Too Many Pieces is coming along SOOO nicely. I added a double verse to the original lyrics and it flows much more smoothly now and tells a better story. I've also written a big chunk of the music, which I am so happy with. I feel like I'm becoming the songwriter that I want to be. You'll see what I mean when I release TMP.... WHICH WILL BE SOON! Just bear with me for now. Busking prep is taking up a lot of my time. But slowly slowly, bit by bit, all the pieces of my soul are coming back together I AM DOING GREAT!
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Two more months until I start busking!!
Hey! I've got two more months before I start hitting the road! Literally. I'm going to start busking in August and am working on my repertoire in the meantime. I've finished Tiny Dancer and will record a video of it in a week or two and send it to you. I like to give songs a few weeks to settle in once I've learned them. I find that they start sounding a lot more natural after I've given them a break.
Until then, I'm working on my next cover, Piano Man by Billy Joel. I've decided to start learning more songs by ear so that I improve my aural skills. I've been doing this with Piano Man and my inner music nerd is tickled pink. I can already see how its bolstering my own songwriting chops.
As I figure the music out, I also get to see how the song is put together. I read a story that Bach, Beethoven, Mozart etc all used to copy out other composers' music and that this helped them immensely to absorb different techniques. So I want to do the same.
It's quite slow, but I think it'll pay off in the end. You can see, in the image attached, that I work out which lyrics fall on the strong beats and then I start working out the rhythm (in music notation).
I've also gotten back into writing Too Many Pieces. I've finished writing the lyrics and vocal melody and am starting to write the piano section. Songs take me a while to write because I treat them like compositions. I like to learn and apply new techniques and also give my ideas a chance to develop.
I completed a songwriting course earlier this year, which has been so useful to me for thinking about how to write good harmony. I'm applying what I learned in that course to TMP. In fact, with each new song, I want to focus on learning something new and then apply that to my song.
I know I've been a bit quiet of late. I went to South Africa in April and it was divine. I really needed a break. In fact, I completely underestimated how much I need to take regular breaks and also just change up my scenery. Even though I didn't end up completely relaxing (in the Karoo), I did just enough to feel so creatively charged again. I'm already planning my next trip home. This time, to the Karoo!
I'll keep you updated on how my busking and new music goes!
Living for joy: notes on my trip to South Africa and return to London
I forgot why I am came to London. I came here to live for joy. I want to withdraw everything from life’s joy register. “I might not be rich for money, but I’m a millionaire. I debonair with no cares” sang a sultry singer once 😉.
But honestly, I’ve become tired. So damn tired. Immersed in exhaustion and worn out to my bones. Withdrawn and shriveled up. Large and fast-paced cities can tear strips from a person.
You see, I am a workaholic. This is the first time that I’ve said it without any overtones of pride. I work to blackout. More than any other addiction that I’ve been blessed with, this one, is moerse bitch. I work to avoid feeling the anxiety that plagues me. “You’re running out of time, falling behind, you’re wasting time, you’re going to end up under a bridge, you’re not doing enough, you’re almost 40 and you’ve fucked up, no money, no nothing...”
It’s quite simple: I use work to avoid these feelings.
During my first week in South Africa, I crashed. I had no routine, no schedule and it shook my inner world like a magnitude 12 earthquake. Routines are my guardrails. They’re the steel mesh fences keeping the wild animals at bay. Nasty beasts gnashing their teeth. The fences are control.
What will happen if I lose control? Am I less of a person because I decided to check out of the rat race? Because I structure my day around doing what I want and not what someone else wants from me? If I could do whatever I want I would: be 100% unfocused. I would wake up, do a little work (to pay the bills, of course), read, play piano, learn something new and arbitrary (probably about renaissance music or British royalty), visit a coffee shop and talk to people, then people watch, What’s wrong with a life like this? I don’t owe society anything more than what I take from it.
What if I am happy just getting by?
Ah! What a thought.
You’re a millennial. Check your phone. Check social media.
** Opens Instagram **
!!!MUSICIANS EVERYWHERE DOING WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING!!!
Cue Britney Spears: you want to look hot in a bikini? You better work bitch!
** Hyperventilate **
** Panic **
** Stress **
“Look,” says my mercenary ego with knife to my throat, “either you get on a damn plane and go back to the rat race or you enjoy the time off!”
Choice is so simple when the stakes feel overwhelming. And what choice did I have? I couldn’t afford to change my flight and I knew I’d be furious at myself. I chose to lean in to the moment and enjoy it (and keep off social media).
My final week in South Africa was just glorious. EXACTLY what I was craving: to feel joy again, to be curious by life, to have deep thoughts. My creativity was super charged. I reflected so much ON creativity. I found lost thoughts and ideas. Some of them just needed dusting off.
And so, I found some perspective. It’s funny how perspective changes everything. Allow me a moment of surrealism: I’m holding on for dear life to a horse, petrified and hurtling towards a cliff. Obviously I can see this. A random pterodactyl swoops in from nowhere and grabs me, lifts me up a little (and keeping up with the horse). I look down and realize, OH SHIT! I am NOT the horse. Then the lizard-bird drops me back onto the horse and pisses off back 65 million years ago. I gently put my arms around the panicked horse and whisper in its ears “whoa boy, whoa. It’s OK.”
Did you know that the silence of nature cleanses the ears? I’m telling you! It does! I discovered this whilst visiting a friend who lives on a fruit farm far outside of Cape Town. So much noise had accumulated in my ears from London that I couldn’t hear my own thoughts anymore. So the silent choir of fruit trees sang to me so sweetly that the gunk and grime clogging my ears just fell out.
So now I’m back and what do I do with all this perspective?
Well I’ve come to realize a few things.
I accept my inner world and all its turmoil. I can’t always explain it. I don’t mean any harm by it. They’re there and they impact me so much. Regardless, I am not a bad person or a failure.
I’m doing the best that I can in a world that actually wants me to be a mediocre human being so that it can exploit me and sell meaningless shit to me. And I’m doing this sober, which is quite something. I made mistakes and that’s OK. I’ve mostly done the work necessary to forgive myself so that I can focus on the present moment.
Most importantly, I DO NOT want to write shit music. Learning techniques and ways to not write shit music takes a lot of time and energy.
Home always felt so far away.
But lately, it feels closer.
Only seeing the massive grin on my face when I arrived in Cape Town could do justice to express how happy I am in Cape Town.
There really is something magical about the mountain.
It gathers all time towards it.
My heart is in South Africa and my life is in London.
For now that is.
I came here to live for joy
And ended up working for fear
I remember now.
I am addicted to my thoughts
This must change.
In August I will start busking and will take another step closer to doing what I enjoy: more than anything, I love performing and making people happy.
I’ve also just finished a course on music composition and will apply what I’ve learned to my next song, Too Many Pieces.
I’ve come away from South Africa feeling spiritual (even though I don’t believe in spirits).
I’ve climbed out that pothole in a puddle and a puddle in a pothole.
I am addicted to my thoughts.
That doesn’t make them real.
I want to work to chase joy.
I want to live for joy.
My great start to 2022!
Happy new year! How has 2022 started off for you?
It's been an awesome start for me. First of all, I'm 5 months sober today!! 🥳 I really didn't think that I would be able to do it. But I have. And even though I have my moments when I hate it, I have to admit that the benefits of sobriety are worth it.
Secondly, I've booked some shows for you! You can check them out here. There are a couple shows left for January. MAKE SURE YOU PUT THEM IN YOUR CALENDAR!! I've left some space open in February because I want to go home. I'll take my piano with me so I might add some shows in Cape Town and online ones.
August is when I decide whether to stay in London or go back home to my beloved South Africa and I want to make sure that I've given it everything I have. So I'm putting myself out there and it's paying off in bookings and exposure!
I'm also a lot more confident as a songwriter (thanks to sobriety). And with this new found confidence, I've been reworking an old song called Oliver. I am so happy with the result. I'm in the editing phase now, so it should be ready to send out in the next couple weeks. You'll hear the difference. Trust me.
I've finished the scratch track for Too Many Pieces, which is gonna be my next song for Songlines. I'm going to test out at open mics and am doing my first one tonight. I did a quick sound check of it before I performed at the Midnight Magic Festival on Thursday. You can check out the sound check here.
I'm revamping and performing!
How are you doing? I hope that you’ve been well since the last time we spoke!
I’m doing really well and I want to share some of that goodness with you ❤️
All credit goes to my sobriety. Aside from a slip about a month ago, I haven’t been drinking alcohol since 20 May. I’m also trying to kick coffee, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish 🐠🐡
How has sobriety helped me? Well, no more anxiety! I sleep so well! My moods are more even! My brain is focused like a laser beam! And all of these have helped me begin carving out a place for myself as a musician and develop the focus I need. Because of that, I have been able to write the kind of music that is meaningful to me.
So here’s what I’ve been up to:
A revamped Oliver
I’ve revamped an old song of mine, Oliver, which is also my favorite. Prior to rewriting it, it was half sketched and that was irritating me immensely because I couldn’t build the necessary muscle memory to improvise or help me out when I blanked out mid performance. I am so, so, so proud of Oliver and what I’ve been able to do with it. I’m busy practicing it at the moment to record and hopefully will have it released in the next couple weeks.
I'm getting myself out there 🧜🏽♂️🕺🏾🎤
I’m also able to focus my wee brain on performing and getting myself out there now that the lockdown has pretty much gone in the UK. I’ve done quite a few open mics over the past few weeks. I bought a keyboard that I can take to gigs and that has meant I can get to A LOT more performing opportunities. So I’ve dove right in.
Some of my open mics have gone extremely well. I did a performance a couple weeks ago where several people came up to me to congratulate me. I’m doing a collaboration performance in the next few weeks with one of the other performers from an open mic I played at a few weeks ago. I am so chuffed with myself. I’m still doing mostly covers as I build my confidence , which is my focus for now. I’m going to start doing more of my own material so that I can start building a performance strategy.
I did a performance at a queer music night, which was quite a learning experience. The lesson I learned is that I need to start checking out audiences before I perform so that I can make sure what I do resonates with them. For example, I played a Tori Amos song at this night and it was soooooo not the right audience. This was an audience that came to see LOUD, FIERCE queens, which Im not. Don’t get me wrong, people appreciated it, but I could tell that this was the wrong audience. Aside from that though, it was ALOT of fun.
Back to Songlines -- Too Many Pieces 🎼🎹
I’ve also gotten back to Too Many Pieces (part of my Songlines album). Thank the lord! It’s quite a fun song about a topic that I think will resonate with a lot of people — giving too much of yourself away to others. I’m taking it easy with this song because Oliver was quite an intense writing experience. I’m planning to have a recording ready to start playing at open mics. From there I’ll see how it’s received and take it further.
So that’s me. I just wanted to let you know what I’ve been up to and see how you’re doing.
Have a great day! 😻😻😻😻😻😻😻😘😘😘