Tag Archives: music

Download of the Month – “Somewhere I Have To be”

Hi all

It’s a while I’m going to be back and updating this blog regularly over the coming weeks and months.  There will be more “Diary of a First-Time Author”, more writings on disability, wanderings and wonderings into global folklore and more music.

First of all though is the first ever free download of the month.  This month’s free download is a song called “Somewhere I Have To Be”.  We recorded it in the early stages of recording our forthcoming third album and the music was written and played by our then-keyboardist Niall Spooner-Harvey, who subsequently left the band when he moved to America.

In the end we decided the new album would only include songs written and recorded by the current line-up so we decided not to use it but I still think it’s a great song and I think it’s worth sharing:

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Interview with Attitude is Everything

Ahead of next week’s gig with Summer Camp and the Art Club for Club Attitude, Attitude is Everything have published a short interview with me on their website where I talk about the band, music and disability awareness.

 

The link is here:

http://www.attitudeiseverything.org.uk/news/introducing…-paul-hawkins-and-the-awkward-silences

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Talking About Disability #1 – Attitude Is Everything

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On March 26 my band, Paul Hawkins & The Awkward Silences, are playing at Club Attitude, run by the organisation Attitude is Everything.  It’s a gig I’m really looking forward to (and one you can get cheap tickets for by clicking this link).  It’s a utterly fantastic venue and I’m very excited about playing with Summer Camp and the Art Club but the main reason I’m looking forward to it is because Attitude is Everything are all about making gigs accessible for people with disabilities and hearing difficulties.

 

As a disabled person making music, this is a cause that’s very close to my heart, especially as my thoughts about my disabilities are something I wrestle with a lot.  My disabilities aren’t particular visible so I don’t ‘look’ disabled and how disabled I feel changes depending on where I am and what I’m doing.  I certainly feel a lot less disabled than I did when I was a child, a teenager or even my early twenties.  I rarely feel disabled at work, never feel disabled when I’m on stage, often feel disabled when I meet new people (especially when trying to chat up women!) and feel extremely disabled if I wake up with a hangover.  Ultimately I suppose it comes down to how much I feel I can or cannot do the things I want to do for health reasons.

 

When I was growing up, nobody really knew what the extent of my disabilities would actually be.  People seemed to assume the worst.  Shortly after I was born, my Dad’s work colleagues sent my parents a sympathy card, my local primary school didn’t want to take me as they thought I wouldn’t be able to cope in mainstream education and the worst case doctor’s scenario had me needing constant care for the rest of my life.  These aren’t things I tend to talk about these days but they’re very much there in my mind, especially in darker moments. I’m very grateful for the fact that my parents pushed very hard to keep me in mainstream education, get support from my school and to find ways that I could do pretty much anything that any other child could do.   Now that I’m an adult, I can pass for ‘normal’ and generally I do – certainly I’d guess there will be people reading this who know me but previously had absolutely no idea about any of this side of my life.

 

But nonetheless it’s still a big thing in my mind.  The effort I spent as a child and in my teens trying to get away with seeming normal took its toll psychologically and, even as an adult, there’s certain aspects of myself I’ve never quite come to terms with and quite possibly never ever will.  Disabilities tend to loom large in quite a few of the characters I create in my songs and I think that the struggle between trying to decide to appear to the outside world as ‘normal’ or be open about the fact you’re different is a recurring theme in my writing.

 

Up until now I’ve largely gone down the route of appearing ‘normal’.  For a few years now, I’ve thought about being more public about discussing my disabilities – and indeed when I first met with Attitude is Everything a couple of years ago, it was because I was thinking about entering into a public discussion about the experience of disabled musicians and fans in small venues and was going to start a blog where I shared experiences with other disabled musicians.  In the end, I refrained from doing this as I don’t really like labels as a general rule and I didn’t want myself or anyone else to wear one.

 

But it was a big thing for me during my childhood that there were few disabled role models around – and certainly not ones with the same conditions that I had – and I’ve always been aware of a certain contradiction that, on the one hand, I’d quite like to talk about my disability more, if only just to let young people know that disability need not be a barrier to achieving the things you want in life but, on the other hand, talking about it risks getting you pigeonholed as that disabled musician, which doesn’t really seem to remove any barriers at all.

 

But ultimately talking about disability and promoting disability awareness is important and worth doing – especially given that, as I said earlier, how disabled I feel depends on the extent to which I can or cannot do what I want to do, due to health reasons – if other people feel similar then it strikes me as a good reason to make any simple adjustments needed to help people feel they can do as much as possible.   So whilst the absolute last thing I want is to become preachy or be seen as ‘that disabled author’/‘that disabled musician’, I do want to start spending a bit of time on this blog taking more about my disabilities.

 

So what will I be doing?  I’ll be writing some articles and doing an interview of the Attitude is Everything website.  I’m also going to upload a couple of videos of me taking about my disabilities and the equipment I use and also a podcast of some of my songs that are influenced by disability and me talking about them. I’ll also be writing more articles about being a writer and musician and other stuff to avoid any risk of me just ‘banging on’ about being disabled but hope, if it is a subject that interests you, the articles’ll be useful and informative.  I’ll try to make them reasonably entertaining too!

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New Awkward Silences songs (and an introduction to the band)

Hi all

The Diary of a First-Time Writer series will resume in the next couple of days.

In the meantime, there are some new songs up on the Awkward Silences’ Soundcloud.  The songs “Precautionary Principle”, “How We Lost the War” and “It Takes a Nation of Idiots To Hold Me Back” are all taken from our 3rd album “Outsider Pop”, which’ll be released at some point in 2014 on an as-yet unidentified record label.

I’ve also uploaded nine ‘classic’ Awkward Silences songs as a way of introduction to the band for anyone who hasn’t heard us before.   All those songs are available to buy from Jezus Factory Records.

Lastly we have a new website.  Interesting stuff will hopefully start appearing on there soon.

Our next gigs are:

10th November – The Lexington

22nd November – “Bad Santas” book launch at the Elixir Bar, Euston.

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Diary of a First-Time Author #2 – Up All Night to Get Lucky…

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When people have found out about my book, there’s one question that I’ve been asked time and time again.  Sometimes by someone asking for themselves, sometimes on behalf of a friend but nonetheless the question has been “how did you get an agent?”

 

It’s a good question because the initial process of getting an agent is possibly the biggest barrier to overcome for an aspiring author and, from the outside, it can seem an insurmountable barrier and, for that reason, I know that when the person asking me is really asking for a formula that they too can follow with guaranteed success.  Which makes it a shame that my answer is both rather mundane and tricky to replicate.  I’d love to be able to tell an inspiring and moving story about how I sent my book to every agent in London, received rejection after rejection and rejection but then, when I was right at my very lowest ebb, an agent finally responded and made my dreams come true.  But that would be a lie.  The simple and most honest answer is that I got an agent through sheer dumb luck.

 

The day that I decided to write a non-fiction book about Santa Claus, I was feeling quite motivated to get on with things and decided to get on and write a proposal.  The only problem was that I had absolutely no idea what a non-fiction book proposal looked like or involved, or how much of the book I needed to write before submitting it (this is a question I will answer in either the next article or the one after that).  Feeling a bit lazy I decided not to Google it myself but instead posted something on Facebook asking my friends, acquaintances, people I went to school with and the people who I’ve never met but continually send me invites to gigs they’re promoting whether anyone had ever written a non-fiction book proposal and whether they knew what it involved.  I wasn’t expecting much but a friend of mine came back and said that his friend Matthew was a literary agent and would be happy to give me some advice.  I dropped the friend an email asking for help and briefly pitched the idea (“to give him an idea of what I was trying to do”) and got an email back from Matthew saying he liked the idea and wanted to meet me the following week.

 

I realise that this involves a lot of lucky coincidences.  I happened to know someone who knew an agent, the agent happened to be willing to give some advice to a friend of a friend and the agent then actually liked my idea.  I also realise this is the sort of thing that could make other aspiring writers a bit angry and would (probably rightly) lead you to conclude that it’s not what you know but who you know.  Also it raises the question of why I’m telling you all this and whether there’s a particular lesson that I wish to impart.

 

The answer to the first question is that I’m telling you this is that it’s because it’d be a bit odd if I wrote about how I came to write the book and didn’t touch on how I came to get an agent.  The answer to the latter question is there are probably two lessons you can take from this that you might find useful.

 

The first one is to remember that luck will play a huge part in anything that happens to you, for good or ill.  This can be a difficult thing to accept – everyone wants to feel they’re responsible for their successes and we live in a culture where it seems everyone of note – from writers to actors to musicians to businesspeople to sports stars – will continually emphasise how they have succeeded because they worked so hard and ‘wanted it’ so much.  And I’m sure they belief that but nonetheless you’re getting a very skewed picture because newspapers and magazines tend to only interview the rich and famous – you never ever hear from the people who worked hard but didn’t ‘make it’.  Who’s to say how hard they worked and how much they wanted to succeed?  Ultimately you can work as hard as you like but, without the lucky break that gets things moving, it won’t guarantee anything.

 

So far then, none of this is actually particularly useful and it all probably sounds slightly depressing.  I can only apologise for that.  I’m trying to be truth rather than raise false hopes and this is the precise reason I’ll thankfully never make much of a self-help guru or ‘lifestyle coach’.

 

Nonetheless there is a more positive side to this that perhaps you can learn something from and that is that I’ve not yet revealed the full picture of how the lucky coincidence that helped me get an agent took place.

 

I might have got a break through knowing the ‘right’ people but, when I first came to London ten years ago, I barely knew anyone at all.  I grew up in a small village, my family had zero links with the literary industry whatsoever and, when I first moved to London, ten years ago, I had literally one friend in the entire city and for several months I was lonely, shy and probably a bit depressed.  I wrote in the first article about how, as I approached my 30th birthday, I felt I’d wasted my twenties.  But looking back, this wasn’t entirely true.  I actually spent a lot of time putting myself into a position where I knew enough people for coincidences to happen.  I don’t entirely buy into the idea that people ‘make their own luck’ but I do believe it is a simple truth that the more people you befriend, and the more you demonstrate to people what you can do, the more likely it is you’ll find somebody who can help you.

 

But, short of sitting people down and forcing them to read your book, how do you demonstrate what you can do?  What I did was learn a few simple guitar chords become a musician.  I originally started playing acoustic guitar and singing at open mic nights because I was feeling pretty isolated and wanted something to get me out the house but I realised that, whilst film scripts can take well over a year to write and wind up being read by nobody whatsoever, you can write a song in the morning, perform it to the audience in the evening and receive instant feedback on something you’ve written.

 

Daunting though it sounds, I would recommend any aspiring writer tries their hand at  performing in public – be it music, poetry, stand-up comedy or even simply delivering talks and lectures.   It’s a chance to see what audiences respond to, when and where you gain and lose audience interest and, because you don’t want to embarrass yourself in public, it really forces you to improve.  I’d also advise, when you’re out at any kind of performance, gauging audience reactions to other people’s work as well. Obviously your ability to go out and perform regularly depends on where you live, your financial situation and your family commitments so I know this may not be advice everyone can follow but, if you can do it, I’d strongly recommend it – I learned more about writing in my first nine months’ of performing than I did in five years of writing in a room on my own.  (If it really isn’t possible, then I’d probably recommend starting a blog and joining internet messageboards related to your interests – it’s not quite as good as meeting people in the flesh but you can nonetheless befriend like-minded people and let them get to know your style of writing).

 

What’s more, by performing you’ll start to meet people who share your interests and build up the number of people you know – many of whom will work in creative field.  I despite the term ‘networking’ and the idea of anyone cynically going out and meeting people who can advance their career but, if you go out to things you’re interested in and talk to people, you might find it happens anyway.  What’s more, it shows an audience what you can do.  Ultimately I enjoyed the music so much that I ended up with a band, a small record deal and some radio and festival appearances.  Not only was this fun, it was a brilliant way to get people to know about my interests and my style of writing.  Going back to the top, the friend who responded to my Facebook question was someone who’d seen me play several times and liked my style of writing and I later found out one of the reasons why Matthew was interested in taking me on was because he too had heard my music and the dissonance between the blackly comic approach of my song-writing and the fact that I wanted to write a book about Santa was a big part of the appeal.

 

None of this changes the fact that I succeeded through a series of lucky coincidences but they were lucky coincidences that only happened because I was already going out and working hard to promote myself and my writing without really realising I was doing it.  Luck will play a huge part in whether you succeed or not but I certainly think the writer who goes out and talks to people is far more likely to be lucky than the writer who stays at home and keeps all their work hidden in a drawer.  It might not be fair that we live in a world where who you know matters more than how you write but, if that really is the case, then  – like it or not – the most pragmatic solution is to get out there and meet more people…

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