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What a week, what a show…Recording my first live CD

It felt good being back in Atlanta again. After so much time on the road and recently spent writing in Nashville I love the opportunity to get back to the city that has become my first American home.

A chance to drive down familiar roads, catch up with friends, and to start rehearsals for my show at The Red Clay Theatre just north of the city, in Duluth.

This was the first week of band rehearsals but preparations for the show had been going on a lot longer. For this show I wanted to push the boundaries and really see what is achievable despite being an independent artist on an independent-sized budget. I wanted the audience to feel like they had seen a big show in the intimate setting of a 250-seat theatre.

I was venturing into areas that I had never been before – designing a lighting plan, timing the set to know how much space was left in between each song, costume changes, as well as recording and filming the whole night.

Luckily I had help. Lots of help from people who I cannot thank enough, and who worked so hard putting the show together with me. I now understand why those arena shows have hundreds of people on the team!

The day of the show went by in a blur. It reminded me a bit of how on your wedding day people tell you to take a step back and enjoy the moment. There was so much going on that it was a challenge taking it all in. Because of extra time needed sound-checking for the actual show and for the recording, as well as a few issues with positioning the new grand piano and a guitar breaking, I was still on stage at 6pm, only an hour before the doors were opening.

And I still had to film backstage interviews, get dressed, go through vocal warm ups, and eat some dinner! This is so often the scene before a show though, and there was so much riding on this particular one it was hard to relax. Somehow it all got done, and I was there right on time to walk onto the stage for the first song – a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Walk The Line”.

The set list for the whole show was:

Walk The Line / Folsom Prison
Look Around
Sweet Surrender
Smile
Close My Eyes
Love Me For A While
Piece of My Heart
Get Me Through Tonight
The Edge of Love
It Was Meant To Be
Green Eyes
Alone
Lost
Over The Rainbow
The Only Thing Real
Noah’s Song
To Be Loved By You
Best Year
At Last


I’m still working out which songs will be on the final live CD which I hope to have available by the end of the year. A good idea for some Christmas presents!

I’ll be putting up some live footage soon on my Website and Facebook page, as well as some photos from the show.

I can honestly say I learnt more from this show than probably all the others I’ve done combined, and maybe there are some things I’d change next time, but that’s what performing is all about. Learning and improving. And I can’t wait for the chance to do the next one…I’m already thinking of new ways to make it even bigger!

I’d like to say a big thanks to the team who helped bring the show to life:

Kip Connor – Recording 

Shalom Aberle – House sound, Red Clay Theatre

Eddie Owen – Owner

Zach Wetzel – Lights

Steve Sherrick – Videographer

Jolene Eyre – Wardrobe/ Styling

Lisa Stephenson – Hair styling

Scott Lowden – Photography

And to my wonderful band!

Tom “Panda” Ryan – Bass, Backing Vocals, Musical Director of the band

Jon Poole – Drums

Davis Causey – Electric Guitar

Jeff Box – Keyboards

Shannon Cochran – Acoustic/ Electric guitar

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A thought for those hit by the storm…

Unfortunately the joy of the weekend was followed by Hurricane Sandy – and it was shocking to see the devastation that unfolded in towns and cities where I have enjoyed playing shows and meeting people. I hope individuals and communities who have lost possessions, homes and even loved ones, will find the strength to get through a very difficult time.

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Lost in Cyber Space – How Many Websites Does One Musician Need??!

Sometimes I imagine there was a golden age when being a musician mostly meant creating music and writing songs, going out and performing at shows, and and then going home to practice and get better. But it’s easy to look back through the rose-tinted glasses and forget that making a living from music has always required a lot of other work to support the creative side of what you are doing.

Since the invention of the internet being a musician means you spend a lot of time in the virtual world. As of writing this article, I maintain 9 websites –

And the only reason it’s 9 and not more is because I had to put a limit on it somewhere, otherwise ironically my plan to leave my desk-based job and do music full time would still leave me sat in front of a computer screen all day.

But there are new sites coming along all the time to draw me in and are hailed as THE site you must be on if you want any presence on the internet, just a few suggestions include; StumbleUpon, Digg, LinkedIn, and Flickr.

Once you start looking into which sites your videos should be shared on, how to get your songs on internet radio shows and podcasts, where your blog should be hosted and how to connect with other bloggers, how to make sure search engines like google and yahoo know your sites exist, and how often you should be updating all of these sites with new and interesting content, your head starts spinning until you feel you would be lucky if a short thunder storm passed through and caused a temporary power cut to shut your computer off and give your brain some temporary relief!

The huge upside of all this is that there are now  so many new ways for musicians to connect with their fans and to reach new people who will also hopefully become fans. I really love the ease that comes with having a Twitter and Facebook page where I can chat with the people who came to my show last night, or recently bought my CD. And it’s a great way of letting people know about a new song I’ve written, a video I’ve made or a show in their area.

But what’s the cost of all this time spent communicating virtually? I was discussing it with a musician friend last night and we were wondering whether we are all forgetting what it means to connect with someone on a personal level, look them in the eyes when we talk and take the time to listen to what’s going on in each others’ lives, instead of scanning through short bursts of impersonal information posted to computer screens each day. I’ve believed for a long time that if you spend a lot of your waking hours passively engaged – whether that’s on the internet or watching TV, it’s not a good thing. It makes it a challenge to suddenly try and engage your mind and imagination, to write songs, or to take an active role in what’s really going on in the world around you.

And perhaps even more sad than that, as a good friend of mine is always lamenting, the internet has killed the art of the well told joke. No one can ever remember a joke they read on an email, no matter how funny, hours later sitting in the pub with friends.

I guess like many aspects of life, there are downsides and upsides that have come with the invention of the internet. So, I’ll just have to remember not to overdose on internet time. Like the super indulgent Thomas Keller brownies I made yesterday, everything is good in moderation.

Now, I’d like to ask you to not check my Twitter or Facebook page, and instead go and tell someone a joke!

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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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