Friday, 9 March 2012

A Musician's Smoke Screen: Has Mab Jones Saved My Life?

Me : Live at Plymouth Soundwaves

As we travelled, Mab Jones and I, from Dylan Thomas Birth House in Swansea to Chapter in Cardiff for her Dickensian Twist Evening, we chatted about our childhoods and how our lives had led us to where we are. Mab explained that she loved being a Performance Poet, it is what she would want to do every day of her life to the exclusion of everything else. I totally understand that feeling, it is her life force.

'Wouldn't you like to just perform?' She asked

'Mmmmmm ..... '

Mab Jones at The Story Telling Weekend
National Botanic Garden of Wales

For a time, my life was focussed on just performance. I toured furiously as part of the music machine, with management and agents but became a tad disillusioned by it and ended up running off to India to work with street children.

Me: Working in India

For me it's about balance and meaning. The most joy I get is from writing ... and then playing my songs back to my inner circle for feed back. I've never been a great lover of studio work, although needs must, and I suffer so badly with nerves that pre-performance is a struggle for me, although once I'm sat with my guitar telling my stories and singing my songs, I'm in a different place and afterwards ..

My biggest audience: @ 25,000 people!

oh afterwards! ... it feels like a constant glow of love and passion, a light that radiates from every pore, an array of orange, yellow and gold, floating, timeless, outside of oneself;  mmmm there's NOTHING else like it.

Me: Cheryl Beer

Mab explained that to increase her physical abililty to keep up with her schedule, for instance she is currently flying over to Japan! she has spent time focussing on her energy flow and levels. She wakes in the morning and goes for a walk, has adopted healthy eating practices.

Photo By Jo Day Lewis

'Oh, how lovely to have the time to go for a walk,' I think to myself and find I have wistfully said it out loud.

'We should make time, it is important.' Mab talks so quietly in the car that I can barely hear her over the heating and wind screen wipers. I have to strain my ears to absorb her words. As if she is conserving all her energy for the next 'on stage' part of her day. But in those quiet, personal moments, I totally agree with her; if you love to do something then you should do all you can to help yourself to do it ....

'So why,' I ask myself in my most stern school mistress tone, 'Why are you smoking?'

How utterly ridiculous that I ruin my voice with smoke! I know it shortens my range; I wake up as if a budgie had camped out the night in the back of my throat! Oh, I kid myself that actually it enhances my voice, gives it more character, but truth is, I have had to adopt techniques to compensate for the change in my vocal chords.

It's not that I can't give up. NO, I am actually absolutely brilliant at giving up, it's just that I am better at starting again! I have had all sorts of reasons for giving up, the cost ... so for instance, if I smoke 10 a day for 20 years, by stopping I will have saved a whopping £36,000 ... but then I think, surely I deserve £3.50 per day, and am back on the ciggies.

I have tried giving up for partners, lovers, family members, friends, pacts, lent, in fact every reason you can think of.

But this time is different.

This time, the Arts Council of Wales have awarded me an Individual Mainline Grant to focus on my own work for 12 months. That is IMMENSE! It could quite literally be a once in a lifetime opportunity and next Jan/Feb 2013 when I am touring the Fusion Inspire production I want my voice to be the best it can be.

                     Mab Jones is right!

I love what I do, I am passionate about it, and spending the weekend doing someone elses's type of poetry, really showed me how important writing songs and singing them is in my world, it is my world, it is ME! Surely I should be looking after my voice, not dragging it through a cheese grater every 30 minutes!

On Monday 5th March 2012 I smoked my last cigerette at 6.00pm and I am doing it for my art, darling! Which makes me sound like a bit of a luvvie and maybe ... maybe I am!


Me: Launching my album Snow Tracks
The National Botanic Garden of Wales

Off course the double whammy upside of this, is that through sharing her perspective on health and her art form, Mab Jones could have quite possibly saved my life, and by sharing my story with you, I hope that you may be inspired to start giving your body a better chance at enhancing your journey. We can do it together!


  1. Hi Cheryl, Saw your blog on Facebook, mentioned by Mab. Really interesting. Don't know if you remember me? We spoke on the phone about Llanhilleth Institute. I have interviewed approx. 50 people and have lots of info. But I started a blog recently on local history, inc the 'Stute. Thought you might be interested ?

  2. Hello Meg, Off course I remember you :) I have joined your blog so I can follow it and have a good read. Well done for all the hard work putting it together. Looks fab on first browse. You know, I was asked to sing my 'Stute song for Prince Charles when he came to the opening! Bit odd to sing wand strum your acoustic guitar with the Prince of Wales stood literally in front of you! Thanks for taking the time to write to me :) Chez x


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