Winter sun…

…is extra special because it’s unusual, it doesn’t come around too often. For lots of musicians, so are those gigs in which for some reason everything goes right – the crowd are with you, everything you play is picked up on, ideas are flowing, energy is everywhere. Extra special. Unusual. Don’t come around too often… Does it have to be like that though? Unlike the winter sun, we do have control over what sort of gigs we play, and also over what energy and attitude we bring to them. We have control over the people we play and work with, and the context in which we present our music. If you’re not happy with any of the above, change it. Step by step, gig by gig, until those gigs described above are the norm, not the exception. PS I know it’s not winter yet – this morning was just one of those mornings which reminded me of it!

Neven

I had the pleasure of playing some music at the launch of this man’s new book last night. In my eyes he is a role model, a hero to all creative types out there. Apart from his food, which underpins everything he does, I also love the messages he gives out. He is passionate about where he comes from, and demonstrates that by not only choosing to base his restaurant in his home town of Blacklion, but by hiring local staff and buying produce from local suppliers. He is committed to excellence but also reliability, to building a good reputation – one meal at a time. Neven is so consistent, even his name is spelt the same forwards and backwards. Yet he is not afraid to be creative with his menus and try new things. Finally, and to his eternal credit, despite working in an industry where rudeness and insulting behaviour is sometimes celebrated, he has proven you can be successful

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Keeping up…

The world marathon record was broken yesterday in Berlin by the Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge. He beat the previous record by over a minute, despite his pacemakers dropping out earlier than expected. He ran 26.2 miles in 2hrs, 1 minute, 39 seconds, averaging under 4mins 40 per mile. It prompted much awe and astonishment on social media yesterday, including some amateur runners trying to calculate for how long they could keep up with him. The vast majority of them would be left in his wake inside the first 500m, most of the rest in the first kilometre. And remember, that’s them at full, lung-bursting pace vs him at a pace that he would maintain for 42 such kilometres. The thing is, and amateur runners know this, that it’s better for you in the long term to run at your own pace than to try and keep up with someone else. It applies equally outside of running though. There is no need

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Charlie

There once was a redhead called Charlie. On the pitch he was known to be snarly. But he found him a bride, and with Aisling by his side – He now thinks he’s totally gnarly. The thing about making friends is that you firstly either have to spend lots of time with them, or else have some memorable experiences with them. And then staying friends requires a certain commitment on both your parts to make time to stay in touch. Charlie got married this weekend, and it was just great to be there for it. Because he’s a friend. Among other things, he has helped to change the course of my career, and has always had the courage to tell me honestly what he thought of me and various things I have done over the years. These are just some of the things that a good friend can do. Sunday is a great day to reach out to a friend.

Back to basics

I came across this band last night. They played jazz standards and did it well. I really felt like playing and so (somewhat cheekily) asked if I could get up and play with them. We did The Way You Look Tonight and Cheek to Cheek and I was in heaven. They didn’t speak English but we managed to communicate and it was everything that playing music should be. Fun, energetic, passionate. Sometimes it’s good to get back to basics. Just play.

Something new…

John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote almost 200 songs together in less than a decade. J. K. Rowling says ‘Sometimes you have to get your writing done in spare pockets here and there’. Dolly Parton writes every day – ‘in the plane, in the tub or on the bus’. When creating, you can’t always afford to wait to be inspired – sometimes you have to meet a deadline. And this makes it hard. Sometimes your thoughts won’t flow as you would like them to. If you’re struggling, here are some things to try… Sit somewhere different. Ask someone else for ideas. Read something. Use a pen and paper instead of a computer. Collaborate with somebody. Put your phone in another room. Go for a walk. Today’s blog inspired by these beautiful new surroundings…          

Give us a clue…

_ a _ a _ a. Imagine the above letters are written on a sheet of paper, and you are asked to fill in the blanks to make a word. I can immediately think of three solutions – a popular yellow fruit, a large desert, and a Japanese brand of piano. Three words that mean very different things, but are all ways of solving the problem. I’m sure there are many more of which I haven’t thought too. Now consider a different scenario. You have the same letters in a crossword, but also one of my three descriptions above as a clue. There is now only one correct answer. It’s like the difference between a Maths exam and an English exam in school. In Maths there is only one correct answer, in English there are many different ways of answering the question. Some people people like black/white situations, others prefer when there are more possibilities. There’s no point choosing a

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Rhyming

I love a good rhyme. Eminem is the king for me – check out this verse from Lose Yourself. “His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgettin”. You have the end-line rhymes of heavy, spaghetti, ready, forgettin’, but also sweaty and already from mid-line. Also the internal rhymes of palms, arms, mom, vomit, calm, bombs and on, and then nervous and surface. That’s 15 rhymes in 4 lines. Genius. Less dense rhymes can be just as effective though, especially if they are unusual. Here’s a great one from Joni Mitchell’s The Last Time that I saw Richard. “Richard got married to a figure skater He bought her a dishwasher and a coffee percolator”. The world of musical comedy is also full of clever, funny rhymes. Victoria Wood’s Let’s Do It is one of

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Birthdays

It used to mean a lot when you wished somebody happy birthday. It meant you had remembered. Now all it means is that you have been reminded. And when people are reminded to do something nice, more of them do it. And it’s lovely. But it’s harder to remember than be reminded. Facebook doesn’t tell you that you haven’t kept a promise to visit a friend, or that you have forgotten about that person who you told yourself you would check on in a month’s time. But that doesn’t mean you can’t remember to do so. And if you do, it will mean a lot.