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!
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!
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!
You know that phrase- where have you been all my life?
Well, that’s how I feel about The Inner Singer podcast. Mike Goodrich is a vocal coach based in Los Angeles, and started his podcast with the goal of providing encouragement and coaching to singers.
The exhibition includes talks such as ‘What does your voice say about you?’ (FREE but ticketed, so be quick!) as well as live ‘voicings’ ( 20 minute vocalisations performed by various artists.)
This exhibition runs until 31 July 2016- check out the Wellcome Collection website for more details!
Melissa S McCracken is an Artist who has colour synesthesia- a neurological phenomenon which causes her to see colours in response to music. She describes living with synesthesia as a positive experience: ” the most wonderful ‘brain malfunction’ of all is seeing the music I hear. It flows in a mixture of hues, textures, and movements, shifting as if it were a vital and intentional element of each song.’
Melissa has filtered her unique way of perceiving music into beautiful works of art- by painting her favourite songs as they appear to her.
I do not own any rights whatsoever to these wonderful images- if you love them as much as I do, please check out Melissa’s website and support her awesome work.
Anyone else wish they could see their favourite songs like this?