Water Wheel set

Yesterday, accompanied by the sound of the water wheel and visited by herons(!) we played at Shepherd Wheel in Whiteley Woods.


We themed the set to nature/landscape-inspired songs…

1 – The Pie Bird – from I’m Across, I’m Ashore. Set on a farm backdrop, among ‘the drama of hens and of foxes’.

2 – Talkin’ Like You – one of our Connie Converse covers, full of natural imagery. We didn’t have Oliver with us yesterday, who normally represents the tall trees in this song on the musical saw, so I sent Katherine off to find something else she could use to fill in for him. She came back with two broad beans, given to her by Hangingwater Allotments. Unsurprisingly, they proved to be somewhat unmelodic. You can download our version here.

3 – DOG – about walking and presence. This was dedicated to Amy the dog who had come to watch us. She wagged her tail in approval. Download it here.

4 – Formicarium – a new song about the challenges of switching from ‘doing’ to ‘being’, including references to my own experiences of trying to learn meditation, a splash of existential crisis, that kind of thing, all set to a background of local scenery including the Porter Valley, Rivelin Valley and Chatsworth Gardens. (Will get this recorded eventually!)

5 – The Magpie’s Campaign – inspired by the behaviour of the birds in my garden, this one is about inequality and demonisation of certain groups in our society by our sick government – written ahead of the last general election, it is still exactly as relevant. It was during this song that a couple of herons flew about above us, obviously in approval of the sentiment. Read more and download it for free here.

6 – Condor – sticking with birds, the lighter side of this song is about a sort of natural reincarnation. You can download it here

Thanks to Steve Vickers for the pic, to Scott and the Folk Forest for having us, and to everyone who came to listen!


Free album!

The full set from Sunday’s third and final performance of Roving Women is now available on Bandcamp for free/pay what you want:

Roving Women: Nat Johnson plays Connie Converse (live at the Lexington with Cornerstone Brass)

1. One by One
2. Roving Woman
3. Trouble
4. How Sad, How Lovely
5. Empty Pocket Waltz
6. Talkin’ Like You
7. There is a Vine
8. Lonely in the Dark (Johnson)
9. Down This Road
10. Fortune’s Child
11. Sorrow is my Name
12. Condor (Johnson)
Encore – All This (Johnson)

Enjoy! And please share, that’s what this project was all about from the get go – sharing these songs with as many people as possible.

Videos coming soon too, keep an eye out here or on facebook/twitter.

With thanks to the Lexington, Delia Sparrow and Ed Cartledge. Pic by Katia from Women Produce Music:


After Connie (bit of a long read)

I’m feeling pretty exhausted today after a hectic week last week that ended with our final Roving Women show at the Lexington. Apologies if this isn’t well written, but I’m feeling a need to purge before I can get on with anything else today.

Last night was fairly stressful behind the scenes; we almost couldn’t show the film and at one point I ended up running around London trying to find a particular cable to make the back up copy work. It all got sorted out at the very last minute (thanks to the people at the Lexington, Chris and also Hannah’s husband) but I think my voice was shaking a bit from the stress of it when I got up to introduce the film. Things went better from then on thankfully, and it was good to see people respond to the film again. I think we played well, probably the best of our three shows, and we had some fantastic feedback (sorry to the people we made cry!) We took a recording so I’m hoping to be able to make some tracks available soon.

The first time we did the show, at Sensoria Festival last year, it was sold out to 160 with people still turning up on the door regardless in the hope of getting in. The response we had, and the reviews, were amazing and I was so happy it had all gone so well after the year of work we’d put into it. Then I had to try and book the show a couple more times in line with the Arts Council funding we’d secured to help put on the first event, and that’s when things started to get harder.

I must have contacted hundreds of promoters around the country, different types from festivals to cinemas, small venues and mid-sized. I wanted somewhere with seating and a screen, that understood the event and would help me attract an audience. I had no response from about 99% of these. Eventually I managed to get a booking at Hebden Bridge Arts festival, but on the night we played to about 25 or 30 people.

I carried on trying to get someone to book the show a third time in London, but it was the same story; I was ignored by just about everyone. Without a promoter to help let people know about a show, it’s much harder to sell tickets when you live in another part of the country, but with no promoter forthcoming and my patience absolutely running out, we took the hand offered us by the lovely people at the Lexington, for the room hire.

The Lexington were really helpful in promoting the show though, as were lots of people – thank you to everyone who tried to help including all the people who’d been at the Cutlers Hall show, Gid Coe, Ruth Barnes, Women Produce Music*, Rough Trade and many more. I couldn’t get any more press coverage like I had last year. I’ve been pretty much spamming the event on twitter and facebook which I hate doing, but anyway – it just didn’t get people interested enough to come. Even though there were enough people there to make last night really nice (THANK YOU) and we all really enjoyed it, we’re still talking about 30-40 people in the audience, a lot of whom were our pals.  It’s probably cost me a few hundred quid to put last night on, I haven’t done the accounting yet.

The whole thing seems to me a reflection of Connie’s story itself. The difficulty in getting anyone to hear her then and the difficulty in getting anyone to hear her now. I wouldn’t be moaning about this if it was one of my shows and people hadn’t come, that’s not the sort of thing I’d do and if you think this long rant is me saying boo hoo no one came to the gig poor me, then you’re misunderstanding me – it wasn’t just my show, it was Connie’s.

And every time we do this show, I have to go back into that place, into that story of her’s, into her depression. That’s not something I wanted to do over such a long space of time. I wanted this project to be done and happen all around the same time last year. It’s not like doing an ordinary gig, it’s much much harder.

I’m proud of our event, I’m proud of the arrangements we made and how we played them. I’m really glad we got to work with Cornerstone Brass. I’m over the moon that I have a friend for life in Andrea Kannes, the filmmaker (we talk all the time). I’m glad the Lonesome Lake EP is out there and I’m hoping some of last night’s recordings will come out ok too. But right now, I’m feeling that I mostly want to put this project behind me and move on. I think I’ve done my bit for Connie, and I hope other people can pick it up from here.

I’m going to try and shake off this mood and look forward to a gig-filled week. Tisso Lake in Sheffield tomorrow, then Kathryn Williams, Devon Sproule and Joanna Newsom all in one weekend. That should help.


*As I’m typing this, Women Produce Music just tweeted this and I’m in tears:

#SongsMatter #StoriesMatter @NatJohnsonband #ConnieConverse – We’re Listening.

Lonesome Lake out today, plus new video for Condor

The Lonesome Lake EP is out now! It’s available as a digital EP from iTunes, Bandcamp and Amazon, and at the time of writing there are only 14 left of the 100 uniquely hand-designed CDs too. Here’s a video for lead track, Condor – as heard on 6 music this week thanks to Gid Coe and Steve Lamacq. The vid was made by our very own Neil Piper (not just a great drummer eh?), and was filmed at Padley Gorge in the Peak District.

A million pounds to the first person to correctly guess what’s in the basket (not really, just in case. I’ll tell you another time).

The EP was produced by that lovely fella with the clever ears, Dave Sanderson, and features the talents of: Katherine Jackson (fiddle, uke, vocals), Hannah Cartledge (flute, vocals), Oliver Allchin (banjo, saw), Chris Loftus (bass), Neil Piper (drums), plus the wonderful bunch of people known as Cornerstone Brass on Condor, led by Damian Wileman (who made a real arrangement out of my vague ideas). And me of course on vocals, guitar and piano.

The EP emerged from our Roving Women project and the photo of Lonesome Lake is from Andrea Kannes’ film “We Lived Alone: The Connie Converse documentary”, which we’ll be screening again at the Lexington in London next month, as well as performing our versions of Connie’s songs and the songs from the EP.

Lonesome Lake

You can read the lyrics over here.

We all really hope you enjoy it and we’d love to hear what you think. If you’ve got one of the EPs, do tweet us a photo and if you can make it our last Roving Women show in London next month, do please come along, and tell your friends!

Limited edition CD available for pre-order

EP news! You can now pre-order the Lonesome Lake limited edition CD from Bandcamp:

Each one is uniquely hand-designed by moi. Only 100 available.
EP smallMore info on the EP over here.

There’s a video coming soon too – last weekend, Neil and I went out to Padley Gorge in the Peak District to make it:


NJ Padley Gorge

Also this week I’ve been doing my bit to help the refugees in Calais. There’s some advice here on ways you can help.


Double announcement!

And on my birthday, too.

1. A London date for Roving Women 
We’re performing the show, complete with Cornerstone Brass and Andrea’s film, one last time – at the Lexington on Sunday 25 October. Tickets here

2. A new EP!
And from my Roving Women project comes the Lonesome Lake EP. Three tracks – my two songs about Connie Converse – Condor and Lonely in the Dark – along with our version of Connie’s Talkin’ Like You. Out on 18 September. More info over here.

Lonesome Lake

That’s Lonesome Lake right there. Image from Andrea Kannes’ film ‘We Lived Alone: The Connie Converse documentary’.

Next stop: Tramlines

Thanks to Hebden Bridge Arts Festival and the Trades Club for hosting a very very hot and melty Roving Women last night! It was so great to play that set of Connie’s songs again and to a completely new audience, thanks to all who came along. We will be adding another date hopefully later in the year.



First though, it’s Tramlines, and we’ll have Cornerstone Brass with us for this too! See us on Sun 26 July at 4:45 on the Devonshire Green stage. More info.

Nat Johnson Tramlines