I spent my early years exploring on my own. What strongly stands out in my memory from early childhood was the realisation of individuality which I would probably attribute to this time spent alone, wandering through the forest and dirt tracks that were in abundance near to where I grew up in Oxfordshire, giving me a strong connection to nature. So when I did come into contact with people my own age and started to form friendships I think I still maintained a strong sense of myself, rather than seeing myself as part of a group.
Soon after starting primary school I began to realise, as did my classmates and teachers, that I was a very hyperactive character. I was quickly diagnosed with ADHD, and was put on medication. This had little effect and I began to disassociate myself from school, often getting sent out for bad behaviour, wandering into the school library and discovering a love of history. A later diagnosis of mild epilepsy was another strange experience and meant a lot of time spent at the doctor’s and hospital. I think this is where my first interaction with using my imagination and creativity for escapism first came into play.
Then the next 5 years at secondary school were some of the toughest to my memory. My hyperactivity and inability to take in what was in front of me right away led to a lot of embarrassing situations in the classroom, and a lot of mental conflict with myself and physical conflict with my peers.
Around the age of twelve I decided to stop trying to figure out what was wrong with me and just start living and enjoying who I was. This was when I started growing my hair, forgot about fads and fashion and took my affinity with music more seriously.
If anything changed the course of my life it was the acceptance of who I am and how I, as an individual, function compared to other people and the decision to pursue the only thing that I have ever been able to call my soul’s home.
As a 26 year old musician and person trying to live in society I would say that the feeling of material stability has rarely been present, but I suppose one of the foundations of any artist’s dream is total sustainability through their craft. The feeling of security comes and goes.
Depression is another factor which rears its vile head, but acceptance and communication is key. Giving yourself a break when you’re going through a hard time, whilst not letting it be an excuse to do nothing. Finding that balance as an artist or just as a person in general is a journey in itself, but once roughly balanced out becomes one of your best tools for tackling life’s obstacles.
In music, consistency is expected whether you’re at the top of your game or in the worst black hole of a void you’ve ever experienced. I believe it’s best to have a good grounding in the music, and have almost a default setting so that when you’re not on your game you can at least do your job. It’s something that is overlooked and should be talked about a lot more.
I found myself afraid to jam with people for a long time owing to my own fear of embarrassment, until I learned that’s what jamming is for. It’s a safe place for people to make mistakes and to progress whilst also learning how to read and be intuitive with the musicians around you. The more you play with others, the more in tune with yourself and music you will be.
I am honoured to be even considered part of this musical community, as I still struggle to see myself as a respected part of it. One thing I will say is that it has to nurture the next generation and not see them as a threat or smear on musical traditions. In my experience lack of knowledge in playing and musical language has come across to others as a disregard for the music and its traditions when sometimes it is simply the case of a lack of experience or understanding, and gaps in musical knowledge. New Generation Jazz has been a big light in this for younger musicians, so a massive shout out to them and their amazing work.
My only plan is to move forward, never stop learning, be grateful for any victories and learn from failure. Other than a bassist I am also a poet and writer. In the end I just want to make a steady living from music to sustain myself, then I can feel some sort of contentment.
Words: George Richardson
Photo: Lisa Wormsley