Dear Talent Is Timeless Community,
I hope this letter finds you all well in your lives. Saskia suggested I write a little bit about why I entered the Talent Is Timeless competition and what I now hope to achieve following the competition. To begin, I would firstly like to thank Saskia for her creation of the Talent is Timeless initiative – for the opportunities it creates for artists over 50 and for the creativity it continues to inspire within us all.
I thought I’d begin by sharing a bit about my background and who I am.
I am a singer-songwriter living in Brecon, Wales. Finding time to prioritize songwriting and performing can be challenging, and entering the competition has given me the gift of focusing once again on a part of my life that is so important to me but that is often put at the end of a long list of ‘things I need to find time for’.
I am a single parent of a fabulous neuro-divergent 14-year-old, which is an inspiring, wonderful but sometimes overwhelming experience to navigate! I am 51 years old and the leader of 5 community choirs in Wales – choirs for anyone who loves to sing and who meet weekly for the joy of singing and its many wellbeing benefits.
As well as this, for 23 years, I have supported young people from Rhonda Cynon Taf into music and the creative industries on behalf of a valleys council, often working with vulnerable young people from adverse family backgrounds. I see firsthand on a daily basis the positive and healing impact that music and songwriting can have in the lives of all my participants and I am so very grateful to be able to contribute to people’s lives through music in all aspects of my day-to-day life.
I began songwriting on the piano at the age of 15, as a way of releasing emotional upset that I was experiencing due to a turbulent family home. As Joni Mitchell said, ‘I sang my pain’. Classically trained in piano and flute from the age of 6, I had always sung, and I’m so thankful for these lessons as they gave me the opportunity to play the piano to support the creation and singing of my songs.
I know I’m not alone in saying that playing the piano, singing & songwriting was for me a form of therapy, and it created such a buzz in me that I could move through the pain to create something that I loved to sing, that it became something I just had to do, to manage my sorrowful and fearful emotions.
I do regret never having taken my music to wider audiences. I have allowed my fears and insecurities to get in the way. I always had a fear of being seen due to being severely bitten by a dog on my face when I was 6 years old. Ironically, these adverse experiences were the very things that inspired me to sing and be musical in the first place – as a way of distracting myself from the pain and also proving to myself and others that I still had some worth. Even now, pain and adversity (especially historical relationship breakups) are great triggers for my songwriting.
While I’ve not promoted my music as widely as I could, I’ve had some great career moments and memories to cherish. A few standouts for me are the release of my first single at age 17 after winning the St David’s Hospice ‘Search for a Song competition’, which sold over 7000 copies, touring the jazz and university circuit with my 10-piece dance/acid jazz band ‘Flowmotion’ in my early 20s, winning the PRS/FOPP Stores ‘Singer Songwriter for the South Wales & West’ with an EP release when I was 28, and then representing the PRS, traveling to China to develop new music with Hong Kong and Chinese-based songwriters.
Beyond my Babylove from FOPP/PRS EP release “The Changing Me”: Listen on SoundCloud
In my late 30s, following my daughter’s very ill health from Swine Flu in 2013, I created a multidisciplinary Arts Council-funded new musical work/album entitled ‘Breaking the Fearwall’, which I then performed prior to Tim Minchin’s performance at Hay Festival on the main stage in 2015.
“All Mine” from ‘Breaking the Fearwall’: Watch on YouTube
Since then, I have been so busy leading choirs and generating an income that investing time in my own music has fallen by the wayside. Until now! Fast forward to February this year, when a friend saw information about the Talent Is Timeless competition and encouraged me to enter ‘Good Days, Bad Days’. I didn’t really know what to expect, but getting through both rounds to win the competition has been such a thrilling experience for me. It has really built my confidence at a time in my life when I probably appreciate it most.
It’s hard when people see you perform in public and approach you afterward to say ‘it’s such a shame you’ve never made it.’ In the past, I have interpreted these types of comments as meaning I am too old to be out there still doing what I do. Winning the competition has given me the confidence to perform my songs in public, riding high in the knowledge that professionals in the music industry have selected my song as something of value that deserves to be heard, no matter what age I might be. Enjoyably, now I’m older, I feel my performance is more authentic, coming from the desire to move, touch & inspire others through the sharing of my music, rather than it all being about me proving something to an audience.
Last night I performed as part of Brecon Jazz festival, which went amazingly and was a wonderfully connecting experience. I am so grateful to Saskia and the Talent Is Timeless competition for re-igniting in me my musical passion. I’m spending time now thinking about the arrangement of the song ready for recording at Abbey Rd in late September, which I’m so excited about. I am currently in the process of getting my social media sites updated and all songs ever recorded together into one place. It’s been hard trying to squeeze in the time along with choir leading & performances, but I’m really proud of myself for investing the time in actions that will ultimately promote the recording – such as asking all my choir members to join a Tanya Walker Music newsletter mailing list and getting a good spread in the local newspaper about winning the competition.
I am really committed to promoting the single as widely as possible and would love to do some live performances. Going forward, I am considering how I might fund a small tour of UK venues. As Green Man festival takes place just down the road from me (and being a regular attendee), I would love the opportunity to perform next year rather than just being in the audience.
I’m really looking forward to meeting you all and hearing your feedback, stories, and any questions you might have. Well done to everyone who entered the competition and took the risk of having your song heard!