I have found that creating a piece of art is more rewarding and more exciting when things are left to flow in their natural state, untempered and not adjusted to fit a narrative too early in the process.
It mirrors life in that way. That is to say, my own life, as in my family and my home and my passion, have turned out significantly better than I could have ever arranged if I had written down the plan from the start. It was left to run it’s natural course, despite my interference and it’s natural course has been beautiful.
So what I do is let the creation become what it is meant to be on it's own. I trust that my own subconscious imagination will come up with the artistic goods and then apply my other passion of, lets call it, 'amateur self psychology,' to try and analyse what has been going on in my subconscious during the flow of creation. That analysis then becomes the narrative to the work. The concept I have always dreamed of creating with art is revealed after the act of creation and not before or during it. It is far more fun this way. Oranges and Angels has been the epitome of this process.
It began over a year ago, in the winter of 2016 where I suddenly found myself on the edge of losing my job. A well paid and apparently safe job in the Oil industry as an Engineer had become increasingly abhorrent to me in it's very nature and it's safety was no longer guaranteed. For years before that, I had longed for the chance to leave this safe place and begin a career as Artist, a songwriter, as a creator of, well, things. I’d send demos to record companies in the hope that one would eventually rescue me with a big fat record deal and I could do what I loved for the same safe money as big oil. Once, in a moment of apparent genius, I sent a huge box of shortbread to a publishing agent with a USB stick of my best songs nestled inside. It was a sort of tartan cardboard horse of Troy. My thinking was to get their attention with the box and then someone in that office would find that stick, play those song's and my genius would no longer be hidden. I heard nothing back. The reality I accepted was that the 'big money deal' was unlikely to happen, no matter how delicious a piece of shortbread is and I began to think that maybe my artistic hobby was destined to remain such, and possibly even die with time.
But the redundancy happened and the safety net was gone. I was offered several other positions throughout the company, in various undesirable regions in the world including Iraq, Russia, China and back in Scotland. I said no to all and in a moment of self empowerment that I will always recommend to anyone on a similar journey, I stated publicly to friends on Social Media that I was leaving the Oil game and was about to become a writer. It was the maddest idea I had ever had and knew that it had to work, sooner or later.
Now what? I needed a income to cover the household bills and so upgraded my driving licence to allow me to drive trucks and took a job delivering whole foods around the country. But I still needed a place to do my real work of creating music and spent a tiny budget on building my simple studio in my loft. I bought some floor panelling and lined the eves with old curtains and a roll of fabric. I bought a few off cuts of carpet and patched them together and built a desk from chipboard and screwed it to the attic beams as legs. On one of my Lorry runs I made a delivery to a school undergoing a refurbishment. By the skips was comfy looking 'leather' computer swivel chair. I seized it. Apart from having to wash the bogies of hundreds of snotty nosed teenagers from it's underside, it was perfect. The technical stuff for making music was mostly all in place from my days in the band, so I was good to go.
From there, I needed the motivation to write every day and came up with a idea where I would write a new song every week, post them on social media and try and raise money for a charity. Alas, The Songwriting Marathon, for teenage cancer trust was born. Another mad idea.
The songs flowed and the journey was one of incredible self discovery. Though I always believed I was capable of writing that many songs I never thought for one minute I’d actually do it, and do it to the high quality that I did.
Around the ten week mark I began to really relax and enjoy the experience. This was mainly due to the fact that I trusted my own ability and work ethic enough to know i’d get something each week and secondly because the people who got behind me were a constant inspiration. It felt to me like they were singing every note with me, willing me on with words of encouragement and seemingly trivial likes and shares on Facebook. My visits to the Teenage Cancer Trust Unit in Glasgow also took my drive and commitment to another level and while the madness of it all was clear, the experience was one I will never forget.
And so it ended and the album became the next natural step.
It was a night where the moon was big and bright in the sky. My kids and I looked upwards from the boys bedroom window in awe at the lunar spectacle. They posed the question of what the moon is made from and a discussion ensued. Of course one queried the legitimacy of the old cheese theory but my eldest said, ‘Maybe its an Orange cos it's bumpy.’ We laughed and the kids were put to bed but what he’d said made me think; why can’t it be an orange?’
When we are children, our imagination is completely unsullied by the gathering of common knowledge. Whatever you want a thing or yourself to be, it can be. Ask any 4 year old what they want to be when they grow up and there is a good chance the might say a dinosaur or a cat. That’s impossible, but when your imagination is boundless that is as achievable as a doctor or a teacher. Somewhere along the line, life had sucked away the dream of me becoming an artist, a musician, a songwriter or an author. My safe job on the rigs and and it’s lucrative wages had made my dream as likely as the moon being an orange or me changing careers to become a Stegosaurus.
'But you will never make it.’
The safe side of my brain told me. My mad side’s reply was this,
‘Well what is IT? If the IT is riches and fame, then yes, you may be proved correct, I may not achieve those. But, if the IT is music, if the IT is stories, if the IT is art, then who is going to stop me?’
The songs I selected from the marathon to become the tracks on my first album were simply chosen on the grounds of being my favourites and the favourites of those who followed the Marathon. As I surveyed the lyrics I realised that each of the songs were written about the imagination, the madness, the passion and the desire that I had to follow my dream. Or, they were about the heart, and kindness, relationships, love and encouragement I saw from the people who got behind me during the marathon.
In short, Oranges & Angels is about the pursuit of a mad idea, an unachievable and unbelievable vision of colour in an otherwise black and white existence, and the divine nature of good people who surround you and strengthen you in the pursuit. In turn I hope the album and the art work inspires someone else to become what they always dreamt of, even if it is a Stegosaurus.
It’s madness and love, it's colour and encouragement, it’s kindness and strength, its Oranges & Angels.