Tiny Ruins: Trains, planes and performing for Jools

Singer-songwriter Hollie Fullbrook, aka Tiny Ruins, is on tour in Europe with Neil Finn, where she's the opening act as well as part of his live band. The jaunt comes just as she releases the follow-up to her acclaimed 2011 debut album on both sides of the planet. Here, she takes us through the first week of her time on the road ...
Hollie Fullbrook aka Tiny Ruins.
Hollie Fullbrook aka Tiny Ruins.

Monday

I leave Auckland, New Zealand for Australia and beyond. I awake at an ungodly hour and am shuffled out the door to the airport. On the plane, semi-conscious, I reach appreciatively for a piece of two-day-old frittata - a parting gift from home. In Melbourne, and with the help of friend Lisa, I head to the home of John Morrison, who shoots a video of me down by the Yarra river. John is a film-maker who also collects plastic figurines and toys. I down an orange juice at his figurine-laden home, we discuss conspiracy theories, then I head to an interview at ABC. I hop on a tram, hoping I'm not caught without a ticket. It's a good turn-out for tonight's show ... I see some familiar faces and play Brightly Painted One in full, in track order, which is kind of fun. Lisa drives us home and I sleep on her couch.

Tuesday

From Melbourne, I stop in Sydney for nine hours before my London flight.

Early start at 6am. Dark out. Try to re-pack bags better. Walk down the road to radio session, taking two trips after re-packing fails. Decide I need to lose a bag. It's a real "radio" day, interspersed with visits to the airport. Where am I? Classic Italian cabbie, who is a wedding photographer in the weekends, tells me some stories. Suddenly feeling exhausted. In Sydney I do another live-to-air radio performance as torrential rain falls, then depart once more for the airport.

Wednesday

On the aeroplane I meet a stockbroker who is on his way to see the orang-utans in Borneo. I get a real education about the world of finance. He describes his job as "similar to The Wolf of Wall Street". He is very charming so I can't help but like him a little bit. We land in Kuala Lumpur; it is 4am and one little food place is open. We await our next flights. Over toast and coffee, he explains how he only really listens to music on Spotify, and even then, only on his phone in his pocket so he never really knows what's playing. We are total opposites but it's nice having some company.

We wander the deserted shops until 6am, when the "jungle walk" in the centre of the airport opens. We walk through slowly, trying to make it last, because it's really quite fantastic. There are birds all waking up, the air is humid, and a waterfall cascades as - no kidding - thunder and lightning strikes above.

After many, many more hours on a plane, I arrive in London in the late afternoon, and it takes me a couple of hours to make my way on the Underground to my friend Kitaj's house in Shoreditch. It is such a relief to be knocking on her door, but within minutes, I learn that Ben, my drummer for my first few shows and travelling from Berlin, has been taken in by UK Customs. He arrives at Kitaj's very late at night, under house arrest, and must return first thing in the morning to be deported. This is bad news - in a haze of frustration and exhaustion, there's not much we can do but accept the situation and crash.

Thursday

I awake just in time to give my drummer a hug before he is sent back to Berlin. I head out with Kitaj and get a Sim card for my phone and some stockings - a terrible buy because they tear straight away and look horrible and are in a pack of five. Kitaj and I head to soundcheck for tonight's show. It is good to have my old friend by my side helping me carry all my gear. We're playing at a great little venue called the Servant Jazz Quarters.

This evening I see the vinyl and CD of the new album for the first time, and I have a little moment thinking of all the people who helped make it. The show, although small, is sold out and there's a cool atmosphere down in this divey cellar.

Friday

Today, I track down the cello that's been hired for Neil Finn's shows. I get it back to Kitaj's flat and have a quick play - it's a beauty. Then I run out again in search of a guitar shop to buy a preamp and a tuner. Unfortunately, after a long bus ride, it turns out they don't have the one I need so I head back and practise cello for the rest of the day. I find out I'll be playing on Later... with Jools Holland for my first show with Neil and co. I feel anxious and am writing so many notes on Neil's songs - working through the list he's given me to prepare. Feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.

Saturday

After a coffee (and a good pep talk) with Howard, my booking agent, early in the morning, I head to the practice space. Neil's band have been on tour together for a couple of months, so are tight as hell. Everyone is really welcoming straight away. We have a few hours of rehearsing a bunch of songs, and it is feeling good. I have been so worried I would forget all my parts on the spot. It is okay though.

Sunday

It's pouring with rain and I walk past the Colombia Rd flower markets on the way to the practice space. Jesse (electric guitar) bears an enormous bag of hot cross buns.

Everything is highly organised and impressive - as we practise again, the crew are all buzzing around, preparing all the gear for the road.

I take a two-hour train to Norwich for one small show of my own before hitting the big ones with Neil and co. It's at a wonderful venue called The Bicycle Shop (as it was one for 70 years). They rustle up an amazing meal and I finally feel a sense of order settling on my week. The show is cool, with an appreciative audience who hang about a long while after for drinks and conversation. I stay at my friend Phil's place, where we sit up a while with Josh, an Australian Green Party representative, listening to records while Phil chainsmokes into a 70s ashtray. I set my alarm in order to catch the first train back to London where I am to board the Neil Finn tour bus and drive towards our date with Jools Holland.

Who: Hollie Fullbrook/Tiny Ruins
What: New album Brightly Painted One is out tomorrow
Live: Crystal Palace, Mt Eden Rd, Auckland, Saturday, June 28

- TimeOut

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