Editorial Work

I have experience in editorial work dating back to 2010, when I worked as a music writer for The Hullfire, the on-campus newspaper of the University of Hull. Since then I have written a technology piece for The Guardian, produced multiple blog posts for The Huffington Post, and authored press releases, opinion pieces, and news articles for Washington College.

Apple's iOS 8 will change the way brands connect with their customers
September 2014, The Guardian

Confirmation of the release date for Apple’s next major firmware update iOS 8 was for the most part overshadowed on Tuesday with the Californian tech giant unveiling the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, the Apple Watch, and the new Apple Pay mechanism. Despite that, the new operating system that the majority of their devices will run should be of great significance to brands and marketers looking to reach more consumers. iOS 8 is centred around the concept of integration, and brands can implement their products and services into more of the device than ever before.
 
On balance, there’s little doubting how exciting iOS 8 is for users, developers and brands. Since the first build of the operating system in 2007, the general functionality and structure that it uses has not drastically changed. For that reason, people around the world have developed a familiarity and understanding of the elegant and practical interface. With brands now granted a licence to expand their apps and services into more of the OS than ever before, people will be able to connect with products in a way previously unthinkable.

Why Berlin Is Europe's Most Alluring City
January 2014, The Huffington Post

Berlin is where the newly-constructed stands alongside the derelict, the young bleeds into the old, and the mainstream overlaps with the underground. The city, which changed hands through numerous wars, occupations, and revolutions, still resiliently stands, and proudly so. What is more, it not only stands literally, but as a bold symbol of cultural, political, and ideological collaboration. It is quite remarkable that a city tormented for so long by aggression, tension and division, today shines through as a beacon of diversity and multiculturalism.
 
You needn't come to here to do anything specific. Just set foot on the streets, follow your nose, let it all unfold in front of you and see where the journey takes you. Be surrounded by the history, amazed by the modernity, and fixated by the charm and individuality of the locals. And remember, a cold beer or the perfect coffee is never more than a few-hundred yards away.

Former Governor Ehrlich to Speak
Washington College, March 31, 2014

The Republican who served one term as Maryland's Governor and four terms in Congress will discuss themes from his new book, America: Hope For Change.
 
CHESTERTOWN, Md.—Former Maryland Governor and Congressman Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. will visit Washington College on March 31 to talk about themes addressed in his recently published book, America: Hope for Change (Post Hill Press, 2013). The talk, which is free and open to the public, will take place that Monday at 4 p.m. in Hynson Lounge, Hodson Hall, and will be followed by a book signing. 
 
Topics Ehrlich addresses in the book include the Affordable Care Act, the contraception mandate, fiscal practices and debt, job creation, social security, national security and American culture. While his first book, Turn This Car Around, used “Maryland examples to make national points,” his most recent effort focuses on issues from a national perspective and is intended for a wider audience. 

Educate Through Sports
2013-14, Washington College

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Educate Through Sports was a series I created as a student worker at Washington College, designed to shed light on student-athletes balancing the rigors of a liberal arts degree with NCAA Division 3 sports. Excerpts below.

Julia Jakus

Jakus’s spirit of adventure and willingness to take on new challenges is already helping her to get the most out of being at Washington College. She may have just arrived in Chestertown, but that hasn’t stopped her from  mapping out where she’ll be in the near future.

Keita Christophe

Christophe, a Presidential Fellow, is clearly comfortable with lots on his plate, and also seeks to get involved with Enactus and Relay For Life next year. While such an array of commitments might seem a burden, to him it’s the very fact his goals are so lofty and his schedule so busy that allows him to deal with it.

Alexis Jordan

Academics is so important in Division III that Jordan has just as many goals off the court as she does on it. Volleyball-wise, she hopes for a few triple-doubles, a spot on the all-conference team and several team appearances at the Centennial Conference championships. Outside the gym, she plans on declaring as a pre-law or political science major, staying close to a 4.0 and joining a sorority. Before the start of her senior year, she is also targeting a law-firm internship in preparation for the LSAT exams.

Allison Remenapp

To a lot of students, the overlapping nature of athletics and academics is one of the most attractive things about Division-III competition. Per NCAA regulations, nobody’s here on a sports scholarship, and good grades are a prerequisite for athletic participation. Teammates become study partners, and classmates become fellow athletes. Here, school and sports always go hand-in-hand.

The Hidden Beauty of Air Travel
August 2013, The Huffington Post

Airline travel is compartmentalised in every way imaginable. We pack our belongings and toiletries into suitcases, we neatly construct our hand luggage, we check-in at a certain section of a certain terminal with a certain airline, and head to a number-specific gate to sit in a number specific-seat to a specified destination...you get the idea. Consequently, all of this physical compartmentalisation presents itself in a mental capacity too. We don't even think about where other people might be going or what they might be doing.
 
Flying becomes all about the individual, and airports are full of them. Thousands upon thousands of people, all walking in different directions, flying to and from different cities around the world for varying reasons. Some are taking a break, others are doing business, and some are never coming back. Whilst many reluctantly wave goodbye to their loved ones, others cant wait to head through security to begin their journey around the globe. Every flight has a story.

For The Love of the Game
July 2014, Washington College Magazine

Coming to play soccer was not my aim in the slightest, but with the virtue of perspective it’s impossible to have considered my time without it. It was tough, testing, and turbulent, but everyone involved was fully invested. I can say without equivocation that balancing a liberal arts education with a rigorous athletic schedule is not a task to be underestimated, but being a Division III athlete has been a challenging venture worth every minute.
 
We don’t play for scholarships, fame, recognition or money. We destroy our bodies for nothing more than our undying love for the game, and more importantly, for each other. The opportunity to form bonds, to share academic advice, to crack jokes, to score goals and travel the country wearing your school’s name is unrivalled in its wonder.
 
My experience as a Washington College soccer player has been nothing short of an unrelenting whirlwind, and I will forever cherish the memories of my time here in Chestertown. Those generated as a proud member of the Shoremen Soccer Class of 2014 will shine even brighter than the sun.

An Interview with Kathleen Edwards
2011, The Hullfire

In early November, I had a chance to sit down with Canadian musician Kathleen Edwards, currently supporting Bon Iver on their European tour. Aged 33, Edwards is no stranger to the music business, having released her first EP Building 55 in 1999. Nine years after her debut LP Faller (2003), the Ottawa-born singer stands on the brink of her fourth studio album, Voyageur. Slated for a January 17th release, Kathleen explained to me how she felt this album was a real turning point in not only her work, but her life also:
 
“It’s a defining album, in the sense that I’ve finally found the sound I think I was looking for. I made a conscious effort to really break new ground. The last 5 years have been a real roller-coaster, and I went through a lot of doubt; I was married and now I’m not. This record represents the journey that most people end up going on in their life.”
 
On Voyageur, Edwards certainly strikes a more personal tone than her previous work, forgoing the stories of fictional characters, instead choosing to profoundly spill the most delicate contents of her heart out onto the new record (“I wanna lie in the cracks of this lonely road, I can fill in the blanks for every time you don’t phone”). During what developed into an incredibly candid conversation, Edwards opened up over the “sad and painful” realities of dealing with guilt, but contrastingly, also with “hope, love, redemption, joy and bliss”, and explained how she combated them by simply sitting down with her guitar and writing.
 
And, even before the record’s public release, it is clear to see in both her recent live performances and new recordings (“Wapusk”, “Change the Sheets”) that Edwards has escaped the ‘singer-songwriter’ tag that unwelcomely stalks so many musicians that happen to be able to sing, play guitar, and write songs. A concern of Edwards herself, she explained to me how she was ready to stop living in the “pigeon-holed genre” that she was continuously dropped into. Faced with the prospect of writing her fourth studio album, Edwards explained what made the pin drop for her:
“I stopped and thought, maybe I’m not making the music that defines what I like about music. The music that influences me, and what I strive to sound like.”
 
And, it was this epiphany that led Kathleen to delve into the process of co-writing for the first time. Norah Jones, Stornoway, and Sean Carey & Justin Vernon of Bon Iver are just some of the names that lent their hand to Voyageur, and Vernon also co-wrote and produced the album with Edwards. The Canadian had been made aware that the Bon Iver frontman had been a long-time admirer of her music, and Edwards explained that as soon as they started talking about music, they were on the same page. Though not initially intending to co-write, their instant compatibility meant the idea soon blossomed, and before Edwards realised she was in Wisconsin, laying down tracks for Vernon. Perhaps it was Vernon’s familiarity with writing a record drenched in heartbreak that made him such a natural fit, or perhaps it was simply fate. Edwards certainly thinks so:
 
“I do (feel like it’s fate). He’s the first person to say ‘I was a fan of your records before touring’, and it really put things in perspective for me. Knowing that someone like Justin worked on my record cause he liked my music is very validating and it gave me the opportunity to do my best work.”
 
It is clear that Voyageur contains some of Edwards’ finest work, strengthened by the experienced input of Justin Vernon. But whilst he co-wrote the album, he preserves everything beautiful about Edwards’ warm country tones, simply sprinkling over the trademark Bon Iver sound. And although Kathleen might not be the most well-known musician on the scene, it’s a testament that a band as influential and successful as Bon Iver take such pleasure in her music. Certainly, I took just as much pleasure talking to her.
 
Kathleen Edwards’ 4th album Voyageur is available January 17th. “Change the Sheets” and “Wapusk” are both out now. The singer will be touring the UK in February and March of 2012.

The Mark of Genius: A Profile of the Reclusive Justin Vernon
2010, The Hullfire

The word ‘genius’ is often generously thrown around the musical world. In fact even outside of music, the word’s impact has been somewhat weakened in recent times. However in this section of Hullfire we aim to once again deliver true meaning to the word, with our Musical Geniuses feature. This issue looks at Justin Vernon.
Justin Vernon may well be unknown to many people, simply because he rarely performs under his own name. Justin opts instead for the French pseudonym Bon Iver (‘good winter’ in English), whether it be a solo performance or with his band. Whilst Vernon has always been the instrumental founding centrepiece of all of his musical projects, DeYarmond Edison, Mount Vernon and Bon Iver, he always seems to find a way of shying away from attention – to the extent were people think Vernon’s forename really is Bon. Many have experienced Bon Iver, yet many would not recognise the name of Justin Vernon.
 
To understand where Vernon is going with his music, you have to understand where he came from. Growing up in a small Wisconsin town of only 60,000 people Vernon became accustomed to being reclusive at a young age. He spent the first twenty-odd years of his life in Eau Claire graduating from both the town’s high school and college. In order to pursue larger musical ventures, he consequently re-located to Raleigh in North Carolina. After a mediocre year amidst a sharp and bitter breakup with his long-time girlfriend, Vernon returned to the only place he’d ever called home, Wisconsin. Seeking solitude, he went to stay in a log cabin built by his father deep in the snow-dusted Wisconsin forests. It was here that over a four-month period, a groundbreaking record would be conceived.
 
Vernon, armed with only an old silvertone acoustic, his brother’s old drum set and a battered microphone, was able to able to carve out nine songs that re-defined how one views a love song. The record, in his words represented all of his “personal trouble, lack of perspective, heartache, longing, love, loss and guilt that had been stockpiled over the course of the past six years.” A true Wisconsin resident, he also gathered bits and pieces from his surroundings to form new instruments and sounds. Vernon, who rarely plays in standard tuning, develops in the record an abundance of encapsulating choral tunnels with his guitar, employing ‘secret’ tunings with unparalleled vision. One has to wonder about the very thoughts that must have been running through Vernon’s head to provoke him to play in such a way.
 
If re-invention of guitar playing wasn’t enough, the Wisconsin singer’s astounding vocal range allows him to sing the entire album in an endearing, yet heart-wrenching falsetto tone, adding further meaning to the already overt lyrics (“for all your lies, you’re still very loveable.”). Vernon’s high tones add a sense of personality to his music, bleeding out every ounce of emotion. When dissecting, listening to, and absorbing For Emma, Forever Ago, you would be no fool to question whether a record of such complexity was written, performed and recorded by just one man.
 
But what perhaps makes him such a musical genius, is the very nature of his work. Vernon spoke about the spontaneity of his decision, explaining that he never actually intended to write any music, let alone a haunting, heartfelt, award-winning 9-track album.
 
“Words like ‘decision’ and ‘intention’ aren’t words that float in my head, because I just went,” he explained. “I left North Carolina and went up there because I didn’t know where else to go and I knew that I wanted to be alone and I knew that I wanted to be where it was cold.”
 
It is truly remarkable that one person can isolate themselves in a snow-covered log cabin in the depths of the Wisconsin mountains, cutting logs and such, and depart four months later proudly owning nine completely unintended, yet mesmerising pieces of music. Bands often spend the best part of a year writing, recording, and producing ‘manufactured albums’; what makes Justin Vernon’s work a stroke of genius though, is its modest spontaneity. He didn’t go there to make a breakthrough album, or to become successful.
 
He did not even go to write music. He went to just be, and it was by mere chance, or fate, that the love-scarred tissues of his heart and mind were beautifully and manically sketched on to a rare musical canvas. Perhaps it is now clear, that Bon Iver is what Vernon was in fact always destined to be.

The Growth of the Micro-Festival
2011, The Hullfire

Every summer, that oh-so-familiar ‘G’ word becomes inescapable. Whether you’re perusing the paper on a Sunday afternoon, endlessly flicking through TV channels, listening to the radio, or aimlessly browsing the internet, you’re bound to come across the Glastonbury Festival, and rightly so. Globally recognised as one of the best and most diverse festivals on the planet, it annually attracts 170,000 people, young and old alike. However, the British media would lead you to believe that a rain-sodden week in Somerset at the end of June is the only period in which a music festival occurs.

You only have to look at the amount of people that proudly flaunt their frayed and discoloured wristbands long after the proceedings end, to perhaps realise that attending a festival nowadays is a barometer of indie street-cred. Of course, I must take care not to make sweeping generalisations and in the process offend people who do as such, many of whom I call my friends. But, there is arguably an element of “coolness” surrounding the big festivals that can make them so attractive for some, and equally unattractive for others. Emerging now are more and more people choosing to venture elsewhere with their camping gear, heading for unknown, smaller weekends.
 
Whilst Radio 1 and the NME gush over Reading and Leeds, a plethora of smaller festivals dotted around the UK lurk amongst the undergrowth of Britain’s summer music scene. Kent’s Lounge on the Farm, and Oxfordshire’s Truck Festival see average attendances of four to five thousand people. The artists that have graced their stages though, suggest that the organisers could draw much larger crowds; The Temper Trap, Biffy Clyro, Chase & Status, Lethal Bizzle, Regina Spektor, Ash and The XX have all played. So what makes these smaller festivals any more appealing than say, Bestival? Well, aside from the obvious price difference, asking any punter what they find most attractive about smaller festivals will yield a similar answer; the intimacy of it all.  
 
“It’s great how everyone is so friendly, it’s almost family-like”, one Truckfest regular told me. 
 
One knock on some of the larger festivals, is that plastered with corporate sponsorship they’re often somewhat devoid of any personality.  Co-organiser Matt Gough highlighted that Lounge on the Farm is about “breaking the norm.”
“The ethos of the Lounge is about creating an event. It’s more than just the music.” 
 
YNOT? Festival, tucked away inside the Derbyshire Peak District, builds on that viewpoint. The festival turns down all offers of sponsorship, believing that major events are spoilt by their profit-focused ethics. Band members camp with punters, Pints cost £2 and you’re free to start a campfire wherever you wish. A real festival.
 
The optimist might argue these comparatively tiny festivals may one day become just as large as their bigger brothers. In 2005, YNOT? (then called Big Gin) was a private event for one school’s Sixth Form students;  blossoming over six years, it now boasts annual ticket sales in excess of 4000 and hosts marquee names like Feeder, The Subways, The Mystery Jets and Frank Turner. And consider this; in 1975, 1,500 people attended the Pilton Pop, Blues & Folk Festival. Its organiser, Michael Eavis, now sees over ten times as many people descend on the site, known today as the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary and Performing Arts.
 
However, would being as popular as Download or Sonisphere allow these smaller events to maintain the very ethics that currently allow them to be such a success? The YNOT? team told me that their favourite thing about being part of a small project is that it employs “an atmosphere very difficult  to recreate at a larger event.” Perhaps their success should be measured in a different manner entirely to the larger festivals - after all, they certainly aren’t attempting to emulate them.
 
One thing is certain, though. Whether or not you’ve been to the big-hitters like Glastonbury or Reading & Leeds, give a small one a try next year. As well as leaving more money in your pocket, you might just have an awesome time.