After travelling for almost 22 hours, I finally arrived at our lovely little house in Austin. The first thing I saw was my 1998 Toyota Camry sitting in the car port. For those of you that don’t know, her name is Candy.
Yes, that is a custom made name tag attached to her boot which was specially made for her by Toyota.
The main thing you need to know is that Candy is a Rockstar. She has almost 350,000 miles on the clock and runs like a dream. She’ll willingly take me anywhere and everywhere I need to go and her absolute favourite thing in the world is a road trip. Dallas? No worries. South Padre Island and back? Piece of cake. Hot, cold, rain or shine – Candy is always ready to be my roadie car.
On this occasion Candy had been waiting patiently in our car port for the past 7 days.
Here are some of the things she really dislikes:
Cheap, crappy petrol
Not going anywhere for days on end
We literally go out at least once every single day. She loves to be driven, hates doing nothing.
But, despite this, it doesn’t ever matter how long I leave Candy for – a few days or a few months, she *always* starts up with the first turn of the key.
This time was no exception. Shortly after arriving home I put my suitcase in the house and grabbed my cluster of Candy-keys.
And as always, she started up, first time. No complaints.
I sat there for a good few minutes, soaking up some Candy-vibes. The lightly worn leather seat hugging my legs and back, that wonderfully characteristic old interior car smell, the distinctive sound of a Candy-car engine idling. Such simple little things, but in that moment they made me feel perfectly grounded.
Most people would think I’m nuts to be so attached to an inanimate object of any shape or form, especially a white ’98 Camry.
it’s just a bloody car!!
But she’s not just a bloody car. She’s the reason I was able to take on more work and grow, both musically and personally. She knew me when I had no money, no stuff around me and absolutely no clue what the hell I was doing, never mind how the heck to get around Austin.
Without knowing or really caring, Candy grounded me at a time when I didn’t know how to fully process everything that had just happened. That’s how I felt when I first moved to the US and it’s exactly how I felt all over again after my recent trip to the UK.
I went to visit my parents for a week to help them move out of their beautiful farm, a place they have called home for the past 25 years. I felt such a strange mixture of emotions. The sucky ones I tried my best to balance out with gratitude but I have to be honest, it’s easier said than done. Through being a musician I’ve been lucky enough to travel to some beautiful places all over the world, but no matter where I’ve visited, the farm has always been my favourite place to be. I couldn’t wait to get back there. In every vision I’ve ever had about my future the farm was always part of it.
This also would’ve been a little easier to process if my parents had actually wanted to move, but they didn’t. They felt exactly the same way I did and were devastated to have to leave their little piece of paradise behind, not to mention SO much of our family history.
We moved to the farm when I was 13. My Grandmother had passed away a year earlier. My Grandfather had to move in with us having lost not just his wife, but his home and business in one fell swoop. My parents were also looking for work and at a time when all seemed to be so lost the Universe presented the farm at exactly the right moment. I remember so clearly our first couple of visits there.
I absolutely hated it.
It was in the arse-end-of-nowhere surrounded by nothing but fields. The house hadn’t been taken care of at all and needed a lot of work. It oozed sadness and was most definitely not welcoming. I’ve also never visited a property with zero signs of wildlife.
No birds, no animals, no nothing.
It was like a ghost farm. Nothing wanted to go anywhere near it, including miserable-stroppy-13-year-old me.
However, within a very short amount of time I soon realised that the farm was a very special place indeed. It was also amazing how after only a few months of living there, life in a variety of shapes and sizes was drawn to the property like a magnet. Wild birds, rabbits, 2 species of barn owl, bats, weasels and 2 cats all chose to come and take up residence. We also owned an eclectic mix of animals ourselves, who were for the most part rescues, strays or rejects. Our little gang consisted of: chickens (including 20 ex-battery hens), a small herd of sheep, 3 greyhounds, a pot-bellied pig and an aviary with various quail, lovebirds and budgies.
One of the most special moments at the farm was the creation of an entire colony of wild ducks. One morning 2 ducks just appeared out of no-where (Duncan and Debbie) and never left. We started feeding them and they seemed to enjoy hanging out with the chickens. Not long after that they had their own family and since then that colony just got bigger and bigger, to the point that there are around 50 ducks who were born at the farm and still live there.
All of them would fly between the pond at the farm and the river Dart (just under 1 mile away) trying to score as much food as they could (between us and the tourists on the river they usually did pretty well 😉 ). Sometimes on their return trip from the river they’d bring friends back to the farm, which was super cool, especially as multiple times we saw rare breeds of both geese and ducks who wanted to hang with our crew.
Over the years, more and more animals would just appear one day and end up living at the farm.
Something that I think helped attract all these amazing creatures was my Mum’s love for gardening. As you all know I’m sure, music is my thing, it’s what I live for. With my Mama it’s all about being outside in her garden. That’s her jam. If you can’t find her anywhere the chances are she’s watering flowers or potting up some plants.
We also built my Mum her own little polytunnel so she had somewhere to work during the colder months.
All of this and so much more is what made living at the farm so special, but most importantly, I found who I was musically.
I taught myself how to play bass, drums and acoustic guitar at the farm. I set up my first ever recording studio in 2 of the stable blocks towards the end of the property. My whole family helped put it together. My Grandad helped me install an extra window and made new window frames. My Dad hooked up all the electric sockets and helped me plumb in a sink unit so I could make cups of tea. My Mama helped me paint both rooms and my Ex and I put in a new ceiling and plastered it all. It was my perfect little space where I recorded literally hundreds and hundreds of songs and practised for hours.
I also had a separate rehearsal space and everyone would always come to my place for practise and jam sessions. I had it set up like a music venue, with a stage, full PA, guitar and bass amps, drums, mics. It was a lot of fun.
Being so close to both the river Dart and tons of beaches, I often went surfing and kayaking – or at the very least, took my Molly dog for a walkie there most days.
When I moved to Austin I sold almost everything I owned, which trust me was not easy at all. I mean, you know how I feel about my Candy-car right? 😉 Well imagine that spread out across 22 years worth of collecting quite a bit of music gear. Yeah, it was hard. Along with selling my music stuff I sold my surf board and pretty much anything to do with surfing. But one of the things I had held onto was my wetsuit – something I came across when helping my parents move recently. The moment I un-covered it I held the suit up to my face. It smelt like a wonderful mixture of the ocean and neoprene (surfy people will know that very distinctive rubber smell 🙂 ).
Since moving to Austin I (rather unsurprisingly) haven’t surfed once. Heck, I’ve not even been IN sea water in 5 years. Whenever I go back to the UK I never have time to get in the water and catch waves, which is fine, it’s something I’ve just had to adjust to. People who grew up near the ocean will know that the moment you are in-land it energetically feels *totally* different. Without looking out the window, you just know you’re not near a large amount of water and it seems odd. Only now after 5 years have I just about gotten used to this. Although anytime I’m near the sea it feels like I’m connecting back to the source. It’s a very calming place to be.
The place my parents have moved to is considerably smaller, but super cute. We had to try and condense 25 years worth of ‘stuff’ into a small 2 bedroom house, which was quite the challenge! 😉 But we totally made it work.
This transition is going to be weird, especially for my lovely parents and my sweet Molly-dog. I know it’ll be ok, right now it’s just – weird ❤
One of the many beautiful sunsets we’d see at the farm, the night sky was also spectacular as there was no light pollution ❤