Category Archives: Travel

Ever thought about house concerts? America’s Best New Music Venue could be closer than you think…

It’s about four in the afternoon and the car is pulling up outside a lovely red brick house in North Georgia. We are welcomed inside by Jimmy and his wife Marie along with a comforting aroma of hot apple cider and pumpkin pie that drifts in from kitchen.

The living room is a medium-sized space, open plan to the kitchen, and full of every kind of chair, stool and sofa. There is just enough space at the end of the room to comfortably accommodate the equipment we begin bringing in from the car. It only takes a matter of minutes to start getting everything in place – this is a routine practiced many times over, which is kept deliberately simple.

There will be no special effects tonight, no expensive drinks or stranger on the door. There will be no tedious waiting in line for bathrooms, no noisy people at the bar, and no struggle to find a parking space. Tonight will be as close to home as it gets. This is the charm and ease of the House Concert.

It’s 7pm and guests start arriving, enjoying drinks and snacks, and having a good catch up with friends not seen for too long. Despite everyone’s busy lives filled with work, travel and family commitments, they are brought together for one evening through a shared passion for music. Everyone who can afford it puts a donation in the hat as they come in, to help keep the artist moving down the road.

By the time 8pm comes around it’s time for the music to begin. Sometimes the host of the concert will say something to welcome everyone to their home, show where artist donations can be left, and introduce the performer. But tonight Jimmy’s youngest son Patrick takes the lead and, although only 8 years old, confidently plays the part of compere.

The show is in two parts, around 45 minutes each, with a break in the middle to refresh drinks, stretch legs and perhaps wander over to check out the “pop-up music store” in the corner of room offering souvenirs of the event; posters, T-shirts, and CDs that are happily autographed at the end of the show.

And House Concert set lists are always a little different to the regular. In this relaxed environment newly written songs are tried for the first time, well known sing-along-classics get included, sometimes with an experimental twist, and time is always left between songs to talk. For a real conversation between musician and audience, including questions about how songs were created and sharing amusing stories from the road.

At the end of the evening when the music stops, the CDs are signed and the glasses are empty, for the performer there’s a warm feeling that your circle of friends has been increased by 25, or 40, or 90 or however many chairs were filled that night.

House concerts are a truly amazing way to enjoy live music, make new friends and be directly involved in helping to further the career of an independent artist. You don’t have to live in a mansion to host a house concert. They can be as small as 25 people in your front room to over a hundred spread out in your back garden.

I have toured all over the US and house concerts are so often the highlight of my travels. They have introduced me to some wonderful people who I now consider true friends. They have enabled me to have some amazing experiences; waking up overlooking the Puget Sound in Washington State, trying to waterski on a Michigan lake, and making it possible to afford to travel to Austin Texas to perform at SXSW.

If you love live music and would be interested in hosting a house concert, I urge you to go for it. All the information you’ll need, and more, can be found on my website www.callaghansongs.com/houseconcerts or on the Concerts In Your Home site, www.concertsinyourhome.com

It’s so simple, and so much fun. You’ll wonder why you never thought of it earlier.

See you at your house!

 

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East Coast Tour Journal – Part 2 – Illness, Cancelled Shows and a return to Music City

I didn’t expect to be writing the second part of my tour blog a week after returning from the tour. But I also wasn’t expecting to get ill enough to have to cancel performances, as well as nearly missing one by 5 minutes…

My last blog left off on Thursday night, the day before the Boston show. We were driving from Philadelphia to Boston. A drive that Google Maps had suggested would take about 5 hours ended up, due to unexplained traffic jams, potholes on the New Jersey Turnpike and hold ups, taking 9 hours. The romance of the road really seems a little absent on those kind of journeys.

As we finally made it into Boston the time was 7:45pm and I was due on stage at 8:00pm. There was a baseball game on so there was no where to park, I was in my travel clothes, had no makeup on, and had a truck full of music gear which had to be loaded into the venue. I knew the show couldn’t be delayed as it was being webcast live on the internet. After all those hours sitting in the car trying with all our might to get to Boston, I thought it would surely all be for nothing and the show would start without me.

But sometimes incredible things happen on tour and you surprise yourself how fast you can move. As we pulled up to the venue, and double parked, a group of people came rushing out to help load in. While the crew set up and line checked all my gear I headed to the dressing room, threw on some clothes and makeup in 8 minutes and ran onto stage right at 8:00pm. The room was heaving with people and the crowd were fantastic. After all the stress and endurance of getting there, it turned out to be one of the best shows of the tour. Thanks everyone at Cafe 939, The Red Room, Boston!

The tour continued to be a lot of fun, dueting with Matthew Perryman-Jones and Matthew Mayfield during their sets, to great audiences.

A few days later I started to get that sinking feeling that all singers get when a cold is coming on.

With each day my voice was getting weaker and the pressure in my head was increasing until I felt it was going to explode. I tried my best to keep on singing but it was incredibly frustrating willing my voice to work and feeling helpless. It’s hard to make sound vibrate through a stuffed up nose!

I tried all manner of remedies to keep me going including menthol inhalers, vitamin supplements, cold and flu potions, a family remedy of a good old Irish hot toddie – its effect was very soothing in the short-term! A kindly couple, husband and wife preachers, even offered to lay on hands and seek divine help to keep me singing – I should perhaps    have accepted their offer because the cold kept getting worse.

In the end I ended up having to pull out of two shows and spent 3 days in bed trying to get as much sleep as possible.

It was only until the very last night of the tour that I felt back to myself again. Thankfully the venue, The Altamont in Asheville NC, was a great place to finish the tour – the video above was taken there. Things really finished on a high as all three singers, band members and tour management retired to an Asheville Karaoke bar to entertainingly (to ourselves at least!) re-interpret some classic tunes.

I’m learning with each tour I go out on that you can’t control everything, and the best way to get by is to expect the unexpected.

I’m looking forward to spending this month in Nashville and getting to write lots. As much as I love being on the road, sometimes sleeping in the same bed each night feels so good.

One thing I was less happy about was the not-so-small intruder I found crawling along the corridor of the house when I returned.

Now that looks like a spider that should be hunting outside the house!

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Callaghan – East Coast Tour Journal (Week 1)

Tuesday Sep 18th – Johnson City, TN – Vienna, VA

The tour has officially begun!

What probably have been a 6 hour journey in the sunshine became an 8 hour drive in the pouring rain. It started the minute we set out from Tennessee and didn’t let up the whole day.

For anyone thinking touring might be glamourous, the reality is more often like today – hours spent in the car, a $10 lunch at Subway and visits to very questionable gas station restrooms.

But despite the delays, I made it Vienna for the show at Jammin’ Java. And the first night of the tour did not disappoint. Great show, great crowd and a lot of fun getting to hear my tour buddies Matthew Mayfield and Matthew Perryman-Jones playing live.

I’m very much looking forward to a comfortable bed in tonight’s hotel, and then it’s onto Charlottesville, VA…

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Wednesday 19th – Vienna, VA – Charlottesville, VA

What a difference a day makes. Today the rain stopped and the sun came out.

An early start this morning to get to Charlottesville in time for a radio interview and performance with 106.1 The Corner. You can hear the archive here:

http://1061thecorner.com/pages/4418003.php?contentType=33&contentId=74704

Our route took us on back roads all the way to Charlottesville through rolling hills and past farms with white picket fences. A very welcome change from the interstate.

After the interview there was some time to look round the town of Charlottesville. Sometimes it doesn’t happen like that on tour days, there is only time to get to the venue and start the unloading and soundchecking. So I love being able to get a feel for a place, and Charlottesville, with its small independent shops and pedestrianised streets was a real joy.

Tomorrow we head to the streets of Philadelphia…

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Thursday 20th – Charlottesville, VA – Philadelphia, PA

Tonight’s show started late at The World Cafe Live due to there being a Grilled Cheese and Craft Beer party in the room before us. I’d never heard of such an event, but what a great combination!

The show went really well and I loved getting to perform a song with Matthew Perryman-Jones during his set.

One of the lovely things about visiting Philadephia is getting to stay with a friend of ours who we met through the house concert circuit. We have made so many great connections through doing house concerts across the US and it makes such a big difference when traveling to stay in a house rather than a hotel and get to chat with lovely people.

Maybe one day I’ll try and do a coast to coast tour of just house concerts!

Friday’s show is at The Red Room Cafe 939 in Boston and will be webcast live from this link: http://www.concertwindow.com/shows/matthew-perryman-jones-matthew-mayfield-callaghan

Callaghan with Matthew Perryman-Jones at The World Cafe Live, Philadelphia PA

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Back to Reality…An East Coast Tour, and a Live CD show

Callaghan East Coast Tour 2012

After taking 3 weeks off to visit friends and family in London, I am re-adjusting to life back in the US and getting straight back to my job of performing and making music.

I don’t often take breaks – partly because there are constantly too many things on my list to do! – but this one I think was well earned. After countless shows over the last few months to promote my album “Life in Full Colour” I was ready for some down time.

Touring, I find, is an interesting existence. Each day is carefully planned, so you know what time you have to get up, how many miles to the next venue, what time load in is, where you need to be for soundcheck, what time I’m on stage, meeting people after the show, and then driving to the hotel. Then it all repeats the next day, exactly the same routine, different place.

Assuming everything is going to plan it can be a relatively stress-free time, and getting to do what I love each night sharing my music with an audience gives me immense enjoyment.

But you can’t be on the road all the time, and it’s good to get some breaks from constantly performing to work on my playing, my voice, and to find the time to work on new song ideas.

So, after my mini break, I am very excited to be starting an East Coast tour in a few days with two other performers; Matthew Perryman-Jones and Matthew Mayfield. We’ll be starting the tour in Vienna, VA, and heading all the way up the coast hitting places such as Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Cleveland, Charlotte and finishing up in Asheville, NC.

You can see all of the dates and ticket details on my website www.callaghansongs.com/gigs

There’s also a very special show I’m currently working on for the end of October. On Saturday October 27th I’ll be performing a full band show at The Red Clay Theater just north of Atlanta, GA. It’s a fantastic 250-seat theater and the whole show is going to be recorded for a live CD that I plan to release before Christmas.

As much as I enjoy the acoustic shows I perform, getting to play with the full band is something else. The musicians are mostly from Shawn Mullins’ Band and mind-blowingly awesome! I love getting to experiment when I perform full band shows and do different versions of my songs, as well as some very surprising covers! You can find all the details about the show and get tickets from www.eddieowenpresents.com

Maybe I’ll see some of you there!

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Afternoon Tea at The Ritz – A perfect end to a perfect break

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

London Baby! I’ve been enjoying a couple of weeks rest and relaxation visiting friends and family in my old home town. It’s great being back in a city which never ceases to amaze me in its scale and diversity. It’s been a great time to be back – the feel good factor surrounding the games is still going strong!

London is a city of contrasts in all manner of things. One example would be the weather – you never know what you’re going to get. Last Thursday night I met with friends in a rooftop garden on the Southbank of the Thames – after 10 minutes braving the cold wind we had to go inside, and all agreed that Autumn had come. One week later we were enjoying drinks outside again in hot sunny weather – sometimes it only takes an hour to go from summer to winter, and you have to carry a range of layers to prepare for all eventualities.

I have had two contrasting experiences in the last couple of days doing two old school British things. On Wednesday night I went with friends to a night at the Bingo! A top prize of £20,000 was promised and I was amazed at how quickly experienced players could survey multiple cards, while I was struggling to check all the numbers on my single card. I didn’t get close to winning the big prize, but I enjoyed a good meal of ham, egg and chips! (that’s fries across the pond!)

On Thursday I enjoyed doing something which I think will seem quintessentially British, but which I had never done before – I went for afternoon tea at The Ritz. It was quite an experience.

We were first served champagne (my kind of afternoon tea!) followed by a fantastic range of delicate sandwiches varying from cheese with onion chutney, chicken and horseradish mayonnaise, smoked salmon, and of course the afternoon tea classic – cucumber.

There was a huge selection of different teas to choose from, as well as coffee and hot chocolate.

Then more food…freshly made warm raisin scones served with strawberry jam and clotted cream, as well as a variety of amazing cakes. Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly eat one more crumb, a dessert trolley was wheeled by with two more cakes to choose from – a lemon drizzle cake and a strawberry pistachio cake.

All in all it was just as fantastically indulgent as I had imagined and I’m so glad I finally got the chance to go.

So I didn’t win £20,000 on Wednesday, but I might have gained 20 pounds on Thursday. Even though I may have to spend a few days working up a sweat in the gym once I’m back home, every bite was definitely worth it!

Callaghan with the Commissionaire at The Ritz London

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Becoming a tourist again in London

Callaghan on the Hungerford Bridge overlooking the Thames, London

Something odd happens when human beings get on planes and travel to different countries. People who were previously intelligent magically lose all ability to perform basic tasks like finding their way out of a train station, or buying the right travel ticket.

This is the situation I find myself in now that I’m back in London.

Despite having lived in the city for over 10 years, somehow when I come back as a tourist I lose all my previous knowledge and a journey that should take 5 minutes takes an hour, making one unnecessary diversion after another.

But, even with “tourist-brain”, I’m really enjoying being back in London. Seeing the sights and the changes that have been made since the Olympics and catching up with old friends is great fun.

Here are a few recent snaps I took…

Almost a Waterloo Sunset over the Thames in London

An art display as part of the London Paralympics

View of The London Eye

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It’s all about the family time

After a busy couple of months, and lots of travel including being in 7 airports in the last week alone, I have finally made it to the UK.

I’m really enjoying taking it easy and catching up with friends and family, and thankfully the weather is holding out so far too!

I have espcially loved seeing my gorgeous 18 month old nephew, Noah, who has so much personality and so much energy. The photo of him above was taken in Richmond Park in London by my sister Steph, who is a super talented film photographer. You can see more of her lovely photos on her website www.callaghansmithportraits.com

It’s just a short blog this week, but I wanted to wish everyone a fantastic weekend!

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Fish and Chips, Pints of Beer, S’Mores and Grits – A Transatlantic Feast

 

Traveling, seeing new places and having adventures is great fun, but sometimes there’s nothing that feels better than home. Familiar surroundings, friendly faces and the ease and comfort of many things that you know.

It has been 9 months since I’ve been back to the UK and so the next 3 weeks are a long awaited treat. I won’t be doing any gigs while I’m back, just catching up with friends and family and seeing how my hometown of London has changed after the recent Olympic celebrations. I can’t wait!

One thing I miss while living abroad is certain foods that I never even realised I liked that much when I was in the UK, but suddenly when they’re not available, strange cravings appear.

For those of you in the USA interested in sampling some British favourites, most Publix and Kroger supermarkets have some in their “Ethnic Food” Aisle (an amusement in itself!). You can pick up things like Jammie Dodgers, Heinz Baked Beans, Marmite, and even tins of Spotted Dick which, although sounds like an unfortunate condition, is a type of boiled fruit cake, and actually very tasty with icecream or custard.

   

The foods I’m most looking forward to when I go back are fish and chips drenched in salt and vinegar, a pint of beer in a British pub, and the biggest bar of Cadbury’s chocolate I can find.

And I thought it was about time I introduced the UK to some great American classics, so I’m taking back in my luggage some grits, graham crackers and marshmallows to make S’Mores, and I need more suggestions!

What is your favourite American food that you think I should take back to introduce to my British friends and family? It can be anything, as long as it travels well.

Leave your suggestions below and I’ll let you know how they go down across the pond!

 

 

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Two years into my US adventure, I’m sending Love back to London!

London Olympic Decorations

Flags, flags, flags…The decorations are up for the London 2012 Olympics. Photo by Sharon Addison

Today is exactly two years since I moved to the US.

That time has flown by so fast, and looking back over the last 24 months makes me so pleased I took the plunge and got on the plane to follow my dream of doing music full time. The people I have met, places I have seen and experiences I have had have been amazing.

But there are inevitably things I miss out on from back home in the UK. Events that happen in the lives of friends and family that I’m not involved in like before, TV shows and new celebrities that come and go without me ever being aware of them, and I feel a lot of nostalgia for the streets, sights and sounds of London.

And this week is the start of something very exciting going on in my home town – The Olympics are coming to London.

This will be the third time London has hosted the Olympics – the first two in 1908 and 1948.

Photos have been all over my friends’ facebook pages and I have been scrolling through them all to get a sense of how the city is changing and what the atmosphere is like. Quite a few of my friends are volunteering during the games, and lots have been photographed with the Olympic torch.

The games were awarded back in July 2005 when I was still living in London. I don’t think anyone in the UK will forget that week because the elation of winning the bid on the 6th of July was immediately followed by the heartbreak of the terrorist bombings in the city on July 7th.

For all the stereotypes that exist of the British stiff upper lip and reserve, Londoners joined together to grieve when the bombings happened and are joining together now to  celebrate the huge festival that is the Olympics. I think coming together like that is part of what makes London such a fantastic city.

I’ll be watching the opening ceremonies as they’re streamed across the Atlantic tonight and I can’t wait to see what they have planned.

So, two years after leaving London to start my US adventure I am sending a wish that the sun shines on London and that all my friends in the UK love being a part of the games – and hoping they take lots of photos for me to enjoy too!

p.s. On a funny note, I heard a great story on a British radio programme recently about the “Chap Olympiad”. Held annually in London, the event describes itself as “a celebration of eccentricity and athletic ineptitude with the emphasis on panache and style over sporting prowess”. You can expect events such as the cucumber sandwich discus, umbrella jousting and butler racing. There was one particular event that really caught my eye – ‘The Hop, Skip and G&T’ where contestants leap into a sandpit holding a brimming gin and tonic and get points deducted for spillages. If I start training now, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to win the coveted “golden cravat” next time!

 

Butler racing at the Chap Olympiad

A competitor tries to throw his rival off course during the butler racing event at The Chap Olympiad, London. Photograph: Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images

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Being a Brit in the USA – my first 4th of July

Living in a different country to the one you grew up in often means coming across the new and unfamiliar and I seem to write a lot in this blog about the experience of being a Brit living in America.

So I thought I’d share another “first” that I experienced recently…

My first 4th of July

Although I’ve lived in the US for 2 years, last year I was on the road touring and didn’t get to truly have the authentic 4th of July celebration. So, wanting to do things right, I went onto my Facebook Page and asked people how this holiday was best celebrated. The consensus was that it should contain lots of grilling, drinking, and blowing things up. I think I followed that advice pretty closely and spent the evening with some friends eating burgers, drinking good beer and watching a very impressive firework display.

One thing I’ve noticed since living here is that this country has some great holidays, and 4th of July is definitely one of them. Like Thanksgiving, it’s a chance to get together with friends and family, eat good food and have a good time without any of the pressures or commercial aspects that other holidays can bring.

Of course, I know there is also historic tradition and story behind these festivities, and I’m learning more about American history which I find really interesting (particularly since I’ve been tracking the story of my great-great-great Uncle who moved to the States in the 1800s). Being a Brit there were a few gags from people about red coats and historic butt kickin’s, but it was all in good spirits, and some people were surprised to learn that the revolutionaries had attracted many supporters in Britain.

In the Facebook discussion I had many people also said the 4th is an opportunity to pause and be thankful for the place in which you live. So, Happy Birthday to the USA, and thanks for giving me such a lovely home.

I’ll just finish by quoting one Facebook fan, a Brit who has lived here for a while, who made me smile:

“If someone asks you whether you have the 4th of July in the UK, just reply and say “Yes we do, it comes after the 3rd and before the 5th”

I celebrated my 4th in Tennessee this year…I wonder if the celebrations are the same across the USA? Let me know what you think and I can start preparing for next year!

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