Event Horizon – Diary of a Songwriter. Edited version appears in Songwriting Magazine, Winter Issue 2017
I always enjoy going to music conferences and this is the first year of BBC Music Introducing’s Amplify event at ExCel in London. I’m here for the weekend, and first catch Steve Lamacq’s Demo Bag where he, Radio 1’s Huw Stephens and Hannah Overton of independent label The Secretly Group, played a selection of demos from the audience. They were very honest, and sometimes rather harsh, with their immediate critiques and if a track would be genuinely considered for airplay on their radio shows.
Straight after, Radio 1’s Adele Roberts hosted a women in music panel with Rae Morris, JONES and Becca McIntyre, from The Marmozets, giving their interesting perspectives on being female artists in the industry including sexism they have encountered, the positive and and not so good things about social media, and their songwriting process. Collaboration, and forming a community, came across as really important to them and how much they enjoying the process of working with other writers and producers.
Afterwards I had a chat with Rae Morris and her parents, she kindly stayed afterwards and talked for ages to fans that had been waiting for her. I later had a wander around the many stands, chatting to people from various music organisations, and also got talking to the assistant editor at vocal magazine iSing. She wanted to see some examples of my work with a view to writing for them in the future. There are always great networking opportunities at events like this.
Second day at Amplify and today was the one I was most interested in attending, Bob Harris discussing the changing UK country scene, and how upcoming artists within the genre can make their mark. After the panel, I was invited backstage and have a lovely chat with Bob over a coffee. We talked about the UK’s huge interest in country music right now and he credited Civil Wars and Taylor Swift – “she put the idea of country in young people’s heads” – with this rise in popularity. Sharing more of his wisdom on honing your craft, he suggested attending a songwriting retreat as “exchanging ideas” and being open to co-writing can be very inspiring. Like the community and support he has witnessed in Nashville, he suggests immersing yourself in the scene here, doing your research and making contacts. Had many notes to jot down on the train home!
A week later, and I’m at another conference, Norwich Sound and Vision, which I’ve attended a few years running, so it’s always nice to see some familiar faces. There was a full day of insightful panels providing a practical guide to revenue, music rights, promoting gigs, building a fan base and connecting with the industry.
The day ended with an In Conversation with Dave Rowntree. As a long time blur fan, it was fascinating hearing him talk about his career journey, how things have changed radically from his early days in the band when they would physically post demos. Although the channels have changed, he acknowledged that it is still just as difficult to break through. He feels a lot is down to luck and good songs. Technology dictates and defines changes in music, and a radical difference now is how you can now speak directly to fans and that you don’t need a label to get your music on sale.
He also talked about songwriting, how lucrative it can be, and how to write a hit. His answer was to write 1000 songs and really practice your craft. He told the audience that Damon Albarn writes constantly so you have to absolutely love writing. When asked if he knew a hit when he heard it, he said that, although feeling an emotional connection is good, you also need an outside objective, so the rest of band always listens to Damon’s work and give their honest thoughts.
I always really enjoy doing radio sessions and interviews, and I’m here at BBC Suffolk in Ipswich to record a session on Stephen Foster’s Drive time show to promote my gig next week supporting Tom McRae at the John Peel Centre for Creative Arts in Stowmarket. As session guest of the week, I play 5 acoustic tracks live which will be played each night next week. I included in the session a Tom McRae cover, the gorgeous “2nd Law.” It’s always nice to see Foz who has supported me and my music for awhile.
After another radio session and an Oxjam gig, am back in Suffolk this evening for my support to Tom McRae. It’s a really busy night at the John Peel Centre and it was so nice to receive some lovely comments after the show. Tom is brilliant as always, had the crowd spellbound. I’ve been a huge fan for a long time, and it was so lovely to be asked to support him on the final date of this current tour. All the venue staff are so friendly and they invited me to stick around for drinks afterwards. Very tempting, but have to be good and head home as I have another show tomorrow.
Heard from iSing Magazine who want me to write an article for them on country music! Certainly something I’m interested in doing. After playing a gig last night I’m off to perform at OPEN Norwich as part of an Americana night. Headliners are wonderful duo Worry Dolls, multi-instrumentalists Zoe Nicol and Rosie Jones, who I have seen at Maverick Festival and the Americana Music Association UK conference. Their debut album “Go Get Gone” was released earlier this year and the show is wonderful with their outstanding band showing incredible musicianship. OPEN is also a really nice venue to play, have played before supporting Eliza Carthy, friendly staff and great sound.
Back on the radio, this time as the Drive time guest on BBC Radio Norfolk. I recently hosted my own show for a local station where I had to choose 12 of my favourite songs to play. That was really hard, but this time I have to select just 6 all-time favourite songs to discuss as part of the interview. After much deliberation, I choose songs by The Smiths, Kate Bush, The Supremes, as well as Ryan Adams “La Cienega Just Smiled”, Simon and Garfunkel “The Only Living Boy in New York” and Josh Rouse “My Love Has Gone” as they have particularly inspired me. Was a lovely long interview where I talked in depth about my songwriting process, music writing and career journey so far.
Back in London for From me to you (FM2U) at Richmix in Shoreditch, a one-day music conference from, and for, independent and emerging artists created by singer songwriter Roxanne de Bastion. There was tons of relevant advice and as a a DIY artist myself, I found it really refreshing to hear honest perspectives, relevant advice, and real experiences from the artists themselves. The panels were moderated by musicians to ensure they came from the artists point of view and reflected the realities of being an independent artist in today’s music industry. There was also lots of great advice about producing merchandise for your fans, which reminds me that I’ve ordered some special limited edition CD’s of my EP “Reminders”. Met some really interesting like-minded people and will definitely return next year.
Next it’s more BBC radio interviews and sessions, promoting the re-release of my EP “Reminders”, promoting my acoustic Christmas EP, playing a Christmas show and then looking ahead to 2018!