So my latest album – A Year of Wednesdays – comes out next week. I wrote about the back story of the album in a blog recently here. And while the initial plan was to release the album next Wednesday, as would seem appropriate, I have had a change of mind. Because I’m a believer in the power of live music. While being proficient in a studio is no doubt a skill in itself, for me you just can’t beat playing something live or seeing something live. It’s just more real, more authentic. There is less room for manouevre, fewer ways of making something sound better than it is, more room for collaboration and improvisation, and more potential to connect with your audience. And so next Friday’s launch gig in the Hawk’s Well Theatre will now not only be the only time you can hear any of the new music live in 2019, it will also be the first time
This morning I met a group of men who saw the below poster and decided to come along. People who for various reasons were going through a tricky time in life. We spoke about various issues and I played a few requests on the keyboard. The highlight of the morning came when I asked the participants to talk about something in their life that used to give them joy but isn’t part of their life any more. And one man spoke passionately about attending motor rallies. About how a gang used to go but now that his friends are all married with children and mortgages they don’t any more. And so he doesn’t either. But he spoke so passionately about it. About the Mark Two Escort in his uncle’s garage that made him fall in love with cars in the first place. About the rallies themselves…the cars going up on two wheels, the screech of tyres, the smell of petrol.
We all make many transitions in our lives. Some examples below. Leaving school and going to college. Leaving college and choosing a career. Becoming a parent. Ending a significant relationship. Leaving one job to start another. Experiencing the death of someone close to you. They are often difficult times for people, whereby letting go of the previous phase and adjustment to the new phase takes longer than we hoped. There is sometimes a seemingly unproductive time in the middle of these transitions where we can feel emotionally unconnected to our present surroundings. It can be tricky. So acknowledge this. Accept what’s going on and give yourself some leeway. It may not be the most prolific time of your life but that’s OK. And if you feel like it, maybe read this book on the subject – it’s full of great insights.
I often show students this video – where Australian comedy rock band Axis of Awesome demonstrate cleverly how dozens of pop songs not only use the same four chords, but use them in the same sequence – specifically 1 5 6 4 and 6 4 1 5. Let It Be, No Woman No Cry, With or Without You, Don’t Stop Believin’ – many huge hits are included. This fun video is backed up by some research done here, where the author analysed the chord patterns from 1300 hit songs from the US Billboard 100 Chart and comes to the conclusion that the pattern 1 5 6 4 is the most used. But you can use the data in a fun way to find out other interesting chord similarities between songs. For example, if you change the order of the four chords used in the video above to 1 6 4 5, you get the chords used in the verses of
Are they the enemy? I remember in 2015 much criticism heading in the direction of the Cork Opera House when they axed the house band in favour of pre-recorded backing tracks. And I have certainly been in company with some professional musicians who look down their noses at singers or instrumentalists who use them. Without commenting on individual cases, there certainly are economic reasons to use them. And logistical ones. I am yet to meet a singer or lead instrument player who says they prefer being backed by backing tracks than by a good live band, but that doesn’t stop some people using them when they feel they have to. Our new friend from last Monday’s gig in Connolly’s, Tibor Bana told me that night that he got a great kick from performing with live musicians because he usually plays with backing tracks. Some people may sneer. But he’s hardly going to hire a band, or indeed a string quartet
It’s not. Never. When creating, over-reliance on knowledge or theory ahead of your heart or gut can lead to formulaic produce. Hence it’s important to the get the balance right. But it’s not the knowledge you have that stops you doing that. It’s something else, often fear. The more knowledge we have, the better a position we are in to create something great. So it’s always worth seeking out more.
A friend of mine once told me to make a good poster you need to clearly convey 3 things. What is happening. When it is happening. Where it is happening. Add a strong image to underpin this and off you go. Everything else is superfluous. Hopefully he would be happy with this one. Thanks to Steve Rogers and Daithi Turner for the pic, Nigel Gallagher in the Hawk’s Well for the poster design and to Tiger Print for printing them for distribution. I wrote the first draft of the setlist for the show this morning, and even with the experience of doing many shows in the Hawk’s Well over the years, this one is a bit scarier – firstly it’s my own music, and secondly I’m doing more on my own than ever before. But it also brought excitement – because while there will be some stuff stripped right back, there will also be plenty of big uptempo fun numbers
And no it’s not April 1. But my wife (who recently decided not to run for a particular election) was told today that there was strong word going around that I was going to take her place. Honestly, it was funny to hear it. But sometimes people spread rumours about others that aren’t so funny. And it’s not so easy to laugh those ones off. But the thing is – for every rumour you may hear about yourself, there are probably 5 other ones out there that you will never catch wind of. As humans, we like to talk about others – about me, you, them, everybody. So what can we do about these rumours, hurtful or otherwise, that may be out there about us? Absolutely nothing. What other people talk about is not in our control. Only how we act is. And I am happy to report tonight that my actions over the next while will not include asking
Everyone loves a good story. In fact I read the other day (not for the first time) that using stories in your writing will help get your point across. So here’s my story for today… I wrote a blog a few weeks ago about how we all can miss out on all kinds of beauty and wonder. About how our minds can sometimes be closed to it when it appears in places we don’t expect to find it. Specifically about two violinists. One who knowingly took part in a social experiment in a tube station in Washington DC, and one who busks sometimes outside Tesco in Sligo on a Saturday. Thanks to some kind blog readers, I found out that the second violinist’s name was Tibor Bana and I got a phone number for him. So I rang him and asked him to play with Seamie and I last night in Connolly’s. Steve Kohlmann (drums) made up the quartet, which
The first band I was ever in in Sligo was called The Odd Couple. We played jazz covers of theme tunes. We did them all – The Simpsons, Hill St. Blues, M*A*S*H, The Flintstones, Mannix (a particularly challenging one). We even did a 7-piece Sporting Theme Tune Medley, made up of the theme music from the likes of Match of The Day, The Sunday Game and Grandstand. Because the theme tune of a TV or radio show is crucial to the success of the show, people put a lot of time and money into either writing something original for the show, or choosing an existing tune that will work. You want something instantly recognisable, easily linked to the type of show it is. And so you often end up with great pieces of music. Someone like Mike Post made a career out of it – he wrote many themes, including the theme tunes to the aforementioned Hill St. Blues, The