Session culture: let’s get together!

This weekend I was reminded of probably the most important lesson I learnt over my years working as a musician in Ireland: be social and collaborate! It’s something that’s often forgotten in Dutch individualistic culture where some people seem to be overfocussed on their own careers and results. And musicians can be the worst here!

I found this very different in Ireland on all social fronts: neighbours helping each other out with gas heaters in cold winters when needed, my landlord telling me he didn’t want me to pay the rent the month after the company I worked for went out of business. I saw some famous musicians still making music for fun in corners of pubs, and helping each other to set up gigs, lending out sound systems etcetera. Not really making a difference between buskers and festival musicians. Probably a remainder of the traditional session culture.

This weekend it was St Patrick’s Day and Luuk Lenders and I were spontaneously joined by a very talented wellknown artist from New Zealand Graeme James on violin and mandolin during. It was such a great contribution to the gig! Now if he were Dutch he might not have offered to. A lot can be learnt from the folk session culture. Put your egos aside: let’s share our talents, don’t go too low when negotiating gig deals, and make the music scene a better place. Because in the end: the music is bigger than us!

Relationships or freedom?

The past week relationships seemed to be a hot topic for discussion amongst quite a few people around me, both those with and without them. One who is fully settled with kids, another one desperately searching for one, seeing it as the highest goal, both not fully happy in their situation.

I’m neither one of these categories, but I still enjoy philosophizing on the topic. Also two guys tried to convince me I cannot be fully happy without a relationship. Truth is I enjoy being single. I have liked the freedom of being single for the bigger time of my life! I like spending time home alone, going on trips alone. The freedom to organise my own time, to not have any expectations of someone ‘waiting for me’. I am never bored either. And maybe I just haven’t met the person I would put all of that aside for.

In our ‘dating generation’ first obstacle is to figure out what someone is looking for, casual meetups, something more, a relationship. Maybe that’s the problem, that often we seem to expect we’re all looking for the same, while we’re not, and often we don’t know ourselves. Still we expect we are all looking to settle with kids in something long term in the end, and being single is just some sort of ‘in between situation’. But is it realistic or feasible in this era of flex jobs, flex housing, flex relationships? Definitely not for all of us. Let me just write another love song so….yeah for you yeah, the rare expection to my rules!

 

Busking

When I was a teenager, me and a friend of mine would take a bus from The Hague to Cologne in the middle of a snowy winter to play there on the streets for the Christmas markets. That must have been my first experience with busking. It wasn’t untill a few years later that I found out that one could actually make decent money with it. As a law student I joined a Spanish troubadour group in Maastricht. With this folk music group of girls, dressed in traditional Spanish costumes with long capes, we would travel Europe, and play Spanish folk music on the streets and restaurants of Aachen, Paris, Sevilla and many more places! I have great memories performing at the bottom of the stairs of Montmartre in Paris. With traditional instruments like bandurria, mandolin and pandareta we managed to pay for our own and our instruments’ travels  all the way to Andalusia…

Lateron I always carried my guitar on extra plane seats in Europe, on buses to hostels in Ireland, on ferries, in the boot of rental cars. It came in handy many times and always lead to pleasant encounters, and even selling CD’s on the plane haha! My guitar has seen many places and streets of Europe, from Avignon to Venice, and joined me on several hitchhiking adventures! Oh and even some busking festivals!

Playing on the streets in Ireland, I was given money by one of the Westlife singers, invited to play during a book launch event, leading to meetings with TV producers. It always brought in fun opportunities. It’s a great way to travel as a musician when you don’t have gigs lined up. Even though live gigs are much easier money and not as weather dependent, they also need a lot more organisation, arranging sound systems, promotion etc etc. Busking gives a lot of freedom!

I have great respect for people who actually live and work that way, in the cold and rain, completely in the moment. We still do it for fun now and then after gigs, often on Noordeinde for St Patrick’s Day The Hague. Or two years ago as a warmup before our Paradiso concert on the streets of Amsterdam! Such a nice contrast with the vibes and amazing sound system of the big hall!!

Strange places to call home

When I left my apartment in The Hague in 2007 to go on a journey, I moved all my belongings to a storage box, to leave to Ireland with only a backpack and a guitar. First to do environmental voluntary work in a national park, where I stayed in a beautiful park rangers cottage in the woods for a while. After some travels I lived in a house on the West coast with beautiful ocean views, later a farmhouse on a big ranch in the middle of nowhere, a room above a studio from a musician I collaborated with, but also on the couch at a pregnant friend’s home who was giving birth same night haha, so many adventures!!

One of the lessons I learnt there is that it can feel so good to rely on people. Usually here in the city we lead individualistic lives, and we’re proud of our independence. It can be seen as a nuisance when people ask for help or a favor, but actually it’s something really nice as it binds trust and friendships in society in so many ways. I think our lifestyles are often too independent in fact, while we have so much to share!

A few very musical years later, after I returned to Holland, I lived in the surf village FAST (Free Architecture Surf Terrain) in Scheveningen for half a year, a place that some of you might know, a seaside surfer community built of sea containers!! I lived in the coloured THINK FAST container right on the beach! Sometimes pretty cold in the morning to walk over the terrain to the shower…

FAST was a very cool creative hub, with a restaurant where I worked, a surf shop and a hostel and campsite for tourists. Plus, there was a lot of music everywhere, campfires, and festivals and events! Always something fun to find, even when you stay in the strangest places! I met a few of my best friends there!

I love having my own place now, but those were very valuable experiences. Have you lived in interesting locations? What were your experiences?

Meditation 

I’m not really the ‘sex, drugs & rock ‘n roll‘ kind of musician. As a morning person I love my early nights, and the rest of my lifestyle is way too healthy for it aswell. More the ‘sex, sports & meditation’ type, if I had still to name some instant feel good remedies haha. When we think too much it can be so nice to get out of the head and back into our bodies!

Meditation is something that really works for me that way. It puts me back in touch with my intuition and the way my body feels about things, instead of only listening to my brain. That way it’s easier to trust in the flow of life, to realise my dreams, not being held back by fear of restrictive thoughts. I especially like the kundalini yoga ‘kirtan kriya’ meditation, maybe because it’s a sung mantra.

Singing can have the exact same effects. Same as with meditation it brings down breathing to the lower belly and it can feel like a big release of emotions. I have started teaching some vocal workshops and breathing exercises again this month and I love doing it!

We are trained as kids to develop our brains by learning so many school subjects, but not a whole lot about our emotions and feelings. After graduating in law I really felt I was missing out on that part, and that was one of the reasons I felt really strongly I wanted to travel and focus on music and singing. Tap into the feeling side of things!

Our bodies sometimes know better what’s up than we do ourselves! Do you listen to your body and your intuition? Which ways do you use to connect with it? And how has it helped you? Maybe try some singing?!

Love & lyrics

It being Valentine’s week and the air brimming with spring vibes, it would be strange not to dedicate a post to the topic of love. That’s what music is about for the larger part in the end.

My songwriting ‘career’ started at the age of 16, being madly in love with someone, leading to my first song with the most basic teenage lyrics: I’m crazy about you, so I’ll sing you a song. I love you forever, ’cause I love you the most. And some prophecies in one of the older tunes Last Time about same guy: Thousand years ahead this man will meet his wife, will he sing her that song that he sang for me?  By the way, I still speak to this person. They tried to let it go, to run away from there, they tried to forget it all…

I’ve always loved this feeling of romantic love, where you can really long deeply for someone, without having to take immediate action. It’s probably because I’ve also always really enjoyed my own company. I love spending time alone and the complete freedom to fill in my time as I want. I’m picky and it’s rare enough, but when I fall in love, I really do, and that often leads to new inspiration. Untill it ends… I hear the falling pieces, pieces of goodbyes. I hear the echo turning, turning on the light (Echoes in the Night) 

Speaking about lyrics, I also really enjoy listening to other artists’ song lyrics. I even keep a favourite song lines list! Which song lines are your favourites? I wish you a spring full of love!

Show me one man who knows his own heart
To him I shall belong (Jewel, Kiss the Flame)

 

Fearless

What would you do if you woke up tomorrow morning without any fears? Would you leave your job to go travelling? Would you phone the love of your life to declare him or her your feelings? Go for that super job that you always wanted? Buy the dream house? Start your own business? Take out that bucket list of experiences? Try this new hobby or sport? Ditch those addictions to become the best version of yourself? And why are you not doing it yet?

Quite possibly you tell yourself you don’t really desire any of these things so badly anyway and that you’re happy staying in your own comfortzone.  Fear and ‘not really wanting to’ tend to get mixed up in the mind. Well in my mind at least!

It’s interesting that in some situations we know very well what we want and we don’t hesitate. Like when I had surgery almost two years ago and I wasn’t sure of my health situation at all I became VERY focussed to use my time and money to record two CD’s. So the question is: would you still have the same hesitations to go for your dream if someone put a gun against your head or offered you a million euro’s if you would go for it?

It’s February already and 2019 is flying by. So it’s a good moment to check if you’re still heading where you want to go and where your own New Year’s resolutions are going. The moment is now! I’m excited to hear what little things you’re planning to do today to work towards your goals. Have a good Sunday!

 

Dreams and animals…

When I was a little kid, there was always one item on my birthday wish list: a Shetland pony. I’ve always loved animals: domestic pets but preferably the bigger ones, like donkey’s, horses and deer. I wanted to become a veterinarian in primary school. Maybe I should have!

Every autumn I love to go deer spotting in the woods in the East during the deer rut. And here in the dunes in my backyard I love watching the wild Galloway highland cattle.  I’ve even seen the birth of one of the baby cows! Last spring I went for a day hike with a donkey and I’m planning to do that again this summer. Connecting with our fellow friends is so grounding and healing to me. Must be my Sagittarius star sign!

One day I hope to live on a farm again where I can offer music, vocal coaching, meditation, inspiration workshops and….walks and coaching with animals! I even dreamt a very beautiful name for it already!

What are your dreams?

 

 

Me time

Wouldn’t it be interesting to see the world from someone else’s perspective for just one day! Have you ever done the Meyer-Briggs personality test?  I’m one of the visionary  type of people (ENFP), which means that my doing is driven by ideas and inner values.  I really need to feel the love for a project to be able to get anything done. But once I do…. Inspiration can fullfill me that much that it makes me feel in love!  And the other way around aswell….*sighs*….

In my experience people differ the most in the amount of “me time” they need. Some people need thrills all the time, and some people love spending time on their own.

Even though I love my thrills as a performer/entertainer, I’m definitely of the last category. I am a real country girl. I was born and raised in a smaller village and I didn’t move to The Hague till I was 11. One of the things I love about the countryside is just the amount of space and quietness it gives to think. My head is always so full of ideas and impulses that I need time to sort them. When I was a kid my parents even came up with an abbrevation for the Dutch words ‘time to herself’.

Probably one of the reasons I left my lawyer job at the time to escape The Hague to move to a farm in the wild west of Ireland! Wouldn’t that be boring? Not with a head like mine haha!

So which type are you? Are you self entertaining or do you prefer being entertained? Do you get restless of the idea of doing nothing for a weekend or would you just love it? Let me know!

 

 

Living on a budget

A friend of mine once told me I should start giving courses on ‘living on a budget’, because I always seem to be able to save money, even while on a lower budget. All people who work independently know that these tighter periods exist!! So, here we are! I’m sure many of you will have thought about the financial consequences of quitting a fulltime job to start your own business, to follow your passion, to go travelling or just to take a break from the rat race. Don’t think too much, just do it! As a lawyer who turned songwriter I have found out quite a bit about this, so let me share some tips and tricks…

So, I think the biggest challenge is to find a house that is affordable: in the form of alternative housing, house sharing or rent allowance. As soon as that is sorted, the remaining budget really depends on choices for other fixed costs. Apart from health insurance, do we really need insurances for all kinds of unlikely events? Is it possible to share Wifi with the neighbours? Do we need a TV? I love watching movies and series online! Can we get a cheap phone contract? Can we use public transport instead of owning a car, or maybe sharing one? Can we walk or cycle instead of driving? You will give yourself a free workout….plus it’s all better for the environment anyway!

You will see that you will then have quite a bit of money leftover after deduction of very limited fixed costs. I tend to spend it mostly on healthy food. I don’t go out much for drinks and food, as I find it’s usually better healthier quality when I cook myself. And I enjoy cooking. Of course I do have coffees now and then with friends, that is definitely a choice. I find it can be even more fun and relaxing to invite people at home, or bring a thermos flask and food while going for a walk or while taking a train. And again….it’s better for the environment saving all these plastic cups!

Another category is sports and hobbies: Pick a hobby that you only buy gear for once, and that is free afterwards, like surfing, skating, sea swimming, running, cycling. For myself: I love inline skating and I have a cheap contract at the gym.

Being sustainable when it comes to clothing is something I wrote about before. I loving buying affordable quality that will usually last for years! I love fashion and I have a big dress collection but I only add items like maybe twice a year because there is just plenty there anyway. Or try second hand stores. And again: better for the environment.

So do I sit at home all the time? Well I love spending time at home, as I’m a very homely person, but I travel aswell. Trick is to take advantage of offers, for public transport or otherwise. I don’t really want to promote it (not good for the environment at all, this one), but I bought flight tickets within Europe for as little as 20 return. I stayed at budget locations, holiday homes that I could rent of friends for little, and I made deals with 4 star hotels for free accomodation in return for gigs! To combine travels with paid gigs or other paid jobs is another good way to reduce costs ofcourse.

And I love spending time in our own little country. To go for hikes in the woods in the East of The Netherlands, to go to Maastricht for a day, and of course exploring all of nature The Hague has to offer. Saves a lot of hassle travelling. And should I say it again? Better for the enviroment!

Strangely I found that when I was working fulltime I felt a stronger urge to go spend all my money in the weekends, even on things I really didn’t need. I remember coming home with shoes I never wore and then just buying another pair. Such a waste! I still haven’t found out the psychology behind it, maybe it’s some form of happiness compensation? I don’t miss it anyway!

So what do you do to keep your budgetary costs low, to allow a lifestyle with more freedom? Have you even considered it at all? I’m excited to hear from you. For me this all has become so natural that it doesn’t feel restrictive at all. Quite the opposite in fact! I hope this whole story will make you a bit more aware next time you’re about to buy something you don’t really need! Enjoy the freedom you will get in return!