My daughter, Saffron, is making her recording debut with Darren Hayman. Saffron is singing the backing vocals on Blue Tinsel, Red Tinsel. She is only ten years old! Help them get a Christmas hit by downloading their song here.
All For Love is the last single commissioned by the Centre For Buckinghamshire Studies as part of The Great War Showcase that has been shown around the county throughout 2018 to mark the centenary of the end of the war. This song is based on the last words of Captain Francis Grenfell from Beaconsfield. He and his twin brother, Rivy both fought in World War One and were injured in combat. Rivy made it home, but sadly Francis died early on in the war.
On 25 May 1915, Francis endured a German chlorine gas attack and was also shot through the heart. His last words to his squadron were, “tell them I died happy, loving them all.” These words inspired this new song, they got me thinking about love and what that means. How far we will go for others and country? What will we sacrifice so that others can have freedom and peace? Would we die for freedom? Sobering thoughts that make me wonder if we take our freedom for granted.
Yesterday I hit a wall with the lyrics for a new song. I stared at the same piece of paper for two hours. I played the same part for two hours. NOTHING. Typically the week before I’d written 90% of the song and then got stuck on the last two lines. For many songwriters, this is the point that is “make or break” as to whether a song will be finished or not. I played the song over and over in the hope that something would materialise, but no. In the end I did a Facebook Live session about my frustration (you can watch it here) and it turns out that many of you have been through the same frustrations.
There seems to be a perception that songwriters just write a hit song in ten minutes and its complete. In reality, there’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears behind each song. There’s more than an element of truth in the saying 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration. Often with lyrics, the version that lands up in the published domain will have had umpteen rewrites and edits to get to the final product.
So a morning was wasted. Or was it? It’s in these times of perceived lack of growth that our giftings really develop. We learn perseverance, tenacity, patience; all good fertilizers for creativity and art. We learn how to how practise our gifting: we can have all the talent in the world but if we don’t practise songwriting, our talent will never grow and flourish. We look for new ways of doing things, we try new techniques and we seek to understand the purpose of the barren season. We also learn to make the most of what we’ve got; I got two hours of piano practise out of my wasted lyrics session. That’s two hours of practise that I hadn’t planned but happened anyway.
So how did I break out of this lyrical dead end? A change of scene always helps; I went for a drive and a walk and cleared my mind of all the clutter. I pondered on what the song was really about… Had I conveyed the theme adequately in the current lyrics? Was there more that I needed to say? I also have several notebooks and cloud storage with ideas for songs which I plundered through looking for inspiration. Sometimes something that I scribbled down three years ago has relevance for the current song topic, so it’s worthwhile keeping old ideas for future projects. A couple of days later I wrote down a random idea that turned out to be the missing lyrics. Once the pressure was removed from the situation, there were the words waiting for me.
What I’m trying to say here is that all experiences whether bad or good can lead to growth and development. It’s the ability to keep going through barren seasons that lead us to have expertise in our field and the tenacity to deal with whatever our craft throws at us. Although we may want to quit and have an easy life, we gain more from continuing and seeing the task through. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron talks about the “daily pages” where she writes down everything on her mind each day. I can’t say that I’ve ever had the time to do this, but I can see the value in practising a creative art form daily. If you are in the habit of writing, then you are more likely to prioritise it, and it becomes part of your daily or weekly routine. The same is true for any art form or project that you’re working on. So as I said in my Facebook live video, don’t quit, keep going, deal with where you are, find a way to make it work and the rest will follow.
You can listen to the new song You’re So Hard On Me here.
A little song about not judging others and letting people be themselves…
Back in the autumn of 2015, I had an idea to research stories about special people from Buckinghamshire. I started out with good intentions, but as with all of these things, the twists and turns of life got in the way. At the beginning of this year, I began to think about what I might do with this project; the working title was Heroes of Buckinghamshire but it needed some good stories. Hadn’t got that far, when I noticed an advert from the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies on Twitter, asking for local artists, musicians, poets etc if they would like to submit works for the Centre’s World War One Centenary Celebrations this year. Within 24 hours, I’d signed up to write and create new material for their events this year.
Are You Coming Home? After visiting the Centre and speaking to the archivists, I was touched by the fact the men who left this county to fight for our freedom, were just ordinary people. In fact, many of the letters I read between soldiers and their families indicated that they were ordinary people with extraordinary stories and courage. Before war, they did ordinary jobs, going about their business with little indication of what they may face or may be expected of them in the future. For those left behind, the uncertainty and longing was palpable through these letters; their eternal hope was admirable. And really that’s where this new song begins… I wanted to chart the fact these were real people, whose absence created a gapping hole the lives of the people and towns they left behind.
If you’re local to the Buckinghamshire area, you’ll notice in the lyrics, the line that states
“you rang the bells in the church by the pond”
I was talking about Haddenham at this point. It’s village between Aylesbury and Thame. If you get chance to visit the village, go and check out the church by the pond!
Don’t forget to download Are You Coming Home? here
It’s official: David Bowie is back in Aylesbury. But what on earth is he doing here? On Thursday, the town witnessed the unveiling of the new, long-awaited statue of Bowie by Andrew Sinclair which is situated in the Market Square. It’s an unusual move as Bowie wasn’t from Aylesbury, but in some senses his connection with the town is deeper than a residential address: his debut performance as Ziggy Stardust was at the town’s Friars Music Club during 1971 and 1972.
So why place a statue of a non-local musician in the centre of Aylesbury? In some senses, the Bowie statue is a small marker of a long history of music in the Vale. Friars was legendary for helping to launch many music careers, including The Police, Def Leppard, Howard Jones, Toyah Wilcox, Fleetwood Mac, Genesis and Marillion. The list goes on and on, and there isn’t enough space to list them all here! For twenty five years, the town forgot about it’s musical heritage. Friars closed its doors to the contemporary music scene in 1984 and apart from more commercial concerts at the Civic Centre, the music scene went quiet in Aylesbury. In 2009, the town woke up from its slumber and the Friars Music Club was reborn; interest from ardent fans and the closure of the Civic Centre meant that there was a hunger for music in the area.
I’m hoping that this is the beginning of something good for the Aylesbury music scene. One of the questions I have is, why not honour the musicians who are local? Most notable of all, would be Marillion, one of Aylesbury’s most famous exports. If the opening lyrics of their hit Kayleigh are to to believed, “Do you remember the cherry blossom in the market square?,” the town is embedded in their work. It would be good to see their music and local contribution being honoured. The Bowie statue puts the town on the map and further cultural exploits would make the area a music destination and bring in a new level of tourism and other musical activities.
If you’re local you may have seen the publicity stunt around the town yesterday. All over Aylesbury, the town boundary signs were changed to “Aylesbowie” to raise awareness of the launch of the statue, a gesture that made me and kids laugh a lot. It’s worked though as everyone is talking about it! One of children is hoping that the name change is permanent because it sounds more interesting!
The Bowie statue was controversial and created a lot of discussion locally. However we should be honoured that Bowie chose to premiere “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars” in the town and that we are part of pop music history. Maybe this could be the impetus Aylesbury needs to start taking its music heritage more seriously. It’s good to see the town’s music scene start to rise from the ashes and it’s time for more diversity of genre and new venues to spring up. Sometimes things have to die off for awhile so that they can be reborn in a new, stronger way.
You can watch the unveiling of the David Bowie statue here.
I’ve been writing songs and painting since I was a small child. I’ve been around the block in the music industry over the last twenty something years and seen how it has changed and developed. I’d love for you to join me on this new adventure to create new music and artwork!
Patreon is a an exciting way to be come one of my angels and support my work through a small donation. Each month, I will be producing mp3s, videos, artwork and blogs to share with my patron angels! Once I have reached my goal, my aim is to produce a new EP, and then an album plus paintings and written musings along the way. I’ve previously produced 2 albums, 3 EPs and several singles. I also had a number one hit single with Do You Seek Answer in 2011 in the UK and Europe. Your support will allow me to work with other artists, musicians, producers and collaborators as well. You will be part of a unique fan club experience and receive all the news and new music before anyone else.
You can learn more about me and the Helen’s Angels community by my Patreon page.
Thanks for your support! Many of you have journeyed with me over the last twenty years, so here’s to new things in the next twenty years!