Current mood: cold

Well, I’ve been here now for over three weeks and I have a little more than three weeks left. So far I’ve just been doing shows in the UK although tomorrow I go to Ireland and after that France and the Netherlands. So here are some overviews from places I’ve been so far:

Hastings/St. Leonards- this is basically like Hampton beach, a seaside resort kind of town, but in October it’s kind of foggy and getting cold and there aren’t as many tourists at the arcade. I played three shows there straight and had a really nice beginning to my tour staying with my friend Kate, whom I met last year, we both were in a similar place having come out of relationships not too long ago and sort of coached each other through it a bit and went on long walks around town and the beach and checked out the old fishing village.

There are these very small houses, maybe 4 or 5 feet square and they are two stories tall, all they carry are netting for gear for fishing. The fishing museum had all these beautiful pictures of fisherman from the 1800’s and beyond which showed a kind of history to the area that was almost haunting. There still are fishing boats, and it’s still a big industry there, but otherwise it’s hard not to notice the amusement park, arcade, chippy stands, and summer condos that have spread throughout that area. My shows went well and it was nice to return to the Rooms, and meet new people. The highlight being a late night at a bar watching a dude dance with himself at the bar, he was basically humping the woodwork, and I recorded it with my new digital camera, I’m convinced I could stick it on youtube and get a million hits, or make a music video out of it. I played one night there with a band with six ukuleles which was interesting. I told them they should make a zombie music video in hastings with all that fog and some halloween makeup. At least that is what I’d do…

Brighton- “london by the sea”, I think more like san francisco. It is a nice place, a city on the beach, there are cool shops in these little alleys, I went there last year and didn’t see a whole part of the city which was clearly the place to be…The show was good, it was in the afternoon which was strange but they drew the curtains and created night and people came…My friends Clare and Jezz gave me a tour of the town, we walked the seaside strip with all the folks hanging out at bars, sitting on the rocky beach, it was a nice feel. In college I chose between going to study abroad there or to Australia, as some of you know I went to Sydney, which I’m still happy about, it’s sunny and cheaper, but Brighton would have been cool too. The next day we went up to a hill in the countryside and walked around. That is what the English seem to do, go walk their dogs and kids in the countryside and then go to the pub for a roast and a pint. So that is what we did and it reminded me that in England there is a hell of a lot more day to day tradition, whether it be tea or a roast. I guess in the US we have…thanksgiving? I’ve always found in English-speaking Western countries it’s all those little differences that make you know you are in a foreign land. Anyway, yeah, brighton is cool…

London- oh geez, I’ve tried so hard to love London but it is such a tough love, either that or it’s just not happening…I can’t seem to really call it my own in any way and I’ve now collectively spent over a month there in my lifetime, it’s just a big spralling expensive city to me, I’ve tried to love it and will have to try some more. All the gigs there usually are the worst of the tour, in big cities there is too much going on for people to take notice of what you are doing. I did a handful of shows this time and the only one that was kind of cool was at the Old Queens Head and that was just because it was this beautiful room with high ceilings and chandaliers and old furniture, I felt like I was in a room you could only be in in London, we don’t have rooms like that back home. Otherwise though London is a tough nut to crack, maybe even tougher than nyc. To sum up my feelings on London I will not give you a Bert Jansch song that struck my fancy and captured my feelings a lot whilst I was in London and in the UK in general:

Running Running from Home  (by Bert Jansch)

Running running from home, breaking ties that you’ve grown, catching dreams from the clouds. The city sounds burn your soul, turn your head to the cries of loneliness in the night. Just like a fly when it’s caught the spider soon takes it’s brace spins a dance round your heart. Yet be your beauty of age, your pleasure pleasing my mind your heart with shatter and fall. Step on pavement so old cast a glace at the young girls are making their way. A passing image of you reflects a pain to my heart and disappears in a crowd. Running running from home breaking ties that you’ve grown catching dreams from the clouds.

There it is, London in a nutshell. This song is beautiful, check out Bert Jansch’s myspace it’s posted on there and is a great listen. The only London story that comes to mind is that I meet this weird dude at a show who told me his life story in less than five minutes, where he inherited a bunch of money and then his third wife and her gangster relatives robbed him of it. This was his justification for why his Martin guitar was at his mother’s house in case the gangsters came back…oh my…

I had a lot of de ja vu at the beginning of the tour where I was going to venues and seeing people I saw exactly a year ago on my first UK tour, and it kind of freaked me out. Knowing that a year had gone by and that I am a year older. And that things have changed since then, last year I was in a relationship, lived in an apartment I no longer live in, had a different life almost, so it was strange to return to the same thing changed. But the weirdest de ja vu is when I went to this venue I played last year and went to a nearby supermarket to grab some food before the show, the same supermarket I went to last year. I remember that I got their premade food last year and it sucked but it was easy and cheap. So oddly enough, even remembering this information, I went back to the same shitty supermarket, got their premade food and took a few bits and threw it away. Then laughed all the way back to the venue that I’m such an idiot creature of habit that I had repeated the same crappy decision with crappy food exactly a year later…

Margate- also a trip down memory road, I was playing the last show of the Moon on a Stick promotions weekly gig at the Qubar, they decided to stop the series that week and I was the last one to do it so it was quite an honor and it was a great show, it was a nice part of the venue this year that was more like a posche club with a dj boothe and leather couches, it was a fun gig though, I liked it a lot, and it was great to see Penny, Ollie, and Lisa again who all wrote nice little notes in my journal while I was playing. Penny lives in this adorable little house that is three stories but scrunched in between other buildings and you feel like you are in a shoebox but it’s a very comforting feeling. Sometimes coming back to places is a really great feeling because you know what to expect and I felt like I knew those people even though I’d only come across them for two nights in my life, but as a touring musician that is what you are constantly trying to do, connect with people, especially when you are alone…and speaking of alone, this is the part of the tour where I hooked up with my label, Folkwit Records, for their label tour and for the next two weeks I’ve more or less been with them and 4-5 of their other artists on a label showcase and I haven’t really been alone at all since, or much.

Cambridge- well with the fancy university and the fact that Cambridge, MA is surely named after it, you can imagine what it is like. Very IV league and beautiful and old and people go “punting” with boats down the river (that thing they do in Venice…). My friend Brendon is going to law school there this year so he gave me a tour of the town and school which is just beautiful with gardens and incredible architecture, and old cobbled streets and houses. Has that real old English feel to it. The show was pretty good as a listening room.

I went for Chinese food next door and ordered some chicken fried rice from a young Asian teenager whose family probably owned the business. Then he went behind to the kitchen and came back out with my food, and then I asked for some sweet and sour sauce and there appeared his identical twin which totally tripped me out, I thought I had entered an episode of the twilight zone, one of them came out with a big cup of sauce and wanted like 90p for it (almost $2 basically) and I was like, no I just want a little packet of sauce, which totally got the twins wicked confused and they were taking back to each other, and they looked exactly the same with the same outfit practically, and it was just really trippy, I guess you had to be there…but if I ever make a movie they are gonna be in it…

Clitheroe- country town in Yorkshire, we played in the backroom after the Rubgy was over, and thank god the British won…When I walked into the bar I ordered a diet coke and then asked the barkeep for a lime and he said “Miss this is an old English pub we don’t have things such as limes, you must go up the street for that”. A bit shocked I saw a jar full of lemons and asked if I could have one of them. “Are you Australian?” he asked, “No American,” I replied. “That’s even worse,” he said back and a bunch of people listening laughed. The other people from Folkwit who were with me were quit appalled and said that most English people aren’t that rude. But I just thought I’m in the country and I’ll just shut up and not ask for a lime…Needless to say the show was great and it was a very attentive audience and we all had a great time.

Leeds- when I hiked in Nepal over five years ago I met a couple, Sam and Matt, who were on their honeymoon. Now they live in Leeds and have a beautiful son Otto, who is 15 months old. I stayed with them for two nights and played some shows and had a really nice time seeing them again. It’s sometimes nice to be with a family when you are traveling as a musician, it gives you a sense of stability and…reality…most people don’t live such a bizarre life as I do and I guess the grass is always greener. Sometimes I long for a sense of stability and I meet people everywhere that are envious of my ability to move around at will and not be tied down by a mortgage or day job, or children.

I played a show outside Leeds in Otley with two US bands that were there on a tour promoted by CMEAS, something that is on sonicbids, and we had been in touch and they invited me to come play. It was an interesting setting in a country pub in a small picturesque town. It was outdoors under a tin roof, garage sorta thing, the drums were a bit much for the place but otherwise it was certainly a show to remember, and some great English roast as well. It was nice to chat with some other American musicians and get their stories on touring around. They had had quite an adventure with a van breaking down, man have I heard that story a lot. And I’ve also lived it and know how awful it is when your vehicle shits the bed on tour, it’s the worst feeling because you have a gig to be at, tons of gear, and you are kind of stranded. In any case, that was a fun show.

Then I played in Leeds at what was essentially like a variety show with all kinds of strange acts and poets, and whatnot. It was cool though, the only really shocking part of the variety show was a diva who had them put in a cd that stunk of wannabe Beyonce or J-Lo and she proceeded sing along with the CD karoke style and dance around and diva herself onstage, it was pretty unbelievable, I forgot that that is popular culture and some people actually admire all that shit.

Sheffield- home of the Arctic Monkeys which has made it a town with tons of bands who probably are trying to make it big like them. The club was cool, Runaway Girl, kind of a swank place. One of the bands I played with was quite anthemic and sort of interesting “held by hands”. The best part of the show being that Cath the promoter was very helpful and I got to stay in an apartment above the club for the night and have tapas the next day before I shoved off. And the tapas were great. Plus I love clubs that have apartments where performers can stay, it doesn’t happen much but when it does you always feel like all clubs should have that for touring artists. I also walked around town going to charity shops looking for some new books to read. One cool thing about the UK is that there are small charity shops everywhere that say “Cancer Research”, “Save the Children”, “Oxfam”, so I went to “Help the Aged” where everyone shopping there was over 65 and got myself a book for 50p and hoped the aged i guess…

Of course the bum news is that on my way back to London from Sheffield my bus broke down on the side of the highway and it was pouring buckets, I was worried I was going to miss my show. We waited at a gas station, I was under an umbrella who two guys who were smoking and talking about their diabettes,  and luckily another bus came and I jumped on wet and happy. The woman next to me talked my ear off, but it felt really good to just get out of that parking lot with the rain coming down and feeling stranded. I made the gig afterall and met a really nice band called “forestbrook” who were these girls playing folky irish influenced music. The Electroacoustic club is basically the one venue in London I can call my own, I’ve played there three times, always going to the same Asian place around the corner for a bite (are you starting to get my patterns here…) and I’m buddies with the soundguy, so that must mean I do have a London home in that cave-like venue…

Bishops Stortford- small villagey town outside of London thirty or forty miles. “If Wen” and I walked around for a bit. He’s one of the Folkwit artists who is a BBC journalist by day and has a lot of interesting stories and has been to Iraq twice and always has a lot to say about politics. What I liked most about the town was looking above the shop windows to the little apartments above that must be interesting places to live since you are in a fishbowl unless you shut the curtins, but I imagined it as being a really cute place to live, especially back in the 60’s or something, not sure why that came to mind but I always imagine all places being a lot more interesting back then. The show was intimate and we had a very attentive audience. The pub used to be a horse barn so there was an old smell to it and you knew that you were in a stable, they even had stable doors seperating the pub from the playing/function room.

Pettersborough- we played in a hippie artists collective pub which was quite interesting, a young electic crowd with a DJ spinning between sets, practice rooms in the back. It wasn’t really a good venue for the music that the tour is promoting, since people were kind of loud, but it was nonetheless an interesting place to be. The other artists who I’ve been playing with and gotten to know these past two weeks are Andy Whittle, Jezz Hall, Samuel Kirk, If Wen, and Sam Carter, all of whom have played at least a few of the Folkwit dates, and it’s been nice to get to know them all, as they are all nice people and the music is varied under the indie folk umbrella you might say. We went for some fish and chips which is always the easy cheap way to eat in England.

Nottingham- I’ve been here in “notts” for a few days now and it’s been good. I’ve been staying with Gaff, one of the guys who runs Folkwit, and his family has been very nice and hospitable. I played with the label at Hotel Deux which is a cool pub with a great owner, Rob, and his cute dog who is v. old and has asthma and had black tape all around it’s foot because it tried to knaw at it’s paw. The venue is like a large living room with couches and it was a good show even though the rugby world cup was on earlier and England lost. I was happy to see that John Renbourn (who played with Bert Jansch in “Pentangle”) had played at the venue the week before. It’s always a nice feeling when you’re playing at the same venues as people you admire and influenced you from a young age. We had a nice night and the next day I took a day trip to:

Manchester- for the “In the City” festival which is basically like the SXSW of England. I played a day show at a venue that reminded of of “the other side” cafe in Boston and the Middle East. Lots of hipsters and whatnot, but it was a good show even though I was on early on a Sunday when people were probably just getting out of bed and confronting their hangovers or whatever. I hung out and watched the other acts for a while but decided to get back to Notts in the evening because I wasn’t really in the mood to trek around exploring the festival even though it may have been worthwhile.

Part of my decision to bust after 3-4 hours of chilling out that afternoon at the venue was that another band mistakenly took off with my guitar as it was with all the other gear near the stage, I luckily discovered it missing, realized what had happened and recovered it all pretty quickly but it was a horrible feeling to think that I could loose my guitar so I’ve been keeping it closer to me now, knowing that all gig bags look alike and that musicians are historically very flakey. Not to mention the waitress was a bit on the bitchy side and while I was playing I had left a bag of apples, banaas, and snacks at my seat and when I got off stage it was gone…damn rock clubs.

No whatever it was cool, I just was doing my Suduko looking around at all the hipsters chatting away thinking to myself that I’m either too old for this shit or just over it because I just dont’ seem to care about the scene anymore, and I wonder if i ever did, but it occured to me how much of this business is just a bunch of fashion hipster hype and “who you know” and all that horseshit, and even though I’ve never liked being tagged a “folky singer-songwriter” type sometimes I think in that scene at least it really does matter if your music is any good, since it’s so stripped down and easy to bore people if you’re music isn’t interesting. With the hipsters sometimes I can’t even see beyond their glaring 80’s clothes and the music just sounds like a wall of “hey i leared to play this synth yesterday here’s some shitty song i want to be a rockstar.” or whateves…

I’ve spent the last two nights in Nottingham doing the feature for open mikes, which is a built in but inattentive audience I find but on a monday and tuesday night on tour it’s better to play a show than not. One of the venues was this amazing old theature with a glass doom roof. It would be amazing to play at except the stage is about 8 feet above the first level and 8 feet bellow the balcony so you are stuck somewhere imbetween and it’s hard to know who you are playing to even though asthetically the place was stunning. Tonite we are off to Leicester and then tomorrow I go to Ireland to finish off the second half of this incredible long ass tour! Here are my closing sentiments on this blog:

Books I’ve read so far: “Travels with Charley” (John Steinbeck), “the Bell Jar” (Sylvia Plath), “Delusions of Grandma” (Carrie Fisher), “the Joy Luck Club” (Amy Tan). Here are some quotes:

“When that time was over and the good-byes said I had to go through the same lost loneliness all over again, and it was no less painful than at first. There seemed to be no cure for loneliness save only being alone.”  John Steinbeck

“When you are a kid time drags ass, then before you know it you are 50” -the film “Amelie”

“I wished with all my heart I could crawl into her and spend the rest of my life barking out one idiom after another. It mightn’t make me any happier, but it would be one more little pebble of efficiency among all the other pebbles”        -Sylvia Plath

“Babies rolling over, babies reaching for rattles, babies eating their first spoonful of solid food, babies doing all the little tricky things it takes to grow up, step by step, into an anxious and unsettling world” -Slyvia Plath

“To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream”  -Slyvia Plath

Basically “the Bell Jar” is an amazing book, one of my favorites, it’s like a female version of “Catcher in the Rye”, and even more off the dead end, you must read it if you haven’t, or re-read it as I just did, I loved it even more then second time.

My closing sentiment is of course a bit of my usual cynical self on a rant, only read this if you want to read a rant… Having weathered the music business now for about five years full time, I can say that it is a thankless and really difficult industry to wrap your head around. I always thought there might be some kind of equation or science behind what you need to do to achieve “success” but surely now I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no such way to know these things, and surely there is no science to sucess in this industry. Even being over-ambitious and working hard at your craft doesn’t always seem to add up to results, and touring takes it’s toll as you sacrafice the feeling of having a nest at home and a sense of security for a freewhelling life of unpredictablity which cuts both ways into good and bad gigs and road experiences.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people about the state of the industry and we all agree it’s getting more and more difficult with the digital age to sell cds and to quite frankly make a living because the market is diluted with tons and tons of artists (mostly amateurs) who have decided to post their music on myspace and get gigs, and they make it difficult for those of us who are really serious about making music for a living. I think ten years ago it was a much different market. There are so many names and bands now, every time I open a music magazine over here or back at home it’s just more and more albums, bands, solo artists, and they are all trying to get their music out there, it feels like swimming in a sea of unidentifiable objects, and it makes you wonder how anything floats to the shore. Seriously I don’t know how anyone rises up in a scene these days, there is just so much competition and really just so much content and it’s hard to know what is worthwhile as an approach to making music in a public forum.

Having almost driven myself crazy over the past couple years dumping all my time, energy, and money into my music career, I have to say that I’m looking forward to taking a step back. It started to really come clear to me this summer when I was interviewed for a film about indie bands. I told them about all my touring and how I had gone about trying different avenues in the business. They asked me if I thought making a record, having a solid local/regional fanbase, or touring were the best ways to focus your energy to be successful. And all this kind of theoretical crap in the industry I’ve talked about with people countless times. After the interview, when the camera was shut off the director told me about an interview he did with my friend Lee Anderson who runs Radio Bean in Burlington VT, an old and great friend of mine, I was living in Burlington when he started the business and I still play there regularly. The director said Lee was his best interview and when I asked why he said because when asked:

“what would you tell bands looking to make it in the music business?”

his response was “No, don’t try and make it, keep your day job, do it because it’s your passion and do it because it doesn’t owe you anything, don’t try and make a living off of it, that is the first mistake all these musicians make, they think that “making it” is quiting their day job when it’s really just being respected in your arts community and having a love for what you are creating…”

Of course I’m embellishing a bit, I’m not sure exactly what he said beyond that idea but I have to say when the director first told me this response I thought it was an odd thing to say. But I’ve thought about it a lot over the past two months and I have to say that I’ve come to the conclusion that he is right on. I’m so sick of getting all these emails on myspace from bands looking to pick my brain, ask to play at my loft, open a show, all this shit, it’s like everyone in this industry is going around saying “What can you do for me?”. and these are just the musicians I’m talking about, let alone the clubs who want you to have a big draw and take all the door money and give you a couple bucks for making them tons of money off booze, let alone the scum bag A&R people who just look at you with dollar signs trying to see if you could be the next big thing. They don’t give a shit about your music, it’s about money, and artists are making the same mistake.

So I’ve made a decision to step back and stop letting this business get to me in the ways it has these past years I’ve made it my biz. I’m going to try and find the good parts of making music that made me play it to begin with, because the business is dirty and really unattractive. And I’d rather not do it at all then feel so bitter about it. Some of my best friends (Laurel Brauns, Nick Zampiello, my ex Steve B.) are the most talented people I know but they are all bitter and jaded from this business because they’ve worked so hard for so little and again, it’s just thankless. All of a sudden having a day job seems a lot more attractive when I think about how when you try and make music into a business, it makes you into a business, and that business isn’t very pretty and sometimes the last thing it is is creative.

I guess the upside to this realization is that I have a manager now, to it’s easier for me to let him deal with all those business things that are making me hate the industry so much. But it seems like the right thing to do, taking a step back, I think I’ll just take it easy and record a bit, if I feel like it, do some writing, jam with some new people. But I guess I’ve said all this because I know most of the people who read this blog are my musician friends and I just want you to know how I feel, I think I’m really sick of having the same conversations we all have about the biz and people’s endless desires for sucess, and again the “what can YOU do for ME?” mentality which seems rampant these days. I guess I’m just a little fed up. I think we should all stop gigging all the time and just jam in our living rooms like we did in college, that was a lot of fun, I miss those days, we jammed because it was fun, because we wanted to, not to make a buck. OK, rant officially over. Thanks folks for those who made it this far. I miss you all and will be home for turkey!

love, audrey