Conversations with my younger self

an old photo showing a young Bransby (early 20s I think) on stage at possibly the Highbury Garage Bransby on stage at (possibly) the Highbury Garage some time in the early 2000s

I wrote my first song when I was 18, I'm 46 now and have written a lot more. In those early days I knew nothing about recording and production and very little about the names of chords. I would hand write lyrics onto an A4 pad, play around with chord structures I couldn't name and eventually come up with a song. Consequently there are old songs that were never recorded, rarely played live and that only exist lyrically on faded bits of paper and musically in my memory. Some of them occasionally reappear in my head to remind me that there was a hook, a lyric, a chord change that was worth remembering. That's happened recently with a song originally called One Chance. I dug out the scrappy bit of paper with the lyrics (written in fountain pen for some unfathomable reason) and tried to remember the chords. Much of it came back to me quite easily, I'd struggle to tell you what I did last Thursday but I can remember songs from decades ago with little difficulty. This has led to a new puzzle for me. It's a song of youthful exuberance (I reference being 19 in the lyrics), optimism and a sense of invincibility and it feels weird to the point of wrongness to sing those lyrics now. The last 27 years have not left me unscathed and I simply don't feel that way or think like that anymore. I'm re-writing it. I'm figuring out a way to respect the original intention and spirit whilst acknowledging with every achy joint that I am not 19 anymore. It's like a conversation between 19 year old Bransby and 46 year old Bransby, fortunately we still seem to be getting on ok.

Bees In My Head is scheduled for release towards the end of April, we're still finalising the artwork but it should be heading into the distributor shortly. Watch this space.

What do you do all day?!

I've finished two songs in the last week. Bees In My Head is complete and ready to upload to my website, Bandcamp and all streaming services, I'm just finalising the artwork and will get it uploaded. Andre Louis, my friend who has collaborated with me on Bees In My Head, is blind and has made it perfectly clear to me that he doesn't give a toss about the artwork, which is completely understandable, nevertheless I need artwork to submit the song to streaming services. Another friend who goes by Design Mechanic is helping me with it, I'm reliably informed that it involves AI, which is exciting.

I had some extra time off work so have recorded and finalised another song, Someone Else's Wife, which is an old song I've revisited and turned into a vocal-lead synthwave track about driving and adultery. Watch this space for more on that!

Couch to 5k

an x-ray of my right leg showing extensive metal work after a climbing fall

Yesterday I did my first run in the Couch to 5K training programme. As someone who has run several half marathons and a couple of marathons this felt a bit weird, the photo above explains why I am where I am. I'm generally fairly active but the last 8 months have seen a drastic reduction in those activities while I recovered from a climbing fall and the subsequent injury and surgery. I've signed up to do a sprint triathlon at the end of May which involves a 5km run. Given that a few weeks ago I couldn't run at all, this is perhaps a little ambitious, but it's a goal.

Last weekend I attended Storyhouse Women, my partner Dawn is on the steering committee and it's a fantastic event. One of the sessions I attended was called "Why it's ok to be a bit more medium" that was devised and chaired by the exceptional Molly Naylor, who is a brilliant writer, poet and I'm pleased to say, a mate of mine. The session looked at what it means to face the constant pressure to "smash" everything, to be exceptional, to give 110% etc. etc. It resonated very strongly with me. I'm creative, I make music, I play gigs, I entertain people. I feel under constant pressure, almost entirely from myself, to be better at it, to play more gigs, release more songs, get more listeners on Spotify (I have hardly any to be fair) get more streams. Molly's session was a brilliant opportunity to ask myself "is that pressure helping me, is it making me happy?". It's a question I've asked a lot in recent years, particularly in the face of some fairly serious mental health problems, and the answer is usually "no". I love making music, I love performing music, I hate self-promotion and I hate feeling under pressure or obliged to do something, even if it's something I love doing. When it comes to music I'm trying hard to just enjoy it, to lift that pressure and lean in to the love of it. I'm facing varying degrees of success, my focus on what goes wrong at gigs, rather than what goes right, is still there, and it spoils my enjoyment of live performance, but I'm aware of it, and I'm working on it. I'm feeling guilty about not having made much progress on my latest song, my friend Andre has provided some brilliant drum/percussion work for it, but it's still nowhere near finished and that's down to me. Rather than feeling pressured to do it though I'm concentrating on looking forward to working on it, what we've got so far does sound great!

So I'm not going to "smash" this sprint triathlon at the end of May. I'm going to try my best to complete it. Doing Couch to 5K has made me realise that one person's warm up run is another person's unachievable dream. Running 5km again will be a huge achievement in itself given how bad my climbing injury was. I also have no intention of getting into triathlons, my last marathon was enough to tell me I'm not an endurance athlete. I want to get my fitness back, but mainly so I can go climbing again, this time with a lot more focus on not falling off.

Life beyond music

a photo of exposed ceiling joists in my lounge that I'm about to re-board

Sometimes I go a little quiet on social media and there can be many reasons for this. Sometimes I just have nothing to say and honestly, I think if more people didn't post on social media when they had nothing to say social media would probably be better. Sometimes I'm struggling with my mental health, posting chirpy shit on the socials when you're in the depths of crippling depression is challenging to say the least! Then sometimes I'm just busy with other stuff. I have a full time job, other hobbies, and I do a fair bit of DIY around the house. This week I'm re-decorating my lounge which has involved replacing the entire ceiling and, for those that know my lounge, I am sorry to say the disco wall is going.

Having said all that the music is never far behind, my good friend Andre Louis has provided some excellent drums/percussion for my new track which I'm still working on. Echochamber have been busy practising for our Cornerhouse gig at the beginning of March and I'm back at Chester Market this Saturday for another solo acoustic gig, so maybe see you there.

Backbeat Driver

a photo taken from the seat of a drum kit looking at Rick White and Bransby practising at Faktory rehearsal rooms

Work continues on my new song Bees In My Head but I thought I'd just mention Echochamber, the fantastic covers band I am in. This photo was taken by the exceptional Darren Hayes and shows his view of a recent practice session at Faktory rehearsal rooms. We're gearing up for our next gig at Cornerhouse which is on March 1st. Echochamber started out as a multi-instrumental acoustic duo, but we've expanded to 3 members now with Darren as our drummer and may be joined by a secret guest vocalist at our Cornerhouse gig! Watch this space...

Mental Health and Creativity – Episode 2

Well it's taken a while but we've finally uploaded another episode of our series on mental health and creativity. This is following up on our first episode which looked at the gory details of my mental health breakdown and the aftermath. In this episode we look at the various treatments I've gone through to help improve things and how they've impacted my singing, songwriting and live performance. You can find the first episode on my Youtube channel.

One for the music nerds…

image of a Kemble upright piano with the top open, 3 microphones used, 2 Rhode NT5s and one U87 I'm continuing to work on my latest track Bees In My Head. I've recorded some finger-picked acoustic guitar and am now working on piano and bass. For those interested this is my setup for recording the piano. I have a matched pair of Rhode NT5 mics, I have them panned left and right an pointing close to the strings being played almost inside the body of the piano. I then position a Neumann U87 slightly above the piano to capture some ambience. All 3 are going directly into my SSL Big 6 USB audio interface and mixer.
image showing channel strips on an SSL Big 6 audio interface, shows pre-amp, EQ and compression settings

I add some very light EQ and compression as they go in but otherwise leave the tone relatively untouched. I'll usually do some more very slight EQing and compression when it comes to mixing and there's likely to be some delay and reverb in the final mix too but generally speaking I try and keep things fairly clean as the piano itself has a really nice sound.

I've also recorded some bass so the track is starting to fill out, I have most of the lyrics written but not necessarily in the final order yet. An old friend, who happens to be an unbelievable musical talent, recently reached out to me after finding my TikTok account and has suggested we collaborate on a track. I'm very excited about this because he's brilliant, I'm going to export some of these initial recordings and send them to him to see what he can bring. Watch this space for more info as it emerges!

Happy New Year!

EMG pickups in a Jazz style bass

Happy New Year! I've celebrated this festive season with the age-old tradition of upgrading the pickups in my bass! I've had a "Westfield" bass for as long as I can remember now, it cost roughly £80 several decades ago and has never provided the best tone a bass could give. I've bought an EMG solder-less pick-up and control plate upgrade and it's now sounding fairly decent. My recent releases of One Night Stand and Get Into My Jeans were recorded using my friend Rick's very nice Fender Jaguar bass and his Ashdown bass amp which made a huge difference to the bass tone, while I'm not quite there with my upgrade it should make some difference on my next recording.

Speaking of next recordings, I'm working on a new song at the moment. It's called Bees In My Head and it's a cheery little number exploring my struggles with anxiety and depression. Seriously, it is quite upbeat, it's a waltz, although lyrically it's a bit grim. I've got some acoustic guitar recorded already and am hoping to work on some piano today. I would like to get it released in January but it can take some time for tracks to get into all the streaming services, so this may be one that appears on my website and Bandcamp sooner than on streaming services. I'll keep you updated!

Don't forget that Better Than Thiswhich was released just before Christmas, is on all streaming services now.