I wrote ‘The Past Is Not The Now’ as I was starting to emerge from a dark and stormy time and strive upwards towards the light.
I think there will be parts of this song many people can relate to. Life is not a simple, planned and executed novel. Plans go awry, people make mistakes and people get hurt. I have always struggled with the need to ‘get it right’, ‘do my best’, ‘give it my all’, ‘succeed’ and ‘be perfect’. That is not a reality anyone actually lives in, I see this now!
One of the biggest struggles for me is learning acceptance that the past happened, whether it happened in a way I wished for or not. It happened, it hurt and now I need to focus on the present.
This song is about that desire to move up and move out of the past. This involves allowing yourself to feel your reaction to it in order to live in the here and now, happily. This can be challenging to do when past events have gone against what you expected or hoped for.
So, ‘The Past Is Not The Now‘ is a song for anyone who has ever experienced this. I salute your determination, resilience and inner strength. It is a celebration of stubbornly persisting, not giving up or giving in and finally leaving the past where it belongs – behind not in front of you. Let’s keep on going and live in the sunlight of the here and now. Enjoy the present moment!
Huge thanks to Pete Nash for his beautiful guitar, bass, drum programming, singing and arranging on the single at Electric Troubadour Circus. I loved every minute of working with Pete again musicially and he has such a skill for arranging and producing it was a privilege to record with him.
Thank you also to the extremely talented Chloe Kutkus Morton for understanding exactly what I wanted to express with the song and converting it into a beautiful visual impact with the artwork she designed. I love what she has created and will proudly hang it on my music wall.
I’ll be celebrating the launch of this single on Thursday 28th March at The Samuel Pepys Pub, Huntingdon. Do come along and join me, and three other singer songwriters for ‘Performers at The Pepys’ hosted by Gavin Chappell-Bates.
‘Moving on’ is such an overused phrase. It also doesn’t usually work unless you stop in one place with the feelings you are trying to escape, first.
I’m in the process of finishing the third in a set of songs I’ve written about this very subject.
Songs live in my head and my heart for a while before I can sing them out and complete the process.
I usually write the piano part first, and then the melody comes out of playing the piano riff and the lyrics follow.
I know that it is a ‘real’ song developing when I don’t have to try too hard with the words and the melody. If they come easily and almost knowing what they want to say without me having to be involved I know it is right. I’m not a patient person generally, but I have be patient with my songwriting self because she does things in her own time in what can seem a slow creative process.
There is nothing more satisfying than the first time I sing a new song through and it has ‘settled’ into a story of sounds and feelings strung together coherently.
Singing it out is by far the best therapy I’ve ever experienced and it can also take me closer to an answer or a next step forward.
Moving on isn’t really it, actually. I prefer being, now.
This way life isn’t all about what is happening next but focussing on living in the moment!
Watch this space – I hope to record the new sounds soon……
Taking leave of the day-to-day I had a blast camping out in a field with my mum and other musicians and letting the ebb and flow of music and creativity take over our senses for the weekend.
I love how the only important timings at a festival are when the next band or artist that you want to see is on and the only planning is around how to see as many of these as is humanly possible!
Having been out of the country for a while one of the things I’ve missed the most has been the UK festival scene, so when I was invited to perform at Kendal Calling Festival this summer I couldn’t have been more chuffed!
KC is a unique and for me, perfectly sized festival situated in beautiful surroundings with an eclectic mix of music as well as immersive art installations so it ticks all the boxes.
It didn’t disappoint so I wanted to share a few of my favourite experiences of the weekend with you. I was lucky to have my excellent roadie/driver/supporter/Mum Julia with me to enjoy it and we had a ball!
After a mega 10 hour rainy journey on typically gridlocked UK motorways (thank you Julia) we got the tent up in a break in the rain and caught the end of Stereophonics and an exceptional set by Lakuta. The lead singer was amazing and explained the story behind the songs and she made me cry with her emotive performance, but also made us dance lots in particular to ‘Mr Serious’ and ‘Rice & Peace’. The band as a whole were so so tight and fused so many sounds I can’t do them justice here so check them out and have a listen. Chai Wallah tent was set to be a place you would be sure to find us again.
Saturday brought slightly less drizzle but the mud was making the trek from the camp site to the arena better exercise already!
Highlights for us on Saturday began with the #IntoTheWild parade which featured drummers, dancers, musicians and family festival goers impressively kitted out as wild things stomping through the woods and the main arena. It was really uplifting and a carnival-like celebration masterminded by my brilliant friend Roxy. It was so nice to catch up with her and Ben Robinson (who along with Andy Smith founded and organises the festival) after not seeing them for ages!
We spent the afternoon pottering about ‘Lost Eden‘ and exploring the art in the woods which was pretty special and nice to find the stage I’d be playing at the next day. Even better, found out Ben was playing a set of his own there so we could enjoy watching him and we did – nice one Robinson Boone you smashed it!
Evening fell and the sundowners were had along with a smattering of glitter and flower-hair acquisition. Then we trudged back through the muddy lanes and fields and enjoyed some Saturday night sounds at various stages, but the highlight for us had to be the epic set from Liam Bailey in the Chai Wallah tent again. He is excellent, his band is amazing and we loved every minute of it!
Sunday morning brought some sun and clouds but a happy and amusing breakfast thanks to top comedian Roland Saunders aka The TV TV. He was slightly disbelieving that we had pitched such a tent mansion for just two of us (3 nights justified it I think and needing to be well rested to sing, obviously!) and after we got talking he treated us to some impromptu sneak previews of his show which was very funny! An excellent morning coffee buddy it was great to chill out and chat with him!
Did some more mud trudging to and from the tents and stages throughout the day, then it was time to get glittered up courtesy of Chloe and Briony at The Feather Tree, ready for my set! Love these girls they were really nice to talk to and did a fab job on my hair and makeup thanks.
We even had a bit of time for some R&R by the beautiful lake ahead of my performance 🙂
Julia came into her own helping me lug Roland (my electric piano) from the campsite to the pretty Carvetti stage in the woods of Lost Eden. Massive thanks and respect to Andy who drove us on the buggy through treacherous and muddy terrain AND he was buggy driving most of the weekend helping everyone so what a guy!
We were met in the woods by Luke (my very helpful Artist Liason) who took one end of the heavy piano and we carried it backstage. Getting changed into my Vietnamese Ao Dai surrounded by mud was funny but thanks to the team and Julia we managed it and even switched to evening shoes side-stage ready to go – felt weird to be out of wellies for a bit!
When the moment came to start my set I felt quite overwhelmed by how excited and pleased I was to be there, at this awesome festival singing my heart out. Thank you so much to all of you who watched and listened to my songs. I really felt that you were there with me in that moment and truly hearing the emotions I felt when I wrote the songs. Thanks to Kendal Calling for having me! I loved it X
Here’s: ‘You Taught My Heart To Travel’
After my set we headed back to the tent to drop Roland back and then meet Roxy and friends in the woodlands to enjoy the incredible set from the London African Gospel Choir who performed Graceland in its entirety! It was amazing and the fireworks going off during ‘You Can Call Me Al’ really topped it off as the best festival ever!
Sometimes life does not go to plan. Sometimes it happens to you and there is a decision to be made – allow it to be in control of you or take back control of it and make something good come out of bad.
Recently life has not been what I ordered, what I wanted or how I planned it. I’ve had a lot of questions for fate, God whoever makes the wheels spin and things happen. I’ve asked ‘why me?’, I’ve railed against fact and tried to argue with the unnacceptable, when what I really need to do is accept that life is a rich tapestry of tough and difficult as well as happy and enjoyable and ‘move on’. This is such an over-used phrase but maybe that is for a reason – it is the only way to try and put into words what to do next after crisis; dwelling in the bad stuff won’t help get to the good. However acknowledging that you are feeling awful and letting the emotion out is vital. I don’t think it matters how this is done – through music, exercise, talking to a friend or family member or counselling – it just matters that it comes out and doesn’t get suppressed.
So ‘How Could You‘ is for anyone who has felt any of the above, now or before and been left challenging the empty sky and asking ‘why me?’ I’m trying to stop asking that now – ‘how could this happen?’, ‘why me?’ – I’m moving towards finding the better out of worse and hopefully staying there. Life happens though – I’d rather choose to happen with it rather than letting it happen to me from now on. I am here, I have my music and in this new song I’ve put the feelings that sometimes have to come out so I’m not left stuck inside them.
Mental health was already in the news when I started writing this song; since I’ve finished it two musicians I respected have taken their own lives. This makes me feel so sad and underlines just how vital it is to treat mental health like any other illness – there should be no shame or stigma attached to it. It is no different to getting treatment for cancer or a broken leg – at least it should not be seen as different in my opinion. It is so important to support each other and help anyone who is feeling depressed to talk and feel truly heard, not just listened to.
A big thank you to Neil Sadler at No Machine for not only recording, mixing and producing the single but for his excellent guitar and bass parts. Thank you to Scott Hunter for nailing the drums and Tom Hunter for the atmospheric strings. It was a pleasure to work with all of you and I feel like ‘How Could You’ was really brought to life by your performances.
Thank you to Helen Barlow-Scott of One Line Studio for the perfect Cover Art.
I hope you like the song – it is certainly a cathartic one to sing.
Listen and Download ‘How Could You’ below:
As a few people have asked me to share the lyrics to ‘Song for Saigon‘ I thought it would be cool to share them with the world, so here they are.
Song for Saigon
Saigon growing up my window
She’s creeping right under my pillow
With warm lights and motorbikes and sleepless nights and I know,
It’s go with the flow
In this place which goes by many names,
Both different yet somehow the ‘same, same.’
There’s smiling and trying and guessing
..Means ‘no’ when you’re ‘yes-ing’…
Where the city sleeps whatever ways
A nap can be taken most times of day
A floor here, a desk, but by far the best is stretched
the length of a moped.
Stop, watch the ride
of the people who live, the people who give their
calm, moving tide
of peaceful exist; it’s hard to resist this life.
Hard to resist this life.
Language can defeat me
With much local hilarity
Em tên là Claire
một hai ba yo!
hẹn gặp lại
Rất vui được gặp em
Drumming dreaming anti-rhythm
The unrelenting sound of construction
Blends into calls of street food stalls and busy malls
Then hush; the heat of the day
There’s a beauty in her coloured hems
Old houses standing tall and thin since then
When bicycles and cyclos ruled before
The sound of an engine…
Such a happy, truthful open place
With an honest and an easy grace
The busy waves of peoples days and humid haze
While I’m just observing.
Saigon lives near, chaotic yet placid here
Rising high, her focus on present times.
It’s hard to resist this life.
Claire Cameron Copyright 2013.
After I finished Song for Saigon I spent a long time looking through my own photographs, trying to find one which encapsulated everything I was trying to say with the lyrics.
The image for the cover art of the single needed to convey a busy city, chaos, tranquility, people and traffic and shops and food, the beauty and the unlovely, the noise and quiet. It needed to say; ‘here is modern Saigon, as though a woman to be reckoned with, a city who has faced much and grown up, a person who moves on and moves up and forwards with modern times yet holds onto tradition against the odds. A place with two names and one heart, a home, a contradiction and an inspiration and a change.’
So the song covers a lot of ground!
After attempting the design myself and unsurprisingly failing miserably (mainly because I’m not a graphic designer or an expert photographer) I decided to look for ideally a local Vietnamese designer who might be able to put my words and music into a picture.
Then I met Nguyen Thi Kim Hue. She is a wonderfully modest and sweet person who was more than a little daunted by my over-descriptive and perhaps at times (!) confusing proclamations about what Song for Saigon is all about and how she might translate this into art please?
I wanted to share this process because Hue didn’t just produce one amazing image but several, and she managed to capture such a wonderful array of moments from life in Saigon that it was hard to select only one! In the end I chose the one we have because it contains the essence of the song in that you can see if you look closely the traditional long thin Vietnamese houses on the street as well as the modern Bitexco building looming behind a bustling night street scene full of motorbikes, people, shops, bars, restaurants, lights and life.
It is exactly what I was looking for and taken on a popular street in District 1, which is apt as that is where I lived when I started writing the song.
However the peaceful moments, the old, new, fast and slow pace and the construction and the calm and the chaos Hue found in these other images had to be shared as well. Because Song for Saigon is for the whole city with all of these scenes interwoven. Here are a few of my favourites, with my heartfelt thanks to Hue for taking a difficult brief and answering it with beauty.
Two years in the writing, and another one waiting for the right time to release it after flying back to the UK to record it, the time was now.
It was overwhelming to see so many familiar faces in the crowd enjoying the music and supporting the launch. A huge thank you to all of you that came along!
Filming the event were ‘Impressive Vietnam for VTC 10 Net Viet’ and ‘Tuiotre Online’ and it was a privilege that Song for Saigon generated so much local interest. I was really delighted to perform it live and play the recording with the complete Claire Cameron Band performing through the PA for everyone to get the full impact!
There are some photos from the night below, and here is the ‘Impressive Vietnam TV Show about Song for Saigon.’
It was great to be asked by the Yorkshire Post to give them my thoughts on balancing life as a musician (as Claire Cameron) with a day job at a busy marketing agency (as Claire Hunter-Smith). Having an alter ego surely needs to become a song at some point….
Read the interview in full here on the Yorkshire Post website, and here is a snippet:
‘After some frustrating experiences at ‘pay to play’ gigs, where we only got to perform for a three-minute slot sometimes, I took a step back and realised that the only real way to grow your audience is to be truly a part of the community you serve. A band in the unsigned music scene has to support the local community and give something back, you can’t just expect a captive audience to land in your lap and love your music because you do……Happily, I’ve also become friends with many brilliant people through the music scene, and I love being surrounded by artists and inspiring minds. It’s a huge commitment; but totally worth it for the thrill of musical performance.’
Claire Cameron Blog
About The New Single ‘The Past Is Not The Now’
Songwriting; moving on when the past still moves you
My Kendal Calling Festival Experience