Feeling entirely grateful for the 2nd half of 2018 which was much better than the first!
I’m super grateful for the live sound gigs I got this year (especially with The Piper’s Club who are most kind to me and have invested so much faith in me. With them I’ve really gotten the chance to be a sound engineer and learn about the job.) I’m not the most technically minded person and my nerves still get me, but I am a visionary and an extremely hard worker.
Without these gigs, I’d more than likely have chucked it all in by now- some people are utterly false and have no problem making me feel small in a crowded room. It’s entirely hard for me not to allow myself to feel that way.
It’s very easy to stay put in my music room and live in my bitter circle of loneliness and intermittent creativity. I felt so useless, alone and pointless. I despaired. Often. I literally needed someone to say “We want you to do this!”, and even though I brick it, it always goes well and people shower me with praise.
The gigs mean so much to me.
I’m grateful for the friends who reach out to me and check in on me and make me laugh. I’m grateful for the new friendly faces too. Thank you for being there.
And thank you to the false ones for f*cking off, out of my face.
And most of all thanks to my fiance for understanding me and still loving me. Thanks to my family for financial support this year (my worst year for money since 2008). I’m doing my best to kick anxieties in the arse, I’m starting to think my overthinking is utterly stupid and needless.
I’m grateful for my good health and my friends + families good health, the roof over my head, good food to eat, enough cash flowing to see me comfortable, my kitties and my freedom.
May 2019 be a fantastic year for you all. Thanks.
Thanks Rachel for the affirmation cards, this one is my favourite.
I can’t believe it’s Monday already! This time last week I was sitting in this exact chair in Starbucks, DkIT School of Informatics and Creative Arts, planning my journey to Derry and feeling rather anxious about it!
What in the world was I worrying about? Absolutely nothing!
I heard about the award through one of my lecturers at DkIT, they insisted I give it a shot. Normally I wouldn’t even dream of entering competitions!
You can imagine my surprise when I received an email a couple of weeks later telling me I was chosen as one of the top twenty digital creators of class of 2014 from colleges and universities across Northern Ireland and the six Republic of Ireland bordering counties! My prize was a week of workshops in Derry, meeting industry professionals, attending interesting talks about creative arts and business, working with the 19 other winners and an opportunity to pitch my skills to a panel of industry experts in a bid to win the grand ultimate prize!
I was immediately delighted but also a tiny bit anxious! Travelling 190 km to spend a full week with strangers! Shy, self-conscious and over-thinker- Steff almost completely backed out- if it wasn’t for the same lecturer who assured me attending the bootcamp was something I absolutely needed to do!
And glad am I for their assurance!
My drive up to Derry was very pleasant. As soon as I arrived at the hotel I met some of the other winners and I was immediately put at ease with their big smiles, interesting chat and genuine warmth. These were people like me!
That night we were treated to a fantastic meal in the Exchange restaurant in Derry city centre. The craic was ninety and the food was delicious!
The next morning (Tuesday) bootcamp officially kicked off with lovely welcomes from the Honeycomb team and straight into a fun personality workshop. After a card game which got the group instantly giggling and working together, I learned about the four general different types of people (not that anyone can be labelled into any one type of course)- the two extroverted types and the two introverted types. I learned how these kinds of people generally think, behave and react to each other. The card game revealed that I am indeed an introvert- the kind who responds to others body language instantly, smiles a lot, tends to procrastinate, is generally quiet and shy and likes to take direction from others (over a cup of tea!)- yes, that’s me all over! I knew this already but it was lovely to learn there ARE others like me and how to approach the extroverts!
This was followed by a fantastic talk from Richard Williams from N.I Screen with great advice and useful information for us.
After lunch we started working on our pitching skills, learning how others deliver successful and smart pitches quickly and with structure.
After this we attended a Culturetech event in the Craft Village (much to my delight as there was a beautiful little shop I wished to visit there!) about starting up businesses in the creative arts. We listened to fascinating stories from three speakers about their ideas, their initial struggles, their developments and their successes. It was fantastic to hear how they went from their normal day-job to the job of their dreams.
Wednesday started with a workshop which was all about thinking on your feet- how to improvise. This was a lot of fun as it was all games that got us interacting as a group. I was initially terrified of staring into a strangers eyes- I tend to find looking into a strangers eyes unsettling- it makes me feel invaded and uncomfortable! And in turn, I tend to think I’m making them uncomfortable! I’m always aware of trust issues regarding eye contact but this is not my intent! (People I know and trust I am ok with!) So some of the games really freaked me out and I very nearly bolted but the ladies running the group were very understanding and said my feelings were totally ok- something I was never told before! It wasn’t long before I felt brave enough to join back in and enjoy the craic!
This workshop actually turned out to be one of the biggest benefits for me on reflection. It tied in perfectly with my life coaching that I’ve been working so hard on during the summer- building my self confidence, accepting myself, learning to feel joy towards myself and others, not feeling lost in the crowd and indeed- looking people in the eyes without fear.
After another amazing lunch, Josh Richards (science comedian and speaker, physicist, ukulele lover and astronaut candidate.@ISUnet graduate short-listed among 705 to colonise Mars with @MarsOneProject) captivated us with his stories, his dreams, his infectious laughter and smile. We fired loads of questions at him and even though his hour ran out, he stayed back and chatted some more with us over coffee, we milled around him, taking photos and asking as many questions as we could! He really touched my heart and he will very well be the source for inspiration for a very future song I wish to write!!!
We continued our pitching skills workshop afterwards, pitching fun ideas to each other and then working on the tough stuff- our real pitches to deliver to the industry panel the next morning! We also received mentoring from industry experts- invaluable experience!
The next day (Thursday) was the day of truth- we were all a light-hearted bunch of people with all of our different personalities but one thing we shared- an anxiety about pitching our skills or business ideas to an industry panel! It was a big deal as we wanted to do our best- it wasn’t about winning, it was about doing a good job and pushing ourselves that little further.
My pitch went good! I couldn’t help but be nervous, my voice revealed that! But I felt good- I did push myself into something I would normally run away from- and hey, it didn’t hurt! 🙂 I pitched to them my skills as a music producer- what I could offer them if they were a top music studio, what ideas I have for the future of recorded music, my experience etc etc! My three minutes flew by in a heartbeat.
After a very pleasant walk around the city and lunch, there were more talks to listen to.
Greg Spence (producer of Game of Thrones) inspired us with his stories of the work he’s done, his journey and what he loves. He showed us the incredible work that goes into Game of Thrones (I knew it was brilliantly done but their pre-production is out of this world!!!). He didn’t just talk for the film/video/tv people, he spoke about the other creative work that goes into making a tv show (music, art, design, textiles, animation etc, etc.).
The last talk was more business- how to get investment in projects etc- valuable information was learned.
Bootcamp came to an official close that evening with two announcements- the person who came up with such a brilliant business idea that it was going to get further advice from an industry professional and the overall winner of the Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award.
It was after the celebration that our lovely group parted- some of us left for home and some stayed for further partying and Culturetech events! I went home as Derry is about a three hour drive and well, I missed my cat 😉
It took me the rest of the weekend to recover from such an intense week! The wonderful thing is we’re all keeping in touch. All the Creative Buzz Award winners are connected online and we are doing a great job staying in touch!
Thank you Honeycomb Creative Works for a brilliant week. I gained so much, I’m so glad I went! You did a brilliant job and events like these really do perk up people like me! I have new friends, new contacts, new skills, new self-confidence and new experiences!
I would like to share my major production project “Crystal Hearts”- a contemporary Celtic New Age song about the divine connection and eternal love of soulmates that I have been working on this semester. This is an alternative mix to what I’m being graded on and I hope you all enjoy listening to it as much as I did producing it! Love and light.
Composed by Stephanie Caffrey
Lyrics by Keith Caffrey and Stephanie Caffrey. Produced, recorded and mixed by Stephanie Caffrey.
Thought I’d post a little update of my own creative musings!
Yes, I have been busy musically. I’ve been working away on my next New Age/Chill Out/Sexy Celtic/Whatever You Wanna Call It track! It’s an idea which sparked off a few weeks ago but I did not have the energy to continue, now it’s full steam ahead!
I’ve been having fun blending my favourite sounds from Logic’s ES2 and EX24 synths as well as making my own sounds in the Sculpture synth and recording lush harmonics from my 12 string acoustic, reversing them and having fun with my Roland Gaia SH01 synth.
Vocal ideas suddenly came and with them, a lyrical theme. These were sent off to my songwriting partner Keith Caffrey and although he has only indulged me with a tiny taste of what he has written, I have been blown away. He has possibly outdone himself this time! I can’t get over what a gift he has with words, he really writes so beautifully and from the soul! Every lyric Keith writes, whether it’s for our acoustic-rock Shock Sorrow duet, his heavy metal band Black Svan, his own solo material or for my solo New Age/Electronic music, is always deep, meaningful, interesting, emotional, personal and universal. I can’t wait to hear his lyrics with melody! (Oh I forgot to mention his amazing melodies, guitar playing and all round gift for music, any instrument Keith puts his hands on, he can play it!)
I recorded some violin ideas last week on a whim, when I say “violin” I really mean “fiddle”! My love for Irish traditional is clearly evident in this one! I always preferred playing traditional music, be it fast or slow (really love the minor and modal pieces I learned from a great old fiddle player many years ago) to the classical, technical pieces (which are of course wonderful but that style never felt right for me- though I do not knock for one second the theory and technicality I learned through those pieces!) I studied in my school days.
I decided tonight that yes, indeed, there will be a fiddle solo in this one. 😉
That’s really all I will say right now, until I hear the rest of the lyrics with the melodies, I can’t finish the structure but I really am looking forward to recording this. I’m thinking of asking a guest female vocalist to sing it. I’m also strongly thinking that this might well be a demo for a possible future college recording project, real drums would be fantastic… now to find a drummer… if you know any, send them my way please!!! (firstname.lastname@example.org, for reals!!!!)
Still on a high from the Trouble Pilgrims gig over the weekend, still badly wanting my own Burns Hank Marvin signature series electric guitar!!!!
Also I see Logic Pro X has been unveiled today! Looks pretty slick, I gotta say! I do like the new interface. I was afraid it was going to go all GarageBand and childish in style- I LOVE GarageBand-hey, it was how I started, pretty much (if you don’t count mucking around in good old, Cool Edit years and years ago) but desperately hoped Apple would keep Logic professional! It sounds good with new features Drummer, Flex Pitch, Track Stacks and an Arpeggiator! I am excited! But I have absolutely no reason to upgrade, I love Logic Pro 9, it’s stable on my iMac and Macbook Pro, it works a treat. I wouldn’t mind having a go though! The Apple Press Info hasn’t said whether it has changed it’s plug-ins at all, like Pro Tools 11 has (oh dear! Big no, no for me there! Happy to stay with Pro Tools 10 for college work, even if off-line bouncing is a desirable plus!). So for now, I’m sticking with Logic Pro 9, it’s the only Logic version which ever appealed to me (7 and 8 were disasters for me!) and the only version which ever inspired me!
It’s that busy time of the semester again! The time where time itself is running out and the assignments are piled high! Recording projects are wrapping up and are in the final mix stages, essays are full speed ahead and how I wish there were more hours in each day!
Tonight I finished tracking my Music Production Project for semester 4. I haven’t blogged about the production process like I did last semester, so apologies for that! This semester FLEW, I think the Erasmus trip to Norway accelerated that, where does time go when you’re having fun, eh?!
I have been working on one of my own songs for this semesters’ production project. It is a song I started working on over Christmas, inspired by Electronic/Dance music I had been listening to a lot (and still am- I’m also currently enjoying various Dubstep tracks while walking, the Sound City album while driving and Evanescence while running!). I have been writing New Age/Chilled Electronic for a few years now as I really have been enjoying creating music “in The Box”. Logic Pro 9 is my little getaway place!
While I was in Norway I continued working on the piece of music, structuring and shaping the sounds and taking deep inspiration from the emotions and experiences of the Erasmus Programme and the natural beauty of the cold, snowy, sunny, fjord and mountain landscape. The programme was very intense emotionally as I struggled with homesickness for my friends, college, home and family, I felt slightly lost at times as workshops made me close my eyes, look inside myself and think about sound, light and creativity in new ways.
When I came home I had a draft mix of synths, beats and ambient nature recordings, which I was very happy with. There were only 2 lines of lyrics, which I tracked at home “Close your eyes/What can you see?”. I listened to my mix on the lovely Genelecs in the college studio just for fun and it was suggested that I make the the music into a song, go write lyrics and melodies and think about bringing the song to a whole new level, record acoustic drums and other instruments! Make it my production project! I was skeptical at first as I was rather attached to this piece of music (music for thinking to- as I saw it as), which I composed entirely by myself.
Enter Keith Caffrey. If you have been following my blog, you’ll already know that Keith is like the other musical half of me! He is my songwriting partner and close friend, the music I’ve written with Keith through the years has always had deep, personal meaning and a creative enjoyment I never experienced before. I sent Keith the draft mix and emotional ideas I would love to communicate through lyrics (closing of the eyes, looking inside myself and being more aware of myself yet still feeling slightly lost).
Very quickly the music turned into the song. Keith came down to my bedroom studio and we tracked the entire vocal idea. The lyrics were so deep, personal and emotional, Keith understood perfectly what I had been feeling (as spiritually close friends, there are few who understand me so well!). It was also as if Keith KNEW we had only been studying the art of vocal expression in college, he felt the song should have lots of aspirate on-sets and releases, creaks and shakes.
With minor structure adjustments and a guide vocal done (and a huge migration into Pro Tools 10!), the song was ready for addition instrumentation. I’m not going into the nitty-gritty details of my sessions but I recorded drums in session 1, harp, piano and electric guitar in session 2 and female vocals in session 3.
During my time in Norway I made lots of new friends and valuable contacts, Fiona McErlane being one of them. We met in the airport and sat next to each other on the plane from Dublin to London and hit it off straight away with giggles over drinks! I heard her singing in the music performance workshops in Norway and was blown away by her pure, crystal clear, angelic voice. I knew back then I wanted to work with her in the future but didn’t know for what project!
I asked her to sing on the project and play a little bit of traditional harp. She was excited about the song and the inspiration of the music and lyrics (she was actually present when I made the recording of the fjord shore in Norway).
So tonight was our final recording session, we tracked lots of vocals and had a very productive session. I was so happy with her performance, she gave it 110% emotionally and technically, she jumped right in with suggestions and gave it her all. I was also happy that I got to finally track using the Distressor compressor (gentle 2:1 ratio) and got to try out the Rode K2 valve mic, it sounded sweet!
Our session was the first official night time recording session in DkIT 6pm-9pm. Yes! Finally! A night time recording session!!! I’m a big fan of working in the evenings/nights (last semesters’ Monday 9am-12pm were not to my liking!). Energies are high, vocals are warm, people tend to be more relaxed in the evenings I find! So please, for next semester, more night time sessions please!
I better go to bed, it is 12:30am now and tomorrow is a new day of vocal editing! I will of course share the song “Close Your Eyes” when it’s mixed. Special thanks to Keith Caffrey, Fiona McErlane, Craig Sullivan, Gavin Clarke for their creative input and help and to my friends for their support!
I’ll leave you with this fun snap from tonights session!
I’ve been home a few days already, I’ve just been exhausted! It’s been mental, the 12 hour journey home from Norway on top of a crazy party the night before (4 hours drunken sleep!!), then straight back to work and college! 🙂
The last few days in Norway we spent preparing for the Final Performance which was a roaring success. We performed music, dancing, drama, painting and sound massages.
Our final day in Norway was an evaluation of the CREAL Erasmus Intensive Programme which was quite insightful. The trip was quite inspirational and it was great to hear the small changes students would make if they were to take part again (next year it’s Belgium’s turn to host students!). I suggested an ice-breaker session for each college group before they travel… personally I didn’t know anyone (bar one or two!) from my college and meeting the entire 65 group was very over-whelming for me anyway! Nonetheless it was an experience to say the least!
This was followed by a nature walk through the forest on the coast… this was gorgeous!
We walked back to Leirvick from the beautiful Hystadmarkjo nature reserve.
Straight back to the hotel, quick Facebook fix, I nipped to the amazing shop next door which sold gorgeous trinkets and pretty things and picked up a few things for my house 🙂 Showered and grabbed the next bus back to Rommetveit to the party in the college!
What a night it was! There was a glass of wine on arrival (me, drink white wine?! yeah it was sweet, therefore drinkable haha!), a delicious meal followed by dessert, a small photo-shoot, a slideshow of fun photos from the trip then speeches, live music, more drink, DJ music and lots of dancing!
The party was organised by a committee of students from the IP and I have to say they did a great job! Taxis picked us up from 1am and by 2.30am I was back in my hotel room, out for the count!
We were up at 6.45am to meet for breakfast, we were getting the speedboat up the fjords to bergen airport at 7.50am. This was a thoroughly enjoyable experience!
We got the plane from Bergen to London, a 3 hour stop-over (where I experienced a typical British dish, yum!) and then back to Dublin for 5.40pm. I was home by 7.30pm and in bed asleep by 9.30pm! Most of the Irish had hangovers (not this cat- I remembered to drink 2 bottles of water before hitting the pillow in Norway!).
I am sharing my audio portfolio from the trip also here… Have a listen, I’ve included sound massages, lapping of fjord water on the shore, Irish traditional live music, haunting Norwegian female vocal harmonies, dances and improvised music to paint to! Enjoy!
After a lovely reading week which turned out to be a brilliant balance of study, work, play AND industry experience (see recent post where I described my day recording location audio on a film set!), I’m all set and raring to start back to college (part 2 of semester 1) in the morning!
I’ve spent the last 6 weeks preparing for my music production project and tomorrow morning we go into the recording studio to start tracking! It’s an early start and I hope to record cajon, a guide vocal and acoustic guitars. I’ve chosen to realise a new Shock Sorrow song called “December”, myself and Keith Caffrey composed during the summer.
I’m very excited to have my classmate and good friend Shane Taaffe play cajon and new friend, bass master Ciarán O’Brien play double bass on this recording! I’ve never recorded both instruments before and I’m very excited! Keith Caffrey will of course be singing lead vocal, playing guitar parts (yes, a solo!) and a secret percussion instrument! 😉 I will of course be playing a small bit of guitar and maybe piano if I’m lucky, my regular studio partner Shauna Kearney will be assisting me (I can’t imagine being in studio without her actually!).
My mind is racing from the sheer excitement of this project and I’m getting ideas all over the place! “Oooh wouldn’t it sound great if I did this!” and “I’d love to slip in a little harmony there!”, it’s so easy to get carried away! The main point of this recording is to capture the sounds as accurately as possible, get the sounds right at the source! “I’ll fix it in the mix” attitude is bye-bye, out the window! There are of course plenty of other criteria to check, good production, instrumentation, record with hardware compression (mmmm Avalon baby) etc!
My primary aim is to record a polished studio version of this song that includes a full band of musicians but with a stripped back approach.
I aim to not only meet the instrumental requirements of this project brief but also extend beyond that by capturing one or two additional instruments and vocals, creating a sonically interesting and more varied recording.
I also aim to create a pleasant and relaxed working environment and enjoy a successful recording process.
I will post a blog tomorrow night about how the session went!
In other news I got to play an Irish harp tonight! I had such fun! Shane Taaffe is one seriously gifted musician, I already knew he is very talented with a guitar, cajon, voice, anything musical he puts his hands to, but I never got to hear him play Irish harp before now. Wow! I could have listened to him all night! Such beautiful music he played. I’m a big Irish trad fan from my fiddle days and lately my influences have been creeping back into my solo material. He played beautiful Turlough O’Carolan tunes, airs, reels and even treated me to “Nothing Else Matters” (Metallica), I pretty much just melted into the floor by then!
So! Expect a future recording featuring Shane Taaffe on the harp! I would dearly love to compose a traditional piece myself and record it. This will happen!
Off to pack my school bag and equipment bag for tomorrow, where’s that list I penned up? 🙂
Oxford, baby! What can I say?! My first time in the U.K was a real mind opener! I’m just totally blown away by Oxford, particularly by the world famous SAE Institute!
I was invited to Oxford earlier on this year by my dear audio-adoring friend, Lee Fitzpatrick who I know from my previous life in Ballyfermot Music Production. He is a student at the SAE Institute and wanted to show me what his amazing college has to offer.
Straight off the train after arriving from Birmingham International, we walked through the beautiful main streets of Oxford city, Lee drawing my attention to the pub where Tolkien wrote the Lord of The Rings. I was struck by the gorgeous sandy colored buildings, the architecture was indeed very beautiful.
Onwards to the SAE Institute! We wasted no time in getting there! I was trembling at the excitement of finally visiting this amazing place I had heard so much about!
And I was not disappointed. Audio Heaven. A fast paced tour of the building with its endless secret stairwells, glassy corridors and many, many doors leading to various media-related treasures left me breathless. Every room was filled with the very best of audio gear I have only imagined in my dreams. The building was quiet and had a very relaxed, creative atmosphere, it was a Bank Holiday so there were no classes that day. Students were indeed hard at work on their day off, I had the pleasure of listening to projects and watching students at home in their creative academic environment. They were so friendly and warm hearted, delighted to hear I was from Ireland studying Music Production also. The overall vibe was one of disciplined hard work with a relaxed atmosphere.
After being introduced to the fabulous Neve studio (the one I have been waiting for!) and the 7 other studios, we went to the cosy SSL studio and mixed one of my personal projects. Every Mac computer in the building (and there are MANY!) is fitted with the latest versions of every digital audio workstation known to man, and my Logic Pro 9 project worked like a dream. Logic Pro and Pro Tools are both taught in the institute, something which really impressed me as a Logic fan. I was among kindred spirits who had the same passion for the intuitiveness of my favourite DAW. I felt right at home!
Later in the evening we set forth, back to the Neve studio where Lee had booked a long session to continue one of his projects. There we spent an intense few hours recording vocals and overdubs, again working with Logic Pro 9. I have a tendency to be shy of studios and especially top of the range gear, I was honored to be assisting Lee and watching how he worked.
Taking a break, Lee introduced me to the magnificent Steinway grand piano in the main live room.
After wrapping up the session some hours later, we made our way to the film department and set up for a shoot, another one of Lee’s many projects! The popular Nerd Vs World series on YouTube. I was delighted to watch the visual set-up and delighted to help with the audio end of it. Something I never did before. The session ended pretty late in the night (or should I say early in the morning?!) and that was my first day in Oxford.
My second day was fun also, a proper school day, Lee attended his morning classes as I worked on my own project in the Practical Room, a room full of Macs and mixing desks, racks of equipment and controller interfaces. Everything I was permitted to use, thanks to my BCFE qualification, even though I felt like I shouldn’t even breathe near the stuff! I was assured I was most welcome to use anything I wished.
Later in the evening, after meeting the kind staff of SAE, I was invited to attend the guest lecture which was due to take place that day. The building was abuzz all day, the lecturers walking through the corridors, nabbing students, reminding them that a very special guest would be attending and not to miss out.
The very special guest was the very, very mind-blowing, beatjazz master, Onyx Ashanti. Onyx is the creator of a futuristic, improvisation based technology which involves live looping with software synths created (not triggered mind you, everything is live) by devices attached to his hands and mouth. Hard to explain, which is why I’m leaving a link here: Onyx Ashanti: This is beatjazz | Video on TED.com. I enjoyed his two hour lecture, despite being highly aware I was the only girl in the room (and the only non SAE student hahaha!). Onyx passed around the various parts which make his technology work, explaining in fine detail his technology, pure data and what inspires him to do this music. I was truly honored to be in his presence and I am very grateful to have been permitted to attend this lecture.
Exhausted from so much information, we chilled out with friends and remembered that we are Irish and Oxford has fantastic night clubs, it would have been a shame to pass up a dubstep night out! In Irish style, we partied in Oxford city centre until the small hours, enjoying wonderful music through the safety of ear plugs- never leave home without them!
And so was my experience of Oxford! A truly wonderful place with wonderful people. Oxford was every bit as exciting and educational as I thought it would be. I am left with a great desire to attend this wonderful college to pursue my own studies but alas, I am already 1/4 of my way through my current degree programme! I will surely come back to Oxford in the very near future and further explore the city, see my friends and exchange more music ideas and thoughts!
Thanks so much for the invite Lee and thanks to the kind people of Oxford 🙂 Until we meet again 🙂