Seed Sessions. Where to start? When I first heard of the notion of a charity to support men's mental health on the odyssey towards artistry, I realised an absence on my journey, something I’d unknowingly yearned for. Maybe something that could have made a big difference.
One of the first things I learned of the aptly named ‘Seed Sessions’, was the story of Toby Seed. A young, exceptional guitar player, who tragically took his own life. Sadly, to a combination of both physical and mental ill health. It must have been truly devastating for him and for those who knew him. For those who did, I’m saddened by what you must have gone through. I’m sure his family would be proud of the voice his life has managed to create. The sessions were put together in his memory, to help those who might need it.
Musicians can often pour their hearts into their creative burdens, without the return you might expect
Musicians dream of creating a world to which they can escape, perhaps in imagination, sensory experience, or in the realisation of an idea. For whatever reason, it seems to me that pursuing this life goes hand in hand with uncertainty, of several kinds.
I know of many people, pouring their hearts into their creative burdens, day after day, without the return you might expect. That return could be peace of mind, financial stability, or simply a clear path forwards. Of course, it’s a trade-off we choose to make, and we’re empowered to create any kind of possibility for ourselves with enough perseverance, but undoubtedly, it’s hard. I don't suspect many of us knew quite what we were getting into when our journeys began.
It seems Isie Potter (the founder of Seed Sessions) sought out people she felt could use a hand. I suspect she identified certain characteristics through our music and the posts we made on Instagram. When she did reach out, she offered us counselling sessions with the rather wonderful Cory Stewart, some studio sessions at the exceptionally well-equipped dBs Pro and mentoring with various, highly regarded professional musicians. There were a lot of sessions in each department, over a considerable amount of time.
How Seed Sessions have helped
Cory is a very kind, thoughtful and intelligent man. I felt touched by our interactions, experiencing feelings of elation, peace and hopefulness after our sessions. He seemed to ponder, very carefully, all that I said, providing guiding thoughts, prompting me towards a more balanced perspective. We discussed many aspects of my experience, both musical and not. I believe he cared very much, and all in all, our sessions were truly valuable.
During our studio time at dBs Pro, we were encouraged to bring along something we were working on and to make use of the recording space however we saw fit. Supported by an experienced engineer (Jay Auborn), who mentioned he had once worked with Justin Timberlake I might add, I used the opportunity to get some feedback on the music I'd recently recorded and more specifically, thoughts on my vocals. I remember contrasting two vocal performances, one raw and one tuned. We discussed how effectively that communicated my ‘voice’, both its tone and my words.
My growth as a musician thus far seems to be made of many small moments like these, pearls of wisdom, opinions, and new ideas. Sometimes these moments are so significant, they change my direction. Understanding what makes a good vocal, especially when it’s my own voice, has been a surprisingly complicated task for me. Stepping back and hearing myself sing, is about as convoluted as things get.
Seasoned and honest feedback
The third instalment of Seed Sessions was mentoring. I was fortunately paired with Ferg Ireland, best friend to Toby, a jazz-double bassist (among other instruments and skills), who's worked with the likes of Sam Smith, James Bay and Marcus Mumford (to name a few).
Ferg was very real with me. He offered seasoned and honest feedback, often within the realm of artistic identity and how successfully coherent I was managing to be. He gave me a lot of his time, experience, and words of encouragement. He told me he was around if I might need him.It’s not often that you get to share your work with accomplished musicians and hear what somebody, further down the line, thinks of you.
Finally, as the sessions came to an end, Isie organised a gig for all the Seed Sessions participants. Three of us performed, ‘Man0’, ‘Jack Louis Cooper’ and myself, ‘Nederveen’. We were accompanied, I believe, by some friends of Isie’s, a poet, ‘Samora Yeboah’ and a local artist, Alun Elliott-Williams aka 'Tiny Chapter’ (of 'Waldo's Gift').
We were situated in a beautiful chapel, just off Hotwell Road, fairly close to the centre of Bristol, right by my old flat. The audience sat predominantly crossed-legged, only a hair away from the performers. It was one of those gigs where people were there to listen. I do a lot of functions; weddings, pubs and sometimes people couldn't be less interested. I think we all know this feeling, these gigs are the training circuit, the clocking of the hours, so shows like this can remind us what we’re aiming for. The version of a life of a musician that we want, that we could have.
The chaos of life can be hard to see through sometimes. The perspectives we take, malleable day to day, shaping our world, can always use a little positive influence. A nudge towards optimism, an experience closer to the life we lust after. Pain, like that of Toby, has its way of ricocheting into possibilities for others and I believe Isie and everybody else involved, deserves a long-lasting sense of pride for facilitating that change. Thank you.
If you’d like, you can donate to Seed Sessions via the official website’s donation page. You never know the difference it might make.
About Seed Sessions
Seed Sessions is a Bristol-based CIC (a community interest company which exists primarily to benefit a community, or with a view to pursuing a social purpose) and supports young male musicians through music and counselling sessions. Seed Sessions is named in memory of Toby Seed, a gifted musician who sadly took his own life. The name was chosen to remind us all of the potential within each individual, and the growth that can be achieved with the appropriate nurture and care.
Please visit the Seed Sessions website for further information.