This morning I got up and went to work out in the park for the first time since Tuesday 30th October – two days before the album launch after which I’ve been solely focused on not getting ill to the detriment of the wash-board abs. It was hard. I was hungover and out of shape and I ended up on my knees vomiting into a pile of leaves while a class of school kids pointed and laughed – it wasn’t edifying but it was strangely life affirming.
The tour finished on Wednesday night in Oxford where with all the love in the world and a huge amount of effort from Nikò Brian and Hannah Jakes, we gave it everything we had left. It felt important, not only because what Niko, Hannah and their Upcycled Sounds crew are doing is everything that making and playing music should be about, but because stood up there, surrounded by Zac, Chris and Dave, looking out at the crowd, I felt a hugely emotional sense of pride that we’d made it. That three and a half years of work and a lot of living, with all that that entails, both hard and beautiful, should have reached its conclusion for now.
To bring this record and this music to audiences around the country has been a wonderful experience. As well as the essential and nourishing sight of old friends, for the first time the crowds have been full of people I don’t know. This has been the real revelation of the tour – to meet and connect with so many different people, from all walks of life who have found something of and for themselves in this music that began life in Frank’s front room, Fred’s kitchen and a thousand snatched moments.
I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has made this tour such a joy, in particular the promoters who over the years have become friends and who’s constant dedication to creating spaces for this music is such an essential part of the whole endeavour. They take none of the glory but put in an awful lot of the hard yakka – so huge love to Simon at The Others, Cafe Kino, Charlotte Lotte Lyster, Jack Anthony Powis Page, James and David at The Lighthouse, Katie Robson and Ben See at La La La Records, the crew at SET, Nikò, Hannah and Maiya at Upcycled Sounds, Phil Di Palma, Andy Backhouse and Andy and the whole family in Brum.
Across the whole tour I’ve been joined by 16 different musicians at various points, all of whom have brought their unique skills and sensitivity to my songs. You are the very best there is and I couldn’t have done it without you! Huge love to Zac Gvi, Chris Hyson, Dave Hamblett, Will Harris, Harry Christelis, Phillip, Richard, Sergio and Anna of the Phaedra ensemble, Matt Anderson, Dave Shulman, Dee Byrne, Matt Robinson, Rosie Caldecott, Ewan Bleach and Fred Thomas.
I’ve been lucky enough to have the evergreen support of the brilliant Tom Robinson Music at BBC Radio 6 Music for whom we played live in session last Saturday and which you listen again here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0001gj2
And the incredible support of Jamie Cullum, Guy Garvey, Huw Stephens, Gideon Coe, Lauren Laverne, Mary Anne Hobbs, Robert Rotifer, Andy Backhouse among others. Thank you! x
Finally, to Chris Sheehan and Rhia Parker for believing in me at those points when I stopped believing in myself.
I couldn’t tell you what next year holds, it is presently one enormous blank canvas with the faint outline of some big ideas, propped on a lot of debt that needs to be repaid. Right now, I’m tired, deep in my bones, but I feel acutely alive, lucky and thankful.
If not now, when?
You can get a copy of ‘To The Islands’ here or stream it to your hearts content. ❤️