Dance My Demon Away

 

I woke up on this bright Saturday morning, curled up in a fetal position. I was clutching my hair with both hands and I was sobbing under my duvet so my housemate wouldn’t hear me.

This is not a new feeling and it’s not unique to me but I’ll tell you what, after twenty years of feeling like this it sometimes feel like these days are never going away.

I have just spent a week attempting to finish my EP. It was a very productive but nerve-wracking experience. Not less because I am working with someone who is close to someone I used to be very close to and it’s been a painful couple of months to digest life without them. The songs are also very close to me emotionally. Perhaps I could’ve spared myself the anxiety and worked with someone else but I love what me and this guy make and we’re on the same wave length 98% percent of the time which serves to prove that we’re a good match musically but I’m also a big believer in confronting your fears head on and getting the best out of that moment. Of course, it hasn’t been without it’s emotional moments.

I am an emotional person. That doesn’t mean I cry at everything and lose my temper at any given moment, it means I’m in touch with how I’m feeling incredibly closely. When I was younger my living quarters were full of highly emotional people with no boundaries or switches to staunch the emotional waterfall. So at any given moment, you’d be faced with a highly anxious or frightening moment (usually from my parent) and so the tools that we learn as we grow to harness these emotions were lost on me completely. I do therapy to help me digest my emotions in a way that is healthy and compassionate for me and the people I’m around. It takes practise and concentration and most of the time, I’ve been doing “really well”, my therapist says.

 

However, I had about three panic attacks on the first day in the studio. I had to go sit in the loo and just try and breathe. I sat in there so long at times that the automatic light would go off and I’d just be sat there wishing the sudden darkness could swallow me whole too. Then I would look in the mirror and say out loud “I can do this”, about thirty times before heading back in.

But you can see how anxiety can destroy someone at times. It lies to you, deludes you and can make it physically impossible to do ANYTHING. It’s like it crawls into your head and tells you loudly, “YOU ARE NOT CAPABLE”, and, “YOU CAN’T COPE”, and the hardest one, “NOBODY LIKES YOU”.

We’re still not finished. We probably have another day to finalise everything but I feel better having turned up and done it for five days.

My producer noticed that I shoot things down before I’ve done anything. That I see the worse in everything before I’ve even taken the first step and it really upset me to know he’d noticed that. Not because he shouldn’t have told me but because I didn’t want to BE like that….

I know, I’m being “open” and possibly for some people, “too much”.

Listen, I understand that some people like a bit of mystery when it comes to musicians/actors/creative types. It’s almost like they are the puzzle and we spend a lifetime trying to work them out. Eddie Vedder once said “The music should do the talking”, and to an extent, I agree, but I’ve found people more fascinating when I know bits about them. Consider Eddie’s interviews about his father and how detached he felt from him? Or Springsteen when he speaks about his dad. We get an insight to their “human” side and it makes us feel closer to them and ultimately, as much as we like to feel we’re “unique” and therefore need to be alone in our “uniqueness”, we actually depend on each other.

In all honesty, I could uncover every secret I have and still people wouldn’t know me. People can read a fact, or a blog about someone and they will always have their own opinion so in that respect, what does it matter if I share my thoughts on depression and anxiety? What does it matter if I do an interview with a magazine about mental health? No one knows me any better. Not even my past boyfriends know me very well. They do what we all do; assume.

Assuming is so dangerous. Assuming things is why I had panic attacks this week. It’s why I burst into tears. It’s why we lose people from our lives, it’s why we step on people. Assuming comes from lack of knowledge and past experiences and what’s frightening is when your mind and body don’t seem to be able to take the step that clears up that crap and makes it logical. Combine that with depression and anxiety and you feel like you’re being held suspended in limbo and you have no idea how to get to the ground…in fact, where IS the ground? I can’t see anything at all….and now I can’t breathe…..

You see how bad it can get?

I have cut back on therapy sessions because financially it’s draining me and I’ve definitely felt the affects though I go each month. I sleep little, eat little, cry much. I have nightmares and wake pre-dawn sometimes for no reason. I do things like exercise every day in the morning if I can, mostly because of the back pain I have (welcome to the joys of heavy equipment) and because I was told years ago that it helped with depression, and it does.

So I have devised some tips for myself and for anyone else who wakes up and wants to cry. These help me sometimes. They don’t have the same effect every time but it’s the effort that counts and if done regularly, you WILL see a difference.

“Keep a journal”

Ok, I’ve been keeping journals since I was fifteen years old. It doesn’t have to be much. But date it and make a note of the time. Talk about your day. Write about a negative (if one happened) AND a positive thing that happened. For example, I wrote at some point this week “Felt shitty about studio today but found some prawn-flavoured Mccoys – they are fucking delicious”. It sounds weird but considering I am now thinking how I felt even a bit happy finding my favourite flavour of crisps, it can tip the balance between feeling miserable and feeling a bit blue and it’s these tiny moments that make the difference and train your brain to not dwell in the shit. You can write pages of shit but as long as you mention something good, you’re doing your brain so much good.
The reason writing is good is because it allows you to really digest what you’re feeling because all your thoughts are happening internally first and then you see them come to life on the page. There’s a technique for that. One friend of mine calls it “Conscious Writing”. I call it “Emotive Writing”. It’s when you write EXACTLY how you feel. So you can forget your grammar, full stops and spelling. You just WRITE. It’s for no one but you so who cares if it makes no sense even to you? You’re just letting the demon wander on paper for a while. It can be scary and it may feel at times that you’re setting yourself back but you’re not. You’re addressing your shit and that’s difficult and scary. Addressing it is not letting it win. It’s the opposite. You are crushing that shit down so you can breath again.

“Exercise”

We would all like to be P!nk or Britney Spears when it comes to being at our physical best. These woman work hard on keeping fit. Of course, they have enough time to work on things like that (my dream is to basically have P!nk’s body) but some of us don’t have the time, money and really, the ENERGY to do this. I started off running in 2011 because I worked for a musical where ALL the women were incredibly fit and healthy. Unfortunately, I’ve been told by my osteopath that I literally can’t run ever again because of a back problem I have and that’s been incredibly difficult to deal with. I go to the gym with my friend but if you’re unable to gym as I couldn’t, here are some alternatives. Remember, take your time. It took me two weeks of walking to be able to run AT ALL in 2011…

. Power-walking: Easier on the joints and bloody fun. Also has been proven to burn more energy than running because of the core control you need while you move. Plus, you get to do it to your favourite songs. Steps: “Gold” being my favourite.

. Skip rope: I am shit at this but I will try to do it for one verse of a song (and then I feel like I’m wheezing for England) and stop for quick breaks. Plus, they cost nothing in a sports shop.

. Pilates ON YOUTUBE: So I’ve been told you can’t really do Pilates because someone needs to be there in case you’re doing it wrong but A) I can’t afford lessons and B) How wrong can it be when some classes on youtube are really good? Check some out today.

. Stretch. Any stretch. Never too much but enough that you feel a bit taller. You will feel better as soon as you’ve done it.

. Dance in your room: Believe it or not, I still do this. I will spend up to two hours (late at night when I can’t sleep) dancing to music with my headphones on and MP3 player in hand just dancing around the room. It’s perfect. You get a work out. You control the playlist and no one sees you doing it. You save that for when you decide to go out, which is basically never, ever, ever apart from maybe once this year but by jove, when you do you’ll be the best dancer there.

“Talk to people”

So, I can list on one hand the people I talk to regularly. And by one hand I mean two. I talk to two people. Why? Well, in truth, no one else picks up their phone. I know a lot of creatives so really when I’m talking about my anxiety and fears about music, I’m really talking about THEIR anxieties and fears and who in the name of Hades wants to talk about that? In all seriousness though, it’s not a whine I want, it’s to find answers but people love whining and they’ll assume (there’s our word again) that I want to do the same. Some people aren’t equipped to deal with your problems and that doesn’t make them bad, it just makes them the wrong person to call. Guilt can make us not talk too. People have their own problems and it’s pretty shit to feel like you’re basically adding to someone’s problems if they’re already going through a hard time so we stay silent.
I’ve basically felt for a few weeks now that I’ve exhausted all my lines from when me and my boyfriend broke up. I still cry about it and I assume my friends are sick of hearing about it. I feel like those contestants on, “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” and I’ve used up all my lifelines and now I just have to figure it out ALL BY MYSELF while Chris Tarrant (substituted for my negative side) quietly judges me while I fumble through my brain trying to think what the right answer is and then it’s the WRONG answer and I don’t move on to the next question and I feel like a massive failure which then makes me want to call up…oh wait….no lifelines….

There is always a lifeline and it’s usually going to be you. You can do this. If people can’t answer the phone, do something else. Write, watch something, read a book, dance or even have the biggest cry in the world. Channel it and let it happen.

“Breath”

We do this every bloody second but have you ever sat back and just breathed? I’ve looked into meditation and the breathing I do with my therapist has been the most beneficial for me. When you breathe you allow your body to connect to you and you’ll find that your body, in contrast to your mind, actually wants you to be happy and calm. When we’re thinking, “Oh FUCK!!! I’M LATE! I’M ALWAYS FUCKING LATE! WELL, WHO GIVES A FUCK THEY’LL PROBABLY BE LATE TOO AND WHATEVER BECAUSE THE CUNT DOESN’T EVEN LIKE ME SO WHAT’S THE POINT IN EVEN GOING???” your body starts to become gripped in the panic too…..that is a genuine thought I’ve had and I began to shake and sweat. So I sat on the tube and breathed. I imagined my belly getting bigger and smaller with each inhale and exhale and then I listened to the sounds around me saying in my head “I am present. I am here. I here a woman eating a doughnut. I hear kids chattering. It’s annoying but I am here breathing right now in the present”. Breathing really does help.

“Remember, you are not alone”

You really aren’t. You are never alone. You are not alone in feeling this awful. And DON’T take on board that chat when people say, “But people have it worse off than you”, because that as a helpful gesture is crap. Yes, people have it better and worse off than ourselves and at times it’s good to sit and take some perspective on what you have but to measure people’s misery against your own is not always productive. Also, when you are gripped in anxiety and depression it’s almost impossible to suddenly think, “But so-and so’s just tripped and smashed her knee in, why am I crying?”. It’s making your feelings less valuable and your feelings matter.

Berne Brown did a talk on The Power of Vulnerability and she was told by a professor “If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist” and it means, everybody can hurt and feel pain.

The Brown talk is amazing. Watch it here by clicking on this teeny blue line here —–>    

That doesn’t mean we don’t work on what we’re given. It doesn’t mean that we feel awful and we have to sit in that awfulness until something comes along and changes it because it won’t. You will change it. That doesn’t mean we blame others or past experiences for our shortcomings (which I have done, I do and I try to stop every time it’s noticed *like my producer noticed*) they’re not responsible for right now. I am.

It’s about pausing and acknowledging that we are feeling the pain but we can stop and find the things that bring us joy, the things that make us grateful. It is, and always will be difficult for me to acknowledge the bad moments that have happened and will happen again in the future but there is a bigger part of me that wants to stay open, stay vulnerable and keep talking because from vulnerability comes the strength to experience joy and happiness. I have hope for good things in the future and right now. If I were to shut myself off so I wouldn’t feel unhappy and sad ever again, I wouldn’t be able to feel good, or laugh ever again and that is not a life. So, keep talking. Keep letting people see you.

I started writing this blog in my pyjamas with tears running down my face, I have finished it by being dressed in clothes and ready to leave the house to go food shopping. I haven’t showered and the clothes I’m wearing are from yesterday (still KIND OF clean) and I haven’t washed my face but I’m amazed that I’ve gone from lying in bed morbidly thinking who would miss me if I wasn’t around, planning to stay in the dar to being sat cross-legged on my bed about to leave and get myself a wicked big Easter egg. I might not do much else but I’m out of my bed. I’m in clothes. I’m about to face the world.

I don’t expect many people to read this but just to pull back my skin and let someone see my vulnerable side has made me feel better. I instinctively feel that I’m not alone.

Whatever happens after, I will handle it and so will you.

I will leave you with a great quote from Sierra Boggess:

“You are enough. You are so enough. It’s unbelievable how enough you are!”

Have a good Easter xxx

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Caroline

I write this from my bed because I’m sick. Fortunately, I’m not sick sick. I’ve had a bug and a headache since Sunday and I’ve been struggling to keep food inside my body….maybe I’m quite sick.

I’ve been meaning to write another entry. My last one was over six months ago and a LOT has happened since.

So….where do we go from?

I’m currently recording my second EP which is exciting. Exciting and terrifying. I’m working with a producer meaning I still write all the words and melodies but they’re helping me construct the music because I wanted to have more than just guitar in there. Plus, I have no idea how it all works on the computer. I’ve actually loved being locked into the studio with them and making the music happen So much so, I almost don’t want to share it with anyone else. It’s become ours completely. I’ve never worked with a producer before like this and I’m loving it.

We started in September and we’re still working on it. I’ve stopped doing any gigs of my own simply because I can’t spare the time. I’ve yet to pay for the producer’s time (and I thank you over and over for your patience) so I’m working many different jobs to get me through the winter and pay some well overdue bills, like my tax bill.

It’s so weird. No one tells you how expensive doing music is. I wonder if it’s something people don’t think about because the money’s just there for them or because they don’t want to reveal that being a musician is not as amazing as it’s presented to be.

Actually, I started writing this blog because of these lyrics from Tori Amos’ song “Leather” which goes:

 

“Look, I’m standing naked before you. Don’t you want more than my sex? I could scream as loud as your last one but I can’t claim innocence”

I’ve been listening to that album of hers (“Little Earthquakes”) for as long as I can remember. In fact, the whole album is lyrically beautiful. “Winter” is especially wonderful when she sings:

“When you gonna make up your mind? When you gonna love you as much as I do? When you gonna make up your mind? Cos things are gonna change so fast”

I don’t know. Maybe these lyrics are ringing more than usual because of several things that have happened to me in the last six months.

i) I had to let go of my manager, who was also my best friend of twelve years. I mean, I still wanted him to be my friend and I wanted him to step down because I didn’t feel he could and would not understand what I wanted to do with my music, which is the way for most artist/manager relationships. I just wanted my friend back but as of yet, he’s not spoken to me since September. He was managing me for free to which I was so grateful for but our relationship became more strained and aggressive the longer it went on. He drove me to all my gigs and never asked for petrol (I would offer), he even bought merch for me. All these things are great but our friendship was breaking down completely. I was finding it hard to deal with myself (before I started therapy) and it always felt like he didn’t want to listen. All I wanted was for him to want to know about my depression and how bad I was feeling and how I was trying to get better and because he seemed so upset and stressed himself (which is fair enough as he has other things to worry about), I felt he couldn’t be there for me. I thought asking him to step away as manager would fix the friendship but he hasn’t spoken to me instead. I’ve texted Happy Birthday this month and he’s thanked me and said “How are you?”, but I’m upset he didn’t want to know that a month ago. Now I think, “Do you really want to know, or are you just being polite?”. I don’t think I’ll ever know and it makes me sad, like I did something terrible.

ii) I did free work for a signed artist who promised me a lot more than he gave and who basically blanked me when I asked him about the paid projects. Also, his entire crew seem to be made up of really misogynistic idiots (one of which sent me a threatening message)…so really, I’m well out of it but it upset me that someone twice my age felt they had to treat me like that, and it felt like my manager didn’t protect me from that. I guess we were both duped. It went on for about five months of broken promises. Some people are just idiots like that.

iii) I’ve been attending weekly therapy sessions for over two months now.

iiii) I have stopped busking as much and trying to work on my music and myself more.

Let’s start with busking.

I want to lay it down RIGHT NOW that busking isn’t as great as the media and other buskers say. In fact, being a musician is downright hard in total. It’s totally fucking mental and disorganised and awful quite a lot of the time. Also, WHY don’t other people talk about it more?

You go out to play and you have NO IDEA what you’re going to make. Think about it. When you got to your job you know exactly what you’re making that hour, so you know you’re working that nine hour shift with the end result of making said amount each week or month.

When you’re busking you do not. I don’t have a clue what I’m going to make each time I go out. What I do know is that I have rent to pay. Phone bills, storage bills, food, travel, therapy, toiletries (do you know how MAD I am that I have to buy tampons for something that’s out of my control?). Up to this writing, I have no money for rent or storage, and they take priority over food, even travel. There have been days where I’ve had enough for travel (£32.40 for the week, zones 1-2) and that’s it. I mean. IT. Then I go busking thinking, “As long as I make THIS amount, I’ll be ok”.

I’m sure you can imagine, it’s a rather precarious situation to be in. Physically and mentally.

Over time I’ve managed to go busking because I want to sing for me. Not for money. Actually, I think any person who goes busking to make money is an idiot. You’re not going to enjoy your experience if it’s only about money, which goes for a lot of people who take jobs for the money. Which is one reason why me and my manager fell out. He had a very well paid job but it was appallingly stressful. I mean, to the point where he’d only snap at me and be moody and fiery ALL the time. It was like him waking up in the morning was stressful to him. No amount of money is worth that feeling like crap over and that’s why I got other jobs even while I was busking during the summer.

I was tired of having my worth measured by the songs I sang. I was tired of other buskers parading their income in front of me and let me tell you right now, men are worse for this, not women. Women are just eager to get through an hour of busking without some man coming up to grab their vagina or breasts, or having some juvenile teenagers heckle them a song request. We just want to do what we love doing. If we make good money that enables us to pay our bills, that’s a bonus. If we get people messaging us on our Facebook pages telling us we made their day, that’s an extra gold star for us.

Time and time again I’ve had male buskers come up and ask me how much I’ve made (to which I never reveal) and then proceed to shut me down if I’ve not made a lot or tell me and I quote from a regular busker, “It’s because you’re a girl. The public feel sorry for girls”.

It’s amazing that women can’t be seen as EARNING their money and fans. There has to be some pitiful element to it. Like we’re incapable of doing well with our strengths. It’s our “weaknesses” like being attractive or sensitive or talented. No wonder women feel so dispensable sometimes. Having your worth measured by attributes like that is plain irritating.

WHATEVER.

I’m not saying women aren’t competitive either. They really can be, I just don’t worry about it. Maybe because as a woman myself, I know where it’s coming from but I choose to move on with myself. Male or female, communication is the key.

I wanted to stop busking as much because I’ve had these stalkers coming to see me for nearly two years to which now it’s in the hands of the police. I hate that it’s a real issue and some of the buskers haven’t stood with us about this. Whether this is out of fear of looking “difficult” or losing a fan, it makes me very angry. There isn’t any use sitting on the fence because when that fence falls down, you have to land on one side. Physical threats are never ok and nor is stalking someone to the point of harassment.

I wanted to stop busking as much because I was concerned with how it made me feel to be messaged asking when I was busking. It’s lovely for people to enquire but then…what do I do gigs for? I do them for people who want to see me live. A lot of buskers put up their times when they’re playing and I get it, they want people who are possible visiting London to see them live but personally it sets up a precedent that’s hard to break from.

Here’s how I see music and performing it. When I play, I play like it’s the last time I’ll play. I have to. I want to. It makes me feel ALIVE to play like that so when I DO play, I want it to be when I want to, not because someone else has summoned me. I actually got some shitty stalker called Tony who sent me a photo of his status slagging me off for not putting up the times of when I’m busking whereas other buskers did. I may be a musician but busking is not a service to particular people. It’s a passing trade. I rely on passer-bys, not recurring people. They’re not paying £5 each time. They’re standing there for free each time and I have a problem with that. I busk to show people a preview of what I do. It’s not THE show, it’s A show and not the best one at that because we’re outside battling with the elements and the other noisy stuff that comes with playing on the streets.

I’ve been refused pay for projects because people assume as I’m a “busker”, I’ll just do it for free. Blimey, even the PA of the man who owns THE richest football club in the UK changed his mind when I told him how much my hourly rate was. All because I was busker and therefore I was expected to play for free. I mean. How does that work? How does me playing music every day – my music –  make me NOT a professional? You see, it makes no sense but it bugged me. That’s why I do my own gigs, my own way.

The reason I hold by own gigs because I want to present my music in a professional place with my music being played the way it should be played. If people would rather pay nothing to see a musician than to see them in an actual music venue, that to me isn’t being supportive. It also means I have no means of supporting what people “apparently” like about watching me. It means I have no chance of financing my music. It costs money and I don’t come from money. It’s financed totally by me and there is no one that pays for studio time or for the CD’s to be made so you see, I rely on the people who pay to see me and who buy my EP.

I’ve had a lot of people talk about Pledge and Kickstarter and I have a lot of music people who have tried it successfully but I’m against using these platforms. I did the research and I’m not totally cool with the setup, like the time limits etc because let’s face it, I don’t have the money laying around to pay for things while I push a campaign. I’m always on the edge (especially in winter – even my accountant is boggled at how I survive in London) and I don’t want to the stress of pushing a campaign onto people’s laps. Also, as weird as it sounds, I’m not eager to ask for help, not because I have trouble asking but because ultimately….I make music for me.

I don’t make an EP in mind thinking, “I wonder if people will like it? I wonder what genre it is? What if people don’t like it”. I mean, I do think these things to an extent but really, I’m listening to what want and I just think it’s hard to listen to yourself when you do these kind of campaigns. So many musicians I meet say they found out what their audiences did or didn’t like and deep down I think, “But how do you feel about your music?”. There’s something about these campaigns that make me feel like because you’ve asked for someone’s help, it’s got to be something they’d ideally like and really, I don’t want that pressure on me. Music is about expressing myself and I’m ok with not everyone liking that.

You never know. Six months from now I may change my mind and think, “Fuck it, I need some money to make a record now!” and I’ll be calling Pledge but for now, I’m sticking to what feels right for now. It just feels sometimes that doing those campaigns means having to care what others think more than what I feel?

As a musician, am I meant to care solely about what other people think? I don’t think so. I think I’m meant to decipher what I want because it’s music and it’s subjective and I make it.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m meant to care about what others think and adapt myself accordingly. However I always think this:

“Does ‘doing what exactly what I want’ mean not thinking about other people’s feelings? Because that’s just not the kind of person I am. Maybe it can mean whatever I want it to mean, like taking care of myself and not letting people walk over me. Yes, that’s much more like it” – Carolyn Mackler “The Earth, My Butt and Other Big, Round Things.

I read that book when I was thirteen and haven’t looked back since. I struggle still. Do I ever struggle. It’s hard to stay yourself when you’re told to change. Media, films, TV, magazines, music business, strangers, even fans telling you what you should be doing yet I guess I hold onto that side that says, “Errr, why?” and no one can give me an answer. All this talk talk talking and when you talk back you’re met with silence.

That’s why therapy helps. I do a combination of CBT and CFT. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Compassion Focused Therapy. It helps you see present situations as they are and how you don’t blow up over them. It teaches you to examine your old habits and how they do and don’t help you. It was very difficult. I walked in thinking “So I know what’s wrong so let’s just tackle that and I’ll be fine and you’ll tell me ok and I’ll be out the door”, but it’s way, WAY more than that.

First off, I’ve never acknowledged just how bad stuff in the past was. Like, really awful. It took my therapist listening to one story in particular for my therapist to sit back in her chair and say, “Emily, that is fucked up. I’m sorry but that is fucked up”, because I said what had happened,”wasn’t that bad”. However, it’s been acknowledged and I’m a lot stronger and wiser to listening to the parts of my life that need listening to and ignoring the parts that need to be ignored.

There is a danger to sharing this with you for me. I’ve been open about a lot of things about my mental health and past and I’ve liked doing it because it feels good to be open but also I’ve had people like those stalkers come down to the South Bank come down and talk to people who are watching me “You know that girl has mental health issues? You know she’s mad”. In fact I saw the guy (his name is Keith) down there yesterday who said it and who’s a regular stalker and when I was playing, I played a new song that’s on the new EP and I stared at him and said into the microphone, “That’s for you, Keith, because you know fuck all about me”. and it felt good. People who use your mental health against you are nothing but ignorant.

If people reading this don’t understand me or what I’m writing about, that’s fine. If they want to be shitty to me because I’m open about it, that’s their problem. They’ve got a lot of time on their hands and instead of seeing someone just talking about their issues on their page, they’re seeing it as an opportunity to be a wanker. Great, it’s clearly the only thing they’re good at. Being a wanker. Also, if people reading this expect me to be a musician with no feelings, no good and bad bits then…..well….you’re going to be disappointed. I’m so incredibly human which means I can feel bad and good and I also happen to feel ok about talking about them.

I went quiet on my music page to concentrate on myself and I feel so much better for doing so. I also want to write that although I write about how hard doing music is, I’m aware that I chose this. I’m not going to write something wanky like “music chose me”, because that really is stupid, like I’m not in control because I am. We all are. We all make choices with what we’ve got and I am not alone. I have very few people who can relate to what I go through but they exist and they fight too. I love you guys, and I love love love writing and performing. I don’t want to do anything else so I won’t be.

I want to stress something that’s very important to me. The people who come to my gigs, the people who message me asking me if I’m ok, the people who share my videos and comment with positive messages, I want to thank you very very much. Thank you for always being supportive and for reading, for listening and for being patient. Thank you for allowing me to be me and you guys are fabulous the way you are.

I can’t wait to finish the EP. I can’t wait to release it into the world. I have finally got to a point in my life where I like myself and after living for many years after not liking yourself, I feel a lot stronger and prepared for whatever life brings.

Lastly, this post is for Caroline. Caroline, we only met briefly a few years ago, long before I started doing music but you have been stuck in my head since. How you entered the studio like a whirlwind of colour and how you never fitted in and how proud I was to meet you yet we only met twice. I don’t know where you are now or what you’re doing but I hope you remained a hurricane of energy and despite you saying that you, “never fit in”, I was happy because I didn’t feel alone. The song “Caroline” was about you but I realised it was about how I feel a lot of the time and like I sing to you:

“Caroline, forget about the reason why.
Caroline, don’t you think you’d better try?”

So people, I’m going to try….

 

 

Paid In Blood

I write this from the desk of the place where I’m temping.

Yes, you read that right. I’m temping. I’m currently wearing proper office shoes that pinch my feet and a skirt I wore six years ago which is so old that it perished at one job and I had to staple it together to make it look acceptable until I could take it home to sew up.

Because this is my life right now. Ms Musician Woman is temping and not busking on the South Bank, Trafalgar Square or Cheltenham and not doing as many gigs.

Why? More importantly, do you even want to know?

I’ve never understood why people felt they had to justify themselves to people yet only yesterday I had to do exactly that for a ‘fan’ who shared a post they’d put on their personal Facebook page, condemning me for not putting up the times of when I’m busking. This ‘fan’ then sent it to my personal and music page on Facebook, forcing me to feel some sort of regret for not busking as often as other people. I could’ve ignored them. I could’ve just said “Fuck off”, but I didn’t. I’m writing about it instead.

Let’s go back, shall we? Back to last year when it all began to unravel…

 

I was asked to go abroad to perform. Amazing, you might say. I certainly thought so. I wasn’t really keen on going with the company but I figured it would help broaden my music. How many chances does an unknown singer/songwriter with no support, no help and no money get? None, we take what we can get within our limits.

I had a brilliant time but I felt uncomfortable with the company. I felt exposed and my limits were pushed in terms of my personal space but I came home feeling triumphant as I sold a lot of CD’s and my music seemed to attract a lot of people. The same company appeared to be enamored by my music and it didn’t take long to realise that it wasn’t just my music that they were enamored by (you can guess, guys. We’re all adults here).
I was promised a lot. I was promised a meeting with a huge publishing company because my songs were ‘brilliant’ and a meeting with the biggest booker in the UK because this person ‘had to see me play’.

Well, it turned out this company would help me but as long as I did exactly what they wanted, passed over all control and forfeited my manager. It turned out the publishing contact was ‘expired’. Turned out the booker ‘didn’t take on unsigned acts’ so they weren’t interested in me at all.
In the end I blew the company right out of my life. That all happened in the course of five months. Five months of complete garbage and flattery shoved in my face in place of actual opportunity. It didn’t make me feel good. I felt foolish and idiotic and started to believe I was actually probably shit at music and people just wanted something else out of me.

And then…

I had an IUD fitted. For the guys reading this, that’s a special coil put in your vagina to help ease period pains and bleeding (Did I just say vagina? Yes, yes I did). My periods are so bad that I’m unable to sing when they’re happening. I lose a lot of blood and my energy levels are at an all-time low. The pain is also incredibly bad. Crippling. I even went to a vocal coach who explained that during a period, for some women the water retention affects the vocal cords making it harder for them to meet to make sound which is why my tone would sound sluggish and I’d be too tired to sing. I thought the IUD would be for the best. I’ve been on pills to control my periods before but the level of hormones in them were too powerful and they made me very depressed. The IUD has the lowest level of hormones in it out of all the options available to me I decided to give it a try.

What followed was three months of extreme, and I mean EXTREME pain. I would lie in bed gripped in absolute agony while my boyfriend would lie next to me watching me weep and contort my face in pain. I was told it would settle and it wouldn’t. It just wouldn’t settle. It was put in in September 2015 and removed three months later. It made me emotional, and completely broke me, really. You can’t busk with a smile on your face when you feel like needles are being dragged across your cervix. It’s not possible. I suffered greatly. I went back to the clinic FIVE times over this period and told each time ‘It’ll settle, you’ll see’.

Seriously, what a crock of shit.

It was after having the IUD removed THAT that I started to lose my voice. I just couldn’t make notes come out of my mouth. I remember supporting an artist in their hometown and by the end (having played only five songs) I couldn’t reach the notes. I just stopped near the end pretending I had finished. I came off the stage and cried, shook it off, went to the front and smiled while I signed CD’s. When me and my manager got in the car I cried all the way home. I couldn’t understand what was wrong.

I remember busking afterwards and not being able to reach any notes or even hold a note for more than five seconds. I collapsed into tears right there next to the London Eye pitch and two homeless people came and sat with me to comfort me. Mike and Sharon. They were lovely. They just listened to me while I sat there covered in snot until Mike gave me some napkins from McDonalds and listened to the tales that had completely shattered my confidence.

I went to a vocal specialist who said although there was nothing wrong with my voice, I was suffering from exhaustion. I then went to GP who referred me to a therapist who diagnosed me with severe depression.

While this was all happening I was living in a property in North London. It was pleasant enough although there was no contract which always makes me feel shaky because landlords as a rule can’t be trusted. Over time it became obvious in the house that I was expected to pay bills that I hadn’t even seen. The other tenants were angry about this at first but like many young, naive individuals, they felt it better to keep their mouths shut and hand over the money even though there was no proof of bills. I’m not good at keeping my mouth shut when I feel something’s wrong. Communication was awful between myself and the person in charge of showing us the bills and eventually I had a huge argument with the other tenants, all of which turned on me declaring that I was ‘being difficult’, ‘being paranoid’ and when I shared my story to my friends on Facebook (stating how fucking horrid the other tenants were – after blocking them from social media) explaining that I needed to move asap, the landlady called me a ‘psychopath’, that I was ‘bad news’ and if I posted anything on Facebook they would ‘come down on you so hard, I swear to god’.

So, I wasn’t living in a healthy environment. As I’m sure lots of you know, when you live in a property you only want a safe, clean environment to unwind after having been working all day. I wasn’t getting that. Instead of allowing me to leave, I was bullied, ostracized and then threatened. I packed and left in one day after being threatened.

After that I crashed in the West of London on a blow up mattress in an office. A friend helped me out a great deal. It was lovely of them but of course I was still reeling from the events of the house I’d been in and still trying to save money AND still busk and just keep going…

During my speedy escape from the house I severely injured my fore finger making finger-picking on the guitar very difficult. It’s been nearly four months and it still hurts from time to time so I started temping to compensate.

What some people don’t understand that when it comes to busking there’s a huge, huge amount of pressure on you. You’re not only trying to advertise your music by sounding the best you can sound and portray a happy-go-lucky image (because no one ever gave money to a miserable busker), you’re also trying to make enough money to eat. You are then subjected to the mercy of the public. I’ve been assualted, I’ve been heckled at, I’ve had people attempt to rob me. I’ve had men follow me back to my storage and I’ve even had ‘fans’ travel hundreds of miles just to follow me onto the tube to find out where I live. I’ve had it all.

The pressure to make money during the winter months proved too difficult for me. I couldn’t handle the pressure of that plus living in a shitty environment, PLUS dealing with having to pay rent on time and try and feed myself PLUS deal with having the same stalkers watch me Every Single Time I was out there trying to enjoy myself when I played.

What other people don’t understand is that doing music from a working-class background is hard. I don’t have parents and I don’t have money. Sorry, did I shock you? Did you expect me to sugar daddy my way to the top of the charts? People like me exist. We work hard and the shop is never, ever shut.

A TV plugger told my manager once, “The thing with Emily is that she’s absolutely brilliant and she’s got everything she needs to make it but she has no label and she has no money”. There you have it, kids. An honest, non-bullshit statement from someone who actually WORKS in the industry. And before anyone gets in there, NO I don’t want to go on reality TV. That is killing the music side of the music industry and shame on you for suggesting it.

I forget sometimes that while growing up I was subjected to a lot of abuse. I don’t mean a little bit, I mean a LOT. Growing up was a chore. It wasn’t something I wanted to do at nine years old just because it was tiring. Carrying all that AND dealing with all the shit I’ve written about before is TIRING and then you get people who don’t even know you throwing shit at your face. I always imagined I could handle anything after being kicked out at seventeen. That I’m practically Superwoman for withstanding all the physical and mental abuse but I’m not. I’m human and like all humans I’m vulnerable at times.

I’ve had people tell me I look fat when I play, that I should have my mole removed from my face, that my music’s sad, that my music is arrogant, that I’m difficult, that I’m psychotic, that I’m too old, that I’m pushy, or I’m shy, I don’t busk enough, I busk too much, I do too many gigs, I don’t do enough, I’m too political, I’m too headstrong, I’m ruthless, I’m not willing to change  I charge too much for gigs (£5-£8 or you kidding me?) or I’m this or that or whatever and you know what?

None of these assholes have ever said this to my fucking face.

Assholes have a tendency to never say this stuff to your face. You know why? Because it’s redundant when you say it out loud. Your opinion is worthless and void of any meaning.

But you know what’s really brought my mood down the most in the last eight months? People who say they’ll do something and they don’t.

I feel 99% of people are made of 99% bullshit. I got great advice from a Nashville singer who said “If people want to do business with you, it won’t take more than three days”. She is not wrong. If people say to you “We love you, we want to work with you!”, it’s definitely true if they come back with a time, date and price within 3-5 days. It’s simple.

Do you know HOW MANY times I’ve heard what I like to call the ‘BSR’? (BullShitRant).

Many, many, many, many, many times. It’s now usual for me to check my emails and see a message saying “We’d love to have you for….we would love the opportunity….we think you’re fantastic”, yet nothing, nothing has come of it. It actually makes my job as a musician suck. It’s like people say, “You’re good, but you’re not good enough to work with”, which I’d actually respect them more for if they said that. It’s my job, it’s got to be good enough or people won’t want me. Simple, right?

That pains me too. I put a lot of effort into my music. It isn’t a damn hobby. It’s my job, my LIFE.

And it is a job, by the way. This isn’t me picking up a magazine and having a good read before tucking into a chicken pie. It’s work and it’s hard and it can grind you down unless you have a good support network around you. Mine sometimes feel painstakingly lacking at times. I have my boyfriend and I have my manager (who’s my best friend of twelve years) but my other friends are new (since being in London) and they have a lot of shit going on in their lives too. My moods are pretty terrible at the moment. Huge highs and extreme lows. Even those I’m closest to find it incredibly hard to be around me. Fuck, on Tuesday I went for an interview for yet another temping job and I felt like ants were crawling around in my head. I felt so stressed and alone and helpless I wanted to run into the street and under an oncoming bus. I felt I couldn’t handle just…living.

I’ve been on a waiting list for therapy for over a year now. I see a woman every six weeks but I’m trying to change my therapy because psychotherapy is not right for me. I’ve spoken to a senior head nurse and CBT is the way for me I’m certain. I can’t afford to go private so for now I’ll have to sit tight and wait while the ants crawl inside my head.

I hope this clears things up. I’ve always believed that communication, honesty and authenticity are the driving forces for going forward in life. I also feel miles better for writing this down.

I hate being bullied and I hate people feeling like they own me. Nobody owns anybody and I don’t owe anybody anything, just like the hundreds of people who wander past me while I’m singing don’t owe me a living. They’re just happy to give. I’m happy to just give myself to music and if I can put on a gig that people come to, I feel successful, no matter how shitty people can be sometimes.

I’m laughing right now because a very wise manager of mine (Hi, Ross) said to me the night after I got smashed on alcohol and sang a song in his living room WAY back in 2011, “You should be doing music. But Emily, if you do music you can’t just do it on the side. You have to eat it, wake up to it and sleep with it. You have to make it your life”, and me being hungover I just said, “Yeah, whatever”, and thought”Yeah, right”, but he wasn’t wrong. I’ve never forgotten that moment with him.
It has to be my life because nothing but nothing makes me feel better. Music makes me feel like I have purpose. I can play in my room and sing and feel like I have purpose so can you imagine what it feels like when you play to a crowd who want to hear you?

Pretty damn fucking special. It should do. I paid in blood to get here.

Blood, sweat tears and fears.

So those that doubt me or try to mold me. Have some faith guys, you don’t even know what I’m capable of.

And those that have been with me all the way, you just know it’s going to get more exciting.

 

Stay tuned xxx

 

Special

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Hello All,

Here I am writing again. I find that I write these things at stupid o’ clock in the morning. I hardly ever stay up late as I can’t squeeze enough work during the daylight hours at it is but…hey. I just need to write this down.

It’s funny actually. A friend and fan called Marcus messaged me a few days ago saying “Have you put a blog up?”, and I said “No, but how strange, I’ve been thinking of putting one up”…..so here it goes.

As most of you know I’ve finished my EP. It’s been sent to print and I should be getting it this week or so. I’ve registered my music and I’m finalising a gig where I can present my music like a pro (ha!)

I won’t lie to you, I’m pretty scared. I’m excited of course but I’m also nervous.

For starters, I had originally wanted to make an album. That’s what I started in 2013 with my boyfriend at the time. He convinced me that my songs were great (it took a while) and he contacted his music friends to help.
I had some of the best musicians I’ve heard playing on it, contributing to what I felt at the time was a great debut album.

However, further on down the line I started to feel that my sound and the stories behind the music was being blocked out. A “wall of sound” was kind of blasting my voice away and even though the music sounded great, it really wasn’t doing anything special for my voice or the lyrics.
What made it worse was that me and my boyfriend broke up. We had disagreed on a number of things on the album including the arrangements and the instruments but we were also struggling personally as well. It wasn’t the best of break ups and we haven’t spoken since.
My ex paid for all of the recording process. The drummer, the bassist, the studio time and for that I’m truly thankful. I got to see how they work and what they could produce which is pure magic for someone starting out in this business. It also felt wonderful to have someone who believed in me so much that they were willing to shell money out for me.
After we broke up I knew I’d have to fund the project by myself. We split on April 16th 2014.
On April 17th I went out to save every penny I had in my night job and busking to fund the album.

I was sent the music files by my ex (before we stopped talking) and I was unhappy to discover that certain parts were missing including bass lines and drum parts. By the time I even looked at the files properly it was too late to ask my ex for the rest of the files. We had become too hostile with each other.

I sent the remaining files to three trusted and pretty great producers I know to see if they could rectify the problem either by more mixing or re-recording. All three of them said “I can do what I can but it’s not doing your voice any justice at all”. Mixing a track is incredibly hard. My album tracks had not been recorded at the same time. They had been recorded bit by bit. First guitar, then drums, then bass etc which gives the whole track a rather stilted feel rather than a genuine band feel which is what I’d aimed for.

I realised that I could either polish up what I had by re-recording what me and my ex had spent over a year on or start all over again….I chose the latter.

Ha! I’ll never forget one of the producers saying, “That’s incredibly brave of you”, and me thinking, “Oh fuck, that means I’m doing it wrong…?”, but you have to trust your instincts and mine was telling me to start again.

In terms of putting my voice to a record I realised that people had only ever seen me play on my own. I’ve played with a band (with my own songs) once and I think for a while I shortchanged myself and believed I couldn’t BE good without musicians, without the support of other people carrying me along.

Realistically, there was no possible way for me to fund any more recording sessions with these musicians again even though I wanted to so badly. When you’ve heard some of the best musicians in the world play your songs, you don’t want to take a step back, you want to keep the best but as that popular saying goes, “Beggars can’t be choosers”.

I’m also a huge fan of this. I live by this quote, “Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it”.

It’s from Roald Dahl’s “Matilda”. She says it when Lavender asks how Miss Trunchball gets away with abusing the students and I’ve loved that quote since I first read it as a child. It means doing the unexpected can pay off.

I fully expected to crash and burn when me and my ex broke up. I certainly was a mess for a few months. My source of encouragement and security seemed to be whipped out from under me. I had to turn to myself to get up and keep going and it was NOT easy. My Nan died in May which added to the heartache enormously and delayed any progress in my music but that had to happen. I had to grieve and digest before continuing, I just didn’t realise that at the time.

I did a lot of research and asked my trusted musician friends about doing an acoustic EP. I wanted to present my music exactly how I perform them live and I was given the name of a producer called Will Baker from Vendetta Music Recording Studios. I was lucky in that Will loves singer/songwriters and he liked my stuff (else I wouldn’t of worked with him – we BOTH have to enjoy the recording experience!) so we recorded in January.
He also was kind enough to go to Abbey Road Studios on my behalf when I woke up with a viral infection and was too sick to go. In fact, I remember puking while on the phone telling Will, “I can make it…..I’ll take a taxi”, before collapsing. I was truly lucky to find him, Thank you, Will.

You’re probably asking yourself, “Why is she telling us this?”. Indeed, my manager said, “You don’t have to justify your actions because you’ve gone from making an album with a band to an acoustic EP”, and he’s right, I don’t but I feel that speaking about it makes it less scary that I embarked on a completely new direction to the one I’d been so determined to follow before.

I was starting anew and wanted it to be really bloody good. I also wanted to know that every penny I had saved went towards something that I was 100% happy with. It’s amazing how meticulous you become when it’s YOUR money being put towards YOUR music. I drove Will nuts for three days in the recording booth. I refused to leave until dead on 6pm and even booked an extra day so that I could spend the night before listening to the tracks over and over from my shitty speakers, to my good speakers, to my headphones via MP3 player to computer speakers to get an all-round feel of what the mix was like. I came with pages of notes for changes and adjustments that needed to be done the next morning.

Jack White mixes tracks then wires them to his car radio. If a track sounds good through car speakers, it’s possible that it’ll sound good anywhere, hence why I got the idea of listening to my tracks via four or five speaker systems. Good Ol’ Mr White. It’s not a new method but it’s a flawless method for aspiring musicians who want a great sound.

“If you’re second guessing yourself, it’s usually someone else’s opinion whispering in your ear” – That’s what I often thought whilst recording. Isn’t second guessing a bitch?

I’m an independent musician. I fund my music by busking and taking the odd paid gig when I can as I’m self-employed. That’s madness, really. My new housemates think my job is mental. They can’t imagine having a job where you don’t know what your income is. I always say, “I just have faith that I can get through this day/week/month”. It’s having belief in yourself and THAT’S what makes me feel good about doing an acoustic EP. When I think of how I felt before I started the EP it makes me think of, “Take Me To The Burning” which in fact I wrote AFTER I recorded the cd. I remember telling Josh all the negative things people kept saying to me when I started the EP and Josh telling me, “Fuck ’em. You do what’s right for you”, which inspired me to write….

“Shadows that stole my attention. Poor words that added to the tension. How could I have been so blind? I am what I am is what I’ve said, won’t allow sweet poison to fill my head, Not one of them, I’m one of a kind”.

It really is nice to lock yourself away, even when you’re really bloody low and write something out. It’s like sucking the poison out of a wound and sometimes I believe the uplifting words I write….

So there you go. Now everyone knows why I gone from recording an album to recording an EP. I’m also terribly nervous because listening back to the tracks I realise how personal it is. They go down deep into a place none of us like to talk about but once the burden’s off our backs, we all stand a little taller.

I’m glad I recorded the EP the way I did too. I told my brother and manager, “If I were to die this year, I can go knowing that I made a finely recorded cd”. Something I didn’t think was even POSSIBLE a year ago.

There will be more blogs. A never ending journey will have never ending stories and no matter what, I WILL continue to record more music. Even if it takes a lifetime.

Thanks for reading, I hope you like the EP

Emily xxx

Waste Of Space

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Hello again,

Now. This post is going to be my scariest I think. I’ve been wanting to write it for about 5 weeks but I’ve been stopping myself because quite frankly I’ve been terrified to. It’s a very personal blog I’m about to write but the incident and the moments that happened after are fundamental to who I am as a person now and who I am as a musician.

We begin in June 2011. I have graduated from university last year with a 2:1 in Drama and I’ve just quit my lessons at the acting studio I was attending. I have broken up with my boyfriend of nearly 3 years a few months before, dated an actor who I didn’t relate to so I broke it off. I have also walked out of my bar job because the manager spoke to me very badly because I asked him for time off work to help with a theatre project. I have no money, no career, no prospects and no friends. I used to have to steal food from shops because my job paid so badly and I had neither the courage nor the motivation to look for anything better or ask for help off my grandparents.

The picture you see of me above is me in 2011. Before music, before hope, before anything. I weighed roughly 10 stone. I’m not eating. Instead I’m drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes so I don’t feel hungry as I can’t afford food. I can’t stand this picture because it reflects a very lost and lonely girl who looks too pale and thin but it’s important to show what I mess I was. The picture reminds me of Irma Thomas’s song “I Wish Someone Would Care” where it goes “Smiles, smiles hide lots of things. The good, the bad, the hurt. All of this goes too”.

I’m drinking and smoking pot daily. I tried it for the first time at aged 13 but I didn’t start again until I was 21 and I’d met my future boyfriend at uni (the guy I eventually broke up with) who was a regular smoker. I started smoking when I moved to London because my boss at the time would only allow breaks to smokers, so of course, I did it for that reason.

The only peace I got was hanging out with my housemate at the time. We would smoke joints together in the kitchen of the flat and talk about…..well anything. He could play guitar better than me since I’d only just picked it up and I would teach him Fairground Attraction songs and we’d sing and play for hours.

One night he comes home and we have a heated argument. About what, I don’t remember but it resolved itself when he kneeled in front of me as I sat in a wicker chair and he kissed me. One thing led to another and I ended up staying in his room that night. This continued for a couple of weeks. We regularly hooked up and here’s the awful bit: I didn’t use protection.

I know. When I look back I think of how stupid I was. How incredibly naive but I just didn’t care. I was so lonely and full of pity I wanted anyone, ANYTHING to fill that void I was feeling. I didn’t care about pregnancy, I didn’t care about diseases. My mother told me about her antics when she was a teenager and one thing I’ll never forget is her saying “When there was someone inside me, Em, I felt that they really loved me”.

I remember being disgusted when she told me that at the age of 13 or 14 but in 2011, I got it. I understood because I’d reached a new low in my life. I was crawling and begging for anything that could lift me in some way but none of those things, sex, drugs or drink was going to pull me out of it. I just imagined at the time that they did. This guy was the first guy I’d been with without a relationship or waiting for a while first. It was “new” and “exciting” and not me at all. I felt “being me” was what was holding me back.

Then the bombshell hit.

Me and this guy are discussing ex-partners and he finally admits he slept with a guy. He hadn’t used a condom. I immediately know something’s wrong. The feeling I got. I just know. So we go to a clinic Monday morning at 10am.

At 6pm we walk out the clinic. The guy I’ve been sleeping with has HIV and I’m on Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) for the next few weeks.

I can’t describe to you how awful that day was. I remember it like a bad dream. I remember the guy coming into the women’s side of the clinic and grabbing my arm, pulling me away from my conversation about STI’s with another girl.

He tells me he’s positive and just like that my hearing goes. Have you ever stuck your head out of a moving train? When it’s going really fast? If you ever get the chance try it. You can’t hear or breathe or think. You’re just blasted with this huge force that swallows you whole. That’s what I felt when he told me and the first real thought I had was, “What will my little brother think of me?”. The little brother who looked up to me for inspiration and support. His sister has fucked up her life because she didn’t care about herself at all.

He took me into a little office and explained. I kept saying “What happens now?”, repeating it over and over again. As if someone would walk in with all the answers.

What followed was long chats with the nurses on duty, procedural medication talks, and the odd outcry of wailing from me and this guy. As we leave we agree that we can’t tell our families. They just won’t understand. I tell my only true friend and the disappointment in his voice just kills me but he tells me to stay strong and not dismiss anything yet.

Let me explain what PEP is for those that don’t know.

PEP is given to patients who have been exposed to the HIV virus. To be effective, PEP must be given at the latest of 72 hours after exposure. It is taken for 28 days. It can cause side-effects like nausea, headaches and chronic diarrhoea. PEP is not 100% effective: it does not guarantee that someone exposed to HIV will be rid of the virus after taking this medicine.

The reason I wrote that bit is because growing up I wasn’t taught about HIV at all. Not in school, nor at home. I didn’t know how you could catch it.

I never knew how ignorant I was until this incident happened. My self-deprecating self had blinded me to the point that I was abusing my body and had possibly shortened my lifespan.

I was constantly ill on this medicine. I took on a new job and had to travel a lot around London. My bowels were never settled (down to stress as much as the PEP) and my headaches were incredibly painful. I was also warned by my nurse that PEP has the ability to make things become intensified. For example, if I were to drink a pint, it would feel like I had drink 5 pints and like-wise if I smoked a joint, it would feel like I’d smoked 3. I remember setting my alarm for these pills. Every 12 hours they had to be consumed and they couldn’t be even a minute late. The terror I’d feel as I’d swallow them, willing them to destroy the virus that possibly lay in my body. At my last blood test appointment, I remember being told that they felt I had an 80% chance of contracting the virus. My world is falling apart.

So, I’m in limbo. Waiting for my sentence on these pills to pass, no acting lessons, no studio, no friends. I was too ashamed to tell my siblings and grandparents. I kept it a secret until I’d find out the results.

One night I was invited to a gig by someone I’d worked with and I accepted, hoping to distract myself from my own thoughts. What followed was a night that changed my life.

I hadn’t checked the band out before setting off out and I was a bit apprehensive. My experience of live bands in London hasn’t always been positive so I had my reservations as I arrived at the venue. I do hope the band won’t mind me using their name as they were and still are a huge inspiration to me. They were a band called The Duke and The King from America. They’ve since disbanded but they still reverberate with fans in the UK.

Anyway, I arrived with low-ish expectations. My workmate doesn’t have bad music taste but we did differ dramatically at times so I was wary of what was coming.

The band started and to put it bluntly, they were just mind-blowing. If you can think back to a moment in your life where a piece of music, a band, a singer, a song just cut through to you, you can understand. This band was it. So much soul. I can still, STILL remember the singer singing “I got the highest heels on the street”, what the lights were like, where they stood, everything. They made me feel bright and hopeful about the future.

Now the next bit is what I like to think of as a, “moment of clarity” or a “spiritual awakening”. It’s the end of the gig and I HAVE to go up to them all and tell them how great they were. I’m was a very shy person back then and it took some encouragement to approach them.

All of the band members said thank you and I get to the last one. He’s the most soulful one of all with a bear-like quality to his body, powerful and safe. I shake his hand and he asks, “Are you a musician?”. I reply, “No, I’m an actor, well, trying to be”. He shakes his head and says “Naw, you’re a musician. I saw you dancing at the front. You’re a musician. Give up the day job and get playing”.

For some reason I was absolutely overjoyed at his words. I felt happier than I’d been in years. I felt lighter, more hopeful than I’d ever felt about something. I bought both of their albums and the next day I’m playing them in the kitchen. I realise that if I got my results back in a few weeks time and I had HIV, I wanted to do something worthwhile with my life. Something that made me happy. Something that got me out of bed, MADE me want to get out of bed.

While in the kitchen, I sat on a chair, picked up my guitar and started to strum the four chords I knew. What came first was my song “Blue”, about feeling worthless in a relationship. Then, “Baby, I’m Willing”, about a guy I had really liked and didn’t want me back and if he didn’t come get me someone else would snap me up! Then “I Love Someone Who Let Me Down”, “Mr Moonlight”, they all came out in a rush.

I started to write about the things I couldn’t tell anyone. My crazy living situation, my health, my parents, my fears, my dreams. They all got wrapped up in notes on the guitar and gave me a voice.

I’ve always felt odd talking to people about anything personal. I find people aren’t really listening they’re just waiting for their turn to speak. But writing a song? That’s different. Music ignites something in all of us. For the first time I had the freedom to talk about anything and I continue to do so to this day.

I was given the all-clear from HIV in November 2011. One month later I’d quit my demanding job and only worked at night. I bought my first guitar, a 114CE Taylor just before my 25th birthday. I saved for 4 months to get it and begun my journey into music.

What did this experience teach me?

It taught me never to underestimate myself. It taught me that no matter how challenging life gets, even if you make it worse for yourself at times, you can climb back out of that pit of despair. In all honesty, I should’ve learnt that already considering my upbringing but those experiences weren’t mine to learn from.  I was merely an observer to some else’s downfall. The guest at someone else’s party. I had to have my own knock-down to see if I was worth saving.

It all began with pain. When you have pain in your life you tolerate it, or in my case, I chose to drown it out with drugs and alcohol because it was too much. My Granny used to have nerve damage in the side of her cheek for about 25 years. Some days it was really bad and some days it was just about bearable. That’s what living feels like sometimes. You’re aware that it’s there but you learn to live with it and the more you try to push it away, the quicker you get at blocking out the pain by playing music, crochet, dancing in your room, meeting new people, or even, just telling that bad voice to quieten down because you know that what they’re saying is completely wrong.

I know I get badly depressed sometimes. I know people don’t always understand and I know most people want to turn away because they’re not comfortable with the situation. I completely understand now, but before I resented the people who were scared of me and my “bad days”. That’s why I drank and smoked pot. It wasn’t getting rid of my issues, it just put them on hold until I was brave enough to face them. The risk of being infected with HIV was my wake-up call. I knew I had to stop treating myself to badly and allowing others to treat me poorly too.

After my all-clear I slowly regained myself again. Very slowly. I still had knock-backs and drank heavily. I suffered from stage fright and I’d drink four double whiskeys before even stepping near the stage to sound check. I also ate late and bellowed my songs out and smoked. I developed soft nodules in 2012 and was told to quit everything and was sent to speech therapy.

But always, always, music was pulling me through. Dangling a ladder in front of me and whispering encouragement when I dropped down a few rungs. A friend said to me once “I think something out there just knew you were having a bad time and gave you a gift one day”. It’s a sweet thought.

I take very good care of my body these days! I wish I could say the same for my heart and it’s emotions but that’s another blog!

I felt I needed to share this story because I’ve never written it down and I felt now was the right time. I didn’t write in my journal for the entire ordeal. I was too scared to see the words on paper and too ashamed to speak about it to anyone…….but if we don’t talk about our mistakes or admit when we’ve gone wrong….how can we learn from them? How can we grow and love and cherish things when we don’t fully appreciate how they came to be? Sometimes you’ve got to get your hands dirty to plant the seed just right.

Music saved my life. It gave me a reason to live and continues to keep me strong. I wrote a song tonight, just as I started this blog. It’s called “The Game”. It’s about feeling ashamed when you fall for a guy who doesn’t make his mind up as to whether he wants you back. Yeah, we’ve ALL been there….

I’d like to conclude by saying, take care of yourselves out there. You’re all valuable people and your worth is defined only by your belief in yourself. Strength is a choice and suffering is another that we feast upon because it’s easier to swallow. I’m going to stop stuffing my face with that, roll my sleeves up and continue making a good amount of strength to get me through life.

My next blog will be out soon. Thanks for reading xxx

 

Born Bad

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Hello there, 

You’re probably wondering why it’s been so long since my last blog. Well, I needed something to trigger it off. Like when you write a song, or get an idea for something in your head. It just pops in out of nowhere. 

I planned what I wanted to write about which I’m sure you’ve guessed from the picture above, is my mother and how she’s related to my music but I needed something to ignite that. An event or memory. I also didn’t feel brave enough to write about it until the weekend just gone. Something happened on Sunday 17th August 2014 that made me want to write it down.

 

For the purpose of this blog names will not be used. Only the first letter (which is fake for their protection) and a series of ****.

 

Let me describe it to you.

It’s Sunday morning and I’ve just come back from my run. I let myself in through the back door as I don’t have a key and I walk into the kitchen and look through the living room to find my mother sitting on my Grandparents sofa crying. 

At first I freeze. It’s been about 6 months since I last saw her and she was acting erratic then. Instead of walking past her I feel a stab of pain in my chest because I can see she’s upset. I want to care for her and make her better.

“Hi Mum”, I say in an almost hesitant tone. Not knowing how she’ll react.

“Emily, I can’t get hold of V****”, can you help me?”

V** is my mothers boyfriend. Sort of. He drinks with her and helps her with her ten dogs so I suppose he’s her boyfriend and her only friend.

I sit next to her and pick up my Granddads landline phone. Mum reads the number out to me and I dial, press the green icon and wait. The phone rings but no one picks up.

“He’s not answering, Mum”.

She begins to cry. I’m sat next to her on the sofa. I can smell booze and dog on her but I put my arm around her and tell her it’s going to be alright. She begins to really cry. She cries and cries and cries.

She tells me how her arm got dislocated two weeks ago when she fell off a wall picking flowers whilst drunk and she had to have it set at the hospital but it was still sore. She holds it close to her side and doesn’t move it. She shows me the massive scar on the back of her neck that she suffered in the fall too. She tells me how blood ran down her dress and back and she just walked home. I hold her hands and I see the thumb on her right hand. It’s half the size it should be. That’s because she slammed it in a car door two years ago when she was blind drunk. All the while I’m trying not to cry. I’m trying not to acknowledge that this person is my mother because I don’t recognise her.

She asks me to pour her a drink. In her shopping bags she has a bottle of vodka, a bottle of coke and a newspaper. I say I’ll pour her a juice but no vodka. She insists and because I’m scared of what she’ll do if I don’t, I pour vodka in there too and I take her outside to the garden with the shopping bags. If my Granddad spots the vodka he’ll kick her out and right there and then and I don’t want him too. For a few minutes I want my Mum here so I can kid myself that she’s here to see me because she loves me.

We sit in the garden and chat amicably. All her mannerisms are different. She twitches. Her smile is crooked because the alcohol has dragged her skin down her face so it’s like her muscles have melted. Some of her teeth have fallen out. Her hair is a scraggy mess. She has scars on her arm where she has been harming herself. I can see that they mirror my own. we’re almost identical except she has a lot more. I see how thin her legs are. I think of Amy Winehouse and how sick she looked in the tabloids. My mum looks like that but worse. Way worse. Her feet are dirty. So very dirty. I can’t stop glancing down at them. It’s her eyes though. I can’t get over how different her eyes are. They used to be a deep, thoughtful brown colour. They’re now lost. She’s looking right at me but she’s not seeing me at all. She reminds me of those crazy fans you see. They’re excited and they hug the celebrity they adore but their eyes are vacant. Some glass void. I can barely look at her.

She tells me about her dogs. She doesn’t remember all their names. She says she saw a Youtube clip of me singing a sing about her (You Were Never Mine). She says she wanted to slap me. I asked why. She said because the words “I knew I was yours but you were never mine” made her weep buckets. I almost lose it then and cry myself but I hold it. She tells me to be safe when I’m busking. She says she wishes she could protect me from any bad people who try to snatch my equipment away.

I can’t describe how painful it was to sit there on a sunny Sunday and listen to my mother. How painful to see her dying and her not caring. How painful that I couldn’t confide in her like a normal daughter does. I tried to convince her to seek help again. How they’d sign her in and they’d help and let her go when she was better. She said “I don’t want to get better”. Case closed. Mum’s stubborn like that. I get it from her.

She says she has to leave and I kiss her goodbye and hug her more than once. “It’ll get better”, I say. “I know”, she replies. We’re lying to each other but it feels good to say it anyway.

An hour later and she’s back but this time my littlest brother is here and she can’t come in the house. They do not have contact with each other. She wants a bath and I tell her it’s not convenient. I lie and say I’m spending time with my other brother and he’s not comfortable with her being there. She begins to get angry and starts.

She just starts. Evil words spillage over her lips and she knows when it hurts. She can see it in my eyes. She starts screaming but not as loud as she has been before. Because she’s dying and she can’t bellow as hard as she used to. Granddad calls the police and my bigger brother frogmarches her down the drive. She continues to scream as loud as she’s able, using all these abusive words. We go inside. The police arrive. We tell them the same thing. They tell us the same thing. This has been happening for 10 years. Since my mother kicked me out.

Ok, so let’s go back. We can’t go forwards without going back but I’ll make it as quick as possible. There’s a lot to take in.

My mother has always been a wild terror. Running around with older men to London when she was 14 and tormenting her teachers. When I ran to my Head of Year at secondary school and cried to him about my mothers abusive behaviour, he told me a story about her. It was my Head of Year’s first day at my school, back in 1974 or 1975. His class is science. Upon entering the classroom he spots my mother reading a magazine in class and asks her to put the magazine away to which my mother replied with, “Why don’t you fuck off?”.

You get the idea. She was a bit of a cow. As far as I know her own mother my Grandmother could be quite abusive, Took a lot of overdoses and was generally quite unhappy with life. She was taken to hospital and stayed for a year or so while my mother, aunt and uncle (aged between 3 and 7) were sent to their grandparents and their aunt so maybe her being a cow comes down to her not feeling very loved. I know her Dad washed his hands off all his children most of the time.

Sometimes Mum and her brother would arrive at school and Mum would have to run home to check to see if their Mum was still alive. Her brother would cry and beg her not to go but Mum said she had to and would run away from school all the way home to check to see if their mother was still breathing. 

Fast forward a couple of decades and I’m doing the same with MY mum. 

It started when my Dad left. Suddenly my mother was left with 3 children under ten years old. No qualifications, no future. She took control and started college specialising in Psychology. Once my Dad burst into the lecture hall and screamed at her “I’ll see you and the kids on the street!”. My Dad is a complete idiot.

Mum was aways sad. I’d hear her crying in bed at night. I remember her putting on Fairground Attraction and dancing in the living room. I was probably 5 then. I started to cry and she picked me up and danced with me on her hip. I wasn’t crying because I was sad Dad was gone. I was crying because I knew she was unhappy with us. I could feel this almost forced Mumsy style atmosphere. I remember it so well. Facing the window near the TV, crying before she swopped me up. Fairground Attraction is one of my favourite bands. It took years before I could listen to their songs without crying. Now I really enjoy them. In fact, the first open mic I did I got this guy to learn a couple of their songs so I could sing them. It was a brilliant debut!

Doing the college work and being a mum proved too much for our mother so her friend on the course recommended amphetamines. They got her through and she earned a 2:1. My mother was very, very smart. Very artistic too. Everyone in the family can draw apart from me. I truly suck at drawing but my mother was brilliant. She could also make cakes. Beautiful figurines and flowers. Truly, uniquely talented. Once she made my brother a Michael Jackson figure for his birthday cake. It was amazing. I begged her to make me a Christina Aguilera one but by that time she was way to pissed off with her life to have anything to do with that.

Mum fell pregnant when I was 10. Unplanned and feeling alone, she wanted an abortion but her partner at the time convinced her otherwise. She kept it. What followed was some scary months. My mother and her partner did not get on even before her pregnancy. Anyone with a brain who saw them could tell you that their pairing was ridiculous but my mother wanted a man. She craved stability. She didn’t want to be a single parent again. My Dad was such a dreamer who smoked his money away or bought guitars. This other guy was a business man. Secure, safe, reliable. 

First it was the mood swings. My mother had been taken speed up to her pregnancy. I don’t know if she took them during but she did smoke occasionally. How I used to worry when she did that. I would sit there on the sofa and hold her belly while she smoked (if she let me, which she often didn’t) and just pray that the baby would be ok.

Mum has always acted like she hated us. I remember trying to hang myself at 10 years old from my walk-in closet. I could hear her yelling on the phone to her partner downstairs in the living room. I just couldn’t bear the idea of living with a mum who hated me. My other siblings weren’t home and it was a rainy afternoon. I remember hanging my dressing gown tie to the door handle, tying it round my neck and just half slouching so it pulled tight. I had almost passed out before I sat up panicking and seeing stars, too afraid to let go and also not wanting to leave Mum.

I remember her throwing the cot out the first story window of our house because her partner hadn’t set it up yet. He left the house a lot for days when they argued and we kids were left with clearing the mess they’d made during their fights. 

My brother was born when I was 11 years old. I remember going to the hospital and seeing just how incredibly pissed off and unhappy my mother was. How she smoked her cigarette outside the hospital as we drove away and me sitting in the car with this feeling of dread washing over me. Something didn’t feel right.

My brother was brought home. Relatives rushed over to see the newborn. Everyone was happy but Mum. She sat in her usual spot on the sofa, feet tucked up, puffing on a cigarette. I went outside to the front garden just to get out of the scene. Mum was acting like a zombie. I was playing with a very long, small pitchfork. Bright yellow, it was. I loved playing with it, pretending I was a javelin athlete. I picked it up and looked at the living room window. I don’t know why but I suddenly raised the pitchfork and brought it down on my right foot.

No, I’m lying. I do know why even though it sounds crazy. One of the pitchfork blades had sliced my big toe. Not seriously but enough to really hurt and bleed everywhere. I ran inside, walked past the throng of visitors up to Mum and showed her. She barely reacted. “What did you do that for?”, she said. My Nan then swept me into the kitchen and cleaned me up. Mum stayed on the sofa. Fail. I just wanted her to be a Mum again. To do that Mum thing when you kiss your injured child on the head and hug them better. Nope. Did not happen. For the next few years Mum kept up her substance abuse and what following in its wake were four terrified children.

There were good days and bad. Good was when Mum was up before we went to school. Bad was when she stayed in bed and wouldn’t move until 5pm that day. At first my newborn brother was fed by mother for breastfeeding purposes but as soon as that was over, it was like she gave up on motherhood completely. Her partner worked all day so there was no one to care for the little one. 

I guess in a way I nominated myself. I took one look at him and thought “`You’re going to know what unconditional love is. You’re going to get what I’ll never get”. I could say I skipped school but in reality on a Sunday (the WORST day, Mum was AWFUL on these days) Mum would come down at 6 or 7pm, slam the living room door shut and shout “Who’s looking after **** tomorrow because I’m fucking not”. The rest of us siblings would look at each other and I’d usually point at myself silently. NO ONE wanted to stay home but I’d rather die then leave **** alone with mum. Plus I was bullied a lot. I got bullied badly in primary school (I had goofy teeth) and I wasn’t gazed fondly upon in secondary school. In fact, someone who used to bully me saw all my music stuff and apologised to me recently. Can you believe it? I mean, it’s nice but….I just don’t know what makes people act like dick heads in the first place. We all hate being treated like shit so why inflict it on someone else? Anyway, so in retrospect I’d be bullied at school and then I’d get home to be bullied there as well. To be honest I could handle the school stuff. They weren’t adults. They were just dumb stupid kids. The fact an adult, my mother was bullying us was just plain….mad. And bloody hideous.

So I started missing school. Right from Year 7 I was barely there. I remember tallying up my attendance in the back of my homework diary and finding out that on average, I attended school three times a week. The teachers noticed but they needed my permission to take it further and they’re weren’t going to get it. I was too scared to say anything. Mum threatened all sorts if I or my siblings thought about telling anyone. They all KNEW. They whole bloody school knew, it just wasn’t spoken about and I certainly wasn’t going to bring it to light.

Mum was terrifying. She was also clever and manipulative and downright evil most of the time. I grew up with my siblings but I brought the littlest up on my own. His dad was almost never around. In fact on several occasions he would check to see that I was looking after his child for the weekend then speed off in his van. Safe in the knowledge that a child was taking good care of his child.

As I got older Mum became more violent. Physical beatings were not rare but it was the words she used that cut the deepest. I can only speak for myself but I’m sure my siblings can verify her outbursts. 

I was useless, I was nothing, I was shit, I was fat, I should’ve been aborted, I was ugly. Daily slurs that ranged from mild to horrific depending on her mood. Her drug use was in full swing by now, funded by her partner (completely unbeknownst to him). She’d read my diary out on the phone to her friends. How I’d written that I’d wish she’d die. I was fifteen and desperately unhappy by this time. Of course I’d say shit like that. During the day when it was just me and the littlest, we’d creep around the house so as not to wake her from her slumber. It felt like a game and being a kid myself, it was! On the truly scary days, we’d be too afraid to use the toilet which was situated just below her attic bedroom. Sometimes we’d relieve ourselves in the garden just so we wouldn’t run the risk of waking her. Mad eh? 

Night-time was the scariest. Since she slept all day Mum would be awake for most of the night. Sometimes you’d be drifting off and you’d hear your name being screamed from downstairs and you had to run fast. Usually she called one of us down to fold up the clean washing she’d just tipped up onto the floor. Once she screamed my name from the living room and I ran down the stairs, startled out of sleep to find the kitchen a mess. She’d pulled all the cabinet drawers out and emptied their contents onto the floor. “Clean it up!”, she’d scream and while I did she told me how fat I was, how useless I was, how I was nothing. Sometimes I’d just cry while cleaning but she ignored it.
Blimey, when I think about it, she was truly terrifying. If she lost anything she’d scream bloody murder until we found it. If we couldn’t find what she was looking for we’d have to tell her, so scared of what she’d do to us. Usually a beating. Once at Halloween she smashed a rotten pumpkin over my head and screamed “Clear it up”. She was also sneaky. She made me sleep in the bed with her and told me she was dying of cancer. I spent the next day at school (I was in sixth form by this time) on the phone to her doctors panicking and not getting an answer. When I got home she was in a good mood (her friend had come over…with the drugs) and when I asked her if it was true she said “No”, when I asked her why she lied she said simply “Because you weren’t giving me enough attention”. Another time I had friends over for tea. Always a bad move. Mum never likes the attention deviated away from her but my friends knew the score so I felt prepared. Mum helped me with the food and we set it up on the dining room table. Mum seemed cool at first. Chatting away with my friends, swapping jokes. Then I took my friends upstairs and we played games etc, as kids do. Then they left and I said my goodbyes and went into the living room. Mum seemed fine until I turned the corner and walked into the kitchen. My mother had smashed all the food EVERYWHERE. The floor, the walls, the windows. It was awful. I ran back into the kitchen and shrieked, “Why did you DO that?” and she said snapped, “Because you think you can leave me out! YOU DON’T DESERVE FRIENDS!!”

I remember I heard her partner yelling and I ran upstairs to find my mother had cut all her hair off. The next day I went to school because in the morning she seemed fine. I came home and saw her sat on the sofa with a wire brush in her hand. She’d scraped it across her face, hips, breasts and legs. She said she was ugly and wanted to make herself uglier. You could hate her for one minute and want to save her until she beat you or told you to fuck off and die..

You can imagine that by the time I discovered I could sing, I was a nervous wreck. I developed trichotillomania at 6 and would pull hairs out my head until I had bald patches. Once when I was fourteen, me Mum and my littlest sat down to dinner and Mum suddenly yelled at me “What have you done to your eyes??!!”.

I had pulled all my eyelashes out. Even the bottom ones.

This odd and disturbing behaviour from her children didn’t put an end to Mum’s madness (as we called it). She’d usually call me a stupid bitch and forget about it.

Music saved me, you know. Seriously. I sang at the Salvation Army first. On Sundays so we could avoid seeing Dad. I loved singing. It was the only time I forgot….everything. Except freedom. For the first time I felt freedom. No one could touch me when I sang. I didn’t feel sad. I didn’t want to cry. I didn’t feel fat, or hopeless. That’s why I love gospel music and hymns. They remind me of feeling good. 

My Grandparents took me to have organ lessons from aged 6 and I continued until I turned 16. My mother never took me. I had dreams of being a gymnast. I was mad for it until the day my Nan came to collect me and my mother came down the stairs and said “Emily’s not going anymore”. No reason. She just didn’t want me to have lessons anymore. Nan told me this only 4 or 5 years ago so it was a bit of a shock. I’d always thought it was because the centre had closed down. Not so.

So I was surprised that Mum allowed me to go to organ lessons at all. I think my Grandparents paid for it. They also took me to dance groups. I’m no dancer but I can move and I was in a lot of shows as ensemble. Once as a leek. I shit you not.

Apparently I learnt quickly for a 6 year old. I was able to play Bach’s Tocatta and Fugue in D minor by aged 9 and I performed for my primary school but I insisted on playing it to a disco beat. There’s a video of that moment somewhere. I’m sure it’s well funny. Short little me frantically bashing at two keyboards and a pedal board….

Singing. Singing, I knew I could do. I knew I could hold a tune alright. I also knew I was the loudest. I’ve always been told to be quieter. Bollocks to quiet! I wanted to be HEARD! I wanted to be noticed for doing something good and not have my “faults” picked out for once. I loved the school choir especially in secondary school. You couldn’t get me in there quick enough AND it meant I got to avoid going home another two hours.

I was also a loner at school. Once I stopped hanging out with my chav friends, I would wander to the music department and spend my breaks playing piano but never feeling confident enough to develop an ACTUAL tune. I still felt like a worthless shit all the time. NOTHING was worth trying if it was all for nothing anyway. That’s how I  thought anyway.

I surprised people, though. Even myself. Sometimes I’d just audition to sing for a show. I still don’t know what possessed me to do that but I’d make myself. I’d think about that moment. That freedom-moment, and step onstage. Then I’d sing and then the whole room would go quiet. Like, proper quiet. Then I’d end up stumbling and practically running off the stage and once everyone had gotten over the shock of me doing something out of character, they’d go back to telling me what a dumbass I was. 

Mum saw me sing for the first time in school. I’d won the part of Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the teacher asked me to sing a song for it. I still know it and I DO plan to play it for a video sometime. I remember sitting on the sofa at home eating a whole tub of mint choc-chip ice cream afterwards and Mum saying to her partner “I think Emily’s meant to do this”. For years I thought she meant acting but now I think she meant singing. 

It’s actually good to look back on these memories and see how I’ve developed, where my music comes from, why I write the way I do. I remember when I worked at Boots a girl started in my second year there, I can’t remember her name, but she recognised me! She said ,”I remember you from ****** (a dance group from 8 years before) and I remember our teacher was going to have us sing Somewhere Over The Rainbow as a group and you just got up and sang it and she was so impressed that she gave it to you as a solo!”. I do not remember that at all but it surprised me how impetuous I was and how resilient I am to this day.

I want to say that my mother is not a bad person. She did some terrible things to us and she allowed terrible things to happen to me. She was not there for me and she never will be. After her partner discovered her drug habit he threatened her dealer who refused to help my mother out again. Her partner finally left and Mum started to drink. I was 17. I tried desperately hard to get her to stop. Drinking the booze myself or pouring it down the sink (If I drank it myself and admitted it, her reaction wasn’t as bad). My mother would go out, sleep with strangers and come back drunk and covered in bruises.

My mother was and still is a very, very sick woman. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bathed her, washed her face, tided her hair and tried to convince her that she is a beautiful, strong, brilliant woman. It actually hurts to write this because I think back to Sunday and I’m reminded of her demise. I will always feel like I’ve let her down. I’m not her parent but that is all I’ve known. Maybe if I’d yelled louder. If I’d tied her arms down. If I’d told someone….

She used to play Joni Mitchell’s album Blue and cry for the WHOLE album. I’d ask her why she was crying. Sit with her, cry with her and she wouldn’t tell me. Then one day she said her mother made her have an abortion at 15 and she was mourning for her child. For years when I heard Joni Mitchell I would cry. Just cry and cry because I’d remember. Now I listen to her all the time and I play her songs to myself. She’s a beautiful songwriter. I’ve found the good in listening to her. Mum also played Alanis Morissette, probably the biggest female influence on me. What a strong, charismatic writer! I’m word-perfect on that Jagged Little Pill album. Of course it wasn’t enjoyable when Mum decided to play it at 3am on the loudest volume on school nights. Now i play it loudly to myself. I’ve learnt not to avoid what makes me afraid. Not without my slip-ups. Blimey, I’ve had many of those and I still do sometimes. I’m human after all.

There’s also a great story. Me and mum watched a TV biopic about Little Richard and I just fell in love with his music. I LOVE that film. Imagine my shock when I come home from school (I know, AT school) a few days later and Mum had actually bought me a Little Richard CD. It wasn’t Christmas and it wasn’t my birthday. She’d just bought it because she knew I loved it. I still haven’t gotten over that random act of kindness. It was the one time she didn’t demand something back off me or treat my badly afterwards. I still remember the shocked feeling when she handed it to me and RUNNING upstairs to play it on my hi-fi in case she’d suddenly burst into my room after me and take it away as a cruel joke. Yep. She’s done that before but this time I got to keep it.

I’ve written a few songs about Mum. An ex convinced me to do more and that’s when I wrote “You Were Never Mine”, the one Mum saw on Youtube… she’s not evil. She’s a sick woman who doesn’t want the cure and I tried so damn hard but it’ll never be hard enough….

It’s been good to write this down. I’ve cried, I’ve laughed and I’m shaking.

Regardless what anyone thinks, this has been good for me. 

 

“Never be ashamed of who you are and where you come from” – Mum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the beginning there was Dad.

521779_10151509387627560_1078674230_nMe with Dad’s Les Paul.

Hello and welcome to my blog about Life and Music.

First off, why a blog? Well, many reasons, really. Doing music as a career has really triggered things off for me, both personally and professionally.

While I was busking on the South Bank recently a couple approached me and told me that they had stayed for my whole set and the lady asked, “What’s your story?” and I couldn’t think of an answer short enough. What is my story and how the hell did I end up here?

My songs had pricked their interest into my private life and it isn’t the first time it’s happened. People are often surprised that I’ve been playing guitar for just over two years. Never picked one up before and never written a song and suddenly here I am paving a career for myself. Most musicians are really cagey about their private lives but my dirty laundry has always been aired in public whether I wanted it to or not. Maybe people like the suspense but I’m the kind of person who likes to know the ins and outs. It draws me to a person more closely and paints a picture of their existence. I’m also able to understand their language and their personality when I know more. I guess I also wanted to write so that people feel brave enough to share their tales too….

So here is a blog, of my life, my music and my journey….

My name is Emily Rebecca Lee. I was born Emily Rebecca Trembaluk on what my mother described as a “bloody cold” Tuesday morning on the 27th January 1987 in the ambulance as it pulled up to Cheltenham General Hospital. My mother gave birth very quickly. We were both “white as paper”, so the story goes. I like to think I’ve been rushing around ever since.

My Mother was born in Canada, Ottowa and my Dad was born in a Polish camp in Crewe, UK.

My name was changed to “Lee” when I was thirteen, my mother’s last stab at her bitter breakup with my father. To be honest I was thrilled to be changing it. No one could spell it at school and I had tired of people finding out I was half Polish and spouting endless jokes and awful jibes such as “If you’re Polish, why weren’t you gassed like the rest of them?”. I was not popular in school and apparently I wasn’t with the smartest kids there either….

I didn’t have, what the therapists call, a “normal” childhood. My parents divorced when I was five and my father went to live with the woman he had knocked up so we only saw him at the weekends. My Dad enjoyed his pot. A lot. I remember my sister asking him in his kitchen what he was putting in his cigarette as it smelled funny and him replying “Something your Mother wouldn’t want to know about”. My Dad was also a rather accomplished guitar and harmonica player. I remember me and my brother begging him to play for us when we were bored at his place.

It was usually my brother and me with Dad because my sister had ballet lessons on Saturdays. His first flat after the divorce was above a wool shop in Cheltenham. There was nothing to sleep on and the only toy was an old fashioned candlestick telephone that we’d take turns to play with. I now long to own one of those phones. A kind of nostalgic sadness that I want to have to line new memories with the old harsh ones. I love old things.

My Dad never taught me guitar. He did try to teach my brother though. My Dad insisted that I learn the violin instead. Obviously I hated it. I learnt very early on that I hated being told what to do, I couldn’t understand why someone would dictate to me what they felt was right for me when all they would have to do is ask. I own myself after all, I’d think in my head. Kids are great for that. They just blurt the answers out for you and sometimes they’re harsh in their reactions or responses but they are always honest. I think we beat it out of each other by the time we reach puberty.

So the violin was a no-no for me. Dad knew I hated it but bloody hell, he never let me forget it. Every time we visited Dad we’d make him play Crystal Gayle in the car. I learnt every word of every song on that tape. Over and over we played it. I love Crystal’s voice. One song in particular featured violin. It’s called “I’ll Get Over You”. As much as I loved Crystal, every time it came on in the car I would start to sweat and feel sick because I knew what was coming next. “Do you hear that, Emily? That violin sound? The violin you didn’t want to play?”, Dad’s voice getting louder and louder until a tirade of abuse would head my way. All because I was a child who didn’t like the instrument she had been instructed to play.

It took me years to hear that song and not feel the sweat start to gather around my hairline and not see my hands trembling. My Dad was a truly terrifying figure when he was angry and we kids did everything we could to avoid making him mad. Even lying about our Mother to make him feel better  by saying she was miserable, that she was evil to us, just so he’d be in a better mood. As a kid you don’t understand WHY you say it, you just know the power of words can change a person’s mood. I learnt how to lie quickly and well and an early age and it’s gotten me out of real trouble I can tell you.

By the time I was nine me and my siblings decided to cease all contact with our Dad. We found him too scary, too angry, too unpredictable. Many events happened that will haunt me forever. I remember it being Christmas Day and Dad came to pick us all up. We loaded our new presents into his car (I decided I couldn’t go without ALL my dolls) and prepared to leave but at the last minute my younger brother didn’t want to come. He clung to my mothers neck and wouldn’t let go. I remember my Dad stepping forward and trying to prise my brother away from my mother but after a few seconds he gave up and shouted at us to get in the car. I remember my brother screaming as we left.

As we reached the top of the road in the car my Dad suddenly slammed down on the brakes and told me and my sister to get out. We stayed where we were and looked at each other, unsure as to whether this was a joke or not. “GET OUT!!”, my Dad yelled and we did. He then leapt out of the car, pushed us to one side and swept all our toys out in one motion from the backseat. When he had emptied the car he dived back behind the car wheel and drove away leaving us in the road.

For a moment we stood there, too shocked to move. Then my sister began to cry and started running back to our mothers house. I began to cry too and reached out to my toys. I tried to carry them back but there were too many and my arms were too small. In the end I grabbed one doll, and ran back to Mum and cried that we had to go back for the rest. I was six or seven years old.

That’s just one incident that sticks in my head. There are a million others but that one paints a picture of the kind of father I had growing up. Possessive, destructive, and downright scary.

Years after the Christmas Day incident me and my sister bumped into our Dad in town and Dad didn’t even recognise me. He spoke to my sister for a few minutes and then we walked on absolutely shell-shocked. Obviously when he found out that the girl with long hair was actually his daughter he rang my mother and shouted down the phone that it was MY fault he didn’t recognise me. I should’ve spoken up. I should’ve introduced myself.

I know, you can see the logic in that too, right? I was fourteen by then. All grown up.

The last time I spoke to my Dad was around the aged of 21. He had gotten in contact with my brother and sister. I had warned them both to keep away from him but they wanted to be in contact. I don’t blame them. By this time our mother had a full-blown drug addiction. We were desperate for any parent figure in our lives. Sadly, my brother and Dad did not get on after a while. Once again my Dad lashed out at us. His mother, our Grandmother (who I loved dearly and loved us right back when dad took his rage out on us) had died and my Dad blamed my brother for his absence during her death.

We were not invited to the funeral and Dad and his family refused to tell us where Grandma Irene was buried.

That’s a scaled-down episode of life with my dad. He’ll make an appearance again but for now that’s my edited history of him. I do think of him a lot more now I’m doing music as he was so into music. I wonder whether he’d be proud of me. He sent me that picture I’ve uploaded with the words scribbled on the back “One day…..”.

Well, I’m doing it, Dad. Without you.

I do have some fond memories of him though. On my thirteenth birthday Dad sent me a cassette player and a cassette of Crystal Gayle songs. I do have the tape somewhere. It also featured one of my dad’s original songs that I’d always hoped to learn. I never thanked him for the present. Making contact would’ve been a terrible idea in my head. He did give me one present that I still have today. A delicate wooden fan made of sandalwood. When you open it and wave it in your face you’re met with the musty, intoxicating smell of sandalwood. I keep it in my “music drawer” as Dad was so musical. Dad would also dance with me to Michael Jackson and Bob Marley in our living room on good days. He also played me Dr Hook and the Medicine Show a lot. “Kiss It Away” is the song that just blows me away and leaves me in tears.

I guess my Dad has his problems too. I know his Dad committed suicide when he was twelve and it left the whole family shaken up. I don’t know much about our history at all after that….

I’d always hoped that things could be reconciled with my Dad but he is who he is and I am who I am. I guess we’re better off apart anyway. I do get sad that he left three kids under ten years of age with my mum. I get angry that he washed his hands of the responsibility but he had his reasons and I’ve learnt to accept it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this chapter and I look forward to writing my next blog….

Emily Lee