We met some truly wonderful musicians, including the brilliant human being Roy Bailey and guitar genius Martin Simpson, who let me stroke his hands for luck. Here’s a terrible pic from my phone of us with Martin Simpson and Fay Hield. It looks like we’ve been trapped in a cupboard together (but we don’t mind).
The statue goes up in 2016. Presumably the one of me is scheduled for sometime shortly after that.
Here’s a live performance of ‘Shelter’, the closing track on the new album.
It’s pretty much identical to the album version, as that’s how I recorded it in the studio; me and my guitar, one take. It felt like that was the only way to record this song.
It’s a song of gratitude, the gratitude I felt towards my home and my husband when I looked back on this particular year in which I wrote the album; a year that started with a car crash* seconds after I felt an overwhelming conviction that ‘everything was going to be alright’. A year that saw me spend a lot of time sheltering in our house as things went from bad to worse with a series of shitty events, but a year that I’d eventually pull myself through, thanks to the security and comfort I could rely on at home.
*only the car got hurt. We walked away (with just a small cut on my hand), dusted ourselves off, left the written-off car in a ditch by the road and made it to Rory McVicar‘s wedding only a couple of hours late. I had a delayed shock reaction a day or so later, but at the time we were determined to get to that wedding rather than sitting by the road for the rest of the day waiting for the recovery services and feeling upset. Life’s too short for that.
That’s one enormous sky, there I’ll peer out from your arms, here We grow slow as grass; don’t rush And you, with your serious voice, shhhh
My lily-coloured love, don’t say too much But pull my bones apart from their velvet clutch In the middle of your heart I laid my touch In a bid for survival
Since the moment I said everything was alright I have been sheltering in our house As a curse storms about A curse storms about and I open a window I’m dying to get out these days
But there’s so much to be learned from staying in And waiting for my love to cover my skin In the middle of my heart a truth’s growing I am oak
A curse storms about and I open a window I’m dying to get out these days
And you’re the only one who’s seen in my head You pull me off the floor and put me to bed In the middle of the room you held me and said shhhh
Here’s a live version of track two from the new album, filmed earlier this year at the Lyric Festival:
And this morning, that lovely Lauren Laverne went and made the title track of Neighbour of the Year her headphones moment on the BBC 6 Music Morning Show. You can hear it here (at 1:40:36). Thanks, Lauren!
My new album is out today, available on clear 10″ vinyl, CD or download from good record shops, a host of online retailers and from me at any of our upcoming gigs. You can find some links to order over here. Welcome to the neighbourhood!
I’ve written a short track by track piece over here for The Mouth magazine.
It’s always a bit weird, release day. You spend months writing and developing, then recording, mixing, mastering, followed by all the business stuff, the finance and attempts at marketing – and then finally, one day, that’s it. There’s nothing more to do other than sit around and hope people like it. Well here we are.
In this case, it’s taken me over two years to put this album out. I started writing it in the Autumn of 2012 and I finished writing and recording last December. We lost a few tracks along the way with new ones springing up in their place; it’s only a short record but it’s exactly the one I wanted to make.
It’s also the first time I’ve ever self-released and this year I’ve found out just how much work small labels do. I confess there have been times when I’ve been frustrated and thought ‘never again!’ One particular day this summer I was having a hard time over something record-related, I can’t remember exactly what, and I went outside for a break. I sat down to read and almost instantly found myself on this paragraph in Patti Smith’s book, ‘Just Kids’:
“The artist seeks contact with his intuitive sense of the gods, but in order to create his work, he cannot stay in this seductive and incorporeal realm. He must return to the material world in order to do his work. It’s the artist’s responsibility to balance mystical communication and the labor of creation.”
It was reassuring. It may not be exactly what she meant, but it reminded me that I shouldn’t resent being outside of the blissful writing stage if I want my songs heard by anyone else. (Which I often think is a weird thing in itself – wanting my songs to be heard – but my songs don’t feel ‘alive’ until I’ve played them to someone else. They’re like ghosts until then; hanging around waiting to be reincarnated into physical form by being performed or recorded.) Anyway, I carried on, renewed. Thanks, Patti.
We launched the album yesterday at the Hangover Lounge in London. Here’s ‘I’ve Been Shot’, with extra vocals from Emma Kupa and Rory McVicar (and if you’re wondering, I’d spilt water on the floor and had just told Emma to be careful):
All that’s left for me to say today is to once more thank everyone that has helped me make this record, starting with my wonderful producer Dave Sanderson and everyone who lent their musical talents to it – Katherine Jackson, Hannah Browne, Oliver Allchin, Neil Piper, Chris Loftus and Stannington Brass Band (Ed Knowles, Charlotte Richardson, Becky Ball, Richard Mason, Doug McClure, Andrew Holling, Sarah Billard and Hilary Mateer, with scoring help from Jim Fletcher).
Thanks to Ella Osborne and Sean Coleman for their artistic talents and to Darren at Cargo Records for helping with the record distribution and the manufacture of the CD version. Thanks to Nick Watson at Fluid for his mastering skills, Breed Media for manufacturing the vinyl and AWAL for their digital distribution. Thanks to Gideon Coe for relentlessly pushing me to his listeners (and to Lauren Laverne / Tom Ravenscroft / Steve Lamacq / John Kennedy / the folks at Sheffield Live and anyone else who has played me and anyone who has said nice things elsewhere, including Maria Popova at BrainPickings). And thanks to my wonderful video makers Andy Brown, Nathan Gibson and Fettle Animation.
Finally, thanks to everyone who has advised, helped and supported me in various ways throughout this whole thing from buying me notebooks to helping me slip the inserts into the record sleeves to passing on handy contacts – including Graham Burchell, Penny Blackham, Anna Connolly, Sarah Bennington, Darren O’Connor, Nigel Humberstone, Jo Wingate, Clementine Zawadzki, Kev Gori, Tonya Kennedy, Catherine Ferguson, Katherine Jackson (again) and Chris Loftus (again) and anyone reading this who has bought the album, come to a gig, shared anything on the internet or told a friend. THANK YOU. Now tell your neighbours.
Album cover by Ella Osborne
Not Now, Horse video by Andy Brown and Nathan Gibson
Neighbour of the Year tour! Accompanied by my wonderful band on harmonies, flute, fiddle, lapsteel, horn and banjo, I’ll be playing a retrospective set featuring songs from my Monkey Swallows the Universe and Nat Johnson & the Figureheads days, as well as (of course) songs from the new album.
Sheffielders can pick up a copy of the new issue of the excellent magazine Now Then from loads of places around town, featuring an interview with yours truly. You can also read it online.
It also has some amazing/beautiful/terrifying photographs in it by Martin Vlach, which I love even though some of the pictures are remarkably representative of one of my worst fears (being in a murky sea with a huge whale, obviously).