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Detours and discoveries

The story of my first single Prodigal, is a story of a detour and an unexpected discovery. A painful discovery, but a good one in the end. So often it’s the detours that take you to the most beautiful places

I’m so excited to finally start sharing tracks from my new EP with you. It’s been an amazing process to take these lyrics and melodies written in my front room and shape them into the music I can share with you now. It’s been fun and challenging, but it’s been a tough process too. It’s felt like it’s taken ages, and there have been many days where I’d given up on the idea that this would ever happen. But it did! And now I get to tell you about the first song on the EP, Prodigal!

This song actually started off as a kind of accidental detour on the way to writing another song called Concrete Heart. Concrete Heart, is about believing that love, true, real love can soften even the hardest of hearts and warm the coldest of hands. I’m releasing that one in February so you’ll have to wait a few months before you hear it (sorry). I started writing this really upbeat happy song about believing in that kind of love and then realised that I wasn’t really there yet myself. I wasn’t ready to sing about real love, warming hard hearts, because my heart was so hard. I needed space and time to get there and that’s where the first ideas for Prodigal came from.

It took me by surprise when I realised I wasn’t ready to sing that upbeat happy song. Unintentionally I’d slipped into a rhythm of life that was pulling me further and further away from who I wanted to be. And I’m not talking about careers, or relationships or anything like that. Who I was at the core of me, was growing colder and colder, and I didn’t really understand why. It wasn’t on purpose. But somehow my patience with other people was drawing thin, my focus was on me and what I wanted, not so much on helping others. I was frustrated with my supposed lack of LIFE achievements and even a little bit angry with the world for not giving me what I wanted.

It turned out that a few of my friends were feeling the same way too. A kind of numbness had taken over. Nothing was bad, or so bad to be worried about, but nothing was particularly good either. There was happiness, but it was cold and quick fading. That warm long joy was gone and we wanted it back.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a day that’s been really busy, full of fun, good things. You’re so focused on all that’s going on, that you don’t notice you haven’t had a single thing to drink since breakfast. As soon as you realise, an overwhelming thirst suddenly takes over and everything is put on hold until you can find a glass of water. When you do, you fill it to the brim and gulp it down in one go. Then you back to the kitchen for another, and another, because you didn’t realise how thirsty you were. I think that’s a little bit how I felt, except when I went looking for water I couldn’t find any. I realised I’d been so busy with my life, so focused on me and my plans that I hadn’t stopped to take a drink. Now I was on a train in the middle nowhere with no water, and no stops scheduled for hours. Where do you go, what do you do? How do you find what you need?

That’s when I started searching, creating space to stop, to breathe, to find what I so desperately needed and that’s where this song came from.

There’s a tarmac road where a river used to be
Cold, cold ground where your fire use to burn in me
I’ve got question marks where I used to be certain
I wasted away all you gave now I’m nothing

I’ve wandered so far, can I find my way home
I don’t know where you are or how to approach you

If I could find a way to fall down
I would fall down at your feet
If I could find the words to call out
I would say you’re all I need
Is it true that broken hearts find open arms at Calvary?
I’m gonna find a way to fall down, find away to fall down at your feet

We used to be so close everything was just you and me
Then I stepped back to prove that I could be something
When did that crack turn into a canyon?
I can’t bridge this gap there no sense in trying

Prodigal is available to download on iTunes, Google Play and to stream on Spotify

 

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A clearing in the chaos

A few years ago, some friends and I drove into the countryside to climb Snowdon in North Wales. I was really looking forward to it, but the whole climb was damp and cloudy and actually pretty miserable. As we edged slowly to the top, we walked in grim silence through clouds and rain. It wasn’t exactly the climb I had been imagining.

After some cold sandwiches in the concrete cafe at the summit we began our descent. When suddenly, the wind blew and the clouds rolled back like curtains to reveal the endless rolling green valleys below us. It was breathtaking. We weren’t grimly pushing onward anymore, we were laughing and running and joking as we made our way down the mountain.

There have been times in my life, amazing moments where it feels like for a few minutes the rubble clears and there’s space to breathe again.

These kinds of moments, have refuelled me when I felt empty and given me fresh hope when I needed it. When I’m feeling tired, or just bored, I think about those places, and wish that I could just press the escape button on my life and transport myself to some beautiful place, where I can feel something again.

Beautiful places, and long holidays are great, but I’ve been thinking, and I don’t know if it’s true that these holy moments only come wrapped in calm countryside escapes. Now, I know it’s a little early but bare with me- the Christmas story is a prime example.

A dirty cave, in a village overrun with visitors, a woman cries out in the pain of child labour. The baby comes screaming into the world, like all babies do. It’s messy and awkward and dirty- but startlingly pure too. Here he is- a tiny hand, a promise, a new beginning. It’s dusty and noisy and miles away from the holy silence of an empty cathedral. If you blink you miss it- but right there in the chaos and noise is this holy moment.

So as the winter closes in and my diary fills up, work gets crazy and there are more social occasions than I can handle. I’m going to look for these moments. Times with friends, an encouraging word said at the right time, a great meal with people you love, a song which sums up the place you’re in. Maybe there are moments out there, if we look for them- and maybe a clearing in this chaos, no matter how small, is worth finding.

Speeding up, slowing down

I’ve been busy lately. Juggling work, life and plans to release some new music has meant that recently, everyday has had a to-do list as long as my arm. A few weeks ago it began to feel like the only way to hold it all together was to be laser focused all of the time.

Then out of the blue I was forced to stop. And not for a bad reason, a great reason actually, I was sent to California for work – which has never, ever happened! At very late notice I ended up being out there for eight days on my own, spending most of my time with my friends’ parents who live high up in the mountains.

It took about three days of yoyo-ing between frantic email writing and staring into blank space to realise that I hadn’t really been myself lately. I was finding it hard to slow my brain as it chased down every thought at 100 miles per hour. I had this unexpected week off in the most beautiful place, but I was finding it hard to stop and take it all in.

Laser focus is good, kind of. It gets things moving and gets stuff done. But taking in the moment, this very moment, breathing in deep breaths, listening to other people? Laser focus does not do these things. And a view like the one I had from the balcony every morning deserved a moment, a breath, a pause. And eventually I realised I needed a pause too.

So what if everything doesn’t go to plan? So what if this EP release isn’t as slick or as well timed as I’d like it to be. All the songs we recorded are about clearing a space, making time and learning to feel human again. So ideally, I’d like to stay human as I share them with the world, with you. They’re not perfect but they’re honest – and I think that’s okay.

It’s funny, when I finished writing the songs for the EP I really thought to myself, ah yes these are the lessons I’ve learnt and now I can share them with other people. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. They’re the lessons I’m learning, and will probably carry on trying to learn for a long time.

I’m back from my crazy adventures now, there’s so much to catch up in every aspect of my life. But yet again, I’m trying to learn that I don’t have to carry all of it. I don’t have to succeed at everything and I don’t have to be fine all the time. Really feeling alive, isn’t about that, it’s about showing weakness, slowing down if you need to, trying to really listen and share what you have, even if it isn’t perfect.

‘All this time I was giving you what you don’t need
When all you ask for us the weakness in me
All you ask for is the weakness in me.’

Autumn Leaves

Even if I feel stuck on repeat. Like every day is a re-run of the one before – this yellow and red, and brown shows me it’s just an optical illusion.

Every day is new.

Are we moving forward, or moving in circles?  I’m not sure

But we’re moving and that’s all that matters.

Hearts keep beating – lungs re-filling

And we can’t stop hoping,

because we’re still moving.

 

 

Fears scream like sirens on a motorway, until it seems the only option is to let them overtake you

I was messing around on my brothers strat when I came up for the of the verse to Until My Feet Move. It was one part experiment and one part attempt to persuade myself to actually go through with recording the songs that had been stuck in my front room for so long.

I’ve always wanted to record these songs, it’s just that nothing was ever quite right. No producer, and no musicians for a start. But even then, the right songs/sound/version of me always seemed somewhat out of reach. Now here was a producer (the incredibly talented Dan Stirling), as well as some willing musicians. Still I found myself wondering if I could really do it.

Trying is scary. Trying means admitting that you really care about something. Trying means you might fail- and just that is reason enough to cough and splutter, to panic and to stall. Before long fear races up from behind like police sirens on a motorway and it seems like there’s no other option but to get out the way and let them overtake you.

The noise rings in my ears until it’s all I can hear and I’m left wondering if this car will ever start again.

It’s kind of apt that Until My Feet Move became the title track for the EP. In many ways this song really summed up how I felt at the beginning of this project. Figuring out a way to get out of my head and actually do something has never been a strength of mine. Fighting through the noise of my own fears was a struggle. But we did it. We tried and I’d do it again in a shot.

Here are the lyrics if want to sing along at my next gig, or in the shower…whatever. You can check out a full list of upcoming gigs here or you can check out a variety of showers here.

Until My Feet Move

by Christina Boonstra and Dan Stirling

I’ve been staring at the spaces waiting for the perfect story to emerge
I’ve been hoping for the whole road to be open every twist and every turn
I’ve waiting for the pieces of the puzzle to land where I want them to
I’ve been talking all this time and still I wonder why I can’t get through to you

Now I’m stuck here, rucksack full of fear,
my head so full of noise I wouldn’t know if you were stood right by me
Eyes locked, onto what I’m not God even if I tried I couldn’t make another move alone.

But now my ears are open let me hear you x3
And I will throw my heart in till my feet move.
Until my feet move

I’ve been mapping out the journey with a pencil from the safety of my room
I’ve been so tied up making plans I’ve tied my hands and said there’s nothing I can do
I’ve been saving up my money but the figures never fall on my side
Try to calculate my chances but the odds don’t ever seem to come up right

Topple the tower, I’ve built in my mind,
Of everything I’ve got to do to make it in this life
Watch it crash to the ground,
Cause it’s dust without you, without you.

Until My Feet Move is available to purchase on iTunes and all other good online retailers. For limited edition physical copies, please get in touch.

You’re not okay? Guess what, none of us are. (Don’t Hold On- The Story)

Ever met someone, wrapped up as neatly as a present in a John Lewis advert? Every corner folded is underneath itself, and their creaseless gloss-paper skin shines so brightly you can hardly stop staring. A smile ribbon wrapped around their face at all times, as they juggle their dream job and an endless string of friends with effortless ease.

Log in to Instagram and you’ll be hard pressed to persuade yourself a ribbon wrapped life is not the goal. Or at least- appearing to have one. I’ve definitely been guilty of it. I’ve covered up, folded the creases away and edited my reactions so that even my closest friends only know the best side of me. It works for a little while, and then with short sharp tug the whole thing unravels again.

Money is usually the first thing that gets me. Fears that the figures won’t add up this month, fears that there won’t be enough for the future. Coming up close behind is the persistent niggling voice at the back of my mind that says I’m just not achieving enough. From there I domino into myself; collapse from the inside whilst holding on tightly to the ribbon that holds the outside so perfectly in check.

Yet as I desperately try to persuade the people I love that I’m fine- I feel another tug. A different kind of pull asking me to let go of those things and remember that I am not made to look like a present in a John Lewis ad. I am in fact, made human, flawed and in desperate need of others.

Don’t hold on is the story of learning to let go. Here are the lyrics, I’d love to here your stories.

Don’t Hold On
Let me hold your heart in place today,
I can see your struggling, bending with the weight.
Let me hold on to your plans today,
You’ve gripped them with a stubborn hand and your skins starting to fray.

You’ve slowly been unravelling, secretly unravelling.
I’ve slowly been unravelling, secretly unravelling you.

Don’t hold on.
Don’t hold on.
Don’t hold on.
I’m holding you.

Let me save your face this time around
The strings behind your eyes will snap so taut and tightly wound
Find me in the silence or the sound,
my grazed and tear-stained masterpiece I’m waiting to be found

Don’t Hold On, available on iTunes now. 

How one man and his washing saved a Palestinian Paradise

This is my friend Mohammed, his family is from the village called Battir which I mentioned in an earlier post. Here is the story of our time there:

After days of rubble, pain, and grief scarred faces, Battir made me realise something about Palestine no heartbreak could have. We walked for two hours through a Mediterranean valley, stopping to smell the herbs and appreciate the olive trees. We turned a corner and saw the effect of a spring long before we heard the silent steady trickle along a Roman aqueduct- we saw the stark change in vegetation, from the olive green, to the vibrant shades, the lime trees beginning to flower in the soft spring heat, it was paradise. As we walked under a mossy rock we turned with the path to see a green pool of water cut out of stone. The boys jumped in before anyone could change their minds and we rested for a little as they enjoyed the cool water. The sun was beginning to set behind the scrubby hills and we continued on a little further to our final destination; my Mohammeds grandfathers house.

No one lives there any more, but it’s used frequently for gatherings, maybe a bit like ours that night. We sat on the wall looking out across the valley that we had just walked through and watched as the sun slowly took the light away. The sound of the spring whispering steady and constant while the birds accompanied her whimsically. After a little while, we were ushered into the small house and sat on pillows to dig into a feast that the women’s society had prepared for us.

As we ate, Mohammed told us the story of how this village was rescued from Israeli occupation.

In 1948 word spread across Palestine that a invasion would be taking place, Zionist Militants would come and ransack their villages, kill the men and rape their women. Instructions came from all their trusted sources, the Jordanians, the British and even some Palestinians, to flee their homes temporarily and return when the Arab army would come to their rescue. The villagers were promised their homes would be safe, but their lives and honour were at risk if they didn’t leave immediately.

Seventy villages were attacked. The worst massacre happened in a place called Deir Yassin, where the village was raised to the ground, destroyed in the most brutal way. About 108 Palestinians were killed and 300 were taken as prisoners. Word spread of the men who were brutally murdered, the women raped, unborn babies cut out of their mothers stomach and left suffocate as their mothers bled to death. Panic spread across the country and thousands upon thousands fled their homes.

But the wholesale massacre never happened.

Instead all across Palestine, Israeli civilians moved into villages that were ‘deserted and empty’. There was no battle, no blood; fear served a heavy blow and the new Israeli occupants took the spoils.

In the face of widespread propaganda, violence, and very real terror one man in Battir; Hassan Mustafa, chose to stay. He persuaded twelve others to remain in the village with him and every morning they would go round to each house and hang up washing on the line, and every night, they went across the village to turn on the lights.

From the perspective of the Israeli watchtowers, Battir was fully occupied, so no new residents tried their luck.

Weeks went by and no Arab army came to defend the Palestinians. Thousands were stuck in other parts of Palestine far from their homes, and in neighbouring Jordan, in poor living conditions with no source of income and no prospects, they have never been able to return to their homes, even to this day. Because of the shrewdness of one man, Battir has happier ending. Within two years the whole village had moved back into their homes and life carried on in this Palestinian paradise.

Out of all the places I visited in Palestine, all the painful, unjust stories I heard, for some reason it was this experience, which has had the biggest impact on me. Battir showed me what it is that these men and women are fighting to save. It helped me to understand why it’s so worth fighting for. It’s beautiful. And I don’t just mean the countryside, though it is stunning; the people, the history, the community, it’s important, it’s valid and has every right to thrive, to be fought for and to be celebrated. Especially celebrated.

Never understimate a man and his donkey.

Hiking from Bethlehem, through the beautiful Al Makhrour valley on our way to a village called Battir*, we came across an old man with a donkey. He seemed like he’d been travelling this old road as long as it had existed. As he ascended the hill slowly, his donkey ambling beside him laden with produce, I noticed that some of the buttons on his shirt were missing, his trousers hung loose around his legs, a white cord acted as a waist belt, and the zip was broken. The first thought that came into my head was something like this; ‘Poor man, he’s been a farmer all his life, no opportunities, no education…’

As he drew closer a friend of mine recognised him, it was his old Physics teacher; ‘This man’ my friend Hassan said, ‘was the best teacher I ever had, he inspired so many people in my school. Half the people in the P.A (Palestinian Authority) were taught by him!’

The old man gave a smile.

My friend Hassan walked over to embrace him, and we began to talk with him. With sad eyes and a crooked smile he told us about his time at university and of his five children ‘who were all graduates now…and working.’ He added.

We waved goodbye as he continued slowly up the hill, his donkey beside him.

*this village deserves its own story, maybe next time I’ll tell you that one.

It’s blurry on the ground…

It’s the smells that struck me time and time again in the West Bank the smell of Jasmine thick and sweet in the air, pulling my attention away from street sellers and beeping car horns, the spices in the market stalls, and the fresh smell of herbs that grow naturally alongside the well worn path that curls through the hills. I never expected at all. It hadn’t even crossed my mind that we might be accosted with such a sweetness hung above centuries of pain.

Things rarely are as you expect them.

The holiday postcard you send to your parents rarely depicts the things you see with your own eyes. The five minute news bite you hear of crisis in another nation is rarely the whole story. That’s the danger of the front-page news headline, of the bullet points summarising the complexities of human coexistence.

I’m the biggest culprit.

Give me an instagram snapshot of your life, and I think I know enough, give me the headlines of what’s happening, sum it up for me, 140 characters should do it. I’ll be able to form my opinion from there.

Honestly, that’s how I think. Big pictures make me feel like I’m in control, like I understand. ‘Give me the statistics’ I say, and I’ll have an understanding of the problem. But if you step a little closer, its not so clear cut as that. That’s the story of my time in Palestine, no matter how many solid lines you draw it all gets a little blurry on the ground

To be continued…