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New Orleans: The day that Preservation Hall saved

As I marched restlessly around the French Quarter on my final day in New Orleans, a combination of: (a) unmanaged expectations; and (b) PMS, left me disgruntled.

Where was the Jazz?!

Of all the places I’d been, New Orleans was probably the one that I had any preconceptions about (probably unfairly). I blame Ryan Gosling for this… or at least my misconception of what he described in La La Land.  I was yet to find the high stakes jazz performances that he described.

I’d seen some great musicians doing some covers of classics, but felt that tourism had maybe hurt the authenticity of musicians’ choices.

Before that day I’d had many wonderful moments.  I’d met some excellent humans, experienced the second line for Tom Benson’s jazz funeral and been moved by the march for gun control (where the high pitched chanting of unbroken voices rang clear).

Something didn’t feel complete.

My mood meant that I almost sacked off a place that had been on my list: Preservation Hall.  Preservation Hall is a space, record label and organisation which was established in 1961 to protect the very thing that had been missing from my trip: traditional New Orleans Jazz.

I lined up (queued) from just after 4pm for the 5pm show. There are shows at 5, 6, 7 and 8pm daily.  It’s $20 for standing room at the show, and it’s totally worth it.

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band played a wonderfully entertaining 45 minute set complete with all the improvisation and risk taking that I’d wanted.  This included an advanced trombone solo in Basin Street Blues, a solo I’d played a watered down version of in my trombone-wielding days. Those days when I had no concept of Basin Street’s geographical location (New Orleans).

After the show I was content and flying. I bloody loved it and it washed my grumpy ways away.

If you go to New Orleans, please go and support this important organisation.

Thanks for reading.

Em x

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Austin and SXSW 2018

I’ve gone a bit quiet again. I’ve been at SXSW this week.  It’s been a total dream.  There is such a collection of people who are really great at what they do.  These people are here to share and grow their ideas.  It’s how life should be all the time.

Austin is a great city and I had a few days of it before this festival began.  Many companies have taken over shops and bars for the festival period and the main roads are closed.  The city is behind the music.

 

The best things I’ve seen are:

  • The bands and artists (check out Billie Eilish, Saint Sister, Findlay and Boniface)
  • Linda Perry (may I refer you to my Instagram tribute)
  • Photographers scrambling around on various floors to get their photographs

Most of all it’s been very interesting to observe the panels and conversations that I’ve chosen to attend.  Lots of focus on community and artist development.  Ideas are definitely brewing.  I will see where the dust settles after being thrown up in the air this week.  Ideas for new chapters…

It’s been so inspiring to be around great music.  I feel full of words and beats, ready to make more music and bear with myself.

That’s all for now folks.

Thanks for reading.

Em x

Nashville

I came to Nashville because I wanted to go somewhere where everyone was a songwriter.  For much of my life I’ve felt like a bit of an oddball for my songwriting habits.  Here, one of the first questions that I have been asked by some is: “are you a songwriter?”

“Yes!” I say (…before confiding in the question asker “though I’m an electronic musician… don’t tell anybody”).

Here, however, there is a huge lack of snobbery and a huge amount of sincerity and people have been very accepting of this.

A bit about Nashville:

Broadway

Broadway is a road downtown where, from 11 am to the early hours of the following morning, people play music on stages. In the majority of places the stages are beside the entrance so the musical offerings can be heard from the street, landing on eager ears. So you have (mainly) men with their backs to you as you walk down the street.  I love this in the week rather than on the weekend.  My favourite thing is that people sing and dance to songs that I haven’t ever heard before and I feel like I’m in a parallel universe. They are mainly cover bands but will do originals if you ask nicely.

My favourite places are Nudies and Tootsies for live band vibes. For chill guys and girls on acoustic guitars, Famous on 2nd Ave is great.

I think everyone should go to Nashville’s Broadway at least once in their lives. Despite myself, I can’t help but smile like I have a shoehorn wedged into my cheeks every time I hit the road.

Music Row

Another quieter but fascinating area of Nashville is Music Row. There are several streets filled with studios, record labels and music.  Due to the local government requirements, most of these buildings need to maintain the outer facade of a residential property.

I visited RCA Studios which is where Elvis recorded a lot of his hits. It was wonderful to be in the studio and so close to the instruments and gear.

Bobby’s Idle House is the only bar on Music Row and they host a writer’s night on Thursdays.  Three writers go up on stage at a time and take it in turns to play songs.  Janet, one of the organisers, has said I should let her know next time I’m in town so I can play my songs.  I have a feeling I will be back.

I have just 3 more days here and, as I write from an East Nashville coffee shop (where I feel in a very familiar reality), I am so happy.

… I even wrote a country song with my new friend, Megan.

Em x

LA LA Land


Just a quick note to record my trip to LA… a few days out of date and before Nashville takes over all of my cells.

It felt like a big city. Warm centres and suburbs of London that I hadn’t before been to. Sprawling.

I could feel the hustle: people putting themselves out there from the kid who handed me his CD on the street to the off-duty actors with their bodies more tightly sculpted than I have ever known.

I became obsessed by the Hollywood sign.  I went up to the observatory from the La La Land film.  Beyond that, I spent the weekend with old and new friends in a similar way to any London weekend: brunch, catching the metro, art galleries.

I loved my time there.

And now I’m in Nashville wond’rin’ if I’ll write a country song before I leave.

Thank you for reading!

Em x

Fiji Paradise

The bloke in the travel agent said that I should pop to Fiji in between my Australasian and American adventures.  This would give me the chance to relax and lie on the beach for a few days.

Although I’ve never really been a hot-weather-beach person, Fiji sounded too wonderfully exotic to fly over.

I arrived here four days ago to experience wind, rain, thunder and lightning. It’s been so loud that I’ve wondered whether I am, in fact, afraid of thunder.

I have relaxed, but in my own way. I’ve been recording music.

The music has come out in a mixture of commercial songs I would like people with big voices to sing (a few are here via this private link for as long as I am brave enough to keep it here), and a daily practice that I started on Tuesday where I’m collecting sounds and trying to weave them into more coherent song-like arrangements.

This has told me what I know already, I love the rain. I should be disappointed that my time in this paradise has been interrupted. But this was perfect for me.

The photo is a glimpse of sunshine on this, my last day in Fiji. Maybe today will be less productive!

Em x

The advantages of making lots of different things

In my experience of being creative and making otuff, it’s been easy to get precious about an idea.  Setting the time aside to do that thing can become a big deal. When things are a big deal, getting around to doing them can require a special mood, occasion or… alignment of the stars.

I’ve found that, by having several projects on at once, THE THING is less intimidating and it is possible to trick the brain into being more productive.

I’ve been working on several different songs at the moment, and it’s been so good to be able to switch between them.

I’ve made a short listicle like I’m on “the BuzzFeed”.

(1) Rebellion / Productive procrastination 

When you have a to-do list and then work on something that is not on that list, it feels like procrastination.

It can give you a kick and have the same pay-off as a massive Youtube binge: rebellion.  That naughty inner voice says: “just one more thing… then I’ll definitely definitely get on with what I’m supposed to be doing”.

Suddenly, before you realise it, something else has been made. Magic.

(2) The more advanced work inspires the newly conceived work

Having different projects at different stages means that some parts will be more polished than others. The more polished work provide inspiration in moments of despair. That “there is a way through”/“I am a capable human being” feeling can be very helpful.

(3) Easy wins to get started

I like to make some quick progress when initially sitting down to work. This can help to build momentum and keep you there for longer.  Revisiting something that just needs fresh ears or a bit of tweaking is great to feel like progress is being made quickly.  A shortcut to getting in the Zone!

(4) Let the mood take you 

Sometimes you’re just not in the mood to work on a sombre song when you’re very hyper… or whatever. Having options of different projects, doodles etc, let’s you work on what you’re in the mood to work on.

(5) Fresh eyes/ears/tastebuds etc

Shutting down one project to work on another can mean that when revisiting the first project, you see or hear it in a whole new light with a new sense of subjectivity. Ideal.

Note to self: Now go, make stuff!

The images are from my collage phase.

 

Thanks for reading.

Emma x