On loud and quiet – “Oh, I didn’t realize I could be this loud, and heard so far away” (Carrie Brownstein)

I have been a performing songwriter and a musician for over ten years. For 8 of those 10 years I played the acoustic guitar and played mostly quietly. Then two years ago I bought my electric guitar and also started playing bass in some bands. Now I play quietly sometimes and loud some other times. Some times I sing really really softly and occasionally I screetch and holler. And I feel so much happier and more confident in what I do now than I did for those first 8 years. There are lots of reasons for that, with experience being the main one, but being loud has been huge in making me feel like a worthwhile musician.

I don’t for a minute think that loud music is better than quiet music. Everyone wants different music at different times and all kinds of music have the ability to make you feel and forget. But the important thing for me about loud music is that I thought I couldn’t make it, and now I know not only that I can, but anyone can. When you are young and inexperienced and most importantly a girl, it can be easy to feel intimidated. I actually started learning the electric guitar when I was 11. But I had lessons with a man, at school, who taught me Radiohead songs and ‘ob la di ob la da’ and was obviously a bell end. I also had a best friend, who was a boy, who obsessed over his electric guitar, in learning guitar solos and listening to pink floyd. I instantly felt unable to connect, because I didn’t want to do guitar solos then, or listen to Pink Floyd and I didn’t want to learn how amps worked because I was scared I would break them. I wanted to keep everything as simple as possible so that I would feel confident enough to do it. To me the important thing seemed to be doing it, which in retrospect was true, so well done me. So I learned Mr Tambourine man on my acoustic guitar and started writing songs.

It was such a long time before I felt brave enough to use an electric guitar But once I did I realised it was nowhere near as scary as I thought. No one cares when you play a wrong note, even if the note is very loud. It also turns out almost no one understands amps. Things go wrong and break all the time and mostly no one knows why and everyone laughs. The main thing is its an extremely rewarding feeling to play in a band, with bass and drums and guitars. And it is complicated – because you can’t just sit anywhere and do it. You have to have space and you have to be allowed to make noise and you have to co-ordinate. But that is what makes it important. Because it takes effort and negotiation, so what you do is worthwhile. They way you feel afterwards is that you’ve achieved something. Even if the songs are shit.

But there are a number of really important reasons that I love being loud and that have inspired me to be loud and I’d like to list them now. (There are actually way more people who have inspired me than this, but for brevity’s sake these are three big ones) 

The Middle Ones: I started playing shows with The Middle Ones in 2008. At some point, after maybe 2 years of playing together (?) they transformed from being two really incredible writers, singers and artists performing together into like the most powerful stage show of all time. I personally (in my role as a middle ones super fan) site this moment as when I first saw them perform the song Drops with Grace shouting. We had all been playing acoustic twee pop shows together and all of a sudden grace was shouting at the top of her lungs and throwing her shaky eggs on the ground. It was super inspiring and empowering and a lot like when dylan went electric I guess.

T-shirt Weather: When I met T-shirt weather I was touring the UK with Ellis and an acoustic guitar and we were playing songs and being really really super shy about it. It was a really nice tour but it was strange, looking back, to go all that way and play to those people when we had such faltering belief in ourselves. But meeting T-shirt weather was a huge turning point for me. They make music that is half indie-pop and half pop-punk and I remember Tom Sharpe telling me he believed they were the same thing. I guess I’d been essentially playing indie-pop for a few years then but its a really unrewarding genre I think because a lot of it is about self-deprecation and being shy, whereas pop punk is about being a bratty teenage boy. I would say in the last 2 and a half years I have become much more like a bratty teenage boy because of T-Shirt Weather.

Joanna Gruesome: Playing shows with and getting to know Joanna Gruesome has also been a super inspiring process. I definitely never ever would have started shouting on stage if I hadn’t seen Alanna do it. It is such a scary thing to do. But once you start you can’t stop because it feels AMAZING. I also now play in a band with Owen and that has also been very incredible. Playing music with other people is hard and scary and lots of people deal with this by focusing on themselves, and doing their thing right at the expense of other people, or even by focusing on what other people are doing wrong. Owen and Jake our drummer are very very good musicians to play with cos they make you feel like you can do anything. This is such an important quality. I am trying to develop it myself.

The quote in the title is from a Rookie interview with Carrie Brownstein and it is what got me thinking about this stuff recently. When I was young I didn’t think I could or should be loud. And even though I have been writing songs for so long, I don’t think I ever really thought I could be heard. I thought people were listening to the melodies or just weren’t really listening at all. But I have realised that when I play songs, any kind of song, loud or quiet, people will listen, and I can say all kinds of things, which is a really powerful position to be in. That is why its important for people, anyone, to feel that they can be loud when they want to be loud. Because raising you voice and making a noise reminds you of how important your own voice and your own body is. Its a direct example of how you have an impact on the world around you and its good to use it.

About twowhitecranes

I am a songwriter and musician. These are some thoughts I have about that fact. You can find out more here http://www.facebook.com/twowhitecranes
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