Has anyone seen her?

I didn’t do a June daily diary video. I filmed a bit of stuff but actually, although June was full of lovely things and some very different moments to March, April, May it didn’t really show in 3 second snippets of each day. It all looked a bit like a Groundhog Day, which is something I think most of us want to move away from in this lockdown/limbo time. 

I really enjoy those diaries though. I like making them, looking back on them and I also enjoy watching other people’s (Charlotte Campbell’s  being a favourite!) So maybe I’ll bring them back sometime. Maybe for August -as July is already galloping away with us.

My videos also didn’t show the thing I have most been searching for in my days so I thought I could put that in a blog post. The videos show a lot of noise. There’s workout videos and library stories. Live performances and baking. Crafty making and socially distant gatherings. Song after song after song… but the thing you’ll often find me doing is searching for the silence. Where is she?

This is the most time I’ve ever spent alone but silence evades me. 

Since lockdown I’ve been doing a lot of my work and my music from home. My work also involves a lot of music making, which is nice. This last month I’ve recorded

  • A drill beat, a Beyoncé style ballad and a gorilla style funk beat (for a wonderful charity project I was able to work on)
  •  vocals on friends tracks
  •  a song for every single team coming back to the premier league
  •   more traditional folk song ideas for future projects with Said the Maiden
  •   several cover songs for campaign funders.
  •  Demos and ideas for my own music
  • library videos 
  • video tutorials for most of the sessions I used to teach as a music tech teacher.

    Recording and filming and editing over and over and over. My own voice grates and I make sloppy edits as I tire from hours of it.

I don’t usually record things at home, I do them at work or in the studio with a producer. I make rough demos, sure, but really outside of lockdown I either do things at work where the software and equipment are much better or I hire studios to work in and I think that’s ok, as a solo artist I think it can be important/fun to work with others regardless of your home studio set up or skills in this area.

But being  an audio engineer/producer/mix/mastering engineer are skills  people spend years learning. It is funny somehow that musicians are expected to successfully wear a lot of hats to be PR, Social media, tour Manager, agent, promoter, distributor, producer, engineer, live tech, merch designer etc etc., and that during lockdown it has come as a surprise to people that not all musicians have the equipment/skills/funds to just have a home studio/stream live.

But I digress, my point was just to say that this recording at home, like so many other things we are all having to adapt to across the world, is not something I normally do – it has been a positive of lockdown to be able to embrace it and learn more, I don’t have great equipment – running free software on a PC with a mic donated to me by a friend – but it is a poor workwoman who blames her tools and I have been proud of the skills I have developed and the things I have created. 

Working and learning and making the best of what we have got is sort of 2020s tag line in a lot ways.  So if I had shared a video of June it would have mostly been snippets of

  • Clearing desk space.
  • Ordering new mic stands
  • watching You tube tutorials
  • Trying to control what noise gets in and out of my space.
  • Controlling the space as much as I can.

    But I can’t control the noise.  The noise is

The children outside in the school playing field that backs on to my house

The tree strimmers from the lockdown garden project a neighbour has undertaken

The lockdown DIYers from all around the close

The arguments from next door

The Sirens 

The traffic 

The dogs…the four dogs my neighbours have

The cats…my cats! 

The phone pings

The doorbell

…And so I am

Always chasing the silence.
Waiting for the moment she arrives to catch the elusive recordings
She is a Moving beast BUT You can predict when she’ll be there. ..or you can at least predict precisely when she can’t.

I look out of my window for her.

I note the days the children are not at school or the times the neighbours leave the dog out in the garden to bark

I try to trap her in foam squares and duvets. She is elusive.

She does not want to come over for tea, she does not even want to sit in the garden at a social distance. She hides. I can’t decide if she holds no regard for lockdown rules at all, that she is entirely doing her own thing, or if she is still unsure, just beginning to step back in to normal life, so you can catch her cautiously stepping out when less people are around, at times where there is less activity that is when she decides to take her daily stroll.

When I look at it that way, I understand her reluctance to make an appearance and I patiently wait to catch the elusive silence so we can make recordings together again. 

 

 

Has anyone seen her?

May 2020

I usually like to keep a monthly tour diary, thought I would carry it on in lockdown as something to do/look back on. May has felt like quite a long month in many ways. These are snippets of my days but they are also the snippets I am willing to put on my blog. It’s been a really challenging few days across the world and, like so many others, my heart is currently heavy. It isn’t all roller skates and ukuleles but I am very appreciative of these moments of joy. Stay Safe xx

Link for May’s video 

 

May 2020

Ganning along recording a terrace choir

Recording the Terrace Choir 

***A very long version of events of how this came together – for those who may like to know***

So trying to organise this kind of thing can be tricky.
I needed the Football ground (Berkhamsted Football Club, myself, the filmographer (Tom Willmott) and the recording engineer to all be able to line up a date with a reasonable amount of time to ask people to come along and sing!

Both myself and Tom Willmott work full-time jobs alongside being full-time musicians/photographers-filmographers (yeh the maths doesn’t work out!) Then we spend our evenings gigging, filming etc so even between us the dates were limited.

The ground is used as, well… not surprisingly,as a football ground! And their first team were in the middle of an unbeaten run sitting at the top of their league table when I started to bother the chairman for some time in his ground – The Club and Chairman Steve Davis could not have been more helpful.

So we got a a date, I could do it, Tom could do it, it was reasonable amount of notice to gather together a few choir members – although they really did need to use their outdoor voices to make the numbers up and that they did – Thank you all!

But it was not enough time to source a sound engineer to fit the date. So I cobbled together what I could and set about to try and host, lead the session and record – which doesn’t sound like a lot to do but it is a faff – trust me  (when the pizza was late I almost had a breakdown)

I don’t have “good” equipment to record at home. I have access to some fantastic equipment at work so saving up for a tour van has been more important to me than buying recording equipment (yep, if I could have read the future I certainly would be stockpiling amazing audio equipment at home for recording/livestreams and not concerning myself with a van so much but …who knew?!)

So I had to make do and mend!
I recorded with one condenser mic, two handheld zooms and I used one ShureSM58

I read up a lot about placement for wind dissipation as this was my main worry – luckily we had a fairly balmy night and this wasn’t a major issue. Having the condenser embedded in the crowd helped. They sort of worked as soundproofing allowing the mic to pick up the voices of those directly around it.

I had to move the mic around a lot. The condenser (the one I used in particular) loves a quiet delicate sound – it is my microphone so that’s perfect for me – but I struggled to hear the lower end and it didn’t sound much like a football crowd!

I did a few takes with Christopher Lawley holding the mic stood in the middle (If you don’t know Christopher, he is a folk singer come town-crier come sea-shanty man and was born to sing on the football terraces)

We did a lot of takes. I ran a click through the ShureSm58 track in the hope it would give me help in lining things up later (it didnt! and Nick Harris of Spare Room Recording – Music Production did a lot of what I believe he calls “Massaging” in post production)

So when I got home I had a lot of tracks to play with.
I ended up using takes from the Zoom recorders to actually get a bit of the “background/wind” noise back in to the tracks and more of a “crowd” feel so that they sounded like they were on a terrace – the condenser had perhaps been too good at its job and I was glad I had those – Although I don’t advise you just leave a zoom running in the hope you can edit up over an hour of just streamed audio! – Editing took a while. I drank wine. Lessons have been learned!

But with a lot of tweaking and then sending to Nick for perfecting I was really happy with the outcome. It was exactly what I wanted to capture, a terrace choir but without actually using terrace choir footage.

I didn’t seek footage already recorded at Newcastle for two reasons – 1) I wanted my own and the fun of that project working with friends in that way, I am also keen to see if I can make links with local clubs and support them in some way through this project.
2) Real terraces, honest real terrace recordings, often sound like a wall of sound, they make perfect sense when you’re in the middle of them but adding them to a recording wouldn’t have quite given me my desired effect.

Thanks to the brilliant skills of Nick and my good group of friends and family who seem to be up for doing ridiculous things at the drop of a hat, I got exactly what I wanted!

Tom Willmott caught it all perfectly in this footage.

Hope you like it too. xx

 

Click to see the Blaydon Races

Ganning along recording a terrace choir

Drip Drip Drop little April Showers

Well, the last few days have been quite similar to the ones before, as you might imagine! Here are some photos which sum up my new little world.

I’ve also definitely been having more “wobbles” and not being able to get to sleep. I see a lot of people experiencing this sort of things so as much as the overriding feeling is that this is a total normal reaction to such a weird scenario it still feels frustrating and upsetting and you want to get control of your own brain back, thank you! Please!

 

This post was doing the rounds on facebook and it seems pretty succint way of summing up this situation for when I look back on my blog!.

Petrol prices at a record low(£1-02 a litre)
Self-distancing measures on a rise.
Tape on the floors at grocery stores to help distance shoppers 2 metres apart.
Limited number of people inside stores, therefore lineups outside the store doors.
Non-essential stores and businesses closed.

Entire sports seasons halted and potentially cancelled. Olympics postponed a year.
Concerts, tours, festivals, entertainment events – cancelled.
Weddings, family celebrations, holiday gatherings, even funerals – cancelled.
No masses, or synagogue services.
Schools are all closed, some open but for keyworker children only while our NHS staff fight this on the front line.
Teachers teaching online, keyworker employees still going to work everyday and a nation of homeworkers trying to keep the country going. Employees on furlough to keep business safe.

No gatherings, no social events all cancelled. Playgrounds closed and no group sports.
We are socially distanced from one another. Families seperated in isolation. Relationships on hold.
Shortage of masks, gowns, gloves for our front line workers.
Shortage of respirators for the critically ill.
Panic buying sets in on toilet paper, disinfecting supplies, paper towel, hand sanitiser and a whole bunch of foods.
Manufacturers, distilleries and other businesses switch their lines to help make visors, masks, hand sanitiser and PPE.
Factories ordered to make ventilators and hospital bed shortages forecast. Stadiums being turned into hospitals.

They say it started in Wuhan, China at a seafood market. Hundreds of thousands affected, dead, dying, critically ill.
Many have recovered.

This is the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) Pandemic, declared March 11th, 2020.
Love xx

Drip Drip Drop little April Showers

March 27th-29th

I’ve got myself, as you can see from the last entries, in to a bit of a timetable of working out, tidying the house, working on music, working on library stuff etc. I’ve actually felt quite busy! There is definitely a lot I’ve let slip with trying to work and gig and music so much so really I could spend the whole three weeks off work just tudying this house – which is shameful I know – but even after just a few days of having time it is already a cleaner, calmer place and that feels really nice.

Friday (27th) and Saturday (28th) saw a couple more online streamed gigs with Robert Lane. I really loved them, I don’t have a great set up and am just live streaming from my phone, it certainly doesn’t replace the live gig for me but it is it’s own thing and it’s own thing is something which I love and will definitely continue to do going forward. Friends from Norway and Germany watched, my friend who can never get a babysitter watched! Things I hadn’t really thought about before! I lack a bit of confidence in what I do and it would have taken one of these people telling me they’d like to see me but can’t for me to think of doing something online, I would never assume there would be people wanting to see me. I still have those quiet gigs (had one in Hemel, my home town really recently -although the virus situation was just rearing it’s ugly head so maybe that one had good reason) but at those gigs I am always thinking “what can I do to make people come?” “how can I be better?” whereas now I might switch my mind to “How can I be more accesible?” “How can I take this to people?” and that’s a really big positive for me to come out of this situation.

I’ve been making monthly little vlogs of gigs and here is March 🙂 Click for March

There’s a little break now before what would have been my next scheduled gig with Robert so we hope to come up with something exciting for the next one too 🙂

I’ve also been working on my pre-order campaign for my next record “you’re not singing anymore” I’d been a bit confused about how best to proceed with this – in light of everything but I have decided to plough on 🙂

I have an online Zumba class tonight, a Virtual Said the maiden rehearsal on Tuesday, A google hangout with friends Wednesday – amazing how quickly we’ve all adapted to this side things.

xx

 

 

March 27th-29th

March 26th – Day 2 of being off work

Well today, looked quite similar to yesterday..
I did the Joe wicks workout again – I had definitely fallen off of going to the gym regularly due to working and gigging so much so this is definitely a benefit to these hard times. I also did this workout with my friend and her little girl via Whatsapp video call. It was nice to see their faces. I feel for parents through all of this, single parents in particular, the lack of routine and the limited activities you can do with the children. My sister is at home with my niece and nephew alone as her fiance is isolated at her own house. My nephew finds being out of routine hard and is at the age where he wants to be out with friends. My sister is doing an amazing job of it, trying to get some routine in and using their outdoor exercise time to do a lot of geocaching! 🙂
Was discussing with my friends today (via messenger) some of the challenges, particularly in households where you have one person working and another at home – there seems to be an expectation to the person at home that the whole house should be shining like the Chrysler building! Or that they’ve somehow got things a lot easier. It is a tricky thing to navigate when things have changed so quickly.

I then spent the day on music admin, it is SO nice to have a chance to get through this – somehow the mountain doesn’t feel much smaller but I am off work for three weeks so I should get on top of it, there’s just the added changing of things and figuring out online shows, what we can/can’t do looking at the year ahead etc. I have also found it has gone a little quiet on the replies – I guess a lot of the people I am contacting are not in their offices/working/responding to emails at moment as are managing *all of this* too.

I made another library video 🙂 Which, even though they aren’t great quality, take me about an hour to film and edit.
Click to see video 🙂 

So I find myself at lunchtime having not done an awful lot and go on another mad house tidy. Things are getting better there!! Ha ha!
I also do some stuff for work – putting together my session plans for my prison creative writing group. I work a little more on my record pre-order ideas and I sign up to be an NHS volunteer – I will have to wait until they’ve checked my ID and there’s been hundreds of thousands of people sign up which is amazing so I am not too sure when I will hear back.

Anyways, I just wanted to blog this unusual time. I print my blogs out and keep them in my memory box and I feel like this is a time I (or maybe someone else in my family/life) might want to look back on at a better time 🙂

 

xx

 

March 26th – Day 2 of being off work

March 2020 – Unusual times call for a blog!

We certainly do find ourselves in unusual times. yesterday at work we were told it would likely be our last day in for three weeks. I work in a prison and we’ve been making efforts to keep all the activities running as much as we can,  so although my gigs and social activities had all been cancelled for a while now, the whole virus thing hasn’t felt too real just yet.
When I heard the news I had mixed feelings. Some relief that perhaps I could just now bunker down and ride this out – not have to worry as much about being out and about and potentially catching/sharing the virus. I also felt sadness at what that might mean for the prisoners – no activities and surely a lot more time behind their door, and what that might mean for the already stretched officers.
I have two roles in the prison. One working in the library and one teaching music technology. I spent my last day making up boxes of books, newspapers, crosswords, magazines to go to each wing to hopefully provide a little bit of library to those who are now facing a lot of time in their cells. I wrote a note and dropped next month’s book to my book-group members (we were due to meet this Thursday)
I burnt CDS of my music students work and sent it to them with a note (and a reminder to think of their room mates and neighbours when they are working on their music!)
And that was all I could do really. I have found out today we will be going in on a rota basis to make sure we keep sending fresh resources and learner packs to the students.

So today was my first day in proper”isolation/self-distancing” mode- although I’ve been doing that at weekends and in evenings it all feels a lot realer when you’re sent home for “at least three weeks”  I shall admit to ignoring my initial idea of getting up at my usual time, I was awake but I messed around on the internet for some time!

at 9am I did Joe Wicks workout (link here), something crazy, like almost a million people tuned in to his live stream workout, which is designed as a PE session for all the children who are isolated at home at the moment.  Seemingly I am a lot less fit than your average school child!!

I then worked on plans for an IndieGOGO campaign for my next record. I had sort of shelved the idea, it seems strange during all this to try and plough on with things – especially things which involve people supporting you financially when everyone is so squeezed, but it feels like, although I could wait until this all blows over, there’s also the fact that almost everything has come to a halt and perhaps powering on with the plans we had where we can is a good way to keep sane through all this. So I made some plans and made some drafts and plan to launch something soon!

 

I then spent some time working on my “Virtual Library” this is a new idea I decided upon. Just trying to bring a bit of the library to my friend’s children who are at home. Here is my latest installment!(Link here)
So far these videos have made me realise I need some better equipment and software for film making and that my eyebrows are very dark compared to my hair! But hopefully any children watching them will enjoy.

IMG_7599

I had some lunch – food items and ingredients already looking a bit ropey and it was a bit of an odd concoction. I think I will try to hold out going to the shops until my rota day to go in to work – seems like just making the one journey out would be more sensible?! We shall see how the supplies go!
Then I did some housework! Ha ha! This is the most neglected part of my life a lot of the time, and if I don’t use this extra time to get on top of that then I shall have let myself down somewhat! I do enjoy everything being more ordered and tidy! It just never stays that way between work, gig, work, gig, life, gig, work, gig, gig, gig. It has to be said it is nice to be forced to slow down and look around and re-evaluate. There are positives that can come from this, it is just hard to feel any joy in those things when people are paying the cost with their lives and the lives of their loved ones. I certainly get little peaks of worry every now and then about the reality of what the world is facing. I look forward to brighter days.

I also did a little more glossing. We started decorating the front room a little while ago. It has been on the “to do” list for sometime but we only get round to it when football and gigs got cancelled. Of course things have escalated in the last few days so it is not really possible to get any materials but I am finishing off what I can. Have gloss. Will gloss.

That’s been today so far. There’s been a lot of getting distracted by scrolling online which isn’t ideal. So I shall maybe have to lock my phone in a box tomorrow!
I also need to be doing some work from home which hasn’t started yet.

my evening plans involve getting on with some of the work from home I could be doing, clearing my inboxes, catching some online gigs and trying to remember it is not the weekend and I shouldn’t drink wine.

 

if you’re reading this, thanks 🙂 Take care and stay safe
xxx

March 2020 – Unusual times call for a blog!

Tour Dates 2020

Here are the dates for the first 3 months of 2020!
I am so excited to be heading out with Robert Lane for some of these shows.
I will also be presenting my 2020 release “You’re not Singing anymore” at the Big Comfy bookshop in Coventry on January 31st. This will be a chance to hear songs and stories from this record before it’s official release in spring, I also have my first ever show at Cecil Sharp House – this will be a songwriters circle format and I will be performing with Alex Seel and Greg Hancock – definitely a highlight that I am looking forward to already.

Thanks as always for following my adventures. It means an incredible amount to me.
Hope you have a lovely Christmas and end of year – see you in the next decade 🙂

 

Below the poster are all the links you will need for tickets 🙂

Green Textured Typography Poster

 

January 13th – Colindale folk Club Info and tickets
January 22nd – Southey Taproom Info and Tickets
January 31st – Big Comfy Bookshop Tickets and info

February 1st – West Malvern Social Club Tickets and Info
February 9th – St James Church Hall, Exeter Tickets and Info
February 23rd Bluebell Roots Arlington Tickets and Info

March 7th – Tower of Song Birmingham Tickets and info
March 13th – Colmworth Golf Club – details to be added asap
March 14th – Cecil Sharp House – London Tickets and Info
March 15th – Unplugged Corner, Harpenden –Tickets and Info
March 20th – The Harrison, London Tickets and Info
March 27th – The Manor House, Sedgefield Tickets and info
March 29th New Mills Sofa sessions- Details TBA.

 

Tour Dates 2020

March 2019

 

March started off really magical. A meet up with the other Maidens to continue rehearsals for our first outing in May! – which seems VERY close. It does fee like things are coming together but with all of us having a lot of other things going on time to meet up is short and we snatch evenings between other things to work on the setlist. I am so excited for what is to come though and genuinely can’t wait to be out gigging with Kathy and Jess who were already such good friends but we have grown even closer during this process – hopefully that will show in the harmonies.

I have been documenting a bit of my journey of joining the band in Vlogs on my youtube account if ya fancy a look, click the link—. Minnie’s You Tube

My first gig in March was for Marcus who hosts house concerts up Birmingham way. these concerts are always a real pleasure, as most house concerts are, I really love the idea that people open their homes, sometimes to strangers, to share music with them.
I was opening up the evening for Grimm Fawkner who I 100% recommend you check out. I thought he was something really special and it was so nice to spend the evening with him, Marcus and other friends. Love this snap of Marcus, Me and Grimm 🙂

56652777_2333188646923302_8068873355832328192_n

I couldn’t stay the night as needed to whizz home to be up early for the Helle’s Belle’s Hertfordshire Roller Derby Home Bout. This is the team I Skate with – although I am not quite at bouting standard just yet! Hopefully one day! The skateres representing the team are the stars of the show but the home bout really is a full league effort where it is all hands on deck to human the tickets, lay the track, sell raffle tickets and cakes, welcome other teams and generally make sure the whole day works like clockwork. The team did amazing, it is always so inspiring to watch them skate.

Roller Derby is one of my favourite things to do. I only get to go once a week (sometimes less when things are super busy) as music gobbles up most of my free time, but I love it dearly, every week I am terrified and every week I overcome that and there’s something really good in that! It has welcomed me in to its arms and introduced me to some of my best friends, it’s made me fitter, stronger and braver.
56927179_432245430868607_3993168465325195264_n

March also saw an outing with the ‘Rebel Choir’ ( I am not sure if we settled on this name, it just sort of came about when I put a few friends together to support Dacorum’s Extinction rebellion) This time was an outing for International Women’s Day. Myself, Jess Distill and Lizzy Hardingham sang some songs (including the awesome “Nana Was a Suffagette”) firstly down in Hemel town with the Labour Women’s Network and then at a male prison where we sang and held a little singing workshop. It was really nice to be able to celebrate IWD with singing. Here we are in Hemel Town 🙂

56852680_2160035470700400_429793103818260480_n

This month I also welcomed Steve Warner to my prison open mic where he performed for residence and shared with them stories of his faith, how he became a songwriter and also about his experiences with dementia and the creation of a charity single and also with mental health. He was such an interesting performer. I really hope he will come back soon. I have a few more artists lined up which I am funding from a campaign I held with my newly forming charity “Josie Dear”  I really feel the visitors compliment the work I am doing in the prison and are an important part of helping to take people out of their daily challenged and relax, talk, enjoy music together.

Then the final week of March …I began recording my Football EP at Spareroom recording. I am really in love with the process of recording. This record feels very different. I am reworking old songs so in many ways there isn’t the same sort of personal investment. With my own songs I am always quite open to lots of production ideas from people I am working with, I have a lot of my own ideas but think it is quite good to get an outsiders view on songs you have written yourself, about things you’ve experienced yourself, through eyes which are your own, processed by a heart which is your own, played on a guitar which is your sound, with hands which have certain limitations and a certain style, all told by a voice which is your own, in a tone you know, in a range you are comfortable with…you get my point? It is good to get a producers/outsiders ear involved. This record however is quite simple, the songs are re-working of old folk songs and as much as I have added instrumentation in areas and Nick has certainly added his production skills and flair – more on that in another blog I am sure – I have kept it pretty much just me and my guitar. I have adapted the songs to suit a Minnie style and to try and tell the story of the journeys they have made from their origin to the terraces/kop choirs (Did I mention they are all folk songs which are now sung as football chants?!)
bit essentially I wanted the traditional songs to shine through and be recognisable and I hope they are. One track isn’t in a key which suits my voice at all, it is quite a raucous number and to get it out I have to really sing quite differently to how I am used to – I wasn’t so keen at first and found myself saying quite despondently to Nick that I sounded like Mary Poppins. But it has grown on me, I think I am finding my folk voice – I hope people will hear it and love it (and not be too reminded of Mary Poppins) I was really pleased to invite Tom of  TCW Productions to capture some footage of the recordings. Getting my parts down in the studio was stage one and there’s some more bits to come. I am not too sure when these songs will venture out in to the big wide world but I am excited and nervous to know how they will be received.
Anyways sorry, as always the blog is late, is poorly written and all over the place 🙂 But if you are a reader of my blogs, a watcher of my vlogs, a listener to my songs, THANK YOU!!!!! 🙂 xxxx

March 2019