The edges is where it is at.

Now and then I check the Spotify top 50 charts and my gut reaction is a wince.

I approach the music without prejudice and will always be fascinated by what makes a hit a hit, but other than my musicological curiosity. The music more often than not, is not for me.

I’ve come to learn that there is are fundamental reasons why the chart music does not work for me.

One reason is that my musically trained ears usually require something with a bit more sophistication.

Another is maybe that the production is a bit run of mill. Super loud, super compressed and sound choices that are being used at the time simply because their fashionable.

The most important reason is that my values as to what music means to me is rarely aligned with what is in the charts.

As a result. If I mentioned my top favourite albums to anyone around me, it is unlikely they have heard it.

I choose music that speaks to me in a way that is more personal, weird and interesting.

That is okay.

We are an era where hits mean very little. TV especially seems to be going through an extraordinarily exciting period of creative development where shows are coming up that are unique and tailor made for an audience with a specific taste.

If you aim to target only 1% of the population of the U.K. with what you create, that’s still 660,000 people.

It’s good to have a space in your creative output where you maintain a full sense of integrity, stay true to what you want to achieve and work in your niche.

Everyone else is already taken.

P.S. If you might like the music I like, below is the playlist. There is no better marketing tool than word of mouth.

Paying attention vs. Getting attention

It’s a really good idea to clearly distinguish the two. Paying attention is certainly more rewarding and fulfilling than getting attention.

By paying attention, I mean focusing on your creative goals, getting into the zone where time becomes elastic. This has happened to me when I have been working on a track and all of a sudden it is 4am in the morning or when I have been in the studio space and managed to cram 14 hours of guitar tracking into a single day.

Getting attention is an inevitable desire. We have made something and we want to share it with the world. It is of course necessary to have a strategy in place to ship and distribute our work, but for the sake of our mental health, we need to avoid the pitfalls that the combination of social media and the human condition have set up.

Whether I have had something viewed ten or ten thousand times, for the part of the brain that these numbers feed, it will never be enough. The stats are informative but they can also be a race to the bottom. Are we hustlers or are we creators? We must not let the numbers define the value of the creative work we do, especially when the journey is so rewarding for us.

The evolution of ideas

When I think retrospectively about the music I have made, I feel that each individual track has it’s own particular story.

‘High Rise’ from the new Kinky Wizzards album originated from a riff I wrote when I was 14. It took over a decade for me to apply it to a finished composition. On the other hand, the occasional idea can be materialised and finalised in a single day. Some tracks to which I composed just music all of a sudden work with pre-existing lyrics that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.

There is a wonderful fluidity about creativity. More often than not though, I am dancing with gut instinct, educated guesses and trial and error (with a lot of errors) before I can with true conviction, tell myself that I am getting somewhere.

Without acceptance of the fact that we will make mistakes and things may or may not work, we would not be anywhere near as creative.

Primary school children are the best at doing this. As the late Sir Ken Robinson said, they are willing to give things a shot without ego getting in the way. As we get older, we are conditioned into avoiding mistakes and ultimately, I think that this is the biggest mistake we can make.

The enhancements of walking daily

For the best part of three months from March to May 2020, I, along with many residents, spent most of my time in my apartment in Dubai in isolation.

To pass the time, I kept fit doing mat exercises, I read, I wrote music, learnt new recipes and thankfully had a job that kept me busy. I also rewatched all of ‘Breaking Bad’.

Looking back at how challenging it was to be alone in that situation, I am glad that I found the resilience to respond well enough and cope with the situation.

Nevertheless, since the easing of restrictions and moving back to the U.K. I have gone for a walk almost every single day and cherish it more than I ever have done.

There has always been a cathartic quality to taking a walk and my curiosity led to me find out more about the benefits of walking. It is of no surprise that many great composers and entrepreneurs had walking in their daily routines. Steve Jobs was known to have ‘walking meetings’.

Besides the physical benefits of walking, there has also been developments in research that show that walking in fact enhances our cognitive capabilities and makes us more creative as well. (Here is a very detailed study on it https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/xlm-a0036577.pdf)

I can vouch for this, I find myself thinking with more clarity when I go walking and some of my most lucid creative ideas can occur amidst the temporal movement of putting one front in front of the other.

So for those of you reading this, I challenge you to get a daily walk into your routine, even if it as short as ten minutes. You may be surprised of the possibilities that come from it.

Creative Inconveniences

The more I lead this utterly crazy life of creating music, the more I realise that for the most part, your best ideas will come at completely inconvenient times and that you have just got to deal with it.

I cycle across the west coast of Wales, between Cardigan and Abaraeron. A musical phrase enters my head, syncopated and an odd time feel, my head continuously runs through the idea as my legs keep pedalling. I have another 400 miles and five days of cycling before I can lay my hands onto a guitar to process that idea. Besides the delirium of burning 9000 calories a day and cycling almost the entire perimeter of Wales, this idea ceases to leave my head.

I queue up for a coffee in my student town, an opening of a song comes in my head, and I frantically write it into the notes of my phone before I order a cappuccino, to which the caffeine adds to more frantic stream of ideas that are trying to pass through somewhere other than my neurological system.

A three-hour train journey, and yet another musical phrase sets itself in my brain and is wishing to be unleashed. Fortunately, I was savvy enough to take manuscript with me on my venture but alas, a baby persistently cries within the carriage and I must persist through the piercing sound frequencies that imperatively grasps the attention from a child’s parents and forge my own frequencies that are trying to express something entirely different.

And finally I have the time to sit down and pursue these ideas in my studio space when all of a sudden a light bulb sparks itself in my head and says ‘Hello there! I am a bright new idea…I’m all sparkly and stuff’ and I retort by saying ‘Go away, I’m busy, could you have just waited a week or two?’ (I could do with a cup of tea; shall I opt for the smokiness of Lapsang Souchong or the lemon zestiness of Earl grey??? Oh, that reminds me, I haven’t eaten for nearly 24 hours as I have been too busy mixing!)

As I venture through this creative wonderland, excited yet perturbed, happy yet miserable (***The Tortured artist may well be NOT a myth, we are indeed pitiful souls…read all about it http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christopher-zara/tortured-artists_b_1605509.html). I shall eventually create such a bizarre catalogue of music that most ordinary people will deem it the product of a crazed loony toon, and suitably conclude that it will fit in none other vicinity than Willy Wonka’s Chocalate Factory, only kept alive by loyal audience members that somehow see them isolated and estranged selves within this bohemian mirror.

Maybe one day, it will all subside and the endless lament of writer’s block shall instead vex me, and I shall disappear for five years (maybe grow a vineyard, or venture into carpentry, or buy a yacht). Then one day, inspiration will once strike me again, and I shall scheme a remarkable return to which I will alienate everyone by releasing my equivalent of Radiohead’s Tree Fingers.

Would I have it any other way though?

Nope.