2022 and what I did with it

Well hello there and a very happy new year to you! 2022 was a strange beast, wasn’t it? I’m sure it lasted twice as long as previous years and no one can convince me otherwise! We may have circled the sun at the usual speed and crossed the same twelve months off our calendars, but somehow time has stretched. Think back to the first half of the past year – don’t you think it somehow feels longer ago than it should?

For me, 2022 included more than its fair share of momentous career highs as well as a couple of rather challenging lows. Taking stock, which is very much what this post is all about, I’ve been incredibly lucky. It’s been a year full of touring, playing some of the biggest shows of my life, performing on incredible stages to the most welcoming audiences. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting lots of new fans and friends, so to those of you who have discovered my music over this past year: Welcome and thanks for joining me on this journey! So before we all throw ourselves into the rather futuristic sounding 2023, I’d like to reflect on and share some highlights of the year gone by.

I hold tightly onto every moment – You & Me, We Are The Same

In an empty Boogaloo Pub, producer Bernard Butler and I had a really intimate chat all about making my album, ‘You & Me, We Are The Same’ . Early in January 2022, the NME kindly premiered it. I’m really glad we got to have this conversation and that I could share it with you to provide deeper context for the album. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can do so here (Boogaloo Radio is transmitted from a magical studio shed in the pub’s back garden btw – you can tune in every Monday between 10 – 12 to hear my Monday Morning Shake Up show): 

Shortly after, I shared a new music video with you. In the beautifully lit St. John’s Church in Hoxton, trusted collaborator Max Bandicoot and I filmed the music video for Erase, the song that Bernard, to my amusement, referred to as “the good one” throughout the recording process. In case you haven’t heard it yet, The Anchoress also created a brilliant remix to this song, which was played on BBC6 upon release (thanks Chris Hawkins!).

And then, against what felt like all the odds, we finally made it happen: In June 2022 I went on my ‘You & Me, We Are The Same’ UK headline tour! Contrary to events prior to this, I remember it vividly. it was so rewarding to get to see you all again and to finally play those new songs live after such a long pandemic wait. There’s nothing like the energy exchange between musicians and audiences in an appreciative room – it’s pure magic. I’m so glad I got to embark on this tour with such incredibly talented, kind and fun humans Jay Chakrivorty, Zoe Konez and Maddy Hamilton.

When I think back on the ten shows we played, my mind fills with a sort of rolodex of sparkly, frivolous and poignant moments. They flash before me now, in no particular order: The woman in the front row singing along in Cambridge with tears in her eyes, knowing all the words to the verses of the songs off the new album – Jay trying to nurse a bumble bee back to health with a pipette of sugar water on the sunny terrace of our North West band Air BnB – a brief, windy midnight visit to the river Mersey after our Liverpool show, all dark and glistening in the night – the lump in my throat when I start talking about my dad on stage at Leaf – the roaring applause from the small, but incredibly enthusiastic audience in Southampton – the crowd in Manchester (You lot were the best) – laughing and crying with my beautiful band (I’m sorry I inflicted so much Paul McCartney onto you in the van, but you knew what you were signing up for) – watching our excellent support acts, such as Thom Morecroft and Jenny Colquitt and of course our very own Zoe Konez from the wings of the stages – The London show…just…the entire thing. The Lexington was so packed and something about that show just felt really special – The elated feeling of achievement and relief that set in when Zoe handed me a shot of tequila after the show to mark the end of an otherwise rather sober tour.

The music industry is so far from recovering from the pandemic. Embarking on any live shows, never mind a whole tour, is logistically and financially so much harder than it was before. It felt like a monumental achievement pulling it off! So here’s a huge thank you to all of you who came out to see me on this tour and a special thank you to those of you who came to multiple shows. I totally appreciate that not everyone was in the position or felt comfortable enough to return to live music venues at this time. So to those of you who stayed at home to look after yourselves and your loved ones, thank you too and thanks for your kind messages and support in other ways.

Shortly after the tour, I was invited to perform at UK Music’s Summer Party, which was a huge honour. I teamed up with Jay to perform at Southbank Centre’s upstairs bar as a duo. The event landed on one of those rudely hot days when the sweltering city’s concrete and glass seem to amplify the rays beating down upon it. I remember waiting outside the building, fearing my Rickenbacker guitar might melt in the heat and severely regretting wearing tights. 

All I need is to feel the sun in the morning – Katie Melua Tour

I was looking forward to it for months, having had the confirmation ages before I was able to announce it: Opening for Katie Melua on her Germany tour was a dream. I already swooned about it extensively in a previous blog post, so if you’d like to know more about how it went, head on over here. If I had to summarise those six shows in a couple of impressionistic thoughts and memories, it would be sound checking in the oppressive summer heat, that feeling of walking onto a huge, outdoor stage with 2000 people sat ready and waiting for you to introduce yourself, enjoying the delights of the incredible tour catering, hanging out with Katie’s beautiful band, drinking large gin and tonics on the tour bus at the end of the tour and meeting so many lovely people at the merchandise stand after the shows. Stand-out shows for me were Leipzig, Chemnitz and Bonn. Leipzig in particular unlocked something for me. I felt so inspired by the crowd, the stage, the setting, it lit a fire in me wanting to play stages like this, to people like you all the time (will try and write myself a number one hit or two to make that happen…!). Huge thank you to my sister Geraldine and her partner Max for driving and to the lovely Maddy, who accompanied me on cello and general shenanigans on this tour.

I hope you find it in everything you see – touring with Howard Jones

There was something really magical about this tour. Sometimes, you meet the right people at exactly the right time. Perhaps it was because I felt a little more confident than I did before, fresh from playing those large, outdoor venues opening for Katie. But from the moment I walked into the first venue on the first night of the tour in Bath, I felt at home. Howard’s crew remembered me from when I opened for him at the Union Chapel the previous year and we greeted one another as old friends. This tour should have been logistically challenging, but due to Howard’s team being absolute stars and helping out by transporting my gear for me and my manager helping out driving the long stretches of the tour, it went swimmingly and was just the most incredible, joyful experience.

I simply had the best time. The audiences every single night were so receptive – it was just pure joy performing for you and singing with you! Some of the venues were also stunning, such as the Birmingham City Hall, Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall and Buxton’s Opera House. The latter was my favourite show, although I was spoilt for choice with Edinburgh and The Apex in Bury St. Edmonds close seconds. I loved watching Howard and his acoustic trio perform from the side of the stage every night. There’s so much heart and sensitivity in Howard’s songwriting and in the musicianship of all players on stage, I let the magic of that wash over me every night. “I hope you find it in everything you see” was a beautiful intention set every night of that tour. I do try to.

Quite frankly, this tour deserved its own dedicated blog post, but alas, pesky chest infections to the left and right of it eroded all my spare time. Perhaps I’ll get to it one day, in a future second edition of ‘Tales from the Rails’.

Thank you to Howard Jones, Nick Beggs and Robin Boult for sharing the stage with me and thank you to the entire crew, especially tour manager Rob for blasting Taylor Swift’s Midnights album every day to test the PA and to Joe – for helping me out so much, for being excellent company during Howard’s shows and for making me my own little custom made pedal board! Never before have I teared up saying goodbye to everyone at the end of a tour (I imagine some musicians reading this are now probably thinking: “What?! How?!” – I know…I suppose I just haven’t been on enough tours that actually involved other humans), but I do feel like I made genuine, important friendships on this one and I’m so grateful. Even now, months later, I’m getting emotional thinking about it.

“You big old softy”, Chris the tour rep said to me as we said goodbye. Yeah, I suppose…but if you don’t look for it, you can’t find it in anything, never mind everything you see.

That might be God, they might have mislabelled that – St. Pancras Old Church

To bring an incredible year of touring to a worthy close, I decided to record a live album at the beautiful St. Pancras Old Church in London. On November 3rd, hot off the heels of the Howard Jones tour, I performed stripped back versions of my songs together with a mini string section (thanks to Meg Ella and Jessica Roch) and special guest Zoe Konez joining us on guitar for a few tracks. Huge thank you to everyone who’s pre-ordered the album, which will be out soon as a limited edition, signed and numbered CD. In fact, we’ve just finished mixing and mastering, so your copies will be with you soon! I can’t wait to share it with you! Here’s a special thanks to everyone who was able to join us at the church – it was special to have people I met on both the Katie and the Howard tour in the room, thanks so much for coming!

So this brings us up to date and into 2023. One final achievement of 2022 worth including is that I was re-elected onto the PPL Performer Board, so I get to continue my work fighting for artists’ rights in that setting as well as within the FAC. In fact, on that note I just wanted to extend a few words of encouragement to fellow artists reading this: It’s tough out there. Like, so much harder than it was pre-pandemic. The music industry is really still struggling under the pressures the pandemic and Brexit have inflicted upon it, so for those of you trying to tour again, you’re probably being too harsh on yourselves (I know, it’s easily done). Even if the rooms you’re playing in are small, perhaps even smaller than the ones you managed to fill pre-pandemic, believe me: if you are managing to perform, to break even – if you have appreciate crowd come out to see you, no matter how small in numbers, you are doing so well and you should be really proud of yourselves.

Closing thoughts

Perhaps the beginning of 2022 feels so long ago because so many big things are happening outside ourselves. In a couple of weeks, we’re going to reach a grim anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I find it particularly disconcerting that, all the while, the UK Government is promising to “stop the boats” on their campaign posters, an outright racist rhetoric that fills me with a rage and sense of despair. Our recent collective history teaches us where this kind of rhetoric and scapegoating leads. Let us not fall for it again.

There is one invisible thread permeating 2022, omitted in this particular retelling of it. I’ve been working away on a different creative project that I am so, so excited about… I’m keeping it secret for now (save for within the sanctity of the metaphorical walls around my Patreon club – here’s a huge thank you to all of you, for supporting me throughout the past year, it’s so appreciated and I hope you’re enjoying all the perks!), but I believe there will be an announcement in this first half of the year, so stay tuned! Happy 2023 everybody, thanks for reading this – here we go!

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