Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015 - years end.

2015 is almost over, so it's time to reflect on this year's achievements. I've done approximately 125 gigs so far (it will be 126 by the time the year ends, and 127 if you count getting roped into playing at my Mom & Dad's party as soon as I arrive!) left a band, put another band on the path to a mega agency deal, sat in on a career day as a 'proper' musician, got elected to the MU regional committee, played some great new venues and put on another highly successful Codfest.

Outside of music, Kayla and I have bought our first home and are expecting our first child!

However, I still haven't finished recording this *highly* anticipated new album. This year has been busy on and off stage, and I don't want it to be a rushed job as it's been hanging over me for so long now. It's no excuse now, and I've promised myself (and everyone who has asked) that it will be done in 2016. I've even comandeered a room in our new house for a studio!

A major highlight for me this year was getting the chance to support Bleeding Hearts in Kidderminster. They are fast becoming one of my favourite bands, and it was a pleasure to share a stage with them.

I just want to finish this post by paying tribute to Rich McMahon, a greatly talented local musician who died suddenly this year. I was blessed to play with Rich at The Grain Store and spend some time with him and Maggie that night. His music and personality were both inspiring in equal measure and he is hugely missed. His song 'Inbetweenland' is on the playlist that I play in between acts as the gigs I host, and is seriously worth a listen if you haven't heard it already.

Here's to 2015. 2016 has a lot to live up to!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The music business geek.

You may not know this about me, but I'm something of a music business geek. I don't mean that I know all about the inner working of major labels, or who big name producers are, but that I do a lot of reading and watching around the subjects of independent music. That is, I watch videos, read blogs and listen to podcasts on independent music marketing, mixing and mastering in home studios and other musician's release strategies. There are some superb resources out there if you are into that sort of thing.

The main problem I'm having lately however, is that it seems that every independent 'success story' is coming from someone who was either dropped by a major label or left a major label for whatever reason. They talk about how hard it's been, how brave they are, what a risk it was to try and release a record on their own. And in a sense they are right. It is harder than having a massive label doing it for you. But you have already had a major label push once. Everyone has heard of you. Your marketing plan consists of sending a message about your new album to the mailing list you gathered while a major backed you, with thousands and thousands of names on it.

I get that these guys are going at things in a more difficult, risky way to what they are used to, but it irks me that these are the 'independent success stories' that are peddled to us, when actually these guys have had a lot of help from the old guard, even if their former contracts have expired.

It's great that independents can be seen to be flourishing, and its also great that someone who doesn't quite make it under a major label can carve out a career for themselves, but they can't really be held up as a champion for those of us who don't have, or don't want, major label backing.

Some of these resources are great. If nothing else, music marketing blogs make you think about making ' to do' lists and planning releases properly for maximum exposure and impact, but when the advice it just 'email the thousands of fans on your mailing list', you're not really helping me at all.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Moaning about moaning

I love musicians. I am one, I work with them on an almost daily basis and almost all of my friends are them. And it's definitely a tough 'gig' (excuse the pun). Piracy, streaming royalties, venue closures, cutbacks, 'the economy' and live music fan apathy has all made our job harder over the past few years. But if there is one thing that I hate about the whole thing, it's musicians who moan about it.

Regardless of how much harder it's got (was it ever easy?) there still seems to be a general consensus that this is the best job in the world. It's something I agree with, and something I tell people often when they ask about me and my chosen career path. Every time I read or hear from another disillusioned muso grumbling about how hard it all is their argument always starts with 'we love doing this BUT...'

Just take a pause from typing or talking there and think about what you are going to say next. Yes, the music industry in its 'semi old-fashioned semi new-age' model is very difficult to 'crack' in the traditional sense. No, you probably aren't going to become an overnight sensation, because not only does nothing happen overnight in music but also the sensation ship has kinda sailed. But yes, moaning about it, regardless of how right you think you are, will always make you come across self righteous.

So you will never hear me complain. I'll campaign for fairer royalty payments and performance rates and protest about the way the arts is treated and funded, but I'll never complain about having the best job in the world.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

If only you could see me now

I've recently remembered a couple of stories I thought I might like to share with you. I'm not usually one for the whole 'overcoming adversity' thing but for some reason these popped into my head so I thought I would put them up here.

The first is something my parents were told when I was born. Apparently (according to my mom) when they asked if I was going to be ok, a doctor replied with the classic line 'well he's never going to be a concert pianist.' She first told me this story one day when she heard me playing the piano in our house. While I am by no means a 'concert pianist', I can play a little, but I also doubt the doctor in question would ever have pictured me playing any of the instruments I can play now. I can't say that this has given me an edge when wanting to learn any of these instruments, but I do look back on how I picture that story going with a wry smile.

The second story is about my middle school music teacher, Miss Williams. To add some background to this story, Miss Williams was the third music teacher I had had in as many years. The first, Mrs Ormston, was a lovely lady who had a lot of time for me. She left to teach in another school. Then came Mr Wylde, another nice guy who appreciated my love for music. He (similar to myself) fell victim of the workload of teaching and left to pursue a career in performing. I still see him from time to time at weddings we are both performing at. Then came Miss Williams. On her first day she went around the class and asked everyone what musical instrument they might like to learn. When she got to me, I said I wanted to learn upright bass. I didn't really even know what one was, but my grandad had played one in a jazz band and I thought it would be nice to learn the same instrument as him. Her response;

'I don't think you will be able to do that. How about you try keyboard.'

I knew straight away she had taken one look at me and dismissed me. Not only that, but she had tried to fob me off on an instrument I had zero interest in. Why? Maybe in part because it was her instrument and thus easier for her to teach, but I'd guess that it had more to do with her perception that I would find playing an instrument like that impossible.

If only she could see me now, eh?

Monday, 25 May 2015

RIP Ziggy

Today is something of a momentous day. My little Fiat Punto, affectionately known as Ziggy, has finally given up it's ghost. He has taken me to gigs up and down the country and been thoroughly abused in terms of the amount of equipment he has been forced to carry. He was known as 'The Punto-van' to The Replicas for this reason. He will be missed.

But onward and upward we must travel, and I'm pleased to say that I have bought a replacement. It's a bigger car that can fit much more equipment in (and possibly be even more abused in the process) and maybe even house me overnight on a longer journey. Tour anyone?

In other news, I'm hoping to begin recording the guitar parts for the new album this week (now that the drums and the bass parts are down). A massive chunk of the album is recorded already and if I can get the guitars down this week that will be another massive tick off the list. Wish me luck!

Monday, 16 March 2015

A GoPro for Christmas (and the re-emergence of my YouTube account).

So I got a GoPro camera for Christmas. For those who aren't aware, the GoPro is a great little camera often used in extreme sports videos (and on the end of selfie sticks!).

Since then I've been recording a lot of my gigs both solo and with the bands. I thought I'd collate a few of them here for you to see.


The first two are covers from fixed cameras to the side of the stage.


The next two are with the camera fastened to the end of my guitar/bass. I like this angle and it's easy to operate the camera in between songs!

What do you guys think? Let me know in the usual places :)


Sunday, 18 January 2015

New gigs!

January is always a month of change for me. Quite often it's the month where, if a recurring gig is going to get cancelled, it will get cancelled. This January was not without its victims as the open mic night at The Rainbow and the winter nights at The Fox & Anchor both bit the dust. It's sad, but I do understand that January is often a lean month for pubs and they have to make hard decisions. At the moment it does look like I will still be back at The Fox & Anchor in the summer. I'll keep you informed about that.

The good news is that two new venues have come in to replace the two on the way out. The first is The Grain Store in Wolverhampton.

The usual host there is a guy named Andy Turner, who I worked with a few times last year (see my last blog post where I ran through the gigs I did in 2014). I guest hosted there over Christmas while he was away and he has asked me to help him out once a month. I won't always be playing, but I will be hosting what looks like the third(ish) Tuesday of every month there. I'm hosting next week's gig, if anyone fancies coming down and saying hi.

The second gig that I've started running came a bit more out of the blue. After getting a request for a covers band come in to The Replicas email account we booked a gig at The Plough in Trysull (it's on Friday the 6th of February and is free entry, if you're around). While another member of the band was on the phone to the landlord of the pub he happened to mention that they were looking to start an open mic night and perhaps run a music festival in May. Dan (from The Replicas) sent me a message telling me to get in touch so I arranged a meeting last week and went over to speak to them.

The result was a fortnightly new open mic night on a Thursday night from the 12th of February. I'm looking forward to playing in a new venue. We are also discussing the idea of putting the festival on during the May bank holiday weekend. The owners there seem really up for it, so it should be a lot of fun!

Outside of gig bookings I have been working on guide tracks for the new album ready for the drum and percussion parts to be recorded. I'm starting to get excited about these songs coming together now!

Friday, 9 January 2015

2014 in review

January often means it's time to reflect and set new goals for yourself (like finish that bloody album!).

With that in mind, here is a look back at what I got up to in 2014...

Number of gigs - 6

January is often something of a lean month when it comes to gigging. After a hectic December, that can also often be welcomed. 2014's edition did see me play at The Grain Store in Wolverhampton for the first time, a cool new little venue being promoted by an old school friend, Andy Turner. I would go on to host one of my highlights of 2014 there with him later in the year, but you'll have to wait for that!

Number of gigs - 6

February saw the first gig of the year for The Replicas and also my first ever show at The Prince Albert in Wolverhampton. It was really good fun actually, swapping between bands outside and acoustic acts inside in a 'Jools Holland' style. It was being hosted by Born Music, a sort of extension of the band Shatter Effect, who are good friends and good people. I'm not sure if there is anything going on there now, but I'd be interested in playing again if there is.

Number of gigs - 13

Monday is my birthday month and it just so happened that my 26th outing landed on open mic night at The Rainbow in Coven. Much fun was had by all! I also organised the music for my next door neighbours **th birthday party (I won't write how old she is, I'm a gentleman) in the form of a festival in her garden. This involved a couple of performances on my part, including a rendition of Macklemore's 'Thrift Shop' that I'm only partly ashamed of. I think there is a video around somewhere...

Number of gigs - 12

April was a great month. I co-promoted and played on a show at The Grain Store headlined by Oxygen Theif. It all started when my friend Hannah tweeted him asking him to check out my music after he appealed on Twitter for a support act for his Leicester show (is this starting to sound like a Grandpa Simpson story?). Instead of playing with him in Leicester, I ended up putting on a gig for him to play in Wolverhampton! It was great fun and really great experience for me as it was my first time booking and promoting a show for a signed artist.

A few days later I also played 3 shows in one day, starting out with some busking at Molinuex Stadium followed by a stop at The Golden Lion before finishing at Hail to the Ale. It was exhausting but really good fun!

Number of gigs - 10

In amongst the gigs this month I formed a new band. Asked to help out a band called The Times Flies after their singer/guitarist left, I eventually ended up starting my own 3 piece covers band with two of their former members (they folded, I didn't steal anyone). That band is now The Jukebox Dimes. You can find us on Facebook here.

Number of gigs - 14

June was great! I played two festivals, including a new one for me in Evesham (Worcester) called Dubs in the Middle. Also, The Replicas returned to The River Rooms and I returned to a place where it sort of all started for me, The Shrewsbury Arms in Albrighton. Almost 10 years ago I practiced there in the first band I ever gigged in, Too Shrewd. In honour of that, and of the memory of our late guitarist (and still to this day one of the best I've ever played with) Mr Tony White, I played a somewhat emotional version of Pink Floyd's 'Wish You Were Here' as he was a huge fan of the band. It was a really special moment for me and one I'll remember for a long time to come.

Also in June I took a young lad named Jack Curley on work experience with me for a week. It was a bit strange for both of us but really quite cool. I taught him the ropes of performing, recording, live sound and promoting in the week he was with me.

Number of gigs - 6

July was a bit lean, but I was on holiday for a fair chunk of it. Not one to miss a trick, I played a gig in a restaurant while I was in Turkey. It seems to be a regular thing when we go on holiday there now, but I don't really mind. It's a new audience I guess!

I also made my first appearance at Brewood Music Festival. It was a truly brilliant day and another highlight of the year.

Number of gigs - 12

August was festival month. I love festivals, and if you count a pub car park all dayer as a festival I played 4 consecutive weekends of them in August. The newbie to the list was Llangollen's 'Famous Faery Fest', a great little festival filled with music, stories and crafty stuff (which certainly kept Mrs Draisey happy!)

Number of gigs - 12

When it comes to gigs, September is all about Codfest. This year's was no exception. The line up (if I do say so myself) was awesome across both stages and I had a blast. I mean I worked constantly from about 8 in the morning until gone midnight, but it was amazing! Every year I wonder how we are going to better it, and every year somehow it gets better!

Also in September I got asked last minute to play at Shrewsbury Fields Forever, a great festival I'd love to go back to this year if the offer is there (hint hint). It was another booking through Andy Turner, who seems to have featured quite heavily on this year's highlight reel.

I know I've written the obligatory two paragraphs about September already, but I couldn't finish the month without writing about probably the coolest venue I played at last year. When I put the postcode in and me and Mrs D. headed out to Birmingham to the The Songwriters Cafe we weren't sure what to expect. I'll admit that we were a little apprehensive when the postcode took us to someone's house, but all those doubts were gone as soon as we were guided around the back by the wonderful Paul Murphy. The venue is in his back garden and no photograph of the tree house/adventure playground style structure could ever do it justice. It's simply amazing. The gig was streamed around the world and they were getting comments online from as far away as Canada and Angola! Even more amazing was that also on the bill was a guy named Dan Hartland, whom I supported on my first ever live solo gig at The Varsity way back when. I think The Songwriter's Cafe might just squeeze in as my favourite gig of 2014. Just.

Number of gigs - 4

Wow, October was quiet. I guess I must have subconciously needed a rest after the antics of August and September.

Number of gigs - 11

November started with me playing a wedding, which is always an honour. It's even more of an honour when I get to play someone's first dance. Whenever I'm asked to do a first dance I always video myself playing it and send it to the couple getting married for their approval. That way if it's not what they are looking for they can decide to have the original played instead and I don't end up ruining anyone's big moment! This time I played a version of 'I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)' that was adapted from a version by an american band called Sleeping at Last. I think my version in the end sort of linked that one and The Proclaimers' original, but they seemed to like it none the less.

November also saw the debut of The Jukebox Dimes. The first gig was beset with technical problems, but we managed to pull it around and put on a good show. I also played at the EP launch of one of my good friends Brains For Breakfast. The EP is great, so get your copy from him now!

Number of gigs - 8

Compared to the year before December was almost tame, though I did manage to squeeze in a 3 day run of gigs the weekend before Christmas (in 3 different acts!) and put together another Charity Christmas album. I also booked a Christmas party gig at The Crown in Codsall, which was another stepping stone for me in my quest to become a 'proper' promoter.

Total number of gigs in 2014 - 114

All in all that's not a bad year of gigging. It's over 2 a week.

I'm not going to single out any one gig as the best. After all, I didn't mention all 114 gigs above, so these are basically highlights. There are some obvious ones that stick in my mind as I write this, but I'm sure you can figure those out for yourself :)

What was your favourite gig of 2014? Where would you like to see me play in 2015? Answers in all the usual places.