James Frost

Official website of UK songwriter James Frost. Come sit by the fire...

GLASTONBURY

Glastonbury Festival ... heard of it? 

100+ stages, 500+ artists, 175,000 fans, thousands of traders, stewards and production teams. And one crazy farmer who lets them all in. 

For five days in late June, Glastonbury Festival is the biggest city in Somerset with over a quarter of a million people gathered on the legendary 100 acre site. In fact, far more people are living on Worthy Farm during the festival than are living in the whole of Oxford, Cambridge and many other urban areas in England. A quarter of a million people! The scale of it is hard to believe.

Plus, these days, it commands the attention of a global TV audience and has become one of the UK’s most recognised brands. People come from all around the world to visit 'Glastonbury'. It is so well known and holds a lot of energy in the psyche somehow ... it is powerful. And having been booked to play there this year, I can confirm that the Glastonbury effect is highly contagious.

I've never had so much interest in a gig. The Facebook post announcing the show was easily the most popular thing I've ever written on social media. People asked for the performance to be filmed and live streamed. Fans made a bootleg redesign of the official poster to make sure I appeared on it. Even my dad wanted a photo of me playing on 'the stage' (like there is just one!).

And it's true ... I certainly felt a level of recognition for the work I've done in the last couple of years. Without a label, there is no way to get booked for Glastonbury unless you know someone who works a stage there. And through a contact I made while touring last summer and a chain of people that all liked my music and passed it along into the right hands, I now do. There is no doubt that it's cool...appearing in the official programme and on the official Glastonbury app, next to artists that I love and admire. I could feel that excitement. 

But what was the experience actually like?

Well, for sure, Glastonbury still has a magical energy...even the mud couldn't take that away. There are some amazing spectacles to behold on a huge scale. Fireworks from the hill, a sea of mobile phone lights at a night-time concert, the pure thrill of seeing a much loved artist walk out on a stage right in front of you to start a set. There are small oases of calm in the healing fields, tibetan monks on an afternoon stroll, sea buckthorn served with apple juice, street performers and buskers, choirs of voices by the stone circles and fields of medieval crafts...the potters and the blacksmiths tinkering away. There was definitely something very primal, creative and communal, still in the air.

But there is also a shadow. The mass of neverending drunken and drugged human traffic going from place to place. Mud like you wouldn’t believe - the poor trampled land. Sound systems until 6am, much dark angry alienated music, seeing a lot of young people completely wrecked night after night, thousands of tents abandoned at the end of the festival...the sadness in it all somewhere. The crazy money spent in creating this strange city ... while so many live in actual muddy squalor in other parts of the world.

So yeah, I couldn’t help feeling all of that, the light and the dark, being a sensitive type amongst a quarter of a million people! The extremes of human behaviour appearing and disappearing in the blink of an eye.

Still, the gigs went really well. The stage (Toad Hall) was absolutely lovely and run by some very lovely people. John Mudd came with his beautiful cello playing later on and the final show we did felt very much like one of the typical intimate festival performances that I'm used to giving. Very satisfying. And I was so touched that some fans made a point of trudging through the mud to the stage in the Green Fields to see us play. It was hugely appreciated. 

As I think of it now, that wild and muddy beast being tamed, dismantled and given back to the ground ... then I'm happy to have played my part. Thank you to everyone who supported me on my journey and shared their positive energy in so many different ways.

Maybe next year I'll be able to get you all a ticket...

LIVING THE DREAM?

I've been on the road for the last five months playing my music at various festivals, cities and towns around the UK. 

As the music industry changes, it seems the rule book on venues has gone out the window. Everything and anything is a potential venue these days and I've played in front rooms, chapels and churches, a few intimate fireside gigs under the stars, a raw food festival, a sauna to a completely naked audience and an ex-nun's convent, to name a few. The thirst for live music is alive and well! 

I'm grateful for the summer I've had. I've been nomadic, no fixed abode, camping, staying with friends, housesitting, sleeping in the back of my big old Renault in country lanes and car parks if I need to. Roughing it somewhat, cooking on a gas stove, filling up water at Glastonbury spring, visiting launderettes, washing less, breathing out more. Everything I need is in the car...the rest is stored in a friend's garden shed in Norwich.

I wanted to meet some other nomadic musicians and travel around but that hasn't really happened. But I have made connections with promoters and artists in other parts of the country which has been fruitful. I've also had some wonderfully rich moments jamming with other voices, cajon players, double bassists and guitarists on my songs, spontaneously, in the moment (see below in Bristol, for example). And I've met a lot of new people who connect with the music, buy CDs, share music online and give back a lot of appreciation....all of which keeps the fire burning.

People often say...oh, you're living the dream! Roaming about, not working, playing music = living the dream, right? 

Well yes, kind of. But its not really as simple as that. The playing music part is really only 10% of what I'm up to...not even that. The other 90% of the time is spent arranging and managing a tour...and that's a big job. Each day I'm talking with venues, promoting events online, sorting out travel and places to stay, keeping my accounts, arranging rehearsals with musicians I'm working with, buying new strings and maintaining equipment, ensuring royalty payments get paid, updating websites and social media... and occasionally writing blogs like this. And over the summer, promotion is going on simultaneously for a number of gigs and events at any one time...often being administrated from a public library or from a layby on the motorway.

So actually, I never really finished a song while I was away...there was no space.

And you know what...I could be doing a lot more, used to do a lot more. These days I just allow things to happen in their own way... follow up connections here and there, wait for things to come, follow where the heart is alive for something, allow the artist to emerge rather than chase success. But even so, it's quite a job! 

Is it living the dream? Well, yes and no. Yes, when children I've never met know the words to my song and sing it to me around a campfire. No, when my car breaks down in Hackney and needs a repair which will take all my earnings from the last month. Yes, when I'm playing in a 700 year old chapel in Dartmoor and we don't need microphones because the natural resonance is so perfect. No, when promoters don't pay you what you've agreed, after the gig. Yes, when the whole audience sings a song with me, present, alive, a room full of human voices. No, when it's pissing with rain and you're sleeping in a city centre car park at night and you need the toilet. Yes when someone in Montreal, Barcelona, Johannesburg, that I've never met, listens to songs online and writes a personal thank you for how much it touched them...

This will all be familiar to musicians...who will all have their different takes. But for those not in that sector it's still romanticised...and the realities of the tremendous work involved, relying on the generosity of strangers to spend £5 on a CD at a gig to cover basic expenses, is often not understood.

Nevertheless, beautiful moments are happening all the time. The trick is to make the 'work' somehow part of the 'creativity', an extension of the art and the artist. I'm still learning that one. But you know, it only takes one beautiful gig, with the audience responding, moving, falling in tune with me, sharing a moment...to make it all worthwhile.

ON THE ROAD

I'm currently on the road, travelling through England, playing some of my favourite festivals and shows. Having not owned a car for 10 years, I'm now driving around in a giant Renault Espace. I've taken all the seats out the back, added a double futon mattress, bedding and lighting... very cosy indeed. It's an experiment in living from a vehicle and living simply. So far, so good.

I'm meeting some great musicians on the road, such as these beauties from the festival Colourfest in Dorset. Loved jamming my song 'Gypsy Roots' in the fields surrounding the main festival. That's Devon singer-songwriter Elise Yuill to my right... we are doing an evening concert in a 700 year old chapel outside of Dartmoor in August.

I'm currently in Wales housesitting with a friend and a sweet terrier that walks round in circles in its old age barking at no-one. Next stop Bristol and a run of shows through Devon, Dorset and Wales...finishing at one of my favourite festivals Into The Wild in Sussex. Hope to see you on the road...or sign up to the mailing list for some exclusive video clips and my new 'Live in London EP'.

Here's a list of tour dates:

July 30: The Crofters Rights, Bristol
Aug 3: Winchester Folk Club, The Railway
Aug 5-8: Gaunts House Summer Gathering
Aug 9: St. Lawrence Chapel, Ashburton Live
Aug 14-16: RAW FEST, New Forest
Aug 20: 10 Feet Tall, Cardiff
Aug 22: Concert and Gathering for Nepal, Hannahs at Seale Hayne
Aug 23: Dartmoor Walk and Music (private)
Aug 27: Buddhafield East, Suffolk
Aug 28-31: Into The Wild Summer Festival, Sussex

MAKING OF THE 'NAMELESS' VIDEO

Many people have been asking how the 'Nameless' video was made.

It was shot in some woods near Lenwade in Norfolk. The land is owned by a friend of mine, Kathy, and I have visited many times to camp, canoe and explore the paraphernalia that rests there in strange old wooden shacks and barns. In that sense, we didn't have to 'dress' the scenes at all...it's all as you see it on the video.

The location itself suggested a lot of what we were to film. Its a place from another time and the paths that wind round the wood soon get you lost. The trees are old and the canopies seem to cocoon you and weave a magic spell.

Initially there was going to be a male and female character in the film, with her perhaps portrayed as a ghostly figure, but in the end it felt like the pilgrimage was one I was to make on my own. The final scene was debated many times...what would this magic conjure up? A great gathering of silhouetted people in the woods? A strange animal figure? An unexplained light in the forest? We wanted something absolutely unexpected, ethereal and awe-inspiring.

The video was shot over the course of 24 hours - daytime running into nighttime. Armed with a shot list, demi-johns, piping, funnels, a camera running RAW, a huge hard drive, lights and battery back up, we descended to the woods about 3pm. There were only two of us - me and the Director - accompanied by the many animals (alive or stuffed!) that occupy the wood, some of which we were able to capture in the filming. 

We shot the 'tree tapping' scenes first and the other daylight scenes. We made a fire, lit the great pole barn with lanterns and stayed until around 5am. It was full moon and the whole shoot was full of enchantment. We returned the week after to shoot the final scenes by dusklight and take measurements for the reveal.

Hours of post-production later the film was wrapped and premiered by Folk Radio UK. We sat down with Kathy to show her what had gone down in her woodland that magical evening...and how her cat Wendel was born for the camera.

My thanks to the Director Ghost Herder (currently laying low but more from him coming soon), Kathy and her son Arthur, Andrew W who helped with the creative process and all who lent props. Long live the beauty of those nameless woods...

NATURAL SWIMMING POOLS

This beautiful natural pool and this sweet video was made by David Pagan Butler, master organic pool builder in Norfolk. He used my track 'Love Will Never Leave Your Heart' as a soundtrack to this short film showing the beautiful creatures and plants occupying the pool, under and over the water, throughout the seasons. It made me smile, a lot... 

David's website www.organicpools.co.uk is a mine of information about how to dig and create your own natural swimming pool using reclaimed materials, domestic plumbing equipment and manpower! I have visited his one in North Norfolk, shown in the video below - a wonderful wildlife haven. 

THE PAINTINGS OF RICHARD WADE

I met the British painter Richard Wade a few years ago at The Anteros Arts Centre where he was resident painter. I would walk by on my way home and be delighted by the stunning vivid landscape works taking shape day by day. The themes of the work seem to be, in some way, running parallel to my own thinking around the Nameless EP - spirit in nature, vivid colour/texture and a certain romance with deers...

I worked with Richard to develop the Nameless single and EP, taking his original paintings and developing them into cover artwork. You can check out some more of his landscape paintings here www.richardwadeartist.co.uk