I’d heard rumours, through Jim O’Rourke, a young friend and communicator of mine. I had young fans and friends over in the USA. There were strange little tidbits coming through to me. I thought that it was something nice happening somewhere, because sometimes, nice things happen anyway. Then, almost imperceptibly, things moved into a different gear. I’d obviously forgotten about what it was like to be young.. well.. I hadn’t, because no matter how old I get, I’ll still be young, but there are degrees, and when you’re young and really vibrant, things can happen really quickly. Suddenly I was reading a Grauniad article about Joanna Newsom, and I read it twice, because Jim had told me that she thought highly of my work.
I listened to her records. There was something sublimely attractive about them, and their aim was deep. Then there was a perceptible build up to an invite to play The Royal Albert Hall with her the following year. I accepted not knowing what to expect. I was curious more than anything else. When I got there, there was a big harp and a few chairs on the stage. I re-acquainted myself with the old building again.. wandered around, front and back. It doubles as the English Nation’s Village Hall, and I sat in the empty auditorium soaking in it for a while. I was thinking about where Rudyard Kipling might have sat when there was some movement stage right. This was joined after a few minutes by a delicate and beautiful young woman. She was instantly recognisable. After her first few verses of music, I realised that it was going to be hard to take my eyes off her. The sounds she was making belonged to another world. It was obviously her world, an exotic dreamscape with womanly edges. I was impressed.
Then we met, and things changed. Immediately. I recognised what a potent mix she is as a human being, and I was enchanted. On the night, I played my favourite record for her, and she was truly delighted. So was I. I came over from Ireland again when she played a beautiful concert at Somerset House, and we spent an hour exchanging worlds with each other. I left with my faith in humans elevated, and feeling grateful for her friendship. In the meantime, I’d visited Tokyo, where Jim O’Rourke had mixed a concert of mine at my request, and we’d spoken enthusiastically about her.
I hadn’t thought about much of this for a year, except that Joanna is one of the few things I listen to when I visit the computer. Then I received an email from her record company in January asking me whether I wanted to do a tour with her. I’d kind of retired. I’d thought that I’d come to the end of the road gigging. I was being more inspired by nature than by song-writing, and I hadn’t really thought about playing to people again. Ever.
I thought about it for a while. Did I really want to gig again? I seemed to be letting it slip.. 10 days passed. Then I got a bit depressed thinking that if I didn’t do it I’d be letting both of us down. I got in touch again to see if it was still on, and received a really lovely note back from Joanna saying that she’d be honoured to have me on board. I was happy again.
This is something I really want to do. She inspires me, and I think it must be mutual. The fact that she’s un-retired me, and makes me smile, is something I’m only just beginning to think about. What next!?
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