At our next gig on February 22nd we have the rather marvellous Travels By Telephone (aka Mr. Jamie Wilson) playing for us. So here’s a few words from the man himself to help you understand the machinations behind it all so you can fully enjoy the experience!
What’s your name and where do you come from?
Hello. My name is Jamie Wilson and I reside in a bungalow in York where I have removed most evidence of the modern age and replaced it with 1970s charity shop treasure/tat (any remaining evidence of the modern age has been covered over with wood-effect sticky-backed plastic). I was born in Wellingborough, and we moved to Leeds when I was very young, so the only vague recollection of Well-bro’ I have is sliding down the hollow innards of an enormous wooden snake (possibly an adder) in a shopping centre circa 1980. It was probably terrifying. Wikipedia has since informed me of the area’s agreeable geological qualities, when, in the predominantly agrarian medieval period, the combination of access to fertile, if flood-prone, valley bottom soils and drier hillside/ hilltop soils was favourable for a mixed agricultural base. Which is nice. Weirdly, the enormous wooden snake (possibly an adder), wasn’t mentioned
Have you always performed solo and isn’t that scary at times?
Up until a couple of years ago, I had always only performed solo; I’d been in bands, but we’d never got to the point where we got it together enough to play a gig. And it was always something I’d wanted to do, so now I have, and I am very chuffed about this. Playing solo live can be a tad scary sometimes, but nowhere near as much as the first open mic I played; I followed a very loud doom-folk duo covering Losing My Religion on an incredibly (but possibly not incredible) metal-sounding overdriven mandolin, which I couldn’t not hear from the cubicle within which I was hiding/honing my extensive deep breathing skills). And then I twiddled out some incredibly (but possibly not incredible) shy twee folk numbers. It was pretty hard work, but afterwards I felt like this was something I wanted to definitely do again (playing music live I mean, not hiding in the bogs and quietly freaking out, although that can sometimes have its moments too).
I have a stammer of varying proportions which obviously adds an extra degree of scariness of standing up in front of a room full of folks, but it feels liberating and makes me feel pretty amazing to not let it stop me do something I really want to do. It feels a bit like standing on a rocky cliff top on a very windy day and shouting your full name, and possibly a choice swear word or two inserted into your favourite self-affirming phrase, into a stormy swirling sea (if you haven’t done this before, give it a go; you might enjoy it). There’s been gigs where I haven’t spoken between songs as much as I would’ve ideally liked to because of it (on occasions this has probably worked to my benefit), but I don’t think I’ve ever stammered on stage. I think it’s important to recognise that there’s often a part of nervousness about a situation that’s actually excitement, and to shine your noggin-torch (technical psychology term) onto the excitement part and focus on that; it’s too easy to not do something that you’re nervous about, even if it’s something you really want to do. With that thinking, I’ve recently starting performing solo spoken word, and I love it a lot.
As far as the not-performing-solo goes, last year I wrote a spoken word and music show with York word-wonder wizard Henry Raby (‘Practise Patience’), which we’ve been touring together, and I played glockenspiel/keys/melodica/shaky egg thing/tambourine (and pretty much any other implement available from the musical instrument section of the Early Learning Centre) in Burial in the Sky. I really like the independence (and control, I guess) of playing solo, but I love the chum-factor and more-opportunities-for-messing-about of performing with others. There should generally be more-opportunities-for-messing about, always.
Tell us a bit about the gigs you put on in York? What do your neighbours think about bands playing in your lounge?
I’ve been putting on gigs as Owls Owls Owls for around five years- they are mostly unplugged, small, friendly affairs to help out folks on tour, and put on local folks also. I’ve been trying to avoid using typical ‘music venues’ as much as possible of late, so I’ve been putting on a few house shows, and using a church in town for the bigger ones. There’s a windmill nearby which I have my eye on, and I am still to organise that ‘summer evening picnic gig in the woods’ show I’ve been daydreaming of for a yonk. I’m conscious that the majority of gigs (in York, as with most places) feature all-male line-ups, and I always try to not perpetuate this. I also recognise that it is very important that as a ‘promoter’ I am responsible for doing what I can to make the show happen in as safe a space as possible, and I do my best to do that. My next door neighbours are really into the house shows which is helpful! They came to the Ghost Mice show, and bought all of the bands’ CDs. They couldn’t get a baby sitter for the last one, so asked me to see if everyone could play louder so they could listen through the wall. They are the best.
What other bands and artists are you into at the moment?
This last week I have very much enjoyed the exciting precarium of dancing around in my socks on a polished laminate floor to the new Wave Pictures record, and have recently developed an unrelenting enthusiasm for Sunchyme by Dario G (played at volume, it is a truly joyful and uplifting classic of our times which I had somehow previously regrettably overlooked).
Also, of late: Ravioli Me Away, The Lucksmiths, Night Flowers, Martha, Two White Cranes, and Ferret Legs are all a treat.
Top cake, book, poem and song at the moment?
Cake-wise: I am a large fan of That Old Chestnut’s peanut butter tiffin. It is a dream, and they will have a stall at the gig on the 22nd which is a fine example of a fantastical happenstance.
Book-wise: I’m currently reading ‘No-one Belongs Here More Than You’ by Miranda July. The idea of teaching people to swim in a non-water-based environment (a flat) is a very beautiful thing.
Poem-wise: ‘Love after Love’ by Derek Walcott.
Song-wise: Always ‘Higher and Higher’ by Jackie Wilson (the Musician one, not the My Mum one, although I reckon she could belt out a killer version of it also).