What follows is not me spouting off about how great I am. Go with me for a minute and I’ll get to the point…
I’m 40 years of age and I’ve been actively playing music of one sort or another since the age of 4. So, using my finely-tuned mathematical skills I can tell you that I have about 36 years playing experience. In rough chronological order I’ve played (in public, for an audience - not just at home) the cornet, tenor horn, drums, guitar, voice, piano and mandolin.
However, if you ask me what my best instrument is, or where my musical strengths lie, I’d answer, “My ears”.
Playing in brass bands as a kid, with 25 other people to fit in with, I learned to listen, musically speaking. This really has stuck with me. 40 years of life has also taught me to listen in other ways too, and remember that I do not always have the best ideas.
For example, I was in the studio yesterday working with fine young singer-songwriter Roisin O’Hagan on her latest track. It was getting towards the end of the day and I just needed to find a little something to give the chorus an extra lift. My mind was drifting to the electric guitar, Roisin quickly and firmly suggested the mandolin. I’ve worked with her enough to know when not to argue, so out came Meg (the mandolin) and ten minutes later we had the perfect lift we were looking for. Spot on Roisin.
I’m not suggesting all my ideas are rubbish or all Roisin’s are perfect, I’m just saying that sometimes, nay, mostly, it pays to open your ears, open your mind and go with the flow.
Call me an old hippy if you like, I can take it.