Today it is my great pleasure to announce a new endorsement from Scottish luthier Steve Agnew. We met during my first tour of Scotland in April, and after enjoying some deliciously moist ginger sponge cake in his workshop and lazily playing through some tunes with Demi and Clive, we agreed I could borrow an Agnew guitar for my gig that night in Cellardyke.
Any instrumentalist will tell you that once you play something of great quality, it's hard to go 'back', and that's exactly what happened to me that night! I mean look at it...(pictured below)!
Once I'd left Scotland Clive played point person in arranging an endorsement for me, and a few facebook messages later this beaut was delivered to me by Parcel Force (who were, by the way, really, really annoying to deal with!).
I am honoured to be trusted to represent an instrument made with such integrity and to such a high standard and I look forward to performing with it at my future gigs! I expect a flood of guitar-enthusiasts to approach me at folk gigs wanting to play it for themselves ;) Come along, I will welcome you!
Steve Agnew fb page: https://www.facebook.com/pitscottie/
Official Website: https://www.steveagnew.com/
And if you are nosy enough to want to see the official press release, I'll attach it below. I'll also attach something much more funny... while I was researching how to write the best attention-grabbing headline, I came across a headline generator app! So I input the key words, and it came out with....(see below). Enjoy!
Just wanted to say a HUUUUGGGEEEE thank you to Rush Release PR for helping release my single 'All For You'! Here is a little breakdown of what happened...
13 BBC stations picked it up - several of which opted for an interview as well, and I got my first play on BBC introducing in London!
And...thanks to The Folk Show, the music video itself (made by Mat Green by MHG Music Videos) was actually premiered on SKY TV on April 20th!
About the song itself.... it's a rare happy song of mine, celebrating my first two years as a full time musician. It wasn't easy deciding to go full time into something I knew very little about and cared about so much! You know, people give you a bit of a funny look when you first tell them you are a musician. Yes, full time. No, I don't have another job on the side... but despite the sceptical looks and various people's disbelief, after two years I realised that I wasn't going back! And that everything I did with music was for YOU the audience. It's all for you.
So back in Jan I had the bright idea to apply once more to Arts Council England for funding to support my spring tour - basically just to bump up the fees for my musicians and to add a little extra in terms of PR and equipment. I sat down at the Savoy hotel in London and filled in ALL the forms in once really intense, earl-grey fuelled sitting!! I had been preparing this tour for a long time, and with the help of a project manager too, so, for the first time, this tour was all incredibly precisely organised, and I managed to fill out the required forms in record time!
Given that I was very close to the deadline, and that the tour started 4 weeks ago, I was pretty sure they would reject my application, but you know, I had nothing to lose by applying, and always wanted an excuse to walk into the Savoy... But LO AND BEHOLD! While on a rather long train journey to Bristol yesterday for one of the tour dates, just for something to do I decided to fish out my account login details and read through the letter of rejection, only to find out it was an offer letter!
So...as of today, I am delighted to announce that my Spring Tour has full Arts Council England Funding! And that this is the third time my projects have been supported by Grants For The Arts!
I am incredibly grateful for the support of this lottery funded body - they are making a HUGE difference to the arts scene in England from indie artists like myself, all the way up to top concert halls and nationally touring acts.
Let's make this tour even greater!!
Oh. My. God. Another tour is finished!!! I reached more people that ever before, performed in more places than ever before, and for the first time, played with this lot (see above)!
The idea was to bring together 5 of the UK's most talented young folk and acoustic musicians to perform my new music to a much wider audience than I would have by myself. Mission accomplished!
This band features Jack Cookson, Ciaran Algar, Lukas Drinkwater and Evan Carson whose collective accolades are an essay in themselves. They are a powerhouse of music, and it was a pleasure to bring them all together for this project.
"Not so new and unusual are the musicians Saskia has hooked up with, each of whom have previously been given column inches within these pages" Northern Sky Mag
I have to say, this whole tour has brought about a renaissance for me with my original music. I know it hasn't been that long that I've been performing, but, with every concert on this tour, and with the new musicians I had backing me, I have experienced a new side to performing that I felt as a potential within myself, but now finally was able to bring out! Anyone at the launch concert might agree (see Fatea's review here: http://www.fatea-records.co.uk/magazine/live/Saskia.php/)
"a quantum leap for a performer who has mainly been a solo artist until now" Fatea
"Saskia was full of smiles the whole evening and she had the right to be" Fatea
It wasn't just that night that I was full of smiles - it was every night. Every gig, every venue, every show. This tour brought out something new within me. Something that smiles!
After the launch concerts, I went on to do live sessions at BBC Radio Shropshire and BBC Radio Gloucestershire. You can listen to the session on BBC Glos here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05l1fzt until Dec 18th.
All of this is happening for two reasons:
1) I ran a kickstarter campaign in February. 109 people backed it, raising a total of £8000 for me to make a new recording. Pretty phenomenal really!!! My campaign reached it's goal within 10 hours of launching, and kept climbing, and without that boost, I wouldn't have been able to bring in so many talented musicians, and to record and produce a world class album with a world class producer. This album is the foundation of my future in music, and I couldn't be more proud of it. (side note, if you want to listen/download it, you can do so, for free, here: saskiagm.bandcamp.com/album/night-and-day)
But, once I recorded the album, I was left with the problem of how to get funding to promote it!! Apparently, the rule of thumb is to double the recording budget. So, I scrambled for resources to give this music the platform I felt it deserved, and put together a tour, working with all the promoters I had met previously, and bringing together as many people as I could find. But, none of it would have been possible without...
2) ...my second round of Arts Council Funding! Which went to the musicians I worked with, the PR I was able to get, and general costs of the tour.
I feel incredibly blessed to have had so much generosity come my way, and so much support for my music from the Arts Council, from my Kickstarter backers, from the media, and from the thousands of people that have heard and liked my music! From the people that came out to the shows, to those who put me and my band up while on the road, the messages of encouragement on social media, and people recommending me for gigs, media placements and to their friends. Thank you so much for contributing to this UK tour, and for allowing me and my music to develop and to flourish.
We are here to create and keep on creating original music, which I am labelling 'Anglicana' as Anglicised Roots music, and to share that music through live experiences with the public, again, and again, and again!
To the next one!
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?
I have just finished part 2 of my Arts Council funded UK tour promoting my album 'Night & Day'. Now, despite leaving my capo at Hitchin Folk Club on the last gig, it went tremendously well, and I wanted to put up a few of the highlights here!
Huuuuuuuuge thank you's to my tremendous fellow artists involved, to Rush Release PR, and to every venue, host, sound techie, to all the fans that came out and to anyone who offered me a cup of tea upon arrival!
To a bigger and better one next time!
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!