I am more than thrilled to announce that my new album project 'Night and Day' has been made Carbon Neutral, by offsetting the carbon emissions by planting trees with WordForest.org!
Now, I met Tracey West (pictured below), several years ago after a concert in Lyme Regis. Someone (can't remember who) suggested a post-gig midnight skinny dip in the sea, and off we went! I'm proud to say we've been friends ever since, during which time, I have watched her and her lovely partner Simon go from strength to strength in setting up their charity 'The Word Forest Organisation' - planting Trees and building classrooms in Kenya.
As much as I love the touring lifestyle, the one thing that always got to me was the smell of petrol in the air as I got out of the car. It bothers me that there is a cost to my activities, and when I saw what my friends were up to, I jumped on board to offset my album!
What we (well ok, mostly Simon), was calculate the amount of emissions involved in travelling to the studio, roughly how much energy was used by the studio over the recording and mixing days, and how much carbon emissions each CD produced would cost the earth. We even included estimated shipping emsissions! And then, to be on the safe side, planted a little extra on top.
I am fully confident we have done the right thing here. The trees will be planted, the carbon will be offset, and the word forest growing in Kenya is managed, so even in case of drought, the trees will be re-planted! My friends are doing something wonderful for the world and the people in it. If you'd like to find out how you can offset your lifestyle, or anything in it, check out their project here: https://www.wordforest.org/
Here's a little video we made...about our collaboration :)
Here's to our projects!!
You know how 'it doesn't rain but it pours'? Well, I won't go into all the details, but this whole month has been the most insane, productive, crazy, musical and sleepless of all my months combined!
Right in the middle of this, was the studio time we had set aside months ago for me, Jack Cookson, Lukas Drinkwater, Evan Carson, and Ciaran Algar to record my second album, with Gareth Young, in Cube Studios down in Cornwall. So, first class, and sleeplessly from playing a festival that same weekend, I hopped on the train with Jack to drift towards Cornwall late on Sunday night.
Turns out I was not the only one with no sleep!! Ciaran and Evan made a mega-drive (not unusual for them apparently!), starting at 3am in Bedfordshire, to arrive by 10am for a full days recording. To top it all off, after our long session where me managed to track 8 of 11 songs, Evan then bumped into some people that needed his drumming, and he continued playing and recording into the night :)
Now, usually, Cube Studios has a cottage for the artists to stay in, but it happened to be pre-booked this time, so we ALL ended up staying in the studio!! Did someone mention cabin fever? Yes. Yes there was... I must admit I probably had the comfiest sofa bed there (the only sofabed actually), and somehow we all managed to find a corner to sleep on. I can confess to watching Rick and Morty that night on the big studio monitors!! Gareth Young (producer and studio owner) did not seem to take issue with that.
Photocredits: Ebby Tremain
Aside from the incredible feats of sleeplessness on lots of our parts (I do believe Lukas also made a mega-drive to get down - the studio is pretty far away from everything!), we absolutely powered through the recording! We had three full days, and were planning to do a live album, but took the opportunity to do it track by track, and to get really into the details, getting the best possible takes from us. We did all that, for every song, several times, and we still had time to spare!
What I love most about these musicians I have cherry picked, is their ability to create and improvise. I am not the sort of musician that likes to get every note down, and I prefer to work with people that can be spontaneous! And with the sort of people that even when they are spontaneous, they still get it right every time ;) I am still blown away by the amount of work we were able to get done in less time than we thought we needed. You know when things just 'work'? :)
A word, or several words of thanks are due once again to the people that supported my kickstarter campaign to get the funding for this project! I would never have been able to work with such talented musicians, in such an incredible studio without it. It's given my music an opportunity it never would have had otherwise, and boy am I making sure to follow up on it!! An extra little word of thanks goes to the band members for making a tremendous effort, and for being so damn musical, and especially to Gareth Young himself, for putting it all together, and going over and above at every opportunity. I'll never forget the lift to the curry place!! Studio-Cabin fever was peaking and so was my hunger...
We will be launching and touring the album as of October 27th at the Sound Lounge, through to November 25th - so do come and see us! Note, not all members will be present at every gig, but for the London & Bristol launches, we will all be there. Will you be there?
On crowdfunding for independent musicians - a change of perspective.
A lot of people feel uncomfortable with the idea of crowdfunding, mainly because they don't like the idea of asking for money. No one wants to think they are using a friendship for personal gain, and no one wants to feel used. We get asked for a lot of things these days, you can hardly walk down the street without being asked to sign up for a charity, or donate to a cause, or to 'spare some change', and perhaps we are all somewhat fed up of requests.
But I want to offer the perspective that crowdfunding is not asking for money. It is asking people to participate in a dream. By giving money, or spreading the word, or being a constant source of positivity and providing the necessary cheer leading/ hugs/ cups of tea. But the important thing here is the dream, not the money.
Musicians and artists (largely speaking) don't choose this path because they calculate it will be better for them. They love what they do, genuinely and without conditions, for better or for worse. Most artists will have a hard time articulating why their passion is so important to them, why they should arrange their entire life around their creativity, and if pressed will say (like I do) something rather vague about following their heart, passion, dream etc. about there being no other way... they might even mention the utilitarian term of fulfillment (I get more 'fulfillment' from life if I do something I'm passionate about), and of course it's all true, but intriguingly and delightfully hard to talk about.
I want to offer this perspective on crowdfunding, especially for the artists themselves. It's not about asking for money, because when it comes down to it, what artists wants money as an end in itself? Haven't they already spent the majority (ahem, and then some!) of their own money on their art? We need to focus on the fact that we have a dream, to fulfill our potential as artists, and that we're asking people to have a hand in making that dream a reality, which is a pleasant and happy experience for both parties.
We need to move away from the (distasteful?) idea of asking for money. Most artists I know who have successfully crowdfunded feel extremely responsible for the use of their funding. Like it is some great gift entrusted to them to fulfill their deepest passion and that they must use it strictly for fulfilling their dream, and doing it to the best of their abilities. It feels like such an honour that so many people have trusted them and said 'I believe in your dream, I believe in you', that the sense of duty in fulfilling your artistry becomes magnified!
Another thing is that 80% of people who support crowdfunding campaigns actually know the artist involved personally. It's usually a small circle of people (50-250) who really care about the artist and want them to succeed just as they probably reciprocate and would wish the same on you. It's not really about selling, impersonally, to 'the masses', or in fact about 'selling' at all. These people already care about you and your dreams and feel glad to have a hand in making them a reality. Small or big, money or no, artists need the collective support of a group of people in order to carry on, and we shouldn't be shy to say in front of people 'I have a dream. This is the most important thing in the world to me, and I'd be delighted if you had a look at my project'.
I of course am writing this because I'm coming to the end of my third successful crowdfunding campaign, and honestly the flow of positivity and support coming towards me right now is humbling and a little overwhelming. There's just a few days left on my campaign to make it the biggest and best it can be, and I would be delighted if you checked it out, by clicking the picture below which will take your to my campaign video, or by clicking HERE.
This year has been hard work. And it has ended WILDLY differently to how it started!
Jan: I was down and out, but recieved some good news... I was awarded my first grant! The Arts Council England gave me £5000 to tour my debut album across the UK. Which I did!
Feb: I launched my first album! In front of everyone who mattered; my friends, family, people who supported my crowdfunding campaign, the press and the town mayor! Hopping onto two BBC radio stations and getting my picture in several papers.
March/April/May: My first tour...everything from crappy pub gigs to enormous concert halls! I collaborated with as many artists as possible and met some wonderful musicians.
June/July/August: My first festivals!! Small ones! Firs Field, East Harptree Playing Ground, Sidmouth Folk Festival, Lockleaze Festival, Priston Festival, Lyme Folk Festival. I have not yet been to Glastonbury...either as a performer or attendee...
And, I hired my first assistant! The beautiful Lauren Kirkpatrick (firstname.lastname@example.org) to help me out at concerts and with admin here and there.
Sept/Oct: My first DONATION based tour! And it worked! No ticket prices, just donations...
Nov/Dec: Well, now it's Christmas season, and I've never seen what that does to a retial business before! I've posted out nearly ALL of my remaining Gentle Heart CD's! Ready for recording a second album in 2017!
I also played at the Green Note in London for the first time! I had wanted to play there for ages, and finally got a chance thanks to all my new youtube videos :)
These last two months saw my online following explode, and bookings in 2017 run all the way till Novemeber (and a few international ones!). I've a feeling 2017 will be my year :)
A HUGE thank you to everyone reading this, and everyone who has supported my music from day 1. Y'all know who you are, and I could not be here without you.
My most unusual tour has now been completed! I reversed the ticket model, and hoped for the best, and...it worked!!
If you don't already know, I booked 6 unique concerts, hired out the venues, and invited people to come to a free concert, with the option to make a donation if they'd enjoyed themselves. Trusting. Trusting that they will enjoy themselves, and give back. And they did! Take a picture walk through the tour... it turned out so well that I might make this an annual thing!
Starting out in Priddy, Somerset, this is my all female trio (featuring Tamsin and Ellie Mains) having magically but briefly turned into a woodwind band!
Following Priddy we had a pretty packed concert at Poulton Village hall near Cirencester! This is Pete Mannheim supporting me, who helped to organise this concert.
Oh yeah! Got in West Sussex County Times and the Chichester Observer too!
From there I went all the way down to Ashington (nr Brighton), where with the help of Dave Grout, Christelle and I performed on the stage you can see. This is her, a lovely local young singer!
Over to the glorious 700 year old St Lawrence Chapel in Ahsburton! Which I should have taken more pictures of really. This was me, on stage, with a quite extraordinary backdrop!
Alright this next one is not strictly a performance shot, but when in Rome...or on Dartmoor in this case...I had occasion to enjoy myself!!
While, fortunately, while I was healthy the whole time, illness upon illness beset my poor support acts and we had to keep replacing them last minute. I'll think twice about and Autumn tour next time!! At the final concert, Lena Laki was too ill to come to support, and although Hayley Carlyon (they other support act) was well, she was unexpectedly stuck in Faro! Eventually, she *just* made it at 8 for and 8pm start! Good on her! Performed a cracking set too!
And finally, this is me closing the final concert! Thanks to Tony Birch for this shot. Lovely to be at maximum capacity for the final show, and so wonderful to see so many old and new friends. Special thanks to Nicholas Hennel Foley for helping out with the sound!
Since it's been such a wonderful experience, and people enjoyed it so much, I think I'll do it again. What do YOU think? :)
Yesterday I played in the world's smallest venue (pictured below) at the Stroud Fringe Festival. It's called 'Folk In A Box' and is a one person concert venue in the dark (yes, it's possible to play guitar in the pitch black..)! Founded by Emily Barker, it's a great way to re-connect with the roots of acoustic music (pun intended) . It takes away the pressure of psychological interaction - I can't see the audience and the audience can't see me - which means I don't have to bother about making them feel comfortable, or worry about what I look like while I sing, or wonder what they're thinking of me. And for them? They can cry, in the dark, and not feel judged... If you want people to really let go and open up, to really listen, and to feel something, this dark and intimate venue is a great way to go about it. And isn't that what every songwriter wants? For their songs to be heard?
I have spent a lot of time thinking about how important the context is in music. How people are much more affected by the song if you give an introduction, or if they have a personal connection to you. Imagine, someone tells you that this singer is the best in the world, and people pay enormous amounts of money to hear her sing - how does that prep you to listen to the music? Or, there's someone singing in a pub, but no matter how beautiful it might be, you're having a conversation with a friend and the music is nothing but an interruption. Those are two very different experiences of music, despite the fact that it may be the same singer, and the same song sung in the same way. The difference is the context. So, my concern, is how to provide a better context for my concerts. What can I do? Jokingly I told a friend of mine I almost have the urge to create rules like in a classroom 'sit comfortably, take a deep breath, let's start with a moment of silence'. She said she would ask the audience to remove their shoes and encourage them to move their body if they feel like it. I haven't hit on the perfect setting yet, but I'm enjoying the experiments.
So far, I like the context of a donation based concert. People are free to come and enjoy the music, and to pay whatever they feel moved to. It puts me in total artistic control - I hire the venue, arrange the support act / accompaniment and I can decorate the space how I like, or arrange a start time that suits me (seriously, a 10pm start for my music is not ideal!). This way I can try to create a particular setting for my audience to have a better musical experience. No background noise for goodness sake! Silence please! But some artists love background noise, or the humdrum of pub environments. I want people to be seated, some want the audience to stand, or dance...
In a world full of singer-songwriters (wonderful!), doing this as a business, I have to think about what will be the best way for people to be introduced to my music. To have the deepest musical experience, and to take the most out of a concert? My success as an artist and as a business depends on the context, on how I create value for my audience members and for my singing and songwriting. So, any ideas send them my way! Concerts in the dark? Too weird! Candlelit? Maybe! Black tie and glam themed event? Maybe... I thought of a doing a series in old out of the way sacred sites - ancient chapels and what not. Atmospheric! Or even garden concerts...house concerts...etc. etc. The possibilities are endless!
For anyone who wants to come to a donation based concert, check out my upcoming October Series! I am really looking forward to seeing how they go...
Till another time!
A little look into a page from my diary at a very creative moment in my life...
I wish I could share this with you. There are moments in all our lives that are filled with intensity, creativity, and an unnameable something else. Often following a period of depression or change of circumstances, and sometimes, for no reason at all. It is there.
Many of you who know me personally will know of my aversion to drugs and mind changing substances (ahem, look, coffee is NOT in the same category!). Despite the fact that it makes me terribly uncool amid musician circles, I believe it is much more meaningful to apprehend the miraculous in sober consciousness, and besides, I doubt I could handle anything more psychedelic than the creative states I get into at times like this.
I am filled with fire. Something that burns hot and cold and makes me see stars... and write songs... and invent words. I spent a good deal of this morning joyfully singing nonsense words! I am playing with the idea of putting an improvised song on the new album.... my voice is taking me to utterly new places, and I wish I could show you. It will probably take me years to unfold all this and get it 'out' in the mainstream, but let it be known! Tuesday 16th August 2016 was the moment of discovery! The bursting forth of an intense creative singing energy that had been brewing for years...
And look, creativity is as natural as the earth. Why shouldn't this energy be available to us? It's hugely under-emphasized in our education system but it is possible, for any person, any where, at any time to become spontaneously filled with it!
But here, the proof is in the pudding, and I'm desperate to get into a studio and 'serve'! Oh but for lack of money! I absolutely cannot wait to share this new round of explosive creativity with you - new songs are buzzing in the background, nearly ready to be born :) Hold on to your hats folks!
Is music a Charity or a Business?
These days to break into the music industry you need to be a start-up entrepreneur as well as an artist. In order to get noticed you need pro quality branding, organisation and marketing strategies.
All of these ultimately fall at the feet of the love of music, but are important nonetheless, to give your music the 'setting' it deserves. But lets talk about charity....
I've received a lot of funding from people. Actually my entire musical career has been community funded. Some people make a lot of money this way. Last I checked Amanda Palmer is voluntarily GIVEN $32,727 every time she does something because people have signed up to do so. And people have criticized her for it. Yet people don't criticize large salaries of business execs (well...). Is it offensive if an artist makes a huge profit? Why? Surely they are providing 'value' to many people, and people enjoy giving back.
Hold on, people ENJOY spending money? Giving it away even when they don't need to? Yep. That's right. And that's why music is a charity and a cause no matter how much the artist is making. The artist does not have to create art. Someone with Amanda Palmers business mind could surely make a fortune in a more traditional career. But I respect her, and all artists, for sticking to what they love. And no, the audience does not have to pay for music. Not with youtube, spotify, internet downloads and the fact that many artists are now giving away their recordings (download mine here!), but they want to. It feels 'right', like insisting on buying a friend a cup of coffee (yes please!).
I need a community of people to play to as much as communities of people need musical experiences, artistic creations in their streets, clean air and good food. Arts contribute to our lives beyond monetary value, and arts reflect our community culture. They are community endeavors for love of the art form itself which is why I believe musicianship is a charitable enterprise, and deserves all the support it can get! Go Artists! Keep On Creating!
Once, while up on Dartmoor's misty hills in the mid-winter, I had a strong feeling of...the brevity of life. A sense of journey, and of leaving all *this* behind. I stripped in the rain (no-one was around) and danced atop the hills. I managed to completely slip over in the puddles that had gathered in the grass and ended up covered in mud, water, and a big smile. All while thinking about death...which is also thinking about life.
I came home to a warm bath and the listening ear of my friend Charlene, and I sat down and wrote this song by the fire among tea and biscuits.
I feel a strange longing for something beyond life. To be part of nature in an unconscious way, or perhaps I feel somehow cut off and I wish to return. I feel this song really captures what I experienced atop the moors. It's a song about leaving, while not really having left...
Last I saw you swimming in the sea, beyond all else, far away from me.
And how I long to be with you, a drop of water in the blue.
Here and waiting for the tide to rip wide open this disguise.
Biding time and holding on till I'm gone, gone, gone...
Gone, gone, gone, gone...
People call me as I wait they all have trouble on their plates.
They've invited me to stay, but still I'm going on my way.
I can but offer them relief since I have nothing up my sleeves!
Just a temporary solution, before I dive into that ocean.
Gone, gone, gone, gone...
So they wail in despair, they cry it's utterly unfair,
That one should leave this little town, but I can hardly hear them now.
Out and running with the wind I feel the rain over my skin...
...It storms out in the wild, I feel I'm burning from inside!
Gone, gone, gone, gone...
And once I'm gone I shan't come back - there'll be no retracing of tracks...
Destroy the past, leave me wide open, suck me in to your great ocean.
Gone, gone, gone, gone...
Looking from the other shore you tell me that you wanted more.
But you go back to where you came from - leave me alone with this ocean.
Gone, gone, gone, gone...
Last I saw you swimming in the sea, beyond all else far away from me.
And how I long to be with you, a drop of water in the blue...
Sometimes relationships are a bit of an uphill struggle. A dear friend of mine and I happened to be going through the same thing at the same time, and I wrote this for him. I watched him help, help and help his partner who always needed more than he could give. And I watched him move out, but not really move on... there seems to be a lingering feeling of 'would that I could' and this song is written on the very edge of that feeling. A kind of joy in letting go, a kind of regret at not being able to do anything more, a kind of wishing things to be different, but a kind of acceptance of how things are...
I wrote it from his perspective, though the topic is personal to me too, and likely to most people. Haven't you also tried to help someone that doesn't really want to be helped? And felt sympathy but also need a safety distance...? There is something to letting people be the way they are....
The Joy of Defeat
I lost you years ago my friend,
Not for lack of trying oh you drove me round the bend!
But there's only so many times I can fall
Right back into your firing line, my backs against the wall.
Still dragging your feet over the ground?
Still kicking and screaming out loud?
And...I know that we both really dropped the ball,
But there's no need to keep banging my head on your walls!
Oh oh, I'm Losing you,
But there's joy in being defeated too.
There's no-where to turn now you're gone.
I haven't even got misery with which to write a song.
It's a wonder you're still going through
The same old shit that you always knew.
Oh oh I'm losing you,
But there's joy in being defeated too.
Only you'll know when you reach the end,
Still I don't want to lose you my friend.
And I know that it's not my place now to offer help,
But know that I would if I could untie your rope.
Oh oh I'm losing you,
But there's joy in being defeated too!
P.s. Thanks to Kev Wicks for making a pun (with this picture) about 'De Joy of De-Feet'!! :D Silliness always welcome!!