Category: Themed Blogs

Songwriters Spotlight – Paradaeis

(Main image by Frank Roper)

Welcome to the latest in the series of blog posts about songwriting, which includes interviews with composers and artists about their views and experiences in this field. This interview is with Leeds musician and singer-songwriter Paradaeis (AKA Rowan Thorsby).

 

Matt:

What is your background in songwriting and performing?

 

Paradaeis:

My parents bought a piano for my older sister when I was 4 or 5 years old! I was in awe of this big wooden sound box that could make low rumbles and high plinky plonks and everything in between. I fell in love and would try and play with it as much as I was allowed! I remember writing my first instrumental song about the Sunset when I was 7… It was slow and spacious.

As I grew older, I started writing lyrics and singing over the piano chords I’d write. Eventually my Mum enrolled me in piano lessons and a choir which rapidly developed my knowledge – music has been my life ever since!

From an early age I’ve felt a strong emotional connection with music – it had such a powerful effect over me. I guess it was just natural for me to follow this path in life! During my teenage years music became a form of self-prescribed therapy for myself. I’d pour my heart into the piano and manically scribble lyrics as I went, this is when I really started to develop my songwriting.

I’ve performed at Kendal calling festival, venues around Leeds (Brudenell, Oporto, Old Red Bus Station, lending rooms) and my hometown Kendal (Fell and Ruskins, Bootleggers). I recently performed on Chapel FM for Halemtinas Show. I love busking and playing open mics.

 

Matt:

Everyone has different reasons for writing songs, sometimes to express themselves, to tell a story etc. What drives you to write a song and where do you get your inspiration from?

 

Paradaeis:

My songwriting process has changed over the years. At first it was a way to release repressed emotions and communicate how I was feeling to the world. I didn’t put thought into how the music would be received by the audience and how it could affect their emotions. This resulted in a lot of angsty sad songs…

However, more recently I’ve begun to explore using songwriting to create positive change in the world and open up discussions about important often overlooked topics such as climate change, sexual abuse, self-empowerment. I hear a lot of negative messages in mainstream music and I’m trying in my own way to balance the scales with music that encourages the listener to look within themselves and channel some love and kindness into this special planet of ours.

I am often inspired by conversations with friends and strangers, sometimes I’ll meditate before songwriting to raise my awareness and put me in a peaceful state of mind, and sometimes I write songs in my dreams!

 

 

Matt:

There are often differing views about songs, both on what the most important aspect is and what the most difficult element of a song to compose is. What do you think is the most important part of a song and do you struggle with a particular stage of composing?

 

Paradaeis:

I feel that the most important part of the song is the message that it carries, the energy it emits. Music has a power that stimulates the whole brain at the same time! Meaning that we’re SUPER receptive to the messages in music. Therefore, when songwriting and performing I consider things like:

  • How are people going to feel when listening to the song? (I want them to feel loved and free and inspired!) 
  • Do my lyrics have any wisdom to offer?

I draw on my own life lessons, stories from my friends and family, some of the most interesting stories are about strangers. The most difficult part for me is waiting for the inspiration to write a song. It’s not a process I like to force. It’s good though, it keeps me open and receptive in life and seeking the spark of inspiration, going to new places, meeting new people and trying new things. I also struggle with sometimes writing a song that I can’t play or sing yet. In my head it’s amazing! But in reality, I’ve got to practise a lot to be able to sing some of the melodies and play some chords that I can hear in my head. Again, I like setting myself a challenge and raising my skills. I love working with talented instrumentalists who can play lush soundscapes that perfectly match the tone of the lyrics I’ve been writing. The special connection created between musicians when we just vibe of each other’s energy – it gives me goosebumps.

 

Matt:

Your music has clearly been influenced by several different genres and styles of music. When did this blending of styles begin in your musical journey and what advantages do you feel this has for writing songs?

 

Paradaeis:

I listen to a lot of different styles of music, so it naturally happens. With the Suntrap EP I was being really experimental and didn’t want to box myself in to any particular style. I was expressing different shades of emotion all about the same subject. I feel like there is so much contrast and polarity in my life that I needed to express on the EP. The advantage of writing this way is I give myself so much freedom! I don’t judge the song for whatever it ends up becoming – I work with it and find the style that suits the lyrics and the mood. Nowadays I feel more stable, and that is being evident in my music because I guess I’m settling into Psychedelic Folk – channelling the energy of the 60s and 70s. The message of peace and love lives on!

(Image by Tom Lacki)

Matt:

Current chart and Pop music is often a divisive topic for composers and musicians. What are your thoughts on the current quality of songwriting in this industry.

 

Paradaeis:

I think a lot of popular music nowadays focuses a lot of production quality and modern production techniques – but the lyrics seem like an afterthought? I’m impressed with the incredible vocalists I hear in the charts and the crystal clear punchy electronic tracks they sing/rap over but I feel like the lyrical messages are predominantly negative. Let’s just say I don’t feel inspired when I play Radio 1 or Capital FM – I feel bombarded with subliminal messages that make me feel lonely, poor, way too sober to face reality. Sam Fender’s hit single is very catchy and I find myself singing it a lot – but is he actually trying to start World War 3? The chorus is “it’s high time for supersonic missiles”. Wow. And have you heard Grimes’ Controversial single “We Appreciate Power” about submitting to the artificial intelligence of the unstoppable robot race?!? Grimes was always a massive inspiration of mine too but that song really freaked me out. I’m definitely getting more and more inspired by genres popular in the 60s and 70s such as Psychedelic Rock, Spiritual Jazz and Folk, which was performed by musicians who really cared about saving the planet and spreading messages of peace and love. There is SO much power in Music – it’s a phenomenon that stimulates almost the entire brain which allows the messages in the music to get programmed right to our subconscious. That’s why I’m really passionate about creating the music I create! I don’t closely follow chart music because I’m aware that the system uses its influence on the music industry to brainwash the mainstream. I just know so many independent talented artists that sing with such joy and love in their heart and it makes me wonder what the world would be like if their songs were played on mainstream radio instead of what is actually being pushed by the Big 3 (dominant labels in the industry). My mission is to create music that helps people relax, reconnect with themselves, appreciate what they have, tell their family and friends that they love them, go after their dreams, take the day off work and have fun in nature!

 

Matt:

What projects are you working on at the moment?

 

Paradaeis:

I’m currently shooting four music videos for the Suntrap EP for ready for January Release! It’s amazing, I did not want to release music on YouTube until I had music videos to accompany them, and I was getting a lot of pressure to release just the audio files – then all in one week four videographers got in touch wanting to make a video each! This has been really fun, the weather has certainly been a challenging component.

I am also set to perform at Open Source Art’s Winter Solstice Event, an evening of multidisciplinary artists gathering together to share insight and gain inspiration. It’s seems apt to perform there because their Summer Solstice, which I attended as an audience member, ignited a surge of new intentions for my lyrical messages. I am performing for Songroots at Cha Lounge on the 4th of January! Another incredible event organised by the lovely musician Manuka which aims to gather sensitive souls in music that moves us and facilitates emotional release. The Songroots event was so healing for me and I’m honoured to have the opportunity to perform and offer my services through my songs.

I am excited to begin recording some new music with the band that I’m currently assembling. I’ve begun working with some beautiful musicians whose world view and musical style aligns with mine and each other’s so harmoniously. I’ve been planting a lot of seeds this season and cultivating my confidence and determination – so when summer comes back around, Paradaeis is set to reveal heaven on earth.

 

You can learn more about Paradaeis and her music by visiting her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, listen to her music at Spotify and YouTube and buy her Suntrap EP from the music stores included in this link

 

Songwriters Spotlight – J Bravo

(Main photo by Samad Parvez)

 

Welcome to the latest in the series of weekly blog posts about songwriting, which includes interviews with composers and artists about their views and experiences in this field. This week’s interview is with Leeds musician, songwriter and rapper J Bravo.

 

Matt:

What is your background in songwriting and performing?

 

J Bravo:

I started performing when I was 9 years old, I spent my teenage years participating in community cast and chorus line groups for plays that were held at The West Yorkshire Playhouse. At around age 13 I discovered “Real Hip Hop”, I would stop and start the songs line by line and write the words down to learn what the MC’s were saying. Eventually I started writing my own rhymes.

 

Matt:

Everyone has different reasons for writing songs and lyrics, sometimes to express themselves, to tell a story etc. What drives you to write a song and where do you get your inspiration from?

 

J Bravo:

The second part is easier to answer first: other fantastic songs or even movies. In particular, The Wu Tang Forever album and the first Matrix film made me think a lot about how I would want to hold a concept throughout a body of work. I guess what drives me to write a song is the necessity for a particular subject to be addressed, I spend more time jotting down topics for songs and waiting for a really cool or poignant phrase, or the right beat, that I can build upon.

 

Matt:

You were part of making the music and rap video Who’s To Blame, which was part of a campaign to promote awareness of and fight against weapons on the streets. Do you feel songs (and particularly Rap) are a good platform to use for these types of issues?

 

J Bravo:

I do, a lot of songs that touched on these subjects that I grew up on were important because they were from our perspective, as opposed to assumptions and conclusions made solely from outside media sources. “Who’s To Blame?” was written to try address back then what has become “Cancel Culture” today.

(Photo by Samad Parvez)

Matt:

Rap has become very common in current chart and Pop music. Compared to rappers perhaps not as widely known, what are your thoughts about the quality of rappers in the charts, their music and the meaning behind their lyrics?

 

J Bravo:

Without going into a tirade about mumble rap, I think the main problem is that the demand for rappers to be acclaimed lyricists in order to be successful has diminished, the bar has been set so low. Even Jay Z’s latest work, I feel he hasn’t had to push himself to be the best he can be since 2004, because in the mainstream market today the consumer is lenient and wordplay is treated more like a trademark than a required trait. you hear all the time now “Kendrick Lamar is one of them lyrical rappers” but it’s said as if it’s optional, as if you don’t NEED lyrics to be a rapper.

 

Matt:

There are often differing views about songs, both on what the most important aspect is and what the most difficult element of a song to compose is. What do you think is the most important part of a song and do you struggle with a particular stage of composing?

 

J Bravo:

I find catchiness the hardest part to writing songs. I’m not good with repetition and recurring phrases, I lose faith in keeping the audience’s interest with things like that in my songs. It’s a big reason why I like to collaborate with other MC’s often, we help each other build on the things we are less skilled at doing.

 

Matt:

What projects and songs are you working on at the moment?

 

J Bravo:

I am working on an album called “Chapeltown Bread” and I have nearly finished a collaborative project with DJ Agent M. I am really excited to see how people feel about my next pieces of work.

 

You can learn more about J Bravo and his music by visiting his Facebook page and can listen to his music at BandCamp and Spotify

Songwriters Spotlight – Harry Glasson

Welcome to the latest in the series of weekly blog posts about songwriting, which includes interviews with composers and artists about their views and experiences in this field. This week’s interview is with Cornish singer-songwriter Harry Glasson, who has written an incredible wealth of songs.

 

Matt:

What is your background in songwriting and performing?

 

Harry:

I made an acoustic guitar in woodwork class at school, it was not great but it played. I joined the Merchant Navy and took the Guitar with me and swapped it for a transistor radio on leaving my first ship. A couple of years later I met and worked with a lad who has become a lifelong friend and fellow singer/songwriter Jonathon Ryan. He already had a Guitar so I got me one too, an EKO as I remember, like playing a railway sleeper with strings on. We performed at parties and later at the local pub and the performing just sort of grew from there.

 

Matt:

Everyone has different reasons for writing songs, sometimes to express themselves, to tell a story etc. What drives you to write a song and where do you get your inspiration from?

 

Harry:

From as far back as I can remember I have loved to read and as a kid I read anything and everything. I grew up the eldest of a family of eight my father was mainly on agricultural wages and liked a drink, so buying books, even borrowing books was not easy. So, I wrote things, little bits and pieces and enjoyed condensing these stories down into poems and eventually songs. Living here in Cornwall it is not difficult to get inspired as we have the history, the beauty, legend and culture at a fingers touch. The men have dug underground here since at least Roman times for the tin and copper. Sailors have navigated our miles of coastline, including the smuggling of contraband. We have the standing stones, stone circles and the villages of prehistory. The legends of King Arthur, Merlin, giants and piskys, all set in wonderful rugged landscape. Who can fail to be inspired?

Matt:

There are often differing views about songs, both on what the most important aspect is and what the most difficult element of a song to compose is. What do you think is the most important part of a song and do you struggle with a particular stage of composing?

 

Harry:

I think the most important part of a song is getting it real, truthful and as accurate as possible. I have usually found that the initial lines drawn from inspiration come easily, the hard work is fleshing out the story around them within the confines of the arrangement.

 

Matt:

You’ve composed a large collection of Folk songs about Cornwall, which have been performed and adopted by many artists, both Cornish and wider-a-field, including The Harry Glasson Project organised by Will Keating. It feels like these songs have become a significant part of Cornwall’s musical heritage. Where do you feel Cornish Folk music and perhaps Folk music in general is heading towards?

 

Harry:

I think it was Woody Guthrie who said, “as long as there are disasters, wrong doings and a man wants to woo a woman, there will always be folk music” and I do believe he was right. There has been a big resurgence in pub singing here in Cornwall this last few years which is a form of Folk music. Pub singing, people with a glass in hand singing unconducted, usually in three-part harmony. For some reason my songs have appealed to this form of singing especially and has carried over to the Guitar playing folk singing in the clubs. The Cornish music scene is vibrant these days.

 

Matt:

What projects and compositions are you working on at the moment?

 

Harry:

At the moment I am working on putting a song book together, it is in its infancy but a good start has been made. Will Keating is planning a new album for next year so we are getting together on that one too, some new material has been created but needs some honing and no release date has been set.

 

You can learn more about Harry’s beautiful songs by joining the Facebook page Harry (Safari) Glasson’s Music where you can see other musicians performing his songs and chat about his lyrics. His songs are also currently being performed by singer-songwriter Will Keating, who you can learn more about by visiting his website and Facebook page.

Songwriters Spotlight – Lunacci

(Main image photo by Lauren Norris)

 

Welcome to the latest in the series of weekly blog posts about songwriting, which includes interviews with composers and artists about their views and experiences in this field. This week’s interview is with songwriter, performer and composer Lunacci (pronounced loo-nah-see).

 

Matt:

What is your background in songwriting and performing?

 

Lunacci:

I started writing songs at the age of about 6 years old, I had a copy of Sony Acid 2.0 (some old music software), and I used to just drag the pre-recorded loops around…. it sounded terrible, but I learnt a lot about song writing at a young age because of it. I guess my first ‘performances’ came through church. I started playing drums with the church band from the age of 11. I think it taught me a lot about band etiquette and musical sensitivity.

(Photo by Lauren Norris)

 

Matt:

Everyone has different reasons for writing songs, sometimes to express themselves, to tell a story etc. What drives you to write a song and where do you get your inspiration from?

 

Lunacci:

I’m driven by the need to express myself, which I don’t pretend is anything unique. I think we all need outlets to express ourselves, and they can take many different forms, but mine is music and lyrics. Probably unsurprisingly, my biggest inspiration are the people I interact with. Sometimes I write about people that I meet for just a few fleeting moments, but 90% of my songs are about my friends.

 

Matt:

There are often differing views about songs, both on what the most important aspect is and what the most difficult element of a song to compose is. What do you think is the most important part of a song and do you struggle with a particular stage of composing?

 

Lunacci:

I think the most important part of a song is how it makes the listener feel, which is weirdly often overlooked. I see a lot of bands and musicians making music that is ‘cool’ or ‘well-written’ but having either little or the wrong emotional impact. Most of my music is very simple, I don’t pretend it’s anything fancy, but I do think it’s pretty clear how it’s meant to make you feel.

 

(Photo by Chris Trevena)

Matt:

In addition to your performances as Lunacci, you’ve done several different musical projects in the last few years, including composing cinematic music and session work. What have been the good and bad moments of these and how have your different experiences influenced your songwriting?

 

 

Lunacci:

I do work on other projects, most of the time they are entirely different, but sometimes they interlink… I once used an instrumental version of one of my Lunacci songs for a documentary.

 

Matt:

You started your Lunacci performances as a solo act but in the last few years you’ve developed into a band (named Lunacci + The Lunatics). Has this expanded the possibilities for your compositions and what projects are you currently working on?

 

Lunacci:

Yeah, I had always planned on expanding into a band, so it was nice when that happened. Working with a collective of musicians means there is a lot more potential for more complex musicality, I think that’s something I’m still discovering. Currently we’ve let things have a little bit of a rest, we had a manic past few years and all the gigs over the summer really tired me out. I’m using the time to write new material so that things will feel nice and fresh come the new year.

 

You can learn more about Lunacci + The Lunatics and their music by visiting their website at www.lunacci.co.uk and Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages. Their music is available to listen to and purchase on many digital music platforms, including Spotify and CDBaby

Songwriters Spotlight – Elliott Ferguson

Welcome to the latest in the series of weekly blog posts about songwriting, which includes interviews with composers and artists about their views and experiences in this field. This weeks interview is with singer-songwriter Elliott Ferguson, the current President of the Falmouth University Songwriter’s Society.

 

Matt:

What is your background in songwriting and performing?

 

Elliott:

I started writing my own music when I was around 16, my main influence was Avicii and I wrote a lot of stuff which didn’t match up to my ability to play so I would appear on songs with a friend. It was only after I wrote Down in Belfast after my grandfather died that I got into songwriting fully as it’s a great release and I love to do it. The first proper gig I had was last September at a Jacobs Ladder open mic which was where I met Ryan Wheeler and some of the guys from Red Van Records.

 

Matt:

Everyone has different reasons for writing songs, sometimes to express themselves, to tell a story etc. What drives you to write a song and where do you get your inspiration from?

 

Elliott:

I get most of my inspiration from personal experiences, sometimes they can be exaggerated to tell a story but I try and be as honest as possible with the majority of songs I write. The experiences are both good and bad ones; be it relationships and grief or having fun with my mates. I believe every song should tell a story. It’s part of my identity and I try to show who I am through my music.

Matt:

There are often differing views about songs, both on what the most important aspect is and what the most difficult element of a song to compose is. What do you think is the most important part of a song and do you struggle with a particular stage of composing?

 

Elliott:

I’d say the most important part of a song is its story and the message you want to say with it. I often find it difficult when I know the story and what I want to say but I can’t make it coherent. You can really want to write a song and finish it that day but sometimes you have to wait and sit with the idea to be able to deliver it in the right way.

 

Matt:

You’re currently the President of the Falmouth University Songwriter’s Society. How has running this society affected your songwriting and what advice can you give other songwriters?

 

Elliott:

Running the society hasn’t really affected my songwriting at all, it’s just a bit more responsibility but my committee are all fantastic so there isn’t really any pressure. Some advice I would give would be to remain true to yourself and make the music that you want to make; be open to criticism and take it on board, it can help but don’t be overruled by it. Everyone has different tastes so it doesn’t matter if one person doesn’t like your music. That’s something I’ve had to teach myself.

Matt:

What projects are you currently working on and where can we find out more?

 

Elliott:

I’m currently working on writing my next EP, but I’ve also got a music video for ‘Addicted to the Ocean’ in the works and I’m super excited about it! Any new announcements are posted on my social media

 

You can learn more about Elliott and his music by visiting his Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages and can listen and purchase his EP “Helicopter Leaves” at Spotify, iTunes and YouTube. You can learn more about the Falmouth University Songwriter’s Society by visiting their Facebook page

Songwriters Spotlight – Suphena

Welcome to the latest in the series of weekly blog posts about songwriting, which includes interviews with composers and artists about their views and experiences in this field. This week’s interview is with singer-songwriter Suphena.

Matt:

What is your background in songwriting and performing?

Suphena:

I started performing very early on in the school choir from about the age of 9. I suppose a lot of kids do that sort of thing but then when I reached high school I continued to study music and perform in school concerts. At the age of 18 I bought my first guitar and started learning songs that I liked from YouTube and used the chords I learnt as a basis to write my own songs. I never really finished a lot of songs but the ones I did finish I would play at open mic nights and busk on the streets in Leeds, my hometown, until I realised I wanted to study music at University. This is where I really honed in on my craft and got to a place where my songwriting felt more mature, because I was forced to think more about what I was writing and why.

Matt:

Everyone has different reasons for writing songs, sometimes to express themselves, to tell a story etc. What drives you to write a song and where do you get your inspiration from?

Suphena:

A lot of the time what drives me to write is feeling negative about something, maybe regarding a relationship or a societal issue. In order to process those complex emotions I create music so as to not become destructive. Whatever music I am listening to at the time inspires what I write, but generally Reggae music and Jazz singers are influences which are engrained in me. Right now, I’m listening to lots of Techno and Hip-Hop, so the new EP I am working on will definitely have elements of that creeping in. Also, my Jamaican heritage drives and inspires me too. I’ve always felt somewhat disconnected from that part of myself and when I sing I am reminded of those roots and that plays a big part in my overall identity.

Matt:

It’s really interesting that you use music to express your feelings and emotions, as a lot of other musicians I have spoken to have said they also use it as an outlet. Most art forms seem to be able to be used for expression but music seems to be especially able to do this. I personally can also very much relate to you being influenced by different styles and genres, as I have my Folk side as my main basing but have also been influenced by Pop, EDM and cinematic music. There are often differing views about songs, both on what the most important aspect is and what the most difficult element of a song to compose is. What do you think is the most important part of a song and is there a particular stage of composing that you struggle with?

Suphena:

The most important part of a song to me is the meaning and making sure the music reflects that meaning. Having a clear understanding of what I’m trying to say is first and foremost. If you don’t have a clear message then listeners won’t be able to relate. The most difficult aspect of songwriting for me (at this point in my journey anyway) is structuring. Sometimes I like to stray away from standard Pop structures to make my music more interesting, but then if I stray too far it can become confused and not make sense, so finding a balance can be difficult. I suppose that also has something to do with not wanting to be confined to the genre of pop, too.

Matt:

You mentioned earlier that you are working on an EP, can you tell us more about that and any other projects you’re working on at the moment?

Suphena:

Yeah, I’m in the midst of reworking some older songs of mine and the EP will just showcase what I’ve done so far. It’s the first solo release of mine so I’m very excited! It’s just a stripped back version of my songs with me and my guitar. Another project I’m working on is an EP release and UK tour with my band, Horses on the Beach. And for part of my degree I am working on a techno track, which is really random but challenging!

You can learn more about Suphena and her music by visiting her Facebook, Instagram and SoundCloud pages

Songwriters Spotlight – Jack Ferry

(Main image photo by @facialcavity)

 

Welcome to the latest in the series of weekly blog posts about songwriting, which includes interviews with composers and artists about their views and experiences in this field. This week’s interview is with singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jack Ferry.

 

Matt:

What is your background in songwriting and performing?

 

Jack:

Well, I’ve been playing in bands for ages now, since I was about 11 now, I think? I started playing keyboards for a band called “No Tributes” that basically did nothing, before playing with a load of other bands with terrible names. Here are my favourite terrible names:

  • To Kill A Thunderbird
  • Shatter Resistant
  • 60 Decisions
  • Coldshoulder
  • Blunderbuss
  • The Restless Kings
  • Jessica Rabbit and The Hillbillies

I think the first song I ever wrote was a song called “Mr. E”, which I still think was a very clever name for a song, even if the execution wasn’t as good as I’d like. I’d always made up songs and little poems and ditties and things like that, but when I was 13 or 14 I got really serious about it. I wrote a couple of songs back then that are still in my set to this day, but my first big and good song was my song “I Don’t Know What I’m Doing With My Life”, which I eventually recorded. I’ve rewritten it since, but it still rings true to me. Since then, I’ve written loads and loads of songs; some good, quite a few stinkers, but I’ve always got something to say when it’s put to a tune.

 

Matt:

Everyone has different reasons for writing songs, sometimes to express themselves, to tell a story etc. What drives you to write a song and where do you get your inspiration from?

 

Jack:

Honestly, it just sort of happens? If I’m angry about something, or I need to say something, a song helps. But you know, crying publicly is something I’m not very good at, which is where a song comes in. It’s really just an excuse for me to be upset or angry or happy or wistful or whatever really, but very loudly. 

Honestly, I think I just like shouting but I’m very shy. Most of my songs come from relationships with people, I don’t really write about things in the news or current events or anything. I think the closest I’ve ever come to that is a song I wrote called “2012” about the idea of the Mayan Apocalypse and how the end of the world didn’t really change anything about the way we interact with each other. But even then, that was very internal and about regrets. I think that if you’re writing about someone or something else, you really are writing about yourself – or how that reflects on yourself

(photo by Denise Ashwin)

Matt:

One thing that has been mentioned by songwriters since this blog series has started has been that they use writing songs to express feelings and emotions that they would struggle to otherwise, so your comments on this are really interesting. I know you play several different instruments, which one(s) do you particularly like writing songs with and what do you think makes them so effective?

 

Jack:

They all kind of make me write in different ways, I kind of am drawn to the stereotypical songs that you associate with the instruments when I write. When I write on the banjo or the accordion, they always come out more folky. I always seem to talk about nature on the songs I play banjo on, like in my song “Thirty One-Years”, I start talking about yew trees and poison ivy, and using old fashioned words like “sepulchre” and “mausoleum”. Piano gets me all sad and wistful and emotional. Guitar is a wildcard – could be a folky ballad, could be a mid-tempo rocker. Bass always ends up funky. Saxophone always goes ballady and jazzy.

You know, the banjo is actually an instrument from West Africa. But because of the contexts we hear the banjo in, it’s always a southern American folk instrument to us. It’s really difficult to unlearn this and loads of bands I love have managed to do it – They Might Be Giants with the accordion, and X-Ray Spex with the sax – but I’m still working on it. All my accordion songs are probably going to sound like depressing sea shanties for a while.

 

Matt:

There are often differing views about songs, both on what the most important aspect is and what the most difficult element of a song to compose is. What do you think is the most important part of a song and do you struggle with a particular stage of composing?

 

Jack:

I struggle with the whole thing! It’s proper difficult! The hardest part when you’re a songwriter is just getting started really. There’s always a worry that I’m not going to write anything as good as I have done in the past. That it’s going to be hacky and not as clever as the stuff I’ve written before. How can I say what I want to say, without just SAYING it? And then outside of just writing lyrics, I always betray myself by not letting myself just pick easy chords. It’s like, there’s millions of FANTASTIC songs that are just I-VI-IV-V, it’s not giving up to just do that, but obviously after you go through three years of music school and learning about arrangements, re-harmonisation, and how to step out of your comfort zone, and all of a sudden I-VI-IV-V is a cowards way out! But really it isn’t. Chords are really just the bones of the songs – as long as they aren’t broken, the song’s going to be fine.

I find the feeling of the song is the most important thing to capture, and it’s the hardest as well. This is why I find myself writing sad lyrics to really upbeat melodies and chord sequences, it’s almost like saying “I’m only pretending to be happy, this is how I feel, but I’m an adult and I have to lie!!!” But then you can’t write a love song to a funeral march and mean it – unless you’re really trying to say that your love is dead. Maybe someone else could. I really just try to create the right ambience, like a host at the w****est dinner party of all time.

(photo by Izaak Spencer)

Matt:

You’ve not only formed several bands, you’ve also played in other musician’s bands as well. Having experience of both “worlds”, what do you enjoy and dislike about both and what projects are you currently working on?

 

Jack:

Oh, I love being a side-man, y’know? I love having the opportunity to play around in someone else’s world, step into somewhere I normally wouldn’t. Last year, I played bass for a country band called Jasper and The Island and it just gave me a whole new understanding of the bass and how I interact with it, and how I interact with a band setting. It’s nice to not have to be the most entertaining person on stage as well, just for a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I need the attention, but stepping back from time to time is very much needed.

At the moment, I’m working on my first solo album with my brilliant band. I’m also playing keyboards, accordion, saxophone, penny whistle, and backing vocals for William Grant. I’m trying to keep as busy as I can with music at the moment, graduate life is a killer.

 

You can learn more about Jack and his music by visiting his website at www.jackferrythemusician.com/music and Facebook page. His EP “Polite Pop” is available to listen to and purchase on many digital music platforms, including Spotify, Amazon, iTunes and Bandcamp

Songwriters Spotlight – Jennifer Dawn Lawry

Welcome to the latest in the series of weekly blog posts about songwriting, which includes interviews with composers and artists about their views and experiences in this field. This weeks interview is with Yorkshire singer-songwriter Jennifer Dawn Lawry.

 

Matt:

What is your background in songwriting and performing?

 

Jennifer:

I’ve been songwriting since I was 11 but it was very Avril Lavigne which is super embarrassing haha, but my granddad inspired me to perform. He was in a male Voice choir and was an amazing singer so I kinda wanted to follow in his footsteps. I just got obsessed with music from then on!

 

Matt:

Everyone has different reasons for writing songs, sometimes to express themselves, to tell a story etc. What drives you to write a song and where do you get your inspiration from?

 

Jennifer:

I used to get inspiration from trauma and stuff I couldn’t deal with. Abuse is a weird thing to process so writing songs allowed me to release all I was feeling without straight up saying it. Now though I mostly write about growth and stuff around me. Being an older soul is kinda weird because I’m not too exciting I guess but my songs end up sounding calming haha

 

Matt:

It sounds like music has been really healing and helpful for you during some very dark times. Do you feel that music, whether playing, listening or writing, could be used to help people get through difficult periods in their life?

 

Jennifer:

Yeah I do! Music can translate feelings that we can’t explain very well. Being mentally ill is hard when you’re not sure how to explain a lot of your issues but when a song speaks to you, it’s sometimes as therapeutic as telling a friend.

 

Matt:

There are often differing views about songs, both on what the most important aspect is and what the most difficult element of a song to compose is. What do you think is the most important part of a song and do you struggle with a particular stage of composing?

 

Jennifer:

I’ve never been the best at instrumental composition. I struggle to finger pick a guitar so I default to chords most of the time. But when I listen to music myself, I find that the melody (vocally and instrumentally) is my favourite part and the part that sometimes drives the emotion more than the lyrics

 

Matt:

What projects are you currently working on and where can we find out more?

 

Jennifer:

I’m currently in my first semester of my master’s degree so I’m being very diligent with my education and my new job. However I’m hoping to be releasing more music over the next year on my SoundCloud dawnmusicfalmouth

 

You can learn more about Dawn and her music by visiting her SoundCloud and Facebook pages and can purchase her music from her BandCamp page.

Songwriters Spotlight – Ilaina Lowe

Welcome to the first in a series of weekly blog posts about songwriting, which will include interviews with composers and artists about their views and experiences in this field. This weeks interview is with singer-songwriter Ilaina Lowe, former President of the Falmouth University Songwriter’s Society.

Matt:

What is your background in songwriting and performing?

Ilaina:

My family are all performers of some kind or another, musicians and artists, most of them aren’t professional or anything but we’ve always had a family-wide love of singing, music and theatre and so in a way, at home, I’ve been performing my whole life. I always imagined myself as a performer, but most of my performing was always done at home, usually in front of a mirror haha. When I was a bit older I started busking in my hometown but I didn’t touch songwriting until I was at least 17/18. Since coming to Uni I‘ve really branched out, I joined the musical theatre society and am a committee member for the songwriters society for a second year. To sum up – I don’t think I really have a background in songwriting? I think I’m living my background right now because I’m still quite new at it and I’ve never had any formal lessons

Matt:

Everyone has different reasons for writing songs, sometimes to express themselves, to tell a story etc. What drives you to write a song and where do you get your inspiration from?

Ilaina:

As a kid if I was upset – I’ve been told that I didn’t cry much, I used to just go make up songs to make myself feel better. Fast forward to when I started songwriting, I find that I write best when I’m sad, maybe because I don’t really feel the need to write when I’m not but that’s why all of my songs are kind of depressing- I’d say they’re kind of like a diary, though these days I tend to push the writing a bit further away from myself since I do record them and share them with people- they don’t all need to know what I’m thinking when I’m sad ahha

Matt:

It’s really interesting that you use songs and songwriting to help express feelings and emotions, I’ve often felt that is a massive benefit of being an artist. You’re currently studying at Falmouth University for a degree in animation and visual effects, which is also a really creative artform. Do you feel that both your animation and musical sides influence each other?

Ilaina:

I’ve often felt like I can explain things much more easily with visuals than words, and I think that does apply to my writing, just in the way that I like describing things? I wouldn’t say they influence each other massively but if I directed and animated a music video for myself then definitely they would affect each other

Matt:

There are often differing views about songs, both on what the most important aspect is and what the most difficult element of a song to compose is. What do you think is the most important part of a song and do you struggle with a particular stage of composing?

Ilaina:

I think all the components are important- but honestly, I struggle with all of them haha. But what I find most hard is not knowing enough finger-picking patterns and chords, I want to be inventive but I find it difficult. I think melody is the part that is easiest for me, even then, I find that the melody is often held back by not having great chords.

Matt:

Well most Pop songs are written with the same four chords, so anything additional that you learn and use in your songs can expand the possible music you can make in an amazing way. I think when you’re a musician you are always trying to learn new things and it’s really exciting when you are able to bring that into a new piece. You’ve been president of the Falmouth University Songwriting Society last year and are involved in the committee this year. How has this impacted your songwriting and what other projects are you working on at the moment?

Ilaina:

I think being part of the committee has really improved my songwriting, just because I was part of a team that had to come up with the prompts and ideas to bring the best out of our society members, it made me think more deeply about what you can do with songwriting and brought me out of my box in terms of theme and style. Of course with every year at Uni I become less prolific just because of coursework, but even with that it means that what I do come out with is usually a bit higher in quality, in my own humble opinion haha. I’m not working on much at the moment, just because I don’t usually set out to write a song, like I said earlier, it’s a bit like a diary so I only do it when I feel the urge to – but I do plan to use songwriters society as a chance to give myself a space for being creative musically every week – even when my course gets busy

You can learn more about Ilaina and her music by visiting her SoundCloud and Instagram (@planet_slons) pages. You can learn more about the Falmouth University Songwriter’s Society by visiting their Facebook page

New Blog Series – Songwriters Spotlight

NEW SONGWRITERS SPOTLIGHT BLOG SERIES!

I’m starting a new series on my blog about songwriting and what songs mean to the people writing them. I’m going to be featuring interviews with some really brilliant songwriters, where they share their views and experiences of writing songs. I’m really excited to share this blog series with you as it’s something I’m really interested in at the moment.

The first post is an interview with Ilaina Lowe and will be online on Wednesday, 30th October. I’ll share the link to it on here when it’s live but it will be available on my blog page at www.quantumpenguin.co.uk/blogs Watch this space!