Life sure is a rollercoaster sometimes, ain’t it?
The past few years have been the happiest, saddest and most turbulent of my life. I’ve married an incredible woman, had two beautiful kids, lost my mum and father-in-law to cancer, experienced my dad’s Alzheimer’s develop, signed to a personal favourite independent record label, done less gigs, put on a soul 45s night, scored a publishing deal illustrating a children’s book about music; among other things besides.
And while my responsibilities have increased, in direct correlation with how much I’ve been able to get in the water, I’ve learnt to be selfless. Until the last few years, my freelance existence allowed me to surf regularly, most days it was any good (and a lot of days it wasn’t). The best swells are often missed entirely these days. All the same, I’ve learnt to be truly grateful for everything I’ve experienced, and all that I have now.
Following my mum’s diagnosis, she bounced back into doing all the things she loved for as long as her health allowed. It’s been said you don’t really start living until you’ve been told you’re dying. My father-in-law lived with cancer for 25+ years, squeezing every last drop out of each day – sailing, hiking, biking the most beautiful corners of Cornwall – knowing he was on borrowed time. Helen and I take inspiration from their thirst for life, carving out time for each other to surf when we can, and get out to do the things we’re passionate about. It’s certainly made us readdress our work / life balance these past few years – “Carpe’ing the flippin’ diem” as we say.
My gills are often dry for much longer spells than I’d like. Then fortune sends a good run when work is quiet, and I return to the embrace of the sea and frothing gromhood. But here’s the thing: when you do get in you appreciate it SO much more. Every now and again you luck into a session, a low tide gamble somewhere off the beaten track, where experience tells you the banks might be fickle but it could be worth a punt. No webcam will let you know unless you go, then it pays off dividends with peelers or hollow nuggets generously gifting pure joy, just one other friendly face out. It still happens despite the crowds, despite the forecast hype and mates bragging via the endless social media scroll (#smunt); even at the most popular spots. And like a good steak following your wife’s return to vegetarianism, it tastes damned good.
The ocean gives us waves, we take them. It’s a selfish pursuit when you stop and think about it, both in its distraction from the other things we probably should be doing, and the self-indulgent obsession. But its power to restore, rebalance and reinvigorate is undeniable – it’s certainly helped me digest a lot of what I’ve been through.
I often wonder how much more time and energy I would have put into making music if I didn’t surf. A lot, I concluded recently. The nice thing about making or playing music is, you give something back; to those who want to listen anyway. You’re not taking waves, you’re making them: soundwaves, vibrations (man), aural delights (hopefully). Check out a piece in the latest Surfer’s Journal about a jazz guitarist named Peter Sprague, and you might catch my drift. He played with Chick Corea and Al Jarreau, surfs good too apparently. I’m just another Jack of all trades, another average Joe. I look at how gracious and thankful some of my favourite musicians were, like BB King, and how self-obsessed fractions of our society are becoming now. Is this progression?
I’m thankful to the independent labels (big up Freestyle and Ubiquity Records) who took a risk on me and my musician friends, giving us the opportunity to record and put our music out there. I’m thankful to the promoters and venues that put on our live shows, to the punters that come and dance, who enjoy our peculiar mash up of 50s and 60s soul, jazz, rhythm’n’blues and doo-wop; at our Soul Cookin’ nights too, where we play the same sort of thing on old 45s. I’m thankful to those supporting independent music. I’m thankful for the work I do, for my illustration agent (Folio) and publisher (Five Missions More), for all they’ve helped me achieve. I’m thankful for having the opportunity to travel – from Barbados to Panama, South Africa to Scotland, Ireland to Oz – to experience the rhythms and atmosphere of a place, and let that inform the music I write while there.
I’m thankful to my parents for raising me the way they did, for tolerating my love of things not exactly work related (for most of my 20s – funny how they became work related eventually. Do what you love, and the money will follow). I’m thankful to Helen for all her love and support through some hard times, and for all the good times, great company and happiness; to my friends for the laughter and memories; and to my kids for reminding me it’s the simple things that count. I’m thankful to those standing up and making a difference in these skewed times, encouraging positive change. I could go on, I better stop. This isn’t the Oscars.
And I’m thankful if you’ve read this far! Come and say hi if you have. We’ll be playing in Finisterre stores over the summer as part of their summer sessions, as The Mighty Sceptres (a stripped down three-piece version of the band). I might be doing a few more solo sets as Frootful too.
And lastly, by no means least, I’m thankful to Finisterre for giving me the opportunity to perform more music. Look forward to seeing you there…
The Mighty Sceptres - Summer Tour
Thursday 16th August @ Finisterre Falmouth
Tuesday 21st August @ Finisterre Exeter
Wednesday 22nd August @ Finisterre London
Thursday 23rd August @ Finisterre Bristol
Surf Photography by Sarah Bunt and Mark Leary.