This has been a long break without posting…
Much has happened!
Another two performances came and went…
The first one was on Sunday afternoon on local radio. I’ve done a couple of spots on local radio before, once just chatting about a community arts project, and once for my Nine Women project, which included performing two songs live, with Dave Sutherland on guitar and mandolin. I don’t mind it, quite like it even, as it is in a small room with a few people. I am unable to see the whites of the eyes of my audience, so can ignore them.
Ian Sutherland has done solo spots with this presenter before, so was more familiar. Andy Jenkins, although a veteran of the open mic nights of Birmingham, was perhaps less so. But anyway, we did it, and I think – we think – it went well. I think the songs came across well, there were of course the usual off notes, and missed chords, but these were few, and minor…hur hur… Musician joke…
But what I think did come across was that thing called chemistry. These guys are funny, and clever and we have a good time writing and playing together. Way way way back in the early days of my blog, I had a bit of a rant about artist collaborations, and how, frankly, other artists are a pain in the arse. I expounded the joy of working with musicians instead, and even gave reasons why I thought this to be the case. Over the intervening years however, I might qualify this a little.
Yes, musicians are generally used to playing together, artists as a general rule are more solitary and individual in how the output happens. But… I have been extremely fortunate in that the first musician I worked with was Dan Whitehouse. Those that know him will recognise that this is a special thing, that I have appreciated more and more as time goes on…. Not every musician works in the way he does.
I think I have a sort of unspoken formula. The right people to work with aren’t always the “pleasant” people. I am really grumpy in the mornings, and the last thing I want is someone trying to jolly me along. The people I have enjoyed working with are perhaps the quiet and taciturn… And also people with dry, warped and slightly surreal senses of humour. They don’t allow me to take myself too seriously. They tease, and they are affectionately sarcastic. They are confident in expressing an opinion, and happy to listen to others and consider carefully. The people I like to work with are not necessarily like me, but if we value each other’s worth, that I think is the key. I don’t want arguments, competition, sulking, or egg-shell treading. I want to get on with it. I want to establish a means of troubleshooting before it is necessary, so time isn’t wasted, and I like a set of rules of engagement in a project, or relationship. Everyone has a right to veto if they feel strongly, everyone has a right to persuade if they feel strongly.
But a mutual support, and sense of what each person brings is crucial. Andy and Ian have different musical and lyrical strengths, and different personal qualities. They have been very kind and patient and encouraging with me. Over the last year I have performed more, and more confidently, because I know they’ve got me if it all goes pear-shaped.
Tuesday night was my first ever open mic night, at the White Lion in Walsall… They told me it would be fine, and I trust them. I trusted that they would not have chosen somewhere where I’d be likely to have stuff thrown at me. I trusted that they would choose somewhere where I would be able to sing, and be heard. We sang four songs and it was really good fun, most of the audience were performers, so again, a mutually supportive environment in a not terribly salubrious part of the Black Country!
Last night, a very exciting thing happened, we got ourselves a percussionist, the wonderful Lloyd McKenzie. What this means though, is that our rehearsal nights can no longer be acoustic. There are times, when Andy and Ian get a bit excited, that I can’t be heard… With Lloyd added to the mix, I stand absolutely no chance, so I’ll be mic’ed up from here on in. This is actually a good idea, as when I do perform live, it usually takes me a while to get used to how I am going to monitor my voice, and how I’m going to sound… I think being more familiar with singing into any mic is going to help. Percussion gives us a wider dynamic field. We can play/sing really quietly, but now also, we can drive it along with Lloyd, we now have greater depth of tone, a broader spectrum. I’m very excited to hear how the songs develop with this added dimension….
(If you’re wondering about the title, Lloyd tucks a couple of egg shakers down his socks while playing the cajon with his hands…. Of course!)
Enough words for now….
Time for a cup of tea and a piece of lemon shortbread.