I hadn’t planned to return to the blog this evening, but it just happened. I’m acutely aware that haven’t posted anything on here for over a year. In fact, I haven’t looked at this site….or even wanted to look at it throughout that whole period. Returning this evening was like visiting an abandoned house that I once lived in; pulling back dust sheets and finding words and photographs that reminded me of a period that I’d all but shut out of my mind.
Roll back just two years and I was loving redwood. I’d spend as much time as I could working, hustling and generally enjoying being part of the folk scene. This site and it’s content were a reflection of that.
What happened? It’s obvious and cliched to say. When lockdown started in March 2020, I saw the music scene that I’d been part of just grind to a halt. Artists were scrambling to find any way to sustain their income. Venues were hurtling towards closure (some didn’t make it out the other side). While it provided something of a welcome break from what had been a fairly constant cycle of shooting and editing, I felt powerless to help the musicians who’d I become acquainted with over years of redwood. I donated wherever I could. I started to research how I might be able to support artists with high-quality live streaming. Then we went even further into lockdown where any kind of in-person work would have been impractical. I helped with some online collaborative performances which was a lot of fun for a couple of months, but something else was changing…
By the summer of 2020 it was apparent to me that I was falling out of love with redwood. Not only that, I was falling out of love with the folk scene as a whole. It’s difficult to point at anything specific that led to that. Maybe it was a consequence of having time to step back and reflect. Many people have described similar experiences over that period. When I did have time to think, I realised that there were things I didn’t like. Not so much with the artists themselves…almost everyone I’ve worked with has been lovely…but with everything that sits around it. There are certain behaviours and types of characters associated with this little corner of the music world that I realised I very much disliked. The more I thought about it, the more I felt I wanted to distance myself from it. I got particularly sick of the constant self-promotion from some directions, even though I knew why it was happening and I’d clearly been part of the ‘self-promotion’ bandwagon…everything I produced was to help someone with promoting themselves…but it started to grate on me for reasons I couldn’t explain. I stopped listening to folk music, in fact, music full stop. It upset me to think that I was ‘checking-out’ of something that I’d put so much work into, but I just wanted out. I threw myself into my day-job and other distractions. My portfolio, my skills and this site all languished.
In late-winter, early spring of 2021, I did some redwood work again. I did a video with Chris Cleverley that I’m really proud of. I worked with Ellie Gowers; one of the most inspiring artists I’ve had the opportunity to work with and produced a video that’s probably the best thing I’ve done (although admittedly most of the creative input came from Ellie herself). I spent a couple of days with Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys working on photos and videos for their new album which as always was a joy; I was really happy with everything we produced. I did a video with Eliza Marshall who I’d previously worked with in Ranagri, which again I really liked.
All of that should have been more than enough to stoke my creative embers and encourage me back to what I’d once loved doing. It didn’t. My website was off-air for the majority of 2021 due to a technical thing that would have taken me an hour to fix; but I couldn’t be bothered. I had no drive to do it anymore. I considered cancelling my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription because I was paying out for software I wasn’t using anymore. By the time it got to the start of 2022, my annual goal-setting contained, for the first time in probably a decade, no reference whatsoever to redwood. I know I’m very fortunate to not be dependent on it; so many other people didn’t have the options that I have.
So why in the middle of January am I choosing to write all this? I’m very aware that no-one reads this blog so I’m only writing for my own benefit…
Well, I did some filming this weekend. I had a unexpected request to help from some folks that I’ve always enjoyed and found easy to work with and I thought ‘why not? It would help them and I might enjoy it.
I’ve just edited the first cut of the video and…I like it. It has a simplicity and warmth that reminds me of what I used to love about a lot of the music I enjoyed from this scene. What’s more, I’ve listened to a pre-release of the artist’s album and it’s quite wonderful. I’m listening to it as I write in a way that I haven’t listened to music for over a year.
I don’t really know what this means. Maybe I haven’t finished with redwood just yet. Maybe there’s something more to say. Maybe someone will want and benefit from my particular viewpoint on visual art…
It won’t be the same. The Big Comfy Bookshop has sadly closed and that was a huge part of my musical experience. I met so many people and had so many great experiences there…I’ll always be hugely indebted to Michael and Richard for the Big Comfy Sessions that led on to so much of my redwood work. Maybe the Big Comfy Sessions will return in some other form.
I’m also still very conscious of what and who drove me away from this over the last two years. I need to be cautious to keep my distance from I’ve come to dislike about the folk scene.
But let’s see what happens.