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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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

❤ ❤ ❤

 

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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