Robert Sherman died yesterday. Together with his brother Richard they wrote the music to Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Jungle Book, Bedknobs and Broomsticks… Loved their music a lot.
I’ve never been good at receiving compliments – so how do I feel about criticism? Especially a comprehensive annihilation of the idea there’s any worth in my music at all. I got served properly in Paul Lester’s piece in The Guardian last week.
For a little while I decided not to read it. The ‘ignore your own press’ mantra has always been an attractive one. But ignoring has to be a thoughtless act, not an incessant effort, and I was failing at that so I read it.
I can’t pretend his critique was totally off the mark. Yes some of the lyrics on MFTF don’t lay out the secrets of the universe like a tapestry at your feet. I don’t have that fantasy other-worldliness quality of Lady Gaga at the O2 or Ziggy Stardust in 1973.
But then I’m not a stadium act, and playing that grandiose shit would feel wrong in the pubs and clubs I cut my teeth in. I had to walk on stage as me, not as someone else. That’s the reality of a world without massive record contracts. If you don’t like it, go buy some records and make record companies rich again so they can waste it all on capes and special effects. That’s not a failure of imagination from me, it’s just me being me. And just because I’m personal doesn’t mean I can’t be transportative. Who knows maybe I’ll get more into capes on my third or fourth album, but not yet. Let me develop.
Of course I’m disappointed. I’m not going to gloss over it like I totally don’t care. Lot’s of people now mistakenly think my career is a meaningless quest to promote biscuits to the soundtrack of weak lift music. Even worse I was accused of being a ‘fauxhemian’ – a faker. To dislike my music is one thing, to suggest I’m faking it is another. And only someone with no clue could confuse me with Jack Johnson.
But perhaps that’s his point. How can you distinguish between one male songwriter and another if all you hear is the same white noise when they open their identically stubbled faces? It was the genre that took the biggest bashing, not whatever my contribution to it is, and in that sense I escaped the review unharmed.
So don’t be too hard on Paul Lester – he’s just calling it as he sees it and credit to him for that. Perhaps it’s an opportunity for me to learn something that I wouldn’t have learned if he loved it. Who knows – maybe he’ll learn something too – he’s graciously accepted my offer to come down to my next London gig to see what it’s like.
Anyway, it’s all a process and I’m not going away, whether it’s the last press article I get or not. Plus there’ll be no references to the loo in my next album. I want every word to pack a punch.
In May, me and the band play gigs in Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, London, Bury, Leeds, Kendal, York, Sheffield, Liverpool, Cardiff, Exeter and Bristol, with more TBC.
I’m looking for local champions for each of these gigs. If you’re up for lending a hand, I’m up for giving you free stuff. The more hands you lend, the more ways I’ll think of to say thank you and the better each gig will be. Here are a few things you could do, but maybe you can think of more?
- make a noise about the gig online and in real life
- bug your local blog, radio station or newspaper about it
- put up posters and give out flyers (if you’re allowed to)
- help collect people’s email addresses or be useful at the gig
In exchange I’ll give you t-shirts or badges, send you postcards from other cities, let you into gigs for free or do something nice for you as long as it’s legal and won’t get me into too much trouble.
I’m also looking for local support acts. If you or someone you know thinks they’re up for it, then let me know. It’s all about good music and good people, but remember it has to fit well. I happen to love music like this and I’m well into this, but they ain’t right for this gig. If you think you are, get in touch.
Interested? If you are, just send me a message, telling me which gig you’d like to help with and how involved you’d like to be.
I’m not mad on music being a competition, and not mad on the ugly, alchemic quest to turn music into cash. I love it when people do things like this. But I also love music and performance and massive pop bangers that enrich peoples lives.
Massive congrats to Ed Sheeran and Adele. I get fed up with people knocking them. No doubt about it those two craved success. But they’ve also produced albums with a lot of heart and substance and lots of peoples lives are a better place for them. That is cool and good news for music. I always liked Ed – he deserves it all. Respect!
People make music for all kinds of reasons – to get rich, for its own rewards, to pore their soul out, to look for self worth… Not all are inherently wrong or right. Bloody hell it’s great to make music that people will like. You’re bringing people happiness and meaning and that’s a really good thing. Screw the critics!
But what I really want to say is this. If someone reading this has the slightest inkling that inside them there may be something more than a nice pop song – something desperate, radical or challenging, something that might push us forward to be better people or understand each other better then I implore you – please do that instead. Lots of people can write a nice pop song, but only you can do something that is really you. Trust yourself.
Also – if you’re a music fan then look out for these people. Some are rubbish but some will be worth a thousand Adeles to you.
I’ve no idea where my music fits into this. Probably not well… all I know is that I’m gonna give it a hell of a shot trying to do this better, whatever that means.
There’s definitely a pattern with me and photos. I’m always trying to do something stupid or distracting – climb up somewhere, grab something, jump, look busy, ANYTHING to avoid just standing there being normal.
I suppose being open is quite Continue reading »
On 12th February my band and I will be playing a special concert at The Jazz Cafe for HMV’s ‘Next Big Thing’ series. Also playing will be Sam Brookes and Liam Blake. It’ll be the curtain raiser for what will hopefully be a big year of tours and recording.
For tickets, just click the link below.
I did send this to mailing list before christmas, but I’m only putting it online in January. Boo!
Even worse I’ve artificially changed the date of this post to before xmas so it looks like I posted it in time. Why do I do that? I feel like a fraud :-(
Still – it doesn’t change the fact that it’s an awesome custom Christmas Card. Thank you to my dear friend Kevin Pollard for designing it!
A few weeks ago I put pen to paper on a one-album deal to release Many Fish To Fry in every record shop in the land, along with a big marketing campaign. It’s going to be released on my own label – Sandwich Emporium Records – but through Universal who are right behind us. With a little luck, and some support from you, it might even get a bit of radio play and press to go with it.
All physical copies will be special editions of the album, including a bonus DVD of a full-length concert and a track-by-track interview. The album is now off sale until its release in March, but you’ll be able to pre-order it well before then to get it on your doormat first. If you’ve already got a copy that’s cool – no pressure to get this one too!
We’ll be working closely with HMV, and they’ve been good enough to give us a headline slot at their Next Big Thing Festival in February at The Jazz Cafe in London. Tickets went on sale this morning – so get your tickets fast! Here’s the link: http://www.hmvtickets.com/events/4941
We’ve booking up another big tour too. Tickets aren’t really on sale yet, but they will be soon…
I was once told a great little nugget of wisdom – “In many areas of life there’s good, there’s fast and there’s cheap, and you’re allowed to pick two”. With this album it had to be good, and we could only afford cheap, so its progress has taken a little time. But we’ve got there in the end, and we can now release it the way we always wanted to. All guns blazing!
I know some of you have had this album for a while, but if you could support it just a little bit longer while we tell everyone else that would give us such a boost. Then we can move onto recording album two safe in the knowledge that we did all we can to make this one a success.
Big love to you, and have a wonderful Christmas. Bring on 2012!
There’s something quite intoxicating about a silent crowd.
When you first start doing gigs the crowd is like a wild lion to tame, and more often than not you expect to get mauled. Rise up through the ranks and one day the crowd might become yours – silent, compliant and rolling over like a house cat.
But be warned, don’t forget the value of a few claws, a few play fights. Those who can’t help but shout things out, remind you they’re still there, rage against the dying of the house lights. Otherwise that generic film line starts creeping in… “Hmm…. It’s almost… too quiet…” Continue reading »
Do you like goalkeeping dogs? Minty cake? How about excellent hospitality? You should think about a visit to Kendal.
Remember Wendy who buildingified herself at Mama Stones? Well Jonty has done the same. “All I know about is building and music” he told me, so what did he do? He renovated an old butchers shop, bought the cafe next door, hollowed an extension out of the rock, built a stage and decorated it just way he likes – with a big bar, a motorcycle and a bust of Elvis. The result is Bootleggers, a quite excellent place to make music.
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