It's around this time of year that it's natural to reflect on the months gone by, and especially if you run a small business. My year has been, well, unexpected. I started out by doing a couple of voice over jobs, launched Real World Sounds and recorded eight broadcast-ready sound packs, proceeded to make six music library albums, launched an audio brand for kids, did some more voice over and soundtrack work, created a sound environment with foley and voice over for a Ted Talk art installation and more.
It has been very fulfilling. For many creative people it helps to concentrate on one area and develop their skills and networks. For me the wide variety of work this year has been so rewarding, that I know it's the way forward. It's so easy to put yourself into a category: composer, painter, sculptor etc. If 2018 has taught me one thing it's this: it's not for you to put yourself into a category, others will do that for you. My voice over clients don't care that I'm a composer. It doesn't matter to my composing clients what else I can do. I'm known to them for that thing.
My new year's resolution is to keep developing creatively. There are things I have planned that will feed into this, and for everything else my mind is wide open.
Have a very happy New Year and a creative 2019.
Well, a curse and a blessing really. I realised the other day that my mood is directly tied to the amount of creativity I'm consuming. I previously thought it was tied to stress levels, general contentment etc. It wasn't until I was flicking through Twitter (oh, the irony) and seeing new things being released or created that I noticed my mood physically changing.
I saw some new animation transitions for the next Android OS (see, the curse of the creative brain). I saw the band Lo Moon tweeting and made me think of their debut album I discovered this week. I saw Paddington 2 has been released, really looking forward to seeing that. The Last Jedi deleted scenes? I'll put the kettle on! Oh, and the look and feel of that Blue Zoo animated short 'Via'...it all came out of the brain of concept artist Izzy Burton. How cool is that?
I then saw that Will Belcher of Aardman is nominated for an animation award for Shaun the Sheep. I saw that composer and sound designer Matt Bowdler invited female composers to make an album using his soundsets and sample libraries to celebrate International Women's Day and raise money for Women's Aid.
On top of that I'm busy creating. Two library albums are at the mixing stage and I'm gearing up to release my first Real World Sounds sound pack next week.
So if you need to add a spring to your step today, look around at all the new things being created. You won't have to look very far.
I've started writing this at 10am in a local coffee shop. On a week day. Ooh, you might think, isn't he lucky to be swanning around drinking coffee while the rest of us are working?
The reality is very, very different. I've worked in a few different industries in my adult working life, some office-based, one classroom-based, all - apart from the current one as a media composer - have been dictated by the hours given to me.
Nowadays I'm driven by a different parameter:
How can I be the most creative I can be?
Here are a few (not all) of the things I've learned along the four+ years I've been composing music professionally.
1. It's not about the 9 to 5.
This was a difficult one for me after so many years of routine. Getting up at a certain time and being in a certain place used to = productivity. It took me a while to realise that sitting at the computer and waiting for the ideas to form wasn't the best way to use my time. If I was given a deadline two weeks away there had to be a better way than that. I quickly realised that time away is a brilliant way of generating ideas. Next time you're stuck, just go for a walk. I promise you by the time you get back to your desk you'll have the beginning of something.
2. Think about the tools you need, not about the tools you have.
Once I found my new way of working, I naturally started veering towards routine again, this time in the tools I was using. Now, for something like a TV series it's important for me to use the same instruments and musical motifs for each episode and character, but it shouldn't necessarily be the case for everything I do. So I've started to approach anything new with the attitude that I don't have any tools. How can I realise this? What do I need to get it done? A much better starting point.
3. Personalise your space.
Another factor that didn't hit me until it happened (why would it?) is to consider my environment. Since turning pro I've worked from home, and for a few years this meant in a rented property where I couldn't hang anything on the walls, I couldn't decorate etc, so while I had a space for work it wasn't a particularly inspiring space. Now I have album art and other personal things surrounding me. It makes a difference.
4. Work at your craft.
Finally, and possibly the most important, is to work at your craft. For me that one piece of advice at the start of 'keep composing, even if you don't have a deadline', may be the best single piece of advice I've received regarding creativity. You can network 'til you're blue in the face, but if you don't retain the passion for what you do by losing yourself in it and trying to get better at it, what's the point?
So, as I sit here sipping my coffee, I know that I'll get the job done, by going back to the studio refreshed and feeling creative. Who knows, maybe I'll knock off early.
Posts by Gareth Davies.