Andrew Patterson and Joe Rocks
As a teenager >>Watch video>>
As a teenager I grew up feeling insecure, like I didn’t fit in. That’s probably what led me to become a musician in the first place. I discovered playing guitar and writing songs, and putting those ideas, feelings, emotions, pen to paper, regardless of whether the songs were to be heard or not.
Eventually I reached the stage where I had the confidence to go out and sing in front of people but then my inner critic started saying, “That one did quite well, why is this one not doing well?” “Let’s put another one out like that because people connected with that.” All those wee voices suddenly start taking over a little bit more.
While turning to music for a long time was a joy and a release, I definitely noticed, probably after two or three releases, that I’d get frustrated. If promo mails were bouncing back or if I wasn’t getting the gigs I had hoped I would, that doubt or that “imposter syndrome” would lead me to think that I’m not good enough at this.
I think there’s a reason so many people in music suffer from anxiety and different things like that. There’s a lot we have in common, in turning to music as a release but then challenges relating to that start to become apparent.
Competitions >>Watch video>>
Competitions were around when I was starting out. You get geared up to sing a song and then you spend the entire night listening to all of these amazing people. That “imposter syndrome” would kick in then too. You’d think you’re crap if you’re not the same as other competitors and then wonder, “What’s the point in being here?”. Even to the extent of thinking, “Well I hope they’re not good because if they’re not good then I stand a chance of winning.” That was really hard because for a long time the only way I got gigs was doing songwriting competitions and events.
I think they serve a purpose, some of the best friends I have now in music are through competitions but I discovered a couple years back how unhealthy and how problematic they were for my own mind in music so I decided to cut them out. Putting myself through that very competitive aspect of music was really damaging. Stepping away from it really helped me.
The last while
Over the last while I’ve been asking myself, “What do I want to be doing?” rather than doing every gig under the sun. I’m learning to find the things that bring me joy and are worthwhile, whether that’s to four people or a bigger crowd.
I’ve played bigger gigs to people who aren’t there to hear me, and I’ve played smaller gigs to people who were. There’s no money in those but there’s the joy of playing to a crowd of 20 people who are completely silent, who are hanging on your every word and who afterwards are genuinely interested to come up to you.
Social media >>Watch video>>
Burnout and going full throttle at something until you’re physically wrecked is something that so many musicians can do. I will throw myself into my music – doing lots of recording, lots of writing, lots of gigs, and everything, everything, everything – and doing it completely independently. Eventually, I found myself facing a lot of anxiety, particularly around the stage of promoting on social media. It’s something I didn’t realise until a few years ago.
The amount of gigs where you kill yourself because you think, “This is gonna be it, this is gonna be it”, then you go to your social media after and think, “Oh, well nobody even Liked my page”. Those things get to you and you realise this is not what it’s not about.
Over Christmas, social media was melting my head so I took a month out or longer where I wasn’t feeling guilty for not posting something on Instagram just things for the sake of it. I used to post because I’d feel the pressure. You think people will forget you’re there if you don’t post every two days – even just something completely random – but now I’ve reached the stage where if there are songs or gigs or events – if there are things that I genuinely want to share, I will.
I’d often feel like I have to post on social media to represent what I’m trying to become or something that I think people want me to be. Now, I’m trying to feel a little bit more comfortable in my own skin, to just use social media for what I originally set out to do, promote my music.
That release >>Watch video>>
During lockdown people went one way or another: people became the most productive they’ve ever been and wrote entire albums and recorded them and released them, or people did nothing. I found myself between the two where I’d sit and write a song but then I’d maybe feel guilty for not finishing it. During that time I’d pick up the guitar and play, just sticking on Glen Hansard or whoever I want to be listening to in the background and just jamming away.
I’d just jam away to my favourite stuff to listen to – not necessarily picking up the guitar to work on something or to fix a song. In that time then, one or two songs just might start to flow out and that was a big thing for me – that release.
Releasing music >>Watch video>>
I’ve released music in the past while, some I’ve done a lot of promo for, some I’ve just put out as a song. When I was having that anxiety and doubt about whether to release something, a friend of mine gave me one of the best pieces of advice. One of the nights before my EP was out, I said, “I dunno I might just pull this whole thing”. He said, “Look, just stick it out. If it’s crap, people will forget about it and move on, then go on to your next thing. If it’s not, you might find it turns into something bigger than you’ve ever expected.” I think that is the case for some songs.
I put a single out there recently, Hope Will Find Its Way. It speaks to a lot of that anxiety, self doubt, all that, but it was a song written just for me. I recorded it just over lockdown because I’d nothing else to be doing. I liked the sound of it, went to put it out and people ended up responding to it in a way I never would have expected.
It’s about realising what you want. I guess I’m just trying to focus on those things that bring me joy. We were away from music for so long so it’s getting back now to just doing the stuff that makes you happy and taking a break when you need to.
Community >>Watch video>>
The other thing I’m getting better at is just surrounding myself in a community of people who are like-minded. Definitely up around Belfast when I was a teenager starting out there wasn’t a group of people who were doing what I was doing – at least it wasn’t apparent at that time.
Now I can definitely see, if you’re 16/17 starting out, there are so many people on the same path – there are different competitions, there are different events, there are groups like Forestside Roots putting on events for people to just meet each other.
In building genuine friendships with musicians who are going through the same thing you are, there’s that trust there to say, “Look I’m feeling rough” or “Here’s a song I’m thinking about, but I’m not sure about it”, or “I’m not writing at the minute and I’m doubting myself”, or “That gig I did – I just felt it didn’t do well, I went home feeling awful”, and just have a chat.
Creating those friendships comes with intentional time spent getting to know people, building relationships. That’s the power of music as well. When there is that circuit of people, that community of people, it’s life changing. I really value that, the people around me at least, I’m really thankful for them.
Andrew Patterson’s latest single Hope Will Find It’s Way is out now.
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