So, in this year where video has usurped the live performance*, how do we all feel about video? I was recently invited to submit a video for inclusion in an online festival and it has reignited my interest in the medium. It’s one of these things that I know just enough about to torment myself with. Sitting in front of a phone and hitting record is an option. I’ve seen some videos that are just that and are great but I’ve always got to go a step further. Same with recording audio. I could just record a vocal and guitar but I’ve always got to go a step further. I know just enough to take that additional step but never the skill or the patience to land it satisfactorily.

To record my video I set up my phone camera to capture a fairly wide shot that included me and my guitar. I then set up a dslr camera to capture a tighter frame of my head. I set up a microphone for the vocal into channel one of my audio interface and plugged my guitar into channel two. My interface was plugged in to Adobe Audition. I always shy away from asking for any help with these ventures so I had to set everything off myself. Once I had the audio track and two video shots I edited them together using Adobe Premiere and created an end title screen in Photoshop.

I do enjoy this process but, as I said earlier, I know enough about it to know one camera is slightly out of focus, the lighting wobbles due to shifting light from outside, there’s something distracting in the lower corner and that the framing, generally, is a bit annoying. I would have liked to experiment with zooming, panning and filters. I would have liked to have a third camera and I would have liked to have an assistant. But, having said all that, I’m pretty satisfied with it in the end. I do these things to learn, to gain experience and to hopefully make a better job of it next time – story of my life really. 

When this latest effort is released as part of the 3 Harbour Arts Festival I’ll post an update on my Facebook page.

You can see a couple of other videos on my YouTube channel.

* I know a lot of my fellow musicians do live performances over various streaming platforms (and a lot of people watch them) but, it’s still a video yeah? The artiste is performing to a camera and the audience is watching a screen. Maybe we need a new descriptor for this type of performance.

The world still there

In 2018 I dropped an application form to play the Danny Kyle Open Stage (DKOS). This takes place as part of Celtic Connections international music festival held at the start of the year in Glasgow. DKOS is a platform where upcoming musicians can play to the Celtic Connections audience. There’s a panel of judges and the winner is given the opportunity to play a support slot with one of the headline acts the following year. You can imagine there are lots of bands and artists applying for a coveted slot at DKOS and my application made not even an echo as it journeyed into the void…

… until Thursday last week when I got an email from the lovely and kind Liz Clark offering me a slot at this year’s event! As the event was now online they saved on the downtime switching between acts and had more slots available. I wasn’t sure how this was going to work but replied with an enthusiastic “Yes please”. It all went pretty quick and slick from then. I emailed three songs and a photo over and on the morning of Monday 25 I had a call with Liz over zoom. She recorded our chat about the songs and the whole lot was played on Celtic Music Radio that evening.

I sat with the family and listened to the radio broadcast and it felt like an event – anticipation of when I’d be on, followed by heightened listening, exchanges of looks and congratulations afterwards. Although there were only four others in the room and they were my family, I did run that vaguely familiar gamut of feelings from self-consciousness and vulnerability to thrill, pride and satisfaction. 

I haven’t played live since lockdown began in March 2020. I miss it like crazy and wonder what it’ll be like when we can do it again. Will I still want to? Playing live requires a certain mindset. How will this past year of isolation have affected that mindset? It could easily be another six months or more before we can play live music again. What then? It would be easy for me to drift along in cycles of write, record, release, repeat but what DKOS gave me was that all-important ‘something back’. Hearing your songs on the radio, talking to people and seeing folk respond to your music… they are among the greatest things. I loved doing DKOS and was so grateful for the opportunity to take part. It was also a bittersweet reminder of the world still there and how wonderful it will be to perform these songs live when we can again.

You can listen to the radio show on a catch up. The other acts on this broadcast are all great too but if you don’t have time to listen to the whole thing, I’m on around 40 minutes in.