January is always a strange month for me. For such an invariably miserable sod I actually rather like Christmas – I love that fact that everybody basically switches off for once. If I were to send an email nobody would read it so I don’t – it’s no bad thing. I love the holiday I have at my parents and at new year with extended family. It reminds me of a less responsible time! The only downside of course is reality kicks in and come January there always seems to be a myriad of things to do yet I’m not performing much. So the reason I do my job doesn’t exist but there is an incredible amount of things to do especially when you have a big trip coming up…
More on that in a moment but first I’ll bring you up to speed. I have had two gigs in January, the first a last minute addition to the diary at the Royal Exchange in Hartpury which was a good laugh and then a truly stupendous gig last night at Folk At The Froize in Suffolk. There’s much written online these days about the demise of folk gigs but this gig shows that if you do the right things it can work – a wonderful venue, a brilliant welcome for both artist and audience, reasonable price, great promotion, great organisation…I could go on. Suffice it to say that it was brilliant and thank you to all of you for coming.
So that big trip: New Zealand. I am tremendously excited and itching to go now but I also feel a lot of nerves as a result of my natural homing instinct (boy did I choose the right job…). It’s worth remembering how it all came about. At the end of 2012 I was at a bit of a crossroads in my life and career. I had had a relatively successful duo but it was time to finish and my immediate plans were unclear and I wasn’t quite sure what was coming next. I decided I had to go for everything and remembered a conversation I’d had with a couple I know who had done a few gigs in New Zealand. One of my dearest friends from school lived there which served as an extra motivation to make that big trip. One night I decided what the hell I’d just email any gig out there that seemed remotely possible. I honestly never thought it would actually happen. Much to my surprise, I woke up to a flurry of emails asking when I was coming and what date I’d like. What I regarded a total whim quickly became a reality – I was going to New Zealand.
Now a relatively seasoned traveller, I remember the utter fear I felt at doing such a long trip back then and for nearly six weeks. I still saw it as a slightly glorified working holiday but it spiralled way beyond anything I expected. I discovered a glorious country which is truly breathtaking in its natural beauty. I discovered the special welcome and hospitality that characterises Kiwis. That alone would have made it worthwhile but in addition it went spectacularly well on a commercial level! I ended up with a national TV appearance, numerous radio interviews, packed houses and even a spot of crowd surfing. It was the trip of a lifetime and one which I will never ever forget. I love performing, I love playing the banjo and I love making music but I am riddled with mixed feelings about what I do for a living. Undoubtedly that tour of New Zealand makes me feel more proud than anything else I’ve done. Big fish in a small pond? Maybe. But what a small pond!
And now I am on the verge of returning. That painful 35 hour trip is so worth it – New Zealand is a totally unique place, magical almost. I couldn’t resist going back and this trip while slightly shorter is actually far busier. Last time I had a little break between Auckland Folk Festival and my tour but this time it is a solid four weeks of relentless gigging. I never quite know how I feel about foreign touring – it involves a lot of organising, a fair bit of stress and in my case considerbale homesickness. But when it comes to New Zealand, there is no doubt whatsoever that it is 100% worth it. I can’t wait to be back and I will be reporting to you what goes on. All I’d say is if you visit one more country in your life – make it this one.
See you on the other side!