The first thing I want to say is thank you for being interested enough to want to read this.

It’s hard to know what to tell you about my life that may make a difference to your life…and as I write that I begin to get an idea – I guess it’s a bit like that when I’m song writing – if I actually make space something will come, I won’t always like it but its rare that I don’t get a lyric or a new idea.

The songs I’m working on as I write this came together last weekend because I went away with a friend – simply to write. Away from cleaning the house, endless emails, sorting out all the stuff under the bed…a familiar picture?

When I first had Rosa, my daughter, I couldn’t find any time, or any creative urge either – she was it, giving birth was it. But two and a half years into being a mother, I hadn’t written a song for three years and it was time to let the little bits of joy, the snippets of lullaby, my struggles and some of my passion back out of the box.

I wrote Love is a mountain and Flying in that year – I wanted to honour my own body – which to be frankly honest I thought was awesome after giving birth and I needed to figure out what I though about my sister moving to Australia – we are close my sister Ellie and I – she is nine years younger than me – definitely a Ravenclaw and very funny. Our mum died when she was 6 and I was 15 and for the next two years we were even closer…she came to Rosa’s birth and I had always thought I would do the same for her.

I was heart broken and more so than I would have been if I hadn’t made the decision NOT TO FLY! It’s been such a pain that decision…dairy free, organic, off grid – easy compared to not flying. It costs loads more money to get any where and I. Love. Adventure! (I love my exclamation marks but they go through the roof when I start thinking about not flying…!) So far I have stuck with it and I made the decision in 2002, I do believe it’s the right thing to do – somewhere, deep, deep inside 🙂

I remember hearing a fact in a talk on climate change – ‘If every person on the planet took one long haul flight that would take us so far beyond the Tipping Point there would be no coming back’ – it sat there next to my conscience, making me notice my privilege and then I did my carbon footprint at the Centre for Alternative Technology. My flight with Seize the Day to India to campaign and perform that year was half my footprint. The reality that no matter how much recycling/cycling/walking/living off grid I did 50% was already gone. It was enough for me. With the aid of www.seat61.com we have managed to get to Tunisia and 200 miles north of the arctic circle in Sweden without flying – adventure is still possible 🙂

I had a tough childhood but the Islands of Good Attention have made me who I am and my journey of self acceptance continues with effortless ease…(!?) I think what I really want to share is the reason I write songs and how I write them. Each one has had an impact on my recovery and added something to my foundations, by admitting my feelings, working through to what is really going on, celebrating courage or determination, or simply finding a chance to be honest with myself.

Ultimately it’s therapy, self-help, and the more honest I am the more people seem to feel the songs.

It’s probably true of a lot of art…therapy and entertainment – I do occasionally wish I could write funny but when I tried it was awful…

I started this by thinking about what I could share with you that might make a difference to your life…My mum was a single parent and a nanny, my dad (real rather than biological) and his family scooped us up when that started to go wrong and we all lived together for a couple of years, some of that was hard, we were poor and both my nan and granddad had hard lives – basically we were working class and my granddad had been brought up in a Poor House and that had left it’s mark. I loved going to the toy shop where my nan worked and I loved the Dougal (from the Magic Roundabout) that my granddad made me for Christmas, having eight of us live in a small terraced house was fun and I know what ‘close’ means. Basically I am an average sort of person with no special qualities or skills except what I’ve gone for, I was kicked out of the school choir and didn’t start to learn any instrument until I was 20. We can all be creative and share that with those we love and in my case anyone willing to buy my album (or ask for a free copy – I’m pretty generous!)

What are you passionate about, even if it’s just a bit? Cooking, painting, dance…it doesn’t have to be for anyone else – for me it just happened that one of my Islands of Good Attention was when I performing, having all my mum’s love and care, and it’s stuck, but even if only three people heard my songs I would still write them because I know now they focus my intention, heal my heart and make me think. I went to prison because I wrote With my Hammer – not because the song was so controversial that I got arrested but because the lyrics worked on me until I was ready to face my own fear …and that experience lead to another song …and so it goes on.

As I get older and I am encountering the deeper layers of sexism and ageism I am having to find a way of standing strong with that and so I reach for my guitar. My latest song started with these lyrics…

I made a promise and I make it again today

As my life and my hair both whisper grey

I will not turn, I will not fade away

…I will not turn, I will not fade away

Thank you for being interested, thank you for having read all of this, thank you for all you do and please share your stories with me, I know a gig has gone well when we are doing it together. I am proud of how much we all care and I do not intend to ever give up hope.


Shannon Smy