I was going to do a whole big blog, vlog and newsletter about England last month – everything I did, everything I learned, every cool place I went and person I met. But now that a few weeks have passed of being too busy, and it’s quickly becoming a fuzzy memory, I’m just going to give a shout-out to my top five highlights (in chronological order) and call it a day on that (and note: there were a lot of other people and places that I loved, but I’ve already shouted you all out on Facebook and sadly I don’t have the time or memory to write the extended version of each one!):
- I actually had a really good time busking at the Lower Marsh Market in Waterloo. It’s not the best busking I’ve ever done in terms of attention and money, but the staff was really open and friendly to me, and I was so grateful to have that laid back platform to sing my songs for hours at a time.
- Big shout-out to Fraser Morgan – a young singer-songwriter who really impressed me and is definitely going places if he continues to work at it – who did a great job at his first night running the friendly Bull Pub open mic in Colchester, and was very happy to let me play a bunch of original and cover songs there.
- Another favorite singer-songwriter I met was Nish Goyal, who gave me a place to crash in the beautiful city of Chester as well as a ride on to Manchester. It was great to meet someone who is not only a solid songwriter but also shares very similar ambitions to me, which led to some really great discussions, and I think we may end up bouncing a lot of ideas off each other in the future.
- One of my most memorable experiences was the Thirsty Scholar open mic (run by Tuesday Tony) in central Manchester the day after the attack on the arena. There were still many people avoiding the city center, but I had to make the most of my two (poorly chosen) days there. This was definitely the friendliest open mic I went to: I walked in, met the host, he introduced me to the other performers, and we all hung out at one table together as friends for the rest of the night. I got to dedicate one of my favorite original songs (I call it an anti-fascist ballad) to Manchester, and while I’m well aware that my presence wasn’t special to anyone else, I personally felt really grateful to be there, and that was one of my favorite evenings of the month.
- Thank you to Ian Russell (of Scorpio Promotions) and the other friendly people that I met at the Hop Merchant in Nottingham. It’s a lovely tight-knit yet welcoming community you’ve got there, and I’m sorry I was too tired to go all-night busking with you. Maybe next time!!
I also just want to take this time to reflect (as I frequently do, I know) on what a wild year or so it’s been. Last March (15 months ago) I had what I still class as the best experience of my life, when I got to sing my original cruise song for my number one role model, Frank Turner, and his audience, and then I got to stay up and sing five of his amazing songs with him. Last June (12 months ago) I finally completed my 52nd “throwaway song of the week” and threw myself a showcase party. I’ve spent the last year mostly on open mics, another cruise, some new covers, and of course this epic DIY tour of England.
Right now I really feel like I need to focus exclusively on songwriting for a month or two (or slightly longer if need be) for two reasons: 1) in my opinion, great songs are the single most important thing I need now in order to win over the kinds of fans, labels, musician buddies and other potential collaborators that I will need to get where I want to go; and 2) I know that I can write songs that are much better than the ones I’ve got now. I want songs that I don’t just think are decent enough to sing in public, but songs that I feel extremely proud of, and that give me strong feelings in my gut just like the songs I most admire. And I believe I’m ready to achieve that, but only if I dedicate enough time and energy to it, which means I need to reduce time and energy on other things like getting myself out there online and in person– but just for a little bit and then I’ll be back stronger than ever and with some amazing songs! (By the way I’m still doing my train station busking and a couple of favorite open mics, for those local to or visiting NJ/NYC. Check Facebook or just ask.)
This next batch of songs will be recorded somewhere better than my bedroom by a better recording engineer than myself (who just isn’t one by any means), then released at your favorite streaming sites and digital download stores, whether I manage it cheaply myself or find someone cool to help me. If nothing else, even if I utterly fail at shopping my songs around and do a totally inept digital release, it’ll be an adventure and I will learn a lot as usual! Haha, so excited. More updates in a couple of months when I’ve got them. Thanks for making it to the end of this ramble.