January 2017

This year couldn’t have started better. The first week I headed off to Cornwall to record with The Company of Players.  We were at Cube Recording  and had just under a week to get our debut album together.
It was such a great experience. My admiration for the other band members again rose, my own knowledge of  the recording  process grew, and I can’t tell you how great the songs are sounding and how incredibly proud of this record I feel – and it wasn’t even finished when I left.

Couldn’t fit all my thoughts about it in one blog but some of the things I wanted to chat about in my blog/ things I have learnt this week…

The Studio
This maybe sounds pretentious and high maintenance but a big % of making a great record is about feeling great when you go in to the studio, about that being the only thing you have to think about. I have had some great recording experiences but I have never had the luxury of being able to hire a studio and live on site for consecutive days. My recordings have always been about when I can afford to get in the studio – often a spread out process that involves working lots of hours to save the money and then finding snippets of studio time to try and get in and get stuff down. My last album was a great experience but it was also a substantial amount of time on the M25 in rush hour, taking that out of the equation and replacing it with waking up in a beautiful cottage, eating, showering in the nicest shower ever, throwing on some comfy pyjama-like clothes and walking a few feet over to the studio was just wonderful.

Recording over a few days in the studio without having to run off to do something, or have the producer have to finish up for another client at some point was a great process. It felt like a musical retreat that I came away from feeling all zenlike 🙂

The Studio itself was out of this world. The Microphone I sang in to was worth more than my car, guitars and other worldly goods put together (although not quite as much as my house!) It managed to record my voice perfectly with a really lovely up close sound but somehow didn’t pick up all those weird lip movements and over breathiness that you often get when you try to get such a close recording (although this may have something also to do with Sam and Ross who were driving the good ship that was the studio – I’ll get on to them later)

The set up with little sound-proof booths meant that we could all track songs together live but there wasn’t the pressure of thinking “Gah if I mess up I mess up everyone’s take” because we were all being recorded separately. As a 10 piece band this was so important to us to get the live feel as a big part of our record – oh and as a 10 piece band it was kind of important we could track more than one instrument at a time or we may have been there for quite some time!
So this was one of the best things about Cube but not only do the booths allow you to track “alone with the band” (best of both worlds) they also have clear double sided doors in them so that you can SEE your band members. I am the queen of visual cues and really like to be able to “jam” with my band members – the set up for this is perfect, you get the feeling this place was designed by a musician or someone who has been around musicians their whole life. It is no exaggeration to say that this studio is perfect. They’ve thought of everything.
There’s space to practice, to drink tea, there’s headsets which allow you to control your own guide track separately to anybody elses,  you can control the level of your own backing track throughout a take – I didn’t even know that was something I wanted in this life – but it is 🙂

The People

You probably know how I feel about the other 9 members of the band so here I shall just wibble on a bit about the people who helped record our Album.

Gareth – Gareth owns Cube Recordings. He designed it and made it what it is. The studio has some pretty impressive clients and achievements. It is fair to say he is kind of a big deal. He is also really down to earth, goofy looking in photos, welcoming, funny, friendly and has a magical way of making you feel like you’ve known him for years and you should instantly make yourself really comfortable in his studio.

Ross – Ross was our engineer for the week. He too had a really good way of making you feel like you’d known him ages, for that week he kind of became a band member and I will miss him not being part of our shenanigans. He was funny and sarcastic and enjoyed an unhealthy snack – all good traits of a Company of Players band member. He is also really really talented. I am not good with ages but looking at how comfortable he is as an engineer, as if he’s had years of experience, and just listening to him talk about his life experiences so far, I can only assume he is somewhere in the region of 108? or perhaps he is in his twenties and is just one of life’s over achievers? either way we were lucky to have his skill and his personality with us for the week.

Sam – Sam. Sam Kelly. Sam F**ing Kelly. I don’t. I can’t. I struggle to sincerely put in to words my admiration for Sam after this week.  Sam is seemingly the most effortlessly talented musician you will ever meet, see, hear. Good sounds and songs seem to just flow from him in an almost annoying way.  He once played a Company of Players gig a little worse for ware. Before we went on stage I honestly have to say in my mind I was like “Can he do this?” but being a musician is as easy to Sam as breathing and he didn’t miss a beat. He is magical to watch and to listen to. He is a dream to play with. He is also a wonderful band mate who makes room for everybody.
Sam is producing the Company of Players album. Having seen him work this week I was blown away. Having seen him put in hours upon hours to support everyone to get their best performance, keep everyone happy, pay acute attention to the same track even after listening to it for the 800th time. He never once waned in his enthusiasm. He is so passionate about music and so wants to get this album right. I think he should be really proud of it. We all contribute so much to this band but I think we all left feeling like we owe a great debt to Sam for making this album come together. He’s as humble as he is talented so I will tell you how much work he did on this because I doubt he ever will.Actually he is still their now as I type this. We have all left but Sam’s there (with his beers left by thoughtful members of Said the Maiden) he’s there crafting all our takes into something wonderful. Music is as easy to Sam as breathing. But I don’t know anybody who works harder at helping other people to be their best and at finding ways of sharing that music with other people. I feel lucky to have worked on this project with him. I will remember it for a long time. I am a better musician for it. Thanks Sam, you big melon head 🙂 x

 

The Magic Moment

There was so much laughter and many memorable moments of the week. The Company of Players are a wonderful group of humans and I can Wax Lyrical about them forever but to save this blog from becoming even longer than it needs to be I will just tell you about one moment.

Kelly Oliver was laying her vocal track. It was quite late in the evening by this point so watching from the control room all I could see from the lamp light she had on in the booth was her hand. Her face was in darkness but I could see her hand as she waved it up and down following the melody of the words she was singing. She did several takes – although she could have used the first with no editing if she had wanted to – and each time she sang I actually didn’t even breathe. Maybe this sounds really over the top but I felt in that moment I was probably in the presence of somebody who is likely one of the  best folk musicians of our time and one day  I would be telling my Grandchildren how I sat on the floor of a control room, hot lemon in a mug, spellbound and mesmerised by her. And I imagine my Grandchildren would be crazy impressed because they probably have her poster on their wall and her records on CD – because my Grandchildren listen to CDs in an ironic retro way?!

I think we made a little bit of folk history. I am really proud of my part in it. I can not. Can not wait to share it with everyone 🙂 x

January 2017

Final blog of 2016 

My final blog of 2016 is a rough draft of a poem I sat and wrote this morning after my favourite superhero had visited me 🙂

Spending the morning with a superhero

6 months pregnant. She squats to the floor to be three year old height and plays the same imaginary game she’s played a zillion times. 

She doesn’t roll her eyes, or say “not now” or explain it’s hard for mummy to keep getting up and down. 

She asks about my day, my family, my job. We talk about New Years resolutions (because bringing a human life into the world isn’t enough) 

I ask her what it feels like when baby moves. Is it like being on a roller coaster? Does the whole world shake?
Yeh, it is actually, it’s just like that and it keeps me wide awake. 
And I wouldn’t have known. Because she never says and it never really shows. 

And I love playing with this one who has my superheroes face. But sometimes with a certain look that man is in her place.

They met when we were still in school. we joked he was the love of her life.
Seems he really was, but we didn’t know that at the time.

And we navigate the “do not touch” “be careful” and “that’s not a toy” 
As they enter into my totally unsuitable world. 

Where pets can’t be squeezed too tight and baubles can’t be pulled
off of trees.
My superhero navigates this terrain. To spend some time with me
xxxxx

Final blog of 2016 

1 year

 

This day last year was a “first day of the rest of my life” kind of day. I had woken up from a wonderful party where all  my friends had gathered to celebrate my “retirement” from my full time job as a Young People’s Services Librarian, I’d been working in libraries  for 10 years. So although I would still be working on my charity project at the prison library, I would no longer be a proper children’s librarian! That was a big deal to me.   And look how lovely the library family were – I still miss them.
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I was so so moved by how many of my friends came to my house to party with me. I felt very loved and supported – and I am thinking perhaps I should organise another party soon?

I woke up in this new world on the 8th and by the 12th I was heading off on my first tour of Germany.  I just got back from my second tour of Germany on Sunday – so it seems things have gone full circle.

As so often goes with life, it feels like the year has gone very quickly and at the same time I can’t really remember exactly how things used to be, the changes and the time have creeped up on me.

I wanted see where the road took me but I also had plans for this year too and mostly they stumbled in to place.

I wanted to see a bit more of the world and sing my songs while I was at it I managed to wind my way to Germany, Brussels, Wales, France, Iceland, Ireland and a few far flung corners of England too. I’ve met some wonderful people and seen some beautiful places. I’ve also had a couple of calamities – which is good, I think, because I lived to tell the tale.
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I wanted to spend more time on my music, and I have. There aren’t many days I leave the house without my guitar. I am either playing music, recording music, writing music or teaching music. It is a wonderful, insane, pinch me am I dreaming sort of a life to live – and that makes it all the more easier when I am paying overdue charges because my bills are late again or living off of Aldi soup.

I wanted to develop my Storybook Dads charity project and I have been able to do that. I can’t really understand how I managed to do that at the same time as working my last job. It still has lots of flaws but it is getting there, and it continues to make a real difference to the families who use the project. I recently sat down and started planning all my “dreams” for next year and really putting in to place some more sustainability and development for this was top of my list.

I wanted to be there more for my friends. Many of my close friends have quite different lives to me now and we have to make an effort to make sure we remain what we’ve always been. I got to watch one of my friends little girls for 6 weeks while she attended a course, it was the best afternoon of my week by miles. I also babysat for my friends son (he is only five months, I was terrified) but her and her husband got a date 😉
This Saturday I have planned a “Super Mums” afternoon that involves yoga, meditation, tea and cake for my Mum friends.  Maybe those things sound like obvious things to be doing for your friends but I wasn’t finding the time before – I want to be able to do more of this stuff next year. If you’re my friend – if your life is similar or different or somewhere inbetween – I want to see you more, talk to you more, be part of your world more 🙂

I also wanted to mend my broken heart. Sometimes I think it has mended. Sometimes out of nowhere it sneaks up on me and reminds me that it is very much in pieces. Lately I am starting to think that maybe it is always going to be a bit broken, it’s one of my defining features and there are people who will love me all the more for it – a bit like my lazy left eye!!! Which someone I have a lot of time for told me he has never noticed…which is silly because it is as clear as….well as clear as the eye on my face… 🙂

Apart from the bits where I talk about my broken heart, I tend to try and be positive in this blog but like all human lives there’s been some hard parts to this year, some have taught me things, some have just left me feeling totally helpless and blue. But overall when I look back this year has been a lovely year.
Thank you for being a part of it.  🙂 xxxx

So many people have been part of it that I can’t possibly thank or mention everyone but….

Colin Weston – Thank you for believing in my music and helping me share it across the world. Everything about Independent Music Collective is a dream and I am so proud to be part of it. Gigs in shoe shops, mobile buses and student unions in Iceland – who knew? It is no exaggeration to say you’ve helped me achieve things I have been dreaming of since I was about 12. Thank you from the bottom of my heart…..:) In your face…. xxx

Mum and Dad – For the loans, for the love, the advice, the shoulders to cry on, for looking after the pets when I go off adventuring, for mowing the lawn 😉 and so much more xxxx

Jess Distill – for asking me to join you on your trip to Iceland, for being brave and following your dreams – you make me want to be brave too.
For inviting me to be part of The Company of Players, you have no idea what an impact that has had on me, I have never felt more welcomed and more like a real musician when in the company of you all. Thank you xxxxx

 

There’s so many more people I want to mention who have been such a big part of this year Lauren, Paul, Spinky, Amy, Lewis, Lydia, Clare, Tony, John….the list goes on and on. I have so many lovely friends.

Lots of love
From me and my lazy left eye!!!

xxxxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 year

11 Months

One month away from a whole year of blogging!

After getting back from Ireland I had a week at home of working, gigging, hanging out with my pets, falling over on my skates…the usual, before heading to Looe for a week of rehearsals and a slot at Looe Festival with The Company of Players.

It was a lovely week, as bandmates we’ve all got to know each other a bit better, last time we met to write we had amazing times getting to know each other and a lot of fun, this time we all knew each other that bit better, and the living arrangements (caravans) meant we were all a bit closer all of the time, I think the physical closeness seemed to give us all permission to share more and be more real. I definitely left Looe feeling like I had bandmates, friends and now also people  who I could confide in and who could confide in me.

Looe was breath-taking. I’ve seen a snow covered lake in Iceland this year and a double rainbow in Ireland, so I kind of thought I’d had my share of beautiful places, but Looe was wonderful. I could have spent days there exploring and I hope to go back.
Swimming in the sea had to be one of my highlights of the year – I was terrified! 🙂

Here are some photos of our time…Lovely Looe

 

Alongside some lovely local gigs I have also headed back to The Den to do some recording with Lauren Deakin Davies. I am really enjoying the sessions and excited about the new songs. So far I have recorded one that I wrote almost a year ago while in Germany, one I wrote while I was in Calais, one I wrote when I was in Looe, and one which I wrote in my bedroom in Hemel Hempstead. I am not too sure how I am going to get them out or exactly where or when but I am excited 🙂

 

What else has been happening? Um I saw NFL at Wembley, caught some pokemon with my nephew, played a lovely gig supporting Ben Otowell, got a little promotion at work (woo), got a shiny new housemate which has taken our living arrangements to three ladies, a cat and a rabbit, I also went to see Astronaut Tim Peake on his return to earth tour, caught the amazing Aurora live in Cambridge,  Saw the new Brigid Jones movie with my Mum and pre-recorded  a show with Danny Smith from Radio Verulum (it goes out November 2nd)

Thanks for reading, I look forward to next month, my year anniversary blog.
xxxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

11 Months

Ten Months

 

“Oh, my life is changing everyday,
In every possible way. And oh, my dreams, it’s never quite as it seems,
Never quite as it seems”

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For a long long time I have had this little dream of travelling from Dublin to Galway, soaking up all the green of Ireland and all the wonderful music and visiting Thurles where my Nan was born. I wanted to learn to ride a motorbike, book a month off and travel the Wild Atlantic Way. I didn’t learn to ride a bike (yet) I only had six days off work but I thought “What if I never get round to doing this” so I travelled from Dublin to Galway, went along the south run of the Wild Atlantic way and visited my Granma’s birthplace in what turned out to be one of the best trips of my life! So that’s this blog’s little life lesson – if something’s worth doing, then perhaps it’s worth doing half assed and in a hurry than never getting round to doing it at all?!

I saw beautiful sites, heard wonderful music, chased rainbows, got so drenched in the rain I had to travel to the next destination in my underwear, didn’t see the Cliffs of Moher properly because the fog came, collected stamps in my Wild Atlantic Way passport, drank Guinness in Dublin, pulled my first pint, kissed the Blarney stone….had a really magical adventure.
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Ten Months