On the creative couch today is Sydney-based musician Helen Perris.
How do you define yourself as a creative person?
Well I guess at the moment I’m defined as a singer-songwriter, children’s entertainer and character actress, but I have always been a creative person. As a child I performed, singing and dancing in front of any audience that would watch; writing plays and musicals for my peers to perform in front of the class; choreographing dances, composing music, writing poetry and stories, playing many instruments… the list goes on. I never STOPPED being creative. I think that people are inherently creative and it gets beaten out of them by the school system and adults who don’t know any better. Even in my admin work (I work part time for a music venue), I’m coming up with creative solutions to problems, so creativity isn’t necessarily limited to the Arts, though in me, that’s the most obvious way to define what I do.
What is your chosen creative medium and how does it allow you to express your creativity?
At the moment, my chosen creative medium is songwriting. I don’t agree that I’m using it to express my creativity though. I’m creative anyway, by my mere existence. I use songwriting to express myself.
Can you explain your creative process.
I’ll talk about my process of writing a song because that’s probably the easiest to explain. It depends on the seed. The process differs depending on what form the seed takes. It might be a melodic fragment (e.g. Demophobia) or a lyrical idea (e.g. Rainbows & Thunder). It might be a current or recent event and my constant dwelling on it (e.g. Headlights) or in response to my needing to let go of a problem (e.g. Palace in Suburbia). The seed is the inspiration. Making that seed into a song is the perspiration. The grunt work sometimes takes months and sometimes I feel like I’m not the one writing at all, but that I’m just the channel for it. When songs are written especially quickly, with very little editing, that’s how it feels. I usually write all of the lyrics first and then set them to music, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. Sometimes I write lyrics sitting at the piano, sometimes at a piece of paper, sometimes at a computer. The music generally gets written at the piano, though I have been known to write the bulk of a melody and harmony part in the car, while driving. I work in a very solitary way, even when I collaborate. When I collaborate, my lyricist will send me complete or draft lyrics. If they’re complete, I’ll set them to music, messing about with keys and melodic ideas until I get the basic structure happening. If they aren’t complete, I’ll to and fro over email with the lyricist with changes until they are complete, then I’ll follow the same process. I haven’t (yet) sat down in the same room with another person and written a song together. That would be an interesting experiment.
Who or what gives your creativity impetus and direction?
I can’t really answer that. I can tell you what gave my career direction. My creative streak wants to dabble in everything and has no direction. I am goal-oriented and I like making my own creative opportunities. I chose this current direction because I was presented with an opportunity, which could have just ended there if I didn’t choose to take it further. But I was also simultaneously disenchanted with acting because of all the waiting around for opportunities and the constant rejection. I found it difficult to create my own acting work because I didn’t feel my script-writing abilities were strong enough and I felt a lack of community with fellow artists. Living in Western Sydney definitely made it harder to collaborate on theatre or film projects. So I took the positive response to my music as a sign and ran with it.
Who has inspired you in your creative journey?
Too many to list. Anyone who can survive the entertainment industry with their sanity and sense of humour intact is worthy of being a role model.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on creating a human being. After it’s born and I recover, I’m starting the planning, fundraising and pre-production work for my second EP.
What is your “go to” piece to inspire you?
I find inspiration everywhere and I don’t stick to one thing to find inspiration or motivation. If I did, I think all my creative output would be the same.
How do you see technology impacting or affecting people’s ability to be creative?
I think technology opens up new creative pathways. It definitely makes it easier to connect with creative people.
What is a piece that is representative of your creative purpose?
Do you mean a piece I’ve created or a piece by somebody else?
I don’t really know. I still don’t know if I have a purpose, let alone a creative one. I like to help people understand themselves and each other better. That’s why I teach, too. If there’s anything I leave behind as my legacy, it’s that there are a bunch of people who stopped hating themselves and started accepting and liking themselves because I understood them and helped them to feel they weren’t alone.
Many thanks for your time, Helen.
Check out the links to Helen’s music.
She also blogs at http://helenperrismusic.com/
You can also listen to her recordings on SoundCloud.
In 2012, Helen was invited to perform at TedX Canberra. Check out her bio and performance.
If you want to be a part of the On The Creative Couch series, drop me a line in the comments or via twitter (@revhappiness)