How does it feeeeeeeeeeel?!
Before I crack on, here’s my next few live dates as they stand at the time of writing:
10th February – Blue Bistro, Coventry 8pm (£3)
13th February - The Grand Union, Leamington Spa
21st February – Hot Mumbers, Cambridge.
26th February – The Wild Boar, Warwick – feature spot amongst open mic night
28th February – The Church Street Townhouse, Stratford.
15th March – LAMP (new venue) 8pm & The Townhouse 9pm (Leamington both)
19th March – The Merchants Inn, Rugby.
29th March – The Maudslay Pub, Coventry £4?
18th May – Cafe Ort, Birmingham
25th May – Ireby Festival, Cumbria
2nd June – RSC, Stratford £22.50 (Billy Bragg support)
7th July – Stratford River Festival & later The Clarendon Pub, Leamington Spa
Once again I find myself homeless. Well, maybe that’s not quite the right term as I’m never short of a bed and am lucky to be welcome in many peoples’ homes, but circumstances have meant I had to leave the communal house I was renting a room in. The old place is up for sale, my furniture is in storage, and I’m honing down my possessions and moving my essentials into a friends house to look after it and feed the cats while they go to Texas for a while. It’s incredible the amount of crap one can accumulate over the years! One more trip in the car though and I think I’ll have everything moved.
As much as I love the romantic idea of just having my guitar and a small suitcase and hitting the road and making do the reality is that I own three guitars, a bass and a banjo, amps, microphones and a PA system that I need for making a living. I have a laptop to social network, blog, research, shop and communicate. Then comes all the kitchen utensils, food items, cameras, books and clothes; all the non essentials that I’m reluctant to lose or leave behind. I’m also fond of picking up stones, bits of wood, pine cones etc but that’s another story. Saying that, I’ve been fairly disciplined in taking a lot of things to the charity shops and recycling centre, and given some bits and pieces to people I know will use them.
I suppose we’re all quite attached to possessions and although it’s mostly too tough a prospect to go the whole Bhuddist hog and give everything away and shave your head I believe it is good for you to de-clutter and pass on useful items to others regularly. Verging (again) on the hippyish I also believe it comes back to you. I always find that with a bit of patience, those things I really need tend to come my way, often as gifts or present themselves when the tie is right.
Anyway, coming back to the present: here I am at another friend’s house, in front of the laptop with a cup of tea. The tea is of the Yogi range which always have little quotes on their tags, ranging from the simple and profound to bizarre and laughable. This afternoons tea says “Remember you exist with a purpose”. Excellent. Well, I’m not dead sure what that may be yet but I hope it’s more than being Uncle Wes, the one with the beard, without a proper job or a house who goes around playing music to variously inspire or scare the ever increasing number of kids my friends keep having!
Apologies, I haven’t said a thing about music yet.
Still fresh in my mind is the Conor Oberst show I saw last Monday at The Barbican centre in London. Conor Oberst is the singer and main songwriter behind the band Bright Eyes and I’ve been a fan of his music if not his attitude and lifestyle for many years. Brad Blackwell who plays double bass with me (and many others!) mentioned months ago about the show and boked the tickets and we met up in the big smoke to see a magnificent show in the impressive Barbican Centre. The sound was great, we had good seats, the set was long and full with some of my favourite songs from Bright Eyes, his solo records and even the Monsters of Folk project record. The backing was simple and impressive from electric guitar, piano, vibraphone and violin and there were more than a couple of spine tingling moments of lyrical and melodic beauty that, being less of a man, might have caused me to sigh and my eyes well up. Overall I can report that for a fan it was well worth the ticket price, the travel, the ‘orrible rush hour tube experience and inspirational for a songwriter aspiring to develop such a rich and extensive back catalogue. My only gripe was having to drink my ale out of a plastic cup during the show!
Although miniscule by comparison I had my own intimate solo show at the Church Street Townhouse in Stratford on the last night of January. Annie Dressner from New York via Cambridge came to play too and we winged our way through Whiskeytown’s “I Don’t Wanna Know Why”, an old favourite for both of us. It was a very quiet and listening audience in the back room of the pub and I was able to play a handful of my new songs that hadn’t been gigged before as well as bring Liz Crowley on to join me on some older ones. They seemed to get a good response and I got some useful and detailed feedback from my management team and some close friends about the whole performance. I’m happy it went well as it’s surprisingly nerve wracking to play on your own and to air brand new material for the first time.
Coming back from London yesterday and amidst my packing and sorting I had a call about an interesting opportunity to record some vocals for a song at very short notice. Within a couple of hours I had driven to a studio owned by a guy called Harry Lightfoot who, amongst other things, does regular commissions for television. I recorded vocals for the hymn “I Vow To Thee My Country” that follows the Holst melody. It’s not my usual style or method of working but we got it down to our mutual satisfaction and Harry produced it and sent it off this morning.
So, you may hear my dulcet tones on the next Downton Abbey or something in the future or more likely none of us will hear anything about it again, but still it was good to have the experience, meet Harry and see his studio and also meet his absolutely huge and docile dog.
I hope the year holds many more such events and that another change of scenery will inspire yet more songs.
And remember, if you or any of your friends wishes to patronise a hard working musician and has a room/boat/caravan/treehouse/field (i have a good tent!) they are willing to let for a few months then let me know (email@example.com)
Oh – and in further news, I have a support slot for Billy Bragg in June in Stratford! More on that to come.
Stay warm, eat your (seasonal) veg and be good to yourself,