Mermaid Overseas: Nashville to Memphis to Austin to Hilton Head

The soundtrack to a Mermaid making music across three continents.

Where: Nashville to Dallas to Austin to Hilton Head

When: 7/5/2015 – 14/5/2015

Lesson: Don’t get 3AM Greyound buses just to save $2

Achievement: West to East coast in 65 days and remaining in one piece

Lyric: I try to slip into pure imagination as tears drop on the dark windowsill

Quote: “$50 to touch it” / “i’m feeling far too sane for a psychedelic festival “

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1. Mac Demarco – Salad Days

“Oh dear, act your age and try another year”

A tipsy me left a tipsy Laura in Nashville as I Ubered to the Greyhound station at 3AM to get a bus to Dallas, changing in Memphis. The vibe of the ever so familiar crowd in the bus station was even more weird than usual and I found myself no longer fascinated by the crazies surrounding me but verging on fed up. The experience definitely felt old as John Frost, aged 40, slumped down next to me as he boarded the bus, reeking of booze and cigarettes (even more than me). As everyone on any means of transport in America feels the need to talk to the person next to them, John Frost slurred stories of his three children of various ethnicity and his journey across from Santa Cruz, where his heart lies. Just as the bus was departing he began asking if I had enough money. Thinking he wanted money I told him I was very poor and having to be frugal until I could work (the truth). He replied that he had a proposition for me when the lights went down. The lights went down and Mr Frost offered me $50 to “touch it”. As flattering as this was I refused and asked he move away from me.

Three hours passed of me attempting to listen to my favourite songs of my soundtrack so far including Mac Demarco but I did not want to tarnish the happy memories these songs give me with the discomfort I felt sat on that bus. Mr Frost was also hammering on my shoulder every five minutes, yanking my earphones out and leaning on my leg as he howled down the phone at some poor being. Numerous offers to “touch it” were heard as I pretended to sleep. As we were approaching Memphis Mr Frost went to the loo, probably to vomit from the booze, and a kind saviour of a soul boy with braids and a trilby hat came and sat next to me saying “fuck this, that guy has to leave you alone”. As happy as this made me, I knew Mr Frost well now and knew he would not settle for this change. As I suspected he returned from the loo and kicked up a scene. “You’re disrespecting this lady so I’m going to sit here” – saviour. “Oh hell no white boy you better get back to your seat, who the hell do you think you are” – Frost. “No man, just go sit in that seat over there, I’m sitting here now” – saviour. “If you interested in the lady, boy, just say… but you ain’t stealin’ my seat! You better know your place” – Frost. The dialogue continued and escalated to the majority of the bus slurring racist abuse at this poor saviour boy until he moved back to his seat without my backing him up which I deeply regret. Threats of death were made and I was glad to learn that once we got to Dallas (Frost left at Memphis) my saviour was still in one angelic piece and I apologised for my lack of input into the scary situation.

I was happy it was all over with and I had arrived in Dallas, eager to see a friendly face and luckily I was staying with my brother’s friend Adam for the night. I hopped on the bus going in the wrong direction and had a free and full tour of downtown by mistake. Dallas seemed really cool as a storm brewed over lots of funky big buildings.

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I made it to Adam and Sarah’s lovely flat in Bishop Art District and we ate some good grub, supped some delicious beer, caught up on the past few years and reminisced on some stories from when we were younger. I couldn’t recall many times I had seen Adam since he was banned from the Kelly household for smoking Marijuana in the garden. I’m sure Paddy would regret his decision if he met the cracking none-stoner Yorkshire man and his wife as they are now. I lounged on their big sofa with their kitty cat and finished the latest Nashville series feeling more connected now I have visited the glorious city.

2. Bruce Springsteen – Glory Days

“She says when she feels like crying she starts laughing thinking about glory days”

At Austin Greyhound station I purchased a bottle of water from a man so overweight he could not stand up. Hearing my accent he began talking about Anthony Hopkins (I am not Welsh) and quoting The Lion in Winter, describing scenes which made him cry.

I fell in love with Austin the moment I arrived at Firehouse hostel to discover it included a bar where the only entrance is through a bookshelf. I supped many beers with four lads with only 2 names between them and I cannot recall what either of those names were so I’ll call them Bob and Nick (X2). Bob 1 was from New Jersey and the first American I have encountered to have a passionate love of Bruce Springsteen. He was even so kind to pass my details onto his friend who works at The Stone Pony and give my music details in hope of having a gig when I make it there next year! 2 fabulous females from The Philippines but living in Utah joined myself, Bob 1, Bob 2, Nick 1 and Nick 2 and they were named Wani and Eira and were up for a good giggle.

The usual hostel group of mixed nationalities hit Rainy Street and then 6th Street to a mixture of bars hearing lots of live music and rap. We danced sipping on Long Island Ice Tea pitchers until the wee hours of the morning.

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The following breakkie I met Alfie who essentially has the life of Rob in High Fidelity. Originally from England he now lives in New Zealand and works in a record shop called Real Groovy Records. This all sounds very dreamy to me and I loved listening to him talk so passionately about so many artists and that he had flown to Austin simply for the Psych Festival. I reviewed the line up and confirmed I would 100% attend the festival the next day, particularly as Mac Demarco was playing.

After much debate I decided a hostel was the most ideal space to dye my hair compared to some lovely Couchsurfing host’s home. One of my least favourite dye sessions resulting in almost all over deep blue and almost an hour scrubbing the shower and walls. Oh well.

I explored Austin in the sun covering a lot of areas, watching live bands and finishing for a rooftop beer in the heat. As I sat down a girl invited me to join her and her cousin for some drinks. They had been drinking for quite a while as many stories were on loop. The girl was called Ryan and claimed that she was Norwegian solely because she has lived there the past few years, despite having a strong American accent. Drinks escalated and I joined her and her cousin Nick to his house in a suburb of Austin where we were joined by his housemate and their adorable dog!

Strangely Anthony Hopkins returned back to a conversational topic as Nick called me Clarice. Nick is only the second person in my life to refer to Silence of the Lambs when choosing my nickname, the first being my sister. This made me smile a lot.

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I was looked after well with endless booze, dog petting and my Uber back to my hostel. I played a mini house show for them on Nick’s guitar minus my capo which resulted in having to change the key of most songs I was singing. I don’t wish to give comment on the impression I got during the evening but there were some periods of suspicious behaviour between the 2 cousins which I certainly would not have with my own cousins but maybe we are the unusual ones in the UK? I still had a thoroughly enjoyable night and as always great to meet Americans actually living in the city I’m visiting.

3. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger – Animals

“Living in the fishbowl and your mind’s under control”

As planned I spent the Sunday at Levitation Austin Psych Festival. It is such a great and intimate festival and the weather held out with glorious sun which always adds to the event. I Ubered with Alfie, an Aussie girl and Jose from Phoenix. We all crossed and lost paths during the day but I spent most of my time with Reed who I met in Denver and his friends covered in Mylar (foil used in aircrafts).

The music was stunning as I saw 13th Floor Elevators, The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, Flaming Lips and Mac Demarco.

The GOASTT is Sean Lennon’s band as you can hear in his voice and some of his tracks sound massively like John’s. The female, Charlotte Kemp Muhl, was dead cool looking and sounding so sexy throughout their set.

The biggest attraction to getting a ticket was to see Mac Demarco who did not disappoint. He and his band are hilarious when in between tracks and the music was incredible. He crowd surfed smoking a fag and is just a bloody loveable fella.

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I checked out the campsite Reed and his friends were staying in and was pretty impressed as it danced with fairy lights and I wish I had committed to the whole weekend. We also got given some free food and had no idea what it was in the dark, but free food is always good food.

4. Flaming Lips – Do You Realize??

“Do you realise that you have the most beautiful face? Do you realise we’re floating in space? Do you realise that happiness makes you cry? Do you realise that everyone you know someday will die?”

The last band I saw was Flaming Lips of who I had heard impressive stories of their live performances but still did not realise it would be to such an extreme. It was so entertaining to watch the insane light show and the lead singer entering the crowd inside a plastic ball. Every song in the set introduced a new scene and some deeply creative genius behind portraying it. This track was one of the songs I knew the words so we joined together swaying in the Mylar with our arms in the air.

The next day I arrived in rural Austin in severe need of a car after a very expensive Uber as the only means of transport and a 45 minute walk to find any food. I found it a much needed escape from cities and I was reminded of my parents’ house in France where no one would know if you were dead for a good few weeks. Probably not the safest choice for my first Air Bnb but all is well that ends okay. I had a big double bed in a private room and it was bliss. I played guitar for a few hours and wrote in beautiful silence, minus the chickens squawking outside. I fell asleep pretty early compared to my usual routine and woke up around 15 hours later undisturbed. I was obviously in need of a good kip but I felt pretty mortified as the host, Will, assumed I’d left already as he had barely heard 2 words from me.

When I crawled from my lair Will made me eggs and coffee and revealed he was also a Lyft and Uber driver so I would use his car to get to the airport. I used Lyft for the first time with the discounted free ride. On the drive we discussed music in depth as Will is a strings player planning on travelling America in his Uber/Lyft car across cities playing music. Here is his vibe.

I envisage my return to the USA in 2016 now to be a structured tour of house shows utilising the great connections with the musicians and artists I have met along the way. As I have been thinking about this in depth the past couple of weeks, Will told me about a book called “How I Made $25,000 On A 2 Month House Concert Tour” all about organising a tour of house shows and how to fund it. I hate having to think about art as a means to make money but I think this is something I need to get my head around to ensure I can continue doing what I love and making my plans reality for the future.

Another expensive ride to the Airport ended up rejecting my payment through the Lyft app actually leaving me unable to pay with any English account. The second wave of guilt for the week alongside not defending my saviour on the bus. I am assuring myself that Lyft would have to pay Will and that he is not out of pocket but I still must do some good in the world before karma bites me in the bum.

5. Pavarotti – La Boheme

“I am poor but happy. I am rich in poems and love songs”

It was a long journey to Savannah but I made it to embrace the motherly presence of Penny who I’ve known since I was born. We drove straight to the luxury of her home in Hilton Head, South Carolina. I took such pleasure in making salads and the evenings with wine and telly. Conversations with Penny and her best friend Sarah, who was also visiting, were drastically different to the ones I have become used to during the adventure. They sound alarmingly like Annie discussing make up shades in depth and where to shop next, which is a home comfort. Additional to this was learning that they have both fought and beaten cancer in the past 5 years which is incredible and gives me hope for people in my life suffering with family members battling cancer also.

Penny’s beautiful holiday home had a swamp outside which I would most definitely have waded into had she not at the last minute informed me of the alligators swimming among the turtles. Instead I surprised myself by going on 2 bike rides (and actually enjoying them!) down luscious green paths to the beach for a frolic in the waves proud to have made it to the East coast.

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I caught up on booking my route and even more sleep and we watched Moonstruck with Cher which I have never seen and loved! We also watched The Bletchley Circle which was great and the evenings felt so much like home it was slightly disorientating but most likely needed. In Moonstruck they go to the opera to watch La Boheme which is Paddy’s favourite and this also filled me with warmth imagining him ironing his shirts and watching it for the millionth time on Sky.

Sitting looking out at the swamp trying to decipher whether the moving creature is an Alligator or a turtle before heading to Savannah, Georgia for the day tomorrow…

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