18 months ago, I was flying back from Australia after a 6-week tour around East Coast Oz. I was playing my own songs to new audiences and long-time fans, earning enough to pay my way around the country, record a new album, and head back to Scotland. COVID hit days after I got returned, and the globe plummeted into lockdown.
[Photo before the world went madder; taken by D.Clarke Photography at Selby Folk Club!]
A lot has changed for many of us since the pandemic hit. I heard the saying “We are all in the same storm, but not in the same boat”. I wonder how these last 18 months have been for you…
I have found good things and… hard things. Like every musician, my entire year of gigs vanished before my eyes, and with it, my income, purpose, and identity. But as I wondered what to do, I suddenly felt relief in what became a forced break from hectic and unpredictable international touring life. I was no longer hopping from country to country, sleeping (or trying to) in unfamiliar spaces, wearing my extroverted hat (when I’m really an introvert), being away from my wife, with long drives, poor diet, imposter syndrome, unstable income and anxiety (I’m really not sure what I thought was so glamorous about the rockstar life). COVID forced me to stop, take stock, and to try something else for while…
And that’s partly why you’ve not heard from me so much. Perhaps more will be revealed to you in the coming paragraphs…
JENNY BIDDLE, CHECK-OUT CHICK:
At the start of the pandemic, I got a job at a supermarket online groceries for online orders. Curve ball! It’s chalk and cheese from a music career, but there was something really grounding about doing a non-creative job that asked nothing of my soul, and being a key worker during an unprecedented time. Employees are given a mobile device with a list of items to pick, and the expectation is that you will maintain a certain “pick rate” (i.e. pick and pack X number of grocery items per hour). To liven things up, I turned “pick rate” into a real-life Candy Crush scenario, chasing speed and high scores… until my manager suggested maybe I should focus on picking the right items…
Rumour has it, a colleague substituted a Victoria sponge for a wash cloth… Awkward…
From there, I became a checkout chick, where I practised my “stage banter” in the hopes of one day returning to the stage…
WORKING FOR ARTIST, HANNAH LONGMUIR:
I’ve also been working for a talented artist, Hannah Longmuir, who draws nature-inspired art. I assemble her products and pack orders, and it feels inspiring and meaningful to be working for a independent artist/entrepreneur who is passionate about nature, all the while raising her two-year-old son! You can check out her stuff here, and if you order from her, leave me a hello note, as I’ll be packing your order with love.
The pandemic opened other interesting doors! Thanks to the wonders of technology allowing us to keep in touch with people, I’ve been teaching music online to students in Australia, Germany and UK. If 2021 is your year for music and you fancy lessons, I have availabilities for regular guitar lessons for all abilities, one-off lessons, songwriting sessions, beginner ukulele, and piano improvisation! The best part is, you and I can both stay in our pyjamas and jam across the globe, anywhere in the world via video!
Email me for prices: [email protected]
[Photo by Charlie Brown/Mountainside Photography when I used to have short hair…]
ALBUM: HOPING FOR A HERO
Somewhere amidst the pandemic, I released a new album called Hoping for a Hero (how apt for a title, as I currently sit in quarantine, yet again waiting for some sort of saviour…). As I discovered, a pandemic is perhaps not the best time to release an album, and most awkwardly, the word “mask” appears in my opening track (a pre-COVID lack of foresight…). Even if we are all held at a distance, I hugely appreciate your support and love for this album, and hope these songs have found a way to reach you. The songs came slow, over years of observing how we attempt to find happiness in our various, yet futile ways (eg. money, relationships, possessions, fame, Candy Crush, salted caramel popcorn etc). From my own experience, many pursuits lead to more pain and longing. This album attempts to find another answer, or another path. Whether the songs reveal that answer, I’ll leave that up to your interpretation. You can listen to the album on Spotify, Apple, and buy the CD with beautiful artwork by Ruth Thorp.
In other news…
If you watched my stop-motion video for Five Foot Tall and uncovered the surprise ending, you will know my wife and I were expecting a wee arrival this year…
Yes! My wife and I had a baby! We’ve kept a low profile on social media while we get to know our newest member of the family, and delight in her delighting in the world!
We named our daughter Willow! She is almost 5 months old now, and likes walks in the forest, blowing bubbles, and my improvised ukulele songs about poo. She teaches me gratitude, youthfulness, patience, and a whole new side to “creativity”. She fills my heart with a joy I’ve never known. Her smile is the best thing I’ve ever seen! Ever! While we don’t wish to share her face on social media (until she can make that decision for herself), I wanted to share a couple sweet moments with you.
And now, as parts of the world open up, gigs are on the horizon! After 545 days of no gigs, this September I will be doing my first shows in front of live audiences… Needless to say, I am terrified, but people keep saying “It’ll be like riding a bike…”. I can’t wait to share songs from the new album, to people in the same room!
Sending my fellow Aussie strength as they currently endure some of the toughest lockdown restrictions….
See you on the other side!