The full-length version of my joint Instagram Live with Matt Lacey, talking about our experiences of teaching drums during lockdown over the past twelve months and what we can take from this period as tutors as we start to return to normal.
I’m very excited to be joining a friend and fellow drum tutor Matt Lacey for an Instagram Live discussion about our experiences of teaching music lessons during lockdown.
The lockdown and the school closures have been extremely tough on music tuition, but these last twelve months have also presented plenty of opportunities for those of us who teach music to learn and develop as educators. I’m looking forward to this live video forum on the topic, and to having the chance to talk through my experience of the pandemic as a music tutor, and how I have tried to keep momentum and motivation up whilst providing the best possible experience for my students throughout very challenging circumstances.
Please do tune in on my Instagram, on Friday 9th April at six o’clock.
I had the great privilege of playing drums for Sam Coe on a closed video session conducted under COVID restrictions at EPIC Studios just before Christmas. The video shoot was a pre-record of a live performance for the Americana Music Association‘s January awards show night, which this year was an entirely online event.
With the AMA Awards now having been broadcast, EPIC Studios have published the full length performance on their YouTube channel this week, and I am very excited to be able to share that with you here. I was really proud to get to be a part of this, and I think the look of the video and the sound we achieved with the drums and with the band overall is absolutely first class.
I am returning to the idea of uploading regular ‘practice diary’ videos on my Facebook Page during the latest lockdown period this January.
The idea is (as I explain in the video) to demonstrate the practice techniques I always talk about with students in ‘real life’ scenarios, and show how practice as a concept is applicable to all stages and styles of learning music. Hopefully that will be helpful to some people in modelling good practising whilst we are all stuck at home with nothing else to do!
I’ve decided to take a slightly different approach to my practice this time out, and focus on skills I have neglected – or never even had! – rather than just picking a piece of piano music again and learning that in front of that camera. The first video shows me beginning to learn a simple folk tune on the accordion – an instrument I have often wanted to learn to properly, but have never quite got around to until now. Of course there will be plenty of mistakes and lots of poor technique along the way! But that is the point; mistakes are learning in action, and the idea of opening up my practice for the world to see is so everyone can understand how that process works.
This year has been tough in all sorts of ways. Playing music is all I have wanted to do, since I was a kid. I spent my early teenage years dreaming of being a session musician – going out on the road, playing on records, working for different artists and producers. It’s been nearly fifteen years now, and that’s been going pretty well.
But 2020 has really knocked me sideways. I’ve struggled a lot with the lack of gigs, being at home so much more, and the uncertainty of the whole situation. I’ve kept myself as busy as I’ve been able to with remote studio session work and online music tuition, but I have missed playing shows so much and working with other musicians in amazing venues around the country.
I’ve tried to channel some of that energy (and extra time at home) into writing more original music – and last month, I released my solo EP When The Autumn Comes, the second record I have released under my own name. They were songs I had started writing over the last few years and never got around to finishing properly, and it felt good to finally send them out into the world. I’ve enjoyed the process of working on the songs, but promoting the record and trying to act like ‘an artist’ has been a bit more of a sticking point for me.
I’ve never really seen myself as ‘an artist’. I have always been someone who works for artists; never in the spotlight myself. With Covid-19 restrictions still biting, and gigs vanishingly thin on the ground, I thought I could create a Patreon account like a lot of creative professionals do, to try and gain a little bit of extra income – but in all honesty, I struggled to take it seriously.
With a few exceptions, session musicians and record producers don’t tend to have their own fanbase in the same way that bands or artists whose names are on tickets and album sleeves do. Who is going to want to pay £5 per month to watch ‘behind the scenes’ content of just the piano parts of a new independent album? Or setting up microphones on a drum kit? This is not the side of the music industry which excites anyone who doesn’t also work in the music industry.
But I have taken the plunge, and created a Patreon account. Feel free to subscribe, if that’s your sort of thing. I also took part in a livestream gig performing two of my original songs a few weeks ago. Although being a session player will always be my primary job, I want to try and feel more like ‘an artist’ in my own right, as well. I don’t want to leave another six years before I release any more of my own music.
I am actively working on writing some new songs, rather than just waiting until I have nothing else to do and seeing what comes to me. I’m going to try to put content on Patreon for anyone who wants to get involved in that – despite the voice in the back of my head telling me no one except my client could possibly care what I get up to in the studio.
I have written before about how important it is to always be adapting and growing as a musician. Some growth feels uncomfortable at the time, even when you know that’s actually something that you want to do. Hopefully, in time, I’m going to be able to feel more like an ‘artist’, and give myself a more regular creative outlet alongside my work playing for other bands and artists as a ‘hired gun’ on the road and in the studio. Watch this space, I guess!
On Friday night I was honoured to have live versions of two of my songs included in an online streamed performance for World Stage Live. The gig was broadcast on Facebook and YouTube, and included three other artists’ performances, in the UK and in Kenya.
The full video is still available on Facebook to view, for anybody who missed it.
The past few weeks have been tough. The government says that jobs in the arts and entertainment sectors are ‘not viable’. In a huge slap-in-the-face to the thousands of artists, performers and technicians who have dedicated years of their lives to making their craft their career, they suggest we get ‘better jobs’.
Plenty of people have written more thoroughly and more eloquently than I could about this tremendous insult to our industry, and the impact this sort of attitude is having on all our lives. On a personal level, I have felt angry and alone, misunderstood and taken for granted. It’s been a difficult time.
But this weekend I was on the road, gigging with ’90s Jam for the first time since the beginning of March. Even just a couple of days before, I was convinced the gigs would not in fact go ahead as more and more restrictions on events were announced during last week. At times over the past week, it has felt like the government were deliberately making arts jobs ‘unviable’ by placing as many obstacles as possible in the way of us being able to do our jobs, whilst not actually locking venues back down again.
But go ahead they did! And they were cathartic, and life-affirming, and an all-round brilliant experience. A wonderful, timely reminder of why we do what we do.
Our audiences – half-capacity, socially-distanced, and unable to dance or sing along to their favourite tunes – showed their appreciation for what we do just by showing up at all. But also by clapping, stamping and banging on tables. Feeling that atmosphere in the room, that determination to enjoy the night despite all the current restrictions, was a phenomenal experience. During our encore on Friday night, I admit I got a little emotional as I played the intro on the piano.
Gigs might not look normal right now. Everyone is struggling, and we all have to adapt, and make allowances. But my experiences this weekend have shown me that live music is valued. For the past couple of weeks, I have felt like I have been shouting into a gale – I have felt like no one cares about people who work in music, no one understands us, and the people in power who make decisions are quite happy to let our industry sink without trace. It’s been a little hard not to take that personally.
This weekend, all the people who bought tickets, all the people who clapped, all the people who spoke to me after the show and said how brilliant it was to have live entertainment back in venues again… Those people showed me that music doesn’t only matter to musicians but that music is for everyone, and that we are not alone in our fight to save our industry from drowning. People want live music; they are voting with their feet, and making the opinions known. They don’t want us all to just throw in the towel, retrain and get office jobs; they want gigs back just as much as we do. That realisation is what has helped me sleep tonight.
The music video for the title track of my new EP, When The Autumn Comes is available in full on YouTube now. Shot at the Anteros Arts Foundation in Norwich in 2015 (shortly after the song the song was written) with photography by Boo Marshall Photography and Dynamic Dog Productions, this was a really fun video to make which captures the tone and mood of the song brilliantly – and I am extremely excited to finally get to share it with everybody ahead of the EP’s release date on 3rd October.
The past few months have been a difficult time for many people in the music industry. Lockdown has meant a complete lack of live gigs – and coupled with school closures, a lot of us have found ourselves with very little work, and with an unexpected amount of time on our hands instead. This has been quite a challenging period for me, with a large proportion of my normal work coming from touring. However, I have been recording and producing in my studio more than ever before, and this has also presented opportunities.
Over the last couple of months, I have revisited several songs which I began writing a while back, but which never got finished as I ran out of steam or became too busy to finish working on them. Gradually, these songs have become an EP which I have called When The Autumn Comes (after one of the tracks on the record).
When The Autumn Comes is a collection of five original songs, initially written between 2014 and 2016, and completed during the first half of 2020. The songs are all written and performed by me – except guitars (James Porter, Jamie Roe and Simon Yaxley), and bass guitar (Giles Meehan) – and recorded and mixed by me in my own studio at home.
When The Autumn Comes will be released digitally on 3rd October 2020, and will be my first new piece of work as a solo artist since my album Bones From My Back came out in 2014.
Axis bass drum pedals and hihat stands have been been my number one choice for years. For me, the build quality and the responsiveness of the direct-drive mechanism Axis use are second-to-none.
As a session musician playing a lot of live gigs every year, I need to have absolute confidence in the quality and reliability of the equipment I use – especially pedals, which take a big beating on every show. Even with the rigours and stresses of regular touring – traveling around the country and loading in and out of different venues all the time – I know that Axis pedals won’t let me down on the road, and that my feet will feel fully connected to the drumkit when I am onstage. I still regularly gig with the very first Axis pedal I ever bought, over ten years ago, and it feels just as comfortable to play on as it always has.
In the studio, the smoothness of the pedal action and the quality of the components mean that I always get the consistency of tone and the lack of extraneous pedal noise which my remote recording clients expect from my playing.
Over the lockdown period I have enjoyed some extremely productive discussions with the guys at Axis, and I am very honoured to be able to announce that I am joining the Axis Percussion artist roster this summer. I am proud to be associated with a brand whose products I have relied upon for so long, and to represent Axis Percussion as one of their artists.