I’ve waited a long time to write this blog; seven years to be precise! Seven long years. We all have a dreams of things that we would like to do and sometimes we get the opportunity to do them. The saddest thing is when one of those dreams is struggling and no matter what we do, it doesn’t survive and eventually dies. It can be a game changer; it affects your perspective on life and can make you retreat from other opportunities for fear of getting hurt.

In 2012, I was offered the opportunity to perform my songs with a jazz orchestra. It was a dream gig, I’d waited all my life for it and I was going to make it happen! The early discussions went well, and I was ever hopeful that the concert would take place within six months. However, over time the project began to disappear, no matter what I did I couldn’t make it work. The dream concert was long gone, and my music career seemed to be dead. I asked God to put it right and bring the project to fruition, but nothing happened. Things went from bad to worse, my business collapsed, my marriage failed and my living arrangements were insecure again. I never knew that life could go so low so fast. It all changed in an instant.

Last year, my colleague and long standing friend, Rachael Forsyth, contacted me and asked if she could pitch the project to an orchestra again and also do the jazz arrangements of my songs. My initial reaction was that it wasn’t sure that I wanted to go through all the disappointment again, however, that thought of “if I don’t try, I’ll never know” crept in and I decided to be brave and give it a go. Over a period of six months we plodded through arrangements and emails, and we wondered if it would ever come together. At one point it actually looked as though the whole thing would fall apart again and Rachael and I prepared ourselves that it might not happen.

But that’s not the way God works. He specialises in bringing dead things back to life. After seven years of waiting, wondering, praying and hoping, I will be performing with the English Jazz Orchestra on Thursday 14 March. I can’t believe it’s taken this long, but those prayers that I prayed seven years ago are finally being answered. Just because something looks dead doesn’t mean that it is. Sometimes God waits so things are better, the timing is right and our character has developed enough for us to deal with it. Sometimes he removes things that are in the way or that will destroy the dream, so that when the dream buds, it can flourish and grow without being choked. Although this seems strange, all those things happened for my good. That part of my life died so that better, greater things could come. Sometimes God allows these things to happen so that he can realign us with his plan for our lives and also his timing (which is never our timing!).

In another strange twist of events, I received an email today saying that a song I sent to a DJ three years ago, is now being played on his podcast this month. I’d actually forgotten that I sent it off to the radio show! It’s like the song was waiting for right moment.

So I hope you can join me for this amazing evening St Lukes Church in Enfield with the English Jazz Orchestra (ENJO)! Tickets are available here

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.

This is an article that I wrote for a magazine back in January 2012. It was never published, so rather than waste it, I thought I would publish it here…

DustyThere’s always great excitement in my house over the latest remastered album. Even though I may already own the album in a different format, I will rush out to buy the new edition and run home expectantly to enjoy the pure, fresh, clean sound. For those of you not in the in the know, in a nutshell “mastering” is the process of removing any unwanted noise from a recording and making all the tracks the same level of volume and equalisation. The days of a crackly record or the sound of the musician or singer turning the page on the recording are long gone. Mastering is process of refinement and attention to detail, often resulting in the mastering engineer going over the project again and again.  For one of my projects I sat in the studio with the mastering engineer as he poured over the material; he could hear things that I couldn’t, such as the sound me knocking the music stand during the vocal recording. A tiny, small sound but it could have spoiled the enjoyment of the song. There were other elements we decided to keep in the recording to keep it authentic and real; less perfect more accessible. A live, unfettered element to the music helps build rapport with the audience.

This got me thinking about way life refines us. The challenges of life can leave us with scars and wounds. Little hurts that we pick up and carry along the way can allow us to become blemished and blinkered, and will ultimately hinder us and lead us away from the person that God wants us to be.

The process of healing and letting go of the past is very much like being “remastered”. As we hand over our emotional wounds to God, he wipes away the scar from our life recording. The process of forgiveness allows us to be refined and become pleasing before God. The actual action of believing that God can cleanse us leads to healing and restoration. The faith of the Centurion in Matthew 8 is testament to the action of “believing” that God wants us to be whole. He didn’t even feel worthy to have Jesus in his house, yet he knew that Jesus could wipe away suffering by one word. And just with a touch a button the sound of me knocking music stand was wiped from the recording…

But what about the hurts that continually plague us? Does this mean that we healed? These are the wounds that God wants to use for his glory. The healing is continuous and a constant reminder. In mastering terms, these are the sounds and noises that the engineer chooses to leave in the recording. Although God heals these hurts, he then provides us with opportunities to show to others our humanity. I had an experience a few years ago at work that really knocked my confidence, not just in my musical ability but also as a person. It affected every part of my life and made me question my worth. It took me a long time to allow God to heal my wounds, and every day I still have to ask for his help with my confidence. But what I have found is that it is in our weakness where His glory is most visible; as we turn to God for help we become more like him. In 2 Corinthians 12:9 Paul tells us that God is perfectly able to use us in our weakness, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” It’s these weaknesses that make us real and give us the ability to help other people who are going through the same situation. These are the noises that God keeps in our life recording. They help to shape us and build our relationship with Him.

Although I enjoyed my remastered album, I bet there are still quite a few sound impurities that I can’t hear on the recording. There will always be some sounds that shouldn’t be there and other noises that make the track real and interesting. That’s the reality of life; there will always be something that we need to leave with God for His attention. We’re not ready for perfection yet, but we are working our way towards eternity with God when we will be truly remastered.

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…

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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