Magical Music and Fantastic Fjords

A few months back I was asked if I would like to play a couple of shows with Ruthie Foster on a cruise ship heading out of Rotterdam and then spending 5 days exploring the fjords of Norway.

Rather unsurprisingly, I said yes 😉

I’d never been on a cruise ship before, never mind played any music on one – so I really had no idea what to expect.  I heard multiple horror stories from various folks eager to share their experiences (which seemed to mostly involve getting motion sickness and then hurling somewhere or another).  This didn’t exactly fill me with confidence – but thankfully all was totally fine….

…..with the exception of the last night of the cruise – which I’ll tell you about later.

The cruise lasted a total of 7 days and a couple of those were spent being out in open water.  Not seeing any land did feel a little odd at first, but once I found the very top deck and could look out across miles and miles of absolutely nothing but beautiful blue sea it was wonderful.

My shows with Ruthie were on the second day of the cruise and were (of course) SO much fun.  I played mostly drums but also bass on a couple of tunes.

Here’s a few clips.  Sorry we appear to be in miniature (we are regular sized people I promise). I thought this would be a good spot for my GoPro camera to sit. You may need set of opera glasses….

 

 

After the shows were finished, all I had to think about was exploring Norway.

Heck yeah.

I woke up the morning after our show believing we were still moving across the ocean….but I drew my curtains and was greeted by 2 giant fjords and a small cluster of characterful houses of all shapes and sizes dotted around the hillside.

We had arrived in Eidfjord, a beautiful village in the arse end of nowhere, with a total of 250 inhabitants.

Apparently the quaint village of Eidfjord has to contend with around 500,000 tourists descending upon their little oasis every year….coming from a seaside town, I know how that feels – but nothing like on that kind of scale.  Helpful to the local economy yes, but extremely overwhelming I’d imagine.

The first place I went to check out was an Iron Age Burial Ground, located at the very top of a rather nasty hill which almost killed me.

(A part of me did wonder if as a joke the locals picked a spot on the top of a very steep hill, put a pile of rocks together, covered it in moss and told the tourists it was an ancient burial ground) 

Other than the epic hill towards the end, the walk to the above burial site was absolutely lovely….as the footpath took me right through the middle of a forest. I kept thinking how much my doggy Molly would’ve loved to have gone on this walk with me ❤

My favorite forest find was a lake located just off to the right of the main path.

It was surrounded by fjords, waterfalls, trees and nature.

I could’ve stayed here a while.  A loooong while.  And in that moment if you’d offered me a cup of tea and a guitar I definitely wouldn’t have gone anywhere.

Another building I wanted to check out was an old stone church dating back to the 14th century. Along with the church was a beautiful old cemetery (yes, I like looking at old graves…I’m weird and I don’t care who knows about it) and with the fjords as the backdrop it really was a beautiful sight – even on a cloudy day.

So having taken a ba-zillion and one photographs on my lovely cameras – I headed back to the ship….which looked enormous moored up in the tiny little village dock.

I very reluctantly said goodbye to beautiful Eidfjord.  What a gorgeous place.  History, hardly any people (well, except the hordes or tourists), tons of nature and zero phone or internet signal.

Heaven.

Surely this was the highlight of the trip – it can’t get any more beautiful than this, can it?

Oh! Hello Geiranger 🙂

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Hello Stranger….

Hey there you!  Long time no see.

How’s things?

I know it’s been a while since my last post.  I’ve been busy….but I promise to be more consistent from now on, ok?

My current status is getting over jet-lag in lovely Austin TX after an amazing 9 day experience…..which was:

I went to freakin’ Norway…..on a Holland America cruise ship.

Awesome fact No.1 = Norway has been the top country on my Katie’s Places she wants to Visit list.

Awesome fact No.2 = ever since I moved to Austin 4.5 years ago, I’ve always hoped that one day I’d be able to play a show with Ruthie Foster.

Guess who asked me to go to Norway with them?

Yep, Ruthie Foster.

Excited, grateful, nervous…I was all of those and lots more.

And I had every

intention of telling you aaalll about it as the journey unfolded – but….as I’m sure you’ve already noticed, I didn’t.

I could list off a bunch of half-truths / lame-o excuses, such as ‘my internet connection was crappy’ (it was) or ‘I had too many other things to think about’ (which I did), blah blah blah etc etc.

The truth is – I had a really deep desire to be present.

I wanted to be in each and every moment as much as possible.  I chose to be selfish and let my heart and soul take in everything I was experiencing.  Absolutely everything.  From all the spectacular scenery and wonderful music…..to the super mundane, such as people watching in one of the cruise ship restaurants while eating way too much food far too late at night (but holy crap that food was SO good).  When visiting one of the many cute and characterful Norwegian villages I wanted to be able to pause and take photos of beautiful sights on my ‘camera camera’ (not my damn phone), or just simply stand there in awe and let my mind take some stills.

So I’m sorry if that meant leaving you out of the picture for a little while….BUT – if you’re into it, I’d love to tell you all about how it went.  It really was an amazing experience, one of the best I’ve ever had.  I learnt so much about myself, and Norway was…..

RAD.

…..and I’ll tell you all about it next time 🙂

Thanks as always for reading to far, I’ll write more very soon (pinky promise).

KM x

* all the photos that are featured in my blog posts were taken by me, please ask first if you would like to use them anywhere 🙂

It’s all kinda weird. Cool. But weird.

I can’t quite believe the tour has come to an end.

We played 54 shows, in 8 different countries over the course of 12 weeks.

It was pretty darn amazing.

Highlights? There are honestly too many to mention…..but a few that spring to mind are checking out Niagara Falls before our Buffalo show, playing a venue in the UK that was built in 1498,  meeting the oldest tree in Wales, getting to see my brother in Berlin after almost 2 years of not seeing each other, playing a show close to my home town and having my friends in the front row, consuming far to much delicious cheese in Holland, Germany and France…..

…..what else?

Oh and how could I forget – on one of our days off we had a bit of a mooch about in Amsterdam (incorporating the red light district) and got matching Wild Ponies tattoos.

I didn’t make that shit up, I have the tattoo on my ankle to prove it 😉 It wasn’t too painful and looks rather nifty if I do say so myself.

Right now I feel kind of….I dunno….weird.

It’s strange to stop and think about the fact that before the tour I’d only met Doug and Telisha very briefly, and for 12 weeks straight we were in each other’s company almost every day.

Now all of a sudden they’re in Nashville, I’m in Austin….and it’s back to our regular every day lives as if nothing ever happened…..

…..which isn’t bad in any way – it’s just…..weird.

That being said – I can’t tell you how happy I am to be back in lovely Austin.   When I arrived from the UK almost 4 years ago I never, ever thought for one moment that I’d end up feeling so at home here (it’s extremely different to Devon in the UK where I lived for 33 years).  But having visited so many unfamiliar places on the tour, the familiarity of everything Austin provided some much needed warmth and comfort to my rather weary soul.  My fav hang spots, the cool restaurants and bars, my musician friends and their beautiful music…..Austin and me, we’re kinda like two peas in a pod.

Sadly I wont be able to hang here for long.  In about a week I’ll be catching yet another flight to London and spending Xmas in Devon, which is a good thing.  It’s a very good thing….and something I’m extremely grateful for.  I can’t wait to be on my parent’s farm for what will probably be the last time before it’s sold.  This stirs up a real mish-mash of emotions for me.  The best way to describe it is a deep sense of gratitude combined with an equally deep and selfish desire to never leave, because I can’t wrap my head around never being there again.  It’s a uniquely beautiful place that no-one is happy about leaving.

….but more about that another time.

For right now I’ve plenty of shows lined up in Austin before I leave – and I’m going to wade through my hours of Wild Ponies video footage and see if I can put together a montage from the tour.

It’s going to be pretty epic as I filmed pretty much every show 🙂

Thanks as always for reading this far, hope all’s good with you xx

*Wild Ponies Galax Tour* 

USA:
Nashville, TN
Knoxville, TN
Mobile, AL
Austin, TX
Oklahoma City, OK
Kansas City, MO
Chicago, IL
Madison, IN
Ann Arbor, MI
Worthington, OH
Buffalo, NY
Pittsburgh, PA
Hamilton, NY
Nashua, NH
Cornish, ME
New Haven, CT
Cambridge, MA
New York, NY
Washington, DC
Martinsville, VA
Richmond, VA

UK:
Ipswich, England
Lewes, England
London, England
Birmingham, England
Scarborough, England
High Wycombe, England
Bedford, England
Portsmouth, England
Sheffield, England
Essex, England
Plymouth, England
Cardigan, Wales
Nottingham, England
Beverly, England
Garstang, England
Edinburgh, Scotland
Menai Bridge, Wales

Europe:
Oentsjerk, Netherlands
Sing Joosland, Netherlands
Nijmegen, Netherlands
Steenwijk, Netherlands
Norderstedt, Germany
Berlin, Germany
Oldenzaal, Netherlands
The Hague, Netherlands
Saarbrucken, Germany
Oberdorff, France
Mondorf, Luxembourg
Sulzbach, Germany
Saarwellingen, Germany

❤ ❤ ❤

 

Time Flies……apparently.

It’s November 14th.

Since arriving in Nashville on Sept 13th, we’ve played 24 shows across the US and 17 in the UK.  Later today we head off to Luxemburg for the European part of the tour.

Where the heck did all that time go? 😮

It was lovely to be back in Devon for a little while (‘a little while’ being an evening, a morning and half of an afternoon) but incredibly sad for me to have to leave so soon.

That being said – along with playing some awesome shows we have seen some absolutely beautiful places ❤

Beverley Minster, Yorkshire 

Cardigan, Wales

Edinburgh, Scotland

And lots and lots and LOTS of beautiful UK sunsets (they don’t look like this in Texas.  Not sure why…..but they just don’t…..)

The European leg will include Germany, Holland, France and as mentioned earlier – Luxemburg.

Can’t wait 🙂

Although I will seriously miss a good old cup of British tea 😦

Right now I’m trying to catch up on emails and laundry….both are equally large in quantity – but one a little more stinky than the other.

Will write more soon xx

* all photos that are featured in my blog posts were taken by me, please ask first if you would like to use them anywhere 🙂

An Unexpected Truth

Hey there 🙂 Remember me?

I know, I know.  I should have written this a while ago…. I do have good reasons (honest).

Right as the US portion of the tour ended and during my only 2 complete days off in Austin before starting the UK / Europe tour – I got sick.

Yes, it was bloody annoying.

Right now we’re a week or so into the UK tour and thankfully I’m feeling WAY better.  I’m still getting over the tail end of it….but other than the occasional coughing fit that makes me sound like I’ve contracted the plague, I’m doing ok.

That’s Reason No.1.

Reason No.2…..well, if I’m being honest….I’ve been avoiding you.  It’s nothing you’ve said or done, there’s a specific blog post I’ve been wanting to write – and I kinda knew it would be difficult.  But for what ever reason it’s important for me to get these words out of me and onto the screen.

So here goes……from the top.

Touring is fun.  Crazy, but fun.  Getting paid to travel around and play music night after night is such a privilege and I never take it for granted.  Not only is it a wonderful way to see the world, it also really helps you grow enormously as a musician.  After every show I feel as though I’ve learnt something new – especially as this is a genre of music I’ve not played a huge amount of (plus there is the small matter of playing an instrument I’d barely touched before this tour 😉 ).

But in between the music side of things, there is an awful lot of free time to do one thing I already do way too much of.

Think.

One situation in particular sparked a tidal wave of thoughts and emotions that I had zero control over.  I kept on trying to shut the flood gates, but once they were open I was forced to take a long hard look at what was going  on.  I honestly thought I had my shit together.  I really believed I’d worked through so many demons and my soul was clear of negative experiences from the past.

Apparently I was sooooooo wrong.

On the outskirts of New York, in a tiny little place called Hamilton we had a show at Colgate University.

No biggie.

Ahead of our show we got to check out the grounds and see all the facilities the place had to offer.

Again, not a big deal….in fact pretty cool by most people’s standards.

I found out very, very quickly that this was like hell on earth for me.

Within about 10mins of walking around the University grounds it was as if I had stepped into some kind of weird time warp where I was back being 14 again.

Awkward, angry, emotional, zitty, uncomfortable 14.

As 37 year old me walking around the grounds of Colgate University, I went past countless gaggles of super confident kids, all in their little groups of friends.  Smiling and laughing.  Making conversation.  Connected.

I can’t tell you how many times at school I sat totally alone watching all these groups of people interact with each other.

It was like watching everyone through a window.  I was present but not.

I’d sit there day after day trying my best to blend in and failing miserably.

I wasn’t cool.  I didn’t have anything in common with anyone.  I wanted to be a musician.  Everyone else wanted to be something far more conventional.  I had no idea what it felt like to fancy that boy who works in the local shop or that guy on that crappy TV show everyone’s into or the good looking one from that boy band.  I didn’t want to go out and be with the cool people because most of them were actually pretty uninteresting and the places they wanted to go were as lame and boring as they were.

But as inane as they were, they had something I didn’t.  Friends.  They were the cool kids.  Everyone liked them.  And at 14 being liked by the appropriate people is the ONLY thing that matters.

Then there were the teachers.  I was picked on by them too.  According to them I was lazy, stupid and didn’t care.  These days they call it dyslexia.

So all in all, there was absolutely nothing enjoyable for me about a school environment.  Every day was just a matter of survival.   Each morning I’d head straight for the gym changing rooms to sit quietly and brace myself for the day ahead.  A couple of mornings I stayed there longer than I should and was late for the first class.  One of my class mates told the teacher I was late because they’d seen me smoking round the back of the building (which clearly was a lie).  I got a detention.  No questions asked.  It happened all the time.  I honestly couldn’t do anything right and no-one gave a crap about how difficult it was for me just to set foot inside the school never mind get any work done.  If they didn’t know how I felt on the inside it was pretty obvious on the outside because I was self harming on a fairly regular basis.  It was ignored.

The thing is, as an adult if you don’t like something or someone – you have options.  You can walk away.  As a child / teenager if you don’t like school it’s tough shit.  And if you do walk away, they’ll hunt you down and take you straight back there whether you like it or not.

Since moving to the US I have had a few judgemental comments / dirty looks when I admit that I left school at 15 and I actually have no qualifications at all.

‘What? You’re a high school drop out? Why would you do that? Don’t you care??’ and so on and so forth.

It may also surprise some of you to know that Colgate was the first University campus in my 37 year existence to walk around.

I had no idea it would make me feel like bursting into tears, but when I stop and think about it – it’s kind of obvious that I wouldn’t feel that comfortable.

So what happened after I left school?

I started learning.  Strange but true.

At 15 I was playing various solo shows at a few rather seedy pubs around town.  By 17 I had taut myself to play bass guitar and drums, had recorded 2 albums and was playing music full time in 4 different bands as well as continuing my solo shizzle.  I learnt how to read and write considerably better than my school days – mainly because I had to write to venues and create posters for events.  I was also rehearsing (A LOT)…..7 hours a day to be exact.  I created my own schedule for practise and stuck to it religiously.

I also developed an even deeper understanding of nature and animals.  I regularly hand reared and rehabilitated sick and injured birds.  My wife’s favourite story she loves to tell people is that I helped a chicken recover from a serious stroke that left her not able to walk or feed herself properly – and within a short space of time I managed to get her almost totally back to normal.  It was pretty awesome.

Through all of these ups and downs in my life there have been a few things that have kept me sane.

Music being the major one.

And my amazing and patient parents being the other.

They have forever supported me wanting to do music and have never once tried to sway me from my path.  In fact they have always been so encouraging.  Over the years I subjected them to me learning various instruments (which must have been like some form of torture at times) along with being incredibly moody and unkind 90% of the time because I was so frustrated with life and couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.

But despite all this, there’s always been unconditional love by the bucket load thrown in my direction.  All they have ever expected of me is that I get up every day and do the best I can.

No expectation of good grades.  No desire for me to be some specialist doctor or high flying lawyer.  Just a good person who is being their true authentic self….something at times I took for granted.

I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like for kids to not only have to contend with what I did in school but to also have parents who expected them to achieve.

I am incredibly lucky.

So I guess the conclusion that I’ve come to is that no matter how crappy things might be, thank God I don’t have to go to school every day.

And you know what? I’m totally fine being a high school drop-out musician.

It’s actually pretty amazing 🙂

Thanks as always for reading this far ❤ ❤

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Blimey. I wasn’t expecting that….

In the past few weeks our trusty tour van Princess Leia has taken us all over the bloomin’ place…..we’ve played Nashville, Knoxville, Mobile, Oklahoma City, Kansas City, Madison, Ann Arbor, Chicago, Columbus, Buffalo and Pittsburgh.

As some of you may have already seen on my FB page, I did fall madly in love with Madison, Indiana.

I mean, it’s so stinkin’ cute.

Out of all the above listed places, I did fall unexpectedly in love with another city – I’ll reveal which one very soon 🙂

Before that though, I want to tell you about one of the most incredible venues I’ve ever played.

On the way to this particular place, Doug & Telisha told me it was their favourite venue in the whole world.

That’s quite a statement.

After telling me this they then refused to tell me anything else because they wanted it to be a surprise (meeeaaannn!).

We pulled into the driveway of a very Ann Arbor-looking house.  Cute and full of character.  According to our sat nav we had indeed arrived at our final destination.

I was intrigued.

My first thought was that this must be a house concert series.

We went inside the house, down a few very old looking wooden stairs into the basement….and this is what greeted us:

Johnny’s Speakeasy.

I know, it’s amazing.  My photos don’t do it justice at all.

You’d think as this was in such an unusual location that no-one would know about it – but the place was packed and everyone was so attentive.

A musician’s dream venue ❤

They even made a documentary about the place a few years ago:

Definitely NOT what I was expecting!!

What an awesome surprise.  ❤

Small Talk.

If you’re one of those people who has skills in this field, then picture me right now looking at you in amazement and awe.

You are my hero.

So many times I have watched with utter admiration as these people put their jedi-like powers to work.  Without any hesitation what so ever, they just dive right into a crowd of total strangers and within a matter of minutes conversation is flowing freely.

Pretty amazing stuff.

Now image if you will a human being who is the total opposite of the above described Small Talk expert….

…..and you’ll be getting close to where I’m at.

I am SO bad at small talk.

If we were in some weird movie style scenario where I was selected as “the one” to save the planet from evil forces by using my powers of small talk, just assume that it would end with everyone dying a very slow and painful death.

Or to put it another way, if Small Talk were an Olympic Sport I’d be just like that poor dude who face plants into the first hurdle and then with a torn ligament and a couple of broken ribs tries to limp his way through the rest of the 100m, while spectators can’t decide whether to keep watching or just cover their eyes because it’s so cringe worthy.

That dear friends, is me with Small Talk.  We don’t get along well at all.

I know what you’re thinking.  How can it be so freakin hard? It’s just some light-hearted conversation between one or more people.  The very word suggests that it should be SO easy.

But almost every time it happens I want the ground to swallow me whole.  Preferably within the first 10 seconds.

What? You don’t believe me?

Well…..Let me give you a quick example of just how shitty I really am at this.

I’m going to show you a real conversation that took place last night after a show in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The show was amazing and of course, people wanted to converse with me.

That’s apparently what people do.

Here’s what happened:

———————————————————————————————————

*Me standing in the kitchen picking at some left over food*

*Guy walks over to me*

Guy: Hey! Really enjoyed the show!

Me: Oh thanks! It was a lot of fun.

Guy: So, you from Nashville too?

Me: No, I live in Austin.

Guy: *Smiles at me* oh great!

*Cue awkward silence*

Me (head dialog): *okkkaay, now what? Ooooo I know….*

Me: So where do you live?

Guy: Ann Arbor.

Me: Cool!

*Cue more awkward silence along with a gaggle of imaginary crickets*

Me (head dialog): *ok so I’ve asked him where he’s from, now what?……damn it I can’t think of anything* (gets out phone and looks at it like someone has texted me) *No! Don’t look at your damn phone Katie! That looks so rude and weird, put it away….ok, ask him something…..go on…..

*Now cue both of us standing awkwardly pretending like we’re 100% comfortable with what’s going on*

Me (further head dialog) : ok, now there’s been so much silence it’ll be totally weird to say something – it’ll look like you’re *trying* to make small talk, which is totally not how small talk happens….just act like this situation isn’t uncomfortable in any way shape or form.

*Woman walks towards us with a big smile on her face*

Woman: Hey there! Really enjoyed the show!

Me: Oh thanks! Me too 😊

Woman: So you’re from Austin I hear?

Me: Yep that’s right!

Woman: Great! You like it there?

Me: Yes.

………..

*Awkward silence, gaggle of crickets and now a hooting owl has joined in*

Me (Back into my head): oh great. Now I have two of them to try and small talk to.  And they’re looking at me like I’m going to impart some real words of wisdom…think Katie think, what can we talk about?

Me (looks at woman):….so, where do you live?

Woman: Oh I’m from Ann Arbor

Me: Great! Do you like it here?

Woman: Oh yes, very much.

Me: Good.  Cool.  Very cool.  Haha.  (why did I just laugh?)

Me (head dialog): Ok, time for an escape plan. Look casual and head for the door – on 3, ready….1…2…and 3 – go! Smile and walk, smile and walk….

———————————————————————————————————

There.

I rest my case.