By Jenny Biddle.
This month I’m sharing the secrets behind track 9, “A Place in the Sky” from my Hero in Me album which is celebrating 10 years since it’s release!
“First person back gets first dibs!” yelled a substitute primary school teacher, waving a bag of candy to beckon us kids across the playground. Of course, I ran and scrambled; there was no way I’d be left with liquorice or Turkish Delight while Tommy sucked contently on his Caramello Koala, full of chocolaty goodness. As a child I got the sense that if you weren’t strong, fast, bold, cunning and ruthless, you weren’t going to get far in life. I engaged in the scramble… but rarely, if ever felt success in a meaningful way. I didn’t end up with liquorice, but you know… I got the home brand chocolate wafer with more wafer than chocolate. Perhaps this scrambling schema has followed me through life and my quest to “make it” in the music industry.
Fast forward a decade or so, I remember trying to make a name for me and my music in the Tamworth Country Music Festival. I was out on the streets with hundreds of other buskers, playing their hearts out in the 37°C sun, hoping someone “important” would notice me, snap me up and hand me a record deal. One year at the festival, I was unexpectedly invited to a secret party hosted by a well-known, global record label. I felt over the moon to receive a secret invite, being privy to the time, location, and code word to gain access to a label party. On top of that, I would be allowed to perform one song, in front of the big wigs of the music industry.
When I got to the party entrance, we were stopped by the gate keeper, who informed us I could go in, but my two friends, who I’d arranged to spend the evening with, could not enter, as their names were not on the guest list. I had to choose between my friends (and our limited time together)… or the label party. I chose the party. As I walked up the stairs to the attic, passing stoned industry folk hiding behind shades and wide brimmed hats, I swiftly regretted my decision. The attic opened out into a secret bar, thick with smoke, chattering drunks and semi-famous musicians. I hid in the shadows waiting for my one-shot performance slot. As hours passed, and my time slot pushed back, I wondered if I’d ever get to play at all. I felt very small and very out of place. I wearily I tried to mingle and make conversation with other nervy musicians, who pointed out the VIPs I should be rubbing shoulders with. I watched those big wigs from across the room, touching women’s bums, drunken words slurred towards their chests. While the room seemed to gravitate towards these selected hot shots, their behaviour jarred against my own moral compass. It occurred to me that no matter how much I wanted my “rockstar” dream, the desire to dwell with the big wigs was fast evaporating.
Eventually, I played one song. I chose my rendition of MJ’s Billie Jean, stepping off the stage to stomp in the crowd for my guitar solo. The crowd danced and cheered. I stepped off stage and slipped away from the party without saying a word to anyone. I wondered if my friends were nearby and still willing to hang out…
This story sticks with me somehow. I saw a glimpse of life on the top floor - the parties, the dress code, the lifestyle, the expectations, and how I would need to contort myself to fit into that scene. In essence, I felt like I was walking away from a big opportunity, and yet maybe the opportunity was never going to open itself to someone like me. I have always wished to be further ahead in my career in music, always aiming to conquer some new challenge, climb some new peak, never fully being content with where I am and what I have achieved. That may well be human nature and the hedonic treadmill we can find ourselves on. Or perhaps it is passion and the musician’s need to create, to be seen and heard and to evolve. But something changed me in that experience, and from there stemmed my song “A Place in the Sky”. While I have endeavoured to make a living from music for the last two decades, I will likely never write that world hit song, but I am proud to say I have pursued my creative career with integrity and authenticity. In the words of Alanis Morissette, those who resonate with my sentiment will “catch this drift”.
What does this song and it’s lyrics evoke in you?
For this song, I am using guitar tuning EGDGBD, capo 4.
You can listen to two different version of the song on Spotify (and other streaming platforms)
Acoustic Version (Live in the Studio 2011):
Full Band Version (Studio Version 2013):
Dancing circles in the street
Sorry if I tread upon your feet
Would you please excuse me
There’s some place that I would like to be
But this spinning wheel
It’s all racing, I’m not sure I can match your speed
I don’t like the way you lie
I don’t like the way you climb
It’s all pushing and shoving to find your own place in the sky
If I don’t start this pushing, I won’t be finding mine
With their eye on the prey
Making moves in the broad light of day
They’ll sell their souls with smiles, they’re going to take you on a ride
But you’re going to find out this time that you’re much too polite
And their smiles are cold
As they’re chasing rainbows for pots of gold
I don’t like the way they lie
I don’t like the way they climb
It’s all snatching and grabbing to find the gold pot in the sky
If I don’t start this snatching, I won’t be finding mine
All this business, all this rush
It’s an all-consuming, addictive rush
We’ve got to get ourselves out on the top or we’ll drown
In the hell we made above the ground
All this bullshit, all this fuss
I’m lying through my teeth just to toughen me up
You’ve gotta toughen me up
I don’t like the way I lie
I don’t like the way I climb
I started pushing and shoving to find my own place in the sky
But in the sky there’s no nice guys
Credits: Song written by Jenny Biddle Recorded, Mixed & Produced by Sean Carey at Trackdown Studios, Camperdown, NSW, Australia 2012 Mastered by Don Bartley, Blaxland, NSW, Australia Album Art by Katrina Leighton Album Photograph by Raditya Fadilla Released 2013
Photo by Peter Langston
Jenny Biddle: vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, piano
Sean Carey: bass
Michael Quigley: drums
Beau Golden: Wurlitzer piano, synths
Read more from Jenny...
Track 1 - Hero In Me
Track 2 - Across The Nullarbor
Track 3 - Pockets
Track 4 - Running Out Of Lies
Track 5 - Chasing Stars
Track 6 - Somebody To Love
Track 8 - The Finish Line
Jenny Biddle is an Australian, Folk, Blues & Roots musician, she is a well seasoned guitarist, witty storyteller, poignant songwriter and winner of the Blues & Roots Radio International Song Contest 2020. Jenny fashions an infectious mix of down to earth modern folk for the wandering soul. Her 8th album 'Hoping For A Hero' is out now.