Mermaid Overseas: New Orleans to Memphis to Nashville

The soundtrack to a Mermaid making music across three continents.

Where: New Orleans to Memphis to Nashville

When: 28/5/2015 – 6/5/2015

Lesson: It’s not okay to bring a couchsurfer to a Bachelorette party

Achievement: Playing the Bluebird Cafe, Nashville

Lyric: Pick me up, put me in your box. Pick me up, I will be your luck

Quote: “I control the music” / “and I love him” / “This is who we are right now”

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1. Elvis Presley – Suspicious Mind

“We can’t build our dreams on suspicious minds”

I managed to make it out for some dancing on my last night in New Orleans with a lovely English couple called Josh (from YORK) and Ella who had both witnessed my demise and party machine status well earned during the days before. The group venturing out of India House included Grace dressed as Bat-girl (bizarrely the second Bat-girl I’d met in the past fortnight) and the first South African I’ve ever met named Michael. I marched into the first bar demanding a beer and shot only to violently choke on my Tequila and splutter a scene, failing to live up to the reputation I had been given to these people just beginning their NOLA experience.

As we moved onto other bars we lost Grace which resulted in a bollocking from her when we later returned home. We hung our heads in shame like children and scuttled back to the pool area where I played for Michael before collapsing into an exhausted sleep. Here’s Grace and a fabulous band playing moments before our crime of abandonment was committed.

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I spent one of two nights in Memphis in a bizarre hostel where guests were given chores and everyone was just a tad too smiley with a reminiscence of religion floating around, reminding me of  Ned Flanders. My first hour was sat in a taxi outside the hostel with Joseph my taxi driver. Joseph said he could tell I was Irish because “sometimes you look small… and sometimes you look big”. I was locked in listening to his deep understanding of Zodiac signs and how my Scorpio house was one of sex and religion which was interesting to begin with but soon led to me darting out the car without my change.

I was not staying for long in Memphis so splashed out on the tourist music activities including Sun Studio and Graceland. I thoroughly enjoyed both places, learning new things on subjects I’ve studied in in a lot of detail before. One golden gem of information from Sun Studio was that as Country music did not allow drum kits in the line up, Johnny Cash’s “Walk the Line” features a dollar note under the strings on the fret board to create a rhythmic sound which creates the hi-hat sound I’ve believed all my life. Here is one of the microphones that so many greats sung into back in the 1950’s.

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Graceland reduced me to tears hearing so much of Elvis’s life and what a great man he was while walking around his incredible home. “Suspicious Mind” is my favourite track of his and I am now determined to learn some covers of the tracks he sung. I was also alarmed to hear he played at Sun Studio a year before any one actually took him seriously which is always comforting for a struggling artist to hear. Here’s his dope crib.

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2. The Stranglers – Golden Brown

“Golden brown texture like sun, lays me down with my mind she runs”

After a long day of music history I headed to couchsurf at Casey’s house. Memphis born and bred, Casey took me under his wing filling me with vodka, dabs and Mexican food in between some great jamming sessions and film watching. We dined with his group of friends who were all characters from Superbad in my eyes and a great laugh. Casey was obsessed with Snatch and was trying to nail his English accent from quoting the film and mimicking me.

The Superbad crew played me some of their songs that they wrote in a band they were all previously in which was thoroughly enjoyable and I played a few of mine which went down well.

It became apparent that illegal activity was going on in his flat as stoners came and left his flat sporadically during the night, which I did not have a problem with. I slept next to his gun which he did not feel comfortable leaving the house without, which I did not have a problem with. He used a Turtle’s shell as an ashtray after making Turtle soup a few days before. This was not okay.

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Memphis tourism, taxis and drunken generosity did set me back quite a few dollars but Casey gave me a lovely guitar strap for my Taylor and I passed out whilst we watched Into The Wild, both of ours favourite film. I only caught half the film but it I constantly have Eddie Vedder’s soundtrack in my mind as I’ve traveled across the USA, longing to be Alexander Supertramp after watching the film hundreds of times.

3. Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’

“Some will win, some will lose, some were born to sing the blues”

I continued couchsurfing in Nashville where I stayed with Laura who is now a fabulous friend. She is so welcoming and open minded that she brought me with her to her friend’s Bachelorette party but without actually asking the Bachelorette beforehand. We burst into a private room with Karaoke in a swanky bar to find 7 girls in black dresses and fluorescent wigs looking me up and down like Regina George judging Janis Ian as Laura introduced me as “my couchsurfer!”. I was soon asked to leave which I found hilarious but Laura felt ridden with guilt for the Bachelorette and me for misjudging the situation. She’s probably going to be annoyed I’ve published her misjudgment. Soz Laura but I had to relive my American High School experience.

Me and Laura left the party to hit Broadway and have my first Bushwhacker which is a delicious alcoholic milkshake. We went to many bars all with live music and I loved every second. We heard Journey performed three times which would usually offend me but fitted the atmosphere perfectly. I was blown away by some of the talent and harmonies we heard which was highlighted as the night went on with copious amounts of alcohol. We met some guys from Chicago and also ran back into the Bachelorette party later in the night. We signed up for Karaoke but departed back home before being called up to sing. I fell asleep in Laura’s bed which is not really what you’re meant to do when couchsurfing but I don’t think she minded. Here she is.

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Sunday was a slightly rough hangover but in hangovers I find most inspiration for songwriting so sat in the park with my guitar for a while. I had my first Sushi experience which was truly delicious with Laura and her bezzie Meg who is so warm and pretty. They bounce off each other yammering constantly, mainly about boys, which reminded me of me and my girlies Charli and Lottie (if we had taken Ritalin or Speed).

A fantastic weekend was rounded off on a full moon hike with Laura and her friend Michael (dead cute), also a music lover. Managed not to sneak into Laura’s bed for the second night.

4. Barret Strong – Money

“Your money gives me such a thrill, but your money don’t pay my bills”

I went on a big old walk around downtown Nashville in the sun gazing longingly at the cowboy boots in the windows. After watching the cheesy yet wonderful series Nashville earlier this year I headed to join the massive queue to play the open mic night at Bluebird Cafe and pretend that I am Scarlett. I met a Christian Rock musician in the queue and an English couple (Southern fairies) who told me I had an American twang. My worst fear to return without an English accent as so many people have irritated me with begins. I managed to embrace the prestigious stage! I feel it went pretty well to a large audience as I saw Cowboy hats bob in appreciation and hear a girl whisper when I’d finished “oh my God, did she write that?!”

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I went back to join the party and head to Motown Mondays in Five Points. Proper swing dancing was occurring when we arrived which was amazing to watch and I even gave a slight attempt to try some with another of Laura’s friends called Ralph. I drank some “mystery drinks” from the bartender and needless to say was owning the dance floor as the Motown hits blasted out by the end of the night. We were drenched in sweat boogieing to tracks like this one and I dared to scrape my hair on the top of my head. As I did so a guy came up to me to reassure me I looked great with my hair like that and not to worry. Only in America do I constantly feel boosted with confidence.

Another hangover exercised creative songwriting and I wrote a song I’m feeling happy with on Laura’s Ukulele! Here is a demo and it is called “WOOF”.

I went to another open mic in music city at Cafe Coco where the Kooks were playing a gig next door! After my inhuman obsession for my teenage years I felt this was a good sign for my whereabouts for the evening and let my mind run away with thoughts of Luke Pritchard proposing finally after all this time. I met some more musicians and did a CD swap with a guy I really enjoyed called Deno Marquee. Here’s some of his stuff.

This day was Cinco de Mayo so after performing I joined Laura and her mates at Matt’s spectacular house for Mexican food and beers. I had the most fabulous Uber driver on the way who had disco balls and Beyonce booming out the entire way as we boogied. When I arrived at Matt’s there was a power cut and I played to the guests in candlelight which was terribly romantic.

5. Lord Huron – She Lit a Fire

“When last I saw her she was dancing all alone. Perhaps my chance was then, I’ll never know”

Laura introduced me to so many new bands for which I am always so grateful. Two of these bands were Leon Bridges and Lord Huron which she managed to find tickets for playing at the famous Ryman Theatre which was absolutely incredible. We ate some hot chicken which everyone in Nashville had advised I needed to have and it was delicious.

In between acts Ray Lamontagne’s ‘Jolene’ played in the theatre which Laura and I had been discussing and singing the previous day. I proceeded to explain the base idea for this blog of controlling the soundtrack to your life which had striked again in the middle of Nashville. I control the music.

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The gig was fantastic and such an experience to have been in the venue which I now aim to play one day. We were 8 rows from the front and I feel bloody lucky. One particular highlight was the snazzy use of a Theremin.

Afterwards we went for more Bushwhackers and endured some men sitting with us one of which was the real life Schmidt from New Girl.

We carried onto Roberts bar for our last whiskey gingers together where, low and behold, Lord Huron were in the bar too! After much debate we approached the lead singer who is in the middle of a world tour with the band and headed to Brudenell in Leeds! He said it was one of his favourite venues to play and they had specifically asked to play there. I immediately insisted Paddy should go and see them.

Laura has written some songs and played me this song with her lovely voice. It felt refreshing to speak to a female songwriter and to understand her lyrics from the magical stories she shared with me during our time together. Here she is in all her glory being a babe.

Catching a 3AM bus back to Memphis and onto Austin, TX…

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