A 2 minute chat :)
On and off over the past 2 or so years I've been working on a couple of different projects (there's that theme again!) and I thought it'd interesting to get some thoughts, now these are only early stage snippets but things I've had burning in the background. Some new styles & collaborations - maybe you like some, all, none... whatever... let me know & perhaps we can go on the adventure together :)
What am I trying to achieve? Who knows... one thing I'm becoming more sure of is that these challenges drive creativity, the first sketch may not be a masterpiece but ultimately, exploring the tangents brings the most interesting ideas...
I’ve been reading a lot about just getting things done. Perfect doesn’t matter if you never finish it, in fact aiming for that probably means we never start.
Last year I had this idea of making “Pieces of Different Puzzles” a project where I continually added songs, an evolving album I guess – but I’ve recently realised that plays right into my tendency to have a bunch of ideas and work on them for years and never actually finish. So I’m going to change that – you can hear the demos now on my BandCamp page and feel free to see how everything develops, if you decide it’s worth buying all the behind the scenes stuff will be yours forever. At the very least it should be an interesting insight into what it takes to finish something… and move on to the next bright idea.
Thanks for listening
For 2018 I committed to approaching things differently, in fact, my recent approach has been to choose a word to drive my year - last year it was create, and I did - this year it’s “different” because I’m trying to push myself to explore things that I’ve never considered or may have scared me in the past.
Before you go searching, Part 2 is on the One Proud Monkey blog :)
So I find myself in a hotel room in Gunnedah, there’s a pool outside my door which would probably be OK but its current occupants are blasting Alan Jackson and talking about how to “fix” Australia so I’m getting a kryptonitish reaction to the area, despite it being 42 degrees.
So how did I get here 3 weeks into the new year? You may have heard that I won a regional songwriters competition to play at the Tamworth Country Music festival. Now, I’m reliably informed that Tamworth these days is as much country as Bluesfest is blues… i.e. not so much… lucky, cause I don’t play country music… do I?
A lot of my music making life has been based around, and some may say limited by, the constraints I’ve put on myself - early on it was “I can’t sing” even though I loved writing lyrics and trying to make up melodies. I’d researched rock history and found a bunch of great writers who weren’t frontmen for bands… so I was OK with it. For a while. But sometimes you run out of water to douse the flames and the want to sing my own songs got too great.
So I started getting singing lessons. But I didn’t tell anyone ‘cause - well, REAL singers don’t need lessons right? That’s what I told myself… then I saw James Hetfield on a doco talking about HIS singing lessons. OK, so maybe they do.
There was a rough time where I almost put the guitar down for good, it felt like I couldn’t do what I wanted and I was forcing myself into situations that weren’t pleasant for me (or the audience honestly) but a chance meeting and collaboration in London kicked off the dream again (thanks Azza!)
I began writing songs I actually liked playing again, maybe for the first time actually, started playing at open mic nights, played a couple of “joke” songs ‘cause at least if people laughed then I could handle that… better than being ignored…
I listened to someone who told me if I wanted to play music and live in Dubbo I’d have to play covers, “‘cause no one likes songs they don’t know” - fair enough, but I wasn’t good at it. Not ‘cause I COULDN’T do it, because I didn’t want to… it just didn’t fit - like putting unleaded fuel in a diesel car (…and that’s the extent of my knowledge about cars)
When I play a song I wrote I get a buzz. And that’s all I wanted. An expression. An outlet. When I started to think about it I realised the only thing that’s ever really held me back was what I thought I was supposed to be.
So, this week, I’m going to play my songs for some people. Maybe some people will even think they’re country songs, maybe some people will even like them. And having that opportunity is very cool. When you embrace “different” the limitations fall away - it’s a beautiful feeling so I’m gonna go with it and see where I end up!
Thanks for listening
#2 Kingswood — After Hours, Close to Dawn
Perhaps a surprising choice, this one didn't get near the love of their first record, possibly for the same reason that I like it so much - they took some chances, experimented with styles. Great front to back listen!
#3 Gang of Youths — Go Farther In Lightness
What a band. What a record. Australian rock is in good shape at the moment. I even bought this on CD!
#4 Dan Sultan — Killer
Blackbird was a favourite of mine when it came out, but this might be better? Big call? All I know is it's a great record.
#5 The Smith Street Band — More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me
I love the lyrics here, but the music is great too... energy, cynicism, honesty... I see many more spins in the future!
#6 Soen — Lykaia
I think this turned up one day I was searching Spotify in vain to see if Tool were available yet. I've since listened to far more of these guys.
#7 Caligula's Horse — In Contact
From the time I knew there was an album due this year I was counting days and this does not disappoint (except for the spoken word track, skip that one). Ambitious and awesome!
#8 Fractures — Still Here
I heard the first single on the radio (yeah, I'm surprised that's still a thing too) - perfect chill out record.
#9 Damien Dempsey — Soulsun
Listen to the title track. Enough said.
#10 Cold War Kids — La Divine
I've been a casual fan for a while, IMO they've had the occasional standout track... but this record is solid!
#11 At the Drive-In — in•ter a•li•a
A nice return from these guys, I took a while to warm to it but in the right mood this one fits in very nicely!
Top 25 of 2017 (based on most listens - updated daily from Nov 30 - Dec 24)
#12 Sean Rowe — New Lore - You know I have absolutely no idea how I came across this fella, I think "Gas Station Rose" was the clip of the week on some website or something... anyway, once I heard it I was hooked. It's the standout but the rest of the record is pretty solid too. The gravity in his voice must be heard, definitely track this down if you're up for a little baroque pop (yeah, I didn't know what it was either before I read his bio)
#13 Rise Against — Wolves - a favourite since I got the chance to see them live supporting System of a Down. There is definitely a more polished performance, more melodies and less yelling but I don't know that that means necessarily less passion. The soapbox lecturing is still there, although it sounds a little more tired, it's still worth a listen
#14 Mutoid Man — War Moans - I'm calling it - discovery of the year - thank you Mastodon radio! (yes, another Spotify plug...) I don't even know how to describe this - it's loud but not overly heavy and the songs are catchy as. I'll be spending a lot of time next year exploring this band I think.
#15 Beck — Colors - it pays to listen to other it seems... I've had a seriously on off thing with Beck, actually, mostly off - something I just couldn't grasp. I never doubted the talent but it rarely got me ("Sea Change" is an exception) but at the urging of a good friend I gave this record a spin. And then I didn't stop for a week. Equal parts dancey joy and pisstake, it's an excellent record.
#16 Leprous — Malina - I have Spotify's Release Radar to thank for this. I'd never heard of this band until it randomly played me one of their older songs. In that vacuum that is waiting for a new Tool record I find myself drawn to the combination of heavy riffs and soaring vocals. In the past I've found it in bands such as Rishloo and 2017 gave us another great record by the Contortionist as well. If you're liking the names I'm mentioning then cue up Leprous!
#17 Dead Letter Circus — The Endless Mile - reimagined songs to celebrate the original EP's anniversary. Don't get me wrong, the songs are good and I've listened to it a bunch of times for that reason, however none are better than the originals. Probably my favourite Australian band of the past decade, so I will always listen - but new stuff would be good!
#18 Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit — The Nashville Sound - don't tell my Dad ('cause this is a country album essentially) and we've argued for years about the merits of our respective favourite genres... I'm not conceding, simply saying that this a little bit country and I liked it (a little bit). Seriously, the lyrics in "If We Were Vampires" are worth checking out the record alone.
Check out the playlist on the main blog page as I keep updating this post to reflect the countdown :)
Top 25 of 2017 (based on most listens - updated daily from Nov 30 - Dec 24)
#19 Propagandhi — Victory Lap - a cracker of an album, with an earlier release date this would have been way higher. These guys are one of those bands that you discover later than everyone else yet they change your perspective on music. Brutal honesty combined with harmony, melody and riffs. Do better, I dare you (I can't btw)
#20 The War on Drugs — A Deeper Understanding - Another record I only came across by recommendation. I'm sure I've been snobby about this band before thinking it was one of those bands that only the Triple J elite types listened to 'cause no one else did... but I opened my ears and it opened my eyes 'cause these guys are really good, and the songs here... oh man... just have a listen!
#21 Weezer — Pacific Daydream - Rivers Cuomo has written some of the catchiest songs I've ever heard, he's also written some pretty average ones too. Interestingly on this record he's chosen to work with pop songwriters which can often be anathema to longtime fans (see: Linkin Park) but I don't mind the results here. Some patchiness but if "Weekend Woman" isn't stuck in your mind for days after hearing it there's not much more I can do for you!
#22 Ryan Adams — Prisoner - Once, way back, when I thought Ryan Adams was a typo, I didn't give a work colleague's recommendation a second thought. Then I heard the album "Gold", if I'm honest it's because I found it at work and was bored with everything else I'd been listening to. Since then has hardly been a dedicated following but I've kept an eye on what Mr Adams has done. The Taylor Swift cover album was an interesting PR experiment and other releases have piqued my interest but Prisoner, in my opinion, is his most solid in years. A good listen start to finish, something I've done more than a few times this year.
#23 Rag'n'Bone Man — Human - I think I first saw this bloke on the Graham Norton show, colour me guilty of judging a book etc... from the first utterance of his vocal I was blown away. He's on the Bluesfest line-up too and I am keen!
#24 Bernard Fanning — Brutal Dawn - Funny one this, Powderfinger were such a huge part of my formative music experiences that I really want to like their solo offerings too, so I repeat play them... yet it seems to happen so rarely. There was a great song (Wasting Time) on the companion record "Civil Dusk" but nothing so standout here. His impassioned performance at Inland Sea convinced me to go back for a listen and I might find something yet...
#25 Meg Mac — Low Blows - an album I really started to appreciate after seeing Meg perform at Bathurst's Inland Sea of Sound. Simple, catchy, melodic songs. Nice work.
Honourable mentions to: Pallbearer - Heartless; Kyle Lionhart - Eleven & Two; Holy Holy - Paint, The Contortionist - Clairvoyant and Busby Marou - Postcards from the Shell House, apologies but you missed out by one single play (according to Last.fm)... good records though!
Over the next few weeks I'm going to be counting down my favourite records released in 2017 - although the definition is a bit sketchy... I said "best" in the title 'cause it's more catchy but it's more like "most listened to" which has to mean something right?
Anyway, follow along on the blog or at facebook.com/clintonhoymusic
But before we start, a few you won't find in the list, for various reasons:
- Released or discovered too late to play a lot - Julien Baker — Turn Out the Lights and The National — Sleep Well Beast fit into this category
- Looked forward to but didn't cut it - Tim Rogers — An Actor Repairs, Steven Wilson — To The Bone, Trivium — The Sin And The Sentence and Queens of the Stone Age — Villains all fit into this category
I'd be interested to hear yours as well
I read something the other day which basically destroyed the way I work. But, it turns out it's a good thing, something I needed to realise.
The record I'm working on at the moment, "Pieces of Different Puzzles", currently has 6 finished songs and another 12 demos that I've set aside for it... and I'm also doing a songwriting course which thus far has meant I needed to write another 8 new songs. I have ideas for other projects, not to mention songs for One Proud Monkey.
Sometimes though, more isn't better, especially when starting more means finishing less. I want you guys to hear this music, so I'm going to start finishing... Maybe I'll be a little bit quiet for a while, but it'll be for the best, I promise.
Thanks for listening,
What a journey (for us all, I suspect!) - here is Part 4
Gig #4 – Coonamble
Outback Arts did so much work in putting this tour together and have been especially encouraging of my ideas of bringing original music to their slice of NSW it seemed fitting that we’d finish our run at their Outback Archies Awards Night. I was fortunate enough to have played the same night last year and have a lot of fun doing it.
Between Lightning Ridge and Coonamble we made a stop in Walgett so Dale could run a percussion workshop with his trusty Djembe. These workshops were the daytime activities between and at each stop and not being a basically capable percussionist, gave me a chance to play audience member. And I was impressed. When you know people for 86% of your life surprises rarely present themselves but I got a (another?) lesson from D.R. Freeman here. You can know how to play an instrument and be entertaining but knowing its story, where it comes from, how it was woven into the fabric of peoples’ existence and how you can translate that into a new story – that’s what makes you a musician. Our workshop attendees could see that, every day, and they were enthralled. I am taking notes.
Background music as it may have been, playing in an art gallery is its own test. Most of my vocals were performed an octave lower (some felt inaudible!) and you get to play with your own arrangements a little more, I enjoyed the challenge and the crowd mentioned a few nice things – some even remembered me from last year. Or remembered the Cole Clark more precisely. The funniest conversation was with a bloke who was at his first art exhibition and wasn’t sure if it was the correct etiquette to stand and watch the band rather than walk around. I assured him we were fine being the centre of attention.
I often run short of words trying to explain how much I live making music. It pumps blood through my veins and air through my lungs. It can be hard work and if you’re not prepared for that you’re cheating your audience, be it the mirror in your bathroom, your family & friends or a packed venue full of strangers. Many of my songs are the stories of my life and I love telling those stories but I’m also starting to realise the power of you connected my songs with your stories too… and that’s incredible.
Thanks to Outback Arts for supporting the tour. Thanks to the publicans who gave original music a place in the west and to Mr Dale Freeman for his lessons (musical and life), insight and talent.
Most of all thanks to everyone who gave me their time listening to songs they’ve never heard, to the people who shared their stories. I’ll be back real soon – if you’ll have me?