Goodbye 2018. Welcome 2019!
And so we enter the final day of 2018! A year that has felt both incredibly long and yet when looking back on it, it has actually sped by like a run-a-way freight train. Like, er, go figgguuurrreee! One thing is for sure though, this has been one of the toughest years in recent memory for me. Some tough situations were sent my way and I guess it would be fair to say that I am reasonably happy to see the back end of this 2018 shaped bitch!
I am philosophical about it all mind you, though Lorde knows (Yeah the singer. I don't believe in the almighty, OK?!) it has taken me the best part of the year to see some kind of silver lining. However, I do feel that these tricky and testing situations have actually been little lessons for me to learn and grow from and for the first time in a long time I feel like I am understanding some of the shit that has hit the fan.
Am I sounding all Californian and New Age-y to you? Good, because if there is one thing I need to do in this life it is to live in a beach house in California with an incredibly attractive Californian girl.
A girls gotta dream right?!
Now, normally this final blog post of the year is a simple round up of achievements and thank yous to all the promoters, journalists, producers and fans that have aided me in some way shape or form, within music. A list if you will. However, this time I'm going to let it flow a bit more and be a bit more scatter gun and NOT be just about the music. I might tell you about something bad that happened, before moving on to the best crisps of 2018 and who doesn't want to know that? I guess the idea is to, in some way, put a proper full stop on the past 12 months, making the move forwards into 2019 that much smoother.
I hope that you are happy to indulge me a little on this one? I'll try not to get too morose on the serious shit and I'll also try not to talk complete bollocks on the other bits.
Disclaimer: The latter will be significantly harder.
Alas, let's start at the beginning shall we?
The year began, as most years do, with a sense of excitement and a clean, fresh slate to do as I pleased.
**Mark is skipping through meadows whilst REM's 'Shiny Happy People" plays**
However, this was quickly halted by receiving frightening news about my Dads health.
**Sound effect of a record player scratch. The Doors 'The End' starts up.
So, the first quarter of the year, for myself and my family, was a bit of a shit one. It was extremely frightening to have to wonder whether Dad would still be around by the Spring and as you can imagine there was a lot of tears. Unfortunately for me (quite a sensitive soul when all is said and done) I always seemed to be crying in public places like pubs and restaurants!
"What was the worst/most embarrassing time, Mark?"
Oh good question reader, I'm glad you asked me to re-live the trauma all over again. Well, I think my pièce de résistance was on my actual birthday, where I was surrounded by loads of my friends in some roof top cocktail bar in Shoreditch. Not only were there confused looks at the choice of venue (It was weird. I mean it's somewhere you'd expect to see an episode of TOWIE shot) but the person that they had come to celebrate managing to live another year, was being hugged by his LITTLE brother, as he cried his little heart out.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!
"Mark, how about we interrupt this sadness briefly and you tell us about the best music you heard in 2018?"
Good idea to break it up, reader, very astute of you. But of course I wrote a blog all about my favourite tracks last week. You can read it HERE.
"Oh yes of course you did. I've already read that. What about the best film you saw then?"
Ah yes. Good thinking! Well, Sorry to Bother you, would probably be my film of the year. It has this surreal, eccentric and comedic tone to both the script and the direction, that dances alongside these deep messages of anti-capitalism, race and inequality, creating an extremely provocative and captivating movie that delivers more punch, and holds more weight, than that which the likes of BlacKKKlansman believed it had achieved. Absolutely Superb.
Now, going back to the shitty parts of the year: As well as my Old Man's condition, I too seemed to have to deal with some mysterious illness that had me in and out of hospital right up till around October. I was a medical marvel to all these 'specialists', (which as a middle child, feeling special was mildly enjoyable!), who could not work out what was wrong with me no matter how many machines and procedures they ran on me. It was a fucking drag truth be told and it did not aid my mental health in any way, shape or form. So yeah, mix up all these negative scenario's and you got yourself a lovely recipe for a good old fashioned dose of 'shaky mental health' based icing on that fragile, sad little cake!
So, the first rounds of thank yous go to my family and incredible friends - some of whom really did put up with a lot from me and yet continued to be there and support me. The year literally would not have been possible to get through without you (and YOU know who YOU are) and that is by far and wide the most important lesson of 2018. I strived for progression in music, financial success and more and more achievements in 2018 and it's true that I was extremely lucky to have managed to achieve them all, but they didn't really make me feel much better inside. Yet, the friendships and the support I was shown over the past 12 months resonated through my entire being, like the Gong from a Rank Films Production (pic above) and it has made me re-assess a few things.
I'm sounding a bit Russell Brand aren't I?
OK, let's move on and talk about my other passion aside from music. Travel! 2018 was yet another very fortunate year of me seeing even more of the world (up to nearly 60 countries now...not that it's a competition of course!), and two of said travel destinations, (Iceland and Mexico) were ones that were high on, The List. Lucky, lucky boy.
Iceland was friggin' great and not as expensive as I was lead to believe. I did of course still manage to cain a fuck load of cash on frivolous spending sprees, but what ya gonna do, huh? I saw some immense stuff from huge Ice covered waterfalls, to beautiful arctic tundra's and I even saw the Northern Lights. Now, it is totally true that I don't actually remember seeing the Northern lights because I was absolutely steaming drunk on Viking beer and far too many shots of Brennivín (See the 'before' pic to the right!). But I was reliably confirmed, by the people I was with that, I DID SEE THEM! So that counts I think.
I also went to Spain, Portugal and the incredibly wonderful, Mexico, where I got to see the traditional Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos) festivities and swim with whale sharks - Not at the same time of course. That would be mental.
So yeah, very grateful for those wonderful trips and hopefully many more in 2019.
"OK, Mark. What about some musical happenings though? I mean, that's one of the main reasons we follow you after all"
Nice one reader and thanks for bringing it round to my music? Yes, musically things have been pretty full on in 2018. On the live side I've played tons of shows across the country, slowly tweaking and shaping the set. I mean, I've tried out so many new songs on you all and all in a multitude of different set lists that you'd like to think I'd got it fucking fine tuned and ready, huh? Almost, my loves. Almost!
Shout outs and thanks go to all the bookers, promoters and venues (some new, some old) that have allowed me to come and perform for them. It's been a fucking blast. I really appreciate it and hope to see you all in 2019. Big shout out to 21st Century Noise for booking me to play for old Jez Corbyn (See pic above), and also the lovely Jessica Beechy who booked me to session guitar for the über talented, Sariah,(See both Sariah and Jess in pic on right) who flew over from New York to perform her tracks to a UK audience. I was further blessed with actually making two very lovely new friends in both Sariah and her boyfriend Gene and I hope to see them again next year.
"Hey Mark! A couple of questions. Firstly, do you think this faux conversation between an imaginary reader and yourself is wearing thin?"
Yeah, it probably is reader but we've come this far and, like 2018, we should see it to the end now I reckon.
"OK. It just might be a little tedious and they might get a bit pissed...."
I SAID WE SEE IT TO THE END, READER! NEXT QUESTION...please.
"Right, yes. Of course. OK, so what was your favourite book of the year?"
Oh, I thought you'd never ask! I'll give you two books you little rascal! Firstly the Simon Spence Happy Mondays biography (pic to left) is a serious must read for anyone even remotely interested in music. Notice I didn't say, 'interested in Happy Mondays', because this is a book about music, friendship and life in a rock n roll band that you can truly love even if you have no idea of the band themselves. Of course it is always nice to be aware of who you are reading about and for me Happy Mondays are one of the UK's most overlooked bands in the history of music, so it was a real treat. What I love is that this book manages to back up that idea of them being truly underrated and dispel the myth that they were simply a band about drugs and chaos. Instead Simon Spence paints a picture of a band that has a strong work ethic and talent that enabled them to create a completely unique sound and genre of music - all be it at the same time as being under the influence of numerous narcotics. A tremendous, tremendous work of non-fiction.
The second book is Tom Hanks' collection of short stories: Uncommon Type. A selection of 17 short pieces of prose that depict American life and that reads exactly how I imagine it's author himself to be like: Decent, humane and funny. There is nothing too troubling or wildly fantastical within it's pages, but the tales are quaint, loving and with a focus on the simple things in life that sometimes turn out to be the most intriguing and magical. It is a truly pleasurable read.
Swinging it back to music I am grateful and thankful to all those that used and commissioned music to be used in adverts, short films and in-stores. I've had a lot of fun with those jobs. I also, of course, released the EP 'Carrier Bag Your Career is Over' in the summertime, which received (and continues to receive) lovely reviews from all around the world. Thank you to every reviewer and fan that has messaged me about the tracks. In fact, my streams and downloads this year surpassed anything I've previously achieved and I am STILL absolutely blown away by where my music is being played and enjoyed! I mean, never did I expect my music to transfer over to Nicaragua, Czech Republic, Colombia, Taiwan, or Philippines but they bloody have...amongst another 34 countries! It's incredible and it delights me every time I think or speak about it.
Of course I can't speak about 2018 without mentioning where most of my time was spent: In East London, at The Mix Room studios, recording and crafting the new EP which comes out in 2019!
What started off as a quick "One vocal and guitar", EP turned into one of the most creatively testing (I mean look at my concentration in the pic above!) cathartic and rewarding sessions to date. I've managed to create a sound that is a lot more lo-fi and folky compared to my previous stuff, which does make me moderately anxious about how it will go down, but I have to say I am really proud of these new tracks. Huge thanks goes to the people that worked on it with me - Chris Spore (Slide guitar on 'Down Under Girl'), Hannah Davis (BV's and Washboard on 'The Flowers Still Grow") Daniele Montanari (Drums) Pauline Taylor (BV's on 'The Girl With The Raven Hair") Pete Maher (Mastering) and of course the Producer extraordinaire, Andrea Lepori (Producer and Mixer). Top bloody work y'all!
"Ok, sure Mark this has all been fantastic but we've got to go soon. Tell us one more pick of 2018. Perhaps, your favourite podcast?
Ooohh, I love a good podcast me, and I tell you what reader, I bloody love you and your insightful questions. It's like you can read my mind...or you are my mind. But then that's just silly, isn't it?!
Anyway, the podcast that has been dominating 2018 for me is, The Blind Boy Podcast. A weekly, hour-ish show of one man (Limerick's very own, Blind Boy from musical act Rubberbandits) talking about subjects ranging from the Irish famine, mental health and members of Westlife watching a man wank...It really is as informative and surreal as that sentence sounds, and it is definitely one of those podcasts that you kind of have to listen to in order for you to understand it! You're very welcome on that one in advance.
So there you go, a weird mix of things from the past year - I told you it was going to be all over the place, didn't I?
Just so you know my Dad is much better and I too am in a much better place and I am looking forward to saying goodbye to 2018 and welcoming in 2019.
But before I go, I want to leave you on this final day of 2018 to sincerely thank you from the absolute bottom of my heart for supporting me and my music over the past twelve months. Whether you've come to a gig, streamed/downloaded/bought my music, liked/shared/commented on my social posts, sent me an encouraging DM or told me about your favourite songs from whatever corner of the globe you are living in, it ALL means the absolute world to me and I love you so much for it. You're all sexy, classy, independent bitches and I adore each and every one of you!
I hope you continue on this journey with me and I hope I get to meet and chat with more of you next year. I wish you all the very best for 2019 with all the luck and goodness you can grab. Love ya long time, look after and love each other!
Oh, you thought I'd forgotten about the best crisps of 2019 that I mentioned at the start of this post, didn't you?! Ha! well I just wanted to see that you would stay the course and read to the end. Your reward for doing so is the answer....The best crisps I had in 2018 are...
Squares Salt & Vinegar!
It was a trick question! Because every fucker knows that Squares Salt & Vinegar crisps have been, still are and always will be, the greatest, most saltiest, vinegar-ist crisps known to the human species! Xxxxxx
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