Posts Tagged ‘Oxford’

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nausea.

March 30, 2010

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all Sartre on you.  I don’t think I have the energy for it to be honest, and I can’t really remember what that book is about anyway because it’s been 4 years since I pretended to read it for my undergrad.  On Sunday night my stomach began to feel all weird and twisted, so I rode with it despite my late-night cigarette making me feel as if I were going to vomit right then and there.  I went to sleep early and curled up in bed in the foetal position, only to wake an hour and a half later (though it felt like I’d been asleep for half the night already) stomach still pangy.  Or in fact, more than that – it felt as if I were pregnant.  I went to the bathroom, tried to induce vomit – and it didn’t take much.  After being copiously sick, I felt much better and slept soundly until the morning. I dragged myself out of bed, off to uni and despite at times feeling like I was trudging through treacle (you know when it takes effort to walk, so you say to yourself “All I have to do is put one foot in front of the other, and keep doing it” – it was like that) I made some good progress on my new interview analysis essay.  I also made a friend in the library caretaker, who enquired why I was lying across several of the seats in the UWE group study area – she asked what was wrong, and when I told her about my nauseous stomach, she proceeded to tell me about what triggers her IBS (TMI!?) and to call her if I needed to be sick (thanks, but I think I can manage vomiting by myself).  So I made a new “friend” through my illness, which is slightly odd but sort of heartwarming.  Last night I fell asleep for about 10 hours, and this morning I felt more or less back to normal, but come around 4pm my energy quickly depleted and now I’m sat here blogging, muscles aching in jogging bottoms and a hoodie (you know it’s serious if I can’t be bothered to make an effort with my appearance – especially considering my motto “if you feel good, then you should look great; if you don’t feel good, you might as well look great”).  I apologise for the delay between this and my last blog, and I also thank all of you for making the past few days ridiculous highlights in my blogging career – my stats have exploded! Long may it last!  And thankyou so much 🙂

Anyway, I don’t cope with real illness that well.  I generally don’t admit that I am ill most of the time – I don’t get “man-flu” and I’m not one of those pansy-men who crumbles at the merest whiff of cold.  I generally carry on as if nothing is the matter until I am physically forced to sit down and stop – I have quite a lot of stuff I want to accomplish most days, and I’m damned if any kind of bug is going to get in my way.  But I also try and be healthy – despite not having much appetite, I force myself to eat because it’s the only way I’m going to get any nutrients, and thus any energy.  I make an effort to sleep, when normally I can get away with burning the candle at both ends a bit. But I feel like I’ve been stopped in my tracks a bit – I’ve been relieved that my essay is going well, but I feel somewhat guilty that the last two days before Toby goes home for a week, I’ve not been particularly fun to be around and I haven’t been energetic enough to as much spend time with him as we would both like.  Fingers crossed, by the time he returns to Bristol I’ll be all sparkly and new again.  To be honest, since we started dating I’ve been uncharacteristically ill, having had multiple colds and now this kinda indigestion bug (I presume it must have been something I ate). So I apologise for that, but with the summer coming and my yearly hay fever diminishing, I hope for health and happiness. 🙂 Perhaps with everything in my life seeming to have aligned since last autumn, I’ve forgotten to look after my basic health a little bit (I’ve been underdressed at times, my gums were bleeding for a little while, I’ve had these multiple colds) being caught up in the rapture.  I’ll try and remember to look after myself a little bit more.  I made a joke about old age, but I really hope that this is not what getting old is like, because if so then I’m going to be grouchy 😉 I mean, when I was younger and my nan and I used to walk down Totterdown to the St. Philips market, I used to push her up the slope back home because “it was good exercise”.  I didn’t understand quite how tired you could get, or why you couldn’t push through it.  And walking up St. Michael’s Hill yesterday with Hannah, I can still push through it, but I can now envision in the future that I may not always have the physical strength to do that, even if my will is there.  So I have a newfound appreciation and understanding of that.  And if worst comes to the worst, I listen to something hard and upbeat like Rihanna or Nicki Minaj and that keeps me going, and gives me a placebo energy boost.  I’ll be fine 😉  Take it easy xxx

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performance anxiety.

March 25, 2010

Last night myself and several of my coursemates, as well as Toby and his friend Miguel went to Mr. Wolf’s to watch one of our friends on the Careers Guidance course, Emma, perform some songs with her guitarist friend.  She sang Whitney Houston’s “Didn’t We Almost Have It All”, Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love”, Erma Franklin’s “Piece Of My Heart” and Eric Clapton’s “Change The World”, and did a fantastic job.  Emma and I spent an afternoon last term comparing our CD collections and marvelling over just how similar they were, since it often feels like nobody else in the UK listens to the same kind of music by artists such as Allure, Kelly Price, Angie Stone, D’Angelo and so on.  Obviously some people must buy their albums because otherwise nobody would stock them, but it’s rare to find somebody with whom you connect on such a musical level, especially as a singer or musician.  So I respect her music taste and her talent, and she was genuinely good (and outclassed the other performers that night 😉 ).

When she told me about the Open Mic night and her impending performance on Monday, she mentioned that I should perform something.  I thought it sounded like a nice idea but a little short notice, but nevertheless I dragged Toby to the UWE music practice rooms to hammer out a piano version of Beyoncé’s “Sweet Dreams”.  It sounded fine (after Toby’s hints that making it an octave lower would sound good – which I did; and that I am not Christina Aguilera and should stick to less notes – which I sort of did but I love putting some runs in my vocals, because that’s part of my style and sets me apart somewhat), but I felt that it required more practice than I’d be able to gain in two days.  So for the reason that I didn’t feel it was polished enough or “ready” to perform, as well as I had never been to the venue and didn’t want to rain on Emma’s parade since we were all going to see her, I decided not to perform.  Next time, I will, and I’m since working on a piano version of “Lift Me Up” by Christina Aguilera to compliment the Beyoncé song.  They sound ok, and with a little practice I reckon they’ll be performable and effectively show off my vocals and my piano (something I’ve always needed to work at is playing the piano and singing at the same time). 

And yet the thought of doing that is a little scary to me now.  I used to perform regularly at Open Mic nights at Oxford (gaining notoriety in the process, which was pretty complimentary), concerts at school and sixth form where I used to sing, dance, play guitar and piano – the whole kaboodle.  I even performed at a Hiroshima Remembrance concert, which was outdoors and to the public.  I’ve done a lot of this, I should be used to it.  So why am I nervous?  I guess that now I have a boyfriend, and some close adult friends, their opinion means a lot to me? I don’t want to fall short of their expectations? Is it stage fright?  Admittedly, the last time I performed on a stage of any sort was 2 years ago, but Mike and I did an impromptu version of Beyoncé’s “Disappear” at my house and I managed to perform well in that and impress him suitably.  So maybe I just need to bite the bullet and do it, once the songs are ready. 

The other thing that fills me with a little nerves is the fact that I have had mentioned to me that a few of my colleagues on the course have visited my myspace and listened to the songs I’ve put up from the Quiet Storm album (which incidentally you can download here) on there.  Now, obviously the purpose of my myspace is to promote my music to the public and my friends – it’s for public consumption.  But to hear that people have listened to my stuff and liked it makes me feel funny – I guess partly because while I’m proud of this album, I feel that I still have a long way to go and develop, particularly in my production and vocal production (I have done a couple of songs more recently where I feel my voice sounds more impressive on record).  So I feel like I don’t want them to judge me yet. Also, I guess once again their opinion matters to me more than I expected it to, more than it should? I mean, Mike, Toby, Hannah, Karina, Nick… all my close friends’ opinions are understandably important to me and I am flattered by the support of all my friends.  And I’m flattered by the support of other friends who don’t know me so well – it is really nice – but I don’t know what to say, because somewhere within me my insecurity says “Do they really like it or are they just saying that and laughing behind my back?” I mean, I should be like “Who cares?” but my music is such an intimate, personal part of me that it’s important for me to produce, and if that essential aspect of who I am is a source of mockery or easily dismissed, I have to admit that that would probably hurt me, at least a little bit.  I totally understand that you can’t please anyone anyway, and at the end of the day my musical executive producer is myself – I’m my own harshest critic.  But I just hope that their support is sincere, because it means a lot to me.  And I guess that when I do perform “Sweet Dreams” or “Lift Me Up” or whatever else I end up doing (I am extremely liable to changing my mind in these sorts of things!), I am hoping that I can justify and live up to that support, their expectations of me.  I want to impress, I want to please people.  I guess that that way, it validates my singing and my music (my lifelong passion and ambition) and I can get a little bit closer to pleasing myself.  So I’m going to bite the bullet and go for it, but it’s harder than I thought and I didn’t expect it to be.

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beautiful.

February 28, 2010

This song by Vivian Green is one of my new favourites at the moment.  It’s what real R&B is (not this dance/pop/Timbaland hybrid nonsense), about self-esteem, relationships and beauty.  Her voice is lovely on the song, and the lyrics are so poignant.  It’s inspired me to write this blog, because over the last 6-9 months, I’ve grown to feel a lot more comfortable in my skin.  I’ve gained a lot of new friendships (Nick and Toby met today! We had a lot of fun banter and coffee/tea in Starbucks), I’ve entered into a really lovely relationship in which I’m starting to feel comfortable, and my body and image are finally reflecting the man that I am, that I’ve become.  In short, it’s taken 24 years but nobody can make me feel ugly anymore.  Sometimes I might be hard on myself, and I’m pretty vain and heavily self-critical, but at the end of the day I’ve come to a place where I’m good.  Although it doesn’t matter whether other people validate you and the most important person you have to please is yourself, it has been a revelation just how valued I am by my friends, both old and new.  I entered into university and despite my closest friends being quite different from me, they support me and I support them.  We value each other, respect each other, and nobody can convince me now that I’m an ugly person.  Over the past 6 months, I’ve let people in on some heavy secrets of mine, and nobody ran away.  They all embraced me, and that’s meant a lot to me – I’m a beautiful person inside and out.  Not because they say so necessarily – after all, I worked damn hard to get to this point and feeling this way is still incredibly new to me.  But for example, I got home tonight and my parents were sniping at each other regarding a possible new car (which would be expensive), and they tried to ensnare me in the discussion.  I’ve grown to the point where I won’t be bullied by my mother or shouted down by her neverending arguments from her fixed point of view.  And neither will I be wound up by my father’s surreptitious planted comments, nor intimidated by his own feelings of superiority, inferiority or jealousy.  I love my parents, but so often these days I feel like the adult in this house and I won’t be made to feel inferior, naïve or ugly by either of them.  It took a very long time (longer than it should have), and it took more newly-formed friendships than it should have, but I’m strong enough to see their faults for what they are, rather than just taking them into me and feeling guilty about myself.  It’s not my fault, and I’m not the problem.  I’m not perfect, but I’m beautiful and I deserve to love myself and believe in myself as much as anyone else.  And finally, even though I can often waver or doubt myself (as we all can), I more or less do.  It’s a work-in-progress, as with anything.

In both of the essays I’ve submitted on my careers guidance course so far, not only have I got pretty decent marks, but I’ve received praise on how well I write.  This stands in contrast to when I was at Oxford and my tutors would complain about my essay structure and my use of language.  Perhaps part of it is that I’ve taken these past criticisms on board, perhaps I’ve grown not only in age but in maturity and the ability to express myself in a subject or arena that I enjoy, but it’s true that you can’t please everyone.  At the end of the day, I appreciate the compliments and try to improve from criticism, but it’s a lot harder to knock me down.  I feel happier, stronger and more sure of myself, and what’s most important to me when I’m handing in an essay, when I’m selecting my outfit for the day, when I’m singing a song to an audience, is that I’m happy and believe confidently in my self-expression.  Criticism from other people can help me to grow, praise from others lets me know I’m on the right path, but at the end of the day I have to be alright with me and nobody else can disguise whether I’m good or uneasy with myself.

So I realise that this entry can be construed as me giving myself a massive pat on my back, and to an extent it’s true 😉 But in the past when I’ve kept diaries or expressed myself in some form, it’s often fixated on the negative and become quite self-deprecating.  I won’t deny that there are entries on this blog where I’ve still been that way, but life doesn’t preclude negativity.  We all have good days and bad days, but I’m determined to acknowledge the good just as much as the bad.  I feel happier than I’ve possibly ever felt in my life, and I want to celebrate that and encourage you all to celebrate your own good days and happiness.  I’m determined to celebrate myself, even if nobody else will – but the greatest thing is that in the past 6-9 months, enough of my friends have reinforced me and held me up when I’ve not quite had the energy to see the good in myself or do it myself.  I truly appreciate that, and you know who you are – thankyou 🙂 So in connection with Vivian Green’s “Beautiful”, please listen to the song and put not only your loved ones but your friends and those who matter “on a pedestal / let them know that they’re beautiful”.  A compliment costs nothing but if it comes from the heart, it can make all the difference and encourage or remind people of the good in themselves. In a recent entry I talked about the value of letting people know that you appreciate them, and I wanted to reiterate that in this entry.  I appreciate myself, I feel appreciated and I won’t be downtrodden the way I used to be.  And neither should my friends be, and neither should you be.  Love yourselves, love one another, and we can all succeed together. 🙂

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dreams / something for the weekend.

January 3, 2010

Alright, so every night more or less when I go to sleep, I have one of my epic, insane dreams.  It’s almost fun going to bed and wondering what I’m going to dream about; it’s unpredictable, except for the fact that usually Mike will figure in there somewhere (and my parents often play the antagonists).  My dreams are lively and exciting, and I almost feel sorry for people who always say “I dreamed I was flying / falling / being chased…” – my inner response is “Yeah, and so did everyone else. Did you go to Brazil with your supermodel boyfriend? Did you elope with a guy from HMV during your friend’s wedding? Did you eat pastries with Charlotte from SaTC before rafting along a bayou towards Oxford and the end of the world?  No you didn’t, did you.”  But sometimes, my dreams are quite disturbing, so I guess it’s all a fair trade… still, I get some good stories!  So I’m going to blog my dreams from the last two nights now (in theory this should cut down the amount that I write so the entry is not epically long!), and then I’m gonna attempt briefly to psychoanalyse what I think some of the salient points are… feel free to throw in your two pence!

Friday night

I don’t remember how it all started, but I was somehow dating this teenager (I am not sure if I was the same age I am now, but I know that I was older and that he was a bit young…) and we ended up going to his house and hanging out before meeting his family (parents, brother, dog).  Everything was cool, and there was some sort of swimming pool / water soaker element to the visit, but nothing sexual happened.  Then I was suddenly going to college (not with my new boyfriend) and lots of people from my old school were there too.  I was attending class when all of a sudden, my old boss from when I worked at the school bookstore asked me if I could carry this heavy box of books to Oxfam on Colston Avenue (for the record, in real life there is no Oxfam on Colston Avenue, and Colston Avenue was nowhere near wherever this college was meant to be).  So I recruited this fat ginger girl called Siobhan to help me carry the box.

We were about to leave college when a teacher accosted us and demanded that we attend his lesson.  Siobhan and I tried to explain that we had to carry this box to Oxfam but he wasn’t having any of it and marched us to his lesson, which appeared to take place in the college cafe / dining hall, and consisted of us watching a video on a projector screen set up in the middle.  For the life of me I can’t remember what the video was about, but ultimately I forgot about Siobhan and the box, and I ended up chatting to a couple of girls with whom I was sat watching the video.  Once the video finished, everyone was chatting and joking and being generally sixth-form-esque.  One of my massive crushes from school, Richard Hooper (who, according to Facebook, is still a hottie but needs to do some urgent manscaping), was there and looked ridiculously hot in a vest / shirtless, but much more muscled and tattooed than in real life.  I was gazing at him, when another guy from our year (on whom I didn’t have a crush, although there was a nasty rumour at one point) wandered by to talk to Rich, and he was buff but kinda fat (this is going to sound really horrid but according to Facebook, that is how he now looks in real life!).  Odder than that however was the fact that he had actual bird wings sprouting from his shoulders (and not impressive sweeping wings, but wings like that of an owl or falcon) which looked a bit weedy and a bit weird.  That’s all that I remember, I don’t remember what happened to the box, my teenage boyfriend or if I ever got close to Rich, but it was interesting if bizarrely anti-climactic!

Saturday night

Ok, so I think that I am coming in midway through the dream here, but somehow I ended up (along with various friends from university on my course, and Rihanna!) at Mike’s house.  Except it wasn’t Mike’s actual house, but some house that resembled my nan’s house slightly, except it was halfway through being built.  A couple of the upstairs rooms had massive gaps in the ceiling, and there was a staircase that ended halfway before hitting the floor.  So we were all at Mike’s house, except Mike and V had gone off somewhere because Mike had to drive her somewhere.  I remember getting really antsy and moody, and despite my friends and Rihanna’s efforts to calm me down and make me enjoy their fun, I was storming off around Mike’s house, which at times involved me jumping down off the end of the unfinished staircase, and watching some of the builders (of which there were oddly few) working on the upstairs attic.

At one point, I found a ticket to see a random music act (whom I don’t think exists in real life) and they were playing in Mike’s attic.  I watched them, but nobody came to join me or even seemed to register that there was music going on.  Eventually, the group (indie/pop girl group playing guitars) finished their set and I wandered off, dismayed that Mike and V had not yet returned, and I couldn’t stop my mind from spazzing out.  I rejoined my friends downstairs, except suddenly I realised that we were all going to exchange presents, and more people were coming and I hadn’t brought their Christmas presents with me.  My parents and grandmother were flying back from Australia and were due to have just landed, so I called them to ask if they could swing by our house and bring the other extra Christmas presents, but I got no answer on the phone so my mood didn’t lift.  Night fell, and I remember playing some kind of graphically-improved Mortal Kombat (the original game) to distract myself and funnel my annoyance into a harmless violent pursuit, but even that didn’t help.

Suddenly my friends started to bustle and move towards the door.  I remember I had been hiding upstairs in this alcove, laying on the floor staring at the ceiling when suddenly this girl (one of the builders, although she now was dressed in normal clothes) walked past and I startled her.  She told me to cheer up and go downstairs, as everyone was back.  Mike and V were downstairs but I walked past them, now more concerned with whether my parents had brought my presents.  They were outside with my nan, waiting for me, and their hands were empty.  I remember being upset, explaining I had tried to call them, explaining how embarrassed I was (and fearing that now I had no chance of competing with V for Mike’s affections, despite the fact I already felt that I had lost the battle) and how they had failed me.  In short, I was acting like a spoiled brat and alienating everyone, but I couldn’t stop myself – my mother yawned (obviously flying back from Australia had been somewhat tiring) and I remember saying that “Well now I’m going to stay here ALL NIGHT and you’re going to have to WAIT FOR ME, see how you like THAT.”  My nan and dad just stood there semi-shocked, semi-appalled, and my mother held out a drink to me – she was apparently drunk.  I took the glass and tossed the cloudy white-yellow liquid (limoncello? although normally it’s not that creamy) into the plants in my tantrum.  My friends had turned to see Mike and chat and drink, ignoring / oblivious to my mood, my anger at my family and my failure to bring all the gifts, and I tried to join in the crowd and put on a happy / brave face, but I felt like I had disappointed everyone, I realised that I had acted like a fool, and I felt that Mike had no reason ever to pay me any attention again.  Mike and V smiled at me, but I couldn’t return their smile as I felt inferior, unwanted by them, and I think then I must have woken up.

Analysis

I seem to be looking to latch onto anyone to date / distract me from my infatuation with Mike, but it never seems to do any good.  The relationships disappear, or the real hot guys are never interested in (or even notice) me.  When I get around Mike, he always seems to drop me for someone else and I always feel guilty or take the blame.  I can’t control my moods and I end up alienating everyone – even though Mike and I are supposed to be the couple, I’m never quite good enough to hold onto him and he always goes away or finds someone else.

I often dream about people from school, or being back in a school environment – I guess that’s because it’s such a formative experience, but going back there would scare me and also return me to my feelings of inferiority and confusion that I experienced during my adolescence.  My moodiness and loneliness in my dreams I guess reflects on my fear of losing my maturity, or my insecurities being exposed and everyone turning against me.

Context-wise, my nan is currently in Australia (although my parents are not) and I’ve been missing her terribly, feeling that I have nowhere to turn when living with my parents gets too much.  On NYE, I was flirting with someone younger than me, although he wasn’t a teenager it reminded me of last year when I did date a teenager and it didn’t really work – somehow, NYE felt similarly inappropriate and that I was lowering myself. The fact that “Rich” was super buff and tattooed also relates to NYE, as there were some hotties at the club who looked exactly that way (they were in fact a bit overdone, but still not bad).  I also found out that Mike and V went to the cinema last night (with their spouses) which probably explains their presence in the dream – although me and Mike already met up once this holiday and I’m staying at his on Monday night (and seeing him a lot next week for uni), I can’t shake off my feelings of inferiority.  Which I really, really need to get over!  But in dreams, I guess that we see ourselves without being able to control how we act.  Throw in your two pence!

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edgier.

December 10, 2009

Having been on my new university course for 3 months now, and having made some really close friends who are generally a few years older than me (my closest friends on the course are 33 and 35), I’ve really been able to see how far I’ve come as a person.

Looking back at myself even 4 months ago when I had only started writing this blog, I knew myself, but myself was unsure and nervous.  I felt as if I was in a rut professionally after graduating with a good degree from a prestigious university, personally I had had “friends” who turned out not to be friends at all slander me and accuse me of things (theft, bullying) that I had and have never done, and would never do in a million years.  I took it all on the chin and just had faith that things would get better, but I knew in my heart that I didn’t know what would happen.  Would this careers guidance course be the right decision for me?  What was going to happen to me?  Had I peaked already in my life?

The answer to that last question, now I see, is an emphatic NO! Obviously I was only 23 (now 24) and to paint myself as an underdog who had it all and then lost it was more than a little unfair to myself.  I now know that I have so much going for me, so much to offer, and I am not an ugly or stupid person no matter how much certain people may endeavour to make me feel that about myself.  I deserve the best, and with this new qualification, new friends who seem to value me for me from the jump, and new confidence, I feel that I can get the best.  Once again, I’m back on track, and more than anything I’m so relieved.  I may paint myself as confident and assertive – and I am those things – but underneath I still get nervous and insecure.  Now, I finally see that I really am worth more.

I guess it’s a part of natural evolution.  I’ve grown up a lot, and although it took pointing out, I am older than my years.  I don’t feel out of place hanging out with 30-year-olds, because we have the same mentality and experiences.  People generally have trouble guessing my age (I still get ID’d for buying cigarettes on the one hand – which makes Mike LOL and envious at the same time!; on the other hand, a couple of people on my course originally thought I was late 20s because of the fact I can articulate myself and hold my own in discussions), but although I may tease my colleagues at university about receding hairlines, wrinkles and old age, I don’t feel any difference between us.  Aaliyah really had it right – age ain’t nothin’ but a number.  Usually it correlates to maturity, but not always.  At the end of the day, people are people, and we are all human.

These are things that I already knew to be true, but having them held up in front of me has forced me to accept these things as positives about myself.  It’s finally really sinking in.  And the truth of who I am as a man, as a human being, is finally coming out.  This is what I wanted to write about really, but it took the backstory above to get there! (Sorry… but I always give you the main course – no snacks here!)  I thought that I was an adult after university (by which I mean my undergraduate degree at Oxford), but it took me a bit longer.  Working at the Perfume Shop gave me a taste of the hard grind, working for not enough money and being treated like I didn’t have a brain (the saving grace was superficially decent friendships and getting to work with fragrance and deepen my knowledge of it).  My newer job at the hospital has made me see how people can be valued in their work, both monetarily and in terms of being treated like an intelligent human being.  My new course at university has helped me see what I really want to do, and now having that thrust forward has completed me and erased some of my doubts (not all, but some is certainly a step forward) about my future and my life’s purpose.

As things around me have been moving in the right direction, so I’ve been able to spread my wings and become more of who I am.  I love smoking – I’m not a moron and I know it’s not good for my health nor my voice, but I enjoy the feeling from it, the fact it kills time, and the socialising aspect of it – I think it goes hand in hand with being confident and conversational, as you often get approached by people who want a light / spare fag, and you end up conversing with strangers because you share an appreciation of nicotine!  In turn, smoking has reduced my hunger (allowing me to stick to my no-evening-snacking policy) and I’ve dropped a waist size – people at uni have christened me “good looking”, “pretty boy” and lots of other complimentary things referencing both my physical looks and my fashion style. I feel more confident in and out of my clothes – although I’m such a perfectionist that I’ll never be satisfied!  But looking at my vanity and my past issues with my own body and self-esteem, I’ve come a long way.  I feel happier in my skin physically as well as emotionally – and I’m feeling more confident to express the edgier, darker sides of myself which set me apart from others.

After years of deliberation, changing my mind and refining my ideas, I’m finally set on getting tattoos!  One is a stylised A, which you can see here; the other will be above my left collarbone mirroring it, and will be a gun.  I’ve been inspired by Rihanna‘s gun tattoo, but I want it because to me a gun is a symbol of strength and power, of aggression and conflict, of edginess and darkness.  These are all things that I embody – I am tougher than some people initially assume, and I want an emblem of that grit and fire.  I feel it’s applicable to me, and also quite exciting and sexy.  And whereas before I might have balked at the permanence of a tattoo like that, now I feel mature and comfortable enough in myself to be able to wear it and pull it off.  This is me – maybe I’m a good boy gone bad, but I still have a good heart; I have just spent too long in my life pleasing others, and now I’ve finally lunged for myself with this course and am reaping the rewards much more than I ever did listening to other people’s opinions on what was best for me, I believe in my own capacity to make decisions.  I’m not an angel, I’m not a good boy, and I’m tired of portraying that.  I am me and I have a good heart and an intelligent mind, but sometimes I enjoy being provocative or sexy or pushing the boundaries.  That is just as valid a part of me, and my new friendships embrace that part of me too and love me for it.  My infatuation with a married man who has become my best friend and is actively ok with my affection and flirting and actively returns it has been a revelation to me.  We understand each other, we can control our affections (he feels the same way about someone else) and be mature adults, but we also have fun with it – we accept each other and I never felt so comfortable to be able to be so emotionally honest with someone I knew would accept me for who I am. From him I learned what it is to be a good father, a good husband, a good man, and also that whatever I’m feeling, I am a rational person and I should never feel guilty for my feelings.  I should never feel stupid, and the sign of a good friendship is being able to admit how you’re feeling and that other person accepting you for it and not telling you it’s wrong or silly.  Again, these are things I superficially knew, but feeling and living them is a whole other revelation.  I hope that my friends can one day think of me in the same way.

So my embracing my dark side instead of being afraid of it; my becoming edgier is a natural emancipation, a natural evolution of me.  I am free to be who I am, and I am proud of who I am.  I’ve felt ashamed, even in small doses, for too long.  It took a long time to get here, and I’m sure in the future I will still make mistakes and waver, but hopefully I can come back and read this post and remember my feelings right now, and that’ll keep me going.  Once a good boy goes bad, we’re gone forever – but I wish I’d gone sooner and I look forward to where I’m going and whom I’m going with.

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quiet storm track walkthrough (part iv).

November 20, 2009

(clicky) Quiet Storm (album download) (clicky)

Okay, this is the final part of the stories behind the tracks on my album Quiet Storm.  Parts 1, 2 and 3 can be viewed if you click on those little numbers, and I want to thank everyone once and again for supporting my album and my blog.  I really appreciate it, and I hope that these behind-the-music notes have added a little to your enjoyment of my music.  On with the show!

18. Role Model (Interlude)

This was originally an entire song which was a rap song with a sung chorus. You can hear the original full version on my High Fashion mixtape but although the lyrics were kinda cool, I wasn’t too keen on my flow in places and I thought that I would rather not have the raps as part of my album.  Nevertheless, I appreciated the idea of the chorus and feeling misrepresented in society as a young person, a gay man, a singer, my music tastes, where I come from, my heritage… all those things are categorised and yet how many of us actually fit the stereotypes for those categories?  I felt that it led into the next song well, as it is about exposing who I am as a person, and not letting anyone’s pigeon holes or preconceived notions dictate who I am.  This is me, and this is…

19. The Truth

This song is probably the most heartfelt I’ve been in any of my songs recorded to date.  It discusses my relationship with my family, life and death, my emotional state and insecurities, my childhood, my education, and music.  It is the truth of who I am – sometimes we feel sad or hard done by, and other times we remember how happy we have been and whatever happens, we just have to keep going and get on with it anyway.  This song is a bit scratchy due to the fact that I have recorded myself playing acoustic guitar on the track (yes, that is me!) and it didn’t work perfectly, though I think it did the job.  I liked the guitar and the piano and the beat – it combined together well to be a midtempo R&B joint that was musically quite stable and almost sunny, yet anchored in place by some really heavy lyrics.  I thought it would originally have been the album closer, but then you’ll see I changed my mind about that.

20. Last Chance

I wanted the last song proper on the album to be a dance song – something that really went out with a bang! I decided this because sometimes (in keeping with the nocturnal theme of the album) you’re not ready to go home at the end of a night, until the DJ has played one final song that really gets you to annihilate the dancefloor and you can just let yourself go with the music before calling it a wrap.  This song is that song – I was inspired by “Work” by Ciara (sampled on the track!), “Get Me Bodied” by Beyoncé, “Boom Boom Pow” by the Black Eyed Peas and just any song that really makes me want to move.  Other songs sampled in this are Paulina Rubio’s “Sexi Dance” (at the very end when the track fades out) which gives the song a late-night / early morning sensuous hue, and Beethoven’s “Für Elise” – just because it worked! I was crafting this track for a really long time, and between utilising the beat at the end of “All Night Long” to give the album a sense of circularity and closure, and trying to really fire up the beats and make them incendiary, I just tried to be as crazy as possible.  The rap, the off-kilter song structure with multiple hooks and instrumental at the beginning, the extended coda – it’s really going for broke! And that was what I wanted for the last song.

21. Close

To once again fit with the theme of closure and circularity, this is the “outro” of the album, to pair with the “Open” intro – again, I wanted to use the word “Close” in two different ways, both signifying the end of the album and also bringing in the idea of just wanting someone to hold you close, and desiring that intimacy (not necessarily sexually) at the end of the night, just before the sun rises and you’re feeling contemplative.

22. Lucky To Have You (Bonus Track)

My grandfather passed away during the creation of this album, and I remember being at Oxford and hearing on the telephone from my mother and grandmother that his health was really deteriorating. I wrote this song to comfort him (though he never heard it, and neither has anyone else in my family) as he passed away – I wasn’t allowed to go home and see him because it was in the middle of my finals, and he died and the funeral was held all while I was stuck in Oxford and expressly forbidden to come home.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forget that – feeling so helpless far away and yet just glad his suffering was over (his illness was long and protracted).  This song is really personal and dedicated to him; it doesn’t fit with the rest of the album, but I nevertheless wanted to include it somewhere so I thought a bonus track was the best opportunity.

That’s it!  Once again, please download my album if you haven’t already, and check out my blog! Thanks for all the support – I really appreciate it and I’ll keep the posts coming! 🙂

(clicky) Quiet Storm (album download) (clicky)

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about high fashion.

October 1, 2009

Just a quick track-by-track run-through of all the songs on my High Fashion mixtape!  I hope you enjoy it and this fleshes out the stories behind the music for you all 🙂

High Fashion

The photos for this mixtape were actually the last thing to get done! I had a lot of ideas for it, but basically it involved playing dressup and taking lots of fun fun pictures of me pouting in designer accessories and too much lip balm and radiating attitude! Trust me, some of the pictures were horrendous, but I was pleased that I got some decent ones that I chose to use.  In contrast to the Quiet Storm artwork, which incorporates a lot of dark blues, purples and blacks with white type and layered translucent textures (evocative of the intimate, nocturnal atmosphere embodied by the album), the artwork for the mixtape is very bright, very immediate (no gloss or photoshopping!) and very tongue in cheek – I do not dress that ostentatiously in real life!!!  But it was a lot of fun 🙂

Official Boy

This song was recorded a year ago – obviously, it’s a cover of Cassie’s song “Official Girl”… I seem to be the only one who loved that song!  I was obsessed with that song at the time because I could relate – I was semi-dating somebody but didn’t know where I stood. (It turned out to be nowhere.)  So I got the instrumental and decided to rerecord my version – in the process, I learned a lot about creating vocal layers and harmonies and counter-melodies, and I appreciated how densely the original song is constructed.  I also wrote my own rap, which was really fun.  I really liked Cassie’s latest material, as I did a cover of this song and “Touch Me” samples another Cassie song, “Nobody But You”.

Touch Me (see post!)

Hook Boy (Remix)

This song uses the instrumental of Day26’s “Imma Put It On Her”, continuing the love for Bad Boy artists.  I have always been impressed by Diddy’s production skills and most of the Bad Boy tracks that have come out over the last 12 years have had really solid music and production.  It’s a remix of the song “Hook Boy” on Quiet Storm, and so I changed up the melody and some of the lyrics somewhat, but the basic skeleton of the song remains the same, though this remix has a more celebratory, uptempo feel to it, relishing being in the club and being with the one you love.

Get Me Home (Interlude)

I liked the harmonies on this one, but I have an interlude called “Focused” on the album where I did a superior job of a similar type of harmony, so I removed this track from the album and kept it for the mixtape.

Jump Off (Part I) (Snippet)

The original version of a song which is on the album (appropriately called “Jump Off (Part II)”), this is a very straight-up R&B ballad, no frills.  The lyrics have been kept more or less identical between the two songs, but Part II has a much more R&B, nocturnal feel which I fell in love with and which suited the feel of the album as a whole much more.  I might finish this version eventually, because I think it has potential, but I kinda left it by the wayside in favour of Part II, which is one of my favourite tracks on Quiet Storm, and very lyrically honest.

Don’t Look Now (Game Over)

This song was written after I was seeing somebody who just suddenly disappeared with the excuse that “I need space”… BULLSHIT mayne!!!   I decided to channel my irritation positively, and this record was a cutting, dance-type response to that whole situation.  I like the lyrics in it, which pay a nod to “Bad Girl” and “Pretty Boy” by the now sadly defunct Danity Kane, as well as Beyoncé’s “Irreplaceable”.  My favourite lyric is “dangerous and brokenhearted”, and I briefly considered that as an album title.  I love the ring of it, but ultimately there is something about the song that meant it couldn’t hang with the rest of the tracks that made the album, so ultimately it got relegated to the mixtape!

Pronunciation (Interlude)

This was just a big big laugh… it sets the scene for the next song, “Armani Earrings”, which is a track on Quiet Storm that I just had so much fun writing, as it really epitomises swagger!  The idea came from the “learn Italian” tapes they play in the bathrooms at Frankie & Benny’s restaurants, and working in The Perfume Shop and getting irritated at how many designers names got mangled by customers on a regular basis.  So this interlude is a play on all of those things, as well as a lead-in to the next track.

Armani Earrings

… you’re gonna have to wait for the story behind this one!!!  Just enjoy it for now 🙂

Can’t Play A Playa

Originally I was so excited about this track, with the military gunshot-style intro and the catchy hook… but somewhere along the line, although I tried out a lot of different ideas such as having a rap in the middle of the song instead of at the bridge, and multiple hooks and stuff, I felt it lost the sparkle and drive I was aiming for the song to have, so I didn’t feel it was strong enough to make the album.  I like the song, but I just couldn’t execute it the way I wanted to so I kept it back for the mixtape.

Wild Heart

During my time at Oxford uni, I became friends online with a guy who got into trying to write and produce his own songs.  He sent me this track that he’d written and produced (the production is a slightly different style to anything I’ve done, though the song itself I like), and asked me to resing it.  I went a bit crazy with it, attacking it with different melodies and ad-libs, and when I sent it back he was like “WOW you have CHANGED it!!!” I really liked the way it turned out, but I think he was somewhat taken aback… I never really considered this song for the album, especially as my only input into it was changing some of the melodies, harmonies and structuring, but I like it nonetheless so I thought that there was no harm in putting it on High Fashion.

Role Model

The first element of this song that I had was the bassline, and then I just started adding lyrics to it.  I remember half of it was written in my head on a car journey with my parents, and the minute we got back in the door I rushed upstairs and spent an hour creating the song.  I like the sung chorus element, because it really expressed how I don’t feel that I fit easily into many categories that people try to pigeon-hole me into.  In terms of the music I listen to, my educational background and my sexuality (among other things), I don’t really feel that what is widely portrayed in the cinema really represents me, and I wanted to put across the fact that just because there is a stereotype for these things doesn’t mean that everybody necessarily fits them.  Although it’s not my finest hour rapping (and I like to think that the rhymes on “Armani Earrings” demonstrate how much I’ve improved), the lyrical subject matter is very true and I am positive I am not the only young person who feels misrepresented.  You have to be who you are, for the sake of who you are.

Broke WIthout Remedy

I was listening to Erykah Badu’s most recent album New Amerykah and wanted to do a song which was a bit more unstructured and organic sounding, so I hit up Garageband and started playing with samples. This is the result! I was near the end of my university degree at Oxford, and I was kinda frustrated because I didn’t know where I was going next and I was in a lot of debt and I was just like “what happened? I thought this degree would solve all my problems and it’s just left me with more!”  With my new uni course and being so happy and that being beyond me, the perspective I now have of Oxford is perhaps more balanced and I can appreciate the quality of degree and the good friends that I got from there, but at the time of writing / singing the song, I was feeling quite down.  Towards the end, my voice cracks and I kept it in as evidence of too much cigarettes + emotional despair = raw vocals!

I Want To Know What Love Is (see post!)

High Fashion (Acapella) (Outro)

Another little acapella taster of the “High Fashion” track on my album.  The Intro uses some of the backing music, and the outro uses the first verse and chorus of the song.  Although I’m not 100% happy about ending the album with 2 acapellas in a row, I definitely thought that these last two songs both deserved to be on the mixtape and both fit at the end.

So there you are!  Once again, you can download the mixtape HERE and I really hope you enjoy it! 🙂