Confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. If you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must”, then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life must become a sign and witness to this impulse. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose. Write about what your everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty. Describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity.
– an excerpt from ‘Letters to a Young Poet’ by Rainer Maria Rilke
The above passage captures beautifully the reasons why I write. For me composing and songwriting is a physical necessity, like food or water. It took a while for it to be this way, however. I grew up in Scotland, taking piano lessons for the majority of my childhood. I used to play the violin, and I wanted to give it up, and the condition for me giving it up was that I learned the piano. I didn’t like the piano and I wasn’t very good at it. To say I was a slow learner was a bit of an understatement. I had trouble reading music and instead used to play by ear, or by memorising the notes. This used to infuriate my piano teacher to no end. She once told me that my piano playing was going nowhere, and I’d never be good at it, so what was the point. Nonetheless I persevered and learned piano until I was 17. I can honestly say I didn’t enjoy it one bit, and to sit my exams was an awful experience. I loved music, in the sense that I loved listening to it, and growing up I was particularly influenced by classical composers Bach and Beethoven, as well as the contemporary songstresses Tori Amos and Alanis Morissette. I owe a great deal of thanks to the influence that Boys for Pele and Jagged Little Pill had on my life. They taught me the power of emotion in music, and particularly with Tori’s music, the beauty of this instrument I hated playing.
I wrote my first song at the age of 12, and can still remember it to this day. Let me tell you, it was shit. It had bubblegum pop lyrics and no emotional value. I would love to say I’ve been one of these prodigies who has been churning out the hits from my teens, but that is not the case. I wrote my first ‘proper’ song, during a pretty low point in my life at age 21. What inspired me to pick up a pen and pour my heart into lyrics and melody? It was exactly as Rilke says ‘necessity’. At once I realised what all the music knowledge I’d been learning was for. It wasn’t so I could struggle playing Mozart and Gershwin, it was so I could play my own music from my own head. I didn’t have to read music to do that. It was then that I fell in love with my piano, and writing.
So thanks for stopping by my website, I hope you enjoy my music, and find reason to stay a while.