The Truth by Sam Coe Live at Epic Studios, Norwich

Another live video from the Comeback Queen album launch show a couple of weeks ago with Sam Coe and her wonderful band.

This slow track, The Truth – a rare switch from organs to electric piano for me – is one of my favourites of Sam’s songs to do live. It is a gorgeous, mellow number with so much space in it, and I always feel like we are making something profound happen when we play this.

Video by Sam Thurlow.

Hard Time by Sam Coe live at Epic Studios, Norwich

Check out the first video from the Sam Coe album launch show at Epic Studios on Thursday last week… ‘Hard Time’ was the first single released from the record, and also our opening song of Sam’s set on the night. It’s a big, gritty country/rock anthem which is tons of fun to play on keys! Looking forward to being able to share more pictures and video footage from this gig very soon.

Video shot and edited by Sam Thurlow.

What First Got You Interested In Music Production?

I was recently asked whilst chatting with a colleague of mine in music tuition “What first got you interested in music production and recording?”

I’d never really thought about that. But it was certainly an intriguing question, and I thought about it a deal more over the next few days. I realised the reason I hadn’t considered that before was that it had always felt like a perfectly natural thing for a working musician to be be involved in. Almost like asking a taxi driver what first got them interested in steering.

The music world is becoming more digital – more online – all the time. In fact, you can remove the word ‘music’ from that statement altogether. Technology is a fact of life in every business, including ours.

I like to think that, throughout my career, I’ve tried to take the approach that if somebody asks you to do something which you don’t currently do, you can choose to turn it down and stay in your little niche – or you can choose to learn how to do that thing, and expand your skillset and add another string to your bow. You never know where that might take you.

When I was asked to run a line-up of Ultra ‘90s a couple of years ago, I knew nothing of programming lights for stage, nothing about DMX, or MIDI control of DMX – but I took it on, and I learnt. Now I’m doing lighting hire gigs for other people – for gigs or events where I’m not even playing at all. And I’m programming the MIDI-triggered lighting cues for other artists and other shows, like Jade MayJean’s performance at O2 Academy in Islington earlier this year. Looking back to 2017, none of those opportunities would have come my way if I hadn’t chosen to branch out into new areas, and say yes to something which – at the time – I knew very little about.

I’ve always been of the opinion that musicians have to diversify to survive. In such a famously ephemeral industry, the ability – the willingness – to adapt and grow to meet new challenges can often be what determines success. These days, being a musician without at least a rudimentary understanding of sound technology and the attendant processes is not dissimilar to being a footballer who can’t head the ball.

Which is not to say that people who have no interest in this side of things can’t be very fine musicians. But personally, I have always tried to be as well-rounded and versatile a musician as I can be; I would feel the same way about being unable to sightread, or unable to improvise, or unable to tune my drums properly…

Of course, it helps that I have always been a gearhead. I have always been interested in the technological side of things, in computers, and in how things work. I can see how recording studio work – or live performances to click and track, etc. – might not appeal to everybody as strongly.

From its humble beginnings years ago, literally mixing inside a cupboard at my dad’s house, building my own recording studio into what it is now – and honing the tools and the skills to make it another significant and worthwhile area of my business – has become a labour of love for me.

But in short, I guess the answer is “out of necessity”.

Cake Cutting

I don’t usually write about my personal life on this site. Anyone keeping an eye on the Calendar page might have wondered why I wasn’t gigging as regularly as usual during August; my summer this year looked a little different from normal, as I took on the role of being my sister Kerry’s “Maid Of Honour” for her wedding on 24th August. That may have been a weekend without a gig, but that was a wonderful day and I wouldn’t for the world have swapped my chance to play such a big part in it all – nor to see my little sister look so happy.

But I wasn’t going to let a Saturday night go by without doing at least some DMX lighting production!

One of the things Kerry asked me to do for the wedding was to bring some drama to the cake-cutting ceremony – so I had the chance to put spotlights, moving heads, colour washes and a layer of haze into the incredibly characterful old crypt underneath beautiful 12th Century Langley Abbey where the wedding reception was held. It was a gorgeous space to work with – and the textures in the walls and the shape of the ceiling really lent themselves to creating interesting and atmospheric lighting scenes. The amazing pictures by Tim Stephenson really help to capture the effect.

As I’ve expanded my portfolio of audio and lighting equipment, I am really excited to start moving into more lighting and/or sound install work for weddings and other events. It felt fantastic to be able to use the skills and equipment that I have built up over my career to make my sister’s wedding day extra special for her and her new husband.

If you want to bring a bit of extra theatre and excitement to the décor of your event, feel free to contact me about lighting hire.

New Studio Open For Business

You may have noticed that the Studio page of this site has been down for the last couple of months – with just a placeholder image teaser and no information… I was hoping to have everything completed before now. But things get in the way! However, the last few months have seen some pretty radical changes in my little studio space, and I am so happy with how it’s all coming together that I am very excited to reveal the new look to you all.

My workspace has expanded, and now fills a little alcove one side of the chimney breast. I have a wonderful new desk to sit and work at; this desk was custom-built for recording studios by my friend and colleague (another Ultra ’90s drummer!) Curtis Aaron, with built-in racking for studio rack gear and a large surface area to work on. The addition of an external GPU has allowed me to move to a three screen setup when working at the computer, giving me extra flexibility for working on studio projects. And the mix position has been treated with acoustic sound absorbers and bass trapping (also made by Curtis) to help me to get the best-sounding mixes possible.

My 40-channel Soundcraft MH3 analogue console has become the hub of the whole studio – not just for audio input but also during the mixing stage, allowing me to make the best use of my high-end analogue outboard effects units, like the Neve 33609 stereo compressor.

And a fully acoustically-treated sound booth for live recordings – built by my ever-resourceful neighbour Glen ‘Woody’ Jordan from natural materials, and fitted with high-end acoustic foam cladding and corner bass cone – has been installed in the other half of the room. With sixteen audio inputs inside the booth, and separate headphone mixes available both in the booth and in the control area, the new setup can comfortably accommodate recording a drumkit or small ensembles playing or singing together.

With a wide selection of the highest quality microphones, a variety of vintage and analogue synthesisers, outboard compressor and graphic EQ units, an acoustic upright piano, a 4.2-octave concert marimba and a range of drumkits and cymbals all available to work with, I am extremely proud of the recording and mixing setup I have assembled here in the heart of rural Norfolk. (A full gear list is available on request.)

With the refit nearing completion, the studio is now available to hire at a competitive day rate. Whether you’re a songwriter or composer looking for ‘remote’ sessions on keys, drums or percussion; an artist or a band looking for somewhere to record; or a fellow producer needing a space to work in… Please feel free to contact me to discuss bookings.

Sam Coe Album Launch

After working with Sam Coe for the first time at That Music Thing at Epic Studios last week – a gig which was very favourably reviewed – I am delighted that I’ll be back playing keys and organs for her again at the launch of her brand new solo album, entitled ‘Comeback Queen’.

Redefining British Country Music, Sam Coe sheds a new light on the musty, tinged world of traditional country. Raw, gritty and honest. No pretence, just her gutsy truth colliding with the music. Following previous critical acclamation and success as both a solo artist and with her band, The Long Shadows, 2019 sees Sam Coe heading in a fresh musical direction. Ready to start a new UK Country scene that draws upon, rather than tries to replicate, the American scene we know and love, Sam wanted to embrace being an unashamed British artist, and bring some sincerity and soul to the UK industry. Heading back into the studio, she began recording her debut solo album under label GingerDog Records. Influenced by the sound of throwback instrumentation like the Fender Rhodes, the new record is heavily piano driven, while combining tremolo guitars, hammond organ and her beloved Gibson with an emotional and raw vocal. Influenced by artists such as Brandi Carlile, Margo Price, Larkin Poe, First Aid Kit, Bonnie Raitt, Patty Griffin and Emmylou Harris, Sam’s songwriting reflects 33 years of her self-confessed ‘shit storm’ of a life. Struggling to achieve the next step both personally and musically and striving to leave her mark on the world. ‘If you get to the end of the line and look back, I would hate to feel like I had any regrets – have fun, chase every adventure, leave your legacy.’

The album release show will also be at Epic Studios in Norwich, and takes place on Thursday 28th November. Tickets are available from Epic, or online. It will be great to see as many people down at Epic for this show as possible, so I hope to see you there! In the meantime, here’s a few great snaps by Gordon Woolcock, from the last gig I played with Sam…

Jade MayJean @ Ipswich Christmas Lights Switch-On

I am very excited that I will be playing drums with Jade MayJean and her band for the big Christmas Lights Switch-On event in Ipswich town centre on Thursday 21st November this year.

Jade and the band will be performing a mixture of original songs from Jade’s album 20Sixty and classic Christmas crowd-pleasers from five o’clock on the main stage outside the Town Hall & Corn Exchange.

Sistema Fiesta: Ten Years of Sistema In Norwich

In September 2011, I wrote about how proud I was to have joined an El Sistema-inspired music education programme in my home city of Norwich, working with students in inner-city schools teaching orchestral percussion an general musicianship. The project — then called In Harmony Norwich — was one of three trial nucleos setup by the UK government in different cities, and was just entering the third of its three years of funding when I came on board as one of the percussion tutors.

A lot of change has happened in the years since I joined the programme back in 2011 — including a rebrand as Sistema In Norwich. But the one thing which has always remained the same is the steadfast determination of the programme directors and the team of tutors to bring music education to children who might not otherwise have had those kinds of opportunities available to them.

This coming Friday 11th October, a performance by Sistema In Norwich students and tutors at the University Of East Anglia In Norwich will celebrate ten years of Sistema’s presence in the city. I feel extremely honoured to have been involved with Sistema In Norwich — in its various guises — for eight of those ten years, and it will be a privilege to walk onstage on Friday evening with my colleagues and students from the Sistema programme to celebrate this landmark anniversary.

Sistema Fiesta will take a look back over the last ten years, including highlights from the Performance Project (for which the concert is also a finale) and it will look forwards, with new repertoire that will include nods to Venezuela, our carnival work, East Anglia and a big piece from the classical canon.  The concert will feature the Colegate Nucleo Orchestra, alongside children from across the programme, tutors and some special guests.  
 
The evening will conclude with music from the Sistema in Norwich tutor band, guests and friends. Join in the Sistema party and help us celebrate a programme that is changing lives, as we look forward to another 10 years of making a difference.

From the NORCA & Sistema In Norwich website

Please do come down and support this event, and the Sistema In Norwich project. Tickets for the performance are available from the UEA Box Office website, or directly from NORCA & Sistema In Norwich.