During last month’s online gig I said I was going to play live more regularly – so I’m playing a completely different set of songs (including a BRAND new one – written yesterday!) next Wednesday 25th October at 8pm.
I’m calling it “Comfort Songs for Dark Days”. As the rain lashes down from a wintry sky here in Nottingham and the world news gets more sad and more scary, it feels like a good idea to keep coming together.
So, I hope you’ll join me for an hour of sad songs to make you feel better, beaming live from the cosy nook of my brand new attic studio The Launchpad*.
It’s been a while…I moved city, painted some furniture bright pink and have been auditioning local Post Offices for the lofty honour of handling packages of music and merch for generous music supporters.
I’m delighted that the PO closest to me has easy parking, lots of space inside for piling up bags and boxes and, most importantly, a super friendly and positive man running the place.
His joyful hello perked me right up yesterday when I dropped off several bags of CDs and zine bundles for my Correspondent’s Club members – a friendly welcome and a smile makes such a difference, doesn’t it!
Speaking of which, this is your friendly invitation to beam into my new home next Wednesday 27th September for my first online gig of 2023. What with releasing an album, moving house and LIFE OH LIFE the months have slipped by, so I’m delighted to be getting back to these regular performances.
I’ll be playing songs from my Penfriend album “Exotic Monsters” as well as from my She Makes War back catalogue.
+ “Disarm” on CD + “Disarm” on vinyl + “Disarm” demos and rarities collection on CD (25 tracks WTF?!!!!) + “Disarm:15” 5-track CD (reworked versions of songs from “Disarm” + “Disarm” bundle – 1 x vinyl, 2 x CD + “Disarm” / “Little Battles” double vinyl deal
I always find it interesting looking back at blog posts from around album releases, and it’s especially pleasing to compare Past Laura’s opinions with Current Laura. I think the two of us would still get on very well!
Shared on 2nd September 2010:
“As artists, musicians and videomakers we have all the tools at our disposal now and absolutely no excuses not to use them. Gone are the days when bands could get away with saying “That’s not my job, I just make music” and expect to be handed opportunities.
I prefer it this way, having been stuck in a stingy record deal in the past with all rights removed, no say over the spending of money and told off by the label boss for asking too many questions (thankfully I hadn’t written the entire album of songs that got lost in the ensuing band / label split…), but hey, since I was a little girl I always wanted to be in charge.
The late nights and early mornings in front of the computer and the money spent on printing, videos, ribbon, glitter and suchlike is all time and cash well spent, in my opinion, in the quest to create my funny little world of art and music, and feels even more worth it when the reaction from the world is this warm.”
A humble aside: I remember sitting down in front of the camera to film the quiet performance of “Eye Spy” in this video and feeling SO awkward and silly and embarrassed, even though I was in a recording studio I was paying to record my album in. Isn’t that funny?! Next time I feel silly sitting down in front of a camera to film something in my own home (probably next week), I’ll try and remember that – and, as always, will just try and get on with it. Photo by Laura Ward taken at The Apollo Project, Herne Hill in June 2009.
In 2009 I was living in a rented maisonette in South London where, for the first time, I had a separate room to write songs and edit videos in. The windows didn’t close, and there were definitely mice under the floorboards, but I finally had space!
A (real-life) friend I’d first met on photo-sharing site Flickr invited me to take part in a month-long local art installation called The Apollo Project, based in the old Apollo video shop in Herne Hill. Thank you, Laura Ward!
I played gigs, volunteered at other events and even sat on the floor before one of the shows burning CD-Rs of my first EP “Three…Two…One…”, clicking them into DVD cases that I’d decorated with a print of a photograph of a cassette tape.
Back then, I could never have predicted where sharing my music on the internet could take me. After years of playing bass and singing with big artists around the world, I knew it was time to say what I wanted to say, but I never dreamed anyone else would want to hear it.
Over the years, I’ve funded the making of new music through Bandcamp pre-orders, crowdfunding campaigns and, over the past four years, my Correspondent’s Club subscription, because music fans are the absolute best.
7 albums on, I’m preparing to move to Nottingham after 11 years of doing my thing in Bristol, and so I’m running a House Clearance Sale with up to 50% off 23 items: vinyl, CDs, tees and badges.
I will forever be grateful and thankful for Bandcamp for making it possible for indies like me to easily sell our music direct to you.
I invited everyone on my mailing list to join, and since February 2019 I have been able to do this weird and wonderful job full-time, instead of frantically freelancing in the day, trying to write songs at night and putting albums out every few years.
This is an unusual state of affairs. Most music makers have to juggle making their art with paid work doing other things. There’s nothing wrong with that, and the art isn’t any better or worse because the artist has to support themselves in other ways – but wouldn’t it be lovely if more of us could have a bit more time to make the things you love?
I’ve always been a grafter, and I enjoyed my freelance career making videos, taking photos and doing all sorts of digital bits and pieces – BUT I love what I do now way more. It’s what I’m best at, and I am forever grateful and thankful to everyone who’s:
– been a member of The Correspondent’s Club (and Supersub Club before it) – crowdfunded or pre-ordered one of my albums – bought music or merch from Bandcamp or my shop or at a gig – come to see me play – said hi and been friendly online
We’re in this together! If you’re in a position to support the artists you love by picking up music or merch please do, and if you’re not – PLEASE subscribe to their YouTube channels (hint hint), like and comment on their posts and, if you feel like it, send a compliment their way.
It all adds up to a really wonderful feeling of community, and spurs us on to keep making songs for you.
For my part, I’ll continue sharing how and why I do things, to help anyone else who wants to be more creative in their own lives.
3rd April 2020. Four weeks before I launched my new music project “Penfriend” on an unsuspecting world, life felt very different to today.
Do you remember how you felt on 3rd April 2020? It was just the start of it, but none of us could have predicted what would happen next.
That day, I was halfway through recording “Exotic Monsters” and one year into full-time music-making slash whatever-the-heck-this-job-is. With four weeks til liftoff, I was sharing secret weekly blog posts with my members, and I’m so glad to have these stories to look back on now.
As the weeks went by and the lockdowns continued, all logical signs pointed to calling the whole thing off. Who would care about new music at such a serious time, much less choose to support it financially?
With nothing else to do but keep on keeping on, I decided to stick to my deadlines. Half an album is no album, and I was grateful to have something to focus on amidst the uncertainty.
I launched Penfriend and The Correspondent’s Club in May 2020, completed “Exotic Monsters” in October 2020 and released it on May 21st 2021.
On May 28th the album I recorded all by myself in my attic home studio smashed into the Official UK Albums Charts at #24, rendering me speechless with gratitude for independently-minded music fans.
As I clear the decks to record the followup to “Exotic Monsters”, I’m grateful for the opportunity to reflect on its journey.
This collection of songs took me from freelance employment to full-time creativity, gave me a path through a pandemic and is an album I remain immensely proud of.
Midway through my morning run yesterday I saw the words “storms don’t last forever” pasted up in someone’s window. Linking two cheerful rainbows, the phrase both sobered and uplifted me, burrowing into my brain just at the point I would usually be starting to bargain with myself:
“Walking is nice, you should walk”. “Yeah, but you’re doing intervals anyway, and you get to walk soon – look, it’s only another 20 seconds.” “Sure, but it’s an achievement to do any sort of run, it’s not about speed, is it? You’re not training for anything.” “Shut up, only 10 seconds til you get to walk for a whole minute, what’s the problem?” “Nothing – OH LOOK A RAINBOW”.
I’ve always preferred running outside because of the tangible feeling of progress. Putting one foot in front of the other propels you forward in real time, in the real world. You leave the house, go somewhere else, and then return. In a life made up of numerous ethereal projects where I conjure sounds from my imagination in a completely self-propelled bid to make something that I hope will be of use to a small group of people, spending time on anything with a measurable outcome is a relief.
I’m proud to say I’ve taken myself out for a run twice a week for seven weeks in a row now, and not only do I get the pleasure of writing that down in my bullet journal so I can look at my exercise log and feel like I’m getting somewhere, but I can actually feel the progress I’ve made. I’ve started to increase my running intervals by one minute per week (currently 3 mins run, 1 min walk) and the nasty hill at the start of one of my regular routes isn’tbothering me nearly as much any more.
Another benefit to pavement running is getting to see snapshots of my neighbourhood. This is especially welcome at the moment; these two runs per week have become precious time alone with my thoughts outside the house. When I first started medium distance running in 2006 (training for 10Ks then half marathons before a trailing off of energy/interest and then a savagely broken foot) I always listened to music, but later I found I vastly preferred engaging with the sounds of wherever I was running. There’s a meditative quality to the rhythmic slap of trainers on pavement that makes me feel connected to my body and the earth I’m running on, and I don’t think I’d get the quality of contemplation I get on my sporty jaunts if I was distracting myself with music.
With spring springing at the moment, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying dashing past pretty front gardens, seeing nature bounce back after the grey weather and occasionally being surprised and delighted by the things people are sticking in their windows. The rainbows in windows theme may be aimed at kids, giving them something uplifting to spot around their neighbourhoods during this confusing, scary time – but it’s helping me, too.
I’ve been ploughing on with the many moving parts of my fast-approaching new music launch day by day: recording podcast episodes, liaising with my remote drummer on parts for the new song I’m recording, having Skype meetings with my illustrator, picking a WordPress theme for my new website and getting stuck into that, trying not to get too caught up in the news or feeds, trying to stay reasonably cheerful and pragmatic and feel lucky to have the things I have and not dwell on the scary parts (someone in my street has Covid, I’m not eligible for any government grants, I’m scared for my family and friends – you know, the new usual). But, on Tuesday, a storm hit.
I’ve written many songs in the past about feeling sad, and I’m sure I’ll write many more, and occasionally I am able to take my own advice and just give myself a break. So, for most of Tuesday, I lay prone on the sofa and felt my feelings, cuddled my dogs and made no apologies to anyone. Then on Wednesday, I got up and started again, feeling fortunate I was healthy and housed and in a happy relationship and had interesting creative projects to sink my teeth into, and a group of really great people to write an email to.
Yesterday, when I saw those four words connecting rainbows in a neighbour’s window, I felt grateful to whoever printed them out and taped them up. It’s very hard to reduce this big, messy, scary, painful time into short phrases, and not useful to dismiss everything people are feeling and say the equivalent of “cheer up, it might never happen”. It *is* happening, and whatever our situation and location, it’s happening to all of us.
I don’t know what’s next in all of this, and I’ll always be trying to figure out what my place and purpose is in the world, but I know I can believe in these four words: “storms don’t last forever”.
All physical orders made in my shop before 2pm TODAY will be counted, and any digital orders made up until 11.59pm tonight will also be eligible. iTunes / Bandcamp / etc digital sales also count – only if you actually download the download – and 1000 streams counts as one album sale for the charts.
After our midweek result of #5 (!!!!!!) we are in with a chance of a Top 20 album – maybe even Top 10 – which would be a huge win for independent artists and independently-minded music fans everywhere.
This is when the big record label machine starts kicking in and our DIY release has to contend with all sorts of tactics, from price-drops to “buy-again” pleas. Two things that I feel disrespects the people who have so generously ordered and pre-ordered already.
Someone asked me this on Facebook and I thought it was worth sharing an expanded version of my answer here:
What do the charts matter, when we’re all perfectly capable of deciding what music we like ourselves?
A great question! Being in with the chance of a high chart position with a truly DIY release is a reminder that we all have more power than we might think in this world of corporations running the show. I’m a big fan of defining my goals, to be in with any chance of achieving them, but it never even occurred to me to write this sort of thing down.
I didn’t think this sort of thing could happen for someone like me – someone who has funded all my work from saving up money from jobs to becoming fan-funded through crowdfunding and pre-orders, not label / publishing advances, family money or anything else.
Rat went through the major label system with Ned’s and came away with great music and great memories, but that way of working just doesn’t work for most people these days. I’d elaborate, but then this post would be VERY long. Something for a future video, I think…
This week I’ve been hearing from people who usually stream music, who have been choosing to buy vinyl, CD or a download to be part of this incredible team effort. Streaming has its place, but having compared the audio quality of various streaming services against a high-quality download, I’m very happy that these people will get a much more satisfying listening experience. Who knows, they might even be encouraged to buy music from other artists, which means more music can be made in future.
The connection between music supporter and music maker is that direct.
From the artist side of things, having an exciting chart result helps with future album making (both from sales paying us back for production costs, and opening doors for expanding the operation slightly beyond the walls of my bedroom studio), and potentially gig-getting, which all then comes back to offer more things to this wonderful community.
It’s certainly not about impressing the major labels…if anything, it’s to spite them. It’s a message: don’t get too comfortable, and don’t underestimate music fans.
Someone asked me yesterday what I’d do if the major labels came knocking. My answer: charge them a consultation fee.
Let me be one in a thousand Live my life and fall asleep Give me peace – not pushing forever I’d rather be one in a thousand