OUS-Redefining Success by Matt Hicks

The Grand Northern Ukulele Festival 2017 saw the very first physical manifestation of the Original Ukulele Songs platform. I feel honoured that as part of the OUS team and contributor to the ideas that led to the us having our own stage, I witnessed this event first hand and performed. Naturally I entered this years GNUF with a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for what we were doing so I was a little surprised when a couple of people asked me a question which knocked me momentarily off my feet.
“What is the OUS thing all about?”
It was a simple question but obviously an important one because. My immediate response was to explain the work we’re doing to present the ukulele as a songwriting instrument and the talent that exists within this field. The look I got from the source of the question didn’t convince me that I’d given a good enough answer which in fact led me to question what exactly we’re all about.
Lots of people write original songs. Lots of people play the ukulele. Lots of people do both quite independently of the OUS platform. Lots of people write songs and don’t play the ukulele. So what gives? What is it that we’re doing that is filling a gap in the market, for want of a better word?
The OUS is not saying that original songs are best on a ukulele. It’s not some pioneering campaign to eliminate covers of King of the Swingers or Valerie in the Ukulele clubs. What it recognises is that the ukulele is an accessible entry point to creativity as is poetry or writing lyrics for anyone who aspires to do so.
In light of that then I think what we’re doing is important for the following reasons.
The OUS platform is a safe place by which to put ones creative neck on the line.
It provides a network whereby each member can receive peer led support, mentorship and coaching in writing and performing songs. Kind of a “Patch Adams” approach to music.
That network gives access to a multitude of experience and ability and exposure from people on similar or different ends of the musical spectrum and links artistes who feel they can work together.
Lastly, and I think this is probably the most important point, the OUS is part of a much wider effort to steal back music from a money motivated industry and place it in communities where it can be shared and passed around to create bonds and friendships and fellowship that may not otherwise exist.
As someone who has written and performed songs for over 20 years and gradually realised that the chances of  “making it”  have become slimmer and slimmer, I have had to redefine what it is to be successful in music. Indeed the experience has brought me to a state whereby I am actually grateful for the journey I’ve ended up walking. I feel privileged that I have the opportunity to write and perform songs without flogging myself to death on endless tours and I can quietly and without pressure, experiment, write and share with others.
I guess then what the OUS is all about is redefining success in music. As I stood on the stage and performed in front of many songwriters I had shared ideas with on line over the last year, I had an overwhelming sense of being part of something very immensely creative and supportive. Perhaps for the first time in my musical career (again for want of a better word) I had a sense that my performance at that point was not a means to an end, but the end point itself. And as I watched my fellow songwriters perform, I sensed they may well have felt the same. Success had been achieved by getting this supportive network in one room and sharing songs with them and those who cared to come and listen

6 Responses to OUS-Redefining Success by Matt Hicks

  1. Alan Thornton 10th May 2017 at 10:16 am #

    Hear, hear!

    Minds and hands and voices want to be free.

    Perhaps the farthest thing from freedom is playing the same 20 songs in bars full of strangers for decades.

    Perhaps joining forces with like minds is the only thing tha can make the music the joyous pastime it wants to be.

  2. Sean Hunt 10th May 2017 at 11:10 am #

    Very well-considered personal responses to this spontaneously arisen existential question about what we are about as an organism; a developing construct with no particular goal in mind, only a general wish to share the experience of creativity, specifically within the ukulele world. I think creativity is the main theme of OUS, a forum where personal creativity can be explored, presented for response, mentored, and shared in occasional collaborations. I personally love the idea that something can manifest from nothing, from it’s absence, like clouds in the sky. Clouds manifest when conditions come together, atmospheric, temperature, humidity etc. then they dissolve back to the place they came from. Songs are similar, some unremarkable, some dark, some are fantastic appearances. OUS not only encourages this process, it insists on it! 🙂

  3. Bruno Renato Paschoal 12th May 2017 at 3:20 am #

    Quite interesting question. I particularly interpret the OUS project as being a great reference for me in terms of songwriting knowledge and exchange of experiences regarding the use of ukulele as the main tool for creation. I consider this project an inexhaustible source of learning, contributions, partnerships and reciprocity in creating original songs.

    In the musical environment, I have always focused on the original production, the creation, the creativity. Do something new. Innovate, whetting curiosity for the new. I’ve always been interested in creating songs. And from my point of view, I found my “tribe” here in OUS. Mature, educated, civilized people thinking like me. Practicing the same ideas. Sharing the same convictions.

    A group of good people creating, playing, singing and performing their own songs in this fabulous tool to make original music: the ukulele.

    Save the original song initiative! Life Long and Prosper to the OUS Project!

  4. Alan Thornton 22nd May 2017 at 4:40 am #


    Each of you bring a different piece of the puzzle here. I love that there is vital conversation to be had among folks who are working in similar areas.

    How much can we say about the best way to ape someone else’s well known songs? There’s not much to it, really. Becoming an Elvis impersonator comes down to discussion of the quality of sideburns after a while, doesn’t it?

    Wouldn’t we really rather talk about creation of our own work? Even when we fail we have something new to discuss and even more to learn.

    • nick cody 22nd May 2017 at 7:43 am #

      I think its a valuable discussion, but of course it does provoke all manner of reactions, some quite extreme! That said ALL RESPONSES are welcome because at least it means people are thinking about this subject…

  5. Jon Rissik 29th October 2017 at 10:43 am #

    Just re-read this after a while. An incredibly honest and powerful piece. Matt your words will resonate with a great many, I think. Making a personal piece with not “making it” in the music industry is certainly something that I can relate to in my own journey. Thanks for putting yourself out there and writing this.

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