Friday, 25 November 2011


I recently went to Cyprus for three days with Kristyna Myles and Pete Williams to do some work at a school where our friend Claire Thorpe teaches. The plan was to spend two days at the school, do some performances and a question and answer session with the kids, then some workshops and finish with a concert where their parents would come and watch.

I had been looking forward to a nice couple of days in the sun but I had to think again. It rained pretty much the whole time we were there; the weather had followed us from Manchester. Almost everyone we met apologised for the rain as if they were personally responsible, and said they struggled to remember worse weather at that time of year. There were some cracking storms though and it was great to see the lightning strike down over the sea. 

On Monday morning I jumped out of bed enthusiastically at 5:30am (which equated to 3:30 in England) and we made our way to the school. We had to sign in with our passports as the school was on a military base. To kick the session off we performed one of Kristyna's tunes 'I Wouldn't Change A Thing' to the kids. I was playing bass instead of guitar for a change as it made more sense with the line-up we had. It's nice to be in control of the bottom end. The Q and A session was really fun, with questions including 'whats your favourite song?', 'what do you think of the X-factor?', 'how much practice do you do?', 'what organisations are you part of?', 'why do you love what you do?', 'are there any downsides to being a musician?' and 'what has been your favourite gig so far?'. I think we managed to negotiate them without talking too much rubbish. We played a couple more tunes to the kids and did some solo performances. I played a version of Stevie Ray Vaughans 'Lenny'.

After a break I split off with the guitarists and bass player and spent the rest of the day teaching them their parts. One of the older pupils had already learnt all the tunes so was able to help me show the others what to play. They were very quick to pick things up on the whole, although I did have to simplify some of the chord shapes as no-one knew what a major 7th chord was. In fact one of the pupils commented that I hadn't written the chord charts in English, haha. 

Hit Jump to read on

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A Day Filming

Recently I spent a day filming a couple of acoustic tracks with Kristyna Myles and gang. The aim was to record two tracks, an acoustic version of Wouldn't Change A Thing which will be on Kristyna's album, and also a cover of Coldplay's God Put A Smile Upon Your Face. The link there is that Ken Nelson who produced that Coldplay record also produced Kristyna's debut album.

In the morning I went to meet Kristyna who had been getting her hair and make-up done, and her wardrobe sorted. I was completely in charge of my own make-up and wardrobe. After thinking about it very seriously for several days I decided to wear a T-shirt and some jeans. We were lucky that the weather was particularly good that day, and we were able to film outside. The idea with the first song Wouldn't Change a Thing, was to feature us playing it with several famous Manchester landmarks in the background. The first location was Manchester Cathedral, after which we went to Manchester City's football ground, then Old Trafford, Spinningfields, Albert Square, Exchange Square, Urbis, and probably a few other places I've forgotten about. 

We must have played the same song at least 40 times. At the start it's easy to concentrate, and I wanted to make sure everything was just right, such as playing the song at the right tempo, playing a good groove, and not doing anything too stupid with my face. Towards the end of the day the concentration slips a little and it's hard to remember if you're in the first verse or second verse, having played them both so many times already. The toughest challenge for me was having to sit cross-legged on the floor outside Manchester City's stadium. Everytime i got to the middle eight I developed an excruciating cramp in my legs. Maybe I should take up Yoga. All in all though, i was basically just strolling around strumming my guitar in the sunshine, which makes for a very enjoyable day. 

Hit Jump to read on and watch the video

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Cahors Blues Festival

A few weeks ago I headed to the south of France with Kristyna Myles and band to play at Cahors Blues festival. I've had to do some terrible things before in France, like share a bed with our bass player Baz for days on end. But this time we all got our own hotel room. Sweet.

Before soundcheck on Saturday morning we headed out early to check out the town. It had a great market and the whole place was bathed in sunshine. It's easy to be happy in the sun and everybody was looking forward to the gig. Ray Charles and Nina Simone had played at the festival in the past so it was an honour to be asked to play. We were treated spectacularly well by everyone at the festival. The caterers provided us with two amazing three course meals and wine during the day, and we had a driver to help us get around. The sound engineers were also spot on. Everyone was very helpful and it became clear there is a respect for musicians in France which is sometimes missing in certain places in England. Whenever we've played in France before, in Lyon, Paris and Aix En Provence, the audiences have always been fantastic. Hit jump to read on.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

T in The Park

I was heading down to London with Kristyna Myles to play at a showcase for the marketing team of the record label when we first heard the news that we had been confirmed to play at T in the Park. Exciting times. Beyonce and Coldplay were playing after us, albeit on a different stage. We suspected our stage, the T-Break stage might be on the small side, but it turned out to be pretty impressive and the crowd we attracted surpassed our expectations.

As we arrived we took in the beautiful Scottish countryside. The festival is surrounded by huge hills on all sides, so everywhere we looked there was an amazing view. Except perhaps for a few especially drunk people vomiting and urinating on themselves. That particular view was less than amazing. The band on before us was a local Scottish band so they had a lot of support. We were concerned the crowd might dissipate while we were on as we don't have a huge fan-base in Scotland yet. But instead the crowd inside the tent grew bigger and bigger. Maybe it was because N-dubz were on the other stage.  Hit jump to read on.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Recording Jon Kenzie's album.

I have recently been in Blueprint Studios recording some acoustic guitar and mandolin for Jon's new album. Jon Kenzie is a singer-songwriter who can be heard singing on a recent Acer advert on T.V. We were running on quite a tight schedule, as Jon was trying to record 10 songs in two days with a rhythm section which consisted of Jon and I, plus Stevie Williams playing ukelele bass and Eryl Roberts on drums. Later backing vocals and strings would be added.

We had a couple of practices the week before the studio session to tighten up the songs. Eryl and Stevie were laying down some incredible grooves and the tracks that Jon had recorded at home as demos really started to develop into something exciting. Once we got into the studio there was quite an intense working atmosphere as we endeavoured to stick to the schedule. Not as many tea breaks as I have experienced in some studios. Everything ran smoothly though, and Gaz the engineer was really on the ball. Jon was less concerned about each song being note perfect, but more focused on capturing the ideal feel and vibe for each song. This approach helped us stick to the timetable, as we generally found the best performance to be one of the first three takes. Hit the jump key to read on...

Thursday, 14 July 2011

An Introduction.

       Photo by Sven Eselgroth

I thought I'd start writing a blog about my experiences as a guitarist and songwriter, a lifestyle which seems to lead to a wide variety of situations and circumstances. There is never a dull moment. Except perhaps the hours spent staring at the white lines on the motorway, and the hours spent waiting around. In fact the music industry has been nicknamed 'the waiting industry' in some quarters. But I'll make sure I stick to the exciting bits. Hopefully people reading this blog will be able to learn something from my successes and failures. 

I have always been obsessed with music. I can remember finding some Beatles L.Ps in my parents' cupboard when I was about 6. Since then I've never looked back. I think I got my first guitar when I was 12. It took me a little bit too long to realise I was left-handed and needed to turn the strings round, but then everything clicked into place. A career in music wasn't a conscious choice, just something that seemed inevitable, as music is always on my mind. And anyway, I'm pretty useless at everything else.

After graduating from The University of Salford with a first class honours degree in Popular Music and Recording, I was faced with the problem of how to make a living. I decided to try busking, with my good friend Kristyna Myles. It proved to be just about profitable enough so that we could survive. People seemed to be most generous at the beginning of summer, when the first rays of sunshine were peeping through the rain clouds. The Manchester Evening News spotted us and ran an article, and this led to us winning BBC 5Live's Busk Idol Competition. After a year or so we found that we didn't need to busk anymore and had enough gigs to pay the bills. After 5 years of constant gigging, writing and practicing, Kristyna signed a 5 album deal with Decca. We had a great month or so last year recording the album with producer Ken Nelson (Coldplay, Paolo Nutini) and the rest of the band, and are very much looking forward to promoting the record when it comes out later this year.

I think it's important to play and to write with as many different people as possible, as there's always something new to learn from each person. I've been really getting into my songwriting over the past couple of years and have written in the region of 70 songs. I think songwriting is something that needs practising, just like playing an instrument, and I find that the more I do it, the better I get. As well as having some co-writes on Kristyna's album, I have been writing with Jon Kenzie, a singer-songwriter who can be heard singing on an Acer advert on TV at the moment, and have just been in the studio recording his new album.

I will be updating this blog regularly, and will post about recording Jon's album and the upcoming festivals I'm playing at with Kristyna- starting with T in the Park. I will also be blogging about how I got started, with tips about busking and gigging etc. It can be easy to complain sometimes about the long hours driving around the country, and waiting around before gigs and so on. But I really shouldn't because I'm hanging out with some of my best friends and making music for a living. And what can be better than that?