“Tell Me Where the Ocean Went”

I have really been neglecting this WordPress blog most shamefully. I have Plans for remedying this, but in the meantime, I must just announce the launch today of my new EP, Tell Me Where the Ocean Went.

It’s five songs about the British landscape, ranging from hiraeth for mountain country through Derbyshire industrial history to an artist’s view of a forest in autumn. The lyrics are all by my partner, lyricist and graphic designer, Somhairle Kelly of Eithin Arts. The music is by me. We shared post-production. 🙂

You can find the EP at Bandcamp, here! It’s free to stream from Bandcamp, £5 to download (or £1 per track), £6.50 for the CD (plus P&P), and £4 (again plus P&P) for a songbook containing lyrics, sheet music and so on for all the pieces of music on the CD.

Cover design for "Tell Me Where the Ocean Went".

Cover design by Somhairle Kelly of Eithin Arts

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Bits and pieces :-)

Hello, lovely followers! Apologies  for the slight hiatus there. Hoping to update more frequently from now on. 🙂

Health stuff:

My ME was really wiping the floor with me throughout August, and my brain’s been on rather poor form too, annoyingly. I had a neurology appointment a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been provisionally diagnosed with Non-Epileptic Attack Disorder. This is frustrating in a way (yet another fuzzy condition that transcends the mental/physical illness divide!), but does mean I have a good chance of full recovery, and it gives me something to work on! I’ll be having video telemetry at some point in the next few months, which will mean a week in hospital confined to one room + bathroom! I am hoping to goodness they will let me bring my uke and make some music! It’s all progress, anyhow.

Fair Maid on the Shore CD

I am rather pleased with how sales of my little CD, Fair Maid on the Shore; have gone! Have had some very positive feedback on it, also. I have quite a few in stock at the moment, so if you’ve not bought yours yet and would like to, now is a good time!

One copy of the CD I sold at the excellent Oak & Ivy Faery Market in Newtown, Powys, where my partner and friendly neighbourhood graphic designer Somhairle, of Eithin Arts had a stall, which I was hoping him run. It was a super day: many gorgeous things for sale, and lovely entertainment. Oak & Ivy Events are organising a Witches Market for Halloween/Samhain on 9th November, so if you’re anywhere in the right part of the UK at that time, I thoroughly recommend going along!

Future recording plans…

I’m hoping to record two favourite standards of mine – “She Moved Through the Fair” and “Scarborough Fair” – in the next month or two, and put them up for free listening on Soundcloud, and download for £1 each on Bandcamp. I’ll be sure to note here and on Facebook and Twitter when I do!

I’m also having thoughts about releasing another CD, preferably in time for Yule/Christmas. I think I’ve left it too late to sort out an album for this, but another two-track single, or even an EP, of Yule, Christmas and/or winter-related trad songs is definitely on the cards.

I’m also contemplating putting together an EP or album of Shakespeare songs at some point in the next year or so. Hurrah, lots of plans!

One thing that I am hoping to get to help with all of that, is a microphone stand, a second vocal mic (probably another SM58), and possibly a pick-up for Seren.

And other things I’m playing with…

I’ve fallen in love with a version of “The Bonny Labouring Boy”, and I’d definitely like to prepare it for recording before too long. I am also now the proud owner of both a second-hand copy of “The Oxford Book of Ballads”, and the excellent songbook for the new album by the lovely Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer, “Red House”.

Talking of which…

Red House is a stonking album, by my favourite English folk duo. Can’t recommend too highly. Stand-out tracks for me are, “The Sheffield Apprentice”, the “Bolinder” set and, predictably, “Benjamin Bowmaneer”, but they’re all super. As always, gorgeous vocals from both of them, weaving beautifully with Dyer’s elegant guitar-work, and Swan’s glorious pipes and nyckelharpa. Also, you know, it has a nyckelharpa in. What’s not to love? 🙂

The songbook that goes with the album is limited edition, and I believe there are only a couple of copies left… *tempts*

To conclude…

Basically, things are as one might expect. My health’s not being good right now, and I’m having to fit my music around that more than I’d like. But that still leaves a fair bit of time/energy for playing, singing and creating, and I have many shiny plans, and I look forward to sharing them with you all. 🙂

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Fair Maid on the Shore!

In the space of about ten days, I appear to have successfully recorded, produced, and released a two-track single, Fair Maid on the Shore. That link will take you to my Bandcamp page, where you can buy the physical CD (including downloads), or just the downloads. The CD is £2.50 + postage; the downloads are £1 each. Or you can just listen on the page!

I made life as easy for myself as possible: the songs I recorded, “Fair Maid on the Shore” and “Dacw ‘nghariad”, are two which I have been singing (singing-and-playing in the case of “Dacw ‘nghariad”) for well over a year, I had my wonderful partner Eithin/Sam as recording assistant, co-producer and graphic designer. Oh, and carer and occasional masseur! I recorded the songs in the bedroom of my dear friends Matt and Pat, using one SM58 microphone, a free copy of Audacity, and first Sam and then Matt acting as a microphone stand when I was playing as well as singing. 😉

Some things I have learned…

1. I really can do this! My disabilities are things I always need to take into account and work round, but they make things harder, not impossible. Yay!

2. I really could do with a microphone stand, and either a pick-up for my uke, or a second microphone…

3. The feeling of having successfully recorded something and having people listening and loving the music is really like nothing else. When you add to that the *gorgeous* object that the CD is thanks to Sam’s design work… yeah. *happy*

4. Sometimes the only way through the panic is, well, through it…

5. Nothing like all the warm-up techniques I learned as a classical soprano many many years ago for getting my folk voice working happily.

6. I have a very, very long way to go in terms of learning sound editing/mixing and so forth. So, to begin with, continuing to keep it simple is a good plan. On the other hand, the sooner I start experimenting, the sooner I’ll be able to play around a bit more!

7. I definitely prefer when recording voice and uke to record both together. Learning to do them separately is a skill I’d like to work on acquiring, but it’s okay to have a preference, and at the moment, playing as though it were a performance is infinitely easier for me.

8. Recording is *tiring*. I need to make sure I allow a great deal of recovery time, especially if anything’s gone at all wrong (which, realistically, it often will).

All in all, I am very pleased indeed, and greatly encouraged for the future! I am having Thoughts about recording a Christmas album of songs from Shakespeare (a mixture of trad tunes and ones I’ll write myself) – and even if I don’t manage that, I will definitely try to release another CD of some sort before Christmas! Plus the odd free track available to download on Soundcloud, and possibly one or two more to go up on Bandcamp for people to buy if they wish.

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So, those health problems which interfere with my music-making…

I have ME/CFS, some back problems, agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder, and some serious problems with procrastination, partly depression-related. I probably have dyspraxia, and I certainly do have hypermobility.

I also have asthma, which came on a few months ago, and led to a 2-3 month period where I couldn’t sing at all. Very Frustrating! Thankfully that’s now mostly under control with a preventer inhaler. \m/

And as of a couple of months ago, I also have seizures. A diagnosis of epilepsy is looking likely. I have generalised (probably tonic-clonic) seizures around every week to ten days, sometimes more than one. And I have focal (usually, AFAICT, parietal lobe) seizures more days than I don’t.

So, how does all that affect my aims as a folk musician?

Well, the fatigue and the back pain mean that supporting my voice well is something I’ve always struggled with, especially back in my early 20s when I was a classical soprano rather than a folk mezzo. To make matters worse, my hypermobile ankles and lack of muscle tone in my calves mean that giving myself a strong base to sing from is… difficult. These are all still big problems now. Lacking power and ease in my body means that it’s all too easy to carry a great deal of tension in my throat. That’s never good for singing! It makes creating a beautiful, mellow sound very challenging, and impedes expression and story-telling. And it massively impacts on my vocal stamina.

Being physically very tense and weak is also bad news for a lot of instrumental playing. From the ages of 9 to around 19, I was a double bass player. The double bass is a stunning instrument, and I miss the bass I used to own – a glorious old gentleman whom I called Martin Chuzzlewit, who dated from the late 19th century, with so many repairs at various times that he was all over multicoloured from different woods. When I was able to play him enough, he sounded fantastic, and he took to jazz with great enthusiasm – I became a pretty decent upright bass jazz player in my mid-teens, while the ME hadn’t bitten too hard yet. Having hypermobile wrists and fingers was, for once, an advantage, as was moving to a musical environment where generally using pizzicato meant that my rather appalling bow control wasn’t such a problem! Ultimately, however, being a double bass player was unsustainable for me – I never managed to play him without increasing my back pain, and when the ME started to get bad during my late teens, it reached the point where just getting him out of his case and the spike up used all the energy I would have spent in playing him!

I still have my electric bass, Octarine. I’ve never felt as connected to her as I did to Martin, and some of the physical difficulties are still there, but at least when I can’t play her she isn’t taking up vast amounts of space! Martin I ended up giving to my partner’s uncle, luthier Con Rendell, where he’s now getting played and enjoyed on a regular basis, and may end up becoming the model for more double basses. 🙂

A couple of years ago I took up the ukulele. My uke is a gorgeous, wooden concert uke, whom I have named Seren – the Welsh for “star”. For various health and procrastination problems, I’d hardly say I’m adept at her as yet, but I can accompany myself enjoyably, and still utterly in love with her sweet tone. Despite the size difference, a lot of the skills I learned as a bass player are exceedingly transferable on to the uke, and there’s something about an instrument small enough to play in bed that is exceedingly helpful for someone who is sporadically bed-ridden!

I also play the descant recorder, and (a little), the D high whistle, and the recorder fife in C. I’d say I’m more of a natural string than wind instrument player, but there is nothing quite like mastering a fast jig on a wee melody instrument, especially when it undermines a lifetime of regarding yourself as “clumsy”! At some point, I rather fancy getting myself a D low whistle. We’ll see. 🙂

(The other instrument I would love to acquire at some point is a lap harp or clarsach, though I think I’d like to have my back problems significantly more sorted first, as well as rather a lot more money than I currently possess!)

 

The seizures primarily affect my music-making at the moment just by exhausting me, though it is also a tad awkward to sing clearly when having a focal seizure that makes me feel like my face is numb or my tongue swollen! Those are mostly surmountable problems, however. 🙂

 

And then there’s the mental health stuff. My agoraphobia is bad enough (and my physical health unreliable enough) that gigging is really not an option yet, and even getting to a folk club to sing during an open mic or singaround is rather challenging! The anxiety disorder just makes everything harder, consistently. And the procrastination problems, which I’ve struggled with for much of my life, mean that for someone who passionately loves making music, I do far too little of it.

 

So! Those are the problems. How am I going to get round and through them? 🙂

Well, for a start, there’s doing my physio exercises for my legs and feet, doing yoga to help my back, and weights and walking when I can manage them. There’s learning some Alexander Technique, even if it’s just from a book to start with!

There’s continuing to manage my asthma, to manage my anxiety disorder as best I can, and working with the neurologist I’ll be seeing in August to find some medication that can bring my seizures under control, hopefully without there being too many horrible side-effects!

There’s gradually working, in a determined and self-compassionate way, on easing my agoraphobia.

There’s using methods for overcoming procrastination that I’ve already found work for me, and exploring new ones. There’s using my ellythefolk Twitter feed especially to talk about practises I’ve had or am having, as a way of keeping myself accountable.

Above all, there’s self-compassion, and there’s making music as I can, when I can, and reminding myself of how much I love it. Because, that’s the point of all this, really. I would very much like to get to the stage where I can gig, record and sell albums (in physical and download form!), and generally function as a professional folk musician, as much as my disabilities allow for. But all of that starts with this fundamental truth: making music, both for my own amusement and (especially) to share it with others, is one of the things in life that makes me the happiest. It connects with a deep-down, basic part of myself. It’s part of my spiritual path (I’ll talk about Druidry and the Bardic Call in a future post!). It’s just generally a crucial part of who I am when I am at my best and most alive. 

 

This blog exists for many reasons, but one of the most crucial is to give me somewhere to record and share my journey in working with and around and through my disabilities as I grow as a musician – indeed, as part of that growing. I hope this aspect of my writing will be of interest to some of you; writing about it will certainly be helpful for me. 🙂

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Existing recordings…

I have three recordings up on so far, all unaccompanied traditional folk songs that I’ve recorded over the past couple of years.

Welcome Sailor and the currently very unseasonal I Wonder as I Wander are available to download from Soundcloud for free.

Young Hunting is available to download from Bandcamp on a name-your-price basis, or you can just listen to it Soundcloud on for free.

All being well, I shall be adding to this list soon…

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Hello, and welcome!

Greetings! I’m Elly Hadaway. I’m an English folk singer, songwriter and instrumentalist (mostly ukulele, recorder and bass).

I’m also a number other things, such as: disabled, chronically ill, queer, polygendered, polyamourous, a Shakespeare-obsessive, an aspiring Quaker Druid, and generally a massive hippy. :-)

I’m going to be using this blog to talk about some of those things, and in particular, to talk openly about the difficulties and joys I come across on my journey as a disabled musician.

Care to join me? :-)

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