As I have never considered what I do in terms of a quantifiable process, a recent request to describe my creative process sent me into a tailspin that required a surprising amount of time and introspection to level.
Central to everything I do is a well-honed, unshakeable creative habit. I compare it to running, which is a huge part of my life; despite being fit, the first few minutes of every run are torture, but the further I run and push myself, the better I feel and the more inspired I become to push harder next time. If I don’t run for a few days, it becomes a literal, breathless, up-hill struggle. If I don’t create for a while, finding and committing to an idea is painful. The creative habit is a discipline that needs to be treated with respect.
Beyond the inspiration is the practical challenge of taking a song from its embryonic state to putting it in the spotlight. My songs are mostly written for live performance so I am likely to be working to within a remit, which informs the way that I approach specific projects; Context (foremost), venue, voices, audience, instrumentation and technical limitations being some of these considerations. I generally work alone.
As I am naturally inquisitive and sociable and have a fascination with other people’s stories, I am most likely to begin a piece with an idea for the narrative. I look to personal conversations along with stories across the media and the wider community for inspiration. Everything I write is steeped in truth, resonates and is often witty (according to the press and audiences).
Having worked mostly within a cabaret context, my work is theatrical but it is unbounded by the stylistic constraints of a single musical model. Two examples of this: Benjamin Britten’s Got Talent is a macabre piece that uses the style of Benjamin Britten’s music to underpin an audition that goes horribly wrong on the TV show and, A Worthie Man of Garish Town (co-written with Robin Kingsland) is based on the Karadashian family and depicts the vacuous nature of fame using the structure and stylings of traditional English folk music to support the comedy potential in the juxtaposition of the utterly contemporary with the olde. This is written for 3-voices and accompanied by auto-harp.
I work initially in a home studio environment, which enables me to record piano and vocal demos at my own pace, overlaying harmonies and playing with production ideas where appropriate. A work-in-progress is normally workshopped live by the performers or by cyber-sharing recordings and roughly transcribed parts. Workshopping in front of a small, invited audience is a normal part of my process. When the piece is performance-ready, I create audio and MIDI files for full transcription (by a 3rd party).
That’s my process!