Doing this video was in some ways trickier than the others so far as it’s an instrumental. But thanks to sterling work from Miss Barratt and a whole heap of serendipity, I think it came out well. Enjoy!
Woah, I’ve been so busy with Uni work that I completely forgot to post this video up! Hope you like it, there’s another one coming in a few seconds…
Last Friday, I played one of the best gigs I’ve ever played.
I was in Paris, I’d gone there with my soundman Rich to play a couple of gigs to launch a 7” single issued by Another Sunny Night and Hands And Arms. It’s the first vinyl I’ve had out in years so I’m unreasonably excited.
After arriving via Eurostar on Thursday, Rich and I settled into our swanky accommodation, Mama Shelter. I’ve never stayed in a designer hotel before, let alone one designed by Philippe Starck. Thursday night we chilled and availed ourselves of the free films on the built-in iMac. Did I mention it was swanky??
Friday night was the first gig at Le Motel, a wonderful little venue in the 11th arrondissement. From the very start of the gig, the audience was amazing. Obviously, most people only know one song I’ve done because I’ve only had one hit record. But the audience at Le Motel were sooo happy and clappy to every song, songs most of them were only hearing for the first time. I played for an hour, twice as long as my normal sets and then did two encores! The second time, I played a very old White Town song called ‘Rainy Day’ which features a pentatonic ostinato riff. I can’t play this and the rhythm guitar part at the same time and it’s a purely acoustic track, no backing. On a whim, and because they’d been so responsive throughout the gig, I asked the audience to sing it. And they did! Perfectly in time and in tune, which *never* happens with audiences normally. Well, ever, to be honest!
Saturday, I played a gig at a library! More precisely, the Médiathèque D’issy Les Moulineaux! It wasn’t as raucous a gig as the night before, probably because it was at 4 in the afternoon and we were all seated in a very posh room. The audience was very lovely, though. I did three songs in the actual library proper before going through to the hall, it was quite weird singing in a quiet space, felt very wrong! Then, for the main gig, everyone sat very politely, apart from a few little kids who rocked out in the aisles which made me grin all through the gig. We sold and signed loads of the new single and the albums we’d bought with us, it was a cool day.
In between the gigs and after, Rich and I spent a lot of time exploring and… eating. We eat and eat and eat. Creme brulees, hot chocolates, pastries, steaks, marrow bones, crepes. And I finally had snails! We did some of this on our greedy lonesomes and some with the lovely Terpsichori, pictured below:
Terps took us to this awesome bar:
The Last Bar Before The End Of The World is a total geek-out. Inside is crammed with Dr. Who, Star Wars, robots and a seated area that looks like the deck of a starship. It was amazing! Later, Terps took us for the most awesome hot chocolate and cakes, after brunching in a wonderful little covered market.
On Monday, I met up with another lovely, Laura:
She was kind enough to take me to the Louvre where I saw, amongst other art, the Mona Lisa. Which was… okay. I liked it but I think I preferred the Delacroix near it more. Then I dragged her to the Pompidou Centre where I totally geeked out on modern art:
It was an awesome day!
On the last night, Rich and I trekked to the Pied du Cochon where we stuffed ourselves for the very last time. I had this glorious meal:
Rich, the n00b, ordered steak tartare without really knowing what it was. He looked slightly surprised when a plate of raw, minced beef turned up. I laughed, I posted it immediately onto Facebook and EyeEm and then the whole world laughed. So my main was steak but my dessert was big dollops of schadenfreude.
We left the restaurant and exited to a snowy, arctic Paris. It was bloody freezing, as you can see at the end of this video:
Yesterday, we said goodbye to Paris and travelled back to Derby. Today, I’ve been on a massive downer as I miss Paris so much. I loved both the gigs but Friday’s was truly one of the best shows I’ve ever played in the thirty-one years I’ve been gigging. It’s such an amazing feeling to sing songs I wrote in my little house to an audience of total strangers and connect, to see their faces understand and feel what I feel.
The EP is called ‘Three Songs About One Girl’ because, simply, that’s what it is. It was magical to be able to be in Paris, the city of love, to bare my heart on stage and see the love I feel mirrored and shared. I have no idea what she was doing when I was singing those songs about her but I hope she felt our love reach out and give her a gentle kiss. <3
Nat and I caught the 9am train to London. We knew we had a lot to pack in but we had the freedom that the only timetabled event was the gig we were doing for the marvellous Hangover Lounge peeps on Sunday.
After a lucky early check-in at the hotel, we headed to the London Dungeon experience. I was a bit worried about this as I heard it was gruesome. And it was but on the right side of traumatising. Loads of laughs and the actors all did sterling jobs marshalling us around the ghastly exhibits. The bit that was the most grim was the Whitechapel / Ripper bit, I would advise you to skip that bit as it features actual pictures of the victims. I found it hard going. The best bit was definitely the Drop: a ride that drops you straight down as if you’re being hanged. My experience was made bit more painful because you’re clamped into your seat by a metal bar which, for some reason, features a big chunk *exactly* where male genitalia ride. As the actress checked we were in, she thumped down on the bar and my balls were pummelled, Bond-style. Still worth it but if I go on again, I might have my knackers cut off first, save some agony.
Then we went on to the London Aquarium Sealife Centre, just next to the London Eye. And wow – it was gorgeous. Fish, crustaceans, molluscs, the whole panoply of swimmy, creepy, crawly marine life was on show. Obviously, the sharks and turtles were the best critters… until we entered a frozen area and came face-to-face with some penguins!
YEP! PENGUINS! They were such inquisitive little souls, coming up to the glass to inspect us before flashing off back underwater. I loved seeing them but it did make me think of the scene in ‘Happy Feet’ where he’s going barmy in the enclosure.
We had a bit of time left over so we headed on to the British Museum. I really, really wanted to show Nat the Reading Room: the last time we tried in 2010, they said it was shut for refurb until 2012. So, we chanced it. Nope, still shut, probably till 2014. Awww, maaaan! Never mind, you can’t ever get bored at the British Museum, the fabulous artefacts it houses reach out and poke at you, forcing you to consider the epehmeral nature of your existence. I got a bit freaked out at some of the Greek carvings, tiny statues over 2,000 years old and yet looking like they were made yesterday. Who carved it? For what reason? How did they live, love and die? And will I leave behind anything that someone will be looking at in the year 4012? Unlikely.
For dinner, we went wandering in Soho. It’s one of my fave areas of London, I spent a lot of time there when I was in my early twenties and it feels like home in lots of ways. When I’m there, that’s when I’m most likely to wish I lived in London, the atmosphere is so amiable, particularly on warm, sunny evenings like Saturday. We found a good Indian restaurant, scoffed and then made our way to…
THE PHOENIX THEATRE FOR BLOOD BROTHERS! Yep, this is probably what we’d both most been looking forward to. Willy Russell’s tale of separated twins is more than just a pondering on the old nature vs. nurture debate, it connects at a hugely emotional level. Some of my favourite bits where when the twins were young, the way the actors acted childhood innocence was flawless. Just the joy of being eight, where days are endless and all that matters is your mates and who can make the best machine gun noise. There were some heartbreaking moments, not just the end-point which we see at the beginning. I was very touched by the dissolving relationship between Mickey and his wife and how it’s mirrored by his estrangement from his blood brother. When he’s lonely and beaten down and doesn’t know where to turn, it really got to me and I admit I cried. And the songs! They dovetailed with the story perfectly, unlike some musicals where they seem wedged in as an afterthought. I was totally lost in the play, I kept forgetting I was watching live humans a few tens of feet away from me. It’s a testament to the power of the show that it almost made me forget how tiny the seat was that I was crammed in, I probably looked very peculiar to the people behind me as I was shuffling around, trying to massage the cramps out of my legs. Anyway, what a show! We were grinning as we headed back to Soho for some late lattes before heading back to the hotel.
Sunday, we got up bright and early and then hit Oxford Street. We didn’t do a marathon session as the gig was looming but it’s always fun being on that street for me, I love the bustle, the fashions, watching other shoppers. Surely Oxford Street is one of the best places in the world for people watching?
Finally, the actual reason we’d come to London: playing The Hangover Lounge at The Lexington. This, like all HL shows was totally acoustic, no mics or PA or anything. Which I love ~ there’s so much less faffing about than normal gigs.
Before us were the wonderful Making Marks, a Norwegian foursome whose songs are catchy, pithy and bright as buttons. I was actually watching them thinking it was a bit unfair, me having to follow this amazing act. I did ask John HL if I could play before them but he politely refused me!
Then we played. It’s only the second gig Nat’s done with White Town (and second ever, also) and she sang wonderfully. I was a bit all over the shop because I wanted to do new songs. So, Nat had to hold up the lyrics for one newie, ‘I’m In Love With You,’ as I can’t even remember my own lyrics. I had an amazing time playing and the audience was so friendly and warm, singing along and putting up with my often incongruous inter-song banter. We had such fun that I really can’t wait to do it again. It’s an honour to play!
And one of the bestest parts of the gig was the surprise appearance of my friend Laura Mac! She’d got back from South Korea and wanted to keep it secret so she just turned up. She’s the star of this video, bless her. ♥
We’d asked John HL what sightseeing we should do and he recommended the cable car from the Excel Centre to the O2 Arena which neither of us even knew about. But it sounded great so we headed over. (Note: if you’re going to do this from central London, get a water taxi or a tube, not a cab like we did, you might save twenty-two quid.)
Well, it was fabulous. We were lucky it was a gorgeous day and as we boarded our car and headed up, the views were stunning. It felt quite surreal to be dangling over the Thames, seeing the Excel retreat behind us and the O2 loom larger ahead. If you get the chance to go on it, take it.
Next was the Horrendous Fear part of the weekend. On the way over, we’d spotted a whirly tower spinny thing, one of these:
I have a terrible fear of heights. It’s ridiculous and totally out-of-control. I don’t even like standing on step-ladders. So, when Nat started squeaking about the ride, my first instinct was to run off or perhaps feign an attack of beri-beri, anything to get out of going on this mad looking gizmo. But then I thought, fuck it. I was terrified out of my wits so that showed I needed to do it. We sat in the bucket seats and I was dismayed to learn the buckle wouldn’t do up between my legs because of my porkiness. The bloke operating it said I’d be fine with just the saftey belt. My immdeiate thought was that I would just slide out and why did they have the restraining bar and buckle if they were superfluous? The machine spun up, we rose into the air and then started spinning. I kept my eyes shut a lot, all I could hear was Nat whooping as she waved her arms in the air and took selfies on her iPhone. I didn’t take any pics as my hands were gripped like superglue around the chains (I had imprints after for a while). I was almost getting used to it when the wind picked up and started twisting the seat all over the place. It was at this precise moment I wished I hadn’t been such a fan of the Final Destination films. I very nearly pooped myself.
BUT I DID IT. FUCK YOU, FEAR!
After I’d stopped sobbing, we caught a water taxi back to Embankment. This was the final outing of the weekend and we couldn’t have picked a better coda. The sun was setting over the Thames as we sped along the river, the riverside sights of London laid out before us. It was beautiful to see the city skyline painted with the golds and oranges of the sun retiring for the day.
Then we grabbed our bags from the hotel and caught the train home. We got back to Derby around 22.15. We crammed a lot into 37 hours.
What a perfect weekend!
(Click here to see the pics from the weekend!)
The vid stars White Town backing vocalist Natalie Alice Barratt and she’s done a wonderful job, she’s a great actress. Even to the point of falling over for her craft which was, of course, totally necessary for the shot I wanted. It was fun directing her! *evil director laugh*
The song is about summer and love and pure, pure happiness. So ENJOY! And I hope you like it!
If you do, please share it anywhere and everywhere!
Just got this yesterday and it’s a great read! There’s a White Town interview and it also comes with a comp CD (including my track ‘She’s A Lot Like You’) AND a patch to sew on your bag / dufflecoat.
It’s lovely being in a paper zine again!
And look at this lovely note they sent:
You can find the Two Carnations peeps here but the zine is already sold out, sorry!
Last weekend (or the one before, depending how you count) was Indietracks 2012!
Again, I had a fucking amazing time and saw some amazing bands like ORCA TEAM, The Vaselines, The Monochrome Set and… well, too many to remember. It remains the best British music festival for the atmosphere, the people, the sheer FUN of the whole shebang!
I also had the privilege of playing on the the train on Saturday the 7th. And, for the first time in some years, White Town wasn’t just me: I was joined by Miss Natalie Alice Barratt:
If you’re a regular reader, you’ll have seen a gazillion pics of my mate Nat but you might not know that she sang backing vocals on my current album, Monopole. She sings on the chorus of this track:
I felt it was high time for a baptism of fire so I asked her to sing *the day before the gig.* And, bless her, she did! It can’t have been an easy first gig because the train carriage was rammed. I was thinking, ‘ooh, what if there’s only three of us in there?’ But, in the event, it was heaving and a beautiful, friendly gig! Definitely an amazing atmosphere, the crowd were all the loveliest of lovely people which is, of course, only natural for Indietracks! You can get a sense of their friendliness in this vid, taken by Chris Gillies:
I’ve played so many great gigs this year, Athens, Thessaloniki, New York and then on this little steam train, chuntering through the rainstorms of an English summer. It was a tiny magical moment. The audience was sooo quiet, luckily enough as it was only me, Nat and my guitar, no PA! And the crowd loved the new songs as well as the one big hit, which always charms and disarms me.
If you were in the audience on that terribly humid train, thank you for coming along and being so wonderful!
Head over to the linky above to hear my contribution to this fabulous Olympic-inspired comp. And thanks to John for having my track on there, it’s an honour, sir!
On the 18th May, I flew out to New York to play NYC Popfest, accompanied by my soundman Robbie and his girlfriend, Rach.
I’ve never been to New York before. I have been to the US, very briefly: in 1997, I flew over to Los Angeles to talk to some publishers. I was only there for three days and the jet lag was horrendous. I remember falling asleep while some lovely guy from Maverick was trying to entice me to join Madonna’s company.
So, different coast, new city.
From the moment we left JFK and caught the cab to Brooklyn, where we were staying, I was struck by both how alien and how familiar everything looked and felt. Every Briton, hell, every European has grown up with New York. It’s the lead character in so many of our films, TV shows, comics and pop songs. We may never have set foot in it but we’re simultaneously native New Yorkers.
The first night, when Rob and Rach had gone to their place, I decided to start my stay in style and went to the KFC a couple of blocks from where I was staying on 4th Avenue. As soon as I spoke, the three girls working there were so amazingly friendly, asking me where I was from, why I was over. GodDAMN but New Yorkers love English accents. This was repeated throughout my stay – I didn’t have even one negative experience in terms of unfriendliness.
Yet, the stereotype of New Yorkers that I’ve seen so many times is that they’re tough and hard and surly and fuhgeddabadit. Not true. We were tourists, we ambled round Brooklyn and Manhattan, being annoying, taking pics, rubbernecking. Not once did we receive anything apart from the friendliest, warmest treatment. Even the crazy people in the subway stations were nice! If Americans think New Yorkers are hard and unfriendly, they should spend a day in London on Oxford Street where people will knock you over and think nothing of mugging you as they walk over your prone form. Easily, easily in terms of relaxed friendliness, New York 1, London 0.
Saturday the 19th was all about aforesaid rubbernecking. We went to Central Park, Robbie and Rach went rowing, I tried not to fall in love with every cute girl sunbathing. Then on to THE SHOPS. Oh yes, judge me for my vapid consumerism but I love shops and shopping. We went to the Apple Shop and I was a bit underwhelmed. Apart from these two pretty girls:
There wasn’t that much there. I mean, I can buy Apple shit here. There weren’t any special or marvellous items, it was all just stock.
Then we went to FAO Schwarz because we wanted to see the piano that Tom Hanks dances on in ‘Big.’ But we got sidelined by FAO Schweetz, the best sweetshop I have ever been in ever. SO MANY STUPID SWEETIES. I spent $81 on sweets. Yep.
Then we rounded the day off with a two hour bus tour. As the bus rose on the Manhattan bridge, we looked to our right and there was New York laid out, twinkling and glittering and lovely and warm. We could see the Statue of Liberty in the distance, a tiny cheerleader rah-ing it up for her city, pompom in hand. It was a magical moment.
The next day was NYC Popfest 2012, and I’ll do a separate post about that, just too much to fit in here. And the day after that was a bonus gig! Wooohoo!
But, back to the touristing. We came, we saw, we ate, we felt a bit ill, we ate a bit more. Whether it was the sublime pizzas in Grimaldis or the meat overload of Katz Deli, we overdid it. But it was all good.
The memory I’ll have of New York is of walking through Brooklyn at around 4.30am, in the rain, mainly along 4th Avenue. I felt completely, utterly safe and at home. I could have walked those streets forever. Back home, I feel homesick for NY. There’s not many cities that give me that feeling.
New York, a set on Flickr.
Please, if you’ve never been: GO. You have to experience it, TV and films are not enough. Get to NY, NY and fall in love like I did.