More than a decade ago, and not for the first time, I was at a point in my life where a sense of direction had eluded me. After moving to London with a small band, in seek of fame and fortune, which had been promised to us but in actuality never materialised, not much time passed before the band in effect ‘disbanded’ leaving the core members in a state of flux. Moreover, my personal life had fallen into a state of turmoil as I broke up with the girl with whom I’d taken this leap of faith to the big city from my beloved Scotland. Caught in a perennial state of indecision, instead of returning home like my former bandmates, I decided to stay in London and form a new band, although in order to attain this I needed to support myself financially, which I did by taking a job in a specialist jazz and blue music shop in Central London.

It was not long before I realised that to financially exist in London was to prove beyond my means, despite my desire to succeed musically and the enjoyment of my new job in the record shop. Forced into a particularly impoverished corner, I decided I had no option but to return to the land of my birth, though what I would do when I arrived there I did not know. Still reeling from the fallout of my relationship breakdown, I had sought solace in the music of Townes van Zandt and John Lee Hooker, to help me cope in such trying times, the first time (though not the last) I had experienced such numbing pain. An obsession with the latter (JLH), had lead to me tracking down a couple of biographies, one of which I happened to be reading on a typically quiet morning on one of the last few days I worked in the record shop I had grown to love.

It was on this very morning, as I stood engrossed in my JLH book, whilst simultaneously listening to the great man’s subtle groove and well-worn baritone voice, that I looked up to be met with a smile from a slightly bedraggled individual, who commended me on my choice of reading. Despite his scruffy appearance, this person oozed charisma and exuded charm, and was instantly likeable – his long grey hair poured over his shoulders, the beret hat he was sporting gave him a distinctive and wisened look that urged me to listen to him. I thanked him for his compliment, and a conversation ensued in which we discussed the various genres, styles and heroes of the blues, including a shared love of not only the aforementioned John Lee Hooker, but also the great Freddie King & Muddy Waters.

The gentleman explained to me that he was a professional blues guitarist, based in Germany, but touring all over Europe, and was interested to see whether we stocked his output. After asking his name – Mick Pini – I conducted a quick search on the computer – we did in fact stock a couple of his releases, which I located on the shop floor, to his delight, as he was relieved that his distributors, had in fact, been doing their job. Folllowing this exchange, and I’m not entirely sure why, perhaps due to how open this person was, and how friendly, yet also how in tune with my own approach to life he seemed to be, despite our different ages, I told him of my own ongoing crisis, how not for the first time I was questioning my commitment to music, whether that was where my future lay, and if not what indeed I should do with my life, and how the upset from my relationship breakup had only heightened my worry and uncertainty.

The answer came back, and I can remember it as clearly as if it were an hour ago – ‘Forget about everything else – commit to the music. I can see it in your eyes, you believe in your music, so commit to it. It will never be easy, you’ll probably never make much money, but it will always be there for you. Don’t worry about the ex-girlfriend – you will recover from that, there will be other girls and other break-ups (how true!), but the music will always be there. Commit to the music.

We then discussed a little more about the blues and various guitar heroes before he repeated this mantra to me on his departure – son – commit to the music.

After he left, I instantly put his CD on and was mesmerised by the driving guitar playing, the expressive licks, in turn driving and agressive then sensitive, the CD moving effortlessly from a Texan shuffle to a blues ballad, but with consistently engaging and interesting arrangements. That day, I bought the CD (taking advantage of the staff discount, of course) and took it home with me – Mick Pini, the day I spoke with a bona fide blues legend.

And so, I write, on what is one of the few occasions I spend a few consecutive weeks in my beloved Scotland, to share with you the news of the past few months, and of exciting ventures for the year ahead.

Hard to believe we are now at the end of March, and I have already begun work on the next album in the studio with Ian McCalman once more. Steady progress is being made for the moment, with the present focus on the completion of the guitar tracks – it is important to do the style which I have developed justice, and ensure the complexities and nuances of the notation are not lost – and so, we are taking good time over this. We are using 3 guitars for 16 tracks – I shall post more about the various guitars (several of you have asked about my guitars – well, now is the time to stay tuned!), including pictures in the weeks to come.

Reaction to ‘A Fine Line’ has been amazing, thanks to everyone who has taken the time to listen and to the many kind reviews and exposure that the music press have given the album. There are still one or two to come in, and once I have these, they will all be up on the site in the reviews section for your perusal.

2014 began with a wonderful tour of Switzerland, and this was followed by a duo tour of Germany and the Netherlands, once again with Iain Gordon MacFarlane on fiddle at the end of February/beginning of March. Both were amongst the most successful tours I have undertaken, and I am excited to be heading out on the road once more in April, taking in the East of Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Leichtenstein – dates as ever are listed on the gigs page.

One problem I am now faced is with the requirement for multiple guitars on tour and how to best satisfy this need when I am travelling alone, and without my car. Any helpful suggestions would be most welcome….

Stay safe, and I hope to see you on the road soon.

SK x

P.S. Rumours have emerged of a renaissance of ‘Man Gone Missing’ – I can neither confirm nor deny such rumours.

Oh yes, do I have news for you! On Monday the 10th of November my new CD ‘A Fine Line’ will be released-:-). Featuring Iain Gordon Macfarlane, Neil Martin, Eoghan Burke FiaRua & Sebastian Meller and produced by the legendary Ian McCalman. A picture of the master is attached (obviously this is not the artwork!) – the other is with the replication company – . More news to follow soon. SK x

Wow.  What a summer it has been so far!  I’m not long back from a tour where I performed in 6 countries in 9 days – very hectic & not for the faint-hearted.

I had the privilege of performing at the Tabor International Short Film Festival in Croatia as part of my tour – here is a photo of the stunning medieval Veliki Tabor Castle whose courtyard was the scene for the evening’s music.

Following on from this, I performed in Slovenia, met up with old friends for a performance in Bratislava, Slovakia before a couple of performances in beautiful Vienna before making my way to Germany.  That’s five….because I started in Switzerland!

What is the latest news on the album, I have been politely asked by many of you?  We will be mastering next week, copies should be in my hand next month.  Full launch details to follow, but rest assured this is the finest thing I’ve done & I’m mightily proud of it & of everyone who performed upon it.

There will be a couple of performances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe also, details here – https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/music/simon-kempston – I hope a few of my Edinburgh friends & supporters can make it along.

A quiet July is in order to take advantage of the beautiful weather….mmm, actually to finalise the album, but to be honest it is much needed.  August sees me in Finland, Estonia & Latvia and ending up in Iceland so it is great to spend some time in sunny Edinburgh.

Lastly, thanks to Beth Wimmer for her fine photography in St. Gallen – here is an example from our shoot in May, I’ll be posting more in due course.

Islay on Saturday, I shall be sure to take it easy on the whisky….

SK x

Well, here I am, about to head to the first new country of the year – Liechtenstein.

The road to Liechtenstein has been an exciting one, and has taken me through stunning Swiss scenery & beautiful German sunshine.  Having performed already in Baden, Basel, St. Gallen, Zurich & Karlsruhe, I’m over halfway through the journey & have rarely enjoyed a tour so much.

The people everywhere have been great – the concerts have been wonderful and the venues all charming & unique in very different ways.

Here’s a photo of me backstage in Zurich – I was so welcomed they even arranged for Coca-Cola to name the bottle after me….

And a more typical one from onstage in Karlsruhe:

Anyway, looking forward to performing in another, different & new part of this incredible continent tomorrow night!

On the album front, final mixes are shaping up well, we are well on course for a late summer/early autumn release, special thanks to all the guys in the studio who to a man performed brilliantly, and above all to a certain Mr Ian McCalman, whose input is always par excellence.

So, an early night for me as I’m on the early train to Leichtenstein but keep tuned here for more news, I swear I will not wait another 4 months before posting.

All the very best, and thanks for taking the time to read.

SK x

Okay, so my New Year’s Resolution should be to update this blog on a more frequent basis.  Sadly, the hectic touring & recording schedule doesn’t always allow this but I feel the least I can do is improve on my woeful 2012 effort.

I would like to thank all who have helped me, in any way no matter how small, throughout the course of 2012, which was without any doubt, the most successful & enjoyable year of my career to date.  I toured in 15 European countries, my busiest yet, in support of the new album ‘How We Once Were’, which I have been both humbled & delighted by the reaction to.

We are currently arranging numerous dates for 2013, please keep an eye on the gigs page for details & if anyone is able to help in this regard please contact me directly.  I am hoping to tour in new countries this year also, and again will ensure that any news I have is posted here first.

In terms of releases, I have just finished recording all my parts for a new album, once more in Kevock Digital Studios with Ian McCalman.  16 songs were worked on, 12 of which will form the basis of a new album to be released later in the year, whilst the remaining 4 will be put onto to a limited edition EP.  I’m currently in rehearsals with a variety of musicians at the moment, with a view to them recording their parts over the next few months.

And at last, there are also talks of work on a further limited edition release with long-term collaborator Tom Merritt-Smith (Carefree Prisoner & Impasse).

I will be on the road again in Germany in February and hope to see friends, old & new, then.

All the very best to you all for the coming year.

SK x

Hello,

I’m just back from another great tour of Germany and am getting set for my maiden tour of Portugal….

The reaction to the album has been great, I’m really pleased with it – to those of who have written a kind review or given the album airplay/exposure I thank you greatly.

And to those of you who took the time to buy a copy, again I thank you – your support is much appreciated and I hope you enjoy the album.

Now to prepare for a mammoth few months which includes a two-week holiday in Kazakhstan & Kryrgyzstan as a break between the hard touring.

So long, and I hope to see you on the road soon.

S x

Hello All,

Fresh from my brilliant tour of Finland, Estonia & Lithuania I’m very pleased to announce that my third album ‘How We Once Were’ is out today – now available to puchase from www.simonkempston.co.uk/album/ – there are many other ways to buy the album of course, but please consider buying directly from the website and supporting an independent artist (i.e. me) directly.

As a little taster for you, here is a very new video that Sunny and the brilliant team at Balcony TV Kanuas made on my recent tour of Lithuania – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pn6y0D8ea40 – the song is entitled ‘Careless Interventionist’ and is the first song on the new album.  It is a song of reflection, drawing on, though not exclusively about, personal experience of isolation whilst living in London several years ago – I hope you enjoy it, please feel free to leave comments on the video, here or on Facebook.

And of course, all thoughts upon the new album would be very much appreciated.

Hope to see you all at a concert soon – for those of you in Edinburgh, please do consider coming along to one of the Festival shows I shall be participating in – further details here –http://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/music/scottish-songwriters-in-the-round

SK x

Well, it has been a little while since I have posted, granted, but I have not been idle! In the interim period I have undertaken my first tour of Finland, Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania! All four countries were fantastic from both a musical and a personal perspective, and it all went so well that I will be back (in Finland, Estonia & Lithuania at least) in July. I concluded the tour with a wonderful few days in the stunning city of Kaunas & the kind gentlemen at Kaunas Acoustics shot this video of me performing ‘To The Wilderness’ in the city – please watch & listen here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbXe1SvpIt4&feature=related.  There will be two more instalments so do watch this space!

April saw another performance as part of Edinburgh’s wonderful Ceilidh Culture Festival, my only Scottish gig of late but forages south of the border have seen me appear in Keswick, Devon, at the High Barn in Great Bardfield & the Acoustic Festival of Great Britain in Uttoxeter. I have dates in England this weekend in Didcot, Stafford & a return to the Audlem Festival before departing for a tour of Germany (with an opening date in Switzerland).

In other news, my new album is to be called ‘How We Once Were’ and will be released on the 30th of July. There will be a modest ‘launch night’ in Edinburgh towards the end of June, details & invitations to follow! Pre-orders will be available on this site from the end of June also. The CDs feature bespoke artwork with a full 8-page colour booklet which includes all song lyrics.

On this subject, several people have asked about downloading my songs – to cut a long story short there is no facility to do this at the moment as I am in the process of switching providers – again this will be up and running by the end of June in time for the launch of the new album.

So, the next few weeks are set to be an incredibly exciting time for my music & I – thank you all for reading & for sharing in the journey.

I look forward to seeing you on the road somewhere soon!

All the best,

SK x