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VAN LIFE LOY #3 – THE BUILD WEEK ONE

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Well what an eventful week it has been! I arrived at my parents’ place in Brittany, France on Monday with my van (Van Blanc) and all my worldly belongings. The intention is to build my own custom camper! My dad, master joiner Stephen Loy, has a workshop here and he’s helping me create it. This is where we are working on the van for three weeks, in the hanger that adjoins his shop.

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Before I left the UK I emptied the van of everything so this was the blank canvas we started with… It’s a bit dark in the hanger so we hooked up some lights and got to work!

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The very first thing we did was level up the van (apparently everything is easier if the floor is level).. and go shopping! On the way to Brico Depot, the French equivalent of B&Q, we chanced upon a camper van shop that sells a heap of stuff we needed. It was like camper van heaven. They seemed to stock everything from tiny clips to brand new sixty thousand euro all singing all dancing campers – I wasn’t tempted, not quite my style, too much old retired couple and not enough cool tiny house. See my van Pinterest board if you want to know my influences. But we stocked up there, got space blanket insulation (23 layers!) from Brico and hunted high and low for just the right ceiling boards – That was day one!

Muti Image 1On day two Dad used an angle grinder to rather dramatically cut a big hole in the roof of the van and fit the vents while I routed grooves into the ceiling boards – We tried three different shops and I just couldn’t get the kind I wanted so I made them in the end. I am by no means the skilled craftsman that my father is but he has taught me a fair amount over the years, I used to work with him making kitchens and windows from scratch to earn money while I was at uni, so I am not entirely without skills.

Next we decided where all the electrics would go and placed the wires. Then we lined the ceiling with the space blanket and started fixing up the boards.

On the third day we finished fixing the ceiling boards and I filled any holes and detail sanded as necessary while Dad started to insulate the walls. When I was done with the ceiling I joined in with the insulating. I couldn’t believe how the van swallowed up a whole roll of rock wool and then some fibre glass that Dad had lying around. Lastly we re-fitted the ply lining that I took off the day I bought the van, and then dashed up to the house to shower off the itch from the fibre glass – Ugh I hate that stuff. Oh we also used up two cans of expanding foam.. for a while there Van Blanc looked like it had been attacked by green alien goo creatures! :D

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Having observed others creating self-build campers I have been surprised at the order in which we have been doing this build. Usually it seems folks do all their insulation, all their wiring, all their carpets etc. But Dad, being a strong believer in the encouragement factor decided that he wanted to do things that made it feel like progress was swift and rewarding. He applied this strategy from the beginning and so I was very excited that next he wanted to build the bed while I painted the ceiling! These were things I thought we’d do much later but they really were a massive boost of encouragement cos they looked great and made it feel like the van is really becoming a camper – The bed is also the point from which all the other measurements for the installation begins so it’s pretty important. That picture of me above (looking all workman-y sans make-up avec sawdust and paint blobs ;) ) was taken at the very end of the day when we had the immense satisfaction of testing the mattress – Lying down after two days of working on the ceiling, oh it felt sooooo good!

Come day five progress slowed a bit. We were both getting tired. That and we’d decided to move on to fitting the shower cubicle which is pretty complicated stuff (given there are almost no properly flat/straight lines in the van). I never cease to be amazed at the wealth of knowledge my father has, that he knows how to undertake all this stuff! Let me state right now that if it wasn’t for all his experience, expertise and his properly kitted out workshop, I would not undertake this challenge. It’s a DIY camper yes but DIY with a pro! Although like me, he’s never actually done a camper conversion.

Anyway, we installed the water tank, built a shelf for the water pump and built a couple of shower walls. Then we planned for tomorrow’s trip to Brico and the installation of the water system… I’ll share photos of all that next time. For now the work in progress kinda looks like this! :) IMG_3839

Today we took a day off. It’s my parents 41st wedding anniversary and so went to a market by the sea, had lunch in a restaurant on the front, went for a stroll along the beach in the sunshine before getting a sorbet on the way back. It was glorious! If you want to see photos of all that too, more (different) photos of the build, and the day to day bits of this project and visit to France check out my Instagram.

So now I am off to bed it’s an early start tomorrow. We’re plumbing!!

‘Till next time.

Love to you all,

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BEACONFEST 2016 – WHAT A VIEW!

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I took a short break from all the packing and moving this weekend and joined the band to play BeaconFest! So I thought you might like to see a few pics? Above is the incredible view from the top of Watlington Hill. It feels like gigging in the clouds   And below is a snap by Steve Gunn of us in full swing playing Past To The Past (if the position of my capo is to be believed?!)

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 It was great. Here we are post gig looking happy and fuzzy as we bounce along with all our gear, in the trailer of a quad bike… Because that’s how your get to and from the stage at Beasonfest!

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I want to give a massive shout out to Ryan, Che, Phil and Pete for another great gig. Thanks y’all!

Pour next band gig will be at Towersey Festival but if you can’t make that, don’t worry I shall be announcing some non festival band dates soon!

Love,

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VAN LIFE LOY #2 – TIE ME DOWN I’ll GO WILD

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I have a theme song for my Epic Adventure! The first time I heard this song is resonated like crazy! It’s a freedom song and well it’s kinda how it’s been lately.. I got ‘tied down’, I didn’t much like it and I went a bit wild! I am such a big fan of Jack Savoretti. I hope I bump into him on my travels. Personally I favour the full band album version though! And here I am wild and free, somewhere between Ickford and a new life…

So driving to France with all my stuff in a van might not seem that epic as Epic Adventures go but I haven’t ever done it before and as with most stuff one hasn’t done before there’s usually some fear. I have overcome the fear of driving this big thing in recent weeks but now there’s a new set of fears. Mostly rediculous and unfounded, they are: That I’ll load everything, all the parts for the conversion, all my furniture and all my possessions into the van and it’ll be so heavy it won’t move! (I have been having dreams that the police pull me over and weigh the van! ) And if it does move I’ll get to my friend’s place where I’m staying the night before I sail and all my stuff will be stolen while I sleep, if I sleep. And if it’s not stolen then the weight of it all will sink the ship! Or security will make me unpack it and leave a bunch of stuff behind… And don’t even get me started on driving this beast on the wrong side of the road and navigating hours of French roads alone!?!?

The reality: The van is full and heavy… But it moves and as soon as Chris mentioned he’d left bananas to rot on the kitchen window sill for weeks I totally forgot about the load and drove like a normal person, my fear of the van not moving now replaced with a fear that the rotting bananas would damage the window sill paintwork! We went back for the bananas.

I got to the south coast no problems, slept well in an incredibley comfy bed, all three alarms worked and I woke up at 5am to find that the van and it’s contents were exactly where I left them. Phew. Getting on the ferry was clear and easy. Initially security did want to search the van but took one look at my pile of stuff and changed their minds. Haha.

And as for driving in France well that was a piece of cake, you just follow the flow, until I got to the last few miles and a long steep down hill straight stretch with oncoming traffic in both lanes. A car overtaking another vehicle confused me about which side of the road I was supposed to be on just as the weight in the van caused me to pick up speed but I was watching the oncoming traffic hoping they’d move in time, and *flash* off goes the speed camera… Never got done for speeding before. Crazy really seeing as I spent the whole journey slugging along pretty slow cos we’re so heavy! Ah well, lesson learned.

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I’m here now, I conquered all my rediculous fears and I’ve gained a van cat. Now I must sleep for tomorrow we begin… Once we’ve emptied the van!

‘Til next time

Lots of love,

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VAN LIFE LOY #1 – LET THERE BE LIGHT!

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My original #VanLifeLoy post caused quite a stir! So much more than I expected. I was quite overwhelmed by the responses I got, such enthusiasm and encouragement! And my website never had so many hits! So now folks are asking all the time how is the van conversion coming along!?!

Well.. The big news this week is that Van Blanc now has windows!!! Just in time for this glorious weather. So while I had a lovely breakfast in the sunshine in Witney on Monday, a fabulous local company called Express Windscreens spent the morning installing 4 windows. All are privacy glass which means it’s pretty difficult to see in, unless it’s dark and you leave the lights on, as a friend found out to his embarrassment! Hahah. Anyway, one of the windows, the one I intend to be beside my kitchenette, has a opening panel. The windows have made quite a difference! Firstly it’s much lighter in there, secondly the view has improved (obviously!), and thirdly, I can now see out the back when reversing. Dunno how long that will last once I have fitted the curtains n wotnot but for now it’s great. And I have got quite good at reversing this beast – Nailed a 3-point (and the rest) turn in a tiny tiny carpark last week, pre-windows! Fist punched the air – Go me!

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And that’s about it really, except for the ever increasing pile of parts cluttering up my dining room. I have a spreadsheet so that I can keep a kind of checklist of all that I need to acquire and how much it’s all costing. Once I have completed it I might share the check list, you’d be surprised about just how much is needed! But slowly I am collecting everything I need. I have a cooker, water heater, sink, shower tray, toilet, mattress pillows etc, work tops, fridge, lights, batteries…And a heap more stuff!

I popped in to Ikea and got some blackout blinds and a few other bits and bobs but mostly I’m getting it online… It’s delivery central round here! I want to do a really high quality job so a lot of the components are new but wherever possible I am trying to source things second hand, or re-purpose what I already have… Like for example a desk we decided we didn’t need anymore. After spending ages trawling the net and the showrooms looking for a nice wood worktop that wasn’t going to be to big and heavy and not finding much, I realised that the top on the desk was perfect, as are several other parts of it. It saved me some money and saved the desk from the tip. I have some great ideas for how to use it’s various parts.

Anyway, that’ll do for the moment… Now that the water heater arrived I am off to the Caravan shop down the road to chat about water systems and maybe buy a pump!

‘Til next time

Lots of love,

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SPOTLIGHT ON SHOWS : THE DRAWING ROOM

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SATURDAY 11th JUNE 2016

This is a really special little gig, properly intimate at The (quirky arty) Drawing Room in Chesham – worth a visit just for that! They have hosted many a breaking artist.

I shall be performing songs from my new album and sharing some stories. There will also be other artists to watch on the night. Yay!

Availability is limited so book now and come early to avoid disappointment. Tickets are £25 which includes a home cooked meal! To book email richard@the-drawingroom.co.uk

Hope you can make it along? It’s going to be a really lovely evening! :)

Love

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Photo credit: Steve Greenhough.


AN ANNOUCEMENT – VAN LIFE LOY

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Okay… I have an announcement to make – I’m undertaking a new ‘challenge’!

You know how I like a challenge! If not, well, previous challenges include: Becoming a full-time muso!! Writing 52 songs in a year and posting them all on Youtube, creating a proper album of the best ones, taking part in dance competition Strictly, converting my entirely undeveloped attic into a home studio myself, a 40 day fast (Yep, no food for 6 weeks – let’s not go into that!), and living overseas, to name but a few.

So the latest one (the craziest yet) probably seems like a sudden and impulsive idea. For the most part it is, but it’s actually been bubbling away for a good few years… All the years I have been ‘on the road’ as a regularly gigging musician, all the times I have read about ‘Free Range Humans’, all the moments spent gazing longingly at the Instagram photo of folks already living the life.  But also there have a few other contributing factors…

After the intensity of creative output that was the song challenge, and then the quiet fallow period of turning those songs into real records to make an actual album, then came the breakdown of my personal relationship and the inevitable change of dwelling… I have reached a place where I just can’t bring myself to pick a room and a town to ‘settle down’ in. I am itching for pastures new, some adventures and a hell of a lot of shows to promote my new album!

Yes! I have bought myself a panel van and, with the help of my parents, I am converting it into my own ideal camper (challenge one) and then I am going to take it touring around the UK and Europe (challenge two)! And then maybe swap my van and do it in North America (challenge three). And of course, as with every challenge I undertake, I shall blog it and vlog it as I go.

It’s been a few weeks since this idea seriously took hold and just a fortnight since I bought the van. I have slowly been telling my close friends and family what I am up to and quite to my surprise, everyone think’s it’s a great idea! I honestly thought I would meet with a lot more opposition, scepticism and naysaying but no, it seems the counsel think this is just the right plan for this phase of my life. Oooooeeee!!

I confess I am not entering into this lightly, I have fear… Especially of announcing to you all so publicly that this is what I am up to. I feel I am making myself pretty vulnerable, but I take my lead from the great Amanda Palmer who rather than fearing strangers and strange places, instead threw herself headlong into similar such adventures and found that the people and the world around her stepped up to catch her and help her, rather than take advantage. I trust that my experience will be the same. Besides, the more of you that know about it, the more of you there will be to look out for me along the way!

You can follow my progress on all my social media channels of course! #VanLifeLoy

So here I am, right at the beginning with an empty van and idea… Let’s get this show on the road!!!!

Love,

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SPOTLIGHT ON SHOWS: WMF GIG COMING UP ON THURSDAY THE 9TH OF JUNE!

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Catch Phil Heard and I doing a headline acoustic set of my own tunes for Witney Music Festival on the 9th of June at Hacketts in Witney. Music starts at 7pm and we’ll be on sometime after 9pm! Hope you can make it along. :)

Love,

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PLAYING THE FIRST THURSDAY MUSIC CLUB SONGWRITERS SHOWCASE

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By now no doubt you’ll have heard me rave about Thame’s First Thursday Music Club. Essentially it’s an open mic night but it’s actually so much more than that attracting solo artists, duo’s, bands and even choirs from near and far! It’s popular and packed every month! So much so that founder Johnnie Littler decided there’s room for growth! He’s added the FTMC Members night. It’s a little different from the normal FTMC, this is a showcase in an intimate space with a silent listening audience that gives the songwriter time and attention not only to play their original material but also to talk about the songwriting process, the influences and the inspiration for each song.

I had the pleasure of playing the Songwriters Showcase last week, accompanied by Phil Heard on percussion, and enjoyed every minute of it. It was fab to play my work in that kind of environment to that kind of audience – Special!

Neil Wetherell filmed the whole set and chose this song to share with you. Thanks Neil! This song is called Hold Me Now (written during #52Songs52Weeks, when I first got a looper!)  Hope you enjoy it!

I shared the evening with Bromley based band Van Susans who were charismatic funny and similarly honest and open about how they write their songs. You can watch their performance here.

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The First Thursday Music Club Songwriters Showcase takes place on the 3rd Thursday of each month and is held in Thame Town Cricket Pavillion. I encourage you to go along, it’s a really great night!

Love,
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IT’S OH SO QUIET… OR IS IT?

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Hello! Happy New Year!

I’ve bumped into some of you around and online recently and the burning question seems to be ‘Why so quiet right now Nikki? That’s not like you!’. I agree, it is very unlike me not to be gigging left, right and centre. I haven’t stopped performing entirely. I am still playing the odd gig here and there… And it’s January!? But whilst this would usually a be a quiet month anyway as we all recover from the end of last year.. That’s not reason this time. If you missed the bulletin, I have been recording an album! I’m sooooo excited by this! It’s the most ambitious piece of work I have undertaken yet and I’m proud of what we have achieved so far.

After the 52 week song writing challenge, it had been my intention to record the 52 songs into Naked part 1-4 before doing a studio album, that was only because I had thought that the process of getting into the studio would be a lot longer and more complicated than it actually turned out to be… But I’ve always believed that if you set your heart and mind to do something that people, circumstances and events will conspire to help you achieve it – And they did! I am so grateful! So Naked 2-4 is on hold while we work on something bigger and better!

I have been blessed with the opportunity to record regularly with record producer and engineer, George Shilling at Bank Cottage Studio deep in the Cotswolds… We’ve been having a fabulous time taking my naked blueprint versions of the songs and turning them into records. We’ve made a really good start on about 8 songs now and are due to begin a few more this week to complete the collection.

Reducing the amount I perform in order to concentrate on recording has really helped improve the quality of my work. I am really excited by the results and can’t wait to share them with you later on in the year. For now though, I thought you might like to see some photos I have been snapping along the way… You can follow more closely on my Instagram and Twitter accounts, I usually post every time we’re working on something.

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Phil Heard has been over and laid down drum parts for me…

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Keys player Matt Baker (with the colourful taste in socks), has been helping me out with piano and electronic parts.

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Ryan Robinson has been ripping up the riffs adding guitars to numerous tracks…

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And we have made sure that George’s cello makes an appearance in several places… He’s pictured above though playing an old skool WurliTzer – A real one, that we dug out from his crazy collection of instruments and dusted off. It’s adding some lovely warm tones to one of my tunes.

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One person who is not going to make the final cut is gorgeous Sybil Shilling, studio dog, who is highly entertaining as she tears about the studio, a glorious distraction but musically she has very little to bring.

So don’t worry about me! (love you for that though!) Everything is really good in Nikki Loy Music land! If you’d like to be one of the first people to hear about the release of these new tunes and maybe even sample them before everyone else, sign up to the mailing list below!

Love,

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MY FAVOURITE LIVE MUSIC PUBS – THE COTSWOLD ARMS

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Boasting a 39 year history of live music (Wow!! Isn’t that awesome!?), this recently refurbished picturesque Cotswold pub with it’s beautiful old architecture and gorgeous hanging baskets, is a favourite with the tourists and music lovers alike!

Although the pub dates back to the 18th century, Chris and Kizzy (an outgoing, charismatic pair in their thirties),  have been successfully running the place for some years now and continue to build it’s reputation, making sure that they have lots of events timed to co-incide with Burford’s social and cultural calendar. There’s always something going on!

When you first walk in, it seems pretty little but as with many of these old buildings it’s actually much larger than you think, stretching out back past the restaurant and function rooms, to the garden. You’ll be surprised how many people this place can hold when it’s busy! They even manage to fit in 6 piece bands!!

One of the reasons I liked to play there so much is that you are never really sure what kind of crowd are going to show up! It could be a rally of locals, a bunch of ramblers, a girls night out, tourists passing through, a convoy of gypsy travelers off to the Stow Fair, even bodyguards to the rich and famous. In fact, Jamiroquai has been known to pop in and sing along too. So it’s always different! I have known it to be anything from intimate and chilled, to rammed and roof raisingly raucous! I don’t mind what kind of crowd it is because I always select my sets once I have checked out the audience, then I tailor it to suit, but I do love it when the locals rock up and call out for the well known Nikki Loy numbers! :)

The acts that the pub attracts are as diverse as the customers, they have all sorts! From the artistic singer-songwritery types with their original music, to high energy covers acts. There could be jazz, soul, punk, make-it-up-as-we-go-along folk, and even the occasional Elvis Tribute!

Music aside, it’s also popular because of it’s welcoming atmosphere, great pub food and traditional ales. It has woodburner in winter, and in the summer it’s walled sun-trap patio garden with fountain and fishpond, is a lovely place to hang out! If you are Burford way on a Wednesday or Saturday evening, go and check out the live entertainment!

For more info about the pub in general, see their website: www.cotswoldarms.co.uk

I return to play a Christmassy set at the Cotswold Arms on Wednesday 16th December at 9pm. I think you should come along!?

Love,

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Have you been? What did you think? Can you recommend any other great Live Music Pubs? Leave a comment below. :)