Please Bear With Us As We Re-Build This Site From Scratch!
By Matt Hicks
There’s something strange happening in the ukulele world online. Swathes of ukulele players have joined a very special community that has developed over the last 6 months. The brain child of singer songwriter and front man for The Small Change Diaries, Nick Kemp, the Original Ukulele Songs project was set up to provide an online space for existing ukulele songwriters to showcase their music. But something extra special has occurred. Between the team of Nick Cody, Bianca Brochet and myself who moderate, mentor and encourage and the songwriters who regularly contribute, new aspirational songwriters have joined in the experience. Some people who have never written before tune in to see what its about and then very often begin to put pen to paper themselves.
The facebook OUS page is totally supportive and encouraging to those who want to give it a shot and it has paid dividends to the likes of Harry Parker who says:
“I started to learn guitar and wrote my first song in 1962. That would be an impressive background if I hadn’t given up in 1964 and didn’t think about making and creating music again until 2015 when I retired (a short 51 year break).”
The OUS group works on the idea that good music and songs all come from strong communities and that is essentially what it aspires to create online. Harry has steadily built up his confidence and songwriting ability to the point where his output is deeply appreciated by OUS and ears outside of it.
People are encouraged to join the group with an open mind and a supportive heart. Some come to the group knowing exactly what they want to achieve. Harry says:
“My overarching plan (still is) was a determination to learn to play and sing well (struggling with that but persistent*), write a body of work (*as above) and to make a good quality CD of my music to leave behind for my granddaughter to have always after I’ve gone.”
Having gone some way to achieve that, what is it about the OUS community that has put Harry in the right direction?
“OUS is the most inspiring place for a ukulele player/writer. It’s the first thing I do every day, to check the new song posts (there always is). It’s the most eclectic mix of creative song writing and hearing new stuff all the time really keeps up your own enthusiasm and desire to create. I’ve contributed regularly – too much at first – churning out a new song every couple of days, not the best when I look back but a necessary part of my creative development. What’s great about the group is there’s not a trace of negativity or criticism – just good solid helpful advice, suggestions and thoughtful critique from other members. I’ve collaborated with others a couple of times which really teaches you a lot and improves your writing. More recently, I spend more time tweeking, refining and re-recording before posting and I’m learning about recording and mixing. My contribution, aside from my own songs, is that I listen to EVERY song that’s posted (a few times over if I like them) and if there’s anything I like (and I mean anything) I say so.”
So on any given day you may well here a songs ranging from novices like Harry to well respected professionals such as Victoria Vox who is headlining this years Grand Northern Ukulele Festival in the UK. The variation is unlike many other pages and this has been compounded by the fact that many of the songwriters are encouraged to collaborate.
This year at the Grand Northern Ukulele festival, I met up with a man called Alan Thornton form the United States for the first time. Despite there being a rather large pond between us, Alan and I have been songwriting together after meeting through the OUS. But we’re not the only collaboration. On the main OUS website you will see countless artists and their collaborations with each other taking establish writers down paths they never expected.
The OUS community sponsored a stage at the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival in the UK last May, where a select handful of OUS songwriters performed. The Facebook page, the website and the stage all had a global village feel, and we are looking to continue our work with representatives in many different countries from the USA, Canada and New Zealand.
With Love My Ukulele being based in New Zealand, we would be delighted if any songwriters from New Zealand felt they were encouraged by visiting our online page or website and contributing from an already well establish and beautiful New Zealand songwriting tradition.
You can visit the facebook page and join up here.
The website for the OUS is here.
You can get a taste of Matt Hicks’ music here.