One more week

Somehow I’m coming to the end of my adventure. Just one week left. My brain is moving fast leading me to talk to recruiters about getting a job. I need to remember the things that I want next.

I have just arrived in Seattle. It’s a short ferry trip over from Vancouver Island where I’ve been staying in Victoria for nearly a week.

Victoria is full of creative people. There’s a great combination of inspiration from humans and nature. The parks, coastline and mountains combine with Sunday’s fantastic show put on by Drag Kings and Queens to leave a delightful creative cocktail in my mind. I have been writing a lot and honing my tracks. Always honing.

I am excited to put them out and it feels a bit different this time. I might need to borrow willing ears to listen to the tracks so far. Give me a shout if you’re honest, kind and prepared to listen to unfinished tracks. Once again, there are feminist themes and the exploration of being whole but in a relationship.

I hope the creativity continues in Seattle. Sydney aside, it is the only place I have been before on my trip so far. I am staying at the same hostel. It feels good.

This post has been fairly wittering … to sum up: I’m excited to be writing, I loved Victoria and it’s great to be back in Seattle.

Thanks, again, for reading.

Em x

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The train and the Rockies

I’ve been MIA again. But wow. Canada.

My mum came to meet me in Toronto and we got the train for three days to the Rockies. We have had some amazing moments here and will head onwards to Vancouver the day after tomorrow.

I don’t usually do travel #thisishowwedoit style blogs but this has been a pretty good experience and I’d like to remember exactly how we did it for … next time. We have booked everything ourselves which, I would say, keeps the price down.

Between seasons

First thing, after we had booked most of our trip, we realised that nothing really opens until mid-May. There are two major seasons: winter and summer. Coming between the two means that there are fewer options from a skiing, touring and accommodation perspective. The lake boating trips are definitely not on.

That said, we’ve been incredibly lucky to enjoy whole days of sunshine and catch the landscape in all its excellence, knowing that it will never look exactly this way again.

On the train

We got on the VIA Rail train at 1am one Sunday morning. It was due to leave at 10:30 the previous evening but didn’t due to severe freezing rain in Toronto. Apparently the train frequently runs late and so, if travelling, be sure not to book any connecting flights or rail journeys without some time in between.We were then on the train for 3 days to Jasper. We had a sleeper cabin with 2 bunk beds, a sink (with fun mirrors – see below) and a private toilet. The shower was shared but beautifully clean.We sat with strangers at tables of 4 for 3 meals each day. The food was exquisite and we learned new stories from people all over the world. We got off at stops to stretch our legs. Had a bit of a wander (and a sit down on the bench) when we got to Winnipeg. It was truly beautiful.Best of all, we were able to view the beautiful nature outside from the dome carts which had elevated seating. The rooves were glass “bubbles” revealing panoramic views. The view for the majority of the 3 days was a mixtures of flat and less flat snow-covered land and lakes, decorated with streams.The relatively repetitive patterns of snow and Douglas Firs lulled us into a sense of security so when the Rockies shot out of Jasper, they were truly striking.

The Rockies

We got off the train in Jasper for our week in the Rockies. At this time of year, there are two trains each week across the country. We decided that one week would give us enough time to travel around the Rockies without being rushed. We don’t ski.

We stayed for two nights in each of Jasper, Banff and Lake Louise and will return to Jasper for a final night before getting back on the trian. There is a load of accommodation in all these places ranging from hostels to Chateaux hotels.

We haven’t hired a car so got on the Sundog shuttle. Every day this goes from Jasper to Lake Louise to Banff and back again. This is a shuttle service only so there is no chat about the breathtaking geology of the Columbia Icefields and no time to stop at the sites for photographs. One toilet break only. But it’s a good service and cheaper than a taxi!

Some of the things we have done:

  • took the Jasper Skytram (the highest and longest aerial tramway in Canada) for incredible views and an epic hot chocolate
  • watched a lot of ice hockey … oooph this Stanley Cup
  • had the most delicious and hearty salad I’ve ever eaten at the Raven Bistro, Jasper (other choices are available)
  • walked along the walkways along the Bow river in Banff
  • visited the hot spring caves at Cave and Basin National Historic Site in Banff (photo above)
  • had a great guided bus tour to see some of the top spots with Discover Banff Tours (photo of Lake Minnewanka below)

I write from the Fairmont Hotel at Lake Louise where I’ve just finished a delicious creme brûlée. We had lunch and overlooked the frozen lake. What dreams are made of.

There’s a restaurant and deli here and it’s an absolute delight.

I am equally excited about being here and getting back on the train. If you have any questions about this stuff I’d love to answer them so I can talk more about this trip!

Thanks for reading!

Em x

Chicago and all that jazz

I love it here. I feel content. It’s hard to write when you’re content.

There is a warm familiarity here through these cold streets. It has the red bricks, the sounds of passing trains and a good level of cement that I’m used to.

Chicago has oodles or personality without being tied to a genre.  I have seen Jazz, Blues and Pop here. And I was lucky enough to be front and centre for a Second City Theatre show. It pays to travel alone.

In a headache filled moment I even got the chance to watch the film Chicago on my laptop.

The familiarity makes me think of home.  I am happy that I have around six weeks left of this trip but being here makes me excited about the new ways I will be spending my time and the possibilities that lie ahead.

I have been further editing my book about Ammerella Twigg, and making music with the safety of my headphones.

I have three more days to delightfully spend with Chicago.

Thanks for reading.

Em x

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

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