Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Open For Criticism

Here it is. I work every day in an job. I get up in the morning and get on the tube with thousands of other tired-looking commuters and stare at the free papers, trying to resist the temptation to correct the grammar with a red pen. I nine-to-five (thirty) and then leave.

Some days I am hungover and feel that I am going nowhere, that I will be sucked under by the mire of admin work. Maybe I will live out my days behind a grey desk, dreaming of music. Most days I don't entertain these qualms, though. Most days I just plan. In the last few months quite a few things I planned for last year have started to blossom, so I plan nowadays with renewed vigour.

Somehow this blog fits into that plan. For a while I have entertained the idea of this being a proper musician/struggling artist blog, where I post my compositions, stick up photos of gigs and really focus on gearing everything in my life towards my music. The only other thing I enjoy nearly as much as music is writing. It seems logical.

Only, of course, that's nothing new! That's been the plan for ages. Lack of web access, lack of time and lack of energy has forestalled it, but it is always lurking.

So I am going to start small. With an open list. People write open letters, so I am going to take that format, make it slightly less interesting, and write an open list. Maybe I want to prove that, all this time that I sit greyly at a desk, watching a computer screen flicker, I am simply gearing up to do something wonderful. Maybe I find it easier to process things when there is a 'publish' button to click. Or maybe (and this is probably the most plausible) I am just a incurable narcissist.

Whatever. Here is my open plan. Feel free to make suggestions, comments or criticisms. I mean it. I would really appreciate the input.

Writing (music) - I have been working on tracks that are entirely composed of layered vocals. The last one I did all the way through had fifteen different vocal tracks, which, although not all on top of each other all the time, more than fills up the space. I have started quite a few more, although haven't actually finished any of them. I want to experiment with different backing vocal styles, as well as explore my limits of the line between spoken word and vocals.

I am aiming to have three songs like this completed within the next two months. Completed enough to be able to take the tracks along to open mic sessions and play them while I sing a lead vocal over the top.

Performance – I am going to continue to go perform at the gigs I currently do, but also start going to more jazz jams. I have a list of about fifty jazz standards that I do, along with the keys in which I do them, so it really is ludicrously easy to go along and sing. Particularly when there are sites like this and this. I can't allow myself to whinge about how I have just worked all day and I'm tired because, idiot, the only reason I work all day is to facilitate my music. Man up, silly girl (is what I'll say).

Work with other people - I am currently working with one producer. This is fine, but I want to also work with live musicians.

Regular Gig - At a showcase I did in January, I got chatting to another girl who was on the line up as well. The gig was running late and it didn't feel much like anyone knew what was going on. We chatted about how frustrating it was to work to someone else's schedule all the time, and the lack of autonomy we both felt. I was surprised to hear her echoing my thoughts, as she is way cooler than me and, I assumed, above that kind of thing. We decided between us to start putting on events ourselves. As a way of providing ourselves with a regular platform, but also of developing our music and getting other people to come and perform. She's called Nyika and she is very cool. She's a bit older than I am, and those years have seen two albums and lots of experience. I'm at a bit of a loss as to what exactly I am bringing to the table, but I know I am not leaving it. We have already been to look at a venue, and are setting a date for the first of our monthly gigs. It'll probably be in June. Put it in your diary.

Internet - I want to have more of a web presence. For marketing purposes, obviously, but also just because I adore the Internet and want to do more stuff on it. Musically and writing-wise. I want to put my songs and plans up to invite opinion, as it can be quite exhausting thinking on my own all the time.

So, do you have any ideas? Insights? Thoughts are welcome. Maybe this is my real reason for posting an open list. I know this list. To me it is old hat. To other people, though, it might be new and it might inspire ideas. I would like to hear those ideas. Very much.


Blogger nuttycow said...

Oooh, open lists. I like lists. I think your list is good and I'm afraid I can't offer much insight. I can offer you support though. So here it is.

*proffers the large post cunningly hidden in her handbag*

It's a post. Lean on it. While you're taking over the world. Or sumsuch nonsense...

PS Don't give up the writing though, whatever you do.

5:42 pm

Blogger Clarissa said...

Do you know Peach? Her blog is peacharse She is funny and nice and has a good friend (Daren) who is a musician. He does gigs all over and has a website and maybe he'd be someone you'd want to stalk on the internet for a while to see if he's someone you could learn from , make contacts etc etc. You probably already have tons of contacts anyway ... but you are in a world far away from me. I'm impressed.

8:05 pm

Blogger Boy said...

Good list, it's good to see you have a plan. I'd definitely say go for it with live musicians; A lot easier to make an impact than in acoustic. I'm moving down in July so if you haven't got a drummer sorted by then, you know where I am :D.

The idea of the vocal tracks sounds fantastic, I'd love to hear them :).

As far as gigs, promoting is an arse I can tell you! But again, I'm aiming to set up a band night when I move down, so you're down on the list :D.

10:24 am

Blogger Ian said...

I popped in from Peach's War Child list.
When I was younger I was lucky enough to blunder (by luck rather than talent) my way into a tour where my band supported a well known band on a european tour. It was quite sad as we were never looking for musical careers but we were in the right place at the right time and I think that is important.
Get out, be seen, be heard but more than anything else when you do these things enjoy it. The reason we got the tour was that we enjoyed ourselves and that came over and won us the gig.
I have a friend in LA where everyone wants to be a star. They have a lot of gigs and nights that are organised by the performers themselves, they ask their family and friends to buy tickets to come and support them, they get the practice and experience they need in front of a variable audience, they mix music with comedy and improv, they have a great time and get heard and seen. But more than that, now and then one of them gets talked about and then someone else comes to see them and things happen.
I only spent a little time in the industry and I only have one decent contact still in it, but he says the internet doesn't sell talent. It is just too crammed with dross and like looking for a needle in a haystack. His view of myspace is "a bunch of musicians patting themselves on the back in the hope that they will get patted too" For him talent is still sold in a live show and the gritty realism that goes with it, and he enjoys that more than trawling web pages.

10:59 am

Blogger Léonie said...

NC - Oh thanks! That's a nice post! I like the pictures of kittens thoughtfully taped to the side. I won't give up writing, thanks for saying that. It's all part of the grand plan...
I think it might be time for a "taking over the world" laugh:

Clarissa: Thanks, I have hung out at Peach's blog a bit. I will certainly check him out, one can never have too much dialogue with other musicians!

Boy - Oh, I always have a plan. Sometimes I even implement my plans! As for the acoustic question - my experience has taught me that it's best to do everything, as what works for one person won't work for the next, and it's important not to be limited by preconceptions of what might be popular. Definitely get in contact when you come down and we can do some musicking. What style of drumming do you do?

11:06 am

Blogger Léonie said...

Ian - Hello! Yes I can completely see what you're saying. I hate myspace - interface it's a needlessly complicated interface and the whole place is teeming with angsty teenagers trying to be alternative. Don't you think, though, that if someone likes something they hear they will immediately type it into Google? People often forward on links to good music websites between one another - there's no denying that unless you have web presence people will forget about you. Brutal, but true. The talent, the offline presence and the gigs need to be there as well but in terms of promotion and maintaining interest the internet is invaluable.

I think that gigging and creating your own platform is so important now that the industry is so flooded with wannabes (I count myself, of course, among that number). I think that people are looking for a scene to be part of, a collective. The success of nights that fuse music, cabaret, theatre and art is testament to the fact that people are looking for something to be part of, not just to listen to alone in their bedroom. I also think that the Internet plays a massive part in the re-birth of the need for community.

You are one of those people who happened to be "in the right place at the right time", then? Wow! I thought you were just a myth! I have given up on that concept, as it seems to me that, like most things, musical success is about tenacity, innovation and passion. Oh yeah, and talent.

People like to think the whole thing is about chance, but it isn't. I am absolutely, one hundred percent sure of that.

11:24 am

Blogger Léonie said...

I also don't know why I typed the word "interface" twice. How peculiar of me.

11:25 am

Blogger Afe said...

Thanks for visiting my cruddy song blog a while back. I had some server issues which meant my songs disappeared but I'll be putting the MP3's back up tomorrow.

I really enjoy recording music, it's so satisfying. Have you got anything recorded?

10:56 am


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