2023 and what I did with it

I cannot be alone in feeling particularly lethargic at the dawn of 2024. I know that this coming year is going to be particularly busy and exciting, but I somehow don’t quite feel ready for it, as if I still need a little longer to recover form the many challenges thrown my way in 2023 (can we not just hit the collective snooze button please?). In an attempt to blow away those metaphorical cobwebs and to get excited for all that’s to come, let me knuckle down and stick with traction – here’s my review of last year’s highlights. And with them, I’m sending you all my very best wishes for the year to come…here we go!

I may not have played many shows in 2023 (ten…only ten shows! Save for the pandemic year, I don’t think I’ve ever performed so little!), but I can look back on some particularly lovely moments. One of the shows vying for the top spot is last year’s International Women’s Day charity show! It was a beautiful experience of collaboration, creativity and friendship. It’s so rare that I get to make music with so many women, there was something very special about it – the energy was brilliant and the talent in the room extraordinary. It was a really meaningful experience for me and I don’t think I’ll ever forget singing together (I mean, what a dream to play Molecules with Michele Stodart on bass and Rachel Sermanni on hand claps and BVs!). The show raised money for London-based charity Women and Girls Network and left me with a new song, new friends and a boost in confidence in my musicianship. Huge thank you to Immy and Michele for pulling it all together and for inviting me to join the incredible line up, it was a real honour.

The other contender for my favourite show of the year was my full band set at Latitude. Never am I happier than when hurtling along dirt roads on the back of a festival buggy, zooming past happy campers and music lovers, hurtling toward the backstage area from accreditation. Performing on the same line up as Pulp was a dream come true and, when I look back now, the memory of that day shimmers bold and brightly. Thank you so much for everyone who came to see us on the Alcove stage, I was pretty excited to see the tent so packed. We had such a good time, despite a broken down car (thanks to English Teacher for the backstage jump start!) and made sure to squeeze every bit of fun out of the experience. The following day I rolled out of bed and flew to Germany to perform at the very picturesque Horizonte Festival and, ahead of Latitude, we played a lovely sold out warm up show at Brighton’s Folklore Rooms, so I did at least get a little bit of tour feeling in the summer of 2023!

An honourable mention with regards to favourite shows of the year goes to the very first one of 2023, which was a sold out show in my hometown, Berlin. It felt very special. It had been a spontaneous idea on the morning of the show – for a couple of songs, I decided to play my dad’s acoustic Gibson guitar. It hadn’t left its case since he died in 2019, but I picked it up on the day of the show to find it perfectly in tune. It was a very emotional night with lots of friends and family (some of which had traveled to surprise me), as well as new fans who came after meeting me at the Katie Melua tour.

A sneaky second honourable mention goes to our annual Beatles celebration charity show (this year, it was ’50 Years of Please Please Me and With The Beatles). With a little help from my friends (see what I did there), we managed to raise a whopping £660 for Choose Love, a charity that provides refugees across the world with essential aid. Huge thank you to all artists involved!

Now that I am committing memory to paper, I suppose 2023 was my year of creating – of making and planning things, working away feverishly to bring you lots of exciting projects in 2024. I wrote a lot of songs last year. This, for me, is a real triumph as getting back into songwriting has not been easy since losing my dad, who was always first to hear and feedback on any of my new ideas. Luckily, I have all of you to share them with. I did something truly novel last year – I shared all my new songs with you at my residency at the Green Note – a sold out trilogy of intimate performances of the brand new, and sometimes work in progress, material. It was a very scary thing to do, to be so vulnerable and to commit to sharing songs in their infancy, but luckily, the people that come to my shows are the perfect audience for this kind of thing – interested, supportive, caring and kind. It really did feel special to share this experience and I’m so glad it all worked out so well. Here’s a huge thank you to everyone at The Green Note for making me feel so at home and thank you to my special guests, Sarah Howells (Bryde), Jenny Bulcraig (Rookes) and Michele Stodart (Magic Numbers). In fact, as you might have seen, it all went so well that I’ve decided to do it all again! In 2024, I’m taking the new song showcase on the road with a trilogy of shows in Manchester, Brighton and London. I look forward to seeing you there!

The biggest project of 2023 however, was a creative endeavour quite different to songwriting… Last year, I wrote the bulk of and finished my first book, ‘The Piano Player of Budapest’, which is being published by Little Brown in June 2024. I have just signed off on the very final, copy edited version – it was incredibly exciting to see it all laid out and looking like a proper book. Researching and writing it has been such a magical journey and I truly can’t wait to share it with you. It is already available to pre-order on hardback, e-book and audiobook from all major book shops. Please keep in touch for further news and developments on the book…there’s quite a lot of news coming your way very soon! 

Starting with this: Somewhere in the process of writing the book, I thought that it would be a missed opportunity if I didn’t take this moment to shine a light on my grandfather’s music. I never go to meet Stephen de Bastion, but have had the privilege of getting to know him and his compositions rather well throughout the process of writing the book. I am fortunate to have cassette tapes upon cassette tapes of his piano playing, as well as boxes of his sheet music and am determined to bring it back to life. And so, I am please to share with you that I am recording an album, a Stephen de Bastion album, to be released alongside the book. It has already and continues to bring me so much joy to give his story and his beautiful music a new lease of life. And while I don’t have Peter Jackson on the case (how have I reached the end of my year’s review without mentioning The Beatles’ Now and Then??), but I am working with some extraordinarily talented people on this project and just cannot wait to share more…

But I will leave it there, on that little cliff hanger, and wish you all reading this all the very best for this coming year. A really big thank you goes to all my patrons who support my music and creative life over on Patreon – I have really enjoyed getting to know you all a little better over the past year and really look forward to sharing lots of, hopefully very exciting, behind the scenes gems with you over the following twelve months!

Happy 2024! It’s going to be a big one…

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