"This Too Shall Pass"
Working on my EP has been a challenge with a string of frustrations along the way but I'm proud of all the hard work and soul which has gone into every song. After a particularly frustrating day, I decided to pick up my Ukulele and started strumming 'Bella', sang it through and then jumped over to my laptop to write this piece about how the song 'Bella' came about and why it's my favourite original song I've written.
'Bella' is an original song of mine written out in Bali, September '17. Sorely missing my instruments and feeling fed up with every social interaction I was experiencing over those few days I stayed in the wonderful city of Ubud. Such a welcoming and open place, yet I had never felt so painfully out of touch from people. Many times I feel happiest alone and am completely at peace with this knowledge, however in a foreign country I felt almost as if I should be with people, connecting, sharing experiences but it was making me feel worse.
After a few days to myself, walking with music in ears, smelling, experiencing the sights, smiling to strangers - I felt the complusion to socialise. Even at this point, I felt I couldn’t. I’m not sure what happened, I felt frozen in time, half the way across the world from my Mum who was probably the only person I needed in that moment. I spoke to people at home on the phone, they were understanding but said I’m in Bali - ‘you should be having the best time!’. Yet I felt so isolated and almost guilty for feeling this way. I was trying everything to pull myself away.
So one of these days in Ubud, I’d had enough. I decided I was going to buy one of those crappy ukuleles that were going on most street corners. Writing music (more than listening) was what always brought me back down to earth. I browsed a couple of eccentric music shops, debated on whether I’d like to buy some crazy wooden flutes or some steel pans, any way to express this moan from my soul.
Eventually I found a Uke guy (on a corner in fact) and got chatting to him. I explained I played guitar but never the ukulele and that I was missing my guitar more than anything/one on my holiday. He showed me his assortment on sale, his favourite was one with a wooden effect which I nearly went for but in the end I couldn’t resist buying this:
Yeah, the bright yellow one with the overly cliche carving of ‘Bali’ printed on the front; yet the yellow reminded me of daffodils in the Spring time in England - to me are the flowers I'd bring someone to cheer them up, yellow for me reflects the vibrancy of life and sunshine departing from the bleak rainy Winter - so that was the one for me.
I headed back to the hostel where I was staying and it began to rain (luckily I was prepared). By prepared, I do not mean just a rain jacket - I had a bright pink plastic bag tied around my right foot. A week before I had an accident on a skateboard which took the top of my baby toe off, I’d gone to hospital and had it sewn back on, bandaged up and severely advised by the nurses to keep that toe clean, bandaged but mostly DRY. So in WET season you can understand my difficulties with this - (Baring in mind I had lost a single trainer the week before, my only ones I had with me) so sandals I had made my only option.
So, as I trudged through the rain with my bagged up injured foot, my mind wandered. I thought about ‘Bella’ being a name I’ve always loved, what I’d choose to be called alternatively. As I walked through the rain I began to sing to myself, jokingly in a reggae roots jamaican styled accent ‘Bella A’ she was walkin’, walkin’ down that street’. I laughed outloud to myself in the street, looking slightly manic - a relationship I have with myself, I guess I will always be my own biggest fan of my humour. The song went on ‘Ohhh, she was walkin’ in the rain… with her.. injured feet’ Yes I guess ‘cus I have injured feet and Bella is me! Then I kinda made this OooooOoo sound to which I stopped in my tracks to take cover next to some street shops and record this noise as well as the previous melody onto my phone. I still have the recordings with the rainfall in the background. I thought, actually this is pretty good so I rushed back to the hostel which was just around the corner. Whats cool is that I can actually picture exactly where I was standing when all this happened. Thought I'd be brave and share the voice recording of the melodies I recorded on the street -
I had purchased a very ugly notepad a few days before in the hope of writing some lyrics - it looked like this. I began to write those lyrics down -
Ohh, Bella was walkin’, walking down that street.
She was walking in the rain, with her injured feet
And I say ohh ooo ahh, Bella and her injured feet,
Ohh ooo ahh, Bella and her injured feet
I remember it all coming to me within around 10 minutes, lyrics first (which never happens for me), I hadn’t even touched the Uke yet. In an attempt at a chorus I had-
Bella, Bella don’t you cry, let the air fill your lungs,
Bella, oh Bella don’t you cry, the pain won’t last that long
onto the second verse with
(Now) girl I know this trips been hard, left you battered and blue,
lessons learnt along the way, have all been gifted to you
To me, at this point I was comforting myself. Like Bella was another part of me, the sad part of me that desperately needed comforting and my normal optimistic self was the one to do so. I was writing from one part of myself to the other. I have never felt more connected to anything musically in my life, it was a moment of realising I was always going to be there for myself and that we can be not only our own worst enemies but our greatest ally.
Post-lyrics, I grabbed my Ukulele and found the key to where the melody was sat inside my head which was strangely middle C. I almost feel like the key was taking me back to basics and reminding me how beautiful simplicity in music can be. The chords all came at once and within 20 minutes the entire song was written. I played it over and over, especially the ‘pain won’t last that long’ part. It made me feel alive again. I looked up over the balcony as the rain poured down, monkeys playing on the telephone wires, the bustle in the street, Bella reminded me of the King Solomon quote 'This too shall pass". It had reminded me that this feeling was only temporary - ‘the pain won’t last that long’. It became everything to me for the rest of the trip, I didn’t share it with anyone I was travelling with - it became my little personal anthem inside my head, playing on repeat and loudly at times of challenge. Here's when I put Uke to words -
When I returned home I was desperate to convert the song to guitar and I began to play it out at gigs. Immediately it was a song which heavily resonated with people, not only the lyrics but more the feel of the song.
In fact, the past couple of days I have grappled with questions on whether music makes me happy anymore and whether I need to take a break however; that morning I picked up the Ukulele, began to play Bella, went straight for my laptop to write all this down I felt differently. Through re-experiencing those feelings, mulling over a definitive part of my musical journey has helped me see clearly again. I’m reminded of all the lovely messages I receive from people about my music and how it makes them feel. I feel an overwhelming sense of love toward people - technically classed as strangers but to me make every struggle and frustration in my career worth the while. It is truly amazing that I can connect with these people across the globe and make an impact with what I love doing and revisiting these feelings has reminded me to take pride in how far I've come and all the more there is to come in the future. It also reminds me to push myself in times of desperation and discomfort in order to birth bigger and better things into the world.