Emma Ballantine

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Tour diary part one

'Twas the night before...

I feel like a small child on Christmas Eve. Substitute the wrapped presents and the stocking on my bed for two packed-up instruments and a box of EPs, and you have an idea of how I feel. Add to that the fact that I'm starting my first tour in my home town, with a specially-arranged headline gig, and you can see why it's going to be tough to sleep tonight!

When I cut back on the day job two months ago, this was priority number one: getting out of the city and playing to new people all around the country. But it was a daunting prospect going to places where I'd never performed before. I knew how important it was to choose the right places - to find new listeners, but also to see as many existing fans along the way as possible.

So of course, I started by asking them! A Facebook message went up, and before long replies had come in from all sorts of people suggesting places I could play - from my old haunts of Salisbury and Oxford to venues in Somerset, Cheltenham and Portsmouth.

From the beginning, people's kindness was astonishing: some provided whole lists of venues and contact details, others offered to help me secure and promote my shows. An old friend who I hadn't seen for years kicked off a series of acoustic nights to provide an opportunity for me to play. Another rallied an entire group to perform on the same night as me to help nail down a slot.

And as the tour drew nearer, the support grew. Messages came in from people in every town saying they were planning to make it along and helping to spread the word. I was almost speechless when Salisbury company Railside Records agreed to lend equipment and an engineer for my first gig at no charge to help make my hometown gig happen. Meanwhile others offered accommodation, poster printing, the use of a car - so many little things that together made a huge difference.

And so really it's thanks to these people that the tour has gone from being a rather terrifying prospect to the most exciting run of gigs I've ever had planned. Thanks to social media, and good old generosity, it's actually happening!

Of course, it's bound to have its ups and downs - good crowds and less good crowds, snarl-ups on the M3 and cramped nights on friends' sofas. But I know that it'll be worth it for the chance to step out on stage, guitar in hand, and play my songs for people. All that matters now is the bit that matters most: the music. And that's the thought I'll be turning over in my brain as I go to sleep tonight.

5.32pm 1st Nov 2014