Singer/songwriter Jake Wilson travelling to the frozen South in honour of Russell Hoban
Jake Wilson, a singer/songwriter, guitarist and documentary maker who provided editorial input into Russell Hoban's last novel, is travelling to Antarctica in February to perform his songs about Captain Scott in the legendary explorer's expedition hut.
In 2012 Wilson released All's Well, an album of songs imagining the final thoughts of Scott and his polar team. "The album is dedicated to the memory of my mother, who died very suddenly last year," explains Wilson, "and also to Russ. He encouraged me with the project all the way from the research stage, through reading draft lyrics and listening to me playing him rough versions of the songs, and on to commenting on demo recordings when he was in hospital at the end of 2011. I actually finished writing the last song on 13 December 2011, and was able to tell him that the set was complete that morning."
Wilson's journey will be "something of a pilgrimage". "I hope that the final performance will be an appropriate way of honouring Scott and his team, my mother, and Russ himself."
Readers of Hoban's final book Soonchild, set in an icy landscape referred to as "The North", will have spotted that Wilson has a typically Hobanesque cameo role as the (non-fictional) guitarist in Ukpika's fictional band, the Barnacle-Goose Children. Wilson will actually be travelling to The South, of course, but Hoban's North will no doubt be in his thoughts. Members of The Kraken, the longstanding Russell Hoban online community, have been involved in producing Wilson's album, and his website. In the acknowledgments to his final adult novel Angelica Lost and Found Hoban wrote: "I work without an outline or overall plan, flying by the seat of my pants. Sometimes the pants wear thin and my inertial guidance system loses its way. Jake Wilson, reading my pages as I worked, kept me more than once from walking over a cliff."
Wilson's journey will first be taking in London and New Zealand, and he has so far lined up gigs at the Southbank Centre, London, on 2 February and the Oamaru Opera House in New Zealand on 10 February. He is also hoping to perform at institutions in Dunedin and Invercargill. "If anyone can put me up for a night in these places, that would be particularly helpful!" he adds.
Wilson says he has been "stunned" to receive some very generous donations for his expedition from supportive individuals. "These have made a huge difference – if anyone else feels moved to contribute in this way, please do get in touch."
After training as a classical violinist and piano player, Wilson went to India to study the sitar. He then focused on the guitar, inspired particularly by the playing of British folk-rock pioneer, Richard Thompson. Wilson now plays with ex-Fairport Convention fiddle legend Dave Swarbrick, who spotted him as one of his support acts at the Goose is Out folk club. For a number of years he worked as a researcher for the acclaimed BBC art history series, The Private Life of a Masterpiece, while more recently he has carried out research for Donald Sturrock’s official Roald Dahl biography Storyteller.
- To contact Jake Wilson, listen to All's Well and watch videos of him performing the songs, see his website, jakewilsonmusic.com