Seeing us through to the end of the year we’ve reached out to a number of our favourite artists and cultural creatives to join us in celebrating good things. A bunch of five things that make their world go around, inspire them or just need celebrating for what they are. There’s no theme here. It’s no kind of “best of year” round-up. These are just five things of the many things identified as making the world a better place to be. We’re all about positivity. Almost all of the time. We promise…
Cara Tivey has long been one of our favourite musicians as she’s played piano and keyboards with artists we adored for so long, including Everything but The Girl, Billy Bragg, Ted Chippington and The Lilac Time. She was part of the late 70s/early 80s postpunk scene in Birmingham and even toured the world and played keyboards for ‘Parklife’ era Blur.
Back in the autumn, Cara released ‘Zone’ - an album of instrumental pieces that are, in one way or another, influenced or inspired by nature and the landscape that surrounds her at home in Hereford. For anyone currently wrapped in a blanket, clutching a hot water bottle, the imagery it evoked of plants, flowers, waterfalls, clouds, and gentle rainfall. It is the perfect album to hibernate with.
It is a pleasure to find out more about her inspirations, motivations, and favourite things. Over to you Cara…
Hay Bluff is an easily identified landmark on the Herefordshire/Welsh borders. This monumental hill finishes off the Brecon Beacons in such an elegant style. Its swooping slope can be viewed from most areas of Herefordshire, and I see it on my daily walk around the local fields. It towers above us, on the horizon, in all its majesty and glory. When climbing up it, the feeling of excitement before the ascent followed by the sense of achievement when you’ve reached the top is indescribable!
The terrain is ever-changing with the seasons, heather, gorse, bracken, small succulent plants, and mysterious dark pools, reminiscent of the Millais painting ‘Ophelia’. Wild Welsh ponies and assorted sheep roam freely. Once on top of the Beacons, you can see for miles into the bordering counties.
Chords are my lifeblood. I can’t switch off from any music as, on hearing anything, I immediately go into analysing mode. This can be very irritating in lifts or supermarkets where the musical barrel has been scraped, especially when the music then becomes an earworm.
I was always able to play by ear and my time at the piano became a haven, somewhere to lose myself, to experiment with chords and melody, and as a child create naïve motifs. When I was fifteen, I was introduced by a friend to the music of Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye who still remain my all time fave artists and have inspired me through my life. The ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ album never fails to lift my spirits and I’m so glad that love of this L.P has passed on to my children. The interactions between Stevie’s chords and the bass were so ahead of their time in the 70’s.
Lately, I’ve really got into nu soul/jazz with artists such as Jacob Collier, Robert Glasper and Conor Albert who are chord alchemists. I’m a bit obsessed with the end section of Collier’s version of ‘Close to You’ by the Carpenters.
BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS...
Books have always been a feature in my life but where to begin when writing about them?
I love the way a book envelops you in its story, that you are so embroiled in it, it becomes a part of
your daily reality. You can swap books with friends, as over the years, you understand what each other will enjoy. I’ve just finished ‘The Change’ by Kirsten Miller. I have a friend who, in a parallel universe, would like to be a private detective. We would set up an agency together as I absolutely love murder mysteries. She lent me this book with the proviso that it was a bit supernatural in places, knowing that I’m not a fan of fantasy. But, within the first chapter, I was ‘in the book’ as my mother says. The female characters are strong and roughly my age so eminently relatable. As a woman in her sixties, I felt validated by the characters, an unputdownable, feel-good read.
Latterly, I have read books to both my ailing daughter-in-law and my mum who now has dementia. I can’t recommend this activity highly enough. It creates an intimacy between the reader and the listener that can’t be achieved by conversation alone.
Sorry to sound like an old hippy but I would be lost without my piano. It is an extension of me, my fingers, my brain, my spirit, my emotions. Playing my piano is mindful, cathartic, soothing, and if I compose some music that I feel satisfied with, so rewarding too.
My current piano is a Challen bijou grand, it was given to me by the family of my Great Aunt Muriel who was a piano teacher. The bass strings are relatively short so the sound is quite trebly.
It resides in our granny annex, a very small room but, acoustically, it suits the piano down to the ground as it would sound rinky tink in a bigger space. I also have a keyboard but that doesn’t come close to pressing the keys of a real, organic instrument with felted hammers. Needless to say, it’s played every day.
During Lockdown, my bike became a lifeline. I craved my daily excursions down the lanes, exploring areas of Herefordshire I didn’t know existed. There was no traffic on the A roads so I felt quite safe in the knowledge that I wasn’t going to be shunted off the road by a juggernaut. Cycling imbues a sense of freedom, the wind on your face and that sense of just going with where the fancy takes you. To stop in your tracks to watch a buzzard or kestrel, red kite or an occasional sparrow hawk as they fly overhead. Embarrassed to admit I’m a fair-weather cyclist, so rain and snow definitely keep me at home. Lycra is an absolute no go although I do wear a high viz waistcoat!
Outsideleft interview with Cara Tivey, here⇒
OL review ‘Zone’ by Cara Tivey, here⇒
Purchase ‘Zone’ by Cara Tivey, here⇒
Jason Lewis is a Birmingham based music, movie and arts obsessive. Jason's encyclopedic knowledge of 80s/90s Arts films is a debt to his embedded status in the Triangle Arts Centre trenches back then.
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