Having toured and travelled extensively in the Ukraine, Russia and all the countries which border the Ukraine it is truly devastating to witness the horrific events currently taking place there. As those who have seen recent shows of mine will know, I spent some time in Kiev some years ago where I wrote the song ‘I Won’t Take This Chance Again’ from my 2018 album ‘Broken Before‘.
The hospitality and friendliness extended to me by the people of this wonderful country was incredible, and my heart sinks and I find myself wiping tears from my eyes as I try to reconcile my beautiful personal memories with the haunting and harrowing images which dominate our newsfeeds. War is NEVER the answer and I pray with and for the people of the beautiful country of the Ukraine that a peaceful resolution to this needless conflict is swiftly found.
Humankind never seems to learn the lessons from history, and to that extent, here’s a protest song from my latest album written against the very type of megalomaniac behavioural traits and leadership that Putin exhibits – (thanks to John Hurd and the Folk Club Bonn for filming).Peace to you all at this gravely unsettling time in world history.
As 2022 begins to roll by with the alacrity of previous years, the first concerts of the year are under the belt, and thanks to all the audiences in England and Germany for coming along and reassuring this Scottish troubadour that a return to something approximating normality is on the horizon.
This is shaping up to be a busy year, and all going well, I shall be touring in Scotland (it’s only been three years!), England, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium and Canada (also three years!). I’m plotting a return to the Edinburgh Festival for the first time in four years, bringing a solo show and also a joint guitar instrumental show with Glasgow-based virtuoso Paul Tasker – stand by for more news.
My latest album is being mastered and I hope to have this ready to release for the summer, whilst I’m making slow but steady progress with my promised album of classical guitar pieces, which will also be available at some point this year.
So, it’s a busy year ahead, and I hope to see you all on the road at some point.
Ever the optimist, despite 2021 remaining an immensely challenging year for everyone in the music industry, it was undoubtedly better than 2020 (let’s look on the bright side!) – :-). I managed to perform 49 shows in 2021, more than twice what I managed in 2020, so despite cancellations reigning in on me in late November/Decemer, I am more optimistic than I have been at any time since February 2020. Many (and I mean many!) negative coronavirus tests saw me perform in six different European countries and I anticipate next year, for the first time since 2019 I shall perform again in my beloved Scotland and also my first intercontinental dates too, all being well. So without further ado, here are my 10 highlights of 2021:
1 – Releasing the video for my 2nd single from my current album ‘Hand On My Heart in early January which can be viewed here – (don’t forget to subscribe to the channel here please if you haven’t already!).
2 – Receiving a wonderful review from the Scotsman in late January for my current album ‘Hand On My Heart’ which you can read here – (one star more than the Foo Fighters – ;-)!).
3 – The moment in July when I stepped onto a stage for the first time in 2021 at the Aarup singer-songwriter Festival in Denmark. The rain was incessant yet the crowd were formidable – an unforgettable moment to treasure – :-).
4 – 14 shows in 14 days across Germany and Switzerland (the first time there since 2019!) in late August, early September – it was my first tour with public transport there for over half a decade, and everyone was so helpful and supportive as I navigated through the difficulty of the German train strikes. And the tour itself was amazing, so good to be back – :-)!
5 – My first tour in Portugal in 9 years in September, undoubtedly a very special moment indeed, packed with incredible moments which I shall long hold dear (picture below – see my Instagram also for more, follow me here!).
6 – A wonderful mini-tour of northern England in October taking in Sheffield, a favourite spot in the charming Doncaster Brewery and a beautiful new venue in stunning rural Northumberland, the Coquetdale Music Trust. Hope to be back in England more next year with my new show!
7 – My first Dutch show in two years and where better than the brilliant atmosphere of Meneer Frits in Eindhoven, thanks to all involved – :-).
8 – Filming and releasing the preview video for my forthcoming album of original classical guitar pieces which can be viewed here. Stunning camera work by Martin Forry and despite more incessant rain, a real privilege to film in one of Scotland’s great lost architectural treasures.
9 – My 11th annual European tour – although affected by the advance of Covid through the Winter months, many great concerts and nights were still had, and the kindness shown to me by many will long be remembered – :-).
10 – The long hours of practise and in the studio preparing for the next two releases – :-). That’s right, my wonderful friends and followers, you’ve read it here first, there shall be two releases coming next year in 2022, plenty of new music and a new show to present and rehearse. The wheel of creativity is always turning!
I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to anyone who has attended a concert, purchased an album, subscribed to my YouTube Channel or Instagram Page, read my posts and website blogs and written supportive messages and comments. Once again the support has been truly humbling and overwhelming.
Here’s hoping 2022 shall be a more successful and prosperous year for us all – may you all be healthy, wealthy and wise in the year to come.
It’s been a while for which I do apologise, but I promise to be back with a vengeance from now on, I can’t promise a weekly or fortnightly blog, but what I can assure you is the monthly blog will be back as an absolute minimum, and there may even be more content than that, so please stay tuned and keep visiting the site.
As I write, regrettably, the road remains closed – I’m currently in the process of rearranging the fifteenth month of cancelled shows, some shows of which are being rescheduled for the third or fourth time. Germany has closed its borders to all travellers from the UK due to concerns over the Indian variant of coronavirus and with the bulk of my summer activity being based in Germany I foresee a bleak one ahead unless these restrictions are relaxed. I watch on with envy as my peers with scheduled dates in England return to work, the only tour I can confirm with any certainty is my Portugal tour in September as safe passage is currently assured between both our countries at present. If you wish to help a beleaguered troubadour in the meantime, please consider treating yourself to a copy of my latest album ‘Hand On My Heart here.
The title track was very kindly played by the good people at Travelling Folk recently on BBC Radio Scotland, you can have a listen to the show here, I feature around 53.30 in, and am in fine company on the playlist. You can also watch the video here and if you do, and haven’t already, please subscribe to my YouTube Channel here, your support would be very much appreciated.
Lastly, after much deliberation and consideration, I have decided to remove all of my material from all streaming sites such as Spotify. Whilst this may be against the current zeitgeist, I am strongly of the volition that music should be consumed in a physical format, as an album, complete with artwork, lyrics and liner notes, to be played on a CD or record player as desired, to give the listener a full immersive experience as the artist intended the music to be heard. Over and above this, I do not believe streaming provides a suitable or fair financial model for independent artists such as myself.
I do, of course, understand that not everyone agrees with me, and the pressures of a modern lifestyle may mean the collection of physical albums may not be appropriate for every individual – to this extent I intend to make my back catalogue available on Bandcamp, for sale as downloads. The first two titles are already up and running, and you can listen and buy at your leisure here and at the very least, please do give me a follow to be notified of future releases. Over the course of the ensuing months I intend to make all of my back catalogue will be available as paid downloads via Bandcamp whilst physical merchandise will remain available from my website.
My alter ego Man Gone Missing has two albums available on a separate Bandcamp page here – again, please follow the page and listen and buy as you wish, your support is very much appreciated.
As always, thanks for reading, and more from me as soon as I know when my first confirmed tour dates will be – please keep checking in as dates are being scheduled and rescheduled all the time.
Fingers crossed for a return to live performance at some point over the summer.
As I write, Spring is upon us, the first signs of daffodils and crocuses can be seen emerging through the green areas of the city, and the rare and welcome sight of the daylight sun can be witnessed from the streets of Edinburgh. And all around us, there are positive signs at last that after a long and tiresome wait progress is being made in the return to normalcy.
There are still no formal signs of when live music will be able to resume in Scotland or in mainland Europe but we can be more hopeful in the knowledge that in England live music events will be able to take place from the 21st of June, a fine way to welcome in the summer indeed. Sadly this comes too late for my proposed tour of England which was rescheduled to early June this year, and has now had to be rescheduled again (please see gigs page for exact dates). And spare a thought for my twice delayed Scandinavian adventure, originally scheduled for March 2020., then rescheduled for March 2021, only to be rescheduled once again for March 2022. Third time lucky….I hope, but it’s so chaotic organising shows at the moment, there’s one show in England I’ve rescheduled five times!
I’ve been keeping busy with live streaming in the meantime, my latest one in conjunction with Music From Scotland can be viewed here, but please be quick as the link will expire at the end of the month. If you are watching for the first time and wish to make a donation, please do so here, it would be very much appreciated. I was highly honoured to perform my latest ever concert at 0130am as part of the online Gung Haggis Fat Choy Burns Supper, British Columbia’s award winning annual celebration of Chinese, Scottish and Canadian culture, curated my the wonderful and enigmatic Toddish McWong. And by special request from my Danish fans, not to be outdone, I performed my earliest ever concert for the good people of the Sulelaegen i Magtenbolle, it was certainly a challenge to have the voice and the technical facilities all ready for a 9am start (somewhat of an anathema to musicians mostly attuned to a start some 12 hours later in the day!) but fortunately it was still a lot of fun, and those who woke early to enjoy it were similarly receptive. Please don’t hesitate to contact me here if you would like to book me for an online private event or concert.
Reflecting upon the past, recently the sixth anniversary passed since the talented Simon P Biggs and I released the video for ‘A City Beautiful‘ to the world, and belatedly released my first ever music video. It is hard to underestimate the positive effect this video had on my career at the time – the ability to finally have a video to pitch to venues and music promoters proved invaluable, and the beautiful, delicate and highly skilled animation that Simon provided to accompany the story the song tells impressed far and wide. And it led to a song I’d never previously played live becoming one of my most requested – it’s strange what a video can do for a song, whilst also teaching me a lot about how much I know my own material!
Moving forward six years, and to my latest video, recorded by Glasgow filmmaker Martin Forry, one with a very different feel, filmed as part of a set of two videos in the heartland of Glasgow’s abandoned industrial docklands. The song is called ‘Forever Take The Blame’ and the video can be viewed here – please do watch it and share it, the powers of the dreaded Facebook algorithm decreed that it wasn’t going to be shared very far and wide at the time of the initial release in January and so I’m still trying to push it as much as I can. And of course, if you’re reading this and haven’t subscribed to my YouTube Channel, please do so here, it would be very much appreciated, rest assured plans are afoot to make the next video.
I’ve been delighted with the reactions to ‘Hand On My Heart’ from all over the world, but at the same time I am more than a little frustrated not knowing when I’ll be able to share these songs with you in person. Belated thanks also to Jim Gilchrist for an excellent review in The Scotsman which you can view here. If you haven’t yet heard the album and would like to do so, please purchase a copy directly from me here.
Lastly, for those of you who have followed me for more than a decade, I’ve set up a Bandcamp page for my alter ego ‘Man Gone Missing’ – please take a look here. Downloads of all the tracks from both albums are there, if you are already on Bandcamp, please follow the page and download until your blues-filled hearts are content.
A full Bandcamp page for my own act will follow in due course as part of a move through 2021 to take all my music away from streaming sites, always giving priority to physical releases and then to paid downloads via Bandcamp.
I’ve literally just a few copies of ‘Beyond Desolate’ left which can be purchased here – if you wish to hold one of the last genuine copies of the first ever album I recorded and released then please hurry.
Thank you, as always, for reading, and here’s hoping I’ll see a few of you folks over the summer and autumn to come.
It has been a slow and tentative start for your humble Scottish troubadour into the world of online streaming, as you might expect from one whose true passion is live performance itself. But having done a couple of shows for the Bert Jansch Foundation last year, a private online concert (more about that later!), the album launch for ‘Hand On My Heart’, a tribute to the legendary David Bowie five years from his passing and most recently a show for ‘Music From Scotland‘ on Facebook (which can still be viewed here for a limited amount of time only, so please be quick, donations are still very welcome and can be transferred using this link) I’ve become a little more active of late.
On this very Sunday I shall take another exciting and bold leap by becoming Scotland’s only native performer at the world famous Gung Haggis Fat Choy supper, a cultural celebration combining Robert Burns Night with the Chinese New Year originating in Vancouver and started by the wonderful and charismatic Todd Wong. Details to follow of this year’s online celebrations (plans are still taking shape) but I can confirm it will take place on Sunday evening in Canada, and in the early hours of Monday morning in Scotland and Europe.
I hope to do another live stream in due course also, perhaps next month, which will be announced here as soon as I know the date. There is obviously no right or wrong way to approach live streaming, and from my peers, I see everything from those who perform several times a week across various platforms or at least weekly, to those who don’t do it at all (my original stance during the first hard lockdown when I was immersed in writing and composition). Now that I’ve started, my preference is definitely to space them out a little to keep it fresh, after all in the real world under normal circumstances, people would tend to perhaps see me perform a couple of times a year at most. For the last show I did a requests show and I was overjoyed to receive requests for 28 songs and 5 instrumental pieces across every single one of my song-based albums as Simon Kempston, in addition to the last three instrumental albums. I now wait patiently for the theme to emerge for the next show, another requests show or something else entirely….?!
On a separate note, should you wish to book me for a private online concert whatever the occasion, please do not hesitate to contact me through this website or any of my social media channels. These can be arranged through Zoom, Skype or Facebook as you wish, I can guarantee you a wonderful evening’s entertainment at a very reasonable price (which can be discussed of course!). And you’d be helping keep a self-employed touring musician maintain gainful employment, what could be better than that?
In other news, from my previous entry you may have notice I opened the year as I left last year’s, with a new release. I have been very happy with how the video to ‘Forever Take The Blame’ has been received, please keep liking and sharing and of course, please subscribe to my YouTube Channel here if you haven’t done so already.
The album itself is available here, and is the first song-based album I’ve not been able to tour. I’m really looking forward to performing concerts again and to sharing all these songs with you live, which is where I truly believe they belong and where they will truly come alive. I’m practising hard for the day when this will be happen in order that I will be well prepared – in the meantime, if you haven’t already done so why not consider purchasing the album so that you can be ready to sing along when that day arrives. And if you have already done so, why not give the gift of music to a loved one or a friend?
Back to the guitar now, and as winter fades from the view of my living room window and the first rays of sunshine emerge from behind the clouds, I thank you all for taking the time to read this, it means a lot.
Until the next time, stay safe and healthy, my friends.
Five years to the day since the passing of David Bowie – awaking to the news which was imparted to me by a friend to whom I’d introduced his music was absolutely devastating, very peculiar given that Bowie was not someone I had never met, but perhaps this alone shows how profound an impact his music had on me (with the benefit of hindsight that it should be a friend and now fellow Bowie devotee is incredibly apt as Bowie’s greatest gift to us all is that of his incredible musical legacy which should be shared amongst all those who do not already know his music).
I first encountered Bowie’s music at school when a different friend but a fellow music obsessive introduced me to his music, and it was without a shadow of a doubt, life-changing, it was unique, spellbinding and transported me into a completely different world, one which I did not wish to leave. Through a shared love and appreciation of Bowie’s music it was with that very friend that I took my first tentative steps in music, writing and sharing songs with each other before forming a band that we would take to London. Thus the music of Bowie played a substantial part in sending me on my pathway to professional musicianship, and reflecting upon this after having crafted fourteen albums and counting of my own, I can now appreciate even more (as if that were possible) his utter and unrivalled genius as a writer, composer, singer, musician and artist. In summary, the considerable impact his music had on me is impossible to underestimate
Others will write essays, articles and even books on Bowie in tribute, but I shall stop there – suffice to say my own tribute to him shall be releasing my new video, ‘Forever Take The Blame’ on YouTube on the fifth anniversary of his passing, which you can watch here. I hope you enjoy the music, taken from my latest album ‘Hand On My Heart’, and if you do, as always, please do like and share.
Thanks Mr Bowie, and may your great music remain an inspiration to many, as it has always been to me.
A Happy New Year to you all, from wherever you read this, we can only hope that 2021 is indeed a better year, even if it did start with the loss of our beloved and valued European Union Membership. This is especially hard for myself, but as someone who identifies as Scottish and European, and most certainly NOT as British, I can only hope the near future holds the promise of an independent Scotland being a proud member of the European Union.
Looking back to 2019 I performed across four continents in what was undoubtedly the highlight and pinnacle of my life as a musician thus far. As we all know, 2020 has been an incredibly difficult year for everyone, but the consequences for those of who work in the music industry have been devastating. Notwithstanding this, ever the optimist, I have tried to select some highlights from the year, which still saw me circumnavigate unprecedented obstacles to safely travel to the following countries – , so without further ado:
1 – My only full-length European tour this year in February, taking in a first visit to and concert in the city of Luxembourg and much of Germany (picture here).
2 – A fantastic mini-tour of England in late February with three diverse but phenomenal shows in Swineshead, and Ireleth (two new venues for me), rounded off with a return to the charming and unique atmosphere of the Doncaster Brewery (picture here).
4 – Recording a video with the talented filmmaker Martin Forry for the single ‘Hand On My Heart’ on a freezing Glasgow summer night which can be watched here (now please don’t forget to subscribe here if you haven’t already)
5 – A summer escape to Fyn and Aero in the idyllic Danish countryside including much-needed live performances – photo here (follow me on Instagram here)
6 – One beautiful afternoon in August where I recorded 13 songs which would form my new album for 2020 which you can of course, purchase from my website here.
7 – Awaking early on my birthday to enjoy my last taste of European citizenship – a morning run from the Bavarian border town of Burghausen into Austria culminated in me rewarding myself with two large chocolate croissants and an extra large cappuccino, gazing back to the the world’s longest castle in Germany (see the photo below for my vantage point). Later that day I launched my new album to the world, before driving to meet my wonderful friends the Pinis for a birthday drink or three in perfect musical company – .
8 – Managing to squeeze one more show in before lockdown struck and the only ‘real’ concert to date since I launched the album in a favourite venue of mine, the Kulturcafe M in Dohna. Playing a selection of the new songs to a live audience for the first time ever was thrilling, and I’m truly excited about the prospect of future live concerts where I can properly tour this album. I remain very grateful to those who gave me the opportunity to do so and the full story may well appear on my website blog in the future.
9 – Receiving a lovely review for the album in the world’s oldest national newspaper The Herald Scotland, which you can peruse here at your leisure.
10 – My online album launch over on Facebook for ‘Hand On My Heart’ – fraught with technical issues in the days beforehand and attacked by some loathsome spanners just as I was starting the show, I needn’t have worried, from my humble perspective, it was a resounding and unequivocal success and I shall certainly look to perform another live stream in the future before touring can safely resume.
And lastly, and perhaps most pertinently at all, it is you, my wonderful friends and followers who were the greatest highlight for me in 2020, in a year which has been an incredibly challenging one, to say the least. Whether you’ve bought the new album, donated to the online album launch, subscribed to my YouTube Channel or Instagram Page, read my posts and my website blogs, written kind and lovely comments and messages, the support has been amazing and overwhelming and it shows there is a place for the music made by this humble Scottish troubadour in the world, despite the combined forces of Spotify, Brexit and Covid working against it.
I could not do this without you, and from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.
Here’s hoping 2021 shall be a more successful and prosperous year for us all – may you be healthy, wealthy and wise in the year to come.
Two years ago this very day I was in the glorious and gorgeous country of Georgia, enjoying some relaxing Festive travels as another hard year of touring drew to a close (the irony, I know!). Exploring the ancient ruins and treasure of Tblisi, meandering amongst the sights, bright lights, running along the Mtkvari River, gazing at the golden fountains of Kutaisi, marvelling at the gorgeous architectural ensembles of monasteries and churches and losing myself in the ancient cave city of Uplistsikhe, aptly titled ‘God’s Fortress’, another life changing journey instilling to this very day musical inspiration within your humble Scottish troubadour.
It seemed there was almost too much to see and to experience, and the trip even included a visit to Northern Azerbaijan, which may be recited in a separate tale, should this become a regular feature on my blog – of that, you, my wonderful readers can decide. So, it was with a sense of sadness that on the last full day in Georgia before returning home to Scotland, I realised I had not yet visited the brand new Georgian Parliament Building in Kutaisi, and at that time the main seat of the Georgian Parliament (Parliament has since returned to Tbilisi). My fascinations with both modern architecture and politics necessitated a visit but how, with just the late evening left before an early morning flight back home.
The answer transpired some hours later when I decided I would wake early, and run in the morning to the Parliament Building, if I took my mobile phone with me (normally I don’t, as many reading this will testify which has led to innumerable incidents of varying degree of hilarity – why do all paths in the woods surrounding Nurnberg look the same?) I could document the visit as required.
So the next morning, I awoke at an ungodly hour and slipped into my running shoes after quickly reminding myself of the 5km route to the Parliament Building, fortunately a relatively straightforward one. I felt a little lethargic, not used to running at such an early hour, but soon found a comfortable rhythm which I was able to hold without too much trouble.
Always someone who prefers running where the rhythm is not disrupted, I often find city running a nuisance due to its stop-start nature, the temerity of pedestrians to be walking against my running route, traffic lights, crossing roads, I’m sure fellow runners reading this can empathise. It is the last of these inconveniences that take on particular importance in a Georgian context, please understand – though Georgian people are amongst the most welcoming and friendly I have encountered, Georgian drivers are the most aggressive and chaotic I have ever experienced. During my time there I had quickly learnt that whether or not a Georgian driver chose to stop at the zebra crossing that it was by law supposed to, was completely random, and more often than not the driver would carry on regardless of the welfare of the pedestrian. In short, crossing the road in Georgia, even at a pedestrian crossing, was putting one’s life at the mercy of these maniacal drivers. As an aside, I would advise any future travellers reading this to use the subways wherever possible instead of the pedestrian crossings, and if using the latter, wait until such time that the traffic is definitely far enough away that it cannot reach you by the time you cross.
Back to the run, as I approached the thoroughfare upon which the Parliament Building was located (I still had some way to go, it was just at the start of a long straight) I realised I was on the wrong side of this road and therefore would need to cross. Somewhat handily, there was a zebra crossing immediately ahead and the road, although a dual carriageway was fairly quiet in both directions.
As I was about to step onto the crossing I noted there was traffic slowing down obediently in the near lane to allow me to cross whilst in the far lane still some distance away was an old Mark 3 BMW 3 Series in an obnoxious green colour. The lanes were wider, the carriageway itself much wider than the equivalent thoroughfare might be in Scotland. Notwithstanding this, I reasoned I had more than enough time to make it across given how far away the BMW was, regardless of whether or not the driver observed the relevant traffic laws.
As I stepped out onto the crossing and jogged across the first lane, I noticed that the green BMW was suddenly moving a lot faster than it had previously been (perhaps the driver didn’t like my orange trainers but surely they couldn’t be any more obnoxious than the colour of his car) and was rapidly approaching the pedestrian crossing. As I approached the end of the first lane, the car previously waiting obediently accelerated away with a steady stream of traffic behind it. The driver of the green BMW still had time to brake before the crossing and at that precise moment in time, I believed that he would.
What happened next still haunts and disturbs me, as I began running across the second lane I caught sight of the driver of the green BMW, a heavy set and stocky man with a shaven head, not unlike some of the monstrous men I’d seen valiantly serve Georgia on the rugby field. He did not look at me but had his eyes fixed straight ahead down the road, stoically, in seeming ignorance of my presence, and the speed of the car appeared to increase again. I realised there and then, I wouldn’t make it running at the speed I was currently going and also knew I couldn’t go back into the first lane due to the continuous flow of vehicles behind me. My only choice was to step on the gas and hope I would have enough to make it.
Those of you reading this who have known me since my schooldays (not that long ago, come on……!) will recall I was a talented sprinter in my youth. The old techniques my athletics coach taught me came flooding back – high knee drive, pump the arms, quick strides and I burst straight into a short sprint to the central reservation, just making it there as the green BMW flashed past, vanishing around the corner before I could even draw breath.
A little shaken, adrenalin flowing through my veins, I crossed again to the other side of the road, and continued on my way to the Parliament Building, where somewhat subdued to start with, I tried to dismiss what just happened and treasure the experience, for who knows when I would return to Kutaisi?
In the almost two years that have elapsed since this near death experience, I have often thought back to it. I can still clearly picture the driver’s face – what on earth was he thinking of? Clearly, he had seen me, why didn’t he react and slow down? If I hadn’t sped up, then I probably wouldn’t be here to write this tale – thank god the old pickup in speed was still there! Was he high on drugs, alcohol, or just another maniacal Georgian driver?
I’m sure the experience may at some point find itself into a song, if you hear a reference to a green BMW in a future lyric then having read this, you will know to what it relates. And as for the driver, if by some strange and mysterious twist of fate he happens to be reading this – please take heed of this tale the next time you take the wheel, unless you want someone’s death on your conscience.
As for the Georgian Parliament Building – here it is pictured below, for what it’s worth, I have no regrets in going to see it, nothing ventured, nothing gained, and I just about lived to tell the tale. And in my humble amateur architectural view, a striking and stunning example of Eastern European modern architecture.
If you’re reading this, and have enjoyed it, be sure to let me know, and another ‘Onwards He Travels’ tale shall follow next month.