The world still there

In 2018 I dropped an application form to play the Danny Kyle Open Stage (DKOS). This takes place as part of Celtic Connections international music festival held at the start of the year in Glasgow. DKOS is a platform where upcoming musicians can play to the Celtic Connections audience. There’s a panel of judges and the winner is given the opportunity to play a support slot with one of the headline acts the following year. You can imagine there are lots of bands and artists applying for a coveted slot at DKOS and my application made not even an echo as it journeyed into the void…

… until Thursday last week when I got an email from the lovely and kind Liz Clark offering me a slot at this year’s event! As the event was now online they saved on the downtime switching between acts and had more slots available. I wasn’t sure how this was going to work but replied with an enthusiastic “Yes please”. It all went pretty quick and slick from then. I emailed three songs and a photo over and on the morning of Monday 25 I had a call with Liz over zoom. She recorded our chat about the songs and the whole lot was played on Celtic Music Radio that evening.

I sat with the family and listened to the radio broadcast and it felt like an event – anticipation of when I’d be on, followed by heightened listening, exchanges of looks and congratulations afterwards. Although there were only four others in the room and they were my family, I did run that vaguely familiar gamut of feelings from self-consciousness and vulnerability to thrill, pride and satisfaction. 

I haven’t played live since lockdown began in March 2020. I miss it like crazy and wonder what it’ll be like when we can do it again. Will I still want to? Playing live requires a certain mindset. How will this past year of isolation have affected that mindset? It could easily be another six months or more before we can play live music again. What then? It would be easy for me to drift along in cycles of write, record, release, repeat but what DKOS gave me was that all-important ‘something back’. Hearing your songs on the radio, talking to people and seeing folk respond to your music… they are among the greatest things. I loved doing DKOS and was so grateful for the opportunity to take part. It was also a bittersweet reminder of the world still there and how wonderful it will be to perform these songs live when we can again.

You can listen to the radio show on a catch up. The other acts on this broadcast are all great too but if you don’t have time to listen to the whole thing, I’m on around 40 minutes in.

A minor arc

The last thing I released was my 7 track mini album, A minor arc in November 2020. I’d become attracted to the idea of writing a collection of linked songs. Something reflective that took stock of where I’m at just now, how I got here, where I’m going and how it all fits together. It’s hardly a new idea. Arguably it’s what I’ve been doing all along.

I’d already written Seacliff Beach and knew that this provided a kind of conclusion, or answer, or arrival for any number of musings that other songs might contain. I wrote a song that gave me the zoomed-out perspective for this collection of songs and the title for the album: The Surge and the Fall. But I eventually ditched that song. I worked with some ideas that were half-formed and raised others from scratch. Caroline didn’t appear until I was well into the recording process. I’d written an opener that functioned as a prelude to all the other songs to come but ditched that after coming to the painful conclusion that my voice was not actually capable of singing it. The Trees of London stepped up to become the opener, representing the linearity that transforms during the course of the album into circularity.

If life is indeed a circular construct rather than a linear one then this collection represents a small section of that circle – a minor arc. Each song is a lesser section still and life itself is a minor arc of the great wheeling gyrations of the universe.

What I ended up with looked different from what I’d originally imagined but isn’t this always the way? The journey determines the destination. Not the other way about.

You can find A minor arc on all the usual streaming services or get it from my Bandcamp site.

A minor arc by Richard Buchanan