It started with an unpaid bill...
A desire to tell stories through lyrics and music. Writing about love, drinking, passion and tears.
I was about 7 years old, living in rainy Yorkshire. My parents owned a petrol station and automotive garage. There was very little to do back then, we only had a few TV channels, computers hadn’t even been invented yet let alone the internet. I had no love of football and only a passing love of rugby. I used to spend my days in my dad’s workshop helping him fix and paint cars, the smell of the oil and the welding gun sticks with me to this day.
One Saturday afternoon my dad came into the house clutching a bright red guitar, ‘Hey son, you fancy learning how to play guitar?’ of course I jumped at the chance, after all, there was only so much staring at the ceiling a boy of seven could take…
The guitar was a bright red Epiphone Riviera, my dad had taken it in exchange for an unpaid bill from one of his customers, he’d played when he was younger so I think he used it as a good excuse to get back into playing. I remember looking at the guitar, it was beautiful, shiny chrome pickups, deep ebony fretboard and blood red glossy paint. ‘Can I get an amplifier to go with it dad’ I asked. ‘No son, you have to learn to play without mistakes before you amplify them’… so I did.
I spent pretty much every day of my young life listening to The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Jonny Cash, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Cream, Bread and Free, I wanted to play like those guys did, I wanted to be on stage under the bright lights playing my bright red guitar. I realised this would be the only thing that made sense to me anymore.
My guitar was part of me.
Nearly 40 years later I have spent the majority of my life on stage, performing hundreds of gigs across the UK in several bands, I’ve played in blues bands, rock bands, soul bands, country bands and even a very successful dance act. At the age of 30 I pretty much put my guitar down after a spell at Sony Music Europe, I realised very quickly what the corporate music scene was all about and all my dreams fell apart. I hated the bollocks that went with it all, the money, the marketing, the false impression a big engine could give the buying public. I never thought I’d play again.
I left my band in London, put my guitars back in their cases and put them to bed… for nearly 10 years.
In 2013 I started a small local outfit playing Folky/Country/Americana music, we had little aspiration other than writing songs and playing in the pub, I’dd become a fan of some of the UK singer songwriters like Boo Hewerdine, Findlay Napier, Karine Polwart, Kris Drever and James Bay. I’d also been listening to a lot of US cross over acts such as Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, John Mayer and Chris Stapleton. I’d been running quite a large marketing company and felt like I was heading into a deep dark hole, I’d lost my way and turned to drinking far too much. I had no creative output, nothing to express my passion, anger and frustration on. I needed out… one way or the other.
As fate often does, my wife said ‘you need to pick up your guitar again’ and the very same afternoon I got an email from Karine Polwarts mailing list promoting a songwriting retreat in the Scottish Highlands. ‘I replied… yeah you’re right I do. I’m off to Scotland’
I spent an incredible week with brilliant people, re-finding my love of the guitar, songwriting and singing. I started writing and playing, but something wasn’t right, I found it really tough to write anything with any meaning, the folk scene I’d somehow landed in wasn’t me, I didn’t get it. SO a year later I went back to Moniach Mhor to another retreat with Boo Hewerdine and Darden Smith a Texan with 14 critically acclaimed albums under his belt, recording out of New York and Nashville. We got on really well and ended up writing a song together called ‘Kinder Tonight’ It felt really good, it felt back to my roots, it felt real and true. I came back and performed the song at a local pub where a friend of mine suggested I should get into the UK country scene. I imagined what most people imagine, rows of people in cowboy hats dancing to country cabaret acts. What I actually found was something very different.
There was a real, home grown UK based country music scene, with brilliant songwriters, incredible singers and fabulous performers. More than that it was like one huge family, everyone knew everyone and no matter where you went, pretty much everyone was there.
I played my first ‘country’ gig on the 9th September 2016 with Gary Quinn, Luke and Mel and Darren from Southern Companion. I’d made it back. 2 years earlier I had been drunk in a bar wondering where my life was going, now I was here, happy and very emotional.
I’m now a BCMA nominee for Horizon act of the year, I am releasing my first album ‘Ordinary Man’ and have played the majority of the UK country music festivals. I have a great and loyal group of friends and fans, superb fellow musicians and recently I have just signed a publishing deal with Strophic Music Publishing. It’s been a crazy first year on the scene…
Long may it continue x