Our very first Vlog sharing our autograph collection.
I have been asking friends over the past few weeks if there are any particular topics that they would like to see me cover in these blogs and the one that kept coming up time and time again was related to depression. I must admit that I have stalled on writing a blog on this until now but I am going to give it my best shot.
Before I write anything I just want to say that even though times can get very hard there is always someone out there who will understand and you are never alone. I think music in many ways is the best therapy because there is a song written about virtually every subject matter we could possibly come up with. Someone else has tread the boards before us and we can take a lot from that.
I think depression in general is on the increase but in the arts it is something a lot of us share. It is never a sector that you can rely on for stability and the constant not knowing where the next job is coming from is a massive struggle. You also have the massive highs that come from performing and then massive lows that often follow the next day or in coming weeks when it is all over.
The biggest struggle I face personally is with myself as I have an inability to switch my mind off from overdrive. There is always some battle going on in there and I am always finding something new to worry about. I find it very hard to just sit in one place and be completely relaxed. I am constantly concerned about something and that is at the root of my personal anguish. I can feel fine one moment and the next feel awful and it often doesn’t make any sense.
I also set myself exceptionally high targets or standards and the pressure that I put to get there often ends with me being dissatisfied or deeply frustrated . I often go through times when I think not one person in the World would want to hear anything that I have created and that I am simply good for nothing.
This often ends with the time I call ‘Falling Off The Edge of the World’ where you don’t want to see anyone, speak to anyone or even go outside. You simply cannot face yourself so you in many ways cease wanting to live for a period of time which can last for hours, days, weeks or even months. You can struggle through and continue day to day but sometimes it can just get to much and you become a recluse. You just want to hide away! and not infect anyone with the poison that feel has taken over your life.
Simple things can trigger these moods to come to an end. When they end I often feel creative again or have come up with a new project to keep me occupied, focused and inspired. I have an obsessive nature and I have to be obsessed with something.
The industry is set up to be hard to break and it can come with great times but everyone at some point suffers the down side. There are amazing charities out there and amazing people who can help you wherever you are in the World. Nobody should ever feel alone and there is always someone will help.
Being depressed or suffering from anxiety can give people thoughts that they no longer want to be here anymore. If you ever feel like that then you must reach out because you are very special and have something incredibly unique to give to this World. You must find the strength to continue and make the best out of the mess to find the best version of yourself. Be kind and look after yourself always.
Remember Not To Forget
I always find it odd that I can remember events from my childhood very clearly when sometimes I literally cannot remember what I did yesterday. On the run up to getting married Laura decided to pick a day and purposely pinpoint as a day when she remember exactly what happened. The day was the 7th May 2011 and where as nothing extraordinary happened she can remember exactly what she did that day. It does show us that we decide in someways what to remember and there are occasions when we should all just focus and ‘Remember Not To Forget’
I was brought up by my grandparents and that made me very old fashioned from day one. I used to visit my other grandparents every Sunday and spend the day watching old Hollywood Movies and going through their endless record collection. I would make tapes of my favourite songs from that week and go to school with my walkman and listen to them at every opportunity that I could. Most people who I went to school with would have called me odd, although I did realise that singing songs like ‘You Are My Hearts Delight’ around school was perhaps not the best way of trying to fit in so I would bob my head and pretend I was listening to ‘The Prodigy’ and other artists who were popular at the time.
We spend a lot of time persevering the works of The Great American Songbook and in 2010 had the chance to appear on the BBC One Show television programme with Tony Bennett to discuss our schools projects. It is amazing how you can go into schools and teach these great songs and have an incredible response. When Cole Porter wrote the song ‘You’re The Top’ he went around the boat he was on and asked people for the name of things they loved. The song has references to the ‘Tower of Pisa and Mickey Mouse’ and what we do is ask children to re-write the lyrics with things they love so you have lines like ‘You’re The Top – You’re Lady Gaga’ but by doing this you make the song current and keep it alive.
With memories we may remember a specific way that we felt or have pictures in our mind or a photograph to help aid a memory but memories do get cloudy after time. The thing in music that is most at risk are the anecdotes about what these amazing composers were actually like in particular their personalities and what made them write in the way that they did.
If you have listened to ‘Love on 42nd Street’ you will have heard songs like ‘You Caught Me Off Guard’ which is very much in the style of The Great American Songbook and is really where my heart lies. It is lovely to know that this cannon of music is still wanted. It is those influences of my childhood that has allowed me to have that music running through me and it just feels natural.
I urge everyone reading this to set a day, an hour or a moment to remember that perhaps normally would not stand out. A moment that would have been forgotten that becomes significant because you ‘Remember Not To Forget’
‘The opportunities you turn down are just as important as the ones you seize’ – President Bill Clinton
I spend a lot of time contemplating how making different decisions at cross roads in my life could have taken me down a dramatically different path. There are decisions that I have made that I have come to regret but it would be impossible to say that things would have turned out for the better.
Jim Carrey starred in a movie called the ‘Yes Man’ which was about a man who is unable to say no to anything that is asked of him. He ends up having to yes to things like giving people money and working the weekend at work, which in turn leads to a promotion for his perceived commitment to the job. I often wonder how life would be if you just said yes to everything and what experiences you would actually have. The closest that I have ever got to this is leaving the house without a plan and doing things on a whim. One Saturday we ended up seeing a lunchtime concert, adding drawings (not a skill of mine) to a big piece of art that was being created in a church and walking around parts of the City Centre that I had never been before.
I think we all self-censor our lives, set ourselves too many boundaries and in someways can stop living. It is very possible to be alive and breathing but just going from day to day without doing anything you enjoy. Working full time is massively draining and it takes so much mental and physical effort. I remember accepting a job where the pay was good but it was basically putting an end to my dream of working in the arts. In the end I had to leave because I just knew there was so much more out there for me. The biggest lesson that I ever learnt from working was how everyone is replaceable. My mentor in the job left and the company was never the same and a much worse place without them, but everything just keeps moving on. I was told never to put work first in my life and to enjoy it for everything it was worth but find what makes me happy. I believe you judge your achievements in a job not on your day to day activities but on what you did to personally make the company or guest experience better.
Pursue your dreams and never ever let someone tell you that you are not good enough. So many negative comments come from people’s own demons, own insecurities and own jealously. Be the person that you want to be and start today because tomorrow you could be just that much further down the line. It is never too late.
I really did go to a terrible school with bad teaching (with few shining exceptions) and terrible facilities. One of things that always both bemused and annoyed me was when an OFSTED inspection took place. No maintence work was done to our school all year but soon as the inspection was announced walls were painted, pupils work was suddenly displayed, signage was put up and uniform standards were monitored. The week after the inspection the usual drab standards returned.
When I worked for the Wales Millennium Centre maintenance work was always being carried out but due to the busy nature of the building it was always a losing battle. I was part of nine Royal visits and everytime a Royal came we would paint the route they would walk and make sure it was as imaculate as possible. You would also have every manager in the building on duty where as on a normal shift you would never see them (or expect to see them).
Pulling out the big guns or decorating for a special occasion is a normality of life in an institution. But on a personal level, we sometimes let ourselves live by varying standards.
I’m not talking about making sure your clothes are ironed and your kitchen is clean and tidy. I’m talking about always responding to situations in a way that reflects the person you are. We’ve all done things and said big things that we regretted but there are small things in life which are just as important as well.
On every given day we have a chance to make somebody’s life better. Working in the theatre there would be people who mistakenly turned up on the wrong day, month or even year for the show they were meant to see. If the person had missed the show, it may suprise you to find out that in cases of genuine misunderstanding several theatres across the country including WMC would try and accomodate audience members. There’s no official policy on this but there are managers who understand such a gesture can change a very upsetting experience to a suprisingly happy one. These small acts of kindness have a ripple effect.
When I was starting out in my career I would e-mail other artists an ask for advice or if we could support them at a concert. I don’t believe that I ever received a response in several cases. I never had a problem with a politely worded rejection email, but a wall of silence could be really soul destroying.
So now, whenever possible we try and answer every tweet and message and offer advice anytime we can. If we can get someone into a concert we are hosting then we will try and do that as well. Helping people is not a sign of weakness and can inspire people.
Kevin Costner at age of 22 found himself sitting across from Richard Burton on a plane. The now world-famous actor was filled with internal conflict about if acting was his true calling. When he saw Burton on that plane he approached Richard Burton who convinced Costner to do more than dabble in acting and go for it! This is another great example where Burton easilely could have said “please go sit back in your seat and leave me alone, that’s why I bought all these seats around me, so no one would talk to me”. Instead he inspired that young man to go and pursue his dream.
Be the change you want to see and always keep your standards high. Help cut someone a break anytime you can.
One of the regrets of my childhood was not learning to play the piano. I did go for a few lessons but never kept it up. Ever since I can remember I have had melodies pop into my head and occasionally I would record them into my mobile phone or call my grandparents answerphone and sing them in and I cannot tell you how many laughs that caused when picking up voicemail messages.
My first experience of actual song writing was with a friend of mine Daniel Newman, we sat with some lyrics that I had written and created a few songs that I can still remember some of to this day. I always wanted to be able to write down exactly what was in my head but I had no way to do this and it caused me a lot of frustration.
When I first met Laura she had a digital piano which was the very first time I had any kind of piano in the house. I used to walk up and play a random selection of notes on the piano and say ‘there is something in that!’ thinking I had struck something brilliant (believe me it wasn’t). Despite numerous offers from Laura to teach me, I found myself being a complete pest and just had to do things my own way. It took me just a year to learn to play and during the course of learning and the first melody I wrote was for ‘A Miner’s Song’. I don’t read music but I learnt to play chords which meant I had the tools to bring the melodies to life!
Eventually we bought a real piano and I never looked back. Today we have just part exchanged the piano for a baby grand piano which we have named ‘George’ after George Gershwin and we look forward to seeing what songs can be created on this piano. The lady who owned it cherished it and was a musician but sadly arthritis made it too difficult for her to play. I have always wanted a baby grand piano and we will look after it very well for her.
Myself and Laura write music in an unusual way – but it works for us and I think that is because of the fact that we are married and have a real understanding. Normally I write the basis of the melody and some of the lyrics from the outset. I will then hand over the song to her and she will pour some magic into it and embellish and alter some melodies, as well as comes up with an introduction and instrumental. We often then have a domestic as we both battle to alter or keep the parts we like. (Laura nearly always wins) and we then work on the song together again to finish it.
Sometimes people have a dream which seems impossible based on their circumstances, and for me that dream was to be a composer without being to play a note on the piano and having little musical training. I spent many hours of serious frustration literally shouting at myself for making mistakes on the piano. I was determined with every piece of me to learn and see if I could actually write songs (will leave that one for you to judge) but I strongly believe that if you want something enough you can do it. It may not happen overnight but you will get there.
I was asked recently about somebody’s chances of making it in the industry. They were very talented but here is something that is true. Just by preserving and not stopping at the first hurdle you have out-done 99% of people because not very many find the guts to stick with their dream. Find what it is that makes you want to wake up in the morning and then do everything you can to reach for it. Always push yourself to be better. Ramin Karimloo is storming Broadway at the moment in Les Miserables and he has found his own way of playing Jean ValJean and in doing that unlocked some of the character that has not been seen before by audiences. It doesn’t matter what has been done before, you can sing to your own tune. To quote Ramin ‘you have nothing to prove, only to share’