Tag Archives: helen perris

Promoting New Art – Helen Perris

I love coming across new music, new books, new artists, and supporting and promoting them however I can.

One way is blogging about their art and material, another by putting links via social media avenues.

Today, local Sydney artist, Helen Perris releases her new song, Mirrors and Windows. I really like this song. Lovely production. It has a pop sensibility with reference to Helen’s influences in cabaret and musical theatre. Think Amanda Palmer, Tori Amos, Kate Bush. All lovely stuff.

Helen is a singer songwriter, musician, promoter of the arts and a generally cool person to know.

Watch the video below.

Check out Helen’s page and bandcamp site for more of her music.

Whenever you can, however you can, support artists. Promote them, buy their products. 

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Creating Community and Collaborative Creativity

Creating Community and Collaborative Creativity

Making my own music is ALL about self-expression. Working on other people’s is all about the privilege of helping realise their visionSteve Lawson (@solobasssteve)

Music, like literature, art, film, photography and dance, any other creative medium or form, are aspects of self-expression. As a writer, I use words as my vehicle for self-expression to create stories. I use words to create imagery, atmosphere and stories to create emotional responses in the reader.

Literature, music and dance are the foundational aspects of community; an integral voice of culture and community as representative of a society. It celebrates, connects, questions, makes political statements, raises philosophical debate, criticises and praises.

Without community we are isolated individuals trapped by the artificial boundaries surrounding ourselves. Literature, music and dance create a cultural identity and shared awareness of each other.

“Here we are now, entertain us.”

When did the creative arts become an entertainment rather than a shared community experience?

I postulate we’ve made art, music and literature an entertainment. In doing so, we have made creativity a product, a brand, an identity. Survey the popular artists and look at the products they are flogging apart from their music: perfume, clothing, jewellery, personal hygiene products. It’s hard to see a writer being asked to endorse a product, as if the writer him/herself is a brand and an identity to market.

Music has become a spectacle and an entertainment, dividing the artist from the audience. You go to a pub, a coffee shop, an opera house, and you go to see someone perform for you. You are transferred into the world of the performer as they create it for you.

There are transcendental moments of euphoria, a shared connection with the musicians or performer on stage. I’ve been to gigs where the excitement and passion are almost palpable, but I know I am there to be entertained. I have no personal connection with the artist nor the audience. We share physical space, unknown to one another except in shared connection with the music we are listening to.

I like music, literature and art as entertainment but I want to explore the community aspect of the creative arts. Artists have collaborated and supported one another for millennia. Ultimately I see creativity (literature, music and the arts) as a shared community and communication. Creativity takes on a stronger voice when we combine as a group of people to create, to share, to communicate.

Creativity as entertainment is passive. Creativity as a communication is active and engaging.

The Dichotomy of Audience and Community

What if we changed the perspective and stopped talking about an audience for our work, whether it’s literature or music or art, and talked about community instead?

When we speak of an audience, we are speaking of one-way communication from the artist to the receiver.

When we speak of a community, we enter into a dialogue. Our voice becomes stronger when there are many to spread the message.

Our stories, our music, our dance, our art; this is the voice we have to communicate our message.

By having the artist/audience dichotomy we have weakened our voice to communicate our message.

Creating Community

In the age of digital connection and hyper connectivity, the link between artist and community is ever present and easy to do.

Amanda Palmer’s (@amandapalmer) TED Talk, “The Art of Asking” is a brilliant explanation of her art. It’s worth your time to watch and engage with her vision.

Here is a summary of her vision as I see it and its relationship to creating community in the creative arts.

Art is metaphorically, and sometimes literally, falling into your audience and trusting one another. It is an act of asking because through the act of asking, you make a connection and when you connect, people want to help you. But asking makes you vulnerable and you have to have trust in your tribe (or your community). Give and receive freely. Ask without shame. Musicians and artists (and writers) are part of the community; they are connectors and openers. Celebrity is being loved from a distance instead of being loved up close.

This is what I want from my art, my writing: the direct connection with the reader so that we create a community. In my last post, “What Will Be Your Creative Legacy?”, I spoke about what I will leave behind. I’m not worried about my words; I’m worried about my community. It’s about direct connection with people and creating a moment of contact, a moment of prolonged contact in order to build trust and build a community.

How Do You Create Community? You Ask.

In the last few years the rise of crowd-sourcing and crowd-funding has caused debate in and out of the creative community, but I see it has benefit for musicians and artists like film makers, more so than for writers. Think kickstarter, pozible or indiegogo or something similar. These platforms are generating the community aspect to creativity.

Here are a few examples that I know of where creative people have asked for help:

Australian-based metal outfit, Twelve Foot Ninja (@twelvefootninja) had a comic written for the release of their album, Silent Machine and had the largest and most successful crowd-funding campaign for their new video clip because they had engaged their community.

Helen Perris (@helenperris) was recently able to attract enough funding to record her new EP. One of the contributors was rewarded with time in the studio with Helen and try her hand at backing vocals.

It’s about creating community and connection, rewarding contributors and engaging in meaningful conversations. If you’re an artist, offer the reward to create art and liner notes or design work (cut them in for a share or a fee – I’m all for the artist being paid.) Some may choose to volunteer their time or efforts, but there is also a place for paid contributors.

Other Ways To Create Community?

What if we made venues conducive to community? What if coffee shops, cafes, art galleries and libraries made it a point of creating community between musician, artist, writer and their clients?

Create spaces for creative communities by moving into cafes and coffee shops, parks and houses for art groups or writers groups (I know they already exist but let’s broaden the horizon), perform music in the form of house concerts (Steve Lawson is big proponent of house concerts) and have literature groups meet in art galleries.

Let’s learn from the DIY aesthetic and bring the crowd right up to the band and share in the dialogue and discussion.

One of my favourite bands, Sydney-based post-rock band Dumbsaint, make short films to accompany their post-rock instrumental songs. Both music and films stand alone and the experience of watching the film and the band perform live is fantastic. Check out their new song, The Auteur.

With my current penchant for post-rock (instrumental music) in the likes of sleepmakeswaves (@sleepmakeswaves), Meniscus (@Meniscusmusic) (representing my home town) I’d like to write short narratives based on the titles of their songs to appear on the CD liner notes or on the band’s website. I haven’t asked the bands yet but what if you could engage with the artist in a creative collaboration?

I first came across this idea when reading the liner notes to King’s X album “Gretchen Goes to Nebraska.” You can read it here.

What about collaborating with a band to create a short film or video clip or a visual background for one of their songs? Offer to create visuals for their flyers, website, album artwork. Ask. Ask a writer if you could design a book cover. Ask a dancer if you could write a piece of music for them as the inspiration for new choreography.

It’s about connection (and fandom; can I get a fan “squee”?) and extending the focus outwards, not inwards.

As a writer, collaboration is a great way of helping someone realise his/her vision. The epistolary serial I co-wrote with Jodi Cleghorn, Post Marked: Piper’s Reach, was a way of realising Jodi’s vision for a new writing adventure. We are now at the editing stage, turning it into a novel and pursuing publication options.

The vision we hold for our own creative and artistic endeavours is our self-expression, our goal and purpose.

Yet, it is better to give than to receive.

To help foster and create community and assist others in realising their artistic vision is a remarkable privilege. By creating a positive and encouraging artistic community we enrich our lives.


Be involved.

Create community.

On The Creative Couch: Helen Perris

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.

You can listen to (and buy) her music via her bandcamp site and connect with her via facebook (Helen Perris Music) and twitter (@helenperris)

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)

Words and Music

When putting together a series of ideas for Write Anything’s weekly PROMPTed post, I realised how much I focus on music as a source for understanding an emotional state when writing. When compiling the sets of prompts I began each one with a piece of music. Some of them are well known songs (Pink Floyd – On the Turning Away, Suzanne Vega – Tom’s Diner) and others more relatively obscure such as Hilltop Hoods – Chase That Feeling (an Australian hip hop group) and Primitive Radio Gods – Standing Outside a Broken Phone Box (more of a one hit wonder from the 90s). The first song is a current track by Kate Miller-Heidke – The Tiger Inside Will Eat the Child.

They were seemingly random selections taken from my memory or from play lists on my computer. Despite the diversity of genres and the different eras of music represented, each song has an emotional connection to me. Nothing world shattering or significant but a connection to the groove, the lyrics or the overall feeling of the song.

I love my music and play drums (not a bad level of playing suckage). I listen to a broad range of genres (rock, pop, jazz, whatever), but particularly like heavy metal. Engaging with the music I listen to, there is an emotional or spiritual connection with the music.

Let me talk drums for a minute. The essence of drumming is rhythm and the focus of rhythm is the pulse.  The earliest pulse we hear, but more accurately feel, is the pulse of the human heartbeat within the womb. 

Drumming is physical, spiritual, ethereal, primeval, tribal, conscious, unconscious and subconscious.  It moves your feet and taps your hands.  It provides a rhythm for the cycles of everyday living.  Relaxes the soul and hastens the heart. Drumming is sensual and visceral.

Drumming drives the rhythm.  Even in the absence of a played drum groove, the beat and rhythm are implied. Time can waver, become loose or tight depending on the emotional moment, but the pulse is never lost. 

There is a spiritual element to drumming and rhythm.  The pulse and the heartbeat of music is the driving force.  The pulse and heartbeat of rhythm can be found in the cycles of life; from the measured ritual of a cup of tea to the flow and movement of words across the page. 

As a musician, alright a drummer, I want people to engage with the music. As a writer I want the reader to engage with the words I have written, to find an emotional connection, a similar spiritual experience.

When writing I use music as a background soundtrack to either create a mood, a head space for writing or to suit the mood of the scene I’m writing. Some writers prefer the sound of silence when writing while others prefer a specific genre, band or song to help create the mood or atmosphere. Of late I have preferred instrumental music (sleepmakeswaves, Steve Lawson, Meniscus).

In Post Marked: Piper’s Reach, my character Jude, uses music as a reflection on his head space, or as a link to the past with Ella-Louise. If the reader is familiar with the music referenced, it creates a connection between the reader and the character whereby the reader is able to inhabit a similar emotional space because of the music.

Music is a conduit between the reader and the text; a pathetic fallacy to represent a character’s emotional or mental state, a reflection on their culture or the zeitgeist, or just because they’re really hip and are listening to bands you’ve never heard of. It’s another tool to draw your reader into the world of the narrative. In the novel I’m working on the main characters, both of whom play an instrument, music creates another level of characterisation.

I could fill post after post of music and musicians that inspire me, but here are a few that have inspired me of late.

Imogen Heap – Just for Now I love this song because of the live looping Imogen performs. Brilliant.

Steve Lawson Don’t Stop Believin’ 

Steve is a solo bass player who loops his instrument live. I often use his music as the background music when writing. Beautiful atmospheric and melodic playing.

Meniscus and sleepmakeswaves – Two Sydney (my home town) based post-rock instrumental bands. Brilliant live acts and wonderfully complex music. Never far off rotation on my player when writing.

A couple of other Aussie artists worth checking out: Andrew Drummond, Helen Perris, Emmy Bryce, Lissa, Telefonica. I’m pushing my hometown here, and if I could get my best mate, Steve, to hurry up and finish his album I’d promote it here, too.

I’ll have another post where I go \m/ >.< \m/ heavy metal crazy.

What music do you listen to when you write?