I'm new to this...
When I was asked if I wanted to be a 'contributor' on the Huffington Post my first thought was: "What do I have to say?"
The truth is, being the frontman in a band comes with its responsibilities, one of them being not saying the wrong thing!
It seems more and more dangerous to have an opinion these days, yet we now have more ways of expressing ourselves and more ways of it being shared than ever before. So don't drunk tweet folks!
Anyways, I'm in a dressing room in the middle of a tour with The Kooks in Europe. When you get invited to play on a tour like this - with a band that is well-established, has a history, a personality and a sold out tour - it fills me with a mixture of excitement and fear. Will their fans like us? Will everyone get on? What will the headliners be like? Everybody you speak to has an opinion on the band you're touring with, usually formed from what they've read in the press or the Chinese whispers of someone who knows someone who knows someone who heard a story about them sometime. I always try to meet people with an open mind and I have been lucky in the fact that I have rarely been disappointed with what I've found in the people I've met.
I'm now 10 dates in and after a few shows and a couple of drinks I have found The Kooks to be a highly personable, warm and friendly bunch who have plenty time for everybody on the tour and my questions. It's been a massive inspiration to me that after being in 'the game' and having as much success as they have had, more than ever it seems their hearts still retain the values I am led by now, a passion for great music and great songwriting. Meeting people IS easy apparently
On the subject of great songwriting, I was introduced to an artist called John Grant via a programme on the BBC. If you haven't seen it, its a show that invites an eclectic mix of songwriters of varying genres and 'commercial' success to perform a few of their favourites to a live audience - I think you can still check it out on iPlayer. It's introduced me to a bunch of great writers I would never have found via my usual streams of inspiration. So yes, check it out.
Anyways, on to John Grant. I tuned in to see James Dean Bradfield of Manic Street Preachers fame but was blown away by the chap sitting on his left, John Grant. He performed a few songs from his Queen of Denmark record and this track, Sigourney Weaver, Blew my mind.
There is a massive awkwardness in the juxtaposition of the verses and choruses both in terms of harmony and lyric, it just really gets me. It's a car crash of a lyric in the choruses: "I feel just like Sigourney weaver when she had to kill those aliens", but it works and it's brave and, most importantly, it's original!
John Grant is writing about the most personal of experiences but within his words and melodies I have found something that resonates deep within my soul. It's inspired me to be less fearful about what I say and how I say it. He isn't afraid to bare all and share his mistakes with the world, his songs come through experience and from a place that is real to him and I think that's what great songwriting should be about right?
"Make it more universal" they say, but the weird thing is, in John's instance, he is writing about experiences that are deeply personal to him, yet they hit me, and everyone else I have played his music to, like a tsunami wave.
By being honest and opening himself up he has created something that not everybody, but some, will be able to relate to. Cheesy as it sounds, that is what is motivating me most to write songs, in giving away my experiences, sometimes even mistakes made myself or others, a universal connection can be made.
Along with my friends, as a group called Morning Parade, we have just finished our debut record and soon it will be time for me to start talking about it what it's all about. In John Grant and his songs I have found something which helps me no longer feel like I am painting a target on my back every time I open my mouth.
It's taught me to say what I mean, even if it will be rehashed, taken out of context and misquoted by anyone that chooses to take that liberty, so thanks John. I urge anybody who reads this to exercise this same tactic in life; don't be afraid to be yourself, not everyone will like you; but a few will and they're really the only ones that will matter in the end.
A good friend of mine sent this to me after I got sucked into naval gazing at some of the naïve, wide eyed, green things I've said before, things that continue to haunt me till this day in fact, it's a classic, but it stands the test of time, just like a great song.
'The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one'
- Elbert Hubbard
Follow Steve Sparrow on Twitter: www.twitter.com/morningparade