Rapping my way to a healthier mind

As I plod on with the internal juggernaut that is Wilko Wilkes Music, my mind at times becomes a clouded mess. I’m not the sort of guy who finds it easy to keep up with updating social media several times a day, constant updates, video messages etc. but I’m doing my best without burning myself out, so I thought I’d bang out a blog post to help organise my mind, to have for posterity and to update anyone who’s interested or thinks they can help in any way! This might be a long one and time is of the essence so if you’re not bothered then you might as well close it now, and I’ll try to type from the heart without worrying too much about the details or I’ll never get it done.

Approximately 18 months in now and it feels like I’m entering a new phase which I’m really excited about.  I’ve turned a corner mentally from thinking of myself as a guy trying to be a rapper, to an actual credible independent artist.  It’s not all been plain sailing, it’s been a difficult journey at times to get to this point. There’s been a ton of mental roadblocks, knowledge gaps, time constraints, dread and other barriers that are to be expected when you put yourself out there.  It’s being driven by a burning desire and so I’ve managed to keep my focus throughout, which has always been to get to my main target of having a catalogue of complete songs that I can have some fun and play a live set with.  

The reason I’ve managed to ride all those waves is that from the minute I started this I knew exactly what the dream was. It’s been the most thrilling thing I’ve ever done for myself – the highs of nailing 2 or 3 minutes of lightspeed rap that I conjured from deep within my soul, the adrenaline rush of performing or recording my own material, the surreal moments of hearing myself on the radio, getting messages from people in different countries telling me I inspired them, seeing myself feature in blogs, being invited to talk on podcasts etc. and gaining a small platform to talk about the things that I care about, it’s been brilliant and I’m very grateful to everyone who’s helped me and been a part of my journey so far – elephants never forget and you can call me Dumbo. 

If I packed it all in tomorrow I could be proud of what I’ve done, but there’s no chance of that.  The next step for me is the one I’ve been waiting for – taking my rap to the streets.  Along the way I’ve spent a lot of time rehearsing my catalogue.  I love live music and I’ve never wanted to be a Soundcloud rapper or an internet musician, for me the pinnacle of music is live performances, people expressing themselves and speaking directly through the powerful holy grail of the mic.  I’ll be trying to get out and about busking as much as possible in the upcoming weeks and months even though the calendar is filling up quickly now that lockdown is coming to an end. 

I’ve got a couple of provisional gigs pencilled in for later this year but I won’t count my turkeys just yet as my first gig was meant to be in December 2020.  Busking is the perfect alternative though, why wait for someone to ask me to play when I can grab the bull by the bollards and do it myself?  I don’t see a lot of rappers busking but I’d like to see more, I suspect a lot of them either don’t have the inclination to play live, or are rapping about subjects too inappropriate for the masses!  

I know my music won’t be everybody’s banana fudge, but I’ll enjoy myself immensely and I’m sure to some it’ll be entertaining and something a bit different.  I’ll be a respectful and proud custodian of this fine tradition and the generations of buskers who’ve been before me.  I’ll think about the buskers I’ve loved, the ones I used to look up to as a child, the ponytail guy with the violin outside WHSmith in Ilkley, the fella with the accordion outside Fenwicks in Newcastle, Chris the ever-present guitar playing legend strumming songs to night-time revellers in Leeds – these are the stellar names I’d like to put mine alongside.

The legendary Chris

I’m currently working towards a provisional date in July for my next recording session which will be over two days.  Hopefully in late 2021 I’ll be achieving another dream – releasing an album.  There’s a lot of hoops to jump through before I get there so I can’t guarantee it’ll be out by the end of this year but I’m almost certain it’ll happen.  The recording session came about through some Leeds City College Arts funding I applied for – I was unsuccessful but they’ve very kindly offered me a sound engineer and use of their facilities for a couple of days which should be very exciting.

There won’t be any new tracks from me for the next couple of months (but there’ll be some fresh videos etc.) as I go about my business and keep my head down working away with writing and other stuff to improve my collection.  I’ve got two songs that are completely written and are currently in the practice phase, one in particular is causing me some issues as it’s littered with tongue twisters, once I’ve got it nailed it’ll be a brilliant one to play live and to tie people in knots if anyone ever attempts to rap along.  I’ve got other beats that I’m formulating ideas for but I find the simmering process often takes a while, with the type of tracks I like to write and perform I can’t just sit down and bang something out in an hour.

There’s also another opportunity pencilled in for the Autumn where all being well I’ll be getting some branding support, with 2nd year design students taking on my artwork as a project for their portfolio.  I’ll have input and they’ll help me with a new logo, social media assets and other marketing and design materials that I can use. Like the next recording session this has also come about from my application for Leeds City College funding.  A reminder that it’s always good to take shots – if they fly over the bar and land in Row Z you can always try again, and even if it’s off-target there’s always the chance of a lucky deflection.  I found the funding through Studio 12’s website where there’s a brilliant page of opportunities for musicians, artists, writers, actors and other creatives. 

Another new development is that I’ve become a moderator for New Artist Spotlight, a collection of independent artists and playlists run by the fantastic Ed Eagle, and a supportive community that work together to help promote each other’s work and collaborate on projects.  I’ll be writing some human-interest stories for the website and I’ll also be co-hosting the NAS podcast with a mercurial burgeoning artist and producer from Minnesota called Plummy who I advise you check out – he’s got two songs available on Spotify and they’re both catchier than the common cold!  In fact I’d say have a listen to all the playlists, there are loads of super-talented undiscovered, unsigned and upcoming acts on there and enough diversity that you’re bound to find something you like. Whilst I’m blowing some smoke I’d also like to point you in the direction of Charles Connolly, Mr. Oddzo and Elion Melody, three brilliant artists and all-round good guys who’ve helped me along.  I don’t pay for playlists, followers or anything like that so it’s great to have found a community like this where there’s loads of benefits at no cost. 

Speaking of free support, I can’t finish this post without mentioning Andy’s Man Club, the men’s mental health groups for which I’m now a facilitator at the Leeds groups.  Every Monday we meet 7pm – 9pm to lighten the load, chew the fat and get whatever is bothering us off our chest.  It’s open to any man aged 18 or over and they have grown massively over the five years they’ve now been active, from one small coffee group following the tragic suicide of Andy Roberts, to now being on the cusp of 50 groups across the UK meeting every week, as well as online groups.  The more people that know about this the better – I’ve seen men walk through the doors who were on the brink and some who just needed a helping hand, I’m yet to see anyone who hasn’t benefitted from the groups.  Whoever attends can be guaranteed a safe and non-judgemental environment to work through their issues and/or help others and this kind of safety net or even lifeline is something that is not to be taken for granted.  I’d like to say to anyone who is struggling not to downplay their problems if it’s damaging them mentally, not to be afraid to ask for help, and not to wait until the manure hits the fan before taking action.  It’s a crazy and intense world where neglecting your mental health is a dangerous game.

So that’s about it from me for now, if you’ve got this far then thanks for reading and I hope you got something from it, it’s been therapeutic to write.  I’m not at my sharpest right now but I’m excited for the future and always trying to balance the feelings and emotions that come with life.  There are two sides to every coin – my anxiety comes from my passion, my depression comes from being sensitive, my inner turmoil helps me to make sound decisions, I’m grateful for it all as it all helps to make me a better artist and give me the ability to express myself.  The more I do it the more it helps heal my soul, I’d encourage anyone who doesn’t have a creative pursuit to find what makes them tick and try sticking at it for a while to see where it takes you.  From music and writing I have had moments of pure bliss that would have been impossible to achieve had I not scaled the initial massive hump of anxiety and got started.  From here there is no such thing as failure.

Looking to the future

I’ll finish with a big thank you to everyone who has helped me along in any small way – you know who you are.  I’m always looking for ways to take my music to the next level so if you have any ideas, feedback or things you’d like to help me with then please get in touch.  Whoever you are it’s always a pleasure to hear from you – we’re all in this together.  I’m now open for live opportunities and bookings, potential collabs etc. – again any contacts or ideas you have which could nudge me along, just give me a shout.

Believe me when I say I appreciate you and I hope to see you soon.

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