Make like a lump, and split.

We’re at the start of an insane four week tour. Tennessee, North Carolina, Chicago, North Carolina again, Chicago again, Indianapolis, Dubai, Seoul, home. I’m pretty proficient by now when it comes estimating luggage weight, packing quarters for the coin laundry, collecting frequent flyer points and so on. As I packed I was thinking about how to be good traveller in the more, forgive me, spiritual sense. Being present, open-eyed, keen-eared, not letting experiences go to waste – it’s an ongoing project. It’s why I’ve resolved to write more about our trips (no, for real, I mean it this time.) And I’ve realised a lot of it comes back to lumping and splitting.

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This Will Be Our Year

Happy New Year! I made this for you (yes you).

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On the shoulders of giants

I’m not very good at the whole “albums of the year” thing. I only intermittently plug myself into current releases, so always miss a lot of gems and find myself playing catch-up at the end of the year. If there’s one record that grabbed me and kept me coming back for more in 2012, though, it’s Love This Giant by David Byrne and St Vincent. The songs are often as odd and misshapen as the cover art, but the hooks and the great horn arrangements bring me out in a big grin.

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Don’t be a curmudgeon! Come to Cadogan!

There will come a time, and it will be soon, when I shall bring forth an almighty brain-dump about the amazing month of travelling and performing I’ve had. Swingles spent three weeks in the US and Canada and, if I’m honest, my overriding thought at the moment is that I’m glad we were there then and not now, with Hurricane Sandy fast approaching landfall. But I have more to say than that rather selfish little nugget, and I must must do it, if only for the pleasure of remembering and re-living.

More pressing, though, is the fact that we have a HUGE MASSIVE EXCITING GIG at Cadogan Hall this Friday. Tickets are here. Best purchase you’ll ever make.

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Blixen outside the box.

I reflected then that I might, had I been given omnipotence and a free hand, have made a fine world. I might have bethought me of the trees and rivers, of the different keys in music, of friendship, and innocence; but upon my word and honour, I should not have dared to arrange these matters of love and marriage as they are, and my world should have lost sadly thereby. What an overwhelming lesson to all artists! Be not afraid of absurdity; do not shrink from the fantastic. Within a dilemma, choose the most unheard-of, the most dangerous, solution. Be brave, be brave! Ah, Madame, we have got much to learn.

– Karen Blixen, ‘The Deluge at Nordeney’

Which is another way of saying that I’m making lots, reading lots, and entirely failing to blog. Hope you’re all well.

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Swingles and, er, other thingles.

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I yelled it from every rooftop and social network but somehow, almost two months after the fact, I haven’t got around to posting about the fact that big things are a-poppin’ in my life, to the tune of a new job and newish life-direction. I’m singing with the Swingle Singers as their new low bass – a dream of mine ever since I got involved with a cappella music at university. So far it’s been hugely musically fulfilling and has brought me into contact with places and people I might never have visited or met. And it has the bonus of making a lot of what I’ve been doing over the last five years look like “relevant experience” rather than “faffing about”.

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My week.

Nothing worse than people humblebragging about busy they are. But. Not sure I can remember a week as crammed as this one…

Tomorrow (Tuesday), Zig Zag Birds are playing our first ever gig, at the Dublin Castle in Camden:

Wednesday night sees the second ever performance of Backstep, a mad and marvellous piece by composer Chris Lewis, for beatboxer and 8 singers (of which, hooray, I’m one). It’s at 9pm at the Green Carnation in Soho. This was the first performance:

On Thursday, I have an exam on this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And rehearsals every day, writing, blah blah. Anyway, if you can come to either of the gigs it’d be great to see you. If you can bring me some vitamin supplements, that’d be nice too.

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Musicians and dog whistles

When Dirty Loops put out their Adele cover this week, my Facebook feed was full of it. Actually, my Facebook feed is like a Dirty Loops fan convention. Fair enough, they’re pretty amazing:

But it’s not hard to spot which kinds of people were sharing this video.

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Zounds! My Shakespeare feature for the Eurostar magazine

I was delighted to see that this month’s issue of Metropolitan, the magazine for Eurostar passengers, includes the feature I wrote for them on the French attitude to Shakespeare. (Short version: ils l’aiment bien.) I loved writing the piece – as well as rekindling my old passion for the Bard, it forced me to face my fears and conduct/transcribe/translate my first ever interview in French. Should you find yourself aboard a Eurostar this month, look out for it. And check out the Globe To Globe festival, which includes a ‘Much Ado’ in French.

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If you were snowed in… Here be Map gig vids.

Earlier this month, on a dark and snowy night, I found myself back at Map Studio Café for a gig with my quartet. As well as having a grand time playing, we managed to nab some good audio and video of the performance. Among my favourite tunes to play with Chris, Darren and Dan are two songs I wrote last year. ‘Eastward’ is a finger-pickin’ little folky number (which began life as a series of laboured puns about Clint Eastwood but, I hope, manages to transcend them thanks to the band’s beautiful soulfulness); Enough Is Enough is an end-of-the-night (end-of-the-set), boozy torch song. Other tracks from the gig are here. Enjoy.

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