National Album Day 2020

Back in the early weeks of lockdown, I wrote a (very long) post about my favourite albums from the 2010s. I love albums; I love the putting together of a collection of songs to create a bigger, more expressive and more meaningful piece of work, both as a listener and as a songwriter. I think it adds so much more to the listening experience than the release-one-single-at-a-time approach. I love diving into them and getting lost in these little pocket universes they create and generally, once I love an album, they remain high on my musical lists.

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And since today is National Album Day (as well as World Mental Health Day), I thought I’d do a little write up of my favourite albums of 2020 so far…


Manic by Halsey (January 2020) – Despite coming out so early in the year and with all the competition since, it’s easy for me to say that this is at the top of my list of 2020 albums, or of albums in general. I absolutely adore it. I love her previous work and the way each body of work existed in a larger metaphor (Badlands is another of my very favourite albums) but there was something truly special about this album and how personal it was, how it felt like we were truly seeing Ashley for the first time; there was something so sacred about that, especially on the first listen. I love how eclectic this album is – in genre, production style, featured artists, subject matter – because that’s something that’s always been indicative of her as a person: she experiments with her hair, her style, her musical projects, her artistic projects, and so on. That the album reflects that feels very authentic and real. And yet somehow it fits. It works. I could write in depth about every song but I’ll just stick to a couple of points: I loved how you feel the transition from Halsey to Ashley in ‘Ashley’; I love the journey, both lyrically and production wise, that we experience through ‘Forever … (is a long time)’; I love the vivid imagery and storytelling that we get in songs like ‘Finally // Beautiful Stranger’; I love and feel honoured by her willingness to be so open and vulnerable about some of the most difficult parts of her life, such as we hear in ‘More’ and ‘929.’ I’m so inspired by her as a songwriter and as an artist and as a person that I think this album will be very special to me for a very long time, if not forever.

Favourite Tracks: Ashley, You should be sad, Forever … (is a long time), 3am, killing boys, More, Still Learning, and 929.

Good Years by The Shires (March 2020) – I’ve loved The Shires’ music since they released ‘Nashville Grey Skies’ in early 2015 and Ben and Crissie are just such lovely people. Their voices sound gorgeous together, complimenting each other perfectly, and their melodies are always incredibly catchy; I’m usually singing the melodies before I even know the lyrics. The production is also stunning; I would describe it as having the glossiness of pop music while staying very true to the country instrumentation and arrangement. There’s a warmth to it; I always feel enveloped by the very sound of the songs. My only wish would be for some development album to album, for example in the song content; after their first album, love songs feature heavily on every album and I just think it would be really interesting to hear them sing about different subjects. They proved on the first album, Brave, that they could do it and do it well with great songs like ‘Nashville Grey Skies’ and ‘Made in England’ and they’ve come so far since then.

Favourite Tracks: Lightning Strikes and About Last Night.

kelsea by Kelsea Ballerini (March 2020) – I’m consistently awed by Kelsea’s ability to perfectly balance country and pop, blending the intimate storytelling and warm instrumentation of country and the glittery production and melodies of pop. And I love how you can feel her growth in each album, as an artist, as a songwriter, and as a person. To me, this album sounds like the universal inbetween of becoming a real adult: getting comfortable in your skin but still nursing some of your deeper insecurities, walking that line of the steadiness of adulthood and the flightiness of youth, and establishing the anchors of your identity while continuing to grow.

Favourite Tracks: club, the other girl (with Halsey), bragger, half of my hometown (feat. Kenny Chesney), the way i used to, and needy.

Lady Like by Ingrid Andress (March 2020) – I’d been excited for Ingrid to release music ever since I first heard her play ‘Lady Like’ at a Tin Pan South round in 2018. She was just fantastic and I couldn’t wait for her to release more than the two singles that were on iTunes at the time. It only took one song to tell what an amazing talent she was. I love the album – I particularly love her lyrics, her ability to weave humour into one song and then vulnerable, heart-wrenching imagery into another, and it’s really cool to have so much piano in country songs – but I was a bit disappointed that there were only eight tracks and that I’d heard all of them by the time the album came out. It’s great, of course, to finally have them to blast in the car and so on, but I would’ve loved to hear a song she’d been holding back for the release or something like that. And I was really sad that ‘Blue,’ which she’d played on tour, didn’t make the album because it was absolutely stunning.

Favourite Tracks: Bad Advice, We’re Not Friends, More Hearts Than Mine, Life of the Party, and Lady Like.

folklore by Taylor Swift (July 2020) – I’ve already written a bit about this album (and because I am such a songwriting nerd, I’m writing another post about it in more detail because there’s just so much to say about it) but I couldn’t not include this album in this post. I’ll just try my best not to go overboard. This feels like the album of a pure singersongwriter, an album where the songs themselves are given centre stage to shine. Somehow the album is her most experimental yet while still being so true to the songwriter that she has always been. I love the production style, which often centers around the piano, the minimal arrangements, and the lower vocal range that Taylor takes the time to explore. I love the different narratives and perspectives that she writes from while still sharing her emotions and experiences. And I love how vulnerable she allows herself to be, over and over again. Whether these lyrics are autobiographical or drawn from elsewhere – “You know the greatest loves of all time are over now,” “I can see you starin’, honey, like he’s just your understudy, like you’d get your knuckles bloody for me,” “I didn’t have it in myself to go with grace,” “I’m still a believer but I don’t know why, I’ve never been a natural, all I do is try, try, try,” “Before I learned civility, I used to scream ferociously any time I wanted,” “Pulled the car off the road to the lookout, could’ve followed my fears all the way down,” “And you know damn well, for you I would ruin myself, a million little times,” “But the rain is always gonna come, if you’re standing with me,” and “Stood on the cliffside, screaming, ‘Give me a reason'” – they prove what an incredible songwriter she is, what a deeper thinker she is, and how deeply she feels emotions (something that has always made me feel really connected to her and her writing). These are emotions she’s related to, whether the events happened to her or not, and to turn those feelings into something so beautiful and to then share it with the world is so, so special. There’s so much more I could say but it’s a stunning album and I love it more than I can express. It’s one of those albums that arrived in my life just when I needed it and my god, I am so grateful.

Favourite Tracks: the 1, exile (feat. Bon Iver), my tears ricochet, mirrorball, this is me trying, illicit affairs, and mad woman.

If It Wasn’t For You by Caylee Hammack (August 2020) – I first heard Caylee sing at Tin Pan South in 2017 and I just fell in love with her songwriting. I’ve been waiting for her to release music ever since and so when she announced this album I was ecstatic. ‘Family Tree’ was the perfect first single: it feels like such a central theme in the album and one of the strongest songs in every aspect. Just because of what was going on in my life when it came out, I haven’t had the opportunity to really delve into it – into the lyrics and stories and so on – but I’m really loving listening to it and just taking it all in (full disclosure, I cried when I first heard ‘Forged In The Fire’ and ‘Mean Something’). She has an amazing voice and I love her ballsy, unapologetic attitude but that she can also let that fall away and open up to write and sing these incredibly vulnerable songs. Her lyric writing is also something really special: her songs are full of little details that make them so unique. I can’t imagine anyone else singing them and really making them work. There are also various production choices that really stick out to me, things that you – or at least I – don’t hear all that often, like her use of backing vocals and ‘non-musical sounds’ like the cheering of a football game on TV in ‘Family Tree.’ My only sadness concerning this album is that she didn’t include a song she sang when I heard her at Tin Pan South, probably one of the most heartbreaking songs I’ve ever heard: “Laid an old friend in the ground before saying ‘I’m sorry’, and that’s something that I don’t expect forgiveness for, I should’ve called more.” I would’ve loved that song to be included on the album because it was absolutely beautiful.

Favourite Tracks: Preciatcha, Sister, Forged In The Fire, Family Tree, Mean Something (feat. Ashley McBryde & Tenille Townes), and Small Town Hypocrite.

Badlands (Live from Webster Hall) by Halsey (August 2020) – Before I talk about the live album, I have to mention the original first because it’s one of my favourite albums of all time. I love how different it is; I love the production and all the extra details that give it it’s unique sound; I love her vocals and the the myriad of little ways she uses her voice to convey emotion; I love the stories she tells and the lyrics she writes, all of the detail she includes and within them, which ones she chooses to develop, the themes she brings into the songs time and again. She’s truly one of my favourite artists.

But back to the live album. I love how much energy and passion she puts into her performances and I love how you can hear her smiling and responding to the crowd as she sings (and oh my god, how gloriously loud the crowd are). Her vocals are incredible (they’ve grown so much since she toured this album) and I love how she’s made little changes: changing the rhythm, speaking a line instead of singing it, and so on. The music behind her, whether it’s live or programmed or a combination of both sounds great and I can absolutely imagine her up on that stage, leaping around just as she did when I saw her on the Badlands Tour in 2016. I also loved the spoken parts (and especially relevant to this post, how she talks about how much she loves albums and how much everyone in the crowd loves albums if they love Badlands as much as they clearly do) because she speaks so beautifully and has such an interesting way of seeing the world. I guess my only sadness about those tracks is how clearly she’s talking to the audience right there (as it should be in a live show, in my opinion) and it just reminds me how I’ve never felt part of the fanbase – or any artist’s fanbase – regardless of how much I love her. I always feel on the edge, feel like if I took one step back and disappeared, no one would notice. And given just how close Halsey is with her fanbase – always taking photos, signing things, replying to tweets, getting tattoos with them, making them feel truly valued as individuals – it’s not difficult to feel even more invisible than usual. I guess that’s one of the downsides of artists being able to connect to fans one-on-one: it’s great for the fans it happens to, but really hard for those it doesn’t.

It’s worth noting that it’s hard to separate my favourite songs from the Badlands album and my favourite performances from the Badlands (Live at Webster Hall) album but I’ll try my best because they’re not necessarily the same…

Favourite Tracks: Castle, Hold Me Down, Hurricane, Roman Holiday, Colors, Tiny Little Babies – Talking Break, Strange Love, Forget Her and Find Her – Talking Break, Coming Down, Control (this one is so powerful), Young God, Gasoline, Some Kind of Stardust – Talking Break, and Is There Somewhere.

More Love: Songs from Little Voice Season One by Sara Bareilles (September 2020) – I’m aware that having not seen the show, Little Voice, yet, listening to this album may be a different experience than that of someone who has seen the show. I do really want to watch it but with my mental health in mind, I’m conflicted: I want to see anything Sara Bareilles is involved in creating because I love her and I love her work but I’m also wary that media about my chosen career path, about becoming a singersongwriter, has the capacity to seriously trigger my anxiety, something that I’m extra cautious of in these present times when my anxiety is already so high. But regardless of that, I couldn’t let a Sara Bareilles album come out and not listen to it. I have found it a little harder to get into than some of her others (but again that maybe be that I haven’t seen the show that gives the songs context). But there’s something so distinctly Sara Bareilles about it that I love. The songs feel hopeful and have a certain warmth, creating an instant emotional connection. It’s just stronger with some than others. The production feels like the big sister of the Little Voice album and her vocals her just incredible. Her lyrics are just stunning as always – “I’m barely brave enough to be breathing,” “So I will write it down, all the jagged edges,” “I’m facing all of my fears, I’ve lined them up and wonder how I’ve been with them for years,” “I hit my head against the wall, a portrait of my grief,” and “Looking over the precious moments, it hurts don’t it, they can cut both ways” – and I feel like they’re coming to me just at the right time. There’s something about Sara’s music that has always felt just so healing and I’ve never needed that more than I do right now. I think it’s also worth noting that I’ve never had to pause an album so many times to write down song ideas.

Favourite Tracks: More Love, Simple And True, Coming Back To You, and Little Voice.

ballerini by Kelsea Ballerini (September 2020) – While I’m pretty sure I prefer kelsea to ballerini, I think this is a really fascinating project and it’s really cool to see how different the songs could’ve been, what a different life they could’ve had. I found the instrumentation a little repetitive but I loved some of the changes she made, particularly the little lyric tweaks that gave you a brand new, and often a more vulnerable, insight into the songs. Some songs had a completely different emotional vibe that was really unexpected but so cool to experience. As fans, the songs obviously speak differently to us with these changes but I admit that I’m super curious how they’ve taken on new meaning for Kelsea. It will be really interesting to see, when she is able to tour again, how she chooses to perform these songs, which version she chooses or leans into more.

Favourite Tracks: club, homecoming queen?, bragger, half of my hometown, the way i used to, needy, a country song, and la.

Lady Like (Deluxe) by Ingrid Andress (October 2020) – This album was announced less than an hour after I wrote the paragraph of Lady Like, where I talked about wanting some songs I hadn’t already heard. That made me laugh; it was like I had willed it into existence. The livestream before the release was great and it made my little songwriter heart happy to hear all the stories from the behind-the-scenes of writing those songs. And when it was over, the album was available on iTunes. I love that she changed the tracklist to tell the chronological story (using the tracklist to actively tell a story is something I’ve always been a fan of, rather than just putting the songs in an order that sounds good – not that there’s anything wrong with that) so it was a bit like listening to the album all over again and I just feel like it gave the album a slightly different vibe, a different emotional context. I’m not gonna talk about the songs from the original album because I’d just be repeating myself but the five new tracks were definitely a cool addition to the album as a piece of art (I’m still sad about ‘Blue’ though – hopefully she’s just saving it for a future project). I liked the simplicity and honesty of ‘Feeling Things,’ ‘Boys’ is youthfully lighthearted and flippant, and ‘Waste of Lime’ is full of the acerbic wit and attitude that Ingrid does so well, just as well as she does vulnerable and heartfelt. And the added voices of Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman from Little Big Town bring a beautiful, almost choral effect to ‘More Hearts Than Mine.’ As I said, I think these extra tracks really add to an already great album and I’m so glad that Ingrid decided to expand on the Lady Like era before moving onto the next project.

Favourite Tracks (not including those from the original edition of the album): Feeling Things and Waste of Lime.


I’ve struggled to sit and just listen to new music over lockdown – my brain seems insistent that I always be doing something to keep my anxiety at bay – so there are still multiple albums that I really want to listen to but haven’t been able to focus enough yet to do so. Some of these are:

  • Gaslighter by The Chicks
  • Rise and Shine by Cassadee Pope
  • Petals For Armor by Hayley Williams
  • Fetch The Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple
  • Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers
  • Such Pretty Forks in the Road by Alanis Morissette
  • Stay Alive by Laura Jane Grace

I’m really looking forward to them though and having something to look forward to in times like these is definitely not a bad thing.

The Manic World Tour

NB: This post is probably more for me than it is for you but it was a really significant experience so I wanted to record it. I hope you read it (or some of it – I know it’s very long) and I hope you like what you read. I promise there’s mental health and Autism content coming.

Last week, I was lucky enough to see Halsey not once but twice. I booked a ticket for London and then, as a very late celebration for my 25th birthday (as I explained in this post), me and my Mum decided to take a little trip to Dublin to see her again for a second date. She’s an incredible performer and her shows are amazing and as I’ve said in previous posts: “I often get overwhelmed mid show and so seeing [a show] multiple times allows me to get the full experience – and why would you not want to see a show you love more than once [if you can afford to], especially if it’s only on for a limited time?” Plus, she’s recently said that she’s not going to tour for an indefinite period of time so suddenly, seeing her that extra time became extra important.

The first show was in London at The O2. I couldn’t get a disability ticket so I had to get a regular ticket and because everyone was standing up to dance and jump, I had to stand up to see, which was not good for my fatigue and pain. I’m still not used to ‘being disabled’ and so I’m still ‘toughing it out’ and usually regretting it later. I leaned against my chair but it didn’t help much. I wish I could be in the standing section and stand at the front, hold her hand when she comes down to the  crowd, but just looking at all of those people packed together made my throat and chest tighten with anxiety.

We were on the side so the screens were difficult to see, blocked by the lighting rig and whatever else they have up there, which I was a bit disappointed by because Halsey always has such beautiful images on the screens behind her. I could still see them but I just couldn’t take any photos, which I love doing so that I remember all the details.

I wanted to list some of the moments I want to hold onto:

  • The first song was ‘Nightmare’ and everyone shouted the lyrics, ‘I’m tired and angry but somebody should be,’ which felt pretty appropriate for International Women’s Day. The shouting filled the arena and it was kind of amazing.
  • She had the blue black eye, like she has on the album cover. She’s done several variations over the tour so I was intrigued to see which one she’d do for the shows I was going to.

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  • She has everyone jump during the choruses of ‘Castle’ (another song I think is particularly relevant to IWD, since it includes lyrics like, ‘There’s an old man sitting on the throne that’s saying I should probably keep my pretty mouth shut,’) and she usually stops the track at the end of the first chorus to tell the crowd that they can do better but this time, she said it was, “the best of the whole fucking tour.”
  • Everyone sang along so loudly to ‘You Should Be Sad.’
  • She finally paused to speak to the crowd and everyone was really ready: “I’ve been looking forward to playing this show for a very long time. I mean, I’ve been looking forward to playing this show since the first time that I ever played a show in London. And as luck would have it, I somehow ended up here on International Women’s Day. And I don’t know what’s gotten into me but it’s like all that rage and that excitement and that ambition and that fire… I’m feeling electric tonight, I gotta be honest with you guys. If you are a woman, young or old, in this crowd tonight, I’m looking at you. I’m looking at you for that sheer unbridled lightning energy that’s gonna get me through this fucking show. And I know you’re capable of it because I’ve met women from London.” That caused a lot of cheering. “I wrote a song about one. She had quite the attitude. But we’ll get back to that in a little bit. There’s a lot we’re gonna do tonight. We’re gonna laugh, we’re gonna cry, we’re gonna get angry, we’re gonna get happy, we’re gonna get to know each other a little bit, alright? So I guess now feels like the right time to formally welcome you to The Manic World Tour!”
  • The set for ‘Haunting’ (I did not expect her to play that one) was incredible. It looked like some kind of diner with fluorescent lit windows and someone could be seen walking back and forth through them. It was very eerie.
  • The platforms (that also tipped so that they could be stairs) were so cool and a really unique piece for a concert. I’ve never seen a set like it.

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  • The colours on screen for ‘Forever … (is a long time)’ were so beautiful and there was also all of this brain imagery, like something from medical scans, and they were oddly beautiful. But I couldn’t take any pictures or videos of it because of the stage structures in the way.
  • Her vocals were even more incredible than the last time I saw her and I noticed it especially at the end of ‘Colors’ and in ‘Bad At Love.’
  • “Wow. I can’t believe I’m performing here right now. It’s so funny… I keep forgetting… I forget, like, every fifteen seconds and then I look up and I look up some more and I look up some more and then I look up some more and I’m like, ‘Oh, shit. That is a lot of people.'” She talked a bit about why she’s decided not to tour for a while: “I announced pretty recently that I was going to be taking a break from touring after this tour. And that might seem pretty strange because I look like I’m having fun up here, right? Right?! Well, that’s because I am. ‘Cause my favourite place in the world is being on stage. The thing is I pride myself on being able to make mistakes and then write about them so that you don’t have to make ’em: you can just learn the lesson through listening to the song. I know. It’s a hard job. You guys have watched me make a lot of mistakes. You’ve watched me date a lot of people. In fact, you guys have watched me go on so many dates, you’ve watched me go on dates I don’t even remember going on. But I read the articles about them and think, ‘Oh, that must be nice. Maybe I’ll go on a real date with them.’ You guys have watched me say the wrong thing at the wrong time, make friends with the wrong people, be in the wrong place… You have watched me do all of it. And I write songs about it so that you can learn from those things but I started noticing something. I started noticing that you guys are growing up right in front of my eyes. All these familiar faces I talk about, that I see on Twitter, on Instagram, on Tumblr, in the crowds… Some of you guys, I met you or I saw you or I liked your tweet from the first time when you were sixteen years old and now you’re twenty two. I have watched so many of you getting married, go to university, get your braces off… and I started realising that I can’t do my job anymore because you guys are growing up faster than I am. So I can’t write those songs for you anymore to help you out in your times of need so I decided that it’s my turn to do some growing up so that I can write you better music when I come back. Because truth be told, as much as fun as I’ve had watching you guys grow up, I wanna grow up with you.”
  • She joined her band, playing ‘3am’ on the electric guitar, and the crowd sang along so loudly. It’s such a catchy song.

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  • She had everyone hold up their phone lights during ‘Finally // beautiful stranger,’ which is always one of my favourite moments in a show. I always wonder what it would be like to see an arena of people do that for me (I’ve had a room-ful and that was pretty fucking special so an arena must be amazing). And there were these beautiful, moving colours on the screen behind her, like the northern lights. I loved it and I’m really sad I couldn’t take photos of it.

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  • She introduced her band and asked them what they were going to do on the break from touring and it was nice to see the relationships between them.
  • She performed an acoustic, gentle version of ‘100 Letters’ compared to the version that was full of power and self empowerment on the hopeless fountain kingdom Tour. Not that this version wasn’t empowering, just in a different way. The song itself is empowering but this performance was softer and more delicate, letting the lyrics speak for themselves.

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  • She performed ‘Is There Somewhere’ next, which is one of my favourite songs of hers. She said that it was the first song she released and it became a fan favourite so she promised to sing it on every tour. She climbed down into the crowd as she always does, which makes the fans at the front so happy (I just wish she’d move around a bit so that the same fans don’t get that same opportunity over and over because they know where she’s going to be; that  way other fans could have that opportunity). And she herself also looked so happy, which made me really happy. I just wish I could be down there.

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  • She does these crazy mic flips and I’m always worried she’ll drop it or it’ll go flying across the stage. It looks freaking cool though.
  • She had these beautiful starry backgrounds, like a night sky, for Graveyard that morphed into flowers that then caught fire after the bridge along with flames and sparks on stage. Aesthetically, I think it was my favourite performance of the night.
  • “Oh, London, you are a fucking treat.”
  • The last song of the main set was ‘929,’ which is probably my favourite song off the album but it usually makes me cry because of the lyric, “And I remember this girl with pink hair in Detroit, what she told me: she said, ‘Ashley, you gotta promise us that you won’t die ’cause we need you,’ and honestly, I think that she lied,” but for the live performance she changed the lyrics to “honestly, I think she was right.” I almost lost it right then because I was filled with so many emotions.
  • The butterfly outfit was beautiful.

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  • She left the stage and for the encore, she returned to perform ‘Ashley,’ ‘Experiment On Me,’ and then she played ‘Gasoline.’ And as usual, she turned the mic to the crowd to scream the lyric, “do you call yourself a fucking hurricane like me.” There’s something so empowering about that moment. And then, at the end, she repeated it over and over again with the crowd shouting along. It was new and empowering and special. And on the screen behind her, the word Manic appeared. It was gorgeous.

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 – From @u1123ae’s Twitter.

  • “Yeah, this is the best show I’ve ever played. I wanna tell you something really special: not only is this the best show that I’ve ever played in my life but it’s also completely sold out. Thank you for giving me, not only my dream show at The O2 but a sold out dream show at The O2. London, thank you for my dream.” She talked about how her family were there and how much she loves us, but if there’s anyone who loves us more than her, it’s her family because we gave her a second chance at life. “I promise you that I will not take this opportunity for granted because without you, this is a world without me.” It was a very emotional speech and listening to it again (I videoed it on my phone) made me cry and cry and cry.
  • There’s something so special about the way she talks to the crowd. She’ll shout to pump up the crowd but then she’ll just talk, about the songs and about herself, like she’s talking only to you. And afterwards, it feels like the show is a secret between just you and her. I actually wanted to get out really quickly afterwards because I wanted to keep that secret safe, because I didn’t want anyone to find out about it. It’s  silly, I know.
  • She ended the show with ‘Without Me’ and it was amazing. Everyone was singing so loudly, so aware that it was the last song, like they were trying to enjoy every second left of the show. It was magical.

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  • “Thank you so much! It’s being the greatest night of my life! I love you from the bottom of my heart!”

This is what I was tweeting afterwards, my feelings just bursting out of me…

And this tweet made me laugh:

And the next morning, once I’d gone through my photos and my emotions had settled a little bit, I posted on Instagram…

After standing for the whole show, my legs were very sore. I had several muscle cramps in my calves (and this went on for a couple of days) but one particularly bad one that lasted for about five minutes. Eventually it passed, which was a huge relief, but I had serious pain in that leg for days, so bad that I limped when I walked.

Now, as I said earlier, if you read my last post you’ll know that me and my Mum decided to go to Dublin, to see Halsey, as a very late 25th birthday celebration. So I went into uni on the morning of the Tuesday, went to my lecture, saw my friends briefly, and then headed for the airport.

We basically had to go straight to the arena, which is a beautiful space. The disabled seats are right at the back, which is fine because it’s not a huge room, but we were on the side of the room so, again, the screens were blocked by the stage equipment, lighting rig, etc, which was frustrating. I’m focussing on how grateful I am to have gotten to see the show twice, but it does feel like you miss part of the show when you can’t see the beautiful art that she’s created to be a part of each song. Having said that, I was really grateful to be sitting down, which was such a relief after the O2 show and the pain in my leg.

The show was amazing, just as expected. Halsey is always amazing. But even in a highly choreographed show, she still manages to make each show feel different and special.

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  • During ‘Castle,’ she did what she normally does: “Stop the track. What the fuck was that? I said, what the fuck was that? Okay. Okay, okay, okay. Look. I know you guys better than that… Are you guys gonna let London do a better job than you? I mean, fuck, even Norway did a better job… Let’s try that one more time.” The screaming just got louder and louder as she talked.
  • And then, a few songs later, she said: “I’m starting to rethink all that stuff I said back there. You guys are actually shaping up to be a pretty fucking amazing crowd. And plus, I gotta be honest with you: there’s a whole fucking lot of you squeezed in down there on that floor.”

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  • At one point, everyone started chanting ‘Halsey! Halsey! Halsey!’ and she got all cute and embarrassed: “You guys are just too fucking sweet.” She said she never knows what to say or do when a crowd starts doing that.
  • Again, she explained why she’s not touring for a while, saying something very similar to what she said in London.
  • The arena lighting up for ‘Finally // beautiful stranger’ was beautiful: “You see, this is a love song and when you sing a love song in a big arena like this one, everyone has to take out their lights. Don’t you know the rules?”

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This is what the colours behind her looked like during ‘Finally // beautiful stranger.’ 

  • After ‘Finally // beautiful stranger’: “Everybody thinks that a love song is the easiest one to write, right? Because… okay, like, you write a love song and it’s like, oh, it’s so trite and cliché and easy to write a love song. Anyone can write a bullshit love song. Fuck all the love songs on the radio… That’s bullshit. A love song is really fucking hard to write and I’ll tell you why. Writing a love song means you are opening yourself up to the world and telling them, ‘I was foolish and stupid enough to open up my heart and let someone in.’ It says to the world, ‘I might look like I have my shit together’ – personally I don’t, but maybe other artists do – ‘I might look like I have my shit together but I am a big dumbass who opened up my heart for somebody to walk right into.’ But that’s okay because you’re supposed to do that. You’re supposed to open up your heart and let people walk right inside and just trash the living room that is your heart, just fuck up the carpet, flip over the couch, break a lamp… because that’s how you learn. That’s how you get better at loving the next person, but I’ll tell you what… writing that song, I would rather stand on this stage butt-naked in front of you guys than write another love song like that. But that’s not a problem because if I ever do, I promise I’m going to keep my clothes on, I think. And I hope that I do because, you know, you guys have really spoiled me in a way. You have shown me a love that is so unconditional, I don’t think I could ever recreate it with another person. You’ve spoiled me.”
  • She actually stood somewhere else for ‘Is There Somewhere,’ after my internal commentary on how moving around would give different fans the opportunity to hold her hand and have that moment. God, I wished I was down there, wished I was able to be down there. Oh, and the guitar solo in the background was to die for; it was gorgeous.

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  • She’s so free with her body but so confident in it, in the way it moves. It’s like she has complete faith that every muscle will do exactly what she expects and intends it to do. I wish I could be like that; I wish I could feel like that.

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  • Introducing ‘Clementine’: “I wrote a lot of those songs when I was nineteen years old and I’m twenty five now. And some of the songs on Badlands… But most of them, I wrote before I had ever done a headline tour so I had no idea what it was like to have an audience of my own. So I wrote Badlands so that you could listen to it in your bedroom, not so that you could listen to it at a concert. Then I started to play shows, and I started touring, and I started getting in the studio and thinking, ‘what do I want to sing with them?'”
  • If you haven’t heard it, there are parts on the recording of ‘Clementine’ where you can hear a double track of her shouting the lyrics behind her singing the lyrics and the crowd shouted those shouted parts so loudly, louder than London. It was strangely powerful and I wish I’d gotten a video of it.
  • For ‘Graveyard,’ she asked – if it felt safe – for people in the standing area to get on each other’s shoulders because it’s an outside in the summer song and so many people did it, so many more than at The O2. And everyone was singing so, so loudly.

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  • In ‘929,’ she was singing the lyric, “And I remember this girl with purple hair down in Dublin, she told me… She said, ‘Ashley, you gotta promise us that you won’t die because we need you and honestly, I think…” and then she stopped because the crowd was singing so loudly: “she was right.” I almost dropped my phone. I almost cried.
  • The crowd screamed, “do you call yourself a fucking hurricane like me,” maybe even louder than in London, although that might be because the room is smaller with a lower ceiling. But it was epic and she did the same thing at the end, repeating it over and over with the crowd shouting along. It was awesome.

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  • Introducing ‘Without Me’: “We’re into encore time, motherfucker.” That made me laugh. “I’ll keep it quick. I know I haven’t shut the fuck up this whole show but I’ve got six years worth of talking I wanna do. I’ve got six years worth of stuff that I wanted to say to you guys that I had to pack into one show so… I’m gonna use my time wisely and I’m gonna tell you that a lot of you guys get to read all of the super bad shit about me because that’s what people like to write about. They like to write about all the dark moments in my life. They like writing about the shit that I’ve been through or the dark times that I’ve faced. For whatever reason, that’s what people like to write about and it used to really bother me, but now I’m kind of okay with it because… because all of those things did happen to me and some things even happened that, you know, the media, the press, whoever, they don’t know about. And some of this stuff has happened in the last couple of years while I’ve been Halsey. You know, I’ve kept it to myself at certain times but every time shit gets terrible, I always have you.” There was major cheering. “And every single artist who’s ever played a concert in the history of time gets on stage and says to the crowd, ‘I would be nothing without you,’ right? And sometimes I really believe that but, you know what? Sometimes I fucking don’t. And I think to myself, ‘You would probably be okay actually. Maybe you wouldn’t be as happy or as, you know, successful but you’d get a job, get married, do whatever, but there are so many times where I have been so, so unsure. So unsure. And you guys have made me absolutely positive. So basically this is a really long-winded way of saying thank you because without you, this would be a world without me.” That last sentence still got to me, even though I’d already heard it in London.
  • This is what the background looked like during part of the song, although it started off more like a ribbon:

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It was incredible, another incredible show, and I’m so grateful to have been there. It was an amazing birthday present. Getting back to the hotel was a struggle and my emotions felt very mixed up and messy. For over an hour, I just didn’t feel anything. I think I was just struggling with it all being over, with the idea of not having them to look forward to. Eventually that settled and real feelings started to bloom again but they were still confusing, like a lump of different coloured pieces of play dough stuck together. Impossible to separate and really identify.

The next day, when I got home and had a bit more control over my emotions, I posted to Instagram…

And now I’m home and the European Tour is over. The adrenaline crash was pretty brutal, the physical pain from London was bad, and I was exhausted after a wild three (actually four) days but it was so worth it. Halsey – Ashley – and her music mean so much to me and I’m so, so grateful for this experience.

January 2020

January was tough. A lot of difficult things happened. Normally, I wouldn’t do a monthly round up but there were several things this month that I didn’t think would get properly acknowledged (in my yearly review or otherwise) if I didn’t. So here’s January 2020 and it’s highs and lows…

  • Assessments and meltdowns – I began the year working frantically and anxiously on assessments for the module I’d just finished. And as soon as I’d finished the essay, it was onto preparing the presentation, which absolutely terrified me. All of the work with no rest and all of the anxiety caused so, so many meltdowns. So it was a very stressful start to the year.
  • Presentation – My final presentation was very stressful. I worked ridiculously hard on a powerpoint presentation and script that described my progress throughout the semester with snippets of the songs I’d written and I thought I’d done okay but I was and am upset with my grade, mainly because the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ feedback I got seems to contradict each other. There’s this thing we have called Results Counselling (or something similar) where we can go and discuss it all, which I’m gonna do as soon as I can get through it without crying (not just about the grades – it’ll come up later). Whether that will change the grade or not, I don’t know.
  • Choosing my timetable and beginning the new semester – My uni are really helpful about working with me to find a timetable that was best for my health, mental and physical. I really appreciate that they do that. I know that, as a disabled student, they have certain obligations to help me but this is something that causes me a lot of anxiety so I do really appreciate it. Special thanks to Ivy and Aislin for their help. And then the semester began. I’ve swung from overwhelming anxiety to calm and back again so many times that I’m dizzy. Right now, I’m okay. I think.
  • ‘Clarity’ came out! – The second track from my EP, Honest, was released on the 10th and for what is essentially a second single from an independent artist, it’s done really well. It was added to several playlists with lots of followers and it’s been played on a handful of independent radio stations, including Get In Her Ears, which I’ve followed for a long time. So that was really cool. It’s also had quite a lot of airplay on a couple of local independent radio stations, which feels very special even if bigger stations are ‘better’ for my career – their support means a lot to me. It’s been a lot less stressful and a lot more exciting than the release of ‘Bad Night’ (although that was probably because it was the first one and so all new and unknown). Having said that, there’s still a lot more to come…
  • My First DSA Assessment – As you probably remember from this post, it was a bit of a disaster. It was incredibly upsetting and we were basically told I would get no support as a disabled student. Things have changed a bit since then but I don’t want to talk about it until I actually know what’s happening, until it’s more than just speculation and hope.
  • Semester B – We’re only four weeks into the new semester so we haven’t gotten that far yet but it’s definitely difficult. Much like the first semester, the content is really interesting but there’s a new challenge this semester: the academic language. A lot of the time I have no idea what the texts are saying and that’s pretty distressing. It makes me feel stupid and like I’m not smart enough to complete a Masters and ‘what the fuck was I thinking trying to do this?!’ Just as I thought I had a question for my assessment essay, I decided it was too complicated and now I’m waiting to hear from my tutor about it. I feel frozen. It’s hard to research when you don’t know what you’re supposed to be researching, a problem I had last semester although in a different scenario. I’m doing my best though and I’m doing my best not to panic. But I’m keeping up with my writing and I’ve written songs that I like so that’s keeping me grounded even though they don’t get assessed. But it reminds me why I’m doing this: to write better songs.
  • Manic by Halsey was released – I love Halsey and I was very excited for this album and (Hurray!) I absolutely love it. It’s so different from Badlands and Hopeless Fountain Kingdom but they were really different from each other; there’s progression and evolution and exploration. This one is particularly emotionally vulnerable and to me, the often acoustic production reinforces that. I love all of Halsey’s albums and I think this one is the perfect next step. I love most of the songs but my absolute favourite are ‘Ashley,’ ‘Graveyard,’ ‘You should be sad,’ ‘More,’ ‘Still Learning,’ and ‘929.’
  • Sharné visited – One of my best friends from uni came to visit me (and my cats) and we had such a lovely weekend. We went to the beach at golden hour, made cookies, watched movies, and played with the cats. It was so, so nice. I had such a good time. She’s the best.
  • University gig – The full time students on my course put on a show and it was so cool to hear the songs they’d written and it was so, so nice to see my friends play and get the recognition they deserve because they’re such talented, hardworking writers. It was such a good gig and I wish I could’ve stayed to the end but I had to get home to Brighton.

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(Luce Barka performing ‘Be More Kind’ – a very beautiful, meaningful song.)

  • Richard visitedRichard came down to visit me (and, again, the cats – I’m sensing a theme) and we did some writing and production, which was really fun, especially given that I was trying some new things. We also worked on some stuff for the rest of the ‘Clarity’ release cycle and for the release of the next song. Ooooh…
  • BeFries closed – My favourite restaurant in Brighton closed this month temporarily and then permanently and I’m absolutely gutted. I loved that place, I loved the food, and I loved the people. I’m so, so sad that it’s gone and I genuinely don’t know where my new meeting spot will be because that’s where I took everyone.

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  • Announced ‘Clarity’ music video – I announced via social media (I’m having major problems updating my website for some reason) that the ‘Clarity’ music video would be coming out in early February! I’m so excited for everyone to see it! (It will have gone up by the time I post this but this is where I am right now…)

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“I’m so, so excited to announce that the music video for ‘Clarity’ will be coming out Friday 7th February! @rsandersonphoto and I had such so much fun shooting this and there’s a pretty cool surprise in there so we hope you love it as much as we do!” (x)

  • Cheer – This might seem small compared to some of the other things on this list but I watched it after hearing all the good press about it and it absolutely held up. It was shot beautifully and the pacing was really good. The stories of all the cheerleaders had me so invested in each of them and their places in the series, and in their futures. I cried in almost every episode.
  • The Grammys 2020 – I have many, many  opinions about The Grammys, about who should’ve won which awards (*cough* Taylor Swift for Song of the Year with ‘Lover’ *cough*) but mainly I’m just super happy that Natalie Hemby and Sara Bareilles won their first Grammys. I can’t believe that this is a first for both of them, given how freaking talented they are and how successful they’ve been but regardless of that, this is amazing news and I’m so happy for both of them.
  • Waitress with Sara Bareilles – The best moment of the month was seeing Sara Bareilles on her first night as Jenna in Waitress the Musical in London. She was incredible. The whole show was amazing but she was a magic all of her own. When she sang ‘She Used To Be Mine,’ (which I know is a special song to her and is a special song to me too) the standing ovation went on for so long that eventually the only way to stop us was to continue with the show and therefore force us to sit down. She was truly awesome and I felt so lucky to be there. I’m fortunate enough to get to see her again before her run finishes and I’m so, so excited.

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  • Track of the Day – In the interval of Waitress, I discovered that ‘Clarity’ was going to be Track of the Day for BBC Introducing in the South and played on the radio, on a show I haven’t been played on before. So that was massively exciting (apart from some confusion about the date). Fortunately, I wasn’t in class when they played it so I could listen and enjoy the feeling! Hearing yourself on the radio, hearing people introduce you and your song and spread the message you’re trying to spread is so special.

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  • Lucky – If you follow my social media, you’ll know that we had to have our family dog put to sleep in the last days of January. We first met him when he was a couple of days old and he would’ve been sixteen on the 9th February, so he lived a long and happy life (I hope he was happy – he seemed happy and we did everything to make sure he was). But saying goodbye to him was agonising and there’s been a massive hole in my life ever since. I miss him desperately. I want to write more about him – it just feels like the right thing to do – but I’m just not ready yet.

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  • #30dayfeb – My tutor, mentor, friend, and super inspiring person, Sophie Daniels, is running a challenge throughout February (1st February – 1st March) under her artist project name, Liberty’s Mother (the name comes from the name of her daughter, Liberty, who tragically died the day before she was born), to raise awareness about baby loss and money for the baby loss charity, Tommy’s. The challenge is all about doing something positive for your wellbeing everyday for 30 days. I know a lot of people are going to the gym everyday, doing yoga, and so on but given my chronic fatigue and chronic pain, I can’t do those things so I’ve decided to focus on relaxing my brain: mindfulness essentially but in a slightly less traditional fashion. I’m going to try and make a piece of origami every day because I can’t think or stress about anything when I’m doing it because I have to concentrate so hard. And I could do with some of that. You can sponsor me to do this, to try and do this everyday. Here are some of my attempts so far.

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So that was January. Yeah, 2020 – the new decade – began on a very stressful and sad note. I’m thankful for the moments of light.