Most songwriters dream of one day having their song in a film soundtrack, and I’m fizzing with delight that “Dear Heart” appears in 21st century rom-com Modern Persuasion, directed by Alex Appel and Jonathan Lisecki.
Starring Alicia Witt, Bebe Neuwirth, Shane McRae, Liza Lapira and Daniela Pineda and released by Samuel Goldwyn Films, this is the real deal, and is available to stream in the UK as of earlier this week.
Another version of “Dear Heart” appears on my 2019 song collection “And Peace”, created to mark the end of the She Makes War project after ten years of releasing albums and touring.
About the song: when I’m writing music, I keep lists of my ideas – potential song names or concepts. One day while travelling I recorded a voice memo into my phone, saying “write a song to my own heart, apologising for what I’ve done”. And so I did! I loved the idea that the phrase “dear heart” could sound like I was addressing a person, while the whole time I’m actually talking to an essential body part – it’s really down to the listener to make their own meaning from my words. It was a particularly enjoyable song to perform live, because I got to show my gratitude to the audience at the end with the final lyrics, “thank you”. Thank YOU.
About the film: “Modern Persuasion” is a modern telling of Jane Austen’s “Persuasion.” Wren Cosgrove is a happy, single, and self-confessed workaholic who, after rising to the top of the corporate ladder, finds herself coming home every night to her cat. When her firm is hired by Owen Jasper, “the man who got away,” long-lost feelings are stirred, giving Wren a second chance at true love.
Vena cava, cardiac, hollow vein Powering my dreams with sweet sustain Delicate muscle you’re not built to hate Your quiet biology I appreciate
Dear heart I was wrong for all the things I put you through Greasy fingermarks stain You’ve been neglected, been abused But I will always treasure you
Atrioventricular be true Should’ve never let the world break you One day you’ll slow down and so will I At least I have time to apologise
Dear heart I was wrong for all the things I put you through Greasy fingermarks stain You’ve been neglected, been abused But I will always treasure you
Dear heart I was wrong for all the things I put you through Greasy fingermarks stain You’ve been neglected, been abused But I will always treasure you For as long as I get to Til my finger are turning blue I will always care for you
THANK YOU for visiting my website!I’m Laura Kidd, a music producer, songwriter and podcaster based in Bristol, UK. It’s great to meet you.
At the end of last week, I was invited to write a piece sharing an artist’s perspective on a harsh new scheme to charge musicians to perform their own work during live-streams, the “small online live concert licence”.
Great news – just hours later, PRS (the organisation who collects royalties on musical works in the UK) have made a U-turn. Power to the people.
In this time of international crisis, it’s been interesting to see how organisations choose to operate. Non-famous musicians are generally paid unfairly for our work, and there have always been vultures circling, but it was a low blow when the government glibly told us to “retrain” last year. Now PRS, without troubling themselves to consult members, are imposing harsh new measures to tithe us for the exploitation of our own work via their new “small online live concert licence”.
I think it’s important to remember what we’re dealing with here. My job as an artist, songwriter and producer is to pluck ideas from thin air, sculpting soundscapes from my imagination and wrapping stories tightly inside, forging a master key which has the potential to unlock the emotions of complete strangers. It’s a bonkers thing to do, and very hard to put into words, but its indefinability is part of its beauty. Nowhere is this magic more potent than in the atmosphere of a live performance, where musicians and music fans collide to create a beautiful, unique community for one night only.
I’ve always been keen to transcend the limits of the £50 support slot to connect with people further afield, so alongside regular touring I started live-streaming shows in 2013. I knew I had fans around the world who I’d never be able to play for otherwise, not to mention people with kids, irregular shift patterns, disabilities, financial burdens, physical safety concerns and any number of other issues that would prevent us from spending time together in the same room.
It wasn’t easy – the technology was clunky and confusing and things went wrong a lot. But it was worth it. For me, being an artist is about helping. A live performance is a gift I can give to someone who finds my work emotionally resonant, as well as something that benefits me. We’re all searching for moments where we feel our work is meaningful, a little boost onwards to write the next song, the next album, the next hopeful email. It’s almost nothing to do with money, though of course we also, quite reasonably, hope to be paid for our art.
When the pandemic hit last spring, streaming technology had developed to such a point that it was relatively easy for musicians to jump online and start giving of themselves to people who needed solace and connection. It was beautiful to see this generosity taking place, and to read that audience members valued this so highly.
The past 10 months have been hard on everyone. The loss of life has been devastating, the sacrifices made by keyworkers humbling, the toll on our mental health impossible to gauge. The live events industry is on its knees, artists like myself are receiving minimal or no government support, and we’re all dealing with issues around isolation, depression, existential fear and anxiety yet somehow – somehow, some artists have worked to maintain and nurture the precious connections between ourselves and our fans, this vital bridge that reminds us all that we’re not alone, that gives us hope for brighter days.
Artists have always been great at adapting and innovating – but now, at a time when many of us have lost our incomes, we’re being punished for it from the most unlikely places.
I respect copyright – hey, I still harbour hopes the songs I send out into the world will one day race home brandishing a meaningful paycheque – but justify to me the Kafka-esque scenario where not only am I the song’s creator, master rights owner and performer but the show’s venue, promoter, lighting/sound/visual technician and publicist. Before my gig even takes place, I have to pay a fixed fee – more than double what it would cost if my gig was taking place in a venue – to an external body who will supposedly pay it back to me, as the composer, in the future (minus their cut, of course). Is this the Orwellian future we were warned about?
PRS need to remember they don’t deal in pounds and pence, numbers on a spreadsheet, projected sales and ticket prices. They deal in people – those who delve deep to create the magic, and those who sustain it with open hearts and financial generosity. Whatever needs to be done to protect this relationship must be done, or we face a far darker future than the one we’re currently living through.
Congratulations and thanks to all the organisations who lobbied for this ridiculous rule to be overturned – The FAC, Musicians Union, Music Venue Trust and more.
Now we can all get back to the business of trying to stay afloat during a global pandemic.
I’m still gathering my thoughts on what 2020 meant to me. I really enjoy reading peoples’ end of year blog posts and have started mine a few times, from a few angles. I’ll have to see where those musings take me.
In the meantime, here’s my full 2020 reading list, separated into fiction, memoir and other non-fiction and listed in the order they were read. I’ve marked my mind/heart/life-changing titles in bold and italicised any others I would heartily recommend. If I’d read any I thought were absolutely rubbish, I wouldn’t have listed them here – but I got something from everything I read last year.
For stats lovers: I read 52 books in 2020, compared to 28 in 2019 and only a handful in 2018, 2017, 2016 and further back. I wasn’t aiming for quantity of books over quality of experience, but I did make a conscious effort to read more. Keeping a list of every book I finished in the back of my diary helped – it spurred me on to keep finding interesting things to read, and to dedicate time to reading them.
My top 3 books of 2020: this is really hard, but if I was pressed I would recommend “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie, “A Godawful Small Affair” by J.B. Morrison (aka Jim Bob) and “Amusing Ourselves To Death” by Neil Postman.
Which books made a difference in your heart, brain or both in 2020? Are you trying to read more, or are you convinced you could never finish a book? Let me know in the comments!
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood The Testaments – Margaret Atwood Wonder Boys – Michael Chabon The Last – Hanna Jameson The First Bad Man – Miranda July My Sister, The Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite Monkey Grip – Helen Garner The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver Middle England – Jonathan Coe Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty Life After Life – Kate Atkinson Vox – Christina Dalcher A Godawful Small Affair – J.B. Morrison – listen to Jim Bob on my podcast! Conversations With Friends – Sally Rooney Normal People – Sally Rooney The Runaways – Fatima Bhutto Q – Christina Dalcher Harvey King Unboxes His Family – J.B. Morrison Americanah – Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie Weirdo – Cathi Unsworth Unsheltered – Barbara Kingsolver Never Mind – Edward St Aubyn The Man In The High Castle – Philip K. Dick The Summer Everything Happened – Jane Bradley (unpublished)
The Salt Path – Raynor Winn My Thoughts Exactly – Lily Allen Home – Julie Andrews Home Work – Julie Andrews My Name Is Why – Lemn Sissay – listen to Lemn on my podcast! On The Road Not Taken – Paul Dodgson Man’s Search For Meaning – Viktor E. Frankl Carry On, Warrior – Glennon Doyle Love Warrior – Glennon Doyle Untamed – Glennon Doyle Broken Greek – Pete Paphides I Choose This – David Ford No Time Like The Future – Michael J. Fox Hunger – Roxane Gay Me Talk Pretty One Day – David Sedaris
Other Non Fiction
Three Women – Lisa Taddeo Urban Watercolour Sketching – Felix Scheinberger This Is Marketing – Seth Godin Platform – Michael Hyatt Mindful Thoughts For Stargazers – Mark Westmoquette Louder And Funnier – P.G. Wodehouse The Curve – Nicholas Lovell Social Media Is Bullshit – B.J. Mendelson Syllabus – Linda Barry Watcha Mean, What’s A Zine? – Mark Todd and Esther Pearl Watson Amusing Ourselves To Death – Neil Postman Essentialism – Greg McKeown Hit Makers – Derek Thompson
THANK YOU for visiting my website!I’m Laura Kidd, a music producer, songwriter and podcaster based in Bristol, UK. It’s great to meet you.
The thing that’s got me through the ups and downs, the fear, the uncertainty, the confusion, the anger, the frustration and the sheer bizarreness of 2020 is the daily routine I established for myself in early January.
I spent the last chunk of 2019 hopping from tour to tour to tour, winding down a long running music project, wondering what to do next, and how. I played 35 gigs around the UK, France and Germany between September and Christmas. There were ups and downs; some great shows, some awful ones and, as always, a hell of a lot of travelling time to ponder life, the world and my place in it.
I realised that, above anything, I was craving structure, routine, something I could be in control of. Time to develop ideas, time to reflect, time to get fitter, healthier and happier. I’ve always been a bit of a productivity nerd, reading all the major works on the topic throughout my years of freelancing, trying to learn how to run a small business and, in more recent years, how to be a better, nicer boss to my one employee (me!), with varying results.
For me “productivity” isn’t about being the most efficient machine possible, squeezing every last drop of usefulness out of yourself in an effort to “kill it” or “smash it”. If, like me, you’re someone with a lot of ideas and a burning desire to make or do things, getting organised is essential – however you do it.
Over the years I’ve tried different ways of trying to be able to make steady progress with long term goals while having manageable and enjoyable daily and weekly plans that incorporate exercise, reflection and introspection, deep work on the things I care about and healthy food that gives me the energy I need to have the most pleasant day possible. This is the ideal and, while I’ve occasionally managed it, I’ve often felt like the classic duck on the pond analogy – giving off the impression everything is calm and under control, all the while paddling wildly just beneath the surface.
I love the fresh start of a New Year, so in early January I set up some new daily routines for myself, started The Artist’s Way for the third time (and actually completed it, woop!), got serious about being consistent with exercise and meditation, and almost immediately started feeling fresher, clearer headed and more galvanised than ever to make my best work possible. On bad days, I trundled through the hours, tried my best and then moved on. On days when it all seemed utterly pointless, I tried to do a little exercise anyway, knowing that every deposit of good faith I put into myself would do *something* positive, whether I felt it immediately or not.
So, what’s my secret? Planning, showing up, trying my best, tracking my progress and then showing up again tomorrow. That’s it.
There’s something about drawing a tick on a piece of paper that just makes me happy. I get a jolt of satisfaction that makes me want to keep going so I can do it again. Where the dopamine hits we get from seeing notification alerts on our phones can actually make us feel worse, there’s something wholesome about crossing off a task in my bullet journal. Knowing that I’m one step closer to reaching a goal is part of it, but I think the knowledge that I’m living an intentional life full of useful things is also a big driver.
I’ve been keeping a bullet journal for a few years, and would highly recommend it (I use it alongside Trello for longer term goals and moving tasks around easily, Evernote for storing information, Bear for writing without distractions and Google Calendar for scheduling things), but how I do things isn’t perfect, or fixed, and I’m always interested in tweaking and improving.
The key difference between my old system and this new one is the accountability aspect. If I didn’t manage to meditate three times a week in June, I just shrugged and thought, “I have to try harder to do that next week”. This month, every time I don’t manage to achieve one of my small goals, I have to write down why that happened.
One of my July goals is to get to bed by 10pm (so I can read for longer!) and another is to get up at 7.30am to exercise. The latter I can usually manage, the former I find really hard. So far this month I only have three + signs in my “go to bed by 10pm” row, and by the middle of the month when I make the next tracker page to take me to the end of July, I might choose to revise that goal, if it’s clearly not working, or have a think about how to achieve it, if it’s something I still really care about trying to achieve. I like this. Instead of feeling like I’m failing at a simple thing I think will improve my life, I can look at whether it’s actually achievable given everything else I’m doing, and adjust it for the next batch of 15 days if necessary.
It’s easy to feel like we have no control over our futures, but we all have at least some control about how we spend some of our minutes, hours and days. I work in the nebulous art of translating feelings and ideas into audio that moves other people, which is why it’s so appealing to me to be able to do concrete things every day that have an effect on how I feel, and therefore how well I’m able to move through my day, working on the things I have decided are important.
Getting back into running has been one of the best things I’ve managed this year, because it shows me that’s true every single week. Every time I run up my local steep hill I’m able to take a few more steps before stopping to walk for a minute, and every week I consistently run twice a week (21 in a row so far, yay!), I can write that down and feel proud of myself just for showing up, again and again.
You may not be able to run, or want to, but I’m sure you could find a little something to do for yourself every week, or every Monday and Friday, or every day, that you can feel good about ticking off each time, and that will show you what you’re capable of as time goes on.
It’s not about being the best at something, it’s about showing up, trying your best and then doing it again. I feel the same way about making albums. I could make the best album in the entire universe, and I still wouldn’t have any control over how it’s received in the world. Once my work is “out there”, all I can do is go back up to my studio and make some more.
I choose to keep turning up because, as photographer Chuck Close so wisely said, “Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.”
Over to you:
What could you do towards your big goal next month? What could you do towards your big goal next week? What could you do towards your big goal today?
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!
“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.
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.
This morning I got up early to do yoga in the living room before walking the dogs round the block in the blazing sunshine. On returning home I was overcome with wistfulness and felt compelled to put on George Harrison’s “Beware of Darkness”. By the end of the first verse I had burst into hot tears.
I don’t know what exactly prompted me to find that particular song today; I knew I needed to listen to George, and I knew I needed to head to “All Things Must Pass”, then of course “Beware Of Darkness” was just perfect. There’s something about certain pieces of music that enable a sort of metaphysical circuit closing, they act as the missing connector between the things I need to feel and the means to feel them by unabashedly sobbing into my overnight oats.
Watch out now, take care Beware of falling swingers Dropping all around you The pain that often mingles In your fingertips Beware of darkness
Watch out now, take care Beware of the thoughts that linger Winding up inside your head The hopelessness around you In the dead of night
Beware of sadness It can hit you It can hurt you Make you sore and what is more That is not what you are here for
Watch out now, take care Beware of soft shoe shufflers Dancing down the sidewalks As each unconscious sufferer Wanders aimlessly Beware of Maya
Watch out now, take care Beware of greedy leaders They take you where you should not go While Weeping Atlas Cedars They just want to grow, grow and grow Beware of darkness
Reading the lyrics properly for the first time, I’m struck by how spookily appropriate they are today. Isn’t the brain an amazing thing? Thank you brain, and thank you George, for your beautiful songs.
Sitting at my desk now with the sun streaming through the attic window, birds chirping melodiously out the front of the house and perched above me on the roof, I feel lucky…but also a little lost. Life feels a lot more chaotic than it did a week ago, and I’m finding it hard not to let the UK news permeate my protective forcefield at the moment.
I’d love to hear what your go-to songs are for feeling your feelings, whether they’re happy or sad (my cheer up tune is “Sexx Laws” by Beck, btw). Let me know in the comments!
ONLINE GIG THIS SATURDAY 4pm (UK time)
The first Penfriend gig ever, hooray! This will be for members of my Correspondent’s Club (DigiPal members and upwards), streaming live from 4pm UK (GMT+1) this Saturday 30th May. If you’d like to attend, just pick your tier from the options on this page, and remember you can up- or downgrade your monthly membership at any time.
In May, eligible Correspondents received a bunch of member perks including analogue welcome packs in the post, two free studio recordings, one live recording and a members-only podcast episode plus access to our delightful forum, which has fast become my favourite place to hang out online. We already have our own weekly Spotify playlist, with members taking turns to introduce their favourite songs to the group, and I’m interested to see where this is going.
My weekly podcast series “Attention Engineer” launches next Wednesday 3rd June with a bumper crop of three episodes at once!
Visit this page to listen to the trailer and choose your preferred link to subscribe so the episodes pop up in your preferred podcast listening platform as soon as they’re published.
I should be on all the major platforms by now, but please do let me know if I’ve missed one!
If you’re new to podcasts, the main place to go is Apple Podcasts, or you can listen on my blog every week if you prefer.
WHY A PODCAST?
I’ve been on quite a journey over the past couple of years, exploring my relationship with social media. The internet has undoubtedly helped me find my people, but I needed to step back from this hyperconnected, information-saturated world to protect my own happiness, check in with myself and see if I wanted to keep making music.
The answer was YES, and that checking in process led to the idea for the Penfriend project and The Correspondent’s Club. So, how does “Attention Engineer” fit in?
My podcast is an attempt to slow down, go deeper and focus on the things that are most important to me in a thoughtful and mindful way. I’ve met so many interesting people over my music making years, and opportunities for a proper conversation are very rare, so I wanted to create this space to us all to stop for a while and reflect on why we do what we do, and what it’s all for.
My only criterion for asking someone to be a guest is a deep respect and enthusiasm for their work. I’m fascinated by the magic of the creative process, and always intrigued as to how other artists balance things like touring and home life, creative introspection and happiness.
I have the Plato quote “A life which is not examined is not worth living” scribbled on a Post-it note on my wall. As someone who embraces the positive changes that regular quiet reflection has brought to my life in the past two years, this is my contribution towards thoughtfully examining the whys and wherefores of this strange and wonderful thing that connects us all on such a deep emotional level.
BE ON THE PODCAST!
Alongside the artist to artist interviews, I’ll be shining a light on YOU – the audience. Without you we would be nothing, truly, so I’m looking for volunteers to answer questions about your musical passions. This will be in recorded audio format (not video), for inclusion in future episodes.
When I was a little girl, one of my favourite possessions was a shoebox that I filled up with bits of paper, envelopes and leaflets gathered from wherever I could find them. I called it my Post Office, and every now and then I’d take the box from under the bed and pour my treasure out on the floor. I’m hazy on the details, but I remember loving to “play Post Office”, which I imagine meant sorting the assorted paper into different piles and then putting them back in the box.
Later, somehow, I ended up writing letters to children I’d never met, who lived far away – Svetlana in Belarus and Alastair in Derbyshire. It was utterly magical to send my closely written pages to people I would never talk to in person, carefully copying the unfamiliar Russian words onto Svet’s envelopes well enough for her to receive my missives.
It was to Alastair I first proudly declared my aim to be a songwriter when I grew up, having never written a single song, and knowing nothing whatsoever about how to do so. Letter writing predated those heady days when I started to discover my favourite bands by some years, but both activities were a youthful statement of independent thought at an age where actions were dictated by adults.
As I grew older I gathered more people to write to. My family moved every three years, so there were always friends left behind, and in my early teens I wrote to kids I met on school trips, boys at other schools, even friends at the same school as me. We challenged each other to fill up more and more pages and somehow still had enough left to say to talk on the phone for hours in the evening. The freedom I found to express myself in letters is one of my fondest memories of childhood.
On my journey into adulthood, switching to email and blogging and Twitter felt intuitive, but my love for words written by hand on paper never left me. As I released music over the years, getting to “play Post Office” more and more regularly, my role as the maker and sender of things became clear. Writing songs and dispatching them into the world, in whatever format, is a natural progression from the innate desire I had to connect with others from a young age.
I’m delighted to invite you to watch this short video. See you on the other side x