Why estimate at all?

A colleague of mine recently told me about a gig he played, before which he underestimated the number of people who were going to be there. When he arrived at the venue, the size of the audience and the attention they paid him surprised him, and he told me that he would have prepared better if he knew the full story beforehand.


Overestimating an audience size can also bring difficulties. For example, if the crowd is significantly smaller than you hoped it would be, you will most likely feel disappointment – which may lead to a flatness in your performance.

The lesson – maybe there’s no need to estimate at all. Treat all gigs, all people, all situations with the respect they deserve. If you can give your best to each one, you’re less likely to be disappointed, surprised or caught unprepared.

Vicar St – Part 2.

I had an interesting day yesterday. I got a call late on Tuesday night asking if I would like to play a gig in Vicar St less than 24 hours later with a Scottish singer-songwriter – as support to Eddi Reader.

So yesterday at 11am I met Ross for the first time in Riverstown, and yesterday at 8.30pm we played 7 songs in front of 1000 people.

If I wasn’t a musician, I would be wondering how this happens – how two people who have never met before can play on a big stage like that only a few hours later. So while this blog never has been and never will be a diary, I thought readers may be interested in the various stages we went through yesterday.

So from 11-12.30 Ross played me his songs – live on guitar – one by one. I listened for the chords and made some notes, while Ross guided me through the structures of the songs and parts he wanted me to play on certain sections of each one. I knew I was in the presence of a serious operator by not only the quality of the songs, but the intensity he brought to each song – even though it was 11am and he was only playing them for me he performed them like he was in front of a paying audience.


We made our own way then to Vicar St – on the drive I listened to the studio versions of the songs on Spotify on repeat to get them into my head. I knew I wanted to do the gig without any charts so this step was crucial.

Once Eddi Reader’s band was finished their soundcheck, we got an hour or so on the stage, where once again we went through the songs one by one. By this stage I had committed them to memory as best as I could and did the soundcheck/stage rehearsal without charts, as I wanted a dry run in show conditions before doing the show.

Ross is energetic on stage, is authentic, knows how to connect with an audience, and in his own words, wanted to ‘smash it’ from start to finish.

I kept my eyes on him almost from start to finish, blocked the crowd out of my head (you can afford to do that when you’re not the one in charge of interacting with them) and with the help of some cues from Ross, his professionalism and the work we had done together on the songs during the day, we smashed it.


I was really impressed with Ross – as a musician, songwriter and a person. It was a great day – and we will hopefully get to play together again. His music is on Spotify under the name Blue Rose Code – and you can check it out here.



When you feel silly…

At about 6.30pm on the day of the recent Theme Night #22 in Vicar St, our soundcheck and rehearsal finished. I had a look at my phone before retiring upstairs for some dinner, and there was a text from a friend of mine saying she was on the road up from Sligo to the gig but had forgotten her tickets. Was there anything I could do??

We got her sorted, and she sent me a message a few days later saying she felt embarrassed having to text me at that moment after having made the fairly basic mistake of forgetting the tickets. I told her it was fine and not to worry about it, but there is a special feeling you get when you have done something silly like that, and it usually takes more than a kind word to get rid of it.

I know this now, because of something that happened last night. My car is sick at the moment, and so I have borrowed someone else’s car for a few days. It’s a newer, or ‘fresher’ (Sligo car sales lingo) car than mine, and the ignition key is not separate to the fob as it is on my keyring, but instead tucks nicely into it.

So I finished what I was doing, and picked up my keyring with the fob on it, but for the life of me couldn’t find the key. It was dark, so I borrowed a torch and searched the car, the carpark around the car, but no sign of the key. It was of course tucked into the fob the whole time, but it took the guts of 10 minutes for me to realise this, and man did I feel silly when I figured it out!

Forgetting a ticket, not finding your keys – these are fairly harmless errors in the greater scheme of things. But if instead of forgetting a ticket, someone forgets to carry out a safety check on an certain part of an airplane the one time it happens to be faulty (which can happen)….well you get the rest.

Everyone makes mistakes, everyone feels silly sometimes. If it happens to you, don’t beat yourself up – look at the bigger picture and have a laugh about it.

However it’s happening regularly, or your mistakes can lead to more serious consequences, then it’s time to start thinking about developing a system which takes out the risk of human error.


What if there is no deadline?

Most of us have no problem putting the work in when the deadline is clear. When the date of the gig is approaching, when the exam is tomorrow, when that presentation you have to give is looming.


But what about when there is nothing imminent? Or when your target is weeks or months away?

The final outcome could be so much better if you adopted the same working mindset now as you do in the final few days.

The blue tit and the robin

A century ago, in Britain and Ireland, milk was delivered to people’s doors in lidless bottles. Cream would settle at the top of each bottle, and two species of garden birds in particular learned how to siphon up this new, rich food source – the blue tit and the robin.


Between the two world wars, dairy distributors closed access to this food source by placing aluminium seals on top of each bottle.

Although some blue tits and some robins figured out separately how to pierce the seal and retain access to the cream, only one species as a whole learned how to do it.


Because robins are territorial animals – and won’t let other robins enter their territory, whereas blue tits travel in flocks, and hence knowledge spreads more quickly from one member of the species to the next.

Whatever about a robin in 1950, as a human in 2019 knowledge is available more readily than at any previous time, and it makes absolutely no sense to try and hang onto it for yourself.

Share it willingly and generously – you never know what cream you or someone else may get to taste as a result.

Being optimistic…

…takes energy, especially if you keep being hit with bad news.


Acting like you believe in what you are doing is difficult, especially when you may have some inner doubts.

Presenting a confident face to the world isn’t always easy, especially when you’re not sure you can back it up.

The thing is – these things are impossible to do all the time.

But they do make a difference – to the people around you, and more importantly, to you. Acting in a certain way can increase the odds of your desired outcome.

But pick your moments. You can’t do it forever.



Art and output

Last night I heard art described as something that is produced by one person and moves another. It struck a chord with me.

And the job of an artist to make art.

You won’t move anyone with your thoughts, your drafts, your unreleased songs, your sketches.

Produce. Output.

If you want to be an artist, it’s your only chance of doing your job.