2 May 2018

a blast of colour - ordinary shoreditch

street art

A Blast of Colour 

Look close enough, and you'll find it - sometimes it's obvious, in your face. Other times it's got to be found, up above, down below, to the right and to the left. It's often political, in your face, sometimes funny, occasionally for promotion. What are we talking about?

Street art, graffiti. 

Come to the district of Shoreditch in London, and you'll find plenty of it. Stunning works of art from some of the best street artists around. It's worth every second of time you can give to seeking them out, admire them, Instagram them. Welcome to Ordinary Shoreditch.
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16 March 2018

time to discover amazing england


Can you smell it? That slight whiff of the blossom floating on the wind? Lovely isn't it? Spring is my favourite season, the flowers are starting to raise their heads, life is returning to our gardens and fields. The weather is starting to warm up (although we're due another blast of cold air!)  

In the final post of our special week of travel inspiration, we head home, delving into what makes England a fantastic country to explore. Just another ordinary week? Nah! 


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14 March 2018

into inspiring india

india

India is a country that provides photographic gems, experiences and taste sensations for any that seek to find it. In the second of our 'Just Another Ordinary Week' series, we delve a little deeper into the magic this country conjures up. 


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12 March 2018

uncovering awesome japan

ordinary japan
Japan is a country that will delight and inspire in equal measure. No matter where you are, whether in one of the big cities of Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto or Sapporo or somewhere in the mountains, there will be something to entertain the inquisitive explorer.

We start the "Just Another Ordinary Week" delving into this incredible country and just some of the extraordinary things you will see.  


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14 February 2018

ordinary india


If there is ever a place where 'ordinary' is the completely wrong word choice, then India may well be that place. India is a country that is not ordinary, from its landscape to its people. From the constant honk, honking of cars horns and the rickshaws and taxis driving up the wrong side of the road to the incredible food, this is a country that is; extraordinary

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5 January 2018

exploring in the land of the rising sun


So how was the new year's celebrations for you? Full of alcoholic mayhem or was it a peaceful entry into 2018? Whichever way you celebrated it's time to move on and get into gear, ready for the challenges the new year will bring. Talking of the new year, we kick it off with a new ordinary series, this time celebrating all that is ordinary in Japan. 

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8 December 2017

revealing the secrets of awesome england

fairground carousel

It's starting to look at lot like Christmas. So it should with it being just around the corner! Welcome to our second helping of Ordinary England posts. Our new series where we try to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. This month we head up high, go around and around and look at some graves! 

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4 December 2017

said the maiden: here's a health

It was a balmy autumnal evening. Too warm for a late October night, but I hardly cared. This wasn't a night to complain about the weather, it was a night to be excited, joyous, and to listen to some uplifting music and celebrate. 

If you are familiar with these pages, you will know that Said the Maiden have featured on more than the odd occasion! Here they are again, (think I need to start charging them!) Tonight was the album launch for Here's a Health. Their 2nd full-length record. On this balmy night, the world was about to hear the fruits of their labour. The venue, The Water Rats in Kings Cross, London. 


Said the Maiden at the Water Rats


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27 October 2017

ordinary england


england


We're always one to try something new! After our successful Travel Trumps and Beyond The Back Garden series, we welcome a new addition to the family - Ordinary England

Starting out on our Instagram account, we now bring it to the Sketches platform. Short stories looking at the everyday ordinary and finding that they are in-fact extraordinary. 

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22 May 2017

interview with an artist

Chloé Harmsworth 

Picture courtesy of the artist
If you are a regular visitor to these pages, which I hope you are! You'll know that we like to champion local talent that we feel deserves a wider audience. We've concentrated predominantly on musicians and today's interviewee has a link to that genre, through her album artwork. So grab a coffee and sit back and enjoy our interview. On and when you can please go and visit her site and if you want a commission then there are details for you to follow. Welcome to the Sketches pages, Chloe Valerie Art.

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31 March 2017

supermoon

Supermoon 

Once in a Blue Moon, you'll get a Supermoon! An event that in 2017 will only take place in April, May, June and December. On the face of it, relatively rare. A couple of weeks back I witnessed a Supermoon of a different kind, one that will hopefully be less rare than the natural event, and become a part of your life as much as it has mine. Before we come to the main subject of this post, let's tidy up exactly what a supermoon is. 

The term 'Supermoon' was coined by astrologer Richard Nolle and is named as such when a new or full moon occurs and it's at its nearest orbit to the Earth. Did you know that these supermoons can cause some real physical effects? For example higher than usual tides. So is the Supermoon we're discussing here a perfect metaphor? Can this Supermoon cause a tidal wave of musical emotion? Quite possibly! 


So please, for our new post lets welcome - Supermoon the duo.

Picture courtesy of Oliver Cross Photography

At the Blue Moon

Before we get into the logistics let's firstly go back to a chilly Saturday night in The Blue Moon, Cambridge. The venue where Supermoon plied their musical chops and introduced themselves into the musical landscape, officially.  

The stage was set, neon lights adding to the ambience. The room filled with guests, expectant at the launch night of their first EP. Cambridge may have never seen two moons collide in such a way before! Or will again for that matter. 

With their vocal harmonies mixing beautifully among a set list of their own self-penned numbers and cover versions, the evening was a delightful musical mash-up of genres. Guitars and violin, with added beatbox sounds and double bass. Midway through there was even time for a bit of a folk hoedown! It's not often you'll see that and then a Guns & Roses cover on the same bill! It was a splendid event, a great way to launch their EP. 


Who is Supermoon?

Griff and Hannah make up the group. The project originally started out as a solo effort for Griff but clearly, Hannah's talents caught Griff's eyes and the project soon changed course. The duo is one-third of Said the Maiden, that's (Hannah Elizabeth) and one part of Freds House, that would be (Griff Jameson), of Freds House. With Hannah's folk background and Griff's quirky mix of pop and rock, it's a collaboration that's certainly an interesting mix. 

Picture courtesy of Oliver Cross Photography

Hit that Perfect Beat!

Their first batch of songs have just been released as an EP, so to give you a little taster, here's their first video (below). The other numbers follow in a similar laid back, acoustic way. It's simple but pleasantly sweet. Don't believe me?  Well, if you would like to purchase their EP you can go to Freds House website fredshousemusic.co.uk. and purchase it yourself. I'm sure they would like that very much!




Supporting Fresh Talent 

As you know, there is an abundance of fresh musical talent out there to discover. Whether it's from the folk world or the pop sphere. It's collaborations like this that help to show the depth of this talent. People are trying to make thoughtful music that isn't just bland pop music. That should be celebrated, shouldn't it? I do hope you will take a look, and hopefully, you'll carry on discovering other talented musicians and bands. If so then please tell me. Oh, and if you want to give Griff and Hannah a kind message, then you can always let them know on their facebook page! Supermoonduo

Thanks as always and keep a lookout for another collaboration group very soon. 
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5 November 2016

alison reynolds

There is something exciting about discovering new music. Finding new sounds and artists that would never otherwise be on your radar. Well it beats the humdrum, manufactured sounds of modern pop music. Sketches has been fortunate and privileged over the past year to have interviewed a number of upcoming, young British folk artists. All different in their musical approach, all exciting in what message they are conveying. All deserving of success. For our latest interview we've crossed the pond (metaphorically on this occasion) to chat with multi instrumentalist (cello, guitar), singer / songwriter, Alison Reynolds from Canada. It's a candid, inspiring interview, so grab yourself a cuppa and enjoy Alison's story.


folk musician
Photo courtesy of Alison Reynolds

SketchesWhat first made you pick up the cello?
Alison: I started playing cello in grade school. It was 4th grade, I
believe, and in those days, Orchestra classes started in 4th grade (really wish it was still the same way but unfortunately, we don’t hold teaching the arts as a priority.) I have two older sisters who had already started orchestra and they played violin and viola respectively so, they figured I should play cello so we could have a trio!

Well, I didn’t even know what a cello was!! I’m sure my eyes popped out of my head when the teacher brought it out to me. It was bigger than I was! Back then, there was no such thing as ¼, ½ or ¾ sized cellos. I’ll never forget carrying my cello on the bus everyday!

Funny thing is, my sisters both quit playing a few years later but, for some reason, I kept going (and going, and going.)


(S:) Were you ever tempted to try other instruments?
(A:) Oh, yes, indeed! While we still lived in El Paso, Tx., I started playing Baritone Ukulele. I took private lessons while still playing cello in school. Then I went through a clarinet phase when my family lived in Flagstaff Az. Then, when my family and I moved to Canada at the beginning of my High School years, I started playing flute.

If I had gone to High School in the U.S., there would have been several music classes I could choose to take. I’d had 5 years of playing cello by then and I knew music was going to be my future! When we moved to Canada, we lived in North Bay Ont., quite a ways north of Toronto. It was a beautiful small town and I was excited about living in a different country! Then came school. . . there were no choices in music classes, it was either band or orchestra and I discovered that everyone was just starting to play, while I had already had 5 years of playing cello in school plus private lessons!! I was devastated! My only choice was to join band and I decided to pick up flute. I ended up playing flute for quite a while (even after embarking on my professional journey. . .more on that later!) Never stopped playing cello though and while in high school, I traded in my baritone uke for a guitar, started a rather successful Folk Club and did a lot of singing and playing guitar. I remember almost quiting playing cello because it was “nerdy” but, fortunately, my friends talked me out of that idea!

The school put on musicals every year and I badly wanted to be on stage singing but, once my orchestra/band teacher found out I could play cello, I was sent into the orchestra pit. I had such a longing to be on stage!! At least the Folk Club gave me that opportunity!

folk musician
Photo courtesy of Alison Reynolds 

(S:) Tell us a little about your musical journey
(A:) In 1972, my musical life changed forever! The Canadian government sponsored a summer music program called “Summersounds ‘72”. The music directors of that program set off to various towns in Ontario to audition musicians 16-20 years old. North Bay was one town they visited and I auditioned. I won the spot to represent North Bay and that summer, I headed to Niagra on the Lake to rehearse with all the other musicians who won spots. We stayed in the dorms of Niagra Christian College and rehearsed for two weeks. It was a varied program from folk music to rock. This is where I learned how to improvise on cello. After 2 weeks, we hit the road and for about a month, we took our show to many different towns in Ontario, from tiny paper mill towns in Northern Ont. to Ottawa and ending in Toronto. It is a summer I will never forget and it helped shape the music I do now.

I met my first music partner, Patricia Watson, while in that group. She lived in Sudbury (about 80 miles north of North Bay.) After I finished High School, my family moved to Sudbury. Pat and I got together and formed the duo Watson and Reynolds.

Pat played piano, guitar and flute and I played cello, guitar, mandolin, and flute so we had quite a diverse instrumentation going on! We both sang and our voices blended extremely well.  (See below from a TV programme they did)




We became pretty popular fairly quickly and moved to Toronto to further our career. I think the high point came when we were asked to open for Gino Vanelli at the Opera House in Ottawa. We finished our set with a piano/cello version of Desperado which melted into an original song by Pat. When we finished the song, you could have heard a pin drop, then an explosion of clapping. Took my breath away!

Anyway, we met a fellow musician, David James Bowen a few years later and formed a trio called Minstrels of Mirth. That expanded into a 5 piece (shortened to Mirth.) We put out an album called First Borne. . .unfortunately, a few years later we broke up. Too many personality conflicts!

Shortly after that I moved back to El Paso Tx. (my hometown) and went back to school to seriously study cello. I continued playing as a single singer/songwriter as well as a band called Tularosa. I met my husband during that time, married and had 2 beautiful children. My husband’s job was very demanding and playing music was all nights and weekends so I gave up my music career (except for playing in a symphony) to focus on raising my children.

With my kids grown and having time on my hands, I am back at it! I play as much as I can now, I had forgotten how much I loved to perform!! I have 3 CD’s out. Two are from a cello quartet I started up a while back, La Cella Bella. One is my singer/songwriter effort. I am currently working on my second CD as a songwriter. (More of that later)



(S:) What is it about Folk and Rock music that inspires you?
(A:) My love of folk music goes way back (The Weavers, Peter, Paul and Mary, The Limeliters, then, of course Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Simon and Garfunkel, Dylan, Pete Seeger. . .a very long list!)  I think what inspires me are the stories they tell and the message they send in the lyrics. My writing is similar in that most of what I write has a message or a story either social or every day situations. As folk songwriters I think we all have a hope to “change the world” as it were or at least make a difference in someone’s life! Folk music: music of and for people!

Classic Rock is really very similar to folk in that there is sometimes an underlying message in the lyrics and, of course, there is the beat! I love Talking Heads, for example, because I cannot stay still when I listen! Besides that I love their lyrics and I think David Byrne is a genius! My all time favorite rocker is Bonnie Raitt! She sings with so much passion and her lyrics are so relatable! She definitely moves me!



(S:) Tell us about life on the road
(A:) Early in my career, I spent a lot of time on the road. For about a year or so, we were on the road so much that I got rid of my apartment, put my stuff in storage and stayed with friends when I would have a day off! When I was younger, it was very exciting! Going new places, meeting new people, the parties, the performing, it was my dream! Later though, after we became a 5 piece band, life on the road became difficult. We started playing dives and strip clubs. Accommodations were shaky at best, bordering on filthy. Bands had a reputation of trashing rooms so, as a result, venues would put the bands up in the worst rooms! Pat and David were a “couple”(they eventually got married) and I was single. I got to where I was pretty lonely.

There were times that it was still a lot of fun, like when we played in Halifax and met up with Dr. Hook band. Those guys were a ton of fun! Or the time we played in Ottawa, went to a Supertramp concert and got invited to the after concert party. I got a chance to play some cello with Roger Hodgson! And then there were times like when we played in a small town on the St. Laurence Seaway called Rimouski. We were there for 2 weeks and stayed walking distance from the shore of the seaway. I remember watching the tide go in and out many times. It was lovely! Those were the good times!


(S:Who has influenced you in your songwriting?
(A:) That is kind of a tough question! I partly answered that in a previous question but, I think the main influence on writing at this current time is Bob Dylan. This is mostly because of something he said in an article I read. The interviewer asked how he came up with ideas for his songs and, essentially said, “I don’t write about anything new, I just say the same things in a different way.” That really struck me. I started listening to his music again, with different ears, and thinking of my own writing in a totally different way.

Joni Mitchell is a story teller extraordinaire! I listened to her poetry, her crafting. I can’t come close to her as a song writer but, she inspires me to grow and strive for better songs.

Then there is Bonnie Raitt’s passion! One thing I can say for sure, she has brought out the passion in me! The Beatles have also had an influenced me. I think their popularity was largely due to the fact that their songs were about every day situations. Things we can all relate to. I do try to achieve that in my writing.

folk musician
Photo courtesy of Alison Reynolds 

(S:) So are you working on a new album?
(A:) I am currently working on a new album. I haven’t yet decided on a title, but, it looks like there will be quite a few songs on it with social content. “Care” is a song about taking care of our environment, “Listen to Your Heart” is all about finding your path, “Love Makes It True” is about how we are all connected and so on. 

On my “Back to You” CD, I added 3 older songs, Back to You, Please Don’t Tell Me and Childhood’s End, mostly because they were requested by friends from my “Mirth” days. Two of them are on the First Borne album but, I really didn’t like the production on them, so I decided to do them again MY way!

The new CD will have all current songs (I have a TON of new songs! It was tough deciding which ones to record!) The instrumentation will be much the same. I live in a small town without much choice in instrumentation! I will add cello to some but not too much, and have found a good mandolin player to add his touch to some and a few vocalists (I did all the harmonies on the last CD. Not that that’s a bad thing, you just don’t get the different timbres of different voices!)

Anyway, I am rather excited about it and am trying to take my time so as not to make too many mistakes!



(S:What advice would you give a young folk musician?
(A:) In a nutshell. . .Hang in there!! Folk music is NOT dead, there is an audience out there! Also, stay true to yourself and your art, don’t compromise for the sake of popularity. Our art is a noble cause!
____

We finished are interview with a few less serious questions! To get a flavour of what really rocks or is it folks Alison's musical boat.

(S:Techno or Heavy Metal?
(A:) Oh dear!! I suppose if I had to choose I’d say Heavy Metal. For me, there is a bit more substance to the music although I have heard some decent Techno! Metallica changed my mind about Heavy Metal when I did an arrangement for my cello quartet of Nothing Else Matters. Great song, lots of musicality and content! Then when I heard them do Whiskey in a Jar, which is an old folk song, they totally won me over.


(S:) Cello or Violin?
(A:) That’s a “no brainer” ha ha! Cello of course!! Cello is said to be closest to the human voice of all the stringed instruments, I think that’s one of the reasons I love it so much! I love the mellowness of it’s sound and the huge range it has. . .I’m a mellow kind of gal!


(S:) Folk rock or acoustic folk?
(A:) That one is tough! Guess I am more of an acoustic type, but since I have discovered and learned the art of looping, I love the way I can rock out on some songs! I do tend to lean more towards acoustic though!

___

My thanks goes to Alison for the time she has given and wish her every success for the future. You can check out her website and youtube channel for all the latest news and tour dates. Details given.



Go on time to try some different music. 
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20 August 2016

saal-digital photo book

Instagram Crazy!
I'm going Instagram crazy at the moment! Photographing everything I can, creating stories. It's great fun, helped of course by modern technology and the number of photo apps available. As a travel writer, images are everything, they bring a post to life, and without them, Sketches in Travel would be a little dull shall we say. I've recently concentrated on nature, especially flowers and the changing scenery, from Spring to Summer. What we often don't do is re-produce them in a different format, a book or large prints. In light of this I've teamed up with Saal-Digital.co.uk, a digital photograph company that produces quality books of all shapes and sizes. It seemed the perfect way to showcase some of the pictures that have become a key part of the Sketches blog and a part of Summer 2016. 

You can choose from a number of different front cover styles, colours and textures
Sketches in Travel Photo Book 
The images in this post all feature in the Sketches in Travel photo book, and I've picked some of my favourite nature photos and given the stories behind the image. The book itself features many aspects of the Sketches photo catalogue from nature to attractions and some aviation pieces. 

As for the book itself, it is very well put together, professional, and re-produced on quality paper. I chose a smaller book, around A4 size, however you can get bigger sizes for a little extra cost. The fun comes in putting the book together, picking the pictures and choosing the format of the photographs. You can pick from a vast number of styles to suit your needs. I decided to mix it up a little with full double page pictures, mainly for landscapes and a mix of smaller photos and half page pictures. There is a vast choice. It's very easy to put together, and if you make a mistake then you can change it without too much trouble. You can add in comments, stories etc, and given a little more time I probably would have done. So if you're not careful you could spend hours and hours putting it together. It depends on your needs and time. Once you're happy then its easy to order, and you'll always be aware of the costs as you add in extras. Once ordered I was really impressed by how quickly it arrived. Within 5 days. So you don't have to wait long. As for the quality, well I was extremely pleased, especially as many of the photos were taken from my phone. The colours were clear and the quality was very impressive. So Saal-digital get the thumbs up from me. 

You can view the full book and decide for yourself by clicking on the following link, and if you like it you can also order it here; Sketches in Travel Photo Book. So to give you a little teaser, below is just a little taste of what our photo book offers. Firstly some images from the book itself.

You can choose the layout of your photos 
landscape
The quality is outstanding, allowing for full landscape pictures 
The photo books allow you to show off landscape pictures in their full glory

Stories behind the pictures
A number of the pictures featured in the book were taken when on random walks around the local area, especially in the last few months. I'm really impressed by just how good smart phone cameras are these days, so I'm constantly snapping away. I thought I'd give you a little insight into some of the pictures that feature in the book, why I took them. I hope you enjoy?

These were taken in someones front garden. No idea what flower they are! I just wanted to capture them so that we could see the unique shapes, and just how usual they look.
flowers
Extreme close up! These foxgloves are just so alien looking. I wanted to capture them as close as would allow, with my Samsung S6 phone. These were just growing at the side of a country lane, all alone, almost crying out for attention. 
These were actually in a park close to the University district of Vienna. I was just taken aback by how yellow they were! There's a tram line just behind them.
flowers
Along many footpaths that skirt close to houses you'll find large bushes of roses. These were hanging over onto the path. Pinks, reds, whites, yellows; whatever colour they are a beautiful flower.
flowers
At the moment many of our farmed fields have pockets of poppy flowers, adding colour to the summer surroundings. 
Whilst out cycling along a country lane, there was this bank full of these wonderful flowers: Ox-eye Daisy. Its hard to put into perspective just how many there were of them. It made for a wonderful scene however.  I also tried to give it an old feel when editing.
Saal-digital Photo Book
I hope you have enjoyed this little gallery of some of the images that feature in the photo book. I have to thank Saal-digital for giving me the opportunity to test out their books. I was overly impressed. So what are you waiting for? Why not get out there and see what you can capture and then capture them forever in a photo book. We seem to reply so much on technology now that sometimes its nice to have a book of photos we can pick up and browse through. 

Please let us know what you think of the book and the photos. Hopefully you'll see the continued story on here and the various accounts, including Instagram that I have. There are many more adventures ahead. I do hope you'll join me. 
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22 July 2016

matthew shepherd

It's a muggy and cloudy Friday afternoon in London, light rain is in the air. The evening commute has started, and office workers make their way towards bars and pubs or sweaty trains, the weekend is about to begin. I on the other hand are headed into town, to meet up with singer / songwriter Matthew Shepherd, to discuss his new EP, The Sea. We meet at Kings Cross station, and fighting our way through the crowds, we retreat into a nearby pub, liquid refreshment required before sitting down to chat amongst the commuting throng. Matthew is smartly dressed; blue suited, perhaps not your everyday look for a burgeoning singer of the folk tradition. That though is because he has to split his time between working, performing, writing and recording. This is grassroots music, an artist who has to juggle his day job with his passion. X-factor and instant fame this is certainly not. 


anna shepherd
Courtesy of Matthew and Emma Shepherd
The Early Years
After pleasantries we settle down to talk music. It's immediately clear how approachable and affable he is. He makes you feel at ease and you can tell he is passionate about his craft. He enjoys the grind, the process of putting everything together, and he's only 21! He talks about the process, he writes, he advertises, he tours. All the time juggling work life and other commitments. A day doesn't go by without him picking up his guitar, even 30 minutes is better than nothing. He got his first guitar aged 14, £40 from Argos. He's toured with his school choir to Italy and played in a jazz band. His musical roots formed.  He's also had vocal training, knows when and where to breath whilst singing. His gratitude to the school and these early years of practice in the bedroom and pub gigging are clearly visible, they have motivated him to decide that being a musician is his goal. 

We discuss the writing process. It is all about being alone. Locking the door to outside distractions or sitting in coffee shops jotting down lyrics. He likes good coffee. The results of these endeavours so far are an album, (Top of the Tree - released in 2015) and the new EP - The Sea. The album hit the top 100 on iTunes, he puts himself down when saying this, but that's no mean feat and is to be congratulated. Remember this is all done without the backing of a  record label. 


The Sea EP
We move onto his latest release, The Sea. Striped back songs, that take you on a personal journey. He suggests this is more his direction and style than the album. Lyrics such as 'Is she still lost' and 'I don't know where you are', give some indication of the personal content. Youth finding their feet in an ever changing world. Each song is a little like a fluffy white cloud on a summers day. Individual and pretty. We ask Matthew about where he gets his inspiration, The Corrs and Kate Rusby are mentioned. Lyrics from everyday situations, oh and coffee shops! And these songs certainly hark to these influences. There are six songs in total and the cover (see above) has been beautifully illustrated by his sister, Emma. Keeping it in the family. He's currently on a UK tour promoting the EP. With a date at Ronnie Scotts Jazz club coming soon. Clearly an important milestone in his career. He then heads to the Isle of Wight for three dates, and with other possible gigs coming before Christmas. Certainly busy times ahead. He talks about the live process, being up close and personal is where he prefers to be. The buzz and enjoyment this brings. 


singer

The Future
As with any creative talent, the thoughts move onto the future. It seems Matthew is already planning ahead. Although a break is almost certainly scheduled as well. He's started to use a tenner guitar, and he's keen to have a cello on his next record, (cello players over to you!) Clearly there is a lot more to come from this talented individual and what direction his music takes will be interesting to see. Made all the more impressive by the fact he is doing this all independently. From future gigs to the next project, Matthew is not going to sit still. 

Heading to the Sea
We talk for probably far longer than we both originally thought, but he is an engaging presence. We discuss Brexit (good writing material?) Happy to discuss everything thrown at him. It may have been a muggy Friday evening but on the journey home I felt a certain renewed hope. The English music scene stretches far beyond the manufactured pop of today, and it seems is in a healthy state. Young musicians, working to the bone, deserve success. They should be championed, celebrated. Matthew is one of those, and his work deserves, no requires your time. We depart with a firm hand shake, wishing Matthew well on his career. Who knows we might just be seeing him on the big stages around the world in future years? 
_____

If you would like to find out more about Matthew's work and touring schedule then please click on the link http://www.matthewshepherdmusic.com/. You can also purchase The Sea EP from iTunes by clicking on the following link https://itun.es/gb/2Or2cb

If you are an upcoming musician or group and would like to be featured then please drop us an email (see my contact details for more). 
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8 June 2016

roadside wonders

Beauty in unexpected places
How often do you take a moment to glance at the roadside as you speed along the motorway (highway), negotiate a country lane or walk along a path? Probably not often if you're driving! If however you are the passenger or you are walking, then please do. Look closely and you will find beauty in these unexpected places. Colours of many hues, from red to yellow, green and purple. Summer has well and truly arrived and our pathways are brimming with natures' delights. 

Looking at the roadside
If you are a regular visitor to these blogs or you've looked at our Instagram site you'll know we're always featuring photographs on nature and the natural environment. It's such a beautiful time of year and the chance to capture some of this beauty has been a real privilege and pleasure. This post is called roadside wonders because that's exactly what they are; wonders on the roadside. So the next time you get a chance to take in your surroundings whilst out and about, take a look at your roadsides. Wonders await. I promise.

summer flowers
__________

It would be wonderful if you could share some of your roadside wonders, so please share your links so we can enjoy them. Also keep a look out for other images on Sketches various accounts as we continue to seek out the wonder of our roadsides. 



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8 May 2016

travel doodles #4

Isn't Spring such an uplifting season? The whites, blues, purples, pinks, greens and yellows are now prominent throughout the UK landscape. Its these said colours that have inspired us to jot /sketch a few of them. As always with Sketches they are doodles and not finished pieces of work. That said I hope they do at least give you some idea of what the countryside is offering up at the moment. Made all the more special by such fabulous weather! Probably about to change now I've said that. 

dandelion
The Dandelion 
If there is one aspect of the UK countryside I am rightfully proud about it has to be our hedgerows! They are what defines are countryside. They shape the landscape, care for our wildlife. Look closer at them and there is so much beauty to discover, including the little flower illustrated below. Spring is when the blackthorn bloom and they really are lovely little flowers. Whether I've managed to capture that I'll let you decide. So what are you waiting for? Head out and discover some hedges and their hidden beauty. Happy hedge hunting! 

blackthorn
Blackthorn


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11 March 2016

travel doodles #3

Bird watching

art
The Sparrow
We're certainly into Spring mode, and what better way to enjoy this most beautiful of seasons than perhaps a bit of bird watching? A sure sign that Spring has arrived. We have a bird feeder in our garden and its so nice to occasionally just stare out the window and watch the birds go about their business. On the one hand its very therapeutic and on the other its a wonderful way to let your mind wonder and forget about the worries and troubles in our daily routines. 

Although the variety of birds to our feeder is not extensive, there's always a brief moment of excitement when something other than a Sparrow or Robin appears. Greenfinch? Blue tit? Spring is also the time when our overseas visitors return, so now is as good a time as any to do a bit of nature watching. It's cheap to do, relaxing and also a great way to pass those moments when you want to clear the mind. And you never know, if you really enjoy it there are plenty of opportunities to take it further. Local woodlands and nature reserve for instance. So why not welcome the birds into your space and enjoy nature going about its business, whilst you go about yours?

Happy bird watching everyone!  
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4 March 2016

kelly oliver part 2

Reaching Bedlam

Bedlum
Kelly Oliver - Bedlam 
March 6th marks the release of Kelly Oliver's latest album, Bedlam. In the second part of our interview with her, we discuss the making of the album and what lies ahead for this rising star of the young folk movement. 

Recording Bedlam
Recorded throughout 2015, Bedlam came reasonably soon after the first album and was very much a work in progress, with songs being written and recorded simultaneously. After listening to the album you can sense that its a leap forward in both songwriting, playing and production. For one, more producers were used, bringing their own sounds and ideas to the table. Lauren did however contribute, continuing their wonderful working relationship. I go on the ask the girls about the inspiration behind the album. Kelly responds promptly suggesting that each song is individual with no theme as such; a mix of personal experiences and traditional "folk" infused storytelling. Something different is the words she uses and its hard to disagree when listening to the record.

"What do you hope people will get out of this?" I ask. She liked that question and answers by suggesting she made a conscious effort to improve on the instruments she played, as well as the vocals. Also that the lyrics are not wasted, that every word counts. She discusses how people interpret her work, that sometimes its very different to her own understanding. Going on to say that she likes people making their own decisions on each songs meaning. 



Going Vinyl
Our conversation moves onto the music industry in general. Kelly and Lauren discuss the relevance of CD's in the modern world and the continued rise in the Vinyl market. Although a little coy about it there seems to be a suggestion that the current album will have a vinyl release. I can't help thinking how refreshing it is to hear two young musicians talking so enthusiastically about vinyl. It's what I grew up on (my first single was by Ultravox! a 10p bargain at a fete sale); "Dancing with tears in my eyes!"

On the Festival Road
So with Bedlam's release imminent we move on to what's next. Kelly is currently in the middle of a nationwide tour and during the summer a number of key festival gigs, including Bob Harris's (iconic UK radio DJ) Under the Apple Tree Roots Festival and some currently unannounced big festivals! Be sure to check Kelly's website for more details http://kellyoliver.co.uk. As she talks about touring, whether solo or with a band (an upcoming Convent gig is with a band). You get the sense that this is where she enjoys being the most, out there performing her work. Meeting and chatting with fellow musicians and fans. 

Relaxing? Not here
Being a travel writer I have to ask about free time and holidaying. It becomes apparent that both don't rest on their laurels. Their work is also their passion. Promoting gigs takes time, trailing through the task of working with social media is a continuous battle (I know what she means!) What of the future then? To be the next Joni Mitchell? Yes, please Kelly replies. She also talks about playing at other venues and abroad. Australia and Europe are mentioned. Hope you're read this Australia! Our conversation takes in everything from YouTube to the accessibility of being a musician. Both talk so gracefully about every subject that we could have carried on for hours, but our time has come to an end.


Lauren (left), Me and Kelly
Final Thoughts
I leave our interview feeling very alive and inspired. The hour or so spent with Kelly and Lauren highlights the young talent that is out there waiting to be discovered. And I'm left thinking that the UK folk scene is in very good hands, due to the enthusiasm and dedication of the likes of Kelly and Lauren. What an inspirational pair. 

Bedlam is released this weekend and if you'd like to know more details then please visit Kelly's website. I hope you have enjoyed our little look into Kelly's world? If so then please leave a comment. 

In the coming weeks I will be doing a feature on Lauren (one of the UK's few female producers), so please look out for that one. Until next time, carry on folking! 

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26 February 2016

kelly oliver

Towards Bedlam - Part 1
The journey of a folk singer / songwriter

singer
Kelly Oliver
If you need any proof that travelling can be the catalyst to a future career, then look no further than the experience of folk singer Kelly Oliver. Having traveled through South America, Kelly returned inspired and with a hat full of song writing content to pursue her dream of becoming a full time singer / songwriter. Ahead of her new album release - Bedlam, Sketches has been given access into her burgeoning career. In the first part we look at those beginnings and the making of her EP and first album. 

Into the Den 
Taking a seat on the comfy sofa surrounded by guitars of every variety, you have the sudden realization that you're in a very professional environment. The Den, as its seems to be referred to is the home studio of Kelly's manager and record label owner (Folkstock records), Helen Meissner. Its also where Kelly and Lauren; producer, artist, musician (and daughter) of Helen's' produce their magic. You get the feel you're in very good company. With cuppa to hand, Kelly and Lauren settle down to discuss all things music.


Kelly (left) and producer Lauren
Back to the Beginning
We go back to the beginning, thinking of the times before releasing her first EP "Far from Home". She talks about how her travels influenced those early days. Kelly speaks eloquently about the impact Brazil and Argentina had on her and the delights of seeing and hearing the music from those countries, even though she isn't particularly keen on the samba sound. She continues by discussing how the subsequent meeting with Helen (she was initially told to go away and work on the areas which Helen felt were lacking; absence of any social media being one of them). And come back she did, four months later with a slot at Helen's music festival; Folkstock, which started this journey and the eventual recording of the EP with Lauren. Subsequently it's success was based in part on local radio plays and selling the EP at gigs. Avoiding a day time job helped to capitalize on the EP's success and any opportunities that came her way. And thus her rise in the folk music world began. 



This Land
With the EP in the bag and a number of songs ready to go, along with a producer (Lauren) ready to pull the strings, it was only natural to get an album "This Land" made as soon after the EP as possible. For both you feel this was a rights of passage, the moment when everything really came together. For Kelly a chance to get her songs properly reviewed; normally EP's don't get reviews. And for Lauren her first album credits as a producer. They talk about the recording process, the fact that they took their time, and were able to hone the songs to their liking without time constraints. Allowing they say for the strength of the songs and songwriting to shine through. It's hard to argue with that when you listen to them. The stripped back album; mainly guitar, harmonica (both Kelly) and bass (Lauren) received critical acclaim. No less from the likes of the Daily Telegraph, who also included it in their top 60 folk albums of the year. A number of awards also followed, showcasing that those songs had hit the mark.

As our conversation continues, they like a good natter! It's clear they are both very passionate about their craft. And as a partnership there is clearly a special bond between the two of them. There is a joy at talking about music and the processes of producing music. It's not long till our discussion moves on next part of her journey, the upcoming album, Bedlam
__________

In Part 2 of our interview we talk about that album and also what the future holds for both of them. If you would like to learn more and listen to Kelly's work then please click on the link Kelly Oliver website



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12 February 2016

travel doodles #2

Around My Place
"The Well"
How often do you actually take in what your city, town, village or hamlet has to offer? Its main feature say. I was thinking about this on a recent walk around our village and so with that as my inspiration this month's travel doodle comes from the very heart of where I live. 

Our village is a mix of the old and the new. Old pubs and shops to 20th century housing estates. At it's centre though is an old water well. Now acting as an intersection in the road, but preserved for all to enjoy. The hole has been concreted in so it has lost some of its charm however its structure remains, reminding us of times past.

So what is our call to action this time? Well simple really. When you have a moment, take the time to go out and venture around your town. I'm sure there is something there waiting to be discovered and it might just surprise you. Happy hunting.

Competition time
Sketches have teamed up with GPSmycity. They create app guides with self guided walks and useful information on many of the worlds top destinations for both android and iOS. To find out more just click on the link GPSmycity

So for the first 20 readers we'll give you a free app of your next destination of choice. All you need to do is comment on the post about a landmark in your city or town and also tell us which destination you are travelling to next, and i'll send you the app code, for your destination, for free! 
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