What a Week!

I can’t believe it’s Friday already (yeah, I know I keep saying that, but seriously, they go really lightning-fast at the moment).

So, in place of my cancelled Tune-A-Day June, I went for an 8 Day Sync Songwriting Challenge, organised by one of the agencies that deals directly with the film, TV and advertising industries, Catch the Moon Music, based in Los Angeles. Getting my work placed in visual media has been very much on my radar for a while, and it’s only a few days since I did a very useful seminar by another songwriter who does a lot of this.  8 days sounds so much more doable than 30 days at the moment!

The challenge is led by Cathy Heller, who started the Catch the Moon Music agency; I’ve been following her podcast for over a year already, because I’d heard about her success getting her own songs into sync placements, so when I saw the challenge, I jumped on the opportunity.  Monday was Day 1, so we’re already half way through.

Unlike the 30 day challenge, where I was trying to get one piece of music together every day, the 8 day challenge is all about getting one song written and ready to pitch for licensing in the timeframe, including research, songwriting, arrangements, recording, mixing and mastering. (They will listen to demo quality pieces at the end, but the full scale challenge task is to get something finished that is ready to use).

It’s taken me a few days to really get into the swing of the course and overcome the unexpected niggles that come with being a whole 8 hours ahead of LA, with course instructions for the day arriving based on LA time.* Once the research phase was done, I had a pretty good idea of where I was heading, though, so I had a bit of a catch up day yesterday where I more or less finished the songwriting part and got started on production and arranging. My submission will be a somewhat upbeat song about having been close to death (yes, really!) –  so it’s new territory in a lot of ways for me. I’ve taken a lot of the inspiration for the song from what happened to Dad last year.

One of the really great things about doing the challenge is the Facebook live videos Cathy has been doing, which give an industry insider perspective and are incredibly inspiring.  Sometimes that’s in a very-gentle-kick-up-the-backside kind of way, to challenge us out of any negative mindset we may be hampering ourselves with, because it’s so easy to slip into ‘I’m not good enough’ mode as a perfectionist musician.

In other news this week, Dad & I had a useful meeting with his PhD supervisor to work out how we go forward, as he is coming to the end of his leave of absence, and I’ve been preparing for him to come and stay for a week as soon as the songwriting challenge is finished. Plus, the Sleepwalker CDs I designed a couple of weeks back have arrived (and been checked) along with my first batch of Survival CDs, in time for my gig at Lincoln’s Sonophilia Festival on 14th October.

Next week, when Dad and I aren’t attacking a few of the smaller jobs that need doing around the house, I’ll be getting my Sonophilia gig ready. Plus, I have to finish the 8 day challenge and readjust my body-clock to UK time! But before that, the challenge’s ‘Monday evening’ live feedback session starts 2am on Tuesday for me. That’s the scary and important session where they tell you what they thought of your song, if you’re one of the lucky ones that get feedback, so it’s worth showing up for if I possibly can.


Playlist of the Week (2018/39)

Playlist of the Week (2018/39): Andy Salvanos's gorgeous Dreaming Instrumental collection.

This week, our POTW is Dreaming Instrumental, compiled by Andy Salvanos. Andy is a highly talented musician, as evidenced by his beautiful tracks Solace and Peace, which feature on the playlist. Born in Sweden with Greek-Russian-Irish heritage, and growing up in the US, Salvanos spent a decade in Los Angeles as a session bassist, before settling in Glenalta, Australia. He is now a highly respected solo performer at events such as The Adelaide International Guitar Festival and The National Folk Festival. Here’s an example of his work:

The instrument behind these sounds is a 10 string Chapman Stick (also available as a 12 string variety) . Unlike the better-known 12 string guitar, all the strings are played separately, not in pairs, so Andy’s fingers can get pretty busy as he creates his hypnotic tunes.

I’ve come across the Chapman Stick before – when Nick Beggs* was playing with Iona, this was his weapon of choice for the bass-lines – so I have always thought of it as a bass instrument. But apparently Nick was only playing half the strings on the Iona pieces: presumably because he wasn’t performing solo.  Andy’s self-composed solo pieces make full use of all the strings, so that he is effectively playing the equivalent of a bass and a treble guitar simultaneously. (For an equivalent solo piece from Nick, see here.)

Back to the playlist, before I get completely carried away discussing UK celtic prog rock!  It’s an absolute beauty: full of dreamy, evocative instrumentals that you can pretty much float around the world on, as you journey into different lands through ethnic beats and instruments and the cinematic feel of this collection of tunes that keep coming back to solo guitar (or stick).


*Iona fans will appreciate this Youtube clip I found of Nick playing Chapman Stick for a Magenta recording.

Playlist of the Week (2018/38)

Playlist of the Week (2018/38): r/DreamFolk_, curated by Tommy Wilson

This week’s Playlist of the Week comes from the recently formed “Dreamfolk_” community on Reddit.com.  There are some really lovely tracks here, mostly from artists I hadn’t previously discovered, like Ben Howard and Wilsen. To be honest, before I found this group (via the Indiefolk subreddit), I was unaware of the ‘Dreamfolk’ genre label, even though it turns out it’s entirely my kind of music!  (So many sub-genres, so little time, as I’ve probably said before.)

The list is quite short at present, weighing in at under an hour at the time of writing, but hopefully as the Reddit community grows, there will be new additions and further discoveries to be made.

Being Quiet about the Noise

It’s ages since I wrote anything about what I’ve been up to musically. Although I’ve been really quiet, I’ve been pretty busy, apart from when I was decorating a room at Dad’s house.

I thought at the start of the summer that I’d be doing another Tune-A-Day-June, but was feeling really burned out and decided not to go forward with it, because it gets pretty exhausting anyway. Instead, it’s been a summer of collaborations, starting with a single that I worked on with another producer I met on Drooble. That hasn’t come out yet, as there are some admin type things that need sorting out before it’s released, but it’s finished and ready to go when we are.

Then there has been a track I’ve been helping Matt Steady develop for his upcoming album.It’s my return favour for Matt playing pipes on Home to Roost. I’m not sure quite how much of the specific detail I am allowed to reveal here, so I’ll avoid giving too much away, but it started out with me being sent an Uilleann pipe melody – just by itself, apart from a sound effect that ran under it. I figured out some chords for it, added a beat and synths, then it has bounced back and forth a bit ideas-wise, with Matt adding more layers with various instruments, switching the arrangement up, and me commenting on progress. Along the way, quite early on in the process, it turned into two separate tracks, in order to incorporate more of the ideas for where it might go.  It’s looking like I will get a final stab at the track to push the synths further on, once the drummer has recorded real drums to it, now that the structure and arrangement of the piece is so much more fully developed. I’m really looking forward to being able to hear the final version & for it to be released.

Something else that has been happening is the remix I started doing for John Clark. I had a selection of possible tracks for remixing and couldn’t decide which one to go with, and started playing with several different tracks that John had provided the audio for. That indecisiveness meant it has grown into an EP project, with me doing some vocals on the songs, too, as John was quite keen for that to happen. That project is about half-way to two-thirds complete, depending on whether it grows again before it goes out!

There are a few more collaborative projects simmering as well, plus some tracks of my own I was originally hoping to release during the summer before I realised quite how burnt out I was after the album release. It’s looking like I’ll be doing well to get those out as an EP during the autumn at the moment, but let’s see.


Playlist of the Week (2018/37)

Playlist of the Week (2018/37): Into the Weekend, compiled by Ralf Dee.

This Monday’s Playlist of the Week is Into the Weekend by Ralf Dee. (Don’t be put off by the title, you can play it any day of the week you want!). This playlist is another by an indie artist supporting the broader community and features a wide range of styles and genres.

Ralf Dee is a folk/roots singer-songwriter / songwriter, based in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, in Bavaria, Germany. Although he is currently recording in German,  he has released two English language albums: Destination Unknown and Your Time Is Now and an EP, Just For A Little While.

After being asked repeatedly for German lyrics, he started writing in German at the end of 2014 and presented his first songs at open mic events in Bavarian cities. His first German-language album Glück Gehabt was released in Aug 2017. In addition to acoustic guitar and harmonica, he plays cajon with his feet to provide the rhythm section. His songs are miniature stories – often humorous – about quirky characters, traits such as greed and envy, global issues like climate change, or smaller, everyday problems.

His latest German-language single is called “Guilt belongs only to the others”,  released June 2018.


Playlist of the Week (2018/36)

Playlist of the Week (2018/36): Adra Sengué's Independent Vol. 1

This Monday morning’s POTW is another one from Adra Sengué, manager at the independent electronica label Rogalist Records, whose ‘lis’ playlist I featured earlier in the year.

Independent Vol. 1 consists of some very listenable electronica – and other genres – from a range of independent artists.  The clue is in the title, of course. The electronic sounds are  supplied by such accomplished artists as Dephinite, Spaceschneider, Bufinjer and Leg Puppy; on the rock and acoustic side, Levy, Crooked Cat Adams, Errol Chugg and Deleo are among the goodies present. Not to mention the pop sensibilites of Kristina Lachaga and Electric Casanova.  Like the earlier playlist, some of the electronic artists are from the Rogalist stable, but not exclusively.

NB. Please be aware that a small proportion of the tracks on this playlist carry the ‘explicit’ label, so this playlist is not suitable for play within earshot of children or bosses.