Though I didn’t realise it at the time, my songwriting journey began long before joining I Heart Songwriting Club. I studied music through school and then at university, and a lot of our work covered ‘songwriting’, but it was always songwriting for a grade. I earned my Bachelor of Music and my Bachelor of Education and spent the next eight years helping my students achieve their dreams. Not even for a minute had I considered what my dreams and goals were.
In 2017, my husband and I took a trip to Arizona to visit his family. Near the end of our trip, we decided to visit the Music Instrument Museum in Phoenix. We wandered through all of the exhibits – standing in front of John Lennon’s piano and the sheet music written by Ella Fitzgerald – and I felt this rush of inspiration for the first time, in a very long time.
In the gift shop, I had picked out a songwriting journal to take home with me. This book had pages specially designed to write and store songs and lyrics and I thought that maybe this is what I needed to get me started – to be living my dream.
My husband baulked at the $12 price tag and said, “Are you even going to write any songs to put in that?”, so we went back to his sister’s apartment and I wrote the chorus to a song I now call, “Paper Cut”. Sadly, the chorus of that song is all that was written in that beautiful book… until the very end of that year.
I can’t even remember where I saw it, but I saw an online advertisement for a singing workshop and I thought it could be useful for my teaching. I never really considered it could be important for my own creative dreams!
By some stroke of fate, I turned up and my Mum was there with her friend Julie, who is a member of I Heart Songwriting Club. We were all super surprised because we hadn’t told each other we were attending! Julie and I chatted a little about the club and I went home and couldn’t stop thinking about it. At the workshop, I also met the founder of IHSC, Francesca de Valence for the first time who shared with me more about the club. Later on, one of my friends from uni Laura (Laudy Music) mentioned that she was also a member of the club. So I thought, what the hell, and joined at the end of 2017.
By the end of the first term, I realised I was filling the pages of my beautiful songwriting book from Phoenix very quickly – from half of a song to ten songs! One of those ten was the completed version of “Paper Cut” that I wrote for the theme ‘window’.
Not only did I have so many songs, but I had also built a little community around me, a little community who were quick to point out the elements of my songs that were excellent and the elements of my songs that needed work. In fact, often the songs or parts of songs that were causing me the most self-doubt were the favourite parts for the other people in my group. That made me listen to my songs with new ears. The people in my songwriting groups have formed the foundation of a tribe of artists that I have surrounded myself with.
In the beginning, recording and listening to my voice back made me want to gag! What is it about listening to ourselves that is so traumatic? But after recording myself every week, it got easier and easier.
When I decided to start performing my songs, the same thing happened. At first, the nerves were just the most awful thing imaginable and now, while it’s not perfect, I find performing fun and easy. As Francesca always says, “Just do the work and the rest will come!”
I think the biggest battle is with my own self-doubt:
Am I too old to start?
Have I missed my chance?
I don’t sound like anyone on the radio.
Why spend all of this time and money that I may never get back?
Just say YES and let the universe do the rest. Sometimes that means YOU do the rest. And that’s the “work”.
With an exciting and reasonably-sized catalogue of songs under my belt, I was speaking to my dear friend Rob Cooper who works with me in my teaching job – he’s an audio engineer as well as an amazing composer and musician himself, and he said, “Have you chosen anyone to mix your first single? I’d love to do it!”
Up until that point, I had only toyed with the idea of “releasing a single” in my wildest dreams. Even those words sounded a bit strange in my head. I decided then and there that “Paper Cut” would have to be my debut single, as it’s the song that started me on this whole journey. Rob helped me record my vocals and took my demo production and added his own magic to make my debut single something I’m really proud of.
Under Francesca’s mentorship in Level Up Club, I went to as many open mics as I could. I recorded songs at home and in the studio and uploaded them up on Sound Cloud. I networked like hell and eventually, I began booking some real paid gigs. It’s been a crazy journey and sometimes I look back and almost can’t work out how I got here! But I’m here!
My debut single “Paper Cut” comes out today! Is this even real life? I am living my wildest creative dreams!
Listen to my album on Spotify