Neyla was struggling to prepare for her final exams on a music Master’s degree: her band rehearsals were erratic and poorly attended, her songs were unfinished – there were always ‘bits of a song’ – and not developing particularly well. She was also consistently late for sessions.
I was employed to work with her to help turn the situation around.
Neyla was late and made rushed and weak excuses at our first meeting – we didn’t get much work done.
In my experience this kind of unprofessionalism is often the end of the game for young hopeful singer-songwriters and it’s difficult to come back from it. But I felt strongly that Neyla’s need to write and perform was the reason she wasn’t giving up.
At our next appointment I encouraged her to slow down the conversation and we gradually got to the heart of the matter. I had also asked her to bring recordings of her band rehearsals.
It transpired that Neyla’s family lived in another country and she had left a very turbulent situation behind her there. Her parents had been through a very difficult stage in their marriage due to quite exceptional issues and Neyla was anxious about them and her younger siblings but wanted to be free to pursue her dreams.
She had worked to express this through her music and had written what were essentially very strong pop songs as a result.
I was really encouraged when I heard the rehearsal recordings; there was a depth and beauty to the lyric and melody that was both compelling and very memorable.
But she hadn’t talked about any of this with her band… and this left her feeling isolated and misunderstood. As a Master’s student she felt she ought to be able to cope so hadn’t shared these feelings with anyone.
I arranged a band rehearsal with her right there and then and suggested that I come along as support.
At rehearsal Neyla carefully relayed the stories behind the songs and the band listened with deep interest; they jammed together and discussed the visual aspect of the songs as well as what effects Neyla wanted to achieve in her set.
Their whole investment level altered and they began to suggest detailed ideas for arrangement.
At our last meeting, Neyla was very much happier; she was on time, prepared with recordings, questions and new lyric ideas. She is gradually developing the skills required to lead a band – independence of thought, time taken to listen back to material and dissect it. Neyla is also now understanding how a musician can translate a thought into music!
She is currently in the final stages of rehearsal and doing very well.
If the musicians haven’t been a part of writing the material they are playing, they will be able to collaborate or invest in a rehearsal process far better if they have a background to the songs.
Even when you are singing covers – say in a function band – the best results will be achieved if there is a common understanding between you all about the messages and moods in the songs.
The more they grasp the songwriter’s intentions, the more they can support and elicit a beautiful performance; they are human too!