Tuesday, 28 February 2012

End of an era?

This past week I have potentially waved goodbye to my most long-standing of open mic institutions, the monthly open mic at The Woodman in Bilbrook. Due to lack of funds in the entertainment kitty, I performed what looks like being my last gig there last week without being paid.
I have nothing but happy memories of the place, the people and the nights we put on, including some memorable impromptu performances and collaborations at Christmas special open mics that I will never forget. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who ever came and played, watched, sang along of just turned up and made the nights what they were.
Thank you everyone. It was a wonderful journey :)

Thursday, 16 February 2012

I never wanted to be a teacher!

I'm aware that just lately my blog posts have become more like lectures than updates, and that's not what I started this for. I realise that I may well have been alienating people who want to know what I'm up to and where I am with certain projects (basically, what a musicians blog should be!) so for now I'm going to stop the lecturing for a while and keep on with the updates.

That said, any musicians who would like some advice from me only need ask :) I'm more than willing to help out where I can.

Anyway, on to the update. Today I finished recording the bass parts for the songs for my upcoming 'back-catalogue' album. I'm not releasing the track listing yet, I'll probably do that when the recording is all sorted and a release date is set. What I will tell you is that today I recorded bass parts for two popular songs from 'The Rumour Mill' and one from 'Bard Song', the latter taking a grand total of 20 takes! (I was starting to feel like I was nitpicking a little, but I nailed it just before I gave up all hope!). From here I have a decision to make.

Pretty much everything else I am going to put into the songs needs to be mic'ed, and for this I would like to record in a room different to my bedroom! It just doesn't sound great in there, and it's not isolated enough so not only do I worry about doors slamming downstairs ruining a good take, but also I feel like I can't really let rip with the vocals with other people in the house.

When I recorded 'The List' this wasn't an issue. I was recording onto a laptop, so taking the recording to a different location, which turned out to be either my conservatory in the dead of night or my next door neighbour's music room in his garden was easy. Now I'm working on a desktop PC, so moving it around is a bit of a headache. I think maybe I will need to camp in Ed's music room again (if he lets me!) or find somewhere to set up shop away from outside interferences.

These problems aside, the more I play and record parts for this album, the more excited I get about it. I'm still not totally sold that it's going to be a huge success, but it's a project I'm committed to and I'm starting to come around to the idea of it. What I like about it is that the songs that I have chosen have all, at some point, been big songs in my live sets, but recordings of them have never really done them justice. Since then I have improved as a musician, performer and engineer, so I'm hoping to give better representations of them this time around. I'm really looking forward to seeing how they come out.

Recording aside, I'm back on the gigging trail again, finding out new open mic nights, getting back in touch with promoters and finding new open mic nights for me to run, the latter starting tonight with a new night at The Stirrups in Brewood. Come down if you have the night off, it should be good fun. I'd also love to hear from anyone who has any suggestions about places I should play or people I should get in touch with about playing :)

So that's it for updates. Next time I'll hopefully be further along the album road, have had some gigs to tell you about and maybe even have some new merchandise and competitions to get you in on! Keep you posted :)


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Guitar Chords - Thunder Road (Cover of Bruce Springsteen)

I recently had a video of me performing Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Thunder Road’ reviewed in PC World magazine, of all places! It was picked up by an American guy on YouTube who write reviews for them for videos of songs that apparently put the message of the song across better than the original! A bold statement, but you can read his reasoning for yourself here –

After that the video got a spurt in publicity, and a lot of people have been asking me to write the tab on how to play it. So here it is, written in my blog. Hope you enjoy learning to play it.
The original is in the key of F, but I play it in E. I play it like this to get the inversions of the chords that I want. The top E and B strings are left open throughout the whole piece (pretty much).

Intro – E Asus2 E
E Emaj7 (The Emaj7 is a G#m shape on the 4th fret with the top E and B open) Asus2 (played in the same position as an A barre chord (5th fret) but with the top E and B open) B add11 (again, this chord is the B barre shape (7th fret) with the top B and E left open)

For the rest of the chords I will follow the lyrics.

During the verse I play the Asus2 and the Badd11 at the bottom of the guitar neck. I only play the barre versions in the run ups in the intro and chorus.

               E                           Asus2                            E
Well, the screen door slams,                       as Mary's dress waves
                                      Badd11                       Asus2
Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
        E              Asus2
Hey that's me and I want you only

Don't send me home again
  E  Badd11
I just can't face myself alone again

         E               Asus2  E (start strumming here)
Don't run back inside, darling you know what I'm here for
 Badd11             Asus2
So you're scared and you're thinking that maybe we ain't that young anymore
Well show a little faith, there's magic in the night
         E   Asus2
You ain't a beauty, but hey you're alright
            E   Badd11
Oh and that's alright with me

E                        C#m7 (play as a C#m barre (9th fret)with B and E strings open again)
You can hide 'neath your covers and study your pain
          E                    Asus2 E
Make crosses from your lovers, throw roses in the rain
  Emaj7 Asus2             Badd11
Waste your summer praying in vain for a saviour to rise from these streets
        E         C#m7
Well I'm no hero, no that's understood
        E              Asus2 E
Only redemption I can offer, girl, is beneath this dirty hood
With a chance to make it good somehow
        Asus2           Badd11
Hey what else can we do now
            E Asus2       E
Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair
Badd11       Asus2
This night's bustin' open, these two lanes can take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
E         Asus2
To trade in these wings on some wheels
      E             Badd11
So climb in back, heaven's waiting down on the tracks

E             C#m7
Oh oh come take my hand
E                 Asus2 E
Riding out tonight to case the promised land
Emaj7     Asus2         Badd11
Oh oh oh oh Thunder Road, oh Thunder Road, oh Thunder Road
E                 C#m7
Lying out there like a killer in the sun
E                    Asus2 E
Hey I know it's late, we can make it if we run
Emaj7       Asus2      Badd11        E 
Oh oh oh oh Thunder Road, sit back, take hold, Thunder Road

           Asus2         Badd11             E
Well I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk
             C#m7                   Asus2 Badd11
And my car's out back if you're ready to take that long walk
        Asus2             Badd11
From your front porch to my front seat
 Emaj7                   C#m7 (play 4th fret of the A string for convenience)
The car's open but the ride it ain't free
And I know you're worried 'bout words I ain't spoken
but tonight we'll be free, all the promises' be broken
          E                  Asus2  E
There were ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away
Badd11        Asus2
They haunt this dusty beach road in the skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets
They call your name at night in the street
E               Asus2
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
        Emaj7 (slow down now)
And in the lonely cool before dawn
You can hear their engines roaring on
              F#m11          Badd11       Asus2             F#m11
But when you get to the porch they're gone on the wind, so Mary climb in
        Asus2 Badd11           E
It's a town full of losers, I'm pulling out of here to win

Finish with the same chords as the intro again.

Friday, 3 February 2012

The Open Mic Story - Part Two

So, to continue from where I left off...

Around the time when the guys from Manchester came down to open mic was about the busiest I had been. But it wouldn't last. Soon pubs started closing and changing hands in 'the great public house depression' that has been going on in the last few years, seeing pubs close all over the UK every week. The Crown changed hands, and though we tried to keep the night going under new owners, they weren't keen. The New Inns experiment turned out to be a failure, and The Bird in Hand also cancelled the open mic nights due to poor attendance. It seems that the reputations of the places I was putting nights on in was finally catching up with me.

So for a while we only had The Woodman, which had changed over the summer to running twice a month, and was getting a decent reputation. With this came new performers and friends, and they in turn opened new opportunities. I started running a new open mic just before Christmas at The Harrows in Coven, and although popular, it also fell foul of the depression. I moved to The Rainbow, but we didn't have much luck there either.

It was then that I was introduced into The Hartley Arms, a canalside pub in Wheaton Aston, which now runs a fortnightly open mic with me on a Monday night. This night stops and starts in terms of attendance, but has build a small loyal community following of a couple of young artists and fans, which is integral to any open mic night. As my own pool of musician friends improve and move on to bigger and better things, they tend to frequent my open mic nights less, as their 'touring' circle becomes larger and larger.

My own solo gigs had started to improve too, and I was now getting preferential treatment at the famous Robin 2 in Bilston. I became known as their 'go-to support', as I live 20 minutes away, take 2 minutes to sound check and am happy with being called in the afternoon for a gig that evening. I started off with warm up slots for large tribute acts which, although was in front of audiences of over 400 people, it wasn't the kind of crowd that were into my music. However, in a great case of mutual back-scratching, I was also let in on support slots I could choose, so I could pick artists (and projected audiences) that would fit in with my style. This led to me supporting Ian Parker, Edgar Broughton, The Sounds of Simon and Edwina Hayes, gigs where I could really showcase my music to an audience that were 'into it'.

In my search for a 'day job' I sent a CV to The Robin 2 detailing my accomplishments, including a list of my open mic night ventures. Off the back of this I was offered the opportunity to host a monthly open mic at the venue, which I jumped at. I also get to run the sound and geek myself silly on the amount of control I have.

So that's where we are. I now run nights at The Woodman and The Robin 2 once a month and The Hartley Arms fortnightly. I also have a brand new open mic lined up at The Stirrups in Brewood for this month.

As promised, I'd like to end this blog by naming some of the people (and linking them) who have helped me along with their performances at my open mic nights. Some have since moved on to bigger and better things, musical and otherwise, but we still see them all from time to time. Here we go;

Pink Ukulele Guy - https://www.facebook.com/Pinkukuleleguy - I met Jamie before his alter-ego was even fuelled at the open mic night at Alchemy in Wolverhampton. A truly unique artist, Jamie is an excellent songwriter and the single greatest example of independent branding I have ever seen! People all over the Midlands know him due to his relentless open mic visiting and memorable stage show. Many also have a t-shirt!

Lottie Phazey - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lottie-Phazey/110538252339985 - Lottie first appeared as a 14 year old at The Bird in Hand open mic night when I started going, playing covers of Kate Nash and The Script. She has since progressed as a guitarist, singer and lyricist and has in her set now some frankly outstanding songs. I'd never say an artist needs to 'get discovered', but if anyone needs to get herself an EP/album recorded it's Lottie. I'd buy it!

Matt Dooner - http://matt486gigs.blogspot.com/ - Matt is one third of 'The Travelling Fools', a touring set of artists including myself that we are trying to put together this year. I met him, along with the third artist, at a memorable gig at The Varsity in Wolverhampton. He has since become a close friend. I recorded his EP for him recently, so you will have to keep your eyes out for that sometime this year. Matt is an excellent lyricist who writes some of the most relatable songs I have ever heard!

Elliot Burton - https://www.facebook.com/pages/ElliottJBurton/242492439128915 - Elliot is the third part of 'The Travelling Fools'. A close friend and fantastic performer, Elliot is known for his extreme performances of great classics, as well as his eclectic covers and songwriting that ranges from tongue in cheek to Dylan-esque. Look out for Psych Killer, Nessun Dorma and Jerusalem, as well his own songs 'Cannock Girls' and the magnum opus, 'Sound of a Chord'

Lydia Jones - Winner of Beacon Radio's Young Musician award last year, Lydia is well known throughout the Midlands due to her high profile performances and constant open mic gigging. She has a CD of covers that she recorded with me, and is getting better and better with every performance. If you attend an open mic anywhere enough, you will see her eventually!

So that's it. I'll write again at the weekend. If you are in the area, come down to Village Coffee in Codsall on Saturday to see me playing some chilled out acoustic classics.

See you soon,