Spending every day only playing your own music is the best way to lose all possible perspective about music. Maybe some great artists do their best work by avoiding perspective, but I kinda like it.
Liz Lawrence has made a wonderful album, and I got huge amounts of joy playing bass on it. Even from her early demos she had real fire in her belly and a stubborn sort of confidence that often characterises the best artists. She ain’t just mucking about…
She’s ready to release it now, and you can even name your price to buy it on her bandcamp page. Well worth a listen:
This is what I’m expecting…. I hear it is -15C at the moment…
It’s very easy to forever be looking into the future and thinking “I’ll be happy if…” while all the cool stuff is happening RIGHT NOW. Look! A monkey went by on a jetski and you missed it.
I may be deep in plans for the rest of the year, but in just a couple of weeks I’ll play my first tour of Canada. This is just what I always dreamed of – making music, seeing the world, meeting people…. all a real privilege to soak up and wash down with maple syrup.
If you know anything or anyone in Vancouver, Victoria, Prince George or British Columbia more generally, I’d love to hear from you. A friendly face to meet, a musician to listen to, a place to eat, an indispensable factoid, a handy way to avoid mortal danger, anything at all, get in touch.
For those in the area, my gig page has more info on where I’ll be. I’ve had quite a few messages from people in other parts of the US or Canada who were hoping I’d be visiting somewhere closer to them – I am sorry about that. Hopefully this trip will lay the foundations for a longer Canada / US tour next time. We’ll see. Ha there I go thinking about the future again… x
Happy New Year! I’ve just spent a few quiet months songwriting, it’s been wonderful, and also quite difficult. I hadn’t sat still for 3 years and there were so many new things to uncover. What to do and say next?
I found myself spending at least as much time just thinking. Thinking about…. stuff… how can I be more happy? Will they still teach kids how to write with a pen in the future? Is it ok to eat meat?…..
If I had to point to a subject I’ve written about most it is mental health and my relationship with thinking, the treasures and traps to be discovered from being more aware of my own thought processes, and the moments of joy from switching it all off sometimes. Over the next few months I’ll be writing more songs, working out how best to record them and doing small solo gigs to test them out live. Any new dates will go up on the gigs page as they’re confirmed, so come and join in if there’s one near you. Ideally, they’ll be cheap, simple and a little bit interactive.
Mega excited about this year, perhaps more than any other ever. I’d love to release album 2… either way it’ll be ready when it’s bloody brilliant, and not before.
I’ve been a bit quiet online recently. I wasn’t sure what to say so I thought it best to say nothing. But I’m back online now, so let’s talk there now, or in person.
Wish you the happiest 2013!
Something about the school system has forged a link in me between Autumn and starting again. September has a strange sort of Sunday afternoon into Monday morning quality about it after the Saturday night party of summer, like a limbo space not belonging to one week or the next.
Everyone around seems to be hitting the reset button at the moment. Me I’m definitely drinking my pint of hangover water. It’s been an epic party, two and half years long and spanning more towns and cities than I expected to visit in a lifetime. I’ve met an outrageous number of excellent people, many of whom I’d love to still be friends with in the morning. Others will be remembered only as temporary legends blowing my mind with their awesomeness then disappearing into the night, but that’s cool too.
Since our last gig I’ve spent two weeks cleaning up, which is the aftermath of any self-respecting party. I hoovered in places that have never before seen a hoover – can you imagine their shock? I even cleaned out my old bedroom – oh man that was hard. Sacks and sacks of stuff I used to treasure all felt the wrath of my cruel hands at the dump and the charity shop. Gotta be done, gotta be done. Time to move on.
After all today is the first day of a new term and I’m excited. I’ve shovelled down a bowl of Weetos and chatted breeze with the usual characters on the bus to school. I’ve bought my new pencil case and reinforced my textbook with heavy card so the next goon can use it after me. I’ve got a new stationary kit and thrown away the second right angled ruler, as I’m unlikely to need more than one. I’ve not bought gloves, gloves are for pussies*. Bring it on!
Here’s what’s gonna happen. Each day I will drive, cycle or run to my mum’s attic, spend the day there writing, and then drive, cycle or run home. I’ll keep doing this until I’ve written enough songs for a banging album, or maybe two just to be sure. Then I’ll record it, release it and start gigging again. That’s the plan.
I’ve not written many songs so far this year actually, and that’s because with so many gigs I’ve only had the mental energy for a gradual continuation of what’s gone before. But a gradual continuation of what’s gone before just ain’t good enough baby. I’m after a proper phoenix ashes-to-shell sorta thing.
Why the need for that? Well for a while now I’ve looked at the music I play, and if I’m honest some of the music other people play, and just felt like we need to be better. The world is full of people seeking your attention – bands, companies, newspapers, Facebook… LOUD NOISES! PLEASE BUY MY EVERYTHING! Sometimes I’ve felt like I’m taking more than I’m giving, like I’m louder than I am good. If that was ever me and it annoyed you, I’m sorry.
Maybe the best test of music is whether it’s as good as silence. Silence is pretty damn awesome, so that’s a tough test. If I’m going to become one of those irritating characters again who bugs you about listening to the fings wot I wrote, I need to be able to back it up with something proper. Something worthy of your most venerable ears, something as good as a bit of peace and quiet. If I think I’ve got something, I’ll come back and ask for your ears. If not… well let’s stay friends anyway. There’s always the sandwich shop…
*Gloves aren’t really for pussies, that was just something I thought when I was young and inexperienced.
PS My friend Alex (who directed several of my music videos) made a puppet version of me with working mouth, eyelids and arms for a birthday present! Isn’t he talented?!
Who fancies a bit of a social? I’d love to show you what music we make now, plus there are loads of ingenious ways I want to thank you for supporting Many Fish To Fry before I hang it up and start work on a follow up.
Where: The Social, Little Portland Street, London.
When: 18th September 2012. Doors 7:30pm.
Tickets: £7, or £15 with a t-shirt
When buying your ticket you’ll also be asked to submit a photo of yourself (or something to represent you) so we can add it to our poster. As each ticket is sold, each spot will get filled with an image. Look out for yours at the gig too – we’ll have personalised presents waiting for you.
Everything is ready, all we’re missing is you. 100 tickets, 100 people getting together. Are you free?
Hope you can make it
**UPDATE** All tickets sold out in just a few days. Thank you to everyone who was interested, send your photos now if you have a ticket.
This year I released 250 signed, numbered copies of a new live studio EP called ‘Ghostess Live Studio Sessions’.
They all sold out in May – I don’t even have one! They’re all gone. All except one, copy #1 / 250, and an auction has now been started to buy it, with all profits going to Nordoff Robbins – a fantastic music charity http://www.nordoff-robbins.org.uk
Their work involves using music therapy and music services to help a range of people with a range of challenges such as autism, dementia, mental health problems, stroke, brain injury, depression or life-threatening or terminal illnesses, such as cancer. They use your money to dramatically improve their quality of life. Shall we raise them a few quid to help?
The auction can be found here – http://r.ebay.com/IDwuFM and will end on Wednesday 18th July.
The winner will receive the last Limited Edition copy of the Ghostess EP, copy #1. I’ll write a personal message in it, or thank you a separate postcard if you prefer, then I’ll post it anywhere in the world you choose. I may even throw in some extra bits too. Non-numbered, non limited edition copies have since been made, but please don’t let that put you off, this last one is still a great excuse to bid!
100% of any money raised goes straight into the charity’s grateful pockets. Let’s get to it :)
**UPDATE** The auction was won by Mark Reed from Hampshire with a bid of £150. Thanks Mark!
After The Social I’ll stop playing gigs and start working on another album.
But before then, I’ve got a busy summer with trips to Ireland and France, more UK dates (Norwich, Devon…), some great festivals and the house concerts won by the ‘At Your Place’competition. Take a look at the full list on my gigs page
The Ireland trip is long overdue. I’ve done support tours there before, and not to get all Irish Tourist Board on you but I’m proper excited about going back. If I meet friends, drinkers, crackpots and geniuses anything like the ones I met last time, it’ll be a blast. I’ll be touring with Liz Lawrence a very talented artist well worth listening to.
It’s been a great year for festivals too – Isle of Wight, Hop Farm and Big Session Festivals went really well. Still to come – Latitude, Summer Breeze, Tonefest, Secret Garden Party, Gossington, Sidmouth Folk, Acoustica…
These are my last gigs for some time so I hope you can make one quick while I still remember what to do :)
Winners of the house concert competition were drawn at the end of June, with 5 names picked at random from 150 entries.
I know some of you who really wanted to win didn’t get picked – I’m so sorry about that. We couldn’t pick everyone, and it’s important that it was truly random. There’s always next year…
We’ve now arranged all 5 house concerts:
Meemee Overton, Exeter
Rachel Challis, Birmingham
Deborah Parker, York
Andy Thomas, Huddersfield
Georgie Price, High Wycombe
Thank you so much to everyone who entered, and to our winners for agreeing to open their homes to their friends and family and to me. Bring it on! If you’re planning to come along to one, do post photos and words about it before and after the gig on my Facebook and Twitter pages.
Last year I did a long series of tour blogs, really honest ones, and it turned out to be a real Pandora’s box of the thoughts and emotions that build up in me when playing music live. I couldn’t stop and did one almost every day.
This year has been Pandora’s Box in reverse – I couldn’t bring myself to open the damn thing! Aggh it just sat there in the corner. Sorry about that. How about a re-cap of the year so far, old-tour-blog-style?
So there we were with half a baboons hat and a retired geology professor. Not a bridge in sight and only 4 minutes until soundcheck…
Ok the truth is more prosaic! The last year or so has been about going from someone who plays to people in London to someone who plays to people throughout the UK. Two long tours later and I think me and my band of intrepid explorers have achieved that. Apologies to those who have been waiting for another album for a while – we had more people we wanted to play to first, and this was something I had to do. Now I’m ready to move on. So after festival season, I’ll be starting work on album two and I’m more excited about that than I’ve ever been about anything.
What about 2012 so far? January to March was taken up with a lot of planning, industry showcases, radio interview tours, shooting music videos that didn’t quite work and recording what became the Ghostess Live Studio Sessions. Our sold out HMV gig in February had been a big success, but having not gigged in a couple of months I was a little short of strut. Strut looks like this – confident, effortless action. Why was I short of it? I think it was because by the end of March I’d done only 7 gigs and sat behind a computer for what felt like forever. Something wasn’t right.
I turned off the computer, picked up my guitar and hit the road on an impromptu open mic tour of the UK – instantly I felt happy again!
I gigged with Nottingham Trent Music Society students, sung my heart out at the Exeter Phoenix Cafe to an intense crowd of 6 people, met Rebecca Philip at a Bristol open mic who supported me on our headline Bristol gig later in May, shredded my voice at two open mics in York, found a place to sleep at midnight in Sheffield belonging to a kindly professional chef who serves heart-attack-inducing burgers like the pork fillet with deep-fried banana fritters covered in maple syrup all inside a doughnut, played the unplugged night at the 1:22 Bar in Huddersfield, slept on Charlie Barnes‘s floor, discovered Son Lux, played two gigs in an hour in Leeds then collapsed with illness and drove through the night to get back to my bed to sleep for a day.
This is the life I want, not sitting behind a computer! I was definitely ready for our May band tour.
But no sooner was I ready than we hit a problem. Some dates hadn’t sold many tickets and we were being asked to cancel or postpone them. I’ve already done a blog on that and I don’t need to add to it, but again I’ll say I’m really sorry that’s how it worked out.
The plus side was that we were left with some really great gigs to really big crowds. We rocked our first at the Deaf Institute in Manchester, armed with great new t-shirts me and Kev had designed and new songs, and we were playing tight and hungry. However the spectre of the pulled dates hung over us a lot on the journey home.
Everything turned a corner at our Newton Faulkner support a couple of days later. Looking out at the 1700 people, and talking to them later I was reminded of myself as a kid going to my first gigs, feeling enraptured by the live music experience, by the us and them format, by what the music could do to my emotions. It breathed a whole new life into me to remember that. Coming out the stage doors after the gig I heard noise from people waiting and I turned around, expecting to see Newton standing behind me, but they were calling at me. Very strange, very humbling.
We played really well supporting Turin Brakes at Festeaval, a beautiful festival still in its infancy but with a very bright future.
In Oxford me and John explored the city and learnt how much pudding is too much pudding(!) The gig felt great and we played very musically. That word might seem strange – don’t we always play ‘musically’? What I mean is we really listened to each other – notes he was playing were interacting, communicating and responding to notes I was playing. So important and much better than us both just playing our parts. It’s the difference between a conversation and two people reading lines.
A solo run followed – a Leeds house concert, an open mic in Sheffield and two supports for Paper Aeroplanes in Glasgow and Edinburgh. I was really loving playing solo by then – it’s important I have my own identity aside from the band. Paper Aeroplanes are good friends of mine – do take a listen and see them live if you like what you hear.
Last time John and I were in Kendal we played to 10 people who each promised to bring 10 more people if we ever came back. Well here we were – back again and this time with the whole band – had they kept their word? By the time we took to the stage the room was almost full. “I told you I’d bring 10 more people!” they each said. Aw man this blew me away and I got a little emotional! Such nice people. It shows how stupid (nevermind disrepectful) it is to turn your nose up to a small crowd. I chatted guitars with guitar fans, guarded my arse from cheeky not-yet-middle-aged women and we drank with Jonty and the Bootleggers crew into the night.
York might have been the best line-up of the tour. David Ward MacLean busks on the streets of York, but he’s a rare talent and a true gent well deserving of wider success. The Smoking Years were also exceptional. Such a good night. I was in a bit of an eyeballing the audience sort of mood that night though – sorry about that. Plus I first broke out a dance move during Feet Don’t Fail Me Now that the band now know as the ‘chicken leg dance’. Sorry about that too…!
All this stagetime paid dividends when we hit the best soundsystem of the tour – The Plug in Sheffield. Everyone was on the top of their game and we totally smashed it. Ah man what a gig! I think it was here that we remembered what kind of band we can be. Big shoutout to Jayne Kennedy for baking us cupcakes, and Elliot Morris and Sarah Mac for great support sets.
I’ve never known a uni like Bucks New Uni. All their student events are free, even the really big ones, and they’re still able to decorate the stage with fresh flowers and custom lighting. Thanks to everyone who came to see us there, it felt a bit like coming home, tho I don’t exactly have fresh flowers at home…
In Cardiff John and I finished the set acoustically in the audience and I ate all the free brownies and cakes. Thank you to Jo Scott for coming – she has a Feet Don’t Fail Me Now tattoo on her foot.
Lastly the Exeter and Bristol leg – either sold out in advance or on the night. I can’t tell you how important these gigs were for us – they were the perfect examples of what I want our next tour to be like – small sold out venues, loud, quiet, intense, exciting and unpredictable with a close interaction between band and audience. Bring on next year and a new album.
Since then we’ve played Bury St Edmunds, house concerts, wedding gigs, private party gigs and the first of the summer festivals. There are plenty more festivals and house concerts left, tours to Ireland and France, and one more special gig to play in London before I shut myself away to work on a second album.
My favourite question to ask a songwriter is “Why do you write songs?”. It sounds simple but is actually surprisingly difficult to answer honestly. There’s a follow-up question too – “Once you’ve written a song, why is it important that other people hear it?”. In all the interviews I’ve done I have never once been asked those questions, despite them being the most important ones I can think of to ask people like me. If you write songs I’d love to hear what your answers are.
I’m getting more coherent with mine, and thinking about it has led me to some sort of epiphany…. I have three jobs – to write songs, record them and play gigs – and that’s it. If I’m not doing any of these, as I sometimes have this year to work on the record label, I am less happy, and less good at my job. Note to self – writing, recording, gigging, writing, recording, gigging…. repeat 100 times then I dunno maybe run for prime minister…
Thank you to everyone who has come this far, both in this blog entry and as a fan in general. If you can get this far, perhaps you can go a little further…? When I’m done making more songs, perhaps you’ll give them a listen.
Have a wonderful summer