A year in songs

My brother recently reminded me of the first song I had ever written. The song went something like, “Rachelle you are going to, die tonight, die tonight”. Pretty morbid stuff for a 9 year old. I can’t remember exactly what it is she had done to insult me, I doubt it was much. It never takes much.

Chuck SJ

My mother passed away 7 years ago, naturally, I’d write about it. I’d write about before, I’d write about during, I’d write about after, I’d write about what could be and I’d write about what would be. I was incapable of rounding it all up into one shiny song so I just, kept on going. The majority of my set length ended up being songs about my late mum. Which apparently is an inappropriate amount of songs to have in one set. But I didn’t write for other people, I wrote for me. I was twenty years old and rather gutted that my mum was dead. Writing became everything, I had to become something, I had to be worth the life she had given for me.  

I am not a subtle person. I don’t understand social etiquette, a quality I used to find loathsome, but now a trait I have learnt to treasure. It takes a great deal to embarrass me. As a result, I’m a brutally honest individual and I have no idea when I’ve insulted anyone. Despite my debut song at 9 years old suggesting otherwise, I’m very empathetic. I never intended to become a protest writer, however the mixture of empathy, frankness and an inability to be disheartened by my audience, makes a great cocktail for protest writing.  

I have never been able to start writing a song and then come back to it. From the moment I start I’lI have to finish. (It has been considered that i have ADHD, but whenever I recon I’m ready to look into it I just get distracted by something else). So In June 2016 I decided to start a project where I would write a song a day for a year, releasing them monthly to subscribers. Luckily (in the sort of way it’s lucky for a deer to get hit by the car as appose to being maned by the bear at the other side) I didn’t run out short of things to write about. 2016, the year of “Make Britain Great Again!”. A political catastrophe. You know it’s bad when you’re sad to see David Cameron go. What with Trump, May and Brexit, the songs kept rolling. It felt like a life time, but somehow i found myself in June 2017 with a years’ worth of songs knocking around. I set up a kickstarter to fund my latest album; XII.  

XII is a double disc 50 track album that has shaped who I am today.

The common form of writing, at least the one I was told about, is to take time, and perfect it. I have always struggled to stay focused, and with this a sense of incompetence follows. Once I acknowledged my weakness and turned it into strength, I was able to strive. 2016 was not only politically draining, but a break up after a 3 year relationship, resulted in no longer being able to rely on days being more or less of the same. My life changed, my living situation, a new relationship, pet responsibilities. Life had become this glorious timeline of inexplicable chaos, and each day I’d sit inside the chaos, and write a song. This same person who gets so distracted that they overfill the bath and then forget and empty it repeatedly, before getting it right. This same person, had written a song a day, for a year, and was now releasing a 50 track album.  

Writing is the only thing that has ever made any sense to me. My advice, from one scatter brain to another, is pay attention to yourself.

Figure yourself out the same way you would another person.    

You can hear Chuck’s songs on their Soundcloud page - https://soundcloud.com/chucksjhay

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Chuck Sj

Chuck Sj is a DIY Folk Punk musician. Continuously challenging views on fascism, capitalism, sexism, and anything else they can address. Their intricate fretboard work and brutal honesty makes for an exhilarating performance.

Chuck recently completed a personal project writing a song every day for a year. In this blog for Literacy Works week Chuck discusses why song writing is so important to their life.