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The Story Behind- The World As I – And the EP Artwork.

The kettle was on, there was a box of tissues next to the sofa and I was sat poised with my pencil and paper… Kathryn came in with 2 cups of tea and sat down next to me looking slightly nervous about what emotions talking to me might bring to the surface…

Kathryn’s son Rob has Asperger syndrome. He was diagnosed at the age of 3.

When I began my journey in search of stories to turn into songs I had no idea what to expect, I didn’t even know if people would be willing to share their stories with me let alone if I was capable of turning them into a song. As I sat to talk with Kathryn that afternoon I was a few months into my quest and I had already sat down with several others. I has listened intently to each of them unveil some of the most private and harrowing moments of their lives. It was often hard to get them to open up, I would ask lots of leading questions or alternatively change the subject for a while to give them some respite if I felt it was getting too much for them. I was careful to be receptive of whomever I was talking to at the time and do my best to gauge their emotional state and when they needed breaks. With the majority of people I had two, sometimes three meetings just to allow them the time and space they needed to recall these painful memories and emotions that they had buried deep inside. This was not true for Kathryn; all I had to say was: “So Kathyrn, Tell me about your son”… the words poured from her mouth effortlessly, just like water from a tap. She talked about his early years and the frustration of not knowing why her son was behaving the way he was, blaming herself and feeling like she had somehow failed her first child. She told me of the day her best friend sat her down to tell her that the nursery had expressed concerns about Rob and that she may need to consider the possibility that he is autistic. Then she divulged the whirlwind of emotions that preceded his eventual diagnosis: relief that everything finally made sense, combined with worry that this condition may ‘take away Rob’s innocence’, his childhood…

I am sure if I had offered to camp out there, Kathryn could’ve happily talked continuously about her son Rob for days on end. The love that shone out of her as she spoke about him was overwhelming, I already felt full of admiration and affection for this boy whom I had never met.

 

When I arranged to meet with Kathryn I thought I would write about how she had coped with motherhood to and autistic son and what it was like for her to deal with Rob’s autism on a daily basis. But the more she spoke about him the more I began to realise that this boy was a very special human being and I became intrigued by Robert and his outlook on life. Kathryn’s biggest fear for Robert was that he would lose his innocence but this couldn’t have been further from the truth! He has the most wonderfully purity about him, an innocence that neither you nor I would be capable of holding on to through our adult life. His view of the world is enviable; he doesn’t understand the concept of lying or cheating; He has a great love of football but rather than support one team he simply supports the winning team of whichever match he is watching, because “why wouldn’t you want the winners to win?”

When he was young, Rob struggled to understand that there was once a time before he was born. He would see pictures and ask where he was and after several failed attempts of explaining to him that he hadn’t been born yet, Kathryn found herself saying: “You were in God’s pocket”. Years on Rob would still tell people when looking at those very photos that that’s where he was.

One day when Rob came home from nursery Kathryn, as usual, asked him about his day. He got frustrated with her; “Why do you always ask me that Mum? You know what I did!” She told him that she didn’t have any idea what he had been up to at nursery as she was not in fact there with him: Kathryn explained to me that it is common for young children with Asperger’s to see themselves and their mother’s as 1 person. Rob believed that Kathryn was with him at all times even when he couldn’t see her. I thought this was such a beautiful thing… The words are pouring out of me even now just as they did from Kathryn that day, I too could go on for pages and pages about all the wonderful stories she told me, but I also want to tell you how his song came to life…

Tears were shed, tea was drunk, hugs were shared and my pad was filled with scribbles of wonderful tales for this song. But as I left I knew that I wanted to write the song about Rob, I wanted to get inside his world and write the song from his perspective on life. He has such a wonderful view of the world, looking at things with open eyes, finding joy in things that would pass us by unnoticed, that I wanted to try and capture this within the song. I called Kathryn and explained this to her, she was delighted and told me that years ago Rob wrote a story about his year in ‘Bridging’ (a school that he went to for 1 year to ‘bridge the gap’ between moving from a school for children with Asperger’s to state school). She promised to ask him if he would be happy for me to read that story and use it for my song…

 

To my delight he said yes!

 

I was like a kid receiving their favourite comic book eager and excited to see what was inside. I sat down and read through what Rob had titled ‘My Top 20 Mad Moments’ and I was smiling from beginning to end. I immediately booked a room at Bally Studios with Rhys(my co-writer). I sat at the mic’, Rhys at the piano and just as the words had flowed out of Kathryn that day, the song seemed to do the same from me.

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With the artwork for this track we wanted to capture the innocence of Rob but also convey the wonderful way in which he sees the world around him. Spinks and I came up with the idea of the Kaleidoscope; we were really excited by it as it was a children’s toy, (which perfectly represented the innocence) that you look through and crate amazingly symmetrical patterns and colours out of broken glass and rubble. Much like Rob does in life; something we might deem to be ugly or meaningless he would fine ultimately satisfying and exciting! Now to figure out how to create this on the canvas of a body (If you haven’t read my previous posts, I decided to do all the artwork for the EP in body painting pictures. I am very fortunate to have a super talented friend and it just felt right that the artwork for songs about real people should be painted on real people)! After many weird and wonderful ideas we settled on this: Spinks painted a geometric globe on my body (to depict the kaleidoscope as a beautiful viewpoint of the world). Victoria Evans then took pictures of me as a slowly spun around, ensuring that she got a shot of each and every country. We then chose our favourite shots and handed it over to Andy Biddle to piece together in a Kaleidoscope fashion. The results turned out to be the EP cover itself. It just felt right. The overriding connection between all the subjects of the EP is that they have worked through a world of broken glass and rubble and created a beautiful life for themselves and those around them. Gained strength and perspective in the face of adversity.

 

This song always gets such a wonderful response at gigs and gives me such a heart warming feeling when I sing it. One of my proudest moments to date is when I played it to Kathryn for the first time and through teary eyes she said “You’ve just got him down to a T, it’s perfect.”

Since working on the EP with Dan, this song, like all the others has evolved from its original acoustic state but I think this one probably went on the biggest journey of all. I found it so hard to keep the innocence of Rob within the new more electronic sound that I was creating for this project but I didn’t want to cast it aside as it has an uplifting, infectious quality that I wanted for this EP. After lots of work and an awkward call to my lovely producer Dan explaining that we needed to re-do it again for the 4th time even though I had signed off on it. I am finally proud of where it has ended up. I still like to play the acoustic version every now and again as I believe that is where the true essence of Rob lays but I feel like he still shines through in the EP version. Thank you Rob and thank you Kathryn for sharing your beautiful world and teaching me to see the beauty in the little things that pass us by.

The Story Behind ‘On And On’

On And On was one of the last stories I gathered and unlike Four Weeks (Hyperlink to last blog) this one definitely resisted being born. It tells the story of a young woman, single, director of her own company and homeowner, who once earned a living taking her clothes off for paying customers.

She told me stories of the corruption and what can only described as prostitution that went on in the stripping industry. Of girls agreeing to meet clients after work for more money. Of girls tricking guys into paying more with the promise of post work connections and then sneaking off home without fulfilling their part of the deal. Of girls allowing guys to break the ‘no touching’ rule in the hope that they would receive a big tip. Of girls paying off the bouncer with oral pleasure so that he didn’t mark down their private dances and thus they would avoid paying commission to the club. These were all risks and violations that she ‘hand upon her heart’ never did. When asked, what was the strangest thing you have ever done, she replied: “One guy, during a private dance, asked me to spit into his mouth. It was so strange but he agreed to pay another £100 if I did it, so I tried my best to muster up some spit… I had the driest mouth and I was struggling to get any saliva up.” It took her a while but she managed to complete his strange request after all and got her £100 as promised.

Aside from all these eye-opening stories that she told the thing that grabbed my attention the most was the battle of dominance that went on between her and the client. It struck me that in a world in which you would assume the male was the dominant by character, in fact the female actually held a significant level of control. The job is essentially women being ogled at by men and being paid to take their clothes of and dance around for men. You would be forgiven for thinking that females were the weaker species here. But in many cases, you would be wrong. When I talked with this young woman it became clear that the power actually jumped continuously between the two of them during the course of their interaction. I found this to be very true to every day life for most of us: The male/female divide; the constant comparison and competition between the sexes and the way in which we use our sexuality to manipulate each other. The stripping environment held a magnifying glass to the subject!

With the artwork for On And On we wanted to capture the sexual nature of the manipulation between them combined with the battle of wills. We opted for skeletons because they are of indeterminate sex. I found the subjects in this story to display androgynous characteristics. I always like to see barriers broken when it comes to gender stereotypes so I wanted to enhance this in all aspects of the song; from audio to video and to the artwork itself. We also wanted to portray the alternating dominance between the stripper and her client which was tricky with a static piece of work; To do this we positioned our models in a pose that could be concluded as both sexual or aggressive.

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Although the topic of stripping may seem somewhat derogatory to women I wanted to approached it with a sense of female empowerment and do justice to the strength and drive of this young women, who now, 5 years on from her stripping career is an accomplished business women with her own property and company all through her own hard work and self belief. Having said that I still wanted to capture the sordid and sexual nature of it. Which I believe is where the problem lay…

When I began putting this story into song I had the notion of ‘girl power’ in mind and it just became a bit of a cheesy pop song! This was not at all reflective of the subject matter, I wrote, and rewrote and rewrote again and eventually I was left with about 5 or 6 half finished attempts and the idea for a song that didn’t really know what it wanted to be. Needless to say we parted ways for a while.

It wasn’t until I got into the studio with Dan Goudie that I was really able to give it the life it has now. By this point, Dan and I had a few songs under our belt and we had carved out a solid, trusting working relationship, which enable us both to take more risks than maybe we would have on day one. I explained the situation with the song to Dan, I talked him through the story of the young woman and he set to work on a beat as I sat attempting to write and rewrite more lyrics. Struggling still I was getting frustrated with both myself and the song, had I read the book ‘Big Magic’ before then, I may have just taken a moment to have a strong talking to my ‘inspiration’ and tell it to ‘show up and do their part’ because I am here slogging away trying to make this work while it was seemingly nowhere to be found! Then Dan’s beat came together and it was like a light was switched on, like the song had been waiting there in the shadows the whole time and this beat was like a huge floodlight that exposed every inch of it. I wrote and wrote and ‘On And On’ was FINALLY born!

 

Watch On And On performed live for Band Vault TV.

Lyrics and Artwork below:

 

ON AND ON

Watch them hover round for a fallen glass

Are you gonna make me dance

Tailored to a roll in this tender war

Let me leave you wanting more

 

We lost we made on and on and on

Power display on and on and on

Private vultures on and on and on

Dry mouth conscious on and on and on

 

You don’t want to play that game

Hand upon my heart I will make you pay

Dripping down into your mouth

You are gonna freak me out

 

Hands on straight laced on and on and on

I turn you may on and on and on

Two faced drink first on and on and on

Six hour secrets on and on and on

 

on and on and on

on and on and on

on and on and on

on and on and on

 

Witness every inch of me

Feed me with your fantasy

Now you are mine

Elevating masculinity

Covering your fallacy

Trolling your mind

 

We lost we made on and on and on

Power display on and on and on

Two faced drink first on and on and on

Six hour secrets on and on and on

 

Come up on distortion fall every night

Independent parasites

My nails down your back hold you to the vow

You’ll repay the debt somehow

You cannot tell the colour of my eyes

Intentions overcast your sight

Line up in daylight and I’ll pick you out

Forcing you to take a bow.

 

 

The Story Behind my new single ‘Stare At Me’

At the age of 20 I was diagnosed with a Teratoma, it was sitting just behind my sternum undiagnosed since before the day I was born. Teratoma’s are congenital and are usually benign. I am happy to say that this was true for my Teratoma but none the less it was taking up a lot of room in my chest causing me a great deal of pain and problems with my breathing so it had to be removed. Though it took us around 2 years to discover it from the day that it began to cause me problems; once discovered I was referred straight to Addenbrookes Hospital for a biopsy and then subsequently onto Papworth Hospital for a Median Sternotomy. I was left with what is more affectionately called a ‘zipper’ scar: the full length of my sternum, along with a biopsy scar around 2 inches on my right breast and a few other little ones around my torso from various different drainage tubes and such like. At this time in my life I was attending a stage school in Cambridge called Bodywork. Whilst I have very fond memories of my time there, as you can imagine, this was a difficult place to be when coming to terms with the new additions to my body…

My Scar

I did a big charity shop run with every item of clothing that didn’t hide my scar and replaced them with a wardrobe of high-necked tops/dresses and leotards for dance. I had scarfs for all occasions and as I became more inventive with hiding my scar, my large costume jewellery collection also grew along with some very expensive camouflage make-up concealer! I recall one morning; I was in the shower, I had not long had my dressings removed; As I began to wash my chest I closed my eyes but I could feel the scar all bumpy and uneven. I opened my eyes and looked down at my once untarnished, smooth skin to see what, at the time I thought was the ugliest scar I had ever seen and I just sobbed. I started scrubbing as hard as I could, wishing that I could just wash it off and be ‘normal’ again…

I would like to tell that young girl what I know now; I am and always will be eternally grateful to my Teratoma, for it gave me the life I have now! I can put my hand on my scar-covered heart and honestly say that without that experience I would not live my life the way that I do now. It gave me an understanding of just how precious and fragile it really is and it taught me what really matters. This has only grown as I have and it continues to grow with every day and every new experience.

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I never wrote a song about my scar; maybe it was too difficult but more poignantly I think I just didn’t want people to pity me.

It was Christmas time and I was home with my family, a few years on from my operation and now with a little more confidence to occasionally lower the neckline of my clothing. Katie Piper– ‘My Beautiful Face’ was on the telly and I was glued. It was a documentary of a beautiful young girl who experience a horrific ‘revenge’ attack from an ex boyfriend. He hired someone to throw acid in her face and she was left with terrible burns that deformed her once ‘picture perfect’ face. After watching it I initially felt guilty for the shame and embarrassment I had felt over my measly scar that I could easily cover with various different ‘costumes’ I’d perfected. I wanted to stand up and shout about my scar and shamelessly present it to the world in honour of those people whose scars and disfigurements were not disguisable. I guess this song (Stare At Me) was my way of doing that. Katie Piper subsequently brought out a documentary called ‘My Beautiful Friends’ where she met many people with various different disfigurements. She showed perfectly their beauty within and opened our eyes to their world. It was as if our desires united with our scars. Although my scar pales in comparison, it was my journey and my experience of it; Of people pointing and staring, talking and looking at me with this face of disgust, confusion or pity; Of children brazenly and beautifully asking their parents what it was on my chest and their parents shushing them as if it was something so taboo that it could not be discussed.

Stare At Me was written from my experiences but was born from my desire to change people’s views of scars and disfigurements. I wanted to tell people that it’s ok to talk openly about it instead of averting your eyes in the hope that we won’t see you staring….

When I was writing the lyrics for this song I wanted to make my point without sounding argumentative, defensive or confrontational. Whilst the staring and pointing was a big part of my struggle to come to terms with my scar and have the confidence not to hide myself. I also understand that in many cases it comes from a place of compassion and a lack of understanding of the appropriate response. Even with my scar, I still don’t always ‘get it right’ but I just act from an honest place and hope that my heart is felt.

 

The most important thing is not to fear someone who looks different.

 

As this song grew into its own and I performed it more and more I began to realise, this is not just a song for people with scars and disfigurements but for everyone who has ever felt judged or discriminated for their physical appearance. Which, lets face it, is pretty much all of us right? We are, at times such a superficial society and we place importance on appearance in such a way that prohibits us from truly loving and accepting our bodies and ourselves. Stare At Me is written with hope that it will help even one person love themselves and all their imperfections unconditionally, for they are what make us unique and beautiful.

Stare At Me is out today (18/11/16) to coincide with #AntiBullyingWeek. 50% of all the money made will go to The Katie Piper Foundation. ‘Helping to create a world where scars do not limit a person’s function, social inclusion or sense of well being.’

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Click bellow to listen to Stare At Me:

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“Home is whatever in this world you love more than you love yourself” – Elizabeth Gilbert

This next blog entry has taken me some time to write. This is in fact my third attempt, after a long break to reflect on the 2nd attempt and the 1st attempt is not really worth discussing. You see, what I wanted to tell you about was the bond that was formed between Mum, Bob and I on our trip from London to Bristol on Kevin James; I wanted to tell you about how each of us had someone we were missing. How Bob had lived for 20 years on a canal boat with his wife until she got dementia and this was the first time he had spent more than a day away from her. How mum and dad had always dreamed of owning their very own boat together and now here we were fulfilling that dream together in his name. How I too had shared that dream with the man I love but unfortunately we had not survived the journey together and sadly parted ways just before we were able to realise our dream. To tell you of how this journey for each of us was so much more than just the destination; It was a journey of strength, of memories, of loss, of pride, of nostalgia, of proof, of self worth, of achievement, of reclaiming our lives. We found not only solace but also we found joy and companionship in the company of each other. We formed an unspoken bond and a memory that will stay with all of us for a long, long time.

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…But as I wrote about this I found myself unable to be as open and honest as I would like, unable to really take you on that journey with me and tell you all I learned about myself; I don’t feel it is my place to divulge the emotional journeys of Mum and Bob but I am not one for shouting about my own private life either. When other people are involved it becomes not only a choice of my own privacy but theirs and that is not a decision I can make alone… So I wrote and I wrote, trying to find metaphors and examples to tell you without really ‘telling you’… but it felt empty and weak and not something I even wanted to re-read. But what I did stumble on in my ramblings was this; my 2nd attempt began as follows:

“It’s my first night home alone…

Home…

This is my home now. “

And over the next few days I started to really think about what home was to me… I came to the conclusion that; home has always meant many different things to me; Since leaving home at 19 I have moved around to many different places: over my 32 years I have called so many places ‘home’. Someone asked me the other day: “so where do you call home?” and I said: “wherever I am at the time.” But I don’t think that is strictly true; I have lived some places that I have not really called home in every sense of the word and in the same respect even when I have lived places that I have called home, I would still go home to see my mum. So maybe home can be many places at once… I guess what this means is, home is where I feel most connected to at any moment in my life. IMG_5767I have a link on my keys that holds all my ‘home’ keys and I realised the other day that there are now 5 keys on there. All keys to different places that I would still consider ‘home’, I would still feel completely at home in all 5 of them. But right now they are all overshadowed by my connection to my new home, my very own home, the place that instantly felt like home, the place that feels so completely me that I truly believe we were destined to be together just me and my home; The Kevin James.

 

 

As a creative person pursuing a passion that I love more than I can really explain to you, there is very little time or space for convention. My life is wholly unconventional and sometimes it is to my detriment but always it comes down to one thing and one thing only… music. So having a space that I can call home and knowing that it can come with me along this crazy journey is a comfort that I have not felt before.

IMG_5759Every other home I have had I have always known that I would one day leave but with kevin James, I feel like we are going to be together forever!

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I watched a lovely Ted Talk tonight, which sums up home really well: In it Elizabeth Gilbert talks about home being to do with love, which is what I believe all the keys on my key-ring have in common; In each of those places I felt/feel love. My favourite line from the talk is: “Your home is whatever in this world you love more than you love yourself”. Well for me, the ones that remain constant in my life and are the reason I call each of those 5 places and many more ‘home’ is Music, Family and Friends. Whatever your home is be sure to realise that it is not the bricks and wallpaper that make it that way, it is the love that you feel within it. If your happiness is ever challenged or tested and you feel uncertain of whom you are and what you’re capable of… Just go ‘home’ and it will all be ok.

 

We made it!

It’s been a bit crazy to say the least. Once again I have struggled to find a moment to sit down and write. I am sat out on the deck of my new home the sunshine is blazing and all I want to do is tell you how amazing my new way of life is but before I do I have the last leg of the journey to tell you about… and man what an eventful last leg it was! I left off in my last entry the day before Devizes and this is the day is all started!

We got up a 6am and set off at 7am in a bid to get to Devizes by night fall to moor up and hit it hard the next day. We were setting off from Hungerford, moored up just after Lock 74 and heading to Devizes, which starts at Lock 50 so there were 23 locks to go… Mum and I had our windlasses at the ready!

We got off for the first lock, dogs in tow and smashed through it in no time, we have a little routine going now which has been unconsciously perfected throughout the trip. When we finished lock 73 we could see Lock 72 up ahead so we thought we would stay off the boat and walk ahead give the dogs a little run… Well this was basically the theme of our day; we didn’t get back on our boat until after Lock 55! Although we popped the dogs back on a little before that which Barley made clear he was not happy about when he turned up soaking wet mid way through our lock prep. Our sight of the boat was blocked by a bridge so as mum grabbed Barley I ran down to Bob to check he was ok: Barley had managed to nose his way through to the front bedroom and then launched himself of the front of the boat! Luckilly when Bob was mooring up to wait for the lock to empty he looked down the side of the boat to check his distance and saw Barley’s bright yellow life jacket! There he was just swimming about in the water… Bob ran down and hauled him out the water with the help of another moored boater and once Barley was on dry land he bolted after us! Crazy dog!

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19 locks down and god knows how many miles walked/run we were knackered!

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Next up Bruce Tunnel all 502 yards of it, time to test the headlights!

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We hopped back off the boat at Lock 54; 4 more locks to go and all in quick succession before we could get back on The Kevin James and cruise the next few lockless hours to Devizes. Excited, exhausted and pushing through we were both pretty happy when we got to lock 53 and the paddles we seemingly easy to wind up, not too much resistance at all…. “Ah these are nice and easy.” I said and mum agreed, what a relief, if the next 2 are like this we will smash through them… Sat waiting for the lock to empty it was a good few minutes before it dawned upon us: The lock was not draining, the paddles were easy with little resistance because there was no resistance! They had not lifted at all, the lock was not emptying and suddenly our 6am start and hammering through 21 locks in no time came to a crashing halt.

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Bob made a call to Canal and River Trust and they assured us they would call us back. 40 minutes went by the lock had managed to drain halfway and plateaued and with 1 other boat waiting to come down the lock another boat came into view up ahead heading up the lock, just what we needed. It was a 70ft narrow boat with a group of 6 old boys on their lad’s holiday! A quick chat with them and they agreed to try their best to nudge the lock gates with their boat in the hope of allowing enough water to escape so that we could push the gates open. With our boat tied up in the lock and four of us on each: On 3 we pushed with all our might as one of the lads drove the narrow boat into the gates. There was some deceptive movement in the gates, which turned out to just be the bending of the beams. The lads were not giving up and continued full throttle into the gates, one old boy even climbed onto the gates thinking he could make a difference with his sheer brut strength but I think that was more to do with the amount he had had to drink than his actual ability.

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With the cue building up the heavens opened! Two hours went by and the Canal and River Trust finally turned up only to take one look at the boat and say; “yep, you’re not getting out of there tonight…” Undeterred I was not about to let their pessimistic, defeatist attitude stand in the way of our journey and undo all our hard work that morning. Mum and I seemingly took on an unrehearsed good cop/back cop routine. I expressed my extreme disappointment in their diagnosis and demanded they give me an exact time in which they planned to get the divers here to sort the lock. Then along comes mum apologising for the hassle this has caused them and with and understanding tone, sympathising with the ‘bad week’ they had had, which they were all too keen to tell us about: ”I know its not your fault” she said. Bob had not given up either and had managed to get some coal ash from the lads boat which he climbed up onto the top gate with and poured down the middle successfully attempting to block up the cracks somewhat in a bid to reduce the water coming into the lock so that the flow going out was greater and thus the 2ft of water left in the lock would slowly reduce. With the coal in but unsure how long it would hold Bob came and said to the two CRT lads: “can we put some pressure on this gates to see if we can let some water out enough to open the gates?” “oooo, we can’t do that, we’ll snap the beam”. Bob, too polite to argue their crazy logic just accepted their response and walked off. In comes bad cop again: “Lads come on. I don’t mean to be rude, you look like strong lads but between the four of us I don’t think we are going to snap that beam! Lets just try. ”Well, I don’t know if it was their bruised ego’s desperate to prove me wrong or just the sheer shock of being challenged by a woman but they complied. Mum ran off to get the lads who were now way more than two sheets to the wind and were just untying their ropes to head back up to the pub for the night. 6 of us on the one gate, the rain pouring down we heaved with all our might. By this point our friends Viv and Ian had turned up on their bikes hoping to meet us along the way to Devizes not expecting to find us in this state; They too jumped on along with a few others from the ever growing queue of boats and we did it!!!!! We were free!!!!

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In a flash we hauled the bikes onto Kevin James, elated to be set free from captive we carried on down the river without a second thought for the boats that we had left behind stuck there for the night till the divers came and fixed the paddles…

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We did, of cause spare a thought for them eventually; we’re not that self-absorbed!

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Slowly drying out and thankfully only 2 more locks to do we powered on but only made it to Honey Street by nightfall. Nothing another 6am start wouldn’t fix: We got to Devizes at 11am. Ready and raring to nail these 28 locks!

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Although we had called out to various people to come along and help, we had but one taker in the form of Nigel Dean. What a clueless trouper he was!

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With him being ordered around the locks by mum and I, the three of us managed to get a little routine going and smashed it in 3.5hrs.

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Proud as punch we had a celebratory cheese on toast and cuppa tea then carried onto Semington where we moored up for the night. Just as we locked up the boat and headed down the towpath to The Semington Arms for our first and only dinner out (treating ourselves for all our hard work). We were met by the ever ‘on his way’ Tom Sheppard. Just in time for our celebratory pub dinner and drinks the windlass we had brought him for his arrival and help at Devizes lay untouched in the back box on the Kevin James.

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We had a lovely dinner; Tom and I managed to win pool as Bob ‘the hustler’ lost his hustle by accidently potting the black! Kate Dean joined us at 9 for a late ordering of mushroom risotto and then we all headed back to Kevin James for a little nightcap before bed, lush!

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The next couple of days went by in a flash; with another early start and back down to the three of us we managed to make it to Hanham Lock by nightfall.

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Coming through Bath, the Widcombe Flight of 6 locks didn’t faze us at all however the last Lock was a seriously deep one, so much so that both mum and I struggled to close the gates afterwards. After several attempts we decided to join forces and with my hands on the gate and mums hands around my waist so that she could get her feet onto the poorly placed ridges for some grip we pulled with all our might and not without lots of funny looks and laughs from the passing traffic we got it moving!

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Getting back onto the river was a change of pace; with all the rain the river was flowing pretty fast and we were flying along. There was very little traffic on the water, as I believe most sensible people without a schedule to stick to, decided to stay at home. But halfway to Hanham we met a boat coming the other way, which had seemingly forgotten that you always pass port to port and was now heading straight for us. In a panic I handed the tiller to Bob who was equally panicked but with mum franticly signalling for them to get over we managed to squeeze passed each other. However this left us right in the bushes, poor Bob was desperately trying to recover us but with the flow of the river it was not an easy task. Before we knew it we were right over the other side in the trees, mum and I had to duck right down while Bob stopped, calmed the situation and with a clear head and a quick lift off of the brand new chimney we had just bought he waded us through the trees and got us back on track with only a broken navigational light to show for it. Thank god for Bob! Although once we got to Bristol we did find half a tree under our bow!

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Waking up at Hanham lock we were only an hour from Bristol so we were able to have a slightly lazier start to the day and head off around 9am. We got to the lock and the moorings were flooded! Undeterred Bob nosed the boat up to the gates and we hoped off the bow straight onto the gate. As we started to wind the gates up the lock master came out in his dressing gown explaining to us that the river was closed due to the flooding and they were not letting anyone in or out of Bristol. Bob tied the boat up around the top of the mooring post that was just sticking out of the water and climbed off the bow while I held the front end in with the rope. A quick chat with his old drinking friend Trevor the Lock Master, a call to the Lock Master at Netham Lock and we were on our way! It’s not what tiy know ‘ey?

It was not going to be an easy ride but Trevor knew Bob was more than capable and sure enough we made it to Netham lock in record time! So much so that the Lock Master was not ready for us. As we waited patiently for him to sift the rubbish through (which was why he allowed us through knowing he had to open the lock for his daily rubbish duties anyway. Also FYI we think this may be where we picked up the tree on our bow but it was more dramatic to say it happened during the near miss!) I started to reflect on our journey and how far we have come. It has been such a journey for all three of us in more ways than one.

Watching as he turned away other boats we couldn’t help but feel a bit smug. Mum and I went and bought a 15 day visitors pass for Bristol (I am currently on the waiting list for Bristol Marina) as I had decided to spend a few days there before heading over to Portished where I am going to moor while I wait with finger crossed and baited breath for a mooring in Bristol.

We got back on the boat and Bob handed me the reins saying: “right skipper, he’s all yours, my work is done, away you go.” A proud moment as I cruised down the Feeder canal, taking the tight right turn with ease, bob said: “well, I’d have been proud of that, you wouldn’t have done that last Monday” and proud I was. We approached Bristol Harbourside and much to everyone’s distaste I decided to moor him up right outside the bustling Arnolfini. It may be noisy at night but if I’ve only got 15 days here I wanna get right in the thick of it!

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As we turn the engine off, a glass of Presecco on a completely empty stomach marks the end of our journey together as a threesome and the beginning of mine as a boat dweller…

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I couldn’t be prouder of the three of us…. London to Bristol in just over 9 days!

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THANK YOU GLASTONBURY

I have tried to write this several times and each time the words I write don’t express the feelings I have for this place.

The unbelievable enlightenment it gives to me year upon year.

Unless you have been there it is hard to explain… you can’t quantify what it is about Glastonbury that is so spiritually enlightening.

There is just something there that makes you go…”Oh I get it now…This is what life is all about.”

Whether you are laying in a field somewhere for an afternoon nap.

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Singing your heart out at the pyramid stage.

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Dancing the night away with all your friends.

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Sat around a technicolored campfire at the stone circle.

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or stopping dead in your tracks to catch an amazing sunset.

 

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You just feel ………………………………………………………………………………….

(there are no words for that feeling)

 

So Thank You Glastonbury, every year you remind me exactly why I am doing this!

I love you! x

 

Festival Season So Far

The sun is shining, the birds are singing and the festival season is in full swing!

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We started the year with Cosmic Puffin Fest, a cute little festival on Mersea Island… Having finished the album the night before I was a little worse for wear to say the least! I am really not cut out for the rock and roll lifestyle, early night and a cup of tea is what i need before a gig. But needless to say I powered through. The stage can be a very sobering place! The audience grew throughout our set, piling in and filling up our cute little tent till it was busting at the seams… We even got invited back next year! Maybe a heavy night and 2 hours sleep really is the way forward (I’m not convinced)!

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Then onto Colour Fest a non-alcoholic yoga festival (Just what the doctor ordered)! And what a wonderful festival it was; the sun was beating down so hard by the end of the day my freckles had multiplied! We had 2 slots at this festival one at 4:30pm and another at 10pm (The penultimate act on the acoustic Stage). So in between sets we indulged in 4 solid hours of laying in the middle of a field listening to live music and doing absolutely nothing! We did take a short break for some super delicious vegan food from No Bones Jones, all we were missing was a daisy chain head band, some hemp clothing and flowers painted on our faces! But seriously, I can’t recommend this festival enough. If you are a city hippy like me then this is your chance to get back to your roots and ‘explore the depths of life’. In the picturesque grounds of Lord Shaftesbury’s estate you can get involved in music, yoga, movement, massage and more… or alternatively you can remain horizontal and do virtually nothing but soak in the overwhelmingly peaceful, calming atmosphere!

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And finally; on Monday night we performed back on my home turf; Bristol. Big Green Week have set up a solar powered stage at the top of the Cascade Steps. At the mercy of the sun (which thankfully was out in all it’s glory) we were the earliest headline act in history; finishing at 7:30 just to ensure we didn’t lose power. This was quite the experience, the audience was ever changing as people passed and stopped; sat down for a song or two before carrying on with their day, passed and stopped; staying for the entire set because life’s too short to be rushing everywhere, passed and stopped; taking a quick picture or video on their smart phone (I always wonder where they end up). Beginning our performance to an audience of my mum, boyfriend, his 2 friends, my sister and nephew… At one point I would say we had around 50 people stood listening which was such a lovely feeling; knowing that they had been distracted from whatever they were doing and made the choice to stand and listen to my songs. Whether it be for one song or the whole set it was an amazing feeling and I am grateful to all of you who did that! Big shout out to Chris- the crazy Welshman who was so drunk he had fallen asleep on his train home ending up in Bristol and stumbling upon my set. I think you are the biggest fan I have, sorry we didn’t play ‘House of The Rising Sun’ for you but thanks for the dancing and I hope you made it home safe!

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Now you know whats coming next….. GLASTONBURY!!!! I will be performing backing vocals for the lovely Ruth Royall on the Sunday at 12:45 at The Pussy Parlour… and the rest of the week I will be mostly wearing wellies and listening to music in a field somewhere on Worthy Farm with my friends!

Maybe see you there. xxx

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Farewell to 2014 we had a great time together… Introducing 2015!

There is frost on the windscreen and a smell of pine trees in the air, the Coca-Cola advert is on the telly and John Lewis are doing their best to bring us all to tears. I think Santa must be on his way…

It’s that time of year where we all reflect on how fast the last 12 months flew by and look forward to the year ahead with fresh starts and a clear mind.

So what does 2014 mean to you?

For me 2014 has been a 1000 step staircase made up of tiny little manageable steps. While one step alone doesn’t feel like a massive achievement when you turn around and look at how far you have climbed you feel pretty damn proud. Throughout the year I have stepped, jumped, tripped, fallen, got back up, skipped and ran up the stairs. Each tiny step getting me a little closer to my goal. And as the year draws to a close I feel very happy to be booked into the studio for January to finally start bringing all these songs to life. It has been a busy year, much of it you guys have been directly involved in and much of it has gone on behind the scenes and still can’t yet be talked about but a busy a beautiful year it has been.

So as we wrap up for 2014 and say a farewell ’til next year I reflect on a few of my steps:

Hitting my Pledge target was such a huge step towards making this album possible. We are still going with the campaign and you can still make your pledge and from here on out 15% of the money raised goes to Weston Hospice Care. A charity very close to my heart. I have been working with them a lot this year and was honoured when they asked me to perform at ‘Light Up The Lake’, it was a beautiful evening of remembrance for lost loved ones. It was wonderful to see so many families who have been helped by this wonderful charity. Thank you so much to those of you that made your pledges. I hope you are enjoying your goodies as they make their way to you. I am enjoying the photos of you with your gifts and your lovely messages so please do keep them coming. You can still pre-order my debut album at Pledge Music.

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Matt- With his Thank-You Card.

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Jo- With her Lyric Sheet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another big part of my musical journey this year was relocating from London back to my West Country roots.  Giving me more time for my music, family and sanity! To read about my love affair with London head to my previous blog.

I have had a great year of music, working with some frankly out of this world amazing musicians! I can’t even put into words what a bloody privilege and joy that has been… I am gradually getting together my team ready to hit the studio in 2015. Here are just a few of the people I have been lucky enough to work with. Click on their name for more info on them and what they do;

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Bill Banwell in rehearsal.

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Miguel Andrews in rehearsal.

photo 2 Davina Vincent at London’s United Voices gig, Shoreditch House.10516727_10154501931780008_856475324325699517_n Graeme Foy at Light Up The Lake for Weston Hospice Care.

10458020_10152535020557948_444724545219340737_nNevedya at The Alma, Bristol.

1511609_10204040021933945_8005020296310036960_oRuth Royall and her band at Mr Wolfs.

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Kate Dean doing backing vocals at The Musician, Leicester.

10444790_772593762775133_1610341163641651756_nGareth Esson rehearsing for London Rocks.

378965_10150485830840993_1724112763_nRhys Williams performing at The Comedy Club.

My fav gig of the year has to be The Musician Leicester supporting Nick Harper what a wonderfully talented, genuine and funny man he is.

My favourite new music at the moment has to be Jack Garratt what an amazingly talented man he is…a modern day ‘one man band’. Having tried to catch his live set for so long I over the moon to hear he was playing in Bristol and I had the pleasure of seeing him perform live at The Louisiana last week. He blew me away, to watch him is stop be inspired. With a guitar strapped to him, one hand on the keys and the other holding a drum stick he still managed to give a note perfect and extremely emotive vocal performance! If you haven’t already heard his stuff I highly recommend you check him out.

But I cannot reflect on 2014 without a thought for the crazy lady that is my manager Miss Cat Music herself. She has kept me sane when I needed it, cracked the whip when I needed it and let her hair down when I …. all the time! We have had a great year and as we go on into 2015 ready to finally make my debut album I can’t wait to share the journey with her. I think this picture really sums up this year for us.

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So in fear of rambling on forever in what started out as a blog just to say have a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and see you in 2015. I will finish with a little taster of what is to come for next year.

I have a very exciting gig on 30th January. It is a one-off intimate gig only 6 tickets available! It’s at a secret location in Balham, London where I will be cooking you dinner and keeping you topped up with Mulled Cider all evening. You can find out all the details HERE.

We already have a handful of festivals penciled in the diary from all over the UK and we will be announcing those dates next year.

I will finally be in the studio so if you have made your Pledge then you will be getting all the sneak previews of whats going on behind the scenes. Including first listen to every track as its born.  CLICK TO MAKE YOUR PLEDGE.

I have a new website coming up. On which we will be announcing the winner of my logo competition. You can still enter your logo ideas, details here.

Lots to look forward to. Time to start making my vision board for 2015!

Have a wonderful Christmas and a brilliant New Year!

Take Care

Sian x

 

 

 

BBC Introducing with Tom Robinson on 6 music
 
 
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