Category Archives: Writing

Why I Write Songs

ribbons ep blog postIn the interests of living in time, rather than killing it, which is a sentiment I took from a recent blog post by the wonderful poet Claire Pollard, who was also on a train at the time of writing, I decided to use my recent long train journey back to Cornwall from London to try to express why I write songs. My desire to do this was inspired by the weird feeling I have when I look at my various social media selves, which don’t seem to bear that much relation to my actual self, the self that spent the best part of the last decade writing songs in secret, usually whilst crying/drunk/stoned etc, without feeling the slightest need to involve society or media.

However, at the ripe old age of thirty five, two things have finally sunk in (better late than never). One is that life is ridiculously short, and the less time I have left, the faster that time goes, which is unfair, but true. The other is that I have to spend most of that time making a living, unless I want to perch in a shed for the rest of my life, which I might, but equally might not, because hot showers are wondrous things. Having tried many jobs, from labouring on building sites to flower picking to teaching to gardening to busking, I have decided that the only way I can hope to be at peace is to work as hard as I possibly can to create opportunities to make my living doing the things I love. Such as writing and recording songs.

Social media is one way to create such opportunities, being a great place to share and sell these songs. However, in trying to sell my songs, I seem to end up also trying to sell myself, which in turn seems to result in the emergence of someone who doesn’t exist – someone a lot chirpier/more confident/more sorted/less baffled than I am. Which leaves me with the uncomfortable feeling that I don’t exist. It’s not false, it’s just not the whole story.

Because the selling part is not the main event. It’s a necessary evil, a by-product of the making part. The truth (and this is probably also the reason why people like me find it so hard to demand money for their efforts) is that I will keep writing songs (and books) whether or not anyone ever buys them, because I am one of those people who is constantly at risk from drowning in their own thoughts, and songs are my life raft. And since that kind of embarrassing truth just doesn’t come across very well on bubbly old social media, I decided to risk not looking very cool (again) and stick it up here, just for the record. I have no idea why it came out as a kind of poem. Blame Claire Pollard.

Why I Write Songs

I write songs because I’m not okay, and songs make not okay, okay.

I write songs for you who don’t have time to wonder at the morning,

And for you, carrying all that quiet heartache with such fortitude.

I want to make you cry.

I write songs because I’m lonely and songs are my reward for being free.

I write songs because our world is crumbling and the light is hard to see.

I write songs and now I sing them, too, because time is shorter than I thought

And this will all be over soon.

I write songs because I’m here again, and again and again and again.

And because I keep falling in love too fast, with unforgiving men.

I write songs because I happen to be there when they land on my desk

Tired out from flying.

I write songs because I’m lost, and the cost of living is too high

And songs are the only way that I can afford to fly.

I write songs to fill the gap between my longing and my dreams

Because happiness is not what it seems.

I will be launching the Ribbons EP on Saturday (5th April) 6pm at Newlyn Art Gallery, and on Sunday 13th April 3pm at Strong Adolfo’s, Wadebridge. When I have figured out the technology you will also be able to buy it from this website.

Money and Art

busking‘Money sucks’ said my friend, a painter, from the depths of my sofa.
We had been talking about the weather. It’s cold. She can’t afford heating.

I understood exactly what she meant. Until I started busking, and learned that people were willing to pay me to do something I loved, money was tainted by the lengths I had to go to in order to get it. Serving endless plates of chips to dickheads who had never been taught any manners, picking daffodills from dawn to wintry dusk in frozen boggy fields for bully-gangers employed by corporate flower farms, cleaning the rooms of my fellow (richer) students at university while I should have been cramming for my finals. Money sucked. Because what I really wanted was time, and money was sucking up all my time.

It wasn’t until I cut out the middle men – banks, job centres, bosses – that I began to see things more clearly. And I saw that I had fallen into a trap. The starving artist trap. I had shot the messenger – money – instead of the message.

Money talks. And what it usually talks about is greed, consumerism, inequality, corrupt politics and environmental desecration in the name of progress. These messages are everywhere. Go shopping, screams the TV. Vote for us! Scream the fracking politicians. But the individuals behind the crass adverts and childish politics also fell into a trap – I’ll call it the fat banker trap – where instead of shooting the messenger, they started stalking him. Which has led us to this desperate situation in which starving artists, having renounced their shares, can only stand by and marvel in helpless horror at ‘…the casual indifference of those willing to sacrifice so much truth, so many people – even the stability of the global climate – for what, in the end, amount to the most trivial, transient baubles of personal wealth, status, comfort and power.’*

No wonder most normal people think money sucks. Only it doesn’t. And we mustn’t.

Money is neutral. Along with being a messenger, money is a facilitator and a resource. It can fund corrupt politicians. It can heighten inequality. It can trumpet propaganda. It can buy plastic shit made in sweatshops by children. It can be hidden in offshore bank accounts (although what the point of that is I’m not entirely sure). Or, it can allow for travel and exploration, leading to a deeper connection with our world. It can be given to people who need it, so they can drink clean water. It can buy land and protect it for future generations. It can be invested in green technologies. It can buy time and talk about truth.

No busking?

Frack off.

*(David Edwards – The Compassionate Revolution; Radical Politics and Buddhism)




All Play and No Work

 resized gate

In the surf the other day somebody called out – ‘Don’t you have a job?’

It was an arrow, aimed at my self-esteem.

I work for myself, mainly on activities that feed my heart and soul, if not my bank balance. This means I can go surfing whenever I like. Which is quite often. Other people have to be present – at least physically – in offices, on shop floors, in banks etc

The comment hurt because from the moment I came down from the mountains and walked through the school gates as a tiny child I was brainwashed, just like everybody else, into separating work and play. Play is self-indulgent and worthless and for children. Work is painful, forms the basis of one’s value as a human being, and is what grown-ups do.

Some people have jobs they love. I am not talking about those people. I am talking about the cultural norm of going out and spending most of one’s waking hours doing something one does not want to do, for no good (meaningful) reason other than to contribute to the big fat mess we call the global economy.

As this popular quote from Charles Bukowski’s Factotum perfectly expresses, it’s not as if anybody could actually enjoy this kind of work – “How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6.30 am by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?”

Not that doing what you love – turning play into work – is easy –

Being awakened long before dawn, by an idea, leap out of bed that is also a sofa, put several thick jumpers on over nightclothes (too cold to dress yet), set kettle to boil on camping stove, go outside to piss under distant stars, wash face with cold flannel, find pieces of coffee pot by the light of the moon, shiver, scrape hair away from eyes, wrap self in blankets, sit down on sofa that is also a bed, think of things that hurt, imagine, re-imagine, feel despair, feel elation, feel sick, feel crushed by the weight of emptiness, stare at the screen, give up, get dressed, go seal watching, imagine, re-imagine, feel crushed by the weight of loneliness, write a song, sing it to the sparrows, suspect everything you have ever done is crap, suspect everything you ever will do is crap, go for a surf….fend off the arrows. Smile. Go home and carry on. No pats on the shoulder, no external validation, no office parties, no sick pay.

Be constantly grateful for the fact that you have somehow remained free, no matter how deep the emptiness and how cold and distant the morning stars.

In the words of Gary Snyder“Practically speaking, a life that is vowed to simplicity, appropriate boldness, good humour, gratitude, unstinting work and play, and lots of walking brings us close to the actually existing world and its wholeness.”

Which happens to be more important to me than contributing to the big fat mess we call the global economy.