From 2009-2019 I made music under the name She Makes War, releasing 4 and a bit solo albums and playing nearly 600 shows.
My third album “Direction Of Travel” was made in the cold months straddling 2014 and 2015 in Bristol, Brighton and London. It felt like a long time coming.
After releasing “Little Battles” in 2012 I’d moved cities, lived in six different houses, loved a little and lost a lot. Right before I went into the studio in December 2014 I tested my mettle with a 35 date tour, consisting of three weeks adventuring around Germany on my own, travelling by train, and three weeks supporting The Levellers in Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and all around the UK.
I survived to tell the tales contained within these songs, and sent them out into the world to find their own direction of travel. Thank you so much for listening.
In 2009 I started tentatively sharing my music on the internet – and I was immediately blown away by the generosity of music fans around the world, people who were excited to sidestep the corporate music industry and directly support this independent artist.
Are you familiar with the term “patron of the arts”? It’s nothing new; artists have been funded by patrons for centuries, and it makes sense – we all have something unique to bring to our communities, offline and online, and it was a real turning point in my life when I realised that being an artist, making music and videos and podcasts and zines and whatever else – that could be my worthwhile contribution to the community.
I funded the recording, mixing, mastering and manufacturing of my first four albums through pre-orders and crowdfunding campaigns – and then, at the end of 2018, a company called Pledge Music folded, taking £6000 of my money with them.
I was furious. Not just because I needed that money to make my next album, but because the whole thing was so disrespectful to my supporters.
(I fulfilled all the pledges anyway, obviously.)
I grew up really resisting the concept of rockstars, those people we’re meant to put on a pedestal and treat as the super special ones. That never resonated with me. So, realising there was another path, a path I could make for myself where I could be a normal person – well, sort of normal – realising that I could flip all that on its head and find more ways to contribute to my community? That was huge for me.
Instead of saying “look at me, aren’t I great, shiny shiny ads, buy my music!”, I could say “here, I made this with love, I hope it helps in some way”. That’s what music does for me, whether I’m processing my thoughts and experiences through making it, or when I find music by other artists that tips my world upside down.
Music = magic.
So, at the start of 2019 I launched my Supersub Club, and in 2020 I renamed it The Correspondent’s Club. It changed my life. From juggling freelance video and social media jobs with comment moderation shifts at a national newspaper (hi trolls!), I was suddenly free to spend all my time making music and videos and podcasts and zines and whatever else. Over and above making music, I could finally spend my time encouraging others in their own creative dreams.
I went into overdrive, producing 50 episodes of my creativity podcast Attention Engineer, completing my debut Penfriend album “Exotic Monsters”, delivering quarterly art and music bundles to my dear subscribers and starting my YouTube channel in earnest.
I’ve always been a grafter, and I’ve never thought that producing 12 songs every 18 months was enough of a job for me.
There was a time around 2015-2017 when I flirted with the idea of teaming up in some way with “the music industry”, bringing my music and my community and my knowhow onto a bigger stage. All that resulted in was money wasted on PR companies who didn’t stand a chance of getting coverage for an indie upstart like me, radio pluggers who get paid whether or not they get your songs played, and time and energy wasted on a manager who didn’t seem to want to do any actual work.
Giving up on that industry mirage was empowering. No more waiting around. No more crossing fingers. No more hoping someone would come along and make everything bigger, better, easier.
I already told you, I’m not afraid of hard work.
In 2021, my first Penfriend album “Exotic Monsters” went to number 24 in the UK Official Albums chart – without the help of any of the things musicians are told are essential.
I didn’t even post on TikTok.
This momentous thing, this lifetime dream come true only happened because people who like real music about real things chose to buy my album on vinyl, CD, tape and download. And the album only exists the way it does because my Correspondent’s Club members funded it right from the start of its creation in early 2019.
It’s normal to feel disconnected from things these days, but just like your local independently run cafe continuing to stay open because you and your friends go back again and again, I get to keep making music and videos and podcasts and zines and whatever because people like you subscribe, or buy music and merch from my shop or, in the not too distant future, buy tickets to come and see me play in your town.
I do all of this all by myself, with full-time cheerleading and occasional camera holding from my husband Tim. There are no middle persons involved, no team, no manager, label, agent or anything else.
It’s a lot, but I prefer it this way – I don’t have to try to become a supermarket in the centre of town and feel like a failure when I don’t “make it”.
I’m an artisan, small batch producer of music filled with love and care and hope, that I transmit to you in whatever form you prefer, be that vinyl, CD or digital file.
Let’s celebrate! It’s one year since my debut Penfriend album landed at #5 in the Independent Albums Chart and #24 in the Official UK Albums Chart, and got me a spot next to Billie Eilish in Music Week Magazine.
I couldn’t have done this without your support, so I’d love you to join me for a special FREE livestream event.
My first album under the name Penfriend (and my fifth solo album), “Exotic Monsters” marked the start of a new musical chapter. Written, produced and recorded in my home studio The Launchpad between February 2019 and September 2020, and funded by my beloved member’s club, the album was released on my label My Big Sister Recordings on 21st May 2021.
Thanks to the support of independently minded music fans, it reached #24 in the Official UK Album Chart the following week (plus #5 in the Independent Album Chart and #3 in the downloads chart!), a win for indie music makers and fans everywhere. We bloody did it!
Thank you so much for helping make my childhood dreams come true. Thank you for supporting indie musicians. We need you! Eternal thanks to all Supersub Club and Correspondent’s Club members for always having my back. 🖤🖤🖤
Wow. Hugest thanks to the Night Vale team for picking my song. What an honour!
I wrote and recorded “Black Car” alone in my home studio The Launchpad in September 2020. It’s a song about love and death, guilt and gratitude, taking time to figure out what’s most important, feeling desperately sad and isolated and grieving the loss of so many.
I don’t know what other bands “Black Car” sounds like, or have any clever phrases lined up to entreat you to click “play”. This is an honest, melancholy song about a universal experience that will be discussed in the history books of the future, guitars and synths centred around a heady electronic heartbeat, with a reverent Kurt Vonnegut reference (“loving echoes”) in the middle.
In January 2022, one of my musical heroes invited me to contribute vocals to two of his new songs, and this video includes some glamorous behind the scenes shots of self-shooting some footage for his brand new music video.
Here’s to giving ourselves permission to do our own thing!
I was never invited to work in the music industry, so have had to find ways of overcoming my inner critic and giving myself permission to create my music, videos, podcast series and blog posts as an independent producer, songwriter and filmmaker.
“Sometimes people ask me what it’s like to work in the music industry, and, genuinely, that question baffles me. No-one ever asked me to come and work in the music industry, no-one hired me, or promoted my work, or paid me for my time. I don’t have any contact with the people who work there, I don’t know how it operates, really, and I’m pretty sure they’re unaware that I also work there, if indeed I do. It’s kind of like I just showed up at someone’s office, sat down at a desk and started doing stuff. No-one’s kicked me out yet, but I don’t get holiday and the boss always forgets to call me in for my annual review.
The great thing about all this, is that I get to make whatever I want – and so really it’s about giving yourself permission to make music, or paint, or draw, or whatever the thing is that you’re driven to create. I started writing songs seriously in 2005, and my main mission in life since then has been to increase the time per week that I’m able to make things. And for that, I don’t need anybody’s permission but my own. And nor do you.”
I started playing the ukulele in 2008 after reading about George Harrison’s great love for the instrument, and have written many sad songs on it since. On a recent trip to Portugal I decided to find out about the precursor to the ukulele we know and love – the cavaquinho.
Recorded in East London in summer 2011 and released on my own label My Big Sister Recordings the following year, this album was generously funded by music fans via my first Pledge Music campaign. I was able to spend 33 days in the studio (double what I could afford for my debut “Disarm”) and realise my dreams of creating a deeper, more layered album.
Recorded just around the corner from the Hackney riots, London’s crackling tension is echoed within the 15 songs, but if love is a battlefield this album is a peaceful protest: honest and vulnerable, yet steely and sure of itself, all melancholy romance and wide-eyed hope for the future. It’s about collisions – analogue with digital, war with peace and technology with nature.