Music has always been a thing for me. It has been one of the only things I’ve ever really been good at, or at least has come naturally to me. Both of my parents are musicians and I performed on stage whilst in the womb!
I did an interview on the radio a few years ago and when I shared this, the interviewer was unsurprised that I had followed this path and found the whole situation to be a “classic rock and roll story”. Perhaps, haha!
Although my parents split when I was a small child, my passion for music became apparent to both of my parents fairly fast. My dad bought me my first acoustic guitar and my mum bought me my first electric guitar before I turned 10 and I put almost every spare moment into teaching myself and writing my own songs. I’m not quite sure why my dad never taught me guitar as a child, I always asked, but he seemed to be resistant, making comments that were along the lines of “I don’t want you to enter into an unstable industry where you never know when you’ll be paid from one week to another…” As I’ve gotten older, I can see where he was coming from – Music isn’t an easy access path into financial stability of any sort, really. But, as a child, all I interpreted from that was “you aren’t good enough to play music and i don’t want to help you”. This definitely had a huge impact on my self-esteem. Anyway, I worked my ass off trying to write my own songs, to sound like my favourite artists at the time (Nirvana, Hole, Tori Amos…things my mum listened to a lot, I was a 90s baby!). I made a decision that THIS is what I wanted to do and creating a good song was worth everything.
Fast forward to now, I’m gigging, studying Music at my dream university and releasing music online regularly. I feel so lucky to be able to pursue these things and that I followed my instincts (eventually!) – I had previously fallen into a fear when I was finishing school, where a lot of my teachers advised I should do my A-Levels, I was never accepted onto any music A-Level courses (apart from Music Technology) as they were classical courses and I was “too contemporary”. This really hit me hard because I really wanted to continue my music studies and felt that I couldn’t anymore. My teachers told me that I should forget about music and focus on something else, instead. So I threw myself into other subjects that I also enjoyed (English Lit, History, Politics and Drama) and whilst these were interesting to me, particularly English, something was missing from my life. After being rejected from those music courses, I stopped playing guitar and singing, even in my personal time – I started to think that maybe music wasn’t for me at all and I had made a huge mistake in pinning all of my hopes onto it.
This made me feel very low emotionally and I made some unhelpful choices for myself. My mental health got so bad that I ended up at my first round of CBT and figured out that music was too much of an important part of my life and without it, I was miserable – I was going to have abandon my A-Levels and try out for a BTEC in Music. THIS WAS THE BEST DECISION I EVER MADE. It was a turning point in my life as I was able to return back to the studies that I had originally wanted to pursue. I began doing open mic nights at my local pub and building friendships and connections, a lot of whom I am still in touch with now. I was offered gigs and places to record, as well as a safe place to learn how to perform.
Performing isn’t my favourite thing to do. I prefer recording and writing songs, but I know that performing is kinda part of the game and I play as much as I can manage! One of the things that I have noticed after a few years of playing live is how much people make assumptions about you before they have spoken to you or heard you play. There have been some gigs where I have been warmly welcomed and audiences respond well, but, there have been just as many where I have been laughed at, ignored, shouted at, been called names and my favourite; told where I’m going “wrong”.
“Why don’t you write happier songs?” took me by surprise the first few times I’d heard it at different gigs. Fun fact: I was fired from a covers song performing job because I wasn’t upbeat enough! I had never considered that my writing or sound was anything, really – it was just something that came out of me and I had no control over it. However, I began to obsess over it and tried to think about the songs I was writing in more detail, changing certain chords and singing in different ways with lyrics that could be regarded as “happier”. I think I drove myself insane for a good year doing this. Nothing changed, btw. People then started to point out that I apologised on stage too much, didn’t move enough, didn’t have a band…I was doing it ALL wrong. I still experience this, often. I must note that I do have just as many wonderful people who show their support all the time for my work, however it changes and morphs over time and for that, I am stupidly grateful and lucky.
After some time away from performing for about a year, I wanted to try and kinda “find myself” musically and explore other things that interested me. Part of that exploration was accepting the kind of artist and performer I was and that IT WAS OKAY.
Its ok that I choose not to have a band right now.
Its ok that I write about the themes that I do.
Its ok that I’m not a “riot girl” (long story, for another time!).
Its ok to sound the way that I do.
All of it is ok. And thats where I am with it all right now. I am who I am and I’m going to stop trying to get validation from audiences, tutors, random online interaction. I validate myself. I am free and I can do whatever I need to do for me.