AUDIOBLOG – Please click here

Here I sit, procrastinating.

These guitar strings are still threatening to take my eyes out.

I have made about six cups of tea, and drunk three and a half.

I’ve been up to the town to buy luxury goods (Poundland, Wilko)

I’ve ordered some new clothes for the preview/gig night (that still counts as work, right?)


Tomorrow is the very last recording session.

It should be fairly straightforward as we know exactly how it should be… Dave “Ubiquitous” Sutherland on mandolin, Dan Whitehouse on electric bass… unless Dave’s double bass sounds so great we go with that instead. I have learned to hear differences… The electric bass is a low level rumble under the mandolin for the middle eight, warming it up and adding depth, you might not even notice it first listen (except I have now told you so you will). You can hear the attack on the double bass… the touch of Dave’s fingers on the strings. For one of the other songs, Crewe, I am just singing to the accompaniment of this bass (and the sounds of a train) and it sounds wonderful.

But for “Someone” I think it most likely to be the electric.

Are you wondering about the “Ubiquitous”?

Dave plays bass of all varieties, guitar, mandolin… I believe he also has a harp. If you make a round trip of Birmingham and the Black Country taking in a variety of folk nights, open mic nights and general giggery, Dave can be found either solo, or in attempted disguise (wearing a hat) with a selection of other bands. If you pick a selection of recordings from the area, you can look at sleeve notes and his name is there too. He’s a talented man who loves to play and write. He is modest and humble, and bloody brilliant. He’s been so supportive of this project, offering advice, musical and moral support all the way through. He has great knowledge, experience, and he wears really cool shoes. I have a bit of a musical crush I think. Don’t tell him, he’ll blush.


I think my procrastinating about the bush is my way of stretching this out. After tomorrow we have a  session booked to put the whole piece together, so all the songs flow from one to the other in a way that makes sense. We also have a few rehearsals booked for the performance. Considering at the beginning of this project I had no intention of performing, and had a real hard time deciding whether I should perform, I’m now really looking forward to it!


What is the worst that can happen?

The performance isn’t the work as such, its a celebration of its completion, and the hard work that it has taken. I might forget my words, although I am trying very hard to learn them so that doesn’t happen. If it does, Dan will be there to help me out…. or I’ll just carry on doing something until I remember where I am. I think most people attending will forgive me.

I might not hit the right notes. It’s live. That’s probably quite likely, but unlike a recording, hopefully by the time anyone notices I will have moved on.


The sewing is very nearly finished too. I have a few adaptations to make, and then I need to attend to the ceiling in the gallery so that I can hang them properly. I need to get up there and poke about to see if I need a drill, rawlplugs, battens or just screw-in hooks… There are a few patchy bits of paint that I need to fix when the current exhibition comes dawn in the middle of June.


I think, on the whole, I’m in control… time will tell…



AUDIOBLOG – Please click here

I’m an emotional wreck!


Last night, Helen Lancaster came into the studio to record some violin and viola for two of my songs. Helen’s Band “The Old Dance School” can be found here:


I’ve mentioned the song I co-wrote with Nicky Kelly before… “The Gate”… this is the tricky one. This is the song that has everything in it, and has/is taking much more energy from Dan in terms of its production. It hasn’t got the kitchen sink in it, but it does have buckets, graters, whisks, spoons, cups, kettles, knitting needles and sandpaper…

And, as of last night, it had violin and viola. Helen had been sent the track as it stood a week or so before. It isn’t an easy one, the structure is all wrong, it has lots of different title-defying sections. It’s the sort of song you get from someone who isn’t a songwriter perhaps? Helen did us proud!

These strings just add so much richness, depth and emotion that we have stripped out whole sections of guitar in order to make it sound wonderful, and because the sound is so lyrical and emotional, we’ve stripped out a few lyrics too. After a period of play and editing on Saturday, it will sound amazing.

I am an acoustic, real instrument (and household appliance/utensil) kind of songwriter. The quality of sound and feeling you get from a real person playing cannot be surpassed by anything digital in my book.

“Delicate” is the song I wrote about my youngest son’s premature birth. It was originally a poem. I stitched the poem to a maternity bra.

I had wondered about recording it at all, and then maybe as spoken word, as it didn’t seem to have much structure, but did have a certain rhythmic feeling here and there. After discussion and a little while “noodling” whilst drinking tea and coffee, Dan Whitehouse wrote the music for it. We adjusted lyrics slightly, and even discovered a sort of chorus and bridge lingering in there!

The title suggests a light touch, so Dan’s guitar is very spare. The violin that Helen wrote and played last night has had me weeping. Seriously, sobbing over my laptop. For the song, the son, the mothers and the music, the strings pulling it all out of me. I’m exhausted and exhilarated all at the same time.


Music is a powerful thing. I feel so fortunate to be able to do this…



AUDIOBLOG – Please click here

The danger with a funded project is that you spend such a long time making sure you have the books balanced, promoting, marketing, networking and managing, that it becomes difficult to fit in doing the actual art!

This week, I’m keeping the fun in funding!


So today I’m back in the studio, all eight well-travelled bras have returned home. They are currently having a nap to get over the jet lag. I watch over them carefully, occasionally picking one up to examine its wiring. Some of them I think need extra wires so they hold a better shape. One lot actually needs removing and redoing because it is holding a very peculiar shape indeed. As I handle them (after over a month in some cases) I listen to the songs and ponder. This is why I’m doing all this. Yes, it’s good to be doing all these activities to increase one’s profile, improve the CV, and perhaps attract a little attention, but actually, if you take all that away, I’ll still be stitching. And I’ll still be singing. These thoughts that prompted this work haven’t gone away. But it is important to keep reminding myself.

Two artists are in my head: Louise Bourgeois, still, and those works she was compelled to make… exquisitely stitched and formed… made from her life…


And Grayson Perry, after watching his programme on Channel 4 this week (Grayson Perry’s Dream House) Julie’s house: “A monument to thwarted female intelligence”. My bras could all belong to a Julie. Every woman, one woman. The “nine” is becoming increasingly nominal as the project trundles on.

I’d like to talk to Grayson about his affinity with the “general public”…women particularly… especially those outside the art community. He’s great to watch. He has real conversations, intelligence, insight. He asks deep and meaningful questions but with the lightest touch. He shows genuine interest, is never patronising. I feel we could have a chat about bras and women and stories and such. If I was that way inclined, I might start stalking him, in case the opportunity for an exchange of views presents itself. I expect I’d say something fatuous like “uhu hu hu… hello Grayson, I like your dress!” He would be riveted by my sparkling wit and we would be best friends forever!


oh well…


Back to the stitching…

The latest bra (no 9) is a black one… not too worn, but I wanted this one to be black, so I chose it over the more worn specimens… I’m attempting to stitch used guitar strings to it, but am more likely to succeed in twanging my eyes out in the process. Vicious bastards!

By the time I’m finished, no one will be able to get a tune out of them, but they have become close to my heart as we’ve gone along, so there they are. They have become a little bit of my story. The uselessness of the strings once detached from the guitar, a symbol of my inability to play anything but the most rudimentary percussion. A link from the songs to the garments. A monument to thwarted female musicality?

This week I have released another song upon the world…

Lyrics, Music and all vocals by Elena Thomas
Produced by Dan Whitehouse







AUDIOBLOG – Please click here

Time to regroup:

The six bras that went to Debra Eck at the 3rd on 3rd Gallery in Jamestown have arrived home safely, beautifully and lovingly packaged back up into the box I had sent them in. Thank you Debra! It shouldn’t be the case, but I hear of so many artists whose work has been damaged by careless handling that I am thrilled that someone has treated my work so carefully.

I await the remaining two from Sweden, then all “the girls” are back home. Eight. I have not started bra nine… I have several ideas of what I’d like to do, but want to see them all in one place again before I embark upon it, to establish balance, and avoid tautology. I say that, but I think I’m on a hiding to nothing with that one on this project, there is overlap and common threads throughout. Of course. But I think, in this case, a little visual repetition is ok. Think of it as a chorus.

The songs are nearly there. I feel a bubbling under excitement about this, tinged with sadness. Those few of you that have had the staying power to read all this twaddle, will know how much fun it is, how much I am learning from the process. I am as happy as the proverbial swine in the proverbial excrement! Oh I shall miss it!  At the moment, it is still too soon to be thinking what the next project will be, how it will come about, what will spark it off… but I suspect that these last few months will live in the memory as a peak of my creative activity. I hope of course there will be others, but this one has marked a life-change, a mind-change, a sea-change… so will always be way up there I’m sure!

Enough of that!



Drinks and nibbles: What? Where? How much? and who will pour it out?

Meeting and Greeting: because the event is held over two floors this means I shall need someone on the door, and someone with the drinks.

Toilet paper: Make sure there’s plenty, and check the loo half way through the evening… clean towels, soap…

Seating for performance: Downstairs not upstairs, upstairs is for the installation, recordings, and bras and mingling….

Performance: Rehearsals are booked, and I will definitely be using a mic… my voice isn’t strong enough, and I feel better about the whole thing on the mic. My voice isn’t accurate enough if I’m trying to make it louder… better to keep it accurate and amplified. Have we got enough seats?Emergency chairs!

MC: I think it would be a good idea to get someone else to keep an eye on timings and proceedings, so that I can just chat to people, have a good time, concentrate on my performance and so on….

I can’t tell you how much I am relying on Dan Whitehouse, as much for organisational and moral support as musical. He is reminding me of things (or just telling me) and being really encouraging and lovely! I couldn’t have done, nor could I continue to do, any of this on my own. I could have booked another producer maybe, and another musician, but his friendship and unerring enthusiasm and support for this daft project cannot be bought from anywhere.

Occasionally, in the middle of some activity, sensing perhaps, a building tension, he will suddenly just stop… lean back in his chair and say in that vaguely Wolverhampton way, something like “It’s gonna be bloody brilliant, e!” Now, whether this is true or not remains to be seen, but it always makes me feel better… then normal services are resumed, and he tells me to sing it again.





AUDIOBLOG – Please click here

Forgive me, reader, for I have sinned! It’s been ages since my last confession… I mean blog post…
(Same thing some days)

I’ve posted a couple of things on Threads, but not here. I do like to keep this just for this project, and the more general stuff gets posted on the other blog.

So… The casual observer might think it’s because I’ve not been doing anything. That couldn’t be further from the truth! Alongside family outings, painting gallery walls, and doing the small bit of a proper job I’ve been given, I have in fact been writing songs, recording, and planning a couple more bras… But I am waiting for them all to arrive back from far flung corners of the earth, so I can review, before I move on…. Because, I have actually forgotten who they are! Terrible sin! (Hence confession)

We are getting closer to the end of the recording process, which is both exciting, and sad, in equal measure I would say. I can’t wait to have nine songs, finished, produced, sequenced…. All set to go in the studio, with the installation. But I must say, the process has been the best thing I’ve done in years. Thank you Mr Whitehouse, it’s been fab… But I mustn’t say goodbye quite yet, it’s really not over till this fat lady sings!

Last night in the studio was a tricky one. We are down to a few niggly jobs now. We do have Dave Sutherland coming back in to record some mandolin, and possibly more bass, and also Helen Lancaster coming in to play some violin and viola for a couple of songs. It’s one of these that’s causing the niggle really. It is more complex in its production I think than many of the other songs. It is more unusual in structure perhaps, is a little more theatrical. I want to send Helen a decent recording before she comes in, but at the moment, I sit here with three different versions trying to decide which one is the best, so I can re-record the vocal before sending off.
By niggly jobs I mean things like removing my heavy breathing from one of the tracks where I sang rather closer to the mic, up close and personal. It sounds like I have some sort of condition… these are bits of housekeeping almost.

I have a problem… I have twelve songs, from which I am supposed to choose nine. I have dropped one, but can’t decide which two others will go. I shall of course decide at some point, but I am currently trying to think of a way to include eleven songs into a project called nine women …shall I just sneak them in and hope no one notices, or cares? I may well decide that these women deserve to be heard and not cut them at all! Or perhaps choose the two that might start the next project, rather than choose two as “rejects” from this one, as that does seem a more positive way to go about it.

I also have a list started, of songs that can be done live on the PV night…. Oh dear…
Dan will be supporting me, playing and boosting me into a state where I can feel I can do it. Up to now, I have done one song at a time at the songwriters’ circle end of term shows. For these events I have my lyrics on a stand in front of me, and for one song, I have practised over and over again. I’ve done it, but it takes a lot of work. For the PV, I could possibly do six of the songs live. Some I’ve done before, they are simple and fairly straightforward, but some I’ve never done live. It would be excellent if I could do these without the bits of paper… No excuse and no barriers between me and the audience. With this in mind, we have booked a few rehearsal spots between now and July. I’m told by Dan, like exam revision, better to do a few spaced out rehearsals leading up to the event, rather than last minute cramming that will wind me up!
I will try my best!

Right, well as it is 1:00am and I have another eight hours in the studio tomorrow, I am going to try to get some sleep, but I have these lyrics running around my head…..

Someone opened up my head
oiled my synapses
with thought and love
Someone opened up my heart
knead it back to life
no ache no pain

Someone bared
my soul to me
I’d forgotten it was there

Someone opened up my eyes
shone a light through the tear
Someone opened up their arms
I’m no longer safe from harm

Someone bared
my soul to me
I’d forgotten it was there

You must know what you have started
Life has changed since this began
I couldn’t back out if I tried
I’ll stay right here if you don’t mind?

Someone opened up my head
oiled my synapses
with thought and love

1 Comment