Hello & Hi

There is a lot of waiting around for buskers.

We swap over every hour so that each busker gets a turn, so if you want to play you’ve got to wait in the “queue” of other eager performers. During the summer there are usually 3-4 of us on pitch at once which can mean up to 4 hours waiting for your turn.

I’ve learnt that the only way to make a living doing this is to make good use of that down time and I spend it doing admin, updating my website, writing blogs (like this one, currently waiting for my 3.15-4.15 set on the Southbank!) and writing songs.

Last year I was on a busking break writing a sad, slow song about heartbreak. I was looking down at my guitar in a world of my own, when an unexpected voice interrupted my melodic daydreaming.

“Hey, sorry to bother you, do you know what the time is?”

I looked up in surprise into a pair of crystal blue eyes. An extraordinarily handsome man with messy ginger hair and an amused smile stood before me, waiting for a response.

I started smiling, wondering why he didn’t just ask Big Ben for the time and hoping perhaps he didn’t really want to know the time at all but just wanted an excuse to talk to me! Perhaps he spotted me here, writing songs from the depths of my soul and he thought “I must speak to that beautiful girl!” I started to imagine what my mum might think of this handsome man (my new boyfriend!) when I took him home to meet her. We’d have beautiful children, I’m sure of it! What a wonderful love story this will be when I tell them all about it…

His smile started to fade as the uncomfortable pause got longer and I realised that he did, very much, want to know what the time was.

Quick, I thought, how do you tell the time? I looked at my bare wrist in vain. I started patting around me on the floor for my phone to give him an answer. I stood up, triumphantly.

“It’s ten past one!” I said with confidence.

“Thanks a lot!” he said. He smiled politely and walked swiftly away.

I slumped back down next to my guitar, my face a little hot from pure embarrassment. I looked at my phone again trying to distract myself from the utter shambles I’d made of a perfectly simple interaction. It was ten past two.


 

Then I did the only thing I could do in this situation. I wrote a song about it.

It’s called Hello & Hi and I will be releasing it on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon Music on Thursday 17th of August!

Come see my band play live at the launch gig!

Thursday 17th of August
Tooting Tram & Social
8pm – John Clapper
8.30 – Lucy May Walker
9.15 – Charlotte Campbell + band

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A Little Help From My Friends

I don’t have “work colleagues” as such. I’m self employed and in many ways that means spending a lot of time on my own. You learn to get used to, and even enjoy, your own company when you work for yourself.

I quite like that I don’t have to make Monday morning small talk about how my weekend was, but I crave company sometimes and wish I had a water cooler to gossip next to!

Sometimes I wander over to the local coffee shop without a single desire for coffee, but in the hope of seeing a familiar face. In fact, the baristas there are some of favourite people, they bring up my mood and my energy levels more than the coffee itself. (But the coffee does help, thanks Beany Greens!)

Of corse there are the buskers themselves, my sort of “co-workers”. I am ashamed to admit that when I first started out I saw all other buskers, performers, singers, songwriters and often women as little more than competition. It’s an exhausting way of looking at the world, let me tell you! I’ve since realised that it’s a lot more fun, productive and reasonable to see all other buskers, performers, singers, songwriters and most of all women as allies, as friends. Nobody will understand your day to day life better than somebody else doing it, and celebrating each other’s successes together makes for such a positive environment which can only lead to more success all round.

There is so much great busking talent emerging in London right now and to be part of that community is an honour.

Healthy competition is great, but talented and inspiring friends are better.

Here are a few of my favourites, I hope you enjoy them!

Belle & The Busker
Sherika Sherard
Lucy May Walker
Karina Ramage
Emily Lee
John Clapper
Lewis Fieldhouse
Martha Paton
Simeon Turtle
Charlie Law

Peak Season

 

Being a busker has more structure and routine than you might expect.

When you start doing it full time you start treating it like a full time job and your hours become regular, your schedule follows a pattern and your days become surprisingly predictable.

This is truer than ever during peak season; summer. Like any job, there are busy periods and quiet periods and then, of corse, there’s Christmas…But for me, the summer is my busiest time and my busking schedule is non stop. Make hay while the sun shines, as they say.

Over the years, I’ve started to be overcome with a feeling of dread as the warm weather approaches. Probably similar to the feeling in the pit of your stomach on Sunday night, when you know Monday is inevitably upon you. I’ve been lucky not to experience that end-of-the-weekend-blues since school, but I do experience it when the summer holidays are near.

Of corse I love the warm weather, finally I can busk without fingerless gloves and three pairs of socks on! And all the people, children especially! The big crowds and the thrill of entertaining, that’s why I got into this business. But summer is exhausting and wracks me with guilt.

Summer is my messy bedroom, crawling into bed and back out of it is all I have time for. Summer my is my sticky sun creamed skin.
Summer is pretty backless dresses.
Summer is my sunburnt shoulders.
Summer is the Southbank’s peaceful atmosphere suddenly shaken up by school holidays.
Summer is people everywhere.
Summer is someone always sitting in my favourite shady spot.
Summer is queueing for hours behind buskers who didn’t seem so keen to be a street performer back in February…
Summer is taking a day off and kicking myself that I’m slacking.
Summer is BBQ invitations that I have to turn down.

Summer is long, beautiful days where I fall in and out of love with my job from one hour to the next. Summer is exhausting and I spend most of it wishing it would end. Until the days start to grow shorter and the leaves start to fall off the trees and the cold sets in and I wish it would be summer all over again.

The Wedding Singer

Lately, I feel like I’ve been doing more wedding singing than busking. It’s been a a bit of a dream, if I’m honest.

I swap my thick coat for a fancy frock, doc martens for high heels, cup of tea for a glass of champagne and my bike for an uber to some posh venue where someone usually assists me with my heavy amp and flowery mic stand. (My flowery mic stand is always the same.)
My favourite thing about all of these weddings is not the grandeur of dressing up or the free nibbles or the free bar (always a professional – I solemnly swear!)

I love the stories at weddings. The couple’s unique romance from start to present and the tales of guests from far and wide. And especially, the story of how the couple came to book this busker from London for their big day. It’s always a pleasure to hear about how they happened to stumble across my music. For some I was a soundtrack to their courtship; taking walks along the Southbank to find me singing their song, or bonding over my CD after a day out in London. Others booked me as a surprise for their partner or a surprise for their guests. Some found me on YouTube and have listened for years or quickly grabbed a card as they rushed for a train.

The ways in which these happy couples’ paths happened to cross with my own always blows my mind. It reminds me of what a magical existence I am fortunate enough to lead, that I should find myself in the presence of so many beautiful love stories. Not just once I am there, singing a stunning bride down the aisle or accompanying a first dance; but long before and long after.

When I return to my busking spot after being part of somebody’s big day I feel so grateful to have the chance to be the soundtrack to the love story of the next couple. And the next. And the next.

Starts With A Smile

Dear Diary,

Two American tourists beamed at me as they rolled their suitcases my way and dropped generous donations into my guitar case.

They took a few steps back and sat down on their luggage to listen for a while. Their faces shone with excitement for my next song and they cheered loudly at the end of each tune.

I was grateful for their enthusiasm, it had been a long day, a long week, in fact. Their energy was pushing me forwards.

I hadn’t planned my set properly and when I had a mind blank I looked out to their expectant faces, hoping it would help my brain find the next song to sing. I settled on an Ed Sheeran song – you can never go wrong with Ed! They agreed with positive “woo”s when I announced my choice.

The positivity and excitement they brought to the atmosphere was contagious and soon a crowd was gathering to listen. I told them all about my little claim to fame – about how Ed Sheeran personally got in touch with me earlier this year and the crowd clapped and cheered for my story.

The audience was growing and just as I started another Ed Sheeran tribute I spotted a smiley policeman appearing through the crowd. He was dropped a coin in my case and tipped his hat.

“Thank you so much.” I said. He nodded and walked away

After a slight hesitation I shouted after him “And thank you for your service!”

The crowd cheered loudly in agreement and he held up his hands in appreciation. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment. The atmosphere of that shared experience will stay with me forever.

The two American tourists were still smiling away at each other and at me. I wonder if they knew that it was their beautiful energy and positivity that had brought this little scene to a head. They served as a reminder to me that you can be a catalyst for wonderful moments and memories, it all starts with a smile.

Love,

Charlotte

 

(Photo by Marc Walker – Immaculate Photos)

Meet My Band

Dear diary,

The universe is a funny old place. I’m a firm believer in going out to get things you want, work hard and don’t wait for other people to make your dreams come true. However, I do seem to have the most wonderful luck and just sometimes great things just happen to fall into my lap.

Way back in 2013 I was playing solo gigs around London, my full time busking career was just starting and I decided to bring something a little different to my indoor shows.

“I need a band,” I thought. I was toying with that idea but not really acting on it. Then my band sort of happened to me.

One morning I opened my Facebook messages to a friendly greeting from a drummer who’d caught me busking. “If you need a drummer for live shows let me know”. I replied, “I’m looking for a band actually. I’ll find a bassist and we should get together to rehearse.” Drummer: Check.

Days later, I was busking by the river and I saw a figure watching me, a bass case slung on his back. As he approached to drop a coin I quizzed him, “is that a bass? Do you play? Any good? Wanna be in my band?” Bassist: Check.

I couldn’t believe my luck when two accomplished players arrived at rehearsal, having learnt my first album, ready to gig. The three of us started gigging regularly and we had a lot of fun and sounded great, there was something missing in our sound but I hadn’t considered adding other instruments. Not until a keys player popped up out of nowhere.

I think Will first heard me busking at Kings Cross station. He said he wanted to grab a card but got caught up with the trudging commuters in their relentless march from A to B. It was like fate when he opened Time Out magazine the very next day to see my smiling face. He contacted me via email and I wasn’t convinced I needed a piano player “but thank you for your interest”. Luckily, he persisted and we met up to jam out some songs. He was phenomenal. Keys: Check.

My final band member took some seeking out. I had it on my mind that I wanted a violinist or electric guitarist for some melodic additions to my band sets. I was passing through Paddington station when I heard a guy busking. He was looping guitar solos over chords of popular chart hits and it was really cool. I took a picture of his sign and gave him a follow on twitter, where I asked him if he’d be up for joining my merry men. Electric guitar: Check.

To this day I thank my lucky stars that each of these fellas fell into my life; one way or another. They’re a fantastic set of musicians and I love performing with them at my live shows.

Come and hear us doing our thing tomorrow in Camden. John, my guitarist is going to be my opening act before joining my band to rock out some guitar solos! They really bring my songs to life and I’m so grateful to them for being part of my musical journey!

Tuesday 21st March
The Monarch
Camden

8pm – John Clapper
8.30 – Lucy May Walker
9.15 – Charlotte Campbell mit band

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