As I went into the blog section of my website, I noticed that the last blog I posted from my Road Notes was in October of 2016 after Rockwood Festival. So I think it's only fitting that the next post is from, yes you guessed it, Rockwood Festival. There have been a lot of shows and memorable moments since that last post, moments which I always meant to blog and share with you guys but something was always going on that pushed it to rest on the back burner.
So it's 2019 and Rockwood has once again reared its magnificent and beautiful head and beckoned us artists and fans alike to join each other in a weekend of great music, belly laughs, tears of joy and all round unforgettable moments and I think it's safe to say that we achieved just that.
I get to the airport and check in my 'armoured' flight case for my guitar, even with that military grade case I don't find complete peace of mind sending my guitars into the hold of a jet. I have an early evening flight so the plane was quiet and I had a spare seat beside me (best feeling) so I could spread out a bit and sit comfortably. Midway through the flight, I have Paganini playing through my headphones as I read my book and sip on a beer. I'm not even thinking about Rockwood as I like to clear my mind before tours, festivals, shows etc, it's part of my process.
I arrive in Frankfurt, guitar safely in hand and I'm greeted by the friendly faces of Chrissy, Dominik, Aaron and Amanda, I didn't see Amanda at first, she was horizontal in the back seat not feeling too good. We all briefly caught up on the short drive to Offenbach, checked into the hotel with no troubles and quickly headed out to meet the others for dinner. I got to the restaurant and was met with a rapturous applause, high fives, amazing hugs, a greeting really befitting of The Captain, haha! It was great to see everyone again, catch up on what everyone has been doing and start to feel the buzz of what this occasion brings.
Now I'm just going to talk about it from a musical perspective for now and Friday brought the one song concert, a preview for the newcomers of what to expect form the upcoming shows, which everyone nailed and it was in this moment that I realised I had better bring my A+ game to the table, the artists weren't playing games this year, they meant business. Afterwards we had the exceedingly fun karaoke, a chance for the fans to show off what they can do on the mic and share the stage with some of their favourites. It's fun for me and the other artists because its a chance to perform with no pressure, no expectation, we can just hang on stage with whoever is singing and have a good time.
Saturday saw the end of my long lay-ins as my photo shoots are the first up, I really don't mind this at all, I actually enjoy the responsibility of making it on time and I haven't missed one yet!! I'm going off of memory as I'm writing this so forgive me if a detail is wrong here or there. The jam session is up first and this is possibly my favourite part of the festival from a musicians point of view because it stretches my talents as a vocalist and a guitarist. In the weeks leading up to the festival I was asked to do a couple of songs with Briana Buckmaster and Emily Swallow, two absolute vocal powerhouses and I couldn't wait to try these new songs out. They were 'Barton Hollow' by the Civil Wars, Briana's suggestion and 'If It Hadn't Been For Love' by The Steeldrivers, from Emily. We get a chance to run these once or twice before we play them on stage and I think it's safe to say we did pretty damn well on both, props to Hayden Lee for jumping in on harmonies on The Steeldrivers song, he had never heard it before coming on stage with us. Speaking of Hayden Lee, he came up with a new version of Chasing Echoes which we played and I have to say it was incredible, I'd like to get that version down at some point. Shortly after the jam session the acoustic lounges began, I was paired with the big man himself Jason Manns and the incredible Emily Swallow. Now, Jason and I are what could be referred to as Wing Kings because we never really prepare for these situations and do very little preparation, we just like to show up and play what comes to us....poor Emily, haha. I have a list of songs on my iPad which I showed to Emily and she killed the songs she picked from it, we have a new Wing Queen in the house, haha. I don't recall all of the songs we played in both sessions but the highlight was definitely when Emily and I decided to don our best muppet voices during one of Jason's songs and proceed and SUCCEED in putting him off, haha, we're still friends, honest. Saturday night brings the first of the two main concerts. In the green room, the set list is, well, set and everyone is getting in their last minute warm ups, getting into their zone, people are focused, the vibe changes, there is an energy that we all love and hate at the same time, adrenalin is going, nerves are rising but all the while not a single person forgets to say something to the tune of "kill it out there".....and we did. The applause from the crowd after every artist left the stage was deafening and for good reason. Everyone left it all out there and getting to watch it from the side of the stage as my friends pour everything they have into putting on a performance for the amazing fans is another favourite part of mine.
It's the same set up on the Sunday, first is the Jam Session, It could've been Saturday but either way Billy Moran and I played our new song which we wrote together called Shed not Shredd like I said on stage haha. Billy is an incredible musician and I believe he could walk into any band on the planet, so it's an honour to write and play with him and even though it was the first time we had played it and barely rehearsed it, I think the song went down well with everyone, I played Jackson with Emma Fitzpatrick, another unbelievable singer and we brought some of the boys in to play in our 'band', that was super fun, Emma certainly brings out her best June Carter when we do that. I then had the pleasure of playing guitar on Angel From Montgomery for Briana, Emily and Lisa Berry who I had met for the first time on Thursday, whoa that girl can sing (insert wide eyed emjoi here). It was nice to be in the background and just play guitar as these amazing women did their thing, they really made that song their own......recording please ladies!! My acoustic lounges this time were with Briana Buckmaster and Gil McKinney. Gil is similar to me in music tastes, a lot of old school country music going on so he wanted to play some Randy Travis and he nailed it, as expected. Gil has really grown as a singer since we first met all those years ago, we played together in London in August and it was amazing to see him up there controlling the stage! Briana and I played Falling Slowly which we played together on The PBandJ tour in the States and Gil came in with another harmony too and it sounded really nice, It's a tough song to sing but I love playing it, its a beauty. When Briana suggested it to me in the green room I was adamant that we had never sang it together and after 5 mins of yes we have, no we haven't, I then realised I was thinking of Shallow, a completely different song, haha, sorry Briana! The last concert of the festival was upon us and I'll keep this short as to not repeat myself too much but everyone was amazing once again and even though we were all tired no one dropped off or lowered their standards. That goes for the fans too, you guys brought a ton of energy to the show which we could all feed off of. We ended the night with everyone on stage singing The Doobie Brothers legendary song 'Long Train Runnin', which was a really fun, high energy song to end the weekend with. We get back into the Green Room and everyone is on a high, there are glasses chinking, high fives slapping, the rabble of "that was awesome" and "so much fun" and "let's do it again"...…...and I'm sure we will!
In amongst all of this amazing music are brunches, photo ops, backstage parties/hang outs where we all get to chat and spend time with you amazing fans, where we can get to know you all a bit better on a more personal level. You guys are what makes weekends like this one so special and possible to do, without you none of this can come to fruition. So truly thank you all for your constant support and participation!!
The Rockwood staff are something else, working tirelessly throughout making sure everything is in place, that everyone is happy and sorting out anything that needs sorting and doing all of this with a smile. So a huge hats off to Sabine and her team who put this all together and help deliver this spectacular weekend.
The artists, I don't really know what to say. It has been a pleasure watching you all grow over these festivals both as people and performers. We are all a little older and a little more road weary but with that comes a level of grace, a level of grace that shines out of each and everyone of you. It's an honour and a privilege to share the stage with you all and call you my friends.
Long may it all continue!