“One day, ill totally get found out”

I speak with a ton of creative lads and lasses from all over the world, and from all walks of life loving all kinds of music. The one thing that does unite us all im sure you’d agree, is the desire to say something in the language of music and tone, colours etc, and to convey.

The side of music which is divisive perhaps, can be the thorny area of how earnest the journey. What do i mean by that exactly? Well their are certainly layers to us all. We are all great big onions with many layers and we all have our base line of what we expect from a fellow creative spark. We are predisposed to judge or label before we do much else.

When we think of musician just as a noun, we are conjuring images immediately of someone playing a Violin, Piano, classical guitar, singing rather Operatically, enthusiastic and sometimes unlistenable folk instruments…..Thats how the mind works in the generalised sense.

When someone says composer, again you are conjuring up immediate images and forms.For me that one word makes me think of a frantic conductor, or a guy who just sits their grey haired and on the verge of a messy divorce, pen and pad, piano and lofty dreams.
So i guess i certainly feel a bit of a fraud so far so good!! And ive had some brilliantly funny exchanges with good friends who compose who will commonly use this saying in a chat,

“One day ill totally get found out”

I actually love that saying a lot, i honestly do.Perception is everything it really is. What you think you are to the outside world, the music, is often nothing like what it actually is.

The sheer amount of people who will often regard themselves with a low view, willingly sitting in the shadows of their colleagues and peers, idols even.The perception is often personally attained or you apply your own scars and cat tail lashes as required, thinking you aren’t as good as the next guy or the music isn’t very good and ….”one day ill totally get found out”…brilliant.

You have to wonder how and why we go through life thinking that way dont you?
What would make so many truly brilliant composers believe they are terrible and just a walking talking half baked entity on the verge of being exposed.
Is it the amount of education we have, or think we need? Is it the tormented and twisted path of disappointment a musician is supposed to go through which earns us our stripes?
How many times have you read the bios or soaked up someones hype and thought, “oh crap, ive literally switched on a computer and laid down some ideas”?

Everyone has their own story. Life as brutal and wild as it is, is unique for you, and the musical journey is just as relevant. The way you relate to picking up that instrument or connecting to a sound you heard, the way you patched a modular synth and leapt into the air realising no one will ever recreate that again.

Self belief is really the anchor for all we strive to do and i know i can say hand on heart, with my own journey, i have more often than not descended into  a spiral of doubt and bashed away my confidence. But i do know that i can and will succeed in everything i put my mind to. I always feel that in the deepest part of me, but the half dozen other layers which lie on top, always conspire to get in the way. They are the motivation absorbers.

Like shock absorbers on your car, soaking up the bumps and lumps in the road, their are parts of you, that react instantly to protect you and defend your castle. To the point of not letting in anything positive on occasion. Its a heightened defence mechanism that is in all of us, but perhaps we could argue, its more prevalent in a outwardly creative soul.
I most certainly think that is the case.

Nothing else for me, can explain why all manner of composers, from chancers like me, to guy and girls smashing very successful tv and film score, all feel brutally exposed and that one day we will most definitely get found out!

The music credentials police will eventually storm your bedroom, studio, facility and demand to see your papers. Your music degrees and your accolades, check you have assistants and at least 12 computers, can read the Rite of Spring through 1980’s 3D specs, and that you can proficiently quote at least 25 classical composers steeped in liquor.

The reality is, no one really has to explain how they got to where they are.You wont need a degree and you wont need to perform tests or produce shiny awards to validate who you are.The only way you get “found out”, is when you stop. When you listen to much to the critics, mostly yourself. When you are looking for a way out, you will find it if you dont dig a touch deeper.

Using technology, has been a dirtiest of words long before many composers were born. Many years before. As far back as i can recall, noses were upturned, you receive all kinds comments based on how much easier you had made the process. That you havent strived and some key short cuts have been taken. Even today, or maybe that should be, especially today, the critique can be as harsh as ever.
We have usable samples that can sound like anything you can dream of, opposed to the 8 bit crunchy cornflake word of 2 second grabs that you’ll lift from someone else and paste into a record. You can drop in phrases and loops, you can mix and master to such a level, that at some point in the process, someone out there will be wagging a finger of judgement because you failed to tick a crucial box.
Something you do will not please one person. Bare minimum, one person.

Ive heard so many versions of what is acceptable when doing all the work yourself. From those who will give you boundaries for how much work you need to be doing all the way to those who score for a movie, hire in orchestrators, arrangers, copyists, and a raft of project staff, who all have a lot of influence over the music to the point where it has certainly evolved and in some cases drastically changed from the original pen and paper grey haired guy stooping over the piano keys.
So this guy has worked hard but the end result has now morphed, albeit brilliantly so, into a lovely perfect piece of art. All because you have to embrace the collaboration of such a big project and process.
One could then ask, does hard work cancel itself out simply because you had so much help getting there? Are you more legit to do it yourself, or do we need to prove their has been an arduous journey to achieve the same things?

No of course not.

Its all self inflicted. 99.999% its just your good self who has so much doubt and questions about the legit side of what you say. From loading up synths patches, to creating custom sound banks and atmospheres, field recordings,experimental torture of a junk shop cello.
Its all good. On all levels. Ipad music apps, remixing tools, eBay circuit bent tech, your nans two tier home organ. Humming into your iphone, singing in the shower, picking up chop sticks and improvising a Steve Gadd drum solo before the number 47 arrives at the table.
One day, you will get totally found out, but for all the right reasons. Because you allowed yourself to be you.

 

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Life A Vs Life B

Ive decided to mark an occasion with a blogging tale. Well its a ‘nearly’ occasion and i spent all night just throwing it all around my head.
It dawned on me that, come October, that somehow I’ve managed to sustain this career in music full time, against the odds, and actually build something really tangible.

Whether that shocks you as much as it does me, is anyones guess but i for one am pleasantly stunned i made it out in one piece.

The reason im so shocked is because of how unlikely it felt getting to this point, and clouds of self doubt which had been a co – partner for a good 20 years prior to that.

My previous job was one id held for 5 years too. So i felt inevitably drawn to make comparison about how life had changed so much since those brave change over days.
The  career itself was born from necessity as is most job related trajectories for a good portion of us. I wasn’t especially well educated, that is to say, i did fully attend school, but failed to grasp any meaning or hunger for it as we approached those last few critical years.

Id decided, like so many, that i could just do whatever i wanted and somehow, it would all fall into place. Well it didn’t.

For some 20 years, i bounced from one job to another. Working in freight, it wasn’t very hard to find new work or new ways to do the same job, albeit with different people and new complaints.

My record for straight out employment had been 5 years. At that point, that magic number it seemed, i begun to itch. Its an almost ‘7 year itch’ of sorts and i never could shake it off despite any pay rises, or willing myself to see how important having a full time job is.

I dont want to paint a picture that makes me appear to be a lazy git who didn’t like commitment, far from it, id go to work and do the best i could, work as hard as i could and if possible, stay as long as i could to earn the overtime and pay some more bills.
And no, i was never fired or rebelled in any way. I just got stir crazy and had to make changes.
But their is only so many times you can change the wallpaper or paint, before it dawns on you its still the same room, the same place to do your thing.That you might need a hammer over a wallpaper scraper…..

5 years is a long time.

It can give you opportunity or lock you into something like a straight jacket and institutionalise you as so many of my work mates seemed to be under that spell.
Not for one minute do i judge or blame them for doing so, but it wasn’t what i wanted.

I did do something much different in the previous job which hadn’t happened before.
This time i wanted to advance and do better. Much better. So using every opportunity and  making my own luck, i did advance. Twice. In the same year in fact. Good solid pay rises and a position i really should have been in many many years prior, but the itch to change transformed into a feeling of ambition and thats not a sensation i had felt at anytime.

Well a bit of a white lie.

Having been in many working bands, written music from a very young age, i definitely knew a life of music was for me. But for so many of us, that ambition is cured from your bones and growing up in the 80’s, the typical fait accompli was to trudge your way to GSCE or O level, chose a solid trade or career and crack on for 30-40 years.You simply weren’t allowed to embrace any form of the arts or creativity and pursue that for any worth.

I was actually heavily berated in career talks at school for saying more or less, no im good thanks, i don’t wanna join the army or sit in an office, i want to be a pop star.
Well you do don’t you?.When i was 15, i was already rehearsing with a band twice a week, drinking like the best of them, and playing in front of a good packed club and then returning to school Monday morning to be told to aim for mock exams etc.

So where was i? oh yes, that 5 year thing.

Starting out in a new job is one thing, but a new vocation that is as alien as it can be compared to the last one, that feeling of complete discovery coupled with intense feeling of ‘what ifs’ and ‘i cant afford to fail’, had driven me like never before.
Its all new territory and i was just not equipped for that transition in my head, although in reality, like so many on the spot gun to the head moments, you just get on with it and the best parts of you come pouring out. And so they did and i guess its still happening as i type.
Its not easy writing for an industry that your peers will tell you in fair warning, it can and will consume you and spit you out leaving you disillusioned and accompanied by debt.
Its even harder when you are doing ok and you are told what you do isn’t important or what you bring isn’t changing the face of music as we know it. It did get bad at one point where id be fearful of expressing some ideas, or sitting alongside others in their domain, playing alongside Lions with only the same amount of Buffalo.

I think the first 2-3 years alone made me feel quite judged and i allowed all self doubt to creep in but thankfully not take hold. Id chase the gigs, the briefs and deliver over and over, with the client happy, but myself wondering if id let the critics in for too long.

When you embark on a big vocation change, you really are learning from day one and assessing where the land lies, who to speak to, who to avoid, what isn’t good for you and what is etc.
Its like first day at school feeling x 100.

This last year has been a turning point. I feel like it is my career, my vocation and its perfectly ok to say what you do for a living and not feel like a pretender or a hack.
Ive started to lift my chin higher and feel accomplished. Not in a ‘look at me’ way, but a ‘look in the mirror and see a successful chap’ and not groan wondering if ill get found out!

5 years is still a long time…..

But thankfully my curse of 5 years feels over.My itch to upsticks and change isn’t the same this time. My longing for new and exciting projects takes its place. You feel all kinds of hunger to succeed.When you do start to realise your doing ok, the foot doesn’t come off the gas, it lifts to shift the next gear.
To that end, i have simply not a single clue what will become of this journey if i can report back in 5 more years. All i can say with confidence is, hindsight is a bloody wonderful thing.
Im not so much a ‘if only i had’ kinda guy, but it feels more obvious now, that when i was kicking with both feet in my teens, thats the road i should have stayed on.
It sometimes just takes a big big chunk of ‘life’ to make you see their isn’t anything you cannot do, or the person you yearn to be. It can be a simple road, or one where you hitch hike all the way to the rest stop and sit for long enough to reassess and say you’ll head back off in other right direction this time.