Tuesday, 5 December 2017

What Makes a Fan?

Photo: Sarah: https://www.instagram.com/sarah.turrell/


What makes a fan? Is it someone who spends thousands of pounds a year on their favourite band and goes to see twenty shows? Or is it someone who never sees a live show yet quietly appreciates an artist? Is it someone who is actively involved in a band's fandoms? Or someone who sits somewhere in the middle, never really participating but wanting to be a part of it all the same?

There's no definite answer to what makes a fan, nor should there be. As anyone who loves an artist knows, circumstances differ from one person to the next. Some people have the energy and resources to spend several weeks following a band. For others, anxiety, lack of money, or their location may stop them from attending live shows.

Photo: Bantam10

One of the reasons that I wrote the fan book was to explore the sense of community that springs up around bands. From the local guys playing bars on a Saturday night to the bands hammering away at sold out stadium shows, someone, somewhere will love what they do. And the communities that spring up around them are incredibly important. Not just for sharing news but for the support that they bring to those who reside within them. Support that includes shoulders to lean on during the tougher times of life as well as love and laughter for when things are going well.

People gravitate towards these communities for a variety of reasons, and the internet has made it far easier for us to find those who resonate with us no matter what our circumstances. Our own, local, communities may hold nothing for us and finding a support network can be hard at the best of times. The internet allows us to remain anonymous while also building up friendships with those who share our interests and passions.

As for the communities that surround the Foo Fighters, a quick search of somewhere like Facebook throws up a myriad of meeting areas from the large Foo Family groups to smaller, more niche ones which focus on everything from hotel shares to dating to news pages. All of them are interconnected, not just physically by the people who are in them but also by their love of the same band. It's a world that can, on one hand seem very tiny but, on the other, feel as though it goes on forever. And, like any community, it's moving from being an online village to a sprawling digital city with an ever-growing population.


For me, I found a home among the Foos community. At the time, it was a home that I didn't realise that I needed, nor wanted, and from which I'd constantly try and leave. But it was one that drew me in, one that was filled with the kind of fun, laughter, and love that I'd spent a good deal of time looking for. And, while I might not be the most active, or most talkative, of members I still enjoy the company and camaraderie of those that I meet. In an age where the internet can bring about a great deal of loneliness, these pockets of music fans have proved that they can also be a haven for those who are seeking a place to call home.  

Thursday, 16 November 2017

The Waves of Inspiration

Where does inspiration come from?

It's one of those questions that so many people ask themselves. Inspiration is a strange creature, one that comes and goes in the depths of the night or the wee hours of the morning. A sudden flicker of an image can spark an entire novel. The sound of a long forgotten song can trigger a wave of frenzied creativity.


Inspiration is all around us. From the brilliantly bright colours of autumn to the dull moments when we allow our mind to drift off to unseen worlds. Catching that inspiration doesn't take any kind of knack. There's no tricks to finding it. The only thing you need to engage are your senses.

Look around yourself. What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear? What's sitting beneath your fingers?

What do you have hanging on your walls? What do you see out of the window? What does the sky look like?

All are questions that we can ask ourselves in the eternal question for that (sometimes) elusive spark of inspiration. In those moments of darkness when nothing seems possible, it can be a simple questions which triggers the outpouring of words on to paper, or art on to canvas, or music on to tape.

For me, it's photographs that get my creative juices flowing. I can spend hours searching through archives for that one perfect image that will help me to express what I want to say. Social media, Imgur, Getty Images, Shutterstock, and a host of other sites can transport you to anywhere in the world (or off it) and to any kind of situation require. It's like piecing together a giant puzzle, one that will eventually tell a story.

For others, music does the trick. Scanning through liner notes, hearing the crackle of a needle against a record, or taking in the smell of a used record store can trigger what they need in order to delve in to the depths of their minds and retrieve the emotions that they need to create.

For those of us who are currently experiencing winter, inspiration can be hard to find. The long nights and the cold, sometimes sunless, days can drain an energy that we have. Yet it's important to continue creating, even when we don't feel up to it. Creativity is a way to push through some of the more sombre, and often depressing, feelings that we encounter during winter. Losing yourself in another world, even for a few moments, can help to alleviate cold, dark months.

Whatever you use to inspire you, use it well. Spread it around like glitter and make the world a better place one piece of art at a time.


If you're stuck for inspiration, please feel free to visit my page. There you'll find posts that will hopefully help you to find the spark of creativity that you need.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

#MeToo

Watching the #MeToo campaign over the past few weeks has been painful. Seeing the stories of sexual harassment from so many other people makes you realise that you're not alone in this world and just how widespread the issue is.

#MeToo was started over ten years ago by actress Tarana Burke and has gained traction in the past month due to the ongoing confessions of celebrities who've been attacked or assaulted. Those two words have spread like wildfire, opening a can of worms that no one thought existed.



Except that we, deep down, we knew that the unopened can was there. We knew that buried deep within the confines of every industry there's a black hole of sexual assaults, rapes, and misogynistic behaviour. For so long we've chosen not to speak its name for fear of being ridiculed, shamed, or fired. We've feared for our lives, our families, and our security. Speaking out doesn't pay the bills. Staying silent does.

#MeToo – I've been followed through towns and cities more times than I can count.

#MeToo – I had a stalker for 6 years. He would travel hundreds of miles to stand outside my house and follow me. Wouldn't take no for an answer. The police didn't want to know until he hurt me. Yet if I lashed out at him I'd be the one getting arrested. My family eventually had to tell him that I was dead in order to get him to leave me alone.

#MeToo – The man who insisted on grabbing me every day on my way to work. The police took me seriously and the man was arrested.

#MeToo – The complete stranger who grabbed and choked me at a concert.

#MeToo – I was drugged and raped when I was 19.

There are so many people who are hurting right now. There are so many people who are still scared to step forward. Wherever you are, don't be afraid. Everyone is here for you. They will support you and love you and hold your pain. They will be there for you during your darkest moments. They will encourage you to step forward and tell your story. They will walk with you through whatever comes next. We are there for one another. We have to be because without an army of brave women and men nothing will change.

The time for change has come. This change has been brewing for many years and it's now time to storm the castle and drag these people from their ivory towers to face the justice that's long been denied to the victims. For so long they've threatened to blacklist and finish those that they've abused, using the power that they know they wield in order to keep the victims quiet.

No more. This can no longer happen. It's time for that power to be removed from them and returned to those who've lived through decades of pain. It's time for them to fear for all that they've accumulated through intimidation and threats. It's time for changes to sweep through these industries and for transparency and morals to take over. It's time for the climate of fear to become a climate of hope. No more should anyone have to fear for their security, life, or family because they were wronged by someone else.

Stand strong, my friends, for you are helping others to do the same. 


Monday, 23 October 2017

Halloween Fiction - Brandy's Battle

Brandy Snaps stared at the glowing screen of her phone. It cast the only light in her neatly decorated apartment, the glow harsh and blue. Every now and then, she tapped a painted fingernail against the plastic screen and either accepted or rejected one of the many requests that she received every day.

As her name implied, Brandy was a woman of the night. With her long bleached hair and narrow waist, she was the plaything that many desired. Yet those who wanted her never got her. Instead, they paid by the month to leer at her through their own electronic devices, sending her lewd comments whenever she dared to bare herself on their screens.

The lights in her apartment were out for a very good reason for even ladies of the night had their fears. Everything from losing their looks to their lives ran through their heads and Brandy was no exception.

She'd been a good girl. Raised by a God-fearing family in Iowa, like many other young women, she'd been lured to Hollywood by the promise of fame and fortune. She'd tried to keep her morals, scared that the slightest violation would send her to Hell. The fear of disappointing her parents had also snapped at her heels, their gentle judgement and her mother's soft words forever burned in to her psyche.

But the casting couch had called even for the tiniest of parts. Did she want to be Background Girl Number Three? Then she'd best pay her dues on her knees or back. She'd shamefully lost her virginity to a sleazoid director in a dirty motel room somewhere in the valley in return for a walk on part in pilot that had never aired. From there it had been a slippery slope until she had realised that there was more money in taking her clothes off for a global audience.

The time on her phone flicked closer to 1am and Brandy felt her body tighten. She sat with her back to the lounge window. The blinds were drawn against the sight of the street below. But it was still there, lingering like an old memory.

On the street outside her building sat an old air raid siren. Left over from the days of World War 2 and the subsequent Cold War, the mustard coloured cake shaped device peered in to her window from the top of a tall pole. The sirens had long since been decommissioned, modern technology having given the authorities an easier, and quicker, way to contact people if an emergency were to sweep the area.

Brandy remembered the night with the same clarity as one remembers every significant event in their lives. She had been sitting on the same, grey couch and staring at the screen of her phone. Every few hours another request had come in, begging her to take her clothes off and bare her body, and her soul, to the anonymous user at the other end. The numbers in her account had confirmed the lack of popularity in her life; she had just a handful of users watching her and making the rent was a struggle. Other bills were rapidly begin to form a snow drift on her otherwise spotless dining table.

“I'll do anything,” she'd murmured. “Anything to get out of this fuckin' hell hole.”

Anything?

The voice had entered her brain like a lightening bolt. She had looked around herself as she'd tried to determine where the voice had come from.

Finally, she'd replied, “Anything.”

In that case, go to bed and I shall take care of the rest.

She had done as the voice had instructed. The following morning, Brandy had woken to find that her account had several hundred more followers and that the money her videos had earned was enough to pay the rent and the bills.

That had been a month previously and, since then, her popularity had only grown. Her bank account was comfortably in the black and there was money for luxuries as well as the essentials. A few days after the voice's appearance, she'd received the first call from a casting agent in many months. They'd offered a speaking role in an established TV drama and, no, she didn't have to spread her legs to get it.

It had started the night after the voice had spoken to her. The road she lived on was, thankfully, fairly quiet. Her neighbours rarely made noise and parties were events that happened in other neighbourhoods. So her interest had been piqued when she had heard a click and a whirr.

The sound had been low at first, rasping and asthmatic before it wound up in to a high pitched whine. Brandy had slid to the floor, cowering in a corner as the noise had risen and fallen. The windows of her apartment had rattled and her hearing had dulled as the sound screamed around the neighbourhood.

As the noise had finally died away, Brandy had struggled to her feet and made for the window. Opening the blind, she had scanned the darkened street for anything that could have caused the spine-tingling whine. Yet there had been nothing.

Unable to settle and with the high-pitched sound still ringing in her ears, Brandy had gone to bed. Sleep hadn't come easily and Brandy had found herself playing over the previous days. She questioned where the voice had come from and who it belonged to. Where had her new subscribers come from? It had been months since she had contacted her agency so who was bringing in the offers of film and television work? And what had caused the sound that echoed around her skull?

Her phone didn't stop ringing or beeping with offers of work or new people signing up to her site. Each day had been the miracle she'd asked for. Yet every night brought the haunting whine that sent Brandy cowering for the corner farthest from the window.

She'd asked the neighbours about the sound yet none of them had heard. In the end, she had resorted to the internet and a post on social media had informed Brandy that she was hearing the sound of a long dead air raid siren. Sirens that had been disconnected from the power supply many, many years before.

Desperate to find answers, Brandy had called everyone she could think of; the police, the fire department, and the local government. All of them had said the same thing. That the ageing air raid siren outside of her apartment was no longer capable of sounding. She had begged them to remove it but they had citied budget cuts as the reason for it remaining in place.

And every night, at 1am, the siren began to toll its painful, mournful sound, a warning that something unpleasant was going to happen.

Brandy's phone changed to 1am and she closed her eyes. Sliding down the couch, she pressed her hands over her ears as the now familiar click and whirr started. Slowly the sound began to grow, aching through her gut as it reached its pitch before it fell and began the cycle again.

You can't escape, Brandy.

“I can,” she hissed. “I can escape. I've got the money. I'm getting the fuck outta here and somewhere better. I don't care where. Anywhere but here!”

You can't. You can never escape.

She dropped her hands from her ears and bawled, “Who the fuck are you?!”

Why don't you take a look?

Brandy tossed the phone to one side and scrambled onto the couch. Yanking the blind up, she peered in to the dark street. The siren screamed from across the road, its shadow seeming longer and darker than on previous nights. Beside the pole was another shadow, one that appeared to be cut from the black skies above the city. Brandy could make out slender arms and legs that were attached to an equally skinny body. Mist or smoke, Brandy couldn't tell, seemed to radiate from the shadow and seep out in to the street. When it lifted its head, she found herself looking into a pair of blazing red eyes.

She screamed and pushed herself away from the window. Landing heavily on the floor, Brandy scrambled across the room. Her mind was whirling as she pulled herself to her feet and grabbed for her purse. She reached the door that would give her the freedom she craved only to watch it melt into the wall and become nothing.


You can't escape, Brandy. You're mine now.

~~~

For more information on LA's current air raid sirens, please visit:

Sunday, 8 October 2017

The Sun Will Rise Again



Depression is a killer. Literally. It's an all encompassing force which takes over your brain and ravages every part of your life. Darkness that falls over your eyes and clouds your vision, forcing you in to perpetual exhaustion but refusing to let you sleep. Trying to fight it can leave you even more tired and the will to live begins to fade.

It's the least wonderful time of the year again, a period when the days shorten and the air cools. It's a time when we're supposed to rest and hibernate in readiness for the coming spring. As much as you may want to sleep away the winter, life dictates that you must continue.

Over the past few weeks, I've been trying to yank myself away from the clutches of this illness. I knew that it was coming so have taken the usual precautions and stocked up on vitamin D and daylight bulbs. But it still manages to creep in and wrap its hands around your soul. All of the joy that you've been feeling all year slowly ebbs away and leaves you as a blackened husk. You know that the changes are happening and you try to fight them. But sooner or later, all you can do is give in.

Depression changes people. Their behaviours and mannerisms change. I end up isolating myself because I know that I'm not the person I was a few weeks previously. Something's changed inside of me. I'm bitter and angry, sometimes from exhaustion, sometimes from the things that are happening around us. We live in a world that doesn't changes in the brain. These are illnesses that are still seen as a non-illness because there's no physical evidence. Yet, if you asked the family and friends of someone who lives with depression, they'd be able to tell you every single physical change that they see in those who are affected.

In times like these, the smallest thing can trigger a wave of grief. However, the smallest thing can also help to alleviate the pain, if only for a moment. Staying strong while life is threatening to drag you under is hard and we have to constantly remind ourselves that calm returns once the storm has passed. Fighting against it is one of the best things that you can do.


“No matter what happens, the sun will rise in the morning.” - Barack Obama

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Ticket Touts Start to Get Their Comeuppance

Three years ago, a group of fans in the UK launched a Kickstarter campaign in order to raise awareness on the issues surrounding concert tickets. Primarily they were going after the ticket touts, a business that had grown from a man hawking second hand tickets outside a concert venue to a multi-billion pound industry that involved sophisticated computer programs.

On September 19th 2017, they saw some results from their campaign when a Foo Fighters concert at the O2 in London descended in to chaos. The O2 have been criticized for partnering with a secondary ticket seller. The O2's website links with StubHub were disabled at the request of the band



When tickets went on sale in June 2017, official sellers warned buyers that they would need to bring photo ID to the show. This is a warning that has been issued for years and one which many venues have never instated. It's also never stopped the secondary sellers from snapping up entire blocks of tickets in the hopes of selling them on for a profit.

Foo Fighters, along with the fans, have tried a number of ways in recent years to help combat the issue of ticket touts. In 2014, they had fans queue at local venues to buy tickets. This year they've implemented the photo ID policy and are having a release delay on tickets (Tickets can be purchased on the day of release but they won't be posted or emailed to buyers until several months later).

At the September show, the band asked that the photo ID rule be implemented. O2 complied with this and hundreds were turned away because their tickets had been bought from secondary sites thus meaning that the names on the tickets didn't match.

However, it also seems as though the ID rule was taken to the extreme. Initially it seemed as though only the lead booker (person whose name appeared on the tickets) needed identification. There was at least one story of a group who were turned away because only the lead booker had ID. They were told that everyone in their party would need to have some form of photographic identification in order for them to get in. Others were stopped because of minor spelling mistakes in their names (Q being substituted for A etc).


The tabloid media were quick to jump on the band and blame them for the chaos. However, from reading news reports and fan stories, it looks as though the venue's security were told to push the rule to the limit.

Dave has now confirmed that the photo ID policy will be in place at all of their shows (apologies for the TMZ link).

If you were affected on Tuesday, there's some fantastic advice over at FooFightersUK.com on how to claim your money back.


If you are going to a Foo Fighters show this year, make sure that everyone in your party has their ID with them. In the UK acceptable forms of photo ID tend to be a driver's license or passport (make sure that they're in date before you go.). If you don't have either forms of ID, look at applying for a Citizen Card which is a UK photographic ID card. However, please check with the venue before you use this as each venue's rules may be different (the website does say that this card is endorsed by the Home Office and police and can be used aboard domestic flights). You may also be able to use work IDs as long as they have a photo on them. Again, please check with the venue before you and, if you can, get their confirmation of your ID being valid for them in writing (and then take that email with you just in case).

Buy your tickets from official retailers only. The bands will provide a list of these when they release their tour dates. If you find yourself on StubHub, Viagogo, or GetMeIn, you're not on an official retailer. Those are secondary ticket sites and those tickets run the risk of being turned away at the gate. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of secondary ticket sites out there with new ones appearing every day. If you're unsure whether you're on an official site or not, stop and check. Normally you can tell by the price of the tickets. If they have several different prices for the same section, chances are it's a secondary site.

My original posts from three years ago can be found here.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Finding the Motivation to Write



Sometimes it's not the lack of inspiration that can trip us up when it comes to writing. Instead, a lack of motivation can stall us. Every day tasks – cleaning, washing, cooking – can throw us for a loop and kill that desire to want to sit down and create. We feel worse because of it, as though there's a blockage deep inside of us that needs to be cleared but can't because we're tired, or busy, or otherwise obligated to do other things.

Like any kind of passion, writing is something that needs to be practised frequently. Without it, those metaphorical muscles that we've spent so long developing begin to weaken. One of the most important things is to just write. Something as small as writing a shopping list or keeping some kind of journal can help to keep the writing muscles strong.



A change of location can also be a key factor in kickstarting your motivation. Often, when we're at home, we can find a million and one reasons to not sit down and concentrate. The laundry needs doing, the cat needs feeding, the dog wants walking, the dishes in the sink aren't going to wash themselves, email needs checking. We become overwhelmed and the easiest thing to do is to ignore that grinding desire in our soul to create. So we do the other things (Or not, depending on your mood). Try going somewhere and sitting for a while. A local coffee shop, a nearby church, the park up the road. Even the local train station is a good place to just sit and wait. Hopefully it won't be long before the desire to pull out a notebook hits.

Carry a notebook and pen wherever you go. Or leave one beside the bed and jot down ideas just before you go to sleep. Often the motivation will hit just as we're relaxing. When we're in a constant state of looking for what to do next, our brain finds it more difficult to settle and do what we love the most.

Sometimes finding creative ways to work writing in to your day may also help. A laundry cycle can take over an hour so make a drink, sit down, and let your brain wander to those far away places. Finding a few minutes in an otherwise busy day to sit and write can seem like a challenge but it can be done. Ten minutes here and there is all it needs before something finally clicks and you find that spark to power you along.


When your motivation is lacking it can feel like an uphill struggle to regain it. But you can. It's just finding that one thing, or that one block of time, when it'll just click back in to place for you. But don't give up and keep on trying. You've got this!


Saturday, 12 August 2017

The Desire to Create



The desire to create lives within the souls of millions of people. From photographs to music to paintings to literature, and a wealth of beauty in between, that need to do something can be painful. It's a pain that lives deep within a person, a knot that won't go away until something is done. Once the paintbrush is picked up, or the pen is put to paper, the ache begins to dull, fading to a dull throb. The ache remains like that while the creator is doing what they need to do. Once they leave that beautiful place, they find the pain returning, only to die down once they're back doing what they're called to do.

I felt like that for a long time. This summer has been the first one in four or five years that I've been able to sit back and enjoy. I haven't been desperately trying to get something started. I haven't felt like I'm racing against a mythical countdown that I only I can sense. For the first time in a long time, I feel a sense of peace and completion, as though that clock has, for the moment, either stopped or paused. To be able to relax and breathe has been a blessing this summer.

I've enjoyed the sun. I've spent time in the garden. I've delighted in walking among the trees. I've explored new places and drank in the warm air of a summer's evening. For now, it's nice to rest and relax and not have to worry about creating. While the sun still burns high in the sky, creating can take a back seat.

And it's been good for me on a creative level, too. Seeing the world through fresh eyes has allowed me to see old projects through fresh eyes, too. It's allowed me to make notes on other projects that I'd like to begin, or to branch out and start dabbling on those projects that I swear I'll do if only I had the time. But, for the past three years, my mind has been focused on that perpetually ticking clock, the clock which has pushed and pushed me to do something. Now I feel that I have done that something and I can do other things while publishers decide where its new home will be.


Whenever that urge hits, follow it. Create something beautiful and don't stop until it's finished. Put it out in to the world and see what happens. You never know what will happen when you pick up a pen, or a paintbrush, or a guitar, and do something amazing.


Friday, 21 July 2017

Light Up The Darkness

Another bright left has been extinguished. Chester Bennington, singer for Linkin Park, passed away on 20th July 2017. Cause of death – Depression.



We need to start being more open about mental health. For some reason we keep it a secret as though we must not speak of an illness that only shows its face in those final, painful moments.

Why do we keep mental health hidden? Why do we fear it? Because it cannot be seen? Yet there are many invisible illnesses that are accepted and spoken about without the level of Victorian-esque fear that mental health seems to inspire. It almost feels as though we still live in an age where any of us may become a spectacle in an asylum.

But mental health has come so far since those dark days of Bedlam. No longer must we live in fear that we're going to be a person who is scorned or ridiculed. No longer are we going to be paraded for the entertainment of others. Those days are gone. Finished. Over.

Yes, mental health care is still lacking in so many parts of the world. But there is help. And there is hope. We may look at social media as a burden yet, in this day and age, we are only a few key strokes away from asking for help. No one knows who they're linked to until they ask. No one knows what the hive mind of the internet can turn up. You don't have to suffer alone any more.

You don't have to suffer.

You don't have to suffer.

You don't have to suffer.

We are all here for one another, here to support, and to love, and to care. These illnesses, the ones that drive us to the depths of wanting to end our lives, don't need to hide in the darkness any more. It's time for them to be visible. It's time for them to speak their names. It's time for them to stop pushing people in to the shadows for fear that others will humiliate them for daring to say, “I don't feel well.”.

You are not alone. And you are precious. You are loved. You are beautiful. We live in a world that wants to push us in to those shadows, that wants us to hate ourselves because we're not “perfect”, that wants us to disappear because we don't fit into a mould.

Every one of us was born to be different. We weren't born to all look the same, or act the same, or think the same. You are amazing just the way you are. It's time for us to start accepting ourselves as we are and to stop beating ourselves up because we're different from what the world expects us to be. You, and your brain, are exactly where you're supposed to be right now. Time flies and, two years from now, all could be different. Hang on. Keep breathing. Keep living. Don't give up.

Don't ever give up.

Don't ever give up.

Don't ever give up.

You are worth so much more than deciding to step away now. Your thoughts, your ideas, your beauty, everything that makes you you is destined to be here right now. You are destined to be here. There's a reason for you living in this moment and it's not to step away. You are not a burden. You are not worthless. You are not useless. You are not nothing. You are someone.

You are a relative, a lover, a friend, a colleague, an internet chat friend, a social media commentator, a video creator, a blogger, an artist, a friendly face on a dark day. To someone, somewhere, you are something. You may not know it right now, but you are.


You are more than the darkness. 


Saturday, 17 June 2017

In Time of Pain and Grief

Today I wanted to write about positive thinking. But I can't. Not today.

For those living in the UK, it's been a hard month. On 22nd May, a suicide bomber entered the Manchester Evening News Arena and killed twenty two people. Less than two weeks later, attackers killed eight people on and around London Bridge. And less than two weeks after that came the horrifying and unforgivable fire at Grenfell Tower in London which has left countless dead and many more homeless and displaced. Amid it all is a tinder-dry political situation, a situation that, with the current climate in the UK, is threatening to become an unstoppable wave of rage and anger.

In times like these, we often wonder what's happening to us and the world that we live in. As we endure the pain of loss and grief we know that, elsewhere in the world, similar horrors are occurring and our hearts ache for those caught up in these global atrocities.



As we grieve we look to those round us for comfort. Family, friends, co-workers, and strangers in the street become sounding boards for the pain that we're feeling. Communities come together to support those who are suffering and to provide a central place for those who can lend a helping hand.

Often, in the wake of such events, life can seem fragile and meaningless. We can debate why we're here and whether our efforts to improve life, whether for ourselves or others, is worth it. Why continue when the heartache is so great? Why carry on when someone will come and tear it apart? Why carry on when no one is listening?

Why should we carry on? Because it's what we need to do. We need to help to rebuild the lives of those affected. We need to be there to support one another. We need to come up with solutions to stop such incidents from happening again. We need to help strengthen each other's voices. We need to carry on and create that beautiful and peaceful world that so many of us so desperately want, a world that is filled with compassion, empathy, love, and peace.

Grieve for those who have passed and support those who are left behind. Lay flowers. Light candles. Cry. Grieve. Get angry. Be with the people that you love. Give your time to those who need your help. If you need help, find someone to talk to. Create. Connect. Rebuild.


Like a phoenix, great things can come from the ashes of devastation.  



Saturday, 20 May 2017

Dear Beautiful You

Photo by Leland Francisco


Dear Beautiful You,

Life may seem hard at the moment but please know that it isn't always like this.

You are here for a reason. You are here to do amazing things and to see a world that is as beautiful as you are.

You are worth more than what your brain, or your environment, is telling you that you are. The things that you have to offer the world are far greater than you can imagine.

You, and your flaws, are beautiful, and always have been. Don't let anyone tell you any differently.

Reach out to those around you; your friends, your family, strangers on Facebook, someone on the end of the phone. There is someone, out there in the great ether, who is ready to listen and to take some of the burden from you.

You may feel as though life is crushing you to the point of no return but don't allow it to do that. There is more to this world than the darkness that encompasses you. Many before you have passed through those dark moments and gone on to live great and wonderful lives. You're here, in the now, and able to join them.

Join them on amazing journeys. Create incredible art. Sing like no one's listening. Dance like no one's watching. Laugh until your body aches. Sleep for as long as you so wish. Watch that movie you've been intending to watch. Read the book that's been sitting by your bedside for the past six months. Eat the chocolate that's in your fridge.

There is more to life than what you're seeing and feeling right now. The darkness may be trying to drag you under. But once the storm has passed, you will be free once more.

Help is there for you. Help is always there. If you're too tired to reach for it yourself, ask someone to do it for you. There will be someone, maybe a friend, maybe a stranger, who will do what you are too tired to do and help to put you on to a path of healing.

You are not alone in this world. There are so many others who, just like you, think that the darkness will never lift. Find one another. Embrace each other. Talk. Work through the darkness together and banish the loneliness that encompasses your soul.

Don't listen to the naysayers. Don't listen to those who tell you that there is only one way of healing. There are many ways and you will find one that works for you. Maybe it'll be on the first attempt. Maybe it'll be on the tenth attempt. But you'll find a way to ease the aches and pains of an unforgiving mind.

You, my darling, are so very brave. For every day you wake up to battle the demons that left you so very tired the night before. Keep on fighting, for your battle is an inspiration to so many people around you.


Life does get better. It may not seem like it now but it will. Rest your weary soul and look through the darkness to find the light of hope.

Because there is always hope.

There is always hope.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Be Like The Cat



This is Crumpet. She's about two and a half years old and lives with my brother. Other than her Mum and Dad, there's several other things that she loves.

Sleeping



Eating



And occasionally helping me to write.



She's sassy, classy, and a little bit bad assy. And we love her to the ends of the Earth.


Unlike us, she generally doesn't care about the little things in life. As long as her food bowl is full, the cat flap is unlocked, and the bed is warm, she's happy. She doesn't care what you think of her. She doesn't the sweat the big things in life like whether it's too cold to go out hunting. If it makes her happy, she'll go and do it.

So what can we, as humans, learn from cats in order to make us happier?

Love Yourself First
It's been said a million times but cats love themselves more than the love us. They were once worshipped as gods and have never forgotten this. Putting yourself first is a priority. If you don't then you can quickly become run down, sick, overloaded, and stressed. Take time out for yourself. Read a book (with or without a cat trying to read it with you). Take a long bath. Sleep for however long you want to sleep.

Sleep is Beautiful
Crumpet loves a good sleep, and so should you. Cats will rest whenever they wish, and there's a valuable lesson in that. When you're tired, sleep. Don't force yourself to stay awake because it's not “bed time”. Cats teach us that every minute is a potential time to have a sleep. If your body is exhausted then it's trying to tell you something. Hop in to bed and have a snooze no matter what the hour is.

Conquer Your Fears
When winter rolls around, one of Crumpet's favourite places is on top of the boiler. It's not an easy area to access yet she's worked out how to reach it. If your fears are holding you back there's no way that you'll reach the places you want to go. Facing whatever scares you is one of the most important things you can do to help yourself progress in life. And if at first you don't succeed then keep on trying. Just because it didn't work out the first time doesn't mean that it won't work out on the second, third, or fourth time.

Bury It

If something is getting you down, take a leaf from the Book of Cat and bury it. Bury it and walk away. Sure, our emotional and psychological pain is far greater than whatever the cat's burying but the principle is the same. They're getting rid of the waste in the lives and walking away, forgetting about it in the process. We can do the same, whether it's mentally or physically. On the physical plane, you can can write a letter of the things that you wish to eject from your life and then bury it in your garden. If you don't have a garden, tearing it up and tossing it in the rubbish also works. The physical task of letting these things out and disposing of them is a great relief.

Be like Crumpet. Be sassy, classy, and a little bit badassy. And fill your life with warm sunbeams, deep beds, and good food.


Posted in memory of Crumpet's sister, Pickle (aka Little Picklelilly).


Friday, 21 April 2017

The Wish is Drawn Inside



On my left wrist is a black rubber bracelet that a friend gave to me. It looks like any number of the different designs that you can buy. This particular one is printed with the name of a band and acts as a semi-permanent reminder that life only happens when you get up and do something about it.

Like any musician, the person who the band belongs to is desperate to get their music out there. However, despite numerous offers of help, they refuse to do anything, instead leaving the band to linger through a slow and painful death.

My friend, who had the wristbands printed for the band, has helped this person on a number of occasions. Yet, despite the financial help, late night phone calls, early morning text messages, and everything in between, the only thing this person remembers is the one thing that my friend hasn't done for them as opposed to the wealth of jobs that she's already undertaken for them.

No matter how much advice and help that was offered, this person continued to complain about the things that people hadn't done for them. They complained about their life, their lack of money, the competition from other bands, the lack of interaction on their social media accounts, and venues that wouldn't call them back. At no point, did they look at themselves and say, “Okay, what can I do to get where I want to be?”. Instead, they relied purely on their looks to help them get through life. Sadly, that isn't enough.

The people around you aren't always going to help you get to where you want to be. They're not going to help you achieve your dreams. Sure, they'll walk the path with you. They'll share your highs and your lows. If you support them in their endeavours, they'll support you in yours. But the only person who can make anything happen in your life is you. Only you have the power to stand up and start working on what will get you to the top of your game.

It takes real grit, and a lot of heart, to keep following your dreams especially when the going gets tough. Sitting back on your heels and complaining about the life that you currently have isn't going to help you to change anything. You have to be the proactive one. You have to assess the situation and see what you can do in order to achieve your goals. There are so many tools out there to help you. All you have to do is look (or ask someone. But don't rely on them too heavily to help you reach your dreams. If they give you a helping hand, turn around and offer them one in return).

To paraphrase my friend, unless you get off your arse and work on your dreams you'll forever be stuck with the life that you don't want.


The moral of this story? Get up. Work hard. And keep on going. Because you don't know what's going to be at the top of the mountain.


Sunday, 2 April 2017

New Beginnings



Spring is a beautiful time of the year. The days get longer and the weather becomes warmer as the world eases its way out of another winter. Around us, plants and flowers begin to grow again, new leaves and petals unfurling from branches and stems. Parks and gardens become a riot of colour and we begin to feel better.

This fresh, new season can also be seen as a time for ourselves to be reborn. Often we struggle with ourselves. We see ourselves as unchangeable, as people who must stay the same from one day to the next. We carry baggage from years previously, refusing to let it go because it's the only thing we know. That baggage, whether its the ghosts of past relationships or the hooks of a previous job that have become buried beneath our skin, feels like it defines us. It feels like that's all that we have to offer to the world and that nothing we can do will change that.

But, like the flowers that are starting to sprout, we too can decide to shed the darkness of winter and leave our old lives behind. We can become new people, reborn in to a brand new world.

There are so many quotes that relate to this evolution:

Every day is a new day.

Every day is a new chapter.

Every day is a chance to start over.

Every morning starts with a new page.

Each morning we are born again.

That's because every day is a chance to start over. It's a chance to shed the skin of the person that you once were and become the person that you want to be. You're not confined by your job title, relationship status, social media profile, or medical issues. You are a person who can choose to change their life. Your life probably won't change over night but, like the coming of spring, you go through the slow process of changing a little something every day. Finally, at some point in the future, you will find yourself in the place that you want to be.

Don't allow yourself to become inhibited by the person you believe that you are (or the person that you believe you should be). Don't allow yourself to be imprisoned by the thinking of others whether that's friends, family, or the media. Don't allow yourself to believe what people tell you about living your life. Most importantly, don't give up, no matter how hard the process may seem.

Instead, allow yourself to grow and flourish. Let the petals of your life uncurl and live your life your way.


Saturday, 4 March 2017

Inspirational Interview - Tommy Odetto



Chasing your dreams is an act of bravery that so many people take. Staring them in the face and not knowing whether the outcome will be what you see in your mind is the risk that you have to take. Every day, people around the world take that deep breath and whisper to themselves, “I'm going to do this.”. Those voices that speak to your soul can become so overwhelming that they're painful. And they keep talking and talking until you have no option but to listen.

I've been blessed to meet some incredible people over the years. Dreamers and risk takers, people who've given up everything to listen to their heart and go for it. They serve as an inspiration for when the fear of failure begins to rise.

Tommy Odetto is one of those people, a man whose music is so beautiful that it makes you wonder if it's created in a place that's not of this Earth. Like so many others, he's chasing his dreams and knitting them into a wonderful reality.

Hi, Tommy! Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about who you are and where you're from.

Hello! My name is Tommy Odetto. I'm 28 years old, and I'm born and raised in beautiful Northern California. Little about me? I'm a music freak. I love music. I live to play guitar, write songs, and sing. As well as listening and just enjoying music in a daily basis! I like meeting new people, good food, and good movies.

Young Tommy

What first prompted you to pick up a guitar and start playing?

My best friend Pat, and some older family members of friends I was introduced to the music of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Eric Cream, and it literally felt like a beautiful spell was cast on me. I knew I was going to dedicate the rest of my life playing music upon hearing that.


Who are your musical influences?

I'm a Beatles freak. They're my all time favorite. I have and do, study their music a lot. Their music is the tapestry to my life pretty much!

The first time ever in my life where music really hit me was watching early footage of Elvis Presley on The Ed Sullivan Show. It just gave me the chills as a kid, and I immediately started dressing and combing my hair like Elvis from age 8-10 years old about. That opened the door to all 50's Rock and Roll. I loved Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, and guys like that. I also loved all Pop from late 50's early 60's. My dad always listened to The Everly Brothers, British Invasion groups, Motown, Bobby Darin. Great stuff like that was my first exposure to music that really moved me.

Now I love so much stuff. I love all music. I love Blues, Jazz, Indian music, Classical, 60s Pop, Rock and Roll from every period. Anything heartfelt and good!


Creative people don't tend to have “typical” days. Some have set routines while others just go with the flow. What's a day in the life of a musician like? Do you stick to a routine? Or do you see what happens?

Haha! Yes I'm all over the place. I'm a total night owl. Always have been. I love writing and creating at night and into the wee hours. I'm sure other professional musicians are a lot more organized. I'd forget my guitar if I actually put it down once in a while.

At Conejo Valley Days 2016

Your life story, as documented on your website, is one that so many creative people can relate to. How do you feel that your life has set you up for the road that you're on now? At what point did you know the exact path that you wanted to take in life?

Wow good question. Well first I have to say I'm beyond blessed to have parents that believed in me, and knew music was my destiny as much as I did. Secondly, growing up in Fairfax, California with some of the most talented musicians around. Fairfax has really courted me as a community, and help me develop my skills as a musician no doubt.

With all of that said, There's also been a lot of trying times, and still are challenges. I mean, I really believe music chose me. I didn't have a choice. The passion was so strong, is so strong, that my heart would never let me veer off that track, even for a second. That doesn't always fit in with day to day realities, but I knew, and know that it's what I need to do on this earth, so you figure it out! I took a leap of faith, and never turned back from day one, and I've been lucky to get some really great opportunities so far.

Music is your passion and your life. Do you find that there's anything in particular that inspires you? Are there any particular themes or lyrical images that you find yourself returning to?

Yes! Anything that moves me. Whether it's a song that gets my juices going, or just life occurrences, and going through the things that you experience in life. It's all about real emotion thought. If something moves me, that's all I need.



Your songs are beautiful and I implore anyone to go and listen. How do you feel about the 21st Century music industry? Is there a big difference between good and bad days?

Thank you so much. Another good question. Honestly, at least in what's big in the mainstream, is garbage. Total garbage. Not everything, but most. The biggest thing for me is a lot of it is ego based. How much swag they have, how cool they are. It disgusts me. Artists like Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, The Beatles and people like that, were about lifting people up. Their music was real. Humanity poured out of them. Opened people's hearts up. Changed people's lives. That's why great art, and artists are all about. Real true emotion.

Today's artists I see are no different then a Pepsi commercial. Not to mention, artist originality, songwriting, production is pretty sophomoric. At least to me. To be a major recording artist in the 30s 40s and 50s, you truly had to have something really special to offer. You had to truly be a great artist. That's the gold standard for me. All of the old stuff. Whether it's Benny Goodman, or Brian Wilson.


For anyone who hasn't heard you before, how would you describe your music?

Rock music that's basically a combination of everything I like! Definitely some Blues, and Funk in there too.


At the 2016 Conejo Valley Days you fulfilled one of your dreams. Please tell us about that and how it made you feel.

What a day that was. I still think about almost everyday. It was truly magical, and I'm so grateful. For those that don't know, I made YouTube video that it was my dream to jam with Dave Grohl. Luckily, and amazingly, it reached his attention. Through a couple of very special people to me, I was booked for CVD. We met backstage and he was really nice, really complementary, and just such a gentleman. On stage, it was such a rush, and it didn't fully hit me until after the performance. But in a way, I felt like I was jamming with the big brother I never had. It was one of the best days of my life.



You're currently running a crowdfunding campaign. What's it for? And what will the end product be?

Thank you for asking. I've been given the opportunity to record an EP, at Foo Fighters' private studio and Headquarters, Studio 606. Long time Grohl collaborator, and Producer of Foo Fighters/Nirvana, Barrett Jones, agreed to Produce the EP. We will be recording on the Neve Console that was documented in the Grohl documentary, "Sound City". Nirvana recorded "Nevermind" on this console, among countless other landmark albums. We still have a ways to go, and you can donate here! https://www.gofundme.com/tommy606


Some people find crowdfunding to be very easy, while others struggle with it. How are you finding the process?

Interesting question. I find it to be quite a challenge in a lot of ways. It's a daily thing. Checking in with everyone, thanking everyone who's donated, making sure you get rewards to those who are owed them. It's a complete leap of faith, but I'm constantly moved by how many have stepped up to back me. So no, I don't find it easy!


Every recording studio is different, each having qualities that others don't. You've chosen to record your next project at Studio 606. Is there a reason for choosing that particular studio?

Yes! The Neve recording Console! Great room! Great engineers!

Bar the project that you're currently crowdfunding for, if you could have one other dream come true, which one would it be and why?

Be the opening act on tour with Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Or Clapton!! On tour with my heroes would be amazing!


Do you have a personal motto that you live by?

The only thing standing between you, and your dreams, is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself.

2017 - Photo by Rich W Chapman

What advice would you give to someone who's chasing their dreams?

Giving up is not an option.


Finally, where can find you, and your music, online?


You can donate to Tommy's 606 Recording Dream at: