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Ex-Newcastle students release ‘lock-down’ album

Written by Music

Whilst many students, myself included, very much live in the moment whilst at University, it’s important to think about what the future will look like. For ex-Newcastle music student Jenny Mahler, she’s decided to follow her vocation, and has launched an album alongside her partner and ex-Newcastle Uni student Ed McKendrick.

This album, available online, contains seven songs in total, with each track inspired by a poem from ‘Chalky’s Notebook’. The album has been recorded and released during lockdown.

“Gaze into the pages of a secret notebook. Wander with the other-worldly. Rest in the sanctuary of the woods and surrender to the mellifluous cries of the phoenix.”

Excerpt from the biography of ‘Chalky’s Notebook’
Album art: Lydia Muddiman


Defining her genre as ‘folk-gospel’, we can see that her music is inherently acoustic. Jenny and Ed blend their expertise to create heartwarming music arrangements, shown in such tracks as ‘Two Worlds’. The layering of vocal melodies, to create a raw and natural sound, is amplified by the melodic strumming of acoustic chords and a light tambourine in the background. The track is available here for anyone wanting to listen!

However, my personal favourite of the tracks from the album available online would be ‘Driftin’. I love the groovy, bassy, almost psychedelic introduction, blending perfectly with vocal harmonics. It’s a bit different from the previous track, with a harder rhythm which only goes to testify to their diversity. The chorus is outstanding, and the back-and-forth which the guitar and vocals have is superb. To give it a listen, click here!

I spoke to Jenny and Ed and asked them a few of my burning questions…

1) What do you remember most about your time at Newcastle University?

Jenny: When I think of my time at Newcastle Uni it just brings back this huge sense of freedom and excitement… so many powerful memories for me – singing in the glorious ambience of the entrance of the Armstrong building at midnight with my best friend, performing at the Sage with Sound 10 and 12, gigging with my old funk band and skinny dipping at sunrise after our last exam (a tradition which I think has continued in the music department!)

Ed: Just being surrounded by a load of brilliant people and musicians. The common room in the music department was a hub of hilarity and interesting discussions and was where a lot of musical projects were born.  All the great performance opportunities – Green Fest in Leazes park Cosmic Ballroom (is that still there?) and various other pubs and clubs are great memories. In amongst all that was just going to the pub, jogging in Jesmond Dene and the occasional trip to Tynemouth for some chips and sea air.

2) Could you tell us a bit more about what ‘Chalky’s Notebook’ is?

Jenny: So Chalky is my Uncle.  He lives in the North East and spends a lot of time planting native trees in a Northumbrian woodland.  I was hiking with him in the Himalayas a few years ago when we came to this memorial ground which is en route to Mt Everest. 

A lot of people have died on Mt Everest and have never been brought down as it is too dangerous and their bodies are too difficult to collect so there is a memorial at the bottom.  Anyway, this triggered him to remember and recite a poem he’d written many years before called ‘The Graveyard on the Mountainside’. He hadn’t shared them with anybody until then and I insisted he send me ALL of them. 

I’ve had tonnes of poems – old and new – sent to me since then and these 7 songs are a selection of those poems, set to music.  Ed is a gorgeous guitar player and super producer and I’m a choir director and pianist so we’ve written this album which has rich choral harmonies and delicious, funky guitar parts.  It’d hate to put it in a category as it hints towards a lot of genres… it’s chilled, folky and rocky too.

3) If you could pick one artist to go on tour with, past or present, who would it be and why?

Jenny: I am all about Kathryn Tickell at the moment – if you can get to one of her concerts, DO!  It is so immersive and beautiful.  I also feel like it’d be a hoot.

Ed: Now that I’m nostaglic for Newcastle I would have to say Neil Halstead. I’ve always loved his songwriting and his album ‘Palindrome Hunches’ was the soundtrack to my final year there. I think we would have great discussions based on having beards and wearing hats.

To purchase the full album Chalky’s Notebook, feel free to follow this link!

Last modified: 14th May 2020

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