Bringing friends together in harmony
by Daniel Cattanach
“We’ve never been more connected, yet felt so far apart.” Those are the words that resonated with me the most as I wrote the song “We Are Unplugged” during lockdown. Initially, I’d begun with the chorus that had been echoing around my head since late February – which seems like a lifetime ago now.
Having finally plucked up the courage to overcome my shyness and book my place at Comms Unplugged this September, I excitedly imagined myself sitting around a campfire with other like-minded comms colleagues – unwinding as we sang our hearts out with the lyrics: “Show each other some love – cos we are unplugged; amongst friends we share our feelings – together we’ll start the healing…”
I’d figured that I had a good six months to knock the song into shape before it was needed. However, as life soon began to change; so too did the focus of the tune that I was crafting. It went from just being a feel-good campfire sing-along to becoming a form of therapy and thanksgiving.
I began to appreciate how the little electronic device in the palm of our hands was being used not so much as an escape, to switch off from other people, but more as a way to reconnect with them. From regular team catch-ups and socialising with friends and family, to virtual quiz nights and even murder-mystery parties.
In tune with our feelings
In my own small corner of this online and in-touch community, I’ve been particularly grateful for moments such as my family sharing afternoon tea with my Mum – who joined us from over 300 miles away via my camera phone on a tripod attached to the branch of our plum tree. It was a joy to see her tucking into the homemade scones and chocolate brownies which we’d sent up to her the day before. Mum’s also enjoying the copy of The Borrowers we’d sent up too – especially as it means she can read bedtime stories to her granddaughter via video phone.
Even when video conferencing sometimes felt like too much of an assault on the senses, I found that a good old-fashioned phone call with friends could set the mind to rest. Whether helping me to chat through my worries or that feel-good factor you get from supporting someone else, as Bob Hoskins used to spout, “It’s good to talk.” There; I’m showing my age now.
I reflected on the many wonderful ways that we’ve come together to look after one another – and take good care of ourselves too – as the song lyrics flowed onto the page. My thoughts turned to taking time out to enjoy a virtual hug and virtual cuppa with others.
The whole creative process was a great release and I heartily recommend it. I’ve previously written about the mental health and wellbeing benefits of being creative and trying something new; when I made Comms Top Trumps cards for fun. This time around the song gave me the perfect opportunity to have a play with a music studio app called BandLab – something which my daughter introduced me to via her online music lessons.
Striking a chord
The BandLab app enabled me to lay down a guitar track (I think that’s how the cool kids say it) and then record my vocals (notice I didn’t call it “singing”) separately and adjust the sound levels. But the real beauty of the app is that you can share your drafts with other people and invite them to collaborate with you.
Cue the magnificent songstress Sally Northeast – who joined me via her ‘home studio’ (over 50 miles away) – to lend her nightingale talents and bring the song to life; even adding her own harmonies with such melodic majesty.
Collaborating with Sally – having her to bounce ideas off and work things out with – has proven to be the real high note of putting the “We Are Unplugged” song together. Everytime that I sent Sally the latest edit of the song I would eagerly anticipate the next flourish that she’d add to it and send back to me. It’s a bit like the excitement you feel when you receive something in the post.
The icing on the cake was when Sally persuaded the rest of Team Unplugged to join us in making the music video. I had a wonderful time using the Kinemaster video editing app to piece together the clips they’d sent through – it was like playing with a musical jigsaw. The pure joy of seeing Georgia Turner running in for a hug and Darren Caveney’s fantastically-expressive features will only be surpassed when I finally get to see this tremendous trio in that famous field in Dorset.
We hope you enjoy the song and the video. Hopefully we’ll be able to sing it together around that Comms Unplugged campfire in September. For now though, grab yourself a real cuppa and, as the ditty goes, “take time out for for a virtual hug – get some breathing space as we unplug.” 😁🎶
Daniel Cattanach is a senior communications officer working in regional government. You can say hello to him on Twitter at @DanielCattanach
— Friday 22nd May —