I write, record and produce my own material. I also love collaborating with other people doing any of the above.
Left of centre. Sometimes bright and sometimes skewed. Honest and cathartic.
I always have found it easier to be myself with an alias. Sounds contradictory but it helps to free me from preconceptions and expectations, good and bad, that I have of myself.
I have always found being a miniscule person in a super-expansive-gigantic universe rather vertigo inducing. Focusing on the beauty of the detail in everyday life has helped me come to terms with these feelings. The songs in ‘These Four Worlds’ largely explore this theme.
I don’t really have favourite songs that I have written myself. They are what they are.
I have a semi acoustic Takamine EN-10C that I got direct from the Takamine UK warehouse in 1992. Its been around the world with me and seen all the things I have. It’s got a (battered) plain finish, dreadnought, cut away body and an in built EQ.
Yep – for recording and my therapy work.
The EN-10C is a bit like my favourite comfy boots or jeans. They may not look their best any more but the fit is impossible to replicate in a newer shiny purchase.
I mainly use it for recording so I just mic her up.
For shows I tend to use a ‘vintage sunburst’ Takamine LTD 2009. It has a Nex shape body made of Solid Spruce, with inlaid mother of pearl flowers in the scratch plate. Its very pretty, with a CTP-2 Pre-amp and inbuilt tuner. Its totally reliable and great for gigs. Sound engineers tend to prefer the modern pick up on it opposed to the EN-10C. I also use a couple of chromatic Hohner Pro-Harp Harmonicas on stage and recording.
Without fail, yes. It’s the only way I write.
Ideas for songs normally hit me when I didn’t plan to sit down and write so I make sure I always keep my little Zoom recorder with me so I don’t lose embryonic tunes into the ether. When I do settle down to record I go back to my recorder, see what still ‘talks to me’ and set about developing it.
Inspiration is inspiring. I love it when music just comes to life without a struggle. That experience keeps me writing. It’s like soul food.
I began playing at the age of 10. I had a term of lessons but didn’t enjoy the teacher’s approach; mainly because he kept telling me to play boring songs I didn’t know out of a kid’s book. I am also impatient and found that by experimenting and practicing I could get better results, far quicker alone.
Pretty much yes – not ‘sitting down to practice’ but as well as being a songwriter I work as a music therapist, so generally I play around 5 hours a day.
I have used D,A,D,G,A,D loads in the past. Also normal tuning with a drop D top E is a nice way of creating different colours in the music. I also experiment with chords and have my own names for different shapes I have created.
Instinctive and unselfconscious
Mmmmm, yes – childhood/teen heroes included Steve Forbert, Nick Drake, Lindsey Buckingham, Robert Smith, Donovan and Joey Santiago.
I am very busy with my next Maple Bee record – (yet to have a name). I am 6 songs into it so far, and also rehearsing with my live band.
I keep the website updated with all my shows so have a look
Practice, dedication, pleasure, exploration and adventure
Don’t try to emulate anyone else
The Maple Bee ‘alias’ came about when I had just had my son Cassius and I started writing and recording ‘Chasing Eva’ at home on a reel-to-reel ¼” 8 Track recorder. At the time I had recently parted with my then label, Echo Records where I had been signed for four years as Melanie Garside.
The final three years had been an incredibly frustrating time for me creatively and newly free I felt a very strong need to take control of my musical life again. It may seem contradictory to change your name to ‘be yourself’ but stepping away from the identity the record company had tried to cultivate around me was vital in reigniting my desire to write music again.
Over time ‘Maple Bee’ has changed from an identity to a wider concept – I see it now more as a band name rather than my name as a songwriter/producer/artist.
I am a restless spirit through and through. The idea of stasis absolutely terrifies me. I suppose this aspect of my personality is reflected in my musical history. Development and growth and change help to keep life interesting.
As far as prolificacy is concerned I tend to write in bursts. I get a bit obsessed when a writing spell comes on and I am hard to distract when I am on a roll.
Songs tend to appear in 3’s and 4’s then nothing – or no desire in that direction until the next time. When it comes to working with other people the change in energy and dynamic that comes with working with someone else always sparks new ideas in me, so I don’t need to wait, which is lovely!
When I first started out in music, recording was all very scary and expensive; endless amounts of confusing looking heavy machines that looked incredibly complicated. All the lights, buttons and faders etc were intimidating. I didn’t understand then that if you understand one set of buttons on the desk you understand pretty much the whole board.
I also didn’t know that to make decent recordings you simply need a decent microphone, imagination and patience. Over the years I learned to trust my own ears and this has helped me grow in confidence in my ability to produce and record alone.
Another huge difference now is in the quality of the material one can produce with a very small amount of equipment. My ‘studio’ consists of Audio Logic installed on a Mac book, a ‘Nio’ soundcard, some decent speakers, one good ‘Rhodes’ microphone, a midi keyboard and a whole load of old fashioned actual instruments (gasp). Building sound-scapes is great fun.
Layering up guitars, recorders, voice and percussion really help create atmosphere and opens up a million possibilities about where the music may go. I use odd sounds and samples to help create a narrative for the album. I don’t want a record to sound like a bunch of disconnected songs thrown together – I want to create a body of work that tells a story from start to finish.
My solo work almost always starts with an idea that came about with guitar and voice. One is as important as the other and I honestly can’t think of one song that I have written when either part has ‘appeared’ first. The other sounds I use – piano, recorders, bass, percussion – they tend to come later in the recording process.
The melody, chords and lyrical theme generally all come about symbiotically. I then work on developing the words once I have a solid melody, narrative and chord pattern in place. I see lyric writing very much like a carpenter whittling wood; I chip away for hours. You can see very early on what it may become but the detail and fine finish can take many hours to reach a point where I am happy to move forward.
The record is completely autobiographical yes. It’s almost impossible for me to write in any other way. I use a lot of metaphors in my songs as I think this allows the listener to create their own storybook that is relevant and meaningful to them. I guess one could draw a parallel with the motifs you mentioned and the aforementioned restlessness I am dominated by…. Being restless gives rise to a good deal of questioning, exploring and picking over choices, beliefs, hopes, dreams and desires…. I’m not sure if that has answered the question but it’s the best I can do!
I play music all day in my work as a music therapist and when I come home or am driving I find that I physically crave talking voices. I listen to Radio 4, LBC – anything where I can disconnect from music and come back to earth.
That said, I love seeing live music and I have my childhood heroes (not that I sound like any of them!): Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, Steve Forbert, Donna Summer, Nick Drake, Maddy Prior, KLF (Chill Out), Underworld, Pixies, Pink Floyd, Aphex Twin, Boney M, Cat Stevens, Billy Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Donovan, Simon and Garfunkle, Carly Simon - I could go on but…
Over the years I have come to believe that if you are writing music it is essential that you are genuinely ‘yourself’ – this way you can be sure that a) you will be able to live with your recording outside of a particular time or trend and b) you will have created something original and unique.
I began training as a Music Therapist 5 years ago. Music Therapy is a non-verbal, therapeutic intervention in which I work with a client through interactive music making. This can help a person to 'give voice' to thoughts and feelings, through a creative medium, where it may be otherwise not possible to put these into words. Together we use the medium of music as a way of exploring together different ways of expressing oneself, of interacting with other people, and of group dynamics.
In my work I use a psychodynamic approach, thinking about how early life experiences shape how a person responds, functions, and relates to others, and about the feelings that motivate behaviour.
My work takes me to lots of different environments: hospitals, schools, elderly care homes, day centres, sheltered housing and learning disability outreach projects, neuro rehabilitation centres to name a few.
I am very excited to be working with all the people in the Maple Bee line up. The next show will also include Sophie Spinoza who played with me on my ‘Home’ gigs a couple of years ago. We met during the Music Therapy MA – she is an amazing pianist. She has had a break due to having 2 bouncing baby boys to look after, but she’s ready to come back now, which is wonderful.
We also have my neighbour, the lovely and talented Charlie Rushbridger on Cello, Ruth Galloway (Ruth is Pike from Huski’s sister. I originally met her before meeting Pike during our time in the Mediaeval Baebes together) who plays everything - Ukulele, bass/tenor recorder, Autoharp and Vocals and last but not least Jules Harley (my band mate from ‘Huski’) on Percussion and vocals.
Beauty and fashion photographer Bill Ling took the photos and made the video of ‘Keep this Moment Alive’ for ‘These Four Worlds’ and ‘Home’ and it has been great. It’s a strange thing that on the street where I live he happened to live over the road and Charlie, who is playing cello at the shows lives two doors down from me. I picked a great road! The photos for both albums and the video were all taken in the park at the end of the road - ‘Home’ in the winter and ‘These Four Worlds’ in the spring. We didn’t have to travel far and my dressing room was my bedroom. Nice.
I am currently six songs ‘into’ the new and as yet un-named album. I would hope to have it released by the end of this year, all being well. I am planning more live shows in the autumn through to winter and will be keeping myself busy writing and working on the new material.