Yesterday it rained. Here in the Australian bush – tanks running dry, brown grass everywhere – it felt like a miracle.
On our farm we are not on mains water so we rely on a spring-fed dam. Every day it gets lower and lower. And it’s been boiling hot – midsummer temperatures at the start of spring. Apart from yesterday’s brief downpour, the spring storms haven’t materialised.
But it’s not the water and it’s not even the bush fires that concern me the most right now. It’s the creatures.
12 years ago I lived on this same farm. I got used to the spiders everywhere, the mice, the cockroaches, the beetles, the ants, the zillion bugs and mozzies filling the air… every day they were all there, buzzing and scurrying around.
When it rained the floor of our shack would be filled with frogs of all shapes and sizes. Every evening huge Huntsman spiders would be dangling from walls and mirrors.
Yesterday there were no frogs after the rain. Of all the other creatures that used to live with us, you see the odd beetle or bug here and there. A mouse or gecko or the occasional spider might appear in my yurt. But they are very few and far between.
The only creatures that seem to be doing well here now are the flies. Even the mozzies seem to be strangely absent. But the bellbirds are still singing in the wood next door so they must have something to eat.
As I write this, a small Huntsman spider has suddenly appeared high on the wall of my studio – the first I’ve seen in months. As if to say, we’re not done yet. I’m guessing that without us here polluting the world, nature would recover pretty quickly.
I never thought I would miss a cockroach or a March fly. But something is happening and it’s happening fast. In a country where the Prime Minister denies the existence of man-made climate change, it is terrifying.
Emily and Christian began recording her sixth studio album yesterday with drummer Shane Nesic. You can read Emily’s blog about it here. If you want her to keep you posted on progress and let you know when the album is finished, please join her mailing list.
Finally, after months of writing and arranging new songs, we started recording my new album yesterday. Our drummer Shane Nesic came up from Brisbane and Christian set up the big living room in our home Shaktu as a recording studio (Shaktu is shack no.2 on the farm). Despite the heat, we got drum and bass tracks for the first 3 songs done. Today we start on a song I only wrote a couple of weeks ago, so I guess the long wait to record has been a blessing in disguise. There’s another song too which has made the A-list which I wrote while I was in the UK a few weeks ago.
News from the farm… we now have a very cute baby goat called Sonny, the result of our buck Frankie’s Great Escape a few months ago (he leapt through a hole in his fence and then leapt on as many goats as he could). More kids are due to be born today so it’s possible Christian will have to go from being sound engineer to midwife at the drop of a hat. Frankie is very sweet-natured for a billy goat but I’ve been feeding him silver beet and cabbage leaves and so he now yells at me every time I go in the veggie garden.
It has been boiling hot – far too hot for spring. So hot in fact that I went swimming with snakes the other day (not bad for someone who used to have such a phobia I couldn’t even look at them on TV!). The veggies in my garden wilt in the midday sun but revive again as I spend an hour each afternoon watering them. Some days the air is hazy from smoke – there have been fires in the area and being surrounded by trees makes us vulnerable. We’ve talked through our fire plan – what we would take with us if we only had 5 minutes to get out.
But right now I’m not thinking about fires or snakes or even baby goats… I’m thinking about these new songs and how incredibly lucky I am to have Christian and Shane to help me record them. I’ll keep you posted on progress…
Emily did her first mental health hospital gig in Australia yesterday when she performed for young people and staff on the adolescent mental health ward of Queensland Children’s Hospital in Brisbane. Together with her husband Christian Dunham on double bass, Emily sang some of her songs and talked about her own story of mental illness and recovery.
Emily is a patron of the UK mental health charity Restore and has performed many times for hospitals and groups in the UK. For more information about her award-winning work in mental health, please see http://www.emilymaguire.com/music-for-mental-health. If you would like to talk to Emily about performing for your hospital or group in Australia, please contact us.
Read Emily’s new blog post for World Mental Health Day.
Emily performed her first mental health hospital gig in Australia yesterday for young people and staff on the mental health ward of the Queensland Children’s Hospital in Brisbane. Together with her husband Christian playing double bass, Emily sang some of her songs and talked about her own story of mental illness and recovery.
Emily has performed for many hospitals and groups across the UK. More information about her award-winning work in mental health can be found here: http://emilymaguire.com/music-for-mental-health/. If you would like to talk to Emily about performing for your hospital or group in Australia, please contact us.
Today is World Mental Health Day.Yesterday I went with Christian to Brisbane and sang some of my songs for the young people on the mental health ward at Queensland Children’s Hospital.
We performed outside in a rooftop garden with a big colourful mural on one of the walls and views of the city all around.It made me think of the mental health unit in the south-west of England I played in where the garden was a bare patch of dusty brown grass with a high wall and not a plant in sight.
People here tell me mental health services in Australia are not good but from what I’ve seen so far they are a lot better than the UK.Here you get referred to a psychologist and psychiatrist without having to have reached the point of being either suicidal or psychotic before you get any help.
For someone like me living with bipolar disorder where the chemical imbalance in my brain sometimes feels like I’m walking a tightrope over a canyon, that early support from a mental health team can mean the difference between a blip and a full-blown crisis.
Yesterday’s gig was my first mental health hospital gig in Australia, the first of many I hope.
My new obsession with growing things… as well as our veggie garden in this video, out the back of the shack I’m also growing sweet potato, watercress, basil, tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines, pumpkin, watermelon, rock melon, red peppers, garlic chives, lemongrass, sage, rosemary and lavender. One of the good things about being bipolar is you don’t do things by halves :).
Emily performed at Maleny Music Festival in Australia last weekend with bass player Christian Dunham and Aussie drummer Shane Nesic – see the clip below of her song ‘If I Could See You’. This was their first gig with Shane in 12 years since leaving Australia to perform as a duo touring the UK with Don McLean, Eric Bibb and Dr Hook among others. Shane has toured the UK twice with Emily and Christian and performed with them in Manhattan, NYC. He is performing with them at several local gigs in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland while work on the new album continues. Details of these gigs can be found here. If you want to see Emily play live, you can join her mailing list and she’ll keep you posted on dates plus news of her forthcoming sixth album.
On Saturday I played Maleny Music Festival, my first festival since moving back to Australia and our first gig back together with drummer Shane Nesic in 12 years (you can see a clip below). We really enjoyed it – thanks to everyone who came to see us. Christian and I also performed the next day in the songs for social conscience slot where I sang ‘For Free’ and ‘Woke Up’, the song Greenpeace used for their 2009 Copenhagen climate change campaign. We also performed ‘Over The Waterfall’ and ‘Start Over Again’ at the festival finale.
Spring is here and yesterday I was back in our huge veggie garden. It now takes over half an hour to water all the beds. We had Christian’s 90-year-old uncle Barney staying who took over the watering while he was here and did a proper job of it so it’s all burgeoning like mad now. I am particularly excited about my snow peas – mange tout in UK-speak – which won’t ever make it into the kitchen as I can’t stop eating them in the garden!
We’re doing a few local gigs with Shane while we’re working on the new album – Maleny Youth Festival in a couple of weeks, then a charity fundraiser for Save The Rivers, a campaign to support Urannah, part of the original homelands of the Wiri and Birri peoples of the Birri Gaba nation. At the end of September we’re doing a very special gig on the deck at Crystal Waters, a lovely permaculture commune near Conondale, and then in October performing at the Eudlo Music Nights festival. Details of all these gigs can be found on my website.
It’s early morning and the kookaburras are laughing in the trees. After the plague of white cockatoos we now have black cockatoos which usually means rain which would save me a lot of time in the garden. But for now, the sun is shining…
Emily’s fifth album ‘A Bit Of Blue’ is being released in Australia at the start of September. Described as ‘exhilarating and transformational’ (RnR Magazine), the album won critical acclaim on its UK release. As Emily says in the sleeve notes, “This album follows a dark time in my life. I wanted these songs to be stripped bare, haunting and as beautiful as they could possibly be”.
‘A Bit Of Blue’ was produced by Nigel Butler who has worked with major artists from k.d.lang to Robbie Williams and was one of the key producers in Simon Cowell’s X-Factor both in the UK and the US. Nigel also produced Emily’s fourth album ‘Bird Inside A Cage’.
The first single ‘For Free’, a gentle and uplifting song of social conscience, was first played on Radio 2, the biggest radio station in the UK. You can watch the music video here.