I should probably keep far more of a diary than currently is done of day to day events. If nothing else, it would probably maintain a certain level of activity. Or even restrain a large level of laziness.
2016 started pretty nicely. There was just about to be the release of the first of two EPs, and a launch gig with Mellowtone at The Scandinavian Church. Home was nice too, and David Bowie, Prince, Victoria Wood, Maurice White, Glenn Frey and so many other amazingly talented people hadn’t died yet.
Work had already begun on a follow up EP, which was going to be called ‘After The Rain’. The decision had been taken to record the songs in the flat, entirely solo, with an internal mic pick-up on the acoustic, a SM-BETA 58 on the voice, a shallow bodied resonator, some odd organ sounds and a box of cereal.
By the end of March, it’d been pieced together with a supporting tour. Some gigs were rooms full of people (like, unsurprisingly, Liverpool), some were empty (Nottingham) and others were surprising in what kind of audiences turned up and listened (Swindon). The most positive experiences were really realising I could book the shows and traveling around trying the whole thing out. I really enjoyed traveling with Charlie McKeon on the dates we both did together, and would happily tour with that guy any time.
Perhaps one of the best/funniest moments was getting the late night coach from Nottingham to Sheffield, traveling with our friend Matthew Blake. We had all just played a gig at an amazingly beautiful venue called The Lofthouse, to an audience of almost zero. Matt had surprised me and Charlie just a few nights before in Leeds.
He was on his way to Manchester, and our stop was on his way. He looked exhausted: I can’t remember the exact chain of events but it basically involved him traveling all week with with his girlfriend Lauren who lives in America but at the time lived in Spain, so her visit was the typical case of long-distance cram: a visit to a cousin, visit to her family, get to the airport, get back to the airport etc.
I remember discussing the US election with Charlie and what we thought would happen (spoiler alert, Trump wins). Charlie has American citizenship, and I was somewhat piously insisting he voted, and asking which state his vote was counted in. Previously dead to the world, Matt Blake emerged from the seats in front looking like the monster from the green lagoon to make his suggestion that “it might be New York”. The shadows formed on his head looked like pondweed, honestly.
All in all, it was really great to play those dates in Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, London, Nottingham, Sheffield, Swindon, Hoylake, Bristol, Shrewsbury, Market Drayton and Chirk. I’m really grateful to the people who put me up during some stays as well: Emma, Fabia, my brother Sam, my Mum, Tracy & Simon, Gemma and of course Alex who provided me and Charlie with a lovely van to sleep in in Market Drayton.
The last half of the year really became, for me, about recording new ideas, specifically with my friend Thomas McConnell – still in the demoing stages, this should form the bulk of a new project in 2017. I also had the great fortune to work with Tom Wiggans, a highly experience FOH live sound engineer who has been on the road with the likes of David Gray, and is currently FOH for Bombay Bicycle Club and Bloc Party – I really hope to get more stuff down with him in the future too.
I’ve continued my work over at The Jacaranda Club in Liverpool. Having been the open mic host on Thursdays and Sundays for over two years now, I have found myself promoted from the basement to the ground floor on Sundays and the record store on Thursday, which is more of a laid back showcase event. The staff are amongst the brightest sparks for me – everyone who works there is witty or sassy or Samiran.
The year itself has been a bit strange. Brexit, the election in the US of Donald J Trump, the deaths of large numbers of performing arts royalty and the re-design of the Toblerone bar. Personally, I think these things are all very negative in the short-term but in the long-term will possibly be a helpful slap in the face to quite a lot of people on either side of the political spectrum who have been fairly nonchalant about everything until this year. Something good will eventually come out of all of this.
Or the Apocalypse. Might be the Apocalypse.
Regardless of all that stuff, I’ve loved getting work with certain people or get to know people this year and it’s been far and away the best year of my life. In particular Charlie McKeon, James Thorne, Muireann McDermott Long, David McTague, Joe Maryanji, James Kirkham, Marlie Centawer, Daniel Saleh, Daniel Astles and far too many others I could or should or would mention as well.
I’ll see you in 2017.