I have new album of… instrumental Americana? Atmospheric country? Cinematic folk? Wordless songs? Ambient guitar music? Landscape music? Anyway … It materialised over a year or so of bedroom improvising between work and life and walks to the Lea River (in northeast London). I sat in my room and played guitar and when something felt right I recorded it. I wanted it to be organic and intuitive, I didn’t want to spend too long composing or rehearsing. The first track on the…Read more
Sitting on the bus one morning I hear a conversation behind me, two guys talking about music and a festival called Fire In The Mountain. As we get off at the same stop I say “I’ve been to that festival!” and we strike up a conversation, telling each other about our musical projects. One of them runs an Irish folk night in a nearby pub and invites me to come along and play a song. A week or so later on a Wednesday night I catch a bus down the hill to the Maynard Arms. As I enter through the swinging double…Read more
I’m going to release an album this year and I’ve been reading how-to articles – how to get on a Spotify playlist; how to create a one-sheet; how to grow a fan base. As might be expected, they all talk about online presence and so I’ve started to engage more online – posted videos of me playing to Instagram, put this blog on Facebook, updated my Spotify profile and uploaded my back catalogue for digital distribution. Releasing music can be an anticlimax; after everything that goes into creating a piece of…Read more
I’m having trouble containing the chaos. In front of me are eight seven-year-olds each armed with a noise machine (miniature guitar) and the primary objective to have as much fun as possible. There’s a lot of excitement and shouting and strumming and plucking. Big personalities who like pretending they’re on stage – one who intermittently stands up with his guitar in a stadium rock pose. Also quieter ones who don’t enjoy the mayhem – I feel I need to maintain a sense of order if not for myself then…Read more
On Wednesdays and Fridays I teach at a primary school in Chelsea. It’s a lovely school in a beautiful neighbourhood near the river. The atmosphere is warm and relaxed but with strong discipline and codes of behaviour (when teachers shout I get the feeling it’s for the greater good rather than a power trip). There’s lots of laughter, and extracurricular activities going on all the time. Excellent music provision – concerts, bands, a choir. Children’s artwork on the walls and posters with words like peace…Read more
Getting off the 134 bus for the Saturday music centre I meet two colleagues and we walk through the school grounds together. The playing fields are frozen and it reminds one of them of winter rugby as a schoolboy. Big puffs of breath hit the air as we laugh and walk. Today I have six one-to-one lessons and two guitar groups – four and a half teaching hours. Jack, six (“and three quarters”), alternates between excited eagerness and heavy sighing after concentrated effort. He has good technique, holds the…Read more
I’m in a practice room at a school in North London, teaching the bass part of “Boom Boom” to a boy in year 9. Then I’m teaching another student a song called “Bonecrusher”, a heavy metal pastiche using palm muting from Rock School. We work on the first four bars only. First we clap the rhythm of the notes then I ask him to play bars two and four while I play bars one and three, then we swap. This works well, building gradually, playing segments slowly and in time rather than attempting to play the whole…Read more
October 3rd 2017
My first lesson is at 3:45pm with David, a man in his forties. We play “Take It Easy” by the Eagles, strum the chords and sing, each take a solo. It has a good energy. We also play “Your Song” by Elton John, a Tom Waits song, an American folk song called “Hang Me” (from the film Inside Llewyn Davis) to practise finger-style, “These Days” by Jackson Browne, and go over a B natural minor scale which he uses to improvise on “Fields Of Gold” by Sting.
Earlier in the day I go to the river. The sun…Read more
The year started with an exciting trip to BBC’s Media City to play on the Marc Riley show for Victoria Hume, promoting her Closing EP (which has just been championed by Lauren Laverne in her best of 2016 list). It was the first time I had played on live radio and was a little nerve-wracking but all went well and it was a fun trip with Victoria and (viola and musical saw wizard) Quinta. Back in London I also got to do my first TV appearance when Victoria was invited to play on the Ayala Show with full band -…Read more
So far today I’ve played the song about 60 times. It’s just gone 1pm; another 80 or so to go after lunch. Not that I’m counting – each rendition blends into the next and the piece becomes a long, polymorphous soundscape. It slows and swells, drifts and softens. Sometimes it almost falls apart, but it doesn’t stop until 6pm when the troubadours strum their last and the gallery closes.
That’s my job this summer – professional Troubadour. I’m performing as part of an exhibition of Ragnar Kjartansson which runs…Read more