MY STORY #1
So who am I, anyway?
My first instrument was my voice.
This is me at 12. That’s when I knew that being a singer was the only thing I really wanted to do.
At first it was school musicals and just singing wherever I could.
It was piano first and then guitar.
My mother gave me my first guitar on my 14th birthday. At first I wasn’t too sure what to do with it.
That came with time as I figured out that I didn’t so much want to play other peoples songs.
I like the sound of my own guitar chord patterns..
I remember she gave me a choice between that and a saxophone.
Pretty sure I made the right choice
Sting's “the dream of the blue turtles” was my first album I ever bought. “Russians” was my first ever fav song. I loved the interplay of a classical melody with thoughtful, poetic words about the world we lived in. John Farnham’s You’re the voice hit me hard, but it was epic version of Amazing Grace with Venetta fields which really sealed the deal for me as a singer.
I started writing my own songs when I was 14. The first song I ever wrote was called “the point of no return”. I recall writing it in the back of a car on a long drive with my family. I think it was about driving on that long road, but somehow it feels a little destined, a little prophetic. Like I was starting something that would define my whole life. I became obsessed with music theory and understanding the very heartbeat of what composing was.
I was never the sporty kid..more the introvert deep thinker type. At school, I would camp in the music room whenever I could. That’s where I somehow managed to play in to the heart of a sweet girl a few years younger, who would later become my wife.
There has always been a deep connection between words and music and the interplay of each. For years, songs were recorded on a little tape player in the bathroom to make the most of the reverb. All I ever wanted to do was play my own music. Cassettes became CDs for schools and kids. In 2007 I released my first ever album “Mesmerising”. 2011, Falling Awake and 2015 Returning..
Each time I write or record it is a music education. And each time, I grow and learn how to connect with the spark that is my calling on the earth.
That spark is a journey of discovery, doubt and faith and awareness.
TS Eliot once said “we shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
This speaks to me of the value of exploring our gifts and doing so bravely. In doing the deep work of our heart and soul, I believe we find that our story makes sense and our life has purpose and meaning. And maybe, just in creating, we get to know ourselves a little bit more.
I am making a new EP and it will be called “The Great Unveiling”. This is part of the journey..this unlocking to the meaning of our lives and who we are meant to be. My hope is that, through the songs that I write, you and I would figure out what our lives mean. And we’d find great joy in that too.
I am relaunching my blog. I had run out of ideas to say 3 years ago. But now I am making a new EP. So i thought I'd blog and journal it.
The age old question of what comes first: words or music. I feel that, for me in my story, the words come first.
It's May 2019. I have finished the demos and the major song writing. Last week, I wrote a new song called "Goodnight" which I feel might make it there. I joined iheartsongwriting.com, a community of songwriters where each week, we write and submit a song for feedback and encouragement. Since joining in January this year, I have since written some 15 new songs. It feels great to write and find constructive feedback.
This is not my full time paid gig. That has been a challenge to my mindset of who I am as a person who works. With teaching Primary school children music part time, I find that I still have to carve out time to write. And create. And think about the plan going forward. And how much to spend. And freaking out. And coming back again. This song writing thing I do- this desire to write and sing and create is a driving force in my soul- that I know that it not only makes me happy and free, but it is something I will stand accountable for.
Words and music have always been important to me. My first essay in my first year of my teaching degree had once sentence: "words have meaning. Discuss". I've never stopped thinking about that essay. The words we speak out loud and the words and conversations i speak to myself as a creative bring me back to that. Words have weight.
This is not a hobby. There, I said it. It's what I find I have to keep telling myself. This call to creative expression is not just a feelgood thing. It goes way deeper than that. I feel that all art is vital and regardless, creating WHATEVER is a whole calling. Making money is good, but making art is human.
So here I am, starting again. I am making a new EP and I felt to blog the journey. Are you a creative? What words do you tell yourself?
“Dad, it makes me feel yukky..”
My 7 year old son said this to me in tears the other night after hearing a particular song on the charts right now. I won’t mention the name of the song in question that upset him. It did have highly emotive lyrics more suitable to a teenage crowd and a certain vibe that just registered too him that it wasn’t right.
Josh is a fun and sensitive kid. We love that about him. He loves the pure and the innocent. He loves music that he can sing and move too.
That evening, after hearing the song that upset him, he offered to pray with his mum. Now Josh has some bad dreams- he is has a vivid imagination. Yet this night, his words floored us. “Dear God, please help all the people who have bad dreams. Catch the bad dreams and the bad songs”.
Songs come and go, and I have begun to wonder about their perceived long term value. So as a song writer my question is, what is a bad song? Is it the cliché words, a sloppy production, boring chords? I think that is true. Yet I think Josh taught me something new. Could it be that in an attempt to break through the clutter, there is a temptation to write songs that roll with the cultural landscape? Riding the wave of negativity and hurt in a world gone wrong- celebrating our bad dreams. Isn’t that too easy?
A Song that dreams are made of
I think the challenge for song writers is to write song that uplift, inspire and stir the imagination. To offer sanctuary from the bad dreams and bad songs. As a song writer, I want to write songs that lift up the human spirit. I believe that the well trained song writer can stir the imagination, give expression to something inexpressible and touch on a heavenly realm. A great new fresh song is like experiencing a fulfilled longing for a far off country.
Let’s make music that makes people feel good. In our words and in our music, let’s consider beauty and magnificence. Beautiful songs that mirror beautiful dreams.
I want to tell you my story as an artist.
When I was 14 I discovered music. The stuff on the radio. It was 1986 and the bands had names like Noise works, INXS, Jimmy Barnes. Icehouse, Crowded House. John Farnham had just released Your the voice. I cut my musical teeth on all of these. Add a little Eagles and The Beatles for flavouring.
Every Sunday we would go on family drives. Long, boring ones (to a 14 year old mind). They laid down seeds for travel and exploration. I found myself on those roads, learning about music through headphones.
On one of those trips, somewhere on a bend near Windsor in NSW, a spark went off in my mind and the first song lyric that I could truly say was my own found life. I still remember it. It was called "the point of no return". I could sing it for you if you like- just one little line. Of course, like an old school photograph you see of yourself- it becomes awkward and embarrassing.
I've come to see and appreciate the significance of beginnings. The places and times where things we do, the passions that define us are part of our identity. I am a song writer- I hear melodies and my fingers still search for them. It is intrinsic to who I am.
I honestly thought after making my last album “Falling Awake” that I was finished making music as an artist and that maybe I was too old or not interesting enough. It is easy to respond with "you're not old". Yet comparison- that loveless enemy of the mind- preaches to you through media with its subtle message that youth equals beauty. I had fallen into the trap that creating music is only for the young.
Yet great artists of an era before commercialization of music and art, were forged over decades. The comparison thing is just a sneaky cover for insecurity. It robs us of our potential. Comparison is a lie that says that our story is not vital to the world...that no one can benefit from our stories. That's because our stories are the one thing that make us unique and special. You and I and our stories are vital art works and someone needs to hear them.
So I entered into a journey and returned to the place I started. It is my story. I believe it is beauty and that makes it an art form. I went back to playing and writing music with just my acoustic guitar and loved it. Not only that, I found something new. A new song. And it was liberating.
I want my story to encourage people that their story is also beautiful. Tell your story, follow your dreams and change the world. And listen for each other’s without judgment or bias. It is a beautiful thing to be moved by someone’s story. I have returned to the place I started only to find that it is completely a new place, much like the sentiment expressed by TS Eliot: “We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to return where we started, and to know that place for the first time”
I hope you enjoy what happened when I got there.
This is one of the best recording experiences I have ever had. Jake Nauta produced my record in a studio I wanted to go back to since my early recording days as a session vocalist for a leading children's church program. Here are some pics of the sessions taken during tracking in May and June 2014.#queensroadstudio