What’s life all about? It’s a question that I’ve asked more often as I’ve gotten older. A huge part of MY life is music, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do and though I finally got where I wanted to be, believe me, I went the long way around.
Things didn’t start off too well, my first musical memory? Standing in a school assembly in 1978, I was 5 years old, me and a handful of other juniors, cheap recorders clenched in our sweaty palms, on a tiny stage in the old school hall that always smelt of yesterdays chips. Facing us, a crowd of a two hundred unruly older kids with bowl haircuts and flared trousers.
We were woefully under rehearsed and forced into performing, I’d missed some school due to illness and hadn’t got beyond ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Football’ in music theory, I now had sheet music in front of me that I couldn’t read (and still can’t for that matter) and my part of the performance was fast approaching… it did not go well.
What did I learn? That music was hard, I would never be able to do it and that I would dream about that assembly for years to come.
That false start was a real shame, at home I had access to my parents awesome vinyl collection, I grew up listening to and loving the The Beatles, ABBA , Bread, The Carpenters and more.
I absorbed these early influences somewhere deep inside. In my early teens I was never without my trusty Walkman and as I listened to the tapes I bootlegged from the radio I would close my eyes and imagine being in the bands I heard, my heart beating faster with every fantasy…but music was hard, I would never be able to do it.
I couldn’t play music but I was obsessed with it, I was in absolute awe of musicians and singer-songwriters in particular. I taught myself the drums, formed my first band and spent all my spare time with long haired, unemployed guitarists, much to the disapproval of my parents. In my first term at college things got even better.
One Saturday morning I literally tripped over an acoustic guitar that a less than sober resident had left in my room. It was several weeks before he asked me if I’d seen it, I never knew whether he was so drunk that he’d forgotten where he left it or if he’d forgotten he ever owned it in the first place, but I do believe that it was fate that put it in my hands.
I felt a long way from home that first cold winter in Yorkshire. Given the choice between my text books and that cheap guitar I had played it every single night until my fingers were red raw, I bought a chord book with the emergency £10 note that my Mum had me tape inside my wardrobe and taught myself to play by the light of the tiny portable television that I’d hide under the bed whenever the TV licensing van came around.
Once that guitar was gone I borrowed another one, this was an obsession, within a year I was playing pretty well and I’ll never forget the euphoria of writing my first song, it wasn’t very good but it was mine. I was eighteen years old, music was NOT hard I WOULD be able to do it and anything was possible.
Those years at college were some of the happiest of my life, I was in a guitar band when Britpop hit in the early 90’s and great music seemed to be everywhere, anytime I wasn’t making noise I was at clubs and gigs soaking it up.
Of course all good things come to an end, after college in 1997 the band had gone their separate ways and I found myself working nine to five thinking is this it? Is this life now? Sleeping and working? Well as it turned out that WAS life for a long while. It’s so damn easy to let time pass you by, day by day hoping something might come along and change things.
I’d pick up my guitar at weekends, have a few drinks, maybe strum a few of the old tunes and reminisce but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something missing, there must be something more..
Musically I wasted nearly twenty years in this fashion, don’t get me wrong life has been good to me in so many important ways but I’d given up on the thing I loved the most because, well, I no longer believed that anything was possible. Life was now about working hard in a dull job, looking back fondly on the past and hoping for something better in the future…
But everything changed on a Tuesday afternoon when a regular customer came in to work, we’d always got on well over the years, he was very much like me, hard working, always looking ahead, saving, worrying, planning. He didn’t look too well that day, he took me aside and told me he’d just been diagnosed with cancer.
I’ll never forget his next words, he told me not to waste a minute, to make the most of everything and enjoy every single moment, because we never know how much time we have left and life is too damn short. He died three weeks later. I was a changed man.
I decided, there and then, that I would live my life, do the things I loved and not worry about the things I didn’t. I started to read, book after book, about how to be happy, live in the present and be positive, not waste time on negative emotions like regret, anger and fear.
And I started to write, guitar in hand every night like I was eighteen again and what flowed through me seemed to encapsulate everything I was learning about life, death and all that lies in between.
I made an album because I’d always wanted to, I wrote the songs because I could, in fact they almost seemed to write themselves as if somehow they were already there and I was merely finding them, they felt important.
I had found what had been missing from my life all those years and once again I was following my bliss and enjoying every minute of it. I still am and once again, thanks to people like you listening to my music, anything is possible.
So thank you for taking a few minutes to read my story and, most of all, thank you for listening to my music.
What’s life all about? It’s all About Time.
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