Mr Optimist

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Me not wearing shorts at The Loft in Old Basing

I’ve been gigging hither and yon these hot summer weeks. To wear shorts or not; that is the question. Mostly I think not. The audience doesn’t deserve the sight of my pale and unsightly knees unless health and safety are threatened so I avoid over casual dress unless the temperature is insanely high. It’s not a generally applicable rule. Yesterday at the Godalming Food Festival I followed a young singer called Emilee Lucia who took to the stage wearing nothing but a T shirt and a micro skirt and the audience didn’t seem to mind a bit. I have to say there wasn’t much of an audience to mind one way or the other which is a bit of a shame. While we played good music under a perfect blue sky the whole population of Godalming was crammed into sweaty pubs watching the England football team qualify for the World Cup semi finals.  I try to avoid football if I can but the crowd from the Red Lion were only a couple of hundred yards away were clearly audible at the match stress points so I got the gist of it. Ed and Harry, the two guys that followed me on stage were more dedicated. They had the live stream playing on an iPhone during their set so they wouldn’t miss anything. I felt for the organisers. Running an outdoor event in the English summer is a huge gamble and, for once, the weather Gods smiled, the sun shone on a beautiful, warm Saturday afternoon but punters were there none. Defeated by the sporting sub-clause of Sod’s Law.

It’s not very Rock and Roll but I did some serious admin last week. PRS for Music (the Performing Rights Society) is a collection agency for monies due to songwriters when their songs are performed. All my songs are registered with them so that, should any of them get played on radio or television anywhere in the word, the royalties would eventually trickle down to me. Of course it hasn’t actually happened this century but it’s still a theoretical possibility so I might as well set myself up to take advantage of it. The thing I’ve never done is report my live gigs. I play around seventy five gigs a year and I always play my own songs so all you have to do is report the gig and tell them your set list and, again theoretically, some cash will find its way to me. So I sat in my studio for a whole day typing in venues, gig dates and set lists backdated for the past year. I have no idea how much this might generate but worth a punt I’d say. I’ll let you know what happens.

In a similar vein, PRS also grant funding to their members for worthy projects so I sent them a proposal for such a grant from the Writer/Producer Fund to help  record my next batch of future hits. I am nothing if not optimistic.

Duet

I’m trying to pay more attention to my Songlink tip sheet. I subscribe to an on-line service provided by an enterprising soul called David Stark. I met David many years ago at The London Songwriter’s Showcase and every month since then he has, for a modest fee, sent me a list of artists, publishers, producers and managers that are actively looking for songs. It’s good information and just what I need but, perversely, I rarely respond to it and this is because I’m always so conflicted about what to send. Each artist provides a brief for the particular kind of song they want. Nearly all of them are X Factor winners from Eastern European countries so I gloss over those but there are some very promising requests for songs just like mine and this is where the trouble starts; I think of a song that might be good but it’s not quite right, maybe the gender is wrong or more likely it’s a old recording in need of refreshment. Then I start thinking I’ll re-record it and then I start thinking I’ll tweak the lyrics a bit and before you know it I’m busy writing a new song that takes so long I forget why I was doing it in the first place. You see what I mean. It’s vanity really. I always want the recordings to be perfect and this is impossible. So I’m under instruction from my financial director; stop being a wuss and actually send some songs or else! 

 

The April edition informed me that octogenarian  country star Charley Pride was once again looking for a song. As a matter of fact I wrote a song specifically for him a year or so ago (A Woman Like You) and sent it to his record label in Nashville but of course I heard nothing back so I guess he didn’t record it after all. Anyway the old bugger is evidently back in the studio looking for duets so I think; Three Chords and One Broken Heart might work but it isn’t a duet, I know I’ll re-record it as a duet and here we go again. So this week, against the odds, I did indeed tweak the vocal melody, get Rebecca Jayne into the studio, re-record, re-mix the track, copy it onto a CD (Charley doesn’t do digital) and send it to his address in Nashville. I’ve been waiting by the letter box ever since but still no news.



Radio

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For some reason I seem to a bit of a local radio celebrity at the moment. A while ago I appeared on The Steve Liddle Show for Brooklands Radio, a couple weeks back I played some tunes for Brian Player on Wey Valley Radio and this week I did a live session for British Forces Broadcasting Service in Aldershot. It’s a strange experience. Radio studios, well local radio studios anyway are not really designed for musical performances. The presenter sits behind a control panel surrounded by screens, knobs and buttons that usher in the records, jingles, news bullet-ins and adverts and then, off to one side, there’s a guest microphone hovering over a squeaky chair with arms on it that get in the way of the guitar. But I think I’m getting the hang of it. I do my best not to make a noise when the red light is on, avoid swearing and excessive rambling when invited to answer questions about my glittering life style and make a decent fist of a few songs while negotiating the arms of the chair and trying not to squeak. I don’t know about the listeners but I enjoy it.

 

On the subject of radio; in January I was invited to send in master recordings for broadcast on an internet station in Japan. I sent them Never Gonna Lose You and forgot about it but this week I saw a post from some chart compilation service telling me that I had reached No 4 in the “Sound Street Radio (Japan/United Kindom)” chart. Hurrah! This is obviously very prestigious and at least I did better than No 6.

 

It’s been a busy week. I’ve been in the studio every day working on two new songs, Monday was my BFBS radio thing, Tuesday evening I was rehearsing with Sophie and Cam, Rick came to the studio to record some guitar parts on Thursday and then joined me in the evening for a gig at The Poacher Inn in South Warnborough and then Friday night I was doing was doing my sound engineering best for the latest of our Music at the Pottery sessions. I don’t want to jinx it but audiences continue to flood in. This is more or less unprecedented in my experience. Normally you have to flight to get a reluctant few out of the sofa and into a gig but this was our fifth show and each one has been rammed to capacity with people who pay rapt attention to the performers and clap wildly at every opportunity. The audience loves the artists and the artists love them right back. Loads of people talk to me afterwards (while I’m trying to unstick the cables from the floor) to gush about the beautiful venue and the fabulous performers. There’s one more to go on 13th July before the summer break featuring; Rebecca Jayne, Tom Gortler, Eva Perrin Fontana and Dragonfly Sky. It should be a good one! 

Death by Facebook

I’ve definitely fallen out of love with Facebook. It used to be a brilliant way to keep up with friends and family, now it’s just a vehicle for people I don’t know to sell me things I don’t want or preach some philosophy I don’t agree with. To be honest it was never true love, more of an ill-advised, middle aged fling. I regarded it with great suspicion while it was a cool, young person’s thing, reluctantly trudged into line when all my friends seemed to be having an on-line party and I wanted to see the photos. Since then I’ve been wrestling with it’s arcane, ever changing rules to establish a virtual identity that doesn’t make me look like and idiot or a pervert. It’s true, I do see the occasional post that interests me but I’ve also been cloned by some scammer flogging fake investments, stalked by prostitutes presumably trying to get me to star in an amateur porn movie and bored to death by a world of strangers whose sole ambition seems to be to go viral with a clip of their pet doing something cute with a home appliance. And these are just my problems. It also turns out our collective addiction has opened the door to a black universe of spin that threatens the very existence of truth, light, freedom and democracy. Talk about a downer.

So I’m out. When I say out of course I don’t mean completely out, I’m not ready to go cold turkey, I’m just going dark. Back to the good old days of blogging where you can talk in whole sentences and express complex ideas without the need for emojis. I kept a weekly blog for ten years while we were travelling and I’ve decided to start again. So here it is and I promise I’ll restrict myself to one topic only; the world of singer/songwriting. It may be small but it’s a good world to live in. Full of good music, good friends and good times. It’s my passion and my pastime and I’m going to talk about it because it fascinates me. If you’re into it, then you’re welcome. If you’re not, I’ll be extremely easy to avoid! 

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About Love – the tricky third album

I know it’s old fashioned but I like to make albums. I’m not exactly prolific, the last one came out in 2013, the one before in 2005 but every now and then I accumulate an album’s worth of new songs that seem to need their own exhibition space and the next one is finally on its way. The recording is done, the mixing is well under way and the plan is to release it in mid October.

The thing I’ve enjoyed most about making this album is working with the many incredible musicians who live and work in the small part of England I call home. Since I got back from my travels a few years ago I’ve been privileged to share the thriving local music scene with a wealth of fabulous songwriters and performers; fresh and optimistic, oozing with talent and class. I crammed as many of these lovely people into the studio as I could fit to help me make the music and I couldn’t be more proud of the result.

My humble thanks to you all, particularly Seán Anderson, the long suffering producer/engineer at Parousia Productions who mediated my grand plans and crafted a thousand fragmented ideas into 12 coherent tracks.