Caravan touring redefined
All Polly Paulusma needs is her guitar, an audience and Ella, her Freedom Sunseeker 400 caravan
Supporting artists such as Bob Dylan, Coldplay and Marianne Faithful and appearing at Glastonbury Festival, Polly Paulusma's no stranger to success, but her new album combines popular musical structures with dynamic melodies and interesting intricacies. What's more? She performs her material on tour while staying in a caravan between gigs!
Find out what Polly thinks is the best thing about caravanning...
"Caravanning is so liberating – I absolutely love it!"
We actually had a bit of a bidding war for her but she was worth it. We were very pleased when we won.
What was the asking price for her?We bid hard and furious for her. The asking price was £500 and we went up to £920. Even though she’s 20 years old she’s still holding her value. I think the couple paid around £900 when they bought her.
What made you choose the name?Naming her was my little daughter’s choice. We said “what would you like to call her?” and she quickly replied: “She looks like an Ella!” So that was that really.
I’m sure there’s many, but what’s your favourite thing about Ella?Oh, there’s so many things! I love her petite-ness, I think. Sometimes, as you guys found out today, I’m on my own and she’s just so manageable. Sometimes I need to ask for a bit of help [manoeuvring] but, for the most part, she’s easy to handle.
What made you want to take Ella on tour?I needed to sort my touring solution out because I’m on tour quite a lot and I remember from previous albums what it can be like. With children, it’s a fine business of economics really – you can’t get a hotel for four people for every gig and make it add up.
This option seems like a more viable way of keeping my family together while I’m on tour, which is really a necessity. Also, when my daughter was nine months old, we did a UK tour and I borrowed a friend’s caravan for five weeks and it was absolute bliss! It’s the best way to travel. From then on we’ve always been thinking that it might be an ideal solution for us.
But to be honest it’s not all work-related. We love camping and always have done. I’m married to a Canadian so he’s all big on the outdoors and all that stuff. It’s really lovely for us as a family to have it for work and play.
"You can't get a hotel for four people for every gig and make it add up."
It’s always sites as I feel more comfortable that way with the kids, especially as I’m off working until midnight. The questions I always ask are: “Do you have an electric hook-up,” and “Is it okay if I come back late at night,” because a lot of the sites obviously have curfews and people like their peace and quiet at night.
Is it mainly sites that you stay at or is there some arrangement with gig venues?
I always have to make sure they know I’m not a rock musician. I’m a folk musician so I’ll be coming in very sober and very quietly. Most sites are really amenable and really friendly with that.
I think they probably have situations like that more often than we know about, although I haven’t met anyone else so far that does this kind of thing. I don’t know why they don’t – it’s brilliant.
You’ve had a bit of bad luck recently though, haven’t you?Well, I had a summer of vehicular disasters! Firstly the axle broke on Ella and then we were rear-ended and the towbar was bent, so I ended up threading across the country alone, doing mad midnight dashes back from all kinds of crazy places, and camping in rather damp conditions in Scotland and longing for our hard roof.
At one point it seemed as if we might have to part company with Ella for good, but in a miraculous turn of events she was fixed and is now back on the road. I'm looking forward to a summer of festivals next year and we'll definitely be giving her a run for her money then. We are also planning a family holiday to France with her, so we'll definitely make the most of her – especially after missing out on touring so much this year.
Have you performed any impromptu sets on-site?So far, when I get on to campsites I don’t tend to get my guitar out. I did at the Cambridge Folk Festival though as there’s just endless impromptu gigs going on all over the place. So yes, there was quite a lot of it there. For the most part no, I try not to inflict my music on my neighbours [laughs].
How long have you been playing for?I’ve been playing guitar since I was about 14, but I’ve played piano since I was three! I started writing songs when I was about 10, so it’s been a long-standing old friend – a diary, therapy, a companion. I never thought I’d do it as a full-time thing though; that came very late. It took a lot of soul searching and me barking up various wrong trees before I realised that I should be making a living out of it.
Tell us about your new record labelI set up my own label this year, and this is the first time I’ve been out on my own without having other people supporting me. I’m incredibly grateful to my old label but it’s been a fun process of getting out and about on my own. I’ve really enjoyed that independence.
Has it been daunting setting up on your own?It’s been really easy actually – I was quite surprised! Maybe I’ve done it wrong [laughs]. A lot of my stuff was already in place, like registering yourself with various public bodies. I just rang them and they were very helpful.
The name Wild Sound came from the fact that I’m a film producer as well and my husband is a director. When you’re in the field you need to record wild sound – the sound of the air moving around and things like that. That’s how music feels to me. It’s this constant background noise and I’ve always got this soundtrack in my head of something playing.
With setting up a label, writing and gigging prolifically, what’s been your biggest achievement?My kids. I know it sounds a bit naff but they’re fantastic. All the rest can fade really in terms of significance. Family life is the route of everything. It’s also a lot more of an inspiration as well, so the music wouldn’t have as much meaning if they weren’t around.
As for musical stuff, I’ve got no idea! I don’t know. You just keep cracking on. You have good days and bad days and all you can do is play. I try not to think of achievements and failures as they all just end up in the same box of things that are stopping you from playing if you think about them too much.
Finally, what’s the best thing about caravanning?The portability. Being able to get up and go anywhere. It’s so liberating and I absolutely love it. I love being able to take your own stuff everywhere. Especially with kids, I think it’s nice for them to have their own sheets and their own stuff around them. I think the whole point of it is to be able to move around a lot. I’m looking forward to taking Ella over to explore the continent. It’s like having your own hotel you can just push around. It’s magical.
Artist: Polly Paulusma
Album: Leaves From The Family Tree
Record label: Wild Sound
Genre: Folk/Indie Pop
Intruments: Vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards
For more information and to buy Polly's album, visit her website or follow her on Twitter @pollypaulusma