By Alice Redfearn
A year ago, I travelled solo across the United States of America, through 13 different cities over a two month period, only staying in each place for a couple of days. Music and songwriting were my only constant.
I woke up on the first day in a grey New York, feeling lost. I was still exhausted and disorientated by the long flight and arriving at night. I scrambled for comfort, texting my friends who were home in England, but I knew I couldn’t spend the day tied to home, so I set myself one task: to find my travel companion. One that I knew would help me to feel a little less alone. So I got ready, and headed towards the nearest guitar shop.
Walking back through Central Park from Broadway to the Upper West Side with the little guitar on my back, I felt more in control than I had on the walk down. I made it back to my hostel, and recorded my first video. I’m jumpy and nervous in the video, terrified that someone will walk in as I sing to my camera, but no one does. That song gave me stability on a day I didn’t think it possible.
Leaving New York, I passed through Philadelphia, Washington DC, Richmond and Atlanta before arriving in Nashville.
Nashville was a hub for so many musicians and songwriters. It truly is a city of music, and you can’t help but feel inspired. There, I met Tad, a recent college graduate, travelling around before he started work, and we agreed, whilst slightly intoxicated, to write a song together the following morning. So, a little worse for wear, we sat, alternating verses until we had written a song we were both happy with – yes it was a little scrappy and unrehearsed, but it felt so nice to have music join us together and singing with someone else felt so comforting.
A month into my trip I felt a loneliness I couldn’t shake. I relied heavily on daily communications with home to keep me going, alongside my songwriting. It was at this point that I hit a low. I couldn’t escape thoughts of my friends and the potential relationship I had left behind.
Whilst in San Fransisco, the boy back home let me know via my best friend that he was no longer interested in me. I knew one person I had met a week or so before in Portland, but otherwise I was alone in a city thousands of miles from home. I sat in a hostel corridor, unsure what to do other than cry. Once my eyes ran dry, I went and found my little guitar and sat down with the notes on my phone open in front of me. In twenty minutes I had a song. A good song. I felt something positive had come out of the pain that I was trying to push through, and I was so grateful that I always had music to lean back on. That song remains one of my favourite songs I’ve ever written.
Weak Knees was the last song I released, and at my happiest point. I recorded the video on Coronado Beach near San Diego. There is an evident juxtaposition between the song and beach sunset backdrop; such a romantic backdrop to a song about personal struggle. It’s a song about feeling so fragile, but pushing through because you have no one else to lean on, which reflected my feelings on travelling alone. The irony was that the song itself was what I leaned on to help me through.
Carrying that guitar across the United States was a struggle. On buses and trains I had to keep it wedged between my legs and the seat in front, and I struggled to talk it onto flights it wasn’t supposed to be on, but I wouldn’t have done it without it. Music was the one thing I was in control of and could always turn to. I wrote wherever I could: in hostels, by swimming pools, outside the White House, in parks, stairwells and corridors, it was the only escape I always had to make me feel a little less alone.
By Hannah Louise Lloyd
I had this idea in my head of what it would be like when I moved. I thought getting a job would be easy, I thought I would be doing things everyday. But it took 3 weeks to get a job, and I’ve spent a solid 70% of my time in my flat.
I think no matter how old you get when you move somewhere new there is that cliche sense of wanting a fresh start or reinventing yourself, the reality is you’re the same person with new eyes looking at you.
Since moving to London from Teesside my most defining character trait has been that I’m northern. Everywhere I go people ask where I’m from, the answer is usually followed by “Where?”. I thought after a while I’d get bored of this but every time someone asks I feel a strange sense of pride about being northern. I’ve wanted to be out of Teesside forever it feels and it’s ironic because now since leaving I’ve realised what a big part of my identity it is, and how much I genuinely love that.
I’ve only been here 3 weeks now so I have no idea how London is going to change me but this northern lass is ready.
By Hope Naisbitt
Mine are the walls these finger tips have felt.
Mine is the skin this ink has pierced.
Mine are the bruises this body has bore.
Mine is the weight these shoulders have carried.
Mine are the goosebumps this skin has endured.
Mine is the love these lips have tasted.
What’s mine is mine. What’s mine is not yours.
By Beth Waite
Today I wear black lace, tracing the curvature that I thought looked like two perfect crescent moons in the bathroom mirror this morning, exposed to the early warmth of July. I wear the somewhat explicitly sexy matching set of a bra slightly too big, and underwear of geometric lace, pale skin peaking. Blue jeans over top.
I am infatuated with the reflection I see in the mirror across the room. On the occasional day, when I dress down, I stare for minutes and minutes. On the others, I’ll rush this ritual. I stand just to the left to avoid the glass, put on long tops before slipping off pants to avoid the confrontation of true, full nakedness, and won’t stop to consider the co-ordination of two pieces; any material other than cotton would irritate and upset. On those days, I will cry over my constant thought of food, and awareness of two layers of skin touching each other, or the expansion of my thighs as I sit.
But today I will stare. I will watch myself as each movement of bone and skin has suddenly turned to molten silver; not jiggling but flowing, hot and fresh and rich. The skin on top seems new, glowing with the contours, shines as I tilt my head; side, up, slight squint, lips pushed out. And that runs all the way up and all the way down. My legs are stilts, my thighs are not an issue, my hips are held in loving material and sloping, dramatically and gracefully, in and up to my waist. My waist climbs to the hint of a rib cage, the etched lines of lifetime leaves, to my breasts, to my shoulders and collar bones of diamond, neck, lips, eyes. I stare for 20 minutes, turning side and back. One leg stretched out to the side, lace pulled up and rested on my hip bones that make an appearance; a stance of a statue. I take a photo.
I wore my first thong at 16. It was bought for me as a half joke, gifted with a condom. At the age, I cringed at the thought of underwear shopping and the mention of Ann Summers as though it was crude. My body was an embarrassing topic of conversation, my growing boobs were inconvenient, and I had not given a thought to my bum until my old jeans didn’t fit anymore, and I cried. I had dealt with new hair, new acne, but I had only hid the body it hosted. My mornings ran quickly with no time spent considering how good I looked, no thoughts lingered on the new curve of my hips other than confusion. My underwear was only white, nude, black; common and covering. Until that blue thong. I wore it under a pinafore dress, unseen but I was aware. I smirked in a selfie.
And since I have spent my money for my smirk. Open to investment in 20 minutes in front of a mirror, heart-eyed, admiring art like stood in a light gallery in an ever-loved, landmark building; a masterpiece, in architecture, in arcadia.
Each new paper bag swung with joy, rush back to ill –lit bedrooms. Bralette, thong, suspenders, photo knelt in a mirror, never seen. Pink, subtle, peaking out from the bottom of a low neck. Embroidered and stand alone, with jeans, bare back in a cold night. High waist and hugging, soft with something plain. A high neck bra, lace creeping up and clasping like a hand, a necklace, maroon and extravagant. I figured the more I buy, the more days my reflection will be mesmerising as I slip it off and on, excited to look up. Aware of the power held in each centimetre of my body, learning slowly to careless if those numbers rise, there will only be more silver.
At 19 now, my body is a weapon, a flower, a jewel. Beautiful and powerful, and jaw-dropping in a matching set, soft and strong in nothing at all. I forget the hair, try to remember skin care; but I decide on visibility. I remove it myself, I have an Ann Summer’s loyalty card.
Words by Lucy Harbron
Art by Chloe Myers