I have a confession to make. I have a book problem. A genuine book problem. at any given moment I have an audio-book on the go, and my bookshelves are always overflowing. Don’t even think about letting me loose in Foyles. In good news though, consider me your faithful music memoir reviewer. Here are 5 memoirs that have valuable lessons for every musician out there..
1)You don’t need to come from a rich background (and have piano lessons from age 2!) to be a rock star!
One of the best memoirs I’ve ever read is the hilarious, witty, and at times heartbreaking Clothes, Music, Boys by Viv Albertine. Viv grew up without any female guitarists to look up to. She was from a working class background and thought music was the domain of rich men. So what did she do? she jumped right in and became the guitarist in The Slits (one of the most influential punk bands to date!) By doing so, she paved the way for countless women after her. In my opinion, the most inspiring part of the punk movement was the ‘can do’ attitude.
Takeaway: Can you string a couple of chords together? You can make music. do it.
2) Even legends make things they hate sometimes. oh, and they’re just people!
I enjoyed reading Bob Dylan’s Chronicles, and I was hit by the fact that being Bob Dylan has involved quite a lot of mundanity at times. Yes Dylan had a meteoric rise, but he’s also had years of plugging away at music since, and he’s no stranger to the daily grind. He’s also put time and money into projects he ended up hating and scrapping.
Takeaway:Bob Dylan is a genius. If he gets stuck sometimes, perhaps we can be a bit more patient with ourselves?
3) Singing is a job. It’s not always glamorous!
Want to understand the reality of being a singer? Read Tracey Thorn’s Naked at The Albert Hall. Tracey fronted Everything but the Girl but was a reluctant pop star. Tracey discusses the wide spread fantasy people have about singers. It’s easy to assume singers are born talented, like angels that fell out of heaven with perfect voices. This is not so. Yes talent is a big factor, but hard work is a much bigger part of the puzzle.
Takeaway: Singers are made not born. So keep practising!
4) You don’t have to be an extrovert to be a performer!
Often it’s the introverted, quiet types that long for the stage. Take Carrie Brownstein, guitarist in Sleater-Kinney. Carrie might have looked cool rocking out on stage, but she’s suffered from anxiety along the way. Sleater-Kinney broke the rules when it came to music. Lead Singer Corin Tucker would often tune the guitar to her voice, rather than to the other instruments, which gave Sleater-Kinney a discordant sound. Talk about doing things your own way.
Takeaway: Don’t be scared to be yourself!
5) Follow your dreams, at the very least you’ll have an adventure!
Last but by no means least, I can’t recommend Just Kids enough!This is Patti Smith’s memoir, and at it’s heart is a book about daring to be an artist. I don’t think Patti knew what she was going to end up doing (becoming the ‘Godmother of Punk’ couldn’t have been predicted!) but she knew it was going to be special.
Takeaway: whatever you need to do to support your dream, do it. Have faith in your purpose and hustle, hustle, hustle!
Is there an amazing memoir I’ve missed? drop me a comment and let me know!
A few months ago, I discovered an article on the Voice Council website- How a choir inspired my Solo Artistry by Anil Sebastian. I was blown away by the video of Anil and London Contemporary Voices performing. Their talent, beautiful arrangements and interesting song choices left me seriously impressed. I hadn’t come across a choir like this one before. Then I found out a friend of mine ( the talented musician Billy Boguard ) was in the choir too, AND LCV were auditioning new singers. I’ve since joined the choir, and recently performed with them at Oval Space.
Our ‘Guilty Pleasures’ set included Lady Gaga, Bon Jovi, and One Direction- all while dressed in our most fabulous clothes. I can honestly say it was a great night- uplifting and full of dancing! Several of my friends left wanting to join a choir, and I would definitely encourage them to. Here’s why:
Being in a choir is good for your health
According to the British Voice Association, Choirs have been shown to synchronise their heart and breathing rates, increasing and decreasing them in response to the music. It can also help to reduce high blood pressure, and improve breath control.
It’s a great way to make connections
Whether you want to make friends with like-minded people, or are looking for other singers to collaborate with, a choir is a great opportunity for this.
You develop your musicianship
Depending on your vocal range, you will be assigned a voice part (Bass, Baritone, Tenor, Alto, Mezzo or Soprano). More often than not, you will be singing harmonic lines that differ from the main melody. You may even be using your voice in a rhythmic way or singing a guitar riff! This all helps to “train your ear.”
You can be part of something amazing without being centre stage
Not all singers want to be the ‘lead singer’ and that’s OK! You still need to ‘perform’ as a member of a choir, but the focus is less on you as an individual, and more on your role within the group.
Its a lot of fun
This doesn’t need much explanation- there’s just something so joyful about singing with others, whether its with friends at the end of night out, over karaoke or onstage in a choir.
Our next gig is Beneath The Tracks at Omeara on May 8th- Come along!
If you’re inspired to join a choir yourself, why not check out www.choirs.org.uk to find a choir near you.
Whilst my primary passion in life is music, I am also a film lover. There’s something so comforting about getting lost in a movie. My favourite films are those that not only entertain, but inspire you to create. Films are often a source of inspiration for me, and here is a list of films I recommend to inspire the musician in you.
Searching for Sugar Man
This documentary is beautiful, moving and so inspiring on a human level. I feel like this film must be good for your health 🙂
La La Land
Sorry to those of you who feel you’ve already heard enough about La La Land, but what’s not to love. Great songs, dazzling visuals and amidst it all- poignant gems of truth. Every artist doubts themselves at times, and finding your own path can be hard. La La Land is sure to resonate with many hearts- now and in the future.
God Help The Girl
This film is both happy and sad, and peppered with stunning visuals. The portrayal of mental illness, supportive female friendship, and the solace of music elevates this film beyond your average coming of age drama. Don’t be surprised to find yourself inspired to write your own songs..
Sing Street will make you laugh and cry (and laugh again!) The message is clear- life happens, but music is a life line.
Whether you’re an Oasis fan or not, I highly recommend this documentary. Using archival footage, it follows their meteoric rise. This is a rock and roll fairytale that could never be repeated. Nevertheless, the band’s early self belief, passion and hard work will inspire you. Oasis were a band that performed for the sheer, unadulterated love of it. That’s something we can all aspire to.
So put the kettle on, sit back and fill your brain with inspiration!
Are there any films you recommend? What inspires you to create? Feel free to share!
For a lot of us, January is a time of resolutions and good intentions. We may want to make positive changes to our lifestyle and set goals for the year ahead. I think it’s important to work towards goals, but it’s also important to appreciate where you are right now.
Taking a moment to reflect on what you do well (as well as what you’d like to improve) is important. Appreciating your current level of ability and the obstacles you’ve overcome to get there is a strong motivator. Think about the skills you have to offer your audience right now. Perhaps you have a gift for touching people with your vulnerability or you have a vital message to share?
It’s desirable to develop strong technique, but if we become obsessed with perfection, and overlook the strengths we already possess, then singing quickly stops being enjoyable. And wasn’t that the point to begin with?
So when you’re setting your goals this January, don’t forget to build upon your strengths as well as working on your weaknesses. If you’re not sure what your strengths are, ask a couple of people (you trust, who have heard you sing.)
Jenny Lee Lindberg, solo artist and bassist in Warpaint recently discussed the unrealistic demands she imposed on herself: “I didn’t like my voice for a very long time- I’d have to tell myself, ‘You’re not gonna sing like Barbra Streisand, Patsy Cline, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston… Eventually I asked myself, ‘What is your strong point? Go there.’ And when I started doing that, all of a sudden I didn’t hate the way my voice sounds. You know what? Now I kinda like it.”
Look at the singers and bands who have inspired you. Often the things that move us in other singers are reflective of our own strengths, even if those strengths are not currently being used. Use this time to get clear on who you are as an artist, and what the new year holds …
I hope you are excited about Christmas! I have lots of exciting news, offers and opportunities to share with you.
First things first, I have a special offer for current students that I hope will come in useful for the festive season..
Treat a friend to a singing lesson and get a FREE lesson for yourself.
Singing lessons make great gifts, and it’s even sweeter when it means treating yourself too! Send me a message if you’re interested!
An exciting opportunity- Get your tracks professionally recorded in a prestigious studio…
A few months ago I met up with the very talented Anthony Galatis, who is a hit songwriter, producer and mix engineer ( and also happens to be a really lovely person!) Anthony runs Uptown Studios, a boutique recording studio, based in the prestigious Matrix Complex in Parsons Green. Ant is incredibly passionate about working with up and coming singers and we will be working together to record YOU!
Recording for the first time can feel like a daunting experience, but with a beautiful, plush and professional studio, expert skills and an inspiring team, it becomes a hugely rewarding experience! This means SWH students can opt to receive one on one vocal instruction and performance coaching in the studio with me while Ant helps to craft your masterpiece with his awesome skills.
GROUP PERFORMANCE WORKSHOPS!
I am also very excited to offer group performance workshops in the new year. These workshops will take place in Kentish Town in a warm, supportive atmosphere where we will encourage each other as artists and performers. Attendees will be invited to perform a song in this small group of other SWH students. We will then workshop your piece and take your performance to the next level. From my own experience of being a singing student, these performance workshops are always so useful. You learn so much about yourself from performing (and in such a supportive environment) Often you learn even more from watching others on their journeys! (oh and hopefully make friends too!)
I want to keep the groups fairly small and so far I’ve had a lot of interest in the group workshops. If it’s something you are interested in, let me know!
I am also keen to get you lovely lot showcasing your voices in the new year, most likely at the fabulous and legendary Map Cafe. If you would like to perform, please get in touch so I have an idea of numbers.
Have a wonderful weekend and keep singing! If I don’t speak to you sooner, have a magical Christmas!
I’ve recently started reading the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Published in 1992, the book has since become a cult classic, and with good reason! When I first heard about the book around 5 years ago, I made the assumption that it was for visual artists rather than singers or songwriters, and that was the end of that!
A few weeks ago I found a copy in a charity shop, and I’m so glad that I did. As soon as I started reading I knew this was the book I’d been waiting for. If you’re an artist of any description I recommend this book. Perhaps you work in an office and sing for a hobby and you doubt that you are an artist. If you sing, then you are an artist. If you still don’t believe that you’re an artist, you will find tools in the book to help you tap into your creativity- and who doesn’t want that?
Try this simple exercise and watch your creativity blossom
If you are committed to developing your artistry as a Singer or Songwriter (or both) then try this exercise, as featured in the book.
Upon waking, every single day- make your ‘morning pages’ the first thing you do. What are morning pages? I hear you ask. Quite simply, you are going to put pen to paper and write 3 pages of whatever comes into your head. There are two rules;
1) don’t take your pen off the paper, just keep writing. If all you write is ‘blah blah blah’ – then that is ok.
2) Don’t review what you have written when you have finished. At least not yet- leave it a week.
What is the purpose of this exercise?
The primary reason for this activity is to facilitate a ‘brain dump’- i.e to unblock and get rid of mental ‘noise’, leaving you refreshed and open to new ideas. Looking back on your pages, you may even find songwriting ideas emerging. ( This practice is also known as ‘free writing’ and was a favorite writing tool of beat poet Jack Kerouac.)
Try practicing this exercise every morning for 7 days and see the results for yourself. Does your mind feel less cluttered? Do you find yourself looking at the world in a new way? Let me know how you get on!