How do you get your music heard?

When the concept and practices of agriculture began to spread around the globe, it happened faster in Europe and Asia than in the Americas. This is primarily because of the shape of the land masses involved. Europe and Asia are wider than they are tall, and hence the climate is more consistent along the entire breadth of the continent, and what worked for one farmer is more likely to work for his contemporary a few hundred miles away. The Americas are taller than they are wide however, and as a result – due to climactic differences, the habits of one farmer in one area of the continent wouldn’t necessarily work for another farmer elsewhere. Ideas spread more quickly when the circumstances are right. The same is true in music, especially when it comes to trying to get significant numbers of people to listen to your own original music. It’s a very difficult thing to do, so you need to make

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Flight delays…

My flight was delayed over the weekend. By almost 4 hours. And for all that time we were sitting on the plane (well 2 planes technically since we had to move from our original one when it was deemed unfit to fly) which in turn was sitting on the tarmac. It wasn’t very pleasant but it was one of those situations about which you could do nothing so we just had to grin and bear it. Sitting beside me was a younger man – maybe 30 or so. He had got the overnight bus to Dublin airport from Galway at 1.30am so was probably running fairly low on sleep. And on the far side of him was an elderly lady, also from Galway, who was finding the situation a little distressing. Anyway, as soon as we first heard the news that we would have to switch planes (about an hour after we boarded), this guy says to the two of

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Writing

In the summer of 2017 I was writing lots of songs, some of which found themselves onto the Our Place EP. Writing the melodies and chords came more naturally to me than writing the lyrics and so I tried various exercises to help me improve. One such exercise was to pick one word (or get someone else to pick it for you) and spend ten minutes writing about that word. About the way it makes you feel, about the associations you have with it, about how you might experience the word sensorily. I did it with a friend, and we would send the results of the ten minutes writing to each other each day, along with the word for the next day. We both really enjoyed the exercise – and although we only did it for 3 weeks, I have no doubt that it not only helped me improve at writing lyrics, but also to pluck up the courage to

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Did you hear the one about the three butchers?

Once upon a time, there was a street in a town with three butcher shops. The competition between them for customers was fierce. One day, one butcher wanted to steal a march on the others, so he put a sign in the window which said “Best butcher in Ireland”. The second butcher saw this and decided he had to do something to counter it, so he put a sign in his window which said “Best butcher in the world”. The third butcher, not to be outdone, figured he too should put up a sign. And after he did, all the people in the town bought their meat from him. It read as below. It pays to focus on what’s achievable for you right now.

An Táin

An Táin Bó Cualinge translates literally into English as “the driving-off of cows of Cooley” or more commonly as “The Cattle Raid of Cooley”. It is the title of a legendary tale from early Irish literature which tells of a war against Ulster by Queen Medb (Maeve) of Connacht. She intends to steal the stud bull Donn Cualinge and is repelled primarily by the young mythical warrior Cú Chulainn. She is reputed to be buried beneath a cairn at the top of the mountain (big hill) of Knocknarea, on the Coolera peninsula in Co. Sligo, and not far from the back of my house. I was looking out at it one day and had the idea for a project, and today is the culmination of it. The aim was to firstly educate a group of teenage musicians on the archaeology, mythology and geology of Knocknarea and its cairn (thanks to Auriel at Seatrails for this), and then for us to

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Working to a deadline…

I’m releasing a brand new track tomorrow. Well not just me – it has been written, recorded and produced in conjunction with a group of over 20 teenage musicians, 5 professionals and a skilled studio engineer in The Blue Room Recording Studio. The project has been funded by Sligo County Council through the Creative Sligo Open Call, and a video for it has been shot by KDM Productions. The thing is, we don’t have a title yet. And we’re still recording one or two small parts this morning (including a last minute bass vocal!). And the final draft of video still has to be completed. And I have to send my documents in this afternoon to make sure we get the funding. And I have a blog to write. But we’ll get it all done, and it will be ready for tomorrow. You’ve heard it many times before – there’s nothing like a deadline to focus the mind and to

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The problem with sheet music…

I saw a wonderful production of Sister Act on Sunday. There was a 10-piece orchestra in the pit and they were tight. This wouldn’t have happened without a really well written score – sheet music which enabled the musicians to play the right notes at the right time with the right velocity, and enabled the MD to conduct them in a helpful and effective way. When it comes to many styles of playing piano though, the sheet music you get for a piece can often be of little use, especially if you don’t want to play melody. Whenever a student comes to me with a new song, I ask them if they would like to play melody or play accompaniment. This can depend on the situation or circumstance in which they envisage themselves playing the song – i.e. is it with a singer or lead melody instrument, or is it in a solo situation. They are two different skills. When

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Name-dropping

I went to see another pianist play a couple of years ago. Now this guy has had the sort of career that most people could only dream of – playing with and writing songs for some of the most famous artists in the world. The thing was – he dropped so many names into his bits of chat between songs that if the audience didn’t know the above already, they surely would by the end of the night. And it took away from the music he played. Conversely, there is a fiddler that lives locally here in Sligo who has rubbed shoulders and played music with many of the same famous artists and more, but he would never mention it himself – you would only ever hear about it from others. And it adds to the music he plays. You play your best music when you are in the moment, connecting in real time with your fellow musicians and your

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Learn your trade.

I saw this piece of street art earlier today. It features some good advice from W. B. Yeats…which can apply equally to musicians. The first half of the quote tells us that to learn our trade, it pays to sing whatever is well made (i.e. as a musician – the stuff to which you enjoy listening, the stuff which you would like to be able to play). Sing it, play it, learn the chords, the melody, the phrasing, the solos you like, improvise over it yourself. The more you do of this, the more you will find yourself taking what you like, leaving what you don’t like, and hence forming your own playing/singing style. I don’t think the word ‘not’ should be there on Line 3 – hence it should read ‘Scorn the sort now growing up all out of shape from toe to top’. Here Yeats is disparaging of some more modern poetry, and is discouraging young poets from learning

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Making a place home…

Today’s blog is a little bit off-topic and Sligo-focused. My weekend started with a surprise visit from some friends from Dublin. They had been in Sligo town earlier that day and were asking me how the place is faring. A few visible empty premises in the town centre had given them cause to worry. I told them that actually there is a real buzz about the place at the minute but I just wish they could have accompanied me for the rest of the weekend so they could have seen for themselves. I wrote in yesterday’s blog about the play I saw on Friday night. Saturday night found me at the Chamber of Commerce Ball, where positivity and energy oozed from every corner of the room. And this morning I took part in a walk to commemorate the more than 600 Sligomen who died in World War I. Each of us represented an individual soldier who lost their life and

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