bank on myself. The result were better than I had hoped for or imagined. I managed to secure a national TV and radio appearance from one particular press release and reached a radio audience of around 400,000 people without spending a penny!!

The downside is that PR really is a ‘luck of the draw’ kind of thing and something that is relevant today might be completely irrelevant tomorrow. 

I believe that for PR to work really well, you need someone in that role who is as good at spotting an opportunity as they are at writing and presenting the press release. For example, the horse-meat issue is huge at the moment. When that story broke, that became a priority in the news and any ‘horse’ related items would have been swallowed up 🙂 by the media for those couple of days. It’s all about timing and finding an angle about your event or your release that is going to have an appeal about it right at that moment in time. It is however a pain in the backside too if you are doing it by yourself. Obviously it takes a lot of time to get the release ready and then get it out. You also need to be in a position to stop whatever you are doing right at any particular moment and jump on the PR bandwagon whilst the story or your angle is still hot!!

By the way, these thoughts and blog posts are just my opinions. I don’t claim to have the right answers but I can tell you about my experiences and perhaps there is something in there you will find interesting or useful! Till next time! Image

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‘In the club’ – A dance music experiment!

Deadmau5

Deadmau5 – A little bit of inspiration for this project..

Yesterday I had my first experience of laying down vocal ideas on a club track. I am a big fan of club music but have never really explored writing it or even collaborating on it. A few weeks ago I got a message from a DJ in Holland, who had found me on ‘Labbler’ and thought my vocal style might suit his tracks. So, we agreed to do a little experimenting and he sent me a couple of tracks he had without any vocals on them and it was my job to come up with lyrics and melody.

For me, it was important surround myself completely in the style of music I was writing for a few days beforehand, just to be in that space and to take on the role of a vocalist in this genre. I listened to a lot of ‘Deadmau5’ and really got into it. So my ears have been thumping behind my beats for a couple of days and it’s been a fun experience. The approach I took was to put myself in the position of the audience and try to imagine how they might respond to the track. I also really examined the feel of the track, it’s progression, it’s texture and tone and I built some lyrics around all of those factors.

I worked on the track in Offaly with a good friend of mine Derek who has built his own home studio and it was also a little bit of an adventure on his part too. We spent a lot of time breaking down the way in which I sang the lyrics to really ensure it became one with the track as though both parts were built into each other rather than two separate parts!

The thing that struck me the most was the way in which this style of music is all about layering and building, re-building, breaking down etc. It was a great start to a style of music that I really hope to do a lot of. In the meantime, we have to tidy up on yesterdays recordings, send off to the DJ in Holland and hope what we did ticks the majority of the boxes for him. If not, I will enjoy the next experiment and writing experience and hopefully learn the methods and formulas for being a good vocalist for dance/club music and maybe even experiment writing some tracks myself!!

As the magic happens…

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Every day I read posts or status updates from many other songwriters about the songs they are writing and working on, or the ones they are struggling to finish,  or even the ones they have written the music for but not the lyrics. I often feel like the little kid in the corner by themselves because I don’t write in what appears to be a regular routine or common method that I recognise in other songwriters and it leads me to question the pros and cons of my own approach.

The truth is I find it nearly impossible to write just randomly about anything. My mind needs to be in a space that is open and clear and I need to feel passionate about the subject I am writing about. If you came and asked me to write a song about an event in your life, I would come up with a song no problem. I also wouldn’t have any problem producing a relatively decent song if pushed to do it but it would be missing one essential ingredient – conviction and for me conviction can essentially make the difference between a song being great and a song being brilliant. So, as a songwriter it has been an instinctive course of action not to write unless I have that unexplainable energy. It’s an energy that is right in the pit of my stomach, a bit like the feeling you get when you are excited or nervous about something. It’s an energy that makes me feel very much at one with the piano as though my body and my piano are whole and they just communicate on exactly the right level for a couple of hours or if I’m lucky over a couple of days. My head naturally tilts to the right or left, which is a little odd I know and something special happens.

I feel that way today and I wanted to share it as it was happening. It has been a part of my songwriting life that has been missing a lot with so much emphasis and time on the business side and managing all the events. But over the last few days, I found myself very much in a reflective space and now the songwriter in me is ready to come out and make some new music! It may only last a few hours or I may have this energy and drive for a while, fingers crossed. Hopefully between now and the next time I post in ‘Showtime’, there will be a new arrival 🙂

 

 

Venue hiring and firing…

Anyone who knows me well, knows I don’t like getting drawn into negativity or bad feeling. Admittedly, I would rather avoid conflict in most situations too. However, I did say when I started this blog that I would be honest at all times and share all sides of the music industry coin with you. I guess it’s of no benefit to other people if I only share the glossy stuff. I’m thinking that a little ‘grumble’ of the week feature might be a suitable tag name for posts like these. My grumble today has been the lack of response to my enquiries about possible gig dates and venue suitability.

I am planning a number of tour dates in Ireland for September/October this year and I want to be prepared. I have to build on my audience, save for the costs of venue hire, band expenses etc. Booking these dates late Summer is not an option for me. I am actually shocked at how slow or how absent the information is getting back to me. Given that it is my job to fill the venue, pay the band and of course pay the venue, I really am gobsmacked that venues especially in Ireland are not on the ball at returning emails with regards to possible business. Now before anyone jumps on the bandwagon, I know that not all venues are suitable for some acts, not all acts are big enough or experienced enough for some of the more sought after venues. I understand booking guys and girls are dealing with a lot of emails and phone calls but I always allow for that. It’s when days roll into weeks and 1 email or call rolls into 2 or 3 and still no response. And surely, a little bit of manners is all it takes to reply to an artist or band just to tell them they are not suitable for the venue or the dates are unavailable.

For me as an artist that works extremely hard on preparing a schedule, I expect that I don’t have to chase people that much to book or at least develop some correspondence with them. It gets to a point where I make the decision that I don’t want to deal with that venue anymore. Surely in a time when we are all working hard to make the music industry work, an artist or band that is prepared to put money into touring and hiring a venue that THEY have the responsibility of filling, should be met with enthusiasm or at least interest and at the very least with information. Grumble over…

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‘Dance With Me’

‘Dance With Me’

I never in a million years thought as I was writing ‘Dance With Me’ that it would become popular as a wedding song. It makes sense I suppose as it about love and companionship. I am very humbled to know that so many couples use the song for their wedding ceremonies and first dances. Here are the lyrics and chords to the song: Enjoy singing or playing along.

Verse 1

(A) If every star was to fall from the sky, there would still be you

(D) Dreams are more beautiful when there is you

(A) And every place you go, I want to go too

(D) I am much better when I’m with you

(E) So take me (D) back to where the (A) borders meet

(E) And watch the (D) sunset trace the (Bm) shadows of our (A) feet

Chorus

(D) Dance with me (E) tonight (A)

(Bm) Put your arms in (E) mine and lose (A) all sense of time

(D) Yes dance with me (E) tonight (A) – (E)

In the (Bm) darkness we’ll (Fsharp) find our (E) way back into the (A) night

Verse 2

(A) Whenever the light in my heart starts to fade, you give me yours

(D) You give me strength to carry on when I have no more

(A) There’s always a place for me in your arms anytime of day

(D) Through the good and the bad we’ll get there (A) I hear you say

(E) So take me (D) back to where the (A) borders meet

(E) And watch the (D) sunset trace the (Bm) shadows of our (A) feet