It’s 1am and I should be asleep…instead I’ve been brushing up on a bit of admin prior to my biggest ever tour abroad which is now LESS THAN A WEEK away! My first tour of Australia and my third of New Zealand mean it’s nearly two months away from the UK. I’m not going to lie, I’m a bit anxious as I invariably am before one of these trips of mine but I have always enjoyed them all. Even the first US trip with its traumatic visa based preparation was enjoyable once I got there. New Zealand is a special place which I’ve written about previously – kind of like a very far away second home to me. Australia is an entirely new beast and I am excited to finally gig there and bizarrely for such a huge country I actually have relatively modest amounts of driving which is something of a relief although a domestic flight return is involved. Being a musician sits with me and monumentally does not sit with me at the same time! I am essentially a homing bird by nature so a job that involves touring the world isn’t exactly ideal. I’m also a touch OCD and permanently struggle with a job that involves no stable income and no routine. But of course I do love playing the banjo and performing on a stage and I also love doing it in different countries to different kinds of people. This tour brings both extremes right to the surface with New Zealand being the scene of some of my greatest moments with the crowd surfing at the Mussel Inn, the breakfast TV appearance and almost selling out of CDs on the first gig being strong in the memory. I guess you just can’t have it all your own way!
Exciting times await on my return as well with the UFQ spring tour followed by the first Dan Walsh trio tour which I am seriously excited about. When fiddler Ciaran Algar said to me that we ought to play together and then said he was leaving university and looking for a new project I just had to make sure it happened. Ciaran is an exceptional talent and a top bloke to boot and after three years of touring and recording in a very ‘solo’ kind of way (UFQ aside of course) I felt the time was right for a different approach to my music anyway. So who would complete the trio? For about eight years my go to musician has invariably been mandolinist Nic Zuppardi. Nic is an outstanding mandolin player with a particular flair for bluegrass and jazz. Like Ciaran he is also a top bloke and we have always worked together well particularly during a lengthy stint with Live Music Now (again documented elsewhere in the archives). I am thrilled to be working with these two and am very happy with the new material – can’t wait to share it with you all!
2017 was a phenomenally busy year. I haven’t totted up exactly how many gigs I did but it was certainly pretty intense! Verging On The Perpendicular seemed to go down well and I was delighted to write so much new material later in the year which I’m looking forward to airing this year. UFQ had its first ever new-album-less year but we got new material into the set and did some of our biggest ever gigs. Our autumn tour was a cracker with my hometown of Stafford yet again coming up trumps with the Gatehouse being the scene of our last gig of the year. A belter it was too!
One of the hardest things in life is saying goodbye to those close to you. I sadly lost my great aunt (not that she would thank for me for using that term!) Mary shortly before Christmas. She was a huge character and an important figure in the lives of so many of my relatives. She was an avid reader of this blog and after almost every one would send me an email. A forthright lady of strong views and immense intellect, she was also a carer by nature and combined immense empathy and sympathy with appropriate metaphorical arse kicking. She was also side splittingly funny and I always have enjoyed the company of her and her husband Trevor. Against the shock and grief of losing her must be set that she led a very fulfilled life and she was a great believer that when your time comes your time comes and she would have wanted to go the way she did. Her funeral was a beautiful service and her son Dan spoke beautifully about her and the annual new year family gathering of that side of the family was as brilliant as ever. Glasses were definitely raised to her. I know she’d be sharing in the excitement of my upcoming trip and it’s one reason that despite my usual anxieties, I am really rather looking forward to it.
Happy new year everyone,