We kicked off 2011 in a new (if temporary) home, one where for the first time in a long time we would be able to record vocals and guitar. I’d finished 2010 with a couple of new tracks being recorded, so plans were hatched for both Lo and I to start making new records.
We had all kinds of fun juggling parenting and recording – I’d take flapjack out during the day, Lo would record, then I’d come in at night, mix and edit her recordings, and then start work on my solo stuff late into the night. The house in Muswell Hill was the perfect place for us to make the records we did, and we’ll be eternally grateful to Tim for renting us his house for those few months.
However, plans were put on hold when, in February, I was asked to put together the best band I could possibly find for a gig in Thailand, with one months notice! Given the budget and the scale of the event (it was a corporate event, but one where both the venue and the people who booked us for it meant that it needed to be something extraordinary).
So I got to put together my dream band, to hire the greatest musicians I knew, to rehearse properly and to jet off to Thailand for both an adventure and the chance to do a REALLY great job. And we nailed it. The band and crew were both amazing people to travel with and played brilliantly. And what’s more, we improvised the entire first set – no charts, no prearranged tunes, just start playing and follow where it goes. It was fabulously received, and we all came back pinching ourselves at the opportunity to play great music to lovely people.
The sense of personal achievement in booking and organising a trip like that, putting the music together (which mostly consisted of having the final word on song list then giving the musicians permission to be amazing), was huge. Extra special props to Kira Small who flew in from Nashville, rehearsed for a week, flew to Thailand before her jetlag here had worn off, sang like an angel and then made an epic 30 hour trip home! Way above and beyond…
After we got back, it was straight back into the delayed recordings for mine and Lo’s album, along with planning our trip to the US for the summer. We ended up finishing the albums with just a few days spare before we flew off to New York to begin a two-month, 8000 mile trip. We visited friends and family, we had adventures, and we played 20-odd house concerts across the trip. It was a whole lot of fun to get out and play the new material from our albums, and such a treat to catch up with so many friends. It was a massive help to have Lo’s mum with us for part of the trip, and it was all made much easier by Flapjack’s LOVE of travelling and meeting new people!
The most memorable moments for me were
- the gig in Minneapolis, where I recorded ‘Believe In Peace’, which will be out on Monday,
- meeting and playing with the remarkable Tiger Darrow at our house concert in Plano, TX,
- playing an improvised set with Catherine Marie Charlton – a remarkable pianist and long-time online friend we finally got to meet and play with, and record some lovely improvised music that’ll be out very soon!
- a visit to Victor Wooten’s Music/Nature Camp, where I got to perform and answer questions at Vic’s invitation. The Wooten Woods is an amazing place for music learning, and I think Vic is doing a really special thing there. What an honour to have been a part of it.
When we got back from the US, we were soon into the process of finding somewhere new to live. Having been in Tim’s lovely house in Muswell Hill, we were loathe to go back into a rabbit-hutch flat on the outskirts of London, and just weren’t in the position to play the £1000-a-month ‘London tax’ for the privilege of having a normal house anywhere accessible. So, after I got to play a fabulous duet with beatbox genius Shlomo at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and Lo and I did a one-off tech-gremlin-messed-up show at Greenbelt, we headed north, to Birmingham.
We already had some lovely friends here, and the travel to London is cheap and quick for work. Add to that the joy of finding our perfect house via a friend on Twitter, so we not only have a great house but a wonderful landlady, and you’ve got yourself some happy Lawsons. Flapjack has lots of room inside and outside to run around, we’ve got a music room, we’re 2 mins from a train station (so still don’t need to own a car, which is great) and are generally settling into the area. Hoping to pick up more work, gigs and musical fun times in the city in the new year… Suggestions, please
The autumn brought with it a handful of gigs – Lo started to play with the lovely Kev Cooke on double bass for a few shows in Brum, and I got to open for Welsh prog lovelies The Reasoning and play a fabulous and fun show in Derby with the brilliant Corey Mwamba.
Those gigs were followed by a fairly intense stretch of college and university music masterclasses – Salford Uni, the British Academy Of New Music, and the Academies of Music And Sound in Hitchin, Southampton, Swindon and Birmingham were all tremendous fun, and offered as teaching always does a chance to point the finger at myself for the things I’ve let slip, and thus get some of those sorted out.
In other work, 2011 was a slower year for Amplified, but we continued to work with organisations like the Arts Council, Festivals Edinburgh, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, PCG and others to help get the conversations around the wonderful events they were hosting happening online. It was a privilege to be a part of all those events, and to learn so much while being there! More in 2012, please!
So, what does the New Year hold? Well, I’m wasting no time, and the first album of the year will be out on January 2nd – Believe In Peace was, as mentioned, recorded in Minneapolis on our US tour. More on that soon. I’ve STILL got the duet album with Mike Outram to release – all we need to do is title the tunes and get some artwork together! Terrible, I know, but that’ll be next.
Lobelia will be doing more gigs with Kev, and with me, and is working on a new piano-based album. I’ve got a few other collaborations underway, as well as fledgling plans for a HUGE Kickstarter/PledgeMusic-funded project that will result in a lot of recorded music, video and gigs happening if it comes off…
And also in January, I’m off to the NAMM show in California for the first time in 3 years, having missed the last 2 shows due to parenting duties. I’m REALLY looking forward to catching up with old friends and playing some shows, though I’m not at all relishing two weeks away from Lo and Flapjack…
So, New Year, new ideas, new plans, new commitments to make meaningful things in 2012. I’m entering the new year with an even deeper commitment to working towards the independent sustainability of musicians working outside the broken, messed up machine of the old recording industry. It’s a massively exciting time, and I invite you to be a part of it, to seek to support independent musicians, to make entertainment choices that feed your soul AND feed the families of the artists involved. Let’s have a great year, OK?