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It’s good to stretch yourself to play music that’s a bit out of your comfort zone. As I work recording and mastering the album, I took the opportunity to record some tribute songs. It exposed some room for improvement with my vocals, but I had great fun finding my way around a catchy tune from a band I have really got into over the last 18 months or so, Rival Sons.

I recorded an acoustic version of Open my Eyes , as well as a rockier version .

As ever any feedback is much appreciated.

Half a dozen hacks for stale bread: surprisingly tasty tips for making the most of the food you buy

Bought too much on your grocery trip? Going away and need to use things up? Lost track of what’s at the back of the fridge? I have solutions for you!

A recent survey of 2000 Brits revealed that eggs, bread, and other previously rationed items are regularly discarded. Instead of getting down in the dumps about this or resigning full responsibility to the big, bad supermarkets, there are simple, tasty things you can do with those ingredients you already bought. I’ve touched on ways to reduce waste before, and now I’m collating tips and tricks on things to do when items become past their best. Follow these tips to

  1. reduce your grocery bill,
  2. reduce waste, and
  3. eat more (maybe?).

Number 1 is the main reason for me, and it’s probably the case for many other musicians too. In this blogpost I’ll focus on bread, but I am gathering suggestions for other food stuffs so get in touch and I’ll feature them in future!

Stale Bread Recipes

Things to cook with bread that has gone hard, but is not mouldy:

Mouldy Bread

When it’s got a bit of green/blue mould on it:

  • remove the mouldy bits (generously, maybe chop all the edges of a block of bread) and mix them in your compost,
  • leave on the bird table, or
  • make into fat balls.

Try to use the remainder within a day, maybe following one of the recipes above. For expert guidance check out this Aussie food mould research blog.

How to Prevent Stale Bread

Ideas for avoiding stale bread in the first place:

  • use a bread bin or bread bag,
  • make sourdough bread (moisture and natural acids help preserve your homemade loaves),
  • freeze half the loaf until you need it.

Review of Yorkshire goodies

I’m from Yorkshire. You might know that from the Yorkshire Lad t-shirt I often wear. Now I also have a range of trinkets advertising the fact, courtesy of the aptly named imfromyorkshire.com website.

Enjoying
Enjoying the sunshine in my Yorkshire t-shirt with my Dad.

I am chuffed with my new Yorkshire mugs. They were mailed to me in North Carolina from the UK, so I was a bit worried they might get damaged en route. Despite cracked polystyrene all three mugs were snugly intact!

Polystyrene mug boxes
DSC04434 Polystyrene boxes kept the mugs safe.
Yorkshire mugs!
Three crisp and edgy Yorkshire mug designs.

As well as having enough mugs to cram the cupboard with enough for a mad hatter’s tea party, I also enjoyed placing a keychain on the Christmas tree. Soon we will have Yorkshire paraphernalia in every room!

Other Yorkshire trinkets
The keychains and pin are great conversation starters!

Sorry for my lack of updates.

I had a problem logging into WordPress (fixed by deleting some plugins).

I am also in the throes of recording an album, having written 13 songs with my friend Alex. Some of this is the best material I have ever composed. As we near the end of our time in Raleigh I hope it will make for a good product.

Meanwhile I have a couple of draft blogposts I’m working on, one of which involves Yorkshire Tea for the Yorkshire Lad in me!

Famous jazz musicians from North Carolina

I currently live in Raleigh, North Carolina and would like to pay tribute to the amazing jazz musicians from this and surrounding regions. It may not be an epicentre of jazz like New Orleans, Manhattan, or Los Angeles, indeed none of a recent top 10 southern jazz players were from North Carolina. Nevertheless some notable players are from here.

Jazz musicians with connections to the Research Triangle:

  • Jeb Bishop is a jazz trombonist who grew up in Raleigh and studied at NC State.
  • Pee Wee Moore left medical school to pursue jazz saxophony full time. He was born in Raleigh and returned to the city in the 1970s after living in New York.
  • Billy Strayhorn was a composer, lyricist, and arranger. He spent his summers at his grandparents home in Hillsborough, just northwest of Durham.

Jazz musicians with connections to the Piedmont triad (Greensboro, High Point, Winston-Salem):

Other notable NC jazz musicians:

  • Nina Simone was born in Tryon on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Widely acclaimed singer, pianist, and songwriter she was also active in the civil rights movement.
  • Percy Heath
  • Theolonius Monk

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Emerging from burgers, sculptures, and football to say “Hello again!”

I’ve neglected this blog for too long. Sorry.

One reason for the three month delay is that, in addition to my musical pursuits, I am now working at Corbett’s Burger and Soda Bar in Cary.

The other reason is that I have been to visit family in Britain and Texas, and enjoyed a visit in March from my Mum and Dad. Here is a photo of my Dad and I in front of the rings at the North Carolina Museum of Art. We are wearing Yorkshire Lad t-shirts that mimic the Yorkshire Tea logo.

Dad and I standed under a ring-shaped sculpture on a blue skies day
One Brit spotted us and asked, “Are you really from Yorkshire?” “YES!” we said.

Here is a close up of me wearing the tee when I watched the Denver Broncos lose the 2014 Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is a distinctly American event, but thankfully my buddies were happy for me to show off my Yorkshire roots at the party.

I am wearing a camouflage cap and a black t-shirt in front of a wide screen TV showing an American football match.
Yorkshire Tea should sponsor a sports team as the bright colours work really well!

There has been lots going on, but luckily I have some music blogs in the pipeline that I will edit and upload. More soon!

Pre-performance nerves

Today I fly back to the UK for a visit. Air travel can be pretty stressful. At least I can take comfort in the fact that even if I get a nasty case of travel sickness, the jitters, or whatever, the personnel and passengers will probably never see me ever again.

Shows are stressful!

More stressful is the time just prior to going on stage, when you’ve practiced your set and it all comes down to whether you excel or embarrassingly fail. And those in the audience – your fans and potential fans – will definitely remember it. The impressions you make on stage can be lasting impressions. Before shows I get nervous and seek reassurance from those around me, rehearsing tricky little bits with my fingers, tuning and retuning my guitar. Should I try to curb my stress?

Should you relax?

Many people engage in funny rituals before a performance to try to relax. From people who have to drink a certain drink or listen to a particular musical piece, to those who want to chitchat about anything other than their show. I don’t have any of these superstitions, but should I find a quiet corner in which to calm myself?

No, get fired up!

The opposite option is to get excited and act like a boxer about to get into the ring by shaking your arms, jumping up and down, and beating your chest. Recent research suggests getting pumped up in this way actually boosts performance more than a relaxing massage or soak in a bath. So before a show it might be a good idea to get your heart bumped and your brain in gear to attack, go out there and give it all you’ve got. (If you make a mistake at least you were energized and able to keep going.)

As far as plane journeys go, I don’t recommend stoking up your air rage. However, I might try tactically psyching myself up before the parts of the journey that make me most apprehensive.

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