Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Counting Down to Flying Out!

Getting ready to leave the country when you only have three weeks to get sorted is no joke!

The last week or so we have been working incredibly hard to get everything straight so we can fly out to Madeira on the 25th of March.

I say we, I’ve been doing a lot of paperwork and Mr P has reacted the way he usually does when we have a lot to do on a tight schedule... ebay has seen a lot of action over the past few days!

But I think we’re slowly getting there. The worst part of all of this has been cancelling gigs that we already had in our diary. When your job is entertaining people the last thing you want to do is let them down. Luckily most people have been very understanding, while they’re disappointed they also understand that we need to think about our future and we can’t turn down this opportunity.

Unfortunately not everyone reacts in this way. One agent in particular was very rude to me when I rang them (never mind I was giving them plenty of notice of cancellation...). Apparently I should just be grateful that this particular agent had managed to find me a whole two gigs in the space of a year and had only charged me a 20% commission for the privilege (!). There are a lot of people out there willing to take the mick, luckily experience is starting to teach us who to trust.

I’m very excited to have this opportunity to take the thing I love and turn it into a viable career. It’s a chance that not many people get and I know how lucky I am. We’ve worked extremely hard for this opportunity grabbing at every chance we’ve had. We’ve taken on work that’s cost us money, we’ve travelled for miles to perform in strange little places and we’ve put our all into every single gig whether we’ve played to 20 or 200 people.

I would never pretend to really know what I’m doing and there has been a lot of luck in trying to make something like this work but I do have a few tips for anybody trying to do their own thing whether it’s music or anything else.

#1 Stay Professional

That means smiling, talking to everybody, no swearing, be on time, no drinking (unless it’s offered – then no going over the top). Always remember that you are representing yourself and your reputation. A good reputation is hard to come by and insanely easy to lose, don’t underestimate how important it is. Just because you have no boss to answer to doesn’t mean you can behave however you want.

#2 Perform

It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, whether you’re in a top class theatre or playing in a pub to 5 people, every person in the audience deserves a good show. You never ever know who’s watching.

#3 Greet everybody with a smile and a handshake... and be sure to say goodbye

This is something I learnt from my Mr P. When we were first together I admit it drove me insane (and still often does!), every time we tried to leave a venue it always took him at least half an hour. But over time I have learnt how important this gesture is. I’ve often complained about how musicians (particularly men) often ignore me in favour of Mr P. Greeting everybody with a handshake and a smile is a fantastic way to break the ice and make a brilliant first impression. This simple gesture can do you a lot of good.

#4 Be prepared to do a lot of hours.

Doing anything off your own back is always hard. It takes a lot of work and there is no one to delegate to. It’s not 9 till 5 hours. It will be on your mind constantly, you’ll dream about it, weekends will cease to have any meaning, holidays will only be times when you could be working. But, if you’re lucky, it’ll all turn into something good.

#5 Grab every opportunity.

Someone needs a keyboard player and you can only play campdown races? Agree to do it... There’s an open mic night and someone doesn’t really know the song? Get up and steal the mic off them... Everything is an experience and everything will help you on your way. If you feel self conscious or nervous then get over it... that may sound harsh but you don’t get anywhere by shaking on the sidelines. My first ever big gig as Connie Francis I agreed to do with only 5 days notice, I only knew half the songs, I didn’t have a dress and I had to buy a wig on my way to the theatre. It was terrifying, my wig almost fell off and the first song I sang was with mostly nonsense words... but I did it. After that performing as Connie didn’t feel so scary any more. Agree to do anything, you’re never going to get anywhere sat at home.

Finally... remember that it’s worth it.

That’s what I’m telling myself as I try to figure out how I’m going to pack everything up, sort all the paperwork and learn a silly amount of songs in the space of less than three weeks...

Mrs P

X x x x x x x x

Monday, 4 March 2013

We Made It

Once upon a time there was a girl named Kyla.

She lived an ordinary life with good friends and a happy – if occasionally slightly unusual – family. She went to University and met a boy; she studied Psychology and Deaf Studies and dreamt of becoming a teacher.

But life rarely works out according to plan.

While at University Kyla’s stepdad Dave died unexpectedly after a short, but brutal, illness. It was a huge shock and life-changing moment even if she wasn’t fully aware of it at the time. Her hard-working step-dad had been a huge part of forming Kyla’s character - always working to instil motivation and a considerable work ethic.  His sudden death at an age when he should have been starting to think about reaping the reward of his life spent working made Kyla re-think many aspects of her own future.

Determined to grab life by the balls Kyla graduated with a 2:1 degree only a year after the death of Dave. She spent a little time exploring New Zealand with money inherited from her beloved Grandma then returned, expecting her degree, intern work experience and voluntary work to ensure her a good job.

But the country Kyla returned to was changed. High levels of redundancies, increased cost of living and lack of entry level opportunities meant that Britain was not a good place to be a graduate. Time and time again Kyla was rejected for jobs due to a lack of experience that the public sector was in no hurry to provide. She was also ditched by the boyfriend and was sad for a while.... until she realised she could still be awesome without him. Eventually Kyla managed to find a job she loved working with children that she adored and she was happy.

However, this country appears determined to ensure that those who are highly qualified shy away from childcare. The pay for support staff in schools is horrendous and if you are newly graduated and dreaming of the day you can afford to live somewhere other than your old bedroom it’s nigh on impossible to live on. Kyla started to look for other work and courses but found nothing she could afford to do. She started to feel despondent and to give up on ever achieving anything in life. The sense that there had to be something more to life than this – something that had been developing ever since the death of Dave – became an uncontrollable itch.

That was when Kyla’s life was hit by an explosion of colour. A man, different to any other man she’d ever known, swept into her life like a whirlwind.

This man was like nothing she’d ever experienced. He sent her flowers before their second date and turned up at her house with boxes of cookies, picnic hampers, profiteroles, wine and steak. He serenaded her with guitar and double bass (a particular weakness...). If she cried he wiped away her tears with a handkerchief and she found it the single most endearing moment of her life.

Mr P changed her life with the ferocity like a hurricane and – for once – she found herself giving in. From being cautious, reticent and quietly alarmed, gradually Kyla found herself falling deeper and deeper in love with this crazy, sweet tornado of a man. When he proposed just outside the castle in Disneyland, Paris on their first anniversary it felt like perfection, their wedding exactly one year later was the frosting on the delicious cupcake.

Life wasn’t all plain sailing though. The itch to do something – anything – had intensified in Kyla. Although she adored her job working with special needs children she had become disillusioned with the lack of influence she held in her position and longed to do more.

That’s when Mr P first convinced her to give being a musician a go. She was wary but – not seeing any other options available – she agreed.

Her first show was the single most terrifying thing she had ever done. The weeks preceding it were filled with panic attacks, crises of confidence and constant tears. Somehow she survived the baptism of fire and threw herself into more no matter how scared she felt.

Unfortunately, in this business, there is no probation and sometimes those who are experienced forget what it took to get that way.  Kyla found it hard to deal with the constant rejections, the negative comments and the occasional outright hostility that working in the entertainment industry brings and her confidence took a nose dive.

Those who have followed this blog regularly knows what happened next.

Kyla accepted a job on a new show, worked incredibly hard and built her confidence to a stage where she finally felt OK in herself again. She quit her day job and got ready to throw herself into touring.

Then the inevitable happened... over a voicemail.

Broke, beaten down and rootless, Kyla didn’t know what to do.

But this time she wasn’t beaten. She knew that no matter how bad she felt in this moment she was going to get through.

That was when Kyla first picked up her red lipstick. She thought through everything she’d suffered over the past few years, she thought how much she’d love to crawl under a duvet.

Then she opened her lipstick and put it on.

Since that moment – almost 4 months ago Kyla has made it her mission to throw herself at life, whether life liked it or not.

She started endlessly promoting herself and Mr P as a musical duo, determined that no matter what they could always rely on each other. Their relationship grew and developed to a stage where they knew they could take on anything. They worked hard together touring the country, spending hours cooped up in an old Ford Transit travelling from gig to gig. There was frustration, exhaustion and endless doubt but they carried on working every single day, often performing for nothing in order to hone their act.

Kyla started writing, trying to post a blog as often as she could. She grew to know people in the vintage community and revelled in this new world. She tried Burlesque classes and presented a radio show. She was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis – a condition that causes great pain and makes her extremely tired and coped with it the way she copes with everything. She put on her lipstick.

Finally Kyla had learnt that fear is nothing.

Everyone in life has bad moments, some are worse than others. Some people suffer greatly, others are lucky. The only thing you can control in this life is how you react to misfortune.

And the only thing standing in your way is you.

Just over a week ago, at 7am one cold grey morning. Kyla and Mr P found themselves driving down to Brighton. They were more nervous than they had been in a long long time. After an endless journey they found themselves in a tiny cramped studio, singing to two complete strangers at close quarters. After just 40 minutes it was all over and they travelled home hardly daring to hope.

Sometimes life is cruel, it gives you more than you think you can possibly handle. But it’s always for a reason, and you will always be led to exactly where you need to be.

For Kyla and Mr P that place is Madeira. Working as fully fledged musicians within an amazing hotel. The place they will be flying to in only three weeks.

Life has come very far for that scared little girl trembling on stage. Now she is ready, they are ready.

And they will take on life together.

For my explosion of colour. You make everything. I love you.

Mrs P

X x x x x x x x x x x x  x x