Friday, 21 July 2017

Light Up The Darkness

Another bright left has been extinguished. Chester Bennington, singer for Linkin Park, passed away on 20th July 2017. Cause of death – Depression.



We need to start being more open about mental health. For some reason we keep it a secret as though we must not speak of an illness that only shows its face in those final, painful moments.

Why do we keep mental health hidden? Why do we fear it? Because it cannot be seen? Yet there are many invisible illnesses that are accepted and spoken about without the level of Victorian-esque fear that mental health seems to inspire. It almost feels as though we still live in an age where any of us may become a spectacle in an asylum.

But mental health has come so far since those dark days of Bedlam. No longer must we live in fear that we're going to be a person who is scorned or ridiculed. No longer are we going to be paraded for the entertainment of others. Those days are gone. Finished. Over.

Yes, mental health care is still lacking in so many parts of the world. But there is help. And there is hope. We may look at social media as a burden yet, in this day and age, we are only a few key strokes away from asking for help. No one knows who they're linked to until they ask. No one knows what the hive mind of the internet can turn up. You don't have to suffer alone any more.

You don't have to suffer.

You don't have to suffer.

You don't have to suffer.

We are all here for one another, here to support, and to love, and to care. These illnesses, the ones that drive us to the depths of wanting to end our lives, don't need to hide in the darkness any more. It's time for them to be visible. It's time for them to speak their names. It's time for them to stop pushing people in to the shadows for fear that others will humiliate them for daring to say, “I don't feel well.”.

You are not alone. And you are precious. You are loved. You are beautiful. We live in a world that wants to push us in to those shadows, that wants us to hate ourselves because we're not “perfect”, that wants us to disappear because we don't fit into a mould.

Every one of us was born to be different. We weren't born to all look the same, or act the same, or think the same. You are amazing just the way you are. It's time for us to start accepting ourselves as we are and to stop beating ourselves up because we're different from what the world expects us to be. You, and your brain, are exactly where you're supposed to be right now. Time flies and, two years from now, all could be different. Hang on. Keep breathing. Keep living. Don't give up.

Don't ever give up.

Don't ever give up.

Don't ever give up.

You are worth so much more than deciding to step away now. Your thoughts, your ideas, your beauty, everything that makes you you is destined to be here right now. You are destined to be here. There's a reason for you living in this moment and it's not to step away. You are not a burden. You are not worthless. You are not useless. You are not nothing. You are someone.

You are a relative, a lover, a friend, a colleague, an internet chat friend, a social media commentator, a video creator, a blogger, an artist, a friendly face on a dark day. To someone, somewhere, you are something. You may not know it right now, but you are.


You are more than the darkness. 


Saturday, 17 June 2017

In Time of Pain and Grief

Today I wanted to write about positive thinking. But I can't. Not today.

For those living in the UK, it's been a hard month. On 22nd May, a suicide bomber entered the Manchester Evening News Arena and killed twenty two people. Less than two weeks later, attackers killed eight people on and around London Bridge. And less than two weeks after that came the horrifying and unforgivable fire at Grenfell Tower in London which has left countless dead and many more homeless and displaced. Amid it all is a tinder-dry political situation, a situation that, with the current climate in the UK, is threatening to become an unstoppable wave of rage and anger.

In times like these, we often wonder what's happening to us and the world that we live in. As we endure the pain of loss and grief we know that, elsewhere in the world, similar horrors are occurring and our hearts ache for those caught up in these global atrocities.



As we grieve we look to those round us for comfort. Family, friends, co-workers, and strangers in the street become sounding boards for the pain that we're feeling. Communities come together to support those who are suffering and to provide a central place for those who can lend a helping hand.

Often, in the wake of such events, life can seem fragile and meaningless. We can debate why we're here and whether our efforts to improve life, whether for ourselves or others, is worth it. Why continue when the heartache is so great? Why carry on when someone will come and tear it apart? Why carry on when no one is listening?

Why should we carry on? Because it's what we need to do. We need to help to rebuild the lives of those affected. We need to be there to support one another. We need to come up with solutions to stop such incidents from happening again. We need to help strengthen each other's voices. We need to carry on and create that beautiful and peaceful world that so many of us so desperately want, a world that is filled with compassion, empathy, love, and peace.

Grieve for those who have passed and support those who are left behind. Lay flowers. Light candles. Cry. Grieve. Get angry. Be with the people that you love. Give your time to those who need your help. If you need help, find someone to talk to. Create. Connect. Rebuild.


Like a phoenix, great things can come from the ashes of devastation.  



Saturday, 20 May 2017

Dear Beautiful You

Photo by Leland Francisco


Dear Beautiful You,

Life may seem hard at the moment but please know that it isn't always like this.

You are here for a reason. You are here to do amazing things and to see a world that is as beautiful as you are.

You are worth more than what your brain, or your environment, is telling you that you are. The things that you have to offer the world are far greater than you can imagine.

You, and your flaws, are beautiful, and always have been. Don't let anyone tell you any differently.

Reach out to those around you; your friends, your family, strangers on Facebook, someone on the end of the phone. There is someone, out there in the great ether, who is ready to listen and to take some of the burden from you.

You may feel as though life is crushing you to the point of no return but don't allow it to do that. There is more to this world than the darkness that encompasses you. Many before you have passed through those dark moments and gone on to live great and wonderful lives. You're here, in the now, and able to join them.

Join them on amazing journeys. Create incredible art. Sing like no one's listening. Dance like no one's watching. Laugh until your body aches. Sleep for as long as you so wish. Watch that movie you've been intending to watch. Read the book that's been sitting by your bedside for the past six months. Eat the chocolate that's in your fridge.

There is more to life than what you're seeing and feeling right now. The darkness may be trying to drag you under. But once the storm has passed, you will be free once more.

Help is there for you. Help is always there. If you're too tired to reach for it yourself, ask someone to do it for you. There will be someone, maybe a friend, maybe a stranger, who will do what you are too tired to do and help to put you on to a path of healing.

You are not alone in this world. There are so many others who, just like you, think that the darkness will never lift. Find one another. Embrace each other. Talk. Work through the darkness together and banish the loneliness that encompasses your soul.

Don't listen to the naysayers. Don't listen to those who tell you that there is only one way of healing. There are many ways and you will find one that works for you. Maybe it'll be on the first attempt. Maybe it'll be on the tenth attempt. But you'll find a way to ease the aches and pains of an unforgiving mind.

You, my darling, are so very brave. For every day you wake up to battle the demons that left you so very tired the night before. Keep on fighting, for your battle is an inspiration to so many people around you.


Life does get better. It may not seem like it now but it will. Rest your weary soul and look through the darkness to find the light of hope.

Because there is always hope.

There is always hope.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Be Like The Cat



This is Crumpet. She's about two and a half years old and lives with my brother. Other than her Mum and Dad, there's several other things that she loves.

Sleeping



Eating



And occasionally helping me to write.



She's sassy, classy, and a little bit bad assy. And we love her to the ends of the Earth.


Unlike us, she generally doesn't care about the little things in life. As long as her food bowl is full, the cat flap is unlocked, and the bed is warm, she's happy. She doesn't care what you think of her. She doesn't the sweat the big things in life like whether it's too cold to go out hunting. If it makes her happy, she'll go and do it.

So what can we, as humans, learn from cats in order to make us happier?

Love Yourself First
It's been said a million times but cats love themselves more than the love us. They were once worshipped as gods and have never forgotten this. Putting yourself first is a priority. If you don't then you can quickly become run down, sick, overloaded, and stressed. Take time out for yourself. Read a book (with or without a cat trying to read it with you). Take a long bath. Sleep for however long you want to sleep.

Sleep is Beautiful
Crumpet loves a good sleep, and so should you. Cats will rest whenever they wish, and there's a valuable lesson in that. When you're tired, sleep. Don't force yourself to stay awake because it's not “bed time”. Cats teach us that every minute is a potential time to have a sleep. If your body is exhausted then it's trying to tell you something. Hop in to bed and have a snooze no matter what the hour is.

Conquer Your Fears
When winter rolls around, one of Crumpet's favourite places is on top of the boiler. It's not an easy area to access yet she's worked out how to reach it. If your fears are holding you back there's no way that you'll reach the places you want to go. Facing whatever scares you is one of the most important things you can do to help yourself progress in life. And if at first you don't succeed then keep on trying. Just because it didn't work out the first time doesn't mean that it won't work out on the second, third, or fourth time.

Bury It

If something is getting you down, take a leaf from the Book of Cat and bury it. Bury it and walk away. Sure, our emotional and psychological pain is far greater than whatever the cat's burying but the principle is the same. They're getting rid of the waste in the lives and walking away, forgetting about it in the process. We can do the same, whether it's mentally or physically. On the physical plane, you can can write a letter of the things that you wish to eject from your life and then bury it in your garden. If you don't have a garden, tearing it up and tossing it in the rubbish also works. The physical task of letting these things out and disposing of them is a great relief.

Be like Crumpet. Be sassy, classy, and a little bit badassy. And fill your life with warm sunbeams, deep beds, and good food.


Posted in memory of Crumpet's sister, Pickle (aka Little Picklelilly).


Friday, 21 April 2017

The Wish is Drawn Inside



On my left wrist is a black rubber bracelet that a friend gave to me. It looks like any number of the different designs that you can buy. This particular one is printed with the name of a band and acts as a semi-permanent reminder that life only happens when you get up and do something about it.

Like any musician, the person who the band belongs to is desperate to get their music out there. However, despite numerous offers of help, they refuse to do anything, instead leaving the band to linger through a slow and painful death.

My friend, who had the wristbands printed for the band, has helped this person on a number of occasions. Yet, despite the financial help, late night phone calls, early morning text messages, and everything in between, the only thing this person remembers is the one thing that my friend hasn't done for them as opposed to the wealth of jobs that she's already undertaken for them.

No matter how much advice and help that was offered, this person continued to complain about the things that people hadn't done for them. They complained about their life, their lack of money, the competition from other bands, the lack of interaction on their social media accounts, and venues that wouldn't call them back. At no point, did they look at themselves and say, “Okay, what can I do to get where I want to be?”. Instead, they relied purely on their looks to help them get through life. Sadly, that isn't enough.

The people around you aren't always going to help you get to where you want to be. They're not going to help you achieve your dreams. Sure, they'll walk the path with you. They'll share your highs and your lows. If you support them in their endeavours, they'll support you in yours. But the only person who can make anything happen in your life is you. Only you have the power to stand up and start working on what will get you to the top of your game.

It takes real grit, and a lot of heart, to keep following your dreams especially when the going gets tough. Sitting back on your heels and complaining about the life that you currently have isn't going to help you to change anything. You have to be the proactive one. You have to assess the situation and see what you can do in order to achieve your goals. There are so many tools out there to help you. All you have to do is look (or ask someone. But don't rely on them too heavily to help you reach your dreams. If they give you a helping hand, turn around and offer them one in return).

To paraphrase my friend, unless you get off your arse and work on your dreams you'll forever be stuck with the life that you don't want.


The moral of this story? Get up. Work hard. And keep on going. Because you don't know what's going to be at the top of the mountain.


Sunday, 2 April 2017

New Beginnings



Spring is a beautiful time of the year. The days get longer and the weather becomes warmer as the world eases its way out of another winter. Around us, plants and flowers begin to grow again, new leaves and petals unfurling from branches and stems. Parks and gardens become a riot of colour and we begin to feel better.

This fresh, new season can also be seen as a time for ourselves to be reborn. Often we struggle with ourselves. We see ourselves as unchangeable, as people who must stay the same from one day to the next. We carry baggage from years previously, refusing to let it go because it's the only thing we know. That baggage, whether its the ghosts of past relationships or the hooks of a previous job that have become buried beneath our skin, feels like it defines us. It feels like that's all that we have to offer to the world and that nothing we can do will change that.

But, like the flowers that are starting to sprout, we too can decide to shed the darkness of winter and leave our old lives behind. We can become new people, reborn in to a brand new world.

There are so many quotes that relate to this evolution:

Every day is a new day.

Every day is a new chapter.

Every day is a chance to start over.

Every morning starts with a new page.

Each morning we are born again.

That's because every day is a chance to start over. It's a chance to shed the skin of the person that you once were and become the person that you want to be. You're not confined by your job title, relationship status, social media profile, or medical issues. You are a person who can choose to change their life. Your life probably won't change over night but, like the coming of spring, you go through the slow process of changing a little something every day. Finally, at some point in the future, you will find yourself in the place that you want to be.

Don't allow yourself to become inhibited by the person you believe that you are (or the person that you believe you should be). Don't allow yourself to be imprisoned by the thinking of others whether that's friends, family, or the media. Don't allow yourself to believe what people tell you about living your life. Most importantly, don't give up, no matter how hard the process may seem.

Instead, allow yourself to grow and flourish. Let the petals of your life uncurl and live your life your way.


Saturday, 4 March 2017

Inspirational Interview - Tommy Odetto



Chasing your dreams is an act of bravery that so many people take. Staring them in the face and not knowing whether the outcome will be what you see in your mind is the risk that you have to take. Every day, people around the world take that deep breath and whisper to themselves, “I'm going to do this.”. Those voices that speak to your soul can become so overwhelming that they're painful. And they keep talking and talking until you have no option but to listen.

I've been blessed to meet some incredible people over the years. Dreamers and risk takers, people who've given up everything to listen to their heart and go for it. They serve as an inspiration for when the fear of failure begins to rise.

Tommy Odetto is one of those people, a man whose music is so beautiful that it makes you wonder if it's created in a place that's not of this Earth. Like so many others, he's chasing his dreams and knitting them into a wonderful reality.

Hi, Tommy! Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about who you are and where you're from.

Hello! My name is Tommy Odetto. I'm 28 years old, and I'm born and raised in beautiful Northern California. Little about me? I'm a music freak. I love music. I live to play guitar, write songs, and sing. As well as listening and just enjoying music in a daily basis! I like meeting new people, good food, and good movies.

Young Tommy

What first prompted you to pick up a guitar and start playing?

My best friend Pat, and some older family members of friends I was introduced to the music of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Eric Cream, and it literally felt like a beautiful spell was cast on me. I knew I was going to dedicate the rest of my life playing music upon hearing that.


Who are your musical influences?

I'm a Beatles freak. They're my all time favorite. I have and do, study their music a lot. Their music is the tapestry to my life pretty much!

The first time ever in my life where music really hit me was watching early footage of Elvis Presley on The Ed Sullivan Show. It just gave me the chills as a kid, and I immediately started dressing and combing my hair like Elvis from age 8-10 years old about. That opened the door to all 50's Rock and Roll. I loved Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, and guys like that. I also loved all Pop from late 50's early 60's. My dad always listened to The Everly Brothers, British Invasion groups, Motown, Bobby Darin. Great stuff like that was my first exposure to music that really moved me.

Now I love so much stuff. I love all music. I love Blues, Jazz, Indian music, Classical, 60s Pop, Rock and Roll from every period. Anything heartfelt and good!


Creative people don't tend to have “typical” days. Some have set routines while others just go with the flow. What's a day in the life of a musician like? Do you stick to a routine? Or do you see what happens?

Haha! Yes I'm all over the place. I'm a total night owl. Always have been. I love writing and creating at night and into the wee hours. I'm sure other professional musicians are a lot more organized. I'd forget my guitar if I actually put it down once in a while.

At Conejo Valley Days 2016

Your life story, as documented on your website, is one that so many creative people can relate to. How do you feel that your life has set you up for the road that you're on now? At what point did you know the exact path that you wanted to take in life?

Wow good question. Well first I have to say I'm beyond blessed to have parents that believed in me, and knew music was my destiny as much as I did. Secondly, growing up in Fairfax, California with some of the most talented musicians around. Fairfax has really courted me as a community, and help me develop my skills as a musician no doubt.

With all of that said, There's also been a lot of trying times, and still are challenges. I mean, I really believe music chose me. I didn't have a choice. The passion was so strong, is so strong, that my heart would never let me veer off that track, even for a second. That doesn't always fit in with day to day realities, but I knew, and know that it's what I need to do on this earth, so you figure it out! I took a leap of faith, and never turned back from day one, and I've been lucky to get some really great opportunities so far.

Music is your passion and your life. Do you find that there's anything in particular that inspires you? Are there any particular themes or lyrical images that you find yourself returning to?

Yes! Anything that moves me. Whether it's a song that gets my juices going, or just life occurrences, and going through the things that you experience in life. It's all about real emotion thought. If something moves me, that's all I need.



Your songs are beautiful and I implore anyone to go and listen. How do you feel about the 21st Century music industry? Is there a big difference between good and bad days?

Thank you so much. Another good question. Honestly, at least in what's big in the mainstream, is garbage. Total garbage. Not everything, but most. The biggest thing for me is a lot of it is ego based. How much swag they have, how cool they are. It disgusts me. Artists like Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, The Beatles and people like that, were about lifting people up. Their music was real. Humanity poured out of them. Opened people's hearts up. Changed people's lives. That's why great art, and artists are all about. Real true emotion.

Today's artists I see are no different then a Pepsi commercial. Not to mention, artist originality, songwriting, production is pretty sophomoric. At least to me. To be a major recording artist in the 30s 40s and 50s, you truly had to have something really special to offer. You had to truly be a great artist. That's the gold standard for me. All of the old stuff. Whether it's Benny Goodman, or Brian Wilson.


For anyone who hasn't heard you before, how would you describe your music?

Rock music that's basically a combination of everything I like! Definitely some Blues, and Funk in there too.


At the 2016 Conejo Valley Days you fulfilled one of your dreams. Please tell us about that and how it made you feel.

What a day that was. I still think about almost everyday. It was truly magical, and I'm so grateful. For those that don't know, I made YouTube video that it was my dream to jam with Dave Grohl. Luckily, and amazingly, it reached his attention. Through a couple of very special people to me, I was booked for CVD. We met backstage and he was really nice, really complementary, and just such a gentleman. On stage, it was such a rush, and it didn't fully hit me until after the performance. But in a way, I felt like I was jamming with the big brother I never had. It was one of the best days of my life.



You're currently running a crowdfunding campaign. What's it for? And what will the end product be?

Thank you for asking. I've been given the opportunity to record an EP, at Foo Fighters' private studio and Headquarters, Studio 606. Long time Grohl collaborator, and Producer of Foo Fighters/Nirvana, Barrett Jones, agreed to Produce the EP. We will be recording on the Neve Console that was documented in the Grohl documentary, "Sound City". Nirvana recorded "Nevermind" on this console, among countless other landmark albums. We still have a ways to go, and you can donate here! https://www.gofundme.com/tommy606


Some people find crowdfunding to be very easy, while others struggle with it. How are you finding the process?

Interesting question. I find it to be quite a challenge in a lot of ways. It's a daily thing. Checking in with everyone, thanking everyone who's donated, making sure you get rewards to those who are owed them. It's a complete leap of faith, but I'm constantly moved by how many have stepped up to back me. So no, I don't find it easy!


Every recording studio is different, each having qualities that others don't. You've chosen to record your next project at Studio 606. Is there a reason for choosing that particular studio?

Yes! The Neve recording Console! Great room! Great engineers!

Bar the project that you're currently crowdfunding for, if you could have one other dream come true, which one would it be and why?

Be the opening act on tour with Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Or Clapton!! On tour with my heroes would be amazing!


Do you have a personal motto that you live by?

The only thing standing between you, and your dreams, is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself.

2017 - Photo by Rich W Chapman

What advice would you give to someone who's chasing their dreams?

Giving up is not an option.


Finally, where can find you, and your music, online?


You can donate to Tommy's 606 Recording Dream at: