After 3 nights in a creatureless cabin with air-con and TV to celebrate pressing my new album, we returned to the ants and spiders and 37 degree heat in the shack.

Then last night there was a thunderstorm and while the rain poured in through the gaps in our tin roof, I played guitar to a carpet snake in the sitting room who, clearly unimpressed with my singing, buried itself firmly in the woodpile.

Obviously snake-charming isn't my vocation. But these are just the sort of life experiences I'd be missing if I was back in London watching Big Brother, which I will be in only 3 weeks time. Back to civilisation. Ummmm...
On the radio they're playing Jeff Buckley's version of 'Hallelujah'. I think of the 824 takes or whatever it took for his producer to put the vocal together. So Jeff was a perfectionist? Ummmm… I thought I was bad.

The good news… Little Bill the supermarket frog came back home last night after weeks of absence. I was sure Dudley must have eaten him, but there he was sitting on top of the toilet cistern waiting patiently for me to lift the lid so he could climb down into his pipe. In case you're wondering, I am fully aware of how ridiculous it is to be fond of a frog but I reckon in life it's generally better to be sentimental than indifferent.

The other good news… we've finished my new album. It's called 'Keep Walking'. 12 songs mixed, mastered and otherwise set in stone. We're packing up the shack and heading off up the coast to Rainbow Beach for 3 days of pure, unadulterated luxury (air-con and TV!). Can't wait.

Songs from the new album will be up soon…

Hope all's well in your world.

em xx
No time for fear

I will not pass away like a cloud
But die like a raindrop
Hitting the ground
And the truth is
I'm already falling

Why am I doing this?
Some people love it. Some people spend half their lives in recording studios. 428 anxiety attacks later and we're half-way through mixing my second album and I'm wondering why I didn't become an accountant. Ah, the joys of being a perfectionist who isn't perfect!

Up in the top paddock Hugo and Mischief are oblivious. They have the all-important fuck-it factor, essential if you want to lead a happy and fulfilled life as an overweight goat. Not that I want to be a goat - maybe just a frog or a bird or something…
Dudley's Return (another snake story)
Here on our farm we have dogs and chickens and goats and cows and - this being the Australian bush - a farm snake. Dudley is a 6 or 7 foot long carpet snake formerly thought of as gay until his girlfriend arrived on the scene and lots of small Dudleys started appearing… all of them christened Dudley's Daughter or Dudley's Grandson depending on size and attitude.

Now personally I can deal far better with the hopping spiders or hopping mice here (I guess the kangaroos started it) than I can with a snake. I've been known to hyperventilate in the Reptile House at London Zoo. I couldn't watch the credits to 'Blackadder'. And no, in case you're wondering, I don't give a shit what Freud had to say about it. He was a very confused man with an overactive imagination.

Anyway, last year Dudley was banished from the farm for eating a chook (a chook – as opposed to a chick - is a female with feathers). He couldn't very well hide the evidence, there being a bloody great chook-shaped lump in his body, and he was banished to the bush. All his friends and relations moved in, but Dudley was nowhere to be seen.

Until a few weeks ago when, armed with mop and bucket, I was cleaning out the packaging room when I suddenly realized I was standing a foot away from the biggest snake I've ever seen, sliding up the wall. Considering the circumstances I was extremely brave (squealed ohmigod, dropped mop and bucket, and ran away). It turns out Dudley has returned from exile. I hope the chooks are keeping an eye out...

Aside from telling you about frogs in shopping bags and snakes under boxes, I thought I should let you know I'm recording a new album (and making more goats cheese - who says a singer-songwriter can't multi-task?).

I've been asked to play in The Borderline Singer-Songwriter Festival in London next year so I'll be back in the UK with my band for the last 2 weeks in January and doing some other UK gigs then. If you want to know when and where, you can join my mailing list at www.emilymaguire.com.

I'm also heading to New York for a couple of Manhattan dates in the first week of February - my first gigs in the USA. All support would be very welcome.

Hope all's well in your world.

em xx

A frog story
Last week I took a frog to the supermarket.

I'm standing there trying to look normal, as you do at check-out counters and customs, and suddenly the check-out lady shrieks and drops one of my recycled shopping bags in horror. "A frog!!!" she yells to the entire supermarket, hand clapped to her heart as if she's about to keel over.

"A FROG???" I yell back, feigning shock and surprise like I'm someone civilised who lives in a normal house of bricks and mortar where frogs and other WILDLIFE would never dare hop, step or slither (definitely not a shack on a farm with walls made from potato sacks).

With the check-out lady and most of the customers watching, I sheepishly wander off into the shopping mall to dispose of it. "In a pot-plant", she helpfully suggests. A pot-plant? Are you kidding? He's a small green sentient being! How can I possibly leave him there to face certain death in Nambour Plaza?

I came back to the counter and told the lady firmly the frog was coming home with me. Where he lived very happily for 3 days in the water tank with big brother Bill (our resident bullfrog) before making a bid for freedom onto the bathroom floor. Spring is here and the snakes are waking up. I hope he finds a safe place to hide.

...… actually a few days later (having failed to find another suitable shopping bag?), he reappeared in the tank where he's remained ever since happily hiding in a pipe. We've christened him little Bill (I wasn't feeling very inventive that day) and so far the Bills seem to be tolerating each other. At least big Bill hasn't eaten little Bill which is a good start for any friendship. It's a brutal world out there in the bathroom...
Famous last words
Empty of creatures? This morning a pigeon walked in the door of the shack. Being from London, I don't mind pigeons as long as they're outside (preferably in Trafalgar Square). But this one struts in like it owns the place, wanders round the kitchen, shits, then into the sitting room, shits, inspects the studio, shits, before making bravely for the bathroom (as if it still needed the toilet?).

It turns out to be a racing pigeon that got lost on its way down to Brisbane. It's not impressed with my sunflower seeds and its shit is bright green so maybe it's used to being fed on pure steroids. Right now it's been banished from the shack and is probably wandering around outside trying to decide which way is south.

While preoccupied with the pigeon, we also discovered today where the snakes are sleeping - or at least one... right next to our bed, in exactly the same place it was evicted from just before I left for London. Obviously this is one stubborn python - at some point in the past 3 months it has climbed back up the hill (avoiding 5 dogs, countless crows and kookaburras), into the shack, up the spiral staircase and back into bed under a cardboard box on the sleeping platform.

For sheer determination and perseverance, we have decided to allow it to stay. This is a fairly dramatic decision considering I couldn't even look at snakes on TV before I came to live in Australia and now I have one curled up less than 4 feet from my bed. Ummmmm... it's dark now. Ill let you know how it goes.

em xx
Back in the shack
On Tuesday morning I got on a plane at London Heathrow. On Wednesday evening I arrived at Brisbane, Australia. We drove north up the coastal highway then turned off inland, driving up into the hills til we hit the dirt.

In the morning I opened my eyes. For the first time in 3 months, instead of a dark, closed room with the sound of tube trains and police sirens outside the window, all I could see was sunlight pouring into the shack and the sound of crows, butcher birds and our dogs barking outside.

Hours later, jet-lag kicks in. All I want to do is watch films, drink coffee and put off unpacking for as long as possible. The shack is cold, covered in dust and mouse-shit, and strangely empty of creatures: so far I've seen only one ant, one cockroach, a black beetle and no spiders at all except the spindly ones that don't mind the cold in the bathroom. It's mid-winter here in Australia. Bill the bullfrog is fast asleep in the toilet cistern and the snakes are sleeping somewhere else.

Apart from the sound of the birds, there is silence in the valley. No cars, no sirens, no voices. Today in London they held a 2-minute silence at noon. I feel a million miles away.
End of UK tour
I've been meaning to write for ages but instead, after doing 18 gigs in 4 weeks in May 2006 (my first proper nationwide UK tour), I've done sweet FA for the past 10 days. The tour was a great success - lovely to see so many old friends and new faces at the gigs... the support was much appreciated.

Gig photos are up on my website. Ive also put together a tour photo-diary from 31 days on the road with my Aussie bass player and drummer.

Next week I'll be on a plane back to Australia to sweep out the shack, record the next album, book the next UK tour and make some more goats cheese to pay for it all. After 3 months away, I can't wait to get back home.

Some good news today... the first track from my next album has been playlisted on our regional Australian radio station ABC Coast FM. They've been playing my songs since I first went to Australia 3 years ago and started recording with producer Christian Dunham. This is not because we bribe them with my goats cheese. Honest.

Hope all's well in your world.

em xx
Snake story
If I had a body like Salma Hayek, maybe I'd be happy to adorn myself with a giant yellow python, but as it is I can barely look at a snake on TV let alone live with one.

You'd think a farm in the Australian bush might not be the best place for a snake-phobic Londoner to live. And I thought so too last week when our new shack-mate decided to make her grand appearance at my birthday dinner draped casually over the overhead light as if she'd been resident for weeks. Especially when it turned out that she HAD been resident for weeks, calmly shitting all over the floor… and I've been blaming the chooks (no I didn't know that snakes shit, did you?).

And goddammit, she's allegedly harmless so now I've got no justification for being terrified, and to top it all (remember this is my birthday) here is my very calm and composed best friend Aki who tells me how lucky I am to have the perfect-sized resident mouse-catcher and how she wants one too to take home with her (oh dear it's conveniently out of reach). Yes this is the sort of people you meet in the Australian bush.

Anyway, I managed to get my head around it staying by a) deciding it was female (dunno why but a girl snake just doesn't seem so bad?) and b) by christening it. Last year the farm had a 7ft resident carpet snake called Dudley formally thought of as gay until lots of small Dudleys started appearing, so we called our new shack-mate 'Dudley's Daughter' and I was beginning to think we could be friends as long as she stayed exactly where she was but then she disappeared… WHERE???

I'm leaving for London in 2 weeks… sirens and traffic lights and brick walls and concrete and grey skies and pissed nutters and junkies and snake-free streets. Bring it on…
New video
We could have waited til a record company decided to spend $100,000 on a video but fuck it, life's too short to pay for record companies, so we made our own...

'The Real World' video

Thanks for watching - next time it'll be REALLY expensive I promise.

Bach or Bob Marley
If I was stuck on a desert island with nothing but a stereo and only one CD, it'd be a very hard choice to make between Bach or Bob Marley. Both make me feel like everything's alright in the world or even if it's not, that I can deal with it anyway.

I watched this film the other night called 'What the Bleep Do We Know" with all these eminent physicists talking about quantum physics and how the mind can affect reality - basically confirming Buddhist theories which was nice to hear.

So when a brown snake appeared on top of the cooker, I closed my eyes and tried very hard to think about molecules and emptiness, but when I opened them it was still there... I guess I wasn't thinking hard enough. By the way, 'brown' isn't just a colour - 'brown' means 'Eastern Brown' or 'King Brown' either of which mean get the fucking chopper out here if it bites you cos you've got less than 1/2 hour to live.

Anyway, after that we had a plague of toads in the shack and I was beginning to think a flat in Camden Town might be a nice place to live, but then the stars came out and I remembered you can't see the Milky Way from London.

And yesterday I recorded some guitar tracks for album no.2 in our new, blue, live room which made me very happy indeed. Shaktu Recording Studio is well and truly born. I think I'll stay here for the time being...

Creatures great and small
The other day I discovered that ants can swim. Now I’m sure I’m supposed to be telling you how I’ve been hanging out with Craig David at the Met Bar and recording in some Caribbean studio with Brian Eno, but the reality is that right now I’m here on a farm in the Australian bush and my major concern is avoiding snakes in the grass and sharks in the sea (a girl got eaten a few weeks ago just down the coast from here).

The walls of the shack I live in are made from recycled potato sacks from the local shop (rendered if you want to get all technical), the tin roof came from an old post office in a neighbouring town, and 3 huge tree trunks hold the whole thing up with a spiral staircase in the middle leading up to a sleeping platform.

It was built by Christian Dunham - my partner, producer and bass player. We call it Shaktu, it being shack no.2 on the farm. There’s no TV, rainwater for drinking, a bathroom with a floor made from riverstones and resident bullfrog in the toilet.

We like to think it’s our shack, but actually we’re outnumbered a billion to one by other sentient beings who also make a mess and pay no rent. Toads, frogs, spiders, ants, geckos, dogs, chickens, bats and the odd snake come and go as they please. The mice have made a nest in the piano, with a second home in the stereo for weekends. We also have a family of antichinas – sort of pointy-nosed, hopping mice – who enjoy running up and down walls squeaking and nicking important pieces of paper for their nests (or for the sheer fun of it?).

In the midst of this minefield of Mother Nature, we run a recording studio and record label. Some days – like today – when it’s 100 degrees in the shade, I think we’d do better running a sauna. Other days, I look out at the wooded hills that surround us and think – yes, maybe I wouldn’t run the risk of stepping on a king brown snake on Oxford Street, but fuck it, this is the Garden of Eden after all.

If I bump into Craig David in London, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Recording, domesticating and people I love
It’s Monday in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland and the sun’s going down on another day of my attempt to become a domestic goddess… the shack is gleaming clean (bar about a billion ants and several hundred exceptionally stubborn spiders), and I’ve spent the day since dawn transforming 300 litres of goats milk into the best feta cheese in Australia (yes I’m quietly confident as you can tell!).

All this after spending the weekend getting rather over-excited in the studio recording the rhythm tracks for album no.2 with the genius of bass player/producer Christian, drummer Shane and sound-engineer Pix. Ummmm, that was the easy bit… I'll keep you posted on progress.

It’s dark now and time for bangers and mash (do you say that in the States?) so my last thought of the day goes to my very small niece Joanna, who has just had her first birthday, and is 18,000 miles away in Bristol, England. I miss her loads and her mother even more so – can’t wait to see them when I go back for my third UK tour in May.

If you're just waking up in the northern hemisphere, have a nice day.

Songwriting and staying sane...
Today was a good day. It started off badly when I discovered the decomposing body of a bandicoot under the couch (yes, complete with maggots and ants) and a dead frog behind the toilet, but then the sun came out and I wrote a new song.

Now I’m sure there’s writers out there that can bang out songs 7 days a week but my muse seems to be a bit more erratic – in 1998 I wrote about 50 songs, last year I wrote 2. I still don’t know why but I’m learning to relax about it. Maybe it’s staying sane… someone said to me recently you need to learn how to be safe but out of control.

That makes me think of that fine line between being a genius on the pool-table and being too pissed to see the ball. Bit like songwriting really, if you know what I mean. Anyway, it’s a new day now and I still like the new song so you never know, you might just hear it on my next album.

Hope the sun’s shining in your world too.

Parrots and daiquiris
As usual, it being summer here in Oz, it's been boiling hot so I spent Christmas in a creek and New Year at Woodford Folk Festival drinking gallons of water and my first, second and third daiquiri (one of my many New Year's resolutions is not to drink daiquiris in 105 degree heat much as I might think it a good idea at the time).

Now it's back to reality, and back to the shack to finish the video for 'The Real World' and start work on my second album, that's if I can hear myself above the racket in the trees outside - it's lychees season and about a hundred parrots are out there stuffing themselves morning, noon and night...

Wishing you a very happy new year.