Hello from Brooklyn. The US tour is winding to a close – I’m here tonight, in Austin for a few days, then Boston, then back across the Atlantic. As ever though, I’m booking my life months ahead to make sure my level of activity never slacks off. I’ve posted these dates elsewhere in the last few days but I thought I’d gather them all here.

In May of this year I’ll be heading back to Australia nd New Zealand again, a fact which makes me very happy. What makes me happier still is that a lot of the shows will be with the Sleeping Souls, who haven’t been down under with me yet. As icing on the cake, the great Mr William Elliot Whitmore will be on a lot of the shows as well. Huzzah! The dates:

  • 3rd May – The Railway Club – Darwin NT (solo)
  • 4th May – Wide Open Space Festival – Alice Springs NT (solo)
  • 5th May – The Jack – Cairns QLD (solo)
  • 6th May – Groovin’ The Moo Festival – Townsville QLD (solo)
  • 9th May – Amplifier – Perth WA (full band, with WEW)
  • 10th May – Espy – Melbourne VIC (full band, with WEW)
  • 11th May – Fowlers Live – Adelaide SA (full band, with WEW)
  • 12th May – Manning Bar – Sydney NSW (full band, with WEW)
  • 13th May – The Zoo – Brisbane QLD (full band, with WEW)
  • 15th May – The Kings Arms Tavern – Auckland, New Zealand (full band)

I am, of course, very excited about all this. Tickets are onsale now. There’s plenty more news for everyone coming soon, but I’ll get to that tomorrow. Onwards!

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World Touring For Fun And Profit

I write from the tour bus, parked outside the venue in Bloomington IL. Tonight is a headline show, we’ve done one show with the Dropkicks so far (in Indianapolis – much fun was had by all), and we’re firmly over on the right hand side of the country now for the rest of the run. We had to cancel one show in Pomona CA because I was sick (further apologies everyone), but I’m back on my feet now. Ever onwards.

Before we get to news about shows (of which there is a fair amount today), I’m pleased to say that The Second Three Years is finally available on US and Canadian iTunes. Sorry that took so long. We’re still working on the physical release part of it, but the music is there to enjoy for now. Thanks for your patience.

Onto shows. First of all, I’ll be making a quick pit stop at this year’s South By Southwest Festival in Austin TX. I’m playing an Xtra Mile showcase on the Tuesday (13th) and a British Music Embassy on the Wednesday (14th). Both shows will be solo.

We’ve also added one more show to this tour – an end of tour party in one of our favourite cities, Asbury Park NJ. We’ll be at the Wonder Bar on March 18th, tickets are selling fast! Get yours here.

Looking back over the channel, we’re happily confirmed to appear at this year’s Hurricane & Southside Festivals in Germany, which is great news for me and for German fans, and probably bad news for my liver.

Finally, the show in Belgium on March 30th has moved venue – the show is now at the Muziekodroom in Hasselt. All tickets are still valid. See you there.

Right, I think that’s about it for now. Back to mid-western snow and rock’n’roll. See you all soon.

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Wembley Superupdate

I’ve been promising to do an update for everyone on the Wembley show for a while now, and I’m finally getting round to it (sorry for the delay, was gathering information!). We have mostly good news, one slightly annoying thing, and then some more good news. Let’s get cracking.

As of just now, we have released an extra 150 standing tickets for the show (which you can get here, if any are left). Hurrah! This coincides with the information that we have now officially sold out the smaller capacity for the venue (8,000), and so are opening up the whole thing. Bonkers, as a certain Mr Rascal might say.

The annoying news, which is part and parcel with the above, is that we’ve had to abandon plans for a second stage. I’ve learned an awful lot about arena shows since we booked this gig, and some of it is pretty eye-opening. The health and safety regulations about where we could put a second stage were very restrictive, so in the end we opted for putting it by the main stage. However we then realised that as the show is on a Friday, many people could potentially be coming from work (so may miss a lot of an extended bill) plus there is a big expense of staffing a venue as huge as Wembley on an hourly basis. With the ticket prices being as low as they can, I can’t afford to do that; that meant that we were faced with a choice – either stage times were going to be disaster tight and I’d only be able to play for just over an hour myself, or we had to lose the second stage. I hope people don’t feel too let down on this score, but hopefully this explanation goes some way to showing my reasoning with it all.

The fact that we’re not doing the second stage did mean we could release some more standing tickets, as mentioned. I know some people are wary of getting seated tickets for the show. Having spent a day wandering the venue and checking it all out, I just wanted to say that the seated tickets will be getting an equally awesome show (and arguably better sight-lines and so on); and I can’t imagine everyone in them is going to stay sat down for long!

Back to the good news! I have the great pleasure of announcing that my good friend Jay, a.k.a. Beans On Toast, will be opening the show. If you don’t know his music already, check it out. That now is the full line-up for the show – Jay, Dan and Scroob,Billy, and me.

Next up, merchandise. We’re going to make some official Wembley T-shirts and posters to commemorate the occasion, which will be nice. But I’ve also decided that we’re going to have a fire sale of all the old shirts and hoodies that I have left over from other tours. It’ll be a little mishmashed, but in essence there will be a load of cool older shirts selling dirt cheap (under a tenner, certainly) when you get there.

Finally, yes, we are shooting a DVD at the show, and the lovely Greg Nolan is on board right now making a documentary about the run up, all of which will go towards a package including the show, the film, loads and loads of extras and so on, which will be out as soon as humanly possible after the show.

Right, that’s (hopefully) covered everything. Onwards and upwards!

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In what is dangerously close to a cliche, I am sat in a hotel room above a casino in Reno, NV, trying to work out my  problems in life. I should probably make some crack here about shooting men to watch them die, but that joke has itself been done to death (not least by me on twitter earlier, ha). As I’m hoping most people who need to know, know already, the two shows we had here opening for Social Distortion at the Knitting Factory have been postponed due to illness. Annoyingly, the rescheduled shows are in May and I won’t be able to make them myself. Boo.

The moment something like this happens, my team and I go into overdrive trying to work out fill shows, not only for the benefit of those disappointed by the cancellation, but also because touring in the USA (especially as a support band) is a very shoestring operation, economically speaking, and I simply can’t afford to sit on my arse not playing. Of course, there are a million different factors to take into consideration – venue availability, the politics between promoters, that kind of thing. Rest assured that we’ve done the best job we can with this with very little notice.

So! Tomorrow night (7th February), I’ll be headlining at The Blue Lamp, Sacramento CA. Tickets will be $10 on the door, I think we’ll be kicking things off around 7pm. Please do spread the word as much as you can. I’m painfully aware that the show is not in Reno, that it’s ridiculously short notice, and probably every other thing people might be about to throw at me. But it’s something, my team worked hard to make this happen. I hope to see some friendly faces down there.

In other news, briefly, I’ve happily confirmed a headline show at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn NY on March 12th (details here), as well as my first ever Spanish show at Azkena Festival on 16th June.

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Award Winning Piffle

The American tour is under way, we survived Vegas, met up with Social D, had fun with old friends in Santa Barbara, and now we’re in Albuquerque, and I’m not sick. Life is good. Life was also brightened up the other morning by waking to discover that I’ve been nominated for two NME Awards this year. Much like last year, I’m in the “best solo artist” and “best blog” categories. You can vote for them right here, if you’re feeling kind. This is the second year in a row that this blog has been feted with the nomination, which always makes me feel slightly self-conscious as I write it; this is basically me waffling away to little consequence in my own inept way. But it’s nice to be recognized, even a little. I feel like I should say something profound now. Uh… No ifs or buts in free speech! Or something like that.

In more normal news, I’m happy to announce that I’ll be playing the Hultsfred Festival in Sweden in June. There are a bunch more festival dates coming for the summer, and I still need to do a big update blog on Wembley (coming soon I promise). And I guess I should think of more witty and interesting things to write on here in my downtime. Ha!

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John K Samson

It’s not exactly a state secret to report that I am a massive fan of The Weakerthans. I’d count them as one of my favourite bands, and a massive influence, and in the sad event that you are unfamiliar with their work, I’d get stuck in now, before you read the rest of this post.

Last summer I had the pleasure of meeting, hanging out and playing with the Weakerthans. At the time, John K Samson (singer of the band) mentioned to me that he was working on a solo album, to be released this year (2012). A short while later he sent me an advance copy of the record to see what I thought of it. I was totally blown away, to the extent that they recently asked me to write the press release for the album. The album is out this week, you can find details here, and below are the words I wrote about it. Enjoy.

I was a teenager and a punk when I first heard John K Samson singing. When that first Weakerthans record, “Fallow”, emerged in 1997 I’d only briefly caught a glimpse of it in the avalanche of heavier, angrier records on my stereo. But 2000’s “Left & Leaving” hit me like a blast of cold air, blowing cobwebs out of my mind. I sat in a van on tour and listened to it on repeat for weeks, wondering where this voice came from, and where it might be going.

Eleven years and many miles later, I was in Hamburg watching the Weakerthans play a show, hanging out with the band afterwards and making friends. John mentioned that he was working on a solo project, and when we next crossed paths, in Winnipeg in the fall, he gave me a copy to listen to. Sometimes an artist or a writer with whom you are familiar, almost over-comfortable, restates their brilliance in a way that takes you back to the first time their voice broke through the static. Such a record is “Provincial”.

I’m from a small town in the rural south of England, and as such, a record about the geography of four roads in the great expanses of Manitoba shouldn’t, perhaps, resonate. John’s gift is that it does. Within his personal journeys into the heartlands of his landscape, he draws enough truth about the human condition out into the open to connect with anyone who has ever felt alone, awkward, lost, or cold, and indeed warm, loved or nostalgic. To put it another way, this is the only record I’ve ever heard which opens with a song about GPS that brought a tear to my eye.

Across twelve beautiful individual portraits, John weaves stories and pictures of old cars, icy landscapes, grad school procrastination and ampersands. I’m always fascinated by his use of language, the range of his vocabulary and imagery, so far away from the usual tired cliches of rock ‘n’ roll. Like most other people I know who work with words and music, I feel like John stands apart as a bona fide writer, as opposed to just another hack knocking syllables around until they fall into line with the Bonham beats and power chords. No one else I can think of could sing a petition to recognise a forgotten hockey player, and draw me into the sepia sentiment to the point where I’m ready to sign up for the cause.

But I don’t want to fall into the familiar trap of only praising John for his lyrics. The music on this record is full of as much poise and longing as any of the words. The aching horns on “Highway One East” ease you into the picture, the spindly guitar work on “Grace General” draws you further into the horizon, while the lighter good-time feel of “Cruise Night” and “When I write My Master’s Thesis” lightens the heart for the journey through the cold night.

The whole thing comes together as an exquisite portrait of, well, something – and that, to me, is the sign of a great work of art. I can’t write down here exactly what this album is about, or where it takes me, or how it makes me feel. In the final analysis my own words fall short, and I’d just have to play you the damn record to explain my love for it. The pinnacle of the whole thing, for me, is the song “Heart Of The Continent”. It’s one of those songs which is so simple that, as a songwriter myself, I’m sort of kicking myself for not chancing across that melody and structure myself a long time ago. And yet I could never have created something like this; the rising melody, the simple pictures of sudden disorientation and loss, and the final, enigmatic image of being lost in the “crumpled dark” tells me something about myself I never was quite able to say.

This is a record to savour and enjoy. Like Springsteen’s “Nebraska”, it’s an intimate portrait of a place usually forgotten by the geography of popular music, but one which ultimately shines a brighter light on the roads more often travelled by the listener. I’m lucky to count John as a friend, but luckier still to have “Provincial” in my life. You need it too.

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Victory Lap

The usual January lull is coming to an end, thank goodness – we’re about to set off again for the USA and another long stretch of road. The lull wasn’t actually all that quiet, in fairness – I’ve been writing my own songs, working on my hardcore project, doing BBC Introducing stuff and more. But it’s kind of cleansing to know that in a couple of days we’ll be back in the bus, tearing up the miles and doing what we’re best at.

A few quick announcements for today. First of all, we’ve added one more headline show to the American tour. January 29th we’ll be at our favourite Californian club, Velvet Jones in Santa Barbara. On past experience, it will be awesome carnage, tickets are on sale now.

Secondly, for the European shows coming up in March and April, our good friends Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo will be opening up the bill. If you’re familiar with them already, do go check them out.

Finally, to celebrate the start of the new US tour, here’s the belated diary from the last one. Enjoy!

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Happy 2012!

A belated happy new year to you all. I hope you had fun festive seasons. I spent a relaxing Christmas in Colorado, and then a totally manic 30th birthday and new year’s celebration (that kind of blended into one long horrendous bout of sinning). Anyways, 2012 is upon us! Nice to have a new number to write at the end of dates, and if you’re the kind of moron who believes that Mayan crap then it’s also our last year, so we’d better make the best of it!

The first thing that I did with my year was spend some time in a rehearsal room with Matt Nasir (Sleeping Souls) and Ben Dawson (Million Dead), kicking around some ideas for a hardcore / noiserock project that I’ve been mentioning from time to time for a while now. Well, we’ve already had a lot of fun and made some horrid noises, and hopefully we’ll have some time to record something sooner or later to share with you all. I’ll update as and when anything happens, but safe to say, for now it’s more of a real proposition than it has been before.

Just some quick little things for today on the home front. Firstly, we’ve added a full band show in Schaffen, Belgium, on March 30th. I’m also confirmed and announced to open a string of shows in Canada for the great Joel Plaskett in April and May. Check the gigs page, as ever, for details.

Finally for today, I’ll be on the BBC Radio One Review Show tonight (Tuesday) at 9pm sharp. A bit late notice, I know, but if you read this in time, tune in. Right, I’m off to keep fighting the email tsunami. I’ll do another post with more Wembley details very soon. See you all soon enough!

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Happy Christmas

I just got back to London from Heidelberg. The “England Keep My Bones” world tour is officially done – 79 shows in 14 countries since September – bringing my total number of shows for 2011 to 184. Considering I recorded and released a studio album (and released a compilation record too), I’d say that’s not bad going. Tomorrow I head to Colorado for Christmas, so this is basically me signing off for the year. Thanks again to everyone at the shows, the Sleeping Souls, and my crew.

In news, there have been a few more Social D shows added (Flagstaff AZ, an extra show in Tempe AZ, check the gigs list); there’s a blog with more details about my forthcoming signature guitar right here. The world, as I’m sure you know, lost two titans of anti-authoritarian thought (and heroes of mine) – Christopher Hitchens and Vaclav Havel – a great shame; but we can rejoice in the fact that they seem to have taken that shithead from North Korea with them.

Finally, well, I posted up parts one, two and three of the murder mystery. For all your Christmases, here’s part 4. Enjoy, rest up, see you in 2012.

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I’m in Ravenna, Italy. Tonight is my first proper full-band headline show in Italy. It’s been a long time coming but it’s great to be here. The journey was pretty hellish – it took us 28 hours to make the drive here direct from Warsaw. Ouch.

Some quick snippets of information: the show in Graz in a few days is now sold out. And we have just added a show in Berne, Switzerland, on March 31st next year. I’ve also spent the day making festival plans for next summer, and there will be much exciting stuff to announce in the new year.

Finally, on our long journey to where I’m currently sat, we made a four-part murder mystery film. Here’s part one…

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