New Year’s Day and Epiphany are both rapidly fading in the rear view mirror so I suspect I’ve missed the window for a 2014 retrospective. Probably for the best, retrospectives tend to be more for the writer than the reader, it’s a way to get a sense of closure on a year whilst simultaneously smuggling out old news under the guise of new writing.
So rather than posting a month by month roundup of events I’ve opted for a sort of existential belch. A pause, a glance over the shoulder, a deep breath and then a continuance.
For me 2014 was a good year on paper but one that left no lingering sense of satisfaction. The Bedlam Six released what most of us deem to be our best work yet (the album “Youth” – available here); it received good reviews from both crowds and critics before disappearing down the plughole of cultural indifference without leaving so much as a ripple. It’s fine, that happened to Tom Petty’s new album too. Later in the year we played some relatively impressive shows across the UK, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Austria and Italy, most were healthily attended, many sold out (a few were the opposite but they probably clashed with football matches or something, right?). A more zealous PR man than I would have polished it all up into a big glistening progress-shaped press release but it all felt rather same-old-same-old and I couldn’t help notice my knees were starting to hurt after the nightly power slides. So we promptly disbanded to nurse our wounds and look quizzically at our respective bank balances.
My favourite moments of 2014 were those that took place out of my comfort zone. I joined the newly-formed Live Performance Committee at the Musicians’ Union, became a radio presenter on Fab Radio International and accepted an invitation from Tom Robinson to join his team of moderators at Fresh On The Net. All three of these new positions have done wonders for invigorating my sense of the greater music scene. Context can be a terrifying thing, but it also enriches our understanding and appreciation of everything we decide to view as important.
In other news I shaved off my trademark moustache during a photoshoot with Manchester legend Karen McBride. It kind of made sense at the time, when I first grew the thing in 2008 moustaches were artistic shorthand for “loser” and “deluded throwback” – stereotypes that suited the angry little narrator of my Bedlam Six songs. Now they’re synonymous with cereal cafes, beanie hats and tumblr, I’m not sure the look really chimes with my thwarted little protagonist. Maybe I’m just over-thinking it. I did a lot of over-thinking in 2014.
So, looking ahead… I think the main thing I want to continue in 2015 is the attempt to keep eroding all the “industry” bullshit that everyone seems to think is so essential to our everyday lives as musicians, putting up pointless walls between audience and artist in an attempt to make the latter feel more authentic. At the label we began an ongoing project of public recording sessions whereby we’d put together tracks in full view of anyone with a passing interest in the process. We also started holding Bedlam Socials where we’d just let our audience know when we’d all be in the pub at the same time so anyone who fancied it could come over and say hi without having to buy a ticket to a gig or negotiate a website contact form. I know, it’s not exactly the fall of the Berlin Wall but it’s a gesture of sorts. So, yes, more of that sort of thing.
As for new projects, I’m currently recording a solo album that should be out in Spring (NB I tend to say “Spring” when talking about things that aren’t finished yet – it always seems so far away when one is shivering in the Winter chill, so infinitely achievable… it’ll probably be out in the Autumn really) and there’s a musical I’m about a sixth of the way through writing (I hope to finish that this year but as for when it might ever see a stage, who knows). And there’s a novel. But there bloody would be wouldn’t there? Don’t hold your breath for that. I’ll also continue writing songs for people with better voices than mine (that’s a pretty wide net I’m casting there) because my single greatest joy of 2014 was hearing Snowapple sing the song I wrote for them. Hopefully something similar will happen again this year.
Anyway, I won’t say “here’s to 2015!” because it’s probably high time to just get on with the damn thing.