There have been times when Shirley Lynn has doubted herself or felt intensely critical of her work, but she works through this trepidation by reaching out to other musicians and making sure she shares her songs anyway.
I’m learning to have more confidence as a creative. I can recognise negative thoughts, hearing what they have to say is a part of my process as is being selective about the need to act on them or not.
Lynn explains that she has regained her confidence, gradually and methodically, through jamming, building to public performances and doing performances with others, such as muso Jim McCabe who she formed the duo Silktones with.
Lynn first performed with McCabe at Clifton Capers, when she was venturing out to perform after her long break from music in the public arena. This friendship and collaboration led to the current Liberty Album. Lynn and McCabe worked collaboratively to develop these songs to their current form and they produced the album with the help of Peter Grayson at Tonic Sound, Yorkeys Knob.
Lynn has long moved on from that teenage self- expression focus to write songs that strive to be uplifting, real and relevant. She is inspired by life, experience, listening to others stories and places.
She has written songs inspired by history and place, referencing topics such as the Cairns -Kuranda Railway and early settlement in Queensland.
In ‘A New Tomorrow’ she sings of the emotions of the migrants leaving their home.
‘ We hold our dreams in our heart With sadness from our homeland we part With this journey we’ll make a new start Carry us forth, let the wind blow Fill our sails as we go into a new tomorrow’
Lynn was raised on the Atherton Tablelands; with places there that still find their way into songs she writes.
’I wrote ‘Barron River Dreaming’ about my dad, who was a hard worker with humble beginnings who lived on the Barron River. Some of the filming for ‘My Kind of Paradise’ took place at the Lower Barron Gorge and because of my family history I felt a special feeling of connection through the flow of the river from the Tablelands to the coast. The River is special because it ran through the rural property in Upper Barron where my father’s family lived. .
As well as mastering live performance Lynn has embraced the recording process. She wants to produce many more songs drawing on her past studio sessions.
She most recently wrote and recorded a song for the opening of the Fitzroy Island Rehabilitation Centre and now loves to sing this song, “Sea Turtle Quest” on occasions at performances to highlight greater awareness about saving our sea turtles.
When I sang the song at the opening on Fitzroy Island it was such an amazing day. Bob Irwin was in attendance with Jennie Gilbert, corporate sponsors and volunteers and two turtles – Bonnie and Clyde were released back into the ocean on the day.
Pete Grayson, who recorded the Silktones CD, Liberty, also recorded “Sea Turtle Quest”.
In recording the song we laid multiple tracks with birds , ocean and boat sounds The song has a monologue at the start and listeners are encouraged to think from the perspective of turtle.
“From beneath the sand I hatched, digging all the while,
Reflected light, the water – a beacon I recognised
With legs and muscles pumping, I ran the gauntlet fast,
A hungry mob were waiting… tasting… eating…
…I managed to outlast!
I made it to the ocean, fought hard to beat the surf
Shadows round me lurking – new predatory turf
Threats from human hazards – risks so manifest
An epic journey every day…
…I am a sea turtle, this is my Quest.”
This song is in the forthcoming CD compilation from Songwriters on the Waterfront produced by Terry Doyle.
Lynn tells me that she would love to record ‘Barron River Dreaming’ just as she did the Turtle song. Furthermore, she would also like to record her song, “Beaten and Broken” which relates to the book of the same name written by Rhonda Norbury, a real story about a tragic situation when violence was inflicted on a young teenager and the courage, strength and love of a mother ‘s struggle for the survival of her daughter.
Lynn sees the production of her work as a legacy she will be able to leave for future family generations. She has a few more albums she’d like to create.
I’d especially like to get out an album created for Blue Tonic. It’s already underway and will include songs from multiple songwriters in the band. An annual community event at Yorkey’s Festival of the Knob bought about jamming practice in Pete’s garage from which the band originated.
With the experience of the turtle song behind her Lynn is open to doing more commissioned songs as well,
Lynn will continue to apply to play at more festivals for which she has had mixed success, but she does not let any setbacks stop the forward march of her creativity and determined effort with song writing. She took up the opportunity to co-facilitate a song writing workshop at a music industry forum with Terry Doyle at the Tableland Music Lovers shed this year sharing tips, tools and insights that she has been made aware of on her way.
My primary recommendation for other pending songwriters would be that they take regular action to shape their craft so they can step the journey that they aspire to with an open mind to all that may be possible.
Lynn demonstrates that the impulse to share a real and relevant story and build up the skills to do that in the most skilled way possible can lead to the achievement of dreams at any point in life.
Musical artists such as Lynn do not measure their success in terms of widespread fame, but rather in leaving a legacy of original songs that give joy, remembrance and a sense of the Australian setting and culture to future generations. She strives to make her work of the highest quality that she can, and shares it as widely as opportunity enables her to.
Artists like Lynn never give up on their music, rather they have learnt to go with the flow of life, and let that life into their music.
You can find out more about Shirley Lynn’s music at the following:
It’s a cold Brisbane morning when I phone Shirley Lynn, a singer-songwriter, based in the much warmer Cairns. I first met Lynn at Song Trails, a weekend song writing workshop, Tully, in 2012 and was impressed by her constructive and enthusiastic communication and the original compositions she shared.
Since then Lynn has been having some great musical achievements which include: releasing an EP called “It’s About Time”, winning a competition to promote the Port Douglas Carnivale with her original song, “My Kind of Paradise, in 2012, producing a video of this with a RADF grant and most recently releasing an EP of songs with her duo, Silktones, titled “Liberty.” Lynn’s journey to these achievements is an interesting and inspiring one.
With a warm coffee at my side we begin by tracing how Lynn first began her musical journey.
I wrote my first songs as a teenager sitting in my bedroom in the Atherton Tablelands. Early songs were sometimes about saying things that were difficult to express in other ways. Since then the lyrics of my songs have always been important to me but my recollection of specific songs written as a teenager is vague.
My first instrument was the piano, both my grandmother and mother played piano. I had lessons and did a certificate three in music but by high school I wasn’t into ragtime and the type of music they were teaching me anymore. I took up the guitar and then continued to teach myself.
I was lucky at the beginning because many opportunities to share my music just found me. I played a lot around the Atherton Tablelands at local venues: pubs, hotels, restaurants. My parents were very supportive. Initially I had borrowed a friend’s PA system to perform then before too long, Mum took me to Cairns where I purchased my own gear.
Lynn had a positive beginning with her music at the same time she worked as a teacher.
Whilst I was a teacher I didn’t do as much writing but continued to play the guitar and perform locally.
Some of the things I did as a primary school teacher when teaching writing and creativity to children, like brain storming, drafting and reshaping, I apply to my own song writing process. After a trip overseas in the mid-eighties I began to write songs again. I wrote a song and played it at my sister’s wedding.
I did take an interest in the recording process when my husband and I spent time working in in the Torres Strait (he was principal of the school on Yam Island) and we had a four track Tascam recorder.
We regularly produced a radio segment called “Chit Chat” for the community radio which was broadcast every Friday. The show was produced for the purposes of the children’s language development, and always included music and songs from the students. We sent it to Thursday Island where it was then broadcast throughout the Strait. At that time I did experiment with some song ideas and still have remnants of those recordings somewhere, one I specifically remember was called “Mango and Malibu”.
When my two sons were born, I concentrated on singing them lullabies and nursery rhymes and my desire to perform and create music otherwise went by the wayside.
About eight years ago Lynn quit teaching and was attracted back to making music more central to her life again. Although initially she didn’t head straight back into music, instead completing some IT training specialising in technology and website construction, she worked from home initially then for the TAFE and the Indigenous Lead Centre as a project officer and an instructional designer completing various projects over her 7 years there.
However, something was still missing. This led to Lynn resigning from her TAFE job and seeking a new pathway through an old and long standing love in life – music. Lynn shares that her husband has been incredibly supportive through her whole process of discovering an authenticity about herself through her music.
In the last few years music has become the pivot in Lynn’s life; she cannot let a day go by without picking up her guitar and working on songs and her craft of song writing. The words and music tend to come into existence together as she creates her songs with guitar and notebook in hand:
I began my journey back into music doing open mics. I had notebooks of songs and would work on them until they were ready to share publicly, and then test them out at places like Songwriters on the Waterfront. This is held at Mondos, and run by Terry Doyle. Terry has done a lot to support the promotion of original music and he has launched 25 albums from local artists in Cairns.
This open outdoor mic event features all original songs (no covers). It is a magic and relaxed location where people dine and listen to music. It happens regularly, unless it rains.
Lynn characterises her songs as ‘lyrical and rhythmic in their style,’ and is keen to not be put in a genre pigeonhole as she continues to want to experiment and explore.
I don’t like to be put in a box, but now when I contact radio stations and enter more song writing competitions the genre question is frequently asked, so I find myself having to reflect on it with a need to consider how to best categorise them.
On the Liberty CD the sleeve cover describes the work as swing blues, country pop, and folk. As I listen to her music again and some of it for the first time, each of her songs seems to have different combinations of these genres making for interesting fusions (I will do some album reviews in future blogs).
Lynn’s return to music has been accompanied by an intense thirst for learning the craft of song writing, which was part of the reason she was at Song Trails 2011-2012:
I am open to learning, and enjoy going to music camps to engage and learn things from being with other people; afterwards aiming to consolidate the skills picked up and begin to incorporate learning that inspires me into my own practice.
Lynn stresses how her song writing process is ‘evolving’ and changing as she learns from various activities she has engaged in including: workshops, online research, books she reads, collaboration with others and recording:
Lynn found inspiration from Kristina Olsen who has tutored at Music on Magnetic camps that Shirley has attended three times.
Kristina provided so many song writing tips, I still go back to her website to draw on her expertise and remind myself of things that she taught.
More recently, I have completed an online course developed by Pat Pattison and I am in the process of reading a couple of his books. I find the knowledge that he reveals very helpful too particularly when he is talking about stable and unstable structures.
Lynn, who performs solo, duo – Silktones, and in a band Blue Tonic has found collaborating with others both challenging and inspiring.
It helps to be open to suggestions and ideas because you can come up with things that might not have occurred when working solo. Sometimes it can also be challenging when different tangents collide – collaboration can hit a wall without some flexibility from those in the process.
..…TO BE CONTINUED in the next installment we discuss how Shirley gained her confidence in performance, how Silktones was formed, the inspiration for some her songs, and more!
I just wanted to share my professional website with you. The picture above is of the front cover. You can find the website by clicking HERE or on the image above. It includes some video, links to books in progress, and sound cloud as well.
It has been wonderful obtaining feedback, from coworkers or participants in projects completed in the past, for the testimonials section. It is interesting to see yourself through the eyes of colleagues. I’ve also created a new business card which visually matches up with the site which arrived this morning!
I am delighted to be working on editing my second interview for this year; it is with the inspirational Cairns based singer songwriter Shirley Lynn who is also part of a band Blue Tonic and the duo Silktones. The conversation with Shirley was motivational and informative. I loved finding out more about her journey and look forward to sharing it with you soon.
I so relate to song writers especially those who work diligently on their craft and wish to leave a legacy of stories and vision through the power of music.
I am looking forward to attending Alesa Lajana’s concert in September and hearing some the songs from the Hidden Histories project.
I’ve mapped out my writing projects and am trying to tackle them methodically. A memoirs is well in progress and I am in the process of lining up people to read the first version when it’s finished. A children’s picture book idea has now headed into its second draft after feedback from a critique group.
I’m on the hunt for photographs friends took when I was a child in Tasmania, and can’t wait to see what they are able to send me. Some collections of poetry are now well on the way and I am sure to start sharing them soon. The ebook for After Yasi is nearly finished. I’ve sent off another submission to an anthology as well as a short story to a competitions, and will do the usual and forget about it for several months and hope that the work makes it into the anthology or gains some notice in the story competition.
Thank you so much to all the blog readers who have been following and encouraging my creative journey, and a special thank you Jenni M., Danny, Joanna, Gail, Pam, Talitha, Di, Helen P. and my dear daughter for their kindnesses, and keeping me motivated, and ever focused on the reasons that I write and develop my craft.
All the best to any of my blog readers working to share their voice in the crowded world of authors and storytellers. Don’t forget your uniqueness and bring that and your imagination into the work that you create. I hope your dreams come true.