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Mercury Prize Memories From a Former Nominee

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MERCURY PRIZE 2011
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When I was told about our Mercury Prize nomination (for Twice Born Men in 2009) I was fitting a toilet seat, as part of my - then - day job. It was certainly one of those fairy-tale moments, despite the confines of the cubicle, my wee soaked knees and the delighted tourettes of a man who can't quite believe his luck.

So, in the weeks leading up to PJ's victory last night, I've been pondering our own Mercury experience. We did sell some more records, for which we're always grateful, we got to spend half an hour in the Blue Peter garden after a BBC interview, Newsround asked me who would play me in a movie of my life (Uma Thurman with a beard... She even has the same size feet as me...), I finally looked up what counterpoint was when Jools kept praising ours, and Kasabian were nice about us.

But more than that, the whole thing felt like the Jack Black character in High Fidelity shouting loudly that we were good, to a shop full of interested punters. Where many awards could be accused of politicking and being unduly influenced by the corporate dollar, here was one that was more like that mate who won't let you leave because there's something you've 'got to hear'. That's possibly naive, but I don't care. Since that September night, my knees have remained resolutely piss-free*

Even though it was 2 years ago, our award has really focused my efforts on our upcoming 3rd album, because - for the first time - there is an expectation outside immediate family / parole officers, and we're seeing it expressed by new friends online daily. I've been playing tiny concerts in fans' homes recently which has been great; lovely people invite me into their houses, bring their friends and - best of all - provide me with cake, and this brings me great joy. And great hope. That people are still enthusiastic and passionate about music, and that word of mouth is everything promotionally to a growing band, as people numb out to the sheer volume of aspirational *stuff* they are bombarded with every day.

The Mercury seems to me to be the one award capable of expressing the same passion, and giving that word of mouth thing a massive boost. And yes, I'm sure there are politics. And Jools probably whittles babies into toothpicks in his dressing room. But where else would my Dad have heard about Led Bib ? Or managed to confuse PJ O' Rourke with PJ Harvey ? Jesus, I'd have totally missed The Invisible (that sentence works on a few levels).

So Polly Jane has been victorious. My money was on her, and it is a great record. My heart was with Everything Everything though, for being unashamedly smartarse, and making British quirkiness less about chunky knits and beards and more about playing acrobatic, fearless pop songs in boiler suits. In closing, I feel a tiny flicker of disappointment that The Unthanks weren't nominated, but I'm sure everyone can think of someone who's been overlooked. Might invite them round to mine for some singing and a slice of cake.

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