Starting a blog is something I’ve been meaning to do for ages. There are lots of things I’d like to write about, but I’ve just never got round to actually doing it. Well, it’s a new year and, what with new year’s resolutions and such floating around, we’re all supposed to be getting round to the things we meant to do but haven’t.
So, here it is. My first ever blog. Ta da.
And so it begins… for better or worse. I’ll try and post new blogs as regularly as I can, about projects I’m working on… or just random things I feel like writing about! I don’t want to make any hasty promises about it being interesting, but if you’re reading this, you’ve made it through the first three paragraphs of blog 1, so that’s a good start. Well done everyone.
For a first topic, I thought I’d start with a fairly safe and (I know, obvious, but I’m a beginner!) one; The In-Between.
[For those that are interested and, as yet, uninitiated, this is my second musical and you can hear lots of the songs here – for free. Huzzah!]
2012 was an incredible year for The In-Between with the release of its concept album and, for me, was the culmination of several years’ work. The response to the album has been incredible and I’d, firstly, like to say a big thank you to everyone who’s got behind it so far! For this first blog, I’d just like to share with you all a little of how the show got to where it is and what’s been going on in the world of The In-Between in the past year or so…
A little back story; in August 2011, I finished writing the current draft of the show after two and a half years’ work, and, to be honest, didn’t really know what to do next! My dream was for it to be put on professionally (in the dream dream scenario, this was in the West End, obviously), but, in reality, if we’re honest, there’s not exactly an easy route to such grand heights for a new, unknown writer. Some would say it’s naïve, but I don’t think it’s wrong to dream big when you’re trying to create something. I think having such a high goal made me work all the harder to try and reach the best possible, hopefully professional, standard that I could – it made the benchmark all the higher – but August 2011 was the point where the writing was done and I had to stop dreaming about what I’d do in the future and try and be practical now.
The musicals I really love are the big shows with emotional storylines and lots of epic-yness (yes, that’s a word… or it should be) – Les Misérables, Phantom, Wicked, Evita – and, as such, this was the kind of scale show I had initially set out to write with The In-Between. Before I began, I knew any show I might write would have a much better chance of getting put on if I went for a smaller-scale, chamber piece… but those aren’t the shows that made me want to write musicals and I didn’t want to spend two years (the time it took to write my first musical, Faerytale) writing something that wouldn’t really be what I loved.
So, I stuck to my guns and tried to write the kind of show I’d want to see – a big, emotional, fantasy story – whilst trying to be practical in other areas by writing for a possible cast of just twelve and pit band of seven. While this was small, historically, for this kind of show, it was still probably bigger than most shows seen in smaller, fringe venues that are often more likely to stage new work. The fantasy elements in the story – again, something really important to me in the writing [warning, I’m a fantasy/sci-fi nut so there’ll probably be more blogs on that in the future] – also might have put off some who would assume the staging would be difficult (although I think there are ways it could be done quite simply!). However, I’d had the story of The In-Between in my head for a while and it was the show I wanted to write – and the kind of show I’d want to see. I felt like I had to write it, even if no-one ever staged it. So that’s what I did.
Still, my dilemma, two and a half years later in August 2011, was what to actually do with it! How to get a new musical ‘out there’ when it wasn’t, perhaps, obviously doable on a small scale? In fact, how to get the musical theatre ‘powers that be’, that might be able to stage this kind of show, to even consider the it (most don’t accept unsolicited submissions). I’d heard about the Evita concept album and how that musical had been tested and publicised first through the music and, as I had a background in music production, began to form the idea of trying to create a concept album myself and distribute it for free, using the internet. If other people liked it, perhaps The In-Between could go further. If not, then maybe not!
I had no outside backing and it would have to be self-funded and produced, but I had made demo tracks on my computer whilst writing the show. The only thing really needed was to replace the not-so-delightful robotic piano tunes with some oh-so-delightful live vocals…
I guess this was a situation where dreaming big helped. I guess it sounds a bit audacious, but I simply wrote out a list of several performers who would be my dream cast for the recording and, well, asked! I had no idea what people would say, or if they’d even respond at all, but I figured the worst they could say was no. I still remember getting the first reply while out shopping – Julie Atherton saying she was interested – then proceeding to walk round Sainsbury’s with what was probably a big, stupid grin on my face. I’d seen Julie in The Last 5 Years (okay, so that’s a small show and I love it) whilst writing The In-Between and came out saying, “Wow, I’d love her to play Alice one day.”
It became more and more surreal as more ‘dream cast list’ people said yes and, over the next few months, we had sessions to record the vocals at Uptown Studios (cannot recommend them enough!). I still have to pinch myself sometimes when I listen back and hear such talented people singing these songs I wrote in my bedroom – but we did it and all seven songs were mixed by mid January 2012.
I planned to release the album in mid February and special credit here must go to my friend, Mike Butcher; a fantastic graphic designer who created the logo, image, website, etc. that has been so crucial to getting the show ‘out there’. Everything went live on iTunes, YouTube and Facebook on the 15th and people who weren’t my friends and family started to listen to my little show…
It was exciting to finally be at that stage, but, in many ways, it was also absolutely terrifying to make something that I’d worked on for so long, and had such an emotional investment in, available for people to see and make judgements on. What if people thought the music was rubbish, the songs naff or the story ridiculous…? Or all three?!
But the responses that started to come in were incredible! There was so much support for it coming off Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, it was just amazing and rather overwhelming. I tried to reply to as many messages, tweets and emails as possible and just want to take this opportunity say a huge thank you to everyone who supported it then. Keeping everything going was so time consuming and very tiring, and it was such a tremendous encouragement to hear from so many people who were behind it. I can’t really explain how much it means to have put the show out there and for other people to have liked it too… but it means a lot!
With all the word of mouth on social media and, I guess, lots of hard work [a big thank you here to all my friends and family who went up to London to help me flyer, often in the cold and rain – you’re all legends!], various ridiculously exciting things followed, including reaching the top 50 of the iTunes Soundtrack Chart, the music being performed at West End Live in Trafalgar Square [pics here] and played on Elaine Paige’s Radio 2 show (eeeeeek!), and the show reaching over 10,000 likes on its Facebook page. In September, I was so excited to be able to release three pieces of the sheet music by setting up an online shop and, again, the response has been amazing. It’s really so wonderful to think of other people wanting to sing these songs!
Soooo, where are we now?
Just this week, I was great to finally release sheet music for the other four songs and I really hope people enjoy singing these along with the others! We’ve also just passed 100,000 views on our YouTube channel, which, to me, is a completely insane and exciting (yes, that word again) milestone!
What does the future hold for the show?
Honest answer? I don’t quite know. There is not a stage show in production just yet, but I’ve had some amazing responses and encouragement from people in the theatre industry and am full of hope for the future. I am considering a few possibilities of what to do next, whilst also working on my next project (more on that soon!). My dream is still to get the show put on professionally and the support people have shown already has only made me more determined to achieve that – and more confident it can be achieved. It might take a little time, but I really do believe we’ll get there.
Right. End of Blog 1.
Thanks for reading. Wow, that actually turned out to be quite long. If you made it this far, well done! Bonus point to you!
Sorry if I waffled.