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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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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“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend” – Robertson Davies

My perception has been a little wonky just lately.

By ‘wonky’ I mean that I’ve been struggling to know the difference between the truth and what is merely my monkey mind being allowed to have a major rave-up inside my brain.

Unbeknown to probably a lot of people, the past few months I’ve been feeling as though I’m not good enough.

I’m Not. Good. Enough.

If one of my friends ever said those exact words to me about themselves, I’d pretend to bitch slap them about the face and neck, look them straight in the eye and tell them how utterly ridiculous they were being. I’d say with conviction that they are MORE than enough and they don’t need to change a damn thing.

Yet when it came to myself and my own emotions, I’ve not been that – kind? Positive? I don’t even know exactly the right word for it.  But for months I had this awful feeling plaguing me every moment of every day.  At one point it got so bad I seriously wondered if I should stop playing music altogether. Which is of course, utterly ridiculous.  Everyone knows that Music IS me.  Music is my happy place.  Without it, I can’t function.  We’ve been together now for the best part of 30 years….and for better or worse, music and I are in this thing together.

Thankfully I managed to ride through the storm, come out the other side and see things much more clearly, and in that moment of clarity I realised that I had in fact been acting like a total cotton-headed-ninny-muggins.

It took a series of random events for me to reach this conclusion – but I am very grateful that I saw the error of my ways, which began on my last trip to the UK.

I was visiting my parents and by chance came across my old Sony Handycam (remember those?) and a collection of mini8 video tapes.  They were all filled with me doing various musical antics…all of which made me cringe.

Thank God YouTube hadn’t been invented yet.

A mantra that I’ve been saying to myself over and over again is:

‘I used to be a better musician back then, my playing is no-where near as good as it was.  I had so much confidence.  I wasn’t afraid of anything!’ 

The Universe heard me, called bullshit and presented me with the this little collection of tapes.

It was quite the eye opener.

I sat curled up on the sofa, Handycam in hand, playing tape after tape of me trying to play various musical phrases that I now do with ease.  I wasn’t as picky with my playing back then as I am now, so there were a lot of things I missed which nowadays would’ve gotten past me.

But what struck me even more than my playing was my persona.

Basically, I didn’t have one.

I had completely forgotten how introverted and self conscious I used to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very introverted…and I’m totally ok with that.  But the difference between then and now is that I function as an active member of society every day.  I do everything I want or need to do and not much scares me. But at 19 my life outside of music absolutely sucked BIG time.  There were SO many things I simply *couldn’t* do.  I mumbled unintelligible words into incoherence sentences and lacked any kind of confidence what-so-ever.  I was like THE most awkward human being you’d ever seen and it oozed from my every pore. And the worst thing about my life back then was having a non-stop battle with pretty extreme anxiety, preventing me from doing so much.

How could I possibly think that 19-year-old Katie was happier than 37-year-old Katie?? I really like me, I love hanging out with me.  My life is awesome, and I would never ever want to go back to how I was at 19.  Nu-uh. No way.

I can’t believe I got it so wrong.  My perception was waaaayyy off.

That was reality check No.1.  Reality check No.2 happened more recently.

I’ve been working a lot on my Instagram profile.  My main goal was to add more creative content in the form of videos.  I set aside some time each day to watch other people’s posts, writing down ideas for what I should and shouldn’t include in mine.

I mostly watched drum videos and for those of you that don’t know – there are a ba-zillion videos on Instagram of people (predominantly dudes) doing the most super fancy and technically challenging fills / beats / rudiments / solos in an attempt to impress who ever happens to be watching.  This really doesn’t appeal to me.  At all.  Listening to someone do fancy shit in an attempt to make themselves look like what we would call back home ‘the dog’s bollocks’ just makes me feel yucky.

Don’t get me wrong, within the context of a musical piece – where it’s appropriate and beautifully executed, it’s wonderful.  But to throw up a camera somewhere and do random stuff that’s more about technical brilliance than being sincere and true to the artform just doesn’t float my boat.  I actually think it’s kind of lame.

But as lame as it may or may not be, it does get a ton of views…and likes.  People for what ever reason seem to really dig that stuff.

And so, with all that being said – rather than me saying to myself and the rest of the world – f*ck that, I’m going to be ME and do ma own thing…in my fragile and insecure state I attempted to change, for the absolute WORST reason possible.

To fit in.

To quote a much loved American-ism, what a total dumb-ass.

If you’ve heard me play drums, I’m not what you’d call a ‘drummy’ drummer.  I don’t throw in a lot of technical fills. I play what I feel is right for the musical situation I’m in and in fact spend more time figuring out what I’m *not* going to play. I gravitate towards emotive players who lay down beautifully executed grooves in a rock solid fashion.  People like Phil Gould, who was a huge inspiration to me growing up and I’m so proud to call my friend.

My reality check No.2 happened when Phil and I were chatting a little while back.

I was telling him with much enthusiasm about all these new books I’d bought which would help me with various skills such as limb independence, solo-ing and lots of other pretty useless technical crap I’d convinced myself I needed to learn.

He listened quietly as he always does. When I’d finished my lengthy list he softly asked:

‘…and, what do you need to learn all those skills for exactly?’.

‘To make me a better drummer’ I responded, convinced he’d be suitably impressed – which of course, he rightly wasn’t.

He went on to ask me ‘Do you want to be that type of player? Wouldn’t you prefer to perfect the technique you already have and execute grooves you already know with more accuracy? How is focussing on things like limb independence and solo-ing going to help you when recording your own songs or accompanying other people?’.

‘Well, I guess it isn’t’ I sheepishly replied.

He then asked me a question that changed everything.

‘Why did you want to play drums in the first place?’.

There it is.  The truth.  Reality.  Bringing me back to centre. I taught myself how to play drums because I’d written a bunch of tunes and needed a drummer for recording.  From then on I got hooked playing with other people and wanted to learn as much as I could.  It wasn’t about ME.  None of it was.  It was always 100% about THE MUSIC.  And the reason my brain is telling me that I was happier playing music when I was younger is because I didn’t spend my time creating videos for the internet because…there was no internet! I spent time practising, writing, learning, creating, being present.  The only time someone got to hear my skills was at a jam session or playing in a band with others – and we all enjoyed creating something really cool *together*.  There was no ego, no oooo! This video made X amount of likes or shares….we did it because we genuinely loved it.

And THAT element of music is what I’d forgotten.  My love for the art and putting that art before myself.  I’ve allowed my entire being to get overrun with self-deprecating thoughts from my apparently fragile ego.

Like I said.  Cotton-headed-ninny-muggins.

Thank you Universe for showing me the way and helping me see the light.  Through my crappy Handycam videos as an awkward teenager and a kind friend who always knows the right thing to say at the right time, I finally returned back to centre.

Ahhhhh. That’s better ❤

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