Posts Tagged ‘songwriting’

I finally, finally made it.

Hummingbird is being released on the 9th November 2019. All of the files have gone to the CD manufacture plant, everything is uploaded to Emubands for distribution, and I can finally breathe again.

Hummingbird large

It was a bit of an exciting ride. I had been gently ambling along, doing a bit of writing here and mixing there and not really rushing things. I figured I had until this week to send the CD Master files. Alas for me, the company I chose to use this time (entirely because they had really good reviews and because they are one of the few places in the UK willing to do low number runs of glass mastered CDs) got in touch with me to say they would be closed for a crucial period. So I ended up finishing the writing, recording, mixing and mastering, all within a frantic 72 hour period.

There was not enough gin in the world for this. Still, I persisted.

Everything went off by the 11th October. Last week was spent mastering instrumentals (in the event that I manage to place anything in film or TV, they always like a good instrumental) and dealing with the distributor, and this week I am doing promo and remembering how to breathe again.

Meanwhile, I had a very fun gig at Busk in York towards the end of September which gave me an opportunity to dust off a new cover (Waterboy, originally by Rhiannon Giddons) and generally sing to a very enthusiastic audience. It was a really enjoyable evening, very atmospheric, and I hope the first of many more to come.

So what now? Well, pre-orders are open for both digital and physical CDs of Hummingbird. I highly recommend it, but then I am biased!

The Launch Party is on the 9th November, at Micklegate SOCIAL, 148 Micklegate, York, YO1 6JX – FREE ENTRY! Doors at 7:30, music starts at 8 and I will be very ably supported by Sarah Hardman and The Nocturnal Flowers. Due to the venue’s own licensing laws, it’s over 18’s only, so please bring ID, but don’t let that put you off!

Hummingbird launch poster

See you there!



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“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined”

That is the text on a kitsch little wooden sign that dangles from my work PC monitor. Presumably I bought it to remind myself that there is more to life than the nine to five (or in my case, 8:30 – 4:30) but it did start me thinking about balance and how bad I am at it.

Facebook helpfully reminded me recently that my fans hadn’t heard from me in eight days. It likes to do that. It likes to point out my inadequacies just in case I had forgotten to lie awake until 3am worrying about them. My own self-loathing couldn’t possibly be sufficient, now the internet has to pitch in as well.

Here is the unglamorous truth about being an unsigned, unheard of musician. You can only do music full time with money. Without money you need a job. But a job will sap every last ounce of energy out of you and make it very VERY hard to keep making music. And on it’s own, that’s already a challenge. Now add in self-promotion. Keeping fans up to date and building a following is another full time job. It’s ok if you have money, you can hire someone to do this bit for you. But without the money, you need a job. Circles and circles.

What happened to my optimistic plans of regular blogs, mailing everyone like a boss, free downloads, new content every week and all the things that I need to actually be doing?

In short, life. And life does this to everyone. In my case, my partner had surgery, and my new permanent daylighting project (aka my job which puts food on the table and keeps a roof over me and my keyboard) went stratospheric with intensity and busy-ness. I PA for two directors and do financial admin support, so my day is pretty busy. In the midst of all this, I simply ran out of spoons for anything else. I spent Mon-Thur, May-July coming home, eating dinner, going to bed, rinse and repeat. By the time I got to my dedicated Music day (Fridays) I was so worn out I was just sleeping and reading and trying to regroup so that my mental health did not become a casualty to the impending burnout.

So yes, it’s true. My fans on facebook have not heard from me in eight days. I haven’t blogged since April. I opened an instagram account which has remained unused. My mailing list is still languishing unused. I’m a terrible TERRIBLE promoter.

OK, well, I must have made some music right? Well, yes. I have written two things since FAWM in February. You can find those here.

Things are slowly starting to improve. My partner can now walk again, and pull weight around the house so I am not also doing all the cooking and cleaning. My workload is starting to settle down (either that or I’m getting used to it). I even spoke to PRS yesterday to sort out my tunecodes so I can claim on my live gigs from the start of the year (yes, that’s how behind I am).

I don’t really know why I’m writing this, other than I really want people to understand that when someone goes quiet for a long period of time, it’s not personal. That I still really appreciate the support of my friends and fans and that I haven’t fallen off the earth, I just got buried for a while and had to dig myself out. That this arrangement of having to daylight to pay the bills is not ideal but is one that so many musicians face because people have started to believe that music should be free, or that people should create art out of love and not want financial recompense. That I really, passionately believe that music has value and should be accorded respect, because no matter what you think of it, someone has poured their heart and soul into it, very probably after a long day of financial reporting, filing, street sweeping, serving in a restaurant, scanning items in a supermarket or cleaning toilets.

This isn’t the life I imagined. I have a way to go to get there. Thanks for your patience while I work on it.




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You know how sometimes you fail to reply to an email, or a letter, and then time passes, with you meaning to respond, and then more time, and more time, until suddenly you realise that it’ll now be weird when you reply, and you’ve left it way too long and don’t even know where to start?


I didn’t mean for four months to fly by with nary a post from me to let you all know I still had a pulse, I really didn’t. But one thing led to another and as the days crept guiltily by I just couldn’t think of what to write.

So what has kept me from you all this time?

My writer’s block hasn’t extended to music, not one bit. I completed FAWM comfortably with 14 solid songs, many of which are keepers. I’ve continued writing since the end of February, and even have a crazy plan to attempt 50/90 – another songwriting challenge. Where FAWM is a sprint, this one is a marathon. 50 songs in 90 days, or an ambitious 16.333333333 (recurring ad nauseum) songs per month (ish). It starts on the 4th July, and promises to be an interesting diversion. Or obsession. Tomato, tomato.

You know, I’ve only just realised this: “Tomato, tomato.” That’s one of the few phrases that simply doesn’t work in text. Crazy. Anyway, I digress.

What else have I been up to?

Well, amongst the writing, I created a brand new song in an afternoon, along with a video. The demo was basically recorded while I filmed, which was interesting, and the most complex thing I’ve attempted so far.

Videos have always seemed to me to be a dark art, and the one aspect of musical creativity I really don’t understand how to do. I go on Youtube, and I see these amazing videos, done by up and coming artists, who all seem to have tame camera operators and film editors to call on. They are also invariably gorgeous, own long flowing dresses and at least one grand piano, and live near a mystical forest, or a scenic beach, or an empty church… I try to do the same thing, and it looks like the cat got hold of the video camera, dragged it around a bit and accidentally turned it on. Given that an untrained chimp could produce a better video than me without really trying, I was actually pretty thrilled with this attempt:

It was both harder and easier than I expected. I’d like to try the picture in picture thing again, this time for something like Scarlet Casanova, because the harmonies kick in from the beginning. At this rate of video creation, I expect to be halfway competent before I’m sixty!

Anyway, sarcasm aside, if anyone out there feels like it would be fun to make a video for any of my songs, shout out. I have zero budget, but I do a good line in cake and gratitude, and perhaps worldwide fame one day! I’d love to collaborate!

What else? Well, I’ve been working part time at the University in a continued, misguided attempt to make my millions (aka pay the rent). It’s been hard this year, work seems to be thin on the ground, but I do have a good number of singing students, which is helping, and also I enjoy teaching. It’s hard to have a bad time singing duets or showing people how to stretch range and build power in their voices, it’s a learning process I’m immensely proud to be part of.

Musically, I have a few other bits and bats in the pipeline. I’ve started the process of editing and mixing the tracks for the new album. I don’t yet have a title, but I do know that it’s being released in September, and I also have an artist lined up who I’m thrilled to have on board for the artwork. I am so lucky to have the friends I do – I am surrounded by a very multitalented and generous group of individuals and I’m grateful every day for them.

York has a new radio station starting, 2 Rivers Radio, and I’m pleased to say that Vinnie Whitehead is going to be interviewing me and playing some songs from the new album for it. We’re doing a live In Session recording next Tuesday and I’m very excited about it.

To my abject astonishment and without any bribery on my part (either financial or in the form of baked goods) I have also been nominated, for the second year running, for a Yorkshire Gig Guide Grassroots Award, in the category of Outstanding Band/Artist. This is amazing and I’m thrilled to bits! This is where some audience participation can occur, if you feel so inclined, you can vote for me to reach the next stage.

So, I could say at this stage that I promise not to leave it so long before writing again. But you know, and I know, that that is simply a challenge to my subconscious to really fall off the wagon and not write another word until 2016, so let’s not, eh?

Until next time.


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Wow, time flies when you’re having fun.

Or working like a dog.


In any case, something more like normal service should be resumed now. After a crazy January of working 10 hour days between the university job and singing tuition, things have now settled down slightly with a reduction in hours to four days a week instead of five. I’m still busy, but I can now enjoy luxuries like eating and sleeping.

Oh, and taking part in the yearly write-fest that is February Album Writing Month. That too. 😉

So far, progress has been good, I think. A week in, I’m bang on target with four songs recorded and up on the site and several on the go. My biggest challenge is keeping up with the listening and commenting – the site is so much bigger this year than previous ones, so it can feel pretty overwhelming staying on top of everything. As always though it’s a fantastic experience and a strong and positive community.

I usually like to blog about FAWM and put up posts highlighting some of my favourite listens. I’m going to open with a post about what I’ve been doing, and then post again later in the week when I’ve narrowed down five or so recommendations – the quality this year is outstanding, which is great but makes finding five or so favourites actually pretty hard!

So my four so far (in order of posting and with the disclaimer that these are rough demos with some errors and glitches!):

Shadows on the Run

January was a horrible struggle this year, as it is for many of us, which is what inspired this one.

I know it’s not always easy
Life can leave you hollow inside
Striped down and defenceless
On a hellish ride

Too many corners and angles
The path ahead obscure and unknown
But nothing is forever
And you’re not alone

See the shadows on the run
In the path of something better coming true
Winter’s time is almost done
And the light is pushing through
See the shadows on the run
See the future stretching out before you
In the golden summer sun
There’ll be nothing you can’t do

I know you’ve been cold in the darkness
Chilled by every little mistake
Sometimes it feels like there’s nothing
More you can take

The wind is so bitter, the land is so hard
Stagnation feels so easy to do
But nothing is forever
And we’ll see it through

See the shadows on the run
In the path of something better coming true
Winter’s time is almost done
And the light is pushing through
See the shadows on the run
See the future stretching out before you
In the golden summer sun
There’ll be nothing you can’t do

Rubbish Fairy Tale

A favourite of mine and one that will be on set lists for live gigs from now on, this is a song about expectations and how reality so rarely matches up.


I was looking for a pot of gold
Had to settle for a pin
I dreamt of a knight in armour bold
Got a boy made out of tin

Ooh, what a rubbish fairy tale
Ooh, what a rubbish fairy tale

This “happy-ever-after” thing
Is so last hundred years
The poisoned apple book of lies
Makes a mockery of tears

Ooh, what a rubbish fairy tale
Ooh, what a rubbish fairy tale

I won’t guess your name
And I won’t let down my hair
I’ve kissed a thousand frogs and they’re all still there
You can keep your slipper
You can keep your throne
All I want is a good book and a night at home

Ooh, what a rubbish fairy tale
Ooh, what a rubbish fairy tale
Ooh, what a rubbish fairy tale
Ooh, what a rubbish fairy tale


This was written as part of a song skirmish. Song skirmishes are one of my favourite things about FAWM. Someone picks a title, and everyone who takes part has one hour to write a song with that title. Then they’re shared. It consistently amazes me how differently people interpret the titles. This was my offering.

Here on the battlefield we will take a stand
In the killing fields our test is close at hand
We won’t be bound, we won’t fear death
We’ll hold our ground until the final breath

Those who went before us
Stained the good earth with their blood
And we who follow after
Feel their heartbeats in the mud
The hounds of war are coming
Howling death, despair and rage
But our courage will sustain us as we meet them

Here on the battlefield we will take a stand
In the killing fields our test is close at hand
We won’t be bound, we won’t fear death
We’ll hold our ground until the final breath

There’s no honour in this bloodshed
But some things must be done
As we tumble rank and file
To never see the sun
Some may call us martyrs
And some may call us fools
But to bow before the enemy is foolish too

Here on the battlefield we will take a stand
In the killing fields our test is close at hand
We won’t be bound, we won’t fear death
We’ll hold our ground until the final breath

Impossible Windmills

This is the saddest one this year and carries a trigger warning because of the content of the lyrics (mental health/depression). I’d like to re-record the vocals at some point. Gemma helped out with the lyrics on the last verse 🙂

A note on the mirror, written in steam
I can see clearly, through the glass nearly
A chink in your armour, patched up with glue
A smile sad as oceans, as you go through the motions

You’re tilting again at impossible windmills
I’m helpless again as you fall to the night

A page in your diary, a hole in your heart
I understand partly, through the glass darkly
A word left unspoken, a thorn in your mind
You’re turning away now, you’ve nothing to say

You’re tilting again at impossible windmills
I’m helpless again as you fall to the night

You’re tilting again at impossible windmills
I’m helpless again as you fall to the night
You’re tilting again at impossible windmills
I’m helpless again as you fall to the night

A note on the mirror
Written in steam

 So there you are, February so far. I have several gigs coming up in March and April which I’ll be writing about soon, and at least two of these stand a very good chance of being added to my live repertoire.
If you want to follow my progress on FAWM, head to the FAWM website  🙂 Or you could sign up and take part if you feel so inclined, it’s not too late!

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Hello, hello! Firstly I must apologise, because I did something totally shocking last Thursday – I failed to blog at all. Not even an apologetic animation from Simon’s Cat to make up for it.

In my defence, on Thursday, I had 7 out of 14 songs up for FAWM, leaving me 7 to do in just over 24 hours in order to complete the challenge. I’d also had some other bad news and was in the process of many long and complicated phone calls to try to sort things out. In short, life took a bit of a wonky turn down the side streets of “oh crap!” and I had to stop and deal with it all.

Things were back on a more even keel Friday afternoon, and I started to tackle the seven songs. The FAWM site doesn’t officially close to submissions until mid-day on the 1st of March, but my rule every year is that all fourteen have to be written between midnight on the 1st February UK time and midnight 1st March, so I had to be done Friday midnight for it to count for me. I also wanted to have as many as possible with demos. Writing this many songs in what turned out to be a ten hour period is what’s known by FAWMers as a “feast”, so, Friday’s feast went a bit like this:

Song 8 – Fearless

The first one up on Friday, posted at about 4:30-5pm (I forget – the day passed in such a blur once I got started!), was a song about the emotional and physical challenge that was Trailtrekker. I already had a fairly good idea about the piano part –  it was something that I’d been kicking around all month. Something about the electric piano sound I’d used was making me think of dark hills for some reason and one thing led to another. I called it Fearless. Like all of the songs posted on Friday, it was essentially one take – no redos on vocals or pianos, and given the short space of time, nothing was terribly well rehearsed, (but don’t let that put you off any of the songs!).

Song 9 – Coffee and Conversation

About an hour later, Coffee and Conversation went up. This one didn’t take too long because I’d already drafted both the lyrics and the piano backing, so I just needed to tie it together and record it. I think it’s an ok song, it’s not one of my favourites, but we’ll see what happens later this month when I go back over these. Another one take wonder – like just about everything done Friday! The chorus is too slow to my mind, I’d used a metronome and recorded the piano independently of the vocals which meant it didn’t flow as well as I wanted it to, but that’s nothing rehearsal and re-recording won’t fix. I prefer recording vocals and piano together but that needs more muscle memory, which means rehearsal, and I just didn’t have the time!

Song 10 – Being Gay Makes It Rain

One of my absolute favourites this FAWM, the concept had been rattling around since the first week of FAWM, but I was a little intimidated because what I could hear in my head and what I felt I could reasonable produce with just me and a piano and some synths wasn’t really matching up. I still want a massive gospel choir to kick in on the chorus. In fact, what I really, really want is to see this as a musical theatre number. With dancing, and flamboyance, and pretty fabrics, damnit! Instead, it was me and a piano against the ticking clock. But close your eyes and listen for the gospel choir. They’re there in spirit. I had fun recording this, especially the ending 🙂

Song 11 – Eyes Like Summer

Written for my long-suffering better half, the piano part on this took me by surprise. I wanted to write something beautiful, mellow and expressive, and I struggled, as I often do, with finding lyrics that weren’t too twee. I hope I succeeded. I have some fondness for this one, not sure if it’ll ever make an album, but it’s got a lot of potential, I think.

Song 12 – Go **** Yourself

After a break for some dinner, I cracked on with this one. I had some help from friends on Facebook with the lyrics, again, it had been a concept that I’d been letting trundle about in my hindbrain for a while, and it was cemented by unpleasant events earlier in the week, so I asked Facebook friends to brainstorm other ways of effectively telling someone to cock off. I didn’t actually want to write an overtly offensive song, I thought it would be much more effective to write something that seethed, but very politely. Despite the NSFW warning, it probably is, really. Whether you think “go blow a goat” is too filthy for young children to hear is a matter of preference and morality, I think, but it really doesn’t get any worse than that, and the f-word, although implied very strongly, is never actually used. The piano was the hardest part of writing and recording this and as a result, I definitely want to re-visit it this month and fix it.

Song 13 – Darkest Timeline

It’s rather appropriate that this is song 13, as anyone who has watched Community will probably agree. This was a co-write with my better half, she wrote the lyrics and I wrote and performed the music. I use “performed” loosely at this point. It was 11pm Friday night and I was seriously up against the clock. This is officially the fastest piece of electronica writing I have ever done. It took 20 minutes. I already had the bassline, thank goodness, so I added a basic drum placeholder, an intro, and some seriously warped vocals. And then uploaded it. The base idea is there though, and again I think this could potentially be a strong track, once I’ve done some serious work on it. I do mean serious.

Song 14 – Here All Along

So I had a little over half an hour left at this point and no idea what on earth my final song was going to be about. I do like writing a-capella songs, so I thought maybe that would be a fun way to finish FAWM, but in the time I had, it couldn’t be anything too intricate. So I started scribbling lyrics about, well, writing. The first verse still feels a little clunky to me, but it works well enough and I can always revise it later. Ran a melody a few times, then hit record. I got the lyrics posted at 5 to midnight, and I finished recording at midnight on the dot, the whole thing plus demo was live on the site by 5 past, but that was fine as the writing and recording had been finished within the time limit.

And then I went and poured myself a large serving of alcohol. Yes indeed. I won FAWM. Fourteen songs with thirteen demos in 28 days.

I should probably explain the lack of a demo for Ode to Housework. It being a comedy track, the piano is fast, twinkly, and technically a total pig to play. Because I couldn’t play it well enough to get a demo down, I haven’t done it yet. I will never understand my propensity for writing things I can’t actually play yet. I do plan to get a demo up before the end of March, and I’ll certainly yet you know when it’s live 🙂

Overall, FAWM was a total blast this year, even around stressful life events and all that jazz. Gemma and I were even lucky enough to get one of our co-writes featured on the final FAWMcast (a regular podcast which ran all month showcasing tracks people had written). So if you are interested and short of time, Clockwork Ballerina  was played an hour (1:00:40ish) into this:

If you aren’t short of time, the whole show is, of course, awesome and worth checking out, the hosts review each track on air and the tracks are handpicked for their very awesomeness 🙂

Now I’ve waffled at you all to death, I shall leave you until Thursday 😉 . Have a fantastic week out there!

FAWM writing is over, but FAWM listening has begun. There are 9894 songs on the site, so it’s well worth having a look! http://fawm.org/songs/

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Happy Monday lovely readers! After a busy week of work, more work and a smidgeon of work, I managed to make a small dent in my own FAWM progress yesterday, bringing my total to 6 out of 14 songs. This leaves me with eight songs in five days. I’m optimistic, as this is a quiet week work wise 🙂 Wish me luck and a cooperative muse!

Meanwhile, this week’s pick of the FAWM crop starts with the catchy, quirky Listening Skills by Rachel McClean. Stompy, powerful, punchy, and packed with handclaps, this won’t leave your head in a hurry. Worth looking out for her if you live around Nottingham in the UK, I have no idea if she gigs, her profile doesn’t say, but I certainly hope so.

Next up, some solid hip-hop electronica in the form of Anozira by Gemini Knight. If you aren’t a hip-hop fan, don’t let that put you off catching this, it’s an ambient instrumental and very listenable indeed – packed with ear candy, an ideal headphones track. According to his profile, he writes using his iPad, which earns him extra kudos in my book, given the full rich sounds he’s achieved with this track.

I was torn on the next one, between the wonderfully silly The Swedish Chef Sings the Blues and Really Not That Hard, both by The Faithful Sidekicks. I have so many board gaming friends though that Really Not That Hard became the shoein, if nothing else for the interjection “poor little meeple”! Well, ok, and the fact that many Saturday nights in our house go like this!

Next up, a bouncy, enjoyable offering from Karlos Harrison, Mystery Wanderer. The overlapping vocals on the refrain are very reminiscent of They Might Be Giants, and in trying to work out which TV programme title theme it reminded us of, both my better half and I thought Grange Hill or Rhubarb and Custard. Regardless, this one is another ear-worm that you actually want to have. Beautifully produced, musically sound and synthtastic. And if that isn’t a word yet, it should be.

Finally, the lyrics-only song of the week. This one is dedicated to parents and grandparents everywhere, especially ones with toddlers – Learning the Language by an artist going by the name of wordsandstuff9. The line “you know one day he’s gonna inappropriately punctuate” broke me completely. Highly recommended.

And that concludes the final weekly FAWM posting this February. I hope you’ve enjoyed my recommendations, hopefully it’s inspired you to go and have an explore of some of the other wonderful things being created! There’s five more days to go, and 7,642 songs to choose from at the time of writing this, and best of all, the FAWM website will stay open after February for your listening pleasure. I’ll let you know next week if I managed to complete the challenge!



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Ah it’s that time of year again. When florists triple the price of a dozen roses, Hallmark overdose on pink and red ink, the world’s quote of helium is used up, and mountains of cuddly, fluffy bears and other animals are adopted that will soon be homeless again when the novelty has worn off (cuddly toys are for life, people, not just for Hallmark Day..!). You can almost smell the saccharine in the air. Mmm February.

Thankfully, February is also the seat of a very awesome yearly thing known as FAWM. February Album Writing Month. The challenge? To write 14 songs in 28 days. How far you take this is entirely up to you, some people only post titles, some people post fully recorded demos. The more complete the song that you post, the more likely you are to get feedback, but ultimately the challenge is individual. The quality every year staggers me – I have managed to complete the challenge three times (none of them recently) and my quota is inevitably made up of some questionable lyric only songs, and at least one attempt that turns out to be total drivel that I cringe whenever I hear again afterwards. But what other people produce can be utter gold. For today’s blog post, I want to share some of the great tracks that have been produced so far.

First up, Please Come Out of the Snow, by Tim Wille. This grabbed me because of the unusual use of the drums, the way they roll through the verses, and also the massive, complex, soundscape that has been created. This is an example of a fully demo’ed, very polished track, and as someone who’s followed Tim Wille through many years of FAWM, I’d say this is one of my favourites of his. 🙂

For a Tori Amos-esque piano and gorgeous imagery, I adore Elaine DiMasi’s Weightless – the piano fills the space wonderfully, and the lyrics are extraordinarily evocative. This is another musician I’ve followed for a long time, and I’m always impressed by the quality of her work.

The line “you were drunk as a skunk and surrounded by punks” led me to immediately decide to listen to this next one, The Theme Tune to The Lord of the Rings, by Dominic Gray. A low-fi acoustical cracker of a track that transported me immediately to summer festivals, cider and starry nights. Fantastic piece of work and he has a great voice to boot.

Now a bit of HullHop from my good friend Vinnie Whitehead: Cash Counter (NSFW – contains swearing). With a solid hook, and a topic we can all empathise with, this is an enjoyable listen, and like all of Vinnie’s work, is practically album ready even as a demo. Vinnie’s got a lot of energy which isn’t lost when he’s recorded, and he works the lyrics brilliantly.

Finally, a lyric-only contribution, Sleepwalkers, from the wonderful Gemma Robinson-Wilson. FAWM is a great opportunity for lyricists not only to get some writing in but also to meet up with and collaborate with other musicians. What I love about this song is that the imagery is so clear, unequivocal and powerful, I can almost hear the music to go with it.

And that concludes this Monday’s blog. I’ll be posting about FAWM probably every Monday in February to share more wonders I’ve found with you all. Finally, if you are interested in following my progress on there, check out my profile. See you Thursday 🙂

If you are a musician or lyricist and want to take part, it’s not too late! Go to the FAWM website and register, write some songs and you’re away! 

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