In 2006 I made a big decision to quit my lawyer job to leave to Ireland a few months later with only a guitar and a backpack to explore the unknown, knowing there should be more out there! I knew for sure I loved music as I was playing some local festivals already (see pics, Haagse Bos Summertime Festival 2006). A friend helped me with moving all my belongings into a storage space since I also had given up my apartment. Some belongings weren’t suitable to move into the storage, like my five guitars and two large plants, so I stalled them at friends’ houses. The friend who helped me moving at the time suddenly texted me a picture last week of the plant he still looks after! That one pic of the plant brought back so many memories of the packing up time and just going blindly for my passions. Like suddenly meeting the younger me again.
It’s mainly in our teens and twenties that we dare to take big steps without much thought. Gathering experiences we tend to think longer about everything, or we often reconsider decisions we already made. Even though I can still fall into the habit of searching for ‘serious’ jobs at times, I never ever regretted that decision to leave, It was the best experience ever. Second guessing ourselves (I love the word, we don’t have it in Dutch) can be a very bad habit and a sign of perfectionism. Trusting our gut feelings and daring to go with them often brings us into the best situations. That old plant of mine reminded me of that in many positive ways this week. And it’s even better that it’s a growing plant, and not just a thing….
What are the biggest decisions you have ever taken for your life course? And do you recognize the bad habit of second guessing your decisions? Even if you do sometimes: never give up believing in your dreams!
Of all the skills one can have music is a very handy one to make money on the road whereever you are. I first encountered this source of freedom while busking in Europe. Lateron all my ‘holidays’, visits home and many many times back to Ireland, turned into tours. It’s a great way to reduce travel costs. Sometimes a lot of work though: working out gig schedules, hotel arrangements, borrowing or hiring sound systems on location, organising transport, sorting gig posters and press releases on location. Oh and then actually doing it haha! Despite the sometimes very luxurious hotels with spa’s and swimming pools, it’s still work and especially doing all of it solo can be a tough one. I have great respect for people touring all year round. After all these travels over the years I always love being able to just cycle to gigs and then cycling home again!
Part of being a musician is that you have to get out there. Yesterday I was chatting to a musician friend who is on the road fulltime all year and lives from touring only and I asked how he is able to keep that up. He replied his motivation is not the music in the first place but the people he meets on the road. And that music is just a channel to reach them! Beautifully said!
Any practical advice for touring musicians? Always book an extra airplane seat for your guitar so you don’t have to worry about airport staff taking it from you at the gates and it getting damaged in the hold. When booking with low cost airlines it usually works out cheaper than the musical instruments ‘check in fee’ for the hold. Mine is called ‘Mr Guitar’ on the boarding passes! And I couldn’t think of any better reliable and agreeable travel companion.
Anyway, I’m off to look at the organisation of another trip. Got an invite for Vienna this winter. Let’s see which new people I will meet out there! Where are you heading to this summer?
At the age of 17 I moved to Maastricht to study European Law & Language Studies. Specialising in Dutch Administrative Law I hoped to realise my idealistic ideas in environmental law. In my Master thesis I researched legal ways to differentiate a ‘public property’ of common goods from private property. Shortly after I was offered a student-assistentship teaching all first year Bachelor subjects in Maastricht University.
At 22 I was sworn as an Attorney at one of the bigger law firms in The Netherlands. I enjoyed the intensive work experience, but something was missing: time to breathe after all these years of studying, and time for my big passion: music!I decided to give up my job and home to leave to Ireland with only a backpack and a guitar.
I have worked as a singer/composer, recording artist, guitar/vocal coach, tour organiser and promotor of events since. I am lucky to have shared the stage with national and international artists like Tim Akkerman, Perry Blake and The Dubliners. I have supported my music with several PA/PR/teaching positions in international environments. It’s been an exciting ride over the years, back to the essentials of it all having lived on a farm in the ‘middle of nowhere’, and overcoming health struggles en route. A crazy adventure!
Besides giving concerts I love inspiring people in their own careers, having a diverse experience in two different worlds. I offer coaching sessions and vocal workshops to spark your inner voice.
We all know the world is a small place and it’s possible to bump into people you don’t expect now and then. However, in 2009 I was on a Ryanair flight from Ireland to Holland (and I’ve been on many!!!) when I got chatting to a friendly Dutch couple from Brabant and even sold them a CD on board. And this weekend, 10 years later, I was on stage when two hikers at Bloesemtocht festival (Betuwe) came up to me and asked if I could be the girl they had met on board of that plane….They were as much surprised as I was. Such a small world!!
It can be nice when sudden meaningful encounters like that suddenly put you back into a feeling you had back in the days. Certain smells or songs can have the same effect. You suddenly feel like the old version of yourself, different from just thinking back about it. One also always ends up wondering how such a coincidence is even possible.
I do have many more examples. One of the craziest was when I moved to Maastricht to study when I was 17 and I was writing the lyrics of a song I wrote with a friend on a big poster to put on the wall of my new room, when said friend in The Hague phoned me she was just painting same lyrics of same song to her wall in her room! So weird!
Have you ever encountered stuff like this? Like thinking of someone you haven’t spoken to in a good while when this person suddenly phones? I’m excited to hear your examples. Do you believe it’s pure coincidence of that there is a reason for it happening, like energies being connected? Curious to hear from you!
When I was a student one of my many acoustic music projects was singing harmonies with some friends. We sometimes jokingly called this ‘music therapy’. I don’t know what happens exactly in terms of sound frequencies, but singing harmonies certainly has an amazing healing effect on body and mind.
Over the past years I have been lucky to sing some live duets with several music colleagues. You will find several recordings on YouTube. In some cases it had the exact same effect: listening, grasping those lines from somewhere in the universe and just singing them. It can be a very spiritual experience. Everything feels whole then. I am so happy I had the same experience this week again singing with a dear musical friend. I will hopefully be able to share some recordings soon!
When I teach singing lessons I sometimes get back from students that they find singing more relaxing than yoga! Well breathing out deeply from the belly during singing certainly calms down high breathing, hyperventilation and anxiety, so it has great effects, giving confidence and strength.
Do you have any similar experiences singing duets or in a choir? Let me know if you find singing so healing aswell! Or join in with me for a vocal workshop! By the way, have you seen the Swedish movie As it is in Heaven? A great movie about the effects of harmonizing and the immense freeing power of singing your own voice out loud!
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!
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!!