It has been a year and three days since I got back from the desert and started to rebuild myself in Berlin. Looking back it has been a beautiful year. I have truly fucking lived. Gone from my highs to my lows and savoured every single day and season. I suppose a year in reflection would start something like this....
When I got back - I was a mess. I had no self confidence and was missing my busking and travelling partner. I was drinking so much and really trying to crack my voice – singing old Louis Armstrong songs at midnight in the U-bahns with some Kotti hash and a few pilseners for a few coins was my routine. I preferred it when there was no one there. When the U-bahns are quiet it is bliss. And then, when people approach from the departing trains you feel more conscious that you are playing for people. What I really needed was a place to practise and sing my heart out and that was to come, but before that were a few months of doubt, decadence, desperation and then deliverance.
My friend Linda always hosts these wonderful Spring parties on her beautiful terrace in Prenzlauer Berg (A very hip and lovely part of town where Mauer Park is). I think it was about May that I showed up slightly late as I had a slight diversion to Kottbusser Tor and when I arrived as usual was greeted and met by a beautiful and eclectic bunch of Berliners. I told stories and ate burgers roasted ravishingly under a Spring-time sky.
I met a guy called Philip who plays the cajon and we ended up having a great jam with a guitarist that night. He tuned in to all the songs and really lifted them with passion. The guitarist who joined us was adding a great touch also, though slightly unable to keep up with the changes it was a great sound, and after playing for a few months on my own in the U-bahns, it felt so wonderful to jam with people again. Phil and I kept in touch and I said he should come and join me busking at the markets.
His job is not only to play Cajon, but also to book and arrange gigs at Markets! We did a lovely busk at the market and not only was he great at playing the orange box, he had a great drive and momentum that I really appreciated. He would urge us to go further inside and play at certain spots, which we did and did great with. He believed in me and us and it was a great lift to my spirits. With his Market connections he arranged us a handful of well paid gigs at the road show he organizes. I felt if we could get a good guitarist, we could make a great show. I was only about to meet the best guitarist in the world.
I posted an ad on Craigslist (as you do) saying I am forming an old Folkswingblues band am looking for a versatile guitarist who can join us for these approaching gigs. Louis Fernandez got in touch and we met for a beer at Boxhagenerplatz. Sometimes you feel you meet people that you have known your whole life but have never met before. We had a great chat and I told him to come and join us busking this Friday night. A fight broke out behind us by a couple of junkies so we watched the show and then parted ways.
So the three of us busked that Friday for the first time and Louis astounded both of us. I didn’t even tell him the chords and changes and he just tuned in straight away and added such sublime sophisticated solos and not only that but all these chord phrasings that just lifted and complimented so much the energy we had between us. I think we made about 6 euroes each, but all three of us went away feeling like we had had a great jam.
We busked and gigged all that summer and I had pockets full o geld like you wouldn’t believe. We had a great chemistry between us and Louis was playing such dirty solos that we really stood out and sounded fucking great together. I was cracking my voice so well and really expressing myself purely and happily. It was a great time. After a few months of playing together and bonding so well, Louis had to go back to Canada for a few months and though I was a bit sad and missing my busking brother it was the start of truly finding myself.
I felt I needed a band to play shows and busk the markets, I was dependant on other people to carry me through and just let me do what I do. I was on the verge of going to Amsterdam just to stay in the gardenhouse and have some space on my own to write songs. On the day I decided to go, something wonderful happened. I found a studio/rehearsal room in the East where I could make it my own and sing all day and night. It was a few days before Louis left and so for the next few months I would lock myself away, singing, writing and practising all day and night.
The effort I was putting in was showing. I would go busking and get a crowd around me, come back with pockets full of geld and really feel great about how I was singing. I was starting to hand make every CD with a different drawing and was using my time so productively. I had found something in myself that in the Spring I was looking for, a confidence and belief in what I was doing. It was now approaching September and Louis would be back soon.
He got back and we hit the busking hard. Mostly the U-bahns, but sadly the Cajon was just too loud for the U-bahns and we lost Phil. But it was his belief in us and drive that really built and brought us all together and gave me such a lift in my spirits that I will always be grateful for. Louis and I became a solid duo making great hatfuls and selling lots of CD’s and getting crowds and fans. He came down to record some guitars on a few tracks I had recorded and completely changed them. His layers of guitar are like classical compositions; so intricate, so brilliant and so classy.
Winter came and things got colder. But God bless him, Louis would still show up for the busking with a great attitude. Nose dripping with snot as he solo’s his socks off. It was a pleasure to get through the cold season with him. We got so tight with the chemistry between us and he would put such a smile on my face when he would never cease to amaze me with his solos and chord phrasings.
I went home for Christmas and had a lovely time catching up my dear Mother, Brother and Sisters and nieces and nephews and everyone. I ate a lot of gravy coated cuisine and drunk lots of ale and Yorkshire tea and Scotch Whiskey. It was a nice time and then I got back to Berlin. I busked on my own mostly for the first few weeks making some nice geld and then I go and burn my foot and am bed ridden for nearly a month!
I recovered and have since been getting ready for this beautiful approaching Spring. My dear mate Jon has joined us on bass and we have a great trio together. I am a bit in debt with the rent for the studio and owe a bit of money out, but am not worrying. We are reaching the light at the end of the tunnel and the good season approaches. (Even though it fucking SNOWED today) There were lots more lovely things that happened last year, but this will do as a part one. The new year begins in Spring!!!!