Thursday, 9 January 2014

Paul Merson

In our final year of secondary school some of my friends were getting a taxi home after a night out. 
The taxi driver seemed like a nice guy. He was encouraging them to stay in school and get a good education, as he wasn't happy driving taxis. 
It turned out that he was at the Arsenal football academy with Paul Merson (who also played for England).
He was clearly quite agrieved, because he felt that he was better than Paul Merson.

And I can believe that.

Because I'm better than Paul Merson. 

But, he had the backing of the correct people, and the rudiments of footballing ability that he had made him a star.

I'm starting to understand how that taxi driver feels. Geri Halliwell is in Sydney judging on Australia's Got Talent. She did a gig at the Beresford Hotel a couple of months ago. It was deemed by many to be a joke. But, she has the marketing behind her. She has the money. I don't think she cares.

Work has been very tricky this year. I actually ended up quitting. I've never quit a job before. It was incredibly liberating. It felt like the right thing to do. I wasn't happy, and couldn't see the situation improving. I think I've told you before, among other things, I just didn't belong there. Hospital social media policy means I can't go into more detail than that, but I'm happy to to talk about it in person if anyone is interested. I'm moving to a different hospital with several other medical musical people, and it should be awesome. My mentor told me that when things aren't' going well, I shouldn't be focussing on non-medical things. I think I can reasonably argue that that's the time when you most need the things that make you happy. And music does that. 

It's been turbulent, with some great highs, but no shortage of lows. You all know about the EP- I'm still helplessly in love with the music, even if it is my own. Making friends with Sean, the record producer, was awesome- we have a great harmony, and work brilliant together. I had an EP launch in one of the clubs near me, where I hired a full band to play my songs with me. We sounded awesome (even if I do say so myself). We got together again at a band showcase, and I arranged a salsa friend to come along, and we broke out into a surprise 2 minute salsa freestyle during Ordinary Girl as the finale, which was massively popular with the crowd.  There were four other bands on that night, but about 50 people came to see me specifically, which was really heartwarming. I hardly had time to speak to each of them after my performance. That was a strange situation to be in. 
I have my own website, designed for me by my friend Amanda, which is pretty slick, and is a great social tool, as it's linked to this diary, and a great way for people to get to know me, musically and otherwise. Making the video to 'Ordinary Girl' was something I only really enjoyed in retrospect, although it was fun to work with Ian, the film director, and his wife Paula. I was ecstatically happy with the result, but coordinating the process was was quite complicated and nerve-wracking, knowing that I only really had one shot at getting it right, and that it cost me a years savings. It turned out brilliantly, and was featured in the local paper. In order to break even on the video and music production, I needed to sell 2000 copies of my EP.

I sold 6.

I don't get it. 

I really don't.

Everyone tells me how awesome my music is, but virtually nobody wants to buy it. It's all quite confusing. I've had a couple of occasions when I've mentioned my EP to people and they've said "Oh cool- I'll buy one!" Without having even heard it. Which is great. However, usually I feel like the more people like the music, the less likely they are to buy it. Case in point: after I released the video, I got an email from a guy in Holland:


[me] Thanks! would you like a CD?

[him] Oh no, no, no, no- I'll just listen for free (online)

[me] So- how am I supposed to make a success of this?

[him] You can put adverts on your video.

So I did.



Goodwill and compliments are all very well and good, but they're not going to sustain you at the end of the day. I never got into this for the money, but if yo want something to be sustainable, then you will have to do it for some money.
It's hard to know what to do. Getting gigs in Sydney is really hard, so it's difficult to make a name for yourself. I'm thinking about coming back to London. I'll be closer to family and most of my closest friends. I just have one more medical exam to get through. If I meet a girl who isn't on drugs, then I could be persuaded to stay, as Sydney is otherwise an awesome place.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Until the next time.


Ordinary Girl Video


I'm sure you're all pretty familiar with my X-Factor disaster by now, so I won't go into that again. I've been toying with the idea of making music video for some time, but recent stresses at work have prompted me to go for it. The sentinel feature of my music video has always been to make a parody of that X-Factor set-up (where I was pressured into singing a song, and then criticised for singing that song). Most of you will know that I have a diploma in TV and film, as well as theatre acting, so the parody would be heightened further by me playing all the judges myself. My brother and I would act out our favourite cartoons as kids, and so we are both good at doing lots of voices. Doing an irish accent (Ronan Keating), australian accent (Natalie Bassingthwaighte and Guy Sebastian) and a yorkshire accent (Mel B) wasn't a problem. I just needed to find a way to recreate the set.

I phoned round several film directors, and eventually found one who was available (Ian Nicholson- Hyperdriven Films), and could use green screening and other special effects to recreate the set. I played each of the four judges in sequence, with the help of his wife, who is a professional make-up artist. It was a full day of make-up, but it achieved the desired effect. Ian then shrunk each video image down and placed them side by side behind a table to give the effect of there being four versions of me sitting side by side. He also digitally reconstructed the stage and superimposed me playing myself on it. 

The choice of song was a simple one for me- I chose Ordinary Girl because it's as catchy as all my other songs, but you  can also salsa to it. This would give the video an added dimension that other rock songs don't have. However, for that, you need a partner. I sent Amy Mills a Facebook message earlier in the year, suggesting that I may need her for this, and she said she'd be interested, but then became very difficult to contact.  I met her at the salsa congress in New Zealand in June, and she said she'd use been very busy, but was still interested. Amy is a phenomenal dancer (we'd actually only danced together once before, but we go really smoothly together), a good actress, as well as being too sexy to describe, which never hurts. She's always been my number one choice for the part.

Ian and I got started filming the rest of the video, including my starting to learn guitar, writing the song, recording it at home on my Mac, and then recording it professionally in a recording studio. The studio that I actually used for the recording wasn't available, so I had to scout around for another one. I found one that was free, and looked reasonable, but when we got there, nothing worked, and they hardly had any equipment. Ian and I had to get creative to make it look half-decent, but I definitely wouldn't recommend the place, and I felt quite sheepish paying for their time. Later that afternoon, we met up with Daniel, who played guitar at my EP launch a couple of months ago, and his friend Mattheus, who is a bassist. I hired a venue with a stage, and we played the song live about 20 times, being filmed from different angles. Now, I love the song, but after that afternoon, I really needed a break from it. For about a day.

Amy was still proving very difficult to get hold of during all of this, and I told her that I had a timeline to run to, and was considering hiring someone else. Which I did. Until she burnt her back doing cupping 4 days to film date. I went to Amys Monday night samba class in person and said "Amy- we're filming on thursday. I need you to be there." "OK" she said. "Thank Christ for that!".

She came up to Manly, and we both had our make up done early in the morning, before meting Ian at Manly Wines cafe to be filmed doing the boyfriend-girlfriend thing. They were kind enough to let us film there for free.We then went onto the beach to do more couply stuff. Amy asked me if she should wear a samba-type G-string. I said 'Hell no!" I needed this to be family viewing. We did some jogging on the beach and general frolicking.

In the afternoon, we went to the dance studio in Brookvale. She brought some great outfits, but the recurring theme for the one we went with was that it kept riding up towards her waist- both amusing and frustrating. I had choreographed several dance sequences, which we filmed from different angles. as well as some freestyle dancing. In retrospect, the freestyle dancing was by far more impressive, but it was good to have more material available. 
We finished by filming me singing the song to Amy. before we all went out to dinner. 

I was incredibly relieved to have all the filming done without any major hiccups. I knew I'd only have one chance at this, and we were all pretty happy with the footage. In total, the filming was done over 4 days, but it took 12 solid days of editing to put it all together. And here it is :)

As I say, I'm incredibly happy with it all. It actually generated zero sales, which was disappointing, but if I can make a statement to X-Factor that you can't screw people around like that, while showcasing my singing, songwriting, acting and dancing ability to be vastly superior to any of the judges, then I think I've achieved something. No matter how small.