If the following is TL:DR for you, I’m just here to let you know that my album ‘Years’ is out TODAY on Bella Union!! 🎉🎊🤘🏼 Available in shops, online and on streaming platforms. If you’re ok to read something self indulgent, read on, if not I still love y’all.
I rarely do this and probably won’t again, but wanted to share some of my own extended thoughts, feelings and self-reflections.
My debut album comes out today on my favourite record label. What’s partly so crazy about it is that the thought of releasing my own album was never on my radar I when I first got into music; I started off as a drummer, playing in bands and sessioning and only began writing my own songs to scratch the creative itch that was gnawing at me deep inside. I came up with the alias ‘Hilang Child’ purely because I was so terrified of my friends hearing me sing for the first time, that I didn’t want to use my real name in case they realised it was my voice on the recordings.
I put out some free tracks a few years ago and quite soon after that they somehow started to get kind words written by the blogosphere, spins on some indie radio stations, I was getting requests for songs to be used on TV, PR companies in America were contacting me with all the big talk, A&Rs from big shot record labels were emailing to dip their toes in the water. I think this initial frenzy happens to a lot of new bands or artists in the same way and is usually far less meaningful than it seems at the time, but as it was all totally unexpected and baffling to me, the thought of people actually listening to and enjoying what I was doing was just the biggest buzz ever and convinced me it was worth giving the whole ‘being an artist’ thing a go, for better or for worse. In pursuing this across the intervening years I realised it wasn’t quite as simple as that. I’ve had more ups and downs with it than I ever imagined I would; the countless knockbacks do eventually get to you and more than a few times I considered dropping everything to pursue something away from music.
Early on I signed a publishing deal which in hindsight I certainly wasn’t ready for; it was great for my ego but terrible for my own concept of where I was as an artist. And due to the aforementioned early online interest, some of my first ever shows happened to be in front of booking agents, record labels, media people etc, which, having never sung in front of people before nor having worked out who I actually wanted to be as an artist, quite predictably went tits up on a few occasions. I remember my second or third performance EVER as a singer was at a sold-out XOYO in London supporting Active Child, with a whole host of ‘the music industry’ in attendance. It was my first ever experience of a rushed support-slot soundcheck and therefore my first ever experience of going onstage without the levels being right. There were muddy bassy frequencies flying around the stage and I couldn’t really hear or pitch my vocals. Due to my then lack of experience in dealing with that sort of thing as a singer, I completely crumbled and played probably the worst, most embarrassing set of my life. Whilst that was a painful learning experience, the aftermath also hit home the fleeting nature of the industry for new artists; suddenly everyone who’d acted so keen just disappeared into the woodwork and even years later I’d hear through the grapevine how ‘X person from X music company says they’re not really interested as they saw you at XOYO a couple years ago and weren’t into it’.
That sort of character killing knockback happens to so many artists and it’s hard to accept starting back from square one when it does; I’ve had plenty of great shows and plenty of bad shows since and you sometimes let the bad moments completely overshadow the good. Likewise in the learning curve of writing more and more to discover myself as a songwriter, I’ve released songs I’m proud of but just as significantly, released plenty of other songs that I now absolutely hate to a cringe-inducing extent. At times these past few years it’s made me turn totally inwards and become an absent friend, partner, family member, employee, whatever, to a lot of the people who’ve passed through my life, due to this self obsession of trying to do this music thing the way I want it to be.
But for all those little bumps in the road, the fact I’ve got to this point of finally having something tangible to show which I’m proud of, which I was able to put together with the help of some truly inspirational friends, supported now by my two fantastic bandmates Teia & Nick, and backed by a label and publisher whose combined artists were a big reason for me getting into music in the first place... I feel like I’ve kinda done the ‘thing’ that I was hoping to achieve when it began and have had a fucking great time with it. So I feel ok with whatever happens from here. The album could go down well, or it could absolutely tank like a lead balloon and fall into the abyss of forgotten indie music, who knows. But regardless of how it’s received, now that it’s done I can look back and say I’ve had the best time being able to make it and appreciate everything that’s happened on the road to this point. So although I’m keeping every finger crossed that I’ll be able to do this many times more, whether this is the start or the end I’m at peace with whichever way it goes.
From doing this whole Hilang Child thing I’ve made so many friends who’ve gone on to become some of my genuine closest circle, I’ve worked with some of the most inspiring people and have had the opportunity to do so many of the things kids dream of when they first make that decision to learn music; I’ve played shows all over the world, heard my songs on TV and radio, recorded in some legendary locations, seen my name printed in music magazines, got into so many festivals for free, shared stages with incredible musicians and had guidance and support from people in the industry who’ve worked with some of the artists whose music gave me the urge to start writing in the first place. So whatever happens now, I’m cool with it, because it’s been a damn exciting ride up to this point.
If you happen to listen to or purchase my album I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed having the chance to make it. Spread the word to your friends and yeah, don’t take anything for granted because nothing is guaranteed and everything good is a blessing. Thanks to everyone who has helped me along the way; you will know who you are.