Room to Breathe

As some of you know I’m currently working on a new album, a traditional folk album. I’ve loved folk music since I was a child. My Dad was always playing American folk, John Denver, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash to name just a few, and my guitar teacher was Irish and taught me jigs, reels and traditional Irish folk songs. My introduction to guitar playing was centred around finger picking lilting tunes. My voice was also trained with these songs. No surprise then that after 4 albums of self-penned music I would turn my attention to the traditional folk that had influenced me so much.

The first mission was a quest to find suitable songs. 20 emerged as favourites so I started recording in my usual way, laying down a guitar track, then a guide vocal, then layering other instruments, but three songs in and I’ve had to stop to take stock, to have a rethink. You see, when I write my own songs I have an arrangement in my head, as I place notes with notes, and words build I can hear the recorded version of the song developing in my mind. So when it comes to recording I pretty much know where it’s going from the first note to the last. But I didn’t write these traditional songs, so didn’t have that creative connection with them. I started the recording process in my usual way, and found that I wasn’t happy with the arrangements I had created (apart from Wild Mountain Thyme, but I’ve been playing that at gigs for a year, so did have a good idea where it would go as a recorded song).

So, reluctantly, I have gone back to stage 1, and just sat with the songs, playing them alone, listening to their melodies, their stories, and allowing them to live and breathe before they are fixed in the recording process. And the voices I’m hearing now are amazing – as if those unknown writers as singing with me, wanting their songs to be sung, for their tales to be told. It won’t be long now until I’m back in the studio, but for now it’s just me, my guitar, and the song, being free to roam, to breathe, to explore and build our relationship.


I could never resist, could you?

Imagine a Cauldron hanging over a fire, it’s in a small room, dark, the air smelling of rich herbs carried on the steam. The contents of the cauldron, bubbling, glimmering red, blue, yellow, shimmering with light, stirred by a youth whose attention is on other far-away things. The cauldron has been bubbling for a year and a day, and finally it is ready. Whoever tastes just three drops will know the secrets of all that ever was, is, and ever will be.

Would you taste from this brew?

Once a young boy did just that and he was hunted down by the Goddess. Shape-shifter was he, and She also, as they ran through the Realms of Earth, Air, Water and Fire, only then was he consumed by the Goddess Herself and reborn as a Bard.

Still interested?

I could never resist, could you?

How to write a song – The Muse

The Muse. The cause of the Fire in the Head, the Awen, Imbas, inspiration. A blessing, sometimes frustrating, often turns up late, at least in my experience, but what is it? The answer, as with anything metaphysical isn’t clear or definitive. The Muse can take many shapes, sometimes a feeling, sometimes a figure of myth, sometimes male, or maybe female, or neither.owl.jpeg

I found my Muse by accident. It was a close encounter with the Goddess Blodeuwedd, and you can read more about that here. She can be gentle, or a hard mistress, and I could never predict her arrival. It could happen anywhere – ideally whilst noodling on an instrument, but more often when I didn’t even have a pen, paper, or tape recorder to hand. In these instances I just kept singing the line/tune in my head until I was able to write it down, or record it. This wasn’t helpful…..

So I decided one day to make an appointment with my Muse…. I would be sitting with my guitar, pen and paper ready, at 10am tomorrow morning. I would start to write, and if she turned up, great, if not, I’d start without her. You see I love writing songs, and I want to write more often. I know some of you feel the same. I love the feeling of creativity, the flow of Awen. So the appointment appeared to be the answer.

Well, I was on time. I picked up my guitar, and began to play. At first just cold, cliched tunes, nothing to Fire the Head, but after about 20 minutes something changed – she turned up. She was late, some might say politely late, but here she was….. Imramma (A Soul Quest) was the result.

I’ve done that more and more since then. It seems that I do have to at least make the appointment. If I just sit down and play, more often than not I’ll walk away after enjoying a good practice session, but with nothing new. The appointment works. So if your Muse is often late/fails to turn up, try making an appointment and see what happens.

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