Finding Your Music

Last week I listened to a hugely inspiring podcast from the Meet the Composer series. The Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho discussed her incredible development as an artist and the importance of what she called 'finding her music'. Kaija's cut a unique line through the musical world & continues to evolve, from early 80s acoustic electronics research at IRCAM in Paris in the days when you had to programme the computers & leave them to deliberate overnight to hear what kind of ‘beep’ resulted (!), to her intensely idiosyncratic use of instruments (worth checking out). I haven’t quite gone to those extremes yet, but when I started singing my own tunes with a guitar I quickly realised other textures, harmonies, & beats would float around my head like the harmonics that appear from the ether when you hear Mongolian throat singers. It felt like I was only getting part of the message across when I played, so over the past year I’ve been down the rabbit hole working on bringing those internal sounds floating about into my live music. Although sometimes hard to justify taking the time, hearing Kaija's interview as I'm coming out the other side has been really encouraging & I'm starting to appreciate how important it is to get this right. I’m properly bouncing about what's developing now- a real reflection of my own sound. Some of it sounds a wee bit like this (a sneak preview of new music coming out later this year)…

 *These podcasts are so good- really recommend them for anyone interested in trying to find an authentic creative path- http://www.wqxr.org/#!/story/kaija-saariaho-mtc-ears-open/ 

The Start

I recently supported the incredible band Cuz, & chatted to the legend that is Mike Watt. Yep, as in Mike Watt of Iggy & The Stooges, The Minutemen, & all round Bass philosopher of the ages. He was telling me how he writes a blog & keeps a diary, apparently to keep the old grey cells moving, though watching him tear up the stage with E-DA (ex Boredoms Japanoise/ Noiserock band drummer- & what a drummer!) & Sam Dook (of The Go! team) for this incredible collaboration I don't think he's got too much to worry about! Anyway, Mike's been writing for the past few years (his Cuz tour diary's definitely worth a read- http://mikewatt.com/hoot_cuz2015tourdiary.html ) & told me he kind of wishes he'd written stuff down in the early days too, though in amongst the madness I don't think it was much of a priority! 

So I'm jotting down some notes & documenting what it's like getting out there & showing total strangers what music's going around your head. And suddenly being surrounded by music constantly! 

Last year I moved back to Scotland after 7 years in Australia & kicked off playing my tunes to folk for the first time under the name The Woods. I used to get really freaked out if anyone heard any of my tunes. It's easy to feel self-conscious, but for some reason in the last year the self-consciousness has been replaced with a feeling of urgency. Now it's pretty much my only focus.  

I'm a massive music fan. I idolise a lot of music, musicians & things linked to music, so when I no doubt overuse superlatives in a really annoying way it's because I'm feeling pretty damn lucky to have shoe-horned my way into some of these situations!

Mental/ inspiring stuff from the past year-

Recorded my first EP at the start of the year with some genius musicians (including Ad Mack & Samson from Stanley Odd, & produced by Craig Ross from Broken Records) who helped me get some of the noises in my head out for the first time- was such a buzz! Released it in August & generally kept the EP pretty quiet trying to build a solid base of folk who enjoy the tunes, but it's been nuts that the likes of BBC Introducing on 6 Music & Jim Gellatly have both featured tunes from it. Pretty surreal to think back to earlier in the year on Portobello beach in Edinburgh recording waves with my wee digi-recorder for the start of Curly it would later feature on BBC 6 Music- ha!

Supported some incredible artists! Been so lucky to have played in support of so much interesting music, including Yorkston Thorne Khan, Cuz, & Merz. All these guys defy or create genres of music, which is something that's really important to me. I love seeing folk who just create what's in their head without any filters or blinkers based on fitting in a genre or meeting expectations. James Yorkston, Jon Thorne (Bass from Lamb among many other epic collaborations), & Suhail Yusuf Khan (incredible Indian classical singer & sarangi player) come from completely different areas of the music world, but together they've created simply beautiful music (& well worth keeping an eye out for their forthcoming album as a trio)! Similarly with Cuz (see above- What a combo!!), so unique, & a live energy like I've rarely seen, which is funny given that it emerged from a recording concept that was never intended to go on the road. & as for Merz, well I sat for nearly 2 hours after playing my set while he moved round different instruments & gizmos (maybe a bit too technical a word as one of these was actually a wee cassette recorder that Merz shook & moved to distort the sound. Like going for a run with a walkman- old school!) creating fascinating worlds intertwined with the most delicate, perfectly formed tunes. You get the idea. Pretty inspiring stuff.

Anyway, as the name of the ep suggests, this is just the start. This is the path I'm on from now on & can't imagine there will ever be an end to it, so I'll write again to let you know which way it turns next...

In the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh getting rewarded for taking a different path. Food for the soul.