I remember writing a diary message at this time five years ago around about the time I was preparing to finish my debut solo album ‘Watch The Fireworks’. That was in 2007. It’s been an interesting five years for sure, with more than just a solo career to occupy me; the surprise and sheer pleasure of working with so many new artists in the Burns Unit, and of course putting together the first Fruit Tree Foundation album with Rod Jones of Idlewild giving us both the opportunity to work with so many great artists from Scotland.
Not quite sure what to expect from 2012 yet but it’s about time I recorded a new album so I’ve made that my one New Year’s Resolution in the knowledge it should be a pretty safe bet. So the pressure’s on…
In the meantime however I have a few collaborations to work on, including a song with fellow Burns Unit member Sushil Dade a.k.a. Future Pilot, and various others. I have also been writing with Chemikal Underground’s recent and wonderful new signing R.M. Hubbert and play with him in London on Feb 3rd at King’s Place as well as playing a solo acoustic set as support, something I would like to do more of this year. I also play as part of the Gerry Rafferty Remembered concert as part of Celtic Connections this January – I was a big fan of his recordings as a kid so am really chuffed to be involved with that.
I also really must write in this diary more often. Terrible to admit but my last entry was in April 2010, about my Mumps Attack. I haven’t had the mumps now for well over 18 months so I’m not quite sure what happened there. Perhaps a subsequent attack of Sheer Laziness and Procrastination which I hope to have now put behind me.
So if I don’t put out a report of having recorded some new material by mid 2012 please feel free to hunt me down (in a social network kind of way) and berate me. I would be delighted to hear from you.
Off to work then… (oh, and a Happy New Year to you)
I don’t get ill very often. I like to think it’s because I was born prematurely (12 weeks early) and then my mum mixed up the instructions she was given about how much iron supplements to give me and so I’ve ended up with the constitution of an ox.
Sadly this isn’t the case, as my last Spanish tour will testify to… lost my voice for most of the dates and ended up being taken by a non English speaking Spaniard, complete stranger, to a hospital to get a steroid injection in my backside. My theory would also seem to be challenged by a recent onslaught of the Mumps of all things, thankfully well after I returned home from my March tour but just as the Easter school holidays started.
A diet of water followed while my husband Paul and 8yr old son watched and tried hard to suppress giggles as my face grew, and grew some more. I swear if any parents are reading this, please ignore all of those ridiculous attempts at dissuasion from the MMR jab for your kids – really – it’s bloody worth it. Failing that, make sure they get it when they’re 8 and not decades later when looking like a hamster isn’t nearly funny enough compensation.
Well almost. I got out in time it would seem. Last Friday night I joined another 5 writers in a remote house in Perthshire at the top of a seemingly never ending hill, to write for 4 days as part of a Scottish Mental Health Foundation project. Myself and Rod Jones of Idlewild last year set about organising a group of 8 songwriters to come together for 4 or 5 days and write some new material in time for this year’s Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival, which Rod and I have been involved with over the last couple of years.
We had in fact booked the house for the first week in January, but when Rod attempted to get there on the first day, he was met with a 4 mile long road, uphill all the way, which became impassable due to the amount of snow fall at the time. Rod eventually did get to the house, thanks to the tractor that pulled him up, but the whole thing was abandoned later that day when we all realised that we would be stranded in the house, with no access to the 24 hour T***o that we all know and secretly love. And that’s only if the rest of us could get there of course, and none of us drive 4×4’s.
It would seem history was to repeat itself, but thankfully towards the end of the week this time. I arrived on the Friday night, and spent a furiously paced 4 days writing with James Yorkston, Jill O’Sullivan of Sparrow and The Workshop, Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit, James Graham of Twilight Sad and Rod Jones. Karine Polwart, Alisdair Roberts and Jenny Reeve of Strike The Colours joined us later on but I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to write with them.
Came home on the Tuesday night feeling a little sad that I couldn’t stay on the for the last day only to wake up to snow yesterday morning and get a telephone call from Rod saying they were all stranded again. Get those 4×4’s on the phone will you?
So everyone’s safe home now and of course we lost a day’s writing but we should still have a good bunch of songs amongst us all and if we don’t, well we’ll just have to write them between now and July when we plan to go into Chem19 to record whatever we have…
Having never really got to grips with geography or modern studies at school, I must admit I questioned the Council’s wisdom in approaching me but as the focus of this year’s event is Home and what it means to refugees now making a life in Glasgow, I thought I would at least be able to contribute to this having lived in the fair city for 20 years now. 20 years? How the hell did that happen?
Myself, John Byrne and a few other folks who I didn’t have the opportunity to meet were invited to ‘interview’ a few refugees who now live in Glasgow and are making a new home here, leaving behind an unimaginable troubled past in the country they had to flee. The interviews were recorded and I believe can be found on YouTube and various other places on the internet.
It was a quite unique experience to take part in. I visited a couple of women in their flats in Glasgow and they proceeded to give me their own personal account of what life had been like for them since arriving here. Despite the fact that they may have no possessions to speak of, have family remaining in their home country and an uncertain future, these women were both extremely positive about and extremely appreciative of their current position. What they wanted out of life was by the standards of the West modest but their appreciation of it apparent. They were both studying or planning to study, with high profile jobs or achievements already behind them, and with plans of work helping future refugees in their sights.
Having somewhat disappointingly been warned of Glasgow being ‘racist and dangerous’ before they arrived here they happily have both had a very positive experience settling in, finding the city’s people to be consistently helpful, approachable, supportive and sympathetic to their position. The media does have a lot to answer for in my opinion prolonging negative coverage of supposed racist attitudes in Scotland, and the UK for that matter, but the accounts of these 2 women would support the fact that Glasgow is a wonderfully welcoming city and one that they now happily see as home.
It’s only too easy to just have a rough awareness of these issues, gradually borne through media and third party experience, but I must admit that to actually take part in something has made the whole reality of the situation much more tangible and digestible to me.
If you fancy taking part, going along to one of the many events or just reading a bit more to find out the background of many of our country’s refugees take a look at the Refugee Week Events list and Simple Acts campaign.
I need to write this quickly as I’m in the middle of watching an episode of ‘Deadwood’ and I’m finally managing to get the hang of it. Paul has also gone to make some toast so I really need to be quick here as he’ll be back in a minute…
Homegame was magic. It’s the first time I’ve taken the whole family up and we’ve spent the weekend there. I played a rather compromised set on the Friday night as the sound guy (sorry, you mean there was one?) managed to fuck the sound up so much that Paul had to take over from halfway through the first song.
I was oblivious to all of this of course and was busy concentrating on trying to get to the end of the five new songs that I played as part of the set. For two of them, ‘The Night Is Heavy’ and ‘Chemistry Will Find Me’ I had Adem join me on stage as he’s recorded vocals with me for both songs on the new album and they sound fantastic.
Right after the solo set, I had to run over to another hall to play The Burns Unit set, which was a whirlwind affair and over before we knew it. Our usual bass player Sushil Dade was unable to play with us on Friday as he was ill so we drafted in Dave McGowan (Teenage Fanclub, Isobel Campbell) to fill in at the last minute. I really do mean the last minute – he was sent the songs the night before at 5pm and managed to play them faultlessly just over 24 hrs later.
And I was standing on stage with my lyrics still in front of me.