This Inform & Connect episode features a duo who share a true passion for music and advocacy in the blindness community: Victoria Claire, professional artist in contemporary sculpture as well as published singer/songwriter; and Thomas Reid, creator and producer of the Reid My Mind podcast.
Melody: Yes. We have Victoria Claire, who is senior... Who is a singer. I almost said senior. Singer, song writer [inaudible], and sculptor. She does many other things too. We also have back with us, Thomas Reid, creator of read my mind podcast, and the reason we have... Hi guys, how are you doing today?
Victoria Claire: Hey, how's it going. I'm good.
Melody: I'm so glad. Victoria is joining us from the UK. We are very happy to have you guys here. Let's jump right in. Your song, By Any Means, was released this past... The 19th, this month. That's very exciting. So it's new. I feel like we're doing a whole release party here at AFB, which is cool to me.
Victoria Claire: [inaudible] on Monday. Yeah.
Melody: Yes. Can you tell us about what the song means to you?
Victoria Claire: Yeah, just sum up really. By Any Means, to me means, living through adversity, living through hard times and difficulties by how you feel hardship and finding that inner strength that she will... You, finding the strength to get through by any means, that survivor.
Melody: That is awesome. About that survivor part, we had a great discussion yesterday about the intro to your song, and I loved how you described how you came up with that music that you compose. Can you tell us the story about the introduction?
Victoria Claire: Okay. When we went into studio, we started to build around the initial instruments that already been put in, but that was [inaudible]. We had the bass and the guitar, and then we had some [inaudible] coming in. My key part to that was to ensure that everybody in that room envisioned themselves as they're standing at the edge of that forest, they're looking around and then slowly that music starts to build as if the wolf is walking into the woods. When that music hits hard, that is literally when the wolf is running for its life, in and out the trees, darting in and out. Literally that is what I wanted to put across as the narrative of the song and the feel of the music.
Melody: That is so awesome. What does that wolf represent?
Victoria Claire: That wolf, for me represents inner strength, inner spirit.
Melody: I love it. When you were really putting this together, the composing, when did you feel like you wanted to add the collaboration piece?
Victoria Claire: Well, I guess it was probably during COVID I would have said. The song was in my mind around that time and knowing that I've just been on with Tom on the Read My Mind in February. Of course, we connected because of that, we then started talking about music interests and we just clicked in that way. It just felt so natural. I just knew... Hey, do you know what, the feel of the song, the dance disco feel of it. It's going to slam straight into [inaudible] what he does and I'll just speak [inaudible] it massively, so he was the man, he was the one.
Melody: That's awesome. We're going to get into, how the collaboration of that, but Thomas, what was it like for you to be able to insert your own flair to this?
Thomas Reid: Oh, it was really, it was really cool. I was honored by the ask and once I heard what she sent me. It was like, Oh, this is... And this is the honest truth. This is an opportunity for me to say the things that I would say to my wife when she's feeling down, if she lets me, you know what I mean?
Thomas Reid: That was like really what it was, because I felt like this was for the ladies, right? I wanted to be that supportive guy on the track and kind of like, "Hey, come on. You know what you're all about. Let's go." This was that chance for me to do that.
Melody: Thomas, I love that. I absolutely love it. You do, do that in the song and you guys... We are going to turn into a DJ Suze over here and Melly Mel, which is my name, that Thomas came up with for us yesterday. We are going to play the intro and the collaboration piece, so you guys can get a taste, a teaser of the song. Here we go.
Thomas Reid: [singing]
Melody: Awesome, you guys. I get chills every time I hear it. It was so good. That was great job, Suzan, I'm giving you a hand man. You did a great job.
Suzan: Thank you. Thank you.
Melody: She did it. Yes. What I really want... Thank you. And to give you guys a teaser, but it is a really powerful song. Our discussion yesterday around that. Can we go into... Thomas, you talked about what you said, bringing that part in, but we would dug a little bit deeper about collaboration. Now you said you started this during COVID and we talked about trust a lot yesterday, but I really want to talk about the boulders of life, Vicky, how you were, what you see in this and how you guys worked together. This is so important with all the-
Victoria Claire: Well, I'm going to be totally honest. I'm trying to be as honest and as authentic as I possibly can these days, because I just think it's really important that we share what we go through as well as, we are part of a community. Incredible, talented VI community, but of course, sometimes you can get put on a pedestal. It may look, you know what, she's got it going on. She's well adjusted. Like Tom said in our discussion yesterday with sight loss or in fact, a lot of adversity, a lot of disability. It's not. It never stops. You don't just get adjusted, you have to keep adjusting, right? It's an ever evolving and ever moving beast. With my sight loss, my progressive site loss, which is RP, retinitis pigmentosa. As far as I was concerned, two years ago, I got to the top of the food chain in terms of my career, with my sculpting, was [inaudible] been big exhibitions in London and I'd lined up an exhibition in national gallery.
I was public speaking and everything looked really great. Right?
Victoria Claire: This year has [inaudible] me, a hell of a curve ball. I now don't see how I thought I was going to see. Let me explain what I mean by that. With my condition, I thought once I expected my blindness in terms of it would be black because I'm not blind as it is and I always have been with this disease. I just naturally thought that my blindness would go black. Because I've worked so hard on adjusting myself to that and doing lots of things at night, before years ago, I hadn't never been out on my own at night for 20 years because I was so afraid of the dark, because I couldn't see. Now I go out all the time. I do crazy stuff. I go skateboarding. I go snowboarding.
I try to do as much as I can at night because I feel more comfortable at night. The reason why I feel more comfortable tonight is because my progression has in the opposite direction. By that, I mean, I now only see white. For me that has been my whole world been tipped upside down, because I wasn't prepared for that. It's quite [inaudible], it’s painful. Above all else it disconnects me, from myself. It disconnects me from the people I love, the people that were in my life, I don't even see them anymore. They just disappeared in this big white. It's really isolating. It really is. When you're in a crisis like that, I've found that I've hit rock bottom, I've lost my identity almost. I feel like I've really got to start from scratch again.
I think that's what this song has helped me do. It helped me realize, okay, dig deep or more. Find that Wolf inside. Believe in that Wolf. I've got the spirit still believing that trust. That's what's going to get you through. I really feel that this song is a real personal narrative to my own identity crisis, I suppose.
Melody: I thank you so much for being so honest, because I know with sight loss and other things we all deal with that comes... The same feelings are the same and you hit rock bottom. You don't know where to go, but you chose the direction. One of the things that I wanted to go into... Excuse me, sorry about that. Is trust. We talked a lot, the three of us, about trust and the trust you both had in each other. Thomas, I love how you talked about the trust that Vicky had in you, can you talk to us a little bit about that?
Thomas Reid: Sure. I think about this from the creative standpoint. Vicky invited me onto the track and she sent me the track and said, Hey, would you write a verse? I was like, Oh, okay, cool. Yeah, let me... I say, yes, I'm saying yes to as many things that I can write. Because that's, that's my attitude right now. I'm writing it, and I'm thinking, okay, well I said that... Hey, do you want to check out the verse? You want to see where I'm going with this? Make sure it's good? It's what you want? She's like, no, it's cool I'll wait. I am thinking, okay she's going to wait to the vocal. Okay, do you want to hear it? She's like, no, I'm just going to go to the producer when he does his thing, I'll check it out.
I'm like, Oh my goodness. I'm thinking again, from the creative standpoint, from the production standpoint. I'm like, doesn't she want to? She just trusted that I would do it. I was really, really happy that she was happy with it. Because this is her thing. I definitely look at it, as this is her thing. I was invited. Right?
Thomas Reid: This was her idea. It's her baby. I don't want to mess it up. I want to do right by it. You know what I mean? She trusted me to do that. That was really felt good. It felt really nice.
Melody: It does.
Victoria Claire: It was just an innate thing. I don't know what... I just went with my gut, and my gut said, he's the man he's the one.
Thomas Reid: It's because we both like De La Soul. That's why.
Melody: Well, love it, because I think, we talked a lot about trust and the difference between you trusting the process. What we talked about yesterday. Trusting the process of whiteness and the trust of life and that we all need to trust one another in such critical times, especially when you both talked about the difference between adjusting and adjusted. Vicky can you go a little more on that part? I'm going to ask Thomas to add to it too?
Victoria Claire: Well, I think like you say, the adjusted part is to the outside world. They're the ones looking in, right? They're the ones... Hey, look, we've watched this journey. We've watched this girl from this part of her life, go through. Get all these achievements, successes, et cetera, et cetera. Of course people immediately just think, because you're getting validation in terms of what you're doing with your life and where you're going with your life, they think you got it going on. They think it's sorted.
The thing I understand is this can hit anybody at any time and can actually be like waves, become a surfer. I love to surf. I really do see life has being, like going out in the ocean. You have to get past those waves and get out into the ocean. Sometimes they knock you over and again, and again and again, but that's life, right? You just got to keep going and going until you can get out far enough to ride those waves. Even when you catch a wave, it might be really gnarly, and it might throw you off your board, but you still turn around, go back out again and you try again. I really see that as how my life is now. I don't see it ever being still waters and it never will be still waters. Nobody's ever is. It's having that ability to dig deep and find that inner spirit that you can connect with, you can find that in a trust with yourself and then you will see you through. Anything you will get through.
Melody: I love it. Thomas, did you have anything to add to that?
Thomas Reid: Sure. I think about vision loss mainly from the perspective of yeah, someone adjusting. In those early years, you want to talk about trust. You have to learn to trust on so many different levels, whether it's the people around you, your partners, your family, and yourself, right. To make the adjustments, to learn how to do things. If we're talking about orientation and mobility, right. Learning how to do certain things in a new way, and you're going to trip up.
There's things that are going to happen that are going to trip you up. As you go along that journey, you begin to trust yourself and say, Oh, I get it. I know what's going to happen. That first time you cross the street independently, you're like, Whoa. You make it to the other side. Now you turn around and do it again and cross back. You feel just a tiny bit more confident, just a tiny bit. Right?
Thomas Reid: The next day you come out and you're going to do the same thing, and you're like, Whoa, I'm starting at the beginning again. There's a little bit, there's a little bit of progress, but probably not enough for you to really feel it like that. Eventually you do, eventually you do. I think it's similar to the creative process because even in terms of every... Even with producing the podcast. At some point I get nervous about the production, something about it, how to tell the story. At some point I just say, okay, look, I trust it. It's not coming right now, but when I wake up, it'll be there. I start to believe that, and it feels a lot better, it feels a lot easier. It just lets it happen. It's not an overnight thing that you come to understand and believe, but again, adjusting. Right?
Thomas Reid: It's a process. It's a process and it gets easier. That's the thing to remember, that it is going to get easier. Just go ahead and get through the rough times, it's going to get easier. You're going to constantly do that. If you apply that to other aspects of your life, to me, that's, what's cool.
Thomas Reid: That's weirdly it's cool, because you see the overlap and it just feels like, hey, this is not abnormal. This is a part of life. That to me is a big deal. Again, 17 or so years ago, I would probably be like, tell that guy to shut up because I don't feel that way right now, but I'm telling you it's the truth. It really is.
Melody: It is. I love how both of you... We've taken this song that you put together, which is... Through COVID, not being able to be in a studio, trusting your gut. You both said it so well. We're not adjusted. We are adjusting. We are all, always adjusting. I think that's something we can speak to throughout our lives. We don't always all have it all together. I just wanted to thank you both so much for pulling those points out. Vicky, one last thing before we go to question and answer. You talked about your life changing and this song, I love it so much. Being the Wolf and bringing that inner self. You've really found a new love and a passion for music and finding those things and making choices to be happy. What are you finding in this new space? Even though it's still a little scary.
Victoria Claire: Yeah. It's difficult to answer that in a [inaudible], because I am [inaudible], all so new in it, but I think what I've found is that, patience is an absolute must. Compassion in yourself is an absolute must. Above all else if you can hang on to that trust that you do have, because we all do have it. Sometimes it's buried, but we do have it. If you can find that trust within then you will be able to navigate yourself right through.
Whatever your difficulty may be and sight loss, it's difficult. No, one's going to deny that. One of the things that springs to mind, I was on my treadmill just a couple of hours ago running as I do listening to my tunes. There was a song come on, by Soul to Soul and it's Dare To Be Different. The lyrics, Tom you'd love the lyrics [inaudible]. The lyrics are just saying, you know what, dare to be different. Don't be afraid to be different. Don't be like everybody else. Stand out in a crowd and be proud of who you are, despite your adversity. That is what makes [inaudible] you. That is what makes you, you. To keep striving, to always maintain that [inaudible]. I think that's why I take from it.
Melody: I love it. Be you and be proud. I love it.
Victoria Claire: You are not defined by anything. You're just enough, as you want.
Melody: Guys. Thank you so incredibly much. I just been sad. I've been looking forward to this, but two of you are just incredible and thank you. We're going to move into questions now, Suzan.
Thomas Reid: Already?
Melody: Yes, I told you it's next.
Thomas Reid: I know, what's going on?
Suzan: We have quite a few questions.
Thomas Reid: Cool.
Suzan: This first one is for Vicky. "As you were creating this song, did you have in mind the idea of bringing it to someone? Or was it something that you were recreating to process feelings?"
Victoria Claire: Yeah, that's a really good question.
Suzan: That's a good question.
Victoria Claire: In terms of how I write music, it’s for me always been on a therapeutic level. It's a form of expression. I guess the answer would be, I came up with it for my own benefit in terms of helping me process what I'm going through, but also knowing that I'm not alone out there, there's going to be lots of people that will resonate with what I'm trying to say through this song.
Suzan: Every time you say something, Vicky, I want to take a note and write it down.
Suzan: It's always just, so on point. Okay, Thomas, this one's for you. "When you started Read My Mind, did you expect to have these kinds of opportunities? As you say yes, how do you decide what to give your attention to?"
Thomas Reid: Great question. No, I did not expect to have these sort of opportunities, when I began Read My Mind radio. I think I judged the opportunities if they fit my personal goals, my personal... The things that make me happy. Right? A big part of what I do, whether it be through the podcast or just even in my personal life is always around the idea of adjusting to blindness. Even within the general disability world. I'm talking about things that are very specific to people adjusting to blindness. That's Vicky and I, right. We have a similar story in that sense. So it was on point. If it meets certain requirements, like if you asked me, Hey, Thomas, let's go jump out of a plane. Nah, I'm good. It's a little too late for that, for me. I did want to do that back in the day, but no, I'm good.
These types of things, it's like an artistic... I really want to lean into my creative side. I didn't actually get a chance to really go there when I was younger. Blindness is an opportunity now because it presented... Blindness is an opportunity as well as age. I'm a little older.
Suzan: You're 21 yesterday.
Thomas Reid: Yeah. Thank you. Multiply that by... I didn't even say add, I said multiply, but you know what? So what, this is my time to just try stuff. Like my girls are getting bigger. They're going to be leaving the house soon. What else I got to do? You know what I mean? Why not? Why not? That's where I'm at. If it lines up with all of those things and yeah, I'm going to say yes.
Suzan: That's awesome. Okay. We have another question from Liz and this is for Vicky. "Thank you for the musical break in her day", she says. "A question for you. I checked out your website and loved reading that you curate your art exhibitions so that they are inclusive to all needs. Can you say a little bit about how you design your sculpture exhibitions to be as accessible as possible?"
Victoria Claire: Okay. Yeah. Thanks Liz for the great question. In terms of one of the most... I would say probably... I won't say the word achievement, but I would say the most meaningful exhibition I've ever done is Blind a Sixth Sense. With that, I sculpted six pieces, were all about the senses. I put them into a pitch black space, a pitch-black gallery space, and invited the audience to come and interpret the work as the blind person. How that was done was with a lot of research, with a lot of health and safety involved, a really, really supportive gallery that’s incredible. The director is so, so incredible. We had to put the right measures in to make sure that everybody was safe to do so, but it's never been done in the UK before, I was the first person to ever do that.
The experience that it gave every person was something very unique to them. They not only had a taster of what it was like to be blind, but they also had to deal with their own, almost vulnerability within that room. Lots of people were coming out saying how claustrophobic they felt or how alone they felt. It was a social worker, almost like a social kind of experiment as well as an artistic interpretation. Now I always go forward and I have done for a long time as a blind artist with the knowledge of my work's always going to be about the tactile. I don't really do work, that's really straight lines and sharp. I do a lot of flowing lines, a lot of curves. It's a sensory experience. Most certainly a tactile experience, more so than anything else. I hope that answered that.
Melody: That's amazing.
Suzan: It is amazing. That is amazing. I bet it was amazing to experience too. Melody, I'm taking my DJ job really seriously this time.
Suzan: I'd like to share one more comment that someone made, but as we log off today, I'd like to play the song again, if that's okay with everybody.
Victoria Claire: Incredible. Thank you.
Suzan: Okay. Our last comment is from Ross Adams. She says, "Thank you, Victoria and Thomas for sharing part of your collaborative process. You both exemplify how wonderful it can be."
Thomas Reid: Thank you.
Victoria Claire: Thank you so much.
Suzan: Well, before we go to DJ Susie Suze and Melly Mel, I want to say if people wanted to learn more about your work, first Vicky and then Thomas, where could they go?
Victoria Claire: I've got a long list.
Suzan: Get your pens out, braillers, whatever you guys need, or you can email me too.
Victoria Claire: In terms of my sculpture career, you can find me on www.victoriaclasssculpture.com. On the advocacy blind work that I do. You can find me on www.victoriaclaire-beyondvision.com. Also, you can find me on Instagram at Victoria class sculpture or at VI freedom seeker. That's the music side of things with [inaudible]. I'm also on Twitter, on the same VI Freedom Speaker and Facebook as VI Freedom Speaker.
Melody: I like it. I like it. And you Thomas?
Thomas Reid: Sure. You can find me at reidmymind.com. That's R E I D M Y M I N D dot com. The name of the podcast is Reid My Mind radio. Melody, Reid My Mind Radio, say radio please.
Melody: Radio, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.
Thomas Reid: You got to say it like on the pocket. Radio. So I'm going to say, Reid My Mind-
Thomas Reid: There you go. There you go. Wherever podcasts are available, you can find my podcasts there. I'm on Twitter at T S R E I D.
Melody: There we have it. We have you guys, you're awesome. I love it. Thank you for letting me do radio like that. That was great. I remember, Thomas will say yes, to much anything, as long as it's not jumping out of airplanes. Thank you so much for... Vicky, you have other songs are out. I'm so excited we've got to highlight this one. I can have the checkbox. That I got to do a premiere of a song. I'm super psyched about that. Thank you guys so much and we will leave you today with DJ Suze.
Thomas Reid: Can I ask you one question real quick?
Thomas Reid: Vicky, where can they get the song? Because, this is just a preview song. This is not the real song. You didn't say where they could find the song.
Melody: Oh yeah.
Victoria Claire: I'm well-rehearsed for this. All right. On iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Amazon music, Tidal, Spotify, and all other major platforms. Boo-yeah.
Thomas Reid: Boo-yeah. Big time, there you go.
Melody: Yeah, girl.
Thomas Reid: [singing]