I think I want to use these blogs as a kind of diary for my adventure of trying to forge a career in the music industry. I will write about any opportunities or missed opportunities I experience. I will sound off about the frustrations of trying to make contacts and get ahead of the game and I will share my thoughts on the music and arts industries as a whole for anyone who cares what I think. Even if you don’t care what I think, perhaps you can learn a thing from my mistakes or my breaks, when I get them. So here goes….
If you expect anything from your music, you expect too much. It was a saying I heard years ago when I first began creating music on my own. I agreed with the statement, I was buoyed by it and it made me happy knowing that just creating, just writing, just doing the very thing was reward enough. I bought it, kind of, because still I expected all of my efforts to eventually bring me the riches and glory I thought I deserved. Why?
Why do we use fame and money to quantify success? Particularly when it comes to the arts.
I mean, imagine you lived in some jungle as an indigenous tribesman or woman, you maybe play a bongo of some kind when the village gets together for some ritual around the fire. That’s your thing that you give to that community that allows the flow of the ritual. That is your contribution to that small social system. Not once does that Bongo boy or girl think, I’m gonna learn that drum and play it so well that I become as big as Beyonce. Well for a start, an indigenous bongo player won’t know who Beyonce is but even if they did, would the glitz and glamour be as alluring to someone who had never known of the concept of ‘fame’ or money?
Success to these hunter gatherer people is survival. The celebration of life is had when all the bellies in the tribe are full and every individual is working for every other individual. Every individual contributes and is rewarded with food, shelter, family, community, love and relationships. Each individual brings something to the group and is rewarded with everything they need. The feeling of wanting, is the urge for excess and I would imagine that ‘wanting’ and ‘excess’ are alien concepts in such a survival based community.
Somewhere along the line in the history of the ‘civilised’ world, our world, humanity, the west, whatever you want to call it, we have managed to attribute ‘excess’ as a measure of ‘success’ and everyone subconsciously agrees. Then happiness, we believe, is hinged to success, so if you have excess, you must have success and if you have success that MUST result in happiness…no?
The more extra things and objects you acquire the more successful you obviously are and if you are successful you are the more happy you must be. The more rooms you have in your house, the better the car you have, the larger the garden you have, the more holidays you go on, the nicer restaurant you dine in, the bigger the bank balance and the more you are paid for your time makes you more and more successful in the eyes of the world we live in. But does that success really equate to increased happiness?
Do you see the problem here? If your success and ultimately your happiness is only to be had by your excess’s, then where do you stop trying to be happy? It is by definition an endless search for more. It is greed, at its most rampant.
The result of this kind of greed is that we find ourselves increasingly unhappy when we feel that we have stalled or stagnated. It is like a life of calm and ‘the same’ is no longer good enough. If we have had the same wage for too long, we have lived in the same house, driven the same car, wore the same clothes and only managed to afford the same amount of holiday’s while our peers have advanced on to bigger and seemingly better, we feel that we too should be getting more and we should be getting better. In this world of 24 hour life highlights we subdue ourselves to on Social Media, we are not only having the ‘success’ of our peers flaunted to us, we occupy the same cyber space and some of the most rich and famous people on the planet. The sometimes tough reality of the life you have is pitched right next to that of a privileged millionaire and we are depressed at the sight of it. It’s sad times, fucking times man.
Those who have all this perceived success are the ones who unconsciously play along with the illusion. I love a good chat show with some mega star talking about their new movie or album. It is as entertaining as the product they are selling but there is a self loving, self adoration, self importance element in their attitudes that I find staggering. Where does this sense of entitlement come from? Well, perhaps it is just a psychological trick of the mind called; Marketing.
If you are told by enough people how amazing something is, you will begin to believe it. Many an extremely average pop singer has been fast tracked to the position of icon through clever marketing, product placement and undue high praise. Particularly now in the age of the internet and reality TV, hype, can be built and elevated quickly and with little effort from huge corporate record companies.
Take the annual award bashes at the beginning of any year. In the music industry, the BRIT awards used to be awarding acts who had done well during the year prior to the award show. Now the awards go to the acts that the giant record labels are currently promoting. An award or a trophy somehow adds credibility to an act that is no better than some of their contemporaries. An example would be the singer Dua Lipa. Dua Lipa is now ‘BRIT award winning best female Dua Lipa’, in order to shine in what is currently a sea of incredible female artists. Just look at the nominees around her for the award of best female; Paloma Faith, Jessie Ware, Laura Marling and Kate Tempest. Is she really the best female in that category? Lets look closer.
You will all know the brilliance of Paloma Faith. She has released four albums toured relentlessly for over decade and had a string of awards over the years. Her new album ‘The Architect’ is thoughtful, lyrical and musically outstanding. As a side note, Paloma is a mother and is 36.
At 33, Jessie Ware has released three albums with the latest one ‘Glasshouse’ receiving wide critical acclaim. Her voice, like Palomas is outstanding.
Laura Marling at only 28 has already released six self penned albums and is arguably one the finest songwriters in the world. She won a BRIT and an NME award in 2011 for her incredible album ‘A Creature I Don’t Know’ which I would fully recommend.
Then there is the insanely talented Kate Tempest who at 32 has written and released three albums, three plays, a novel and several poems and spoken word pieces. Her talent for rhyming and tackling real issues is like no one around in the UK at the moment, male or female.
Then the winner, Dua Lipa. She has one album, released on Warner just two months before the awards ceremony. But she is only 22, she is attractive and she has a huge endorsement deal with Google. Draw your own conclusions there.
Im not knocking Ms. Lipa, she has ample talent and will no doubt have a sterling career and millions of people will fall under the marketing spell and buy her albums, and attend her concerts, at least until the next young princess comes along. My point is that awards, money, fame is something that separates the artist form the public. It plays in to our primal desire to adore the powerful in the shape of gods and goddesses and makes us loyal subjects, hopelessly devoted to the one who shines under the lights.
It’s easy for me to look upon this with jealousy clouding my opinion. Just because I work hard at my music and I believe it is better than most of the stuff making millions, does not mean that it actually is better. Just because I am passionate and diligent in my approach does not mean to say I will reap the rewards accordingly. So I must accept the initial statement of ‘If you expect anything from your music you expect too much.’ Otherwise, I just become bitter, and bitterness is not a feeling I enjoy.
Bitterness is not a nice taste to have in your mouth. Bitterness feeds right to the very worst parts of a persons being. Jealousy, anger and spite are all present where bitterness lurks. I am in no way immune to it. I swallow it regularly and I feel it make my teeth grind, my throat pulse and my nostrils flare. But it’s a human impulse that you have to be aware of or else you become it. You become a bitter person rather than a nice person with bitter feeling.
Me, I feel bitter every time I hear the bland, beige drone of Ed Sheeran and his monotonous ballads being played 24-7 on telly or the radio. Bitterly I ask, ‘what is that shit being lauded when my album pisses over ALL of his garbage?’ I swallow it though, and I go, ‘fair play, he’s giving the people what they want and what they want is a short arse ginger singing like he’s on his period. Fine, I get it.’ A not so humble attempt at being humble.
I also feel it when I see reality TV stars with no talent, who are now wealthy for getting pissed and shagged on telly, living in mansions and being offered record deals & TV deals. Then I just rage when they themselves believe the preposterous lie that they are adding value to young peoples lives. Then I go, ‘fair enough, my soul is still with me, there’s has long since been devoured by Satan.’
But none the less, wether I recognise it or not, bitterness is there, I feel it, I really feel it. This is because I too measure my success by the same parameters that these multi millionaire artists are viewed by everyone. It’s like I cannot see it any other way, even though I completely believe that the content of my work is far more important than the credit it gets. Its a very interesting and honest way of looking at things and it is what made me turn down a opportunity that most people would kill for.
There are about four people on this earth who know this, but at the beginning of the year, in the wake of the Songwriting Marathon I was approached by a HUGE television talent show.
A young man called me and asked if I’d like to go on the show and audition for this TV talent show. He was a casting agent for the production company who had seen my star online and he suggested I attend an audition. In a moment of weakness I went along to disused shop in a Mall in Edinburgh where myself and several nervous kids stood and waited to sing. The kids were all with their parents and were all products of the fame epidemic that has gripped the west for two decades. They all spoke of the famous people they will meet on the show and when I asked one about their favourite kind of music, they replied with, ‘X Factor’. I almost vomitted in my mouth at the thought that ‘The X Factor’ is considered by clueless kids as a ‘type’ of music and not just a show. I looked at their parents in semi masked disgust. ‘How could you do this to your child?’ I thought. I told the crew I was a songwriter, sang them a wee song and received a decent applause from the small crowd which had gathered. I then talked with the crew and bolted, feeling that I just sullied my soul.
Christmas passed and I forgot about the whole ordeal as I got to work on Oranges & Angels when there came a phone call from a Casting Director. He said that he had heard of my Songwriting Marathon and asked if I’d like to be considered for the show. When I told him I’d auditioned he knew nothing of it and had simply found me online. I said I’d think about it and then the next day a woman called and further persuade me to consider, saying it was, ‘ A massive opportunity.’ I said I’d consider it and there was some recordings sent and emails exchanged. Turned out, the producers said that I was not right for this particular show but their ‘sister’ show would be ideal, would I want to go straight on to that? I said no.
When I watch both those shows this year and see the winner walk away with a fat record deal or a winners cheque I will need to swallow that bitterness once more for sure, but in no way will it ever feel as sickening as the feeling I felt after I had crossed over to the dark side for a few minutes in that disused shop. I’ll still have my soul, I’ll still have my struggle and I will still have the the same happy life I have without the circus of fame. I will be surrounded by people who love me without fame and not surrounded by tone deaf posers with spray tans and ripped jeans who think the X Factor is a type of music. So as I refuse to surrender who I am just for the social construct of fame, I must not expect a thing from my music, it just brings me joy and that is enough.
Now go buy my album you twats!