Liuzhou, China

I hope you’re well, and happy new year!

I forgot to drink the ashes of my wishes to bring in this new year, but I did start the year while dancing to Darude Sandstorm, so I’m hoping it cancels out and it will be a good one for all of us.

My life for the past few months lacked its usual rhythm, while I was focused on my trip to China (and desperately cram-studying Mandarin). So let me take you along for some of the ride.

Overview of Liuzhou, China, and surrounding river

Liuzhou 柳州

Knowing very little about what I was getting into, I flew to China to spend five weeks in a relatively small (i.e. almost the population of New Zealand), snail-obsessed city in the southwest called Liuzhou. All I knew was that it was known for car manufacturing, snail rice noodles, and coffins, and that foreigners almost never go there.

I expected it to be hectic but fascinating, but it turned out to be the most beautiful and lovely city I’ve ever been to. It’s wrapped by a stunning river and countless bridges, surrounded by uniquely dramatic mountains, lush greenery everywhere, and with the kindest people. Despite having millions of people, it somehow reminded me of the smallest town, with strangers chatting to each other on the street just like old friends.

The food was also incredible – rice noodles of course, but also countless delicious fruits and vegetables, often vibrant and tropical, most of which I’d never seen before.

Underside of highway, with road pillars covered in plants

Once I finally adjusted to the local accent (it’s like learning English and then travelling to Scotland) I got to know some wonderful people too. Although my quest to meet local musicians unfortunately ended in my discovery that all the remaining musicians in the city are, apparently, children. Next time I’ll make it to the big cities to see where they’ve all headed.

However, I did chance upon a small bar one night, where the owner invited me to perform then and there. After watching a sea of phones lift in my direction, I debuted some songs from my next album to a room of people who still have no idea who I am. I got the impression they may have enjoyed my song introductions more than the music, but it was a special, and unforgettable way to test them out.

Traditional style bridge crossing river among steep, lush mountains

We see a lot about China, but this part felt like another world entirely. I was definitely in the deep end, but the main feelings I left with are that everyone lives differently, everyone’s the same, China and the world are both extremely vast and diverse, and that I must return one day and swim as happily as these old people.

Two people swimming together in big river in Liuzhou

Two and a Half Years In

Now that this China detour is over, I’m finally getting back to finishing my next album. I’ve recorded all the parts I need other musicians for, and now the rest all comes down to me.

After two and a half years of work so far, I feel the pressure to perform these songs well, and do them justice, growing more and more. But the only way to finish it is to just record it, so that is what I’ll do. When I need some motivation, at least I’ll know exactly which late ‘90s Finnish electronic anthem to turn to.

Sports field nestled between steep karst mountains

As always, feel free to join my Discord Server or send me an email if you’d like to chat. And please let me know if you have any questions about my trip, or stories to share of your own.

Thanks so much for reading, and all the best for now,


Sunset over Liuzhougit

17 Jan 2024