On Friday 29th and Saturday 30th May, I played two gigs – the first in Hoxton at the Zigfrid Von Underbelly, the second at The Victory pub in Hereford.

Both gigs were great fun for various reasons, and meeting both sets of promoters was lovely.

And when you meet nice, decent people who put on shows, after 6 years of doing this, it really helps.

Hoxton was what I call a “normal” gig – I opened the evening and only a few people were about so early, so it was standard London fare- you sing to people and they clap politely and move on, waiting to see their friends or y’know the people they actually came to see.

However, my experience the next day, in another part of the country was very different.

Firstly, I was invited down by Slim Estrada who plays the slide guitar on my song ‘Vodka’ on the album. He’s Matt (the album’s engineer)’s friend, and plays a mean doboro.  I always try and do what scares me in music because in my life I usually acquiesce to my fears a lot, so I try and be braver in music. When he said me, my wife and a bunch of my bandmates are popping down to do a set in Hereford…why don’t you come with..? My first few thoughts were all the reasons why not to do it – I don’t get on with the idea of being around a lot of people, I can’t really afford it, I’ve had a chest infection for 4 months and bad asthma so maybe 2 gigs in 2 days isn’t a good idea… all the excuses under the sun and then I froze all that and went “sure! love to”.

I’m really glad I did, it was a wonderful experience when you don’t want to kill people you’ve been stuck in a van with for hours on end. Everyone I was with was great at music – having jammed together for ages before, and there was a real genuine love of it that was tangible. No egos, no bullshit, no showing off – just people and passion.

The people in Hereford also had an appetite for it and they embraced a good show with vigour and more appreciation than I’d seen in London for a while. The whole evening was excellent – I was the middle act, and enjoyed all the others- and the audience were in a great mood- quiet for the most part and warm when sets were over. I knew it was going to be a good night when Alula Down popped her uke and shruti on stage opposite mine – How often do unrelated musical twinsies happen?! Never?!

Mark’s set was so raw and wonderful, it made me wanna rush out and buy a bodhran immediately. Alula and her partner’s music was so pretty, with shruti, uke, accordian, guitar…really peaceful to listen to and it was only a shame their set caught the tail end of the footie and some rowdy pubgoers down the other end :/

The spirit and atmosphere really aligned to make it a special night-all fairy lights and bunting. For me, always, singing Oarsman is my favourite part, and singing it in what looked like the bowels of a ship was even better. But even more than that, meeting lovely, like-minded musical people was the highlight because I am always “solo” so its lovely to feel part of a bigger community.

Here are some pictures of both shows:

Hoxton – Pictures by Peter Kent

Salwa Azar @ The Zigfrid Von Underbelly May 29th 2015 by Peter Kent
Salwa Azar @ The Zigfrid Von Underbelly May 29th 2015 by Peter Kent
Salwa Azar @ The Zigfrid Von Underbelly May 29th 2015 by Peter Kent
Salwa Azar @ The Zigfrid Von Underbelly May 29th 2015 by Peter Kent
Salwa Azar @ The Zigfrid Von Underbelly May 29th 2015 by Peter Kent
Salwa Azar @ The Zigfrid Von Underbelly May 29th 2015 by Peter Kent
Salwa Azar @ The Zigfrid Von Underbelly May 29th 2015 by Peter Kent
Salwa Azar @ The Zigfrid Von Underbelly May 29th 2015 by Peter Kent
Salwa Azar @ The Zigfrid Von Underbelly May 29th 2015 by Peter Kent
Salwa Azar @ The Zigfrid Von Underbelly May 29th 2015 by Peter Kent
Salwa Azar @ The Zigfrid Von Underbelly May 29th 2015 by Peter Kent
Salwa Azar @ The Zigfrid Von Underbelly May 29th 2015 by Peter Kent
Salwa Azar @ The Zigfrid Von Underbelly May 29th 2015 by Peter Kent
Salwa Azar @ The Zigfrid Von Underbelly May 29th 2015 by Peter Kent
Salwa Azar @ The Zigfrid Von Underbelly May 29th 2015 by Peter Kent
Salwa Azar @ The Zigfrid Von Underbelly May 29th 2015 by Peter Kent


Setting up in Hereford with Slim Estrada:

The Victory, Hereford 30th May 2015- by Salwa Azar
The Victory, Hereford 30th May 2015- by Salwa Azar

Hereford: Pix by Ingrid Bohnen

Salwa Azar by Ingrid Bohnen May 30th 2015
Salwa Azar and Mark (Double Bass) by Ingrid Bohnen May 30th 2015
Salwa Azar by Ingrid Bohnen 30th May 2015 in Hereford
Salwa Azar by Ingrid Bohnen 30th May 2015 in Hereford

All day my legs and arms were jittering. Jittering with excitement and nerves.

Better than what normally happens in my stomach!

My glands were up and Id spent most of the day steaming my face, drinking green tea and trying not to succumb to whatever was threatening my throat.

I always get sick on gig days/weeks. With such regularity that it must be psychosomatic even a little. My body just overloads with expectation and decomposes. I am my own worst enemy.

Except…this was a gig I’d wanted to play for nearly 2 decades.

As a teenager and into my early 20’s I’d gone to the Garage to watch the 90’s premiere metal bands tear the place up. Deftones…MyRuin…L7…and then we’d all shuffle upstairs for an indie club night of checking each other out behind the smoke-filled smog, before it was time for my friend to drive me back home.

So to be invited to play, it was a no-brainer as to whether to accept or not.

I arrived at Highbury & Islington station, laden like a packhorse with my bags.

Realising I didn’t know how to get in, I emailed the promoter who told me it was round the back.

I’d waited for bands i’d loved round the back of the garage…to see if we could catch a glimpse of them getting on or off tour busses…Id been dragged into the dressing room by Tairrie B past security, because I was a friend, and came with flowers…it wasn’t that exciting but it was those little moments in my early life where I was always thinking “this is awesome, will it ever be me?”

There’s a clandestine feeling to being in a venue you’re not normally allowed in until the lights pop on and the music starts.

Walking into the venue from the load in entrance, the floors were much cleaner than I remembered. Your shoes didn’t stick to it, and it didn’t stink of stale smoke or dry ice. The large downstairs stage area was clean!

I was greeted by a member of I think, Feldspar (so many dudes!) and told where to find everyone else.

I trunked upstairs, but not before gleefully absorbing my surroundings and snapping a picture of the empty stage downstairs.

Upstairs, the club room I had spent a few evenings in decades before seemed much smaller than I remembered and was also fairly clean!

The other bands (Broken Boat and Feldspar) were setting up, dragging great instrument stands about and lugging drums up stairs. There was me with my little ukulele and shruthi, with my 2 bags- and everyone else had carfulls of equipment.

I sat patiently waiting – I don’t like to be late for things so when someone says soundcheck at 5:30pm I arrive on time. After chatting to BB’s lovely den mum, and oft-times roadie downstairs for a while to escape the tinnitus-inducing drum checks, it was finally my turn to do a very quick soundcheck, with 20 minutes to go till doors opened.

Then I gathered my stuff and headed to the lit sign that read “toilets” to find the dressing room.

There was a dressing room!!

*I* was in the dressing room upstairs at THE GARAGE!

Ok, so I know I sound like a geek but it meant a lot to be there.

Sat in the dressing room with the really lovely members of Broken Boat, and occasionally a Feldsparian, I let my nerves have their last gasp. Text from friends came through to say they were here or on their way…the music had started and the lights were on.

And then the knock at the door came that lets you know it’s time to step out into the dark.

God damn, it was a good evening.

I didn’t know Oarsman could go so well with people who were so shy at first – but they slowly got into it, their hearts swelled and we sang for just the right amount of time together.

That soundman really did a great job.

I left with my heart full, and knowing that I finally played at The Garage to rapturous whoops and whistles, only a few years late. This is what it’s supposed to feel like doing music. THIS.

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taken by Dominic Alan-Smith 16th April 2015

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I gave a little song breakdown to great new music and arts blog Stitch In Time. Check it out here

I’m really looking forward to my gig supporting FELDSPAR at the Garage this Thursday (16th ticket £5 doors:7pm im on first).

– despite a number of chest infections and colds, I want to have fun at this although I dont know what my voice is doing. Life has been a bit work-heavy so its been harder to sort my music out. No excuses though, I can’t wait to have a good proper sing.

Obsessions of the month:

– Scandal

– Hozier

– Eating honey coated Almonds or Cashews

– Red velvet

My music doesn’t just take a monumental effort from me to keep going on, despite work and through thick or thin, illnesses and family commitments, it also really relies on friends, family, fans to keep on pushing too. I cannot thank those people enough who have kept on pushing with me. To anyone who’s come to a gig, come to more than one gig, said to a friend “hey listen to this” or played it in the background or spotified it even though you can’t afford the album, THANK YOU. You keep me going. seriously. Id have given up without the great support from everyone else. I don’t have it in me to do this on my own. There’s no point. I could have stayed playing songs to myself in my bedroom, but my fans are literally the whole reason I bother risking it all, putting myself and my music “out there”. When I want to give up and feel it’s too hard, the last few times the Universe has bitten back and said, no, be patient, things are happening, and then someone buys a CD or says something amazing and it makes sense all over again. It makes me tear up every time someone reminds me they listen to my music. From the bottom of my heart, thank you SO much. You have so much choice today of what to listen to, it is like winning a lottery any time anyone chooses my music for those brief few minutes. x

Thursday April 16th – The Garage. Supporting the excellent Feldspar Come.

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29th May at the Underbelly, Hoxton – East London – details coming soon

30th May – Hereford – The Victory pub supporting Heed The Thunder with Slim Estrada.

June – TBC

Small show, intimate. Always great to see Joe Kelpie doing sound coz you know he’ll take care of you.

I felt really relaxed and happy. It was lovely to play my songs again and my voice felt not stressed or anything despite suffering from lots of snot issues earlier in the day hahaha.

I look pretty happy in these pix with possibly a hint of hipster…:/

Images reproduced very kindly with permission, by Mike Watts.

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((O)) Helios is smiling today ((O))

– Feedback so far has been more supportive than I could have ever have asked for.

– People have been asking about a Vinyl release- considering setting up a Kickstarter so please feel free to comment/register your interest here.

– There’s still so much to do – self-promotion-wise – that it feels like I’m just at the foot of a mountain but as point #1 has been so positive, I feel that now I actually have a decent thing to push and can only wait until the rest of the world cottons on to it.

– This album took a buttload of balls to make. It’s the one thing in my life that I was posessed about. I had to get it done. Ever since I was a little girl at 4, exploring mum’s piano for the first time, Id wanted to make music of my own. After an entire lifetime of not knowing where to start, being too shy, doubting myself and being torn between having to live in this world and earn money, and wanting to live in a musical realm and just exist, I finally scraped enough money over a year and a half together to do it. I’ve spent more money than I have made back on the music, but something deep in me is settled and happy now that I’ll never regret it. I finally have a body of work that actually is coherent, and describes me as not only a person but a musician. It’s just the tip of the iceberg too- I have so much more to share but not until I’ve done this first album a bit more justice.

Through all of life’s struggles, health issues, work stress, personal shit…I made this. and I’m so proud of it I sometimes hurt all over with the force of love I have for this album.

I can only hope it affects you as much as it has me, and is something you’ll cherish, as I will cherish all the blood, sweat, tears, money, friendship sacrifices and pain that went into making this. I know that sounds so totally dramatic. If it weren’t the truth. Every day from the moment I started recording with Matt, has been spent worrying about my “baby”.

And yet, at the end of the day, it’s “only” music right?…Right?

Sal at the Lantern Society 2015

(image taken by Mike Watts and reproduced with permission 2015)

If you buy ‘Black Feather Wooden Chair’ from any of these outlets, please don’t forget to write a review or give a star rating.

Please feel free to share widely on social media, tell your friends too and use the #BFWC hashtag.

Thank you so much lovelies x

LINKS:

on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/black-feather-wooden-chair/id951479056 (please rate/review too!)

on Deezer: http://www.deezer.com/album/9365266

on AmazonMp3: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-Feather-Wooden-Chair-Salwa/dp/B00R0HQIG6/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1421322676&sr=8-9&keywords=salwa+azar

on GooglePlay: https://play.google.com/store/music/album/Salwa_Azar_Black_Feather_Wooden_Chair?id=Bhv3ibrq4fzyzkrgzc4j4frgv2y

and you can order the physical CD (you’ll automatically get the digital download too!) from:

http://salwa.bandcamp.com

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Listen to it also on Soundcloud: http://www.soundcloud.com/salwa

or Spotify: https://play.spotify.com/album/36piBJlQ5H7flUAsRvy5fL

And because it was posted to a Facebook event for my 15th Jan launch, I’m reposting here for permanence and for those without Facebook.

Here is the review that was written by someone who stumbled on a show one evening, and then bought a pre-release copy of the album I had with me as I’d just gotten them in unexpectedly early, before the release date. His name is Mike Watts, and it’s such a kind review- full of everything you’d hope and dare to hear if you’d poured your heart and soul into an album. I didnt know him before he came to the show in December, and he certainly didn’t owe me this generous review so I’m probably going to print this out and frame it for posterity 😀

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Saw Salwa Azar for the first time just before Christmas and were fortunate to be able to buy a pre-release copy of her ‘Black Feather Wooden Chair’ album and can’t recommend it highly enough and really looking forward to her album launch at the Lantern Society! Put a few thoughts together – short and longer version

The Skinny; Black Feather Wooden Chair is a must have, beautifully crafted album that rewards with new delights at every play

The Fatter; Salwa’s gorgeous vocals and thoughtful lyrics weave a tapestry through a variety of musical styles including folk, jazz, blues, country and sea shanty that somehow keeps the album together as the most delightful confection. One of the markers of a durable album is the difficulty in choosing ‘favourite’ tracks, even more so when those ‘favourites’ keep changing on repeated play. On first play of Black Feather Wooden Chair, the first ‘OMG’ song was the fabulous opening track ‘Clouds’ then the catchy riffs in ‘White Horse’ catch the attention, then the jazzy motifs of ’Tabletop love’, the humour and Americana style of ‘Vodka’ the quirky ukulele in ‘Untitled Folk song’, the mournful cello in ‘Poseidon Sea’, the reflective lyrics of ‘Eucalyptus and Pine’ or maybe the beat and shruti box in ‘Oarsman’? Several more plays left me with the notion that despite the diversity in songs and styles, this album should be played in it’s entirety as a ‘song cycle’ piece. The production and mixing of the audio is deft and light and the labour of love involved permeates the entire album. In conclusion, this is a wonderful journey through the musical influences of Salwa Azar and deserves the highest praise and widest possible audience of music lovers.

Great work Salwa!