Well it's been a while because I came back from my Northern Tour and went straight back into the day job which was absolutely exhausting! Apologies to anyone who came to the Gardens last week and had to deal with me - I'm sure I must've appeared in a daze - although something happened at work yesterday that jolted me back into my music-mind and reminded me to write this blog so I shall open with it :-)
There I was stood at my window, greeting a gentleman and two ladies and giving them the long schpeel about admission prices and gift aid when a lady interrupts, "do I know you?" Immediately puzzled I Hugh Grant, "err ... err... no?" "Are you a singer?" They blurt out. An easy question, I boom, "Yes! Yes I am," "that's it, I didn't recognise you at first, well you wouldn't remember us, we're the audience..." she trails off as I blush and get a star-struck equivalency of someone being slightly star-struck. I giggle like a twit as they walk away and I greet the following customer with an airy, glazed over expression on my face. What a dope! This has happened before but not for a long long time and that was at karaoke so this time it was out of context and kind of made my day, being all unexpected and all :) So thank you whoever you guys were! That made Monday a lot easier! I'd better get on now with telling you about the tour!
Now I did keep a diary the entire time I was away but obviously I'm going to bore you to death if I write all of it here so I'm going to try and paraphrase and cover the main points. First up, Ireby Festival. This was the first gig of the tour and it was in a quaint little church with a flat ceiling, I really enjoyed singing in there as I could just let my vocals soar - I was singing by the altar where the ceiling hadn't been lowered - I was later told, "it sounded lovely but I couldn't hear what you were singing." The first of many brilliant quotes from the juggler who we ended up staying with when we returned to Cumbria and who also taught us the basics of juggling. I might have a new party trick to open with...
We then headed on over to Mae's Tea Rooms and despite a lack of bus, and thus, audience the owner was very welcoming and gave us lunch on the house which didn't 'alf make the pennies go further. Thank you again! We had a random walk in the beautiful sunshine in the shadow of Skiddaw (highest peak in England I'm told) in Bassenthwaite and made our way down a stony path, past lambs and sheep to a chapel on the edge of Bassenthwaite Lake (the only 'lake' in the lake district I'm told). Stunning scenery and I drop to the floor in the graveyard to write a new song... as you do. Ben thought I'd lost it. I finished the song in the chapel and performed it about four times after, still can't quite pronounce Bassenthwaite though so the intro to the song remains quite embarrassing!
Edinburgh next, ah Scotland. You know there's something about Scotland, there really is. It's like coming home and we were so sad to leave! Such a modern, swish city with a dirty great terrifying structure in the centre called the Scott monument that honestly looked like it was screaming at me! No matter where we went in the centre you could see it, like some piercing structure summoning the devil, I was honestly very freaked out by it but eventually we decided it was black from pollution and maybe wasn't evil after all? ...Ben made me climb it... I had trouble just approaching it but he was right to do so 'cause the view from the top was spectacular, even if it was up 297 steps... I had a great time at the Wee Folk Club, and an even better time at Edinburgh Folk Club. Met a lovely Irishman who sang a song about mistaking a girl for a swan and shooting her dead - as Mr Purser says, it ain't folk unless someone's dead at the end.
Then we headed back to Carlisle for BBC Radio Cumbria first where I proudly played my Bassenthwaite ode, 'Laid down' and I must say it went down really well. After an uncomfortable trip to the castle (those dungeons were awful) and an education at Hadrian's Wall (turn's out it doesn't divide England and Scotland anymore, so embarrassed) I finished up at the Carlisle Folk & Blues club. Best gig so far. One thing that stood out the most on this tour was that it was the first time I've had audience participation and I can now understand why Dave Gahan goes nuts on stage when we all sing back the lyrics. The feeling is so warming and humbling, it's a cloaked connection to make as I can't see faces on stage, just glistening shadows. Magic.
Well I still managed to waffle on a bit but at least I condensed my eighteen-page saga into a couple paragraphs for you! There's still more to update you on but I reckon I'd better give you a break for a bit and update you after BAAM fest. Thanks for reading/loving/listening as always!
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 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.
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
Alrighty well it's been a couple weeks since my last blog entry because in all honesty although there's been lots going on and everyone around me is swelling with new dates and activities, I have felt quite lost. Okay okay so that's not really any news to you, anyone who's ever heard any of my songs is probably going, 'well yeah...' but just lately me and my music have been a little distant. It's a bit like one of us called the other one ugly and now rather than talk it through with each other we're just trying to ignore one another. I suppose it has something to do with my mic stand being left in the car and me being too absent minded to remember to actually empty the car after a gig - perhaps my music feels like I'm taking it for granted? Either way it's definitely like another person in my life and we've definitely not been talking.
So that brings us to this week and I've been writing lyrics like mad - all angry and unworthy - and what music has come has been completely mismatched, a gentle and delicate backdrop to some appalling skeleton of a song. Clearly the musical turmoil continues HOWEVER the impending gig at St Mary's this Friday has at least given the two of us something to talk about and we have been rehearsing and things are brightening up again. I think sometimes that when musicians are trying to get on a bit more and do those 'less-is-more' dates you end up a bit detached from what you were doing in the first place. In the beginning it was open mics every Tuesday at the Old Smithy Inn and complete submergence in a ocean of sound, devoid of all labels of genre. These days I find I'm having less time for that as I'm scraping around trying to make a living and everyone seems so hung up on whether or not something is folk or not. Maybe I should just come out and admit my love for punk and Sinead O'Connor and confess that I used to train my voice to Celine Dion but maybe more importantly maybe I should go and lose myself in sound this weekend...
Catch you on the wave length!