It's not a punchy title granted but at least you know what I'm going to waffle on about now! First up, Hartland Abby. Wow. I had never been before but it was a bank holiday and what with the weather being a bit iffy we decided to pay the extra and head inside the house before trekking around the blanket of bluebells that smothered the grounds.
At first it was very much like Tiverton Castle (if memory serves at least) there were swords and deer on the wall and things felt very medieval. Then we stepped into the main living areas - as the house is still used - and it was a different mood entirely. I won't describe each room in detail but it you're a fan of rare and unusual 1800 houses check this one out. The drawing room was my favorite, it had an intricately painted ceiling that reminded me of a deck of cards and arthurian paintings lined the top of the walls and it was there where we spotted a piano...
now I wasn't going to say anything, I mean you guys know how iffy my self confidence is on keyboards, but Ben couldn't resist and started plugging me to [what we thought was] one of the stewards. Turned out it was in fact Lady Stucley and she insisted I play the piano. Horrified I'd embarrass myself I dawdled up the staircase racking my brains for anything to get me started - what songs would go down well? What could I start with? I stepped over the blue rope, sat on the embroidered stall, rested my fingers on the keys and as if by magic they began to play the best they've ever played. You have to remember I've had no lessons in piano and I rather feel it's one of those instruments that you really should have lessons for so if someone springs these kinds of things on me my hands normally loose all composure and make blatant mistakes. Regardless it was a privilege to play this piano especially as there was a bit of a story to it.
There was a photo on a gentleman facing me on top of the piano, along with a girl - a daughter who had died in the house many moons ago of polio. The gentleman had returned annually to visit her grave and was the last to play the piano aside from visitors. I didn't sing but I felt compelled to play the song I had written about my Father's death, 'Too Soon,' and it was a very moving experience. I just felt like I connected to something and there was a great empathy between it and me. I am hoping to return to the Abby in the future as they were so welcoming - they insisted I come back and play again so stay tuned, who knows what Ben will concoct
Onto Okehampton acoustic then and I had a lovely time! We headed down Saturday evening and made our way through a mini maze of patio and tree following two suspected band members and the sound of singing. In we went and I was immediately hit by the sweet smell of incense - my kind of venue! I was greeted by Phil who was more than lovely throughout the evening - what a mood inducer! His music made me ooze lyrics. When it came time for me to play I was a little nervous - that's what you get for wearing wedges - but it went really well! I was throwing songs into the set off the top of my head hoping they would go down well as it was suggested, and then eventually requested, that I do a bit longer than 20 mins. I tried to give a good mix of brand spanking new material and golden oldies and I really felt comfortable on stage. That probably sounds a bit weird but I don't always feel at ease behind the mic, lately though I've felt better behind it - probably because I've been more myself and shared more stories of how things were written and why. It was great to hear, "I liked what you did as Roholio but this is better" - or words to that effect from Phil! So naturally I left Okehampton on a natural high feeling very grateful that the good people of the club not only donated money towards diesel but also bought some of my albums. A great night all around!
Oh and for one final positive note... I finally have dates for recording!
and on that bombshell....
Well I am still buzzing from last night's support slot (supporting the lovely Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman at the Plough) so I thought I'd get on in there and post a blog while it's all still fresh in my mind, because for me personally a lot of special, and random, things happened.
First off as many of you are aware I've been suffering with a pretty shocking cough and frog throat all week and attempts at dousing it in honey and green tea has had little effect however I stepped up my game last night and decided it was time for a good old fashioned remedy - whiskey. Now as many more of you are aware I don't really drink so I really had to be careful I didn't end up a drunkard on stage after a dram. My solution was to mix it in a mug of hot water and I also had a final, tiny dram just before going on and MIRACULOUSLY this seemed to work! Whiskey has saved my bacon before, there was a gig in Braunton (which landed me agents) where the bar keep offered me his honey and whiskey remedy to save my voice and save it he did! I reckon it was a mixture of that and Marcus' dreamy reverb and delay last night that made my voice sound half decent; I was quite literally dumbfounded when people were coming up to me saying I sang like an angel... genuinely thought they were being funny or something!
Throat aside last night was the first time I've dressed a bit more like me - the civilian - also know as the curly hippy haha but it was great! It felt good to just go out on that stage (there was a raised stage at the Plough, I know I know! first time right?) and just be myself. Probably had something to do with my order from misguided not arriving on time, the cough/throat thing and me being completely baffled at what to wear!
Another special thing that happened was I didn't play a cover. Normally when I support someone I throw one in there and although I'd rehearsed one I felt my voice couldn't do it justice so I cut it. I'm glad I did. I was truly myself last night and it felt great PLUS I played three songs off the new album and they went down a treat. It's great how much people love 'Hold Tight' because it's a song I adore (I realise that's a bit vain but go with me here I'll explain) even though it's not a story I wrote about myself, the theme is a slave stuck in the dark on a ship, I think it's powerful and tells itself. When I wrote it the words were literally being plucked out of the night on a rocky ferry trip to France so it feels like it was whispered on the sea to me so honestly thank you to all the people who keep telling me how much they like it. I was very cautious about playing it at first, due to the sensitivity of the theme, but it's becoming one of those songs you just want to keep playing and already has very special place in my heart.
Okay so onto a funny anecdote of the evening... we were lucky enough to share a dressing room at the Plough with Kathryn and Sean and so while they were playing we were chilling out listening and pratting around behind the scenes. Now the chairs are alright but I had decided Ben's lap was far comfier and I'd also decided I wanted a bear hug - being tired and on the come down of the performance buzz - so I went and sat face to face with Ben on his lap. Okay so you can already imagine how bad this must've looked... or inappropriate.... well my little mind didn't really register this and when I heard the main dressing room door go I thought, "well that can't be them 'cause they're out there playing, I wonder who it is" what I should've thought is "this looks wrong I should get off of Ben." But... I didn't and in walked Sean eager to tune up his guitar for the next song after a little solo number by Kathryn. Slightly mortified as I realised how dodgy this was looking I made some weak (very weak) joke about Ben's lap being far comfier than the chairs and that he was welcome to try his lap out. *face slap* Yes I was digging the hole deeper and used this dreadful attempt at salvaging any respect he might've had for me by gracefully removing myself from Ben's lap and sitting on the chair, where I should've been the whole time. Whoops. I love how Ben had nothing to say during this time, he just sat there putting up with me and my cuddles! Poor guy...
So it was a great, hilarious, motivational evening that really psyched me up for Ireby (next time we all see each other again will be Ireby) and as Sean said, "it will be an adventure." I feel like Bilbo Baggins already...
ps. Shout out to Bry & Paul, Tuck & Ruth and Linda & Janet felt very cool to have my own fan club in the audience! xx
Well I thought a few performances would sort me out and they have! Friday's gig at St Mary's Church in Bideford went enormously well despite occurring straight after a busy day at work (no time for a shower) and having no time for a soundcheck due to a choir rehearsing.... *I'm saying nothing* :P Marcos did a lovely job on the sound and really made my 'Dragonfly' soar through to the rafters. That was a pretty cool moment actually, one I hadn't had in a while, where I was singing and you could have heard a pin drop... er had I not been singing :P It was a great evening in aid of Edukid and it was nice to see some old colleagues from Great Torrington School, though I apologise if I didn't approach anyone. I really am quite blind in dim lighting and I was a little unsure so I didn't really fancy walking up to a stranger and going, "Remember me? oh it's not you...."
Anyway so that was the first performance of the weekend that brought me a little bit back from the dead, so to speak, and then Sunday I had a free afternoon (this is rare!) so I headed over to the local open mic and knocked out three tunes with the local jammers. I have to say 'Bullseye' sounds very good with Sax and Cajon and it was bloody lovely to just feel like myself again and enjoy being in the moment of a song rather than panicking about who I've got to impress or whether or not I'm going to forget the lyrics. I just went for it regardless and it felt good. The lovely Saxophonist said he'd never taken to folk before but really enjoyed playing on my tracks, he said it was as if a sea mist came down and we were all in a misty moment together haha what a great description.
So I'm back, my voice is still returning and gaining strength after a 2-1/2 week cold/flu/chest infection thingy I caught over Easter and I'm feeling inspired to write good lyrics again :) yay! Also I should tell you I have decided to buy the Dulcimer I've been adoring and taking for granted all this time. You see in the last week I did actually buy another off of ebay in preparation for my set at Ireby festival, but when it came I realised the fretting was different - apparently there is such a thing as a 'strumstick' fretting and I have learnt and written on traditional - so that was a turn off and it also became immediately obvious that there was a huge difference in sound. The new one was light and tinny and clearly made of spruce whereas my little diamond in the rough is dark and, I know now, made of model-maker's mahogany. How wonderful that I should write all these dark songs on a rare, hand-made mahogany dulcimer haha It has a much warmer tone than any other dulcimer I have played and it hit me like a slippery fish I should just ask the lovely John if I could buy it and then attempt to spruce - if you forgive the pun - it up at Brook Guitars in time for festival season. So that's the plan!
Album wise I am still waiting to hear back about dates for recording, which as you can understand is like sitting on a bed of nails and being told to lie down and relax. I'm sure I'll hear something in May as my producer has two weeks free then but 'til then it'll be the bed of nails for me and hopefully I'll get some demo recordings done this week.
Onwards and upwards either way! Thank you all for your continued support as always.