An Accidental Songwriter: “The Joy of Collaboration- Keeping the musical muse alive in these Corona days.

It would be all too easy right now as creatives to give up and go and do something else considered more “viable” by the powers that be. Indeed, musicians and creatives may indeed have to think wider as to how they can live. But, it is also important to keep the flame alive as  it is important as and of itself and because art forms are also a form of nurture, reflection and enjoyment. And these are qualities we all need, particularly now.

I always – without meaning to- seem to dance to my own tune and walk a different path to everyone else! And this is no different right now! Musicians can’t perform, it is hard to teach music right now, the musical muse has gone into hibernation. So, instead I have somehow created a band and done the opposite in a small humble way in these peculiar times. Not only that it is not even a band whose members are  geographically close to each other!  I  ( the singer song writer) live in north east Scotland, the  fiddle player in central London, the guitarist and king of all things plucked lives in Staines and the viol and woodwind player lives in Northamptonshire! They are all amazing musicians in their own right and I am delighted that they wish to work with me – a singer songwriter with little visibility , but songs  and lyrics that pour out like a stream of  music from my soul. A new stream of songs is flowing out -perhaps because of these strange days and my reflections on growth in adversity.

It literally all came together in Lockdown and was able to happen due to the miracle wonders of this digital age. I have written a song- called Heartsease- which will be our debut single. ( More about this particularly in a later blog when it is released). It is about Corona virus but also how our positive human  qualities will help us heal and see us through this time with some wisdom. It will be a fundraiser for a charity, in some form or another. We have agreed to call the band Karuna- which is Sanskrit for compassion, as the band was formed at a time when this needs to be our predominant collective quality of mind and also because a lot of my songs-  but not all-  come from a deeply reflective space.

Files were recorded and went back and forth and then we agreed to meet in a social distancing way in London, in a vast cavernous church which would allow us to work safely. So, I donned a mask, rubber gloves and armed with a mountain of surgical wipes and hand sanitiser flew to London to stay with my family- one of whom is a well known singer herself, and has been giving me some additional singing lessons via Skype.

I had the most wonderful creative week- we worked on these songs which have grown from this time- there is one more I wrote yesterday to add to them , whilst making elderberry syrup. (Stirring reducing purple berries is a bit boring and making up a song came as I stirred away with my wooden spoon- said song inspired by David Attenborough Extinction programme). Whilst the four songs we worked on in London  are not completely set and polished- they have their shape, form and vibe. We all got on well and creatively “vibed” well together so the whole week was a delight of creative group exploration and making new connections. It was a week of growth and burgeoning confidence- except for getting on the wrong bus  after rehearsal and ending up nearly outside London! ( Being dyscalculic means I got 13 and 113 in a big muddle).

We somehow managed to do three mini un-orthodox performances as we went along. Unorthodox due to the strange times we live in- invited folks drifting in and out-  and also as the songs  are still being “polished”.  So, more like the Scottish version of a ceilidh – which is a kind of sharing. The first  two to come and listen were my step mum- the said singer and a photographer – who came to do some pictures of us. My step mum is perhaps the keenest and most critical of listeners, whilst also wishing me the very best-so that for me was a bigger adventure than singing to three hundred ordinary  folks! Her feedback was both instructive and judiciously complimentary. She is keen to see me now spread my wings  and believes in my journey. The photographer told me the world needs theses songs and I must keep writing them, even if the way ahead is uncertain , unclear and full of obstacles.

The second “performance”  was to a couple of friends of the fiddle player- one of whom reviewed folk bands for Folk and Roots  magazine before it folded. They both loved it but the guy who reviews music said the only difficulty would be knowing where to place the songs – they do not fit in any box! He said my songs  are  a genre all of their own and this could get in the way of finding them a home in terms of radio and reviews.  But, my step mum feels that this ultimately is my greatest strength …..may that be so!

The third”proper” mini gig was to our largest social distancing audience to date ….5 people on a windblown day all social distancing in four corners of a children’s adventure playground! It was more to get the experience of “performing” together as this is vital for development and for me, living in the wilds of Scotland , any performance  occasion is one that  I must seize in whatever form it takes. 

The audience was very enthusiastic and to give them credit- they did not disappear despite the wind and the cold. We were freezing by the time we were finished , the wind blew the instrumentation away in the wind and we ended with numb fingers and in need of hot chocolate to warm us up! 

Now I am home and wondering where it goes, how to find the right charity for Heartsease, how to earn money in these mercurial topsy turvy  times. Living the good life on the land, helps minimise costs but things will need to shift and grow. I intend for Karuna to be part of that growing …..I can only remain as my step mum wisely said “ cheerfully optimistic and follow my intuitive nose” and hope that life manifests opportunities along my path which often walks me  in the opposite direction to everyone else…..

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