For the first ten years of my life I grew up in Zimbabwe, in Africa.
In primary school, I used to gather the kids around in the school yard at lunch time to sit on a giant tractor tire.
I’d stand on one side of it with my audience in a semi circle on the other and sing them Abba songs, (the only songs I knew all the words to.)
The applause was addictive.
It was a rush that I wanted to have repeated again and again.
It fueled this naive dream whilst spending many hours singing into a hair brush in front of the mirror, that one day I’d be a famous singer/songwriter, with an even bigger audience and even more applause.
We moved from Africa to Australia, my parents divorced shortly thereafter and my father bought me a piano when I was ten years old.
I started taking a few lessons but hated every minute of it.
I wanted to get to the “good” stuff. The stuff in my head.
All the melodies running around in there, like a hamster on a treadmill, constantly.
The lessons went by the wayside and there came the tumultuous years of puberty with just the piano and I.
I would use an old cassette recorder and tape myself playing piano, then I’d get another tape recorder, set them up together in an empty room which echoed in its emptiness and I’d play the music and record myself singing to it with the other cassette recorder.
Ingenious. Two tracks + reverb.
A recording artist in the making! I was thirteen.
When I was sixteen I met my husband, (long story)whilst looking for a band to join.
Eventually my husband took up playing bass and we were in a few bands together playing in cover and originals bands.
At one point we were in a Divinyls concept band – I played Chrissie Amphlett, wearing the school uniform, with the whole fluro mic stand and all.
Wild years pretending we were rock stars.
Nights sleeping in the back of trucks. “Bathing” in the ocean with rotten hangovers.
Lots of drinking, late nights, rowdy crowds.
It was fun, but never really satisfying.
I soon discovered that I didn’t want to be the background music for drunk people doing the Saturday night mating dance in pubs and clubs, who really didn’t give two hoots about what I was trying to say through my lyrics.
Then I had four kids and it all stopped.
Except the songwriting.
Quietly it continued, evolved and improved.
When I discovered the internet the first place I looked for were songwriting/musicians forums.
As it happened the first forum I found was an American songwriter forum dedicated to country music.
I knew absolutely nothing about country music. Never even listened to it. That was ok though because my taste in music has always been wide and varied.
I like a challenge anyway, so I jumped in and started writing.
I studied all the “rules”. Read everything I could, bought books, listened to how the seasoned writers did it.
Before long though it was the same as learning those damned scales.
I had things I wanted to SAY but apparently, according to those die hard country people “Oh you can’t say THAT!”
Why not? I’d argue.
Why can’t I write a song called “Does my ass look big in these jeans?”
“They will never play it on the radio!” (Not mainstream radio, no, but someone did.)
Or the song about my quest to get the TV remote from my husband – “I wanna hold that thing in my hand.” (God forbid)
There would be meter Nazi’s (mainly lyric only writers) who would tear my lyrics to shreds because they didn’t read nice and tidily to their eyes.
Imperfect rhymes – tsk tsk tsk..
And my content of course, was torn to shreds.
“You can’t write that!!”
(Don’t tell me I “can’t”. Ever.)
My creativity was being squashed. Stamped and spit upon.
I was listening to everything else thinking how the “same” it sounded.
One tune after the other…polished, damped down, all ticking the exact same little boxes within the same box – commercial music.
Mindless music. Not particularly deep and touching, or funny and imaginative. Simply safe.
Not just country music. Everything I heard on the radio that was making it “big” seemed to have that sameness.
Cookie cutter, rolled out on the conveyor belt “sameness”.
Like plastic wrapped fast food for the ear.
Songs for people to tap their fingers on the steering wheel whilst stuck in traffic.
That was when I knew I didn’t want to be a part of this any more.
This whole machine….the music business.
These days the music I hear on the radio is like MacDonald burgers WITHOUT the meat patty. (Never, ever, ever….gettin’ back together! Uggggh!!!)
This thing – “the music business” sucks the life out of creativity, churns out manufactured stars who sing (or sometimes don’t even sing, what with auto tune) manufactured tunes that all follow the prescribed dose of shallow commercialism in order to make money for the bigger beast – the music industry.
It’s all about sex. Sleazy sex. All about beautiful young things hanging out their beautiful bits, gyrating their bits…Doesn’t matter whether they are talented or not as long as they have beautiful bits to shake provocatively about.
Gone are the days of deep soulful, movingly exquisite lyrics written and performed by ugly singer/songwriters.
Today, music is for the EYE. Bordering on musical porn. Hey, I’m no prude but my point is is that there’s just nothing imaginative or truly creative anymore! Certainly nothing much “fun”.
One day, in frustration, I sat down and wrote a song called “I can write a country song!” (I promise, I DO have deep and meaningful songs with a bit more soul to them.)
A protest song aimed to shock all these people giving me hell on the forums who listed all the appropriate “country things” I SHOULD be writing about.
It’s not particularly GREAT, but it’s fun and *I* had fun writing it and ultimately, I decided THAT is what I wanted to do. Have fun and be “real”.
Besides, I was thoroughly pissed off.
It was the end of a long journey and with it came an awakening.
I decided then, to write songs first and foremost for ME….to satisfy that damned hamster running around on the wheel in my head. No matter the genre. (Genre – yet more boxes to bury yourself in.)
I want to say what *I* want to say, through music with no boxes to tick and no box to stay safely within.
Damn it…I want to colour OUTSIDE the lines!
Nothing is more satisfying than when I occasionally have people who hear my humble recordings (I have progressed from an empty room with two cassette recorders to a modest digital recording set up in my home studio.) that I put up online, who sometimes say “Wow… that song you wrote really moved me…” or “Damn it, I can’t get that tune of yours out of my head now!”
It’s all good.
I still have my tractor tire and my hairbrush and nobody to tell me…
“Oh you can’t write about THAT!”
Damned WRONG. I CAN.
For all those well meaning friends and family members who keep on shaking their heads saying “But you should be DOING something with your music….”
I’m writing it.
My latest….a more deep and meaningful song from my angsty alter ego….