Playing Live


I've been mostly a recording artist by circumstance not choice. These days I am content and accept and embrace that. Its how I started out in Music so maybe it was always meant to be this way for me.

Unlike most musicians, I didn't form a band at school or meet with a bunch of people at art college or whatever. I came into Music during a period when I had just lost my first job after leaving school due to a "mystery virus", according to doctors. It was a period of isolation for me... didn't really know what was wrong with me, when it would be sorted out and since I was signed onto Incapacity Benefit for a while, had very little money. At the same time my friends were all setting off to go into the system - uni courses, working their way up in 9 - 5 jobs, etc.

It wasn't the illness that drove me into Music, but it certainly increased the appeal. What else to do when you are isolated and cut off from the world "out there" but to escape into your own inner world of sound? Gradually that escapism would become more and more real until I realised it was the wrong way round - the world out there was the illusory one and this inner world was the reality.

At that time I would have loved to have formed a band. I always imagined a bunch of people starting out together, roughly at the same skill level, and developing and growing on the journey. So I was always on the look out for that but I intuitively knew it wasn't going to happen through putting an advert for musicians in the local music shop or any formal way. All the things that have been right for me in my life have always come to me spontaneously without force or pushing. Yes, I knew I could have gotten a band together in the conventional sense but it wouldn't have been the kind of band I was looking for. So I just carried on alone and trusted it would come when it was meant to. That doesn't mean I sat back and did nothing. I was working really hard in those days, writing loads of songs, making recordings, I never stopped.

When spirituality burst into my life around 2007 and everything seemed to open up for a while, I felt this was the time. Going to continental Europe was partly because I felt it may increase the chances of meeting like-minded people. Having been in the UK for so long, it was clear very few people had my aesthetic and were looking for what I was looking for.

There was a window of a few years where it could have been possible, it certainly felt close, but once I had to return to Edinburgh in the autumn of 2014, it was beginning to look less likely. The dream was slipping away and I could feel it. Still, I never gave up and carried on trying to find people to be in a band with. Clearly though, the world was changing radically and things were not the way they used to be. People seemed even more egoic and independent than I'd ever known, everybody wanting to do their own thing (even those who didn't have a 'thing' of their own to do!), nobody really up for working as a team.

On one side I could see in a lot of females this rise in feminism to the point where they didn't want to be part of somebody elses thing but do it themselves. On the other, a rise in a kind of far-right type of guy who was opposed to the feminists and seemed to want to live a more solitary lifestyle, especially not wanting to having much to do with women. I didn't feel part of any of it, I just wanted to make Music.

From about 2018 onwards, I had resigned myself to being a solo musician. Yes, I was sad and disappointed but once I'd picked myself up I began to embrace it. It's still a beautiful life to be able to create Music, even if alone. I am lucky I now have the resources to be able to produce what I hear in my head from start to finish and then put that out into the world.

As for the future of playing live, I really don't know. I have been offered pub gigs but those opportunities don't really appeal to me. Ending up playing covers to people who aren't really listening. My experiences busking put me off being around alcohol. You end up with lots of people chatting shit to you, not interested in the songs, and I know I'd only get a slightly more refined version of that in pubs. Plus, where could it go from there? Pubs and clubs are so connected to the music industry that if you were successful the best you'd get would be offers to go into the industry. I always had other ideas about playing live when I was in SoulJahm, more organic, natural ways to play but the world is simply not set-up for that right now. I've experimented with playing online but apart from the fact its hard to get any sort of vibe going playing to a computer screen, I'm also wary of going down that route because I see its part of the agenda, to have us all living permanently online. So there aren't really a lot of opportunities to play live in the way I would like. That's why I've decided to put most of my attention to recording. It's where I started out, it probably comes more naturally to me, and the one thing about recordings is they are there forever. My love of music came more through listening to albums or the radio than it did going to see concerts. I love live music and I haven't given up on it but both as a listener and artist, there is something deeply special and enjoyable about putting some headphones on or sitting back and listening to recorded music out the speakers and letting the songs transport you to another world.