Hold fast, hold tight – everything will be alright!

I slept for 10 hours last night out of pure exhaustion, waking up to a feeling of “this can’t be happening”.

I’ve been through some ups and downs in my freelance career and have come back from the brink several times. I’ve had record deals offered that fell through, jobs promised then pulled, a band that I managed fell apart leaving with me a debt of 21k. I remember being so poor that I couldn’t afford the bus fair to work and was counting out coppers from our penny pot. I’ve had a long term eating disorder, anxiety, loss of confidence – all of these things I’ve worked through and come out of. I remember not being able to feel happy for friends that were getting married, having babies, buying houses. I thought “this will never happen for me”.

The last two years however, have felt buoyant – the musical that I left a steady job to write has been coming along, I’ve taken risks that have paid off, and have been feeling more creative and more level in general. I have built up a thriving client base of London students – some came as a result of me grafting and promoting myself, some were loyal students I taught back in my college days, and more recently students being personally recommended, which is a lovely thing. It felt that I had found “my people” and I have been really happy working in this environment. I have also managed to put aside a small amount of savings that were going towards a first time buyer’s ISA. I’ve attempted to do this once already, but had to take the money out to pay for a family related emergency.

I’ve learned not to count my chickens before they’ve hatched, and always feel (however balanced I am) that the rug could be pulled from under my feet at any given moment. This has yet again proven to be the case with the recent outbreak of Coronavirus. You never know what is around the corner, sometimes it’s a career defining job offer or sometimes the roof falls in. I have been in a state of anxiety (as I know lots of people have) – the dramatic scenes of theatres closing, contracts being pulled, people being made unemployed. I felt overwhelmed, sick, shaky, couldn’t think straight.

This morning I woke up feeling emotionally exhausted but mentally OK. So much of what is happening is out of my hands. I can only do my best to stay afloat, stay down South as long as possible, hang on, sit tight, and hope that this boat rights itself. The reality is, that no one knows how the landscape is going to look in a few months time. I don’t know if I will still be in business, or if I will be having to uproot my family and move back up North. I don’t have anything to fall back on. I don’t own anything (apart from a 10-year old Micra lovingly known as The Chariot) oh and a Kawai piano (gotta get your priorities straight!). My small amount of savings will be put towards living, feeding my family, rent and bills, and then I will no doubt be borrowing money to stay afloat. I’m wondering how far down this rabbit hole we all will have to go before we can breathe again? Funny how the mundane normality of the life that once was, now seems so attractive. What will the new “normal” look like?

In the meantime, I am going to try to continue to nurture my soul, write, play the piano, sing, ride, spend quality time with my family and breathe into the situation. I don’t want to feel that my day to day happiness is dependent on a future that is as yet unknown. Thinking too far ahead serves no real purpose, and what will be will be at the end of the day. At least I’ll go out galloping through a field on horseback, singing at the top of my lungs!

Moving Forward

Moving Forward

4 years ago, I hit a wall. It’s the second time as an adult that this has happened to me, and both times it has felt insurmountable. I seemed to have lost all belief in myself and my abilities. I had a tiny glimmer of a spark, but it felt far away, distant and out of reach. I remember talking to a lady who does reiki and things like that, and she asked me what was holding me back? I couldn’t answer.

I was working in a teaching job at the time, I had been in for over a decade. This job came as a result of burnout from working in the city, running my own agency, “living the dream” and trying to convince myself that I could work in a high pressure marketing job. The jobs in the city were as a result of hitting the first wall with my music career, so I felt a million miles away from what I had originally embarked upon.

In this second wall hit, I was looking at friends and their successes, watching their lives coming together. It seemed that they had the answers and I didn’t – that they knew how the play the game and I was there flailing around, with no sense of direction. I felt numb but overwhelmed, and with no belief that my situation would change.

This small spark, that the reiki lady had helped me identify, kept glowing. I started to feel an urge to create, to make something, and instead of shutting this down, I tuned into it and began to write. I started slowly at first, dipping my toe in the water, feeling overwhelmed to stop, but I kept going. I played my partner (who is a songwriter / producer – no pressure!) one of my ideas, preparing to be crippled by searing insecurity by how shit it was, but instead I felt strangely centred and energised – still nervous, but like I was tapping into something good. I pushed on. Lots of ideas came and went – like bubbles forming and bursting, many of them were never finished. I was reminded of a song I wrote years ago, which I was never happy with but that I liked – a song called “In Your Eyes”. I still felt it had something, but didn’t know at the time of writing what it needed. Now I did. Finishing this song was really bloody hard however. I had no confidence in my ability to finish something, I doubted my choices – should I use this lyric? Should I change to this chord? Is this just embarrassingly awful? What is the point? But I carried on. My partner helped with one line that I was stuck on – even allowing his input was hard – did this mean that I couldn’t finish something on my own? Was I weak? Not talented? A joke? Seriously – the amount of negativity in my head was overwhelming. But, on I pushed. The songwriting continued and the song was finally finished.

Writers talk about the importance of finishing stuff – yes indeed. Finishing this song (even though it is being reworked again now), was super important and gave me confidence to continue writing. Knowing that I could finish something, that I still had the ability, that I wasn’t a total failure, was powerful and gave me just enough energy to keep moving forward.

Sing For Yourself and No One Else

Sing For Yourself and No one Else

Had a fantastic performance workshop with the Broadway composer Adam Guettel in June of this year. He was inspiring and VERY experienced, and reconfirmed something that I have felt for a long time, and feel evermore passionate about now. “Sing for yourself and for no one else”. What does this mean exactly?

Well, singing for me, was and still is a very personal experience. I used to sing as a kid without even knowing I was singing – I’d hum along to things, making up my own tunes, soothing myself, singing when I went out on a walk, singing whilst skipping etc. I didn’t know that this was a “thing” or that anyone would judge me for it or that it had any particular value. I just sang because I sang – similar to speaking really. Somehow along the way, this came into focus and I found myself starting to place value on how and what I sang. I remember going to a local dance school and students there were getting solos and performing songs in front of audiences. This felt like a strange concept to me – I never thought that I could sing, so much as I just did it spontaneously, I suddenly started to question the value of what I was doing, why I didn’t sound like the other girls and if I was doing something wrong. Quantifying a thing that is so personal, felt strange and unnatural. 

In this current climate of singing competitions, qualifications, grading, there is so much sectioning off, measuring, quantifying, valuing, exploiting, shaping, moulding, quaffing, messing, it’s hard to remember why you got into performing in the first place. Everyone has their reasons but there must have been some joy in it initially….

If you choose to sing in front of people or not, that joy and self expression has to have a place there. The connection firstly needs acknowledging, nurturing and forming with yourself, like a bond, like your closest friend, like delving deep into yourself. Even if you have sung the same song a million times, this can still be there. If you make this connection with yourself, I have a feeling that this connection will then be seen and felt by your audience – whoever they may be. If they like and respond to what you are doing then great, what a bonus. If they don’t, then hey, you have lost nothing. You STILL have your connection and your centre. Perhaps you could be that one constant and reliable source in a room of strangers? Perhaps, even in a pressurised audition situation, you could somehow connect with that very personal part of yourself and dare to show it? Dare to go there? It takes guts though, believe me, but what’s the worst that could happen? It would be great if we all really didn’t give a shit about what other’s felt or thought about us. I love that idea.