Andy Mort is a UK based musician and writer who performs as Atlum Schema. He is the founder of SheepDressedLikeWolves.com, which is a Blog and Podcast aimed at encouraging introverted and highly sensitive people to embrace their creativity and push against the expectations of an often overwhelming world. Download his FREE eBook “The Gentle Rebel Manifesto.”
He released his fourth album, Year 0 in 2014 after spending two and a half years acquiring an inadvertent fresh perspective on the fragile nature of human existence. He helped care for a friend who had been tragically diagnosed with a rapidly debilitating and imprisoning form of Lewy Body Dementia in 2011.
Andy’s response was an ambient spirited, reflective, and very human search; confronting themes of loss, the frailty of the human body, the potential strength of human spirit and the absurd attention and importance we give to futile things.
Carrie: Welcome to Artist Strong Andy! When did you first discover your love of music?
Hello, thank you for having me! Well, I have always loved music. I was obsessed with drums as early as I can remember and used to take any opportunity I could get to create a drum kit out of whatever I could get my hands on. I have always listened to a massive range of music, and I spent most of my school years playing in bands, writing songs and learning a variety of instruments.
Carrie: Could you walk us through the process of writing your music?
I have never really had a formula for writing my music. There have been occasions where inspiration has hit me during a drive or a walk. There have been others when it has taken months and months of grafting before I finally found something that I was happy with. I even wrote one of the songs on my latest album whilst in the shower. It came to me and I had to jump out the shower and record the idea before it flew away: the song in its current state is almost exactly the same as it was on that day.
I have come to realise that anything can happen and I’m open to writing in whatever way I need to. It’s my favourite part of being a musician. I love crafting songs and working with sounds to find the best way of delivering an idea in that format.
In terms of the way songs come together, I generally play around with melodies first of all and then craft lyrics around the sound of the melodies. I don’t really have an agenda or think ‘I want to write a song about this/that subject,’ I allow myself to just create without thinking and editing. The songs then take a life of their own and become what they become.
Carrie: What do you wish you knew that you now know about your creative process?
Probably just that it’s ok not to know what you’re doing. I used to feel like a fraud when I told people that I am unsure of what some of my songs are about. But actually the creative process is a mysterious thing and it helps in the self-discovery process. I’ve learned a lot about myself and about how I see the world by looking at the results of my creativity. I guess I wish I hadn’t fought that when I first started and just embraced my natural process from the start.
Carrie: Can you share one challenge you’ve faced as a musician and how you’ve dealt with it?
Definitely understanding my temperament and why I have always found it so tiring to perform/tour. I am an introvert and highly sensitive person, which has always had a huge impact on me but I’ve only recently made this discovery. It means that I process the world very deeply and when I’m doing lots of travelling, playing in new places, meeting lots of new people, etc. it can lead to a certain amount of over-stimulation and use a lot of energy. I love performing but find all the stuff around the performance pretty overwhelming. Learning about introversion and high sensitivity has helped me to change my mindset, expectations, and approach to performance and to embrace this part of who I am. It’s made a huge difference to how I put myself out there.
Carrie: What is Sheep Dressed Like Wolves? What inspired you to create it?
It’s the website where I write, blog and present a podcast. It’s aimed at helping encourage, inspire, and equip other introverted and highly sensitive creative people so that they can do the creative work they feel compelled to do, and put it out into a noisy world without getting overwhelmed.
I started it as a way of just documenting some of my own questions and observations about being an HSP/introverted musician, but it’s developed into something much bigger including a paid membership area where I provide exclusive content and run a community forum. People have really connected with the stuff I write and talk about and so it has evolved throughout 2014 as I’ve found new ways to answer questions and solve the problems of readers, and continue to document my own creative journey. It’s an exciting thing to be a part of and a real privilege to be able to facilitate it all.
Carrie: What is one thing you really want people/creatives to take away from your blog?
Just that we are all learning, we all have struggles, and we are all trying to discover stuff about ourselves and our process as we go along. But also that we don’t have to do it alone. The more vulnerable I have been with my struggles the more I realise it’s really important for people to connect with that side because it is encouraging and empowering to know that others are dealing with similar issues to us. I hope that people carry this need to be open and candid, and pass it on to others because it can be more inspiring than the work itself!
Carrie: How do you navigate what some people would assume is the tension between being a musician and an introvert?
I think a lot of musicians are introverts. We are the kinds of people who would choose to stay at home and practice or learn an instrument instead of going to the party. We would spend hours and hours seeking perfection in a single moment of a song rather than telling everyone how good we are. But yes there is a tension and it comes for me at the point of putting myself out there and trying to ‘get heard.’ It’s a struggle that many of us have. We love to play music and it is something we genuinely cannot live without, but we don’t want to force it upon others. And many of us are quite content and happy building a passionate and loyal following one person at a time.
The biggest tension comes from society’s paradigm of success. We use parameters such as fame, numbers, ‘big breaks’, TV and radio appearances, etc. to define our worth as musicians, and this can have a negative affect on how we view what it is we are striving to do and our motives for doing so. The number of times I get asked whether I’m going to go on X Factor or The Voice or whatever shows me the perception that most people have of what it would mean to them for me to be a successful musician.
Carrie: What is one assumption people often make about introverts that is inaccurate?
Probably that we don’t like people or that we are shy. I absolutely love people and often have to tell them that being an introvert isn’t about being anti-social, it’s about energy and the fact that people naturally drain us of energy. That time alone doing something we love is the way we re-energise, which for me is then pointing at my capacity to spend time with people again. This is actually not just something that people who aren’t introverts assume. I know a few introverts who embrace the label and then assume that because they are introverted they must stop enjoying people in order to conform to that label. That is something to put an end to!
Carrie: Has social media and the internet helped you as an introvert and musician?
Yeah definitely! I was having a conversation with a fellow introvert the other day who I met through social media. We have had many deep conversations via email and then after a few months they said ‘I just listened to your podcast and you said you are married, I never know that. How crazy is that!?’ And we laughed about this sense that we can know people without all the natural small talk stuff that would happen in a face to face context. I think that’s cool. You get straight into the meat of things in many ways!
I also think from my perspective I’m much more likely to send someone an email or connect with them on social media and introduce myself than I would if I saw them in a physical space. And we are potentially connected to almost anyone we want to speak with. It makes the first steps of networking painless and simple and I think that is why many introverts thrive in the online space. As a musician it is another realm in which to distribute my music, perform, and just generally build a global audience. It’s an unfathomably fantastic tool!
Carrie: You have a new course you are offering called A Little Bit Every Day? Can you tell us a little bit more about it?
Yes it’s basically a 12 week step by step process for building a platform/blog. It is based around what I have been doing this year and the natural evolution of what has become a deeper sense of ‘why’/purpose in who I am connecting with and the people who are reading my own blog, listening to the podcast and joining the Members Haven. I think it is so important to remind yourself that good things are built gradually and the aim of this course is to take people through doing one small thing every day (with regular catch up and rest days), to find their own deeper purpose, discover their message and start connecting with their tribe/building and creating their website.
There are some great free bonuses too including 3 months free in the Members Haven, email support, and a introvert interview series with Michaela Chung and Beth Buelow who are wonderful thinkers and writers in the online introvert space.
Carrie: What is one creative resource you can’t live without?
The internet! My RSS feed reader so that I can consistently be reading new blog posts from other people. I am constantly listening to and reading other people’s work. It’s so important to keep the input flowing so that what I’m putting out is influenced by great stuff. And also from my own process perspective, Evernote is something I definitely couldn’t live without now, it is like my digital creative brain and contains all my ideas, any new snippets of work, and stuff that I want to work on in the future. It’s awesome!
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
It starts with seeing something as it appears to be, and then bringing your imagination to the party, which will change it to be something else. It’s saying ‘I could’ instead of ‘I should.’ It’s nothing profound. It is a mindset, wondering ‘what if?’
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Do you acknowledge your introverted/extroverted natures when you engage with your creative process? How do you navigate those needs? I want to know! Talk about it in the comments below.
Additional Contact Info:
Free Art Challenge: Create an Original Artwork in 10 Days
Play with me in the Soulbrush Sessions: ten days of creative prompts that guide you to your unique artist voice.
It's an experience that shows you something deep down you already know: you’ve always been an artist. Unleash your inner artist --> get stARTed today!
(Enjoy this free bonus when you sign up for Artist Strong's weekly newsletter.)