Josienne Clarke Live at Bush Hall, London 19.11.19

Last night, Josienne Clarke assembled a dream cast of accomplished musicians & performed to a packed house at Bush Hall in London. It’s a lovely venue, beautifully faded but with attention to detail in all the right places. It has a wonderful sound system. Roland, the guy who comes & sets up tables & runs the bar is there to make it as good a night as it can be. The owner was there early to make sure everyone had what they needed & genuinely cared that it went well. The security bloke was just the right amount of friendly & terrifying. The sardonic girl on the door wouldn’t have let in anyone not on the list. It was a textbook load in & setup.

The band were total professionals & (according to someone who shall remain nameless..) total babes, so really, what’s not to like? Mary Ann Kennedy, who was going to play the harp, couldn’t make it as she wasn’t well. I am hoping her & Josienne will plan another show for sometime in the future… anyone else think thats a good idea?

Immy from Green Note, who was promoting the event, was gleeful to be involved from the start and her excitement shot the whole thing through with an infectious vein of delight. Thanks for everything, Immy!

It was beautiful to see so many friendly faces & loads to meet so many folks I know but had not met face to face before – I’m sorry that I didn’t get time to have an actual conversation with anyone, but I know you could all see that I was headless chickening 🙂

I spent the evening tweeting, instagram living, ferreting around, loading in, carrying things, making sure there was someone manning the merch desk – though, usually there wasn’t – I thought everyone would want to buy things at the end, but no, you wanted to buy things all night! Thanks to the folks who helped out selling & thanks to everyone who grabbed a CD, record or book. You are appreciated. I also tuned guitars, took photos, held microphones, retuned guitars, and generally looked encouraging. Josienne played two sets, so there were lots of low-level things to do.

The first set was some old classics of hers and a few new ones, then, in the second set, the band played the whole album. The encore was a Sandy Denny cover, ‘The Sea’ and then she finished solo with a new original called ‘Unbound’.

It was a beautiful evening. I’ve lived inside of Josienne planning & executing this, and I have to say, even writing about it now is kind of hard. I tweeted this from the side of the stage last night:

“can you see, it was always her, there never was anything else, she just can’t tell you that, but I can. last time i saw her sing Chicago in front of an audience, she was broken & now she is not, I am sat at the side of the stage shaking with pride…”

I don’t think I can say it better than that without being more explicit than I can be. You saw her. You know. It was perfect.

Thanks for coming, everyone. I’m humbled by it & I know just how deeply grateful Josienne is for you all, too.

Here’s my night in roughly chronological order…

My Video for ‘The 1970s’ by Paul Mosley

I made another video, this time for Paul Mosley, premiered by Folk Radio UK.

Paul asked me to make the visuals to accompany his beautiful song, ‘The 1970s’ from his album ‘You’re Going To Die!” From the first bar, it’s a show-stopping driving song that I’d put on a playlist next to ‘Thunder Road’ by Springsteen in a stuttering heartbeat, so I felt an immediate connection with it. That made the task of doing it justice a little disconcerting, but Paul had the core of a concept of what he was after and we worked it out from there.

Firstly, I filmed his band, The Red Meat Orchestra, as they rehearsed for the launch show for the album at a London studio. A photogenic bunch, they are, so this was an easy one!

Here’s a couple of my shots from the launch show, I was too busy with other things to shoot that night properly, but these give you a flavour…

Then, we arranged a location shoot in the Midlands for the following week. It’s a long song, I had over six minutes of story to tell, which was a fun challenge. Paul entertained the idea of making a single edit, but I think that would have been a shame & having seen the footage, I was convinced I could do the full song justice.

The lyrics really say it all. Sometimes, you just wanna sing along with the saddest song on midnight radio. Paul describes the song best himself, his words & the way his memories seem to work for him are so similar to mine. How thrilling to hear your own self described back to you. Paul says this stuff so we don’t need to.

“This whole album (‘You’re Going To Die!’) is about grief although it’s oddly up beat. Grief does funny things to your sense of time; lots of looking back but your memories are changed by the new knowledge of the loss. When I think of my mother’s life now, I think the heart of her story, when she was the most herself, is in the 1970’s when I was only small and my siblings were all at home. We often seemed to be in the car, at night, as a family. Somehow that’s the snapshot I have of her and us as our most together.
 
“Josienne Clarke is one of my favourite people. I wrote the part of “Delores’ in my folk opera ‘The Butcher’ especially for her and brilliantly she stuck around to be a full member of the Red Meat Orchestra alongside Jack Harris and ex-Mediaeval Baebes Esther Dee. ‘Sometimes you just want to sing along to the saddest songs on midnight radio’ felt like a very Josienne thing to sing – and as ever she brought an intelligent melancholy to it that I love.”

So, we needed to be moving. Reminiscing. Remembering. Not dwelling, stressing, or living in the past. A trip down memory lane, but with eyes facing forwards into the misty light, whatever it may bring. It’s a brave & bold song, firm, resigned & I wanted my video to do that, too.

So we got in a car and drove about ’til the light ran out & everyone went home. Here’s a couple of stills from the video, and then the main attraction.

I won’t analyse what it all means. Who is where & why. Who leaves & when. Where they are going. What they find when they get there. It’s just a journey. There is a reason & a destination, a point to it all. I hope it shows Paul’s vast internal well of humanity & the sheer size & weight of his beautiful soul.

You can stream ‘You’re Going to Die!’ here though I’d recommend buying it on Bandcamp here – if you’re quick, you might even get a free balloon like in the video! Are you team red or team yellow?

Thanks for reading, please do share, follow & ask me if you’d like to work together on whatever it is you are making, I would love to help.

Making The Cover Art for ‘In All Weather’

On April 22nd 2019, celebrated music photographer Cat Stevens visited the Isle of Bute & spent the best part of two days shooting Josienne for the cover of her new Rough Trade LP ‘In All Weather’, out on November 8th 2019.

This is the end result…

Here’s a small gallery of other shots Cat took that are being used in press or on the inner sleeve of the album or singles.

There’s plenty of other stunning shots that Cat took. I hope they make it out into the world on a future release or poster or something because they are truly brilliant, but I can’t share them yet, because they’re not mine to do that with. Do make sure you visit Cat’s website & instagram. She is one of the truly great music photographers, she wrote the rulebook, defined a look for a generation.

Something that IS mine to share, though, is the results of the location scouting that Josienne & I did ahead of the shoot with Cat. JC had a really clear idea of what she wanted. That blue of the album sleeve? You can see how that’s the colour of the skies over the island, which is where the album was written & kind of what it was written about. She knew that from day one, we looked in B&Q for a card of that colour, but really the answer was just copy it from the sky.

She imagined herself partially submerged by the ocean, at once inside it and on top of it. Neither triumphantly emerging nor being drowned, just, existing alongside it, both her & it simply being what they are.

She described a hazy, clean, blue-grey horizon. She talked about a wooden structure, and early on, described it made in the sand in driftwood, perhaps a boat, ruined then discovered.

Eventually, she realised that the world had done the work for her and that the ruined pier at Port Bannatyne could be an ideal location.

They say Bute used to be a popular holiday resort for the well-heeled travelling nobility of Scotland and accordingly, the island is littered with the tattered relics of a faded past, once a glorious seaside holiday destination to brag about, now ‘just’ a quiet, low-key island getting on with being itself. Nothing sad about it, though; Bute changed and carried on existing, grew, adapted and seems to be thriving nowadays. If that isn’t a perfect image to backdrop Josienne’s inscrutable expression on the cover, then I don’t know what is.

She bought that red coat knowing exactly the shade that would set her against the sky, stand out from the landscape whilst standing right inside it.

And we explored that coastline for days, looking for the right place to make this image. We shot some tests & sat with Cat and a tumeric latte on the morning of the first day of the shoot. Here’s a gallery from our early excursions, exploring the shore & finding out how the sky would look. She didn’t have the red coat yet and we hadn’t realised how perfect the pier would be. We just tried a few different things.

Then we decided to try the pier out and this is what we found.

There’s a bloke who lives in Port Bannatyne called John Williams, he’s one of those perfect photographers, everything he does is beautiful & he shoots this pier a lot. I felt kind of cowed even going near it with a camera, in his backyard, but he’s a solid artist (you can buy a book of some of his best work from his twitter profile and I strongly suggest you do) and he did not seem to mind, so that was inspiring & empowering. Thankyou, John!

And you can see how close I came; no cigars for me but no shame either. A few different colour treatments & some better framing and technique & I’d be good to go.

Here’s one from the same day, Josienne found me in front of a perfect pantone 2717 sky in my christmas socks with Barney the ratcatcher sniffing for a different kind of treasure on the beautiful beaches of Bute.

And here’s the finished product. You can pre-order ‘In All Weather’ from Rough Trade Records & on Friday 8th November, it will be live, streaming on all platforms. So much hard love went into this piece of art. My own part was infinitesimally small but I’m so proud that I got to see it happen & I hope you enjoy listening to & looking at it as much as I do.

Josienne Clarke and Luke James Williams at Paper Dress Vintage.

Spent yesterday at the beautiful Paper Dress Vintage shop in Hackney. It’s a clothes shop next to a chicken shop with a venue upstairs. The decor is all Twin Peaks; Laura Palmer watches over proceedings from behind the bar like christ herself. Fucking London, full of brilliant places to go. Maybe I’ll play there one day, when I’ve finished writing this record. Things you think you want but if you get them, they’ll hurt you. Who knows.

Luke was up first. He’s one of those natural musicians, every time he opens his mouth it sounds terrific, whatever he does. His nylon strung guitars are tuned down, somehow, I think, or maybe not, I don’t know. He plays every song like a piano. Sickening. Look him up on Spotify.

Josienne played next. ‘Walls & Hallways’ was the highlight of her set. Maybe ‘Onliness’. It was a quiet one, the room was silent & still. These solo versions of precious songs are an unmade bed the morning after a night you might want to forget but you know you never will and I’m spending exactly as much of my life looking at her through a lens as I want to.

We had a long drive north afterwards so we missed most of The Little Unsaid set but from what I heard they’re an accomplished bunch of brilliant musicians.

Scroll down, look, I took some photos. This was my Canon 60d with a 1.2 50mm lens. It does some odd stuff but it’s a thrill to use. Drop me a line if you’d like me to point it at you.