Tag Archives: Blog

Il dolce far niente

“Il dolce far niente” is an Italian saying literally meaning “the sweetness of doing nothing”.
It doesn’t mean being lazy, but refers to that good feeling you can get from being idle and living in the moment. “Dolce far niente” is thoroughly enjoying the taste of that good cup of coffee, it’s taking a walk and breathing in fresh air, it’s watching the sunset, enjoying a nice home cooked meal with family; it’s meditating, but it’s also staring out the window or spending time with friends…it’s basically anything you like doing that gets you relaxed, makes you feel good, brings energy…seize the day, live in the moment. It’s something a lot of people aren’t great at (including me!!). The Italians however embrace “il dolce far niente” – they know the art of doing nothing, they see it as an important day to day activity and there’s a lot we can learn from that.

This summer we went to Italy again. Same place, same apartment as last year…arriving at the apartment felt like coming home. We were welcomed by the owners, who’s hospitality and kindness are absolutely great; providing us with fresh fruit from the garden and homemade prosecco. Being there again, made me realise how much I missed the place, the views, the sun and the beautiful sunsets.
“Dolce far niente” – it pretty much sums up my summer holiday…
Spending time with my family, meeting up with friends, watching the sunset, enjoying a glass of wine, enjoying the Italian sun and beautiful weather, walking barefoot on a sandy beach, feeling the wind, seeing the moon and stars at night, swimming in the sea, eating pizza, watching the geckos chasing bugs, being in nature, visiting ancient medieval towns, playing cards and board games and so much more…
Good times always go by way too fast, but the memories will last. Memories of joy and laughter, memories of funny and awkward situations, memories of feeling good and relaxed… Oh yes…I’m definitely having the holiday blues!

Back to reality it is now…holiday is over and life is turning back to ‘normal’ again. It’s very easy to get caught up again in the busyness of everyday life, so I made a promise to myself…I’m going to practice “il dolce far niente” much more than I already did. It’s a fact that mindfulness, consciously focusing on the present moment, will increase energy levels, bring clarity of mind and greater focus, but it’s so easy to forget about this… Time to adopt the art of doing nothing, weave it into my days and make it a very important daily activity!

“Dolce far niente” is also a lyric from Robb Murphy’s new single ‘Italian Dreams’ which he released in July. The perfect song to end this blog with… The song was written during a long summer in Italy. It’s a lighthearted song with a 60’s vibe, a hint of The Beach Boys. The single is supported by an animated lyric video created by Italian artist Marco Burani.

Watch the video:

or stream the song on Spotify:

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Space cake…episode 2

People who are looking for a space cake recipe…I’m sorry to disappoint you, but you won’t find it in this blog… Space cake…I can almost hear you say “If there’s no space cake recipe, then what’s this blog about??” 😉

Well…I’ve been writing blogs about everything happening behind the scenes with Robb Murphy (singer-songwriter) for two years now and ’Space Cake’ happens to be one of the most viewed blog posts in the past few years. Every time I see that someone viewed that particular blog, it makes me giggle and think that it’s probably someone who was looking for a space cake recipe… Space cake tells the story of customs mistaking the Dutch spice cake (ontbijtkoek) I took with me on a trip to Northern Ireland for drugs… If you’re curious, go and have a read. It’s one of the many funny things that happened in the 4 ½ years I’ve been working with Robb.

Two years and many blog posts written…
Today I was reading some old blogs….there’s so much I wrote about! It’s good to read it all again, because I forgot a lot of the funny things that happened in the past few years. Reading the blogs brought back a lot of great memories!

Over the past few years the amount of people visiting the blogs increased, this year in particular. In the first months of the year I wrote blogs to introduce you to the band members. They were sent a very long list of questions to get to know them a bit better…and they all took time to answer the questions….without complaining…except for Robb, who complained that I sent him 9 million questions to answer 😉 I’m glad that they all took time for this, because these blogs were read a lot! Until the end of last year Space Cake was on top of the stats, but every blog I wrote about the band members were viewed a lot more! Kevin is the man though! Sorry Robb, Al, Rick and Dave…I think that Kevin has some secret admirers 😉 because his blog is the best read blog so far!

If you didn’t read the ‘Introducing’-blogs yet, click on the pictures of the band members below, that will guide you to the blog posts.

Robb Murphy Rick McKee Kevin Carlisle David Bennington Alan Ladd

Two years of blog writing…thank you all who’ve been reading my blogs!
I’m sure that there will be many more blogs to come, keep an eye on here or follow us on Social Media.

Those of you who are reading this blog for the first time…Robb is a singer-songwriter from Belfast and if you’re a music lover and like acoustic music with elements of pop, country, classical and folk, check out his music!

 

The Darker Side…the story behind the song

It’s Saturday, the weather is beautiful and I’m sitting outside with a glass of wine… and coffee….life is good! Wine, coffee…sunset…perfect moment to write a blog. Writing this blog has been going through my mind for a couple of weeks now, so it’s time to get it out of my head and get the story written!

A couple of weeks ago Robb Murphy’s song ‘The Darker Side’ was added to a playlist called ‘Music to Grieve to’ on Spotify. A playlist with beautiful songs from well and less known artists:

This got me thinking about the story behind this song and that it would be nice to share a bit more about it and write a blog.
The Darker Side is the only song from the album ‘Sleep Tonight’ that was not written in Italy. Robb wrote the song in May 2013. Around that time he was preparing the recordings for the album Sleep Tonight. He wrote blogs about the songs for the album and shared a lot of demos. I remember that Robb told me that he wrote The Darker Side, it came together very quickly and when he shared the demo with me I remember him saying that it was kind of a heavy song. I listened and loved the song right away. I could relate to the song, it’s a song that brings comfort. Shortly after Robb wrote the song, he shared the demo online, not being aware of the effect that this song would have on people and what this song later on would mean for himself, because a couple of weeks after Robb wrote this song, his mother unexpectedly passed away.

In the past few years we received a lot of good feedback to ‘The Darker Side’, but not only that. More than once people have shared their personal stories and told us how much this song has helped them while dealing with loss and grief or going through dark times. Those stories make us aware of how powerful a song can be. Robb writes a lot of songs, all written, composed and created from the heart and for himself. Only a small amount of songs make it to an album or EP. Sure we hope that people will listen and will like the music when an album, EP or song is being released, but we’re not aware of the effect that a song may have on other people at that time. That only happens when people share their stories and tell us how a song has touched or affected them. Whether a song has made people do a happy dance, has put a smile on their face, helps them through dark times or people simply can relate to a song…it’s special to hear those stories and it shows the power of music.

Back to ‘The Darker Side’. It’s a song that has developed a lot over the years and there are a lot of different versions of the song to find online, but it all started with this demo:

Robb and the band started playing this song live, but it wasn’t until 2014 before the song was recorded as part of the album ‘Sleep Tonight’.

Robb finished the recordings of the album at the end of July 2014. It was sent off for mastering and right after that he and his fiancée (now wife!) went on holiday. During their holiday they filmed several acoustic videos of songs from the album Sleep Tonight. One of those songs was ‘The Darker Side’. A different version of the song was born.

The album ‘Sleep Tonight’ was released in March 2015. Not long after the release of ‘Sleep Tonight’. Robb was invited to perform an acoustic version of ‘The Darker Side for The Arts Show (BBC TWO). The producer of the show had seen the acoustic video recorded in Italy and said that that version would be a good song to replicate. Below the result:

Due to the great feedback Robb received on this performance he decided to record and a release a new, stripped back, acoustic version of ‘The Darker Side’.

While rehearsing and playing the song live, it kept developing. The next version of the song was recorded during a live session for Live uit Lloyd, RTV Rijnmond in Rotterdam.

‘The Darker Side’, a song that can be played in many ways, full band or just stripped back with only a guitar and vocals… a song that has touched and helped people… It was nice to see that ‘The Darker Side’ was added to the ‘Music To Grieve To’ playlist on Spotify. Hopefully the song will reach and help a lot more people in the future.

The Darker Side – lyrics

When the night falls in and the nightmares come
When there’s fading light and the day is done
I will fight you ‘till the morning comes
I will guard my heart and steady my head

‘Cause there is hope for all mankind
If we let go of the darker side
There’s nothing here to hold us back
And everything is open wide
If we let go of the darker side

Down the hill and through the pastures
To the old stone smokey house
I’ve not been here for years
Afraid that I will not confide
Not let go of the darker side

Here I am I come to you
With an open hand but life’s tattoo
I will fight you ‘till the night turns day
Everything is open wide
If we let go of the darker side
If we let go of the darker side
If we let go of the darker side

The Darker Side

Robb Murphy…Q & A

I’ve been writing blogs about everything happening behind the scenes with Robb Murphy for a couple of years now, but while writing the blogs about the band members and introducing them, it came to mind that I never really wrote a blog like that about Robb. It’s about time!

Those of you who’ve been reading my blogs already know a bit about Robb. Next to being a songwriter, creator of music and producer, he’s an outstanding pizza maker, coffee and tea lover, vegan, vinyl collector and he’s always up for silliness….a lot of silliness… Robb likes to challenge himself but, maybe more so, he likes to challenge others…yes I’ve been there 😉 It’s not easy to fool him…but occasionally I manage to do it… Robb always tends to be late and I remember that during one of the tours we had to be at a radio station very early in the morning. I had reasons to believe that we would be late if I told Robb the exact time we had to leave, so I added 30 minutes spare time to that, without Robb knowing… Due to that we arrived at the radio station earlier than expected… That trick never worked again after that btw! And I have to admit…that trick was never needed again, because  we’ve managed to be on time everywhere we had to go ever since.

And…there’s that thing with reading… Robb doesn’t always read everything…of which he recently posted proof…just a few emails to read…

Sometimes I have to be creative when it comes to making sure that Robb reads what I send him…by adding silly things for example. A while ago I made a to do list and I needed to be sure that Robb would read it. I added ‘practice choreography’ to that list and when he asked me what that was about, I knew that he had read the file 😉
And there’s another example of Robb not always reading everything…it sometimes leads to funny situations like this:

All joking aside…I’ve been working with Robb on the music for 4 ½ years now and it’s been a pleasure. We’ve done so much, had ups and downs, but one thing for sure…things are never boring behind the scenes. There’s always a lot of work to do but we’re always having a lot of fun! Robb, the band and me…we’re all very lucky to have the support from partners, wives, husband and family, because without that we would not be able to do this. We have a lot of plans and are working on some exciting projects, so the work continues….onto the next 4 ½ years!

Time for a Q & A with Robb now…Just like all band members Robb was sent a list of questions too… He complained, saying that I sent him 9 million questions to answer – I think math is a problem here 😉 – but he answered the questions, here’s what he said:

What drives you to write?
Something compels me to write, I do not know what but I need to write music. Things that influence what I write about are just everyday situations, nature, and dreams. I also like trying to put myself in other situations, imagining how it would feel.

Can you remember the first time you wrote a song? Describe it to me.
One of the first songs I wrote was called, “Turtle Dove”. Lyrics were; “I’m a turtle dove, I’m a turtle dove”. Half of this song credit goes to Rick from the band.

What’s your favorite piece of music and why?
So many to choose from but for now I will pick Holocene by Bon Iver. I am usually more about the lyrics of a song but the melody, arrangement and textures created are what never fails to get me. I have been listening to it for years and have not once got bored of it.

What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you while working on a song?
When I was working on Stars from the Sleep Tonight album I heard a few xylophone notes during the instrumental that really worked, but were not recorded in the mix, I thought I was going mad! What actually had happened was we had guests in another room where I had left a small xylophone, one of them by chance played a few notes at that particular time.  So I had to put it in the song !

Have you had any crazy fan encounters?
Not many, but the first time I was asked to sign something I just assumed the person meant one of the other acts that had played so I went to get them. #Awkward

How would you describe your music?
Lyric focused, emotive, my personal therapy! The music is arranged by whatever instruments and gear I have at hand, and whoever of my musical friends want to be involved.

Best advice ever given?
Don’t try to copy current musical genres, trends will change so just be true to the type of music you want to create, and maybe a future trend will sync with one of your songs.

First song ever sung?
The earliest song I have memories of singing is Nelly The Elephant, The Toy Dolls version.  It was a birthday party favourite !

Secret craving?
Sultanas, in anything

Favourite food?
Pizza

What’s the hardest part about producing your own music? And what’s the easiest?
Hardest part is not having other people’s input, meaning I am sometimes unsure if something is working. Easiest part is not having other people’s input so I can do what I want.

Is there someone you’d secretly love to work with?
Not really, I am a loner. I am most comfortable writing among people I know and am close to. Songwriting for me is a very personal thing so it’s hard to switch it on if I am not relaxed. I love bringing songs to the band that are not fully finished, songs I am not even sure I like, hearing their opinions gives them a burst of new energy.

What do you like to do for fun outside of working on music?
I like traveling, going for a drive, gardening.

You’ve toured the Netherlands quite a few times now, what’s your favourite thing about the Netherlands?
I love the feeling of space in the country, the openness and fresh air. Also the people, always very helpful and welcoming.

Favourite Dutch word?
Stroopwafel

Oddest thing that has happened while touring?
It’s all weird, but one that sticks out happened when on tour in The Netherlands.  Returning home late from a gig, my turn to drive, and in front of me was a cyclist riding from side to side on the road. We laughed at this but I just assumed it was someone not realising there was a car behind them. As I slowly approached him he swerved out again to the middle of the road, cycled in a big circle and I will always remember as the car headlights shown on his face his very large grin! He was a happy chappy without a care in the world !

Cats or dogs?
Don’t mind either but cats seem to find me, so I will go with cats

Favourite gig so far?
A gig at Theater ‘t Heerenlogement in Beusichem during last year’s tour. It’s a great old theatre venue, we had a lovely meal with the owners Tineke and Gerard Holst, and a full house! Oh and wine back stage 😉

3 places you’d like to play?
Coachella, Burning Man, Dublin Olympia Theatre

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I would love to have a recording studio and work with other artists to record their music.  Other than that just be alive, healthy and happy!

Best software you’ve used for producing so far?
I use Pro Tools for recording as it’s what I learned in university. But actually before that, though it’s not software, I used a tape dictaphone for recording ideas and I would also record sounds I like when I was out. There will be a lot of weird stuff on there!

Best hardware investment for music production?
When recording Sleep Tonight I got a Focusrite ISA 828 pre amp, a set of 8 preamps that can be used on a bunch of things, I think I will always use it even if I get a larger variety of pre amps!

Favourite instrument?
Acoustic guitar, trumpet & wurlitzer close 2nds

How many instruments do you play?
A few, but variety of skill levels! Main instrument is the guitar and this feels most natural to me which is why I usually write with it. I play a bit of keys, harmonica, trumpet / trombone (badly out of practice) and the belly slaps.

Favourite  place in Northern Ireland?
Anywhere near the sea! North coast is great. The Mourne Mountains too. Not in the north but a recent favourite is Kellybegs, a small fishing town near Donegal in the North West of Ireland.

What trivial knowledge may save your life one day?
I know how to open a bottle of wine with a shoe

If you could live anywhere on this planet and take everything that you love with you, where would you choose to live and why?
I like it here, but it does lack some sunshine. So I would go somewhere in Tuscany, Italy, a farmhouse just outside Florence. I would take my new wife (not that I have an old one, but recently married) and my guitar. I could also take my macbook and phone, but I can live without them really. Tuscany has a lot of things I love, mostly reliable weather, scenery, art and culture all around. Oh plus coffee, wine and pizza are pretty good there too.

Top 3 songs on your playlist?
Currently on my phone they are:
Bon Iver – Holocene
Traveling Wilburys – Tweeter And The Monkey Man
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Man On Fire

Favourite song from high school?
A few that always remind me of high school are:
Crash Test Dummies – MMM MMM MMM MMM
Wet Wet Wet  – Love is all around
The Cranberrys – Linger
The Corrs – Runaway
Enigma – Return To Innocence
The Connells – ’74-’75
REM – Daysleeper

Favourite thing about music?
Writing and recording, the buzz when something works.

Least favourite thing about music?
Promoting it, needs to be done but I feel like a broken record.

If you were a vegetable, which one would you be?
A chilli pepper

One perfect day…  what would it include?
Big sleep in, good food, sunshine, sea, maybe a sneaky wine

Thanks very much for this Robb!

You can follow Robb on Twitter and Facebook. Stop by and say hello!

If you’ve missed the blogs about band members Kevin, Dave, Rick and Al, click on their names and you can read all about them!

Introducing Rick McKee

After the introduction of band members Kevin Carlisle and David Bennington we know that the drummer is in charge and that it’s all about that bass, but the introduction of the band is not complete yet. Time to introduce Rick McKee a.k.a. Rick Star, guitar and mandolin player.

Of all band members Rick is probably the most quiet one, but (he wouldn’t say this himself!) a greatly talented guitar and mandolin player!
Rick is good company and even though he’s quiet, he’s someone to keep an eye on…never underestimate quiet people. You’re probably wondering why I’m saying this…well…there’s a story behind it.

I don’t know what it is with this band, but there’s always something with sharpies… We use those sharpies a lot…to write/change set lists, sign albums etc. When the band comes over for a tour sharpies are nowhere and everywhere and no one knows how that happens. A 10-day tour also means 10 days of chasing sharpies. Last year the band went home after the tour and later sent me this photo… Just when you think you have made it through the tour without losing sharpies…
rick-1
I would have expected any band member to fool me, but not Rick! 😉

To get to know Rick a bit better, we also sent him a list with questions. Here’s what he said:

Tell me a little about yourself in one rambling, run-on sentence J
Okay, I’m 36 years old, live in County Down, N Ireland.  I work for the Health Service and as well as being Robb’s guitar and mandolin player and also involved with the music team in a local church.

Coffee or Tea?
Coffee. Definitely coffee!

3 songs on your playlist right now?
Bloodbuzz Ohio by The National
Mary-Jane’s Last Dance by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Bittersweet Me by R.E.M.

How did you meet Robb and where?
We go way back! We went to school together – which is a frighteningly long time ago now!  But yeah, we grew up in the same town, went to the same school and were in many of the same classes. We soon discovered we had similar tastes in music and the rest is history!

Describe one perfect day…
Not being at work.  Not having to rush or sit in queues of traffic.  Just having a day of being with those I love, drinking fine coffee and listening to great music!  It’s the simple things in life, right?

Cats or Dogs?
Dogs! Definitely dogs and it’s not even close! Really don’t like cats…

Do you dance?
No! And the other guys can vouch for that! (we’ll ask them 😉 )

What song would you choose to play for the Queen and why?
Not sure, I’d probably try to do a contemporary arrangement of some old traditional hymn or something.  Something timeless that wouldn’t cause Her Majesty any offence… I’m not sure – what type of music is the Queen into?

If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?
You know what? I’m a real home bird.  Places mean less to me than the people I’m with.  So as long as I’m with the right person or people it doesn’t matter where I am. There’s this old monastic site about 5 or 6 miles from where I grew up though, it’s one of those places that is just always so peaceful – it’s a great little place to escape to every so often.

Favourite place in NI?
Co Down. It’s hard to specify an exact place within my home County, but there’s just so much to see and enjoy – we have countryside and coastlines to escape to as well as a lot of nice little towns with cafes and bistros.

Who would you be nervous to meet?
Bob Dylan. He’s a hero of mine – and a true legend! They say you should never meet your heroes though, right?

True or False… is it really all about the bass?
Ha! Dave would say so! And as a part-time bass player I’d probably have to agree…

Silliest thing you’ve done this past month?
I don’t do silly things – I’m much too boring!

What is your most valued possession?
That would be my (main) acoustic guitar. It’s handcrafted from start to finish by a local luthier and is a work of art!  I love it!

Future plans?
That’s a big question! Who knows?? Haven’t thought that far ahead – I struggle to organise the present from time to time, so allow me to sort that out and then I’ll get back to you about the future!

If a penguin wearing a sombrero walked into your room right now, what would you do and why?
I’d wonder who spiked my coffee with what!

Name one thing about music that drives you crazy?
The industry that surrounds it. It’s a popularity contest – style over substance etc… It actually hinders real, hardworking musicians – and that’s not just me being bitter at the fact that I’m in my mid-thirties and haven’t “made it” – whatever that means!  I think most real musicians would agree with me on that one.

Can you share some of your thoughts on the music scene in NI?
Yeah, that’s a weird one – ’cause despite being involved with it I kind of feel a bit out-of-the-loop too!  There’s a lot of great talent out there, but because NI is quite a small country the local scene has become pretty saturated.  It’d be great to see more local acts break into the main Irish/UK and international music scenes though.

I know you have quite a collection of amazing instruments… is there a favourite?
There are a couple of favourites.  My handcrafted acoustic that I mentioned earlier and my Fender USA ’52 Reissue Telecaster – I’ve had it for years and it has seen a number of tweaks and mods, but for me it just sounds, feels and looks right – I love it!

Batman or Superman?
Batman – better car!

Top 3 places you’d love to play live
Later with Jools Holland, The SSE Arena in Belfast and the O2 in Dublin – all pretty ambitious I guess!

What surprises you the most?
That I keep getting asked to play for people!  I honestly don’t rate myself that highly as a musician but I keep getting opportunities to play with some hugely talented, great musicians – I guess I must be doing something right!  I have a t-shirt that has “World’s Okayest Guitar Player” printed on it – that honestly sums up how I feel about myself as a guitarist – I know I’m not terrible, but I am pretty okay!  I’m so thankful I get the chance to do what I do though!

Thanks very much for this Rick!

You can follow Rick on Twitter. Stop by and say hello!