I cannot believe its been ten months since I started this blog.
I know it would probably make more sense to review my progress after a full year; but I figure that by taking stock now I still have two months left to wrap up any unfinished goals, and hopefully I can be pleased with what I’ve achieved in year one. Its been tough, its been intense, and its been unexpected. Let’s cast our minds back to May of last year and see what’s changed.
The first thing I mentioned that needed doing (in my second entry) was getting an EP finished to sell/give away at my gigs. This is so very nearly complete now – I still need to record vocals for one more song and then add a few harmonies/EQ levels etc. It would have been done by now but I have to rely on Laurence Howell’s free time. This is no fault of his – he’s an extremely busy guy and has recorded me for free. It just means that unfortunately a 4 track EP has taken almost a year to finish. My next recordings will be done in a studio over a weekend, and I’ll be paying for it. I already have it planned out – its going to be called ‘Everything Is Not Ok‘ and will feature four of my more negative, soul searching songs. The current EP is pretty upbeat and bouncy, so this will be a nice contrast. So, I have eight weeks to finish this current batch of songs before the first year is up!
Next up – I needed to fix my physical appearance. This proved extremely hard for the rest of 2016, partly down to ill health, partly down to bereavement, partly down to depression, and also due to my own laziness. The good news is that I have made up for it (and then some!) so far in 2017. I have managed to go to the gym three times a week; doing over an hour of intense cardio and also weight training each time. At first it was disconcerting to weigh myself each week and not see the scales go down by more than one or two pounds – I’d never done weight training before and wasn’t used to the fact that I was replacing fat with muscle so staying pretty much the same weight. Three months down the line though, and the change in my physical appearance is really exciting. Most of it can probably be put down to the famous ‘newbie gains’, and around about now I’m going to see the changes slow down, but my before and after pictures are pretty astonishing so far. I’ll share them at some point, but not just yet. I’ve also been eating 1700 calories a day, a lot of which is fruit, vegetables and healthy meals. For pretty much the first time in my adult life I’m in bed at 11.30pm, up at 7.15am, and drinking eight glasses of water a day. My Irritable Bowel Syndrome is gone. Some of my old clothes fit me again. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I feel pretty good physically. Also, crucially, I’ve ditched the smoking again.
I also needed to learn how to drive. Believe it or not I still haven’t passed my test – I’m now at the point where I’ve been learning for two years and know everything I need to do, but I have a borderline phobia of driving that I can’t seem to shake. Still, my theory test expires in May so I need to take my test before then, otherwise I’ll have to take the exam again. I do not want that! I’m going to book it in this week and just go for it. I’ve got nothing to lose.
The fourth goal is by far the hardest thing to achieve – the ongoing fight for better mental health. If you’ve been following this blog over the last six months then you will know just how much negative external shit has happened to me – the death of two grandparents, the suicide of a friend, two bad chest infections, torn ligaments, band members leaving, and globally the double whammy of a UK Brexit and Trump’s presidency in America. All of this has not been conducive to a happy mental state. And as I predicted in one of my earlier entries; there have already been times where I have wanted to give up. I’ve listened to my tracks and hated the songs. I’ve hated my voice. I’ve had my confidence knocked by people leaving my project. I’m also still wrestling with the feeling of just being ‘left behind’ in general. At last count, seven of my friends are now pursuing success and happiness in other countries. I now have another local friend who has gone up in the music world – the guy who produced my Red Dust Road EP is now on tour with Rag N Bone Man! This week alone he was first in New York, and then in LA for the Ellen DeGeneres show. I want to make it clear that I don’t begrudge any of these people their success. I just wish I could have a taste too.
I’ve made some steps to create an all round healthier mental environment for myself since the start of 2017. I first created a completely new Facebook account. I can absolutely admit that I was totally addicted to the fucking thing. Facebook can be a great networking tool for musicians, but for anyone who is quite emotional or prone to feelings of depression and loneliness it is downright dangerous. You stare into this window where all your friends and family are happy and living better lives than you. And most of the time its bullshit. The constant stream of negative world news, the bitching and moaning in comments sections, it all drags you down. And you’re constantly glued to it; having all this shit pumped into your brain almost 24/7. My song ‘Where Are You Now?‘ is actually about the falsehood of social media. I found myself getting into a furious rage over global injustices; arguing with and flinging bile at strangers for no good reason. I was constantly posting status updates, moaning, bitching, and generally being vile and offensive. With my new profile I’ve limited myself to the absolute maximum of three posts a day – this probably seems like a lot to some people, but its a lot less than what I was doing before. I think before I post; I only post positive things, and I haven’t used the word ‘fuck’ once in three months. I save that for here! I’ve also kept away from all news pages and gaming updates. It might seem questionable to some, but I can’t be dealing with politics or gaming culture right now. I need to ‘fix’ myself and can only do that in the right environment. I could still do better – most of my ‘success envy’ stems from things I see on Facebook. I need to stop beating myself up by comparing to others. All the exercise is helping significantly. I find that even if I feel like I’m going nowhere in my life or treading water on any given day, at least I am changing and making progress on a personal, physical level. I come out of the gym feel like I’ve achieved something. I highly recommend it.
I also vowed to attend way more original gigs and open mic nights. This isn’t going quite as well as I’d hoped, mainly just due to work and family commitments. The rest of this year should be much better on this front though, I have tickets for some great bands, solo artists and comedians already, I’ve slowly started going to open mic night again and I have many friends’ bands I can go and see. I just have to get up off my arse and go out.
At the end of June last year I wrote a blog post about needed to quit my retail job. I had told my boss that I was leaving in September. Well – I’m still here! The aspirational intention I had was well meaning, but the reality of supporting a wife and kids meant I couldn’t leave. As of April 1st though, some of that decision has been taken away from me. Our company is downsizing and has just closed a couple of branches, and I’ve been informed that they are cutting me down to one day a week. This of course means I probably need to look for different part time work; but on the flip side to begin with it will free up my Thursdays to work on music. I am in the process of forming a new covers band in addition to my current one, so hopefully that will cover the temporary financial loss. Whatever happens; its the push I needed to do something else. My job has been the most soul-destroying aspect of the last few years. This can only be an improvement.
Something that needs to be a major priority now is more solo gigs. After the couple of shows last summer, I haven’t done any more. There’s been the odd run through of one of my own songs at open mics, but I’ve really slacked off. Again, all the shit going on was occupying the majority of my time. Once this EP is finished its time to really get out there and promote it!
Happily; I’ve managed to keep the whole meeting new people thing. I’ve been to auditions with new bands, I’ve made new friends through mutual acquaintances, and chatted to people at gigs. Its now become a core part of my personality and translates into all aspects of life. And its good fun!
In July, I wrote a piece stating that I played way too many video games and needed to cut down. Unfortunately this was just before the six month long shitstorm started; and as always happens when my life spirals out of control I actually immersed myself in more games than ever. Now that things are back on track I really need to knuckle down and do more music. Its going to be hard though – the new Mass Effect is released this week!
I think the biggest setback in the latter third of 2016 was the amount of time I wasted trying to put a backing band together. With the exception of Chas; everyone else let me down. I could have been spending that time working on the solo show instead of wasting money and my free time on practices. This year I’m going to concentrate on being solo. And if I do get to the point of recruiting musicians; I will be emphasizing that I don’t want any time wasters or people in loads of cover bands. Still, at least its been a learning experience.
In summary – there has been some good progress with recording, exercising, eating right and having a better environment for happiness (less social media, less retail work). But there has also been procrastination with the driving, and not as much gigging or attending gigs as I would like, time wasting with band practices and I’m still playing too many video games.
I’ll check back in once the full year is up, and we’ll see where we stand!