Obviously, I like this place because I keep going back to do gigs and motorcycle tours. There are vast deserts, mountains, cowboys, huge cities and swamps full of alligators. I have been reduced to tears by the kindness of strangers and experienced the exhilaration of the epic highways in this country. Here’s a tour of some of my favourite states in America:
I was introduced to American culture through shows set in California (namely Saved by the Bell and Buffy the Vampire Slayer). California was also where I did my first two foreign bike trips in 2013 and 2015 – both times on a Triumph Bonneville. This state is incredible because in the same day you can ride through desert and mountains to the coast; there’s so much I still haven’t seen. I’d love to visit Death Valley next time.
This is my favourite state. Of course there’s Nashville and the Johnny Cash museum, but Tennessee is more than just cowboys and country music (although these are assets indeed). It’s hidden motorcycle routes with deep curves; balmy October days with the leaves changing colour; the whole of Knoxville in orange and white; legends of ghosts and witches and the roads named after them - and always, always good manners.
Mississippi is one of the most magical states for me. It makes me think of legends like Robert Johnson’s crossroads deal and the history of the blues highway. Elvis was born in Mississippi and you can visit Morgan Freeman’s blues club, Ground Zero, in Clarksdale. I got caught in a storm one night just off the Natchez Trace and the fog that rose up and the sheet lightning made me feel like I was in an episode of Supernatural. I was half-expecting a Woman in White to appear in the fog – there are stories of those here. But Mississippi is also home to some of the kindest people in the world, so whatever paranormal predicament you find yourself in, you’ll be in good hands.
I can see why people come here on holiday. The beaches are gorgeous. I wish I’d had more time to explore the rest of the state and to get to know the people, but there's time still to come.
Georgia was one of those states through which I’d ridden, travelled by Greyhound and changed planes; but I’d never actually stayed here until I played a gig just north of Atlanta in 2018. It was one of the liveliest, most welcoming crowds I’ve ever played for. I also stayed in Savannah to experience the traditional Southern charm for which the city is famed. But when I think of Georgia, I’ll always think of lollipop red roadside diners and trucks parked in service stops and the miles and miles ahead.
Riding on a Harley through the desert in a thunderstorm as lightning struck on both sides of the road was the most scared I’ve ever been on a bike. Staying in the run-down little motel in Vaughn where I found refuge was the only time I’ve ever been afraid that a motel heater would burst into flames. I didn’t see aliens in Roswell, but the dunes at White Sands were ethereal and this has to be one of the most unusual states in the US.
This is another state I need to explore, as I’ve only really stayed here on my way to somewhere else: I stayed in Tuscaloosa on the way to Knoxville on a rainy night in 2016 and in Anniston on the way to Savannah in 2018. But the best times are on the road. I stopped to hang out with a gang of Harley riders on the way to Mississippi last year and at the Museum of Natural History in Anniston – one of the most peaceful places I’ve visited.
I’ve only stayed in North Carolina for one night, to play in Swannanoa after coming off the Tail of the Dragon motorcycle route from Tennessee. I wish I knew more of the people, but the scenery is breathtaking. The Nantahala National forest is stunning – full of leafy trails, waterfalls and that thing that is the most sought after for a biker: roads with curves.
At Cajun Pride in Louisiana
I rode into New Orleans on a Scout in 2016, but the thing I remember most about Louisiana is visiting a swamp just off the I-10 on the way. I love the swamp. Alligators everywhere, along with sneaky racoons who were plotting to eat the poor little alligator eggs! The swamp has to be one of the most spellbinding environments on earth.
With Unmanned at the Empty Glass
I only really know Charleston, but it has the coolest, quirkiest music scene and the friendliest people. The Empty Glass is one of my favourite venues in the world – I love that place!
Florida is so much more than Disney World and serial killers. There are swamps filled with one of my favourite kinds of animals – alligators! I took a Harley along Alligator Alley from Miami to the Big Cypress Reservation near Clewiston and stayed in a chickee at Billie Swamp. No electricity, nothing but a bed to sleep in, the swamp noises at night and the little alligators swimming around! And then there is Miami: surely one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I love it because all you need is a bikini for the day and a pretty dress for the evening; you can stick to beaches and rooftop bars (I like Area 31 in Downtown), but there is also the opportunity to step into a completely different world and explore places like Little Haiti. There are quirky little venues to play in (I like Tea and Poets in South Miami) and flashy clubs in South Beach. The canals and rivers running through the city are stunning – and full of alligators.
Jamming with Mike and Hobi of Community Entertainment in Miami