Monday, 24 May 2010

The Wanderer fanzine about walking as featured in this month's Country Walking magazine

Firstly: I've not been doing much music lately and
Secondly: This post has nothing to do with music!

I've published a little fanzine about walking called The Wanderer. It had a glowing review in this month's Country Walking magazine but unfortunately they got both my name and URL wrong!

To rectify this I'm posting the real link wherever I can:

Anyway, if you fancy a good old read about walking and looking at some spiffing black and white photography you'll love this link:

Simon Parkin (not Simon Park)

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Tuesday, 22 December 2009


And so this is Christmas. Time to review my last year in music.

I've done quite a few open mic nights. That was a resolution I made last year: to do lots of open mic nights. It's been great practice but I'm starting to realise that I'm not that interested in them. They're not really showcasing my songs - you don't get long enough. And having to listen to all the other acts is tedious at best, confidence-shattering at worst.

My biggest achievement in 2009 has been the two Studio 106 gigs. They were both exactly how I wanted them to turn out: a good atmosphere and enjoyable for the performers as well as the audience. I think this is partly because most of the audience already knew each other and it was a friendly and supportive atmosphere. People were laughing with me (hopefully not at me!) when I went wrong on my songs. I definitely want to do more of these gigs and organise gigs in other places with the same ethos.

I finished another songwriting class in March. Songwriting classes were really useful. Mainly to have a place to showcase song ideas and to get feedback. I don't think I could really learn any more from the teacher even though she was very good at teaching. I just don't think songwriting can be taught that much. You can have a few pointers but then you just have to go and do it. And the only way to get better is to keep doing it.

I also met Sarah on the songwriting class and it's been great hooking up with her and playing music together. I want her to play more on my songs next year. I think her voice is perfect for my songs and I like it that she can play lots of different instruments. I'm desperately trying to write a song for the bagpipes for her to play and for me to sing.

I'd like to try and improve my voice next year, maybe with singing lessons. The last studio gig was a revelation in that it was the first time my voice didn't wobble with nerves. But still... it ain't great! I listened back to the videos Helen took of the night and my voice just isn't as good as it sounds in my head.

Next year I'd like to get my own recording set up. It's been great going over to Adam & Jayne's in Hastings to record but I'd like to be able to knock little CDs out quickly and cheaply. So I'm going to look into getting some decent recording equipment.

I'd like to carry on playing music with Annie but next year will also be the year of a new project that Brendan & Anjuli of The Great Indoors and Crack-A-Jack Crow are getting together with me playing bass. We haven't been able to get together for a rehearsal yet as we were snowed off last Friday. But I'm really excited about this project. I'll write more about this next year I'm sure.

The whole getting-to-Portland thing has kind of changed. I read recently someone saying that if you don't follow up on your plans straight away that they sour and I feel that has happened with my Oregon Bound idea. I'm just not that bothered any more. It's a shame that this blog is named Oregon Bound Music because it's actually turned out to be a nice way of keeping a record of my music-making progress and I don't want to abandon it just because I'm not so fussed about going to Portland any more. But you never know... things might change and I might get longings for West-coast America again. So, for now, Oregon Bound Music it is.

And that's it. My resolution will be the same as last year... do more music!

Monday, 14 December 2009


I've got an idea for a concept album. It's to do an album of songs based on birds. I've already got "All These Things" which is about a magpie/my girlfriend. And I've had an idea for a while to write a song using the metaphor 'as the crow flies'. I could write about 5 songs and have a cute little album.

I was worried that the songs I've made so far don't quite make an album because there's six of them. This is too much for an EP and not enough for an LP. I was thinking I had better wait until I had some more songs to complete it. But then, my new song, "All These Things", feels different to my other songs. So then it hit me: an album doesn't have to be ten songs long - and I don't have to call it an LP or and EP as I'm releasing it myself. I'm realising that I don't have to do anything in a particular way if I don't want to.

I'm under no pretensions: I'm not making a career out of this - I'm not good enough. So I may as well do things my own way. If I want to release a little CD of five or six songs then that's what I'll do!

This can be applied to lots of things in my music. I don't have to do pub gigs or gigs just to get exposure. I'm not bothered if my music is popular or not so I don't have to do any gigs if I don't want to.

I enjoyed the studio gig last week so much! And whenever I play at the open mic night it's just a bit of a let down. I want to push myself but there's really no need for me to do gigs that I don't enjoy. And realising this is very freeing. It's exciting! I can organise gigs in woods or in abandoned places.

I've just got to ask myself the one question: am I enjoying this?

These people from Múm are clearly enjoying it

Múm - Prophecies and Reversed Memories - A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

Friday, 11 December 2009


I organised another gig in my studio last night. It was great! Everyone said they really enjoyed it and that it felt very special.

I did five of my songs first. Usually my voice is all wobbly on the first couple of songs but I think I did alright this time. I felt nervous but I wasn't panicking. My fingers were something else though. They had a mind of their own but I managed to calm them down towards the end of the first song.

Sarah played on a couple of my songs too. She played glockenspiel and melodica on Grace Is Just Her Middle Name and it made it sound amazing! It really makes them into proper songs when you have someone else playing on them. Her backing vocals on The Lepidopterist were great too. I really like Sarah's singing voice and I think it goes really well with my songs.

Next Sarah played a couple of her songs with me on bass - great to hear Sarah playing her songs - they're quite heart-breaking - in a good way! Then I played guitar and bass with Annie who's voice sounded amazing in the small studio space. I always think we sound better when we're unplugged. It's just like our rehearsals - nice and relaxed and we're just enjoying playing the music. And that is the whole idea of these studio gigs.

Finally Anjuli played her songs with Brendan as Crack-A-Jack Crow. She's such a star! So professional. Witty and charismatic on stage, she played a beautiful set. My studio colleague just walked in as I was typing this and raved about Anjuli, saying how she was just stunned when she started singing and couldn't believe that someone this amazing was playing at Studio 106.

Anjuli kindly played The Rainbow Connection for me. Thanks! I love that song so much.

For an encore I was persuaded (twisted my arm, honestly!) to play bass on a Great Indoors song, Working Overtime with Brendan and Anjuli. I hadn't practiced it so it was a bit nerve-wracking but at the same time I know it so well I could just look up and watch Brendan and Anjuli singing.

Now I've just got to go and tidy up!

Friday, 27 November 2009


Completely inane, ambiguous questions from an interviewer receive lukewarm to openly hostile responses from a host of top musicians = internet gold!

I particularly like this interview with Ane Brun, one of my musical heroes. She looks so dismayed that she's being asked these questions! And when the interviewer opens the curtains behind her halfway through a question, she looks like she's going to walk out. Then he picks her up on a throwaway comment and interrogates her about it until she looks visibly uncomfortable.

Also a great moment when Laura Marling takes the wrong meaning of the interviewer's phrase "big albums". She gives an eloquent answer about albums that were big in sales and gives an insight into her influences – he corrects her and talks about the size of LP covers nowadays.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


I'm organising another acoustic gig in my studio in December. This time my friend Anjuli of Crack-a-Jack Crow is playing. Looking forward to that already. Now I just need to find someone else to play. Hopefully my friend, Sarah, who I met on the songwriting class, will play a few songs.

I met up with Sarah on Sunday to practice playing bass on some of her songs. Good fun! I always love playing music with other people. She's got some great songs too. And she did an amazing melodica solo on my song, Grace is Just Her Middle Name.

On Thursday my mate Bezz, who I've known since we were 12, is coming down to Brighton and we're going to see the Brand New Heavies. It's been one of my ambitions to see the BNH with N'Dea Davenport. She's gorgeous and really sets those songs on fire. Bezz got me into the BNH which led me to get into funk which led me to be a funk DJ in Swansea briefly so it's very apt that I'm going with him.

Thursday, 5 November 2009


Cover update: my girlfriend bought a copy of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole on VHS from a charity shop. It's a TV dramatisation of the book the was done in the Eighties. We out it on and I remembered the theme tune instantly. But I never realised what a great song it is! It's got a real bitter sweet feel to it.

I looked it up and realised it is by Ian Dury and that a full song has been made of it. Perfect cover material I think. I've found the chords online and had a quick play through last night and it sounds quite good done in my plinky-plonky guitar style.

The sequel, The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole, has got a different verse so I might use that one in my version too.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009


I'm chuffed with my new song. I keep going back on to MySpace to listen to it. I think it's very me.

I've bought myself a rhyming dictionary as I noticed when I was writing that song that I was getting stuck when thinking of rhyming words. I'm going to try using the rhyming dictionary next time to see if it helps.

But now I'm thinking about cover songs. I've wanted to cover a song for a while. I like it when a musician has just one cover song that they do really well. I heard my old band The Great Indoors again the other week and they did a version of The Rainbow Connection by Kermit the Frog. It was beautiful! I'd always thought that was a great song and Anjuli really did it justice. I didn't realise it has already been covered by quite a few people though. I think that's the main problem... finding a song that no-one else has covered. Plus you have to really like the song and have some sort of connection with it.

Anyway, I've been listening to Michael Hurley songs and I think they are ripe for the covering. I love The Tea Song as I think it's amazing to write a seven minute song about a cup of tea. My favourite line is "I don't care if she's left me/Just as long as the cupboard's full of tea". Amazing in it's simplicity. But, you know... that is what you do when someone leaves you or when you go through some big change in your life, drink endless cups of tea. But unfortunately I can't do those long notes and yodeling that he does in that song.

On the same album is Fat Mama, another beautiful song, which seems to have the same chords as a little chord sequence I've been playing with lately. So it'll either be that or The Werewolf Song - but Cat Power's done a version of that damn it!

Monday, 26 October 2009


I've finally written another song. It's only taken me six months. Listen to it on MySpace. It's called All These Things.

It's about my girlfriend. My girlfriend has moaned at me in the past for not having written a song about her. I said that my songs were all really miserable so she should take it as a compliment that I haven't written a song about her.

Anyway, I have finally written a song about her and hopefully it's not too miserable. She's a bit like a magpie so I wrote about that:

All These Things

Turning up stones to find her fare
Branches will bough in the air
Sparkles of gold
In all that she holds
Making a nest out of bright-coloured ribbon

Buttons and bones make stately homes
Red cotton reels catch her eye
Leaves that turn brown
Come fluttering down when she's
Making a nest out of bright-coloured ribbon
Making a nest out of bright-coloured ribbon

Black and white need colour
Take flight over
All these things

Porcelain trinkets make her sing
Carries them up on her wing
Odd-shaped and old
Bring treasure untold
Making a nest out of bright-coloured ribbon
Making a nest out of bright-coloured ribbon

Black and white need colour
Take flight over
All these things
All these things
All these things

Wednesday, 7 October 2009


Did another open mic at the Brunswick last night. Good fun! I was really not sure if I wanted to sing my own songs as I felt tired and unsociable and didn't really want a room full of strangers staring at me. I was just going to play guitar with Annie instead. But there were a few other acts that were about the same standard as me so I thought I would give it a go and I enjoyed it in the end. The whole worrying-about-a-room full-of-strangers-staring-at-me kind of went away as soon as I got on stage because, with the lights shining right at you, you can't see anyone anyway.

Annie asked the compere if it was bad etiquette if I went on again to play guitar with her and apparently it wasn't, so I did. That was good fun too. After our second song I looked up and most of the audience had left! The few that remained asked for another song and we obliged (with 'Another Song' - Annie's favourite on-stage joke!).

Someone came up afterwards and complimented me on Grace is Just Her Middle Name, saying she noticed the change in tense. Nice! Glad that someone's listening.

Me and Annie are talking about getting a little songwriting group together with the idea of meeting up every couple of weeks and sharing songs that we've come up with. But now I've started my scriptwriting class and that's going to take up a lot of time. Hopefully I'll have a bit of time left for songwriting.

Monday, 14 September 2009


Oh dear! Songwriting's dropped off a bit. I feel like I'm on the verge of writing a new song, but I've not put aside time to sit down and do it. I haven't written anything since my songwriting class finished in March. Not having that deadline on a Friday night to write something for has meant I just haven't found the motivation. Booo!

Anyway, I met up with Annie again last week to go through some of her songs. It's been a while. Really good to be playing music with her again and she came up with an idea to get a little songwriting group together. We could all meet up every couple of weeks and present a song to each other. And then we could set ourselves new songwriting briefs. If we can get this together it would be fanastic! A perfect way of replacing (expensive) songwriting classes and a great motivation for writing new songs.

Friday, 24 July 2009


I'm woefully out of practice with playing my songs. My girlfriend was out last night so I had a run-through of my songs. It was such a disappointment! I've had Fleet Foxes songs going round in my head lately and I think when I imagined being on stage that's the sound that came out. But I'm nowhere near that standard. I mean, I never will be, but I'm sure I was better than this!

It's made me realise that I need to keep up the practice regularly. It's like my garden: if you leave it too long the slugs get it.

Monday, 6 July 2009


I got together with Sarah who I met on my songwriting class on Saturday to do some music. We've been meaning to have a musical get together for ages, since the songwriting class finished in fact. Now Sarah's totally inspired by Glastonbury to get going with the music. Sarah, incidentally, used to be lead singer in Headmix. Anyway, she's got some great songs and I really like her singing voice and I'm looking forward to doing more music with her.

I think my electric bass will suit some of her songs so it'll be great to get that out again. My fretless acoustic bass has annoyed me ever since I bought it. It's great to have that slightly-double-bass sound and to be able to slide up and down. But it's cheap and rattles and goes out of tune and it's hard to get the right note and it's got a cheap-looking, holographic effect ring round the soundhole. Or maybe I'm blaming my tools as the person who recommended it plays one to great effect in The Bohemia Ukulele Band.

So I dug out my electric bass yesterday and it's been so long since I played it it had actually gone mouldy! The strap was covered in white spores. Anyway, I just need to take my bass amp back home (it's still here at my studio after the studio gig in May) and I'm away.

In other news: I went to the Willkommen Collective's mini-festival in Stanmer House last night. Fantastic! Such a great venue, out in the beautiful grounds of Stanmer Park. Well done! Best of the night was Pete Roe.

Monday, 29 June 2009


My latest obsession is for the first song on the Wickerman Soundtrack. A little hunt around the internet tells me it's called The Highland Widow's Lament sung by Leslie Mackie. Anyway, it's composed as a drone. I've always thought that drone songs are boring but this one is truly beautiful. It's also memorable, which again, I didn't think would be possible with a drone note running right through the song. From what I can hear it's just on one chord. Amazing!

I usually spend a long time working on intricate chord-changes as I think that's what gives my songs their interest. But now I'd like to set myself the task of writing a drone. I know a bagpipe player too who would be great to collaborate with.

As it's on one chord the song could also be sung acapella, something else I've wanted to try.

I just have to write the damn thing now!