There are phrases we use in life that we completely understand when we use them, but don’t know where they come from originally. One of those terms is to ‘Wing it’. I had always assumed it had something to do with aeroplanes, maybe stretching back to the days of those magnificent men in their flying machines walking out onto the wings of their biplanes held together by string and paper.
It was a very gifted BBC Radio Wales presenter Anita Morgan who gave me the background story. One of her first jobs was as an actress in repertory theatre. In many theatre environments the actors get together to prepare for one show at a time. They learn a script and then perform that show before moving onto the next company and the next show.
Repertory theatre is different. It means that the same group of actors perform numerous different plays in one season. With the best will in the world and with the best memory in the world if you perform one show as one character in the afternoon and a completely different show in the evening it can be difficult to remember who you are supposed to be, let alone what lines you need to say…so you would wing it.
You would keep the script and your notes in the wings of the theatre and every time you left the stage you would run to check your next move, which props and costume you need and what you had to say.
Most of my early life I have used that as my model, and it worked for many years. In fact, I only realised that this was not the best way to work when winging it didn’t work. When in University I was asked to speak in a discussion at the Cambridge Union. The other guests included a very well-known BBC Radio 1 DJ and Jonathan King, the record impresario who at the time was one of the most powerful men in the entertainment industry. That was before his very spectacular fall from grace a number of years later.
The evening was to start with each guest speaking for 15 minutes, to be followed by a Q&A session. Now in my defence, up until that time I had always been someone else’s guest. The interviewer would ask me questions and I would think, and then answer. This was the first time I had to get up and speak unprompted…and I was awful. By the time we came to the Q&A section not one person in the audience asked me a question. As we left the Union Chamber I turned to Jonathan King and said that there wasn’t much point in me being on the panel. He looked me in the eye and said ‘No, no, we needed the amateur touch!’. Boy that hurt.
As they say, ‘A fool learns from his mistakes’. What I didn’t know until much later in life was was that the rest of that phrase is …’but a wise man learns from other people’s mistakes’. But it seems we humans only really learn the hard way.
So, from winging it to forward planning.
It seems at the moment everyone is planning for something or other; some maybe more seriously than others. You can’t have failed to notice all of the ‘Get ready for Brexit on 31st October’ adverts on billboards, radio and TV. That does seem like a bit of a waste of time and money as we look to another Halloween in the EU.
The same criticism cannot be levelled at Warren Gatland. Mr Gatland has long been planning in detail for the World Cup semi-final this Sunday morning. It appears that in recent years, while still wanting to win games, every 6 nations and friendly match over the past 4 years has all been about preparing for this moment. Knowing that injuries and possible suspensions might take a toll on his squad he has built a group of players who have collectively more experience than any previous Welsh squad. He’s done everything he can, now its down to the team.
I’m sure Steve Cooper has thought long and hard about Sunday’s Derby match, Swansea versus Cardiff. With 3 games in just over a week, following an international break where lots of players from his squad travelled all over the world to represent their respective countries, I’m sure his tinkering with the team selection this past week has had Sunday’s game in mind. Again, all of that thought and preparation has been done, now it’s in the hands of the players.
Which leads me to consider my forward planning. In years gone by when I’ve recorded a new album its been a bit like, it will be finished when its finished. Not anymore. Taking Gatland and Cooper as my model my next album will be released next spring to coincide with a tour of theatres we have booked but haven’t announced yet.
So, the tour is planned, what about the record. Well for the last 2 months I’ve been in the studio everyday writing new songs. With so much choice of sound available to every modern musician these days, actually deciding what the sound of the record will be has taken some time…country, pop, hip hop, heavy metal? I quite like the loops and samples most of the modern computer programmes offer but it’s not me.
That became even more clear recently when I watched an excellent BBC documentary about the record producer Mark Ronson. He has produced everyone form Miley Cyrus to Lady Gaga, but he knows that sound so well having been a DJ for 30 years. My only real experience of that would be back in my school disco days.
In the end it’s become obvious that I might as well stay close to my original singer songwriter, piano and voice type stuff. So that’s the sound sorted. What about the images?
In the past when looking for an album cover I’ve gone back through holiday snaps to see if I can find anything that might work and surprisingly they have. This time I wanted something more.
Richie Crossley and Sarah at the album photoshoot
You might think that with an album release in March there’s plenty of time to get some ‘snaps’ done but not when you work with a photographer like Richie Crossley. Richie is now based in Swansea but trained at UCLA and has photographed some of the most famous faces in show business.
Our journey started a few weeks ago when I sent him some demos of the new songs. Then he put together a mood board of images based on what he had heard. This week we spent 4 hours taking over 600 photographs just trying to find the one image that conveys the thought behind the album. I think we’ve got it and boy is he a good photographer.
My final planning issue this weekend is Sunday. How do I get to see the Rugby Semi Final and get to the Liberty in time for the Derby? Do I go early and watch the rugby at the stadium, do I leave home at half time but miss a bit of the second half or do I risk leaving after the final whistle from Japan. Thank goodness the clocks go back this weekend. At least we all have another hour to play with in our long term planning strategy.