No one (I know of) saw this year coming. To carry on my theme from last week’s slightly Biblical Blog, last year at this time I had the smug posture of the hubristic farmer who was planning to knock down his barns to build bigger ones. I was feeling 2020 was going to be a pretty special year. Along with my fellow musicians I had a new record coming out, some interesting personal travel plans, a radio trip to Nashville, the prospect of performances at a series of exciting summer festivals and the biggest tour for a number of years. Folks, I was a made man.
Had someone told me that some of that had to be postponed I would have been disappointed. I’m only glad none of us could see clearly how badly this year would go. Would I have been ready to take on board the disappointment? I very much doubt it I fear. It was only as the possibilities began to reduce that my expectations shrunk accordingly. By the end of November I was only too happy to imagine the possibility of lunch with a pal was up there with a standing ovation at The Royal Albert Hall. Scratch that…..Right now? It’s better.
On a song which seems to be around my life a lot these days, Into The Mystic, on Van Morrison’s Moondance album, it ends on one of the early but great Van aphorisms, ‘Too late to stop now.’ As the song played in my kitchen (again) at the weekend it struck me how apt a motto it was for this most pernicious of years.
For all the discomfort, loneliness, isolation, loss and heartbreak there are still things which, had we not just endured the last ten months, we might never have known about ourselves and our fellow citizens. What we’ve learned, what we’ve had to unlearn we need to remember to cherish and amplify. Somewhere in amongst all of this there is a different way of being which might just be the hope we need to take into the new year when it comes upon us next week.
I recall a conversation I had many years ago with the late Michael Marra when I was at a point of being frustrated at the way in which business had taken over creativity in my musical life. ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘Remember this: No one can stop you making music.’ The conversation came back to me this year many times over the course of these last ten months. Despite everything – and it really has been everything – people have continued to be creative. If anything, they’ve been even more creative than ever. Home recordings, distant sessions, remote concerts, songwriting, production and all done within our own four walls. Books have been written, paintings, films, dramas created and perhaps…..some of us realise we need less than we think to get the job done.
Here on the AC we’ve traversed the globe speaking to our favourite artists from the west coast, east coast and all points in between of the United States. We’ve played tracks recorded in lockdown and we’ve hosted a session by a band who, because they share the same house, could share the same stage. For almost every Tuesday night of the year Richard Murdoch and I have stayed six feet apart but in the same studio. As the time comes round to leave the house on every one of these nights I’m grateful to be getting to come in to the BBC and share music and stories on the airwaves. Maybe too you’ve been glad of the company….I hope it’s helped.
This year has been hard. For some reading this the loss and pain may be no nearer to ending, but it will. We will get through this and perhaps we will reflect that there are new things we’d never have realised had we not been forced to change our ways. It might just be that the new way becomes so ingrained that like the good Van, we can reflect, it’s too late to stop now.
There is one final recap for the year on this week’s show with some great Country Christmas crackers along the way. You can find that this Tuesday evening on BBC Radio Scotland or BBC Sounds from five past eight. Join me if you can.
It only remains for me to say, Merry Christmas and may the new year surprise us in all the right ways. As ever, thank you for listening.