Music in my life and on the streets of New Orleans

IMG_6716When we moved into our current house, we decided to take my childhood piano with us; for various reasons, I didn’t feel like I could keep it here anymore, and so my sister took it with her this weekend as she and her boyfriend moved into their new home. It was a little strange to see it roll out of my life once again; I knew it couldn’t stay, but it still hurt a little to see it leave…

Music has always been a big part of my life. I remember my mum and grand mothers singing to me as a child. I cant tell you why I remember this, but I vividly remember mum singing “Under The Boardwalk” to me as a teeny tiny kidling (probably one of my earliest memories of life, actually), and her mum singing in Italian to me, “farfallina, bella bianca, vola vola, mai si stanca…” (Butterfly, beautifully white, flying flying, never tiring…).

Music was in dad’s blood, too – he played guitar, exceptionally well, and I grew up listening to his records-  Queen, The Beatles, Neil Diamond (and yes, we had an actual record player in our house). And his father loves music almost as much as he loves pasta (anyone who knows my Nonno and knows that he eats pasta pretty much daily, will know what a big deal that is). Despite being well into his 80s, he’s the first one on the dance floor, dragging my giggling Nonna along with him, at any family wedding, party, what have you. The look on his face, eyes closed and smiling serenely when he listens to his favourite music, will be forever ingrained in my mind, for which I am so grateful.

I grew up playing the piano and singing a little, but rarely for an audience; I was a painfully shy child who did her best to go through life appearing as mediocre as possible, so as not to ever risk standing out in a crowd. I was talented, learning mostly by ear and memory, and usually only using the expensive sheet music my parents bought me on the first play or two while learning a new piece, and then discarding it and playing by ear (much to mum’s chagrin), but I was so damn shy; the day the school choir director finally plucked up enough courage to tell me she wanted me to sing the solo at the next big school assembly, I promptly burst into tears and ran out of the school chapel where we practiced, effectively quitting on the spot. But music is still in my blood, I’ve always loved it. It’s always been there. To this day, the three things I can’t leave the house without are a book to read, a notebook to write in, and my iPod; I need to have music. I can’t work in silence at my desk for 8 hours each day – when everyone else is working away like pantomimes, I have one ear bud in, listening to something, anything, to keep me sane. I can feel music in a way I can’t actually explain or describe… Without realising, as I listen, my fingers often start playing away on my thighs, as if playing along on a piano keyboard.

That was another reason why New Orleans felt like home to me; music is everywhere. It’s on the streets and in the bars, it lives within the concrete footpaths and the bones of the locals. It is everywhere. And it is GOOD. I don’t actually know why I have any other music on my iPod at the moment – I have a play list that consists of a few Rebirth Brass Band records, a few Trombone Shorty records, and the first and second Treme soundtracks; I’ve been listening to that same playlist for around 9 hours a day, 5 days a week, for the 3 or 4 months last year leading up to our trip to America, and ever since we got back in January. Almost the only time anything else is played is when I’m at the gym running on the treadmill (entitled “Move, Bitch!” plays then. 5 points to anyone who knows gets the song reference there).

In a city where everyone has more talent in one finger than most of us have in our entire bodies, you see musicians everywhere, and every single one of them, from the kids to the grown ups, manage to create magic…



The long, cold walk to Abbey Road

But man am I glad I dragged myself out that day!


Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

I love music, I really do. And I have dad to thank for that. He was one of those young hipsters who started a band with his friends back in the day, he played guitar, very well, and just enjoyed good music. I started playing the piano at a very young age, and sang in the school choir. I had music in my bones. I listened to everything from the Beach Boys to Neil Diamond to Queen (an all time favourite band for me!) with dad. I also listened to The Beatles. One memory that stands out for me, and I have no idea why, was listening to “A Hard Day’s Night” and associating that song very strongly with dad. He did work like a dog to look after and provide for his family of little women (three daughters, poor bugger), and he sure slept like a log at the end of a hard day! It’s always reminded me of him…

Anyway, I’ve always liked their music, but it wasn’t until my late teens/early 20s that I really started to appreciate them. When I got my first iPod, their 1 (greatest hits) went straight on, and, along with Queen’s Greatest Hits, remain the most played songs on there.

So, when husband and I decided to include London on a trip through Europe last year, we both knew Abbey Road was a stop we had to make. Funnily enough though, as we slowly crept toward the end of the trip, we were getting tired, cold, just exhausted… we even kinda put Abbey Road on the backburner, the “maybe, if we can be bothered” list… for shame!

This one morning, after rolling out of bed and stretching our weary bodies (we estimated we were walking around 30kms+ per day, in an unseasonably cold European spring, and had been doing so for three weeks straight at this point), we went through our mental lists of the things we wanted to get out and see and do for the day. Hang on, I said. I had an idea. Let’s just grab a bite to eat, and get straight on a train in the general direction of Abbey Road Studios. Sure, why the hell not! We grabbed our coats, beanies, scarves, and all that jazz, and marched off.

It has to be said that I have absolutely no sense of direction at home whatsoever. When we moved house recently, I needed to follow Google maps to get to work for the first 8 days. Not even joking. I get lost very easily in my own city, turn left instead of right 8 times out of 10, just generally have no idea. But get me travelling with a map of the city and/or subway map, and I’ll have you where you need to be, when you need to be there, on the exact pavement square you want if need be. It’s ridiculous, I cop hell from husband to no ends, and deservedly so. I can’t get you to my favourite brunch place without double checking my map (despite the fact I’ve been there dozens of times and it is literally 3 streets away), but sure, I can get you to Abbey Road, in the middle of London where I’ve never ever been before in my entire life, on a public transport system that I’ve had less than 24 hours experience with! No worries!

Needless to say shenanigans and hijinks ensued, but we finally got there. I felt a sense of excitement there, like the excitement of everyone who’d visited before was somehow hanging in the atmosphere. I was so happy we’d made it there, I was so happy I could tell dad I’d made it there! It’s hard to explain, but it kinda just felt right being there… like I was meant to have been there, at that exact moment. Yeah, I’m a little weird, but sometimes you just know, ya know?


Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014