Not As Strong was the first song I wrote as a solo artist. Its a song that is very close to my heart. As much as I adore all of my songs and they are all a big part of me, I have a soft spot for this one in particular. But I didn’t always…
I was doing Personal Development classes with Eimear Crehan, one of the owners of SuSo Music School and my manager. I would go every Tuesday after school. During one of my classes, I was telling her about the not so great time I was having in life at that particular moment. Eimear suggested we write a song about it, seeing as I was and still am very much involved in music. So, we pulled our chairs up to the keyboard piano, grabbed a piece of paper and a pen, and started to scribble down some lyric ideas.
‘You should know better…’
‘Like the sky holds the stars…’
‘Not alone but I feel so lonely…’
I poured every emotion I felt into that song as I wrote it, I was brutally honest with myself, and with Eimear, who at the time I didn’t even know very well, but trusted with the lyrics and the emotions I was spilling into the page. With guidance from Eimear, I finished the song within two weeks. Now it might only take me half an hour to write a good song, but back then I was pleased with the time I finished it in.
When it came to singing it for people, I was 100% reluctant. I didn’t even want to sing it for my mom, but did so anyway. I knew she would cry. Its just one of those songs. I had cut off any emotions I had towards the song though. I refused to feel the song whenever I sang it. I would just pretend to feel the song. I didn’t want to. I wanted to forget the reason behind the song, and I was annoyed that I had written a song about it in the first place. Why? Because now I had to sing it for people, and although I wanted to cry I couldn’t, I wouldn’t.
The first time I performed it for a crowd was at an event Eimear had organised; Women of the Mic Night. Four women, including myself (yes, it did feel weird being categorised as a woman at the age of 14, alongside three amazingly talented strong women, to me I was just a girl) performed a few original songs for a crowd of friends and family. Some were my own, some weren’t. I had put Not As Strong close to the end of my set, not out of trying be smart in terms of placement of the songs on the set list, but out of pure reluctance to sing it for people. Im not sure what I was more afraid of: singing it for strangers, or singing it for my mom, dad, brother, sister in law, godfather, and his daughter, seated in the second row. Lucky for me, there was a big light shining in my face from their direction, so I couldn’t see them very well. Im sure if I could, I would have seen tears, which would have led to me hopping offstage and hugging them.
But, others did cry, I know for sure. As I sang the song, I still didn’t let myself feel it, I didn’t let my mind fly away with it, I just sang it, not letting myself hear the lyrics. Of course I put effort into it, and I didn’t get lazy or uninterested, I just refused to feel it. Closer to the end of the song, where the power picks up, I closed my eyes and sang as best I could. Once I opened my eyes, I saw tearful faces looking back at me. Tissues dabbing eyes, tears rolling down cheeks. I couldn’t believe it. This song? How could it have that much power that if made people I don’t even know cry? I mean, it was a given that my mom would cry, she cried because she was proud of me, and because she had never known I could write like that. But these people, they didn’t know me. They didn’t know why I wrote the song. And it still took me a few weeks to realise that the song is flexible. It doesn’t have to be about the exact same situation as mine when I wrote it. And it took me even longer to like the song. I still hated performing it, and any time Eimear and I were sitting down organising set lists for other things, I would always volunteer Not As Strong as the song we would kick off the list if there wasn’t enough space, to which Eimear would reply ‘No, its such a powerful song, its staying!’ I should have realised there and then that it was an important song, because Eimear was and is always supportive of the ideas I have, and whether or not she agrees with the set list I come up with, she supports my decision, because they are my songs, and I’m the one who performs them. But she would never let me kick Not As Strong off the list. I should have realised then.
Abner Browns Barbershop was the gig I finally connected with the song at. I will be doing a blogpost about Abners separate to this, but let me tell you quickly how I finally learned to love Not As Strong.
It was a big deal that I had managed to get a slot in Abners. So when my family and friends heard, they all wanted to come. So, once there, the place was packed. The other artist who was also playing that night, an amazingly talented lady called Zayanna, and I were nervous but so excited. I was on second. I sang my list, and once I got to Not As Strong, I was ready to put my all into it. I was ready to feel the emotion that the song gives. I had seen what power it had over one crowd, and now I wanted to see it again, but feel it with them. So I started to sing. I gave it my all. I didn’t even take notice of the people in front of me, looking back at me, I just let the song do what it was meant to do. And by the end of it, I stepped back from the mic, and every face as far back as I could see was stained with tears. I choked back my own tears, I was glad I felt the song but I didn’t want to cry in front of an audience either! I leaned into the mic and made a little joke about not being able to cry due to my eyeliner being too good, and from there picked up the mood with an upbeat song to follow. But I had done it. I felt the songs emotions. And all of a sudden, I loved that song.
I hope you enjoyed reading this little piece, it means a lot to me, and maybe it will to you too.
Lots of love,