Tag Archives: degree

End of the decade ramblings! Happy New Year 2020!

It’s that time of the year.ย  The time where everyone is posting their Top Nines on Instagram, reflecting on another orbit around the Sun and the ending of another decade.

This time ten years ago I wasn’t blogging, it was the weird interim between Myspace blogging and WordPress blogging. Are the MySpace blogs still out there? Cue tumbleweed.

In Christmas 2009 I had just completed my first ever semester in college (Music Production in Ballyfermot). Black Daisy was long in the history book as the last gig was in December 2008, in Dolan’s Warehouse, Limerick. I didn’t know that then! While I did involve myself in other music performance projects for a little while (the two-piece acoustic Shock Sorrow 2009-14, the rock band Aztaria 2010-11, the rockabilly covers band the Full Moon Boogie Band 2012-13 and the gospel choir 2013-16), I haven’t played onstage during the latter half of the decade.

Do I miss it? No.

I noticed towards the end of Black Daisy, in fact I can remember the very gig, where I started feeling anxiety onstage. It was during our You’re a Star bootcamp shenanigen, when we played in the wee bar in Knockanstocken (I’m 99% sure it was part of the You’re a Star bootcamp, maybe I’m wrong, but definitely late 2007). I remember being up there thinking to myself “What the hell am I doing up here?” and feeling completely out of place. That feeling continued for every gig since. I didn’t realise it then either, that what I (and everyone else) thought was just “oddballness” was my anxiety manifesting itself in a different way.

So instead of the full blown rock n roll antics of the 00s, the 10s saw me going to college and edu-macating myself in music production. I excelled in Ballyfermot 09-11, academically and personally, as I felt embraced my classmates and lecturers. I definitely belonged there at that time. Then DkIT straight after that 11-15 where I definitely improved my skills and academics but also reclused back into myself. I didn’t experience the warm feeling of Ballyfermot there but I did make friends, some of which I still see from time to time.

Then there was the 2 weird years in between the degree and the masters. I was too burned out to jump straight into a masters as I put my heart into my work and got the grade I longed for but the absence of routine and like-minded people affected me. I stopped playing music but The Corrs came back and that took my mind off most matters as I went to as many concerts as possible and made friends along the way. That was fun.

I came back to DkIT to start my masters as a rattling shaking mess of nerves. I found postgraduate life very difficult and to be honest, there isn’t enough talk going on about postgraduate stress as I didn’t know about it until it hit me. The funny thing is, it doesn’t come from school, it comes from yourself. I wanted to ace postgraduate life like I did during my undergraduate years but then, I put massive pressure on myself to excel. I stopped believing in myself and my dissertation topic. I had months were I stopped altogether. Sitting around, feeling guilty for doing nothing yet throwing up when I thought about sitting at my computer or opening a book. Wouldn’t you think an award-winning graduate student who once volunteered to ease in First Year undergrads would know about who to approach for mental counselling? I didn’t. The professional I did talk to (and ultimately helped me) ended up fighting with me for some of it (I’m frightfully stubborn). I came to understand a good bit during this period and I think I’m getting better. Some kind hearts helped me along the way and made sure to check in on me, most days of every week. I know who they are. Thank you especially R and C!

What was most noticeable about the 10s was the swap from the stage to the sound desk. I found myself setting up mics for high-profile sound engineers, gulping back nerves as I set up for acclaimed Irish traditional and folk musicians.ย  Then I found myself behind the desk, making sure the shows ran smoothly. The first few were absolutely bonkers as my nerves were rattling like billy-oh “I don’t belong here, this is not my scene” but lo and behold, I settled in. The same familiar faces were pouring in the doors, sitting in their favourite seats, “Hiya Stephanie!” smiling at me, and oh my goodness did that make me feel nice. I still get nerves before every show, still get sick most mornings of gigs but once I get the gear set up and running, the rest is a doddle.

Now I’m fast approaching the end of my masters, with only weeks of heavy thesis writing left before the shower of corrections and re-drafts before submission and hopefully, graduation. 2020 will be the year I dance out of DkIT feeling finally accomplished. 2020 will be the year I get more traction on my music production life, be it as a sound engineer or otherwise. 2020 will be the year people stop thinking about me as a performer and more as sound engineer. 2020 will be the year I will go on a holiday. And will be the year I will not feel guilty about doing nothing.

I realise all that anxiety/mental health stuff sounds very “first world problems hun”. I’m entirely grateful for my good health, my families’ health, my nice house, my fluffy kitties, the opportunity to study, the opportunity to work in music, and for my lovely circle of friends.

Below is a collection of my favourite moments from 2019:

The couple of days I spent with my Australian friends Rachel, Chris and Ruby, I took them on a whirlwind tour of the North East and Rachel and I partied in Dublin seeing Sharon Corr in concert.

Adopting Charlie to be the purrfect borfur for Rรญrรก. Char is a muffin.

Oh my, the Tom Hardy look-alike in Aberdeen. ‘Nuff said.

Nailing two tickets for Rammstein for 2020, bring on the Feuerzone!!!! RZK I’m comin’ 4 ya.

The rainy Sunday we spent at Barmeath, the old castle we could see peeping through the trees from the basketball court of primary school and wondered what it was like. Now I know. More magical than expected.

Fostering Jimi kitten, the 6-week old tabby who was rescued from behind the billboards on George’s St. He came into my care on my birthday (808 day also International Cat Day). He didn’t want to go back to the rescue centre for adoption and shacked up with us. He’s brilliant.

Working at this was massive.

Doing sound for Kevin Conneff was also massive. He’s a perfect gentleman.

Racing down to Dublin with my Mum to meet Andrea Corr for her book signing. Andrea was a dream and so very nice. We were too shy to ask for a photo though!

Meeting Sal Abruscato before A Pale Horse Named Death gig in Dublin. The gig was simply amazeballs.

Meeting Jim Corr (for a third time in my life), taking my Mum and hearing him play in an intimate venue with the lushious violin playing of Liam Monagher. I could have listened to them both forever. Stunning.

Getting lamped with my work friend at a great wedding, it was mighty craic!ย 

And of course, receiving this awesome edit of Charlie on my beloved DX7! Thanks Rach!!!!

 

Happy New Year 2020 to you!

Steffy x

Another Music Production Project Tracking Completed!

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.

Inspirational beauty in Norway which inspired me
Inspirational beauty in Norway which inspired me
Random sign on my long walk through a Norwegian wood ;)
Random sign on my long walk through a Norwegian wood ๐Ÿ˜‰

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.

Keith writing lyrics in my bedroom studio during a late night recording session
Keith writing lyrics in my bedroom studio during a late night recording session

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.

Craig Sullivan on drums
Craig Sullivan on drums

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!

Having the craic with Fiona in Norway!
Having the craic with Fiona in Norway!

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!

Fiona gave it socks! ;)
Fiona gave it socks! ๐Ÿ˜‰