It’s taken me way too long to write this final installment on ‘From Memphis to the Mersey’ – I’ll blame our AmericanaFest event, The Memphis Picnic, which took a backseat to this project for longer than it should have and needed lots of attention when I returned from Liverpool. AmericanaFest kicks off tomorrow and our event is on Saturday, September 16 – click here for the line-up and info on all the fun Memphis extras we’re bringing along – and with its details finally complete I’ve found the time to gather my thoughts on our transatlantic adventure.
When we arrived in Liverpool on Friday, August 25, we hit the ground running with an appearance on BBC Radio Merseyside to promote the project and our finale concert event. (See the gallery below for photos from the station and throughout the weekend.) We got an introduction to the impact of Merseyside music on the world and a look at the history of Liverpool at the Liverpool Museum.
On Saturday, we started our day at the International Slavery Museum, and I think I speak for all of us – Memphis and Liverpool artists included – when I say it was one of the most moving and impactful experiences of the entire project. From there we journeyed to Strawberry Fields, where we got a private tour of the grounds – click here to learn more about the Salvation Army’s redevelopment – and had our first writing session of the weekend. We happened to be in Liverpool during Beatles Week, so our next stop of the day was to the Garden Fete, a recreation of the church garden party where John Lennon and Paul McCartney first met. There were Beatles cover bands playing from all over the world, and we saw the graves of Eleanor Rigby and Father John McKenzie in the cemetery at St. Peter’s Church.
Add to that the British Music Experience, Penny Lane and The Beatles Story, more co-writing sessions and a final morning of rehearsal at Ye Cracke Pub, one of Liverpool’s oldest pubs and a haunt of John Lennon’s (including during the beginning of his relationship with wife Cynthia Lennon) and you have a pretty unbelievable few days of creative, cultural and historical overload.
Our finale concert was held at the Liverpool Philharmonic’s Music Room and was, fittingly, the highlight of both weekends of activity. The quantity and quality of new songs written through this collaboration was impressive to say the least, but for me the true high point (not surprisingly) was the response of the audience and their deep appreciation for Memphis and Memphis music.
Whenever you take something on for the first time, you’re bound to learn a lot and ‘From Memphis to the Mersey’ was no exception. The goals that Emma (Foxall, of producing partner Monkey Mind Productions) and I had for this project were largely realized: the artists connected creatively and personally and we believe that there will be lasting relationships between the Memphis and Liverpool emerging songwriters that could eventually yield further professional and creative opportunities. Through the conversation around the project and the finale events, we were also able to enhance the profile of Memphis and Liverpool as “sister cities.”
For future exchanges, domestic and international, I think we could be even more intentional about that first goal – expressing to artist participants even at the time of the audition that one of the desired outcomes of the exchange is this ongoing dialogue, and continuing to discuss it throughout the project. Keeping that goal as top-of-mind as the goals around songwriting output could enhance that element of the project’s impact even further.
Toward that second goal, my plan for future exchanges would be to seek out more enterprise, in-depth stories on the relationship between the two cities and focus on increasing earned media and higher-profile earned media overall. Being a one-woman show is a challenge, and hopefully by the time I’m tackling another international exchange that won’t be the case – giving myself the time to brainstorm on ways to maximize our media footprint is critical to the longevity of projects like this and continued interest in supporting them.
Naturally, I also learned a great deal about how an exchange could be planned and executed even more efficiently – it’s a bit of a given that you don’t know those best practices for budgeting, tour management and the like when you’re executing for the first time.
What excites me most, though, is that everything I have learned is scalable and transferable – each city will bring its own unique challenges, and certainly I think there’s an argument to be made that Liverpool is possibly the most fitting international city for this type of partnership – but ultimately this concept can be executed with cities and musicians around the world, enhancing the profile of our city and its music and creating many more (hopefully) life-changing and career-boosting opportunities for our musicians.