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So, finally – after only a few years, my second solo CD is moments away from pre-release! Caledonia – the Homecoming has been recorded, mixed and mastered, the artwork is complete and now we are just waiting for the printing to be finished. Now, I won’t be having a public release until the end of May of this year. I am just too busy at the moment to do the kind of tour I would like but count on me arriving at a venue near you through the month of June!! Very exciting for me, to take Caledonia on the road. I truly can’t wait. However I know there will be loyal readers of OEM and friends at Facebook who wont be able to wait that long to get their copy so… Ladies and Gentlemen, you can get an advanced copy if you pre-order now! You will receive your copy at just about the exact same time I do! That’s a good deal if you just can’t wait. Click this link to Lyric Partners.com to find all the instructions on how to get your advance copy.
I should tell you a bit about this record, so you are not just buying blind… During The Year of the Homecoming (in honour of the 200th anniversary of the birth of the poet Robert Burns - 2009) I did a few Scottish-themed concerts. At that point I hadn’t been home for five years. It’s now well over six years and so I finally booked a journey home! This all began to add up to me having an idea to record an album that was kind of a thank you to Scotland. I suppose the best way to explain the album is to let you read the liner notes I wrote to go inside the CD booklet, so here it is:
Picture it… Scotland, 1977. Virginia Wade had won the Wimbledon title for Britain, Elvis Presley had sadly passed away at the age of 42, David Berkowitz had finally been apprehended and over in Falkirk, Central Scotland, the nine months of my incubation were done and I was being welcomed into the world. OK, so maybe that last bit was only important to my Mother... Since those heady days of Celtic summer I have grown from the adorable boy you see on the front cover of this record into a well-travelled and even more well-worn man. After moving to London during my 20’s, I ended up in New York City, the United States of America. Funny, but it was that arrival in the US that made me realise how special it was to be Scottish. I have met so many relatives of my forebears here and seeing how proud they were of their ancestry fills me with my own sense of pride and belonging. Like the roots of a giant tree, spreading outwards, many Scots have crossed oceans and deserts, taking a small part of the home nation with them wherever they go. One is never more patriotic than when you’re away from home. Distance also made me understand the true value of my upbringing in that beautiful, bucolic land. It has been nearly a decade since I have been able to return and in planning a trip home recently I was overwhelmed with nostalgia for days gone by. The songs I remembered hearing when I was a little boy began running through my head again. I felt a calling. A chance to say ‘thank you’ to the place I will always call home. Thank you for making me Scottish. There will be those out there who will question the validity of some of these songs. Are they really all “Scottish”. Well, the answer is no. In fact, the only connection two of them have to Scotland is that when I heard them for the first time they were being sung by a Scottish singer (the wonderful Eddi Reader). But I’m not trying to capture your idea of Caledonia – I’m here to share mine. These songs were my journey and my Scottishness exists in all of them. Even the Irish one! Dear listener, enjoy. Think of home, wherever that may be, and be proud. She makes us who we are today…
I had much more of a hand in the production of this CD.
Damn, it was good to be back in the studio! I had much more of a hand in production of this CD, and I am pleased with the results. We had a great team and it made me realise that I left it too long to make this album. I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed recording!
As always, all comments, critiques… praise will be gratefully received at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As I write this I am almost ready to pack my bags to head home to Scotland. I’m not leaving for good—just for a visit—but I am so looking forward to seeing everyone again. I hope to update you from the road, but I imagine it will be a busy time so I will be certain to take loads of photos and maybe even some videos to share on my return.
Caledonia—now I’m going home!
With much love,
And many thanks,
JOYS IN BATTALIONS
saturday 23 april 2011
If it's true that "when sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions" then this year proves to me the same is true for good times too. I had begun to think that I had given up too much in following the path in life I have chosen. I hadn't seen my family or my home in many years. It had been a long time since I'd had enough spare cash to buy a nice new suit. I had missed all the travelling around the world I used to do. My social circle was shrinking and my inner voice of doubt and fear was getting louder… and then came the chance to record Caledonia and to finally go home after six years. I suddenly felt a new boost of confidence and began to realise that there was room in life to truly have it all - to be happy in the choices I have made career-wise, proud of the successes I have achieved and still be surrounded by loving, good people who care for me despite my perceived highs and lows. It meant so much to see my parents and sister again and know they were proud no matter how "busy" I was from year to year. Suddenly I've stopped quantifying my worth based on who is employing me. Who is thrilled to have me come to their auditions. Who needs me to sing in their concerts and events. What a difference it has made. Work has been piling up and life and love have bloomed like the proverbial spring meadow… I don't know about you but I used to dread "tomorrow". What would it bring? Now I get that tomorrow really is "the first day of the rest of your life".
So I woke up today and finally was able to put Caledonia in the record player and hear it with fresh, clean ears. (figuratively and literally – I had a good scrubbing this morning in my deep, sunken bath)!
It's good. I'm proud of it. I'm proud of having Lyric Partners help me indulge my Scottish musical whims! I have received lovely letters from those who managed to hear the album before its official release (May 31st). And I am really ok with saying, "get a copy – you’ll like it!"
I will be performing a concert at Birdland in NYC on Sunday May 29th (at 6pm) to officially launch it and I hope that a few of you will be around that Memorial Day weekend to help me celebrate?!
Then I will spend a month or two traveling across the US by car (and plane) singing songs and seeing sights and just generally enjoying the fact that the universe has allowed me to be in this beautiful country. I'm working on the details of this "ROAD TRIP" as we speak. Booking flights and learning to raise a tent and signing contracts which will allow me to appear in venues in Denver, Indiana, Alabama, Kansas and Connecticut, Maine as well as many other places. I’ll post a better itinerary on Facebook later in May. Who knows, maybe I'll be in a town near you and we can spend a little bit of the summer together… I plan on documenting many aspects of my journey here and at Facebook. Videos, pics, thoughts and feelings… I would normally be open to the idea that I'll love it so much that I'll just stay. That's what I've done so many times in my life. But this time I will definitely be returning to the East coast. I have commitments that I'm really looking forward to getting back for.
Later this summer, in August, I begin rehearsals for Parade. With its beautiful score by Jason Robert Brown and its deeply moving and touching book by Alfred Uhry about a Jewish factory manager (Leo Frank) who is arrested and later sentenced to death for a crime he more than likely didn’t commit, this should make for an interesting three or four months!
I play Leo and I can't wait. I mean a musical is what brought me here and I love learning new scores and telling stories through theatre and song…
And finally (for now). On Friday, October 28th, I'll be performing a solo concert at the Terrace Theatre at the Kennedy Center as part of the music series curated by Broadway legend Barbara Cook. She has been such a wonderful support to me since our time together on Sondheim on Sondheim and I can't thank her (and the wonderful producers at the Kennedy Center) enough for this fantastic opportunity!
So. Life is good. And I mean LIFE. Everything else is just a bonus…
Have a nice May and may every month from here on in get better and better.
A poor thing, but mine own
friday 10 june 2011
Welcome to Summer.
It's hot and the air is bug filled. That's what DC gets for being built on former swamp land I guess. Now, we don't see temperatures or humidity like this back home, and I kind of like it. It keeps SAD away for sure but I could do without the bugs. In Scotland, we have the dreaded Midges and boy are they just bloody awful sometimes... BUT, the welts and warts and lumps and bumps left behind by the giant-sized, flying dragons here in DC and the surrounding bygone swamps are horrendous. I have taken to dousing myself in bug repellent and spend many a day stinking like a walking Glade plug-in. In the end, the bugs seem to rather like the smell and keep going at my beautiful porcelain flesh until I look like I've had sixty flu shots in one day. I'll either come back from my summer concert tour (which spends some time even further into the muggy South) having grown accustomed to the relentless aerial attacks or as a blood-drained husk of my former self! Still, I look forward to the journey and the experience like nothing I have ever looked forward to before.
I start by having a 10-day holiday in Savannah, GA. I have been there before and just love its old timey charm and its cobbled streets (very like Edinburgh – except for the bugs). Then the road trip begins in earnest.
July 14th Off to Birmingham, AL for a three-night stay (two nights of concerts.) I had mentioned this first stop a few weeks ago on Facebook and I want to say thanks to those who have helped sell it out!!
The second venue is the Arvada Center in Denver, CO. My friend David Nehls (who co-produced and wrote a track for my debut album NewClear) moved to Denver a few years back and we have been looking forward to getting me out there for a long time, so thanks for helping with the organisation David! Of course there is an eight-day break between AL and CO so I will be taking in the cities of Nashville, Memphis, St Louis and Topeka along the route.
Then it's a quick 16-hour journey (no enjoying the sites along the way) to Chicago (the Windy City – so I'm presuming relatively bug free)! Can you believe after eight years in the US I have still never been to Chicago? The sad news for friends and followers is that the gig there is a private affair and is not open to the public. But I will be around for a few days and only that evening is a closed one... apart from a quick trip north to visit House on the Rock I'll have plenty of time to really savour the city.
By July 31st I will have arrived in Huntington, IN (just south of Fort Wayne) to the New Huntington Theatre. My friend Joel and his partner Rich, left behind the high life in the hustle of New York and headed west to rescue this ailing movie theatre and turn it into the bustling art and music Mecca it has become (in just two years I might add!) Apparently I will be their first visiting artist (they could be lying to make me feel special but Joel doesn't seem like the lying type – you neither Rich). I am honoured to have been asked and it ticks another new state off my list. (The state of Indiana, not the state of being honoured...).
Next is the O'Neill Theatre Centre in Waterford, CT - via a circuitous stop at Niagara Falls. Ill be encamping there for a week, with my main performance being Sunday August 7th. It has a beach, a bar and a funfair nearby – what could make for a nicer week? This will be a return to the O'Neill Centre for me but it will be my first solo show there. Awesome. And all you New Yorkers can day trip out to see Bryan and I play. It's the closest we get to home, so…
And one quick hop, skip and jump to Maine later and the road trip is over. Awwwwwww. I may never wish to see a car again at that point but to finish at MSMT will be the pièce de résistance. This is my third year in a row performing in this beautiful venue and my third year in a row for eating fresh, juicy Maine Lobster. Mmmmmmm.
What a summer it is going to be. I buzz with anticipation. AND I will be recording and photographing the whole trip and sharing it with all my friends on Facebook and YouTube so even if you can't make it yourself, it'll be like being there. You'll be like a fly on the wall. Hopefully not one of the flies that bites and sucks...
I even bought a car to complete this epic journey. I enquired about renting but that was going to cost nearly $2,000 so I thought, stuff that and purchased this little beauty for half that price.
She is a 1993 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera. She's seen a lot of miles and has a lot of rust but I love her. "A poor thing, but mine own".
After I got her off the lot I discovered her air-con problem (there is none) is far worse than just needing Freon. Yes, I was duped by a car salesman… surely not the first. Sadly, I pulled her up the drive (she is good for the short hop though) and borrowed my friends Toyota instead.
It has cold air and windows that work!
This concert tour is, in fact, only the beginning of a busy summer for me. The following morning after Maine, I must dash back to DC to begin rehearsals for Parade – the musical at Ford's Theatre. They have invited me to play Leo Frank and I jumped at the chance to work in this beautiful and tragic show. It runs through September and October and kicks off the Ford's Theatre season, which concentrates on the theme of tolerance. (An odd word but a wonderful idea).
As many of you now know. My second CD, Caledonia – the homecoming has been officially released!! We had a fantastic Album release event at Birdland in NYC this past Memorial Weekend and I am proud to say how pleased I am with this record. For more information on how the concert and party went see the Gig Reviews page and for more info on how to get your hands on Caledonia go here.
Ok... Lordy that was a long one. I have to go now and study the form of my favourite tennis players as they transition to the grass in time for Wimbledon. I have been playing in a fantasy tennis league and I have been getting thumped recently thanks to the erratic play from Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka, so Wimbledon is my chance for revenge.
Get in your cars and come see me at one of the above mentioned venues this summer. Bring a blanket and we'll have a picnic. You may have noticed, if you've been clicking the links, that not all the venues are up to speed yet with their ticket sales, etc. That's because some of the finer details have only very recently been worked out. Do keep checking back for the press releases and ticket sales pages. It won't be the same without you.
So, back under the mosquito net I go…
See you sooner rather than later.
With Fondest Summer Wishes
Happy Birthday to Me!
saturday 13 august 2011
As I write this update, I'm ensconced at the O'Neill Theatre Centre in Waterford, Connecticut (a state with one too may c's). This is the penultimate stop on my summer concert tour and what an amazing time Bryan (my MD and pianist) and I have been having. We started out in Savannah, Georgia and have since seen and played venues in places such as Nashville and Memphis, St Louis, MO, Kansas City, Chicago, Niagara Falls and now here. Although Bryan has moaned a little, about how sore his back is from hours of driving across the flatlands of America, I have had very few complaints!
John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath has accompanied me on this journey and though our trip has been far less depressing (and we haven't hard to work as hard or struggle as much as the Joad family) it has been an inspiration. Having a car and the freedom to travel the US seems to me the practical embodiment of the 'American Dream'. I never want it to end. There are hundreds more places I wish I had the time -and finances - to see. And I have made new friends and enjoyed meeting up with old ones in the places they call home along the way. I have enjoyed it so much that next spring I will be taking old Route 66 across the country to follow the path of Steinbeck’s prize-winning novel.
It's hard to pick a favourite place in all these American gems but I did have a particularly incredible visit to Huntington, Indiana and the New Huntington Theatre owned and operated by my friends Rich and Joel. This wonderful couple left New York with a dream and a few dollars and bought an old movie house, with the intention of renovating it back to its glory days as a theatre and opera space. They have spent the last few years fixing it up and now they have a really dedicated audience who have supported them in ways they never could have imagined. There is a real sense of community coming together to help rebuild what is mostly a dying town and it is working. I didn't want to leave once I got there, and I can understand completely why the boys fell in love with the place. Huntington is one of those all too typical mid-western towns which has begun to die since the trains stopped stopping there and Wal-Mart and Target have raped and ruined the High Streets. But Huntington refuses to die and it is the theatrical arts which is leading this revival. It set my artistic soul on fire to see it.
There have been some down times too though. Sadly the concert I had arranged in Denver, CO was cancelled with only four days to go (and I was halfway across Kansas at the time). This left Bryan and I with a few extra days and few less dollars. We did panic a little but then I realised that things were worse for the Joads and so we hit the road again and ended up staying with Bryan's 83-year-old Grandmother in Decatur, IL instead! She was a wonderful host and taught me a good number of card games that I have been gambling on ever since!
I took some time out at the start of the journey to visit the Jewish Heritage Centre in Atlanta, GA. I wanted to research the life and times of Leo Frank, in preparation for the run of Parade I will be doing this summer and autumn in DC. I met with the researcher there, a wonderful lady named Sandra who has dedicated her life to studying Leo's case. She took me back to the storerooms at the museum and showed me Leo's diary and personal pictures. I hope I can do the character and story justice when we launch later in September. Just before arriving here in Connecticut, I continued my research by making a stop at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY where Leo spent a few years studying Mechanical Engineering. (Another idyll on the American landscape).
Only one week left of travelling now. I will be cheating a little and abandoning the car in order to get to Maine. By abandoning of course I mean returning it to its rightful owner back in DC. I'm not leaving on the roadside of the I-95. I'm literally in Maine for about 23 hours and must return to DC to begin Parade rehearsals by 10am the morning after the gig so a flight is the only way that can happen. I'll be sad not to feel the tarmac flying by underneath the car any more but the runway will suffice to make up for it!
I am posting a few pics below of some of the fun places we have seen and been… and also one of Bryan learning ballet… he continues to be bad at it.
And Happy Summer
Bryan and I getting ready to leave GA for our month long road trip
Community Theatre, Georgia style...
The Ave Maria Grotto, Alabama
Dressed as a flag in the Jewish Heritage Centre
Leo Frank's handwritten prison diary
Bryan and the poorly executed Grand Jeté
Parade and my favourite leading lady
thursday 30 september 2011
And we're off. Parade opened this past Tuesday and now we are firmly into our run of this powerful and exciting show. After a long, relaxing drive round America this summer it was wonderful to jump into the intense and challenging rehearsal period under the watchful eye of our marvellous director Stephen Rayne. He is quintessentially British and he brings all the old sayings from home to work everyday. It's like learning a whole new language for some of the cast!!
The press have attended, previews are over and now we are soaring.
I am so enjoying working with Jenny Fellner, who plays my wife Lucille. I can safely say she is my most favourite leading lady ever. She is funny, smart, supremely talented and loves playing Scrabble and Bananagrams… what more could I ask for?!
The last stop of my road trip, before returning to DC to begin rehearsing Parade was to Maine. I had to return the car and book a flight to ensure I returned to work on time. I needn't have bothered. Arriving at the airport, I was told that my flight wouldn't be taking off because of the weather. JetBlue told me that they had informed "95% of the passengers" about the cancellation. I was in the ignorant 5% who turned up at the airport ready to depart. I had no choice but to get an overnight train to Maine-- 12 hours later, I arrived in beautiful Brunswick. I spent the night sleeping on the floor of the 10:15pm Amtrak express train-- and woke with a cigarette butt stuck to my face. Ah, the glamour!
The good news was the return flight was NOT cancelled and I made it back to Washington, DC… just in time to experience my first earthquake and then, less than a week later, my first hurricane. The hurricane was pretty tame around here after all the buildup, but the earthquake was pretty intense. Not something I wish to repeat any time soon (though with my plans to visit and perhaps stay in LA for a while next year – the chances remain high that I may experience another one sooner rather later)!
Now that the show is up and running I will be throwing myself into rehearsals for the concert I am performing at the Kennedy Centre later in October. It is part of the Barbara Cook Spotlight Series so I better be good! My friend Barbara has her name on this one and she won't like me screwing it up!! Not that she will care much as she will be too busy celebrating the fact the she is to be bestowed with a Kennedy Centre Honour this year… Many congratulations to her. Truly well deserved. And too damn long in coming!
So. We are up to date.
What's your news. You can tell me all your summer stories and plans for the Autumn by writing to me at: email@example.com
I look forward to hearing from you…
A New Years Greeting
saturday 31 december 2011
Happy 2012 !
May it bring you much joy and many successes.
All my love,