I'm more commonly known as a singer/songwriter/pianist these days, but I used to study classical flute. Like, proper study. Anyone reading this from school (especially primary school) will probably remember me as the kid in band. So when I was taking the exam for my Associate Diploma, I felt an appropriate amount of nerves, but I was also so damn prepared that in many ways, it was a breeze.
I was prepared because of the large amount of exercises I practiced on a daily basis. Because my teacher told me to practice difficult passages in a variety of different rhythms - forwards and backwards. Because she had me visualize a Baroque court when I was playing Bach like Debussy (mmm classical French music). Because I left no stone unturned.
When I started seriously getting into the popular music side of things - writing songs, recording, playing shows; I got so caught up in the 'freedom' and 'creativity' aspect that I lost sight of how important focused and consistent practice is.
If I'm to compare studying a classical instrument to being a singer/songwriter, I believe they each have completely different sets of challenges. Their common denominator though, is practice.
Firstly, I think everyone is different and I'm sharing this blog as a token of my own thoughts from my own experiences.
I've found it necessary to practice more than just the obvious: singing. writing songs. playing piano.
I've found it necessary to also practice things like combat negative feelings. This requires a strategy.
If you ever experience self doubt, nerves, fear or any other unpleasant emotion that can creep up before a performance, song/album release or just out of the blue (N.B. you're far from alone); then pre-empt these and have a strategy in place to fight them.
HOUR OF POWER:
So in light of that, my daily practice now looks a little like this:
20 mins - vocal exercises
20 mins - piano exercises
10 mins - stretching
10 mins - meditation
You may find you end up spending more time on each, but on most days, this is pretty achievable, right? You don't even have to do it all in one hit!
LEADING UP TO A GIG/RELEASE/IMPORTANT EVENT:
This is where it's important to step it up a notch. Pre-empt those unpleasant feelings and fight fight fight!
Firstly, on the performance side of things, this is where I like to bring in the 'one man show'. Play your set to one lucky person. This is much scarier than playing to a bunch of people. (Unless it's Ric's Bar on a Tuesday night and you're playing to seven friends whose eye colours you can make out from the stage).
This should do two things:
1. Boost your confidence.
2. Make you very quickly aware of the things you want to sharpen.
Make sure you've timed your set so you can relax when it's time for the gig!
DEALING WITH NEGATIVITY
I feel like this can be the harder battle, and the one people tend to talk about less.
I still experience negative feelings before I release music or play an important show. I'd like to say that I've found a way to get rid of them but that wouldn't be true. What I can truthfully say, is that I've found a way to not let those feelings overrun me.
The picture above was taken right before one of my favourite gigs. I'm here with my lovely, talented friend and make up artist and we're wearing Athan Jon.
I was SO nervous before this show because I wasn't sure what people would think of this type of outrageous fashion at a local rock show in Brisbane. But then the next time I did something similar, I was less nervous. I still get nervous whenever I do something new. But then the new becomes familiar. What a great pattern to repeat.
Sounds easy in theory, but I know it's harder in practice. Remember, it's a muscle that can be trained.
Here are some things I recommend to fight negativity. Call upon these when you need them:
1. Hang out with a friend who you have fun with and uplifts you. You know the difference between procrastinating and spending some quality time with someone to take a break and gain perspective. Don't feel guilty about doing this.
2. Keep a notebook with quotes from people you admire.
3. Keep a notebook and write down the times where you've felt at your best - it may be after a good performance, it may be a comment someone left you on social media. When someone leaves me a comment saying they can relate to a song I wrote or that I've brightened their day, I remember that for me, being a singer/songwriter is about sharing with others. This activity can shift my mindset in a heartbeat.
4. Setting a daily mantra in the morning and repeating it whenever negative thoughts arise.
Negative thoughts are tricky and there's no quick fix. These are some of the things I do to nip them in the bud when they arise - hope they'll help you!
What do you all do? Share your tips below!
I love my life in Tokyo but the more days I spend on a train surrounded by concrete high rises, the more I crave nature.
"Enter Mt Takao"
What I loved most about this place, is that there is something for everyone - a cable car for those just wanting to take in the sights, beautiful temples and shrines for those wanting a cultural experience, a beautiful looking waterfall and the Inariyama trail - a good ol' hiking path.
We opted for the waterfall trail and then took the Inariyama trail by accident. (note: the signs are in English...don't ask how we got this confused) so it wasn't the relaxing walk we intended to do...
However! Here are my personal pro's and con's to this trail:
* It was much quieter and when we did pass people, we always exchanged a 'konnichiwa'
* I now know this was a sign of mutual respect for entering the climb of pain
* Birds were singing which was just lovely
* It eventually links up with trail 6, the waterfall trail.
* I felt bad ass walking up a river crossing.
* There's a lookout that is quite nice
* Not a relaxing stroll.
* Begins up a hill of many stairs. Hill continues.
* A lot of the other people had walking poles. We could have benefited from this also.
* If you are catching the train home in peak hour, standing is not fun afterwards
* Not scenic compared to some of the other trails
The way down was a completely different experience. This mountain has got some serious temples and shrines. Seeing these beautiful buildings and monuments has got to be one of my highlights in Japan so far.
Unlike the Inariyama trail, these paved paths were filled with tourists, families and couples there to enjoy a relaxing afternoon.
If you've never taken a cable car. Come here just to do that. It's seriously cool and fun. (I recommend listening to 'how to save a life' by the Fray in anticipation)
I also made a vlog of our mountain journey which you can check out here.
THIS ALL SOUNDS GREAT BUT HOW DO I GET HERE?
Take the Keio Line to Takaosanguchi station. It takes under an hour from Shinjuku station.
Any more questions? Have you been here before? Comment me below!
I thought about naming this blog post 'the blood, sweat and tears that went on behind the scenes of creating Not The Same' because it certainly wasn't a straight road from A to B.
I had a very clear vision of what I wanted - many people thought I was channelling Lady Gaga but I was actually drawing inspiration from Japanese shironuri fashion - in particular, the artist and fashion icon Minori. I wanted to wear a dream like, etherial costume that would kind of blend into the forest.
I also wanted to find an absolutely stunning dress for the shots inside...ala J'Aton Couture.
I spent days of dedicated, focused music video dress shopping and kept coming back empty handed feeling like I'd simply wasted a whole lot of time.
So I went to Spotlight, (THE material/arts and crafts store for all you peeps not from Australia), bought a bunch of material and hassled the staff for sewing tips. I had never sewed in my life but I was completely prepared to do it!
Just as my sewing career was about to kick off (sarcasm with a hint of 'we'll never know'), my friend told me about a really cool vintage store that I should check out so the next day I headed to Tum Vintage and found SO many amazing things! More material plus an absolutely beautiful silver floor length dress that I decided would be perfect.
I met the owner aka amazing fashion designer and dress maker Jonathan Pampling and told him what I was doing, showed him my inspiration pics and told him that I'd bought a bunch of material.
To cut a long story short, the material ended up in the incredibly capable hands of Athan and became the amazing piece in the pic above.
The silver floor length gown? Ta da! Athan upcycled it, making this amazing purple dress. I'm still in awe of the fact of the length of the train - no material was added! Just very strategic cutting.
I'm so glad I decided not to settle for something store bought. When I was preparing to sew, I actually cut up one of my vintage dresses at home that I quite liked - if quick unpicking a beloved dress to try your hand at sewing for art is not an act of faith, I don't know what is!
I truly believe in the law of attraction. It might sound strange, but I believe that shifting my mindset and taking greater action is what led me further in the right direction. Not only did my vision become clearer but I met someone who 'got' what I was doing right away (very different story at Spotlight), who's work I absolutely admire and who continues to inspire me.
Keep working, dreaming, planning and being brave x
You can check out the vid here