At first glance, you wouldn't think I'm a slight rebel. I'm actually pretty stringent rule follower - I give my wife a hard time whenever she goes a smidge over the speed limit. But when you tell me what I can't do, cos I'm deaf - then we got a problem.
I know what my limits are. But I get to decide them, not you. I'm well aware of what I can and can't do, on a physical level. Believe me - I KNOW! And while you might mean well when you say "how can you possibly write songs, since you can't hear", you couldn't be more wrong. My hearing loss has got nothing to do with music. It's always been about the words.
It's like this. I'm profoundly deaf. That means I can't hear anything without my hearing aids. I'm THAT deaf. Like 10% hearing left deaf.
Imagine a plane next to me on the tarmac. Apart from the jet streams melting the skin off my face and feeling the vibrations up my legs from the engines, I can't hear the plane. A plane is around 90 decibels (I think) and I don't hear anything (without my hearing aids) until sound hits about 100-110. That's equivalent to me standing in front of the speakers at a rock concert. When I wear hearing aids, I probably hear only half the volume you do. That's why I don't jump or react at a loud noise. My hearing loss has reached a point where I only hear deep sounds in one ear and high sounds in the other. By wearing two hearing aids, it creates a balance and full tone for me.
I was born hearing, but by the time I was in school, I needed hearing aids. And I wasn't the only one. 5 kids in the family, all born hearing; 4 of them deaf by the time they were 5. Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins are all hearing. So our family was a bit of a freak of nature. Dad was a singer back in his day, Mum played the piano. We all had to learn how to lipread and a lot of people told my parents to ship us off to Deaf School where we'd learn sign language and be around our own people.
Mum declared "Over my dead body" and mainstreamed us. And by fuck it was hard! And it was the right call. Being deaf is physical disability as much as a social one. We each went through our individual battles of our hearing loss, self acceptance and finding our place in the world. It's been a lonely road and I'm fortunate to have a handful of friends who 'get' me.
When I was a teenager, I unwittingly lost a 10-15% of my hearing when I had to jump off a diving board for high school swimming class. This caused some pretty vicious tinnitus for 2-3 years (which hid the hearing loss). I don't sign, I mean, I don't need to. I lip-read and speak well, that in the audiology world, I'm considered a "high functioning deaf person'. Sigh ....so PC. I truly hope I won't continue to lose hearing as I get older, but I probably will. But with luck, nano/biotechnology might be my option rather than cochlear implants.
I played the piano when I was a kid, (not very well, I was lazy at practice), and taught myself the guitar (as a lefty) from around the age of 18. The piano is my favourite instrument to listen to and that's where the "Baldwin" comes from in my name. I love Baldwin pianos and I cannot logically explain why. As a teenager, I was so desperate to fit in, I'd study lyrics from a monthly magazine called Smash Hits for hours. After my Saturday job in horticulture (to save up for cheffing school), I'd park my arse in front of the tv and watch videos repeatedly to learn the words, muttering to myself, in hopes that it would help me make friends in school.
It didn't. In fact, to this day, I don't understand why hearing people don't know the words to songs but I do. Someone has gotta explain that warped logic to me over a drink. But little did I know, that all that reading and memorising was actually subconscious training to become a songwriter. And that didn't kick in for another 20 years.
If you ever wanna know about my hearing loss or understand it, just ask. I've learnt how to tell funny (true) stories about it, including the dark times and challenges that I face. All I ask is that you don't call me an inspiration. I'm nobody special. I'm just me and I write songs. That's it.
And I hope that you'll like them too.
You can read more about me here, in an article about my debut single Black Bunny: