A secret garden carved out of the hillside, over looking a valley. A small wooden stage flanked by low hanging leaves that rustled in the gentle breeze so consistently they created the kind of ambient sonic wash you could sample and use with zero processing. This outdoor theatre was a lock down project gone bonkers, the crazy dream of a beautiful dreamer – the artist, writer and wine lover Paul Hussell. What a beautiful way he chose to spend that time when we were all so isolated… creating a space for us to congregate when it was all over..and here we are!
Katie Whitehouse is the special guest support tonight. Katie first played me her song ‘Spaces’ almost 8 or 9 years ago and it stopped me dead in my tracks. It’s one of those exceptional songs. A song to end all songs. A songwriter’s song. A song I wish I’d written. A song on the shortlist of 4 or 5 emotional pieces I’ll have at my bloody funeral. It’s like a direct, living breathing, bloody, chunk of her heart – beating there on the page, spilling and staining every it bleeds – on the chord/lyric chart and between my ears when I listen to it. Ever since that first listen i’ve persistently requested she make an album, and today was the first day the CDs are out in the world and embarking on their journey. Who else will be moved by this song? It’ll be fascinating to observe the journey of this tender record, great to be able to witness it take shape, flex its muscles and meet the wider world.
‘Spaces’ makes me think of my son, and I presume she wrote it about her relationship with her kids. For me it’s about unconditional love and the different shapes that can take within our relationships. It breaks my heart every time I hear it and hearing her sing it live today in the secret garden was no exception.
Katie plans to tour in 2024 and i’d urge you to keep an eye out for announcements around this and buy tickets, all of her songs are so generously written – so open and it is wonderful to see them taking shape and embarking on their life together as a little family of songs, as this body of work, under the title of her debut album ‘Drawing Lines’.
I helped make the album and played some guitar tonight, mimicking the pedal steel work of Gustaf Ljunggren and doing my best to stay out of the way of her soulful, emotive performance.
When it came to my own show, I felt a little frayed, having done a lot of travelling and been busy of late with other musical projects – playing private shows and producing Bill Dodds’s album. But I was up for flying with my songs and stories tonight, and ready to be reckless here on the side of this hill.
People gathered and sat expectantly in the higgle-d-piggle-d seating arrangements the secret garden provided. They were looking for something and I felt I had it, or at least part of it, a little bit for everyone.
It took me a moment to get going tonight. Like a pilot checking the plane before take off, I had to check things over, couple of turns on the runway, but at some point I must’ve tilted the steering wheel and gone for it. I was in the flow, and when i’m doing this – this activity feeds my soul. A gentleman at the front had seen me 4 times in the last year, it’s amazing someone would want to come back for more. But I also understand it, and that’s honestly not me being big headed. It’s just different every time. I want to do it everyday (the set, the show). Come see me at Mill Farm Studios on Sept 8, that might be the last place I get to do it in public this year. And then come to my Ten Steps tour with Max ZT. I’ve started rehearsing for that and it’s blowing my tiny mind! Like exploring unchartered territory (creatively) but there are paths there I’ve drawn in the sand for myself, as the record is written of course – you can hear it here – but of the live show will be an entirely different experience, for us both.
We set up, sound checked and performed within the tiny window of dry weather the day allowed – mere moments after my encore of ‘ Work’ the rain began, and we quickly packed up and scurried into the house where our host Paul kindly cracked open wine and snacks. I hardly ever drink alcohol at the moment but I was sleeping over and diving into this indulgence felt like the right course of action!
I sank into a soft sofa and enjoyed letting go of individual muscles as I sipped red wine. It was smooth, not at all bitter and I felt it loosen my grip on my thought processes and spray a golden sheen over it all. All the worries, all the things ‘to do’, all the fears, there’s a resolution I feel post gig that overrides all of this that i’m so grateful for.