Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Story Behind 'Balloon String'

Thanks to everyone who has been watching and sharing 'Balloon String'. I thought I'd write a quick blog about the track and the video. I wrote the song in 2009. I was drifting off to sleep one night and the phrase 'She Got Hold Of My Balloon String' came into my head. I wrote it down quickly incase I forgot it. When I looked at it the next day I thought 'what the hell does that mean?' and decided to put it into a song. I had a bit of a country thing I was playing around with and it seemed to work quite well with that. A lot of the rest of the lyrics 'selling my body parts on ebay', 'where is she, her food is going cold'  etc came from jumbling up various peoples Facebook statuses from the day. Before too long the song was coming together nicely.

To finish the track off I decided to add a big fat guitar solo at the end. Not many people seem that keen on guitar solos these days, but this was my song so I could do as I wanted. Plus, it would save having to think of any more lyrics..... A few months later I went into the studio with the great people at Little Box 9 to record a proper version of the song. 

Three years later (there's no point in rushing these things) I decided to make a music video. I met up with the talented Steve Pycroft, who had the great idea of having a car full of balloons. I suggested that people could hand me these balloons in different ways, and the story for the video was born. The next step was to find some willing balloon holders, a car and some balloons. And then it was time to shoot........

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

A mini French Tour with Kristyna Myles

Had a great time in France recently on a mini tour with Kristyna Myles. We arrived in Paris on Wednesday evening and just had enough time for a spot of sight seeing. We had a quick look at Montmarte, one of the oldest churches in Paris, before getting some food and an early night ahead of a busy day.

The next morning we headed to the Eiffel Tower, where Kristyna was filming some footage for an upcoming project. It was great to explore this area. The streets are very wide and there's a lot of space so despite there being a lot of tourists it doesn't feel that busy.

Last time I went to Paris I only saw the Eiffel tower from a distance so it was great to get a bit closer this time. Next time I might even go up it. 

In the afternoon we headed out of Paris to play on LFM, a french radio station. I can't speak a word of french so I didn't really have a clue what was going on, but I think I just about managed to start playing the guitar at the right time. Kristyna is pretty good at french so she was able to understand a lot more. She's even written a song in french called 'Bonne Chance'.

Then it was back to Paris for soundcheck and gig. We played at a great venue called Miz Miz. The gig was loads of fun but for some reason I wasn't feeling nervous at all, and as a result made a few mistakes due to lack of concentration. It's much better to have a healthy dose of nerves to keep focused. The next morning we did a spot of busking by Montmarte before boarding a train to Lyon.

(Click the 'read more' link below to read on....)

Friday, 1 February 2013

Recording for Youtube.

I recently filmed four of my tracks for some Youtube videos. I have been writing lots of songs over the last four or five years and have recently been coming up with some that I'm actually happy with.

My voice seems to have improved gradually as I've been doing more writing, although I think I still need a lot of practice in order to be completely comfortable and confident with it. 

The videos were filmed by Little Box 9 who did a great job. Three are just videos of me playing live. The video below, Change It, we had more fun with and tried to make it a bit more quirky. 

I'm hoping to do more solo gigs in the future so will keep you posted. Any feedback on which songs videos you like the best would be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Sleeping out for Centrepoint

Photo by Harriet Armstrong

I recently took part in Centrepoint's annual Sleepout, an event where more than 850 people spend a night sleeping on the street in Exchange Square in London, to raise awareness and money for the homeless charity. I was to perform with Kristyna Myles. Eliza Doolittle, Stooshe and comedian Tim Vine were also performing, and Sara Cox from Radio 1 and Richard Madeley were presenting the evening. 

A pic from last years sleepout

Prior to the day I prepared myself for spending a night sleeping out on the street, making sure I had thermals, hats, scarfs, gloves, waterproofs and a sleeping bag. I was advised that it was better to wear lots of thin layers than a few thick ones. I also read that it was good to consume as many calories as possible during the day, so that there would be more to burn off during the cold night. An idea which I found quite pleasing. 

We were to perform at two Centrepoint Sleepout locations during the evening, and after we'd sound checked at Exchange Square we headed to Canary Wharf for the first gig. I felt a bit like Phil Collins at Live Aid, except with a black cab instead of Conchord. The gig at Canary Wharf was great, the crowd were very enthusiastic. After we finished we jumped back in the cab and dashed to venue one. We had to make sure we were there and ready to play by '9:01pm' as it was being filmed for the live 3 hour TV show of the night. Before we played, Kristyna did an interview for the TV show with Sara Cox and Tim Vine. 

To read on click HERE

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Songs of Praise

Earlier in the year we got the call to record a few tracks for Songs of Praise. The line up was to be Kristyna Myles, Joy Ononokpono singing backing vocals and myself on guitar. Initially there was a bit of negotiation over which songs we would perform; we needed to find some tracks that would suite Kristynas soulful vocal style and also fit into the Songs of Praise criteria. We eventually settled on two Alison Krauss tracks- 'Down in the River to Pray' and 'A Living Prayer', plus one of Kristyna's songs 'Your Love'.

We went into the studio with Adam Speakman to record the tracks so that Songs of Praise could hear the songs in advance. Then the idea was that on the day of filming, Joy and I would mime over the tracks we had already recorded and Kristyna would sing live. 

In Alison Krauss's version of Down in the River to Pray, more and more backing vocals come in throughout the song and the texture gets thicker and thicker. In our version, we tried to vary the texture as much as possible, sometimes having a verse with no guitar, sometimes Joy just singing 'oooh's' and sometimes singing the words in harmony with Kristyna. Joy layered up a few harmonies to give the recording a richer texture like the original. In the end the Songs of Praise team decided it would be better to only have one harmony, as it looked too creepy to have more than one voice coming out of Joys mouth. In Kristyna's song 'Your Love' Kristyna played keys and I was able to play some slide guitar over the top. And in 'A Living Prayer' we changed the style of the original to make it a bit more bluesy, which suited Kristyna's voice better.

A few weeks after recording the songs in the studio we headed to Longton Methodist Central Hall in Stoke for the filming. As we arrived a congregation of pensioners dressed in a myriad of pastel shades were finishing off their hymns. Then it was our turn. 

Hit JUMP to read on

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Kew Gardens

For a week in July I had the great opportunity to perform at Kew Gardens with Kristyna Myles. We were to be the support act on almost every night. The headline acts were Status Quo, The Straits, Chic, M-People, Tim Minchin, Pink Martini, Nerina Pallot, Will Young, Los Lobos and The Gypsy Kings. It was an incredible collection of acts to share a stage with.

After arriving on the first day we were shown to our dressing room which turned out to be a massive greenhouse full of tropical plants. Probably the best dressing room ever. We then walked through a series of greenhouses to the stage for soundcheck.

Kristyna and I were performing the gig as a duo. I had wondered how we would come across, playing to a large outdoor crowd every night. The audiences were in the region of 7000 people. When we first started performing as a duo, Kristyna sang and I played the guitar. Gradually we've added more and more weapons to our arsenal; Kristyna plays the keys now and I sing backing vocals. I also play a stomp box (which sounds like a bass drum) with one foot, and a tambourine with the other. People have said we create a really full sound for just two people, and it certainly didn't seem to be an issue at Kew, where the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Next year I have decided to head-butt a triangle to enhance the sound even further.

Hit JUMP to read on

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Channel 5 and a Busking Tour

I've had quite a busy summer of touring and gigs, so I've been neglecting my blog a little bit. I thought I'd try and catch up by looking back to the start of the summer, and a busking tour we did. Hopefully I'll be able to remember it all.

After Kristyna Myles was featured in some national papers, we were asked to perform live on The Myleene Klass show on Channel 5. This was the first time I'd done a live national TV performance so I was slightly nervous. It was all very surreal in the green room as members of S-Club 7 and various other celebrities came and went. A woman came in and called me in to make-up, to try and stop me looking too 'pasty'. 

Myleene was lovely and had a chat with Kristyna before the show to put her at ease. In her interview, Kristyna spoke about her record deal, and the upcoming busking tour to raise money for the homeless charity Centrepoint. She seemed very confident and relaxed like she'd been doing TV interviews for years. Then it was time to perform an acoustic version of Kristynas single 'I'm Not Going Back'. The TV show had requested that the performance was just over two minutes, so we'd worked out an arrangement of the tune that fitted into these time restraints. We had twenty seconds to get into position while they played a clip. And then we were off....

I can't remember much about the two minutes but when I watched it back it seemed to be ok. Someone said I couldn't have looked more relieved as i strummed the final chord, safe in the knowledge that I hadn't messed up. All in all it was a great experience. After the show I watched as Myleene Klass recorded three trailers for future shows, rattling through the words on the auto cue without slipping up, while a crowd of people waited to get a photo with her and T4 were banging on the door as they had the studio booked next. All after being live on the TV for three hours. I decided being a TV presenter looked like a fairly stressful job. 

The next day we kicked off our busking tour. The idea was to busk in different cities all over the UK to raise money for the homeless charity Centrepoint, while fitting in as many radio stations as we could along the way. In the evenings we would perform at Malmaison hotels in each city, and this would serve as a showcase for the local press to come and see us perform. 

Hit JUMP to read on