The Vocal Thing

I made a decision early on in making this album that I would do more singing.

Dom and Stac in particular had always been encouraging me to do more, despite being quite adamant that I didn’t want to. Then songs like A Promise started going down well. Then a few comments at shows.

Don’t get me wrong I love singing, in theory, I just find the experience really stressful. I used to do more when I first started making music. Plus I was in performing arts at A-Level so there was always singing, meaning that I was kind of permanently warmed up and practiced. I’m not anymore.

I’ve had many discussions about how singing your own songs can help you communicate what you’re trying to say that little bit better, more precisely.

There’s always the advantage for live too, keeping the band small and compact means more gigs, means getting to more people, more work, more money – kind of.

I was doing more songs at gigs last year and figured if I didn’t give myself more work and more challenges I wouldn’t get better and the problem would persist, on and on and on…

So I made the decision to get back to writing vocals. I can’t quite tell you how much I’ve hated myself for that over the last few months.

Starting from this point and having to get good quickly in itself is a pain, but I’m so quick to be incredibly critical of myself that often I’m chasing round in circles, not getting anywhere at all.

Then there is the lack of knowledge of myself. Because I don’t really know what I’m capable of I often end up writing things I can’t really pull off but then feel committed to, because they seem to be the best treatment of the music. Which again leads to failure, self-criticism and angst and that cycle, round and round.

There is at least one s0ng on this album that I’ve written completely differently at least four (maybe five) times – up to the point of recording the vocal and harmonies and mixing. Then two days ago, when I should be near the finishing post, I decided to scrap the whole thing and start again. Cue eight hours of misfired ideas, vocal struggling and straining, stomping about and huffing and puffing.

With the rest of the writing, the instrumentals, this time I’ve felt more confident in putting down an idea, believing in it and knowing I’ve done the right thing – the first time in three albums. This vocal thing really reminds me of how I was with the entire writing process last time around. So I guess in a way you could say it has something positive.

Of course none of it is made any easier from having spent years around incredible vocalists that are of course constant inspiration but a hell of a comparison to be making with yourself. I have seen their struggles too and self consciousness. But I’ve heard incredible performances and technical brilliance, genuine understanding of the skill.

Anyway, I hope this decision will have paid off. I know for certain that through persistence I will improve and the idea that a few years from now I could be the sort of vocalist I will be proud of makes me feel it is worth while. But for now it really does hurt.

I remember being told that A Promise was good, better than good. I remember thinking what a disaster it was and that I was lazy in not making it better. I remember hearing it on the radio for the first time and feeling embarrassed, surprised and then excited. And amazed.

So how I hear myself I guess will always be pretty harsh. You’re so much meaner to yourself than you would ever be to anyone else. Cruel almost.

Better just get used to it.

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