A Dry Spell Creatively
I’ve been worried about my songwriting for a while. During the writing of ‘And Into the Woods’ in 2016-2017 the songs seemed to flow from me; they seemed to want to ‘get out’ of me in one of the most cathartic songwriting processes I’ve ever had.
And then the flow dried up. For two years, the most I could seem to create were fragments of lyrical or musical ideas and nothing seemed to be coming together cohesively into songs. My confidence as a writer and performer took a real knock at this time.
I blamed some of it on my need to up my antidepressants. Whilst this helped me keep some sort of an equilibrium and live a ‘normal’ routine, it also made me feel quite ‘disconnected’ with the world around me or conversely dampened my introspective abilities to put my emotions into some sort of context.
This all made me feel that I was stifling my own creativity and making it more difficult for me to write new things.
Slowly slowly however, ideas started to germinate and come together into some sort of form, and my belief in my ability to write songs started to tentatively return. The theme of the ‘Tulpa’ became my focus.
What is a ‘Tulpa?’
The catalyst for the ‘theme’ of these ideas came from the most unlikely of places…. a favourite programme of mine…’Twin Peaks.’
I have a faint recollection of the show as a kid when I was about 10-11 years old when it first aired. I was too young to really understand or appreciate for more than a ‘weird programme,’ and it wasn’t until about 15 years later when I got the chance to watch it again.
I was staying over on a mate’s sofa after we’d been out on the beers in Manchester the night before. I woke up fairly early and more than fairly incapacitated. The rest of the house were asleep, but I noticed my mate’s Twin Peaks boxset and was suitably intrigued enough to pop the first disc in the DVD player. After hours had passed, I realised I’d watched the whole of the first season in one sitting and I was well and truly hooked!
The imagery, the music, the characters, the ideas, the way it pushed the boundaries of what a serialised TV drama could be – it was unlike anything I’d seen before.
The world of Twin Peaks first entered my own musical language in 2012 with my album ‘Cooper and the Giant,’ which refers to the main character of Agent Cooper and a mysterious tall man who appears to him in his hallucinations to warn him of danger. I loved the visual contrast of the two benevolent men and loved the name for an album.
Keep reading, I’m getting to a point eventually!
I’ve always loved the contrast of opposites in my songwriting. I’m not entirely sure why this is, they’re just always appealed to me. I’ve written songs with names like ‘Power and Fragility,’ ‘Everything or Nothing’ ‘False Words and Promises’ and so on that explore the idea of contrasting emotions or situations.
I’ve combined the ideas of Twin Peaks (particularly the more recent Series 3) and my love of our own intrinsic contrasts/duality in my new album-in-the-making ‘Tulpa.’
As far as any of David Lynch’s wonderfully nonlinear creations can have any kind of understandable structure, the theme of ‘Tulpas’ permeate series 3.
A Tulpa is defined as “a concept in mysticism and the paranormal of a being or object which is created through spiritual or mental powers; an ’emanation’ or ‘manifestation’ we create” and has been seen in movies like ‘Harvey‘ or ‘Donnie Darko‘ as a mental projection or part of oneself manifesting into a different entity or animal (in these cases a ‘Pooka’).
My own ‘spin’ on this idea, or at least the seed that this planted in my head was the idea of our ‘digital Tulpa.’ We are projecting our own ‘Tulpa’ into the world every time we go online; we are encouraged to create a false and often damaging projection of ourselves and we are living a ‘double identity’ – one as our ‘actual self’ and one as our ‘digital self.’ There are a myriad of different potential issues with this, and a whole generation who are growing up in a time where they have never known any different. Certainly a lot of avenues to write about.
The lyrics on many of the songs on my album-in-the-making cover these sorts of questions and ideas. In ‘Performance,’ the lyrics talk about the exhaustion of keeping up the image that we need to project in our daily lives. In ‘All These Things,’ it discusses the intangibility of what we give of ourselves to our social media image…only for these to fade away in the mists of history and technology.
I decided some time ago that one of the aspects I could change to try and reignite my passion for making music would be to work with a different producer. Due to a combination of financial constraints, nervousness about letting others put their spin on my music and a difficulty in communicating my ideas to other musicians, I’ve nearly always produced my own music. Along the way I’ve had the chance to learn the basics of Cubase and Pro Tools and I’ve enjoyed the journey of learning different techniques in amateur music production, including working with kind friends of mine like the BlueYellows who let me experiment on their tracks. But after working on professionally produced tracks with bands I’ve helped out like Brave New World and The Dying Lights, I felt it was time to let someone who really knew what they were doing tackle my new music. And there was only one place I knew I wanted to go….Colossus Studios and producer Glyn Sutton.
I’ve worked with Glyn on several projects before, and he is exactly what you need a producer to be…calm, musical and possessing a great ear for what ‘sounds right.’ He makes it ‘look easy,’ which I know from experience it really isn’t. And that’s a true skill.
So, with a clear out of all the unwanted things I could find to put on Facebook Marketplace, I started to save up enough money to fund the tracks. Being friends with Glyn, he was super kind in letting me start to work on tracks with the smallest of deposits, and work truly began on Tulpa!
The first step was to lay down eight guide tracks with Glyn at his home studio. And he certainly didn’t disappoint. Glyn made the whole process feel informal and fun and got the best of me in just over 4 hours’ work.
And the difference between working with an engineer and a producer became clear as Glyn’s made this shy, awkward, apologetic songwriter seriously excited about his new songs!
Tulpa is just beginning, but I’m excited to see where it will lead me and my music over the coming months!
Thanks for reading and supporting my music!
And here is an exclusive sneaky peak of one of the guide tracks, ‘Love is Easy.’ Hope you enjoy it!