One of the more unusual things about The Rowan Tree is our geography. As a band some of us live in the most westerly part of the UK (Cornwall) and Tom lives in the most easterly (Norfolk). This presents us with lots of challenges, but we try to think creatively round the fact we have a 7 hour drive if we want to make music together! Technology plays a big part, 'Tresor' (our winning song at Liet International) was composed by all four members of the band over WhatsApp, and we chat most days on messenger. When it comes to rehearsals, what would often be spread over many weeks if we lived closer gets condensed into weekends, and we've disovered that when we are together we work very quickly when it comes to arranging or composing new material, just as well when you only get a few hours together every now and then!
Tom has spent many long hours driving between Norwich and Cornwall this past year, and it was about time we did it the other way round! So Neal, Rich and Laura set off from Cornwall to East Anglia for a weekend of working on new material, meeting our new drummer(!), a gig in Norwich...and planning some exciting new projects we'll be working on soon.
A 'quick' stop at Chapel Cross Tea Room just off the A303 turned into a rather longer stop. We ate cake in the sun, sang in the converted chapel, met the lovely owner Rose and by the time we left we’d arranged to go back and play a gig there in a few weeks time!
We arrived in Suffolk quite late on Friday evening and reunited with Tom, drinking wine, catching up and talking through plans for the coming year.
The following morning we began work on a really exciting commision for the Lowender Peran festival. We will be performing in the 'Levow Brythonek' concert which is a collection of Cornish, Breton and Welsh songs, alongside the Lorho-Pascos from Brittany and members of Jamie Smith's Mabon from Wales. It was great to be working on new material and by lunchtime the songs had taken shape enough for us to make rough recordings to practice along to until we can next meet together.
After lunch we met band artist and all round lovely lady Gilly Middleton (Alisier Art) for a quick drink, before heading over to Lowestoft for dinner with Laura and Tom's family. We were very fortunate to be given use of a studio at The Seagull Theatre in Lowestoft for a practice session so the theatre was our next stop.
Since we began the band Tom has been doing an impressive job of playing both guitar and drums (sometimes at the same time!) but we had been considering the possibility of bringing a drummer into the band for a while. Tom's friend and mega talented dummer Richard Morgan had recorded drums on our EP, and when Tom approached him about playing drums with us on a more regular basis he was up for meeting us and having a jam. We only had a couple of days in East Anglia so had booked a gig in Norwich the following day. It's testament to his talent (and bravery!!) that Richard agreed to play a gig with us only 24 hours after meeting us for the first time! We rehearsed all evening and Richard slotted in to the band as if he had always been there. We met again the following morning to run through the set then packed up and drove over to Norwich.
Norwich describes itself as 'a fine city', and having returned to the car (after a trip to the pub and a look round the cathedral) to find we'd left a door wide open and all instruments were still inside, we decided it was a very 'fine city' indeed!
Our gig that evening was at The Mitre Norwich, Tom's local and a beautifully renovated pub. The staff at the Mitre had been really helpful promoting the event and they were equally as helpful and welcoming in the 'real' rather than virtual world! We were joined by local band The Shackleton Trio and it was a treat to listen to them, their wonderful albums provided us with a soundtrack on the journey back to Cornwall.
We spent a lot of time plotting future projects while we were away, and while it’s too soon to reveal any details we can give a couple of hints…Let’s just say that Tom’s unusual (weird) obsession with the A303 will be put to good use, and we will be exploring an area much further East than East Anglia. Next year’s going to be an exciting one…watch this space!