Music and Cancer

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I’m often asked what sort of things have kept me going through my cancer journey these last five years. There have been many things. Hope, the will to carry on for both myself and family, the small things I have to look forward to in life, simple pleasures I took for granted before that I treasure now, but I think most of all it’s been music. As ascertained in a previous blog piece on the wonderful Sing for Life choir, music can be powerful and intensely uplifting. I believe that music has helped improve my immune system, helped control my pain, improved my mental focus, it has helped to create a feeling of well-being which, in turn, has led to a reduction in anxiety, stress and depression. I would like to think that all of these things have helped me in my fight against cancer.

Early days with a band in Cardiff. Knebworth not!!
Aside from music listening, and I enjoy all styles, I always wanted to be a drummer as young boy. Luckily at 16 I worked part-time and saved enough money to buy my first set of drums. For the next six years I played with various bands in and around Cardiff and Cornwall. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and even dabbled in a bit of songwriting with my last band. Music never left me and since being diagnosed with cancer, has played an increasing role in my life.

After taking part in a BBC documentary called It’s Good to Sing, I was fortunate enough to meet Rod Thomas, who I now call a true friend. He saw me on the programme and we started chatting in general. Quite soon we discovered a mutual love for music, and I was fascinated by Rod’s recording stories from back in the 60s and 70s. He suggested I write a song with him one day and I thought it would be lovely to write one for my wife Cathy. I liked the idea of creating a personal legacy with a difference. Even though I’d completed my Grade 6 on piano I was very rusty, but with a basic knowledge of chord progressions I, along with Rod, started to fashion a song. It wasn’t easy but with Rod’s expertise I found learning my way around intro, verse, bridge, pre-chorus, chorus etc easier as time progressed. We both had small, virtually identical home studios and we would ship ideas back and forth until we were pleased with the final result. Ultimately the demo was finished off in a professional studio.

The song Always It’s You was born in August 2011. It was slightly rushed as I was heading off for a three week holiday to Scotland and Cathy knew nothing about us writing it. I had to leave Rod to liaise with the studio 4000 miles away in Nashville, whilst frantically texting each other from the Highlands of Scotland to the Valleys of South Wales. We were very pleased with the final result. The words perfectly conveyed how I felt about Cathy and the music fitted the lyrics so well. The demo was created using a male singer and he did a superb job. The day we got back from Scotland the demo was ready for Cathy to hear, and took her by complete surprise!

As myself and Rod’s friendship blossomed, so did our desire to write together. We’ve now written four songs - five in total as Always It’s You is also recorded as a female version. The styles of the songs are quite different and the music has been part of a personal journey for both of us. I still hope to write some more as it gives me great personal satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.

At times it’s been so difficult to convey my feelings and thoughts via the regular medium but I’ve found that through the power of song I’ve been able to say how I feel.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, listening to music has been a positive influence on my journey with cancer, but actually writing about my feelings through music has had a profound effect on my life.

Here is a link to the MySpace page where you can listen to my songs. Let me know what you think.

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