Fiddle Guitar Vocal duo the Summer Januaries– Sean Michael Robinson and Rachel Erin Robinson

The Warming of the Winter

Greetings and a happy new year to you all!

Things have been quiet in Orlando. Rachel and I have been enjoying the weather, adjusting to our new temporary lives as non-busking, non-pidgin-Italian speaking Floridians, and spending almost all of our time working on new songs and new arrangements. And as the songs keep piling up, it seemed important to keep in touch with some aspect of performance. Since my brother Justin was in town, we thought it would be fun to have him film us performing. So a few days after Christmas we headed out and found a nice spot to play a few new tunes.

The first is one of my new songs, “Two Little Clementines.” I wrote most of it in various cars, trains and airports, and we worked on the harmonies walking the streets of Bologna. We didn’t finish the arrangement until the rain hit us in Perugia, and it took another few weeks of practicing it to really nail it down.

Next up is “Looking Up,” which was written by Rachel. This is actually the first original song of either of ours that we worked on together, and it took several months of tweaking before we were both happy with it. I started on the harmony rather than the melody, and at some point we flopped parts and changed keys, and that’s where it’s remained since.

You might be familiar with “Video Games.” You could hardly avoid it when we were in Italy, nor the images of its writer and singer, Lana Del Rey, who seemed to be peering out of every sandwich board in every train station in the country. We learned the song for our friend James, who had a birthday shortly after we arrived in Orlando.

And lastly, we’d like to thank YOU, yes, YOU for reading about our experiences this year. We’re hoping for great things over the next few months, and hope that you’ll stay along for the ride. And most importantly, love and a wonderful new year to you all!

Videos filmed and edited by Justin Andrew Robinson.

Smells Like America

Busking duo the Summer  Januaries. Sean Michael Robinson- guitar and vocals. Rachel Erin Sage- fiddle, vocals

September, just prior to leaving Seattle. Photo by Una Simone.

For the past month Rachel and I had been giving some serious thought to the question of what we’d be doing with ourselves now that winter was finally coming. It isn’t just a question of comfort—there’s a practical limit to how cold it can get and still have functional fiddle fingers, and how cold our audience can be and still be interested in sticking around long enough to enjoy us. And as the warmth slowly seeped out of Italy, the question suddenly seemed even more pressing.

Our first instincts were to travel to Istanbul, a busking-friendly cosmopolitan city full of vigor and life and slightly warmer weather. But looking at the projected weather averages made it clear that even in Turkey we would be faced with many, many days of not playing at all. We’d have to write off any time spent there in the winter months as a loss. Read More

Where Did All the Summer Go?

Miniature busking in Napoli

One successful Sunday of busking in Napoli had lifted our spirits, renewed our hope, and raised our expectations. After so many failures, Sean and I had been prepared to throw in the towel and move on, but everything changed, now that we’d found the perfect place to play. It was tempting to return to our new-found busking haven at the top of the hill the very next day, but we managed to restrain ourselves. We were exhausted from our four plus hours of playing the day before and we wanted to save our energy for the more busk-able days later in the week. Besides, we couldn’t wait to visit Pompei! Read More

Balloons in Napoli

The Summer Januaries busking with Napoli buskers

Every time we told someone we would be traveling to Napoli (i.e. “Naples”) as the last leg of our Italian trip, we received virtually identical responses. “No.” “No, not Napoli.” “Non.” This last remark was said emphatically, with stern face and wagging finger, by a Perugian pizza chef, himself a Neapolitan intensely proud of his incredibly delicious Neapolitan-style pizza, but completely convinced that our traveling to his home town to play would be certain disaster.

Even our friend Vince Conway, an international busker on the hammered dulcimer and a man not prone to exaggeration, told us to watch out for “street kids.” A few nights before our trip to the city I did some ill-advised googling and spent the next three hours reading about Napoli’s problems with petty crime and street theft of all stripes—tales of roving gangs comprised of senior citizen pick pockets, ceramic tiles masquerading as I-Pads and sold to gullible tourists, and bags stolen in drive-by attacks on motorcycle or scooter. Rachel had to accompany me on a long walk so I could calm myself enough to go to sleep.

But of course, if you’re worked up about the thought of getting scammed or robbed, having a midnight stroll around Rome on a Saturday might not be the ideal antidote. I spent the rest of our stay there feeling vaguely uneasy, and spent an awful lot of time thinking about my body and pockets and the people around me.

Fortunately, the train ride was reassuring. The train was almost entirely unoccupied, and one of the few people we did meet was actually another busker. He was a balloon man from Argentina, and he very kindly gave us the rundown on the best places to busk in Napoli. We didn’t take his suggestions as gospel, since a place that’s good for a balloon man is not necessarily good for unamplified music—but just the fact of his existence, his friendly demeanor and his willingness to share a long list of pedestrian streets we could play on, was a tremendous reassurance.

And then we stepped out of the train station. Read More

All Quiet on the Roman Front

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Sean and I arrived in Rome late Monday evening, checked into our hotel, and headed out into the night. Destination: Fontana di Trevi. We had done some research online about busking in Rome, and found evidence of recent legislation that was more restrictive than in the past, as well as tales of police confiscating instruments, CDs, and tips; but we had also seen posts, photos and videos of people who perform on the streets in Rome with varying levels of success. This left us hopeful about the possibility of being able to play, but also ready to resign fully to being tourists for the week if playing wasn’t possible. Read More