When leaves are fallen and the branch is bare... Winter is calling, and chills the silent air'. Those are lyrics from the very beautiful song 'In the Quiet' by Liam Lawton. That song is always playing in my mind at this time of year as I look out the window and see the changes that are occurring. We usually associate new starts and resolutions with the month of January but I have always felt that we get a second chance around this time of year.
I recently saw a quote online that really struck me and it said, 'Autumn is nature's way of showing that letting go can be beautiful'. As the brightly coloured leaves fall and the branches are left bare I wonder if maybe we can do the same thing? Perhaps we can shed our layers of doubt and let go of the weight that has been heavy on our backs. A bare tree can be seen as empty and cold or it can be seen as a tree that is ready for a new beginning.
Everyone who knows me knows I love this time of year. I love the colours and the smells. I love that Christmas is on the horizon again! I urge you this week to listen to music that is associated with this time of year. There is great warmth and hope in so many of these songs. In Winter we need to create warmth to survive and I think we need to do the same things within our own hearts. Embrace change, let go, and decide what your Winter song of hope will be. 'Just remember, in the Winter, far beneath the bitter snow... Lies a seed, that with the sun's love, in the Spring, becomes the rose.'
In my writing I often draw a parallel between sports and music. The athlete and musician have so much in common. We both start out with a desire to perform. We strive to perfect our skill by practicing regularly and generally taking care of ourselves. What we must remember is that we all have our own unique attributes. Whether you are part of team or are a solo performer, the only way you can bring the best out in yourself is by never leaving behind the essence of who you are.
I recently watched the Irish movie Handsome Devils and you really can’t beat an inspirational sports movie to get the blood pumping. It had everything from the topic of sexuality to the struggle of the athlete in keeping his mind clear while on the field. As in life, the content of these movies usually boils down to one topic; Embracing your individuality. People love certain players, not just because of their sporting ability but because of their personality. People’s favourite singers are often not the most talented musicians, they just have that 'X factor'.
There are some great quotes out there like 'Be yourself, everyone else is taken' and the age old , 'To thine own self be true' but I came across an absolute gem in this movie. The English teacher is struggling to impart wisdom onto a class of young men who's biggest fear is being considered 'different'. In a moment of pure frustration with the class the teacher says that if ‘you spend your whole life being someone else who is going to be you?'
September is a time for big change so if you are a student in school or college or indeed simply a student of life, remember that it is a good thing to be you. It is better to leave your mark on this world than to leave behind regret. We all have a unique fingerprint that no one else possesses...use it.
There is nothing quite like the sense of achievement to make a person want to do even more. I recently had a run of my show, 'An Irish Heart’ which played to audiences all over Kerry. This show stemmed from a simple idea. All it takes is an open mind and a pretty notebook to get the creative juices flowing!
I began performing this show on St. Patrick’s Day and the production has simply grown and grown since then. As performers we can get caught up in the struggle for perfection but the warmest memories I take from this time will not be those where the notes were perfect, or indeed the times when the notes were off. I will always remember the love of our audiences, the funny things that went wrong and the mishaps that only we knew about on stage.
The people we choose to work with will make or break us and I am so blessed to work with a group of people who I can genuinely call friends. Jayme Linehan is our pianist and she is one of my best friends. In my moments of terror, she is always there with a hug and a smile. Conor Linehan is our guitarist and he is so multi talented. Conor always brings much needed calm to proceedings. The gentle and sweet Lucy Tanner is our violinist and I have come to know and respect her very deeply through this process. I cannot forget our two wonderful dancers; Scott O Meara and Ciaran Quigley. These young men bring such joy an energy to the stage every night and they are an absolute pleasure to work with. We plan to run this show throughout 2018 and cannot wait to get planning our next step.
To plant the seed of an idea, water it with love and watch it grow into something much bigger and much more beautiful than you ever expected is such a gift and a it is a gift that I will always treasure.
I have often encouraged you all to see aspects of life and art and performance with a childlike wonder. Well this week I am asking you to listen with ears that have lived, loved, lost and learned.
Just recently my mother discovered a cd of mine in my childhood bedroom. She listened to it and urged me to do the same as she knew I would feel a huge connection with number of the songs. As I listened I felt a sense of familiarity with the music, yet it also seemed new to me. I played to this album over and over again as a child but it is only now that the sentiment of the songs really rings true for me. I realised the reason for this is because I have lived so many years since I last listened to this album. I do not simply imagine what loss might be like; I have experienced it. I do not have an untainted sense of hope; I have been deeply hurt. The melodies are so familiar yet the words only now make sense.
As an innocent child I could never imagine what it would be like to one day sing songs about things that have actually happened to me. One song in particular has struck a very special chord with me. This song is so true to my own life's journey and there is a certain symmetry to the fact that I actually first fell in love with this song before I knew how much it would one day mean to me.
This week I ask you to take out your old CDs or record or tapes and listen with new ears. Listen with a heart and mind that has lived through so much since you last heard this music. You might find yourself falling in love with a song all over again...
Like many of you, I have been watching bits and pieces of the World Athletic Championships on TV over the past couple of weeks. The sheer dedication it takes to do what they do is incredible and it is sad to see when they fail, even after all their years of effort. It can all end in one jump or throw or sprint. People often compare sports people with singers and musicians, especially solo performers. We all train for years and the psych of both athletes and musicians can be very similar. Sportspeople have sports psychologists, not to help them stretch or run faster, but to help them with the inner game. This is the game in your head where you can beat yourself without even needing an opponent present. You can actually see that many of these athletes have a physical routine they perform right before they compete. It could be anything from a series of hand movements to a mantra they chant. Performing as a singer involves very similar practices. The mind needs to be kept positive or you will have failed before you even step on stage.
Another thing we all have in common is showmanship. I was very struck by the amount of theatrical performances that took place in the arena! Before the events we get to see each individual or team as they are introduced. Some simply wave while others dance and some teams even have a little choreographed routine. Anytime we do something in public, be it singing or running, giving a presentation or taking a free kick, we are all performing. We are all the focus of other people's attention, even if just for a moment. So next time you are performing in public, whatever the circumstance, don’t forget your inner game and definitely don’t forgot your showmanship!
Last week I wrote about asking the universe for guidance when we may be feeling a little lost. Today I want to tell you about my experience of using other artistic practices to help me perform as a singer.
During times of worry and stress that inevitably come with trying out new business ideas, and other such stressful endeavors, our creativity can be stifled. I am not always the most disciplined person but I have recently fully committed to using the Headspace app and specifically its 'creativity' pack. This has helped calm my mind and I have also found that exercising my creativity in a new way has benefitted me hugely.
The other day I was doodling some ideas for my company logo. This activity was simply meant to be one where I would come up with some ideas but it turned out to be so much more helpful than I expected. I hadn't sat down with colouring pencils and a blank page since I was a teenager and I found that I was totally immersed in what I was doing. So much time passed while I sketched and coloured. I am no painter but this practice calmed my mind completely.
I found myself feeling quite physically nervous before a recent performance so I sat and tried to do some deep breathing. I felt as though I was actually getting more tense so I decided to listen to a song that always makes me happy... Next thing I knew I was jumping around, hands in the air, out of breath and so much freer in my body!
You might presume I would turn to relaxing classical music at times like this but my song of choice is actually 'In the Ayer' by rapper Flo Rida! We have so many tools in our artistic belts and we must try to use them all. Also, if in doubt, dance it out!
Ask the universe
I am a firm believer that I am never alone. Since I was a young child I have known that I have a guardian angel looking after me and now that I am an adult I need my angel more than ever!
The worst thing that can hit an artistic person is doubt. Doubt can hit you out of nowhere. It can totally derail you and dull your artistic nature. It eats away at your time and makes you second guess all your decisions. Having such a fickle career can lead us artists to experience doubt quite often if we are not careful. We start asking ourselves if we are crazy to do what we do but I think we probably need to be a little crazy for this business! It is so important then for us to know that there is something working for us outside of ourselves. I believe that sometimes, when doubt has got its clutches into you, you must just say, 'Universe...help!'.
I recently experienced some doubt as to whether I am mad to be creating a career for myself in such an unstable field. Then, one day, the universe answered. I was approached by a woman who had lost her brother and wanted to thank me for the comfort that one song on my album had given her through an incredibly dark time. I then opened an email from a young child from Germany who had loved my concert in Kenmare and wanted me to know that. This was followed by numerous wedding music enquiries!
So, artists, if you are questioning yourself and maybe feel lost, why not ask the universe for help? Maybe say a prayer or meditate? The answers sometimes lie in the energy around us.
As an artist there is a fine line between appealing to the public and staying true to yourself. Do we stay within the confines of our own vision or do we relax the boundaries a little to let a new brand of audience come in?
When I was studying music in college there was a definite dislike among my peers for the 'crossover' type classical singers of the world. The likes of Katherine Jenkins and Josh Groban were seen to have turned their backs on their true background and to have lowered their standards in order to appeal to a wider audience. I always felt torn when these debates took place as I was knee deep in my classical studies yet my heart was siding more with the crossover singers.
At the ripe old age of 31 I have now realised why I felt so torn back then. While my peers felt that these famous singers had turned their back on their roots I think these singers probably always had a passion and love for the more contemporary style of music. I came to this conclusion because that is exactly how I feel. As a child my favourite singer was Celine Dion. As a teenager I listened to the Frames and Damien Rice on loop. When I began vocal training I simply fell into the classical world and went from there. Now that I no longer have anyone telling me what to sing and how to sing, I feel I can use my training to compliment the type of music I love to perform. I ask everyone to try not to judge people for the way they express themselves. We can only appeal to a certain number of people and my hope is that, if we stay true to our hearts, people will inevitably be more drawn to our creations.
I have a number of cousins who are excellent footballers and we as a family do our best to go to all their games to support them. When I've held my concerts and wanted them to come along I told them that concerts are 'my Croke Park'!
Well, I recently was one of the very lucky people who got to be present at one of the most amazing spectacles that Croke Park has ever seen and there was not a football or sliotar in sight. On July 8th the band Coldplay came to Croke Park and played a gig that none of us will ever forget. This concert truly was the Arts world at its' finest. Not only was the music incredible but the visual display was out of this world. The concert began with a classical singer singing 'O Mio Babbino Caro'. This was a great way to catch the audience's attention from the outset and from there things just got better and better.
From the flashing lights on everyone's wristbands to the moment Chris Martin brought a man in a wheelchair on stage to play the harmonica, we were taken on an incredible journey with a band who clearly live for music. My favourite part of the show was when Chris Martin said that they used to play in Ireland years ago to audiences of 'basically nobody' so they were blown away by the response they were getting from the 82,000 fans in the stadium. He was genuinely so grateful to each person who came because he remembers the days of playing to almost empty halls.
This concert shows that this great country can celebrate both our national sports and music in the same great venue and this makes me proud to be Irish.