Music is a side of me that defined who I was for much of my teen years; I spent years jumping from school band to school band. My creative side was my sole purpose in those years and probably kept me sane. Now though, it’s a side that’s very much neglected.
Playing guitar from the age of 12 probably put me at ease travelling through the social validation whirlwind that is high school. I pretty much played in a band with everyone in school. I wanted to play and I wanted them to play too. I forced people to be a singer or bassist or a drummer just so I write songs and jump around in the garage.
My proudest moment was when that school band graduated to an actual band and we performed in a variety of different events. We played live on the radio we support headline the Rhythms of the World festival and we recorded plenty of demos and EPs which handed out for free at gigs and made available online.
But then the band broke up. It was a strange rehearsal, we’d pushing to get into bigger things for 2/3 years and we just came in one day. The vibe was off and we just decided to call it a day, and everyone went their separate ways. It was the least messy breakup I’ve ever experienced in my life.
Not only that but my creativity stopped.
Playing guitar twice a week stopped, performing stopped, writing songs in my own time stopped. My creative tendencies became very insular and non-existent. It was hard for me to express anything via music anymore. In turn I became very withdrawn and my happiness depleted.
I drifted in and out of writing music, I wanted to write music for film for a long time. I managed to score to some short film projects, but they only came along once in a while and they were for fellow students in education. Most of the time was spent in the real world i.e. at 9-5 I hated, [ironically that job was in music].
Jump forward a couple of miserable musicless years and I started my degree, it wasn’t until I was in my second year studying that I picked up my guitar for the first time in 2 years probably. I decided I wanted to learn to sing, so I just taught myself with a lot of attention and developing my tonal ear I knew I could teach myself. I believe anyone can sing, but having a naturally good voice is different.
There I was strumming away and belting out some songs with the view of doing an open mic night at my local pub in Camden, London. 2 months of practicing and I got there, I realised it had been 4 years since I was last on stage performing. All the nerves I learned to embrace and push through were back. I was a sweaty mess and my hands were shaking (not useful for a guitar player).
There I was, next on the list and the sound guy introduced me. I picked my guitar up and aimed to play those 2 songs. Heading to the stage guitar, pint of beer and water bottle ready for the next 10 minutes of performance.
I looked into the bright solitary light, and started my first song. Strumming away, still shaking, still nervous but pushing through. I opened my mouth to sing the first line and it was bad, really bad my voice was shaking and my tone was off. But I carried on.
By the 2nd verse I’d managed to relax and realised I was really enjoying it. I felt every string and every note had purpose. Each word and line had passion that I was sing-yelling. But it hard feeling and I was loving it – this was what I had been missing.
I remember for a couple of weeks after the performance my brain felt normal I had space and freedom up there. It felt like the performance (no matter the quality) had altered my brain structure, I felt good for the first time ever.
2 months later, I submitted my application for the camp America program and was employed as a guitar instructor and band coach for the best performing arts camp in the US. I collaborated with many artists, and by the time my summer had finished I felt like a musician again.
In this time I was able to meet my amazing girlfriend where we collaborated on a duet that mixed modern dance and solo artist performance. But that’s not the end, we are still working together. I get to write music for her huge dance project I helped inspire. A dance project that combines psychology principles and creative expression through dance. I get to write the music for the centre piece of show. A terrifying and amazing task.
I wrote a piece of music last night, I scheduled in 2 hours so it coincided with the exact same time she was rehearsing herself. Despite being 3300 miles and 5 hours different, I felt connected. A new way to feel closer in a long distance relationship.
The piece I wrote made me feel human again. Those exact feelings after that open mic performance are back, but I need to consciously make them stay.
We live in a society that refuses to accept self-expression and this can be seen via constantly finding out about cuts to the arts industry, whether that’s theatre, dance or music. It’s never a priority.
When that belief is constantly forced on you, you start to believe that it’s not a priority yourself. You neglect where you came from and you start to accept your personal mould in society that sucks you in and represses you. It almost feels like society punishes you for being an artist and not fitting in. But there’s nothing worse than repression of feelings.
And that’s my aim, I won’t repress this music side. With the help of my girlfriend it will keep a float. Can I keep it going? I’m not sure. But you have to try, right now I’m enjoying writing and recording. It feels like the good old days, and I should probably start another school band right?
Here’s a video of how I came to love music again this summer:
Feel free to leave a comment about your struggles in keeping up your creativity.