23rd April 2017
Shiny new things
Shiny new things. Who doesn’t love them? Feeling fresh and sorted in a new space. Packing it in and taking a new direction. And in a world that feels less and less in your control, escapism seems a tempting option. But is this always the best way? Are shiny new things just a way of procrastinating and putting off the hard work?
I’ve certainly started to notice an unhealthy pattern in myself. In my fear of being stuck in the pedestrian and doing the same old things, I constantly seek new ideas, people and projects. And in doing so I have made my life a pattern; a boring old circle of never completing anything or improving. Bugger. But I guess the first step is realising the mess you are in. It’s time to clean your room. But not just pick up the clothes and papers and move it all around, I need to delve into those boxes and clear out. Not bringing in anything new, but find out what I already have and make it useful again.
One particular area that strikes a pang of fear in my bones, is around music. At some point, struggling to make money and gigs, I gave myself to 30 to make a career in it. I turn 30 in July. Time to sort my shit out then I guess. I want to do well for myself, but also for those who love and support me. I am an ideas person, but I want to be the person who gets it done too.
I do not want to be unreliable. I do not want to escape. I do not want to drift.
I want a routine, and I want to stick to it.
And putting my money where my mouth is... my next gig is booked! Hope you can make it on 6th May at The Glory
9th September 2016
At the end of 2015, I found myself sitting on the couch of a psychiatrist. I perched on the edge, feeling slightly apprehensive. I needed to open up, and this is not something that comes naturally to me. Hiding behind my guitar, I can sing about experiences, people, places and emotions to complete strangers. But actually talking about your feelings? Oooft. However, I had put myself in this position and it was time to explore. And the topic? Shame.
Luckily, it was actually quite a cathartic experience and not as painful as the topic might suggest. Shame is a complex thing, and having certainly experienced it in relation to coming out, it’s not something I would jump at the chance to feel again! However, surprisingly, the words did flow and I found myself talking about many different areas of my life, and in particular what a big impact moving to London had on me. Indeed, that is why I found myself being psychoanalysed in the first place.
Not too long after I had moved to the Big Smoke, I was not feeling too enamoured with the place. A break-up, redundancy and needing to move flats were somewhat distorting my London dreams, and I was contemplating heading back up the road. But a last minute decision to go to an intake evening of a chorus that I had signed up to, was the change that was needed. I found joy in London once again, made friends and contacts and, most importantly, felt a part of something. This group was the London Gay Men’s Chorus, and through them I got involved in international artist Jordan McKenzie’s Shame Chorus project. After singing at the first performance in the Freud Museum, I realised how important all these stories were that needed to be told. Composers created new compositions for the Chorus, using the transcripts of interviews with psychoanalyst Susie Orbach as inspiration. I was privileged to then be commissioned by Jordan to write a piece myself. Using my own interview as the starting point, I created my piece ‘Leaving’ for the project. Fast forward to now, and a group of singers from the Chorus have been working hard, ready to premiere the music under the direction of Sarah Morrison. We are performing this weekend (10th and 11th September 2016) at the B-Side Festival in Portland, Dorset and then at the London Irish Centre on the 8th October 2016 – tickets on sale now.
The many different ways in which people have dealt with the subject of shame, from dark to humorous, has been fascinating to see. Another composer for the project, Verity Susman, also commented on the range of music created in an article with Diva Magazine, and spoke of how it is ultimately ‘uplifting and celebratory’. Singer-songwriter Billy Bragg has also written a piece and I am very excited to be singing and strumming this one! Having worked in both LGBT and mental health fields, I know how important it is that people feel safe and supported to talk about feelings that can be so damaging, such as shame. I feel really lucky to be able to add my voice to this, in my own way and through my own music.
I’m sure there will be many more changes for me around the corner, and the question of whether I am in the right place will always be a constant. But for now, I look forward to singing out with no shame this weekend and even bringing my parents along to watch! That in itself, is pretty special.
29th January 2017
Come January Snow
I love my diary. It’s a Filofax, and I completely rely on it. Whilst I use an online calendar at work, I can’t switch over for my life organisation. I once left it in a café and was really quite lost and upset. As well as keeping me on track, it’s a book of memories. Doodles line the pages. Lyrics for songs appear. Ideas for projects form and stew within its covers. And at this most joyous time of year - the self-assessment tax deadline - it can give some relief remembering what has happened in the last 12 months whilst you wonder how on earth you are going to pay the bill.
With the video for my song ‘Come January Snow’, I wanted to capture memories and moments, like a visual diary. 2016 was certainly a tough old year (let’s leave 2017’s outlook for another time…), but I knew there were moments of joy in there too. I put a call out to friends and family to submit videos to me of their year. The response was fantastic and looking through all those clips of moments that meant a lot to people that I know, was rather special and touching. A big thanks to all that sent me something! Director Scott McInnes then did a fantastic job of sewing this together along with my best efforts at looking reflective and not too cold. The feeling of remembering and looking forward at the same time, which comes knocking on your door around new year and January, was captured.
And within the video, two very special women got their feature. My Grandma, who sadly passed away in 2016, is seen chatting to my brother and I as we made a secret video for my Mum’s 60th birthday. She was sharing memories of childhood and family, and having a good laugh with us in the process. My Granny also appeared in the music video. She died quite a few years ago now, but I was so thrilled that my brother uncovered this clip of her playing the piano that of course she was to be included. She was whistling away and entertaining us and the staff at her care home during that filming. Strong memories, that I’m proud to share in my work.
Both my Grandma and Granny had Alzheimer’s. It’s distressing to watch loved ones battle with this illness, but the right support and information can make all the difference. This is why I chose to donate profits from the single to two charities that work in this area – the Mental Health Foundation and Alzheimer’s Society. Although January is coming to a close, there is still time to download the single and share with your networks to increase my donation! It is available from most digital stores, including iTunes, Bandcamp and Spotify.
Thank you for all the support so far for the song and the causes. It’s small in the grand scheme of things, but means a lot to me. And now, my new diary is quickly filling up and I will be turning attention to new projects and a certain birthday milestone I need to overcome this year, but the support I’ve felt has given me the confidence to keep on with my music. And I’m sure my Grandma and Granny are up there smiling down, and maybe even whistling the tune.
29th March 2017
A massive thank you to all of you who bought and streamed my single Come January Snow - I've now managed to donate money to both of the charities, Mental Health Foundation and Alzheimer's Society. They have each received £100, which is really fantastic. Keep in touch for more music coming soon!
4th July 2016
Sing Out Project
It's great to finally be ready to launch the documentary about my first Sing Out project with Mosaic LGBT Youth Centre and London Gay Men's Chorus! The lovely team at Raw Pictures did a great job of capturing the journey of the participants, volunteers and youth workers alike, as we explored important issues and created music together.
The film was shown at the performance and helped give the audience an insight into what the project was all about. We now have that live performance footage to share also. It really is amazing to think of how far some of these young people came from feeling unsure at the start of the project to performing their own music on stage in front of family and friends.
It has been a total privilege to lead this project and thank you to all who were involved! And I am pleased to say that it is not going to stop here. There are plans afoot for an LGBT youth chorus at Mosaic LGBT Youth Centre, supported by Sing Out and London Gay Men's Chorus, and I hope to be taking the project to other groups around the country. I know there are many more stories to share and LGBT voices to be heard. Watch this space!
Head over to the Sing Out website to watch the film and find out about the project - http://singoutproject.org.uk