Roman Holiday

Hugh Carswell / Rome

We’ve just arrived back to Jura having spent a few months in Italy. Jane is half Italian and has family in Rome, and so we decided to stretch a proposed Christmas visit into a more lengthy stay - an opportunity to escape the worst of the Jura winter!

One of the great advantages of making music and films in this day and age is the incredible portability of the kit you need - so I was able to carry on work pretty much as usual, exchanging my normal view of cattle in the mud outside my Jura studio window for the warmer sun rays beaming in through the arches of the Parco Degli Aquedotti in Rome.

We decided to travel by boat and train, enabling us to take our dog Pirlo, and also adjust our route to visit a friend in Geneva on the way.  Long distance train travel seems incredibly civilised compared to flying, and, once you get over the absolute terror in the eyes of fellow travellers as they get first sight of us boarding with six bags, a seven month old baby and a lurcher, seems to be way more fun and sociable.  We actually really enjoyed the experience of travelling and discovered on this trip that both baby Grace and Pirlo are very very good travellers - even the most reluctant of our fellow travellers seemed to have been charmed by the time we got off.

The Christmas period itself was taken over by having to check-in to hospital in Ostia as little Gracie developed pneumonia. There we shared a room with a very friendly family who kindly tolerated our terrible Italian and oversaw my pledging myself forever to AS Roma as my Italian football club. Grace became acquainted with a pretty rigorous routine of injections and vaporisers, a formal style of nursing, and a multitude of Italian kids' TV characters. Thankfully, by the new year she'd made a full recovery with no permanent damage and we were declared free to go on the authority of the quite stern but very competent ward doctor.

Back at our apartment I started work on some music.  Over the last year, in between my efforts to talk to as many people as possible about In Chances of Light (still far too many people haven’t heard about it - please keep helping everyone - every rating/review on iTunes & Amazon really helps!), I have been grabbing moments for some new music. It’s been a really incredible time in Jura - with the arrival of Grace, and all of us getting used to the new priorities and necessities of having a baby in the house. Summer seemed good, with lots of sunny days and trips to the beach and up the hill, and me also busy with various film projects.  It’s been a different dynamic with the music - with less time to sit at the piano, and dare I say that I haven’t even touched a guitar for absolutely ages. But still the tunes and ideas emerge and I have found myself reaching for the iPhone and hitting record the minute I get something that is sounding interesting.  

So Rome was an opportunity, away from Jura's sensations and rigours, to just run through these recordings, experimenting with how they could sit with each other and playing with instrumentation and arrangements.  I guess with less time to dwell on the music during the last year, I was less sure of whether I was onto anything or not - they were really just a bunch of musical sketches I’d recorded. But I’m glad to report that there's a pleasing coherance and the process was quite exciting - no doubt fuelled by delicious coffee, the buzz of the city, and my frequent walks in the park with Pirlo and Grace. I now have an outline of an album and an idea of the instrumentation involved.  

It's still incredibly early on in the process. I’m busy this year with various film projects (my other passion) and also a barn that needs building to create a new work/living space - which in itself is a pretty big challenge.  But I’m looking forward to grabbing what time I can to take these ideas forward within their new framework.

Rome in the winter, even with its medical dramas, suited us very well. It will be interesting, in the fullness of time, to see if it has left its mark in the music.

Over and out


Hugh Carswell