Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Midnight Sessions

I’ll go back on what I said a few weeks back about not having a to-do list; I’ve bloody well gone and started one but thankfully things are being ticked off very nicely indeed. One of the ideas I’ve had for a while now is to record an overnight album, an idea that came about when I noticed that studio owner Adrian at the brilliant Sham Studios in Somersham was offering overnight sessions for a very reasonable fee. So on Saturday we took advantage of this situation and I gathered some of my best friends – Trevor Jones (singer/guitarist), Ali Bunclark (piano/producer) and Chris Lawrenson (bassist/chef) to form a makeshift band (with myself – drums/energy drinks, of course). The plan was really simple; to record a late night soul album. You know, the kind of album you’d want to listen to when driving back at 2am on big empty roads. Something soothing, but with a twist of quirkiness. Between Trevor and Ali we had enough equipment to turn the large rehearsal space into a studio, and at 10pm we started recording. By 6am we had 12 tracks – 10 of which were really very lovely indeed (and 2 which were perfectly in time and pleasant enough but probably won’t make the cut). By 7.30am I was home (having found ourselves locked in the grounds of the studio for a bit, hence the delay between finishing and getting out). People keep asking about why I’m not tired and in theory I should be – I’d barely slept at all that weekend (on Friday played a storming gig with The Prisoner Of Mars in Cambridge, Saturday I was too awake making plans), but when you’re in a spacious studio, surrounded by outstanding musicians at the top of their game, with tunes and ideas flowing, the hours to literally fly by. The release is to be simply called, ‘Midnight Sessions’ and this band are known now as Bleary Eyed By Dawn. I haven’t heard the final recordings yet, but at the time it felt like a world beater. If it’s any good we’ll release it in the summer.

January has been a fruitfully creative month; I’ve written and filmed/edited four episodes of a little sitcom with Izzy (to be launched end of February), I’ve written the first draft of my Edinburgh show (first reading of it tonight), I’ve recorded the album as mentioned above, I’ve spent good time in the studio finishing the jazz project with Pillars and I’ve gigged with Fred’s House and Prisoner Of Mars. I’ve also confirmed my Edinburgh fringe run and booked tour dates in May/July and had very interesting meetings about a few other little projects. Next up – a film, a novel and a musical. Possibly in that order. Plus of course the Fred’s House UK tour in March/April is looming. So far though; 2014 – one month in, you’ve started well. Keep it up.

Currently reading: Harry Redknapp – Always Managing

Currently watching: Uncle, House Of Fools, Dad’s Army

Currently listening to: Hospitality – Trouble; The Cinematic Orchestra – Live At The Royal Albert Hall; Sophie Ellis-Bexter – Wanderlust (I’m not generally a Sophie EB fan but when I heard this was co-written by the genius that is Ed Harcourt I thought I’d give it a go – it’s a wonderful, mature, adult, theatrical piece of work, an absolute gem – I defy anyone to listen to, ‘Young Blood’ and deny it’s anything but perfection.)

Monday, 20 January 2014

And Then Things Got Complicated For Emily & Michael

I've spent the first few weeks of the year writing, and then filming, and then editing, a lovely little sitcom with Izzy. It's called, 'And Then Things Got Complicated For Emily & Michael' - we've made four episodes, filmed over three weekends. The concept of it is really simple, but I won't spoil it for you on here just in case you happen to watch it when it goes live...but it's set in a car, she's a bit stroppy but as the series evolves we see a more vulnerable side to her, he's a bit awkward but as the series reaches it's climax we find out why.

It was filmed on an iPhone, it shouldn't work - you can't go around making sitcoms on your phone, but this does - really does, we were a bit surprised. In fact we liked the way the first episode looked so much that we decided to film it again with a slightly stronger performance. I'm actually really pleased with our performances in this show, we clearly get more comfortable doing this the more we did (episode 4 is really, really nice - and hopefully it'll stir a couple of emotions too).

That was a nice little project for January anyway, perhaps an unhealthy distraction from my progress with the new solo show, but a creative distraction, at least. I've also played a couple lovely gigs with Fred's House this month (a private function, and then a folk club show), good things are happening there, you know.

I'll post the links to the sitcom (we'll stick it all on YouTube) soon, probably next month, when we try in vein to tie it in with our various other projects...

Friday, 3 January 2014

So, this is 2014

If the New Year celebrations were an indication of the 12 months ahead, then 2014 is going to be a very enjoyable (if drunken) one, surrounded by creative, exciting people whilst drumming, a lot. I'd be happy enough with that. I was perhaps a little grumpy at Christmas for no other reason than that I had been feeling festive since mid-October what with the tour show and by December 25th I just wasn't in the mood anymore. I also had issues with everything being so sleepy; it's nice, relaxing, isn't it? I've heard it's good for you. Chilling out, going home to see the family (who are only about 3 minutes down the road from where I live these days, that in itself feels a bit strange...indeed I couldn't even get to the end of, 'Driving Home For Christmas' on my car stereo whilst actually driving home for Christmas), catching up with many great's just I felt a bit agitated by the slow pace of it all. Things got frantic again though by New Year's Eve - a really long gig with Fred's House in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere (near Rugby), gastro restaurant/bar, well-dressed people, good food, amazing company. The gig itself, which lasted nearly three hours by the end I think, was very much a show of two halves; the first was quieter as we were the backing to dinner (still with warm applause after every song though, impressive considering as the audience were all eating), the second was full-on party stuff. There's something really special about being the band that plays, 'Auld Lang Syne' as party poppers explode across the small function room, I get a real buzz out of being part of the entertainment - it's much more fun on stage than it is in the audience I'm sure. After the show, we (the collective members of Fred's House, plus friends of the band - Diana, Ania, Josh, Tom, Claire - none of whom I'd met before but all of whom were exceptionally good company who I'll be keeping in touch with) stayed in an amazing house that had an underground bar, hidden rooms, slightly tricky windily staircases and we drank whisky till 5am enjoying the good banter. The general consensus is that this was the best New Year's Eve ever. I think I agree.

So I kind of lost the first day of the year with a hangover, but this year has started productively enough already. My main show for the year is a solo show called, 'Getting Lost In My Home Town', - I started work on it whilst on the Christmas tour and it's a show that means a lot to me. I'm doing this show in steps - it'll open as a lounge/house show with a run of shows now booked for late February/early March to test it, before a full UK tour in May, and then a smaller tour (including an important, and now confirmed, London date) in early July, before a full Edinburgh run in August. I'll probably be taking three shows to Edinburgh again this year, but I'm still working on the other two, this one will be the only solo production though I think. Last night I took a break from writing the stuff I should be writing and decided to launch a new occasional podcast series. We're not doing our new material nights this year so it's a nice excuse to write new material and then get it out there in an instant - there's something really satisfying about writing a short story, taking an hour away from it, reading it again and then recording it, having it online by the end of the evening. The shows go under the title of, 'Long Rainy Summer' - I'll be doing a new piece every couple weeks or so, the first one can be heard here. This weekend I start filming a new comedy idea I've had for a while, looking forward to working with Izzy again (we don't catch up as much as we used to now that we're both doing solo shows), this is a series of 4-5 minute shows called, 'And Then Things Got Awkward For Emily And Michael'. In the meantime my new book, 'The Stationary Seller & Other Short Stories' is with the proof-reader, Abi, she's very thorough but has predicted that I'll have it back by the end of the month before publication in March, and at some point we all need to get around to finishing off our radio sitcom, 'Technically Single' which is something we're all very excited about but equally we seem to have the busiest cast in the world...soon though.

All of this writing tomfoolery of course has to be planned very carefully around what has turned into a very busy gigging schedule for 2014 - mostly Fred's House (the album comes out in March, it's wonderful, with an immense run of gigs to promote it), with gigs also lined up with psychedelic rockers The Prisoner Of Mars. There will also be shows and recording with Flaming June and jazz bands Pillars and Grace Williams & The Bare Bones Band, and at the end of this month I am drumming for Trevor Jones and Ali Bunclark in an overnight recording session (starts 9pm, ends 10am) - it just seems like a fun idea to book a studio overnight and record a soul record. OperaConga is still on the cards too, although I'm not sure how we'll pull that one off...

2014 is feeling exciting already. I've done away with to-do lists; these days if I have an idea I'll just drop what I'm doing and get on with it, rather than write it down and mull it over for a few days. If anything, it saves on paper. Happy New Year everyone, let's do this!