Ep07: Bec Hill on healthy jealousy and what success means in a creative life

Ep07: Bec Hill on healthy jealousy and what success means in a creative life

Podcast

Hello hello! Thanks for visiting this page to listen to my conversation with comedian Bec Hill, recorded remotely on 27th March 2020.

[Content warning: one or two very mild swears.]

In this conversation, we discuss:

  • the life changing effects of The Artist’s Way
  • the difference between healthy and unhealthy jealousy and what success means in a creative life
  • living with anxiety when people assume you must be an extrovert
  • smartphone addiction – how screen-free Sundays help
  • how creating an enjoyable workspace can change your mood
  • why it’s okay to make work you know your audience will like (as long as you like it too)

The pieces of work Bec invites you to check out are: short videos on her YouTube channel and longer shows “Bec In 1 Hour” and “I’ll Be Bec” on Next Up Comedy (free trial available!).

Since lockdown she’s been raising money for WaterAid with the £5000 t-shirt. Sponsor a square or six here.

She also does FOUR podcasts: Because You Watched, A Problem Squared with Matt Parker, The Designspark Podcast with Dr Lucy Rogers and Harriet Braine and Con Sessions with Matt Highton.

The other comedians she recommends are: Sam Campbell, Joz Norris, Spencer Jones, Josie Long and Sarah Kendall.

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Other things we mentioned:

In the intro I mention the limited release of my live Penfriend album, available til the end of Sunday 5th July only. Hurry hurry! I also mention my friend Marc Burrows, who does comedy and music *and* just published a book about Terry Pratchett!

We both talked enthusiastically about Julia Cameron’s 12 week course of The Artist’s Way and the daily practice of writing the Morning Pages. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to be more creative day to day.

I referred to my recent podcast episode with Frank Turner where he talks about getting the 9 o’clock shivers.

Bec talked about setting up her dream desk – watch the tour here!

I mentioned my favourite life changing books of recent times: “Deep Work” and “Digital Minimalism” by Cal Newport (his new podcast is great, too!) plus Austin Kleon‘s brilliant trilogy: Steal Like An Artist, Show Your Work, Keep Going. His newsletter is brilliant, too.

Bec talked about St Luke’s Church in West Holloway, and ex-Reverend Dave Tomlinson’s book “How to be a bad Christian…And a better human being“.


About Bec

Australian-born and now London-based, Bec has gained a cult following in Australia, the UK and Ireland thanks to her award-winning solo shows, Twitter presence and popular YouTube videos. She has a talent for incorporating arts and crafts into her stand-up routines, creating a unique and unforgettable comedy style that she calls “paper-puppetry”.

Bec can be found as a guest on the 2nd series of “Dara O’Briain’s Go 8 Bit”, a judge on “Sam & Mark’s Big Friday Wind-Up”, and the voice of several characters in “Mass Effect: Andromeda”. She has also appeared in every series of CBBC’s “The Dog Ate My Homework”, and starred in the Sundance UK Grand Jury Prize winning short film “Russian Roulette”.

Her one-liners regularly feature in “best joke” lists by “reputable” sources like The Telegraph, Dave, The Guardian, The Independent, Daily Record and Buzzfeed, which isn’t surprising, as she is the creator of the UK’s only pun-based comedy night, Pun Run. She has also written for The Amazing World of Gumball, Bluestone 42, Dilemma, The Now Show and her first short animation directorial debut, “Scoring Pointes” aired with Disney in 2016.

She was also one half of the award-winning, critically-acclaimed family comedy double-act, Bec & Tom.

Follow Bec on YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.

This podcast is supported by Arts Council England and The National Lottery and powered by my Correspondent’s Club.

+ Get FREE music immediately by joining The Correspondent’s Club (free and paid tiers available).

+ Get two free months of Skillshare classes on me!

+ I send a thoughtful weekly email every Thursday – choose the Freewheeler tier or upwards to receive it.

+ New episodes of my music podcast “Attention Engineer”are released every Wednesday – visit this page to find out more and subscribe via your favourite podcast platform.

+ You can also follow me around the web, on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Have a lovely day xo

Surprise live album – available for one week only!

Surprise live album – available for one week only!

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Surprise live album for youuuuuuuuuu! Get your hands on 8 songs (7 unreleased) plus some fun chat, available on a pay what you want basis* for one week only.


Thanks to everyone who joined me live last night, I really enjoyed it.

I’ve been playing online gigs since 2013 and they’re always a little nerve-racking, especially when playing new material – but when everything comes together like it did last night it’s too exciting not to share. I’m going to continue amping up my monthly Penfriend TV shows so I’m already looking forward to July’s and planning some new segments. Hope to see you there.

If you’re a paid Correspondent, DO NOT FEEL ANY PRESSURE TO PAY! If money is tight, DO NOT FEEL ANY PRESSURE TO PAY! All contributions help keep the project afloat, so are much appreciated, but PWYW is not a trick 🙂 XOXO

THANK YOU for visiting my website!

+ Get FREE music immediately by joining The Correspondent’s Club (free and paid tiers available).

+ I send a thoughtful weekly email every Thursday – choose the Freewheeler tier or upwards to receive it.

+ New episodes of my music podcast “Attention Engineer” are released every Wednesday – visit this page to find out more and subscribe via your favourite podcast platform.

+ You can also follow me around the web, on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Have a lovely day xo

Ep06: Tom Robinson on how individual audience members can change the world

Ep06: Tom Robinson on how individual audience members can change the world

Podcast

Greetings, curious listener, and thanks for visiting this page. I’m delighted to share my conversation with Tom Robinson, recorded remotely on 27th March 2020.

[Content warning: swearing, brief discussion of a nervous breakdown and the benefits of therapy, plus a mention of suicide in the context of lyrics helping people.]

In this conversation, we discuss:

  • being a a pop star and LGBT activist in the 1970s and onwards, and why the fight for a free and fair society needs to level up
  • how an act of kindness by British blues legend Alexis Korner shaped a teenage Tom’s future
  • how songs can inspire individual audience members to change the world
  • why “you should do the right thing, whether or not you expect to get a pat on the back for it”
  • how to start a conversation with a famous person
  • “late onset bisexuality” and how getting a job at BBC 6 Music gave him the opportunity to watch his kids grow up

The three songs Tom invites you to listen to from his back catalogue are: “Glad To Be Gay” (the Amnesty International Secret Policeman’s Ball version), “Merciful God” (Only The Now) and the 12″ single version of “War Baby”.


Tom recommends:

New music: “No Fanfare” by Youth Sector, the music of Freya Roy and “Ghost Town” by Greentea Peng.

More musical favourites: Squid, Cabbage, Kate Tempest and Tricky.

Things we talked about:

In the intro I mention last week’s blog post on the danger of endless lists – I’d love to hear your mindful productivity tips!

Finchden Manor therapeutic community – Tom has written very beautifully about his experience here.

Billy Bragg’s new song “Can’t Be There Today”.

Tom’s 2015 album “Only The Now”.

The Lesbians and Gay Men Support the Miners organisation and the 2014 film “Pride”, which tells the story of how hearts and minds were changed during the 1984-85 miner’s strike.

The generosity of British blues musician and radio broadcaster Alexis Korner.

Tom’s work with BBC 6 Music and his website Fresh On The Net, where artists can submit their tracks for consideration and read loads of brilliant advice.

Towards the end of the conversation, Tom quotes from TS Eliot’s 1940 poem “East Coker”:

“And every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been.”



About Tom

Born in Cambridge in 1950, Tom Robinson first became known in the late 1970s as a musician and LGBT activist with the Tom Robinson Band (TRB) who were early supporters of Rock Against Racism and Amnesty International. In 1977 their Top 5 debut release “2-4-6-8 Motorway” became one of the landmark singles of the UK punk era. 

Other hits included “Glad To Be Gay”, “Up Against The Wall” and the band’s debut album “Power In The Darkness” which went gold in the UK and Japan. As a solo artist Tom had further solo hits in 1983 with “War Baby” and “Atmospherics: Listen To The Radio”, and co-wrote songs with Peter Gabriel, Elton John and Dan Hartman.

As a radio broadcaster, over the last 30 years Tom has hosted programmes on all eight of the BBC‘s national radio stations and won two Gold Sony Academy Radio Awards. He currently hosts three shows a week on BBC Radio 6 Music, was a member of the Ivor Novello Awards committee for ten years and in 2016 was awarded a fellowship of LIPA in recognition of his support for new music artists through BBC Introducing. His music blog at Fresh On The Net currently offers an open door to new tunes and free insider advice for independent and emerging musicians.

Follow Tom on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

This podcast is supported by Arts Council England and The National Lottery and powered by my Correspondent’s Club.

+ Get FREE music immediately by joining The Correspondent’s Club (free and paid tiers available).

+ I send a thoughtful weekly email every Thursday – choose the Freewheeler tier or upwards to receive it.

+ New episodes of my music podcast “Attention Engineer”are released every Wednesday – visit this page to find out more and subscribe via your favourite podcast platform.

+ You can also follow me around the web, on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Have a lovely day xo

Album update: how not to get overwhelmed by big projects and the danger of endless lists

Album update: how not to get overwhelmed by big projects and the danger of endless lists

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Old Tape” image by Ozant Liuky from Pixabay

Suddenly, I find myself with only a little bit of an album to complete.

You might know I started writing this new collection of songs in February 2019, and the next six months proved to be such a transformative period that I ended my longtime music project to start this new one – and I’m so thankful you’ve decided to join me on Mission: Penfriend.

I recorded and mixed six songs by the end of the summer then set off on various tours, spending long solitary driving hours pondering my musical future, making plans and gradually figuring out the best way to make my transition. Recording stopped, pretty much, til December, but snippets of songs were still being recorded into phone memos.

This February I wrote four songs in one day, egged on by my friend, guitarist Charley Stone. We were playing the 20 Song Game, which I love, and I went from being sure which 6-ish more songs I was going to finish and record to being a bit overwhelmed by choice. In music, this is very much a “high class problem”, but it was a problem nevertheless.

Last week I sat at my desk and listened to all the things I’d chucked into my Works In Progress (WIP) folder and made a shortlist. It’s not very short, but it’s a list and I’m going with it!

I find that with any self-motivated project, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the little decisions that need to be made. You can’t write “make an album” or “write a book” on your to do list and expect to get anything done. Your brain sees the words and runs away to hide in tasks that are easy to conceive of and easy to complete. I joke – though it’s not really a joke – that the only time I start thinking about cleaning the house is when I have a day free to make music. My brain just can’t handle such a tenuous concept. I have to sneak up on it, breaking down the massive inconceivable task into tiny pieces. Sit at desk, make list of potential songs, plug in guitar…

Deadlines help, but it’s hard to obey self-imposed deadlines, especially when there are so many other things I “need” to do, not to mention scary world events to deal with in some way. I recently hired myself for the pretty hefty part time job of podcaster, which is going really well, and could easily engulf my entire week if I let it.

I’m also acutely aware that I’m a terrible workaholic, more than happy to dive into my endless schemes and dreams at the expense of having any time off. I love what I do so much and have always been really bad at stopping, ever. I’m trying to get better at that.

There will always be more stuff I’d like to make and do and, because of how my mind works, that will never come to an end, so I could feasibly work 12 hour days forever and never be “finished”. I write this here to remind myself, more than anything else, and perhaps to nudge you to be good to yourself, too.

I spent part of Sunday reading through the daily diary I wrote in the year I turned 18. It was a disappointing read, to be honest, the amount of times I wanted to shake my younger self and say “please just break up with him once and for all and do NOT go back!” was kind of painful, and I closed the book feeling really sad for this confused young person who was already displaying the workaholic tendencies I mentioned earlier. Why I was working 3-4 very late nights a week at a pizza restaurant around supposedly revising for my A levels I don’t know, and I wish someone could have stepped in and explained a few things to me about sleep, priorities and focus.

This week I’ve been trying to meditate those futile feelings of frustration, anger and sadness out of my body, alongside trying to set myself up for a successful week. I’ve mentioned Cal Newport tons of times before, but I listened to episode 1 of his new podcast “Deep Questions” on the weekend and it was so timely for me. My phone is now switched off and sitting behind a closed cupboard door, I turn it on once a day to check for voicemails and WhatsApp my sister and a few friends and that’s quite enough. I’m not checking email til the afternoon, and only once if I’m not waiting for something from someone.

Evenings are for dinner with my husband, snuggles with the dogs, reading and board games. I have two days a week booked for podcast work and three for music making. I have an album to finish!

What are your weekly priorities these days? Have they changed since COVID-19? Do you have any productivity / focus tips or links to share?

I have one more before I sign off for the week – check out my favourite YouTube channel by Matt D’Avella. I highly recommend his videos on minimalism, essentialism and getting things done while living a balanced life. He’s great. I’m a bit addicted…

Take care, and I hope to get to play for you at my upcoming online gig:

Next Thursday 25th June at 8pm BST I’ll be playing my monthly Correspondents-only online gig. Digipals and up will receive a link by email on Wednesday which you can use to watch live on the night or watch again later if you can’t make it. Leave me any questions in the comments and I will answer them!

Love,
Laura xoxoxo

THANK YOU for visiting my website!

+ Get FREE music immediately by joining The Correspondent’s Club (free and paid tiers available).

+ I send a thoughtful weekly email every Thursday – choose the Freewheeler tier or upwards to receive it.

+ New episodes of my music podcast “Attention Engineer” are released every Wednesday – visit this page to find out more and subscribe via your favourite podcast platform.

+ You can also follow me around the web, on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Have a lovely day xo

Ep05: Charlotte Hatherley on how 20 years of being in a band has equipped her for the apocalypse

Ep05: Charlotte Hatherley on how 20 years of being in a band has equipped her for the apocalypse

Podcast

Well hello there, and thanks for visiting! I’m delighted to share my conversation with Charlotte Hatherley, recorded remotely on 24th March 2020.

[Content warning: some swearing present, issued in very friendly voices.]

In this conversation, we discuss:

  • how Charlotte went from scraping through her A levels to playing in front of 50,000 people in Ash
  • the day Charlotte met David Bowie – what’s it like meeting your number one hero?
  • the day Laura saved Paul McCartney from an awkward conversation in Montego Bay
  • the ups and downs of touring – is there more to life?
  • how to navigate an ever changing technological landscape as a musician
  • is B7 is the most irritating chord? (with thanks to guitarist Charley Stone for this question)

The three songs Charlotte recommends from her back catalogue are: “Behave” (The Deep Blue), “A Sign” (True Love) and her sci-fi cover of “How Deep Is Your Love?” by Bee Gees.



Things we talked about

In the intro I mention my recent blog post about Facebook unfriending, plus Cal Newport’s books “Deep Work” and “Digital Minimalism” and his new podcast “Deep Questions”.

Charlotte mentions Charlotte Cooper from The Subways, bass playing heroes Kim Gordon, Kim Deal, Melissa Auf der Maur and D’arcy Wretzky, and seeing Hole (with drummer Patty Schemel) and PJ Harvey play live. She talks about looking up to Bowie guitarists Carlos Alomar and Robert Fripp and remembers the excitement of finding out about American bands L7, Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney plus the zine scene of Portland.

We talk about how inspiring Viv Albertine (The Slits) and Gina Birch (The Rainboats) are, and I urge everyone to listen to Viv’s solo album “The Vermillion Border” (on which I have a teeny cameo – I had the great honour of playing bass and singing in Viv’s band at many gigs, and her music is GREAT, as are both her books). Charlotte also talks about Patti Smith and Lucinda Williams continuing to do brilliant things.

Songwriter Frank Turner comes up in conversation about touring – listen to my conversation with him here and watch Charlotte playing live sessions with him here + here. Excellent stuff.

Bookwise, I mention “The Last” by Hanna Jameson and Charlotte talks about “Where The Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism and the Inner Life of Artists” by Kay K. Larson.

I also mention my love for birdsong.fm.

Charlotte is listening to:


The “Uncut Gems” soundtrack by Daniel Lopatin, Grimes’ new record “Miss Anthropocene”, the “Chernobyl” soundtrack by Hildur Guðnadóttir and the “Mandy” soundtrack by Jóhann Jóhannsson.


About Charlotte

Charlotte Hatherley is a composer, solo artist, and guitarist who initially came to prominence as guitarist and backing vocalist for alternative rock band Ash.

After leaving Ash in 2006, she recorded and performed extensively with artists including Bryan FerryBat For LashesKT Tunstall and Birdy.

Most recently Charlotte has toured as musical director for critically acclaimed South African artist, Nakhane.

A truly versatile artist, she has written for film and stage and inspired by her love of science fiction, her fourth solo album, True Love, was released in 2018. Her soundtrack for the powerful film ‘Imogen’ was released in May 2020. 

Follow Charlotte on Twitter and Instagram, and watch out for her podcast coming soon!


This podcast is supported by Arts Council England and The National Lottery and powered by my Correspondent’s Club.

Browse free and paid tiers here.

I write a thoughtful weekly email and offer a bunch of fun member perks like podcast extras, free music, zines, online gigs and access to my friendly forum. I hope to see you in there some time soon.

Thank you for listening!

Love,
Laura xo

You are not a number (and neither am I)

You are not a number (and neither am I)

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NEWS THIS WEEK

“Attention Engineer” episode 4 is available now, featuring my conversation with songwriter Frank Turner! Recorded on the precipice of the UK lockdown backstage at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Frank talks very candidly about the highs and lows of touring, the importance of giving a leg up to other artists and the unsustainability of being an arsehole in the music industry, alongside his love of Chas ‘n’ Dave and a surprising story about an ex-Prime Minister that leaves me speechless.

Thanks to everyone who’s rated and reviewed the show so far, it’s massively helpful especially over on Apple Podcasts, because that’s how new listeners find out about things.


YOU ARE NOT A NUMBER (AND NEITHER AM I)

On 1st June I made a birthday promise to myself to meditate three times a week, after managing to completely let it slide for several months. Of all the things I put into my new morning routine at the start of the year, I know that meditation is by far the most nourishing, and so I have done 6 x 10 minute sessions in the past couple of weeks.

Meditation grounds me, energises me and focuses me. It’s an opportunity to reflect, to notice what’s jumping about uppermost in my busy thoughts, to process immediate stress, to feel like I’m doing something caring for myself. But the problem with being more self aware is…being more self aware!

Day to day, I’ve been feeling pretty much totally fine for the last little while. I’m very good at setting myself seemingly impossible tasks and focusing on them to the exclusion of all other things, which is a brilliantly effective coping tactic short term, but not a very grounded or holistic way to live life.

It would be pointless to put in time to meditate and then ignore the things that come out of it, so I’ve been trying to be more aware of how much I’m using work (fun work, this work, the work of making music and podcasts and communicating with this wonderful community of people) to deal with or minimise my emotions around this lengthy lockdown, and that has led to some wobbly days this week.

I think I’m generally doing a pretty good job in pacing myself during this long distance race with no clear end, but every now and then I just want the world to stop so I can get off. I’m nervous about lockdown rules easing in this vague and confusing way, of other people deciding it’s fine to walk right by me when I’m out because the government has told them it is. I’m wondering whether it will be possible or safe to celebrate my Dad’s 70th birthday with him in August.

How are you getting on with all of this?

Following my notes last week about assessing my social media use, I decided to bite the bullet and take a proper look at Facebook this week. I don’t think I can deactivate my personal account without it having affecting my ability to spread the word about Penfriend on there, so instead I started hacking down my “friends” list.

A few years ago I decided to say yes to every friend request. As I didn’t want to share my deepest secrets anyway, I thought it could be a good way to spread the word about music-related things. Unfortunately, that led to my feed being chock full of strangers and their thoughts. I’m not someone who can casually glance through a timeline of personal loss, political bile and images of animal cruelty without feeling lots of feelings, even when I don’t know the people posting, so I had to stop looking. I actually weaned myself off looking at feeds for quite a long time last year, and my brain felt so much better for it.

When I started scrolling down the list of 3000+ names the other day, I felt creeped out by how few I actually recognised. It was easy to start with, unfriending people who I’d never met, never engaged with in any way, people who seemingly cruise Facebook collecting people. I regularly have upwards of 70 friend requests a day from men around the world, and it’s not because I’m at all well known. It’s…odd.

The criteria became a bit more complicated as I went on. Someone I’d met once, years ago, befriended online and then never talked to again doesn’t need to be linked to me forever, do they? What about primary school friends who I haven’t spoken to since then? Or fellow musicians who use the site for networking? There’s nothing wrong with that, but as I’m not using the site for that purpose, why am I privy to the inner workings of their minds, and they mine? What about people I do know in real life, who wouldn’t say hello to me and have a chat if we saw each other offline? Why on earth are *we* still connected?

Ultimately, we all have to make our own decisions about whether to use certain sites and how to use them. When I read “Deep Work” by Cal Newport last summer, it changed my mindset entirely. He writes about how people use social media services because they’ve become convinced that at some point, there will be some benefit. Newport suggests we should view them as a tool, dispassionately, figuring out what we’d like to use them for and assessing whether that tool is the right one to achieve those goals. For instance, if I want to use Facebook to keep in touch with friends, but I can’t see their posts in my feed, and we never exchange any words, am I getting what I want from Facebook? No! Is there a more effective way of achieving that goal? Perhaps. Do I know what that is? Not yet, but that doesn’t mean Facebook wins by default.

What I feel very strongly is that it’s unmanageable to subscribe to so many other peoples’ lives.

Have you heard of Dunbar’s number? Evolutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar shared approximate numbers of relationships the human brain can handle: 5 intimates, 15 good friends, 50 close friends, 150 friends. Beyond that, he surmises 500 acquaintances and 1500 people whose faces you could put a name to are the limits of what we’re able to manage. So you can see why 3200 people on a friends list was becoming stressful.

I eagerly jumped aboard the social media train and have had many positive experiences over the years, made real friends, had fun and shared my music. That may even be how we first came into contact, and that’s a wonderful thing! I’m not here to judge anyone else’s actions or to give unsolicited advice (that’s ALWAYS annoying), and I really don’t give a hoot what anyone else does on Facebook.

What I do care about is having energised, clear headed days where I balance my need for sociable interactions offline and online with time to make the things I care about. I want to have proper conversations with those 5 intimates and 15 good friends, and keep up with what my 50 close friends are up to, cheering them on from the sidelines.

As for the rest of it, I’ve found ways to communicate which suit me better. I write a weekly email, The Correspondent’s Club has its own forum, I have a Penfriend Facebook page, I dip into Twitter and Insta, I blog and now I have a podcast, too. I’m sure that’s enough of me for anyone!

If you used to be my Facebook friend and discover you aren’t any more, please rest assured it’s not because I don’t want to be in touch with you, it’s because I don’t think that’s a very good way to be in touch.

I always love to hear from you in the comments or by email.

Thank you for reading, have a great week and take good care.

Love,
Laura xoxo


THANK YOU for visiting my website!

+ Get FREE music immediately by joining The Correspondent’s Club (free and paid tiers available).

+ I send a thoughtful weekly email every Thursday – choose the Freewheeler tier or upwards to receive it.

+ New episodes of my music podcast “Attention Engineer”are released every Wednesday – visit this page to find out more and subscribe via your favourite podcast platform.

+ You can also follow me around the web, on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Have a lovely day xo

Ep04: Frank Turner on the unsustainability of being an arsehole in the music industry

Ep04: Frank Turner on the unsustainability of being an arsehole in the music industry

Podcast

Thank you for visiting to listen to my conversation with Frank Turner, recorded backstage at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre on Saturday 14th March 2020.

[Content warning: swearing present from the start, all in the best of humours.]

In this conversation, we discuss:

  • the bravado of touring – how the ability to sleep on a bus is overrated
  • substance abuse and “the 9 o’clock shivers”
  • the unsustainability of being an arsehole in the music industry
  • dealing with the toxicity of social media
  • the power of accepting you’re not for everyone
  • future careers – London tour guide?
  • how to get started with Springsteen – a comprehensive guide

The three songs Frank recommends from his back catalogue are: “Get Better“, “Try This At Home” and “Be More Kind”.


Frank Recommends

Political songwriters: Grace Petrie, Billy Bragg and Sam Duckworth.

Great bands he’s toured with: Larry And His Flask and Arkells.

Artists he’s inspired by: Leonard Cohen, Tim Barry and his band Avail.

Artists he recommends: Hobo Johnson, Chris Wood, Grace Petrie and Jess Guise.

Where to start with Springsteen: albums “Nebraska” and “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions”; songs “Reason To Believe“, “Devils And Dust”, “Born To Run” and “Thunder Road“.

Charities mentioned: Dash Charity and Safe Gigs for Women.

I recommend a book called The Good Immigrant, mention my blog post containing more anti-racism resources and give a shoutout to Music Venue Trust.


About Frank

Frank Turner is an English punk folk songwriter from Hampshire. Starting his career in post-hardcore band Million Dead, he went solo in 2005 and has built an extensive and incredibly loyal fanbase through brilliant songwriting and sheer hard work.

So far, Frank has released eight solo albums and played a bajillion gigs (2491 at the time of writing). Read his blog for more on his work to take music equipment and recording knowhow to Sierra Leone in collaboration with charity Way Out Arts.

Alongside regularly touring the world, Frank curates his own award-winning festival “Lost Evenings” and is the author of two bestselling books, “The Road Beneath My Feet” and “Try This At Home”. His podcast series “Tales From No Man’s Land” beautifully accompanies 2019 album “No Man’s Land”, celebrating important women in history.

Lockdown News

Most recently, Frank has been fundraising for venues in trouble by playing weekly online #IndependentVenueLove shows.

Tune in every Thursday at 8.30pm (UK time) on his YouTube channel.

He has also released a live album, “Live In Newcastle”, and has a split album with NOFX, “West Coast vs Wessex” coming out in July. Pre-order that here.

During the UK lockdown, Frank has also been adding to his “Try This At Home” video series (which accompanies his book of the same name), so you can learn to play some of his excellent songs yourself.


This podcast is supported by Arts Council England and The National Lottery and powered by my Correspondent’s Club.

Browse free and paid tiers here.

I write a thoughtful weekly email and offer a bunch of fun member perks like podcast extras, free music, zines, online gigs and access to my friendly forum. I hope to see you in there some time soon.

Thank you for listening!

Love,
Laura xo

I wasn’t going to write this til I realised silence was worse

I wasn’t going to write this til I realised silence was worse

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I am not a celebrity or a pundit (thank GOODNESS), or someone who thinks their “hot take” on every topic needs to be shared on all platforms. I’m on a complicated journey towards healthier internet and social media use; I go through phases of tweeting loads and really enjoying it and then hating everything and wanting to hide.

I’m planning to delete my personal Facebook profile in coming weeks, prompted by how weirded out I felt last Monday when so many people I didn’t know wished me “happy birthday, friend” (not YOU (if you did), I’m talking about people I genuinely don’t know. Facebook is weird). I want to have better relationships with the very small group of friends I would share secrets with over coffee, and also with the larger group of friends slash fans of my music who I communicate with through The Correspondent’s Club, my mailing list and social media. Hello, you.

I want to keep trying to be a better person. I’m very thoughtful. I read a lot – and widely – and try to learn about the world without getting sucked into the relentless 24 hour news cycle (because I don’t feel like that’s the best way to be properly informed). I meditate. I reflect. I think deeply. I ponder. I write my Morning Pages every day.

Tim and I talk all the time about what we’ve read and how we feel about it, how we can be better and do better. We nudge each other to explore new things. I care about people so much, and I see it as part of my life’s work to encourage self expression and creativity from those I am fortunate to be in contact with. I’m interested in your stories, as well as in sharing my own.

I don’t think I’m better, more important or more interesting than you.

While I believe strongly in the power of individuals, and in empowering people to feel like they can make change, I often prefer to stay quiet on big issues if I don’t think my opinion adds any value to the discourse. I tend to have my “hot takes” in private.

I spend my time making things and sharing them – that’s just what I do (and every time I feel guilty for that being the thing I do I try to remind myself I’m just going to work, and I’m allowed to go to work).

I don’t want to spend all day online telling you what I think, or what YOU should think, but I do try to share useful things that might help you on your unique journey.

I’d like to share three things with you today that I have found useful.

1) “The Good Immigrant” – 21 writers explore what it means to be black, Asian & minority ethnic in Britain today

I used to be someone who thought that by not being racist, and by being someone who would speak up if I saw or heard someone else being racist, I was doing enough. When I woke up a few years ago and realised that wasn’t true, I started reading, and I started with “The Good Immigrant”.

Actor Obioma Ugoala wrote a great Twitter thread which I shared last week: “SO YOU DON’T LIKE RACISM, BUT YOU’RE IN THE UK AND FEEL POWERLESS TO DO ANYTHING?”

I’ve been reading a lot of threads like this because I want to do something more useful than simply not being a racist. Obioma’s statement “education is key” is echoed across them all, alongside the very reasonable suggestion that white people need to do the work to acknowledge, understand and usefully empathise with these systemic issues.

How do we do the work? We read. We listen. We expose ourselves to ideas that make us uncomfortable or that we find challenging, rather than shutting them down and deciding it’s nothing to do with us.

It’s everything to do with all of us.

Obiomi tweeted yesterday:

“Whatever you can do, in whatever sphere you are in, please do

But through all of this, and this is essential,

-Listen to black voices
-Try not to centre conversations about you
-Do not expect black people to educate you for free

Thank you for reading
Welcome to the struggle”

In terms of educating myself, “The Good Immigrant” was a really helpful starting point for me. Before I read it I believed I empathised enough, but I really didn’t.

2) If you’ve ever asked the question “what is white privilege?”, this video by Kyla Jenee Lacey might help, and is a beautiful piece of work:


If you think you’re a good person (and don’t we all?) it’s hard to be told that you’re not being good enough. If you feel like you’ve struggled in life, it’s hard to be told you’re actually lucky. I feel that. But I keep trying to learn.

If you have to ask the question “what is white privilege?”, you are probably benefitting from it.

Being challenged is hard and often upsetting, but it’s a very small discomfort compared to the daily fear and anguish this causes others. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to start watching, reading and listening to things that can educate you on the subject – and if you have, we can all do more.

Please share any books, articles or videos you’ve found useful in the comments!

3) Finally, British musician Ghostpoet tweeted this clip yesterday which swiftly ended my week of assuming that the world didn’t need my input on this matter. While I do prefer to stay quiet, listen and learn and make space for other, more knowledgeable voices, I realise my silence isn’t helping – in fact, it’s just another sign of the privilege I enjoy. I get to choose what to be angry about.


Here are the key points which stood out for me:

“White people cannot just say, any more “I’m not racist” and think that that’s enough…this is our problem to solve.”

“How can the black community dismantle a problem that they didn’t create?”

“We shouldn’t just be trying to understand the rage. We should feel the rage.”

Watch all the way through to witness an extraordinary performance by British rapper Dave that left me in tears.

I feel the rage. Do you?


Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash


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Ep03: Ayse Hassan (Savages) on the absurdity of getting everything you thought you wanted and coming home to nothing

Ep03: Ayse Hassan (Savages) on the absurdity of getting everything you thought you wanted and coming home to nothing

Podcast

Welcome to episode 3 of “Attention Engineer”! I’m so happy to share my conversation with Ayse Hassan.

[Content warning: joyful, exuberant swearing, plus one mention each of bereavement and suicide in the context of a discussion about the potential healing power of music.]

About Ayse

Ayse Hassan is a multi-instrumentalist who first came to prominence as the bassist in rock band Savages. She has since made music in duos Kitebase and 180DB.

She’s currently focusing on her solo project ESYAlisten here, support and follow on your favourite platforms: Bandcamp / YouTube / Instagram / Spotify / Soundcloud.


In this conversation, we discuss:

  • how a HMV combo deal and a terrible audition kicked off an exciting career as a bassist
  • saved by matcha tea – how the rock n roll myth could have killed her
  • what to do when touring for 7 years means coming home to nothing
  • the importance of integrity in an industry where everyone’s making it up
  • the perversity of social media and how to make proper memories at gigs
  • how to write a book on a tour bus

The three songs Ayse recommends from her back catalogue are: “Obsolete” by Esya, “Fuckers” by Savages and “Something I Can Never Have” – a NIN cover by Kitebase.

Ayse Recommends

MUSIC: Gazelle Twin (check out the collaboration with NYX, “Deep England”), Beak and Depeche Mode.

BOOKS: “The Secret Life of Trees” and “The Hidden Life Of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben, “Underland” by Robert Macfarlane and “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood.

Other artists mentioned: Laura Mary Carter (Blood Red Shoes / Shit Girlfriend), Gemma Thompson’s project Unmoor Kiva and Brody Dalle.

The Frank Herbert quote Ayse mentioned is from “Dune”: “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” Powerful stuff.

She also mentioned the contributions the Musicians Union and Featured Artist Coalition are making to help artists navigate the wilds of the modern music biz.

I also mentioned one of my favourite podcasts “Song Exploder” – listen here.

Thank you, Ayse!!!


This podcast is supported by Arts Council England and The National Lottery and powered by my Correspondent’s Club.

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Thank you for listening!

Love,
Laura xo