“Sing along, or dance if you want.”
It’s not normally the encouragement we get from speakers at Ayr Writers.
Yet, from Prestwick singer and songwriter Scott Nicol, it was wholly appropriate and should have been sufficient for me to focus on getting this blog written.
However, writers’ block, family commitments, a garden bursting into weed, a slew of football semi-finals, and post-Covid brain fug, all combined into what we normally call “prevarication.” I knew there was a blog in there somewhere. Then, I recalled what Scott reminded us, “sometimes you just need to chisel it out.” We’ll skip the parallels with Michelangelo claiming that he knew there was a figure lurking and he just needed to find it in each block of marble he sculpted.
Anyway, Scott dragged us away from our normal staple of short stories and flash fiction, plotting, characterisation, and research for local history articles. Introducing us to his craft, he performed and talked about four of his songs, each illustrating different aspects of his own approach to song writing – with insightful perspectives on inspiration, ideas, subjects and word-play.
Only So Many Summers looked at one of Scott’s approaches to life. Taken by the view that it’s good to be “close to people who make you feel like sunshine,” he led us to look at the flip side, and to realise that we ought to make other people feel like sunshine as well. So, what’s our take on the world? What’s our slant on relationships? Can we elaborate on these to shape a song?
While singing Like The Best, She’s Fearless Scott introduced us to, initially, someone from an issue of Q Magazine. The characteristics of this Scandinavian singer then melded with those of two women who managed some of his tour dates in America. With arms swaying, hands clapping and a gospel choir in gestation, he encouraged us to be constantly open and alert to ideas, individuals and experiences. You soon knew who these people were.
Swimming In Regrets took this philosophy further, by looking at people, imagining yourself in their situation and exploring the emotions and thoughts that might be whirling around. Inspired by audience members at a gig in a US prison, Scott told us not to be tied into doing something predictable or conventional.
Scott’s performance of Battleground was a poignant finish to the evening, connecting as it did with close family relationships, struggle and loss. The rhythm of words and rhyme were epitomised by the line, “you will dance on hallowed ground.”
Despite admitting that he wasn’t used to talking about his songs, Scott’s mix of chat and song melded perfectly and made the evening pass all too quickly. Scott normally works with young people, nurturing their talent. Well, we’re young at heart, most of us fitting comfortably with his influences of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. He encouraged creativity across generations.
At the end of an evening there are always snippets scribbled that connect with many of the strands of advice we’re given. Some of mine include:
- there’s no right or wrong, just good
- don’t be too direct – or too flowery
- the essence is discernment
- play with the rhythm of the words – from which a tune may emerge
- do it afraid – which draws a parallel with one of my own favourites – write outside your comfort zone
So, on that last point, let’s not be afraid to try – although it is too late to pen the UK entry into this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. And most importantly, be open and alert – and then POSSIBILITY SCREAMS – which is, of course an unapologetic plug for Scott’s music mentoring business.