March 25th, 2020
I'd completely forgotten about the blog feature on my website, so this is the first one for one heck of a long time.
To be honest, I've never felt I've got much to say that would interest anyone, but here goes. Might as well have a try!
As I've been coughing my lungs up for the last few days, and have put myself in isolation in our study, I thought I'd have a little ramble-post.
I'm already desperately missing the prospect of upcoming live gigs. I've had quite a few horrible experiences in my life these last three years, and some still cause a great deal of mental anguish, worry, and real negative feelings. Over the last year, I've battled mental demons that I never would've dreamed I'd ever encounter.
I think I'm a typical bloke, who finds it almost impossible to reach out and look for help or support, and always feel that I shouldn't be burdening others with my problems.
Whilst trying to maintain a sunny, upbeat persona in public, behind closed doors it's a very different scenario. I find that getting out and about forces me to think and act more positively, so being on 'lockdown', essentially living in my own head 24/7 really isn't the ideal scenario. I know I get down, and that makes me hard to live with.
We're pretty much in complete lockdown due to Coronavirus, which allows even more thinking time. Not necessarily a good thing, especially on your own.
I've got an office set up at home, so I'm really fortunate in that I can keep working at my day job, occupying my mind, and bringing in some wages.
Outside of work though, my real therapy during these last few years has been the live gigs. I absolutely love getting up there in front of people and playing. It doesn't matter whether there are 20 or 200 people listening, it's a joy and a privilege to have the chance to play in public, and I'm always thankful for the opportunities I've had so far, and (luckily) continue to get.
When I'm at the microphone with the guitar strapped on, life disappears. I'm in an intense little bubble of concentration which no worries or problems can penetrate as long as I keep playing.
I'm sure that's the real reason I keep going on so long, playing 3 to 4-hour sets. It's a really effective sort of aversion therapy, as it's like flicking a switch that immediately transports me to a safe place where I suddenly feel comfortable and better about myself.
I'm really missing that at the moment, and can't wait for things to get back to something like normal, to be able to go to nice venues, meet lovely people, play some songs, and above all have some fun!
I doubt anybody will read this ramble. I don't know why I'm writing it other than due to the boredom of isolation, but any way, these are some of the thoughts on my mind this morning.
If you've endured the pain of reading this far, I congratulate you (or should that be commiserate?), wish you and your loved ones well, and hope to see you on the other side.
Right, I'm going to get down to work, with a not inconsiderable amount of help from a certain Mr Springsteen in the background. I find he really lifts my spirits.
Stay safe, be kind, and wash your hands.
See you on the other side!
FEELING POSITIVE AFTER A LOOPY NIGHT
Well, I'm still buzzing after an incredibly enjoyable first appearance at THE LOOPY SHREW in Shrewsbury on Friday night. I'm very much looking forward to returning to 'Loopys' on October 6th!
A year ago, I was told by my surgeon that I might not be able to sing again, so to be able to belt it out for over 3 hours, in such a fantastic venue, with a really lovely crowd, and with lots of familiar and friendly faces there makes me really happy!
My thanks go out to all of the venues who have given me the chance to get back to what I enjoy doing the most. It really is a pleasure, and I feel very fortunate to be having opportunities to get out and perform again.
Thanks to Tim Graves for the photo from Friday night, too! 😉
This week has been a really interesting musical one, as I've encountered two new experiences, at either end of the positive/negative scale.
Firstly, the positive one was that I was really thrilled, honoured, and quiite frankly surprised to be invited to record some backing vocals for my really great friend Dai Robs (pictured).
For the last few weeks, Dai has been ensconced in Backyard Recording Studios near Churchstoke, recording his first full solo album. He messaged me and asked whether I'd like to visit and sit in on a session or two.
Now, I'd never set foot in a studio before, and never expected to, so that was one reason I jumped at the chance. The other reason is that Dai is just one of those blokes who is a joy to hang out with. Always a good laugh, and a great mate!
So, Tuesday & Thursday evenings were spent listening to Dai absolutely nailing his lead vocals in the studio, and watching the wizardry of another top fella, Will Barnes, operating the desk. Will is producing the album, and is also one of the finest guitarists I've ever heard. With me being a studio novice, and despite the huge gulf in experience, knowledge and musical ability between us, Will was really brilliant with me, showing me around the studios, explaining the process, and allowing me to watch him in action.
I was really astounded at the sound quality we were hearing in the control room. The musical arrangements, performances, and Dai's superb vocals really are top notch! No pressure then, when my chance came to step up go the mic. Eek!
Dai and Will guided me through what was required, and I was pleased to be able to come up with some harmonies for a few songs. How much ends up being used remains to be seen, but the experience alone, and the chance to spend two evenings with two fabulous musicians for whom I have immense respect was reward enough. Thanks guys!
Dai's album will be available in the New Year, it'll be superb, and I can't wait to hear the final result! Details can be found on his website here >>>> www.dairobs.com
Having enjoyed my first and quite possibly only studio experience, I was struggling a bit with a cold, and a dodgy throat... always a worry when you're a singer and there is a gig on the horizon.
I've been very fortunate in my three and a half years of performing that I've never been poorly enough to feel that I have to cancel a gig. I've found in the past that a bit of singing has cleared any throat gremlins. However, my set at the gorgeous Mytton & Mermaid hotel in Atcham didn't follow this pattern.
Right from the start, my throat started feeling worse, and by the time my 3-hour set was completed, I could barely speak. I've never struggled through a gig like that before, and the much appreciated help of Georgia behind the bar providing me with her lovely honey & lemon just about kept me going. Whilst being proud of my record of completing my first 217 gigs without a cancellation, I think I got a reality-check with this one.
Saturday & Sunday have been a complete write-off, with me completely unable to talk, and I'm using every method I can find (steaming, gargling salt water etc.) to ensure that my vocal chords recover in time for my next gig at Bistro 7 in Welshpool on Saturday. This promises to be an emotional one, and I'm determined to be at my best!
The learning process continues!
GIVING IT BOTH BARRELS AT THE ARMOURY
This Sunday just gone (25th October), I had the great pleasure of being able to play at a lovely venue for the first time, as THE ARMOURY in Shrewsbury were celebrating their 20th year trading by hosting a 3-day beer and music festival.
Playing at this lovely riverside venue meant that I'd be performing in possibly my biggest room to date, so it was going to be interesting to see whether the dynamics of the room (size & shape of room, audience size, ambient noise etc.) caused any difficulties regarding sound quality. I believe it was also a bit of an unknown quantity to the venue themselves, as they don't normally host live music, but reports from the acts who played on the Saturday were very encouraging!
The excellent single-stack 'HK Elements' PA system I've been using to date is ideally suited to crowds of up to 100 or so people, and I've been concerned for a while that it may not quite have the required power in larger, noisier venues. Therefore, having planned for a while to double the size & output of my system, I decided to head up to MID WALES MUSIC CENTRE in Newtown on Saturday, to purchase another identical set of speakers, as Sunday's gig seemed a great opportunity to find out how they can cope with a cavernous and busy room.
I spent the Sunday morning trying to whittle my 340-song repertoire down to an hour-long set (approx 18 songs), which would hopefully appeal to as many of the Sunday afternoon audience as possible.
My slot was from 3 'til 4 in the afternoon, and I can honestly say that I can't remember having had a more enjoyable hour of playing live, as the audience were really warm and generous, and The Armoury's organising of the event was impeccable! Also, it definitely helped to have a sizable number of great friends who came along to give their support, as they've done many times before. It really is appreciated!
Having the two sets of speakers rather than the usual one really seemed to make a difference and ease my worries! The master volume didn't need to go much above 50%, and it was great seeing people towards the back of the room singing along. A massive relief, and I'm now confident I have the required gear for my wedding bookings in 2016!
I really hope to have another chance to play at The Armoury, as the whole event seemed to be really well received by the people of Shrewsbury, and it was a privilege to share the bill with some great Shropshire musicians.
Massive thanks and congratulations to Emily and all the staff at The Armoury for putting on an exceptional event. Here's to the next 20 years!
During my set at Ego's Wine Bar in Ludlow last night, I could see a fella at the bar was getting in to some of the slightly more classic song choices, and after one song he came over to me, said he was a drummer, and told me something I hadn't realised. Although I'm a huge Led Zeppelin fan, I was unaware that it was 35 years to the day since Zep's incredible drummer John "Bonzo" Bonham passed away.
This bloke asked whether it was possible for me to play something by Led Zep as a tribute to Bonzo, and requested Ramble On. Great song choice, but one I'm not sure how to pull off (just yet!). Therefore, it seemed a perfect opportunity to bring my full solo acoustic version of Stairway To Heaven back into the set, and I was suitably relieved when it got the 'thumbs up' afterwards!
It was great to meet the guy who'd requested the song after I'd finished my gig, and he told me that he was a childhood friend of John Bonham's son, Jason.
Jason has followed in his late father's footsteps in becoming an excellent drummer in his own right, and fulfilled a lifetime ambition when he played with the remaining 3 members of Led Zeppelin when they reformed for a one-off gig at the O2 in London in 2007. If you haven't seen it, check out the Celebration Day film (click here for a clip). It's wonderful to see someone living out their dream, and making such a great job of it, and seeing that reflected in the faces of Page, Plant and Jones!
The fella I was talking to proceeded to get out his phone, and said "here's where I've been today", and showed me photos he'd taken earlier in the day at John Bonham's grave, complete with cymbals & drumsticks left by fellow fans. Being a local to St. Michael's Church in Rushock near Kidderminster, he'd felt compelled to pay a visit on this anniversary. A little rock and roll pilgrimage.
I always think it's great to meet people who are so passionate about music and the people who make music, because I'm also in awe of true musical giants like John Bonham. It really was a pleasure to share a little 'Zep moment' with someone who helps to keep Bonzo's thunder rumbling 35 years on!
200 gigs and (hopefully) onward...
When I made my impromptu first live appearance in May of 2012, I really thought that'd be it!
I didn't expect there to be a second gig, but with a lot of encouragement from friends & family, and loads of unexpected help and support from other musicians, I've made it to 200 live appearances.
My 200th gig was at the lovely Lowfield Inn in Marton, a venue I've had the privilege to play at on many occasions (11 to be exact!).
It's been an absolute joy to be able to travel around the local area playing gigs in a wide range of venues, and meeting so many lovely people. I've found that generally people are very warm and welcoming, and it's been a truly rewarding experience.
I'd like to thank everyone who has booked me to play so far, everyone who has come to gigs and played a part by singing along, encouraging me to be better, and really providing the main reason that I go out and play. Enjoyment!
I've made so many friends over these last three-and-a-bit years, and really hope that it'll continue. Special mentions must go to Dewi Owen of The Soul Jets, who gave me my very first opportunity, and also to a guy who has turned out to be one of the best mates it's possible to have, Dai Robs.
Dai is a fantastic long-established performer himself, and inexplicably took me under his wing after meeting me at my first gig, and has helped me more than anyone else. Without his generosity, support, and continuing friendship I'd never have got up and running, and I'm hugely grateful!
So, hopefully it'll continue for a bit longer, and I hope to see you out and about around Mid Wales and Shropshire, and we'll have a little singalong!
A HAUNTED PUB & TWO GARDEN PARTIES
Well, the last three days have brought three very different gigs!
It's not often that I play on three consecutive days, as my singing technique isn't exactly sympathetic to my vocal chords. Needless to say, I'm far from classically trained!
A mainly quiet (but lively finishing) first appearance at the beautiful Ye Olde Bull Ring Tavern, the oldest pub in Ludlow on Thursday evening was followed by a very chilled-out garden gig on Friday. This second one of the week was held in the garden of my father-in-law's landscape architects business in the centre of Shrewsbury. This low-key slot was just what the doctor ordered to enable me to 'give it the beans' at The Sun Inn, Welshampton.
Gig number three one was another garden party / barbecue, to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of the relaunched pub, and it was an absolute pleasure to play! A lovely little crowd who really got into it made it so much fun for me! Lots of requests, people keen to chat about music, and even some familiar faces. All-in-all, this is just what I hope for when going to play a gig.
I'm definitely looking forward to getting back to The Sun Inn again in the future. A cracking pub!
Now it's time for a little break, after which I'll be refreshed and ready to hit the ground running on Friday July 31st at Oak Live in Welshpool!
Well, this last weekend has been a big one!
It started on Saturday afternoon with a 30-minute slot at Welshpool's excellent Annual Charity Event, in which I never really felt like I'd got going. The same couldn't be said for the next two gigs, however!
Saturday evening brought my first performance in the lovely town of Montgomery. This was a joint party for a 30-year and 50-year wedding anniversary, and Sharon & Rob Farmer were perfect hosts! It was a real pleasure to be able to play a long set for a really fun crowd who really got into the spirit of things. Lots of dancing ensued, and when I eventually headed for home it was on a high!
On Sunday, it was time to find out whether the voice would hold up for a first visit to the Miners Arms in Priest Weston.
This country pub is an absolute belter! In a lovely location amongst the hills slap-bang on the Mid Wales / Shropshire border, I was expecting a quiet early evening gig. How wrong could I be?
A surprisingly busy bar, with very lively and extremely warm and friendly clientele made for a really fun gig, and another long one too! Great to see a few familiar faces, as some friends and neighbours decided to make an afternoon of it, for which I'm always really grateful!
I thoroughly recommend a trip out to the Miners Arms, and will definitely be dropping in with the family very soon. Signs are that there could be a return gig in the future too!
The Reason I Play
Wow! What a hugely enjoyable 30 minutes, playing at The Angel in Welshpool!
Following a couple of hours in the afternoon playing in the garden at the Lowfield Inn, Sunday evening brought a half-hour performance at Welshpool Music Festival.
It's a challenge to select the songs for a set of this length, as I'm accustomed to playing for much longer. Song choices need to be right, as there's not much time to make an impact, and they need to suit the audience.
Gigs vary so much as far as personal enjoyment is concerned, and this is mainly due to the audience, but there are also other factors which can make a performance take off. Sunday at The Angel saw everything come together, and was probably the best 30 minutes I've played so far.
The sound system provided by NRG Audio was absolutely superb, and expertly run by Tim Bowen and Jake Evans. Head and shoulders above anything else at the festival!
Then there's the audience! Often, rooms are busy, but there's lots of chatter, and people are only half listening. This is fine, but on the odd occasion when you have a cracking audience facing you, listening, and singing along, it really is such a massive thrill! The Angel crowd were so warm and generous, I was on a high for the rest of the night.
Experiences like this are the reason musicians play. Thank you, lovely Welshpool people!
Also, thanks to Kuldip Kaberwal and his team for organising another fantastic festival! It's going from strength to strength!
After playing my set, I raced up to The Pheasant to catch Eleri Wilson playing her very first gig. At fifteen years of age, she put in a stellar performance, with Theo Lawrence on guitar. A really gorgeous voice, and looking like she'd been performing for years.
This is what Welshpool Music Festival is really about! People getting an opportunity, and grasping it with both hands. Very impressive! WMF got me kick-started three years ago when I did my first prepared-for gigs. I was 37 years old! I wish I'd had the opportunity when I was Eleri's age. She's definitely one to watch!
Well done to all involved! Bring on next year!!!
Muchos Fun At The Mytton & Mermaid
Another lovely Sunday gig at the Mytton & Mermaid, with the added bonus of seeing friends there.
Some just happened to be there, but some also made the effort to travel in especially. Big thanks to Colyn, Philippa and family, and also Rachel & her daughters for coming to support me. It really make a massive difference, and it was fantastic to see you all!!!
Also, it was a real thrill to see a proper musician there too, in the shape of Blues Boy Dan Owen. It's always a bit scary playing in front of someone you admire, who is really something special. Dan was lovely, and it was great to meet him. That fella, with THAT incredible voice is going places!
Lovely first gig at The Bay Tree
Back home from a really enjoyable evening playing my first gig at The Bay Tree in Welshpool. Lovely audience, with lots of familiar faces, which always makes it such a joy to play. The food looked fantastic too (massive burgers!!!).
Big thanks to Trudy and the fantastic staff for looking after me, and keeping my poorly throat lubricated with... wait for it... camomile tea.
How rock and roll is that?!?!?
Hello new website
Well, after lots of faffing about, I've finally got round to making myself a website.
The Facebook "notes" & "tour dates" sections didn't seem to be too easy for people to find, so hopefully this'll make things a bit easier. Now there's just the problem of people finding this site!
Oh well, it'd be boring if things were easy!
See you out and about... hopefully!