Behind the curtain
I have always loved music. At least I don’t ever remember feeling any other way about it. Before the awkwardness; before the emotional fire storm of teenage hormones and battles with confidence; before I had even realised there was something to rebel against, I knew music. It had shuffled up next to me whilst sitting on my Gran’s piano stool, quite unexpectedly. It was hidden mischievously amongst the black and white keys, waiting for someone to come along and set a song free. I knew it was there. What I lacked was experience, but that didn’t seem to bother me. I made up for it in volume. Singing out and thundering down on any keys I happened to land on. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know where the song was going or that I didn’t know the key or the words. After all, I was 6, this was my song, nobody was likely to know it’s specific ‘out of tuneness’ but me.
At some point during the 80’s my Dad bought one of those flat, tan coloured cassette recorders. My sister and I had managed to claim it. Over time just about everything broke off it. Despite losing anything that was removable it continued to capture our little world. I became obsessed with recording things. In the days before Google scanned the hive mind for anything and everything, having a cassette recorder was unbelievably exciting. As well as my bizarre ramblings and songs I’d record song snippets from movies and TV, in an attempt to carry around a piece of something that I had felt whilst watching. An obsession that later grew into spending hours in record shops on the scent of some obscure track. Every movie opened up a new world and I had to find out more about all this new music.
I grew up in the countryside. My heart lives there, in the empty beaches, the hills and valleys and especially the woods. I love the woods. Despite this, in my teens I couldn’t wait to see what was around the corner. I moved to London in ’95.
I got a part time job in a snowboard shop and started a professional sound engineering course. Despite being intimidated by city life and so much musical and technical talent surrounding me, I loved my time in London. It was also my first encounter with a rare kind of musician; that super-magnetic, confident, talented guy whose knowledge of obscure albums, movies, bands and music scenes is vast and compelling. I would meet such a musician, become great friends and claim a space in his front room listening to all the music, conversations and laughter I could wrap my ears around. I suppose every musician stumbles upon such a character in their career. If you’re lucky, as I’ve been, you meet more than one.
By 97′ I’d left London for the wide open countryside of Lincolnshire. I’d been one of the fortunate ones and landed a job as an assistant house engineer at a residential recording studio. I was back in my element cutting tape, playing around with mics and beautiful recording spaces, hanging out and living with bands and producers for the first time. After recording sessions I would be the last to leave the studios, making my way sleepily through the network of recording spaces and rooms we’d built for the band over their stay. I would dutifully tuck up the studio and sneak out through the thick double layered door into the morning light. With the previous few hours session still bouncing round my head, I’d follow the path around the back of the studios down to my little caravan. There I’d sit and write songs until sleep took them away from me once more. That walk, and the return journey at some point before midday, was my only dose of sunlight whilst working there. It was an intense, inspiring time full of great memories, characters and stories. For the first time in my life I had seen behind the Rock and Roll curtain and I absolutely loved it.
Fast forward a few years, 3 Albums, countless gigs, Glastonbury and a million other musical experiences along the way and it’s still that feeling that I crave when I think about my life and career as a musician.
It’s that muscle memory. It’s knowing the service stations along the motorways by memory because you’ve toured that stretch of the country so many times. It’s the familiar smell of stale beer, cleaning products that hit you when you enter a bar in the afternoon before the doors have yet to be thrown open for the day. It’s the feeling as you drive blurry eyed in the middle of the night with the nights show buzzing through you. It’s hanging out waiting for the headliner to finish their set so you can get paid. It’s the familiar weight of your guitar case in your hand. It’s dragging percussion rigs, drum kits and bass rigs through muddy fields. It’s that deep mysterious connection with a creative process that bubbles with life and wonder. It’s the camaraderie you feel with your band mates and the melancholy of knowing that despite promises to the contrary, you’re not likely to keep in touch. It’s a million other little subtle experiences that define what it means to be a songwriter and a musician. At least that’s the way it’s been for me.
But perhaps even more importantly than all of that, it’s you, the listener, that makes all of it matter.
I look forward to many more, sometimes hard, sometimes ugly, always worth while experiences along this musical journey. Here’s to hoping that you are part of that journey.
If you’d like to hear the most recent milestone of that journey, click hear to listen to my most recent album, ‘Hold on to the Rhythm‘.
Thank you for being a listener and for making it all matter.