Sunday, 28 February 2010

Bathing in Baden Baden

Four days without a show and I don't know anyone in the area so I'd a
hotel in Baden Baden. So good they named it twice, according to Bill
Clinton, and Dosteyevsky lost a shirt here.

People have laughed when I told them because it's filled with old
folks. It's where their grandparents come for the thermal baths, which
suits me fine. Touring is like being locked in the woodshed by your
father with a box of cigars, because he caught you smoking one, and
not being allowed out until you've smoked them all. The last thing I
want to do on a night off is go to a bar, and as for music, I don't
listen to any anymore. No WAGs anymore though.

The waters are very restorative and inspiring. I was floating around,
singing to myself the stubs of unfinished songs I have, when it
occured to me to sing them acoppella on stage between the other songs.
It might sound like much of a brainwave to you, but trust me, from one
who knows about singer-songwriters, my golden rule to success is
'don't be boring'. Something which only the greats have ever come
close to. With this idea, and doing shorter versions of my standard
songs, which I've been graduating towards, I'll be able to get through
something like 50 songs in an hour set. Let's see if they fall asleep

Like all the best brainwaves, it has multiple benefits. I have the
stubs which I haven't finished, now I can use them without more work
AND it takes a lot of time and practice to learn full length songs. A
lot of my ideas come from laziness. And problems. I even have a stub
called 'Problems, Sweet Problems'.

In the Baden days I will work out some songs for recording in
Philadelphia in the second week in March. I only have four days but
this time I want to do a whole album. People keep asking for an
acoustic album at shows, and it will be quick to record, no click
track, no overdubs. Sweet problems.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Musig Bistrot - Bern, Switzerland

The venue was quite a swish restaurant. Not many people though. It's
one of the certainties that a quite show follows a great show.

In and out of Bern. Nice from what I saw. The hotel was next to the
venue so that wasn't much. I envied the skiers walking through town to
the station with their skis. I've never been skiing. I could have made
some time but then I'm quite unfit and I would be bound to do some
damage and i have to drive around America for 16 weeks.

I've not done anyway near enough work on the tour. I need about 20
more shows. Managing to fill all the dates is the bare minimum.
Sending out posters, flyers, interviews, promotion, etc. But that
would just kill me. Because when I'm on that tour I'll have to be
booking the rest of the year in Europe.

Friday, 26 February 2010

La Catrina, Zurich Switzerland

Rise of the renunciate

This diet of train travel is making me shed pounds. This is all I have left.

The weight of posessions. Whether you drag them or carry them. When they merely surround you, they only suffocate your soul slowly. When you're travelling they scream at your arms and stab your back. And weigh on your mind at the thought of moving or the sight of steps. Even the convenience of wheels is a pain. Your whole navigation is trained as you look for the smoothest surfaces, the 
shortest route, the elevators. You are self-disabled.

Luxuries become agonies, and the trials of travelling shed them as a runner sheds fat. In bursts of enlightment the unnecessary extras are wrapped up as generosity to unwitting acquintances, left in hotel rooms for cleaners, or fed into dustbins with the rest of waste. While the consumer impulses whittle to nothing but fantasies for food and drink. Tobacco. Newspapers replace books. Only that which can be ingested, excreted, discarded or are desired. You develop a taste for the weightless. An automatic gasp at the discovery of accidental loss is expelled in a sigh of joy at the realisation of 
unexpected liberty.

Like a disciplined mountain climber, without the forethought. This mountain is anything but lonely. Hoards line the slopes with necessities for your pack, deoderants. Getting full? Further up they sell larger bags. Run out of money? Lenders are on hand.

Not even the most absent minded can fail to notice their excesses when they carry it all with them. All excess are tamed by motion.

Travel as the elequent antidote to all lifes ills. Overweight? Walk. Depressed? Take the next train. Biggotted, racist...? Travel broadens the narrowist minds.

The solution is consistent motion. The mystified questions of those with matted roots when a tumbleweed goes by is testament to. Preserve precious momentum.

Wings fold only when they enter the home. All decisions are informed. If in doubt choose less.

Partly inspired by Up in the Air, and partly forced to by another flight I have reduced again. Out go luxuries like the extra pair of trousers,  I'll double-day on the underwear so I can get down to four 

Soon I will be down to the absolute minimum: guitar, laptop and CDs. It's still my dream to get down to just a passport and a credit card.

Travelling is quite a sedantry lifestyle. You wait for the bus to sit on the train to slouch in the taxi to hunch in a cafe over the internet and then putting my feet up in the venue before the show, folliwed by a good lie down in the hotel. Standing up on stage really goes against the grain. In that you have to go out of your way to get some exercise, it's like most modern lives.

Swiss ways

The Swiss know how to run things. Take rubbish for example. Recycling
is pivked up for free, but rubbish is only picked up if it's in the
special bag, which you have to buy (from any local show for €1).
There's no annual council tax for rubbish collection so if you don't
make a lot of rubbish you save money.

The museum of moving sculptures in Basel

Cafe Le Xe, vevey Switzerland

Sometimes you have to ask yourself whether it's all worthwhile. Seeing all the new places and getting paid to do it. The free food and drink. The attention. Such effort and sacrifice.

Take today for example, waking up on the banks of Lake Geneva with the overpowering mountains in the background. Walking along the banks in the hot sun, trying to decide which cafe to go to (one of the countless pressing decisions that have to be made every day), then killing time before the long lunch. Then buying a newspaper and getting on the train for another ordeal. Charlie Chaplin retired in Vevey. Poor fella.

Last night was also draining. There was no transportation to the venue so I had to walk all the way. It was next door. You think they would have porters. They made me eat as soon as I arrived while they set up. 

After the show some of the locals dragged me back to their art gallery and made me drink the best local wine. I managed to get through it.


People sometimes ask me where I get ideas for songs from and I say things I dwell on. I'm quite the dweller. Today I was dwelling on distraction as the root of happiness. I'm happiest doing things that occupy my mind completely. Go-karting, poker, good films, a good football match, a truly engaging person, sleep, and (luckily) songwriting. Active meditation they call it. I tried real meditation but I'm too distracted.

So distraction ideally followed by satisfaction = happiness. To take our minds off our inevitable deaths. Please take my mind off myself. There's a song in that.


'A lane for one, non smoking' always gets a smile.

The dream

I keep refining my dream of a weekly residency in New York. Writing
mainly topical songs and performing a completely new set every week.
It is realistic. It takes two hours to write a song once you have the
inspiration. And the good musicians (of which there aren't very many
unfortunately ) can play along with songs they've never heard before.
Writing in the week and practicing and performing on a Saturday. The
proletariat would pay to see the show and it would be recorded and
sold as a podcast next day.
Spike Milligan springs to mind, writing the Goon Show every week.
Hugely exhausting but the best work he ever did. I wrote another song
this morning in one sitting. You might not know that I have another
blog for new songs. It's on my website under 'lyrics'.
Anyway, the old system of 12 songs every two years definitely isn't for me. OK, if you're making huge arrangements, but I'm not into the music. I have always worked with musicians and producers who added layers on top of my songs. I want nothing to do with it. I dont need to be there. Working with different talented people and giving them complete freedom means that my songs will keep sounding new, original and changing, whereas in fact I'm playing the same four chords, with similar melodies and about the same sorts of things every time.


The only stress on the road comes from the computer. Sometimes I wake
up to 50 emails about the next tour, but I have to catch a train. It
leads to that nagging feeling of being behind on things which I hate.
- - -
One good thing I've learnt from constant travelling and never having
time and not coming back to the same places is that you know if you
don't do things immediately they will never get done.

You have to finish a song in one sitting because you won't be in the
same mood again, it's only interesting to work on when it's fresh; you
don't have time to work on it later; and when you do have time there
will be another fresh idea in it's place. Otherwise you are left with
scraps of ideas you need to work on and that nagging feeling if being

They also get lost or forgotten which is even worse. The same goes for
the blog. I never have time to change entries so they have to be done
at once and in time. I used to have a journal but left it in a bus
station (I hope some poor sap didnt have to read it) so I changed to a
blog, which is harder to lose.

It goes for everything. For example, when I had a house I would keep
newspapers, which I find take a long time to read. There are lots of
inspiration in them, and I'd get halfway through and keep it for
later, only to buy a fresh one the next day. Soon there were piles of
newspapers I'd have to go through, cutting out the best ones for a
scrapbook of ideas. Pleasure becoming chore. Now I leave it on the
train for someone else, and if something was genuinely interesting I
know I will have remembered.

I can think of a hundred more examples of self-imposed stresses,
constraints, constructions, arrangements, relationships, commitments
and trappings that came about. All because I was not able to cope with
everyday life. Before I was even out of bed I would be exhausting
myself with things I had to do in the day. When people ask if I find
travelling tiring, I say 'you have no idea'.

Touring is a life of beautiful simplicity. It doesn't just make you
carry less physical baggage, but also less mental one. You have to
live in the moment. I still haven't got the hang of it. It will take a
few more years for me to stop worrying about my day. A Booker would
really set me free. Until then...

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Fasnacht: Carnival carnage

I've been in Basel for the last two days - either it's carnival time or someone's put LSD in the water supply.

Not for those with Coulrophobia

The same music is everywhere - just flutes and drums - imagine an American civil war re-enactment soundtrack

All the marchers wear a mask of some description.

Each group of marchers has a satirical theme. This year's big success was Gadaffi, who had suggested that Switzerland be cut and divided between its neighbours.

 They're huge lanterns which four guys carry or push around the streets.

Al Jazeera had sent a camera crew to film the event, and check it wasn't anti-islamic.

One of the squares is filled with lanterns after the parade.

 Berlusconi was another popular figure for fun.

Some were quite strong.

After the parade (which was still going on all night and day for three days) we went to an absinthe bar.

The gang.

The rest is a blur.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Dimension, Winterthur - Switzerland

A lazy Sunday. 7 hours on the train, from Valence in the East of France to Winterthur in the North of Switzerland. It is a long time on the train but infinitely preferable to driving, especially as it was through the alps with such views as cannot be described.

I’d played in Winterthur before last summer at a hippy festival and had a great reception. It was a Sunday night but still a good crowd out.

It was the same routine as every other night though. You arrive at the venue about 6 o’clock. Say your hellos then do a quick soundcheck. I’m one of the fastest in the business because a) I only have an acoustic guitar, and b) I’m easily pleased.

After that you eat. Either in the bar or a buy-out. It was the latter last night. They offered me a pizza but I pleased malnutrition and got 15 CHF to go to a nearby restaurant where the food was very good.

Then you have two or three hours to kill before the show starts. If there is wifi I can do booking, otherwise I read, practice songs, or, as a last resort, talk to people. Then with half an hour to go I do my vocal warm-ups in the cellar or a quiet back room, singing a long to Roger Love a vocal coach. I leave it to the last minute because it’s boring, but necessary. I lose my voice if I don’t do it. You should do it first thing in the morning I suppose but I can’t bring myself to find the time.

So then you play the show. One or two sets of 45 minutes, depending on the place. It was two last night. It was good to play in front of a crowd that spoke good English, after the blank faces in Italy, Spain and France. I have a mixture of serious, funny, upbeat and slow songs which I mix up to keep them entertained, with plenty of talking inbetween the songs as this is the most interesting bit.

After the show I go round with the mailing list to get people’s addresses and with CDs. If you just stand at the bar people are usually too shy to come up to you and you miss out.

Then it’s one or two hours after that I can get to bed. Less if it’s a band apartment above the venue or a nearby hotel, a lot more if I’m staying with the owner and he has to stay until the place closes.

That’s pretty much the routine. The names, faces and places change but the rest remains the same.

Monday, 22 February 2010

La tournerie, Valence, France

Damien from La tournerie met me off the TGV and drove me to his bar in the centre of town. He was about my age and had also been a travelling musician but gave it up when he crossed over to the otherside, opening his own bar. He explained that he hadn’t had a holiday in six years and longed to travel again.

The bar was half-full when we arrived and had that small town air – falling a little quiet when the act arrives. Still a little groggy from sleeping on the train, and the bar not having any hot water, I went for a walk around town in search of a cup of tea. I need tea upon waking liking most others need their coffee.

I walked for a while. It was Saturday night but the town was almost empty. Finally I found a quiet little café where I was one of the only customers.

After getting my fix I left the bar in what I thought was the direction I’d come, only to realise that I was lost. I was due onstage in 15 minutes but couldn’t remember the name of the bar, let alone which street it was on. There was no one to ask and the chances of them speaking English were pretty slim. I wasn’t sure how I would mime ‘can you direct me to the bar I’m playing in?’ but it would have been pretty acrobatic.

Playing so many places and meeting so many people has destroyed my short term memory rather than improved it. People tell me their names and I will have forgotten it by the end of their next sentence. The same with bars, I could tell you the names of the places I'll be playing in six months, because I’m doing the planning for it, but I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow unless I check the list.

In the end I made it back to the bar, 10 minutes late, entering to cheers rather than silence and taking the stage immediately.

- - - - - - -

I stayed the night with Mary and Quentin, friends of the friends of the friend who got me the show. In the morning they gave me a quick tour of Valence before my train left. There wasn’t much to see, but what their was I saw. They only planned to stay here until Quentin had finished his studies.

We explored the streets I’d seen last night and talked about France. Whenever it’s my turn to ask questions I like to hear local news and perspectives so I can pretend I've been informed, at least about different prejudices. They were both hated their own country as only the young can.
- Don’t you find the people very cold? And there is no good music coming out of France. Only electronic. I only listen to English and American music.

They told me a bit about their lives before. They both grew up in Annecy. Quentin’s father is a pilot for Air France and he’d already been to 20 countries before he was 16. He said Japan was the highlight so I will have to look into getting some shows there.

Mary lived in Lyon but didn’t like it at all.
- It is the most violent city in France. I was beaten up myself by some girls who lived downstairs from me. It is even quite a rich town but the people are strange.
I’d heard Marseille was the rough city in France
- Oh no, it is nothing compared to Lyon.

I felt a little bit more informed.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

More highlights from Paris

Yes, you can certainly. have a good life in Paris. They like the fine things in like. Like this beer, which is advertised all over the subway. The best the Dutch have to offer.

There's a cafe on every corner and when asked "Do you have Wifi?" they nearly always respond in the affirmative. Except you have to pronounce it Weefee, which makes it sound like I'm accusing them of kidnapping my poodle.

My hotel was in a peaceful area too, opposite the Pere Lachaise cemetry. The neighbours were very quiet area.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Pop-in Bar, Paris

The front part of the Pop-in bar on Rue Amelot lived up to its name with a steady flow of people. The music room was in the back, which the audience had to get to via a discrete, unmarked staircase at the back of the upstairs room. It all seemed overly secretive to me - perhaps they've been struggling with over-attendance - but the Denis the barman assured me it wouldn't be a problem.

My co-hosts for the night were The Parisians, a very popular young local act who must have won their name in a local lottery. They were supposed to be opening up for me for some reason, but I opted to play first because I've been burnt many times in the States when the locals kindly offered to play first as their friends and fans had to go early, only for the whole audience to walk out when it came my turn to play. It was obvious that most people had come to see them. The young girls mooned after them, with their good looks and catchy songs.

Obsessive fans are a strange breed. I've never been troubled with them much myself unfortunately, the singer-songwriter (how I hate that term) do not create the same passion as the loud band, because of their abundance or because we are boring. The exception being the young pretty female variety who have a dedicated following of middle-aged lonely single men.

I got chatting to one of The Parisians followers to try to learn their secret. Nita was a 24 year old student from Monacco. She'd lived in America working as an intern for the democrats and studied at the LSE in England and her accent swung like a compass at the equator.
- I was like so amazingly lucky when Alistair Campbell came in and took over from his friend who got sick.
I asked her about her passion for The Parisians and she said they're part of a new Paris sound. They sing in English and sound a lot like the Libertines but I didn't want to rain on her parade.
- Could you introduce me to them? I have to be home early as I'm in trouble with my parents.
I made the introductions, leaving her in the care of their drummer who was unemployed that night as it was an acoustic show. She was still talking to him when I left at 1 o'clock.

I remained in Paris for three days after the show and managed to avoid conversations with anyone for the duration. I roamed the city and explored the cafes. Paris is a paradise for the wanderer. Every

I was taken-aback in every cafe to discover the prices. They charge €2 for a coffee but €4 for tea. Why such prejudice? For hot water and a tea bag. Such savegery. A subtle tax on the English? A deterrent to refinery? One can only imagine the way the barbarians logic works. I never did find out, waiters not being the most communicative people.

My money was running low which added extra bite to the unjust pricing. The well-paying Swiss and Austrian shows seemed quite long ago, and the time off in Spain had eaten into my funds. The Southern Europeans also bought far less CDs, a valuable top-up to my income.

Trying to save money when you're travelling is like trying to stay dry when you're swimming. My hotel room had a small kitchenette and I cooked my own meals. Simple affairs but sustaining.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Up in the air

I saw Up in the air last night. A great film but I was thinking about my suitcase throughout, how I can go smaller.

Minusa Bar, Barcelona

In Barcelona I played a cocktail bar. A fancy place with black and white bartenders, velvet curtains, backlit bottles, red lighting, the works. No kitchen so the owner took me out for dinner to his favourite local restaurant. It's nice to be wined and dined before a show. We ate a sort or paella and talked about Spanish politics. He did most of the talking. My knowledge of Spanish politics would consist of whatever he cared to tell me.

I played around midnight but it was a pretty joyless experience. A gabble of cocktail drinkers had little interest in my biting insights and whimsical asides. Like a paid performer I made all the noises and went through the moves but there was no light in the eyes tonight. I don't think they can tell. If I'd had more energy I would have tried some tricks. Singalongs, whoops, sssshs, covers, rolling around, fast one, slow ones.... As it was they just got the usual. As I lay back thought about what I'd do in Barcelona the next day.
Playing Liar. A very good poker game using dice instead of cards.

I stayed in my friend Aleix's apartment. He's a young choir conductor who I met via Enrique (Pleasure Man) Corton in Amsterdam. Aleix gave me his apartment and slept in his mother's apartment downstairs. It turns out the apartment building has been in the family for generations. With three apartments on each floor and 5 floors, it's quite a complex, and it has gradually been filled by Aleix's friends, mostly classical and jazz musicians so the place is really humming, music drifting in from every window. There are even practice rooms in the basement.
His girlfriend Monica has her own apartment upstairs and is six months pregnant, my to Aleix's horror. The guy was really on the ropes about it. He seems more resigned to it now, but is determined that it won't change his life in any way. While Monica is really looking forward to it. She gets a year's leave on full-pay and is relaxed about it all. So it's like a small Spanish soap opera in the house or the next Woody Allen film.
Aleix gave me a tour of his hometown of Barcelona, ending at the blustery beach.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010


The men and the bulls fight together once a week in the centre of town. They're pretty evenly matched and their are lots of casualties. The victors carry away the opposing dead and cut off their legs. I didn't got to the bulls part of town, but the men's bars are filled with their morbid trophies.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


On the whole they're peaceful, loving people. Unless you have horns or
you're black, then they will hunt you down.

Obbio bar, Seville

Seville. The real Spain. Non-stop tango dancing in all the bars. Bullfighting in the street and the loser's legs strung up in blue-tiled cafes. Jesus being crucified in every window (they must really hate that guy).

It's sickeningly warm and sunny. 20 degrees but the locals walk around it hats and coats like it's 20 below.

- You will need to get your friends in Sevilla to organise the publicity as soon as possible because otherwise it is very doubtful if many people will go. I can't get involved in promoting for you since I am on tour for the next ten days and am very busy.
Andrew was an expat living in Seville and playing music.
- It's up to your friends to do promo.
I'll ask him.
- If you look at my previous message from 2 weeks ago I asked for your you to give me your contacts so I could explain to them  how to do some promo but you haven't sent me anything.
My friend Nick is an architect and isn't into music promotion.
- I seriously got the impression that since your friend recommended me and knew the possible venues they must have some kind of contact with the music world  and know how these things work.
I'll ask him to ask his friends. I really wasn't that bothered. For me it's an excuse to visit Seville. I don't feel I can go anywhere now unless I have ashow there. It's psychological
- I seriously suggest that whoever you know in Sevilla gets themselves in gear and gets on the street doing flyers etc. or there won't be anyone there at all!
He was right. Only seven people came to the show. And only two of those spoke English. I danced around as best I could and they said they enjoyed it. I felt bad dumping this responsibility on Nick and his girlfriend Pila.

Nick and I were housemates in Amsterdam. Like most New Zealanders he exudes the kind of inner calm that comes from long periods spend watching sheep.  Their house has the same feeling. Open, cold and airy.

It's also from Nick I learned the art of being a good house guest. Invisibility. I'll always remember the story one of his visiting friends told, of how he slept in their living room for three months, and when they came down in the morning all his belongings would be hidden away and would be sitting up on the couch as if he'd been like that all night.

House-sitting is the life. All the luxuries and none of the responsibility. I would have quite happily stayed in doors, only they kept questioning me on the sights I'd seen. I'd read about the sites and made up some thinly disguised lies but I think they were beginning to suspect that I hadn't left the house in three days.

So I ventured out into the narrow streets and quickly regretted it. Inside the old city walls Seville is a maze of short narrow streets zigzagging in all directions and I was quickly lost. I'm not into the tourist 'experience'. I'd seen enough walking to and from the bus. But it does have a certain charm.

It's charm is being eroded though. American chains like Munkin Monuts are setting up thinly disguised subsidiaries here.

Jesus, Joseph and Mary voodoo dolls for their satanic rituals
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More Madrid memories


Sunday, 7 February 2010

The others

There are others out there. You start to notice recurring names on the club's listings. The same posters. They're mostly Americans. They come over to Europe and do as many countries as possible. It's exotic to them and they're exotic to the bars. And distances and boundries mean less to them. Europeans on the other hand rarely venture outside their own stomping ground.

They play in front of the same crowds. Sleep in the same bed. Have dinner with the same host. Get asked the same questions. You think you're unique but you're just another night.

I contacted a few of them when I started out, imagining there would be a cult of camaraderie among the troubadours, sharing stories about the best nights and the worst ones. But none responded. I'm sure they check my website just I check their's, harvesting the names of clubs and adding them to my lists. One for each country. It's all about the lists. Your tours are only going to be as good as your lists.

It takes hundreds of hours to build up and maintain each list. You google the name and town of a club you've found on someone's gig page, find the email address of the booker from the website, and add it to the list. Then between three months and a year before you want to tour there, you contact all the people in your list. Techniques differ from act to act. Some prefer the sniper approach, calling up and speaking to to the booker directly, but when you're playing a lot of shows there really isn't time. I use the shotgun approach. Spraying out thousands of emails every month and seeing who responds with an offer. The replies refine the list, and once you've played a place you make further notes about it. Each time it's less work, you play the better clubs and avoid the bad ones, and your list gets better and better. You keep your list to yourself.

It's business and we're competitors. Self-employed entrepreneurs providing a slightly different product to the same limited market. There are only so many clubs and only so many nights to play. If up-to-date lists were freely available the clubs would be flooded with people wanting to play. It would be much harder to get a show and the fees would fall to nothing, like they have in England and America. We'd be out of a job.

There is a bigger secret though. Bigger than the lists. It's the knowledge that really anyone could do it. Anyone with a half descent set of songs and some experience. The bookers are really not that demanding, and provided you have some nice recordings, and good picture and a poster they will book you, especially if you're exotic. Most of those in the scene back home, who are so excited to hear about your travels and ask for advice about how they can do it, if they put down their guitar and picked up their laptop, they could do it as well. But there's the nub of it. We all have this vision of ourselves as musicians, not as a booker. We all want to have our genius discovered. And we all secretly feel the need for some kind of approval before we go.

None of the greats started out booking themselves. In none of your idols biographies do you read... "Dear sir, I will be on tour in your area in the first week of May and would love to play your club. I am a social songwriter playing topical folk songs. I also have a large repertoire of Woody Guthrie songs if you would prefer to hear covers. I look forward to hearing from you, Bobby Dylan." Would Dylan have spent days stuffing envelopes and licking stamps? Woody? Would he fuck. And if his typewriter had hummed out letters rather than lyrics we wouldn't have all those great songs.

It would seem like a Catch 22. A system doomed to stop you improving. To be successful you have to devote all your time to promoting yourself, but if you're doing that you don't have time to work on your art. You only need your first 45 minutes of material and then you don't have time to write anymore. You're playing to different people every night and when you do come back to the same clubs a year later it's usually a different audience. And even if it is all the same people, people want to hear the songs they've heard before. Live music is a strange and unique art form in that respect.

But full-time touring has its inevitable positive effects. So you start playing for yourself. You get much better at playing live. And secondly you become so bored of your own songs that you have to write new ones just to stay sane.

The traditional boiling pots are still there - New York and London. You can still go and sweat it out all with the other rats. . Pissing and shitting on each other. The raw ambition. The naked greed. The hierarchies and name dropping. The fake respect. The army of next big things.

You think the internet would be the perfect system. Completely accessible and democratic. The cream rising to the top. Unfortunately there is more music than God himself has time to listen to and 99.99% is utter shit. The jar is overflowing and the cream slips down the side.

So those of us who have wised up to all of this hit the road.

Slovenia really isn't that far.

Friday, 5 February 2010


Hanging out. Hanging on... to the back of my friend Pablo's motorcycle. We had a night on the town starting with the best cocktail bar in Madrid, dinner in a Tapas bar and then to a jazz club. The nightlife in Madrid is one of the best in the world, he assures me. It's certainly one of the most expensive. The cocktails certainly helped with the motorbiking, and took my mind off the rain. He says I can take it round myself tomorrow but I think I'm safer on the sidewalk.

I didn't get a chance to see Rome yesterday. I will have to go back as everyone assures me it's stunning. It also hit me for the first time that I'm really on the road without a base, when I realised that was the first flight I think I've taken when it's not been to or from my home airport. They've always been there and back flights.
- - - - - - - -
I've given some thought to what I might like to do once I've toured myself to exhaustion... It came to me last night while I was in this packed jazz club as the hippsters on stage where grooving there thing.

More established songwriters have done residencies in venues like The Living Room in New York. And if I had one I'd like to do a News Revue. Spending all week writing songs, poems and other topical pieces based on what's gone on that week. Having that deadline and that demand for fresh material would be marvelous, and having the time to do it. Now I only play my best 10-20 songs over and over again with little time to write new ones.

I know Revues are nothing new. They were probably among the first performances, and they're still on the radio every week. But I don't know of any songwriter ones in clubs. Done well it could be quite an event. Also reviews are nearly always comical, so it might be more unique if it wasn't funny. But serious songs are much harder to do. It would be easier to do bits about the Pope's teenage diaries and the (not so) private lives of English footballers, than to write about the masses dead in Haiti or Iraq. Perhaps poems over sombre jazz? A backing band improvising tunes. Means I'd only have to do the lyrics. Also residencies are much more common in jazz bars.... mmmm.... and more atmospheric and intimate... I'll give it more thought anyway. It's an idea still on the stove.