I’ve started writing a poem a day again after my morning meditation practice. I’m not songwriting at the moment so it’s good to have another creative outlet. These poems are really automatic writing, like the ones in my book ‘Meditation Mind’. They don’t rhyme and take a minute to write. Somehow something always comes out of the ether as I sit there with a pencil, a cup of coffee and a blank page. You can read below the poem I wrote today.
Below also is a lyric video for an old song you might remember from my album ‘Keep Walking’. The photo was taken on Winspit beach on the Isle of Purbeck, my spiritual home. I wonder when I’ll be back there again.
Sometimes I feel Like I’m the only one And it’s a lonely Place to be But then I remember The whole world Is fearful, wondering What will happen next And then I think Of the practice of tonglen How to turn arrows Into flowers If we all just sat down In silence Under a tree perhaps Somehow our minds Would unwind And these tangled Threads of thought Would become Wisps of air No more solid Than a cloud Clouds have something To teach us About beauty About lightness of being About impermanence We are all Coming to terms With being alive We are all fire-eaters And trapeze artists Hoping there’s a Safety net to catch Our fall, waiting For the sunset As the clouds change From white to red To grey to black And that’s okay We might be afraid Of the night But we all know You need the darkness To see the stars.
Spring is here in the Australian bush. I know this because I saw a snake the other day and also because flowers have appeared in my veggie garden.
We have been clearing the raised beds ready for planting over 20 different types of vegetable. It is handy having a manic mind from time to time – you somehow end up with 40 kilos of carrots! The goats don’t mind anyway, they’ll eat anything that’s not nailed to the ground.
Unlike our chickens who are the fussiest chooks in the southern hemisphere – no scraps for them thank you, just premium fresh kale and silverbeet from the garden and cooked rolled oats and barley. But they are producing the most delicious eggs so we can’t complain really.
We finished recording the violin and viola parts for my new album in another mammoth recording session with the lovely Sarah King last week – now I’ve got to do my bit and finish the cello recordings. Hopefully this won’t be too difficult since I’ve actually been practising my cello playing for once (10 minutes a day – amazing what little and often can do).
In the meantime I’ve been doing more string arranging, and looking forward to performing live at some gigs coming up. We’re playing Mitchell Creek Blues N Rock Festival on 18 September, Eudlo Public Hall on 17 October and Crystal Waters on 28 November. This is all depending on what happens in Queensland with COVID restrictions – at the moment they are going ahead.
The UK mental health charity Mind asked me if I would perform my song ‘I’d Rather Be’ for their online fundraising event. As we can’t livestream from the farm I recorded this video for them…
When I was based in the UK I did quite a few gigs for local mental health support groups run by Mind volunteers. If you want to know more about Mind and the wonderful work they do to help people like me, please visit https://www.mind.org.uk/
Last weekend, after writing and arranging over 30 new songs in the last few months, the voice in my head suddenly said stop. It’s been an amazing creative roll that has kept me sane (relatively) during the lockdown and turned the delay in recording my new album into a blessing in disguise as more and more new songs have been added to the list.
Now our drummer Shane Nesic has arrived to blow the dust off his drums and record 11 of these new songs. I’ve given up guessing the future – I only know we need to get them all down and then see what happens next. Our new violinist Sarah King is coming back for a 3rd session in a couple of weeks. Our last session with her was a 10 hour marathon.
Recording at home in the bush depends on a fair amount of luck if you want to avoid capturing the sound of kookaburras, cockatoos, crows, bellbirds, bulls, dogs, mowing, chain-sawing, bi-planes, tractors and cars on the dirt road at the bottom of the hill.
In the mornings I get up while it’s still dark and sit in my yurt listening to the cocks crowing down the valley as the dawn rises. It’s midwinter here, my favourite time of year. Clear sunny days and cold nights. I get to wear jumpers and not have to worry about stepping on a snake.
Queensland has been clear of the virus for the past few weeks so people are out and about again. But there’s been a spike in Melbourne recently so we’re waiting to see what happens. The death toll around the world is so shocking it feels like we’re in a kind of surreal bubble here in Australia.
I hope you’ve been keeping safe and well where you are.
Stephanie Rose is my sister’s youngest daughter. She was born in August 2006 while I was living in the Australian bush so I didn’t get to meet her for 6 months. I wrote this lullaby just after she was born and sent it to my sister, recorded with just acoustic guitar and a vocal. Last year, back once again in Australia, I composed this arrangement for it.
Today it rained here in the Obi Obi valley. My veggie garden is loving the cooler autumn weather. I’ve been busy constantly writing new songs and arranging old ones, songs that got left by the wayside and now given new life. I’m playing my cello again, inspired by listening to Yo Yo Ma playing the Bach unaccompanied suites. I played some of them when I was a kid and am trying to learn them again.
I talk to my family and friends in the UK and feel like I am on another planet. Here in Australia we are coming out of lockdown as infections are very few now. I wish the same could be said of the northern hemisphere. My heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones, including the family and friends of Al Crawford who died recently from Coronavirus. Al had been a great supporter of my music for many years and I felt very moved that his wife Saeko wanted to play my song ‘About Everything’ at his funeral last week.
One of my all-time favourite songs is ‘Save You’, a song by my old friend Ecki, the man behind the White Star Bulb Company. We sang it together at a gig in Cambridge years ago and now we’ve just recorded it (remotely… me being in Australia and Ecki in the UK lockdown).
I’ve just posted on my YouTube channel a new lyric video for a very old, unreleased song of mine called ‘In The Garden’. I wrote it in January 1999 but only arranged it for guitar and string trio when we moved to Australia last year.
The song was inspired by a bereavement – a grief of such depth and intensity I could hardly bear to imagine it. I was thinking when I was writing it why it was that at least 3 people I knew who had all been brutally bereaved had then given up their former careers to become gardeners. It seemed that in nature some solace could be found, or at least ‘life goes on’.
I hoped that some solace might be found in this song too. I am always anxious about playing songs to the people who have inspired them. Most of all with ‘In The Garden’, but the friend who inspired it gave it her blessing so here it is.
Thanks to my wonderful 90-year-old cello teacher Bruno Schrecker for taking the photograph.
I was so delighted to hear my song ‘For Free’ on Aled Jones’s lovely new podcast ‘Oh My Goodness’. With all the hardship and sorrow that people are facing around the world, it’s such a great concept to have a programme highlighting some of the good things that are happening.
I first met Aled back in 2007 when he was presenter of the BBC Radio 2 show ‘Good Morning Sunday’. It was my first interview on UK national radio and all thanks to a fan called Andy Cole who had seen me play at Bournemouth Folk Club and decided to send my album ‘Keep Walking’ (with a box of chocolates) to Hilary Robinson, Aled’s producer.
Hilary clearly loved chocolates because the next thing I know Aled was playing my song ‘Back Home’ on his show. Philip Tennant, the manager of The Waterboys, was listening and the rest is history…
I met Aled quite a few times as he very kindly asked me back on the show to talk about my Buddhist faith, launch my first book ‘Start Over Again’, do ‘Thought For The Day’ and sing live several times. He is a super lovely guy who’d give me a big hug when I came in the studio.
It was so great to hear his voice again on his new podcast – aside from being an amazing singer Aled has the most wonderful speaking voice that makes you feel somehow incredibly comforted and reassured, like everything is going to be all right. Perfect for these times…
I owe a big debt of gratitude to Aled and Hilary for supporting my music over all these years and I’m so delighted they’ve asked me to be involved in their new project. You can listen to the podcast here.
Last night I nearly stepped on a snake. It was dark and I was going up to my yurt to meditate. As soon as I saw it, my torch started flickering on and off. I thought it would be ironic, going to all the trouble of staying virus-free only to be bitten by a king brown.
It is autumn here in the Australian bush which means the snakes are looking for somewhere to hibernate. I’ve been working on songs and lyric videos but my mind is elsewhere, thinking about my family and friends in the UK. Here in Australia we are several weeks behind the crisis in the northern hemisphere. People are self-isolating but there isn’t lockdown yet.
Today we’ve released another lyric video, this time for my song ‘Rain’. Wherever you are and whatever is happening, may you keep safe and well.