I write this from a quarantined attic room, seeing out my coronavirus isolation sentence with my trusty cellmates; partner Max Read and Little Max the dog. It might not be how I saw my year ending, but all in all, I regard myself as one of 2020's more fortunate survivors…
What do I mean by that? Well, luckily for me, various factors have worked in my favour this year. For one thing, my delayed album release actually ended up leading to a bit of good timing, allowing me to bring out new music at a time when creating revenue from touring was completely impossible. Plus, in reaction to the effects of Covid on the music industry, I’ve been blessed with a boom in support from a close circle of music followers who have taken more action than ever in subscribing to things such as Patreon, transforming my very uncertain career into something a little more sustainable. For that I am very grateful!
I began typing this immediately after filing my 2019-20 self-assessment tax return. I can think of no better task to remind me of my apparent poverty throughout recent years. But thankfully, 2020 seems to have turned things around for me a bit. I’m still living hand to mouth, but at least I finally managed to pay off that bloody credit card after God knows how long. Ah, the modern-day Music Biz!
I guess one of the biggest pastimes we’ve all missed this year is enjoying live music. I had no idea how much I’d miss it until it was taken away from me. And to think, 2020 was supposed to be the busiest year of gigging my career had ever seen. Ambitious full band audio-visual shows in theatres, acoustic sets, fronting Zio… I even had a gig singing for Oliver Wakeman lined up. I barely had a weekend free - just what I’ve always strived for!
All the live-streaming in the world can’t compare to being there in person – although it’s still better than nothing, and I’d rather perform to you through a camera than not perform at all. In fact, with Max’s help, we’ve managed to really start upping our game in the digital department. Praise be to Max Read, God of Tech!
But I have a confession… You could say, pre-pandemic, that my outlook on shows was becoming a little negative over time, gradually forgetting why I got into performing in the first place. To explain… For the most part, when I do a show, it's a lot of work just to break-even, and in the past this has caused me great financial stress. None of us got into this ‘business’ for the money, so it’s a depressing reality that money can become such a concern. A gig is more than just that one evening of entertainment. It’s months of planning, practice, creative work, marketing… Everything else can easily get neglected. And then the day of the gig itself can be full of crippling pressures and anxieties (often self-inflicted).
However, there’s a reason I’ve always put myself through that, and this past year has reminded me what it was. Performing to an audience of real-life people feeds my soul. Making other people happy makes me happy. It’s more than just having the chance to express myself – on its own that’s not enough. What’s really important is whether or not that expression resonates with other people. Only then does it have any value. Only then have I achieved what I set out to do.
So, as I said to the socially-distanced audience at October's show in Birmingham: “I’ve never been happier to be on stage!” From now on, live performances will always be something I look forward to, never something I fear. If it’s not fun, it ain’t worth doin’, amiright!?
I end this year feeling extremely positive. Less stressed, more creative, and more than ever I know who I am and what I want out of life. It’s great to feel that passion and drive returning to me. I always knew it was still inside me somewhere, just a little dimmed. Fun fact: The next album will reflect the way I feel now, not the way I felt.
Thank you, all of you, for relighting my fire with your belief, kindness and support.
Love you always,