"Call me Ishmael"
I type hunched in the back of a volkswagen van on the autobahn in between Coburg and Hamburg, touring in Germany with a paired down version of the Lisa Canny Band. This means just the 4 of us: myself, Lisa, Tod and Niall. We're playing Lisa's original music and some Irish traditional songs & instrumental tunes.
Lisa is a former all-Ireland champion on banjo, harp & voice, she's a fair 'beasht' capable of putting on a show anywhere or anytime. She also raps and sings like.. well, imagine a princess lamenting her lost love at the climax of a Disney movie, sung by Mariah Carey. Lisa tells a great story and the Germans absolutely love her - although audience faces often don't give much away right up until the moment of thunderous applause.
I'm on keys/piano, acoustic guitar and backing vocals, and sometimes at the edge of my comfort zone (which is a good place to be as an artist to be fair) which is particularly felt after not playing much. More on the tech another time.
We've been here just over two weeks, playing about 12 gigs so far, another 15 to go. It's full on with a gig almost every day; there's a lot of sitting, then hurriedly assembling gear for sound-checks, hastily eaten meals and a rake of beers, unpacking and repacking for the next day. We might drive north to south, French to Austrian border in one day. The roads are good.
Germany is a fantastic country, systematic, logical, pretty, optimistic, sometimes funny, passionate and often very funny. Daily misunderstandings are good fun. We find that they often interpret the Irish need to keep a conversation flowing as an opportunity to get stuck in the mud on how you could do a thing better or quicker. My two months of daily German tapes helped get through a few situations but I'll need about two years to be able to keep up.
German sound engineers are a curious bunch - one night they will happily put you in your place for setting up your gear in a certain way, the next night another will contradict the first lad. They are usually right in some sort of way and also wrong in a dogmatic kind of way. Humility is rapidly becoming the most important quality on tour, flexibility the second.
Gigging after corona has made me think that we have all put up boundaries and our instinct to survive has blocked potential light entering. We have to remove some of those boundaries one by one and music is a way to do that, as it catches you off guard and delights you despite your best efforts. I still find myself assuming the worst just as a natural reaction to the daily onslaught of negative information and unpredictability that the past year & a half thrown up. If you have any ideas about dismantling these boundaries I'd love to hear them.
I sent my finished mixes to master last week from this same spot in the van - in common parlance this means my album is almost done. Yeay! I'm considering calling it 'White Whale' in a nod to Moby Dick, in a nod to my 16th century Dutch ancestors who were whalers.
Messy business it was, but fascinating considering they would voyage for 2-5 years, returning home with whale oil that would go on to power the industrial revolution and thereby end any need to hunt whales, though unfortunately that didn't happen until much later, anyway, I digress - there's a nice metaphor in there for the blind ambition of captain Ahab and the madness of the creative struggle.
I've been working on a playlist of songs that influenced the songs on White Whale that you can check out here
Here are a few shots below from our gig in Graben by a nice man called Hans.