#sRated Recording DIY Style! 

  

It’s FINALLY a bright, sunny morning here in Ireland! I’m on day three of a pretty miserable cold that hit me hard on Monday and knocked me for six. It’s one of the worst things about being self employed! You push yourself as far as you can go because you kinda have to. Ain’t no such thing as a paid sick day! 
Anyways, the point of this mornings bright and sunny post despite the sneezing is to tell you that I finally started to do something I should have done on day 1 of my music career. My good DJ buddy Dave O’Connor has been shouting down my ear for years about setting myself up to do some pretty decent home recording but I just never really took it that seriously and kept putting it on the long finger. I wish I hadn’t but I’m starting now and would like to share some of my experiences as I go through the process of buying items and recording.. Maybe my experiences will be useful to someone along the way! 

First up I was told, is to invest in a really good mic and the Rode NT1a had been suggested to me many times. There are lots out there but at €189 brand new on Thomann Ireland it’s a decent price and won’t break the bank. I did a little scan for one on the private seller sites and found a guy up the road selling his for €130 – “barely used” the ad said so fingers crossed! I offered him €110 so I’m hoping that for the €80 savings it will be a good buy! I’ll keep you posted!! 

Apparently the next not so expensive step is to purchase a pre-amp! I might as well be looking into a ditch as to knowing what exactly they do but it’s my job now to find out and buy myself one! 

I’m happy that I finally got a move on in setting myself up to home record. While nothing beats the real experience, it’s ridiculous that I am not  doing all my demos and basic productions myself here at home. Got the ball rolling now at least and I’ll share my experiences of it along the #sRated way! 

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‘MATTHEWS TAKE YOU THERE’ – My first company song!! #sRated

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So after months and months of waiting to share the news with you, I can finally reveal that I have written my first ever company song for Irish transport and tour operator Matthews.ie!!!

http://MATTHEWS.IE

I was delighted that at the end of 2013 Paddy Matthews CEO of the company, asked me to write a song for them. I was a little scared to be honest, simply because of the nature of the song he wanted. It had to showcase the company services and sentiments and also include the company name. Now, as anyone who writes songs or poems know.. rhyme whether it’s in your face or barely recognisable, some words are nearly impossible to use. The vibe and momentum of the word and how it moves and fits into the song and with the music is also a massive factor. Anyways, without boring you, the point is that ‘Matthews’ is a very difficult word to fit into a lyrical sentence!! 🙂 I wrote a blog post at the time describing my experience of writing to brief, which you can read here: https://sineadmcnally.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/do-these-briefs-fit/

But I decided to give writing the company song a shot and after a few days of pulling my hair out and revisiting lots of different ideas, Matthews Take You There finally came together!! It is being launched on May 7th in Dundalk in conjunction with the company’s 20th anniversary, alongside another project that I have worked on with Matthews.ie called the ‘Matthews Arts Showcase’ and it deserves a whole blog post of it’s own, which will be posted soon!

Matthews Take You There Song and Video

The First #sRated Milestone!

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My own dressing room and a cup of tea…. well if that isn’t a good way to start back on the road gigging, I don’t know what is!! 🙂 Last night was such a buzz. I hadn’t gigged in such a long time and I was mad to get back out there and sing my songs, telling the stories and doing my usual mad leg movements that happen under the piano as I play. The venue was incredible too. It was the Íontas Theatre in Castleblayney, Co.Monaghan and from everything to the dressing rooms, to the main theatre and foyer, it’s just a fab place to play. The sound was also superb! When you arrive somewhere and know that you are dealing with top class facilities, it makes you feel so much more relaxed, confident and excited. Iontas Theatre

As a performer, the audience cannot be seen at all from the stage. You can hear them shuffle and cough and clap but you cannot see a soul. It’s a little weird singing out and simling at a black canvas but it gets you into a zone and its ALL about the performance.

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I did a 25 minute set that included my opening piece that includes a section of a Mendellsohn piece of music that develops into one of my own songs ‘Showtime’. Its a little opener to my set and I really enjoy the blend of genres. Following that I did an old number ‘Fix You Up’ and managed to get the audience singing along with me.. After that was my newest song and with the lyrics only finalised about 4 hours before the gig, I wasn’t convinced I could pull it off but for a first performance, it went better than expected!

After that, I read out my poem ‘Northern Borders’ https://sineadmcnally.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/northern-borders/ which I accompany with my own take on the well known ballad ‘Hills of Donegal’. It’s a difficult one as the emotion is high throughout but people got it and that’s what’s special about sharing it. I finished up my set with ‘Ship Street’,

one of my favourite songs that I wrote last Summer after a visit to Brighton to attend a female songwriting workshop with Fiona Bevan and Kal Lavelle. Fiona wrote One Directions ‘Little Things’. Hence the line in the song that says “I got lost in love and loss and all those little things..”

I finished up a very enjoyable, emotional and buzzing set with one off my debut EP ‘Something Has Changed’, a piece in 6/8 time that is a lot of fun and quite tricky on the fingers!!

Thanks to Barry Jay Hughes, to all at the Iontas Theatre and to all who bought and ordered my CD’s. Over the next few years, I will work towards a changing room of my own in the 3 Arena!! Dream big!! Chat soon x

#sRated Photoshoot – Magic in the Making!

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Last Wednesday, I filled my car with props, clothes, accessories and all sorts of bits and pieces, spent about an hour putting the hairdo together and hit the road to Sligo! It was a long morning of preparation after a few weeks spent putting Pinterest boards together, sourcing a photographer and makeup artist, etc etc. I decided early this year that I wanted to update my visuals and start to define my brand as such in line with new music and a new #sRated approach! When I found Suzy McCanny Photography, I was immediately like YES, this is the vibe I’m going for. Loved all of her work – check it out here, incredible! Suzy McCanny Photography so I got in touch with her and shared my Pinterest board

and we took it from there! She reccommended Michelle Anderson Make Up Artist to me and again I was blown away by her work. So creative… MAMU So after that, I hit the N53 on a glorious afternoon with a few ham sandwiches and arrived in Sligo at Suzy’s studios at 4pm. It was a great few hours, getting the make up applied is always relaxing and fun to see it coming together!

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Afterwards we discussed what shots we would focus on achieving and got to it. Suzy had also made a beautiful backdrop (picture at top of post ) out of old music sheets, which looked so effective even just by itself. I’ve been in a couple of photo shoots before and it’s all about the pose and positioning of your body. Being small, Suzy gave me tips and pose suggestions that helped elongate my body! Some of them feel totally weird and uncomfortable but end up looking great on camera! After approximately 300 photos, we finished up and had a quick flick through them and chatted about how some of them might look when they have been put through the next creative process! That’s where the magic happens and I can’t wait to pick out my favourites and get to work on them with Suzy.

Happy New Year!

It’s the last day of 2014 and I have been completely useless with blogging updates since August! All of my attention went on my NCKids project NCKids which only really finished last week… More to follow on that.

For now, I just wanted to wish you all a very Happy New Year and reflect musically for a couple of moments on the year that was 2014!

I learned to toughen up and start thinking ‘business’ in 2014. It meant being a bit of a ***** at times but I realised that if I was to realistically live and earn from songwriting and performing, I had to step it up a notch and act professionally even if that meant upsetting some people in the process. That may sound a little harsh but it was a transition I had to make or else leave my music in a very hobby-like, comfortable, safe and people pleasing place, which just wasn’t for me.

So with that, I made the decision in January 2014 to open up some opportunities that were both musically challenging and enjoyable as well as being clever little business moves that generated revenue and could individually be built into successful little businesses! I am proud to say that I have achieved those ideals and whilst I have to remain tight lipped about one of them until its launch in April 2015, the NCKIDS brand is off to an exciting start. Yes, it requires work and a lot of funds before it’s a profitable business but I have lots of ideas for 2015 that may help speed it up and attract some investors.

I didn’t write anywhere as much as I normally do in a year. I’ve missed it terribly but my head was somewhere else and I’m looking forward to the time off in January to play with some ideas, write for some pop pitches and just explore where I’m going as an artist.

I guess you could say that 2014 has been about the songwriter ‘business’ person in me. Thinking outside the box as a writer with a view to being a
a music entrepreneur of sorts. Whilst it hasn’t been easy turing up in boardrooms negotiating contracts and being business savvy, I have to admit that I have enjoyed the challenge in it and more importantly the reward in hearing the music you wrote getting the professional respect and reward it deserves. There are of course times that I write and play just for sheer personal and social enjoyment regardless of the reaction or outcome but there are no words to describe just how good it feels to see what you do best becoming a real career, a real business!

Thank you for keeping up to date and taking an interest in the music and events. I hope ‘Showtime’ provides some insight or inspiration for other songwriters out there and I promise to write more frequent updates!! Thanks also to those of you who are supporting what I do. I am very grateful.

Happy New Year!!
Sinead x

Songwriting – It’s not all about ME, it’s all about YOU….

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As someone who started out songwriting at 11, not knowing how I was actually doing it, I wrote to make MYSELF feel better, to tell MY stories, to share MY experience!! No, I didn’t accidently leave the caps key on, I wanted you to see that back then it was ALWAYS ALL ABOUT ME!!!!

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending an IMRO songwriting afternoon with a hit songwriter called Ralph Murphy. (See links below) Ralph has a very interesting story and some pretty hot credits to his name across many genres with literally a whole life experience in the music industry. Needless to say, he didn’t beat around the bush and he didn’t hold back. In an industry that involves so much ego and b******t, it was refreshing. My hands were shaking as I handed over one of two songs he was going to review from my catalogue. I remember writing in an older post how your songs are like your kids – you create them, you nurture them and then when the time comes, you let them out into the big bad world! So, inevitably you form an attachment to them and as I reflect now, possibly an unhealthy, slightly obsessive attachment to them. I didn’t really want him to find faults in my songs. I really wanted him to love them as much as I did…. But then boom, out of nowhere, a five minute critique suddenly becomes a whole lifetime of “aaahhhhhhh of course, now I understand…”

Whilst it’s a bitter bill to swallow hearing that there is room for improvement to lyrics or melodies that you thought you couldn’t improve on, it was the reasons why they had to be improved that helped me to swallow that big, bitter songwriting pill. There were many reasons, many interesting and “ah of course” reasons but one reason that really stood out to me and made me think from a different side of the coin is the fact that it’s always all about you. (‘you’ being the listener)

In order to fall in love with MY song, YOU must feel like it is all about YOU, that my details are in fact YOUR details, that my melody is in fact YOUR melody. You don’t care about my story or where the song came from or who the guy was that broke my heart or stole my car, why should you? Whatever the time of day, whatever it is you are doing, that song that comes on the radio that you will connect to, tells your story, not mine. I learned so many valuable things over a couple of hours that had me rushing to the piano with a pen to ‘re-write, re-place, re-assemble’ and it actually feels like the wool has been pulled from over my eyes.

From uses of pronouns, to word meters to just getting over myself, that afternoon was without doubt a big learning curve in something I thought I had pretty much perfected. Whilst it was a little shock to all our systems initially, there is a great sense of freedom and excitement in moving on with that knowledge!

“Hits aren’t written, they are re-written” – Raphy Murphy.

http://murphyslawsofsongwriting.com/

 

 

 

 

 

A Musical Canvas…

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So last month, I decided it was time to inject some colour into my artist shots and I organised the first of two shoots that I plan on doing this year. Being independent always gives you great freedom in your decision making, although with that freedom comes a great big load of responsibility, which can be a little daunting….

The result is a selection of very colourful yet somewhat abstract photos and I thought a short blog post on how these shots came to be and the concept behind them might be of interest to some of you.

I began the photo-shoot process on Pinterest. Pinterest is AMAZING, there are no other words for it. I have used it for the last few years to compile all my visual ideas into one place. It is like an Aladdin’s Cave for ideas. I discovered very early on that two very strong styles of shoot were coming together so I made the decision to separate them rather than get completely conflicted about the shots I wanted. Shoot one, this one, consisted of all the visuals that were quite playful, fun and full of bright colours so I decided to work with that style of shoot first. I also wanted to build something quite abstract into the shoot, something people might ask questions about. I used the set as an opportunity to create that wonder. As you will see, there are seven white canvas’s displayed around me, each one with a block colour splashed on to it. They represent the seven single releases I have had to date. Each one has it’s own place in what I have done to date and by putting them all together, it brings me to where I am now. Hence, the reason why I represent the amalgamation of all the colours you see around me.

I have reservations about some of my decisions on this shoot but overall I am happy with the outcome. I went back to my friend and photographer Mark McGuire to take the shots for me as we have worked well together on other shoots and knew he would ‘get me’. 🙂 The set and styling itself cost me very little, (I had a miniscule budget)…in fact it was less than €50 to put it all together, using things I had already and some supplies from an art and crafts shop, some white piping and lots of items you would find in a primary school art cupboard!!

It was great fun and I am delighted that the shots capture a bit of my more playful side… Shoot two will happen at the end of the Summer and I look forward to bringing those shots to you then!! Thanks for reading xx