Raising Awareness: Music Works Like Magic

Today, it feels good to be publishing a post about the form of performing arts I couldn’t love more. I can’t help but believe music works like magic. When people listen to songs, they can change a person’s mood so quickly. Plus, if I couldn’t access it, I beckon to think where I’d be in life right now.

When I was 17, I began to experience a disabled lifestyle. In further and higher education, epilepsy complicated my life – I developed memory problems, a lack of concentration, depression hit me hard, and I struggled to socialise and academically perform.

However, I still knew how to play my guitar, and loved listening to many bands and artists. Therefore, after receiving a grade A GCSE in Performing Arts, I studied music at college and university.

Me on the right playing in my nu-metal band Big Mo in Manchester in 2006

I studied a BTEC National Diploma in Music Technology in college. I could have stuck with it, moving further into the realms of recording music and creating it electronically. That was originally my intention at the University of Derby, taking on a course in BSc Music Production. However, loneliness, stress and depression hit me hard there. I dropped out in my first year.

The year after, though, I stuck near my epilepsy specialist. I began studying at the University of Salford. It’s best known for having various music/media-related courses available that have developed popularity.

I originally enlisted in a popular course at the university – BA Popular Music and Recording. A lack of concentration and memory loss led to difficulties with my guitar playing abilities. Plus, from what I remember, all the other guitarists were excellent. Therefore, I then made a slight subject switch, but am not any less proud of what I achieved.

I ended up with a degree in BA (hons) Popular Musicology in 2012, with a grade 2:1. The course no longer exists because of a lack of interest from students, but I very much enjoyed studying the history and culture of popular music.

Me and my good friend Faye Tamsin at our graduation in 2012

After working hard on it, I’d clearly overcome obstacles caused by my epilepsy. Loneliness admittedly continued to affect my lifestyle at university, though.

Although my poetry has gained positive reactions from others, I agree with my English Language teaching stepbrother. He tells me that rhyming isn’t a key component in poetry. However, when it comes down to music, things work differently. Although lyrics are metaphorical, words that rhyme are often an important component of well-written songs.

On Tuesday 7 September, I made my way to The Whiskey Jar open mic night with my good friend Nathan. We enjoyed the short sets of music performed by decent musicians playing their tunes. They had talent, and some obvious reasons they wanted to sing songs related to personal issues they’d dealt with over the previous 18 months. I feel lucky that my full and much-loved family have kept themselves nearby, as well as ever before.

Music’s back in Town

The Whiskey Jar is quite a popular bar in Manchester which I believe is accessible for disabled people. Recently, the regular performances of singer/songwriter Jon Coley gained a significant amount of critical acclaim.

Jon’s live tunes very much impressed Nathan. As well as that, it may well have been one of Jon’s last shows at the bar – he’s gathered a clear increase in popularity. It seems his time to launch live pre-paid performances has arrived. As well as that, he released his first album, If All I Ever Wanted Was All I Ever Needed on 10 September. He was playing guitar alone when Nathan saw him, and we consider his album to be a combination of blues, folk and soul music.

One interesting fact is that, like me, Jon has epilepsy. I’m happy to know that others accept a man with epilepsy in Manchester. The man has his talents, and his success has somewhat assured us the Whiskey Jar’s willingness to accept disabled individuals.

Space for musicians to perform live at The Whiskey Jar’s open mic night

I’m going to take this as a hint. If Nathan and various members of the GMCDP have been honest with me, I should do some singing/songwriting myself. They really seemed to credit my work, and I realised I can sing towards the end of 2019. Performing live music to audiences who are less aware of disabled people’s difficulties is something I wish to take on board. Disabled people obviously find it very difficult to attend live venues, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have talent to use.

Now, I know people can so often think they’re good, yet can be so, so wrong. However, I’d rather play live – receive some more opinions. No one’s yet given me an obvious hint I should move in another direction. I’m going to trust Nathan with this, too.

Unlike others, I received a thumbs-up after singing songs and playing guitar with him – a reasonably successful musician who played in rock band Rivers and Robots for ten years. He only recently moved in another direction after their band’s lead singer, Jonathan Ogden, went solo just last year.

So, Where Am I Up To?

Although most people might have to wait before they hear music I’ve written, there are a few things I can tell you about it. Unlike Jon Coley, I’m a disability rights activist, and have keen interests in building better lives for disabled people. We struggle to gain media and social attention, and it needs to end.

Because of this, the songs I’ve written relate to the many social issues disabled people must manage. The lyrics make their points; they speak out about our many troubles in life. I’ve written over ten songs, and I’m still writing them, but need time to memorise songs because of my long/short-term memory loss. However, some of them I wrote a while ago, and I’ve been playing them for a while.

Below are the titles and meanings of four of the songs I’ve written. I’m interested in playing these songs live as soon as possible.

Strong and True

This song is one I have performed live – once. This was at the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People’s AGM back at the start of 2020. I don’t wish to brag, but disabled people attending seemed impressed by my musical abilities at the event. The GMCDP has since spoken about how they’re very keen on the idea of me writing more songs for them in the future.

‘Strong and True’ is a song that addresses the general issues disabled people continue to face in society. Here is the chorus:

So, what are we supposed to do?

You wrote it weak, the song, and no one’s going to sing along

We’ve got to rise and be so true

To be unknown is wrong

And we have waited far too long

The fact is that we are so strong

Strong and true, strong and true

In the lyrics, when speaking about ‘the song’, I’m not speaking to any musician. I’m speaking to non-disabled people, and, most notably, the UK Government. They labelled and both continue to refer to us as ‘people with disabilities’. Our health conditions and disabilities have nothing to do with other people, and they should refer to us as disabled people. We’re people who are as human as any other person, and society disables us.

Plus, readers of this post should now remember disabled people really are strong and true. We so often must learn how to exploit extreme levels of strength to maintain what is a tough lifestyle in society. We’re also true – genuine individuals, who each have positive attributes to offer.

We have so much more to offer people in society, and it’s time for us to come out of our shell.

Olivia Smith

So, who is ‘Olivia Smith’? Well, few people have met her, and few people will meet her. However, the inspiration I gathered to write this song came from folk rock band The Lumineers, who released their hit song ‘Ophelia’ from their album Cleopatra in 2016.

The truth is we can’t physically meet her – we can only experience it, because ‘Olivia Smith’ is actually my reference to what The Lumineers speak about in their most popular song with over 650 million listens on Spotify. I’m referring to fame, although myself and The Lumineers have no option but to approach it in the opposite manner. Like so many celebrities, their band has become overwhelmed by fame. However, disabled people receive so little media attention.

Here’s the second chorus from the song:

Olivia Smith has contradicted

My small actions and has cells that are strong

But a gunshot in the sky will gift me

With a post-plan, it won’t matter if I am wrong

So maybe I’ll write her a song

And she’ll start singing along

Here I’m speaking about how it’s very difficult to get media attention. It’ll take something significant (a gunshot) to turn heads in our direction. We’ll need to continue doing something impressive to maintain it as well (a song she sings along to).

Please note – due to misinterpretations, I won’t be singing the song with these lyrics., However, I plan to rewrite new lyrics so I can use the chords and rhythm to sing another song that relates to gaining disability rights or equality.

Far Off Plea

‘Far Off Plea’ is simple enough to understand. This high-tempo song directly speaks about how we shouldn’t be relying on charity organisations to gain better human rights. Over the past 11 years, the lives of disabled people have also worsened. A lack of attention has made life more difficult to manage.

Protests against Personal Independent Payments which the government frequently and unethically refuses to give disabled people

Our government has neglected us. They need to take responsibility for their lack of action. They need to manage the difficulties that disability leads to in every nation. The United Nations made this clear to them in mid-2010s, but the government simply denied it. Since then, a lack of media attention has stopped us from receiving the benefits we need. The UK Government push us aside, and in 2017, even banned the BBC from showing coverage of disabled people protesting on air.

Here is the chorus:

Right now, a focused drive is compromised and streets all bore your fee

It seems not self-revised, just trauma lies, we’re wanting to be free

Off austerity

And far off plea

And far off plea

Heat at the Moment

This is the most recent song I’ve written on this short list. It’s quite a personal song, but I’m willing to tell you about it. It speaks about an issue I’ve had in life because of my disability.

Finding a partner has been difficult. It seems quite clear women are looking for men with a strong financial background – and I understand why. I’m 32 now, and if I could meet a woman to love and start a family, I would. It’s been very difficult to make a breakthrough with new ideas because of my disability.

In fact, it’s difficult to find any sort of work because of my epilepsy. Economically, long/short-term memory loss and fatigue cause me a lot of trouble. However, I know changes are due to arrive with my own plans. I’m going to write music and have a YA novel released as soon as I can.

Right now, women seem somewhat resistant to talk to me on dating websites. I don’t mention my disability there, but I don’t claim to have any more money than I do. I’m honest about my creative plans, and have only received a little interest from others.

In this song, I speak about how I’m disregarded because of my financial status. When referring to myself as ‘cold’, I’m implying I’m financially unstable. But I also speak about efforts I’ll be willing to make somebody special happy. Eventually, I’ll make that financial breakthrough – it’s just a waiting game. If anyone wants to join me and give me a helping hand, I know they won’t regret it.

Here’s verse one:

I’m cold, you’re warm

Can’t I just put on the fire and warm up later?

I’ve sold and torn

Bought some wood alone to alight and amaze her

I’m here, you’re there

What’s the worst thing that you think might happen

If you peer, you glare

At how I try to light up and yet do not madden

Just persevere because I know I’ll have them

The lights, they’ll flame, and I’ll reach Saturn

At University, Music was my Best Friend

Back when I began studying music in further education, the music industry was still the biggest in the world. That fact never surprised me. I’ve always loved popular music, and so many other people do too. Things have changed, but only because Spotify came along to provide songs to people for a much cheaper price. But people love live music, and concerts & festival appearances can make popular musicians millionaires.

I’ll keep making music, and aim to demo some songs and perform live in October too

I’m not so much interested in making money from the music I perform. I’m more interested in gaining attention. Manchester seems to be a good headquarters for spreading word about the disability rights we deserve. If this happens, then hopefully, people will appreciate it. I’ll look to make further interactions with disability arts, and make my name better known among both disabled and non-disabled people.

I haven’t given up on my plan to write a young adult novel, but it’s difficult. However, joint ventures aren’t all that uncommon in book-writing. I could make a collaboration with someone. It’s simply another arts-project that aims to raise awareness, and I’m sure many people – in particular, disabled people – could help me finish it. Please, contact me whenever you’re interested.

Music really was my best friend at both college and university. Although my mum and other family members deserve plenty of credit for keeping me as positive as possible, music was an immediate boost to my mood when I was both mildly and moderately depressed. You could even say it was my drug. I’ve developed an addiction to it – and I have no plans to end that addiction within my lifetime.