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.