Words of Wisdom from a Lyft Driver

People who live in Austin seem to view SXSW like us Brits with marmite.

Either you love it, or absolutely hate it. There is no in between.

For me SXSW is both crazy and insane, but incredibly fun 🙂

I was fortunate enough to have 11 showcases this year, all of which were with awesome people who I adore.

During SX, downtown traffic becomes a bit of a nightmare (to say the very least). There’s usually not a ton of time between showcases and in order to make life a wee bit less stressful, I get Lyfts so I don’t have to worry about parking.

For the most part, my Lyft drivers are courteous, polite and hard working individuals who work their asses off. Some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met are rideshare drivers. However, in the past year I’ve had a couple of rather unpleasant experiences with super creepy dudes. One guy incessantly suggested we go straight to a bar to hang out so he could become my new boyfriend and another was high as a kite and part way through our drive attempted to reach over and put his hand on my leg (#metoo). So now when I order a ride and hit that ‘Confirm’ button I’m always a little apprehensive as to who will arrive, and when I discover my driver appears to be vaguely normal and not a super creeper it’s a huge relief.

A few days ago I ordered a ride from east Austin to downtown and was picked up by Arjun, a jolly Indian man with a larger than life personality. He was around 6ft tall, wearing a cream and brown striped shirt which looked as if he’d been wearing it for the past few days. It was crumpled and worn, but suited him perfectly. He also wore a pair of loose fitting dark trousers and brown leather sandals. He had a small beer-belly, a bushy moustache and scruffy black hair. I almost didn’t notice any of this, because his positive energy was so unbelievably infectious. He had the kindest eyes and greeted me with a big beaming smile.

He helped me load my gear into the boot (aka trunk) and I sat myself in the back seat. I instantly felt as though I had some how been transported from Austin to Bombay. The rear view mirror had dozens of beads of all shapes, sizes and colours which clattered together noisily as the car went along. Pictures of Ganesh adorned the dashboard and Bhangra music was playing over the stereo. The interior smelt like a mixture of body odour and incense. It was awesome.

During our ride I chatted with Arjun about where he was from and how he ended up in Austin. Indian people always feel like home to me. British and Indian cultures are so connected to each other. Ask any Brit what their favourite food is – most people will reply with some sort of curry or korma dish.

He asked me about what I was doing in Austin. I told him all about my musical activities and he seemed suitably impressed.

‘Oooooh!’ he said excitedly with a big grin on his face, ‘I have a famous person riding in my car!’. This was an incredibly sweet thing to say. I laughed and very quickly explained that I’m not famous by any means, just a local musician doing what I love. He looked at me in his rear view mirror,

‘That’s not true’ he said, ‘you are a famous person, it’s just that no-one else knows it yet’.

That was quite the statement. Before I had time to let that pearl of wisdom sink in, Arjun continued;

‘Think about it, when people get to hear about you, are you going to suddenly become a different person? No! Of course not! You will still be Katie, the only difference is everyone will know who you are. So right now you ARE a famous person’.

Wow. That’s some deep stuff right there, stuff I definitely needed to hear.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m British, or a creative, or a girl, or some other reason, but more often than not I am plagued with self doubt. Some days it’s harder to shake off than others. But like Arjun said, it’s not that I will become famous and magically change into someone else. It’s simply that more people will know who I am, that’s all. I’ll still be me, in this body, with this annoyingly-analytical-creative brain 😉

After another 10mins or so we arrived at our destination. I would’ve loved a longer conversation with Arjun as he was such a fascinating character, but sadly our time was up.

His simple words and perspective had such a profound affect on me, and from now on I will always remember:

I am a famous person, it’s just that no one else knows it yet.

YES!

❤ ❤

 

 

The Man Who Changed My Life

3 weeks ago I was on tour in the UK with Wild Ponies. We had a few shows at the UK Americana Fest in London and prior to that had played a string of gigs in Scotland and the north of England. At Americana Fest we had a showcase as well as being the house band for the after party.

The morning of the after party gig I woke up not feeling well, both physically and emotionally. I was tired, it was cold outside – so cold that it had just started snowing. I had multiple layers on as well as thick socks but once you stepped outside the wind was brutal and seemed to slice right through my clothes and deep into my bones. No matter how hard I tried I could not stay warm. That afternoon we all sound checked in a semi-outdoor venue, which was…cold. We had a few sound issues as the room was like a long tunnel and very challenging to play in, especially with no bodies in there to pad out the natural reverb bouncing off the stone walls. It took a little under 2 hours to get everything sorted and I was feeling more and more grumpy by the minute, trying my best to hide my frustration. On top of that I was hungry and the epic sound check meant that I didn’t have time to grab any food before heading to the awards show. Grrr.

A couple of hours later at around 10pm, I was heading back out into the cold to walk from the awards ceremony to the venue for our after party show. I had around 30mins, so no time to eat. The snow was falling fast and heavy. The long straight street acted like a wind tunnel and I buried as much of my scrunched-up face into my jacket as I could.

I didn’t feel well, I was cold AND hungry. The main thoughts going round my head were that I was probably going to play like crap.

About 100 yards down the road and to the left of me I could see an extremely thin, dishevelled looking man sat on the pavement, shivering in the cold. His skin was pale and weathered. As I got closer I guessed that he was probably about my age but looked considerably older. Underneath him was a semi-wet piece of cardboard and his legs and mid section were wrapped up in a well used blue sleeping bag. He was wearing a stain covered yellow jacket which looked enormous on his tiny body. Snow had begun to form a light blanket over his skeletal body and he looked a very pathetic sight indeed. As I got nearer our eyes locked. He looked at me with a level of sadness I could feel.

“Please, do you have any spare change?” he sheepishly asked.

I dug into my pockets and gave him all I had in cash, which probably came to around £4.50. In that moment I wished I had so much more, but he acted as if I’d handed him a small fortune.

I knelt down to his level and told him how deeply sorry I was that he was out in the freezing cold. He thanked me and said he was one of the lucky ones because he had recently acquired a tent, so he had that to go back to and that many of the people he knew on the street didn’t have anything like that to sleep in.

We chatted a little while longer and then I asked him for his name.

“Trevor” he said.

“Nice to meet you Trevor, I’m Katie” I replied, holding out my hand to shake his. He paused for a moment looking slightly uncomfortable, and instead of shaking me with his right hand, he opted for the left.

“Sorry” he said looking embarrassed, “I would shake you with this hand, but I got it all bashed up today”. He then turned his right hand over to reveal a deep bloody gash running from the middle of his palm to his wrist.

“How on earth did that happen?” I asked.

“It happened earlier today” he replied. “I was just standing out here, like I do, asking people for money, when this guy came up to me, reached for his wallet, pulled out a £20 note (approx. $25) put it in front of my face and set fire to it. He then said ‘try spending that you piece of sh*t’ and punched me. I fell on the concrete and bashed my hand falling. He kept kicking me and wouldn’t stop so I had to get up and run for it. The joys of being someone living on the street”.

In the 30 seconds it took for him to tell me that story, my heart sank to an all new level of low. I couldn’t believe someone would be willing to sacrifice money to make someone else feel like a worthless piece of crap. It was painful and shocking. But as horrible as it was to hear, I could walk away. For Trevor this is his life, and it probably happens more often than I wish to think about. He was frail and very thin, it wouldn’t take much at all to knock him down and he definitely wasn’t a fighter. He was gentle and unassuming, asking a simple question in a very polite way. I know there are a lot of homeless people who are super aggressive and pushy, Trevor is most definitely not one of them, which is probably why certain people pick on him. They know he won’t fight back.

I told him I’d send lots of good prayers his way and that I hoped one day he’d be able to get off the streets and have a better quality of life. He thanked me. We said our goodbyes and I walked on towards my show.

In that moment I realised that all of those ridiculous things I’d been silently complaining about all day were so totally and utterly unimportant. I felt like such an asshole. In my world it doesn’t matter if I don’t feel well, or that I’m cold, or hungry or what ever, no matter how frustrated I may feel it is *all* temporary. I WILL get food. I WILL get shelter. And no matter how many stresses I may have to deal with, I have plenty of people in my circle who love me and would never let me get to the point of begging on the street. The harsh reality is that no-one gives a damn about someone like Trevor. He could disappear tomorrow and nobody would notice.

I’d spent that whole day focussing on everything that wasn’t right, instead of seeing all the amazing things I already have.

That night I walked into the venue with the biggest smile on my face. I was freezing my ass off, but so freakin’ what. I’m playing music with people who love and care about me. I was hungry, but I knew I’d have the best meal ever once I was done. As it turned out, we played to a packed house and the show was amazing. I had a slice of pizza from a pizza truck at the venue, I appreciated it on a whole different level. It was 1am. I bought some extra slices to take to Trevor but when I walked to the corner of the street where I had seen him he had already gone.

Since then I’ve said a prayer for Trevor every day and wondered how he’s doing. He brought me back to centre and helped me remember how much I have to be thankful for.

There but for the grace of God go I. 

Thanks for the reminder Trevor ❤ love and hugs ❤

Pieces of Me

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:

Hills
Cheap, crappy petrol
Stupid people
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

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Regrets?

When I first started out on my journey as a pro muso (*cough *cough years ago) someone shared a well known saying with me, which went something along the lines of as long as you have your art, nothing else matters. More than a handful of occasions in my lifetime I have looked back on this particular saying and thought to myself ‘what a total bunch of hippy-dippy crap‘. These were usually moments when I didn’t have enough money to pay for the petrol I had just put into my car, or when my debit card had been declined at the grocery store checkout, or when I got late fees because bills went out of my account and I didn’t have enough funds to cover them, yadda yadda yadda. At that time I thought whoever said those stupid words had zero idea what it was like to suffer for your art. It did really feel like a terrible curse and that living like any other normal-non-arty-human-being would’ve been SO much easier.

In a similar vein, I read an article years ago about an art teacher who greeted his students at their very first class with ‘some of you will have the misfortune of becoming artists‘. Depressing, but kinda true.

You may well be wondering where I’m going with all this.

Well, I got a question for ya.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if, knowing what you know now, you were able to travel back in time and re-do your life again? Is there anything you’d do differently? What If you could go back and meet a much younger version of yourself? What would you say?

From time to time I do ponder this very question and the answer always comes back no, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m happy and grateful I chose this path. Now that I’m older, I understand that the struggle itself is a gift. I’m a stronger, more resilient person because of it. Those words that I used to resent so much now make perfect sense. These days my life is considerably easier, but through all the awful hardship and embarrassing lack of funds, it was art that got me through. Music kept me on the straight and narrow and it really is a blessing to know without any doubt whatsoever who you are meant to be. Over the years people and places would change, but music was and will always be there when ever I need it. It’s a beautiful thing.

Just lately though, I have been thinking a lot about my life over the past 38 years. Recently I asked myself that same question – do I have any regrets? As mentioned earlier, my answer is usually no.

But this time I hesitated. Actually, there are a few things I would change, or if I was able to travel back in time and meet much younger Katie Marie I’d love to tell her a thing or two.

A couple of weeks ago I had a really interesting conversation with one of my students. She’s young. Just 14 years old, and like me at 14, she knows everything about everything. We got talking about how things have changed over the years with technology and music and I began a sentence with words I never thought I’d use –

When I was your age….

Oh Lordy. It’s official. I’m an old fart.

After our lesson I really thought a lot about those 5 words…when I was your age. I reflected on when I was a teenager. What I thought about, how I felt, how I acted. And because of this, my answer to the ‘would I change anything’ question has changed.

I think it’s pretty safe to assume that most people know I bat for the other team. Now, I don’t go about waving flags or making a big song and dance about it – because to be honest, in every day situations I don’t consider it to be of great importance. That being said, I am very open about it and would never dream of pretending to be something I’m not in order to make someone else feel more comfortable.

Quite frankly, that’s just dumb.

From an early age, my parents drummed into both me and my brother: Be Your True Authentic Selves. DO NOT follow the herd. They have always encouraged us to follow our hearts and do what ever makes us happy, without any expectations. Both my parents loved that I was super into music and have always supported me wanting to be a musician.

Along with being into creative stuff, from an early age I knew that I was different and I also had a very clear idea about what I liked and didn’t like. I loved music. I adored being close to trees and nature, to the point that as a 4 / 5 year old I would get up in the middle of a lesson and either head to the piano in another classroom or go outside and sit by some trees. I’d be invited by my class mates to birthday parties and all the other children would be obediently sat around playing games and interacting with each other.  ‘Where’s Katie?’ would be a question often asked by the adults, at which point they’d go looking for me and more often than not find me somewhere on my own, either looking at a book, sitting next to an animal of some description or (if there was one available) playing a musical instrument. I found groups of people drained my energy. I was happier in my own company surrounded by animals or inanimate objects. They were peaceful and calming to me.

My parents (thank God) never tried to change me and just accepted me the way I am. They didn’t ever say things like ‘you must interact and socialise with the other children more Katie’, quite the opposite, they encouraged me to be myself and made it very clear that being unique and different is most definitely a good thing. If I didn’t want to hang out with the other kids and wanted to talk to a cow in the next field, then so be it.

I had this loving, kind and extremely accepting energy from my parents – and yet the moment I turned into a teenager *everything* became complicated.

At 14 years old I did NOT think that being unique was a good thing at all. I was different and it was a total pain in the bottom.

I wanted to be like everyone else. But no matter how hard I tried (and I really did try) I just couldn’t do it. At school the teachers attempted to squeeze every ounce of individuality out of each and every child and push them into the same shaped hole as everyone else. All the other kids went along without a lot of resistance. They accepted being herded into the sheep pen and told that your life will be exactly the same as everyone else’s.

Those teachers taught me that when you get older you get married to someone of the opposite sex, have a fancy job (which isn’t necessarily something that makes you happy, but it does make a butt load of money and impress others), buy a house, have kids, watch them have children and then retire.

Which is totally fine, if that’s what floats your boat and makes you happy. The problem for me is that’s what every one *else* does. And in my school if you didn’t want the above and wanted something different, something outside of the realms of what was presented by those people – you were considered an outcast, a waste of space and someone destined to amount to very little.

I remember meeting with multiple ‘careers advisors’ and teachers who were supposed to help us decide what jobs we were going to work towards. When I told them I wanted to be a musician, each and every one of them replied straight away with ‘that’s NOT a profession, you have to pick something else’. ‘But that’s what I want to do with my life, isn’t it my choice?’ I would ask. After refusing to change my carear choice I ended up getting a detention for being disrespectful to my teachers.

I know, talk about things that make you go hmmmmm?

The problem that these people refused to acknowledge or recognise, was that I’m not meant to follow the herd, have a regular job and do regular people things. I’m an arty sort, something I’ve known my whole life. But my school teachers were hell-bent on spending their days slowly but surely trying to mould me into something I wasn’t.

There was also a very heavy assumption from both school and society in general that:

  • I would *want* to get absolutely wasted on what ever liquor or substance I could get my hands on
  • I’d *choose* to stay out late and hang out in crappy nightclubs listening to shitty music at an annoyingly loud volume while at the same time oogling at dirty-smelly boys
  • And worse than both of those things put together – it was a given that I would be attracted these dirty-smelly dudes and want to sleep with them

So when none of the above was of interest to me at all I seriously thought something was wrong with me.

You have to remember – this was pre-internet and Google. Back then the only way to have questions answered was by writing a letter to the Agony Aunt column in Bliss Magazine and hoping they’d select your question. This was (of course) highly unlikely as hundreds of confused and needy girls would write letters to Bliss about boys and va-jay-jays every single week. Also, living in a small rural town in Devon, there wasn’t exactly an eclectic mix of people to hang out with and there was certainly no mention of there being any alternative ways of living. My heart knew what I wanted and needed, but day after day, month after month, year after year, I chose to ignore what it was telling me and did the complete opposite, just to fit in.

Laaaame-o.

I would tell myself, surely if I do all these things over and over at some point it will feel normal??

Rather unsurprisingly, it never did.

My heart repeatedly told me:

I love staying up late and working on new songs or learning covers by my favourite artists and bands.

I am most at peace when I am around animals and nature.  

Playing music makes me very happy.  

Drinking and doing drugs in public places makes me feel very uneasy.

I am not attracted to dudes. Not at all. And that’s totally ok.

It told me this over and over again. At first quietly, then the further I moved away from my true self it got louder and louder. I kept ignoring it. I kept telling myself that because I’m not like other people something was WRONG.

Which of course, is ridiculous. I know that now, decades later. But back then I wasn’t brave or kind enough to know that outside approval is most definitely not needed and that you should always follow your heart. It knows the way. Always.

So – to answer my original question, my only regret, the one and only thing I’d change, is that I wish I could’ve been kinder to me and been true to myself.

I would love to go back in time and meet me at 14 and say ‘you know what KM, it doesn’t feel right because it ISN’T right! And that’s totally ok. You aren’t meant to follow others. You are unique and that’s a gift! You were meant to march to a different drum beat – everyone’s in 4/4 and you’re marching to some kind of super hip 7/8 beat where the accent changes with each measure (*sorry, nerdy music talk)’

At the time, external validation was SO important. I needed ‘insert name of popular person here’ to like me and think I was cool. Why can’t I think I’m cool and that be enough? Because I was 14 and figuring shit out and stupid unimportant things like that matter to you at that age.

So that’s my story. What about you? Do you have any regrets? Anything you’d change if you could? What would you tell a younger version of you?

Thanks as always for reading this far ❤ You are a legend.

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Tipping & Tree-Huggin-Hippy-Crap

When I originally moved to the States I did find the whole tipping system rather daunting and a tad confusing. Coming from a country where we generally don’t tip people, I really had no idea how the whole thing worked.

Do I tip everyone for everything? And if I do tip, how much do I give them?

For example, on my very first trip to do grocery shopping in Austin – someone at the store packed my bag for me at the checkout. I had no idea if I should slip this person a 5-er or not – if I did and they weren’t expecting it, it would make me look like a total weirdo but I was worried that if I didn’t they would follow me out and slash my shopping bags.

*sigh.

Thankfully, after almost 5 years I have gotten rather jiggy with the whole tipping malarkey – to the point that I now really enjoy it. It’s lovely to tip someone who works their arse off and offers you a great service. A large part of my income is from people who are kind enough to tip me when I play music (and write blogs 😉 ). I’m always blown away by the generosity of total strangers. It’s pretty amazing and a beautiful thing.

Because of being an itinerant musician often working for tips, if I’m ever somewhere that requires me to pull out cash from my wallet, it would appear to most people as if I’d been working down the clock tower the night before (American Translation: turning a few tricks).

I can assure you it is ALL from musical activities 🙂

I keep a large stash of these notes for tipping, and here’s what happens next.

I take each note and write a message on it. A positive, uplifting sentence. Nothing too epic, just something that I think someone at some point may need to see. If I sit quietly and relax the words come to me.

You matter. You’re doing great. You got this. Everything will be ok. Don’t give up.

You get the general idea.

Basically, if you were having a shitty day what would you like to read?

Once I’ve written my messages I do some positive-juju magic.

Yep, here comes the tree-huggin-hippy-crap 😉

I would not class myself as a religious person, even though I find the subject fascinating. I am however very spiritual and if anything I am of a Buddhist leaning. For this next bit, I use the Medicine Buddha mantra – but if praying in a Christian way is more your bag that’s cool, or if you’re not religious at all then just thinking really good thoughts would totally work.

The reason I choose the Medicine Buddha and his mantra is because he heals suffering of all kinds (physical and mental) and helps people towards enlightenment.

In today’s world we’d call him a bit of a badass.

Here’s the short version of the mantra:

Tayata
Om Bekandze Bekandze
Maha Bekandze
Radza Samudgate Soha

Which means:
May the many sentient beings
who are sick,
quickly be freed from sickness.
And may all the sicknesses of beings
Never arise again.

The way it works is you repeat the mantra 7 times. The first round of 7 you think of the whole world and send out your healing thoughts to everyone. Then you do the next round for the person (or in my case $1 bills) you’re wanting to help. You can never do this mantra for yourself, only for others.

After I’ve written on and put good juju into my $1 bills, they go into my wallet, ready to head out into the world to do their hippy-dippy magic.

Maybe the next person to hold one of these bills wont even notice anything. Maybe it’ll take a few passing of hands before someone sees it, or maybe no-one will ever notice it at all. Whether someone sees it or not doesn’t matter. I am a believer in energy and the power of intention and I also believe this can be passed from one person to another in both a positive or negative way. So someone may well not consciously notice anything when they come into contact with this bill, but subconsciously it will affect them. In the same way that if someone is having a terrible day and then makes me food, their energy and intension will travel into what I’m eating and make me feel like crap. Have you ever been in a room full of people and the energy of a single person entering can totally change the whole atmosphere, again, in a good OR a bad way. I believe that we are constantly giving off this energy where ever we go. If you’re having a great day, I will feel it. If you’re having a shitty day, by the same token, I will feel it. Personally, I am super sensitive to what is put out (this is often bloody annoying and inconvenient), which is why I find being in a large crowds of people overwhelming. I’m still very much working on how to walk around public places without soaking this up like a sponge, which varies a lot from one day to another.

I know a lot of folks will probably think I’m totally wasting my time, which is ok. Maybe you’re right. Maybe I am. Who knows. ❤

A little while ago I watched a brilliant 8 hour long BBC production called Around the World in 80 Faiths.  Anglican victor Pete Owen-Jones researched various faiths from around the world and created this fascinating documentary. Towards the end of the series he got to witness a religion where they try and minimize hurting others. It is very extreme. The lady they spent time with only ate salads and before each meal she had a gaggle of people inspecting each and every leaf to make sure no other living creatures were on there. She also carried a duster around with her and she swept the ground ahead of her before walking as well as sweeping everywhere before she sat down.

Yes, I will admit it does all sound a little bonkers. But you know, as crazy and extreme as it may sound, I would much rather someone be so kind and caring that they selflessly dedicate their entire lives to not hurting other beings than the complete opposite, which would be not giving a crap about anyone or anything but yourself.

Could I do that? Errr, no! 😉 But I can’t help having the upmost respect for people like her. And whether this lady is totally wasting her time or not, I don’t think the world is worse off for having someone like her in it.

So what do you think? Would love to know your thoughts!

Ponies, Music & White Sandy Beaches

A very weird thing happens when you’re on tour.  The passage of time seems to shift all over the bloomin place.  There are moments when an hour feels like an eternity.  Other times it feels like seconds.  Then at the end of it you’re left asking yourself; ‘did we really do ALL that in XX amount of days?!’

…which is exactly how I felt after my most recent trip away.  It went a little bit like this:

On Sept 20th I set out on an East Coast tour with Doug and Telisha from Wild Ponies. We played 8 extremely fun shows in 6 different States.

Brooklyn Americana Fest, New York, New Yooooooork

I’ve been to NY a handful of times and this is generally how it makes me feel:

Days 1-4: I absolutely LOVE New York. I love that there’s so much going on and that everything is just go, go, go all the time.

Days 4+: Ok I’ve had enough. I hate that there’s so much going on and that everything is just go, go, go all the time.

I caught a 6am flight out of Austin and a few hours later landed in Newark, NY. I had a taxi driver take me from the airport to Manhattan, where I was staying with D & T.  On this 30min taxi ride through down town, I felt a mixture of intense fear combined with utter amazement that no one was either killed or run over.  The driver seemed to possess Jedi-like powers and was able to make a rather large passenger van shrink down and fit through the tiniest of gaps.  Random people just walked out into the road, seemingly oblivious to any thoughts of self preservation.  Cars, trucks and motorbikes casually pulled out in front of each other at speed, as if they were surrounded by an invisible forcefield preventing anything from simply ploughing straight into them.  The one thing everyone did have in common was driving like they were in some sort of drag race, where you get extra points if you take out pedestrians and other road users.

As we would say in the UK, it was totally bonkers.

And yet, despite all of this – nothing bad happened.  No-one crashed and everything was fine.

How? I’ve absolutely NO idea.

We played 2 shows at the Brooklyn Americana Festival.  First at The Jalopy Theatre and then the second under a railway bridge.

I realise the second venue sounds a little unusual – but it was actually a lot of fun. We played under the Dumbo Archway with trains passing overhead every few minutes.  I absolutely loved it.`

Friendly River Music, Maine

Having spent some time in New York, I couldn’t wait to see some green stuff.  By green stuff I mean trees, fields and birds (Yes I know birds aren’t green…but like me, they enjoy hanging out in green stuff).  I’m an earthy, hippy, outdoorsy kind of gal and my natural habitat is being close to water, plants and wildlife.  It re-charges my batteries and brings me back to centre.

Friendly River Music is one of my FAVOURITE places to play. It’s a live music venue and a freakin music shop, in arse-end-of-no-where Maine surrounded by nothing but nature.

The show was sold out.  The crowd and our hosts John and Charlene (as always) were lovely.  Such a magical night ❤ Can’t wait to go back.

Café 9, Connecticut

We played this venue on the Galax release tour last year.  My memory of this is that our show was a lot of fun and afterwards I went outside to get a bit of fresh air.  I was wearing my Wild Ponies baseball T – which has the band name clearly written across the front of it.  A random male driver with his window fully down drove past me, wolf whistled, pointed in my direction and at the top of his voice yelled out

‘Whoooo! Look at them titties!!’.

I suppose there are some people in the world who would consider this flattering.  I however find it rude, kind of yucky and not ok. My first reaction was to flip the guy off, but as I was wearing a Wild Ponies shirt thought better of it. So I did nothing.  Later in the van I told D & T about what happened and the first thing they said was, ‘I hope you flipped the guy off!’.  So just for future reference, I have been actively encouraged to express my feelings should this happen again.  Thankfully it hasn’t.  Let’s hope it stays that way.

Just like our previous show, this one was also a blast.  However there was no mention of my boobs, just my drumming.  Yay.  Progress.

While we were in Connecticut we wanted to sample some pizza from what has been labelled by many as ‘the best pizza joint in the world’.

That place was Frank Pepe’s Pizza and legend has it that Frank Sinatra himself would regularly stop by and order a clam pizza (Doug did in fact put in an order for clam pizza, you’ll have to ask him what it was like 😉 ).

Frank Pepe’s is a pretty cool place and, as per the legend, the pizza was indeed A-MAZING. Check it out:

2 Days off in Virginia

This is the second year I’ve spent my birthday on the road with D & T.  My birthday eve and birthday were spent with Doug’s lovely family in their equally lovely house in Virginia.

Everyone put in so much time and effort into making the day special ❤ For dinner we had an authentic British meal of Jacket Potatoes with baked beans and cheese.  Doug’s Mum also made a delicious vegetarian soup and desert was a specially made birthday apple crumble which yes, was bloody lovely.

Hurrah and yay 🙂 ❤

Tin Pan, Virginia

I’ve never played at this venue before but it was a lovely space.  Like a little kid I get super excited when I look at old gig posters and see the faces of people I grew up listening to (Joan Osborne, Paula Cole etc) and think to myself ‘they played on this stage!’.

It was awesome to meet a lot of people who saw us playing at the Richmond Folk Festival last year (THAT was fun).

Footlight Theatre, South Carolina

My first ever trip to S. Carolina.  My Mother-in-law is from here and always brags about how awesome it is.  She wasn’t wrong.  It’s very cool (definitely not temperature wise though!).

The theatre was a super characterful place located in the French quarter of Charleston.  There were a TON of historical buildings in that area (from the 1670s), the oldest I’ve seen since moving to the USA.

The show was great, but we had a looooonnnnggg drive ahead of us – as we were playing a live radio show in Tampa, FL at 12pm the following day! 😮

Suncoast Songwriters Weekend, Don CeSar Hotel, Florida 

We made it to the radio show, then travelled onwards towards the Don CeSar hotel – the venue for the Suncoast Songwriters Weekend.  As we drove across a bridge covering a large stretch of water, far off into the distance we could see a HUGE pink building that towered over the land like some sort of giant pink castle.

Surely that’s not where we’re staying? I kept thinking as we got closer and closer.

Yep, it was.

The hotel is absolutely beautiful, and get this – it’s right slap-bang next to the beach!! 😮

The first night I went and sat on the beautiful white sand for a good hour.  I listened to the sound of the waves moving gently back and forth and gazed up at the clear night sky.

While sitting there I recorded this voice memo:

The Don CeSar hotel is by far one of the most magical places I’ve ever stayed ❤ I really hope one day I’ll be lucky enough to go back there.

 

Back to Austin

Sunday I flew back home and that evening got to hear my dear friend Sarah McQuaid play her wonderful music.  She’s from Cornwall (which is right next to Devon in the UK) and is currently on an epic US tour. She very kindly gave me a copy of her new album (which btw is rad, been listening to it in my car since I’ve been home) and I can’t wait to nerd out on her DADGAD guitar book.

All in all, it was an amazing 10 days.

I know.  All that in 10 days.  Like I said earlier: touring = time warp.

I think it’s safe to say that next to my adventures in Norway back in June, this trip will definitely be one of my highlights of 2018.

Thank you so much as always for reading this far 🙂 Appreciate you coming on these adventures with me ❤

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Connections.

It’s a funny old thing you know, being from one place and living some place else. It’s wonderful because you get to see and experience stuff in a way that others probably take for granted or haven’t even noticed. For example, one of my favourite American things are drive-through banks. Being from a tiny little country town in the UK, I didn’t even know such a thing existed.

You mean, I don’t have to spend hours trying to find a parking space, walk up the high street to the bank, stand in a queue for 20mins, finally pay in my money and then walk back to my car in the pouring rain?

Nope. You drive up, pay in money and drive off. You don’t even need to get out of your car.

Drive-through banks. They are pretty darn cool.

There is a downside to being someone from somewhere else, and that is you always feel like a part of you is missing. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Austin ❤ It really feels like home to me. I love the people and (obviously) the music. But just lately I have been terribly homesick and I don’t have anyone to share this feeling with. It’s the kind of emotion you can’t really relate to unless you have moved from one country to another. Even though it’s still English speaking, when I arrived in Texas almost 5 years ago it was a bit of a culture shock. Before moving to Austin I’d lived in the same area of Devon for 33 years. I thought I’d have an idea of what this epic move would feel like. I was incredibly naïve and totally clueless. At times it’s a kind of loneliness you can’t even imagine and it’s difficult to describe. I miss my connections to the things that make me who I am. Such as the lingo. The British humour. The accents. The beaches. The farmland. The rolling hills of Devon. Fish and Chip shops. Packets of crisps. Jacket potatoes cooked on a bonfire. The beach jams with friends.

I have this big empty void inside of me, longing for all of these things and so much more.

I’ve missed out on almost 5 years of my dog’s life. She’s now 12 years old and lives with my parents. Don’t worry, she is spoilt rotten – eating 3 meals a day, going on Molly-walks twice a day and having an array of sofas and chairs in varying shapes / sizes / colours to choose from.

A little while back I wrote a FB post about my sweet Molly dog. She’s basically like a cat trapped inside a dogs body. She’s the most un-dog-like dog I’ve ever met. She HATES having cuddles or a big fuss made of her, to the point that she will get up and walk into another room if you start doing that crap. Her version of affection is to be sitting fairly close to you. If she’s doing that you should feel very special indeed.

Molly also has a rather unusual list of phobias:

  • Hot air balloons
  • Microlights
  • Fluorescent jackets
  • Paper towels
  • People with white hair
  • Church bells

I’m possibly making her sound like an insensitive soul, but she’s so in-tune with what’s going on around her it’s crazy. If either my brother (who she adores) or I are travelling to my parents farm, Molly will be sat by the front door waiting for us:

And when we leave she gets extremely depressed and wont eat her food for a couple of days.

She’s beautiful, sweet and incredibly weird – which is why I love her so much ❤

I miss living close to the ocean. Austin is the first place in my whole life I’ve lived in-land and energetically it’s very different. You can feel that sea water isn’t nearby. When I lived in Devon I tried to go surfing and kayaking as much as possible. But even if I didn’t have time to go for a few days, it’s just nice to know the ocean is there. The moment you step outside your door you can feel it.

The River Dart was also one of my favourite hang out spots, especially for kayaking. You are constantly surrounded by nature. Multiple days we were greeted by a couple of sea lions who would pop up right next to our kayak, trying to figure out what the bloody hell we were doing 😉



The Moors. Holy crap I miss the Moors. Miles and miles and miles of absolutely nothing but beautiful scenery, tiny little 100s-of-years-old villages, rivers, wild horses and lots of gigantic rocks piled on top of each other (aka Tors). There’s a kind of stillness on the Moors that you can actually physically feel, it’s wonderful. My Ex and I used to take our VW campervan (called Bertie) up there. We’d go for a walk with Molly, come back to Bertie and have a nice mug of tea and cook up a couple of egg and fake bacon sandwiches. It was lovely.

And speaking of fake bacon – I really miss an English Breakfast on a Sunday morning, or more specifically – my Dad’s English Breakfast. He makes THE BEST breakfasts. Fact. And although he and my Mother are meat eaters he makes an absolutely killer vegetarian breakfast, made up of baked beans, hash browns, 2 free range fried eggs, grilled tomatoes (from my Mum’s vege plot), mushrooms, toast and of course – a cup of tea. So. Freakin. Good.

Which then leads me on to what I miss the most – my parents and their beautiful farm, which will soon be leaving our family (a story for another time).

If I see my folks once a year I’m doing pretty well. Weeks and months seem to drift by and on some days the distance between us is so difficult. When I’m at the farm I am completely at peace. Everything is connected again. I love doing various jobs around the place, walking Molly, laughing about silly (and usually inappropriate) crap with my parents and consuming way too many cups of tea. But on the flip side, as beautiful as everything is, there are literally zero musical opportunities for me. I used to work a day job AND play music, hoping that one day after all my hard work and dedication to the cause I’d finally become a full time musician and ‘make it’. No one (other than my parents) ever took any of this terribly seriously, and as the years went by even I began to doubt myself and question the path I was on. I had absolutely no idea that Austin would be a portal to a life I never thought possible. But in order to do what I know is my life’s purpose, I have to sacrifice getting to see the people and places that I love more than anything in the whole word.

Which is very hard.

6 years ago I co-wrote a song with a German singer-songwriter called Elli (she’s awesome btw, please check out her music). This song was called Sand for Stone and at the time, I obviously had no idea that it would relate to everything I’m experiencing right now. I recently started playing this song at my shows again, as I can finally sing it knowing exactly what these words mean.

Here’s the first Verse and Chorus:

I’d forgotten how, how much this means to me
And every second I’m here, takes me back where I used to be
With an open heart, an open mind
This freedom and expression, is something I cannot find
In you or I, no it’s something I’ll never find
In you or I

But the truth is I have no idea where to call home
And this place is in my heart where ever I go

Breathe in the air and let it free up your mind
I learnt the hard way
That I need space and time
Before I feel alive, before I feel alive
I don’t need much before, I’m in harmony
But life is so much harder
Now I’m switching sand for stone
And the ocean is my home.  

I guess all of the above might make me sound like a right whining whinny.

Well why don’t you bugger off back there if it’s so amazing?

you might be thinking. Believe me when I say that I love living in Austin and my life right now is so amazing. Honestly. I’m getting to live the life I’ve always wanted and I’m incredibly grateful for everything I have.

It’s just tricky sometimes. That’s all.

Thank you as always for reading this far ❤ Really appreciate it a whole lot. Hope to see you somewhere soon 🙂

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