Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The Big Interview

Today was something of a first for me. I drove down to Rugeley earlier to visit a primary school where two classes of year four students (8 year olds) were waiting to interview me for a newspaper article they are writing.

I set up to play a song for them before the interview started, and this was where my first surprise happened. When I asked the teacher what she would like me to play, she put the question to the pupils. One lad then piped up and asked for 'The Small Hours'. Turns out they had been watching videos of me on YouTube! It's always nice to get a request for one of my own songs. It doesn't happen very often!

After that the questions started. The kids were really great actually, asking all sorts of things about me, my music, my inspirations, my career and my life outside of music. I played another song halfway through ('Where We Came From') and at this point another teacher was invited into the class who had seen me play at Village Coffee! I'll be back there again on Saturday from 2pm, if anyone fancies it :)

A few more questions later and I finished off with a cover of 'In My Life' by The Beatles. It was great fun and hopefully I'll be back there again in the not too distant future.

The pupils asked me loads of questions and I'm pretty sure I answered all of them. Some invoked quite deep answers, such as 'Do you think you would be able to play guitar better if you had two hands?' and 'What inspires you to write songs?'. I also had questions on what pets I have and what my favourite colour is! It was quite nice that no-one mentioned either the X Factor or One Direction until the very end of the interview too!

All in all I had a great time, and I look forward to hearing about how the newspaper articles come out :)

Thursday, 2 January 2014

2013 in review

New year is a great time to look back over the last 12 months and reminisce about what was good, what was bad and what was possibly missed all together! I'll split it up by month both to make sure it stays on track and to make it a bit easier to read (and write!)

Posing with Phil Lynott!

Exactly one year ago today I was jetting out to Dublin for a Christmas present holiday with Kayla. It was amazing! they have a completely different attitude towards live music over there. In what could and should have been one of the quietest weeks of any year, there was live music on in every pub and bar every night, and sometimes all day too. I'll never forget walking through Temple Bar at 10pm on the Saturday night and seeing buskers lining the streets playing to audiences of up to 50 people. If I did that in Wolverhampton... Well, let's just say I wouldn't expect the same reception.

After the trip January was quiet, though I did play at Tattoo Freeze in Telford later in the month, which is always good fun. It's always a bit of a surreal experience trying to drown out the sound of roller derby with American Pie!


The Replicas live at The River Rooms
February saw my return to The Robin 2 and The Replicas return to The River Rooms. It's actually the last
time the band played a public gig outside of Codfest, which is something that I'm hoping to address this year (we have what might be classed as an AGM coming up next week!). I remember thinking that, having been so busy in 2012 (I posted something on Facebook about the amount of gigs I had played in the year and how I had only had around 2/3 weeks without a gig throughout the year) I seemed to be lagging a little at the beginning of the year. There were a number of contributing factors to this in my opinion, ranging from less gigs to play due to 'the economic climate', to the fact that I was working more during the day in schools and planning a wedding (February ushered in the 6 month countdown!)


Celebrating my birthday
March was equally quiet. I celebrated becoming technically closer to 30 than 20, but on the gigs front it seemed things were starting to dry up for me. I hadn't played any gigs for other promoters for a long time, and it seemed that all I had left were my own open mic nights and coffee shop visits and the odd private booking.

The Pied Piper

However, as spring came around the corner it seemed to pick up a bit. I had a new open mic in Cannock to
host, the first of which went pretty well, The Replicas were back out for a wedding gig and I travelled to Worcester to support my good friend Brains for Breakfast on his UK tour to promote his EP. It was one of those gigs where I sit down after it and realise that I need to go and play more, for new people, in new places, just because of how much enjoyment I get out of it.


The Black Friar
In May I did just that! I played my first ever wedding fayre, which was interesting, if not particularly fruitful. I also finally got to play at The Madhouse in Burton Upon Trent after a verbal agreement with a promoter the previous year (when I supported Amy Wadge and Pete Riley at The Robin 2) and it was one of the musical highlights of my year. The place is perfect for the folky sort of gig that it was, and the audience were really into what I was doing. I never been called for an encore as a support act before!

I also played my first gig in a new recurring venue, The Marches in Ludlow. Again, it's a really nice place and just suits the style of music that I play. I've gone on to play there a number of times and have dates booked in for 2014 already (you can find them on my website - If you aren't there already!). The Replicas were out for a party in Coventry (on possibly the smallest stage ever) and I also played at The Jazz and Blues festival at The Black Friar in Newcastle Under Lyme.

The Cavern - before the drinking

June was a little quieter, though I did manage a return to Compton in the park, which is always a good thing
to do as it's both a cool outdoor venue and for a great cause. I also had my stag weekend in Liverpool, which involved a great Friday which culminated in me getting far too drunk in The Cavern Club and missing the rest of the weekend! My best man called it a successful stag. I guess I'd have to agree. It did make me want to play at The Cavern though (potentially both solo and with The Replicas), so there is something to aim at.


Choosing just one photo
was hard!
Considering July was the month that Kayla and I got married and went on honeymoon, it was also pretty busy musically. The Replicas played a wedding a mere stones thrown from my old college in Digbeth and I played a couple of great outdoor gigs, including a sweltering Grassroots festival in Appleby Magna and Birchover Carnival, which was a brilliant little festival based on a campsite (though Kayla and I did wait for nearly an hour to get a pizza!)

I also played my first ever in store gig at Vinyl and Vintage in Wolverhampton. It's a great little place it you like vinyl (and vintage clothes I guess, though as it's not really my thing I couldn't comment on how 'good' it is for that).

Finally the day arrived, and what a day it was! Less than 24 hours earlier we had storms and thunder and lightning, but the day of our wedding was a scorcher! People actually went home in the evening to get changed into shorts and t-shirts! I couldn't possibly have imagined it going any better, not even in my wildest dreams. I know it's a cliche, but it was definitely the best day of my life.

From a musical point of view, there were some cool elements too! The Replicas (accompanied by Simon Hough depping on bass) surprised me with renditions of 'The Perfect Sacrifice' and 'Where We Came From', which was a nice touch by them. Then I got up and played 'Don't Forget' with the band as a surprise for Kayla, and frankly I enjoyed the full band version so much I might try and get a sneaky recording done of it if I can!


WMF @ The Horn & Trumpet
I had a gig the night of my return from honeymoon - no rest for the wicked! I also had what is possibly my longest drive for a gig to date, hitting the road for a nearly 8 hour round trip to Skegness! It was good fun (and good experience) for me to travel like that, and as I quite like driving and road trips, it was enjoyable. It was nice to walk out onto the beach an hour before going on stage too!

I did my first 'booked busk' outside Molineux stadium the day after too, which was really good fun. I had to shoot off straight after I had finished though, as it just so happened that it was the same day as the Codfest tickets went on sale. They sold out in a few hours, and thus commenced a few weeks of heartbreak, upset and arguments on Facebook. Though it all worked out in the end.

I then had the next contender for longest drive to a gig when I played all day at a wedding in Hull. I left the house at 9am and returned in The Small Hours (see what I did there!) of the next morning. It was great though, I was really looked after by the wedding party. I played before and after the ceremony, then put background music on while they ate, played again as the evening guests arrived, played the first dance (Ben Howard - Only Love) then DJ'd all night for the reception. It felt great to be working so much!

That weekend I returned once again to Bakewell Music Festival. I have to admit that I was a little worried about my act being stale there - I'd played each of the last four years and my set, at least the originals part of it, hadn't changed too much. These doubts were proven to be unfounded though, as I had a great reception once again and sold a load of CDs and merchandise!

Also in August, I had my first ever double up with The Replicas, playing myself during the day and then with the band in the evening at a wedding in Ludlow, which was great fun for me, and I also had my first gig at what has become another recurring venue for me, The Old Stag's Head in Penn. Finally, I returned to Worcester Music Festival to play once more at The Horn & Trumpet for Sun & Stars Management. It was another really great gig and fantastic reception. It still amazes me that WMF gets such a great response in every venue, considering that it spans the whole place!


The Replicas @ Codfest
September means only one thing for my musical year - Codfest! Every year after Codfest we sit back, relax and say 'how can it possibly get any better than this?' Then every year (so far) we have somehow managed it. This year's Codfest was, once again, amazing from start to finish. It also kicked off a run of 4 gigs in 4 weekends for The Replicas, which in itself was a great experience for me. You always worry about people in bands that spend too much time together and whether the fun will 'dry up', but it never seemed to happen over those 4 weeks. We just had great fun and put on some really good shows.

In other news, I started a new open mic night at Sunny Bank Caravan Park in Lapley.


Busking @ Molineux
October saw something of a wind down in terms of gigs. Due to an error on my part, the new open mic nights at Sunny Bank were cancelled and, other than trips to The Marches and Molineux for some busking, October was very quiet.


New website poster!
November was busier. The Replicas played two gigs in consecutive weekends and on the third weekend I travelled to Kenilworth for a private party, only to discover that my capo was missing from my guitar case (I won't go into details, but lest just say I won't be letting anyone pack away my guitar case for me after a gig again). After failed elastic band and pen botch jobs, I finally decided to just roll with it and see what I could do. I played all the capo-less songs I know, I played a few others a bit lower than they would normally have been played and I did a little bit of transposing on the fly! It worked out fine and the audience (luckily a particularly drunk audience) were more than happy.

I also launched my new website in November after a few months of planning, designing and editing. I'm pretty pleased with it.


My view of the stadium during the game. Look at all
those people!
The lead up to Christmas meant something of a busier schedule for me, with a last minute 'Winter
Wonderland' wedding my first stop in Stafford. It went really well, and with the venue making promises to recommend me in the future, I'm hopeful that more will come up there.

After a long absence, I returned to The Crown once again for open mic night. It's started really well, and has been booked to take place on the first Thursday of every month starting in February. I also made a return to the Birmingham music scene at TALK bar, where I once again met up with Brains For Breakfast and watched his set. We have to stop meeting like that!

One of my favourite gigs this month, and this year really, was my neighbour Ed's birthday party. I got to play a load of songs that I wouldn't be able to play anywhere else, some that I've not played for years and some that I've never played before! I also played on the pitch at halftime for a sell-out crowd at Molineux. According to official statistics, I played 'Where We Came From' to 28,598 people! Nothing like ending the year in style!

So that's it, my year in just over 2000 words. It's been that biggest and best year of my life to date, one where I've got married, seen and done new and exciting things, played at new places for new people. I've travelled further, played for longer and performed to more people than ever before.

2014, you've got a lot to live up to.