2 February 2023


It seems to me that January hangs in a strange, often unpleasant limbo between after-thought and anticipation. There’s no denying that it is a grim, empty month, in many respects. The forgotten lights of town square Christmas displays cling unlit to lamp posts and gutters, their magic spent. The once admired Christmas trees now hunch over dustbins, brown and skeletal, or lie in undignified heaps at local carpark drop-off points. All that remains of the feverish celebrations of another year’s end are the tattered New Years Eve posters flapping around on bus shelters and the discounted bottles of fizz in the supermarket. We emerge from the festive season tired, poorer than before and blinking in the face of a new year that stretches out before us – blank and impregnable. Full of unknowns and possibilities, prospects and pot-holes.

This season brings with it a real weight of expectation that I find very difficult to deal with. Having just completed one year, we don’t get any real chance to sit back and appreciate what we’ve achieved before we are once again assaulted from all angles with discourse about switching everything up. We’re told to change ourselves, our bodies, our outlooks, our diets and our current ways of life in order to make this year better than the last. There’s an immense pressure to use this month to set a precedent for how the rest of the year is going to play out. For me, it can feel as though January is my one chance to improve things for myself and that it must be used to work out exactly what I want from the year ahead. It’s also a bleak time for musicians generally – there doesn’t tend to be much by way of touring, as people don’t feel like leaving the house in January (and who can blame them). Instead, we’re left at our laptops trying to fill out our diaries, slumped over a guitar in an attempt to force out the song that will change the trajectory of our careers forever, or, in my case, wandering aimlessly around Birmingham wondering what’s going to happen next.

Choosing to follow a career in music is choosing instability and uncertainty. You sacrifice routine and regular pay cheques, the ability to plan trips and social occasions in advance and a real sense of being able to put down roots somewhere, with someone. Of course, that might not be the case for everyone, I can only speak from my own experience. Personally, this time of the year really highlights the insecurity I’ve given myself in making this choice. After the euphoria of Christmas and New Year, I watch as friends fall right back into their orbits, clucking over nest-eggs and making plans for their annual holidays. This will be the year they get a house, get a second house, get married, have a baby… I know how lucky I am to be in a career I love and there are so many amazing perks of the job in terms of meeting people, choosing my own hours, seeing new places, having exciting experiences…I am very grateful for all of it. Similarly, I know that having routines and houses and nine to five jobs and babies brings with it all manner of miseries and stresses. It’s not that I regret my choices, it’s just that January provides the exact cocktail of worry and idleness that I need to start peering over other fences and thinking about what I could be having – all those changes I could make, those new resolutions I could be implementing.

I suppose it’s all just a matter of perspective, and perspective is something that can and should be challenged – much more so than your diet, or your gym routine, or your hair style or whatever else the world encourages us to change for 2023. I have been taking a lot of walks in the park this month, in a vague attempt to top up on vitamin D, and in doing so I have become very aware of all the little changes that are bubbling away under the seemingly barren surface of Winter. On the bare branches there are already tentative buds appearing, as well as courageous little shoots sprouting up through the mud along the paths. Before we know it, we’ll have made it through the dark months and be rolling into Spring – another season of rebirth and and an opportunity for change… but only if you want it to be.

I think what I’m trying to get at is that things really do take time, and if time is not something we get given, it’s something we have to carve out for ourselves. We might be told that January is for setting intentions and making changes, and for some people that might be true, but making it a season for patience is just as valuable. Instead of worrying about the blank page before me, I’ve been trying to take the time to turn back and appreciate what I did in 2022. Instead of scrambling around for things to fill the diary and worrying about everything I want to do this year, I’ve been trying to take the time to tend to seeds I’ve already sown, making sure I am giving my songs and my ideas the time and space they need to truly come to fruition. Instead of worrying too much about my future, I’ve been trying to sit back and look after myself a little better in the present. It’s definitely a work in progress, and I have not transformed from a stress-pot into some sort of wandering cloud overnight – some days I still wish I could get a good look at what’s around the corner.

Nonetheless, I’m trying to take solace in the idea that we are all bulbs under hard earth, waiting out our Winter, taking our time to grow. There is no rush and this is not a race, rather it’s a matter of enduring and finding the right moment to emerge. This is the waiting season. And just as you think you’re destined to be waiting forever, watching the world slip past you, something will shift. Suddenly there’s green in the trees and a warmth returning to the sun. There’s the sound of geese coming home to the rivers and the flash of a swallow over the rooftops at dusk. The world stirs, opens up in front of you, reveals to you a myriad of possibilities within your reach.

And by your feet, a patch of daffodils.