Helen sunDo you remember when Mike and the Mechanics sang Over My Shoulder? I used to sing along to that song in bedroom, standing on my bed, yelling into a hairbrush. I was eighteen at the time. Twenty one years on, nothing has changed, except now I repeat the same performance with my eight year daughter. One the sad things about the song is that it is full of regret and hankering after the past. I was driving to work the other day when this song came on the radio and it got me thinking the consequences of looking back when we should be concentrating on the future. At the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s wife looked back and she turned into a pillar of salt. She was told not to, but a fleeting moment of curiosity ended her life. I don’t do regret, it’s a lens that distorts the reality of the future. It leads to nothing and makes us focus on our failures.

If we constantly have our eyes on the rear view mirror, we repeat the cycle of who we were and not what we could become. Time allows to move forward but never back. We are given a gift of moving  forward and it’s up to us to choose how we react. We can meet the future with hope and expectation or with fear and sadness.  Even when we pass through seasons that are not what we want, every day moves us closer to something much better… even when we don’t feel that way. When Alanis Morissette sang “the only way out is through”, she hit the nail on the head. Sometimes we have to grit our teeth and believe that there are better things on the other side of the season.

A few months ago I hit a wall with the whole music thing. Everything I had built up came crashing down and try as I might I could not rebuild it. Truth be told, I was too knackered and broken to fix it. Years of being a freelancer, performer, teacher, composer and everything else had worn me down. I kept looking in the rear view mirror and what I had lost and wondering whether there was any point continuing in music. But the law of life is that as something dies, something else is born and new shoots begin to sprout. Things are already moving on and I’m getting back some of the music opportunities that I lost a long time ago. I have opportunity to reinvent my music and in turn myself. Life constantly evolves and we should take every opportunity to grow and develop.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s don’t look back over your shoulder, face the future and reinvent yourself. Reinvent yourself

 

Every now and then you get a glimmer of hope that things are progressing and moving on. It’s been twenty one months since my last music video (If That’s The Way) and quite frankly it’s high time I released some new material and a new video! Since the last music video, the road has been full of twists and turns and the view from this point in my career looks very different than it did three years ago. But every roller coaster ride has its ups and downs and I’ve learnt that what often looks like a bad thing can actually be a good thing. Bring on the good things!

Last month I went up to Sheffield to film a new music video for Close That Door and for a photo shoot for the single. A year ago this single wasn’t on the cards, a year ago I made a decision to leave the company that was promoting me and go it alone, a year ago I wasn’t even sure what I was supposed to be doing anymore, a year ago I realised the business I had run for fourteen years needed to die and resurrect itself. As far as I was concerned, the curtain had come down and it was the end of the show. Twelve months can change everything. And a little trip to Sheffield has reminded me of that…

IMG_2011I’ve been working with Andrew Tregoning, who has directed and filmed three other projects for me over the last three years: not just music videos, but tour promos and Kickstarter campaigns, so he is used to working with my quirky, artistic ways! Joanna Ace did my hair and make-up for this project and made me look gorgeous! Close That Door is a retro sounding track so we’ve gone for a 60s theme for the video and storyline. We filmed at various locations across Sheffield, both indoors and outdoors. Why do I always choose outdoors?!?! It’s autumn, it’s cold at night and this was a night shoot! I’m a glutton for punishment. Who can forget that fateful photo shoot five years ago for At Second Glance, where I had to take my jeans off in the woods to get changed into another outfit…it was SNOWING at the time! All I can say is, I like to take risks…

Surrounding yourself with people who believe in what you are doing can be really encouraging! People who understand your vision for a project and can get on board with ideas and help things progress are invaluable. It was great to work with people who are as excited about the single as I am. If you’re struggling to give birth to your dream, find people to support you; not just work colleagues but friends too. Choose people who are prepared to stand with you and see you through to the other side even though they may not always understand.

So this time last year the journey looked bleak and I felt I had reached a dead end. In reality, one route was drying up so that I could begin on a new path in my artistic journey. A scene change in the play of life. There are still days when I haven’t a clue and the future seems obscure, but I have decided to enjoy the journey because who knows where tomorrow leads. But a new single beckons in 2016 and this new video has reignited a fire…

It will take as long as it takes…

Last year I embarked on writing the new album; an exciting new adventure filled with lots of creativity. Or so I thought… Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE songwriting and creating new music. However, I couldn’t find my joy with it. Years of having to write to a deadline whilst under the pressure of teaching, running a business and holding a family together were beginning to catch up with me. Previously I had felt that the quality of the music I was producing wasn’t up to standard and that I hadn’t got sufficient time to think and prepare the material.

11666043_10153166177393863_2720499530418960870_nI was also becoming entangled in the machine… Constant promotion, constant reinvention, constant campaigns were getting in the way of writing and in 2013 when I went on maternity leave I made a vow that things would be different when I returned to work nine months later. I’m not decrying that these elements aren’t important, but they were beginning to supersede what I was meant to be doing. The pressure to continually produce something new was becoming immense, and in my mind this way of working doesn’t always mean quality. I’m not driven my money (if I was I wouldn’t be making music!), I’m driven by artistry and the desire to create, and represent life as I see it through music. With everything that was going on, I didn’t feel that I had done my best. Something had to give.

The journey of artistry and creativity over a lifetime is varied. Sometimes the path of creativity is exciting and sometimes it is downright boring, other times it is full of joy and then it can be excruciating. It’s messy, outrageous, quiet, dormant, unrelenting and possessive all in one go. It changes all the time, it’s never the same. For me, the only thing that stays constant is the goal to produce something of beauty that helps others.

The upshot of taking my time is that I am finally writing the songs I’ve always wanted to! I’ve got time to go deeper into the subjects that intrigue me and compose in the styles that aren’t necessarily commercial but suit the topics on my heart. I have a group of trusted colleagues that listen to my work during the writing process and give me feedback, so far their reaction has been great and they are loving the new direction that things are moving in, which means the world!

So please excuse me while I take my time, lie in a field, staring at the sky and be excessively artistic for the next few months. This will mean many trips to Starbucks while I ponder on the issues of the day and will lead to huge piles of manuscript paper being left all over my house (this really winds my family up!). I like doing my best; I want to do my best, so the new album is going to take as long as it takes… Hhhmmm that sounds like a good album title!

Never, Never, Never Give Up…

Winston Churchill was right, never, never, never give up! The last few years have been a tough ride musically and I have wondered whether I should actually stay in music. I know that may come as a surprise to some of you as I’m not someone who publicly moans or talks about what’s going on behind the scenes. But finding work has been hard. It actually been difficult for about eight years since the recession started; my husband’s four redundancies in five years did not ease the problem either! I’ve put up with people telling me that my songs are irrelevant, that no-one wants to hear “a bird with a piano” and that singers like me are “two a-penny” and therefore I should work and perform for free. On top of that for every project that is successful, I have approximately four projects that fail. I don’t usually talk about that, but believe it or not everything works out with a fairytale ending. A lot of projects do just go “tits up” taking a large amount of money with them.

Fortunately I’ve had some solidarity from other music colleagues who have had exactly the same problem and we’ve kept each other going. At this point I would publicly like to thank a number of people who have listened to me whinge! Thanks to Nikki, Rachel, and Anya! LOVE YOU GUYS!

What people haven’t realised though is that I’m a feisty old bird and NOTHING keeps me down! If anything it only makes me more determined and drives me to keep going. The thought of leaving music behind killed me and especially as it I feel that it is something that God called me to; I left a very nice, secure career in HR fourteen years ago to do this full time. So I made a decision: the decision is that I’m never, never, never going to give up! As fans, your job is to hold me to that statement…

So what have I been doing over the last few months? I know many of you have been keen to hear news about new music… Well I can confirm that I have been writing a new album! It’s been lovely to have space to return to my first love: songwriting. The last EP (Sirens and Other Mysteries) was written in a bit of a rush, so I wanted to take my time with the next project and I’m currently still writing. It may take forever – Sorry!

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Earlier this week I headed down to Resound Media’s new studio in Gloucestershire to record a new single “Close That Door”that will be released later this year. Andy Baker is producing again and we had a great time working on the track. I can’t wait for you to hear it! I also got to a have cup of tea with the gorgeous Penny Lyon from Out of the Ashes afterwards – so that was a bonus!

So if you’re on the verge of giving up – DON’T! Keep going and don’t stop. It can only get better – right?!!! So to encourage you, here’s a photo of me recording me new single; it’s the stuff that dreams are made of…

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Well this year st983844_922301214476654_5567301080221672945_narted off with a bang! My first gig of the year was with Darren Hayman singing the Chants for Socialists at Union Chapel in London. Despite the fact that it was FREEZING, the place was packed and Daylight Music reported their highest audience turn out ever!   The whole event was amazing and the feedback has been wonderful! Definitely one to tick off the bucket list.

As you can see from the photo below, I was the shortest singer by far (and I’m very proud of that) and I think wearing a bright electric blue jumper may have been a mistake… cue the Smurf! Feel free to ridicule me about this, to be fair, my family already has; it was my daughter who noticed my fashion faux pas. It gets worse though, there are lots and lots of press photos of this event, so I will be immortalised forever as the singing Smurf…

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The beginning of February saw us perform the Chants at the William Morris Society in Hammersmith. A much warmer gig this time and smaller too and actually in one of William Morris’ houses which was exciting. There was an intimate audience of about 40 people as opposed to 650 at Union Chapel. There was a Q and A session afterwards which contained some hilarious and some what mysterious questions about the project.

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We were described as Leonard Cohen and the 5 Linda Rondstadts which let’s face it, is much better than being described as a singing Smurf. This photo was taken during our rehearsal hence why we’re all stood in our coats with cups of tea, however I think a mug could become the new performance accessory depending on it’s contents!

I’ve been very excited about the vinyl version of the album (which I sang on); I’m mainly excited about the COLOUR! You can find the album on Darren’s website.

So if I started the year with a bang, how on earth am I going to top it? I’ve know idea, but watch this space… In the words of Saint Yazz “The Only Way Is Up”.