WELL THAT was a quick one wannit?
Scientists confirmed that 2017 was officially the fastest year to date.
Anyway, welcome to my Annual Round-Up blog; a post reflecting on my year and the lessons learned. All Bold stuff is a link so get involved!
show 'n' tell
The year kicked off with a trip to Platform One College of Music, on the Isle of White, where I delivered a ‘life as a working musician’ seminar to the brilliant young students there. It was a completely new experience, and if ever the mantra ‘you learn from your students as much as you teach them’ were to apply, it was on this occasion. Having to compile everything I’ve learned in my career so far to a concise and relatable format, combined with the inquisitive and thorough questioning from the students, triggered the beginning of what became my Musician’s Survival Project, or MSP - something which began officially in February as a series of blog posts, and which is currently in the process of being turned in to something much bigger. So, to quote Noddy Holder, 'watch this space'…
After refining the format of the MSP, I headed out to Berlin to catch up with my old friend Simon, dust off my Deutsch, and get in the right head space to complete the Musician's Survival Project (the smog of London can cloud the mind as well as the skies). The bleak chill of a wintery Berlin really focussed my ideas, and I finished the majority of the series over a few days in a blur of German beer and life-changing kebabs.
Baring in mind this post-it note is what I gave him to work with, you can kind of appreciate how serious ting his skills are. Click his name above and check him out!
an unexpected call
After arriving back from Berlin I was called on a video shoot for Acer Laptops, one of those 'if someone would have asked me last week what I was gonna be doing this week' moments - a super fun last minute call!
All of a sudden it was time to knuckle down and prepare for Austin’s South By South West festival. I was due to be heading there with the brilliant Casi - an artist part of the Roc Nation contingent. HOLY MACARONI it was like nothing I have ever experienced. We were booked to play three showcases, and each were to bring a unique set of challenges. I’d had the time to learn every last detail of the set up, so was well prepared going in to the chaos - but sometimes there are those problems that you can’t anticipate. They arrive on your plate saying ‘OK SOLVE ME NOW PLZ THX’. Fortunately, we were all given as good a heads-up as is possible by some great people at the pre-SXSW hang out organised by PRS (big ups to Natti of Fickle Friends for the ‘forget about using wedges and go with IEM’s' tip-off - this helped).
Anyway, SXSW was an eye-opening experience of personal and professional growth. So anyone heading out there in 2018, put the work in before you go and be sure there’s nothing about your gig you don’t know. Feel free to email me if you want some pointers. There’s no festival like it, and it really sorts the wheat from the chaff. The arabica from the robusta. Know what I mean? Check out the video to see how our performance went.
maida vale sessions
Shortly after we arrived home, it was straight into Maida Vale studios with Casi to record for Huw Stephens' new music show. The experience couldn’t have been more juxtaposed to the fast-paced madness of SXSW - we had all the time we wanted to achieve the best result possible. We were even gifted with a string quartet, arranged by the brilliant Dr. Owain Llwyd of North Wales’ Bangor University - a huge pleasure working with such talents.
a blast from the past
A nice surprise arrived at the door in July as the deliveryman transported me back to 2011 by handing me this. Back in 2011, I tracked some drum parts for Ed Sheeran on his first album, working alongside superstar producer Charlie Hugall. A sincere thanks to Team Ed for sending this my way - it sits pride of place in my flat. To boot, I was privileged to be featured in an article by DRUM! magazine, which I've read since I was a kid. Gratitude is key!
back where i belong
Back behind the kit in April, I joined up with The Beach once again for a headline at Camden Assembly. It’s always a treat playing with this super talented young song writer, and this show didn’t disappoint. Here’s a clip of us performing his single Bite My Tongue - look out for plenty more music coming from him in 2018!
another last minute call
One more last minute call came in courtesy of my good friend and brilliant drummer Jonny Brister, where I covered for him in the Someone Like You: The Adele Songbook theatre show. I got to sit back and knuckle down with my favourite way to play: big fat chunky grooves with some monster fills in *just* the right place.
After a joyfully drum-orientated year-so-far, I got to keep my frontman skills honed by gigging with my own project, Cassicus. Check out the clip here, where I was extremely lucky to be backed up by some great players and friends, James, Rudi, Tom and Matt.
BACK TO THE WELSH MOUNTAINS in midsummer
Having gotten to know the team at Bangor University' through my work with Owain Llwyd, I was invited there to join the music department for a music seminar. I had the chance to talk about my career so far, and the process behind creating my Musician’s Survival Project - which since the beginning of the year I had refined. North Wales is a stunning place at the best of times, but in the middle of summer the train ride across the North Welsh coast to Bangor was a beautiful thing.
a musical direction
As the 2017 finish line drew closer, things were only just getting started with two new artists I'd begun working with as Musical Director and Drummer, Only Girl and Jazz Morley. Through my work with Casi and top notch MD Mike Park I'd learned a huge amount about building rigs tailored toward electronic artists, so I was able to take these new skills and apply them to brand new environments. Here's a clip of the Only Girl show, where we headlined the classic London venue Borderline in November this year.
and across the line
With Autumn in full bloom, my good drummer friend Russ and I decided to jump in the Royal Parks Half to keep our bodies on the move while gigs quietened down for a brief period. Here's a snap of us looking a little past out best as we began to reach the notorious 8th mile.
Not forgetting my incredible mates who contributed their time and bakes to my bake sale, raising £650 for Prostate Cancer UK.
one more for luck
I was honoured to be invited back to The Academy of Contemporary Music to deliver my final seminar of the year, the content for which I divided between drumming and my Musician's Survival Project. It's always a joy revisiting a place you experienced so much personal growth in.
wrapping it up
This year was a year of great variety. A year of working-things-out on the fly. Settling in to the person I am now, and growing in to the person I see myself becoming. Among all the incredible things I consider myself unbelievably fortunate to experience, there are always the moments of immense difficulty that creep in. Between the gaps. I'm already way over my word count so won't go too deep now - but these experiences are already detailed in the content currently available in my Musician's Survival Project. So keep an eye out, and feel get in touch with me any time about anything at all.
I'll leave you with my favourite shot of the year - a squad snap with Only Girl taken by the brilliant Lauren Marsh Photography. Good to see the MD is behaving like the consummate professional he is.