Sorry, this is going to be a long one. Get yourself a cup of tea before you start reading. I’m going to be asking for your help, but ONLY if you’re able and happy to give it. So many of us are struggling right now, and I know that there are a lot of competing demands for everyone’s generosity.
First of all, let me count my blessings. I’ve still got my health, so far. I’ve got my family around me, we’ve got a roof over our heads, and we’re surrounded by woods and fields where we can go for walks without getting into a car or meeting anyone else. We are fortunate.
But ... I’m still feeling blindsided. I’ve been a full time musician for over twelve years, and it was starting to seem like I was getting somewhere. I really thought that at the end of my 49-show spring tour I’d be able to pay off a big chunk of the debt that I’ve been building along with my career. Now 39 of those shows have been cancelled, and it could be a long, long time before things get back to the way they were.
It’s not just the money worries that are getting to me; it’s the loss of the magic that happens when a bunch of people are in a room enjoying music together, whether they’re listening to a concert or taking part in a singaround, session or choir practice. I miss that magic so much.
And I need to find a way to stay in contact with you — my friends and supporters — while I’m off the road due to the current situation. Live-streaming isn’t a solution for me; I’d never be satisfied with the technical quality, and more importantly, I don’t feel that the magic would be there. So here’s an idea:
If, as seems likely, lockdown restrictions start to be eased well before concerts become possible, I could move forward with a video/recording project that’s been on my mind for a while now: The St Buryan Sessions.
Nearly all my songs have changed and developed over the years since I first wrote and recorded them, and there are a couple of songs I’ve been performing live but never put on an album. I also feel that my recent concerts have reached a new level of energy and intensity that I’d really like to capture.
For the same dozen years that I’ve been making music for a living, I’ve been living just outside the village of St Buryan and singing in the choir of St Buryan’s lovely old church, parts of which date back to the 11th century. I feel so privileged to have been part of that, and would love to be able to give something back. I believe I can recreate the energy, focus and presence of a live gig by filming and recording “as live” — solo, no overdubs, no comps, no endless retakes — in this beautiful, inspiring space.
Mawgan Lewis, who made a gorgeous video of my song “The Tug Of The Moon” and documentary about the making of my last album, will be doing the filming, with assistance from Eden Sessions veteran Morgan Lowndes; my longtime manager and sound engineer Martin Stansbury will be doing the recording, and Phil Nicholls will be documenting the process. The material will be released initially as a series of videos to be rolled out one by one over the coming year, and ultimately as a full-length album to be launched, when all this is behind us, with a benefit concert for, and in, the church. I’d also like to donate a percentage of album sales to the church restoration fund; it’s such a magnificent old building, and needs to be preserved and maintained.
I’m really, really excited about this project. I think both the videos and the album have the potential to surpass, in quality, power and intimacy, anything I’ve done before. But I do need your help to make it happen. So I’ve set up a FundRazr campaign: see the link below for all the info and to make a contribution if you like. Anyone who donates at least £15 will receive a free copy of the album (postage included) when it’s eventually released.
The campaign is purely to cover the costs of making the videos and album, but I’ll need money to live on as well, and I do have other projects in mind that I could be working on while I’m off the road. I’d like to write some new songs and maybe put them out as a series of EPs; to write the long-promised sequel to my DADGAD guitar book, and/or a Sarah McQuaid songbook; to do more drawing, and possibly create animated or semi-animated lyric videos of songs from my last album.
But it’s hard to stay creative and focused when you’re panicking about paying the bills, and that’s where Patreon comes in. I’m hoping that by giving me a bit of financial stability in the form of a steady monthly income that I can count on, this lifeline of a platform will enable me to continue doing what I do best. At the same time, it’ll help me to stay connected with committed supporters who love my work and want to see and hear more of it, and that’ll be an even stronger incentive for me to keep creating. Your encouragement and feedback will be just as much of a help to me as your cash!
You might be struggling as much as or more than I am, or you might have already committed everything you can spare to other artists or to charities that are saving lives. But if you do feel able to give as little as £1 a month (or more if you can manage it), even if it’s only for a few months, I would be infinitely grateful.
My top priority is the FundRazr campaign for The St Buryan Sessions; I want to be able to get started on the filming and recording as soon as it becomes permissible, so that I can pay these talented pros for their work, put some much needed cash in their pockets and get some new music out there. So please contribute whatever you can to that, and then if you can also make a pledge to my Patreon campaign, that would be amazing. If you can’t, you still have my heartfelt gratitude for your support in the past. I hope we can meet down the road in happier times for all of us.
PS: Thanks so much to Devon-based photographer Alastair Bruce for the banner photo above, which he took in my garden way back in 2007 — the year I gave up my day job, became a full-time musician and moved to Cornwall. The photo below was taken by Jörg Detering in March at the Alte Molkerei in Bocholt – one of the last gigs I did before the rest of my spring tour was cancelled.