Collaboration 1 – Ron Sexsmith

30.10.21

Here’s our finished song – Any Wishing Star!

I was honoured to collaborate with award-winning Canadian songwriter Ron Sexsmith for this song, which is focused on being kind, and taking positive action, rather than seeking to blame others. It’s timely that it’s being shared right now in advance of hosting COP26 here in Scotland, where we need to acknowledge, globally, where we’re at with the climate crisis and take positive steps forward.

I really hope you like the song! A huge thanks to the creative team who heled me bring it to life: Mattie Foulds (production, drums), Kevin McGuire (bass) & Mikey Owers (brass, guitars, synths, vocals)

#ronsexsmith #kimedgar #songwritingcollaboration #consequences #promiseswecantforget #iwishfortheworld #writeadifferentending #kindnessisourmission #musicforCOP26 #COP26

25.10.21

“Why do you write songs?”

This is a question I frequently ask others to consider during songwriting workshops, and since the pandemic, I’ve had more time than usual to ponder what I’m trying to do with my songwriting, and why.

As a teenager, the songs of Tori Amos, and subsequently Joni Mitchell, had a huge impact on me. Their songs spoke, it felt, directly to me at that time, and brought me solace and a sense that I was not alone in my experiences. I was writing songs back then, too. I can remember, as if it was yesterday, first listening to Tori Amos single “Silent All These Years” on my friend Louise McFadden’s headphones in the dining room at high school, and a few years later, in 1994, hearing Tori herself perform a cover of A Case Of You by Joni Mitchell in Edinburgh’s Queens Hall, with Louise by my side. Later still, in 2005, hearing Karine Polwart perform songs that touched and moved me prompted my next steps on my own songwriting journey. Karine’s concert was part of a weeklong festival that I had been invited to attend as one of 17 winners of a songwriting competition; inspired by the power of Karine’s performance, and the quality of her songs, I left my employment as a primary school teacher to focus on songwriting full time.

Songs have, literally, helped me – and that’s why I write songs myself. Songs can help people – to reflect, to not feel alone, to be brave, to be soothed, to empathise with others, to challenge their own thinking. I’m not a naturally confident person, but I am confident about gathering my thoughts into songs and sharing them on stage – and I hope that in this way, the things I make can be of some help to others.

Bolstered by new connections and support in terms of my online communication through a project called Global Music Match during the pandemic, I shared a post on social media with me performing a cover of A Case Of You (here’s Joni’s outstanding original version) from my front room, along with some reflections on my own motivations as a songwriter. I was surprised, and pleased, with the way people responded to this – and it motivated me to continue to share aspects of my work on social media. I resolved to post a performance of one favourite song a month in 2021, along with my reasons for loving the song. This is where Ron comes in…

In February, I performed Gold In Them Hills by Ron Sexsmith (you can here his glorious original here). I adore everything about this song. The music itself is gorgeous, but on top, the song’s powerful message is so eloquently put into words. “Though our troubles seem like mountains…there’s gold in them hills.” I have taught this song to many others since I first discovered it, in the hope that those who hear and sing it will experience the same comfort and solace that the song has given to me.

I was taken aback when Ron himself retweeted and complimented my performance:

“Thanks Kim! That was beautiful RS”

– and suddenly a songwriter I had greatly admired from a distance didn’t seem so far away. Through the magic of Twitter algorithms, I received more and more content from Ron – and the more of his pun tweets I read, the more affinity I felt with him. Those of you who have known me for a while are probably already familiar with my love of puns! I have done “a pun a day” for the run up to Christmas some years, and then there’s The Balloon Joke (containing my favourite pun) which I’ve told at almost every solo performance for around 13 years, since I first heard it…My Grandpa Jones loved puns, and his joy in them was infectious, and I caught it directly! So reading all these puns on Ron’s Twitter feed, felt familiar and comforting. Alongside these, Ron also regularly shares what I now know he calls “Twitter thought poems” – concise, strong lyrical ideas. I really enjoyed reading these, and several of them particularly caught my imagination, and also seemed to link together thematically.

An idea had been brewing in the back of my mind: a project that would help me to do one thing I struggle to do myself – to reach out to others and ask for their help. I love (and I mean, truly love) to collaborate with other songwriters – it’s a fascinating chance to delve into how someone else’s creative mind works, and to learn from it – but approaching others and asking them to collaborate involves a level of self confidence that I don’t really have. It reminds me of freshers week at university, where having summoned up enough courage to enter the student union, I struggled to start conversations with strangers, stood in a toilet cubicle for quite a long time, and then returned home. Still, I began to work on plans for an ambitious project that would support me to do that hard thing, and reach out to collaborate with others – and once again, I was taken aback, and deeply grateful when Ron offered a letter of support for the project, and said he’d do his best to collaborate, despite being already committed to writing and recording his own album at this time.

The whole focus of the Consequences project is to look at the personal, social or environmental impact that human actions have – to consider how we live, and how we could live. It seems that right now we’re facing many challenges in the world and it’s a good time to see if songs can be any help with considering how we meet them. Ron’s thought poems connected strongly for me with discussions that Ron and I had via email about the need for kindness and understanding towards people living with mental ill health, rather than shaming, shunning or ostracising them. Ron’s thought poems seemed to focus on asking ourselves to be kind, and to make an effort to make things better, rather than seeking to blame others, which I loved. So I asked Ron if he’d already used these in songs or if he’d be up for me weaving them together to form the lyrics for our song collaboration, and was delighted to discover that the lyrics were indeed not yet in use elsewhere, and that Ron was happy for me to do this. With just a couple of edits, we were able to create a full lyric from a selection of his thought poems.

“You may not have gone the farthest
But far enough to see the light
You may not have caused the darkness
But it’s up to you to make it bright”

That’s one thing that I really love when collaborating with others – sometimes, it takes someone else to see that you’ve got a real gem of an idea, when you haven’t yet seen that for yourself…Ron’s lyrics are really beautiful, and it was a great pleasure and challenge for me to try and do them justice with the music. I worked in my home studio to create the melody and harmony for the song, then emailed Ron a rough home recording of it to get his feedback before starting to work on the final recording with the full creative team’s input. I was honoured to receive this response:

“That’s really lovely…there’s nothing I would change or do differently, it’s perfect. It reminds me of something Judee Sill might’ve written.”

Knowing now that we were both happy with the completed song, I was able to record my final vocals and piano parts and then pass this on for further contributions from Mattie Foulds (drums), Kevin McGuire (bass) and Mikey Owers (brass, guitars, synths, backing vocals). I’m excited as the project progresses to hear the final song emerging, and can’t wait to share it with you by the end of the month!

5.10.21

Several years ago, touring with the Edinburgh based Scottish Americana artist, Dean Owens, I was fortunate enough to be introduced, as we drove the roads of the UK, to the captivating songwriting and voice of Canadian singer songwriter, Ron Sexsmith. I was particularly entranced by his open, honest lyrics, and the beauty, and vulnerability, of Ron’s unique voice. You can experience both by listening to the stunning song, Gold In Them Hills, which really captures, for me, how joy and sorrow sit alongside each other in most of our lives. I also really love that Ron’s message in this song is that how we choose to look at things can make all the difference. I’m certain that this song must have helped countless people who’ve been lucky enough to hear it.

By the end of this month, I’ll expand on my notes here, and share with you some reflections on my collaboration with Ron for the Consequences project, as well as the song we write in collaboration. I look forward to seeing you then!

CONSEQUENCES LAUNCH!

I’m excited to announce the launch of a new collaborative songwriting project: CONSEQUENCES.

I’m passionate about songwriting; I love the way that words and music can interact to tell stories that open hearts and minds, and build empathy. They can also prompt reflection on, and conversations around, difficult subjects. And there’s a powerful sense of solace that comes from hearing songs which let us know we are not alone in our experiences, whatever they may be – I hope to provide this in my songwriting, too.

I’m committed to continuing to write songs that aim to do these things, and I’m conscious that previous collaborations with other songwriters have greatly enriched the way that I write. That’s why I’m excited that with Creative Scotland’s support, I’m now taking bold steps forward on my songwriting journey, with an ambitious project that will enable me to collaborate with twelve songwriters I admire, from Scotland and around the world, over the coming year, inspired by the word, and the game, “Consequences”.

The songwriters will be revealed on a monthly basis – and I’m delighted to announce that my first collaboration (October 2021), is with award-winning Canadian songwriter, Ron Sexsmith.

In collaboration with the various songwriters, I will be writing a collection of songs on the topic of the personal, social or environmental consequences of human behaviour. The methods of each collaboration will be uniquely devised between myself and my fellow songwriters, and we’ll be mindful of COVID-19 safety and environmental impact when we make our plans. Once written, the 12 songs will be unfolded (recorded, mixed and shared publicly) one at a time, like the paper in the game consequences, alongside a blog documenting the project, adding up to an album of work, which will be released in October 2022. You can follow the “Consequences” project and hear the new songs online each month, right here on my website.

As well as helping me to learn and grow as a songwriter, through the funding support from Creative Scotland, “Consequences” will enable me to purchase gear to upgrade my home studio, and be mentored in recording techniques, so that I’m better able to work from home in the future, should that be necessary. I also hope that the songs will open up conversations about how we live, and provide moments of reflection on human behaviour and its personal, social and environmental consequences.

THE CREATIVE TEAM
There are always risks and challenges in making an album, and this is a particularly ambitious project, collaborating for the first time with twelve songwriters around the world, to a fairly tight timescale. Writing, arranging, recording and then sharing a new song every month is going to be a particular challenge that I’ve never attempted before! However, I’m not alone: there’s a fantastic creative team who will support me to record and produce the songs and the final album, along with accompanying artwork and music videos, and I’ve worked with each of these magical folk before, so I’m confident in the team, and in the album. These talents include Mattie Foulds (producer and drummer), Kevin McGuire (bass), Mikey Owers (brass/guitars/vocals), Gillian Gamble (artwork and animation), and Louise Mather (film).

HOW YOU CAN HELP
I’ve set up a Crowdfunder campaign to help meet some of the costs involved in bringing the album together, including:

– Fees for musicians and songwriters

– Fees for recording, mixing and mastering the album

– Album design and manufacture

– Marketing and publicity costs

It’s been a challenging couple of years for most of us in the creative team, and your support to bring this project off the ground is hugely appreciated!

If you are in a position to pre-order the album and think it might be something you’d enjoy listening to when it’s ready, we’d be most grateful. If you think it would make the perfect Christmas present for 4, or 10, of your friends next year, even better! I’ll tastefully wrap them, individually, and provide you with blank, hand make cards to go with each, so Christmas 2022 will be a dawdle… 🙂

If you fancy investing in a specially written song gift, a filmed performance of a cover song of your choice, an online songwriting or singing lesson, or any of the other rewards listed, that would be wonderful. You can purchase the rewards here.

I’m aware, though, that it’s a really tough time for a lot of people just now, and that there will be many who can’t afford to help out with this project financially. If you’re in that position, I totally understand – and if you’d still like to help me out in a different way, please share this link to this crowdfunding page online, and help me spread the word about the new album. That would be much appreciated!

 

ALL THE LITTLE SUNBURSTS!

Today’s my birthday! There’s much in the world to be deeply concerned about, but I’m grateful to be alive, and today I’m celebrating the glory of nature, and the human potential for love, generosity, compassion and positive action…powerful tools to overcome the challenges we face. A huge thanks to those of you who contributed your beautiful photographs and stories to help celebrate “the stuff that doesn’t make the news” in a new music video for “All The Little Sunbursts” which you can watch HERE.

NEW CARA ALBUM & LIVE GIGS!

I’m delighted to share the news the new CARA album, Grounded, is on the way! For those who have pre-ordered copies, they will be in the post very shortly – we’ll be sending them out while we’re on tour…what’s that, you say? Yes, tour 🙂 Finally, our first gigs since October 2020 are taking place – I can’t wait! All the details are on my  Tour Dates page.

HELD OFFICIALLY RELEASED TODAY!

I am full of gratitude to have been able to release HELD today.  My thanks to all of the beautifully creative people who helped me to realise my vision for the album, to those who inspired the songs, to those of you who have purchased the album already and given me such supportive and encouraging feedback, and to those radio producers, presenters and music reviewers who took the time to listen to the album, and have already given me a platform to share my songs with new audiences. I am also very aware of, and grateful for, hundreds of acts of kindness, generosity and support shown to me by so many people since I began making music as a child which have supported me to go on this wonderful and unpredictable musical adventure. Thank you.

In particular, I’d like to take this moment to honour the memory of David Ferguson, who gave me (and I know, countless others in the Scottish music scene) so much support and encouragement in my music making over the years, through his attendance at gigs (always smiling supportively in the front row!), CD purchases and reviews, including a beautiful review just weeks ago in The Fountain for this new album. I will fondly remember his enthusiasm, kindness and generosity, and I will miss his presence, as I know, will many. Wishing him perpetual light, and wishing his family warmth, attention, comfort and peace at this difficult time.

As some of you will know, many of the songs on this album were written after the loss of my dad. Some I really just wrote for myself, but working towards this album during lockdown, I started to think that they might be useful to other people in similar situations. So today, as well as thinking of David’s family, I’m thinking of anyone who has lost someone they love, and is missing them. If you listen, I hope the songs can be of some help.

 

Lovely review for HELD from The Fountain!

I’m absolutely delighted with this review by David Ferguson for my album, Held, which will be released on 11.12.20, and in particular, I’m pleased because it felt to me that combining my voice with the voices of my friends and fellow songwriters Karine Polwart and Rachel Sermanni was something really special, and it’s lovely to know that this has come across to a listener! A few highlights for you:

“beautifully crafted, keenly observed, and quietly powerful songs”

“although clearly tinged with sadness, their warmth and humanity render them ultimately uplifting”

“when the voices of Edgar, Sermanni and Polwart combine and overlap…the effect is truly magical”

“a beautiful collection of honest, empathetic and sonically adventurous songs”

You can read the full review here .

HELD: Release Date 11.12.20

I’m very excited to announce that my new album, Held, will be released on 11th December, 2020. I’m so looking forward to sharing the songs with you!

Why “Held”? Well, I’m finding it’s hard not to be able to touch people we care about; it’s often how we embody love, compassion and friendship. We currently demonstrate care for others by keeping our distance, despite the fact that now, more than ever, people may need, or want, to be held. So with this album, I have tried to create a musical hug. In the scheme of things, it’s a very small offering, but I’m grateful that music can still give us a sense of connection – and it’s what I have to give!

I thoroughly enjoyed making this album with producer and drummer, Mattie Foulds. We made socially distanced recordings at Castlesound Studios with Kevin McGuire (bass), Su-a Lee (cello), Fergus Kerr (French horn), and my nieces and nephew (backing vocals!) with remote input from the magical Mikey Owers on brass, guitars, synths and backing vocals. I was also delighted that through remote recordings during lockdown, I was able to share the vocals in some songs with two of my favourite Scottish songwriters: Karine Polwart and Rachel Sermanni. Finally, Eva Giovannini was wonderful in helping me to realise my vision for the album artwork. I’m grateful to them all!

I hope the album might reach out to you, like a hug.

My fourth solo album, Held…

Last week, I spent a wonderful five days in Castlesound Studios, Pencaitland, with producer Mattie Foulds and a host of talented musicians, recording tracks for my new album, Held. Now we’re continuing to work with some further singers and musicians, who will remotely add their magic, and then we’re mixing and mastering!

If you’d like to be kept informed when we set a release date for the album, please join my mailing list newsletter – you can do this at the bottom of the home page. I send out an email once every two months, and the occasional gift! It’s fairly painless, honest… 😉

Lighthouse In A Storm


It’s so hard to be far from the people we care about just now – but that’s exactly what we need to do to protect them. Here’s a song inspired by the word “lighthouse”, and the current situation.
#stayathome #protectthenhs #savelives

Freedom Of Mind Community Choir Session

As one of the Music Directors for Freedom Of Mind Community Choir, along with Mariot Dallas, I’m keen to keep connected with choir members even though we can’t meet in person at the moment! So here’s a link to a wee singing session – if you’re not a choir member, you’re most welcome to join us! I hope you’ll find, like we do, that singing makes you feel good 🙂 I’ve made a CHOIR SESSIONS playlist on YouTube, and I’ll continue to add videos now and then over the coming weeks in this same location, so if you enjoy it, please do visit again! Very best wishes, wherever you are.