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In the Booth with Ruth – Tim Lee, Musician

Tim Lee

Can you tell me when you first took an interest in music? What inspired you, and how did you begin creating your own music? 

I’ve been obsessed with music for as long as I can remember. I used to love singing along to ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ tapes around the time; great pop tunes such as Take On Me by A-ha, or Who’s Gonna Drive You Home by The Cars. I got into rock music through bands like Queen and Kiss at about seven years old, and then started trying to sing to Paul Simon and James Taylor songs at around nine to ten. I never thought I was a great singer (I still don’t), but understated singers like Paul and James helped me realise it didn’t really matter as long as the songs were great and you enjoyed doing it. I used to love listening to my Dad play guitar as a kid too; but it wasn’t until those formative teen ‘grunge’ years that I started listening to bands like Nirvana and The Offspring and started having a go myself. I wasn’t very technically great on the guitar (I’m still not), but I luckily got into the 90s second wave of punk, which then encouraged me to get into original acts – the Pistols and even further back to the Velvet Underground etc. – which were more about passion than finesse. I got a bit bored with modern bands around the mid-90s (the bully boy bands like Oasis were exactly what I got into music to avoid) and became obsessed with discovering older and older exciting bands. The kind of ‘anyone should try it as long as they believe it’ ethos of punk really helped me get over my nerves and really informed how I (try to) approach music. From there it was playing in mates’ bands and slowly growing in confidence as a songwriter and performer.

How would you describe your music?

My taste in music is very eclectic and I think my music is too. There are elements of cheesy pop, naval-gazing indie and ‘classic’ sounding alternative rock. I hate trying to pigeonhole my tunes, as I’m sure most songwriters do, and I’ve always thought music should be about bringing walls down, rather than putting them up; so I’m open to trying different ideas and trying to keep it exciting for myself, as well as hopefully for the people who listen. I guess it’s open for other people to describe – for better or for worse!

How often do you write new material? And where does your inspiration come from?

I used to sit and write songs pretty much in one sitting when I was younger (and had the time to). These days it tends to take more of a ‘jigsaw’ approach. You get ideas for lyrics or riffs at the most inconvenient times, and I tend to panic and think I’m going to forget them. So if it’s a lyric/line I’ll write it on my phone ‘notes’ (my phone is full of random lines; some good, some terrible!) and if it’s a tune or riff I’ll record it on a little handheld recorder (Tascam DR-05, if you’re interested). Then about once a month I’ll sit down and try to put it all together. Occasionally a song will arrive almost fully formed too. I try not to control it too much and just let it happen. I find the more I try to influence the process, the worse it comes out.

What subjects do you most enjoy writing songs about?

I try to take the Jonathan Richman approach of always writing the truth of whatever I’m feeling or observing at the time. I’m rubbish at contriving situations or writing more clever stories or political songs; though I occasionally try to – with mixed results. My songs are usually about love, heartache or trying to understand the way I or other people around me act. It’s kind of a diary way of writing, so there is a lot of whinging in there too, as you would expect in any diary!

What draws you to those subjects?

I’m pretty introverted, so I’ve never been great at expressing myself through the normal channels, but I find it easier in song.  It helps you make sense of things I guess.

You have chosen The Source for readers to listen to. Can you tell me what inspired that song and what it means to you?

I tried fronting a band for a few years, but found that I really didn’t have the leadership skills or patience to steer it or make things happen for us. I felt I’d lost touch with my own songs, and after I disbanded the group, I was worried that I’d lose my impetus or ability to write more. So I tried returning to ‘the source;’ the songwriters that had inspired me in the first place, in order to find that part of me again. The song is all about reconnecting with yourself through the things and the people you love.

Can you tell me about your current project(s)?

I’m just finishing a new album called Headspace. It’s taken me about a year to work on and I’ve been lucky enough to work with loads of my talented mates who have played on it. I’m producing it myself and I’m no expert, so it’s a challenge. But it’s been a fun challenge definitely, and I’m looking forward to finishing it.

What are your plans for the future?

My plan is to hopefully continue to write and perform music in my own way. I hope to get my music out there to more people.

Where can people find out more about you?

I’m on most of the music and social networking sites including Soundcloud, Reverbnation, BandcampFacebook and Twitter, but some are updated more than others. To see me play live, check out my Facebook and Twitter for my upcoming dates.

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About Ruth Jacobs (297 Articles)
Author of Soul Destruction: Unforgivable, a novel exposing the dark world and harsh reality of life as a drug addicted call girl. The main storyline is based loosely on events from my own life. In addition to fiction writing, I am also involved in journalism and broadcasting, primarily for human rights campaigning in the areas of sex workers' rights, anti-sexual exploitation and anti-human trafficking.

2 Comments on In the Booth with Ruth – Tim Lee, Musician

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