Looking Back Over My Shoulder

It was always my intention to start writing frequent blog posts once I had this website up and running. After all, my day job and degree are both in writing. This shouldn’t be a problem, I thought. But, somehow, I never got around to it.

Or maybe I just wasn’t sure what to say.

Do I talk about my music? Do I discuss vocal technique and give advice about things I’ve learned along the way? Who would even care about what I have to say? It’s hard enough getting people to listen to my music, let alone read the sh*t that goes through my mind.

Lately, however, I’ve had a lot to be retrospective about.

I suppose that’s what happens at the end of your 20s (and boy, oh boy did mine go out with a rude and resounding bang), but I’m also nearing the tenth anniversary of my arrival in the UK. Young, fresh-faced – largely due to all that chub I hadn’t quite shaken off since college – and full of an unwavering sense that this is where I had to be. This is where my career as a singer would take off.

Pippi Longstocking has long been my spirit animal, and I recently came across a quote from the book that very succinctly explains how I saw things at twenty:

I have never tried that before, so I think I should definitely be able to do that.

– Pippi

Go to a country 6000 miles away from my parents with one suitcase, a guitar, a unconfirmed job offer as an au pair and just enough money to last me a month?

Sure.

That’s precisely what I’ll do.

 

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A good friend of mine had his own recording studio in London, and we’d been collaborating online on a few songs; it seemed like the natural progression for me to get to the UK and give things a real go. Whatever that meant.

Because what else was I going to do?

I didn’t feel like I was good at anything else. I was failing miserably at university, and it was costing my parents a lot of money. I didn’t really feel like I fit in where I was, and the prospect of hunkering down into a real job and pursuing happiness in the realms of what was available to me seemed, quite frankly, not worth living for.

For me, music was (and still is) the only constant variable.

Every friend I’d made, every happy or uplifting moment I had experienced was, in some way, related to music and the connections it had created in my life.

The trouble with coming to the UK as a twenty-year-old who’s never lived away from home and had to grapple with domestic and financial responsibilities, including my newly acquired twins ( I did get hired for the au pairing job in the end), was that I was utterly overwhelmed and overstimulated.

 

What just happened?
Post watching The Maccabees on the NME tour at the O2 Academy, London. 2010

I’m the only child in a close-knit Bulgarian family; to say my mother breathed down my neck would be an understatement. She meant well, she always means well…but I was an artist, a creative, a complete anomaly in our family of engineers, doctors and sea captains. No one was prepared for me. And I certainly didn’t have the patience to deal with being “misunderstood” – in hindsight, I now believe this is a common neurosis that most teenagers experience.

My poor parents really did not deserve a kid like me, and I will forever be apologetic and grateful for everything they tried to give me. I was simply at war with the world and myself; and, unfortunately, expecting exceptional academic achievements and a gentle slide into a respectable profession was never going to be on the cards for me.

So, imagine when I, introverted rebel that I was, arrived in the UK, thinking I knew a lot more than I did but was suddenly faced with the incomprehensible: freedom.

I was, of course, responsible to the family I worked for, but in all other respects, I was my own girl. I went to every concert. I ate and drank whatever I wanted (mostly Nutella – I can confirm that this is both edible and drinkable). I spent my money on clothes, train tickets to London, and music – because YOLO. If I wanted to go to bed at 3am, no one was knocking on my door to warn me about the dangers of sleep deprivation. No one screened my new friends, or really questioned what I did and what time I got home.

And music. The music was so different from anything I had been exposed to before. It was the height of the Maccabees, Bombay Bicycle Club, and Florence and the Machine had just released Lungs. Of course, I never abandoned my fervent obsession with John Mayer and Celine Dion (I really don’t care if you’re judging me right now), but I was beginning to question where the hell I fit into anything. Suddenly, I began to see myself as an inconsequential Eastern European fish in a very big British pond.

I grew uncertain of my capabilities as a writer and became dismissive of every song I’d ever made. It all felt dated, naive, amateur. I let my friend in London down because I felt that the music we were making had no potential, and in my disrupted state, I began to seek reinvention.

That’s when I joined my first band: Kid Kenosis. They had advertised for a lead vocalist online, and I responded.

And, in many ways, that was the beginning of the end.

Kid Kenosis
The mighty band known as Kid Kenosis circa 2011, Northampton

 

To be continued….

 

 

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