How on earth is it May? May 2022.
How are you?
How are you, specifically? It's Mental Health Awareness Week. Which often means absolutely fuck-all once the it's OK to feel Not OK platitude-without-actual-support brigade grabs the reins of the hashtag.
If you are feeling rotten, or hopeless, or worthless, or out of control, or sad beyond words, then you are not alone and there is someone out there who wants to, and can, help you.
If you're in the UK you can call Samaritans on 116 123 24hrs a day, and the Scottish Association for Mental Health has information and resources here.
If it makes you feel any better, I have been trying to look after my own mental health whilst doing all this album promo, gigs, other work, family stuff, and being a present partner, by cycling loads, eating healithy and sleeping when I should - but I'm currently sitting on the couch comfort-eating bourbon creams, salt and pepper crisps and feeling sorry for myself. I'm tired. My back's gubbed and my brain is not releasing enough of that sweet serotonin. Or dopamine. Or both. Look, am no a neuroscientist. Today was a struggle. I've felt flat and uninspired for a few weeks now.
I'm very much looking forward to getting back on to a stage in front of the good people of Irvine and Stirling this weekend. I will have shaken this off by then. They're full band shows. Doctor theatre.
April was a good month. It kinda disappeared though. I started the month by heading to Kyle of Lochalsh to do a show at Skye Bridge Studio. Actually, that's not entirely true - I started the month, the morning of the Skye Bridge gig, sat in my doctor's surgery with a severe case of what I had self-diagnosed as Fat Haun. I'd a big red and swollen hand. My doctor tells me it's a Tendonopathy or Tendinitis. The best way to address this would be to stop whatever was causing it. Unfortunately what is causing it, is playing the guitar, so my doctor doesn't suggest a career change. I get some gel called Movelat and I start singing to myself "I like to Movelat" sort of to the tune of I Like To Move It by Real 2 Real Ft. The Mad Stuntman. The syllables don't scan but I keep at it all the way to Paisley where I pick up Linzi Clark who is joining me for a couple of shows on BVs and playing her own opening set. She's not into my new analgesic-themed tune. We have a vegan square slice and tattle scone roll (from Meadow Road in Partick) and then head towards our first show across the water from Skye. It's a wonderful drive, one of which I do the majority quite often on trips to Ardnamurchan. I start singing "I like to Movelat" in my head to the tune of a bridge of a Girls Aloud song I can't quite place for most of Glencoe. It fits way better. Totally scans.
We get out on Rannoch Mor and get some pictures and videos for Hashtag Content. Content is a fucking pain in the arse, let me tell you*. I like writing this. I like playing shows. I like eleasing records. But I absolute hate seeing my big stupid face in pictures or in 26 frames a second. Please, no. I can barely cope with having a corporeal form some days. At least Twitter might go tits up soon because Mr Inherited Apartheid Gemstone Fortune has bought it and will run it into the ground because of his shitty ideas and incredibly thin skin. I digress. Linzi is good at encouraging me to Just Get On With The Photos. We stop in the Marks and Spencer foodhall in Fort William to get some Veggie Percy Pigs and Colin the Caterpillars. Markies have stopped doing the really good Colins though. You know the ones.
We visit Eilean Donan Castle as we've made good time. Y'know - the one in Highlander. It's Sean Connery's gaff in Entrapment. You may have seen Pierce Brosnan kicking about in it when taking a break from extrajudicial killings on behalf of the British Government in The World is Not Enough. It's a lovely castle like, but the museum is a bit too fond of the Queen and her shower of inbred hangers-on through the ages, for my tastes.
We get to Kyle of Lochalsh and check into our accommodation for the evening - Saucy Mary's just over the Skye Bridge. The venue is lovely and the performance space is great. It's a lovely evening. We get to meet podcaster-extraordinaire Shaun Nicholson of 4 Songs and a Dream-fame (of which Linzi and I have both done episodes). It's an odd experience to play a gig on the mainland and then stay on an island, and Mary's was not nearly as debauched as the name suggests. The bar was shut when we got back at 2215, due to us being out of season. Saucy, indeed.
The following night we were in St Monans, in Fife, at Futtle Organic. Fife is not a natural successor, routing-wise, to the Isle of Skye. We get ourselves a coffee and a granola for breakfast - self care when away doing shows is important - and we have them on a bench with a stunning view. We leave and go a rather eccentric route due to an accident closing a road. Topics of conversation included, but were not limited to: DIY touring; "everything's fucked isn't it?"; a disagreement and subsequent gaslighting about how to apply a hydrogel under-eye patch for reducing eyebags; and how most modern producers would suck the life, character and joy out of Gloria by Laura Branigan had it been recorded today. What a tune.
The five hours fly by, partially down to the fact that I have been extolling the heavenly delight of a spinach roll and fudge doughnut from Fisher and Donaldson in Cupar, lodging them firmly in our minds. We enjoy our bakery treats on the West Sands at St Andrews and Linzi regards me with bewilderment as I whisper sweet nothings to a pastry.
It's been a long time since I played in the East Neuk of Fife. It's sold out and it's a joy. Wonderful to see faces old and new. Lovely to hear Broken Chanter tunes sang back to me. I talk a lot tonight. Linzi encourages me to get it out of my system before the drive back West. Linzi is brilliant tonight - she's a witty, natural performer and a excellent songwriter.
Next up, is the Glad Cafe in Glasgow for a full band show on the 8th. It sells out, much to my relief. The nature of gigging in 2022 is pretty terrifying. Tickets are moving slow for a huge number of artists and we were at about just over half sold on the Monday before the show on the Friday. They sold solidly for the rest of the week and we were fine in the end. Are folk waiting to see if the artists or they themselves get COVID? Whatever it is, it's a pure whitey. I feel very lucky that I've not had to pull any shows due to low ticket sales post-COVID Restrictions yet. But it's a real worry. There's no point in me banging on about how great everything is, or how close things are to selling out if they're not. Please buy tickets for upcoming shows here. *cough*
Lesley McLaren is in the the hot seat for the first time tonight, staring at the back of my head while she rattles the drums most impressively. She's great. It's the first night as 'band' Broken Chanter that I've not had Audrey on a stage behind me, as she's been off playing with some nice boys from Austria, I think. She's there tonight in the audience, which is odd to see when I catch sight of her, and is probably tutting when I talk for too long. And I do spend quite a lot of time talking tonight. Don't worry though, Audrey Tait will return for Broken Chanter 3. Hauners 4 life. I'm really enjoying myself and having perhaps too much fun in between the music - if you encourage me, I won't shut it and get on with it. Also, I've clearly given up on tenses again, and I don't care. It was a really great night. Most of the band and some pals head back to my flat which is so very conveniently close to the Glad (dinnae stalk me) and we talk shite most enjoyably into the wee hours. Audrey compliments me on my biscuit choice from the all night garage and Charlotte coaches me encouragingly as I mix drinks for folk. A fine way to end a great night. Wild stuff, eh?
The rest of the month disappears into bandmin and some time resting up a destroyed foot from 5-a-side. It's time to retire from the beautiful game. In-law visits over easter up in Ardnamurchan provide a quiet break and I spend most of that time cooking or with my foot raised up, and reading.
A gorgeous new remix by Tommy Perman appears. Have you heard his version of Horse Island yet? If not, then bang it in your ears as soon as is convenient. Get it on your playlists. Tell a pal. Listen etc. here. It really is brilliant. Tommy's a talented fella. And a gent.
And finally, because I've started to go on a bit... The Broken Chanter Band is playing in IRVINE and STIRLING this week. Get yourself along if you're in the vicinity. Tickets for all shows from here.
So aye, look after yourself. Check in on your pals. Try and find constructive ways to kick back against the dystopia in which we find ourselves.
*I am very grateful for the good folk at Aimless Play